Monthly Archives: July 2012

Poultry of Christ

The recent uproar over the public stance of Chick-fil-A franchise president Dan Cathy regarding same sex marriage has blossomed into yet another nationally embarrassing example of anti-intellectual absurdity. Beyond the senselessness of the CEO of any fast food chain feeling the need to publically take a stance regarding the Christian inspired biblical principles pertaining to homosexuality… the responses from the cable news watching proletariat have been as comedic as they are tragic. Ignorance is indeed on parade…. again.

Predictably, there has been a negative backlash heaped upon Chick-fil-A by gay rights groups and their supporters.  Oddly enough, when people experience socio/political bias against them, and have had to endure both violent and passive attacks, not to mention an unjustified negative portrayal… they tend not to be complacent about their social status while being discriminated against. But the responses from gay and civil rights activist groups are not where the absurdity lies. The absurdity lies with those who have tried to justify their bigoted moral precepts via a third party deity by rushing to the defense of what would otherwise be indefensible.

The newest bigoted rationalization tactic comes in the form of a self victimizing sense of martyrdom, claiming that those who expose religious intolerance are in fact, exhibiting a bigoted lack of tolerance for the Christian right of religious freedom. But of course, this makes no sense to anyone remotely tethered to reason. It would be like members of the Ku Klux Klan complaining that southern blacks are bigotedly trying to suppress their right to burn crosses. From the evangelical mindset, by not allowing Christians to oppress whomever their dogmatic tenets demand discrimination against … those who combat their extremism are themselves, anti-Christian bigots. And Chick-fil-A has become a rallying point for the lunatic fringe to express their astigmatic world view.  

However no one is attempting to curtail anyone’s right to practice their religion in their home, in their church, or even in their heart and mind. No one is saying that a Christian doesn’t have the right to practice his or her faith. What is being said is that Fundamentalist Christians do not have the right to create legislation, and deny their fellow Americans equal rights under the law based on their own religious beliefs.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why this is such a difficult concept for so many people to grasp.

One must ask themselves, how would Christians feel if the Tenets of the Koran were forcibly taught  to their children? How would they feel if their beliefs caused them to be beaten, and discriminated against? Yet this is what Christian fundamentalists expect us to endure from them.

What’s more disturbing is the cherry picking, if not the alarming lack of knowledge about the bible of those who purport to enact biblical principles, and moreover, the mosaic law they propagate. For instance, when Chick-fil-A President and self described “Christian” Dan Cathy defined homosexuality as being in violation of “Biblical Principles”, that in itself is a confounding statement when one considers that most of biblical law –including seven of the ten commandments– is in violation of our constitution. The truth is, if Christians followed their own rules, they would be petitioning against many core American principles.

Although the Jesus of the New Testament never actually says anything about same sex relationships, the rationalization Christians make for their bigotry against gays are biblical verses where Jesus references the Mosaic laws of the Old Testament such as this:

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.” -Mark5:17

And This:

“For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:46-47.)

For those who aren’t aware, Moses is the alleged writer of the first five books in the bible, and those which define what is known as “Mosaic Law”. In fact, the Mosaic laws which Jesus alleges to condone are very graphic in their depiction of homosexuality as a “sin”.  So we understand why Christians wish to discriminate against homosexuals. Moses clearly outlined how God expects us to treat gays:

“Homosexual acts are an abomination to God.” (Leviticus 18:22)

“If a man has sex with another man, kill them both. (Leviticus 20:13)

However, if one were to base their Christianity –and by extension their treatment of gays– on Mosaic principles, then would they also be force to claim that slavery, rape and murder are also part of God’s will? Moses is very clear on this as well:

“However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way.” (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)

“When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. “(Exodus 21:7)

‎”As you approach a town to attack it, first offer its people terms for peace. If they accept your terms and open the gates to you, then all the people inside will serve you in forced labor. But if they refuse to make peace and prepare to fight, you must attack the town. When the LORD your God hands it over to you, kill every man in the town. But you may keep for yourselves all the women, children, livestock, and other plunder. You may enjoy the spoils of your enemies that the LORD your God has given you.” (Deuteronomy 20:10-14)

The bible is replete with such verses. Nothing is being taken out of context. Clearly the preponderance of those exhorting biblical principles are doing so with an incomprehensive understanding of the bible itself. The concept of metaphor having all but escaped them, misrepresented fiction has been presented as relevant social discourse. Born of a pressing need to cope with their fear, and assert their bigotry,  radical sectarians have found a platform to express themselves in Christianity. It is an alarming manifestation of ignorance that is unprecedented in our nation’s history.

But how we treat same sex couples, and moreover, how we legislate who is allowed to love whom is the fundamental moral question of this generation. Just as civil rights were for our parents, and slavery was to those in the latter half of the nineteenth century, this issue will shape how history views America at the turn of this millennium. Do we allow fear and ignorance to govern our passions and take a social step backward into the Reformation? Do we derive our ‘morality” from dark age precepts? Or do we do what is truly moral, and allow love to flourish regardless of where it grows?

My sense of morality demands that I fight against bigotry.

 

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Suspension of Disbelief: Comic-Con and Politics

As is customary during our weekly pre-show ritual, my two best friends break my balls mercilessly.

Before each broadcast of UnLearn TV, myself, co-host “Cigars & Scotch” Tony, and our goomba MJ Mandalay sit down over a meal with the intention of setting the tone for what will be discussed on that evening’s show. Invariably we’ll digress from the topics of socio/political importance only to become sidetracked by my love of nerdy entertainment. Indeed, my friends — with a habitual ruthlessness– never fail to point out that despite my self-indulgent attempts at sober realizations about religious hypocrisy, congressional corruption, and legislative collusion, that I am still just a middle aged adolescent who still loves Spiderman, Star Trek, and the Walking Dead. And they are right. I am in fact, a comic geek.

