Archive for February, 2005

Heroes are so rare

Saturday, February 26th, 2005

My beloved internets: Can I just have a round of applause for my best friend, the uberman?

Your Correspondent, Fascinated by the sweet confusion.

Micro Makeover For Your Life

Saturday, February 26th, 2005

There are times when it is so good, you wish you had thought of it first. This article is one of those times.

Mea Culpa
There has been a silence from Zoomtard Palace in recent days but it isn’t because of schisms or illnesses, but because of my workload.

In the last week and a half I have had 4 major speaking engagement thingys ranging from a four hour seminar on explaining Christianity to my explosive dismissal of the biggest challenge facing Christianity since Buddha and Mohammed released that Christmas single, the Da Vinci Code.

I am worried about old Karol, JPII, King of the Church. He gets a hard time from people because you know, he is reactionary and sometimes a little removed from reality but I think his major PR problem is just that people don’t really like Popes. Anyway, did you know he is fluent in 7 languages, is an accomplished poet, a legendary playwright, a fine actor, a superb moral philosopher, a staunch trade unionist, a goalkeeper so good he was tipped to be an international before he gave it all up for God, resisted against the NAZIs and the Soviets in WWII and that he has gone down in history as one of the most vital players in the downfall of the Soviet Union. That is all before we consider that he is God’s best friend. So even though I don’t think he is infallible or that Mary is imaculate or that condoms are evil or that women can’t be priests, I will be very sad if JPII dies because he is a towering giant of a man and perhaps the most under-rated person of our times.

Of course, he is the Prime-Minister of Heaven so I expect him to pull through on this whole flu thingy.

Churches not gay but acting ghey over gay folk
Schisms always seemed like more dramatic affairs when I heard about them in R.E.M. songs. Yet the crazy Anglicans, mere whippersnappers compared to the previous schism kings, the RC Church and the Orthodox Church have gone down that road. Here is what happened when they went medieval on each other back in the Middle Ages. It wasn’t about a doctrinal problem back then so much as a cultural issue. Two unities rose up in the church, one centred on Rome with its latin and its own set of rites and liturgies and one centred on Constantinople with its greek and its own ways of doing things. Back then Bishops weren’t equal, even they were strictly hierarchied so effectively an Eastern Christian looked to his or her patriach for leadership while acknowledging the Roman Pope as the ultimate head of the church. But crap happened and people’s egos were hurt and jealousy reigned as the churches fought tit-for-tat over preposterous doctrines like whether or not Eucharist should have yeast in it. It was about as Christian as a Fianna Fáil candidate’s nomination. It was all blood and guts and jewels and power instead of a nice meeting in a retreat centre in Co. Down.

Schism, by the way, is the word for a deliberate parting in a previously unified church. This alleged schism in the Anglican church differs in that it is explicitly about doctrine. There are two sides who are called the “liberals” and the “conservatives”. Liberals aren’t neccessarily all about the freedom of the person and can sometimes hold very conservative views. They are, however, liberal on the issue of whether Jesus was really the Son of God. Conservatives can sometimes be very relaxed and liberal when it comes to social, political or economic questions but they are old-school on the whole Jesus being Christ thing.

I hate these two terms because they don’t really describe the people involved and they definitely cast a better light on the liberal wing. Instead, I use the terms Jesusians and Christians. Jesusians aren’t so sure that Jesus was the Son of God but do think that he was a very important moral teacher. Christians, however, believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and therefore is the Christ.

I really empathise with the Jesusians in the Anglican church. I have no doubt that they are doing their best to be compassionate and just towards groups that have previously been very badly treated by all the churches. This schism has risen because their efforts to be inclusive have gone so far as to ordain bishops who are living homosexual lives. This can’t be tolerated by a big majority of the 77 million Anglicans worldwide and so we have the split.

A distinction needs to be made here. Homosexual bishops have existed down through time. I have no doubt that there have been and still are many bishops in the Anglican and Roman Catholic traditions who are gay. That is, for those of you just joining us from the 1890’s, they have sexual leanings towards men. The most influential English theologian of the 19th Century and a Cardinal (and big Republican), John Henry Newman, was it seems, a gay man. But the key for him and the countless others like him is that he controlled his sexual urges for the sake of the calling God had given him. This is no different than any other Catholic priest who agrees to celibacy and it is very much like any other clergyman or woman who agrees to limit their sex-life to within marriage. It is a historical fact that homosexual bishops have existed and done a fine good job. Homosexuality is discussed and dismissed in the Bible but homosexuals never are.

