Tag Archives: Christianity

Worst Quote of the Week – November 1, 2019

“According to NASA, one hurricane is the equivalent of 10,000 nuclear weapons.  One volcano is 10,000 atomic weapons.  So every year, we have got like two million atomic and nuclear weapons going off and the planet still seems to be in pretty good shape, so what is it we think we are going to do to damage the planet?”

David Barton, evangelical Christian political activist, founder of WallBuilders, and pseudo-historian, dismissing concerns about what climate change could mean for the future of the planet.

I’m not a biblical scholar, but I recall this passage from Luke 23:34

“When they came to the place called The Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals, one on His right and the other on His left.  Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’  And they divided up His garments by casting lots.  The people stood watching, and the rulers sneered at Him, saying, ‘He saved others; let Him save Himself, if He is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.’”

The Chief’s translation: never mind him; he’s a dumbass who doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about.

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Best Quote of the Week – October 18, 2019

“There is a conflict between the politics of Jesus and the politics of Trump. Racial bigotry is a deal breaker for the Gospel. White nationalism, which Donald Trump embraces and champions, isn’t just racist — it’s anti-Christ. Dehumanizing immigrants isn’t just racist — it’s anti-Christ.  Demeaning women isn’t just sexist — it’s anti-Christ. At some point, Christians have to ask themselves: Are the teachings of Christ going to be followed or not?”

Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of “Sojourners” magazine and Sojourners Community

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The Original Antonin Scalia

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in his room at the Cibolo Creek Ranch, a luxury resort in the Big Bend region of West Texas last weekend. The ranch is in such an isolated locale that it took hours for local officials to find a justice of the peace to make an official ruling on Scalia’s death. Finally, Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara arrived on the scene and made the declaration without viewing Scalia’s body and without ordering an autopsy, both of which are permissible under Texas law.

Scalia is the 35th U.S. Supreme Court justice to die while still in office, and the fourth to die during a presidential election year. An icon to social and religious conservatives here in the U.S., Scalia was one of the most colorful characters to occupy the nation’s highest judicial bench. He was as brilliant as he was combative. His quirky sense of humor and brutal honesty illuminated the halls of what had always been considered a stodgy realm.

I recall, during the debate over the 2000 presidential elections, attorney Joseph Klock – arguing on behalf of the state of Florida – embarrassed himself by confusing some of the Supreme Court justice’s names. “For the record,” Scalia told Klock, before questioning him, “I’m Justice Scalia.”

I have to respect Scalia for his knowledge of the law and his willingness to take a stand for his own principles. People who rise to that level within the judiciary maze aren’t the same ones who handle traffic tickets. They are, instead, the most genuine of intellects; the folks who interpret the law when others can’t reach a mutual understanding. They are extraordinarily cerebral and steadfast in their beliefs; incredibly insightful and charming; and – in some cases – dangerous.

Aside from his wit and biting criticisms, Scalia is known for the concept of “originalism” or “textualism” regarding his view of the U.S. Constitution. He openly scoffed at the idea it was a malleable text; instead calling it a “dead document,” as if it had been dipped in amber – like a prehistoric butterfly – and encapsulated in its own perfection. It was not subject to interpretation from its authors’ descendants; lest its structural integrity be cracked and subsequently destroyed.

But, if the U.S. Constitution is a “dead document,” is it still relevant? Purposeful? Necessary? More importantly, if it’s dead, why has it been amended 27 times? I view the Constitution as either a dictionary, in that words are periodically added to it; or as a standard operating procedures manual (SOP), in that procedures are changed in accordance with technological advances. The term “Internet,” for example, didn’t exist a half-century ago, so a Merriam-Webster dictionary published in 1966 wouldn’t feature that word. Similarly, a SOP composed in 1966 for a bank wouldn’t describe the process of scanning paper documents into digital images because such a procedure hadn’t been devised yet. Someone somewhere may have thought of it, but that person was probably a nerdy type ensconced in a basement or a garage.

Aside from painting and writing, there were no audio or visual recording devices when the Constitution was written. Although the concept of photography was devised as early as the 11th century C.E., the first practical photograph was roughly a half-century and an ocean away from being taken by the time of the U.S. Revolution. The first sound recording was almost one hundred years in the future. Therefore, it’s difficult to infer what the Constitution’s framers meant exactly with their verbiage.

