When ads are annoying, now with added irony

Edited to add: I originally titled this post “What I hate about Patheos,” and while I said that I didn’t mean to attack anyone who works with Patheos, I managed to sound as though I was, and I’m deeply sorry for that. Star Foster, the hardworking manager of the Pagan portal at Patheos, was kind enough to inform me that the ad selection at Patheos is driven by Google Ad Sense, and thus based on my Google search history. The rest of this article is edited to reflect that. My apologies and thanks to Star, Cara, Lupus, et al.

Revised:

I get really annoyed at certain kinds of ads, and I found a couple of those on a Patheos page today. The accumulated irony made me post about it, and as a result, I found out that my own actions have probably contributed to me seeing more of exactly the kinds of ads that annoy me most. Google, thy name is irony.

I was trying to read P. Sufenas Virius Lupus’ new piece on The Dangers of the One-Stop Shopping Mentality, which looks quite interesting – Lupus is one of the writers I’m happy about discovering at Patheos, even if I prefer to read minus the ads in my RSS feeds – when I kept getting distracted by the overtly Christian ads on both sides.

“Christian Mingle” is not so bad, as ads go. Even with the obnoxiously ubiquitous fish symbol, it’s certainly better than some of the stupid mortgage ads with dancing people or moving faces that distract me with their sheer creepiness. But even before I’ve gotten into the midst of Lupus’ piece, it certainly is ironic to see that ad there: Look within your religion for a partner! Your religion provides everything! Their tag line is “Find God’s Match for You.” One stop shopping mentality indeed.

But on the left-hand side is an overtly Catholic image, with the header “Find out more about our ministry,” and a link to the Knights of the Holy Eucharist. This is much more disturbing. Perhaps I’m overly sensitive to this right now, in the wake of the terrorism of a would-be Christian Knight in Norway, and in the lead-up to Christian spiritual warriors preparing to “lay siege” to my city and the seat of our country’s government. But then again, perhaps I’m not. The KHE’s About page begins:

A knight is one elevated by a king to a position of special trust, service, and honor. He is one who has made the interests of his king his own. He serves and protects his lord not for profit, but from the kind of selfless loyalty that can only be called noble. Jesus is the Eucharistic King Whom the Knights of the Holy Eucharist have pledged themselves to serve and to defend.

Eucharistic adoration I’m familiar with; if it’s a way that Catholics enhance their relationship with their deity, then good on ’em, go for it. But defense of the Eucharist? I am not aware of any declared campaigns to attack either the Eucharist or Jesus. If I was aware of such an attack, I would almost certainly denounce it and support my Catholic brothers and sisters in their defense of religious liberty. I was angry about PZ Myers’ stunt just like I was angry about people leaving a cross at the new Pagan circle at the Air Force Academy.

But who is it that they think they’re defending against, in their little adjunct to a convent in Hanceville, Alabama?

Is it campaigns to ensure that women have reproductive freedom and access to good health care at all hospitals, regardless of their religious affiliations? That is why I included the “almost certainly” qualifier in the statement above: Catholics may see demanding quality health care as an infringement on their religious liberty, whereas I think it is merely demanding that they fulfill their declared intent in building a hospital, which is to provide health care. When you go into business taking care of sick people, your religious liberty does not include forcing me to bleed to death.

Different arguments but the same separation between your religious liberty and my rights apply to marriage equality. Catholics can be Catholics to their heart’s desire, and I will defend them fervently. What they can’t do is try to enshrine Catholicism in the country’s laws or require people coming to them for secular matters like adoption to live by Catholic standards.

Now, I have no idea if the KHE think they’re “knights” in these culture wars, or if they just wanted a cool title and nifty masculine imagery to support them in their duties of wearing robes and taking care of a small shrine and helping out a convent. But either way, their chosen warlike imagery, combined with current events and the position and power of the Catholic church, are disturbing to me.

Finally, it’s ironic that the KHE site is also powered by WordPress, but at least I don’t have their imagery all over my own pages. That does mean that I’m not going to link to them in this article, partially because I don’t think they need the hits, but mostly because I don’t want to take the chance that if they got a pingback from me, they’d decide to crusade for or about me.

It’s not that I just want to be left alone. If that was what I wanted, I wouldn’t be writing a blog. I love engaging in interreligious dialogue. But dialogue has to mean listening as well as speaking, and listening and speaking to each other, not just to our respective deities.

