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July 26th, 2015

Would You Like The Knife Served With Or Without Love?

Oh look…the same damn thing I’ve heard a zillion times already…

ex-gay-celibacy

No. There is absolutely nothing new about this. It’s the same old, same old. True there were lots of ex-gay outfits that claimed they could turn gay into straight. But there were always those who simply offered counseling and support for celibacy. Back in the 1980s, before the internet opened to commercial use, a user on the gay BBS I did volunteer work for, David Morrison, dived into a very rigidly conservative form of Catholicism, renounced his former gay activism, and signed on with their “Courage” (sic) ex-gay group which since 1980 has been counseling gay people against having sex. Eventually he wrote a book, “Beyond Gay”, where he argued among other things, against what he was calling “cheap sex” before he left G.L.I.B.. (He later wrote a column for the New York Post, titled “What Crime Of Hate And Anger?” in which he argued that Matthew Shepard had it coming, because he had a history of risky sexual flirting with strangers. Loving The Sinner. The right wing site Eutopia reprinted it, along with a deftly edited portion of my letter to the Post challenging it so they could wag their fingers at those of us who value our “certitude of experience” over their “certitude of Truth”…)

The neat thing about the anti-gay industrial complex is its convenient fluidity. Don’t like all that vitriolic gay bashing rhetoric? Well just walk right over here where we don’t do that. We =Love= the sinner. No, really! Think all that love the homosexual stuff is a lot of pussyfooting around what god plainly condemns? Well right over here we have all the fire and brimstone your cold little heart desires! God Hates Fags and so do We!

We can stick the knife into your gay neighbor’s heart any way that makes you comfortable…with or without love.


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
July 24th, 2015

If Only…

If only it were so simple…

boyfriend builder

No…it would never be that simple, even if it was that simple. How come “Intelligence” only comes bundled with the “Low Emotive Response” package? And why do I have to add the “Metal Head Banger” option if I want long hair? What do you mean that model is only available in Canada and Europe…??


Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
July 21st, 2015

Yes, Life Is Short. What Do You Think That Means?

Several months ago I started getting spam from this outfit…

life_is_short_be_a_cheat

My first reaction was to be creeped out. Then to wonder…were they also deliberately targeting gay men too. Because getting involved with a cheater is bad enough, getting involved with a closeted one is doubly bad.

I appreciate that a lot of gay guys, particularly of my own generation, got pushed into straight marriages that went completely against their nature. It’s a tragedy made worse by the fact that these marriages almost always dragged an unsuspecting heterosexual women into it, though sometimes the heterosexual woman is made to believe she’s helping somebody she loves very much. They were both lied to. You can hate the prophets of homophobia for what they’ve done to both gay and straight people.

But encouraging closeted gay people to have affairs on the side is just going to reinforce that sense of brokenness within, driving the knife in their heart even deeper.  Most of us of my generation have one time or another crossed paths with deeply closeted, married gay men. You see what it’s done to them and it makes you angry. But you learn to stay out of it. Everyone has to find their own way out of that thicket of lies, and see themselves not as broken, but beautiful in their own way. If you want to help a closeted gay man find their way out, set an example.

Life is short. Live the life you’d be proud of. Someone might see it and something inside of them will awaken.

 


Posted In: Life Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | React!
July 12th, 2015

So Beautiful, The Promise Land I Now See…

One reason I think the struggle for gay equality has been such a scorched earth battle, apart from the immovable nature of bigotry, is fear of having to come face to face with the damage they’ve done to so many lives. Hearts who could have found their other halves. Lives that could have been lived together.  Love that could have been…and was not. The empty wasteland so many were condemned to wander alone, because of ignorance, because of arrogance, because of hate. At all costs, they do not want to have to know the magnitude of their crime.

And so the fight goes on. And so it turns from a bitter, angry struggle against the Homosexual Menace, into an even more bitter and more angry struggle against responsibility, against the guilty conscience that waits for them on the road ahead…patiently…patiently…

sad-sm2

Some wounds will not be healed, but only eventually buried. That’s okay. Just so long as there are no more. There must be no more.


Posted In: Life Thumping My Pulpit

by Bruce | Link | React!
July 8th, 2015

Question

These clerks and judges who say they’re not granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples because it goes against their “sincerely held religious beliefs”…I have a question. Have you ever…Ever…Even Once….denied a heterosexual couple a license on the basis of your religious beliefs?

