I’ve blogged occasionally over the last few years about a ridiculous movement — primarily among evangelicals — that angles to get more guns into churches. For some reason, guns are sacred to Jesus. I guess. I mean, it’s not as though I’ve ever understood this notion. After all, wasn’t Jesus — who supposedly founded their religion — the one who told Christians to “turn the other cheek” and “hand over one’s shirt with one’s cloak”, and “whoever lives by the sword will die by the sword” and all of that? I guess the sacred nature of guns must escape me, cynical, cold-hearted, godless agnostic heathen that I am. I’m just not special enough to be gifted with such holy insights. Or something.
Anyway, this “bring guns to church for Jesus” trope has wandered into Catholicism, in a very public way. After his state enacted an “open-carry” law, the bishop of Dallas declared that guns aren’t allowed in any Catholic facilities in his diocese, and penned a missive on his blog announcing his opposition to “open carry.” Well, as you can imagine, this being Texas and all, that didn’t go over well. The Dallas Morning News reports on the backlash, which will include Catholics marching into churches armed to the teeth (WebCite cached article):
Plenty of Texas gun rights advocates celebrated 2016 as the year open carry finally arrived. But for some conservative Catholics, it’s another reason to clash with Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell.
The Dallas Diocese forbids parishioners from bringing guns – openly carried or concealed – to their churches. A recent online column by Farrell [cached] – described by some as “strident” – has made the Bishop’s critics even more vocal.…
The column said the ban was a reflection of the church as a place of sanctuary.
The column also praised President Barack Obama’s new executive order attempting to crack down on gun sales that hadn’t previously required background checks.…
“It is absurd that terrorists, criminals, and mentally unbalanced people can freely and openly buy weapons not intended for sport, but designed to kill people,” Farrell wrote.
It goes without saying a lot of Texans are incensed over what Farrell said. Much of that has more to do with the bishop’s expression of support for President Obama’s recent actions, than it does with his forbidding guns in Dallas-diocese churches.
At least one sanctimoniously-enraged Catholic quoted in the story plans to disobey Farrell:
[Catholic gun-toter Charles] Cleaver said he’ll continue carrying a gun to Mass, no matter what Farrell decides.
Remembering a friend’s warning, Cleaver said: “What good would that [gun] do for you if you’re not carrying?”
That last sentence points to the flaw in the gun-lovers’ arguments about how great it would be if everyone ran around with guns. They love guns; they think they’re useful; because they’re useful, that means they’re always needed; so if you don’t have one with you at all times, you may as well not even own one in the first place; but you do, so you have to take it everywhere. Yes, that’s the kind of “logic” we’re dealing with, in this sort of person.
P.S. Yes, in spite of the new law, private entities in Texas still have the right to forbid guns on their property. So Farrell’s ban of guns on diocesan property will stand.
P.P.S. I really love how Farrell’s critics called his ban on guns on diocesan properties and statement of support for Obama “strident,” as though stomping around armed to the teeth somehow isn’t also “strident.” Hmm.
Photo credit: Counterlight’s Peculiars.
Tags: bishop kevin farrell
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Christianity’s history is dotted with controversies, rifts and schisms. They range in severity from differences over heresy (with each side calling the other “heretical”) in which different Christian congregations existed side-by-side for a time, such as the Donatist schism, to conflicts over doctrines and dogma that occasionally erupted in violence (either in the short term, e.g. the Nestorian heresy, or longer term, e.g. as the Iconoclast controversies), as well as schisms that ended up creating entirely-separate churches (e.g. the Great Eastern Schism or the Reformation).
The result of this long history is that Christianity isn’t a single entity, but rather, a collection of many different institutions whose only point in common is that they revere the figure known as Jesus Christ and ostensibly follow his putative teachings. (As it turns out, going all the way back to its origins, Christianity has always been a collection of varied movements. At no point in its history was it ever a single group following a single set of doctrines.) When Westerners think of religious schisms and conflicts, this history is what they tend to think of.
Even so, Christianity isn’t unique in this regard. All major religions have had their rifts, conflicts, “heresies,” and variant teachings.
