‘Easy A’ Christian Bashing

I like peeking in on ChristianCinema.com because they regularly update and have opinionated articles. One fresh posting  called “Easy A Spells Doom for Christians” concerns the teen comedy starring Emma Stone (loved her in ZombieLand) and Christian bashing. The general premise of the movie is peer acceptance through perceived sexual activity. Once the main character gets a reputation for having sex with nerds (which she fakes) she is judged harshly by the campus Christian youth group.

Phil Boatwright, author of the article, is worried that this is more typical Hollywood Christian bashing which is increasing in volume and of course he embellishes his point by using the word “Doom” in the article title (really Phil, it’s not that bad). He cannot understand why a friend of his watched Easy A and enjoyed it while overlooking the profanity and the Christian stereotypes. I can tell you why. Because no doubt Easy A does not represent every Christian in America and some Christians “get it” because they’ve met the type of Christians portrayed in the movie. There are judgemental, snotty Christians and there are friendly, open-minded Christians (the same is true of atheists). No offense to Phil, I would assume he considers himself a more moderate person of religion, but Hollywood constantly has to hear how evil they are by people in a religion with widespread abuse and scandal. Teenagers, in particular, can be especially harsh and they don’t need religion as an excuse to act like those kids in the film, though religious upbringing seems to be an underlying influence. Girls who sleep around are sluts while guys are “pigs” that supposed good girls will still sleep with.

I clearly remember being the awkward nerdy Christian in highschool and being flabbergasted at how many “Christian” girls would date clearly inappropriate “bad boys.” Heavy petting, blowjobs, sex and even getting knocked up for not using birth control–but then it was alright as long as you renewed your vows with Christ at one of those altar calls. Sexually speaking, it didn’t pay to be a good Christian nerd and it made me very judgemental as I did not realize that young women (as well as young men) follow their hormones first and God second. They will also talk about how the spirit led me to this guy or that girl–again, hormones.

The one part of the article I found amusing was when the author wrote this: “There doesn’t seem to be any effective Christian alliance willing to voice our dissatisfaction with the film industry’s bigotry toward us.” Bullshit. There is now a Christian Film Industry and there is no need to cry “bigotry.” Simply support Christian films you like with your money and Hollywood will listen–they have been listening. More Christian films–professional money makers–have been done in the last decade than ever before and it is only growing. I get tired of this supposed minority whining. You will be bashed–yes! Because we can point to numerous instances where it is deserved. But your new slew of Christian films should provide plenty of entertainment for you and America is a religious majority so I’m not sure what the worry is? Will Easy A convince the majority that they should become atheists because Christian young people are snots? I don’t think so.

Read the article over, you’ll be amazed at how far the author goes–even referring to a “demonic advance” within American culture. All this over a silly teen comedy. I think Christians may be more upset about Emma Stone’s character Olive helping out a gay friend and Lisa Kudrow’s scene where she repeatedly takes the Lord’s name in vain–also highlighted in a CBN review. The movie itself is inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter. Christians might do well to reread that book as Easy A is not a demonic advance but is a light touch compared to authors of the past who commented on vicious puritanism. At least these days, the new puritans can’t burn you or press you to death with stones for being a skank. Really what Christians are often complaining about is loss of power in an environment where the creative minority can bite back.

Kids Want to Go to Blue School

Have you noticed the talking points on the cable news stations have suddenly switched to education? It’s hard to tell if it is someone’s agenda or if it is a coincidence, but there seems to be a renewed focus on alternatives to a failing education system. One of these alternatives has been presented by The Blue Man Group, those strange characters who perform on stage with all kinds of objects in order to create unique visuals and music.

How would you like to go to a Blue Man Group high-tech preschool? Yeah, me too. In an article on NPR.org, one of the co-founders of the school says his kid wakes up and says, “Let’s go to Blue School”–on a Saturday morning! Conservatives and traditional educators might be suspicious of this attitude since school is usually one where kids would rather stay home and watch TV. Is Blue School a real school? Or is it just a liberal playground for kids who don’t want to learn?