It’s just sad that right now my efforts to understand people like DC40 and the NAR (through Googling them) have made me see even more similar crap. Time to take a deep breath, ground and center, and try to reach out and contribute to that dialogue more myself. Thanks again to everybody trying to help me do that.

Framing and giving energy: How we work against DC40 matters

In light of the upcoming DC40 event, a lot of Pagans have expressed the opinion that responding to people like these fringe Christians only gives them more power, that it feeds them more energy to work with. That’s not necessarily true; the way we frame our response can determine whether we’re feeding them more energy or not.

Hecate has up another one of her oh-so-necessary posts about framing in response to DC40. I’d like to expand on that by giving some contrasting examples of responses that do and don’t reinforce fringe Christians’ framing of the situation.

My ideas for responses are focused on promoting a positive. That’s a basic principle of magic and affirmations: you say things that you want to happen. You don’t say “Please make sure this plane doesn’t crash,” because that’s talking about a plane crash. Negating a frame reinforces that frame. You say, “Let this trip be safe and smooth,” because that’s talking about what you want. Positive framing keeps your attention and energy on the desired outcome.

Now this isn’t just about saying “nice” things. It doesn’t have to be all sweetness and light; I fully understand that my vision of religious liberty is an affront to these would-be theocrats. That’s not a nice thing to say, in their world. But it is a positive framing in the sense that it keeps the focus on what I want.

You may choose to do a working like this using the idea of reflection, that the harmful intent and purpose will be reflected away from those it is meant to reach, possibly back on the originators. That’s fine, but again, framing matters. If you concentrate on what’s being reflected, you’re accepting their framing and directing your energy and attention to their harmful efforts. Concentrate instead on what’s doing the reflecting, and on the people who are being protected by that reflection.

Others raised the idea of “repurposing” the harmful intent or energy. I imagine that this can be done in positive-framing terms, but I seriously, seriously discourage it in this case. It’s extremely likely that you will end up feeding their energy. These people are strong and experienced and have a deep, deep passion behind their intent. They have a clear vision. They are not including a “an it harm none” or “for the greatest good of all” clause that you can latch onto for leverage to redirect them.

Magically speaking, stopping this energy is going to be hard, hard work. Think about it more in terms of momentum than electricity. Trying to repurpose this energy is like jumping in a truck going really, really fast and trying to get it to go in exactly the opposite direction without using the brakes.

I do include in my visualization the idea that any energy thrown at the shielding or at the wall of separation is grounded, harmlessly, and that since the shielding draws some of its strength from being connected to the earth, then in some sense their energy gets recycled to fuel the shield, but that’s an afterthought and not something I pay a lot of attention to.

In the mundane world, it is true that even negative attention often encourages its recipient. But, as a Pagan said about polyamory on the Wild Hunt today, “the road to equality lies through the fields of visibility.” Take Hecate’s advice and if you counter-protest in any public form, make it an opportunity for outreach and visibility for Pagans as good, normal people, not just about these fringe Christians.

Finally, there is the problem with responding to action rather than initiating action. That’s where a lot of other work matters so much. Being out as a Pagan can help; well-run Pagan Pride Days can help. Taking positive political and social action are essential. We’re already doing some of that, so let’s do more, as much as we can, and realize that that’s the real work of promoting religious plurality and understanding, and defending religious liberty.

More on DC40

It’s not clear exactly what DC40’s “siege” of DC is going to involve, but from the few clues on their website, here’s what I can gather:

If they have “worship teams” or other gatherings in DC itself, they may be planning to gather at The Gatepost, a site that apparently hosts several different Christian-based community efforts. The Gatepost’s website doesn’t have any information about upcoming events associated with DC40, but if they are hosting it, the good news is that The Gatepost is in southeast DC, across the Anacostia from major downtown sites and the Jefferson Memorial.

The Jefferson Memorial is particularly important because as David of CapitalWitch pointed out, one of the big events highlighted on the cryptic timeline for DC40 is “Drums in D.C.” on October 28th. That’s the date of this year’s annual Samhain drumming at the Jefferson Memorial, a longstanding Pagan DC tradition.

The other thing listed on that date is “Georgian Banov,” which turns out the be the name of a speaker and worship leader. He and a few other like-minded individuals are listed on their website as leading something called “The Shift” in Washington DC during October 22-29. Are they planning on a competing event? Trying to disrupt the Pagan drumming? They don’t give details, but I’ll keep working on it.

