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Boy George and Jerry Falwell talk androgyny on ‘Face the Nation,’ 1984


 
In the early ‘80s, the USA had a minor collective shitfit about blurred gender divisions. The subject emerged into the mass consciousness almost out of nowhere—all of a sudden, three mainstream movies had cross dressing as their central themes, and Michael Jackson and other androgyny-friendly musicians were experiencing huge pop chart success. Obviously, genderfuck had been a part of rock culture for a long time—it was a decade earlier that David Bowie and Lou Reed made career moves of conspicuous bisexual posturing, and then of course there were the New York Dolls—but MTV pumping Duran Duran, Haysi Fantayzee, and the Belle Stars into millions of Midwestern living rooms newly wired for cable was an altogether different level of cultural penetration.

The appearance of artists like Annie Lennox, Dee Snider and Pete Burns definitely startled a lot of normals, but the figure who, all by himself, racked up by far the high score of shat Middle-American underpants was Boy George of Culture Club. He was such a harmless and goofy figure, but 30 years ago, a lot of people found him genuinely threatening. DM’s Martin Schneider recently made a well-deserved poke at the Midwestern response to Culture Club’s Colour By Numbers tour. As I was a teenaged Clevelander at the time, I can personally vouch for the truth of that piece. A lot of “grownups” fully lost their shit about Boy George.
 

I still don’t get what the big deal was.

Of course, the national news media had to explore the issue for baffled masses in grave danger of seeing the totally artificial social construct to which they were accustomed fall slightly apart on a superficial level. Leslie Stahl, for one, explored “The Feminization of America” on Face the Nation in 1984.
 

 
I love how “the feminizing of society” is illustrated with clips of men doing laundry and caring for infants. Who, WHO I ASK YOU, will save this degenerate civilization from the horror of fathers acting like parents? But as the segment continued, I found myself astonished that the discussion was civil, adult, and not completely trivializing. Megatrends author John Naisbitt offers some perfectly sensible if perhaps simplified insights, and then JERRY FALWELL of all people is genial, respectful, and, though obviously faaaaaaaar from progressive in his views, he’s not totally insane and hateful. The way he was towards the end of his life, I honestly expected him to do some bonkers shit like blame a tornado on Yentl. Imagine a similar conversation as it would happen on Hannity, McLaughlin, or The Five today, and weep for what we’ve lost in just 30 years.
 

 
Apologies, by the way, for the huge glitch in the middle of Falwell’s comments. Not that it’s likely they were illuminating or anything, but I did try to locate an alternate video, and turned up nothing. It’s probably not that great of a loss—in part three, Falwell predictably, and in scripturally unconvincing terms, goes on to defend the American post-WWII gender status quo as God’s eternal and ineffable will, and is called out on his blatant cultural and class biases by co-panelist/actual smartest person in the room Benjamin DeMott. But the most intelligent and moving comments in the whole segment come from Boy George himself. The insights he proffers in his one-on-one interview with Stahl remain relevant today, and fully make up for my disappointment that he and Falwell weren’t on the live panel together. I generally dislike the Internet’s abuse of the adjective “epic,” but god damn, THAT would have been a valid use.
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘God’s cartoonist’: The ongoing bizarre cult following of Jack T. Chick

angels chick tract
 
As a child in the Bible Belt I somehow missed out on Jack T. Chick’s weird fire-and-brimstone religious comic books. I was sporadically taken to a pretty low-key, boringly mainstream Methodist Church where his tracts would have been viewed as kind of embarrassing. As an adult I heard people with evangelical Christian backgrounds bonding over the nightmarish anxiety Chick comics had caused them as children. Fundamentalist churches made stacks of these proselytizing, emotionally charged, conspiracy-rich, racist, homophobic, anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic, anti-pagan, anti-feminist, Islamophobic comics available to very young kids. Since 1961 over 235 different tracts have been published, selling almost a billion copies. They have been banned in many countries, including Canada, as “hate literature.”
 
chick deveil
 
Despite censorship, the comics have been read by a staggering number of people all over the world. Youth ministers hand them out on the street, and (presumably non-English speaking) missionaries distribute them overseas, spreading quirkiness like the Pope being the earthly manifestation of Satan. Someone once tried to hand me one in a bowling alley in England! People like Exene Cervenka were ahead of their time in recognizing Chick comics’ (and other Bible tracts’) value as collectible underground folk art and pop culture artifacts. The early X song “Beyond and Back” was taken from the title of a Chick tract. The online Jack T. Chick Museum of Fine Art contains an exhaustive collection of his titles, neatly summarized as:

He steadfastly exposes The Conspiracy of Catholics, Masons, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, New Agers, Rock & Rollers, and any other group the devil might use to damn your soul. Chick also offends Jews and Muslims with previews of their fiery futures in hell (but only because he wants to save them). The more taboo a topic, the more likely you’ll see it covered in a Chick tract!

