"What is supposed to happen in a democracy is that each sovereign citizen will always vote
in the public interest for the safety and welfare of all. But what does happen is that he votes
his own self-interest as he sees it... which for the majority translates as 'Bread and Circuses'."
- Robert A. Heinlein

In Roman times, free Bread and Circuses entertained the masses. I hope you find your time
here both entertaining and informative.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Solicitation of Topics

Ok Readers: I would like to know what topics (religious or cultural preferably) you would like me to turn my ascerbic wit, cutting insight, biting sarcasm, deep perspective and all around supreme modesty on next. Consider it a jump start for my muse. I'm in the midst of a writing project, and I often find that short essays help me to regroup and recharge in between writing and editing on a larger project. So, if you read this blog at all, and I presume you do because you're the audience of this post, please comment with a few suggestions. Thanks.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Conversations with a Pharisee

Ok, this topic won't leave me alone. My friend Eric recently pointed me to this blog. Cut through the dreck, and this is the conversation that emerged. I'lll use Courier for the blogger's comments, and Times for my reply, and different colors.

This next part of my post is just my opinion. I’m really sorry if you get offended at what I’m about to say but remember that it’s only my opinion. Please don't think that I'm judging anyone by writing what you are about to read. That was and still isn't my intention for writing this post at all. If anything I wrote this post to help others because I don't wish to see anyone hurt themselves or others with their actions. If you happen to smoke and/or drink I don't think any less of you. Please remember to keep in mind that this is only my OPINION and nothing else.

I don’t see why people smoke and drink. First, I’m going to talk about smoking. Why do people do it? Do they not know that they are killing themselves and the people around them? In my opinion people who smoke are potential murderers. Not only are they murderers but they kill their victims very slowly and painfully. My roommate smokes a pipe like a chimney when he goes camping. When I tell him that it’s hurting him and those around him his response is, “but I don’t inhale it.” There is this little thing called mouth cancer that is just as deadly as lung cancer. Plus the more you don’t inhale the more other people inhale, which in my opinion is worse than inhaling yourself because you are harming other innocent people. Paul says in First Corinthians 6:19, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (NASB) He also says it in First Corinthians 3:16-17, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.” (NASB) Below are three lists of facts that I obtained from the American Lung Association. The first one is facts about smoking, the second about secondhand smoke, and the third about smokeless tobacco. Please take a look at them. My Mom worked at the American Lung Association for seven or eight years. During that time I lived with two sets of pig lungs. One pair was normal and the other was treated by scientists to simulate what a smokers lungs would look like. Needless to say, I know how bad any type of smoking is for you and for those around you.

Cigarette smoking has been identified as the most important source of preventable morbidity and premature mortality worldwide.

Secondhand smoke, also know as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), is a mixture of the smoke given off by the burning end of a cigarette, pipe or cigar and the smoke exhaled from the lungs of smokers. It is involuntarily inhaled by nonsmokers, lingers in the air hours after cigarettes have been extinguished and can cause or exacerbate a wide range of adverse health effects, including cancer, respiratory infections, and asthma.

The second thing I’m going to talk about is drinking. My view on drinking is different than my view on smoking. I’m not opposed to drinking wine that is if it is in moderation. The Bible isn’t even against drinking wine in moderation. Jesus even drunk wine (John 2:1-11 Matthew 27:34,48, NASB) The Bible is opposed of getting drunk. Proverbs 20:1 says, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, And whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.” (NASB) Paul says in First Timothy 5:23 to, “No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” (NASB) Personally, I’m never going to drink because there is a history of alcoholism in my family and I frankly don’t understand why people willing drink alcohol when they could just choose water instead. It’s a lot cheaper and it won’t ever give you a buzz. You can’t get drunk off of drinking water. Although I’m not against drinking wine I am, however against drinking beer and whisky. Wine has some healing properties and is normally only drunk at certain times and special occasions. Beer doesn’t. In my opinion, people who drink beer and whisky drink it just to get drunk. What other reason do people drink beer and whisky? Plus, I heard that beer and whisky tastes disgusting. My roommate says that he’s going to start drinking as soon as he turns twenty-one. I’m not. I view it as a waste of money. I can put my money to better things than alcohol, like things that can help me in my ministry.

Well I believe that’s enough ranting and raving for one night. I guess I should probably stop typing and get off here and go to bed. I hope you have a great week! Your Brother in Christ, Matthew Smith

Alright Reader, you still with me? Incensed, I dashed off this response. Yes, I know I'm harsh. So was John the Baptist. A book I read just the other day said "I could not believe in a God who did not kick over tables."

