Archive for September, 2006

Ingest this. It is all in jest.

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

So the Ryder Cup came and went and according to a free newspaper delivered through my door every week, the skies above my home were like Vietnam during an American offensive. I think that safely wins the award for worst simile of the decade. It even tops the lady on Liveline this afternoon who compared Bertie’s debt of honour to murder. I didn’t know if I should feel bad about having the world’s 3rd biggest sporting event (what bullshit by the way!) on my doorstep and not even taking the time to understand the rules but now that it is passed I am relieved that small talk has returned to safe topics like weather and property prices and I no longer have to talk about Tiger’s woods and irons.

This weekend I speak at the national conference of Evangelical Alliance Ireland. So if you can refrain from letting them know all my heterodox beliefs so they don’t kick me off the billing, I’d appreciate it. In a busy schedule of about 9 hours, I get to speak for four minutes. So I am a crucial part of the next 12 months of Irish Christianity. Me and my boss are going to stand up and say some very controversial things hidden behind conciliatory language. It is quite a challenge actually, to make a short presentation on something. You read this blog, so therefore you are aware that it takes me longer than usual to make a point. I always feel a need to add an epilogue to any statement to conclude it nicely. And then I feel I have to clarify a point to head off misunderstanding. And then I remember something else I meant to say. And my speech ends up like this paragraph.

On Saturday however, I will be a slick, smooth-talking schmooze-mobile. It will be sexy. It will be daring. It will be a freshly pressed suit I am wearing. That will probably cause some mockery when I resume normal life-service later in the evening down at the old Pigeon Fanciers’ Club but I am willing to take that blow for the sake of evangelical unity.

There was a dreadful drought of good movies at the end of the summer. There were even days when we were so desperate at the prospect of watching a comedy about the world’s shortest jewel thief pretending to be a child or a horror about a stranger calling your mobile that we got videos. It takes a lot to convince Zoomy not to go to the cinema but the crap they were serving managed it. Then all at once, we get Little Miss Sunshine (the best movie I have seen this year), Talladega Nights (a movie filled with ideas so funny that you’ll laugh at the catchphrases for years to come even if the execution lacked that pee-your-pants factor) and Children of Men. I thought Children of Men was going to be class because of the cast and the director and the brilliant idea. But what a surprise I was in for since the plot is actually an allegory of the Flight Into Egypt. Or at least I think it is. I know that is unlikely to make you want to see it any more but watch for it because it at least brings an interesting new layer into the movie.

Stigmund and I brave the terrifying world of ticketed events this weekend as we head off to see Duke Special. I am almost certain I haven’t posted the tickets back to myself so there is hope we’ll actually make it to this gig. Duke is a strange one. The more I listen to him, the more I love him. The more Neuro listens to him, the more she hates me for listening to it. I usually respect her opinion, since she is usually talking about how marvellous I am. But in this instance, Neuro is wrong. Duke Special is not like a Northern Irish version of Martyn Josesph (a Welsh Christian song writer who doesn’t write “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs). By which I mean, a travesty of a musician who would have been better off developing his unique talents in Saddam’s Republican Guard. Duke Special is actually the rarest of things- a singer-songwriter who writes songs that are happy. Even my beloved Mumblin’ Deaf Ro plumbs the depths of human awfulness without neccesarily coming back up. The horrible MySpace has some samples to listen to. But better again, the grown up webpage has lots to gorge yourself on.

Your Correspondent, This Assault Was Not Sexual In Nature.

And Ending The Popish Discussion

Monday, September 18th, 2006

While watching Questions and Answers tonight we got to hear the talking heads paint a better way forward for the Roman Catholic Church than the Pope ever could. You see, the Pope, with his five decades of extraordinary intellectual efforts, his off-by-heart knowledge of the Koran and his team of devoted helper-pensioners doesn’t really have a good grasp of Islam. Instead we should listen to the Irish Times columnist who told us about a time that the Pope addressed “Muslim bishops”. She went on to say that she couldn’t understand the academic theological paper that the Pope delivered to his professional peers at a university. We had another woman from a children’s charity talk about a day when inter-religious dialogue would just be like “having a chat and a cup of tea with a few friends”.

Can someone declare some fatwahs?

Your Correspondent, Its all about me.

