Thursday, March 23, 2006

Jesus the Perfect Hero

In our religious ed class for teens one of the seminarians (who is exceptionally gifted at reaching the common man in my opinion) used a four part lesson for a retreat based on the idea of the Hero. By this he reflects not only on mythological heroes from history, but also on modern comic book figures.

We should require all youths to read comic books. It's amazing how the comic book, of all forums, has most retained the idea of personified virtue and vices. The flawed hero, the anti-hero, the redeemable villain, the complex villain, alliances of convenience and principle by those who would have killed one another and of course, my favorite... the Tragic Hero. The one with the Hubris - a greek term referring to the heroes of mythology and their one critical flaw... the flaw that will kill them... the flaw they can't escape... the lacking virtue that they must succeed in spite of, probably to their own destruction. The Achilles Heel is trumped in this regard only to Hector, who must fight for Troy against a near-immortal and against the gods who protect him.

Of all these heroes it is Hector who I relate to most. The unwilling hero who knows that he cannot win, but hopes to fight for honor. He wishes to make such a battle with the Greeks that his virtue and the courage of the tragic Trojans trapped in the middle of a Divine power play will be forever remembered. He stands at the breach between his people and the certain annihilation that he, of all men, must know is coming. His spear, which should have claimed the life of Achilles - who is the lesser man and was shown as such in battle - is dashed aside at the moment of triumph by Athena, the interfering nuisance of a goddess who cannot set aside her bias for the megalomanic Achilles long enough to let him pay the consequence of his own actions. But in the moment of his greatest triumph Hector is vindicated and Achilles cast down by the passionate arrow of Paris, who shoots to avenge his wronged brother.

I find that I relate most to the unwitting hero. The flawed one. I see myself in the overly fun loving nature of Conan, and the psychotic dedication to the self-righteous puritanical cause personified in Solomon Kane. The absolute blindness and brutishness of V, willing to see all destroyed before accepting the defeat of his Idea.

In similar vein is the Tarakian from Heavy Metal. Unable to fulfill the covenant to protect her people from incarnate evil, the pledge is then to vengence. The vengence cannot ultimately save her life, but in fulfilling the promise another Tarakian will be born, and the war will continue anew.

Then there is always in my memory the character of Niun s'Intel, the mri swordsman from Cj Cheryh's Faded Sun trilogy. Fighting for the cause of the lost people, Niun decides to succeed or fail in his people's vindication only to the extent that he can do so by the archaic laws which have always defined his people as who they are. It's in pulps and comics that the authors set aside the wayward need for three dimensions and concentrate on the dream... the hero we would all be, flaw intact, if only we had the single-minded courage to dedicate ourselves fully.

Into this comes Christ, the hero who examples for everyone the triumphant and eternal Divine Love which is their birthright, and is put to death by those he would save. The icon of God hangs helplessly, and at a point hopelessly, from the instrument of torture by those who's hearts cannot come to grips with perfection. But the covenant will not be broken. God will yet have the last word. He will vindicate His people and set his edifice in their midst. The Temple will yet be restored, and the gates of Hades will be smashed. The trumpet will blow and the dead will arise to be judged as the King returns for what is his. The angels will cast a golden crown before his throne and bow down before the King and his Mother, standing in glory. his soldiers the martyrs will join the Seraphim surrounding him and singing the hymn of triumph forever. the Cherubim with the fiery sword will then be removed from its constant vigil at the gates of Eden, and Man may enter again, to walk with God, and speak only of Good with no Evil.

Jesus is primarily the anti-hero. While we see in others notions of the truth, there is only one hero without flaw. Our own flaws show us why there is a primal need in our psyche to attribute some quirk and shortcoming to our own heroes. It has prepared us since the beginning to see perfection in only One, who will not be flawed. Only one Eternal David without dynasty can be all in all without vice.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Why I was never a rebel

Most people by the age of 25 (now 26 gasp!) have a line of baggage a mile long. Why? Are they bad people? Nah, it's nearly always that at some point they decided to 'rebel' in order to establish personal identity. There was a notion that what you did didn't matter because you were young and had plenty of time to heal whatever you had broken. Hurting the parents was a sure sign that you were in the right direction of becoming your own person.

