October 2010


That would be the alternative reality that characterizes the United Nations. Only at Turtle Bay would Iran and Saudi Arabia be considered for membership on the Women’s commission. Really:

Iran, where a woman convicted of adultery has been sentenced to death by stoning, is likely to become a member of the board of the new UN agency to promote equality for women, prompting outrage from the US and human rights groups.

Some rights groups are also upset that Saudi Arabia, where women are not allowed to drive and are barred from many facilities used by men, is also vying to join the governing body of UN Women.

The General Assembly resolution adopted in July that merged four UN bodies dealing with women’s issues into a single agency with greater clout to represent half the world’s population calls for a 41-member executive board, with 35 members chosen by regional groups and six representing donor nations.

The Asian group has put forward an uncontested 10-nation slate that includes Iran, UN diplomats said, and Saudi Arabia has been selected for one of two slots for emerging donor nations.

The 54 nations on the UN Economic and Social Council are expected to elect UN Women’s board on Nov. 10, and it is possible that other Asian nations or emerging donor nations could become candidates though diplomats say it’s not likely.

Mark Kornblau, spokesman for the US Mission, said Wednesday that Iran’s membership “would send the wrong signal at the start of this exciting new initiative.”

I don’t know how exciting it is–virtually everything that the UN does aimed at women winds up as an international abortion shill–but the message that officially misogynist nations should have a role in any effort to improve the lot of women is an insult to women everywhere. But then, much of what the UN does is an insult to anyone who loves freedom of speech, freedom of religion, democracy, fairness, or truth. Why should women be exempt?

Well, let’s see: in 2007, I picked the Red Sox in six (they won in four over the Rockies). In 2008, I picked the Rays in 6 (they lost in five to the Phillies). In 2009, I picked the Phillies in 7 (they lost in six to the Yankees). That means if you’re a betting person, go with the Giants, because I’m taking the Rangers in seven. But the truth is that I’ll be happy whichever team wins.

The Giants pitching is incredible, their hitting is mediocre at best, they’ve got virtually no team speed, and their defense has at times been shaky. The Rangers, on the other hand, have pretty good pitching–their bullpen is weaker, as is their fourth starter, but their 1-3 starters can match up with the Giants’ pretty well–but their hitting is way better, their running game is the best in the majors, and their defense has been good enough (though putting Vladimir Guerrero in right field in S.F. may turn out to be a bad move). But the Rangers also have a secret weapon: former Giants catcher Bengie Molina, who knows the Giants’ pitchers better than any scout. The insight that he’ll be able to give the Texas hitters may well give them just enough of an edge to be able to out-score an anemic ‘Frisco offense. Hence my prediction that the Rangers will bring home the first World Series championship in the history of the franchise, as well as the first for the Lone Star State.

For the first time in a long time, I really don’t have a rooting interest, but not because I don’t care. I’ll be delighted to see either team win the crown. The Giants were my childhood favorite–Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, and Juan Marichal were my favorite players, and I continue to pull for the Giants when they aren’t playing the Braves (who I adopted when I moved to North Carolina and could watch them every night on TBS, at least once we got cable).

The Rangers, on the other hand, are a great story–a team that is exciting to watch, that no one expected to get there, one’s been through a lot of adversity getting out from under bankrupt ownership, one that had to beat the two Beasts of the East to make it, and one that includes perhaps the single most inspiring athlete in sports, Josh Hamilton, who has battled back from alcoholism and drug abuse to become the best player in the American League, if not all of baseball.

In addition, the Giants, who 17 pennants and 5 World Series in New York, haven’t won a championship since moving to San Francisco, while the Rangers–who started as the “new” Washington Senators when the “old” Senators moved to Minnesota in 1961–have never won one. So either way, somebody is going to get a very old monkey off their franchise back. What’s not to like about either result?