Another confusing timeline entry reads “Bill Suddoth, Freemasonry, Islam,” on October 7th, which is, as they note, also Yom Kippur. Suddoth is the leader of “Righteous Acts Ministries,” which opens its statement on “Deliverance Ministry Training School” by saying “Our society is steeped in violence, witchcraft, and perversion.” Suddoth’s ministry apparently specializes in “deliverance” from issues like this. His own itinerary states that he’ll be in Maryland on Oct. 5th as part of his “50 State Freemasonry/Islam Tour,” so it is possible that he’ll put in an appearance in DC around that time.

Suddoth’s news page has a letter from him to supporters which reads in part:

I believe the Lord has revealed this new strategy and this assignment of a 50 state Freemasonry tour so a major blow can be made and a real turning point take place in dealing with the spirits of Baal, Jezebel, perversion, witchcraft, antichrist and other spirits affecting this nation. The Lord has given me several confirmations and I am dedicating this year to this seemingly monumental task.

Recently in researching and dealing more with Islam, I have discovered an amazing link between Freemasonry and Islam. In fact, I’m now convinced that the Masonic is the open door in our nation to the spirits behind Islam which is one of the biggest threats to our nation’s security and our Christian heritage and freedom.

Elsewhere, Suddoth claims to have discovered that Freemasonry is “witchcraft” and worship of the Christian Devil, and that it causes its initiates to be possessed by demons, and places them, their families, and their descendents under a curse or demonic influence, which he says correlates with a pattern of child molestation as well.

Ironically, many Founding Fathers whom Christian Dominionists claim to revere were Masons; the Masonic Memorial to George Washington is clearly visible on the Arlington, VA skyline. Inside, the memorial tells how Washington brought over Masons from the England and Scotland to work on the White House and other construction projects in DC, and how Masonic lodges have been in existence in DC since its very beginnings.

In his article on witchcraft, Suddoth claims that:

Wicca is to witchcraft, as marijuana is to the drug culture. It’s the entry level to Satanism and the occult. Wiccans consider themselves to be “white” witches or for lack of a better term “Good” witches. The problem with that is God hates all witchcraft. … God so hates witchcraft that the children of Israel were instructed in Ex 22:18 to kill any witches found among them.

Suddoth mixes in a few mentions of Gardner, describing the rise of Neo-Paganism as an “attack against our society and our Christian values.” He goes on with the same old lies about Satanism, orgies, drugs, and that “Though Wiccans claim not to be involved with any type of animal or human sacrifice. Witchcraft has always been associated with the letting of blood.” (sic) He implies that this might even mean human sacrifice. These people are willing to lie and given the chance will fan the flames of another “Satanic Panic” like there was in the 1980s.

He has the support of Cindy Jacobs, John Benefiel, and others involved in DC40 in this effort, so it’s likely that they see this as a convenient opportunity to help him advance his cause as well. Other parts of his letters show that he is fully committed to the “7 Mountains” strategy of Christian Dominionists to take control of what they have identified as seven key areas of life. This movement is striving for all-out theocracy. They are not kidding, they are not joking, and they are dead-set against Paganism and Wicca.

They are also very, very serious and experienced about raising and throwing around large amounts of energy with specific intents against their targets. I’ll be writing more about potential responses to that soon.

Supporting Columbia, and Lady Liberty

Some conservative Christians are planning on “laying siege” to the District of Columbia from October 3rd to November 11th, and I’m going to spend that time praying that this country preserves religious liberty as one of its foundational principles and most valuable ideals.

According to Right Wing Watch, the “spiritual warfare” effort is headed by John Benefiel, Cindy Jacobs, and others. Benefiel announced in August 2010 that the fact that Washington DC draws its name from Columbia, a personification of Liberty or Freedom, “gives her a legal right to mess things up in our nation’s capital,” and that this is why elected legislators “go crazy” when they get to DC.

To counter this influence, he declared that he had used his spiritual authority to “divorce Baal” (apparently the country was married to him in some sense). He proudly recounted that when someone asked, “How can you do that?” his response was, “Well, we just did it. … I have more authority than the US Congress does.” He added that [Christians are] “the real spiritual authority.” He also announced that he had repudiated the name “District of Columbia” and renamed the area the “District of Christ.” Hecate has the links and the legal commentary; check her out!

