The Arrogance of Tebowing

This story is getting reported a lot today.

The Global Language Monitor website says it acknowledges that the word Tebowing — the act of taking a knee in prayer during an athletic contest — is now part of the English language.

In today’s online world, that’s practically the equivalent of gaining acceptance to Webster’s Dictionary.
Tom Weir, USA Today, 12-12-2011

It’s a bit of an exaggeration to say that being mentioned on the site is practically the same as being accepted into Webster’s Dictionary, but whatever, that’s not what I want to comment on in this entry.

Instead I want to comment on the phenomenal arrogance of Tim Tebow and so many in sports, entertainment, politics and public life. People of talent should be grateful they have it, and it is well and good that they give thanks. But there is a very big difference between that and praying for victory, pointing to the heavens after scoring, or giving God thanks in a victory speech. Does God really care who wins the Grammy for Best Rap Album or who carries the ball over the line in last Sunday’s game?

Thanking God for such personal achievements is tantamount to claiming to be chosen by god over all others, specifically given victory over your opponents by divine intervention. What are the implications of such claims? Did God rig the vote or influence the voters of the Grammys? Did the defensive line of the the other team lose their ability to block because they didn’t pray enough? What happens when the both teams pray a lot! To thank God for something that is essentially a personal achievement is to stake a huge claim.  One had better be pretty confident, or the next time God may feel compelled to correct the misconception with a crushing defeat.

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Thoughts on Remembrances of September 11

It is fitting that we pause today to remember the events of September 11, 2001 in New York, NY and Washington, DC.  It was a day in which a small group of terrorists once again reminded us just how much ideology and religious fervor can so blind the eyes of men to right and wrong to the point that they will turn aircraft loaded with innocent people into missiles to be used to commit deliberate acts of barbaric, cold-blooded murder against thousands of other innocent civilians.

It was also a day in which firefighters, police, rescue workers and even ordinary citizens committed selfless acts that taught us the meaning of heroism.  Through the coverage of 9-11 memorials and tributes, the media has done a good job of reminding us of all of this.  It has also reminded us of the deep sense of loss and the threat we face.  We’ve been called on to remember the soldiers who volunteered to fight against the terrorist threat and did not come home.  Nearly 4500 coalition forces have been killed in Iraq, and 1800 in Afghanistan (source).  The number that have been maimed or psychologically scarred is even larger.

As Americans, however, we must realize that 9-11 was a global tragedy and we were not the only ones affected…

powered by Fotopedia

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The Rhetoric of Hate v. Forgiveness

A short, but respectable analysis of an aspect of conservative media’s responses the tragic bombing and shootings in Norway came across my screen today.  In “Norway’s Sorrow: Why Is It So Hard For The Religious Right To Denounce Evil?,” Kurt Ostrow argues that a certain segment of the media is unable to simply denounce the attacks and leave it there. They condemn the actions of Anders Behring Breivik, who claimed responsibility for the attack, but then go on to ask if there aren’t real causes for concern that set him off. Ostrow points out that is is part of a very real trend, and provides some excellent examples to support his case, both from Europe and the United States.

He then goes on to make an excellent point.

Right-wing politicians and pundits everywhere have decided it politically prudent to conflate Islamic (of or relating to Islam) with Islamist (of or relating to Islamic militancy or fundamentalism). Or worse: they actually believe this misdirected, misinformed hate.

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SAR Academic Freedom Media Review, June 25 – July 1, 2011

The Scholars at Risk media review seeks to raise awareness about academic freedom issues in the news. Subscription information and archived media reviews are available here. The views and opinions expressed in these articles are not necessarily those of Scholars at Risk.

MALAWI: Closed campuses set to open
University World News, 7/1

Oxford academic wins right to read UEA climate data
Fred Pearce, The Guardian, 7/1

Sowing seeds of freedom in the ‘Arab Spring’
Paul Jump, Times Higher Education, 6/30

There’s no good reason for this inequality
Liz Schafer, Times Higher Education, 6/30

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Egypt Decides! Let’s Stand Back for a While

Saturday, 12 February 2011, Day 1 Freedom - Victory Tahrir Square, Photo by Darla Hueske, Creative Commons license, Some rights reserved

These are exciting times! The citizens revolution in Tunisia started a tidal wave of pro-democracy protests across the Arab world, and the resignation of Hosni Mubarak form the Presidency in Egypt proves there is no stopping it.

Fortunately, this wave has not caused the death and destruction tidal waves usually do, because it is the people themselves who are the wave, and it is the elite who are being swept away, not in a bloody coup, but through real people power. Final costs have yet to be assessed. People were jailed and others killed, but violence and destruction to property have been minimal. The police were brutal and ruthless and far too many were killed, but protests continued and the police disappeared quickly. After that, the one significant effort of Mubarak loyalist to crack heads, backfired terribly.

