Monday, April 28, 2014

Cutting Off Her Lying Nose: Palin's "Waterboarding Is How We Baptize Terrorists" Offends Everyone - Except the NRA

Will Mike Huckabee ever speak to Sarah Palin again? Colleagues at FOX certainly stick together (like Hannity and Coulter, who lives under Hannity's desk for sure), but after Sarah's faux pas at the NRA on Sunday, Rev. Huckabee will likely be distancing himself from her.
American Conservative
Palin and all those who cheered her sacrilegious jibe ought to be ashamed of themselves. For us Christians, baptism is the entry into new life. Palin invoked it to celebrate torture. Even if you don’t believe that waterboarding is torture, surely you agree that it should not be compared to baptism, and that such a comparison should be laughed at.

Andrew Sullivan
And then she manages to go one step further. She invokes torture in the context of a Christian sacrament. Not since the Nazis’ Deutsche Christen have we seen something so disgusting and blasphemous in the morphing of Christianity into its polar opposite. Mercifully, some Christians on the right have managed to say something.
Joe Carter, The Gospel Coalition:
For anyone to confess Christ as their savior and to compare one of the means of God's grace to an act of torture is reprehensible.
Like backtracking on Cliven Bundy, Palin Tea Party/NRA supporters are struggling to put a brave face on a bad situation, but Palin, in her usual way, will no doubt shrug off the critics with an "aw shucks, this is what I meant, don't be so damned serious." Remember her defense of the gun site/get Gabriels Giffords campaign? She sloughed it off as a "surveyor's mark." Such implausible explanations have followed her "rogue" career without her batting an eye. But how can she get out of this one? Can she get a witch hunter like Rev. Muthee to pray over her? Can she rely on Franklin Graham or John Hagee for support? Pamela Geller, maybe, but not Pat Robertson.

Oh, she could write a book about it all, but her last literary effort, Good Tidings, Great Joy, Protecting The Heart Of Christmas, failed to stir even the mildest of Scrooges or the most clueless right wing Christian.

Palin's Deadly Sins

Perhaps the most egregious error in the NRA speech was made later:
"When a kid in school is cussing away like any character in any Tarantino movie, nobody bats an eye," Palin said. "Ooh, but a kid saying a prayer in school, those hypocrites lose their minds."
Palin was capitalizing on a non-event: the publisher of FOX News' Todd Starnes' book on "Traditional Values" suspiciously broadcast that his little girl was not allowed to pray in school. The school vehemently denied the charge.

Besides lying, Palin's violent rhetoric was so off the mark, that she seemed to be barely Christian in her attitude: Jake Tapper (below), notes that it may have been suitable for the NRA, but not suitable for the rest of America. The discussion, in fact, focused on Palin's viability in the political arena: it has shifted to "does anyone take Palin seriously anymore?" Palin's future career was pinned down to innocuous poseur. Poor Sarah.

Perhaps buffoonery in the light of a serious subject like gun control is also a sin: "And [the] Obama administration wants you ID'd for that? Well, then go ahead and carry a sign, too. A sign that says 'Yeah, I carry a gun because a cop is too heavy.'"
Celebrating Torture
"What can one say but that this is a bona fide fascistic sentiment. It revels in violence against individuals tied down by their hands and feet and strapped to a terrifying board in order to be suffocated hundreds of times to near-death. It is the kind of statement you might expect from the Khmer Rouge ... [but] Palin – who wants to celebrate brutal torture as the American way." (Andrew Sullivan)
Equating a torture to a universal Christian sacrament, glorifying it, amidst a speech calculated to stir up people dedicated to a life with firearms is foolish in the the extreme unless you're running for president of the NRA.

Poor Sarah. Cutting off your nose hurts, doesn't it?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Leading The War On The Homeless: Fort Lauderdale Plans to Confiscate Pitiful Possessions

If he's a "personal possession", probably.

Though they may not have a home in which to secure their stuff, homeless people still have possessions like everyone else.

The war on the nation's homeless is ramping up.

Yet the city of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida is on the cusp of passing a new regulation that would make it illegal for anyone to store their personal things on public property. Specifically, it would empower police to confiscate any personal possessions stored on public property, provided they have given the homeless person 24-hours notice. If the homeless people wish to retrieve their items, they must pay the city “reasonable charges for storage and removal of the items,” though that fee is waived if the person is able to demonstrate he or she cannot afford to pay. The city may dispose of any possessions not retrieved within 30 days. One of the driving factors behind the measure, according to the legislation, is the city’s “interest in aesthetics.”