As devout Roman Catholics, Scalia and his wife, Maureen, didn’t believe in birth control and had nine children. One of them, Paul, decided to “take one for the team” – in his father’s words – and join the priesthood; thus becoming a conduit to one of the most violent and oppressive institutions on Earth. Like its conspirators, Judaism and Islam, Roman Catholicism (actually, all of Christianity) declared itself the model for humanity centuries ago and set out to conquer and annihilate people it deems heathens. Thus, it commands people to procreate (pollute) the world with their bodies and their toxic ideologies. Every time I think of that “go forth and multiply” biblical shit I think of the late Mother Teresa; the Romanian nun who infiltrated the starving masses of India and announced that she would care for any bitter soul and broken body who came her way; never realizing that the best way to prevent such misery is…oh, maybe teach women to be empowered by keeping their legs crossed, or telling men every erection doesn’t need to produce a child who ultimately can’t be fed and clothed.

Scalia often tried to force his ardent religiosity onto others; his personal beliefs rearing its ugly head in one of the most cumbersome issues of our time: abortion. In eight different opinions, he noted the U.S. Constitution doesn’t mention the term “abortion” and therefore, women had no right to it under constitutional concepts.

“You want a right to abortion?” he asked. “There’s nothing in the Constitution about that. But that doesn’t mean you cannot prohibit it.” His reference was that abortion laws should be left strictly up to individual states. He dubbed the legendary Roe v. Wade case an “absurdity,” adding that the Constitution’s 14th Amendment doesn’t guarantee equal protection for women when it comes to the subject of abortion. That’s congruent with the Christian biblical commandment of “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife,” which – if you read the entire passage – actually begins with “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house,” and everything in it; including said neighbor’s “manservant,” “ox” and “ass.” The Christian Bible, along with the Judaic Torah and the Islamic Quran, considers anyone with a vagina (and many with penises) property – akin to houses and donkeys. The U.S. Supreme Court itself was purportedly designed with Christian theology in mind.

Scalia possessed equal animosity towards homosexuality. In another landmark ruling, Lawrence v. Texas, denigrated the right to sexual relations between consenting adults of the same gender by comparing it to…flagpole-sitting.

“[S]uppose all the States had laws against flagpole sitting at one time, you know, there was a time when it was a popular thing and probably annoyed a lot of communities, and then almost all of them repealed those laws,” Scalia asked the attorney fighting the Texas law. “Does that make flagpole sitting a fundamental right?” His hate for gays and lesbians was so intense that he did something Supreme Court justices rarely do when they write their opinion: he stood and read it himself in the Lawrence case.

He also used the tired old right-wing mantra of comparing homosexuality to murder in Romer v Evans. “Of course it is our moral heritage that one should not hate any human being or class of human beings,” he wrote. “But I had thought that one could consider certain conduct reprehensible – murder, for example, or polygamy, or cruelty to animals – and could exhibit even ‘animus’ toward such conduct. Surely that is the only sort of ‘animus’ at issue here: moral disapproval of homosexual conduct[.]”

But, despite his brilliance, Scalia proved how underhanded he could be in 2004, when he handled a case involving his old college buddy, then-Vice President Dick Cheney. In 2003, Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club sued Cheney for access to information regarding his clandestine energy task force meeting in 2001. A Washington, D.C., district judge ruled that the two groups had the right to know who was present at the meeting, in accordance with the 1972 Federal Advisory Committee Act. Cheney rebuffed the demand and took it to the Supreme Court; whereupon the matter ended up on Scalia’s docket. Shortly before that, however, Scalia and Cheney went on a duck hunting trip together in Kansas, with the jurist riding in the Vice-President’s plane. Such a close relationship smacked of impropriety and bias, but that certainly bothered neither Cheney nor Scalia.

“It did not involve a lawsuit against Dick Cheney as a private individual,” Scalia said. “This was a government issue. It’s acceptable practice to socialize with executive branch officials when there are not personal claims against them. That’s all I’m going to say for now. Quack, quack.” Yes, he really did say that, “Quack, quack,” which is essentially giving the middle finger to the concept of impartiality and judicial integrity.

Scalia’s innate bigotry glowed again in his opinion regarding a recent affirmative action case, Fisher v. University of Texas-Austin. Referencing some obscure amicus brief, Scalia said that “it does not benefit African-Americans to – to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a less – a slower-track school where they do well.” He argued that “most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas.” Talking like a psychic-medium, he declared, “They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re – that they’re being pushed ahead in – in classes that are too – too fast for them.”

Translation: niggers are too stupid to go to big-time universities. He might as well have said the same about Hispanics and Native Americans. It’s amazing, though, in the 21st century that some people still possess such idiotic views. But, then again, the Word War II generation and those who did everything they could to halt the advance of civil rights haven’t all died out yet. They lost one of their own in Scalia. Good riddance.

