It must get tiring

One of the things I’ve often wondered about modern evangelical Christians, is whether it gets tiring to be so hateful. Pick the current demon du jour, whether it be terrorists from another religion, or immigrants or women or gays or racial minorities, it must get exhausting to direct your distrust and hatred at so many people. And some of them — let’s face it — you might not even know if they’re a member of that group if you don’t talk to them first.

Of course, this hatred isn’t directed at any specific individuals; it’s directed at entire groups of people. It’s easier to demonize groups of people by convincing yourself that they’re not really people.

An ex of mine maintains a blog that I still read on occasion. Her most recent entry — which is now more than two months old — captures the exhaustion and fear she’s been feeling since the election of Donald Trump pretty nicely. But reading this and other entries of hers in the past two-plus years, you can see that the distrust is wearing her down.

And that’s just two years of it; imagine a lifetime of that degree of distrust and hatred. And that brings me back to the original question I posed at the start of this essay. How much do you have to delude yourself that your hatred isn’t really hatred, in order to sleep comfortably at night? How much cognitive dissonance is necessary to make it seem like hatred is actually caring?

Please note that I’m not trying to make an argument that you actually have to go out of your way to care for your fellow man. Casual disinterest — rather than actual antipathy — is all that’s really needed here, even if that disinterest doesn’t actually help anything but your own ability to get a restful sleep.

Say what you will about the hippies in the sixties. They were happy doing what they were doing. It’s what made Woodstock such a great experience for nearly all who attended, despite the rain and other downsides.

So I think about these things, especially as I look at right-wing sites that seek to sow divisions and animosity. Look at the Conservapedia entry on people who can be considered a Movement Conservative. The list includes people like Phyllis Schlafly, Pat Buchanan, Stephen Miller, Jerry Falwell, Clarence Thomas, Steve Bannon, and John Bolton. Each and every one of them wears (or wore, in the cases of Schlafly and Falwell) their prejudices proudly.

I’ll grant you that this list doesn’t evenly hate. Miller, for example, hates foreigners and Bolton hates middle easterners. Buchanan and Falwell hate gays and women. Schlafly and Bannon hate everyone.

Still, this isn’t exactly the picture of peace and love.

I think that a part of the answer to this question can be found in a blog entry posted last week by Daniel Greenfield. This is not the only article I’ve seen of this nature; indeed, conservative websites are constantly complaining of censorship of their “views”, trying to justify their hatred as little more than a difference in political opinion.

But therein lies a real problem, doesn’t it? Take the issue of climate change. There should be legitimate discussion and disagreement over how best to tackle the problem, and neither liberal nor conservative opinion has any claim to better ideas here. It shouldn’t be “it’s a problem and we need to do something pronto” against “it’s not a problem”.

And that’s just one aspect of what’s wrong with what people claim to be “conservative” thought. It gets worse when the conversation switches to the basic humanity of some people (either as individuals or groups of people). When we say “treat everyone with respect and as equals” in terms of their rights, that’s exactly what it means. But if your opinion is that someone who otherwise hasn’t done anything wrong, doesn’t deserve the same treatment for the same services because of who they are, then yes, you deserve to be punished in terms of the law.

If I were a baker and refused to bake a cake for a Christian wedding, the couple getting married would rightly be upset over that. What, then, is different about a mixed race wedding? Or a same sex wedding? Or (dare I suggest it since it’s technically not legal?) wedding that involves three or more people? The answer, quite simply, is nothing. (Although admittedly, the poly wedding wouldn’t be recognized as such in the eyes of the law; only the church that marries them.)

So that brings me back to the question of how they can be comfortable and happy despite their hatred. Surely some might argue that ignorance is bliss, but thanks to the ways in which our society is more interconnected now than it has been at any time in human history, they really can’t be all that ignorant any more.

I think there’s a very telling article over on Rapture Forums, written by Dan Boys, PhD, with the provocative headline Pete, Since You Brought it Up, How “Gay” Are You?

