November 30, 2005

War Against Christmas, Or Just Good Manners?

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 12:02 am

Michelle Goldberg has an excellent article at Salon titled How the secular humanist grinch didn’t steal Christmas. She describes the history of the mythical war against Christmas going back to Henry Ford’s anti-semitic rants, the John Birch Society’s warnings about the forces of the UN in department stores, and now Bill O’Reilly’s “Christmas Under Siege” segments. She assures us that the war on Christmas is no more real today than it was 80 years ago, but the myth lives:

As the holidays approach, the right is making ever more fevered preparations to thwart this ostensible conspiracy. Last week, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights launched a short-lived boycott of Wal-Mart, charging the megastore with “insulting Christians by effectively banning Christmas.” The American Family Association called for a Thanksgiving-weekend boycott of Target because of the chain’s purported refusal to use the phrase “Merry Christmas” in its advertising…

Despite Johnson’s lamentations, one can in fact offer Christmas greetings without legal counsel…

In fact, there is no war on Christmas. What there is, rather, is a burgeoning myth of a war on Christmas, assembled out of old reactionary tropes, urban legends, exaggerated anecdotes and increasingly organized hostility to the American Civil Liberties Union.

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November 28, 2005

Some Software Updates

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 1:25 am

Per a suggestion from Lara, I’m trying the WordPress plug-in Spam Karma 2 to automatically filter out spam comments while hopefully letting all of your comments through without manual moderation. I’ll be checking up on it to make sure it doesn’t hold up legitimate comments, but if you have any problems, drop me an email at bob [at] iamachristiantoo [dot] org.

I’ve also upgraded to a newer version of WordPress, and in the process had to re-create my template. I’m still tweaking it to get it back to where it was, but if you notice any glitches, let me know.

November 24, 2005

Ten Things I'm Thankful For This Thanksgiving

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 12:06 am

This Thanksgiving*, a few bloggy things I am thankful for…

  1. the “mark all comments as spam” button in the WordPress comment moderation panel
  2. commenters that agree with me, so I don’t start going fetal
  3. commenters that disagree with me, so I don’t start thinking I know what I’m talking about
  4. Andy Borowitz, The Onion and Monty Python, so we don’t have to be so bloody serious all the time
  5. my high school English teachers who drilled into me the difference between its and it’s, who’s and whose, and lose and loose
  6. my Mom, for making me take typing class in the 7th grade
  7. laptops and wireless, so I can blog while laying lying on the couch
  8. not needing to know any more html, css, php or sql than I do already (which ain’t much)
  9. Google, Firefox, Linux and WordPress, all of which are free
  10. the 37,532 visits since I began blogging a bit less than a year ago

Here’s to giving thanks, and gorging ourselves on way too much food! Have a good Thanksgiving.

*For readers outside the U.S. — a charming U.S. holiday to commemorate a feast shared by the Pilgrims and Native Americans in 17th Century Massachusetts. The Native Americans are still kicking themselves for that.

November 22, 2005

The IRS Goes After All Saints Church

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 10:26 pm

I’ve been remiss in not blogging about the IRS/All Saints’ controversy, especially since All Saints Church is in my backyard. The LA Times broke the story of the IRS investigation into a decidedly anti-war sermon delivered at All Saints by the Rev. George Regas a couple days before the 2004 elections. The LA Times followed up the next day about conservatives joining All Saints in objecting to the IRS investigation. (A pdf with the sermon in question is here.) Regas ultimately gave his side of the story in an opinion piece in the LA Times. Just this past Sunday, the Pasadena Star-News had an article with the latest at All Saints.

The Christian blogosphere, left, right and center, has been abuzz about it. Dwight, Camassia, and Hugo all see it as political intimidation against a liberal church (as do I). Hugo speaks with authority on the subject, since he heard the original sermon and criticized it at the time. Mark D. Roberts, pastor at Irvine Presbyterian, has a 12-post series on the topic criticizing the All Saints sermon but with a certain ambivalence towards the IRS.
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November 21, 2005

Jimmy Carter: Our Endangered Values

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 2:05 pm

Early this year, God’s Politics by Jim Wallis was the first of its kind: an authentically Christian yet unabashedly liberal manifesto. Wallis’s book gave us a new vocabulary: religion as “personal, but never private”, the conservatives’ Jesus as “pro-war, pro-rich and only pro-American”, and liberals under the sway of “secular fundamentalists”.

God’s Politics put progressive Christians on the map, and more importantly, sold well, ensuring that a new wave of progressive Christian books would get the green light from publishers. Two of those books have arrived: Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis by Jimmy Carter, and How the Republicans Stole Christmas by Bill Press. I’ve just finished Jimmy Carter’s book, and Bill Press’s book is next on my list.

