Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Paris - Sonic Jihad
David Bazan - Fewer Moving Parts
Todd Steed and the Suns of Phere - Heartbreak and Duct Tape
Starflyer 59 - Leave Here a Stranger
Mustard - Eureka Grande
My Photo
Location: Illinois, United States

The peaches, apples, plums and pears are guarded by ferocious bears.

Powered by Blogger

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - J.K. Rowling
My Secret - Frank Warren
Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi

31 January 2005


Lots of open Explorer windows on my computer today:

There's an interesting piece in the latest issue of Rolling Stone about the draft. Will it happen? I dunno. I'm 26, so if it goes down, I'm relatively safe. My wife may not be, although fortunately she'd be of more use to the armed forces as a psychologist than a soldier. She's got a bad knee, too, from her days in fast pitch softball. If Bush is foolish enough to start a war with Iran, though, we probably haven't seen the end of this draft business. There aren't too many countries out there that would have come to the defense of Iraq. But if China and Russia feel that the U.S. threatens their oil supply in Iran, we may be fucked.

Speaking of Iraq, in today's elections apparently some Baghdad voters were told that food rations would be withheld from them if they didn't vote. Didn't Republicans get pissed off when Michael Moore offered Ramen noodles to college students in exchange for votes? I'm sure the corporate media will be all over this one.

Speaking of freedom of speech, between a third and half of high school students polled recently by MSNBC just don't give a shit about it. This is very, very scary.

Also out this week is a new issue of Time Magazine featuring "The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America." Not surprisingly, the list has some people I'd never heard of, as well as some puzzling omissions. For instance, there's no Jerry Falwell. Admittedly, Falwell may not have be able to persuade Christians to do his bidding as well as James Dobson. But when Falwell says something stupid, the press is there to report it. I don't have that kind of influence. And neither do a lot of the other white men on this list. (Hey, there is one black guy). Incidentally, Sojourners editor Jim Wallis is also missing in action. Guess Time didn't do its homework on this one.

And finally, underground rapper Sage Francis has a new disc coming out in about a week. You've probably never heard of him, but I predict that's going to change. If you thought Eminem was the only white emcee that could make you repeatedly hit the rewind button, you haven't heard anything yet. Listen to streaming audio of several songs from the new album here.

Absolutely Nothing

This speech, credited to minister, columnist and professor Dr. Robin Meyers, has been floating around bloggerland for a while. Supposedly these words were spoken to a group of students at OK University. I dunno if that's true or not. Either way, I'm glad someone from the Christian community had the guts to say it:

As some of you know, I am minister of Mayflower Congregational Church in Oklahoma City, an Open and Affirming, Peace and Justice church in northwest Oklahoma City, and professor of Rhetoric at Oklahoma City University.

But you would most likely have encountered me on the pages of the Oklahoma Gazette, where I have been a columnist for six years, and hold the record for the most number of angry letters to the editor.

Tonight, I join ranks of those who are angry, because I have watched as the faith I love has been taken over by fundamentalists who claim to speak for Jesus, but whose actions are anything but Christian.

We've heard a lot lately about so-called "moral values" as having swung the election to President Bush. Well, I'm a great believer in moral values, but we need to have a discussion, all over this country, about exactly what constitutes a moral value -- I mean what are we talking about?

Because we don't get to make them up as we go along, especially not if we are people of faith. We have an inherited tradition of what is right and wrong, and moral is as moral does.

Let me give you just a few of the reasons why I take issue with those in power who claim moral values are on their side:

--- When you start a war on false pretenses, and then act as if your deceptions are justified because you are doing God's will, and that your critics are either unpatriotic or lacking in faith, there are some of us who have given our lives to teaching and preaching the faith who believe that this is not only not moral, but immoral.

--- When you live in a country that has established international rules for waging a just war, build the Unite d Nations on your own soil to enforce them, and then arrogantly break the very rules you set down for the rest of the world, you are doing something immoral.

--- When you claim that Jesus is the Lord of your life, and yet fail to acknowledge that your policies ignore his essential teaching, or turn them on their head (you know, Sermon on the Mount stuff like that we must never return violence for violence and that those who live by the sword will die by the sword), you are doing something immoral.

--- When you act as if the lives of Iraqi civilians are not as important as the lives of American soldiers, and refuse to even count them, you are doing something immoral.

--- When you find a way to avoid combat in Vietnam, and then question the patriotism of someone who volunteered to fight, and came home a hero, you are doing something immoral.

--- When you ignore the fundamental teachings of the gospel, which says that the way the strong treat the weak is the ultimate ethical test, by giving tax breaks to the wealthiest among us so the strong will get stronger and the weak will get weaker, you are doing something immoral.

--- When you wink at the torture of prisoners, and deprive so-called "enemy combatants" of the rules of the Geneva convention, which your own country helped to establish and insists that other countries follow, you are doing something immoral.

--- When you claim that the world can be divided up into the good guys and the evil doers, slice up your own nation into those who are with you, or with the terrorists -- and then launch a war which enriches your own friends and seizes control of the oil to which we are addicted, instead of helping us to kick the habit, you are doing something immoral.

