30 July 2012

Holy Shit

The last time the Globe and Mail called me to ask if I wanted a subscription, I told them that if that windbag asshole Margaret Wente was still writing columns for them, then no, I did not. And never ever would give them a cent, because I cannot stand that ignorant, right-wing, bag of vinegar water. After the sales person (likely some commissioned kid in university) stopped laughing, he told me that I was the second person that night to say something to that effect, albeit less colourfully.

In an attempt to live in a world that I enjoy, I regularly put my fingers in my ears and sing LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU try to avoid Maggie and her bullshit. However, this weekend's spew has come to my attention in several of my circles, and I have to write something about it.

"Two weeks from now, the United Church of Canada will assemble in Ottawa for its 41st General Council, where it will debate church policy and elect a new moderator. The top item on its agenda is a resolution calling for a boycott of products from Israeli settlements. Fortunately, nobody cares what the United Church thinks about Israeli settlements, or anything else for that matter, because the United Church doesn’t matter any more."

And we're off to a stellar start. "The top item on its agenda" is wrong. It is a single item on the agenda, part of the proposal to Council from the Working Group on Israel/Palestine Policy.Yes, it calls for a boycott on products procured in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. It seems that this group has found the occupation of the area to be problematic. I'm able to see that that doesn't mean they're anti-Semitic or even anti-Israel. It just means they disagree on this and would like to exert economic pressure on them. By the way, it would be almost entirely symbolic, because as Wente is gleefully pointing out, we're not that powerful any longer.

And "nobody cares"? Well, Mags, that's funny, because Bernie Farber blew a gasket last time this shit came up. You calling him nobody? Do that in print, I dare you.

But today, the church is literally dying. The average age of its members is 65. They believe in many things, but they do not necessarily believe in God. Some congregations proudly describe themselves as “post-theistic,” which is a good thing because, as one church elder said, it shows the church is not “stuck in the past.” Besides, who needs God when you’ve got Israel to kick around?

Right. I think there is one congregation saying this, and their idea is pretty much panentheistic. They are a miniscule minority, and the subject of a lot of debate. And "who needs God when you’ve got Israel to kick around?" is a lovely little logical fallacy. Who even says that congregation is part of the group that proposed the boycott? And is she trying to say that they've replaced God with Israel hating? And has she ever heard of some of the southern American churches and their hate-on for Jews? Is she calling them liberals? What the hell is this even supposed to mean?

The United Church is not alone. All the secular liberal churches are collapsing. The Episcopalians – the American equivalent of the United Church – have lost a quarter of their membership in the past decade.

Sweet Jesus. What exactly is a "secular church"?

Episcopalians are the American equivalent of the United Church? Where is she getting this shit from? Because they had a General Council meeting last month too? Is that all it takes? Or because they affirmed equal marriage at it they're the same as the United Church? Episcopalians are more like Anglicans than United Church. The United Church is a lot more like a combination of the United Methodists, the United Church of Christ and the Unitarians all combined into a lovely concoction of people who follow the social gospel.

 They’re at their lowest point since the 1930s. Not coincidentally, they spent their recent general meeting affirming the right of the transgendered to become priests. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But it doesn’t top most people’s lists of pressing spiritual or even social issues.

Actually, like the Israel boycott, this was one point. And clearly it was on someone's radar. Like the transgendered people who wanted to become priests. And why is it that when it's a point like transgendered priests, it's something no one cares about, but when it's an Israeli boycott, it's OMG!ANTISEMITES!? Right, because Wente is one of those assholes who thinks that if it doesn't matter to her, it doesn't matter to anyone, and if it matters to her, everyone else cares too. Wrong. At my church, I've never heard Israel mentioned in a non-historical/non-biblical context.

Back in the 1960s, the liberal churches bet their future on becoming more open, more inclusive, more egalitarian and more progressive. They figured that was the way to reach out to a new generation of worshippers. It was a colossal flop.