Or is is just the gay couples you have religion about?

 


Posted In: Politics
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by Bruce | Link | React!
July 6th, 2015

Coming Soon To This Blog…

Spam on my personal email account has reached epic proportions. Part of the reason for that is surely that spammers have harvested the email link on this page and my cartoon pages and photo galleries.  So I’m in the process of activating a “white list”.  This will mean only addresses on that list will be able to send me email that actually gets through to me.

I’m working on a solution that will allow me to display a message to anyone not on the white list wanting to send me email, giving them instructions for how to get on the white list.  The email links will eventually disappear. In the meantime if you decide to use the link below and you think you’re probably not on my white list yet, add “addmebruce” (without the quotes) to your subject line and the spam trap will let it pass and I will add you.


Posted In: Blog Administration
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June 27th, 2015

Look At The Rainbows…

Yesterday, Friday June the 26th 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in favor of extending marriage rights to gay people. Those saying that the court redefined what marriage is need to read the actual text of the decision. Kennedy wrote a paean to marriage, not a redefinition of it.  And of course, the usual suspects declared that they would go on with the fight, blah, blah, blah and so on and so forth. That was unsurprising.

But then…afterward, something amazing, something that lifted my heart to a place where I will never again doubt the power of love, and the essential goodness of (most of) my fellow Americans happened. The rainbows came out

rainbow world trade center

Rainbow Niagra Falls

rainbow whitehouse

rainbow empire state

rainbow marriage bridge

rainbow castle

Look…just look…at all the expressions of joy and affirmation. Go ahead and sniff that it’s just kowtowing to the militant homosexual agenda…and surely some of this, particularly among the corporate entities, is Hey There’s A Market There Let’s Make It Like Us And Spend Money! But look, just look for a moment, and the breath and depth of the expressions of joy at the decision. The sincerity of it, the massive scope of it, is something you need to grasp, if you can. Even if your prejudices can’t allow you to see the people for the homosexuals, at least try to understand that there are lots of people who aren’t homosexuals, who are absolutely thrilled that now their fellow Americans who are gay have equal rights in marriage.  Look at this carefully, all of you declaring now that you will keep on fighting this, because it’s why you lost, why you will keep loosing this fight.

Everything you think you know about gay people is wrong, and especially, emphatically this: that homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex. It’s why you keep miscalculating again and again and again our willingness to go on fighting no matter how much damage you could do to us. But more critically, it’s why you miscalculated, profoundly, what would happen when your lies lost their power over us, and we began to live our lives openly. You thought “normal” people would be disgusted when they saw the reality of our lives. You really thought that. You probably still think that.

They are disgusted. At you.

It’s one thing to keep on inciting prejudice and hate at the people who live on the other side of the tracks, in the ethnic and racial enclaves, at Those People that America, to its shame, still largely keeps segregated. It’s another when it’s your own children, your brother and sister, your neighbors, your co-workers, the people in your everyday lives.

Prejudice lies. It lies about other people. But first, it lies to you. You think you see reality, but you don’t. Others, not succumbing to prejudice, loving life, and willing to live in the world as it really is for better or worse, do. Anything that keeps you from seeing the world as it really is, makes you weak. The denouement came with the Proposition 8 trial. You’d built a multimillion dollar industry propagating one pseudo scientific lie after another about gay people you hoped would win the masses over, or at least enough voters. But be honest with yourselves for at least one thing: it was mostly to convince yourselves you weren’t really just a bunch of bigots after all. And when it came time to defend all of it at trial your prize experts ran away, all but two who nearly conceded our case for us on the witness stand. In the end the rest of the country saw your case against gay equality for the half-assed pile of pretentious crap that it is. The witness stand is a very lonely place to lie said Boies. Lonelier still is the bathroom mirror. Your prejudices lied to you. But you let them do it.

Surely you noticed how quickly everything came apart after that. Whatever doubts existed before Prop 8, they are gone now. Our humanity is understood. We are neighbors. We are family. We are fellow Americans. We have been embraced.

