Sunday, February 7, 2016

Some thoughts on Super Bowl 50 from Denver, NC

Original Image Credit: CBS Philly
It's almost like Christmas (or the release of a new Star Wars movie) "where you can't go anywhere without listening to the same music...where all broadcasts, all songs, all jokes, all references, are - just for that magic few weeks - just exactly like living in fucking North Korea" (Christopher Hitchens). I live a couple miles north of Denver, NC and went to high school in Maiden (the "biggest little football town in the world"). The cafeteria workers at my office (in Charlotte) wear Panthers shirts every Friday. My Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of black cats and pleas to #KeepPounding.

From the local news...

WBTV News is your home of Super Bowl 50! Get complete Carolina Panthers coverage from our team heading to California: ...
Posted by WBTV News on Friday, January 29, 2016

To mental health PSAs...

TGIF! Anyone getting anything done today? #KeepPounding Carolina Panthers coverage:
Posted by WBTV News on Friday, February 5, 2016

And local weather forecasts...

SUPER BOWL FORECAST: Chris Larson WBTV tells us what we can expect » #KeepPounding #SB50
Posted by WBTV News on Thursday, February 4, 2016

Or churches and synagogues (for charity apparently, but still)...

You can't really go anywhere right now without encountering this moral abomination or the signs of denial. Needless to say, I'm not watching it and will be happy when it's all over...
"But I’m not optimistic that my personal boycott and call for reform will catch on. As evidence about the long-term brain damage being done to players on the field has become increasingly convincing, viewership for the NFL has only gone up. People don’t seem to care that by casting their eyes on it all season long, they are saying that the mortal violence that football espouses — in its current form — is acceptable.
It’s not acceptable. It’s inhumane. It’s a modern-day Roman Coliseum, a gladiatorial spectacle that ends with heads on a platter — in a lab being sliced open to see what went wrong. And, with every bloodthirsty cheer, we speed these fine young men on to that fate. But not me. Not anymore. I’m done."
 - Rev. Noah Van Niel, Episcopal priest and former fullback for the Harvard Crimson varsity football team, class of 2008.
Noah was a panelist in today's Super Bowl Sunday discussion about this issue at the Humanist Hub. It's worth 30 minutes of your time.

Update: Game over. Broncos won 24 - 10 (Newton didn't score any points). Let the conspiracy theories begin...

The woman who has continued to update her church's sign with supportive messages for the Carolina Panthers has these...
Posted by WSOC-TV on Monday, February 8, 2016

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A humanist wants me to read Bill Warner (French)

In response to my last post, a humanist suggested that I must familiarize myself with the writings of Bill Warner (Bill French) and related crusaders - otherwise I have "effectively pulled out of informed conversation about the issues at hand."

Bill Warner (French)
Oy vey, I think I'll let Bill speak for himself - apparently there's a lot of money in it...

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Open Letter to Local Christian Right Pastors: How to Be Better Haters of Evil

Image Credit: NC Pastors Network
If we propose some principle that is to be applied to antagonists, then we must agree -- in fact, strenuously insist -- that the principle apply to us as well. Those who do not rise even to this minimal level of integrity plainly cannot be taken seriously when they speak of right and wrong, good and evil...
 - Noam Chomsky 

My local newspaper just ran a paid advertisement by a group of self-described "committed followers of Christ" writing ostensibly about (wait for it...) "Understanding Islam." These (mostly Baptist) pastors - including members of the American Pastors Network and a local chapter of ACT for America - want you to be sure to understand that they are not "bigoted, hateful, or intolerant." Their "clarion corrections" are simply "presented in an effort to state the truth" about Islam, namely that:
  • "Islam" means "submission" (via violence if necessary) - not "peace."
  • Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God
  • Jesus was not a Muslim.
  • Most "acts of terror" are committed by Muslims.
  • All terrorist groups have "100% Muslim membership."
  • Terrorist groups are the "very essence of [Islam]."
The advertisement is signed by a number of pastors in my local area, and I think their own words aptly demonstrate why they "plainly cannot be taken seriously when they speak of right and wrong, good and evil" (Chomsky). And yet I know all too well that some people do take them seriously. I also take them at their word that they want to be better haters of evil. So I want to focus here on what they left out of their advert.

These concerned Christians had nothing to say about cruelty and violence in the Bible - which (just like with Islam) is dependent on interpretation - or anti-government summer camps in the U.S. "where God's Word and patriotism go hand in hand." They were silent about Ammon Bundy, Dylann Roof, Robert Dear, Eric Rudolph, Timothy McVeigh, the Bundy Militia, the Army of God, Concerned Christians, the Lord's Resistance Army, and the growing right-wing terror threat in the U.S. Their advertisement didn't include any condemnation of presidential candidates openly promising to commit war crimes, and they offered no comfort for holocaust survivors concerned about the current tone of political rhetoric in our country. And like Obama, they also didn't tell us that we have a miniscule risk of dying in a terrorist attack in the U.S., or that our current national panic about terrorism is not rational.

They didn't explain that Sikhs are not Muslims or that Muslim taxi drivers in Pittsburgh are probably not ISIS. They didn't encourage or denounce armed protests at Islamic houses of worship. And they didn't say anything at all about the Charleston church massacre or the subsequent appearance of confederate battle flags all over our area.

Finally, and most notably, they said nothing about religious freedom or interfaith dialogue - and they did not mention stochastic terrorism. Perhaps they should take a hard look in the mirror and address some of these issues in a future advertisement if they really want us to take them seriously when they talk about good and evil. I'm not holding my breath.

Dylann Roof
Non-Muslim, captured in Shelby, NC.
Image Credit: New York Times

Robert Dear
Non-Muslim, lived in Black Mountain, NC.
Image Credit: NBC News

Take action: Please consider writing a letter to the editor of the Hickory Daily Record (HDR) about this advert. You can submit your letter here. If you are aware of this ad running in any other papers, please leave the details in the comments. If you'd like to send comments to the pastors directly (please be polite and respectful), here's some contact info that I have been able to find so far:

Dave Kistler & Ken Carrico, NC Pastors Network
Web form:
Sam Rohrer, American Pastors Network
ACT for America, Hickory NC chapter
Tom Wallace, Fortress of Faith Ministries
Jerry Gamble, Pastor at Mount Home Baptist in Morganton
Mark Creech, Christian Action League
Twitter: @markcreech
Dave Doster, Pastor at Burke Community Bible Church in Morganton
Jeff Setzer, President at Creation Family Ministries in Hickory
Tony Bunton, Pastor at Yadkin Baptist in Statesville
Robert Setzer, Pastor at Ambassador Baptist in Hudson
Bud Jernigan, Pastor at Mulls Grove Baptist in Morganton
Marty Bess, Grace Baptist in Morganton

Update 2/3: I just found out that this paid advertisement was apparently run in response to this nice piece (except for the bit about evolution) about Duane Muhammad - a long-time personal friend and a Muslim. This is according to the Christian reporter who wrote the article (and the comment below from one of the advertisers' fervent supporters).

Update 2/4: The Christian Action League (one of the advertisers) has now confirmed that their advert was indeed in response to the HDR piece about Duane Muhammad, which was prompted by his participation in the recent interfaith celebration of human rights that I attended with several other members of the Hickory Humanist Alliance in December. They are apparently planning to run the same ad in the Morganton News Herald. My letter to the editor was in today's print edition of the HDR. For reactions from other members of the Catawba Valley Interfaith Council, see the comments section.

Duane Muhammad
Image Credit: HDR