Onward Christian Soldiers, Marching Off The Cliff...

Ed Raymond

I have been in used bookstores from Key West to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, and occasionally I find a jewel of a book that either ruptures an idea or adds to one. My latest dollar-find is “The Great Escapes: Four Slave Narratives” first published in 1847 and then re-published much later by Barnes & Noble Classics. It is the stories of four slaves in the Southern United States who escape captivity. One is the story of Henry “Box” Brown who mailed himself to a friend up North while spending 27 hours in a wooden box three feet long by two feet six inches deep. He barely survived to be renamed for his achievement. Read this amazing tale sometime.
  Another slave named William H. Brown (Many slaves were named after their owners) wrote this fascinating and revealing paragraph about his experiences. Brown was hired (rented out) by his master to a soul-driver (driving a one-horse cab). He later wrote: “I have witnessed all the horrors of the (slave) traffic, from the buying up of human cattle in the slave-breeding states, which produced a constant scene of separating the victims from all those whom they loved, to their final sale in the (S)southern market, to be worked up in seven years, or given over to minister to the lust of (S)southern Christians.”

“Seem A Saint When
Most I Play The Devil”

   Later when Brown was captured after trying to escape and a blacksmith had fastened handcuffs on him, his master called the family together for evening prayers, read a chapter from the Bible, and offered up prayers, and, as Brown wrote: “carried on as if God had sanctioned the act he had just committed upon a poor, panting, fugitive slave.” He added: “Slaveholders hide themselves behind the church. A more praying, preaching, psalm-singing people cannot be found than the slaveholders at the (S)south. The religion of the (S)south is referred to every day, to prove that slaveholders are good, pious men. But with all their pretensions, and all the aid which they get from the(N)northern church, they cannot succeed in deceiving the Christian portion of the world. Their child-robbing, man-stealing, woman-whipping, chain-forging, marriage-destroying, slave-manufacturing, man-slaying religion, will not be received as genuine; and the people of the free states cannot expect to live in union with slaveholders, without becoming contaminated with slavery. They call themselves a Christian nation; they rob three millions of their countrymen of their liberties, and then talk of their piety, their democracy and their love of liberty; and in the language of Shakespeare, say, ‘And thus I clothe my naked villany, and seem a saint when most I play the devil.’”

“For Good People To Do Evil—That Takes Religion”

   Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg won the Nobel Prize in physics but he was keenly interested in how religious beliefs affected scientific facts and theories. It’s quite evident in our society, particularly with conservative Roman Catholic bishops, when a person believes that they know what God’s will is, they become impossible to deal with. Weinberg put it this way: “With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil, but for good people to do evil—that takes religion.”
   For a minute, let’s take a look at what “good people with religion” did to slaves under legislation passed by “good Christian people.”  Under Louisiana law “a slave is one who is in the power of his master, to whom he belongs. The master may sell him, dispose of his person, his industry and his labor; he can do nothing, possess nothing, nor acquire anything, but what must belong to his master.”
   The following are state laws passed in the first quarter of the 19th century:
*** Every slave found on horseback, without a written permission from his master, shall receive 25 lashes. (Even the whip that provided the lashes was standard. The handle was three feet long with a lead-filled butt, the cowhide lash was about six feet long with metal wire attached to the end.)
*** The punishment for any party teaching a slave to read will be imprisonment for one year.
*** Penalty for any slave or free colored person exercising the functions of a minister of the gospel will be 39 lashes.
*** A slave for willfully striking his master or mistress, or the child of either, or his white overseer, so as to cause a bruise or shedding of blood, shall be punished with death.
*** Any slave who keeps a dog will be lashed 25 times.
    (Hundreds of these laws ruled the lives and the  life and death of slaves throughout the South from the late 1700’s to 1865.)
   Weinberg continues his argument about faith, religion and science: “Beliefs that weren’t based on evidence to begin with usually can‘t be changed by evidence. This makes religious faith a very dangerous thing, because when a religious believer chooses a course of action that’s evil or harmful, efforts to persuade them to stop will be futile. After all, God has told you what he wants you to do, any person who has a different opinion must be an agent of evil, and any compromise would be not just foolish but a sinful violation of God’s command.”

