Saturday, February 28, 2009

GOP: Limbaugh or Bipartisanship

Some Democrats are trying to tie Republicanism to Rush Limbaugh in order to paint the party as fringe and desirous of an Obama failure. On the other hand, the Obama administration is playing hardball with bipartinsanship, trying to bring Republicans to the table in times of crisis to help create common sense, practical solutions to our nation's problems. A duality is then created, either Republicans can work together with Obama or side with Limbaugh. For example, remember Obama telling the GOP leadership that they can't listen to Rush and get things done? Well, apparently the strategy is working.

We've heard these individual messaging schemes play out in the media; it's no secret. But, that's how they interact.

A Democratic Generation

According to a NYT article, the GOP risks losing a generation of voters to the Democrats. Currently, Democrats have a ten point advantage over Republicans in party identification (38% to 28%), a gap that significantly increased since the re-election of former Pres. Bush. If Obama, like Reagan, solidifies his support within the under 30 age-group, to which he already has a 14% point advantage, then Democrats will see strong electoral majorities for quite some time, theoretically speaking.

(h/t Atrios)

SciFi Channel Formula

So scanning through the cable stations last night and this afternoon, I stumbled across some SciFi channel movies. After a couple minutes of watching, I realized that this station's threshold of excellence is laughable worthlessness. And, I have come to the conclusion that every movie has the exact same infuriating formula:

A small group, heavily armed and ethnically diverse, sets out on a mission. Comprised of B-rate actors, the component characters usually include, but are not limited to, the alpha-male (with mad military and survival skills), the main woman (gorgeous and intelligent), and the angry dissenter (stubborn, rebellious, and inevitably dead). Either as a foil to the mission or as the end-game mission itself, a giant monster emerges, usually alien or reptilian (prehistoric, mythical, or exotic), which has an unceasing appetite and is impervious to most weaponry, especially bullets. The group, whittled down to a tiny nucleus (2-3 survivors) from monster attacks (with monster point of view shots), barely escapes, and within a haven of safety, the alpha-male and the main woman kiss. Roll credits.

Problematic multi-tasking

Driving, breast-feeding a child, and talking on the phone at the same time?!? Stick to walking and chewing gum, please.

Memo to Virgil Goode

Mary Ann Akers, The Sleuth of the Washington Post, criticizes Goode for galavanting around the district touting, with photo-ops and poster-sized checks, his lame-duck earmarks (see example). Money quote:
Anyone who has served six terms in the House of Representatives can take credit for bringing home the bacon to his or [her; sic] constituents. And that's exactly what Republican Virgil Goode - after twelve years in Congress - did this week.
The only thing is: Goode isn't the district's congressman. He was defeated in November by Democrat Tom Perriello.
She concludes quoting a DCCC spokesperson:
"Memo to Virgil Goode: You're not in Congress anymore."

Friday, February 27, 2009

Conservatism and Pornography? (updated)

In a nationwide study examining subscriptions to pornography, Benjamin Edelman at the Harvard Business School found a correlation between conservativism and pornography (study here). Methodologically speaking, Edelman looked at two years worth of credit card receipts and purchaser's zip codes, and he controlled for broadband connectivity. Accordingly, while there is universal liking to pornography among red states and blue states, some trends are apparent:
Those states that do consume the most porn tend to be more conservative and religious than states with lower levels of consumption, the study finds.

"Some of the people who are most outraged turn out to be consumers of the very things they claimed to be outraged by," Edelman says.

Utah has the highest subscription rate (5.47 subscriptions per 1000 home broadband users) to pornography, while Montana has the lowest (1.92 subsciptions per 1000). The correlation between conservatism and pornography also shows up in states banning gay marriage:

Residents of 27 states that passed laws banning gay marriages boasted 11% more porn subscribers than states that don't explicitly restrict gay marriage.

The correlation is seen in states that have a stronger receptivity to family values:

States where a majority of residents agreed with the statement "I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage," bought 3.6 more subscriptions per thousand people than states where a majority disagreed. A similar difference emerged for the statement "AIDS might be God's punishment for immoral sexual behaviour [sic]."

And is seen in the 2008 electoral map:

Eight of the top 10 pornography consuming states gave their electoral votes to John McCain in last year's presidential election – Florida and Hawaii were the exceptions. While six out of the lowest 10 favoured Barack Obama.

To which, Edelman makes the common sense, "forbidden fruit" conclusion:

"One natural hypothesis is something like repression: if you're told you can't have this, then you want it more," Edelman says.

We've implicitly alluded to this hypothesis earlier in our discussion over the ineffectiveness of virginity pledges. Puritanical and Victorian teachings of sex and sexuality no longer appear to be efficacious, especially in an age where pornography is one click away. We need to teach a healthy and balanced understanding of human sexuality, as teachings that are premised on the inherent sinfulness of sex and sexuality only increase the likelihood of unhealthy sexual behaviors.

Please keep your comments high-minded.

Update: Reader Tripp offers his thoughts on this topic at Homebrewed Christianity, as do Steve Waldman and Andrew Sullivan on their blogs.


Reaction against political correctness is one thing, but a racist disregard of the dignity of a human being is quite another. In the last couple of days, some conservatives have been rallying around Bobby Jindal and his performance on Tuesday, but I am stunned about what some conservatives are saying - even if joking - about him.

Ann Coulter:
Even Gov. Bobby Jindal, whom I suppose I should note was the first Indian-American to give the Republican response to a president's speech, began with an encomium to the first black president. (Wasn't Bobby great in "Slumdog Millionaire"?)
RNC Chair Michael Steele:

I love it. (inaudible) ... some slum love out to my buddy. Gov. Bobby Jindal is doing a friggin' awesome job in his state. He's really turned around on some core principles — like hey, government ought not be corrupt. The good stuff ... the easy stuff.

With friends like these ...

Flashback to Salem

Five Kenyan elders were burnt to death for their suspected practice of witchcraft:
"They include four women and a man in their 80's who were accused of having abducted a child," Kisii deputy police Commander Manasseh Musyoka said yesterday.
In March last year, 12 people, mainly elderly men and women were burnt to death in Nyamira district in similar circumstances.

I'm confused about the logic leap from child abduction to witchcraft, and I am also bummed to see our lack of civilizational advancement in the last 400 years.

(h/t The Huffington Post)

Danville Register & Bee defends Rep. Perriello

About a month ago, the Lynchburg News & Advance decried the nasty attacks against Rep. Perriello. Today, the Danville Register & Bee also defends Tom against the vicious ads currently airing. Money quote:
To Perriello’s critics, nothing he does will ever matter. That’s how a group like the NRCC can get away with jumpstarting the 2010 elections mere months after the polls closed in 2008. The never-ending fight for political power in this country means our politicians are always in “campaign mode.”

It’s shameful that Rep. Perriello has been attacked so soon when he’s followed Goode by bringing federal dollars to the district — plus he supported a higher education tax credit and health insurance for children.

