Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Following After a False God

Readers of my blog may know that I am unimpressed with the evidence for threats to mankind caused by Global Warming.

So when a group of Evangelical leaders published "Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action." I was annoyed by several issues on several levels.
  • As I review the list of signatories I see many names that I know by reputation, some leaders that I have heard teach or preach, many that I admire. But I see none with the technical qualifications to sift through the mountains of ambiguous data on global climate trends and arrive at a coherent, defensible conclusion.
  • The signatories have relied for their conclusions on government agencies that have a vested interest in promoting Global Warming as a crisis. If you create a body named the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it is inevitable as day follows night that they will produce document validating their existence as a body.
  • Is global warming caused by human industrialization? What caused the Medieval Climate Optimum? What caused the cooling the followed, called the Little Ice Age? And what, oh Mighty Brain Trust, caused the warming following the Little Ice Age which began in the 1850s, before industrialization had added significant amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere?
  • All predictions about global warming are based on computer-based simulations. The climate of the planet Earth is massively more complex than can be recreated within a computer. Thus, any climate model must require massive simplification of the actual physical process. Unfortunately, these simplifications inject an unacceptable amount of human judgment into the process. They often multiply short-term fluctuations that are of interest to the modeler into long-term trends.
Back in the early days of recreational computing, there was a simple program called Biorhythm. It purported to track various physical cycles in your body and, calculating the time elapsed from your birthdate, tell you when you would be having an optimum day. It was all crap. It was pseudoscience based on 19th-century numerology. But because it spewed out of a computer, people started arranging their days around these rhythms.

The Call to Action states:
Even small rises in global temperatures will have such likely impacts as: sea level rise; more frequent heat waves, droughts, and extreme weather events such as torrential rains and floods; increased tropical diseases in now-temperate regions; and hurricanes that are more intense. It could lead to significant reduction in agricultural output, especially in poor countries. Low-lying regions, indeed entire islands, could find themselves under water. (This is not to mention the various negative impacts climate change could have on God’s other creatures.)
And Michael Crichton is pilloried as a sensationalist for his potboiler, State of Fear!

Ladies and gentlemen, nobody knows what the result of global warming will be. It may produce more rain, longer growing seasons, greater crop production, less reliance on fossil fuels for heat. How dare you stand in the way of the poorest benefiting from the great boon! Is my speculation nonsense? No less so than what is predicted in the Call to Action.

Why is this a matter to be addressed by theologians at all? Is it a matter of the nature of God? Is it the undoubted result of scriptural scholarship?

The reason that I have named this entry "Following After a False God" is because that is how I see this petition. In it, Evangelical leaders are not calling people back to God, they are calling Evangelicals to follow a social and political movement. In it, noted Evangelical leaders join with people who are advancing a viewpoint based on material self-interest (grants, jobs, and noteriety). These leaders are placing a bet that the transnational "Ecology" movement is right about the reality of global warming, the causes of global warming, and the reversability of global warming.

But if global warming is real, what can we do? According to The Independent, it's already too late! It's the Apocalypse!

Can you tell I'm upset?

Of course, this being a church-related matter, we can't just say thanks, I'll pass.

Oh, no.

We have to have a crackpot circulate a petition refuting the claims made in the Call to Action. Of course, the contrary petition had to have more signatures that anybody else's petition, so the petition, supposedly signed by 15,000 scientists was "signed" by posting the text to a website and having unrestricted access to the "signing":

Several environmental groups questioned dozens of the names: "Perry S. Mason" (the fictitious lawyer?), "Michael J. Fox" (the actor?), "Robert C. Byrd" (the senator?), "John C. Grisham" (the lawyer-author?). And then there's the Spice Girl, a.k.a. Geraldine Halliwell: The petition listed "Dr. Geri Halliwell" and "Dr. Halliwell."

Asked about the pop singer, Robinson said he was duped. The returned petition, one of thousands of mailings he sent out, identified her as having a degree in microbiology and living in Boston. "It's fake," he said.

"When we're getting thousands of signatures there's no way of filtering out a fake," Robinson, 56, said in a telephone interview from Oregon.

A May 1, 1998, AP article reported that the petition also bore the signatures of "Drs. '[Maj.] Frank Burns' '[Capt. B.J.] Honeycutt*' and '[Capt. Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye"]Pierce'" -- three characters from the hit sitcom M*A*S*H.

