President Obama's Inauguration Speech

President Obama's Inauguration Speech

Made on Wordle using this transcript.

Then and now

It’s fucked up to spend all day in a class about the Book of Judges, reading account after account about how Yhwh is understood to have demonstrated his love for the ancient people of Israel by helping them kill all their neighboring enemies – and then come home to this:

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This image (NYT) comes from airstrikes that occurred in Gaza City today.  This particular child was buried when the Israeli army destroyed a house filled with thirty people – because, naturally, the house belongs to a member of Hamas.  Other highlights from today’s airstrikes are that a U.N. school was hit, killing at least 30.

The most tragic thing is, this new violence isn’t new at all.  There have been 2800 years at minimum, and counting, of cyclical violence in this region – between roughly the same ethnic groups.  So will somebody please explain to me how even more violence now is going to finally achieve the peace for which both sides have so long been fighting?

What McCain and Obama's tax plans reveal about their priorities

The Washington Post has an interesting graphic which gives a good visual for both McCain and Obama’s tax priorities.  It’s easy to see the difference between the two:  for McCain, the more money you already have, the more you’ll get back from the government.  The less you have, the less you’ll get.  For Obama, those who have the least receive the most tax support proportionally:

These figures are based on the Tax Policy Center’s analysis of the candidate’s proposals.  (The full report is available on pdf here.)

What’s particularly striking to me is what this says about each candidate’s priorities.  John McCain evidently believes that those who have the most should be given the most back – both in terms of actual dollars and percentages of tax decreases.  Barack Obama has the exact opposite philosophy here:  those who have the least actually get the highest percentages back.

As a Christian first, but also as an American who believes in fairness and equal opportunity, I frankly can’t understand where John McCain is coming from.  The idea of giving the most to those who already have the most, and giving the least to those who have the least is completely backward. It belies the interests of economic greed to which McCain is beholden.  It is out of touch not only with the needs of real people, but with the biblical idea of whom in society should we really be helping.  If this is an example of how John McCain’s values translate to policy, he should be opposed not only on political but moral grounds.

UPDATE: Commenter cheyenne alerts us to another chart of the same data, created by chartjunk.  This one offers a visual that corresponds to the size of the U.S. population.

This blog is temporarily suspended.

Some of you may be wondering why I haven’t posted recently.  That’s understandable.  Here’s why: this blog has been suspended so it can go to the Senate for the first time since April 8th and work on the economic crisis.

(Note: this joke plagiarized directly from Muzikal203’s comment on the Great Orange Satan.)

Jeremiah Wright is still damn right

( This is a follow-up to this post, inspired by this comment.)

[UPDATE: If you haven’t seen Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s comments in their original context, follow this link.]

Each church has a unique context, with members who have particular needs and points of view. Trinity UCC has, since its inception, been one of the most honest churches I can think of in living the gospel and meeting the needs of the greater community on the south side of Chicago (read: low-income black folks, a community that has historically borne the brunt of America’s oppression). Depending on the circumstances that have brought folks to their point of need, “God damn America” can represent a liberating theological notion for those who have been harmed by America – or by the conflation of God/America like we’ve seen following September 11.

The powerful subtext behind “God damn America” is first and foremost that God is NOT America, and does not necessarily bless us just for being Americans. Depending on where you’ve come from, these can be liberating words that can lead people from despair, to God. As a pastor, Rev. Wright’s job at the pulpit isn’t to be politically correct, or to be safe, or comforting, or to not make waves or step on toes, but it is to declare the salvation of God – as effectively as possible, – for the folks who need to hear it. And if you listen to the tiny decontextualized video snippets of any of these “controversial” sermons, you will hear that Rev. Wright’s words deeply resonated with those who were there to hear them.

All I’m saying is, we – and by “we” I’m talking to outraged middle class folks who are so offended by Rev. Wright’s comments that they’re considering not voting for Obama as a result – we must realize that our self righteousness is not necessarily universal. It may well be crazy and indefensible for the pastor of our churches to preach “God damn America,” but then again, context is everything, isn’t it? (Yes, it is.)

Many are now asking, what does this say about Obama, and the emphasis that he has put on our national unity?

To me, it says that he has spent 20 years working in a church that has been a vibrant, saving institution for many low-income black folks in Chicago.

It says that Obama views the gospel message as one that requires adherence to God AND neighbor, just as Jesus commands.

Finally, it says that Obama, who has been through his own share of difficult times, has also spent his life meeting people at their point of need, without losing his optimism for the future of America.

And that is a candidate – and a faith perspective – that I can get behind.

The Bitter Picture Battle

So Drudge has somehow obtained an email circulated by Clinton campaign staffers, consisting of a photo of Obama dressed in traditional Somali clothing.  The picture was taken in 2006 in Kenya, and depicts Obama wearing, among other things, a turban. (See the perceived problem?) Supposedly one Clinton staffer wrote to another, “Wouldn’t we be seeing this on the cover of every magazine if it were HRC?” This prompted the Obama camp to slam the hell outta Hillary:

“On the very day that Senator Clinton is giving a speech about restoring respect for America in the world, her campaign has engaged in the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we’ve seen from either party in this election.”

And the Clinton campaign’s response:

“Enough. If Barack Obama’s campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed.”

So who’s wrong here? Actually, I think it was a tie.

Barack’s campaign is responding as if Hillary Herself was out in front on this, when in reality it was probably the doing of some unimportant volunteer underling, if her camp’s involved at all. (That is, however, the danger of her campaign not keeping their game tight. Furthermore, we really haven’t seen crap like this coming out of the Obama camp, not even his unimportant volunteer underlings. And I think that says something.)

However, Hillary’s heckling of Obama’s over-outrage is just flat-out dumb. Yeah, I’m so sure that the Obama campaign thinks that traditional Somali clothing is divisive. Good one.