Perriello v. Goode Rematch

Lowell says that he has been hearing strong rumors of a Perriello v. Goode rematch in 2010. Earlier, I said that I wasn't so sure, but I am starting to change my mind. His ambiguous public statements on the issue, of course, leave the door open. And, the fact that he is in public, however Franklin County, shaking hands for earmarks he secured as a lame duck seems odd, unless he was leaving room to rechallenge Rep. Perriello.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tough time for Big Sports

Even the professional sports leagues are not immune from the difficulties of the current economic crisis.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will give up 20-25% of his $11 million dollar salary, and the rest of the NFL's executive staff will take similar cuts. The NFL has to cut 169 jobs, 15% of the staff, and needs to find ways to reduce 20% of its expenses. Similarly, all of the 32 franchises expect to cut a total of 200 jobs. AMERICAblog wonders whether this will affect players salaries.

The NBA is set to borrow $175 million to help teams struggling in the global economy. The money will help teams cover their operating costs. Apparently, Bank of America and JPMorgan - aren't these bail-out superfiends? - approached the NBA and offered the loan, to which a majority of teams agreed to the necessity of funds.

The Ten Commandments and the Seven Aphorisms

Thanks to Reader aznew for passing this along. Importantly, this is a tough case for me to wrap my head around, so I hope I gave it justice.

The Supreme Court a couple days ago decided on a case in which Pleasant Grove City, Utah, declined to erect a monument on public space to the Summum religion, even though a monument to the Ten Commandments, among others, exists there (see full decision here). The Summun church wanted to erect a statue to the Seven Aphorisms. The city declined, stating that existing monuments were either fashioned to the history of the city or donated by people with strong historical ties to the city. Of note, the Summun adherents sued under the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment, curiously not under the Establishment Clause.

The Court unanimously agreed, however, there were multiple concurring opinions; basically, the Justices were split on their approach but unified in the basic decision, even with differing understandings of the scope and consequences of the decision. The Summun church argued that the space was a public forum, and they had their right to free speech; if the city took one monument with religious implications then the city must include theirs. Writing the majority opinion, however, Justice Alito stated that free speech pertains to speeches and leaflets in the public forum. Alito stated that the Summum church's free speech rights were not violated when the city rejected the request to erect a monument. As such, monuments on public property represent government speech, presuming, of course, that the Ten Commandments can be government speech without conveying a religious message. And, according to Alito, the meaning of a monument changes over time.

Several of the concurring decisions touched on the Establishment Clause:
The concurrences offered varying views about whether the decision foreclosed or left open a separate challenge to the Ten Commandments monument under the Establishment Clause.
Justices Scalia and Thomas believed that this decision forclosed any challenge with the Establishment Clause, citing Van Orden v. Perry in which many monuments on public land, even if one is religious, does not mean a governmental endorsement of religion. Justice Souter was not so sure, and said it would behoove the city to erect other monuments to not present the perception that the city was establishing religion.

The Baptist Joint Committee, a leading organization on the Seperation of Church and State, argues that the government cannot choose a favored religion and then erect a monument with that religion's precepts. They assert that the case is still open to an Establishment Clause challenge, and they point out that the Summun attorney was ecstatic that the Court handed them a new constitutional challenge on "a silver platter."

Why this wasn't initially handled under the Establishment Clause is beyond me, but it looks like the concurrences may give a small window into how the Salazar v. Buono case will be handled.

Tom Perriello's father is "gravely ill."

This morning I got several emails concerning the health and well-being of Rep. Perriello's father, Vito Perriello. Dr. Perriello suffered a stroke several days ago, and he is "fighting for his life." The prognosis apparently is not that good.

Through Tom's campaign, I have come to know Dr. Perriello well. He is a very kind and honorable man, dedicating much of his life to helping children, both in his practice as a pediatrician and as sports coach. His love is large and expansive, seen in how he interacts with everybody: his family, campaign staffers, volunteers, children, etc.

Please keep Vito Perriello, his wife Linda, Tom, and the rest of the Perriello family in your thoughts and prayers. If you are inclined, you can send the family an e-card, which will be printed out and delivered by the hospital.

Relationship Between Religion and Domestic Violence?

The blog, On Faith, a Washington Post/Newsweek blog on religious issues, tackles the subject of religion and domestic violence in the light of the murder of Aasiya Hassan by her husband Muzzammil Hassan. Ten writers, of multiple faiths and disciplines, provided their thoughts on the tragedy and the overall relationship between religion and domestic violence. Given my work against domestic violence, my initial thoughts on the tragedy, our Dem Bones Dialogue Series (1, 2, 3, 4) on domestic violence, and my scholarship on religion and violence, I wanted to provide a brief synopsis of each writer's thoughts.

These writers were asked to respond to the following question:
American Muslim leaders have been quick to condemn the beheading of a woman by her Muslim husband in Buffalo, saying it has nothing to do with religion. Is there a connection between religion and domestic violence?
Pamela Taylor, co-founder of Muslims for Progressive Values, shows, using scriptural citations, that domestic violence has no place in Islam, but that there are some problematic verses, which she exegetically explores, in the Qur'an and the hadith that have been used (incorrectly) to justify patriarchy and violence. Religion, cultural norms - fostering senses of male entitlement - and mainstream interpretations of Islam all allow domestic violence to flourish, but there should be a strong principled stand against domestic violence and abusers.
Daisy Khan, Executive Director of American Society for Muslim Advancement, unequivocally asserts that religion shares no connection with domestic violence - religion calls for harmonious relationships in the household - but Khan believes that it would be ignorant to claim that abusers don't abuse using religious justification. Religious leaders must emphatically condemn domestic violence and take proactive steps, within the community, to decrease its rates.
Susan Jacoby, author and reporter, says that there is a natural relationship between patriarchal religion and domestic violence, the more patriarchal, the more violent. And given the justification in all religions for oppressing women worldwide, it is inane to say that the beheading had nothing to do with religion.
Susan Thistlewaithe, professor at Chicago Theological Seminary, states that the primary connection between religion and violence is the subordination of women to men; when there is an unequal power dynamic, women are vulnerable to such violence. As such, the Christian sanction for domestic violence is deeply rooted in the Christian tradition.
Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship ministry, points out that there are some aspects of the Islamic faith that can cause evil people to do evil things, but, in general, there is never religious justification for violence against the innocent.
Willis Elliott, minister, teacher, and author, in a stream-of-conscious post, points out the religious nature of the beheading, implicating Islam's complicity in beheadings and domestic violence. He provides some Islamic scriptural justification as well as contemporary examples of beheadings, and finally, states that, outside of sadistic and poor interpretations of Christian scripture, there is no Biblical justification for domestic violence.
Rabbi Arthur Waskow states that religion and domestic violence have not been strangers with each other, and that all religious traditions are implicated; there is a "universal and shameful connection" between the religion and domestic violence.
Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, a personal friend of Aasiya Hassan, states that there can be no cover, religious or otherwise, for such heinous acts, and that religious leaders should be toughest to abusers who utilize violence in the name of God; religious leaders need to do more when it comes to domestic violence, and they need to do it better.
Arun Ghandi argues that there is no religious justification to violence of any kind, and like his grandfather, the great Mahatma Ghandi, believes that any violence justified by religious leaders is premised, however misunderstood and misappropriated, on a overly dogmatic approach to sacred texts, one that sees the world in a war between good and evil.
Kenneth Bowers, a leading authority in the Baha'i faith, argues that domestic violence is a perversion of any faith, as religion rightly teaches love and peace, and faith should play a prominent role in decreasing domestic violence. Spiritual leaders and religious institutions have a special role in educating communities about this issue, and he concludes with 5 Baha'i guidelines to deal with domestic violence.