--- When you fail to veto a single spending bill, but ask us to pay for a war with no exit strategy and no end in sight, creating an enormous deficit that hangs like a great millstone around the necks of our children, you are doing something immoral.

--- When you cause most of the rest of the world to hate a country that was once the most loved country in the world, and act like it doesn't matter what others think of us, only what God thinks of you, you have done something immoral.

--- When you use hatred of homosexuals as a wedge issue to turn out record numbers of evangelical voters, and use the Constitution as a tool of discrimination, you are doing something immoral.

--- When you favor the death penalty, and yet claim to be a follower of Jesus, who said an eye for an eye was the old way, not the way of the kingdom, you are doing something immoral.

--- When you dismantle countless environmental laws designed to protect the earth which is God's gift to us all, so that the corporations that bought you and paid for your favors will make higher profits while our children breathe dirty air and live in a toxic world, you have done something immoral. The earth belongs to the Lord, not Halliburton.

--- When you claim that our God is bigger than their God, and that our killing is righteous, while theirs is evil, we have begun to resemble the enemy we claim to be fighting, and that is immoral. We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us.

--- When you tell people that you intend to run and govern as a "compassionate conservative," using the word which is the essence of all religious faith-compassion, and then show no compassion for anyone who disagrees with you, and no patience with those who cry to you for help, you are doing something immoral.

--- When you talk about Jesus constantly, who was a healer of the sick, but do nothing to make sure that anyone who is sick can go to see a doctor, even if she doesn't have a penny in her pocket, you are doing something immoral.

--- When you put judges on the bench who are racist, and will set women back a hundred years, and when you surround yourself with preachers who say gays ought to be killed, you are doing something immoral.
I'm tired of people thinking that because I'm a Christian, I must be a supporter of President Bush, or that because I favor civil rights and gay rights I must not be a person of faith. I'm tired of people saying that I can't support the troops but oppose the war -- I heard that when I was your age, when the Vietnam war was raging. We knew that that war was wrong, and you know that this war is wrong -- the only question is how many people are going to die before these make-believe Christians are removed from power?

This country is bankrupt. The war is morally bankrupt. The claim of this administration to be Christian is bankrupt. And the only people who can turn things around are people like you -- young people who are just beginning to wake up to what is happening to them.It's your country to take back. It's your faith to take back. It's your future to take back.

Don't be afraid to speak out. Don't back down when your friends begin to tell you that the cause is righteous and that the flag should be wrapped around the cross, while the rest of us keep our mouths shut. Real Christians take chances for peace. So do real Jews, and real Muslims, and real Hindus, and real Buddhists -- so do all the faith traditions of the world at their heart believe one thing: life is precious. Every human being is precious. Arrogance is the opposite of faith. Greed is the opposite of charity. And believing that one has never made a mistake is the mark of a deluded man, not a man of faith.

And war -- war is the greatest failure of the human race -- and thus the greatest failure of faith. There's an old rock and roll song, whose lyrics say it all: "War, what is it good for?" And what is the dream of the prophets? That we should study war no more, that we should beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks. Who would Jesus bomb, indeed? How many wars does it take to know that too many people have died? What if they gave a war and nobody came? May be one day we will find out.

Time to march again my friends. Time to commit acts of civil disobedience. Time to sing, and to pray, and refuse to participate in the madness. My generation finally stopped a tragic war. You can too!

27 January 2005

What a Trend We Have in Jesus

Yesterday at work we recieved a new catalogue from Crossway Books, a Wheaton, Illinois, based book publisher. Receiving a full page of hype was an upcoming release from Jerry Jenkins entitled Hedges: Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect It. The book is actually a reworked version of a book Jenkins had published back in 1990 called, appropriately enough, Hedges: Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect It.

In some ways I'm all for it. Anything that will shut evangelical Christians the hell up about gay marriage for five minutes is okay in my book.

Still, I've got a bone to pick. The gist of the book is protecting your marriage by guarding it against situations from which adultery could arise. Fair enough. Good advice. But at the end of the day, the overall implication here is that adultery arises from outside the marriage. That's true as far as it goes. Realistically though, marriages bust apart from within. There are reasons people cheat. Usually it's because one (or both) members of the marriage are bored. This marriage thing is hard work (to borrow George Bush's favorite first debate phrase). It's easy to grow aloof, detached and complacent. The root of this thing is from within, not from outside. And no hedge is going to protect you from yourself.

What really troubles me, though, is this holy quest in Christendom to be above reproach. In some sense that's what Jenkins' book is really about. That's also part of the reason why homosexuality and abortion are such important sins for so many Christians. Why focus on your own failures when you can focus on the sins you're never going to commit? Why worry about the poor or suffering? Why speak out against a warmongering antichrist like Bush and his fake war? Why bring down sweat shops and corporations who steal from employees and the government alike? Why volunteer to tutor an inner city child? Why fight to make sure that all votes are counted in elections, even those belonging to voters who aren't white? It's so much easier to blame the problems of this American Babylon on others than to deal with our own inaction.