In the end, this will probably end up harming Clinton more than Obama, because it feeds right into the “typical Washington politics” angle. It’s too bad for her, but hey – this story wouldn’t have nearly as much traction if her campaign had kept a better lid on all those other campaign surrogate attacks. What goes around…

Other states can pick a president too

With all due respect to the citizens of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, how is it fair that they get such disproportionate power over the rest of us every election cycle? Why should some states always be given greater influence to determine the presidential nominee, over and over again?

primaries_early.jpgI’m getting ready to vote, but my two favorite candidates have already dropped out, because these other privileged states have already determined them not to be viable. Same thing happened in 2004. Same states.

It’s time to shake up that unfair influence. The privilege of picking the “viable” nominees should be on a rotation, not just given to the same select voters every time.

Here’s the Tom Ryberg proposal:

Every four years, the major parties pick three different states to go first: one coastal, one midwestern, and one southern. All others vote on Super Tuesday, or thereafter.

Think I’m onto something? Tired of voting after it’s all but been predetermined for you already? Tell them about it (and while you’re at it, tell them too).

Same-sex marriage: Staying out of God's way

In response to my op-ed on marriage below, in which I suggest that one reason conservatives oppose same-sex marriage is because it threatens the to undermine the power of the patriarchy (go read it), commenter Russ writes the following:

Marriage was created by God and He alone has the authority to define it.

Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’ So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

The scripture that Russ appropriates comes from Matthew 19:4-6. The backstory is that Jesus is answering the Pharisees’ famous question on tying the knot: “Can two dudes get married?”

Actually, as some of you may know, the topic at hand is about heterosexual divorce, not gay marriage, though it sure would be convenient for Russ and others if Jesus actually did take sides on this issue. But this is what I want to get at here (extracted from my response to Russ’ comment):

As Jesus warns us above, I certainly do not advocate the separation of those whom God has joined together. To the contrary, this is precisely why I advocate marriage for committed gay and lesbian couples. Who are humans, or even government, to stand in the way?

We need to remember that there is more criteria to the Christian marriage ethic than simply whether there is one man and one woman. For example, a marriage predicated on abuse or destructive behavior is not God-ordained. We need to open up to the possibility that God is calling us to unite not only in terms of gender, but perhaps more relevantly, in terms of a relationship that is spiritually fulfilling, mutual, monogamous and wholesome. I know many gay and lesbian Christians whose relationships meet the criteria of the Christian marriage ethic as well or better than many straight couples I know.

Finally, we need to stop assuming that God is somehow in error in creating people to be gay or lesbian. Who are we to question God’s creation, simply because aspects of it transcend our understanding? To be sure: we need to address sin where we encounter it, but the biological fact of sexual orientation is no sin–and it’s not an accident! Humans need to get out of the way and embrace that which the Creator has made good.

For more on this, see Acts 10:9-29.

Mike Huckabee: Disingenuous

Republican Mike Huckabee has apparently convinced himself that either (a) everybody else is stupid or (b) nobody cares if he lies.

At issue is his crazy denial that his feel-good Christmas television ad, in which he shamelessly exploits his Christianity, intended to show a giant, glowing, white cross in the background–that even moves through the screen during the commercial. (You be the judge. It ain’t rocket science.)

You decide.Now if, as he claims, this was completely unforeseen, Huckabee should fire his ad people immediately. Visual arts pros that can’t even recognize major Christian iconography? For shame!

On the other hand, some of us moonbats can actually imagine that a freakin’ former Southern Baptist pastor might indulge in a little Christian pandering now and then. You tell me which is the likelier scenario–nobody noticed, or it was intentional?

Here’s the thing: just as with the Spirit Air/MILF stuff down below, I’m not condemning the content of these ads, but the damned lies being told in the cover-up. Especially coming from a (former) man of the cloth, that’s just crappy.

Plus, as a Christian myself, that’s not very courageous. If Huckabee wants to take that route, why not claim the cross proudly, instead of hiding it? It’s not like the absurd denials are helping him save face. Furthermore, I’ll bet some Christian voters think he’s being a little spineless right now–like me, though I’m less concerned about his relationship with God (his business) than his relationship with the truth (America’s business).

Hero Rats! Giant rats! Temple rats!

All God’s critters have a a place in the choir! PBS Frontline has a story in the archives about “Hero Rats,” a program that basically trains and uses Gambian Pouched Rats (or African Giant Pouched Rats) to disarm landmines in Africa.

herorat.jpgBasically, the rat knows how to sniff them out, and is light enough to locate a land mine without setting it off. Then, a human enters the picture and disables the land mine. The accompanying video is really great; go check it out.

giantrat.jpgBut then, just today, there’s an article in the Chicago Tribune about a brand new species of giant rat discovered in an Indonesian jungle(!). Man, I wish I could go there. A tiny type of possum was also discovered, and both animals are thought to be new to science.

Finally, in Deshnoke, India, exists a temple that was constructed as a tribute to the rat goddess, Karni Mata. An estimated 20,000 rats run freely throughout the temple, and their presence is celebrated. People visit the temple in order to pay homage to the rats, who are considered to be human souls reborn. It is considered to be good luck if, while you are visiting, a rat runs across your feet. Check out the video.

It just doesn’t get any better than this. I am a proud advocate of rats. Domestic ones make wonderful pets, particularly females, and especially two together if possible. They are friendly, sociable and intelligent, and contrary to popular belief, are incredibly clean creatures. Clearly, rats have much to offer humanity. Perhaps if Americans understood a little more about our fellow rodents, we could find creative ways to enlist their help as well.

Update: Here is an interview with the founder of the Hero Rats program in Africa.  It’s worth reading.