The Watering Hole, Monday, June 20th, 2016: God Is In Control?

As I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, I like to check out what “Christian news” sites have to say on current events and other topics. I’ve been finding the Christian Post useful as a place to see what issues are being discussed, in an attempt to glean what self-styled “Christians” deem to be of importance.

So when I saw an article titled “God Is In Control”, I just had to find out how someone would explain that claim. The article, by Don Anderson, opened with this image:

"God Is In Control!" by Christian Post cartoonist Don Anderson

“God Is In Control!” by Christian Post cartoonist Don Anderson

[I have to say, “God” (apparently Jesus, not the OT “God the Father”, at least in the cartoon) looks a bit wild-eyed and not at all “in control.” And is that an ocean of piss that they’re navigating?]

After the cartoon, a link takes one to the following article, titled “Rick Warren: Want Serenity? Let God Take Full Control”.  Here’s an excerpt:

Rick Warren: Want Serenity? Let God Take Full Control

To achieve serenity in life, God wants you to let go and know He is in control, Pastor Rick Warren says.

Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Orange County, California, wrote in a recent devotional that although we as Christians may fight to take control of our lives on a daily basis, we must also remember that ultimately, everything is up to God.

“[…] stress relief always starts with letting God be God,” the evangelical leader writes. “It always starts with saying, ‘God, I’m giving up control, because you can control the things that are out of control in my life.'”

Because no one knows what will happen in the future, we need to let go and let God do the rest.

“I don’t know what you’re going to face this week. You don’t, either. But I can already tell you what God wants you to do: Let go, and know. Let go of control, and know that God is in control. Let go, and know! This is the first step to serenity in your life,” Warren explains.

Christians tend to react to stress in one of two ways, Warren explains. While some attempt to over-control a situation, others give up and pity themselves.

Both of these approaches are destructive and don’t ultimately alleviate stress, the megachurch pastor says. Instead, Christians need to surrender themselves to God and His plan.

“The number one reason you’re under stress is because you’re in conflict with God. You’re trying to control things that only God can control,” Warren explains.

A good way to maintain a high level of tranquility in the face of stress is to pray the Serenity Prayer, Warren says.

The evangelical leader points specifically to the last eight lines of the prayer, which read: “Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that you will make all things right if I surrender to your will so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with you forever in the next. Amen.”

Okay, let’s look at this piece-by-piece:

“”[…] stress relief always starts with letting God be God,” the evangelical leader writes. “It always starts with saying, ‘God, I’m giving up control, because you can control the things that are out of control in my life.’

There’s a couple of things wrong with this; let’s start with “letting God be God” (this would be way too long – okay, way too much longer – if I began with “stress relief always starts with…”)

In an earlier piece, Warren talks about how [in essence], despite the fact that the Old Testament “…rarely describes God as being a father…”, somehow miraculously  “…this changes after Jesus is sent down from Heaven to save humanity…After this event, God is described as a father much more frequently…”…and now “…wants to have a relationship with us…”

So, god used to be a petty, vindictive, insecure, genocidal tyrant, but suddenly he becomes a father and is now kind and loving and wants to get to know the subjects he had previously threatened with hellfire and brimstone?  Seriously?  And yet Warren and conservative christian leaders STILL utilize a few specific Old Testament god’s ‘rules according to (some guys who wrote the OT)’ when fighting to be allowed to discriminate against certain groups, or to make others live by those particular OT rules.  Which should no longer apply, if god is really an all-loving father, right?  If we’re supposed to ‘let god be god’, which god are we letting him be?

As to “giving up control” because god “can control the things that are out of control in my life”, then where does man’s “free will” come in?  What about ‘personal responsibility’?  The conservative christians who believe that the poor are poor because they chose to be, well maybe the poor are poor because your god is in control and he really hates poor people?  And considering the chaos going on in this world, I don’t think that anyone is in control, let alone a god.

On to:  “…Because no one knows what will happen in the future, we need to let go and let God do the rest…I don’t know what you’re going to face this week. You don’t, either. But I can already tell you what God wants you to do: Let go, and know. Let go of control, and know that God is in control. Let go, and know! This is the first step to serenity in your life,” Warren explains.”

Hmm…how about ‘because no one knows what will happen in the future’, we can take steps to make our future what we want it to be?  Why “Let go”, and, if we do “let go”, what will we “know”?  One can still attempt to at least control one’s “present”, even if there is uncertainty about the “future.”

