October 22, 2020

Saturday Ramblings, March 28, 2015

Hello, imonks, and welcome to the weekend.

52 Wagon

52 Wagon

Our good friends at Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Sexual Culture [they of the queering agriculture fame] have finally updated their seminar offerings.  First up is a study what a couple of video games say about Native American culture.

Close-reading Assassin’s Creed 3 and Assassin’s Creed: Liberation, this paper will consider how American Indian and Indigenous studies might intersect with videogame studies, especially at the sites of narrative, racial representations, and history. Examining how settler colonialism is reimagined through digital space, the paper will discuss how indigeneity might disrupt the historicities of code and play.

The date for that is April 7.  Mark your calendar.  After that, the next seminar is Queering Neural Citizenship: Lessons from autism and neurodiveristy.  Alas, no description yet available, and, silly me, I have no idea what neural citizenship is, let alone how to queer it. Maybe the graphic associated with the event will help:

Maybe not...

Maybe not…

The Journal of Computational Mathematics published a paper this week, titled, A Cascadic Multigrid Algorithm for Computing the Fiedler Vector of Graph Laplacians.  What’s interesting is not the content (I found it to be far too simplistic, ya know?) but the author: John Urschel, an offensive lineman for the NFL Baltimore Ravens.

"Criticize my proposed cascadic multigrid algorithm one more time..."

“Criticize my proposed cascadic multigrid algorithm one more time…”

Senator Ted Cruz made the news this week as the first major player to announce for the 2016 presidential election.  The venue for the announcement: Liberty University. Cruz riffed on the theme, Imagine, because why not channel John Lennon when you’re at the largest evangelical school in the land?

Imagine, instead of economic stagnation, booming economic growth,” Cruz said. “Imagine young people coming out of school with four, five, six job offers. … Imagine in 2017 a new President signing legislation repealing every word of Obamacare. … Imagine a simple flat tax that lets every American fill out his or her taxes on a postcard. … Imagine abolishing the I.R.S. … Imagine a federal government that works to defend the sanctity of human life and to uphold the sacrament of marriage. … Imagine a federal government that protects the right to keep and bear arms of all law-abiding Americans.

The next day, Cruz announced he would sign up for Obamacare. His wife took leave from her job – and benefits – to help Ted “run for President,” so faced with the choice of the crushing cost of COBRA, the high price of buying health insurance on the open insurance market, or enrolling under an Affordable Care Act plan, they naturally chose the least expensive, most comprehensive one for their family. Got a problem with that?

Henry Etton says Cruz has no shot of winning: “Cruz is more conservative than every recent nominee, every other candidate who mounted a serious bid in 2012 and every plausible candidate running or potentially running in 2016.”  This is the analysis he uses to back up that claim:

But Cruz is still to the left of....well, I can't think of anyone, actually

But Cruz is still to the left of….well, I can’t think of anyone, actually.

And Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, announced he will not run for re-election in 2016. New York Senator Chuck Schumer seems to be the favorite for his leadership spot.

Potholes bad this spring in your area?  Heavy rains and flooding in northern Brazil have left some doozies.  One tourist bus got stuck on one. Fortunately, they got everyone out before this happened:


I checked to see if this was from the Onion, but no, it’s legit:

Though I self-identify as a Christian and I am an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)…my personal beliefs don’t align with those of most Presbyterians.
For example, I believe that:

  • Religion is a human construct
  • Jesus may have been an historical figure, but most of what we know about him is in the form of legend
  • God is a symbol of myth-making and not credible as a supernatural being or force
  • The Bible is a human product as opposed to special revelation from a divine being
  • Human consciousness is the result of natural selection, so there’s no afterlife

And yet, even though I hold those beliefs, I am still a proud minister. But I don’t appreciate being told that I’m not truly a Christian.

Pastor Shuck talks about how his church practices belief-less Christianity (as if the five points above are not beliefs):

Belief-less Christianity is thriving right now, even as other forms of the faith are falling away rapidly. Many liberal or progressive Christians have already let go or de-emphasized belief in Heaven, that the Bible is literally true, that Jesus is supernatural, and that Christianity is the only way.

But what about belief in God? Can a belief-less Christianity really survive if God isn’t in the picture? Can you even call that Christianity anymore? In theory, yes…..

Someone quipped that my congregation is BYOG: Bring Your Own God. I use that and invite people to “bring their own God” — or none at all. While the symbol “God” is part of our cultural tradition, you can take it or leave it or redefine it to your liking. That permission to be theological do-it-yourselfers is at the heart of belief-less Christianity.

Pastor Shuck then goes on to wonder, “Why is that so many people think my affirmations are antithetical to Christianity?” I go on to wonder what, exactly, it takes to have one’s ordination revoked in the PCUSA?

You know the old meme of firefighters being called because a cat got stuck in a tree?  Yeah, so that totally happened in India last week.  When the firefighters arrived, here’s what they found:

"here, kitty, kitty..."

here, kitty, kitty…

Joseph Amorese, of Easton, Pennsylvania, had just undergone hernia surgery, so his father sent him a get-well-soon card.  With a lottery ticket in it, because why not? A lottery ticket that proved to be worth 7 million dollars.  “I had surgery so I didn’t jump up and down, but in my mind I was jumping up and down.” Hopefully he at least will take Dad out to Red Lobster or something.

Vincenzo Aiello is an Italian artist who really doesn’t like the idea of circumcision.  In fact, he is starting a Kickstarter campaign to protest the practice through art. And, lucky you, if you donate $1,000 to the campaign, you will be rewarded with a framed replica foreskin made from silicon resin. Kinda pricey, but Grandma would love to get this for Christmas.

Did you know the left loves Sharia law?  So claims the Reverend Pat Robertson:

You know folks, what’s happening is the so called left, the liberals want to rebel against the established order and the established order of western civilization is basically Christian. It is based on the gospel, it is based on the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ and so if somebody wants to rebel against that then anything else goes.

So here comes an ideology out of Saudi Arabia, for the 7th Century, Saudi Arabia, talking about persecution of women, cutting off hands, decapitating people, butchering whole populations because they happen to share a different faith and the so-called Left is saying, ‘Oh, this is the ideology we want.’


Another Robertson (Phil, you know, the duck guy) also took flack this week for his take on atheists.

Two guys break into an atheist’s home. He has a little atheist wife and two little atheist daughters. Two guys break into his home and tie him up in a chair and gag him. And then they take his two daughters in front of him and rape both of them and then shoot ’em and they take his wife and then decapitate her head off in front of him. And they can look at him and say, ‘Isn’t it great that I don’t have to worry about being judged? Isn’t it great that there’s nothing wrong with this? There’s no right or wrong, now is it dude?’

Then you take a sharp knife and take his manhood and hold it in front of him and say, ‘Wouldn’t it be something if this was something wrong with this? But you’re the one who says there is no God, there’s no right, there’s no wrong, so we’re just having fun. We’re sick in the head, have a nice day.’

If it happened to them, they probably would say, ‘Something about this just ain’t right.’

Yeah, Phil….ummm…are you okay? Can we talk?  See, I’m on your team. And I understand the point you are trying to make.  You are meaning to imply that ethics without a transcendent basis are ethics without a foundation, that unless there is an inherent meaning and purpose to the universe then any meaning or purpose we give it is just whistling in the dark, and that atheism accentuates the fact/value problem, since you can’t get ‘ought’ from ‘is’.  I get it.  But talking about raping and murdering and decapitating and castration…I just don’t think that’s going to open minds here. Quite the contrary, actually.  Can we tone it down, please?  Or stick to talking about duck calls? Or camo?  I hear you’re all about camo. We are thinking about some using some camo here at the imonastery, and would love your opinion.

Really, Phil, we would love your opinion on this.  Over the top?

Over the top?

Finally, there is now a campaign to kick Andrew Jackson off the $20 bill and put a woman in his place. Very cool idea.  I have a really hard time taking seriously any campaign that lists the racist and eugenicist Margaret Sanger as one of the candidates, but I love the idea of Sojourner Truth or Harriet Tubman. Click here to see the proposed list.  What woman, O wise imonkers, do you think should be the first one on our bills? o-SOJOURNER-TRUTH-900



  1. First!

    Yeah, Phil….ummm…can we talk? See, I’m on your team. And I understand the point you are trying to make.
    Well, I’m pretty sure I ain’t on his team, and I don’t get what he is trying to do at all. Not to mention that his premise is faulty. But I hear that they don’t teach critical thinking in those Loosiana public schools…

  2. Daniel, i sure hope you’re *not* on Robertson’s team! He is one messed up dude, and i wish that blasted show had never been made.