Thanks guys. Thanks a pantfull. Please stay off my side in the future, ya hear?

People worrying about crafty Fundamentalists undermining the government in their infinitely subtle ways? Don't make me laugh. I'm much more worried about the Cub Scouts staging a coupe d'etat.

What if the prediction of global warming are as bogus as they seem to me? The transnational progressive scare-mongers will have moved on, just as they did when the predicted "population bomb" turned out to be a dud, when the Club of Rome models failed, and when the "global cooling" didn't occur. But Evangelical leaders who support false prophets should be held accountable for their leading their followers astray.

If this is truly an issue where these men and women wish to speak with the prophetic voice, let them be held accountable to the prophecy. If it all depends on science which is out of their control or understanding, let them be silent.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Things Change

I'm listening to AccuRadio.com at work--the Sixties subchannel is a time machine to my teens--and Love is Blue by Paul Mauriat pops on.

*Shudder*

If you watched the episode of Millennium, "Room With No View," you will remember that Love is Blue is the song that Lucy Butler had looped endlessly to her captives.

No big insights, just that after 6 years that song gives me the willies.

Friday, February 10, 2006

McGovern and the Presidential Campaign of 1968

The delightfully named James Taranto writes about a recent speech by a long-ago Presidential candidate:
The delightfully named ex-politician George McGovern, who lost the 1972 presidential election in a landslide, showed up yesterday in Corte Madera, Calif., and the Marin Independent Journal covered the speech in an article headlined "McGovern Gets the Last Laugh." According to the paper, McGovern sounded "like the kind of wise old sage he wishes the current occupant of the White House would listen to":
Despite a decisive defeat, his Vietnam War-era campaign--the subject of the recent documentary "One Bright Shining Moment"--will be remembered for bringing disenfranchised hippies, blacks, peace protesters and feminists into the Democratic fold on a platform of peace and social justice.

On Thursday, McGovern didn't have to remind anyone that Nixon, his old nemesis, ended up resigning in disgrace over the Watergate scandal.

"I went to Richard Nixon's funeral," he reminisced, "and as I listened to the various views being offered that day, the thought went through my mind that, even from his personal standpoint, he'd have been better off if I had won."
OK, so McGovern was in some sense vindicated by Nixon's resignation--and by the next two elections. In 1974 the McGovernized Democrats made substantial gains in both the House and Senate, to which they added slightly in 1976. In 1977 a Democrat became president and the 93rd Congress began, with Democrats holding 61 Senate and 292 House seats.

But it's been all downhill since then. Republicans made gains in 1978, and in neither house of Congress have the Democrats equaled their 1977 peak. The GOP has won five of the past seven presidential elections, and no Democratic candidate since 1976 has received a majority of the popular vote. In 1980 Ronald Reagan won the White House and the GOP took the Senate. Among the Democratic senators defeated that year was one George McGovern of South Dakota. Fourteen years later the Republicans took both houses of Congress.
I've posted about the long decline of the modern Democratic party before. Unlike Mr. Taranto I date it back to at least 1968.

But it is interesting to see people hailing the inclusion into the party the very elements (disenfranchised hippies) that have brought it to present sad estate. (Hey, why were those hippies disenfranchised?)

So what are the 1968 roots of McGovern's rise? (via Wikipedia)
At the 1968 Democratic National Convention, McGovern stood as the flagbearer for some of the supporters of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, losing the Presidential nomination to Hubert H. Humphrey, and coming in behind Minnesota Senator Eugene J. McCarthy as well.

However, during the convention a motion was passed to establish a commission to reform the Democratic Party nomination process. [White pp. 17-20] In 1969 McGovern was named chairman of this Reform Commission; due to the influence of former McCarthy and Kennedy supporters on the staff, the commission significantly reduced the role of party officials and insiders in the nomination process, increased the role of caucuses and primaries, and mandated quotas for proportional black, women, and youth delegate representation. [White pp. 24-33]

These changes eventually facilitated McGovern's successful own nomination at the 1972 Convention.

The rules reforms that began in that commission eventually led to the reduction of non-committed convention delegates. This led to the absolute necessity of candidates showing strong gains in the earliest primaries and caucuses (Iowa and New Hampshire.)

