Thursday, December 6, 2012

Bride of Satan?

English is not my mother tongue, but I like to think of myself as rather proficient in it.  I don't mean to brag, I just think that it would be a fair assessment to say that I have a good grasp of the English language.  I have extra reason to be proud of my ESL skills today because it turns out I am much better at it than large numbers of my English speaking peers.

As I discussed in my previous post, the South African Council of Churches tried to prevent Lady Gaga from performing in South Africa.  The following message was spread by many concerned Christians via social media:

“Lady Gaga! Real name Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta.  She sold her soul to the devil for fame and fortune, suddenly having 8 million followers on Twitter, top selling artist and the top winner at the Grammys. This is clearly the devil at work!

Fellow believers in Christ Jesus, you may or may not know the seriousness of what I am saying now. We need to stand firm against the Lady Gaga concert. She is a self-confessed Satanist and the bride of Satan. Letting her into SA will bring spells of evil.”

For the moment, lets ignore the fact that we have people talking about "spells of evil" in the year 2012.  Instead I would like to draw your attention to the second last claim about her being a "self-confessed Satanist and the bride of Satan".  This very quickly became a meme amongst Christians opposing Lady Gaga.  Anytime an article about her was posted online, dozens of comments calling her a "self-confessed bride of satan" would suddenly show up.  For some, that claim wasn't enough going on to say things like:
"O and she not only confessed to be satans bride, she also said she is his nr 1 bride. If she isn hiding it I wonder why satans children are teying to hide it? Doesnt make any sense? Anyways deceit should be the order of the day when it comes to satan and his kingdom so maybe it makes perfect sense. What ever, not interested."  *
See, she's didn't only confess to being Satan's bride, she claims to be his Number One Bride.  That seemed like an odd thing to me since I consider myself pretty clued up on Gaga-facts and have never heard her confessing anything of the sort.  Heck, even Lady Gaga herself was kind of surprised by it.  So I decided to fact check this claim.  I figured it was probably something being taken out of context, seeing as how the good folks concerned with demonic influences in music tend to overlook things like subtlety, nuance, context, humour and theatricality.

This guy knows what I'm talking about!
So after an exhaustive search of the internet I found ... nothing.  Nothing at all.  This claim is not based on anything Lady Gaga said at any time.  Turns out this is one of those self sufficient internet rumours that people believe is true because other people are saying it's true.  The only places you will find Lady Gaga being a self-confessed bride of Satan (or number one bride) is in claims by concerned Christians that she is a self-confessed bride of Satan. 

Still, I was curious about where it all started.  Sure, absurd claims can live on the internet indefinitely, sheltered away from reality  for as long as the gullible can keep regurgitating and swallowing the same stupid claim.  However they have to come from somewhere originally and since it didn't come from anything Lady Gaga said, the question remained - where is this coming from?  Well according to Google Trends, this claim appeared only twice, right now and early 2011.  As near as I can tell, the source for this traces back to an anonymous email that was widely circulated at the time.  Here it is exactly as it showed up in my inbox back then (minus the random fonts and colours of course):
"The Song “Alejandro” by Lady Gaga.

Very subtly the devil sneaks into our lives to steal and destroy souls!

We don’t even realise that just by singing the lyrics of a seemingly ‘innocent’ song with a nice tune, we open the door wider for his evil spirit!!

‘Alejandro’ means: man’s defender and protector’ (GOD).
‘Fernando’ means: ardent for peace (JESUS).
‘Roberto’ means: bright or shiningly framed (HOLY SPIRIT).
‘Babe’ is the same as ‘child’

Now the lyrics again:

“Don’t call my name; don’t call my name, Alejandro(GOD).I’m not your child, i’m not your child, Fernando (JESUS). Don’t call my name; don’t call my name, Roberto (HOLY SPIRIT) Alejandro; Alejandro (GOD), Just let me go.”

People, please stop listening to Lady Gaga! Real name Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. She sold her soul to the devil for fame and fortune, suddenly having 8 million followers on Twitter; top selling artist, and the top winner at the Grammys. This is clearly the devil at work!

Remember the images with her inside the egg carried on a cross? Hatching from an egg signifies the cold blooded rebirth. Implanted horns on her shoulders and cheek bone indicating the transformed BRIDE OF SATAN!

(Save a soul and pass this on)
I received it, and I’ve passed it on. The blood is off my shoulder…


That may be the most tortured exegesis I've ever seen.  So you take half the lyrics, translate the names then do a double logic backflip to somehow relate those names to the Trinity and then a song about a girl saying goodbye to her latin lovers becomes a confession of satanism.  Excuse my while I slam my head against the desk for a bit.


By this logic you can take the statement "I like apples" and turn it into an endorsement of witch burning.  Apples come from trees, trees are made of wood, we use wood for fires, fires were used to to burn witches THEREFORE when someone says "I like apples" they OBVIOUSLY really mean they enjoy seeing women burn at the stake.  Right?  Or maybe this kind of tortured analysis is bullshit and maybe things just mean what they appear to mean.

See this is the bit that makes me feel pretty good about my English Language reading comprehension skills.  I know what "self-confessed" means.  Pity though that none of the people passing on this rumor has the foggiest idea.  See, self-confessed means someone actually explicitly admitted to something.  For instance my blogging friend Ali is a self-confessed vegan as well as a self-confessed fan of Cabin Pressure.  I would also be within my rights to call my blogging friend Dasia a self-confessed fan of roller derby and Benedict Cumberbatch.  I know I am correct in saying this because if you were to go to their blogs you would find them admitting those very things!  I didn't have to analyze or infer or deduce much of anything, they flat out stated it.  On the other hand if I called them "self-confessed Olympic gold medalist transvestites"** that would be wrong because a) that is factually incorrect and b) they never said anything remotely like that!!!

Seriously people, I know the English language can be tricky at times, what with flammable and inflammable meaning the same thing and all, but come on!  Self-confessed is not a hard word or concept!  It pretty much means exactly what it says!  Surely the idea of things meaning what they appear to mean has not lost all meaning yet?  Words mean things.  They mean specific things.  They can't just mean whatever you'd like them to mean instead of what they actually mean.  Am I alone here?  Is everyone else taking crazy pills?!

*This person is on my friends list so I happen to know that, contrary to his claims of not being interested, he would pounce on every possible opportunity to post this on any thread related to Gaga.  Repeatedly.
**Dear Ali and Dasia, if this accidentally becomes a meme I am really really sorry!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Anti-Gaga protests fail. Spectacularly!!

Lady Gaga has arrived in South Africa for 2 sold out shows and I find myself having so many feelings about this.  So to help me deal with all these feelings I'm calling in some emoticats to help me!

Firstly, while I would have absolutely LOVED to see her live in concert I couldn't get tickets.  They were sold out so fast and even if I got a ticket I would have no ride to the concert.  This made me one very sad panda.

Then I found out that the South African Council of Churches were planning massive demonstrations to get the government to ban her from entering the country.  They were worried that her performances here "could lead to an exponential growth of Satanism".  This left me feeling very puzzled.

See, I'm a pretty big Lady Gaga fan and I'm also NOT a Satanist.  At no point did I ever feel tempted to become a Satanist while listening to her music or watching her videos.  In fact, I can't seem to recall her even trying to convert me to Satanism at any point in time.  So where was this all coming from?  I mean if they were upset about her support for gay rights, it would at least make some sense but Satanism?  Based on WHAT pray tell?!  I even took a moment to skim the Facebook group South Africa: No to Lady Gaga and satanists and I couldn't find anything resembling proof there either.  Hey guys, the 80's called, they want their Satanic Panic back!  Srsly, this is some stupid-ass fearmongering bullshit...

It was pretty worrying though.  Back during the Apartheid days, the churches were the first and final word on what people were allowed to see.  If the church branded an artist as being immoral or a bad influence on the youth, that was it.  They could forget about getting any airtime.  Was this going to happen again?  I know we now have one of the most progressive constitutions in the world but the population is still very conservative and religious.  I had a lot of feelings about this and none of them were good...

