Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Things you discover when your dog wakes you up at 4:45 in the morning...

Some people think Christians shouldn't do yoga. Yeah, my antibodies went into overtime on this one.

They are blowing the tops of mountains off in West Virginia because it's faster and cheaper than digging underground. I'm sorry--did the 1970's through today, and the advances in ecological protection that came with them, never actually happen? I mean... you can actually do crap like this in America today?

Sofyst wonders what we do when we are "are somewhat left by God without clear direction." I comment that this pretty much describes everyday life, doesn't it?

Eric at Two World Collision posts about being honest about, among other things, his relationship challenges. A commenter mentions about how gays often have to experience in adulthood what the rest of us do as adolescents when it comes to the awkwardness of learning how to actually romance another human being--which strikes me as a surprising truth. As an aside, MZ would probably be compelled to mention that I am still learning how to romance another human being.

By the way, gay bars are closing all over the place because gays are increasingly preferring to spend time one on one with their partners, inconveniently depriving evangelicals of a stereotype-supporting crutch. Damn them!

Tim Ferriss talks about radical honesty. Me and MZ had been talking recently about whether true transparency looks something like radical honesty. I wouldn't go that far.

Joe Carter reviews an evangelical thriller and remarks that the book "[c]ontains many of the standard faults of "Christian" novels: flat characterization, unconvincing conversions, stereotypical villains." I remark that he just aptly described evangelical culture.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Be Forewarned...

Guitar Hero II will rock your muthafsking azz off.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Taking my spiritual temperature

I wouldn't have expected it, but as I sit here in September of 2007, over a year since my mother's death and the ridiculous, maddening end to my involvement in the church that I served on the board at for three years--which coincided with my last desire to have anything at all to do with evangelicalism--as I sit here now, I frankly am still pissed off. I can't even pretend to believe much of what I used to believe about what I used to profess on a weekly (if not daily) basis.

I feel, for deeply personal reasons, that Jesus did live and that he lives spiritually. But as for doctrine... I almost don't even care. I don't read the Bible, I don't seek secondary sources, I don't pray, and I hardly even think about spiritual matters. I find plenty of time to drop f-bombs on the stupidity and ham-handedness of stupid church people, but don't have the desire to slice off much time at all to reflect on who Jesus still is or what I am supposed to do with him.

I can't say I am proud of the degree to which my anger at the evangelical church controls my life. I spend hours every week moving among blogs that discuss evangelical issues, processing and processing my thoughts and feelings about evangelical doctrine and praxis. Were it not for my incredible wife, I almost certainly would say Fuck All and forget about this nonsense, but she is too much a part of me to write off the process. Where I end up is not academic considering her devotion to me and to God.

And yet I feel like I now have an antibody in my system that makes me want to vomit out anything that tastes like my old evangelical diet. I feel as if I have crossed a spiritual Rubicon, and contented belief lies back on a shore that I can't and won't return to. So somewhere along this path, the anger has to get replaced by a right-minded seeking so that I can, to the extent that I still believe in Jesus (as opposed to believing about him) actually structure my life in a way that reflects that belief. For now, I do what I do because I believe it's the right thing to do. I would expect that if I take back on belief in Jesus, absent the make-work, busy-busy, nicey-nice of Churchianity, my life will actually have to show that.

Anyways, that's my spiritual temperature as of 9:07PM on Sunday, September 16th, 2007.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Dylan, Man...

Check it out.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Exporting pollution

Much is said of our exportation of jobs to China via our mass-consumption of their mass-produced goods, but one could just as well understand that we are also exporting our own pollution. China's air, water, and soil pollution practices are probably consistent with where we were over 50 years ago. If not further back.

In Linfen, for instance, the many coal plants and manufacturing interests pump a steady stream of sulfur oxide and coal dust into the air and arsenic into the water table. Linfen is a pathetic example of Business Gone Wild, but it is hardly alone. 16 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, according to the World Bank, are in China.

When I was a kid growing up in the 60s and 70s in the Los Angeles basin, I remember many summer days where to play outside meant getting sore lungs. If you haven't felt it, there's no describing it. I imagine that kids in Beijing, pictured below (after a rain on the left, on a sunny day to the right), know that feeling.

Thankfully it's not like that in Southern California any more, for the most part. Smog alerts, once a fixture of summer, are largely a thing of the past. And while I believe in free enterprise, somebody's got to be watching the store and thinking about something more than profit and employment statistics. Profit and jobs are good. Very good. But they are not the only things that matter in life.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Conservatives in the Tearoom

Is it hypocrisy when a social conservative, adamantly opposed to gay rights, adultery, divorce, or what have you is caught literally and figuratively with his pants down doing the very thing he proclaims to despise?

According to Andrew Sullivan and some others, maybe it's deeper than simple hypocrisy. Says Andrew:
Social conservatives who try to have extremely discreet and anonymous sex or drugs or whatever are not, perhaps, hypocrites as such. They recognize vice, do not deny it, see it in themselves, understand that some of it is simply irrepressible, and do not see their public moralizing as in conflict with it. Think Bill Bennett or Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly or David Vitter: all involved in various personal vices (often compulsively) - and arguably more socially conservative because of them.
Reference is made in Andrew's post to a now 37-year old study that was done by Laud Humphreys, a graduate student (later professor) of sociology of the "tearoom" trade, or in straight parlance anonymous sex in men's rooms, in St. Louis in the mid-1960's.

