Why Would Anyone Think Jesus Makes You Non-Violent?

IntoleranceI’m about to quote Phil Robertson, but this is not about Duck Dynasty. This is about religious intolerance in a general (but American) sense. I just heard that in Robertson’s GQ interview, he also said something about Shintos. Of course, that in itself is kind of funny because not that many people in the United States know what Shintos are. But I understand. Robertson is a college graduate and started his career as a teacher. He’s also clearly smart. But I had to find out what the old man said about those nasty Shintos!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the actually interview so I had to settle for a quote from a Dylan Matthews article where he’s being pretty silly, 9 questions you were too embarrassed to ask about Duck Dynasty. It delighted me to read it. Matthews introduces it by saying, “Here’s Robertson on why he thinks Shintoism—much like Communism, Nazism and Islamism—leads to violence.”

All you have to do is look at any society where there is no Jesus. I’ll give you four: Nazis, no Jesus. Look at their record. Uh, Shintos? They started this thing in Pearl Harbor. Any Jesus among them? None. Communists? None. Islamists? Zero. That’s eighty years of ideologies that have popped up where no Jesus was allowed among those four groups. Just look at the records as far as murder goes among those four groups.

Before we get to the Shintos, let’s discuss the Nazis. They were explicitly Christian. Now I know what Christians always say to this, “But they wouldn’t have behaved like that if they were real Christians. If they knew Jesus’ love, they wouldn’t have behaved that way!” This is the same thing they say when a Christian bombs an abortion clinic or does any number of other horrific things in the name of Jesus. But if that’s the case, then Christianity is totally unaccountable. I could say that only people who don’t read Frankly Curious lie. And then when someone who does read it is shown to lie, I could just say, “Yeah, but they weren’t a real reader. If they understood what Frankly Curious is all about, they wouldn’t lie.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but my understanding was always that the start of World War II was a fairly complicated thing. That is to say that bombing Pearl Harbor didn’t happen in a vacuum. But regardless, that was all much more about the emperor. I don’t think it had anything to do with Shinto beliefs. Regardless, we here in the 80% Christian United States decided to not so much fight the Japanese army as the Japanese civilian population, which we laid to waste. I don’t recall where Jesus said, “And if you are attacked, be sure to kill as many enemy civilians as you can because they’re just fucking Shintos who will murder you if they get half a chance.” Note, Wikipedia says, “Shrine Shinto is associated in the popular imagination with summer festivals, good luck charms, making wishes, holding groundbreaking ceremonies, and showing support for the nation of Japan.” I just don’t see the murder part of that, but moving on.

As for the Communists and Islamists, I just don’t see them as any more violent that the 80% Christian United States. But what the quote really says is, “Christianity is better than all the other religions, of which I am ignorant.” That’s usually a big problem when a group of people are overwhelmingly of the same faith. They start thinking that somehow they’ve got hold of the Truth. In this particular quote, we’re to believe that it is the lack of Jesus that makes people violent. But what about Jainism? Certainly that is a far more peaceful religion than Christianity. No one can question that. They don’t even kill animals to eat. What does the Christian say about the non-violence of Jainism despite its complete lack of Jesus?

Well, he was just providing an example! The point point always was that Christianity is it. This is why in America, Christianity and nationalism are so closely linked. When they chant, “We’re number one!” they mean both the United States and Christianity. This kind of intolerance and ignorance of other religions shows a shocking level of insecurity. Because as all good Americans know, there is nothing that need be taught to an American or a Christian. And sadly, there is usually nothing that can be taught, either.

Cary, Winnie, and Barbed Wire

Cary GrantOn this day in 1813, Joseph Glidden was born. Now he may or may not have invented barbed wire. But he got the patent on it in 1874 and so he became an incredibly wealthy man. Given that he probably wasn’t the actual inventor and how the idea was clearly on the minds of a number of people, it shows that our patent system has long been screwed up. But what I don’t think most people understand is how important barbed wire was to turning the western United States into a cattle ranching empire. The places where cattle were being bread did not have a lot of wood. So they really did need a way of enclose the cattle that didn’t cost a fortune in imported wood. Barbed wire really was a hugely important technological innovation, regardless of who invented it.