But then the protest happened and I got better!  The thousands of righteously indignant Christians that were supposed to hand over a memorandum to the government didn't show up.  According to the Afrikaans newspaper Beeld only about 14 people showed up and most of them were late.

This meant that the 30 people who showed up for the Cape Town protest seemed far less pathetic in comparison!
Source: Paula Chowles
 This was just EPIC failure!  Contrast these protests to the numbers there to welcome Gaga to the country:

This made me happy.  Very very very happy!

So even though I won't get to see her live in concert (this time) this is a great day!  The fearmongers lost so everyone wins.  Here's hoping the SA Council of Churches decides to spend its time focusing on actual problems instead of imaginary ones.  Heaven knows we have enough real issues in this country that can use some attention.  Also, I'm no longer a sad panda!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dirtier, Sexier Demonology

Do you ever find yourself feeling disenchanted by the inherent passivity and lack of sexiness of "lamestream" Christianity?  Ever wish you could do more to fight the forces of evil?  Sure, praying about it and hoping God will do something somehow at some point is nice and all but don't you ever wish you could do something more exciting, more dangerous, perhaps even something more... sexy than that?  Do you ever say to yourself, "Evangelical Christianity is fine I guess but I sure do wish it could be more Medieval Catholicism!"?  Well then, you're in luck!  Welcome to the exciting world of Charismatic Christianity!

In the first installment of Dirty Sexy Demonology I shared a bit of this incredibly exciting branch of the Christian faith - how it creates a far more exciting version of Christianity by throwing out all the boring bits and making it more about exciting magic* battles against demons.  After all, why would you want to live in a messy, complex world where you have to wrestle with morality and other complicated issues when you can instead live in a black and white world where everything is demons?  Life is both simpler and far more exciting this way!  But maybe after a while you feel like that is not quite enough and you find yourself wishing there was more to it.  Well I hope you're sitting down because Charismatic Demonology is about to get even dirtier AND sexier!  Have you heard the good news about Sex Demons?

"Can demons engage in sexual activity with humans?  As bizarre as it sounds, those who minister to people in occult bondage say it's more common than you think. 
For nearly two decades, Contessa Adams felt as though she had no power against the demonic violators of her body. She felt trapped in secrecy and shame and knew that the demons tormenting her wanted things to stay that way.  But God had another agenda for Adams when she found Christ in 1979. The former stripper has a ministry through which she exposes one of Satan's darkest secrets—sexual demons.  These spiritual rapists, as Adams describes them in her book, Consequences, often prey on people by performing sexual acts through nightmares and erotic dreams. Some people become so dependent upon these demonic experiences that they actually look forward to them.

"Anybody that has been attacked by them will tell you ... they're worried [that] they could not find that pleasure with mortal people," says Adams, who claims she was once possessed by sexual demons.

The two most identifiable sexual demons are the incubus, which is a male sexual demon that traditionally assaults women, and the succubus, which is a female sexual demon that assaults men. Sometimes they also lure people into homosexual behavior.  Adams notes that one evangelist, whose name she would not divulge, was so troubled by the sexual pleasure the succubus gave her that she even contemplated suicide.

Adams says the succubus spirit that used to attack her confused her so much that she contemplated becoming a lesbian.  "
I tried to find a picture of the very real succubi the article mentions but could only seem to find them in fiction and Role Playing Games...  My sincerest apologies.

Now you may be tempted to think I'm trying to "punk" you by quoting something from the Malleus Maleficarum but I assure you I am not.  This is an actual extract from an article in Charisma Magazine and I shit you not, it was published in the 21st Century!

This has to be really good news to any good Christian who feels conflicted about having a libido.  You do all you can to squash down your feelings all day long but then and night you still end up sinning in your dreams.  Frustrating right?  Well not anymore!  Not if what you're really dealing with are SEX DEMONS!  That's right, you don't really have homosexual tendencies, you're just being tempted by a SEX DEMON!  Doesn't that make you feel a lot better?  You're not a sinner, you're a righteous man/woman under attack!  So let go of your guilt and get your spells* ready, it's time to kick some demon ass!  [Disclaimer: This could take a while.  Pesky demons always keep trying their luck, so you'll be doing this for a while.  Maybe for ever.  But hey, still better than being guilty of gay adultery!]

Now I understand that some of you would love to blame your nocturnal sinfulness on a succubus but you're still hesitant because it seems more like something from a Dungeons and Dragons manual, not something from the Bible.  You are of course completely right, none of this is in the Bible.  For some weird reason the various Bible authors spent a lot of time NOT talking about demons and completely failed to turn the Bible into a Spiritual Warfare manual.  Luckily for us, the Bible is completely optional when it comes to Dirty Sexy Demonology!  In fact, the less you use it the better it gets! You see, Charismatic Theology has kind of a "take it and leave it" approach to the Bible, in that if it doesn't tell you what you want to hear you leave it and take it from a different source instead.  This was brilliantly explained by one of the comments on the article:
"For some reason God chose to not put "everything" in the bible. God has a reason for every thing. That is why Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to lead us into "all truth". Take heed people Holy Spirit is trying to teach you the hidden things that can only be discerned by the spirit. Those who are able to hear Holy Spirit are reqired to teach those who are not able to hear. "
See?  You don't need the Bible, the Word of God is a pretty fluid thing it turns out.  You can get totally new doctrine from the Holy Spirit at any time.

Did I say Charismatic Christianity is just like Medieval Catholicism?  I was wrong, it's better!  Medieval Catholicism had a Pope, Charismatics do not.  No Pope, no Vatican, no Council of Cardinals - no one at all to provide any structure or guidelines on what can and cannot be doctrine!  This frees you to believe whatever you'd like and since no one else can hear what you imagine the Holy Spirit is telling you, no one can tell you that you're wrong!  It doesn't matter how ridiculous it sounds, you get to seriously believe it and teach it to others as a fact!

Is it any wonder that Charismatic Christians are the ones spearheading the return of the long forgotten art of witch finding?  Because if reviving one ridiculous medieval superstition is a viable option, then why can't they all be?  

*Obviously I'm using the word "magic" here as a form of shorthand.  Charismatic Christians obviously don't engage in magic.  Magic is an evil and demonic thing and any good Charismatic Christian can tell you that.  What they do may seem like exactly the same thing in form, function and core principles but it is completely different!  Magic implies the use of demons while Christians use Jesus instead so it's completely and utterly not the same thing.  Obviously!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

You don't touch the Lord's Annointed, the Lord's Annointed touches you!

Don't you just love it when people accidentally make your point for you?  For a while now I've been trying to make the case that calling out religious leaders when they make statements that are wrong/evil/lying/bullshit is nothing short of a sacred duty.  So then I find this video of Creflo Dollar over on Scotteriology (go read his take on it, it's brilliant) which totally makes my case for me:

Question:  Did you see anything wrong with what he just said?  If you said to yourself "Wow, that seems incredibly wrong and dangerous because it clearly sets up religious leaders to abuse their followers without fear of repercussions" then congratulations, you just had the sane, healthy reaction to a terribly abusive bit of preaching.  If on the other hand you watched it and saw nothing wrong with any part of it then you are the reason I feel the need to keep writing these posts because believe me, your response is neither sane nor healthy.

I know this because I used to be there.  A couple of years ago I would have listened to a sermon like that and gone "Mmm-hmm, preach it brother Dollar!"  See, the Christian worldview is driven by authority so for it to work this authority must be obeyed absolutely.  Now in theory of course that authority flows directly from God and His Word.  In practice however that authority is wielded by the men of God - Pastors, Priests, Bishops, Rabbis etc.  They're the ones who dispense the Word and Will of God to the people so therefore they are the ones with all the authority.  When you get socialized into this authoritarian view of Christianity, it's very hard to see the problems with it.  I know that 10 years ago I certainly would not have seen anything wrong with a teaching like this one.  If anything, I would have perpetuated it by teaching it to others (and I probably did).  But that doesn't change the fact that it is utterly and completely wrong.  It is wrong to the point of being evil and the only just course of action is to reject every word of it.  If you can't see why, hear me out and I will demonstrate why.

