10 Signs You Don’t Live in a Christian Nation

1. Your nation treats aliens as dangerous offenders who must be removed and not vulnerable people who must be protected.

2. Your nation’s religious people stand at the border saying that their god wants people to stay out.

3. Your nation has some people who are super-rich and some people who sleep in the streets.

4. Your nation spends at least four times as much money on its military as it would take to solve world poverty. Also, it doesn’t solve world poverty.

5. Your nation has a special rule protecting the rights of its citizens to have guns.

6. A contingency of people in your nation loudly insist the rule protecting guns is sacred – and many of these people are religious.

7. Your nation’s religious leaders suggest killing someone as a viable option.

8. Your nation keeps people they don’t trust in isolation camps, and sometimes in prison camps. For years. Even if they’re known to be innocent.

9. Your nation tortures people because they might know something that could prevent a hypothetical attack.

10. Your nation’s religious leaders treat II Chronicles 7:14 as though it means that if religious people in your nation pray and stop breaking made-up rules, then all the gays and abortions will go away – and they think those are the two biggest problems.

Why Matthew Vines Can’t Win The Evangelical Gay Debate

God and the Gay Christian I first heard of Matthew Vines a couple of years ago when I watched his presentation in which he argued that the Bible was okay with gay. He was a 21-year-old who had just spent two years (TWO. YEARS.) studying this issue. I thought it was compelling, but not convincing.

He recently came out with a book that’s infuriating evangelicals called God and the Gay Christian. He made some good arguments in the lecture, as I’m confident he did in his book (which I have not read), but I don’t think he has a particularly good shot at convincing evangelicals that gay is okay with God.

I like Matthew Vines, and I like what he’s trying to do, but reviewer Christopher Yuan pinpointed the problem in his review over at Christianity Today:

One of the main weaknesses of God and the Gay Christian is that Vines’s methodology of biblical interpretation clashes with the high view of the Bible he claims to hold. (emphasis mine)

My contention with Vines is that he starts with what Yuan describes as a “high view of scripture.

There are, I believe, two basic perspectives on scripture held by Christians today, but one is dominant in evangelicalism.

Position A

God wrote the Bible using human hands. This is also known as Verbal Plenary Inspiration. In this view, the words that God wanted (in their original autographs) were exactly the words that the writers wrote.

Position B

People inspired by God wrote the Bible. In this view, people most definitely wrote the Bible, but there’s a spark of inspiration that goes across everything. It’s more fuzzy, which I like.

Position A is what Yuan means by “a high view of scripture.”

Matthew Vines will never win because he is arguing from within the evangelical paradigm of Position A. In Yuan’s review of God and the Gay Christian, Yuan says,

Like Vines, I was looking for biblical justification and wanted to prove that the Bible blesses gay relationships. As I read Boswell’s book, the Bible was open next to it, and his assertions did not line up with Scripture. Eventually, I realized that I was wrong—that same-sex romantic relationships are a sin. …No matter how hard I tried to find biblical justification and no matter whether my same-sex temptations went away or not, God’s word did not change. (emphasis mine)

Vines’ and Yuan’s arguments are built upon the premise of Position A. Yuan was at one time able to convince himself that same-sex romantic relationships were fine because the Bible didn’t really mean what it pretty clearly said because of historical context and interpretation principles and blah blah blah.

Though I’ve argued in the past that those verses mean other things, whether they do or don’t isn’t a critical issue for me. The debate I run about what the Bible says or doesn’t say is a fine debate to have, and there’s more than enough fodder for it, but those arguments aren’t why I believe that God is okay with God’s kids being gay.

If you could convince me right now that the Bible said very clearly that God was not okay with same-sex attracted behavior, and that all those contextualizations and explanations around the passages were utter bullshit, I would still believe that God loves gays as much as God loves straights, and that God is quite okay with gays getting married to each other and having sex with each other.

