And Another Thing…


Things I Don’t Think We Should Care About: The President’s Church

Christianity Today and Time both rushed to report that the President and his family have selected a church at which they plan to identify themselves as members. However, it appears that they may have spoken too soon.

And I submit to you: how important is this to anyone’s faith, or lack thereof?

So why am I even writing about it? Because people evidently think that this constitutes news. What’s more, some atheists are chortling over this as though it lends further credence to their meme (which apparently some of them really need to hold on to) that Obama is a closet atheist. If you don’t believe me, check out the Obama tag over at Friendly Atheist. I defy you to find at least one comment thread where some idiot doesn’t suggest that Obama pandered to all the slope-browed, mouth-breathing believers in order to be elected.  (FA is also the same site which gleefully informs us that a member of ABBA is an outspoken atheist. I guess if a member of a mediocre 70s vocal band doesn’t believe in God, well, the faith is sunk).

Until proven otherwise, I will maintain my default position that the god of all politicians, regardless of party allegiance, is power. Their only sacrament is approval ratings and their only holy day is the first one of their next term. I don’t need a pastor-in-chief to believe, and you don’t either.


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First Stupid Thing I’ve Heard in 2009

Hair-splitting semantics run amok:

School bans the word ‘school’


THE head of a new school has banned the word “school” – in case it upsets pupils’ parents.

Watercliffe Meadow is known as a “Place for Learning” because staff say “school” has a negative impact on some mums and dads.

The new £4.7million academy in Sheffield, South Yorks, replaced three old schools.

Its 481 pupils, from nursery to Year 6, are allowed to wear slippers instead of shoes.

Headteacher Linda Kingdon said: “We decided we didn’t want to use the word ‘school’.

“One reason was many parents of children here had very negative connotations of school.

“Instead we want this to be a place for family learning.

“There are no bells or locked doors. We wanted to de-institutionalise the place and bring the school closer to real life.” 

What negative connotation does the word “school” have exactly? Where did Ms. Kingdon get the idea? Did the parents demand the change? If not, how did anyone draw this conclusion?

I love the quotes about letting the children wear slippers and not having any locked doors, especially since these things are a part of “bringing the school closer to real life.”

Where, in the real world, is anyone allowed to wear slippers outside of their home? Where in the real world do we not have locked doors? This reminds me of some of the things that my friends at state schools used to say to me about attending a Christian college, such as “How do you learn anything about the real world?” Apparently, this was the real world where Mom and Dad paid for everything, you got to sleep in every day until 10, and nobody cared about your appearance when you went to work.

But hey, I’ll play along. I don’t know if England’s public schools are in the same sorry shape as ours, but based on the work stories some of my teacher friends tell me, maybe the U.S. should try some alternative names for our schools:

Gang Recruitment and Initiation Center

Facility for the Cultivation of Unwarranted Self-Esteem

Parental Failure to Discipline Correctional Unit

Place for Junior-League Responsibility Aversion Training and Sociopathy Development

Metal Detector Testing Site

Well, you get the picture. Any other alternatives you care to suggest?

Filed under: Rants, School, , , , , , , ,

Idiot of the week

I don’t know much about my readers, including the homes you grew up in. I am sure that if you were to respond to a survey about your childhoods and what kind of upbringings you had the answers would run the gamut from safe, loving homes to homes rife with dysfunction ~ I assume this because of the law of averages. However, the next time you get really angry with your parents or resentful of mistakes that they made when you were a child (or the mistakes they still make, for that matter) take my advice: stop, breathe, and think about the story below the fold.

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Duck and cover, someone’s being religious

Several years ago when I was working as a counselor in a group home for adults with mental illness, one of the clients (whom I will refer to as “Joe”) came into my office to complain about something. The exchange went something like this:

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The Stupidest Thing I’ve Heard This Week

It appears that eHarmony now has to put up a gay matching site in the wake of a lawsuit from a homosexual who felt that they were discriminating against him. Apparently, all of those eHarmony commercials he saw on TV of smiling, heterosexual couples made him want to join the fun.

The settlement is the result of a complaint New Jersey resident Eric McKinley filed against the online matchmaker in 2005. McKinley, 46, said he was shocked when he tried to sign up for the dating site but couldn’t get past the first screen because there was no option for men seeking men.

