Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Aquarius: (Jan. 20—Feb. 18)
You obviously weren't concealing anything, so your new theory is that airport security has it in for naked people.

Red Cross Finds Detainee Abuse in Guantánamo
WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 - The International Committee of the Red Cross has charged in confidential reports to the United States government that the American military has intentionally used psychological and sometimes physical coercion "tantamount to torture" on prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The finding that the handling of prisoners detained and interrogated at Guantánamo amounted to torture came after a visit by a Red Cross inspection team that spent most of last June in Guantánamo.

The team of humanitarian workers, which included experienced medical personnel, also asserted that some doctors and other medical workers at Guantánamo were participating in planning for interrogations, in what the report called "a flagrant violation of medical ethics."

Doctors and medical personnel conveyed information about prisoners' mental health and vulnerabilities to interrogators, the report said, sometimes directly, but usually through a group called the Behavioral Science Consultation Team, or B.S.C.T. The team, known informally as Biscuit, is composed of psychologists and psychological workers who advise the interrogators, the report said....

Monday, November 29, 2004

After the Baptist baptism bus tour
..."The last thing I would want to do is put down what people call the church-growth movement," said Welch. "We've got a lot of fine people doing fine work and we have some fine churches out there that are growing. But I do think that sometimes we forget that just because we have church growth doesn't mean we're growing the church....

...That's why he cares that the number of baptisms has declined in Southern Baptist churches four consecutive years. What is just as disturbing, said Welch, is that the SBC's baptism rate had been parked on a statistical plateau since 1951 -- averaging 384,000 a year while the nation's population boomed....

...The denomination's baptism statistics reveal other sobering truths. After the age of 11, it becomes increasingly difficult to win converts -- even among children in church families. Also, only 40 percent of the adults baptized into Southern Baptist congregations are true converts. The rest were already members of other Christian flocks.

Welch describes this in blunt language: "What that means is that we're not reaching the pagan pool. ... We're just rearranging the furniture inside the church."...

The Costs of Staying the Course
Conditions in Iraq and in Past Wars Cast Casualty Tolls in a Different Light

More than 1,200 U.S. military personnel have died in Iraq so far. In the face of rising casualties, polls taken throughout the election season revealed the public's discomfort with our progress in Iraq but gave little indication of weakening support for the mission. This ambivalence about the war's human costs reflects perhaps both a belief in the cause for which our troops are fighting and a perception that in the aggregate their sacrifices -- while always tragic on an individual level -- are historically light. A glance at earlier wars seemingly confirms this latter sentiment. Compared with the more than 405,000 American personnel killed in World War II and the 58,000 killed in Vietnam, Iraq hardly seems like a war at all.

But focusing on how few military deaths we've suffered conceals the difficulty of the mission and the determination of the forces arrayed against the American presence in Iraq. A closer look at these deaths -- 1,232 as I write -- reveals a real rate of manpower attrition that raises questions about our ability to sustain our presence there in the long run....

...On the other hand, improved body armor, field medical procedures and medevac capabilities are allowing wounded soldiers to survive injuries that would have killed them in earlier wars. In World War II there were 1.7 wounded for every fatality, and 2.6 in Vietnam; in Iraq the ratio of wounded to killed is 7.6. This means that if our wounded today had the same chances of survival as their fathers did in Vietnam, we would probably now have more than 3,500 deaths in the Iraq war.

Moreover, we fought those wars with much larger militaries than we currently field. The United States had 12 million active-duty personnel at the end of World War II and 3.5 million at the height of the Vietnam War, compared with just 1.4 million today. ...

...These figures suggest that our forces in Iraq face a far more serious threat than the public, the media and the political establishment typically acknowledge or understand. Man for man, a soldier or Marine in Iraq faces a mission nearly as difficult as that in Vietnam a generation earlier. ...

Sacerdote examined various outcomes of Korean children who had been randomly assigned to adoptive families in the U.S. during the 70s, and as the chart on the right shows, he concluded that family income had no effect at all on the eventual earning power of adoptees. Conversely, it had a big effect on biological children. In other words, being raised in a high-earning family doesn't seem to have much effect, while being born to to a high-earning family does....

‘Roe Effect’ Cited as Factor in Election Outcome
While many liberal Democrats fear future Supreme Court appointments could bring an end to legalized abortion, over the long haul it might be in their own best interest, if a Southern Baptist leader is correct.

Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said on National Public Radio that abortion may have been a factor in the recent election--not abortion policy, but abortion practice.

“It is true that married people tend to be people who are socially conservative and tend to be people who vote disproportionately for George Bush and tend not to abort their children but have them,” Land said. “Democrats tend to be disproportionately single and when they are married tend to abort at higher than the national average. That means they don’t reproduce as many children in the next generation.”

Land isn’t the first to come up with the idea. It’s been around for a couple of years and even has a name: the Roe effect, an allusion to the 1973 Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing most abortions in the United States.

While Republican women also have abortions, demographics suggest that Democrats have them at a rate 30 percent higher. That means—presuming that children inherit the political leanings of their parents—Democrats have lost 6 million more potential voters than Republicans in three decades of legalized abortion.

“Do Democrats realize that millions of Missing Voters—due to the abortion policies they advocate—gave George W. Bush the margin of victory in 2000?” Larry Eastland wrote in an American Spectator column reprinted in June in the Wall Street Journal.

The idea is controversial....

Campolo Says Church Will Suffer for Partisan Politics
The church in America is going to suffer for allowing secular political divisions to enter religion, author and activist Tony Campolo said on a Sunday talk show.

"When the church gets aligned with a political party--left or right--it's like mixing ice cream and horse manure. It won't hurt the manure, but it ruins the ice cream," Campolo said on ABC's "This Week" with George Stephanopolous....

...Campolo said evangelical voters helped elect President Bush to a first term four years ago expecting him to overturn Roe vs. Wade, something "he did not make the slightest effort" to do.

"That left me suspicious that the religious right was more concerned about a Republican president than the unborn," Campolo said....

..."As a Christian I know the difference between Jesus Christ and President Bush," Bauer said."I don't think either party has a monopoly on virtue or vice."

Killer Ending
The new Left Behind novel reinforces a trend toward a Jesus who comes not with peace but a sword.

Jesus has been depicted as a lamb and a shepherd, a rock star and a lowly carpenter. In "Glorious Appearing," the climactic twelfth installment in the Left Behind series released this week, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins give us Christ the Destroyer.

Here's the Christ Triumphant speaking as he encounters the army of the Anti-Christ near the ancient city of Petra in Jordan: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and Last, the Beginning and the End, the Almighty." Upon hearing these words, the Anti-Christ's minions fall dead, "simply dropping where they stood, their bodies ripped open, blood pooling in great masses." Later, as the Lord rides his white horse to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the saved sing "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."

This vision of Christ, who eviscerates his human foes and drops them to the desert floor, is fast becoming the Savior for our times. He is Jesus the Warrior, who has gone in and out of fashion for most of the 20th century. "We're looking for a much more martial messiah," says Stephen Prothero, chairman of Boston University's religion department and author of the recently published "American Jesus." "In part, it's a response to 9/11 and the war in Iraq," he says, pointing out that the militant Jesus was popular during and after both world wars. "In the '60s and '70s, this Jesus nearly disappears," says Prothero. "You get the sense now that we are swinging back."

To find further evidence of this shift, you need go no further than the movie theater to take in this year's other multi-million dollar Christian phenomenon, Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ." Beaten with rods until his torturers are winded from their exertions, Gibson's Jesus rises to his feet with a virile grunt—if you didn't know the movie was in Aramaic, you could swear he mutters "Bring it on." Three days later, we find Jesus sitting, disrobed and staring into middle space, like an athlete in the locker room. Then, still wearing his game face (and, curiously, nothing else), he strides out into Easter morning to the beat of a warlike drum. The tomb is open; so is a major can of whoop-ass.

Jenkins and LaHaye have been spinning the Book of Revelation, the inspiration for their novels, as a tale of payback since the series began in 1990. In the debut, "Left Behind," true Christians were suddenly assumed into heaven while unbelievers either died promptly--say, if their pilot loved Jesus--or were left to deal with the ensuing chaos. For faithful readers of the series, the surprise may not be the bloody outburst, but how brief and measured it is, and how kindly the Jesus of "Glorious Appearing" then turns out to be. As Jenkins's heroes and the other redeemed stream from every corner of the earth, Jesus appears as an enormous, benign presence who can look everyone in the eye at once while whispering individual blessings. Jenkins's model could have been the stern but loving lion Aslan from C.S. Lewis's Narnia series of the 1950s and '60s. (In an interview here, Jenkins says he based it on his early impressions of Christ from Sunday school.)

Prothero believes that it is precisely this Christ, the loving friend, that we are leaving behind. "What's going on now is a kind of withdrawal from the feminine, Victorian Jesus that has been popular with evangelicals" in the past few decades, he says.

Jesus' split personality--swinging from belligerent to gentle within "Glorious Appearing's" 400 pages--is a sign, perhaps, that evangelicals like Jenkins and LaHaye are still in transition between the Jesus the friend and Jesus the general....

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Welcome to the world of investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, whose remarkable career has been bookended by two of the most shameful events in America's military history: My Lai in Vietnam, a story he broke as a free-lance reporter, and the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq, a story he broke for The New Yorker.