Now Benefiel is taking this attack on supposedly evil influences a step further by coordinating a nationwide prayer effort to “releas[e] the light and sound of eternal worship over the District of Christ.” This effort is variously named DC40, Forty Days of Light Over D.C., and 51 Days of Reformation Intercession. (It’s apparently 40 days in DC and the last 11 in Philadelphia.)

The main video for this effort calls on the country to “arise as one,” and uses explicit warfare imagery such as interlocked shields and each state taking a turn as “point man” in an effort to “change the spiritual atmosphere … forever.”

Additional videos, such as “What Is DC40?” say that Americans should “come as one people,” explicitly a Christian people, to “release the same spirit as the men who met in Philadelphia had once again.” The goal is to elect leaders who “find that compromise is not the way” because it is impossible to “compromise with unrigheousness” or immorality or what is not holy. These are supposed to be “leaders once again who have a fear of [the Christian] God.”

Another video announces that “The cry of the American Revolution was, ‘No King but Jesus!'” Historians would be amazed to discover that.

The “overview” page on the website is rather confusing, with mentions of “End-Time Handmaidens” and others involved in the effort, apparently praying for or against such things as “Islam” and particular people, but hopefully the forthcooming prayer guide will clear all that up, especially since it is produced by someone who has had “foundational truths of liberty burn[ing] in her heart for years.”

As someone who has a strong devotion to religious liberty, I find this “siege” dangerous and disgusting. It fundamentally misunderstands the nature of religious liberty which was built into our country at its founding. Whether one sees liberty as an idealization or as a personification, Liberty is a very strange creature: she says right up front, “Of course you have other gods besides me.”

Her law is to allow others their reverence so long as it harms no one. In direct contravention of that principle, these people are actively seeking to change the government of the United States so that my religion – indeed, any religion except their specific sub-sect of Christianity- would be disallowed, and public laws would compel private adherence to their interpretations of their spiritual directives, at the specific expense of religious liberty, and even personal liberty, for all who disagree.

In response to this, I have made a commitment to the personification of Liberty. You may call her Freedom, as in the statue crowning the dome of the Capitol building, or you may call her Columbia, patron goddess of the district, or you may know her as the ideal of religious toleration that Thomas Jefferson worked so tirelessly to embed in Virginia’s laws and which became part of America’s Bill of Rights, the very fabric of our legal existence.

I will be spending this time making a daily devotion to her, not against these conservative Christians, but in hopes that they and I might find ways to live peaceably together in a nation that values religious pluralism. I will also be reinforcing my personal and home wardings against those who would attack me and mine, and I will follow Hecate’s suggestion of writing to my legislators, with intent embedded, to importune them not to betray the foundational ideals of our country by working with those who would see me destroyed simply because I worship a different god(dess/es) than they do. If you value these ideas or have any reverence for the principle of religious Liberty, I encourage you to take similar action.

H/t Right Wing Watch (additional links can be found from there).

Loving v. Virginia, 44 years on

Last night, LitSpouse and I attended a viewing of the documentary The Loving Story and a panel discussion afterwards about the Supreme Court case that ended miscegenation laws. It was eye-opening in many ways; I encourage people to become familiar with Loving v. Virginia and to see the movie if they enjoy documentaries. The most interesting parts were comments made by the panelists about the relevance of the same ideas and arguments in many of today’s discourses about marriage, equality, rights, and liberties.

In 1958, Mildred and Richard Loving were convicted of being in an interracial marriage (to which they pled guilty, because they were) and sentenced to one year in jail, with the sentence suspended if they left Virginia for the next 25 years. They were from a very rural part of Virginia and had a hard time adapting to living in urban DC; they wanted to live near their families. The film does an excellent job of describing the legal wrangling that followed, using film footage from the early 1960s of the Lovings, their lawyers, and contemporary news broadcasts about the issue. When the case went to the Supreme Court in 1967, Virginia’s law against interracial marriage was declared unconstitutional, along with similar laws in 15 other states.

Some of the details in the film are really amazing; I had no idea this case, and the subsequent elimination of these laws, was so recent. (I first learned the word “miscegenation” in ninth grade when my high school was doing the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Showboat. I had to ask my mother why the mixed-race family had to move away when their background was discovered. I suppose that’s progress of a sort, although ignorance of history is not the coin with which I would buy that kind of progress.)

