Certainly Effervescent

That's what I said!

Warning: Economics Nerdery Ahead

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Okay, as a man with an A.B. in Economics, this is why those of us who enjoy research papers and von Mises need to have our cameras and Internet access taken away.

Sure, it’s funny, and sure, it’s pretty cool that I get to hear “prepare to get schooled in my Austrian perspective” in a rap song, but guys: you’re killing my nerd cred. The amount of self-satisfaction I get from being the only guy in the room that likes monetary theory can’t be understated.

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Written by C.S. Stieber

January 27, 2010 at 8:36 pm

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Ugandan Pastor Preaching Lies, American Church: Where Are You?

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So, Rick Warren’s wing-man in Uganda, Martin Ssempa, thinks he’s found photographic evidence that’s the debate winner in the Kill The Gays argument in his country. Small problem, though: he’s found photos of poop fetishism, which for those of you who don’t know, is not the same as homosexuality. Ssempa:

“I want to show you from their website. I’ve taken the time to research what homosexuals do in the privacy of their bedroom. It is inhuman, it is animalistic, and it cannot be right. I want to show you these pictures.

I want to say homosexuals eat each other’s poop. Homosexuals stick their hands into their rectum. Homosexuals stick all sorts of deviant sexual things into their rectum. I want to show you this is from their website. So the first picture that I want to show you, you can see this man has just eaten the other person’s poo poo and is rubbing it on his mouth, and I’m going to ask that we print for each of you a photocopy of this story so you get it fully.

Then, of course, they are grabbing each other’s gentials (sic), that is level number one, touching each other, grabbing each other. Then number three, now they are licking each other’s anus and are licking poop. And they call poo poo, chocolate. You see it is a change of words. I want you to see, Sheikh please forgive me but I want these people to see, they say a picture is worth one thousand words. This is a man eating the other person’s poo poo, can you see that one? Please from BBC, I want you to tell them, we know what they do.”

(H/T: Towleroad)

First of all, rarely have I read comments that so clearly demonstrate a man’s ignorance and the power of myth. That Ssempa is treated with respect, that his opinions are given any creedence, is a testament to the ignorance of many Ugandan people (please note that I’m not blaming them for their ignorance, just stating that they are ignorant of the true nature of homosexuality). He went to “their website”?! Maybe he can tell me their email address so I can know how to get in touch with the gays. And he then sees some evil plot in calling “poo poo” “chocolate”? My head is spinning.

But it is all too true that there are millions of people around the world who believe these kinds of kind of stories. It wouldn’t surprise me if Ssempa actually believed that all gay people like to eat solid waste. And the fact that this preposterous myth is used as motivation for violence and discrimination is deeply, deeply, saddening.

What is inexcusable, however, is when people who know better (coughcough Rick Warren cough) are reluctant to rebuke or correct these myths. It is, in fact, deeply patronizing of Western Christian intellectuals to allow this kind of crap to flourish in 3rd world churches. If an American made these comments, he or she would (rightfully) get the Fred Phelps treatment of Robust Condemnation. But if it happens to be said by A Bedraggled Dark Person Who Lives In A Land Without Clean Water, silence reigns.

For the second time today, and in the interest of me doing my small part to help destroy some myths, allow me to quote a Barna Group study. And, may I be clear: this isn’t just for Ugandan Christians. Americans, you too need to pay attention.

After researching and polling the opinions of both homosexual and heterosexual Christians, The Barna Group found that:

“Out of the 20 faith-oriented attributes examined in the Barna study, there were just a few in which there were no significant differences between the heterosexual and homosexual populations. The areas of similarity included the facts that a small minority of people in both groups believe that Satan is real; equivalent percentages of these groups feel they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs with others who believe differently; similar numbers of people from each group contend that good people can earn their way into Heaven through their goodness; and rates of participation in house churches is about the same for both groups.

People who portray gay adults as godless, hedonistic, Christian bashers are not working with the facts,” declared the best-selling author of numerous books about faith and culture. “A substantial majority of gays cite their faith as a central facet of their life, consider themselves to be Christian, and claim to have some type of meaningful personal commitment to Jesus Christ active in their life today.

“It is interesting to see that most homosexuals, who have some history within the Christian Church, have rejected orthodox biblical teachings and principles – but, in many cases, to nearly the same degree that the heterosexual Christian population has rejected those same teachings and principles. Although there are clearly some substantial differences in the religious beliefs and practices of the straight and gay populations, there may be less of a spiritual gap between straights and gays than many Americans would assume.”

(added emphasis)

I know it’s tempting to continue to choose narrative over facts, and I know it’s difficult to change your worldview when presented with new facts, but when people’s rights and lives are on the line, I hope you have the courage to do what’s right: admit your wrong and start educating the people around you.

