the 5th annual moisture festival is into it’s second week of performances, most of which feature the fremont philharmonic. we’re getting more into playing “other peoples'” music more, which is a good idea, i think. we’re also becoming “the” band for a number of performers like godfrey daniels, which is amusing since apart from the moisture festival, we’ve never performed with him as godfrey daniels. it’s much more mellow and laid-back backstage this year, but i think that part of that is because i am not responsible for the programs this year.
these are some of the links i’ve been perusing in the mean time:
Archbishop of Canterbury attacks Creationism – it’s getting pretty obvious that something is wrong with intelligent design when someone like the archbishop of canturbury comes down on the side of the evolutionists…
Hybrid embryos created in Britain – speaking of “intelligent” design…
Two-headed baby hailed as divine – and here’s how india deals with it. (NOTE: i am discounting the fact that this was published on 1 april by knowing that they don’t have april fools day in india. i may be wrong.)
Faeces hint at first Americans – new evidence further negates any “young earth” intelligent design explanations that i have heard…
Pregnant man tells Oprah: It’s a miracle – now this is something i’ve been reading about for a couple of weeks, and it is one of those rare instances when my wife and i disagree. i think it’s perfectly natural for a transgender man to want to have children, but my wife thinks… i’m not sure what she thinks. it’s “unnatural” or something is my guess. maybe she thinks the kid will grow up confused or something. but my point is that kids already grow up confused with “normal” parents, and both my wife and i are fine examples of that. if a kid has even an outside chance of having a relatively normal life, parents should be able to be parents without regard to what their genitals look like, and if, as in this case, the man is already pregnant they should be able to get medical care without having to go through nine doctors! my son is an excellent example of how someone with screwed up parents can have a much more “normal” life than either of their parents had.
The Hypocrisy Gospel: Get Rich for Jesus? – ever wonder why the religious conservatives adore the prosperity gospel so much?
Battle over Pot Possession in Alaska Is Back in the Courts – prohibitionists, once again, make some sort of lame excuse to overturn alaska’s legal home use of cannabis. they’re going to lose, of course, because their excuse is lame (“it’s not your father’s marijuana”, reefer-madness propaganda), but it’s got a lot of people upset in both camps.
Hybrid embryos created in Britain
April 2, 2008
LONDON, April 2 (UPI) — A British research team said it has created hybrid embryos containing human DNA and cow eggs.
Lyle Armstrong of Newcastle University said the “admixed embryos” were generated by removing the nucleus of a cow egg and replacing it with human DNA. The egg is then encouraged to divide until it is a cluster of cells only a few days old, the university said Tuesday in a release.
Preliminary data were announced in Israel last week and are subject to verification and peer review, the university said. Armstrong said the results may lead to the development of new therapies for Parkinson’s disease and strokes.
Armstrong was granted a license in January by Britain’s Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority to use animal eggs in research.
“Cells grown using animal eggs cannot be used to treat patients on safety grounds but they will help bring nearer the day when new stem cell therapies are available,” John Burn, head of the Institute of Human Genetics at Newcastle University, said in a statement.
The Hypocrisy Gospel: Get Rich for Jesus?
April 2, 2008
By Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Researcher Sarah Posner has been following the Religious Right for several years and writes a blog called The FundamentaList for the American Prospect. Her new book, God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters (PoliPointPress, 2008) examines the role advocates of the “prosperity gospel” play in the Religious Right.
Posner talked recently with Church & State about her research and the status of the Religious Right today.
Church & State: Many people think of the prosperity gospel as a movement that attempts to link Christianity to hypercapitalism and the collection of wealth. You assert these ministries play a political role as well. What role does the prosperity gospel play in the Religious Right?
Posner: When George H.W. Bush was preparing to run for president in 1988, his evangelical advisor, Doug Wead, prepared a list of 1,000 “targets” — religious leaders of influence worth courting for the votes of their followers. The list included a lot of names you’d expect — Robertson, Falwell, and other household names, but also included some of the most prominent prosperity gospel evangelists, notably Kenneth Copeland and Paul Crouch, the head of the Trinity Broadcasting Network. The courting of these prosperity televangelists by politicians continues today, as we have seen Mike Huckabee touting his close relationship with Copeland, and John Hagee and Rod Parsley campaigning with John McCain. In tune with the Religious Right, they take ultraconservative positions on issues like abortion, gay marriage, separation of church and state, and other social issues, and actively encourage their followers to vote.
In your new book, God’s Profits, you discuss Ohio pastor Rod Parsley, who has labored to make an impact on statewide politics. Parsley’s favored candidate for governor, Ken Blackwell, was soundly defeated in 2006. Does this mean Parsley has lost political influence? What are his goals, and what are the chances he could become a national figure as well-known as the late Jerry Falwell?
