Archive for February, 2006

She promises the Earth and I believe her

Friday, February 17th, 2006

The Danish cartoon controversy continues even though YellowSnow has had her say. Read her entry but remember at all times that she hailed from Norn Iron so she probably knows more about religious reactionaries than all of us put together.

One of the comments on her blog read:

I have genuine difficulty in reconciling Islamic demands for freedom from satire with their penchant for regularly publishing scurrilous cartoons of Jews

So while Zoomtard coughs and hacks his infectious germs all over the keyboard, he thought he’d also spread some horrible malignant filth round the internet. There are some quarters where it is considered an old-fashioned cliché to claim that anti-semitism is a dangerous threat to the world. There are others who actually view any discussion of anti-semitism as code for legitimising the state of Israel’s horrible human rights violations. Sadly though, anti-semitism is the under-discussed aspect whenever the “Clash of the Civilisations” is discussed.

The Arab nations systematically propogate anti-semitic material. People on the ground accept what seems unconstestable to them and have a deep and vitriolic hatred for Jews. The cartoons published in revenge for the Danish cartoons are a perfect example. (Don’t click on the link unless you have already been beaten into a cold bitterness by the world.) During the 90s various newspapers across the Arab world published stories about Israel flooding the Middle East with HIV+ carrying prostitutes in an effort to destroy the fabric of Arab society. A TV station in Abu Dhabi (one of the 7 emirates of our “loyal allies” in the UAE) showed a sketch where (Nobel Laureate) Shimon Peres drank the blood of Palestinians. Here is a true statement: There is an effort to convince the population of lies against the Jewish people.

Zoomtard may or may not be an agent of the Israeli government
Zoomtard may or may not be an Israeli secret agent

The link I have for you is a brilliant article from 2002. But it requires that you watch an ad before getting access to the story. It is worth it. Check this article out from Salon.com about one of the plots to destroy Islam that “the Jews” have launched. Pokémon appears to be a twitteringly successful Japanese cartoon, computer game and card trading phenomenon that has spawned many different merchandising opportunities and a couple of feature length ads for said products. But it is in fact a plot to Judaize the world and lay waste to the cultural environment of the Arab states. Pikachu is actually brainwashing kids subliminally to “become a Jew”.

This stuff gets even funnier when you factor in South Park parodying the global toy hegemony that Pokémon offered and thereby inadvertently lining up with Islamofascists by telling jokes.

I think Mary McAleese is brilliant but her recent comments need a bit more reflection. The cartoons were crap and offensive. While I disagree fervently with the material published, I do not “abhor their publication”. I celebrate their publication. Only when they are published can you freely disagree with them. Denmark has a free press and the Danes should be thankful for that every morning. Saudi Arabia, where the President made her comments, doesn’t have any concept of civil liberty, never mind a free press. And there, the state run newspapers tell us that the disgusting lies of the Protocol of the Elders of Zion should guide us in response to Israeli politics.

Freedom of expression is founded upon the principle that if things are true, they should be freely said. If the cartoonist’s opinion is that Islam generates violence, then let that truth be reflected. If he was to write an editorial where he carelessly and freely wrote that opinion up as fact, then freedom of speech would be challenged by the compulsion to truth. In the Arab world, the anti-semitism is not padded by “in my opinion” like it is on late night radio phone in shows. It is passed off as truth. It may not be directly relevant to the Danish cartoon debate, but keeping the Jewish secret agents in the form of a Nintendo game in mind will help bring some clarity to the issues at hand and the moralising, politically correct hand waving that abounds.

YellowSnow was right to be angered at what appears to be reactionary prejudice against Islam and the people of the Middle East. But nothing particular is rotten in the state of Denmark (well, except for unsold butter that was due to be shipped to Yemen). The same can’t be said for Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the 20 Arab nations. If dancing on the street when towers collapse, celebrating the destruction of glorious Buddhist statues and rampant anti-semitism is a-ok but cartoons published in a different country by non-Muslims deserves fatwah, then we might have a problem. Islam is a religion of peace but contemporary Arab culture is not. Just as Christianity was still the following of a man known as the Prince of Peace in the 1400s, but Christendom was horrific. Free speech involves sometimes being shocked. It is worth it.

Now that I have had my incoherent go, here is the Bishop of Durham, NT Wright, addressing the House of Lords on the broader issue.

Finally, here is a hilarious but very cruel link to enjoy. And then feel guilty about enjoying.

Your Correspondent, He’s a big teaser, he took you half the way there.

Valentine, My First Child’s Name

Tuesday, February 14th, 2006

On the importance of newspaper cartoons being funny
Newspaper cartoons aren’t usually the kind of thing that offend me but then, I usually am too busy being enraged by the latest shockumentary that MTV have greenlighted. However I am not an islamic nutbag hell bent on dominating the ink pens of funny scribblers around the world. The outrage that has exploded 7 months after a Danish newspaper published some not-very-funny jokes should make you sit back and consider whether religion is actually the stupidest thing on the planet. As the excellent Daily Kos pointed out, it is not explictly against Koranic law to depict Muhammed, but against the code of the Hadith. Lots of icons of Jesus are used in mosques. So the question isn’t so much about whether they blasphemed God by drawing some silly pictures of an alleged Prophet but it really does come back to whether political correctness should regulate the free expression of speech.