“It’s very frustrating and it’s very humiliating to think that other people can do it and I can’t,” he said. “And the only reason I can’t is because I’m a gay man. That’s very hurtful.”

By the way, Mr. McKinley thought the ruling was “fabulous.”  (I couldn’t resist)

I would sympathize with, and even support the protest of a gay man or a lesbian who was discriminated against by a general business or service provider, such as a restaurant, store, or hospital that refused them service. But for the life of me I don’t see how a dating site catering to heterosexual couples constitutes discrimination. It’s a specialty service; in a facet of life as complex as romantic relationships, one size does not fit all. Would you sue your dentist for not giving you an ear, nose, and throat exam? Would you sue McDonald’s for not offering pizza?

I would assume that the web is crawling with gay/lesbian dating sites (I aint about to go looking for them though). Did it occur to Mr. McKinley to try one of those? No, he decided to sue a private business that doesn’t draw one penny from the government because they didn’t realize that it’s about him too. And by the way, eHarmony had to pay him $5000 as part of the settlement. Talk about money for nothing.

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Even as the dust settles from the recent election, the spoil sporting continues. It appears that Abilene Christian University has come under fire in a recent column in The Abilene Reporter News by one of her alumni because the student paper, The Optimist, endorsed Obama.

Steve Hemphill, the author of the column, is surely within his rights to criticize his alma mater and to disagree with the student paper, even to take his toys and go home refuse to pay for his children to go there and to stop sending donations. However, I think that his logic is faulty on multiple levels. Consider:

Loyal donors aren’t going to be loyal to a “Christian” school with liberal, anti-God endorsements.

I recently asked an ACU professor, “What if I told you I had just come into some money and was interested in giving $300,000 to ACU or Harding, and ACU would get it if they (The Optimist) withdrew their endorsement of Obama?” He replied he would recommend not accepting it. He indicated that money shouldn’t influence a political decision or affect a moral position. I agreed. Moral positions shouldn’t be changed for monetary gain. But now we have a problem. That’s exactly what The Optimist did. It endorsed Obama, noting the primary reason as the economy.

Sadly, this is the state of the union — economy over morals.

First, the school did not endorse Obama. The student-run campus paper did. Second, his differentiation of economy and morals rings false – how we spend our money is a moral issue. Furthermore, as Mr. Hemphill notes, in a campus poll, the majority of students stated their support and intention to vote for McCain. Of course, Mr. Hemphill takes issue with the paper over this as well:

This minority endorsement is a reflection of that. The campus majority favored John McCain (in an Optimist poll). The paper didn’t reflect the feelings of the majority…

Granted, it’s only a campus newspaper. And while we could certainly debate the merits of any newspaper offering an endorsement of any candidate (personally, I’m against it) is any paper, even a student paper, obligated to adopt the majority stance? And are Christian schools (or any other school, for that matter) obligated to censor all editorial content in their papers?

There is also the disturbing phrasing he chooses in the top quote, “liberal, anti-God”. So I guess that everyone who voted for Obama is a liberal, and anti-God (why even separate the two, when in this fellow’s mind liberal politics automatically equals anti-God?). Good to know. Has it ever occurred to this gentleman that people might be more than their politics? That people other than registered Republicans can cast votes from spiritual convictions? That politics is an inherently sleazy enterprise and to seek pillars of faith among the elected is a waste of time and energy?

Next, he offers one of the most unctuous guilt-trips I have ever read (and I used to be a youth minister!):

One day, we’ll have to give an account, we’ll have to face those 45 million American aborted babies in eternity and explain ourselves. Somehow, I don’t think we can change their minds by saying, “I’m so sorry for voting for a man who supported abortion, but he was the best choice for the economy — I’m sure you understand.” They won’t. And God doesn’t.

I have already explained why [Comment 9] I put little stock in any presidential candidate’s stand on abortion ~ I have yet to see an compelling evidence that a president’s position on abortion has any effect whatsoever on the number of abortions performed in this country. I have also stated that Obama’s double-talk on this issue was a deal-breaker for me. But suppose that Obama actually delivers on his promise to lower abortions in the US through some of his policies…is Mr. Hemphill ready to eat crow over this?

