Category Archives: Religion

On Boy Scouts And Equality

I was a Boy Scout, once upon a long time ago. I did Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. Made it to Second Class… failed the swim test twice. Not because I can’t swim, but the first time was in a lake where I couldn’t touch the ground and that always freaks me out and the second time I ate too much for breakfast. …feel I have to defend myself there. Anyway, when I switched high schools, I basically just stopped doing Boy Scouts, though I probably could have made it to Eagle without much of a problem. I had most of the requirements done.

Anyway, Boy Scouts was intended to help young boys become men with a certain set of skills and traits. A Boy Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

Nice traits to have, right? Not bad things, I think, and entirely independent of any religion or dogma. Unfortunately, despite those traits being independent of dogma, most of the Boy Scouts have aligned themselves with a conservative Christian viewpoint. What this has come to mean is, openly homosexual males are not allowed to be involved in the organization at all.

Well, the times, they are a’changin’, maybe.

Recently, with gay rights taking some big steps in both reality, such as the new states that have legalized gay marriage and the ending of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and symbolism, via President Barack Obama’s reference to gay rights in his inaugural address, things seem to have a bit of a forward momentum. Recently, that forward momentum hit the Boy Scouts of America and they’ve started considering dropping their ban on homosexuals.

But it’s not all good news for equality, of course. See, a large portion of Boy Scout Troops are sponsored by churches. Christian churches. Many of which have particular views about homosexuals and homosexuality. Views that are frankly often contrary both to Christianity and reality, but that’s a topic to rehash another time. Anyway, many of those churches are threatening to pull their sponsorship and funding if the Boy Scouts change their stance on homosexuals.

I just don’t get it. If you can show me once, just once, where Christ turned away a sinner and said, “No, I can’t be seen around you, I disapprove of the things you do,” I’ll eat my hat. Did he rebuke some sinners, like the Pharisees? Sure. But he also ate with sinners, mingled with them, talked to them, treated them as equals. Not as a separate species to be treated with disdain and derision.

If Christ walked among us today, it’s the conservative Christians that would have him crucified this go round. The Pharisees are back, and they just don’t like gay people.

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Since When Did Graduation Require An Oath?

Do you remember graduating from high school?

I do, vaguely. I remember standing in a long line, then sitting for what seemed like forever while I waited for the “R” section of a graduating class of some 600-plus students to start up. Then I walked some more, shook a hand, grabbed a thing, walked, sat, and done. Oh, and I sang a couple times before all that.

What I don’t remember is having to take an oath. The only “oath” or “pledge” I recall being even remotely involved in high school was the Pledge of Allegiance, and I stopped saying that my senior year based on the fact that the pledge is false. We’re not a nation indivisible, under God, or one with liberty and justice for all. But the pledge wasn’t compulsory. My choice to not say it was perfectly within my rights.

So I admit I’m a little bit confused when I see that Arizona Republicans have apparently proposed a bill that would require high school graduates to take an oath in order to graduate.

The Loyalty Oath reads:

I, _______, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge these duties; So help me God.

So, not only is it compelling students to invoke God, clearly a Judeo-Christian reference that not every high school student will actually agree with, it’s also compelling students to, you know, take an oath. While stating in the oath, “I take this obligation freely.”

Except, no… no you don’t. You’re pretty much being blackmailed into taking the oath. You either take the oath or you don’t graduate. With 13 years of education leading you to that moment, a moment that’s practically required to actually get even close to a decent paycheck in America, there’s no way that’s not blackmail. Perhaps it’s not as blatantly malicious as most cases of blackmail, but it’s pretty bad.

And what’s the point of this oath anyway? To force kids to say something they may or may not actually be agreeing with because they really just want their diploma? This doesn’t help education in the least. Arizona remains on my list of worst legislations, continuing to throw education into the crapper and walk all over women’s rights. What a regrettable state.

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When Will People Stop Listening To Idiots?

We have a pretty big problem in the world. America in particular has a problem.

That problem is giving stupid people a platform to speak on.

Before anyone gets all shocked and yells at me, I’m not saying we should be denying some people the freedom of speech. What I’m saying is that America has confused the freedom of speech with the freedom of national attention. We can all agree, I think, that there are some people that very simply should not have a voice in a national discussion on certain subjects. Members of the KKK probably shouldn’t be allowed to have an influential opinion on matters of Affirmative Action, for example. Nazis simply shouldn’t be allowed to be seriously considered on efforts of peace in the Middle East. They are allowed to say those opinions, but we shouldn’t be letting them mold and shift the public opinion and the direction of discourse.