As I see it, the jokes were crap. They shouldn’t have been published on that basis. But they can’t really be blasphemous since they were not published by Muslims. Let us imagine, if you can, although it ought to be a stretch, that the Koran is true. Now would Allah be infuriated by the drawings or would he be more angrified and wrathful over the whole life of this infidel non believer who doesn’t bow once in a year, nevermind five times a day? If it can be blasphemous at all for a non-Muslim to tell bad jokes about Muhammed, then it is much less blasphemous than, well, their whole lives. This protest nonsense makes no sense.

“But you are a Christian” I hear you proclaim, “And I’ve seen the Simpsons and gathered from that that you have thin skin too!” Indeed, there has been and still is a tendency in some Christian quarters to revert to the “Down with this sort of thing” response to criticism or mockery. But Zoomtard, genius web guru that he is, is about to provide you with an Illuminating IllustrationTM. At the moment there is an art exhibition in London that has caused even less controversy than a crib which featured Posh and Becks as Jesus’ parents. It is an installation by Gilbert and George and it is called sonofagod. It asks the question, “Was Jesus Heterosexual?”



sonofagod, originally uploaded by Zoomtard.

G&G are clear that they intend to offend Christians with this stuff. They actually argued in the Sunday Times that Christian opinion on homosexual marriage was discriminative and that it was offensive, therefore offending them back was worthwhile. I am a philistine. I have no idea what constitutes significant art but I can see that this work required a large dose of technical ability and that in and of itself has to be respected. I would love to go see it to judge one reviewer who wrote:

The crucifix is the prevalent motif: Christ’s body split open upon it like some carcass of beef… The tawdry emblems of superstitious belief glint and beguile and repulse in a body of work that, typically, sets out not so much to preach as to provoke. These images raise questions about the nature of belief, about religious antagonisms and the divisions they spawn. Beneath the glitter lies a darker subtext.

But I suspect that the darker subtext amounts to nothing more than that some people really hate Christianity. Importantly however, the outrage they hoped to illicit is nowhere to be found. The Archbishop of London couldn’t be bothered to comment. No one has picketed. No one has called for G&G to be banned. Their homes have not been stalked. The British Embassy in Holland or Venezuela has not been bombed. This is the right way to react to religious hatred. Indifference is a much more effective strategy than firebombing.

A web-linkage interval
I don’t quite know what this site is, but talking animals have never done quite so good a job at making me want to buy low calorie beer. (Not safe for Alcoholics Anonymous members)

My brainy exiled friend sent me this outstanding link to an explanation of Einstein’s Relativity Theory in Words Of 4 Letters Or Less. It is superb. An outstanding achievement that makes complex things easy.

I like lists. I also like the number 5. This site, therefore, is like a little taste of heaven for me. Go contribute!

Brothers, We Are Not Professionals
Ireland, if you don’t already know, is going through a clerical sex abuse scandal. The Catholic Church in Ireland, like in America, hid a lot of rotten crap in its dark corners for a long time and now very decent and humble priests are left to clean up the mess and the damage that has been done to their legitimacy. I have written about this a couple of times already but some flurry of activity has taken place over the last day or two that I want to comment on. A priest in Galway has called for an end to the automatic removal of accused priests from their ministry. He feels that taking those priests who pose no pressing threat to children out who have not been found guilty damages their professional identity.

Hold up a second there bud. As someone considering ordained ministry as a path for his life, I gotta say this rings alarm bells for me. I have a professional qualification. At least on paper I am capable of being a computer scientist. But when I started working for a Christian charity and if in the future I work for a church, then I will have no pretensions to being a professional. I will not aim for efficiency. I will not establish benchmarks. There will be no standardisation of my work practices. I hope to be a pastor who responds, minute to minute to the needs of my flock. I will seek to be professional in all my duties but I will not be a professional. I won’t want to be seen as a professional and I will not seek to project that idea.

The identity of the church leader should be found firmly and squarely bowed on their knees before Jesus. As I wrote before, I think a huge amount of the difficulties that the Catholic Church has found itself in (and the barrier to getting out of them) has stemmed from moving Jesus to the side. In its place they (we) put modern psychology or social science or a good intention here and a charitable act there. Priests view themselves as humble servants of their parishoners instead of servants of their Lord. They view themselves as capable professionals with something to offer instead of people who have received a glorious honour they are not worthy of.

If that is the route I go on, I will study for years at the finest colleges and have countless conversations with mentors and guides. I will never stop training and learning. But I will never be a professional. Fundamentally, professionals earn what they get. Church leaders, who must communicate grace to their church members, should of all people know that there is nothing we can own without it being given us by our God.

My printing job is done. So too is my self righteous preaching. Roll on rosemantic pap! Give me what you’ve got February 14th. I’m ready for you.

Your Correspondent, A peacock died to colour my lips

Do Christians Let Christ Influence Them?- Variations On A Theme

Thursday, February 9th, 2006

A few days ago I wrote an entry called “Do Christians Let Christ Influence Them?” in which I tried to answer why I would call myself a Christian when through history so many shite things have been done by Christians, even to co-religionists.

I was thinking about this topic again today and a thought struck me. This thought will forever be attached to a particular book I read this year but it has been a common theme throughout my Christian life, especially in the last three years. The book is NT Wright’s Challenge of Jesus. It is a spectacular work and if you are a Christian past the spoon feeding stages I would strongly recommend it. If you are an agnostic with an interest in actually understanding this belief system that has given us the underpinnings for everything we prize, then you should also track it down. I’ll help you through the hard bits if you want.

