Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Wednesday, December 7th, 2005.

Target Jesus

holiday, Religion

How bleeped up is this? Rachel Zoll of the Associated Press reports that some big holy roller born again in-your-face-with-JEEzus megachurches will be closed for Christmas.

This Christmas, no prayers will be said in several megachurches around the country. Even though the holiday falls this year on a Sunday, when churches normally host thousands for worship, pastors are canceling services, anticipating low attendance on what they call a family day. …

… Cally Parkinson, a spokeswoman for Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., said church leaders decided that organizing services on a Christmas Sunday would not be the most effective use of staff and volunteer resources. The last time Christmas fell on a Sunday was 1994, and only a small number of people showed up to pray, she said.

“If our target and our mission is to reach the unchurched, basically the people who don’t go to church, how likely is it that they’ll be going to church on Christmas morning?” she said.

Among the other megachurches closing on Christmas Day are Southland Christian Church in Nicholasville, Ky., near Lexington, and Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, outside of Dallas. North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga., outside of Atlanta, said on its Web site that no services will be held on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day, which also falls on a Sunday. A spokesman for North Point did not respond to requests for comment.

The closures stand in stark contrast to Roman Catholic parishes, which will see some of their largest crowds of the year on Christmas, and mainline Protestant congregations such as the Episcopal, Methodist and Lutheran churches, where Sunday services are rarely if ever canceled.

Have I ever written that most of what passes for “Christianity” in the U.S. has nothin’ to do with either Jesus or worship? I believe I have.

This is stunning. Some of the same people who have their noses out of joint because clerks at Target say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” aren’t interested in a religious observance of the birth of Jesus. They want Christ in Target, not in church.

It’s not just Target in trouble with the Merry Christmas crowd. Alan Cooperman writes in today’s Washington Post that they’re pissed off at President Bush because of the White House Christmas cards.

This month, as in every December since he took office, President Bush sent out cards with a generic end-of-the-year message, wishing 1.4 million of his close friends and supporters a happy “holiday season.”

Many people are thrilled to get a White House Christmas card, no matter what the greeting inside. But some conservative Christians are reacting as if Bush stuck coal in their stockings.

“This clearly demonstrates that the Bush administration has suffered a loss of will and that they have capitulated to the worst elements in our culture,” said William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

Bush “claims to be a born-again, evangelical Christian. But he sure doesn’t act like one,” said Joseph Farah, editor of the conservative Web site “I threw out my White House card as soon as I got it.”

I don’t know where in the Gospels Jesus said “Thou shalt be a judgmental, obnoxious asshole for My sake,” but I guess it’s in there somewhere.

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What Bush Didn’t Say

Bush Administration, Iraq War

As I listened to Bush’s speech today at the Council of Foreign Relations I was struck by all the things he didn’t say.

He started out by comparing Pearl Harbor with September 11. Both times we confronted new dangers with firm resolve and a will to fight without wavering, blah blah blah. He really wants to be Churchill.

He marched ahead to his standard theme: Terrorists have made it clear that Iraq is the central front on its war against humanity. So we must recognize Iraq as the central front on the war on terror.

Notice he didn’t say that anything he did made Iraq the central front on the war on terror. It just happened.

Then he recapped last week’s speech regarding the three kinds of bad people in Iraq: Sunni rejectionists, Saddam loyalists, and terrorists. The terrorists are the smallest but most lethal group, he said, led by brutal terrorist Zarqawi who has pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden. They want use Iraq as a base from which to launch attacks against America and establish Islamic totalitarianism from Spain to Indonesia. They have the same ideology as the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. Can’t leave out 9/11. If we were not fighting them in Iraq they’d be plotting against Americans; because we’re keeping them too busy to plot, I suppose. The usual bullshit, in other words.

Bush said that our strategy has a political side, a security side, and an economic side. This speech was supposed to be about the economic side, but frankly I didn’t hear him give many specifics about economics. And I don’t believe he mentioned oil at all, but I might have missed it.

Bush said that “terrorists” keep retaking territory that had been liberated by coalition forces because there havn’t been enough Iraqi soldiers to hold the territory after it had been liberated. What he didn’t say was that maybe there weren’t enough coalition troops at hand to do the job they’d been directed to do.

