» Fauxgress Watch: “Born This Way” Social Justice League

We don’t need to justify ourselves to anyone. We don’t need a reason to be queer. Maybe we were born this way, maybe we weren’t. Maybe sexuality is fluid for some people and not for others. It’s totally irrelevant either way. The message we need to send to heterosexists is not that our sexuality was foisted upon us and that they should be “tolerant” and “understanding”. The message is: our sexuality is perfectly valid and none of your business, we offer you no excuses, and we are never going away.

YES!!! This is totally what I was saying just the other day in a conversation about this very thing. The “born this way” argument does not actually help the cause or validate someone’s choices. This blog post is awesome.

Occupy Wall Street: Why Baby Boomers Don’t Understand the Protests – The Daily Beast

What the Clueless Generation finds difficult to comprehend is that literally millions of highly educated and hardworking young Americans—people who followed all the rules and did everything we told them to do—are either severely underemployed or have no jobs of any kind. Meanwhile, they struggle with the massive educational debts they incurred after the baby boomers decided that access to the bargain-priced higher education from which we benefited wasn’t so important after all.

read it all here thedailybeast.com

Liberals, Conservatives May Have Different Brain Structures

FRIDAY, April 8 (HealthDay News) — Opposing political views may linked to differences in brain structures, a new study suggests.

Researchers at University College London found that liberals tend to have a larger anterior cingulate cortex, while conservatives have a larger amygdala.

Based on what’s known about the roles of these two areas of the brain, the structural differences are consistent with previous studies that found liberals are better able to cope with conflicting information and are more open to new experiences, while conservatives are better able to recognize a threat and more anxious when faced with uncertainty, according to team leader Ryota Kanai and colleagues.

The study appears online April 7 in the journal Current Biology.

“Previously, some psychological traits were known to be predictive of an individual’s political orientation. Our study now links such personality traits with specific brain structure,” Kanai said in a journal news release.

But it’s not clear whether political preferences and other personality traits influence brain structure or vice versa. It’s possible that a person’s experiences can change brain structure over time and, of course, many people change their political views during their lifetime, Kanai noted.

He also warned against reading too much into these findings.

“It’s very unlikely that actual political orientation is directly encoded in these brain regions,” Kanai said. “More work is needed to determine how these brain structures mediate the formation of political attitude.”

More information

McGill University has more about the amygdala.

Sounds about right to me.

Frank Schaeffer: 2012 Will Be About the Religious Right… Again (Want to Know Why?)

Progressives too live in a fantasy world. On a regular basis they declare that the culture wars are over and that the Religious Right’s domination of the national political scene is waning. They keep saying that because they never bothered to understand what it was that pushed the Evangelicals so far to the right.

As the New York Times noted in the context of an article on how the social conservatives are once again dictating the political agenda of the Republicans (March 27, 2011):

While social conservatives have long wielded a greater influence in Iowa than in many early-voting states, a bitter fight here over same-sex marriage and rivalries among some of the state’s conservative leaders have amplified the issues and might help define the message of Republican candidates in ways that could resonate nationally.

No events have focused solely on the economy, job creation or even the health care law that is widely reviled among Republicans. Instead, the most prominent platforms for candidates to introduce themselves have been a number of forums — three last week alone — before socially conservative audiences in Iowa… Several Republican prospects appeared here Saturday at the Conservative Principles Conference sponsored by Representative Steve King of Iowa, one of the party’s firebrands in Congress, who argues that “culture, not the economy, is the most important thing” in choosing a nominee.

Get it through your head: 2012 will — once again — be about social issues: abortion, gay rights et al.

Why?

Because the media, the progressive movement, and most Americans don’t understand — or do anything to counter — the influence of far right religious conservatives who long ago hijacked the Republican Party.

I know, I used to be one of them as I describe in my new book Sex, Mom, and God: How the Bible’s Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics — and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway. (I was a religious right anti-abortion activist/sidekick to my evangelical leader father Francis Schaeffer.)

