Wednesday, December 22, 2004

'Tis the Season for Wedge Issues

As if spliting the nation to get their guy in office wasn't enough, the religious right is now going out of its way to turn Christmas into a wedge issue - how low can you go? It's never low enough for James Dobson and Jerry Falwell. I think Anna Quindlen at Newsweek has the best take on the whole "Merry Christmas" nonsense:

So the silly annual examples are trotted out, the schools that censor Christmas carols, the townships that insist that the evergreen decorated with lights is a holiday tree. No one searches his soul about how we came to this pass. It has little to do with separation of church and state or liberal politics and everything to do with the way the blunt cudgel of Christianity has been heedlessly used, the tyranny of the majority. After years of Jewish parents' sitting through school concerts listening to the words "It is the night of our dear savior's birth," maybe oversensitivity was inevitable, since any other kind of sensitivity had been in short supply.

Anna concludes with:

So if people are really worried about keeping Christ in Christmas, they might personally exhibit tolerance and charity, kindness and generosity. It is the ultimate exercise of style over substance to whine about the absence of "O Holy Night" at public events. The real point is in taking the lyrics to heart: "Truly he taught us to love one another/His law is love and his gospel is peace." And if saying "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas" offers someone who is not of your faith more comfort and joy—well, 'tis the season for both.

One day the Religious Right may find that it is ACTUALLY being persecuted but after crying wolf and rending their garments while beating up their non-believing neighbors don't expect anyone to shed any tears or lift a finger.

The Hypocrisy Meter is off the Charts

So we attend this good Bible believing church and belong to the local Boy Scout Troop. Being the only liberal in sight I have been an easy mark for rabid conservatives just festering to shove their “values” down my heathen throat. After years in this environment my son is discouraged in that he doesn’t feel he has "normal parents." What do normal Evangelical and Scouting parents provide their children that my children are denied? Let's see:

- Unfettered access to R-Rated movies in the theatre and on DVD

- Video games that realistically recreate some of the most violent episodes in US military history. As if I want my kids to learn to enjoy killing people at close range with a machine gun?

- And now the latest the “Soft Air Gun.” These little gems are realistic recreations of every handgun, shot gun and military rifle known to man and they shoot plastic BB’s. One reviewer on cheered “This gun Rocks. If you don't like it you are a fag. When i used it I made a kid bleed from a 25yard shot. BUY THIS GUN"

Ladies and Gentleman, I give you “values.”

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The ACLU - Still Working for Freedom During the War on Terror

They have been accused of every nasty unpatriotic act imaginable and yet the ACLU has enjoyed the support of Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy and General Douglas MacArthur. The threat to our nation is not simply another 9/11, the threat is that in taking away the rights of others, we may well destroy our own rights, the very thing we are fighting for. Here is an excerpt from the analysis conducted by the ACLU on the documents they obtained from the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command:

One of the most troubling files relates to the suspected murder of a detainee held in Tikrit. On August 8, 2003, American forces arrested Obed Hethere Radad during a raid. According to the documents, on September 11, 2003 an Army specialist shot and killed Radad without any advance warning. The CID ultimately determined that there was probable cause to charge the specialist with murder.

However, the perpetrator never faced a murder charge, or any court-martial at all. The Army delayed four days before notifying CID about the incident. In the meantime, a commander convened the military equivalent of a grand jury, known as an Article 32 hearing, and charged the specialist with voluntary manslaughter. Unsurprisingly, given the lack of time to develop evidence, the proceeding recommended against court-martial. The specialist was demoted to the rank of private and discharged from the service before the CID’s investigation even began.

"We are concerned that commanders short-circuited the investigation and prosecution of the Radad killing, rather than seeking full and fair justice," said Omar C. Jadwat, a staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project.

Fiscal Insanity Continued – The Real Entitlements Crisis is the One Bush Created

Bush worked his magic on Medicare with a Drug Care plan that was little more than a wind fall for major drug companies. What was the result of this brilliant move to save Medicare? Medicare is now facing a $16 Trillion deficit, far more than the trumped up $10 Trillion that Social Security will face when we erroneously project its shortfalls into the infinite future. Social Security can be easily remedied with only modest changes, Medicare in the mean time is sinking fast. The following is from today’s Washington Post:

For a cautionary tale of how this debate could go, consider last year's Medicare legislation. Mr. Bush started out with a reasonable premise in that case, too: He wanted to add a prescription drug benefit to the program, and at the same time to introduce cost-saving competition. By the time the legislation was completed, its competitive provisions were modest and its cost had soared. Worryingly, Mr. Bush does not appear to have absorbed this lesson. In an aside yesterday, he cited Medicare as a success -- as though enacting reform, any reform, were something to be proud of.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Why I Will be Greeting Everyone with "Happy Holidays"

Now that Bill O’Reilly, James Dobson and every other “Christian” merchant of divisiveness and discord in the religious right’s self declared culture war has decided that saying “Merry Christmas” is the cross upon which Christian theology hangs I lay before my conservative Christian Brethren this challenge:

1) What is the origin of the Christmas holiday? You may not like the answer.
2) Where in the New Testament are Christians commanded to observe Christmas? Hint, we're not.
3) Where in the New Testament is "Christmas" even mentioned? Hint, it isn't.

4) Where in the bible are we commanded to coerce non-Christians into recognizing our holidays? Let me know what you find because I didn’t have any luck.

