Nate Myers gets very frustrated and works hard for a solid response.

I’ve been getting these emails recently, you see, that frustrate me.  Here’s the text for one of them;

The Bible warns us of Barack Obama!
Body: The Bible warns us of Barack Obama! Please Read All!
Body: The Bible has warned us that ‘A man will come from the East that will be charismatic in nature and have proposed solutions for all our problems and his rhetoric will attract many supporters!’

When will our pathetic Nation quit turning their back on God and understand that this man is ‘A Muslim’….First, Last and always….and we are AT WAR with the Muslim Nation, whether our bleeding-heart, secular, Liberal friends believe it or not. This man fits every description from the Bible of the ‘Anti-Christ’!

I’m just glad to know that there are others that are frightened by this man!

Who is Barack Obama?

Very interesting and something that should be considered in your choice.

If you do not ever forward anything else, please forward this to all your contacts…this is very scary to think of what lies ahead of us here in our own United States…better heed this and pray about it and share it.

snopes.com ..’ confirms this is factual. Check for yourself.

Who is Barack Obama?

Probable U. S. presidential candidate, Barack Hussein Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., a black MUSLIM from Nyangoma-Kogel, Kenya and Ann Dunham, a white ATHEIST from Wichita , Kansas. Obama’s parents met at the University of Hawaii. When Obama was two years old, his parents divorced. His father returned to Kenya. His mother then married Lolo Soetoro, a RADICAL Muslim from Indonesia. When Obama was 6 years old, the family relocated to Indonesia. Obama attended a MUSLIM school in Jakarta. He also spent two years in a Catholic school.

Obama takes great care to conceal the fact that he is a Muslim. He is quick to point out that, ‘He was once a Muslim, but that he also attended Catholic school.’ Obama’s political handlers are attempting to make it appear that that he is not a radical.
Obama’s introduction to Islam came via his father, and that this influence was temporary at best. In reality, the senior Obama returned to Kenya soon after the divorce, and never again had any direct influence over his son’s education.

Lolo Soetoro, the second husband of Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, introduced his stepson to Islam. Obama was enrolled in a Wahabi school in Jakarta.
Wahabism is the RADICAL teaching that is followed by the Muslim terrorists who are now waging Jihad against the western world. Since it is politically expedient to be a CHRISTIAN when seeking major public office in the United States, Barack Hussein Obama has joined the United Church of Christ in an attempt to downplay his Muslim background. ALSO, keep in mind that when he was sworn into office he DID NOT use the Holy Bible, but instead the Koran.

Barack Hussein Obama will NOT recite the Pledge of Allegiance nor will he show any reverence for our flag. While others place their hands over their hearts, Obama turns his back to the flag and slouches. Do you want someone like this as your PRESIDENT? Let us all remain alert concerning Obama’s expected presidential candidacy.

The Muslims have said they plan on destroying the US from the inside out, what better way to start than at the highest level – through the President of the United States, one of their own!

Please forward to everyone you know. Would you want this man leading our country?…… NOT ME!


Needless to say, I was frustrated from this email forward, so decided to write back, and here’s my response;

To whom it may concern;

Be very, very careful about the sources we get our “news” from. Snopes.com, the supposed source for this “factually correct” myth on Barack Obama, noticed this email was getting publicity and took time to completely refute it themselves. Here’s the link to their refutation, where they say themselves,

“One version of the email in circulation claims ‘We were told this checked out on snopes.com. It is factual. Check for yourself,’ and includes a link to this website. It is our guess that whoever included that bit was counting on folks to not check, as our article says the opposite, that the polemic is not factual but rather false.”