And yet, we continue to let people do exactly that. All the time. It’s usually never as blatant as a KKK member or a Neo-Nazi… but sometimes, it’s pretty bad.

The thing is, sometimes we give people national platforms not only when they’re seemingly morally repugnant and wrong, but also when they’re simply factually wrong. Heck, that seems to be almost a requirement to be hired as a cable news pundit, particularly on Fox News. Probably the worst is the combination of the two.

I’ve talked about Bryan Fischer a couple of times and mentioned, subtly of course, how he’s a bit of a buffoon. Unfortunately, people still listen to him and give him support to be a nationally recognized voice that gets reported on from time to time. It’d be great if we could bring him to just enough attention to somehow work out a massive “ignore the crap out of him” campaign, but the likelihood of that is unfortunately low.

Anyway, this time, Fischer has decided to attack President Barack Obama’s mention of gay rights in his inaugural address. Apparently, “gays have no right to sodomy.” And let the silliness begin.

It’s people like Fischer that continue to perpetuate the fallacious idea that homosexuality, targeting male homosexuality almost exclusively, requires sex to be homosexuality. It also perpetuates the idea that sodomy is something only for homosexuals. Sodomy is actually any anal, oral or bestial sex. Gender doesn’t matter. And there are quite a few heterosexual couples that engage in sodomy quite often.

It’s people like Fischer that perpetuate the fallacious idea that arguments based on history are sensible and logical, that they have a place in modern discourse. As he says, sodomy was a felony for so long in American history for a reason! Why change it? It should be quite simple to realize exactly why that’s a terrible line of reasoning. Tradition isn’t a good reason to keep doing something. Arguments like that hold back the forward momentum of growth in civilization, hold back the equality of people.

I guess this is partly an argument for the desperate need of an objective, imperial and updated education system in America, and really the whole world. Without one, we just get people saying ridiculously idiotic things and ensuring that people will continue to believe them for years and years. Maybe the first step to fixing education would be taking certain people out of the national discourse. It sounds like anti-free speech nonsense, I know… But not everyone’s opinion has a right to be heard or taken seriously. If that were true, we would truly get nowhere with anything. Some people are, quite simply, wrong in every way.


What’s The Point Of Athiest Church?

So, the United Kingdom has an atheist church now.

…And it really confuses me.

There’s really not much background to give on this story. Two British comedians, Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, have opened up a church for atheists in London. The church will meet once a month and is described by Jones as “part atheist church” and “part foot-stomping show.” The first service featured guest lecturer Andy Stanton.

Jones gives a reasoning for the church: “We thought it would be a shame not to enjoy the good stuff about religion, like the sense of community, just because of a theological disagreement.”

Now, to be nit-picky here, church is defined by Merriam-Webster as a place for worship. But atheists do not, to the best of my knowledge, worship anything. Certainly not as a group, and definitely nothing of divinity. So why bother calling the place a church? Why not have an atheist hang out? A regular meeting every month, that sort of thing, where guest lecturers come and talk about whatever.

…though, for that matter, what exactly do they have to meet about that dictates it as a strictly atheistic thing? Originally, I had rather hoped it would just be a massive arcade, because I really miss those. But church, in the religious sense, is generally a meeting held regularly wherein the intricacies of the religion’s dogma are discussed and certain dogmatic beliefs are clarified and fleshed out, typically via a religious leader that has been generally accepted as an authority on such matters.

But there is no atheist dogma beyond “There are no gods.” There are no intricacies to be discussed or clarified. Atheists can generally vary as widely as any other random two people on their views of the ways the world works, so they can’t really have people coming in saying, “This is what we believe and why.” And if it’s just a series of guest lectures on random subjects that may or may not appeal to atheists/a random collection of people, why not just call it a guest lecture series? Universities and cities have them all the time.

I dunno. I mean, good for them, I guess, for trying to bring people together as a community… but if someone could explain what exactly they’re doing and if it really holds any purpose or function that couldn’t easily be obtained elsewhere, I’d love to know.

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Liberals: Crazy For Kwanzaa?

So, I got a bit of a kick out of this. Apparently, Wisconsin Republican state Senator Glenn Grothman decided to go on a bit of a rant against the African-American holiday Kwanzaa, claiming it is a “supposed” holiday and saying, “Almost no black people today care about Kwanzaa — just white left-wingers who try to shove this down black people’s throats in an effort to divide Americans.”