Though these gains did open up the process and reduce the influence of the "smoke-filled rooms." It increased the influence of crackpot spoiler candidates who could say irresponsible things and sweep the earliest contests. Instead of a Robert F. Kennedy entering a Presidential campaign six months before the convention, we have Al Sharpton stumping for the Iowa caucuses one year before the convention.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Putting the "Fun" Back in Fundamentalism

Taleena, responding to this post, has written:
I want to chime in the comparisons between fundamentalist Christian reaction and fundamentalist Muslim reaction to depictions or parodies of their sacred symbols and personages.
I know that Taleena is here using a verbal shorthand, but since I have a blog I can obsess over anything I choose. Being an obsessive language nerd and having grown up in a Fundamentalist household, I cringe whenever I hear the term "fundamentalist" applied to radical Islamic viewpoints. I realize that it has now become accepted by overwhelming usage, but it was first used as a lazy way to hang a label on a viewpoint that was poorly understood by the journalists covering it, and it is now being used by those who would draw specious parallels between Christians in the Western democracies and Muslims.

Christian Fundamentalism was a response to modernism, specifically to a de-mythologizing of scripture by European theologians.

Wikipedia's article on Christian Fundamentalism is actually not to shabby. Although I'm sure that a true Fundamentalist scholar would find much to dispute. It's a decent introduction.

The major difference between Christian Fundamentalists and Islamic "fundamentalists" is that while both groups call believers back to a literal acceptance of their respective scriptures,
  • Christian Fundamentalists acknowledge that since they do not have the original autograph manuscripts of their sacred texts, all Biblical scripture is subject to textual criticism.
  • Muslim "fundamentalists" believe that the Koran was dictated by Allah, through the Arch-Angel Jibril, to Muhammad and that the current text of the Koran is identical to what was said by Muhammad to be the Koran .
This distinction arises from the fact that Christian Fundamentalism is a modern (20th century) school of thought that arose in a religious culture based on the Scottish Enlightenment. Islamic "fundamentalism" arose in a stagnant culture as a way to deal with the shame of that culture falling behind the Christian/Secular West in almost every measure.

These are not a small distinctions. They are the difference between "No" and "Perhaps."

For my secular readers, just because you don't agree with Christian Fundamentalists, don't let slapdash labels lead you to conclusions that you can't support intellectually.

Global Cooling!

Reporters report that Scientists say so!
Scientist predicts 'mini Ice Age'

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, Feb. 7 (UPI) -- A Russian astronomer has predicted that Earth will experience a "mini Ice Age" in the middle of this century, caused by low solar activity.

Khabibullo Abdusamatov of the Pulkovo Astronomic Observatory in St. Petersburg said Monday that temperatures will begin falling six or seven years from now, when global warming caused by increased solar activity in the 20th century reaches its peak, RIA Novosti reported.

The coldest period will occur 15 to 20 years after a major solar output decline between 2035 and 2045, Abdusamatov said.

Dramatic changes in the earth's surface temperatures are an ordinary phenomenon, not an anomaly, he said, and result from variations in the sun's energy output and ultraviolet radiation.

The Northern Hemisphere's most recent cool-down period occurred between 1645 and 1705. The resulting period, known as the Little Ice Age, left canals in the Netherlands frozen solid and forced people in Greenland to abandon their houses to glaciers, the scientist said.

Link
Of course, this is all rather speculative; but that's what all climate predictions are: speculation. This one is just about 1000 times less unlikely as the scenario in The Day After Tomorrow. As somebody that has worked in the computer (pardon me, information technology industry) for the last 30 years, including gigs at scientific instrumentation and supercomputer companies, I am touched at the naïveté of unsophisticated people's faith in computer models.

Anybody who tells you that their computer model can predict the weather one year from now is not naïve, they are dishonest. Anybody who tells you that their computer model can predict the climate 100 yeras from now is not a scientist, they are a politician, and a dishonest politician at that.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Is an Imam to be Our Inquisitor?

I am an American Exceptionalist. I believe that in the last half of the 18th century a group of men gathered in a colony of England and, synthesizing Classical Greek and Roman with Nordic and even indigenous Iroquois models of goverment, founded what is today the world's oldest democratic republic.

Every time I think that modern technology has taken us so far from the Founders that their writings may be becoming irrelevant, I encounter a tract, speech, or paragraph that give me a shiver of the uncanny at its current applicability.