During his 38-year career, Hersh has written eight books, won the National Book Critics Circle Award, a Pulitzer and a host of other prizes. His sources serve at the highest levels of many governments, including our own.

In person, Hersh is tall, stooped, rumpled, gray-haired and bespectacled. He speaks rapidly and intensely in a deep voice. Currently touring to "pimp," as he put it, his newest book, "Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib," he spoke last week at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., to a rapt audience of about 900 people. They greeted him with applause; he said, "Thank you, but you'll be less happy once I'm done."

Hersh's message is simple and frightening: "(George W.) Bush is an ideologue, a Utopian," Hersh said. "He wants to clean out the Middle East and install democracy. He doesn't care how many body bags come back home. There's nothing more dangerous than an ideologue who is completely bonkers and no one is going to tell him."

President Bush is committed to perpetual war, Hersh said.

"He risked his presidency on this war," Hersh said. "He could have gotten more votes if he backed off. But he insisted he hasn't made any mistakes."

Hersh has talked privately with many in the military and CIA, including some who have recently resigned. All told him that if the Iraq war had gone "right" - say, if the Americans had been greeted as liberators - our military would have marched "right and left" - to Syria and Iran.

Oil is a big factor in this war, Hersh said, and so is Israel, but to the President it's about ideology: "Whether this man communicates with God, or is on a crusade, or really is a neo-con, or if he thought that his father's not taking Baghdad was a mistake - in any case, I think he is absolutely committed to staying in Iraq to the end." ...

Things fall apart....
Reading the newest Harper's (December issue; not on-line yet, more's the pity). A review by Greg Grandin of Niall Ferguson's Colossus: The Price of America's Empire. According to Grandin, there's quite a price to be paid....

...Just as poverty drove the Irish and Scots into Britain's colonial army, 'illegal immigrants, the jobless,' and 'convicts' could help fill the ranks of Washington's imperial legion." (Apparently Jonathan Swift and Jeremiah were both wrong: poverty is good for sovereigns!). "Ferguson is especially enthusiastic that African Americans might become 'the Celts of the American Empire.' And once he dispense with what here passes for social democracy, he sets his sights on political democracy. Successful empires, Ferguson writes, require 'the resolve of the masters and the consent of the subjects.'"

According to Grandin, Ferguson is the "darling of the American media."...

Silent majority: Boomers & kids
...Indeed, the traditionally religious American — what the press has anointed the faith or moral values voter — may well be in decline. According to NORC's 2000 General Social Survey, only two in 10 Americans born from 1943 onward attend religious services once a week or more, while six in 10 attend infrequently — at most a few times a year — if at all. That's almost the opposite of older Americans, 55 percent of whom attend once a month or more and 36 percent of whom attend once a week or more.

In fact, the fastest-growing group of religious Americans are those who claim no religious identity at all; their number now almost equals the number of people who call themselves Baptists, according to the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey. These numbers track with findings by Independent Sector, a group that studies nonprofit trends, which show that the share of Americans giving their time to religious organizations declined from 28.6 percent in 1989 to 22.8 percent in 1998.

It's not that Americans aren't seeking spiritual guidance — they are, and in large numbers. But they're finding it in nontraditional ways. Much has been written about the number of baby boomers who have returned to the religious fold after the turbulence of the '60s and '70s, but as religious scholar Wade Clark Roof has reported in his various books on boomers and religion, many of them are "re-traditionalizing" their faith, elevating individual worship over deference to authority and embracing modern values over outmoded rules.

This yearning for spirituality over religiosity can be seen in the estimated 20 percent of Americans who show interest in New Age ideas, and in the 20 million who take yoga classes, which approaches the number of boomers and younger adults who attend church at least once a week. A generation ago, most Americans believed in moral absolutes, biblical truth and the authority of their religious leaders, but today, the vast majority say that religious morality is a personal matter. And the trend is increasingly in that direction; only the social conservatives think otherwise.

Nervous Democrats who counsel their party to offer a me-too religious moralism fail to grasp that mainstream morality has changed over the last generation. What's different is that most Americans no longer feel comfortable imposing their personal morality on another's private behavior. But that doesn't mean this new majority is any less moral.

For baby boomers and younger people, there's nothing equivocal about their views of right and wrong. These Americans condemn bigotry, intolerance and discrimination. They reject constraints on personal freedom and don't like it when women are not treated as equals. They find pollution objectionable and see nothing moral in imposing religious beliefs on others. They believe a moral upbringing is teaching kids to think for themselves, not to follow another's rules. What they embrace are pluralism, privacy, freedom of choice, diversity and respect for people with different traditions. Perhaps the only thing missing from this new morality is a politician capable of articulating it....

Saturday, November 27, 2004

The Real Significance of the 'Civil War'
Abraham Lincoln and the war he waged against the seceding Southern states continue to divide libertarian opinion. Some libertarians point to Lincoln as the harbinger of big government in America, while others cannot bring themselves to support the cause of the Southern states, so intimately bound up with chattel slavery as they believe it to have been. Although the latter position is often poorly or even dishonestly argued, the objection it raises is not in and of itself foolish or contemptible, and those who advance it in all sincerity are entitled to a fair-minded and non-polemical reply.

Lincoln’s personal opinions about race, the legality (or otherwise) of his actions as president, and the degree to which the war really was a conflict over slavery, are subjects for another time, and indeed are taken up in my book The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History. Here we confine ourselves to the more modest task of introducing a useful moral framework for evaluating the significance as well as the rights and wrongs of the conflict.

Many of Lincoln’s admirers have the honesty to admit that when he called up those first 75,000 militiamen in 1861 to put down the "rebellion" in the South, he had no intention of waging a war to abolish slavery. What they argue instead is that as the war progressed the meaning of the Northern war effort evolved in Lincoln’s mind, becoming a war not only for the Union but also for human liberation. The more mystical among them suggest that this had in some sense been the war’s purpose all along, but that it was only gradually that Lincoln himself became aware of the significance of the historical moment into which he had been placed.

But there is no reason that this kind of argument should be raised only on behalf of the Northern cause and not for the Southern. In other words, isn’t it possible that the South’s own self-understanding also evolved over the course of the war? Thus even if some people did believe they had seceded over slavery, is it not possible that they, too, may eventually have begun to appreciate larger issues at stake in the conflict just as Lincoln is said to have done?

Donald Livingston, professor of philosophy at Emory University, has identified one of these larger issues, and it was one that Southerners did indeed appreciate. In the modern age, Livingston observes, we have seen federative polities giving way to modern states. ...

... It is true that the modern state could protect individuals from the oppressions of these smaller authorities. Thus the modern state could end slavery in one fell swoop. But as Livingston points out, it could also carry out great atrocities, of a kind the world had never before seen. State slavery now re-emerged, not only in the form of the Soviet gulag and the Nazi concentration camps, but also in the form of military conscription, a uniquely modern idea. In just four years, nearly three times as many men were killed in World War I as there were slaves in the South. (Its sequel, World War II, took 50 million lives.) Tens of millions would perish in slave labor camps, dwarfing the 11 million slaves brought to the New World (five percent of whom went to North America) in 400 years of the slave trade....

Friday, November 26, 2004

Conservatives Urge Closer Look at Marriage
NEW YORK (AP) - ``Protection of marriage'' is now the watchword for many activists fighting to prevent gays and lesbians from marrying. Some conservatives, however, say marriage in America began unraveling long before the latest gay-rights push and are pleading for a fresh, soul-searching look at the institution.

``When you talk about protecting marriage, you need to talk about divorce,'' said Bryce Christensen, a Southern Utah University professor who writes frequently about family issues.

While Christensen doesn't oppose the campaign to enact state and federal bans on gay marriage, he worries it's distracting from immediate threats to marriage's place in society.

``If those initiatives are part of a broader effort to reaffirm lifetime fidelity in marriage, they're worthwhile,'' he said. ``If they're isolated - if we don't address cohabitation and casual divorce and deliberate childlessness - then I think they're futile and will be brushed aside.'' ...

...``That was the best argument same-sex marriage advocates had: 'Where were you when no-fault divorce went through?''' said Allan Carlson, a conservative scholar who runs a family-studies center in Rockford, Ill....

...For the past fifteen years many Baptists around the country have been sending a tithe of their tithes to the SBC to support missionaries who have dedicated their lives to sharing the gospel around the world. Throughout that time the Fundamentalists have been methodically dismantling the system supporting professional, career missionaries that made our work effective. They've been micromanaging missionaries until they resign in frustration, firing missionaries who could not conscientiously support their bibliolatrous theology, and selling off/closing down the system of schools and hospitals in foreign lands that we created to earn a hearing for the gospel. In place of the former system, the Fundamentalists have created a system designed for short-term evangelistic work by a workforce with rapid turnover. In brief, our mission boards have become a placement center where SBC seminary graduates receive a brief internship before being dumped back into our churches. SBC Seminaries and Mission Boards have become little more than Ferris wheels that indoctrinate our churches in Fundamentalist theology and political ideology.

Missions is the bait that keeps money flowing to the SBC, but the money has been systematically switched to efforts to oil a machine that can control the secular political life of this country. To see this happening, all you have to do is look at the size of the increases for the past fifteen years in the budgets of the SBC's Executive Committee and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Now that this political "Hummer" is up and running, "Boss" Falwell is receiving the keys and will soon be in the driver's seat....