So the Christians have an issue with Jesusians when they say that ordained and practicing gay bishops are ok. The Christians say that its cool to have gay people in the church as members because we are all sinful but that accepting leadership involves accepting a higher calling to moral standards. An actively gay church leader is not the same as a church leader who strays into error, instead its a direct refutation of the teaching of the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments.

But the fundamental problem between the Jesusians and the Christians isn’t gay bishops. Of course its not! As much as the churches have been (understandably) stereotyped as judgemental and petty, they actually aren’t in the vast majority of cases. The reason that this whole conflict has gotten so serious is that it is just the visible expression of a much deeper conflict that probably won’t be reconciled.

When you ask a Jesusian Anglican why they think Christians ministers can go against the teaching of the Bible they will probably say that:

1) The Bible needs to be re-examined in the light of each generation’s perspectives on life.

2) God made gay people gay and so they should be able to live all gay-like.

They might be a bit more articulate there but what is the point of having a blog if you don’t mis-represent people? Christians disagree massively on point 1. Of course, as Zoomy has explained in depressing and mind-numbing detail elsewhere, the Bible has to be interpreted with consumate care and skill. And Prof. Zoomtard is right behind Soren Kierkegaard when he said that when it comes to matters of faith, every generation must begin again. But Christians down through the last two millenia have believed that the Bible has to be treated consistently and with a great deal of respect as it is the ultimate source on the thing we’re all so het up about. Jesusians don’t hold to that and are effectively ignoring the very strong message of the Bible that God doesn’t like sexual sin and that homosexual sex is sexual sin and their reason is that society disagrees (as it did in the time of Jesus).

The real real real problem that causes the schism is point 2. Central to Christianity is the idea of Grace. The opposite of sin is not virtue, but Grace. The following sentences are meant as a quick description of this theological idea (not as a crude attempt to convert anyone. 😉 ) Grace is the idea of massive forgiveness for any mistakes any of us have that we can access through faith in Christ. Central to Grace and therefore central to Christianity is the fact that everyone has made mistakes and so everyone benefits from this free and unwarranted forgiveness.

Some of our sins have their origin in genes. Like every straight adult on the face of the Earth, I have sinned in the sphere of sexuality and I still am willing to call it that even though it is based firmly in my genetic make-up. Evidence would strongly suggest that there is a strong genetic aspect to homosexuality. The Jesusians say “God would not punish us for how we are born” and therefore gay people should be free to disregard the stuff in Christianity about homosexual acts being sinful. Christians say, “Well God should judge us for the genetic problems we inherit but he doesn’t because of Grace”.

I fear I am not making my point clear here at all but the Jesusians, who are motivated by tolerance and compassion, end up making Christianity self-defeating and illogical because Grace, the centre point of the faith is invalidated. I can understand the “Conservatives” and agree with them to a large extent because they are not actually trying to oppress homosexuality but defend the very core of Christianity. Without Grace, Christianity is a hellish proposition and although the best intentions motivate the liberal wing, they threaten to strike a fatal blow to Anglicanism that must be avoided. That, in an unexpectedly forceful way, is my explanation of the schism.

I went down to Kilkenny today to meet a hot anorak. It was notable for two interactions. The first involved some of Kilkenny’s many “cappers“, those style-gurus who combine white soled Nike trainers with Adidas polyester tracksuit bottoms, a polo shirt and a Lacoste sweater all “capped” off perfectly with a Burberry peaked hat.

There were a huge amount of them crawling around the city. There was some kind of territory dispute and a silver-backed capper chased a young usurper into a travel agency, of all places. While the travel agents tried to do their business these scangers brandished fingers and threatened each other while a pack of inexplicably Dublin sounding rural boys shouted and leaped around. Sad day when a medieval city and home to great philosophers gets over-run by people who think that Neilstown is the height of Irish cool.

This is notable only because later in the day we went for a walk around the castle grounds and we met a strange employee. He claimed to be the “Monkey Master” and we were intrigued. He showed us his “Monkey-stun-gun” but to us it looked like a litter-picker-upper claw. I wanted to get the hell out of there but John wanted to see the monkeys. The monkeys turned out to be grey squirrels. When I pointed this out to him he tapped his noise and conspiratorially said, “Monkeys are nothing but advanced squirrels-- you too!” Crazy park wardens aside, Kilkenny generally proved itself to be a poor man’s Naas.