This is the case currently with the question of whether or not newspapers will print the cartoons that have been used to incite riots throughout the Middle east. That Stalwart of Liberty, the New York Times, presents an article about the cartoons illustrated by a drawing of the Virgin Mary covered in dung.

In 1814, former president Jefferson's Philadelphia book dealer had some trouble securing a French astronomical work on the creation of the world. Jefferson wrote this:

"Is this then our freedom of religion? and are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule for what we are to read, and what we must believe? It is an insult to our citizens to question whether they are rational beings or not, and blasphemy against religion to suppose it cannot stand the test of truth and reason."
via The Corner

Thankfully I note that there are today a myriad channels of information, and yet there are still some people who long for "an inquisitor" to question "blasphemy against religion."

And no, kids, this does not refer to whether Mom and Dad can force you to go to Sunday school.

I'm Islander, and I'm a Prog-Rock Fan

Yes, I'm a Prog-Rock fan. I started with just a little Yes. I knew that it was wrong, but I told myself I could quit whenever I wanted. Then it was Kansas, E.L.O., and then Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

I listened to songs that filled the entire side of an LP album, 20 minute songs based on a footnote to a commentary to the Veddas. I wept. I got goosebumps when I heard Rick Wakeman's synthisizer work. I was a Trooper.

Well, in the early 1980s, Punk killed Prog. Or did it?

S.T. Karnik holds his own one-man Grammy awards ceremony and gives the nod to several new examples of Prog-Rock:
Among the most promising recent debuts are the appealing retro-progressive rock album Peace Among the Ruins, by Presto Ballet, and Motions of Desire, by the talented Norwegian band Magic Pie (the lyrics of which are sung in English). The latter release is delightfully inventive and enjoyable, with a definite classic song in the 20-minute opening track, “Change,” a tune that spices up classic, Yes-style progressive rock with elements of hard rock, soaring power balladry, folksy pop, jazz fusion, funk, and whatever else they found in their kitchen sink during the recording sessions. These guys can play.

As good as those discs were, the Debut Album of the year is A Doorway to Summer, by Moon Safari, produced by Tomas Bodin of the Swedish prog giants the Flower Kings. Like the legendary rockers Yes, Moon Safari creates long, progressive rock songs filled with memorable melodies and bright, cheerful, musical textures. Acoustic guitar, Hammond organ, analog synthesizers, mellotron, soaring vocal harmonies (all sung in English), and other classic early ’70s sounds are prominent in the mix, and there is real energy in the performances. This is one of the most tuneful, buoyant, and delightful albums of recent years.

I can see that I need to put down those 1970s albums for awhile and listen to some new stuff.

The only thing that gives me hesitation is the thought that the only limit to the length to a song by Yes was the length of an LP album side. Somewag pointed out that it CD technology had been available in 1973, Yes's songs would have been 60 minutes long.

How much room is available on my D: drive?

Selling the Lie

I remember back in the 1980s when the line, "I want my MTV," was current and MTV actually played only, you know, music. At this time the big news was that Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, wasn't in the MTV video rotation. The question on America's lips was, "Would Jackson be the first artist to break MTV's color barrier? Would he be the Jackie Robinson of pop music?"

(This was the cute, black, talented Michael Jackson. The one who was stunning the world with his chart-smashing albums; not the sad, creepy, pedophile Michael Jackson currently hiding out in Bahrain.)

There was a news program at the time that profiled the programming directors of MTV as they decided what videos would make it into their playlist. The image of the programming team, the very heart of MTV, was stunning: it was a corporate boardroom filled with white guys (an two white women) in business suits, planning how they were going to sell their latest picks to their compliant teen viewership. They were listening to the latest hopefuls and deciding which ones fit their corporate image.

The irony of a multi-million-dollar media outlet having a corporate image of raw, working-class hero rebellion was a rich beyond words. But this is the music business; and this is how that business has been run from the beginning.

Jonah Goldberg makes this point in his syndicated column:
I am astounded by the naivete of young people -—- black and white --— who actually buy the canned rebelliousness not just of rap music but of most pop music.

[Kanye] West is simply the latest example of decades of hucksterism. Under the headline "The Passion of Kanye West," the rap star graces the cover of Rolling Stone posing as a bloodied Jesus with a crown of thorns. I particularly enjoy the publicity around the piece. Clearly borrowing from the same press release, publications across the country proclaim that the "outspoken rapper defends his brash attitude inside the magazine."