All You Need To Know About The Pope

Monday, September 18th, 2006

There has been a little bit more than usual in the press about the Pope over the past few days. As longer-readers will be well aware, I was a huge fan of John Paul II, who was a titan of a man. Although I have difficulty with anyone who could try to silence Hans Kung, I guess I have given Papa Ratzie the benefit of the doubt over the last two years. Since I changed my job and stopped travelling to and fro all day every day, I have been much less plugged in to talk radio and so I don’t have my finger on the pulse of Irish reaction to the comments made at Regensburg University last week. Planet Potato hasn’t passed comment on it yet so I don’t know what smart Irish people are thinking. I know Christopher Hitchens’ rapid descent into Dawkinophia (a terrible disease where atheism swamps everything you write so that not being able to find a car parking space can be explained by religious idiocy) has been accelerated by the furore. I suspect United Irelander has come close to how most people feel about this issue when they write that the Pope’s comments might have been ill-advised but he has said sorry so what the hell are these people complaining about?!

While you might have heard lots of comment on this issue, you probably haven’t got the low down as its seen from an evangelical Presbyterian churchman who is studying theology under Catholics. And I am equally sure that you have been waiting for just such a man or woman to come along and explain things to you. So settle yourself down, put a coaster under your cup of tea and take out your copy of the Satanic Verses because I’ll lay it out as plain as day.

The Pope delivered a lecture last week at his old university, Regensburg. He didn’t make a speech. He attended an event held for theologians by theologians and he read his prepared comments which take the form of an academic paper. Indeed, he had intended to publish this paper in due course through the relevant Vatican journals. When it was delivered last week it caused quite a flurry of excitement because, and I think this is crucial here, the work is a masterpiece. Theologically speaking, this is a gem of a paper that reads as easily as its logic flows so that you barely notice the choppy intellectual waters he has steered you through.

That is was a theological paper delivered before his peers should be taken into consideration. It was never intended to be let it float on choppy political waters. It was never meant to be a diplomatic statement on inter-religious dialogue. It actually has nothing to do with Islam. It is an academic paper presented in a university to a theology faculty on the doctrine of God. When an astrophysicist delivers a lecture down the road from me in Maynooth offering a theory on multiple universes, it doesn’t create a political maelstrom in the Middle East, although it presents a real challenge to Islam. The reason is that in the normal course of things, academics don’t have to be answerable to political forces. (“How naive!” the academics say. “He has never applied for funding, obviously!”)

Imagine if a world-renowned doctor delivered a groundbreaking lecture on the topic of public health at a medical conference. In this paper he presents the outline of the next generation of public health work set before he and his peers, where the task is one of making access to health care and information for health prevention available to everyone regardless of class or creed or race. He deals with massive, complex problems in an elegant manner that inspires and refreshes the thinking of those present. And as an example of how public health can fail and fall short of the standards set before it, he mentions the decision to stop homosexual men from donating blood on the back of sexual promiscuity amongst that population in the early 1980s. He cites popular writings by informed men in that time that linked the HIV epidemic that group endured to that group’s lifestyle. It might not be politically correct but he is citing someone else to make a point so no one bats an eyelid. It is not he that is offensive, but the text he cites. Whether that text is accurate or not is moot because of the larger point this doctor is making which is that in this generation we must move beyond old stumbling blocks and make a revolution for public health so no group is victim of an epidemic for lack of information or kept from treatment from the presence of prejudice.

I think this is a pretty fair analogy to what the Pope was saying. His point is not that Muslims are blood thirsty, that Mohammed was a murderer or that Islam is evil. His point isn’t even that conversion should never be forced. What he was laying out was the big picture facing theology, facing the church, facing Christians. The big picture is that reason and faith are divorced in the common mind and in popular discourse but that our faith must not fall prey to this dichotomy and in fact be the force that overcomes it. As as example of how this challenge has been missed in the past he cites a medieval text about unreasonable faith-action, that is Jihad.