It’s certainly Parsley’s goal to be a successor to Falwell. He proudly accepted an honorary doctorate from Liberty University last year. (Parsley doesn’t even have an undergraduate degree, so this was quite an honor, to say the least). He has said he sees his Center for Moral Clarity, the political arm of his church, as the successor to Falwell’s Moral Majority.
Certainly many observers thought Parsley’s influence was on the wane after Blackwell was trounced in the 2006 gubernatorial race. And although Blackwell’s defeat could be chalked up to other factors — particularly the raft of corruption scandals plaguing Ohio Republicans — there was a group of prominent moderate Republicans who came out against Blackwell because of his religion-baiting.
That said, Parsley’s name is still on the tips of conservative tongues as a religious kingmaker in the race for the White House, and McCain campaigned with Parsley, whom he called a “spiritual guide,” in Ohio in March.
A spate of new books asserts that the Religious Right is a spent force politically. What is your view? Have we truly entered a “post-Religious Right” America?
Many kingmakers on the Religious Right have seen their political influence wax and wane. Pat Robertson and James Dobson, for example, do not wield the cult of personality that they once did. Yet while the movement appears rudderless at the moment, literalist conservative Christianity runs very deep in our country. Although the public face of the movement is in transition, and many centrist evangelicals are striving to spread a less divisive message, the Religious Right’s basic doctrine continues to resonate with a significant segment of the population. Because of the movement’s organization, any new leaders who emerge over the next few years will have a formidable and well-funded political and media infrastructure to build on.
The continued survival of the Religious Right depends on the cultivation of a new generation of activists. In your chapter titled “Generation Next,” you discuss efforts by Religious Right leaders to raise up a new generation. How successful have these efforts been?
Surely, polling data shows younger evangelicals less interested in focusing exclusively on gay marriage and abortion as hot button issues politically, and increasingly interested in combating global warming, alleviating poverty and ending the war in Iraq. Yet many of the Generation Next efforts among Religious Right organizations, such as Ron Luce’s Teen Mania, focus on the Pentecostal/charismatic imperatives of personal purity and holiness, and getting tight with Jesus. It’s hard to measure how many of the kids attending these events stick with it for the long term, but Luce often fills stadiums all over the country, and many charismatic churches (including prosperity gospel churches) dedicate many resources to youth outreach efforts.
While writing the book, you traveled around the country and visited many large fundamentalist churches. What observations can you share with us about the average person who sits in the pews and listens to prosperity gospel rhetoric week after week?
They believe in and are waiting for signs and wonders, hints they think God is giving them about the future and miracles they believe their faith can bring to them. They trust their preachers and teachers are anointed by God and that God speaks through them. They are remarkably credulous about the inerrancy of their preachers and teachers, about the force of their own faith to bring about miraculous healing and abundance. Interactions are viewed through the prism of “spiritual warfare” — the idea that godly forces are perpetually in battle with satanic forces. As a result, the secular media’s reporting on current events — particularly when it is critical of their pastors — is to be distrusted and disregarded.
Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa is investigating allegations of financial misconduct at six large ministries affiliated with the prosperity gospel. Many of the ministries have refused to turn over information requested by Grassley. In your travels, what did you observe about the lifestyles of some of these preachers? Are they really building personal fortunes on the backs of nonprofit entities?
Yes, and the real extent is unknown, because they are not legally required by the Internal Revenue Service to file tax returns. Whereas nonreligious tax-exempt organizations must file a tax return that is publicly available, churches are not required to do so. The lack of transparency and accountability is at the heart of Grassley’s investigation — not, as the televangelists contend, a disagreement about doctrine.
In many cases, public records tell at least part of the story — how big and valuable their houses are, what other real estate they own, how many for-profit companies they control, or whether they own a private jet, for example. But many details remain hidden, and that is why Grassley launched his probe.
You write about the Texas pastor John Hagee. Hagee does not receive as much media attention as some other ministers on the right, yet he seems to have a good amount of political influence and even has the support of some Jewish organizations because of his backing of Israel. Hagee claims to be moderate. What are his views really like?
Hagee was recently thrust into the spotlight after he endorsed John McCain for president. McCain came under criticism for embracing Hagee, particularly because of Hagee’s anti-Catholic statements. But the picture of Hagee, who is extremely popular especially among Pentecostals/charismatics, as well as Christian Zionists, is bigger than that. He views the world through the prism of “spiritual warfare,” preaches the prosperity message and believes the Bible foretells a series of events leading to the ultimate showdown at Armageddon and the Second Coming of Jesus. Connected with the neoconservative foreign policy establishment, his view of biblical prophecy informs his position that, for example, a military attack on Iran is prophesied in the bible and will lead to the apocalypse.