I get innumerable amounts of emails from my friends and others around that usually start off with something designed to instill fear in us like “The Bible warns us of _____________” or “It is clear the evil emenating from ________________ is from Satan,” or a bunch of different intros. I would urge all my friends and acquaintances to look beyond the fear-mongering and stop, look at a variety of different sources, read up on the issue, talk to your friends, and ask whoever sends us the email where they believe the Bible warns of _________________, and ask them why they think it talks about this person. A good question might be,

“You say _______ fits every description of the Anti-Christ. I’d love to hear your description of the anti-Christ and we can talk.”

If we don’t have time to stop and read up on whatever the issue is, I would urge us (I try to make it a practice of mine) NOT to forward the email.

Regarding this email, first off, if we deeply value the Scriptures, we should be a bit put off right at the beginning by someone claiming that we are “at war with the Muslim Nation.” Biblically speaking, the people of God are at war against the powers of evil and chaos in this world, and those very powers exist just as much within us as in some people or place across the globe. I won’t eagerly jump to the defense of the Muslim religion because I think there is much that is twisted and wrong in it, but I DO realize Muslims are human beings made in the image of God who are important enough for Christians to give our lives for. Remember, “God so loved the WORLD” in John 3:16, not “God so loved EVERYONE LIKE ME.” So no, “we” (Christians who care about Scripture and how it forms our lives) are NOT at war with the Muslim Nation.

Secondly, I certainly don’t think Barack Obama is the savior of the world, but he’s certainly far from the anti-Christ. Vote for whomever you will, but we should know the facts, not a chain propoganda email sent around to make folks afraid.

Barack is an American citizen who was born in the United States, and while he DID live in Indonesia for awhile and attend a “Muslim” school for a bit, it was not a Wahabi Madrassa as this email seeks to state. In fact, after FOX News ran with the rumor that he attended such a school on their broadcasting without doing the work to either go to or research the school itself, CNN did just that. CNN dispatched their senior international correspondent John Vause directly to Jakarta to investigate, and he went to the school which, it turns out, is a public school. Hardi Priyono, the school headmaster, said, “This is a public school. We don’t focus on religion. In our daily lives, we try to respect religion, but we don’t give preferential treatment.” One of Obama’s classmates, Bandug Winadijanto, was interviewed, and he said “It is not an Islamic school. It’s general. There is a lot of Christians, Buddhist, also Confucian…so that’s a mixed school.” Link to the story here.

It should be noted, and I will bold this section for emphasis, that the Fox News show (Fox and Friends) that broadcast this rumor backtracked on the story the following week, while still repeatedly citing the article from conservative site Insight that started the whole rumor. In our search for news that can be trusted, will we err on the side of the news organization that actually tracked down the radical Muslim rumor (CNN) or the news organization that cited an anonymous source (Insight, then Fox News)? I think I know which one I’ll be more likely to trust.

The reality is that as a child, Obama spent four years in Indonesia with his step-father, a non-practicing Muslim, and his mother. Between ages 6 and 8, Obama attended a local Muslim school in Jakarta; after that, he was enrolled in a Roman Catholic school. In his book Dreams Of My Father (p.142), Obama writes:

In Indonesia, I’d spent 2 years at a Muslim school, 2 years at a Catholic school. In the Muslim school, the teacher wrote to tell mother I made faces during Koranic studies. In the Catholic school, when it came time to pray, I’d pretend to close my eyes, then peek around the room. Nothing happened. No angels descended.

In his more recent book, The Audacity of Hope, Obama writes (p.274), “Without the money to go to the international school that most expatriate children attended, I went to local Indonesian schools and ran the streets with the children of farmers, servants, tailors, and clerks.”

So no, Obama did not attend a radical Wahabi school and is not and never has been a Muslim. In fact, the man Obama’s mother married in fact was not a radical Muslim, but a non-practicing Muslim, which most Muslims in the world who value their faith would call no Muslim at all. And the quote from this forward that Obama supposedly said that he “was once a Muslim, but he also attended Catholic school” is patently false. I’d love to see the source for this quote.