I think I've discerned why I never thought it would be cool to rebel against my parents expectations: Whenever one of my sister's friends does something dumb, their parents get on to them by saying "that was bad". When my sisters mess up, just like when I messed up, we are told "that was stupid". It's amazing how much different this little choice of wording really can be.

For example, even when I was relatively non-religious, my moral system stayed intact because it was sensible. Doing rebellious things just to "break" from my folks didn't make any sense precisely because I could only do such a thing by being willingly stupid, and I knew it. If the decision I made was, in fact, a good one, then by definition my parents would not be irrate.

Also, it strikes me that there was a great deal of emphasis on being charitable, but not accepting it unless you had to. I was always taught to be understanding of others failings, but also to use them as models of what not to do. My ability to help, it was understood, was contingent upon my not being one of the ones who needs helping. Self-sufficiency for the non-self-sufficient. In a way it imparted that you aren't, in fact, your own person. You belong to the mission, and are expected to lead.

What a week...

Wow, what a blitzkrieg of a week.

first of all the partying for my b-day has not stopped all week. I think everyone feels for me since my b-day last year was the second day of the Lenten retreat... thus silence was demanded of the seminary - good for your soul and discipline, bad for birthday parties.

So, I've gotten some cookies and a humidor for the gifts. Other than that, it's been a week-long party, which has involved 4 different nights of scotch. Wednesday was slacking I suppose. We needed a little R&R. It was like R Kelley here on Tues. We had the party, and then after the party was the after-party, and then after that we had the after-after-party. Whew.

Last night was Ethiopian food. Oh man, Fridge, Berries, Shoje and I ordered the two largest combos on the menu, which came out on one gigantimus plate of Ethipian bread. I've never seen that much food get snarfed quite that fast. It was like four robots. I'm not even sure that we touched our glasses. It was a free-for-all. Not only were we starved and not only was it delicious like whoa, but also it was competative - 4 guys. Freakin' Ethiopian food holocaust! The wind-down was watching some of Rock's high school play videos and puffing on some fresh cigars. Aww yeah.

Even with this past week, which has only involved 2 gym trips, I will have it known that my total is officially down 11 lbs. Perhaps 9 after last week (last night especially), but still, I'm on a roll - and it don't stop ^^ The Battleship Roland is still lightening the load. At this rate I'll be more than prepared for the Hawaii trip in a month.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Learning to see the world as Christians

Learning to See the World as Christians
by Ray Fulmer

Of all recent joys of my life, perhaps the greatest as of late has been the opportunity to go through seminary at the same time that my best friend is doing graduate work in the field of Islamic Studies - his tradition of faith. Although we’ve been brothers in all but last name since childhood (I once joked that I wouldn’t date his sister because my faith forbids incest) our dialogue has never been more fruitful than at this point in our life, even though we live on different coasts.

Most recently we were caught up in a discussion about Hurricane Katrina and the retrospective understandings surrounding that mighty and destructive storm. So many popular reactions have emerged, from "I can’t believe in a God that would let this happen" to "I can’t believe in a world so meaningless that tragedies like this are not in the hands of a loving higher power." Yet something struck me as we assessed the many voices bearing on the event - very few spoke about it through a faithful allegory. By that I mean to say that few people took the physical dimension of the event and attempted to attribute an elegant and personal spiritual dimension to what had occurred. We judged the event and judged God by the event without ever considering the various ways in which God might be teaching us and judging our pre-conceptions. Could we not be the intended audience every bit as much as those in New Orleans? Could it not be that we should start with a feeling that it could just as easily have been us?

I believe that this shows a general poverty in our way of reasoning. It’s symptomatic of how we compartmentalize our faith. Church and faith cover only very specific aspects of our lives. We have grown up in a society that preaches separation of Church and State, that oft used and more frequently than not misunderstood clause of a distinctly Modernist document which, among all forms of legal codes across time and space, governs only the United States of America, and has done so for only two centuries of history. Our national idea of separation creeps into our conscience as being normative and binding - the way things are and have to be.
One consequence of such separation is that we tend not to attribute a spiritual dimension to otherwise ordinary actions.

