God’s Healthcare Plan

In retaliation against Obama-care, Pastor Steven Anderson comes to the rescue as our insurance agent for God’s Healthcare Plan. This is a free plan, assures the good pastor, requiring payments for doctor visits only: “It’s not an HMO. It’s not even a PPO. It’s not even a health savings account. This is God’s Healthcare Plan, which will do you better than all those things combined.”

What is this biblically-based healthcare plan? In his sermon Anderson outlines it as follows:

1. Physician qualifications. The only doctors on the “approved” list in God’s Healthcare Plan are those who believe in God. Meaning these physicians believe they are treating human beings made in the image of God, and not animals. “I am not a mammal,” booms Anderson. “I’m not an evolved ape or an orangutan. Doctors who believe that human beings are part of the animal kingdom should give up their license and become veterinarians.”

2. “Not for the healthy.” God’s Healthcare Plan covers visits to the doctor only when you’re sick, per Mt 9:12/Lk 5:31. “I’m not going to lie to you about what this plan covers. It doesn’t cover visits to the doctor when you’re well. The only time you need the doctor, according to the Bible, is when you’re sick. You don’t need well-baby visits, routine check-ups, or physicals.”

3. No vaccinations. God’s Healthcare Plan does not cover any vaccinations. “God said not to touch anything unclean,” insists Anderson. “He said that any kind of waste product, any kind of feces, should never be touched. Injecting germs into your bloodstream, and aborted fetuses, and feces — that’s not covered under God’s plan.”

4. Preexisting conditions. In contrast to Obama-care, there are certain preexisting conditions that will exclude you from God’s Healthcare Plan.

(a) Sodomy. “Homosexuals, sodomites, perverts, queers, and transvestites are excluded from God’s Healthcare Plan. They would be too much drain on the system because of all the horrible health problems that come with homosexuality. We shouldn’t have to pay for that, and so in God’s Healthcare Plan they’re not included.” Sodomites receive in themselves that “recompense of their error which was meet” (Rom 1:27), which means they’re getting exactly what’s coming to them in their body for what they do. “Sodomite reprobates are rejected from the plan, rejected God’s coverage.”

(b) Promiscuity. According to Prov 5:8-11, fornicating with harlots will result in your “flesh and body being consumed”, thereby excluding you from God’s Healthcare Plan.

5. The healing power of the Word. Prov 4:20-22 explains that God’s word can bring health to your flesh, if you follow the advice found in God’s word. Prov 3:7-8 makes a similar point: following God’s word will bring health to your body.

6. More red tape. Under God’s Healthcare Plan there is an additional step besides referrals. Before you even go to the general practitioner who will send you to a specialist, you need to pray to God to ask for help. II Chron 16:12 shows that Asa had a disease in his feet, got worse, and died. The reason for this, according to the text, is that he went to the physicians right away, before praying to God. “You shouldn’t even take an aspirin without praying to God first,” declares Anderson. The red tape of prayer cannot be cut through.

7. No fertility treatments. Fertility treatments and birth control are totally excluded from God’s Healthcare Plan. Birth control pills involve silent abortions for one, and it is God who decides when to open the womb in any case.

8. No male gynecologists. Male gynecologists are excluded from the list of “approved” doctors in God’s Healthcare Plan. The Bible says it’s a sin for a woman to be naked before a man who is not her husband. “God’s plan requires medical examinations to be done with decency and propriety.”

9. Preventive Maintenance. The Bible has many “advisements” aimed at preventing illness.

(a) “An apple a day.” God’s Healthcare Plan encourages good nutrition so that you won’t need the doctor. God-given food — fruits, vegetables, grain, and meat, i.e. food mentioned in the Bible — and not man-made/junk food — corn syrup, alcohol, tofu, soda, and twinkies. (See further Anderson’s List of Foods that will Help or Harm in Memorizing the Bible.)

(b) “Draw out the breast and give suck to your young.” According to Lam 4:3, even the sea monsters (giant whales) give suck to their young ones, unlike the ostrich in the wilderness (cf. Job 39:13-14) which is hardened against her children, burying them in the dirt and forgetting about them. Like the sea monsters, mothers should stay at home and feed their babies from their own body, and not be like ostriches who let nannies dispense inferior formula. (cf. I Pet 2:2)

So there it is. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I stand in awe of the wisdom coming out of Arizona these days…

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The Best Films of 2009

Here are my ten picks for the year, with Tarantino (of course) crowning the list.