In addition, Obama did not use the Koran when sworn into office (news source link here), the claim that he will not recite the Pledge of Allegiance (and in fact turns his back and slouches) is false, and he addressed a series of these claims in a presidential debate;

If the video embedding doesn’t work, the link to the video is here.

Again, Barack Obama is not and never has been Muslim, and describes himself as a Christian, as rooted in the Christian tradition, and his membership in the United Church of Christ began in the mid-1980s, long before he contemplated a political career.

Let the record state, however, that I, Nathan Myers, am not endorsing Obama as president, but I am mystified by the amount of fear-mongering and false propaganda surrounding this man, and so I decided to dig for myself and respond. I have my own issues with Barack Obama, and I question most politicians’ supposed “born again” or “Christian” labels, but that’s a whole ‘nother issue in itself.

Get educated, vote responsibly, and don’t expect a Savior from Republicans or Democrats, Americans, Brits, or Chinese.

Last I checked, there’s only one of those.

Nate

 

A Black Friday reflection…

cobalt Just a couple thoughts to offer today.  I’ve had a chance to think in the last year or so about this “freedom” Americans often claim our army is fighting for.  I hear it everywhere in our society as a phrase to clobber both naive pacifists and traitorous liberals with different ideas about how Iraq should have been handled.  As I’ve wrestled with what this is all about, I’ve done my best to keep my ears peeled eyes open for others working through this same issue.  I happened to come upon an interview online of one of my mentors-through-proxy (Internet and books substituting for face to face interaction) Stanley Hauerwas that shocked me. I didn’t know what to make of it at first, but as time has passed, it’s making more sense to me.  Check it out;

“In his reflections on Sept. 11, Hauerwas uses the term ‘American imperialism’ matter-of-factly. He’s not afraid to humanize those who flew jets into buildings on Sept. 11, and to point out what he calls ‘the loneliness of the American people,’ a loneliness he says is tied to their pursuit of happiness.’On Sept. 11, Americans were confronted by people ready to die as an expression of their profound moral commitments,  Hauerwas said in his Silk Hope talk earlier this year. ‘Their willingness to die stands in stark contrast to a politics that asks of its members in response to Sept. 11 to shop.’  

‘Americans are, for the most part, good, decent and hardworking people, but so were the people that supported the Nazis.’  Hauerwas said he worries about ‘how goodness can become deeply corrupted by its innocence….most of the time innocence is deeply immoral because it is such a lie not to acknowledge that we live in a very complex world that we benefit from, and we don’t have to acknowledge the havoc our benefits depend upon.’  

While those who loathe the United States are willing to die as an expression of their hatred, Hauerwas said U.S. citizens have no comparable moral conviction on which to base their lives.  “A people who have been bred to shop then can quickly become some of the most violent people in the world,” Hauerwas said, “exactly because they’re dying to have something worth dying for. 

 

Before you get too upset (like I initially did), read the quote five or six times, then take a couple hours (or months) the chew on it from time to time.  I’ve come to see it as deeply insightful over time.  The question he raises is relevant; what does “freedom” represent in America, and at what cost is that American freedom perpetuated?  

Example after example in the last few months has proven to me Stanley’s suggestion that “freedom” in our society directly translates to “shopping.”  If it does not, what is the comparable conviction Americans have to bring that they’re willing to fight for?  The right to vote?  Maybe so, but check out the percentages of folks that exercise that right when the time rolls around.  Right to freedom of religious expression?  How many American folks are really, I mean really, deeply invested with the whole of their lives in the religion (often Christian) they claim? Precious few.

So what IS the mark of American (and by extension, Western) society that takes up most of our attention, time, energy, thoughts and dreams?

I’d suggest it’s cash money, the jobs it takes to get more, the marketing that competes for us to exercise our right to buy their stuff, and the sheer amount of stuff we can buy with that cash.    

