Later On

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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

The lost “Greek” tribe of Alexander the Great

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Paul Raffaele writes in The Critic:

One hundred and twenty-seven years ago, a mysterious Afghan pagan tribe, the Kalash, fled Islamic religious persecution to three secretive valleys in a remote corner of what is now north-western Pakistan. In 1998, when I was visiting Lahore, a Pakistani friend told me that little was known about the Kalash, except that they still lived largely as their people had back in their homeland for more than 2,000 years.

The Kalash, rarely visited by outsiders, claimed descent from Alexander the Great’s troops who had campaigned through their Hindu Kush homeland. In their refuge, they were said to still practice a similar culture and religion to that of ancient Greece, even worshipping Zeus as their paramount god.

In 330BC, Alexander established many cities across what is now Afghanistan — with thousands of his soldiers left to inhabit them, keep order, with his generals to rule them. More than 10,000 of his troops married local women and stayed behind. He gave the cities Greek culture with artists, musicians, architects and artisans. They built outdoor theatres and gymnasiums, and erected countless marble statues of Greek gods.

Nudging the remote north-eastern edge of Afghanistan, the mountain town of Chitral, the provincial capital, was ruled by the ul-Mulk royal family until 1947, when it was swallowed by Pakistan. At breakfast the morning after I arrived in search of the Kalash, Prince Siraj, the grandson of Chitral’s last king, told me that near the turn of the nineteenth century, the entire Kalash tribe of about 50,000 spread across the high mountains of Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush bordering Chitral.

Scorned by Afghan Muslims as kafirs, their homeland was a secluded, mysterious place called Kafiristan, or Land of the Unbelievers. That was where Rudyard Kipling set his epic story, “The Man Who Would Be King”, first published in 1888 in Kipling’s collection of short stories, The Phantom Rickshaw and other Eerie Tales. It was later made into a fanciful but entertaining film. Two rogue British soldiers, played by Michael Caine and Sean Connery, travelled to Kafiristan, where the Connery character is mistaken for a god.

So little was known of the ethnic group in 1888 that the Bombay-born Kipling based his story on vague rumour and his fertile imagination. The movie plunged even further from the truth with John Huston, the director, depicting the Kafirs, or Kalash, as resembling shaven-headed, ancient Egyptian priests clad in white robes.

Towards the nineteenth century’s end, the Sultan of Kabul, Abdur Rahman, brutally put down 40 rebellions during his 21-year reign. Following the gruesome example of the invading Mongols five centuries earlier, he built towers formed from the heads of thousands of defeated rebels who dared challenge him.

In 1895, he turned his attention to the Kalash. He decided their presence in his domain, with their free-wheeling, timeless lifestyle — a religion with multiple carved gods, rampant wine drinking, especially at their bacchanalian religious festivals, and exuberant fornication, even sanctioned adultery — was an abomination, a flagrant public insult to Islam, and thus to himself.

“The Sultan ordered all the Kalash to convert to Islam immediately,” Prince Siraj told me, “if not, he would declare a jihad against the Kafirs, and his troops would slaughter, by beheading, all those who resisted — men, women and even their children.”

Invading Kafiristan, he renamed it Nuristan, Land of the Enlightened, and offered the Kalash a simple choice: convert to Islam immediately or die by the sword. Almost all converted. Those who resisted and were captured, were slaughtered.

Siraj alerted me to an account of the massacre in mountain climber Eric Newby’s classic book A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush. The prince had the . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

10 August 2022 at 12:16 pm

Posted in Books, History, Religion

Seven years of sex abuse: How Mormon officials let it happen

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Michael Rezendes reports for the Associated Press:

BISBEE, Ariz. (AP) — MJ was a tiny, black-haired girl, just 5 years old, when her father admitted to his bishop that he was sexually abusing her.

The father, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and an admitted pornography addict, was in counseling with his bishop when he revealed the abuse. The bishop, who was also a family physician, followed church policy and called what church officials have dubbed the “help line” for guidance.

But the call offered little help for MJ. Lawyers for the church, widely known as the Mormon church, who staff the help line around the clock told Bishop John Herrod not to call police or child welfare officials. Instead he kept the abuse secret.

“They said, ‘You absolutely can do nothing,’” Herrod said in a recorded interview with law enforcement.

Herrod continued to counsel MJ’s father, Paul Douglas Adams, for another year, and brought in Adams’ wife, Leizza Adams, in hopes she would do something to protect the children. She didn’t. Herrod later told a second bishop, who also kept the matter secret after consulting with church officials who maintain that the bishops were excused from reporting the abuse to police under the state’s so-called clergy-penitent privilege.

Adams continued raping MJ for as many as seven more years, into her adolescence, and also abused her infant sister, who was born during that time. He frequently recorded the abuse on video and posted the video on the internet.

Adams was finally arrested by Homeland Security agents in 2017 with no help from the church, after law enforcement officials in New Zealand discovered one of the videos. He died by suicide in custody before he could stand trial.

The Associated Press has obtained nearly 12,000 pages of sealed records from an unrelated child sex abuse lawsuit against the Mormon church in West Virginia. The documents offer the most detailed and comprehensive look yet at the so-called help line Herrod called. Families of survivors who filed the lawsuit said they show it’s part of a system that can easily be misused by church leaders to divert abuse accusations away from law enforcement and instead to church attorneys who may bury the problem, leaving victims in harm’s way.

The help line has been criticized by abuse victims and their attorneys for being inadequate to quickly stop abuse and protect victims. Yet the Utah-based faith has stuck by the system despite the criticism and increasing scrutiny from attorneys and prosecutors, including those in the Adams case.

“’I just think that the Mormon church really sucks. Seriously sucks,” said MJ, who is now 16, during an interview with the AP. “They are just the worst type of people, from what I’ve experienced and what other people have also experienced.”

MJ and her adoptive mother asked the AP to use only her initials in part because videos of her abuse posted by her father are still circulating on the internet. The AP does not publish the names of sexual abuse survivors without their consent.

William Maledon, an Arizona attorney representing the bishops and the church in a lawsuit filed by three of the Adams’ six children, told the AP last month that the bishops were not required to report the abuse.

“These bishops did nothing wrong [!!! – LG]. They didn’t violate the law, and therefore they can’t be held liable,” he said. Maledon referred to the suit as “a money grab.” [An extremely narrow view of right and wrong. The Mormon church lacks any moral compass. – LG]

In his AP interview, Maledon also insisted . . .

Continue reading. Lots more. Despicable organization.

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2022 at 1:20 pm

The Conscious Universe

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Joe Zadeh wrote in Noéma in November 2021:

London was a crowded city in 1666. The streets were narrow, the air was polluted, and inhabitants lived on top of each other in small wooden houses. That’s why the plague spread so easily, as well as the Great Fire. So did gossip, and the talk of the town was Margaret Cavendish, the Duchess of Newcastle.

Cavendish was a fiery novelist, playwright, philosopher and public figure known for her dramatic manner and controversial beliefs. She made her own dresses and decorated them in ribbons and baubles, and once attended the theater in a topless gown with red paint on her nipples. In his diaries, Samuel Pepys described her as a “mad, conceited, ridiculous woman,” albeit one he was obsessed with: He diarized about her six times in one three-month spell.

