Lifechurch.tv and Plagiarism: Doubling Down, or Groeschel Still Oblivious to Definition of Plagiarism

The amazing Sarah Pulliam Bailey was tasked with writing the article I referenced in the previous post about Lifechurch.tv pastor Craig Groeschel's plagiarism, as well as that of UFC Pastor Marc Driscoll. First, my quibble with her vocabulary: Murphy, who emailed me after the previous post, did not "suggest" that Groeschel had plagiarized. He gave incontrovertible evidence that Groeschel had plagiarized. In fact, it's pointless to use the word suggested, as the evidence given by Murphy makes this such an obvious case that Groeschel would fail a college comp class and be referred to the VP of Academic Affairs for such an egregious example of plagiarism. Turns out, Lifechurch.tv has less thoroughgoing ethics than the average community college. Good to know the state of the kingdom, eh? Quibble number two, which authors are never responsible for: the title. The internet is not responsible for an increase in plagiarism; pastors are responsible for plagiarizing. That the internet makes it easier, if less easy to get away with, is an easily observable fact, but the fault lies not with technology, which is always morally neutral, but with the men and women who plagiarize because they are lazy or dishonest. 

The reasons offered for the plagiarizing are so bad it's hard to take them seriously. That professors and theologians and pastors don't know the difference between public domain material like Dr. King's I Have a Dream speech and published material not in the public domain is astonishing. That the Church doesn't insist on a higher standard of ethical behavior is equally astonishing. That Groeschel won't simply admit he plagiarized ought to disqualify him from the pulpit, but that's not the way celebrity Christianity works. What matters is not the Sermon on the Mount; rather, it's how an individual congregant feels about his pastor. The irony of a religion based on ethical monotheism ignoring ethics will be lost on the average congregant, as evangelicalism long ago transitioned to some form of moralistic, therapeutic deism (that's Christian Smith, by the way--see how easy attribution is to pull off), but it's not lost on outsiders who judge the faith and the faith's practitioners by what they actually do, not believe. 

Duke has always been one of my favorite theological centers, but if Richard Lischer is representative of the sort of thinking going on there now, they should either shut down or fire someone who rattles off this sort of nonsense: “It’s the nature of preaching. It’s like singing a song. You don’t just sing it once to never sing it again,” Lischer said. “It’s not so much cheating as it’s demonstrating a continuity with people who came before.”

Professor Lischer should teach Comp I or II. I'd love to see his face when a student says, "I didn't plagiarize The Economist. I was singing a song. You know, demonstrating continuity with those who came before." The Church, which pretends to be a moral beacon in this world, might want to actually try being a moral beacon on issues like plagiarism, intellectual property, and honesty. Jesus died so lazy pastors could use crib notes. That's a fitting epitaph for modern evangelicalism, I suppose. 


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. 


I Interview Tripp Fuller While I Drink Wine and He Drinks Beer, or Something Like That

This was a five-hour conversation reduced by the magic of editing to 90 coherent minutes. I'll get the full audio file eventually (Right, Bo and Tripp?) and transcribe the whole event. We cover Barth, Tillich, Process, Bible, booze, and assorted tangents. Enjoy Bo's masteful editing for now at Homebrewed Christianity.

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.

Gazette:

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.

Original:

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.



Why Southern Baptists Loathe Pink (the color), or the Transitive Property Meets Douchebaggery

Broadman & Holman, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, has recalled an unknown number of pink study Bibles. If this were The Onion, I'd follow the lede with this: "an unidentified spokesperson for the denomination said the color is too gay." Unfortunately, this ain't The Onion, and their reason for the recall isn't funny. The Bibles were a fundraising effort to support Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the formerly well-known breast cancer organization known as the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Excursus: Did anyone notice when it stopped being Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation? Now it really is Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Were they opposed to the cure before, or just clarifying their raison d'etre? This is an organization I very much support (at least in principle), but that name is just bad. Maybe a simple shift to Komen Foundation would have been good. I'm pretty sure people assume they're opposed to breast cancer, not promoting it.

Back to the Baptists. A dollar from the sale of each Bible went to Komen through the merchandising arm of the SBC, LifeWay stores, which is part of LifeWay Christian Resources. (Anyone else think it odd that the SBC is starting to resemble Kali, the Hindu goddess?)

Kali

According to a spokesperson from Komen, LifeWay had pledged $25,000. That was before someone informed B&H that Komen has a partnership with Planned Parenthood. Oh shit. Here we go. Thomas Rainer, the president of LifeWay, but not the SBC, released a very helpful statement about the process. Two statements stood out:

As this project has developed, we realized it was a mistake. (Grammar counts, even for a president, sir. Two point deduction for tense switching.)

