Thursday, May 10, 2007

Huh? What? Where?

I pretty much let this blog fall of the face of the earth. For awhile my interests changed, we left the church we'd belonged to that provided so much fodder for writing, and things quietly settled down.

For whatever reason I now find myself wanting to write more so I'm returning to my blog. Two things to note: I've found I like (and am more familiar with) Wordpress so I'll be using them and I never likd that someone else had the disambiguation.blogspot URL tied up and I had to shorten mine to "disambig". I always felt like the red-headed step-child in the disambiguation family.

So I've moved this thing over to and this will definitely be my last post here. See ya!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Intelligent Design gets federal smackdown

In heartwarming news a federal judge has ruled that Intelligent Design violates the Constitution.

You can also read about the decision at the National Center for Science Education's website here.

Here are some highlights from the decision:
In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.
Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.

The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.

Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.

This is good news for science in general and also for those of us who see no contradiction between evolutionary explanations and our faith.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Church-ization of Narnia

We had something unusual happen at church this weekend. As we walked in and took our kids to the children's depot we saw on one of the monitors that they have in the hallway what looked like a picture of a lion. I couldn't get a good look and our kids were running down the hallway and in danger of knocking old people over so I forgot about it for a bit. When we got them dropped off and entered the auditorium we were handed our usual Sunday bulletin. It's always a pretty snazzy deal, full color and high quality paper. There on the front was the lion again.

"No it can't be..." I began thinking with a dismayed feeling and then I saw the words printed right below our church's name on the bulletin: "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." Sure enough our church had an advertisement for the Narnia movie on the front of our bulletin.

We get into the service and there it is again on the big screen: Aslan the lion and several kids with swords forming a border around the screen while our church posted instructions in the center of the screen for people to please have a seat.

That wasn't all of course. No we had to have a skit with a young girl running down the aisle, up the stairs and onto the stage where a giant makeshift wardrobe stood and she opened it and walked inside. Then our minister preached his whole sermon on the movie and how it was clearly a "Christian movie" and a possible "evangelism tool" and how our church would be purchasing tickets and we could all go together.

The strangest thing was during communion. Up on the big screen was Aslan the lion and the kids with swords again and in the center of the screen was the message to please help ourselves to communion as it was passed down the aisle. Except in my mind it read "Communion tonight is brought to you by The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. A Walt Disney production coming to theaters December 9, 2005."

The whole thing struck me wrong. I've read a great deal of C.S. Lewis' writings and I can't imagine he'd be pleased with what's been done to his story. I do want to see the movie and I suspect I'll take my children but afterward I'm going to go on Christian Blackout so I don't have to have it beat into my head how "Aslan is Jesus!! He really is!! He's Jesus!!!! Don't you see it??"

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Racial Matters Pt. 5: After

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is an interesting condition. It's best described as a pathological response to trauma, the brain's faulty way of dealing with something it wasn't meant to deal with. When someone develops PTSD they frequently re-experience the traumatic event through flashbacks and nightmares. They generalize their trauma to the rest of life with the result that normal situations feel unsafe.

I didn't know what to call it then but I felt scared by all black people. I sincerely believed that black people as a whole had something against me and sought to do harm to me. It seemed logical to my young mind. When I'd walk down a hallway at school and a group of three or four black guys would approach I'd begin to tense inwardly. As they grew closer I'd want to shrink into the walls, make myself invisible. When they'd pass me by I'd feel a sense of reprieve. I'd escaped this time. This time. But there would be a next time. And another time after that. It was only a matter of time before I was assaulted by black people again.

I spent most of my Junior High avoiding black people. My initial hate had faded and what was left was fear. I didn't want to go through another experience like that again.

If I had grown up around white supremacists I think the hate could have easily returned. But it didn't. And I guess I moved on in some ways. After awhile my fears weakened but never quite went away. I still am subject to the occasional nightmare, to the fear of going down a dark alley and meeting one or more assailants. And in my mind they are always black. Always. I know intellectually that whites commit crime but in my mind - in the back of my mind where the fears lie - I struggle with the thought that criminals are black.

I go out of my way to make sure that my irrational, traumatic fears don't get passed on to my children. They've had black friends and I've been okay with that. I'm nothing but friendly to my coworkers who are black. I've even embarked on a journey to find hip-hop that I like. I'm not completely colorblind but I've certainly made some progress. Part of growing up in a household filled with prejudice is that when my teenage rebellion began, it moved me away from my parents' racist views. I'm still moving.