Ah, yes. It's about time. After all, it's so rare to find a rapper with a brash attitude. Normally they're shy, retiring types overflowing with modesty and humility. I was particularly enamored with the "aw, shucks" Andy Griffith personalities of Niggaz Wit Attitude and the late Tupac Shakur.

...

It'’s all such an obvious con game. We hear so much about how kids today are cynical, skeptical, media-savvy, and so forth. But if they're buying this hooey, they're idiots.

When asked by Rolling Stone if he's worried that his outspokenness might cost him a Grammy, Kanye replied, speaking in the third person: "Kanye is always opinionated and outspoken, and now that it's Grammy time he turns into a house nigga? Come on. That's not even realistic." Right, but the suggestion that the guy with eight Grammy nominations is a pariah, never mind suffering from Christlike persecution, is entirely plausible?

Obviously, none of this is unique to rap or "black" music (quotation marks necessary because white suburban kids are the biggest market for the stuff). Big corporations have been marketing "rebellion" since the 1950s. And the kids fall for it every time. In 1968, Columbia Records promised in an ad that "the man can't bust our music!" Madonna made her career glamorizing slattern chic and attacking bourgeois morality. Now she peddles children's books.

Today, there's a great cellphone commercial in which a corporate executive explains to his assistant that his new billing plan is his own private way of "sticking it to the man." His assistant replies, "But sir, you are the man." The boss says, with some dismay, "I know."

As far as the music industry goes, Kanye West is the man, but he won't admit it. Instead, he sells himself as a victim of a society that can't handle his truth. Four million records sold and saturation adulation in the media suggest that it can handle his truth just fine.

The problem is, it ain't the truth. It's just a scam for kids too stupid to recognize they're being played --— again.

Want to be a real rebel? Read a book.

As they say, read the whole thing.

Cartoon Bruhaha Followup

In an earlier post I made the following statement:
There seems not to be a clear consensus about the propriety of publishing the Mohammed cartoons. Hugh Hewitt feels that it was indifferent to the sensitivities of the Islamic world, and points to a political cartoon in the US that offend conservative sensibilities. His point: "...don't cheer the vulgar and the stupid."
I differed with Mr. Hewitt and compared the publishing of the cartoons to the US Navy's "Freedom of the Seas" exercises.

Over at National Review Online, Jonah Goldberg writes about the issue of giving offense:
Personally, I didn't think the cartoons were particularly good. They also seemed to be published out of a desire to offend Muslims. The editors, and many defenders of the Jyllands-Posten newspaper, claim otherwise, saying that they needed to prove there was a climate of fear in Denmark generated by Muslims. So they offended Muslims, and effectively proved, at the least, that there were Muslims eager to generate a climate of fear.

But the issue of "offense" is a distraction too. Let's assume that the publication of the cartoons was motivated entirely by a desire to offend Muslims — or at least some Muslims. How does that change the way we should view events now? If I needlessly offend my neighbor, shame on me. If, in response, he burns down my house and threatens to murder my entire family, who cares what I said in the first place?...

Overreactions are usually about something bigger. The whole point of the "last straw" metaphor is that small things can set off disproportionate reactions. One Muslim protestor in Britain held up a sign saying "Freedom Go To Hell!" Do we really think that a handful of cartoons in Denmark transformed him from a Jeffersonian democrat into a jihadi? Was the holder of the sign "Behead Those Who Insult Islam" a pacifist until recently?

Maybe, just maybe, these guys brought some issues to the table long before they ever heard of these cartoons.

He closes his article with the question of why the U.S. Government has tut-tutted the publication of the cartoons, even though we have a long history of press freedom:

Denouncing the State Department for criticizing these cartoons only makes sense if you look at this situation through a very narrow prism. The U.S. government is fighting a conventional war in two Muslim countries and a clandestine and diplomatic "global war on terror" that involves the entire global Muslim community. I don't like the U.S. picking on little Denmark either, but we should at least recognize that the Bush administration has in mind a bigger picture than those who think this is just about some cartoons.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Self Importance, Cultural Importance

Apparently the sitcom Will & Grace was planning a Very Special Easter episode:
NEW YORK (AP) — Britney Spears will guest star on an episode of Will & Grace, NBC announced Tuesday.

