Archive for the ‘Religious Fervor’ Category

Every year its the same story: a small group of bleeding-heart liberals declare war on (terrible) Christmas (songs). For example, last year Funny or Die created a video revealing how rapey “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is. This year, a couple has re-written some of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” to emphasize the importance of consent. Based on this short list, you would be forgiven for thinking that the primary objective in this war is to take down “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Other songs are also targeted, however.

For example, A.V. Club has a regular feature called “HateSong,” in which people talk about songs they hate (I know, it is a difficult concept to grasp). Last year, Dan Finnerty, who is in a band called Dan Band (that, as far as I can tell, performs primarily in movies) discussed his hatred for “The Christmas Shoes.” As you may know, “The Christmas Shoes” was named “The World’s Most Offensive Christmas Song” in 2010, so Dan’s hatred is well-deserved. Dan’s band also recorded a song called “The Christmas Flip-Flop” to make fun of it, which I suppose demonstrates more commitment to hatred than simply writing a blog post.

Whether you’re full of Christmas spirit or need a 500-reindeer-powered Kringle 3000 to help you get out of bed this time of year, here are some additional posts from the past about Christmas:

2015: Life after murder for Kevin Mcallister


2015: Preferred pronouns on the shelf

2014: Christmas as social control

2013: Christmas at Fox News

2012: Kevin McCallister, murderer?

2012: Toys for rich and poor

2012: Toys for boys and girls

2012: Thoughts on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

2011: Holiday advertising gone wrong (a.k.a. the Folgers commercial)

2009: Christmas spells relief

“Like” Memoirs of a SLACer on Facebook to receive updates and links about spreading Christmas cheer via your news feed.

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Muslims have a history of causing Americans to think about race. Following his pilgrimage to Mecca, Malcolm X wrote a letter to the members of his organization back in New York in which he talked about the impact of seeing white Muslims. He said, in part:

There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world.  They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans.  But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white.

America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem.  Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would have been considered white – but the white attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islam.  I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their color.

You may be shocked by these words coming from me.  But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought-patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions.  This was not too difficult for me.  Despite my firm convictions, I have always been a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it.  I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth.

During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept on the same rug – while praying to the same God – with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white.  And in the words and in the deeds of the white Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana.

We were truly all the same (brothers) – because their belief in one God had removed the white from their minds, the white from their behavior, and the white from their attitude.

Following the bombing in Boston and the death and capture of the two suspects, Americans have again been shocked to discover that there are white Muslims. As Edward Wyckoff Williams wrote at The Root:

“a blatant display of Islamophobic rhetoric and racial profiling became a benchmark of many reports, proving what some had already suspected — that xenophobia and racially tinged, anti-Muslim sentiment have become tacitly accepted byproducts of post-Sept. 11 American society. Most disturbing was that these attitudes were readily articulated by standard-bearers of credible news outlets, whose profession it is to disseminate “facts” without bias.”

(Of course, “credible” news outlets can handle things pretty poorly, as Jon Stewart pointed out.) Later, he states:

[T]he Tsarnaev brothers offer a much-needed challenge to America’s antiquated ideologies on race. Hailing from Dagestan and Chechnya, nation states of the former Soviet Republic in the Caucasus region, the Tsarnaevs are quite literally “Caucasian” — and, by any racial trajectory, are simply considered “white.”

Salon’s Joan Walsh pointed out how some conservative news sites have claimed that the brothers’ Chechen heritage makes them “nonwhite.” Ironically, Walsh notes, the same logic was used with respect to Italian, Irish, Jewish and Eastern European immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries. Over time, and with assimilation — including the collective oppression of African Americans — “whiteness” became more loosely defined.

Indeed, a story at The Onion highlighted Americans’ lack of knowledge about world geography while highlighting our anti-Muslim sentiment. That the associated stereotypes could be applied, however, to those who are white seems to be hard for many to accept, which makes it ideal for class discussions about the social construction of race.

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It seems very likely that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has done terrible things. He and his brother were suspected of the bombing at the Boston Marathon and the events that have transpired since their photos were released on April 18 have done nothing to ease this suspicion. Still, seeing media coverage of the events between the time his photo was released and his subsequent capture, I couldn’t help but feel bad for him.

Lots of people have probably fantasized about violent acts, even if few carry out those acts. Watching the media coverage I couldn’t stop thinking about Dzhokhar as somebody whose fantasies had become real in the worst possible way. He and his brother seem to have carried out the bombings at the Boston Marathon without much of a plan. Afterward, they did not flee the city, they appear to have carried on as if nothing had happened. Dzhokhar attended class, went to the gym, and even went to a party.

It seems unlikely that the weight and ramifications of what he had done were “real” to him at this point. The fact that he stayed in town seems to indicate that he underestimated the ability of the police to identify him based on video and photos before and after the shooting (the sheer amount of data that police combed through to identify the suspects was, indeed, staggering). But three days after the bombing he was identified, looking like a frat guy, as the suspect in the white hat.