Most Americans are excited by this wave of democracy and have an innate tendency to support it. Others got very nervous when the wave hit Egypt. What happens if the Muslim brotherhood takes over? There are even voices who get far to much airplay in the media and too much ink in the press who say that people in the region are incapable of self governance and need strong arm leadership. The most looney voice has to be Glenn Beck who fears Mubarak’s fall will open the door to a Islamist Caliphate that will spread until it meets and joins forces with a Chinese-led “red” wave on a quest for world domination.
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12 Days of (War 0n?) Christmas

The Twelve Days of Christmas

It’s 12 Days of Christmas Season. That’s the time of marketing extravaganza’s referencing that very well known carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” in which the the suitor gives his true love strange things like turtle doves, golden rings enough for each finger of one hand, ladies dancing, pipers and, of course, that partridge in the pear tree.
Share The 12 Days Of Christmas by Gregg Smith Singers

Manufacturers, retailers and companies and service providers promote their businesses by sponsoring talk show giveaways for 12 days on Ellen or Oprah or by special giveaways and sales each day for 12 days at their stores or online as is being done by Starbucks and AT&T. It comes anytime before Christmas, depending on the broadcast schedule of the show and when the company needs sales.
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What Americans Know about Religion

How many of the symbols can you identify?

Today the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released a survey testing a broad range of religious knowledge, including knowledge of major religious texts, core teachings of various faiths and major figures in religious history.  According to an AP article summarizing the results, the survey found that

atheists, agnostics, Jews and Mormons outperformed Protestants and Roman Catholics in answering questions about major religions, while many respondents could not correctly give the most basic tenets of their own faiths.

Forty-five percent of Roman Catholics who participated in the study didn’t know that, according to church teaching, the bread and wine used in Holy Communion is not just a symbol, but becomes the body and blood of Christ.

More than half of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the person who inspired the Protestant Reformation. And about four in 10 Jews did not know that Maimonides, one of the greatest rabbis and intellectuals in history, was Jewish…

The study also found that many Americans don’t understand constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools. While a majority know that public school teachers cannot lead classes in prayer, less than a quarter know that the U.S. Supreme Court has clearly stated that teachers can read from the Bible as an example of literature.

“Many Americans think the constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools are tighter than they really are,” Pew researchers wrote.

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Argentina Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

People protest same-sex marriage bill outside Argentina's Congress in Buenos Aires on Tuesday. (Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press) Read more: http://tinyurl.com/argentine-marriage

Argentina has just joined the club of nations that has legalized same-sex marriage. Yes, the nation that many stereotypically associate with overwrought machismo, and in which the Catholic Church still exerts considerable influence, has taken this radical move. It seems clear that the tide is turning, at least in the “West.” It’s turning here in the United States too, the setbacks like last year’s referendum in Maine and Prop 8 in California, or the large number of amendments to the constitutions of various states passed to protect the “sanctity of marriage” during the past 5-6 years.

I want to use this post to make a detached, rational argument why this is a good trend, based on fundamental American values about the nature of our government in relation to individual rights. It’s odd that someone with my political beliefs might make the argument on these terms, but ultimately it is a libertarian, perhaps even conservative argument. I’ll make no appeal to emotion, putting forth touching stories of nontraditional families or the devastation wrought by deeply held emotional ties are denied.

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Ambivalence re: A Petition to stop a Controversial Super Bowl Ad

Liberal groups are petitioning CBS regarding a spot set to run during the SuperBowl.

The broadcast networks that air the Super Bowl have historically rejected advocacy ads. Yet CBS, which is airing the Super Bowl this year, has accepted an anti-choice ad by the ultra-conservative group Focus on the Family.

Focus on the Family’s “celebrate life” (read: anti-choice) ad features Heisman Trophy-winning college football star Tim Tebow. And CBS approved this anti-choice ad, even though the network has repeatedly rejected advocacy ads in past years including a 2004 MoveOn.org ad that went after then-President Bush’s fiscal irresponsibility and an ad the same year from the United Church of Christ showing them welcoming a gay couple who had been turned away from another church.

— via Credo Action

I have mixed feelings about this type of action.  I am uncomfortable with asking a network not to air an ad because I don’t like the message.  But what bothers me here is that CBS is airing this, but in 2004 it refused to air an ad from the United Church of Christ showing them welcoming a gay couple who had been turned away from another church because it was network policy not to accept “advocacy” advertisements.  CBS says it has revised its policy.  It’s a shame that the United Church of Christ, Planned Parenthood, or some other organization can’t try to buy time for a comparable spot putting forward a progressive viewpoint on some social issue.  That would test the network’s claim.

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Qantara: Mediterranean Heritage

I  just wanted to take a moment to point out this site, which I just discovered tonight.  It is a fantastic pedagogical resource, interactive and rich in media.  The interactive maps are particularly particularly fun, but there is all kinds of rich media.

The Qantara project is part of the Euromed Heritage programme, which hopes to contribute to mutual understanding and dialogue between Mediterranean cultures by highlighting their cultural heritage. It aims to encourage intercultural dialogue by supporting the preservation and promotion of the shared historical and cultural heritage of the Euromed region, through human, scientific and technological exchanges…

The Qantara Project is a reflection of the Institut du Monde Arabe in its pursuit of openness and peace, in its modern and multimedia format that targets specialists and non-specialists alike, and in terms of its organisation, which unites several partner countries – Algeria, France, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, and Spain – as well as a guest country, Egypt. Qantara’s goal is to build or rather consolidate the bridge between the North and South, and the East and West of the Mediterranean.