Soul Doctors

It is no person’s job to compete with the leadings of the Holy Spirit, especially not Ann Coulter’s. But whatever the method to her madness, there is one line in her latest controversial and harshly titled column that stood out to me as rational and compassionate:

Ebola kills only the body; the virus of spiritual bankruptcy and moral decadence spread by so many Hollywood movies infects the world.

Ann CoulterThat, my fellow creative artists, is why we do what we do.

What appears to be just entertainment is actually expressive communication that goes back to the Psalms, to the designing of the Tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant, to the very creation of the universe.

We minister to exercise, cleanse, nourish, heal, and save the mind and soul.

Never underestimate the power of the written, sung, and performed word.

 

Updates, Dawkins-Watson article recap, Mendelian experiments, the usual

It has been quite awhile since I made a blog post categorized under the “Journal” label. In an effort to be professional and not fill the blogosphere with personalized, sentimental clutter that once characterized the silly blog posts of my teen years, I effectively ceased blogging about daily life or casual commentary and stuck with partially cross-posting my polished articles that were published at various outlets.

Since getting site hits on my column at the Communities at The Washington Times website is part of the job, I need to shift my strategy somewhat. From now on, I plan to reference my recent articles in individual posts here and only cross-post for my personal website archives after the article has been out for awhile (you can also see my latest columns headlined on this website’s sidebar). Furthermore, I plan to do follow-up blog posts responding to thoughtful commenters when necessary.

NOTE: Scroll down to see a “Subscribe to my e-newsletter!” form on the sidebar – it’s a new project of mine that I hope readers will enjoy. Subscribe if you’re interested! UPDATE: If the form doesn’t show up in your browser, just send an e-mail to amanda@amandaread.com with “Subscribe” in the subject line until I get this straightened out.

That being said, here are links to my recent TWTC articles:

Saturday, July 9, 2011 – Facebook blocks video of Ann Coulter interview as “abusive”

Cry-wolf syndrome kicking in: If you waste accusations of “abusive” and “racist” and “violation of separation of church and state” on material that really isn’t such, you risk making society indifferent to real dangers.

Saturday, July 16, 2011 – Of sexism and atheism: Richard Dawkins gets in trouble with feminists

A feminist atheist notices sexism in the skeptic community, and Dawkins scoffs. Does the professor have a point? Does atheism offer a solution to sexism?

Needless to say, the latter stirred up quite a bit of debate.

I was pleased to see that dissenting commenters (for the most part) bothered to be polite and above-board this time (at least to my knowledge – I don’t know if the editors had to censor any garbage out this time or not).  I also was glad to see a greater occurrence of original thought.  Oftentimes in these comment wars, I see a lot of what I call “copy and paste thinking”, in which people almost mindlessly regurgitate the same old arguments their buddies post on message boards all over the internet. Some triteness did show through from time to time, but as a whole there was a train of thoughtfulness.

I’ll briefly respond to a few arguments that caught my eye:

  • “I don’t understand, why is what happened in the elevator sexist in any way?” -GoMadden
  • “Christian feminists are jumping on elevatorgate…” -Rev. Aaron O’Donahue of the  “Church of Atheism”, while linking to my article.
  • “That’s sexist as heck. Your assumptions are firmly rooted in 1850. The year, not the test score. Appropriate business behavior does not depend on a business card.” -Peeweeherman, regarding my statement that a man should know better than to do more than “exchange business cards” with a woman in an elevator.

First let me admit that I do not consider myself to be a “Christian feminist”. I don’t consider myself to be a feminist at all. I know there are plenty of conservative Christian women who claim to be feminists in the sense of classical, suffragette feminism, but I prefer not to bother with the term “feminist” anyway. Like Michele Bachmann says, I’m “pro-woman and pro-man”, not a believer in cheap, whiny, politically expedient victimization of women.

Secondly, I must explain that I do not endorse Rebecca Watson’s conclusions about the man in the elevator.  I understand that what the guy did was not very appropriate, but I’m not convinced that it was rooted in genuine sexism. My “business card” phrase was meant to illustrate that in a late night/early morning elevator excursion, it would really be more appropriate for a stranger man interested in a lady to exchange contact information rather than invite her to his hotel room. (I could have said “exchange calling cards,” but that would have sounded even more 1850-ish.)

I thought that Watson’s observations of verbal abuse of women in new media audiences was more enlightening than the story of the elevator man.

I do think that it is, in a way, “sexist” for women to assume that every man who strikes up a conversation with them is a dirty sex pest with no self-control. The same could be said for those who assume men are so hopelessly carnal minded that every woman needs to be draped in potato sacks to keep males from lusting after them.