UPDATE: I decided to put this up here just to make sure it got noticed. I heard from Matt at PPF, and he acknowledged the error, thanked me for pointing it out, and has changed it. I appreciate his quick attention to what sounds like an inadvertent error. The more important part of this post is now the second half.

The Israel-Palestine Mission Network of the PCUSA recently joined the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which among other things advocates for boycotts of Israeli good that are connected in any way, shape, or form with West Bank settlements.

No surprise there. I only wonder what took them so long. Their brethren at the far left/anti-Semite enabling U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation have been at the forefront of this for several years, as have various Palestinian supporters (and more than a few terrorist sympathizers and enablers) in American and European academia.

The IPMN, which trumpets that it speaks to the denomination but not for it (despite being under the umbrella of the General Assembly Mission Council, which solicits funds on its behalf and grants it use of the PCUSA’s charitable organization tax exemption) sent out a press release which is linked above, and which has the usual boilerplate rhetoric. I mention it because the release also appears on the web site of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, with an interesting attribution:

By NICOLE WINFIELD
The Associated Press

CHICAGO-In response to a call to action from the Christians of the Holy Land, The Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) of the Presbyterian Church (USA) [PC(USA)] voted at its annual meeting to join the international boycott of goods produced in illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

Given that Nicole Winfield is the AP’s correspondent covering the Vatican (and who has filed reports from there within the last 24 hours) it’s hard to see how she could have anything to do with an IPMN press release, especially one reproduced word-for-word by the PPF. I’ve written to PPF to let them know that someone has noticed this, and to suggest that they change it. I’ll be interested to see what happens.

BY THE WAY: It’s only tangential to the subject, but since I mentioned the USCEIO I thought I’d bring it up here. On Saturday, comedian Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” will be coming to Washington and holding an event called “Rally to Restore Sanity.” Stewart has not said much about what actually going to happen, and the web site is really vague about the event (other than that it will be addressed by “Jon Stewart and special guests”). If you’re going, you might want to know in advance that at least two groups are planning on hijacking the event for their own far left purposes:

Help us and CodePink, at a “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party” on the National Mall, to spread our simple message that Middle East peace can only be achieved by respecting human rights, international law, and UN resolutions.

So what do you suppose the loons at Code Pink, and the extremists at UNCEIO, would be doing at a “Rally to Restore Sanity”? Rallying to restore insanity?

Jeff Walton of the Institute on Religion and Democracy spent last weekend doing some kind of penance up in Massachusetts, where in the IRD version of 10,000 Hail Marys he sat through a workshop offered by Episcopal Divinity School and the YES Institute of Miami. Entitled “The Gender Continuum,” it sounds like a Star Trek episode gone horribly awry.

The YES Institute (which on its web site boasts of ties to a number of Catholic and at least one PCUSA church in south Florida, as well as a partnership with the Episcopal Church nationally) is all about using pseudo-science to eliminate gender distinctions:

“The binary illusion throws us into complicity with many detrimental consequences,” [the institute's Joseph] Zolobczuk asserted. The institute’s education staffer explained that the traditional understanding assigned persons a male or female body, assumed that their gender was accordingly masculine or feminine, and expected them to be sexually attracted towards the opposite gender. All three of these criteria collapsed into the “illusion” of sex, according to Zolobczuk.

In contrast, the YES Institute proposed thinking of gender as a continuum – a continuous whole, no part of which can be distinguished from other parts except by arbitrary division.

“Every single human characteristic that we know about exists in a continuum,” Zolobczuk asserted, citing weight, height, hair color and IQ score. “The only two we have as binary are sex and gender.”

Walton notes that this is not quite true. In fact, there are lots of biological elements that are either/or, of which he mentions two: Rh factor in blood is either positive or negative, genes are “on” or “off.” I would add, women are either pregnant or they aren’t, something you can’t say about the average drag queen. But YES wants the whole notion of gender, and all that attaches to it, to be seen as a cultural construct:

“Cultural meaning is attached to everything and we live into a binary illusion,” Zolobczuk said, explaining how masculine cultural dress has changed since George Washington’s time, when wigs, tights, powdered faces and lace cuffs were associated with men.