What the Pope laid out in this lecture has nothing at all to do with Islam really. He was arguing that a chief characteristic of God is reason. That humanity has reason at all is because God has graced us with it. As we bear his image, we bear a reflection of this reasoning. He points out that the similarity between man and God is minute in comparison to the dis-similarity. We could not reason our way up to God, beat God at chess, or understand what God is up to. But the Biblical record is clear that reason, in Greek “Logos” is a characteristic of God. Logos is also the title that John, the author of the Gospel named after a guy called John gives to Jesus. He starts his biography with “In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God and the Logos was God…”

Benedict XVI used an illustration to make his point when he cited a medieval text where an Emperor argued that it wouldn’t do to convert someone to faith in this Reasonable God by force. It just so happened that the Emperor was referencing Mohammed’s teachings and actions. But in the quotation there is an implicit repudiation of the rhetoric used. Here is how the Pope said it:

…he turns to his interlocutor somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words: “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”

This is an elementary lesson in context that needs to be taught by the government-backed newspapers of the Islamic nations exploding with self righteous fury. The old German doesn’t mean to pass these comments off as his own! This is a 5-page lecture he has given where he charts strands of thought from the apostolic age right up to postmodern era thinkers like Monod and all the world is talking about these couple of lines?! If I feel like crying its because so few people love the theology as much as me and they are just warbling on about diplomacy and political correctness. You’re missing the theology!!!

If for some absurd reason the theology doesn’t get your blood pumping, all you need to know about what what the Pope said is that he threw down the gauntlet to his theologian buddies to join with him in the task of:

…broadening our concept of reason and its application…We will succeed in doing so only if reason and faith come together in a new way, if we overcome the self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirically verifiable, and if we once more disclose its vast horizons.

It doesn’t need to be pointed out that protests against the Pope allegedly calling your religion violent become largely meaningless if you respond by shooting nuns, burning churches and threatening widespread persecution. False religion, whether it makes its home in a mosque, a Catholic parish, a skeptics society or a Presbyterian session will always drag people into sectarian violence and unthinking prejudice. It has killed the person who embraces it long before they get around to burning effigies of an old German and raining profanities on Anglican priests on the streets of Jerusalem. The outcome of all of this in Ireland is likely to be a further private withdrawl within individuals from “organised religion”. The quote at the end of the Pope’s speech captures their position perfectly when Socrates says to Phaedo:

It would be easily understandable if someone became so annoyed at all these false notions that for the rest of his life he despised and mocked all talk about being

But if you are in that position I would encourage you to consider the tight reasoning presented in the largely unread text of the Regensburg lecture and the end of that quote from Plato:

but in this way he would be deprived of the truth of existence and would suffer a great loss.

Your Correspondent, What I do, I don’t want to do.

What My Medicine Cabinet Reveals

Saturday, September 16th, 2006

The week didn’t start well. I went to the doctor and found out I had herpes. I thought it was just puberty.

This is even worse than the last time I went to the doctor. I was convinced I had a tortured genius. It turns out it was just puberty.

I think I am on the edge of discovering an important new mode of ministry for the 21st Century. I like to call it the Jesus lie. Here’s how it goes: when I am talking to someone about Christianity and Jesus and God and all of that, sometimes they don’t like the full truth. Its uncompromising and hard and well, a little extreme. So instead we pitch the truth a different way. All we do is bend the truth a little, pitch it from a new angle even, so as to make it a little easier on their ears. Or their wallets. Or their underpants. Sure it isn’t the full story and it hardly smacks of integrity, but you are doing it for Jesus so its all ok. So we can promise people things like wealth and health and happiness if they become Christians. Sure its a lie, but its a Jesus lie!

I told some Jesus lies this week and convinced a man to give me a brand spanking new car. I told one to my wife and she gave me a delightful new camera. You should try it out. There is an airbag in my car that covers the whole windscreen. The whole windscreen people! You wouldn’t get that kind of technology with “integrity” or “honesty”.

Funny, and thoughtful, and deeply, viscerally satisfying.

I also went to see Little Miss Sunshine. Imagine me wandering into the cinema after a hard day’s work for the Man Upstairs when blammo! this hilarious, touching, well measured comedy whacks me straight across the face. It filled me with glee. It made me laugh like a little girl and a big happy monk. It might have made me cry or it may have been some rice cake that was aggrivating my tear ducts. Sure, there are parts of it that are silly or unbelievable but I have never before wanted to paint a portrait of Nietzsche and hang it in my room. Now I do. In fact, now I am doing that so I have to go and perfect his moustache.

