Saturday, April 21, 2007

Good BBC thread on anti-Americanism

BBC correspondent Justin Webb has started a multi-part series on anti-Americanism around the globe. It's a very nice take on the issue from an unusually sympathetic European voice. Webb does a decent job, given the format, of parsing what are legitimate and illegitimate anti-Americanism mindsets.

I would like to add here my own little blurb. While I realize that we probably deserve a lot of what we get, I'd also like to suggest that the 'pride' in the USA which many Europeans find repugnate hides a somewhat positive quality - we believe in our mythology.

Now we all have our own mythology, and it's my contention that where the mythology is more deeply ingrained into the public psyche... where there's true pride in the mythological values of a culture or community, there is also the most antipathy when another, similar group with a different but equally strong mythological adherence is encountered. I posit that this is the issue between the US and France. We both have strong mythologies that civilians basically believe in, but our myths have diverged more and more over the past 200 years, and especially in the past 50.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I really want this to make it into the final draft...

"The works proscribed by the Law of Moses are too many to remember, much less to perform." - Rudolff Bultmann (noted German New Testament scholar, 1950's-70's)

"The body of contradictory positions [regarding Paul's understanding of Righteousness and the Law] is too vast to skim, much less to evaluate."
-Ray Fulmer (Master's thesis footnote)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

German military under scrutiny for racism

What an interesting article on MSN today. The gist of it is that a German boot camp instructor was teaching machine gun use by urging the cadets to imagine they're shooting at African Americans in the Bronx. Or, as the article quotes:

The clip shows an instructor and a soldier in camouflage uniforms in a forest.
The instructor tells the soldier, “You are in the Bronx. A black van is stopping
in front of you. Three African-Americans are getting out and they are insulting
your mother in the worst ways. ... Act.”
The soldier fires his machine gun
several times and yells an obscenity several times in English. The instructor
then tells the soldier to curse even louder.

Now if you've been to Germany recently you know (and if you haven't let me save you the trouble of investigating) that there is a lot of racism there, some of which is below the surface. I can certainly see this kind of thing occurring, although I think that the links with the soldiers posing with skulls in Afghanistan and some abuses in training facilites is a bit of a stretch. Honestly... soldiering often dehumanizes people, especially in testy situations, and most especially in conscript armies such as the Bundeswier.

But the curious part of this article is the internationality of it. There are people from the Bronx wanting a formal apology from the German military. Al Sharpton has even hopped on the issue saying that the German military is "depicting blacks as target practice" and therefore "I think this is an incredibly racist kind of insult to African-Americans and it speaks to the kind of institutional racism that people think we are hallucinating about."

Now of course, this is a stretch on REv. Sharpton's part. Most people don't talk about racism in Germany on any regular basis. People who think Sharpton is making things up are those who are addressing primarily his thought that there is massive institutional racism in the US, which is a view that I also do not hold. I seriously doubt that this kind of thing is happening at Fort Bragg. Besides, giving American army recruits an order to shoot at black people from the Bronx is libel to cause a 50/50 gun battle among the boot camp trainees and instructors. My guess is that African-Americans from the Bronx are well represented in our armed forces, likely out of proportion to their numbers.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Musings on one journalists take of the Imus firing

I don't listen to Don Imus. In fact I've never heard of him. I suppose that if he overstepped his shock-jock bounds by making a poor racist comment about the Rutgers basketball team and it affected his stock value then he deserves to be pitched to the dogs. No disagreement on that one.

Yet I must take exception to the double standard. I realize that I'm supposed to be all good with the fact that rappers can say what they want about black women while white males in particular have to tip-toe on eggshells not to offend, but I admit that i'm not fine with it.

NEWSWEEK columnist Eleanor Clift says in her article that the real issue here is that Imus said what he said on public airwaves, as opposed to rappers:

The only thing worse than what the rappers say would be government regulation of
their right to say it. The difference with Imus is that he’s on the public
airwaves. It’s not a question of whether he can say all the outrageous things he
says--it’s where he says them. The marketplace has spoken.

Now, perhaps it's my imagination, but this argument seems to be lacking in credibility. I, for example, know where MTV is located. I can find BET if given enough time witht he remote. That's a lot of rappers with a lot of "ho's" getting a lot of playtime, all at the touch of my fingertips, and in known venues. Furthermore, it's MTV and BET, not Don Imus, who are really lifestyle trendsetters for the young and impressionable masses.

Truth is, I'd never heard of Don Imus before a week ago. If people choose to get their opinions from shock jocks then so be it, but I think more frequently the listeners agree with or hate on the host depending on what they thought going in. Shock Jock radio has always been more monologue than dialogue.