Perhaps the most famous of these outside of Christianity is the Islamic schism; dividing that religion into Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims (with around 85% of the world’s Muslims belonging to the former sect).
This schism has its origins with the aftermath of the prophet Mohammad’s death in 632 CE. The two men who were his most likely successors as leaders of Islam were his first male convert, Abu Bakr, and his son-in-law Ali. Abu Bakr ended up being chosen, over the protests of Ali and his followers (the Shi’atu Ali or “partisans of Ali,” hence the name of their sect). The degree to which Ali himself conceded this choice isn’t entirely clear; aside from hard feelings over it, not much happened during Abu Bakr’s rule (which only lasted a couple of years), and Ali acted as an advisor to Abu Bakr’s successor Umar, so there was some comity at that point, although resentments undoubtedly lingered. Ali finally was named caliph, or leader of Islam, only in 656 (almost 25 years after Mohammad’s death) during the chaos that erupted after Umar’s successor Uthman was killed by rioters.
That Ali wouldn’t order the execution of those rioters caused the low simmering resentments between Uthman’s and Ali’s supporters to break out in the open, launching a civil war within Islam now called “the First Fitna.” Ali was assassinated and his son succeeded him, but within months abdicated in favor of Muawiyah, a leader of Uthman’s faction, thus ending the Fitna.
The conflict erupted anew in 680 when Muawiyah died and Husayn, another son of Ali, refused to accept Yazid, Muawiyah’s son, as the next caliph. Husayn was killed during the Battle of Karbala that very year.
This turned out to be the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back; at several points during the preceding decades, both sects had at least tried to get along, and the one war that had broken out in full fury had been settled; but Husayn’s death at Karbala proved to be too much for the Shi’ites to take. There would never again be any meaningful attempted accord. What’s more, there were rifts within each side; Ali’s assassin had belonged to a group within his own faction who’d rebelled against Ali’s efforts to negotiate an end to the First Fitna. And Yazid and his immediate successors ended up dealing with rebels that broke away from their original faction, as well.
In other words, the whole thing ended up being one monstrous clusterfuck.
The tensions and differences opened up by these 7th century conflicts — which at that time could have been ameliorated, had cooler heads prevailed back in 680 — still reverberate today. An example of this was made evident this weekend in Teheran, where — as the Washington Post reports — the Sunni state of Saudi Arabia’s execution of a famous Shi’ite triggered massive protests (WebCite cached article):
Iran’s Supreme Leader warned on Sunday that there would be divine retribution for Saudi Arabia’s rulers after the execution of a renowned Shiite cleric, sustaining the soaring regional tensions that erupted in the wake of the killing.
The warning came hours after crowds of protesters stormed and torched the Saudi embassy in Tehran to vent their anger at the execution of Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, who was among 47 people put to death in the kingdom on Saturday.
In a posting on his website, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that the execution “will cause serious troubles for the politicians of this [Saudi] regime in a very short time….The hands of divine vengeance will surely snatch — by their necks — those cruel individuals who took his life.”
The execution of Nimr, an outspoken critic of the Saudi royal family, has ignited sectarian tensions across the already inflamed region and jeopardized U.S. diplomacy aimed at tamping down conflicts in the Middle East.…
The Saudi consulate in the Iranian city of Mashad was also set on fire during the protests that erupted after Nimr’s execution was announced.
As WaPo explains, the Saudi executions were hardly some kind of Shi’ite purge:
Most of the 47 executed on Saturday were Sunnis accused of participating in Al Qaeda attacks.
As a side note, it looks as though Iranians have some kind of obsession with attacking embassies.
This outburst of violence isn’t actually the worst of the Sunni-vs-Shia conflict going on in the world. The Syrian Civil War has been, among other things, a proxy war between the (Sunni) Saudis and the (Shi’ite) Iranians, both making use of their own partisans in the region (such as Hezbollah, which is patronized by Teheran). Compared to the carnage there, setting an embassy ablaze might seem like small potatoes. But such are the tensions between Islam’s two main sects that violence can break out over virtually anything at all, almost anywhere there are Muslims.