And let’s put it bluntly, “Pastor” Warren:  you and your megachurch/televangelist ilk have plenty of money and are living quite comfortably on the fleecing, er, ‘tithings’ of your sheep and your speaking and appearance fees.  You truly don’t have to worry about many of the day-to-day issues with which we poorer folk struggle.  The main cause of stress in most civilized societies, i.e., lack of MONEY to live and to feed yourself and your family, is not stooping your shoulders or affecting your health, mental and physical.  And that goes for christians just like any other demographic, despite Warren’s assertion that “The number one reason you’re under stress is because you’re in conflict with God. You’re trying to control things that only God can control…”  Um, no, nope, I think the number one reason is money (which is currently how most people access the basic needs of life.)  Sorry, Rick, you’re just wrong.

Next, what about:Christians tend to react to stress in one of two ways, Warren explains. While some attempt to over-control a situation, others give up and pity themselves.  Both of these approaches are destructive and don’t ultimately alleviate stress, the megachurch pastor says.”   [Well, DUH!]

I hope that Warren is oversimplifying here, otherwise those two ‘reaction to stress’ choices make christians sound like two-dimensional fools.  Humans of all types generally react to stress in all kinds of ways, not just the two extremes given.  And often, we react to stress in any number of ways at any given time, the key being our own control over our own lives and reactions.  Again, what about the conservative mantra of “personal responsibility”, so hypocritical from people who never, ever, not-freaking-ever, admit to any fault or wrongdoing. 

And lastly, on to Warren’s “Serenity Prayer” solution.  Which can be dismissed, because it’s about as useful for solving real problems as the “moment of silence” is for “honoring the victims” of the mass-shooting-du-jour.  In either case, one might just as well ‘count to ten.’

For CP’s “Christian”-colored view on current political issues, see here. Plenty of fodder for discussion there, too.

This is our daily Open Thread–so, what’s on you’re mind?

The Watering Hole, Saturday, June 11th, 2016: Front Pages

While “news”papers in New York run the gamut of “journalism” from the gutter (New York Post) to the “elite” (New York Times), we’ve always had The New York Daily News somewhere in between. As a lifelong New Yorker, I grew up with the Daily News and the NYT in my house, as my dad would read both: the DN mainly for the sports, and the NYT for ‘real’ news. Back then, the Daily News didn’t usually use the kinds of front covers that the New York Post has been famous for, but the times they are a-changing, and “New York’s Hometown Paper” has lately been going all out on the 2016 Presidential election.

Last night I was reading a very interesting Daily News political opinion piece, written by conservative Tom Nichols, regarding Hillary Clinton’s recent “foreign policy” speech in which she focused on how dangerous Donald Trump’s so-called “foreign policy” could be. At one point in the article, a shot of one of the pertinent Daily News covers was included, which led to the Daily News 2016 campaign covers photo gallery that I’m offering for your entertainment today.

Some of them are priceless, including several referencing Ted Cruz’s idiotic “New York values” line, such as “Take the F-U Train, Ted!”, which includes a small inset that starts with “WE GOT your NY values right here, Ted!”, so very typical of New Yorkers.
Some are just plain groaners, such as the recent “Weak End at Bernie’s”, or (regarding Bernie Sanders’ ‘meeting’ with the Pope) “He Said, See Said”.

But the best ones are about NY’s own (to our eternal shame) Donald Trump. The Daily News and New Yorkers have known The Donald for a very long time, and, as the saying goes, “familiarity breeds contempt.” I won’t spoil it for you. Just enjoy the covers (and skip through the obnoxiously ubiquitous ads, sorry about those.)

This is our daily Open Thread–what’s on YOUR minds?

The Watering Hole, Saturday, June 4th, 2016: (R)s vs “Modern Technology”

Is there something about Republican politicians’ brains that makes them forget that modern-day recording technology exists? And when I say “modern-day recording technology”, I mean everything from plain video cameras to audio tape recordings to “smart” phones that record audio/video unobtrusively.

Over the last decade and more, Republican politicians and pundits have continually denied saying or doing certain things, when video and/or audio recording of their words or actions proves that they did.  How can they continue to deny, deny, deny, and often continue to deny even when confronted with the actual evidence?  Perhaps they are so against any kind of progress that they can’t even admit to the existence of even such ‘ancient’ technological breakthroughs as video cameras?  Psst…(R)s…they DO exist–have you ever seen a “movie”?

Sometimes the Republicans’ unfamiliarity and discomfort with technology can have humorous results – remember “it’s a series of tubes!”, and Strom Thurmond asking a hearing witness to “speak into the macheeeeene”?  And no one used video evidence directly contradicting someone’s lies better than Jon Stewart, whose “roll 212” meme was comedic gold, particularly in the infamous Jim Cramer interview.

