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Cross Lighting 2005A bunch of hateful wingnuts in Chesterfield county in Virginia area have been recruiting lately. That’s not really surprising; it’s in the South, after all (although it’s part of the somewhat cosmopolitan Richmond region). The leaflets and assorted hateful bilge they’ve been distributing there kicked up a bit of a controversy. But the KKK chapter there has responded to that, and as WWBT-TV in Richmond reports, they’re defending their efforts to expand (locally-cached article):

We are now hearing from the man behind all those KKK fliers being distributed across Chesterfield. The Klan documents have been reported in multiple neighborhoods since January.…

NBC 12 spoke to Frank Ancona who is Imperial Wizard of the Traditional American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He is president of the group distributing the fliers in Chesterfield County. Ancona says KKK membership is up across the country.

“In the last 6 years that I’ve been president of this organization I’ve seen the numbers probably triple,” said Ancona.

He says members are tasked with recruiting new members.

“We don’t hate people because of their race,” said Ancona. “We are a Christian organization.”

Aha. So, because they belong to “a Christian organization,” they cannot — by (Ancona’s) definition — be haters. OK, got it. It’s a weird tautology, and one that defies logic (I wasn’t aware that being a Christian meant one cannot possibly “hate” anyone else), but it’s a free country and I suppose he’s entitled to his juvenile irrationality.

In any event, Ancona trots out the usual apologetics:

Ancona claims the packets are meant to recruit, and he says they are tools used to “set the record straight.”

“Because of the act of a few rogue Klansmen,” said Ancona. “All Klansmen are supposed to be murderers, and wanting to lynch Black people, and we’re supposed to be terrorists. That’s a complete falsehood.”

This is the old “don’t judge us by the few extremists in our midst,” but that’s belied by the Ku Klux Klan‘s history. It was founded rather specifically as something of a terrorist group. The killings its members did, do in fact reflect on the organization as a whole, because the organization was founded in order to foster conspiracies to commit violence.

A couple of Ancona’s other points of “clarification” also reveal yet more illogic on his part:

“We want to keep our race the White race,” said Ancona. “We want to stay White. It’s not a hateful thing to want to maintain White Supremacy.”

Actually, Mr Imperial Wizard, it is rather hateful to fear losing your “whiteness” to other races or to worry about loss of numbers or power. There would be no reason to worry about any of those things without first hating those of other races.

Ancona also implies that, because “KKK membership is up across the country,” what he — and they! — are doing must be right. That, however, is a form of argumentum ad populum (aka appeal to consensus, bandwagon fallacy, appeal to the majority, authority of the many, appeal to popularity, and democratic fallacy). The problem is that just because people think something … even very many people … does not necessarily mean it’s true. Veracity is not up for a popular vote, and popularity doesn’t make an invalid notion magically become fact.

Here is WWBT-TV’s video report:

As for KKK members being Christians, most of them very likely are Christians. And the KKK organization itself views itself as Christian. Here, for example, is their own Web site, making exactly this declaration (note, this is a link to a cached version of their page, not the page itself; I will not dignify them by directly linking their site in my own). It can be traced directly to Southern Baptists in the post-Civil War South. Other Christians certainly may disagree with the KKK’s version of Christianity, but its origins as a Christian group are not in dispute. The same is true of the related Christian Identity movement, which is predicated on its own Christianity-inspired mythology, including the idea that so-called “dark races” are descendants of “beast-men” mentioned in the Old Testament (e.g. Jonah 3:8), as well as Anglo-Israelism, a hateful anti-Semitic philosophy I’ve mentioned a few times previously. It is quite literally impossible to extract Christianity from what these hateful pricks believe, and have it remain intact.

The question of interest to me is, how is it that a supposedly divinely-founded religion propounded by a supposedly loving God who embraces all peoples everywhere, can possibly be used as a refuge for people like this? One can argue they’ve distorted their religion in order to suit their hatred, and maybe they have … but how could this have happened, if Christianity were truly divine in nature? Would it not be incorruptible in such a way? If not, why not? And how divine can it really be, if it is so easily corrupted?