And the worst part of it is, there’s no stopping it. No Sunni-Shia accord is on the horizon and there’s no chance of any reconciliation. It’s not going to happen. Just goes to show what can result from people obsessing over metaphysics — i.e. nothing good.
Photo credit: Mohammadreza Nadimi/ISNA, via AP, via Washington Post.
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Back in March I blogged about a woman from Kabul (about as cosmopolitan a city as one can find in Afghanistan) who was killed by a mob after having been accused of burning a Qur’an that she never actually burned. I predicted, at the time — in spite of condemnations by the Afghan government — that justice almost certainly would not be done for this woman. Yes, many people were arrested and prosecuted for this crime, but as the New York Times reports, pretty much everyone involved is going to get away with it nonetheless (WebCite cached article):
At first, the trial and convictions that followed seemed a victory in the long struggle to give Afghan women their due in a court of law. But a deeper look suggests otherwise. The fortuneteller who several investigators believe set the events in motion was found not guilty on appeal. The shrine’s custodian, who concocted the false charge of Quran burning and incited the mob, had his death sentence commuted. Police officers who failed to send help and others who stood by received slaps on the wrist, at most. Some attackers identifiable in the videos avoided capture altogether.
The Times explains the twists and turns this case took, the trials, appeals, etc. Strangely, a lot of the trials and appeals hinged mainly on the issue of who struck the first blow against Farkhunda, rather than delving into what was, essentially, a conspiracy to arrange her murder, and holding those who orchestrated it accountable for their participation. Given his public’s general approval of Farkhunda’s murder, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani has essentially caved in on the matter. And Farkhunda’s family has had to flee the country.
Back when I blogged about this senseless and unjust slaughter, I said:
Yes, I’m sure a condemnation by Afghanistan’s new president Ashraf Ghani is certain to bring this practice to an end. No doubt!
And if you believe that, I have some beachfront property in Arizona to sell you.
Yup, looks like I called this one … sad to say. The Afghan government and people managed to live down to all my expectations of them … and then some. I’m sure they’re very proud of their backwardness, stupidity, childishness, and cowardice. Well done, Afghans! I’m also sure your al-Lah is proud of you, too!
Photo credit: Lynsey Addario / The New York Times.
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Over the last few years, some American Christianists have decided that yoga, of all things, is an abomination against their deity. The angry theocrat Al Mohler came out against it 5 years ago, and occasionally it kicks up a Christianist furor, as happened a couple years ago in California.
The latest example comes from Ted Shoebat, the Christofascist son of the claimed ex-PLO terrorist Walid Shoebat, who — as Right Wing Watch reports and provides video — has demanded that yoga, of all things, be outlawed and yoga studios raided (WebCite cached article):
Extremist right-wing activist Theodore Shoebat dedicated his most recent video to railing against the evils of Hinduism, declaring that if he was a dictator, he would invade India, destroy all Hindu temples and force everyone to convert to Christianity.…
“Yoga? Outlawed,” Shoebat continued. “And anyone who teaches yoga? Punished by the state … I think the U.S. government needs to crack down on this evil, demonic thing called yoga … You’re teaching yoga, have the SWAT team bust open the doors to that place and just arrest everybody.”
Note, this isn’t really new for the furious little Teddie. He’s previously called for all gays, and those who support them (even Christians), to be executed summarily (cached). He also supports Donald “it’s my own orange hair” Trump for president, with the expectation he’ll also have all Muslims executed, as well (cached).
Note that Teddie’s father Walid has a dubious history. He’s a Muslim convert to Christianity who said he’d been a Muslim terrorist, although he was almost certainly not involved in at least one terror attack he’d claimed to have been part of (cached). As one would expect, this has brought him a acclaim from evangelical Christians who love such claims and don’t really give a flying fuck whether or not they’re truthful, and has made a living on the Christian lecture circuit as a “terrorism expert.”
At any rate, I can’t fathom why “mainstream” Christians — who presumably find such views atrocious and unacceptable — haven’t done anything about the angry little Teddie or his father. Hmm. I mean, they may well be offended that this guy is speaking for their religion, their deity, and even them … but he just keeps spewing these ridiculous demands for people he dislikes to be killed.
