Friendly Atheist calls out a scripture-festooned gay-basher for blatant cherrypicking of scripture. [h/t Hal Davis]
The Aspen Times writes about sudden aspen decline — the trees, not the town — and is careful not to push the climate change angle too hard. Same with the New York Times. (It wrote basically the same story three years ago.) The LA Times emphasizes the connection with this lede:
From the hillsides of extinct volcanoes in Arizona to the jagged peaks of Idaho, aspen trees are falling by the tens of thousands, the latest example of how climate change is dramatically altering the American West.
Starting seven years ago, foresters noticed massive aspen die-offs caused by parasitical insects, one of them so rare it is hardly even written about in scientific literature. But with warming temperatures and the effects of a brutal drought still lingering, the parasites are flourishing at the expense of the tree, beloved for its slender branches and heart-shaped leaves that turn a brilliant yellow in autumn.
And commenters, of course, put it all in perspective:
It's a damn tree. Only liberals would get their panties in a twist over a tree.
Now-Rep. Keith Ellison was just one lesser-known voice in a giant field of contenders at a district convention, vying to replace long-time 5th District Rep. Martin Sabo when I wrote this.
Other candidates had programmed pauses in which to insert applause; Ellison was the only one to consistently receive it. Yes, he was the first to speak, but discounting hometowner Junge, he was the only Congressional candidate to win his own delegate.
In general, I'm not a big fan of the "I will fight for..." campaign rhetoric Ellison employed. But that's because it often turns out to be just rhetoric. And real fighters aren't very effective on the everyday work of governing.But the party needs fighters with a clue. I think Ellison qualifies. We don't need a safe candidate to attract swing voters in this district. We need someone who can make us glad we're progressive.
I caucused for Ellison and got him that delegate. I donated early to his first campaign. As far as I can tell, I was the first blogger to support him. He's my representative, and I still like the guy.
As far as I'm concerned, the public should pay for trips that are necessary in carrying out Congressional duties. If public money is insufficient, and corporate and trade group interests think such trips are vital, they can contribute to a blind trust to fund them. And make members who draw the funds justify the trips as doing public business.
Otherwise, they don't fly.
Look, I know how it goes. I worked for the military industrial complex and produced a video program that interviewed Sen. Dan Quayle on defense issues, for example. We knew what we were doing, just like every other moneyed interest does when it cultivates relationships with elected officials through trips, conferences, etc.
It was perfectly legal, even if it wasn't fair.
So, no matter how much it may have enlarged his faith or his understanding of middle east relations, I do not like my representative accepting support for a personal trip and then getting cute about what he will disclose.
Either disclose everything, Keith, or don't do it.
A recent comment left on an old post about Kenneth Copeland reminded me it has been nearly six months since we checked in on him and the other five Prosperity Gospel evangelists being investigated by Sen. Charles Grassley.
And there's not much new to report on the Grassley Six. Although Grassley has put himself back in the news with this.
Obama used his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday to call on Congress to enact legislation to reform the health-care system.
Grassley responded by texting, "Pres Obama you got nerve while u sightseeing in Paris to tell us 'time to deliver' on health care. We still on skedul/even workinWKEND."
A short time later, Grassley sent, "Pres Obama while u sightseeing in Paris u said 'time to delivr on healthcare' When you are a 'hammer' u think evrything is NAIL I'm no NAIL."
A Grassley spokeswoman verified that the senator wrote the messages.
It may be that some elected officials do tweet. But when you figure John McCain was still learning how to get on the internet a year ago, how many of these cosseted old farts, who have staffers write their speeches, committee statements, correspondence and bills, do you think could even snap a picture with their cell phones, let alone figure out Twitter?
Meanwhile, Benny Hinn is touring Africa. In Uganda, he charged the equivalent of $50 to those attending his healing show, and his host pastor commented: “these days even the word of God is not for free.”
Joyce Meyer Ministries, always the most cooperative with Grassley's committee and disclosing more than any of the Six, has met the standards of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), the Christian accreditation agency that oversees the financial accountability, fund-raising and board governance of many leading Christian nonprofit organizations.
