The year of …?

Via Ed Brayton comes this report that the Pennsylvania House has declared 2012 to be “The Year of the Bible,” on the spurious grounds that “Biblical teachings inspired concepts of civil government that are contained in our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States” etc, etc. Which of course is why the three branches of American government are the king, the priesthood, and the prophets, just like the governments ordained in the Bible.

Anyway, I was just thinking: what year should 2013 be? The Year of the Koran? The Year of the Book of Mormon? The Year of Dianetics?

Or perhaps we should go with The Year of On Origin of Species? Or perhaps Demon-Haunted World? (One of my favorites.) Or how about Letter to a Christian Nation?

What’s your nomination?


The power to define is the power to destroy

I was skimming through the news headlines and saw an article that got me thinking. I’ve since lost the link, so I can’t really quote it here, but it’s a sadly all-too-common tale: Christians complaining about liberals and how gay rights activists are trying to “change the definition” of marriage.

So here’s the thing: Christians want the right to define what marriage is, and that in itself is not a bad thing. Christians should have the right to decide for themselves what the true definition of marriage is. The problem is that they not only want to define marriage for themselves, they want to define it for everyone else as well. They want to deny to others the right of definition that they claim exclusively for themselves.

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Freedom is like a muscle: if you don’t exercise it, you lose it. We can’t just sit back and expect the First Amendment to protect us. If all that stands between the wealthy and their profits is a “goddamn piece of paper,” they will find a way around it. They’ll even buy whatever legislative influence it takes to make it all nice and “legal.”

SOPA, PROTECT IP, and now RWA, are all working hard to take something that fails to profit the wealthy (i.e. your First Amendment freedoms), and exchange it for more lucrative controls that keep the money flowing out of your pockets and into theirs, indefinitely. Freedom of the many, versus the profits of the few. It’s an uneven contest, and if we don’t defend our individual liberties, we’ll lose them.

What is SOPA?

On the effectiveness of prayer

From time to time various people attempt to study the effect of prayer under real-world conditions, and it occurs to me that we have ideal conditions for undertaking such a study right now. The Cranston West High School has recently concluded a 48-year experiment in which students were exposed to a specific “School Prayer” on a daily basis. Has this prayer worked? Granted, atheists and unbelievers of various sorts might be expected to resist the effects of pious appeals to the Almighty Heavenly Father, so we shouldn’t look at the impact it has had on the godless. Instead, let’s examine the specific petitions in the prayer and see how it has changed believers’ lives, attitudes, and conduct.

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Back in late 2002, when it was beginning to become obvious that George W. Bush was going to send us into an invasion of Iraq, I made some (unpublished) predictions.

  1. The price of gas would spike, as it always does when there’s turmoil in the Middle East.
  2. The US would get bogged down in Iraq for years rather than the few months that Bush was predicting.
  3. The insurgency would not give up, and would even grow stronger with continued US presence in the country.
  4. The US economy would take a severe hit due to (ongoing) high cost of the war.
  5. No weapons of mass destruction would be found apart from what Hussein got from Reagan in the 80’s.
  6. Republicans would lose the White House in 2008 due to the negative consequences of the war.
  7. A Democrat would be elected President and would eventually get us out of Iraq.
  8. Conservatives would blame the Democratic President for taking too long to get out of Iraq
  9. Once the US was gone, conditions in Iraq would become worse than they were under Hussein, and
  10. Conservatives would blame the Democratic President for getting out of Iraq too soon.

I think I came pretty close on the first eight (though number 6 is something of a false positive, since the sub-prime mortgage crisis did more to turn over the White House than the war did).  And I missed a few predictions that I could have made, like the fact that politicians would take advantage of terrorism to start stripping away our civil rights and constitutional liberties. But overall I’d say things are turning out pretty much as I expected, and I’ll be curious to watch for 9 and 10 to come true too.

What do you think?

The new webcams

The Internet is a great equalizer, and a great way for communities to get together and share ideas and experiences. And in some countries, that’s seen as a bad thing.

Iran is mounting new clampdowns on Internet expression, including rules that will impose layers of surveillance in the country’s popular Internet cafes, as Tehran’s political establishment comes under increasing strains from economic turmoil and threats of more international sanctions.

The government’s attempts to control the Internet include installing cameras in cybercafes, collecting detailed information about users, and tracking their web histories.