He goes on:

The school paper is a reflection of ACU, and it endorsed a political candidate who supports abortion and homosexuality.

I can’t help but snicker when someone is accused of “supporting” homosexuality. I imagine someone running around yelling, “C’mon straights! Let’s try a little switch-hitting! Its fun!”

Next, he quotes Proverbs 14:34 (in the NLT no less): “God-devotion makes a country strong; God-avoidance leaves people weak.” The NASB translation is probably better: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” I certainly wouldn’t quibble with any of the wisdom to be found in Proverbs; but I wonder if he realizes the broad application of this verse? As a graduate of a Christian college, I can assure any reader that our campuses are, sadly, rife with sin; we just hide it better. I wonder if Mr. Hemphill is as concerned with the binge-drinking, casual sex, sanctimony, and hypocrisy rampant on our campuses as he is with the subjective endorsement of a handful of students. Does he care that Harding University, which he holds up as some moral light shining in the darkness, pretty much allowed intercollegiate athletes to do whatever they pleased without consequences (at least when I was there), just like those anti-God state schools? Favoritism is a sin too, kids.

My point is simple: Who is Mr. Hemphill, or myself, or you, or anyone to judge another’s faith, especially by how he or she votes? That is a dangerous game for any of us to be playing.

Filed under: Faith and Religion, Politics, Rants, School, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Let freedom ring…except on campus

Mark Elrod, a political science professor at Harding University (my Alma mater), has had a very popular weblog for several years where he, his colleagues, alumni, and other interested parties could discuss issues of the day.

Elrod has always been a Democrat, which puts him decidedly to the left of most of the Harding community. No big deal, right? Academia is big enough to handle dissenting views, isn’t it? Well…

“I’ve come to the realization that I have over-estimated the capacity of both my academic (Harding University) and my religious (Church of Christ) community to deal with critical thinking or dissent in a public forum.  In the last few weeks, I’ve grown tired with dealing with members of both communities who seem to view the world in black and white terms and think of all discussions as zero-sum games.”

This from his post announcing why he is making his blog private. Kind of makes a mockery of Harding’s pretensions of academic excellence and freedom, right?

Let’s clarify that despite his controversial political and social views, Elrod is a believer. Not once has he denied the existence of God, the divinity of Christ, or the authority of scripture. He deserves to be treated like a brother. Yet far too many of his readers, presumably Christians, have gone running like schoolyard sissies to the HU administration because big bad Elrod said something they didn’t like. Boo-friggin’-hoo.

I didn’t always agree with him; but I enjoyed his Political Science class as an undergrad for the same reason I enjoyed his blog; he made me think. You know, like good teaching and writing is supposed to do?

Sad stuff. This is yet another reason why HU won’t ever get dime one from me.


Elrod has posted a clarification of the matter on his blog.

I want to make it clear why I’m making the switch from writing a public blog to a private blog.

I’ve been fielding questions all day about this and I think it may be better to deal with it wholesale rather than retail.

For the record, I was not “pressured” by anybody to change my blog from “public” to “private” status.

I made this decision on my own as the result of the general frustration I have with members of our fellowship who want to make a spiritual judgment about me based on my political views.

One of those views is my public support for Barack Obama for president.

In the last few days, much of that angst has been directed toward my employer and, as a result, toward me as well.

Because of this, I have decided that I would much rather have a private conversation about things that are important to me rather than a public conversation that leads to additional complaints about me to the Harding University administration.

I suspect that this arrangement is going to be beneficial to all of the parties involved.

So he is sick of people gunning for him and questioning his convictions simply because he supports Obama for president. Well, he is still within his rights. I know from experience (admittedly, on a much smaller scale) that it can be very hurtful when people question your character, integrity, and very commitment to the faith just because you have an unpopular opinion on a peripheral matter.

Regardless, Elrod says the school didn’t bust his chops and my respect for him dictates that I take him at his word. So be it. I was wrong, at least on that point. Look for me to eat a little crow in my next post.