If you could convince Matthew Vines that the Bible was clear on that issue, he would be devastated, and he would probably fall right back into the belief that his sexual orientation is inherently sinful. I hope he’s built up enough defenses against that, but his exegesis and interpretation is ultimately a leaning tower built right on top of the so-called clobber passages.

If that interpretive tower falls, then it crashes right down into being gay is a damnable sin.

If evangelicals ignore his interpretive tower, then being gay is still a sin.

 And I promise you that has already happened and will continue to happen every single time evangelicals engage in conversation with him.

Evangelicals don’t want to believe that gay is okay with God. Evangelicals can find evidence in the Bible for their belief that gay is not okay with God. Matthew Vines is playing on Evangelical home turf, arguing from Position A which is set against him, from an ancient book that is both inspired by God and filled with weird stuff that came from men, and he’s doing it by evangelical rules that are biased against gay being okay.

I wish him luck, but I don’t think he has a shot at winning this one.

I’m Not Prejudiced; God is Prejudiced on my Behalf

God created man in his own image. And man, being a gentleman, returned the favor.”
— Jean Jacques Rousseau

If I invested a nickel every time someone said something awful and then said “Don’t look at me, I’m just telling you what the Bible says,” I would probably be able to live off the interest by now.

The “It’s not me, it’s God” defense is troubling for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, it allows me to disavow a situation and enjoy its benefits.

For instance, my dad often said that if he had been God, he would’ve made men and women equal, but since he’s not God, he just does what God says. This is fantastic because he gets to be more sympathetic than God and enjoy the benefit of a system that puts him in charge. He doesn’t make the rules; he just enforces them. Continue reading “I’m Not Prejudiced; God is Prejudiced on my Behalf”

Fix Income Inequality or Stop Whining About Drug Dealers

My wife and I were watching an episode of Castle a week or so ago where this lady is a hit man (hit woman?) for people who want to pay her $50,000 a week to kill people. If you suck at math, that’s $2.5 million a year with two weeks of vacation.

We’re also part of a Bible study on Friday nights. One of the guys who goes said somebody could pay him $100,000 a day to run drugs. One of the other guys there was in the Air Force and he and I were suddenly paying very close attention. “I’m sorry, who did you say this guy was, and how can we get this job?”

dutch-weed-2-jpg-1206038-m

The night after we watched that episode of Castle, we talked about how ridiculous it was that legal jobs pay so little and illegal jobs pay so much. It occurred to me that there are really two things driving the sale of illegal drugs:

  1. Their illegalness, and
  2. Income inequality.

The fact that illegal drugs are in fact illegal doesn’t mean they’re not getable (much like the frequent argument against gun control). It just means that they’re expensive, and that it’s risky to get them, and that whoever runs the risk of going to jail to sell them is going to make pretty darn decent money.

Income inequality drives people with very little opportunity otherwise into drug trafficking. Getting a job is hard, even for a recent college graduate, so imagine for a moment that you’re a minority, broke, and not a college graduate. Think about how lucky you’d feel to get a job at McDonald’s getting paid $8 an hour (that’s $16,224 a year if you manage to work 39 hours a week, or $12,064 if they keep you under 40 so the greedy jerks don’t have to put you on health insurance. Oh, and that’s before taxes.

Now, while you’re imagining your microscopic paycheck, imagine that your cousin offers you a job running drugs for him for $100,000 a year. Sorry, I meant $100,000 a day. But maybe that’s not realistic. How much can you actually make running drugs?

  • According to this CNN story, a kid made $50,000 for driving across the border 20 times with drugs. His first payload was $4,000. For driving across a bridge.
  • According to this article, which may or may not be reliable, drug runners can make $200,000 a month. A month. The middle man makes $350,000. Also per month. Why? Because it’s illegal. Of course, if you get caught you can go to jail for a really long time. Even your street-level dealers make $40,000 a month, or almost half a million a year.
  • This dealer makes, on average, $1200 a week. That’s over $60,000 a year. Oh. He’s part time.
  • According to this report from the Urban Institute, “Pimps and traffickers interviewed for the study took home between $5,000 and $32,833 a week.” The low-end guys make $260,000 a year IF they take a 2-week vacation! Oh. The big guys make $1.7 million a year.