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

Romance Languages Lead To Pre-Marital Sex

Monday, September 11th, 2006

For whom does the bell toll? For Neuro.
So to put an end to the destructive rumours that are claiming there is a link between Mary Harney resigning the same weekend Neuro packs it up, let me state categorically that Neuro and Mary Harney are not the same people. Admitedly, I have never seen them in the same room at the same time. But I have been in the room with Neuro while watching Mary live on TV and vice versa.

You all might be wondering why she has called an end to the inevitable disappointment that is neuro’s blog. The reason is because you touch yourself at night. Also, Neuro is a having a bit of a mid-20s crisis. At the present moment, she is on a train headed west, sitting in the middle of the aisle in a large cardboard box writing -1^1/2 repeatedly over the back of a cornflakes box with a blue crayon. Maintaining the blog was always hard, in the midst of her busy schedule of important relief efforts to be made, beer to be brewed and astrology charts to be drawn up. With her finally jumping off the edge of sanity (prompted, LEST WE FORGET, by your disgusting nocturnal habits!), it just had to be put out of its misery.

Its because he is so bright…
I am glad to see that the new leader of the PDs is a man so stunningly intelligent, that he doesn’t come to the same conclusions as anyone else. Sure, you might think Policy A is extreme or that Policy B borders on the immoral. But you would think that. You and I are not as intelligent as Michael McDowell and if we were as super-bright, then we would know and see. See that immigrants are ripping us off. Mostly. Some of them are good at soccer.

Some linkage, squashed in here for want of a context: Divine Vinyl is hilarious and St. Annes’ Pub is an audio magazine worth listening to.

Thinking, So You Don’t Have To
Today is the anniversary of both the Twin Towers collapse and the birth of the man behind Ddmmyy. If you are one of those irritating rabid anti-americans, you might think that the 2nd of those commemerations is sadder. You probably do in fact, because Betamaxnomates, as he forces us to call him on the interweb (as oppossed to myself who took Zoomtard as my confirmation name), would turn on you with his acerbic wit and have you on your knees pleading for mercy before long. Then he’d take you up in his arms and gently place you on his giant shoulders, from which you could get a fresh perspective on reality and see that in fact, something very horrible happened to innocent people five years ago. That more horrible things have happened, since then even, cannot be denied. But its no morality that confuses the mistakes of a government and the tragedy that affected her people. Anyway, Ze Frank thought for himself last week and you should really watch it. It is something.

You should also watch Ze Frank every morning. It makes thinking easier.

Back to our regular schedule of moaning
Neuro and I were in someone’s house recently who had betrayed their heritage by getting foreign television stations in. While we talked about how weird an idea the square root of minus one is or about how to keep flowers fresh or something of that order, Anne Robinson’s show The Weakest Link was on in the background. I am amazed that show is still going. Anyway, there was a contestant called Chip from Stockport who was part of a Christian rap band who worked as a youth specialist for a church. Chip was a chirpy guy and I could understand how he would be annoying but when it came time for Anne to do her little intimdate the guests schtick, I was appalled. She went for him not about the name or the hair but over his job and his faith. She asked questions like “So how can you be a rapper if you don’t have the sex and the drugs?” Ha ha! Good one Anne. You got him there. Christian rap is probably up there with paint-soup as the least attractive idea ever but surely you’d come at it from a less obvious angle. Let me not distract myself here. The questioning continued until she asked whether he was allowed drink as a Christian. When he said “Yes. I enjoy a drink now and again in moderation,” she said something along the lines of, “well that doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. You (plural) don’t seem like you know how to have a fun time”.

I was watching this and wondering if the questioning would take the same tone if it was a Sikh youth worker before her. “Thats a funny hat. Why are you wearing a towel? Eh?” It would be outrageous to demand from a Jewish cleric an explanation as to why they won’t eat pork, not even a little bit. So why is it so easy to make fun of the Jesus crew?

Then I remembered how annoying we are and it didn’t bother me so much.

