How to deal with Christian-baiting

Well-played, San Antonio Christians!  You basically ignored this, making the atheists look bad!

A small group of students at the University of Texas at San Antonio spent two days last week sitting in the middle of campus next to bright red signs covered in large black letters. One said “Free Porn.” The other offered “Smut for Smut.”

The students, all members of Atheist Agenda, hoped to entice their classmates to turn in their Bibles in exchange for pornographic magazines – a provocative offer designed to shock and attract attention.

“The point is not to hand out porn, but rather the primary purpose is to get people to come talk to us so we can get our message out,” Kyle Bush, the group’s president, said. “We want to spread atheism and bring it more to the spotlight. We offer another alternative to people who might not fit in anywhere else.”

The event caused an uproar on campus in 2008 and made headlines around the world. But this year, few students took notice. During the four hours Atheist Agenda members spent next to their signs each day, only about 30 people stopped by to get information about the club or start a debate.

In addition to Bibles, the group offered to collect other religious texts, including the Quran, and any books written by prominent pastors, including Joel Osteen and Rick Warren. During the event, Atheist Agenda collected five Bibles, one Encyclopedia of Islam, and one Quran. The group plans to donate the books to a local library.

Despite the event’s ability in previous years to attract attention for atheism, Bush said the group didn’t have any financial backers outside its student members. The group raised all of the money needed to put on the event themselves, he said. One of the group’s fundraisers included selling popsicles.

“A lot of the money comes from members,” Bush said. “Like if we need posters, somebody will go and buy posters.”

The group purchased 140 pounds of pornographic magazines for $30 from a seller on Craigslist.

via Atheists offer porn in exchange for Bibles | World on Campus: news for college students from a Christian perspective..

In other words, the event fizzled.  The atheists looked pathetic, and the Christians were above the fray.  That’s the way to handle this sort of thing.  The thing is, the general public doesn’t much like it when Christians proselytize, but they don’t like it when atheists do it either!  The atheists are slow to realize that. And there is still shame in pornography, which is why people use it in secret on the internet and why the atheists could buy 140 pounds of pornographic magazines for $30.  Though we can be outraged at the blasphemy, we can note how few takers there were and how the atheists are so clueless about how to get their message across.

Santorum leaves the race

Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum Suspends Campaign « CBS Philly.  I can’t see conservatives rallying around Newt Gingrich, though, can you?  It looks like the coronation of Mitt Romney can now proceed.

And now “zombie guns”

Russia has developed weapons that disable to various degrees the central nervous system.  They have already been used in “crowd control,” suggesting that they are not just for military purposes but for internal policing and even, for political control.   But what I want to know as an American is whether  the Second Amendment applies to zombie guns too!

Vladimir Putin has confirmed Russia has been testing mind-bending psychotronic guns that can effectively turn people into zombies.

The futuristic weapons – which attack their victims’ central nervous system – are being developed by scientists and could be used against Russia’s enemies and even its own dissidents by the end of the decade.

Mr Putin has described the guns, which use electromagnetic radiation like that found in microwave ovens, as entirely new instruments for achieving political and strategic goals.

Plans to introduce the super-weapons were announced by Russian defence minister Anatoly Serdyukov.

While the technology has been around for some time, MrTsyganok said the guns were recently tested for crowd control purposes.

“When it was used for dispersing a crowd and it was focused on a man, his body temperature went up immediately as if he was thrown into a hot frying pan,” Mr Tsyganok said.

“Still, we know very little about this weapon and even special forces guys can hardly cope with it,” he said.

Research into electromagnetic weapons has been carried out in the US and Russia since the ’50s but it appears Putin has stolen a march on the US.

Precise details have not been revealed but previous research has shown that low-frequency waves or beams can affect brain cells, alter psychological states and make it possible to transmit suggestions and commands directly into someone’s thoughts.

