Need another reason to not get a divorce? How about not having judges making basic decisions on how you are allowed to raise your kids?
Raleigh, N.C. — A judge in Wake County said three Raleigh children need to switch from home school to public school. Judge Ned Mangum is presiding over divorce proceeding of the children's parents, Thomas and Venessa Mills.
The judge said the "root of the problem" is that Venessa Mills desires to give her children a religious-based education.
"We have math, reading; we have grammar, science, music,” Venessa Mills said. [snip]
"My teaching is strictly out of the Bible, and it's very clear. It is very evident so I just choose to follow the Bible,” she said.
That just won't do — despite the fact that the Mills children (ages 10, 11, and 12) have been tested and are two full grade levels ahead of their peers. In a verbal ruling that he will presumably later put on paper, Mangum has ordered Venessa Mills to put her children in public school — where their high academic achievement will be squandered.
"He was upfront and said that, 'It's not about religion.' But yet when it came down to his ruling and reasons why, 'He said this would be a good opportunity for the children to be tested in the beliefs that I have taught them,'" Venessa Mills said.
It should not ever be the role of the state — not in a free society, at least — to "test" the belief system of parents against their wishes by force and penalty of law. Yes, the father in this divorce proceeding wants the kids in public school. But since he presumably has not been granted primary custody, that's not really his call anymore.
Maybe you think educating your children on strict Biblical principles is a bad idea. Fine. But should not one have the liberty to do so? Are there millions of parents out there teaching their kids that man walked with dinosaurs (or whatever they supposedly teach)? And does this army of miseducated children (who may have evolution wrong, but nonetheless tend to excel in academics and enter the colleges of their choice) do such great public harm that it requires an extraordinarily intrusive intervention by the state on the sanctity of the family? To usurp a parent's basic human right to raise their children as they see fit?
Egad! The presumptive arrogance of this family court judge — not to mention his abuse of power — is astounding. And a little scary.
What a surprise! Not all the people that Chimpy McTorture threw into the gulag of Gitmo were innocent goat herders unwittingly caught up in that crazy "Death to America" stuff that was going around the neighborhood.
Thomas Jocelyn reports that a former Gitmo detainee, Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul, has become the Taliban's chief operations officer in southern Afghanistan.
Rasoul currently operates in southern Afghanistan using the nom de guerre Mullah Abdullah Zakir, according to an account by the Associated Press. The AP cites “Pentagon and intelligence officials” as saying that Mullah Abdullah Zakir is “in charge of operations against U.S. and Afghan forces in southern Afghanistan.” One anonymous intelligence official cited by the AP says Rasoul’s “stated mission is to counter the U.S. troop surge” that began earlier this year in Afghanistan.
Rasoul, as Paul Mirengoff notes at Powerline, proffered the usual absurd defenses of a terrorist — the kind of stuff that every nabbed criminal makes, but gives the terrorist bar in America the vapors.
After noting that he went to Kabul "to see the city" after the Taliban took over, he got hurt in a bombardment. Rasoul got patched up, and then — poor guy — just got caught up in the wrong crowd.
Though captured in the car of a Taliban leader while holding a gun, he claimed he was forced to carry the gun. Rasoul reportedly also possessed two Casio watches similar to those used in al-Qaida bombings. He claimed he was holding the watches for a Taliban member who lacked pockets. Rasoul also said he was the victim of unscrupulous bounty hunters.
The scruples of a "bounty hunter" are as irrelevant as Dog The Bounty Hunter's choice of hairstyle. What matters is who you are and what you were doing. Anyway, Mirengoff continues the narrative ... in which Rasoul assured the military tribunal that he intended to return to a peaceful life in Afghanistan.
"I want to go back home and join my family and work in my land and help my family," he said. Nor did Rasoul harbor any ill-will towards the U.S. Asked whether he "liked what the United States is doing in Afghanistan now," Rasoul responded: "Yes, I am very happy. I am very pleased like I told you before. They are [re]building my country." "I [have] never been America's enemy and I never intend to be," he added.
So much for America's military tribunals being rubber stamps for unlawful oppression. And so much for that idea of Rasoul pledging to never being America's enemy. Looks like Rasoul was America's enemy all along, just like the scores of released Club Gitmo detainees who have fattened up on taxpayer-funded halal meals and taken up their old profession of plotting to slaughter as many innocents as possible for Allah.
If we take the account of Rasoul at face value, uncanny coincidence plays a big role in the world of jihad. So he's sure to hook up with Mohammed Naim Farouq — released from the Cuban resort in 2003. As Powerline notes, Farouq is listed by the Pentagon as one of the 20 most wanted terrorists operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
When he runs into Rasoul, the two can have a good laugh at the criminal stupidity of the country that released them.
Here's George Jonas in the National Post, on the prospects of an Arab-Israeli peace in these troubled times:
As Bob Dylan's 1963 protest song noted: "The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind ..." Precisely. Whatever is blowing in the wind over the Mediterranean, it isn't coexistence. Even if Arabs and/or Muslims who believe in coexistence with Israel were a numerical majority, the zeitgeist, the spirit of the times, would be with those who view the existence of the Jewish state as a catastrophe.
