Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Irony of "Jesus Camp"

I finally did it, I sat through Jesus Camp; and, I must say, that it was every bit as disturbing as I thought it would be. The way contemporary evangelicals act and worship in the name of Jesus is utterly appalling, and will cause any thinking Christian to bristle with shame. Here however, I don’t intend to chronicle all the horrifying details of the twisted behavior and worship of these evangelicals exemplified in the movie. Instead, I want to point out the irony of the movie which is this: the producers of the film wanted to show how the “religious right” is indoctrinating young children and preparing them to be zealous foot soldiers in a political and cultural battle, while pretending that the liberals whose point of view they represent, do not do that.

The movie is framed by two separate radio announcements, one at the beginning and one at the end, pertaining to Supreme Court justices. The first refers to the resignation of Sandra Day O’Connor and the second refers to the approval of justice Sam Alito to take her place. These announcements provide the narrative context which teases out the underlying issue of the entire film: the political battle over abortion. Of course, the announcement concerning the justices emerges on account of the pivotal role they play in deciding the legality of abortion. Now, that being the key issue, the role of the political activism of the religious right in seeking to elect a president and other governement officials who appoint Supreme Court justices, emerges as the concern of the producers. The film then, focuses on how the “religious right” is indoctrinating young children to be soldiers in this conflict, and the principal focus becomes the “Kids on Fire Camp” and the ministry of Becky Fischer to illustrate the process.

So that is the big picture, now where is the irony?

The easiest way to get at the irony is to analyze a few of the editorial comments made by the radio host, sprinkled throughout the film, which focus on the “religious right” and their role in this political battle. For instance, he laments the fact that the political activism of the “religious right” sends a bad message to Christian children that it is appropriate and legitimate to intertwine religion and politics. He charges that Christian children are being taught that global warming and the rape of the environment doesn’t matter. He complains that through the agitation of his base, the religious right, President Bush is pushing the teaching of Creationism in public schools, along side of naturalistic evolution. He sounds the alarm, warning against relgious activism, as he notes that there is a “religious army of foot soldiers (those who have been indoctrinated as children) directed by a political right and they are taking control in small slices. They have taken control of the White House, congress and the judiciary.” Finally, in a segment toward the end, he interviews Becky Fischer, and in the context of arguing with her about the legitimacy of her indoctrination of young children says, “you have a right to teach kids anything but don’t let that bleed into the public sector.” These few comments adequately provide evidence for the axe the movie is trying to grind: Christian activists are indoctrinating Christian children about political issues, particularly abortion, global warming, and the origins of life, and it is dangerous to freedom and must be stopped.

Now, having read these statements of the radio host, who serves as the mouthpiece of the producers to articulate their political philosophy and concerns, I am sure you can seee the irony. He (they, the producers) are saying, “what an outrage, these Christians are teaching these kids ideas and concepts that are designed to effect their behavior and impact the political process!” Like the public education system has not been doing that in America for the last 80 years. I will never forget one of the most honest statements I heard from a liberal professor who taught a Political Science course I once took. He said, “the public education system in America is designed to teach children who the civil authorities are, and how to recognize the symbols of their office.” That is 100 percent correct, and that is indoctrination! The purpose of education is not to teach children who is in charge, it is to provide them with the tools so that they can learn how to think for themselves. However, once education becomes a government institution, it will always end up focusing on indoctrination rather than education because the state cannot separate its own interests from the task of imparting information.

So what is the state's interest that is being communicated through public education? Well, that is obvious, the state wants citizens who recognize government authority, fear and respect government authority, and who have been trained to think and act in predictable ways. The most effective way to accomplish that is to engraft children, from the earliest age possible, into an education system where the goals and interests of the state are constantly reinforced throughout their formative years of life. The primary value of the state that shapes the education system in America is that citizens are actually “resources,” not individual human beings made in the image of God possessing real dignity; therefore, the role of public education is to teach these “resources” how to behave properly, that is, respect the encroaching power of government without asking probing questions about constitutional authority, look to the governemnt for solutions to personal problems such as health care, day care, a job, etc., and to control the biological reproduction of the “resources.” To reinforce this last value, the the education system starts with sex education in Kindergarten and continues it through high school. The government hopes that the “resources” use appropriate birth control so as not to overproduce and thereby lead to greater government costs, but just in case the sex education doesn’t work, it affords the “resources” the “right to privacy” err, abortion in order to control population.

These are the “non-sectarian” political ideas that govern the perspective of the producers of “Jesus Camp.” The bone they have to pick with the religious activists is that they are competing with the liberal establishment which runs the government education system for the hearts, minds, and bodies of children. With the rise of Christian schools, and more particularly the home school movement, which the movie points out consists of evangelical Christians to the tune of 75 percent, the government monopoly on indoctrination (education) has been seriously challenged. That represents an enormous problem for liberals because if enough of these young people grow up to think for themselves, and in turn think of themselves as free individuals, and not government “resources” they just might challenge or overturn the status quo.

