Posts filed under Old Time Religion

Simple solutions to stupid problems, part 2: By The Power Vested In Me edition

Reporting from Las Vegas — In a city launched by shotgun weddings and quickie divorces, and which offers the chance to be wed by faux Liberaces, King Tuts and Grim Reapers, there remains at least one nuptial taboo: You can’t be married by an atheist.

Michael Jacobson, a 64-year-old retiree who calls himself a lifelong atheist, tried this year to get a license to perform weddings. Clark County rejected his application because he had no ties to a congregation, as state law requires.

So Jacobson and attorneys from two national secular groups — the American Humanist Assn. and the Center for Inquiry — are trying to change things. If they can’t persuade the state Legislature to rework the law, they plan to sue.

. . .

When Lipman and his wife moved to Florida this spring, Jacobson — a balding man with a thin, white mustache and a trace of his native Philadelphia in his voice — decided to become the local atheist celebrant.

But I’m not going to do it by saying I belong to a religious organization, he said. That’s a sham, because atheists are not religious.

Jacobson filled out an application to perform marriages, but sidestepped the questions on religion. County Clerk Shirley Parraguirre said she had little choice but to reject it.

As Nevada law requires, all of the county’s 2,500 or so licensed officiants are connected to a congregation — though some are as small as two people, Parraguirre said. (Judges and commissioners of civil marriages can also lead ceremonies.)

Some of the state’s regulations hark back to the 1960s, when ministers were dumping their flocks to become wealthy Marrying Sams, according to the book Las Vegas: An Unconventional History. One would-be officiant apparently hoped to marry enough people to finance his divorce.

Lawmakers, trying to ferret out the profit-hungry, said weddings must be among a minister’s incidental duties. Drive past the string of neon-lighted downtown chapels, and you’ll see that didn’t quite pan out.

Clark County issues nearly 100,000 marriage licenses a year and boasts dozens of places to exchange vows — atop Harley-Davidsons, in Renaissance costumes, aboard gondolas — 24 hours a day. The competition is so fierce that in recent years, employees at rival chapels have accused one another of slashing tires and shouting death threats. Someone is working at all of these chapels, said Parraguirre, whose office doesn’t have the resources to track down ministers flouting the law. In fact, she worries that if the criteria to become an officiant changes, her staff will be bombarded with people coming in and just doing it for a job.

. . .

Judges performing ceremonies, for example, don’t have to meet religious criteria, so it’s absurd to make anyone else do so, [Lynne Henderson, a law professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas] said. Officials could regulate celebrants in other ways, such as making them get training.

— Ashley Powers, Los Angeles Times (2008-12-14): Atheist may sue if law on Las Vegas officiants won’t change

Let’s suppose it’s true that County Clerk Shirley Parraguirre’s office just hasn’t got the resources to deal with all the applications that would bombard them if Nevada did away its mandates for state discrimination against religiously unconventional marriages. It seems to me there’s a simple solution: save County Clerk Shirley Parraguirre the work by abolishing the laws that require wedding officiants to get a license from the State in the first place. If there’s no licensure requirement, there will be no discrimination lawsuits, and also no applications to bombard poor County Clerk Shirley Parraguirre.

If your Elvis-impersonating streetside neon-chapel minister’s motives are really focused on making a living rather than on serving the Lord, who cares? Couples who want a religiously serious wedding will presumably go to a church or temple or mosque where they can get one.

If your Starfleet-uniformed Captain of the Starship of Love hasn’t had some State-sanctioned course of training (training in what?), who cares? Couples who want to vet their celebrants for training or competency will do so.

Even if you think that the State has some legitimate business using a licensing system to pick and choose which marriages it will or will not recognize (I don’t), what possible purpose can it serve to require not only the couple, but also the third party that they hire to officiate — whose only legal function is to witness the vows and attest that these folks mean what they say — to get specially vetted and licensed by the State? Really, seriously, bureaucratic rationality aside, who could possibly care, and why?

See also:

Well, thank God #10: Got Milk? edition

A while back in comments on GT 2008-05-14: Well, thank God #9: Income Taxi edition, John Markley said:

I’m disturbed by the whole idea that there are actually undercover agents hunting for unlicensed taxi drivers. The whole concept sounds like a wacky satire of Stalinist Russia.

But since when has a collapse into obviously inane self-parody ever stopped a government busybody from doing what they do best?

Meet Millersburg [Ohio] farmer Arlie Stutzman, who’s had a Grade B dairy license for 12 years, allowing him to sell milk to local cheese factories. On September 20, an undercover ag agent visited his farm and asked to buy a gallon of milk.

It’s a no-no for a farmer to sell milk directly, so Stutzman offered to just give it to the man if he were truly in need. But the guy insisted on leaving two bucks. The agent then fetched an unmarked container from his car and had Stutzman’s son fill it with milk. . . .