Advocates of the prosperity gospel assert that the First Amendment gives them the right to believe whatever they want about Christianity. How do you respond to claims that the prosperity gospel is just another version of Christianity that is fully protected by the First Amendment?
Well, sure, from a theological perspective, anyone is entitled to their beliefs and have constitutionally protected rights to free exercise of their religion and free speech. But when questions arise about whether these churches are exploiting their tax-exempt status for personal profit, that’s a question for the Internal Revenue Service and congressional oversight of the IRS. That’s not an intrusion on anyone’s free-speech rights.
Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy are dead. James Dobson and Pat Robertson aren’t getting any younger. Who will lead the Religious Right in the coming years? We’ve talked about Parsley. Are there other contenders our readers should know about?
Watch Mike Huckabee. His career is far from over.
Two-headed baby hailed as divine
April 1, 2008
SAINI, India, April 1 (UPI) — An Indian baby with four eyes and two faces is being hailed as a reincarnation of the Indian God Ganesh, locals say.
ABC News reported Tuesday that hundreds of people have gone to the village of Saini to touch the girl’s feet, dance at her bedside and offer the family money, believing she might be a reincarnation of the Hindu God who is half person and half elephant.
“People from corner to corner from all India and all abroad come here to take the knowledge about this child,” said Harsharan Singh, the village math teacher. “It’s a gift of God and some people say she is like a goddess. They call the baby a face of a goddess.”
Medical experts in the United States who have performed surgeries on children with similar conditions say it’s difficult to know the baby’s prognosis without brain scans.
“A brain MRI would be illuminating to say the least. Without it we only can presume about what could be possible or what her quality of life would be with or without reconstructive surgery,” said Jorge Lazareff, director of pediatric neurosurgery at UCLA Hospital in Los Angeles.
Pregnant man tells Oprah: It’s a miracle
Apr 3, 2008
By Michael Conlon
CHICAGO (Reuters) – A transgender man who is six months pregnant said in an interview aired by Oprah Winfrey on Thursday that he always wanted to have a child and considers it a miracle.
“It’s not a male or female desire to have a child. It’s a human desire,” a thinly bearded Thomas Beatie said. “I have a very stable male identity,” he added, saying that pregnancy neither defines him nor makes him feel feminine.
Beatie, 34, who lives in Oregon, was born a woman but decided to become a man 10 years ago. He began taking testosterone treatments and had breast surgery to remove glands and flatten his chest.
“I opted not to do anything with my reproductive organs because I wanted to have a child one day,” he told the talk show host. Beatie’s wife Nancy said she inseminated him with a syringe using sperm purchased from a bank.
Now, he said, his size 32 jeans are getting a bit tight and his shirts are a bit stretched.
Nancy, to whom he has been married for five years and who has two grown daughters by a previous marriage, also appeared on the show, saying the couple’s roles will not change once the baby is born.
“He’s going to be the father and I’m going to be the mother,” she said. Their marriage is legal and he is recognized under state law as a man.
The couple was shown on video provided by People Magazine, which collaborated with Winfrey on the show, showing the room that will be the baby’s nursery. Beatie said the little girl was going to be “daddy’s little princess.”
The couple was also filmed in their hometown of Bend, Oregon, where he underwent an ultrasound showing the baby in his womb.
“I can’t believe it. I can’t believe she’s inside me,” Beatie said while watching the ultrasound image. “We see her as our little miracle.”
His obstetrician, Dr. Kimberly James, who practices in the Oregon town, told Winfrey, “This is a normal pregnancy.”
She said Beatie stopped taking testosterone two years ago and his levels of the hormone are normal.
“This baby is totally healthy,” she said. “This is what I consider a normal pregnancy.”
The couple said they had been turned down by a number of other doctors before James agreed to take him as a patient.
The couple said an earlier attempt at pregnancy failed when he developed a tubal pregnancy, resulting in surgery that removed his Fallopian tubes.
The couple said they decided to go public with the pregnancy because they wanted to control the way the news got out. “We’re just going to have the baby now,” Nancy said. “If we have to, we’ll go hide.”
The couple runs a small business in Bend and has some savings, she said. In addition, Beatie is working on a book about his childhood, his mother’s suicide and his life growing in Hawaii where, as a girl, he was a teen beauty pageant contestant and earned a martial arts black belt.
Winfrey called the development “a new definition of what diversity means for everybody.”