    As for Native people and how they’re represented in video games, i think that is *very* pertinent, although i wish the issue wasn’t phrased in academic jargon.

    • He’s no more messed up than most of the people I see in our community on a daily basis. That’s probably his appeal. He’s just like a lot of people out there.

      • That’s a disturbing thought. I know lots of folks from all different walks of life, and not one of them has ever had a discussion that included raping girls, decapitation, and removing genitals. Let alone all together…

    • Daniel Jepsen says

      Numo, well, in terms of the theism versus atheism debate, we are on the same side.

      • Daniel, i do not think his god is the one you believe in.

        Also, re. theism, he is clearly saying that atheists deserve what they get, and that is chilling – especially the way he describes it. He also clearly believes that no atheist hws and morsl values or ethics. i wonder if he has a pointy white hood stashed on his property somewhere? i am not trying to be ptovocative; he sounds like the people who inveighed against Civil Rights activists and black people in general, back when i was growing up. He simply chooses different groups of people.

        • numo, clearly you are not a Duck Dynasty fan (I don’t have cable so I can’t watch it anyway) but I think you may be attributing beliefs to Robertson that he may not believe in. “Pointy white hoods”? PLEASE! If you haven’t read or watched, anything these guys have out there then how can you say something like that?

          Enough has been printed, and posted on the internet, that anyone interested can be filled in on the Duck guys (and gals) belief systems. And in NONE of them do they propose race based discrimination as your “pointy white hoods” allusion may suggest.

          Sure, they are over the top in their public statements )at least daddy Phil is), but remember, it is TELEVISION, and REALITY TV, to boot! It is self promotion all the way, and media mavens will pick up ant outrageous (perceived) statement and put it out there to confirm their own trope.

          And his analogy, clumsy as it is for an uneducated guy (his kids are college graduates, btw.) does NOT imply that atheists deserve murder, as you are implying. It is just a very clumsy effort to point out that with no OBJECTIVE moral standard that they are subject to any old SUBJECTIVE definition of morality.

          Beat him up for being clumsy of speech, uneducated, backwoods…whatever…but the fact remains, unless you have an objective standard of morality you then have no standing to criticize someone else’s subjective standards. Even some of the noted atheists admit that they are “borrowing” Christian standards to validate their own standards.

          I may be totally off base here, but I don’t think so.

          • but the fact remains, unless you have an objective standard of morality you then have no standing to criticize someone else’s subjective standards.

            Proof? I’ve heard that meme a lot.

          • Oscar, Phil R. has said a whole slew of other nasty, bigoted, crude things about gay people, the age at which “women” (hint: not out of their teens) “should” marry, and much more.

            I believe without any hesitation that he is a bigot, in the manner I described.

          • Oh, and: Japanese people, too, in the Esquire interview where he shot off his mouth about gay men. He has no regard for other religions, it seems, since the comment about Japanese people was about religion.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            We’re back to “Rally Round the Beard, Boys!”?

          • That Other Jean says

            Oscar, Phil Robertson has no excuses, certainly not the ones you give him of being clumsy of speech, uneducated and backwoods. It’s all an act. According to several biographical sources, Phil attended Louisiana Tech, where he was a teammate of Terry Bradshaw, turned down a chance to play football for the Washington Redskins, and got a Master’s Degree in education. What he says may actually be what he thinks, but it’s not for lack of opportunity to learn better. Personally, I hope he’s not the bigoted hick he plays on TV; but if he isn’t, he’s shamelessly pandering to the worst in his audience, which makes him a flaming hypocrite. That’s worse.

          • That Other Jean – well, Phil and his family made “reality” vids and posted them on YouTube, which is where the people at A&E 1st saw them… i think it is all an act, *except* for the views he goes on about.

        • David Hogue says

          Nemo, Phil’s son Willie has an adopted black (biracial actually) son, so I don’t think this family has any white hoods stashed anywhere. Willie talked about his motivation for adopting in a video that’s easy to find on the internet: “That’s what God did with us, you know. He took us in. Jesus is his son, and we are his adopted children.” Willie’s dad taught him that, by the way. So I think that we actually do worship the same God.

          Granted, Phil was not gracious in comments about gays, but he’s from an older generation when that sort of thinking is not uncommon. It doesn’t excuse it, but helps explain it. Phil is a much better person now than before his conversion, when he was an alcoholic, addicted to drugs, and a mean husband who kicked his wife and children out of his house. He has a very interesting story and worth reading. In fact, you really ought to read it before you start telling us your theories on who he is, Nemo.

          The comment on marrying girls in their teens, btw, comes from his own experience. He and his wife were both teenagers when they married, and similarly, his grandson is engaged to one of his former schoolmates, and they are both nineteen. The whole family believes in marrying young. I think this is what he’s talking about, not some sort of Taliban-style forced marriage thing.

          The problem with Phil is that he doesn’t care at all about being PC, and he lives in a world where people are so PC that they immediately jump to conclusions at any whiff of an unrefined statement and write the speaker off without knowing anything about him.

          • David, not all people who adopt children of another race or bi-racial children are so kind or compassionate. I know someone whose (admittedly messed up) folks adopted a Native American child, but not out of kindness – they *always* made certain that this kid knew they were, at very best, innately inferior to their adoptive family due to background and skin color and culture and… I’m not saying that’s the case with Robertson, but please don’t assume benign intentions on the part of all people who adopt. And for the kids, it can be hell, as I’d suspect it might be for this black member of a for-TV all-out redneck family.

            I would imagine that this person feels hurt, embarrassed, and like they don’t fit in, at very least. Things are always tough for kids who are “not like” the parents in looks (re. mixed-race families), and parents have to work very, very hard to try and counter the negative influences, many of which can come from within a family, even if they aren’t nearly as overt and mean as the example I jsut gave.

            Advising people to get married in their teens is not a good idea, either, no matter what Pappy Phil did. His “wisdom” is crazy-making, and crazy-producing, if that vision of abused, mutilated and murdered atheists is any indication, I would never trust anyone who came out with such a horribly violent revenge fantasy scenario for *any* reason.

    • I have never watched Duck Dynasty, probably the only one in the universe who has never watched it. (I’ve never watched The Walking Dead either), but Robertson’s kooky way of explaining this was better described by C.S. Lewis in the first chapter of Mere Christianity: Right and Wrong as a clue to the Meaning of the Universe, where he gives the point without Robertson’s extreme illustration that our concept of right and wrong makes no sense without an objective morality behind it.

      So in a way, we’re on the same side, but not in the same words.

      Both Robertsons should be locked in a room together where they can shoot their mouths off and nobody hears them.

      • And on a turn in scripture “Now when they saw the boldness of Phil and Pat, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they were unlearned and ignorant men” Apologies to Luke and Acts 4:13

        • Clay Crouch says

          They are hucksters in a long line of American, pseudo-religious hucksters. Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes would be proud.

      • I think NT Wright’s handling of it in the first chapter of Simply Christian (Putting the World to Rights) is even better, though I like CS Lewis, but Wright’s is a bit easier for the common person to understand.

        I’ve never watched Duck Dynasty either. If I’m going to watch a reality show in Bayou Country it’s going to be Swamp People.

    • Bento Box says

      The problem has never been “objective” vs “relative” morality. It has always been what resources do you have to uphold morality when it conflicts with your own interests?

      • Exactly. Two subjective moralities can be conflict. But if three subjective moralities exist, and two are in agreement, congrats, you now have as close to an objective morality as we’re going to get.

        80/20 principle. Is it wrong for someone to break into someone’s house, behead their wife, kill their kids, chop off their manhood, etc? Yes, becaues the majority says it is. Flip the environment around a bit, and if the majority invades a foreign country and village by village commits those atrocities, then of course it’s no longer wrong, because Objective morality said it’s ok.

        And then over time those stories get glamorized and inerrantly thrown together and affirmed.

        • Bento Box says

          I’m astounded we agree on this. We agree on practically nothing else [having read your comments copiously].

          I believe a lot in intersubjectivity than I do in either objectivity (doesn’t exist) or subjectivity.

          • Agree. Whenever I hear someone talk about “objective” morality, I usually ask them to define it. I haven’t had a satisfactory response yet (this gets back to the difficulty of theory versus praxis, but that is an whole other blog post).

