Fellow Travelers

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Right wing hagiography

There are some alarming conclusions to be drawn from thesuccess of right-wing domestic terrorists in Nevada recently. These conclusions don't have to be inferred, they have been plainly stated. One of Bundy's sons, after the armed showdown between militia thugs and BLM employees, said to the media "We won the battle." He told another outlet, “The people have the power when they unite. The war has just begun.” They see this as a war, and one that is just beginning. Having succeeded once it will happen again. Either the next insurrection is surrendered to or it is brutally put down. Either option will only further inspire and embolden the right wing rebels. We are right now in the early stages of a civil war, by their own admission. And it has been going on for a long time, as indicated in this article which gives multiple examples of domestic terrorism by insurrectionists in Nevada. For example:
March 18, 1996: The federal government, which owns 87 percent of the land in Nevada,  is still worried about potential violence if they try to remove illegally grazing cattle from protected land. Two more pipebombs had exploded in Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management offices in the past two years. The Justice Department has 12 lawsuits pending against Nevada cattle ranchers. A federal court in the state struck down the Nye County ordinance that caused trouble the year before. Not that ranchers took that as reason to stand down, however. One local resident told USA Today, "A single district court decision in one district doesn't settle it. It's just a single day in the year of a revolutionary war. We're going to continue on with the fight." Bundy is also continuing to graze on federal lands. "I'm still saying the state of Nevada owns that land, and the federal government has been an encroacher. I'm not moving my cattle. We have ... rights."
They are insurrectionists engaged in war against the federal government, by their own statements, backed up by acts of violence. And here's why that's a bad thing. Let me paint you a picture of the views held by the right wing in America today, an amalgamated sampling of posts I've seen from them. While these are extreme positions, they are not at the fringes of the right wing. Indeed, this is the new mainstream, by sufficient margins that they have a good chance of winning any Republican primary.

Obama is a nazi socialist communist muslim who wants to take their money and their property and give it to brown people. He wants to destroy Christianity and put conservatives into concentration camps disguised as FEMA camps. Obama gives money, tax dollars, to terrorist groups to make them stronger so they can destroy America. Benghazi was the Obama administration intentionally ignoring warning signs and letting good white American veterans die instead of kill Obama’s muslim brothers. 

The government is trying to use communist regulations to destroy American businesses and force American businessmen, small business owners, ranchers, etc, into poverty so that they become dependent on the government. The government is trying to disarm anyone who might stand up to their tyranny. Radical leftist organizations have corrupted the voting process and stolen the last two presidential elections to get their fascist leader into office. Obamacare forces people to get their health care from the government, redistributing money from hard working whites to lazy black and brown people, and it will kill sick whites so they aren’t a drain on resources. Abortion is infanticide, and gay marriage enables sodomite sin, and God will judge America for these crimes.

The conflict with Bundy and the BLM was the government, under the direction of Harry Reid and with Obama’s approval, trying to force the last rancher in Clark County out of business so that they could sell the land to the Chinese and further weaken America. “First amendment zones” are being used to control and restrict the constitutional rights of honest law abiding white protesters. The BLM is going after Bundy because he’s white, and ignoring tax evaders like Al Sharpton, and they’re focusing on trying to drive a rancher out of business when they wouldn’t use those same resources on the border with Mexico to keep criminals and terrorists and job stealers out, and those wetbacks come over and get their free Obamaphones. The government lined up overwhelming force against an innocent rancher whose family had been there for generations, but wouldn’t lift a finger to stop Benghazi.

You can find every single one of these views repeated incessantly on any right wing website, particularly in the comments. You can probably find it on air on Fox News, which to many of them is a centrist or too-far-left news source. To them, all of it ties together. None of it is rational or sane, but it doesn’t have to be. It is their religion, and religion does not have to be sane. Right wing politics have completed their fusion of religion and politics, and now more than ever, everything is seen as a battle of good and evil and they are the handful of good in a world full of evil. There are pillars of their faith. Words like “ACORN”,  “Muslim Brotherhood”, “Obamacare”, “Benghazi”, and now “Bundy”. They are repeated in litany, recited endlessly, strengthening their faith each time.