Press Routinely Undercounts U.S. Casualties in Iraq
As the toll of Americans killed and wounded in Iraq in November approaches record levels for one month in this war, is the press only telling part of the story?

The Pentagon's latest official count, provided on Wednesday, listed 1230 American military killed in Iraq and another 9300 U.S. troops wounded in action. How seriously? More than 5000 of them were too badly injured to return to duty. More than 850 troops were reported to have been wounded in action in Falluja so far.

But this only scratches the surface of the total toll.

Earlier this week, CBS’s "60 Minutes" revealed that it had received a letter from the Pentagon declaring: "More than 15,000 troops with so-called 'non-battle' injuries and diseases have been evacuated from Iraq."...

...The total number of casualties is about 25,000, plus the more than 1,200 killed. Since about 300,000 men and women have served in Iraq, it makes for a casualty rate of about 9%.

What Became of Conservatives?
...In the ranks of the new conservatives, however, I see and experience much hate. It comes to me in violently worded, ignorant and irrational emails from self-professed conservatives who literally worship George Bush. Even Christians have fallen into idolatry. There appears to be a large number of Americans who are prepared to kill anyone for George Bush.

The Iraqi War is serving as a great catharsis for multiple conservative frustrations: job loss, drugs, crime, homosexuals, pornography, female promiscuity, abortion, restrictions on prayer in public places, Darwinism and attacks on religion. Liberals are the cause. Liberals are against America. Anyone against the war is against America and is a liberal. "You are with us or against us."

This is the mindset of delusion, and delusion permits of no facts or analysis. Blind emotion rules. Americans are right and everyone else is wrong. End of the debate...

...Today it is liberals, not conservatives, who endeavor to defend civil liberties from the state. Conservatives have been won around to the old liberal view that as long as government power is in their hands, there is no reason to fear it or to limit it. Thus, the Patriot Act, which permits government to suspend a person’s civil liberty by calling him a terrorist with or without proof.

Thus, preemptive war, which permits the President to invade other countries based on unverified assertions.

There is nothing conservative about these positions. To label them conservative is to make the same error as labeling the 1930s German Brownshirts conservative.

American liberals called the Brownshirts "conservative," because the Brownshirts were obviously not liberal. They were ignorant, violent, delusional, and they worshipped a man of no known distinction. Brownshirts’ delusions were protected by an emotional force field. Adulation of power and force prevented Brownshirts from recognizing implications for their country of their reckless doctrines.

Like Brownshirts, the new conservatives take personally any criticism of their leader and his policies. To be a critic is to be an enemy. I went overnight from being an object of conservative adulation to one of derision when I wrote that the US invasion of Iraq was a "strategic blunder."

It is amazing that only a short time ago the Bush administration and its supporters believed that all the US had to do was to appear in Iraq and we would be greeted with flowers. Has there ever been a greater example of delusion? Isn’t this on a par with the Children’s Crusade against the Saracens in the Middle Ages?

Delusion is still the defining characteristic of the Bush administration. We have smashed Fallujah, a city of 300,000, only to discover that the 10,000 US Marines are bogged down in the ruins of the city. If the Marines leave, the "defeated" insurgents will return. ...

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Dead-Check in Falluja
In April 9, 2003, the day the statue of Saddam Hussein was being toppled in Baghdad, symbolizing the promised liberation of Iraq, I was embedded with a Marine unit engaged in fierce combat about 30 miles north of the city, on the outskirts of Baquba. Late that afternoon, the Humvee I was in was following about 50 feet behind a Marine Light Armored Vehicle when it pulled alongside a Toyota pickup pushed to the side of the road, its doors riddled with bullet holes. The head of at least one occupant was visible in the truck, but I couldn't determine if he was moving or not. Nor did I see any weapons. As our Humvee stopped behind the truck, a Marine in the vehicle ahead of us leapt out, pointed his rifle into the window of the pickup and sprayed it with gunfire. It was a cold-blooded execution.

As we continued forward, passing the truck, I glimpsed at least two corpses sprawled on the seats, the interior spattered with blood. During the brief moment I looked, I was unable to determine whether the dead men possessed weapons. None of the four Marines in our Humvee said anything. We had been awake for more than 30 hours, much of that time under steady mortar, rifle, machine-gun, and rocket-propelled grenade fire from enemy combatants who dressed in civilian clothes and moved around on the battlefield in Toyota pickups. (To make matters even more confusing, during the height of combat farmers were racing into the surrounding fields—where enemy soldiers were shooting at us from dug-in, concealed positions—in order to rescue sheep from the gunfire.)

In the previous few minutes we had already passed more than a dozen corpses strewn by the side of the road. Some had the tops of their heads missing, expertly hit by Marine riflemen. Others were burned—still smoking, actually—having crawled out of other vehicles set ablaze by rockets fired from Marine helicopters. The execution of one or two more men wasn't worth commenting on. ...

...One of the great ironies of the Bush administration, obsessed as it is with Christian values and the attendant crusade to punish what it deems obscene and lewd in the media (from Janet Jackson's breast to Howard Stern's speech), is that it has given us a war in which the airing of snuff films on national TV has become routine. The conflict in Iraq, as seen through news coverage, has begun to resemble the macabre underground 1980s video series Faces of Death. Throw in the images produced by the U.S. Army at Abu Ghraib, and the administration has put itself in the running to successfully compete with the BDSM side of the porn industry.

Just as I thought I was adjusting to the video carnage, NBC correspondent Kevin Sites, embedded with U.S. forces in Falluja, gave us last week's shocker: the video of a Marine standing over a wounded, apparently unarmed Arab sprawled on the floor of a mosque and executing him with a gunshot to the head. ...

...The Marines constantly debated the morality of what they were engaged in. A sergeant in the platoon told me he had consulted with his priest about killing. The priest had told him it was all right to kill for his government so long as he didn't enjoy it. By the time the unit reached the outskirts of Baghdad, this sergeant was certain he had already killed at least four men. When his battalion commander praised the unit for "slaying dragons" on the way to Baghdad, the sergeant later told his men, "If we did half the shit back home we've done here, we'd be in prison." By then, the sergeant told me, he'd reconsidered what his priest had told him about killing. "Where the fuck did Jesus say it's OK to kill people for your government? Any priest who tells me that has got no credibility."

He and several other Marines recently returned from Iraq (many from their second tours) whom I've talked to about the Falluja shooting say they are not sure they would have dead-checked the wounded man in the mosque had they been in the same position. Most say they probably would have, even though the mosque had already been cleared once. "What does the American public think happens when they tell us to assault a city?" one of them said. "Marines don't shoot rainbows out of our asses. We fucking kill people."

Another Marine in the unit I followed—a Democrat's dream, he returned home from fighting in Falluja in time to vote for Kerry—added, "Americans celebrate war in their movies. We like to see visions of evil being defeated by good. When the people at home glimpse the reality of war, that it's a bloodbath, they freak out. We are a subculture they created and programmed to fight their wars. You have to become a psycho to kill like we do. To most Marines that guy in the mosque was just someone who didn't get hit in the right place the first time we shot him. I probably would have put a bullet in his brain if I'd been there. If the American public doesn't like the violence of war, maybe before they start the next war they shouldn't rush so much."

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Greetings from Colorado Springs
Hi folks! It turns out that the Focus on the Family Ministry has a “weekend furlough” program, so I have a spare moment to check in on the blog from out here in lovely Colorado Springs. They limit us to half an hour on the Internets, though, because here at Focus on the Family, they like to keep the focus on the family. Actually, our unofficial motto is “it’s the patriarchy, stupid” – but of course I can’t say that in public!

Anyway, I just wanted to let you all know that there’s no cause for concern about me or my state of mind, and that my hosts are treating me well. Not quite as well as my other conservative hosts back in September– let’s just say there’s a lot less single-malt flowing around these parts– but quite well nonetheless. And before I go back in for Week Two of the program, they’d like me to say a few words to the readers of this most humble blog.

First, you liberals and progressives and leftists and Communists have to stop vilifying “Christians.” It’s counterproductive and wrong. Christians are not responsible for George Bush’s election. Christians are not intolerant; Christians are not ignorant. Christians are actually filled with agape; they work among the poor and the downtrodden, they give up all hope of material gain in this world, they turn the other cheek when they are struck, and they always do unto others as they would have others do unto them.

So you liberals need to distinguish between Christians and CHRISTIANs. Out here in Colorado Springs, we don’t have much use for most of that garden-variety Christianity stuff. Who needs a vow of poverty when you’re trying to establish a media network? Who needs agape when you’re counting down to the Apocalypse? No sir, there aren’t any of those Christians around here.Instead, we prefer to think of ourselves as

Creationists and
Homophobes for a
Inquisition of the
Terrorists who

In the future, please get that straight and keep it straight. Lay off the Christians– they’re completely innocuous people. When you want to criticize the ascendant religious right, say “CHRISTIANs” or “Creationists and Homophobes” for short. We’ll know who you mean. And then we’ll come and get you. ...

The Elect: God's Second Term"
...I will not be God-whipped. For a start, it is not at all clear that the "values" analysis of George W. Bush's reelection is correct . . . Moreover, the "faith" that is being praised as the road to political salvation, the Bush ideal of religion, is a zealous ignorance, a complacent renunciation of proof and evidence and logic and argument, as if the techniques of reason were merely liberal tools....