Written by C.S. Stieber

January 27, 2010 at 12:30 am

Why I Love The Barna Group And Why Young People Hate Evangelicals

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I’ve linked to them once or twice, but allow me to clearly state: I love what The Barna Group does. So much so that I’ve created a permanent link roll, which you can find to the right, of several of their studies. For those too lazy to click through, the Barna Group does exhaustive polling of religion, and more specifically the Christian religion, in modern America.

Part of the reason why I enjoy them is because I’m a statistics nerd. I love raw, real, data. In contrast to the hypothesizing and postulating-from-30,000-feet that most people call “discourse”, a well-gathered statistic is near irrefutable.

So while so much of the evangelical leadership is searching for “relevancy” or some other b.s. church management theory, Barna Group is over in the corner, crunching numbers. And those numbers are terrifying to those who are concerned with the future of the American church. Peruse the polls I’ve linked to. Not one of them is encouraging to the future of a healthy evangelical church in the United States. And what is the reason for this decline? Why are Mosaics (people between the ages of roughly 16 and 29) so negative about evangelicals (only 3% of them have positive views)? Allow me to blurb from one of the Barna Group reports:

The study explored twenty specific images related to Christianity, including ten favorable and ten unfavorable perceptions. Among young non-Christians, nine out of the top 12 perceptions were negative. Common negative perceptions include that present-day Christianity is judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), old-fashioned (78%), and too involved in politics (75%) – representing large proportions of young outsiders who attach these negative labels to Christians.

Interestingly, the study discovered a new image that has steadily grown in prominence over the last decade. Today, the most common perception is that present-day Christianity is “anti-homosexual.” Overall, 91% of young non-Christians and 80% of young churchgoers say this phrase describes Christianity. As the research probed this perception, non-Christians and Christians explained that beyond their recognition that Christians oppose homosexuality, they believe that Christians show excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards gays and lesbians. One of the most frequent criticisms of young Christians was that they believe the church has made homosexuality a “bigger sin” than anything else. Moreover, they claim that the church has not helped them apply the biblical teaching on homosexuality to their friendships with gays and lesbians.

(all emphasis added is mine)

I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to read this. After a decade of youth pastors with soul patches and tattoos, worship bands with DJs and guitar solos, Christian “alternatives” to pop culture, and every other pathetic attempt to re-decorate a moribund movement, someone finally gets it right: young people don’t like you, Evangelical Church, because you’ve been a whiny, selectively compassionate, un-Christ-like group that has tolerated un-Christ-like jerks in your leadership for far too long.

Written by C.S. Stieber

January 26, 2010 at 10:09 pm

“This isn’t Detroit. This is the Super Bowl!”

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For those who follow me on Twitter (feed at right, page here), you know that yesterday was far too much fun for a playoff football Sunday. Between  the Colts dismantling the Jets and, oh, Fumble Heaven With An Extra Large Helping Of Favre-enfreude, it was a very good day.

A secondary joy of the Minnesota meltdown was knowing that Paul Allen, Vikings play-by-play man and homer extraordinaire would have an epic response. The man lives and dies by the team’s success (just go to YouTube and search “Paul Allen Vikings” to see what I mean), and the last-second interception by Favre, killing any chance at a game-winning field goal to send them to the Super Bowl, was the ultimate Stomach Punch.

Mr. Allen did not disappoint.

Also, courtesy of Pete Prose, we get this Vikings fan reaction. There’s a perverse joy in watching fans react to disappointing results on the field. It’s part “Thank God That’s Not Me” and part “I Would Say The Exact Same Thing In Said Situation”.

(Audio NSFW unless f-bombs are S at your W-place)

1000% Funny Sauce

Written by C.S. Stieber

January 25, 2010 at 10:58 pm

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Comedian’s Thoughts On CoCo and What The Support Means

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Comedian Michael Ian Black with some good points re: Conan O’Brien’s departure:

How did a Harvard-educated, multi-millionaire late night talk show host magically transmogrify into a guy who got laid off at the local car plant? The overreaction to Conan’s departure has been kind of astounding; as a nation, are we really that concerned about who hosts “The Tonight Show,” a television program that stopped being culturally relevant around 1986?

More:

I think the deeper reason people are so inflamed by this petty war is that Conan in his own way has come to represent the aggrieved, the injured, the wrongly terminated. I think there is a sense in this country that giant corporations are ruining everything, even late night talk shows. Something so insignificant takes on greater importance because I think on some level, “The Tonight Show” actually has become a very flawed stand-in for all the jobs lost to corporate greed, arrogance, and stupidity. We see Conan as a victim because we feel as though, like us, he wasn’t given a fair shot. If a guy like that, a guy who has everything, can be downsized and demoted, what hope do the rest of us have?

