Maureen Dowd can be irritating, but she gets things right an awful lot of the time. Lately she's been focusing on the Catholic church's cover-up of sexual abuse by priests. Her column yesterday described the flash of insight she had about the whole mess while talking to a group of educated professional women in Saudi Arabia:
I asked why they were not more upset about living in a country where women’s rights were strangled, an inbred and autocratic state more like an archaic men’s club than a modern nation. They told me, somewhat defensively, that the kingdom was moving at its own pace, glacial as that seemed to outsiders.
How could such spirited women, smart and successful on every other level, acquiesce in their own subordination?
I was puzzling over that one when it hit me: As a Catholic woman, I was doing the same thing.
Well, if there were any question whether Garrison Keillor's recent stroke left him with any permanent mental deficit, he has put the question to rest with the rant in his latest weekly column. After a lengthy, misinformed attack on Unitarians, he landed himself smack in realm of Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, and the rest of the "War on Christmas" camp:
If you don't believe Jesus was God, OK, go write your own damn "Silent Night" and leave ours alone. This is spiritual piracy and cultural elitism and we Christians have stood for it long enough. And all those lousy holiday songs by Jewish guys that trash up the malls every year, Rudolph and the chestnuts and the rest of that dreck. Did one of our guys write "Grab your loafers, come along if you wanna, and we'll blow that shofar for Rosh Hashanah"? No, we didn't.
Christmas is a Christian holiday -- if you're not in the club, then buzz off.
Wow. Talk about taking the Twin Cities back to its roots...its roots as one of the most anti-Semitic communities in the nation. Reviving the tradition of restricted clubs, no less...modeling the inclusive teachings of his beloved savior, right?
If you think he was writing this as satire, read the whole piece. He really believes this crap. Not a shred of irony to be found about Christians stealing so many of the traditions of Christmas from pagans. No recognition that it was in fact the Unitarians and Universalists of Boston who led the campaign to make Christmas a major holiday - after the Christian Puritans literally outlawed its celebration. Or that Charles Dickens, who practically defines so many of the modern traditions of its celebration, was a Unitarian in spirit if not fact when he wrote A Christmas Carol.
No, what we have here is a prime example of small town mainstream Protestant bigotry. In prime form. Anoka would be proud.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The more often Americans go to church,
the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected
terrorists, according to a new survey.
More than half of people who attend services at least once a week -- 54
percent -- said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is
"often" or "sometimes" justified. Only 42 percent of people who "seldom
or never" go to services agreed, according to the analysis released
Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say
torture is often or sometimes justified -- more than six in 10
supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were
least likely to back it. Only four in 10 of them did.
After all, the image of a torture victim is an icon to so many of these folks...
How many ways is this just wrong??? The president of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, has admitted to being the father of a two-year-old boy after being served with a paternity suit by a woman to whom he is not married. OK, maybe that's not so unusual. Except that he was the Catholic bishop of San Pedro at the time the child was conceived. And if that's not enough, the mother says they began having sex when she was 16. And that he began approaching her while she was studying for her church Confirmation.
PZ Myers was in town today to put in an appearance on the Atheists Talk radio show, along with C.L. Hanson. So a bunch of the local free-thinking crowd got together for brunch afterwards. Must have been 40 of us at Q. Cumbers. That's been one of my favorite restaurants for years, a buffet deal focused on salad and soup reminding me of places I really liked in California like Souplantation. It has seen some publicity lately as some local evangelical types have called for a boycott because at least one of the owners is an atheist. All the more reason to do business with the place, if you ask me.
Myers has been getting a lot of attention from Catholic fundamentalist types like Bill Donohue, the attention-whoring head of the Catholic League. A student at the University of Central Florida has been harassed, threatened with death and various academic punishments (presumably not both...) and generally vilified for not swallowing a communion host he received but taking it out of the service with him. Myers expressed his outrage in a blog post entitled It's a Frackin' Cracker and offered to demonstrate his distaste for the lunacy:
I have an idea. Can anyone out there score me some consecrated
communion wafers? There's no way I can personally get them — my local
churches have stakes prepared for me, I'm sure — but if any of you
would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and
mail it to me, I'll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare.
Well, this set off Donohue and his ilk, earning Myers massive amounts of abuse and threats against both him and his children. Nice Christian behavior being modeled there... His abusers frequently took antisemitic shots at him (erroneously) and urged him to desecrate the Qu'ran instead, showing just how respectful they are of other people's beliefs.
After much hubbub, he got his cracker and desecrated it by disposing of it in a rather symbolic fashion, as depicted in this blog post. Typically, he made his point a broad one, showing equal disrespect for the physical representations of the Qu'ran and his good friend Richard Dawkin's book, The God Delusion. His point: Nothing must be held sacred. Question everything.
The furor continues, so it seemed appropriate to show support for him by a large public event like this brunch. As I said, 40 people showed up. But I got to talk with him a little bit. He really is a mild-mannered academic type. Hardly the incarnation of evil Donohue would have the world believe. But then, that's how Donohue makes his living, stirring up attention and donations.