An example. A great example is this comment on a post from a firearms blog. The blog post was talking about an anti-gun group and how it claims 500,000 members but has no evidence for that. Probably a valid point. Then there's this comment in there, talking about how these groups get their membership rolls from Democrat organizations. Look how he syncretically brings together numerous threads of right-wing hagiography:
rlc2 says:
April 16, 2014 at 16:20
I think you can safely assume that any voter registration, get out the vote, union membership, census data, phone call list ever touched by the Democrats is in a big database being squeezed by the Google Geeks who built Obama’s 2012 election database. You know, the one built with taxpayer funds and with un-verified foreign campaign contributions in blatant violation of FERC and other rules. 
That was then turned over to Organizing for America, which of course has distributed it to all the various non-profits and activists- Occutards on up. Remember the campaign worker caught on tape admitting they were capturing voter information, and using it to influence the vote, in Texas, for Wendy Davis. 
Who is going to enforce the rules- DOJ? HAAAAA HAAAAA…. yeah. The same folks who couldnt investigate the Philly New Black Panthers who threatened voters with billy clubs? The same folks who got caught conspiring with the IRS to target the Tea Partiers? The same folks who ran guns into Mexico, while lying about it? 
This would also include your private medical information, officially safe per HIPAA rules, but included in the Obamacare websites, like the one built for Covered California and run by the SEIU who had the contract for training the unlicensed, un-background checked “Navigators”. You remember SEIU- the orange shirted thugs bussed into campaign rallies, that beat up peaceful counter-protesters, the union that represents the customers and beneficiaries of ACORN…
You've got:
  1. Unions bad
  2. Census data is used by "Them"
  3. Google worked to get Obama re-elected
  4. Foreign money gave Obama the 2012 election
  5. Occupy (Occutards) are involved in this
  6. Wendy Davis is in the conspiracy
  7. The DOJ is in the conspiracy
  8. The DOJ enables "Black Panther" terrorists to intimidate white voters
  9. The DOJ and the IRS target the tea party
  10. The feds have been arming the cartels with your tax dollars
  11. Obamacare steals your private information
  12. SEIU are union thug blackshirt fascists who are Obama's enforcers
  13. SEIU and ACORN work hand in hand

For them, it all comes together. Everything that happens is a manifestation of the manichean forces working to control their lives. As an anti-authoritarian, it would be great to have an organized opposition to the authoritarian direction our government is moving in (led by the backers of both political parties), but these are people who view the world as a battle between good and evil, and people who think homosexuality is fine will not be people they view as the good guys. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

The rancher in Nevada

There is a cattle rancher in Nevada who has been fighting with the federal government since the 90s because he wants to graze his cattle on federal lands (including protected lands) without paying usage fees. He has consistently lost in court, and now after giving him plenty of time and chances to stop trespassing on federal land, the government is rounding up his cattle. At this point per the court order, those cattle belong to the government. There are reports the cattle are being sent to auction, or being slaughtered on site, either way it's the fed's call because it's their cattle. 

Here's a statement by the family, with grammar and spelling errors left in situ but with paragraph breaks added to achieve some semblance of readability. It is a great example of something people involved in legal work see a lot; somebody who has an idea in their head of the law as they would like it to be, but a version that is completely different from the law as it exists in reality. The "law" of the Bundys is not the law of the land, or of the Constitution. They disagree:
I have had people ask me to explain my dad's stance on this BLM fight. Here it is in as simple of terms as I can explain it. There is so much to it, but here it s in a nut shell. My great grandpa bought the rights to the Bunkerville allotment back in 1887 around there. Then he sold them to my grandpa who then turned them over to my dad in 1972. These men bought and paid for their rights to the range and also built waters, fences and roads to assure the servival of their cattle, all with their own money, not with tax dollars. These rights to the land use is called preemptive rights.  
Some where down the line, to keep the cows from over grazing, came the bureau of land management. They were supposed to assist the ranchers in the management of their ranges while the ranchers paid a yearly allotment which was to be use to pay the BLM wages and to help with repaires and improvements of the ranches. My dad did pay his grazing fees for years to the BLM until they were no longer using his fees to help him and to improve. Instead they began using these money's against the ranchers. They bought all the rest of the ranchers in the area out with they're own grazing fees. When they offered to buy my dad out for a penence he said no thanks and then fired them because they weren't doing their job. He quit paying the BLM but, tried giving his grazing fees to the county, which they turned down.  
So my dad just went on running his ranch and making his own improvements with his own equipment and his own money, not taxes. In essence the BLM was managing my dad out of business. Well when buying him out didn't work, they used the indangered species card. You've already heard about the desert tortis. Well that didn't work either, so then began the threats and the court orders, which my dad has proven to be unlawful for all these years. Now their desperate.  
It's come down to buying the brand inspector off and threatening the County Sheriff. Everything their doing at this point is illegal and totally against the constitution of the United States of America. Now you may be saying," how sad, but what does this have to do with me?" Well, I'll tell you. They will get rid of Cliven Bundy, the last man standing on the Bunkerville allotment and then they will close all the roads so no one can ever go on it again. Next, it's Utah's turn. Mark my words, Utah is next. 
Then there's the issue of the cattle that are at this moment being stolen. See even if dad hasn't paid them, those cattle do belong to him. Regardless where they are they are my fathers property. His herd has been part of that range for over a hundred years, long before the BLM even exsisted. Now the Feds think they can just come in and remove them and sell them without a legal brand inspection or without my dad's signature on it. They think they can take them over two boarders, which is illegal, ask any trucker. Then they plan to take them to the Richfeild Aucion and sell them. All with our tax money. They have paid off the contract cowboys and the auction owner as well as the Nevada brand inspector with our tax dollars. See how slick they are?
For comparison, and for something written with proper spelling and grammar, as well as paragraph breaks, that goes through and lays out the government's case and why the Bundys are wrong, read the most recent court order. The court order shows why they're wrong, with an argument that carries the weight of the law. After reading that, come back here and read my dissection of the family's statement.

