Saturday, June 7, 2008

You've Been Left Behind....Would You Mind Taking Care Of The Weiner Dogs?

I have found a website that makes me happy. I'm grinning like a mule eating briars. My world is a better place with these folks in it.

No, it's not or It's better than that.

Every time I go off on a Liberal Theology Rant, I get emails or anonymous comment posts that either a) damn me to an eternity of torment, or b) express genuine concern for the state of my soul.
(For those of you new to this site, I believe that most of our scriptures and holy books are best understood as metaphorical and symbolic.)

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, please let me introduce You've Been Left Behind. What are they about? Here's some text from their site:

We all have family and friends who have failed to receive the Good News of the Gospel. The unsaved will be 'left behind' on earth to go through the "tribulation period" after the "Rapture". You remember how, for a short time, after (9/11/01) people were open to spiritual things and answers. (We are still singing "God Bless America" at baseballs' seventh inning stretch.) Imagine how taken back they will be by the millions of missing Christians and devastation at the rapture. They will know it was true and that they have blown it.
There will be a small window of time where they might be reached for the Kingdom of God. We have made it possible for you to send them a letter of love and a plea to receive Christ one last time. You can also send information based on scripture as to what will happen next. Each fulfilled prophecy will cause your letter and plea to be remembered and a decision to be made.
"WHY" is one last chance to bring them to Christ and snatch them from the flames!

In other words, if and when Jesus returns and takes all the believers to glory, those left behind can get an email from you explaining what has happened, asking them to repent, etc etc etc. Or maybe you just want them to feed the cat and change out the litter box. It's up to you.

How does it work? How can they release the emails if the site administrators aren't on the planet to hit "send"?

We have set up a system to send documents by email, to the addresses you provide, 6 days after the "Rapture" of the Church. This occurs when 3 of our 5 team members scattered around the U.S fail to log in over a 3 day period. Another 3 days are given to fail safe any false triggering of the system.

It only costs forty dollars to send post-rapture emails to 60 of your lost friends. If you are a literalist, you really have no choice but to take advantage of this. You're only risking $40 dollars, an insignificant sum compared to the loss of just one of your friends suffering for eternity in the flames of hell.

I happen to believe that all the apocalyptic stuff at the end of the New Testament was written about 1st century issues, not the end of the world. But that's just me. Millions of people disagree.

If you truly, honestly, believe that God is going to take a few of us into the sky and leave the rest behind, you WILL immediately log onto and give them $40, won't you? And you'll send me a username and password? Because I'm going to write post-rapture letters to the online acquaintances of mine who probably won't make the cut, just in case I don't have a way to get in touch with them:

The Grouchy Old Cripple
Greta Christina
The Bacon Eating Jew
Hell's Handmaiden

and lots of others. All good people, who just can't swallow the atonement concept.

Wouldn't you spend $40 to save one person from cancer, a relatively mild, short-term earthly disease? Surely you'll spend the same sum to save up to 60 people from eternal pain.

I eagerly await your response.

The Minimum Wage Increases Are Working ! ! ! has announced that the new minimum wage increases are working !

As the arbitrary amounts that must be charged for teen-age labor are dramatically increased by congressional mandate, demand for teen-age later decreases ! Businesses are responding rationally by hiring fewer low-skilled workers.

I'm sure that the ultra-compassionate individuals who lobbied for this are pleased. I know I am. You know why? I'll tell you later....

We've got two more increases to go ! There is no telling what kind of unemployment we can achieve among low skill workers and teenagers if we just keep trying. So let's get out those hacksaws, and slice a few more of the bottom rungs off the career ladder, shall we? You know why I want Congress to slice a few more of the bottom rungs off the career ladder? I'll tell you later....

Let's do what we can to destroy the ladder for racial minorities. The Davis-Bacon act, one of our first minimum wage laws, was highly succesful in its stated goal of ensuring full white employment at the expense of African-Americans.

Let me quote the great Dr. Thomas Sowell: "Most economists have long recognized that minimum wage laws increase unemployment among the least skilled, least experienced, and minority workers. With a little experience, these workers are likely to be worth more. But they cannot move up the ladder if they can't get on the ladder."

But I don't want them on my ladder. I think it's mine by birthright.

