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Christians Against Coffee: What Will They Think of Next?

Christians Against Coffee: What Will They Think of Next?

Christians Against Coffee: What Will They Think of Next?

Yesterday the Huffington Post reported on a story in which an evangelical minister, David Barton, railed against Christians buying Starbucks coffee based on the sole idea that Starbucks spends some of their profits to support the civil rights of all people in the United States of America. In particular, this preacher was upset because Starbucks, according to him, refuses to support traditional marriage. Well, we all know what traditional (code for biblical) marriage means. After all, polygamy was the norm back in the day. So does this preacher support plural marriage? Or is he just against gay marriage? In either case, he is on the wrong side of the fence. To claim that a cup of coffee offends that which he represents as God is simply laughable on its face. Is it any wonder that this kind of preaching is unappealing to so many.

I don’t know about you, but I am personally offended by those who insist that their religious beliefs are superior to all other belief systems. While on my way home from Phoenix, we drove right by what is claimed as the largest cross in North America just to the East of Amarillo, Texas. For a small offering (not the cost of admission) one can drive off the road to a museum and chapel to engage in the praise of this monstrous cross by the side of the road. With between 39 and 41 million non-Christians (around 18% of the total population) in the United States and only about 40% of the total population of the United States claiming to be either evangelical or ‘born again’ Christians, one wonders just to whom the gigantic cross is playing.

As an atheist, I find there to be no evidence for the existence of a god or gods while I do find ample evidence that there is no god or gods floating around the universe. I have little difficulty writing about this rational decision yet I also do not wish to denigrate any who chose to adopt any particular mythology for their own personal comfort. I am not on a conversion rant. In fact, if there were ever credible evidence (not bible quotes or other self-serving writing) to the contrary, I would be rationally forced to accept the proposition that there is a god or gods that somehow run the universe for their own desires. All I am arguing is that the available evidence does not support such a proposition. What I find so offensive about true believers is their insistance that they have the true and correct answers and there must be no deviation from the rules they establish. There is a great line in a song I heard while on vacation that goes something like this…I met a preacher willing to explain the world according to him in return for my personal check. It is true-belief that is unwilling or unable to be open to the possibility of being altogether wrong; demanding that one believe as they or be burned at the stake or blown up while riding on a public bus.

What I am ranting against, I suppose, is the hypocrisy of true-belief, the hypocrisy born of ignorance fostered by turning a deaf ear to anything but that to which one is committed. It becomes unauthentic the very moment one chooses to act to force others to attend to the same beliefs to which the true-believer is committed for the benefit of the true-believer. Never mind that those forced to conform find the very act of conformity offensive. In the end, what do crosses and coffee have in common? Perhaps forced conformity is the bugaboo from which there is no recovery.

Responsibility for Earth…It Is The Only Home We Have!

Responsibility for Earth...It Is The Only Home We Have!

Responsibility for Earth…It Is The Only Home We Have!

Responsibility for Earth...It Is The Only Home We Have!

Responsibility for Earth…It Is The Only Home We Have!

I spent the day yesterday in the wilderness of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Western Colorado. Set in the Western Rockies, quite near the San Juan Range, the Black Canyon is a magnificent example of untouched wilderness (except that the Gunnison River runs with less force and less water than ever because of dams up river). Driving just the day before, through the center of the Rocky Mountains, through the Vail Pass on I-70, I cringed at several examples of strip mining that simply level magnificent mountains by stripping away the whole mountain to find the small deposits of ore that bring the mining company a profit. I couldn’t help but think about the film Treasure of Sierra Madre when the gold mine ran out and the old miner insisted that before they left the mountain the three partners put the mountain back to its pristine condition. The whole idea was that the mountain was good to them so they had the responsibility to be good to the mountain. That responsibility meant that greed could not out strip the ethical action was forgotten; to the contrary, it was paramount in the mind of at least one of the partners and the others saw the wisdom in the action.

Comparing the beauty found in nature against the strip mining operations that pillage the natural beauty of the land for profit is something we all should do. The question is simply this: Does earning a profit outweigh the ethical responsibility to destroy the very land we must live on and with? I suggest that making a reasonable profit, one that is based not on greed but on an ethical responsibility to preserve the beauty of nature. In addition, the ethical responsibility extends to people in the sense that there is an important responsibility to those from whose labor served to produce those profits. In short, there is no excuse for strip mining a mountain to oblivion, paying miners low wages, and earning obscene profits other than greed.

