Tom Pittman's WebLog

Earlier this year, Later this year
 

2014 July 30 -- On Being Late

When I was a kid, my parents were always late to church. That annoyed me, so I got permission to go to another church of the same denomination three blocks from home, and then walked. Over the years I learned that I tend to misjudge my own ability to arrive on time -- I now believe it's a case of pride: "I'm infallible, I can do this" -- so I made it a policy to plan to arrive early. Being thus aware of the problem, I read with interest the analysis in another Vince Flynn novel last night:
...when someone is constantly late, they fall into three categories. The first he called idiot savant. The type of person who is so smart in his or her field of expertise that their mind is literally elsewhere. In layman's terms he explained that these people were smart in school and dumb on the bus. The second category was made up of perfectionists, people who were incapable of letting go of one task and moving on to another. These people were always playing catch-up, rarely rose to any real position of power, and needed to be managed properly. The third category, and the one to be most wary of, were the egomaniacs. These were the people who not only felt that their time was more important than anyone else's, but who needed to prove it by constantly making others wait for them.
I'm not sure whether I (nor my late father) fit into any of those categories -- certainly not the third -- but it's an interesting question. I know other latecomers at church, but I suspect they are more like my father and (before I chose otherwise) myself, having an inappropriately high opinion of their ability to finish this or that task and still be on time. Or maybe they are like people on so-called "Latino time" where the person (or project) you are with is always more important than the person you are about to go see. Anyway, Flynn certainly wanted to paint his villain villainously, and his third category contributed to that.
 

2014 July 18 -- OSX: Not Good Unix

Speaking of OSX and PDF and Android, the mobile program I'm trying to write lets me read the Hebrew Bible in church without lugging this huge printed volume around. One of the source documents I need was printed in 1848, so it's in the public domain and Archive.org (no link here, they have become quite hostile to some browsers) scanned and OCR'd it and uploaded the result. It's a mess, but they also uploaded the scanned images as PDF, which (as I previously mentioned) won't open in the latest Adobe reader available for this computer. But OSX thinks in PDF, so they can do stuff like turning PDF back into the original images, except the whole file is too big for what's left of my hard drive after OSX has finished filling it with its "Spotlight" virus files, so I need to break the single PDF into individual one-page files, then convert them to TIFF, then delete the originals. It's an obvious job for scripting, and the Mac could have done it easily, but OSX is not Mac. It turns out it's not good unix, either. Anything you can do in honest unix, you can script with a "shell script" but much of OSX is designed for real people (not unixies) and not scriptable the unix way. No wonder they call it "eunuchs", they are missing a vital organ and cannot perform. It's still true. Longer explanation here.
 

2014 July 12 -- I've Been Busy

I mentioned last month that I'm now learning Android. The development environment still sucks lemons -- I'm doing it on OSX because I can run it in a sandbox there, but y'all already know how bad OSX is. After I got their "Hello world" demo going, it occurred to me that Android is programmed in Java, and my own T2 is a dialect of Java: if I'm careful, I can write everything in a subset of T2 and compile it here on the Mac. Most of the gooey stuff for Android is designed for the kinds of things the designer wants to do, which is basically what's already been done, so it does not meet the needs of people doing new things, but I did find a way to just blit pixels onto the screen, and I already have working T2 code to put everything into pixels, so I wrote my own Android emulator. I had it running in less time than it would have taken me to figure out how to make the recommended Android "layout" stuff do what I wanted.

So I get to do my Android development on a real computer, not some forsaken castrated system. Programming hasn't been this much fun in years. As a result of 12- and 14-hour work days, I have less down time to write about other stuff here. But it's the end of the week, and I don't want to get started on something I can't finish tonight or tomorrow.

Among the flicks I checked out of the library for the weekend are a couple more TV serials. One of them is a remake on the constant bickering between Spock and captain Kirk in Star Trek, logical vs human, except they brought it forward into the "politically correct" 21st century, where all the smart people are female and the guys are all idiots. You know, standard TV fare. The scenario is a "forensic anthropologist" solving crimes for an FBI grunt by examining bone fragments. The pseudo-science is a little too pseudo for my taste, and they keep stirring the brains/heart conflict in a cement-mixer instead of with a spoon, but I'm still game to go for the second disk. Like Veronica Mars last year, it's still about smart people doing smart things. The other series is about a recent widow (the opener hints, but does not say that she killed him) and her apron-string son against the world. I may not make it through the first disk.

Mostly when people send me PDF (stands for Pretty Darn Foolish) documents, I don't bother to look. No such luck this week. Many of them are corrupted and Adobe's own reader won't open them, but I had this silver boat-anchor out. It seems OSX is good for something: I can give it a PDF the Mac won't open, and ask it to save it (different name), then transport the file back and the Mac will read it. PDF is not a friendly document format. The focus is on getting the words in exactly the same place the composer put them, not on making them readable. If you enlarge it enough so that the letters don't bang into each other, you have to keep scrolling back and forth. Many web pages do that too. I think it's a control thing, "My way or the highway." I went to some effort to make sure my web site didn't do it, but the browsers assumed otherwise. It turns out that I can add a meta tag which says "I did it the right way, so display it as shown and don't make invalid assumptions." Unixies make so much trouble for everybody. sigh Let me know if you can't view this blog reasonably on your phone (I didn't get the previous files updated yet).
 

2014 June 16 -- Dancing in the Flicks

G-rated movies tend to be written by people who don't really want to watch them. You can tell when a product (of any kind) was designed by a person who has no interest in using it: it's a slip-shod piece of garbage. I drive a car that the designers wanted to drive -- except the steering wheel was designed by bureaucrats in Washington, and the toneau cover was a check-off, but that's another story. Anyway, most of these G-rated movies are filled with silly songs to make up for what they lack in plot and story. Once in a while there's a good one, but not often.

There were two G-movies in the library stack I had over the weekend. One was a classic, done when Walt was still the master and creative genius of Disney studios, the other much more modern. According to the "making-of" short, this also was a work of love, but it still had its share of silly songs, which I fast-forwarded over (I can do that on the PC I use to watch them; the movie player on OSX probably also has such a feature, but like everything else OSX, it's so hard to use that I mostly avoid it). I guess Dumbo had some songs too, but they were sung over activity that moved the plot along; to fast-forward over them would have missed some of the story.

