Thursday, January 20, 2005

Jesus Appears at Inaugural Ceremony

My close friend and partner against the terror tactics of the far-right, Marie sent me the link to 10000jesuses.org, saying that it provided her with a bit of levity on a day so fraught with frustration. The goal of the organization was simple: show up at today's innaguration clad in long hair and flowy robes bearing signs like "Who Would I torture?", "Who Would I Bomb?" and "I never owned an M-16" in order to show Washington's warped theocrats that despite his invocation of "traditional American morals" during campaign time, President Bush's policy, both foreign and domestic "is diametrically opposed to everything taught in the New Testament".

How's that for creative organizing?
Check out what these folks have to say: I'm sure you'll agree that Jesus would be proud!

from the website:

Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor," and "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's." He did not say, "Ensure the wealthiest elite in our nation get the easiest tax load; especially when this cuts funding to educational and health programs that help the poor."

Jesus said, "Turn the other cheek." He did not say, "Drop 500 lbs bombs on the civilization centers of ancient Mesopatamia." Nor did Jesus say, "torture prisoners in a sexually humiliating manner to advance the cause of nation building. Or, shoot wounded soldiers in the head while they lie before you, supine and desperate."

Jesus said, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." He did not say, "Condemn those who disagree with you as being Godless heathens who will be thrust into the bowels of hell for not accepting Jesus as their personal saviour."

Jesus said, "I pass judgement on no man," He did not say, "Judge all those whose religion you do not understand or whose sexuality you fear."

Jesus said, "I give you a new commandment: love one and other." He did not say, "love only people who go to church." Nor did he say, "love only white, non-gay, Christian borne-again Americans with good grooming habits and no history of pre-marital sexual relations." He did not say, "Love only people who may know the verses of the Bible, but who have forgotten how to throw the merchants out of the temple and so support one of the most repressive and intolerant regimes in America's history."

Jesus never said that. Neither should the evangelicals.

Friday, January 14, 2005

More on Safire...

Originally cited as a "great sea monster" in the first chapter of Genesis, the leviathan has become synonymous with any large monster or creature. It is occassionally invoked to accept blame for tsunamis when God isn't up to the challenge. Explanation below.

Hopefully, reader, you've been keeping abreast of the conversation on God's role in the tsunami that I've engaged myself in for the last few days. If you haven't, take this time to read my Thursday post and its links. If you have, the latest development is as follows:
Hollambeeee, a.k.a. tcrawley, was kind enough to take me to task regarding my response to the William Safire article he posted on his site. You can find his critique my reponse in the comment section of the Thursday post.

My response to his response to my response to Safire's article (ha!) goes a little something like this:

1. Perhaps you've misunderstood. I wasn't saying that he asserted that anyone deserved death. It's quite clear that he thinks the opposite. With his statement "Victims of this cataclysm in no way "deserved" [their fate]", however, he engages the language of blame without explaining why such a paradigm proves incapable of addressing the complexity of this event. Effectively, he paints himself into a corner. Worse yet, it seems that he tries to get out of this corner by distancing the event from God altogether. "Yes, it's a terribly unfair thing for so many people to die... at the hands of the cruel, cruel hands of nature". Well, shit William ... if the hand of God is not inextricably tied to the forces of nature, whose is?

My problem is that he wanders carelessly onto the minefield created by the language of blame, then pulls the "don't blame God" card to get himself to safety rather than forcing the point that there is no way to reconcile the "catastrophe" with the will of God at all, (which is quite different from suggesting that God is not implicated at all in the fray).

I think you've also misunderstood his use of the Job story. Safire's article does not equate the people who died in the tsunami with Job, so it's not a matter of "bad shit happens to good people...and in Job's case, he was such a good person that it caused bad shit to happen" as you say. This is not the point that Safire makes at all. Here's how I know:

a. This wouldn't serve as a good analogue because JOB DOES NOT DIE in the biblical story.

b. Safire says that WE, the living children of God, are Job. Those who perished in the tsunami are the "children" referenced in the line "God let the angel take [Job's] possessions, kill his children and afflict him with loathsome boils." As modern day Jobs, we are challenged to mourn our dead relatives all the while remaining faithful to the God that enabled their deaths.

c. Safire includes Job's original statement "Damn the day that I was born!" to show us that "it is not blasphemous to challenge the highest authority when it inflicts a moral wrong". Again, it's you and I that Safire likens to Job, not those who perished in the tsunami.