          • So then, Jesus’ teachings are all subjective? Love God and your neighbor as yourself is subjective. “If I be lifted up I will draw all men to me” is subjective? “For there is no other name under heaven, given among men whereby we must be saved” is subjective? The whole basis for our Christian faith is subjective?

            If God is really God, and we value the bible as God’s voice to the world, then we MUST regard it as “objective” truth. If NOT, well, then ALL things are relative and the only truth is that which most people agree. You then have fallen man (IF you even believe in such) as the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong and all else as mere opinion. Why then Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection (IF you even believe in such)?

            My life experience makes me very wary of trusting mankind’s shifting ethos. The track record is not good.

          • I find that when people use the term “objective morality” unless it is in a technical context they’re using it the same way (that often the same people) use “reading the bible literally”. It’s clear here on earth our societies function under various subjective moral laws. Furthermore it’s unclear what an objective morality would mean: objective moral principles that different societies have to contextualize? An objective legal code? an objectively right decision making process?, All of the above?

            What they mean is that they want people to take their own subjective pinions very, very seriously.

          • Intersubjectivity?

            When I was studying Zen, we called it interbeing. Aside from referring to the relationships that exist between people, it always seemed like a vague concept to me. It’s no more definable than the concept of objective morality.

          • A good read along this line is the book “The Abolition of Man”, by C.S. Lewis.

          • I think I may have stepped in some mule stool.

          • Bento Box says

            Kind of like language is intersubjective. There aren”t any “objective” meanings to words, unless you’re a Platonist of the kind you seldom see these days, but you also can’t go about using words any old way and stay out of asylum, and languages, although they differ widely, have certain things in common, or they’d be just babble.

            So, ethics, like language, is a community project.

            That’s all I meant.

          • Oscar, I don’t find the idea of adopting a philosophical position in order to justify a presuppositional worldview to be any kind of cogent argument.

          • Really? That’s surprising.

  3. Re. the 20s, there are some great choices on that list. I think Rosa Parks is probably one of the most worthy.

    • cermak_rd says

      I’m partial to Sojourner Truth, myself. That woman was something! Her “Ain’t I a Woman” speech is classic.

      • Christiane says

        + 1

        • Christiane says

          an accounting of the crowd response to Sojourner’s great speech, here:

          “Amid roars of applause, she returned to her corner, leaving more than one of us with streaming eyes, and hearts beating with gratitude. She had taken us up in her strong arms and carried us safely over the slough of difficulty turning the whole tide in our favor. I have never in my life seen anything like the magical influence that subdued the mobbish spirit of the day, and turned the sneers and jeers of an excited crowd into notes of respect and admiration. Hundreds rushed up to shake hands with her, and congratulate the glorious old mother, and bid her God-speed on her mission of “testifyin‘ agin concerning the wickedness of this ’ere people.”

          Source: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda J. Gage, eds., History of Woman Suffrage, vol. I (Rochester, N. Y: Susan B. Anthony, Charles Mann, 1881), 114–17.

          Narrative of Sojourner Truth”;
          a woman who said ‘womens is ‘comin up’ and they bringin the mens up with them’

          • I’d vote for her.

          • Daniel Jepsen says

            That’s awesome, Christiane

          • Bento Box says

            It speaks volumes to me that they want to replace Andrew Jackson, and leave Alexander Hamilton, the architect of our current misery, firmly enshrined on the $10 bill..

          • IT’s interesting to me that we all still love Ben Franklin, Washington and Lincoln and largely don’t have strong opinions about Kennedy and Eisenhower, but Hamilton and Jackson still have significant pockets of hostility generations afterward. I think someone said something about the iniquities of the past lingering.

          • It’s only a ten-spot, Bento…

          • Damaris, you can indeed vote for her if you go to the site that Daniel linked to in the OP. I voted.

    • Christiane says

      + 1

      Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, and Sojourner Truth are powerful American figures deserving of the recognition.
      Magnificent Americans, all.

    • I’m going to second cermak’s vote for Sojourner Truth. Rosa Parks IS iconic, and a good choice, but I’d prefer someone more distant from modern times, PLUS she is someone who the general public couldn’t identify. Her NAME may be familiar, but what she is known for is still not widely recognized. A bit of an educational moment as well as a statement of recognition for black Americans.

      • Ditto for Harriet Tubman. I agree, but also like the idea of Rosa Parks, because she helped pave the way for some much, long before she refused to change seats. (She was a reporter for the NAACP on rape cases that were *definitely* racially motivated, specifically one where a young woman who was walking home from an evening prayer meeting was abducted and raped by a group of men. The NAACP did a *lot* via that case to bring awareness to this serious issue – experienced by *many* black women and girls over a long period of time – and Rosa Parks was an integral part of that.)

        If you’re interested in reading more on this, the go-to book is The Dark End of the Street.

        • Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll get it for my Kindle. But I still think she is to recent…

          • I disagree, for many reasons, but hey, i think Sojourner Truth or H. Tubman are great possibilities, too.

            Am also thinking that for folks born after 1980, Parks is definitely not “too recent.”

  4. Assassin’s Creed 3 is set during the American revolution and the main character is half-Native American. It incorporates a ton of historical detail as well as its fictional content. How Native American studies regard that blend of historical/fictional representation in the game is actually a topic I would find very interesting!

  5. cermak_rd says

    I’m a liberal and I don’t love Sharia law. In fact I’m in favor of replacing the anarchist question on our immigration forms with a do you accept Enlightenment values question.

    On the other hand, I do support the right of religious minorities to have the same rights as the religious minority in this nation, so that may where Pat is getting confused. In my neck of ht woods we have a variety of arbitration schemes to keep people out of court. One is a Rabbinic court. Another is a Muslim cleric deciding the issue. If Rabbinic courts are gonna be allowed I have a hard time saying no to an Islamic cleric. And both are gonna be a bit more dignified that the various iterations of “The People’s Court”.

    • The question will be one of primacy and who the US government thinks should have the final say. The average joe is concerned that he/she may be subject to these allowed arbitration judges instead of the US or State government. That MIGHT be an issue in SOME neighborhoods, such as in Dearborn, Michigan , or any Hasidim neighborhood in New York, but it must be clear that these special exemptions are for these groups judging their OWN rather than outsiders, and that arbitration is only binding when all parties concerned are consenting to the judgment.

      MY opinion, though, (and I’m not speaking from personal knowledge here) is that the judge should be an actual state or federal judge that hears the case and makes the decision according to the neighborhood’s ethos, insofar as it does not conflict sanctioned law. I actually plead ignorance on this situation, but I am just throwing out an opinion here. Please feel free to correct my impressions if I am wrong.

      • Arbitration is only allowed if all parties to the dispute agree to undergo it.

        • I stated as such. My only concern is WHO the judge, or arbitrator, is going to be, a person dedicated to local, state and federal law, or someone who will judge based on Talmudic or Sharia law to the exclusion of those laws. I’d hate to see mini kingdoms, or extra-governmental entities set up.

          • Richard Hershberger says

            This is a question of contract law. Contracts frequently include an arbitration clause, and this frequently states what jurisdiction’s laws will apply. Usually this is a question of what state, but it can be Talmudic or one version or other of Christian canon law, with the arbitrator chosen appropriately. None of this is new or remarkable. The shrieking about Sharia is mostly intentional obfuscation, intended to make people think that the liberals are going to come and put our women in burkas. This doesn’t even make superficial sense, since the liberals are also accused of encouraging our women to dress slutty and be slutty sluts, but logical consistency is no more the point than is factual accuracy. At the end of the day, this is really a proposal to restrict the ability of people to freely enter into contracts: an odd position for a self-describe conservative to take.

      • a lot of the Arab Americans (new immigrants and long-established folks) in the Dearborn area are… xtians.

        • Yes. I know, but there has been a history of of some exclusivity requiring police intervention. SOME Muslims are still not in tune with inclusivism and are pushing for Sharia law as a PRIMARY arbiter.

          • There are many refugee immigrants in that area now, from many parts of the ME. I don’t think this has anything to do with Sharia, but rather, with the fact that the newer folks haven’t been here long enough to pick up on some basic cultural cues – normally the case with first generation immigrants. The kids, being in American schools, are slways another story, because they’re forced to assimilate rapidly.