Last year, he said, a violent militia took over Najaf, but coalition and Iraqi forces retook it and forced out the militia. What he didn’t say was that the militia was not made up of Sunni “rejectionists” or “Saddam supporters” or al Qaeda-like terrorists. It was Shi’ite cleric Abu Sadr’s Mehdi army militia.

He talked about all the infrastructure that had been devastated during Saddam’s reign. What he didn’t say was that his administration’s lack of planning and failure to send enough forces to provide security after the invasion resulted in a whole lot more devastation of infrastructure, and hospitals, and schools, and lots of other things. No, he just talked about all the damage Saddam was responsible for.

Iraqis are beginning to see that a free life is a better life, Bush said. But reconstruction is going more slowly than we’d like because of a lack of security. See previous paragraph.

He whined about the awful news media that doesn’t cover good news coming out of Iraq. What he didn’t say was that security in Iraq is so bad that many journalists are afraid to leave the Green Zone. Reporting is barely possible in Iraq.

He praised Joe Lieberman. Again. Lordy, we’ve got to do something about Lieberman. Mistakes have been made, Bush said (note the passive voice; he doesn’t say who made those mistakes) but good Joe Lieberman says that the biggest mistake would be to lose our will. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and all that.

Without naming him, Bush criticized Jack Murtha’s recent proposal for withdrawal. It would make America less safe, Bush said, although he offered no arguments to back up that claim. It would be giving the terrorists what they want, Bush said. Yeah, that’s what they want you to think, fratboy.

The Council of Foreign Relations audience sat quietly through most of the speech. Only once did they interrupt with applause — very tepid applause — after Bush had said something about not leaving Iraq. I was listening to the speech on MSNBC and didn’t watch it much, but I did take a peek at the end to see if Bush got a standing ovation. It appears he did, but the cameras only showed the guys in the front rows. For all I know the rest of the audience was already sneaking out the door.

And, like last week, as soon as the speech ended somebody played “Stars and Stripes Forever.” Canned? I can’t imagine the Council of Foreign Relations keeps a marching band around. Kind of weird, if you ask me.

Update: Thanks to Ken Melvin for this link

Bush’s speech, hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, was the second in a series of four to answer criticism and questions about the U.S. presence more two and a half years after the war started. He spoke to a group of foreign policy experts, many of whom have been critical of his policies. They gave him a cool reception. Some in the audience interrupted to applaud when Bush said the U.S. would not run from Iraq, but most sat stoically during the entire speech.

Also: Here’s a transcript, courtesy of the Washington Post.

Update update:
Jack Murtha is giving a rebuttal to the speech. I missed part of it, but essentially he’s saying he tried to warn the President and the Pentagon before the invasion that the job in Iraq was going to be harder than they seemed to think it was. If you find a transcript or video, please post the link!

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A Bush and Its Backdrops

Bush Administration, Iraq War

President Bush will be making the second of his Iraq War sales pep talks to the Council of Foreign Relations later this morning. I don’t know if there are plans to televise it, but if it’s on I’ll monitor, at least, and post if he says anything interesting or surprising.

Dan Froomkin writes
that the pathetic weenie President demanded that the group allow him to speak but not take questions, which is a big departure for them.

President Bush will deliver the second in a series of four speeches on his Iraq strategy tomorrow in Washington to several hundred members of the Council on Foreign Relations — an august group of scholars, policymakers and journalists whose Web site is an Internet hotspot for intellectual foment about foreign policy in general and Iraq in particular.

But rather than probe the group’s expertise or even respond to its concerns, Bush is just using it as a backdrop.

People were starting to talk about Bush’s “thing” for young guys in uniforms.

Bush is not likely to see the same sort of wide-eyed enthusiasm from this audience that he is used to seeing from hand-picked supporters, on-duty military audiences or intimidated employees.

But he’s not likely to encounter any undiplomatic behavior from this dignified crowd, either. And their inevitable standing ovations, out of respect for the office, will play well on television.

And if he doesn’t get a standing ovation, you can bet that he’ll deliver the next speech at one of our nation’s fine military academies.

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