This is where I suspect that things started to get real. With no apparent plan (or, at least, no good plan), the Tsarnaev brothers shoot and kill an MIT police officer, hijack a car when they apparently already had one, allow the driver of the car to flee, and engage in a firefight with police. Likely injured, Dzhokhar gets in a car and attempts to escape, running over his own brother in the process, before eventually abandoning the car and escaping on foot. He and his brother had been identified. Things had gone awry. His brother was dead. Dzhokhar was alone.

Waking up on Friday the 19th and reading about the shootout in Watertown, I wondered how Dzohkhar felt. His brother was dead but the entire city of Boston was at a standstill because of him. If he had access to TV or the internet I surmised that he either  felt very powerful or completely out of options. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, as they say. Based on his eventual capture, though, I suspect that the latter is closer to how he actually felt.

Having been shot by the police, Dzhokhar spent Friday the 19th bleeding and hiding in a boat in somebody’s backyard. The world knew his name and what he was accused of doing. The entire city of Boston was looking for him. He knew that his brother was either dead or in police custody. Escape was impossible. His own capture or death was inevitable. He was as alone as a person can possibly be in this world, bleeding, lying in a boat in a stranger’s backyard. I felt bad for him.

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Easter Story

Once upon a time, there was a man named Jesus. Now, you might know somebody named Jesus, but this Jesus was pronounced Jeez-us, not Hey-seuss like the ones you know. Jesus was a good guy. In fact, he was so good that planned to do something that would benefit all of the children of the world. He was going to give them candy! Jesus was very passionate about this plan.

The only problem with Jesus’s plan was that he lived in a place called the Roman Empire. It was hard not to in those days. The problem with the Romans was that they didn’t like anybody else getting attention. Jesus walked all over the place telling people about his plan and the Romans got mad about the attention he was getting. They decided to kill him so that his plan could not be carried out. Luckily for Jesus’s plan, if not for Jesus himself, somebody warned him about what was going to happen. Jesus had dinner with his friends and then went to a garden. He had a backup plan!

Jesus was very in-tune with nature, which allowed him to communicate with animals. In the garden Jesus found a rabbit named Esther and told her about his plan and what was going to happen to him. He asked Esther to carry out his plan the day after he died so show the Romans that they couldn’t stop him from giving the children candy. Near the end of their discussion there was a noise in the garden and armed guards came in and arrested Jesus while Esther quietly hopped away to safety.

Jesus was killed on a Friday. Thinking that they had prevented Jesus from carrying out his plan, the Romans considered it a good Friday. On Friday night, however, Esther hopped around the countryside, delivering candy to all of the children. Even though the children were sad about Jesus dying, they were very excited to receive this candy, which Esther placed in baskets outside of their houses. Watching from Heaven, Jesus was thrilled to see the children’s excitement. There was just one problem: The children didn’t know that the candy was actually from Jesus! Jesus was mad!

Whenever you get angry about something it is a good idea to wait a day to cool off before deciding what to do. On Sunday morning Jesus was still angry and decided that something needed to be done. He went from heaven back to his body on Earth and had some angels open the tomb where his body had been placed. Jesus set out to find Esther. Along the way he ran into his friend Mary Magdalene and told her to spread the news about his new plan.

Jesus found Esther in the garden and talked to him about how upset he felt when the children received the candy without knowing it had come from him. Jesus asked Esther to give the children eggs in addition to candy. The three parts of an egg, he explained, represented the three parts of his personality: the hard exterior represented the way he felt when dealing with people like the Romans; the white part represented his love for all of humankind; and the yellow center represented the fact that spending too much time with Jesus gave people high cholesterol.

Esther agreed, but asked if there was a way that she could carry on this tradition for more than a few years, since she didn’t want people to forget about Jesus after a few years. Jesus agreed, and told Esther that as long as she gave children candy and eggs once a year, she could live on Earth forever.

Every year since, Esther has hopped around the world delivering candy and eggs to celebrate Jesus’s death and rebirth. Unfortunately, a small group of kids started mispronouncing Esther’s name after the third or fourth year and Esther was too nice to correct them. This explains why the holiday is now called Easter.

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Last week the Huffington Post’s religion blog featured an excellent article by Esther J. Hamori, a professor at Union Theological Seminary exploring the ways that social context mattered when biblical authors discussed marriage. My favorite part of individuals using bible verses to argue against same sex marriage but conveniently ignoring the other things that the bible tells them not to do in various places. As Hamori explains:

Consider the admonition against women braiding their hair, and the prohibition against women teaching (in any capacity!), which are generally understood to be culturally specific (1 Timothy 2:9-12). The oft-cited statement that a church overseer should be “the husband of one wife” comes three verses after these other culturally bound instructions (1 Timothy 3:1-2).

She concludes:

While the traditional view is that the Bible sets standards, and cultures either follow these standards or don’t, the Bible itself shows us that cultural norms and biblical positions shifted in tandem. This does not mean that anything goes; it’s simply what we see in the biblical texts themselves. It does not mean that there are no standards; there were always incest taboos, for example, but what counts as incest is culturally dictated, and our society does not embrace many biblical perspectives on this (e.g., the ideal of marrying one’s first cousin). It does not mean that God is a pushover; it shows, if anything, a God who will engage people in the world in which they live.

If only humans were so willing!

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