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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Blair Crosses Tiber

After months of speculation in the press, Tony Blair has left the Church of England and entered the Church of Rome.

This isn't an especially important story; although certainly an important figure, Blair is no longer Prime Minister. His wife and children are Roman Catholic, and he has never made any secret of either his religious faith in general or his attraction to the Roman version in particular. (Nor, we might point out, has he worn either those things on his sleeve as tools for getting elected, unlike certain American politicians we could name).

The Archbishop of Canterbury was polite enough to wish him well, which simply shows that Anglicanism isn't one of those religious movements that threatens to kill you if you quit. (You know who you are.)

Nope, all told this is pretty small fish. The big news will come when (as has occasionally been suggested) Prince Charles goes Orthodox. That will cause all sorts of trouble, and raise the serious question of how the future head of the CofE can very well be a communicant in some other church entirely. At which point somebody will no doubt point out that the Hanoverians were, up through Victoria's time, a bunch of Lutherans.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Romney's Nose Gets Longer

Turns out he was not telling the truth when he said that stuff on TV about "I saw my father march with Martin Luther King Jr."

We have already hinted that his remarks on "Meet the Press" may have been intentionally misleading. Okay, we called them lies. Now this. Naughty, naughty, Willard.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Christian Nation

As we recently pointed out, America is not "a Christian nation" by any traditional standard. Britain is, even though a great many of its subjects do not practice Christianity.

Click the link to see why we're better than they are, nanny-nanny-foo-foo.

Personally, we at the Egg hope Britain never disestablishes, for several reasons: (1) We like being able to tell American Christianists that they already have an English-speaking Christian nation to live in, if they so choose, while we are handing them their emigration papers; (2) We are curious to know what it will be like when a nation's state church is no longer the chosen faith of ANY of its inhabitants; and (3) Most important, we like to think we make our old junior-high Social Studies teacher proud by declaring ourselves to be antidisestablishmentarians.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Worst. Endorsement. Ever.

David Brooks, the Times Op-Ed's resident "conservative," wants Democrats to vote for Obama in the primary. Here's his logic:

"Hillary Clinton has been a much better senator than Barack Obama. She has been a serious, substantive lawmaker who has worked effectively across party lines. Obama has some accomplishments under his belt, but many of his colleagues believe that he has not bothered to master the intricacies of legislation or the maze of Senate rules."

He goes on to explain that, despite Clinton's superior job performance, Dems should go the other way because, "Obama is an inner-directed man in a profession filled with insecure outer-directed ones."

Huh. Wowie. So instead of track-record, Americans should choose our candidates based on amateur pop-psychology? So when can Dr. Sigmund Brooks make time to deal with Romney's Daddy issues?

We at the Egg have suspected for some time that Brooks is a weenie, and this pretty much clinches it. Like all weenies, he man obviously wants to wear a bow-tie.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Anglicanism Still a Mess

No news there; it will take years for those guys to sort their stuff out.

Meanwhile, comes now an argument, reasonable if quixotic, that the churches out of communion with Canterbury ought not to style themselves "Anglican." None of the insurgents will listen, of course, but the argument is worth a read. Peter Toon, of the Prayer Book Society, handles his matter elegantly, and not until the last graf does he reveal the depth of his devotion to lost causes.

New Jersey Joins the Civilized World

That's somebody else's comment on an important story: When Gov. Corzine signs the bill recently approved by the legislature, New Jersey will become "the first state in the modern era of capital punishment to repeal the death penalty," according to the Times.

Maybe there's hope for this wicked little country of ours after all.

Paultards Rejoice!

Andrew Sullivan supports Ron Paul for the Republican nomination. Click the link to read why, but the core argument is this: "He's the real thing in a world of fakes and frauds."