Moreover, if it were true that KKK members are part of a “lunatic fringe” and don’t represent Christianity as a whole, how is it that the KKK has survived, in one form or another, for close to 150 years? If they’re such a tiny minority, one would think their hatred would have been stamped out long ago. But it hasn’t been. It persists. Sure, it runs into roadblocks here or there, but it always comes back, and it continues to have a voice. That an Imperial Wizard of the KKK would speak with, and reveal his identity to, a television station in a fairly large city like Richmond, tells me he doesn’t fear any repercussions. He must think none of the other Christians in his area — and there are many! — are going to try to discipline him for having stepped out of bounds. Why are Ancona, and others like him, still skulking around, doing what they’re doing?

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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you probably don't wanna knowIt’s another “you’ve gotta be fucking kidding me” moment in the mass media’s shambolic hypercoverage of Malaysia Airlines flight 370. This time, CNN’s HLN network brought a psychic — of all things — on national television to “find” the missing airplane. Mediaite reports on this sad debacle (WebCite cached article):

On Thursday night, HLN invited a psychic to discuss what she think [sic] may have been the fate of the lost airliner and the 239 souls that were on board that plane.…

“Naturally, I don’t have hard, concrete evidence,” Lisa Williams confessed. “I think any psychic who has hard, concrete evidence can’t do their job correctly.”

“They’ll just work off what they know,” she continued. “I tend to work off what I don’t know.”

Considering that a lot of psychics make claims that are so vague as to fit with nearly anything, and which therefore ultimately are non-informative, Williams actually said a few fairly specific things:

Williams said that her powers are telling her that some of the passengers are still alive and are being held in an undisclosed location. She added that she knew this because she was attempting to contact MH370?s lost passengers for their living relatives.

“I do believe that it actually crashed, and I see a lot of trees,” Williams revealed. “I think there is a larger organization behind this that is leading us off track with this debris.”

“Do you think we’re going to get an absolute resolution?” Hutt asked Williams.

Williams said that she was just informed by the voices in her “witchy woo land” that the mystery behind the plane’s disappearance will be finally resolved “within the next three weeks.”

Once more is learned about MH370’s fate, at least some of these claims can be confirmed or refuted. But the problem here is that she made several claims which are independent of one another, and if just one of them turns out to be correct, Williams can claim she was “right” about it all along and that her powers have been verified. In other words, while her individual claims are specific and most are (potentially) testable, that she “shotgunned” them out introduces the sort of vagueness that psychics tend to rely on in order to appear as though they have ESP.

It won’t matter that any of the rest of her claims turn out to be wrong: So long as just one of her statements can be construed as verified, the whole package will be widely viewed as “confirmed.” For example, if it’s discovered that the plane fell somewhere in the ocean, her statement that “it actually crashed” will have been “confirmed” and people will say her magical powers have been verified. That she mentioned trees and survivors being held somewhere, will be conveniently forgotten.

I wasn’t able to embed Mediaite’s video of HLN’s laughable absurdity, but did find it on Youtube, which you can view here:

By now we should all realize how ridiculous this wall-to-wall coverage has been. This bullshit needs to just fucking stop. If media outlets don’t have any news to report about flight 370, they should just not report anything … and then move on to other material. Making up bullshit like appeals to the supernatural, black holes, and trotting out “psychics” is just asinine beyond words and there is no excuse for it. Not one.

Finally, I note that the HLN host who introduced this segment states, at the start of it, “In the past, governments have used psychics to help with searches.” While this may be true on its face, it does nothing to support the effectiveness of psychic powers or psychics’ ability to find things. Yes, some governments, including the US and USSR, have dabbled in things like remote viewing. However, all those projects died out decades ago, due to the lack of useful results from any of these psi-ops, and the reality that psychic powers have never been demonstrated to work. And while some folks claim to be “psychic detectives,” not one crime has ever been shown to have been solved by a psychic. Not once. Ever. The HLN host’s appeal is a misleading one, and a journalist ought never to have attempted granting psychics credibility by using it.

Photo credit: Flood G, via Flickr.