Here's my take on each of their main points:

1. “My great grandpa bought the rights to the Bunkerville allotment back in 1887 around there. Then he sold them to my grandpa who then turned them over to my dad in 1972.” 

They don't have papers documenting these rights. In 1848, the US federal government bought a whole lot of land from the Mexican government. If the family does not have title in hand, they don't have the land. And they didn't claim that they owned the land, they were paying usage fees, up until they decided not to do it anymore.

2. "These rights to the land use is called preemptive rights." 

Well, "preemptive rights" don't mean what she thinks they mean. What she's thinking of is "adverse possession". Basically they’re trying to claim title as a result of adverse possession against the government. There is always going to be a court case that goes with trying to get title to land through adverse possession, and they have lost those court cases. 

3. “Some where down the line, to keep the cows from over grazing, came the bureau of land management.” 

So she admits that the ranchers were engaging in overgrazing before the big bad federal government came along.

4. “My dad did pay his grazing fees for years to the BLM until they were no longer using his fees to help him and to improve. Instead they began using these money's against the ranchers.” 

You don’t get to choose to stop paying a legal fee that you have been paying simply because you decide you don’t want to pay it any more.

5. “When they offered to buy my dad out for a penence he said no thanks and then fired them because they weren't doing their job.” 

You don’t get to “fire” the federal agency whose jurisdiction you legally fall under.

6. “He quit paying the BLM but, tried giving his grazing fees to the county, which they turned down.” 

Yes, and if you tried to pay federal taxes only to your state, refusing to pay those taxes to the federal government, you’d have a bad time with that as well. You don’t get to pay your electric bill by sending a check to the water company, it doesn't work that way.

7. “So my dad just went on running his ranch and making his own improvements with his own equipment and his own money, not taxes.” 

Lovely, but it’s still public land, as determined in court. I can build a swingset and a cabin in Yosemite but it doesn't mean the land belongs to me. 

8. “Well when buying him out didn't work, they used the indangered species card. You've already heard about the desert tortis. Well that didn't work either, so then began the threats and the court orders, which my dad has proven to be unlawful for all these years.” 

Translation, they want to overgraze on lands protected because of endangered species, and prior to that they refused to pay grazing fees, and they have been defying court orders for years. Those court orders have not been “proven unlawful” except in the legal theater of their own imaginations.

9. “Everything their doing at this point is illegal and totally against the constitution of the United States of America.” 

Except that Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2 of the US Constitution says “The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States....” 

Even under the narrowest conception of the Property Clause of the Constitution, the federal government has this authority. The problem is that most people who hide behind the constitution never read any further than the amendments.

10. “See even if dad hasn't paid them, those cattle do belong to him.” 

Except that the court order said last year that unless he stops trespassing on federal land, the United States is entitled to seize and impound any of the cattle that remain in trespass. The court order gave him 45 days, but the federal government has given him months.

11. “His herd has been part of that range for over a hundred years, long before the BLM even exsisted.” 

It’s been federal land since the US got it from Mexico in 1848. He has no paperwork to the contrary.

12. “Then they plan to take them to the Richfeild Aucion and sell them. All with our tax money. They have paid off the contract cowboys and the auction owner as well as the Nevada brand inspector with our tax dollars.” 