How big is Jesus?
Anyway, one of the things I took away from the book is the idea that Jesus is a whole lot more than even we, Christians, give him credit for. I did a straw poll with a group of Christian university students from a number of countries this summer. I asked them to define who Jesus was for them and about 80% said something along the lines of:

Jesus is my personal saviour.

He certainly is that! Amen! As the old slave song goes, “What can wash my sin away? Nothing but the blood of Jesus”. But one of the many points that Wright makes is that Jesus is depicted in the Bible as being much much more than that. A lot of the New Testament was written by a fellow called Paul. This is the guy who suffered the Damascus Road conversion experience that you may have heard reference to in popular culture. He was a Jewish teacher of the Law, a rising star at the synogogue, who was impressing with the passion with which he was hunting down these heretic followers of Jesus. On the way to catch them in the act in Damascus he was struck from his donkey by a blinding light and Jesus came to him in a vision. He revealed the whole deal to him and commissioned him to be his message-bearer to the non-Jewish world.

Anyone who claims that God doesn’t have a sense of humour will have a tough time explaining why he chose a rabidly xenophobic Jewish fundamentalist who was willing to kill Christians to protect his dream of a pure Jewish homeland, as his ambassador, with the message of doors thrown wide open to the rest of the world. I write all this to try to communicate how mad it is to read what this zealous monotheist writes in a letter to one of his churches in the cosmopolitan city of Corinth. As an orthodox Jew in the 2nd Temple period he would have been familiar with a prayer from an old old Old Testament book. The prayer was called Shema and it was recited twice a day. Here is how it begins:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

Now look at what Paul, super Jew amongst even the priests of Judaism writes after his Christ-encounter to the Corinth church:

Hear, 0 Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is One

we have

But for us:

One God

the father, from whom are all things and we to him

and one Lord

Jesus the Messiah,

through whom are all things and through whom are we.

There is no way I can do a better job of explaining this than NT Wright himself but put your thinking caps on because he packs a punch:

Paul, in other words, has glossed “God” with “the Father,” and “Lord” with “Jesus Christ,” adding in each case an explanatory phrase: “God” is the Father, “from whom are all things and we to him,” and the “Lord” is Jesus the Messiah, “through whom are all things and we through him.” There can be no mistake: Paul has placed Jesus within an explicit statement, drawn from the Old Testament’s best known monotheistic text, of the doctrine that Israel’s God is the one and only God, the creator of the world.

The Shema was already, at this stage of Judaism, in widespread use as the Jewish daily prayer. Paul has redefined it Christologically, producing what we can only call a sort of Christological monotheism.

In other words, Paul says to us (and firstly to the church at Corinth) that Jesus is not just your personal Lord and Saviour. He is that and more. He is the Lord of the Universe. He is the King of the Cosmos. He lays claim to everything. There is nothing that he doesn’t look upon and say “I made this” (like at the end of the Simpsons).

What does a big Jesus mean for Christian behaviour?
If you are living in the stereotypical Little-Jesus world of Christianity where you become a Christian by being born in a western country or by saying a prayer one night on your knees after confessing your sins, then behaviour doesn’t mean a lot. A Jesus who forgives all your sins when you bow your knees is not a Jesus who seems to expect any change from that. The great German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, would have called this cheap grace. In this model, we are clients of the sin washing service offered by Jesus that makes us clean. It is a good service because he gives us “personal” attention.

It is true, so very true, to say that Jesus has come to clean our sins and make our way to God clear. But he has come to do more. He has cleaned us so that our way to our fellow human is clear. He can do that because he is responsible for putting us and everything else here. Although he personally plucks you from a hell-bound path and brings you home, he has not come to pluck you up. Jesus comes and cleanses your sin, guiding you on the path to heaven. He also seeks, on top of that, to make you new; to regenerate you so that you are who you were meant to be when he took delight in planning you before the beginning of time. But these personal aspects of Jesus’ ministry do not suffice as a description of his mission. His mission is to glorify himself by making all things new.

That would only ever seem big-headed or self-centred if Jesus wasn’t who he claims to be. He is the God of everything. The most generous thing an all loving, all powerful God can do is make it so that we can share his company. He forgives our sin, he heals our pain, he makes friends with us so we can make friends with others. But he does all this because he is the God of the world that has been occupied by an alien force. On Easter Sunday he defeated Satan and now we await his coronation. Jesus is more than we can possibly conceive. His mission is not about you but you are a vital part of it.

Maybe Christians have done such a very bad job at living as followers of their King because they have understood the journey to be a moment in time when you “commit” to him. This conversion point is not the beginning and the end but the beginning of a journey that will never end. How many times have I been asked “When did you become a Christian?” Everytime I have responded like the smartass that I am by saying, “I am being made a Christian now.” If Christianity is defined as a relationship with the Creator who loves and treasures you then there is a lot of space for this living God to challenge your behaviour patterns that dismay him. If Jesus is defined big, as the Alpha and the Omega, the source of all truth and love, then there is nothing he cannot speak to. He takes even the sin closest to your heart and with the expert scalpel of the Great Physician he removes it.

When we define him small, as our personal saviour, then his job is to set us right with God above. He can’t speak to us in our workplace. We have to warp our definition to let him teach us about the environment. The sin management Jesus doesn’t get to talk often about culture. A Jesus thus defined does not lay claim to everything in your life and it follows that we can keep some things from him. Be that sectarian bitterness, materialistic discontent or a fondness for 1980s fashion.