...The faith fetish, the belief in belief, is an insult not only to the mind, but also to the soul. For there are many varieties of faith, and the "faith" of the Republicans, which does not grasp the old distinction between fideism and faith, represents only one of those varieties. Not all religion in America is as superstitious and chiliastic and emotional and dogmatic and political as this. And not all religion in America is as Christian as this. When the spokesmen for Bush's holy base call for the restoration of religion to a central position in public life—for the repeal of the grand tradition of mutually beneficial separation that began with Roger Williams's heroic alienation from the theocracy of Massachusetts—they are usually calling for the restoration of their religion....

...The liberal conscience is not a human failing. It is another kind of conscience. It has reasons. It is a thing of principle, not a thing of taste. The religious right complains of liberal condescension, and often properly; but then it condescends to liberalism by reducing it to class or to culture, and by regarding it not as a moral creed but as a moral corruption. The offense that religious conservatives regularly take from secular liberals is a little ridiculous. Why do they care so much about our disapproval? They are also in the business of disapproval. The truth is that this kind of conservatism is sustained by its feeling of victimization. Grievance makes it glad. It allows the right to combine the power of a majority with the pity of a minority....

...The belief in God does not guarantee the knowledge of God's wishes. This is the most elementary lesson of the history of religious faith. The believer lives in the darkness more than he lives in the light. He does not wallow in God's guidance, he thirsts for it. And when God's guidance comes, it does not take the form of policy recommendations, unless he has created his God in the image of his desire. What deity is this, that has opinions about preemption and taxation and Quentin Tarantino? In this regard, there is no more ringing refutation of the religion of George W. Bush than the religion of Abraham Lincoln. "Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes his aid against the other," Lincoln proclaimed at the beginning of his second term, and in the middle of a war. "The prayers of both could not be answered--that of neither has been answered fully." For Lincoln, his party was not God's party; or rather, the other party was as much God's party as his party was. And he explained this repudiation of human certainty this way: "The Almighty has his own purposes." He did not know what they were, he knew only that they were. Beware the politicians, and the politics, that know more....

Apocalypse (Almost) Now
If America's secular liberals think they have it rough now, just wait till the Second Coming.

The "Left Behind" series, the best-selling novels for adults in the U.S., enthusiastically depict Jesus returning to slaughter everyone who is not a born-again Christian. The world's Hindus, Muslims, Jews and agnostics, along with many Catholics and Unitarians, are heaved into everlasting fire: "Jesus merely raised one hand a few inches and . . . they tumbled in, howling and screeching."

Gosh, what an uplifting scene!

If Saudi Arabians wrote an Islamic version of this series, we would furiously demand that sensible Muslims repudiate such hatemongering. We should hold ourselves to the same standard....

Moderate Pulpits: The Next Target
The interim period is always a vulnerable time for a Baptist church, but it may now be more vulnerable than ever, especially if one of the most vocal leaders of the fundamentalist movement has his way.

“May God lead many of you to some of these moderate churches that deserve fundamentalist pastors like you,” said Jerry Falwell to Southwestern Seminary students on Aug. 24. “Sometimes it takes a full year before that church is who you are,”

Anecdotal stories of “stealth fundamentalists” interviewing for known-moderate churches are abundant. Sometimes these ministers will say whatever it takes to convince a search committee that they are the one to present to the church.

Some say they are tolerant of women deacons, are sympathetic to a democratic rather than authoritarian style of pastoral leadership and that they are willing for persons to support the CBF as well as the SBC in missions giving.

Given a few months in power, however, their story changes. Suddenly they realize that women should be submissive and quiet, that they are the man with the vision for the church that all should follow (or leave), and that the CBF is made up of radical left-wingers....

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

‘With Deepest Sympathy’
Donald Rumsfeld – who’s known as a people-eating systems man – has a long history that shows he prefers technology to humans. Certainly as SecDef he’s always gone for high-tech military gear rather than giving the boots on the ground max priority when it comes to the basics: armored vehicles and vests, sufficient ammo and all the other vital stuff that helps soldiers make it through the Valley of Death.

His beloved shock-and-awe whiz-bang wonder weapons worked well enough initially in Afghanistan and Iraq, but as we saw on the tube last week, we’re once again back to the age-old struggle of man against man – with grunts, not machines, taking and holding ground.

And now, apparently, Rumsfeld’s obsession with machines and their efficiency has translated into his using one to replace his own John Hancock on KIA (killed in action) letters to parents and spouses. Two Pentagon-based colonels, who’ve both insisted on anonymity to protect their careers, have indignantly reported that the SecDef has relinquished this sacred duty to a signature device rather than signing the sad documents himself.

When I went to Jim Turner, a good man saddled with a tough job as one of Rumsfeld’s flacks at the Pentagon, for a confirmation or a denial, he said, “Rumsfeld signs the letters himself.”

I then went to about a dozen next-of-kin of American soldiers KIA in Iraq. Most agreed with the colonels’ accusations and said they’d noticed and been insulted by the machine-driven signature. One father bitterly commented that he thought it was a shame that the SecDef could keep his squash schedule but not find the time to sign his dead son’s letter. Several also felt compelled to tell me that the letter they received from George Bush also looked as though it was not signed personally by the president.

Dr. Ted Smith, whose son Eric was among the first 100 killed in Iraq, notes that the letter he received “from the commander in chief was signed with a thick, green marking pen. I thought it was stamped then and do even now. He had time for golf and the ranch but not enough to sign a decent signature with a pen for his beloved hero soldiers. I was going to send the letter back but did not. I am sorry I didn’t.”

Sue Niederer, whose son Seth was also killed in Iraq, sums it up: “My son wasn’t a person to these people, he was just an entity to play their war game. But where are their children? Not one of them knows how any of us feel, and they obviously aren’t interested in finding out. None of them cares. And Rumsfeld depersonalizing his signature – it’s a slap in the face, don’t you think?”...

Libra: (Sept. 23—Oct. 23)
Take heart: There are people with bigger problems than yours, and acting like you care about them will get you laid.

Christian-Republican alliance: Faustian bargain?
“My pastor kept asking us to pray for George Bush to win,” a Georgia woman told me last week, “and most folks seemed to go along with it. So I just kept quiet and secretly prayed for the other side.”

She’s not alone. A majority of frequent churchgoers may have voted for President Bush (if surveys are right), but a large minority voted for Sen. John Kerry. Not all Christians — not even all evangelicals — are born-again Republicans.

But the word “Christian” (not unlike the word “moral”) is increasingly tied in the news media to the word “Republican,” thanks to the successful alliance between Karl Rove and leaders of the religious right. (In one pre-election news account, a minister described comforting a parishioner who anxiously asked if he could remain a Christian and vote for Kerry.)

Growing numbers of Christians are alarmed by the hijacking of their faith. In an editorial last week, Robert Parham of the moderate Baptist Center for Ethics vowed to “take on the religious right more forcefully — critiquing its false religion and anointment of the GOP as God’s Only Party.”

Meanwhile, emboldened by the perception that evangelicals decided the election, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson and other evangelical leaders close to the White House are already lining up to claim the spoils. They expect to have the power to shape the Republican agenda on everything from constitutional amendments to Supreme Court appointments.

But before conservative Christians get too comfortable with this church-state alliance, they would do well to remember a bit of familiar wisdom: Those who seek power by riding the back of the tiger end up inside.

The unprecedented mobilization of evangelical churches by the Republican Party and religious right leaders may have helped win an election, but it could end badly for people of faith in the pews. History teaches that partisan politics inevitably corrupts religion and divides the church....

...Some Christian churches have already tasted the fruits of the Christian-Republican alliance. By executive order, President Bush has opened the floodgates of funding through his “faith-based initiative.” Millions of tax dollars now flow to churches for a whole range of programs — with inadequate First Amendment safeguards to uphold religious liberty.

With government shekels come government shackles. Not only do churches risk losing their autonomy; they risk losing their prophetic voice. A church compromised by partisan politics and dependent on government funds can no longer distance itself from the culture and can no longer call the government to account for its failures.

This threat to religious faith from church-state entanglement is precisely what James Madison warned about during the great battle for disestablishment in Virginia more than 200 years ago. Warning against state support for religion, he argued from history:

“During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution....

Our Christian Son-of-a-Bitch
Far from Falluja there's another battle raging that's just as vicious and even more dangerous in its implications. But the American press is for the most part ignoring the civil war in West Africa's Ivory Coast, since it involves nobody, really, just Africans and the French. Which is why Douglas Farah's overview of the conflict in The Washington Post is especially welcome. Farah notes the anti-Muslim fervor of much of the violence -- the homes of Post employees who were Muslim were attacked while police looked on -- and the cynical exploitation of anti-colonialist sentiment by Ivory Coast's president, Lauren Gbago, a thug cut from the same cloth as that of Rwanda's genocidaires. But Farah neglects another aspect of Gbago's strategy: mobilization of evangelical Christian support, in Ivory Coast and abroad.

Gbago has framed the conflict as a holy war, with Ivory Coast "native" Protestants on one side, and foreign Muslims and godless French Catholics on the other. One evangelical preacher took to Ivory Coast state radio to declare that French President Chirac is "inhabited by the spirit of Satan", after French peacekeepers destroyed the Ukrainian gunships Gbago's forces had used to terrorize Muslim civilians and attack the peacekeepers, as well as American aid workers.

