Banned Book Club – Grapes of Wrath

March 21, 2012

–Edit March 21/12 – I wrote this on the third and apparently I hit “Save draft” instead of “Publish” because it was still sitting in my draft folder. Ah well. You can enjoy it now.

Freedom to Read Week is wrapping up today and the only book club I’m in reads nothing but banned or challenged books, so it’s a good time to be writing about one. John Steinbeck’s seminal work was the book we’d picked this time around. If you’ve never read it, go get yourself a copy. Seriously.

The basis of the story, for those who are unfamiliar: Tom Joad has just been released from prison and is on his way home to rejoin his family. Unfortunately, his family’s already left the struggling farm they’d been living on in Oklahoma, forced off the land by circumstances beyond their control: the Great Depression. Tom runs into an old family friend in the meantime, a preacher by the name of Casy, who’s long since given up on the notion that a god gives a damn about what’s going on in the world. When the two of them hear that the Joad family has probably gone to stay with Uncle John, they hurry over; the Joads have decided to head for California like so many other desperate families and Tom and Casy arrive just in time to join them. There are thousands of jobs there — at least, that’s the rumour that gets everyone through their days. Are they ever in for a surprise… Read the rest of this entry »


When life gives you lemons, squeeze the s#%t out of them?

March 13, 2012

I haven’t been in the mood to update this for a few days. I’ve been mildly stressed out while waiting to hear word about my library job. I’ve been working in a full-time term for more than 3 years and the job posting finally came out to make it permanent. Unfortunately, full time with no evenings and weekends is a coveted kind of job around there so every Tomassina, Dixie and Jane applied for it and, regardless of the interview process, the most senior applicant will wind up with it. That person isn’t me. So, as of May I’ll be back to my half time hours elsewhere. Pros and cons to that, of course. More free time but less money coming to me every month. A lot less. That’s going to be quite the adjustment and that’s quite the understatement.

Maybe it’s a sign I should update my resume and look for alternatives.


Harold Camping admits defeat, sins

March 8, 2012

It takes a big man to admit he’s wrong. Considering just how big Harold Camping’s wrongs were, then, the man must be a giant. Repeated attempts to predict the Rapture and the end of the world ended in big fat failures and ultimately ruined the financial futures of who knows how many people who gave away everything on the strength of his word.

From the Christian Post:

Camping, 90, has made predictions about Judgment Day, Christ’s return and the end of the world for the past few decades – with the May 21, 2011, forecast receiving the most media attention. Each time the date passed, he did not admit to mistaking the timing but instead reasoned that the events happened “spiritually” rather than physically.

But once Oct. 21, 2011 – the day Camping said the world would be destroyed physically – came and went, the Christian broadcaster began to reevaluate his views about being able to calculate and know the exact date of the apocalypse.

“Even the most sincere and zealous of us can be mistaken,” Camping and Family Radio staff stated in their March letter. “We realize that many people are hoping they will know the date of Christ’s return. In fact for a time Family Radio fell into that kind of thinking.

I found this article via The Thinking Atheist who wrote on Facebook, “Mr. Camping. Also…please pay back the millions you received in contributions, along with a personal, written apology to the citizens of planet earth. (Individually signed letters, please.)”

Sadly, I think the world will end before that ever happens.


Christian coffee house offers free brew…but not really

February 7, 2012

Getting patrons to pay their souls into Christ’s coffer is their overall ambition. Matt Brown and Matt Ball have opened a small coffee shop at Oklahoma State University and everything they need to run it has been supplied by a ministry:

Their coffee shop is part of a non-profit organization, Firehouse Ministries, whose goal is “to provide a safe environment to allow people to minister and be ministered to.” Brown and Ball say they took a “leap of faith” for a chance to give back to their community.

“If somebody needs prayer, we’ll pray with them. If they just need somebody to listen to them, we can do that. We’ll help them with their homework,” said Ball.

I don’t really have a problem with this, except it seems like blatant bribery. They’ll give free stuff but is taking Jesus going to be optional? Probably not.

Brown and Ball rely on the kindness of others and try to pass that message along to their patrons.

And Firehouse is prospering. Even the owners are surprised at how popular the cause has become in the small town of Bristow.

Prospering how? I take this to mean it’s not really free stuff. Is it free with a “give what you can” donation expected? Kindness of others: aka, we won’t tell you how much to pay for that bottomless cup of coffee but you’ll give us what you think it’s worth or Jesus will be upset with you. Let us prey…

Ah well, whatever. It’s a coffee house. Nobody’s being forced to use it. If people want their coffee with a side of Christ, it’s their choice. It wouldn’t be mine. I have a coffee maker and know how to make my own scones anyway.


Art dedicated to the Olympics is one thing, but Jesus statues?

January 27, 2012

I caught wind of this via New Humanist yesterday. The 2012 Olympics are being held in London this year. It’s been suggested that since Rio de Janeiro is hosting the next one, it might be nice if London pays homage to the giant Jesus statue overlooking that city by setting one of their own on Primrose Hill, in one of the posher areas of the city.

