Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Go Habs!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Leave them nuns alone, part 2

Today, while completing my daily ritual of scouring the Huffington Post, I came across two articles about nuns. I found this odd, since there are approximately six nuns left in existence, but that's neither here nor there. Here's what the first one said:

Garbed in her nun's habit and black wool tunic over a white shirt and skirt, Sister Mary Beth Lloyd did not appear to be dressed for exercise. But her running shoes hinted that "something big" was afoot.

Lloyd, 62, of the Religious Teachers Filippini order, launched a charity event with her longtime friend and former colleague, Lisa Smith Batchen, in a bid to raise $1 million for orphans by having the pair run and walk 50 miles in each of the 50 states, for a total of 2,500 miles, within 62 days.

Dubbed "Running Hope Through America," (http://www.runhope.com), the event kicked off Monday in New Jersey, where Smith Batchen, 49, an "ultramarathoner" ran a loop in a local park all day long until achieving 50 miles.

The duo were set to resume the event Tuesday in New York's Central Park and continue Wednesday in Connecticut, and so on across the nation, until finishing after 62 days--a time frame chosen because 62 miles in ultramarathons equals 100 kilometers, a race standard.

There's that social justice bit that the Catholic Church is so proud of. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Catholic nuns are, more than the Vatican, doing the work of Christ. Anyway, here's what the second one said:

A Roman Catholic bishop in Pennsylvania has barred local nuns from promoting their order in his diocese because they supported the health care bill Congress passed last month.

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden, Pa., "publicly repudiated" the U.S. bishops by supporting the bill, the Diocese of Greensburg said in a statement. Therefore, Bishop Lawrence Brandt has ordered diocesan newspapers, offices, and parishes not to promote the sisters' upcoming recruiting drive.

The Sisters of St. Joseph, who specialize in health care and social services, was one of nearly 60 Catholic women's congregations that signed a March 17 letter supporting a version of the health care bill that was denounced by the U.S. bishops.

After minor revisions and a promise from President Obama not to expand federal funding of abortion, that bill became law on March 23. . . .

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, the Catholic social-justice lobby that organized the March 17 letter, said she is saddened by Brandt's actions.

The bishops and the nuns "share one faith and one commitment," Campbell said. "We have a difference of opinion on how that commitment is carried out in legislation. And the fact that we can't have a difference of opinion really saddens me."

I wish there was a way for me to translate the audible sigh I gave when I read this into writing. I've known for a long time that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is more a right-wing political organization than an expression of faith, but this action on the part of one of their members really upsets me, and here's why: the health care bill that passed congress did not give any federal funding to abortions. While it is woefully inadequate (in my humble, Canadian opinion), what it did do was increase health coverage for poor, and elderly people, as well as children. This, again, falls in line with the Catholic Church's mission of social justice, which, I assume, is why the nuns supported it. It does not, however, fall in line with modern American conservative politics, which is why, I assume, the Bishop Limbaugh didn't.

Matthew 4:23 says:

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.

Matthew 9:35 says:

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.

Matthew 10:8 says:

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.

Matthew 12:15 says:

Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick

Matthew 14:14 says:

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

I think you get the picture. There is no question in my mind that universal health care, unlike many issues in the Bible that can be unclear, falls in line with the teachings of Christ. To that end, I see no justifiable reason that a Catholic Bishop could ostracize a group of smart, awesome nuns for supporting legislation that brings the United States closer to that ideal, particularly when the legislation in question does NOT fall out of line with any direct Church teachings. Except, you know, that he's a republican.

So, Bishop Limbaugh, WTF would Jesus do?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Oh, so THAT'S why the volcano erupted!

So, you may have noticed that this giant* volcano in Iceland exploded and stranded everyone who belongs elsewhere in Europe (including my family. I MISS YOU GUYS!!!!), and everyone who belongs in Europe Elsewhere. Luckily for us, however, we have some insight as to why something like this could have happened. Read on...

From the International Reporter:

Dr. Raj Baldev, Cosmo Theorist, further said, “It is a warning to the human being that too much materialism and ignoring faith in God in any form directly or indirectly or through Nature, had made the basic elements to get annoyed on the uncalled for behavior of human beings, and as a result all natural problems are cropping up one after the other, particularly at this stage when there is a serious problem of Global Warming."
From the Times Online:
Is God angry with Europe? The answer, yes – and the evidence, the Icelandic volcano – or so claims the grandly titled Association of Orthodox Expers.

They see the ash cloud, reports Interfax, as a “menacing sign of God” but the jury is out on the web as to why.

The Association gives two possible explanations – the Nazis – or at least their brand of Aryan “neo-paganism”, a centre has just opened in Iceland, and the usual scapegoat, homosexuality.