Even more disturbing is the support Gbago is finding among American evangelicals. World Evangelical Alliance frames the fight as a "decisive hour" in a battle between Christians and "demonic" Islamists. Mega-site Crosswalk focussed only on Christian victims of violence. And even Christianity Today, home to fine and respectable journalism, spun the story, at its beginning at least, as one primarily of anti-Christian persecution, with no mention that the government in power is "Christian," at least to the extent that such a claim helps it mobilize mobs to attack Muslims. ...

Tomb may shed light on 10th plague
...At the end of a long hallway a human skull rested, propped up in a wooden box, and framed in the bleak light of a bare bulb powered by a generator that rumbled through the stony silence of the tomb.

This skull — Weeks believes, and new scientific evidence suggests — may be that of the oldest son of Rameses II, the pharaoh who most historians agree was the ruler of ancient Egypt more than 3,000 years ago at the time of the biblical story of the Exodus.

If so, this is the skull of a man who the Hebrew Bible says was killed by the 10th of the horrible plagues God sent to convince pharaoh to free the Hebrew slaves. And if so, it contains an important new piece of forensic evidence: The skull has a depressed fracture on the left hand side which pathologists say clearly occurred at the time of death.

In other words, Weeks’s discovery could have profound implications for understanding a biblical narrative that is at the core of Judaism, and part of the foundation of Christianity and Islam. It raises the question as to whether the oldest son of the pharaoh of the Exodus was struck down not by the hand of God, as the Bible says, but by the hand of man. And if that is true, perhaps the 10th plague became a metaphor for the early death that befell the pharaoh’s oldest son....

Moral people must learn how to hate
...I have heard all the arguments repudiating hate. Hatred is evil. It is the cause of all wars. It consumes the soul of he or she who hates. Silly arguments all. Hatred is only evil when it is directed at the good and at the innocent. It is positively Godly when it is directed at cold-blooded killers, motivating us to fight and eradicate them before more people die.

Hatred does not cause wars, it ends them. Because Churchill truly hated Hitler, he inspired a nation to put an end to his blitzkrieg conquests. The French, who did not hate Hitler, collaborated with him, instead. It is indifference to evil, rather than its hatred, that sends a message to the tyrants that they pick on anyone they like for the world will be silent.

He who does not hate Abu Musab al Zarkawi – a monster who shouts "God is great" while sawing off the heads of innocent human beings – is barely human themselves. Can a man love innocent victims without hating their tormentors? Loving victims might generate compassion for their suffering. But hating the perpetrators will generate action to stop their orgy of murder.

Which "moral" man or woman can lay claim to decency if they are not sickened to their stomachs by the likes of Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden? Can a moral man have compassion for a dying Yasser Arafat when such love and compassion ought to be reserved exclusively for his victims? While innocence should evoke compassion, evil should evoke only contempt.

Bobby Frank Cherry, the Klansman who killed four black girls in a church bombing in Alabama in 1963, died last week in prison. On my radio show, I expressed my satisfaction that another evil man had perished from the earth. A black caller phoned in disgust. "I used to be like you, Shmuley," he said. "When I was a boy growing up in the segregated South, I hated the Klan so much that I wanted to be a sniper and shoot them. But as a Christian, I have worked my whole life to fight that hatred and get it out of my system."

I answered him:

What do you think God would prefer? That you use your energy to fight your hatred, or use your energy to fight evil? Now, no one would sanction your running around and indiscriminately shooting people, because that itself is immoral and illegal. That's not hatred. That's rage.

But it was due to prosecutors' odium for this man that they pursued him for almost 40 years, finally obtaining a conviction and sending him to prison just two years ago. If they had not detested him and his actions, he would have died peacefully at his home and the message would have gone out that you can get away with murder.

Hatred is not necessarily of the devil. Like any emotion, it is neutral, its morality determined solely by the object to which it is directed. ...

Sometimes the message of God gets twisted in the wrong hands
If I've learned one thing over the years it's that we all hold differing views on almost everything. No, not almost everything -- absolutely everything.

Take this. A couple of weeks ago I was stopped by a nice, smiling, inner-peace-loudly-showing couple wanting to know if I planned to see the Rev. Billy Graham's Rose Bowl revival.

Actually, I was. And I don't mean to say that I am somehow superior or that my beliefs trump their beliefs. But you know how some people say that they have "gaydar," the ability to spot gays a mile off? Well, I have "Christiandar."

First, let me say that I am Christian, have been since birth, which provides a wonderful opportunity for the more spiritually realized to ask, "But have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior?"

Anyway, the couple handing me the Billy Graham materials both possessed "Catholicdar," the built-in ability to smell papists a mile off.

Precisely because Catholics of my generation generally don't go around proclaiming their acceptance of Jesus Christ as our personal savior, that's usually the very first thing that comes up with people who want to save us from worshiping plaster statues and such.

Only in this case it was the second thing that came up. When I joked, "It would be nice to see the Rev. Graham while we're all alive," the woman corrected, "You mean, before we are all called home."

If by that she meant heaven or some other well-subscribed-to concept, then we were more or less in agreement. It's the precise wording that gets in the way....

...Still, I could better understand this routine Christian willingness to damn others than I could the people hemmed in by police-erected steel fences outside the stadium on Sunday, the ones with placards reading, "God Hates Fags."

Here's another thing I've learned -- never get into a Bible-quote-throwing contest with anybody who absolutely knows who God hates. Still, I saw a terrible contradiction in the first two words of that statement. But maybe that's just me.

It's unusual, the signs actually disgusted me. How would they make us feel if we substituted any other awful word for our fellow man (you know them all, pick one)? Just because calling someone a fag might be protected by the First Amendment, is that reason enough to do so?

Nearly as disturbing to me, since I had a kid with me, were the stick figures on those same signs picturing one man bending over and another standing directly behind him.

Thank the Lord, my boy is protected from bare breasts on TV. But if he had any doubts about the word fag and a certain kind of sex, it ended with people who came to this revival inspired by the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan. This is the same bunch that wanted to erect in a Wyoming town where a young gay man was murdered a monument reading, "Matthew Shepard Entered Hell Oct. 12, 1998; age 21 in defiance of God's warning: 'Thou shall not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination, Leviticus 18:22.' "

Two thousand years after the fact and it comes down to my-way-or-no-way, God Hates Fags and -- this is just my feeling -- Christ in tears.

Christianity Inc.
His image is used to promote cement companies and bakeries, and to sell music CDs, videotapes, T-shirts, hats, mugs, and potato chips. His tours attract corporate sponsors like Federal Express, Mercedes-Benz, Kodak, Hewlett-Packard, and Pepsi.

We're not talking about Michael Jordan, nor Michael Jackson, nor the reigning pop music or movie idol du jour, but about the brave new world of Pope John Paul II, the world's most desirable product endorser. At a time when for-profit culture industries orchestrate human attention to an unprecedented degree, we now witness a strange kind of institutional overlap where religious groups adopt the latest in advertising and marketing techniques and corporations sell their wares by exploiting deeply treasured religious symbols, images, and stories....

Sunday, November 21, 2004

There is a story in Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov about Christ coming back to earth during the time of the Spanish Inquisition. It's called 'The Legend of the Grand Inquisitor', and in it Christ appears in Seville the day after a hundred heretics have been burned at the stake in a great auto-da-fe. He appears as he did during his lifetime, and the crowds recognise him at once, and he heals the sick. At the steps of the cathedral he meets a funeral procession for a little girl, and he has compassion on the mother and brings the child back to life. Just at that moment the Grand Inquisitor is passing and sees has happened and orders his guards to arrest Christ and throw him into prison. And that night the Grand Inquisitor, an old man who has served the Church throughout his long life, visits Christ in the dungeons and talks to him.

It is in fact a monologue, because Christ remains silent throughout. And the Grand Inquisitor tells Christ that he will have him burned at the stake the next day, as the worst of heretics, because he has come back to undo the work of the Church.

The point is that the Grand Inquisitor understands perfectly, well that Christ came originally to offer freedom to mankind: he wanted man's free, unforced love, in place of the ancient rigid law. This lies at the heart of the temptation scene in the desert. If Christ had agreed to turn the stones into bread, he would have had no difficulty in persuading men to follow him - people everywhere would have flocked to him. But Christ rejected that option - he resisted the temptation. He refused to coerce mankind, he didn't want blind obedience: he preferred freedom - without freedom it would all be worthless.

But, says the Grand Inquisitor, that was a mistake. Man doesn't want freedom, he wants simply to be happy; and the only way to make him happy is to deprive him of his freedom. Man's greatest need is to find someone to whom he can hand over this gift of freedom as quickly as possible, and that, says the Grand Inquisitor, is where the Church stepped in. The Church, not Christ, had man's happiness in mind., the Church had the good sense to correct Christ's work, to take away man's freedom, and to give him the bread he asked for. What mankind craves is simply someone to obey.

As I said, throughout this monologue Christ remains silent. When the Grand Inquisitor has finished he waits for a reply - he longs for Christ to say something, however bitter, however terrible. But suddenly Christ gets up and comes over to the old man and softly kisses him on his aged, bloodless lips. That is all his answer. The old man shudders. He goes to the door, opens it, and says to the Prisoner: 'Go, and come no more'. And he lets him out into the dark alleys of the town: the Prisoner goes away.