Jimmy Carter is arguably this country’s greatest ex-President. The Carter Center is best known as an international election monitor, but it also sponsors programs to work for peace, sustainable development, human rights and health care around the world. Of course he is also an evangelical Christian and a Sunday school teacher in his Baptist church in Plains, Georgia. The motivation for his good works is his devout Christian faith.
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November 19, 2005

Republicans on Iraq: Empty Rhetoric

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 12:42 am

The Republicans’ rhetoric in reaction to Congressman John Murtha’s bold truth-telling conceals an utter lack of logic. They are trying to play on Americans’ emotions, while acting as through we have no brains. It’s, um, how can I put it, dishonest and reprehensible.

Here are the arguments I heard tonight during the House debate on the Hunter Resolution from the Republicans, and why they are empty:

We must support the troops. Apparently, our military personnel are very fragile, and if we debate U.S. policy regarding the Iraq war, we will hurt their feelings.

Now I have the utmost respect for the men and women in our armed forces. In fact, I have so much respect for them that I believe they understand and accept that the U.S. is a democracy with a loyal opposition. I respect their intellect, and their ability to understand that Americans are questioning our policy, but aren’t questioning our soldiers. This “don’t hurt the troops’ feelings” argument is condescending. They deserve more respect than that. What they really deserve is to be taken out of harm’s way.
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November 15, 2005

Who Would Jesus Torture?

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 11:12 pm

From Working for Change:

Christians of strong religious faith and sound moral conscience often end up in disagreement. Human affairs are a messy business, unfortunately, and even at the best of times we only see through a glass, darkly.

It is hard for that reason to call Christians to a universal standard of behavior. At this moment, however, we cannot afford to dilute the message of Jesus into meaningless ambiguity. There are certain acts that a follower of Jesus simply cannot accept. Here is one: A Christian cannot justify the torture of a human being.

[…] Christians must oppose torture under any circumstances. Consider this: Who would Jesus torture? I cannot imagine Jesus finding a single “exemption” that would justify such an abuse of any individual made in God’s image.

Though I bristle whenever I hear someone refer to the United States as a Christian nation — it is such a loaded phrase — many in the Muslim world see us as such. How tragic it would be for Muslims to identify the message and mission of Jesus with torture and terror. We must not allow that to happen.

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November 14, 2005

Looking for Answers

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 1:50 pm

Several days ago, I attended the funeral of my stepbrother, Rod. (There seems to be a lot of that going around these days.) 56 years old. Survived by his wife, four grown children, three grandchildren, a large extended family and many, many friends.

Esophageal cancer.

56 years old.

It makes no sense.

From a song by blues guitarist Susan Tedeschi:
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Borowitz: Theory of Dumb Design

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 8:42 am

From Andy Borowitz:

THEORY OF DUMB DESIGN MAY EXPLAIN PAT ROBERTSON
Televangelist’s Brain, Mouth Elude Other Theories, Experts Say

Out of the controversial debate pitting the theory of evolution against the theory of intelligent design has emerged a new theory, dumb design, which some experts believe may explain the televangelist Pat Robertson.

The theory of dumb design holds that human beings were designed by a superior being, but one who mysteriously designed certain humans in a particularly dumb way.

Enter Rev. Robertson, whom many experts in the theory of dumb design are calling “Exhibit A” in their effort to prove that the theory holds water.

“If you take a look at Pat Robertson’s brain and mouth, and how they work or do not work in concert, you have a fairly persuasive argument that the theory of dumb design is valid,” said Dr. Davis Logsdon of the University of Minnesota, one of the leading advocates of the dumb design theory.

The theory of dumb design began to gain traction in August, when Rev. Robertson called upon the U.S. to assassinate Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

And last week, when Rev. Robertson warned the people of Dover, Pennsylvania, that God would strike them with natural disasters after they removed school board members who favored teaching creationism, the theory of dumb design seemed to achieve critical mass.

But even an adherent of dumb design like Dr. Logsdon warns against putting too much stock in the theory, adding, “No one theory could possible explain all the things Pat Robertson says.”

November 7, 2005

Response to Mohler re: Homosexuality, Pt 3

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 9:59 pm

See here and here for my first two responses to Albert Mohler’s columns on homosexuality here, here and here.

From an address by James Shannon on July 13, 1855:

In deciding the question, whether slavery be a moral wrong, I premise that I hold it as an axiom, that THE Bible is the only infallible standard of moral truth and human duty. Not desiring impiously to presume to be wiser than God–to condemn what he has not condemned, or to justify what he has not justified–I repudiate, as the quintessence of infidelity, the sentiment, that men are able by the light of Nature, by any power of intellect, or by any feeling “away down in the heart,” to prove that to be wrong which the Bible sanctions.

[…] All who are well informed on the subject know, that, if the Bible sanctions any thing, it sanctions slaveholding. [emphasis in the original]

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