That's well said, and we think it actually does reflect the central appeal of Paul's candidacy. He reflects a kind of conservatism that is worthy of the name: serious about small government, checks and balances, the Constitution and the rights it guarantees. In short, he reminds us that there was a time when "conservative" wasn't a codeword for a nativist, corporatist, militarist, government octopus committed to executive power, eager to spy on citizens, torture captives, and execute convicts -- and convinced that it should be allowed to do so without scrutiny. There was a time, in other words, when "conservative" did not mean "Stalinist."

We're not endorsing him, mind you. Not by a long shot. But can see why somebody might.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Pseudoscience on the March

The Institute for Creation Research, one of those nutty creationism outfits, wants a license to train science teachers in -- where else? -- Texas.

Okay, let's make this short. Creationism is bogus pseudoscience, and everybody with an IQ in the double digits knows it. If the evidence could support it, scientists -- who can get rich and famous by publishing ground-breaking hypotheses -- would be on it like brown on rice. Sadly for all the grad students who could make their bones on a radical revision of paleobiology, the evidence just isn't there.

But the proponents don't care about evidence, because they think this is really about personal opinion, just like elections for homecoming queen. An ICR spokesperson says "Our students are given both sides. They need to know both sides, and they can draw their own conclusion."

I wonder if they teach both sides of the famous "2+2=6" debate?

But the best part of this isn't that America -- and especially Texas -- is fertile ground for wackjobs who still don't get the whole 'reality-based community" thing. No news there! The best part is not even that the the ICR's application has already been approved by a state advisory group, further reducing the chance that any future Nobelist in the natural sciences will have been educated in the Lone Star State.

No, friends. The best part of this story is that the ICR has applied to train teachers in pseudoscience ... wait for it ... online. Because the only thing less respectable than a certificate in bullshit is a certificate in bullshit that you earned from correspondence classes.

Mitt Lies on "Meet the Press"

In 1978, the Mormons received a new revelation allowing them to withdraw their longstanding policy of official discrimination against black people. Talking to Tim Russert today, Mitt Romney recalled his own emotional reaction:

"I can remember when, when I heard about the change being made. I was driving home from, I think, it was law school, but I was driving home, going through the Fresh Pond rotary in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I heard it on the radio, and I pulled over and, and literally wept. Even at this day it's emotional ... "

Touching. There is one small inconsistency in the tale which may or may not mean something. In 1978, Romney was not a law student. He had finished his joint JD/MBA at Harvard three years earlier, and was now a successful management consultant, about to change companies. There is a world of difference between being a graduate student and a wealthy businessman. We find it odd that he can be so specific about where he was on the road when he got the news, and so vague -- as in wrong -- about where he was in life.

Does it matter? Maybe not. But Romney, who in the interview speaks movingly of his parents' commitment to civil rights during the 1960s, is not known to have taken any stand, publicly or privately, against the entrenched racism of his own faith community. A casual listener, hearing the story as Romney tells it, may well think, "What do you expect? He was just a kid, a grad student -- what difference could his stand have made?"

But consider who he really was: the 31-year-old son of a former Michigan governor, Presidential candidate and Nixon cabinet member; a graduate of the LDS's own flagship school, and of America's most prestigious university; and (we'll say this part again) rich. It is entirely possible that Romney's voice could have made a difference in the LDS's internal deliberations.

It bothers us less that Romney was silent then, however, than that he seems a little cagey -- even deceptive -- about it now. But then, consistency is not one of Mitt's virtues, is it?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Been There, Done That

Buddhist monks and nuns in Japan hit the catwalk for a fashion show recently, trying to win back the nation's youth.

"We wanted to show the young people that Buddhism is cool, and temples are not a place just for funerals," said Koji Matsubara, a chief monk at Tsukiji.

Oh, you poor slobs. When our Baby Boomers started to come of age, and showed a generational indifference to church, Christians in America did everything in our power to pull them back (folk mass, anybody?). They knew we were pandering, and stayed away in droves. (Ironically, a lot of them flirted with Buddhism, and still do).

