31 July 2007

Emergent Qaeda; or Why the Christian Right Is al Qaeda's Ally and Enemy

According to Frank Pastore, al Qaeda supports the Emergent Church - I read it on the internet, so it must be true!

I love sarcasm, so when I came upon Jordan Green's response, I giggled like a schoolgirl for nearly ten minutes. Especially this little tidbit on fundamentalist Christianity and Islam: "They both think Jesus was alright, but he didn’t kick enough ass."

For those with neither the time nor attention span to read either of the articles, I will attempt to summarize: Frank Pastore claims that radical Islam is bent on converting the world (caution: those who are allergic to BS may want to stop reading here) and that only America can stop it. And out of the Americans, only the conservatives, and more specifically, the Conservative Christians, are capable of stopping this threat (I get the feeling that radical Muslims believe they are the only ones who can save the world from conservative Christians). Pastore goes on to claim that Christianity is the driving force of the world, from Constantine to Bush, and that all art and philosophy owe Christianity (which, in turn, owes the ancient Greeks, especially the Athenians, namely Plato; this is, of course, excepting Aquinas, who owes Muslims, who in turn owe Aristotle, who owes Plato - longer train, same destination). Of course, what Pastore is really saying is that the gun is the only way to solve anything, and conservative Christians are the only people with the balls to pull the trigger. Accordingly, he claims that the Emergent, post-modern Christians would rather sit around and talk over coffee, and is therefore willing to let al Qaeda take over the world.

He's right. I would much rather sit around over coffee and talk rather than fight, though I would not nod "in agreement that America probably deserved to die". And while I disagree with some of the more liberal leaders of post-modern Christianity over just war theory, even I would rather feed the hungry than kill the warlord who's starving them. But I doubt that this is what al Qaeda wants, for a group of the supposed enemy to do good deeds. To build up an army of angry youth, you need one thing - angry youth. And it's hard to be pissed at the person who just taught you better farming techniques, dug a well in your town, and is now treating you to coffee (an amazing similarity between the Middle East and the US).

Pastore claims that post-modern Christianity dislikes truth, knowledge, science, authority, doctrine, institutions, and religion. That's an out-right lie. Anybody who's ever spoken with a post-modern Christian will know that they are searching for truth and knowledge, depend on science, respect the authority of God, and even hold their own doctrines (though they don't force them on others as a means of salvation). Granted, I don't much care for institutionalized religion, but neither did Jesus.

In the essay, the Emergent Church is summarized this way:
"Bottom line, it's feelings over thoughts, the heart over the head, experience over truth, deeds over creeds, narratives over propositions, the corporate over the individualistic, being inclusive rather than exclusive, with none of that offensive 'in versus out' language, such as those who are “saved” and those who are 'not saved,' or even the most divisive of all referents–'Christian' and 'non-Christian.'" I'm still waiting for the bad part.

No, post-modern Christianity is probably actually a pretty big threat to Wahabi Islam. Instead, the abuses of the Christian Right provide al Qaeda with all of the pissed-off youth the could ever need. It's easy to be mad at the person who calls for war instead of peace, the person who doesn't respect your point of view and brands your faith as evil, the person who, even accidentally, bombs your village. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that we should just throw down our weapons and leave Iraq and Afghanistan. But I do think if we focus more on humanitarian missions instead of detaining prisoners, we would notice a lot less angry teens. As both fundamentalist Islam and fundamentalist Christianity compete for the control of governments and corporations, it will become a war of attrition - and the Islamic side has a lot more kids to anger.

Rock on.

24 July 2007

School, Work, and Little Time

It seems like just a few months ago that I was taking a break from posting because of the end of the semester's strenuous work load.

Wait, it was only a few months ago! Which is why it sucks that the time has come around again. Summer session is ending, and I will soon have another thirteen hours under my belt, and a new job to boot. So, I must jump ship for the next week and a half or so and devote myself to studying German, revising essays, and working at the worst dinning hall on campus (which is actually about equal to the best on most other campuses, but still...)

