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Showing posts with the label #Rant

Being a member of the jerk club.

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Which, as a follower of Jesus, I’m not allowed to do. One of the neighbors, out on a power walk, decided to pause for a moment and strike up a conversation with me as I was doing some yardwork. Once he found out how old I am, he realized I was the same age as his son. “Do you know Cloelius?” he asked.No, Cloelius isn’t his son’s actual name. I don’t care to give his name, and you’ll see why. It took me a few seconds to recall him. “Yes,” I told him, “I know of him. We weren’t in the same circles.”There’s actually a bigger story behind this. One I didn’t care to tell Colelius’s dad, ’cause I don’t think he’d have been happy to hear it. But to be fair, we were kids then.The summer before my freshman year of high school, my family moved into a new neighborhood. Across the street lived a boy whom I’ll call Azad. And for no reason I could figure, Azad decided I was his sworn enemy.No, I still don’t know why. Knowing myself, it’s possibly for the very same reason I irritated frat boys in co…

On tipping and overtipping.

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On those who are constantly wary of unseen dangers. One of my hobbies is restaurants. I like to go to places I’ve never been to before, and eat their food. It’s obviously not an inexpensive hobby, which is why I do it maybe twice a month. But now I know a lot of great places to eat.And when I go to restaurants, I prefer to overtip. And by overtip, I mean go above the customary 15 percent gratuity. I want my waiters to be glad they served me, not think, “Next time he visits I’m definitely sneezing in his food.” And if that idea horrifies you, maybe you’ll think twice about undertipping.Because whenever I go to restaurants with other people, most of them don’t share my views about tipping. Usually the opposite. A lot of people hate the American custom of tipping.Part of it is because people look at the menu, order their food, get the bill, find it’s slightly higher than they expected to pay (what’s with all the restaurants that won’t put on the menu how much the beverages cost?—and it’s…

Paranoia will destroy ya.

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On those who are constantly wary of unseen dangers. Today I put Equal in my coffee. As I usually do.I know: Equal consists of aspartame, plus inert additives to bulk it up. And if some of my friends’ favorite websites are to believed, aspartame will give me cancer. Or (contrary to popular expectation) cause obesity, ’cause my taste buds led my body to expect sugar, and now I’m gonna crave sugar all the more. Or something’ll happen and it’ll shut down my liver or kidneys, or monkey with my metabolism somehow.Next to the Equal packets, the coffeehouse posts an acrylamide warning—’cause it’s in just about every cooked food, including the stuff you make at home; ’cause businesses are supposed to warn about toxic chemicals thanks to California’s Proposition 65 in 1986; and ’cause lawsuit-happy individuals are going after the restaurants who don’t. So acrylamide is gonna give me cancer too.As will everything else I eat. Meat and dairy products are filled with hormones, so those are killing …

The “recovering atheist”?

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Kirk Cameron, not keeping his eyes on the road in his new movie Connect.A friend invited me to watch Kirk Cameron’s documentary Connect, which is about how he was naïvely gonna get his kids smartphones until he found out there are predators on the internet. Duh; but I guess Cameron had no idea this was going on. So he made a film about it.This sort of documentary is basically what a lot of Christians watch instead of horror movies. It’s a bit like true-crime documentaries, except they get the thrill of being afraid of boogeymen. (Real boogeymen. Or at least they’re told they’re real boogeymen.) And unlike horror movies, the fear never, ever goes away. Isn’t meant to.I passed. ’Cause these documentaries invariably annoy me. And ’cause I’m not a Kirk Cameron fan.I’m not talking about his acting. I think it’s okay. Not award-winning good… but bear in mind he tends to take what he can get, or what he himself has produced. Which means he’s been hobbled by mediocre-to-terrible writers and d…

Guns, and why we Americans don’t control them.

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I have friends outside the United States who look at our rampant gun violence, who notice how our mass shootings happen on a daily basis, and who wonder why on earth we do nothing about it.Two reasons. The first is Americans consider gun ownership a right. Not an option, not a privilege, a right. We even put it into our Constitution.Y’see, in the 1760s and ’70s, the British occupying forces tried to take Americans’ guns away lest we start a revolution. (A well-founded concern, but anyway.) Once we Americans got our independence, we became fearful lest the Brits, or any other government, try to take us over, or go too far to curtail our liberties. So we made gun ownership the fourth article of the Bill of Rights, which became our Constitution’s second amendment.A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.Guns aren’t an obvious and inherent right. This is why the Congress had to spell out

Relevance, and blogging on current events.