The duchess drew public attention because she was a woman with ideas, lots of them, at a time when that was not welcome. Cavendish had grown up during the murderous hysteria of the English witch trials, and her sometimes contradictory proto-feminism was fueled by the belief that there was a parallel to be drawn between the way men treated women and the way men treated animals and nature. “The truth is,” she wrote, “we [women] Live like Bats or Owls, labour like Beasts and die like Worms.”

In 1666, she released “The Blazing World,” a romantic and adventurous fantasy novel (as well as a satire of male intellectualism) in which a woman wanders through a portal at the North Pole and is transported to another world full of multicolored humans and anthropomorphic beasts, where she becomes an empress and builds a utopian society. It is now recognized as one of the first-ever works of science fiction.

But this idea of a blazing world was not just fiction for Cavendish. It was a metaphor for her philosophical theories about the nature of reality. She believed that at a fundamental level, the entire universe was made of just one thing: matter. And that matter wasn’t mostly lifeless and inert, like most of her peers believed, but animate, aware, completely interconnected, at one with the stuff inside us. In essence, she envisioned that it wasn’t just humans that were conscious, but that consciousness, in some form, was present throughout nature, from animals to plants to rocks to atoms. The world, through her eyes, was blazing.

Cavendish was not the only one to have thoughts like these at that time, but they were dangerous thoughts to have. In Amsterdam, the Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza wrote that every physical thing had its own mind, and those minds were at one with God’s mind; his books were banned by the church, he was attacked at knifepoint outside a synagogue, and eventually, he was excommunicated. Twenty-three years before Cavendish was born, the Italian Dominican friar and philosopher, Giordano Bruno — who believed the entire universe was made of a single universal substance that contained spirit or consciousness — was labeled a heretic, gagged, tied to a stake and burned alive in the center of Rome by the agents of the Inquisition. His ashes were dumped in the Tiber.

If the dominant worldview of Christianity and the rising worldview of science could agree on anything, it was that matter was dead: Man was superior to nature. But Cavendish, Spinoza, Bruno, and others had latched onto the coattails of an ancient yet radical idea, one that had been circulating philosophy in the East and West since theories of mind first began. Traces of it can be found in Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Christian mysticism, and the philosophy of ancient Greece, as well as many indigenous belief systems around the world. The idea has many forms and versions, but modern studies of it house them all inside one grand general theory: panpsychism.

Derived from the Greek words pan (“all”) and psyche (“soul” or “mind”), panpsychism is the idea that consciousness — perhaps the most mysterious phenomenon we have yet come across — is not unique to the most complex organisms; it pervades the entire universe and is a fundamental feature of reality. “At a very basic level,” wrote the Canadian philosopher William Seager, “the world is awake.”

Plato and Aristotle had panpsychist beliefs, as did the Stoics. At the turn of the 12th century, the Christian mystic Saint Francis of Assisi was so convinced that everything was conscious that he tried speaking to flowers and preaching to birds. In fact, the history of thought is dotted with very clever people coming to this seemingly irrational conclusion. William James, the father of American psychology, was a panpsychist, as was the celebrated British mathematician Alfred North Whitehead; the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Max Planck once remarked in an interview, “I regard consciousness as fundamental.” Even the great inventor Thomas Edison had some panpsychist views, telling the poet George Parsons Lathrop: “It seems that every atom is possessed by a certain amount of primitive intelligence.”

But over the course of the 20th century, panpsychism came to be seen as absurd and incompatible in mainstream Western science and philosophy, just a reassuring delusion for New Age daydreamers. Karl Popper, one of the most influential philosophers of recent times, described it as “trivial” and “grossly misleading.” Another heavyweight, Ludwig Wittgenstein, waved away the theory: “Such image-mongery is of no interest to us.” As the American philosopher John Searle put it: “Consciousness cannot be spread across the universe like a thin veneer of jam.”

Most philosophers and scientists with panpsychist beliefs kept them quiet for fear of public ridicule. Panpsychism used  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2022 at 5:53 pm

‘They’re Just Going to Let Me Die?’ One Woman’s Abortion Odyssey

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Men should not be passing laws on abortion. This long read from the NY Times (gift link, no paywall) tells a harrowing story:

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Madison Underwood was lying on the ultrasound table, nearly 19 weeks pregnant, when the doctor came in to say her abortion had been canceled.

Nurses followed and started wiping away lukewarm sonogram gel from her exposed belly as the doctor leaned over her shoulder to speak to her fiancé, Adam Queen.

She recalled that she went quiet, her body went still. What did they mean, they couldn’t do the abortion? Just two weeks earlier, she and her fiance had learned her fetus had a condition that would not allow it to survive outside the womb. If she tried to carry to term, she could become critically ill, or even die, her doctor had said. Now, she was being told she couldn’t have an abortion she didn’t even want, but needed.

“They’re just going to let me die?” she remembers wondering.

In the blur around her, she heard the doctor and nurses talking about a clinic in Georgia that could do the procedure now that the legal risks of performing it in Tennessee were too high.

She heard her fiancé curse, and with frustration in his voice, tell the doctor this was stupid. She heard the doctor agree.

Just three days earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned the constitutional right to abortion. A Tennessee law passed in 2020 that banned abortions at around six weeks of pregnancy had been blocked by a court order but could go into effect.

Ms. Underwood never thought any of this would affect her. She was 22 and excited to start a family with Mr. Queen, who was 24.

She and Mr. Queen had gone back and forth for days before deciding to terminate the pregnancy. She was dreading the abortion. She had cried in the car pulling up to the clinic. She had heard about the Supreme Court undoing Roe v. Wade but thought that since she had scheduled her abortion before the decision, and before any state ban took effect, the procedure would be allowed.

Tennessee allows abortion if a woman’s life is in danger, but doctors feared making those decisions too soon and facing prosecution. Across the country, the legal landscape was shifting so quickly, some abortion clinics turned patients away before the laws officially took effect or while legal battles played out in state courts.

Century-old bans hanging around on the books were activated, but then just as quickly were under dispute. In states where abortion was still legal, wait times at clinics spiked as women from states with bans searched for alternatives.

It was into this chaos that Ms. Underwood was sent home, still pregnant, and reeling. What would happen now? The doctor said . . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

1 August 2022 at 11:24 am

“My Abortion Journey: Becoming a Pro-Choice Christian”

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Nick Coccoma has a thoughtful and interesting post at The Similitude. It begins:

As a Christian who cherishes human life, I understand those who think abolishing legal abortion is good. I’m a former Catholic who thought seriously about becoming a priest. I hold a Master of Divinity degree from a Catholic institution, where I studied moral theology. I know the mindset of its milieu from the inside. Many anti-abortion activists have convinced themselves they are saving lives. And who doesn’t want to do that? If you think you could be on the side of good—and God—by saving lives, who wouldn’t feel attracted (or pressured) to embrace that cause?

Those who want legal abortion access also think we’re saving peoples lives. But our side, I’m afraid, has done a poor job of marketing by framing abortion as about choice. While correct on principle, “choice” is a word associated in daily life with consumer habits and careless, half-baked, impulsive acts. Coke or Pepsi for lunch? Hmm, Coke! Have a baby or abort? Hmm, abort!

This is the troubling image conjured by the word “choice” in the minds of anti-abortion people. It sounds like you’re degrading human life into a commodity. It raises fears of a slippery slope to eugenics, a throwaway culture where the elderly, people with mental disabilities, and other vulnerable members are stripped of their dignity. Some, if not many, anti-abortion activists want to protect those people, made in the divine image.

