The Political Compass in D&D Terms

Apparently I’m chaotic neutral on the political spectrum: 3 to the left and 6 down. Not quite Left enough to make me good.

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On Ranking the World Religions

In Fuck it: Let’s Rank the Religions, Clickhole serves up the usual satire, ranking the world religions as follows:

1. Hinduism
2. Bahá’í
3. Judaism
4. Islam
5. Mormonism
6. Buddhism
7. Christianity
8. Sikhism
9. Shintoism
10. All the others

Here’s my more serious attempt at the exercise, though with tongue-in-cheek elements too. Sue me, I couldn’t resist.

1. Unitarian Universalism. 5 stars. I became a UU because I agree with its seven core principles: (1) the inherent worth and dignity of every person; (2) justice, equity and compassion in human relations; (3) acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in congregations; (4) a free and responsible search for truth and meaning; (5) the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within congregations and in society at large; (6) the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all; (7) respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. As UUs we ground these principles in humanistic teachings, science, nature and philosophy, personal experience, and sometimes even elements of the world religions.

Cons: Some UU’s are the greatest spiritual con-artists you’ll ever meet. We pretend that we’re religious (we’re actually more a social club), feign spirituality (whatever new-agism is in vogue), and cherish all religions (or at least pretend to) as having more or less equivalent worth, even knowing that it’s bullshit and that our secular values are far superior. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that UU’s are naturally humble and open-minded. We have egos the size of mountains.

2. Buddhism. 4 ½ stars. With its emphasis on meditation and mindfulness, Buddhism is a psychology as much as a religion, and in fact some of the spirituality of Buddhism is accessible in purely secular terms. Transformation through meditation doesn’t depend on the Buddhist faith, though they can go hand in hand. Even doctrines like reincarnation and rebirth have been easily discarded by many Buddhists without being seen as damaging the integrity of the religion. Though many scriptures have been preserved (the Pali Canon), there is no single holy book, which also helps account for its less dogmatic nature.

Cons: The lure of Buddhism is its philosophical maturity and benign tolerance that makes it stand out among the world religions. The cost is that Buddhism isn’t about a neat set of principles. You don’t “believe in the Buddha” for some benefit. Buddhism is about practice much more than belief, and it takes sustained effort to bring about enlightenment — if that comes at all — and it’s not easy.

3. Christianity. 4 stars. If the Buddha showed how to avoid suffering by rising above it (through detachment from the material world), the Christ reversed the cycle of suffering by rising from the dead. Christianity is arguably the religion which most strongly takes on the problem of suffering. The disciples considered persecution a badge of honor, which they were expected to go through without retaliating in violence. Even in the book of Revelation, the faithful don’t engage in holy war and are specifically told not to; they are to conquer the the Beast through witnessing and pacifist martyrdom. The concern for suffering accounts for Christianity’s attention to social justice, strong ethic of charity, and promises of the last being first. At the apocalypse wrongs will be righted and the dead will rise, and even if that’s a fantasy, it has yielded practical theologies about justice and mercy.

Cons: For all its ethic of charity and forgiveness and loving enemies, Christianity has some toxic ideas, the most virulent being homophobia. Unlike other transgressions, sodomy is seen less as a sin and more an indication that one is a reprobate beyond the pale. There has also been a heavy strain of anti-Semitism in Christianity, thanks primarily to the gospel passion narratives, though this has been reformed.

4. Judaism. 4 stars. What intrigues me most about Judaism is its tradition of arguing with and challenging God. Abraham bargained with God for the sake of decent citizens in Sodom and Gomorrah; Job protested the sufferings God dumped on him; etc. Arguments can even get physical, as when Jacob wrestled with an angel at the Jabbok River, and got his name changed to Israel (which means “one who wrestles with God”). The other two Abrahamic faiths (Christianity and Islam) require a complete surrender to faith/God, but there’s a lot more room for push-back in Judaism. God-wrestling is quite a different idea than being a slave to Christ or wholly submissive to the will of Allah. No doubt this tradition was strengthened over the centuries as the Jewish people kept getting the shaft.