  6. Pastor Schuck sounds Unitarian Universalist. My own Episcopal Presiding Bishop Schori often sounds Unitarian Universalist. The tendency among people like her and Pastor Schuck is to believe that Jesus Christ and other specifics of traditional Christian faith, like God, are symbols of spiritual truths that transcend Christianity and indeed theism, so it doesn’t matter if Jesus Christ really existed or if traditional Christian theology is correct in its particularities; all that matters is what they represent, or can be made to represent. The scandal of particularity is removed by this approach, and so is any significant uniqueness of Christian faith. Unfortunately, there are quite a few people with this perspective in the leadership of my own denomination; I suspect this is true of other mainline denominations, as well. When more perceptive evangelicals criticize the mainlines for watering down the meaning of traditional Christian language, this is what they mean, and they have a point.

    • On what do they base their claim of resenting the criticism that they are not Christian?

      Well, at Easter or Christmas they readily employ Christian language like resurrection or incarnation, using these to refer to purportedly universal spiritual and/or psychological truths. Since they use the language, and since they believe the language has always really been purely symbolic rather than bound into revealed particularity, they say that their critics are doing the same thing as they are, but are unaware of it. When the more perceptive among them criticize evangelicals and other conservative Christians of mistaking the language for the reality, this is what they mean, and they sometimes have a point.

      Btw, Roman Catholic leaders also sometimes hold this position along with their counterparts in the mainlines.

    • Robert, they are not just watering down the meaning of traditional Christian language, they are denying orthodox Christian faith. The word heresy can be thrown around a little to quickly, but Pastor Shuck is actually a heretic, has no business being an ordained minister in a Christian denomination and shouldn’t be allowed to do any teaching at all in the church. If he wants to go start his own cult, have at it. But a Christian he is not.

      • I agree that Shuck is beyond the boundaries of traditional Christian faith. Otoh, there are conservative Christians who fill traditional doctrinal language, and scripture, with meanings that also express faith in universal spiritual principles rather than in the person of Jesus Christ. Think of the Prayer of Jabez, or many of those books you see bursting the shelves of Christian bookstores about how to lead a more successful lifestyle, how to manage every little aspect of your personal life, and how not to get God real mad.

    • Bento Box says

      On the other hand, it appears you can be defrocked by the PCUSA for being too conservative, although I think that this particular defrocking had more to do with money and property than ideology.

      A friend of mine was ordained by a PCUSA presbytery in the early 90s. He was given a range of “confessions” any one of which he as able to affirm. The Westminster Confession was one of them. I read over the Confession of 1967, which is the one to which he subscribed. It was pretty vague. I don’t know if you have to affirm the Nicean Creed or the Chalcedonian Definition, but my guess is that you better affirm women’s ordination.

    • Clay Crouch says

      I attended a funeral two weeks ago at a PCUSA church. I heard more mentions of “the sure hope of the resurrection” in that funeral service than I have at the last half dozen “Celebration of Life” services at the local evangelical Big Red Brick Baptist Church. Just saying…

      • Clay Crouch says

        Don’t know if what I experienced or if Pastor Schuck is the outlier.

      • I think individual congregations vary wildly, as do pastors, and regions. I know of Episcopal parishes that use the Prayerbook liturgy, which is full of scripture, and phrases like “the sure hope of the resurrection,” but in sermons and adult forums these affirmations are interpreted in psychological ways, or as referring to universal spiritual principles. I know more than a few people in lay leadership of some Episcopal parishes who understand the word resurrection to mean reincarnation. In those cases where the outer husk of language is maintained, but the kernel is replaced by a different meaning, one pretty soon comes to understand that disparate languages are being spoken, all using the same words.

    • In the article he mentioned worship. Given his beliefs, I wonder what the heck he means by that?
      (Or incidentally if he visits the sick and shut ins and what that looks like in his context?)

      • Over at the Postmodern Quaker blog, you’ll find a self-confessed non-theistic Quaker who nevertheless talks deeply, and compellingly, about his involvement in Quaker worship, and Quaker theology, all interpreted psychologically.

  7. Duck Robertson sure has a facile imagination when it comes to scenarios of rape, murder, decapitation, and inquisitorial assailants; look how trippingly he made his way through that febrile description of atrocity!

  8. melissatheragamuffin says

    That explains a lot about the PCUSA.

  9. On Ted Cruz… I’m pretty sure he can’t win – possibly not even the GOP nomination, but I also don’t buy the idea I’ve heard floated around by some pundits that he’s doing this just to get a book deal, media job etc after his “run”. That kind of talk is ignorant of the “all-or-nothing” Dominionism that animates the “faith” of the culture war religious right and someone like Cruz. These people are not just angling for a little bit of “attention”.
    They believe in their heart of hearts that it is their right to be at least the masters of the US and by extension the globe) Many believe it’s prophesied and many more believe that a militant US/Israel is the path to that. Now it’s obvious they haven’t gotten very far in that vision, but that’s mainly because they’re splintered, don’t have the right demagogue and have basically played by our republic/democracy’s “rules”. But it’s possible that with the right man and enough of “to-hades-with-the-rules” or “by-any-means” thinking, they’ll be united enough to gain real political power… IMO Ted Cruz comes pretty close to the right kind of demagogue. He’s smart, a very smooth talker, charming, and uncompromising and retributive. I know a lot of christians who want that. They want to rule, to punish and get even with those they perceive as enemies. They will love this guy and I really doubt they’ll let him have a few moments and then ride off in the sun. If not this time, he’ll be back again and again…

  10. Absolutely stunning column today. Well done. Well researched. And well presented. Keep up the good work.

    And Ted Cruz is to the right of Barry Goldwater? Holy cow.

    • Ted Cruz sounds much like the National Socialist of Germany in the 1930’s…

      • Have you read “The Rise and Fall Of The Third Reich”, by William Shirer? I have, and if you HAD I don’t think you would have made that statement. Cruz may not be right for the top post in this country (MY opinion, anyway), but to compare him to the Nazis in 1930’s Germany is a bit extreme.

        • Motive, means, and opportunity…

          • Bento Box says

            The same could be said about all of us, Stuart.

            YOU want your heart tested by that much power?

          • It doesn’t take a flipping saint to come out very far ahead of Hitler.

          • Well I’m glad that you can divine his intent without coming into personal contact with him. Perhaps you can do a cyber webinar for the rest of us so that we can ALL benefit from this insight. Sorry, but my sarcastic muscle was aching for some action

        • Christiane says

          give him some time, OSCAR

          actually, I think Cruz reminds me more of Senator Joseph McCarthy of ‘Red Scare’ fame

          • Christiane, he certainly has the looks of Sen McCarthy.

          • Time will tell, Christiane. Although I don’t like his style (enough did in Texas, apparently) I’m not going to assign nefarious motive to him till I see positive evidence of such. You can be wrong and STILL not be a McCarthy-ite.

      • OldProphet says

        Our current President acts like a member of the Nazi Socialist party of the 1930’s

        • Yes, in SOME aspects he DOES, such as his recent proclivity to bypass congress, which Hitler continually attempted to do till he fully grasped the reigns of power and dissolved the government entirely.

          But that doesn’t make the Pres a Nazi. He is only manipulating power to enact his will, and unless the Supreme Court rules his actions invalid (it would take a lawsuit to start things off) what he is doing is “legal”.

          There have been plenty of examples in the past of others trying to do the same thing at various levels, so he is not pioneering some kind of overthrow.

      • Looks to me like Godwin has been invoked.

    • Richard Hershberger says

      “And Ted Cruz is to the right of Barry Goldwater? Holy cow.”

      It’s the Overton Window. This is the range of political discourse that is taken seriously, as contrasted with being dismissed as obviously whacko. The Overton Window has moved far to the right since Goldwater’s day, or for that matter since Reagan’s. A typical somewhat conservative Republican from Goldwater’s day would be considered far too liberal to be considered for national office by the Republican Party, though he might fit in well with the Democrats. On the left side, socialism was part of the national conversation back then. Nowadays, hardly anyone has the faintest clue what “socialism” means and it is applied as a pejorative against that Goldwater-era somewhat conservative who is now a Democrat.

      • Patrick Kyle says

        ” The Overton Window has moved far to the right since Goldwater’s day, or for that matter since Reagan’s. A typical somewhat conservative Republican from Goldwater’s day would be considered far too liberal to be considered for national office by the Republican Party, though he might fit in well with the Democrats.”

        What planet are you on? Most modern Republicans are RINO’s.. A lot of people on this blog would be horrified if they ever realize how truly conservative many in the fly-over and mountain states really are. I live in SoCal and I am starting to hear some super strong push back against many of the liberal mantras voiced in these threads, from educated middle class people, often off the cuff in casual conversation. People are getting tired of the guilt pushing, name calling Social Justice Warriors and their ‘agendas.’