Our “holidays” of Christmas and Easter are perfect examples of this.  If those who claimed to be Christian truly deeply valued and respected the two most holy celebrations of their year, they would be up in arms about the mockery our secular society has turned them into. Heck, witches and black-magic practicioners should be pissed at how secularism has changed the height of their year (Halloween) into an avalanche of candy and cute little costumes.  In short, consumerism has taken every day holy and sacred to competing traditions, subverted them, and marketed them under completely different pretenses and seeking different ends.  So now we have Santa Claus (the original Saint Nicholas has to be rolling over in his grave), The Easter Bunny, Thanksgiving football and excess amounts of turkey and stuffing, and Valentine’s Day (a boon for the diamond and Hallmark card industries) as examples.  More examples exist, and they all reveal the central value our society upholds; money, what it takes to get it, and (for marketers) more and more innovative ways to convince consumers they need to spend it on YOUR product. 

Which brings us to Black Friday, the official holiday of the hallowed First Day of Christmas Shopping, the most profitable day of the year for businesses and the height of capitalism.  The day where we consumers camp out at our Best Buys and Kohls and JCPenneys and shopping malls so that at midnight or 4 am or 6 am (whoever opens first) we may spend our money on things we don’t need.  But we have the right to!  

Nobody tells me where I can or can’t spend my money, not no A-rabs or dem Chi-nese or nobody!  

And THIS, my friends, is why Stanley Hauerwas is so spot-on in his diagnosis of our society.  We have nothing to fight for in our society but a vague notion of freedom in need of definition.  And the definition has come to mean the right to shop.  We claim freedom of choice, yet our naivete about our individual capability to make good choices as if we weren’t slaves to marketers reveals not only that we aren’t free, but that we’re overconsumed and cynical and bored.  The system keeps us entertained but unfulfilled, and we are shocked by the possibility that someone would give up that right and fight to recover another vision of what life is to be about.  It’s a clashing of civilizations, the dominant one secular (NOT Christian) and competing visions daring to suggest their commitment is more life-giving and worthy of sacrifice. 

This is a series of unfinished and slightly incoherent thoughts, I’m sure, but Black Friday in all its glory shoved me back to the place inside me Hauerwas twisted into a mess with his comment.  I’d encourage you to wrestle with it.

 In closing, I’ll leave you with one of the most prophetic bands I know of around these days, “The Cobalt Season”, and some of the lyrics from their deeply honest lament/hopeful song “Like Jesus“;   

 

And friends, Romans, countrymen

Won’t you lend me your ears?

This Holy American Empire

Gotta tell you it’s crumblin’ down

To the ground

 

’Cause everything’s for granted

And nothing is for sure

So let’s grab a Starbucks baby

And let’s spend a little more

 

Forget about the dreams we had

Just work and sleep until we’re dead

Are we blind to what’s ahead?

 

Oh Lord, how long?

 

When memory’s for granted

Nothing is for sure

And history goes round and round

As we long for something more

 

We lie and wait for better days

With hope and fear and joy and dread

Or just ambivalence to what’s ahead?

 

 

The Gospel according to Moneyball, or…A picture is worth how many words?

I was reading for a bit in the instant classic Moneyball (by Michael Lewis) this morning, and he made several observations I found immediately incisive and made my thoughts wander a bit. He’s talking about the game (and management) of baseball, but hopefully you’ll see where my thoughts went. Lewis is talking specifically of Oakland’s former assistant GM Paul DePodesta and his decision to enter the business of baseball rather than a more lucrative finance career;

“He was just the sort of person who might have made an easy fortune in finance, but the market for baseball players, in Paul’s view, was far more interesting than anything Wall Street offered. There was, for starters, the tendency of everyone who played the game to generalize wildly from his own experience. People always thought their own experience was typical when it wasn’t. There was also a tendency to be overly influenced by a guy’s most recent performance: (but) what he did last was not necessarily what he would do next. Thirdly- but not lastly- there was the bias toward what people saw with their own eyes, or thought they had seen. The human mind played tricks on itself when it relied exclusively on what it saw, and every trick it played was a financial opportunity for someone who saw through the illusion to the reality.”

