Tuesday May 10, 2022
Right-Wing Christian Cancel Culture
“Beginning in the 1980s, white evangelicals imposed themselves to an unprecedented degree on the government and the country's core institutions. ...
”Short-lived victories, however, came at a long-term cost. Evangelical leaders set something in motion decades ago that pastors today can no longer control. ... Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that Christians, like Americans from every walk of life, are self-selecting into cliques of shared habits and thinking. But what's notable about the realignment inside the white evangelical Church is its asymmetry. Pastors report losing an occasional liberal member because of their refusal to speak on Sunday mornings about bigotry or poverty or social injustice. But these same pastors report having lost—in the past few years alone—a significant portion of their congregation because of complaints that they and their staff did not advance right-wing political doctrines. ...
“Meanwhile, other pastors feel trapped. One stray remark could split their congregation, or even cost them their job. Yet a strictly apolitical approach can be counterproductive; their unwillingness to engage only invites more scrutiny. The whisper campaigns brand conservative pastors as moderate, and moderate pastors as Marxists. In this environment, a church leader's stance on biblical inerrancy is less important than whether he is considered 'woke.' His command of scripture is less relevant than suspicions about how he voted in the last election.”
-- Tim Alberta, “How Politics Poisoned the Evangelical Church: The movement spent 40 years at war with secular America. Now it's at war with itself,” in The Atlantic. Recommended reading. It's a scary article.
Monday March 02, 2020
Can You Say John 8:7?
What follows are the thoughts of Minister Fred “They Call Me Mister” Rogers during the 1990s Clinton impeachment scandal, as relayed to journalist and friend Tom Junod, on whom the Matthew Rhys character in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is based, in Junod's Atlantic piece “My Friend Mister Rogers”:
Last week I woke up thinking how I would like to go on the air and say something like “Whoever is without sin cast the first stone” or “The Lord's property is always to have mercy” or some other outlandish thing, and then ask for a minute of silence to think about forgiveness for those who want it. In fact if our country could dwell on forgiveness for a while I think that would be the one real positive outcome of the pain which must be pervasive in the White House and beyond. I‘ve already written letters to both the Clintons and the Gores saying that often “enormous growth comes out of enormous pain.” I trust that will be so for all of us. The attitude which makes me (sometimes physically) sick is the “holier than thou” one.
The beginning and end of this quote reminds me a bit of Twitter. At the least, Twitter seems full of people without sin who are waiting beside their pile of stones. Is the middle part of the quote sadder? Ideally, yes, “enormous growth comes out of enormous pain,” but I don’t think that translates to the Republican party of Newt Gingrich, George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump, et al. At all.
Anyway, read Junod on Rogers. It's better than the movie.
Thursday November 09, 2017
Sean Hannity's 'Let There Be Light' Makes Me Almost Believe in God
I'd kinda forgotten about “Let There Be Light” until Dan Piepenbring wrote about it for The New Yorker. Brave man. He watched it so we wouldn't have to.
Movie doesn't ring a bell? It's that Kevin Sorbo-directed thing about a famous atheist who sees the light.
Oh, Kevin Sorbo doesn't ring a bell? Nice! I wish I were you. He's the guy who played “Hercules” on TV in the 1990s and is undergoing his second act (or third, or 12th) as the go-to actor/director for conservative Christian movies.
In “God's Not Dead,” for example, he played an atheistic philosophy professor who forces every one of his students to say “God is dead” ... until one brave young man shows him the light. In this one, which he also directed, and co-wrote with his wife, he plays an infamous atheist who has a near-death experience and sees the light on his own.
In “GND,” his character became an atheist because his mother died of cancer when he was 12 and he couldn't see how God would let that happen. In this one, he becomes an atheist because his 8-year-old son dies of cancer and he can't see how God could let that happen.
This latest is getting some attention because Sean Hannity co-produced it and makes a cameo as himself. Once the “seen-the-light” Sorbo goes on Hannity's show, we get the following back-and-forth:
Hannity: You're literally going to try and convert kids to Christianity. What about diversity? What right do you have to impose your religious values onto somebody else?
Sorbo: Well, what right does ISIS have to cut people's heads off?
Hannity: That's a powerful point.
I love that Hannity portrays himself as a man interested in diversity.
