Friday, July 24, 2009

Infantile defacing of the Bible is sad for the defacers not for the Bible

It shows how poorly they have been taught the wonderful stories and great truths of the Bible. Unlike the Koran the Bible does not require enforced respect. It is is just there for those who are blessed to drink of its wisdom and feel the liberating power of its messaage

A publicly funded exhibition is encouraging people to deface the Bible in the name of art — and visitors have responded with abuse and obscenity. The show includes a video of a woman ripping pages from the Bible and stuffing them into her bra, knickers and mouth. The open Bible is a central part of Made in God’s Image, an exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art (Goma) in Glasgow. By the book is a container of pens and a notice saying: “If you feel you have been excluded from the Bible, please write your way back into it.”

The exhibit, Untitled 2009, was proposed by the Metropolitan Community Church, which said that the idea was to reclaim the Bible as a sacred text. But to the horror of many Christians, including the community church, visitors have daubed its pages with comments such as “This is all sexist pish, so disregard it all.” A contributor wrote on the first page of Genesis: “I am Bi, Female & Proud. I want no god who is disappointed in this.”

The Church of Scotland expressed concern, the Roman Catholic Church called the exhibit infantile, and a Christian lawyers’ group said that the exhibition was symptomatic of a broken and lawless society.

The exhibition has been created by the artists Anthony Schrag and David Malone, in association with organisations representing gay Christians and Muslims. Mr Schrag, the gallery’s artist in residence, said that he did not believe in God, but that his research for the £7,000 show had underlined his respect for people of faith.

The community church, which celebrates “racial, cultural, linguistic, sexual, gender and theological diversity”, had suggested the “interactive” Bible and pens and Mr Schrag, 34, said he had been intrigued. “Any offensive things that have been written are not the point of the work,” he said. “It was an open gesture. Are those who say they are upset offended by the things that people write, or just by the very notion that someone should write on a Bible?”

The artist, a Canadian who took a master’s degree at Glasgow School of Art, said that human rights were at the centre of the show. “If we are to open up the Bible for discussion, surely we have to invite people to speak out,” he said. “Art allows us to discuss difficult things, and Goma allows difficult discussions to take place — that is why Glasgow is at the cutting edge of contemporary art.”

Jane Clarke, a minister of the community church, said she regretted the insults that had appeared. “The Bible should never be used like that. It was our intention to reclaim it as a sacred text,” she said. While the exhibition’s supporters insist that the exhibit promotes “inclusivity” and should break down barriers between orthodox religion and gay and transgendered people, most contributors have paid scant regard to matters of sexuality.

One writer has altered the first line of the Old Testament from “In the beginning God created Heaven and Earth” to “In the beginning, God (me) I created religion.” Another has written “The Gospel According to Luke Skywalker”. The main sentiment, however, is rage at Christianity. “F*** the Bible”, one message says.

Last night the producers of the exhibition indicated that the most offensive pages would be removed, but Christians expressed outrage and disbelief that the show had been staged at all. “This is symbolic of the state of our broken and lawless society,” said Andrea Minichiello Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre. “We have got to a point where we call the desecration of the Bible modern art. The Bible stands for everything this art does not: for creation, beauty, hope and regeneration.”

The Church of Scotland said it condemned any sacrilegious act. “We would discourage anyone from defacing the Bible,” a Kirk spokesman said. A spokesman for the Catholic Church said: “One wonders whether the organisers would have been quite as willing to have the Koran defaced.”

A video by Roxanne Claxton forms a second element in the exhibition. It shows a young woman ripping pages out of the Bible and stuffing them in her knickers and bra, and in her mouth. The film showed “the word as power”, Mr Schrag said. “Roxanne gave a performance where she ate a Bible and it became part of her.”

Made in God’s Image is part of a series of exhibitions focusing on human rights organised by Culture and Sport Glasgow, part of the city council. The division’s chief executive is Dr Bridget McConnell, wife of the former Labour First Minister Jack McConnell.


Jerusalem -- one city, undivided

by Jeff Jacoby

LATE LAST WEEK, the Obama administration demanded that the Israeli government pull the plug on a planned housing development near the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem. The project, a 20-unit apartment complex, is indisputably legal. The property to be developed -- a defunct hotel -- was purchased in 1985, and the developer has obtained all the necessary municipal permits.

Why, then, does the administration want the development killed? Because Sheikh Jarrah is in a largely Arab section of Jerusalem, and the developers of the planned apartments are Jews. Think about that for a moment. Six months after Barack Obama became the first black man to move into the previously all-white residential facility at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, he is fighting to prevent integration in Jerusalem.