I have changed my attitudes on education over the years and if it were up to me I would dismantle the public education system brick by brick. Maybe at one time it was necessary when kids worked farms and needed to be forced to learn English and Math, but we live in a high tech world and according to many recent reports we’re getting our asses kicked in science and technology by other countries. It’s time education was reworked, a creative reformation. As much as I love a classic education, there is so much to know that it is impossible to teach it all. I believe school should be about vocation and setting a path for a young person’s life by first presenting the path and then allowing them to choose it. Maybe they will change that path at a later date, but at the very least, they emerge from high school with more career skills than dunking fries into oil.

My educational experience was horrendous. I hated school, I didn’t learn from it and it did not point me into any direction as far as a career path. I didn’t even have a clue what a career was and what it meant for my future.  What a waste of tax dollars. Now granted, I take part of that blame for my own folly as a teenager, but what if the high school art class taught extensive art and not all of the half-baked craft projects I remember? What if they developed a person with artistic career interests so they came out of high school with a portfolio for serious illustration or graphic design work good enough to show for a job? Some may say it is unrealistic but I think we fail to see the early potential in kids and leave them to wallow in mediocrity. I wish I would have been pushed instead of coddled.

I’m getting off on a tangent. Blue School may seem strange but the idea is to start at an early age with a focus on kids learning to be hi-tech. They may “play” with materials or “play” with a high tech game. Playing is exploration and it appears what Blue School is doing is what every good educator should do: trick kids into learning. I’m not sure parents realize that traditional education is stagnant and unprepared to deal with the rapid pace of technology. I don’t think our public education can succeed if it stays where it is at. It has to embrace creative thinking and yet school boards have to get the same old test scores and other “traditional” criteria to get funding from the state. Playing can become successful learning but it’s an expensive education and unfortunately will remain in the private system. The founders of Blue Group are doing their best to find an average price per child which is an estimated $27,000 a year. Most parents won’t be able to afford it and the elite shall thrive.

Thankfully, Blue School is one of many alternatives emerging. The economy has sunk state funding for many public school systems and cheaper alternatives are being explored. You’ll be hearing quite a bit of debate on this subject as online junior highs and highschools emerge and even new affordable private institutions popping up with parents demanding a tax credit. I would love to see more involvement by organizations like Blue Group create schools not just for preschoolers but especially teenagers. College should not have to be such a shock when we could do more at a teen level to prepare for it or even match it.

The Cleric Clown Warns Cartoonists

As a cartoonist commenting on Islam, I walk a fine line between satirizing yet another ridiculous religion and demonizing the individual followers. I believe the ones who should be targeted are the clerics. They make hell for believers and nonbelievers in Islam. Hopefully, an Islamic reformation is coming where Islam becomes personalized instead of having to accept the pointless speeches of hate of the loudest leaders. How can any follower of Islam take a cleric seriously when they threaten a cartoonist? It just turns them into clowns. Thus a new character is born on this site–The Cleric Clown.

Bishop Eddie Long and Haggard is Back

Yet another Megachurch pastor is on the ropes, this time it is Bishop Eddie Long. Fox News reports that he created a boys academy to essentially raise up sexual prospects. The academy program taught the male students fiscal responsibility and sexual abstinence. It even went so far as to make the boys carry a card that “…listed three things they could be doing rather than having sex.” As usual, Pastor Long (which is a horrible name for a child predator) railed against homosexuality.

In another article about the new scandal on MSNBC.com, which was supposedly about Long’s GA church but turned to Ted Haggard’s story for a majority of the article, let us know that the sinner is never truly repentant. In Christianity, the bigger the sin the more qualified you are to lead, or that seems to be the reasoning. Haggard is back, leading another church. If you don’t recall why he got in trouble, like Bishop Long he led a megachurch and was even featured in Richard Dawkins’ critical series on religion called Root of All Evil. Haggard proposed that Dawkin’s stance on evolution and that Dawkins himself was arrogant in the face of God. Mainly this was a stalling technique because Haggard realized he didn’t know what he was talking about when it came to evolution during the Dawkins interview. He too, like Long, preached against gay people. Later we find out that Pastor Haggard is getting blown by his masseuse, Mike Jones.