If you’re a US citizen and you’re glad we live in a free country instead of in Iran, you’re probably not thinking about ongoing attempts under the so-called PATRIOT Act, to do the same sort of thing less openly. Some of them we’re catching, which is good. But how many are we missing? That’s a “state secret.”


Baptist legislator vows to fight ACLU “threat”

Tennessee state legislator Rep. Eric Watson, in an opinion column at The, warns his minions that “The American Civil Liberties Union is at it again.” Watson, who holds a Masters degree (summa cum laude) from Andersonville Theological Seminary, elaborates:

The ACLU has brought lawsuits against local school boards in Tennessee, with the intent to limit students and teachers rights regarding religion. If you have attended any school related events lately, you may have noticed in some cases the prayer has been replaced by a “moment of reflection” or a “moment of silence.” In one school system, which has been under attack by the ACLU, feed-up parents [sic] began reciting the Lord’s Prayer prior to a football game and the entire stadium participated.

Strangely, Watson forgets to tell us what the specific issues might have been in any of these ACLU lawsuits (though he does mention at least one case in which the US Supreme Court agreed that the school was specifically seeking to establish religion, in direct violation of the First Amendment). Nor does he cite any particular cases in which he thinks the ACLU is acting to “limit students and teachers rights regarding religion.” Instead, he suggests that perhaps the time might have come for the Christian majority to rise up and do something to prevent the ACLU from being able to file lawsuits against schools that try to establish religion despite the Constitution.

One of my general rules is local school boards should control education policy. However, it may be time to lay down some restrictions on the ACLU’s ability to dictate school board policy through aggressive lawsuits. Here is the problem; local school boards have limited funds. When the ACLU files a lawsuit, it is easy for local schools boards to react in panic and begin changing local policy to avoid or settle lawsuits. This area of the law isn’t clearly defined.

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Tolerance = “overstepping your bounds”

The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) is reporting that the Raleigh city council has passed a resolution opposing a ban on gay marriage.

In a 6-2 vote Tuesday, the city council opposed a statewide amendment that would ban same-sex marriage and civil unions.

The vote follows earlier comments from Raleigh’s outgoing mayor who described the ban as “discriminatory.”

Got to love those scare quotes. Just imagine, suggesting that it’s discriminatory to tell millions of people that they’re not allowed to marry the one they love just because they happen to fall in love differently than a lot of other people. How biased can you get?

Never fear, though. The holy men and women of the CBN are right there to remind us all about the proper limitations of government.

Traditional marriage supporters say the city is overstepping its bounds.

Right. You can always tell an overly-intrusive government by the way it advocates keeping the state out of people’s private business. A properly bounded government will pick your spouse for you.

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Secondary terrorism

This has been bugging me for a while, so let me just put it down in a post. We all know who the terrorists are: Al Qaeda, right? But are they the only terrorists? No, I’m not talking about other underground movements, or right-wing militias, though there are terrorists there as well. I’m talking about primary terrorism vs. secondary terrorism.

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Christian bigots unhappy over bad publicity

Writing for The New American, Dave Bohon seems unhappy about the negative publicity a certain Baptist university has been receiving lately.

A Baptist university in Georgia is receiving abundant media attention for a “Personal Lifestyle Statement“ it recently updated, that requires faculty and staff to adhere to a set of biblical standards that include shunning homosexual behavior. Employees have been told that they must either sign the statement as a pledge, or face termination.

It’s a private school and receives no federal funding, so there’s no legal issue here. If Christians want to say, “We’re bigots and you have to be a bigot to work here,” then they have that right. What Bohon seems to be unhappy about is the fact that so many people seem to see anti-gay discrimination as bad even when Christians do it.

On its “Gay Voices” page, the Huffington Post highlighted “happily out and proud gay” Rome, Georgia, native Jeffery Self, who recalled the joyful days he spent helping out in the theater department of the college around the corner from his boyhood home. While claiming to understand that, because Shorter is a Baptist college, “certain ‘lifestyle choices’ might not be within their ideas and beliefs,” the aptly named Self nonetheless took the liberty of referring to the school’s pledge as “outlandishly backward, despicable, disgusting, and in no way Christ-like….”

Ooo, “the aptly named Self”—bet that one hurt. But what Bohon fails to understand is that there’s no contradiction here. It’s entirely possible that Baptist doctrines might not allow homosexual “lifestyles,” AND that this anti-gay attitude might be outlandishly backward, despicable, and disgusting. Bigotry doesn’t magically become OK just because Christians do it, any more than raping altar boys becomes ok just because the perp is a priest.

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