“Is it possible that once Christian Europe has forgotten the Holy Scripture and the destiny of Sodom and Gomorrah,” they ask.

From Rush Limbaugh:

“You know, a couple of days after the health care bill had been signed into law, Obama ran around all over the country saying, “Hey, you know, I’m looking around. The earth hadn’t opened up. No Armageddon out there. The birds are still chirping.

I think the earth has opened up. God may have replied. This volcano in Iceland has grounded more airplanes – airspace has more affected – than even after 9/11 because of this plume, because of this ash cloud over Northern and Western Europe. … It’s got everybody just in a shutdown. Earth has opened up. I don’t know whether it’s a rebirth or Armageddon. Hopefully it’s a rebirth, God speaking…”
From HuffPo:

A senior Iranian cleric says women who wear immodest clothing and behave promiscuously are to blame for earthquakes. . . .

"Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes," Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media. Sedighi is Tehran's acting Friday prayer leader.

From the Economist:

ICELAND has a lot of volcanoes, and it’s a rare decade where one of them doesn’t erupt. So why is the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull causing such chaos, and what does that mean for the future? The answer to the first question is that the Eyjafjallajokull eruption is peculiarly well attuned to messing with air travel; most eruptions of a similar size would do a lot less long-distance harm. The answer to the second is that less well attuned but considerably larger eruptions are all but certain in decades to come. . . .

As these volcanoes go, Eyjafjallajokull is not a very big one. It is, however, particularly good at producing fine-grained ash — the sort of stuff that can hang in the air for days—and it has done so at a time when weather conditions have allowed that ash to be spread to the south east, in a slightly clumpy way, through a great deal of European sky.

The fineness of the ash is, says Thorvaldur Thordarson, an Icelandic volcanologist, unusual. Ash particles are normally in the 50-100 micron (0.05 to 0.1 millimetre) range. But at a site 50km east of the eruption, 24% of the ash falling to the ground was in the form of particles 10 microns or less in size. Studies of ash captured from the air show that for every one of the largest particles (about 300 microns) there are a million or more in the 2 micron range. So though the total volume of the eruption, put at about 0.14 cubic kilometres, is low, the amount of ash capable of travelling long distances is high.

Two factors are contributing to the fineness of the ash. One is the composition of the lava. The more viscous lava is, the harder it is for gases within it to bubble out, so such lava has an explosive tendency. Eyjafjallajokull’s lava is, by Icelandic standards, quite viscous. The other factor is the presence of water. Putting molten lava into direct contact with water or ice also leads to explosions, which again lead to fine dust. A small ice cap on top of Eyjafjallajokull has promoted such shenanigans.

Seriously, who do those crap journalists at the Economist think they are? Obviously, the eruption was caused by God being mad about sluts, health care, gays, neo-Nazis, paganism, materialism and global warming. DUH!

The Economist sucks.**

*Yes, I know that Eyjafjallajokull is not actually all that giant. I just like the sound of a giant volcano exploding.

**By "sucks," I mean "is the best magazine of all time."

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Vatican to Beatles: I forgive you!

Beatles to Vatican: fuck off!

(This is probably the coolest thing Ringo has ever done, not that that's saying much.)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Perhaps this is something on which we can all agree.


I like it.

Whatever happened to the Catholic Church?

Perhaps that's a stupid question. After all, the Church's history is marked with atrocities more frequent than its great works of charity. That said, there was a period following Vatican II where the Church finally started to look like something the Christ I know would have endorsed, except for one little problem, which they tried tirelessly to hide (but not correct)...

I'm not happy about this. I'd say I'm more not happy about this than most recovering Catholics (I like the sound of "recovering" better than "lapsed," don't you?). The more I hear about the pedophilia and cover-ups within the Church, the efforts of Church leaders to blame everyone but themselves, and the efforts of Pope Nazipants to play this off as a smear campaign against him, the more I don't want to hear about it anymore. I want it to stop.

But, of course, it's not going to stop. What this miserable failure of a pope fails to realize is that whether or not he was directly (or indirectly) involved in any of these scandals, he is responsible for them. As the head of the Church, it is his responsibility to ensure that it adheres to its own moral code and does right by its members. We can quibble about specifics, like abstinence and homophobia, but this problem is greater than either of those things. Adults who want to have premarital sex, whether gay or straight, have options. They can find a way to reconcile their non-adherence to Church dogma and remain Catholic (which many of them do), they can leave and find another denomination that is more accepting (which many of them do), or they can leave the faith community all together (which many of them do... I wonder why the Church's numbers are dwindling...). Children who are being abused, however, don't have the same options. They cannot defend themselves, and the Vatican has chosen not to defend them either. This is a big, big problem.