And you? Well…you are what you’ve always been. Still able to look at this torrent of love and support from the rest of America, convinced that most everyone agrees with you, and ultimate victory will be yours. So you dig yourselves deeper into the gutter. It doesn’t have to be. Listen to a gay man who gave a little beauty to this world and was wronged horribly and fatally by prejudice: “We are all in the gutter,” he said, “but some of us are looking at the stars.”

We are not all in the gutter, despite your best efforts to keep us there with you. And if you can’t bear to rise your gaze high enough to look at the stars, at least look at the rainbows. They are rainbows of joy and love…from Americans to Americans. Look at them. There’s the way out.


Posted In: Life Photography Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | React! (1)
June 22nd, 2015

Why We Fight…(continued)

This came across my Facebook stream just now…I won’t go into detail about why it felt like a punch in the stomach. I came out to myself when I was still a teenager, and doing the research, seeing what the closet had done, was doing, to gay men of my generation and before, vowed never to let myself get locked inside of it. But I have seen what it did to so many good hearts, to one I have loved, to so many others who were not so stubborn as I…or lucky

‘I’m a gay man but married a woman’

Nick, who is in his 50s, has been married to his wife for 30 years. He is also gay.

He thinks his wife had suspicions about his sexuality for years, but things came to a head when he had an affair with a man.

“She asked if I wanted to leave and I didn’t. She’s my best friend really above all else, so we’ve decided we would like to remain together as best friends,” he says.

Nick isn’t his real name – many of the couple’s friends and family don’t know he’s gay and he wants to remain anonymous to protect his wife.

….The couple chose to stay together not for the sake of children – they don’t have any – but because of their feelings for each other.

While the couple have stayed together, they no longer have a physical relationship and sleep separately.

Nick has promised his wife that he will never again have sex or a relationship with a man – he says he owes it to her.

But can he stick to that promise? He says: “I’m hoping so, it’s my intention to. It didn’t feel like a choice in the past, it felt like it was enforced on me. I’m now making that choice that I would like to, in a sense, remain celibate.”

Nick is a member of a support group called Gay Married Men, based in Manchester and founded 10 years ago. Men travel from around the country to attend meetings.

Group founder John says most of the men are older – they married women in the 1970s and 80s when society was more hostile to gay people.

Now society is more tolerant, they are more comfortable with coming out as gay. But why did they get married in the first place?

That last sentence is about as stupid a question as it gets, especially considering the sentence directly before it.  Do you really not know why someone, taught since childhood that the worst thing a man could admit to was being a homosexual, that homosexuals are monsters, predators, might wish or do anything to make it not true. Can you not understand why, facing arrest and jail, the loss of family, friends, career, everything, might not want to do anything to make themselves heterosexual instead? Can you not understand how a cottage industry of ex-gay ministries offering bogus claims of a cure, telling gay men that if they just worked at it they could change, might convince many that marriage was the key to their salvation?

They’re still doing it…

ex_gay_ad_chris

They were lied to. There was nothing wrong with them. There was never anything wrong with them. But the lies did their work, kept the hated other from ever finding that happiness and joy and peaceful contentment in love that the scapegoat must never ever find. And that had its consequences…none of which, of course, fell onto the shoulders of the ones who told the lies. Many innocent women had to suffer too, so that gay men would hate themselves. But to that mindset, women don’t matter anyway. Scratch a homophobe, and deeper down inside you’ll find a misogynist.

John says the men are often quite desperate and struggling to cope with no support – many are suffering from quite severe depression.

“We’ve had bursts of tears when people have come because they’re so upset and also so relieved to find out there are other people that are just like themselves. Because that’s part of the problem, because we’re a myth, we don’t exist.

“We don’t exist in [the] gay world – we’re on the cusp of [the] gay world because we’re married men. We don’t exist in [the] straight world. So we seem invisible.”

The group members say they don’t judge anyone and Nick, who helps run the site, says his main message is that people don’t have to struggle alone.

Recently the trailer for the last movie Robin Williams made, Boulevard, was released. IMDB says of it that it’s about, “A married man’s (Robin Williams) long-suppressed sexual identity slowly emerges when picks up a male hooker (Roberto Aguire) and pays him for companionship rather than sex.”

The trailer is on YouTube, and it is so painful to watch, because Williams was such a great actor and great actors don’t just simply make you believe in the character, they make you feel what that character is feeling. It occurs to me that another great actor died shortly after playing the part of a gay man so completely inhibited and uncomfortable and miserable in his own skin it was very painful to watch.