Finally, as I write this up, Andrew Sullivan provides a couple more voices on this topic.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

(Not) State of the Union

Was it just me, or did Nancy Pelosi look like a child on Christmas morning during the speech? I thought the speech was superlative, and the early "chattering class" seems to agree. I got charged up several times, especially parts about the reclamation of our dignity, honor, and our future; The "We will emerge stronger than before" line was the climactic moment of the speech. I enjoyed the redirectioning of America, through the (not so) veiled jabs at the last administration.

Maybe I was hypnotized by Obama's oratory brilliance, but Jindal's tonality seemed odd and distracted me away from his message. After Jindal's slam on the stimulus package and the near unanimous congressional opposition to it, I don't want to hear from Jindal or Republicans about "putting away our political differences" right now.

What did you think about the speech tonight? And Jindal's response?

New Virginia Driver's Licenses

Virginia is going to start rolling out their new driver's licenses this year. I think they look pretty sweet. The major changes will happen both in appearance and distribution. First, for purposes of security the minimization of counterfeiting, they will contain grayscale photographs and a duplicate hologram picture of the person. The main background colors will be difficult to re-create, and they will be made of polycarbonate, apparently uncounterfeitable. Second, the driver's licenses will not be distributed at the local DMV, but will be mailed from a central location. To cut down on any possibility of illegality, your picture is taken at the beginning of the process, and then you will recieve it in the mail, within 5-10 days.

Of importance to us Southsiders, the company that is contracted to make the licences, Canadian Bank Note, opened up a new production facility in Danville.

(h/t Not Larry Sabato)

Perriello on the Frontline

The DCCC's Frontline program is designed to help solidify support for vulnerable Democratic incumbents, and today the DCCC announced their Frontline members. In Virginia, two congressmen, Reps. Connolly (VA-11) and Perriello made the list. The list is comprised of 40 incumbents, almost 30 of which are freshman members, many of whom won in Republican-leaning districts last year. According to The Hill:
Frontline gives those most susceptible to Republican challenges added supervision and measurable goals as they prepare for the 2010 elections. Members of the program will be pushed to focus on fundraising and outreach efforts.
We know that the Republicans are salivating at the opportunity to bring down Rep. Perriello. Both the Freedom's Defense Fund - who just came out with a second anti-Tom ad - and the NRCC have already aired ads against our congressman. In light of these ads, Roanoke blogger fromtheeditr states:
Fact is, the attack--done in some truly dim-witted, low-brow ads that look like they were made in somebody's garage and featuring the boys from the corner bar--goes after Perriello for some of the strongest and most popular parts of the bill, the parts that create jobs and help people directly. Even the criticisms that sound legit are so twisted that you'd never recognize them in the bill.

My guess is that Perriello terrified them and they want to get started early trying to soften him up for the next election.
Well said, and yep, they are trying to discredit Rep. Perriello. To come full circle, that is exactly why he made the Frontline.

Deus ex machina

The literary phrase deus ex machina literally means, "god from the machine," for within Ancient Greek plays, a God-figure divinely appeared on stage, via pulley or trapdoor, in order to solve narrative complications. Literary critics see this plot device as a sign of a poorly written narrative, as the plot can't resolve itself without a transcendent and/or extraordinary figure/event swooping in to save the day. Think Aslan's role in the second Narnia movie.

Invoking this device, today The Roanoke Times warns that we should not be viewing this stimulus package as a deus ex machina; the stimulus isn't the end all be all resolution to our economic problems, and it will only help us weather our short-term crisis. Money quote:
Lately [deus ex machina] is a political tool. The federal economic stimulus package includes billions of dollars for state and local governments that will help them weather the worst of the recession-induced revenue shortfalls. Virginia's schools, health care, roads, law enforcement and other services will hang on this year thanks to the cash infusions.
The god from the machine intervened and bought the commonwealth some time, but nothing more. It is up to Virginians and their lawmakers to make the most of it.

Quote of the Day

Chris Bowers, at Open Left, theorizes about the large viewerships of State of the Union addresses:
However, and this may sound strange coming from an avowed atheist such as myself, but mainly I think it is kind of like people who only go to church on Christmas. Apart from voting, watching the SOTU is an annual, ritual form of political engagement for many Americans who are otherwise disengaged. Even nine months from an election, even in an odd numbered year, even when we basically already know what the President will say (which is every year), many still tune in just because, well, for the same reason people go to church only on Christmas. It is just something you do to show you are a part of the team, even if you can't stand and / or can't be bothered by the trappings for regular engagement.
I'm not sure I agree with this, but it is an interesting take. Thoughts?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Television's effects on volunteerism

Steve Waldmann, founder of Beliefnet, highlights this quote from a study on ways to improve volunteerism at non-profits in the Stanford Social Innovation Review:
[T]he primary difference between volunteers and non-volunteers, when measuring what they do with their time, is the amount of television they watch. People who do not volunteer watch hundreds of hours of additional TV a year compared to people who do volunteer. It’s not that people don’t have enough time to volunteer. People do not volunteer because nonprofits do not provide them with volunteer opportunities that interest them enough to pull them away from their television sets.

Blogging and Happiness

If used like a personal journal, however public, blogging makes people happier:
The researchers found support for deeper self-disclosure from bloggers resulting in a range of better social connections. These included things such as a sense of greater social integration, which is how connected we feel to society and our own community of friends and others; an increase in social bonding (our tightly knit, intimate relationships); and social bridging — increasing our connectedness with people who might be from outside of our typical social network.

They also hypothesized and found support from their data that when these kinds of social connections increase or grow deeper through blogging, a person will also feel a greater subjective sense of well-being or happiness.

(h/t Andrew Sullivan)

Salazar v. Buono (updated)

Today, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a church-state case, Salazar v. Buono, the first such case under the current make-up of the Court. The Associated Baptist Press reports:
The case involves a cross -- a predecessor of which was first erected as a World War I memorial in 1934 -- standing on government-owned land in California’s Mojave National Preserve.

The current version was built of painted metal pipes by a local resident in 1998. The next year the National Park Service, which oversees the land, denied an application to build a Buddhist shrine near the cross.

The agency studied the history of the monument and, determining that it did not qualify as a historic landmark, announced plans to remove it. Congress intervened with a series of amendments to spending bills attempting to preserve the cross.

In 2001 Frank Buono, a former Park Service employee who once worked at the preserve, filed suit with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union. They claimed that the cross violated the Constitution’s ban on government establishment of religion.
It seems as though the issue here is the legislative efforts to give the land in which the cross stands to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, in order to claim that the cross doesn't stand on government property, and therefore it isn't government establishment of Christianity. The 9th Circuit Court ruled against the law ordering the exchange of government land with the VFW:
“We previously held that the presence of the cross in the preserve violates the Establishment Clause [of the First Amendment], wrote Judge Margaret McKeown in that decision. “We also concluded that a reasonable observer aware of the history of the cross would know of the government’s attempts to preserve it and the denial of access to other religious symbols.”
“Under the statutory dictates and terms that presently stand, carving out a tiny parcel of property in the midst of this vast preserve -- like a donut hole with the cross atop it -- will do nothing to minimize the impermissible governmental endorsement.”
With the retirement of moderate Sandra Day O'Connor and the ensuing appointment of conservative Samuel Alito, a lot of people will be interested to see how this case will be adjudicated.