I Can’t Believe What
Pat Robertson Just Said

   As most of you know, the Reverend Pat Robertson of 700 Club fame has a talk with God each week to keep up on things. Back in January Pat told his worshiping audience that God told him that Mitt Romney was going to win the November election. Robertson therefore spent the year criticizing President Obama and near the election publicly predicted a Republican sweep. We don’t know if God also talked to Karl Rove or not. After the election Pat said: “So many of us miss God, I won’t go into great detail about elections, but I sure did miss it. I thought I heard from God. I thought I had heard clearly from God. What happened?” Well, Pat is getting old, and perhaps he did not have his hearing aid adjusted before his conversation with the Almighty.
   But there is a slight sign that perhaps Pat has learned a valuable lesson. In a recent interview he said that perhaps the earth is older than 6,000 years and that Christians should stop trying “to cover up evidence that creationist theory may be wrong.” Welcome to evolution, Pat. And here is his admission to Christians: “If you fight revealed science, you’re going to lose your children.”
   Pat was referring to the coming Supreme Court battle about the Defense of Marriage Act law (DOMA) and the rapid spread of approval for same-sex marriage. In the short span of a decade the idea of same-sex marriage has moved from 70 percent public disapproval to 53 percent approval in December of 2012. Same-sex marriage is perhaps the last great American civil rights battle. Over 230 years ago our famous white slave-owning Founding Fathers widely proclaimed that humans were equal. Race has been the center of bigotry for 200 years. We haven’t quite resolved bigotry yet, although most of the laws prohibiting racial discrimination are in place. Sex discrimination is the next big one. In the last election the Republicans attacked women through equal pay, abortion and other “body” laws such as the defunding of Planned Parenthood and their medieval ideas about contraception.  Now we have centuries of sexual discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders (LGBT) to obliterate. Since when are they second-class citizens?

Some People Become
Irrational And
Dangerous If They Take
Religion Too Seriously

   When Gene Robinson was consecrated as the first gay bishop in the Episcopal Church he received so many death threats from “Christians” he wore a bullet-proof vest under his ministerial garments at the ceremony. A recent Gallup Poll revealed that 58 percent of Republicans believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years. Similar information is recalled in the sparkling book by Charles Pierce in 2009 titled “Idiot America: How Stupidity Became A Virtue In The Land Of The Free.” His visit to the headquarters of Answers In Genesis and the Creation Museum in Hebron, Kentucky with its saddle-wearing dinosaurs (some Ty Rexes were in Eden, you know) is particularly hilarious. In one diorama containing dinosaurs, saber-tooth tigers, wooly mammoths, and other “Ark” creatures we find the naked Adam and the naked Eve. Adam has no penis and Eve has breasts and bottom covered by Lady Godiva hair. No one in the Creation Museum  could yell “Hurray for our side!” like they did when Lady Godiva  rode sidesaddle down the streets of Coventry.
   We have learned a lot since Levi and those other guys said a lot about homosexuality and death sentences. Leviticus also advocates slavery, racial segregation, and severe corporal punishment, like death by stoning, for children.
   The anti-science, anti-intellectual, medieval, and antediluvian attitudes of evangelicals, the Roman Catholic hierarchy and the Vatican, Muslims , and many other religions warp, shrink, and tear the fabric of any society trying to better itself.

Even Catholic Bishops
Are Females For
Six Weeks

   The Catholic bishops in the area have been very quiet since their ignominious defeat in the attempt to ban same-sex marriage in Minnesota by amending the state constitution. Can you imagine how it must feel to have spent millions of church cash pushing the issue–and losing? Perhaps they should seek advice from Karl Rove how to handle such a crushing blow. Poor Karl just spent a billion of billionaires’ money trying to defeat the Anti-Christ Obama.  It is quite evident the U.S. Conference of Bishops does not want to even conduct an autopsy on the death of the marriage amendment. Maybe they are beginning to understand that even a majority of Catholics rejected their idea. Where is Archbishop John Nienstedt, the leader of mainline Minnesota Catholics? Perhaps he is finally doing some scientific homework.  I hope he is reading the latest information on the development of life after conception. I would recommend a book by Professor of Genetics Steve Jones of University College, London called “Y: The Descent of Man.”  Nienstedt should learn that the latest genetic information places him as a female for the first six weeks of his life. Then he was lucky that various sex hormones started to work on his female body.  Interesting things start to happen from that point. We get into the vagina, oviducts, uterus along with the penis and testicles stuff. It can get very complicated. Sometimes the fetus manufactures too much of required hormones–and sometimes fetuses don’t make enough. Let’s leave it at that at this point.

Let’s All Meet
Gabrielle Ludwig

   Eric Prisbell, A USA Today writer, wrote a fascinating story about Momma Gabbi, a 50 year-old, 6-6, 250 pound center, who is now playing basketball for Mission Junior College in  California. She plays with 20 year-olds, one who is deaf and one who is under five feet tall.
   Gabrielle Ludwig has not played organized basketball since 1980 when she was a man named Robert. In those thirty years, Robert-Gabrielle has one failed suicide, two failed marriages, a 19-year old daughter who still calls her Dad, and two others who call her Momma Gabbi.  As a child Robert loved to put on his mother’s dresses and makeup when his parents weren’t around. As a 6-8 high school sophomore he was a basketball star--- dunking with the best when he later attended Nassau Community College in New York. He joined the Navy and served in Desert Storm. One marriage lasted six years, the other 11 years. After the service he worked as a systems engineer in a robot plant. But Robert became Gabrielle in a sex-change operation in July, 2012.  He never could feel like a man in his unusual man’s body. Question: Will the Supreme Court return us to bigotry or lead us to equality?