Dilemma for me
Here is a call-out for advice. Zoomtard has a real persona behind it that while not entirely secret, is kept away from this journal so that he never leads to any difficulty for his employer. But Zoomy has recently been discovered by people who should never have known about him. Well by people I mean person. Other folks from the professional life of mine would like to get in on the action but should I let them? Should I maintain pretentious ideas about artistic distance like Ddmmyy or should I give up the Zoomtard persona and reveal the trans-gendered theologian behind the tard?

As artistic as I get
Oh wait! Before I go let me squash something else in here. Although I haven’t had a chance to read anything that hasn’t directly got to do with work for the last 10 days, I have been reading the surprisingly good “Plague” by Camus. Reading French existentialists is obviously an impressive thing to do but I can’t really draw attention to this on the bus or train except for loudly exhaling at the turn of every page and declaring, “Woe is me for I have not asked for it!” Instead, I did this.

Your Correspondent, Saving his life-saving spit.

Let’s Have A Round For These Friends Of Mine

Thursday, February 10th, 2005

Theology. Estimated Reading Time: 5 Minutes.

A term that is often misunderstood is “fundamentalism”. On Tuesday night I talked with a student who come September will be a Catholic seminarian that had the idea that “evangelical” and “fundamentalist” could be interchanged. So tonight Zoomtard is going to throw a few ideas on the table really quickly about why that is not the case. This entry will firmly be in the category of “theological sketchpad” so don’t let me waste your bandwidth if you are not interested.

Fundamentalism is a phrase that initially comes from a series of pamphlets published by the Princeton theologian BB Warfield from 1913-15. From here the dreaded word comes into its common usage today. Warfield was a serious scholar, an evolutionist and a leading feminist. Don’t you hate how these guys defy stereotype?

Back in the day, fundamentalism was not a movement associated with crazy. In the face of the “rationalistic” onslaught against orthodox theology that marked the turning decades between the 19th and 20th centuries, fundamentalists stood up for the historic doctrines of the church and for the legitimacy of the Bible. Remember, the world wars hadn’t happened yet. Neither had the Khmer Rouge, the USSR, the breakdown of Yugoslavia, the Vietnam war or the Rwandan genocide. People could still legitimately claim people were naturally good and that science would solve all our problems.

Warfield and co. stood against the unwarranted confidence, actually the arrogance of the times and they stood with their intellects and serious scholarly study to support them. HL Mencken was no fan of Christianity but even he wrote of the initial fundamentalists that they were men “of great learning, and, what is more, of sharp intelligence”.

Back then, fundamentalist could really be interchanged with evangelical. An evangelical Christian is one who believes the core claims of Christianity, what might be referred to as the “Primary Truths”. Central amongst these are that Jesus was fully God and fully man, that He physically died on the cross and physically rose again, that faith before works is the measurement God uses to assess our lives and finally that the Bible is divinely inspired.

All that has been lost. The wars took their toll on all of us. The Scopes Trial did a huge amount of damage to the evangelical mind. And soon fundamentalists fractured from evangelicals. There are now serious, deep-down, geologically deep divisions between the two groups.

Evangelicals can still be marked by the description above. This document serves as a very concise (and in listing its beliefs, typically anal) definition of the things evangelicals agree on. Evangelicals can come from any denomination and in theory should be very nice people to live beside or work with or even hang out with at the pub.

You won’t find a fundamentalist in the pub though. In Proverbs 20:1 we can
read that “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler” and so a fundamentalist would take this wise little warning against drunkenness and apply it to all alcohol in all senses. Even when Jesus’ first miracle is turning water into wine and even when Paul advises Timothy to drink a little whenever he is queasy. Sure didn’t you know that they drank grape juice at the Last Supper? That’s where Jesus said that the “wine” was a symbol of His blood!

Protestant fundamentalists pride themselves on their “plain” reading of the Bible. They believe that it is perfect and never in error and as an implication of this they deny or disregard any social or historical context for the books. They are highly suspicious of any academic practice that might challenge their true interpretation of the ever-true words of the Lord. As a result, they are highly suspicious of practically everything you can study formally.

When I am asked I simply tell people that I am a Christian. Although I attend a Presbyterian church, I believe I am a follower of Christ long before an advocate of a denomination. Although I am orthodox, I believe I am a follower of Christ long before I am doctrinally secure. Yet another label that could apply to me is evangelical. Yet I am not a fundamentalist. As a Christian, the thing I object to most about fundamentalists isn’t that they take the Bible too seriously but they have far too low a view of the Bible. Their faith in it is not strong enough to take it out and sell it to others. Instead they sell Jesus Junk. Or buy it.