But so do people who favor legal abortion access—perhaps more, actually, than many anti-abortion advocates, especially evangelicals. The states that allow legal abortion have the broadest social supports for the poor in the nation—those now banning it, the weakest. Most states outlawing abortion also execute prisoners with ruthless abandon. Those with abortion do not. Where is the epicenter of the new abortion regime? The Deep South—the historic site of slavery, Jim Crow, and sodomy laws. This belies the truth of their actions: that it’s about power, punishment, and control—not life.

“Choice” also paints women as careless and indifferent to the moral stakes of sexual intimacy, pregnancy, and termination. But that is untrue. Women do not approach abortion like a consumer choice at all. For them, it is a fraught, profound decision. It is about care for their bodies and their lives. It is not a thoughtless disposal of human beings.

The anti-abortion movement has been very psychologically powerful in this regard. I myself wrestled over abortion for years. Like many Catholics, I grew up in an ecclesial culture steeped in traditionalism. In this nostalgic vision, abortions never used to happen. Women led wholesome lives in idyllic families, raising children and mothering them with affection while husbands labored at the office. This fantasy was, of course, totally at odds with my home. My parents led modern lives, a marriage of equals with both spouses working.

But in the imagination of the Catholic hierarchy, abortion—like feminism itself—is a dangerous invention of modernity, akin to pollution. This road to perdition burst on the scene—along with contraception, gays, and sex itself—in the 1960s, that era of decadence. Philip Larkin parodies this mental construct in his poem “Annus Mirabilis”:

Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(Which was rather late for me) – 
Between the end of the “Chatterley” ban
And the Beatles’ first LP.

It’s all a myth. Women have sought to terminate pregnancies since the dawn of time. And when it comes to “tradition,” human beings lived for hundreds of thousands of years in hunter-gatherer bands, egalitarian societies without fixed gender roles. Women harvested food and men hunted, but all were involved in providing for the community’s sustenance. Childrearing was done communally, allowing kids to play freely and benefit from alloparenting.” The idea that it was solely women’s work was absurd. In indigenous American cultures, like the Iroquois, women held political power—the men could initiate war only at their behest. What’s more traditional? Their way of life? Or 1950s suburbia? Measured against the long arc of human history, the nuclear family, with a sole male breadwinner, is the novelty—not the norm.

Even in the Anglo-American world, pregnancy termination before “quickening” (the time when the mother felt the fetus moving in the womb) was legal under common law from 1607 until 1828. According to the American Historical Association, abortion laws emerged slowly starting in the early 1830s, mostly to protect women from dangerous procedures—not the fetus. In the 1850s, a mysogynistic physician named Horatio Storer spearheaded a campaign to ban abortion as a means to put women back in the home.

This was a response to . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2022 at 9:18 am

Fascinating connections vis-à-vis the Shinzo Abe assassination

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Read this thread and the comments on it.

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2022 at 4:47 pm

Dave Troy on the idea of civilizational conflict

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I find Dave Troy”s insights to be interesting. Here is one of his recent posts on Facebook:

Let’s talk about the end of the world, and what Russia thinks it’s doing. First, it’s necessary to zoom out and discard notions of nation-states, institutions, and politics, and think with a civilizational lens. By now, it’s clear that Putin is following the Dugin playbook.

Aleksandr Dugin (warning: woo alert) believes that all of human history is the product of conflict between two major networks: Eurasianists and Atlanticists. Eurasianists are bound to rule from Dublin to Tokyo (at least); Atlanticists are bound to North + South America.

According to Jean Pârvelescu, a Franco-Romanian writer who worked with Dugin, Putin is a historical character predestined to bring about a final conflict between the Eurasianist and Atlanticist networks. There is no real notion of a rules based order or which side is “right”; this conflict is simply necessary for the course of history to proceed and for evolution of civilization.

It is Putin’s job to be a historical character and advance history; there can be no other way. This conflict also addresses the fact that “liberalism” inverts the traditional hierarchical order of the world. As Dugin said in 1992:

• Order of Eurasia against Order of Atlantic (Atlantides).
• Eternal Rome against Eternal Carthago.
• Occult punic war invisibly continuing during millennia.
• Planetary conspiracy of Land against the Sea, Earth against Water
• Authoritarianism and Idea against Democracy and Matter.

René Guénon described a “Hyperborean” northern culture home to a pure Aryan race, with two outposts: Shambhala in the East, and Atlantis in the West. From this division, the conflicting networks were born.

Occultists like Madame Blavatsky suggest Atlantis collapsed because its people became “wicked magicians;” they also believe Shambhala perhaps survived. Nicholas Roerich traveled to Asia in the 1930’s to locate Shambhala (perhaps a “Shangri-La”) that may still have existed.

So when we evaluate Putin’s actions, we need to look at them as being predestined, inevitable, and civilizational in scope. This is, at root, what they think they’re doing, and other details and pressures aren’t particularly relevant to that framework.

They believe hierarchy will prevail over any kind of collectivism. Now, it should be noted that Russia itself has not hidden this information; any of you can go look this up and see this is true. Whether this is “real,” or merely what Russia wishes to project as “real” is open to serious, reasoned debate.

I believe we should hedge against both possibilities, because as they run out of options, fantasy will increasingly dominate, just as it did with Hitler’s regime. But we shouldn’t underestimate the gravity of this situation, or the apocalyptic narrative that lies just under the surface. We have some people here flirting with the end of the world, and who have a story to justify it.

We should take that seriously and figure out a real way to end this; the established order of nation states and rules-based order has nearly no bearing on how we might do that. This situation calls for creativity, will, and force.

If the US and Europe wish to counter it, we need to start preparing our populations now for significant and sustained hardships. Because they will not give up unless forced to do so, and they will not be constrained by institutions. Only raw power and a clear sign that the Eurasianists have lost will put out the fire that’s raging in the hearts of this network. What that looks like? Not sure, but it likely doesn’t look like this.

I should also point out that Dugin has mapped this Eurasianist conflict onto “Gog and Magog” from the Book of Revelations, which has helped draw in Christian dominionists anticipating (and desiring) the end of the world, which just amplifies the scope of the conflict.

Many are understandably drawn to make American references to this conflict; I’d encourage zooming out. 330 million people out of ~8 billion is a rounding error in the context of this framework and their idea is that America is dispensable.

What concerns me is we are so wedded to the post-war international order of nation-states and institutions that we have no effective language to communicate about something civilizational in scope. I want to hear leaders talk about their understanding of this dilemma.

To be clear, this does not mean we should be afraid or cowed by Putin. To the contrary, we need to figure out a way to end Russia’s ability to end the world without triggering global catastrophe. That’s a tall challenge but we need the right frameworks in order to conceive it.

Troy notes that the above Facebook post is from a Twitter thread, and for comments from others, check the thread:

There are a great many comments to that Twitter thread, so it’s definitely worthwhile taking a look.

Troy also notes:

With respect to our current pursuits in the democratic realm, I offer some cautions; meanwhile the Russian duma has introduced a law to replace Putin’s title with of “president” with “ruler.”