The article appears to be a sort of open letter to South Bend, IN, mayor, candidate for the Democratic Presidential Nominee, and the current incarnation of the boogeyman to many American conservatives, Pete Buttigieg. If you read through the article, it is replete with misrepresentations and questionable statistics that purport to define what it means to be gay in terms of anything other than a human being who just happens to be attracted to someone of the same gender.

Dr. Boys (whatever he’s a doctor of and from whichever institution) sure does spend a lot of time thinking about what two gay men might do in the privacy of their own homes, doesn’t he? Wouldn’t he be surprised to know that some straight people perform many of the same sex acts he describes in his article?

I get it: he’s disgusted by the thought of gay sex. And ya know something? He has the right to be disgusted by any sex act, between any two (or more) people. But just because he might find it disgusting, if the people involved in the act itself are all right with it and consented to it, that’s fine. Be as squicked out as you might want, Dr. Boys. I’m not going to argue with you, because it’s an honest feeling / emotion / reaction.

Just like any sexual orientation.

Which I think answers the greater thesis: they don’t get tired of their hatred, not because it’s not tiring, but rather they’re sufficiently motivated to not want to think about their hatred or the things they hate. And as long as they think of those things as concepts that need to be changed for the betterment of all involved, they’ll see it as “love” instead.

It’s a misguided kind of love, but if that’s how they can sleep at night, I guess that’s all I can really say about it.

Pity.

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Oh, Bill……..

There’s a video or two circulating online involving Pennsylvania lawmaker Brian Sims giving an abortion protester a taste of her own medicine. He’s a little bit brash, brusque, and confrontational. I’m not going to deny that.

But, just like the abortion protester, he’s completely within his rights to be there. She’d do the same thing to someone trying to get into the Planned Parenthood in front of which the videos have been filmed. I don’t understand her reluctance to engage Rep. Sims. If she’s so sure of her position, why doesn’t she respond to him?

But then again, she doesn’t have to. Bill Donahue of the Catholic League unsurprisingly got wind of it and is calling for Sims to be condemned by the PA State House.

I think it’s interesting that all of the people publicly condemning Rep. Sims, like Donahue, are calling the woman in that video an “elderly woman”. She doesn’t look all that old. I’m guessing she’s in her late 40s or 50s. Not exactly young, but not elderly either. I could be wrong, of course about that. After all, she made a concerted effort not to allow her face to be filmed.

Bill Donahue argues that “what Sims did may also be criminal.” If it is, then every abortion clinic protester who tries to get in the face of a woman on her way into the clinic, goading them or guilting them for being there, is also a criminal.

Thankfully, the courts have made it abundantly clear that while they’re on public property, it’s not a criminal act. Sims was in her face, yes. Aggressive, yes. A little bit obnoxious even. But he never physically touched her and the video proves that.

In other words, Rep. Sims didn’t do anything that an anti-abortion protester would attempt to do.

I think it’s funny that he’s calling on Rep. Frank Farry to condemn Sims. There’s nothing to condemn.

(Side note: I know Rep. Farry. Growing up, he lived two houses away from me, and in first grade, our teacher, Mrs. Johnson, took me, Frank, and one other kid on our class aside and asked us to form a “friendship club”. While I have seen some things over the years that make me question his judgment on occasion, I don’t think he would see fit to condemn Rep. Sims…)

About a week ago, I saw a long and somewhat obnoxious post on Facebook written by someone who was proud of his protests outside of an abortion clinic in Louisiana, so I criticized his methods and position in response. He commented that I’d said things he’d never heard before and I was able to frame the debate for what it was: an attempt to shame women at a vulnerable time in their lives, without regard to what they were really doing there. I used a combination of common sense, reality, and the Bible, to refute the arguments they made. I didn’t do anything that Rep. Sims didn’t do, except that I was online and after the fact, while he was there at the time.