There has never been a referendum, so no one knows numbers, but zeitgeist trumps numbers anyway. It isn't silent majorities that drive things, but vocal minorities. Don't count heads; count decibels. All entities -- the United States, the Western world, the Arab street --have prevailing moods, and it's prevailing moods that define aggregates at any given time. Nuances? Those who don't see the wood for the trees love nuances, but it's the big picture that matters.
The whole thing makes for a depressing read.
Pieces like this remind me of the discussions we'd have with our editor whenever we foolishly thought of venturing into Mideast politics in the editorial column. The question was always, "Well, what's the solution? What are we proposing?" Hell, if we knew that, we'd have the whole sordid business wrapped up in time for happy hour Tuesday night.
But it does suggest that the heavy hand of U.S. diplomacy may not have the salutary effects that its proponents might wish. Bush the elder tried to work it out. Clinton tried to work it out. Bush the younger tried to work it out. They didn't work it out. Neither will Obama.
(Hat tip: Mark Steyn in the Corner.)
British Muslims are providing the Taliban with electronic devices to make roadside bombs for use in attacks against British forces serving in southern Afghanistan, The Telegraph can disclose. [snip]
"We have found electronic components in devices used to target British troops that originally come from Britain," a British explosives officer told Mr Miliband during a detailed briefing on the type of improvised explosive device (IED) used against British forces.
When asked how the components had reached Afghanistan, the officer explained that they had either been sent from Britain, or physically brought to Afghanistan by British Muslims who had flown over.
The disclosure is the latest in a string of suggestions from British commanders about the connections between British Muslims and violence in Afghanistan.
Yeah, and about those "connections," this is how they are cultivated:
Music, chess and cricket are just three things banned in some Muslim schools in the UK. Others are drama, dance, sport, Shakespeare, and, in some cases, any aspect of Western culture whatever.
According to the management committee of London's Madani Secondary Girls' School, this is because "our children are exposed to a culture that is in opposition with almost everything Islam stands for".
The response to this sense of danger is often to forbid outright any kind of relationship with non-Muslims: "Allah has warned us in the Koran, do not befriend the kuffaar. The Jews and Christians will never be content with you until you follow their way," says Riyadhul Haq, a teacher in Kidderminster.
As opposed, naturally, to Muslim countries that have great tolerance for Christians and Jews. Got it.
Several recent surveys have noted an unusual phenomenon among young Muslims here and in Europe: that 16-to-24-year-olds are more hardline in their opinions than their parents or even their grandparents. The youngest generation is moving away from mainstream society, not towards it.
The reasons for this are complex, but there can be little doubt that Islamic schools play a role in encouraging children and teenagers to isolate themselves. More than 50 per cent of the establishments I examined for my report on Muslim schools showed indications of strong fundamentalist influence and control. Some were set up by organisations that have been banned in some countries.
It's not so complex. Britain, and much of Europe, is offering little-to-no resistance the radicalization of their swelling Muslim populations — in the name of "tolerance," of course. What is not tolerated is opposition to the destruction of the tolerant Western norms and culture.
Ann Coulter took a lot of heat in the early post-9/11 days for suggesting that the way to win the war on terror is to invade Muslim countries and convert them to Christianity. I don't think she had Britain in mind. But if you subscribe to that line of thinking, it might be time to add the UK to the list.
The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) has fined the organizers of the Dubai Tennis Championships $300,000 after the country denied a visa to a WTA member in good standing, Shahar Peer. Ms. Peer, the 45th ranked female tennis pro in the world, was denied entry into the United Arab Emirates (the model for moderate Arab/Muslim states) to compete in the WTA event last week because she's a Jew and an Israeli citizen.
To her great credit, Venus Williams, who won the tournament, saluted Shahar Peer in her victory speech.
"I thought she had to be mentioned and I felt I was going to, whether anyone else did or not," said Wimbledon champion Williams, when it was remarked that she was the only one at the prize-giving ceremony to recall what had happened.
"I had the opportunity because I had the microphone. I thought how brave she (Peer) was to come over here, to play in Doha (last year), and suddenly here not (allowed to).
"I thought of Althea Gibson who was excluded," she continued referring to the woman who overcame discrimination and exclusion to become Wimbledon's first black champion in 1957.
"She played and I thought of people who stood up and played with her when no-one else would," she said
The men's pro tennis tour hits Dubai this week, and another American tennis star — Andy Roddick — is taking a firmer stand. Though Roddick is the defending champion, he is not going to play out a sense of justice and solidarity with Peer.
"I really didn't agree with what went on over there. I don't know if it's the best thing to mix politics and sports, and that was probably a big part of it," Roddick said at a tournament in Memphis, Tenn.