  11. “Imagine, instead of economic stagnation, booming economic growth,” Cruz said. “Imagine young people coming out of school with four, five, six job offers. …” Imagine there are no natural limits to endless growth. Imagine a complete suspension of the second law of thermodynamics. Imagine Beethoven’s Minuet in G and play it perfectly . . .Does Ted Cruz have a shrine to Jiminy Cricket in his house?

    • Ba dum bum! Tchhhh! ????

    • Little different from other campaign nostrums, such as “hope and change” and promises to “fundamentally transform” this country. It’s all theater to garner votes. He does NOT have mine, even though we are registered with the same party!

    • Jazziscoolithink says


    • I think it’s possible to imagine a US where economic growth is seldom interrupted by large recessions and where most people are able to earn a decent living. Arguably, that’s what we had for most of the second half of the last century. But much of our economy depends on having a middle class that can actually spend money on things. (Well, it used to; now it depends on the middle class being able to borrow enough money to spend on things.) A flat tax combined with an end to affordable health care would do nothing but exacerbate the current divide between rich and poor, and the end result of that will be economic collapse, not economic growth.

    • You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
      I hope one day you’ll join me, and the world will live as one

      • cermak_rd says

        No Hell below us…Above us only Sky…

      • ..Was it a millionaire who said, “Imagine no possessions”?…


        • Daniel Jepsen says
          • Daniel, you’re too modest. Here’s a fun comment you wrote on that blogpost:

            Yeah, I’m going to go ahead and call shenanigans on this one. Methinks John was trolling us. This was a fabulously wealthy man, with more possessions than your average third world village. His net worth at death was estimated at 150 million dollars. Much of this would come from royalty sales from Imagine. He and Oko lived in the Dakota, considered to be one of Manhattan’s most prestigious and exclusive cooperative residential buildings, with apartments generally selling for between $4 and $30 million. They had six of them. Some were for storage.

            His friend Elton John used to poke fun at Lennon’s materialism by re-writing the ditty:

            Imagine six apartments
            It isn’t hard to do.
            One is full of fur coats
            The other’s full of shoes…

            (Ya know, it’s pretty bad when Elton John rips on you for accumalting too many clothes…)

          • Imagine no possessions.
            I wonder if John could.

            He was a troubled soul. I hope that he’s at peace now.

            RIP, John Lennon.

  12. IndianaMike says

    Are Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea out because someone thought the dollar coin was a good idea?

    • I think all the Sacagawea dollars ended up in Ecuador. They’re using US currency now and they love those coins.

      • Hey, I LOVE those coins, but they can never stay in circulation. If the paper dollar was just removed then they would have had a chance.

        • Richard Hershberger says

          Hey, Oscar! You and I agree on something! How do you feel about taking the penny out of circulation?

          • Do YOU pinch them? I won’t even carry them in my pocket, I leave them in the “spare change” jars that many businesses have on their counters. If they cost more than their stated worth then why have them at ALL?

  13. There were several episodes of the Fox sci-fi series Fringe that take place in a parallel dimension. In one episode we see their $20 bills feature MLK Jr. instead of Andrew Jackson. My wife wanted to start a petition immediately to make that happen. I know you asked for suggestions for a woman, but anything’s better than Jackson.

    • And while we’re at it, the world should rename July and August because, you know, they’re named after Roman emperors, who probably did a few bad things, too…

    • Richard Hershberger says

      “anything’s better than Jackson”


  14. Isn’t someone who says “decapitate her head off” being doubly redundant? Or is “doubly redundant” redundant?

  15. Ted Cruz: “Imagine a simple flat tax that lets every American fill out his or her taxes on a postcard.”

    Except for us self-employed, or running a small business. Or corporations.

    A POSTCARD!!!.

    😀 😀 😀

    • don’t flat tax proposals usually eliminate itemized deductions? I wonder if Cruz’s supporters have factored in not deducting their tithes…

      • What he’s describing is the 1040EZ form, something that probably could be put on a postcard. I’ve done them for my girls and they really are “EZ”. But even that form requires the employer to do some bookkeeping and to make payments.

        Anyone with any kind of deduction, whether it be the cost of doing business (often more than 90% of the gross), or mortgage interest, or depreciation, or capital loss, or tithe, ends up with a lot more than one page—in my case, more than 50 pages and they come with a very beloved accountant without whom life would not be worth living.

        This could be a fun campaign. Next Republican up? Donald Trump. Can’t wait.

  16. “I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free… so other people would be also free.”

    Seems like a fitting sentiment to replace Ol’ “Trail of Tears” Hickory on the twenty. Rosa Parks had come to my mind before I found her on the list. Possibly even more in the spirit of the proposers would be Sacagawea, tho we might want to run that by the Cherokee Nation first, not to forget the Sioux, the Crow, the Blackfeet, the Nez Perce and a few assorted others. In any case she already had her shot, as did Susy Anthony, neither a big hit with the American people. My personal favorite is Norma Jeane Baker. First runner up would be Annie Oakley.

    • YEAH! Norma Jean! But more fitting would be “Calamity” Jane. A great counterpoint to Jackson while still mining the fabled great American ethos of the west.

      From Wikipedia: Martha Jane Canary or Cannary (May 1, 1852 – August 1, 1903), better known as Calamity Jane, was an American frontierswoman and professional scout known for her claim of being an acquaintance of Wild Bill Hickok and fighting Indians. She is said to have also exhibited kindness and compassion, especially to the sick and needy. This contrast helped make her a noted frontier figure.[

      • Thanks, Oscar, I had considered her and your capsule bio has convinced me you are right, tho again we may not get a pass from our indigenous brothers and sisters. Still have a soft spot for Norma Jeane tho. Had she lived, she would be 89 years old. Hard to believe.

        • we may not get a pass from our indigenous brothers and sisters

          True, but why infuriate a NEW group? Let’s just keep insulting the same one (he said with a wry smirk)

    • Joni Mitchell.

      Oh, wait… she’s Canadian…

      Never mind…

  17. If Pastor Shuck is a big hit, he might want to consider hiring our own beloved Fawlty O’Ring as youth pastor. Could go by Pastor Jive. KInda miss ol’ Faulty stirring the pot.

    • cermak_rd says

      It might actually be interesting. One of the things I find absolutely fascinating is that the UU these days is actually enjoying a little growth spurt in some areas, especially the south. They’re even starting house churches!

      Maybe there actually is a market out there for non-dogmatic religion. After all look how Osteen packs in the crowds, and his theology is pretty lightweight.

  18. Klasie Kraalogies says

    That paper gave Urschel an Erdos number of 4. If you have to ask you are not cool enough 🙂

    • If Urschel insisted his Erdos number was pi, I wouldn’t argue with him.

      I was privileged to see Erdos one or two times before he passed away about 20 years ago. Basically a mathematical St. Anthony.

      One of my grad school classmates was able to corral him on one of his open problems and thereby obtain an Erdos number 1 before finishing grad school.

  19. Klasie Kraalogies says

    As to the Robertson argument: Many of the popular apologists trot that one out quite regularly, albeit in more civilized terms. Christopher Hitchens used to demolish it quite often, but a more sophisticated answer is readliy available in the work of the Dutch-American primatologist, Frans de Waal – I would recommend “The Bonobo and the Atheist”. He is not so much of an anti-theist, and his writing is clear and very fascininating.

    Interestingly, if one so desires one could take the arguments of people like De Waal and quite seamlessly connect it with various theological arguments that indicate moral law to be inate, using Romans 1 and other texts as springboards. However it is, the idea that without the belief in transcendent law giving anarchy immediately ensues is naive and rather insulting. The opposite has often happened in any case.

    • Would this be the same Christopher Hitchens who said that Jesus’ idea to “love your enemies” is immoral and terrible? “I want to destroy my enemies,” I believe he said. A great ethical thinker, he.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says

        Well, if you loved Hitchens, maybe you’d interact with the argument referenced here instead of responding with an ad hominem. …

        • That wasn’t an ad hominem, you brought up Hitchen’s ethical teaching, and I’m just giving a demonstration of why I believe he was very poor in this area. I don’t necessarily disagree with the argument, and I’m sure De Waal does present it much better.

          • Richard Hershberger says

            Bringing Hitchens into the discussion was a tactical mistake. There is no need to cite him. We can just as easily use Fred Clark over at Slacktivist:


          • Richard, thanks muchly for that link. It’s an excellent commentary on this mess.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says

            Richard, the only reason I brought Hitchens up is because this point comes up frequently in atheist- theist debates, and his standard come back was to question if the Israelites prior to Mt Sinai would have thought that murder, rape etc etc is fine, and suddenly all that changed fater Sinai. Even if one doesn’t like the man, the point is pretty valid, and speaks directly to Robertson’s rhetoric, namely that one needs divinely appointed moralism to have a moral compass.