We are starting to get a clearer picture of the extensive planning and deep involvement of President Trump in the coup plot, which will help in shaping public opinion in support of indictments and undermine support for Republicans going into the midterm elections. But with short news cycles and accelerating instability around the world, the timing of the release of the findings, along with any actions taken by the Department of Justice, will be critically important in determining what impact they may have.

From a threat assessment perspective, it is also likely that events will overtake us and render any retrospective analysis moot. Political strategists should expect and prepare for more violence and chaos proportionate to any political points the committee may expect to score. While anti-democratic forces cannot control the outcome of the committee’s work, they can always add more chaos and violence in hopes of altering the conflict terrain and public perception, and we should expect such attacks.

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2022 at 6:51 am

The odd logic of a Pro-Lifer

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From a Facebook post by Girl du Jour:

Pro Lifer: Well the mother should just give the baby up for adoption if she doesn’t want the baby
Me: So who will adopt the baby?
PL: I don’t know there’s lots of couples who want to adopt
Me: Do you know any couple who is waiting to adopt?
PL: Um well not personally but like I know there’s lots of people waiting to adopt.
Me: Do you know what a domestic adoption costs?
PL: I don’t know. $15,000 maybe?
Me: The average cost of domestic adoption in the United States is $70,000 if you go through a private agency.
PL: Oh I didn’t realize it was that much
Me: Yep it’s really expensive. It can be more if you want a newborn straight from the hospital. Up to $120,000.
PL: Well all life is precious.
Me: it really is. I’ve adopted through foster care and am currently a licensed foster parent. Would you be interested in becoming a foster parent yourself?
PL: Oh no I couldn’t do it.
Me: Why not?
PL: It would just be too much for me right now.
Me: Why is that?
PL: It would be too hard to handle all the issues that came with it. I’ve heard horror stories.
Me: Yep it can be extremely difficult. But what if I told you that you were required by law to become a foster parent?
PL: what?
Me: what if you had to become a foster parent by law?
PL: they would never do that. That would never happen.
Me: Well, if a woman is forced to bear a child she doesn’t want, and she goes ahead and has that child, someone has to care for the child either through adoption or foster care. You have to do one of those two things.
PL: But I don’t want any more kids.
Me: So you don’t want someone forcing you to have a child in your home that you don’t want or aren’t able to care for?
PL: no, that’s not my job to raise someone else’s child.

There it is, folks. Have the baby, but we don’t want anything to do with it afterwards.
But, let’s ban abortion…

And some statistics include in the post:

Texas: 47,913 children in foster care as of 2020
California: 55,539 children in foster care as of 2022
Florida: 30,000 children in foster care as of 2021
Virginia: 5,240 children in foster care as of 2021
Montana: 3,456 children in foster care as of 2020
Alaska: 2,939 children in foster care as of 2021
Alabama: 5,682 children in foster care as of 2019
Arizona: 13,329 children in foster care as of 2019
Arkansas: 4,123 children in foster care as of 2019
Colorado: 4,824 children in foster care as of 2019
Connecticut: 3,882 children in foster care as of 2019
Delaware: 577 children in foster care as of 2019
Georgia: 12,888 children in foster care as of 2019
Hawaii: 1,604 children in foster care as of 2019
Idaho: 1,740 children in foster care as of 2019
Illinois: 16,565 children in foster care as of 2019
Indiana: 16,023 children in foster care as of 2019
Iowa: 5,943 children in foster care as of 2019
Kansas: 8,001 children in foster care as of 2019
Kentucky: 9,113 children in foster care as of 2019
Louisiana: 3,929 children in foster care as of 2019
Maine: 2,083 children in foster care as of 2019
Maryland: 3,689 children in foster care as of 2019
Massachusetts: 9,831 children in foster care as of 2019
Michigan: 11,438 children in foster care as of 2019
Minnesota: 8,261 children in foster care as of 2019
Mississippi: 4,011 children in foster care as of 2019
Missouri: 12,654 children in foster care as of 2019
Nebraska: 3,238 children in foster care as of 2019
Nevada: 4,515 children in foster care as of 2019
New Hampshire: 1,211 children in foster care as of 2019
New Jersey: 4,431 children in foster care as of 2019
New Mexico: 2,324 children in foster care as of 2019
New York: 15,606 children in foster care as of 2019
North Carolina: 11,025 children in foster care as of 2019
North Dakota: 1,468 children in foster care as of 2019
Ohio: 15,710 children in foster care as of 2019
Oklahoma: 8,301 children in foster care as of 2019
Oregon: 6,922 children in foster care as of 2019
Pennsylvania: 14,912 children in foster care as of 2019
Puerto Rico: 2,579 children in foster care as of 2019
Rhode island: 2,196 children in foster care as of 2019
South Carolina: 4,497 children in foster care as of 2019
South Dakota: 1,703 children in foster care as of 2019
Tennessee: 8,893 children in foster care as of 2019
Utah: 2,335 children in foster care as of 2019
Vermont: 1,226 children in foster care as of 2019
Washington: 10,151 children in foster care as of 2019
West Virginia: 7,211 children in foster care as of 2019
Wisconsin: 7,626 children in foster care as of 2019
Wyoming: 984 children in foster care as of 2019
District of Columbia: 653 children in foster care as of 2019

Written by Leisureguy

6 July 2022 at 6:47 pm

What abortions bans do — and what the US will now start to see

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Two reports about the sort of things that happen when abortions are banned. One is from Ireland, the other from Malta.

Ireland

Gretchen E. Ely, Professor of Social Work and Ph.D. Program Director, University of Tennessee, wrote in The Conversation:

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion in the U.S., the nation may find itself on a path similar to that trodden by the Irish people from 1983 to 2018.

Abortion was first prohibited in Ireland through what was called the Offenses Against the Person Act of 1861. That law became part of Irish law when Ireland gained independence from the U.K. in 1922. In the early 1980s, some anti-abortion Catholic activists noticed the liberalization of abortion laws in other Western democracies and worried the same might happen in Ireland.

Various Catholic organizations, including the Irish Catholic Doctors’ Guild, St. Joseph’s Young Priests Society and the St. Thomas More Society, combined to form the Pro Life Amendment Campaign. They began promoting the idea of making Ireland a model anti-abortion nation by enshrining an abortion ban not only in law but in the nation’s constitution.

As a result of that effort, a constitutional referendum passed in 1983, ending a bitter campaign where only 54% of eligible voters cast a ballot. Ireland’s eighth constitutional amendment “acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and [gave] due regard to the equal right to life of the mother.”

This religiously motivated anti-abortion measure is similar to religiously oriented anti-abortion laws already on the books in some U.S. states, including Texas, which has a ban after six weeks of pregnancy, and Kentucky, which limits private health insurance coverage of abortion.

What happened over the 35 years after the referendum passed in Ireland was a battle to legalize abortion. It included several court cases, proposed constitutional amendments and intense advocacy, ending in 2018 with another referendum, re-amending the Irish constitution to legalize abortion up to 12 weeks gestation.

Real-life consequences

Even before 1983, people who lived in Ireland who wanted a legal abortion were already traveling to England on what was known as the “abortion trail”, as abortion was also criminalized in Northern Ireland. In the wake of the Eighth Amendment, a 1986 Irish court ruling declared that even abortion counseling was prohibited.