Not sure what his point is here. Fashions change, certainly, and for all I know ten years from now the height of male fashion will be poodle skirts and saddle oxfords. But the point is that in Washington’s time, lace cuffs and tights were seen as male clothing, not female clothing being worn by a man, much less a man trying to be a woman (for instance, by insisting on using women’s restrooms).

“The binary is so insidious that it not only prevents us from seeing things – that once people have a perception of what gender is, it chases us,” Zolobczuk said.

But what about the seemingly obvious characteristics that make people male or female – starting with the appearance of genitalia?

“What if you lost them in an accident, would you still be male?” counters YES Institute co-founder Martha Fugate, attempting to disassociate the presence of genitalia from gender.

Ask women who have had mastectomies whether they are still women. Genitalia are obviously central to determining gender, but they are not the only factor. Still doesn’t deal with the binary nature of gender.

There’s more, but you get the point. The folks from YES make some valid points, but ultimately go way overboard in trying to use science or pseudo-science to make their political points. But the real fun was the theological stuff:

Patrick Cheng, an ordained minister in the majority-homosexual Metropolitan Community Churches and an openly homosexual faculty member at EDS, attempted to claim biblical characters such as the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 as examples of transgenderism.

“That’s the first queer person of color in the Bible,” Cheng said of the Ethiopian eunuch. Cheng also named Joan of Arc, Saint Perpetua, and early church theologian Origen as people who defied traditional gender expectations: Joan for her use of male clothing, Perpetua for her visions of gladiatorial combat, and Origen for reportedly castrating himself.

How many times have we heard from gay activists in the church that we can’t impose the categories of modern sexual thinking on the Bible or other ages past? I guess you can when it fits your agenda.

“There’s a lot of work being done on the transgendered Christ,” Cheng revealed, producing several different books that either focused upon or addressed the notion of Christ as transgendered.

“There’s a lot in our standard church history and Bible that deals with trans issues,” Cheng proposed.

Christ, Cheng said, defied gender norms of the time by washing feet and associating with women.

“Jesus has the experience of being excluded from the family,” Cheng noted, listing another perceived commonality with transsexuals, along with a sense of homelessness.

Of course, Jesus undoubtedly had a lot of other things in common with transsexuals: He ate food, for instance, and slept, and died. I’m sure you can come up with more.

“[Author] Virginia Mollenkott says that if Jesus was truly born of a virgin – a truly parthenogenetic birth with no male to contribute a Y chromosome, Jesus would have had XX chromosomes,” Cheng explained. “Mollenkott said that if he is said to have a male body but with XX chromosomes, that’s sort of a trans Jesus.”

So God could raise a man from the dead, but couldn’t create Him in such a way as to give Him male chromosomes? Maybe He should have consulted a Harvard biologist to see if there was a way to work that out.

Cheng also noted how author Justin Tanis wrote that resurrection can be an important metaphor for transsexuals – Jesus was still the same person, but in a different body.

Actually, it was the same body, but transformed into what Paul calls a “spiritual body.” It wasn’t as though the resurrection resulted in Him having different parts, after all.

“Justin even talks about communion as taking hormones, sort of sacramental theology as hormones,” Cheng said. “I think it shows the exciting and interesting work that is out there.”

Now he’s just being ridiculous, offensive, and possibly blasphemous. But gatherings like this are supposed to be all about the provocavtive, don’t you know.

“I think Christian theology is queer at its heart,” Cheng said. “Jesus is challenging the binary between the human and the divine, Jesus is challenging the binary between life and death, between the center and the margins, between body and spirit, heaven and Earth, alpha and the omega,” Cheng said. “Jesus is that transitional figure. That’s what queer theology is about – you’ve got these poles, but reality is actually more spectrum.”