Cons: Judaism has its toxic ideas like Christianity, but also that of sacred warfare which has made Zionism possible. While holy war has never been essential to Judaism (unlike Islam), and doesn’t command warfare to be waged beyond Israel’s borders, the injunction to “keep the land pure” is an ingredient that has been taken seriously in even the most dormant periods of the faith. In the medieval period, taking back the land of Israel remained theoretically possible, and the midrash practically shouts that “if the rabbis could have, they would have”. This is unlike the Christian crusades which grew out of many improbable factors and had no basis at all in Christian thought.

5. Taoism. 4 stars. Taoism values inwardness and non-action, which at first blush seems to be a great religion for those of us who believe there is no free will. Wu-Wei is “natural action” that doesn’t involve struggle or excessive effort, and produces a mental state in which human action is effortlessly aligned with whatever course life is taking. On the other hand, that somewhat misunderstands free will, which has nothing to do with activity vs. passivity; the option to be passive involves just as much a “choice” as that to be strenuously active. (It’s simply that these “choices” don’t involve free will.) Taoism emphasizes health and healing as goals to long life or even immortality, and not being hostage to petty fears. Then too the yin-yang principle of polarity — good and evil being part of one and the same system — commends itself against a more dualistic view.

Cons: At its worst or misguided, Taoism implies that people can’t make a difference (which again misunderstands our lack of free will) and encourages too much passivity. Being detached from our feelings can also be a problem when taken to extremes.

6. Shintoism. 3 ½ stars. The laid-back religion is animistic and centered around kami, or sacred spirits that take the form of animals, plants, rivers, lakes, whatever. People become kami when they die and are honored as such, which is nifty. Shintoism is a highly ethnic religion rooted in Japanese culture and bases most of its beliefs on four ancient tomes: (1) the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters), (2) the Shoku Nihongi and its Nihon Shoki (Continuing Chronicles of Japan), (3) the Rikkokushi (Six National Histories), and (4) the Jinnō Shōtōki (a study of Shinto and Japanese politics and history). There’s no clear-cut right or wrong in Shintoism and so things are pretty grey. Shinto rituals are designed to keep away evil kami, on which see below.

Cons: The worst thing about Shintoism is those evil kami. People who die holding a grudge strong enough to keep them attached to the physical world become vengeful spirits (as portrayed in The Grudge and other Japanese horror films), and it’s nigh impossible to escape them, or bargain with them, if they want to tear you apart. Just watching The Grudge damn near gave me a heart-attack.

7. Jainism. 3 ½ stars. A religion that teaches the supremacy of non-violence (the opposite of Islam) has a lot going for it. Whenever people tell you that all religions are equally malleable and prone to violent permutations, you can refute that claim with many examples, but Jainism is Exhibit A. It is impossible to derive violence out of Jainism, which is why it’s never happened. The swastika symbol may cause a double-take, but until Hitler perverted it, the swastika was a positive symbol. In Jainism it stands for the four states of existence: heavenly beings, human beings, hellish beings, and flora/fauna. The Five Great Vows of Jainism require the renunciation of (1) killing anything living, (2) lying, (3) greed, (4) sexual pleasure and (5) worldly attachments.

Cons: Pacifism is a huge plus, but at their extreme the Jains are pacifist to the point of dysfunction. Some of them watch where they place their feet every moment for fear of stepping on bugs, insisting on devices such as mosquito nets instead of insect repellent, smoke, or liquid traps. The stringent asceticism of Jainism is also a bit much for me. Sexual and worldly pleasures are a good part of life.

8. Hinduism. 3 stars. Hinduism is so diverse in its theoretical premises and actual expressions that I hardly know how to rank it. Yes, all religions are diverse in certain ways, but Hinduism is an extraordinary pastiche of monism, theism, monotheism, polytheism, and pantheism — all of these are built into the Hindu worldview. It doesn’t have a founder, it’s based on an impersonal Supreme Reality (Brahman), and the multiple personal manifestations of that reality as God (as Vishnu, Shiva, or Kali, etc). Basically take your theology of choice, and chances are it will find some legitimate basis in Hinduism. There has been a strong tradition of freedom of belief and practice in the religion, and that’s its greatest plus. (In this entry I would include Sikhism, the fifth largest world religion, which grew out of the Bhakti Hindu movement and has elements of Sufi Islam.)