A key test of the abortion law came in 1992. A 14-year-old rape victim, who became pregnant, told a court she was contemplating suicide because of being forced to carry her rapist’s baby. The judge ruled that the threat to her life was not so great as to justify granting permission for an abortion. That ruling barred her from leaving Ireland for nine months, effectively forcing her to carry the pregnancy to term.

On appeal, a higher court ruled that the young woman’s suicidal thoughts were in fact enough of a life threat to justify a legal termination. But before she could have an abortion, she miscarried.

The case prompted attempts to . . .

Continue reading. It’s grim.

Later in the article:

In 2012, Savita Halappanavar, age 31 and 17 weeks pregnant, went to a hospital in Galway, Ireland. Doctors there determined that she was having a miscarriage. However, because the fetus still had a detectable heartbeat, it was protected by the Eighth Amendment. Doctors could not intervene – in legal terms, ending its life – even to save the mother. So she was admitted to the hospital for pain management while awaiting the miscarriage to progress naturally.

Over the course of three days, as her pain increased and signs of infection grew, she and her husband pleaded with hospital officials to terminate the pregnancy because of the health risk. The request was denied because the fetus still had a heartbeat.

By the time the fetal heartbeat could no longer be detected, Halappanavar had developed a massive infection in her uterus, which spread to her blood. After suffering organ failure and four days in intensive care, she died.

This sort of thing will now be happening the US in those states that are banning abortion.

Malta

On June 22, 2022, Megan Clement and Weronika Strzyżyńska reported in the Guardian:

Doctors have denied an American woman on holiday in Malta a potentially life-saving abortion, despite saying her baby had a “zero chance” of survival after she was admitted to hospital with severe bleeding in her 16th week of pregnancy.

Despite an “extreme risk” of haemorrhage and infection, doctors at the Mater Dei hospital in Msida told Andrea Prudente that they would not perform a termination because of the country’s total ban on abortion.

Prudente and her husband are seeking a medical transfer from Malta to the UK, which the couple say is their only option due to the risk to her life. They claim medical staff were uncooperative in their attempts to leave and in sharing medical records with the couple’s insurance company.

“I just want to get out of here alive,” Prudente told the Guardian from her hospital room in Malta’s capital, Valletta. “I couldn’t in my wildest dreams have thought up a nightmare like this.”

Activists in Malta say . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 June 2022 at 2:44 pm

Keep sweet: Drawbacks of anger denial

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I am not an Evangelical, as readers doubtless know, but I found this account by an Evangelical woman quite intriguing. It’s subtitled “An airport outburst and failing to become a 1 Peter 3 woman,” and it begins:

D and I have been watching Keep Sweet: Pray & Obey on Netflix. The instruction given to Short Creek’s FLDS women—“keep sweet”—immediately reminded me of a teaching I also received as a girl:

Have a gentle and quiet spirit.

I don’t remember the first time I heard this message from the pulpit, nor the first time I memorized 1 Peter 3. What I do remember is how, in my college youth group, the boys—not yet in their 20s—were taught to pray for a wife who had achieved this disposition. A soft and agreeable spirit was, above all else, the most desirable trait a woman could have. Never mind the assumption from our leaders that most of us would be married, ideally to one another, in only a few years.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. (NIV)

By the time I was 19, my girlfriends and I had learned to mimic the cadences of our college pastors’ wives. We were surrounded by women in their late 20s/early 30s who looked and sounded like carbon copies of Kari Jobe. They had the “gentle and quiet” spirit thing down, like it was an accessory picked out at Target alongside suede booties and skinny jeans. We looked up to these women—for guidance in modest fashion, for help navigating physical boundaries with our boyfriends, and for how to achieve the desired gentle and quiet spirit disposition.

Part of this was measuring all feelings against the gentle woman barometer before allowing oneself to express them. If the feelings didn’t measure up, it was best to surrender them to God rather than give yourself space to feel them. Emotions like anger and rage didn’t fit into this gentle woman mold— vengeance is mine, says the Lord was the memorized canned scripture response from our leaders. And so I learned to push anger down early on for fear it would harden my heart or separate me from Jesus. Eventually, I got so good at ignoring anger and praying it away that I stopped recognizing the feeling. Anger simply became a low hum, hardly there. Or so I thought. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 June 2022 at 1:16 pm

How can those who oppose abortion also oppose strict gun laws? Are they pro-life? or just pro-forced birth?

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In Caroline Kitchener’s Washington Post report on the fallout from the state’s abortion ban (gift link, no paywall), she writes about state Rep. Todd Russ (R), one of the leading antiabortion members in the legislature.

Russ and his colleagues will often say, “If this saves one life, why would you not do it?”

Unless Russ and his colleagues are hypocritical posturers, they will for the same reason strongly support the five gun laws that research has shown to be effective at saving multiple lives (emphasis added in this quotation):

five baseline policies that every state should have.

Those are basically the three that we’ve talked about: a permitting mechanism, universal background check, and a limit on the magazine capacity. Number four is a law that basically says that anyone who has committed a violent crime — we don’t care what level it is — cannot access a gun. Not just a felony crime, but also a misdemeanor crime because federal law already prohibits people who committed a felony from possessing a gun. The problem is that there are a lot of violent crimes that just don’t rise to the felony level. For example, a lot of domestic violence crimes are just prosecuted as misdemeanors. A lot of crimes — somebody threatened to kill someone, or cyber harassment or stalking — are misdemeanors.

Then the fifth law that every state should have is a red flag law, or an extreme risk protection order law. That is so important because in most mass shootings, there is some warning sign that the perpetrator has given. It’s almost always the case that there was some history of threatened violence or planned violence. The red flag law allows law enforcement to take action when there is credible evidence that somebody does pose risk, and that may or may not be taking their gun away, but at the very least there’s an investigation and a court hearing that bring this to the attention of the authority so that it doesn’t sneak under the radar.

Are politicians who oppose abortion actually pro-life? If so, they will support those 5 laws. But I think most of them are not so much “pro-life” as “pro-forced birth.”

Written by Leisureguy

5 June 2022 at 3:24 am

When Your God Is a Gun

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The image above is from John Pavlovitz’s thoughtful post, which begins:

Christian.

To paraphrase a wise man, “They keep using that word. I do not think it means what they think it means.”

Every day my timeline is filled with God and Gun Christians.

The two words are frequently given the same place of adoration.

They are spoken of with kindred reverence.

They are allotted equal fervor.

God. Gun.

Those two words are used with such similar frequency on their social media bios, and often so tethered together in their conversations and in their sermons that they are inextricable. 

And what you realize if you pay attention, is that the God and the gun have been conflated: that they really only worship one of those; that only one has their hearts.

Whenever I see these posturing professed disciples of a heat-packin’ deity, whether friends, strangers, influencers, or politicians, I don’t need to know anything about them to be certain of one thing about them: they have no idea who Jesus is.

They may have an image on their wall or in their heads that they worship; one burned into their psyches by brimstone-breathing preachers and angry older relatives and NRA ad campaigns—but it sure as heck ain’t Jesus of Nazareth.

It is not the gentle, compassionate, open-hearted, non-violent rabbi Jesus who shunned retributive violence, who warned against eye-for-an-eye myopia, who preached the blessing of peace toward the world—and who allowed himself to be unfairly arrested and beaten and murdered, to show that love is the last, loudest word.

I feel deep sorrow for these people, because I see the scalding fear that they mistake for spiritual passion; the perverted narrative that plays in their heads that tells them danger lurks around every corner; the paradox of a God who protects them and yet compels them to strap a weapon to themselves because that God likely won’t.