Mr Putin said the technology is comparable in effect to nuclear weapons but “more acceptable in terms of political and military ideology”.

via Russia working on electromagnetic radiation guns | Space, Military and Medicine | Herald Sun.

Christianity and politics, reconsidered

E. J. Dionne is a Catholic who is liberal politically.  I wonder, though, if all sides could find some agreement in what he says about Christianity recognizing the “limits” of politics:

It’s hard not to notice that Christianity hasn’t been presented in its own best light during this election year because Christians have not exactly been putting forward their best selves.

My colleague Michael Gerson wrote recently about the “crude” way religion has played out in the Republican primaries, including “the systematic subordination of a rich tradition of social justice to a narrow and predictable political agenda.”

Gerson is exactly right, but I don’t propose to use his admirable column as an excuse to pile onto the religious right. Instead, I want to suggest that what should most bother Christians of all political persuasions is that there are right and wrong ways to apply religion to politics, and much that’s happening now involves the wrong ways. Moreover, popular Christianity often seems to denigrate rather than celebrate intellectual life and critical inquiry. This not only ignores Christian giants of philosophy and science but also plays into some of the very worst stereotypes inflicted upon religious believers.

What I’m not saying is that Christianity should be disengaged from politics. In fact, the early Christian movement was born in politics, in oppositional circles within Judaism fighting Roman oppression. There is great debate over how to understand the relationship between Jesus’s spirituality and his approach to politics, but his preaching clearly challenged the powers-that-be. He was, after all, crucified.

But because Christians have a realistic and non-utopian view of human nature, they should be especially alive to the ambiguities and ambivalences of politics. The philosopher Jean Bethke Elshtain captured this well in reflecting on Augustine’s writings. “If Augustine is a thorn in the side of those who would cure the universe once and for all,” she wrote, “he similarly torments critics who disdain any project of human community, or justice, or possibility.”

Christians, she’s saying, thus have a duty to grasp both the possibilities and the limits of politics. This, in turn, means that the absolutism so many associate with Christian engagement in politics ought to be seen as contrary to the Christian tradition. And that’s the case even if many Christians over the course of history have acted otherwise.

via A kinder mix of religion and politics during Holy Week – The Washington Post.

Now liberals keep bashing conservative Christians for their relatively recent interest in politics.  They don’t say much, though, about the overtly political agendas of the liberal churches.  I grew up in one of them and attended their conferences.  It has been said (by sociologist Peter Berger) that the best way to understand what the American left is up to is to attend meetings of the National Council of Churches. That agenda, by the way, is utterly utopian.

So I can appreciate what Dionne says, especially if he is willing to apply it to his own side.  (Liberal Catholics, by the way, are just as politically focused with a leftwing ideology as the Protestants in the National Council of Churches, if not more so, what with the revolutionary ideology of liberation theology.)

At the same time, all of this talk about “social justice” strikes me as rank hypocrisy as long as it excludes the justice due to babies being killed in their mother’s wombs.  In fact, I would argue that much of the “Christian right” is animated primarily by horror at legalized abortion.  And that if the issue of abortion were taken off the table–either by Democrats tolerating pro-lifers or Republicans embracing pro-choicers–the Christian right would diffuse its presence politically, though they won’t go away as long as this grotesque social evil continues.

Why Springsteen uses a teleprompter

A Washington Post critic chastized Bruce Springsteen for using a teleprompter at a recent concert, sparking this letter to the editor by E Street Band guitarist Nils Lofgren.  Not only does the letter explain the quite different-from-the-ordinary use of this technology, but it illuminates the spontaneity and “musical recklessness” of a Springsteen concert from the point of view of someone on the inside:

Your teleprompter article left out some important points. Last E Street tour, (”Working On A Dream”) we played 192 different songs on that tour alone. Dozens of those songs were from audience-request signs Bruce would collect and dump in front of the drum riser. He would then rifle through them, sailing them around him until he found a song to attempt — much like the college kid rummaging through the pile of dirty laundry in search of one clean shirt.

