Thursday, June 18, 2009

Good luck Mister Sheppard.

Most of the beneficial legislation in this world that fails to make it into law does so because of the good intentions of misinformed people. If the Matthew Sheppard Hate Crime bill fails to pass that will definitely be the reason. There's nothing quite like listening to conservative ministers, church goers, and politicians ramble on about the dangers of a bill that basically says that while its already wrong to shoot a man to steal his money, its worse to shoot a man because he slept with another guy last night.

Most of the misinformation about hate crime legislation is centered around the idea that it legitimizes homosexual behavior. Simply, if the government says its worse to shoot a guy because he's gay ,then the government is saying it is good that he is gay. The problem with this argument is that the bill covers any type of hate crime. It would be just as applicable if a rowdy crew of gay men killed me because I'm heterosexual. Conservatives who say that the bill is really only about homosexuality are actually the reason that the bill is seen as only about homosexuality. Secondly nobody every talks about the fact that there is already a Hate Crime bill on the books from 1969. This bill simple expands the definition and reach of government in protecting its citizenry.


Here’s a few of the problem areas…
Hate crime legislation is aimed at silencing people, especially ministers, who think that homosexuality is wrong. The problem with this statement is that the same bill specifically maintains free speech and if it didn't the bill would fail Constitutionally anyway. The idea that the legislation is attempting to control speech is a straw man argument. Conservatives can’t beat the bill on its merits, so they’ll just make all there congregations scared of it.

In my local paper one minister reported as saying "he has a problem with hate crimes in general, because one crime should not weigh more than another." Even if the speaker was to modify this obviously ridiculous statement, lest we all get the death penalty for our unpaid parking tickets... the statement is still false. American law and Old Testament law define the killing of another human in types and levels including manslaughter and murder. We all recognize levels for murder depending on the situation.

Pastors who speak against homosexuality could not be convicted if someone heard them and then committed a violent act. There is a massive difference between inciting violence and saying that an action is wrong. Americans have consistently allowed for racists, communist, flag burners, and all matter of fringe groups to speak there mind as long as their actions do not lead to violence even if Americans as a whole seem to disagree with their beliefs. There’s no reason to believe America, or more specifically the Justice system, would react any differently to a group that believes like roughly half of the country claims to believe.


All murder is a hate crime and there's already a law against that. This statement is untrue for two reasons. First of all most murder doesn’t have anything to do with hate. Most murder is about greed, envy, or simply the fear of being caught for other wrongdoings. Its more likely that a murderer will claim to have loved his victim than it is that he hated him.

Hate Crime Legislation is not Socialist. ( I know this seems basic, but not according the Catholic priest in Pastoral Urbania.)

Homosexuality is not a civil right, its a moral choice. This is probably my favorite fallacious statement about Hate Crime legislation. The basic premise of civil rights is that a person should be able to live unfettered in their personal beliefs and actions, so long as he doesn’t cause harm or undue problems on the society as whole. Therefore if someone kidnaps and murders me because of something I believe or do that is not illegal my civil rights are unavoidably being violated. The fact that sexual orientation is not explicitly protected is irrelevant.


But all of this is not what bothers me most about Conservatives and their campaign against anything that might make homosexuals feel less like second class citizenry. My God is a god of amazing grace and love. He has accepted me in all of my faults and failings, persistent as they are. He has made it my job to speak to the world on his behalf. Even if I thought that homosexuality was wrong, I would never turn to fellow human being and say that if someone kills you because you love another man I think that’s ok. Which is exactly what we tell them when bring these ludicrous arguments to the public forum.


And for the conservative’s that are still with me. Let me ask you this. Even if we assume you are correct. Even if we assume homosexuality is a choice. Even if we assume that homosexuals need to be saved from unrighteousness in their lives. How can you share the love of Christ with the homosexual, when the red neck asshole at local bar just killed him?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Why you should carry a purse.

Man bag, murse, messenger... whatever. Now that some of the hype is calming down and nobody is talking about Tom Brady's its time for you to embrace a truly utilitarian piece of daily luggage. Here's why.

1. Yes that is my scotch and no you can't have any. Some things make your life more comfortable. You like to be comfortable. These items should be with you as much as is possible. A magazine, a book, smokes, phone, web book, whatever. If having a bag of your favorite tea and a camera to take a picture of an art deco entry way you happen across add meaning to your life then you should enjoy them.

2. Life requires gear. Remember what boy scouts taught you. Be Prepared. A few simple items in a bag and you can take on the world. Afraid of the dark? Attracted to spaghetti sauce? Blackberry always dead? You're a mini mag light, shout wipes, and a short usb cable from world domination.

3. A growth isn't sexy. Is that a rabbit in your coat or are you just happy to see me? Pockets on clothing weren't designed to carry what we put in them. They weren't designed to contain and conceal an iPod, a cell phone, a wallet, and a sandwich for lunch. The stuff in you pockets makes you look misshapen. Bulges are only appropriate where you shouldn't have any pockets.

4. Its better than a string on your finger. When you can't seem to get some task done, an errand for example, its usually because you never have the information or document you need to complete it. If you keep all your open loops in the bag, then you're always prepared to close them.

5. 2 hours in line to vote... No Problem. More time each day than we'd like is spent waiting. It doesn't matter what for but more often than not its in a place that isn't ours. A waiting room, a restaurant, in line at the post office. Your bag is basically your personal mobile office. Skim a magazine/newspaper, work out some thoughts in a Moleskin, read the mail you hadn't gotten around to, listen to a podcast. Now all those options are yours because the stuff is with you.

So... you'll be more comfortable, be more prepared, look better, be more productive and less bored. And we haven't even talked about how great some of these bags look.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Christians and Alcohol

A few days ago a friend of mine attended a regular small group bible study.  During the discussion a woman made the claim that all or at least most of the references in the New Testament to wine use a Greek word reserved specifically for non-alcoholic wine or basically grape juice. First… that just isn’t true. There is no Koine Greek word that means non-alcoholic wine, at least not that used in the New Testament text. It simply isn’t present. More importantly, word meaning in translation is completely dependant on the context of the word. So if the the story makes the idea of non-alcoholic wine absurd then that would be more telling of the word’s meaning than any dictionary definition. Languages are fluid and alive and cannot be used without an understanding of context..For further discussion, consider the story of the water turned into wine. When Jesus turns water into wine at a wedding in Cana.

When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom,

and said to him, "Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.

The passage only makes sense with alcoholic wine. The headwaiter is clearly claiming that normally poorer wine is served to save money once revelers have consumed enough wine to not notice the difference. This is the most obvious text to use against tee totalers because it isn’t a simple reference to the presence of alcohol. It is a description of the son of God producing and distributing alcohol which in Pastoral Urbania would get him arrested for lacking a license.

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