While no one wants to see ragged, unkempt people sitting on the streets with whatever they have left out of a life of poverty, "aesthetics" may be the most frivolous, contemptuous reason to cast a human being aside. However, newborn tech industries seem to be very, very concerned about aesthetics: the Facebook post of San Francisco's Greg Gopman may have garnered outrage in the City by the Bay known for its compassion, but other cities eager to cash in on the gentrification start-ups bring with them (like higher rent and real estate values) have turned a blind eye to "the last of these."

Venice, California used to be a haven for homeless people, but not any more. Even though people were horrified at the beating of a homeless person last December, the attitudes of the new tech residents is less than compassionate:

Recently, a homeless man named Brian Connolly bought food at the Starbucks at Navy and Main, but was told he'd have to eat it outside; he wrote last month that the incident has a creepy segregation feel to it: Starbucks will take his money, but they don't want him hanging around.

And some meanies added padlocks to a homeless storage facility. Park and Rec had to apply bolt cutters to return the stored goods back to their owners.


The above proposed law has not delineated what "personal possessions" are, but one can guess that it may be up to law enforcement to determine it: is a dog a "personal possession"? Aren't clothes personal possessions? Cigarettes? Blankets? Shoes? Will the homeless be strip-searched?

Criminalizing Compassion

In an effort to consolidate compassion to the homeless, Houston tried to enact a law that forbade any unpaid volunteers for "sharing cooked food with the needy public." Mayor Annise Parker got a lot of flak for it, not for the seeming heartlessness of it, but because the measure was supported by Star of Hope Mission, a large evangelical concern that wanted to get the homeless off the streets and into its city-subsidized shelters. You can go to the Mayor Parker, empress of homelessness Facebook page to see related videos on the issue.

Back To Fort Lauderdale

The measures are just the first in a series to come before the commission. City staff is currently drafting ordinances that would prohibit panhandling and other solicitations at intersections, that would prohibit people from sleeping on public property, and that would restrict when, where and how often groups could set up sites to feed the homeless.

How far this situation will go is anybody's guess.

One could argue, of course, that Fort Lauderdale did not go as far as some police in Detroit who really seemed to declare a "war on the homeless" by rounding up people in certain areas, putting them in vans, and abandoning them miles from the city center (and their lifelines).

But give the idea time: other cities are waging the "war" and there's no telling what new "aesthetics" they will come up with.

There can be no lighter note to this dilemma, but George Carlin made people laugh (i.e. look at themselves) in his own inimitable way:

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Surviving Easter Pt 1: Humanity's Biggest Guilt Trip And Religious Trauma Syndrome

There is no real joy in Easter. What you may feel - that springy, warm, pastel-ly glow -  may just be ... relief. Ecstatic relief. God sacrificed Himself to absolve you from sin, something literally everyone is born with. You've been absolved from sin - for the time being. You've thought long and hard about your birth defect. You've repented and mea-culpaed until you felt like a worthless piece of dust (to which you will return, of course) so that you will see Easter morning as being born again.

But when you come down to it, Easter is just temporary relief, like aspirin. The story of the Passion and Resurrection will melt like a chocolate bunny as soon as the first frustration of Monday arrives and guilt sets in again. 

Guilt: it's always the guilt. All three Abrahamic religions were founded on guilt. Two thirds of the world's population is subjected to guilt, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with extra heavy doses on some "Holy" days. The Bible is strewn with guilt trips: Adam and Eve, The Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah - punishment and guilt, followed by the greatest guilt trip of all, the Crucifixion. No wonder relief is so welcome!

Religious Trauma Syndrome

Dr. Marlene Winell ( has dealt with guilt over 20 years - first hers, then many others' - and she came up with the term Religious Trauma Syndrome after she witnessed recurring symptoms from abuse caused mostly by Fundamentalism. Guilt is a central issue in Fundamentalism:

     "The doctrines of original sin and eternal damnation cause the most psychological distress by creating the ultimate double bind. You are guilty and responsible, and face eternal punishment. Yet you have no ability to do anything about it."
Winell helps people deal with their guilt, especially when they wind up "leaving the fold." It's more difficult to be an apostate than people may think: the guilt stays with you for a long, long time. And without panaceas like Easter, it may be nearly impossible to survive emotionally. 