What was remarkable about these two flicks is the dancing. Modern movies aimed at teens and younger often have long sequences of people randomly bouncing around while tuneless noise blares out extra loud, nothing in rhythm to anything else. I suppose that's what passes for "dancing" among the slackers who prefer their own individuality to synchrony. By contrast, in the dance of the pink elephants in Dumbo everything worked seamlessly together. That may be easier to animate than the modern anarchy version, but it's both harder in real life and more fun to watch. I never hit the fast-forward during the whole movie. The other flick had these animated gnomes bouncing around randomly, which is pretty boring. The fact that they had this famous big-name composer was completely lost on me, it was still tuneless noise. Fast-forward.

The Dumbo cover announced it as "unforgetable" but that probably overstates the case. There were a couple scenes that I had seen before -- like the short "I think I can ... I thought I could" sequence from The Little Engine That Could children's story -- but mostly I had obviously forgotten from whenever I first saw it.
 

2014 June 10 -- Androids Are Not Human

I have conscientiously and carefully avoided getting a PDA or smart phone until now. That's because I knew it would be a black hole sucking up all my  cognitive resources when I had other important things to do. Well, my Bible translation program more or less works now, and I need to start thinking about how to pay my bills without going on public welfare. Mobile apps seem to be where the money is -- especially since the people who might otherwise buy my services aren't. I still don't have a smart phone, but that's about to change. I don't expect to be making any calls on it, or surfing the web, but if I'm going to write programs that run on it, I need to test them.

I started by downloading the Android SDK (Android seems to have moved ahead of Apple, probably because of Apple's hostile attitude toward people like myself, or maybe because their OS is so bad). The MacOS (NOT Apple's OSX, the real Mac) was such a leap forward 30 years ago, that all its imitators are still trying to play catch-up -- except Apple, of course, they chose to go backwards. I used to say that the USA and Macintosh were way ahead of whoever was in second place, and all parties were diligently trying to close the gap. Unless his party takes over Congress again later this year, Obama will be out of office before he succeeds at getting the USA to trade places with the next country in line, but Apple marvelously succeeded and now has a good shot at third place. Hmm, maybe not, Linux is really bad. Both are unix, and everybody knows that eunuchs are missing a vital organ so they cannot perform.

Unfortunately, Android is unix on steroids, and the development tools are bishops and cardinals in that religion. They might even be worse than iOS (which is also unix), but I'm unlikely to want to find out. I have been so spoiled by the Mac, I may never recover! If I'd gotten started sooner, or if I had a sugar daddy to pay for it, I would make a Mac-like development system. It would have been fun to do it resident, Android development on an Android. I did that with HyperCard, and with TinyBasic before that, and now again with my own T2. It's what I do well. But unix is huge, so getting all that to work on a tiny screen would be a trip. Who needs crack?

Anyway, I spent all of today and most of yesterday trying to figure out how to drive this monster. I think you need a PhD in rocket sci-- or rather computer science to -- oh wait, I already have one of those. Maybe by the end of the week I'll get to the point that you could get to on the Mac in 15 minutes. Even VisualStudio (for making PC apps) was easier to learn.

Unix mumble... sigh
 

2014 June 7 -- End of the Chess Series

I finished the last of the Steven James chess-pieces novels currently available. The back page announces the conclusion of the series Checkmate, due out "Summer 2014" (which means it won't be available for Inter-Library Loan for at least another six months). The penultimate volume is a little less preachy than its predecessor (see "Queen"), and for a Christian novel, is not all that bad. Whether I go back for the last in the series probably depends more on how disgusting the rest of what I can find to read turns out to be.

There were a couple intriguing insights. The #2 heroine, which James prematurely made into a believer in the previous story, is still struggling all through this story with what she believes. She seems mostly hung up on the idea in Ecclesiastes that "all is meaningless."

But if God is there and he really does care about his hurting, questioning race of dreamers and fools, then praying would matter -- even if it didn't happen on their time frame  or in the ways they expected or wanted.

After all, if we could understand God, then his wisdom would be equal to or smaller than ours, and that was logically impossible if he's all-knowing and we aren't. The very definition of God required that people would be unable to understand his ways.

The language of her musings here is a little too churchy for the person the author has made her out to be, but it's an awesome insight, one that I've thought of (perhaps mentioned, but I don't recall where) myself a few times.

Throughout the last three or four volumes -- perhaps longer, but not so pronounced -- the author has his hero contemplating the moral equality between himself and his arch-villain nemesis. This is an important theological idea, necessary for preaching the need of all people for a personal Savior, as I presume that is where the author is going with this. But it's unsettling. It's not what people read escape literature for. They -- we -- want Good Guys, who win over against the Bad Guys, the way it happens in Louis L'Amour stories (and didn't happen in Gold Coast which is probably why his regular readers didn't like it).

John Bradford's famous (but possibly dubious) line, improbably quoted in his thoughts by the not-yet-Christian hero, "There but for the grace of God go I" can be understood in two different ways. Either I am morally equivalent to that poor wretch, but I have been incredibly lucky (God's Providence) to escape the righteous consequences of my evil ways, or else I have been saved from evil behavior by God's grace and no longer do things worthy of that outcome. If being a Christian became a crime (as it was in Bradford's case), I want there to be sufficient real evidence to convict me, and "by God's grace" I have tried to make it so. Or rather, God did.

I would like to believe -- and the Bible seems to say it [1Jn.2:6 and others] -- that Christians are not morally equal to the Bad Guys. The problem is, when you look around, the people in the churches are mostly indistinguishable from the pagans. Jesus explained that in terms of "tares" [Matt.13:30] and that there will be a lot of surprises on Judgment Day, but that's not a popular theme among the Relationshipists. At least when a pagan writes theological gibberish, I can discount it and pass over; it's harder when it comes from a supposed Christian. That's why I mostly avoid "Christian fiction" any more.
 

2014 May 31 -- 12 Years a Slave

It's an ugly flick, partly because it reminded me of some of the feelings I experienced as a teen in the American public school system. Bullying -- forcing people into positions and activities they would not choose for themselves for the benefit of the bully -- did not stop with the American Civil War, it continues unabated in this country and around the world, different from that slavery which embarasses our history in degree but not in kind (and in some places, not even different in degree). God does not approve of such injustice, but slave owners and bullies everywhere only claim to fear God while in fact they love their own power and wealth much more. It's a hypocrisy that moviemakers are always eager to present on-screen, this being no exception.

People are evil and greedy by nature, so bullying comes naturally to all of us. Only the coercive fear of a greater power (with a bigger stick) keeps anybody from indulging their lusts. That may be the Principal of a school (if he's looking), or the government, or God. Two centuries after the setting of this flick, school principals and government enforcers might nominally be more diligent to prevent coercion (if they're looking), but who stops the authorities from doing it? The feigned obeisance to God in our time is far more diaphanous and impotent than ever before, so there is not even a pretense of any fear of Divine Wrath.