These days, with The Donald and his Trumpets (or Trumpettes, if they’re female) lying then denying on a daily basis, it’s more important than ever to remind the liars of their lying lies. And, while I’m still not a Hillary Clinton devotee, I have to admire the fact that her campaign put together a handy reference guide in advance of her “foreign policy” speech the other day, providing the exact Trump quotes on which she based her comments in the speech. A few examples:

[Clinton] “He has said that he would order our military to carry out torture…”

TRUMP: “Don’t tell me it doesn’t work — torture works… Waterboarding is fine, but it’s not nearly tough enough, ok?”

and

[Clinton] “He says he doesn’t have to listen to our generals or ambassadors, because he has – quote – “a very good brain.”

TRUMP: “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things…my primary consultant is myself”

and

[Clinton] “He says he has foreign policy experience because he ran the Miss Universe pageant in Russia.”

TRUMP: “I know Russia well. I had a major event in Russia two or three years ago, Miss Universe contest, which was a big, big, incredible event.”

It would be nice if the “news media” and “journalists” would remember, and remind their audiences, that actual reality-based non-partisan proof exists that puts the lie to what any candidate for the U.S. Presidency claims, but particularly in the case of such a delusional arrogant professional liar like Trump.  It is vital to our nation’s future that Trump and his ilk be thwarted, and that their bigoted, bullying, ignorant “philosophy” (yes, I know, “philosophy” is too cerebral a word to use in this case, but…) be relegated back to the fringes of our culture where it belongs.

 

This is our daily Open Thread–what’s on your mind this weekend?

The Watering Hole, Saturday, May 21st, 2016: Contents Under Pressure

Yesterday at work, after glancing at my calendar, I did a mental double-take, thinking, ‘holy jeez, it’s May 20th already, 2016 is going by too quickly!’ Later, after some Trump BS refocused my attention on the upcoming election, my thoughts changed to, ‘holy jeez, there’s still nearly six months until the election, I wish we could just jump ahead to November and get it done and over with!’

I doubt if any of us, during the campaign season that led up to King George being anointed by the SCOTUS, and even during the eight years that we (and the rest of the world) suffered through under the BushCo maladministration, ever thought that any candidate for the Presidency could come along who was even more unqualified than Dubya, and just as amoral as Darth Cheney. The stress of those years pales in comparison to what we, and everyone else in the reality-based world, are experiencing during this unbelievably mind-numbing Trump campaign.

A continual state of stress is unhealthy for an individual both physically and mentally, as we all can attest to. Is it any wonder that the heightened stress of these last several months is having an even worse impact on so many Americans than that of the Bush years, even with the never-ending war(s), the “you’re either with us or against us” mantra, and the economic crash that affected every American except those who caused it?

And after BushCo, the undercurrent of American racism, which slowly became ‘acceptable’ when President Obama won in 2008, turned into the norm in an ever-growing and ever-more-violent tide that has eroded the foundations of the Republic nearly to the point of collapse. Even if Donald Trump doesn’t win the Presidency, will the added pressure and stress of the national and international turmoil brought about by Trump’s – and his followers’ – jingoism, ignorance and hatred be too overwhelming to keep this Union intact?

Personally, I think something’s got to blow under all of this pressure, because it’s not going to ease anytime soon. It only leads one to question: when, how big, and how toxic will the fallout be?

This is our daily Open Thread – what’s on YOUR mind?

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 16th, 2016: Wrong, As Always

Recent opinion pieces at The Christian Post website demonstrate that the “Christian” right – and these aren’t all what I would consider to be real RWNJs – continues to steadfastly ignore reality.

On Earth Day, Dr. Richard D. Land posted “Earth Day: How Environmentalists Hurt the Environment”. Some excerpts:

Many advocates for drastic measures to combat climate change (i.e., global warming) assert that human caused global warming is now “settled science.”

And yet, recently published data from the Department of Energy reveals that the U.S. has reduced carbon emissions for the past fifteen years by more than 10%, more than almost the entire rest of the world combined. How did America accomplish such a feat? The answer is hydraulic fracturing or fracking, which involves releasing fossil fuel (oil and natural gas) trapped in rock formations by injecting millions of gallons of water and chemicals into the formations.

As a result of widespread usage of this controversial technology, the U.S. has become the world’s No. 1 oil and natural gas producer. As a direct consequence of fracking, the price of natural gas is one-fourth what it was a decade ago, and since America has a virtually inexhaustible natural gas supplies, people keep using more and more of this environmentally clean and very inexpensive fossil fuel. [Will someone please explain to me why anyone would want to literally undermine the land to access what is, by definition, a limited energy source?]