Fundamentalism today is not limited to Calvinists with weird beards. Today we have lots of Hindus, Sheiks, Muslims and Jews with weird beards to join them. They all mutilate their own scriptures to serve a highly self-righteous, narrow and self-vindicating world view. They join each other in exalting structured ignorance (Christian “creation scientists”, if only they could bring themselves to do it, would find firm allies in Islamic “creation scientists”) in the face of the honest intellectual questioning (what Augustine called “eros of the mind”) that serves only to bring us to a firmer appreciation of truth.

Fundamentalism, across the world today, whether Christian, Muslim or atheist, is marked by one dominant characteristic: Fear. They are terrified of the wide, beautiful world and the diversity of views that thrive out there. They are terrified that their view might turn out wrong and destroy the identity they have built up. So instead of confidently entering the market-place of ideas they put up their walls and retire into the dark where their fears can only fester and grow.

Your Correspondent, Knows It Off By Heart

Your Ignorance Is Making My Ears Cry

Wednesday, February 9th, 2005

If my car were actually a girl, like I dream when I anthropomorphize it all over the roads of Ireland by naming it and stroking it and whispering sweet nothings to the dashboard while stuck in traffic, then I imagine the exhaust pipe would be the lungs. I am mechanically challenged. But Aiya went in to car hospital for a lung transplant and came back like the Six Million Dollar Man of automobiles.

Of course, the Six Million Dollar Automobile would not have been a hit show since we were rebuilding cars back when Moses and Mohammed built the pyramids. But I dropped the car off at the home of the moustachioed mechanic and shared some masculine talk about GAA and engine oil and penile girth and then he reassured me that, “we can rebuild him, we have the technology but you have very little money so I’ll use Yugo parts and hope for the best”.

Aiya has now returned from the hospital and it has a shower installed where the rear seat once was. But I can still listen to the radio which is useful because since I went on the medication I get lonely for those voices I hear no longer. Eamon Dunphy is the closest thing I can find to voices in my head. His sleazy voice reminds me of the good old days.

Speaking of media-types who are famous for being assholes, Mr. Kevin Myers is in considerable trouble on this day for an article in that sub-Trotskyite rag that passes for a newspaper, The Irish Times. Mr. Myers, who was born in Leicester but for some reason writes “The Irishman’s Diary” called single mothers (from now on, MOBs, Mothers of Bastards) all kinds of horrible names including “backward”, “lazy”, “unmotivated” and “confused”. The professional shit-stirrer then went and attacked the bastards themselves, the children. This has pushed the liberal elite in my fine nation into a crazed and rabid over-drive.

Myers offers us what he calls an argument but he must be lazy, confused and somewhat unmotivated because what he gives us is a string of backward brain farts phrased in the fashion of an argument. Case closed say the readers of The Zooming Times.

Well not quite. The humiliation that comes along with having such a mangy diatribe filled with cheap generalisations and lines of reasoning that wouldn’t even convince a drunken, stoned FOB (Father of Bastard) attached to your name isn’t enough for the crack team of intellectuals that run our country.

Mary Upton TD, and Senator Joe O’Toole, in their response, have revealed themselves to be living, breathing, walking social experiments to see if anyone would realise if you tried to dress feral children up as politicians and pass them off as opinion-formers. Both of them have seriously floated the idea of charging Mr. Myers with incitement to hatred.

Well, I am typing with one hand because with the other I am calling a lawyer. Mary will find this site someday and charge me with hate crimes, either for demonising supposedly liberal politicians or feral children. I am not quite sure who I insulted.

I don’t like Kevin Myers’ article. Except maybe for the bit at the end where he has a go at Sinn Féin:

“naturally. After all, Sinn Féin/IRA have strong proprietorial feelings about single-parent families, having made hundreds and hundreds of them out of what had originally been two-parent families: why, God love them, they’ve even dabbled in making a good few no-parent families.”

I don’t agree with Kevin Myers’ article. I do think it was offensive. I mean, some of my wife’s best friends are single mothers! 🙂 He crosses the line into vulgarity as he tries to express a view held by many (in more moderate form). Yet we must protect his rights to express these views. The most dangerous reaction is Mary Upton’s self-righteous “these views are too dangerous to be widely disseminated” reaction.

See, there was once a fairly deadly lad called John Stuart Mills. He was a feminist and a utilitarian, which is a philosophy created by his dad and his friends. Mills wrote this flipping brilliant (and easy to read) book called On Liberty and in it he proposed an idea about freedom of speech that I hold dear to.