So here's my friendly advice to the Japanese Buddhists: Don't pander. You make yourself look like Jim Backus in "Rebel Without a Cause," wearing his wife's apron and driving James Dean around the bend. Suck it up, do your thing, and wait for the next generation to realize they were missiing out.

Merry Christmas, Morons.

Actually, I don't believe the Administration's advocates for waterboarding (Dick "No-Brainer" Cheney, for example; or Michael "I Don't Know and I Won't Check" Mukasey) really are morons. I believe they are soulless, blood-sucking monsters from Hell. But that wouldn't fit on the top line; I tried.

And it does seem that the soulless blood-suckers have a few morons working for them. Take Senator Kit Bond, R-Mo, who appeared on PBS' NewsHour and said waterboarding was like swimming -- "there are different ways of doing it ... freestyle, backstroke." He actually said that.

Obviously, two things are true: (a) Bond is a mental (and probably moral) defective, and (b) he will have his ass handed to him the next time he runs for office.

More important, however, is this. Armed Forces Journal, which is exactly what sounds like, recently published this sharp rebuke to Giuliani, Mukasey, and everybody else who has waffled on the question of torture:

"In an interview, Giuliani was asked for his views on using ... waterboarding. He responded that in a hypothetical scenario that assumed an attack, 'I would tell the people who had to do the interrogation to use every method they can think of.' Prompted again on the specific use of waterboarding, he repeated 'every method they could think of.' Mukasey said he found waterboarding to be 'repugnant,' but he wouldn’t answer whether it amounted to torture.

"Let AFJ be crystal clear on a subject where these men are opaque: Waterboarding is a torture technique that has its history rooted in the Spanish Inquisition. In 1947, the U.S. prosecuted a Japanese military officer for carrying out a form of waterboarding on a U.S. civilian during World War II.

"Waterboarding inflicts on its victims the terror of imminent death. And as with all torture techniques, it is, therefore, an inherently flawed method for gaining reliable information. In short, it doesn’t work. That blunt truth means all U.S. leaders, present and future, should be clear on the issue."

Thank you, gentlemen. Pass that little Christmas gift up the chain of command, would you?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Nobody Gets It

Sigh. This is one of those stories where nobody knows what they're seeing. Except us, and we'll explain it for you.

"Opinionator", a Times blog, cites Amanda Carpenter at Town Hall to this effect:

“Democrats who supported a House resolution to honor Ramadan voted against a similar resolution to honor Christmas and Christianity last night. 18 Democrats voted ‘nay’ or ‘present’ on a resolution to ‘recognize the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith.’ An eagle-eyed Republican House staffer points out that those same members, with one exception, voted to ‘recognize the commencement of Ramadan,’ a Muslim religious observance in October.”

Opinionator then goes on to cite several participants in the debate, each playing their assigned role: (1) The Republican sponsor of the resolution says that America was "founded on Christian principles," , adding, "let’s worship Christ and let’s celebrate Christmas for the right reasons." (2) A Democratic opponent responds, "America is not a Christian nation. It is a nation of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and everyone in between. Our diversity is our strength and those who seek to use religion as a litmus test are doing a disservice to all of us." (3) And of course a conservative blogger is quoted as writing, "There IS a war on Christmas, Christians and WASPs in general."

Hoo-boy. Let's unpack this, shall we?

(A) America is, obviously, not a "Christian nation." There have been many nations which were legally "Christian" in the sense that some form of Christianity was the official, established religion. All of Europe prior to the 20th Century, and a few -- like Britain -- today. We aren't one of them

(B) "Founded on Christian principles" is a little murkier. Reasonable people can disagree about this. But we can certainly say that the principles upon which the US was founded are not exclusively Christian: No taxation without representation; freedom of speech, press and worship. Christians may well approve of these principles, and (as is sometimes argued) the Founders may have derived them from their own understanding of Christianity. But of course, there have also been Christians who have historically opposed these things without lurching into theological heresy -- Roman Catholicism prior to the 20th century was at least suspicious of several. "Christian principles," properly so-called, are things like belief in the Resurrection and lordship of Christ, turning the other cheek, and praying without cessation. You can look them up -- they're in the Bible.