Firstly, try a simple thought experiment.  Take everything Pastor Dollar just said and pretend he said it about kindergarten teachers.  All that stuff about overlooking and covering up the wrong things they do no matter how bad.  Everything he said about not telling others about bad things you learned.  Still sound OK to you?  What if he said it about doctors or coaches or camp counselors or babysitters or psychiatrists?  No, of course not, it doesn't sound like a good plan at all, it sounds like a recipe for abuse.  Because it is!  So then why is it OK to make a special exception for clergy?  Just to be clear, he isn't talking about malicious rumors or hearsay here, he explicitly references true facts about actual wrongdoing.  If you wouldn't keep quiet and cover up for other professions, why is it different for preachers?  And just in case you think that surely he couldn't possibly be including sexual predators under that umbrella, think again.  When Bishop Eddie Long was accused of sexual misconduct with young men in his congregation, Creflo Dollar was right there to "cover him" and "restore him".  Honestly now, if you don't even draw the line at sexual abuse then what can't you excuse?  Because of teachings like this we find countless cases across denominational lines of people protecting the abuser while attacking the victims.  This is inexcusably evil!

For another thing, why do clergy even need to be put above the simple societal rules that the rest of us abide by?  No, really?  Again, we aren't talking about malicious lies here we are talking about people you absolutely 100% know are doing something bad.  Why protect them instead of exposing them and protecting everyone else?  Seems to me that only frauds and abusers would fear the truth becoming known.  You don't swear people to secrecy unless you have something to hide.  Abusers thrive on secrecy.  Frauds fear the light.  Honest people do not and therefore they tend not to preemptively insist that you cover their misdeeds.  A good person wouldn't ask you to become an accomplice to wickedness, would they?

That just leaves one more question - isn't it all Biblical though?  That is certainly what Creflo Dollar is claiming here.  He isn't the one telling you to hide your pastor's misdeeds, GOD is the one telling you.  Except God is not telling you that and his claims here are not supported by the Bible.  But what about David then?  Yes, what about him? Everything Pastor Dollar said about David and Saul was technically correct except for one teensy but very important detail - Saul was not David's pastor, he was David's king.  That's a difference that changes everything.  Complete allegiance and obedience to government authority is a running theme throughout the Scriptures.  Regardless of whether they are good or bad you are supposed to obey them.  Even if they are heathens who are brutally persecuting you, the Bible commands that you follow their orders and pray for them.  Funny then how most Christians today (especially in the American Right wing, looking at you Tea Party) are happy to be flagrantly disobedient to this clear teaching of Scripture while still claiming to "Bible Believing Christians".  But I digress, my point is that while the Bible does teach that you should always humbly obey government office (and not for instance slander, rebel, secede or wish them dead - still looking at you Tea Party) that doesn't hold for those in spiritual office.  Why yes, I can back that up with an example from the Bible!

"When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.  When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?"  (Galatians 2:11-21)

Here you have the Apostle Paul publicly reprimanding the Apostle Peter - yes THAT Apostle Peter - for being a hypocrite.  Does that sound anything like the model Creflo Dollar proposed?  No.  Yet, this too is in the Bible and it is far more applicable than the story of David and Saul.  In fact, why not take the time to read through the Epistles (seeing as how they are the books dealing with church and Christianity as opposed to ancient Israeli monarchy) and see what they have to say about the matter?  I think you'll find that far from telling you to hush up crimes in the church it commands that the immoral and wicked be exposed and expelled from the congregation.

Besides, do you think someone with real authority has to resort to vague threats like a non specific "facebook curse"?  Please!  People with actual authority don't try to scare you into cooperating with empty threats.  Even the curses in the Bible were incredibly specific.  Pastor Dollar is being vague because he has nothing.  No power, no authority, spiritual or otherwise.  He stays vague so the credulous can create their own curses.  This way the supposed "curse" can be whatever you want it to be.  Yes I said what YOU want it to be - washing machine breaks, must be the curse!  Flat tire?  Facebook curse!  Stuck in traffic?  Twitter Curse!  Come on, that's just stupid!  Don't fall for it.

So if you see something, say something.  It doesn't matter if the perpetrator is an esteemed clergyman, abuse* is always wrong.  If it isn't OK when your postman does it, it's not OK when your pastor does it either.  When you cover up wrongdoing, and when you side with the abuser over the victim, you debase yourself and everything you stand for.  So just don't do it.
*Remember, sexual abuse is not just a sin, it's also a felony!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Conservatives straining gnats and swallowing camels

Just in case ever wondered why this blog so often takes aim at American conservatives, I think I found the perfect way to explain.  No, it's not because I'm a left wing socialist hippie.  It isn't because I'm a Democrat or a huge fan of President Obama either.  No, it's nothing like that.  I found a great visual aid to help me explain though.  Check out this movie trailer, it contains the distilled essence of why I find American Conservatives so incredibly annoying:

Conservatives frustrate me to no end because they are endlessly obsessed with non-issues while happily ignoring real problems.  They are just tone deaf beyond belief!  This trailer showcases it perfectly.  First you have all this talk about how America is changing, how rights are disappearing and the constitution is under attack.  That's a great start because it's all true.  This is a conversation that needs to happen, Conservatives need to call out Liberals on the fact that under Obama:

  • Indefinite detention without trail became legal.
  • State sanctioned murder without trail of citizens at the president's discretion became legal.
  • The books get cooked regarding the collateral damage of drone strikes by simply labeling all casualties as enemy combatants regardless of whether they were or not.
  • The Bush era warrantless wiretapping and surveillance program was extended, and
  • the only people prosecuted in relation to spying on citizens and torturing POW's were the whistleblowers who alerted the public of government misdeeds.
So yes, liberty is under attack.  Freedom is in danger.  The constitution is being undermined.  But guess what?  When Conservatives say those things they aren't referring to the Fourth Amendment becoming increasingly pointless.  No, instead all they ever get riled up about is the idea that America isn't Jesus-y enough.

Instead of dealing with any of the many real problems they instead choose to play the martyr over the most ridiculously superficial things like putting up religious displays or whether people say "Merry Christmas" or not.  It's as if the religious right have no idea what "freedom of religion" even means!  Not getting to put giant crosses, mangers and a baby Jesus on every piece of public land in no way affects your freedom to worship.  In fact, last I checked the Bible specifically warned against turning your faith into a public spectacle.  Unless I'm mistaken, those verses should be in American Bibles too.  This has nothing to do with freely practicing your faith and everything to do with making a public display of piety.  Just a thought, but if the only indications of your faith are your lawn ornaments your faith may very well be superficial to the point of nonexistence.  If you can't be happy in your beliefs without forcing everyone else to go along with it, what does that say about your beliefs?  This movie may depict a fantasy world where evil secularists are trying to oppress Christians but that bears no relation to real life. It's just fantasy role play.  It allows you to pretend to be brave Christian heroes when in reality you are being neither brave, Christian nor heroic.  If you keeping the 10 Commandments on the local courthouse to be more important the suffering of the poor in your community then you really have nothing to offer but empty gestures and hollow symbols.  You are not fighting for freedom, you're not being noble, you're being a pompous ass.

It's  actually easy enough to figure out whether your religious liberty is really in danger or whether you're just suffering from Persecution Envy.  Just answer the following questions honestly:

Are you free to do business? Are you free to take part in your country’s political system? Are you free to share your opinion in the press? Are your children welcomed in public schools? Are you able to work? Are you free to go to the church of your choice? Are you able to freely purchase and read a Bible? Do you have free access to Christian radio and television broadcasts? If you answered “yes” to these questions then you are most certainly not being persecuted.

Does your government ever raid your church? Are you forced by law to meet in secret? Are you in any danger of being shipped off to a concentration/internment/”re-education” camp for your religious beliefs? Are you forbidden to vote or run for office due to your religious beliefs? Are you legally forbidden from raising complaints about government policies? If you answered “no” to these questions then you are definitely not being persecuted.