Yes, tax money is used by the government to enforce the law. That’s not slick. That’s just how it works. Police officers pull you over for speeding and give you a ticket, that you have to pay, and they’re using your own tax dollars! The horror!

For the supporters of the Bundys, their complaints seem to center around three key points:

There's a "free speech zone" for the protests associated with this. People are outraged that "free speech zones" could exists. Another horrific invention of that tyrant Obama! 

Well, I realize that this is the first time pro-war pro-business conservatives have ever heard of free speech zones, but those have been around since the 90s, almost as long as Cliven Bundy has been losing his court case. The 1992 and 1996 presidential conventions, the 1999 WTO meeting, the 2004 DNC and GOP conventions, they all featured free speech zones. It's a practice that goes back to attempts by universities to limit student protests *in the 60s*. No wonder conservatives are just hearing about them now. They've always been on the anti-speech side. 

So yeah, it's a shitty thing to have now, but where the fuck were these people a decade ago when we were getting penned up during the Iraq War? Oh, right, watching Fox and masturbating over how many towelheads were being killed.

The feds have indefinitely detained the ranchers son!

Oh no! NDAA is finally showing its hand! Except, as indicated in the article from the Review Journal;
"As for Dave Bundy, he was kept at the Henderson Detention Center overnight, then released late Monday morning with his misdemeanor tickets in hand.

“They came in, wrote these citations, gave me a sack lunch and turned me loose,” he said."

Overnight is not indefinite. He got arrested for interfering with government representatives doing their work? Welcome to Occupy. The protesters there got arrested far more often for much less.

The feds are overly militarized! Why so many armed agents? 

I don't know, maybe because Cliven Bundy has said 
“Range War begins at the Bundy ranch at 9:30 a.m. We’re going to get the job done!”
"I've got to protect my property. If people come to monkey with what's mine, I'll call the county sheriff. If that don't work, I'll gather my friends and kids and we'll try to stop it. I abide by all state laws. But I abide by almost zero federal laws."

And armed militia from Nevada and other nearby states is showing up to "support" the Bundys.

With that in mind, gee, I don't know why the feds, who are carrying out a court order, might want to be heavily armed and prepared. It's like carrying out a court order against a known and heavily armed drug dealer. You're not going to send Barney Fife with a baton to knock on that door.


So these idiots out in Nevada, the Bundy family, have been grazing their cattle on public land and refusing to pay the fees associated with that. They've also been grazing their cattle on protected lands that are protected because of overgrazing. They've been fighting this out in the courts for 20 years, and they've lost. 

The court ordered them to stop using public lands. The court also ordered that if they don't stop using public lands, the cattle can be impounded. The family continues to trespass and to use public land, so the cattle are getting impounded. 

Fairly straightforward. Except that the "Oath Keepers" crowd and other associated heavily armed anti-governmental wackos have picked this as the hill they want to die on. The Infowars, beforeitsnews, Fox Nation, and related internet groups are all over it, hoping that this will be the spark for the revolution they so desperately want.

I've no sympathy for anyone on the rancher side of this. And any of them that use force against government representatives who are carrying out their constitutional duties will have a bad time, and deserve it. If this is the revolution they want, they can have it without me. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

This I can work with

I wanted my brother to tell me why he does not approve of homosexuality. His reasons that he gave were:
  1. Leviticus 18:22 You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.
  2. Romans 1:27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
  3. Sanitary viewpoint: STDs higher among LBGT community - http://www.cdc.gov/msmhealth/STD.htm
These I can work with.

1. There are a lot of laws in Leviticus that aren't relevant today, or observed by the Church. 
You can't eat anything with fat in it. And this is a command for forever from the eternal Lord.
Leviticus 3:17 "This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live: You must not eat any fat or any blood."

You can't eat shellfish.
Leviticus 11:10-12 "But all creatures in the seas or streams that do not have fins and scales—whether among all the swarming things or among all the other living creatures in the water—you are to regard as unclean. And since you are to regard them as unclean, you must not eat their meat; you must regard their carcasses as unclean. Anything living in the water that does not have fins and scales is to be regarded as unclean by you."

Ligers and Mules violate Biblical law, as does blended clothing, and fields with multiple types of plants.
Leviticus 19:19 "Keep my decrees. Do not mate different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material."

No tattoos.
Leviticus 19:28 "Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord."