“Why must we still hear about Kwanzaa? Why are hard-core left wingers still trying to talk about Kwanzaa?”

So, as someone most people would call a left-winger, and some right-wingers would describe as “hard-core,” though I’m not exactly certain as to why, this entire thing just makes me giggle. First off, I had to look up Kwanzaa just to be sure I knew what it was. The ONLY people I’ve heard mention it are Sen. Grothman, author of the newspaper comic strip Curtis Ray Billingsley and Lonely Island, in their famous song “Dick in a Box.” Maybe there’s a rash of Kwanzaa conversation going on in Wisconsin that I haven’t heard about, but I feel like Grothman’s just being a bombastic fool.

See, Grothman goes on to attack the creator of Kwanzaa as a “violent nut” that apparently just didn’t like Christianity or something. For those that are having to Wikipedia Kwanzaa to find out anything about it, it was created by a professor at California State University, Long Beach, named Maulana Karenga, back in 1966. Apparently, though this may be rumor/falsehood, Karenga did originally rail against Christmas as a “white holiday.” However, nowadays, many black Christians celebrate both Christmas and Kwanzaa. And while Karenga was jailed for assault (though he maintains his innocence), the ad hominem thing is rather ridiculous. Should Christmas not be celebrated since it was made by the Catholic Church, which hosts a very violent and suspect past?

What I find funny is all the defenses people have for Grothman. Apparently, Kwanzaa is just a “made-up holiday,” so people should stop celebrating it. As though other holidays were discovered in the wild, growing on a tree. And when you point out that Grothman, a white man, might not actually have the insight necessary to determine whether Kwanzaa is something black people care about, you tend to get these types of responses:

“Only white liberals know what’s best for blacks.”

“All the black people that I know and I know many, don’t give a damn about Kwanzaa.”

“like obama knows what white people want right????”

It’s funny because, to the best of my knowledge, Kwanzaa is harming absolutely no one. It does not harm the people celebrating it, nor does it harm the people not celebrating it. So, it’s not an issue about “what’s best” for people. Nor would I say white liberals have a pulse on the African-American community. I tend to think African-Americans are the ones best able to talk about what they want. As for this idea that “I know a bunch of black people” therefore let’s make a sweeping statement about ALL of them… Do I really need to point out how ridiculous that is? Kwanzaa is celebrated. Black people that celebrate Kwanzaa do exist. Billingsley’s black and he talks about it, so there’s at least one person. As for the President Barack Obama comment… Seriously. It’s just stupid.

Honestly, I hadn’t heard a thing about Kwanzaa this year until I heard about Grothman ranting about it. Seems like another case of someone so obsessed with something that he makes is a bigger deal than it really is. Wonder if he’ll start ranting about liberals shoving Linux operating systems down everyone’s throats next. Because that’s totally something that happens.

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From The Inkwell – Camp Gethsemane Character Development

M’k. So, I’m still plugging away at the second edition of my taking-way-too-long-daggum-it full length play, the one that tackles religion (Christianity), how I interpret faith, relationships and sexuality in a pretty big and perhaps somewhat provocative way.

While I’m way behind schedule, in that I wanted this done last month at the latest, it is at least still moving bit by bit. I’ve really been trying to take the many criticisms and critiques to heart, though I know this will still be nowhere near the perfection a better writer could make it move toward. It’s admittedly quite frustrating, reading and watching the works of far superior writers, knowing you’ll never match their level.

Anyway, one of the critiques I had was with the antagonistic character Craig. Craig Thompson is the man who runs Camp Gethsemane, supported by his church. Still, the camp is his child, so to speak, and he is extremely zealous in his desire to protect it and its mission, or the mission as he sees it. The problems most that read the first draft had with Craig were pretty communally shared, the biggest one and most agreed upon one being that Craig seemed too villainous and too caricatured. No one really understood why he snaps and gets physical. Nor did people understand why he even allows Gary, who is now Evan Carter, to teach at his camp when their views are so different.

Basically, I focused so much on everyone else in the story, including the character Emily (who is no longer in the play as an on-stage character, sadly), I kind of painted a picture of Craig in my mind and left it as a picture. But for a story to work, we need to understand him, at least a little. The difference between Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church and Count Frollo of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” is that, with Frollo, we’re given a glimpse into his psyche, his reasoning for being so vile. Phelps is just a putrid sack of crap that exists to rile everyone up and generally be a hateful dude. No one understands why he’s such a tool, so he’ll never be as captivating and memorably evil as Frollo.