It is impossible to imagine the opposite scenario: The administration would never demand that Israel prevent Arabs from moving into a Jewish neighborhood. And the Obama Justice Department would unleash seven kinds of hell on anyone who tried to impose racial, ethnic, or religious redlining in an American city. In the 21st century, segregation is unthinkable -- except, it seems, when it comes to housing Jews in Jerusalem.

It is not easy for Israel's government to refuse any demand from the United States, which is the Jewish state's foremost ally. To their credit, Israeli leaders spoke truth to power, and said no. "Jerusalem residents can purchase apartments anywhere in the city," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday. "This has been the policy of all Israeli governments. There is no ban on Arabs buying apartments in the west of the city, and there is no ban on Jews building or buying in the city's east. This is the policy of an open city."

There was a time not so long ago when Jerusalem was anything but an open city. During Israel's War of Independence in 1948, the Jordanian Arab Legion invaded eastern Jerusalem, occupied the Old City, and expelled all its Jews -- many from families that had lived in the city for centuries. "As they left," the acclaimed historian Sir Martin Gilbert later wrote in his 1998 book, Jerusalem in the Twentieth Century, "they could see columns of smoke rising from the quarter behind them. The Hadassah welfare station had been set on fire and . . . the looting and burning of Jewish property was in full swing."

For the next 19 years, eastern Jerusalem was barred to Jews, brutally divided from the western part of the city with barbed-wire and military fortifications. Dozens of Jewish holy places, including synagogues hundreds of years old, were desecrated or destroyed. Gravestones from the ancient Mount of Olives cemetery were uprooted by the Jordanian army and used to pave latrines. Jerusalem's most sacred Jewish shrine, the Western Wall, became a slum. It wasn't until 1967, after Jordan was routed in the Six-Day War, that Jerusalem was reunited under Israeli sovereignty and religious freedom restored to all. Israelis have vowed ever since that Jerusalem would never again be divided.

And not only Israelis. US policy, laid out in the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, recognizes Jerusalem as "a united city administered by Israel" and formally declares that "Jerusalem must remain an undivided city." US presidents, Republican and Democratic alike, have agreed. In former President Clinton's words, "Jerusalem should be an open and undivided city, with assured freedom of access and worship for all."

As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama said much the same thing. To a 2008 candidate questionnaire that asked about "the likely final status Jerusalem," Obama replied: "The United States cannot dictate the terms of a final status agreement. . . . Jerusalem will remain Israel's capital, and no one should want or expect it to be re-divided." In a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Council, he repeated the point: "Let me be clear . . . Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided."

Palestinian irredentists claim that eastern Jerusalem is historically Arab territory and should be the capital of a future Palestinian state. In reality, Jews always lived in eastern Jerusalem -- it is the location of the Old City and its famous Jewish Quarter, after all, not to mention Hebrew University, which was founded in 1918. The apartment complex that Obama opposes is going up in what was once Shimon Hatzadik, a Jewish neighborhood established in 1891. Only from 1948 to 1967 -- during the Jordanian occupation -- was the eastern part of Israel's capital "Arab territory." Palestinians have no more claim to sovereignty there than Russia does in formerly occupied eastern Berlin.

The great obstacle to Middle East peace is not that Jews insist on living among Arabs. It is that Arabs insist that Jews not live among them. If Obama doesn't yet grasp that, he has a lot to learn.


The Truth About Hate Crimes

I’ll grant supporters of hate crimes legislation one thing: they certainly understand the tactical advantage of being hateful when accusing others of hate. This weekend, after the Senate passed the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Bill, I posted several articles on Facebook and my blog questioning the claim that Matthew Shepard was murdered solely because he was gay.

Although the media and gay rights activists treat it as conventional wisdom, this claim has always been in dispute. Shepard’s murderers, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, admitted from the start that they were on a drug binge at the time of the killing. In 2004, McKinney told ABC News that Shepard's murder was not a homophobic hate crime, but a robbery gone wrong. “He was pretty well-dressed, had a wallet full of money,” Aaron McKinney said of meeting Shepard. “All I wanted to do was beat him up and rob him...Seemed like a good idea at the time.”

Later that night, after assaulting Shepard, McKinney violently attacked two straight men. If homophobia was the only thing fueling McKinney’s rage, what was the motive for his second round of assaults?