We can question whether Rep. Sims approached the abortion protester the proper way. While it’s true that turnabout is fair play, he would probably be well-served to demonstrate exactly how his actions mirror those of the woman he confronted. It’s true that abortion protesters aren’t doing anything productive with their time and energy in service of their god, when there are legitimate needs that need to be addressed.

I, personally, would like to see people protesting outside of “Crisis Pregnancy” centers and Catholic hospitals for their anti-woman stances. It would be a fitting counter stance to the people who protest outside of Planned Parenthood. And it might make more of a difference than Rep. Sims made.

But in the end, if there are protesters outside of abortion clinics, then we need people like Rep. Sims to provide a dose of reality and common sense into the debate. I, for one, thank him.

Just how dishonest is this one?

It’s no secret that I often get a chuckle out of dishonesty in conservative media. But this one is definitely interesting, even if the final answer isn’t as clearly wrong as the path that leads there.

There’s a new article on Townhall today, which posits — despite growing numbers of surveys from various pollsters — that religion is not in decline in America. At least, not as much as those pollsters might have us believe.

Let me make things clear: any time a pollster releases information about a self-reported status, we should always be skeptical of the results, and they generally have a much higher margin of error than most scientific studies. But such is the nature of political and religious studies such as these.

But there’s dishonesty aplenty that leads us to the conclusion that the author at Townhall makes. Let’s start at the beginning, where the author points to an article that appeared in The Federalist “recently”.

I take exception with the word “recently” for the Federalist article. It appeared in January, 2018 in the Federalist, as the link provided will attest. While that would be recent if we were talking about, say, the discovery of a new exoplanet, that’s a lifetime of social polling.

The rest of the Townhall article talks about an interview with the author of the article in the Federalist, and there isn’t a whole lot more to cover in that article, so let’s shift over to the Federalist.

The author of this second article is a representative of the evangelical group Focus on the Family, so if anyone would have reason to try to argue that religion is getting stronger, it would be him.

But look closer. The article talks about “new Harvard research” that says that Christianity is growing. And they linked to an study in the journal Sociological Science, which was authored by two grad students: Landon Schnabel of Indiana University Bloomington, and Sean Bock of Harvard.

We’ll get back to the journal in a minute. Note the order in which I mentioned these two authors. I mirrored the order in which they’re credited in their research paper. Looking at their respective biographies on their respective web pages, they both went to Indiana University Bloomington for their undergrad work, so I presume they knew each other before Bock left (about a year before the publication of this article) to pursue graduate work at Harvard.

So it would be technically accurate to call this a “Harvard study”, but it’s also a stretch. It’s kind of on the level of thinking of any city where you’ve had a layover between flights and where you’ve never been outside of the airport, but still saying you’ve visited that city. Although technically true, it’s also omitting a major fact.

(Side note: Schnabel’s CV cites this paper as having been the most downloaded paper on the journal’s website as of November, 2018. I’m sure that the article in the Federalist may have contributed to that…)

Which brings me back to the journal where this paper was published. It’s a provocative paper, to be sure, since it does contradict prevailing conventional wisdom. It may even be accurate; I wouldn’t know. But I have my doubts about the journal itself. Looking at their “about” page, it looks like they’ll publish just about anything in the sociology field.

So naturally, the paper got picked up by a lot of conservative “news” sites with a tenuous grasp of reality. A self-affirming circle of dishonesty getting sold to a credulous group of people.

Disappointing but not entirely unexpected or unpredictable.

The consequences of impeachment

Last September, I wrote an entry on this site where I argued against impeaching Donald Trump, not because he didn’t deserve it, but rather because I so dislike the idea of a “President Pence.”

I stand by that position but I have to admit that with (1) such a short amount of time remaining between now and the 2020 election, and (2) sane people in charge of one part of the legislature, I wonder if I should take a longer view of the situation, especially in light of the fact that the Mueller report all but invited congress to begin impeachment proceedings.

There have been a few people in various social media platforms, arguing against impeachment because it tends to reflect badly on the party pushing for impeachment. A fair argument, especially in these hyperpartisan times. But I have to ask the question: does it?