In Judaism and Christianity it was not always so - all events in the physical world have been traditionally ascribed a higher meaning along with the material explanation. It was thought normal in other times that those who had been illumined by their confessed faith would naturally see certain themes and realities through the lens of the faith goggles that were not entirely obvious to those outside of the group. Many cultures still feel much more comfortable undertaking such an endeavor, and it is certainly the Scriptural witness. Think of when Peter tells Christ not to be crucified and is told "Get thee behind me Satan." Of course Peter had not become Satan incarnate, but Christ correctly attributed this level of meaning to Peter’s faithless rebuke - Satan was visible through Peter's words/actions.

Perhaps the best example of this in early Christian literature is St. Athanasius’ double work Against the Pagans and On the Incarnation. Athanasius spends vast swaths of both works, which together form one extended apology for the cross, narrating pagan history from a Christian perspective. For him "idolatry was the beginning of fornication", and "the cross of Christ has put all demonic activity to flight". Now in the fourth century you could not have looked outside at the myriad of pagan cults and practices and said with assuredness "oh yes, that’s true", but Athanasius was undaunted by the facts on the ground.

Athanasius goes on to demonstrate how a person might see the world through his lens. Interestingly, none of it is a factual proof from physical evidence. Most of his examples of Christ being "present in the world" were narratives of the acts of asceticism, martyrdom, and charity performed by Christians in their daily lives - not a defense of the factuality of the Scriptures. It's pretty obvious that he believed the truth of his message could be seen by correctly viewing the daily goings on of Alexandria in his time. Conversely, the falsehood of pagan idolatry was not a matter of performing chemistry experiments or exacting research, thus showing the non-existence of Zeus, but was viewed primarily through the lewd behavior and lack of virtue in the actions and mythology of the pagans. Athanasius was a rhetorician of the highest caliber, and such reasoning came naturally to him.

The Prophets work exactly the same way. We should not imagine that Jeremiah or Ezekiel were thought to be obviously correct in their own day based on evidence they could offer the people. Their people did not see them walking down the street to the coffee shop and tell their kids "there goes a prophet of the most high God."

In fact, if we take the narratives on any kind of face value, Jeremiah told the people of Israel that their city would be destroyed due to their iniquity, and he was summarily run out of town. It was only after this event had come to pass that the sayings of Jeremiah were deemed "prophetic". Whether or not God had chit-chatted with a literal and physical Jeremiah beforehand was not the issue. Rather, the people agreed with his spiritual narrative after physical history had already come to pass. The prophets saw in the actions of God in daily events, and spoke of them as such.

Slaves in the American South were also the same. Old African-American gospel music freely uses scriptural imagery to describe their conditions. The hymn "Go Down Moses" is usually rendered something like this: Go down, Moses, way down to Egypt land, Tell old Pharaoh, Let my people go!". Of course they weren’t under Pharaoh, and they didn’t live in Egypt, but in the Scriptural story they saw their own plight, and so they spoke of their condition through this lens. Doubtless the abolition of slavery was thought to be the right fulfillment of biblical promises. Seeing that if the situation was similar, then if God so delivered Israel, he could deliver them as well.

The idea of understanding the spiritual reality in otherwise normal happenings is not foreign to the Christian worship tradition. One needs to look no further than the Eucharist. Certainly nobody in their right mind would say that what they are eating is other than bread and wine, yet through faith it is also, in a very real way, the saving body and blood of Jesus Christ. Our collective faith creates the new reality of the bread and wine. We have confidence that God hears our prayers and responds accordingly, no matter what we might see or not see. If we have no problem with this reasoning in our churches, why should we not approach the rest of our lives in a similar way?

So, back to the current reflections on Hurricane Katrina - is it not reasonable that faithful people could derive some Scriptural allegories for this situation as well? We need not be Pat Buchanan or a fire-and-brimstone televangelist, presuming to think that because of the particular sins of the people of New Orleans that God had chosen to smite them, but shouldn’t we offer a counter-narrative? Pat has at least offered his take, and some do listen. Can those with a different but equally faithful understanding propose some kind of faith-based alternative interpretation?