Look, I can quote Bible verses to you explaining why this is wrong, but nobody really needs the Bible to explain something this simple. You know it's wrong. I know it's wrong. The Vatican knows it's wrong. Hell, even Pope Nazipants knows it's wrong. What he is more concerned with than righteousness, however, is the sanctity of the priesthood. No, not in God's eyes, but in his own. Pope Ratzi the Pedophilia-Endorsing Nazi has his own interests, and what he believes are the interests of the Church (structurally, not spiritually), at heart. He is not a man of faith, but a man of power. In short, he's a stodgy old douchebag who doesn't give two shits about anybody but himself.

As most of you probably know, the Bible as we know it today was canonized in the 4th century. There were many other Christian texts and Gospels circulating before that time, some of which became part of the apocrypha, and others of which were deemed heretical. One of the Gospels NOT endorsed by the early Church was the Gospel of Thomas. Here's a little bit of it, taken from The Essential Gnostic Gospels, translated by Alan Jacobs:
These are the secret words of Almighty God,
which Lord Jesus Christ uttered
and were scribed by his disciple Thomas.

He said, "He who comprehends the inner meaning
of these words will be immortal.

Permit whoever seeks never to cease
from seeking until he finds.

When he succeeds he will be turned around;
when he's so turned he'll be amazed
and shall rule over the All.

If those who lead you say 'God's Kindgom's in Heaven,'
then birds will fly there first.
If they say 'It's in the sea,'
the fish will swim there first.

For God's Kingdom dwells in your heart and all around you;
when you know your Self you too shall be known!

. . .

Make the two into One
and the inner as the outer and the outer as the inner,
the above as below, the male and female into a single One.

So the male isn't male and the female isn't female any more.
When you make two eyes into a single eye,
and a hand into a hand, a foot into a foot,
a picture into a picture, then you'll enter the Kingdom.

. . .

Show me the stone that the builders have rejected;
that one shall be my corner stone.

He who understands all but lacks Self Knowledge lacks all.

. . .

I am the Light above them all; I am the All;
the All issues from me and reaches me.

Cut wood, I am there; lift stone, I am there

. . .

He who knows the real Mother* and Father,
can he be called the son of a whore?
When you make two into One you'll be sons of Man,
and if you command a mountain to movie, it will move. . . .
You can probably see why this wasn't included in the Bible. Beyond the concept of gender equality and the possible reference to sex as a means to salvation, the biggest issue with the Gospel of Thomas is that it doesn't endorse anything that resembles organized religion (aside from a one-sentence recommendation to keep the Sabbath holy). No, the ideas espoused in the Gospel of Thomas are about self-discovery as a way to reach the divine. This concept must have been very threatening to a political body operating under the pretense of religious authority (aka the early Catholic Church).

I feel like there's something to this concept of salvation through self-discovery. It crops up again and again in countless religions throughout history and geography. Aside from the spiritual argument for humanism, though, let's examine the practical benefits: without an organized Church, there'd be no priests to molest little kids (or youth pastors to rape teenage girls, as happens in many evangelical sects); without an organized Church, there'd be no laws of priestly celibacy, which arguably contribute to priestly pedophilia (but even if they don't, they're still pretty dumb); without an organized Church, there'd have been no cruisades, no near-universal condemnation of homosexuality, no Pope Nazipants to tell Africa that condoms will give them AIDS, no evangelical, right-wing blowhards to try to argue with science...

If I wanted to get really tacky, here, I'd quote John Lennon. Instead, however, I'm going to move this argument back into the realm of pragmatism. Organized religion isn't going anywhere anytime soon. And really, organized religion is also responsible for a lot of good. The Catholics are great about pulling out all the stops when tragedies strike. There were a lot of priests and nuns and lay people helping to rebuild New Orleans after Katrina. I'd imagine there are a lot of them helping to rebuild Haiti right now as well. There are church groups fighting for the rights of gays to marry even as there are church groups fighting against them. Religion is not uniformly bad, nor is the Catholic Church.

No, what the Catholic Church needs, rather than dissolution, is more reform. I'm sure you've heard it elsewhere in recent weeks, but you'll hear it here again: it's time for Vatican III. And since we know Pope Horrendous Failure the ∞th isn't going to do it, nor is he going to resign, let's just keep our fingers crossed that his age will catch up with him and that the College of Cardinals will have enough sense to elect someone with equal parts morality and pragmatic vision for the next Holy Father.

Lets hope the next pope is someone who gives a rat's ass about WTF Jesus would do.

*If the other Gnostic Gospels are any indication, the "Mother" mentioned in the Gospel of Thomas refers to the Holy Spirit, which was apparently female in many early Christian traditions. Good thing they got rid of that idea, or we'd have a Trinity that makes sense, not to mention a bunch of women running around thinking they're worth something.

Friday, April 2, 2010

You just got saved!

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