The writer of the great Winnie the Pooh books, A A Milne was born in 1882. I wrote a bit about him last year, Neuroses of Winnie the Pooh. Milne wrote much else besides the Pooh books. He was most successful as a playwright, but there is hardly a form or audience he didn’t write for.

Other birthdays: the great political theorist Montesquieu (1689); the lexicographer Peter Mark Roget (1779); Thomas “Come here, I want you” Watson (1854); comedian Oliver Hardy (1892); horror writer C M Eddy Jr (1896); actor Danny Kaye (1913); Bozo the Clown, Bob Bell (1922); writer and mystic Robert Anton Wilson (1932); singer-songwriter Bobby Goldsboro (73); actor Paul Freeman (71); actor Kevin Costner (59); and chess grandmaster Alexander Khalifman (46).

The day, however, belongs to one of my all time favorite actors Cary Grant who was born on this day in 1904. He is just always fun to watch. I prefer when he is in comedies, because he is very funny. But he’s also very good in dramas like North by Northwest. Of course, above all, he was in His Girl Friday—one of my very favorite films. The whole film is on YouTube in a couple of places, but here is the beginning where he and Rosalind Russell make a great comic duo:

Happy birthday Cary Grant!

The Rich Versus the Upper Class

Paul KrugmanPaul Krugman makes a great point in a blog post today, The Myth of the Deserving Rich. But then he commits an error (which he does all the time) that drives me crazy. But first, let’s talk about the article generally.

His point is that just as we try to justify the poverty of the poor, we try to justify the wealth of the rich. Well, we don’t. But pretty much the entirety of the mainstream press and pretty much any politician with high aspirations. Of course, Krugman doesn’t go into it, but there is a big reason for this: social unrest. I think it is the biggest issue that society will have to face over the next couple hundred years if we manage to keep civilization going that long. If we all admit that our society is hopelessly unjust, how will we deal with this? We want to create a society that encourages people to do good things with their lives. But it isn’t a stupid person’s fault that he is stupid.

Krugman, of course, is more interested in the injustice and social waste of not providing real opportunity to the children of the poor. I’m interested in that too. But I think the problem is much deeper than that and eventually we need to solve it if we are going to make progress as a society. Personally, I believe in guaranteed incomes. But that discussion can wait for another day. What’s more, I’m sure there are other solutions that have not occurred to me.

On the other side of things—apologizing for the wealth of the rich—is at least as absurd. A canard I used to hear a lot is, “If the rich didn’t deserve their money, they would have lost it by now.” No. There are several reasons this is wrong. One is that the children of the rich get educated in how to manage money. Another is that the rich don’t really manage their own money; they pay experts to manage their money. And don’t forget: inheritance in the primary way people get rich. This Forbes article is a good example of what Krugman talks about in his article: using the well off but not rich to make the rich look better. (A half-million in wealth including your home is the definition of rich? Right!)

What Krugman keeps doing that bugs me, however, is saying that only the top 1% is upper class and that the 19% below them are the upper-middle class. Look, if the bottom 20% is the lower class, the middle 20% is the middle class, then the top 20% is the upper class. I admit, someone barely in that class is not rich at all. (My sister would fit into that category, although by the Forbes article, she would be rich just based upon her house.) I’ll even admit that the 19% are not rich. But they are by definition in the upper class.

The reason this bothers me is that it tilts the field against the lower class. By this way of thinking, the bottom 20% somehow balance the upper 1%. But that isn’t what’s really going on. People living on the streets might balance the 1%, but not the bottom 20% generally. They really are the contrast to the management class (and those few people who still have decent unions). I’m in no way against the upper class—I have family and friends in this class. Sadly, however, not one of them will admit to being in the upper class. And seeing reality is a prerequisite for improving it.