Ironically religous scandals cost American jobs. According to Wiki, after Haggard left New Life Church attendance went down 20 percent. That meant revenue went down enough where the “business” had to lay off 44 employees. How is it possible that Haggard has a new church? Who are the idiots that are going to follow this man?  True repentance would be if Haggard said, “I sinned and I let everyone down. I pass the baton on to a stronger leader and I will work a crappy day job and be meek enough to follow another pastor.”

Bishop Long does not look like he will go down without a fight either. MSNBC says he denies the charges brought against him by four young men who were apparently sexually abused. Long plans to use the pulpit this coming Sunday to give an official response.

This is all about prestige and money. Religion is bed buddies with politics in that they have the same exact sex scandals, only it’s worse when you’re the guy telling young men not to get it on with young ladies but you’re happy to have them go down on you.

Darek Isaacs’ Dragons

ChristianCinema.com has a feature article on Darek Isaacs who along with Andre van Heerden came up with with documentary “Dragons or Dinosaurs.” It is an attempt to refute evolution by exploring all the dragon legends throughout the world with the conclusion that dragons are actually dinosaurs.

Coincidentally, I have a copy of Dragons or Dinosaurs this week from Netflix. I have watched half of it and I plan to review it but I need to start from the beginning because the problem with the documentary is that its single-minded premise is really just one big conclusion with no supporting evidence. Sure there are dragon legends, but do all roads lead to living dinosaurs? As my wife said upon reading the DVD description (after saying, why did you rent this?), “Well, why would they think dragons are dinosaurs? Maybe someone saw some dinosaur bones and imagined a dragon from that?” You have to realize that my wife is not an atheist and we argue about God, ghosts and demons all the time, but in this instance she saw the obvious problem without even seeing the documentary.

If dragon legends and imagery are dinosaurs then we can apply the same logic to other monster legends and even bigfoot legends. What if an evolutionary scientist came out with a documentary that all the sightings and artwork concerning sasquatch proved the existence of a living Neanderthal? Do the countless sightings of mermaids and sirens by horny seafaring men prove the existence of women with tails? Do fairy sightings prove there are tiny female creatures with wings. Do all the witch sightings during the witch hunting craze prove witches existed at one time?

I will try to go more into how ridiculous the argument can get with the movie review, but suffice to say you see how Dragons or Dinosaurs is no better than cryptozoology or even worse when you consider that many cryptozoologists at least acknowledge evolution. Darek Isaacs’ thesis is that dragons prove humans once lived with dinosaurs. I wish people would stop to consider the ramifications of having a T-rex living in your backyard.

Nevertheless, the article on Darek Isaacs traces his background that prepared him for this momentous film, he worked in real estate. Hey, whaddya know? Darek and I have something in common. I once worked for a mortgage company and got to see how the lying, unscrupulous bastards involved in making loans and selling real estate acted on a day-to-day basis. Not that Darek was one of them, but if he was in sales he learned to manipulate human emotions, I guarantee you.

Prior to real estate, Darek was in the Christian music distribution business in South Africa. After moving into the real estate market he became convinced that he had a calling and wrote the book “Extinction of Evolution.” I’m going to put it on my list to read, but I’m suspicious that due to Darek’s career background he may not have the scientific credentials to write such a book. I’m not disputing that some creationists are legitimately working in scientific fields but these books on evolution’s demise tend to be written by people like doctors, dentists, veterinarians and–real estate professionals? After Darek’s opus he felt he had a calling to expose Darwin and reveal that dragons were quite possibly dinosaurs in disguise. He got together with Cloud Ten Pictures and the rest is history, an alternate history that is.

Putting aside dragons, the article goes on to tell how disappointed Darek was in Darwin. He says that most of us don’t know the real Darwin. “My first book goes into that very deeply, and a lot of evolutionists get very angry with me because I expose what Darwin really was: a very bitter, angry man.”