Take for example our current President. He might share some distant ancestry with the American slaves, but his forebears never experienced that kind of brutality, so he does not even have a family memory to cringe from, and nothing to dissuade him from bullying the American people who can least defend themselves. His eponymous tax (7.3%, the second highest tax increase on poor people in the history of this country) falls most heavily on people with incomes below the Federal Poverty level. It's a coercive tax, intended to bully people into paying for services they cannot use from companies that cannot provide them. Rich people are the beneficiaries of most government largesse (follow the money: who did the very rich campaign for?) and Obama rewards them by making his new tax on them a tiny pinprick, a tenth of a percent or less. The only "big stick" Obama might fear -- and by his own admission, it's gone now -- are the American voters, but that pathetic bunch voted him into office, twice.

But I have no reason to believe Obama understands any of that. I think he's merely an incompetent pawn of the rich power-mongers. It's too bad the other party's propaganda engine is so stupid; if the American people had known the truth, we might have an Obama who spells his name with an "R" or "M" in the White House today. As if that would be any different.
 

2014 May 29 -- "Secure" Websites

I went to a website the other day, and they wouldn't let me on. What actually happened is, they insisted on encrypting the data using an encryption formula my browser did not recognize, which is the same thing. It never ceases to amaze me that companies professing to do business with the public would want to lock out potential customers. It's like a restaurant turning customers away, "I'm sorry, you can't eat here unless you drive a late-model Rolls Royce."

It used to be that a few websites would make their data unavailable to the general public, but most of them were open to all comers. I simply didn't patronize the exclusive snob sites. But more and more sites are locking up their pages from public view, or hiding them behind virus technology (which I also refuse to allow on my computer). Archive.org (no link: they don't want you) is one of those sites I used to frequent, but is now locking the general public out. So I bought a sandboxed computer for when it's necessary to go places like that, but it's an ugly system (OSX), slow and very hard to use.

I can imagine what the webmasters are thinking: "Secure sockets layer (SSL) means that data transfer is safe from hijacking," but they are wrong. SSL is only as safe as the encryption formulas used -- the NSA and China and probably Russia and England all have computers that can crack anything out there, and what they have today, the rest of the world will have in a couple years. Worse, it is only as trustworthy as whatever Certificate Authorities granted the certificates your browser accepts. Do you know who they are? Do you trust people you never met and who are not subject to any laws (except China; I couldn't find any other country with laws requiring anything at all of them) but their own internal policies? I don't, and you shouldn't either.

I removed from my browser all the certificates from anybody I don't personally trust. As a result, all the websites that require SSL for access force my browser to go through a certificate creation protocol. It's not any more secure than the predefined certificates, but at least the hassle puts me on notice that they think it's secure.

So-called "digital signatures" use the same technology, and are no more secure, but there are laws now in places (in the USA) which accept them as binding, nevermind that (unlike a handwritten signature) anybody with sufficient technology can steal (forge) them. For the Record, I will never willingly offer a digital signature as proof of anything, and I reserve the right to repudiate any digital signature that claims to have come from me.

For more information on the whole problem, see Bruce Schneier's paper "What You're not Being Told about Public Key Infrastructure". Schneier is an acknowledged expert on cryptography, and he basically debunks the process. Despite his cautions, his paper is on a SSL web page, as if that did anything useful (by his own admission, not). Go figure.

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2014 May 28 -- Incompetents in High Places

George McGovern died a couple years ago. Forty years before that he was a left-wing Senator running for President. He didn't make it, but he got a lot of speaking engagements which earned him a lot of money. So he invested his money in a hotel-restaurant in Connecticut, which is generally not a bad idea, except this one subsequently went bankrupt. McGovern stops short of blaming the loss on his own policies made into law when he was in that business, but he does have a telling confession, printed in the Wall Street Journal in 1992 and then made a part of the Congressional Record, and titled "A Politician's Dream Is a Businessman's Nightmare":
I also wish that during the years I was in public office, I had had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day. That knowledge would have made me a better U.S. senator and a more understanding presidential contender.
You won't find insights like this in any left-wing-bigot news media. I found it in a right-wing magazine, and only buried as an incidental to the editorial.

The American people did not elect George McGovern as President. Maybe they understood what he at the time did not, or maybe we were just lucky for a while. They did elect another person just as ignorant and incompetent as McGovern, and he is President now.

Obama never ran a business in his life. Before his election he never even ran a large government organization, most of which (the Federal government excepted) need to balance their budgets and live with mandates coming out of Washington and elsewhere. Even Sarah Palin was more competent when she ran as Vice-President than Obama is today. Obama still does not know what he's doing, nor what it does to the economy and the rest of us. He still has surrounded himself with more inexperienced (ignorant) political hacks than any other President in the last century.

Fortunately, the USA is so far ahead of whoever is in second place, that it will take more than one incompetent President to make us trade places, but you can tell he's succeeding: fewer people want in than we've seen in quite a while (see chart here). They probably know something.
 

2014 May 19 -- Religious Clue Deficit Disorder, As Usual

I mentioned previously, the library bought all these TV serials for their movie collection. Maybe people like them, but TV screenwriters are almost as competent as the (current sitting) President they voted for, meaning not at all. Half of all professionals in any given profession are blow average competence, and the lower budget of TV shows does not attract the best writers. When (first) they stopped broadcasting watchable TV (nothing but squished images usually frozen into 1" square bloxy pixels with stuttering sound on most channels available to people unwilling to pay the $50/month temple tax) and then when the TV I inherited from my late mother died, I did not feel bad. I think I even said so.

Anyway, like I said, I check out the first disc in each series, and if it's tolerable (most are not), watch out the rest of the first season. After that none of them are worth the bother. Some recent ones were so bad, I didn't want to finish the first disc. It's really annoying when the story tries to do something about religion. The writers are sooo clueless.