Update: David Savage of the Los Angelos Times has this write-up on the case.

Update II: Great debate on the case at Beliefnet's Lynn v. Sekulow. Other coverage at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Blog from the Capital (1 , 2, and 3).

Update III: Reader aznew emailed me the link to this analysis on the case from the First Amendment Center.

Ethanol, Biofuels, and Islam

One prominent Islamic scholar, Sheikh Mohamed Al-Najimi, thinks that using ethanol based biofuels could be committing a sin, and he urged further studying of the matter. At issue, the constitution of ethanol:
Ethanol, a common type of biofuel, is made of the same type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, and its production is similar to that of hard liquor. Plant matter is fermented using yeast, and the result is distilled to increase the concentration of alcohol.
Of course, the consumption of alcohol is strictly prohibited in the Qur'an:
The Koran prohibits consumption of alcohol in three separate verses that were written over a period of several years. The first mention occurs in 4:43, in which Muslims are told that they must not pray while intoxicated. A verse written later – 2:219 – says that in wine and gambling “is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit.” Finally, in 5:90-91, intoxicants and gambling are called “an abomination” and “Satan’s handiwork”:

Satan’s plan is (but) to excite enmity and hatred between you, with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah, and from prayer: will ye not then abstain?

This admonition is waived in the hereafter, apparently: Many passages in the Islamic holy book describe heaven as having rivers of wine.

It must be said that I am not an expert on the Islamic religion, but there is an easy distinction to be made here. To me, the Islamic prohibition of alcohol revolves around the propensity towards intoxication and derivatively, the increased likelihood that an intoxicated individual would commit other "satanic" acts, like gambling and the excitations of enmity and hatred. And in the state of intoxication, the individual's priorities move from the sacred relationship with God to the hedonistic priorities of instant gratification - see the condemnation of praying while intoxicated. This same logic is employed by many conservative Christians today, but, to my point, it isn't necessarily a prohibition against the existence of alcohol - it's present in the afterlife! - but how those who consume alcohol enter into a potential slippery-slope of sinfulness, a slippery-slope that damages the individual's personal relationship with God. Since we aren't using ethanol for the purposes of intoxication but for purposes of both saving the environment and weening of foreign oil, we are theologically money.

Cashing in on Obama

A low-level Obama Campaign staffer - an unpaid volunteer with a position - who approved comments at is both inflating her contributions to the campaign and raking in oodles of money, upsetting campaign leaders. Yet, like suggests, as many others are already cashing in on the historic election:
So why don't other members of Mr Obama's campaign start cashing in? The window is closing, and it's not like their options are expanding from month to month.
I guess I'm just a slacker.

The Oscars

I thought that Hugh Jackman did a great job hosting the Oscars this year. The juxtaposition of Wolverine being a great singer and dancer was pretty sweet. I was touched and, admittedly, teary-eyed by the Ledger family's acceptance of Heath's Oscar win for Best Supporting Actor. I enjoyed having previous Oscar winners reflect on the performances of the Oscar nominees, and I was happy that Slumdog Millionaire won for Best Picture.

What were your thoughts?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Political Women Leaders and Sexism

From racist chimpanzee cartoons to sexist poll questions, how low can we get? From Media Matters:
US News & World Report's Washington Whispers page currently features a poll asking readers who they would prefer to run a daycare center for their kids: First Lady Michelle Obama, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, or Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Profiling Perriello

Today, The Roanoke Times has a profile piece on Rep. Perriello. Money quote:
"Tom is terrific," [Rep. Rick] Boucher [VA-9] said. "He's tremendously respected on both sides of the aisle. ... He has made a good impression in his first month."

House leadership has also taken notice of the freshman congressman, and Boucher expects Perriello will be tapped for more leadership roles in the near future.
Keep on, keepin' on, Congressman!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Good times. Good times.

Last night, I was in Winston-Salem playing dress up with old Divinity School friends. It was a great time, so much so, that I felt the need to tell you about it. Thanks to Greg and Emily, John Carter, and all of my beloved friends.

Secularism (updated)

For a couple years now I have wondered if secularism wasn't a-religious or anti-religious, but was instead the hyper-homogeneity of all religions (including non-religion); it's not that you take all of religion out of the public sphere to be considered secular, but it's that secularism is the surgical removal of all of the unique and idiosyncratic elements/tenets of each (non-) religious tradition. Secularism, then, is the universal commonality - again, the hyper-homogeneity - between all religions together and non-religion.

This thought, in some way, was reinforced as I read this question and answer post by an athiest, Bruce Ledewitz, author of the new book Hallowed Secularism. He believes, against the New Atheists who are hostile to religion, that a healthy secularism should learn from the wisdom of religious traditions. It's an insightful read, so please check it out.


Update: Andrew Sullivan discusses Ledewitz and Hallowed Secularism today.

Local Stimulus Coverage

Local newspapers have the stimulus on the mind. With the stimulus package signed into law, local organizations and governmental institutions are hoping for a piece of the pie. Here are several articles from the Martinsville, Danville, and Franklin County newspapers.

Martinsville schools Superintendent Scott Kizner hopes that federal money will help make up for the loss of funding from state-wide education cuts, and with the good possibility of funding, Kizner is now optimistic about this year's budget. Also in Martinsville, Executive Director Kim Adkins believes that the West Peidmont Workforce Investment Board will get federal money to help with local workforce development programs.

The Franklin County Director of Commerce and Leisure Services, Scott Martin, hopes that federal stimulus money will be allocated to the area for infrastructure improvements and job creation. The Franklin News Post editorial staff argue that now that the bill is passed it is pointless to criticize the package. They say that county officials are prepared for stimulus funds, and the editors believe that the funds will give Franklin County a needed boost.

Finally, the editorial staff from the Danville Register & Bee believe that the stimulus package is a risk, but, if the money is spent wisely, the possible benefits of the package could greatly affect the Danville community for years to come. They call the package "a good gamble," with their wishlist including funding for a bridge, water lines, and an industrial park.

Education, workforce development, infrastructure. Stimulating hopes.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Obama: America's Hero, Bigger than Jesus, God

In a new poll, conducted by The Harris Poll, Americans were asked who they admired enough to be considered their hero. The name most often mentioned by respondents was President Barack Obama. Jesus Christ is second (ranked first in 2001) and Martin Luther King, Jr. is third (second in 2001). Of note, former President George Bush is fifth (19th in 2001) on the current list, and God is ranked 11th (not ranked in 2001).

(h/t RNS Blog)

God and the Stimulus II

Yesterday I mentioned a television ad by the group American Issues Project, subtly picking up on the anti-religious meme proposed by Huckabee and several conservative organizations. Here is that ad for viewing enjoyment.