Comedians making fun of Christianity or aspects thereof may be guilty of bad taste but they are certainly not guilty of persecuting you. Placing an atheist sign next to a nativity scene may be a dick move but it doesn’t count as oppression of the Christian faith. Matt 5:10 only applies in cases where people are persecuted, insulted and mocked for doing good. It does not apply to cases where Christians are insulted (or prosecuted) due to fraud, blatant dishonesty, unfair censorship and general douchebaggery (See 1 Pet 2:19-20). As long as you have the freedom to disagree, people expressing opinions contrary to yours regarding religion, abortion, birth control and homosexuality are not guilty of persecuting you either.

So no, your religious freedom is just fine.  So why pretend it isn't?  Why ignore all the extremely valid criticisms of Obama's presidency in favour of imaginary issues?  Why attack straw men when there are real problems to address?  Because as long as you keep doing that, it's going to be very hard for people to take you seriously on anything.  If you put all your efforts into avoiding reality, don't be surprised when it renders you increasingly irrelevant to people in the real world.

So the movie's villain just happens to be a liberal black lawyer?  Real subtle!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Hungry Hungry Altars (are why you should smash them)

In the beginning there was a world we did not understand.  It was full of strange and terrifying mysteries and humans being what they are, we just couldn't bear it.  So we invented the gods to explain to ourselves why the sun appeared and disappeared, why the seasons came and went and so on.  But that wasn't good enough either because we don't just crave reasons we also crave control.  So we decided to bargain with the gods we made in order to try and bend the universe to our will and so the altar was born.  It was simple enough, we scratch a god's back by setting something on fire and the god does us a solid some time later.  It's a simple concept and it's easy to see how we got there but since it was based on an erroneous assumption, it also turned out to be one of the worst our species ever had.

Since the gods weren't real, the altars did nothing.  But people being what they are, they could not accept this.  If sacrificing your crops did nothing then it couldn't be because there is no god to accept your sacrifice, it has to be because you were supposed to give more.  So you sacrifice more.  You sacrifice better.  And if your crops and livestock cannot work then you give things even more precious - flesh, blood, even if it belongs to your children.

Altars are hungry.  Very hungry.  In fact they are downright insatiable.  If you let them, they will take everything you have to give.  They will take everything, give nothing and still demand more.  Altars are very bad things.

"So they took the bull given them and prepared it.  Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.
At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention."

Which brings me to the recent US elections and the way the conservatives behaved.  Now I'm not saying they had any literal altars to any pagan gods but they certainly behaved as if they did.  They had a demanding yet impotent god, a host of prophets and priests calling for more sacrifices and of course, they ended up with the inevitable failure of this god to deliver what his prophets promised.

I realise that all this talk of failed, impotent gods must be deeply offensive to American Conservatives.  After all, they are the ones who worship the One True God - the Christian God - and not only do they worship Him, they worship Him more truly than all others.  They don't pick and choose what to hold as sacred, they simply follow His inerrant Word, unlike some people who also claim to be Christians.  In fact, Conservative Christianity is the only Christianity.  Liberals are just fooling themselves.  Or so I'm told.  Respectfully, I have to disagree.  When the most far right wing fundamentalist elements took prominence in the party it became very clear that their god looked nothing like the Jesus of Scripture.

Bible Jesus was primarily concerned with the poor and the helpless members of society.  Conservative Jesus considers those people parasites who are just too damn lazy to lift themselves up by their bootstraps.  Unlike Bible Jesus, Conservative Jesus thinks the best thing to do for the poor is to give them no help at all, since that should motivate them to do better in life.  Conservative Jesus is primarily concerned with abortion, gays and women's reproductive rights - all things Bible Jesus was completely silent about.  While Bible Jesus had deep compassion for the sick, especially when they were too poor to get treatment from doctors, Conservative Jesus thinks that helping poor people have affordable access to medical help makes you worse than Hitler.  Bible Jesus had compassion for the imprisoned, Conservative Jesus thinks we should imprison more people for longer.  Conservative Jesus thinks government is a great evil that needs to be opposed at every turn while Bible Jesus (and the rest of the Bible) preached obedience to the government - all governments, even the bad ones.  I can keep going but I think this should be enough to make the case that Bible Jesus and Conservative Jesus cannot be the same person.  Conservative Jesus is pretty much the opposite of the Jesus of the Bible.  Clearly this is not the same god.  I'm kind of partial to calling him Bizarro Jesus but you could always use his more traditional name: Anti-Christ.  He is a god created in the image of those who worship him.  He loves who they love and hate who they hate.  Call him whatever you like, he was raised up on the Republican platform and a hell of a lot of sacrifices were made unto him.

I think compassion was sacrificed first - for the foreign, the stranger, women, gays, the poor, the "urban".  Soon after that went love for the neighbour, especially if the neighbour was in any way "other".  Before too long, reality itself was placed on the altar along with truth and reason.  Science, facts, figures, statistics - none of these were safe from sacrifice.  One by one the sacrifices were lined up and the candidates all fell in line to praise this god and seek his favour.  No position was to extreme, no sacrifice to great.  All who disagreed were swiftly dispatched.

As a quick aside yes, I realise there are conservatives who do not worship this god.  They may even be the majority.  If so, shame on you.  Don't balk at comparisons to the Bachmans and Santorums in the movement.  Where were you and your moderate opinions when the primaries were going on?  If you stayed silent while the extremist fringes took over the movement then you have no one to blame but yourself.

So then, the sacrifices were made and the prophets of this god swore that this would ensure victory.  Problem was that this god was as powerless as he is mean.  Those sacrifices were all in vain and it left you with less.  Well less good things anyway, since those were the first things to go on the altar.  There still seems to be plenty of hate and anger and fear left.  In fact that's what prompted this post, the reactions from conservatives I saw on Facebook.  It's one thing to oppose the other party but I'm not seeing opposition, I'm seeing naked, seething hate for anyone who voted differently.  People are talking about revolution and bloodshed, they're talking about abandoning their motherland and telling each other scary stories about the coming apocalypse.  I see lots of slander for those who disagreed, which makes sense since understanding and empathy found its way  to the altar early on.  This is very bad.  For all of you.

So what to do now?  Well they could do what people with altars have always done.  They can assume that the fault lies not with the altar but with them, that they simply did not try hard enough, that they should have given more.  They could increase the fearmongering, they can up the attacks on reproductive rights and marriage equality.  They could shut themselves off from the reality of the world around them with even more resolve and pretend that the winds of change are not blowing.  They could keep fanning the flames of division, telling more scary stories about everyone who is "other" and insist that there are dark conspiracies everywhere.  Basically they could decide that the problem was not that their strategy was built on anger and fear but that it wasn't built on enough anger and fear.  The less the results the more they can do what they've always done.  More more more on the altar, always more.  That is after all how people with altars tend to behave.

Though not always.  Some people realized that the futility of it all and smashed their altars to bits.  I hope conservatives choose this course.  I hope they realize that to keep doing the same thing but expecting different results is madness.  I hope they choose to face reality.

No political movement is perfect and no party has all the answers.  A healthy democracy needs a healthy opposition in government (healthy being the key word here).  Blindly opposing everything the other guy does on principle is not healthy at all. But can conservatives be a healthy opposition party?  Only time will tell.  A lack of altars to bad ideas would be a great place to start though...

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Grammar Nazi Gene

I've been reading The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins and while some of the references in it may be a little dated, it is still a great and interesting read.  Every chapter is like:

I never quite realized just how amazing genes are!  They control so much!  I guess I've always been a little anthropocentric in my thinking because as humans we can do things because we learned to do them.  In many cases though, learning had nothing to do with it, it was just the genes telling the organism what to do.  One example he gives is the gene for hygienic behavior in bees.  When larvae gets infected with disease some bees will open the nests and throw the diseased larvae out of the hive thereby keeping the whole hive safe from infection.  Not all bees have this gene though.  The fascinating thing (for me anyway) is that experiments showed that this behavior was not due to one gene sequence but two - one for opening infected nests and one for throwing out sick larvae.  If a bee only has the one they will either just open nests and do nothing or do nothing until someone else opens a nest.  So a hygienic bee is a bee with both the genes.  Nature, it's pretty amazing right?