The man who claims to be Rev. Aaron O’Donahue of the “Church of Atheism” made an excellent point on Facebook when he said that he was tired of people abusing terms such as “misogynist” and “racist”. Yes, people need to stop crying wolf about sexism and racism when it doesn’t really exist – just as skeptics should not cry wolf about separation of church and state being violated when it really isn’t. False alarms are not healthy for society.

That being said, whether or not what happened in the Dublin elevator was sexist is beside the point of my article. I didn’t fully agree or disagree with the arguments made by both Watson and Dawkins. I merely intended to say that atheism can’t offer a solution to sexism against women, because if it’s simply about making women feel more empowered, it is a relativistic issue that can never be settled.

The Christian worldview asserts that men and women are equal bearers of Christ’s image, and that sexuality is a sacred thing intended for the covenantal union of one man and one woman. The Bible is filled with vivid scandals recorded “for our instruction” (Romans 15:4) that describe what kind of havoc is wreaked when the Creator’s initial design is disregarded and men and women are disrespected.

Apparently medical science doesn’t contradict this principled perspective.

  • “Amanda Read is attempting to understand atheism from her worldview, so she makes the mistake of assuming that atheists are atheists because of some philosophical reasoning.” -Sam
  • “In Haiti, 96% of the population in Christian.” -ShanaD
  • “Evolution is just about how we evolved. Morality is something completely different and is not dependent on a belief in either creationism by God. Genetics may determine drives, it does not determine behavior. Cultural conditioning is what determines our behavior and morality. In fact, evolutionists claim that morality is actually a huge advantage for social creatures like humans.” – ShanaD
  • “Rape rates are higher in more religious states, typically, than in more secularized states.” -ShanaD
  • “Secularism didn’t exist when Jesus Christ was on earth, before he was on earth or for more than a millennium afterward.” -The Great and Powerful Oz

Sam, I actually was not assuming that atheists become atheist because of some philosophical reasoning. How or why people become atheist or secularist had nothing to do with my article. I simply argued that atheism is inadequate for solving moral problems. I assume most atheists would agree, since they usually argue that atheism is not a belief system. Thus, they are left trying to find morality from other sources.

ShanaD, as the CIA World Factbook notes, roughly half the population of Haiti practices voodoo, a decidedly un-Christian activity. Witchcraft is strongly prohibited in Scripture because practicing it – along with other sins – gives the spiritual enemy legal right to harm you.

I haven’t yet studied rape rates in religious vs. secularized states, but that is still beside the point of my argument. In my article I argued that religion (and there are many false ones) as an institutionalized human activity alone is also inadequate. A person can go through superficial religious motions and have a wicked heart. That’s why Jesus Christ was so harsh towards the religious elite of His day.

As for evolution and morality, earlier this year a political science professor of mine handed out an article which noted that the challenge scientists face in trying to understand the origin of morality is that humans generally treat morality not as a means to an end, but as an end itself: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/07/opinion/07Brooks.html

It’s an interesting puzzle to ponder.

The Great and Powerful Oz, there is probably confusion regarding my use of the word “secularism”. Last month I authored an article on the Weinergate scandal in which I explained this:

Why would any of these women – and Weiner himself – and his constituents, come to think of it – treat this (originally private) immorality as something irrelevant to the rest of society?

Evidently in a secularized society, nothing is considered sacred anymore.

I’m not talking about “secular” as in the constitutional distinction between the governing traditions of church and state. Rather, I’m referring to secularized as in the opposite of sacred – and it is an age old conflict, not a phenomenon unique to the 21st century (although for the first time in history we have online networks that offer “open relationship” as a social status).

The very root word of secular has to do with that which is fleeting, temporal, and inconstant (“You only go around once in life, so you have to grab all the gusto you can get…”).

If there is not some sense of sacredness acknowledged despite the secular, there will be no stability or permanence to any institution.

This is why President George Washington was accurate (and utterly constitutional) when he said in his farewell address,

“Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice?”

In the plainest sense, within my sexism/atheism article I referred to the Roman officers as “secular authorities” in Jesus’ day – meaning, of course, that they were categorically different from the Jewish religious authorities. In another sense, I tend to use the term “secularized” to refer to a worldview that desecrates moral standards of the Word – and that, of course, can refer to far more beliefs than atheism.

Meanwhile, in my corner of the world…

I just completed Term V at Troy University, which for me consisted of Finite Mathematics, Biology and Visual Art (all typical required classes, but all of which I enjoyed – click here to see a portrait of my sister that I painted for the art class). I now have a 3-week break before the next term starts (I’m a junior).

