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: http://www.ncpastors.net/contact/
Sam Rohrer, American Pastors Network
Email: info@papastors.net
ACT for America, Hickory NC chapter
Email: actforamericahickory@gmail.com
Tom Wallace, Fortress of Faith Ministries
Email: Tom@fortressoffaith.org
Jerry Gamble, Pastor at Mount Home Baptist in Morganton
Email: preacher@mounthomebaptist.org
Mark Creech, Christian Action League
Email: office@christianactionleague.org
Twitter: @markcreech
Dave Doster, Pastor at Burke Community Bible Church in Morganton
Email: bcbc@directus.net
Jeff Setzer, President at Creation Family Ministries in Hickory
Email: creationfamin@yahoo.com
Tony Bunton, Pastor at Yadkin Baptist in Statesville
Email: yadkinbaptist1@yadkinbc.org
Robert Setzer, Pastor at Ambassador Baptist in Hudson
Email: rsetzer@ambassadorbaptistchurch.org
Bud Jernigan, Pastor at Mulls Grove Baptist in Morganton
Email: MGBChurch@att.net
Marty Bess, Grace Baptist in Morganton
Email: devinh@charter.net

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. For reactions from members of the Catawba Valley Interfaith Council, see the comments section.

My letter to the editor was published in the print-only edition of today's HDR:
I applaud Rev. Walker and Rev. MacDicken for their swift reactions (HDR, 2/1/2016) to the "Understanding Islam" advertisement being run in your paper by some local Christian pastors, ACT for America, the North Carolina Pastors Network, and others. When a paid advertisement (by clergy) must ensure readers that the advertisers (clergy) are not "bigoted, hateful, or intolerant" one is reminded of that famous quote often misattributed to P.T. Barnum about a sucker being born every minute. On the other hand, maybe they are onto something? Have you noticed how the NFL switched from Roman to Arabic numerals for the Superbowl this year? Coincidence?

But seriously, the hubris displayed in the advertisement also reminded me of one of my favorite lines from the Peanuts cartoon:

"[Charles] Schulz was a deeply spiritual man, as evidenced by the many times he quoted the Bible in his [Peanuts] strip. But he had little patience for those who claimed to have all the answers. In a 1976 strip Snoopy is seen writing a book on theology called 'Has It Ever Occurred to You That You Might Be Wrong?' Schulz loved that punch line so much he used it again in 1980 when Linus concluded a Bible class by asking the teacher the same question" (Chicago Tribune, November 14, 2004).

I doubt that the advertisers (or Daesh for that matter) have seriously considered this possibility, and I would submit that this is what we should all fear the most. Ubi dubium ibi libertas!


Duane Muhammad
Image Credit: HDR

Saturday, January 9, 2016

"Has It Ever Occurred to You That You Might Be Wrong?" - Snoopy

"I do not go to church anymore... I guess you might say I've come around to secular humanism, an obligation I believe all humans have to others and the world we live in."
 - Charles Schultz (1989)
The Kansas City Star just ran a nice piece by Helen Stringer with the Kansas City Oasis about how "people are more important than beliefs." You'd be hard pressed to find a better and more succinct definition of humanism. It captures the idea that you can be a BuddhistJewish, or Christian humanist, or you can be a secular (atheist or agnostic) humanist; however, it also suggests that beliefs should be questioned and revised (or abandoned) when they conflict with humanism. Doubt and skepticism are essential elements of my own secular humanism, so I was also pleased to discover this gem yesterday via a local Presbyterian minister I follow on Facebook:

"Schulz was a deeply spiritual man, as evidenced by the many times he quoted the Bible in his strip. But he had little patience for those who claimed to have all the answers. In a 1976 strip Snoopy is seen writing a book on theology called "Has It Ever Occurred to You That You Might Be Wrong?" Schulz loved that punch line so much he used it again in 1980 when Linus concluded a Bible class by asking the teacher the same question."
 - Michael Schuman. "'Peanuts' fans find nirvana in Schulz museum." Chicago Tribune. 
While we're on the topic, if you haven't watched it already I highly recommend Kathryn Schulz's Ted Talk on being wrong. Ubi dubium ibi libertas! And remember, you can be an atheist and a Presbyterian and still be a humanist! You can even be introduced to humanism by a Muslim...if you are willing to connect and believe people are more important than beliefs.

Friday, January 1, 2016

What's dhat? Your tai chi sifu is worried about the magic in your man-juice?

I finally got around to creating this page on tai chi to try to separate the wheat from the chaff, and I know you can't wait to learn more about coitus reservatus - semen retention, karezza, or the "magic in your man-juice." So here you go... it's also called dhat!

Happy New Year! :)



Or perhaps you'd like the book?


Seminal Retention and Higher Consciousness by JJ Semple
Seminal Retention and Higher Consciousness by JJ Semple