Like this POW returned after 8 years, and they show him discretely praying in Arabic when nobody is watching. His explanation is that he needed to turn to religion, but nobody changes religion in cases like that, they cling more tightly to what they have. The writers just needed to make the guy look suspicious, so to complicate the plot. They did not have him praying 5 times a day, nor abstaining from pork and alcohol. It's not real. The atheists -- including most TV writers -- do not understand what religion is all about.

sigh
 

2014 May 15 -- Fiction Diverges from Reality

It was surreal. I'm starting this new novel Divergent -- I saw a review of one of its sequels in a magazine, and the local library even had it; apparently somebody is making a movie of it, so it's popular, and I had to wait my turn -- anyway, it's about some kind of dystopian futuristic society where people are forced into (they each choose, on a certain specified day) one of five procrustean "factions" each emphasizing only one virtue. No real world would tolerate a moral system that allows people to aspire to only one virtue. I'm beginning to think "dystopian" means "fantasy" with the added feature of being disagreeable. Y'all know my thoughts on fantasy, which crystalized from my interaction with another budding young female author (about the same age as this one) who also seemed to think "dystopian steam punk" is cool.

The plot line is not all that different from a sci-fi story I read many decades ago (but no longer remember the author nor title), where everybody goes to "school" one day in their late teens to be injected by the machines with whatever skills they need to be a functional part of society, except the hero flunks out because he has been reading books ahead of time. That's apparently the meaning of the eponymous "divergent" as applied to the heroine. I'm not very far into it yet, and I'm not sure I have the stomach to finish it out, but I'll give it a try. It's her first novel, which she had been working on since she was a kid, so I guess she might be excused for a limited view of reality.

About the same time I started this book, I also started a movie with a similar narrow moral focus. It's Chinese (English subtitles) with a fixation on glory and reputation through martial arts fighting, which seems to be the guy counterpart to fantasy. Face it, fisticuffs and swords may be cool and show off your personal skills, but they are no match for bullets when violence is needed. In the real world, violence is needed far less often than the flicks would have you believe. Besides, these martial arts flicks are all choreographed, none of it is any more real than the faked TV wrestling.

Postscript: Divergent got to be too much. I skipped over most of it and read the last couple chapters, which confirmed my decision to skip over the rest. The author discloses her Christian faith in her acknowledgements page, but there isn't much evidence of it in the book -- unless you consider the fact that her heroine prefers being nice over truth ("Candor"), which is a Relationshipist  (pseudo-Christian) value. The plot line in the Chinese movie actually got better. The atheists trump the Christians again. No wonder Jesus said there would be a lot of surprised people on Judgment Day.
 

2014 May 14 -- Queen of Heaven

I finished it, and Steven James' Queen is unequivocally "Christian fiction" but a little weak on a couple of the "four P's". The "preachy" part is still understated, but much more pronounced than the earlier novels in the series. This one ends with the #2 main character becoming a Christian. There's no mention of Jesus, but the (always silent) Voice From Heaven pronounces God's forgiveness as surely as any Relationshipist could. Look for the first-person hero Patrick to get converted in the next sequel (that's the "predictable" part).

There were a few good insights. Like (p.226) this idiot shrink is asking the super-smart heroine teen if she thinks God would want her to forgive herself, and she very astutely replies that "The Bible never says to forgive yourself. Not once." She's not exactly playing a theological heavy in this story, but she has been portrayed as knowing a lot of remote trivia. She said she looked it up, but that kind of thing is hard to "look up." I know. The whole idea of forgiveness is poorly understood (see my essay, "As God Forgave") so the next page goes on to correctly explain it as debt cancellation -- which is why forgiving yourself (in the Christian sense of debt cancellation) is nonsensical. In Relationshipist theology, forgiveness is all about feeling good about yourself (there being no such thing as guilt or debt), but this is not your usual Relationshipist blather, so the author is obviously not some run-of-the-mill "Christian" writer.

A few chapters later (p.381) there's another anti-Relationshipist zinger:

"So here's the thing: go into any auditorium full of teenagers and ask 'em if a coach, a teacher, a counselor has ever told them to feel good about themselves, how many hands do you think would go up?"

"All of them."

"Right. So then ask the kids if they already know that's not the answer. Guess how many hands go up then?"

 "All of them," I conceded.

That's probably a little hyperbolic -- after all, half of the American people really are Feelers who want nothing more than to feel good about themselves -- but you won't find stuff like this in chick-lit. You also won't find it in guy-fiction like Vince Flynn's work. That's probably why I need to send out to Inter-Library Loan for these stories: the local librarians recognize they have limited appeal.

Later on (p.408) one of the lesser characters offers the unchallenged opinion, "Only when you know what someone most deeply regrets will you know what matters to him most." Maybe that's true for some or most people, but it wouldn't work on me. But I'm weird.

All in all, this volume in the series was much more touchy-feely than I care for. I'll go ahead and send out for the next one, but if the trend continues, it will be the last.
 

2014 May 13 -- Being Good At What One Does

The library noticed that their movies were circulating at a rate maybe five to ten times what books were doing, so they allocated a bigger chunk of their budget to buying movies. Well, mostly TV serials, it seems. Anyway, up until last year, one of the librarians was helpfully making me a spreadsheet file every year or so of the new movies, so I could check them against my list of what I've seen (scanned from the checkout tickets) and know what to look for. This month she announced that she would not be doing that for me any more. I can go up and down the rows checking titles against my printed list, but  that tends to net only one or two flicks per aisle (and diminishing), and it completely misses the popular flicks I might otherwise ask to be reserved. She said I should use their website, but (a) it's virus-driven, and (b) even slower than walking the aisles. I thought about writing a script to scrape the data, but that's also a big chore -- and for what? I've already seen most of what they have that isn't TV serials (which are no more worth watching than it was when it was on TV).

So basically I'm coming to the end of seeing library movies. I can still look at flicks downloaded from Archive.org, but they also are making their holdings harder to get to -- in this case by encrypting the access so older browsers that don't know their encryption algorithms are locked out. I have a sandboxed computer for doing unsafe web access, but it's unix, and everybody knows that eunuchs are missing a vital organ so they cannot perform (the system is aptly named).

So I need to start weaning myself from watching freebie movies. sigh You knew I was reading Steven James and Vince Flynn novels. The most recent Patrick Bowers story I'm into, Queen in his chess piece series, is a very complicated plot. I think the guy is a Christian (no sex or cusswords, but also only a page or so of preaching, very subtle and easy to miss if you aren't looking for it) so he puts a lot more effort into relationships like the dysfunctional teen and a variety of romantic conflicts for the main character. Flynn spends much less time agonizing over the selfish demands made on his hero by his (now) wife in the name of love, and more effort on the action. Louis L'Amour, whose short stories I recently finished reading one volume, spends more effort on blow-by-blow descriptions of fisticuffs, and almost nothing on romance.