So maybe the problem highlighted in the Hierophant’s Survey about internecine conflict amongst Christians of different traditions is often one about who we let Jesus be. Is he the Managing Director of our moral life or is he King?

Your Correspondent, With A New Logo Will Change Everything

Guess Who Has A Day Off?

Wednesday, February 8th, 2006

Fiona also has come up with a political survey to pigeon hole Irish people with websites politically. While I wait for my game of Football Manager 2005 (I am managing DC United) to load, I thought I’d fill it in.

Gender: Male

Age: (1-18; 19-30; 31-45; 46-60; 60+): 19-30

Nationality: Citizen of the Republic of Ireland

Country of residence: Republic of Ireland

Sexual Orientation: Straight as a Christian evangelist

Do you have a disability? A slight speech improvement that years of speech therapy hasn’t obliterated.

How would you describe your political philosophy? People tend towards being greedy and evil and bad. If the most possible people get consulted and are considered in a decision, then the evil gets spread thinly. So I am first and foremost a democrat. Socially left leaning with some flags that would worry a Labour party member and economically left with some flags that would… you get the idea.

Level of education (primary; post-primary; third-level; graduate; professional) Third-level. Hope to finish a Masters degree by July. Ha. The dreams.

If you were to vote on party lines which party would you choose (Ireland)? My Christian convinctions would make it impossible to tie myself to a party line. My little brother is in Fine Gael so my head is filled with their propoganda. I would tend towards the Greens naturally, but am as annoyed at them as everyone else who is sane.

If you were to vote on party lines which party would you choose (UK)? Liberal Democrats

If you were to vote on party lines which party would you choose (USA)
? Is there a choice? I’d choose the right wing party with better make-up, the Democrats.

Where do you stand on the EU? There simply isn’t enough connection between the politicians and the electorate. Whether it is perceived or real, there is a democratic deficit in the current structure. But I am an enthusiastic supporter, nonetheless.

Did you support the invasion of Afghanistan? Yes

Did you support the invasion of Iraq? I did not agree with the second Gulf War but I advocated the military overthrow of Saddam Hussein. I would support it if the principles were right, in other words.

Do you continue to support either or both of those conflicts? I think the Afghan experience will be a success. For Afghans, or Afghanerians, as we used to call them in college. I didn’t support the Iraqi invasion but I think it is important to eh, “stay the course”, I think that is how they phrase it.

What do you believe is the single biggest issue facing Irish politics? Whether or not Sinn Féin will be moderated by their growing support.

What do you believe is the single biggest issue facing European politics? The disconnect between what appears to be top-driven ideology and the feeling amongst citizens on the ground. Turkey is an issue though. The Danish cartoon shenanigans are proof enough of that.

What do you believe is the single biggest issue facing international politics? It isn’t international terrorism, islamofascism or global corporate hegemony. It is the shameful existence of death by hunger, thirst or illnesses that are easily treatable.

Are you, have you ever been, and do you ever wish to be involved in politics in a party political manner
? Nope. I am a supporter and volunteer of Tearfund though. They express most of my political opinions for me.

Who would you have voted for in the past US Presidential Election? Kerry. I prefer a leader who can doubt himself.

Your Correspondent, Will fancy any girl in a Johnny Cash t-shirt

Entering Into Politics

Wednesday, February 8th, 2006

Us furiousthinkers tend to be a laid back bunch. We write about text messages, how we secretly want to be pimps or whether or not it is ok for dashing young men to ask us out on a date. Of course, some of us are crazy law breakers who should be put behind bars before they kills us all. But for the most part, we take it easy.

Not like all those other bloggers out there who go mental at each other for having the gall to disagree with their opinion. “HOW DARE THOU!” they proclaim loudly through their google provided spot for a blog. It isn’t even a question, more of an outraged expletive. Maybe I’m being too harsh. Maybe I’m just sore that I didn’t get nominated for a bloggie but my wife did and now she leaves print outs of the award site around the hosue- on the coffee table, in the loo, littered all over the shed. Or maybe I am right. I think I am and I challenge you to disagree.

The case in point is the current abortion debate raging in the “Bl0g0sfeAr”. The disillusioned lefty was the first one who raised my attention to it. That lad is good by the way. I like his style. Shout out to you for your name and your banner photo and for your thought through positions. His post was in response to the fascinatingly named Fiona de Londras who thinks we should change the laws here in Ireland. She is a law-talking-girl so we have to listen to her argument intently while nodding our heads as if we understand “precendent” and “evidence” and “impartiality”. I am sure lots of other people have written about this too.

I was talking about this with neuro last night before she went out to stick posters up around the village advertising her nomination and asking people to vote for her and she reminded me of an interesting angle on this. I am a bit of an amateur theologist, as you are aware. Whenever this conversation comes up people want to have an argument that doesn’t bring God into it. I understand this. If you don’t believe God exists, then you can’t let God be a reason for things. Fiona articulated this really well in her post:

I have yet to hear a rational, non-emotional and non-theological argument against legalising abortion in Ireland.

The problem with that is, I have yet to hear a rational, non-emotional non-theological argument against having a theological position on abortion. When people say that I shouldn’t explain my position from theology, they slip almost without noticing, into emotional, irrational and deeply (flawed) theological discussion.