Filed under: Faith and Religion, Politics, Rants, School, , ,

Resist this

Proving once again my truism that small people fight small battles, a group billing itself as “The Resistance” is protesting Starbucks’ current use of it’s original logo.


Now, the retro logo looks to me like a topless pregnant woman hoisting two giant (or Venti, in Starbucks speak) coconut shrimp. In fact, it reminds me of a recurring dream I used to have when I was single…but I digress. The head of the Resistance insists that:

“[The logo] has a naked woman on it with her legs spread like a prostitute,” Mark Dice, founder of the group, said in a news release. “Need I say more? It’s extremely poor taste, and the company might as well call themselves Slutbucks.”

First of all, anybody in America who calls themselves “The Resistance” deserves an open-handed pimp slap. Resistance, in its proper context, is used for people who oppose fascist regimes at great risk to life and limb. Kids, having an unpopular opinion does not automatically make you a rebel or a hero. Can we all handle this?

Secondly, what are they resisting? A logo? Wow, way to take a stand there, Bonhoeffer.

Personally, I can think of a lot of other things that merit “resistance” if we use the term like they are.

  • Starbucks prices, and those ubiquitous clowns who spend their entire day at Starbucks writing the next great American novel on their laptops.
  • Geico, for continuing with those stupid Caveman ads long after the not-that-funny-to-begin-with joke has run its course.
  • The price of gas
  • Michael Bay movies
  • Country radio
  • Fat, hairy people in speedos
  • The word “awesome”

You get the picture. What about you, gentle reader? What do you think merits “resistance” in our popular culture?


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Religion and such

Church sign links Obama with Osama bin Laden

JONESVILLE, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina pastor says he wasn’t trying to be politicalwhen he posted a sign in front of his church linking Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Pastor Roger Byrd said he just wanted to make people think when he put up a sign reading “Obama, Osama — humm, are they brothers” in front of the Jonesville Church of God on Thursday.

Obama, a Christian, attends Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Fifteen percent of respondents to a recent Associated Press-Yahoo News poll said they thought the Illinois senator was a Muslim.

WYFF-TV reported Monday on its Web site that Byrd said he won’t take the sign down. He said his congregation voted unanimously Sunday to keep it up.

The church is part of the Church of God, a Pentecostal denomination based in Cleveland, Tenn., according to the organization’s Web site.

Jonesville is a town of about 1,000 people in northwestern South Carolina. [Source]

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Rambling between apathy and antipathy

I am within spitting distance of this semester’s end. No more Dr. Sunshine. No more getting up at 2:30 in the afternoon to make my 4 o’clock class after working until 8:30 that same morning (and then going back into work for another 10 hour shift). No more going 36 hours without seeing Christine.  Two more papers stand between me and the home stretch for this degree. And for the life of me I cannot push myself to finish them.

I don’t really know why this inertia has settled on me, although I have some guesses. Part of it may be knowing that I have to take a summer elective that will start about two weeks after the spring semester ends.

Part of it may be knowing that next year I will have to do my final internship. This will entail 21 hours a week (location to be determined; when I know, you will know).  “But wait,” the observant reader interjects, “don’t you have to work?” Why yes, I do. How will I accomplish this? By working every Friday and Saturday night as well as two nights during the regular week. With the exception of the occasional holiday, I will either be at my paying gig or my internship. I am looking down the wrong end of a school year without a day off.

Part of it may be that due to our current non/maybe recession, I may graduate next year into…the same job I have right now. It’s a sweet gig for a student, but I have already had enough and I want out; no more night shift and preferably, no more shift work at all.

Part of it may be that my brother-in-law Steve sent me the artist line-up for this year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival and it looks fantastic. Of course, it’s in September; right after I start my internship.

I shouldn’t whine, I know. Many people who would love to attend graduate school never get the chance to do so. My wife has never, ever complained about the sacrifices she has had to make, first dating and then being married to a student. Although I am not crazy about my job, I was lucky to get it when I did for a number of reasons.

But I wish sometimes that I had all of this behind me. I wish that I had not sunk 10 years into the wrong line of work (for me) when I was younger.  I fear that I am teetering on the edge of burnout.  Any suggestions for coping would be welcome at this point.

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Where in the World…