I spent the morning at the Day Center and then at the Food Pantry. Highlight of the first shift was listening to three women discussing the various fine points of double jeopardy, then providing two of the women envelopes, paper and stamps for correspondence to men in detention facilities.
One woman returned the sheet of paper to me as if I were an idiot. "I want lined paper. I'm writing a letter, not drawing a picture!"
Good to have that one for future reference.
I've also been acquainting myself with low cost foodstuffs during time between filling orders. Our Beef and Chicken Rice Mix packages come from Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. The Beef Ravioli comes from Second Harvest of Middle Tennessee, with the catchy slogan on the back: "Non-Profit Serving Non-Profit Serving Hungry People."
The vegetable soup comes from the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints in Salt Lake City. The label advises our guests can visit www.providentliving.org for advice on self-reliant living, which I'm sure many would do if the wireless connection just reached down to their camp by the river.
Guests come in for various types of assistance, and my job is putting together three meals each for three days for those who the counselors determine need help with food. For one or two people, it's a pretty simple process, heavy on rice, canned goods, tuna, generic Cheerios (No Cap'n Crunch!), peanut butter and assorted other items to fill out the order.
Things can get a bit complicated when an extended family is getting help, since you're trying to integrate nutrition, variety, ages and larger quantities with the stock available. We always have peanut butter, but not always bread, for example. And some guests have no cooking facilities, or they're walking and can't carry a lot of canned goods.
All we had for non-canned meat product today were the same two frozen containers (chicken livers and tripe) that were there last week. Midmorning, someone cleaning out their freezer brought in a reasonable stock of roasts, steak and stew meat. I forgot to take a picture of the elk steak from 2003. The newest package was dated February 2007.
I suppose some person went home feeling good and maybe planned to claim a charitable deduction. No one got the meat, unless there are some brave dumpster divers out there.
The Outreach Center is church affiliated, though not all volunteers and staff belong to the Catholic Church. They do not push religion in any way on the people coming through the doors. They do pray before they start work, but it's about humility and serving people and seeing Jesus in the faces they meet during the day.
It's an aspect of religious faith in action that would be good for us non-believers to see once awhile, to remind us that the religious are not all the same, either.
In upcoming months, I'll be spending time in Colorado and missing my volunteer commitment in Minneapolis. Recently, I looked for a local agency that would allow me to continue working with homeless kids.
My most likely place to volunteer is run by Catholic Charities.
As a secular volunteer, I'll be in the minority, but won't be subject to restrictive hiring practices at the root of contention over faith-based initiatives that funnel federal money to religious organizations. As a progressive, I wish President Obama had made a more definitive statement against faith-based hiring when he announced his extension of Pres. Bush's faith-based initiative.
But we replaced the Decider with the Nuancer, and we'd better get used to it.
Groups on different sides of the hiring issue are not going to agree, no matter what Obama decides. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 gives faith-based organizations the right to discriminate in hiring with respect to religion. Most progressives think groups that discriminate shouldn't receive public money. And many advocates for the poor are interested in what works for them, which is where I come down.
According to this analysis, Obama isn't waffling on his campaign statements against federally funded faith-based hiring. He's considering the "legal, political and operational issues" more thoroughly before making a judgment.
Meanwhile, Obama will make two significant changes in the Bush-era office.
An expanded portfolio that "will include abortion reduction, promoting responsible fathering, and engaging in global interfaith dialogue, particularly with the Muslim world."
A less evangelical orientation that "includes Jewish, Muslim, mainline Protestant, and Catholic members, along with representatives of secular organizations."
Religious groups like the Mormons are likely to remain on the funding sidelines, where they will continue to promote discrimination in society at large.
Leave it to Larry to find a Freudian way to ask Ted Haggard if he's over guys.
Haggard led a huge Colorado Springs congregation and headed the National Association of Evangelicals, before succuming — oh, now I'm doing it — to unGodly urges that were exposed in 2006. He's back, promoting an HBO documentary on all the networks.