Many songs were covers we had never performed live. EVER! He would show us the sign and then immediately “frisbee” it down the stairs to the teleprompter crew to surf the net and find the lyrics while we all talked up a quick arrangement at his microphone, knowing he’d be counting it off in 20 seconds.

Many of those audibles were Bruce songs unrehearsed or played in years or decades. With our collective musical memory, hand signals and teleprompter, it allows for those ambitious, ad lib moments and an inspired, musical recklessness I believe is unique to our shows. These points might have brought some additional perspective to your article. In our case, the teleprompter has a much more ambitious use and purpose than your article indicates.

via Nils Lofgren defends Bruce Springsteen’s use of teleprompter – The Style Blog – The Washington Post.

The “dancing boys” of Afghanistan

A custom of Afghanistan that our intervention has helped bring back into vogue, despite the moralism of Islam:

The 9-year-old boy with pale skin and big, piercing eyes captivated Mirzahan at first sight.

“He is more handsome than anyone in the village,” the 22-year-old farmer said, explaining why he is grooming the boy as a sexual partner and companion. There was another important factor that made Waheed easy to take on as a bacha bazi, or a boy for pleasure: “He doesn’t have a father, so there is no one to stop this.”

A growing number of Afghan children are being coerced into a life of sexual abuse. The practice of wealthy or prominent Afghans exploiting underage boys as sexual partners who are often dressed up as women to dance at gatherings is on the rise in post-Taliban Afghanistan, according to Afghan human rights researchers, Western officials and men who participate in the abuse.

“Like it or not, there was better rule of law under the Taliban,” said Dee Brillenburg Wurth, a child-protection expert at the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, who has sought to persuade the government to address the problem. “They saw it as a sin, and they stopped a lot of it.”

Over the past decade, the phenomenon has flourished in Pashtun areas in the south, in several northern provinces and even in the capital, according to Afghans who engage in the practice or have studied it. Although issues such as women’s rights and moral crimes have attracted a flood of donor aid and activism in recent years, bacha bazi remains poorly understood.

The State Department has mentioned the practice — which is illegal here, as it would be in most countries — in its annual human rights reports. The 2010 report said members of Afghanistan’s security forces, who receive training and weapons from the U.S.-led coalition, sexually abused boys “in an environment of criminal impunity.”

But by and large, foreign powers in Afghanistan have refrained from drawing attention to the issue. . . .

Boys who become bachas are seen as property, said Jawad, the human rights researcher. Those who are perceived as being particularly beautiful can be sold for tens of thousands of dollars. The men who control them sometimes rent them out as dancers at male-only parties, and some are prostituted.

“This is abuse,” Jawad said. “Most of these children are not willing to do this. They do this for money. Their families are very poor.”

Although the practice is thought to be more widespread in conservative rural areas, it has become common in Kabul. Mohammed Fahim, a videographer who films the lavish weddings in the capital, estimated that one in every five weddings he attends in Kabul features dancing boys.

Authorities are well aware of the phenomenon, he said, as he played a video of a recent party that featured an underage boy with heavy makeup shaking his shoulders seductively as men sitting on the floor clapped and smiled.

“Police come because they like it a lot,” Fahim said, referring to parties with dancing boys.

When the boys age beyond their prime and get tossed aside, many become pimps or prostitutes, said Afghan photojournalist Barat Ali Batoor, who spent months chronicling the plight of dancing boys. Some turn to drugs or alcohol, he said.

“In Afghan society, if you are raped or you are abused, you will not have space in society to live proudly,” he said.

When Batoor completed his project on dancing boys, he assumed that nongovernmental organizations would be eager to exhibit his work and raise awareness of the issue. To his surprise, none were.

“They said: ‘We don’t want to make enemies in Afghanistan,’ ” he said, summarizing the general response.

via Afghanistan’s ‘dancing boys’ are invisible victims – The Washington Post.


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