Pro-Choicers Love Satan, or The Mind-Numbing Cacophony of Religious Language

If you haven't heard the news, a small group of protestors chanted "Hail, Satan" at the Texas Capitol on Monday. Joe Carter over at Get Religion shows he doesn't get religion at all when he works up a lather about the chant not being reported initially by the big media outlets. Bob Smietana of The Tennesseean sets him straight about the video and the timeline and the reporting in the comments if you're interested. First, Carter's misunderstanding and then more about the use of religious language, used once again out of context. 
The AP makes a point of noting the religious activity of the counter-demonstrators (prayed, clutched crosses, sang hymns, the usual stuff), but why do they not mention the religious activity of the demonstrators? For example, what about those who were chanting, “Hail Satan”?

Mr. Carter assumes that a few protestors chanting "Hail, Satan," is religious activity. I suppose that if the journalists present could demonstrate that these were living, breathing Satanists, Carter would have a point. (And he is right that a journalist could and probably should have talked to them.) However, what is happening at the protest has nothing to do with the Prince of Darkness, the views of fundamentalists vis-a-vis abortion notwithstanding. This would only be religious activity if the chanters actually were hailing Satan. What they are doing is mocking the pro-lifers who are busily singing Amazing Grace. Seriously.

The only person caught on video saying "Hail, Satan," looks to be a teenage girl. Yes, there were others saying it, but it was clearly meant as mockery, and I'm going to have to side with the mockers. As I don't believe in Satan, Mr. Carter will need to admit that my siding with the faux Satanists is not religious activity. If I picked up a Bible and read a random passage aloud, would that be religious activity? Doesn't the intent with which I use words indicate the nature of the utterance, or does Mr. Carter believe in magic? 

The pro-lifers in this instance deserve to be mocked, not because of their pro-life stance, though. I readily admit that this is an issue about which reasonable people may disagree. I have my own opinions, but I usually don't share them online. The skewering from both sides is too tedious and reactionary. 

Singing Amazing Grace at a protest that is ostensibly about abortion shows a shocking lack of understanding about the context and how religious language functions. Why are the protesters singing a song about the individualistic nature of salvation—as if that concept isn't dubious enough—at an event where they hope to see legislation passed that makes it more difficult for a woman to get an abortion in the not-so-great state of Texas? Honestly, read over the lyrics if you need to and figure out which apply in that situation. The truth is probably something like this: it was the only song all the protestors knew in common.

The utterly anemic intellectual life of fundangelicals, even including familiarity with their Bible and hymnody, absolutely deserves to be mocked. You are standing at an event at which you believe God needs to move to stop a great evil and you choose to sing about how awesome it is that God saved you? What the hell? Perhaps those pro-lifers present also believe, with Mr. Carter, that words are magic. It doesn't matter the content or the intent, only that they are using them—religious language functioning as some sort of desperate summons for the Holy Spirit to move, mimicking the Apostle's frustration that he doesn't often know what to pray so the Spirit prays for him. To do so, of course, they must affirm their own importance in the cosmic soteriological dance, and because they are so completely devoid of meaningful religious language, they consistently revert to that most trite and self-centered of affirmations: Jesus died for me. 

Mock away, fake Satanists. and the Building of Empire, or How to Gentrify Theologically

The Daily Oklahoman announced today that, the hydra-headed megachurch based in Edmond, Okla., will be adding another campus to its mini-empire of 16 campuses in five states. I have long since stopped caring about the theological content of what Craig Groeschel does via video screen every week. As a former believer, I simply don't care all that much about in-house disputes over ecclesiology unless they impact the larger culture. This is Oklahoma City, so virtually (ha!) everything LCTV does impacts the larger culture. The source of my irritation today is the ham-handed way The Oklahoman handled an obviously important religion story.

Full disclosure: I used to write a weekly Faith and Culture column for that paper when Bobby Ross was doing a fine job as religion editor. He moved on. His successor and I didn't see eye to eye. It did not end well. Since then, I have regularly accused the paper of running PR for Jesus instead of actual journalism.