But Clift has another point. Basically Imus, she concludes, was pulled because of advertising backlash. Now that's really the heart of the matter. The consistent reinforcement of a double standard, coupled with a population that is almost entirely desensitized to public displays of trashiness has combined with an education that has panzied an entire generation who are now the primary consumers.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Abstinence education programs unsuccessful

Well, after the 5-year study conducted by a congressional mandate on Title V Abstinence programs it's official - no differences positive or negative. you can read about it here

Now this really shouldn't surprise anyone for two reasons:

1. You can't fight and entire culture with a couple of classes.

2. The 'safety' argument doesn't really work with youth, however sound it might be. They think of themselves as immortal. Rather, you have to appeal to some kind of higher standard. On Maslow's hierarchy it's essentially a self-actualization argument more than a phsyical safety one, at least in the eyes of youth. This requires some sort of theological/philosophical upbringing which can't be accommodated in public schools.

The Chesterton/Lewis quote for the day

Man, GK Chesterton is arguably just as quotable as CS Lewis. What a man!

The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.

This quote is so dead on. It's amazing how Christ centralizes the nature of one's enemies. For Christ it's his tribesmen... the elders and neighbors from within his own people who seek his life. It's the king of Jerusalem who kills the children in Bethlehem. It's the Egyptians who shelter. The Romans have no particular gripe with him, but the Jewish people want him dead. Joseph's brothers actually trade him in primarily because they are jealous of his skills, but the foreigners make him a prince when they realize his gifts. And hey, Jesus was blunt about the fact that a prophet has honor except in his home town. Ever tried to evangelize a parents or sibling? Yeah...

As with so many other points in the Scriptures, it's not just about the Jews or the specific characters mentioned. The point, once we accept that we're reading God's stories, is that we all fit into the pericopes. Rivalry is most often internal.

Even within our faith communities the dichotomy can be intersting. I've rarely heard a Protestant or Muslim say anything against me going to seminary, or looked at me askance for prioritizing the spiritual path. They also tend to be very supportive of the benefits of a formal theological education. "How good for you to take time out and learn your faith!". My own people, on the other hand, frequently fear trained theologians. They crucify their best as being "liberals" or "not pastoral". It's an odd gun-pointed-at-foot complex that this church has at times. Perhaps we're not the only one. Chesterton and the Scripture would both seem to indicate that it's more of a human religious phenomenon.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The moon will whoop you!

Ok, sometimes I pay a little too much attention to the wording of the psalmnody, prefering to try and exegete as I chant along rather than just letting it wash over me. Today after Typika I had a particularly special treat for my efforts. Check out the lyrics to Psalm 121 verse 6:

"The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night."

Now the sun, on occasion, is a little intimidating, but I guess I never really thought of the moon whipping up on me. It is a little scary though. I can see it. You blaspheme a little... one too many idols.. maybe mix some meat and cheese on the same platter and over walks the moon on Yahweh's behalf to give you a once over. Lunar beatdown.

Speaking of which, this all raises a neat canonical question: Does the moon count as "barbarian lands"? It's important if we ever set up colonies. Is the Ecumenical Patriarchate over it? Moscow? Is there a self-ruling, autonomous Lunar Patriarchate?

That's plain sweet. the Lunar Patriarchate.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

unspoken priorities

CS Lewis once said that the most dangerous ideas in a society are not the ones being argued, but the ones that are assumed.

I find that his wisdom holds true not only for public arguments, but also personal priorities. It's amazing what's said without really telling anyone anything, and often without even intending to make the point which our omissions make for us.

Today after church was a golden example. Palm Sunday ends up bringing out everyone, usually dressed in their best, and culminating in a vast array of picture taking. It's interesting who's in and out of the pictures at that point. It's most interesting because people aren't thinking about it. They're congregating around whoever they "need" their picture with.

I enjoy little bouts of festivity. You get a much better sense of where you stand in a group. Many times we feel well liked by a group, but in fact we're mostly a tool. Not in a bad way, a tool as in someone who is useful; someone who fulfills a task. But that's different from someone who's truly wanted. I've always fancied myself the useful one, but less often the one who's wanted.

Sometimes i'm the wanted one. I dare say that if the pics had been at Vlad's I would have been among the more wanted variety. Same at the outdoor parties in college. But in general I'm always the tool. Not to say that I'm not welcome, I usually am, but that's the extent of it. It's like when you're on a date, and when the music starts playing and your dates' friends arrive and you become optional (at best) on the dance floor. You realize that you're the accompaniment, and you're as wanted or unwanted as you make yourself, but you're certainly not "the point" of the date.

When our guards are down we tend to play our hand. Such is the root of the old Roman saying en vino veritas - "in wine is truth". When those social disinhibitors are gone then you can see what people think unfiltered. Group think is like that, as is staying in contact. No matter how close I feel to someone, distance is the ultimate litmus test. If we stay in contact across stretches of land, then there's substance there. If not... well.