Now Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor is a very good example of what we now call a Fundamentalist. The only uncharacteristic thing about him is that he is fully conscious of the implications of his philosophy: he actually intends to correct Christ's work, to rewrite Christianity Most Fundamentalists persuade themselves that they are imitating Christ, even to the extent of making the farcical allegation that they share his attitude to the infallibility of the Bible. But that apart, the Grand Inquisitor illustrates perfectly the following features of Fundamentalists- a distrust and fear of freedom; a belief in the importance of authority and in controlling what people believe; a corresponding preference for obedience rather than love; a desire to give people what they want rather than the truth: a refusal to allow themselves to be in the least disconcerted when they are confronted with the true nature of their religion; and a readiness to persecute and exclude anyone who is of a different persuasion.

To reduce that to convenient headings, the Fundamentalist is uncomfortable with freedom, truth, and dissent.' and very much at home with authority, obedience, and conformity. But the most striking feature of the Fundamentalist is that, whether he is conscious of it or not, his approach results in the total contradiction of what he professes to believe... (from Peter Cameron's "Fundamentalism and Freedom" (Doubleday; Sydney: 1995. pp. 6-7).

Something's Swishy About Shark Tale
Cartoon Primes Kids with a Pro-Homosexual Message

(AgapePress) - It is an axiom for many parents that, when it comes to teaching kids what they need to know, "It's never too young to start."

What happens when Hollywood applies the same axiom to teaching young people -- even children -- to accept homosexuality?

That appears to be the case in the DreamWorks animated film Shark Tale, released in theaters in October. While it won't take in the money of last year's Disney/Pixar hit Finding Nemo, the DreamWorks story of life under the sea netted almost $119 million in its first 17 days in theaters.

Shark Tale centers on the busy cosmopolitan life of an ocean reef, which resembles, in the words of The Oregonian's Shawn Levy, "Times Square at rush hour." The focus of Shark Tale is primarily on Oscar, a fish who has big dreams of one day striking it rich and living on the top of the reef with the upwardly mobile undersea class.

The reef, however, is frequently terrorized by an organized crime syndicate made up of sharks. The mob is run Mafioso style by a great white shark named Don Lino and his two sons, Frankie and Lenny.

It is when Shark Tale turns its attention to Lenny that it veers toward an undercurrent of approval for homosexuality. While it is difficult to prove intent when a film does not explicitly make a character "gay," the story and dialogue demonstrate an implicit approval of homosexuality....

Friday, November 19, 2004

Peter Bienart has a piece on TNR (available only with a sign in) assailing "evangelicals" for embracing victimhood in the wake of the election:

...But, most of the time, what conservatives call anti-evangelical bigotry is simply harsh criticism of the Christian Right's agenda. Scarborough seized on a recent column by Maureen Dowd, which accused President Bush of "replacing science with religion, and facts with faith," leading America into "another dark age." The Weekly Standard recently pilloried Thomas Friedman for criticizing "Christian fundamentalists" who "promote divisions and intolerance at home and abroad," and Howell Raines, for saying the Christian Right wants to enact "theologically based cultural norms."

This isn't bigotry. What these (and most other) liberals are saying is that the Christian Right sees politics through the prism of theology, and there's something dangerous in that. And they're right. It's fine if religion influences your moral values. But, when you make public arguments, you have to ground them--as much as possible--in reason and evidence, things that are accessible to people of different religions, or no religion at all. Otherwise, you can't persuade other people, and they can't persuade you. In a diverse democracy, there must be a common political language, and that language can't be theological.

Sometimes, conservative evangelicals grasp this and find nonreligious justifications for their views. (Christian conservatives sometimes argue that embryonic stem cells hold little scientific promise, or that gay marriage leads to fewer straight ones. On abortion, they sometimes cite medical advances to show that fetuses are more like infants than pro-choicers recognize. Such arguments are accessible to all, and thus permit fruitful debate.) But, since the election, the airwaves have been full of a different kind of argument. What many conservatives are now saying is that, since certain views are part of evangelicals' identity, harshly criticizing those views represents discrimination. It's no different than when some feminists say that, since the right to abortion is a critical part of their identity, opposing abortion disrespects them as women. When George Stephanopoulos asked Dobson to justify his charge that Senator Leahy is an anti-Christian bigot, he replied that the Vermont senator "has been in opposition to most of the things that I believe." In other words, disagree with me and you're a racist. Al Sharpton couldn't have said it better. ...

Letter Threatens Violence Against Presbyterians' 'Anti-Jewish Attitudes'
(CNSNews.com) - Two American Jewish leaders says they are "disgusted and outraged" by threats of violence made against Presbyterian Churches.

In a statement issued Sunday, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, and Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, called the people who made the threats "thugs" who are "far outside the mainstream of American Jewry."

The Presbyterian Church USA recently said it would stop investing in companies that do business with Israel -- an effort, the church says, to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, although many Jews see it as an unhelpful, anti-Israel move....

Pastors Across U.S. Disagree on Top Threats to Families
A new study shows that Protestant clergy in America name divorce as the top threat to families in their communities, followed by a wide range of problems from materialism to marital infidelity to negative influences in the media.

Ellison Research conducted the study using a representative sample of 695 pastors from across the nation. The researchers asked pastors to identify the three strongest threats to families in their own communities. In their responses, reported in the November/December 2004 issue of Facts &Trends magazine, 43 percent of the pastors surveyed named divorce as the number-one threat. Meanwhile, 38 percent named negative influences from the media, and 36 percent cited materialism....

Faith-Based Parks?
Creationists meet the Grand Canyon

At a park called Dinosaur Adventure Land, run by creationists near Pensacola, Florida, visitors are informed that man coexisted with dinosaurs. This fantasy accommodates the creationists’ view that the Earth is only 6,000 years old and that Darwin’s theory of evolution is false. Among the park exhibits is one that illustrates another creationist article of faith. It consists of a long trough filled with sand and fitted at one end with a water spigot. Above the trough is a sign reading “That River Didn’t Make That Canyon.” When visitors open the spigot, the water quickly cuts a gully through the sand, supposedly demonstrating how the Grand Canyon was created, practically overnight, by Noah’s flood. That’s nonsense, of course, but what else would you expect at a creationist park? Certainly, one might think, this couldn’t be acceptable at, say, a National Park, right? Think again.

Two-thirds of the way across the continent, some four million people annually visit Grand Canyon National Park, marveling at the awesome view. In National Park Service (NPS) affiliated bookstores, they can find literature informing them that the great chasm runs for 277 miles along the bed of the Colorado River. It descends more than a mile into the earth, and along one stretch, is some 18 miles wide, its walls displaying impressive layers of limestone, sandstone, shale, schist and granite.

And, oh yes, it was formed about 4,500 years ago, a direct consequence of Noah’s Flood. How’s that? Yes, this is the ill-informed premise of “Grand Canyon, a Different View,” a handsomely-illustrated volume also on sale at the bookstores. It includes the writings of creationists and creation scientists and was compiled by Tom Vail, who with his wife operates Canyon Ministries, conducting creationist-view tours of the canyon. “For years,” Vail explains, “as a Colorado River guide, I told people how the Grand Canyon was formed over the evolutionary time span of millions of years. (Most geologists place the canyon’s age at some six million years). Then I met the Lord. Now I have a different view of the Canyon, which according to a biblical time scale, can’t possibly be more than a few thousand years old.”

Vail’s book attracted little notice when it first appeared in the NPS stores in 2003, until a critical review by Wilfred Elders, a respected University of California geologist, brought it to light and took apart its pseudoscientific claims. That led David Shaver, who heads the Geologic Resources Division of the Park Service, to send a memo to headquarters urging that the book be removed from the NPS stores. “It is not based on science,” he wrote, “ but on a specific religious doctrine…and should not have been approved for in NPS affiliated book stores.”

The presidents of The American Geological Institute and six of its member societies also weighed in, expressing their dismay to the Park Service. Noting that the Grand Canyon “provides a remarkable and unique opportunity to educate the public about Earth science,” the scientists urged that, “in fairness to the millions of park visitors, we must clearly distinguish religious from scientific knowledge.” ...

Bush Proposes Faith-Based National Healthcare
“Faithcare” to cover all citizens by ‘06

WASHINGTON – In his weekly radio address to the nation on Saturday, President Bush announced his initiative for federalized faith-based healthcare. In the aftermath of the ‘04 campaign for the White House, Bush sought to alleviate the fears of Americans still facing a shortage in flu vaccinations. “My proposal would completely eliminate the cost of healthcare by replacing doctors, nurses, and lawyers with 100 of the nation’s top intercessory prayer warriors.” ...

The Generals Speak
Seven retired military leaders discuss what has gone wrong in Iraq

The nineteen months since the war in Iraq began, some of the most outspoken critics of President Bush's plan of attack have come from a group that should have been the most supportive: retired senior military leaders. We spoke with a group of generals and admirals that included a former supreme Allied commander and a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and they all agreed on one thing: Bush screwed up....