Let's juxtapose two things from the story and then I'll break down what I really think is happening. Lori Bailey is the communications director for LCTV. She is quoted as saying: "“We've been looking at this particular area for some time since many people who attend our other campuses can easily access this new location.” The writer, Richard Mize, follows that quote immediately with this piece of purple prose:

It's a gritty part of north Oklahoma City, an area of socioeconomic extremes. Neighborhoods have high unemployment, low homeownership, high crime and gang activity among other social ills, as well as TV and radio stations, prominent office buildings and other business development.

Bailey then makes an innocuous comment about "making a difference in the lives of people" in surrounding neighborhoods. This is not what LCTV does, by the way, but more on that later. Now for some background for our out of Oklahoma readers.

The corridor chosen by LCTV for this new venture is the primary artery between Edmond, our most affluent suburb, and downtown Oklahoma City, which is still the hub of business and culture in this sprawling metroplex. Every day, tens of thousands of cars make the approximately 10-mile drive between Edmond and downtown using this corridor. The new campus will sit about one mile east of Nichols Hills, one of the most affluent neighborhoods in the city. It will be surrounded by a smattering of industrial parks, medical businesses, and damn few neighborhoods. The area is sparsely populated both in terms of businesses and residences.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation is about to complete work on a $24 million series of improvements to that traffic corridor. Unless you haven't been paying attention to the I40 crosstown improvement, infrastructure upgrades always precede economic development. That corridor is next in line for gentrification. A massive amount of vacant acreage sits on both sides of the corridor, making it a perfect location for apartments and condos and businesses midway between Edmond and downtown. The improvements make access to the area far more convenient than they have ever been. It's a good move for Oklahoma City, and I suspect LCTV's leadership team is well aware of this. Craig was a finance major before he went to seminary, after all.

In no particular order, here's what I don't like about the new campus moving there:

  • It's bad for the city's economic development. The overwhelming majority of churches, as a rule, do nothing for a neighborhood except exist tax free and create demand for more parking. Whatever size building LCTV opts for, they'll need the parking around it to be four times the size, wasting valuable property that could be providing tax revenue for growth and development in the corridor.
  • Oklahoma City needs another megachurch like we need another NBA franchise. The market is saturated, folks. We already have church attendance above 80 percent. Churches already exist in that area, and they are actually incarnational churches, as in they aren't beaming the pastor's head in from thirty miles away to display on a 30-foot video screen.
  • The PR around this smacks of paternalism. Is LCTV better equipped to reach those scary gang members? (Why didn't he just say black youth? Seriously.) What can LCTV do that black churches in the neighborhood aren't really doing? Will a local Crip give his life to Christ once he sees Craig's annual series about the movies and the Gospel? Will LCTV include a "Spike Lee joint" so as to be culturally relevant? Do predominantly black neighborhoods need white churches to move in so as to save them from themselves?
  • All that is moot. This area will not be predominantly black if I'm right about gentrification. The neighborhoods are set back away from the corridor, anyway, so it will be easy to pretend they simply don't exist. If they are established enough, the new development will just happen around them, which is what I expect for the older neighborhood off NE 63rd just east of Broadway Extension.
  • LCTV is terrible at incarnational outreach anyway. It's not what they do. What they do is preach a truncated version of the Gospel that is nothing more than belief-based (as opposed to action-based) metaphysical therapy. 
  • Bailey gives away the real reason for the move when she says they are expecting people who have been driving to their other campuses to drive to this closer campus. Parsing that statement, she means people who live in midtown or downtown (and The Village and Nichols Hills?) who have only had the choice of the I240 or NW Expy campuses. Also, as everyone knows who pays attention to these trends, the denizens of Frontline and Bridgeway are right up LCTV's demographic alley: 20 and 30 something professionals and tons of young males. Tons, especially at Frontline. 
  • This sounds like I'm implying that LCTV is expecting an influx of people from other churches to help populate this new one. I am. That is how megachurches grow, after all. (For the naysayers out there, I fully admit it's only one way that they grow, but it's a substantial percentage of membership.) The new campus will be a stone's throw from Bridgeway, and this is exactly what LCTV is doing in Norman with their move to be Journey Church's neighbor. LCTV is determined, it seems, to be the CVS to everyone else's Walgreen's, ecclesiologically speaking.