Basically, it is that when we come across wrong views, even dangerous views, even hate-inciting views, the best response is with a robust and strident defence of the truthful view. If we start repressing some arguments, then we run a threefold risk.

: We will miss an opportunity, in defending the truth, to elaborate on the benefits and beauty of the truthful position.
Two: We will have less things to think about and then our brains will be more restful but then we can easily slip into a coma. FACT.
Three: We will eventually ban good things.

The idea that anyone is out there just waiting for a distinguished West-Brit like Myers to say something controversial so they can unleash their Machiavellian plot of hatred against the group that used to be called (up until 1987 in Irish law) bastards is a laugh riot. When Mary Upton then somehow connected Myers and his article with Auschwitz on the Vincent Browne show, I strongly considered packing in my liberalism and sewing her lips together because her views were becoming dangerous-- -ly stupid.

See, if you were Mary Upton, you would almost certainly find that last paragraph insulting and offensive because your sense of humour was removed by visiting aliens in 1995, who also robbed what little common sense was in her brain and replaced it all with a book of political thought cobbled together from the lyrics of Sinéad O’Connor albums. But as long as my threat is nothing more than a lazy, unmotivated, backward rhetorical flourish, I should be free to say it. Myers wasn’t threatening to open a Magdalene Laundry in his garden shed. He wasn’t proposing that we round up all the single parent families and starve them of their E4 entertainment as punishment for rampant and decrepit immorality. He wasn’t proposing that single mothers should avoid cost to the State by aborting their babies.

Instead he was being a bit of an opinionated git. He was writing a column about a group of people who would rarely read his column for a different group of people who do read his column but rarely meet anyone from the first group. I think that is his job. He and John Waters have contracts that demand 67% gimpiness and muppetry every week. We might not like what he has to say, but I mean this literally, before God, we must protect his right to say it.

Your Correspondent, Inside Fashion Week

We Shall Dance Upon Injustice

Tuesday, February 8th, 2005

I have almost the whole of tomorrow, which has become today, off. No work for me. At least until the evening when I am participating in a talk followed by a Q&A session on the topic of:
“Jesus. The Opiate of the People?”

Guess what position Zoomtard Inc is taking on that issue?

The reason for this uncommon lapse in the eternal busyness of my good life is that the team and I organised and led-up a big old conference over the weekend. Perched a top a mountain overlooking a picturesque valley village, me and my boys brought together a hundred students, a very fine book and just enough delicious homemade scones to go round. We, being me and C, arrived late because we almost died. Hurtling down the two laned highway at 80km Aiya had a fucking hissy fit and the rear left wheel decided it had enough and it popped off leaving us with less than the required number of round rubber things to continue driving. We hurtled out of our lane and into the hard shoulder and then into some hedges and finally Aiya ran herself out of her rage against a metal barrier.

No. Only kidding. Instead Aiya wobbled, then lurched and finally positively jumped like a poltergeist tormented soapdish at which point, wise old Zoomer and his lovely lady friend pulled into a nearby petrol emporioum and called for a grease monkey who diagnosed the problem and arranged for repair. Bearings had worn down or grime had gotten on the tap or there wasn’t enough RAM or some such thing. We didn’t pay attention since I was solving a serious theological issue and my wife was trying to find new ways to mis-spell the word monkey. The major theological problem I struggled with was why some of my students insist on attacking my crotch. Answers, with biblical back-up in the comments please!

I have been suffering from a total lack of Zoomtard inspiration. Other writing ideas seem more pressing all the time which saddens me because the only real source of self esteem I have ever had was the occasional comment from one of you miserable 60 people who drop by here every year. Basically, the 60 visits make me feel like I have to do something. I’d feel guilty otherwise but I don’t want to jump the shark and end up so self obsessed that I post photos of my eye online. Seriously, suggestions for new topics to tackle would be appreciated. Otherwise I will write reviews of post-modern literature. The only thing more boring than a post-modern novel is a review of a post-modern novel. Like Foe. What a piece of crud.

So that you don’t feel short-changed, here are some great links:

My boy Andy has a new post. Pop round and encourage him.
Evolution must be true since God could never have given us eyes that were so stupid.
Although this is dreadfully nerdy, it is very impressive.
Also lego related. Also nerdy. Also impressive. But much more crazy.
If anything could make me buy a stupid, crappy, inferior, over-priced over-hyped I-Pod, this would be it.
Seriously now, instead of the I-Pod. I-River.

Your Correspondent, The Cure For The Common Man They Don’t Want You To Know About.