What does it say about your faith or about the character of the God you profess that faith in, that you must be armed at all times: at the grocery store or picking up your child at day care—or the halls of Congress?

How do you reconcile a supreme and loving Creator you supposedly trust enough to go maskless in a deadly pandemic, but not enough to leave a weapon at home when you go to your son’s little league game?

What kind of exhausting theological gymnastics do you need to do, to . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2022 at 1:44 pm

Posted in Daily life, Guns, Religion

Religious faith as an antidote to gun violence

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Republican politicians are united in saying that gun restrictions will have no effect on gun violence. Michael A. Cohen writes in his Truth and Consequences column:

. . . “We have to harden these targets,” says Texas Lt. Gov Dan Patrick. Station armed guards at schools, says Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Meanwhile, an armed security guard was at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. There was an armed guard at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida. He hid for cover as a mass shooter killed 17 students and teachers.

In the Dayton shooting I mentioned above, the gunman was shot dead by police just 32 seconds after he opened fire. By then, he had already killed nine people and wounded seventeen. Are we supposed to take solace in that he didn’t kill more?

Patrick also went on Fox News to declare that the scourge of gun violence results from declining religious faith and “you just cannot change character without changing a heart, and you can’t do that without turning to God.”

Cohen than provides two interesting charts. The first is from the Pew Research Center. The chart at the link is interactive and by hovering the mouse over a state you get more detailed information.

The second is from the Centers for Disease Control. The chart is for 2020 (most recent year available), and at the site you can select other years and also click a state to get more detailed information.

Cohen’s column is worth reading, but it is evident that Texas Lt. Gov Dan Patrick is full of shit. “Harden the targets”? Really. Armed police are clearly not enough. Is he suggesting a Special Forces squad assigned to each school?

And if the community is religious it need not fear gun violence? Look at the charts. 

Texas Lt. Gov Dan Patrick is some combination of ignorant, deceptive, stupid, and scared.

And, for what it’s worth, Republicans in the Senate killed a bill to combat domestic terrorism (gift link, no paywall). Apparently Senate Republicans support domestic terrorism. 

Written by Leisureguy

26 May 2022 at 12:43 pm

A clear statement reflecting the doctrine of the Catholic church

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What follows is a Twitter thread that accurately and succinctly states what the Catholic church teaches about the sacrament of Holy Communion:


.
This letter from a Catholic Priest friend says it all about Arch Bishop Cordileone’s latest misguided decision [to bar Nancy Pelosi from Communion because she supports the right of women to make their own medical choices]:

“I want to write a longer piece about those bishops who seek to keep some from the table of Christ, but for now I will say this: it is not your table (nor mine)… 1/5

Bishops, priests, etc. are neither the hosts nor the bouncers nor the ones who wrote the guest list. The Eucharist is the resurrected body of Christ given for the life of the world… 2/5

Jesus Christ is the one who invites the guests (“all you who labor”); he is the host of those who come; he is the setter of the table; and he is the feast which is shared (“Take this, all of you. this is my body, this is my blood”)… 3/5

We are guests at the meal, and sometimes (by his calling) servers. So stay in your lane, please. The wait staff doesn’t get to exclude those who want to come. If you don’t like the company Christ calls (and, admittedly, it is a rag tag bunch of sinners, one and all), it’s… 4/5

you who need to leave the table, not them.” 5/5

Originally tweeted by Rep. Mike Thompson (@RepThompson) on 21 May 2022.

Written by Leisureguy

26 May 2022 at 9:44 am

Christianity and what it means to some

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Written by Leisureguy

23 May 2022 at 9:07 am

A thought about advocating for the unborn

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Dave Barnhart, a traditional Christian pastor, wrote:

“The unborn” are a convenient group of people to advocate for. They never make demands of you; they are morally uncomplicated, unlike the incarcerated, addicted, or the chronically poor; they don’t resent your condescension or complain that you are not politically correct; unlike widows, they don’t ask you to question patriarchy; unlike orphans, they don’t need money, education, or childcare; unlike aliens, they don’t bring all that racial, cultural, and religious baggage that you dislike; they allow you to feel good about yourself without any work at creating or maintaining relationships; and when they are born, you can forget about them, because they cease to be unborn. It’s almost as if, by being born, they have died to you. You can love the unborn and advocate for them without substantially challenging your own wealth, power, or privilege, without reimagining social structures, apologizing, or making reparations to anyone. They are, in short, the perfect people to love if you want to claim you love Jesus but actually dislike people who breathe.

Prisoners? Immigrants? The sick? The poor? Widows? Orphans? All the groups that are specifically mentioned in the Bible? They all get thrown under the bus for the unborn.

Jesus never mentioned abortion, though it was practiced in the day, nor did He ever mention homosexuality. It’s as if He did not consider those of any importance.

Written by Leisureguy

3 May 2022 at 9:33 am

Posted in Daily life, Law, Religion

Why the School Wars Still Rage

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In the New Yorker of March 14, 2022, Jill Lepore has an article directly related to the Washington Post article in the previous post. These school wars are, to my mind, exactly why some so strongly resist the introduction of critical thinking skills into the school curriculum: they at some level recognize that their own positions and beliefs will not stand up to critical, reasoned thinking.

Just as some do not want some scientific theories taught, or certain books read or analyzed, they also do not want students to learn thinking skills that might call into question ideas strongly embraced. In particular such parents do not want their own children learning — and even worse, practicing — critical thinking skills.

Those who lack such skills do have strong feelings, and generally they are keenly aware that they have a right to those feelings. They do not understand the benefits of subjecting one’s feelings to questioning and reasoning and logic, particularly when they view those feelings as part of their identity. One advantage of a liberal education is that students routinely subject their own feelings and ideas to this sort of critical thinking, and in so doing they acquire familiarity with the process and know from experience that it is not so threatening or harmful as those who have not tried such an exercise imagine, that instead the exercise leads to the shedding of failed ideas and a deeper understanding of the ideas that survive.

One advantage of manmade physical structures — say, a building or a motorcycle or a loaf of bread — is that when they fail, the failure is physically evident and hard to deny. The failure of a manmade cultural structure — an idea or philosophy — is not physically visible and, for those who have made the idea a part of their identify, impossible to see because the threat to self were the idea to fail. The stakes are so high that failure is not an option, and they will cling to the idea and reject every argument — however strong, however obvious — against it because they feel if they idea fails they will no longer exist as who they are. That is, growth and change are threats to be avoided, not things to be explored and potentially embraced.

In the list of books I frequently recommend is a book by Daniel Goleman, Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception, that explains why and how people will avoid seeing things that cause psychological pain. It’s worth reading; the link is to inexpensive secondhand editions.

Lepore writes:

In 1925, Lela V. Scopes, twenty-eight, was turned down for a job teaching mathematics at a high school in Paducah, Kentucky, her home town. She had taught in the Paducah schools before going to Lexington to finish college at the University of Kentucky. But that summer her younger brother, John T. Scopes, was set to be tried for the crime of teaching evolution in a high-school biology class in Dayton, Tennessee, in violation of state law, and Lela Scopes had refused to denounce either her kin or Charles Darwin. It didn’t matter that evolution doesn’t ordinarily come up in an algebra class. And it didn’t matter that Kentucky’s own anti-evolution law had been defeated. “Miss Scopes loses her post because she is in sympathy with her brother’s stand,” the Times reported.