Surviving Easter

This short piece is a diary simply because it's more personal than a regular article - writing about guilt always is - and I want to see if, as a Christian, Easter actually does bring me any relief. I doubt it will, but miracles do happen. 

Happy Easter.

PT II: Did it work?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

If You Don't Give Enough, You Go To Hell! An Extreme Take On Francis' Game Of Monopoly

Could it work?

In the game of life, as in Monopoly, there are penalties and consequences.
The man who knows 

he has enough

is rich.

                                                              - Lao Tsu (Confucius)

The pain of Fancis and his social justice philosophy runs deep in the Right's backside. You might even say it's downright hemorrhoidal. Of course, Francis has never intended to be a pain in anyone's rear, but his economics and quest for compassion have caused shock waves among the high and mighty of capitalism.
       "One truth shines out from the Bible: Jesus spoke to the individual, never to government or government policy. Jesus was a capitalist, preaching personal responsibility, not a socialist."

Yes, that bit of eschatology was from World Net Daily trying to prove that Jesus was against redistribution of wealth. Unfortunately, WND never touches upon the quandary of a rich man, a camel and the eye of a needle. They never talk about the poor inheriting the kingdom of heaven. They may covertly grieve over the wealthy man being asked to give all of his worldly goods to follow Jesus.  And capitalism's cheer leaders routinely neglect to site an important passage from Acts of the Apostles:
       "The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all.

There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles,

There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. . ." (emphasis mine)

Of course, Karl Marx wrote it instead of Luke, so it certainly can't be in any sense Scripture. In fact, a husband (Ananais) and wife (Saphirra) were struck dead because they lied about their greed. Nope, can't possibly be Scripture.

Joel Watts (Huffington Post)
"Jon Moseley, a Tea Party member, declares Jesus Christ is a capitalist. He writes against Pope Francis's Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel. Jon sells vacation packages to the Bahamas. The Holy Father is a trained theologian, chemist, and philosopher who is the spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church standing in the line of St. Peter. One of these is not like the other. Which is why I was surprised with the Holy Father started to sell vacation packages, er, I mean when Moseley started to spout off against the pope's theological position."
Mandating Compassion Through Scripture

There are many reasons the Right's Christian Right gives for one's soul going to hell, but being rich isn't one of them. Even greed isn't given the status of other "Hell and Damnation" sins which today are Abortion and Homosexuality. Theft and murder are even given short shrift (both can be justified and easily repented, unless you're in Texas). Greed? Greed is a sin, to be sure, but it's never been touted as serious enough to send one to eternal damnation. A Wall Street denizen might be thought of as evil, but if he donates money to a university, he can't be all bad - it exonerates him in a way. Al Capone founded a successful school milk program in Chicago, so he couldn't be as greedy as everyone thought, right? So greed as a sin is, ah, somewhere down the line. Anyway, if it's capitalism, it's not greed. 

But what if greed were made one of the uppermost "Hell and Damnation" sins? What if any semblance of greed were to be treated as a capital crime, eschatologically speaking? What if Biblical exhortations against greed were, like the Ten Commandments, enshrined in public places? What if religious leaders like Francis were to make it more than just a "deadly" (meaning harmful) sin and make it THE road to hell? What if wanting more than enough ostracized one from the community, like wearing a large letter "G"?

Enough Is Not Enough 

The road to greed lies in having enough but wanting more. Of course "enough" is relative simply because our needs are relative. "Enough" can be rationalized out of existence: a man can have "enough" after he has secured substantial livelihoods for his family, or financial security for the rest of his life, or ... anything capitalism can bring. And another conundrum: how do you determine what "enough" is when it involves a person who just can't get "enough"? 

Of course, we live in a country where "enough" rarely exists. America's 1% has proven that: prosperity preachers abound, televangelists travel in private jets, bishops build "retirement" mansions. Politicians have off-shore investments, sports gods have vast estates, movie stars have hi-tech villas. If "enough" really existed, Beverly Hills would not. 

Go To Hell: Greed Is The Definitive Sin

Making Greed the definitive sin is, of course, a ridiculous dream since it is impossible in our world. Demonizing greed to extinction just can't be done. Sure, it's always fun to think of greedy people being emptied of their wealth and made equal and forced to admit to what is really "enough." But greater compassion, greater charity, and greater financial equilibrium are not impossible. 