When our leadership discovered the overwhelming concern that some of Komen's affiliates were giving funds to Planned Parenthood, we began the arduous process of withdrawing this Bible from the market.

A mistake to fund breast cancer screening and education? Nicely done, Mr. President. You didn't think it was a mistake until you received angry letters, emails, and calls from irritated fundamentalists who believe the transitive property precludes you working with "enemies" for a good cause. Here's a simple formula for readers in case you're confused about the transitive property: B&H helps Komen, Komen works with PP, therefore B&H helps PP. It's absurd, of course. Komen guaranteed the money wasn't going to any causes other than the stated ones, but Rainer said it goes against LifeWay's core values to have "even an indirect relationship" with PP. I find it an extremely dubious claim to say that funding breast cancer screening and awareness is in conflict with your core values, Mr. Rainer. If I'm funding a good cause, why do I give two shits about other partners that are funding the same good cause? This is, of course, only an issue because the SBC believes PP is only in the abortion referral business. You can disagree about abortion all you like, but withholding funding from a breast cancer organization because they use PP for screenings is absurd inasmuch as PP is also doing a good thing at that point. Ought it not be the business of Christian organizations to support mitzvahs from wherever they originate?

As to the arduous process...ugh. We're so sorry that this has inconvenienced your company, sir. I'm sure the women and men who struggle with breast cancer are sympathetic about all the boxing and shipping and paperwork required. And what will be done with those pink Bibles now? Can you just send Komen a check for the 25K you promised? I am hopeful that the SBC will realize that it's far better to keep their word on a pledge than to take the opportunity to grandstand and demonize, but I'm not sure which way they'll go. I mean, the Bible says nothing at all about keeping your word, right? It's not as if the relationship between Komen and PP was a hidden one. You used the research arm of the SBC to vette your new partnership, right? Ridiculous. Just give them the money and burn the damn Bibles. It's hard to take all that hell and wrath talk seriously when it's bound in pink anyway.


Baptist Sex, or How to Resurrect Political Irrelevance

Richard Land, president of the (it turns out) ironically named Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, has released an open letter to Newt Gingrich. Land is concerned that Gingrich is not polling well among evangelicals. I assume he really means Southern Baptists with whom he comes in contact, but he says evangelicals. Fair enough. He tells the former Speaker that based upon the informal polls Land takes as he travels the country, Newt polls well with evangelical men and terribly with evangelical women. What's the solution?

Land wants Newt to pick a "pro-family venue" (maybe a Southern Baptist affiliated university?) and address his marital history. See, evangelical women aren't supporting Newt because he divorced his bed-ridden first wife to marry a mistress, whom he subsequently divorced to marry his second mistress (but we don't really have the enumeration down with any degree of certainty). Land wants Newt to totally come clean. Evangelical women, Land says using his mother as an example, are reticent to vote for a cheater unless the cheater comes clean. (I'm doing my best to play it straight at this point, folks.) He concludes with this exhortation.

Such a speech would not convince everyone to vote for you, but it might surprise you how many Evangelicals, immersed in a spiritual tradition of confession, redemption, forgiveness and second and third chances, might.

You're probably wondering why I'm even posting this. It's just Land being Land, after all. Nothing to see here, folks. Right? When evangelicals, especially of the conservative variety, wonder why I don't take them seriously when it comes to ethical talk, this will be one of the examples that I use. There are (at least) three points at which Land's thinking and writing border on idiotic.

  1. A pro-family venue? Why would that make the slightest difference? More pro-family mojo there? Who gives two shits what venue he chooses? This just seems to be Land shilling for an appearance at a major Baptist institution.
  2. All Newt has to do is give a "speech" about his past infidelities and Baptists will rush to forgive him. What the fuck? No repentance. No reformed life. No demonstration of character. Nope. Just say the right words and it's all forgiven. After all, we have to get that Kenyan, socialist, Muslim interloper out of the White House, and right now, our great white hope is a boring Mormon, so pretty much say the sinner's prayer, Mister Speaker, and we'll vote for you. Hell, we'd vote for Klansman at this point. They're a Christian group, right? Words are magic, right, Mr. Land? They make the old new. They bring about a new creation. They convert a career politician with hands so dirty I can't believe anyone is taking him seriously into a serious contender for the Republican party's nomination. And this is the party of principles? That you participate in the destruction of the meaning of important words is disturbing, Mr. Land. What's that Bible verse? Oh yeah, "Woe to them who call evil good."
  3. That Land fails even to mention the "professional historian's" work for Freddie Mac is an egregious oversight for the president of an ethical advising organization. The inference here is that Newt can take $1.6 million from a mortgage company while the mortgage industry melts down, he can lie about his affiliation with a straight face, and then he can treat us all like idiots by insisting they hired him for his history expertise, but he can't fuck the wrong person. Un-fucking-believable. Mr. Land, might I suggest you actually find a coherent system of ethics at some point in your tenure as the president of the SBC's ethical body? I'd also appreciate it if you'd ensure it's not based on political expediency, and if it's not too much to ask, maybe work a little Jesus talk in there.