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Teachings of Jesus 38 of 40. the rapture. one in the field. Jan Luyken etching. Bowyer BibleAs I’ve blogged so many times, religionists love to use any and all disasters to promote their dour metaphysics. Everything that happens is, for them, an object lesson and/or a warning that proves them correct. Earthquakes, hurricanes, epidemics, droughts, famines, wars, accidents, etc. are all useful to them in this regard. It makes no difference what sort of awful thing happened … religionists are mercenary enough to just go ahead and use it.

The latest example of this involves the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 (which has gripped the mass media like nothing else over the last couple weeks). And it comes from Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of the famous evangelical preacher Billy Graham; to her, the plane’s disappearance is a harbinger of something to come (WebCite cached article):

The pictures of grieving friends and family members of those who are missing are heart-wrenching. I have prayed for God’s peace and comfort for them, as well as God’s direction of the search and rescue teams who are desperately looking for clues that will solve the mystery. But the unanswered questions seem to intensify the horror…

How could a modern airliner drop out of sight so quickly and completely? …

Bottom line: Where are all the people?

The answers don’t seem to be forthcoming as I write this. But as I have prayerfully pondered all of the above, I can’t help but wonder…Is this worldwide sense of shock and helplessness, of questions and confusion, of fear and grief, a glimpse of things to come? Is this a small snapshot of what the entire world will experience the day after the rapture of the church? Because the Bible is clear. There is coming a moment in time when Jesus will come back to gather to Himself all those—dead and alive–who have put their trust in Him. And on that day, the world will be asking, Where have all the people gone? Not just 239 of us, but millions of us.

On that day, with millions of people directly impacted by their own missing friends and family members…in the midst of overwhelming shock and helplessness, of questions and confusion, of fear and grief…when the world searches for clues, how easily will they find The Answer in what I leave behind? Instead of an oil slick, will there be traces of His grace and glory and truth?

The day Lotz mentions, when “millions” of Christians will supposedly vanish spontaneously, is a reference to what evangelical Christians like her call “the Rapture.” This eschatological legend is based upon Matthew 24:31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:17. It describes how “the faithful” will be sucked up into the sky (the dead first, the living after them) to meet Jesus as he descends to earth during his Second Coming. Now, that by itself isn’t a lot to go on. Paul’s remarks about Jesus’ return doesn’t contain much narrative, and although Jesus says quite a bit about “the End,” he doesn’t say much about the Rapture moment, either. Taken as they are, these passages seem to be a sequence of events that comes in rapid order; first, Jesus and his heavenly host begin their descent (Mt 24:30 & 1 Th 4:16); the deceased “faithful” go up to meet him, then the living “faithful” (1 Th 4:17 & Mt 24:31), and after that, “destruction” will befall the earth, and presumably those who remain on it (1 Th 5:3). What evangelicals have done with the “rapture” verse is to couple it with other scriptural passages elsewhere that describe “the End” in greater detail.

As one might expect of such an exercise in creative reinterpretation, they’ve come up with a variety of ways to wedge it into their “End Times” mythology. In this regard it’s interlocked with another Christian legend, the Great Tribulation, a coming time of cataclysm and torment, described among other places in Revelation 9:1-21. Some evangelicals believe the Rapture will come at the end of the Tribulation; others believe it will happen somewhere in the middle of it; and the most popular belief — conveniently for them! — is that it will happen before the Tribulation begins. Each of these scenarios has what appears to be definitive and often exclusive scriptural support … all of which just demonstrates the folly of this kind of interpretation game. (Full disclosure: During my own fundie days, I was a “mid-tribber.”)

In any event, the notion that their Jesus will vacuum them off the earth at some point triggers a lot of fantasies in the minds of fundamentalist Christians. They imagine those who’re left behind will be horrified by the fact that so many people suddenly went missing, and they revel in this (“Hah, you insolent Jesus-haters! We’ll be up in heaven with our precious Jesus, while the rest of you will wallow in torment down on earth, terrified by our sudden departure — and then you’ll see we were right, after all!”). The famous and lucrative “Left Behind” publishing and media empire is built upon this schadenfreude.

This sort of giddy fantasy, based on suppositions built on suppositions, and capped by diatribes like Lotz’s, is all very irrational. It reveals a lot about evangelical Christians’ character … and it’s not flattering.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Christian Post.

