Monthly Archives: February 2008

Book Meme

There’s an interesting meme going around the Internet these days. The rules are simple:

1. Grab the nearest book (that is at least 123 pages long).
2. Open to p. 123.
3. Go down to the 5th sentence.
4. Type in the following 3 sentences.
5. Tag five people.

The passage below, which raises an interesting question for discussion, is taken from Soldier’s Heart, by Elizabeth D. Samet.

The story opens in the middle of an argument between two Union officers, General Cameron and Captain Ransome, the commander of an artillery battery, as they prepare for battle: “Captain Ransome,” Cameron declares, “it is not permitted to you to know anything. It is sufficient for you to obey my order.”

The longer I teach at West Point, the more fascinated I become by parables of obedience such as this one, for they illuminate the inescapable tension between “knowing” and “obeying” within military culture and the fear of commanders that subordinates who know too much might choose not to obey.

Having never attended West Point, I don’t feel bound to follow rules with military precision. Therefore, I will not tag anyone. If you are reading this and want to participate in this meme, consider yourself tagged.

– the chaplain


Posted by on February 20, 2008 in literature, meme


Dear Tide…

Got this in an email the other day:

Dear Tide,

I am writing to say what an excellent product you have! I’ve used it all of my married life, as my mom always told me it was the best. Now that I am in my fifties, I find it even better!

In fact, about a month ago, I spilled some red wine on my new white blouse. My rude, inconsiderate and uncaring husband started belittling me about how clumsy I was and generally started being a pain in the neck. One thing led to another and somehow I ended up with his blood on my blouse! I grabbed my bottle of Tide with bleach alternative and, to my surprise and satisfaction, all of the stains came out! In fact, the stains came out so well that the detectives who came by yesterday told me that the DNA tests on my blouse were negative. Shortly afterwards, my attorney called and said that I was no longer considered to be a suspect in my husband’s disappearance.

What a relief. Going through menopause is bad enough without being a murder suspect! I thank you, once again, for having such a great product.

Well, gotta go now. I have to write a letter to the Hefty bag people.


Posted by on February 18, 2008 in humor


Homophobic Censorship

This story appeared in the Loudoun County (which shares a border with the home of yours truly) regional newspaper this week:

An award-winning children’s book was recently removed from general circulation at Loudoun County public elementary school libraries.And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson is based on the true story of two male penguins who took turns sitting on an orphaned egg at the Central Park Zoo. In the story, the penguins, Roy and Silo, start their family when the chick, Tango, is hatched.

A parent at Sugarland Elementary in Sterling filed a request with the school principal that the book be reviewed. The principal and several staff members deemed the book appropriate for general circulation.

The parent appealed the school’s decision with the Loudoun County Public Schools administration. According to David Jones, the LCPS library media supervisor, a district-level committee was formed with teacher, parent, school librarian and administrative representatives who reviewed the book and offered a recommendation to Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick III, who ultimately decided on the book’s status.

Dr. Hatrick determined that And Tango Makes Three should be taken out of general circulation at the elementary level and placed in each school’s professional library. Teachers may reference and share the book with students at their own discretion. Children and parents may not check the book out of the library.

The American Library Association cites And Tango Makes Three as one of 2006’s most challenged books.

David Weintraub, president of Equality Loudoun, a gay advocacy group, said that the rights of the parent who challenged this book trumped the rights of parents who may support it. “Loudoun County Public Schools serve children from all kinds of families, including families with two moms or two dads. The administration and school board need to remember that when confronted with this sort of book challenge.”

I’m just guessing here, but I’m pretty sure that this children’s book does not discuss the ins and outs of homosexual lovemaking techniques. Moreover, while it probably is illustrated, I doubt that the pictures are pornographic. And I know it’s not even about humans, homosexual or otherwise! It simply depicts a penguin family that has two dads instead of a mom and a dad. This subject matter is unsuitable for children because…?