 

Of course, the risks are crazy. If you get caught, you go to jail and probably get fined. But I digress: Crime does pay. Also, it pays a lot. Admittedly, it doesn’t pay nearly as much as being a CEO pays. According to the AFL-CIO, “The CEO of an S&P 500 Index company made, on average, 354 times the average wage of a rank-and-file U.S. worker in 2012.” The average CEO of a Fortune 500 company makes about $12 million a year. Minimum wage is $8 an hour.

Now again, imagine that you don’t have a high school diploma and McDonalds has a Help Wanted sign. Also imagine that you know a guy who can help you get in on selling drugs or pimping. Imagine that you’re tired of living on welfare in the projects.

But let’s shift that. Let’s imagine that you can make a livable wage at a normal job, even, miraculously, McDonald’s or Wal*Mart. Let’s suppose you can pull of that almost-unimaginable $15 per hour. Even that only nets you $31,200 a year – but that’s almost double minimum wage.

You’ll still be struggling to get by at $15 an hour, but at least when your drug-dealing brother in law drives by in his Ferrari, you can feel good about yourself. Even though you’re not making enough to be rich, you’re doing all right and you know your line of work won’t put you in jail.

So, what if we fixed income inequality?

What if we legalized currently illegal drugs and stuck a warning label on them that they’re so dangerous they used to be illegal but that putting people in jail for dealing them did more harm than the drugs themselves anyway? It not only saves us the $51 billion that the war on drugs is costing, it saves us from having to put people in jail for it, and let’s be honest, prison is really just a training ground for criminals.

So that’s it, then. Fix income inequality and legalize illegal drugs, or stop complaining about drug dealers.

Not sure what the answer is on sex trafficking. I think there’s some kind of systemic evil going on that’s causing that, too.

VeggieTales Pro-Gay Agenda?!

Frozen CoverEvangelical Radio personality Kevin Swanson recently ignited an internet firestorm when he claimed that the Disney movie Frozen had a pro-gay agenda. He cited evidence listed on Decentfilms.com and policymic.com, including:

  • Elsa was “born different” from other people. She has a special gift, or possibly a curse. This hints at the Lady Gaga song “Born this way.”
  • Elsa’s difference is an occasion for fear and secrecy.
  • She sings a song about not being a good girl anymore and letting it go after society rejects her.
  • While Anna has romantic longings, Elsa is uninterested in boys.
  • At the end of the movie, Elsa’s snow creation puts on a tiara (cross dressing! Yikes!
  • Oaken the shopkeeper waves hello to his family, and in the tub, there is a man and no woman. He may be gay.

Nicely played, Kevin Swanson. You turned a tale of acceptance and love into an agenda to make children gay. And I’m not going to stand for that. I am about to explain how VeggieTales has a pro-gay agenda.

MV5BMTI0MjcyOTMzMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODc0MjEyMQ@@._V1_SY475_SX263_In the Veggietales film Are You My Neighbor, there are a number of pro-gay themes and moments.

  • Jimmy and Jerry Gourd, though not explicitly stated, were definitely “born different” from the other vegetables. If vegetables can be born, that is.
  • Though it seems obvious, Jimmy and Jerry are both males who have some kind of relationship with each other and are considered strange. Though it is stated elsewhere that they are brothers, I don’t think this is mentioned in the movie.
  • Both talk in high-pitched (though not precisely “gay-sounding”) voices.
  • Everyone else on the USS Applepie is afraid of them.
  • They sing a song with these EXACT lyrics:

God makes lots of people in all colors shapes and sizes;
He loves them very much and what we need to realize is,
that calling people names because they’re different is wrong,
Instead we need to look on them in love and sing this song,
I can be your friend (la la la)…

Yes, Kevin Swanson, you’ve been called out by your own team. You keep calling gays “homosexuals,” which, at least to them, is an unkind name. And to your concern that you didn’t mean it that way, whether you have racist intentions or not when you use the N word, it’s still name calling to them and not loving your neighbor as yourself. Ah, trying to get people to love their neighbors as themselves, even if they’re different. That evil radical liberal agenda.