It's never safe to speculate about motive, but it's also never reasonable to be too much of a Pollyanna. This will be an interesting couple of year's in LCTV's branding strategy.

Someone is Gonna Piss Off the Rain God, or How to Simultaneously Win and Lose

This is my piece for RNS/WaPo about the Bethany, Okla., Methodist minister who is suing the state of Oklahoma over the Native American sculpture featured on the license plate. I'm writing another piece for the Gazette locally, so I'll have more to say after that piece runs.


Mustafa Akyol on Islam and Democracy: An Interview

Mustafa Akyol is a political commentator and author based in Istanbul, Turkey. Akyol, who is Turkish, writes extensively about Islam, the Middle East, democracy, and the West. His work has appeared in Foreign Affairs, Newsweek, and The Wall Street Journal. He will be in Oklahoma City this weekend, giving lectures at OU, OCU, and UCO, and promoting his book Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty. The University of Oklahoma event will be different, inasmuch as it's sponsored jointly by The Institute of Interfaith Dialog and OU's Center for Middle East Studies. Akyol will focus on the war in Syria at the OU event. I interviewed him for an advance for the Oklahoma City University event for the Oklahoma Gazette. The transcript of the interview, which was conducted via email, is below.


Who was the intended audience for your book?

First, it is open minded Muslims who would like to rethink some of the authoritarian tendencies in their tradition. Secondly, it is open minded non-Muslims, especially Westerners, who would like to see the nuances in the theology and history of Islam.

What is the overarching thesis?

In a nutshell, I am arguing for an interpretation of Islam that values freedom. This includes freedom of religion for other faiths, of freedom from authoritarian governments. I show that such a liberal approach always existed in the Islamic tradition, although the image of Islam has lately been shaped by the oppressive and even violent strains. I also show how oppressive measures in shariah, or Islamic law, can be reformed by Muslims without them abandoning their loyalty to the fundamentals of the faith.

What will the Oklahoma events focus on?

I am certainly not going to argue that all Muslims in the world are tolerant, peaceful, liberal people. Some of them clearly are not. But I will try to show that their illiberalism or militancy comes often not from religion, but political problems and cultural attitudes. I will also try to share some lessons from the Turkish experience of Islam, which is not noticed enough.

Will you be discussing themes from your book as well as othermaterial? If so, what material?

I will certainly share some themes in my book, but will also explain how they relate to some very recent events, such as the horrible terrorist attack in Libya against the late US Ambassador, or the complexities of the Arab Revolutions.

This seems to be very timely given the American film and the subsequent violence. Can you talk just a bit about the disconnect between the West and our understanding of blasphemy and blasphemy laws?

The main issue there is how to reconcile the Muslims' deep respect for their religion and the West's deep commitment to the freedom of speech. I argue that we Muslims can express loyalty to our faith peacefully in a free society where some people may unfortunately mock our faith. The Qur'an does not say "go and attack people if they make fun of Islam." It only says "do not join those people in their mockery." The latter only suggests a civilized expression of disapproval.

How are blasphemy laws consistent with freedom of speech or expression or religion? Is there a common ground?

In fact, there are blasphemy laws in some Western states, such as the UK, as well, but they are not implemented. This reminds us that blasphemy has been an issue in the Christian tradition as well. But modern day Christians have agreed that using violence to punish blasphemy or heresy (as the Inquisition did pretty rigorously for centuries!) is a wrong idea. I think a similar reconsideration is necessary for us Muslims as well, and I show how that can be possible.

Do you find terms like Islamist, Christianist, etc., helpful? Why or why not?

The term "Islamist" is helpful, for it helps distinguish the people who have turned Islam into a political ideology from traditional Muslims who see Islam mainly as faith, worship and morality. As I show in my book, Islamism is in fact a 20th century phenomenon, and is actually a synthesis of Islam with modern totalitarian ideologies like communism. I, however, believe that we Muslims should better synthesize Islam with democracy and freedom. And this is really not as impossible as many think these days.