Anyway, I was thinking about how complicated the plot in Queen is, and I realized that I would never be able to write like that. You may recall that I once had aspirations of a career change, to replace programming with writing fiction, but I cannot aspire to that level of complexity. When I was in college, I made money doing wedding photos, but I was never that good at it. I will never be a cook of the caliber my sister is. I read Greek and Hebrew, but not like the scholars. There is one thing I do well, in the top percentile of my peers, and that is programming. I suspect there is no such thing as a polymath who is good at everything he does. Isaac Newton spent more effort on theology than physics, but he's known only for his (math and) physics, not his theology.

But it's fun to play with theology and physics and other things at which God did not give me superstar skills. Like the other day (I guess it was last week, but I don't know why) I started thinking about that star that went nova a few years back -- actually, a lot of years back, but it was only seen here in 1987 -- and when I looked for it an the internet, all the web pages were about how it disproves recent creation. But they're wrong. See my rebuttal here. Maybe physics will someday disprove Biblical (recent) creation, but so far all the attempts are based on invalid assumptions. I haven't seen any robust arguments the other way, either. Maybe God set that up as a joke (Psalm 2:4) to ridicule the atheists and their pseudo-Christian lapdogs.
 

2014 May 5 -- Religion in the Movies

The Catholic Church is an easy target: they have done and said some goofy things over the years. In this flick the Church has a guy whose job is to put the kibosh on some of the goofier stuff still happening, but Hollywood can't let it alone, they make out his superiors as dishonest money grubbers. I suspect that's because the moviemakers are the actual dishonest money grubbers (see "It Takes One to Know One").

Anyway the story revolves around a mystical magical "Aramaic" gospel attested by miracle wounds on the devoted or (in the case of the heroine) anti-devoted followers. Miracles are one of the distinctions of Christian theology to distinguish it from its competitors (see my own take), but they cannot be taken as totally definitive apart from the unchanging truthfulness of God (God Himself said so, see the "Moses Test" in my "BS Detector"), and in this flick it comes off looking demonic. Movie effects people are pretty good at faking events that cannot really happen, and now that we have digital effects, they can do anything -- and often do.

But I know about languages like Aramaic. That was not Aramaic they showed on the screen. We have examples of first-century Aramaic (like the James ossuary), and it basically looks like a variation on modern Hebrew, the letters not quite so square. The letters and text they showed (very briefly) in the movie could have been ancient (pre-exile) Hebrew or Aramaic or some other Semitic language six to twelve centuries before Christ, which we also have a lot of examples (like the Siloam tunnel inscription), but writing like that disappeared centuries before Christ. A text postscript at the end of the flick made reference to the Gospel of Thomas, which they claim the Catholic Church "refuses to recognize" -- with good reason: it was rejected as heretical (fiction) by Christians long before there was a Catholic Church. But the copies of Gospel of Thomas that we have are in Greek, or Coptic using the Greek alphabet (see images in the Wiki article here).

If there really were a previously hidden "gospel" revealed with attesting miracles, we Christians would need to give it due diligence -- and no Church conspiracy could hide it (see my take on conspiracies) -- but it couldn't look at all like what is portrayed in this movie if it were true. This one is fiction (as the flick was careful to say), with no basis in reality, to be trusted about as much as you believe movies about vampires and zombies and fairies and X-men.
 

2014 May 2 -- Earning the Preacher's Pay

"We take care of him in this life, and he takes care of us in the next."


I don't remember where I heard this line -- probably in fiction, because it's slightly Catholic in theology, and fiction tends to run more Catholic than Protestant, and I don't meet many live Catholics who discuss their religion in my hearing -- but it seems to reflect the thinking of most people in churches, including the conservative Protestant variety I frequent.

Church is a voluntary association in America, people pick a church that they are comfortable in, or else they don't go at all. They are willing to spend an hour or two each week (except during hunting season) and pay a small percentage of their income as "fire insurance" provided the preacher doesn't "lay off preaching and gone to meddling," that is, make too many demands on their lives. And the other 166 hours of their week are indistinguishable from their pagan neighbors.

When I was in high school, I heard the line "If Christianity became a crime, would there be enough evidence to convict you?" I resolved right then that there would be. I don't know if I succeeded, but I tried. God called my father to a foreign country as a missionary, so I invited God to call me too. He said no. Pastor? No again. So I did the work God gave me to do (computer programming) and did my Christian thing on the side, like everybody else. After a while (and some more failures at Christianizing my life) I hit on something I can do that nobody else can: write a computer program that translates the Bible. It works, but God did not make me a good salesman, so I have been spectacularly unable to motivate the rest of a team needed to make it happen. But that's another story.

Anyway, because I read my Bible carefully, I have noticed that there's a big gap between what the Bible teaches and what the preachers preach. Some of that distinction I have been calling "Relationshipism" and you can read what I discovered by following the link(s). I now see why God didn't let me be a preacher. I'm too honest for the job. Christianity is the one place where being honest gets you fired. Go figure.

The most important job in any job is to still have the job at the end of the day. The people who pay the pastor's salary -- either directly, like in the church I currently attend, or else indirectly like Catholic and mainline Protestant denominations (where if people quit coming, they still close the church and the pastor is out of a job) -- the people in the pews mostly don't really want to be true disciples of Jesus Christ, they just want to escape the fires of Hell (if it doesn't cost too much). So they are willing to say a few magic words when they join the church or at confirmation or whatever the pastor asks of them, pay their dues, and come once or twice a week, but nothing radical. The Christians in China and Viet Nam and "NAMEstan" (according to novelist Rosenberg, "North Africa, Middle East, and a bunch of 'stans") are radical. They die for being in church. But not here. Yet.

So the preacher's job is to make the people in the pews feel comfortable, so they keep coming back and dropping their money in the plate. "Smile, God loves you," is a typical sermon. Not in the Bible, but practically in every pulpit. It's OK to preach from the Bible, so long as the message is incomprehensible. I'm reading in Isaiah these days. He would have made a good American preacher. Jeremiah was much more negative, and they threw him in jail for it. With few exceptions (Martin Luther King and maybe a couple others), American preachers don't go to jail.

So American preachers preach about God's love. The women love it. To the men it's inscrutable. Did you ever notice how many more women there are in church than men? Women want to be affirmed, and that's what the pastor is paid to do. Men care more about Truth and Justice and Duty. To them, a message of "love" makes no sense."Love" is the selfish demands women make on men to take them away from doing their duty. You see it in guy flicks, and in novels aimed at men, like the Mitch Rapp novels by Vince Flynn. His girlfriend/fiancee/soon-to-be-wife "loves" him so much, she can't bear to have him continue being who he is, which is a spy risking his life to take out terrorists. She demands that he stop doing that. She doesn't make any sacrifices for him or for the country, only Mitch is required to give up everything. Is that what God does to us? Make demands that we give up everything? Umm, yes, but that's not how the preachers tell it.