            But it is fun to see how a name can upset people 😉

          • I don’t think many here get their feathers too ruffled by him. He had some rather endearing contrarian tendencies that compensated for his poor argumentation, but his fundamentalistic tendencies and frequent resorting to cheap shots make it hard to take his cumulative case very seriously (though he did tend to argue more seriously than Dawkins). Such is the point with this argument: Murder is clearly condemned prior to Sanai, both in Gen 9:6 and with the story of Cain and Able, unless you assume that the Israelites had no Torah whatsoever prior to the tablets. I find it highly unlikely there was not at least some sort of oral tradition, given how the account reads (“this is the account of…”). The decalogue didn’t give a ton of new material (though I wager the coveting stuff was rather unique at the time), but either way it is irrelevant what knowledge of morality the Israelites had prior to Sinai. All morality is learned, whether or not the compass is necessary, something can still be wrong even if you’re not aware of it. Sure you can argue which God’s code is the right one, but that doesn’t necessarily prove that none of them are correct. They could all be wrong, but this argument seems to assume that.

        • I’ve listened to a few of Hitchens’ “debates” with theists, and he wasn’t as much a debater as he was an iconoclast and rabblerouser. His technique was to go from one rejoinder to another without deeply engaging the subject, but he WAS entertaining. There have been other atheists who have done a much better job of debating

          • You do know that the Vatican asked him to take the devil’s advocate position in the hearings re. the beatification/sainthood of Mother Teresa, and that he took them up on it, yes? He was a rhetorician, more than anything. His rightward turn in later life has never made much sense to me.

    • I don’t know, every time I’ve heard an argument against objective morality, it has to reference some sort of logical or moral standard in which to make the argument, thereby requiring its hearer to assent to that standard in order to be an argument at all, thereby assuming something objective in order to continue disbelieving in objectivity…

    • Seems like it would just make more sense, and be more conducive to getting along, if we just acknowledged that it’s really hard for us to define/enforce objective morality, rather than that it doesn’t exist. That, and just allow disagreement on what objective morality IS, and then commit to being courteous with each other in spite of our disagreements. But claiming it doesn’t exist sounds disingenuous to me.

      • You claim subjectivity when you don’t want to be pinned down, but only as long as you have a horse in the race.

      • But doesn’t the fact that you can’t define “objective morality” (or even give an example of it apparently) cause a little warning light to start flickering? And how is everyone disagreeing what it is any different than subjective morality?

        • It gives me a warning light that I shouldn’t think too highly of my powers of perception. But I get a much stronger warning light flickering when I imagine a subjective-only standard, and that within it I can justify doing absolutely anything. (Most people who deny objective morality don’t go there with it, but they could if they wanted to, and the odd psychopath does every once in awhile).

          Incidentally, (and I just thought of this) I might label the values of people who hyper-define their viewpoint as objective and use it to abuse (which always seems to be the fear with objectivity) as being basically subjective about their morality, in the final assessment. They simply inflate their own sense of their moral standard to a point where there’s no distinction between their own opinion and God’s, whereas the subjectivist just eliminates the external standard. Both end up in a world with nothing bigger than their own inner convictions.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says

        Nate, I would encourage you to read up on de Waal’s work. Our primate cousins have a well developed proto-morality, empathy etc. A moral sense that has evolved with us through our social interaction through the ages would appear rather absolute, but it need not be communicated by supernatural means etc.

        • Sounds interesting, but explaining the origin of a moral sense does not by logical necessity rule out the existence of an objective, external ethic that we learn to perceive with varying degrees of accuracy. Seems more speculative than anything else. And whether said moral law is communicated by supernatural means or not is another issue entirely.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says

            “seems more speculative……”

            C’mon! Years of careful observations and collection of hard evidence trumps any philosophical statements. Again I encourage you to read De Waal’s work – it is very readable, it is not anti-theist (in fact, he makes rather sharp remarks against Dawkins et al), and his evidence is fascinating – and entertaining.

          • I’m sure he’s very persuasive and argues his case well. But the scientific data still has to be interpreted. If he could conclusively prove how our sense of morality evolved (which I’m practically ok to grant him without proof), it doesn’t necessarily follow that there aren’t objective moral truths built into the fabric of the universe. I’m sure light existed long before there were eyes to perceive it.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says

            Miguel, it is very easy to assert the unproveable. Assertion, however, is not the same as proof, belief implies lack of proof, and moralism is not righteousness.

          • Yes, and the existence OR non-existence of an objective moral code, whether or not it proceeds from a divine law giver, is an issue of faith either way. It cannot be proven to exist, and it cannot be proven to not exist. DeWaal’s theory seems to prove at best that it is possible for it to not exist as what we observe as morality and empathy can be explained scientifically. But science is not the final authority on truth, rather, it relies on logic and reason to even exist or function at all. When it comes to the realm of truth, the scientist can never prove that anything is or is not morally wrong. Ergo the point, if morality is relative, it is ultimately untrue, and to say “there are absolutely no absolutes” is contradictory.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says

            Exactly: So here are 3 questions for you – are any of the following morally wrong (objectively)?

            Genocide, rape, slavery?

          • KK; I would be inclined to say yes. But I’m not sure that is a Biblical position. The OT commanded the genocide and enslavement of the Canaanites, and by contemporary standards, their rape as well. Certainly on cannot take the Bible seriously and believe in moral absolutes (without a bunch of very complex qualifications ad infinitum). “Thou shalt not kill” is followed by commands to kill.

          • KK – Murder is always wrong. Adultery is always wrong. Trampling on the dignity of another human being is always wrong. Are you suggesting there are instances where they are not? What’s your point?

          • Klasie Kraalogies says

            Dr, you got to down to the issue very quickly. Of course, following Enns and others, the instructions to engage in genocide etc might very well be Israelite justification of their behaviour by introducing divine commands to serve their ends- but this inerrantists etc will not like.

            If you are an inerrantist, in other words, you cannot be a moral absolutist. If you are not an inerrantist, why do you need the concept of moral absolutism?

            in my opinion, moral absolutism is an import from Platonism, it a poor one at that. We might as well be honest and say that while moral absolutism doesn’t work, we can strive for the broadest moralism possible – ie, a careful, weighted intellectual assessment of moralism. And quite often, there won’t be easy answers.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says


            So we can agree that the God of the bible is morally reprehensible: Trampling on the dignity of other human beings – check (slavery, capturing of enemy virgins if you like them,…..); murder check (wholesale killing on civilian populations including the very young), do you want me to go on?

          • No, Klassie, I most certainly do not agree.

            I’d love for you to go on, but your argument is based on reading an ancient document full of theological substance like yesterday’s New York Times written to modern skeptics. If you want to believe the Judeo-Christian God is a monster, admit it. But if you want to deal with the Judeo-Christian Scripture for what they are, including all they actually say then consider.

            A simple analogy get started. It is not lawful for you to tie up another human being against their will and take them to a place they do not wish to go. And yet, this is what police officers do on a regular basis, AND this is a good thing. The law carries with it a certain authority that is not subject to its rule, for the good of those who are. Government bears the sword as a terror for those who do evil. How much more does the ruler of the universe demand justice from those who reject his authority and abuse their fellow man?

            If you want to blame God for the Canaanite genocide, why stop there? According to the Bible, he is directly responsible for the death of every human who has ever lived. How dare he give us life just to take it back whenever he pleases, right? Who gave Him the right?

            If you really want to hang God by his own rope, look at Jesus. How did he fare with the moral absolutes? Look at Him and THEN tell me how the man who gladly suffers and dies for your sins is “jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

          • ….and then tell me, without appealing to any moral absolutes, why it would be a problem if Jesus WAS all those bad things. The one who takes this suffering into himself, lives a perfect live and dies an innocent death, betrayed by all his closest friends and falsely accused, who gladly embraces all of this for you? Yeah, what a monster. The nerve.

            While you’re at it, don’t forget to subpoena God for your own impending death, along with anything that inconveniences you in the mean time. You probably don’t deserve that. Really, he owes you your existence AND to maintain it in whatever manner you deem appropriate. All this religious malarky about creation serving creator really has the cart before the horse, now, doesn’t it? I’ll take the divine butler in the sky and be my own ruler of the universe, thank you very much. We’ll see some real justice when MY will is done.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says

            Actually, I wasn’t making the argument, I was following the logic of yours. And I wasn’t extending the argument to what God does or doesn’t do, but merely to the commandments to his followers.