But then I read this post on another Irish blog and I kind of felt sorry for them. In the article entitled “”, they began by mocking Focus on the Family. Sure I’ll join in on that one, (politely). Dobson and co seem so absurd in many of their pronouncements from where we sit perched on the edge of Western Europe. But then Free Stater jumps to their single experience of evangelical Christianity in a church in Cork almost ten years ago. From the assessment provided, it doesn’t seem to have been the most open-minded investigation, since everything was suspicious. That a good looking girl welcomed him proved that there was a sinister welcoming committee who insidiously tried to make people feel welcome. The sickos. That the pastor-fellows had their crap together and had organised the service smacked of professionalism and therefore they were probably only trying to do a good job so that you’d give them all your money. Either that or those cultish bastards were trying to take their job seriously. Either way, I think we can agree that this whole thing is to be treated with the utmost suspicion.

Evangelical Christianity is growing rapidly in Ireland. But the assumption that this movement and the people who compose it are:

    Gullible fools
    Led by greedy pigs
    Intent on forcing an American political agenda
    And worthy of mockery

is pretty ignorant. I think I have met Mervyn Nutley and I think I was actually present at one of the depositions that is mentioned in the article to do with the thoroughly positive and well received inter-denominational Power To Change campaign a few years ago. Focus On The Family Ireland are, to the best of my knowledge (the best around), a good organisation who are fulfilling their democratic right to represent the views of their supporters. They won’t behave hatefully, I am pretty sure they will reason their points well and argue them with respect. Sorry, I forgot! This evil organisation offers training to parents and courses to help improve marriages. Sick bastards! Watch out for them!

The Dietrich Day
The thing about FreeStater’s post is that I would totally agree with his assumption that religion is ultimately a damaging force. I am more convinced of this than ever after spending Saturday at a symposium held at Edgehill College in Belfast in honour of Dietrich Bonhoeffer to mark the 100th anniversary of his death. Those Methodists may not be able to get anyone into heaven, but they sure do throw a good theology party. There is no way I can do Bonhoeffer justice. He is Zoomtard Hero #5. He was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian and poet and ecumenicist and NAZI-resistor and martyr. In his 39 short years he wrote some of the most bracing, inspirational and profound books I have ever read. In his final years in prison and then at Flossenburg, he developed his idea of Religionless Christianity. He had seen the Lutheran church capitulate to the pagan NAZI regime and then was in part ostracized from the Confessing Church that was so important for keeping the Gospel alive in Germany through those years when he joined a plot to assasinate Hitler. He had seen religion fail and he foresaw the increased secularisation of Europe in a “world come of age”, that is, able to stand up for itself without clerics holding its hand. In prison he realised he much preferred the company of the non-Christians who dealt squarely with reality as it was instead of the pious religious Christians who defiled the name of God with empty jargon and hollow praise and a refusal to come alongside their neighbour, their fellow prisoners in the hellish situation they were enduring. It is a cause of huge regret that by direct order of Himmler, Bonhoeffer was shot two weeks before liberation because we needed him to develop these ideas more fully than he managed in a few paragraphs in a few letters to his family and friends.

The day was fascinating. I could write a week’s worth of entries, each day’s entry as long as this one, on the various aspects of Bonhoeffer’s work and life brought out by the excellent contributors but I am not going to do that to you. Permit me to drop this one idea though. In Discipline, Bonhoeffer articulates Grace in terms of the believer who obeys and the obeyer who believes. To follow Jesus is an impossible task (love your neighbour as yourself, thinking about it is lust, give your coat to the poor and your jacket too..) and to believe in Jesus is an impossible task (I am the way, truth, life, no one comes to the Father except through me, the Father and I are one, before Abraham was I AM…) but when we become Christians these two impossibilities are made possible through the action of God. For Bonhoeffer, to become a Christian means to be able to perceive who Jesus is. Jesus is God. You can only see this if God (who is Jesus) lets you see this, if he reveals himself. This revelation is the source of conversion, becoming a Christian, being born-again, new existence, what Bonhoeffer calls metanoia. This is all so profoundly beautiful and I hope that even if theology and Jesus and all that God-bothering isn’t your bag you can see, via my enthusiasm, just how glorious these ideas are.

But the point of Bonhoeffer’s life is that the ideas are pointless if they are just ideas. They have to be lived out, and be borne out in the living. And the strength of this metanoia idea is that becoming a Christian is an act of Grace and living as a Christian is an act of Grace. We are made the children of God through God’s action and then as God’s children we can do the things God’s kids get to do. We do not endeavour to be peacemakers but we step into that role already prepared for us. We are peacemakers because we are the blessed sons of God. All of Jesus’ teaching is made possible by Jesus’ Grace.