I'll be back. In the meantime, check out this horrible video my friends and I did - conceived, filmed, and edited in less than ten hours and at no cost except our dignity. And when you're done with that, watch an entire IT infrastructure go into a BlendTec Total Blender, courtesy of Will It Blend?


14 July 2007

UGA Episode IV: A New HOPE

For those who don't know, Georgia has an amazing scholarship that I alluded to in my last post. It's for all Georgia residents who are attending a Georgia college and maintain above a 3.0.

What's so amazing about this is that it covers your tuition for up to 127 credit hours as long as you take a full schedule, which is 12 hours during Fall and Spring semesters. I think some of the exact requirements for hours vary from school to school, but the important thing is that this is a bloody amazing scholarship.

But it's called HOPE. So, especially at Georgia Tech, you will, most likely, lose HOPE during your four years. Many students around the state lose HOPE after just one year in school. While you can earn HOPE back, to do so is almost as soul-crushing as losing HOPE in the first place.

And while HOPE stands for Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally, nobody ever says the full name. No, you're not losing the Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally Scholarship, you're losing HOPE. And once you've lost HOPE, life has no meaning. It's almost as bad as losing coffee. College just isn't possible without it.

So I propose that we change the name of the HOPE. Let's call it Tuition Elimination Exemplified To Battle Overpriced Official Kolleges For Everybody Everywhere Scholarship, or TEXTBOOK FEES for short. In keeping with government tradition, the title has been sacrificed to make for a better acronym. I think that generally speaking, a student could make it through college without TEXTBOOK FEES. Heck, it might even make it more enjoyable. Without TEXTBOOK FEES, college could become a place of sunshine, puppies, and professors who know your name.

Here's hoping.

13 July 2007

Thank God Pastors Can't Be Outsourced

It means I'll always have a job to look forward to. Though satellite churches suggest that the preaching side could possibly be shipped overseas...

I have finally had a chance to start on Friedman's The World Is Flat, and I'm slightly frightened. While I applaud the ability to take jobs to middle class Asian youth (though I still have my doubts as to whether or not globalization can do anything but harm the Asian poor and under-developed nations, and the moving of jobs to Mexico and other third-world countries is a topic entirely undiscussed in - expect a post on how the flattened world crushed South American and Africa), I cannot find any benefit to working class Americans. Mr. Friedman argues that while outsourcing may cut phone service jobs, it is good for American business because these Indian agencies are using American products - from software to bottled water. Yet on the very next page, he talks about how R&D is being outsourced. And anyone who's ever bought an electronic device in the past ten years knows that production has been moved overseas as well. So if research, production, and service have all been sent to southeast Asia, which Americans are seeing the benefits? Stockholders and the upper class business owners. While prices are theoretically falling (and I cannot stress the "theoretically" enough), what good does that do if the working class has no source of income in the first place?

It seems amazing what is being outsourced these days. The book starts by discussing the use of Indian firms for accounting. Yup, your CPA may very well be sending your taxes to Bangalore. By extension, to all my friends are accounting majors, I suggest you either get really good at what you do or find a job that must be done in person). As it turns out, your CAT scan may also be read by a tech in Bangalore. And most surprisingly, research assistantships, the bread and butter of many college students, are being sent to Bangalore (described as the Silicon Valley of India). For about $2000 a month, you can have all of your research done and summarized for you (sadly, this falls out of the price range of college and grad students).

I don't like to think of things as American v. non-American, but in this case, it's hard not to. Most recipients of these outsourced tele-service jobs are earning $200-$500 a month - a living wage in India. Including insurance and housing pushes the wage up to perhaps $700 a month. And this is to employ a college graduate, a professional. No American, especially one with a family, can compete with that. My friend, a college graduate, was offered a $10/hour full time job in Seattle and still may not be able to afford to live there. My $6.25/hour job on campus* is pushing it for most students, and that's in a college town, land of cheap food (for all who are curious, Ramen is 14 cents a pack now) and $1 movies.
*The most Food Service allows a student to work is 40 hrs/wk, meaning the most a student could could make is $1000 a month, before taxes. That 40 hours is on top of at least a 12 hour schedule.