So that got me thinking.  How much of my behavior comes from my genes?  Certainly not all, maybe not most but surely some, right?  I'm really wondering about that because someone put this sign up in my neighbourhood and it is driving me NUTS!

Honey bee's what?  You move Wendy's what?  What?!  WHAT?!?!

Why do people who can't use apostrophes upset me so?  Is there a grammar nazi gene?  Do I have it?  Because it would explain a lot!  I shouldn't care about spelling errors on home made posters but I do!  So much!!  English isn't even my first language but when I see English language spelling and grammar mistakes I have a nearly uncontrollable urge to correct it.  It feels like I'm itching on the inside and the only way I can scratch it is by fixing the mistake! Could it be because both my parents were teachers?  Did they pass on the gene that gives me the urge to whip out a red pen and fix spelling mistakes?  Could such a gene sequence really have evolved?  The other day I was at the hospital and the trilingual sign they had up had a translation error in the Afrikaans part.  It took every bit of self control I had not to get a pen and fix it, even if it meant irking the very people in charge of strapping me into things and sticking needles into me!

I think I have a problem.

You know what?  No.  I'm not the one with the problem!  People who can't use apostrophes, they're the ones with the problem!!

Monday, October 29, 2012

A DBAA Intermission featuring Duck Sex

The last couple of posts I wrote were a lot of fun but also rather frustrating.  Sure, it's cathartic to rail against the religious assholes of the world but there is also the depressing certainty that none of it matters.  Those guys are never going to stop.  They're certainly not going to change their minds because someone on the internet wrote a ranty open letter on his blog.  They are high and mighty and secure in their power and no amount of ranting and railing will change a damn thing.

So to cheer myself up I looked up some funny videos on Youtube.  One of them was my favourite awkward love song - it may be the sweetest and dirtiest thing ever - by comedy music duo Garfunkle & Oates.  That's when I found this video, which also happened to be be in response to something Pat Robertson said:

I loved it and it gave me hope.  Mark Driscoll, Pat Robertson and guys like them will probably always be assholes but that's no reason to throw in the towel.  This may be the perfect response to statements made by Pat and his ilk.  Laughing, mocking, pointing out how wrong they are and how stupid they sound is the way to go.  Firstly because they're making statements that are patently ridiculous and so calling them out and mocking them for it is totally called for.  But secondly, most importantly, it displays their powerlessness. 

These so called "men of God" often hide behind their titles, their office, their "anointing".  They expect respect because they claim to have a direct line to the Almighty.  Nothing disproves this better than mocking them.  You will not be struck dead on the spot, you won't get hit with a dread disease.  Take my word on this, you will not be devoured by bears for calling Pat Robertson an asshole on the internet.  They have nothing.  No magical anointing to strike you down, no Jesus magic to vex you with.  They don't have the ear of the Almighty nor do they have access to dread mystic powers of the Divine.  They may paint themselves as prophets cut from the same cloth as Moses and Elijah but they have nothing on those guys.

That's not to say they have no power at all.  They do have power, of course they do.  But this is power given to them - not by any deity, but by people like you and me.  They have the power of influence.  Whenever people take Mark Driscoll's sermons to heart, they give him power.  Whenever someone asks Pat Robertson for advice and they take it, they give him power.  They have power because we let them have power.  That's all they have.  If tomorrow everyone decides that these men are terrible human beings and not worthy of giving advice to anyone they will have no more power.  None.  They only have as much power as is given to them by those who take them seriously.

This is why mocking is good.  This is why ranting and railing and pointing out how very wrong they are is valuable.  Sure, it may not change much but it does change something.  It displays to the world - and all those who believe they have a direct line to God - that they are actually nothing to be scared of.  They talk a good game but they got nothing.  And who knows, maybe you can convince a former follower to rethink their loyalty.  Even if you influence only one person, that's one less person they can draw power from.  So do it!  Call them out!  Call them stupid, show how wrong they are.  Mock them, expose them, shout it from the rooftops!  If you undermine their influence you take their power.  Doesn't that sound like a worthy goal?  Let's starve these motherfuckers!

Friday, October 26, 2012

DBAA: to orphans

Dear Pat Robertson,

How much do you know about South Africa?  Did you know that we have 11 national languages?  It's true!  This country is home to so many languages and cultures and ethnic groups, it will make your head spin!  Now we all may differ on a lot of issues but there are also a whole lot of things we all agree on.  Respect for your elders is a pretty big one.  Some cultural groups here actually worship their ancestors so respect for the elderly is pretty much a religious duty.  In my culture it's not so much religious but it's pretty damn important.  In Afrikaner culture,  respect for our elders is a value that (for many in my generation at least) was quite literally beaten into us.  We treat elders with reverence and we address them in a respectful manner at all times.  This is a deep kind of programming I cannot get past.  Even when I'm sitting next to a really racist old person on the bus, I find myself unable to do anything but grit my teeth, force a smile and nod while I wait for them to leave.  Being polite and respectful to the elderly is pretty much in my DNA.

I mention all this so you can understand the full weight of what I'm about to say.  You are a terrible, horrible person.  You are such a horrible human being that my cultural programming doesn't even try to kick in when you're concerned.  You've been kind of an asshole for years now, giving terrible advice on a wide range of topics, but now you've completely crossed the line.  I'm referring to this:

You evil motherfucker!  You do realize you're on a Christian network right?  Was it too much to ask for you to even fake being a Christian for the duration of your show?  There is a name for people like you.  You're an antichrist.  Literally.  Jesus said to take care of the orphans and the outcasts and you are telling people to do the opposite.  Anti - Christ.  That's you.

Seriously?  "A man doesn't want to take care of the United Nations"?  "United Nations"? Is that racist old white guy code speak for "not white"?  Yeah, that's not fooling anyone.  "You don't have to take on somebody else's problem"?  Yeah that's the Gospel right there.  Not the Gospel of Jesus Christ obviously.  The Gospel according to Ayn Rand perhaps but not Jesus.  Oh, and you love orphans?  You love helping people?  Yeah sure!  All you ask is that they stay far away from you with their icky orphan hands and their weirdness.  Heaven forbid they get any dirt on your nice things!  You'll help them, they just need to stay far far away.  Yeah, that's not love.  Love means getting involved.  Love means getting dirty.  Love means partaking in the pain of others.  Your "love" for orphans is really just love for Pat Robertson and his clean, comfortable life.

And you know what?  If that's how you feel that's your choice.  No one was forcing you to take care of any broken people.  Not everyone is equipped to help and care for others.  Not everyone wants to.  But that's not the issue here.  The issue is that you're flat out commanding people not to care.  You, in your role as the Respected and Anointed Man of God Pat Robertson, is telling a woman who clearly has her heart and her home open to help those in need that she is wrong to help them and she is wrong to expect anyone else not to be a massive dick about it.  That is so fucking wrong I don't think there's a word to describe its wrongness!  Do you even listen to yourself?  You say that these children are being starved and abused and molested and your conclusion is that it is therefore better to leave them in such a living hell?  Really old man?  Better?  Better for who?  Sure as hell not for them!!

You are the worst, Pat Robertson.  The WORST!  I cannot and will not respect you.  Respect is earned and you have earned none of mine.  You're an asshole and if that wasn't bad enough, you're using your position to reshape others into your asshole image.  That needs to stop.  Be an asshole on your own time if you have to.  Don't try to rationalize and normalize your terrible personal views.  Don't pass it on to others.  Don't make assholes feel better about their behavior by telling them they're in the right and the people doing good things are actually in the wrong.  When you do that you are exponentially multiplying the evil in this world.  Stop. that. shit.  If you're not going to be a force for good, then at least try not to be a force for wickedness.  Don't be an asshole.  Asshole.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

DBAA: With your family legacy

Dear Franklin Graham,

You're not fooling anyone.  I know you think you are.  You think you're being oh so clever, using your famous dad to say your words like he's your own personal muppet.  Shame on you!  You're not being clever, you're being an asshole!