Matthew Yglesias, however, checks the facts:
Trying to check the math, 2,000 years times 365 days in a year = 730,000 days times $1 million a day equals $730,000,000,000. That is, indeed, a smaller number than the $787 billion size of the stimulus plan. Of course the actual spending in the package is worth hundreds of billions of dollars less than that since about a third of the total package is tax cuts.

Impeach Obama?

The "Impeach Obama" bumper stickers have arrived. Money quote:
These stickers were apparently inspired by those aforementioned "Impeach Bush" stickers, or the "Impeach Laura Roslin" stickers, or the "Impeach Doctor Zaius" stickers, or the "I Brake For Joe The Plumber" stickers. One of those. Obviously, these Obama versions have some original touches of their own. For instance, did you know that "Osama" and "Obama" sort of rhyme? That's what all the "off the hook" kids grooving on Michael Steele's new urban-suburban dis track tell me, anyway! Plus, the word "lying" is depicted as "lyin'" which is a shout-out to Sarah Palin.


Not exactly a shining example of inter-religious dialogue.

Recovery Tour

Rep. Perriello visited Martinsville on Wednesday to talk with local constituents about the stimulus package. Jim White videoed the town hall session.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

God and the Stimulus

The debate over the efficacy of the stimulus package has taken a different turn in the last week. At issue according to Christianity Today, the stimulus package states that money cannot be used to renovate facilities:
(i) used for sectarian instruction, religious worship, or school department of divinity; or (ii) in which a substantial portion of the functions of the facilities are subsumed in a religious mission.
With this qualification in mind, a new line of attack started last week when Mike Huckabee charged that the package is anti-religious:
The dust is settling on the ‘bipartisan’ stimulus bill and one thing is clear: It is anti-religious.
To which the Christian Coalition jumped in:
It is beyond belief that a large number of Democrat [sic] members of Congress are absolutely intent on satisfying the anti-Christian whims of their left-wing supporters and passing legislation putting Christians and other people of faith at an exterme [sic] disadvantage in America.
And today, one group, American Issues Project, created a new television ad opposing the stimulus by invoking images of Jesus. Saith the ad:
"Suppose you spent $1 million every single day starting from the day Jesus was born — and kept spending through today,” says the announcer as an image of the three wise men flashes on the screen. “A million dollars a day for more than 2,000 years. You would still have spent less money than Congress just did."
But, as Christianity Today states, this legislative language is normative:
However, the language in the stimulus bill is neither new nor unusual, since restrictions have been part of federal higher education policy for over 40 years. Rather than inhibit religion, these restrictions make possible federal funding to religious colleges and universities.
Funding of higher education is, in some sense, our largest faith-based initiative. And like other faith-based initiatives, what allows the government to support education at religious colleges and universities is the necessary caveat that the federal funding be used for religiously neutral purposes. Far from being "anti-religious," the restrictions in the stimulus bill are the same old prohibitions that have allowed the federal government to help religious colleges and universities educate students for the past 40 years.
Faith in Public Life agrees:
This is standard practice, not some assault on Christianity. Also, it's standard practice that sensibly rooted in our Constitution, which protects against the establishment of religion (which some people seem to forget). Church/state balance is a tricky thing-- as shown by numerous court cases and the controversy over the faith-based initiatives office-- but the ban on direct government funding for something used for sectarian, religious purposes is, to put it bluntly, a no-brainer.
Bottom line, the stimulus package is NOT anti-religious.

Beer and the Recession

Nate Silver points out that beer is no longer-recession proof. I am wondering what it says about us that beer was once considered recession-proof in the first place.

Namesake likeness

I set up a Google alert for "Dem Bones" yesterday to see what the intertubes are saying, if anything, about my blog. This blog came up with a similar name "Dem Bones Dem Bones," and coincidentally, it is a blog on atheism and evolution. The slogan "One life; live it" says it all.

Islam and Domestic Violence

Muzzammil Hassan, the founder of Bridges TV, an English-speaking Islamic television station aimed at countering negative portrayals of Muslims, turned himself in for beheading his wife, Aasiya Hassan, in Orchard Park, NY on Monday. Ms. Hassan had filed for divorce earlier this month, and there was a history of domestic violence within the relationship.

In response to this gruesome tragedy, Hussein Rashid writes to dispel rumors that domestic violence is inherent within Islam:
I believed that [the crime] would be described as an expression of innate Muslim values, as though only Muslims are capable of such a crime. Although there is no monopoly on violence, there is a discourse that projects violence as being only a Muslim trait. A typical Orientalist fantasy that holds that the “Other” is inherently violent no matter what the reality may be. Thankfully, aside from some of the fringe sites, the media has been responsible in reporting this as a case of domestic violence.

Horrible things are done to women every day, every minute, everywhere, by all kinds of people. It’s not as though we are not aware of it violence against women in the Muslim community. We are and we are trying to do something about it. But a moment like this shows how immediate the need is. The reality is that every community suffers from forms of domestic violence. It’s not about religion; it’s about power and control. (emphasis mine)

While this tragedy sickens me to my core, it is important to remember Rashid's point.

Populist Perriello

Cvllelaw notices that Rep. Perriello is one of the founding members of the Populist Caucus, the newly formed caucus within the Democratic party. As he also points out, the caucus has six over-arching legislative priorities:
1. Creating Good Jobs and a Secure Retirement: Creating and retaining good-paying jobs in America, providing fair wages, proper benefits, a level playing field at the negotiating table, and ensuring American workers have secure, solvent retirement plans;
2. Cutting Taxes for the Middle Class: Cutting taxes for the middle class and establishing an equitable tax structure;
3. Affordable Healthcare: Providing affordable, accessible, quality health care for all Americans;
4. Quality, Affordable Education: Ensuring quality primary education for all American children, and affordable college education for all who want it;
5. Fair Trade: Defending American competitiveness by fighting for fair trade principles;
6. Protecting Consumers: Protecting consumers, so that Americans can have faith in the safety and effectiveness of the products they purchase.
I hadn't heard that Rep. Perriello had joined this caucus, but I was wondering if he would join it since the initial announcement last week. All of the early membership lists I have seen do not mention Tom's name (see 1, 2, 3, 4), but if it is true, it's a great fit.

Quote of the Day

Associated Baptist Press opinion writer, Marv Knox:
Talk about a pointless war. The battle between faith and science just doesn't make sense.

The whole world seems to be thinking about the relationship of science and religious faith this week, as we mark the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth. ... Nothing this side of Galileo has inflamed so many Christians as Darwin's evolutionary tome, On the Origin of Species.

Still, I must confess: I just don't "get" the fight between religion and science or faith and reason.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tracking Terry's wife?

The Virginia blogosphere is up in arms over the alleged tracking of Terry McAuliffe's wife, Dorothy, by the Moran campaign. It began two days ago when Not Larry Sabato posted:
The McAuliffe campaign fanned the flames. In a press release, senior strategist Mo Elleithee said:
When the Moran campaign said that it was time to play hardball, we didn't realize that meant following other candidate spouses! We're flattered that they find Dorothy to be as compelling a surrogate as we do. The more people hear both her and Terry make our case, the better.
Virginia Bloggers are upset, and rightfully so if the allegations are true. Jim White believes that politicians families are off-limits, and aznew and Cobalt6 push for a politics worthy of adults. And they are right.