I for one believe that there are numerous biblical themes at work in these tragic events. There is the old standby about the fleetingness and unpredictability of our lives, even in our often deceptively safe world. We have also the heroism and charity of those who have done their part to help the city and its refugees; and yes we have the debased actions of many who used the anarchy after the storm for their self-centered ends, with no thought of their fellow people. We are reminded of the hubris of human beings, figuring that we can build a city against the whims of nature without consequence. We are also reminded of the destructive waters offering a fresh start; a chance to rebuild Zion holier and more humble than it had been. The same beautiful waters that have offered the inhabitants prosperity and identity can turn vicious, as can all parts of lives that we assume to readily are generic good. Those in the faith tradition of Noah should not be in awe of such an interpretation! We are shown lastly never to make idols of the things we love, but to recognize the fickle nature of our powerful earth.

I do not wish to belabor the point or to offer an exclusive understanding of what actually, factually, historically happened in New Orleans. Besides, my allegorical offering of the events might be poor. Rather, I hope to show that in all events, good and bad, no matter how mundane, faithful people have the ability to allegorize the situation and learn a little something from it. Spectacular events, even bad ones, are present in our world, and they cause us to deal with them in some way. God will not be boxed, and God’s creation regularly reminds us that, as the CS Lewis’ fawn Tumbus said of Aslan "he is not a tame lion."

I would offer that the lens could be applied to all things in our daily lives. We need not view life one-dimensionally. All regular events have a spiritual side so long as we believe in a God who created all things. Christians are short changing themselves by not seeing our faith in the happenings of the world around us, and we fail in our duty to witness to the rule of the true God when we abandon all spiritual stories to the fringe. When we can regain our sense of allegorizing our life through faith, then we can begin to de-compartmentalize ourselves and begin to be Christians at all times and places, becoming all things to all people. In short, we become part of the ongoing biblical narrative. We proclaim that our God IS, and not that our God WAS. As always we are brought full circle to the Lord's prayer: Our Father, who IS in heaven, hallowed be your name...

Monday, March 06, 2006

Forget the Oscars, here are the Razzies

The Oscars as usual were a matter of Hollywood patting the back of its more 'artistic' films over the more entertaining. Fair enough. But at the Razzies they truly speak with the mind of the people. So here they are, plus some informed commentary by their host.

Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman and Paris Hilton won worst-of prizes Saturday at the Razzies, an Academy Awards spoof mocking the worst of 2005.

But they were upstaged by Jenny McCarthy, who received three Razzies for worst picture, actress and screenplay as producer, star and writer of the gross-out romantic comedy "Dirty Love."

Cruise had been nominated for worst actor for "War of the Worlds," though he lost to Rob Schneider for "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo." But Cruise did win in a new category for most tiresome tabloid target, for the public spectacle of his romance with Katie Holmes.

"As guarded, not necessarily secretive, but as private about his personal life as he used to be, for him to suddenly propose in front of reporters on the Eiffel Tower and jump up and down like the monkey in 'Curious George' on Oprah Winfrey's couch, there truly is some problem there," said Razzies founder John Wilson.

Hilton was named worst supporting actress for "House of Wax," a prize "I could have told you she would win as soon as I heard she was going to be in the movie," Wilson said.
Kidman and Will Ferrell were picked as worst screen couple for "Bewitched," while Hayden Christensen was chosen as worst supporting actor for "Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith."

"Darth Vader portrayed as a Backstreet Boy gone bad just doesn't cut it as a villain," Wilson said. "Though it was fun to see his arms and legs cut off."

"Son of the Mask," which had led the Razzies field with eight nominations, was named worst sequel or remake.

McCarthy's husband, John Asher, whom she is divorcing, received the worst-director prize for "Dirty Love."

The movie combines the husband-wife misfire of "Bolero" winner of the 1984 worst-picture Razzie along with worst actress for Bo Derek and worst director for her husband, John Derek and the vulgar humor of "Freddy Got Fingered," Tom Green's 2001 Razzies champ.

The other worst-picture nominees were "Son of the Mask," "Deuce Bigalow," "House of Wax" and "The Dukes of Hazzard."

