Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Vesterheim museum, in Decorah Iowa

This past weekend I joined a group of folks from a rosemaling class I was taking for a field trip to the Vesterheim museum in Decorah Iowa. Wow.

So much history -- and beauty. Here are a few highlights from different sections of the museum.

Perhaps one of the most moving exhibits was this one, the translation of a poem written on a barn board by Halvor Langslet before leaving for America:
Here have I roamed many a day
in this wood, so green and fair,
but alas, my time is up,
ad I must bid this place adieu,
for I am off to America.
Farewell, ye birds, ye thousands
who for me have sung.
I fancy I'll here ne'er again come.
Farewell. Farewell.

- Halvor Langslet

 There was also a fascinating selection of items that accompanied Norwegians to the United States. Some of them were expected -- like spinning wheels, plates, etc. And then there were things like the following, which is a beautifully carved butter mold:

There were a number of fascinating pieces of furniture, including this one, that combined some impressive painting and carving.

The rosemaling was incredible, too.

Obviously, this doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of everything that we saw...but hopefully it gives you an idea of the kinds of stuff there. If you're interested in rosemaling, or acanthus or chip carving, or immigrant history, etc., this is definitely a place to go!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Reminder: you are a broken, miserable person. Now praise the one who made you that way

Like God's Not Dead, Do You Believe? is pretty active with its "we love Jesus -- now see our movie" meme offerings. 

Like this one: a reminder that you, human, are a worthless, broken entity. By God's design (and Eve's snacking). And the only thing that can save you? Why, the thing that broke you in the first place! (Oh, and see our movie!)

You know what they say about imaginary cures for made up ailments...

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Conservative Christian persecution watch: Gay ISIS and the impending criminalization of Christianity

As you may know, there are few groups as persecuted today as right wing American Christians.
Scratch that -- no group as persecuted today as far right American Christians.
Hell, there's probably never been a group quite so persecuted.

And do you know who is doing the persecuting? Well, obviously, there's the usual suspects -- women, Muslims, liberal Christians, liberals, feminists, moderate Christians, environmentalists, the Pope, the media, abortion doctors, and, of course, Obama. But there's no group quite so insidious, quite so brutal, quite so relentless and hateful as gay Americans.

You see, gay Americans want to be able to walk into a store and purchase an offered service without being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. Gay Americans want to have the same marriage rights as straight Americans.

In other words, they're basically ISIS. And I'm not even really exaggerating here, except completely. But this is actually a concern some right-wing Christians have been expressing, as in the article The Gay Rights Movement: ISIS Without the Bullets?

It's a provocative question -- if, by provocative, one means bat-shit crazy. But, as Patheos blogger Libby Anne demonstrates rather well, bat-shit crazy is more or less a way of life for the article's author, Gary DeMar.

But the sentiments DeMar puts forth are hardly unique to the furthest fringes of the right-wing. They're rather a common refrain among the pro-discrimination crowd: it's persecution not to be allowed to discriminate against gay people. Throwing in ISIS is just the crazy-frosting on the rabid-bigot-cake.


DeMar's argument is that since breaking the law comes with consequences, sometimes financial ones, in the United States, American Christians who want to break the law are basically in the same boat as victims of ISIS, who must convert of die. Other than the dying piece. Which is kind of like saying that a paper cut is like a beheading, except you get to keep your head: still three degrees past are-you-freaking-kidding-me?

There's a lot more that could be said about it, but these points are worth making.
  • No one is demanding a conversion -- Jan (above) can be as bigoted as she likes. No one is trying to change her mind, or make her love gay people. She just can't break the law to withhold offered services from gay people. That's not what ISIS asks of its victims. By a long shot.
  • "Lose everything" is a significant overstatement (even in the cases he lists, many involve no financial repercussions, and in some cases the loss of income is voluntary -- the bigots in question would rather shutter their shops than sell to gay people). The comparison makes this particularly egregious -- because the "everything" in question on the left is literally everything, and the "everything" on the right is...well, not even close.
  • On a similar note... fines are not death. It's a far cry from slapping a fine on a shop that discriminates against customers based on sexual orientation (or race, or religion) to killing them. ISIS without bullets (and beheadings and burnings and sledge hammers, etc.) is not really ISIS. What makes ISIS so particularly loathsome are the very things the DeMar dismisses. When you strip away the killing, maiming, torturing and other violent aspects of ISIS, that's not ISIS.
But, as I alluded to earlier it isn't just one random homophobe spewing absurdities on his blog. This persecution complex is pretty inherent to the religious right these days. It's the message from celebrities like Josh Duggar (of '19 Kids and Counting'), who suggests that not being allowed to persecute people is actually an example of Christians being persecuted, to presidential hopefuls like Mike Huckabee, who thinks that...well, not being able to persecute people is evidence of Christians being persecuted.

Huckabee didn't mention ISIS, but he didn't need to invoke gay Jihadis in order to stumble through the looking glass.
I think it’s fair to say that Christian convictions are under attack as never before. Not just in our lifetime, but ever before in the history of this great nation. We are moving rapidly toward the criminalization of Christianity.
Because, you see, if gay people are allowed to wed, and religious charlatans can't force damaging pseudo-medicine on gay people, Christianity and Christians are under attack. It's not just bad, it's worse than it's ever been.

Basically, ISIS is at the gates. Demanding cake for their gay weddings.