 

 

For some of us it will always be a time before Stonewall. A few manage occasionally to struggle into that better world we’ve been working on since the riots, but it is painful, dangerous, heartbreaking. Nobody has the right to judge the ones who stay inside. They have to stay inside their comfort zones. Just consider yourself fortunate, lucky even, you didn’t get trapped in the closet, and keep working for that better world, where no gay kid ever again has to choose between their family, their career, their friendships, and all the hopes and dreams of love and happiness they ever had.


Posted In: Life

by Bruce | Link | React!
June 18th, 2015

Why It Happened

This came across my Facebook stream just now…

why-it-happened

From the article…

But the “crazy” ones always seem to have a respectable counterpart who makes a respectable living pumping out the rhetoric that ends up in the “crazy” one’s manifesto–drawing crosshairs on liberals and calling abortion doctors mass murderers–who, once an atrocity happens, then immediately throws the “crazy” person under the bus for taking their words too seriously, too literally.

This.

I appreciate that freedom of speech is vital to democracy. I appreciate that. But these sorts of crimes don’t happen in a vacuum. And this kid isn’t the only one with blood on his hands. That said, don’t go looking at the obvious hatemongers either. The screamers. The Rush Limbaughs, the Michael Savages, the Ann Coulters, the Fox News Talk Radio gallery of race baiting demagogues. They may be completely sincere in their hatreds, but they have the platforms they do, because someone paid for them.

Someone paid for them.

There’s the problem. Where is the money coming from to give hatemongers a platform to turn this nation into a tinderbox of mutual hatreds? Who is buying that air time, so enough people can be blindly aroused by hate, so republicans can elected, so the advertisers, the corporations, the deep pockets, that fund the hatemongers, get their taxes cut even more, get regulations that protect workers, consumers, and the environment repealed and financial oversight gutted? Follow the money funding the hatemongers, who inflame the passions, arouse the hatred, that finds its way sooner or later, eventually, to a killer, to a bloodbath, to its source. There’s the problem.

Race hatred killed those people. Without a doubt. But it had an assist from greed. Greed that doesn’t particularly care about race. I put it to you, that without that assist, we would not be reading many of the headlines today that we are. I put it to you, that without that calculation in the rarefied atmosphere of the corporate and financial boardrooms, that exacerbating divisions between Americans, and thereby to break apart the New Deal coalition, was preferable to accepting a world where their right to rake in tons of cash by any means they cared to rake it in might have some limits placed upon it, we might have made real tangible progress toward healing the race wounds of our nation. But it was not to be. Race hatred killed those people. But it was fed, it was kept alive, by greed.

 


Posted In: Photography Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
June 1st, 2015

Yes It’s Madness…But There’s A Method To It… (Message In A Bottle…)

Cracked Magazine, which is getting more known for it’s online lists of things (5 Classic Board Games With Disturbing Origins…4 Overlooked Consequences Of Spiderman Joining The Avengers….) just published 5 Things I Learned At A ‘Pray Away The Gay’ Camp.  Here’s one of the line items…

#4. They Physically Torture You For Being Gay

“My hands were tied down and ice was placed on them while I was shown pictures of men. Later sessions would include copper heating coils, needles in my fingers, and electric shocks,” all while Sam was shown gay porn.

Then they’d take the coils away and show … men and women holding hands.

“I was never shown heterosexual sex, just heterosexual attraction,” Sam says. “I was just supposed to associate the touch of a man with pain.”

But a gay man is sexually drawn to other men. And in adults, those feelings of desire mature and evolve into deeper feelings of love and intimate trust and companionship. There’s no neat and tidy way to disconnect desire from human intimacy in adults. After decades of doing this to gay men, and witnessing for themselves the results of it, you might think they’d understand the damage they’re doing.

And you’d be right…

Obviously, despite the old saying, you can’t “heating-coil the gay away.” The torture didn’t make Sam straighter; it just made him terrified of sex, intimacy, and general human closeness.

The scapegoat has to hate themselves. They have to accept their lot in life is one of misery and pain and that they deserve it. And more importantly, they must be taught to fear anything that might lift them out of the pit of loneliness and despair:  They must fear being loved.

“By the end, even hugging my father brought back flashbacks,” Sam said.