1. Inglourious Basterds. 5 stars. Quentin Tarantino is back — the old Tarantino, that is, who showed how excessive dialogue can be so wildly entertaining, characters most impressive when sophisticated, bad-ass, and absurd all at once, and in general how to make cinematic art out of the preposterous. Landa is a brilliantly conceived Nazi you can watch all day; the Jewish Basterds a ludicrous wish-fulfillment fantasy who entertain as they self-indict. The film forces us to see ourselves as Nazis as we cheer the Basterds on for their inhumanities. And Hitler himself? His rant about the Basterds and Bear-Jew is more entertaining than the famously recycled scene from Downfall. As for the best scene, it’s the drinking game in the underground bar, which builds mountains of tension leading up to one of the best shoot-outs ever filmed. Reviewed at length here.

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2. Love Exposure. 5 stars. This is a four-hour sprawl of religious guilt, sexual frustration, family feuds, industrial pornography, and peek-a-panty photography — the last involving street boys who look up girls’ skirts while camouflaging their camera shots with hilarious martial-arts acrobatics. It’s impossible to summarize without sounding ludicrous, but be assured that critics and audiences love it. I fell in love with Yu and his quest for the right girl — his “Virgin Mary” as it were. He’s a genuinely good kid, but driven by the need to sin in retaliation against his repressive father, a Catholic priest who treats him horribly in the confessional booth. On the street he finds his dream girl, Yoko, who unfortunately has lesbian leanings, and things get even crazier when another girl, Koike, enters the picture, and manipulates both Yu and Yoko in psychotic ways. For all the absurdist comedy, the film’s message about Catholic dogma, new wave cults, and the ultimate nobility of perversion is quite serious.

3. Thirst. 5 stars. Like the director’s classic Oldboy it revels in sex and violence yet still manages to impress the cinephile elite, mostly for its creative adaptation of a literary work and hard look at human nature. The priest is a good man who becomes a vampire by accident, and does all he can to avoid killing people, mostly by sneaking through hospitals and slurping the intravenous tubes of comatose patients. But when he turns a woman he falls in love with — the wife of his best friend, whom they both end up murdering — it’s not long before she brings out the worst in him. Thirst explores the duality between blood-feeding as sacramental and its more honest Satanic counterpart, which revels in the glory of the hunt and the honesty of evil.

4. The Hurt Locker. 4 ½ stars. Richly deserving best picture (though I would have preferred Inglorious Basterds), this is Kathryn Bigelow’s examination of the Iraq war through the eyes of a bomb deactivation squad. It’s neither anti- nor pro-military, but respectful, and a serious achievement. While her ex-husband James Cameron dominated headlines with the shit-stink called Avatar, she blew him out of the park with something smart and lean. It portrays a man addicted to lethal thrills, and contains some of the most realistically suspense scenes shot in a war film.

5. The Road. 4 ½ stars. Post-apocalyptic survivalist, and bleak in the way only Cormac McCarthy novel adaptations are, in which marauding cannibals overshadow lone protagonists and nothing promises to get better. Viggo Mortenson plays a father who will do anything to save his son, even shoot him as a last resort to spare the kid rape at the hands of the baddies. The ending panders too much to those preferring tidy closure, but it’s a small quibble on my part, and it actually just follows the book.

6. The White Ribbon. 4 ½ stars. This film is disturbing in a very subterranean way. It’s set in a north German village during 1913-14 and spotlights an aristocratic estate where everyone lives well but rot on the inside from repression and joylessness. A pastor over-punishes his kids for the most trivial offenses — even non-offenses — and turns a blind eye when he learns that they’re probably responsible for the murder of a villager, a barn fire, and other unspeakable acts. It’s a film about hidden violence resulting from psychological cruelty, and a work of art.

7. Whip It! 4 stars. A coming-of-age sports drama that works surprisingly well, since it has the wisdom to not take itself too seriously, and allow the underdogs to lose in the end when it really counts. A great soundtrack, endearing characters, and edgy roller derby scenes set this way above pathetic ’80s dramas like Karate Kid and Hoosiers. And Ellen Page is awesome as always. See if you can tell if the setting is the ’80s or the ’00s. It’s not easy. Reviewed here.

8. Splice. 4 stars. The premise here is something Cronenberg could have come up with, and the product evokes Lynch’s Eraserhead — an effective blend of flesh-horror, sexual horror, and science fiction. The success of the film has largely to do with how our sympathies constantly shift gears as Dren evolves and even mutates gender. The infant Dren is playful and vulnerable; the grown (female) Dren who seduces Clive (and almost stings him to death while copulating with him) is a bit more ambiguous; the male Dren who rapes Elsa a complete horror. This was my surprise pick of the year, it seemed to come out of nowhere.