Studying biology renewed my interest in genetics, so my siblings and I have attempted to experiment with breeding our Transylvania Naked Necked/Silkie cross chickens a neighbor gave to us earlier this year (providing the broody hen we selected will cooperate). An article in The Economist mentioned that the naked neck trait is controlled by the activity of a gene which encodes the protein BMP12. A poultry genetics resource says that the trait is incompletely dominant and carried on the third chromosome.

I’m curious to see  if any of the offspring will display the Chinese Silkie feathering that our neighbor implied the Turkens are heterozygous for (most of them display the five-toe trait and dark skin common in Silkies, which supports that claim). In the long run, our focus for chicken raising is encouraging good quality brown eggs (the Turkens lay well, but they don’t have particularly large eggs). We’ve added some Black Australorps and Black Giants to our flock of Dominique hens for more egg production.

We have been enjoying a tremendous garden here at Fair Hills Farm – we eat tomatoes, cucumbers and green beans with nearly every meal. My mother and Abigail (14 yr. old sister) tested a recipe for salsa, which turned out delicious. The homemade pickles are great too.

I need to finish transcribing an upcoming interview…so, that’s all for now.

~ Amanda ~

O’Donnell and Maher and Coons – Oh My!

odonnell-maher-coons

Christine O’Donnell began dominating headlines after she surprisingly cinched the Republican nomination in the Delaware senate race. Citizens nationwide are asking, “Who is Christine O’Donnell?”  If you want to see a track record of the lady who is the second youngest of six children and a public policy workaholic, look no further.

But thanks to Bill Maher, we should be aware that the aforementioned question is really mainstream media lingo for “Who was Christine O’Donnell?”

Maher drew attention to a 1999 segment from his old show Politically Incorrect in which O’Donnell explained her disapproval of Halloween. O’Donnell admitted that she “dabbled in witchcraft” and inadvertently went on a date with a guy at a satanic alter while in high school. From that experience, O’Donnell realized that witchcraft is a real and wicked thing, which is why she felt uncomfortable with Halloween.

So, her big skeleton in the closet is essentially her reason for not having skeletons hanging in her closet for an annual ghoul fest?

It is election season once again, which means harvest time for journalistic dirty work. Digging up facts is a good thing. American citizens should know exactly what kind of candidates they are electing to national office.

But let’s not insult the intelligence of voters…

Click here to continue reading at The Washington Times Communities.

Whether you’re Stan McChrystal, Nashville, or Elena Kagan, headlines rule

General Stanley McChrystal, Nashville flooded, Solicitor General Elena Kagan

Often it isn’t what happens, but what gets talked about that makes all the difference.

When President Obama commented on General Stanley McChrystal, the greatest impression made on me was the source Obama cited as specific rationale for his approval of McChrystal’s resignation:

“The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general. It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system. And it erodes the trust that’s necessary for our team to work together to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan.”

Conduct represented in the recently published article? The six-page Rolling Stone article by Michael Hastings is titled “The Runaway General,” and it reads more like an off-the-record entertainment piece than a chilling exposé. Coming from a military family, I understand the importance of soldiers respecting the Commander-in-Chief and avoiding entanglement in distracting political divisiveness. Order and unity is important in the armed forces, especially during wartime.

But despite the mucky language said around and about McChrystal himself, whatever he actually did that threatened civilian control of our military some how evades the recently published article that was supposed to make that point. Ironically, when McChrystal had his chance to impact civilian control through his citizen power to vote, he chose Barack Obama to be Commander-in-Chief.

Ah, but a record of the conduct isn’t strictly what matters. It is how the conduct was represented that makes all the difference: Stan McChrystal, the Runaway General who “has seized control of the war by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House.” Need more be convicting than the headline?

MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann is uncannily familiar with the dichotomy between representation and documentation in the media. While even Ann Coulter was willing to conclude that McChrystal’s resignation is good for other reasons, Olbermann warned President Obama to not accept McChrystal’s resignation, no matter how deserving, because it would risk representing the Runaway General as an American martyr:

“What exactly will the ouster of General McChrystal provoke, in our stupid, under-informed, constantly propagandized America of 2010? Who will be the first to identify McChrystal as a martyr to the evil Obama Administration? How many Americans, still looking for a rationalization to justify their rage at a Democratic president, or a black one, or an intelligent one, will have new fuel to feed their blind hatred?

Keep him, Mr. President. [It] will not merely neuter the political blowback, you will present a front of force, and calm, and intelligence, and a willingness to, dare I use the phrase Sir — a willingness to listen to the Commanders on the ground, even when they shoot off their big brass-covered bazoos.