So, I ended up going back and writing a few new scenes, partly to flesh out Craig’s character and partly to give a more solid backing to the strong relationship Craig and Frank, one of the counselors, have. And also to explain why Gary (now Evan) is at the camp. All were lacking detail. And, as I’m trying to encourage myself to finish writing the last fraggin’ scene of the play, I’ve decided to let people read the first of two or three new (and therefore completely non-peer reviewed) scenes I wrote in this vein. And somehow, even with new scenes, the play has ended up about 15 to 30 minutes shorter (hopefully closer to 30). Anyway… please enjoy. Or don’t. I wouldn’t mind hearing feedback, though. I know at the very least the language could use some polishing, but I figure that’ll be focused on in the next (potentially final?) edit. (Note: We’ve already seen Craig onstage at this point, so his description isn’t included.)


Inside CRAIG’s office. CRAIG sits behind his large, neatly organized desk. There is a landline phone on the desk and a chair in front of it. CRAIG pores through his Bible when a young man enters. FRANK SINGER, a young man in his mid-twenties, is also dressed in a counselor’s outfit. CRAIG doesn’t look up when FRANK enters.

FRANK: You wanted to see me, sir?

CRAIG looks up from his Bible.

CRAIG: Ah, yes. Come in, Mr. Singer. Have a seat.

FRANK enters the room and sits down in the chair across from CRAIG.

CRAIG: I just wanted to let you know, we’re going to be having two different Bible Study classes this year. The leaders at the Church of the Mount have… requested that I allow the new youth pastor to participate in this year’s camp. Have you met him?

FRANK: Evan? I was introduced to him during the business meetings about getting a new youth pastor, but I haven’t sat down and gotten to know him yet.

CRAIG: Hm… I’ve not talked to him very much myself, either. But I suspect that the church is perhaps grooming him to eventually take my place running the camp.

FRANK: What? No. The church would never do that. This is your camp, you brought it into existence.

CRAIG: (Smiling, wistful.) I hope you’re right, and I appreciate your loyalty to me, Mr. Singer. It is, as always, a comfort. I suppose my worries could be misplaced. (Looks down at his Bible, running his fingers over the pages.) And if my eventual retirement and replacement is God’s will, then so be it. …we must all follow God’s plans. Whatever they may be… (Begins subconsciously playing with his wedding band, falls into a reverie.)

FRANK: …Mr. Thompson? Are you okay?

CRAIG: (Snaps out of his wandering thoughts. Looks down at his ring finger, pulls his hand away.) Sorry, I was lost in thought there for a moment. You can go.

FRANK nods and stands up. As he turns to go, CRAIG remembers something.

CRAIG: One last thing, Mr. Singer.

FRANK: (Turning back.) Yes sir?

CRAIG: Take some time to get to know Mr. Carter, would you? And let me know if you discover anything… well, anything you think I should know. For the smooth running of the camp. Something just seems… off to me about him.

FRANK: Yes, sir.

FRANK again turns and exits. CRAIG looks down at his Bible again, but seeing his hands, he puts his left hand in front of his face. He removes the wedding ring from his finger and looks at it, a somber look on his face. He grips it in his fist, closing his eyes tightly, before placing it back on his hand and returning to his Bible, turning the page and reading.

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“Christians” Praising Uganda Need To Stop

I fell behind again. My apologies. I guess I don’t want to write crappy “So sorry, not today” posts so often? Anyway… catching up now.

I swear, I feel like I run up on this subject over and over again, just from different angles.

I dunno how aware you are about this issue, but several years ago, Uganda brought a very harsh anti-homosexuality bill forward as a proposal for law. How harsh? Basically, it would allow the government to execute homosexuals, people that test positive for HIV, pedophiles and repeat offenders. Ignoring how pedophiles managed to get bundled up with homosexuals, the bill was hugely criticized by the international community and it was shot down.

In that it was really only tabled to come back to like right about now. It’s the infamous “Kill the Gays” bill, and those in the Ugandan government are keen on having it passed before the new year.

It’s okay, though. Apparently, it’s no longer about killing the gays. No, apparently they decided to take out all the parts about killing gays, maybe to get people to be okay with the law. Instead, it’s just about protecting children from gay pornography (as opposed to all pornography), banning gay marriage, “counseling” gays and punishing those that “promote a gay lifestyle.” Jail is a potential punishment for all of those ill-defined crimes, and the jail time isn’t very specifically laid out. So, from execution to indefinite detention… I suppose there’s a silver lining to be found, but it’s mighty faint.