Anyway, I mentioned this to the local preacher. He didn't reply.
 

2014 April 19 -- Sentimentalism, Another Name for Relationshipism

It seems I'm not the only one seeing the disconnect between modern American Churchianity and the "faith of our fathers" (meaning the Reformers, and before them, the Apostles and Jesus himself, with a few scattered beacons in between). The current issue of ChristianityToday reviews a book by Todd Brennerman, Homespun Gospel: The Triumph of Sentimentality with this insight: "Sentimentalism elevates personal emotional needs -- and their satisfaction through divine help -- to evangelicalism's highest priority." That's almost exactly what I have been calling Relationshipism, except there's no hint in the review that Brennerman (nor anybody else) sees it as driven by personality differences. For some people (MBTI Feelers) the satisfaction of personal emotional needs is indeed their highest priority. The other half of the population (Thinkers) see moral absolutes (truth and justice) as their highest priority. They are two totally different personalities, as different as men and women.

The church in America is run by and for the exclusive benefit of the Feelers; Thinkers are not invited unless they agree to leave their God-given brains and souls at the door before entering. Nobody seems to realize that more and better preaching about God's love is not going to reach them. They want truth, and we are not offering it. The Darwinists are. The Darwinists are wrong, what they have is provably not true, but at least they make a plausible truth-based argument. The Christians do not even try.
 

2014 April 17 -- Ponzi Mentality

"You paid in, you have a right to take out."

So goes the line as people rush to get on SocialSecurity before their chosen President closes the doors.

It's a tax, folks. My property tax bill itemizes public works like schools and the fire and police department. Since I paid in, I should get something from the schools. DUH, I'm too old for that. Since I paid in, I should burn my house down. I should murder somebody, so to take advantage of the county jail I paid into.

I use the local public library. I get more out of it than the taxes I pay to support it. A lot of people don't use the library at all. They are not getting cheated, it's the nature of tax-supported public works that some people benefit, and some do not. Some people -- especially children -- don't pay property taxes, but we do not deprive them of the right to go to school or check books out of the library. I own property in another state, but I get no value at all from the taxes I pay there. It's the way the system works.

SocialSecurity is slightly different, because the benefits are nominally tied to what you paid in. But it's more of a Ponzi scheme. Most people get more out than they paid in. If anybody but the government tried to set something like that up, the perps would already be in jail, and rightly so. Every Ponzi scam must come to an end, because you eventually run out of suckers willing (or in this case, because it's a tax, able) to pay in. In this country it's now official policy to kill them off before they are born. If it weren't for porous borders, the population would be shrinking here like it already is in Europe. Social Security is going bankrupt, so let's quick get in on the take while there's some left to take. That's like saying "There's an arsonist out, so let's quick burn down the house before the fire department gets too busy." The police are cracking down on drugs, so let's quick get hooked on crystal meth before it becomes unavailable. What hogwash.

I have a better idea. Say no to drugs. Say no to government handouts.

Well, I probably won't stop watching library movies and reading their books, at least not while I'm still ambulatory. If my house catches fire, I hope the fire department will come put it out. I still drive on tax-funded streets and highways. I cannot make my own streets. Before I started getting them from the library, I bought $5 movies at Wal-Mart, but I really don't have the budget to do that. I can put out small fires, but what if it gets too big for me to stop it myself? Some fires are also too big for the fire department. I know militia-minded people, but I lack the training and motivation to do my own policing.

Some people lack the intelligence and motivation to make appropriate plans for their own end-of-life care, and that's what SocialSecurity is supposed to pay for. I'm not that stupid. I'm not that greedy. Obama and his cronies want the government to take over the place of God in your life. I'm not of that religion. Socialism and Ponzi schemes (same thing) prey on greed and stupidity. I do not need to sell my soul to that mentality. "The love of money is the root of all evil."

When I try to explain this to people, they don't want to listen. But I try.
 

2014 April 16 -- The Unforgivable Sin, and Other Fictions

Every pastor does it. They have to. Nevermind that they have no support whatsoever in Scripture, their job is to comfort the people who pay their salary. The most important part of any job is to not get fired. I found out the hard way. Pastors in America need to keep people coming to church and paying tithes. Two situations illustrate this principle:

The grieving mother who lost her infant child, the pastor must tell her, "It's OK, the child is in Heaven now." Otherwise she may become bitter and leave the church (American churches have no attraction for the guys, so when the wife leaves, you lose them both). The Catholics and the Lutherans tell the grieving mother that the child was baptized, and therefore went to Heaven. The Mormons even let you baptize somebody in absentia after they die, and it supposedly works. The Presbyterians tell her that the children of the elect are elect. I actually heard one say that. The Baptists tell her that the child had not yet reached the Age of Accountability. I heard that too. None of it has any Scriptural support. I finally figured out what is going on here. They won't -- probably cannot -- say so, but I think God accepts this as an exercise of the Keys of the Kingdom, the authority Jesus gave the Disciples to "bind and release sins" here on earth, which God promised to ratify. The Protestants, for reasons I have not yet figured out, eschew that authority. Maybe they are afraid it's too Catholic. Whatever, each pastor is forgiving (or else denying the existence of, which is the same thing) the sins of the child, so that he can honestly send the dead child off to Heaven for the comfort of the parents. It's all about comfort.

The other one is the so-called "unforgivable sin." Life would be so much simpler if Jesus had not told us about such a thing. "Oh pastor, I cannot be saved, I committed the unforgivable sin." No pastor wants to be responsible for sending such a soul (and possible paying church member) off to Hell, so they all say "You cannot commit the unforgivable sin." If that were true, why did Jesus bother telling us about it? "ALL Scripture," the good Apostle tells us, "is God-breathed and profitable for instruction," and so on. That means that it's important for us to know about the unforgivable sin, which means it's possible today. But the pastor must tell the worried parishoner it's not possible for the guy in his office, or if it is, it can only be by refusing to become a dues-paying member of his church, nevermind that God said no such thing.