America has a problem: It’s filled with people who take the Bible seriously. America has a blessing: It’s filled with people who take the Bible seriously. How does this blessing coexist with the curse derived from the same source: the Bible? The answer is that the Bible is a curse or a blessing depending on who is doing the interpreting. Sometimes belief in the Bible leads to building a hospital. Sometimes it leads to justifying perpetual war and empire building. Same book — different interpretation.

If the history of Christianity proves one thing, it’s that you can make the Bible “say” anything. When you hear words like “We want to take back America for God!” the twenty-first-century expression of such theocratic ideas can be traced back to some of my old friends: the Reconstructionists.

Most Americans have never heard of the Reconstructionists. But they have felt their impact through the Reconstructionists’ profound (if indirect) influence over the wider (and vast) Evangelical community. In turn, the Evangelicals shaped the politics of a secular culture that barely understood the Religious Right, let alone the forces within that movement that gave it its edge. The Americans inhabiting the wider (and more secular) culture just saw the results of Reconstructionism without understanding where those results had come from — for instance, how the hell George W. Bush got elected and then reelected!

If you feel victimized by modernity, then the Reconstructionists had the answer in their version of biblical interpretation. Reconstructionists wanted to replace the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights with their interpretation of the Bible.

In the Reconstructionists’ best of all worlds, Eddie Izzard would have been long since executed for the “crimes” of inappropriate wardrobe, not to mention “blasphemy.” If given the chance, they would burn people like my (Evangelical best selling author Edith Schaeffer) mother at the stake for her “heresy” of explaining away the nastier bits of the Bible or at least not living by its meaner rules.

Most Evangelicals are positively moderate by comparison to the Reconstructionists. But the Reconstructionist movement is a distilled essence of the more mainstream Evangelical version of an exclusionary theology that divides America into the “Real America” (as the Far Right claims only it is) and the rest of us “Sinners.”

And it was those “Real Americans” who were Bush’s base. The Reconstructionist worldview is ultra-Calvinist but, like all Calvinism, has its origins in ancient Israel/Palestine, when vengeful and ignorant tribal lore was written down by frightened men (the nastier authors of the Bible) trying to defend their prerogatives to bully women, murder rival tribes, and steal land.

In its modern American incarnation, which hardened into a twentieth-century movement in the 1960s and became widespread in the 1970s, Reconstructionism was propagated by people I knew and worked with closely when I, too, was both a Jesus Victim and a Jesus Predator claiming God’s special favor.

The leaders of the Reconstructionist movement included the late Rousas Rushdoony (Calvinist theologian, father of modern-era Christian Reconstructionism, patron saint to gold-hoarding haters of the Federal Reserve, and creator of the modern Evangelical homeschool movement), his son-in-law Gary North (an economist and publisher), and David Chilton (Calvinist pastor and author).)

No, the Reconstructionists are not about to take over America, the world, or even most American Evangelical institutions. But their influence has been like a drop of radicalizing flavoring added to a bottle of water.

Though most Evangelicals, let alone the general public, don’t know the names of the leading Reconstructionist thinkers, they helped create the world we live in — where a radicalized, angry Religious Right has changed the face of American politics.

Writer Chris Hedges has called this the rise of “Christian Fascism,” where “those that speak in the language of fact… are hated and feared.”

Anyone who wants to understand American politics had better get acquainted with the Reconstructionists. Reconstructionism, also called Theonomism, seeks to reconstruct “our fallen society.” Its worldview is best represented by the publications of the Chalcedon Foundation, (which has been classified as an antigay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center).

According to the Chalcedon Foundation Web site, the mission of the movement is to apply “the whole Word of God” to all aspects of human life: “It is not only our duty as individuals, families and churches to be Christian, but it is also the duty of the state, the school, the arts and sciences, law, economics, and every other sphere to be under Christ the King. Nothing is exempt from His dominion. We must live by His Word, not our own.” Until Rushdoony, founder and late president of the Chalcedon Foundation, began writing in the 1960s, most American fundamentalists (including my parents) didn’t try to apply biblical laws about capital punishment for homosexuality to the United States.