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The Rev. Michael Fugee, seen here after his arrest in May, has been expelled from the priesthood after admitting he violated a ban on ministry to children. (John O'Boyle / The Star-Ledger)One of the mantras repeated endlessly by the Catholic Church, whenever it’s asked why it didn’t deal more sternly with abusive clergy within its ranks, is that the process of throwing clergy out (which most of us call “defrocking,” but the Church calls “laicization”) is a long, arduous, and costly one. It can’t be rushed, you see, so often the better tactic is to leave abusers with their titles but just move them somewhere else and hope they won’t torment more kids (which, all too often, they ended up doing). Another point they make is that once a priest is defrocked — er, laicized — the Church no longer has any hold on them and they might go do something really, really bad.

Well, it turns out the former contention may not really be true. As the (Newark) Star-Ledger reports, it took only a few months to arrange the defrocking — er, laicization — of a child-abusing priest (WebCite cached article):

Acting with uncustomary speed, the Vatican has expelled a New Jersey man from the priesthood for repeatedly defying a lifetime ban on ministry to children.

Michael Fugee, 53, who attended youth retreats and heard confessions from minors despite signing a court-sanctioned decree forbidding such activities, has been returned to the lay state, said Jim Goodness, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark.

“Very recently all the procedures were completed,” Goodness said Monday night. “He is no longer a priest of the archdiocese.”

The Vatican typically takes a year or longer to expel priests, a process known as laicization. In some cases, the procedure drags on for several years.

An astute reader might ask how the quick defrocking — er, laicization — of Fugee squares with the Church’s portrayal of that process as lengthy and gut-wrenching; well, so too did the SL:

Asked about the swift pace of Fugee’s removal, Goodness said the former priest’s petition for laicization was “given a good amount of attention when it was submitted.”

That’s the answer, then. It’s merely a matter of “attention.” If a diocese “gives a good amount of attention” to a defrocking — er, laicization — that’s pending, then it can move along quickly. So all the hand-wringing over the protracted defrocking — er, laicization — process turns out to be not as bad as they’ve claimed, after all.

What’s more, the idea that a diocese can control the actions of an abusive priest if they hold onto him, also turns out not to be true. As I’ve blogged previously, the case of the late Fr Stephen Foley here in Connecticut is evidence of that. He’d been removed from the active ministry — including losing his status as a state police chaplain — in the mid-90s after some abuse complaints, and moved onto the grounds of St Thomas Seminary, yet the archdiocese of Hartford was unaware that, over ten years later, he’d been driving around in a police cruiser, decked out with sirens, lights, etc. which he wasn’t legally entitled to drive — even had he still been chaplain, which he wasn’t (page 2, cached; page 3, cached; page 4, cached). Foley had used this illegitimate police cruiser as a lure to ensnare more child victims … right under the noses of his archdiocesan superiors (who, it appears, didn’t give a flying fuck what he was driving or what he was doing).

The number of lies the Catholic Church continues to tell about how it dealt with abusers in its midst continues to pile up, as do the excuses it propounds for why it refused to punish or eject them, or for why it has found itself engulfed in this worldwide scandal. Don’t be fooled by anything the hierarchs tell you about it; ultimately, they don’t think they’ve done anything wrong. In their minds this scandal is entirely fictional, woven from whole cloth by any number of malefactors, ranging from the children themselves to the Devil to “masonic secularists” to Jews to … well, you name it.

Photo credit: John O’Boyle / The Star-Ledger.

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Paris Tuileries Garden Facepalm statueNote: There’s been an update to this post, see below.

The mass media have been falling all over themselves for nearly two weeks covering the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370. Every bit of information that’s trickled out has been dissected and stretched and speculated on at length by dozens of pundits all over the place. It doesn’t seem to matter that some of it has turned out to be untrue or just isn’t clear (WebCite cached article).

They’re in the business of conveying information, after all, and they’re going to do just that — even if the “information” they convey is just airy speculation based on questionable premises and, ultimately, useless.