For the sin of selling in an unlabeled container, Stutzman had his license yanked. At an administrative hearing, he argued that the Amish faith taught him to share food with anybody in need, and asked that his penalty be reduced to a 60-day license suspension. His plea was rejected by department director Fred Dailey, who’s also mean to baby deer and people in wheelchairs. Stutzman now faces additional fines if convicted at an April 17 hearing.

I never realized that being generous and sharing food is a crime in Ohio, says Stutzman.

— Cleveland Scene (2006-03-08): Got bullshit?

Stutzman eventually got his license back after public uproar forced the Ohio Department of Agriculture to back down. But though in this case justice may have been tempered by mercy, I have to say thank God that the Ohio Department of Agriculture was there to bust Stutzman in the first place. If state agriculture departments weren’t out there every day making sure that customers have to patronize the right corporate milk distributors and retailers, who would? How could anyone be sure that customers are being forced to go through the proper agribusiness channels for their dairy products? Without state bureaucracies and their professional snitches to do the centralizing and the regulating, why, Amish farmers might be out there just giving out raw milk willy-nilly to odd passers-by. God, it’d be Anarchy!

It should never be forgotten that the Ohio Department of Agriculture is the thin blue line that keeps Ohioan customers away from the agricultural products that they are willing to pay for.

(Via Jeffrey Quick’s Blog 2006-03-09, via Mental Militia Forums 2006-03-09, via FSK 2008-07-04.)

See also:

On electability

Forwarded by Mark Pilgrim (2008-06-19), who adapted this version from <a rel=”via” href=”http://www.slate.com/id/2193798/>Christopher Beam @ Slate (2008-06-17).

From: Mark Pilgrim
Subject: Teach the Controversy about Barack Obama
Date: 19 June 2008

There are many things people do not know about BARACK OBAMA. It is every American’s PATRIOTIC DUTY to read this message and pass it along to all of their friends and loved ones.

Barack Obama is a PATRIOTIC AMERICAN. He has one HAND over his HEART at all times. He occasionally switches when one arm gets tired, which is almost never because he is STRONG.

Barack Obama wears a FLAG PIN at all times, even in the shower. One time he DROPPED THE PIN down the drain, and he PATRIOTICALLY disassembled his entire plumbing to retrieve it.

Barack Obama says the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE every time he sees an American flag, and he has an American flag in EVERY ROOM in his house. Some days it takes him OVER 45 MINUTES to get out of his house. He also ends every sentence by saying, WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL. On the INTERNET there is video of Obama quietly mouthing the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE in his sleep.

Barack Obama has the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE tattooed on his stomach. It’s upside-down, so he can read it while doing sit-ups. He does FIFTY SITUPS every morning, which is the same number as OUR FOUNDING FATHERS did to commemorate our FIFTY STATES.

Barack Obama take his daughters HUNTING every weekend — HUNTING LIBERALS, that is. Liberals are ALWAYS IN SEASON.

Barack Obama is a DEVOUT CHRISTIAN. His favorite book is the BIBLE, which he has memorized. His name means HE WHO LOVES JESUS in the ancient language of Aramaic, which is the language JESUS SPOKE before he learned English. He is PROUD that Jesus was an American.

Barack Obama goes to church every morning. He goes to church every afternoon. He goes to church every evening. He is IN CHURCH RIGHT NOW. If elected, he has pledged to build a MEGACHURCH inside AIR FORCE ONE.

Barack Obama’s skin is the color of AMERICAN SOIL. His blood is the color of the AMERICAN FLAG. His fingernails are the color of APPLE PIE. He rubs AMERICAN SOIL on his chest every 20 minutes, then cleanses himself with HOLY WATER.

Barack Obama buys only AMERICAN GOODS. His sole possessions are a FORD PICK-UP TRUCK, a GEORGE FOREMAN GRILL, and HALF THE STATE OF MONTANA. He drinks only APPALACHIAN MOONSHINE, eats only FREEDOM FRIES, and travels exclusively by JOHN DEERE TRACTOR.

PLEASE FORWARD THIS EMAIL TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW! SPREAD THE TRUTH ABOUT BARACK OBAMA!!!!!

Official national hero types

(Via Gene Expression 2008-04-04.)

Here’s the Danny Bonaduce of the Blogosphere, marking the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr., to reflect on the comforting lies about Dr. King, which the New Class political-intellectual complex has spent the last 40 years manufacturing and promoting:

Kai Wright has an excellent piece on the forgotten radicalism of Martin Luther King, Jr. — always a point worth making in a day and age when conservatives would like you to think they would have been standing right beside King when he marched on Washington.

That said, to some extent I think the creation of the King Myth and the displacement of the more authentic radical King is a good thing. A country doesn’t get official national hero types without mythologizing and sanitizing them to a large extent, and it’s a good thing, at the end of the day, that King has moved into national hero status.

— Matt Yglesias, The Atlantic (2008-04-04): MLK’s Radicalism

Really.

It seems to me that if the only way you can get official national hero types is by oversimplifying, lying, and thus eviscerating the substance of a world-changing life of work and body of thought, then official national hero types are worth less than nothing. What interest do they serve, and what are we supposed to need them for?