More than that, Veggietales has the nerve to tell kids that they should befriend people who are different than they are! While, again, same-sex-attracted people are not specifically named in the song, it could be argued that they are implied (because, well, they’re different).

It only gets more disturbing from here:

The Fox and the Hound

I can be your friend
I can be your friend
Anyday, in any weather
We can be friends and play together

Playing with people who are different? Isn’t that what got The Fox and the Hound in such big trouble, because two animals who were different wanted to “play together” and people wouldn’t let them? Is “We can be friends and play together” a euphemism for something else? Horrors.

And that’s only one of the movies in the Veggietales franchise!

Swanson worries about bestiality in Frozen because the obviously straight Kristoff is jokingly said to have a “thing with the reindeer / That’s a little outside of nature’s laws!”

Minnesota CukeIt’s cute that Swanson is concerned about that, but seriously! Veggietales has an ongoing inter-order romance between Larry the Cucumber and Petunia Rhubarb. You know, order, as in Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus Species. Petunia is a rhubarb, from Order Caryophyllales, and Larry is a cucumber from Order Cucurbitales. To be clear, humans are in Order Primates Class Mammalia. Other orders in class Mammalia include horses, foxes, pandas, and whales. Yes, whales. Veggietales sees absolutely no problem whatsoever with this inter-order relationship. They treat it not only as normative, but as positive.

And then you’ve got King George and the Ducky which is an obvious spoof off of David and Bathsheba, but get this: Bathsheba is a rubber ducky. Yes, it’s messed-up that King George has a whole harem – I mean, closet – full of rubber duckies, but at the end of the story, he gives Junior Asparagus his ducky back. And Junior’s relationship with the ducky is considered okay.

Of course, Are You My Neighbor is still the biggest pro-gay Veggietales movie of them all. The worst part? Veggietales doesn’t teach that “people who are different” need to change to be accepted. On the contrary, one of Jimmy and Jerry’s “differences,” their chronic eating, ends up being what saves the entire ship. That’s right, Kevin Swanson. Not only does Veggietales teach that being different is okay, they teach that these “differences” can be positive.

Watch the video for more awesome moments that could be construed as pro-gay.

But hey, at least Jimmy and Jerry were both gourds.

Disclaimer: I have not spoken about these ideas with Big Idea, Phil Vischer, or whoever is making Veggietales nowadays. This post almost certainly reflects the opposite of their beliefs or opinions. The thoughts and opinions in this post are mine and mine alone.

Selected Gun Control Facts & Statistics

Comparative Gun Ownership and Homicide Rates

The United States has 88 guns per 100 people. We have more civillian-owned firearms per capita than any other country in the world. Here’s a chart with our firearm ownership compared to the next five countries:

FirearmsPer100

In addition, though the US has less than 5% of the world’s population, we have roughly 35–50 per cent of the world’s civilian-owned guns. (Guardian 2012 data)

Interestingly enough, though we have more guns per capita than any other country in the world, our gun homicide rate per 100,000 people isn’t the highest. We’re actually #28.

Click to Expand

But notice two things about this chart:

1. With the exception of Liechtenstein, which made the top 30 because it had one gun homicide in 2012 and has such an incredibly small population, the United States is the only country in the Developed World that made the top 30 list.

2. We have more gun homicides per capita than West Bank and Gaza.

Comparisons with other causes of death
We’re rather obsessed with guns as dangerous, but here’s the thing: from the 2010 CDC report, there are a number of other things are more likely to kill you than guns:

chart_3

Forget assault weapons bans, we need to ban ladders.

More Dangerous than a gun.

But even more dangerous: cars. You are nearly four times more likely than to die in a car accident than you are to be shot to death.