As in the case of infant death, I appreciate the predicament the pastor is in, and I suspect God does too. But let's do this with the tools God gave us (like the Keys). Obviously the Keys cannot be used to nullify Scripture. Scripture says nothing at all about the dead child, so the pastor is free to exercise the Keys in overcoming it. But Jesus clearly did define the unforgivable sin, and in context it is attributing to Satan the works of the Holy Spirit in Jesus. I  heard one pastor claim that since Jesus is not physically here, it does not apply to the here and now, but I suspect that's a dangerous stance. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are indeed at work in the world today, so let's not be attributing their work to the Devil. I have heard some preachers come appallingly close to just that. I wouldn't want to be in their shoes on Judgment Day, trying to explain to King Jesus why what they did is not unforgivable, let alone a sin.

But from the pastoral perspective, we have a much better back door by which escape that particular condemnation, and to offer comfort to the penitent fearful of his past errors. "Nobody comes to the Father," Jesus said, "unless I draw them." Paul said something quite similar. God would not do anything so illogical as to call to repentance people who cannot be forgiven (because He promised otherwise), so if you want to serve Jesus Christ as LORD, then God called you and that means you didn't commit the unforgivable sin. In other words, if you are worried about it, there's nothing to worry about. If you don't give a damn, then you might be in deep doo-doo. Don't go there.

Many pastors and others try to redefine the unforgivable sin as dying in unbelief. It is nonsense. Dying is obviously not a sin, it's the consequence of sin. Furthermore, we don't do it to ourselves, God does it to us. Some people try -- and maybe God lets them succeed, and maybe not: I know one person who tried and failed: she is now convinced she had no choice in the matter. But if our death is sin, then God is the sinner, which is nonsense. So is the unbelief sin? I don't think so. Belief is what you think; sin is what you do as a consequence of what you think.  I did find one verse [Rom.14:23] where the Apostle tells us that anything done without faith is sin, but it's still the doing that is the sin, not the lack of faith. Besides, faith is a gift of God, not our own works, and we can hardly be blamed for the lack of a gift that we did not earn. Otherwise we would be saved by works, which the Apostle clearly tells us we are not [Eph.2:9].

I don't have a lot of patience for people who redefine well-defined terms to further their own agenda. When the Darwinists do it, I call it dishonest. When the preachers do it, can I say otherwise? I think not.

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2014 April 12 -- Disaffirming Affirmation

I wouldn't have thought it possible, but there it was. I don't have any solid evidence, just some vague hints that the guy is a Feeler wannabe, not an actual Feeler, but he's a hard-core Relationshipist. He has put his mind and his soul into a blind trust lest it cause him to say something disaffirming. And because he switched off his brain, he cannot follow the logic to see that he actually said something disaffirming. That's sad, in a humorous sort of way.

Relationshipism is a religion in the sense that its adherents believe it's true even though they know it ain't so. They can't live it. I think I made this guy angry once, but it was a very limited and subtle anger. You lose control of yourself when you get angry, so it's the only time anybody can know the Relationshipists are telling the (whole) truth, because in that one moment they violate their consciences and disaffirm you. This guy let out a sack-load of negatives in one email only, then went back to being nice. I think I insulted him by being excessively honest. You can't do that to Feelers.

So his final email to me was a shut-down, a prepared speech that said only generalized nice things about me. However, because he could have said the same thing to almost anybody, he was essentially telling me that I am not worth his time and effort to interact with as a person (that would be a "relationship" as defined by Relationshipists when they are trying to explain why it is not merely affirmation). He really didn't give a darn about me.

If I were a Feeler, I would be insulted, but it's true. I'm a nobody. I have minimal effect on a couple people, and none at all on anybody else. They don't want to take a little time to engage mentally on what I think is important. I'm a nobody.

That's today. I had my "15 minutes of fame" -- twice -- but that's over, and I'm a zero again. And this guy, while trying to say only affirming things, confirmed it. Children throw tantrums because they crave attention, and negative attention is better than none at all. I get none at all. I'm a zero. Maybe it's because I don't throw tantrums.

Every time I say something like this, all the Feelers rush to affirm me (if they notice; most of them don't care), to tell me I'm important to God. They don't know that, God only tells us we are more important to Him than sparrows. But as 0.00000002% of the people who ever lived, you and I are not that much. Live with it. Or lie to yourself, if that makes you feel good. It probably doesn't matter.

"Zero" is an approximation for "0.005" which is probably more accurate. I subsidize the housing for one person, so she calls once a week to gush affirmations on me. She politely asks how my work is coming, but glazes over if I say anything significant. I run the sound board at church, and somebody else would need to do it if I didn't, but mostly they don't think about it. Support roles are like that: you aren't doing your job if people notice. Maybe that's why nobody else wants it. "The people who clean the latrines, clean the latrines," my sister tells me. If you do a disgusting job well, then you will be the one asked to do it. Running sound is not disgusting, it's just not full of notice and affirmation. That's OK, I can handle being a nobody. It's because I'm not a Feeler, so affirmation is not the most important value in my life.

But it was kind of comical, getting that confirmed by a Relationshipist.
 

2014 April 7 -- Faith Is Doing (Religion), Not Relationship

I never wake up in the morning thinking about Scripture, but there it was: Hebrews 11. I knew it's the "by faith" chapter, but I did not realize (until now) how hostile it is to Relationshipism. Maybe that's why nobody* -- Relationshipists, all of them -- ever preaches from it. Relationshipism is the man-made religion, a human tradition, based on the phrase "relationship, not religion," which is not in the Bible.

Anyway, I turned on the light and got out my Bible and looked at all those "by faith" lines. There are 18 of them in the chapter. The first possibly excepted (but I don't think so), every one of them is in the form "By faith somebody did something." This is not a mental activity ("somebody thought or believed...") and definitely not "somebody was in a relationship." Four of them (five if you count the first) are miracle: God created the universe, Enoch went to Heaven without dying, Sarah gave birth to Isaac, Israel crossed the Red Sea, and the walls of Jericho fell. All the rest, more than two thirds of them, are ordinary people doing ordinary (perhaps brave or heroic, but not miraculous) things "by faith."

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines "religion" as "the belief in a god or in a group of gods, an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods." The pastor I most recently heard the "relationship, not religion" line from likes to define "religion" as man-made, something you do. I think both are correct, but incomplete. Religion is what you do that is based primarily on what you know to be true in some deep fundamental sense. Everybody has a religion that governs how they behave -- even the atheists, except when they describe what they believe is really true, "god" is not part of it. So the Bible defines religion that way:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. -- James 1:27 (oNIV)
This is what you do because of what is true, and God accepts it.