Certainly, modern anti-gay church leaders find no end of ways to explain or equivocate around why they oppose homosexuality but still eat shrimp. But this comes down to differing interpretations of the Bible at that point, and in that case, why not err on the side of inclusiveness?

2. For a Christian perspective on this, How do you interpret Romans 1:27?
For my formerly-Christian perspective on this, there are a lot of directives laid out by Paul that are not observed today, and here are examples:

Women should be quiet in church and only ask their husbands if they have questions
1 Corinthians 14:34-35 "the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church."

Women aren't allowed to teach or be in positions of authority.
1 Timothy 2:11-12 "Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet."

1 Corinthians 11:1-16 would be a big chunk to paste here, but it says that women should have long hair, men cannot have long hair, and that the churches of God have no other practice. It's not exactly negotiable!

Now, today, the modern church doesn't prevent female Sunday School teachers. Many churches have female pastors, or women in other positions of authority. Ours did, when we were growing up. And today it's considered quaint and old fashioned at best to follow the directions explicitly laid out in 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians. But that wasn't always the case. For a long time, the Christian church strictly adhered to those directions. They were used to oppress and control women. They were used as justification to oppose female politicians, female executives in business, female church leaders, on and on. Christianity grew out of it. And Paul said a lot less about homosexuality than he said about women in the church.

That's it from a perspective of Christianity. But a good question to ask yourself would be, why do I follow these religious laws? Why do I, as an independent person, choose to have a negative attitude towards homosexuals because of something somebody said two thousand years ago? Why is this a rule of this specific interpretation of the religion that I choose to follow?

3. Marriage equality has been a long time coming for homosexuals. This is key to the STD issue because it's been documented that, while STD factors are higher for gay and bisexual men, they're also much higher for unmarried people as opposed to married people. This isn't a moral argument in favor of marriage, it's a statement of fact that if you're only having sex with the same person, then the risk of STDs, if both of you don't have them and have been tested clean, is effectively nonexistent. For sex outside of marriage, condoms are important, and that's for both heterosexual and homosexual activity.

Anal sex has a higher likelihood of STD transmission, but that's true for men having anal sex with women as well as with men, and nobody I've seen in the maintstream has been pushing to prohibit what kind of sex men can have with women. Although in the past, anti-sodomy laws (many of which still exist on the books) targeted all forms of sex that aren't missionary PIV for the purpose of procreation. And even with the higher STD likelihood from anal sex, if you have two clean partners in a monogamous married relationship, they can have all the gay butt sex they want and they're not going to get an STD.

What it comes down to is, some people are born gay. Some are born straight. Some are born at a midpoint somewhere on that scale. This is how we are. And it's not unique to humans, non-heterosexual behavior has been observed repeatedly in numerous species. It's natural. Excellent examples include the bonobo and most dolphins. Deciding for whatever reason to "not approve of homosexuality" is to not approve of nature, and it's clinging to an outdated and quaint mode of thought, out of misunderstandings of scripture or out of tradition. I wouldn't try to change my parents' minds on it, just the same as my parents wouldn't try to change my grandparents' minds when it came to their old fashioned folksy racism. However, I would greatly prefer that my daughter not be as embarrassed by her uncle as my siblings and I are of our own drunk and proudly ignorant uncle.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Santa, Jesus, truth, lies, and magic

My dad sent me a link to people talking about their Christmases as households where the parents never involved the story of Santa. A common refrain in these personal accounts is that Santa is a lie, that the parents involved do not want to lie to their children, and so on. But, all stories are lies. Lies are magic, used correctly or even incorrectly, and it's that same sort of magic that leaves you wide eyed and amazed at a magic show. We need that kind of magic to survive. Relying solely on hard truth not only requires the establishment of a specific literal truth, which is well beyond a child's capacity to understand anyway, but it removes all the magic from childhood.

After all, Santa Claus does exist. The idea of Santa Claus exists. A readily recognizable image of Santa Claus is present in the public consciousness. He is present as a character in movies, TV shows, books, and elsewhere. He exists in the same way that Wolverine exists, or Jesus, or Odin, or Spock. He further exists as the embodiment of specific discrete concepts. Just as Wolverine is a loner, and Spock is logical, Santa is generous. He is the embodiment of temporal reward and punishment. Be good, get rewards. Be bad, get coal. Unfortunately, parents today are afraid to show the punishment side, which is a shame because having that one crushing disappointment in return for misbehavior would be a powerful lesson. Anyway, from a certain perspective, it would be a lie to say that Santa Claus is real. But from another perspective, it'd be a lie to say he is not real.