Dodging the Mormon Bullet, or Politics Played Nice

I was in class this week when the news broke. I laughed. Shook my head. Laughed again. Announced to the class the folly of the GOP-friendly super PAC that intended to run "attack ads" about Jeremiah Wright and Obama's connection to him. They just stared at me. They didn't get it. Romney did, though.

On Thursday, the NYT ran a story about Republican strategists and financiers concocting a plan to run a series of ads—no doubt using Wright's "God damn America" sermon—to discredit Obama due to his relationship with a "radical" preacher. (If you've ever seen the "god damn America" lines in context, I suspect many of you would agree with Wright's assessment, but don't actually watch them; just believe the edited sound bites you see...) This, of course, made me slightly giddy. As a religion watcher, reporter, nerd, I find all these developments fascinating. I mean, we have a black Baptist running against a Mormon for the position of POTUS. At the risk of exciting the anger of Inigo Montoya, it's inconceivable.

Mormons in politics have been rightly reluctant to discuss theology, or "beliefs" as Romney characterized them during the GOP debates. They want to focus on actions, not beliefs. Once beliefs are on the table, it starts to get wacky. The very possibility that some GOP strategists would toss Obama's religious beliefs or relationships into the ring had me a little dizzy. I was running through all the possible angles that Democratic strategists could then use against Romney. There are thousands, and that's not even including the huge ones like the LDS's track record with race, Romney's responsibility to embrace all Mormon doctrine when serving as a ward bishop, and the dubious historicity of nearly everything Joseph Smith "saw" in his revelations. The Democratic strategists must have been high-fiving in the war rooms around the country. 

Romney helped the GOP get their heads out of their asses, though. Mere hours after the initial announcement, Romney "repudiated" the idea. In a Thursday press conference, Romney told reporters: "I want to make it very clear: I repudiate that effort. I think it's the wrong course for a PAC or a campaign. I hope that our campaigns can be respectively about the future and about issues and about vision for America." Joe Ricketts, the billionaire who funds the super PAC and founder of TD Ameritrade, said the "plan" was never more than a proposal. Of course. I'm sure that's the case.

This isn't over. As November gets closer, if the GOP is trailing, they'll try it. They sort of have to. If things keep improving, the GOP will be desperate to find some angle to discredit Obama, but surely they can do better than and DRUDGE Report's "discovery" of a 30-year old, inaccurate biographical blurb of Obama that described him as born in Kenya. If that's what constitutes breaking news, the GOP is in deep trouble. As for the Wright stuff, I sincerely hope they try it. We desperately need a full and open discussion about the theological underpinnings of Mormonism in terms of the roles of congressman, senator, and president. We need to hear the "chosen nation" rhetoric and the "divinely inspired Constitution" doctrine fleshed out, and we need an opportunity to ask pointed questions that will actually be answered. This is not to say Mormons shouldn't be in office, but it is to say that their faith should be just as open to scrutiny as any other candidate for office. If a UFO conspiracy theorist from Roswell, NM, was running for the U.S. Senate, his beliefs about aliens might come up in a press conference. Shouldn't belief in an unknown planet, magic goggles, and a non-existent language also come up?

I supect that America, left and right, lacks the stomach for this. It would require too much reflection as to the similarities of theistic systems. Once you introduce the idea that a particular doctrine of another faith is nonsense, the same critical gaze must be directed at your own. I suspect that even if the GOP does go with a Wright ad, the issue will be race relations, not religion. The LDS church will continue to insist that this be about behavior, not beliefs, and while I agree with that idea almost every time I hear it, I do want answers to some specific questions about how particular beliefs shape behaviors. If journalists push the point, the LDS church and the GOP will cry "religious persecution" or litmus test or bigotry. Anyone who takes the time to listen to Wright's sermon will understand that it is firmly within the prophetic tradition of the historical Black Baptist churches. I'm happy to see it brought to the table and efficiently parsed. I think the Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrine and Covenants should be open as well, including the amazing circumstances in 1978 wherein the LDS leadership received a "new revelation" that blacks could finally be admitted to the priesthood. A religious litmus test for office means that you can't be excluded from a political office based on your faith, but it doesn't mean voters shouldn't know how your faith plays out in practical terms, especially where more esoteric doctrines are in view.