Imagine the scene. Its a pub in Maynooth or the Café Moka down there on the southside that stays open late and neuro, zoomtard and stigmund are entertaining a crowd of wowed agnostics with our witty reflections, profound thoughts and fashionable dress. The topic of abortion comes up and neuro lays out the position for us, since she is the only one who can actually string 2 or 3 thoughts together in a structured way. Hopefully she spends a bit more time explaining herself than she did in her most recent furious thought.

But there are objections. Rightfully so, because she is working off assumptions that aren’t shared by our light-hating friends. But their objections never focus rationally, calmly and coolly on abortion but they take in theodicy and cosmology and Biblical authority and anything else that they don’t understand. Wrapped up in one question.

Fred the Friend: How can you say that! How!? I mean come on! In this day and age! Cooooommme Oooooooooonnnnn! Your God, right, your “gawd” would let a plane crash, yeah? He’d let a plane crash anywhere, yeah? He’d even let a plane crash into a… [moment of dramatic silence] maternity hospital! Where there would be pregnant women [here he would probably say pregmented because he knows how funny I think that is] with foetuses and newly born babies! So your God doesn’t mind abortion!”

To which neuro famously responds: “He does mind abortions. He doesn’t care so much about aerobortions.”

This is why we don’t do politics I guess. One guy who does is rinceoir, who is an evangelical Christian student of politics in Cork. I am sure I met him one day at something. That is cool. Well done rinceoir on learning to write. You are already an example to the rest of the evangelical church in Munster. (Badum-tish)

Could someone convince Liam McDermott to move out of “MySpace” and get himself a blog that doesn’t annoy me so that I can read his genius without having to bang a hammer in my now paper littered shed for 20 minutes to ease the anxiety? It is the funniest blog in Ireland that doesn’t live at antidisinformation.com. Liam is playing a gig to celebrate the finishing of his latest, as yet to the best of my knowledge, untitled EP next week. You should all go. It is at the Voodoo Lounge on the northside of the quays, down there near Smithfield on Tuesday (21st). It is €10 in but that includes the EP. I think he might be calling it “Zoomtard A Little Faster”, or at least I hope he is. Come.

While the plugging is plugging, let me plug this. If any of you feel like getting up early on a Sunday morning, Zoomtard is preaching again at a lectern near you! On February 19th I am going to deliver the sermon at the Presbyterian church in Maynooth. So, if you want to break an adult-lifetime’s habit of enjoying Sunday morning in bed to hear me warp and garble the most complex and frustrating book written in the classical age, then email me and I’ll tell you how to join us. Church is still free, by the way.

Your Correspondent, Lives a simple life, unfettered by complex sweets.

Do Christians Let Christ Influence Them?

Friday, February 3rd, 2006

In the Hierophant’s Proselytizer questionnaire, three problems are posed for Christianity that all get at the same point:

3. If a Catholic, justify the Inquisition and other persecutions of “heretics” throughout the centuries, concentrating on why the Pelagianists, the Priscillianists, and the Manichaeans were persecuted; if a Protestant, justify the witch trials and the way that Protestants constantly hunted down native Americans until there were so few that the government could simply take their land; if a member of an Eastern Orthodox church, justify the persecutions of the Old Believers after the reforms of the seventeenth century.

4. Explain why your sect (whether Catholic, Protestant, or Eastern Orthodox) pursued, tortured, and killed people who were not Christian.

5. Explain why your sect (whether Catholic, Protestant, or Eastern Orthodox) pursued, tortured, and killed people who were not members of your particular sect.

I am a member of a Presbyterian church but I wouldn’t want to call myself Presbyterian. The Presbyterian Church is a religion. I am not a very religious person and everytime I give the Gospels a read, it kills the impulse to ritual a little more. I am a Christian, I am orthodox, I am catholic. But while I am a member of a sect and proud to serve its goals, I would never adopt it as an identity. This doesn’t get me out of answering these pertinent questions though. As I understand it, I have to take on the crimes of all the Christians down through the ages because I am so definitive on the fact that we are unified.

I do a lot of thinking about apologetics and the problems people have with faith. This thinking comes easy to me because I was a committed atheist when I met neuro and her merry band of God-botherers. 65 hours of noise torture and subliminal messages later and I came out an unthinking, hand waving, bible bashing, chastity belt wearing, Dubya loving cannibalist. On most issues that people raise, I can remember the Eureka! moment when I saw it slip into place. Good God let bad things happen? Sure he does! No sex before marriage? Harsh, but fair. Evolution a load of crap? It doesn’t say that anywhere!

But there is one objection I have never overcome. Ghandi reportedly said “I like your Christ. But I don’t like your Christians”. We may part ways on the eating of beef but at least old Indian baldy and me had something in common. If there really was a promised Messiah and Jesus was him, then why do Christians, consistently from fairly early on to this day, behave so appallingly?

There is the obvious response which is very few of these people can claim to be Christians- not because they did some very bad things but because they don’t seem to ever have done any good things. Ephesians 2 teaches clearly that we are saved by faith, for works. Once we become Christians, through the intervention of the Holy Spirit, we should see ourselves becoming more and more like who we were meant to be and less and less like the greedy, self righteous, out of tune people we end up being by just getting by. The less and less never diminishes to nothing. A Christian is just as capable of committing a crime against humanity than anyone else. He or she differs only in that they have no possible excuse for it. So while some (most) of these crimes were obviously the actions of human beings intent on pursuing their ideological goals by exploiting the tool of religion, it can’t explain it fully. We know there are real Christians who are assholes. Well I know it, because two Christian assholes live in my house.