So lobby your congressperson and your senators for more increases in the minimum wage. Hell, let's double it. It's highly effective when the government jacks around with the economy. Especially if you're an old white guy.

Heh heh heh heh....

Friday, June 6, 2008

Dear Daughter....

The Future Aggie graduated from Paschal High School in Fort Worth last night.
At the party afterwards, a friend of mine recommended this recent column by Leonard Pitts of The Orlando Sentinel. Mr. Pitts has a daughter the same age.
Good stuff.

I'm also saving it here, just in case the Sentinel takes it down.

Caption This

I need a caption for this picture.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Cal Thomas Says Barack Obama's Not A Christian

Journalist Cal Thomas has written a column entitled "Barack Obama Is Not A Christian".
I'll be needing a few tools....
Scalpel - thanks.
Laptop - got it.
Righteous Indignation - I've got plenty.
Various Unitarian Websites - check.
Online Concordance - there are dozens.
Chainsaw - yep.
Let the Fisking begin ! Here's Cal Thomas:

Religion is a topic that makes most journalists uncomfortable, unless they can expose hypocrisy — as in preachers who speak of virtue while carrying on an affair — or outrage such as Rev. Jeremiah Wright and the doings at Barack Obama’s now former church in Chicago.

Let's divide journalism into reporting and editorializing.
The reason for the journalistic discomfort is that journalists are supposed to deal with facts, and only facts, when doing straight reporting.
Journalists are supposed to combine logic and opinions when editorializing.
But religion is an area where many of the "facts" are debatable, and logic is secondary to emotion, feeling, and tradition. Therefore, it's difficult to do straight reporting or editorializing about religion unless the thrust of the journalism is something like exposing hypocrisy or generating outrage.
For instance, amazing things happen during Pentecostal worship services. When taken at face value, these events are credited to the movings and workings of the Holy Spirit. Many Pentecostal worshippers believe that God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, enters their bodies and allows them to speak in foreign languages, have feelings of ecstasy, etc etc etc. Anyone attempting to "report" on this would have difficulty determining what is fact. Anyone attempting to "editorialize" on this, would probably be skeptical. But the True Believers would then claim that the journalists simply don't wish to transcend themselves or take a journey of personal and spiritual discovery.

Most journalists think taking religion seriously might require them to study the claims of various faiths and too many of them have already decided this might lead them to a faith higher than themselves or politics and they don’t wish to take such a journey of personal discovery.

Yeah, that's what it would sound like.

That is too bad, because such an attitude exposes one of the main gaps between most Americans — who believe in God — and most journalists, who don’t.

At this point, Cal does a bit of equivocating. Most of the time when we say "equivocate", we mean "to use intentionally misleading language". But in the rhetorical sense, To Equivocate is to toggle back and forth between two different meanings of the same word as if they meant the same thing.
The Americans surveyed above who believe in God are referenced as if they're a unified block.
That ain't the case. Muslims, who believe in Allah, generally take offense to being lumped in with the Jewish devotees of Yahweh. Many Christians believe that God is not one, but three. Others see God as a life force, or the driving energy behind the universe, like Paul Tillich's "The Ground Of Our Being" concept.
Either way, our beliefs in God aren't all the same.

An exception is Chicago Sun-Times columnist Cathleen Falsani, who interviewed Obama in 2004 for her book, “The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People “and asked him specific questions about his religious beliefs.
“I’m rooted in the Christian tradition,” said Obama, who has declared himself a Christian. But then he adds something that most Christians will see as (gasp) universalism: “I believe there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people.”

Obama could've quoted some Saint Paul at this point: "Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous." (Rom. 5:18-19)
Or Obama could've continued by simply stating "I refuse to believe that God is creating people by the billions, simply to torture them forever for non-belief."

Falsani correctly brings up John 14:6 (and how many journalists would know such a verse, much less ask a question based on it?) in which Jesus says of Himself, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
That sounds pretty exclusive, but Obama says it depends on how this verse is heard.

Mr. Obama is correct on this point. Not only does it depend on how the verse is heard, it depends on whether Jesus really said it. According to the near unanimous opinions of the Biblical scholars in The Jesus Seminar, Jesus didn't say it.
Americans not only have widely divergent beliefs about God, they have diverse beliefs about scriptural authority.