Sam isn’t alone — according to literally every scientific study, that’s exactly what happens to people who go through this kind of thing. Sex and physical intimacy are positive things that human beings seek out because they feel good, and you can’t trick the human brain into thinking something feels good by zapping it or burning it with hot copper coils. It only makes the feelings negative.

It’s not a bug…it’s a feature…

 


Posted In: Politics
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

Inappropriate Behavior

This came across my news stream just now…

gay valedictorian

Evan Young, a graduating senior at Twin Peaks Charter Academy High School in Colorado, was recently blocked from giving his valedictorian speech and outed to his parents.

With a 4.5 GPA and a scholarship to Rutgers University, Young was selected as valedictorian of his graduating class. Although he had agreed to edit his speech according to Principal BJ Buchmann’s revisions, Young refused to exclude his admittance to being gay.

After Young refused to remove the statement from his speech, Principal Buchmann called the student’s father, Don Young. Don recalled the conversation to the Daily Camera:

“Mr. Buchmann called me and said, ‘I’ve got Evan’s speech here. There are two things in it that I don’t think are appropriate. One was he had mentioned another student’s name. And then there was his coming out that he was gay.’”

Evan was not allowed to give his speech and was not recognized as valedictorian at his May 16 graduation.

Look carefully: They didn’t just tell him he couldn’t give his speech…they denied him his honors as class valedictorian too. It was a rank the kid had achieved by virtue of his 4.5 GPA.  But he was proud.  And worse, he was a gay kid who had achieved.

There’s the problem. Gay kids have to hate themselves at least as much as they are hated, if not more. They must know they are unworthy. So they silenced Evan and took away his class rank. If they could have, they’d have erased from human memory the fact that he’d ever been his school’s valedictorian. They had to. The problem wasn’t that he would have told other gay kids that it was okay to be gay, but that he would have shown them by his example that they could rise themselves up and achieve too. That was the unforgivable sin.


Posted In: Politics
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by Bruce | Link | React! (3)
May 25th, 2015

My Poor City…

This came across my Facebook stream the other day…

sbc_gay_son

“I pray that the church will no longer be segregated,” he [pastor Danny Cortez] explained. “I pray that those who have been marginalized would feel safe in our churches. I pray that we as the church would set aside our difference and learn what it means to be the body of Christ.”

Well good luck with that. Your congregation, save for the few who’ve decided to walk out on it for your loving your son more than the Southern Baptist Convention, understands. And something Baptists understand, if not the SBC, is the local congregation is the community that matters when it comes to church business.

The convention’s Constitution states that “churches not in cooperation with the Convention are churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior.”

Homosexual behavior. Homosexual behavior. Homosexual behavior. That same-sex couples experience a wholeness of body and soul, love and desire, completely escapes them. Homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex. That really is the thinking here. They are utterly incapable of seeing the son for the homosexual, the father for the Endorser Of Homosexual Behavior, the congregation for the Church Not In Cooperation.

Cortez’s letter comes just days before the the Southern Baptist Convention could vote to exclude New Heart Community Church at its scheduled in Baltimore later this week.

My poor city. Hasn’t it had enough bad publicity?  I can see it now…The Southern Baptist Convention votes to exclude yet another Baptist church for being hospitable to its gay family and neighbors…in a state whose citizens voted For allow same-sex marriage…just days after Ireland did the same…


Posted In: Politics
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
May 21st, 2015

You Repent First. Take All The Time You Need…

Some years ago, a young adult fresh out of high school struggling to find a workable career path, I fell in with some friends of a friend who had a shop building custom speakers and sound equipment cases for bands. In addition to building speaker and equipment cabinets, they also had an impressive sound system of their own design capable of filling a theater, which they would rent out along with their services as sound guys whenever a band needed something a bit more than the bar sized sound systems they had with them.

To make a long story short, one day while I was out with them doing a gig somewhere in Virginia, the manager of the band we were working with noticed my little lambda necklace. This was back in a time before the rainbow flag, when the lambda was the recognized symbol of the gay rights struggle. He points at it and says somewhat belligerently “Why are you wearing the gay symbol?” This was a period in my life where I was still being careful who to come out to, but at the same time I’d made a resolution to myself not to lie if cornered. Well, I was cornered just then, and hoping for the best I told him it was because I’m gay, “We don’t allow gays in our crew he says. Bernie, one of the co-owners of the speaker shop, begins laughing and saying that I’m just joking. Somehow this only made me dig my heels in more. “No, says I…I’m gay.”