Cons: The tradition of tolerance is great but isn’t anchored in a coherent system. And there’s the flip side: because the Hindu pantheon is so diverse, it has evil deities who demand nasty shit. Like the goddess Kali. The Thuggee (where we get the word “thug”), for example, were a brotherhood of thieves and assassins who pretended friendship with travelers in India before killing them. They were Muslim in origin, but later became associated with the Hindu death cult of Kali. Forget the cartoon portrayal of the Kali cult in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. For a realistic and thoroughly unpleasant portrayal of Hindu sacrifice read The Song of Kali.

9. Islam. 1 star. Muhammad wasn’t anything like the Buddha or Jesus. He was a warlord, and all the Islamic sources (the Qur’an, Sira, and Hadith) require believers to follow the jihad example. The only ambiguities in the Qur’an are the few passages advocating peace, but they are (a) all too few, (b) subordinate to the many passages which supersede them (the doctrine of abrogation), and (c) are understood to apply only when Muslims are outnumbered and have no chance of winning a war (reflecting the early time of Muhammad’s career). The precept of Islam is clear: perpetual war against all who deny the prophet, the subjugation of infidels (and women) under rule of a caliphate and oppressive sharia law. This has always been the historical norm for Islam and it remains obligatory in all schools of Sunni and Shia thought. There are obviously moderate Muslims, but no form of moderate Islam.

Cons: See above. Islam is saturated with dangerous and toxic ideas. Of all the religions it has done the most damage throughout history, yes, even in Umayyad Spain, which supposedly saw a “golden age” for Islam, but which is a myth.

10. Scientology. 1 star. How anyone takes it seriously is beyond me. It’s science fiction dressed up as religion, but a mentally abusive religion that robs you blind. The #1 goal of the church is to become filthy rich — richer than the goddamn pope. There is no top level in the religion as claimed; when you reach the top of the Bridge (OTP 8) you find out there are more levels after all, which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Psychology and psychiatry are condemned, because there is no such thing as mental illness. Church leaders stop their followers from getting proper medical help, and in some cases have caused suicides because of it. Scientology teaches that the individual is responsible for everything and has the power to heal him or herself with church “technology”. Seriously.

Cons: See above. Everything about this religion is a con.

Review: A Dream of Spring

dream of springWhen I heard that the last Song of Ice and Fire book was finished, I called bullshit like everyone else. In hindsight, I suppose skipping over The Winds of Winter was Martin’s best move. The sixth season of the TV series did more than steal his thunder; it underscored how badly he had fallen as a writer. Like the early novels it moved mountains of plotting, and some critics are calling it the best season yet. If Martin ever does bother finishing The Winds of Winter he should simply adapt the TV-script with minimal modifications. Weiss and Benioff showed him up big time this year, and the message was loud and clear: Remember who your readers are, George — what they signed on for, and what you used to be capable of.

Martin was evidently worried this might happen, because for the past year he’s been rushing to crank out book seven. Yes, it’s really finished but for now only available through special channels. Those of us who have had the privilege of reading it can say it’s pretty damn good, certainly the best entry since A Storm of Swords, though it shows signs of haste. At 574 pages it’s the shortest volume (even Feast for Crows topped 600), and overloaded with shocks, deaths, and surprises that come flying out-of-nowhere and sometimes feel forced. Above all it betrays an author who is pissed at how superior his story has become in the hands of TV adapters. A Dream of Spring is Martin’s desperate appeal that he can still write a good story, and his blatant attempt to go out with a bang before the show writers can. He’s largely successful in this regard. He was too under the gun to craft anything close to a masterpiece; but where he does score, the payoffs are grand.

