Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Sunday, April 5, 2015 8:10 pm

Odds and ends for April 5

He is risen. He is risen indeed.

Cops in California are using a 1930s-era anti-lynching statute to intimidate protesters. Prosecutors so far have declined to press those charges, but it’s only a matter of time until a right-wing nutjob decides to try to make an example of someone.

Speaking of California, its people are in serious denial about its extreme drought, now in its fourth year. About 94% of the state considers the drought serious, but 61% still favor voluntary measures to deal with it. Y’all need to wake up.

Likely presidential contender and perennial horse’s ass Mike Huckabee thinks I’m a member of the “militant gay community,” inasmuch as that’s whom he’s blaming for the backlash against Indiana’s bigoted “religious freedom” statute. Who knew that Christians who take the Second Great Commandment seriously were militant gays? My wife certainly had no idea.

We have a system that treats you better if you are rich and guilty than if you are poor and innocent and this case proves it.” (Previously.)

In Florida, relatives of officers of for-profit charter-school companies are enacting legislation to divert money from public schools to charter schools. But none dare call it a conflict of interest, let alone a crime.

Randi Harper, somewhat unwillingly turned into an activist by GamerGaters and perpetrators of online violent and/or sexual threats, got SWATed — someone called in a false tip to police that led a SWAT team to raid her apartment. Her experience could have ended with her dead, or at least her dog. Fortunately, both are alive and well. She talks about what you need to do to protect yourself from such potentially deadly “pranks.” For the record, given the risk of gunplay anytime heavily armed cops storm a home, I think this “prank” should be treated as attempted manslaughter, at least. (h/t: Chip)

Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh draws a useful distinction between what he does and much of the “news” you see in print and online today: Instead of taking a tip and building it into a story, too many reporters just run the tip.


Sunday, April 8, 2012 9:05 pm

He Is Risen: An outsourced reflection, a prediction, a prayer

I spent this weekend finishing up a final project for one of my courses for the semester. Save a proofreading, it’s done, and I can turn it in two weeks early. Which is good, because the project in the other course is going to kill me, but that’s not today’s point.

What’s today’s point, and yesterday’s, and, really, the point for all of Holy Week and the point for all time for anyone who claims to be a Christian or just admires Christ as a historical figure, is the radical nature of what Jesus asked us to do and who he asked us to be. I’ve read volumes on that subject over the years, and despite my misanthropy, recent dearth of church-going and occasional proclivity for PG-13 language here, I take it seriously.

And I’ve found few pithier summaries than this one, posted on Good Friday by Charlie Pierce. He responded to a temporal event in a specifically Roman Catholic context with small-c catholic truths that show no sign of dimming after 2,000 years:

… the liturgies of Holy Week … are the most moving because the one thing they’re not about is authority.

Authority is the villain during Holy Week. Secular authority, in the person of Pontius Pilate. Religious authority, in the institution of the Sanhedrin. What matters most throughout the season is the individual conscience. As Garry Wills never tires of pointing out, Christ did not make priests. He did not make a Church. And he sure as all hell didn’t make a Pope …

What stands out in the Holy Week services is humility in the face of unreasoning authority. What stands out, ultimately, and whether you believe in the Resurrection or not, or think the whole thing is a bunch of hooey imported from the Egyptian mystery cults or somewhere, is that, in the story of Easter week, unreasoning authority loses. It loses badly.

I am under no illusions about what life is going to be like in this country in the coming decade or two. Our bankers are going to insist that the rest of us kiss their asses and give them our money, and no one is going to stop them. Our church leaders are going to continue to engage in the decades-long continuing criminal enterprise of protecting child abusers and enabling history’s biggest thieves. Our police officers are going to use sexual humiliation to subjugate us and pepper spray and worse to keep us from exercising the rights our ancestors (and some of our contemporaries) died to obtain and protect, all in the name of protecting unreasoning authority. And our so-called leaders are going to continue to ignore the protests that the Earth itself is voicing in the plainest language, because, as Upton Sinclair famously observed, it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his paycheck depends upon his not understanding it.

And, make no mistake, the pain will be widespread and it will be awful. We or people close to us will lose jobs, homes, health, even lives. And as bad as it will be here, it will be worse still in other places, many already enduring suffering unimaginable to most Americans.  I’m old enough not to care so much anymore about myself, but I’m terrified for my kids.

But, as cynical and pessimistic as I am, I also have faith — literally, the belief in and hope for something of which no evidence is visible — in this: Every single theft, every single swindle, every single assault, every single official lie, every act of abuse and dereliction of duty, every sin of commission and sin of omission by our unreasoning authorities, will, by engendering actions by Americans, others, or even God’s creation itself, bend the long moral arc of the universe just a tiny fraction closer to justice … in this world or the next.

Amen. Be armed, but go in peace.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012 8:49 pm

Devoured by moths and rust; or, Sex is the hill they have chosen to die on

As I’ve said before, the Roman Catholic Church is a continuing criminal enterprise, an international scheme to victimize children, intimidate and/or bribe the victims and their families and protect the guilty.

It is also, as is true of all people and most human institutions, a mixture of good and evil. It has spoken out on behalf of the poor (though, I would argue, not nearly loudly enough) many times, for example. And not that you’d know it because it has the megaphone turned down on this issue, but it  currently also is speaking out against a hasty rush to war with Iran.

But on some issues, the church speaks more loudly than on others. What it speaks most loudly on today in this country — abortion and other issues related to women’s sexual activity — is a matter of conscious choice. The church likely would deny this and claim that all its moral stands are of equal importance, which, even if it were true, would fly in the face of logic. All sin is equal before God, true, but here on Earth we have long since comes to grips, those of us in the reality-based community, with proportionality. That’s why we execute people for premeditated murder but not for parking violations.

