Friday, September 20, 2013

Mystery priest revisited

Remember the mysterious and possibly angelic priest, who turned out to be a mundane human? He's visiting the victim of that car crash, who turns twenty today. The young woman suffered fifteen broken bones and a lacerated liver and spleen, so it really is remarkable, and worthy of much glad celebration, that she survived to see her twentieth birthday.

But rather than credit the many, many people who strove to get her out of the smashed car and who worked to save her at the hospital, her family "credits two occurrences for her survival: Katie's plea for first responders and witnesses to 'pray out loud' as she lay with her head on the pavement and the arrival of a mystery priest, later identified as Rev. Patrick Dowling, who anointed her with oil and prayed at her side." Her mother says, "We are so thankful for the simple message our Katie spoke from the very beginning -- for everyone around her to pray out loud. That message went around the world, and was propelled by the mystery priest we now know as Father Dowling, who just happened upon the accident and he offered his prayers." She adds, "There are so many reasons she should have perished. When you see the pictures from the crash, you say to yourself, 'God is good.'"

Sigh. I know that religion often helps get people through dire circumstances such as these. And it was decent and kind of Father Dowling to get to the victim and pray with her, given that she wanted and needed his prayers. I don't doubt his support helped buoy the victim in her hour of need. But when it's all over, I wish people would give a little more credit where credit is due-- to the ordinary humans who race to help injured people, and those at hospitals who work so hard to help put battered and broken bodies back together-- rather than giving all the credit to God.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I admit it, Fox News, you made me look

Not actually atheist related, but this amused me. Headline on a Fox News article: Blue-footed boobies suddenly expand range in California. 

The short version (#2 on the list):

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Courtship (or how to oppress your children)

Jessa Duggar of 19 Kids and Counting has begun a "courtship." What does that mean? Her father explains, "Courting is getting to know each other in a group setting, both families spending time together and the couple setting goals together to determine if they are meant to marry." He contrasts this with dating, in which "a couple with often pair off alone and that sometimes leads to a more physical relationship." In this case, the two young people asked permission to communicate via text and phone, and their mother is "overseeing" their correspondence. (This article clarifies that both Mom and Dad are reading all the young people's texts.) They are allowed "side hugs" of thirty seconds or less as hellos and goodbyes, and no other physical contact. Jessa's father has been approached by many men about courting her, and this is the first one he has approved.

What's disturbing about this (and purity culture and "courtship" in general) is that Jessa is twenty, and the young man who is courting her is eighteen. Although they are nominally adults, they are being pushed around like pawns on a chessboard, their every action is being monitored and controlled by their parents, and they are being watched like hawks to make sure nothing normal untoward happens. Jessa is actually being told whom she may and may not associate with, and exactly how she may interact with the few people her parents allow her to meet. It's an oppressive and creepy way to treat grown children.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Polygamy again

Here's an article on another polygamous family in Utah, who all withdrew from Mormonism. They will be featured on a new reality show on TLC tonight. None of the five wives seem to have been child brides (though it's hard to tell because only the husband's age is given), and three of them work outside the home. Altogether they have twenty-four children spanning from ages two to twenty.

I have nothing against polygamy, but I'd like to see polygamy advocates encouraging true polygamy-- multiple men and women together, rather than always a polygynous arrangement-- and a little less emphasis put on reproduction. That's almost five kids per wife, yikes (and yes, I have four kids and I'm aware I'm being hypocritical here:-). Surely it's possible for men and women to live together in more varied combinations and not have so much emphasis on having lots and lots of kids. It is nice to see an emphasis on "consenting adults" and wives who are working as something other than stay-at-home moms, though.

Miss America, not American enough

Nina Davuluri, the first Indian-American to be Miss America, was crowned last night, and some people immediately took to Twitter to show their cluelessness and racism. There were tweets saying things like, "If you're #Miss America you should have to be American" (she's a native of Syracuse, NY) and, "Well they just picked a Muslim for Miss America. That must've made Obama happy" (neither Davuluri nor Obama is a Muslim-- but why would it be a problem if Miss America were a Muslim?). It was even implied she was somehow related to terrorists: "Miss America right now or miss Al Qaeda?" CNN's headline accurately calls this "racial slurs," while Fox News' headline calls it "controversy." Is a bunch of stupid people tweeting obnoxious things really a "controversy"?

In any event, how disappointing that a brown-skinned person can't accomplish something in this country without it being suggested she's a terrorist or was by definition born elsewhere. Conservatives don't make themselves look any better by spouting this sort of nasty racist crap.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A big honkin' cross

In Mississippi, a church wants to build a humongous (110 feet!) cross on their property by I-20. "The project is sponsored by 'Crosses Across America,' a non-profit group that builds giant crosses along the nation’s highways." (The pastor is quoted as saying "They were led by the Holy Spirit to seek a location in Mississippi. 92,000 cars a day travel along the Interstate 20 corridor. Those are people who need hope, who need inspiration." Because obviously the people in those cars have never seen a cross before. But I digress.)

The city's planning commission voted it down, apparently mostly because it is, as I said, humongous (it is eleven stories high, whereas the tallest structure in the city right now is two stories). Although the local law says an "auxiliary structure" can only be twenty feet high, the planning commission has offered a very reasonable compromise of permitting a 50-foot cross. The pastor complains, "Our problem with that is that we want to make an impact. We want to make a statement. And it’s on church property."

Alas, it's a longstanding rule of law that we do not have an absolute right to do anything we want with our property. My daughter would love to keep a horse on our third-acre lot, but the city, quite rightly, won't allow me to do so. Nor would it be kind to the horse, but that's beside the point. At least a 110-foot cross doesn't produce large quantities of manure, but there are other considerations involved in zoning. As the Rolling Stones pointed out, you can't always get what you want.

You will be unsurprised to learn that advocates of the cross are crying persecution (there were "accusations on social networking websites that the no-vote was an attack on Christians"), and have launched a Facebook page to support the cross.

"Medical science is phenomenal"

Here's a nice story about a seventeen-year-old diagnosed with stage four non-Hodgkin's lymphoma who got to meet the (now former) Pope via the Make-a-Wish foundation. Now, at nineteen, he is in remission and attending a Jesuit college with an eye toward the priesthood. When one Catholic blog tried to suggest that the audience with the Pope was the reason for the young man's recovery, he said, quite sensibly:

"I credit all the years of medical research and the training of all the doctors going to school -- all that definitely cured me. But God was behind it, helping me go through the treatment. Medical science is phenomenal. It would have been a death sentence 30 years ago, but in less than a year, I am back on my feet."

He added, "Every time people see cancer and the pope, they assume it's a miraculous healing. Chemo helped me fight the cancer. Make-A-Wish helped me fight the chemo. Knowing the pope was in my future helped me get through that, and in a small, non-miraculous way, helped cure my cancer."

It's really nice to see a story which doesn't label the remission a "miracle," but which credits medical science and the hard work of doctors instead.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"Only white people"

A pastor at a racially diverse church in North Carolina (in north Charlotte, where I used to live) sent out an email to worshippers (for which the church subsequently apologized) asking that "only white people" perform as greeters. The email stated that "first impressions matter" and added that the church wanted "the best of the best on the front doors." Apparently they were trying to maintain a racial balance and wanted to appeal to white visitors-- the church's apology explained that the pastor "noticed our front door greeting team was no longer reflecting the racial diversity of our entire congregation, and she wanted potential visitors to see people like themselves upon entering our church." But the phrasing ("best of the best"? Really??!) was undeniably offensive.

The surprising twist here is that the pastor who sent out the email is black.