The Huffington Post, however, contacted the Moran campaign for their version of events, something NLS did not do. They offer a more complete picture to the incident:
But an aide to the opposing candidate, Virginia House Democratic Caucus Chairman Brian Moran, says it was nothing more than a bizarre, coincidental, and one-time incident, hardly the nefarious politicking that has been portrayed.

Dorothy McAuliffe, wife of the former DNC Chair and confidante to the Clintons, was taped by the Moran campaign while giving a speech at the Stafford Democratic Committee this past week. But aides to Moran say it wasn't meant to be. The videographer had gone to the event to tape a Moran campaign official, Steve Jarding, who ran Mark Warner's run for the governor in 2001. McAuliffe's wife took to the stage afterward and the film kept on rolling. "We didn't turn the camera off," an aide said, "but it was coincidental. We don't have a camera tracking her." ...

But it is at this juncture, it seems, that the minor controversy will end. The decision to keep the film rolling while Dorothy McAuliffe spoke, whether it was a mistake to begin with or not, apparently won't happen again.

"We have not, are not and will not be 'tracking' Dorothy McAuliffe," said Moran spokesman Jesse Ferguson.

I hope that clears things up. Now, I am as guilty of reading NLS as the next political junkie, since he is a political media driver whose daily readership outpaces most national blogs, but, it seems to me, especially in light of his coverage of the presidential primary, that NLS is oftentimes more concerned with controversy and mud-slinging than he is with truth-seeking and properly informing his readership. I wish the VA blogosphere could quit him.

NRCC piles on Perriello

The NRCC is airing this ad in the Roanoke-Lynchburg markets to attack Rep. Perriello for his vote on the stimulus bill.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


In an article making fun of the high school nature of politics and Eric Cantor, the writer refers to Rep. Perriello as a "cherubic wunderkind." Those are two words that I would have never ever thought to put back-to-back.

Twittering your surgery

Hypothetically speaking, I guess I would prefer my surgeon to pay more attention to me and my surgery then to Twitter. Call me old fashion. Money quote:
"Doing this removes a real communication barrier. It helps make something scary much more comprehendable," said Christopher Parks, co-founder of the Web site "It brings us closer together and makes us more engaged."
Now I'm down with bringing people together, but I just wouldn't want my hypothetical surgery to be a vehicle for social engagement.

And, what is it with Twitter and people these days?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Danville Congressional Office

According to the Register & Bee, Rep. Perriello opened a congressional office in Danville today.

White Sox invite Obama to Spring Training

The White Sox have invited their number one fan to visit their spring training facilities later this week:
President Obama will be in the Phoenix area this week, and he has been given an invitation by his favorite organization to visit the team in Glendale, Ariz. and get a glimpse of the new state-of-the art facility that is Camelback Ranch, according to vice-president of communications Scott Reifert.

As of Monday afternoon, the Sox have not heard back, but they’re hoping that changes by Wednesday.
If he says 'yes,' hopefully he picks up one of the White Sox-Obama caps.
Apparently getting arrested for a first time wasn't disincentive enough for one South African flight crew to stop drug smuggling. But twice in one month? That's just not getting it.

(h/t The Huffington Post)
Somewhere a comedian found a joke:
[Graham J.] Nickerson pleaded guilty Thursday in provincial court to unlawfully entering the home of a senior citizen and stealing a pair of disposable Depend underwear.

It was a Saturday and the Cape Sable Island man was returning from a party somewhere, said defence lawyer Del Wickens.

Wickens told court his client got lost in the woods - and lost his trousers while relieving himself.
(h/t The Huffington Post)

And the Oscar goes to ...

Statistics savant, Nate Silver (, used logistic regression to predict this year's Oscar winners. Not a whole lot of surprises there, but its cool to read how statistics can be used to predict, like the electoral vote, the Oscars.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Fifth District jobs

From today's Martinsville Bulletin:
The White House estimates 7,600 new jobs be created or saved in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act approved Friday by Congress, 5th District U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello’s office announced.

Southside Virginia has lost more than 10,000 jobs in the last decade, and recently Martinsville and Danville had unemployment rates at or near 15 percent.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Religion and Violence

So, my article on religion and violence has finally been published. Gracious thanks to my professor Craig Atwood and The Hinge. You can read my article here. Four respondents reviewed my article (1, 2, 3, and 4), to which I responded, in turn, with the final say. Also, this article was translated into German.

I hope that you all will have the chance to read my article and the ensuing dialogue. It gives a window into a small but important segment of my divinity education.

Friday, February 13, 2009

New York Lawyer Writes Law

Rep. Perriello's bill that he co-authored last month - on his first week on the job - is set to become law. His bill, wrapped into the stimulus package, will become law, of course, once Obama signs it.

What's in a name?

According to Christianity Today, the phrase "Religious Right" is an upsetting moniker for many conservatives these days. Money quote:
"Terminology is fraught with peril," [Senior Fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, John] Green said. "People associated it with a hard-edge politics and intolerance. Very few people to whom that term now would apply would use that term." ...

Gary Schneeberger, vice president of media and public relations for Focus on the Family, said that when writers include terms like "Religious Right" and "fundamentalist," they can create negative impressions.

"Terms like 'Religious Right' have been traditionally used in a pejorative way to suggest extremism," Schneeberger said. "The phrase 'socially conservative evangelicals' is not very exciting, but that's certainly the way to do it."

To which Right Wing Watch, a blog for People for the American Way, responds:

If the phrase "Religious Right" has negative connotations, it probably stems primarily from the fact that the people who have traditionally represented the Religious Right have caused it to, you know, have negative connotations.

When people like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson go on television and blame the 9/11 attacks on "pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, [and] all of them who have tried to secularize America," that is the sort of thing that tends to create negative impressions about the Religious Right.

While true and amusing, that quote accidentally concedes Christianity Today's point: that people to whom the name once applied are either dead or now with the extreme fringes of the party; the name doesn't pertain to a movement anymore. I don't concede that point, so let me take a different track.

While my only beef with the term "Religious Right" was my viceral disagreement with their stances, I never felt the name was inherently negative. On the other hand, part of politics is the art of presentation, and the Right is very good at this messaging. "Liberal" is a tainted symbol, associated with secularism, godlessness, socialism, terrorist appeasement, and anti-patriotism. Nastily, pro-choice becomes pro-abortion. People who oppose war are hippies and Frenchies. A tax on multi-million dollar estates becomes the death tax. Migrant workers become illegal immigrants. We could go on and on. Since being politically aware, many ideas I hold dear have been wrapped into some witty pejoritive, electorally motivating phrase. Unfortunately, it's the nature of the game. Not that it's right, but get over it.

Viagra for votes

Mexico City's Mayor Marcelo Ebrard is handing out the little blue pills to increase the quality of life of local elders. But, with future presidential aspirations, Mayor Ebrard is using these pills as a pavlovian ploy for this year's upcoming elections:
The initiative may be more about politics than anything else, and with nationwide elections looming in July, candidates across Mexico are beginning to lay the groundwork for their campaigns.

To bolster the fortunes of his leftist Party of Democratic Revolution and to further his own dream of becoming the country’s president in 2012 ...
Kinda like the CIA giving Viagra to win over "notoriously fickle" Afghanistan warlords.