The Church, although a body of believers and a body of belief, also is an earthly institution with vast but finite resources. And so it, too, has to come to grips with proportionality and make choices. If the Church does not choose carefully, innocent people will be harmed, both as a direct result of the church’s emphasis and as an indirect result of the church’s refusal to emphasize other issues that could have helped other people. That’s going to be true whatever the Church prioritizes, of course. But one must wonder what could have led it to decide that abortion and contraception are more important than starting a war. As Matthew’s Gospel (6:21) says, where your treasure is, there your heart is also. And so we see that the Church’s heart — where it has allocated its treasure, defined as its efforts and resources as a megaphone of moral authority — is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party, siding with the powerful against the poor and poor in spirit, siding with those who refuse to comfort those who mourn, siding with warmakers against the gentle, siding with criminals against their victims, and on and on and on, all in contravention of the teachings of the Christ that this same church professes to love and worship.

Which makes particularly sad this comment from Athenae at First Draft:

“When it comes right down to it the Church has made a deliberate choice that sexual intercourse is going to be the hill they want to die on. And absent some massive backlash on the part of the faithful, dying is exactly what they’re going to do.”

Friday, June 3, 2011 7:41 pm

One last word about the Rapture that wasn’t …

Filed under: I want my religion back. — Lex @ 7:41 pm
Tags: ,

… from Mistermix at Balloon Juice:

There’s a whole lot of cruelty packed into their wacko fantasy, and there’s nothing wrong with ridiculing a crazy delusion that’s one part biblical spare parts, one part deadly sperm buildup, and one part bloodlust.


Friday, May 20, 2011 7:38 pm

Rapping the rapture

Filed under: I want my religion back. — Lex @ 7:38 pm
Tags: , ,

For all I know, people in the western Pacific and eastern Asia are being bodily taken up into Heaven as I type, but I have found no credible news reports of such. Still, even if the world doesn’t end tomorrow, there’s still, as Britney Spears’s new music video reminds us, Dec, 21, 2012, to think about. So let’s think about the Rapture.

My friend the Rev. Ken Carter, pastor of Providence United Methodist Church in Charlotte (and pastor of a United Methodist congregation here in Greensboro in the mid-1990s, when I met him), tweeted this:

references to #rapture end of world on fb [Facebook] & twitter allow cultured despisers to display free-floating aggression toward something: why? #God

Ken, as have been many members of my family over the years, is in the God business, so I understand his defensiveness. But, as I suspect he well knows, even many of us who count ourselves believers have been pretty hard on this whole world-is-ending-on-May-21 meme (guilty as charged here, here and here, for example).

For one thing, many, if not most, Christians rely on Jesus’s caution in Matthew 25:13: “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” In other words, when Jesus comes again, it will be a surprise even to those who claim to know the Bible and the teachings of Jesus best.

But (allowing for the heightened risk of misunderstanding created by the 140-character limit of Twitter posts) Ken also, I think, is straying into a bit of broad-brush countercriticism of critics of the posted May 21 Rapture when he refers to those critics as “cultured despisers.”

For one thing, the phrase suggests he assumes that it’s only the “cultured” who “despise” the Rapture message — that, in other words, this is an issue of classism. Perhaps that’s not what Ken meant, but that’s how it comes across. And I know of no real evidence to suggest that May 21 Rapture criticism is rooted in classism.

He is right about aggression, but in many cases, I do not think that aggression is particularly free-floating. One of those cases is my own.

Because here’s the thing: Many of the same people who are touting the Rapture on the morrow are some of the same people who cling most tightly to beliefs that, counter to the teachings of Christ, increase the amount of human suffering in the world rather than alleviating it. And many of those people hold, or strongly influence those who hold, great political and economic power in our society, with the result that that power is used to make weaker people even more miserable than they already are.

Not only is this behavior bad in and of itself — direct disobedience of Christ’s teachings — it, in marketing terms, tarnishes the brand. It makes Christianity look silly and hypocritical, and some of us whom Ken dismisses as “cultural despisers” actually care a great deal for what these jackleg haters are hijacking.

Every time I read or hear about another instance of this kind of abuse of power, I want to slap someone. That’s not very Christian, I’ll be the first to admit. But neither is it “free-floating aggression” — against God or anything else worthy of worship. It’s a very focused aggression: focused on people who enjoy their power too much to stop using it for harmful ends or are too damned stupid to acknowledge their hypocrisy, let alone atone for the damage their beliefs and actions have caused.

I confess that another way in which I am an, ahem, imperfect Christian is that if the Rapture does come tomorrow, I expect that those who actually get Raptured will have been, like the boggle-eyed long-term employee who gets singled out for a lifetime-service surprise award at the company banquet, utterly unaware that they were among the Chosen. And I derive a distinctly un-Christian level of pleasure from the thought that after they’re gone, a lot of sanctimonious, self-righteous jerkwads who had taken special care not to drive tomorrow lest their driverless cars maim innocent (well, clearly not innocent if they’re still here) pedestrians after they were Raptured, will be left standing on the sidewalks, shaking their fists at the heavens and shouting, “Well? WELL?!?

Eyes on the ball, people. The Second Great Commandment is the prize. Keep your eye on that, and it won’t matter when the Rapture comes.

(Image: Longcat and Tacgnol of; caption by DivaGeek)

Monday, July 19, 2010 8:52 pm

Glenn Beck pwned by social-justice Christian

I know and love many ministers, but just for today, my favorite is Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary in New York. I am drinking so much WIN out of her piece on Glenn Beck, Christianity and social justice that I do not own a beer stein capable of holding it all. At my age, I’m running out of things I haven’t seen yet, but until today I had never seen someone turn the other cheek and still leave a mark — and Glenn, buddy, all the pancake in the world ain’t gonna cover that bruise.

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