But before you get all excited about banning motor vehicles and suicides, here’s another chart that’ll give you a better idea of how this works.

Causes of death in the US

As you can see, in the grand scheme of things, gun deaths really aren’t that big of a deal at all, statistically speaking. I sure wish we could find a way to ban “Other Causes,” though.

But it’s really all about protecting the kids.

chart_4 (1)

Further proof that cars are evil. But it’s important to note that the scale on this chart and that the numbers on are per 100,000 kids. For scale, In 2010 in the U.S., 890 kids aged 5-14 died in motor vehicle accidents, while 165 died in homicides because they were shot. I don’t have a chart that shows how small that is by comparison to the number of kids there are in the US. You wouldn’t be able to see the number.


The UK Gun Ban

Now, Piers Morgan has been making a big deal about the fact that the UK has many fewer gun homicides as a result of their stricter gun laws. Others have pointed out that the UK has more homicides of other kinds. So what’s the truth? Glad you asked.

US vs UK

Two things to notice:

1. The USA has more homicides per 100,000, with or without guns, than the UK’s combined number.

2. These numbers are really really really small. More on that later.

Now, as to the notion that we would have more crime in the US if we banned guns. I searched the internet for three hours looking for statistics on how many crimes in the US are committed with guns vs how many are committed total. Those numbers are really really hard to find. In the end, I added up the numbers from factcheck.org’s chart to try to get something useful.

Crime US vs UK

Two things:

1. The UK has a much higher crime rate in general than the US, but

2. The US has a much higher gun crime rate than the UK. Apparently, if you take guns away from everybody, fewer criminals will have guns as well. However, it could (very easily) be argued that the UK has more crime because they have less guns. But they also have less murders. Whether you want a gun ban may well depend on your priorities.


So why do the liberals want to take everyone’s guns away?

Well first, Obama doesn’t, but more on that later. Among those who do, it’s probably because the primary purpose of a gun is to take the life of another being, and to do it quickly and effectively. People may buy guns “for target practice,” but the very word “practice” indicates that it’s, well, practice. Practice for what? The target might give you a hint.

I’m sure I’ve seen this outline somewhere before….

Now most responsible Americans shoot at targets and would never shoot at another human being unless absolutely necessary or an animal unless absolutely necessary or they were hunting, but most have a gun just in case they someday need to shoot at another human being or an animal. Nobody wants to be put in that position, but most gun owners carry guns for that reason. Often, people carry guns to scare criminals. What would criminals possibly be scared of, if not being shot and killed?

Compare that to a baseball bat, a knife, a car, or anything else conservatives bring up in comparison as things that have been used as weapons, asking why we shouldn’t ban them instead. The answer is simple and twofold: They all serve other primary purposes, and they’re not as effective. Baseball bats are for hitting baseballs. Knives are for cutting things. Cars are for transportation. Try killing someone from a hundred feet away with a baseball bat or a knife. See how well that works. (Actually, don’t try. But if you did, it probably wouldn’t work). If you’ve ever tried to commit mass murder by running over people, you know it’s rather difficult. You have to tie them all up, get them to lay down, and then drive over them. But I digress.


Can we take down the government?

Everybody says that we need our second amendment rights in case the government gets unruly and needs to be taken down.

My money's on the tank

Somehow, I don’t think that’s going to work out very well. Besides, haven’t you heard about what happened in Waco? They got taken out, not by the marines or the national guard, but by the freakin’ ATF! I’m all for being brave and standing up to evildoers, but there’s a point where it just gets ridiculous. So can we please stop being stupid about this?


Obama’s Evil Plan

No, he doesn’t actually want to take everyone’s guns away. For the love of God, could everybody please stop saying that and at least read his evil plan before freaking out about it?

That being said, there are some things in his plan that might freak out my gun-rights-activist friends.

1. He wants to ban “assault weapons,” which is to say, certain kinds of semi-automatic weapons. Yes, I’ve seen the videos you’ve all posted, and I know that this only bans specific semi-automatic weapons, and I know that a semi-automatic weapon ≠ a machine gun. I know that a semi-automatic weapon fires every time you pull the trigger. I’m not stupid. Please stop.