According to Falsani, Obama thinks that “all people of faith — Christians, Jews, Muslims, animists, everyone — know the same God.” (her words)

Cool. Does this mean we can stop killing each other?

If that is so, Jesus wasted his time coming to Earth and he certainly did not have to suffer the pain of rejection and crucifixion if there are ways to God other than through Himself.

Only if the entire universe has to conform to the belief system you grew up with, Cal. One of my favorite theologians, a guy named Culver Nelson, has hypothesized that Jesus simply taught love and compassion and stood up to authority. This got him killed. The substitutionary atonement business got projected onto Jesus after the fact. Click here for details.

Here’s Obama telling Falsani, “The difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and proselytize. There’s the belief, certainly in some quarters, that if people haven’t embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior, they’re going to hell.” Falsani adds, “Obama doesn’t believe he, or anyone else, will go to hell. But he’s not sure he’ll be going to heaven, either.”

OK, from what I've read here and elsewhere, George W. Bush believes that other people will go to hell, and he's going to heaven. Forever. Barack Obama doesn't believe that anyone is going to hell, and Obama isn't sure he's going to heaven.
Think about that a few minutes, and let me know which person you'd trust with the nuclear football.

Here’s Obama again: “I don’t presume to have knowledge of what happens after I die."

The rarest of all commodities: A politician telling the truth for a print publication.....

"When I tuck in my daughters at night and I feel like I’ve been a good father to them, and I see that I am transferring values that I got from my mother and that they’re kind people and that they’re honest people, and they’re curious people, that’s a little piece of heaven.”

Tucking in your daughters, being a good father, kindness, honesty, curiosity - those attributes are worth more than every creed, dogma, and doctrine ever invented.

Any first-year seminary student could deconstruct such “works salvation” and wishful thinking.

I believe that condemning your enemies to eternal torture and rewarding yourself with eternal bliss is "wishful thinking". Wishful thinking for sadists. But that's just me.
One thing I've noticed,'re correct that first-year evangelical college seminary students would probably deconstruct this as "works salvation". Willingness to do so tapers off at the Doctoral level, though. It's difficult to study Church History, Biblical Origins, and Textual Criticism at that level and see these little debates the same way.

Obama either hasn’t read the Bible, or if he has, doesn’t believe it if he embraces such thin theological gruel.

I suspect that Obama has read some Bible. I suspect that Obama "believes" the Bible is worthwhile. But I suspect that Obama has read some other books, books that lead him to believe that the Bible was created by a small group in a small place by people who had no idea that God just might like other people too, and that their enemies weren't necessarily God's enemies.
These people remind me of Cal Thomas.

Obama can call himself anything he likes, but there is a clear requirement for one to qualify as a Christian and Obama doesn’t meet that requirement.

A clear requirement? One clear requirement? Does one have to be baptized? Does one have to receive the Last Rites from a priest? Does one have to accept the doctrines given by the angel Moroni to Joseph Smith? Become a member of a Church Of Christ or some other restorationist denomination?

One cannot deny central tenets of the Christian faith, including the deity and uniqueness of Christ as the sole mediator between God and Man and be a Christian.

No, if Bob Barr can sponsor the Defense Of Marriage act and oppose all medical marijuana laws and still be called a Libertarian, then we can call Barack Obama a Christian.

Such people do have a label applied to them in Scripture. They are called a “false prophet.”

I prefer the term "Whited Sepulchres", but that's just me.
The best rebuttal I know of for this nonsense, if we're going to go Biblical, can be found in Wikipedia's "False Prophet" entry. None of these scriptures remind me of Barack Obama. But if you can read those verses without thinking of Benny Hinn, John Hagee, or Oral Roberts, then you're not watching enough religious programming.

I hope some national journalist or commentator with knowledge of such things asks Obama about this and doesn’t let him get away with re-writing Scripture to suit his political ends.

People have gotten away with re-writing scripture for 2,000 years.
I hope some readers with knowledge of such things will e-mail Cal Thomas about this, and not let him get away with spiritualizing politics to suit his political ends.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The world was our oyster

If you think our tendency toward nation-building is out of control now, check out this map. It was apparently drawn sometime in 1942 as the outgrowth of FDR's "Four Freedom's" speech - an address that I used as a jumping-off point for this post.

Looking back on it, the arrogance is astounding.