These myths have a real value as part of childhood. A childhood without the magic of these cultural myths is a cold one, and then you grow up bitter and cynical. There is no wonder in your world. No sense of excited anticipation. I don't look forward to the holidays, I don't have any warmth in my heart as they approach. The wonder of the holidays was never there, its place was filled by religious observance and ritual. When I grew out of the religion and ritual, there wasn't anything left. Holidays to me are little more than an interruption to my regular schedule and routine, often an unwelcome one except for the time I get out of the office. I don't even get that excited about my own pagan holidays, like the solstices, equinoxes, and Samhain. Hopefully as I have a child and raise them, I'll be able to, along with my wife, impart a sense of wonder in our kid, and maybe share in that wonder as well.

Christians in particular should be careful about how stringently they oppose even the idea of Santa. Particularly on grounds that "he isn't real", or "he's a lie", or "he doesn't exist", or "You can't make a rational argument for Santa." These are all arguments that can be turned around quite easily. It is a sword without a grip. Because if your child is clever, they may start to wonder where the proof is for Jesus. They may wonder what the difference is between having faith in Santa and having faith in Jesus.

In this specific article, Michael Hickerson gets it pretty close to right, particular for someone who for religious reasons doesn't want to put an undue emphasis on Santa:
"Overall, we see cultural traditions like Santa as adding to the celebration of Christmas, rather than distracting from the holiday. Our main concern was building trust with our kids. If we told them that Santa was real, and they learned at an early age that they couldn’t believe the things we said, would they believe us when we told them about more important issues? So, from the beginning, we told them that Santa was a fun game that we played at Christmas-time."
Meanwhile, the pastor from Denver shows the dangers of that gripless sword, and perhaps hits a bit closer to his own mark than he might like:
"A child’s life is learning things aren’t real. All their cartoon heroes become fake. Spiderman, Tooth fairy, Santa, Superman, Easter bunny, whatever. Then our kids bibles depict Jesus, the disciples, Moses, Mary, Adam and Eve in the same cartoonish way. I think it is dangerous and scary, so we just try to be honest with our children. No, we don’t believe in Santa, he is a fake. We do believe in Jesus, He is real."
Of course he was. Sorry, is.  

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Phil Robertson's casual homophobia and racism

If you're "standing with" Phil Robertson, there's a lot of messy things you're agreeing with. The overwhelming majority of it is that sort of casual racism and homophobia that elderly family members tend to blurt out at the holiday dinner table when they've got a few drinks in them. It's the sort of uncomfortable bigotry that leads your gay sibling or cousin to decide to wait out the clock before coming out, and leads to family members in an interracial relationship to maybe skip the meal entirely.

In addition to saying... 
“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

...and comparing homosexuals to terrorists...

"We never, ever judge someone on who's going to heaven, hell. That's the Almighty's job," he told GQ. "We just love 'em, give 'em the good news about Jesus — whether they're homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort 'em out later, you see what I'm saying?"

...He also said African-Americans were "happier" before the Civil Rights Movement. You know, back when they didn't have voting rights, had separate water fountains, separate housing by law, were targeted for lynchings and other terrorist attacks, back when races couldn't intermarry. They were happier, he said: 

“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field.... They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

Of course, in reality, the Blues were started because of the way blacks were treated prior to the civil rights movement. That was the entire point of the blues. They started with songs sung by the sharecroppers as they worked in the cotton fields... the very songs Phil heard when he was young. "The blacks" were singing the blues... he just didn't have the ears to hear it. 

There are going to be private sector consequences for a media figure, an entertainer, saying these things. Free speech and First Amendment rights protect from government repercussions, not private consequences from sponsors, employers, and customers. As a private citizen you have the right to say any number of things. As private citizens, others have the right to have your statements have consequences. 

Meanwhile, for the pompously religious who cheer what he said about gays, be sure that you're not getting drunk, committing adultery (even by looking on another person with lust in your heart, which Jesus said is adultery), being greedy, or slandering people. Check for that plank in your own eyes. Because he also compared drunks to terrorists. 