2. He wants to limit ammunition magazines to ten rounds. Yes. This is an arbitrary number. Yes, I’m aware that gunmen could just bring in more rounds and be fine and keep shooting. So if it’s not going to stop a school or theater shooter, and they could be fine and continue, why do you care? If they can reload, so can you. It’s not a big deal. So chillax.

3. Get Armor-piercing rounds off the streets. The only way I can see this mattering is if citizens need armor-piercing rounds for some reason. Like to take down the government, for example. In which case, the government could just drop a bomb or launch a missile at them. Or just send in the ATF. >.<

4. If any government agency (like the police) takes away your guns, they would have to run a background check on you. Wait, no. This shouldn’t bother the law-abiding gun owners of America. Only the people who shouldn’t have them in the first place.

5. No more free passes on guns over fifty years old. Yes, it’s weird. Anybody remember the machine guns from the original Call of Duty and how much damage they did? Yeah, your neighbor can now buy one of those, and the ATF can’t do anything about it. That doesn’t seem right to me. Here’s a list of guns the ATF has to let you have. It includes this gun, which my gaming friends may recognize.

Browning automatic rifle M1918A2

6. Let the CDC research gun violence. This seems very, very odd. There’s this creepy assumption that if we let the CDC do research on how guns impact violence, it’ll sway public opinion away from responsible gun ownership. I don’t like it when people don’t want to let other people research things. That makes me nervous.

Obama’s plan is also filled with all sorts of responsible and non-controversial ideas, like grants for law enforcement, school security, making sure that everyone has to get a background check to buy a gun, and appointing a director for the ATF.

So what have we learned?

  • Americans have a lot of guns.
  • That doesn’t make us the country with the most gun homicides in the world, but it puts us in the top 30.
  • Ladders and cars are seriously dangerous, but not as dangerous as suicide, and none of those are nearly as dangerous as cancer, heart disease, and that mysterious “Other” category.
  • Your friends all know the difference between automatic and semi-automatic weapons, so you can stop with the videos.
  • Kids really aren’t all that likely to get shot in the US. At all.
  • The only crime Piers Morgan is worried about is murder.
  • Guns are made for killing stuff.
  • The “Gun Rights” provided us by the second amendment really aren’t going to be enough to allow us to take down the government.
  • Barack Obama’s plan isn’t really that evil after all.

Now go out there and spread intelligence!

How To Win At Bureaucracy

Have you ever had one of those moments where a big company or institution did something that was really nasty, evil, unethical, illegal, or just plain not nice to you? And then you called to complain and ask for help and heard those awful words “I’m sorry, there’s nothing we can do to help you”? Well I’m here to help. I have written How To Win At Bureaucracy. You’re welcome.

1. Understand how Bureaucracy works. Bureaucracy is structured. The pee-ons are are the bottom, and the President or CEO is at the top. The pee-ons don’t make the rules, they just enforce them. The outline of your strategy is to (1) be nice to the people who can’t do anything to help you, (2) get them to escalate your call, (3) be even nicer to the people above them, and repeat until you get to someone who can do what you want them to do. Continue reading “How To Win At Bureaucracy”

Top Ten Benefits of NOT being single on Valentine’s Day

Last year, I wrote about the Top Ten Benefits to Being Single on Valentine’s Day. This year, I don’t need that list, though it would seem from my search statistics that there are some who still do…

I thought it’d be fun to review the list from last year with this year’s perspective. If you’re looking for consolation, this is not the place for you. Go to the link above. NOW.

Number 10. I’m not really worried about being dumped on the day after Valentine’s Day. Or Valentine’s Day, which apparently is a more popular dumping day.

Number 9. My significant other has some pretty amazing eyes. And we have yet to fall into a Bermudan Liger Trap. Continue reading “Top Ten Benefits of NOT being single on Valentine’s Day”