25 January 2005

Family Guy

There's an interview with Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane in the new issue of The Onion. MacFarlane touches on DVD commentaries, The Simpsons and almost dying on 9/11.

24 January 2005

Adventures in Missing the Point

A couple of years back Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren put out a book called Adventures in Missing the Point: How the Culture-Controlled Church Neutered the Gospel. The gist of the book is that a lot of conservative Christians just don't get it. By "it," Campolo and McLaren mean those issues of faith reserved for capital letters: Sin. The Bible. Culture. Feminism. Homosexuality.

I was reminded of this book earlier, while listening to a radio interview from a few years back. The interview takes place on WZZD, a Christian radio station of some sort. In one corner we have musician Larry Norman discussing the reason he started performing songs as a child. In the other we have a radio DJ who, well, totally misses the point. Here’s the key excerpt:

Larry: Actually that’s why I started writing these songs, was because I couldn’t get kids to come to church with me. I didn’t think about it at the time, but they’re kids. They’d have to get their parents’ permission or they’d have to get their parents to come to church. Most nine year old kids are not going to tell their parents, ‘I’m going to church, whether you like it or not.’ Right?

DJ: (laughter) Right.

Larry: So anyway, nobody would go to church with me. So when I was in the fourth grade I decided, ‘I’m going to bring church to the kids. I’m going to start singing during lunch hour.’ So I was very, I wouldn’t say ambitious. It really had nothing to do with music for years. It was all about Jesus. It was about being a missionary. That’s what I wanted to be. But I just started doing it in my own country, instead of going to Africa, which is kind of where I thought all the missionaries used to go.

DJ: (laughter)

Larry: Cause I thought, ‘Well that’s where the people don’t wear any clothes. And I think the missionaries feel that it’s their job to make them wear clothes and’

DJ: (laughter)

Larry: ‘tell them about God.’ But I didn’t see why they had to wear clothes. Couldn’t you believe even if you had a loincloth on? Why’d you have to wear, you know, American clothes?

DJ: Right. The innocent thoughts of a nine-year old, coming through.

Um, no. More like pearls before swine. More like dramatic irony. More like missing the point.

The Gospel of Jesus is not about getting naked people to wear clothes because our Western eyes abhor the sight of bare flesh. It’s not about Americanizing other cultures with Jesus, Coke, Big Macs and Nikes. It’s not about some bullshit Manifest Destiny. It’s about a revolution of grace, peace, love and forgiveness. It’s about good news for the poor. It’s about getting it.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct

Today I saw something I can honestly say I've never seen before: two college students sword fighting. When I say sword fighting, I don't mean the traditional duel between two brave, rapier-wielding nobles. Rather, I mean the odd cultural phenomenon in which two men urinate side by side, using their streaming urine as weaponry. I've never participated directly in this sport, so I'd always assumed this kind of thing was reserved for small children, say young brothers or best friends. I wasn't aware that grownups took part in such revelry.

All the more interesting was that I witnessed this spectacle at Wheaton College, which I had previously considered to be a fairly conservative establishment. I hope James Dobson doesn't find out about this.

23 January 2005

There Is Nothing New Under the Sun

We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says: "Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word...."

We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Those words were spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to a group of clergy and laymen at Riverside Church in New York in 1967. King's message that day was a blistering call for the United States to withdraw its troops from Vietnam and to forsake hate and war for peace. It's amazing how little this country has changed.

It's also a shame that a prophet like King was gunned down in his prime. The church in America today desperately needs a new prophetic voice. Sadly, all we've got are Jerry Falwell and James Dobson.

22 January 2005

True Lies

On the day the trust fund is exhausted, Social Security revenue will cover about eighty percent of the cost of benefits. Right now -- today -- if you look at the U.S. government outside of Social Security, revenue covers only about sixty-eight percent of total government spending. So on the day the trust fund is exhausted, forty-seven years from now, Social Security will be in better financial shape than the rest of the U.S. government is today.

That's Economist Paul Krugman talking about George W's latest fake crisis, Social Security. Krugman is interviewed in the new issue of Rolling Stone and lays out pretty directly why our president is lying through his teeth yet again.

Winter Wonderland

The view outside our apartment.  Posted by Hello

17 January 2005

Enter the Dragon

So it's finally happened. I've joined the self-indulgent cracker-ass cult* of blogging. Maybe this is the start of a narcissistic triad-life crisis. Maybe this is my vain, introverted attempt at connecting with humanity on some deeper level. Or maybe it's my desperate crawl towards American quasi-celebritism. Perhaps it's a delusional tug at the skin scraping chains of this corporate-owned bullshit media reality, in which we've always been at war with Eurasia. Until tomorrow. Maybe it's this culture of boredom, in which I'm constantly in need of a fix from my idiot box pusher and a guzzle from the teat of crackwhore consumerism. Or maybe it's just that all the other kids' moms let them do it.

*I stole this term from Greg, who uses it mostly to describe American Christianity's white suburban face.