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Finally some sense in the cartoon crap

The Cartoon Controversy
Understanding Muslim reaction to the Mohammed cartoons
by Kristin E. Johnson

As television newscasters were reporting every night for weeks back in April 2002 on the story of Israeli troops surrounding Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity and the Franciscan Monks who had given asylum and shelter to some militant and some civilian Palestinians I barely glanced up from my microwaved Lean Cuisine dinner each evening.

The only reason I was aware of these events at all was because my good friend Madian Khouly would urgently tell me what was happening at the site of Jesus’ birth. It was important to him and he thought it should be important to me, since I am a Catholic. Madian is in his mid-thirties and owns the computer store where I get all my techno-gadgets. He comes from a Palestinian family but grew up in Kuwait. He is a Muslim.

I wasn’t the only Catholic person that Madian confronted with the news happening in Bethlehem. He had left his busy store in the middle of the workday to visit nearby businesses and restaurants where he had Christian friends to tell them the shocking story of what happened to the Church of the Nativity. He believed the idea of people being killed and damage being done to such a sacred place would make us feel something like the kind of sadness and pain that we all felt on September 11. But Madian was shocked to see the distracted and even apathetic reactions he received from almost every Western Christian that he spoke with.

I Do Not Understand

He was confused at why Western Christians wouldn’t at least express some outrage. "I can’t believe how much the Christians here don’t care about what is happening in their holy place" he told me. "Forgive me, it is like someone came into a man’s house and raped the man’s wife and the man didn’t even do anything to stop it and then he didn’t even cry. I do not understand how you people think."

Sadly, nearly four years later, the situation has been reversed. This time twelve little pictures—the Mohammed cartoons—are at the center of the battle. More than four months ago a Danish newspaper published twelve editorial cartoons to satirize the Muslim belief that making artistic representations of Mohammed, the central prophet of the Islamic faith, is a shameful and forbidden act. The editor said he was taking a stand for freedom of speech and against self-censorship. The cartoons themselves express a number of ideas, from teasing the newspaper itself for a shameless publicity stunt to inflammatory insults against the religion of Islam and Mohammed, the likes of which most folks would recognize as outright bigotry if some other religion or ethnic group had been the target of the cartoons’ taunts (see sidebar).
We here in the West are bewildered at the way adherents to Islam throughout the world have reacted. We watch in wonderment as Muslims are still causing riots around the world in furious and often deadly protests over these twelve little cartoons. "Why would you let a bunch of silly pictures bother you so much?” many of us in the West wish we could just ask them. “People say mean and hateful things about each other all the time. Why choose this as a reason for so much conflict? I do not understand how you people think."

An Attempt at Translation

As an immigration attorney I have spent the last four years helping clients from other countries understand how to follow our laws and how to live together peacefully with their new neighbors in the United States. In particular, a large portion of my work has been with the local Muslim communities in my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama and surrounding areas. When a mosque wants to sponsor a religious teacher, a Muslim school principal or even an Islamic burial minister to live and work with them in America, I guide them through the legal process and I also explain to immigration officials how each religious worker's job is connected to authentic Muslim religious practice. In short, my job is to explain Western ways to the Muslims on one hand, and to explain Islamic traditions to American government workers on the other hand.

When the turmoil erupted over the Danish Mohammed cartoons, I knew that my Muslim friends and neighbors would be deeply affected, not only by the cartoons themselves, but also by the tremendous violence being committed in the name of Islam all over the world. Last week I dropped in unannounced on three of my Muslim friends at their places of business to discuss the controversy. My intention was just to set a later appointment with each of them so we could sit down and talk, but as soon as they heard what I wanted without exception each of them immediately and generously interrupted their busy day to speak with me. I was surprised at how very deeply they wanted Westerners to hear them and understand their true feelings about the cartoons, the protests and the significance of Mohammed to them as their prophet.

Insult and Injury

"I can't tell you how glad I am that somebody finally wants to listen to us” said Madian who, though he was understaffed at his computer store, dropped what he was doing on two large computer projects to talk with me. “I have been writing letters to the editor to so many newspapers and trying to call the discussion shows on the radio, but it seems like no one wants to hear how we Muslims in America really feel."