Scalia made history as the first Italian-American on the U.S. Supreme Court. Several years ago I read an editorial about jury selection in 1950s-era Dallas County, Texas, which bore this statement from then-Assistant District Attorney Bill Alexander: “Do not take Jews, Negroes, Dagos, Mexicans or a member of any minority race on a jury, no matter how rich or how well educated. I may like these people, but they will not do on juries.” The term ‘dago’ refers to Italians.

I find it ironic that Scalia lied in state on the same day as author Harper Lee died. Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” remains a classic of American literature; a book that dealt brazenly and unapologetically with the subject of racial injustice. Regardless of what one thinks of him, Antonin Scalia carved a deep impact into the consciousness of American society.

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The Grandest Trickery

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“Francis – Latin: Franciscus – ‘Free man,’ a man subservient to his government.”

Name Your Baby by Lareina Rule, 1963.

 

After a brief and heavily-publicized tour of the United States, Pope Francis returned to the Vatican last Sunday night. Amidst his hectic schedule, frequent baby-kissing and the usual slew of parades, complete with Miss America-type waves, Francis became the first leader of the Roman Catholic Church to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress and the first to hold mass at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The media and Catholic faithful couldn’t get enough of it. I’d had enough the moment he stepped foot on U.S. soil.

In a way, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was returning home; since he’s the first pope from the Americas and the first outside of Europe. But he’s of Italian extraction, and his hometown of Buenos Aires is more European than Latin American. So, he’s not that different from his predecessors. You know what would be different? If the Church had selected a full-blooded Indian who was raised dirt-poor in the mountains of México; perhaps even a man who had been married to a woman and then widowed or (better yet) divorced; maybe someone with a criminal background, like burglary or auto theft. But that would make him too imperfect. I can’t see someone with that many scars rising to the lead one of the most self-righteous institutions the world has ever seen.

I’m not concerned with perfection. No such quality exists in humans. Most everyone in America, from President Obama down to the latest illegal immigrant across the U.S.-México border, was smitten with Francis. As a recovered Catholic, I could see right through the velvet and silk menagerie of angelic verbiage and outstretched hand. Yes, Francis may sound different; offering juicy tidbits of progressive ideology by saying, for example, it’s improper to judge gays and lesbians and criticizing the growing wealth divide. But he’s still head of one of the most powerful and affluent entities on Earth; an empire with an estimated net fortune up to $750 billion. As a former altar boy at a Dallas Catholic church, I wonder now if any priest or nun thought of molesting me; knowing how shy and obedient I was during my childhood. Francis has convinced many people to return to the Catholic Church. I left the Church years ago for one primary reason: its mistreatment of women. And I’ll stay away. I’ve always had a tendency to hold grudges, but this goes beyond personal feelings.

 

Women’s Work

Of the world’s estimated 1.1 billion Roman Catholics, women comprise more than half, which corresponds to the world’s overall population; that is, women make up more than 50%. Yet, unlike most of the planet, certainly unlike developed nations, the Church is far behind in how it views women and their “place” in society. Women actually make the Church function; they’re the ones who teach the kids, sweep the floors, cook the meals, do the laundry, carry the water and so forth. Meanwhile, their male counterparts (term used loosely) don all those chic designer gowns and issue judgmental pronouncements on human behavior. In medieval times, for example, the Church condemned as heretics any medical practitioner who sought to ease the pains of pregnancy and birth for women. Such agonies, the Church declared, are the price all women must pay for Eve’s trickery in the ethereal “Garden of Eden.” You know the story: the one where the wicked female shoved an apple, or some type of fruit, down Adam’s throat; thus making him and all of humanity a victim of feminine wiles. Even now, the Church refuses to grant the role of priesthood to women. It was hell – almost literally – for them to allow alter girls. But, aside from the convent and church secretaries, there aren’t too many formal positions for women in Roman Catholicism. The Church still won’t even sanction birth control.

 

Native Americans

In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI canonized the first Native American saint, Kateri Tekakwa. It was a unique moment in the Church’s history. Native Americans have a contentious relationship with Roman Catholicism and all of Christianity. That came to the forefront recently when the Church announced that Francis would canonize Spanish missionary Junipero Serra. Canonization is exclusive to the Roman Catholic Church; a lengthy and exhaustive process a deceased individual undergoes before achieving sainthood. Sainthood is that coveted status in the Church where people are proclaimed to be as God-like as humanly possible. Someone has to do a great deal in the name of the Church (and God) just to be considered for canonization. It’s sort of like the U.S. Medal of Honor, except the Church doesn’t acknowledge the recipient may have killed some folks along the way. More importantly, Medal of Honor recipients don’t try to convince people they’re above humanity.