Was that the plan? Or was it that there was a rising human rights movement that people in the church were part of, and believed to be what good Christians do, affirm that God loves everyone? I don't think you can blame declining church numbers on progressivism. Every fuck you to the Christians I've ever heard was about how we're exactly not this. Most former Christians I've heard from (read or talked to) have said that they left the church because they couldn't reconcile the Bible to their beliefs, at least not the way that their churches were teaching it.

The United Church’s high-water mark was 1965, when membership reached nearly 1.1 million. Since then it has shrunk nearly 60 per cent. Congregations have shrunk too – but not the church’s infrastructure or the money needed to maintain it. 

It's true. We're shrinking. But Wente is begging the question by assuming the premise that it is our progressive, egalitarian values that are causing it.

Today, the church has too many buildings and too few people to pay for their upkeep. Yet its leadership seems remarkably unperturbed. “It’s considered wrong to be concerned about the numbers – too crass, materialistic and business-oriented,” says Mr. Ewart. The church’s leaders are like the last of the Marxist-Leninists: still convinced they’re right despite the fact that the rest of the world has moved on.

Oh, I laugh and laugh at this one. So the church leadership (whoever they are) are largely unperturbed, trusting God to show us the way to minister to our communities, and having a 'if you build it, they will come' kind of attitude toward it, not pushing it on people in a way we know turns people off, showing them we are Christian by our love and service. But we're "post-theistic" right? And we're just worried about hating on Israel, right? Pick an argument and stick with it. Either we're secular, having given up on God (at which point I think we'd be a lot more materialistic and business-like) or we're a bunch of hippie-dippy idiots who can't see a bottom line when its staring us in the face.

And the The church’s leaders are like the last of the Marxist-Leninists is HILARIOUS. First, which church leaders? We're a bottom-up organization. That's how proposals like the Israel boycott get made. And second, nice way of gently insinuating we're communists. That's rich.

Clearly, changes in society have had an enormous impact on church attendance. Volunteerism and other civic institutions are also in decline. Busy two-career families have less discretionary time for everything, including church. Sundays are for chores and shopping now. As for Sunday school, parents would rather take the kids to sports.

Ding ding ding! Finally, she gets one right. It had to happen. I mean, it's statistically impossible for someone who is making shit up to be wrong 100% of the time. And this is why I keep saying the church needs to change far far far more wildly to adapt to this changing reality. Let's face it, churches are conservative in many ways, even my beloved UCC. We take years to do simple shit that should take weeks. And when it's something that requires major change? Well, that's almost impossible.

As the United Church found common cause with auto workers, it became widely known as the NDP at prayer. Social justice was its gospel. Spiritual fulfilment would be achieved through boycotts and recycling. Instead of Youth for Christ, it has a group called Youth for Eco-Justice. Mardi Tindal, the current moderator, recently undertook a spiritual outreach tour across Canada to urge “the healing of soul, community and creation” by reducing our carbon footprint. Which raises the obvious question: If you really, really care about the environment, why not just join Greenpeace?

Yeah, guilty as charged. We just can't help but love the earth that God gave us. I don't know what is wrong with us that we are driven by our love for God to protect God's creation instead of going around proselytising about Jesus to people who clearly don't care. What could we be thinking?

According to opinion polls, people’s overall belief in God hasn’t declined. What’s declined is people’s participation in religion. With so little spiritual nourishment to offer, it’s no wonder the liberal churches have collapsed.

So little spiritual nourishment? Wait, she's equating trying to force others to believe the way we do by running around cramming it down their throats to spiritual nourishment? THAT explains a lot about poor old Wente. Dear Maggie. I get a lot of spiritual fulfillment in a lot of different ways. Some of them Church-based, some not. But not a single one of them involves trying to convert people to my faith. Yes, I'd like to see more people in the pews (sorta - I'd like to see the pews gone entirely, but that's another post), but I want them there because we offer them something, not because we've battered them, scared them shitless of the afterlife, or made it socially unacceptable not to join. And if that means our numbers go down, that's what it means. God will show us the way.