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Why Christ Almighty! doesn’t dogpile on current events.Earlier this year something happened in the Christian blogosphere. I won’t say what; you’ll see why in a moment. I’ll simply say I have a few readers who were looking forward to me writing one of these Rants about it, but instead I didn’t write any Rants for three weeks. (Had other things I wanted to cover.) When I finally returned to Ranting, the issue had passed, the Christian blogosphere had moved on, and for the most part so had they.Well, until recently. At church yesterday—She. “I remember when [that issue] happened. I waited to see what you were gonna write about it.”Me. “I wrote nothing.”She. “You have no opinion?”Me. “I have an opinion, but it didn’t provoke me enough to write a whole blog post about it. I don’t think I even Tweeted about it.”She. “You gotta feel it before you post it.”Me. “I don’t gotta feel anything. It’s not about whether it makes me happy or mad. It’s about whether it draws people to Jesus, or drives …

The Nashville Statement, and sexism.

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Or, how to disguise prejudice as orthodoxy.Last Tuesday, 29 August, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood released a manifesto they titled the Nashville Statement. Likely they balked at calling it the Nashville Creed, ’cause even though the creeds predate Catholicism, there’s still a sizable number of anti-Catholic Protestants that figure everything which took place before 1510 is “Catholic” and therefore wrong. But I digress.In short, the statement is a declaration against homosexuality and transsexuality. Supposedly it presents the “biblical” view on these subjects, although if you read it y’might notice it neither quotes, nor provides references to, the bible. Whatsoever.Nor does it refer to the Holy Spirit. Whatsoever. Supposedly any repentance and transformation is gonna be achieved by “the grace of God in Christ,” i.e. the force of God’s loving attitude, as opposed to the person of the trinity who empowers change and applies grace. You’ll see in a bit why this significan…

Same-gender marriage in the United States.

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And why it freaks certain Christians out to no end.Depending on your politics, same-gender marriage is either a done deal or a huge issue.I think we can figure out which camp you’re in, based on what you call it. I’m gonna describe it as same-gender marriage, ’cause that’s what it is. Conservatives seem to prefer “same-sex marriage” and “gay marriage,” and of course cruder terms. Progressives frequently use the term “marriage equality,” ’cause they’re trying to emphasize how, as they see it, it’s no more nor less than marriage—so why add adjectives?Me, I know a lot of conservatives. To their minds, same-gender marriage is gonna be the ruin of the United States.Mostly that’s because their beliefs consist of a combination of replacement theology and civic idolatry. Replacement theology presumes Christianity has taken the place of ancient Israel, and all the LORD’s promises to Moses and the Hebrews in the wilderness, now apply to us present-day Christians and our nations. Civic idolatry

How to annoy people. Or not.

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And how their bad attitutes infuse what I write.When I first got into the newspaper business, I regularly wrote opinion pieces. Got my own column in a few different papers. I would, on occasion, deliberately try to bug people.My justification for it was:Really good writing pushes people’s buttons.So they get angry. At least they’re reading.I have every right to express my opinions.Those who get outraged by this stuff? Cranks.It’s all in good fun.Yeah, I was a real jerk about it. I’d write really obnoxious stuff sometimes.At the same time—more of my youthful and spiritual immaturity coming out—I was also under the misbelief that opinion pieces actually could change people’s minds over to my way of thinking. They don‘t work that way. Only fools read the op/ed pages to learn what to think. Most of ’em read to learn what others think, but for the most part they already have their minds made up. They’d either discover I agreed with them, and feel vindicated; or discover I believed otherwi…

The subtler type of racism.

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Once again I bumped into an odd phenomenon; one I briefly mentioned in my article on white Jesus. In short, it’s racism; the type people tend to get away with because it’s subtle.But first, a big long bit of backstory.Robert Edward Lee was the commanding general of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the United States Civil War. (The army started burying soldiers on Lee’s front lawn during the war, as a way to stick it to him; it’s now Arlington National Cemetery.) He was one of the better generals in the war… and arguably it’s because he was such an effective general that the war lasted way longer, and killed more, than it ever should have.Y’might be developing the idea I don’t think much of Lee, nor the reputation the American south has granted him in the 150 years since the Civil War. You’d be absolutely right.
Robert E. Lee, 1863. Wikipedia
Idol of Lee on his horse Traveller, erected in Charlottesville in 1925. WikipediaWhen Lee originally joined the U.S. Army Corps of …

Swiping my words.