Let’s look at the relatively limited history of impeachment in the United States. Let’s get one thing out of the way first and foremost: there have been rumblings of impeachment of just about every president in US history, most of which boil down to “we don’t like him very much.” We can skip those, if for no other reason than they never really go anywhere.

Technically, we can include Richard Nixon in that category, too, since he resigned before proceedings could begin.

Fourteen judges (16 if you count Supreme Court justices) have been impeached in US history, most recently Thomas Porteous in 2010, for financial crimes. Since the judiciary is generally thought of as independent of partisan politics (current SCOTUS concerns notwithstanding) they’re generally a black and white case: did the judge commit a crime, and if so, does it warrant removal? (There’s a hazy line there. We can argue that jaywalking and speeding fall on one side of the line while bribery, extortion, and murder on the other side…)

One senator was impeached, but rather than taking up the trial aspect of impeachment, the senate merely expelled him.

That just leaves one cabinet officer and two presidents.

Let’s start with Bellknap. I have a hard time believing that the impeachment of the secretary of war, during a time of relative peace, in an election year at the end of the term of the term served by the president who nominated him (a president who, mind you, wasn’t seeking re-election), would have much in the way of political consequence one way or another. How many people would revolt if any of the non-acting cabinet secretaries were to be impeached today? (And that’s despite the partisanship and incompetence shown by people like Mike Pompeo, Rick Perry, Ben Carson, William Barr, and Betsy Devos…)

So that essentially whittles our historical observations down to two.

We can argue that the very fact that we had an election in 1864 is a testament to Lincoln’s humanity and dedication to the republic. If there was ever a time when suspending the election might have been justified, it was in the middle of the civil war. Lincoln also sought to create some kind of unity amidst the upheaval by choosing a vice presidential candidate that year from the opposing party.

Not a bad idea, but in hindsight, also not his best, since his assassination elevated Andrew Johnson to the presidency. Andrew Johnson was not a good leader, especially in comparison with his predecessor. Congress passed a law that was designed to prevent him from undoing Lincoln’s achievements by preventing him from firing Lincoln’s cabinet. When he tried anyway, he was impeached. He escaped conviction in the senate by a single vote.

I can only imagine what the talking heads on cable news today would have said if they’d had cable news back in 1868.

So in this case, the republican-controlled legislature impeached a democratic president. The democratic candidate would not win the presidency again until 1884. That’s four consecutive presidential elections, or four presidents (Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur) where the impeaching party came out on top.

If we look at congress in that time period, the republicans did lose a few seats in congress here and there, including the democrats retaking control of the senate in the 1878 elections (which they would lose again in the 1880 elections).

So although there was some localized punishment of the impeaching party, for the most part, it turned out pretty well for them.

Now let’s look at Bill Clinton. His impeachment started with an independent counsel looking into a questionable real estate deal and culminated in his impeachment for lying to investigators over the fact that he’d had an affair. The cynic in me thinks he would have been impeached over the affair even if he hadn’t lied to investigators about it.

Note that I’m not trying to make light of Clinton’s marital infidelities here. I just don’t see how they relate to a real estate deal that apparently looked strange on paper but in reality turned out to be dumb luck.

With Clinton, impeachment proceedings began after the 1998 mid-term elections and culminated in his acquittal by the senate the following year. Again, it was a republican Congress impeaching a democratic president.

At the presidential level, the democrats would lose the next two elections, both of which went to George W Bush. This is not the place to go into the issues with the 2000 election, any more than my comments on Johnson went into the issues with the election of 1876.

At the congressional level, the republicans lost a few seats in the house and senate in the year 2000 (initially resulting in an even tie in the senate until Jim Jeffords left the republican caucus in 2001), but they gained seats in 2002 and 2004. In 2006, though, the democrats retook both chambers of Congress, partially due to dissatisfaction with the way Bush had been handling both the war on terror and domestic needs, like Hurricane Katrina.