This bill is pretty heinous and flies in the face of everything the world has (unfortunately slowly) been coming to accept as basic human rights. It highlights the underlying hatred for homosexuals still hugely prevalent in Africa, as ignorance blames homosexuals for the AIDS epidemic that has swept through the continent.

What may be equally as disturbing, however, is the reactions of “Christian” Americans, prominent preachers, praising Uganda and even going as far as defending the bill.

I don’t know how many times I’ll have to come to this subject, the subject of the most popular religion in the world, one I personally ascribe to, having major vocal proponents butt heads with its most basic and simplistic tenets, much less butt heads with basic human decency. So many “Christians” cry and wail about the growth of “Godlessness” in the Western world… they can’t seem to comprehend that, more often than not, it is their vicious hatred, their discrimination and acceptance of violence toward those they’ve deemed as “sinful,” that drives people away from God. And if Christianity is right, they’re going to find themselves quite surprised in the end.

It’s a plague on decency, a plague on Christianity, a plague on humanity that people can still think and act like this. We have the Family Research Council President Tony Perkins giving the Ugandan dictator a big hug over Twitter, praising him for leading his nation in repentance. We have Pastor Kevin Odor of the Canyon Ridge megachurch in Nevada going to bat for both the bill and for Martin Ssempa, one of the more prominent backers of the bill. The church is even helping support him financially.

What happened to “He who is without sin?” To “Judge lest not ye be judged?” To “as you have done for the least of my people on earth, so have you done for me in heaven?” The Good Samaritan? Loving thy neighbor? Pretty much ANYTHING Jesus EVER said in the Bible?

It’s no wonder that “militant” atheists, the ones that actively go out to bash and tear apart at religion, so often bring up Adolf Hitler as a Christian. Sure, Hitler used Christian sentiment in his speeches and, in doing so, committed the most heinous mass crimes in our world’s history. But, honestly, with people like these pastors walking around, with people paying them to say and do these things, with no chastisement from the Christian base, it’s no wonder that people think Hitler really was a Christian.

There’s really only one mark by which you can actually tell if someone’s a Christian or not. 1 John 4:8 and 4:20 say “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. […] Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” If you hate a brother or sister, if you hate, then you don’t know God. If you don’t know God, you’re not a Christian. And if you’re giving Uganda and their heinous, evil bill any sort of praise or support? You’re not a Christian.

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Breaking The Leg – “Godspell” By Theatre Tuscaloosa

I’d like to think that I’m selective with what shows move me to tears. To the best of my remembrance, I’ve only cried during three shows: the University of Alabama’s “Saint Joan” and “Hair,” and now, Theatre Tuscaloosa’s “Godspell.”

What’s interesting is how similar “Hair” and “Godspell” are. Neither has much of a plot, per se, being more of a shared experience between this family-esque group onstage and the audience, though story does crop up at times. Both shows that I saw share two actors, also. So they get the dubious honor of making me cry twice.

“Godspell,” which has four more shows before the end of the run, is a musical by Stephen Schwartz, who also wrote “Seussical” and “A Man of No Importance.” The show is based on the Gospel according to Matthew. As such, Christianity and, more importantly, the philosophies behind the religion are extremely heavily represented throughout the show. If you’ve grown up in church like I have most, if not all, of the stories will be familiar. Even those unfamiliar with Christianity will likely catch onto a few things here and there. But this show is nothing like your average sermon.

In one of the best, most purely ensemble shows I’ve ever seen (to be fair, I think “Hair” is the only other show that even fits that description), only two of the actors represent any characters outside of the prologue. In the prologue, eight of the 10 actors are onstage in school uniforms, sitting at desks. They each sing phrases from specific philosophers and great thinkers, setting the more philosophical tone of the show. After hearing Socrates, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, Leonardo da Vinci, Edward Gibbon, Frederic Nietzsche, Jeal-Paul Sartre and Buckminster Fuller, John the Baptist (Gerard L. Jones, doubles as Judas) appears, singing “Prepare Ye (The Way of the Lord).” And the show begins in earnest.

The group becomes baptized by John the Baptist. He then talks of the one that will come after him and Jesus (Will Erwin) arrives to be baptized as well. After that’s done, the group returns wearing bright, haphazard colors and clothes, some having done crazy things to their hair, and the teachings of Christ start. The group, akin to the Disciples, acts out and clown around, playing with a huge slide on stage and one another, each one telling different parables while Jesus guides them through the journey, pointing out the lessons as needed.