These types of conservative Christian movies have been a minor thing for a while now—I guess since spring 2014. That's when “Son of God,” which merely took episodes of the TV series “The Bible” and repackaged them into a movie, grossed $59 mil at the U.S. box office. “God's Not Dead,” released a month later, grossed $60 mil. Less than a month after that, in April, “Heaven is for Real,” starring Greg Kinnear, was released and grossed $91 mil.
And conservative Christian movies were off and...
Actually, that was about it. Only three CC movies since have grossed north of $50 mil: “War Room” in August 2015 ($67.7), “Miracles from Heaven” in March 2016 ($61), and “The Shack” in March 2017 ($57). Even Jesus Christ Himself, Jim Caviezel, playing a football coach in “When the Game Stands Tall,” couldn't get them off the couch in August 2014 ($30).
So did conservative Christians begin to see the con? Did they get tired of, oh I don't know, storylines in which men become athiests because so-and-so dies of cancer, but then they see the light? Who knows.
Now we have “Let There Be Light,” which not only has Hercules Hercules Hercules, but Hannity, who can promote it to his heart's content on his radio and Fox-News shows. And his heart is content. Christian news sites have talked up the movie's success. After its first weekend, Hannity himself tweeted this message:
“On a per-screen box office average, ”Let There Be Light“ is the No. 2 movie in the country! Amazing for an independent film! Thx to all!”
As a result, for its second weekend it doubled its theater total: from 373 to 642. And as a result of that, after nearly two weeks, “Let There Be Light” has grossed a total of...
Makes me almost believe in God.
Saturday November 21, 2015
My First Meme
I created this a few days ago because these types of memes seem the lingua franca of the internet. I'm forever a late adopter.
It's a pretty simple message. It's actually a two-fold simple message: 1) Sinatra's, 2) How many steps backward some of us have taken since 1945.
Wednesday January 28, 2015
Al Franken: 'To Me, That's Where God Is'
This is from a speech in 2010 at June 27, 2010, to attendees of the 2010 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
He talks about his father, the death of his father, his kids, and his coneception of God. It's funny and beautiful:
Friday November 14, 2014
The Pepsi Challenge in Syria
Two Sundays ago, The New York Times Magazine ran a cover story on and by Theo Padnos, an American who was captured in 2012 by Nusra Front, a Syrian al Qaeda organization, tortured for months and months, and eventually let go this fall. He's writing a book about the experience. There are interesting sections throughout the piece, and I recommend reading it all, because we rarely get such firsthand accounts from the War on Terror. But the section below stuck out for me in trying to parse the difference between the various groups in Syria, and for the humanity on display:
I was curious about the futures of the five people now responsible for looking after me. What if they retired from military life, I asked, went home and promised to obey the Islamic State in the future? Would the group still wish to kill them?
“Of course,” they said.
“Really?” I asked. “But why?”
“Because we are Jebhat al Nusra,” they replied.
I knew the answer to the next question but asked it anyway. “Your practice of Islam is exactly the same as ISIS — you admire the same scholars and interpret the Quran just as they do?”
“Yes,” they agreed. “All of this is true.”
“And it’s true,” I said, “that when you joined Al Qaeda, in the early goings of the revolution, ISIS did not exist?”
“Yes, this is so,” the fighters agreed.
“And now they’re hoping to kill you?” I asked.
They shrugged their shoulders. “Yes.”
“But the situation is absurd,” I said. “You’re like a guy on the street drinking a bottle of Pepsi. Along comes the Seven-Up salesman. ‘Wicked man!’ says the Seven-Up salesman. ‘How dare you drink Pepsi? You must die.’ Under the circumstances, it ought to be O.K. for you to reply: ‘I’m quite sorry, sir. But when I went into the store, there was only one brand of soft drink available. Pepsi. That’s what I bought. Where’s the problem?’ ” The foot soldiers, all in their 20s and early 30s, were regular cola drinkers and were happy I had put the matter in everyday commercial terms. Everyone laughed.
The real issue between the Nusra Front and the Islamic State was that their commanders, former friends from Iraq, were unable to agree on how to share the revenue from the oil fields in eastern Syria that the Nusra Front had conquered.