The pop star will appear as a Christian conservative sidekick to Sean Hayes' character, Jack, who hosts his own talk show, on the April 13 episode, the network said.
Jack's fictional network, Out TV, is bought by a Christian TV network, leading to Spears contributing a cooking segment called Cruci-fixin's
But doggone it, them Fundamentalists are gittin' uppity again!

Via IMDB, this nugget.
The Rev. Don Wildmon's American Family Assn. (AFA) is taking credit for killing a planned Will & Grace episode on NBC that reportedly was to feature Britney Spears as a Christian conservative co-host with Jack, the gay character portrayed by Sean Hayes, on Jack's Out TV cable channel. According to an early NBC news release, she was to appear in a cooking segment of the show called "Cruci-fixins." The network later said that the script for the episode had yet to be written "and the story line will not contain a Christian characterization at all." In a statement on Monday, the AFA said, "When NBC said that the script 'has yet to be written,' what they didn't tell you is that the 'story board' had been completed, and the offensive material was scheduled to be a part of the episode." Wildmon himself was quoted in the statement as saying, "Plainly put, NBC heard from their affiliates that they did not want to go through another Book of Daniel situation while losing millions in advertising revenue." NBC recently canceled The Book of Daniel following an AFA letter campaign that, the organization claims, generated hundreds of thousand of written protests.
Did anybody watch The Book of Daniel other than the producer's families and the Rev. Don Wildmon? Not according to the ratings.

Both the Rev. Don Wildmon and the reporters who write these nuggets are in a symbiotic relationship. He fulminates about pop culture, they inflate his importance, then warn against his influence.

Invasion on Hold?

Via Slice of SciFi:
February 02, 2006

Invasion Gets KO'd In Six

Submitted by: Kyle Nin

The slow-paced Shaun Cassidy scifi creation Invasion is being put in the back of the top shelf of ABC's closet in about six weeks from now in order to make room for a new mid-season crime drama called "The Evidence."

As early as 3 weeks ago ABC execs were touting their faith in the show and vowing to stick with it. Whether this remains to be the case or not only some time will tell. Until then the last episode of Invasion before it's unscheduled hiatus will be shown near the end of March.

Bad news for the Islander family. We have been enjoying the genre-bending* series since it premiered last year. Part paranoia trip (much in tone like Invasion of the Body Snatchers), part weird soap opera, the story started claustrophobically in a small Florida town, and it has just started to open up both geographically and in its cast.

I won’t mourn it just yet, but I’m getting disgusted by network executives that get all twitchy when a new series doesn’t become this season’s Cheers or Friends.

------
* Longtime aquaintences will know that I have a weakness for SciFi-based genre-bending television shows. Examples? Well, Alien Nation and Firefly spring to mind.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Fantasy Title Generator

Todd, over at Speak Like a Geek, sent me this link to a website that generates titles for fantasy novels:

http://nine.frenchboys.net/novel.php

In just a couple of tries I got:
Castleِ Winterِ and Mistress
Citadelِ Runeِ and King
Summerِ Ladyِ and War
Sunِ Heraldِ and Master
As you can tell, I have a weakness for triplets! But if you see a novel as requiring a beginning, middle, and ending these titles practially plot out the book for you!

Cartoon Depictions of Sacred Figures

Sebastián Schiavone over at myWhidbey.com has a post linking to the cartoon depictions of Mohammed that have sparked riots across the Islamic world. He concludes his post with this question:
Would cartoons of Christ in a similar light be as offensive to Christians?
Well, ruling out Jack Chick tracts and those odd little cartoons in Good News for Modern Man, there are quite a few less-than-reverent cartoon depictions of Jesus.

Exhibit A: South Park's Pilot, The Spirit of Christmas (Jesus vs. Santa) pretty much takes the cake:
Jesus arrives in South Park and at the local mall he accuses Santa of blasphemy. Santa challenges him to a fight and the violence between the two quickly escalates. Even Brian Boitano can’t help the boys who’ve found themselves in the middle of this fight.

Swear words were used 26 times total in this episode, out of them, the F-word was use 16 times. 7 kids were killed-including Kenny.
Well. How many people were killed in the riots that followed the showing of that episode? I mean, how many Starbucks were looted. Yah mean that Trey Parker and Matt Stone's cars didn't even get keyed?! What's up with that?

Exhibit B: I find it very interesting that during this weekend of Islamic riots, the Fox television network re-ran it's Simpsons Christmas episode. I don't keep up with the Simpsons these days, but out of curiosity I had Tivo-ed the episode and watched about 15 minutes this morning as I munched cereal and gulped my morning coffee.