Now before anyone misinterprets this, I must make it clear that I am not complaining. Hardly. This is how my friends and I show affection, by inundating one another with cringe worthy –not to mention– hilarious observations about our individual character flaws (if that’s what this is). I wouldn’t want our friendship to be any different. The truth is, I manage to deliver a few self-esteem damaging blows at their expense myself. Hey, if we can’t laugh at ourselves, then we’re Keith Olberman.

But this week’s Comic-Con in San Diego got me thinking.

Why is it that I love to suspend my disbelief when I venture to be entertained, when in every other aspect of my life I demand apprehensive determinations derived from reason? Why is it, that as much as I try to employ a cerebral approach to my real life perspectives, do I revel in superheroes bashing one another, space battles, and incomprehensive feats accomplished by impossibly extraordinary beings?

And I think I’ve come up with an answer. Somewhere in the recesses of my own faulty synapses I long for the social justice that reality denies me. Idealism being what it is, it is difficult for someone of conscience to reconcile the horrors of the unjust world we live in relation to what we know it could be. We see glimpses of the beauty of science and art, and we behold the majesty of triumph over travail, and yet we live in a world where Glenn Beck and Al Gore are considered by many to be voices of reason, Kim Kardashian is a celebrity, and where people want Rick Santorum to be President.

Frankly, it takes a suspension of disbelief just to wake up in the morning.

But I think that perhaps, the reason I love this nerdy stuff so much is that it helps me cope with the utter absurdity of what’s become of actuality, and it offers an escape from the absence of reason in our socio/political landscape. Seriously, How great would it be if the Hulk smashed Al Sharpton into the pavement, or if Michelle Bachman was torn apart by zombies? How awesome would it be if Debbie Wasserman Shultz was disintegrated by Klingons, or if Rush Limbaugh met a gruesome end from a cybernetic Arnold Schwarzenegger? Hell, I can wait for Luke Skywalker to save the universe, provided the Death Star takes out congress first.

So do I like to suspend my disbelief when I’m being entertained? Sure I do. But if I can’t have Captain America in the real world, then at least I can live in his universe for a couple of hours. And when you consider that Snookie, and Sarah Palin are part of the “real world”… can anyone really blame me for wanting to?

 

American Un-exceptionalism

This past week marked the 236th birthday of our great nation, and coincidentally,  perhaps the most significant scientific discovery in history. However in typical American tradition, we ignored the conclusive evidence about the origins of our universe via the discovery of the Higgs boson particle in favor of good old fashioned red, white and blue self indulgence. As is customary for the 4th of July, Americans celebrated their national pride by eating hot dogs, watching sports, blowing things up, and ignoring planet altering science.

There was a time in our not too distant past when discovering the origins of our universe, and eliminating any reasonable doubt (as if there was any in the first place) as to the biblical story of creation would be an item on the evening news. There was a time when our nation was galvanized around the effort to put a man on the moon. We were one. And we were indeed exceptional. But the truth is today –despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary– over 40% of Americans believe that an invisible deity created the universe in six days… which is simply another way to say that more than 4 in 10 Americans are utter morons.

Yet like spoiled children, we demand that our political leaders continue to tell us how wonderful, unique, and exceptional we still are. Now more than ever, we Americans arrogantly claim that we are the “best country in the world” despite many of us never having traveled abroad… which is not only insulting to the countries with higher standards of living, longer life expectancy, better education and health care than we have, it speaks to our sense of national ignorance.

Which brings us back to the family barbeques on the 4th of July. While America has transitioned from the country that gave us Miles Davis and Joe DiMaggio to the nation that has made icons out of Lady Ga Ga and Barry Bonds , we are simultaneously convincing ourselves that we are still doing just peachy. Despite our (at best) mediocre world rankings in literacy, math and science, and regardless of how we view ourselves despite our mediocrity, none of that changes the simple truth that our once great country has slipped into an intellectual abyss, and that frankly, we have no right to claim that we are the greatest anything.

Well, that’s not entirely true. America is still number one in the world in defense spending, body mass index and prisoners per capita.

The real shame of this is that the discovery of the Higgs boson could have happened on American soil rather than in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1993, congress decided not to build a Superconducting Super Collider in Waxahachie, Texas which would have been larger and more powerful than the one in Geneva. Said University of Texas physicist, and Nobel winner Steven Weinberg, ” This is a discovery that could have been and should have been made in America. “We are regretful that the United States Congress decided in this instance to turn its back on pushing forward the frontier of fundamental knowledge.” But most Americans don’t care about scientific achievement anymore… certainly not like we did in 1969. It’s just not as sexy as Facebook.

So here America stands. Self delusional as to our standing in the world, and psychotically so where it concerns the origins of our universe. We imagine ourselves superior, but in reality we are the fat kid who limps across the finish line in the middle of the pack and receives a trophy anyway… even worse, we think that we won the race. We use the term “American Exceptionalism” in the present tense, when in truth, we haven’t been exceptional in years.

But of course this can change. We can regain our former glory. We can start by caring about things that should be cared about, and learning the difference between facts and faith. Then we can continue by realizing that this American generation has its own Neil Armstrong, and his name is Neil deGrasse Tyson.

I, for one, would enjoy celebrating Independence day more if America more closely resembled the country I grew up in. It sure would help take my mind off what’s actually in that hot dog I’m eating.