Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Those Poor Christians

I've seen this 'confession' by Ben Stein making the rounds on my Facebook timeline recently, unfortunately by a few people who I respect.  And while I'm certain that their agreement is with the sentiment, and not the words, I felt the need to tackle it anyway.  Since I find these things are often best dissected piece by piece, I will do my dirty work in that manner.  Ben Stein, for those who don't know, is the Clear Eyes shill with the notoriously monotone voice who has also hosted a couple of game shows.  He also happens to be a creationist young earth proponent with a reputation for ignoring the science he doesn't like.  The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary:

My confession:

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejewelled trees, Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are, Christmas trees.

It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, “Merry Christmas” to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a crib, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

Credit to Stein, opening with a personal story is a great way to hook your reader and get them to ignore the fact that one person's personal experience has (and should have) no bearing on the rest of society.  Ben Stein isn't offended, good for him.  I have relatives who aren't offended by the word 'nigger.'

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.

Explain to me this phenomenon of Christians getting "pushed around."  I must have missed the part in our country's history where American politics wasn't so thoroughly dominated by Christians.  Unlike Blacks, Women, LGBT, Native Americans, and Japanese, being Christian has never been used as a justification for denying someone the right to vote, get married, or live on their own land.

However, I can help Stein out.  The concept of America being an explicitly atheist country came from Stein's own addled brain.  I don't think Stein understands the difference in being persecuted, and in no longer enjoying a major advantage you once held.  I was born five years before either of my two siblings.  So for five years, all their attention was on me, my school projects made up 100% of the fridge space, and I earned 100% of the praise.  Then my sisters came along and those numbers dipped.  That's not persecution, that's fairness.  And while I personally feel that this whole back and forth over Christmas and holiday trees and all that crap is, at times, a little stupid, it is not persecution.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren't allowed to worship God? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.

Moving beyond the obvious irony that Stein is one such celebrity, where did he get this idea that people aren't allowed to worship God?  I don't see any churches being torn down (you know, except the Mosques that Christians are burning), I don't see anyone protesting the construction of new churches (you know, except the Mosques that Christians don't want built), and I don't see teachers eyeing their students to make sure none of them are praying before a big test.  Oh riiight, kids aren't allowed to pray in schools.

Kids are absolutely allowed to pray in schools.  However, there is a difference between personal, private prayers that can encompass many individual biblical and non-biblical viewpoints, and state-sponsored, school official-led prayers in one religion or denomination.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her: “How could God let something like this happen?” (regarding Hurricane Katrina). Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said: “I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?”

Can someone please explain to me how that was a profound and insightful response?  At least it avoided the "because everything happens for a reason" (existentialism, how cute) cliche.  And at least Graham is technically right in the sense that atheism is on the rise in the United States, growing from 1% in 2005 to 5% in 2012.  Which calls into question the patience of God as 4% isn't exactly a large number.  More likely Graham is thinking of the much more profound rise in agnostics and non-affiliated individuals which increased from 27% to 40% in that same span.  (Note that atheists are included in this group.)  But being agnostic or unaffiliated isn't telling God to get out of your life, it's telling Christians.  When you frame the phenomenon like that, it's easy to see why the Christian establishment is getting fidgety.  They're losing power.

In light of recent events... terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbour as yourself. And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said okay.

Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Might I offer an answer?  Could it possibly be because the Bible is incredibly hypocritical, and that Christians aren't any better?
  • "Thou shalt not kill!"  (Exodus 20:13)  
  • "Kill the witches!" (Exodus 20:17  Well that didn't take long.)
  • "Kill the fags with rocks!"  (Leviticus...20:13?   Really?  Weird.)  
  • "Kill the nonbelievers!" (Deuteronomy 17:12)  
  • "Kill the fortune tellers with rocks too!"  (Leviticus 20:27)  
  • "Kill the bratty kids!"  (Leviticus 20:9)  
  • "Kill the adulterers!"  (Leviticus 20:10)  
  • "Kill all the humans if one guy is a nonbeliever!"  (Deuteronomy 13:13-19)  (Hey, maybe Graham was onto something.)
  • "Oh shit, we're running out of rocks!"  (Leviticus 24:10-16)
  • "Let's get the big rocks!" (Joshua 8:1-29)
  • "God, we're out of rocks, you do it!"  (2 Kings 19:35)
  • Uganda's Kill the Gays Bill "upholds moral conduct." - Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council
  • Marriage equality supporters should be "cast into the sea." - No Special Rights PAC head Mike Heath
  • "We will launch the Armageddon of the marriage battle in this country." - Regional Fellowship of International Churches Bishop Harry Jackson
  • "Tolerance is not something to be pursued." - Preserve Marriage Washington Chairman Joseph Blackholm
  • "No disrespect to our Native American friends, but this is where you hang a bloody scalp over the gallery rail. You hang these four Republican scalps over the Senate rail and every other Republican senator looks up and sees those scalps and says, ‘my gosh, I’ll be hanging up there beside them if I don’t stay with this pro-family stuff.’ And that’s exactly what has to happen." - WallBuilders host David Barton
  • “If we’re struggling with a homosexual, same-sex desire, LET THE BIBLE KILL YOU, rather than make it easier for you, and say well, there must be a better scriptural answer to this … Brothers and sisters, let the Bible kill you rather than you twist the scriptures! And in that killing, it will break you so that you can find a redeemer and a savior!” - Head of the Call's Lou Engle (Engle also explicitly supported the Ugandan "Kill the Gays" Bill.) 
And these are people who can't even get behind the easiest passage in the bible to get behind.  If I wanted to take on "thou shalt not lie," I'd be here all month.  These are the people that are acting, or at least presenting themselves as leaders within their Christian communities.  And Ben Stein wants to blame a lack of Christianity?  Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold (Columbine shooters) were both Christians.  James Holmes (Aurora theater shooter) was a Christian.  The Virginia Tech shooter was a Christian.  In fact, I Binged "atheist school shooting," and I got one individual, who wasn't even American.

Now this isn't to blame Christianity for those shootings (because that would be a false claim), it's to show how preposterous Stein's supposition is that a lack of godliness is somehow responsible.

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

It was written 2,000 plus years ago by people who thought the earth was flat, why the hell wouldn't you question it?  People have such a goddamn issue with other people talking about God because they're not very good at not being assholes about it.  You know, like blaming atheism for school shootings.

Are you laughing yet?  Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.  Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit.

If not, then just discard it.... no one will know you did. But if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.

My Best Regards, Honestly and respectfully,
Ben Stein

Note: I consolidated some of those paragraphs.  If Stein didn't have a documented history of being a creationist young earth theorist, I would congratulate him on a brilliant troll of fundamentalist Christians.  Unfortunately, his thoughts are genuine and his tone sincere.  And as for any claim of Stein's to moral superiority?  Well, you can judge for yourselves:

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