You know, like the rainbow!

All I can say is that Jeff must have done something really bad to have to spend two days of his life listening to such stuff.

The National Park Service says it has no permit filed for zombie activity at the Lincoln Memorial Tuesday morning.

Lisa de Moraes, Washington Post television reporter, writing about the “zombie visit” AMC is seeking to have on Tuesday morning to publicize its new series, “The Walking Dead,” which premieres Halloween night at 10 pm EDT (be there or be eaten)

It’s one thing to say that Washington doesn’t have any fiscal discipline. It’s another thing to say that Washington has no clue how much money it’s spending. But when you hear stuff like this fromthe vice president, well…

In an interview with Al Hunt of Bloomberg News scheduled to be shown Friday night, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. commented on the need for disclosure when corporate interests contribute to political groups.

“I was amazed at the amount of money, this $200 billion of money that is — where there’s no accountability,” he said. “When I say accountability, we don’t know where it’s coming from. There’s no disclosure, so the folks watching the ad can’t make a judgment based upon motive when you say it’s paid for by so-and-so.”

Mr. Biden clearly meant “million” with an “M,” not “billion” with a “B.”

But his tongue slipped again a moment later. “So it really — I’ve never seen this before, so the only caveat I’d put in terms of the House is how much impact this $200 billion are going to mean.”

Ed Morrissey of Hot Air has one response:

Million, billion, trillion … nothing this administration has done in two years demonstrates that they know the difference anyway.

But personally, I think that Biden is simply operating with the Chico Marx approach to finance, which the latter demonstrated to fine effect in the auction scene of the brothers first movie, The Cocoanuts:

It’s been a long time since the United Church of Christ has been a serious religious organization, at least on the national level. I’m sure there are many faithful, evangelical congregations in the UCC, but its national leadership evinces little interest in anything other than political activism of a far left variety. It is especially fixated on advocacy for gay rights, and in the interest of doing so has launched a bizarre campaign to get lesbian comedienne Ellen DeGeneres to agree to be the keynote speaker at its 2011 convention. On a FAQ page, these questions are posed:

Why Ellen?

Many visible personalities have addressed General Synod in recent years, including Barack Obama, Bill Moyers, Eugene Robinson, Marian Wright Edelman, Andrew Young and the late Lynn Redgrave.  As a television icon, Ellen’s constructive use of humor, her sensitivity toward others, and her ability to touch and lift the spirits of millions everyday is something we can affirm as a sacred calling.

At a time when religion is often used to divide and exclude people, Ellen’s address before a major religious body could send a powerful message to the world: “Imagine What’s Possible” if we could set aside our need to be right and focused instead on bringing hope and healing to one another, if we could lighten up — and love instead.

What are we doing?

We are asking UCC members and churches to unleash their inner Ellen, by creating funny, inviting photos and videos — and submitting them so we can upload to YouTube & Vimeo and send them along to her.  Learn more.

Our message to Ellen is succinct:

• At a time when religion is often used to divide and exclude people, Ellen’s address before a major religious body could send a powerful message to the world, a message of hope, inclusivity and acceptance — and the need for more love and laughter.
• We’re a church that resonates with Ellen’s personality.
• We’re a church with a sense of humor, even as we advocate for justice.
• We’re a church that offers extravagant welcome and changes lives.
• We’re a church that loves to dance!

Out of curiosity, I tried to find out whether DeGeneres was UCC, or even Christian, and discovered that she was raised Christian Scientist, but has no known religious affiliation as an adult. Sounds like a perfect candidate to address a denomination that no longer has any known religious convictions.