Huge spoilers follow, so stop now if you don’t want to hear them. Bran is the character who demands the most attention, and I’ll start with his homoerotic passion for a Forest Child, which will be controversial for his age. In the TV series Isaac Hempstead Wright has become a strapping youth of 17, but in the books Bran is still only 10. (Four years have passed since the first chapter of book 1.) It is implied that Bran’s greenseer powers have accelerated certain aspects of his biology, but this is still disturbing territory, and there are heavy shades of Ishmael, the androgynous figure from Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander. In that film Ishmael physically caresses the prepubescent Alexander, encloses the boy in his arms, and together they will the death of Alexander’s abusive stepfather. Pollen caresses Bran and empowers him in a similar way to murder a key figure leagues away, but the carnality is much more overt; Pollen is blatantly sexually assaulting him until Bran’s rage turns to passion. It’s an extremely well-written scene, and I’ve said in previous reviews that Martin’s best writing comes in the Bran chapters. But it’s a scene you will feel ashamed of reading.

Bran’s chapters will be controversial in other ways. He’s the most important character (he gets 14 chapters out of 62, almost a quarter of the novel), but his seminal moments depend on changing the past in ways that don’t really change it at all. That worked brilliantly in the TV series in paying off the character of Hodor, but at this stage the results are too predictable: It is Bran Stark who raises the Wall 8000 years ago, unleashing an explosive force of weir-magic through his ancestor Bran the Builder. It is likewise Bran Stark responsible for the mysterious vanishing of the Others in that same year, as he summons them forward in time to the point of four years ago, in order to precipitate the events which will lead to Jon’s alliance with the Wildlings. And he is also Bran the Breaker, who in a fit of epileptic fury defeats the Night King and solves the riddle of Joramun’s Horn. Time travel is always risky business, and for the most part Martin handles it well, but again, the events are rather banal once they are telegraphed; we’ve seen this kind of thing done before in fantasy and sci-fic. On the other hand, it’s a solid payoff to Bran’s warging abilities combined with his weir-magic that gives him a near godlike omniscience and omnipresence across time.

The lady Starks get good chapters and surpass themselves. It’s impossible to not feel elated for Sansa as after so much torment in the previous books she assumes control of both Winterfell and the Eyrie, and shafts Littlefinger by having Arya execute him. Before this, for her part, Arya assassinates literally hundreds of Freys in a glorious payback for the Red Wedding. She tries this stunt much later on a Lannister host, and is gang raped for her efforts when Qyburn sees through her faceless talent. Her prolonged torture and death is inflammatory by even Martin’s standards, and while this isn’t exactly a complaint on my part, there does seem to be a “My dick is bigger than yours” thing going on between the novels and TV series, as if Martin and Weiss/Benioff are competing to outshine each other with shock value. I wonder how Martin’s spouse-equivalent has reacted to this. Arya is her favorite character and was originally slated to die in book 2; it’s well known among fans that she forbade Martin to kill her off. Arya is my favorite character too, and while I don’t object to her dying unjustly, I’ll certainly say she deserved to go out better than this.

There are shocks around every corner, not least the devastation unleashed by Drogon. As the Dothraki assault the Lannister army returning from Highgarden, Dany unleashes an inferno that channels Balerion the Black Dread. By far the most gratifying shock, however, is the Iron Throne’s literal rejection of Cersei Lannister. While there have been hints that the Throne is sentient (“Some days you can feel it eating into you,” said King Robert in book 1), the reawakening and arrival of dragons in Westeros seem to have triggered a full-blown animation. The Mad Queen treats herself to a court slaughter, only to be gruesomely impaled by the throne’s blades. The scene is awkward, because one minute Ellaria Sand and Missandei are being raped and dismembered, and the next Cersie is being shredded in a cartoonish fashion. I was cheering in any case. Jaime is another matter. His murder at the hands of Ser Enchanted-Gregor is anything but cartoonish and rather upsetting. We’ve come a long way with Jaime since he threw Bran off the tower, and it’s safe to say he will go down a big favorite of many fans. He finally works up the stones — or to be precise, he disciplines them for a change — to oppose his wretched sister. All of Martin’s characters are believable, but none more so than Jaime. He has been Martin’s most authentic character by far.