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Christians play really fast and loose with plagiarism.Years ago I taught junior high. Various subjects: History, literature, grammar, science, bible, algebra. Sometimes ’cause the other teachers weren’t up to teaching those subjects; sometimes despite the fact they really wanted to teach those subjects, but I’m more qualified. (That’s a story for another time.) Anyway, I made the kids write. A lot.Often in class: I’d give ’em an assignment which needed to be completed during classtime. I had an ulterior motive, which they didn’t always suspect: I wanted to learn how they wrote. Partly to work on improving it… and partly to catch ’em when they plagiarized.’Cause time would come when they had to write reports. And when they did, I’d seen enough of their writing to immediately detect whether they wrote it personally, or not. I mean, it’s fairly obvious when they lift entire paragraphs from the encyclopedia; suddenly they were writing at a collegiate level, with vocabulary words I knew th…

The king’s English.

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How to properly speak in Elizabethan English. A lot of Christians—myself included—are big fans of the King James Version of the bible. A lot of ’em even worship the KJV, but let’s not go there today.When I was a kid I memorized a lot of verses in this particular translation. As I got older my churches and AWANA preferred the New International Version, so I’ve got a hodgepodge of translations in my brain. But I like the KJV, and still quote it regularly. Often because I prefer the way they translated a verse; often because I like the old-timey English. To a lot of people it sounds formal and authoritative. I just think it sounds cool.The KJV was first published in 1611, but the language it uses was old-timey even then. It’s English as it was spoken in the 1500s; arguably even the 1400s. Some verses are no different from the way William Tyndale originally translated the New Testament in 1525. They weren’t striving for English as it was spoken—unlike modern translators like me. They were…

TXAB’s spoiler policy.

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In case you’re annoyed ’cause I spoiled something.When you’re introducing your kids to the Star Wars movies, do try not to show ’em Episode III before Empire Strikes Back.Not that a lot of parents in my circle do, ’cause Episode III is rated PG-13, and a lot of ’em take that rating very seriously. ’Cause—and here the spoilers begin—horrific third-degree burns, y’know. But if parents do show their kids Episode III before Episode VI, it means the children are gonna find out Vader’s the father of two protagonists of the ’70s films, Episodes IV through IV. And it’s gonna kill any surprised reaction they might have when Vader finally declares, “No, I am your father.”It’s also gonna make the kids say Ewwwww! every time Luke and Leia kiss. And not just for the usual reasons kids are grossed out by public displays of affection: For the very same reasons I say Ewwwww when they make out. Yeah right George Lucas knew their backstory all along.Star Wars nerds tend to recommend watching ’em in the…

Eugene Peterson’s rough week.

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On the “yes” heard round the blogosphere.Most Christians know Presbyterian pastor Eugene Peterson from The Message, his popular bible translation that’s looser than a boot on a pegleg.
Everybody’s favorite Wikipedia image of Eugene Peterson, as seen on various news sites lately. (So loose, people gripe it’s more of a paraphrase.) Others are more familiar with his writings on pastors and church leadership. But thanks to The Message, loads of American Christians have at least that work of his on their bookshelves.It’s because of this fame Religion News Service columnist Jonathan Merritt interviewed Peterson on a number of topics relevant to Evangelical Christianity. Plus, Peterson’s sorta retiring. He’s 84, promoting what he figures is his last book, As Kingfishers Catch Fire; he’s kinda saying farewell to his public.But Merritt’s brief interview with Peterson, posted last Wednesday, 12 July, probably got a lot more attention than Peterson ever bargained for. The headline: “Eugene Pet…

Getting baptized.

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Then getting baptized again.My nieces got baptized last month. Part of their church’s vacation bible school (if you’re not familiar with the phenomenon, it’s a weeklong church program meant to evangelize kids) to of course to get kids to choose Jesus. And of course after such decisions naturally comes baptism.The girls had chosen to follow Jesus some time before. But one of the things about the Evangelical subculture—kind of a peeve of mine—is how it can sometimes takes years before new Christians finally bother to get baptized. We’re meant to do one right after the other, ’cause we’re supposed to make a solid mental connection between the two. Get saved, get baptized, ’cause baptism represents salvation. But many Evangelicals turn the sinner’s prayer into that thing we’re meant to mentally connect to salvation: “Did you ask Jesus into your heart? Okay, you’re saved.” Hence baptism becomes way less of a priority. Once you’ve confessed Christ, evangelists tell you to get plugged into a…

Why friends and family don’t read my blog.