"It's just disappointing that reflects on a tournament that probably didn't have much to do with the decision. Nevertheless, I just don't feel like there's a need for that in a sporting event. I don't think you make political statements through sports."
Well, you just did, Andy. And you made the right one. Well done. This American and sometimes-interested tennis fan is proud of you for forsaking a certain payday at that event on principle.
Both men came in second to Barack Obama in major national polls.
A new Harris Poll asked Americans about their heroes and pollsters ranked those that the respondents named most often. President Obama tops the list, while Jesus Christ polls just below him. Martin Luther King, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush (!!) round out the top five, while McCain ranks seventh, just below Abraham Lincoln.
Update: My old friend Regis Snell reminds me that "Harris polls are silly." I cannot possibly argue with him about that.
Update 2: I almost made the headline on this post "Obama is bigger than Jesus." Just so you know.
(Hat tip: The Corner)
I noted Tom Joscelyn's and Bill Roggio's reporting on jihadi rehab here. Joscelyn and Steve Hayes have followed up with a long piece in the Weekly Standard with the subhead, "The Gitmo problem is also a Yemen problem."
Turns out, about 100 of the 240 or so Gitmo detainees are Yemeni. And Yemenis are good at two things: herding goats and blowing up Americans. The crux, write Joscelyn and Hayes: "A majority of the Yemeni detainees in Guantánamo were trained for fighting and directly supported the terror network's operations. Yemen is not a country that can be reasonably expected to house and rehabilitate these detainees. And yet this appears to be the policy of the Obama administration."
Joel's second-most favorite right-wing zealot writes: "Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the Ayatollah's fatwa against Salman Rushdie over The Satanic Verses. Two decades on, who needs the mullahs? These days western nations are happy to fatwa their own. It's now a familiar pattern."
The United States is, for good or ill, the last redoubt of free speech in the world. Britain and Canada are unreliable. Europe after the Mohammad cartoons is a lost cause. America, timid, commodified and ever eager to please, is the last best hope of unfettered freedom of speech and of the press in the world today. God help us all.
I got a chuckle out of Heartland Institute staffers at our regular Monday morning meeting this week by mentioning that the ultimate enlightened blogger — the Dalai Lama — had joined the Twitter community.
The 20,000 people who followed the Dalai Lama on Twitter will have to wait. If he's smart, the Lama will get hip to the new technology.
"Yes I've been black but when I come back you'll know know know..."
Yes, you will. As it happens, the Saudi government this week released a list of 85 "most-wanted terrorists." As Thomas Joscelyn notes, "The list includes 11 former Guantánamo detainees who were placed in Saudi Arabia's rehabilitation program." Joscelyn attempts to piece together who some of those former Gitmo residents might be. His article is worth a close read.
The story has implications for how the Obama administration will dispense with 250 or so inmates remaining at Guantánamo.
It might be difficult to comprehend, but a theocratic monarchy known for beheading smugglers, stoning rape victims and lopping the hands off of thieves treats jihadists like lost sheep. According to Bill Roggio at the Weekly Standard, the rehab exercises involve crayon-and-paper art projects. These jihadists, many of whom are hardened killers, are often cut loose after a year or two.
The options, for those paying attention, are moving the detainees to a facility on American soil, trials in U.S. criminal courts or possibly before military tribunals or repatriation to their home countries where many of them will be "rehabilitated" only to beat feet back to the battlefield.
No, no, no.
“More or less," Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus told a gathering of journalists at the World Economic Forum in Davos. "Global-warming alarmism is challenging our freedom, and Al Gore is a leader of that movement.” National Review's Jay Nordlinger, who was there, goes on to ask, "Is there a national leader today whom you respect more?" Mmmm, probably. But Klaus is one of the more sensible politicians around, no doubt about it.
I was never a huge fan of John Updike. I made a go of reading one of the Rabbit novels when I was much younger, but I've never quite found the whole genre of suburban white guy angst to be all that compelling -- yes, I'm grossly oversimplifying -- even in the hands of a master. So my exposure to Updike was limited mainly to his reviews of books and art in The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books, and I found that if I wasn't a fan of Updike's novels, I was certainly a fan of the idea of John Updike: A lifetime spent in ravenous pursuit of the life of the mind.
I remain touched, though, by one of Updike's short stories that appeared in The Atlantic in November 2002. Varieties of Religious Experience was about 9/11 -- seen through the eyes of Dan, a WASPy Ohioan who is in New York on the day of the attacks; "Mohammed," one of the attackers; Jim, a worker in one of the towers; and Caroline, a passenger on Flight 93. It was the first fictional treatment of 9/11 that I had seen, and re-reading it now I find I'm getting a lump in my throat. The opening sentence, though, is what initially caught me:
There is no God: the revelation came to Dan Kellogg in the instant that he saw the World Trade Center South Tower fall.
At the end of the story, Dan Kellogg has turned his back on this atheistic declaration, resettling comfortably into the confines of his Episcopalian congregation. But reading those words and the entire story in 2002 somehow dislodged the growing doubts about my own faith that I'd tried to ignore since 9/11. By the end of 2002, I was out of the church -- not because the story moved me to agnosticism, but because it forced me to confront what I could no longer ignore.