This outsourcing is, of course, helping India's economy. Eventually, inflation will catch up, and the economy will grow to where $700/month will not be a living wage. The same is true of other outsourcing centers, such as Thailand. So at best, the cheap labor pool is temporary. Unfortunately, "temporary" can be a long time.

Rock on.

11 July 2007


The iPhone blends!

Check out the video at what can only be described as the single greatest commercial site ever: Will It Blend?

Ro...erm...Blend on.

07 July 2007

The Call 2007

Today is 7 July 2007, or 07/07/07. I know a few people who have birthdays today, but other than that, it is completely unremarkable.

Unless, that is, you are attending The Call - a Christian political demonstration, disguised as mass fasting, being held in Nashville.

The leader of this movement, Lou Engle. Mr. Engle claims that the idea for the Call was inspired by the Holy Ghost and that it is a result of multiple prophecies - not in the sense of the prophets of Ancient Israel speaking in the name of God, but in the smarmiest future-telling sense. Apparently, Bob Jones prophesied that the Houston Oilers would move to Nashville, and that their stadium would play host to a fast, and Mr. Engle himself believes that he and others have been predicting this event for quite some time (very convenient, if you ask me, that the planner saw this coming).

The event is in response to a few things. First, the 2006 election. From the Call's website: "The Church and the nation are in a crisis! In no uncertain terms, the elections of 2006 showed us that there is no clear moral foundation upon which the nation votes." Apparently, the Republican Party has ceased to align itself with morals, and this resulted in God ousting them from power (but as we all know, God doesn't like Democrats; the Republicans, then, are like Israel being defeated by the Assyrians*) Second, this is the fortieth anniversary of the Summer of Love. Because we all know how evil hippies are.* Thirdly, a woman blindly wrote Mr. Engle a $100,000 check and told him about it as he pondered how to call attention to the moral crisis the US is facing. (*I can not stress enough the level of sarcasm that these statements should be read with.)

On the first issue: I fail to see how the 2006 election shows that the voting citizens of the US lack a "clear moral foundation". If anything, I would say that a nation tired of fighting and an administration concerned primarily with foreign policy actually voting out a rubber stamp congress shows that the voters have an idea of what they're voting for. And since when is Congress around to legislate morality anyway? Protect the people, yes, but tell them what system of morality they should hold, no. Those participating in the Call fail to recognize our status as the first nation born of the Enlightenment. The freedom to choose for ourselves which morals we will uphold is what makes us distinct, not our imagined Judeo-Christian foundation. Congress should be more concerned with helping the poor, not keeping same-sex marriage out of the nation. Oddly enough, I think Christ would support welfare reform and getting help where it is needed.

On the second: The Summer of Love - yes, it included drug use and open sex. But it also included free health care, food, and the basic necessities of what we see as living - toothbrushes, soap, and the like. Was it in the name of Christ? No. But I fail to see how helping the needy and loving others is ever a bad thing. They claim that a "spirit of worship" was released and was not directed at God. Ok. This has absolutely no meaning and creates more questions than answers. Who was worshiping whom? What is a "spirit of worship" in terms of something that can be released (this implies that it is in bondage)? Who decided to release this spirit?

On the third: Aren't there better ways to call attention to an issue than fasting? Wasting $100,000 dollars renting out a stadium and and creating publicity does nothing to convince people that there is anything wrong with this country. I believe that there is a problem with this nation and it's priorities, but also think the way we as the Church waste money on crap like this is part of it. You want to convince people that this is for real? Use the money to help those in New Orleans - go to one of the neediest cities in the world and help to take people out of this cycle of depravity - stop poverty, which leads to violence and drug use, which leads to prison time, which leads to more poverty. Spend the money on schools, food, and health care. The hippies in 67 had it right. Even fast while you're working. But there are much, much better things that the money paying for this event can go towards.