So we were talking at the conference about why there are Bonhoeffers. Why are there people so bold and convinced and corageous that they can happily agree to smuggle 13 Jews across the border to Swtizerland knowing that if he is caught by the police already hunting for him because of his other activities, he will die? Why do so few of us Christians actually manage to resist the “siren call of our culture” and step beyond religion into real Christian action? Stephen Williams made the point that the reason so few Christians can live up to the calling that has been made on their lives is because we are confused about what faith is. Faith goes by the wayside in crisis, replaced by culture and mass hysteria because we have seperated faith from discipleship. We have defined faith in terms of ascenting to certain intellectual statements. If you agree with the doctrine, you have the faith. Faith is one thing we say and discipleship is another thing entirely (for the experts alone perhaps?) instead of the words being synonymous. Bonhoeffer however, was able to stand up to the liberal theological hegemony, to the capitulation of the Lutheran church, to the failings of the Confessing Church and ultimately to Hitler and the NAZIs because he understood that belief was obedience. To be a benefactor of Grace means to be able to obey. To obey substantiates the belief. Being a Christian is not about having the right opinions on family values or being able to offer platitudes in times of trouble and it certainly doesn’t mean participation in ritual. All those things are hallmarks of religion preoccupied with the Self and not with God. Being a Christian is about loving the Other, even at the cost of your Self.

To be a Christian is to answer the call of Jesus to come and follow him. And as Bonhoeffer famously put it,

When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.

Your Correspondent, Small hands, smells of cabbage.

There’s Blood In My Mouth Because I’ve Been Biting My Tongue All Week

Thursday, September 7th, 2006

There are weeks that really knock you down. I hate those weeks, especially now because I am smack in the middle of one. Right down at the bottom of all the achievements and bon mots and passions and fashion and wealth and pronouncements I wear to protect me, I really suck. The degree to which you can embrace that sentence for yourself reveals whether you are still in the denial stages of your addiction or whether you are ready for treatment. Verily, life has shitted on me and I realise I am, most of my life, utterly deluded about what kind of guy I am. The guy I think I am is not who I am. And I am addicted to convincing myself I am that guy, even when it becomes obvious to all around me that I am not. And who am I kidding anyway? I’ve been blessed with circles of insightful, wise people who never had any illusions about me in the first place. Only I am disillusioned.

So this Zoomtard is brought to you by the letter “wallow” and the number “regret”. When you feel all kicked around my three-step treatment plan takes this form:

1) Get the sun to shine. Then walk the streets of the city you love in the sunshine. Pay careful attention to how everything is fascinating and beautiful in its own time.

2) Listen to Sufjan Stevens remind you:

You gave your body to the lonely / They took your clothes / You gave up a wife and a family / You gave your ghost / To be alone with me / You went up on a tree

3) Admit the crud that clogs up your life exists. As Stigmund puts it, the thing about Grace is that it is when things are at their most hopeless, that we can have hope. Its not your good merit and sterling conduct that makes a life well lived but an honest appraisal of your infected unmeritous conduct that lets you see what it means when some genius songwriter says that for you, someone went up on a tree.

These 3 steps remind you that your life was meant to be lived out in the beautiful world, not inside your own mind. That the beautiful world isn’t an accident and your enjoyment of it means something huge to the fellow who made it all. And finally and most crucially, we don’t need to restrain our deceitful heart but to change that heart and make it good. No human can do that. We need some kind of a ghost….

Your Correspondent, The best man in a size too small

Remind Me Of The Porn Episode

Friday, September 1st, 2006

Today I am unemployed. It is true. Last night at midnight, I stopped working for that crazy ragtag bunch of Christian subversives who have been paying me for the last 2 years to drink coffee with pretty girls and occaisionally visit Ukraine and bring back a lot of vodka. Flavoured vodka. On Monday I return to gainful employment with The Man but until then I intend to lounge around in my pyjamas, drink a lot of beer and eat nothing but cold pizza. I am going to make the most out of unemployment. Can you go on the dole for a day?

I sometimes read The Jolly Blogger and he made a really good point this week that I’ve been thinking about.