This, no doubt, is not a result that would've pleased Updike, who was a churchgoing man his entire adult life. But such is the power of literature: Authors do not control how it is received, and sometimes readers cannot control how they receive it -- not, at least, if they're approaching with an open mind.
So no, John Updike was not my favorite author. But his writing in some small way changed my life. I am thus grateful for his career and his gifts; may he rest in peace.
Know how you can tell they spent time at Gitmo? They're well-fed and healthy — courtesy of the Red, White and Blue.
Looks like the guy on the left, Abu Sufyan al-Azdi al-Shahri, was no stranger to the all-you-can-eat falafel bar. Though he's a bit ungrateful after serving a "sentence" shorter than your average American does for voluntary manslaughter.
"By Allah, imprisonment only increased our persistence in our principles for which we went out, did jihad for, and were imprisoned for," al-Shihri was quoted as saying.
"Oh, and every Friday after prayers is 'Goat Luau Night!' at Gitmo," al-Shihri added. "It's worth not throwing your own feces at the guards so you don't miss out ... Allah be praised."
Some guy named James Lakely — apparently a staffer at The Heartland Institute, a leading libertarian think tank — draws attention to the fact that some global warming debunking is going on at The Huffington Post, of all places.
The Huffington Post has a few token contributors who don’t toe the liberal line on policy, and one of them is Harold Ambler, an Obama supporter and owner of talkingabouttheweather.com, whose maiden contribution to the HuffPost debunks the myth of man-made global warming.
As Newsbusters points out, the HuffPost buried Ambler’s Jan. 3 post — not listing it among main “featured posts,” and sticking it beneath seven other older posts in the “green” section that warn of impending global environmental doom. Perhaps Ambler’s jabbing headline did him in: “Mr. Gore: Apology Accepted.” Or perhaps it was the way Ambler pulled no punches in going after Global Warming’s high priest. ...
The New York Times' Frank Rich, who would be proud to lead The One's
coronation inauguration parade, is troubled. According to Drudge's improvised headline, the horrible of horribles is afoot: 'TINGE OF BUSH' CREEPS INTO OBAMA...
The real Times headline is "You're Likable Enough, Gay People."
Barack Obama has little in common with George W. Bush, thank God, his obsessive workouts and message control notwithstanding. At a time when very few Americans feel very good about very much, Obama is generating huge hopes even before he takes office. So much so that his name and face, affixed to any product, may be the last commodity left in the marketplace that can still move Americans to shop.
I share these high hopes. But for the first time a faint tinge of Bush crept into my Obama reveries this month.
Well, that will happen when you replace logic with "reveries."
As we saw during primary season, our president-elect is not free of his own brand of hubris and arrogance, and sometimes it comes before a fall: “You’re likable enough, Hillary” was the prelude to his defeat in New Hampshire.
I'm not so quick to attribute Obama's loss in New Hampshire to that particular episode of "hubris and arrogance," but I find it funny that a mainstream liberal on mainstream liberalism's biggest organ is only now starting to recognize those defining traits of Obama that we on the right pegged from the get go. Of course, Rich only sees it now because his ox is being gored by Obama's "hubris and arrogance": The One's choice of Rick Warren to say the invocation at his
coronation inaugural — or, as Rich puts it, making Warren "the inaugural’s de facto pope."
He has hit this same note again by assigning the invocation at his inauguration to the Rev. Rick Warren, the Orange County, Calif., megachurch preacher who has likened committed gay relationships to incest, polygamy and “an older guy marrying a child.” Bestowing this honor on Warren was a conscious — and glib — decision by Obama to spend political capital. It was made with the certitude that a leader with a mandate can do no wrong.
Actually, it was made with the liberal and MSM certitude that The Obamessiah, a secular god, can do no wrong. Yes, Rich throws the "conservative" peacher, Warren, a bone for having the correct thoughts on global warming (hee hee ... brrrrrrrr). And though Rich doesn't put Warrren up there — or, really, down there — with "such family-values ayatollahs as James Dobson," he's still not happy with Obama giving his blessing to the life-changing author of "The Purpose Driven Life."
By the historical standards of presidential hubris, Obama’s disingenuous defense of his tone-deaf invitation to Warren is nonetheless a relatively tiny infraction. It’s no Bay of Pigs. But it does add an asterisk to the joyous inaugural of our first black president. It’s bizarre that Obama, of all people, would allow himself to be on the wrong side of this history.
Did Obama's swooning fans, including Rich, think their support through? Of course not. That's why they are swooning fans (though they pose as "smart" people). But do they not know that Obama came up in the black church culture, which is as "anti-gay" as any Mormon church? Have any intrepid liberal reporters even thought to ask Obama's spiritual advisor, the right Rev. Jeremiah Wright, about his views on homosexuality? I'd guess that Wright's are not too far off from Warren's — at least if Wright and Obama's church are as "mainstream" as The One claims it is. (Blacks in California voted overwhelmingly for Proposition 8 in California, especially church-going blacks.)