Oh, and you don’t want to miss the video that the geniuses in Cleveland put together as part of the effort:

Now, I’m not a fan of DeGeneres’s, so I don’t watch her talk show. I take it that fans of hers do a variety of goofy things to try to get her come take her show on the road to their communities. If, however, they are unable to get DeGeneres, I’d like to suggest that they consider these folks instead:

So let’s say you’re a single person who would like to have a roommate–someone to help with expenses, talk to in the evenings, that sort of thing. You go to the church of which you’re a member, you put a notice on the bulletin board in the foyer letting folks know you’re looking for a roommate, and so that people won’t steer people your way that you wouldn’t want to live with, you specify that you want a Christian. No big deal, right? The Grand Rapids Press says, think again:

The 31-year-old nursing student was looking to keep her expenses down when she decided to invite someone to share her home.

But when she posted an advertisement for a Christian roommate on her local church’s bulletin board, the Grand Rapids woman landed in the middle of a civil rights debate that has her facing a complaint of alleged illegal housing discrimination.

The advertisement contained the sentence, “I am looking for a Christian roommate,” said Joel Oster, senior litigation counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, which represents the woman.

Someone saw the ad over the summer and anonymously filed a civil rights complaint with the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan. The complaint was then filed with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, and the woman was notified at the end of September.

“I think it’s a clear violation on its face,” said Nancy L. Haynes, executive director of the local Fair Housing Center. “It’s an advertisement that clearly violates the Fair Housing Act.”

The problem, according to Haynes, apparently wasn’t that the woman wanted a Christian for a roommate, or that she wouldn’t have rented to a non-Christian. It’s that she said so out loud:

Although the woman might choose a roommate based on religion, say, after interviewing the person over coffee, she cannot publish an ad with that intent, Haynes said.

“She can choose to rent to a Christian, that’s her prerogative,” she said. “It’s a separate violation to make a discriminatory statement, to publish a discriminatory statement.”

So you can discriminate, but you can’t say that you’re planning on doing so. This could become a really big problem for the woman, according to an official from the Michigan Department of Civil Rights:

The MDCR might talk to witnesses, do site visits and request documents. In some cases, depending on the cooperation of the parties involved, a person found to have committed a civil rights violation might have to reimburse another individual who suffered damages, [director of public affairs Harold] Core said.

Except that no one could have suffered damages simply by reading the ad. The damage, if you want to call it that, would be if a non-Christian sought to rent the space and was turned down. But according to Haynes, the woman can do that, as long as she jumps through the right hoops. And the state will make sure that when it says jump, this woman will ask how high:

The Fair Housing Center of West Michigan might ask for an initial reimbursement of $300 for time spent on the issue and training for the woman, in addition to pulling down the ad, Haynes said.

“Our interest really lies in her getting some training so that this doesn’t happen again,” she said.

Geez, at this rate the government will soon be trying to decree who can come to your house for a friendly gathering to study the Bible. Oh, wait…

Our house is a very, very fine house, at least until the state barges in, as Graham Nash and friends explain:

(Via the Christian Post.)

I find the theological statement an improvement, but not yet quite there. I yearn for a clarion trumpet call. This theological statement, I believe, reflects some of the lukewarm-ness of the church. The clarity about making disciples of Jesus Christ – the phrase isn’t even in our theology of mission. The word “salvation” is not even in the Theology of Mission.

Let us not forsake, in the time of doing all the tremendous things we are doing, the gift of the Bread of Life, the One who I believe is Lord and Savior. And that language is not even here. I believe that we need to be bold enough to say it in our Theology of Mission somehow.

–United Methodist Bishop Peter Weaver of Boston, speaking at a meeting of the General Board of Global Ministries about a theological statement that was not made available to the press

The modern nation of Israel resembles the ancient nation of Judah, not only in the gathering darkness, but in the greed and injustice that has corrupted the people as a whole.  That greed and injustice is a cancer at the very core of Zionism. It is the desire to have a nation free of Palestinians, for Jews alone, a Jewish state for me and mine, that fed the Zionist movement from the very beginning.

–the Rev. Craig Hunter, preaching the gospel of anti-Zionism, reality be damned, at the annual meeting of the Israel-Palestine Mission Network (PCUSA)

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