Moreover Leno is installed back in his abdicated throne. It feels like a coup, a particularly unfunny coup. And above him, all the top brass still have their jobs. Just like all the top brass in every other failed or bailed-out corporation. It feels unfair. And it makes people mad.

Read the whole thing: Michael Ian Black – Norma Rae

Written by C.S. Stieber

January 25, 2010 at 9:13 pm

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The Tea Party Movement And The False Promise of Nostalgia

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The New Yorker has a good-ish piece delving into the details of the Tea Party movement. I say good-ish because, while fair-handed (read: not hysterical or Frank Rich-y), it’s incomplete. Ben McGrath, the author, does a good job of showing the everyday quality of many Tea Partiers. I’ve told plenty of my liberal friends that they mock the “teabaggers” at their peril. People in “flyover” country might not listen to NPR, might avoid foreign films, and might eat fast food, but they do have the Internet. It’s a wrongheaded movement (more on that in a second), but I can tell you that much of the animating force of the Tea Partiers comes from a strong feeling that they are forced to know every detail of the Coasts’ political positions, all the while being ignored, stereotyped, and belittled. It got mocked by later pundits, but Nixon won the presidency with his “silent majority” campaign. In the interest of clarity, allow me to list a few things about the Tea Party:

  1. It’s not a conspiracy of corporate interests. As much as the Left might carp about FreedomWorks and the Koch Corporation, this has legitimate grassroots momentum, and needs to be addressed as such.
  2. They know what you are saying about them. I see this increasingly from the College Town Left and some MSM commentators, behaving like mothers conversing at the weekly play-together for their toddlers. They talk about the Tea Party movement as if it can’t understand the conversation, that they can discuss the ludicrousness of the protests, the hidden racism, blah blah blah, and the “poor widdle Teabaggers” just keep puttering along in ignorance. Bad move. My grandmother, who is slightly more than email-conversant, knows on a daily basis what Rachel Maddow is saying about my grandmother’s politics, and bears the grudge accordingly.
  3. The hoary “no one believes in us” analogy from underdog sports teams applies here. It would take waaaay too long to inspect why the “us against the world” mentality is so potent, so we’ll take it for granted here. As a relative of several Tea Party types (think “Legalize the Constitution” on a bumper sticker on a truck), I can say authoritatively that many of them cherish the opposition. It’s a kind of “if MSNBC-host-hates-me is wrong, I don’t want to be right” position. So, just as a team that’s favored to win must take the underdog team seriously in preparation, so must the rest of the country should address the Tea Party faction seriously. I shall try a little bit of that here, but saying that
  4. The Tea Party movement has misread America and is so conflicted in goals as to render itself impotent.

For example, while every movement is made up of factions, there is some unifying goal that brings them all into a compromise on issues of disagreement. Think social conservatives, foreign policy hawks uniting under anti-Communism. May I humbly ask: what banner would this motley band march under?

As spring passed into summer, the scores at local Tea Party gatherings turned to hundreds, and then thousands, collecting along the way footloose Ron Paul supporters, goldbugs, evangelicals, Atlas Shruggers, militiamen, strict Constitutionalists, swine-flu skeptics, scattered 9/11 “truthers,” neo-“Birchers,” and, of course, “birthers”—those who remained convinced that the President was a Muslim double agent born in Kenya.

Before someone says “less government”, think of how vague that is. Less how? Less regulation of Wall Street (highly doubt that would have much support anywhere)? How about cutting the size of the U.S. military? I just did a 10 minute perusal of the Tea Party sites and saw writings for the following positions: (1) for the increase of freedom-of-religious expression in public, (2) repeal a significant chunk of environmental regulations, (3) low taxes, (4) making government “listen” to the people, (5) constitutional limits on federal government, (6) government enactment of trade tariffs and subsidies for American workers, (7) governmental protection of heterosexual marriage, (8) strong border control. I know they all say “small government”, but there are so many ways that that mandate can be interpreted.

So, in the face of such uncertain motivation, I’m going to posit that the Tea Party movement is driven by a more nebulous (but ultimately more dangerous) emotion of nostalgia. The aforementioned “silent majority” longs for the days when they felt they had input on everything: whether it be music, movies, politics, or business. It doesn’t really matter that some of the times they have nostalgia for never really existed: it’s the idea that America once used to be a place that was predominantly Judeo-Christian (strong emphasis on the “Christian”), culturally unified, and the Land of Opportunity and Freedom is the important thing. The closing lines of the New Yorker piece involve some Tea Partiers singing:

Take it back,
Take our country back.
Our way of life is now under attack.
Draw a line in the sand, so they all understand
And our values stay intact.
Take it back.