Those Disciples, as I’ll call them, are played by a fabulously talented and extremely coherent group of young people. They are Eryn Davis, Alex Hawkins, Zacchaeus Kimbrell, Justin Barnett, Diva Clarithyea-LaShaun Hall, Natalie Riegel, Norquina “Q” Rieves and Craig First. They play themselves in the show with no real devotion to a specific named character. They are simply themselves, playing and portraying parables, interacting with one another.

After the fun and humor of the first act, however, the show slides into the emotional heavy hitter. As this does follow the Book of Matthew, I can go ahead and tell you it’s very similar in tone. The first half or two thirds is teaching and parables, education. The last portion is about Christ’s fall, Judas’ betrayal and the crucifixion. And the actors are so fully dedicated to what they grow to be during the show, a quirky family all lovingly devoted to Jesus, that the emotions run very powerfully. Even Judas, portrayed quite sympathetically in the show, truly loves Jesus and seems disgusted with himself for what happens.

The voices in this cast are incredible. They are all so powerful and good at what they do. I saw the matinee show today, which was their second show of the day having done a morning school show. On top of that, at least one or two of the actors has informed me that they’ve been fighting illness. Frankly, today’s performance made me wonder if they were lying to me, because everyone sang beautifully. In a show like this, it’s hard to pinpoint any specific individuals that were “better,” because they all do so well and most songs are heavily ensembled. However, several solos did stand out, including Davis’ “O, Bless the Lord, My Soul,” Hawkins’ “Learn Your Lessons Well,” Kimbrell’s “We Beseech Thee” and Riegel and Hall’s powerful, highly emotional duet “By My Side.” Also, pretty much any time Erwin or Jones had a solo was a fierce song to be heard. The finale, with Christ crucified and singing in a call and response to the Disciples about how he’s dying, was the killer that really hit me right in the feels. Not just because of the subject, but because of the openness and full devotion the actors had to what was happening on stage, and to the beauty of their voices combined.

The set is fantastic, a grafitti-covered concrete wall, broken down at parts, with stairs leading to a massive upper platform and a slide coming down. The set, combined with the lighting, is a powerful addition to the show, perfectly accentuating which parts are joyous and happy and which begin to see the falling into darkness. The designers, Erin C. Hisey for lights and Wheeler Kincaid for set, have done some of the best work I’ve seen of their for this show, I think. The costume designer Jeanette Waterman should be commended, too, for coming up with such wacky, playful and yet appropriate costumes to a show that could easily be adversely affected by the wrong choices of costume. But a big hand goes to the director and choreographer Abe Reybold. I was fortunate enough to experience his directing and choreography on the night of the auditions, and I really wish I had been able to experience more of it, because everything turned out fantastic and I know he was a treat to work with.

Theatre Tuscaloosa’s “Godspell” is in the Bean-Brown Theatre at Shelton State Community College. The show runs at 7:30 p.m. from Thursday to Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $22 for adults, $18 for seniors and military and $14 for students and children. I strongly, STRONGLY encourage you to go watch this show if you’re in Tuscaloosa. It is simply fantastic. A great time and an amazing theatrical experience.

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Churches Might Be A Little To Blame

Man. I’m even further behind now. This is a bad stain on my once-a-day deal. My bad. I will definitely get at least two up today, hopefully all three. …not that anyone reading this after the fact knows what I’m talking about because I always backlog these things… Let’s just pretend I’m a Time Lord and leave it at that.

So, I can’t remember if I told you guys, but I ended up in a bit of a verbal brawl over my Thanksgiving break. I kind of expected it, truth be told. This wasn’t the prettiest election, and the disdain for President Barack Obama ran high among conservatives, which my parents are. This election was also the election of bringing up ridiculous, unnecessary, irrelevant and occasionally completely fictional stories in attempts to smear candidates. Sure, it happens every year, but the birther thing? The “Obama’s going to send in UN troops” thing? Seriously. It got ridiculous.

But, of course, my parents are conservative. And I’m, well… not. So, on the drive to my grandma’s, I ended up verbally combating both of my parents with the occasional assist from my older sister. I’m pretty sure I was doing well on my end. Had it been a presidential debate, I like to think all the papers would’ve said I won, partly because my parents often adamantly refused to actually source any of their claims… but we all know that’s not how things work in the debates, sadly. One of the subjects my parents were wholly unable to accurately back-up was the claim that religious freedoms are being and will be squashed under Obama.