Maybe if liberals like Rich thought these things through before deifying The One, they'd be less disappointed. Obama, despite the glow above his crown, is still human.
The queen of pin-ups is dead. Bettie Page died Thursday in Los Angeles after suffering a massive heart attack nine days earlier. She was 85.
According to the International Herald Tribune:
Page, whose popularity underwent a cult-like revival in the last 20 years, had been hospitalized for three weeks with pneumonia and was about to be released Dec. 2 when she suffered a heart attack, said Roesler, of CMG Worldwide. She was transferred in a coma to Kindred Hospital, where she died.
In her trademark raven bangs, spike heels and killer curves, Page was the most famous pinup girl of the post-World War II era, a centerfold on a million locker doors and garage walls. She was also a major influence in the fashion industry and a target of Senator Estes Kefauver's anti-pornography investigators.
But in 1957, at the height of her fame, she disappeared, and for three decades her private life — two failed marriages, a fight against poverty and mental illness, resurrection as a born-again Christian, years of seclusion in Southern California — was a mystery to all but a few close friends.
Then in the late 1980s and early '90s, she was rediscovered and a Bettie Page renaissance began. David Stevens, creator of the comic-book and later movie character the Rocketeer, immortalized her as the Rocketeer's girlfriend. Fashion designers revived her look. Uma Thurman, in bangs, reincarnated Bettie in Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction," and Demi Moore, Madonna and others appeared in Page-like photos.
The obits say Page helped fuel the sexual revolution of the 1960s and '70s. I suppose that's true. I think it would be a mistake to downplay the rest of her story -- particularly her conversion to Christianity and her reclusiveness. She had trouble accepting her latter-day fame. I was one among who knows how many teenage boys who ogled Page's pics years ago. (Fact is, because I was a comic book geek, I knew Bettie Page first from Dave Stevens before I saw any of her actual pin-ups.) I hope she found what she was looking for.
Mr. Karnick takes it a little further, especially in reacting to a review of the special by conservative heavyweight L. Brent Bozell III, which Karnick doesn't think too much of (and I mean the review, not of Bozell in general).
And, providing an alternative point of view and proving once again that conservatives just don't understand or appreciate popular culture, here's a denunciation of A Colbert Christmas by L. Brent Bozell III, in which he questions the sincerity of Colbert's religious convictions.
Ouch. It's worth reading all of Karnick's post.
I know cross-post my response to Karnick's update, for your reading pleasure:
Bozell is really showing his humorless kill-joy instincts in this one. He spends quite a bit of time going over Toby Keith's contribution to the special.
Now, Bozell either thinks the famously conservative Keith is a moron easily duped or ... is some kind of phony conservative. For Pete's sake, man! Keith's most famous song tells terrorists that they are going to get a boot in their ass, courtesy of the Red, White and Blue. Could it be that Keith is man enough to poke fun at his own right-wing macho persona -- while at the same time having a little fun about how he dislikes what liberals and the ACLU have done to this country? It's a comedy show, Brent. I trust Keith's instincts on this one, and find no offense.
As for that closing number with Colbert and Costello, I'm still very touched by it and in awe that it made it on national television. I think Colbert left a little bit of ambiguity in how his lyrics could be interpreted on purpose -- all the better to sneak them past the clever people who work at Comedy Central.
Yes, one can take them as an insult to Christianity, as Bozell does. And that kind of reaction gives Colbert lots of cover — as does his use of the generic term "Christmas Spirit." I believe Colbert uses the term "Christmas Spirit" as a Trojan horse for his larger message of Christian love that is the real meaning of Christmas. It's a religious message in a secular cloak.
One part of the video that got the attention of Mrs. Zaius and I was when Costello sang "A redeemer, and a savior ... ." At that moment, Colbert nods his head and points his finger toward Costello. It's a subtle indication of what Colbert's intentions were with this little number.
If Bozell wants a fully Christian Christmas special, he'd do better to turn on one of the many Christian channels on cable. For a mainstream pop-culture outlet, though, it doesn't get much more Christian than what Colbert produced.
... that's a great idea.
Does Hollywood really think that they are immune from the economic hurt/boycott when it so openly mocks its audience, even in today's tough times?
I'm almost loath to post this little anti-Prop. 8 video, but, here it is. Hollywood liberals lecturing, tossing out insults, expressing their own brand of (culturally accepted) bigotry, and yes ... providing theological explanation ... in song.
From the Funny or Die website, again.
John C. Reilly sings about what happened on Election Day: "Look nobody's watching ..."
Really? I remember seeing an ad or two on TV here in California about this issue before the vote. What I also remember was a single state judge redefining marriage out of the blue. You know. When — in reality — no one was watching. And is it the fault of Christians that you guys didn't think of such a clever way to express your point of view before Election Day? C'mon.