It takes a little while to download, but is worth the wait. You can click to zoom in or out.

Check out bullet-point number 26.

Bob Barr and Wayne Allyn Root - Non Factors?

Stuart Rothenberg, who writes The Rothenberg Report for Roll Call magazine, asks "Will Bob Barr And The Libertarians Be A Factor In The Presidential Race?"

Discouraging stuff, in need of rebuking.

Dr. Ralph, whose comments on 3rd parties can be found on almost every post I've done about Barr (click Bob Barr's name below), believes that 3rd parties can't resist the temptation to put a "sorehead" at the top of their ticket. The sorehead wants either revenge or attention; the 3rd party wants some name recognition. And attention. Because they're soreheads.

Discouraging stuff, in need of rebuking.

I'm still going to attend the Libertarian Party meetings, mostly because I've not found any other group whose beliefs about how the world should work so closely resemble mine. Plus, they're great people, interesting to talk to, and one day they just might nominate some people who can be a factor. I'm going to do what I can to support some of their candidates at the local level.

But Bob Freakin' Barr?

Monday, June 2, 2008

I Think I Can Live Without Books

Damon W. Root, of Reason magazine, has an interesting little nugget in this month's issue. It's called "I Cannot Live Without Books".

Writing from the annual publishing industry brouhaha BookExpo America, which is being held this year in Los Angeles, New York Times reporter Edward Wyatt chronicles the fear and resentment sparked by electronic reading gadgets such as Amazon's Kindle. Have e-book buyers forsaken the physical originals? "We don't see people buying both versions," one publishing executive told Wyatt. "I think there is almost a one-to-one cannibalization."For a more optimistic, or at least more idiosyncratic case for the printed word, the great urban historian Luc Sante offers this gem at the end of a long, discursive Wall Street Journal essay on the endless book collecting that has shaped and dominated his life:

I would very much miss books as material objects were they to disappear. The tactility of books assists my memory, for one thing. I can't remember the quote I'm searching for, or maybe even the title of the work that contains it, but I can remember that the book is green, that the margins are unusually wide, and that the quote lies two-thirds of the way down a right-hand page. If books all appear as nearly identical digital readouts, my memory will be impoverished.

The comment field on all of Reason's online articles are usually instructive and entertaining.
My favorite of this batch is in response to remembering that "the book is green, the margins are wide, and the quote is two-thirds down the page...."
A commenter named Austin suggested using CTRL-F.

Sometime soon I'm going to go way out on a limb and put all of my CD's on an iPod, or an MP3 player, or whatever the heck it is the kids use these days. My child hasn't bought a CD in two years, but my bedroom is covered with them. I think it's a matter of trust, since I've lost so much stuff with computer crashes.

If they ever come up with long-lasting batteries for a Kindle or its Sony equivalent, 90% of my books are going away.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Black Jack, Missouri

Black Jack, Missouri, the town that would've turned away Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus.

Hat Tip to Radley Balko of Reason magazine and The Agitator Blog.

QUEERS AND DYKES ARE GONNA GET MARRIED ! ! ! so don't worry about anything else

And so it begins.....
When California recently lifted the ban on gay marriage, it gave Republicans their first ray of sunshine in a long, long time.

This discussion will take the place of Iraq, socialized medicine, ANWR, free trade, tax rates, and just about every other vital issue.
Motherhood and the flag and Americas families will be invoked. Old Testament prophets and New Testament rabbis and 21st century witch doctors will be quoted at length. Priests, preachers, Imams, and Christian Science Reading Room attendants will appear on CNN and Fox News. Their words will be solemnly analyzed for their impact on the upcoming election.

Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission will be shown uncensored on The O'Reilly Factor, strenuously digging platitudes from his nether regions.

What would happen if gay and lesbian couples were allowed to have the same kinds of multiple marriages that John McCain, Dr. Phil, Newt Gingrich, Ted Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan experienced? Would the world spin off its axis if gays and lesbians could enter a sacred and holy matrimonial state like the one recently savored by Britney Spears? Even if Britney's only lasted for two and a half days?

The libertarian concept of "no harm, no foul" should be the guiding light here.

This will become a hot-button wedge issue only if we let it become a hot-button wedge issue.

It's going to become the #1 issue in the campaign, isn't it?