What I think happens is that people start out well. They have the whole relationship with God bit down. Maybe they are excited by Jesus and their life feels the first taste of transformation. Their blindness now sees. Their lameness now walks. All that living a life lit by a light from beyond the sun stuff was real for them. But then they got involved in a dispute in their town between their church and someone else. Maybe it was another church, maybe it was a council, maybe it was a different religious group. But soon the security of the community they enjoy feels threatened or the power base of their group is reduced and they lose sight of the Cross and take up arms. Those weapons might be guns or words or social stigma but they exert their force into situations that become vacuums of bitterness, with all love and compassion forced out in the pressure. Elsewhere in their lives, they live dedicated to sacrificial love and authentic worship of the one Living God. But no one in their community reminds them that Christ wants everything, including that political or social or cultural or ecclissiological issue that they are sinning in. I think this is what has happened often in Northern Irish communities. The violent reaction is likely to come in just the area of life they treasure the most because it is there that threats are most dangerous. And then one is inclined to develop a blind spot to protect your sense that in this most crucial area, you are behaving well. The blind spot then encourages a cycle to develop.

The best I can do here is fight for a tie. Faith needs to be expressed in communities and communities of communities make institutions. Institutions like the Presbyterian Church in Ireland create traditions that form the basis of religions. And religions can do a great deal for anyone with a political ambition. There is no justification when Christian churches obscure the truth, focus on irrelevancies and oppress people. But they are people and Christianity is clear that people, especially religious people, can’t help but let themselves and others down. In a way, of all belief systems, the Christian should not be surprised when they end up making fatal mistakes and committing brutal crimes against themselves and others. People are broken. Christians are broken. They just have had it pointed out to them.

Christ stands as the resolution to this issue. He never said “Do I say, not as I do”. Christ set the example of a life perfectly lived and then challenged Christians to live it. To be a Christian is to follow Christ. The actions of others following him is a problem that deserves attention but there is no logical reason for them to be the cause of someone not getting to know Him. His friends might be assholes, but he is an amazing guy. He even makes dealing with them worthwhile.

Your Correspondent, Afraid This Won’t Cut The Mustard

The Monsters of the Arctic Bergs and Ice Floes

Thursday, February 2nd, 2006

Prologue as an insult to the French
Although she does shockingly attempt to go single white female today on my #1 internet crush (only joking neuro), the so-called Bibi Franceypants is just about the most explosively amazing thing to ever happen in France. I know that isn’t a very effusive compliment. Good in France is far more worrying than being “big in Germany” but she does live in Cheeseland and yet she is great.

Did you know that the hungarian word for cheese is sajt? No? Shame on you. That s is pronounced “sh” and the j is “y”. That means that in Hungary, cheese is shite. When I called France Cheeseland up there, I wished 3 times that I could be in Hungary. Man, I hate Franceland.

I am currently enjoying some nice Russki beer. I spat it out all over a priceless family artifact however when I visited this podcast from The Onion. I know it is a tenuous connection but maybe you should go visit the number one Christian porn site now. Those guys are kind of like heroes for me.

Stressing over stress? What’s new?
I got a new album today. It is called Nothing Changes Under The Sun. Thankfully it isn’t a piece of Christian pap but some excellent coffeeshop music. It is by a band called Blue States. Don’t hate it just because Pitchfork, the biggest tosspots in the world, like it. I need a lot of coffeeshop music because this weekend I am going away with work again. I think this will be the 456th time since 2005 ended that I have to be away. I am becoming more and more of a zoomtard under the stress. Any suggestions for helping me de-stress will be gratefully received.

The woman who’s laundry I do got me a massage. I will avail of it after this next work assignment. The idea of a massage is, well, perplexing. I have to get in the nip (I prefer that phrase because by suggesting that one “gets into” nudity, it makes it seem less, well, nude to me) which reveals my birthmark on my back which looks alarmingly like a spikey ‘666’. On top of that, I have to let some hot Swedish girl knead my body. I am used to Swedish girls telling me they need my body, but not knead. Har har etc.

But sadly it seems, the masseuse will be a man. Happily in fact. I might be letting the side down for all the wannabe alpha males out there but there would be very little more embarrassing than “becoming physically aroused, prompting the associated symptomatic erection of the penis” around a stranger who is being paid to touch you. Suggestions for more scarleh-inducing scenarios will be gratefully received on postcards, the backs of corpses left lying in my garden or through comments.

I am lying of course. I am getting a full body massage but it isn’t being done by a masseuse. Masseuse, it turns out, is a feminine term. I will refer to my male body-pounder with respect as a masseur.

I wonder if there is a whore module at seminary?
Speaking of people paid to touch disgusting creeps for a living, the aforementioned neuro has written about prostitution recently. Most all of us Furious Thinkers are Christians. I know. Shocking. We mostly write our entries sitting down, so we can leave our psychological crutches on the floor. So as we approach the issue of whether Ireland should legalise prostitution, we come laden with the baggage of generations of churchianity encouraging us to see ourselves as more pure than those who don’t bow on a Sunday. But, none of the Furious Thinkers are likely to pay much heed to the socio-political judgements of the various churches in Ireland. Iain Paisely and Archbishop McQuaid don’t leave us with a bold heritage we are eager to claim.