I only saw Tony, the one who spoke to me while he took my watch, once more after the meeting in the pricipal's office. I knew he'd been suspended and I assumed also expelled. But about a year later I was at a football game and I saw him on the sidelines with some friends. They were all obviously older and I suppose had been held back in school. They were smoking and laughing and I looked closely at Tony and could make out that his t-shirt had a picture of a cat trapped inside a bottle. The caption on his shirt said "Happiness is a tight pussy." For some reason I was fascinated by him while also feeling terrified of him. I'm sure he saw me walking by looking at him but I also don't think he really saw me. I don't think he had any recollection of me at all.

I still think about him. I wonder where he is, what he's doing. Now that I'm older and wiser I feel sorry for him. Perhaps he came from a painful family background. Maybe he came from a loving family and maybe he just fell in with the wrong crowd and made bad choices. Perhaps he's living happily somewhere raising a family and working hard at his job. Perhaps he's in jail. He might even be dead. I hope not. I really hope he has the chance to experience the love of Jesus in this life and the next. I don't bear him any ill will. I even think I might be able to forgive him if I ever saw him again.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A minor change

The old subtitle for this blog was "Clarity for the Confused. Confusion for the Clarified." I never liked that as it always sounded rather pompous. And it was Unnecessarily Capitalized. Truth be told I am subject to both confusion and clarity at various times and I have little to offer except for my occasional random thoughts.

So it's gone. If you've come here Confused and seek Clarity I'm sorry. If you've come here Clarified well I may still be able to offer you some Confusion. We'll see.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Racial Matters Pt. 4: The Watch

The summer before I entered Junior High I received a Timex watch for my birthday. It wasn't one of the really cool digital ones but it was a Timex. This was back when the famous Timex commercials were airing and they featured such things as an elephant eating a Timex watch, digesting it, crapping it out and a promoter picking it up, listening to it and proclaiming "It takes a licking and keeps on ticking!" Okay maybe my memory of that commercial isn't quite accurate but I remember just about everything else about my seventh grade year quite clearly.

Before school we'd all have to wait outside until the bell rang and they opened the school doors. As it got colder they would open the outer doors and let us wait in the entryway between the outer and inner doors. One morning around this time of year it was quite cold and I'd gotten to school early so I was waiting between the two sets of doors. My friends weren't there for some reason so I was waiting by myself. My junior high school was on the edge of my town but was very near a "black town" as my parents put it. The kids from that "black town" were in my school district so my junior high was pretty racially integrated. Which is why it wasn't surprising for me to find myself in a crowd of black and white students crowding into the entryway to keep warm.

I was standing against the wall and I remember looking up and seeing that some of the students had cleared away from me and I saw two black guys approach me. I felt a strange sense of disconnect happen inside as I watched them walk up to me. One was taller than the other and had facial hair. The shorter one was still a good 6 inches taller than me. They both seemed so much older and more grown up than me. I later found out that the shorter guy was named Tony and for some reason I never found out the taller guys' name. Tall Guy walked up to me and grabbed me by the jacket and Tony pressed right up against me. His breath stank. He said in a low voice "I want your watch. If you don't give it to me he's going to beat the shit out of you."

I looked from one to the other and my first thought was that this was a joke. They weren't serious and any moment they would smile and start laughing at how scared I was. And I was scared. Terrified. I had never been in a serious fight before and I really thought these two could hurt me if they wanted to.

"Sure. It's yours." I held up my wrist and Tony began to remove my watch, staring into my eyes the whole time. He never said another word as he took my watch off, put it into his jacket pocket and then he and Tall Guy walked outside. When were they going to start laughing and give me back my watch?

For some reason I'll never understand I followed them outside. I really think I was expecting them to hand back my watch. As I got outside I realized that I'd walked into a group of black students. I guess Tony and Tall Guy had told them what they'd done or maybe they'd seen it. Either way they seemed offended that I'd come outside and one of them pushed me. I don't even know if it was a girl or boy who pushed me first. Then someone else pushed me. Then someone else. Then someone else.

I'm not sure what happened inside me that day. I looked around me at the group of angry black kids. I could still feel the place on my wrist where my watch should be but wasn't. I felt wrong somehow.