This theology was the American version of the attempt in some Muslim countries to impose Sharia (Islamic law) on all citizens, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

It’s no coincidence that the rise of the Islamic Brotherhoods in Egypt and Syria and the rise of North American Reconstructionism took place in a twentieth-century time frame — as science, and modern “permissiveness” collided with a frightened conservatism rooted in religion. The writings of people such as Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna and those of Rushdoony are virtually interchangeable when it comes to their goals of restoring God to His “rightful place” as He presides over law and morals.

It was my old friend, the short, stocky, bearded, gnomelike, Armenian-American Rousas Rushdoony who in 1973 most thoroughly laid out the Far Right/Religious Right agenda in his book The Institutes of Biblical Law. Rushdoony changed the definition of salvation from the accepted Evangelical idea that it applies to individuals to the claim that salvation is really about politics.

With this redefinition, Rushdoony contradicted the usual reading of Jesus’ words by most Christians to mean that Jesus had not come to this earth to be a political leader: “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

According to Rushdoony, all nations on earth should be obedient to the ancient Jewish/Christian version of “God’s Law,” so that the world will experience “God’s blessings.” Biblical salvation will then turn back the consequences of The Fall, and we’ll be on our way to the New Eden. To achieve this “turning back,” coercion must be used by the faithful to stop evildoers, who are, by definition, anyone not obeying all of God’s Laws as defined by the Reconstructionist interpretation of the Bible.

… And that is the context of the story that the New York Times and the rest of the media miss. They just never have bothered to do the homework needed to know what and why and where this tired old story keeps coming from. When Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Haley Barbour, et al pander to the religious right on the social issues what they are doing is paying tribute to the Reconstructionist movement, even if they’ve never heard of it.

Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His new book is Sex, Mom, and God: How the Bible’s Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics–and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway


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An important article for all liberals – religious and non alike.

The G.O.P.’s Abandoned Babies

Of the 33 countries that the International Monetary Fund describes as “advanced economies,” the United States now has the highest infant mortality rate according to data from the World Bank. It took us decades to arrive at this dubious distinction. In 1960, we were 15th. In 1980, we were 13th. And, in 2000, we were 2nd.

Part of the reason for our poor ranking is that declines in our rates stalled after premature births — a leading cause of infant mortality as well as long-term developmental disabilities — began to rise in the 1990s.

The good news is that last year the National Center for Health Statistics reported that the rate of premature births fell in 2008, representing the first two-year decline in the last 30 years.

Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, the president of the March of Dimes, which in 2003 started a multimillion-dollar premature birth campaign focusing on awareness and education, has said of the decline: “The policy changes and programs to prevent preterm birth that our volunteers and staff have worked so hard to bring about are starting to pay off.”

The bad news is that, according to the March of Dimes, the Republican budget passed in the House this month could do great damage to this progress. The budget proposes:

• $50 million in cuts to the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant that “supports state-based prenatal care programs and services for children with special needs.”

• $1 billion in cuts to programs at the National Institutes of Health that support “lifesaving biomedical research aimed at finding the causes and developing strategies for preventing preterm birth.”

• Nearly $1 billion in cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for its preventive health programs, including to its preterm birth studies.

This is the same budget in which House Republicans voted to strip all federal financing for Planned Parenthood.

It is savagely immoral and profoundly inconsistent to insist that women endure unwanted — and in some cases dangerous — pregnancies for the sake of “unborn children,” then eliminate financing designed to prevent those children from being delivered prematurely, rendering them the most fragile and vulnerable of newborns. How is this humane?

And it doesn’t even make economic sense. A 2006 study by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies estimated that premature births cost the country at least $26 billion a year. At that rate, reducing the number of premature births by just 10 percent would save thousands of babies and $2.6 billion — more than the proposed cuts to the programs listed, programs that also provide a wide variety of other services.

This type of budgetary policy is penny-wise and pound-foolish — and ultimately deadly. Think about that the next time you hear Republican representatives tout their “pro-life” bona fides. Think about that the next time someone uses the heinous term “baby killer.”