Certainly not the interest of honesty, or truth, and it seems to me that in these times those are coins far rarer — and therefore far more dear — than the pompous deliveries of the cosseted clique of power-tripping politicians and professional blowhards, who have convinced themselves that their collective in-jokes, shibboleths and taboos constitute the public life of a nation. I don’t give much of a damn, in the end, whether or not King gets ritualistically name-checked by men and women who were or would have been his mortal enemies to make stentorian speeches supposedly on his behalf. What I give a damn about is what the man, for all his many faults, actually cared about, fought for, and died for: the struggle of ordinary men and women for their own freedom, which meant their struggle to defy, resist, or simply bypass the consolidated violence of the belligerent power-mongers and the worse-than-useless moderate hand-wringers who made their living peddling excuses, apologetics, and the endless counsel of wait, wait.

This, not public-school pageants and official national hero types, is what the vast majority of us, who get no profit from the fortunes of the political-intellectual complex and its pantheon, need:

As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they ask — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They ask if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.

… All the while the people read our leaflets and received the regular promises of peace and democracy and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move on or be destroyed by our bombs.

So they go, primarily women and children and the aged. They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one Vietcong-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them, mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.

What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?

We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation’s only noncommunist revolutionary political force, the unified Buddhist Church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men.

Now there is little left to build on, save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call fortified hamlets. The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these. Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These, too, are our brothers.

… These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.

… A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, This way of settling differences is not just. This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love.

— Martin Luther King, Jr. (1967-04-04): Beyond Vietnam

And also this:

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have never yet engaged in a direct action movement that was well timed, according to the timetable of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the words Wait! It rings in the ear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity. This Wait has almost always meant Never. We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that justice too long delayed is justice denied.

We have waited for more than three hundred and forty years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jet-like speed toward the goal of political independence, and we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward the gaining of a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, Wait. But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos: Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading white and colored; when your first name becomes nigger, your middle name becomes boy (however old you are) and your last name becomes John, and your wife and mother are never given the respected title Mrs.; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tip-toe stance never quite knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of nobodiness; then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, it is rather strange and paradoxical to find us consciously breaking laws. One may well ask: How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others? The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: There are just and there are unjust laws. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with Saint Augustine that An unjust law is no law at all. … So I can urge men to disobey segregation ordinances because they are morally wrong.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action; who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a more convenient season. Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice, and that when they fail to do this they become dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is merely a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, where the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substance-filled positive peace, where all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured as long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its pus-flowing ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must likewise be exposed, with all of the tension its exposing creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured. …

… You spoke of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of the extremist. … But as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction from being considered an extremist. Was not Jesus an extremist for love — Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you. Was not Amos an extremist for justice — Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. Was not Paul an extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ — I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Was not Martin Luther an extremist — Here I stand; I can do none other so help me God. Was not John Bunyan an extremist — I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience. Was not Abraham Lincoln an extremist — This nation cannot survive half slave and half free. Was not Thomas Jefferson an extremist — We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. So the question is not whether we will be extremist but what kind of extremist will we be. Will we be extremists for hate or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice—or will we be extremists for the cause of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill, three men were crucified. We must not forget that all three were crucified for the same crime—the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thusly fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. So, after all, maybe the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

— Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail

For anybody other than a self-appointed public intellectual, honest appraisal and serious engagement with the real life, virtues, foibles, questions, and struggles of a creative extremist like King are things more profound, more beautiful, more powerful, more passionate, and ultimately more useful than all the combined hagiographies and bed-time stories of the canonized saints of American theo-nationalism.

Further reading:

When you reach the bottom of the barrel, start digging.

From the Opelika-Auburn News (2008-03-07):

Westboro Baptist Church, a group known for protesting and picketing funerals and memorials of fallen soldiers, is planning to picket at the Sunday afternoon funeral of 18-year-old Auburn freshman Lauren Burk, according to the group’s Web site. Burk was killed Tuesday night. Police are investigating her death as a murder.

Westboro Baptist Church, established in 1955, is an Kansas-based organization lead by Pastor Fred Phelps.

The group is also planning to picket the funeral of Eve Carson, UNC student body president who was killed Wednesday morning.

Both funerals are listed on the WBC site’s online picket schedule for Sunday.

First the Phelpses came to picket the funerals of men murdered by gay-bashers.

Then they came to picket the funerals of AIDS patients.

Then they came to picket the funerals of soldiers killed in combat.

And now, having given up any pretense of having a particular target other than humanity and simple decency, they’re just showing up to any old random funeral, so long as they know that the news media will be in the area.

What they are doing now is no more, and no less, evil than what they did to Matthew Shepard’s family. I would say that the cruelty here is more bizarre, but it’s not, really, when you understand some basic facts about the Phelpses. They have shown repeatedly, by their words and their deeds, that they thrive on being hated and provoking reaction. There is literally nothing at all that is beneath them, as long as it gets their names and their websites in the news yet again. And it will.