As for the showdown between the Hound (villain turned hero) and Lady Stoneheart (hero turned villain), it’s entertaining but the tone is all wrong, like something out of a B-grade horror film. In chapters like these Martin was clearly taking the piss in his hurry to finish the book. Euron is another case in point. The Greyjoy thread was my favorite part of A Feast for Crows; it was loaded with potential. But Euron’s story devolves into a caricature of sadistic kinslaying — brandishing Theon’s head in public while dressing up in his niece’s skins to terrorize his fellow man. On the other hand, Aeron Damphair gets a standout chapter. His toxic prayers against Euron backfire (literally: he’s killed by a sea-storm so wild it may as well be the Drowned God incarnate), but his righteous tirades are the most entertaining I’ve read in a work of fiction.

The battle between the dragons and the Others is what we’ve long waited for, and on TV next year it’s sure to be mind-blowing. The identity of the dragon with three heads is as I predicted — Dany on Drogon, Aegon (Jon) on Rhaegal, and Tyrion on Viserion, until the last pair die at the hands of the Night King who then raises Viserion as a zombie-dragon. There is a Martinesque poetry in two bastard sons (Tyrion from Aerys, Jon from Rhaegar) being Dany’s right and left wings, and of course the usual Martin-nihilism when one of them is killed at the worst moment. Tyrion does save Jon as he goes down, closing the loop of their friendship established in book 1 when Tyrion visited the Wall.

Which brings me to the Wall’s fall. It’s the most pulverizing event of the series, and the Black Massacre makes the Red Wedding look like a tea party. It calls to mind the ninja assault on Osaka’s castle in Shogun and indeed Martin’s characters are almost stand-ins for Clavell’s: Borroq the new Yabu, allowing the horde of wights through the Wall to overtake Castle Black and Oakenshield; Val sacrificing herself like Lady Mariko. Unlike Mariko, she fails miserably to save the day, and Jon is left quasi-deaf thanks to (the real) Joramun’s Horn; unlike his Shogun analog, Captain John, whose ears recovered, Jon’s are forever infected, as he is strangely able to hear people leagues away while having to strain to make sense of those in front of him.

Fans have expected Jon and Dany to fulfill the ice and fire prophecy — Jon being the ice and Dany the fire. In fact, it is Sansa who is the ice (she being a complete Stark, unlike Jon), and Aegon (Jon) the Targaryen fire as promised. I didn’t see it coming with Sansa, even though a fringe group of fans have been predicting a Jon-Sansa pairing. I rejected that theory and am now eating crow. Their passion for each other is intense, though somewhat cheap; I didn’t care for the way Sansa’s red hair evoked memories of Ygritte every time she and Jon were in the sack, nor for their cheesy promises to each other. The Iron Throne does seem to be where Dany is headed (Jon is fucking her too, by the way) until Martin pulls a fast one, leaving the rule of Westeros to an incestuous pair, as per the Targaryen standard, but with House Stark comprising far more of the bloodline. Dany fades to black, a savior of Westeros whose nephew will wear the crown. That is Martin’s song: the marriage of House Stark and Targaryen’s most capable members.

Many will object to Dany’s ending, but I always had reservations about her ruling Westeros. Her departure for Mereen may seem anti-climactic, but for me it works, especially considering the unfinished business there on top of Daario Naharis’ assassination. In the end she finds herself concerned about oppressive injustices more than a prestigious birthright, which is Aegon’s (Jon’s) anyway. She accepts that she is a tyrant despite her cause for the dispossessed, unlike Sansa who is more naturally tender and knows cruelty firsthand, and different also from Jon who has learned to balance his Ned-like integrity with the realities of politics. All is not well and tidy by the end, however. The epilogue is ominous as the Wildlings seem to be a major problem. Jon reaps what he sowed by his noble intentions, like Dany returning to a mess in Slaver’s Bay. Which is all fine and well. A Song of Ice and Fire was never slated for the most happy ending, and it deserves to live up to its grim reputation. The closing chapters do that, leaving us with only a dim hope, or dream, for a better Westeros.

I doubt that Martin will ever bother finishing The Winds of Winter, and at this point that’s probably just as well. The TV series told that part of the story better than he could ever hope to. I’m just glad he was able to pull his shit together for A Dream of Spring and produce a satisfying conclusion. Even without a leg A Song of Ice and Fire now stands as one of the best epic fantasies of all time.