Ignoring how “religious freedom” extends beyond Christianity and the argument is easily made that many non-Christian religions have suffered obstructionism in the more Republican and religious areas of the United States, the idea that Christianity is suffering under Obama is silly and I said so. They of course bring up several superfluous things, like Obama asking Buddhists to pray and yadda yadda… and eventually, the subject of homosexuality got brought up. Which pretty much confirmed to me that, were I gay, I likely would’ve been disowned by my family. I hadn’t heard my dad’s side on that particular subject before, but he definitely lost respect from me when he suggested homosexuals shouldn’t be allowed to adopt because they’re pedophiles.

I couldn’t really comprehend where this animosity and disdain was coming from… except I know exactly where it comes from. And it isn’t the Bible. It was interesting how, when I said that the Roman Catholic Church’s Catechism (my dad being Catholic) specifically states that homosexuality is not a sin, my dad got more upset saying I was wrong. I eventually clarified my point (or, you know, repeated it) until he agreed (because it’s true), but he was still very against the idea. And, while I avoided getting into a Scriptural-based argument, it’s been my experience that most that think homosexuality is anti-Christian simply use the excuse “The Bible says so.” Occasionally, you’ll get someone quoting Leviticus, or Jesus talking about man and woman skipping off into the sunset to marry or whatever. They usually can’t get into specifics or details. So, it basically boils down to “someone told me the Bible says so.” And that someone is usually a pastor, or just a church body in general.

So, imagine my surprise when one of the (admittedly more sensible) pastors of an American megachurch, Pastor Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church, admitted that perhaps some of the animosity and hatred toward gays, some of the negative – and occasionally violently so – atmosphere they live (or not) through might be the fault of churches.

See, here’s the thing… churches have gotten into the nasty habit over the past, oh, probably couple thousand years of demonizing certain sins. Lying, for SOME reason, was always pretty safe… but adultery, witchcraft, divorce, they all went through the ringer. When people were convinced that the Bible placed whites as superior to blacks, animosity and disdain followed. Violence, a poisonous atmosphere where sin and sinner both became equated with evil to not be tolerated, to be cast out. And while many of those other stigmas have faded or lessened, homosexuality stands still reviled.

I feel like I’ve talked about this before… but maybe if more churches stopped and said, “What are we doing?”, things could be better. Maybe if people focused on teaching the message of loving and tolerating everyone, no matter their flaws, the sort of stuff Jesus did, maybe that toxicity would dissipate. And maybe more people would actually think Christianity isn’t such a terrible idea.

But what do I know. I’m clearly a socialist, atheist heathen on a fast track to hell. And it’s not like the Bible ever said “Love thy neighbor as thyself” was the second most important thing for Christians to do. But it sure would be nice to have more pastors follow Warren’s lead. Then, maybe, churches could actually focus solely on doing good without spreading bad.

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The AFA Is Certainly Not Pro-Family

Now, first, I want to talk about this attaching “pro-” in front of random words. It’s something that probably gained mainstream attraction with the abortion debate, and the whole “pro-life” and “pro-choice” labeling. And there’s a bit of a problem with the whole pro-whatever labeling.

Pro- tends to suggest an active movement toward the broad application of the word following. Often, it’s meaningless outside of context. “Pro-choice” refers to abortion, not the ability to choose cake versus pie. And pro-life, while we like to point out that many pro-life people support the death penalty and foreign wars where many people die, aren’t actually pro-life. They’re anti-abortion. Someone just wanted to put a more positive sounding spin on their views. But pro-choice shouldn’t really be mixed with “pro-abortion.” Some people like to pretend that means “abortions for everyone” or something. Except many pro-choice people can be not fond of abortion, they’re just less fond of demanding no one can have one.

So, to put this in terms for this post, the other day I tweeted to an article about the American Family Association, who likes to say they are pro-family. In the tweet, I said they were pro-hate and pro-bullying. And someone kind of passive-aggressively put up a Facebook status about how those are silly terms. And, yeah, they kind of are, out of context in particular. But when limited to 140 characters, sometimes you’ve got to crunch more philosophically sticky wickets into semi-meaningless phrases. When the AFA says they’re “pro-family,” they’re actually “pro-married heterosexual parents with children,” which does not even come close to describing every family out there. They might be “pro-single parent families” too, but they don’t seem to focus on that too much. Whatever they are, they are actively against anything to do with homosexuality, be it in the family or anywhere else.