You know what, I can’t dispute that until I read more on Darwin’s personal life and personal writings. I have read quite a bit on Darwin’s theory, but as for his personal life I am mainly familiar with Darwin’s emotional crisis over the death of his daughter Annie. Maybe Darwin was bitter about certain aspects of his life or the criticism he faced. Darek continues to say that Darwin was a racist bigot and sexist…well, sure, but we could say that about the heroes of The Bible, the leaders of the Christian church, and God in general.  The problem Darek has here is that he can’t separate the flaws of the man from the validity of the science. There are many geniuses throughout history in varying fields that were, for a lack of a better word, assholes. Voltaire (who I use as a freethinking example), for instance, was an anti-semite. Martin Luther was absolutely an anti-semite. But if you ask most mainstream protestants and nondenominational Christians if Martin Luther was correct in parting ways from the Catholic Church, they will say yes.

I will again not dispute, that relative to our times, Darwin could be deemed a bigot and a sexist. I will also not dispute the history of evolutionary science is filled with bigoted arguments as is Christianity. The difference is that science allows for debate while Christianity is supposed to be fixed truth–but somehow Christianity seems to update according to modern times even as we can go back into The Bible to catalogue rules and regulations on killing homosexuals, women, witches and tossing all nonChristians into hell (that last one is pretty damn bigoted to me).

Science is not dependent on Darwin’s personal prejudices. It is Darwin’s ideas that have been hammered out into the theory of evolution we know today by passing through both bigoted scientists and nonbigoted scientists who did rigorous testing and loud debate. Creationists like to say evolutionists are a chorus of agreement and then they like to try to use quotes from individual evolutionists to dispute evolution because one scientist was debating another. Science is a hotbed of debate! If you put your theory out there, you are going to get slammed, not patted on the back by other scientists saying, “Good job, way to go. We all have to do our part to keep people from believing in God.”

Do we need to get a panel of black evolutionary scientists to point this out? Racism is a red herring to distract from the big picture of Natural Selection. Racism can be found in religion, politics, and science all throughout history. It does not mean a damn thing when it comes to the science itself. It is an emotional argument much like the idea that we cannot accept evolution because evolution is not moral and if we come from apes what’s to stop us all from killing and raping each other. Nonsense. Truth is truth and it requires evidence. Truth is not faith.

I’ll be back on this same subject with a movie review of Dragons or Dinosaurs.

C Street Book, Fundies Cult Exposed

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve been paying attention because as much dirt as I seem to know on Christianity I’m always discovering something new. On Rachel Maddow’s show for 9/22/2010 she did an ominous report on “C Street” to coincide with author Jeff Sharlet’s book of the same name. This is the author’s follow up to The Family, and no it is not about Charles Manson but it may be just as kooky and scary.

At first I thought Maddow and Sharlet were talking about a new political frat club of Christians living together sharing the same ideology–but no, this C Street cult has been going on for quite some time. Per the review by Publisher’s Weekly “…the Family was established in 1935 to oppose FDR’s New Deal and the spread of trade unions; since then, it has organized well-attended weekly prayer meetings for members of Congress and annual National Prayer Breakfasts attended by every president since Eisenhower.”

The apparent goal of C Street is to put God back into democracy so much that it becomes theocracy. Fortunately, as is the case with fundie politicians, some of the key members have recently gotten themselves in trouble with sex scandals such as Sen. John Ensign boinking a staffer, Gov. Mark Sanford boinking an Argentinian woman, and former Rep. Chip Pickering boinking someone his wife publicly called him out on.

The scary part of C Street is not the usual infiltration of Bible Thumpers into our government system of separation of church and state, but the interactions with foreign governments and attempts to instruct oppressive regimes to crack down on sinners. In particular, Maddow reported on the ties between C Street and the “Kill-The-Gays” bill in Uganda.  What?! Yes, there is an actual law being proposed in Uganda that would kill people tried and convicted of being gay. Uganda already has outlawed homosexuality with a penalty of 14 years if caught. A member of parliament named David Bahati wants to make this offense punishable by death. He even invited the author Jeff Sharlet to Uganda to explain the bill. Sharlet asked Bahati if the actual intention of the Kill-The-Gays bill was to really “kill all gays?” Bahati responded something to the extent, “Well, in a perfect world, yes, but we live in a democracy so we go step by step.”

If you don’t get chills from that answer, you may not be a humanist.

Baptizing Aliens

In one of Fox’s “gimmicky” news stories, as they are sliding more and more towards tabloid nonsense, there is an article about one of the Pope’s astronomers Guy Consolmagno. To quote the article, Guy says he would baptize an alien– “no matter how many tentacles it has.”