Ratings

A Game of Thrones — 5
A Clash of Kings — 5
A Storm of Swords — 5+
A Feast for Crows — 3
A Dance with Dragons — 4
The Winds of Winter — ?
A Dream of Spring — 4 ½

(Previous volumes reviewed here.)

Piss Against the Wall, Take 2

Three years ago, Pastor Steven Anderson infamously explained why men should urinate standing up, based on the passage of I Kings 14:10 and five other Deuteronomist texts. I’ve only now become aware of a sequel diatribe he delivered last year, Pisseth Against the Wall, Take 2, in which our beloved pastor continues railroading effeminate Germans, modern “sissified” versions of the Bible which censor manly images of those who “piss against the wall”, and — above all — women who micromanage the lives of their husbands in the bathroom. Unbelievable.

This segment comes from the tail end of the sermon, Show Thyself a Man.

For perhaps a more reasonable defense of why men should resist the trend in Germany (and France, and Holland) and continue to urinate standing up, see The Naked Scientists.

Biblical Cranks: A Review

(A Guest Review by Leonard Ridge.)

Before I describe my own vital contribution to the achievement, simple modesty requires me to point out that Biblical Cranks, by Loren Rosson, for all its flaws, merits more attention than would normally be granted to a scholar-wannabe’s attempt to prove himself in the middle of a mid-life crisis. My own role in the book’s creation simply owed to being in the right place at the right time.

In the summer of 2008 I arrived unannounced at Loren’s apartment, passing through New Hampshire and wanting to catch up on arthouse flicks, not having seen my friend in months. Three full minutes after ringing the bell I looked in on a stranger: a bleary-eyed, emaciated skeleton out of Edgar Allen’s Poetry. More stunning was the phantom’s speech, incorporating obscenities every other phrase, as in, “Fuck, Leonard, like where the fuck you been, man, shit, man, thought you’d blown me off for good.” I squinted; yes, this was Loren — hideously distorted under bloodshot eyes, puffed cheeks, four-day stubble, and unkept hair that bore a passing resemblance to the mophead used on my kitchen floor.

Scarcely able to contain my shock, I allowed myself to be pulled through the doorway and pounded jovially on the back, when came the overpowering reek from his breath, the odor of which I judged to be gasohol. “Sit the fuck down, man, I’ll get you some.” I fell into a sofa stained by pizza sauce and various bodily fluids, and as Loren proceeded to mix a ghastly concoction of liquors (the “gasohol”), I wondered how in the nine hells he’d reached this state of affairs.

Serving me the gasohol in a filthy glass — and knocking back what must have been his own eighth or ninth shot of the poison — Loren confided that his latest project was a treatise on scholarly cranks of the bible. The unfamiliar names of Yuri Kuchinsky, Andrew Tempelman, Geoff Hudson, Eric Zuesse, Leon Zitzer, Robert Conner, James Tabor, and Ben Witherington III floated from his slurred speech, barely comprehensible around his bitter grievances against a world that failed to appreciate his talents. At the time I had only a vague notion of the scholarly crimes which could be laid at the feet of these people, not only because I don’t read much in the field, but because Loren wasn’t putting two sentences together around his self-pity: “Lenny, man, I can hardly blow my horn anymore, ya know, like shit man, just wanna get something done, man, but like, can’t find my fuckin’ voice, ya know…” He wasn’t working on this book, just dreaming about it while his liver put in the overtime.

After tolerating forty-five minutes of this “speech”, I gave it to him both barrels. What I said to Loren must remain forever confidential, but suffice to say that from that day to this he has managed to conduct himself like a responsible citizen and not a denizen of seedy brothels. Nor does he drench his conversation with vulgarity. He respects his liver. I only wish I had succeeded in deterring him from writing a tediously cheap diatribe against “scholars” who merit little if any attention. The world would be better served by Loren’s ideas on the New Perspective instead of knocking down straw men. But at least he applied himself in front of the keyboard, and this book is the end result.

