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March 04, 2010

Hitchens asks, Is it time for new commandments?

The New Commandments | Culture | Vanity Fair
There is in fact a good biblical precedent for doing just that, since the giving of the divine Law by Moses appears in three or four wildly different scriptural versions. (When you hear people demanding that the Ten Commandments be displayed in courtrooms and schoolrooms, always be sure to ask which set. It works every time.) The first and most famous set comes in Exodus 20 but ends with Moses himself smashing the supposedly most sacred artifacts ever known to man: the original, God-dictated panels of Holy Writ. The second edition occurs in Exodus 34, where new but completely different tablets are presented after some heavenly re-write session and are for the first time called “the ten commandments.” In the fifth chapter of Deuteronomy, Moses once more calls his audience together and recites the original Sinai speech with one highly significant alteration (the Sabbath commandment’s justifications in each differ greatly). But plainly discontented with the effect of this, he musters the flock again 22 chapters further on, as the river Jordan is coming into view, and gives an additional set of orders—chiefly terse curses—which are also to be inscribed in stone. As with the gold plates on which Joseph Smith found the Book of Mormon in upstate New York, no trace of any of these original yet conflicting tablets survives. Thus we are fully entitled to consider them as a work in progress. May there not be some old commandments that could be retired, as well as some new ones that might be adopted? Taking the most celebrated Top 10 in order, we find (I am using the King James, or “Authorized,” version of the text) . . .
Hitch goes on to highlight the problems with the existent commandments and offer some suggestions for improvement.

The witch hunt has started

Repent Amarillo. If you aren't the right kind of Christian, you should be shit scared. Meanwhile in Texas: "American Taliban" Isn't Hyperbole Anymore | Slog | The Stranger, Seattle's Only Newspaper | by Dan Savage
Having successfully harassed a local and very discreet group for heterosexual swingers out of existence, Repent Amarillo's "warriors" are now planning to go after...
1. Gay pride events. 2. Earth worship events such as “Earth Day” 3. Pro-abortion events or places such as Planned Parenthood 4. Breast cancer events such as “Race for the Cure” to illuminate the link between abortion and breast cancer. 5. Opening day of public schools to reach out to students. 6. Spring break events. 7. Demonically based concerts. 8. Halloween events. 9. Other events that may arise that the ministry feels called to confront.
They're also going after churches they believe to be insufficiently Christian (Episcopalians, Christian Scientists, Unitarians), palm readers, people who practice witchcraft, and anything and everything that might create a "demonic stronghold" in Amarillo. And they're not just threatening to pray for people: Repent Amarillo's "actions" include prayer, according to Repent Amarillo's website, "but [also] may involve more aggressive use of soldiers and prayer warriors."... Hello? Moderate and liberal Christians? In Texas and elsewhere? Now might be a good time to speak the fuck up. Maybe you could spit out a few press releases, organize a massive, anti-Phelps-style counter-protest, and come to the defense of the people and churches and artists and businesses being menaced by your co-religionists. This calls for something above and beyond mewling in comments threads on liberal blogs about how "we're not all like that." Don't tell us, tell them.

March 02, 2010

You can be any kind of Christian you like in shop class

Wiccan altar puts teacher, officials at odds | desmoinesregister.com | The Des Moines Register
A high school senior's desire to build a Wiccan altar in shop class has forced a community debate about free expression.... Both Smith and Thomas said the incident has become emotional for the high school's 185 students: Almost 70 signed a petition late last week saying they didn't want witchcraft practiced at the school. "I think it's fear based on some of the old ideas people had about witchcraft," Smith said. "It's fear and a lack of knowledge about the unknown."... Smith acknowledged that some people have expressed fears about satanism or sacrifices. He said they too could use some educating: Though Wicca is often subject to such myths, it is nonviolent and based on a shared reverence for the Earth and all living things. Halferty was sent home for the first time Friday and told to think about what he was doing. He said he had no beef with the student or his project - until the student told him he was a practicing witch. "I said, 'Ah, you're kidding, right?'" When the student said he wasn't, Halferty told him he could work on his project - a table that would become the altar - provided he kept religious materials at home. However, he said, the student kept returning to class with a book of witchcraft. Halferty said he thought about it, and decided allowing the student to make the altar "was wrong on every level." "It scares me. I'm a Christian," he said. "This witchcraft stuff - it's terrible for our kids. It takes kids away from what they know, and leads them to a dark and violent life. We spend millions of tax dollars trying to save kids from that." But Smith said school policies prohibit teachers from denying students access to varying points of view without just cause, and prohibit employees from denying students participation in activities on the grounds of race or religion.