"Those cartoons made our prophet look so ugly" said Madian. "They are making him look like a terrorist and this is not right…why do they think our holy prophet looks anything like that horrible Osama bin Laden?" The fact that Mohammed is portrayed in a negative light is offensive to Muslims but the very fact that the Danish newspaper undertook to portray the founder of Islam in pictures at all is considered to be an insult as well.

Farid Ali, an Egyptian who operates the fast-food counter on the first floor of my office building, missed some sales to potential customers during the busy dinner rush at his restaurant in order to explain his feelings. "If you know some people really love somebody like the Prophet Mohammed so much, what reason can there be for hurting his image with some cartoons? This is not right."

Love for Mohammed

Mr. Ali, however, prefers a completely different response to the provocation. He supports the efforts of an Islamic televangelist from Egypt who preaches that even though publishing the images was wrong, the best response for Muslims is not violence or even a trade boycott (a non-violent but lesser-known protest which is perhaps more widespread than the mob violence but has received less coverage is a boycott of Danish products by Muslim countries and by individual Muslims). Instead the Egyptian cleric proposes that Muslims reach out to the Danish people and explain to them what they really believe their prophet is like and to share their faith with them peacefully.

Dr. Hisham Hakim, a neurologist from Syria, made himself late for his important meeting so that he could make clear his love for Mohammed. "The true Islamic spirit calls Muslim people to love our prophet more than our families, children parents, and even more than ourselves” he said. “I think that Danish newspaper understood this and the insult they were making to our religion. If their motives were naive, they would have made a true apology by now, but they do not apologize." The newspaper's publishers have issued a statement that they are sorry that Muslims felt offended, but they have not backed down from their argument that "freedom of speech" justifies the Mohammed cartoons.

Brewing Tension

The turmoil over the Mohammed cartoons has brought the undercurrents of conflict between two very different cultures to the forefront of public life. Tensions between Western Europeans and Muslim immigrants working in Denmark and other countries have been brewing for a long time. Muslim workers feel they face discrimination in the workplace and public places and that they are forced to live in dangerous slums and ghettos. The Mohammed cartoons did more than add insult to injury for them; to them the Mohammed cartoons were a declaration that Muslims shall not get even the basic human respect in Denmark or anywhere in Europe.

Of course the violent protests happening in Muslim countries that are otherwise unconnected to the cartoons’ publication also have their basis in the political motives of those who have or want to get power in places like India, Egypt, Syria, Iran and Pakistan. These powerful elites would prefer their people to be distracted—venting their anger and unrest over the Mohammed cartoons rather than the poor conditions in their own country and the failures of their government. Still others have used the uproar for a fiery publicity stunt of their own, such as the Pakistani cleric who offered one million dollars to anyone who kills the man that drew the cartoons (he doesn’t even seem to know that there were twelve cartoonists).

Self-Censorship or Basic Respect?

Ultimately, however, Muslims around the world are outraged because they sense that the Mohammed cartoons are intended to injure them. Their publication causes many of them to feel real pain for the religion that they love. This is the hardest part for us Westerners to understand. Publishing caricatures of Mohammed—especially in the social and political climate that exists in Denmark—is comparable to referring to Martin Luther King, Jr. using the "N-word" in the United States. The reason why most people in our country refrain from even speaking that word is not "self-censorship" or fear of reprisal from the black community, but rather out of basic human respect and the hurt that using the term would cause.

"Freedom of speech is not an excuse to take someone else’s religion and step on it” said Madian Khouly. “We are upset because those cartoons are hurting something we love so much and treating it like it is not sacred. It is a hurt and a pain for us for real. It has been so hard to find anyone who will listen and really understand how we feel."

A Response to the Cartoon Controversy
A Danish reader offers some perspective
by David M.

I was randomly surfing the web when I found your article on the Mohammed cartoons and, though it did offer insight into the Muslim thinking, I have to admit that I found the point to be without insight into what has actually caused the situation in the first place.
I should probably tell you a little bit about myself. I am a Dane. I am a Christian, and I did not enjoy those cartoons. However, anyone from the Danish culture, would interpret them differently than you did. Which is why I thought you might find the background story interesting.


