May 24th, 2011


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First the Tornado, Then the Hostage Crisis

Have you ever felt like politicians are holding you hostage?

If you didn’t feel that way during the posturing over a government shutdown a few weeks ago, and if you don’t feel that way during the ongoing posturing about the federal debt ceiling, how about now, when the subject is disaster relief for Missouri tornado victims:

Rescue workers worked through more storms in an effort to find potential survivors, even as the death toll rose to at least 119. President Obama pledged full support to the state Monday, telling survivors, “We’re here with you. We’re going to stay by you.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), however, said that before Congress approved federal funds for disaster relief, it had to offset the spending with cuts to other programs.

If this is how Republicans respond to disasters, then federal neglect after Hurricane Katrina starts to make sense…

Update: photos from Joplin.

Tattered flag

Another update: Apparently this attitude is catching on in Canada, too.

Airy Persiflage

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Prize the Doubt

Hilarious, though it’s being reported as news, so I guess we’re still listening:

The evangelical broadcaster who left followers crestfallen by his failed prediction that last Saturday would be Judgement Day says he miscalculated.

Harold Camping said it had “dawned” on him that God would spare humanity “hell on Earth for five months” and the apocalypse would happen on 21 October.

Billboard: That Was Awkward. No one knows the day or the hour... -- Matthew 24:36

I’ve read a lot of comments online that say “This is not a reflection on Christianity or the Bible; obviously these people didn’t interpret the Bible correctly.”

I believe — without any supporting facts; I’m going on faith here — that the majority of Biblical literalists didn’t actually believe that the world would end on May 21.

Camping and his followers represent a small fraction of Biblical literalists; literalists are a small fraction of all Christian fundamentalists, and fundamentalists are a small fraction of all Christians. (There are literalists who would say that anyone who isn’t a literalist isn’t a true fundamentalist, and there are fundamentalists who would say that anyone who isn’t a fundamentalist isn’t a true Christian. Cliques at work.)

Camping’s failure doesn’t cast a shadow of disrepute on the Bible or on Christianity, but it does cast a shadow. What it brings into disrepute is certainty.

It seems to me that, whatever you may believe, there should always be a small part of your mind whispering, “But I could be wrong.” As Robert Browning wrote:

Rather I prize the doubt
Low kinds exist without

The doubting part of your mind should always be on the lookout for evidence that you’re mistaken about anything you believe. The continual search for better understanding is the essence of being human.

Then, welcome each rebuff
That turns earth’s smoothness rough,
Each sting that bids nor sit nor stand but go!
Be our joys three-parts pain!
Strive, and hold cheap the strain;
Learn, nor account the pang; dare, never grudge the throe!

For thence, — a paradox
Which comforts while it mocks, —
Shall life succeed in that it seems to fail:
What I aspired to be,
And was not, comforts me:
A brute I might have been, but would not sink i’ the scale.

Certainty isn’t the end of the search for understanding; it’s the abandonment of the search. It’s the end of the road.