I honestly don't know how long I was outside being pushed around. It seemed like an hour but it was probably less than a minute. One of the teachers either saw what had happened or was told what had happened and she came outside and stopped the pushing. She took me in while holding my hand. I felt like I was six years old. I was ashamed at what had happened. Some of my friends were there and they were asking me if my watch was really stolen and why I didn't kick those two guys' asses. I felt stupid and embarrassed.

The teacher asked me what happened and I told her that my watch had been stolen by two black guys. She asked me to describe the watch and asked me if I was hurt. I wasn't hurt I told her. I was okay. She smiled and sent me off to class.

An hour later I was summoned to the principal's office. I had never been to the principal's office before so I knew it must have something to do with this morning. I walked in terrified that I was in trouble somehow. When I entered his office I saw the principal, Tony and Tall Guy sitting down and the principal asked me to sit down also. My principal was black also and he watched me closely as I sat down. Tony and Tall Guy didn't look at me at all. The principal looked at me and asked me if my watch had been stolen that morning. "Yes" I replied. He then asked me "Are these two the ones who took your watch?"

I knew the principal knew. I'm not sure why he even asked me. I remembered my mom telling me once how black people stuck together and weren't afraid to get revenge on someone. I remembered the group of people pushing me after Tony and Tall Guy stole my watch. I told the principal that I couldn't see who took my watch because of the crowd but I was sure it wasn't these two.

Tony smiled at me. I had this weird idea that he wanted to be my friend and part of me wanted to be his friend so nothing like this could ever happen again. I was scared of him and his power. And I also hated him. I hated him for taking my watch. I hated him for being the one to speak to me while Tall Guy stood there. I hated him for being black. I hated Tall Guy for being black. I hated the group who pushed me for being black. And I hated black people for being thieves and for being violent to me when I'd never done anything to them.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Racial matters Pt. 3

Some random thoughts today.

I've always been tall. This would seem to make me a natural basketball player except for the fact that I'm horribly uncoordinated and can't dribble a ball to save my life. Nevertheless for two years in middle school I tried to play basketball for the local YMCA league. The first year our team did pretty horrible. I think we won maybe one or two games. I actually scored a basket once but more often than not I was there to act as a traffic stop for the little guys on the other team.

I noticed sometime during the second or third game that probably half of our team was black. It didn't bother me but I could tell it was a concern for my parents. We finished the season and I brought up playing again. My parents didn't discourage me playing the next season but they didn't encourage it either. I wanted to play so they signed me up.

The next season I was the only white kid on my team. My parents were perplexed and worried by this. They'd make fun of me and the situation by calling me "The White Shadow" after a TV show that was on at the time. When they'd go to games they'd sit off by themselves at the top of the bleachers. At least they were pretty easy to spot in the crowd. Mom eventually stopped coming to my games leaving dad to bring me. I could tell that he was coming for me but he obviously felt uncomfortable. My dad was not an outgoing person but he seemed even more isolated at the games. I didn't even think about asking to play again next season. I knew what the answer would be. Instead I went back to soccer where I actually had some talent and where a lot of the kids were Catholic and, therefore, mostly white.

When I was a teenager The Cosby Show was very popular. Kids at school were talking about it and how funny it was. I'd never seen it and I wanted to watch it. After supper one night I turned it on in the living room and watched about 10 minutes of it. It was funny of course and my parents heard me laughing. My mom came in from the kitchen and asked me what I was watching. When she saw what was on TV I could see the look on her face change. I'll never forget what she said next. "That's a show for black people Paul. We don't watch those shows. We watch shows about our own kind." And she turned it off.

My parents occasionally had arguments with the neighbors over parking. It didn't happen all the time but it was a fairly consistent feature of my childhood and adolescence. One time in particular I remember the neighbor had parked in a way that made it difficult for us to back out of our driveway. My dad went over and had words with them. When he came back he was angrier than I had ever seen him. My mom asked him what happened. My dad replied "I told them that if they ever did that again I'd put this house on the market and sell it to a nigger!"

How do children respond when they grow up in an environment like this? I'm sure many identify with the racism. It is coming from their parents after all and parents are supposed to be our role models. But I did not identify with it - I found myself increasingly uncomfortable with my parents' attitudes about race.

This would all be tested when I entered Junior High.