9. Disgrace. 4 stars. A Cape Town professor takes advantage of his position to have an affair with a black student, then flees to his daughter’s remote farm to escape the scandal, only to find tragedy when a trio of black youths brutally assaults them, and rapes his daughter. One of the attackers turns out to be related to his daughter’s employee, and she actually considers marrying her rapist to minimize future conflict. A thoughtful film about apartheid that never rings false.

10. Last House on the Left. 3 ½ stars. The inverse of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre of ’03, this remake is a vast improvement over an abysmal original, though admittedly not without its faults. You can only do so much with a revenge film, but Eliadis pushes everything perfect up until the last 30 minutes, at which point a serious film turns into a popcorn movie. The rape scene is very upsetting but well placed. Most ’70s classics should be left untouched, but the “classic” Last House on the Left was so dire it was like watching snuff. Reviewed here

(See also: The Best Films of 2006, The Best Films of 2007, The Best Films of 2008, The Best Films of 2010, The Best Films of 2011, The Best Films of 2012, The Best Films of 2013, The Best Films of 2014, The Best Films of 2015, The Best Films of 2016.)

Peter Jeffery on the Handwriting of the Mar Saba Document

Of all the nails in Morton’s Smith’s coffin, handwriting analysis hasn’t been pounded home, and doubtfully ever will be. I’ve always been leery of such analysis, which is why I’ve avoided blogging about it over the years, and even in my review of Gospel Hoax I barely mentioned that part of Stephen Carlson’s case. Recent analyses both for and against Smith don’t exactly reinforce reliability here. As a forensic method, handwriting analysis has been handled cautiously by the courts in recent decades, and it seems the answer to Secret Mark will remain in the content of Theodore’s letter itself, which of course points to a plain conclusion.

Peter Jeffery has written a five-point response to developments on the handwriting front, and his last makes the same point about the primacy of the letter’s content over handwriting style.

“Since the handwriting cannot be earlier than the 17th century (the date of the book in which it was found), no graphological analysis can prove that the Mar Saba text was composed in ancient times. Those who think it a forgery have based their arguments mostly on content, and among them there is general agreement on the features that point to a modern origin: the text was constructed by re-using words and phrases from the canonical gospels and Clement’s authentic writings, the general picture of the Alexandrian church and its practices looks more like the fifth century than the second, Clement’s advocacy of lying seems inauthentic and references modern debates, the hints of ritualized homosexuality seem to assume a modern sexology, Smith’s own account of his discovery is demonstrably deceptive, the many apparent jokes uncannily resemble Smith’s own sense of humor. Those who consider the text ancient, on the other hand, completely disagree with each other as to its origin and interpretation. Does the Secret Gospel pre-date or post-date canonical Mark? Why the secrecy? Are the sexual innuendoes actually present or not? What are the Carpocratians actually being accused of? What is the meaning of Salome’s expanded role? Before they declare victory, those who would place the document in the second century need to face such questions instead of ignoring or minimizing them, and come to some level of consensus on a compelling interpretation that shows why their dating makes the most sense.”

And to all the above must be added Hunter’s Mar Saba novel, and the fact that Smith’s “discovery” confirmed his scholarly views already published, some just months before.

Victory of the Daleks

After the season-four finale I never wanted to see Daleks again, let alone a comeback so early in season five. But breathe, everyone, it’s okay: Russell Davies is gone, empty-headed fanwank left behind, and real plots back in form. Victory of the Daleks is a fun World War II piece that sees Britain training an army of Daleks to be thrown against the Third Reich, and a great homage to the Troughton classic, Power of the Daleks, which similarly involved the hate-mongers feigning servility to humankind whilst really working against them. The sight of Daleks gliding around Churchill’s Cabinet War Rooms, carrying files on their sink plungers and bleating out subservient inquiries like, “WOULD YOU CARE FOR SOME TEA?” (click on the above photo), are hilarious and bring home how much I miss being entertained by the Doctor’s most famous enemies. But while this is a good story, it could have been so much better.