(C) "The War on Christmas" is an advertising slogan created by Fox News. (And, may we say, a brilliant one: it combines two things most viewers love. Make it the "Sexy War on Clinton-Bashing Christmas," and you'd have a home run.)

But with all that, said, we have the real underlying issue:

(D) Democrats, and liberals in general, don't have the slightest idea how to talk about Christianity in public. (That's why the Times, while reporting the facts, missed the real story). Traditional 70s-80s era Dems will approve a resolution recognizing Ramadan, but not one recognizing Christmas. Why? Because they have been conditioned over the past generation to avoid Christianity and its images for fear of mixing church and state, while at the same time paying token respect to other religious traditions for the sake of honoring diversity. And they just can't see the contradiction.

Look, guys -- we pay you to make laws, not pass idiotic resolutions regarding private religious observances. But if you're going to do it anyway (and you know you are), then you have an obligation to be even-handed about it. "Diversity" includes the majority. Just as your Muslim constituents appreciate a little support in their annual fast, so too your Christian ones appreciate a smile during their winter feast. This isn't rocket-science. It is good citizenship and, as luck would have it, good politics. Give it a shot.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Vicious Attack on Lutherans by Right-Wing Hatemonger

According to radio host and apparent imbecile Michael Savage, Al Gore's Nobel was awarded by the "socialist perverts in Norway," ninety percent of whom "are into child pornography and molestation."

Since 83% of Norwegians are Lutherans, it is obvious that Savage is slandering Lutherans here. There is no way to know for sure that he's trying to launch a war on Christianity, but consider the facts. Savage has already run afoul of the Roman Catholic Church for his slanderous assertion that it was routinely violating Federal law by providing pastoral care to immigrants. Now he starts in on Lutherans. Watch out, Presbyterians -- you're next.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

We're Back! (And Ralph Reed's a Putrid Reeking Relic)

Ralph Reed, one of the co-creators of the Religious Right, has had enough. Watching the Republican Party tear itself apart over the theological leanings of its candidates, Reed recently declared:

"We have been conducting doctrinal frisks and theological GI-tract exams of our candidates and we have to remember that these candidates are not running for president of the seminary and they’re not running for pastor in chief."

Apparently, Reed is a little confused. While traditional conservatives have always argued that you can't legislate morality, the Religious Right exists precisely because Reed, along with Jerry Falwell and their other friends, spent decades creating a base of voters who believe otherwise. Whether he likes it or not, he is responsible for instilling in a significant number of American voters the notion that candidates ought to be elected because they share, and will enforce as policy, the religious convictions of religious voters. The ideas that a foetus has a soul, or that condoms (much less injections that can prevent cervical cancer) should not be made available to sexually-active teenagers, do not derive from objective scientific research. They are by nature matters of faith.

What Reed may miss is that it is a very, very small step from demanding leaders who share your faith on these issues to demanding leaders who share your faith on other matters -- such as the Incarnation, the Trinity, or the Pope's role as Antichrist. Moral theology does not exist apart from doctrinal theology.

And, curiously enough, evolution proves to be the -- ahem -- missing link between them, at least in American politics. Reed's foot-soldiers have done a remarkable job of creating a world in which a widely-accepted scientific theory, confirmed by a significant amount of observational data, must be taught alongside a rival theory, supported not by observation but by philosophical logic (and, ultimately, Scripture). In other words, they have begun with local schoolboards and worked their way up, so that even otherwise sober candidates for high office must now publicly declare their skepticism about Darwin, if they have any hope of winning the Republican nomination.

You did this, Ralph. You and yours, in a cynical bid to obtain power by playing upon the prejudices of decent but unreflective people, have created a mass movement in which theological opinions are considered pari passu with opinions on taxation, military readiness, health care and education.

Congratulations. You must be very proud.