7 things @ 11 o’clock (7.8)

1. The Dalston House. The Mom from The Cat in the Hat vs. the Man in the Yellow Hat. “I don’t have to outrun the bear …”

2. Ever since the Supreme Court struck down DOMA and Prop 8, the professional fundraisers of the religious right have been warning that Christians will soon be thrown in jail for being anti-gay. This is stupid on at least two levels: First, because not all Christians are anti-gay and, despite their assumptions and insinuations to the contrary, being anti-gay is not a necessary trait or a defining characteristic for Christians. And second because no one wants to throw them in jail, no one is threatening to throw them in jail, and no legal basis exists for anyone doing so.

The clearest piece of evidence for that latter point is the continuing freedom of the Rev. Fred Phelps. In 2011, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church have every legal right to continue their hateful, loathesome “ministry.”  And if Fred Phelps ain’t in jail for being anti-gay, then no one ever will be.

More recently, the White House responded to a series of online petitions calling for the president to officially designate Westboro Baptist as a “hate group.” The White House pointed out that the president isn’t in the business of designating hate groups — he doesn’t have the power to do so and isn’t inclined to try to change that, even in the extreme case of Westboro, whose behavior, the White House notes, is “reprehensible.”

“As a matter of practice, the federal government doesn’t maintain a list of hate groups,” the White House said. “That’s the prerogative of private organizations like the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center.”

That won’t stop the fundraisers of the religious right from continuing to insist that President Obama is about to designate them as hate groups, or from falsely claiming that their organizations have somehow already been listed as such.

3. When you find yourself praising Vladimir Putin as your ideal moral leader, you’re doing it wrong.

4. Since Friday’s Left Behind post here dealt both with the Two Witnesses and with a trip to Galilee, here are a couple of recent items of related interest. First is James McGrath’s discussion of Lee Harmon’s speculation as to a historical basis (or identity) for the witnesses in the book of Revelation. McGrath finds the idea interesting, but he’s not buying it. Check the post out, though, for a good example of how theologians go about considering such things (and for the awesomely awful “Bible prophecy” artwork of the fire-breathing witnesses). The second item is the news of a weird discovery beneath the waves of the Sea of Galilee:

Researchers stumbled upon a cone-shaped monument, approximately 230 feet in diameter, 39 feet high, and weighing an estimated 60,000 tons, while conducting a geophysical survey on the southern Sea of Galilee, reports Prof. Shmulik Marco of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Geophysics and Planetary Sciences. The team also included TAU Profs. Zvi Ben-Avraham and Moshe Reshef, and TAU alumni Dr. Gideon Tibor of the Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute.

Initial findings indicate that the structure was built on dry land approximately 6,000 years ago, and later submerged under the water. Prof. Marco calls it an impressive feat, noting that the stones, which comprise the structure, were probably brought from more than a mile away and arranged according to a specific construction plan.

Dr. Yitzhak Paz of the Antiquities Authority and Ben-Gurion University says that the site, which was recently detailed in the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, resembles early burial sites in Europe and was likely built in the early Bronze Age. He believes that there may be a connection to the nearby ancient city of Beit Yerah, the largest and most fortified city in the area.

That’s a cool piece of archaeological/historical news, but I’m also waiting to see what the End-Times enthusiasts and the “Bible prophecy scholars” will concoct in response to this story. I can see some Ken-Ham-types deciding this is a remnant of the Tower of Babel or evidence of Noah’s Flood. Or some enterprising huckster might decide it’s a kind of Asherah pole and start raising funds to have it torn down lest we risk incurring divine wrath. For folks like Tim LaHaye, John Hagee and Jack Van Impe, I’m sure this will be seen as yet another sign of the imminent End of the World, but how exactly they’ll go about spinning it as such I can’t guess.

5. On a related note about biblical study and the study of history, Paul at Disoriented. Reoriented has a nice overview of the very weak case for a historical interpretation of the story of Exodus (or, if you like, an overview of the very strong case against interpreting the story of Exodus as actual history). And Darrell Pursiful guides us through a discussion of some of the other, non-historical content in our King James Bibles — namely, the bits about unicorns, dragons, satyrs and onocentaurs.