It’s possible that organized religion in the developed world has had its day. After all, even conservative evangelicals like the Southern Baptists are in decline. Yet not all faiths have succumbed to Mammon. Mosques are popping up all over, and in Canada there are probably more kids in Islamic class than Sunday school. In the United States, Mormonism – which requires obligatory missionary service and a hefty tithe – is going strong, despite widespread ridicule from the mainstream press. Thanks to immigrants, the U.S. Roman Catholic Church also remains vibrant. Most Jews I know still belong to synagogues, send their kids to Hebrew school and have them bar mitzvahed.

Mammon? You invoke Mammon? The person who was mocking our distaste for materialism? Oh honey. Not cool. Do you even know who Mammon is?

And interesting how you note that even conservative evangelical churches are on the decline, way near the end of the article, long after most people with any intelligence have given up on your crap. So those churches are declining too, so doesn't that exactly contradict your premise that it's progressive, egalitarian ideals that are destroying it?

Mormonism... Oh yes, they're doing fine. And why? Because if you quit, you're shunned (though not as much as the JWs). And most people aren't willing to give up their families to leave. So they go. But you can't tell me all of 'em are believers.

And yes, thanks to immigrants the RC isn't declining. But without immigrants? It's collapsing too. And you can't call the Roman Catholic church a bastion of liberal ideals. Well, Wente could. She's not bound by anything resembling fact, apparently.

And really, most Jews she knows "still belong to synagogues and send their kids to Hebrew school and have them bar mitzvahed"? Really? Most Jews I know eat cheeseburgers, watch TV on Saturday, and know a smattering of Hebrew. And is "bar mitzvah" really a verb? I don't think so. And so what? Most people I know who grew up in a Christian church still get their kids baptized and then never go back into a church until that kid's wedding. What exactly is she trying to say?

Should anybody miss the church? Yes, says Mr. Ewart. The church gave families a way to participate together in a community larger than themselves, for a purpose greater than themselves. Most of us don’t have a way to do that any more. Our kids won’t even have it in their memory bank.

What the hell? First she goes mocking the United Church's commitment to working to protect the earth, and then says there's no way to participate? Please. And let me tell you how it was when I was a kid. We went to church Saturday night or Sunday morning. We sat their quietly for the hour and then left. There was no community. There was no involvement. My Mom tried to join the CWL and said she sat there through 3 meetings where no one so much as talked to her, so she quit. When my Dad died, and we went to her church for the funeral, the priest didn't know her name. No one from her church visited her except the appointed volunteer counsellor who was terrible. Wente and Ewart both are guilty of romanticizing the past.

In the past few years, Mr. Ewart has spent time hanging out with evangelicals – people who actually talk about loving Jesus. He admires their personal, emotional connection to God. Lately, he has even started praying. Perhaps he could pray for the church in which he spent his life to stop its self-immolation. But it’s probably too late.

Eesh. Loving Jesus is great. But it's the starting point, not the ending point, and that's what evangelicals often miss. If the point of their evangelism is to make others love Jesus too, they're doing it wrong. The point of evangelism should be to show other people how WE love Jesus, by doing what he asked of us: loving God, and loving each other.

Do I love Margaret Wente? Yup. I'd feed her if she were hungry. I'd give her my clothes if she had none. I'd buy her medicine if she were sick. And I think she's full of shit.

27 July 2012

The Son-Rise Kool-Aid

I really like the Son-Rise Kool-Aid. I cannot even believe how much easier life is around here since we stopped ABA and started running a Son-Rise program. SO MANY BENEFITS!