This is just a wonderfully interesting quote by itself that could be spun off in a number of directions if one had the time and the energy to think/write about it, but in this post, I thought I’d explore the “thirdly” part of Lewis’ quote that included the suggestion that “the human mind played tricks on itself when it relied exclusively on what it saw.” Just to take you through the progression of thoughts in my mind, I immediately thought “Hmmm…” followed by a moment of the suggestion sinking in, followed by remembering a little of what Neil Postman had to bring to bear on the power of image to overcome rational thought, followed by beginning to wrestle with the “false reality” that can be created by persons with the wherewithal to do so (which preys on the temptation for us to only rely on what we have “seen”). That was the process…I’ll work through it a bit more here following.

I guess a relevant question would be, is it true? Are we more deeply affected by what we see or directly experience than what is said to us or revealed to us outside of our experience? I’m assuming yes, though I’d label that as a temptation rather than an assumed truth. This over-emphasis on experienced truth is one of the deep weaknesses of uncritical postmodern thought as I see it. I could talk about this for pages probably, but that’s not my intent in this post. My basic intent is to expose the basic inadequacy of relying on experience or what one “sees” as a foundation for what is true through a couple simple examples. I recognize there are multiple shades of gray between the black and white of experienced truth vs. revealed truth, but hopefully the reality that what is “experienced” or “seen” can be manipulated shines through here.

The age of the internet complicates things, making news much more open-source and therefore less able to be easily manipulated for propaganda purposes, but it is still very possible (especially if the populace relies on basic news outlets for information) to present something as “reality” when it really is a series of images that have been manipulated to achieve a desired outcome. One example to support this suggestion was the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue in the center of Iraq as the U.S.-led Shock and Awe campaign swept into the center of Baghdad in 2003. In describing the fall of Hussein’s statue, Donald Rumsfeld described the images as “breathtaking,” the British Army saw them as “historic,” and for BBC radio they were “amazing.” In the pictures that spread through media outlets like wildfire, there seemed to be a massive crowd of jubilent Iraqis pulling down the statue of Hussein that represented their celebration of freedom from his oppressive rule. Here’s the central picture of that series;

crowds

If you check out a Youtube video that follows Fox News’ coverage of the statue toppling, you’ll notice the anchors saying “jubilant seems too mild a word for what you’re seeing here,” followed by poking fun at French governmental officials for their opposition to the “liberation of Iraq.”

After the event, conservative commentator Robert Novak weighed in with his opinion, saying that

“As the war began in 2003, the New York Times required less than three weeks before it ran a front-page report by a star correspondent of the last generation, R.W. Apple, which hauled out the heavy word of the Vietnam generation, quagmire-as in the quagmire in which, Apple wrote, U.S. troops were already bogged down. Three weeks later, those same quagmired troops had sped into Baghdad, watching as jubilant crowds pulled down the great statue of Saddam Hussein in the center of the city and organizing a systematic search for the suddenly deposed butcher of Mesopotamia.”

And these images then were exported throughout the world as display of the celebration that had ensued in Iraq and the momentous change of regime on par with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Some of the images follow;
crowds1
crowds2

This third image represents the global impact of the photography, as viewed in Frankfurt, Germany.
frank
(pictures linked from here)

So, it seems there was a massive crowd celebrating the end of the Hussein era, right? Not so fast. If you had a healthy sense of skepticism and traveled outside the seeming exultation of the crowds presented by prominent media outlets, you would have found a different picture…literally. And while one could argue which pictures represent reality more faithfully if two different groups take different pictures and claim different things at the event, I think we’d all agree that pictures of wider context usually display a more full picture of the reality.