 


How to have Sex with Yourself, or Why Mark Driscoll is a Closeted Perv

Second subtitle would have been "Why not to Trust Pastors Who Speculate on what the Bible Means about Things it doesn't Mention." Driscoll got some (un)wanted press recently for his masturbation chapter in the laugh out loud funny Porn-Again Christian. The money shot...er...quote is:

First, masturbation can be a form of homosexuality because it is a sexual act that does not involve a woman. If a man were to masturbate while engaged in other forms of sexual intimacy with his wife then he would not be doing so in a homosexual way. However, any man who does so without his wife in the room is bordering on homosexuality activity, particularly if he's watching himself in a mirror and being turned on by his own male body.

This is only the first disturbing quote among many in this chapter. Here's the thing about qualifiers and examples; they're usually based on experience or common lexicon. If I'm illustrating something in class, I'm likely to draw on Eminem, Jay-Z, Family Guy, South Park, or a recent film. It's shared language and experience. Absent those options, I have to draw on common human experience, like initiating a new relationship before the old one is over, especially in the form of inappropriate texting, conversations at work, or flirtation that goes too far. Most students can identify with something in those examples. Driscoll offers a qualifier that is beyond bizarre, and quite frankly, probably drawn from his own bizarre experience. "...particularly if he's watching himself in a mirror..." Um, you know, in all honesty, most of us have tossed one off or rubbed one out from time to time, but watching in the mirror, well, that's just a special case. It seems Driscoll has reached into his own box of darkness here and found himself guilty of that common human error: everyone beats off like I do. Okay, maybe it's everyone thinks or does like I do, but still, it's hard not to see Driscoll (aka Maximus) in a pleated Roman skirty thing tossing one off in front of a cheval mirror. Helmet? Maybe. Sword? For sure. Ha! That's a Bible double entendre.

As for the assertion that masturbation borders on homosexual behavior, it's just idiocy. Homosexual behavior requires another person of the same sex to be present and participating (even voyeuristically) in the act. All Driscoll offers here is another reason (amongst the vast catalog) for young Christians to feel guilty about masturbating. Even after admitting that the Bible doesn't mention it, he goes on to offer "Practical and Theological Reasons not to Masturbate." Oh, little beater-offer, beware the pastor who uses theological as a euphemism for "it's not in the Bible but here's why God thinks it's important."

Another dead giveaway that Driscoll is both full of shit and a perv? His shitty interpretation of Song of Songs. Driscoll insists that Song of Songs 2:3 permits oral sex. Now, before we proceed, you should know that the Mosaic law expressly prohibits sodomy, and sodomy, dear beater-offers, can be oral or anal. Against all evidence to the contrary and all solid exegetical practices, Driscoll, because he likes blow jobs (and who doesn't?), is going to insist that this verse permits oral sex:

As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

Most Biblical scholars, especially of the Hebrew expert variety, will tell you that euphemisms, idioms, and figures of speech are critically important for understanding a text. The use of a word idiomatically in more than one location is critical to understanding it as an idiom elsewhere. Fruit is nowhere else in the Tanakh used to mean testicles, penis, dick, cock, trombone, skin flute, nuts, jewels, pecker, etc. That Driscoll believes fruit here means dick or balls only means he's relentlessly American and a huge fan of bjs (and who isn't?). If you want to plumb the depths of his weirdness, check out his justification for cunnilingus, and yes, he uses the word in the soon to be banned in 84 countries chapter.

The most egregious example of his hubris, though, is the list of questions and answers in their entirety. Just read through and see how freely he interprets the text while ignoring or fucking the text in the ass (that's bad, by the way). I've seldom seen sexual preferences and peccadillos so clearly writ in exegesis. Enjoy, kids, but take a tissue along for the ride...


Sex and Cancer, or How to Pick a Christian Spokesperson

California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 499, a law that will go into effect on January 1, 2012, that gives girls as young as 12 access to the HPV vaccine (Gardasil) without parental consent. The bill also provides for them to receive the hepatitis B vaccine and any other future vaccines for STIs. There is plenty of room here for discussion about parental rights and government authority. Parents groups are rightly worried about a government arrogant and paternalistic enough to abrogate parental rights under the guise of protecting young women. However, the question is about whether or not public health outweighs parental rights in this situation. It's a topic that ought to be open to vigorous debate, and both sides have good points.