The logic of that baffles me, too. Sure, make note of the next host in some grandiose way if they want a show, but can’t they do it in a way that isn’t going to promote a religious icon? The Olympics encompass more than Catholic and Protestant athletes, after all. It’s for all creeds and nationalities (or at least the ones that have the money and/or facilities required to get athletes trained and fit enough to enter).

ArtLyst, a London art magazine, has an article about this. Turns out Brazil’s government would be forking out the money to build it. I find that interesting.

The proposal goes before Camden’s Town Hall planning department in February. The original consultancy was employed by Brazil’s tourist agency who held a public meeting to display the designs and this project was chosen as the most representational of the nation. People living in nearby Hampstead and Belsize Park have called the idea kitsch and completely out of character with the local Georgian and Victorian architecture. Some local residents have commented; “It may be quite upsetting and threatening for the non-christians and non-religious of us, out here.” But my favourite comment was; “This idea can only be described as a proposal for an outrageous act of ‘landscape holiganism’. If erected I only hope Banksy defaces it as soon as possible.”

And I add a link to Banksy’s website in case you’re as clueless as I am.

The short article then quotes a few people from the Friends of Primrose Hill committee, including chairman Malcolm Kafetz’s comments to the Camden New Journal regarding the move. He thought the location was a bad choice. For him, the statue would add nothing of worth to an area already popular because of its view and because he doesn’t think it’s representative of England or the Primrose Hill area itself. Others are willing to at least hear the proposal and find out if builders intend for the fiberglass installment to be permanent. If it’s a limited time only thing, they might let it pass.

Lib Dem councillor Chris Naylor said he wasn’t sure a 30ft statue of Christ with his arms outstretched was quite what the area needed. He added: “If they want to put something on the hill I think they need to get some more original ideas. This sounds a bit like some marketing brainstorm which hasn’t been thought through.”

Camden New Journal reported that some emails had been obtained where residents had been told to keep the proposed plan hushed up so it could be revealed later in a big media splash. Unfortunately for the planners, there were some leaks. Then again, did they actually think it’d be possible to keep something like this a secret?

Judging by the Journal article, it sounds like it’s not a definite Go anyway. The Brazilian Tourist Board and Camden-based designers See Me, Hear Me, Feel Me Ltd. have to fill out applications like anyone else, which leaves a bit of room for requests to be later denied. We shall see, I guess.


Creationist propaganda matters more than education in Kentucky

January 25, 2012

Based on were they want their money spent, at any rate. From Forbes:

In one of the most spectacularly mis-prioritized state budgets in recent memory, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear (D), is suggesting over $50 million in cuts to education – while preserving $43 million in tax breaks for the Ark Encounter, a creationist amusement park centered around a life-sized Noah’s Ark. The park is sponsored by Answers In Genesis, a non-profit organization that promotes a “literalist” interpretation of the Book of Genesis while promoting an anti-evolution (and other sciences) agenda.

There are a number of reasons why this is a bad idea.

Oh my non-existent god, are there ever. The author, Alex Knapp, hit on a few. Cuts to education only work if previous work has been done to reform the system first so standards can still be met even with less funding. Apparently that’s not the case here. Plus, the park is a luxury more than it is a necessity.

in a time of austerity, surely it makes most sense to eliminate wasteful subsidies first, rather than essential public services. Especially subsidies that are of dubious value to begin with, whether its this “Ark Park” or a football stadium.

I add a link because I didn’t know what he meant. Austerity is an economics term, a policy intended for cutting spending and increasing taxes in order to decrease debt. Public services often face cuts when governments go this route and education falls under that, unfortunately.

I agree on the “dubious value” of a creationist theme park (anywhere, not just Kentucky), but I suppose Kentucky is assuming the tourism dollars will make it worthwhile? Knapp notes that the move to give them a tax break is close to crossing a line – maintaining separation of church and state. P.Z. Meyers notes that a further $11 million is going toward infrastructure: “highway improvements for the Ark Park” itself. Hopefully properties other than the Ark Park benefit from that little windfall. That cash isn’t going towards their personal driveway and parking lot, right? Right?

Quoting Friendly Atheist now because he’s so succinct:

In summary, Governor Beshear has basically used $54,000,000 of taxpayer money to help the Biblical Ark Park. And he took $50,000,000 away from the education budget.

In other words, the Governor just took away $100,000,000 that could have gone toward educating people.

There’s no real education to be found at Ark Encounter. Mythology treated as fact is
what they offer. Mythology as entertainment is one thing, and probably a fun thing, but this gets sold as if it’s more true than anything science has taught humanity about our origins and existence. Add to that a government essentially encouraging this business to continue unabated and it equals a very serious problem for the future. It’s a pity education has to take a hit just so this junk heap can stay afloat.