Take a gander at a bit wider angle shot of the event, then two definitely large-scope shots taken chronologically;
crowd4

crowd5
It seems that less-euphoric/less-subjective/less-manipulative news sources reported a much different scene than the CNN/BBC/Fox News one. Journalist David Zucchino interviewed a member of the Army’s psychological operations unit and found that the event was almost entirely put on by the US military. After a US colonel “selected the statue as a ‘target of opportunity,’ the psychological team used loudspeakers to encourage Iraqi civilians to assist, according to an account by a unit member.” And when cameras zoomed in on the Marine recovery vehicle toppling the statue, “the effort appeared to be Iraqi-inspired because the psychological team had managed to pack the vehicle with cheering Iraqi children.”

And in the words of eyewitness Neville Watson, a clergyman from Australia,

“Well, there certainly was some jubilation, but I certainly wouldn’t go along with that presented by television. The one that I’ve seen a lot of since I’ve been back is the toppling of the statue of Saddam and I can hardly believe it was the same one that I saw, because it happened at only about 300m from where I was and it was a very small crowd. The rest of the square was almost empty, and when we inquired as to where the crowd came from, it was from Saddam City. In other words, it was a rent-a-crowd. Now, that piece of television has been played over and over again, but I’ve seen nothing of the pieces of television, for example, what happened in Mosul the other day, where the Americans opened fire on a crowd killing 10 and injuring 100 when it became anti-American. So I think the scenes of jubilation have to be balanced against the other side of the picture.”

All in all, the wide-angle shots and different testimonies reveal a much different picture. In total, there were about 200 people in the square, with a vast majority of that number being military personnel and international media (we won’t mention that the square is just adjacent to the Palestine Hotel where the international media were based) along with a handful of Iraqis. And even the spontaeity of the handful of Iraqis is in doubt; one could say those who came after encouragement by the loudspeakers were somewhat spontaneous, but a picture of a central celebrant reveals him to be a member of the “Free Iraqi Forces” militia who were flown into Iraq several days before the statue-toppling. Starting to shape up into a different “picture,” eh? *pun intended* I guess I shouldn’t mention that the BBC reported the American flag initially put over the face of the Saddam statue was one flying over the Pentagon on September 11th either. Seems less and less spontaneous, the deeper we go.

I don’t want to belabor the point, because my intention, again, was just to expose the inadequacy of relying on experience or what one “sees” as a foundation for what is true, because one can be greatly deceived by persons interested in keeping us in the alternate reality shaped and colored by their perspective. And governments (ALL governments) certainly have a vested interest in the support of the populace. Just a cautionary note; don’t believe all that you see. Maintain a healthy skepticism. Be willing to wade deeper, even if it may cost you or cause people to label you.

Evangelicals Behaving Badly…


Christian Smith has written a tremendous article regarding the misuse of statistics by the church spun a certain way to get people alarmed and off their tushes…

“American evangelicals, who profess to be committed to Truth, are among the worst abusers of simple descriptive statistics, which claim to represent the truth about reality, of any group I have ever seen. At stake in this misuse are evangelicals’ own integrity, credibility with outsiders, and effectiveness in the world. It is an issue worth making a fuss over. And so I write…”

Check this article out. It’s entirely worth it. Seriously.

In the interest of balance…


Here’s the interview of George W. Bush by Matt Lauer earlier this month, where Matt asks him about the CIA secret prisons and techniques used to extract information. Watch and listen carefully to Bush’s responses, and gauge if he handles the issues as upfront and as indepth as Clinton did.

Suggestion. I don’t think he does. Snippets. “So what” “We’re at war” “I’m protecting your family” “I won’t discuss techniques because i don’t want the enemy to adjust.”

I’m trying (and have tried) to give this guy the benefit of the doubt. I’m just really struggling here.

Here’s the link to the video for you to watch. I would urge you to take the same approach I asked of the Clinton/Wallace interview. Both Bush and Clinton responded with intensity. Did both respond with substance and integrity? Honestly now…consider what you heard.