Frankly, I am disgusted that the leaders of this event have designed a political protest and dressed it in religious clothing. You want to protest the Democratic congress? Go ahead, but don't do it in the name of the Church. I participate in a fast called the Thirty Hour Famine, as do many church youth groups. This is put on by a Christian organization and many do it because they love God. But it is a small-scale hunger strike for political reasons, and there are few questions about that. This is exactly what the Call is, though less honest about their actual intentions.

I will agree, as previously stated, that there is a moral crisis in this country. I don't think that Democrats or Republicans are part of it (though possibly the actions of politicians are). The moral crisis is that we believe in a self-gratifying country. It is all about me. Spend money on mansions, have guilt-free sex, ignore those who are of no use to me. Hollywood continues to put out movies that show this as a desirable lifestyle. The actors and musicians who call for helping the poor live in multimillion dollar houses, own upwards of five cars, and receive all the free crap they can handle for doing charity concerts. Politicians who claim to care for the lower class live the same lifestyle. And the Church is more concerned with putting on big events to call attention to fasting (I seem to recall Jesus saying something about this...meh, it's probably nothing) is part of the problem, not the solution.

Rock on.

04 July 2007

Nothing Says America Like Blowing *Expletive* Up

The Fourth of July is an interesting holiday, especially in Georgia. Here, it is illegal to buy, sell, or set off fireworks (though you can own them). Which means one thing: for those of us with the time and money, a trip to the nearest state border to buy the "goods". Then, the search begins for an empty field (unless you're lucky enough to have friends or family with large tracks of land). Because nothing says America like a few broken laws and explosions.

Really, though, why do we celebrate Independence Day the way we do? Fireworks are Chinese. Bratwurst, Hamburgers, and Frankfurters are German. Beer is Mesopotamian, though the Germans perfected it. Most of our national music can trace its origins, at least stylistically, to Britain. Even the ideals on which this nation are based, the Enlightenment, is really a product of Europe, we are just the grand experiment.

I think these many traditions show that the US really is a melting pot (please forgive the cliché). Every time a new group of immigrants comes in, they are initially met with resistance (the Irish, the Chinese, and now the Mexicans), but sooner or later, their culture is adopted. It remains unique, but blends so perfectly. All one has to do is read a high school yearbook and see the long list of last names and consider their origins. And this is what we are celebrating, and doing so through application. John Adams, two days before the Declaration of Independence was adopted, told his wife that he hoped the nation would mark the occasion's anniversary with parties, sports, parades, music, illuminations, bonfires, and, in general, a good time.

"But Drew, should Christians take part in celebrations of countries when we are called to be 'not of this world'?"
Well, Timmy, I'm glad you asked (ok, so there is no Timmy, but I couldn't think of a transition).

I've heard both sides of this argument, and think that both hold some validity. Obviously, the idea that God favors the US over other nations and Americans over other people is baseless and pretty stupid. God loves everybody regardless of national identity (or anything else, and I think that some in the so-called Christian right would do well to remember this). But I do think that God favors free nations, and the US is among the first. Many of the prophetic books of the Old Testament show God's favor for the oppressed, and as the US and other free nations attempt to become the "new colossus", I think God supports them.

The second argument I've heard is that it's pointless to be proud of the country you were born into, as you have no say in the matter. If this is the case, it is just as pointless to be proud of family members. Should we think that our nation is the best? Certainly not. We've made our mistakes, and will continue to do so. But to condemn those who appreciate their nation and national identity is as equally mistaken as vitriolic nationalism. I would suggest that the disagreement over patriotism comes from differing definitions of the word pride. One suggests the pompous, arrogant attitude of nationalism. This is always wrong - this pride does, in fact, come before the fall. But there's also pride in the sense of appreciation - I appreciate the nation I was fortunate enough to be born into. Though I do admit, it is a fine line to walk.

Rock on.