In the nineteen-twenties, legislatures in twenty states, most of them in the South, considered thirty-seven anti-evolution measures. Kentucky’s bill, proposed in 1922, had been the first. It banned teaching, or countenancing the teaching of, “Darwinism, atheism, agnosticism, or the theory of evolution in so far as it pertains to the origin of man.” The bill failed to pass the House by a single vote. Tennessee’s law, passed in 1925, made it a crime for teachers in publicly funded schools “to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.” Scopes challenged the law deliberately, as part of an effort by the A.C.L.U. to bring a test case to court. His trial, billed as the trial of the century, was the first to be broadcast live on the radio. It went out across the country, to a nation, rapt.

A century later, the battle over public education that afflicted the nineteen-twenties has started up again, this time over the teaching of American history. Since 2020, with the murder of George Floyd and the advance of the Black Lives Matter movement, seventeen states have made efforts to expand the teaching of one sort of history, sometimes called anti-racist history, while thirty-six states have made efforts to restrict that very same kind of instruction. In 2020, Connecticut became the first state to require African American and Latino American history. Last year, Maine passed “An Act to Integrate African American Studies into American History Education,” and Illinois added a requirement mandating a unit on Asian American history.

On the blackboard on the other side of the classroom are scrawled what might be called anti-anti-racism measures. Some ban the Times’ 1619 Project, or ethnic studies, or training in diversity, inclusion, and belonging, or the bugbear known as critical race theory. Most, like a bill recently introduced in West Virginia, prohibit “race or sex stereotyping,” “race or sex scapegoating,” and the teaching of “divisive concepts”—for instance, the idea that “the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist,” or that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”

While all this has been happening, I’ve been working on a U.S.-history textbook, so it’s been weird to watch lawmakers try their hands at writing American history, and horrible to see what the ferment is doing to public-school teachers. In Virginia, Governor Glenn Youngkin set up an e-mail tip line “for parents to send us any instances where they feel that their fundamental rights are being violated . . . or where there are inherently divisive practices in their schools.” There and elsewhere, parents are harassing school boards and reporting on teachers, at a time when teachers, who earn too little and are asked to do too much, are already exhausted by battles over remote instruction and mask and vaccine mandates and, not least, by witnessing, without being able to repair, the damage the pandemic has inflicted on their students. Kids carry the burdens of loss, uncertainty, and shaken faith on their narrow shoulders, tucked inside their backpacks. Now, with schools open and masks coming off, teachers are left trying to figure out not only how to care for them but also what to teach, and how to teach it, without losing their jobs owing to complaints filed by parents.

There’s a rock, and a hard place, and then there’s a classroom. Consider the dilemma of teachers in New Mexico. In January, the month before the state’s Public Education Department finalized a new social-studies curriculum that includes a unit on inequality and justice in which students are asked to “explore inequity throughout the history of the United States and its connection to conflict that arises today,” Republican lawmakers proposed a ban on teaching “the idea that social problems are created by racist or patriarchal societal structures and systems.” The law, if passed, would make the state’s own curriculum a crime.

Evolution is a theory of change. But in February—a hundred years, nearly to the day, after the Kentucky legislature debated the nation’s first anti-evolution bill—Republicans in Kentucky introduced a bill that mandates the teaching of twenty-four historical documents, beginning with the 1620 Mayflower Compact and ending with Ronald Reagan’s 1964 speech “A Time for Choosing.” My own account of American history ends with the 2021 insurrection at the Capitol, and “The Hill We Climb,” the poem that Amanda Gorman recited at Joe Biden’s Inauguration. “Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: / That even as we grieved, we grew.”

Did we, though? In the nineteen-twenties, the curriculum in question was biology; in the twenty-twenties, it’s history. Both conflicts followed a global pandemic and fights over public education that pitted the rights of parents against the power of the state. It’s not clear who’ll win this time. It’s not even clear who won last time. But the distinction between these two moments is less than it seems: what was once contested as a matter of biology—can people change?—has come to be contested as a matter of history. Still, this fight isn’t really about history. It’s about political power. Conservatives believe they can win midterm elections, and maybe even the Presidency, by whipping up a frenzy about “parents’ rights,” and many are also in it for another long game, a hundred years’ war: the campaign against public education.

Before states began deciding what schools would require—from textbooks to vaccines—they had to require children to attend school. That happened in the Progressive era, early in the past century, when a Progressive strain ran through not only the Progressive Party but also the Republican, Democratic, Socialist, and Populist Parties. Lela and John Scopes grew up in Paducah, but they spent part of their childhood in Illinois, which, in 1883, became one of the first states in the Union to make school attendance compulsory. By 1916, nearly every state had mandated school attendance, usually between the ages of six and sixteen. Between 1890 and 1920, a new high school opened every day.

Some families objected, citing “parental rights,” a legal novelty, but courts broadly upheld compulsory-education laws, deeming free public schooling to be essential to democratic citizenship. “The natural rights of a parent to the custody and control of his infant child are subordinate to the power of the state, and may be restricted and regulated by municipal laws,” the Indiana Supreme Court ruled in 1901, characterizing a parent’s duty to educate his children as a “duty he owes not to the child only, but to the commonwealth.” As Tracy Steffes argues in “School, Society, and State: A New Education to Govern Modern America, 1890-1940” (2012), “Public schooling was not just one more progressive reform among many but a major—perhaps the major—public response to tensions between democracy and capitalism.” Capitalism divided the rich and the poor; democracy required them to live together as equals. Public education was meant to bridge the gap, as wide as the Cumberland.

Beginning in the eighteen-nineties, states also introduced textbook laws, in an attempt to wrest control of textbook publishing from what Progressives called “the book trust”—a conglomerate of publishers known as the American Book Company. Tennessee passed one of these laws in 1899: it established a textbook commission that selected books for adoption. The biology book Scopes used to teach his students was a textbook that Tennessee had adopted, statewide, at a time when it made high school compulsory.

“Each year the child is coming to belong more and more to . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

18 April 2022 at 7:34 am

“Unfollow”: Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church

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Tom Stafford writes at Reasonable People:

Westboro Baptist Church is a small faith-based community from Topeka, Kansas. Their white church building is surrounded by the homes of families who are part of the Church. They are a SPLC designated hate group, who you may know from their inflammatorily named website – godhatesfags.com – or from their devoted picketing of the funerals of US soldiers killed abroad.

They are still going. On May 4th 2022 they are picketing the T-Mobile Centre in Kansas City, because Justin Bieber is playing there. You can read their blog and hear about how deaths in Ukraine, or new coronavirus variants, reflect God’s Judgement on a sinful world.

Megan-Phelps Roper is the granddaughter of the founder of the church, and spent 26 years with the church. She was, as she self-describes, “all in”: picketing, proselytising, giving interviews and leading the charge of the Church’s flamboyant social media presence.

In November 2012 she left the church, her family, and the absolute certainty of their doctrine. Unfollow is her autobiography, the story of her life and the history of her coming to the realisation that her beliefs, however fervently held, were wrong.

Unfollow gives an up close view of what it was like inside a group whose beliefs are dramatically at odds with wider society. The Church’s beliefs seem so extreme, their commitment to alienating themselves from the mainstream so complete, that I found myself surprised with some of what Phelps-Roper described about Westboro Baptist Church.