What lessons do we get reading this piece? Some of them: 1) People will find any way to justify any behavior; 2) We don't know how good we have it in the U.S.; and 3) Even when they say it's about religion, listen to Deep Throat and follow the money.
Monday April 07, 2014
Reader Comment of the Day: Who Put the Conservatism in Christianity?
A reader named Kersy said the following following my review of “Noah”:
The co-option of Christianity in the culture by conservatives is the worst thing to happen to it since, what, the witch trials? The people who make noise about this movie for embellishment are the same ones who have never put real, deep thought into their faith and beliefs but who think and feel and see what they're told by a group of self-appointed arbiters of what is actually a wildly diverse religion. They don't want to be challenged or engaged; they only want comfort and affirmation.
“Noah” doesn't completely work, but it's a shallow faith that prefers “Son of God” and “God's Not Dead.” ...
And sorry for the rant! I'm just a Christian who is consistently insulted by the pandering crap I'm “supposed” to support because it “shares my values” even though it rarely does (unless we're getting pro-gay marriage, pro-choice Christian film? Anyone? Bueller?). I was thrilled to see “Noah”'s creation montage be all about evolution, and I'm not looking forward to the fresh hell that “Heaven Is For Real” appears to be. Ok, I'm done.
Unfortunately, I'm not. My review of “God's Not Dead” up tomorrow.
Sunday October 13, 2013
Our Misapplication of the Golden Rule
We know it this way:
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
But we tend to live it this way:
Why aren't others doing unto me as I would do unto them? Fuckers.
Or the shorter version:
Well, I would never...
Tuesday July 30, 2013
Reza Aslan and FOX-News' Projection Problem
This viral video has been making the rounds for a couple of days. I saw a truncated version earlier but it's worth it to watch the full monty:
Here's what's happening and it's startling in its obviousness: projection. FOX-News and its anchor are projecting onto the interviewee, religious scholar Reza Aslan, their own narrow tendencies. They can't believe that someone, anyone, and particularly someone on the other side (of the religious question), couldn't be partisan, because they themselves are so partisan.
These are the questions the FOX-News anchor asks Aslan. The beauty is in his responses, so watch for that, but just look at the questions:
- You're a Muslim, so why did you write a book about Christianity?
- Why would you be interested in the founder of Christianity?
- How are your findings different from what Islam actually believes about Jesus? <-- This is a real follow-up question.
- What do you say to [this criticism from Dr. William Lane Craig]?
- What are your conclusions about Jesus? <-- This is where an unbiased interview would have started.
- What do you say to [the comparison that your book is like a Democrat writing about Reagan]?
- But why would a Democrat want to promote democracy by writing about a Republican?
After that last fumbled question, she merely makes statements. Most are attacks. “To say that your information is different from theirs is really not being honest here” is one. “I believe you've been on several programs and have never disclosed you're a Muslim” is another. Both of her statements are incorrect.
Aslan (and how beautiful is it that he shares the name of C.S. Lewis' lion?) nails it in the end:
I think that the fundamental problem here is that you're assuming that I have some sort of faith-based bias in this work that I write ... My job as a scholar of religions, with a Ph.D. in the subject, is to write about religions, and one of the religions that I write about is one that was launched by Jesus. ...
I think it's unfair to simply assume that because of my faith background that there is some agenda on this book ...
But they assume that because they know their own mind. It's what they do. They have bias; they have an agenda. It not only permeate the network, it's the point of the network.
The truly awful thing? Apparently there's a discussion to be had about this book, and it would've fit right into FOX-News' actual political agenda, since Aslan is basically calling Jesus a revolutionary for the poor and oppressed. That's hardly a new thought but it's not FOX-News' interpretation. Put another way: That interpretation of Jesus doesn't work for FOX-News or the GOP. So that's the discussion they could've had. Instead we got this. Because the network couldn't get past “Muslim.”
In the end, I actually learned something here. I learned that those weren't thieves being crucified alongside Jesus. At least according to this one scholar with a Ph.D. in religions.
Tuesday July 09, 2013
Ricky Gervais Finds God
I've decided to worship Thor. It was the big hammer to be honest. Anyway, I worship him now & hope you respect my unfounded beliefs. Cheers— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) July 9, 2013
The God of Thunder (second from left, behind the hot chick), hanging with his buds.
All previous entries