Well, Eric pulled me into this one. Lest you think I am just throwing questions at you, I'd like your response. You obviously are passionate enough about your views to devote quite a bit of page to them, so a bit more responding to my criticisms shouldn't be out of order.

Nice post. You don't think less of me or many great Christian smoking theologians (spurgeon, lewis, tolkien, sproul, barth, bach, etc), but we're potential murderers. Somehow I disbelieve the first statement along with the second. To quote Spurgeon: "Well, dear friends, you know that some men can do to the glory of God what to other men would be sin. And notwithstanding what brother Pentecost has said, I intend to smoke a good cigar to the glory of God before I go to bed to-night. If anybody can show me in the Bible the command, 'Thou shalt not smoke,' I am ready to keep it; but I haven't found it yet. I find ten commandments, and it's as much as I can do to keep them; and I've no desire to make them into eleven or twelve."

To continue with Spurgeon: "There is growing up in society a Pharisaic system which adds to the commands of God the precepts of men; to that system I will not yield for an hour. The preservation of my liberty may bring upon me the upbraidings of many good men, and the sneers of the self-righteous; but I shall endure both with serenity so long as I feel clear in my conscience before God."

Now, I'm not calling you a pharisee personally, but if the den fits, well then viper slither into it.

Let's look at a few inconvenient facts you left out.

Drinking beer does have the same health effects of wine, just possibly one of them in smaller quantities. Before you jump on this, if you have a small headache, which is better, an Advil or a Codeine? Did you know that red wine is more beneficial than white? Would you condemn a white wine drinker as only wanting to get drunk?? Beer also protects bone mineral density. There are also highly potent anti-oxidant properties of xanthohumol, a major hop flavonoid

In fact: a flurry of independent research since those initial reports on red wine's health benefits surfaced a dozen years ago finds that alcohol in general provides a number of health benefits when consumed in moderation, and that beer might be the healthiest beverage of them all.

So I drink Guinness and Glenlivet to get drunk do I? Do you know how much a bottle of Glenlivet costs? At least forty dollars and up. That's fine wine territory. People buy Busch lite or Vodka to get drunk, not top shelf single malt 12 year aged Scotch whisky. You know, maybe this is an example of people with no knowledge of what they speak who should keep their comments to what they do know. Did you know Martin Luther was an esteemed beer brewer? Maybe you can argue this one with him in heaven. "I opposed indulgences and all the papists, but never with force. I simply taught, preached and wrote God's Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it." C.S. Lewis hosted Beer and Beowulf nights with his graduate students. But hey, in Luke 7:33-35 Jesus rebukes the Pharisees by saying "For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, `He has a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, `Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners." So I guess I'm in good company, call me an Christ drunkards together. Please.

Psalm 104 tells us that "GOD made wine that maketh glad the heart of man". We read in Proverbs 31:6&7 "Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more" and in Ecclesiastes 9:7 "Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do." and in Ecclesiastes 10:19 "A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes life merry"

The Rev Elijah Craig, a Baptist minister, was the first to distil Bourbon in 1789
Monks created champagne. Monks brewed beer. Monks brought the technique to make whisky to Scotland (thank God).

As far as drinking wine at certain occasions: Did you know that the health benefits of drinking red wine are associated with having A GLASS A DAY? You write: Plus, I heard that beer and whisky tastes disgusting... Way to go with the wild association. I heard there are mutant crocodiles in the NY subways. I know people who find cola and indeed all sodas disgusting. I know someone who hates the taste of coffee. I even have one friend who can't stand the taste of water. Does this give us any evidence for or against those drinks, some of which I'm sure you drink? Oh, and if you don't think you can get drunk off water, you obviously have never heard of water intoxication.

Ok, mouth cancer: It is much less likely to get mouth cancer from smoking than lung cancer. Also, it's much more treatable and is not a death sentence. Did you know that eating barbecued foods and well done meat HIGHLY increases your risk of colon cancer?

Do you drink caffeine containing beverages? Some people think this is abusing your temple?

If your friend smokes while camping, I imagine you're outdoors. Just how much smoke do you actually inhale, compared to spending the night in a smoke filled bar (I know, a place a Christian would never set foot in.) I'm sure you're not at any risk from the occasional camping trip with your chimney puffing friend. And, if I'm a potential murderer, shouldn't I minimize the exposure of others by filtering such smoke through my lungs first?