The film really focuses on Mildred Loving, as she is the most moving character of the whole story, and manages to be emotionally engaging and present relevant information at the same time. If documentary films aren’t your cup of tea, the Wikipedia article linked above has some of the same details, including the breathtakingly racist opinion rendered by the Virginia court, but to see Mildred Loving as a person, the film is your best bet.

The panel discussion afterwards included Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Phip Hirschkop, one of the original attorneys to argue Loving v. Virginia before the Supreme Court, and Nancy Buirsky, filmmaker.

Ms. Buirsky said openly that one of the goals of the film was to create empathy through a personal connection between the viewer and Mildred Loving. (It’s not that her husband wasn’t an empathetic figure; it’s that he was extremely laconic, so most of the commentary on how they just wanted to live a quiet life together came from Mildred. Some of the photos of the two of them helped me connect with him, but he was manifestly uncomfortable in front of video cameras.) Ms. Buirsky’s explicit acknowledgment of the role empathy plays in our social discourse and changing attitudes was refreshingly realistic.

Rep. Scott spoke about the spirit of the times in the late 1960s and how much change there has – and has not – been since then on matters of discrimination. He said that many people misread Brown v. Board of Education as implying that equal provision in separated circumstances would be permissible; he emphasized that Brown v. Board found separation itself to be unconstitutional. He said that he thought civil rights legislation was being undermined by “faith-based” initiatives today: the government tells private business owners that they can’t discriminate in hiring employees who they’ll pay with their own money, while the government gives money to organizations who are legally allowed to discriminate in their hiring practices.

Rep. Nadler spoke movingly about how he saw a lot of the history of this country as an expansion of the phrase “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence, especially expansions like including women and people of all races as “equal,” or at least trying to.

Mr. Hirschkop followed that up by saying that he found the next phrase even more important, “…that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” Those rights, he argued, are not granted by society, they are ours at birth, and society has to learn to protect them.

Some discussion followed about how the Loving case is and isn’t a precedent for the fight for marriage equality for QUILTBAG people today. The most telling point on that front, for me, was when the film played a recording of the attorney general for Virginia in the Loving case arguing that the state needed to prevent interracial marriage to protect the children. [1]

When I hear conservatives fighting a rearguard action against marriage equality using the same arguments today, and being eloquently refuted by the children they purport to protect, I am certain, in a way I never have been before, that marriage equality will come to pass. [2]

As we left the screening, which was held in the US Capitol Visitors’ Center, the setting sun made the Supreme Court building positively seem to glow. You can’t read it in the photo, but that frieze on top of the Supreme Court building reads “Equal Justice Under Law.” May it be so!

[1] One of the justices asked him if that wasn’t similar to the argument made in Brown v. Board, and he said it was. Brown had been decided 13 years earlier, so aligning one’s position with the losing arguments in a previous case is what I believe lawyers refer to as “not a wise move.”

[2] For more on the historical changes in state and religious regulation of marriage, see Stephanie Coontz’ excellent article.

Edited for clarity and flow and to add link in endnotes.

Review: Rodda, Liars for Jesus

Rodda, Chris. Liars for Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History. Kindle edition.

When you need this book, you need it badly. When you don’t, it’s possible to find Rodda’s detailed investigation into the politics and religion of the early American republic bogged down in minutiae. But what Rodda has actually done here is a talented investigation of history, especially for someone not trained as an historian, and this work is an outstanding contribution to the fight against religious extremism in this country.

I became aware of this book when, in response to more of David Barton’s ingenious lies, Rodda made it available for free download. The book is matched by an excellent website that features not only Rodda’s rebuttals but also detailed, extensive citation material. Barton often claims that he uses images of his original sources – well, Rodda does him one better by putting up images of her sources in their entirety instead of trimmed to fit misquotes.

Rodda uses primary sources (the original documents) in the way that professional historians do: she approaches each document in its entirety, and does extra work to put it into context. It’s not just about who wrote this; when did he (and they were mostly all men) write it? Why? Was he answering a letter? Was he being sarcastic? Were there behind-the-scenes political maneuvers taking place that affected what was said or how it was meant? (Answer: yes, almost always.) Barton fails each of these criteria and abuses primary sources in almost exactly the same way conservative Christians abuse the Bible in their misreadings of it.

Seeing that pattern of misuse and abuse of texts and sources was the single most interesting thing to me about this book. The way that pseudo-historians like Barton are willing to lie – not just make mistakes, not just misconstrue, not just misread, but lie, and then mangle the sources to seem to back up what they have to know is a lie – is demonstrated over and over and over again. You don’t have to absorb the details of the political wrangling around establishing the University of Virginia to understand this.