            If you you say it is wrong for a human to trample on the dignity of another, and claim that that morality is written intonthe fabric of the universe, then what do you make of all those commandments to kill, to commit genocide, to kidnap the pretty virgins etc? I am not arguing against natural death, whther instituted by God or not. You are getting pretty ridiculous here.

            You have to do something wi

          • Klasie Kraalogies says

            …with all of that in light of your claims to absolute morality.

            God is not in the dock. Absolute morality is. But if you claim absolute morality, that has implications that you have to face.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says

            As Dr says: You cannot believe in moral absolutes AND take the bible seriously….

          • Au contraire, KK, you most certainly can do both, and many have, for some time now. You don’t seriously think we’re living in the first generation to ever notice the heinous violence in the Old Testament, do you? Also, just because we can claim such a thing as absolute morality, it doesn’t necessarily follow that we must assert to understand it perfectly either. It is also not a claim that there aren’t seeming grey areas in the Bible. But as to the three specifics, slavery, murder, and rape:

            Not all slavery involves the trampling of human dignity. Within the Levitical law there was a provision for Israelites to voluntarily enslave themselves to fellow countrymen for up to seven years as an out for those in economic trouble, to help them get back on their feet again. There was no racism or nationalism implicit in this arrangement, and it was both temporary and voluntary. This is not the same thing as owing another person like a piece of property.

            As to the slavery “sanctioned” in the NT by the apostle Paul, when you read his instructions to masters, they remove all and any element of robbing your fellow man of his dignity as a human. So the Bible does not condemn slavery because it is not absolutely wrong. It does, however, condemn quite clearly all the sins and abuses that have made slavery such a force for evil in our world.

            This human dignity, btw, is the result of the Imago Dei, which is also why murder is wrong.

          • Murder:
            God puts his image on the crown of creation (mankind), therefore it is not ours to destroy. Anyone who destroys this is taking what does not belong to him and doing the work of God’s enemy.

            God, on the other hand, owns this image. He doesn’t just call it back on a random or capricious basis. God kills every single person who has ever lived. Your may prefer to believe that death is a natural part of life, but we’re arguing within the hypothetical of the veracity of the Biblical narrative, right? Death is brought into the world by sin, as decreed by the world’s creator.

            As the owner of the image we bear, God reserves the right to “recall” human life, by any means he deems fit. As a matter of justice, he uses man to take life as a proportionate response to murder, both in Genesis 9:2, in the law “Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth,” and in the giving of the power of the sword to government. It’s about proportional justice, so killing in that certain instance, from the Biblical ethic anyways, is not considered absolutely immoral. So you have, in instances like this, killing sanctioned by God as right.

            Most Bible translations use the word “murder” for the decalogue, defined in Wikipedia as “killing without justification.” Acceptable justification in the Bible is limited, usually restricted to proportional punishment for murder, war (which is not necessarily good but you still wouldn’t say that soldiers are murdering each other), and God directly telling you to kill someone.

            The last one seems most problematic by people concerned that “God told me to kill you” would continue to be a potentially valid justification. But on the basis of Hebrews 1:1-2, we know that God isn’t speaking to people in that way today. In OT Israel, we have God actually speaking to the people via the medium of these ancient seers we call “prophets.” In the Christian religion, this is no more (Pentecostal theology be damned, they’re just nuts and we all know it), the medium is Jesus. And he speaks to us in Word and Sacrament to tell us the only one thing we need to hear from God: “Your sins are forgiven.”

          • Rape:
            Let’s be clear about one thing: God never told anybody to rape. Period.

            Yes, the Israelites did capture virgins (for them, read “marriageable women”) in the conquest of Canaan. Sometimes, this was despite specific instruction to kill them all. Either way, the men are never told or sanctioned to rape them. Israel had rather stringent sexuality laws that made the Puritans look like libertines. These men were permitted to take the captured women as wives. They are never permitted to sleep with them otherwise.

            This certainly looks like rape to modern eyes because the women had no say in the matter. But in a time when women were generally treated as property and marriages were arranged without their consent, all women were always and only raped by today’s understanding. Society just worked differently back then, and you can thank Christianity for leading the way out of that.

            With their entire people slaughtered and their land overtaken, marriage provided a way for these women to be both assimilated and provided for. There was no “owner” left to arrange for their marriage, so that “legal” right was ceded to the victors. Unlike the pagan nations, Israel was not given to ravish the women and discard them. Whoever they took they brought into their home, provided for, and built a family with. By comparison to their contemporaries, this was a very merciful way to treat survivors of a destroyed people group.

            But if rape and murder are not absolutely wrong, please, explain to me the circumstances in which they are justifiable.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says


            My time is a bit limited, so I would refer you to the books and blog of Peter Enns for some excellent discussion on this – see the sidebar.

            I would also ask you to consider that for some of these issues, like slavery, Christianity as a whole didn’t condemn it in absolute terms, including the non-Levitical slavery (a non issue for most of the history of the church), for 90% of its existence.

            Murder: We occassionally hear of soldiers being tried for civilian killings today, and rightly so. In bronze age Palestine, however, civilians infants were legitimate targets. And 3 year olds. And pregnant women. Can you justify that?.

            And you certainly lost the plot when you started inventing grey areas in your rape discussion.

            I leave it there. This discussion has gone on long enough.

        • I’d be interested to read up on it. Admittedly, I haven’t looked into it much. However, I don’t know if I’m defining objective morality the same way that you’re referring to it- I don’t necessarily mean revelation or divinely communicated words; just that it seems like it should be universally obvious that it’s out there. If things seem to operate according to some design to produce best possible results (say, in a primate community), and things go awry when that design is subverted, that would suggest objectivity to me. The way I’m imagining it, the primates themselves need not have had a holy book or a divine revelation for their standard to be objective. They just figured out the best way to survive together, and survival seems “good” to them.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says

            In which case I am not sure what the point is – in your defintion an atheist might hold to an absolute moralism as well. Generally, however, people connect absolute moralism with Divinely institute moralism, hence Robertson’s diatribe…

            But you will enjoy de Waal’s work…

        • Klasie, I can’t understand why anyone would view empathy and other, similar traits in animals (not just primates) as being in tension with the idea of the existence of God, let alone the development of morality and ethics in human beings. Just. do. not. get. it.

          The more time I spend with animals, the more I see qualities of intelligence and empathy that many people would say simply cannot be true. What if other species have a kind of “moral intelligence” – which I think at least some do – how is that undermining the supposed xtian idea of morality and ethics to at least be willing to admit those other species into the fold?

          Although I am speaking of domestic animals only, and de Waal is speaking of animals in the wild, I think anyone who has spent a fair amount of time doing animal rescue would agree with the position I’m taking – though some might go much further, when speaking of the monstrous cruelties many of them have seen (and it is a daily occurrence, as with child abuse). I think those holding power (so to speak) often enjoy showing others, who are in their power and dependent on them for care, who is boss, via abuse/neglect of basic care and more. (I realize neglect *is* abuse, but I am thinking of hitting and much worse under the “abuse” label.)

          Forgive my meandering slightly off-topic, but I think it might be relevant.

          • And yes, animals do things that are very hard for us to accept. As apex predators (with no other, stronger predators opposing us), so do we.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says

            Nate, when we consider animals, I would tend to evaluate morality more when looking at what they do when interacting with their own species, more than with their prey. BTW, there are a number of good, lengthy interviews with van der Waal on youtube about his work, which is a good place to start, especially if your time and book budget is as limited as mine!

          • Klasie – well, I’m not Nate, but i shall look them up. Totally agreed about interaction with others of the same species vs. prey.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says


          • Klasie – no worries! I get names confused, too – don’t we all?

  20. But I don’t appreciate being told that I’m not truly a Christian.

    Yes, and I don’t appreciate being told I’m not truly a vegetarian just because I eat burgers and steaks and wings and ribs.

    I mean look. I’m sure you’re a fine, upstanding citizen. I’m sure you are good at being a friend, or giving advice, or being in people’s lives for big occasions.

    But come on. You are, by definition, not a Christian. You’re more like a life coach who plays dress up on Sundays.