For these political liberals to tell tax-paying citizens, parents and religious groups that they don’t have the right to teach children a system of beliefs, morals, and actions if those views spill over into the political realm is utter hypocrisy. That is exactly what the liberal establishment has been doing for decades, and still continues to do. It has indoctrinated generations of children in establishment liberalism through government schools. Through the medium of film, “Jesus Camp” powerfully reminds us that ideas always impact behavior and eventually political systems. Denying this, and pretending that only “sectarian” groups indoctrinate children in order to influence public policy is dishonest and hypocritical, and that’s the irony of “Jesus Camp.”

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Was Moses on Dope?

Throughout my years as a college student and then as a grad student I came across many interesting if not fantastic explanations of difficult things found in the Bible. It seems that critical scholars will go to any lengths imaginable to explain away the supernatural in the scriptures. As I was doing to some net surfing here recently I came across an explanation of Moses on Mt. Sinai that really took the cake. In an article Moses was high on drugs: Israeli researcher, Benny Shanon, a professor of cognitive psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, argued that, "Moses was on psychedelic drugs when he heard God deliver the Ten Commandments." Apparently, the bark from accacia trees can produce a strong hallucinogenic effect under the right conditions. Shanon thinks that this concoction accounts for the things Moses heard and saw(e.g. burning bush, which he thinks is another apparent hallucinogenic episode).

Why resort to such fantastic explanations? Well, the answer is obvious, we can't just take the Bible at face value. After all, it is wrong about so many things, right? Actually, no, it is not wrong on so many things, and it is not full of errors, and false statements. Critics used to say that the Bible, in the early chapters of Genesis, named cities and Mesopotamian kings that never existed, only to be proved wrong with the discovery of the Ebla tablets in the 1960's. We used to be told that the walls of Jericho could not have fallen outward, as the book of Joshua says, because an attacking army would naturally batter the walls until they fell inward (even though Joshua specifically says Israel didn't touch the walls), until the 1990's, when renowned archeologist Kathleen Kenyon proved that available evidence suggests they fell outward. Many other instances of critics attempting to explain away the facts of the Bible only to be later disproved by hard evidence could be cited, but it is unnecessary to do this. The Bible is reliable, as Nelson Glueck (renowned Jewish archaeologist) once said, “it may be stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference.”

Just because Prof. Shanon got lit up on psychodelic drugs once doesn't mean Moses did, at least not on Mt. Sanai. This kind of unfounded speculation leads one to ask, "what will they come up with next? Moses was abducted by aliens? The 'burning bush' episode took place on Tralfamadore?" I think Prof. Shanon better stick to studying the behavior of white rats rather than interpreting the Bible if reading his own experiences into the text is all he knows how to do.

Okay, I Was Wrong About Henderson

Well, I was way wrong about that Henderson-Sylva fight. I told my sons that I was predicting a decision in favor of Henderson, but that it would still be a good fight. My son looked at me and said, "wrong, it will be Sylva in the 2nd round!" It turns out, he was right and I was wrong. The first round went exactly how I had predicted. There was a feeling out process, some punches and kicks, and then a takedown by Henderson and he held Sylva down, and dirty boxed him until the end of the round. At that point, I felt pretty smug about my prediction, and I was not prepared for what happened next. Sylva opened things up in that 2nd round and showed everyone why he is the most dangerous fighter in the world. He threw vicious knees, elbows and kicks, and then unveiled a world class ground game to finish off Henderson, who is an extremely savvy ground fighter. The big question left in my mind as I finished watching the fight, was, who in the world can match up with this guy? Maybe Dana will have to send someone else down from the light heavies to take this guy out, or, maybe he will have to lure "the Natural" back to Octagon with the promise of a huge pay-day if he steps in the ring with this guy. Hats off to Sylva though, he is great fighter, and he exhibits such class in victory, that you can't help but admire him both as a man and a fighter.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

UFC 82 Prediction

Okay, tonight is the Dan Henderson vs. Anderson Sylva middleweight fight that serious fans have been anticipating for a while. I think this is going to be a real barn burner of a fight. No one can deny the Mauy Thai skills of Sylva. This guys’ clinch is phenomenal and it helps serve up those devastating knee strikes. And outside of the clinch, who else in MMA today can deliver such pinpoint strikes? Anderson Sylva is an incredible fighter and an incredible athlete. So, with this build-up you might think I am calling the fight for Sylva, but not so fast. As much as I think he is a dominant fighter, I am actually leaning toward Henderson in this one. Watching him stand toe-to-toe with Rampage Jackson showed the toughness and savvy of this fighter. His ability to tie up and “dirty box” is top notch. Beside that, he is extremely dominant on the ground. Now, Sylva has very solid ground game, but it is certainly not at the level of Henderson’s. So here is how I think this fight goes. Sylva stalks Henderson for the first round and tries to work that clinch and lay his gloves on Henderson. I think Henderson will keep moving and wait to set up his shots. Eventually however, I think Henderson ties Sylva up, takes him to the ground, works strikes and keeps him down most of the fight. The end result I think is that Henderson walks away with a decision. So that is my prediction, in the mean time, we will wait and see. Enjoy the fights!