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Or just plain won’t.They don’t, y’know. I can tell.My views aren’t mainstream. Though I think they’re fairly predictable, other people follow other trains of thought, so my viewpoint often catches them off guard: They’ve never thought of it that way. Or they’ve just plain never thought of it. Anyway, the surprised reaction makes it fairly obvious they never read it… back when I previously wrote on it.No, I’m not offended by this. It’d be really arrogant of me to be offended. I can’t require people to keep up with what I write. I write a lot. Always have.I’ve known people like that. Man are they a pain. I don’t wanna be the guy who’s regularly telling people, “Well you should’ve read my blog. Why aren’t you reading my blog? I’ll send you a link. You’ve never read my starfish poem? I’ll recite it: ‘A thousand starfish on the shore…’ ” I’d have no friends left. Deservedly so.I used to expect people to read everything I wrote… back in first grade. See, I had a free weekend, so …

Christians, Islamophobia, and “Who Is Allah?”

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Yep, I’m taking apart a Chick tract again. Recently an interesting yet annoying argument came up in a discussion group about the difference between devout Muslims, and the nutjobs who call themselves Muslim—then murder people and blow stuff up. Watch certain news channels and you’ll never hear there’s any difference. As a result many Americans think there is no difference. They assume the fakes are actual Muslims and call ’em “radical Islam.”I’ve pointed out this is like claiming a white supremacist is a “radical Christian.” Scary thing is, there are many pagans who actually respond, “Yeah, that’s precisely what it’s like.” To their minds when you call yourself Christian or Muslim, even if you’re not at all like Jesus or Muhammad taught, it’s still what you are.Anyway. If you wanna know how various Fundamentalists and certain conservative Evangelicals think about this, I find it really useful to turn to fear-mongering tract-maker Jack T. Chick.Chick tracts are meant to convert people …

Evangelicals, climate change, and creation care.

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Why American Evangelicals don’t believe in, nor care about, climate change.Gotta admit: For the longest time I was skeptical about climate change.Back then it was called “global warming”—the idea of pollution changing our planet’s atmosphere, creating a “greenhouse effect” which trapped heat and gradually upped the world’s average temperature. And even if it did exist, big deal. So the world’s temperature went up a degree or two. What kind of impact would that make? Hardly any, I expected.’Cause naïvely I’d imagined “average temperature” meant everywhere only got warmer by a degree. The north and south poles, however, got warmer by more than that. Warm enough for a lot of ice to melt.
Between 1980 and 2003, the north polar ice cover shrunk 1.6 million square kilometers. It’s getting so ships can now travel the Arctic Ocean. NASAThe reason I hadn’t believed in climate change was because, at the time, it was speculation. Based on evidence, but still speculation. I’m old enough to remembe…

“Who’s in charge of these bloggers?”

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Funny; nobody was really talking about blogging and accountability till women started doing it….Last year was probably the first time someone ever asked me, “Who told you you’re allowed to do that?” It was about me translating the bible, and it was based on a mistaken belief that people can’t do that unless they’ve been authorized by their denomination or something.And yeah, that might be true in a country which had no freedom of religion. Where the laws require we get clergy permission before we preach, teach, or otherwise minister. And sometimes not even the permission of our clergy, but the state clergy. Doesn’t matter if you’re Shia in Saudi Arabia; the nation is officially Salafi, so don’t upset their clergy ’cause blasphemy still gets you capital punishment. England had the same problem for centuries: In 1660, Bedford Free Church preacher John Bunyan got tossed in jail for 12 years because it was against the law for any church to meet off Church of England grounds. On the upside…

Humor, sarcasm, irony, mockery, me.

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On using my sense of humor for good, and not evil.Too many people are convinced a person can’t learn to be funny: Either we have the built-in ability to make people laugh, or we lack it and are never gonna get it.Which means these folks obviously don’t understand how humor works. Anyone can learn to do anything. Maybe not well, but better than previously. Anyone can learn to be funny. They just gotta learn how humor works, and practice at it.No, I’m not trying to sell you a class. I’ll even explain how humor works—for free.Laughter is an automatic nervous reaction. People laugh when you expose them to the unexpected. Surprise ’em, shock ’em, play around with words a little, push things to a ridiculous extreme—or even frighten them, which is why some people laugh when they’re scared. The unexpected makes us laugh, and laughter floods the brain with feel-good endorphins. It’s actually a defense mechanism. But since it feels really good, people pursue laughter.Unless of course their brai…