1) Crackle is so much happier. He's used a few words here and there, and is just easier to be around. His challenging isms (stims) have decreased a lot. Most especially, he's not peeing on the floor anymore. He's sleeping far better (unless he gets too much sugar)
2) Pop is far less rigid. Far far far less. And less scared of most things. He's still afraid of flies, but he's pointing out other bugs and worms and stuff to me now.
3) Me. I have changed. I'm no longer fighting Autism. I'm playing in it. I used to hate Autism. I mean despise it. I hated that it "stole my baby". I hated that they had extra challenges, and that the world sucked for them. I don't hate it any more. I'm happy. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying, "YAY! My kids have autism!" I'm saying, "I'm happy where we are with what we have and I can work with them and play with them to help them get by in the world better" which is pretty much the definition of good parenting. Everyone has challenges. Everyone needs parental help and support. And that's what I'm doing. And I'm having a good time of it. We're playing. We're laughing. We're hugging. It's awesome.

So I'm going back there in November. For more ideas, for more advanced training. I'm going to put up the Chip-In button again, because for my kids, it's worth my pride. :)

I said I would post pictures after the last trip. Never did, but a promise made is a debt unpaid, so I'm paying up.

This is the building where my room was. I had a lovely roommate who flew there, 6 months pregnant, from Nigeria.
A blurry pic of some of the other Autism parents. In the back window, there was a translator, translating into French for a woman from Europe who didn't speak any English. There were parents from all over the world.

What I found on the grounds: tranquility. A true metaphor.

26 July 2012

Dear Fellow Lefties, What Gives?

Dear Fellow Lefties,

What is our problem with Nazanin Afshin-Jam? Is it that she was a beauty queen? Is it that she married Peter MacKay? Because I'm not really having a problem with her "Bring Omar Khadr home" activism. Oh, I know, she's said things like he should come home to be tried here (trial? Really?), but she's the wife of the Minister of Defense. The fact that's she's saying anything contrary to current public policy is kind of awesome.

So I'm having to take issue with you, comrades. She is a human rights activist. The fact that she took issue with being erased by being referred to as "MacKay's wife" only shows that she's able to be offended by sexist claptrap and speak up against it. At least when it's lobbed at her. I couldn't speak to how she reacts to other women being subject to it.

It is not okay to define a woman by her husband. Even if she's married to a colossal waste of vinegar and water that is Peter MacKay. My best friend is married to a fucknuts who is so blasted disgusting that he should run for mayor of Toronto. Doesn't mean there's anything wrong with my friend other than she doesn't seem able gtfo.

And just because the right is awesome at lobbing sexism our way, doesn't make it right for us to send it back. In fact, it is more wrong. They're assholes. This makes us hypocritical assholes.

So, unless there is some point I am missing, and that may be the case, knock it the fuck off.

With puzzlement,

p.s. When I attempted to point this out on Twitter this morning, some asshole condescendingly told me I was missing the point, refused to point out what the point was, and then called me prickly. Mind you, that was after I pointed out that one doesn't need an apostrophe in "wants". :)

14 July 2012

Rape is Hysterical

I know, I'm late to the Daniel Tosh hatefest, but I'm busy, so whatever.

I really dislike Daniel Tosh. I've found about two of his jokes ever to be funny. His show is America's Funniest Home Videos for Douchebags, and his standup routine is more inane than Dane Cook's, and that is saying something.

My sense of humour is twisted and eclectic. I like a LOT of comedy. I'm always happy when there's a comedian on the tube, because it's usually good for a few good laughs. I like black humour, dark humour, intellectual humour, political humour, nonsense, situational humour, storytellers, one-liners, you name it. I like it. I never go to music concerts (though my darling husband did hire my favourite band to come to the house to play for us for our anniversary), but I do go to see comedians when they're in town. I buy their downloads, and I often watch the specials.

Not much offends me. I don't mind racist or sexist jokes if they're not hateful. My line: rape jokes. I fucking hate rape jokes. HATE them. Because they trigger some intense memories, and because even if they don't, I know they do for someone else listening to them. This is why I don't watch The Family Guy. It's rape joke after rape joke, and they're not funny.