What is the matter with the right-wing, family values crowd? Would it have been better for the males to have left the egg unattended so that the baby inside would never have hatched? If so, then maybe right-to-lifers can tell me some more about the sanctity of life before birth (or hatching)! Good Grief! The USA has innocent people wasting their lives on death row, has wrongfully executed dozens of others only to exclaim later, “Oops, wrong guy – sorry about that,” has tortured prisoners with skin colors and accents that their captors don’t like, is illegally occupying a country and making threatening noises at that country’s neighbors – and people are concerned about a book that they presume is about gay penguins! It seems to me that the USA has far more substantive moral issues to deal with than gay guys, gay gals, gay guinea pigs, gay goats, gay geese or gay penguins.

I’d be doubled over in laughter if the situation weren’t so contemptible. Instead, I think I’m going to be ill. Excuse me.

— the chaplain

P.S. Visit Phillychief’s blog for his unique perspective on this story.


Posted by on February 15, 2008 in censorship, politics, prejudice, sex


The Ogre in America’s Living Room

A Christian high school in Kansas refused to allow a woman to officiate at a basketball game earlier this month. The reason for this action was that it went against the schools’ beliefs to allow a woman to hold any position of authority over boys. I assume this means that all members of the school’s faculty are male. I haven’t ascertained that because the school’s web site does not provide any information about its faculty and administration.

It’s no surprise that some very conservative Christians (as well as Muslims) continue to believe that women are divinely ordained to assume inferior positions to men. The problem we, the chaplain and the deacon, have is that, when we observe the American political landscape, it appears to us that sexism is more widespread than most Americans want to acknowledge. We have reason to believe that media questions regarding whether the Democratic presidential nominee will be decided by either super delegates or a brokered convention are the wrong questions to ask. The chaplain, in her more cynical moments, goes further and wonders whether the questions are red herrings designed to divert attention away from the fact that sexism seems to be playing a large role in this year’s Democratic primaries and caucuses. Both of us anticipate that Barack Obama will be the nominee, due in no small part to the following factors:

The Mantle. Since the conclusion of the Iowa caucuses, Obama has positioned himself as a modern JFK. He began by echoing MLK’s “I have a dream” language and phraseology. After the South Carolina primaries, he broadened his language to take on JFK’s “new generation” idiom. The language took hold and the powerful romantic aura of Camelot is taking hold with the public. The promise to satisfy unfulfilled hopes is always a potent motivator that draws adoring fans and adherents to one’s cause.

The Money. When a race is close at the halfway point, the candidate with the money to outspend the closest competitor has a decisive advantage. Though they are costly to run, television ads are the most effective messaging avenue for swaying the masses, particularly those who do not delve deeply into the issues. Obama clearly has deeper pockets than Clinton and can easily afford to run glitzy television ads that reinforce his JFK aura.

The Media. CNN has given markedly greater attention to Obama, and has consistently spoken about him in warmer terms, than Clinton. In the half hour before last month’s State of the Union address, CNN ran an extensive interview with Obama. At the conclusion of the interview, pundits rehashed and analyzed what he he said. After the address, CNN interviewed Obama at length regarding his reaction to the speech. CNN neither interviewed nor highlighted Clinton at all that evening. The spotlighting that Obama received before and after this address, which many politically involved citizens certainly would have been watching, was worth weeks of television ads.

More recently, as the early results of the Louisiana primaries trickled in, there was a difference of just over two hundred votes between McCain and Huckabee. Wolf Blitzer announced that the Republican race was close. No notation was made as to whom was leading; it was just a close race. Moments later, with twelve votes separating Clinton and Obama, Blitzer announced that Obama held the lead. Was this a subconscious indication of his preference or that of his network? As an isolated incident, it may not have meant anything. In light of other statements and spotlighting that have occurred over the past several weeks, we have to wonder: are we are observing random coincidences or a pattern of misogyny?

Also, consider the way Clinton’s demeanor is typically described by newscasters and political commentators. If she raises her voice, speaks as loudly as a man, or is animated during her presentation, then the pundits, the majority of them male, describe her as shrill. If she speaks softly or shows any range of emotion, these same pundits question whether she has sufficient fortitude to be President. Has the media ever paid this much attention to a male candidate’s voice?