Hey, Hollywood B-listers (mostly). Do you know who really has a problem with this issue, and is deadly serious about it? Hint: they don't pray to Jesus. And they enjoy stoning women, too. How about showing some real courage, huh?
By the way, where's the mockery of Elton John, the most famously gay Briton in history? He would seem ripe for this kind of treatment — perhaps more so, since he's a "traitor." That's right, Sir Elton is a supporter of the traditional definition of marriage, and thinks the opponents are going down the wrong track:
In December 2005, John and Furnish tied the knot in a civil partnership ceremony in Windsor, England. But, clarified the singer, "We're not married. Let's get that right. We have a civil partnership. What is wrong with Proposition 8 is that they went for marriage. Marriage is going to put a lot of people off, the word marriage."
John and Furnish, and their two cocker spaniels, Marilyn and Arthur, were in town for Tuesday's annual benefit for the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
"I don't want to be married. I'm very happy with a civil partnership. If gay people want to get married, or get together, they should have a civil partnership," John says. "The word 'marriage,' I think, puts a lot of people off.
"You get the same equal rights that we do when we have a civil partnership. Heterosexual people get married. We can have civil partnerships."
Elton John as a voice of reason. Who'd have thunk it?
My friend Sam Karnick at The American Culture highlighted Steven Colbert's Christmas Special on Comedy Central, which aired just a few days ago and is now out on DVD. In the comment section, Karnick has a pretty good back and forth with a commenter on theism, nihilism, atheism, and other big subjects. Yes, this clip from Colbert's special prompted such a deep discussion.
I share the comment I left on Karnick's site (as of this moment, awaiting publication):
I dare to call this a remarkable event in modern popular culture. Modern comedy, especially on Comedy Central, drips with cynicism. The network's biggest shows — South Park, The Daily Show, The Sarah Silverman Program and (perhaps to a lesser extent) the Colbert Report — take potshots at everything traditional in America. I find a good bit of that funny, but start to get tired of it after extended exposure. It's always been a mystery to me how a network that makes its bones by continually mocking (often in bad faith) the values of Middle America thrives. Perhaps the majority of America — the non-elites — are not as stupid as Jon Stewart seems to think we are, and we have the self-confidence to laugh at ourselves.
Yet, on Comedy Central no less, Colbert presents a little song that is sincere, respectful, honest and (gasp!) wholesome. Note that Colbert produced a "Christmas" special, not a "Holiday" special. The distinction is important, especially in today's climate.
Where else, except the classic Peanuts Christmas Special, does one hear any explicit and respectful reference to the Christian meaning of Christmas in mainstream culture? Imagine for a moment that the Peanuts special didn't already exist. Is there any chance that someone in Hollywood today would produce it — and it would be eagerly broadcast by a major American network? I think not. We'd end up with some bland "Sparkle Season Spectacular" devoid of any meaning. Ugh.
Also note, the first lines of the song take a swing at the "cynics" — the bread and butter of the Comedy Central audience. Yes, Costello's second lyric mentions Santa, but he first mentions (and honors) "believers," for whom Christmas is sacred and not just an excuse to buy stuff. And Costello sings later of many a "Christmas carol to be sung." That's quite a remarkable thing to hear — and I believe it was intended to poke at the bland "Happy Holidays" nonsense that has infected the modern Western obsession with multiculturalism. This is not a song that tries to hide that it's Christmas, nor apologize for it, but celebrates it.
Now, to get back into the weeds here, I come down on Mr. Karnick's side. It's hard to listen to that song and not think that there is at least a gentle indictment of those "who believe in nothin'." And Christians waiting for "judgment" from the Lord are of a bit more peaceful character than those engaged in jihad.
Merry Christmas, everyone.
I've been reluctant to post on the latest developments on the Prop. 8 protests here in California (as has Ben, as revealed to me in emails), but it's getting to the point that it's hard to stay silent anymore about the gay marriage debate that has turned infuriatingly absurd. (Now view the clips, please. I won't take long and will get you caught up.)
So here's the scene: A Hollywood restaurant, El Coyote — an institution in LA — is the target of protests and harassment, and (now) national news stories. El Coyote's elderly lady owner, Marjorie Christoffersen, has prostrated herself before the Hollywood gay community — and even that wasn't good enough. They demand that the Ms. Christoffersen denounce her Mormon faith and "apologize," and that's just for starters.
She is a private citizen who made a donation — $100 freakin' dollars — and she is blacklisted by the intolerant left. And let's not discount her age. For Pete's sake! According to the account of a gay marriage supporter (meaning a Prop. 8 opponent), she was on the verge of fainting from the stress. You don't think this mess has taken time off her life? How crazy are things that they have come to this?
It almost elicits laughs when one thinks back to the liberals who warned of the horrors that would befall all who opposed the God-directed Bush Tyranny. Are those who have donated money for Prop 8 being harassed by the conservative mob? No. There is no conservative mob. Mob tactics seem to be the exclusive domain of the left — in an election (nationally) they won.