EPA studies declaring fracking can be done safely and cleanly moved U.S.A. Today to declare that “to help the environment and economy, keep on fracking” (4/19/16). U.S.A. Today also observed in the same article that fracking “has spurred a remarkable U.S. energy boom and . . . this boom has created jobs, boosted manufacturing and brought the USA closer to energy independence.”

Still, environmental activists on the left continue to oppose fracking, as well as the only clean energy “technology with an established track record of generating electricity at scale while emitting virtually no greenhouse gases: nuclear power.” In fact, in a “Pew poll of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 65 percent of scientists want more nuclear power” (Eduardo Porter, NY Times 4/19/16).

Apparently Dr. Land is completely ignorant of WHY environmentalists – and any humans with a fairly basic knowledge of science and some critical-thinking skills – are against fracking and nuclear energy. Has he not heard about the earthquakes being caused by fracking? Is he somehow privy to exactly which chemicals are being used in fracking? The “EPA studies” that declared “fracking can be done safely and cleanly” did not say that fracking IS BEING DONE “safely and cleanly”, more simply that it “can” be done. (Here’s the Christian Science Monitor’s take on this.)

And “nuclear”?! Does “Fukushima” ring a bell? Sorry, but Indian Point is way too close for me to want any part of nuclear power. Not to mention disposal of nuclear waste, which has already been an environmental problem for decades. Or that nuclear facilities make lovely targets for terrorism. Where the hell has Dr. Land been?

Then there’s Ken Blackwell’s ridiculous drivel, “Trump is Bad But Not Worse Than Hillary”

[The blurb says “Ken Blackwell is the Senior Fellow for Family Empowerment at the Family Research Council. He serves on the board of directors of the Club for Growth and the National Taxpayers Union. He is also a member of the public affairs committee of the NRA. Mr. Blackwell is also the former Mayor of Cincinnati and a former Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission.” As Blackwell says in a different context below, “What more needs to be said?”]

“…no one should doubt Hillary Clinton’s determination to expand the state at every turn.
Trump the businessman has experience in confronting bureaucracy, and the Democrats are prolific regulators. President Barack Obama has imposed costly new rules at a rapid pace. Clinton likely would set new records.

Then there’s the judiciary. Antonin Scalia’s death has upset the delicate balance on the Supreme Court. Turning those appointments over to a liberal Democrat would lose the court for a generation, undermining any future conservative political victories.

America’s international security and standing also are at stake. Clinton had a disastrous hand in her husband’s presidency, noteworthy for the debacle in Somalia, unnecessary war in the Balkans, and broken agreement with North Korea. Then she was the first term Secretary of State for President Obama. What more needs to be said?”

1) What exactly has Hillary Clinton said or done to indicate a “determination to expand the state at every turn”? What is your definition of “expand”, and the vague phrase “at every turn”?
2) Trump the con-man has minions, er, “people” – the “BEST” people – to “confront bureaucracy” for him. And those minions don’t always win, either: it’s probably not a good idea to mention “Scotland”, “golf course” or “windmills” in front of The Donald.
3) Hillary Clinton is not a “liberal” Democrat.
4) WTF did First Lady Hillary have to do with Somalia, the Balkans, and North Korea? How does being “the first term Secretary of State for President Obama” disqualify her? And finally,
5) “What more needs to be said?” A whole hell of a lot more!

Donald Trump’s expected nomination comes as a disappointment for many Republicans. However, by every standard Clinton is worse. Conservatives might reluctantly vote for Trump. But, they should consider a vote
for him nevertheless, if he becomes a standard bearer of our platform. A platform that has made us the majority party in the United States.

Is Trump smart enough to do the right thing and are we smart enough to beat Hillary?

Politics is the art of the possible. That doesn’t mean abandoning principle. But if the good is unavailable, it means preferring the politically unattractive to the politically ugly. Too much is at stake for conservatives to treat the presidential election like a kamikaze mission or for Trump to be dumb.”

Two pieces about “Christian” megachurch pastor and devout Trump supporter Robert Jeffress demonstrate the extremely hypocritical and morally reprehensible “values” of religious conservatives. In one piece, Jeffress defends Trump’s childish tweet in response to criticism of Trump by another Evangelical, Russell Moore, with the equally childish (and un-Christ-like) argument that “Moore had it coming because he provoked Trump.” In the second piece, Jeffress calls Christians who won’t vote for Trump “fools”:

“Pastor Robert Jeffress, leader of the influential 12,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, declared Wednesday that Republicans who have vowed never to support Donald Trump if he becomes the Republican presidential nominee are “fools.”
“It is absolutely foolish to do anything that would allow Hillary Clinton to become the next President of the United States … at least Donald Trump has voiced a belief in a pro-life movement, he has at least talked about religious liberty as he did last Friday, you don’t hear either things coming from the lips of Hillary Clinton,” he continued.
“I believe any Christian who would sit at home and not vote for the Republican nominee … that person is being motivated by pride rather than principle and I think it would be a shame for people to allow Hillary Clinton four or eight years in the White House,” he said.