The Mindset. The authors understand why the African-American community gives heavy support to Obama, and we understand why many females are voting for Clinton. But the fact that white men are leaning much more heavily toward Obama than Clinton may indicate that many of them are not ready to be led by a female president. Given a choice between a male leader or a female leader, both of whom are more or less equally qualified (or not) for the position they seek, male voters appear to be much more comfortable with the male than with the female.

The confluence of all of these circumstances causes us to wonder if sexism is the ogre that nestles, unnamed, in America’s living room.

– the chaplain & the deacon


Posted by on February 14, 2008 in politics, prejudice


Christian Fundamentalists Selectively Support Free Speech

I will preface this post from the deacon with a brief introductory remark. We are mildly embarrassed to admit that the headquarters of In God We Trust USA is located less than five miles from our home. I might as well clear the table right now and admit that NRA headquarters is less than five miles away in the opposite direction. If we believed in the power of prayer, we’d possibly be inclined to solicit several of them! Alas, as prayer isn’t good for anything other than catharsis, I now segue to the deacon’s post.


The following is taken from In God We Trust USA:

In God We Trust hereby bestows “The Cup of Wrath” on Boulder High School Principal Bud Jenkins … for not only sanctioning but applauding the September 27, 2007 school walkout by members of the Boulder High School “Student Workers Club.” This motley crew of teenagers wanted to protest merely having to listen to the voluntary recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance by their classmates.

Principal Jenkins stood by as a minimum of a dozen of his students deliberately disrupted class, marched outside and held a press conference to protest the Pledge of Allegiance and the words “under God”. Student Emma Martens declared, “We didn’t think it was fair for the whole school to have to listen to (the pledge). It’s almost religious oppression.”

With no regard for his duty to keep order at his school or to defend the Constitutionally-protected religious freedom of Boulder High’s faculty or students, Principal Jenkins then proceeded to praise the protesters for disrupting the school day and insulting their colleagues. He declared to the media that he was proud of them for “standing up for their beliefs” and that he would not seek disciplinary action against them. “Good for the kids. I’m proud that they follow the democratic process of telling the community about ideas they disagree with,” Jenkins declared, with complete disregard for the religious tradition that undergirds our country’s democratic process.

Principal Jenkins’ complete abrogation of his responsibilities as an educator, his callous disregard for our nation’s religious heritage and his zealous defense of anti-religious bigotry reflect terribly on himself, his school, his town and his profession.

For not acknowledging that he and his students are “Under God” whether they like it or not, Principal Bud Jenkins has earned himself a full draught from the Cup of Wrath.

Bud Jenkins is proud of his students for exercising free speech in a responsible manner. These students thought through the logistics and invited the press to their one-day event. Their walking out of class caught the attention of their peers and teachers. They made their point and returned to class. Having made their point, they did not repeat the activity on subsequent days. Protests typically disrupt routine activities for a short period of time. Such momentary disruptions and inconveniences are a small price to pay to allow others to exercise their free speech.

These protesters behaved in a thoughtful manner. That Bud Jenkins should be proud that these students showed such balance and maturity. Yet what do we see from the right wing religionists? Not just condemnation, but a criticism that is among the strongest a Christian can issue: calling down a cupful of God’s wrath upon the individual.

According to those at In God We Trust, free speech has limits. Free speech does not protect those who wish to protest against the inclusion of “in God we trust” in the pledge. Does this organization not realize that free speech is the very right that protects the rights of all believers to gather in their places of worship, and to do so without fear of attack?

Interestingly, their web site also features this item:

Erica Corder is suing the Lewis Palmer School District for forcing her to apologize to her fellow students for talking about her faith in her thirty-second valedictory address. The school threatened to withhold Erica’s diploma if she didn’t apologize for exercising her first amendment rights.

Apparently, In God We Trust and its supporters hold that freedom of speech applies only  to Christians.

– the deacon


Posted by on February 13, 2008 in censorship, religion


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 106 other followers