As for yoga being a form of Hinduism, as practiced in most places in the US, it’s no such thing. Yes, it’s true it began among Hindus as a form of devotion, but over the centuries, not to mention the miles, it’s lost pretty much any connection it had to the religion known as Hinduism. Some of the practices and poses have Hindi names, but that’s about as close a link as you’ll find in most American yoga studios. Having people killed over it, though … ? What the fuck!? I mean that seriously … what the fuck is wrong with Ted Shoebat and why the hell are people actually letting jabber on like the the juvenile, ignorant, furious douchebag he is?
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
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As I’ve blogged already, the Great Neocrusade has broken open. Christianists around the country have had it with Islam and they’re just not going to put up with it any more. Many are exacting vigilante justice on their chief rival religion. Any whiff of anything being somehow pro-Islam has aroused their ire.
A great example of this is in Virginia. As Mediaite reports, the Augusta County School District closed all its schools today due to a torrent of militant Christianist outrage (WebCite cached article):
Augusta County School District in Virginia cancelled school Friday citing security concerns after a teacher’s lesson on calligraphy garnered hateful messages from across the country.
The assignment by Riverheads High School teacher Cheryl LaPorte asked students to copy the shahada, a Muslim statement of faith that translates as “there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”
During a forum Tuesday night, parents expressed outrage over the school’s “indoctrination.” Augusta County parent Kimberly Herndon said the teacher took away the rights of the students, telling the forum, “if my truth can not be spoken in schools, I don’t want false doctrine spoken in schools.”
The teacher and the school district denied this was “indoctrination.” Instead, it was a calligraphy exercise … nothing more. Here is a scan of the offending lesson:
Scan of Riverheads High School lesson, relevant portion reads: ‘Practicing Calligraphy: Here is the shahada, the Islamic statement of faith, written in Arabic. In the space below, try copying it by hand. This should give you an idea of the artistic complexity of calligraphy.’ / via Mediaite
The value of this lesson is explained within its text: By asking the student to try replicating this calligraphic shahada
, students will find out something about Arabic calligraphy, in a way they never could, merely by reading descriptions of how it’s done.
While the shahada, literally “testimony,” is one of the Pillars of Islam and therefore has religious significance for Muslims, having to replicate it does not — contrary to common Christian belief — automatically make one a Muslim. No one can convert to any religion, Islam included, against his or her will. There is no magic inherent in speaking or writing out the shahada … or any other ritual phrase from any religion, for that matter. Saying the shahada publicly can signify one has converted to Islam, but this must be intentional.
Allow me to demonstrate by typing out the shahada myself (in English):
There is no god but God. Muhammad is the messenger of God.
There. Done. Now … does this make me a Muslim? No. It doesn’t. I remain as non-religious as I’ve ever been. I’ve never had any intention of joining Islam or living by its precepts, and I will continue never being part of it and never obeying it.
Now, if I can do this and not magically be made a Muslim, then Riverheads High School students aren’t going to be magically made Muslims by trying to copy out the shahada in Arabic script. Hence, there is no indoctrination here. None. Not a fucking speck of it!
I find it amazing that so many Christians — a lot of whom don’t even think al-Lah, Islam’s deity, is real — could actually be afraid of the supposed magical power of one of Islam’s ritual phrases. It’s almost laughable. (Please note: Truthfully, Jews, Muslims and Christians all effectively worship the same deity, the God of Abraham. They just think differently about him.)
It’s long past time for American Christendom to fucking grow the hell up already and stop caterwauling about shit they cannot change. Islam exists; it’s not going away; there are lots of Muslims in the world; and it’s best just to accept that reality rather than continue bellyaching against it.
Photo credit: Top, Art Passions; middle, Mediaite.