Is it OK to be opposed gay marriage in America today? Does your vote only count if you agree with the liberal left? The answer is no. It's not OK. To hell with "free thinking." To hell with "open-mindedness." Conformity of thought in the "new age" is all that will be tolerated by those who pretended that opposing George W. Bush was akin to bringing a knock on the door in the dark of night — people who pretended they couldn't be honest about their political convictions. Let's be clear here: Ms. Christoffersen never wanted to make her political convictions public. It was the vicious, intolerant liberal mob that made her politics public, and they are punishing her for it. Who's next?
Point of fact: Prop. 8 passed in the same percentage as Obama won nationally. Yet you don't see disgruntled conservatives protesting angrily in front of liberal enclaves demanding that the election be "corrected." Let's put it another way. Imagine a world in which Prop. 8 was defeated, and California conservatives decided to protest in front of gay clubs, or moved in to disrupt gay marriages, or picketed in front of Ellen DeGeneres' studio. What would the reaction be? How might the national media cover that? What would be the instinct of "good people"? If ever that came to pass, it would be to denounce it — strongly, in all quarters. I know I would. Publicly. Here. Repeatedly.
Yet we are living in a world today where the culture yawns while "open-minded" liberals protest (and, in some cases) vandalize Mormon churches and Evangelical churches for thinking differently — actually, not thinking that differently, since the majority of Californians agree with Ms. Christoffersen.
I thought the left would show their true colors if Obama lost. Yet even in victory, they are as ugly as I expected.
I love Mexican food. I'll be visiting El Coyote to oppose the mob — publicly and repeatedly. That is the proper reaction.
I can't think of a more appropriate day to quote from the recently departed Larry Norman's classic (sort of) song, "The Great American Novel"
The politicians all make speeches and the newsmen all take notes
And they exaggerate the issues as they shove them down our throats.
Is it really up to them whether this country sinks or floats?
Well, I wonder who would lead us if none of us would vote.
Our friend and ally ExUrban Jon chronicles the "last temptation" of Barack Obama. These are truly the times that test men's souls.
Disclaimer: As always, but particularly in this case, the statements that follow are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of my church, my denomination, or my employer.
Religion and politics - they go together like, well, two things that don't go together at all. As someone who is both religiously AND politically opinionated (and strongly so) I know that it's very easy to conflate religious and political views in such a way that I consider my political positions to be as eternally important as my doctrine. I grew up knowing that you don't HAVE to be a Republican to be a Christian, while at the same time not knowing any Christian Democrats - at least none that were "out of the closet." It took many years for me to realize (really believe, not just assent) that not only could someone be a genuine Christian and also a Democrat, but that there were Christian socialists, libertarians, monarchists, anarchists, and all held political views that were informed by both a sincere faith and a serious commitment to scripture.
I came to understand that the message of the Gospel, the good news of salvation from our sins through the work of Jesus Christ, should be the central "message" associated with Christianity. Additionally, I now believe that attempting to enforce Christian beliefs on the country or the world through the "power of the sword" (i.e. the compulsion of government) does more to obscure that message than highlight it. Christianity stops being about Christ, and becomes identified with being anti-gay, anti-abortion, pro-war, etc. The message ceases to be, "We are all sinners in need of a savior," and becomes, "If you're straight and you don't get drunk or do drugs, you're cool with God."
I have friends who disagree with me about this, of course. Bright, committed Christian men and women who sincerely believe that part of our duty as Christians is to engage the culture and encourage it (through force of law if necessary) to conform to the will of God. I believe I know these people, and I trust that while we disagree on this matter, they are no less committed to Christ than I am. Commitment to libertarian principles is the furthest thing from a litmus test for my friendships. We will vigorously (and charitably) disagree about politics, even as we worship together the same God through the same Christ.
All of this brings me to James Dobson, about whom we monkeys have previously ranted on this blog. Dobson is, perhaps, the most powerful "Christian leader" in America, with over 200 million weekly listeners throughout the world. His organization, Focus on the Family, has spawned dozens of other "child organizations," many of which are devoted to right-wing political action with a "Christian" label. About a week ago, one of these organizations (Focus on the Family Action) released the "Letter from 2012 in Obama's America," a speculative and fear-mongering screed which mixes paranoia and prognostication with Dobson and Focus's unique "Jesus is a Republican" measurement of good and bad outcomes.
While the "letter" starts with a series of disclaimers, its clear intent is to scare Christians into voting for John McCain. It does this by virtually ascribing super-powers to Barack Obama, the Democratic congress, and the Judiciary. Somehow, in four short years, the evil, anti-Christian liberals manage to shut down the Boy Scouts (along with Christian campus groups, adoption agencies, and home schools), legalize child pornography and force gender-identity training on first graders, allow a Taliban-like theocracy to take over Iraq, surrender most of the former Soviet bloc back to Russia, and both embolden and allow Iran to nuke Tel Aviv without reprisal.