And you're free to take a stand with Phil, a stand against homosexuals and against civil rights for people of different races or orientations. You're free to support him for that. But expect private sector repercussions for it. Expect your family to be uncomfortable with it, and embarrassed by you.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Buffet Christianity

"Buffet Christianity" is a slang term for Christians who only beleive in the part of the Bible that they find easy to obey. This is often used in a derogatory sense towards "casual" or "liberal" Christians who focus on the love and hope message of Jesus, but don't want to sign on for all the slave owning and gay-bashing. The problem is that all Christianity is Buffet Christianity. I'd argue that all versions of any religion are buffet versions of that, where people pick and choose what to believe, but the problem with fundamentalist Christianity (and fundamentalist Islam as well) is that they have a tendency to say people who don't share their buffet choices are sinners going to hell, and people who point out they're at a buffet are taking the verses out of context.

Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christians really hate when I know Christianity better than them, including early church doctrine and the difference between first wave Christianity and second wave Christianity. They assume by default that somebody criticizing Christianity or the way that they choose to interpret it must be an ignorant atheist neckbeard who just hasn't read the right verse or been to the right revival yet.

At issue is the belief held by modern evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity that the Mosaic Law doesn't apply to Christians because Jesus came to fulfill the law, and so they can safely ignore all those pesky dietary restrictions and clothing restrictions and they don’t have to stone rebellious children.

This idea is contradicted by two NT Bible passages, Matthew 5:17-20 (the Beatitudes are really unfortunate in that they have some really good bits that tend to get selectively ignored when inconvenient) and Luke 16:16-18. The short version of these is that Jesus says directly that the Law still stands.

Matthew 5:17-20 
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Luke 16:16-18
16 “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it. 
17 It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.
18 “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

That last verse from Luke there is significant, because it shows that Jesus held the same position on divorce as the strict Rabbinical Shammai school. Jesus was always very involved in living and interpreting the Rabbinical laws. Not always strictly, but he did value them. The idea that the Mosaic Laws no longer applied came from the Essene sect.

There were two waves of early Christianity, the first being associated with Rabbinic Judaism, and the second being associated with the Essenes and their ideology. Jesus was the key figure of the first group, Paul the key figure of the second. Paul basically invented his own version of Christianity, where there was a new covenant (predicted in Jeremiah 31) that the Pauline Christians decided applied to them, and that the Law did not matter, the only thing that mattered was salvation through belief in Jesus. Paul incorporated Hellenistic Judaism into his interpretation of Christianity, and this made it much more palatable for the Romans, the Greeks, and others. The Essenes did not believe in animal sacrifice, and they also believe they were the warriors of light in a big apocalyptic battle between good and evil, light and dark. Much more compelling storyline then “Be nice to people, don’t follow wealth, give up everything you have to help the poor.”

Paul makes his disdain for the old testament laws clear in Galatians 3:23-25, saying
23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

In discussions with Christians, they will often say that verses like Matthew 5:18 or Luke 16:17 have to be put into their “proper context”. Jesus never says that the Law passed away because of his coming, Paul says that it did, after Jesus had done an exit stage ceiling. This was incorporated into the version of early Christianity that wound up most popular. Were I to speculate, I’d guess that it has something to do with how the second wave of Christianity lets a ruling class, be it bishops or emperors, claim that they are on the side of all that is light and holy, standing in battle against the forces of darkness. If that sounds like a refrain we’ve heard for centuries, and sounds nothing at all like anything Jesus ever said, there’s a reason for that.

Sure, Paul is considered an Apostle. The Pauline Epistles, 13 books out of an overall 66 in the Bible and more than by any other single author, were accepted as canon by the early church fathers in what had to have been an incredibly political process. Do you trust the judgment of various bishops and popes from the 3rd and 4th centuries (CE)? I sure wouldn’t. It looks like the Pauline Epistles, with their messages that slaves were to obey their masters (Eph 6:5-8), and women should stay silent in church (1 Cor 14:34-35), and homosexuality is a sin (1 Cor 6:9-10), and Christians are in a battle against apocalyptic evil (Eph 6:12), would be in line with people who want to use the religion as a tool to maintain and justify their own power. If you notice something about those 4 examples, the first and second are often disregarded by the modern Church, while the third and fourth are held as concrete dogma. But they're from the same context, the same two books. It's what Christians choose to select.

When I recently brought up Matthew 5:18 and Luke 16:17 to an evangelical Christian, I was told:

"This is misleading and based on the interpretation of selected verses without the benefit of context... If you looked into context and theology, you may understand the context and theology."

It's the classic argument, "since you don't share my interpretation, your interpretation is invalid, because you're using the wrong context and theology." Stop me if you've heard that one. I said "Christians tend to say Jesus 'fulfilled' the Law because living by Mosaic Law is hard and they don't want to do it."