Dem Bones Dialogue Series: Marriage and Domestic Violence IV

In the culminating post of this Dem Bones Dialogue Series, Kent H and Tripp respond to each other. I would like to thank both for their thoughts, participation, and civility. Great job, Kent and Tripp!

Kent H:
Obviously, the approach of Tripp and myself to the biblical text are world's apart. I would argue that both testaments argue for the high model of marriage that is demonstrated in the New Testament. Polygamy was extremely prevalent in the Old Testament, but this shows only that the text records history - without condoning sin. Actually, God's command in the garden of Eden was that a husband "cleave unto his WIFE (singular)." Actually, there are a great number of monogamous relationships recorded in Scripture: Adam and Eve, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, nearly every prophet who was married, Joseph and Mary, Zechariah and Elizabeth, etc. Deuteronomy 24 demonstrates a protection for wives who could not just be threatened with divorce and abandonment. I also have found no evidence that Jesus' Matthean condemnation of divorce was an added text, but I am still researching. Where Tripp and I find common ground is in holding a high position for marriage and both members of it. No biblical student (conservative or otherwise) can accept a situation where a wife or husband is mistreated or abused simply by clinging to one passage over another -- that is not the biblicist view.
Kent does a good job articulating a very generous response as a biblical literalist. While I am not one, his reasoning demonstrates that the regular dismissal by more secular onlookers is regrettable. In fact, I think our conclusions from different assumptions with different nuances are similar. I would agree with the sentiment and prescription of his final paragraph when he says, "the husband who has abused his wife and demanded such an unbiblical brand of "submission" that he can ignore biblical commands for his life, has forfeited his right to expect the wife to submit to his leadership... and if he refuses the needed change, she should assume that her separation is permanent." Thanks Ken and thanks Drew.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Perriello, Danville, and the Stimulus Package

The Danville Register & Bee has an article in which they interview Rep. Perriello on the effects of the stimulus package for the Danville area. Money quote:
"We’re going to be funding a number of programs that should be valuable to our localities that could be game changers,” Perriello said.

Local officials, he said, have stressed their desire for infrastructure and school construction that could put people to work right away. Additionally, he said, immediate relief is on the way to families in the form of tax relief for small business and families and extension of unemployment benefits.

One important goal the House achieved after seeing the Senate version of the bill was making sure small towns and rural communities get their fair share of stimulus money, he said, ensuring that it doesn’t go just to big cities.

A-Rod and Congress

Yankee superstar Alex Rodriguez' admittance that he took steroids from 2001-2003 has earned him a date with Congress. Didn't see that one coming.

(h/t Mark Halperin)

It's the NAACP's birthday too!

We are going crazy here with birthday wishes today! Let us not forget that today is also the NAACP's 100th birthday.

Faith in Public Life provides their birthday wishes, and yesterday, Rep. Perriello rose to give a floor speech celebrating this anniversary. You can watch it here. Money quote:
Since its founding on February 12, 1909, the NAACP has been a tireless crusader against racial discrimination, and it has continuously called our great Nation towards an ever-expanding horizon of liberty and justice for all.

Often with support and protection from the NAACP, countless brave citizens of my district joined the great American struggle for civil rights. From slavery and segregation through Massive Resistance and Bloody Monday, our area has passed through dark nights, always to emerge at the dawn of a new era of equality. I thank the NAACP, its staff, and its members for remaining true to our nation’s highest ideals.

Darwin's Omnipost

Because of the amount of ink spilled in the last couple of days, and the fact that I have posted many posts already on the subject, I have decided for one big omnipost covering several facets of Darwin's birthday.

Several editorials have used Darwin's birthday to renew the discussion about the proper relationship between religion and science. Against the memes promoted by the likes of Stephen J. Gould (read: non-overlapping magesteria), science and religion should dialogue and provide a guiding focus for one another. Science is not an enemy of religion. And despite the fact that Darwin, after his studies, rejected his Anglican biblical literalism, he had the humility to recognize that his theory of evolution did not make claims about the existence (or lack thereof) of a transcendent power.

In this light, several religious institutions have lauded the work and findings of Darwin. The Church of England has created a website to honor Darwin and his work (webpage here). The Vatican, in like mind, today is giving Darwin birthday props (h/t RNS Blog). Different religious insitutions are celebrating Darwins birth (see my earlier post on Evolution Sunday), while others, of course, are not (h/t RNS Blog).

Despite this relatively newfound religious embracement of Darwin's ideas, the American public still finds these ideas controversial. A new Gallup poll suggests that only 39% of Americans believe in evolution (25% do not believe, 36% no opinion), a percentage correlated with education, church attendance, and age (h/t RNS Blog). Yet as one editorial points out, Darwin's ideas were very controversial even in his own time (i.e., the great debate between Huxley and Wilberforce).

Our scientific community has greatly advanced the theory of evolution. It goes without saying that this theory is a cornerstone of our scientific understanding of the world and our place in it. And if Darwin was alive today, he would be pleased with the role and the progress of his work.

Finally, several prominent progressive blogs send their birthday remembrances: DailyKos and FireDogLake.

Feb 12, 1809

Lots of press today covering a couple birthdays. February 12th is the birthday for Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin. Both were born in 1809.

Pretty cool how out of that one day emerged two historical colossi who drastically changed the course of our nation and the course of our understanding of the world around us.

Happy Birthdays Babies Lincoln and Darwin!

Dem Bones Dialogue Series: Marriage and Domestic Violence III

Tripp is a progressive evangelical and just started his Ph.D. in Systematic Theology at Claremont. Like Kent H, he is also an ordained minister.
How can a Biblical literalist get out of a physically abusive marriage? This article tells about a few rouge fundamentalists are attempting to craft a Biblical logic that will permit the abused to divorce the abuser. For every person who protects themselves or their children by leaving a marriage because of this new logic I am grateful. The thing is, I imagine God is exceedingly grateful as well. Domestic violence in relationship to the marriage vows is just one example of how a shortsighted understanding of scripture, combined with people and power, creates a tragedy.

The question being raised in the article reveals a much larger system that is, at best, silently complicit in the abuse of spouses and children. A number of perspectives that leave the victims at the hands and in the homes of the abusers are mentioned. For example, Bruce Ware is a professor of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is said to have ruminated on the way a wife's insubmission can be the cause of domestic abuse or how the abused women are reminded that 'love is a choice rather than an emotion' as they are encouraged to put themselves back in the violent situation. Repeating or even tolerating these lines leads to abused women and children. If that is not the complete opposite of what the God revealed in Jesus wants for the world, I have no idea what is. In fact, as a minister, I would suggest we run from any justification of such acts of violence and betrayal used in the name of God. Why should we have to fight the Bible or craft some new literalist reading of selected texts to do what is good, life-giving, and hopefully Christian?