And, if you get a chance to discuss it with a Tea Partier, ask them “where is this “back” you refer to? Do you have an era in mind?” And any era they will probably mention (at least this side of the Civil War) will be different than they remember. 1950’s? Go check the top income tax rates and get back to me. 1980’s? But I thought you worried about deficit spending!

And that leads me to my other critique of the Tea Party movement: they’ve misread the country. Another way to describe the Tea Partiers mantra is to say that they are crying for a return to “First Principles”: ideas espoused in the Federalist Papers and Constitution, Founding Fathers as role models, I mean even the name refers to the Revolutionary War. It’s the same call that I have heard from evangelicals and conservatives since I was young. “If we are to go forward as followers of God,” says the pastor, “we must remember [basic principle x] and start following it anew.” The Republicans can regain power by reclaiming [founding idea y] and acting upon it. They can win by being more conservative, not less!” brays the talk-radio host.

I used to believe this, and more importantly, I can still empathize with the intoxicating effects of believing these things. The Ideal World is so close if these things are true- all it takes is a few steps back to something we used to do, and we’re back on track. But it’s a false promise.

Jonah Goldberg said once that he thought many modern conservatives had underestimated the effect the automobile and highway system had left on the traditional way of life. So much of traditional wisdom, Goldberg said, is predicated on difficulty of travel: when it takes 3 days to go 100 miles, families stay closer together, views remain conveniently local, the newspaper decidedly provincial. Put in the Interstate Highway, and mobility nearly destroys all of that. I find this idea perhaps Goldberg’s strongest point I’ve ever heard him make.

If that was done by the car, what exactly is the Internet doing? Whereas if some teen were to question his sexuality in the 1940s, he or she would be quickly, and often brutally, reminded that that was an unacceptable path. Today, one can go on YouTube and see hundreds of videos of fellow gay and lesbian teens living safe and happy lives, and be encouraged. Satellite television has allowed a greater specialization of taste. You liked polka in the 1960s? Tough luck, kid: Dick Clark ain’t putting no accordion on American Band Stand. You like ska today? There are hundreds of sites available to post comments and fanmail.

The point I’m trying to make is that, in some ways because of technology, the effectiveness of First Principles has been fatally crippled. And, as the Patrol Magazine editors put it:

The fight to define evangelicalism in its latter days also operates on the mistaken premise that an imagined theological purity or conformance to a “lost” orthodoxy, rather than an emphasis on ethics, spiritual discipline and mystery, will revive the power of the Christian church. It is astonishing that so many intelligent Christians seem to believe there is a deficit in emphasis on evangelism and scriptural literalism, and that, if the hatches are just battened down on a more solid “worldview,” evangelicalism can resume explaining the universe to new generations of believers. In this respect, evangelicalism’s true believers resemble the faction of the Republican Party that asserts with a straight face that returning to “core principles,” and not a radical restructuring of priorities, will bring waves of Americans back to the right wing.

Going back to the false promise: it’s so intoxicating because of its simplicity, but being simple doesn’t make it true. The unfortunate reality is that (1) we can’t go back, and (2) no one really knows what to go back to. That’s how potent the World Wide Web has been to changing the world. As someone put it once, the current generation of youth is the first in a long time, possibly ever, to possess technology that quickly exceeds their parents’ morality. Unlike our grandparents burning our parents records, my teenage brother knows his way around every firewall and has a facility with technology that boggles my parents’ brains. A return to “first principles” in this case would not only be bull-headed, it would be pathetically useless.

So the Tea Partiers think that the simple Davey-and-Goliath nostalgia they all feel is worthy of fighting for. Too bad so few other people agree with that. Another side effect of the information superhighway is that we can access the unattractive truths of a time period that destroy the myth-y bubble of nostalgia. There once was a time when parents could tell their kids of The Good Old Days, and the kids, with no other data, would believe them. Today: you show me Leave It To Beaver or Lassie, I show you Selma or Roy Cohn.

The sooner the MSM and Left understand that these are honest-but-misguided emotions on the part of the Tea Party crowd, the sooner they can effectively address the arguments and cause the Tea Partiers to do a little soul-searching, something the modern evangelicals and modern Right seem to have too-little of at the moment.

Written by C.S. Stieber

January 25, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Presented Without Comment

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Over at the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Pulpit Blog, Mark Barna interviews Bryce Lee, who teaches a course on the benefits of creationism and how Darwinism is flawed. First question:

BARNA: What is your view of science?

LEE: I hated science in school.

Written by C.S. Stieber

January 25, 2010 at 6:46 pm