To start with, I didn’t know thePope had astronomers? What are they looking for? God? Does the Pope have a science lab at The Vatican? I will have to research that further sometime. I know while The Catholic Church as been responsible for denying science in the past, they are actually supportive of evolution and other scientific fields you would think might–just might–conflict with their beliefs in a supernatural creator. Comsolmagno even goes so far as to say intelligent design is “bad theology” and akin to the God of the gaps theory.  

As for baptizing aliens, even proposing the concept should throw up red flags. If intelligent life exists elsewhere, does it also have a soul? Did Jesus die for humanity or every sentient creature in the universe? I’m sure Guy Consolmagno was kidding when he made the comment, but you can imagine the trouble finding intelligent life will cause religion. You can be for certain that religion will persist in the face of alien cultures and adapt, working alien life into its theology. Man, I’d consider going back to Bible School if I could study Alien Theology.

Clint Eastwood Directs Hereafter – Another Noble Psychic

 

You may sense some cynicism in my article title. The reason is I don’t believe in noble psychics. They don’t exist. Psychics are out for a buck and like any other profession (if you can call pretending to be able read people’s thoughts a profession) there are some that are good at it and some that completely fail. Clint Eastwood has directed a new film called “Hereafter” which from everything I’ve read and seen is propping up the myth of the noble psychic.

Hereafter, according to the latest news, was to be released in December of this year, but has been moved up to October 22nd, probably due to the Halloween season. It has been previewed at a handful of movie festivals including the Toronto International Film Fest and received mixed reviews such as this one from Empire Movies. I believe this may be Eastwood’s first foray into a supernatural genre as I cannot recount any movie that comes close except for Pale Rider (1985) which was filled with allusions to Revelations in The Bible. Pale Rider is one of my all time favorite westerns but it is ambiguous and you could see the supernatural in it if you wanted to or you view it as purely natural western with mystery surrounding it.

Why Clint is choosing to prop up the myth of the noble psychic, I’m not sure? It seems beneath his talents. I will have to reserve final judgment  for after I actually view the film. The description of the premise is 3 lives touched by death merge together in the end of the film, but one of the stories focuses on Matt Damon’s character George Lonegan “the reluctant psychic.” Lonegan can apparently touch somebody and communicate with all the people in the afterlife  that were once part of this person’s life–hence the title “Hereafter.” Lonegan views his gift as a curse and shies away from any media attention or gain from book rights or selling his services. Yes, I’m sure like the rest of us he rather drudge through a 9-5 ordinary factory job or spend time at an office processing billing errors–gimme a break!

I realize movies and TV are always looking to create the hero figure, but what we know of psychics in real life should inspire at least one or two features that display a fraudulent psychic. Psychics are not noble. They don’t feel cursed, or if they do they have to let everyone know about it for the sake of attention. They use mentalism, tricks employed by magicians who acknowledge they do not have psychic powers. Most of us have some abilities to “read” a person as biology allows us to look at a person’s face and understand their emotions and possibly even what they are thinking. There’s nothing supernatural about it. We also have the ability to “guess.’ If a psychic has to sputter a hundred different phrases for you to pick out the one that applies to you–that’s not supernatural.

I have been impressed to see some satire of psychics on TV, specifically an episode of Law and Order: SVU with Martin Short playing a fraudulent psychic who is also a bit of a psychopath. And then there was a hilarious moment from Two and a Half Men where Alan has a panic attack and then thinks he may be psychic and that his son Jake may need him. Charlie, his brother, hits him hard in the shoulder and says something to the extent, “You didn’t see that coming did you. So much for your psychic abilities.”

Don’t get me wrong, even though I am a Freethunker, I am not opposed to fiction about psychics. One of my favorite horror films by Stephen King is The Dead Zone (1983) because it lays out the consequences of truly being psychic–you would be able to know who will enable an event that could cost millions of lives and therefore it may be your duty to kill that person. The difference between the fakes and this story is that no psychic, unless truly mentally sick, would do such a thing. They do not have enough faith in their abilities as they rely on guesswork and generalities–I sense the murderer left the body where there’s lots of plants and it rains a lot, uh, near the highway next to an old diner.