    • I’d really like to hear this guys explain for us what he believes the difference between somebody who IS a Christian and somebody who is NOT a Christian might look like. I honestly have no idea how he’d answer it, but I imagine it might come down to “nothing,” ergo, Christianity is actually meaningless. Which is why he insists on the title.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        The one I heard (during the Seventies) was that if you look real close at a Christian’s eyes, you can see The Holy Spirit shining out, giving the eyes a unique shine. (The type example I remember was President Gerald Ford during the aftermath of Watergate. I didn’t invent this, I’m just passing on what I heard back then.)

        Another Holy Spirit Eyeshine example was a Godly fad diet (all full-grain bread and nothing else) pushed by one Salem Kirban, famous for writing the WORST Christian Apocalyptic novel of all time. His shtick was if you were really on this diet (including weighing and measuring everything you pooped out) you could see The Holy Spirit shining in your eyes to show you the diet was working.

  21. My top 3 –
    Sojourner Truth
    Dorothy Day
    Rachel Carson

  22. Oh don’t get me started on Assassin’s Creed 3…coming from the brilliance that was AC 2 and AC: Brotherhood, AC: Revelations was a step back, and Assassin’s Creed was a giant step to the left without revealing going forward. They ended up “finishing” and ruining the most important part of the series for me, and did it through a poor character design and world, mistakes they didn’t even really fix until two years later with AC: Rogue.

    Assassin’s Creed 3 was the beginning of the downward spiral for the franchise for me. I have yet to really play AC: Unity, but from what I’ve heard, it’s a shadow of its former self.

    Shame that internal politics and marketing departments ruined one of the best franchises of last gaming generation.

    As Ezio would say, “requiescat in pace, Assassin’s Creed”.

  23. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Our good friends at Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Sexual Culture [they of the queering agriculture fame] have finally updated their seminar offerings.

    1) It’s Berserkly. What did you expect?
    2) Proof that sex makes people stupid. In this case, brain-dead.

  24. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Senator Ted Cruz made the news this week as the first major player to announce for the 2016 presidential election. The venue for the announcement: Liberty University.

    Apparently Jerry Falwell has replaced Bob Jones as the Pilgrimage Site for GOP Presidential hopefuls to get God’s Anointing.

    • Do the math, HUG. Do you have any idea how big Liberty is getting, on-campus as well as on-line, and how big it’s getting in unmanned aircraft (drone) technology?

    • I actually listened to a good part of his “speech”. It was presented as a sermon and included a sop to the listeners with a declaration that he is a real Christian. I do not, and CANNOT, trust a politician who uses his faith as a stepping stone to garner support. A simple answer to a simple question of “Are you a Christian and how do you define such?” would be sufficient for me, never to be brought up again. Whether or not a candidate is a Christian has little bearing on who I’d want to represent me on ANY lever (save in church). Unless Cruz can redeem himself from that blatant pandering then I cannot support him.

      • The last Republican candidate for Pres who failed to pander to the religious right early on was Gerry Ford (there were belated election night appeals by Ford and others that he was a “real” Christian too — but most fundies knew better, Ford was merely a life-long Episcopalian — almost a Catholic!). After Carter (whose successful mobilization of the religious vote made many in the Dem party wary) took the White House in 1976, the Rep establishment got on board with already established efforts to pander to fundies across the country (all those films shown in church basements about America’s founding as a “Christian” nation). Reagan effortlessly took up the mantle of born-again candidate, even though he wasn’t previously known for his evangelical leadership, or history of regular church attendance (possibly due to his divorce in the late 1940’s, which well into the late 70’s would have disqualified him from leadership in many fundie churches). Cruz is just doubling down on that kind of fake piety now, and actually could get the nomination if he plays his cards right. Remember we’re not talking about real theology here, just the sort of shallow pop theology whose pervasiveness led the Reps during the last cycle to run someone whose church teaches apotheosis. As for Phil Robertson, he’s as phony as the televangelist whose surname he shares. It’s all about giving the base a reason to buy whatever you’ve got to sell them, “with sincerity”.

  25. Alas, no description yet available, and, silly me, I have no idea what neural citizenship is, let alone how to queer it.

    Nor do I, and I’m a neuroscientist. And a citizen!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Again, It’s Berserkly and their Superior Intellects.

      Say what you wish about Ike Bonewitz (who won Christian fame for his UC Berserkly degree in Magick & Witchcraft), but I never heard of him doing anything like this.

    • Daniel Jepsen says

      This makes me feel better, Jimbo.

  26. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Great Rap Battles of History:
    Pat Robertson vs Duck Commander Phil Robertson.

  27. Vega Magnus says

    Wresltemania is tomorrow… and its gonna suck. The build-up to it has been dreadful. Vince McMahon wants Roman Reigns to be the next big thing, but he’s done such a horrible job of writing his story that everyone boos Roman terribly. John Cena is going to win even though he shouldn’t because John Cena always wins, Undertaker is going to destroy Bray Wyatt’s career even though Bray should be built as the guy to replace Undertaker as the monstrous supernatural character (Yes, they still occasionally break out magic in WWE. Mostly just for Taker, but Bray has shown some powers too. His character is a backwoods cult leader, and while it is goofy, he plays it so well that everyone cheers him even though he’s a villain.) and many of the other matches are more or less pointless.

  28. Randy Thompson says

    Pastor Shuck does indeed represent a school of thought within Liberal Protestantism, where everything in the Christian story becomes a metaphor for. . . well, that’s the problem. When you listen to some of these folks, you end up with greeting card thoughts dressed up in seminary jargon. And this type of thing has been around for awhile too. Forty years ago, there was a religious studies professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) who was a Presbyterian minister. In a conversation with him, he described himself, theologically, as somewhere to the left of death of God theology. Or then again, there was the UCC theologian who realized she couldn’t maintain a “prophetic” stance by using the concept of idolatry, because idolatry called into question other religions (I have no idea where she finally grounded “prophetic” stance–the Daily Kos, I expect.)

    Many folks here have experienced serious craziness in the Evangelical-Fundamentalist-Pentecostal world. The same levels of craziness are equally prevalent in the mainline churches, although of a different sort. Liberal Protestant theology is self-cannibalizing, which has been bad news indeed for the mainline churches.

  29. OldProphet says

    Assassins Creed? Wrestlemania? Duck Dynasty? Who watches this crap? Downton Abbey? Now, that’s different.

  30. Downton Abbey? Now, that’s different.

    So sorry OldProphet, it all ends next season.

    I have an acquaintance at church who is a Brit, and every year he has a Downton Party where they watch the season in binging style as soon as it is released in the UK (around September). I have been angling to get an invite, but I guess I’m just not cool enough for his group. I’m going to have to cozy up to him more, maybe by signing on to donate to his favorite ministry helping the people of Haiti.

    The things one MUST do…

  31. I just have to say that I enjoy going though the comments and responses on Saturday Ramblings and making my own comments. Although there are views that I CANNOT abide, I STILL respect their POV and would never say ill against any. Comments that I make are all done in the spirit of discussion and have little bearing on how I view the individual posters.

    I have to call out numo, who I rarely agree with, and Christiane, with whom I SOMETIMES agree with, as valued posters, without whom this site would be boring! Also, Miguel, for being a voice for orthodoxy in belief and moderation in commentary, Vega Magnus for his irreverence, and Oldprophet for his, usually, stodgey and retrograde POV. (I really LOVE it!)

    Bless you all for making my Saturday a day to look forward to…

    • OldProphet says

      Stodgey? Is that like being a curmudgeon? Retrograde? Isn’t that a city in Yugoslavia?

    • Vega Magnus says

      Thanks. It is always nice to know that you’re appreciated.

    • Thanks, Oscar. Even though we rarely agree, the comments section wouldn’t be the same without your presence. Glad you’re here.

  32. I believe the graph showing the relative conservatism (oxymoron?) of past and present candidates reveals what has gone Wong in American please politics. If there was room for a “moderate” political position, this graph might lead one to place it at the median between “less conservative” and “more conservative”; in fact, the moderate position would be “left” of “less conservative” – closer to zero. But alas, that makes a moderate position.appear left-wing. This pushes politics ever more to the “right” out of fear of the label “left”.

  33. I don’t know where “please” came from. Hate auto-correct.

  34. And now, a musical interlude:


    …some people, they like to go out dancing
    and other people, like us, they gotta work
    and there’s even some evil mothers
    they’ll tell you that life is just made out of dirt….
    but anyone who ever had a heart
    they wouldn’t turn around and break it
    and anyone who ever played a part
    they wouldn’t turn around and hate it
    Sweet Jane, Sweet Jane….