To those of you who could not imagine the horrible situations described in the article, I would like to suggest that this is not simply about Biblical fidelity. Instead, I think the primary issue at stake for those supposed 'literalists' is really their rabid insecurity about the marriage mythology of conservative Christians. In order for conservatives to continue to pretend marriage has always been between one man and one woman and insist to everyone in the public square that this should be the foundational part of society's bedrock - which cannot be challenged or all hell (hopefully metaphorically) will break loose - they must even assert the marriage mythology in the face of domestic abuse. Most any Bible reader knows that polygamy is the Biblical norm, and there are probably about as many life long single people as there are monogamous couples. In addition, women were often treated as property, denied their full humanity, Biblically divorced and left out alone by their husbands. Oddly enough, the idea of 'separation' which is proposed throughout the article by fundamentalists is neither advocated nor practiced once in scripture. Jesus spoke into this notably patriarchal culture and prohibited divorce. In doing so he advanced the rights of women in that context, not allowing the husband to move towards younger pastures on a whim. In Jesus' rejection of past 'Biblical' reasoning for a more life-giving one on behalf of the marginalized, I believe we see a logic and we receive a mandate, as Christians, to continue this trajectory today. Our context is different - so the prescription is different - but our diagnosis is the same. Especially when it come to domestic abuse.

Any legit New Testament Scholar will tell you that the exception for Jesus' complete prohibition of divorce in the Gospel of Matthew (the Mathean Exception) is more than likely a later, historical addition to Jesus' words. Why then would a community feel like they should add on to the words of Jesus when the teaching is so straight forward? Why would it add adultrey as an exception to the complete prohibition of divorce? I am sure that you, like myself, can imagine a situation where this exception made perfect sense. When one is an adulterer, they have broken the marriage covenant, and it is hardly a protection of marraige to require a spouse to live with someone who lays with someone else. I would like to assert that in the case of domestic abuse that the marriage covenant is abandoned by the abuser and trashed by the abuser the moment violence enters the marriage and the spouse becomes a victim. The one committing this violent act - an act worthy of divorce - is not the victim, but the violator.

This isn't odd once you begin to see covenants as primarily a way of relating, and in the case of marriage, modeled on and nested within the God who is Love. No one and no marriage is perfect. For a marriage to flourish it needs a reservoir of grace but also a foundation of trust and responsibility. Many cases of abuse are even rooted in psychological and chemical issues that require more than a forgive, forget, and submit response to a genuinely repentant spouse. Clearly first century thinkers were not aware of the powerful effects a toxic subconscious can have, but we are and we cannot justify ignorance and complicit violence with God, Jesus, or the Bible today.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Castro on Rahm

In a truly bizarre editorial, Fidel Castro - assuming he is alive - ponders the heritage and derivation of Rahm Emanuel's surname, before discussing German philosophy and railing against the down falls of American capitalism. The editorial contains a unique flow of conscious requiring mental gymnastics in order to form a cohesive argument, if one is even possible. Money Quote:
WHAT a strange surname! It appears Spanish, easy to pronounce, but it’s not. Never in my life have I heard or read about any student or compatriot with that name, among tens of thousands.

Where does it come from? I wondered. Over and over, the name came to mind of the brilliant German thinker, Immanuel Kant, who together with Aristotle and Plato, formed a trio of philosophers that have most influenced human thinking. Doubtless he was not very far, as I discovered later, from the philosophy of the man closest to the current president of the United States, Barack Obama.

(h/t The Huffington Post)

Obama vs. Luke Skywalker

For some reason George Lucas actually entertained the question of who would win in a contest between President Obama and Luke Skywalker. I would have awkwardly chuckled and called for security.

Lucas' answer: Obama wins hands down, even without a lightsaber. You are now enlightened.

Twits a twitterin'

Twitter provides political leaders, among others, a way to actively engage citizens, as those leaders can provide their citizens with up-to-the-minute news and concerns. But maybe, just maybe, twittering every political event in real time is not always a good thing. Take for example these two Republican gaffes in the last couple days.

For example, twittering the location of a congressional delegation in Iraq and Afghanistan is probably not a good, nor a safe, idea. Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Michigan) gave live twitter updates about the location of a congressional delegation in which he was a part. I would think that the top-ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee would be concerned about the security and well-being of both he and the other representatives in combat war zones, but I guess I have erred in this line of reasoning.

And finally, twittering your political strategy before it has unfolded can give your opponents an unexpected heads up. In the Virginia State Sentate, the Democrats have a very slim majority, 21-19, over the Republicans. Well, one Senate Democrat was going to jump ship and negotiate a new power sharing agreement with the Republicans. Enter Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Jeff Frederick, who upon hearing the breaking news twitters it. The Democrats caught wind, called an emergency caucus, and squashed the coup. Thank you Jeff Frederick, you are the gift that keeps on giving.

Dem Bones Dialogue Series: Marriage and Domestic Violence II

Kent H is a conservative evangelical and biblical literalist. He has a M.A. in Religion and is currently completing his M.Div degree at Liberty University. He is also an ordained minister.
The biblical literalist's point of view is clear: If it is a part of the biblical revelation then it is true and accurate. What we know from the text concerning marriage is that "God hates divorce" (Mal 2:16) . It is true (as I understand it) that God (for the hardness of men's hearts) has allowed for divorce in instances of irreconcilable adultery or abandonment (1 Cor 7; Matt 5:31 - 32). And yes, it is true that in the structure of the family, the wife is to be submissive to her husband (Eph 5:22), with a biblical view of submission. But that is not all the Scripture has to say to the family. Both the wife and husband are given the command to "submit to one another" (Eph 5:21). The husband is told in fact to "love thy wife as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her" (Eph 5: 25). A pretty high mark of commitment!

I would take all that I gather from Scripture and say this: God hates divorce but He loves both members of the marriage. He has given both commands that are intended to strengthen a marriage and relationship of mutual trust and love. If either of the spouses violates the Word of God in reference to their relationship with the other, then a different part of the text takes over. Submission on her part is not the preeminent and end-all command. What about his "love" part.

My response to the article was first anger and embarrassment, that someone (claiming to be a man of God, etc.) could take his particular pet Bible verses and accept the texts he likes (ala carte) and make it say that a wife is to submit to an abusive husband. In an instance of abuse, the wife should have the husband arrested for breaking the law (the text calls us to honor the code of law also - Rom 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:13-15). If the abuser can be helped, the wife can be slowly reintroduced to the marriage (there are a number of very good ministries specializing in this). If the pattern shows its head again, the wife should separate immediately. Her safety cannot be compromised because her husband is an abuser.

Bottom line: God hates divorce and has set VERY limited grounds for biblical divorce. God has called us to peace (1 Cor 7:15). Divorce should never be a hastily entered decision by anyone - even if that person is a victim of abuse. Divorce is not her only option. The abused wife should, however, separate from an abusive husband to insure the safety of her and her children - and hopefully facilitate needed rehabilitation, repentance, and counseling for the man she once loved as her husband. But the husband who has abused his wife and demanded such an unbiblical brand of "submission" that he can ignore biblical commands for his life, has forfeited his right to expect the wife to submit to his leadership. If the woman does assume this role, and separates from her abusive husband - and he refuses the needed change, she should assume that her separation is permanent. If the husband then divorces his wife, he has fully abandoned the marriage and the believing wife should move forward - as the Word would tell her: "a sister is not in bondage in such cases" (1 Cor 7:15).

I believe this view takes ALL the Bible literally and not just a few verses.