The image in the upper right was shot at an overlook at the Black Canyon’s South Rim. The canyon, carved over a 2-million year period, is a pristine wilderness preserved for people around the United States and the world. Once one leaves the confines of the National Park, however, the land no longer pristine or preserved. Fenced in pastures, rusting cars in yards, dammed rivers and streams, broken down barns, buildings and equipment all serve to remind one of the importance of the preservation of wilderness as a reminder of our responsibility to do no harm to the world we live in. Just because one can strip mine or clear-cut forests or despoil the oceans or spew pollutants into the atmosphere doesn’t mean we should. In fact, the shortsighted pollution of the only place we call home is without honor or morality.

Saying Goodbye to my PICC Line and More

Saying Goodbye to my PICC Line and More

Saying Goodbye to my PICC Line and More

In addition to the reversal of rolls in my household in which I became the caregiver and my wife is the patient, I had my last infusion of the antibiotic erdapentem yesterday. Once the infusion was completed the PICC line (peripherally inserted central catheter) was removed, painlessly I might add. While I hated to say goodbye to this port allowing for fourteen infusions without ever being stuck while inserting an IV line, I was happy when it was gone. The worst part of the whole last two weeks was that I couldn’t get the PICC wet so my left arm could not get washed. This morning I intend to take a nice long shower exposing my left arm to the pounding of hot water until I turn into a prune.

It does seem as though the infection that caused this whole thing is gone. I feel much better than I did two weeks ago but, because no test was done to confirm the bacteria is gone, I have a small lingering concern that maybe some of the bacteria wasn’t killed. Only time will tell if that is the case but for now I can only believe that a cure was accomplished. The infectious disease doc assures me that so long as I am symptom free no testing is warranted, that the treatment worked and there is no longer a need for concern. So I will trust in that assessment even though I have a lingering doubt that wants to hang around just to play with me.

On another note, now that holidays are over I want to rant a bit. As readers know, I am Jewishish, an atheist Jew. Culturally Jewish, a reader of Jewish thought and religious texts (I hesitate to call it scholarship) and a citizen of the United States, I have yet to find a proper response to someone uttering words, as sincere as they might be, like Happy Easter or Merry Christmas. I don’t know how to answer them. I could say, “Look, buddy, I don’t know what to say to you. It isn’t my holiday.” But that would be rude. On the other hand, I find it offensive when someone assumes I am a member of their particular mythological cult without knowledge of whatever mythological cult I call my own so why not be rude. The fact is that rudeness never solves a thing. It merely heightens underlying tensions that we know exist between competing groups.

I could, on the other hand, be quite passive and say, “Same to you.” But that response would be hypocritical. Because I don’t understand the hoopla behind either Christmas or Easter (sure I know the mythological foundations for them I simply don’t understand why people believe them) my response would be one of acquiescence to the fundamental ideas of these particular myths. This hypocrisy would also be rude, albeit, not an overt charge of rudeness rather a rather covert mocking of the sincerity of the original utterance.

Another response would be to simply nod my head in the direction of the well-wisher. This silent mocking is less offensive than the mocking response of, “Same to you,” but the intent is similar. While acknowledging the well-wisher’s utterance it silently evades a direct confrontation with the well wisher but doesn’t acknowledge the well-wisher’s words.

The problem lies in the hegemony of the well-wisher’s understanding of the world without considering the alterity of the other. The fact is that each human being is unique. Sure we belong to social, cultural, political, religious and linguistic groups (tribes) but even within each group and across groups our uniqueness, our alterity, is a principal part of who we are. To mash alterity into something one may consider as normal or normative and apply that norm to all is a reduction of the self (as unique) into the same (as defined only by the normative experience). The well-wisher reduces everything into a mush of normalcy thereby reducing everything to the same without regard for the uniqueness of the other. Hegemonic thinking, the reduction of everything into the same, amounts to a cauldron of roiling hate and distrust of the other, the non-compliant.

I would never wish anyone a Happy Passover unless I knew that the other was Jewish. Why would a Christian assume I am the same as she is without knowledge of my core beliefs or disbeliefs? It is offensive to me when someone chooses to lump me into their sameness without even a little bit of knowledge about who I am.

The solution to all this is simple. If you are certain you are talking to someone who shares your mythological stories, go ahead and include them in your wish list for happiness. If you aren’t just wish them a Happy Holiday; surely this will not offend anyone. Remember that all cultures celebrate rites of spring and the depths of winter in some form or another, even when those forms have taken on a life of their own divorced from their origins. So I wish most people a Happy Holiday and save the specifics for those with whom I share mythological foundations whether I believe them to be true or not.

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