So it’s little wonder that CNN, the news outlet which has raised the standard of MH370 higher than any other, wandered far afield in its effort to appear to want to get to the bottom of it. As Mediaite reports, this Sunday host Don Lemon openly wondered if something “supernatural” happened to the plane (cached):

“Especially today, on a day when we deal with the supernatural,” Lemon said. “We go to church, the supernatural power of God…people are saying to me, why aren’t you talking about the possibility — and I’m just putting it out there — that something odd happened to this plane, something beyond our understanding?”

“People roll their eyes at conspiracy theories, but what conspiracy theories do is they ask the hardest, most outrageous questions sometimes, but every once in a while they’re right,” [guest Brad] Meltzer said.

Now, Meltzer (of Decoded fame) implies a “supernatural” cause for the plane’s disappearance is a kind of “conspiracy theory.” But it’s not always the case. While some conspiracy theories have supernatural elements, not all do; in fact, few of them do. And yes, conspiracy theories and appeals to the supernatural are the product of irrationality and the product of ignorance, but in reality, he’s confusing the issue.

As for his claim that some conspiracy theories end up being true … yeah, some are. But those are very, very few. Contrary to what Meltzer suggests, the fact that a couple of conspiracies here or there have turned out to be true, in no way supports the veracity of any given conspiracy theory … because even a broken clock is right, twice a day … and it remains broken, even if you happen to check it on one of the rare moments when it happens to show the correct time.

As for Lemon’s appeal to the supernatural, that’s a fucking laugh. I get that he’s trying to show he’s looking into “all” avenues of inquiry, and by his own admission is offering up a potential explanation that some in his audience are agitating for, but fercryingoutloud, it’s ridiculous. We don’t yet know what happened to MH370, but that doesn’t mean a supernatural fate must have befallen it. To think so is an appeal to ignorance, and it’s beneath America’s network of record.

It would help if CNN personnel worked harder at delving into this case and finding more verifiable and useful information, rather than speculating endlessly based on the little tidbits that dribble out from official outlets. They need to get to fucking work instead of jabbering about the supernatural.

Update: Lemon offered yet another laughable speculation last night, wondering if a black hole swallowed the plane (cached). Perhaps even more laughably, former Transportation official Mary Schiavo said that couldn’t have been it, since (she says) a black hole would have swallowed the entire universe, “so we know it’s not that.” Where does CNN get these screaming idiots?

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Moscow Kremlin from Kamenny bridgeLook, I get that the Religious Right doesn’t care much for President Obama. They despise the man (often calling him “Barack HUSSEIN Obama” as though his middle name is the most important thing about him), and they hate pretty much everything he says and does. He could comment innocuously on the weather sometime and the R.R. would cook up some rationale to condemn him for it and try to make it out to be some kind of constitutional crisis. All of that is par for the course, and expected.

But once in a while, one or another of the generals that leads the army of the R.R. goes off the rails in order to express his/her hatred for Obama. As the Religion News Service reports, the Christofascist Franklin Graham, son of the famous Billy Graham, recently did just that (WebCite cached article):

Evangelist Franklin Graham is praising Russian President Vladimir Putin for his aggressive crackdown on homosexuality, saying his record on protecting children from gay “propaganda” is better than President Obama’s “shameful” embrace of gay rights.

Graham, who now heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association started by his famous father, praises Putin in the March issue of the group’s Decision magazine [cached] for signing a bill that imposes fines for adults who promote “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors.”

“In my opinion, Putin is right on these issues,” Graham writes. “Obviously, he may be wrong about many things, but he has taken a stand to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda.”

“Our president and his attorney general have turned their backs on God and His standards, and many in the Congress are following the administration’s lead. This is shameful.”

So, because Putin hates gays and has orchestrated the passage of laws limiting their civil rights and freedoms, Graham thinks he’s better than Obama.

Graham knew how his words might be construed, and tried proactively to swerve around that:

With the caveat that “I am not endorsing President Putin,” Graham nonetheless praised Russia’s get-tough approach toward gay rights.

Graham can say all he wants that he’s “not endorsing President Putin,” but when he goes out of his way to praise the guy in this way, that is precisely what he has done. He cannot disown it, even if he’d like to.