Barton and co. learned this kind of eisegesis and prevarication by doing it to the Bible. This goes beyond taking quotes out of context. It goes beyond accidentally taking seriously a passage that is meant sarcastically. It is a systematic reconstruction of the text to support a desired outcome, and it’s how extremely conservative Christians have learned to treat all “sacred texts,” starting with the Bible. Reading this book should also make you suspicious of the kind of simple Biblical allusions used willy-nilly by the far right.

It also reveals some fascinating insights into conservatives’ ideas about authority. As near as I can figure out, the conservative attitude is that if something happened while so-and-so was in charge, especially if so-and-so consented to it or was notified of it, then so-and-so must have actively wanted it to happen, must have desired it, intended it, designed it, and been in full accord with the results. (Except when that’s a bad thing that happened to a good person, of course, which counter-examples only they can spot.) If half of Barton’s bunk gets blown away by misquotes and simple lies, another quarter of it gets trashed by this misconstruction of intent, power, and authority. The remainder is more complex lies, and Rodda tackles those as well.

The one weakness in this book is that Rodda has gotten so familiar with her material that sometimes she forgets to pull back and provide a quick overview or summary for those of us who haven’t been living with the Rockfish Report and the correspondence about Central College for the last few years. Some sharp recapitulations, especially at the ends of chapters, would do wonders for providing easy-to-quote refutations. The other thing readers should be aware of is that this is the first volume in a projected trilogy. It takes much more time and effort to counter lies than it does to propagate them, and Rodda has done a spectacular job of it here, but she realized in the process of writing that she had taken on a larger task than she originally thought.

When I realized how important this book was for me to have, and how grateful I was that someone had tackled this necessary but disgusting task, I bought the book, although I had already downloaded it for free. I plan to buy the next two volumes and will be glad to have them as reference material. If you don’t find it important for you to have the details, you should still have the Liars for Jesus website bookmarked just in case: think of it as being Snopes to Barton’s urban legends. If you do decide that this is an important cause, and you find all the information you need for free, then please consider donating $5 or $10 (the cost of the Kindle edition) to a charity of your choice that supports these causes such as the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, or the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, where Ms. Rodda is Senior Research Director.

My iPad and my feminism

After raving about the iPad’s capabilities, it’s only fair to point out that the technology is only as good as people make it. There’s a lot of stuff on the iPad app store that really annoys me, and most of it has to do with gender.

There’s lots of apps available for people to track their menstrual cycles. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, every single developer thinks it’s absolutely necessary to design these apps with an icon and user interface that is either full of pink, or flowers, or both. Now, I like icons that are descriptive and distinctive, but apparently the developers are concerned that women can’t tell which apps are specifically for women if the apps don’t look like Hello Kitty just barfed all over the screen.

The language used to describe these apps and inside the apps themselves is even more gag-inducing. Seriously, whoever designed these apps, do you think it’s really all that “discreet” to have an app named something like P Track that has an icon with a calendar with pink flowers marking seven days out of the month? Wow, nobody would ever in a million years guess that that’s for a woman’s….omg, don’t say it! Don’t mention the scary, scary curse of Eve and blood and everything!

Some of the more feature-heavy apps include ways to track fertility, which doesn’t particularly matter to me, but I will throw my iPad out the window before I ever refer to anything that happens in my bedroom as a “love connection.” Seriously? We can talk frankly about recording the details of acne, bloating, breast tenderness, constipation, cramps, depression, trouble concentrating, and weight gain, not to mention cervical position and fluid, but we can’t put “sex” in our calendars?

Worst of all, this isn’t confined to things having to do with what happens in the bathroom and bedroom. The yoga apps that I’ve tried have had an inordinate amount of pink, compared to other apps (in fact, the non-women’s apps tend to avoid pink, making the discrepancy all the more glaring), and plenty of flowers. Yes, I know, the lotus and meditation and all that, fine. But when all of the images of poses are done with female models, it makes it hard for me to think the other things are accidents.

The most highly-rated yoga app, Yoga Free, takes this to a whole new level by having only images of women, a feminine-sounding voice giving the name of each pose, and then a masculine-sounding voice giving directions on how to do the pose. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that you and I and the little women who are doing yoga on the screen are all being taught by a man, who is the only one who really knows how to do the poses or how to teach us to inhabit our bodies. Isn’t that just a great piece of gender inequality to wake up to every morning?