In the 18th century, Serra established one of the first Christian missions in what is now the state of California. I’ve always proudly announced that Spaniards were the first Europeans to colonize the American Southwest; building entire communities. But I’m just as quick to acknowledge the other side of the epic tale: the indigenous peoples of the same region often fell victim to the violence and oppression Europeans brought in their hunger for land and precious metals. When Spain’s Queen Isabella, who funded Christopher Columbus’ voyages and who’s also one of my direct ancestors, learned that her minions were torturing and killing the Indians, she ordered them to stop – which they did. She then ordered them to begin trying to convert the Indians to Christianity – which they did. Then Isabella died, and the slaughter continued. The brutality was almost as bad as that imposed by British and French royalty who had no problems killing those people who either didn’t catch the flu and died or dropped to their knees and started praying to Jesus. In America’s infancy, many White Christians held a concept called “Manifest Destiny.” Some still do.

Francis proclaimed Serra “one of the founding fathers of the United States” and praised his willingness to abandon the comforts of his native Spain to spread Christianity in the Americas. Absent in the virtual deification is the fact that Serra was a tool in a brutal colonial system that killed thousands of Native Americans and subjugated thousands of others who didn’t perish. In August, the California state senate voted to replace a statue of Serra with one of a truly heroic figure: the late astronaut Sally Ride, a California native who was the first American woman in space. You know that had to piss off the Vatican elite. A woman given higher status than a male missionary?! How dare they!

Naturally Francis didn’t address the Native American holocaust; the longest-lasting and most far-reaching genocide in human history. Instead, he said that, when it comes to Christian missionaries, we must “examine their strengths and, above all, their weaknesses and shortcomings.” In other words: we don’t give a shit how you people feel.

 

The Pedophile Scandal

In June of 1985, American Roman Catholic bishops held their annual conference in Colorado. There, they were presented with a report entitled “The Problem of Sexual Molestation by Roman Catholic Clergy: Meeting the Problem in a Comprehensive and Responsible Manner.” Labeled “confidential,” the massive document was prepared just as the church was dealing with the case of Gilbert J. Gauthe, a priest in Lafayette, Louisiana who had been convicted of child molestation. While we now know the pedophile priest scandal stretches back for decades, the Gauthe case is where the madness first came to light. Revelations about what the Church knew and when shocked and horrified the Catholic faithful. That the Church tried to cover up the scandal by spiriting its gallery of child rapists from one diocese to another – a sort of ecumenical Witness Protection Program – initially seems unimaginable. But, with its vast financial resources and entrenched role as a global powerhouse, I’m not the least bit surprised. Like any international conglomerate, the Church didn’t want to concede it was wrong; opting instead, to pay out millions to keep the loudmouths quiet.

There’s no amount of money that can make up for the pedophile scourge. The damage has been done. This is not a 1950s-era TV show where mom dents the car, and the kids stumble around trying to keep dad from finding out. Francis grudgingly acknowledged the pedophile conundrum during his visit to the U.S. by meeting privately with a handful of victims and proclaiming that “God weeps” at the sexual abuse of children. I guess God weeps when old fuckers like Francis couch their disdain for talking about it publicly by using such generalized terminology. I say this because Francis also praised American bishops for how they confronted the scandal and told priests he felt their pain. For the record, the Roman Catholic Church never confronted this scandal, until U.S. law enforcement got involved. And the priests certainly aren’t the ones who endured any pain – unless it was pain from handcuffs that were too tight or soreness from sitting in a chair for hours, while giving a deposition. But I don’t feel that qualifies.

In the myriad dreams my writer’s psyche produces, the disintegration of the Roman Catholic Church is one of the grandest. But it’s still a dream. We’re talking about an institution nearly two millennia years of age. It’s the foundation of all Christianity – something evangelicals are loathe to admit. It’s not going away anytime soon, unless a comet strikes the Earth or every super volcano on the planet erupts simultaneously. With his soft voice and impish smile, Francis may have convinced a number of people he’s a pope unlike any other; a man wanting to bring the Church into the modern age. After all, he has a Twitter account!

Social media savvy or not, I see the same ruse. I see the same hypocrisy. I see the same figurehead. I see the same wicked entity. It just won’t change for the better. It can’t. It’s deceived too many souls.

 

Image courtesy J. Belmont.

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Doctorate in Dumbass

Alleged proof that humans and dinosaurs lived and played together.

Alleged proof that humans and dinosaurs lived and played together.