Next day Bernie fired me, taking pains to insist it wasn’t because I’m gay…I just wasn’t working out. Somehow.

Time passes…the universe expands… Some years later I run back into the old friend who connected me with Bernie and George (the other co-owner). How are things? Fine, how about you? Blah…blah…blah… As we’re busy catching up with what’s been happening in our lives, Glenn asks me if I’d heard about what happened to Bernie. No, says I, what’s up with him? He’s in jail, says Glenn. Couldn’t keep his hands off of under aged girls, he says.

Glenn eventually stopped talking to me after friending me on Facebook and being shocked, shocked, to discover what a militant homosexual I am. Oh well. On judgement day let it be said I would rather stand before my creator as an unrepentant sodomite, than have to account for some of the heterosexual lives I’ve witnessed with my own two eyes.

duggar_molester


Posted In: Life Politics
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

Cheating Is When You Lie To Get What You Want

Arrogance is thinking you’re entitled to someone’s trust anyway.  This came across my Facebook stream just  now…

bush_arrogance

 

“And for the people to say the science is decided on this is just really arrogant, to be honest with you. It’s this intellectual arrogance that now you can’t have a conversation about it even.”

Never mind that the science regarding global warming is about as solid as it gets, here’s the thing about that. Jacob Bronowski in his magnificent book and BBC series on the history of science, The Ascent of Man, devoted an entire episode to the difference between truth and dogma, titled Knowledge or Certainty. He begins with the face of his friend, Stephan Borgrajewicz who, like himself, was born in Poland. And he asks us, how well, how precisely, can we describe this man’s face? He asks a painter to render it, and says…

“We are aware the these pictures do not fix the face so much as explore it; that the artist is tracing the detail almost as if by touch; and that each line that is added strengthens picture but never makes it final. We accept that as the method of the artist. But what physics has now done is to show that that is the only method to knowledge. There is no absolute knowledge. And those who claim it, whether they are scientists or dogmatists, open the door to tragedy. All information is imperfect. We have to treat it with humility. That is the human condition; and that is what quantum physics says. I mean that literally.”

Science, says Bronowski, “…is a very human form of knowledge. We are always at the brink of the known; we always feel forward for what is to be hoped. Every judgment in science stands on the edge of error and is personal. Science is a tribute to what we can know although we are fallible. ”

The arrogance that Bush is accusing those of us to believe the science of isn’t about the measured, careful judgements of the evidence of global warming. The arrogance we’re being accused of is to even think that science can tell us things about our world, about our universe, that the dogmas of the mob he represents cannot. There are two sides to this argument and it is not over the science, It is an argument about the nature of knowledge. One side believes that knowledge is something that is received. The other, that knowledge is something that is discovered, and which can always be challenged and discarded as new facts emerge. Whether it is religious dogma or political dogma, the practice of science rejects wholly the belief that any knowledge is certain, absolute, and can never be questioned.

That is the arrogance Bush means: that we think we can question for ourselves what the pulpit, the party leadership, the corporate interests tell us is true, and reject it if the evidence does not support it. That is not arrogance though it may seem like it to the authoritarians. It is humility. It is understanding and accepting the human status, that the god’s eye view is not ours, not anyone’s, not humanity’s to have, that every prophet who says thou shalt not question is a false prophet, that our lot in life is we must always ask ourselves what do we know, and how do we know it.

Prove to us that our understanding of global warming is incorrect. And if you can’t then tell us what authority you would have us follow, who says the fate of the human race and planet earth is of less importance than our blind obedience.


Posted In: Politics Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off
May 20th, 2015

The Center Of The Universe…It Is Not You…

Browsing Fred Clark’s Slacktivist blog today I see this…

First contact and ‘the great disillusionment’

The idea that there may be something new under other suns is nothing new under the sun.

That’s why I’m mostly just kind of meh about this Damon Linker piece and the other (semi-)recent posts James McGrath rounds up on the subject. Linker hits on several of the “challenges … to the world’s religious traditions” that first contact with intelligent extraterrestrial life would introduce, but he misses the biggest one — the one explored by both Kepler and Wells. Kepler acknowledges the kind of questions Linker raises — “have they souls to be saved?” But then he quickly skips ahead to the more potentially devastating question: “Are all things made for man?”