This pastor admitted that the "man-made" part of his definition does not really distinguish Christians from the other religions: everybody -- including the atheists -- believes that their own religion is really true, and all the others are fabrications. What distinguishes Christianity from the other religions is that our "really true" is based on history reported by eyewitnesses. Nobody else (except the Jews) has that. We might argue about the quality of their reports, but they were real people, and we know people, so we can evaluate what they reported. Nobody else has that. Nobody else dares to have it.

Hebrews 11 lists 17 things people (four of them with the obvious help of God) did because of what is really true. In other words, it defines "faith" as doing things. It's the nature of Christian religion, according to that chapter. That's why the Relationshipists can't preach that chapter. It's not alone, the Bible is full of God telling people to do (or not do) something. There are a few places where God tells us to believe something -- what we do is indeed based on what we know is true, and Jesus pointed out that everybody does what is in their nature to do -- but mostly it's a bunch of do's and don'ts. Doing those things does not "save" us and get us to Heaven (God alone does that, through the finished work of Jesus on the Cross), but a habit of not doing those things certainly means your eternal destiny is elsewhere.

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2014 April 4 -- Relationshipism Gone Bad

A few years ago a line in an otherwise forgetable movie caught me up short. "Love commands; it does not obey," they said. That's not "Christian" love, I said (and I still believe it), but I'm beginning to think the "Christians" wouldn't know it. As you know, I've been reading Vince Flynn novels from time to time, and I just finished #4 in his Mitch Rapp series. His girlfriend soon-to-be fiancee is getting awfully demanding, essentially insisting that the hero Rapp give up everything he is, for her sole benefit. The day after I finished the book, I was watching a Superman movie, and Lois Lane is essentially making the same implicit demand of Superman. I see a lot of it in movie females -- at least the movies by male writers. Neither these fictional women nor their authors are detectable Christians, so that's probably realistic, but I live in a world where the "Christians" are mostly indistinguishable from the pagans. That means that the "Christians" are doing this kind of thing too. I know some of them personally.

My friend was arguing a different point with me, and proposed a situation where his wife asked him if she looks fat in this dress. I think he meant it to sound hypothetical, but the particulars were far from general, like it really happened to him, probably more than once. He tried to say something to her both true and affirming, but that's not what she was asking for. She was not asking his opinion about the dress, she knows far better than any guy does how it looks on her. Rather she knows he does not want to lie to her, and that's exactly what she wants him to do, to show that he loves her more than his own self and is willing to give up what he values most (which as a Thinker is truth) to give her what she values most (which as a Feeler is affirmation). She wants him to say "Wave your arms around, honey, I can't see you in that dress," or maybe "You don't need an umbrella with that dress, because the rain won't hit you." Her "love" commands, and it's very demanding indeed.

Relationshipism is very selfish like that.

So I wonder, is this the kind of "love" we want to be telling people that God is? God is indeed very demanding, and unlike the women of fiction and real life, God has a right to be that way, but somehow I don't think that's what the preachers mean when they say "God is love." It's certainly not what the Beloved Apostle meant when he first penned that phrase in his epistle, but neither did he mean it the other way around (as usually taken by those who quote the verse), that we have the right to make demands on God. I think we need a different word, a word with less cultural baggage, to express the self-sacrifice that God first showed to us, and now rightly demands from us. But I don't know what that word or words might be.
 

2014 April 2 -- Free Speech vs Heterophobia

My friend the retired hospital administrator still reads the WallStreetJournal, and from time to time he tells me about something they reported, or (a couple times now) he just gives me the issue and lets me read it myself. Scientists imagining that they can "Peek at Birth of Universe" supposedly billions of years ago is humorous enough (my friend and I both have reason to believe it's much more recent than that), but some of the other items are interesting in their own right.

Inside, on the "Opinion" page under a whiney piece by Romney concerning Obama's failures, and another whiney piece against the Democrats opposing their own Prez, is a fascinating piece about a certain New Mexico photographer who chose not to photograph a lesbian wedding and fought it through the state courts, and it's now before King SCOTUS. The item was written by a couple of lawyers who happen to favor bogus "marriage" but see the photographer's plight as a case of free speech.

Unlike catering and hotel accommodations, photography is in fact an expression of the photographer's opinions. The lawyer authors could have made the case more strongly: Copyright law protects photographs; it does not protect sandwich trays and hotel rooms and which seat in the bus you can sit in. When you hire a photographer to shoot your wedding, each picture you get back is clearly marked "Copyright" and you are forbidden by Federal and international law from making copies of it. There is nothing inherently intellectual about renting out a ballroom or pouring lemonade, but taking pictures is an expression of the photographer's mind and thoughts. The authors pointed out that compelled speech is not free speech, as already decided by the Court (Wooley v. Maynard 1977), and besides, who would want to risk their wedding on a photographer who might "accidentally" damage the negatives?

No matter how King SCOTUS decides this case -- nevermind that they have always been far more eager to find or invent free speech rights than they are to find freedom of religion rights (both given to us in the same First Amendment) -- if you are a photographer or a free-lance journalist, and you don't want to do bogus "weddings" that have no place in your religion nor theirs (homosexual behavior is inherently unfit to survive in Darwinian theology), all you need to do is clearly advertize your services as "a personal expression of the celebration of a religious event," and then accept their money (paid up front in such cases where you personally disagree with their theology), and they get what they get. They won't like the results, but you disclosed it up front, and they paid for it (in advance). Then give them photos that accurately reflect your opinion of the event. That opinion is what they are paying for, and that opinion is unconditionally protected by free speech laws. You also are not violating your conscience in saying so.

Make no mistake, the plaintiffs in this case were not harmed by the photographer refusing to photograph their ceremony (there are over 100 photographers in the Albuquerque area, many of whom would happily accept their money), they are only expressing their right to bigoted anti-Christian heterophobia, and they happen to have a growing, vocal minority of public opinion and pretty much all the lower courts on their side (today). We are going to see more of this animus (isn't that a great word? I got it from one of the lawyers for the bigots, the one who convinced SCOTUS to overturn the will of the people). Mostly free speech wins; freedom of religion loses. It's a tough world, but the established religion in this country has a long way to go before they catch up to China and Saudi Arabia and Nigeria and North Korea in persecuting Christians and firebombing their homes and churches -- oh wait, that already happened in Waco "What A Cook-Out" Texas a few years back (the same political party as is currently in power did the bombing). Like I said, it gets worse before it gets better.

PS, the photographer lost her plea before the king. It's not about justice, it's whoever has the smartest lawyers.
 

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