All evangelists of his stripe creep me out, but Haggard out-ranked even Kenneth Copeland on the Hypocri-meter. In his reincarnation, Haggard acknowledges his sins and uses the word "process" a lot like a man in recovery. He's still a flawed person who remains at the center of universe Ted. His fundamental embrace of the bible doesn't make it easy to be a normal, tolerant human being, but he's trying.
When his wife Gayle can get a word in, she talks how they better understand the Christian message of love and forgiveness, and Ted seems to have repudiated his past compulsive behavior without renouncing gays. I find myself hoping they make it.
But I also found myself wondering how a disgraced pastor with a big house can make a living. It's not as if he can just move his act to an evangelical church in another town. Love and forgiveness haven't quite made it that far. In fact, just today, I read a story about a small town doctor badly injured in a bike accident who readers criticized for not acknowledging god for saving his life.
Another writer wonders if the Haggards might be angling for some kind of media deal. I did check their web site that has been named in most of the TV stories. It's not about redemption; it promotes insurance sales and debt consolidation services.
A Johns Hopkins Study of youth abstinence programs found no significant difference in sexual activity between matched participants and non-participants — including the number of partners, incidence of sexually transmitted diseases or the age at which the teen lost his or her virginity.
It also found that teens who had taken a virginity pledge were less likely to use condoms or other birth control.
Five years after taking an abstinence pledge, 82% of pledgers denied having ever made such a pledge.
Whatever you think about the cosmic realities of religion, churches are
especially important social institutions that provide support to people
facing tough times. They can also be sources of innovation, as they are forced by their values to deal with situations that businesses and secular institutions may see as losing propositions. (For example, Minnesota's treatment/recovery industry grew out of mission work on Washington Avenue's skid row.)
As government agencies and social service non-profits cut back, churches become the last resort for people who can't rely on their families for help. Outreach — especially by evangelical churches whose members tends to be less affluent — may increasingly become "inreach" as new members swell the numbers of parishioners in need.
The picture is mixed.
In Michigan, Salvation Army branches have cut employees. Donations are down, which means thrift store sales are down, and customers also have less to choose from.
People of moderate means in Montana and California towns appear to be stepping up with increased giving. (Donations to churches typically don't drop in the first year of a recession, according to some research.)
A New York Times story says, "Bad times are good for evangelical churches." It cites growing attendance as the country's economic troubles have deepened.
Higher attendance can be a mixed blessing. The story also points out that "a recession also means fewer dollars in the collection basket" and more people seeking material as well as spiritual help.
Then there are the churches that have been preaching the prosperity message.
Over the past year, we've seen signs that megachurches such as Mac Hammond's Living Word Christian Center were already facing difficulty. I've also gotten reports of "restructuring" and layoffs coming from the prosperity gospel empire of Kenneth Copeland due to declining revenues. Hammond and Copeland have also battled with tax authorities over disclosing their compensation, which might lead to even further erosion of contributions.
Hammond won his case against the IRS, while Copeland just lost a fight with Texas appraisers who said he had to reveal the pay of his ministry's top people — including his wife, son, daughter and son-in-law. Failure to do so means he loses a $75,000 tax exemption on one of his jets. (Texas has no income tax but taxes business personal property, which includes things like filing cabinets, computers and nine-passenger aircraft.)
Copeland got that particular jet from Billye Brim, a close friend and fellow prosperity gospel jet launderer.
How these high fliers justify their riches in the here and now may grow as an issue when the faithful, like other disappointed investors, start wondering if the miraculous returns have really been coming from their own contributions.
When I'd give sessions on strategic planning, I used to tell people the reason you do it is so you've already thought through all the issues when nothing goes as planned.
A sociologist who has studied teen sex "argues that religion is a good indicator of attitudes toward sex, but a poor one of sexual behavior, and that this gap is especially wide among teen-agers who identify themselves as evangelical."
I haven't read the study or the entire New Yorker article that quotes it, but I wonder why this should be surprising, since to my mind, extreme religion (take your pick) seems largely organized on behalf of men who couldn't get laid on their own merits.