When I called them pro-hate and pro-bullying, however, I was referencing the main subject that we’re going to talk about: “Mix It Up At Lunch Day.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center is promoting a day wherein students in elementary, middle and high schools sit with people they normally don’t sit with during lunch. If you went to public school, you may recall an unintentional segregation of cliques. Generally, kids would sit with the same people day in and day out. I often sat by myself, due to lunch schedules, or with a few friends from the bus. But it rarely changes. At ASMS, I noticed that most of the black students sat together on one side and the white students sat on the other side – with our Asians and occasional Hispanic student (of which there were few, now that I reflect on it) sitting wherever. And it’s not like these students never mingled or talked. That’s just how lunch ended up. So, the SPLC is attempting to promote tolerance by suggesting students get to know the other students that are perhaps “different” or whatnot. After all, humans fear the unknown, right? It’s usually the most ignorant that are the most hateful.

Well, the AFA thinks that’s totally gay.

Stephen Colbert, giving a tip of his hat to the AFA (so you know they’re TOTALLY on the right side), explains exactly how the AFA believes the day is a “nationwide push to promote the homosexual lifestyle.”

Later, CNN interviewed AFA spokesman Bryan Fischer about the whole complaint against “Mix It Up” day. Besides jumping straight down the gullet of Godwin’s Law by trying to say Hitler’s stormtroopers were all gay (So, I guess, homosexuals are Nazis?), Fischer also tried to say that if the day is NOT about homosexuality, the SPLC needs to put up a disclaimer saying so. At which point I wondered, should they also put up a disclaimer saying it’s not about animal cruelty? Or healthcare? Or apple picking? Also, apparently, the entire thing is like poisoned Halloween candy. So… an urban legend, I suppose? CNN eventually cut him off, because he was kind of saying crazy things. Some have criticized CNN for this, but, frankly, we don’t need people spouting hate and saying factually incorrect things for a living being given a national stage. We’ve already got politicians for that. Let Fischer get into politics if he wants CNN not to cut him short.

Well, CNN’s cutting him off led to today’s very anti-homosexuality rant. Apparently, homosexuality is blasphemy against God (one of those lovely sins that apparently never gets mentioned in the Bible) and CNN is part of the gay gestapo (so, once more unto the Nazi imagery).

I’ve written about the AFA before, back when they tried to compare people eating faces with homosexuality. And it was the same guy, Fischer, that made that comparison. Yet, despite proving he is clearly hateful and mentally unstable, the AFA continues to let him be a spokesperson.

And that’s where my “pro-hate” and “pro-bullying” things come in. The AFA is very clearly in support of some rather heinous emotional negativity toward homosexuals and homosexuality. It’s really quite hard not to see that as hate. Further, the AFA and other “Christian” organizations have been quite outspoken lately against messages of tolerance. If anyone is promoting tolerance, they’re there to decry it. I phrased it as “pro-bullying” because of a review on a “Christian” website about the movie “Paranorman.” The review warns viewers against “strong Romantic political correctness against bullying and intolerance of people who are different.”

…I don’t know about you, but that reads to me like they think people shouldn’t say bullying is bad. And that intolerance of people who are different is good. Combine that with the AFA railing against this “Mix It Up” day, which is meant to promote tolerance, and I start to see a really awkward pattern of disliking tolerance. True, that’s not necessarily pro-bullying, and it may have been silly of me to say that… but tolerance can certainly help stop bullying, and that movie review definitely mentions messages against bullying as though they’re bad things.

What’s ironic is that the AFA screams bloody murder any time someone tells them they’re being hateful, or jerks. That this “pro-family” shtick is outdated and intolerant of people. They say people are just being intolerant of “Christian” views on marriage. Well, first, as a Christian, I call a whole lot of BS on anything the AFA says as being Christian. And second, if you’re okay with intolerance in one direction, you really ought to be prepared to have that street go both ways. Granted, there are many who don’t tolerate intolerance. Myself included. I don’t like racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia or any of the other words we’ve come up with to say, “This person is different in ________ way, something they were likely born with and did not choose. I dislike them for that reason and/or will treat them as lesser than me because of it.”

But, frankly? I don’t know that that’s a problem, as long as you don’t take it as far as hating the person for the belief. Maybe just keep it to smacking them in the back of the head and calling them stupid. Lovingly, of course.

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