6. From Brian McLaren:

Gregory of Nyssa said that sin is essentially a refusal to grow, and I think, in many ways, he is right. One narrative looks around and says that every day, in every way, the world is getting worse. Another narrative looks around and says that every day, in every way, the world is getting better. A wiser narrative might be — every day, and in every way, we are always negotiating between regression, stagnation, stability, and growth.

That’s why I would rather say that our strongest and best tradition is a willingness to learn, change, and grow. To be carefully and wisely progressive is — traditional in the best sense.

7. Want another seven things? Here’s Omid Safi offering “7 observations on North Carolina’s anti-democratic, anti-Muslim, anti-women legislation.” Appropriate reading for this, the 11th Moral Monday. (See also Ed Kilgore on North Carolina’s “Selective Fundamentalism“: “Having resolved to protect the Tar Heel State from the entirely imaginary threat of Islamic theocracy, the solons figured they’d show the world what home-grown theocracy looked like. …” )

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  • In other news, Ohio is looking at new anti-abortion legislation which does not permit a woman to go to a public hospital if she is suffering complications from an abortion, even if it’s an emergency.

  • Darakou

    The structure found beneath the Sea of Galilee is clearly some kind of Lovecraftian shenanigans. Hope they don’t wake up grumpy eldritch horrors.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Would this not violate the federal that (I think, don’t quote me) Reagan signed that states that hospitals have to treat emergency patients, regardless of the situation? Or does that “situation” only apply to ability to pay?

  • According to this, agreement on this is contingent to even receiving a license to become a clinic.

  • Baby_Raptor

    So, they’re baldly just trying to kill us now. They aren’t even making pretenses about it anymore.

    No words.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    It wouldn’t apply in this case for the simple reason that this provision will require any affected clinics (I’m not sure it applies to all clinics) to shut down. They can’t get a license if they don’t have an agreement with a hospital, and this law will prevent hospitals from signing such an agreement. So have no fear! The law only affects clinics, not people. When women show up at the hospital with complications from botched back-alley abortions they won’t be turned away.

  • EllieMurasaki

    That isn’t what I’d call an improvement.

  • Ten to one odds, in the Orwellian world we live in now, they’ll wait a few months after passing this bill and then claim “Not one hospital is willing to treat a woman who’s sullied herself with murder!”

    I knew Ohio was in a bad place eight years ago when the Republican party there tried to disenfranchise poor voters by claiming that anyone who’d had a foreclosure on their house at any point in the last four years couldn’t be considered an actual resident of the state, but this is getting ridiculous.

  • Emcee, cubed

    Sorry to go off-topic, but I am pleased to announce that on August 2, 2013, my husband of 23 and a half years and myself will be travelling from our home in Las Vegas, NV to San Bernardino, CA where we have an appointment with the County Clerk to get an official marriage license, and then have the ceremony performed by the Deputy Commissioner of Civil Marriage. As my husband has no connection to his last name (it is his father’s name, who he has never met), he will be taking my last name. Once we have a legal marriage, I will then be eligible to share his federal employee benefits, which means I will have health insurance for the first time in over 3 years. While the legalization will do little to change our actual relationship in any way, it’s still pretty damn exciting.

  • EllieMurasaki

    *throws rice*

  • That’s so much better than my news. Congratulations!

  • Baby_Raptor

    Yeah, this.

  • jojo

    SPLC is the biggest active hate group in America, a fundraising scam of the worst kind.

  • dpolicar


  • jojo

    So, it’s really about the money after all. No surprise.

  • Yes, because people stick together for over twenty-three years just for the legal benefits. Tell me how this applies to some couples and not to others?

  • Alix

    Sorry, I’m laughing at you too hard right now to take anything you say seriously.

  • Alix

    Sure, ’cause marriage is all about the money. *rolls eyes* You’ll be giving up your right to marry right quick, I’m sure.

  • That Other Jean

    Woot! Congratulations!

  • Alix

    That’s awesome!

  • themunck

    Regarding #3. They’re praising the Ruskie president? John Birch must be rolling in his grave.* Traitors.
    * Well, maybe he’d approve when he learned that the Soviets were gone, since it must mean the Americans won and installed some freedom fighter to rule…What’s that? He was director of the KGB and the US had no involvement in his’election’? Yeah, traitors.

  • themunck

    Silly Alix, all weddings are about money. That’s why they’re so cheap, and people are only donating money to the fight for gay rights because they know it’d profit themselves, in the end. That’s why no heterosexual people, or people who’re already married, care about gay marrige, as well.