...The parallels between Iraq and Vietnam have been overblown, because we were in Vietnam for a decade and it cost us 58,000 troops. We've been in Iraq for nineteen months and we're still under 1,200 killed. But there is one sense in which the parallel with Vietnam is valid. The American people were told that to win the Cold War we had to win Vietnam. But we now know that Vietnam was not only a diversion from winning the Cold War but probably delayed our winning it and made it cost more to win. Iraq is a diversion to the war on terror in exactly the same way Vietnam was a diversion to the Cold War....

...We screwed up. we were intent on a quick victory with smaller forces, and we felt if we had a military victory everything else would fall in place. We would be viewed not as occupiers but as victors. We would draw down to 30,000 people within the first sixty days.

All of this was sheer nonsense.They thought that once Iraq fell we'd have a similar effect throughout the Middle East and terrorism would evaporate, blah, blah, blah. All of these were terrible assumptions. A State Department study advising otherwise was sent to Rumsfeld, but he threw it in the wastebasket. He overrode the military and was just plain stubborn on numbers. Finally the military said OK, and they totally underestimated the impact the desert had on our equipment and the kind of troops we would need for peacekeeping. They ignored Shinseki. The Marines were advising the same way. But the military can only go so far. Once the civilian leadership decides otherwise, the military is obliged.

There is not a very good answer for what to do next. We've pulled out of several places without achieving our objectives, and every time we predicted the end of Western civilization, which it was not. We left Korea after not achieving anything we wanted to do, and it didn't hurt us very much. We left Vietnam -- took us ten years to come around to doing it -- but we didn't achieve what we wanted. Everyone said it would set back our foreign policy in East Asia for ten years. It set it back about two months. Our allies thought we were crazy to be in Vietnam.

We could have the same thing happen this time in Iraq. If we walk away, we are still the number-one superpower in the world. There will be turmoil in Iraq, and how that will affect our oil supply, I don't know. But the question to ask is: Is what we are achieving in Iraq worth what we're paying? Weighing the good against the bad, we have got to get out.

Bush, the Neocons and Evangelical Christian Fiction
America, "Left Behind"

"Is [Jesus] gonna kill a bunch of people here, like He is over there?"
"I'm afraid He is. If they're working for the Antichrist, they're in serious trouble."
-- Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Glorious Appearing: End of Days

As a professor of comparative religion and cultural studies, I have long been fascinated by the strange intersections between religion, politics and popular culture. One of the most striking such intersections occurred to me this summer as I sat down to read the twelfth and last volume of the wildly popular Left Behind series by evangelical preacher Tim LaHaye and novelist Jerry Jenkins. For those who haven't yet had a chance to read any of LaHaye and Jenkin's series, the story is basically an evangelical interpretation of the Book of Revelation set in the context of contemporary global politics: the Rapture has taken place, the Antichrist has taken control of the U.N. and created a single global economy, while a small group of American-led believers battles the forces of evil in a showdown in Jerusalem.

At the same time that I was immersed in this entertaining mixture of Stephen King-esque thrills and fundamentalist rhetoric, I had also been reading much of the recent literature on the Neoconservative movement and its powerful role in the Bush administration. As Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke have persuasively argued in their recent study, America Alone, the election of George W. Bush and the confusion following 9/11 allowed a small but radical group of intellectuals to seize the reins of U.S. foreign policy. Led by figures like Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and the members of the Project for a New American Century, the Neocons have been able to put into effect a long-held plan for asserting a U.S. global hegemony, in large part by dominating the Middle East and its oil resources.

The two narratives that I was reading here -- the Neocon's aggressive foreign policy, centered around the Middle East, and the Christian evangelical story of the immanent return of Christ in the Holy Land-- struck me as weirdly similar and disturbingly parallel. The former openly advocates a "New American Century" and a "benevolent hegemony" of the globe by U.S. power, inaugurated by the invasion of Iraq, while the latter predicts a New Millennium of divine rule ushered in by apocalyptic war, first in Babylon and then in Jerusalem.

I was tempted to dismiss the similarity as an amusing but insignificant coincidence. Yet the more I began to examine the Neocon's strategies and the ties between George W. Bush and the Christian Right, the less this link seemed to be either coincidental or unimportant. I am not, of course, suggesting that there is some kind of conspiratorial plot at work between Neocon strategists and evangelical writers like LaHaye, or that the two are somehow working secretly together behind the scenes. Rather, I am suggesting that there is a subtle but powerful "fit," or what sociologist Max Weber calls an "elective affinity," between the two that has helped them to reinforce one another in very effective ways. The otherwise vacuous figure of George W. Bush represents a crucial link or structural pivot between these two powerful factions, helping to tie them together: Bush presents the Neocons' radical foreign policy in a guise that is acceptable to his large base of support in the Christian Right, even as he reassures his Christian base that their moral agendas (anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, faith-based initiatives, etc) will be given powerful political support. In Bush, America as the benevolent hegemon of the Neocons and the American-led "Tribulation Force" of LaHaye's wildly popular novels come together in a disturbing, yet surprisingly successful way.

In the last two decades, Tim LaHaye has emerged as not only the theological brains behind the best-selling Left Behind series, but also as one of the most influential figures in the American Christian Right. Indeed, when the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals decided to name the most influential evangelical leader of the past 25 years, they chose not Billy Graham, Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell, but Tim LaHaye, in large part because of his work in evangelical politics. Not only is LaHaye an influential preacher and interpreter of prophecy and revelation, he has also become a remarkably powerful force in domestic and now even international politics through the highly secretive Council for National Policy, founded in 1981. Called by some "the most powerful conservative group you've never heard of," the CNP includes among its members Reverends Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed, Jesse Helms, Tom DeLay, Oliver North, Christian Reconstructionist R.J. Rushdoony and, formerly, John Ashcroft (himself a Pentecostal Christian). Recent speakers at the Council's highly private meetings have included Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, and Timothy Goeglein, deputy director of the White House Office of Public Liaison. Although the group initially focused primarily on domestic agendas like abortion and homosexuality, LaHaye's Council has recently begun to turn to larger international issues such as U.S. policy in the Middle East and the state of Israel....

...So what are we to make of the strange parallels between this popular series of evangelical fiction and this aggressive Neoconservative strategy for American hegemony? On the one hand, we have the wondrous vision of a New Millennium established after a small American-led group fights against the global forces of the Antichrist in the Holy Land; on the other, we have the bold vision of a New American Century established after American unilateral military force defeats the Axis of Evil and asserts its benevolent hegemony in the Middle East. But how are these two narratives related? Is it a plot hatched secretly in one of LaHaye's Council for National Policy meetings? A coded message woven subliminally into the Left Behind books themselves?

Probably not. Instead, I think this connection is not so much an explicit or even necessarily intentional link, but rather a subtle yet powerful kind of "elective affinity," in Weber's sense of the phrase. As Weber argued in his classic work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, it is not simply the case that Protestant Christianity caused the rise of early modern capitalism, or vice-versa. Rather, the two shared an affinity that was mutually beneficial and reinforcing. The Protestant ethics of hard-work, thrift, restraint in consumption and asceticism fit well with an early capitalist system based on labor and accumulation of profit and allowed the latter to flourish in ways that no other religious worldview could.

So too, I would suggest, there is a fit or affinity between the evangelical vision of the New Millennium and the Neoconservative ideal of a New American Century. Updating Weber somewhat, we might call this affinity "the Evangelical Ethic and the Spirit of Neo-Imperialism." The Neocons and the Christian Right may not be conspiring together secretly behind the scenes; but they do need each other to promote their respective agendas, and they do have enough similar interests to find common ground in the Prodigal Son, George W. As a relatively empty, unformed "floating signifier," Bush serves as the key link in this elective affinity, the point at which the otherwise conflicting interests of the Neocons and the evangelicals come together in a disturbingly powerful way. ...

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The N-Word & the F-Word
Scrolling down through the threads Tex linked to on FreeRepublic and Little Green Footballs, a thought I've had many times before recurred: liberals have ruined the language. By throwing the words "Nazi" and "fascist" around all these years with reckless abandon, they devalued a portion of our political vocabulary that is desperately needed now. Thanks, liberals, for every time you used the N- or F-word to describe welfare reform, opposition to affirmative action, laissez-faire economics, or the slightest insensitivity. Cos' now, we're looking the real thing right in the face, and the appropriate terms have been sapped of all urgency....

An attack on American tolerance
BACK IN the 1950s, political scientists celebrated America for its "pluralism." That meant people had multiple, cross-cutting identities. Maybe you were a Catholic and also a trade unionist, a sport fisherman, a member of a veterans group, and an engaged PTA parent in a multi-ethnic neighborhood. No single identity absolutely defined you.

Why was this special? Because it created multiple, overlapping communities and prevented the cultural or political absolutism that plagued most societies. It wove tolerance and political suppleness into the fabric of American democracy. People with multiple affiliations could vote for Roosevelt one year and Eisenhower another and not hate neighbors for their party identities.

Indeed, when the philanthropist George Soros set out to undermine communism by stealth in Eastern Europe, he began by subsidizing innocent-seeming voluntary associations of the sort for which Americans are famous in order to quietly break the regime's stranglehold on institutions of all kinds. Imagine the surprise of the commissars when chess clubs turned out to be hotbeds of independent thinking.

America has done this longer, better, and more democratically than any other society, but it is not the only example. In Sarajevo, under both the Turks and later the communists, Muslims, Jews, and Christians enjoyed a cultural coexistence. Under the crumbling Ottoman Empire, diverse ethnic groups lived together without killing each other. And for nearly 300 years in medieval Spain, under history's most liberal Arab regime ever, Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived in harmony guaranteed by the regime. A citizen could be both a Jew and an Arab and think of himself as Andalusian.