While this debate rose to prominence here at home a few weeks ago, I was in Ukraine. Within about 20 minutes of leaving the train station in Kiev, we were offered wives and whores. Sex sells and it isn’t the product, but the retailer, that reaps the profits. The women we were offered were pimped by criminal gangs who must be getting filthy rich off of their industry. Meanwhile, the women are raped, demeaned, dehumanised and robbed of the chance to live as they should live. This is a serious issue and a simple “Let freedom reign” answer won’t suffice. Nor will a moralistic, reaching for utopian “This is wrong” response. It is serious enough for Catholic bishops to change their mind on it. For the sake of all that is good, it is serious enough for the Arctic Monkeys to write a song about it.

It is very difficult for me to write about sex without sounding like a Celine Dion lyricist. But take even a cursory look at our civilisation and you will see that it is one of the most potent forces at work. We drink it in every day in the songs we hear while driving, in the intentions of the tailors who cut our clothes and in the wink-wink nudge-nudge innuendos of a psuedo-intellectual amateur theologist’s web journal. I don’t think that any of that is especially bad. It is nothing more than the expression of something that naturally plays on our minds a lot.

But things get a little bit more hairy for me when sex is exalted from a natural good and an instinctive drive to being the natural good or more commonly, an instinctive compulsion. This is rarely expressed more eloquently than when Michael Stipe sings:

I’m an animal.

This idea, you see, doesn’t encourage much deeper thinking than that. We are indeed evolved organisms. But we are much more than that too and the sheer depth to which our culture drowns in sex and all things sexual must show us that sex represents for us a much deeper need. I don’t agree with enforced celibacy for Catholic priests, but I do think celibate people can be happy. Often today we work off an assumption that to deny our sexual appetite (or any appetite?) is to do harm to ourselves. But just as I shouldn’t eat a 12 inch pizza and a serving of potato wedges for dinner, I also shouldn’t browse for porn. The hunger I feel for food shows me a need that needs to be addressed. The hunger I have for sex shows me a need that needs to be looked at. But while any sufficiently large dose of food will stall the hunger, the need is for nutrition and while any sufficiently large dose of arousal will sate horniness, the need is for intimacy, vulnerability and connection.

I fear I lose track of what an appetite is for. It is not for silencing, it is there to be listened to. And there are days when I realise that without self restraint (and the encouragement of folks like XXX Church) I’d happily live on a damaging diet of junk sex, tv sex and solo sex as corroding to me as a diet of junk food, tv food and solitary food. I may only be able to eat enough food for two, but I could consume enough sex for ten if I removed those pesky ties to that one particular woman I love so much. The reason why it is important to remember sex is just sex and not a route to fulfillment in life is because the sexual appetite can be ludicrously and preposterously excessive. It is a greedy urge that seeks to aggregate to itself all that it can possibly wrap its arms around, even if those porn actresses might be underaged or infected and even if that woman is only doing this to pay for her kids. I should admit that I am ripping of C.S. Lewis who wrote once:

You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act- that is, to watch a girl undress on stage. Now suppose you come to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to a stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let every one see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us?

So I don’t think that prostitution should be legalised so that people can have sex. In the marketplace, sex may be used to sell everything from toothpaste to theology (or at least it will be when I publish my first book: Penetrating Exegesis) but sex should not be for sale because there is a market. I think sex is too good to turn into a commodity. I think human beings are too valuable to be reduced to body parts. I love sex too much to see it so cheapened. Maybe it is ridiculous for a man in his early 20s to have such a view but I’ve made my share of sex mistakes and I am certain we are not just animals. We are not compelled to copulate. We do not have a mating season because the Pope is wrong, sex is for more than just having babies. Its also for more than just orgasms.

But before I get even more preachy, the reality is that people are being attacked and abused on a nightly basis on our streets. They are not living the life they could and should be living but that is almost certainly because of other people’s choices and not their own. Even if it was, I can’t make people live up to their potential by telling them what they can’t do. Prostitution is a moral issue, but the weakest kind of morality is one defined by limiting people. Telling people they can’t turn tricks doesn’t make it possible for them to do anything else.

So to stop the beating and the raping, I propose that we legalise prostitution in Ireland. I am under no illusions that it will end the exploitation, but it might end the violent degradation. It will still be mostly women, objectified and commodified and made inferior. It will still be the poorest and most disadvantaged who make up the bulk of the workers. The profits will still go to people exerting huge influence over those actually doing the work. And I realise that through the tax revenue and the legal precedent, society will be much less encouraged to reach for a future where women don’t have to end up working like this. But we can’t make people good by saying no. Ultimately, as a Christian, I don’t think “we” can make people good at all. But in a fallen, broken, shattered, groaning world, the legalisation offers a less bad model than the one currently in place.

And on the tangent of women being things that make us happy be watching them…
Although Natalie Portman is not a prostitute, she did once play a stripper. She is also very small.

Although Lisa Loeb is not a prostitute, she might be a commodity. Her reality tv show shenanigans suggest she is embracing it as her female perogative. I might have spent many happy afternoons as a teenager daydreaming about Lisa Loeb and her hot librarian glasses in her underwear, but its turns out that when you see it, it leaves you feeling like you’ve just gotten food poisoning. From a meat substitute. You feel sick and cheated.

Your Correspondent, Wonders if when the President talks to God, does he ever change his mind?

6 Day Plan To Cyber-Coolness

Wednesday, February 1st, 2006

One of the best Irish blogs, and probably therefore one of the most underappreciated, is called Planet Potato. While I was away saving Commies for duh Lorhd!, he wrote an entry inspired by chief atheist fundamentalist Richard Dawkins and his tv series about religion being the most evil thing in the world and a cause of many wars, much oppression, the invention of coleslaw and the continued existence of the Angelus, corny images of people looking reflective included.