The Tea Totaler

TeapotAll evidence to the contrary, I don’t drink much. But I am not a teetotaler. That’s an interesting word. Originally, it referred to the 19th century movement of people who followed teetotalism—an explicit abstinence from all alcohol. It started at the same time and was more or less the same thing as the Washingtonian movement. There is a tendency now to think that as a nation we drink a great deal. This is not true, and I think this misinformation comes from groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and MADD who constantly want to define down what it means to be drunk or a drunk.

The truth is that people used to drink a lot more than we do now. I see this all the time while researching my daily birthday posts, where I find a lot of people of the past dying from liver damage due to alcohol consumption. And in the 19th century, it was especially bad. And here I’m not just talking about the drinkers themselves. Alcohol use then as now was associated with violence—especially domestic violence.

Today, people are far more responsible about their drinking. This is not surprising. Drug taking is a social activity. The biggest harms that occur with drugs are when new drugs are introduced into a culture where it had no history and thus no set norms. Despite all the mythology of the “disease of addiction,” people generally learn their drug taking habits from their environment. Although I have seen only too well the damage that alcohol can do to people and families, I think modest drinking is unquestionably a good thing. And wine and beer go well with most foods.

I try to have a drink every night. It is usually wine or beer, but I am not against the occasional mixed drink. In fact, I made up a drink called The Archie Leach, which is interesting as you will see later in today’s birthday post. But sometimes I have a problem. I want to have a drink, but I am tired and still have work to do. And thus, I created The Tea Totaler:

Steep one bag of a hearty black tea in 1.25 cups of 90°C (194°F) water for 5 minutes. I use Irish Breakfast tea but use whatever you like. Remove the bag. Add 2 tsp of heavy cream. Mix. Add one shot of vodka. Mix. Enjoy!

I can’t say that it’s great, but it is pleasant enough. I can tell you this: tea and brandy do not mix! And it gives you that extra energy to get your work done. Or to write unfortunate things on Twitter. It’s really up to you.

Afterword

Do be careful with this. The combination of alcohol and caffeine tends to make one feel as though one has had less alcohol than one has. Trust me: this is one drink, regardless of how it makes you feel. You may be thinking faster, but you aren’t thinking better.

Follow the Money in New Jersey

Steve KornackiI know that I have sworn off MSNBC, but I got a tip that this morning there was real news coming on Up with Steve Kornacki. So I watched it. This is amazing. Really, you’ve got to see it. The description of this segment sums it up pretty well, “Top officials in Chris Christie’s administration appear to be linked to an effort to use Sandy relief funds to force the city of Hoboken to expedite a project that also happens to involve the law firm of the Port Authority chairman.” There were three blocks that The Rockefeller Group owned in Hoboken that the Christie administration really wanted to be rezoned in such a way as to make a development there very profitable. About most things, I’m pretty skeptical—even things I want to believe. But the more I hear about the widening Chris Christie scandal, the more it seems true.

This is just the first segment, but it lays out the whole narrative:

Update (18 January 2014 12:46 pm)

One thing that was very interesting in the discussion that followed on the show was how at least two people there were minimizing it. For example, Josh Barro noted, “People nationally will not obsess that long about a story about a traffic jam.” He was saying that as the outlook of the people in the Christie administration, but it’s clear that he more or less agrees with that view. What is fascinating is that these are exactly the kinds of things people said about Watergate, “Why are you guys obsessing over this little burglary?” That misses the main point. It’s a thread. And the more it is pulled on, the more the entire Christie administration seems to be unraveling. Like the story today: it is only big news in the context of the larger story that Christie’s administration seems to be every bit as big a bully as Christie himself. And bullies usually end up breaking the law at some point. They are people who don’t accept social norms so they aren’t real clear on how to act generally. People will not soon get tired of this story.