In this episode, the Christmas story is re-enacted with the Simpsons as the Holy Family: Homer is Joseph, Marge is Mary, Lisa is the angel Gabriel, and Jesus is portrayed by Bart! The depiction (as far as I saw it) was rather harmless, but as far as depicting the center of your religious beliefs in a cartoon, it did make the Danish cartoons seem small beer.

And the Christian reaction? (Crickets chirping.) The contrast to the Islamic riots is rather breathtaking.

So I guess that the question of whether depictions of Jesus in similar light is offensive is subjective. I don't think that you would have to look very far to find a Christian that would be very offended by these characterizations (especially the South Park episode.)

But the question is not how we feel, it's how we act. I don't watch South Park, and neither do most of my co-religionists. How do we deal with the offense of the program? We change the channel and deny the station that airs that program our eyeballs and so deny it the ad revenues derived from those eyeballs. I don't deny that there are some people who would get violent about these depictions. There are always fringe actors in all belief systems. But Western European/American Christians are devoted to the concept of freedom of religious expression--even expressions that offend them.

Can we finally get past the bogus characterization that Islamic and Christian fundamentalists are indistinguishable?

UPDATE: There seems not to be a clear consensus about the propriety of publishing the Mohammed cartoons. Hugh Hewitt feels that it was indifferent to the sensitivities of the Islamic world, and points to a political cartoon in the US that offend conservative sensibilities. His point: "...don't cheer the vulgar and the stupid."

I really disagree with this view (though I defend to the death his right to say it!). I think that it is at times salubrious to cause some offense. Let me give an example:

The United States Navy is more powerful than all the other navies in the world combined. Periodically, they conduct "freedom of the seas" exercises right off the coasts of hostile, paranoid countries. These exercises often result in loud protests, complaints filed with the United Nations and even weapons fire and death. We don't stop these exercises when they offend another nation’s sense of sovereignty, because we feel that the concept of “freedom of the seas” is so important.

Likewise, western culture is based upon the free exchange of ideas and viewpoints, “the marketplace of ideas.” If we start saying that there are things that cannot be said, that cannot be expressed, our culture is untrue to itself.

Galileo certainly annoyed the Church when he espoused the Copernican model of the solar system. Should he have shut up? Is it time for the scientific community to apologize to the church for "offending its sensebilities?"

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Attention, Operatives of the Patriarchy!

...Known agent Norah Vincent has penetrated protocols 5-Alpha through 9-Gamma. Critical intel, vital to the Patriarchy, has been compromised...
After reading the raves of Ms Vincent's latest book, and hearing her interviewed by Glenn and Helen , I bought and am reading her book, Self-Made Man: One Woman's Journey into Manhood and Back Again.

I am only halfway through, but I'd like to record three impressions while they are fresh in my mind.

First, Ms Vincent has really made a hugh leap into male culture. Her ability to see what she has looked at serves her well. When she first joins a bowling league, she encounters the three other guys that compose her team. When she's introduced to them she wonders if their terseness and abruptness means that they are treating her with hostility. Then the team captain shakes hands with her and she gets it. Their quite reserve is a sign of the respect they show her as an equal.

I can't count the number of times women have tried to get me to 'fess up and explain "what's really going on," when men are quite in each other's company.

Second, there is occasionally, in reading the book, the dizzyness of infinite regression. She is a woman, passing as a man, giving a woman's viewpoint on what men are like when women aren't around. And I'm a man, reading this woman's book on being a woman passing as a man, reporting on the women's view of men.

It's like when I was a small boy at the barber shop. The barber had mirrors behind the chairs and on the wall across the room. Sitting in the chair I saw an infinite number of little boys, receding in the distance. Somtimes I wondered if I was the boy, or if I was just a reflection and the real little boy was the next little boy or the ten-thousanth little boy in that series. And then the barber would whip the towel off my neck and I'd run outside into the sunshine.

Finally, by describing her view of men, Ms Vincent must necessarily compare and contrast that view with her certain knowlege of women. By doing this, she clarifies (to me) much about the female culture that I find baffling.

Though this book isn't for everyone, I highly recommend it to anyone who has been baffled by the opposite sex. If you have the opposite sex all figured out, save your money.

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