The more I think about me, what I want and what I need, the more miserable I get.

There is something deep in that, I think. You unravel that sentence and you get close to Christian spirituality or something that sounds very holy and so I don’t really like talking about it.

While we’re at it, maybe I should get my good linkage out of the way. Thom Yorke of Radiohead has written a series of bedtime stories for children. Enjoy. For the Christians out there, who blog Christianese at everyone, check out the 10 Rules To Know You Are Wrong (theologically speaking, since we all know Christians are wrong. Idiots. Believing a bunch of fairy tales with no relevance for today). Speaking of idiotic Christianity, Chick Tracts are a particularly horrible expression of Christianity but someone has gone to a lot of trouble to film one(!), as a parody. I don’t quite know what to make of it.

Where He Asks For Help
This week has been a bad one for losing things. I lost the sole rights to distribute bushes which illumimate through LED technology when the Presbyterian Church sent all their merchandise contracts to a sweatshop in Malaysia and I also lost my wife’s digital camera. In an amusement arcade. In a dingy Sligo resort town. If any of you picked up a pretty top of the range Olympus beside Time Crisis 3 on Tuesday, it would be great if you gave it back. It had photos of me destroying an Apple Mac with a sledgehammer on it which was going to be a great post, but that is lost now.

There are technorati amongst you and I would ask you to have sympathy on my tacky-religious-merchandise-&-digital-camera-less existence and help me as I try to set up XBox Media Centre on my old XBox. XBMC is a hack that turns your XBox into a media server, so we can access our huge stores of music anywhere in our Cardboard Mansion. I had this all ready to go and then I moved house and I lost the disks. Is there anyone out there who cares to help me set it up again?

They Were Praying To The gods Of The Lesser Things
Admitting the genius of Woody Allen’s aphorism (“Don’t knock masturbation. Its sex with someone I love”), sex is meant to be with another person (I won’t even push this argument into the uniquely Christian territory of marriage). is a Christian ministry which I support because they do brilliant, relevant, grace-driven work in the gutter of the pornography industry, where most Christians wouldn’t be found dead. They go to these huge porn conventions and strike up relationships with anyone they can; directors (read this exposé on a famous soft-core porn director), distributors, performers or fans. In preparation for this year’s big event they ordered 10,000 New Testaments to hand out for free. All was going well until the publishers discovered that wanted to put “Jesus Loves Porn Stars” on the front cover. This is a categorically true statement but it gave the publishers (who perhaps haven’t been reading the New Testament recently) the heebiegeebies and they refused to publish the books. Thankfully, Eugene Peterson came good (as ever) and made his translation, The Message, available to them. They asked supporters to buy copies and with each one we bought, they could buy 12 to give out for free. So here I am, proudly bearing my new Bible, which I probably won’t be taking to Presbytery meetings for the first year, at least.

Jesus Hearts Porn Stars, originally uploaded by Zoomtard.

Speaking of combating porn, a few weeks ago I read Ariel Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs and I meant to draw your attention to it. It is a superb book on every level that you should track down cheap on Amazon or borrow from your nearest Zoomtard. I know you view feminist tracts as a notch above Christian literature and a good bit below Japanese electronics manuals in the readability stakes but Levy is a skilled writer. She gets you turning those pages as she has trimmed her argument as expertly as a Brazilian wax, leaving nothing superflous hanging around. The book is about how modern young women, who were raised by their mothers who fought for equal rights, have embraced raunch culture and behave in ways that are eerily reminiscent of the subservience previous generations fought against. These women don’t have the excuse of a mysoginistic society coercing them into demeaning and destructive lifestyles but instead embrace it as their expression of liberation.

I don’t have cable tv (yet) but I am aware of shows about porn producers or fly on the wall documentaries about strippers or even things like Celebrity Love Island and I always knew there was something wrong in that. It was an inchoate distress that was fed by the Playboy stationary being sold to teenaged girls and the increasing pornification of music videos and the fact that in my final year of my computer science degree, lots of the girls (a majority of the tiny female minority in my class) made a big deal about watching porn in the lab. Levy diagnoses the problem I had no hope of describing. We all know that feminism is a dirty word, a lot like Christian, that we would be wary of using as a label to describe ourselves lest we be mocked, scorned and sidelined for our old fashioned naivety. But there is an increasing sub-culture within the lives of modern women that is accelerating into the mainstream that holds hyper-sexualisation as empowerment. The Playboy bunny is a symbol of liberation. Maybe its because feminism has been so successful (!) that equality with men is no longer what they are aiming for. Uniformity with men (or a certain stereotype of man) is the goal.