But don’t raise these points with supporters of hate crimes legislation. After I posted the articles, I was called “stupid” and a “hate monger.” One commenter—after saying she’d like to punch me in the face—claimed that I was “defending his killers who so brutally murdered him.”

That’s not surprising. Supporters of hate legislation always accuse opponents of secretly cheering the crimes. After George W. Bush vetoed a hate crimes bill, the NAACP put out a campaign ad featuring the daughter of James Byrd, the victim of a racist murder in Texas. She said Bush’s veto made her feel like her father was “killed all over again.”

The ad failed to mention that the killers had already been sentenced to death, making an additional conviction for “hate” less than worthless. In Shepard’s case, the judge in Wyoming—the supposedly knuckle-dragging, redneck, homophobic state that gave us Dick Cheney—sentenced his killers to two consecutive life terms. (They were spared a death sentence after Shepard’s parents spoke out against it.)

When will hate legislation supporters acknowledge that the perpetrators of these crimes received the maximum punishment—without also being found guilty of “hate”? What is a hate crimes law supposed to accomplish that hasn’t already been done?

A quote from Casper Star-Tribune reporter Jason Marsden might explain a few things. "We knew in the newsroom the day [Shepard’s murder] happened, this is going to be a huge story, this is going to attract international interest," Marsden told ABC. “I remember one of my fellow reporters saying, 'this kid is going to be the new poster child for gay rights.’”

So there you have it. Hate legislation supporters have used Shepard’s murder as proof that gays are regularly targeted for their sexuality and need special protections under the law—protections not granted to other victims. They fear that if the facts about the case are widely known, they will lose their “poster child” and their credibility. And they’ll use reckless charges of “hate” in order to keep the truth under wraps.


Atheists in the Capitol's Foxhole

by Chuck Norris

I'm a fighter for the freedoms of speech and religion. They are our constitutional rights -- what the First Amendment is all about. But those freedoms don't give atheists the entitlement to eliminate or revise America's religious heritage in the new $621 million taxpayer-provided Capitol Visitor Center in Washington.

This month, the House and Senate passed identical resolutions approving the engravings of the national motto ("In God We Trust") and the Pledge of Allegiance in prominent places in the Capitol Visitor Center -- a 580,000-square-foot facility under the Capitol -- where 15,500 guests visit each day.

Spearheading the measures were Rep. Daniel Lungren, R-Calif., Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., and Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who are leaders who also have drawn attention to the oversight of religious heritage in the CVC. The YouTube video of Forbes addressing the House on this matter -- called "Our Judeo-Christian Nation" -- has received about 2.5 million hits to date, making it one of the most widely viewed floor speeches in YouTube history. Also, some of the 19 omissions and inaccuracies in the CVC can be seen on the YouTube posting called "War on God."

Engraving the motto and pledge in the CVC sounds so basic and reasonable, doesn't it? Apparently not to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the nation's largest group of atheists and agnostics, which filed suit in an effort to prevent the engravings.

According to The Associated Press, the Freedom From Religion Foundation says its lawsuit is based upon the foundations that "both the motto and the words 'under God' in the pledge were adopted during the Cold War as anti-communism measures. Engraving them at the entrance to the U.S. Capitol would discriminate against those who do not practice religion and unfairly promote a Judeo-Christian perspective." (I guess that also transforms our coins and bills, which have "In God We Trust" on them, into Christian tracts?) How preposterous!

Some members of Congress who supported the measure are already denouncing the claims as ludicrous. "This lawsuit is another attempt by liberal activists to rewrite history and deny that America's Judeo-Christian heritage is an essential foundation stone of our great nation," said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. Lungren said he was expecting a lawsuit but called the claims "patently absurd."

And Forbes recently stated in an official memo from his offices: "This lawsuit sheds light on the lengths that a small minority will take to remove our nation's faith history from this generation and future generations of Americans. I, along with many Members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, intend to fight this unabashed and dangerous effort to silence our nation's history. Truly even our Pledge of Allegiance and our national motto are not spared from these efforts. Our Declaration of Independence states that our rights are 'endowed by our Creator.' If the plaintiffs in this lawsuit are successful, they will succeed not only in removing the history for which our fathers and founders sacrificed so much, but also in removing the very source our Founders believed provided our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

So, could the lawsuit prevail and prevent the engravings in the CVC? Are you kidding? Mark my words: If a few liberal judges get the case and we the people do nothing, it will. And then that precedent will be used to extend their next argument -- that our national motto, "In God We Trust," is unconstitutional.