Many reviewers have pounced on the biggest problem: that it’s a terribly rushed episode and needed another to breathe. I almost hate to say they’re right, because the last thing we wanted at this point was another Dalek two-parter. But they are. Never have I felt the constraints of the new series’ 45-minute stories as acutely as in Victory of the Daleks. There’s so much bombarding us that by the time we digest things, the plot has already turned with dramatic opportunities gone to waste. We needed more front time with the Daleks pretending to be humanity’s servants, and to see a lot more devastation caused by the Blitz so we could be moved to sympathize with Churchill’s need. The Daleks are essentially alien Nazis, and the idea of them being used against Germans in war-torn London is disturbingly ironic — and brilliant. They would, as Winston insists, save lives. But we hardly feel the effects of the Blitz at all (unlike in The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances), and the Daleks show their true colors before we know it.

Speaking of those colors, I don’t quite understand the anxiety over the new model and caste system (red = drones, blue = strategists, orange = scientists, yellow = eternals, and white = supremes). I’m actually rather impressed and looking forward to seeing how the rebooted race plays out. One thing that strikes me is that the Daleks tend to mirror the tone of their era in Doctor Who. The colorful breed would have been horribly out of place under Hinchcliffe — the atmosphere of Genesis of the Daleks practically bleeds black and gray with its wasteland setting and gothic air — but they seem ideally suited for Moffat who revels in dark fairy tales. Granted these new Daleks have a slightly plastic look, but it’s not that bad.

As for Winston Churchill himself: he’s fine enough, but easily the least impressive of the historical figures we’ve been treated to in the new series. Charles Dickens, Queen Victoria, Shakespeare, and Agatha Christie stole their shows, but if Churchill does that, it’s only by teetering on the edge of caricature. (As far as I’m concerned, the new Daleks are the show stealers.) There are some fine moments between him and the Doctor, as when he pretends contemplating taking the TARDIS by force, and then later pickpockets the TARDIS key when hugging him farewell. But he’s about fifty pounds heavier than the real Churchill, and doesn’t get much time to push the drama of his strategic war plan before his Daleks abandon the war rooms for their ship hovering over Earth, and begin executing their real plan for the Earth’s obliteration.

Which brings me to the preposterous space battle between the Spitfires and Dalek ship. The gravity bubble protecting the Spitfires I can buy; airplane pilots thrown into zero-g combat for the first time in their lives without any training I cannot. But since most of them end up getting blown to bits by the Dalek ship anyway, some level of credibility is saved, and believe it or not, I actually like this thrilling sequence. It gives us the delightful spectacle of British fighter planes becoming the equivalent of X-Wing Fighters attacking a Dalek Death Star. Mind you, I’ve always hated Star Wars, but somehow this all comes together and works in a Doctor Who context.

The climax after the Spitfire attack, however, is the weakest part of the story. The way the Doctor and Amy neutralize the bomb-android who is Professor Bracewell is way too melodramatic, though to be fair, the principle behind it isn’t the crap some have charged. Since the Doctor is trying to get Bracewell’s positronic brain to override its self-destruct program, Bracewell must be made to want to live, and so needs to be put in touch with his most affecting memories as a human being. Even allowing for this, I would have preferred the more grim resolution of Bracewell being taken on board the TARDIS and deposited on the Dalek ship to blow it up. Perhaps that wouldn’t sit well with some of the new series writers, whose sensibilities can be on the delicate side, but this is Mark Gatiss we’re talking about, and he was happy enough to let the character of Gwyneth sacrifice herself to destroy the Gelth in The Unquiet Dead. On the other hand, this is the first story of the season where we at least see people getting killed, so I’ll stop complaining.

Victory of the Daleks falls neatly and cleanly into the “enjoyable romp” category: 3 stars, not as good as the Dalek stories in seasons one and two, but vastly superior to those in three and four. It’s worth recapping how well the Daleks have fared in the new series:

1 Dalek — 5 stars
1 Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways — 4 stars
2 Army of Ghosts/Doomsday — 4 stars
3 Daleks in Manhattan/The Evolution of the Daleks — 1 star
4 The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End — 0 stars
5 Victory of the Daleks — 3 stars

And since the Daleks’ plan was to reboot themselves into something new and improved, I’ve no doubt we’ll be seeing them again this season…

Rating: 3 stars out of 5.

Word For the Day: "Spitballing"

It’s a slang word I’m fond of using, but sometimes draws blank stares. Based on the Urban Dictionary (see here and here), spitballing involves any or all of the following:

• tossing ideas around with little expectation of them coming to pass
• making harmless jibes or attacks; making weak accusations
• suggesting loosely, often going against common logic
• shooting ideas out in the open, potentially causing oneself to look like a dunce