Francis is opening our eyes to the fact that his variation of Monopoly may in fact be the "Game of Life." 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Battle of the Bullies?

Everyone agrees that bullying on a large scale is really fascism. Pushing an agenda with such force that the general populace has to submit to it is certainly against American ideals. There are degrees, to be sure, but America is sensitive to the least of it.

Last week's resignation of Brenden Eich at Mozilla brought about a furious reaction to bullying (fascism) ... on both sides of the cultures war.
Andrew Sullivan:
Will he now be forced to walk through the streets in shame? Why not the stocks? The whole episode disgusts me – as it should disgust anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society. If this is the gay rights movement today – hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else – then count me out. If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us.
The New Yorker:
The real mystery here, then, is not why Eich stepped down but why he ever got hired in the first place. His unquestioned technical ability notwithstanding, this was a candidate who divided the board, who had already been controversial, and whose promotion was guaranteed to generate reams of bad publicity.
Simply put, if conservatives are frustrated by the treatment of Eich for his role in Proposition 8, then they should be outraged by the treatment of ordinary people at the hands of the people who employ them.

LA Times
The "witch hunt" theory of Eich's ouster holds that his personal views shouldn't matter: If he's gone because of his donation to Prop. 8, why not purge every corporate employee anywhere who did the same? This argument is exemplified by Slate's William Saletan, who calls disapproval of support for Proposition 8 a "new standard" and writes, "perhaps we should put down the pitchforks."
The term homo-fascism has been thrust into the mainstream dialogue (actually, not a dialogue, but a shouting fest). And with an error-ridden fury that is hard to believe:
homofascism (Urban Dictionary)
Homosexual activists are vehemently promoting homosexuality throughout the media, academia, and politics as spelled out in their manifesto titled After The Ball. "Sensitivity" classes in schools are required to children as young as kindergarden where they brainwash a child within minutes into believing homosexuality is the same as trying a new food. This is pure Pavlonian style brainwashing, indoctrination, and ideological subversion. All states that legalize same sex "marriage" require schools to have these classes, and parents who opt their kids out can potential get thrown in jail and pay fines.

Not used in the melee (yet), is the term Christofascism.
Christofascism (Urban Dictionary)
Evangelical, semi-theocratical movement or temperment of Americans who stand against abortion, sexual education, homosexuality, science, anti-Zionism, and the separation of church and state. 
Not as vindictive as the prior definition, but just as definitive of certain viewpoints.

The saga of Brendan Eich has broadened to conservative free speech in general it seems, but with the passage of Mississippi new religious freedom bill, enabling small businesses and individuals to discriminate on the grounds of religious conscience, the Christian Right and Christofascism are the subjects of focus.

Who Is The Bigger Bully?

There little doubt that gay rights advocates have been flexing their collective political muscle lately, with so many states now granting (or about to grant) same-sex marriages. Some see the flexing as abuse of power, while others simply see it as a natural reaction to years of being bullied - on the playground and in the workplace - by predominantly Christian Right forces. Nobody wants to be labeled a bigot any more than they want to be labeled a sinner. Yet Andrew Sullivan's concern is legitimate: more than a condemnation, it is a warning not to become as bloodthirsty as the enemy. (He may be wrong, however, to consider it a free speech issue as Michael Hiltzik of the LA Times points out). 

What full analysis of the situation seems to point out in the long run, is that Brendan Eich was not a victim of dreaded homofascism, but Christofascism itself: supporting a Christofascist enterprise (e.g. Prop 8) has come to mean to both sides that you support the Christian Right wholeheartedly. In a sense, Eich was a victim of his own ideology (indeed, he still holds same-sex marriage to be wrong) probably thrust upon him by the Christian Right in a Christofascist manner. 

Christofascism is definitely the big bully - a bully gay rights advocates would be wise not to emulate. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Preachers of Bling and Their Ensuing War With Francis: "Sacrifice? You've Got To Be Kidding!"

"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." 1 Timothy 6:10

“The church doesn’t need apologists for their own agendas or crusaders for their own battles, but humble and faithful sowers of the truth.”

There is no doubt that Pope Francis I is shaking things up in today's world of religion - and not without plenty of hostility from some of America's most visible Christian preachers. Above, Francis called upon his clergy to be humble and not seek to climb any hierarchical ladder. But in perhaps his most provocative statement, he also called on clerics to live simply and humbly:  his address to the cardinals and staff who make up the Congregation for Bishops, Francis said that "self-denial and sacrifice are written into the bishop’s DNA."