Anyway, so Tosh asks the audience what he should talk about next, and some frat boy type (I assume) says, "Rape!" Tosh goes on that yeah, rape is always funny. A woman pipes up that she doesn't find it funny at all, and he says that it would be hilarious if she were raped right now, by like 4 or 5 guys. She gets up and leaves, saying in her blog, "I knew I needed to get out of there".

To me, that's fear. I've been told it would be asinine to be afraid in that situation. Of course, this was a white male talking. He has no idea what it is to be a woman in a rape culture, and refused to even attempt to get past his privilege to examine why I might say such a thing. No, she mightn't have been in immediate danger, but what if, after the show, 4 or 5 guys thought it might be a riproarin' good time to toss a fuck into her? Is that an unreasonable thought? Hell no, it isn't.

Remember, Tosh is the same sonofabitch who had his viewers videotape themselves sneaking up on women and touching their belly fat. And told them that they should ignore women if they protest it. And guys did. In droves. It's all over YouTube. I will not link. That's power. And Tosh knew it.

Women have been silenced with rapes and threats of rape since the dawn of time. Don't give me this bullshit that it was a joke meant to show how ridiculous the idea was. This was no different from "Shut up, bitch, or we'll make you wish you had".

Mr. It's Asinine To Be Afraid is a Canadian comedian of some stature. That is, I know his name and could bring his face to mind with it. I tried to help him see by changing "woman" to "black man" and "rape" to "lynch". He still thought it was okay. He still didn't think there was anything to fear. Yes, he said it was offensive, but that offensive comedy is expected. He also told me I just don't understand comedy, and that he, in his 35 years as a professional comedian, should be taken at his word. He also said I'm uptight and could stand to get high. I suspect he wanted to say that I needed to be fucked. At least he was classy enough not to say that.

12 July 2012

Watching homes burn. For $75

Firefighters in Tennessee let a house burn (again) because the homeowner hadn't paid the $75 fee. I have some takeaways from this article and the following comments.

1) It wasn't that the firefighters let it burn. It was the city who ordered them not to put the fire out. Credit where credit is due. Dubious credit.

2) When you make a fee optional, lots of people won't pay it. People usually don't think it will happen to them. This is why car insurance is mandatory. This is why medical coverage is mandatory (in civilized countries, anyway).

3) Personal responsibility is a good thing, and these people were punished for not having it. However, so were the firefighters.  The last time it happened, three dogs and a cat died. It cannot feel good for these people to have to live with the fact that they could have saved the animals and the home of the people if they'd been allowed to. A law that allows someone's home to fall and pets to perish because of non-payment of fees is immoral.

4) This feels like a protection racket. Except that I doubt the city is starting the fires.

5) The reason that fire protection isn't covered by taxes is that this is a city fire department, and the area where the fee applies is outside their taxation area. So people have to pony up the $75/year to get covered. The fire dept shows up and keeps it from spreading, but won't send a full crew to put it out. 

6) Compassion is in short supply these days. "Sorry, I just don't feel sorry for them.. It is just like an insurance policy, if you don't pony up the pre you don't have the coverage. They should not be surprised at all since it has happened in that area before.. I would guess they have money for beer and smokes??? Don't be stupid and expect others to pick up the slack..Oh wait that's exactly what the left wingnuts think....Right??" 
Seriously? Their home burned down and they have nothing left, but you don't feel sorry for them? And what the hell makes a person think they used it for "beer and smokes"? Judgmental bullshit there.

And yes, us left wingnuts expect to pick up the slack for those who don't pay. It's called compassion. They'll pay us back when we send the bill. If they can't pay it, there's this lovely thing called community service that they could do to pay off their debt.

11 July 2012

My Bible

A bit of a Twitter conversation started me thinking about The Bible (tm) vs My Bible. That is, there are people who take literal readings of as many stories as possible and treat them as the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And then some of them, they don't. And usually, they do it without any historical context. And then there are some people who view the Bible as just a bunch of bullshit stories told by a bunch of superstitious assholes trying to control their society. Most people are somewhere in between, I think.