I’m just asking because to some in the Christian community saying “Merry Christmas” appears to be an issue serious enough that we are willing to boycott stores threatening the livelihoods of thousands of working class Americans. I know we wouldn’t take such dramatic steps unless there were some very good Biblically sound reasons. Afterall, this is a holiday named for our lord and savior. By what authority to we threaten people in Christ's name?

I await the learned responses of my fellow Christians!

As for my Christian household, we will celebrate Christmas without the coercion and all are welcome to join us whether or not they believe in Christ.

Happy Holidays

A Truly Happy Holiday

I spend a great deal of time complaining about Christians who do not behave like Christians. But I thought at this time of year it would be good to talk a little about my personal encounters with Christians who do behave like Christians.

Feeding the Hungry – This Saturday my son and I worked with a local food bank handing out food to poor families. We were set up in a local community center where they had some nice man dressed as Santa Clause who gave each kid a small gift. After the families had a chance to visit with St. Nick (who, as you know was Saint Nicklaus, 4th century bishop of Myra who spoke at the Council of Nicea in 325AD) they signed in and were given a basked of food including a frozen turkey. We served over 200 families by sorting out the food and taking it out to their cars or the cars of whoever brought them.

I have a hard time working with poor people. Some people just have a run of bad luck and need a little help getting back on their feet - I can handle that. Others just keep making bad decisions over and over and over and over again. I have difficulty dealing with this especially when these folks have children who are caught in the middle. Fortunately I was not running the program, the program was run by people with bigger hearts than mine and a lot more patience. Over the course of the day I learned to have a little more patience and I think my heart grew just a tiny bit as well.

Sheltering the Needy – I worked in a bad weather shelter some years ago. A bad weather shelter is a homeless shelter that opens when the weather turns bad. My wife and I volunteered to set things up and help prepare and serve a hot meal. Some other people from our Church spent the night with the 30 or so people who came in to make sure they were safe. Some people who came were street people with some serious mental problems but others were elderly people who looked like my grandparents, others were young and middle aged. All were broke and without a home, except for this one night when we opened the shelter. Its hard dealing with people who are mentally ill which is why I don’t deal with them if I can avoid it. But there are people who do know how to deal with them. The same people who are skilled at helping the homeless and mentally ill are also patient enough to show me how to help these folks. That takes patience.

Caring for the dying – I have had several family members who became terminally ill. Some were old and some were not. Caring for someone who is dying is very difficult. You need to feed them special food, make sure they get their medicine, help them get up and down and clean them. You also have to listen to them express their fears about dying, this is harder than anything else. People who are dying are often irritable and afraid and heavily medicated and in pain and they never get good news from the doctor which only makes things worse. Another reason it is difficult to work with the dying is that it reminds you that one day you are going to die.

No one is better at caring for the dying than the people from hospice. Hospice workers not only know the mechanics of helping people who are dying they know how to deal with the dying so that they can retain some sense of dignity and control over what is left of their lives. Dignity and control are very important to people who are dying. I have watched people die and in each case it took me months to recover. Hospice workers see it all and they keep coming back. I marvel at them.

I think that if Christians spent more time feeding the hungry and sheltering the needy and caring for the dying we would make a much better impression than we do when we campaign for petty political causes. There are things that are much more important.

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas

Have Yourself an Ugly Little Christmas

"And it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge."

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

I consider myself fortunate to attend a Church that avoids politics or at the very least avoids telling us what we should think about politics. I have a number of family and friends who attend Evangelical churches where the pastor is expected to deliver a sermon as full of political oratory a lessons from the Bible. One of the more depressing aspects of political Christianity is the every increasing propaganda of Christian persecution. This is not to say that there are not Christians in the world who are persecuted for their faith, there most certainly are. However, the hot trend now is for Conservative Christians right here is Red State Jesus Land - the good old USA - to claim that they are being persecuted right here at home. That's right, the same people who now own the White House, the House of Representatives, the US Senate and soon the Supreme court are being persecuted. Are they being shot at? Rounded up and put into camps? No, the issue is far worse, the crime that threatens the existence of American Christianity is the phrase "Happy Holidays."

It seems that American Christians are being persecuted every time they hear the phrase Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas. In other words, you had better start saying Merry Christmas, or else. Focus on the Family has a whole web page devoted to the issue. The Los Angeles Times also had a good article on this new found form Christian propaganda.

I happen to be a Christian and I believe that there are certain holidays that should be celebrated and Christmas is one of them. That is my choice. I have a number of family and friends who do not believe in God and they celebrate the Holidays in a secular way and that is their choice, I see no need to force them to recognize and celebrate a God they do not believe in. So why claim that their greeting of "Happy Holidays" is a form of religious persecution (what a stretch)? Because when I claim that I am being persecuted it gives me the right to hate my persecutors and spread all sorts of nasty misinformation about who these people are and what they believe. It means I don't have to listen to them, indeed, if I claim I am being persecuted it gives me the right to be angry and to attack my persecutors. The fact that this is the exact opposite of what my God teaches is not the issue, the issue is power and anger and hatred are powerful motivators.

As for me? While I am a Christian and choose to celebrate the birth of Jesus I will be greeting family and friends with "Happy Holidays" so that I can stand with those who are really being persecuted.

Happy Holidays to all!