In the comments I tried to sketch out a less tabloid interpretation of Christianity than Professor Dawkins offered, (who by the way occupies a chair at Oxford for the development of public understanding of science and somehow justifies making a tv series about religion- that is a whole other edition of Zoomtard) and Mr. Spud himself offered this brilliant question:

What happens to someone who followed the old testament to the letter uptil the time of Jesus? Doing an odd bit of pillage, rape, child sacrifice that sort of thing. Does he get a free pass on 01/01/0000 or how does this work?

I have had a go at answering this question before. The question gets asked a lot though so I think it is wise for me to try and have more than one way of answering it. I want to write a sentence that begins “Although this question is common…” but it would be clumsy to use the word “question” for the third time in three sentences. And yet, all question synonyms are q-laden. Query. Inquiry. Request. Inquest. Qinterrogation. Weird.

Anway, the _uestion comes up a lot and a sufficient answer has to begin by declaring that there is no one who fulfilled the law of the Old Testament. Well, there is one lad. But the Law does have a lot of things in it. In one book I read that there were over 900 rules. In a more recent book it was 226. I guess it depends on how you count them. But the Bible is clear that the fail rate is anything at all below 100%. If you want to pass the test of Torah, you can’t ever slip up.

Sir Spud asks what happens to people from the BC era who followed the law laid out in the Old Testament to the letter. The most concise answer is nothing, because no such person ever existed. Because the law is too high to be reached.

“Why bother with such a stupid thing then?” I hear all of you (well, just my one Japanese reader actually) screaming. That is where Martin Luther comes in. Luther was a bright monk who diligently tried to follow the law as laid out in the Bible. He got really distressed because he realised he kept failing to reach the standard and in his sincerity and authenticity he sought a way to understand true obedience to all these rules. Then his eyes were opened in his little monk cell while reading Paul’s letter to the Roman church where the apostle explains that the law is there to show us where we go wrong so that we can see our need for Jesus. Luther gets fed up with the Catholic church and their faffing about over this essential truth and decides to nail a list of problems to a door in Wittenburg. Someone important must have owned the door because the shit hit the fan and now we have a magazine called the Wittenburg Door.

Come back next week for the next installment in Zoomtard’s History of Civilisation.

Luther would have said that the law sends us to Christ to be justified. Less theologically, the fact that we can’t live up to the rules of the the Old Testament show us that our relationship with God must be broken and so we can see that reconciliation (that Jesus offers) is needed. This is the purpose of the law. It does not give people free passes, it doesn’t make them right with God, it doesn’t get you to heaven. It is instead meant as a neon sign to show your need.

I don’t know the hillwalker behind Planet Potato but I wouldn’t be surprised if at this point he asked “So does that mean that everyone before Jesus was screwed?” This would be a good question because all they had from Yahweh was law. Jesus hadn’t come to fulfill and complete the mission so is it just a case of chronological tough luck?

Not at all. This is where it gets interesting. The bit of Romans that Luther was reading on the day the Reformation began* was in chapters 3 and 4 where it says that Abraham believed in God and because of this, he was credited as righteous. Abraham is the father of the Jews (and also indirectly Christians and Muslims). He is described as being God’s friend. He was the guy who almost killed his son because God told him to. He was the guy who started circumcision (careful with that link). And in Genesis it says God and him were reconciled before all his holy escapades because of faith. Paul quotes this in the letter to the Romans to remind them that Jesus and his free offer of forgiveness is consistent with the true nature of God, explicitly the God of the Old Testament. People have an idea that this God of the Old Testament is somehow all about raping and pillaging and smiting and ordering and the God of the New Testament is a lot like the grandad in the Werther’s Original ad- soft, gentle, caring, smiley, loaded with sweets and goodies and prone to sit you on his lap and give you a hug. Potato seems to think there might even be a schizophrenic God in the Bible. The Old Testament has some troubling bits of ultra-violence in it. You can see from my reading list that I am trying to figure it out at the moment. But it is literally laden with 100s of contact points with the pattern established in the New Testament era.

*Disgusting short-cuts have been taken in this summation

If no one can reach the standard of the law and get their free pass on 01/01/0000, then the question has to be how the Bible says anyone can be right with God. The answer is the same for both the Old Testament and the New. Just like Abraham, 4000 odd years ago, we are made right with God by entering into what God is doing for us, and that will be the turning point. Abraham trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own. The call of Christianity, made dim by the irrelevancies that the church gets obbsessed with, is for us to do the same.

I don’t know how this answers Dawkins because I am a real nationalist and only have TG4 tuned into my telifís. I know it answers my question which was what will I do while I wait for my clothes to dry?

neuro-praxis used to express her fury by forcing her feminine fists into my face. Now she writes her thoughts out on the walls and our live-in psych nurse transcribes them onto the internet. You should check up on them regularly.

I love Ben Folds. You should too. While browsing the TG4 website I discovered a web poll for best music video of the week. I voted for Ben Folds and that one click raised his percentages from 6% to 11% of the total. How mad is that? Go and vote for Ben. If you, me and that one Irish guy out in Japan who reads this site vote, I think Mr. Folds wins a medal or some flowers or a pet helper monkey.

Your Correspondent, Proposes that we get unconscious. Baby.