Enter Christian author and rising star of the "Bronze Age Sexual Ethics for Modern Women" speaking circuit Teresa Tomeo. Tomeo, a Catholic and former "secular media" journalist (yes, secular media...sigh), has risen to prominence recently because of her new book: Extreme Makeover: Women Transformed by Christ, Not Conformed to the Culture.

Tomeo

The subtitle should tell you most of what you need to know, but this isn't about her book. It's about the press release her managment company sent out this week. Hilariously named The Maximus Group—presumably because the owner has a hard-on for Gladiator or John Eldredge or both—this is the company that handled advertising for the sappy, crappy film Courageous. And I apologize for calling schlocky propaganda a film. Ominously titled New California Law Frightens Bestselling Author Teresa Tomeo, the press release included some choice quotes from our Catholic ethicist.

Bestselling author Teresa Tomeo finds it disquieting, to say the least. "It is frightening that some in our society continue to push parents out of the picture when it comes to major decisions involving their sons' and daughters' health and welfare," said Tomeo, author of the new book EXTREME MAKEOVER: WOMEN TRANSFORMED BY CHRIST NOT CONFORMED TO THE CULTURE.

First, please note the Gospel of Marketing 1:1. Never miss an opportunity to sell your shit. We are told that Ms. Tomeo is feeling disquieted because of the nebulous "some," but we're also told she has a new book. Awesome! So, is this a public service announcement or an ad? That's just quibbling, though. This gets really funny.

"Children can't sign up for athletics — or be given as much as an aspirin in school — without Mom's or Dad's approval; but now, 12-year-olds in California can get the HPV vaccine without parental consent?!

First, that semicolon is all wrong and the dashes don't belong. Did Gladiator guy hire an English major to edit this shit? Might give it some consideration, or, er...pray over it? And what's with the double punctuation?! Really? Anyway. I suspect part of the reason children can't sign up for athletics or get an aspirin at school has something to do with liability issues for the schools. Also, this has nothing to do with health providers giving vaccines, but let's not let that stop the histrionics. Ready?

"We don't pass out filtered cigarettes or light beer to our youth," Tomeo added. "Why would we give them more reason to engage in unsafe behavior?"

Um, do we pass out full-calorie beer? Was she going for the "I'm a hip, drinking Catholic" with the beer reference? And what of unfiltered cigarettes? Those bizarre semantics aside, this is just faulty thinking. Cigarettes cause cancer; Gardasil prevents it. The analogy is simply false and inflammatory, oh, and stupid. Tomeo is yet another voice warning girls that sex is unsafe, just like cigarettes and beer. It remains true that Christian spokespersons who are so based on celebrity rather than intelligence or expertise seemingly have nothing new or interesting to contribute to any public debate.


PimpPocalypse, or How to Turn Tragedy into Comedy in the Name of God

It's time to fully exploit the tragedy of 9/11 for all its worth. After all, why let hapless sinners go to hell (or America down the toilet) if churches can use the 10th anniversary of this disaster to market themselves or their sermon series or themselves? Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, is using the upcoming anniversary to pimp...um...promote his new sermon series "Twilight's Last Gleaming." The Sunday evening series begins September 11, and they've created awesome graphics to advertise, including the Virgin Mary holding a torch.

Twilightslastgleaming

That's the Virgin Mary, right? Because no way does a real Baptist mix civil religion and Christianity, right? Maybe the Holy Mother was paying tribute to her French cousin, Lady Liberty? Anyway, Jeffress, seen here looking like a cleaned up, gayer version of Dennis Kucinich, wants you to invite your friends and family so they can help save America. Actually, they can't save America, but more on that in a second. First the photo.

DrJeffress

After his old time radio hour, I think Jeffress will be talking about..oh, wait. The ominous voiceover on the video gave me a list:

  • economic chaos
  • moral relativism
  • terrorist threats
  • global turmoil
Odd, except for the third, it sounds like Chuck Colson from anytime in the 1990s or Jerry Falwell in the 1980s or Francis Schaeffer across his entire life. After the list, the voice asks if we're witnessing America's last days. After exhorting believers "to rally" by showing up for the sermons, the scary voice answers the question for itself. You will discover why "America's collapse is inevitable." Oh, well, then fuck it. I'll stay home and watch free porn before they shut off my broadband connection post-apocalypse. However, there is another list.