  • *Excite* *throws confetti*

  • Shay Guy

    The cartoon special implies that she was going grocery shopping.

  • Isn’t that just begging for some kind of negligent manslaughter conviction + revocation of a medical licence for any doctor who actually refused treatment in such a situation?

  • Yep, just like all the straight marriages, and like all those people making babies just for the tax deduction. Cha-ching!

  • Ow! You coulda taken it out of the bag first.

    Good arm, though.

    Congrats, EMC3.

  • EllieMurasaki

    You say that like money’s an illegitimate reason to do a thing. Do you have a job? If the answer is ‘yes’ or ‘no but I want/need/am trying to find one’, then money is clearly a legitimate reason for you to do a thing, which means you’ve got no basis on which to judge Emcee for money being a reason for Emcee to do a thing.
    Not that you’d have a basis to judge Emcee on that point anyway, but I’m having trouble articulating why, if all the things you do are for love and not at all for money, you don’t get to judge people for doing something for money. Someone help?

  • Brad Ellison
  • Brian Baresch

    Regarding #6, someone said “People don’t grow, they just learn how to act in public.” Which may be another way of saying the same thing. Pondering …

  • Don’t worry, jojo. Nobody’s actually stopping you from being a hate-filled douchecanoe.

  • -G-G-

    Regarding “Americans for Truth About Homosexuality’s” statement: It always makes me chuckle when someone calls gays “decadent”. I’m obviously not doing something right because that’s certainly not in the top 25 words anyone would use to describe my life.

  • Alix

    Because love doesn’t pay the bills, and money’s not an illegitimate reason to do things. Households are concerned with financial matters, after all, even if that’s not the primary or only matter of concern for a household.

    Sure, there are people who do things they ought not for money, but that doesn’t make money the problem, or a bad reason for something, and I kind of wish people’d get over this whole “doing something for money is AUTOMATICALLY BAD” thing. I hear it a lot in relation to my art – it’s okay for me to paint because I love painting, whatever, but as soon as I say I want to sell some of it and get a decent price for my effort, to a not insignificant number of people I’m no longer producing legitimate art, and they get offended.

    I think something similar’s at play here. We’re allowed to value some things – art, marriage – only as long as that value isn’t monetary, because somehow attaching actual monetary value to something automatically cheapens/delegitimizes it. Which is a stupid attitude. IMO.

    It reminds me of the time I argued with someone that I wish we’d go back to a version of weregild, where if you killed someone you paid their family a set (and high) price, instead of keeping people in prison forever or executing them for it. And I was reamed out for it, because apparently placing any kind of monetary value on a person is a horrific devaluation of them in a way that, say, cheerily executing people we hope are really murderers isn’t. :/

  • Jamoche

    A bit of google image search confirms what I thought: the ‘awesomely awful “Bible prophecy” artwork’ comes from the Left Behind comics: http://leftbehind.wikia.com/wiki/File:Judgement_Fire_comic.jpg

    Interesting that the full page version has one of the witnesses saying something that isn’t a Bible quote.

  • Alix

    Also, what really gets me about the “oh, so you’re just doing it for money” thing in relation to marriage is that, well, yeah. And so do straight couples. It just strikes me that a lot of gay couples have a much better sense of how valuable those financial benefits are, and how much they really do matter to a marriage/household, and are in the end more honest about it than a lot of straight couples, who would kick up an unholy fuss if the benefits they don’t even think about were taken away from them.

    That’s … kind of the definition of entitlement and privilege, there – having benefits that are so invisible to you you don’t even value them, and then deriding the people who do see and value them as obviously less pure and loving than you. :/

  • Sexual activity without the risk of pregnancy? Decadence of the highest order!

    Also decadent: eating food without the risk of e coli, playing with toys that are guaranteed lead-free, and driving cars that don’t kill the occupants in an accident.

    Look at you, living all fancy with your clothing that wasn’t made with caustic powders, prancing around in your house with fire alarms!

  • Congratulations!

  • R.I.P. Jim Kelly

  • EllieMurasaki

    Aha. Thank you.