There is little question that Donald Trump has committed impeachable offenses. Given the republican control of the senate, it’s far from a certainty that he’d be convicted. And if he were, we’d get the dreaded “President Pence,” which I previously stated is a terrifying concept.

But at the same time, if the democrats fear political repercussions from beginning impeachment proceedings, history says that those fears aren’t grounded in anything other than the fact that they’ve never brought impeachment proceedings against a president before.

The revolution will not be evangelized

Harry Chapin’s fourth album, Verities & Balderdash contains his best-known song, “Cat’s in the Cradle”. There’s another song on this album that, in the light of the MeToo movement, definitely hasn’t aged very well.

The song is called “Halfway to Heaven, and it tells the story of a man who was a little bit too old and out of the dating market, when the Sexual Revolution took hold. He laments the fact that younger people — especially younger women — are free to be sexual beings, and, in the words of the narrator, “my life as a lover was already done / it was over before it had really begun” when he married his wife. When he hires a (younger) secretary, he fantasizes about cheating on his wife with her.

As I said, this doesn’t really stand the test of time. The power imbalance between employer and employee described in this song is undeniably harassment, and not really all that different from what took down my former representative, Pat Meehan. When the news of his dalliances hit, I wrote about it in this blog.

I thought about this song and its protagonist when Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI released an essay that essentially blamed the clergy abuse scandal on the sexual revolution and the permissiveness championed in the 1960s. Of course, Bill Donahue praises Benedict for this statement.

There are so many ways in which the former Cardinal Ratzinger’s essay rings hollow, it’s hard to know where to begin. I could begin by pointing out that, since priests have taken a vow of celibacy, shouldn’t changing sexual norms and attitudes be completely irrelevant to them?

Of course, if we go down that road, we could also end up arguing that priests, by virtue of their celibacy vows, should also eschew anything that could result in societal change. Would celibacy be easier for them if they didn’t have television? The internet? Telephones? Cars? I doubt it. They’re still human and have human urges.

Naw, if the sexual revolution truly had an influence over pedophile priests, it’s that it enabled and empowered their victims to speak out against the abuse. Indeed, one question that has long gone unanswered here is when priests truly began to abuse children.

I sincerely doubt it just magically started happening in the past fifty years. The only reason why we’re hearing about it now, is because now is when their victims are speaking up. Any still-living victims who are older than their mid-fifties or so, aren’t likely to seek justice since the priests who abused them are likely dead. If we’re being conservative, it’s probably been going on for three or four centuries.

But that brings me back to the protagonist of the song “Halfway to Heaven”. Despite the fact that he’s undoubtedly doing something wrong (and would possibly even acknowledge it if called out on the matter), he’s not wrong for resenting the fact that the choice to be more open in his sexuality was never his to make. It’s fair to assume that the man narrating that song was in his thirties or forties when the song came out in 1974. You know, born in the late 1920’s or 1930’s.

If Wikipedia can be trusted on this matter, the Pope Emeritus was born on April 16, 1927. Right about the age of the man lamenting his lack of choices in the song. We can’t really be surprised that someone born in that era might be somewhat resentful of the sexual revolution that they missed out on.

Harry Chapin said that the song stemmed from a conversation he had with a fellow traveler he had met at a train station. At least that fellow traveler never took a vow of celibacy.

Apple Accessories

So last week, Apple made the unprecedented announcement that they were discontinuing a product that they had previously announced but never managed to launch. I’m sure they’ve cancelled other planned products, but this is the first one that they actually announced was coming.

And it’s one that I never imagined myself buying. Not that I would have objected to something that can wirelessly charge three devices. Indeed, a good device charger is definitely something I’m interested in. The aspect of the now-cancelled AirPower that turned me off, was the fact that you have to place the phone flat on it. I like having my phone — which also doubles as an alarm clock — in a more or less vertical position on my night stand.