See how the United States’s infant mortality rate compares to other “advanced economies.”

I invite you to join me on
Facebook and follow me on Twitter, or e-mail me at chblow@nytimes.com.

so good

Bruce Reyes-Chow: One Pastor’s Opinion On Why the Government Should Get Out of the Marriage Business.

Deanne, Ron & Bruce

Photo: Here I am officiating my sister Deanne’s wedding.

This past December, my wife, Robin, and I celebrated 20 years of marriage. That chilly 1990 December morning at Ocean Avenue Presbyterian Church, before God and our community, we boldly and tearfully exchanged vows proclaiming our commitment to one another in marriage. Oh wait, that wasn’t REALLY the marriage, at least not in the eyes of the state. Not until the witnesses and officiant signed our licence were we “officially” married. Religious blessing or not, the civil rights we enjoy because we got hitched did not begin until that license was signed and received by the county registrar.

In my world and understanding of marriage, however, we were married when we exchanged vows and said “I do,” and we were joined legally when the license was signed and received. This separation is very clear to me, but our nation’s current marriage debates exists because we have confused and combined the two. I am not the only person who thinks this relationship is not only awkward, but constitutionally inappropriate. And while I applaud President Obama’s recent decision regarding the Defense of Marriage Act, I for one believe that the government should get out of the marriage business all together.

I offer a few thoughts…

Civil Unions make sense. Our government is responsible for the civil rights of its citizens. Moral codes will always be part of a national dialogue, but the only reason that the government should be interested in the bonds between two people is to regulate issues of taxes, property, contractual obligations, etc. and NOT the religious/spiritual nature of relationship. The civil relationship, should two people choose to enter into this kind of agreement, is purely legal and not about a spiritual bond of marriage.

Defining Marriage is a no-win situation. Let me be as clear as I can be. There is not one “Biblical” definition of marriage. Yes, there are examples of one man and one woman who are married, but even my kids know that there are also examples of marriage that go far and beyond the limits of one. I am shocked when Christian leaders talk about the Bible, especially in a civil context, as if is clear on the subject of marriage. This debate about and continued use of this “Biblical marriage” interpretation to inform civil relationships will lead nowhere and further blurs the separation of church and state.

Marriage is deeply spiritual. First, I know that there are many who believe that marriage as an institution, religious or civil, is a bankrupt social construct. And there are times I see some marriages and kind of agree. But call me old-fashioned, I still believe in the beauty of the institution of marriage. It would be all the better if the government left the marriage part to the religious community In my understanding of Biblical marriage, scripture invites us into deep and intimate relationships with one another, two individuals, who seek to commit their lives to one another, growing individually and together into God hopes them to become. Other religious traditions will bring a different perspective, and barring destructive practices, should be allowed to exercise their marriage perspectives.

I am not an agent of the state. While I do enjoy saying the words, “By the power given to me by…” that is mostly out of nostalgia for the classic wedding experience and my secret desire to be a cop, neither of which is reason enough for me to officiate weddings on behalf of the state. In no other part of my life as a pastor am I asked to be an agent of the state. Yes, I am responsible to the state when it comes to reporting abuse, but even then I do not act on behalf of the state in any other part of the process. This blurring between church and state is a relationship whose time has passed, if it ever had a time in the first place.

So there you have it, my quick thoughts on marriage, civil unions and why the government should leave the marriage life of its citizens to someone else. I look forward to what will surely be a spirited conversation.

This post first appeared on my general blog, www.reyes-chow.com. If you would like to engage in real time, please feel free to reply to me on Twitter via @breyeshow or visit me on my Facebook page.


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Spot on my friend! Well done Bruce.

ThinkProgress » 10 Things Conservatives Don’t Want You To Know About Ronald Reagan

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…and more. Now, I don’t point these out to disparage Reagan. My point is that Democrats, Conservatives, Independents, etc. all need to keep this in mind when criticizing or idolizing the current president. Reagan is pointed out now because it’s the 100th anniversary of his birth but this could be just about any other president who is heralded as a bastion of whatever ideals a person holds.