Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Reading Response: Of Insanity and Religion

Mr. Hitchens, in his Slate article “Rick Perry’s God,” is correct in saying that it is believers who should question Rick Perry’s religious statements, and I am surprised that they do not. I rick-perry-gun-biblealso understand and agree that Perry is only doing the prudent thing in getting himself elected by appealing to religion. It sickens me, but it is what he must do to appeal to those on his side of the political stripper pole.
Of course this appropriation of religion -- MY  RELIGION --, is one of the main reasons why I do not support Perry or any other candidate of his ilk. They use the language of religion to manipulate  an easier and easier to dupe mass of constituents. I do not know if Rick Perry actually believes what he is saying. Concerning the salvation of his soul, it might matter. Concerning the running of the country, it does not. Perry’s track record is the antithesis of practical, practicing Christianity. It seems that many American Christians honestly think that proving one is a Christian consists in the cloudyperrypublic use of certain words or membership in a particular party. Those believers are deceived, not only by the rhetoric machine, but by Satan. (I’ll leave it to theologians to decipher the difference, if one exists.)
What I take issue with is Hitchens’ typical bombastic name calling which is supposed to be argument. For example, in noting that Perry believes that “those who did not accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior would be going to hell,” Hitchens called the assertion “sheer wickedness and stupidity.” Many atheists have dismissed all claims from religious people (even those having nothing to do with religion) based on the idea that if one is religious, then one is “stupid;” therefore, no other ideas should be considered seriously from that person. But Hitchens goes so far as to say that the religious person is “wicked.”
Many people remind me of how smart Mr. Hitchens is. I don’t doubt it. But his logic in this case is worthy of, well, a politician.
While addressing what would have been one logical fallacy – the post hoc connection between Perry’s public prayers and precipitation in Texas (or a lack thereof) -- Hitchens resorts to another: ad hominem. He then doesn’t have work very hard to convince his audience that any religious person running for office is crazy and should be ignored. That reasoning works only for those who share his puny view of humanity.
Sadly, Mr. Hitchens argues well, in the same article, that Perry is sanest of the religious candidates on the right. That he might be right about this should scare the hell out of us.
But he is wrong about faith, and real people of faith.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Could we at least get a score?

soccercupAlright, so it’s very likely that even among die hard fans of FC Dallas, I am in the minority of people who stayed up late Wednesday night to see if rain and lightening would let up in Toronto so that the Champions League game could resume, and I’m  likely in a smaller minority of fans that spent Thursday morning watching the replay of the washed out game via the internet. Okay, I get it. I love a team in a sport that some think is really just played by their under 12 kids. And my obsession might be greater than those that actually know that Dallas has a professional team.
But I am consistently disappointed that ESPN radio in Dallas cannot find space in their Sportscenter updates to provide a brief story or even the score of matches, even the most important ones. As I drove in to work after the game yesterday, I noticed that the bulk of the update was filled with dialogue and filler concerning the beating that the Texas Rangers took at the hands of the Boston Red Sox. Then there was Dallas Cowboy news, something about a guy getting signed for five years and several million dollars, which I’m sure never happens in the world of football.
Look, I know that soccer is less popular than football, basketball, and baseball, and maybe a few other games that are not really sports (don’t get me started on auto racing). And I know that there is a very limited window of time for providing these scores and news headlines. But so much of these “updates” contain material that probably is best left to the shows ESPN broadcasts or just left out altogether. Come on! If the Rangers get beat by more than 10 runs, do we really need to hear Ron Washington tell the world “Well, we got beat. That’s all there is to it.”?
I thought things would change when ESPN started broadcasting Bobby Rhine’s Soccer Today show on Saturday mornings. But no. The link on the website doesn’t even take you to a page with information about the show. I should have known. Last year, when FC Dallas made it to MLS Championship, neither ESPN radio nor the local television news teams could find a minute to mention it.
FCDscarf ESPN needs to quit dismissing the game of soccer, and remember that there are plenty of fans out there that love the game and want to hear about their team. I’m don’t expect the beefheads on the ramble-around-and-say-the-same-thing-for-three-hours commentary shows to cover a soccer story. When soccer is mentioned, it is usually with derision. But how about a score every now and then? How about acknowledgement that Dallas has one of the top teams in the country? Did anyone there notice we were the first U.S. team to win a game on Mexican soil? Did they hear that two of our players were named to the U.S. National team? (Well there is a story about the latter on the website , but I heard no mention of it on the air.)
For now, I’d like to just see some much needed editing in these “updates,” and inclusion of game’s final score.

Friday, August 12, 2011

With Hate Like This, Who Needs Hope?