Catholic diocese buys Crystal Cathedral

November 20, 2011

Purchase price, $57.5 million:

In a letter to the court, Schuller, 85, said he could not abide the thought that Chapman University, which had tried to buy the 40-acre facility, might someday use the cathedral for non-religious purposes, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The Times reports that Coleman, Schuller’s daughter, said in a statement that the decision to select the Catholic Church “breaks her heart.” She said she hopes “there is still plenty of time for God to do His miracle.”

God has yet to miraculously fix the mess that is the world economy so I think she’s just gonna have to suck it up. At least the arrangement lets them use the facilities for a few more years before they’re out on their ears. I think that’s fairly generous.


Mrs. Schuller has pneumonia and a lot of gall

November 4, 2011

At least her husband (and or family) does. Sorry to hear she’s under the weather, but damn..

An email sent out to members of the Crystal Cathedral congregation requesting meals for founder Robert H. Schuller’s wife Arvella, who is ill with pneumonia, is creating mixed feelings of sadness and outrage among members.

According to longtime member Jim McDonald, an email was sent out by administrators to Bible study groups as well as church elders, asking that meals for the reverend’s wife be dropped off at the cathedral’s Tower of Hope where the Schullers’ limo drivers will be waiting to pick them up at the designated time.

Member Bob Canfield says he was outraged when he got the message.

These are millionaires who have limos and chauffeurs,” he said. “Why in God’s name would they want the congregants to deliver meals? It’s ludicrous.”

They expect their followers to dish out four weeks worth of dinner for the woman. But not just any meals:

The message also requests that the meals be low in sodium and include items such as fruit, meats, soup and egg dishes such as quiches.

Cathedral spokesman John Charles said the request for meals was simply an effort to rally around the Schullers, who are both in their 80s.

“We didn’t want people going to their home because they are very private people,” he said. “That’s why we asked that the food be dropped off at the tower so the limo drivers can pick them up and deliver them.”

Excuse me for saying so, Reverend Schuller, but if you can afford to pay limo drivers, you can afford to hire a cook for a month. You’ve already asked your followers to bankrupt themselves to pay for your extravagant church pageants. Give them a break, eh? Just a suggestion.


Hanging a For Sale sign on the doors of Crystal Cathedral

October 26, 2011

It’s come down to crunch time for the Schullers. The name of a potential buyer is set to be released on October 31st.

Among the top contenders for the church campus are the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, which is offering $53.6 million in cash, followed by Chapman University, which increased its offer to $50 million from $46 million. Other known offers are from Newport Beach-based Greenlaw Partners LLC, My Father’s House Church International in Norco and Hobby Lobby.

Chapman University’s proposal would allow Crystal Cathedral Ministries to buy back some core buildings on the campus, which would help keep the ministry alive. But if the diocese takes over the campus, the ministry must move to a different location.

Creditors are in a tizzy over the news, since the sale of property means at least some of them will finally get some long-overdue bills settled. Back in July, the Schullers thought they’d still be able keep the buildings and 40 acre grounds if they could raise the $50 million in time for Thanksgiving but, surprise surprise, their fans were just as tapped out as everyone else in the country/world and they wound up getting less than $200,000 in spite of all the effort.

The rest of the article focuses mostly on people remembering better days when the church was flush and would burn through oodles of cash without worry on quality music and dramatic entertainment for their yearly pageants. It’s bad of me to laugh at this next part but you know me:

Marc Riley, the former music director who resigned about three weeks ago, said the Crystal Cathedral in its glory days was “an icon of tradition.”

“I respect every musician who has ever played there,” he said. “Every Sunday felt like an adventure. It was exciting. We were like a rock band, and we all had our roles.”

Neuen said he was touched and humbled when he found out that the cathedral’s music was what soldiers in Iraq chose to listen to on their MP3 players as they fought insurgents.

“It was truly a worldwide church,” he said. “Sometimes in life, you can’t go back in time. But you can never take the memories away.”

True enough on the memories, at least. Those whose lives were touched by their ministry remain supportive and proud that they were part of something so influential. It had a good run across its 30 years but they made the same mistakes everyone else made in terms of assuming good times would continue indefinitely. Maybe they’ll still manage to live up to Dr. Shuller’s classic words, regardless: Tough Times Never Last, but Tough People Do!


Free bible fun available today

October 18, 2011

It’d be really nice to have a teleporter. Lots of reasons why, but today the reason has to do with the announcement of the annual free admission day at The Holy Land Experience. I’d never pay to see that shit but after watching Religulous and getting a glimpse at the daily hilarity available on site, I discovered a craving to see it first hand. And then I slapped myself and felt better.

The park must offer free admission to the public one day each year under a state law that then guarantees Holy Land a property-tax exemption as a religious entity.

The exemption saves the park about $300,000 a year in Orange County taxes, according to property-appraiser records.

In the past, they were in the habit of only announcing their free day to those watching shows on the Trinity Broadcasting Network or tuning into to Christian radio stations but I gather they realized it’d be impossible to keep all the unwanted elements (like mocking atheists) out that easily. Besides, what better locale for flexing the conversion muscles? If you liked the show, check out the real thing…


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