In any event, Graham’s praise for Putin ostensibly centers around how the Russian president is protecting children from being exposed to homosexuality, as though this is legal in the United States. In fact, it’s not. Adults engaging in sexual activity of any kind with children, is very much illegal in every jurisdiction in the country. And I suspect it was illegal in Russia, prior to the passage of the anti-gay law there. So the law Putin rammed through his country, in all likelihood had absofuckinglutlely nothing to do with protecting children, since chances are, they were already protected.

So the Christofascist factually lied on two counts: First, that he wasn’t “endorsing” Putin when in truth he was; and that a Putin-style law is needed to protect children here in the U.S. when in truth it is not. I’ve remarked before on what a buffoon Franklin Graham is, but this makes him a double-lying buffoon who praises brutal tyrants in order to condemn an American president he personally dislikes. Fucking weasel.

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Jesus with a gun / via Counterlight's PeculiarsQuite some time ago I blogged about the phenomenon of pastors embracing guns and gun ownership as an expression of Christianity. And a few days ago I blogged about Christofascist Jerry Boykin’s claim that Jesus is going to return soon, armed with an automatic weapon. (He actually “checked it out,” you see, and is absolutely certain of it.)

Well, many Christians continue viewing their Jesus as a “patriot” like themselves, even if he was nothing like them at all. Let’s be honest … it’s difficult, if not impossible, to see how angry, maniacal gun-toters like Ted Nugent or Wayne LaPierre possibly bear any resemblance to the man who’s reported to have said things like “turn the other cheek” and “those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.”

It seems Kentucky’ Baptists are no exception. As the Louisville Courier-Journal reports, they love arming themselves to the teeth for Jesus (locally-cached article):

In an effort its spokesman has described as “outreach to rednecks,” the Kentucky Baptist Convention is leading “Second Amendment Celebrations,” where churches around the state give away guns as door prizes to lure in nonbelievers in hopes of converting them to Christ.

As many as 1,000 people are expected at the next one, on Thursday at Lone Oak Baptist Church in Paducah, where they will be given a free steak dinner and the chance to win one of 25 handguns, long guns and shotguns.

The goal is to “point people to Christ,” the church says in a flier. Chuck McAlister, an ex-pastor, master storyteller and former Outdoor Channel hunting show host who presides at the events as the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s team leader for evangelism, said 1,678 men made “professions of faith” at about 50 such events last year, most of them in Kentucky.

In Louisville, he said, more than 500 people showed up on a snowy January day for a gun giveaway at Highview Baptist Church, and 61 made decisions to seek salvation.

Lest anyone think this “packing heat for Jesus” movement is a localized phenomenon in Kentucky, it’s not. As CNN explains, a church in Troy, NY is giving away a gun for Jesus, too (WebCite cached article):

An upstate New York church is giving new meaning to the biblical passage, “My peace I give unto you.”

In this case, it’s a piece: an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

Grace Baptist Church in Troy — about two and half hours north of Manhattan — is giving away the semi-automatic rifle as part of a special event honoring hunters and gun owners later this month. The church website entices gun lovers with the words “Win a Free AR-15″ followed by the New Testament line.

The holder of the winning ticket will receive an AR-15 modified for sale in New York state.…

In a letter to his congregation, Pastor John Koletas said: “Our country was built with the King James Bible and the gun.”

Sounds as though Koletas’s church is a member of the waning KJV-Only movement … which as I’ve explained previously, is based upon pure, unadulterated, 100% grade-A bullshit and lies. In any event, this giveaway has something of a political pedigree:

New York Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, a Republican, will speak at the service.

The C-J article points out these (literally!) militant churches and their pastors have some critics within Christianity, but it doesn’t appear those critics are actually doing much of anything about it, other than to provide a few sound bites to the occasional reporter who happens to call looking for a comment. Not one of them is explaining to these pastors that Jesus was no warrior, that he didn’t want his followers brandishing firearms all over the place, and that what they’re doing is thoroughly and completely un-Christian. No, other Christians are quite happy to let their militant co-religionists run around, holding onto their dour, sanctimonious belligerence.

Photo credit: Counterlight’s Peculiars.

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