Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Video of the Day: Sister Rosetta Tharp - Up Above My Head

WTF Would Jesus Pray For?


Pastor Wiley Drake, a Southern Baptist pastor from Buena Park, California, says he is praying for Barack Obama's death.

He says his prayers request that God smite Obama "with—among other things—plagues, death, and eternal damnation."

He explained to Religion News Service: "That doesn’t mean I spend every waking hour praying for the death of the president. Of our prayers, 98 percent should be good prayers and 2 percent should be imprecatory."

"Imprecatory prayer" is a theological term for praying that bad things happen to bad people.

Pastor Drake's confession about his prayers for Barack Obama's death "came after Kansas abortionist George Tiller was gunned down in church. That killing, Drake said, was an answer to his prayers."
Well... Huh. I tried to find something about prayer percentages in the Bible, but I guess I must have missed it. I assume it's in there, though, since Southern Baptists reject Tradition in favor of Scriptural loyalty. God knows they wouldn't just go around making shit up. There are, of course, instances of "imprecatory" prayer in the Bible, but they are all in the Old Testament. Jesus Christ makes his opinion on prayer pretty clear.

Matthew 6:5-15 says:
"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

"This, then, is how you should pray:
" 'Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.' For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
I don't know where you get this stuff, Pastor Drake. WTFWJD?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Man, I love Jews.

From the Baltimore Sun:

On a typical summer Sunday, the doors of Temple Oheb Shalom are locked tight. With observances of the Jewish Sabbath taking place on Friday night and Saturday and religious school out until fall, the Park Heights Avenue building sits empty.

Not yesterday. Hundreds of congregants of a different faith poured into the sanctuary, bringing along their love of God, their upbeat music and their fervent prayer to the otherwise quiet house of worship. A fire July 1 damaged the historic Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Upton and left its flock with no place to come together. But an offer from the synagogue's leaders gave them temporary refuge as their landmark building is repaired.

. . .

"It solidifies what I've always believed," said Joshua Lawton, 23, of Towson, a relatively new member of the church. "It doesn't matter what religion you are - it's all about God. Period. End of story. Everything else is just about details."
I like this story, and wanted to share.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Say "Free Thought Florida" ten times fast

According to the Inquisitr, this billboard has some Floridian Christians up in arms. I, on the other hand, think it's great. I think that saying that one doesn't have to believe in God to be a good person, and that there are others like you who want to hang out, is a much more inclusive message than "imagine no religion," or the like. Unlike the rest of the atheist billboards we've seen recently, this one doesn't reek of evangelism (and therefore hypocrisy). Terrible graphic design aside, this is actually pretty awesome.

So chill out, Floridian Christians. People are going to keep killing each other no matter what they believe.

Don't mess with Texas

From the Houston Chronicle:

Critics who engineered the recent ouster of State Board of Education Chairman Don McLeroy, in part because of his strong religious beliefs, could end up with someone even more outspoken in her faith.

Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, who advocated more Christianity in the public square last year with the publication of her book, One Nation Under God, is among those that Gov. Rick Perry is considering to lead the State Board of Education, some of her colleagues say.

Critics are gasping and allies are cheering over speculation that Dunbar, a lawyer, could win a promotion to the leadership spot.

“It would certainly cause angst among the same members of the pagan left that rejected Don McLeroy because he was a man of faith,” said David Bradley, R-Beaumont, one of the seven socially conservative members on the 15-person board.

"The pagan left?" Let's read that again, shall we?
“It would certainly cause angst among the same members of the pagan left that rejected Don McLeroy because he was a man of faith,”
That's very Christ-like of you, David Bradley.* Yes, the problem with having the chairman of the State Board of Education advocate for the teaching of scientific fallacies, such as intelligent design, is his faith. Because nobody who opposes the teaching of specific religious dogma (masquerading as science) in public schools could possibly be anything but pagan.

I promised my mom I would swear less on this blog, but fuck you, David Bradley.* First of all, you're towing a fine constitutional line by trying to sneak creationism into public schools under the guise of science. This may come as a surprise to you, but America is not a "Christian Nation," Texas is not a "Christian State," and the Bible is not a science book. It is a lot of things to a lot of people, and there are certainly valuable lessons that can be learned in there, but the specifics of how the world was made and where human beings come from are not among them. And if you believe they are - if you believe that everything we know about science is misleading people and causing them to believe evil lies - then home-school your damn kids. Don't inflict your bullshit theories among the whole state of Texas.

