Unicorns, Skittles and the Rapture

I said to my neighbor Ted that my co-worker told me that at noon tomorrow a unicorn would walk across my front lawn leaving a path of tasty Skittles behind him. Ted laughed uproariously telling me what a boob my co-worker was. “How ridiculous,” Ted said, “a unicorn will leave Skittles across your front lawn but it isn’t going to happen tomorrow!”

And so went the media spin today as everyone lined up to mock Harold Camping who said that I should not be writing this post right now. By now I should be writhing in pain as the earth crumbles beneath me and the true believers in Christ rise to glory.

The ridicule for Camping is nearly universal but no one is willing to go out on a limb and say that the whole idea of the rapture is absurd. No one is willing to say the rapture will not occur today at 6PM, nor tomorrow, nor the next day, nor any day in the future. It is fiction. It is allegory designed to get folks to behave properly in their current lives (or in rapture-speak, to “be ready”).

The lack of internal logic evidenced in Camping-critics boggles the mind. A case in point is a Baptist minister who was interviewed this morning on TV. He laughed and snickered at Camping’s prophecy. He reminded us that false prophets should be stoned to death (but not Camping of course … that would be over the top). He called people who followed Camping, “gullible”. Then he said that only God knows when the rapture will come. I sat there scratching my head. He had the nerve to call Camping followers gullible but when he utters the same meme, not committing to an exact date, suddenly his congregation is not gullible? So let me get this straight, the rapture only becomes laughable when you put a date on it?

I can’t point a finger at the devout only. The media has twisted itself in knots calling today’s predicted apocalypse ridiculous but reserving respect for the concept of rapture. I don’t see how any truly religious person would not find the reaction to Camping deeply offensive. Let’s be honest. If you are laughing at the rapture occurring today, then you are really laughing at the rapture, period. This phenom of the media stepping right up to the edge of calling the rapture foolishness but then stopping, is the ultimate hypocrisy.

But speaking of hypocrisy, let’s get back to the devout for a moment. The reaction this week to Camping by God-fearing Christians truly makes me wonder if they really deep down take any of this stuff seriously. What happens when someone sees Christ on a potato chip or on a tree trunk? Just about everyone calls him a whack job. With the rare exception of Joseph Smith Jr. who built an entire religion around his talks with God, what other modern-day flesh-and-blood human is taken seriously when he says he has received specific instructions from the almighty? When Mike Huckabee says prayer helped him reach his decision not to run for President, how many so-called seriously religious people really believe God literally told him what to do? For the most part, people believe that Huckabee found enough peace, comfort and quiet meditation through prayer to reach a decision that felt right for him. If Mike ever said literally that “God told me to leave Obama alone”, 90% of us, church goers or not, would write him off as a nut case.

The case of Harold Camping speaks volumes about what people, even religious people, are willing to believe. As long as the most supernatural aspects of the Bible remain shrouded in un-provable generalities, most folks will gladly sign on. But if anyone dares to get to a level of specificity that invites scientific scrutiny (like the world will end tomorrow at 6PM) suddenly that person becomes persona non grata. People like their religion so long as you can’t prove them wrong. Clearly I cannot prove with 100% certainty that the world will not end someday, nor can I prove with 100% certainty what will happen to all of us when that day comes. If you change “someday” to “tomorrow” or “next week” or even “within the next ten years” I can state with much greater certainty that the end of world claim is bogus. So can just about everyone else. That’s why it is imperative that only God knows when the day of reckoning will come. So long as only God has the answer, we can all just go along believing the rapture will happen, just not today.

Respectfully,
Rutherford

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Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way (To GOP Sanity)

Washington Post political writer and frequent “This Week” panelist, George F. Will just bought himself an excommunication from the Republican party and perhaps the conservative movement as a whole. Like few of his peers, David Frum comes to mind, Will dared to speak truth about the insanity that is far right-wing politics and its damaging effect on GOP chances in 2012.

The trigger for Will’s excellent column in Sunday’s paper was damn-fool Mike Huckabee’s assertion that Obama’s fictional biography of growing up in Kenya influenced his world outlook to the detriment of the United States. Will writes:

If pessimism is not creeping on little cat’s feet into Republicans’ thinking about their 2012 presidential prospects, that is another reason for pessimism. This is because it indicates they do not understand that sensible Americans, who pay scant attention to presidential politics at this point in the electoral cycle, must nevertheless be detecting vibrations of weirdness emanating from people associated with the party.

The most recent vibrator is Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas …

via George F. Will – Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and the spotlight-chasing candidates of 2012.

Huckabee was “provoked” into his preposterous hypothesis by radio show host Steve Malzberg questioning just how much do we really know about “this guy” Obama. Will goes on to say:

Republicans should understand that when self-described conservatives such as Malzberg voice question-rants like the one above and Republicans do not recoil from them, the conservative party is indirectly injured. As it is directly when Newt Gingrich, who seems to be theatrically tiptoeing toward a presidential candidacy, speculates about Obama having a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” mentality.

To the notion that Obama has a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview, the sensible response is: If only. Obama’s natural habitat is as American as the nearest faculty club; he is a distillation of America’s academic mentality; he is as American as the other professor-president, Woodrow Wilson. A question for former history professor Gingrich: Why implicate Kenya?