Is this productive? Does it advance the cause of Christ to make up lies and spew outrageous speculations about what "might" happen if Barack Obama is elected president? Does it serve the (spiritual) Kingdom of God to divide, not over the doctrine of the Trinity or the deity of Christ, but over rights of gun ownership and the pledge of allegiance? What does it say about the sovereignty of Our Lord to suggest that one's failure to vote for John McCain could literally result in the death of millions?
Scare tactics (and, frankly, lies) like this, particularly when done in the name of Christianity, obscure the gospel and tarnish the name of Christ. They are not charitable, honest, or productive. As a Christian, I repudiate them and challenge supporters of Dobson's ministries to reconsider where they send their money.
There. I said it.
"...seeing as how we're Baptists and all and we generally don't expect to see holy people popping up in our foodstuffs"
An Arlington, TX woman notices
something someone rather noteworthy on a grape.
"I thought this stuff just happened to Catholics?" she said.
John Podhoretz at Contentions replies to the same kind of thing I was talking about in my response to Allen's comment earlier. The double standard the media and Obama supporters (the same thing, I know) apply to Palin also applies to McCain himself. The media, and Allen, have been obsessing over McCain's vetting process, or lack thereof. But, J-Pod says ...
Imagine this. Upon hearing of the pregnancy of Sarah Palin’s daughter, John McCain chooses someone else off his short list for vice president, like Tim Pawlenty. Over the course of the week that followed, word leaks out that McCain had closely considered Palin — known at this point only as a maverick Republican woman who took on the Establishment — but went another way because of the pregnancy of her teenage daughter.
How long before the charges of Republican sexism, obedience to Christianism, a refusal to think outside the box, punitive moralism, a cruel unwillingness to understand that the lives of ordinary Americans can be messy, yada yada yada, would have been hurled at McCain by many of the same people who are now fulminating about the inappropriateness of the Sarah Palin selection?
Exactly right. In the eyes of some, Republicans can do no right. McCain is a man of honor. And J-Pod theorizes, probably correctly, that McCain's sense of honor only reinforced his desire to pick Palin — pushed these supposed "problems" to the side because it would be dishonorable to hold the pregnancy of Palin's teen-aged daughter as a terrible mark against her (which it isn't, by the way.)
From our good friend Kevin at the Exurban League in a post about a lefty religious outfit going apoplectic about the latest developments in the Palin story:
I find no end of humor in the hard left branding conservative Christians as judgmental and harsh, then turning around and labeling them as a hypocrites when they fail to live up to the worst portrayals of what the left has imagined them to be. If we judge harshly, we lose. When we show the love and forgiveness that Christ calls us to show, we lose again (in their eyes).
Joel and I tackle the Saddleback presidential forum in this week's Scripps-Howard column. My view is that such public displays are part of the strange paradox of American politics in the early 21st century -- the confessional culture, but a culture ambivalent about public discussions of personal faith. I thought Rick Warren's questions were interesting, even revelatory. But if it had been up to me, I'm not sure I would have done the event.
"A president's faith -- or lack thereof -- undoubtedly shapes the way he governs," I write. "That's been true since George Washington's day. It's certainly true now. When George W. Bush named Jesus Christ as his favorite political philosopher at a Republican debate in 1999, that told voters a lot about the man and his world view -- for better or for worse. Barack Obama's remark to Rick Warren that deciding when an unborn child should have human rights was 'above his pay grade' is similarly revealing."
Joel argues, not without reason, that "Symbolically... the first presidential debate of 2008 left secular Americans out of the conversation." But he concludes: "Our politicians will never stop speaking -- and even pandering -- to the faithful. But they shouldn't leave the rest of us out in the cold."
Close readers will perceive that I sympathize with Joel here, but only a little. The problem with his argument -- and you really should read the whole thing -- is the sense of grievance it conveys. Left out in the cold? Do secular Americans have no opinion or stake in moral questions, especially as they conflict with public policy? This is the political climate we live in.
That said, I couldn't help but read Dan Henninger in Thursday's Wall Street Journal and think, Damn, I wish I had written that!
Julie Ponzi points out Stanley Fish's latest piece at the New York Times, in which the postmodernist prof confesses to a variety of heresies against the green religion. "Now don’t get me wrong," the good professor writes. "I am wholly persuaded by the arguments in support of the practices I resist. I believe that recycling is good and that disposable paper products are bad. I believe in global warming. I believe in Al Gore. But it is possible to believe something and still resist taking the actions your belief seems to require." Fish is enthusiastically lazy. Incredibly, he cannot let go of modern conveniences. It's astonishing -- scandalous!
If Fish's short essay is to be savored, the comments on the piece are truly something to behold. Ordinarily, comments make me sad or angry or both. But this time, I feel nothing but sweetness and light. My early favorite: "Environmentalists aren’t worshiping anything. They are merely being responsible." Well, of course they are! And the commenter's "responsible" suggestion to Fish is to keep his mouth shut, lest anyone get the wrong idea. Priceless!