Catholics across the country are responding accordingly:

ATLANTA — The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Atlanta apologized Monday for building a $2.2 million mansion for himself, a decision criticized by local Catholics who cited the example of austerity set by the new pope.
Archbishop Wilton Gregory recently moved into a nearly 6,400-square-foot residence. Its construction was made possible by a large donation from the estate of Joseph Mitchell, nephew of Margaret Mitchell, author of “Gone With The Wind,” a Civil War epic that made his family wealthy. When Mitchell died in 2011, he left an estate worth more than $15 million to the archdiocese on the condition it be used for “general religious and charitable purposes.”
In New Jersey, Newark Archbishop John Myers hasn’t opted for penitence, and instead isdefending the expenditure of some $500,000 to add a three-story, 3,000-square-foot addition to his already spacious retirement home. The new wing will include an indoor exercise pool, a hot tub, three fireplaces, a library and an elevator.
The Diocese of Camden, N.J., includes one of the poorest cities in the country, which is partly why Bishop Dennis Sullivan made headlines in January for spending $500,000 to buy an historic 7,000-square-foot mansion with eight bedrooms, six bathrooms, three fireplaces, a library, a five-car garage and an in-ground pool. The diocese said Sullivan needs the space to entertain dignitaries and donors. Not everyone’s buying that. “This is a joke,” parishioner John Miller told the local paper. “Jesus was born in a stable.”
In one his latest articles on Pope Francis, OpEdNews' Rob Kall called Francis' call for serving and sacrifice, The Pope's Bottom Up Revolution. To be sure, Kall's article focuses on church hierarchy and not "bling", but bishops in the past (as in present day prosperity "bishops" and preachers) have always associated hierarchy with lavish lifestyles - certainly better than any in their congregations. Certain "Bishops" like T.D. Jakes and Eddie Long created their own hierarchy in order to give their gospel the cache that goes with the cash.*

The Tangled Web of Capitalist Churches

Perhaps the most common defense today's "prosperity gospel" preachers will have against Francis's message will be the same as Rep. Paul Ryan's: this new pope just doesn't understand the workings of America's wonderful capitalism. Its churches create a stronger belief and bring in lost souls!

They don't add "through greed". They don't have to. Kate Blowler's article Believers in Bling highlights the Prosperity "Preachers of L.A."
Many believers in the prosperity gospel will despise the “The Preachers of L.A.” for advertising the humanity of the man behind the message. Still others will tune in because of their deep belief that the high life might actually be divine.
 Or the preacher himself might be divine: Pastor Steven Furtick's  Elevation Church hands out coloring books to young worshippers stating "Elevation Church is based upon the vision given by God to Pastor Steven. We will protect our unity in supporting his vision." Furtick's new $3.3 million mansion certainly demonstrates the amount of support his "vision" has engendered besides all that adoration. 

The key to all of capitalist churches today may be transparency - or lack of it: few churches subscribe to the Evangelical Council For Financial Accountability. Lack of transparency puts them on Ministry Watch's "Donor Alert". Among those on the alert are:

Creflo Dollar Ministries
Benny Hinn
Rod Parsley (Breakthrough Ministries)
Trinity Broadcasting Network
Ken Copeland Ministries

Other churches equally culpable in shifting "bling" to their pastors and "bishops", however, may seem transparent, but have low "efficiency ratings', churches like:

John Hagee Ministries
TD Jakes Ministries
Mars Hill (Pastor Mark Driscoll**)

An Ensuing War

Whether on not capitalist churches like Ken Copeland's will address the "Francis Dilemma" head on has yet to be seen. So far, only ultra-conservatives like Paul Ryan (himself as Catholic) have made noises against Francis (ditto Rush Limbaugh, of course). But if Francis' theology of servitude and sacrifice truly takes flight, stronger names than "Marxist" will flow out of some of America's pulpits. 

Never come between a "bishop of bling" and his dreams. 

The below video is years old, but the preachers featured still thrive along with many more. 

*The Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship that "consecrated" Long as Bishop is less than twenty years old and the original membership included Long himself. 
** Driscoll's latest scandal involves using church funds to pay for a "consulting" firm to place his latest book on bestseller lists. Up to $220,000. What Driscoll got from this fraud has still been undisclosed.