So Levy takes us on a journey along some of the roads these female chauvinist pigs travel. From the seedy exhibitionism of Girls Gone Wild to college educated professionals who look up to strippers as the paragon of femininity to the Boi sub-culture where mutiliation is a shortcut to cool, what she exposes is not a liberation movement but a commodification project. None of the women she interviews or spends time with realise their behaviour is geared either directly or indirectly to the male consumption of female sexuality in the form of porn. These victims of ParisHiltonia may admit, as many of them often do, that their sex lifes are dull, empty and depressing but none of them seem to see this as a motivation to change their behaviour. Why? Because the culture they inhabit has told them that sex is a product for sale. Consumption of the product, as with all other products on offer in the marketplace, can easily slip into being about quantity and not quality.

In a world where sex is always on our mind, we think very rarely about it. From the Girls Gone Wild videos, to the Playboy-cool factor, to the stripping, every aspect of the lifestyles Levy investigates is centred around porn. Porn is the packaging of sex for sale. It has historically been the packaging of women (involving the natural diminishing of their “selfhood” to “sexhood”) by men for men, for profit and pleasure. Throughout the whole book Levy maintains an admirable revulsion at the habits of the women she talks to and the forces that attack them but a charity and concern for the women themselves. At the end of the book she makes some great concluding comments about the dangers of embracing porn as an educational tool, as an avenue to new pleasure, or as a roadmap to liberation. Porn exposes you to every sexual act imaginable and many that are beyond even that. But as much porn as you ingest, you still end up with a limited knowledge of your own sexuality. Watching a video or reading a magazine doesn’t tell you how sex is. It doesn’t show you how it feels. It teaches you nothing about your own sexuality. It teaches you only what you like watching or reading. The women she met were all deeply unhappy sexually. But it should come as no surprise because as Levy puts it (itallics are hers):

The idea that sex can be reduced to fixed components as it is in pornography- blow job, doggie style, money shot, girl-on-girl — is adolescent: first base, second base, all the way. It is ironic that we think of this as adult entertainment. I don’t see why we should regard porn as a way to enjoy “sexuality in all of its explicitness” any more than we consider looking at a chart of the food pyramid to be a feast.

I know this isn’t going to surprise you, but I think the Christian ideas about sexuality are the fullest and most satisfying in existence. Christianity, stripped away of all the religious-fungi that grows on it and obscures it, exalts sex and takes it very seriously while also never losing sight of the fact that it is here for our thrilled enjoyment. There is a whole book in the Bible about it. But I know it also doesn’t surprise you when I say (from experience) that the sham of porn is as tempting to Christians as to everyone else. Its amazingly unfashionable to decry porn and to deny that it is just harmless fun but I really think that myth needs busting. Levy advises anyone who thinks that porn is just a way to spice up sex to look into the porn stars themselves. Take Jenna Jameson, the most famous and well rewarded porn star in history as an example and read her biography. It is marked by violent sexual abuse, the use of sex as a weapon and finally the use of her body as tool. Why anyone would want “to make love like her” after reading her book? Even the use of the quaint phrase “make love” seems like an ironic joke in the context.

It is rare that people buy into porn culture as wholeheartedly as the female chauvinist pigs, but most all of us have made the mistake of gorging on porn and then suffering the hunger, as if we had eaten a poster of the food pyramid in the hope of the nutrition it depicts. I hope Levy’s book kickstarts women and men, feminists, back into gear and ready to oppose the portrayal of women as sex objects. I hope’s work serves as a shelter for the women and men who get hooked on porn to the detriment of their spiritual and relational life.

Set My Course To Run Right Into Style
Zoomtard has gone through a major overhaul today. I hope you like the new theme. A word of explanation: substitious is the opposite of superstitious. I am Thomas to your Peter. I am the disciple who was too slow to believe the incredible. See what I’m saying? Geddit?

Your Correspondent, impressed like a flower in a flower press