In addition to learning of America's inevitable collapse, lucky believers will also learn

  • what Christians can do to delay America's eventual demise (I'm betting he says pray)
  • the relationship between abortion and America's fiscal crisis (wtf?!)
  • how to prepare for the coming persecution against Christians in America (shouldn't it be of Christians?)
  • and more (no explanation offered. perhaps tithing will be mentioned)

In case you're wondering how "leaders in America" feel about this series, there are blurbs. "I stand in awe of the clarity of his convictions." --Mike Huckabee. Awe? Really? Just because he's clear? There are three more: Cal Thomas, Erwin Lutzer, and James Robison. Who cares. You can watch the video for yourself.

More troubling than yet another sermon series about "the last days" or "the last days of America" is the tendency to exploit what ought rightly to be a solemn observance. Much has happened in the intervening ten years: the deposing of Saddam, two endless, pointless wars, the death of Osama bin Laden, a catastrophic foreign policy, a widening divide between rich and poor, a bailout of banks that systematically raped consumers, a mortgage crisis, unemployment, and the list goes on. It really is a sobering time, but it's not made better by calling attention to yourself as a man with answers when the day is not about you. Nor will answers from a Bronze Age book do much for me, especially when you're concerned with "moral relativism," as if the Church hasn't all along believed what was convenient and comfortable while pretending to believe everything in the Book. Moral relativists aren't just non-theists, Dr. Jeffress. And some non-theists are not moral relativists; we just happen to disagree about the constitution of morals and the Constitution.


Superhero Bible Verse of the Day, or Why Press Releases Suck

What do Martin Luther King, Jr., George W. Bush, and Captain America have in common? (I really wanted to start with "these three guys walk into a bar," but it doesn't work.) According to a Harris Poll conducted as part of a launch campaign for a new Bible—yeah, we need yet another special version—63% of Americans incorrectly attributed a Bible verse to one of the three. Shocking, right? Much will be made of this in some corners, corners laden with lamentations of creeping Biblical illiteracy, the dumbing down of America, and the increase in immorality. Some will say that it's a tragedy that Americans can't recognize their Founding Document (they're insane, but they'll say it). It's a hurricane in a hookah pipe though, I swear. I'm actually going to side with my illiterate countrymen on this one because they were tricked.

Before I get to the real rant, here's the trickery. 2572 adult Americans responded to an online poll in which they were asked to identify the origin of this quote:

We often suffer, but we are never crushed. Even when we don't know what to do, we never give up.
See, I'd have guessed Jim Valvano from his "Never Give Up" speech. It's because the language comes from the world famous Contemporary English Version, and all five people who have read it recognized the source. The rest of us would have no idea what to make of such impotent language when compared to this:
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair...
That's the KJV, and it's the language poets and playwrights have used for centuries. It's the way most of us heard it growing up. Forgive me for never having been moved to tears by "never give up," except by Jimmy V, but he was dying of cancer for shit's sake. Include the whole verse in the KJV or NKJV, and I'm betting the numbers go up considerably.
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
I'm guessing close to 100% would have gotten that one. But, if you're trying to sell Bibles, especially Bibles written in magically understandable shit prose, you need to market your product.

The American Bible Society decided to commission the Harris Poll as part of a campaign to commemorate the tenth anniversary of 9/11 with the release of the Freedom Bible. Fuck me in the face. Nothing like using the remembrance of a tragedy to sell a Bible with painfully anemic language, thereby increasing the tragedy. (There will be more of this as the day approaches...) To make matters worse, the marketing material equivocates on the meaning of freedom. What kind of freedom is meant? Read the web site and let me know because I'm a little lost. I was looking for a picture of Mel Gibson as William Wallace or as that badass dad from The Patriot, but what I got was a magical bird tree and a cityscape. Are those doves? Is that NYC sans WTC? Which tampon box artist did they hire to do that cover?

Lest you're concerned that the release of the Bible is poorly timed, the press release offers a bullet list of important factoids to justify their decision, the best of which is this:

Despite living in a predominantly Christian nation, 82 percent of Americans who have dealt with trauma rely most on sources other than the Bible to cope, including 6 percent of whom say they do not rely on anything.
Where to even start? 1. Not a Christian nation. Not even predominantly Christian. There are no Christian nations and no unicorns. Sorry to break it to you. 2. They rely on friends, clergy, family, counselors instead of the Bible? Shocking. I mean, why wouldn't they find comfort in this: "And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword." So strange. 3. The six percent are liars.

I really don't care if people read their Bibles or not. It would help some of my students when we read Randall Kenan and Alice Walker and Shakespeare, but they're not necessarily crippled by not having read it. A little honesty in press releases would be nice, though, especially from the theist camp.