That is why I am encouraging Americans to write or call the Architect of the Capitol's communications officer (202-228-1793 or and also their representatives to inform them about what they think of the engraved national motto and Pledge of Allegiance within the CVC. While you're at it, remind them that you, the taxpayer, paid for that $621 million facility and that you think some corner of its 580,000 square feet deserves to be dedicated to a permanent display of the Capitol's rich religious history.

Atheists might not be found in every foxhole, but the bunker called the Capitol Visitor Center has a couple of them in there right now. I think it's time that Americans let them know not only that the motto and pledge are at the heart of our country but also that whitewashing God from the walls of history is actually an unfair promotion of atheism and an injustice to all that is America.


Is tolerance of failure a virtue?

An interesting theory below -- but much in need of statistical backup. It seems to be true, for instance, that MOST of the smaller populations of the developed world deliver unusually large (per head) contributions to science, culture etc. Scotland, New Zealand and Austria are, for instance, often cited in that regard. And many of the innovations and discoveries coming out of the USA emanate from people not born there

For a nation with 0.3 per cent of the world's population, Australia is grossly over-represented at the top of a huge range of fields: across science, business, sport and the arts. Which is odd, given that we also - inexplicably, to other cultures - are fond of failure.

Visit the United States and you enter a far more competitive nation, one quick to rank and grade, with too many winners to waste much time with the losers. Its culture encourages striving, certainly, but never failure. In Japan, and many other Asian cultures, failure is usually considered shameful, implying you did not work hard enough. One finds respect for failure in Britain - particularly resigned failure, the sticking to one's post - but also the lingering shadows of a class heritage uncomfortable with displays of naked effort.

Australia, by contrast, adores a valiant attempt to beat impossible odds. We view Gallipoli, our greatest military failure, not just with reverence but with pride. We say, "Have a go, mate," because we believe that it doesn't matter if you fail, so long as you try.

This has obvious historical roots. Australia was founded as a penal colony after the American model, but where Massachusetts offered fertile soil and temperate rainfall, this land was so unforgiving that supplies had to be sourced from Batavia, now Jakarta, to allow those who made it across on the First Fleet to survive until the arrival of the Second. The European population here grew far more slowly, despite the British forcibly relocating far more Europeans. In the Americas rebellion led to freedom and the birth of a new nation; here, at Castle Hill and then Eureka, uprisings were brutally crushed.

In 2009 we still bear the belief that the greatest honour belongs to the underdogs, and that their failure is not a mark of their flaws, but an account of the greatness of their challenge.

And perhaps this is why sport is the exception to the rule: why we distance ourselves from Rupert Murdoch and Russell Crowe, but revere Don Bradman and Steve Waugh.

An athlete's success is largely dependent upon how hard she is prepared to work to make the most of her natural talents: the playing field is generally level, the environment neutral. Of course, throw in an unfair environment - Don Bradman fending off head-high deliveries in Bodyline, or Australia II tacking her way toward the America's Cup after 132 years of American domination - and we are in raptures. Show us Eric "the Eel" Moussambani, who arrived at the 2000 Sydney Olympics having never seen a 50m pool, whose only two competitors in his heat were disqualified before the start of the race, who was then asked to swim it regardless, the only man in the pool, and who attacked it with such vigour that he almost drowned in the last 15 metres - well, we have ourselves a hero.

The wonderful irony of Australia's veneration of the trier above the champion is that it has given us great numbers of both. For there can be no success without the risk of failure, and in a culture that metes out little social punishment for failure, that risk is worth taking. There is, therefore, perhaps no more valuable aspect of our national character than the historical belief that it's not your fault if you fail; that it's OK to fall short so long as you gave it an honest crack.

But it is 2009. For most of us the Australian landscape has been tamed. Droughts do not ruin us; they merely make our lettuces more expensive, and restrict our garden watering to Sundays and Wednesdays. Our children, our workplaces, our pursuits - all have never been safer. We are part of a networked planet and have suffered the inevitable cultural dilution that implies. We watch American movies, featuring champions, not battlers.

The danger we face today is that we no longer face any great dangers. In a padded, pre-warmed world, where all the corners are encased in rubber and there are handrails beside all the steps, can one still plausibly blame the environment for failure?

When our challenges are so relatively benign - not survival, but positive superannuation returns - can we continue to view those who fail as honourable for having tried? If we cannot, if we drift so far that the idea of the Aussie battler begins to seem quaint, even risible, then we may risk losing the underpinning of our great national success: the unspoken permission to fail, if only you try.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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