His reply was entirely in line with the teachings of Paul and the Essenes of second-wave Christianity:

"I think you have a serious misunderstanding of Christianity. This was a debate in the early church, true, but, theologically1, Christ came as a fulfillment of the law, not to abolish it. The Israelites were to sacrifice animals as atonement for sin and to appease sin. Christ's sacrifice on the cross replaced the sin sacrifices and daily sacrifices required by mosaic law2. Maybe it would be ideal to do all of the requirements of the law by the letter, but the New Covenant3 allows for progress. It is a transition between the Old 'mosaic' and the New 'Christ established' Covenants4."

1. he means the accepted Church doctrine and accepted interpretation
2. here you see how the Essene position on sacrifice, which predated Christianity, has been adopted by modern Christians
3. here he's talking about the doctrine of a "New Covenant", derived by the Essenes from Jeremiah 31
4. he doesn't know it, but he's talking about the transition between Rabbinical/Jesus Christianity and Essene/Pauline Christianity

So I replied,
"The debate in the early church ended with victory by the Essenes and Paul over the long term direction of Christianity. Which meant abandoning the Mosaic Law in favor of something more palatable to Romans, Greeks, and Hellenic Jews. But that doesn't change what *Jesus* actually said. Just how people who came after wanted to interpret it."

His reply:
"Christianity, while Christ focused, encompasses both the teachings of Christ and those whom he bestowed authority upon. Paul included. The other disciples of Christ, while having certain issues with him, accepted him and allowed him to call himself a disciple. Most Christians believe in divine intervention or guidance over what came to be the Bible, further establishing Paul's authority from a Christian perspective."

So, this is the interpretation. It's what Christians have chosen to accept as valid. And that's fine, whatever. There's so much "squishy" and fluid about Christianity, especially as you research the early Church, that it'd be effectively impossible to pull something concrete out of it. This is understandable. The problem comes when somebody wants to establish concrete laws based off of this sandy foundation. If you are going to say that "the Bible says" homosexuality is a sin and gays are going to hell, but you're not going to accept that the Bible also says women can't wear their hair short, or teach men, or talk in church, or says that slavery is just fine, you're selectively interpreting the Bible based on what you want it to say.

When you point out the many teachings of Paul that would be considered extreme and outrageous today, and you're told by people who don't want to live by those standards (much less the standards of Mosaic Law) that you "need to put it in context", ask if they're putting "in context" their opposition to things like gay rights or reproductive choice. With every single religion followed by humankind since the dawn of time, people have chosen individually what laws they're going to follow, what things they will believe. When you judge people based on your interpretation of the laws of your religion, realize that you will very quickly be called on your shit. 

The Rescuers Down Under as Marxist Allegory

Theory: Disney film "The Rescuers Down Under" is an allegory of the evils of capitalism and how the proletariat can rise. 

Broadly, the humans represent the ruling class, while the animals represent the working class. 

The kid, Cody, is born into the ruling class but he helps protect and free the working class using the abilities gained by the privileges of his birth, and also his ability to communicate with the working class animals. 

The poacher, McLeach, represents the worst of capitalism, eagerly consuming the animals of the working class for his own enrichment with no thought for them.

Joanna, the goanna lizard, represents members of the working class who are class traitors, who turn on their own class and serve the ruling class faithfully, despite mistreatment by their rulers, who they can never become.

When the animals are caged in the poacher's basement along with Cody, it represents the chains of wage slavery and how the ruling class will cheerfully enslave members of its own class if they can. The escape shows how the working class can free itself through solidarity and cooperation.

The giant golden eagle represents the heights to which the working class can soar when free, bearing everyone up together equally. Additionally, the ability of the eagle to fly, but not Cody unless he is on the eagle, shows how even members from the ruling class can't succeed without a working class, but the working class can succeed and soar without needing a ruling class.

The crocodiles are the lumpenproletariat. They will turn on and consume anyone who gets close to them, without a thought for the class struggle, happily eating working class animals or ruling class humans.

Disney realized just before releasing it that the movie had this subtle Marxist message, but they'd already sunk too much money and time into it to just abandon it. Instead they released it opposite movies like Home Alone and Rocky V, and then shortly thereafter pulled TV advertising for it, in hopes the message would not be widely heard.

Or maybe I'm reading too much into it. 

Also, thanks for 17,000 pageviews because that's pretty cool.