So much for ‘separation of Church and State’ – I’d like to see the IRS have a little talk with ‘Pastor’ Jeffress.

This is our daily Open Thread–talk about whatever you want.

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 9th, 2016: Are We There Yet?

Here’s two (well, sort of – you’ll see what I mean) predictions about frightening futures, which we seem to be fulfilling here in the largest superpower on the planet.

First, an interesting article entitled “Neil Postman Predicted Trumpocalypse 30 Years Ago”, by Dr. Richard D. Land at the Christian Post. Dr. Land discusses a 1985 book by Neil Postman called Amusing Ourselves to Death. Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. An excerpt:

Postman started off his book by contrasting the two most dystopian visions of modern civilization’s future, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932).
Postman’s contrast of the two dystopian visions of the future is chilling:

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies . . .”

The Internet has changed the basic DNA of our culture, including our social and personal relationships and our information access. It has radically democratized communication, while at the same time condemning any effective editorial or verifying filter as the unwelcome control of a hated elite. Consequently, we are being engulfed not only in a sea of moral relativism, but information relativism as well. The immersion of our culture in Internet speak has brought us perilously close to a denial, if not a revocation of the late, great, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s statement that “you are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts.” Now, opinions too often masquerade as facts, and fewer and fewer know the difference and increasingly fewer care.

As Postman pointed out, Huxley was trying to warn the future “that what afflicted people in Brave New World was not that they were laughing instead of thinking, but that they did not know what they were laughing about and why they had stopped thinking.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Now a more pithy prediction in a similar vein, from Carl Sagan’s 1996 “The Demon-Haunted World”:
sagan hauntedHave we arrived at any – or all of – these future visions?

This is our daily Open Thread – you know what to do.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 30th, 2016: The View from Outside

We’re all tired of the U.S. media’s love/hate minute-by-minute coverage of The Donald, so I thought that ThinkProgress’s article on Trump’s international coverage might be interesting.

Occasionally humorous, i.e.:

MEXICO: “…the man who managed to make us miss the Bush clan” and “El Deforma, a satirical news site similar to The Onion…has included articles about Canada building a wall in case of a Trump victory and Pink Floyd building the wall if Mexico doesn’t pay for it.”

SOUTH AFRICA: “South Africa’s the New Age called Trump “arguably the most successful internet troll in today’s political spectrum,” noting that much of his social media commentary “reads like a laundry list of troll tactics.”

Sometimes insightful:

CANADA: “…the Globe and Mail’s conservative columnist Margaret Wente noted that a majority of Americans “would rather swallow arsenic than vote for Mr. Trump” and predicted his fall. “If Donald Trump were a stock, my advice would be to sell it now,” she wrote. “The one thing that has to happen is that Mr. Trump will have to change. And he can’t. His most deadly foe is himself. Mr. Trump has no situational awareness. He has no ability to take advice, or build bridges, or learn from others, or direct a team.”

Some surprisingly self-serving and hypocritical:

ISRAEL: ““As an Israeli Who Loves America, I Am Worried by Trump,” wrote Ari Shavit in the liberal publication Haaretz after a series of Trump victories in February. “After the astounding victories of the vulgar populist in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, it is clear to all that America is no longer the country we have known. It is no longer a nation with a prudent economic establishment, a contented middle class and a stable political system. It is no longer a nation confident in itself, its identity and its future. It is a frightened, angry America. An America that has lost its way,” he wrote. “To an Israeli who spends considerable time in debates about Israel between Boston and San Francisco, Trump is a relief. Suddenly Israeli politics seem a little less embarrassing.”

“…in March, Naomi Zeveloff published a piece in the Forward on how Trump’s offensive style was actually winning many Israeli admirers. “If America elects a person who advocates discrimination and condescension and even resentment toward minorities, maybe we won’t be so criticized by the West,” Yaron Ezrahi, a professor emeritus of political science at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, explained to Zeveloff regarding Israeli right-wing thinking on Trump.”

The TP article is very long with loads of links, and overall it’s pretty disturbing. But I recommend wading through it.

This is our daily Open Thread–okay, it’s the now-usually-Late-Afternoon Saturday edition. Go ahead and talk about stuff.