Billy Graham, John Shelby Spong, and the Politics of Sexuality

Billy Graham is opposed to gay marriage. Raise your hands if you're shocked. The man who did more to redefine "gospel" as an empty signifier is now 93, and not surprisingly, like most nonagenarians, he doesn't want gay people in North Carolina to be able to marry or have a civil union. He laments that we are having to define marriage when it's so clearly defined in the Bible (except that it's not). He encourages Christians to vote in favor of NC's anti-gay marriage amendment. He's not as bad as this guy (sorry, Baptist friends), but Graham probably still has enough influence left to influence the votes in his state. In reading through his comments and the comments following the story on some news sites, I was reminded of my recent conversation with retired Bishop John Shelby Spong.

For those of you who don't know, Spong is the former Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, NJ. He's been a longtime supporter of gay rights, as well as a prolific author. I interviewed him in conjunction with an appearance at a UCC church in Norman, OK, a few weeks ago. I'm going to type up my interview notes, focus on the issue of sexuality, and then comment at the end. 

"What do you consider your primary task as a speaker and a writer?

What I try to do all the time is help people get past the explanations of antiquity for what is an internal experience. The Bible uses first century language and concepts to explain the Jesus event. This is a people who also believed in demons, terracentrism, and knew nothing about how diseases were caused. I'm trying to help people separate the explanation from the experience, to translate the experience into the language of the 21st century.

How do you do this?

Education has created problems for people when it comes to the Bible. We can't literalize the text and explain it to people who are educated. They don't believe it. The text has to be explained outside of the model of the three-tiered universe. I'm sure people here in Oklahoma are used to a Sooner football player pointing upward to God after scoring against Texas. The idea is that God is up there. That doesn't work in a post-Copernican age. It also relies on a model of God, call it the manipulative God, that is very popular with people. We try to define God, which is very arrogant. I think we need to define our experience of God, not God, and that requires I admit I might be delusional. I don't know the experience is objectively real. I'm trying to understand the experience outside the context of the tribal deities of the past.

The God who sends plagues, stops the sun to allow his people to kill even more people, and who orders genocide cannot be identical with the god who said, "Love your enemy." In all fairness, it was the prophets of the Hebrew tradition who helped change the perspective on God. People have to be given a way to view the experience with an understanding that our perception causes us to view the world in different ways. We need to talk about God in terms of today's perception of reality.

How do we talk about it in those terms?

Even the language we speak causes us to frame the experience differently. Desmond Tutu pointed out that English assumes male and whiteness. It makes it very difficult to write inclusively, because, as Tutu said, as a black man, he can neve be "tickled pink." All god talk is highly subjective, and we have to admit that up front. It's hard to get people who believe there is an external, objective, revealed standard of ethics to listen, though. I've been to Oklahoma a few times. It's hard to find Christians there who aren't fundamentalist or influenced by fundamentalism. It's very difficult to talk to someone who begins with truth as this fixed, external reality.***

There is more, but I'll post is later. As you can see, most raw interviews rely on comments that are all over the place. When you got 10 minutes and a focused story, there is little time to fill in ancillary gaps. I asked him about the Catholic Church and the birth control/insurance debate that was raging at the time. A poll indicated that the overwhelming majority of American Catholics ignore the Church on this point of doctrine. His response: "I'm not surprised by the numbers. The disparity has been there for a long time. What strikes me is that the Roman Catholic Church is attempting to get the federal government to get their parishioners to follow the doctrines of the RCC."

That's money, folks. And now back to Graham and all the other people of faith (yeah, you Mormons, too) who are trying to do the exact same thing. It's insufficient for these folks to have their own faith-based beliefs about marriage and the freedom to marry as they choose. No, they need the government to help them codify into law their religious belief about marriage, denying fellow citizens the right to marry based on a religious assumption. The North Carolina bill is the worst yet, because it attacks the idea of civil unions, thereby revealing that this is not about religion at all. It's about political power, more specifically the desire of ideologues to shape the nation's politics in ways which comport with their preferences about what America should look like. If you don't believe their religious assumptions, these freedom-loving, American Christians will use the ballot box to enforce adherence, if not actual belief.