That would be the Copernican shift in our theology forced by such an encounter. The main problem would not be that we would need to refine or reform how we think about God, but that we would have to completely upend how we think about ourselves.

Fred Clark is one of the most decent people you will read here on the Internet tubes. I could wish voices like his were heard more often in the popular culture. I was reading the other day one of the heavy hitters in the religious right arguing against the idea of other intelligent life in the universe, because of course the entire purpose of Creation was mankind. Okay I’m being a tad sarcastic about that, but not by much. And it reminded me of that day in the fields by a newly cut country road. It’s the same mindset.

I’ve told this story before, about the time when I was earning a living as an architectural model maker, and the shop owner I was working for at the time took his employees out to the countryside in late autumn to gather yarrow. Yarrow was a plant we used to make trees out of for the landscaping around our model buildings. At the end of a season the stalks were hard and the seed pods all dried up, and you could dip the pods in wood glue and sprinkle flocking (a finely shredded colored foam rubber) over them which made them look like little trees. Even better, you could then split the seed pods into smaller and smaller halves to get trees suitable for just about any scale you were working at.

So that day we all went to a place the shop owner, Ron, said was a likely place to find our quarry. Yarrow he told us, was very particular about where it grew in the wild. It had to be free of any shade trees or other competing bushes. It had to be open to the sky to allow lots of sun and rain. The best places he said, were where new roads had just been built, and the ground on either side cleared during construction. He had been scouting all summer for likely spots, and that day he led us to one. A new road that had just opened up county.

Ron was very much the devout fundamentalist. I had a job there because mom and I went to the same church he did for a time (I’d already left the church by this time, and mom eventually went elsewhere but stayed friends with Ron’s wife). Ron saw in my landscape paintings a talent he could put to use and despite the heavy air of religiosity in his shop I found I liked the work very much. He liberally scattered religious tracts all over the employee lunchroom, and held prayer sessions with his favorite, while the rest of us opted out for the safety of the shop and our work. I’ve written elsewhere about what he did to his gay son the day he came out to his family. I bring this up because of what happened that day we went yarrow hunting that I still vividly remember.

Ron passed out trash bags and told us to stuff them with every yarrow we could find. The bags would end up being stored in the attic space of his shop, and the contents used as needed for model landscaping. The idea was to get enough to tide us over until next fall.

So I wandered around looking for yarrow, and eventually my eyes got attuned to the shape of the things amidst all the other tall grasses we were wading through. I’d filled up one trashbag and was opening another when it occurred to me that I had no idea about the life cycle of these plants our workflow depended on. Might be a good idea I reckoned, to leave some behind so we’d have some next year. So I started leaving behind every third yarrow I came across. There was plenty there, so I figured we’d still get enough for another year’s work.

Ron came over and pointed out I’d missed some. I explained what I was doing and why. I’ll never forget the look he gave me. Not one of exasperation (I’d already seen enough of those…Ron had…anger management issues…), but…patients. He saw a teachable moment in it.

He nodded his head. “I see where you’re coming from,” he said to me kindly, “but God gave us these things to use.”

And so I was instructed to get the ones I’d missed and pick every one I saw. It was disheartening because I knew he’d check now that he knew what I’d been doing. So I shifted gears and picked more slowly hoping he’d eventually decide he had enough and we could go and some plants might be left behind. I was more naive back then. People like that aren’t deflected away from their missions so easily. He got every single one near as I could tell. He’d have had us all working until the next morning if there were that many more there to be had.

The universe was created Just For Us. So of course there can’t be any other intelligent life out there. And global warming is a socialist plot. Anything that makes you question exploring every last natural resource, or for that matter your human neighbor, is socialism. Beware the ideology that regards humanity as anything less than the masters of the earth. Well…second only to God almighty of course. Maybe.

Not every person of faith sees it that way. Remember that. I’m not sure that we’ll ever detect signs of intelligent life beyond Earth in my lifetime. I am certain of this: if Franklin Graham is alive to see it, he will insist they’re evidence that demons are real. That mindset is not disillusioned so easily.


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