Body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit: Mind if I ask your Body Mass Index? Mine's 18.6 I have healthy blood pressure and heart rates, lower than even healthy averages. Gluttony, you know, one of the seven deadly sins, (smoking and drinking are not listed), afflicts hudnreds if not thousands of pastors who use the Temple argument to inveigh against drinking and smoking. Physician heal thyself. In fact, obesity is set to overtake smoking as the number one preventable health problem in America. Sorry if that threatens your mom's job.

If you really want to help people, why not write a blog post exhorting people to moderation in drinking or smoking if they choose to do so??

Since anyone can rip bible passages out of context, here's a nice chunk for you to chew on: Colossians 2, beginning at verse 16: Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (ESV)

Puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head. Pretty strong condemnation of you, by God, for judging me over questions of drink. So you're twenty. You couldn't even legally drink if you wanted to. Do you feel enpowered to comment and pass judgment on all sorts of things with which you have no experience, or just the punching bags of straw men arguments the Church has attempted to get you to accept blindly "Christians dont' do?" Are you an expert on foreign affairs or tax law as well? Does a few Bible verses give you the answer to those as well? Come back when you've read some substantive theology about the things of God, when you're a little older, when maybe gasp you've tried a few good beers and one struck you as not disgusting (oh the temptation), frankly, when you're more mature and maybe we can have a civil conversation about these things as well. Sorry if there is too much Scripture quoted here to overload your Sunday School rhetoric. Keep the Faith (just learn it better while you're at it, and maybe focus on the spiritual over the physical).

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Religious? Litigious??

Ok, so comments have died down and I figure it's about time I up the shock value of my blog just a bit. Remember, this is about Free Speech and a picture of the kind of world we will live in if some Christianists get their utopia of a theocratic nation. It's not about gay rights, but about Christians repressing thought and controversy that makes them uncomfortable. I also find it relevant as a blogger who frequently uses parody as a rhetorical tool. So on that note:

First Cease and Desist Letter

Response to the Cease and Desist Order

Monday, January 15, 2007

Just Another Day Off Work...

For many people, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is just another day off work. For some, it remains the abomination of Lee-Jackson-King Day. So, on that note, I urge you to read the Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

If we could recapture just a bit of Dr. King's vision, we would be motivated to do more for our fellow man, no matter his country, beliefs or ethnicity. On that, a short poem by an Irishman named Paul.

One man come in the name of love
One man come and go
One man come, he to justify
One man to overthrow

In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love

One man caught on a barbed wire fence
One man he resist
One man washed on an empty beach.
One man betrayed with a kiss

In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love

(nobody like you...)

Early morning, April 4
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride

In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love...

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Monday, January 08, 2007

Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander. - US Holocaust Memorial

On January 3, 2006, 18-year-old Nazanin was sentenced to death for murder by court in Iran after she reportedly admitted fatally stabbing one of three men who attempted to rape her and her 16-year-old niece in a park in Karaj (a suburb of Tehran) in March 2005. She was seventeen at the time. Her sentence is subject to review by the Court of Appeal, and if upheld, to confirmation by the Supreme Court.

According to reports in the Iranian newspaper E’temaad, Nazanin told the court that three men had approached her and her niece, forced them to the ground and attempted to rape them. Seeking to defend her niece and herself, Nazanin stabbed one man in the hand with a knife that she possessed. As the men continued their attack, she stabbed another of the men in the chest, which eventually caused his death. She reportedly told the court “I wanted to defend myself and my niece. I did not want to kill that boy. At the heat of the moment I did not know what to do because no one came to our help”. She was nevertheless sentenced to the maximum punishment possible under the law, death by hanging.

Dr. Martin Luther King: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

Thoreau: "Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison."

Read and sign the Save Nazanin Petition:

*UPDATE* News from the Retrial

"After much discussions, the four judges unanimously determined that the lower court decision in January of 2006 was wrong and Nazanin killing the would-be rapist was not intentional."

Now, the political philosopher in me says the judges should have said it doesn't matter whether the killing was intentional or not. But I've watched enough Law and Order to know a win is a win, no matter how it's cloaked.

Let us not be complacent as the Germans who ignored the smell of the crematoria. Let us not be indifferent as the West to the plight of Rwandaa. Let us not ignore the plight of those who need our help. Let our voices cry out to God and the State so the blood of our innocent brethren has a voice. Do not rest in complacency, indifference, and ignorace. Because if we do, one day we shall be the ones facing injustice and no one will hear us.