I take issue with this particular analogy because it suggests that God allowed hundreds of thousands of people to die just to prove to the devil that we'd still love Him. This paints a portrait of a "ends-justify-the-means" "you-gotta-break-some-eggs" God, who happens to resemble a certain American president much more than it resembles an all-loving, all-powerful divine entity. Don't tell me that it's okay to question God because sometimes God sucks, and occasionally commits injustices. Just eschew the weak ass doctrine that would allow for such a God altogether, and give me a divine entity that's more proactive than the jerk that sits idly by while the devil kills his children. You think it's empowering, Mr Safire, to tell me its okay to curse God when he commits an injustice? Are you effin' kidding me?? How empowered can I be after I realize that my God is capable of being so damn sucky in the first place?

No amount of cursing is going to remedy the fact that I can no longer expect my God to hear my prayers in time of peril because He might just be busy using my loved ones as fodder in his attempt to prove a point to the devil!

Tell me that you're pulling my leg, Mr. Safire... 'cause this God that you're talking about sucks. Big time.

2. I didn't say that Job was a trite example. I'd sooner call it a "token" example.

3. Your "none of this means that gods or goddesses are unjust" point doesn't seem to jibe with Safire's point: [God,] the highest authority is capable of inflicting moral wrongs.

(Ps: Thank you so much for engaging me and taking me to task! You know i live for dialogue.)
(Pps: Note that I haven't said a word about what I believe about God's implication in the tsunami. I'm merely issuing critique of Safire's argument.)

Thursday, January 13, 2005

"Where Was God?" Safire Responds, Larry Scoffs

Understandably upset when a fellow parishioner commented, "if there were more christians and less buddhists, God would have saved more people [from the tsunami]", tcrawley03, in his own words, "flipped out" on her. He blogged about the experience, calling upon an article that discussed the tsunami and how God figures (or refuses to figure) into the fray.

The article was an op/ed piece written by William Safire (pictured below) and published in the New York Times. Perhaps after you read it yourself, (it's a fairly quick read) you'll understand why I felt compelled to reply.
Read the piece here or here, then my response (below).

"
no offense to mr. safire, but the gambling, sadistic, passive/aggressive god has never been a favorite of mine.

on the "lesson"...
1. if the victims didn't deserve such a fate, why are they dead? where's the justice in that? and am i alone in noting that the phrase "inflicted by the Leviathanic force of nature" posits the blame on a "force of nature" which seems oddly but conveniently [removed/distinctly separate] from God? does this suggest that the supposedly omniscient, almighty god had nothing to do with the ordeal? that he was asleep? on break? washed his hands of the region in their time of peril?
[to achieve] what? for us to grieve, band together, send money, remember god and then forget everything until the next tragedy comes along to re-enliven our wonderfully wonderful humane compassion and generosity? chile please. i'd like to believe an infinite being would be a little more resourceful and a little less round-about than that.


2. as with most biblical imperatives, questioning god has as many "exemplars" as it has prohibitions and qualifications. the singular exemplar of job can not negate or counter a longstanding tradition of penalizing heresy, blasphemy and heterodoxy with several forms of death: [literal, social and, of course, spiritual]. the church and its wayward doctrine have leaned overwhelmingly toward the latter.

3. i wonder where the eff "humanity's obligation to ameliorate injustice" is in the fight for reparations and in the levying of penalties for those involved in the Abu Ghraib scandal. humanity's supposed obligation to ameliorate injustice is activated rather selectively, if you ask me... or Mumia Abu-Jamal. or my bruthas down in Guantánamo.
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