    As I recall from David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5,000 Years, bride price and whatever the word is for what you’re talking about (I have quite forgotten) are not placing value on people, they’re symbolic representations of the fact that people are impossible to place value on. Or some such thing, it’s been a while since I read it, and what stuck better in my mind is that placing actual (instead of symbolic) monetary value on people is what got us the slave trade and still has us stuck in a situation where many employers prefer to fire an employee who wants a raise rather than hang on to the employee’s expertise because it is [perceived to be] cheaper to train a new one who won’t make waves about the lower pay rate.

  • -G-G-

    Congrats! That’s great, many more happy years to you both.

  • Man, I hope you were just aiming for ironic humor and accidentally landed on “asshole”.

  • Congratulations!

  • Alix

    Symbolic value is a great way of describing weregild – and I think I need to read that book, since I’ve never seen the bride-price system described that way. Though it makes sense, now that I think about it.

    Weregild wasn’t flawless, and it could be gamed in nasty ways – but so can any system, and the idea was that you made the price so high it made killing people not a cheap thing to do, but not so high that the victim’s families never got their just recompense. Someone somewhere described the difference between weregild and our system as between compensatory justice and punitive justice – what matters more: whether someone pays a fair price for their crimes (specifically, to the victims, too) and goes on to continue to be productive in society, or whether someone’s punished enough to satiate our desire for vengeance?

    On actual vs. symbolic value – I wonder if part of that is that we’ve devalued the concept of money as symbolic. We understand money only (or largely) in the purely practical sense of a unit of economic exchange, and don’t use it much as a real/material token of symbolic/non-material value. I’m not sure I’m explaining this well, but I think it does tie into people deriding monetary reasons for marriage or ragging on folks for wanting money for art and suchlike – we both devalue money as a method of expressing symbolic value and value money as a symbol itself more than what it can be used for. (“You’re doing it for the money?” and “Why would I waste my hard-earned money on that?“)

    …Not sure that makes sense, but I am a bit distracted today. :/

  • Emcee, cubed

    I am well aware that jojo is a troll, saying offensive things to get a rise. And thank you, everyone, for your support. Which is why I think it’s kind of funny that my reaction to his comment is, “Yeah, pretty much.” Oh, there is certainly a feel-good feeling from having a legal marriage after all this time that has nothing to do with money. But we had a commitment ceremony 21 years ago. Since that time (and before), we’ve taken responsibility for each other. For our health, our well-being, our commitments. His debts and earnings are mine, and vice versa. For all that time, we’ve paid higher taxes, higher insurance premiums, etc. than a heterosexual married couple would have. We don’t need our relationship “validated”. It already is by everyone we consider important. But having our benefits that we’ve been denied for more than two decades? That’s major. This article probably says it better. It has stuck with me since I read it, because it is so true. (If you see this, Rob, thanks.) Is our relationship about money? Of course not. Is our marriage about money? You betcha.

  • Emcee, cubed

    Based on his other comment in this thread, I’d say nope. Asshole is just his default status.

  • Alix

    I kind of wish the straight folks who deride gay marriage would answer one question: since no one has to be actually married to be in a loving, committed relationship, why on earth do they feel they need to get married? If it’s just about the love and commitment between partners, why do they need the state to rubber-stamp that?

  • Emcee, cubed

    Okay, I seriously need to add “douchecanoe” to my repertoire of insults. Thanks!

  • Conservatives in this country will not be capable of responsible governance until they surrender the conceit of being inherently stronger and braver than everyone else; so that the default solution to any problem they have is always to be more absolutist, more uncompromising, ‘tougher’. At the superficial level they can of course only increase and accelerate the Democratic majority by behaving this way but at the real level they are hardly causing any less damage and human suffering then in the days they enjoyed total control.

    Of course, if the U.S. Right did lose the notion that it need only hit us liberal wimps a little harder so that we back down and they win, it would suddenly become something quite essentially different from what it’s been since at least the days of Nixon, so it will probably be quite a long while yet.

  • Pretty much sums up politics right now: rich people complaining about poor people who want money.

  • Daniel

    Yep, you tell ’em jojo. You tell them how little their happiness means, selfish bastards wanting the same access to health care that straight married couples get… conniving little… Thank god there are people like you who can expose their arguments for “equality” for what they really are. They say they want equality, what they really want is THE SAME RIGHTS AS US!
    Incidentally, what do you mean “no surprise”? Are gay couples known for their mercenary outlook on life? I always thought that was a different historically persecuted group.