I was impressed with Humphrey's inventiveness in how he went about peeling back the onion to discover who these men were that had sex with strangers in mens' rooms. Check this out:
Posing as a voyeur, and never revealing that he was there for research, Humphreys was accepted as “watchqueen” by the social circle hanging out at the restroom. He was entrusted with giving a signal if the police came around. He took notes on the activity taking place – including the license plates numbers of men who came around for fellatio. Through a contact in the police department, he was able to get their home addresses. After a year, and having disguised himself to some degree, he visited them under the pretense of doing a survey for an insurance company to gather more data about their circumstances and opinions. Humphreys states that he was never recognized during these interviews.
Gotta admire that commitment to discovering the truth. Though obviously deceitful, he ultimately honored the anonymity of the men he studied by destroying their personal information. Anyway, here's what he found:
Men he had observed having anonymous sex in a public place often turned out to be ardent champions of law and order. Unable to control themselves in that part of their lives, they put on the defensive “breastplate,” redoubling their efforts elsewhere: “Motivated largely by his own awareness of the discreditable nature of his secret behavior,” wrote Humphreys in his dissertation, “the covert deviant develops a presentation of self that is respectable to a fault. His whole lifestyle becomes an incarnation of what is proper and orthodox.”
So maybe that explains cats like Larry Craig and Ted Haggard, or even Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart. They're not so much hypocrites as they are tormented by their own deviance to the point that they crank up the volume of their moralism publicly to overcompensate.

That sounds reasonable to me, but I wonder if there isn't something peculiar about the religious conservative closeted homosexual. After all, we know the type has sought refuge in the Catholic priesthood. Cynics may say that they put on the cloth purely as an avenue to get the trust of young boys, but I suspect again that it's deeper than that. I wonder if the guilt and shame that society imposes upon being gay causes men to reassert their goodness and morality by becoming champions of righteousness, while unable to restrain their impulses privately.

Something, my friends, has got to change.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Beard is Back

I don't want to hate anybody in general, but I am so over this asshat, his stupid beard, and his pointless murder cult.

Saving Grace

Not that we needed another TV show to pack into our busy lives, but the wife and I have started watching the new TNT series Saving Grace. Holly Hunter stars as a hard-living Oklahoma City police detective named Grace (as in saving--get it?) who, in a desperate moment, calls out for God's help which arrives in the form of Earl the angel. Played by Leon Rippy (who has one of the most syrupy and memorable voices in Hollywood), Earl is a tobacco-chewing, jean-and-boot wearing good old boy sent from heaven to rescue Grace from the fires of hell. "Lots of folks goin' to hell these days," Earl says at one point in the series premiere.

What I like about this show is that it's a nice mix of edginess, grit, physical beauty, complex characters, humor, and hope. Touched by an Angel it's not, but neither does it take a low view of God and spirituality.

The language and sex is as bold and explicit as it gets on commercial TV, so be advised, but I like the show for its artfulness and perspective.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Freedom bleeds from a thousand little cuts...

For most of my adult life, the term "civil liberties" was more likely to induce a little roll of the eyes, a little "there they go again" directed at the avant garde of social excess, pushing the boundaries of what a polite society would consider remotely reasonable stretches of personal freedom. And in the 1980s, when I was coming of age, that's mostly what they were: ACLU lawsuits that always seemed to favor the cause of the extreme left (although I do recall them defending the rights of the Klan to march) or just plain bizarre behavior.

But in the last few years, my reflexive rightist tendencies have been draining from me, and perhaps not coincidentally I've had the increasing sensation of encroachment on my liberties as an American citizen.

Maybe it's the security cameras that keep popping up.

Maybe it's the "rights management" controls that have invaded the digital content I buy.

Maybe it's the obtrusive security at airports, and the way minor civil servants have started to talk to me like I was a third grader at a fire drill.

Maybe it's these inexplicable camps that my wife has been questioning lately.

Maybe it's the way that the Congress seems to be bending over backwards to serve the interests of corporations.
Maybe it's my realization that while the government says it's never about oil or money, it's always about oil or money.

Maybe it's the way that no matter where you are, somebody can find you from your cell phone.

Maybe it was when a co-worker figured out something I posted anonymously on the internet that didn't even concern him directly--and in the course of his search, identified a psuedonymn that I've used to post a lot of private observations online.

Maybe it's all this talk of a national identity card.

Maybe it's this talk of building fences and militarizing our borders.

Maybe it's that we are being "temporary inconvenienced" with wartime laws and security measures for a war that nobody can project a real end to.

Maybe it's all the money in politics.

I really don't have the answers, and I'm far from being a raver about this stuff. I just have to confess that where I once implicitly trusted--I don't know, call it "the system"--I no longer do. I think I've been around too long and seen too much. Wisdom doesn't counsel trust of power; "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." I have found, to my great disillusionment, that those with money and power can be trusted to do almost anything they think they can get away with to get more of both. And the more power that is concentrated in Washington, the more money competes to buy it and direct its hand.

Distressing, and frankly at this stage I'm not entirely sure what to think about it all.