Then Will elegantly and directly delivers the coup de grâce:

Let us not mince words. There are at most five plausible Republican presidents on the horizon – Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former Utah governor and departing ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, former Massachusetts governor Romney and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty.

So the Republican winnowing process is far advanced. But the nominee may emerge much diminished by involvement in a process cluttered with careless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing candidates to whom the sensible American majority would never entrust a lemonade stand, much less nuclear weapons.

And to be clear, when Will references “careless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing candidates”, he is referring to Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann to name a few doozies.

Sadly, the already lost members of the far right will label George Will a traitor in much the same way they dismiss David Frum. Yet the fact remains that Will and Frum are two of too few folks on the conservative side willing to call out the loonies. It is safe to say that by November of 2012, our country will have made insufficient progress for Obama’s reelection to be a slam dunk. The one way to ensure Obama’s reelection is for the GOP to ignore the voice of George Will. Judging from the popularity of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, liberals like me are counting on Will being ignored and another four years of Barack Obama being an inevitability.

Respectfully,
Rutherford

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Bangkok Comes to the Super Bowl and other Tidbits

Bangkok Comes to the Super Bowl

A good fifteen years ago I read about how American tourists, men, would travel to Bangkok for the express purpose of paying for child sex. The trips were basically booked as sex tours. One thought that went through my head when I read it was “well, at least not in America”. It’s not that I am so naive to believe that every prostitute in the US is eighteen or older. I just didn’t think that outright child sex trafficking went on in America.

Then earlier this week I got an e-mail from Change.org which opened with:

Dear Rutherford,

Every year, children as young as 11 are trafficked involuntarily to Super Bowl cities. There, football fans – usually men, often inebriated – will pay traffickers to have sex with them.

Now as much as I admire Change.org’s mission to right wrongs and fight injustice, their e-mails tend to be on the Debbie Downer side, each one more depressing than the one before. So when I read this, I immediately asked myself is anyone covering this besides Change.org or is this melodrama? A quick Google search ended any doubt immediately. This from McClatchy back in February of last year:

Two dozen volunteers from around the country gathered inside a Miami conference room earlier this week to prepare for the Super Bowl.

They’re not here for the game, though, but to spend several days fanning out through the city to rescue underage girls who have been trafficked to South Florida as sex workers.

….

Ernie Allen, who heads the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said girls typically enter prostitution at age 11 or 12.

“This is truly an example of supply and demand,” said Allen. “They use these kids as commodities for sale or trade, and go to where demand is the greatest, and where they can make the most money. That’s why they follow events like the Super Bowl.”

via Volunteers fight dark side of Super Bowl: child prostitution | McClatchy.

So, it turns out pedophiles don’t need to travel to Bangkok to get their fix. I’m not a big football fan to begin with but it sure does seem to take a bit of luster off the game to contemplate as you’re watching the fourth quarter action that some of the fans in the stands are looking forward to scoring with an 11-year-old.

The Civil War was about Slavery, Imagine That!

I always get a kick out of the Conservative habit of re-writing history to suit their ideology. One the latest memes to surface is that the civil war was not really about slavery but about much much more. In their Five Myths series, the Washington Post (and author James Loewen specifically) takes on five myths about the Civil War. Three of these myths gave me a big kick:

1. The Civil War was about States rights. Myth! The South believed in a strong federal government and was angry that the Fed was not enforcing slavery related laws in the North.

2. The Civil War was about high tariffs and taxes. Myth! Hysteria over high interstate taxes peaked under Andrew Jackson in 1833. The tariffs in effect in 1860 were written by Southerners in 1857 and were the lowest they’d been in decades.

3. Most white Southerners didn’t own slaves so slavery could not be the driving force behind the war. Myth! While it is true that most Southerners did not own slaves, most aspired to own them. It was emblematic of having made it, of having entered the upper class. To end slavery would be to end one of the cultural touchstones of nobility in the South. So those who did not own slaves still had a lot vested in the ability to own them.

The next time you’re tempted to celebrate the Confederacy, remember what it was really about, enslaving fellow human beings and treating them like property.

Reaping What You Sow

Could someone please explain to me why we elect an evangelical Christian and then get our panties in a knot when he acts like … wait for it … an evangelical Christian? Robert Bentley, the new Governor of Alabama made quite a splash this week when he said, “Anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother.” He subsequently apologized after the left and separation of church and state, and anti-defamation groups lost their lunch. But should he have apologized? I say no.

Let’s start with the location. He made the statement in a church service following his inauguration. He assumed, I think rightfully, that he was addressing fellow believers. But let’s also examine what he said. “I want to be your brother.” That is exactly what evangelical Christianity is all about. It is the belief that everyone needs to be saved. It is the belief that it is the duty of the devout to turn others to Christ and save their souls from eternal damnation. Bentley’s comment was completely consistent with his belief system and stated in a completely appropriate venue. To my knowledge, Bentley did not campaign as an atheist, a Jew or a Muslim.

Bottom line: Alabama got what it paid for. Now let’s just pray that Romney, Huckabee or Palin doesn’t choose Bentley as their running mate in 2012.

Respectfully,
Rutherford

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