All these societies of tolerance and multiple identity came to grief, and there are dangerous portents that America is heading the same way. If ever most Americans took on monochromatic identities -- evangelical, Republican, and gun-toting conservatives versus abortion-defending, secular, Democratic liberals -- our democracy would be seriously at risk.

The problem is not that America has hardened into red states and blue ones. That vocabulary should be expunged from media shorthand, because it makes a distressing trend seem far more rigid than it is.

In fact, there are rational secular liberals in Texas and religious fundamentalists in Boston. More important, most people who worship God are not yet intolerant of people who worship in different ways or not at all.

The problem, rather, is first, that religious fundamentalists have lately become more absolutist and more insistent. For centuries in the United States (which, after all, was founded on the principle of religious pluralism and tolerance) religion was mostly a personal affair. Keeping religion out of the American Constitution was the triumph of reason over absolutism, and it made America safe for a wide diversity of creeds.

For millennia, faith and reason have co-existed uneasily. They skirmished as far back as the Middle Ages, when Christian theologians nervously contemplated the rediscovery of Aristotle, and later when Galileo was condemned as a heretic. But in most of the West, reason won.

In Europe, religion remains a source of personal comfort, community bonding, and association with cherished traditions. But organized religion no longer rules. Regular church attendance is low, women in Catholic Italy and Spain divorce, use contraceptives, and sometimes have abortions; and the idea that dogma should override science on something like stem-cell research or AIDS prevention strikes most Europeans as bizarre.

In the United States, meanwhile, reason is on the defensive as we head backward toward creationism and religious absolutism. This is one of those moments when people all over the world, threatened by cultural and economic assaults far beyond their local control, are turning to fundamentalisms. Author Ben Barber sums it up in three words: Jihad vs. McWorld.

What is uniquely alarming in the United States today, among all the democracies and in our own history, is that a president of the United States is explicitly on the side of antimodernism. Never before has an American chief executive worked deliberately to foment a fundamentalist absolutism that is ultimately tribal, theocratic, antiscientific, and incompatible with pluralist democracy....

Strong States' Rights Not Likely Key to Left, Right Unity
...Just a few weeks ago, on the National Review Web site, conservative author David Frum wrote that “nearly all conservatives” support Medicaid and Medicare, two of the three largest programs the federal government runs. Not only that, but Frum recommended a tax on high-calorie foods to encourage American consumers to make better decisions about what they eat — the very kind of social engineering conservatives have long opposed.

However, committed states-righters and libertarians can take heart. Apparently, federalism is not dead. The left, long proponents of big, activist federal government, finding itself unquestionably in the minority, is discovering the virtues of federalism. Facing what could be the lengthy reign of a conservative government, many blue-staters are thinking hard about the advantages of local rule.

Liberal Swarthmore historian Timothy Burke wrote on his blog shortly after the election:

[I]t is a shocking thing to wake up the next morning and feel that one is really the target of hatred, to recognize that one's country is now in the hands of people who hate you, disrespect you, and intend to leave little room for you to live the life you prefer on the terms you prefer to live it …

Burke then suggested that the left abandon the idea of an influential federal government that dictates top-down policy for the entire country in favor of allowing blue-state jurisdictions to live by blue-state policy and red-state jurisdictions to live by red-state policy.

He isn't alone. University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole suggested on his Web site that the best way for Democrats to defuse hot-button cultural issues such as gay marriage is to privatize the institution, a position long held by libertarians.

Crooked Timber's Belle Waring went a step further, openly courting libertarians to join a coalition with the left. Salon and The Nation have also run pieces entertaining a left-side embrace of states' rights.

Principled federalists such as Tech Central Station's Nick Schulz (writing for FOXNews.com), Reason magazine's Jesse Walker, the New York Post's Ryan Sager and George Mason University's Don Boudreaux have correctly welcomed such sentiment.

The left's newfound interest in local rule, while baldly self-interested, is heartening. Even the most oppressive of public policies are tolerable if the people subjected to them are free to move to cities or states whose laws are more in line with their beliefs. The idea, to borrow from Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, is to have 50 “laboratories of democracy” at the state level, and hundreds more at the municipal level, each setting its own laws, each competing for citizens and taxpayers.

But while the left's flirtation with federalism is encouraging, there's also plenty of room for skepticism. The political right once professed allegiance to federalism — until they started winning elections. Now, after decades of wanting to be left alone, the right intends to use its power to impose its values on the rest of country. And now, after decades of trying to foist one-size-fits-all policy onto the rest of the country in nearly every facet of life — from gun control to labor and environmental policy to driving laws to education — the left, now out of power, simply want to be left alone.

Neither is all that surprising. Most people think everyone else should live they way they do. And at the same time, most people resent being told how to live....

TAYLOR: Death is result of debate about God
A Taylor police dispatcher took the call at precisely 12:44 p.m. on Oct. 18.

A 49-year-old man said he'd just blasted a man with a revolver and a shotgun because the man said he didn't believe in God.

The dispatcher said the alleged shooter told him he'd just shot "the devil himself" and was still armed and standing over the body of the 62-year-old victim "in case he moved."

"I want to make sure he's gone," the alleged shooter told the dispatcher.

The dispatcher asked the suspect how many times he shot the victim.

"Hopefully enough," was the suspect's chilling reply, according to the dispatcher.

When police arrived in the 15600 block of McGuire, they could see the victim seated on a living room couch with major trauma to his head, officers said.

They said they were certain he was dead. He was.

Lying on a hallway floor was a black 12-gauge shotgun. Two spent shotgun shells lay on the floor nearby.

Later, police found a revolver with five spent cartridge casings.

On the way to the police station, the suspect told police "he did not want to deal with anyone that did not believe in God," according to the report.

The report also indicated that the suspect and the victim knew each other, although their relationship was unclear.

The suspect said he was an Eagle Scout, the report said.

The suspect said the victim had told him there was nothing he could say that would convince the 62-year-old to believe in God.

Following this discussion, the suspect said, he went into another room and removed his shirt. Then he shaved his face.

He tried once more to convince the victim to believe in God, but this time, he had the shotgun.

"How long would it take you to believe in God?" the suspect said he asked the victim.

"Not until I hear Gabriel blow his horn," the victim allegedly replied, while tipping his hat.

That's when the suspect shot him.

"I did it because he is evil; he was not a believer," the suspect told police.

The suspect said the victim "has been locked up most of his life."

Michigan Department of Corrections records indicate the victim was on probation for a drug conviction.

At the police station, the suspect commented that he believed there is a God.

Then, looking at the floor, he seemed to have second thoughts: "Maybe there's not," he said.

Dear Liberal Friend
I feel your pain. You just suffered through an election in which your side lost and a politician you despise was returned to the White House at the head of a triumphant band of congressional allies. Now you fear that the "enemy" administration will use the power of the state to shove its alien values down your throat.

Of course I sympathize. As a libertarian, I've spent all my life suffering through disappointing election returns. Each turn of the political wheel brings new laws and bureaucracies that exist to impose values on me that I utterly reject. The difference between me and you is that I never have high hopes on election eve, so I feel resignation instead of despair. Oh. Another difference is that some of the alien values shoved down my throat in the past were yours. Whoops! I guess now you know how it feels.

But what's all this talk about emigration and secession? Are you really so distraught that you want to leave the country and (maybe) take some of the geography with you?

Well, you know that I'm sympathetic; I've discussed such options myself. I suppose it's unfeeling of me to mention that folks like you once vocally hoped the IRS would hunt people like me to the ends of the Earth when we pondered escaping to a less kleptocratic jurisdiction, and you unkindly suggested that "Appomatox settled all that" when we fantasized about raising our own flag over a friendly locale. That's in the past. Let's let bygones be bygones. ...

...Now, as for this new-found secessionist sentiment of yours and this talk of a looming civil war between progressive blue states and reactionary red states ...

Ummm ... are you sure you're up to it? Oh I know that the blue states have big universities and successful businesses and a vibrant culture -- wasn't I the one who turned you on to that great Ethiopian restaurant before I moved away? But, believe it or not, red states have businesses, colleges and culture too, as well as something that you don't have and that you're going to need if you're serious about this brother-against-brother stuff: guns.

It was all well and good when your side was running the show to sniff at the Second Amendment and say that the government should have a monopoly on force. You insisted that any talk of resisting the powers-that-be was just SO reactionary (you DO remember our little chat after the Waco unpleasantness, don't you?). But the world looks a little bit different when the cops work for the opposition, doesn't it? If you plan to redraw national borders, you're going to want something of a heavier caliber than those sharply worded e-mails you've been circulating. Frankly, the other side is heavily armed; you're not. ...

...So here's the deal: If you agree to let me live my own life according to my own values, so long as I don't trample on your rights, I'll agree to do the same by you. Think about it; if we all lived according to that sort of understanding, the stakes would be an awful lot lower when your side lost an election. Then you could go about your business without taking time out to chat with immigration lawyers or draw maps with creative new borders on them.

There's no rush; George W. Bush will be in office for four more years. That's plenty of time to consider the potential benefits of a society in which people live and let live, instead of treating each election as an opportunity break the other side to their will.