Maybe  Hereafter will be a smarter film than I am “predicting” but I doubt it. Clint Eastwood has even described it as a “chick flick” which leads me to believe it is an extended episode of The Ghost Whisperer. At any rate it has to be better than Peter Jackson’s boring ghost film The Lovely Bones. All my director heroes are failing me…

Boy Scout Parody Cartoon

This Boy Scout cartoon is on my best of list because it made me laugh as a cartoonist. That is often hard to do. I’m often trying to draw material that I think is funny or is strange or comments on something, but quite honestly after the initial idea is written down, the joke becomes work. You have to sketch it, ink it, scan it, digitally color it, size it and then save it for the web. After you’re done posting you’re just tired and you want to go on to doing something else. But sometimes there comes along a cartoon in my collection that makes me laugh every time I look at it, despite the work. This is one I never get sick of looking at.

For those patriotic Americans, this is no commentary on the flag in general, it was just meant to be a funny situation–but as usual, I will give my opinion. I believe once the symbol becomes more important than the idea it represents, the idea is lost. In other words, the American Flag represents many things, but one of them is “Freedom of Speech.” If you can’t burn the flag, then the flag can no longer represent freedom of speech. It’s something that nationalists have trouble understanding. For conservative Christians, I could put it in their terms: destroying a cross does not destroy the idea of the cross.

My dad once told me when I was in my teens and overtly Christian that he agreed with the idea of a law against flag burning. This was one of those periods  in the early nineties when the subject was rather “hot” (if you’ll pardon the pun) and free speech artists were desecrating the flag in a variety of ways. Even as a Christian I argued with him on this principal.  For me, burning the flag was not a sacrilege. What was sacrilege, was any limitation on freedom of speech because even as a conservative Christian I realized that banning one form of expression could result in my own form of expression being tossed out too. I’m not sure if my dad agreed with me in the end, but he did acknowledge my point. That is the great thing about my Dad. Despite his Christianity, if you made a good argument and it didn’t conflict with The Bible then he usually conceded there was room for gray areas.

Of course my hypocrisy becomes apparent here. Even though I was against limiting free speech, I was against obscenity and gay rights. What was considered to be obscene was always hard to define and I was not one to be actively stamping out porn or NC17 movies, but I didn’t speak up against banning them either.  I simply stood on the sidelines and didn’t see how these people could complain if they got stopped from peddling their smut. As far as the gays, they were perverting nature and therefore they didn’t need rights, much like child molestors didn’t need rights. That’s how I thought. Unfortunately, if you’re going to be for freedom of speech you have to accept the good with the bad whether you agree with porn, extreme movies or different lifestyles amongst consenting adults. Which is why I would call out any atheist who would suggest banning or censoring any religious speech or texts.

And The Lion Shall Lay Down with the Lamb Comic Strip

The “Lion Shall Lay Down with the Lamb” cartoon idea was inspired when I read that there actually is no phrasing like this in The Bible. There is talk of wolves and leopards but no lions with lambs. I admit, I did not know this. It is another example of what we think The Bible says.

Isaiah 11:6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.

Isaiah 65:25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.

The indication in Isaiah, of course,  is completely contradictory to the nature of the wolf, lion, leopard and snake. So apparently we are going to see lions grazing in the fields like cows?  One of the clear memories I have from being taken to multiple creationist conferences by my Dad when I was in Junior High and High School was that creationist lectures would ridicule the idea that whales came from land mammals. They would use the imagery of a cow losing its feet and somehow waddling into the sea and everyone would laugh. I still to this day do not know where they got the idea that cows were involved? Unless they said “cow-like” but certainly the word cow was used and a cow is a domesticated animal. Cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) have a fossil record that is continually being added to. See Wiki for a good introduction.

If creationists are going to ridicule the idea of a land mammal moving to the sea over millions of years and its features adapting to the environment, then can we stop for a moment and laugh at how ridiculous it would be to see lions grazing like cows? Are we going to milk lions too? Maybe we can treat them like sheep and clip off their manes for women to wear around their shoulders like mink stoles?