As I posted a while back, Joe Lieberman sure keeps some strange company. And I'm not talking about John McCain, although that's strange enough. No, I mean John Hagee, the televangelical windbag noted for saying Hitler and the Nazis were sent by God to chase Jews back to the land of Israel. Lieberman, in case you've forgotten, is a more-or-less observant Orthodox Jew. Even his hero McCain was forced to denounce Hagee after that line came out.
So Lieberman last night goes to Hagee's little love fest, the annual summit of Christians United for Israel, to sing his praises. “I am your brother Joseph,” he said. “I will tell you tonight the bond that I feel with Pastor Hagee and
each and every one of you is much stronger than that and I am proud to
stand with you tonight," he added.
I was delightfully surprised today to find out there's an active group of local folks demonstrating against the local Scientology org, located on Nicollet Mall. I picketed the place some years ago, as documented here. Long before that I had participated in discussions of their activities online when the "church" (criminal conspiracy is a more accurate term) was attempting to censor the internet, particularly Usenet. The idiots pulled me into action when their internal spy group, the OSA, started harassing me by email in a case of mistaken identity. The OSA often make the Keystone Cops look like models of organization and competence, and the two dweebs from Toronto who came after me were even more idiotic than average.
Today's protest had a Spy Vs Spy theme, on top of most participants wearing Guy Fawkes masks, leading to a truly surreal vibe. Looks like these folks show up and protest the second Saturday of every month. It's so heartwarming to see a new generation of clambaiters take up the baton. Check out their organizational site here. I may just have to join them in August just for the lulz if nothing else.
If there were ever any doubt Joe has lost his marbles, this should put it to rest. The nutcase from Connecticut has taken up with evangelical minister John Hagee.
Hagee, in case you haven't been following the news lately, is the loon caught on tape preaching that Adolph Hitler was a "hunter," sent by God, and was tasked with
expediting God's will of having the Jews create a country in 'the Holy
Land'. He hinted that those Jews who refused to immigrate to Palestine had been punished by the Holocaust.
He furthermore blames the victim in his explanation of antisemitism:
It was the disobedience and rebellion of the Jews, God's chosen people,
to their covenantal responsibility to serve only the one true God,
Jehovah, that gave rise to the opposition and persecution that they
experienced beginning in Canaan and continuing to this very day...
Their own rebellion had birthed the seed of antisemitism that would
arise and bring destruction to them for centuries to come.... it rises
from the judgment of God upon his rebellious chosen people.
Pretty strange company for an Orthodox Jew to be keeping... Even after all that came out and even after John McCain was forced to repudiate Hagee for his lunatic views, Lieberman is still listed as a speaker at Hagee's upcoming conference. Here's what Lieberman had to say about Hagee in his appearance last year at that same conference:
I would describe Pastor Hagee with the words the Torah uses to
describe Moses, he is an "Eesh Elo Kim," a man of God because those
words fit him; and, like Moses he has become the leader of a mighty
multitude in pursuit of and defense of Israel . . . .
What is this conference? It's Hagee's Christians United for Israel summit. These evangelical types are mostly, if not entirely, believers in dispensationalism, which holds among other things that the state of Israel's existence is a prerequisite for the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. This belief system has considerable following among the Bush administration, and some actually look forward to a massive war in the Middle East as a fulfillment of their view of biblical prophesy. Which plays nicely into Lieberman's war-mongering, as Hagee nicely demonstrated:
Therefore it is time for America to embrace the words of Senator Joseph
Lieberman and consider a military preemptive strike against Iran...
Nuts. They're all nuts. And they want to run our country, some of them as a theocracy. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Catching up on current affairs over the past week, I watched the Bill Moyers Journal program from last Friday. He did a long interview or conversation with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama's former minister. This was just before Wright's appearance at the National Press Club that stirred up the latest round of furor over his views and prompted Obama to forcefully denounce him.
The Moyers program is also available online here. It certainly portrays Wright in a different light than a lot of recent press coverage, including providing the context of a sound bite we've all heard over and over about 9/11. The most fascinating bit to me was a still photo they dug up from the 60s showing the only time the two of them had met before. It was in an operating room at Bethesda Naval Hospital where President Lyndon Johnson was recovering from gall bladder surgery. Moyers was there as Johnson's press secretary. Wright was monitoring Johnson's heart - he was a cardiopulmonary technician in the Navy. Who knew? Wright tells the story of how the Secret Service accosted him when he returned from a coffee break. That segment and the photo are at about 10:50 into the first part of the program.
I still think Wright has some real problems, not the least of which is the damage he's doing to Obama's candidacy. I can't fathom his motivation in continuing to do so. But this interview makes it clear that he and his views are much more complex than media reports and politicians are making them out to be.
UPDATE: Moyers has written this piece in The Nation about his interview with Wright.