Real history

David Barton is the Religious Right’s premier pseudo-historian. His claims that the Founders were evangelical Christians and that the Constitution establishes a Christian nation are often touted as academic proof. As a result, I’m thrilled to see psychology professor Warren Throckmorton debunking several of Barton’s claims. In case anyone was still confused, this is what real history looks like. Using original documents doesn’t automatically make something history. Using context, understanding what’s not on the page, and even just being honest about the difference between preprinted words in a fill-in-the-blanks legal document and what was actually written by Thomas Jefferson, that’s real history.

Edited to add: Yet another example has emerged of Barton using a fake quote attributed to John Quincy Adams. There is no excuse for Barton not having checked his sources on this. Using an encyclopedia of quotations without further back-checking is an undergrad mistake, and it belies his supposed interest in primary sources and original documents. He’s not a historian, and he’s not even a particularly good propagandist. Don’t shame my profession by associating him with it, please.

On a similar note, Slacktivist explains why Oklahoma residents who proudly claim the title of “Sooners” can’t criticize illegal immigrants. Or, to put it more simply:

Imagine this: OPF

Imagine the uproar that would happen if a conservative Christian picked up a brochure in the Chaplain’s office that read:

Officers’ Pagan Fellowship (OPF) of the U.S.A. was formed in 2011, in the midst of the longest-running wars in US history. The gods have used OPF powerfully for their purposes ever since, in peace and war. Today, we are Pagans in all branches of the US Armed Forces who are united by our reverence for nature and the immanent holiness of all people and places. We are committed to living out our practices in the military society.

Our Purpose and Vision statements are:

Purpose: To honor nature by uniting Pagan officers for environmental awareness and respect, equipping them to minister effectively in the military society.

Vision: A spiritually transformed military, with ambassadors for all gods in uniform, empowered by the spirits of people and places, living with a passion for nature and compassion for all people, military and civilian.

Those statements have been combined into our Mission Statement which says, simply, that we are: Pagan officers exercising natural leadership to raise up a military practicing myriad traditions.

That’s not real, of course. There is no Officers’ Pagan Fellowship. But the above is based on the text of the standard Officers’ Christian Fellowship brochure found in just about every Chaplain’s office everywhere. Imagine how frightening conservative Christians would find a similar brochure for Muslim officers – suppose they were intending “to raise up a military submitted to Allah” or a military following the law of Allah? They would even find a similar statement from Jewish officers a little unsettling, I imagine. At the same time, the OCF and similar groups expect non-Christians to find them benign and well-meaning? Their own hypocrisy betrays their duplicity.

Golden Rule FAIL

What do you think would happen if I said: “I know that there are some peaceful Christians who don’t go around preaching or practicing that. Well, unfortunately, we can’t sit back and tolerate the radical ones simply because we know that there are some of them who don’t believe in that aspect of the Christian religion. So their role is to be allowed to practice their religion freely, just like we should be allowed to practice our religion freely, and not try to convert the rest of us.”

I think that if I said that it would be taken as evidence that Witches are trying to silence Christians and prevent them from evangelizing (which many of them see as a religious requirement, remember), or that it would otherwise infringe on Christians’ rights.

That quote came straight from an article on Herman Cain, potential Republican presidential candidate:

“I know that there are some peaceful Muslims who don’t go around preaching or practicing that,” he said. “Well, unfortunately, we can’t sit back and tolerate the radical ones simply because we know that there are some of them who don’t believe in that aspect of the Muslim religion. So their role is to be allowed to practice their religion freely, just like we should be allowed to practice our religion freely, and not try to convert the rest of us.”

If Cain listened to his own words, he would realize that a religious requirement to evangelize is one of the tricky parts of living in a pluralistic society, no matter what religion it’s coming from. And he might just, maybe, realize that those of us who aren’t Christian don’t want to be converted to Christianity – or made to live under Christian moral codes – any more than he wants to be converted to Islam or live under Islamic moral codes. But while we’ve got people who might be running for president saying that “we can’t … tolerate” other religions, and others saying that there are no problems the Bible can’t solve, and that we need more Bible-believing people in positions of power, I don’t think any of those people have considered what the situation would be like if their roles were reversed. Golden Rule FAIL.