Seriously, did you not think anyone would notice?  When the Billy Graham who has been steering clear of politics for decades suddenly starts sending out statements full of Republican Party talking points, did you not think anyone would ask questions?  When suddenly everything your dad allegedly says starts sounds exactly like what you've been saying, did you not think anyone would put 2 and 2 together?  Come on!  First you pretend like he weighed in on Chick-Fil-A and now you're pretending like he took out the following full page ad:

"The legacy we leave behind for our children, grandchildren, and this great nation is crucial. As I approach my 94th birthday, I realize this election could be my last. I believe it is vitally important that we cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel. I urge you to vote for those who protect the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman. Vote for biblical values this November 6, and pray with me that America will remain one nation under God."

Yeah right!  That wasn't your dad, that was all you!  Everyone knows it!  I bet you think that people look at these anti-gay, anti-woman statements and go "Well geez if Billy Graham - Protestant Pope - thinks so then I better change my vote!"  They don't.  I can link you to some blogs and facebook discussions if you'd like.  Mostly the reaction is just eye rolling and people saying "Great!  Franklin is at it again!  What a douche!"  Like I said, you ain't fooling no one.  This is all you and everyone knows it.

Now I realize that I could be wrong.  Maybe these are the words and thoughts of Billy Graham.  Maybe at 93, with advanced Parkinsons, your dad decided to become the Culture Warrior he never showed any interest in being before.  Maybe.  But I have my doubts.  See my grandpa is 94.  He doesn't have any serious illnesses like your dad and to this day his mind is like a diamond - clear and sharp.  But he's still 94 and 94 is old.  His eyesight is gone and his hearing isn't far behind.  He can still walk but it's clearly with great difficulty.  He may have some strong opinions but he's not involved in a whole lot of activism these days.  He doesn't write letters and he certainly doesn't get involved in any projects these days.  He's not alone in that either.  Nelson Mandela is also 94 and when was the last time you saw him giving any speeches?  I think that when you're in your 90's you don't really want to pick fights anymore.  By 94 you've done your bit, you've passed on the torch to the next generation and you're just trying to live your last years with as much quiet dignity as you can manage.  Well that's been my experience with every 94 year old I've ever known, but like I said, your experience may be different.  I just really really doubt it.  I think he did pass the torch to you.  I also think you took that torch and promptly set fire to everything your dad built in his lifetime.

You can probably tell that I don't really care for you Franklin.  Frankly, I think you're a snake (and that's really the kindest way I can put it).  But I really liked your dad.  Billy Graham was someone I really used to look up to.  He wasn't like most spiritual celebrities.  He wasn't involved in any sex scandals, he wasn't constantly asking people for more money and I never heard him make any claims of magical healing powers.  His ministry was inclusive, not exclusive.  He was for interfaith outreach and desegregation long before it was popular.  In fact back in 2008 I wrote a blog post listing some of the Christians of note I really admired and his name was first on the list.  Four short years ago I really admired your dad, as did most people.  Saints, sinners, Christians and heathens (for the most part) could agree that Billy Graham was not like the others.  He was a good guy.  You think that's still the consensus after the shit you pulled recently?

My parent's generation may still go to their graves admiring him but my generation has had their memories of the man thoroughly sullied.  Still, that's nothing compared to the new generation.  All he will ever be to them is "that old bigot, Billy Graham".  That's on YOU Franklin Graham, that's all on you.  You did that.  You destroyed the good legacy of Billy Graham and replaced it with something terrible.  And for what?  Really, what did you gain from all this?

So please, won't you take your father's alleged words to heart and think of your legacy?  Don't be an asshole.  But, if you really can't help yourself and you just for some reason have to be an asshole then please, speak for yourself.  Don't be an asshole on behalf of your dad.  But seriously though, give strong consideration to just not being an asshole, period.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

DBAA: About Esther

Dear Mark Driscoll,

OK, we get it - you don't like women!  You've made it abundantly clear by now that you consider "feminine" to be synonymous with "inferior" and "feminist" to be synonymous with "the worst thing ever".  So seeing as how you've already firmly established this fact, was it really necessary to hammer that home by taking a massive shit on Esther?  You wrote the following about her:

"She grows up in a very lukewarm religious home as an orphan raised by her cousin. Beautiful, she allows men to tend to her needs and make her decisions. Her behavior is sinful and she spends around a year in the spa getting dolled up to lose her virginity with the pagan king like hundreds of other women. She performs so well that he chooses her as his favorite. Today, her story would be, a beautiful young woman living in a major city allows men to cater to her needs, undergoes lots of beauty treatment to look her best, and lands a really rich guy whom she meets on The Bachelor and wows with an amazing night in bed. She’s simply a person without any character until her own neck is on the line, and then we see her rise up to save the life of her people when she is converted to a real faith in God."

Seriously guy?  Is there no bottom to your misogyny?  You can actually read the book of Esther and manage come up with THAT interpretation?  I know you're not a fan of the womens but really, does your hatred and scorn really run that deep? 

You claim to be a Bible scholar, did you at any point during the preparation of your sermon series on the book of Esther actually read the book of Esther?  First off, little orphan Esther was nothing like "a beautiful young woman living in a major city".  For her to be an unmarried virgin in those days she would have been extremely young.  I'm pretty confident scholars and historians would back me on the fact that she would have been past puberty but probably still under what we would consider the age of consent in today's society - somewhere between 13 and 16 years old.  But fine, you probably don't really have much respect for godless concepts like "scholarship" or "historical accuracy".  So let's stick to the one thing you claim to be a student of.  Let's see what the Bible actually says.

Esther was not some pretty young thing who used her feminine wiles and evil lady parts to snag the king.  Here's how she ended up with her future husband:

"Then the king’s personal attendants proposed, “Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king. Let the king appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all these beautiful young women into the harem at the citadel of Susa. Let them be placed under the care of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let beauty treatments be given to them. Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.” This advice appealed to the king, and he followed it. "  (Est 2:2-4)

She did not "land a rich guy", she and countless other young girls were forcibly drafted into the king's harem.  Refusal was not an option.  This king did not take very kindly to women telling him "no".  It's right there in the first chapter where we find out what happened to the previous queen.  When the king - in the middle of a big boozy bender - ordered queen Vashti to present herself at his party "in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles" (whatever THAT may have implied..) she refused and so she ended up stripped of her crown and banished from the king's presence for life.  He decided to make an example of her for the whole empire to see in order to insure that women everywhere didn't get any silly ideas about saying "no" to their husbands:

"“Queen Vashti has done wrong, not only against the king but also against all the nobles and the peoples of all the provinces of King Xerxes. For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women, and so they will despise their husbands and say, ‘King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come.’ This very day the Persian and Median women of the nobility who have heard about the queen’s conduct will respond to all the king’s nobles in the same way. There will be no end of disrespect and discord.  “Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she. Then when the king’s edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest.”  The king and his nobles were pleased with this advice, so the king did as Memukan proposed. He sent dispatches to all parts of the kingdom, to each province in its own script and to each people in their own language, proclaiming that every man should be ruler over his own household, using his native tongue." (Est 1:16-22)

Also, being conscripted into a harem is not like going on a date.  Here is how that process went:

"Before a young woman’s turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics. And this is how she would go to the king: Anything she wanted was given her to take with her from the harem to the king’s palace. In the evening she would go there and in the morning return to another part of the harem to the care of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the concubines. She would not return to the king unless he was pleased with her and summoned her by name." (Est 2:12-14)

So yeah, nothing like  going on a date and wowing a dude with how awesome you are at sex.  Harems were for life.  Once a girl went in she had to stay there, regardless of whether the king liked her or wanted to see her ever again.  Does any of this sound romantic to you?  Do you really see feminine wiles at play here?  Because to me this seems like a terrible thing.  To me this seems like sexual slavery.  Clearly not to you though!