Savage Mockery, or How not to do Youth Ministry

Dan Savage, anti-bullying spokesman and founder of the "It Gets Better" campaign, offended Christian teens and adults at the National High School Journalism Conference by calling portions of the Bible "bullshit." In context, he said,

"We can learn to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about gay people...the same way we learned to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner, about farming, about menstruation, about virginity, about masturbation. We ignore bullshit in the Bible about all sorts of things. The Bible is a radically pro-slavery document...We ignore what the Bible says about slavery because the Bible got slavery wrong.

To that point I'd have to agree with him. Most in the crowd did, as there was raucous applause at a few key points, and there was particularly heavy laughter when he suggested the GOP might eventually have state constitutions amended to allow stoning non-virgin girls on their wedding nights. What he did next simply crossed the line. He referred to the "Bible guys" who had left the room, saying they could come back because "I'm done beating up on the Bible." To which he added: "It’s funny, as someone who’s on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the bible, how pansy-assed some people react when you push back.”

Yeah, too far. You can't be anti-bullying and then call people names, even people who likely have been bullies themselves. Christian teens are no more immune to being the bullies than they are likely to abstain from sex, but that isn't the point. I understand that as a gay man Savage was probably the target of malicious teens repeatedly in his life, especially his school years, and he is right that the primary justification for anti-gay behavior and ideas in America is the Bible, but you can't become the bully, especially when loud applause is the reward, which he received. You've now crossed the line into othering and mocking young people. He should apologize for the pansy-ass comment. Period.

As for the teens who walked out while he was going through his issues with the Bible, they should have sat in their damn chairs and heard him out. It's what journalists do. You don't get to leave an interview because you're offended. You don't get to listen to just the parts you like. I've been writing professionally for 22 years, and before that I did my duty on a high school newspaper, learning the ethics and vocabulary, if not the real rigors of the job. At no point has an editor or teacher ever said, "As soon as he offends you, stop the interview and leave. That'll teach him." No, the entire point is to hear the person out, especially if you disagree.

Savage is right, and the teens need to hear it. I won't say he shouldn't have used profanity. It was very effective in the context, and quite frankly, when discussing the Bible's life lessons on slavery, virginity, women's equality, and sexuality, that word probably works best. He made valid points. Why should we take seriously a book that, as Savage put it, doesn't tell us not to own slaves, but how to own them? He cites Sam Harris in his Letter to a Christian Nation where Harris points out that the Bible gets wrong the easiest moral question in history: should people own people? If it can't get the easisest right, Savage asks, why would we trust it on something as complex as human sexuality? He's absolutely right. Why listen to a book with sexual ethics that were formed when women had no rights and married 30-year old men as soon as they menstruated? It's ludicrous, but Savage won't make his point to the Christians in the room by engaging in the kind of behavior he's worked so hard to eradicate. It was a shameful moment for him, moreso because you can see the pride in his demeanor as he accepts his applause. One thing the Bible can teach Savage is that you don't get to return evil for evil. It's not what the good guys do.

Richard Land Sort of Apologizes for Failure to Attribute, not Plagiarism

I did two stories yesterday as a follow-up. One fairly general for Religion News Service that was picked up by the Washington Post. And a longer, more detailed piece for Ethics Daily. Land subsequently sort of apologized for his racist remarks, but it's clear he doesn't know the difference between a sincere apology and "apologizing" that someone mistook his words. Sigh.

Editing the Godhead, or A Lesson for Young Writers

I started my writing career in the most bizarre of ways. I first sold a biker story to a now defunct biker magazine. I've never been on a Harley, but I do like boobs, and the story's ironic twist (kind of a pornified O. Henry conceit) centered on boobs and a snake tattoo. Yeah, glad that's off my chest... That was 1990. A year later, I sold a story about a homeless guy who organized a street church service to David C. Cook publishing because they thought it was non-fiction. Yes, it's often better to be lucky than good. I then struggled for years trying to get something else published. It was incredibly frustrating. This was due in large part to my penchant for preaching; I've always struggled with fiction because I tend to be more concrete than abstract, a fact that will surprise some of you, I'm sure.