You probably already know, that what started the whole ordeal was a man who wanted to make an informative book about Islam for children. Harmless? No, because he wanted cartoons in it...that belongs in children’s books.

In our culture however, lately we have had many incidents, of an extreme Islamic subculture who openly oppose the Danish values of equality, and freedom (speech, religion, etc). The main group behind this is called Hith ub Tahir, whose purpose and goal (according to themselves) is to have Sharia laws (Islamic laws based on the Koran) in Denmark. We have had attacks motivated by racists with religious motives from these groups, and since the Muslim subculture stays separate from the Danish culture...well, I am sure that you can guess what fear and ignorance that leads to on both sides.

Anyway, the cartoonist, fearing reprisals refused to make these drawings.
Making the drawings in the first place, may seem unnecessarily cruel for people outside the Danish culture, but (and this may sound weird, but keep in mind that Danish culture, and humor is built around irony and sarcasm) making fun of things is a tradition. The Danish church, and Christianity, and my savior have certainly not been spared. However, out of fear, Muslims have been spared.

Raising Discussion

The man who wrote the book was very offended by this because there should be no need of fearing reprisals. It does not belong in a free country. (Also, keep in mind that Theo Van Gogh was killed on an open street in Holland by an extremist for making a movie that dealt with people who use the Koran to justify beating their wives--this still had many in shock). He told a newspaper about his problem and the newspaper thought that this was worth raising a discussion over--hence, the 12 drawings. If you do some research you will quickly find that this way of raising discussions on matters from politics, to state church, have been used many times in Denmark.

Personally, I found the cartoons to be unnecessary. The idea was to raise a discussion about Muslim extremism and violence. I do not fully understand the reaction, but I try my best to show sympathy, and understanding.

The newspaper cannot issue a complete apology, because this would be as if they are saying that it is ok to threaten people with violence and the like. They did however issue a statement of intent which says very clearly that the intention was not to hurt Muslims, and they apologized for doing so.

Personal Danger

As a Christian, I have been the victim of things far worse than this, even from Muslims. Especially now when the winds of this ordeal are still blowing strong, I have nearly gotten my butt kicked by angry Muslims who reasoned like this: this is a Dane…it was a Danish newspaper who printed these cartoons...lets kill him. (fortunately I escaped, but only thanks to a taxi).

Many Muslim countries have for years made fun of Jews and Christians with cartoons and they have every right, regardless of how distasteful I find it.
I realize that it’s hard to understand for outsiders. It’s another culture, and hence it may not make sense to Americans, or Muslims (who have a very different outlook and culture), but I believe this to be a major cultural misunderstanding. At least all the Danish Muslims friends that I have understand this point.

Reconciliation Now

Sorry to be so long...I hope that you did not get the picture that I was mad or offended or anything. Really, I am not. I just think that Danish people as well as Muslim people should try understand each other’s culture better. Ignorance and closed subcultures and racism never leads to anything good. But I don’t believe that any one side is to blame.

The paper did have a point however as we can see from the reactions. European people were kidnapped, and almost killed (until they found out that they where not Danish). Everywhere, European people are shocked to find that the Muslim people they thought were so well integrated now scream for blood and reprisals. This leads to fear, and fear leads to anger, and so on.

From the Muslim side, it’s the same thing. Hurt feelings leads to hate (as seen on CNN almost daily). Just imagine what this can ignite.

Danish people (and I mean all Danish people, Muslims, Christians, Atheists etc.) have started a campaign called Reconciliation Now. Regardless of what people thought of the cartoons, this movement is for everyone who wanted to work for understanding between cultures.
I long to see a similar incentive from Muslim countries.

David M, 21, is currently in Slovenia studying for his degree in marketing management. His permanent residence is just outside Copenhagen in the city of Greve. He is a member of the Church of the Nazarene in Denmark. He requested that his last name be withheld for security reasons.

I would like to be the first to give my praise for the anonymous "David the Dane" for showing the counter-position. We in the West have this whole "multiculturalist" attitude, which more often than not devolves into the right to free speech... unless it is a minority who takes violent exception to it. The idea that the cartoons were "in bad taste" is personal taste.