The issue of what to teach in schools is a constitutional issue, not a Biblical one. Back in the days of the Bible, there was no science. There was only religion. As such, there is no Biblical guide for how to deal with scientific evidence that conflicts with the Scripture. The right will try to present science as some sort of pagan half-religion, which it unequivocally is not. It's just science, plain and simple. Science is as objective as it's possible for a field of human study to be. And furthermore, unlike religion, it provides no greater meaning to life. It only explains how things work, not why they do. Most religious people know this. We can see that science and religion are two very different things that are not (or should not be) in conflict. The right, however, isn't satisfied with evidence. They want every word in their precious Bible to be literally true. There is no Scriptural precedent on how to deal with that kind of fundamentalist, except to say that the religious purists are the ones who had Jesus murdered, and the fuck-ups were His pals.

What we do have, however, is Matthew 5:11-12, which says:
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Now I'm not saying that being pagan is inherently a bad thing. If you want to be pagan, be pagan. But it's a complicated word with a lot of different meanings to different people, and when a member of the Christian right uses it to describe the left (in this case, moderates are lumped in there as well), knowing full well that a majority of the left are Christian too, he is mocking the validity of their faith, which is certainly an insult. But in the New Testament, it is the insulted who are the righteous, and those doing the insulting who are the self-righteous. So I ask you, David Bradley*, WTF would Jesus do?

*you unbelievable asshole.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Leave them nuns alone, Pope Nazipants!

From the New York Times:

The Vatican is quietly conducting two sweeping investigations of American nuns, a development that has startled and dismayed nuns who fear they are the targets of a doctrinal inquisition.

Nuns were the often-unsung workers who helped build the Roman Catholic Church in this country, planting schools and hospitals and keeping parishes humming. But for the last three decades, their numbers have been declining — to 60,000 today from 180,000 in 1965.

While some nuns say they are grateful that the Vatican is finally paying attention to their dwindling communities, many fear that the real motivation is to reel in American nuns who have reinterpreted their calling for the modern world.

In the last four decades since the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, many American nuns stopped wearing religious habits, left convents to live independently and went into new lines of work: academia and other professions, social and political advocacy and grass-roots organizations that serve the poor or promote spirituality. A few nuns have also been active in organizations that advocate changes in the church like ordaining women and married men as priests.
If you'll allow me to speculate for a moment, I believe a major reason that the current Catholic hierarchy refuses to even discuss the possibility of female ordination is the rampant liberalism running through today's convents. The nuns of the 21st century are not your daddy's Catholic school nuns. The only thing they slap with rulers these days are the archaic laws of Catholicism. Now, I know I'm over-generalizing, but I've known a few nuns and a few members of the clergy in my day, and it's the nuns, not the clergy, who refuse to refer to Pope Nazipants as anything but "Ratzinger;" who, through years of work with impoverished families, have realized that abortion is sometimes a necessary evil; and who told me on several occasions during my high school career that they'd rather be in Vegas, and if they hadn't become nuns the day they graduated from high school they never would have done it. It was the nuns who told me that women were smarter. It is a nun who loves and accepts her gay cousin. It's the nuns, man. I can see why the Vatican is mad at them.

Now, I realize I'm over-generalizing. I'm sure there are plenty of conservative nuns who want nothing more than to lead lives of cloistered prayer and never piss off the Vatican. But those are not the nuns I know. The nuns I know are strong, smart, educated women whose faith in the Church means believing it can change. These are women of faith, of piety, and of chastity (I'd hazard a guess that there's a lot more chastity in the convents than in the priesthood). They're not attacking the Church. They are simply working to make it better with the little power they have. The Vatican cannot hope to effectively antagonize them (however passive-aggressively they try to do it) without losing them, which it cannot afford to do.

There is one important point that the Vatican is overlooking in their efforts to exert more control over American nuns: these women are, much more than the Vatican, living reflections of Christ's love.

Mark 10:17-21 says:
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'"

"Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."

Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
My mother went down to New Orleans after hurricane Katrina to work on the reconstruction. Among those she met down there were nuns from all over the world who were also working tirelessly - giving up their comfortable lives to give to the poor. To my knowledge, she met no priests. To my knowledge, the Vatican has not given up its vast wealth to make change in the world.

Matthew 3:29-39 says:
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!

"You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"
If history has taught us anything, it is that new religions start with the best of intentions and, over time, become hopelessly corrupt. In the end, the leaders of a particular religious movement come to represent exactly the kind of hypocrisy that the forefathers fought against. The Church is lucky to have these women in their ranks, yet they are trying to subvert them. These women, more than the Vatican, represent the Body of Christ. WTF would Jesus do? Ask the nuns.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Happy Canada Day!

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