So, we have a very young girl who gets rounded up by state officials because she's pretty and then gets thrown in a harem - which will be her new permanent home.  You see all that - I mean you have to see it, it says it all RIGHT THERE IN THE BIBLE YOU CLAIM TO STUDY - and you come away with "Her behavior is sinful and she spends around a year in the spa getting dolled up to lose her virginity with the pagan king like hundreds of other women. She performs so well that he chooses her as his favorite. Today, her story would be, a beautiful young woman living in a major city allows men to cater to her needs, undergoes lots of beauty treatment to look her best, and lands a really rich guy whom she meets on The Bachelor and wows with an amazing night in bed."  Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you??  Is it physically impossible for you to not be a giant asshole where women are concerned?  Oh and of course the only reason the king would have picked her would be the fact that she wowed him with an amazing night in the sack, there's no way it could have been anything else about her right?  It couldn't have been her personality or intelligence or character could it, because you got women all figured out.  You know what they're good for.

The problem is that you're not just an asshole, you're an asshole with a congregation.  A large one.  Full of young men and women.  And you are infecting them with your incredibly dickish view of the world.  Stop it.  For the sake of everything you believe is holy, just stop.  Don't pass on your baseless disdain for women to a new generation of young men.  Don't feed the insecurities the young women in your congregation probably already struggle with.  Just let them have one of the very few female heroes in the Bible without turning her into some opportunistic young slut.  Don't be an asshole.  Especially don't be an asshole to Esther.  She deserves better.

Monday, October 1, 2012

DBAA: About Elections

Dear American Conservative Christians,

Thank you for making me feel like an idiot.  I know none of you actually read it but 4 years ago, when I was still a fresh faced young Christian blogger full of hope and optimism, I wrote you guys a letter.  The elections were drawing near and I had noticed that there were a lot of (conservative Christian) people in the US that were very worried about what it would mean if Obama won.  So because I was under the impression that you guys were just operating under some bad assumptions, I opened my heart and shared a bit of my own story on how things went when my own country - South Africa - suddenly went from an almost exclusively Christian Conservative country to a Liberal, Secular state almost overnight.  We had all the same worries back then (well some of us did) and things ended up much better (or at least not as terrible) as was initially feared.  I thought that would be helpful because, naive simpleton that I was, I thought you guys were legitimately worried.  Clearly I was wrong.  You were just being assholes.

I'm sorry, does my language offend you?  Tough!  Your entire attitude offends me!  You didn't care about the truth at all.  I mistakenly thought you guys cared about facts when all you cared about was fearmongering.  If that doesn't make you an asshole, what does?

Go ahead, read what I wrote to you in October 2008.  While you're there, check out the letters by Focus on the Family and Janet Folger (reposted right here in this line for your convenience!) that prompted me to write my letter in the first place.  Who did a better job of predicting the future?  Be honest, if you still remember how.  It was me!  The stuff they scared you with absolutely did not come to pass* while my advice was pretty spot on if I do say so myself.  The fact that I was right just makes this sting even more.  I should have seen through you even back then.

I see clearly now how this was never about being accurate or truthful to you people.  If it was you would have admitted you overreacted and changed your tune.  But you didn't.  Like the Harold Campings and Alex Jones' of the world your predictions failed but you just went ahead and made them again as if you haven't been so very wrong every time before.  That is not the actions of a moral person, it's the actions of a fearmongering asshole desperately grasping for control over a small scared group of people (and their wallets).  I should have known!  I saw enough of the of the crap you're shilling during the last gasp of Apartheid.  Congratulations, you fooled me!

I hope you feel great about yourselves.  See you and I and your friends over at the news networks know that you're just telling scary campfire stories.  Sure, you all put on serious faces but you know it's not really true.  But not everyone does.  Every now and again, some mentally unstable person takes you seriously and then does the only thing that anyone who ACTUALLY believes you can logically do - they kill people:

  "Albert Peterson shot dead his wife and two sons hours after going to church because he dreaded the thought of Obama winning the election, a family friend has revealed.

    A confidante of the family for the past 25 years has spoken to MailOnline about the strength and grace of the Peterson family, as well as the torment that plagued Albert which drove him to shoot dead his wife Kathleen and his two sons Christopher and Mathew at their suburban home [near] DC on Sunday.

    A history of mental illness, the loss of a dear uncle, and a growing fear of Obama winning a second term in the White House took its toll on the mind of Mr Peterson, a wealthy defense contractor, the friend said."

Don't you dare stand there shaking your heads in sympathy you whitewashed graves!  You should thank your God that more people don't take you seriously.  I mean if someone truly believed that abortion was mass murder on a far greater scale than anything Hitler ever did, why wouldn't they shoot up a clinic?  What kind of person who actually believes babies are being murdered could do any less?  And how can actually believing your bullshit about death panels killing old people and Christians being rounded up into camps to be exterminated not seriously consider shooting someone?  No, really, answer me that you fucking vipers!

But that's not going to change a damn thing, is it?  You're still going to do your best to frighten the shit out of your gullible flock and they are going to listen to you and donate to you and vote the way you tell them to and when - not if - when you're proven wrong again, you will nevertheless do exactly the same thing again when the next election.  So you know what, I don't see the point in even trying to talk sense into you leaders.

Instead, I'm putting this angry letter online in the rather naive hope that maybe one of your followers will read it and have second thoughts.  Conservative Christian, you are being lied to by your leaders.  I'm not saying Obama is a saint and you should vote for him.  Hell there are some great reasons to not support him but you won't hear any of those from your leaders.  Instead they're going to sell you fantasies about coming persecutions and a 1000 years of darkness.  Don't buy into that!  And for the love of all that is good, don't pass on their lies to your friends and family!  I swear, I am not telling you who to vote for.  I'm just asking you for one simple thing.  Don't be an asshole.  Simple as that.  Hell you probably already adhere to that rule when you're in a parking lot or standing in line at the store or interacting with your neighbours.  It's just basic human decency.  That's all I'm asking for.

Don't be an asshole about the elections.  Don't lie about the future.  Don't make up stories.  Don't repeat predictions that are as false now as there were the first 100 times someone made them.  Don't act like you believe them.  No!  Debunk them instead!!  Keep calm and go with your conscience, not your basest fears.  When you find yourself tempted just remember DBAA - Don't Be An Asshole.  Then go forth and don't be one.  You'll be a happier person for it and you will never have to worry that maybe you were complicit in the deaths of anyone.


If you want to see these "predictions" thoroughly demolished, check out Libby Anne's blog.  She does a great job going through these false prophecies bit by bit right here.  Don't trust them and their suits and smiling pious faces.  They lied before and they are lying now.  They are not the "men of God" they are pretending to be.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Intro to Comedy (for non Comedians)

Do you like telling jokes?  Would you like to be thought of as funny?  Hilarious even?  Well I can't promise you that I can make you funny.  But if you are often left scratching your head as to why people just don't seem to appreciate your awesome sense of humour I may be able to help you be less not-funny!

If you're the type of person who finds themselves asking "Why is it OK for those guys to tell this joke but if I tell it then I'm a jerk?" or "How come she gets to joke on this topic/he gets to use that word and I can't?"  Then you've come to the right place!

Alright, you may be skeptical about how much I can help.  After all I'm no comedian.  It's true!  I'm not!  But if you read carefully you would have noted that this is an intro to comedy for people who are NOT comedians.  You know, every day folk.  People who do comedy for a living are in their own league, I would no more attempt to explain comedy to them than I would attempt to tell a surgeon how to operate.  No, this is written for people who just like to tell the odd joke around the water cooler or dinner table.  Now if you checked out my "satire" tag you may also have some doubts as to my qualifications there.  I admit, I'm more "funny" than funny.  More MAS* than LOL.  Still, I think I figured something out and I'm happy to share it with you.  Besides, you're the one who asked why you don't get to tell some kinds of jokes!  You asked, I'm answering.  For FREE!  So what will it hurt to just hear me out?