As if the state of Texas hasn’t embarrassed itself enough by keeping Rick Perry in the governor’s office for nearly 14 years and electing the maniacally right-wing Ted Cruz to a prominent U.S. Senate seat, we now have this gem. The Institution for Creation Research, which has been attempting to educate people about the veracity of the Christian Bible through scientific research since its founding in 1970, is now making an even more concerted effort at validating the Genesis story of “Creation.” Nine Ph.D.-bearing individuals from such esteemed institutions as Harvard University and the Los Alamos National Laboratory assert that Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution are nonsense, with no basis in fact, and that the universe was created by God between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago.

“Our attempt is to demonstrate that the Bible is accurate, not just religiously authoritative,” said Henry Morris III, CEO of ICR, a nonprofit with 49 staff members and an annual budget of roughly $7 million. “The rationale behind it is this: if God really does exist, he shouldn’t be lying to us. And if he’s lying to us right off the bat in the book of Genesis, we’ve got some real problems.”

Yea, if God lies, then you know we’re all in trouble. ICR rightfully notes that most non-religious institutions in the U.S. have taught the theory of evolution for nearly a hundred years now. But, they complain it’s been a lopsided deal; no other theory of how the Earth and its inhabitants came into existence has been presented. The frustration gave birth to a new educational forum: creation science.

ICR argues – among other things – that humans lived among dinosaurs; Noah really did build a massive vessel in advance of a catastrophic global flood; and the Grand Canyon formed in months, not over millions of years.

“Most Christians are like most people,” Morris said. “They don’t want to be thought of as weird. They don’t want to go against the majority.”

ICR highlights discrepancies in scientific proclamations, or conflicts within what they consider to be purely hypothetical statements. For example, Jason Lisle, an astrophysicist and ICR researcher, points to the “spiral winding problem” as proof that galaxies cannot be billions of years old. If stars had been bouncing around for billions of years, he says, they’d look more like CDs than what we see through telescopes, which are hurricane-shaped spirals. Another problem, he believes, lies with oceans. They should be more salty, if they were billions of years old. Finally, there’s the inescapable dinosaur quandary; if dinosaur bones actually were millions of years old, Lisle proclaims, paleontologists wouldn’t be able to recover traces of soft tissue from them.

I personally believe in a “Great Creator,” but that’s just my belief. I have no proof. There is proof of the sun and the moon and radiocarbon dating, which should lay a lot of this nonsense to rest. But, it doesn’t. People will believe whatever they want, and that’s their right. Trying to make a science out of it, however, moves the discussion into another realm.

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Happy Easter!

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“A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.”

Mahatma Gandhi

“Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won’t stay there.”

Samuel Logan Brengle

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Repairing Jesus’ Birthplace

Visitors light candles in the Church of the Nativity.

Visitors light candles in the Church of the Nativity.

Christian lore has it that Jesus was born in a manger in the city of Bethlehem and ultimately died to bring peace and joy to the world.  Looking at the centuries-old violence that has plagued the region now called the Middle East, it seems to have been in vain.  But, Palestinian authorities have set aside their animosity for outsiders by allowing a handful of Italian craftsmen to begin much-needed repairs to the roof of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which dates to the 4th century A.D.  Water leaks, seismic activity and general weather conditions have taken a toll on a structure classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  The church’s pine and cedar timbers are up to 800 years old and its deteriorating roof was donated by England’s King Edward IV in 1479.

“It’s very emotional to work here,” says Marcello Piacenti, head of a family business that is rejuvenating the structure; something his clan has being doing for six generations.

Workers are applying protective gauze to gold-leaf mosaics, while technicians examine the church’s wooden trusses for hidden damage.

As one might expect, there are internal clashes over the structure’s care.  Monks from Greek Orthodox, Catholic and Armenian churches have disputed who has authority to clean and repair the church.  The three dominions manage the building under a tense arrangement that seems to mirror the overall Middle East conflict.  You’d think they’d know better.

Finally, in 2009, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, fearing the church might collapse, issued a decree to repair the church.  That brought some agreement among its proprietors, and Piacenti’s company was called in to help.

Whatever religious disputes anyone has, I can only hope they drop all that friction and realize how important the church is.  Christian or not, it is a piece of history and it needs to be preserved.

Lieu de naissance de Jésus : l’église de la Nativité et la route de pèlerinage, Bethléem

Lieu de naissance de Jésus : l’église de la Nativité et la route de pèlerinage, Bethléem

Lieu de naissance de Jésus : l’église de la Nativité et la route de pèlerinage, Bethléem

Le Lieu de naissance de Jésus : l’église de la Nativité et la route de pèlerinage, Bethléem

Lieu de naissance de Jésus : l’église de la Nativité et la route de pèlerinage, Bethléem

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