You can own him, Mr. President, and own the political aftermath, now pregnant with opportunities for your critics. The General can be your voice to speed up the de-escalation. My goodness, he could be your mouthpiece if you suddenly saw the morass for what it is and decided to declare victory and get the hell out now. Who would fight you on that, Sir?”

It may have been unwise for a commanding general to bother talking with Rolling Stone magazine in the first place. It also seems unwise for a national media figure to scold contemporary America as “stupid, under-informed,” and “constantly propagandized.” You, Sir, are among the elite minority actually in a position of power to inform and propagandize.

A commenter on my last article said that Al Gore “is busy with countless tragedies in and around Nashville, which this year has seen floodwaters on par with those of Noah’s days.” What? There was a flood in Nashville? Oh yeah, come to think of it – though if it weren’t for local and independent media I never would have known it existed.

Some friends who live in Tennessee happened to visit my family on the last day of April, and ended up staying with us until the flood waters receded enough for them to travel home. But with Faisal Shahzad dominating the national media, we had to rely on our laptops to find Tennessee articles and homemade videos of flood footage.

When the national news finally did notice the fatal flooding, the media dichotomy began.

What happens: Twenty-nine people die in a “one thousand year flood” in Nashville, and some residents are unable to return to Tennessee for days.

What gets talked about:

Fox News’ Shepard Smith says, “Now for the story we would have been covering, if there hadn’t been so much else going on…”

CNN’s Rick Sanchez interviews Keith Urban about Nashville and tells him, “You’re so good-looking; you even look good on Skype.”

Well, that is the overall image cemented in the minds of at least some viewers of the national media that day. That’s when Tennessee friend Lindy Abbott wrote her Letter to the Editor:

“Visiting friends in Alabama since a day before the flood in Tennessee has been quite frustrating. It is appalling that national news media have all but ignored the tragic disaster. The Internet has been my only source to get video footage and live report information.

As of noon Tuesday, 29 people are reported dead in Tennessee due to this storm system, and it is nearly impossible to get updates. I want to thank the newspapers and local news stations for reporting and providing pictures. But may I ask a simple question, why has Tennessee been considered insignificant by national media?

You wonder if it is because the flooding in Tennessee does not serve any agenda or help to support politically desired interest. Or could it be that Tennesseans truly are volunteers and we are able to help each other in times of crisis, therefore, it is not a big story of people crying out for federal help?”

The letter inexplicably disappeared from the newspaper website about a month later, much to the Opinion Editor’s bewilderment.

Headlines can serve to expose skeletons as well as bury them. Consider the recent Supreme Court nominee, Solicitor General Elena Kagan.

What happens: Notably, Elena Kagan distorts scientific reports to help promote an abortion agenda.

During her time as an advisor in the Clinton administration, Kagan altered certain ACOG claims about partial-birth abortion. ACOG said that “[i]n the vast majority of cases, selection of the partial birth procedure is not necessary to avert serious adverse consequences to a woman’s health.” Kagan fixed the statement to say that the dilation and extraction (D and X) partial-birth abortion procedure “may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of the mother…” (read the original documents with Kagan’s handwriting on them here, here, and here).

That is nonsense, of course. A partial-birth abortion procedure is nothing more than a woman giving birth to a baby being killed in the process. Does the tampering of medical documents pertain to the sort of discernment we want on the highest court in the land?

What gets talked about: Elena Kagan has a good sense of humor that disarms the Senate interrogators.

That is what Yahoo Headline News apparently found to be the most important revelation in the confirmation hearings.

But this has barely even touched on the sometimes undemure awkwardness of who does the talking.

Recently you might have caught disgraced former New York governor Eliot Spitzer sitting in for Dylan Ratigan on MSNBC.  Now just as Larry King is leaving CNN, Spitzer will be cohosting a show there.

What is any moderately informed individual able to take away from this? There is no such thing as messing up too badly if you’re a politician. Even if you aren’t that great in office or get dethroned due to an adulterous relationship with a prostitute, you can still host a talk show on MSNBC or CNN.

That is, under the condition that you’re a Democrat politician.

I’m all for repentance and redemption, but we must remember the responsibility the media has in conveying images. A couple of years may not be enough time to thrust a person previously exposed in infamy by the media’s lens into the position of manning its stage.  But apparently that does not officially harm the integrity of the media so long as that isn’t what gets talked about.

When all is said and done, what part of these stories will be remembered, and what will they mean?

As Sam Clark masterfully captures in a song on his latest album, “Whoever controls the talking points controls your world…unless you change the subject!”

Read more of Amanda’s column Not Your Average Read in the Communities at The Washington Times.