Dysfunctional Heavenly Family
While I have criticized religion before, I don't want to be seen as one of these Richard Dawkins-esque atheist types - from my reading of "American Atheist" magazine - the one published by the late Madelyn O'Hare's group - I've discovered disbelievers can be just as fundamentalist as any believer. And religion has done some useful things for people and society - witness the Plowshares activists and the Berrigan brothers.
But what the hell is going on in America these days?
First, we've got a choir director in San Francisco who's calling on people to pray the price of gas down:
Rocky Twyman of Washington, D.C., came to San Francisco over the weekend to stage a pray-in at a Chevron station. He is also calling on churchgoers to ask for God's intervention where he says politicians have failed.
Gas costing $4 a gallon or more has become common around the San Francisco Bay area.
Um, oooooo-kay. Not that I'd be amiss to seeing oil company CEOs get lightning bolts upside their heads, but really - this is the best we can do?
Admittedly, he's calling on people to walk and carpool more (though not to use public transportation, but then again I don't know how good the public transport system in SF is) and has previously encouraged people to donate bone marrow, so I'm not going to be too harsh on him.
Our second contestant, though -
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Struggling to confront a worsening homicide rate, the mayor of Birmingham asked pastors and citizens Friday to don burlap sacks and ashes Friday in an Old Testament-style sign of biblical repentance.
Mayor Larry Langford said his "sackcloth and ashes" rally at Boutwell Auditorium was inspired by the Book of Jonah, where residents of the ancient city of Ninevah wore rough fabric and ashes as a sign of turning away from sin.
Okay, seriously - WTF?
Since he took office last year, Langford has held three prayer rallies as a way of addressing crime and violence. Bibles were handed out at one of the events.
"This city needs to humble itself," said Langford, a professing Christian.
So far this year 27 people have been killed in Birmingham, compared to 19 at the same time last year.
Oh, my, this alternative plan for addressing violent crime seems to be working SO WELL. Kind of like God's decided, what with natural disasters, famine, war, flood, and fire to deal with, he's really got better things to do than pay attention to yet another Bible Belt clown whining to him for help.
It's not the first time Birmingham has tried this, either:
The former chief, Annetta Nunn, promoted the idea of turning people toward God to quell the violence in the city's neighborhoods, and she instituted a Bible-based plan of civic responsibility for cleaning up rundown neighborhoods.
Ah, that's what we need to clean up 21st Century American neighborhoods - the principles of ancient Hebrew pilgrims. I can just see it now - closing down seafood restaurants, stoning herbalists, and punishing people wearing more than one kind of fabric at a time. Whee!
Or maybe we could adequately fund schools, promote investment in "rundown" areas, spend more on public infrstructure, that kind of thing... but how's THAT going to save souls?