So, as you might have guessed by the title of this blog, I'm Christian. What that means for me is that I follow the path of Jesus in the stories of the gospels. I really like that Jesus guy. I don't know if he was exactly who was described in the Bible. Probably not. But what I know is that I love the message. I love the love. I love the sacrifice he made for his principles and faith. For me, that's the core of it. The love. So when I hear or read the stories of Jesus, it doesn't matter a whole lot to me if they happened exactly as written. The power of it is in the words of the story. Hell, it doesn't matter to me if it is complete fiction. Not that I think it is, mind you, but it doesn't matter. I mean, if someone, somehow, could show me absolute proof that there was never any Jesus of Nazareth, John the Baptist, Mary, Joseph, Peter, et al., it wouldn't matter that much to me. I would still enjoy the stories, and I would still try to live my life in a way that I think the Jesus character (as that's what he would be then, a character) would approve of. Because it's an excellent way to live.

All that being said, I do think there was a Jesus of Nazareth, and I do think he did some pretty magnificent things. I think he had a nice tap into the divine spirit and that he came to tell "us" (i.e. anyone who would listen) that we were doing things wrong. He needed to tell us that God didn't need sacrifices, or for us to obey kosher laws, or any of that stuff, that his sacrifice would be enough.

Quick aside: Some people seem to really have a problem with a God who would send his son to die as a sacrifice. I get it. But I also understand it as the only way people would listen. I mean, if Jesus had grown up, told his stories, shared his Good News and lived to a ripe old age, would any of us ever heard of him? And I don't know if God so much sent him to die, as knew it would happen and that it had to happen. [NOTE: The person who inspired this has pointed out to me that Buddha lived to be a ripe old age, and we still have his teachings. Interesting thought. I'll have to noodle that one.]

So then there are the letters from Paul. Most biblical scholars agree that those letters weren't written all by the same dude with all the issues with women, but let's assume for the sake of simplicity that they were. The writings of Paul were Paul's opinions and Paul's ideas about what God wanted, about what Jesus wanted. Paul was not infallible. Paul was not God. Anyone who takes Paul's word as God's word is elevating him to a position above human. I'm not really okay with that. Does that mean there's nothing to be learned in the letters? No, of course not. Just as I can learn from anyone's opinions, I can learn from his.

That's the Greek scriptures... on to the Hebrew.

The Hebrew scriptures, the old testament, is a collection of stories of our ancestors in faith. For me, they are tools to learn what they thought about God, and what their mythology was. Anyone of science knows that the creation stories are mythology. That's okay. They were stories that people told to explain that which they didn't understand. Every culture has them. It's only in the last couple hundred years that this obsession to take them as literal truth has started. It's bizarre, really. Especially since there are two creation stories and they don't mesh. I mean, did God make man on the 6th day and then rest? Or did he make Adam, then make some animals for companions, figure out it wasn't working, and build Eve from his rib? Come. On. They were stories. Stories to explain, moral stories, ideas about how to behave and ideas about what they thought God wanted. And they're really neat stories, with lots to learn from. And no, not to be taken as the inviolable Word of God. And if you think that, ask yourself when the last time was that you stoned someone for being an adulterer or if you want that law coming back? Are you hiding out at covens to kill the witches? Are you keeping kosher? Wearing only cloth of one fiber? No? Why? Because Jesus came to end that, right? So then, why take the rest of it as something you still need to adhere to?

And there are some stories of prophets, people who seemed to know of things to come. True? I have no idea. But again, I can most certainly glean some truth from there. There is truth in almost every story. And there is certainly wisdom in them.

So, at the risk of being accused of cherry-picking my beliefs from the Bible, I say, there is truth in there, there is fiction in there, there is mythology in there, there is power in there. And the only way to tell what's what is to  hold it up to the law "Love One Another", and if it fits, it's golden. If it doesn't, it was something to learn from.