You told me that I had wasted my vote by casting my ballot for the person I actually believed was best able to run the country. Because that person wasn’t from one of the two political parties, I had, you said, only helped someone else win. A little research proved you were right. So I stopped believing, stopped seeing a reason to vote.
Before that I looked to political leaders who shared my religious ideals and values. Turns out that they didn’t believe in the same Jesus as me, and that if they really did stand for what I stood for (and I have my doubts), they couldn’t really do much about it. But the Jesus they believed in turns its back on the poor, denies education for anyone not in his fraternity, and says that killing foreigners is God’s work. We quote the same Bible, but my Jesus isn’t in theirs.
So after you told me I was wasting my time, I quit voting. Any energy put toward politics was spent in proving that both sides were the same devil in different suits. I believed that there were good people in the world, people who made a difference in their neighborhoods, but that none of these people could serve in government, because no one in governments served the people without expecting a hundredfold return on their investment.
And then a few came along who caused me to question. Just when I thought all was lost, that it was only a matter of time before I had to learn the language of those who conquered our land, a handful came across the sea of fear with a boat. A freaking boat. Your guys had boats, but they were throwing anchors to the drowning and life jackets to those already on their yachts. Some of your guys stood on the shore, told the crowd to get baptized in the sea of fear while their deacons held hoses making sure that sea stayed full.
While politicians were dismantling education, you called me a fool for having an education and supporting someone many other educated people supported. Education has not only been hurt by lack of funding and poor policy and broken promises from all sides of the political spectrum. It has been demonized.
And so I’m back to wondering why I should bother. You see, hate starts all the conversations now. Hate doesn’t disagree or engage in debate. It spews itself violently and dares anyone to stand up against its bile. I’ve spoken out, but having ideas only leads to me be accused of not loving my country. You’ll never know, in fact, how much I do love America. But I for now, I can no longer stand up to the bullies. It’s futile. Keep your damn playground. Nobody plays there anymore.
Take Hope too. You are going to need it.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

A Conversation about F Words

My other self said, “You shouldn’t use the F word so much.”
My regular self asked, “Which F word? Fuck? Why not? It is a perfectly fine and useful word.”
Other Self made a face and said, “There are other words you can use. Words that are not so offensive.”
“There are other words,” Regular Self replied. “But what is offensive may be in the ear of the listener. I am offended, for example, at the use of some words that others see as perfectly fit.”
“For example?”
“For example, the way some people use the word freedom. Funny it is an F-word too.”
The eyes of Other Self went wide in dismay. “The word freedom offends you.”
“No. The word does not offend me.”
“But you just said—“
“That the use of the word offends me.”
Other Self pretended to look confused. “You mean you feel just fine about the word, as long as someone doesn’t use it?”
“Sometimes you are a dufus,” I told my other self.
“As are you,” he replied.
“As am I. But more to the point, I am offended when the word is used improperly. Well, that is not true. It rankles when it is used improperly. It offends me when the word is used to manipulate others, often to coerce, through fear –“
“Another F word.”
Regular Self sighed, “Yes, another F word. And often the misuse of the word freedom involves the misuse of the word fear. Shall I continue, or do we plan to interrupt all day?”
“Do go on,” Other Self said.
“The word freedom is often bandied about wildly and used to take away freedom. Actual freedom.”
“And this offends you?” Other Self asked.
“It does,” Regular Self said. “Does it not offend you?”
“The word does not offend me. But I can see how using it this way would offend you, and perhaps, I should be offended also, loving language as I do, and wishing it to be used well and wisely.”
Regular Self knew the Other Self would not give in so easily. He crossed his arms and waited for the next play.
After a moment, Other Self asked: “Would you then agree that many times the word fuck is used improperly, probably most times?”
“Yes. The word is used way too much.”
“By you?”
“By me and others. On the other hand, could it be that the word fuck has many uses?”
“I cannot see that it has any use at all, except to offend.”
“That is a use. And I contend that it is offensive mostly because it is vulgar, and for that reason may be the right word in some occasions. Perhaps you assume that people should not, from time to time, be offended.”
“Why should people be offended?” Other Self asked, bristling at the thought.
“They should not be offended just for offense sake. It seems silly to just throw fucks everywhere in conversation and in dialogue if all you want to do is piss people off. If one gets nothing but a kick out of vexing others, then that person is sick.”
“I think I can agree with that. But I still do not seen why or when people need to be offended.”
“We are offended when we hear or see something distasteful to use, or which insults something about who we are or what we stand for. Hence my offense at the use of freedom to manipulate me into giving up my freedoms. But we are often offended when we hear or see something that goes against even the bad parts of ourselves or the world we live it, and we are made to see that bad in all its ugliness and filth.”
Other Self asked for an example.
“The Bible,” Regular Self said, “states that the cross of Christ is an offense to those who are perishing.”
“To those who do not believe, the crucifixion may be distasteful, offensive,” Other Self responded, trying to take in the idea.
“And go further. The idea of that redemption, that first of all people need to be redeemed, is offensive to some. Second, that it takes the act of God Himself doing all the work, instead of people figuring it out for themselves and doing it themselves, well that is offensive to many as well.”
Other Self smiled. “Alright. I can, sort of, understand this. But the word, fuck, just sounds wrong on the ear.”
“And that may be one reason it should not be used as often as it is. But that the word doesn’t ‘sound right’ or makes polite people uncomfortable is not sufficient reason to say it should never be used.”
“But you are a Christian,” Other Self stated. “Don’t you think that other Christians are due consideration and should not have to hear a word they do not want to hear?”
“No more than others. I do not condone the use of the word in church, in general, because saying fuck in church is not likely to accomplish much. But maybe it could. But this is all beside the point. You beg the question when you imply that once a person is redeemed that she or he has no need, from time to time, to be offended so that they are turned abruptly toward the truth.”
“You know,” Other Self chided, “People won’t say fuck in Heaven.”
Regular Self smiled, “In Heaven no one will be fucked out of their freedom or forced to live in a fearful, fucked up world.”