I though a hate group would be dominated by hate – by cruelty, misery and paranoia. Instead, Phelps-Roper describes a childhood which had many idyllic elements. She lived with her large extended family (one of eleven siblings!) and fellow church members, with routines dominated by service (such as picketing) but also lots of fun, laughter and love. Meals and parties. The extent of her love for her family shines on every page, and you can read the whole book as a letter of explanation to family still in the church (including, as far as I know, her parents and the majority of her siblings). Unfollow also describes authoritarian, cruel and psychologically manipulative elements to her upbringing, but the extent – and sustaining joy – of the tight, loving, family bonds were not what I expected, even if they make sense (since Church members tried to provoke the rest of the world, obviously they would need to stick tight together).

I thought a hate group would be closed to outside influences, but it seems the Church welcomed them in. They were so confident in their rightness that they didn’t see any need to ban modern influences like Hollywood movies or pop music. In fact, all the better for Church members to develop their hurtful parodies of current events and popular culture. Elton John’s “Candle in the wind” was rewritten as “Harlot full of sin” by the Church so they could celebrate the death of Princess Diana . Phelps-Roper’s description of the joyful siblings singing . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

8 April 2022 at 12:38 pm

Ginni Thomas points to a hidden Jan. 6 truth

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Greg Sargent writes in the Washington Post:

Buried in the explosive news that Virginia Thomas aggressively advocated for Donald Trump’s coup attempt is a choice revelation: The spouse of Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas texted with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about Jesus Christ’s otherworldly role in delivering the election to Trump.

Meadows texted to Ginni Thomas that the “King of Kings” would ultimately “triumph” in the quest to overturn the election, which Meadows characterized as “a fight of good versus evil.” Thomas, a longtime conservative activist, replied: “Thank you!! Needed that!”

This sparked serious consternation on “Morning Joe,” with host Joe Scarborough delivering an emotional diatribe about it. “Think about the sickness of this,” Scarborough said Friday. “He summons the name of Jesus Christ for his help in overturning American democracy!”

The sentiment is understandable. But what this level of shock really indicates is this: We haven’t paid enough attention to the role of right-wing Christian nationalism in driving Trump’s effort to destroy our political order, and in the abandonment of democracy among some on the right more broadly.

In invoking Jesus’ support for Trump’s effort to overturn the election, Meadows — who handled evangelical outreach in the White House — was not merely making an offhand comment. He was speaking in a vein that has held wide currency among the Christian nationalist right throughout the Trump years, right through the insurrection attempt.

Sarah Posner, a scholar of the Christian right, has extensively documented the role of that movement in supporting and lending grass-roots energy to the effort to overturn the election procedurally, and even in fomenting the insurrection itself.

The rhetoric from the Christian right about Trump has long sounded very much like that exchange between Meadows and Thomas. In a piece tracing that rhetoric, Posner concludes that for many on the Christian right, Trump was “anointed” by God as “the fulfillment of a long-sought goal of restoring the United States as a Christian nation.”

In this narrative, Trump — despite his glaring and repugnant personal imperfections — became the vessel to carry out the struggle to defeat various godless and secularist infestations of the idealized Christian nation, from the woke to globalists to communists to the “deep state.”

This culminated with the effort to overturn the election and the lead-up to the Jan. 6 rally that morphed into the mob assault. As Posner documents, Christian-right activists developed a “bellicose Christian narrative in defense of Trump’s coup attempt,” investing it with biblical significance and casting it as “holy war against an illegitimate state.”

That illegitimate state, of course, is our democracy. And so, when Thomas and Meadows text about the religious dimensions of the coup attempt, they’re echoing much of what we’ve long heard from the Christian right about it.

“Evil always looks like the victor until the King of Kings triumphs,” Meadows texted to Thomas. “Do not grow weary.”

Thomas, who played a key role in trying to subvert Trump’s loss as a leader of a group that included various Christian-right elements, sounded similarly messianic tones in her texts. She invoked the need to “stand firm” with the “Great President,” whose might and glory were keeping America from plunging into “the precipice.”

“Meadows’s text to Thomas, and her grateful and enthusiastic reply, demonstrates how the pair saw themselves as soldiers in this spiritual battle from which they should never retreat,” Posner told me, adding that this is “representative of rhetoric” that has long “permeated Trump’s base.”

To be fair, some Christian voices roundly condemned the Jan. 6 violence. But on the day itself, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 March 2022 at 2:23 pm

Theology Interlude: On the Possibilities, Limits, and Infinities of the God described in the Bible

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I just recently came across Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg’s substack Life Is a Sacred Text, and I find them thought-provoking. I continue to think that Gods come to us via cultural evolution, and asking “Which is the true God?” is like asking “Which is the true language?” or “Which is the true shoe?”

Still, religion and theology remain interesting and in many ways valuable, just as do other entitles that have evolved through memetic/cultural evolution, such as jazz, snooker, medicine, and cooking.

Rabbi Ruttenberg writes:

We’re a few weeks into this project, and I think I need to pause and take a moment to talk a little more directly about God, and the character of God as depicted in the Torah/Bible. Which, at least for me, aren’t necessarily always the same thing.

I know that for some people, it’s really important to be able to track how every verse in the Bible can be totally consistent with every other verse in the Bible and also their theology, but that’s never been my jam, honestly.

I was an atheist student of religion long before I was ever a religious Jew.1  Which means that before all this stuff meant anything to me personally, I was taught about Biblical criticism–the theory that there were multiple authors of the Bible, coming from different perspectives, with possibly different agendas, whose words were all eventually redacted (edited) into one cohesive document. Or, perhaps, there was an earlier base text, with later additions by redactors–there are different theories about all this.

And for some people, this approach is harmonious with the idea of divine revelation, divine inspiration, or theophany in a myriad of ways, and for others, it’s more about sacred myth and history. But regardless of how you slice it, the idea that, somehow, the stories of the people of the Ancient Near East exist in and through Torah in many multilayered and winding ways was something that I was first taught many, many years ago. And I came to religious Judaism with this as my foundation.

The French philosopher Paul Ricœur talked about a “second naïveté,” the ability to see meaning, truth, and perhaps God shining through the words of the Bible after immersion in these potentially cynicism-inducing theories.

I never had much of a first naïveté, I suppose–a more literalist approach to Bible–but by the time I got over to understanding the exquisite power of Judaism, the way Torah could inform and transform my own life—it was already OK with me that God in the Torah wasn’t necessarily always going to be acting like the God I’d begun to meet in prayer, in mystical encounters, in the woods and on my long, winding walks outside at night.

I mean, sometimes, yes!  Sometimes it all felt clear and easy–divine as redeemer, divine as comforter, that tracked for me.  And sometimes it wasn’t clear and easy–but that lack of obvious path could be an invitation, rather than a dealbreaker.

(Eventually we’ll get to the whole business about how Jacob is renamed Israel, the one who wrestles with God. But needless to say, God-wrestling is what we do.)

Sometimes our relationship to the God that was described in Biblical verses was going to be more complex and nuanced than our culture has trained us to see– and perhaps the expansive, transcendent Infinite was not, was never, Zeus the Angry Sky Daddy.

In fact, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 March 2022 at 5:49 pm

Posted in Daily life, Religion

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