And despite its haughty tone and frequent lapses into ad hominems, ad hoc arguments, and ad nauseum exaltations of the Context Group, Biblical Cranks manages to keep its head above water at least some of the time. The sour vindictive chapter about Leon Zitzer should have been edited out of the book completely. No one has the right to treat another human being that way in print. That accepted, Loren’s effort to show the dangers of a little knowledge is sobering: with “scholars” such as these, the world is in no short supply of conspiracy theories and apologetics — and comic relief.

Jesus in an Age of Terror

51Tq4fIiyuL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_(A Guest Review by Leonard Ridge)

What’s there to say about James Crossley’s new book? Not much. Misguided in every aspect of its intention, actually misguided at its core, this resolute display of polemic masks ambitions the author will never realize. His targets? Media hounds, bloggers, and academics, all who supposedly share a lot in common despite their opposite politics. If you’re a biblioblogger who has stereotyped or attacked Arabs in any way, if your reporting of hot-button items (like the Temple Mount) even remotely smacks of partisanship, or if you’ve refused to openly condemn Anglo-American foreign policy given half a chance, then you’ve probably taken a hit or two in this book.

Take the insufferable Loren Rosson. You can get a pretty good idea as to how he is critiqued in his own review for the Nashua Public Library. Loren’s review is kind enough, but then why shouldn’t it be? His politics are almost as bad as Crossley’s, so it’s hard to understand the fuss between them. Crossley doesn’t like stereotypes? Too bad. If he spent a considerable amount of time living abroad in various areas he’d feel differently. Loren respects those he stereotypes? Good. He can go back to Africa and stay there.

It burns me to see liberal multiculturalists set apart in debate, when underneath the smoke-and-mirrors they’re essentially on the same page. I’ve complained about Loren and the Context Group in the past. Crossley is no better. He shoves reality into the dirt and pounds it to within an inch of its life. When the screed is over, we’re left feeling raped, having endured 199 pages, ultimately, for what? A crash course in Political Correctness 101? How to be good little anti-Zionists? To be impressed by the way Crossley scores points against countless bloggers, while going to bat for (of all people) Jim West? To learn that the “Jewish Jesus” isn’t so Jewish that he doesn’t feed supersessionist interests? (Bill Arnal already taught us that.) Patronizing nonsense, all of it, but bound to find favor in circles that send me running to the nearest office of the Euston Manifesto.

Skip this crazed monstrosity and read a cheap spy novel instead. I couldn’t get through it without interludes of exercise and fresh air, and I’m still feeling soiled.

To Piss Against the Wall or Not

This video-clip gave me more laughs in four and a half minutes than I’ve had all week. Pastor Steven Anderson (Faithful Word Baptist Church, Tempe, Arizona) sermonizes on the phrase “him that pisseth against the wall” in I Kings 14:10. The phrase is also found in I Sam 25:22, 25:34; I Kings 16:11, 21:21; and II Kings 9:8, and is the Deuteronomist’s contemptuous way of referring to males destined to be slaughtered on account of “evil done in the sight of the Lord”, usually by Israel’s own king. “Those who piss against the wall” are simply translated “males” in most bibles, but the former is what the Hebrew text really says. As Tyler Williams notes, the Deuteronomist is “contemptuously comparing males to dogs who piss against the wall”.

Pastor Anderson favors the accurate translation over the sanitized versions but — astoundingly — takes it as a positive image for men in general: “God said that a man is somebody who pisses against the wall.” He then railroads Germany for policies which forbid men to urinate standing up in public restrooms, and laments that “this is where we’re headed in America today… We got pastors who pee sitting down. We got the President of the United States who probably pees sitting down. We got a bunch of preachers, we got a bunch of leaders who don’t stand up and piss against the wall like a man!”

If you don’t believe it, watch it right here. I laughed so hard I was pissing my own pants — and sitting down, which according to our God-fearing pastor leaves much to be desired in the eyes of the Lord.

UPDATE: Don’t miss the hilarious comments under Paul Martin’s post.

UPDATE (II): And certainly don’t miss Pastor Anderson’s sequel diatribe on the same subject, delivered two years later (April 2010).