Tags: arabic calligraphy
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, augusta cty VA
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While this is (arguably) more amusing than anything else, this story exemplifies the sanctimony of the so-called “Christmas warriors,” those Christians who’re convinced there’s a “war on Christmas” in the US and that the Forces of Darkness (aka “secular progressives,” “New Atheists,” the ACLU, etc.) are trying to outlaw it as an opening step toward abolishing Christianity entirely. As I’ve blogged for many years no, no such effort exists, but that doesn’t stop militant Christianists from deluding themselves into thinking it’s real.
The latest Christmas warrior I’ve heard about, as the Houston Chronicle reports, is Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Sid Miller, naturally a Republican (WebCite cached article):
Miller wrote on Facebook – in a post that’s been shared almost 2,000 times and liked by 5,000 fans – that he’s ready to get physical with the next person that wishes him a “Happy Holidays.”
Miller wrote: “If one more person says Happy Holidays to me I just might slap them. Either tell me Merry Christmas or just don’t say anything.” The post is accompanied with an image of a cowboy on a steer riding under a pharmacy sign that says “We will never take the Christ out of Christmas.”
Here’s his threat as it appeared on Facebook:
How wonderful — not to mention Christian — of the guy! You can almost feel all that Yuletide “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” oozing from that post.
I have to hand it to the Texas Democratic Party for posting a reply via a comment on the post which is an 80s-video-game-style animated image saying “Happy Holidays.” The Chron points out some of Miller’s past mouthiness (particularly a time he threatened to nuke all Muslims). Yeah, he’s that kind of Texan, and not too different from what I’ve come to expect from the Texas GOP (which has given us the Christofascist likes of Louie Gohmert and Ted Cruz).
Photo credit: Top, modified still from Sudden Impact; middle, Sid Miller via Facebook.
Hat tip: Raw Story.
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This year’s edition of the annual phantasmal “war on Christmas” continues to be waged across the country. The latest battleground is in San Jose, CA. A mother’s complaint, the San Jose Mercury News reports, led to the cancellation of a kindergarten class field trip to see Santa … and other parents are furious (WebCite cached version):
A Santa storm is brewing in San Jose.
After a field trip to visit Santa Claus by kindergarten students at Sartorette Elementary School was canceled by administrators on the heels of a complaint by one Jewish mother, things are getting ugly down on Woodford Drive.
Angry parents plan to descend on the board meeting Thursday, threatening a student walkout Friday if the Cambrian School District’s board fails to reinstate the annual Santa trip. The woman who made the complaint, who identified herself only as Talia and declined to be interviewed Wednesday evening, stood by her claim that having kids write or visit Santa unfairly imposes one religion on all students. She fired off an angry letter Dec. 7 to fellow parents at the charter school, alleging she was “ambushed by a group of moms from Ms. Kay’s class” who she said yelled at her for “ruining Santa for the kids.”
As is very common in these cases, those who see nothing wrong with public-school kids being paraded annually up on Santa’s lap rely on appeals to tradition (e.g. “They’ve always done this at Sartorette!”) as well as appeals to the masses:
“It’s very upsetting that the district would act after taking one person’s opinion and not talking to the 500 other families at the school,” said Melanie Scott, mother of a first-grader who took the field trip last year.
Both of these lines of thinking are fallacious; just because something has always been done or always been thought, doesn’t make it acceptable or correct; and just because many people approve of something, likewise doesn’t make it proper.
I love how Christianists accuse the complaining mother of “ruining Santa for the kids.” That whine makes no sense. If parents want their kids to sit on Santa’s lap, there’s nothing preventing them from taking their kids to a mall or some other place and doing so! Neither this mother’s complaint, nor the field trip’s cancellation, changes that … at all. They’re as free to do so as they’ve ever been. How and why are they claiming otherwise?
The obvious question to be asked is, if these parents are so vehement about making sure their kids sit on Santa’s lap, why aren’t they willing to make that happen on their own time? Why do they require the school to get it done for them? Why divert kids’ learning time to something that could be done elsewhere? I just don’t get it. I can only assume it has something to do with a latent desire for communal reinforcement; that is, they’re not so much concerned with whether or not their own kid(s) get to sit on Santa’s lap this year, but rather, whether or not their kid(s)’ entire class must do so.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Tags: cambrian school district
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