I own an iPhone and Apple Watch, and I’m not ruling out getting AirPods at some point in the future. My current configuration for charging what I have, is a Qi charger for my phone, and a separate charger for my watch. I should think that any all-in-one product that would get me to switch from this, would have two simple features: the ability to charge two or more items from a single power source, and the ability to orient the phone vertically.

There have been multiple articles like this one, offering up alternatives to a charger that won’t exist. This article is quite informative about the relative lack of options for me. It highlights six chargers, plus five more lower-priced options on Amazon. Of the eleven items presented, only one meets those criteria. All of the others only orient themselves horizontally, or the watch charger has a separate power source, not included. Or, in the case of the Unravel charger, it does offer them both, but if you want to charge multiple items, you forfeit the orientation, and vice versa.

I want to keep an eye on the SliceCharge charger. The company that makes it, has an Indiegogo campaign for a future product that looks to meet my needs.

More evidence of the danger of evangelicalism

I know this blog doesn’t have the readership of, say, Dispatches from the Culture Wars. And I don’t really have as much time or energy to dedicate to this blog as I would like, so Ed Brayton rightly has more readers than I do.

But that doesn’t alter the fact that I don’t hide the fact that I often get my feet dirty in the swamps that are fundamentalist Christian websites. Besides, there are sites that I visit, which Ed Brayton and others like him, don’t go too. Like Rapture Forums.

There are two recent news stories that have gotten the people on Rapture Forums talking, and in both cases, they have demonstrated their complete lack of humanity.

Let’s start with the recent news story about a mosque in New York City was temporarily unusable because a fire broke out in the building. So a local reform synagogue did the decent thing and allowed the Muslims who had no place to pray, to use their premises. Go ahead and call it a mitzvah. It certainly fits.

Now that the story is out of the way, here’s how the “good” people over at Rapture Forums reacted to this item. A telling quote — which I have lightly edited to remove emoji that wouldn’t carry over into this post — is this one:

What do you think God would say about this?

Isiaah 42:8 — “I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.”

Proverbs 14:12 — “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”

Do you think Jesus would have told the Baal worshippers after a storm blew down their altar, to come on over to the Temple and hold services?

Seems like total foolishness to me.

So much for any biblical edicts to open your door to the needy stranger and to welcome them. And this was written by an administrator of the forum. We can ignore the fact that the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim god are all supposedly the same entity. I would guess that this synagogue would open its door to any needy religious congregation, of any faith, provided they had enough space. The rabbi and members of the synagogue absolutely did the right thing, and yet these people have so little humanity, that they can’t see the good in it.

Now that they’ve criticized people for doing a good deed, I hope you’re not thinking that these people can’t get any worse. Because I haven’t yet talked about the Pennsylvania state legislator whose prayer before the swearing in of a Muslim legislator has generated a bit of controversy.

Now let me state up front that I don’t know exactly why Rep. Stephanie Borowicz gave such a politicized and partisan “prayer” in this instance. If I’m being at my most charitable, she was blithely ignorant of the implications of her words. If I’m being less charitable, she knew exactly what she was doing and tried to elevate herself and her religion over the needs of some of her own constituents and other residents of the state of Pennsylvania. Either way, it makes her appear unfit to the job of being a secular legislator. And I haven’t even gotten to the excessive mentions of the name “Jesus”

But of course, our friends over at Rapture Forums looked at it differently.

The quotes from this thread are shorter than the ones for the article about the synagogue. Generally indicative, though, is the original poster, who said, “You go girl!” Other posters questioned what was islamophobic about the prayer and/or whether a Muslim prayer before a Christian being sworn in would be received equally poorly (hint: if it was overly partisan, yes it would).

I have been saying at least since the late 1990’s (although I’ve been saying it louder since the September 11 attacks) that fundamentalist religion of any stripe is dangerous and antithetical to what it means to be a decent, caring human being. And the people who follow this brand of Christianity deserve to be called the American Taliban.

I suppose there is one difference between them and the Muslim Taliban. If the fundamentalist Muslims would want to kill me for my blasphemy, the fundamentalist Christians would rather make life unlivable and unenjoyable.