Homestly I think the whole incident shows why multiculturalism has been essentially a Judeo-Christian institution. The Islamic response shows me that the cartoonist had a great point. It's very much his right to insult whoever he feels like. We have absolutely no prerogative to make the catoonist(s) stop doing what they're doing. It's absolutely impossible to live in a multicultural society without developing a thick skin. God knows that Christians are insulted every day of the week, and in much more substantial and public media than a fringe paper in Denmark. Yet, more often than not, we do not begin burning embassies and street harassment. We understand those to be the rules of the game. If Islam is to be assimilated into our culture, they also will have to develop thick skins.

You don't actually have free speech unless you're willing to empower even those who hate you to speak their mind. Certainly we can agree to stop physical aggression, and I doubt that the cartoonists would disagree, but you have every right to insult those who you feel like. One of the (often few) things which makes me happy to be an American is that our Bill of Rights doesn't read "you have the right to free speech... unless you want to put down someone you don't like and thereby hurt some feelings or, worse, cause a stir." And, incidentally, I find it telling that much of the violence has been against Christians (such as in Pakistan) and Americans, whereas the cartoons were associated with a nation that has strained relations with the US and a very secular mentality. The irony never ends.

If we now truly live in a society where cartoons can be so offensive that we begin to alter our perceptions of free speech to avoid consequences for our principles whereas the bombing of Churches and accosting of unassociated nationals calls for "understanding of position", God help us all.

If we now truly live in a society where cartoons can be so offensive that we begin to alter our perceptions of free speech to avoid consequences for our principles whereas the bombing of Churches and accosting of unassociated nationals calls for "understanding of position", God help us all.


Why Yeats is the Man

W.B. Yeats "The Second Coming"

"Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart;
the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed,
and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions,
while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand. The Second Coming!
Hardly are those words out When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi Troubles my sight:
somewhere in sands of the desert A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs,
while all about it Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again;
but now I know That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast,
its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"

and that's why Yeats is the Man

This issue brought to you by Hollywood...

Why do I hate Brokeback Mountain so much?

I think it's not about gay cowboys or the absolutely ridiculous sub-themes associated with that. Nah, I think it's because the gay agenda in general has become such a "brought to you by self-righteous Hollywood types" cause of choice.

It occurs to me again and again that our society is morbid in this respect: Entertainment in most all great classical societies has been the domain of the slave caste, carried on at the behest of the cultured elite.

We have reversed that paradigm...

It's not the domain of the self-declared elite of self-righteous know-nothings. Occasionally you get an articulate spokesman ala:George Clooney (sorry right wingers, he's a sharp cookie, like him or not). But here we are, a society with institutions upon institutions of higher learning, all of which have departments of politics, sociology, anthropology, biology, and many of which have medical establishments, and who are we taking advice from? Madonna and Elton John. I see that as a problem.

The massive press of popular media in favor of the gay agenda trivializes it for me. I get so tired of the mandatory "token gay guy" on every sitcom, or the main character who has to "come out" 3 seasons in, assuming that the show actually started with some thematic integrity and then had to play gay drama catch-up (ie. Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Whenever I see it presented in such mediums I cannot help but react - oh boy, here comes another person who's never worked a real job in their life other than editing videos trying to normalize something.

What's more, the characters are always good but oppressed and so forth and so on. What about the militant little gays who regularly offend my sensibilities in real life? They do exist, and in no small quantities. Whereas the opposition is always stiff religious folk who hate blacks and women as well - give me a break. In fact, religious establishments are the only ones who have tried, whether pro or con, to establish some kind of governing criteria by which they can evaluate the homosexual lifestyle choice. From Episcopalians to Catholics, they've at least tried to delineat the basis on which the behavior should be accepted or rejected, rather than purely playing on mass emotions through fictional diatribes. There's been at least a little critical discussion on the nature and purpose of human beings. It's refreshing... as opposed to gay cowboys.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

wisdom, let us attend

"Christians should, when possible, learn by discernment rather than by experience."

I love that line; just heard it today. It reminds me of the Proverb about how the dog returns to its vomit. It strikes me, wise as this is, shouldn't we consider it sillier still to return to someone else's vomit?