As with just about every skill, if you want to be good at something, you need to understand the fundamentals.  Get your fundamentals right and the sky's the limit.  (Or your level of talent, whichever kicks in first)

The first and most important fundamental you have to grasp is that humour flows UP while cruelty flows DOWN.  When someone at the bottom makes fun of the guy at the top, that's funny.  When the guy at the top makes fun of the guy at the bottom, it's mean.  It's very simple and you would think everyone would grasp this but it seems like a lot of people don't!  Think about it for a second will you.  Guy kicks a tiger in the butt, that's slapstick**.  Guy kicks a kitten that's horror.  One makes you Charlie Chaplin, the other one just makes you a cat killer.  Make sense?  OK, think about this.  Everyone gets together and roasts the boss.  This is funny and even if the jokes get a little risque and personal, everyone has a good laugh.  Now switch out the boss and replace him with the elderly janitor.  Now the whole company banding together to make jokes at his expense is no longer funny, it's cruel.

Please tell me you can see that.

Like I recently tried to explain, laughter, satire and outright mocking can be really healing and empowering.  As The Slacktivist pointed out (by linking to my blog!!***) there is a catch though.  This only applies to the powerless using it against the powerful.  When you don't have any power, when you are disrespected and treated like dirt then humour is really all you have.  Humour can restore your humanity, it can make you feel whole again.  To someone else it may sound like you're just being terribly disrespectful and obscene (which may be true) but it also loosens the hold other people have over you and it armors you against their assaults on your dignity.

For example, years ago in a popular South African family gossip mag there was this article on a guy fighting against "dumb blonde" jokes.  He was up in arms that people dared to make jokes disparaging blondes because in reality blondes are smart and awesome so how very dare we?  I remember the one argument he made was that people wouldn't dare make those same jokes about black women while it was acceptable to make them about blonde women.  And he was completely right.  He also didn't understand this first principle of humour.  See we can all laugh at blonde jokes but that's because they are only jokes.  If you go to the doctor and she's blonde you're not going to doubt her prognosis.  You're never going to fire someone if you meet them and find out they're blonde.  He was right, blonde's are awesome, at least in our culture they are.  They can play ditzes or nuclear physicists in our movies and no one will bat an eye.  We shower them with praise and consider them the pinnacle of physical beauty.  Blondes, in other words, are at the top of the pyramid here.  Black women, not so much.  Especially here in South Africa where until recently they were considered dumb and primitive and just barely not animals.  So changing "dumb blonde" to "dumb black" wouldn't be funny, it would be incredibly hurtful.  I get that his pyramid is subjective and may be different in different cultures but the fact remains that humour goes up, cruelty goes down.  Without exception.

That brings me to the second important fundamental of jokes - in particular jokes made at someone else's expense.  Put-downs shouldn't actually put anyone down.  OK I bet that didn't make much sense now did it.  Consider this.  On this blog I sometimes make fun of certain powerful but rather loony religious figures.  You could even say that I put them down.  But what exactly is down about them after I "put them down"?  Do they have less money?  Less power?  Less followers?  Less influence?  Not at all.  All I get out of it is that I feel a little bit better and I cope a little better with the insanity of living in a world were people like Pat Robertson get to be massively influential.  Or, for a more secular example, consider reality TV stars (for an awesome discussion on this very principle, do yourself a favour and check out this discussion of the ill fated show H8R).  Let's say I let loose with a really vitriolic rant about how Snooki or Honey Boo Boo child or Kim Kardashian is just the worst thing to happen to civilization since the sack of Rome.  What have I really done to them?  They will still be making obscene amounts of money for being generally obscene and people will continue hanging on their every vapid word as though it was worth something.  There, now that I've vented I feel better and they are no worse off.  But let's say I didn't spit all that bile at a famous person.  Let's say you and me are in High School and I'm bigger and stronger and more popular than you and I enjoy telling you what a terrible waste of space you are (amongst other, far worse things).  Now those put downs are actually putting you down.  In this scenario, I'm not just shaking my fist at the "stars" above, I'm making your life a living hell.  I'm a bully and I'm making you feel like shit.  The Kardashians couldn't care less what I think but you would if I was your bully.

Again, please tell me this makes sense to you.  Because if you can't see that you have a very real problem.  See the problem is maybe not that the word is too oversensitive to appreciate your radical humour.  There is a chance that the problem is not that the world has gotten to damn politically correct.  The problem may very well be that you are aiming your humour in the wrong direction.  You may be more of a bully than a comedian.  So, if people are complaining about your jokes and are just not finding them funny at all, here are two "why" questions you should seriously consider asking yourself.

1 - Why are people so offended by what I've said?  No, don't make it about people being oversensitive and PC, think about it.  Please.  Ask this question seriously.  Do these people have a reason?  What is it?  Is it maybe a good reason?  Don't get mad, get curious.  Ask that question and really look for the answer.  If you'd like an example, check out this clip (that I sadly cannot embed) from Louie.  Be warned, it features some very off colour jokes but about 5 minutes in, it makes a sudden U-turn and becomes thought provoking and serious.   I'm not asking you to change.  I'm asking you to think.  I'm asking you to just take a few moments to consider how your hilarious comment may have sounded to that guy who didn't think it was funny at all.  I'm not saying the problem is definitely with you, I'm just asking you to ask "why?".

2 - Why do I need to make this joke?  No, seriously.  That really out there joke you made that got people mad at you, did you have to go there?  Why?  I remember in college we used to love making Holocaust jokes.  No specific reason, we just thought they funny I guess.  None of us were German or Jewish so no one was getting hurt by it and no one asked us to stop.  It's just that one day, seemingly out of the blue this question started to bug me.  No idea why.  But I couldn't shake it.  Why did I need to make Holocaust jokes?  Of all the nearly infinite amount of things in the universe I could make jokes about, why did it have to be that?  So I started asking my friends and they didn't know either.  Eventually we stopped.  Looking back, those jokes weren't really all that funny anyway...

Now I know that last example is going to rub some of you the wrong way.  People get very excitable when you suggest that some topics should be off limit.  That's not what I'm saying though.  I value free speech extremely highly.  I would NEVER tell you that you are not allowed to make a certain type of joke.  I'm not telling you what you can and cannot say.  I'm just asking why you need to say it.  Have you ever bothered asking that question?  Do you have any answer at all for that question?  We can get into a very heated debate about whether rape jokes are funny or whether it should be OK to tell jokes about child/spousal abuse but I'm not trying to tell you what you're supposed to find funny or acceptable.  I'm just asking you why you feel you need those.  Also, I'm asking you to just ask why people are offended by it.  Really ask.  Ask as a real question that you actually want a real answer to.  That is all.

Lastly, you just need to remember rule one for non-comedian comedy:  DBaA - Don't Be an Asshole.  See, professional comedians can do that, they are highly trained professionals.  You're not.  In the real world, people don't laugh at assholes, they despise them.  I'm not suggesting you only make the kind of jokes they tell at church camp prayer meetings.  You can get as crazy, off coloured or obscene with it as your audience**** allows, just remember what I said in the beginning about knowing up from down and you should do fine.  You can be mean, mocking or outrageous without being an asshole.  Make a joke about how much the president sucks at everything he does and it's funny.  Make that joke about your wife and you're an asshole.  Simple as that!

*Mildly Amused Smirk.
**Provided this was a free roaming tiger that can now chase the hapless kicker up a tree or something.  If the tiger is in a cage it's the other thing...
***Fred Clark, thank you so much for repeatedly linking to articles on my blog.  You have no idea how much that means to me.  You are probably my favourite blogger of all time so being quoted on your blog is like being blessed by the pope!  Except, you know, meaningful!
****This should go without saying so I didn't even bother to include it but READ THE ROOM!