I was also a Christian at the time, but had grown up on Mad and Cracked, so satire was one of my primary languages. I finally discovered The Door in the late 90s. Thanks in large part to Harry Potter and Left Behind, I was able to convince the editors that a piece called Harry Potter gets Left Behind was a brilliant idea. I wrote a dozen or so pieces for them before they folded.That was right about the time I started writing regularly for the Oklahoma Gazette. Journalism is a joyless form, necessarily so. I've been at it for nearly 10 years now, and I've often felt my brain lurch when I try to shift writing styles. This blog has helped keep me from becoming completely entrenched, but I do find the journalism world frustrating and rewarding in almost equal parts. 

This week is about frustration and resignation. I've written a few pieces over the years for the Gazette's satirical column Chicken Fried News. These are actual news stories with snark and satire added as commentary. I've had fun with churches giving away Harleys for Easter, SBC issues, and a host of other insanities. This last week was one of the best I've written. I just read the edited version that went to print. I never do this! Never. I shouldn't have, but I had to this time to be sure I wanted to link it on fb. They are non-byline pieces, and on many, the whole writing and editing staff contribute so that what is left is often better than when it started. Occasionally, it's worse.

Religion is hard to write about, especially satirically if you don't want to alienate everyone. Anyone can write satire that mocks believers, but the task, and it's one which The Door got right, is to satirize for the sake of redemption. In religious satire, as in blowjobs, the appropriate amount of teeth is crucial. I'm posting the piece as it appeared in the Gazette, followed by the original. You tell me what you think. I'm used to being edited. Any writer who thinks he is above editing is a beginner or an asshole. However, I don't like being defanged, and I think this is exactly what happened. Note: The reference to Mary Fallin is about a recent Lost Ogle story about our governor spending thousands in tax dollars to get her hot tub and pool temperatures correct.


In a move that’s sure to confuse almost everyone, the Oklahoma House last week approved a measure creating an official state motto. Authored by Rep. Danny Morgan, House Concurrent Resolution 1024 would make “Oklahoma — In God We Trust!” the official state motto. Morgan told The Christian Post that research and review of the Oklahoma Constitution revealed that the state has no motto. As to the “Labor Omnia Vincit” (Labor Conquers All) on the state seal, Morgan explained that was only in the Constitution as a description of the seal.

Although the U.S. and Florida both use the phrase, The Christian Post reported that the exclamation point and the state name makes the new motto totally legal. Morgan, a Democrat who is former mayor of Prague — home of the National Shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague — said no church or religious group had supported or endorsed the proposal. Presumably, the measure has the endorsement of God. At least we trust that’s the case.


In a move that is sure to confuse almost everyone, the Oklahoma House of Representatives approved HCR 1024 in March. The resolution, authored by Rep. Danny Morgan (D-Prague), would make “Oklahoma -- In God We Trust!” the official state motto. 

Morgan gave The Christian Post an interview after the fact, wherein he informed the online publication that research and review of the Oklahoma Constitution revealed that Oklahoma has no motto. As to the “Labor Omnia Vincit” (Labor Conquers All) on the state seal, Morgan explained that was only in the constitution as a description of the seal. Clearly, then, it would seem the seal’s designers were only looking for a cool Latin phrase as opposed to an actual motto.

Although the United States and Florida both use the phrase, the Christian Post reported that our use of an exclamation point and the state name makes the new motto totally legal. That’s sure to be a relief to some, but what of all the gods that will be lining up to be the object of our trust?

Morgan, the former mayor of Prague, home of the National Shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague, said no church or religious group had supported or endorsed the proposal. No word on whether that list includes the infant Jesus of Prague himself.

The truly good news is that now that God is getting a shout out from Oklahomans, it’s possible our governor can get her pool fixed gratis. We hear that Jesus guy is awesome around water.