Curator and tireless researcher Kurt Kuersteiner (who used to have a punk radio show) has written the definitive book about the worldwide phenomenon, The Art of Jack T. Chick, and in 2008 produced the documentary, God’s Cartoonist: The Comic Crusade of Jack Chick, which can be found in its entirety here. You don’t get a glimpse of the notoriously private man himself, since he is so convinced that people want to kill him (he’s probably right) that he lives in seclusion and hasn’t given an interview since 1975 (his first and last). The earnest sheer batshittery of his close associates is like watching a train wreck. According to Rotten Tomatoes’ synopsis of the film:

...while some Christians distribute the tracts in hopes of saving their fellow man from eternal damnation, secular fans collect them strictly for their entertainment value; the comics are so vividly drawn and outrageously over the top that they at times transcend their own intentions to achieve a sort-of grotesque self-parody. Eventually, the tracts became such highly valued pop-culture commodities that they were presented in galleries nationwide, and earned a permanent collection in the Smithsonian.


Kurt also perpetrated an awesome April Fool’s prank to demonstrate the censor-happy disapproval that Chick’s work has inspired.
 

The trailer for ‘God’s Cartoonist: The Comic Crusade of Jack Chick’:
 

Above, an episode of Boing Boing TV featuring Syd Garon and Rodney Ascher’s animated take on the Chick “classic” Somebody Goofed. This is Jack T. Chick in a nutshell. (Reportedly he’s seen this and liked it).

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Leave a comment
The most racist preacher in America?


 
Is Brother Donny Reagan of the Happy Valley Church of Jesus Christ in Johnson City, Tennessee, the “most racist pastor in America”? This is what The American Jesus blog is wondering. Surely he’s one of the dumbest.

Brother Reagan begins his remarks in the video below by informing his congregation that he is probably “going to make some people mad.” He’s apparently not self-aware enough to realize that some other people are going to simply point and laugh at him, but I believe it’s safe to say that self-awareness is not a quality the good Lord bestowed upon Donny boy here in any appreciable amount.

“Today we have so much fussing and stewing about this segregation of white and colored and everything. Why don’t they leave it alone? Let it be the way God made it.”

Wait, what?

“There is a move in the message, of blacks marrying whites, whites marrying blacks. And folks think that is alright, but you know, my God still has nationalities outside the city.’

“Nationalities outside the city”! I LOL’d at that line. Brother Donny’s congregation, clearly consisting of low IQ buffoons like himself, shout “Amen!” as Reagan reads from his prepared remarks. I wonder how these intellectually challenged folks vote, don’t you? [Me, neither, that doesn’t even qualify as a rhetorical question does it?]

“Hybreeding, hybreeding, oh how terrible. They hybreed the people. You know it’s a big molding pot. I’ve got hundreds of precious colored friends that’s borned again Christians. But on this line of segregation, hybreeding the people. What, tell me what fine cultured, fine Christian colored woman would want her baby to be a mulatto by a white man? No sir, it’s not right.”

At 2:19, Brother Donny makes an honest admission:

“Now friends I’m not very smart.”

Um, that’s right you inbred cracker fuck calling for MORE INBREEDING!!!!

DNA doesn’t work that way, Bro.

Dumb Donny goes on to say:

“If God wanted a man brown, black, white, whatever color he wanted him, that God’s creation. That’s the way he wanted it.”

Uh, you heard the man… As the Firesign Theater once said “Good lord, a stiff idiot is the worst kind.”
 

 
Via Christian Nightmares

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Unserious answers to serious questions from creationists
02.05.2014
12:58 pm

Topics:
American-style (Republican) Christianity
Science/Tech

Tags:

Ken Ham, Bill Nye
 
After the big Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate last night, Matt Stopera at Buzzfeed asked a bunch of sincere creationists to write down a question they would want to ask believers in evolution to answer and then pose while holding those questions up to the camera.

Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon and Beth Spencer of Lawyers, Guns, and Money took up the challenge and today attempted to give some brief, somewhat disrespectful answers to those questions. Marcotte’s answers, while dismissive, were somewhat on point; Spencer elected to answer with pure humor.
 
Creationist
Q: What mechanism has science discovered that evidences an increase of genetic information seen in any genetic mutation or evolutionary process?

Marcotte: I had the answer in a few seconds to this stunning question she put to we reality-based folks. There were also a bunch of people spouting nonsense they don’t understand about the second law of thermodynamics. This has also been addressed, though creationists just ignore it.

What really kills me is how smug these dumbfucks are about being dumbfucks. It really proves that one of the side effects of stupid is you really have no idea how stupid you are.

Spencer: What?
 
Creationist
Q: If we come from monkeys then why are there still monkeys?

Marcotte: If you come from your parents, why do you still have parents? If that sounds like a dumb question, consider that it’s exactly the same question.

Spencer: Because all this poo isn’t going to fling itself and creationists tire easily.
 
Creationist
Q: How can you look at the world and not believe someone created/thought of it? It’s amazing!

Marcotte: Again, it’s a useful moment to consider sexual reproduction and how it works. Despite the fact that I have a very specific set of features that are unique and amazing, it doesn’t mean my parents carefully crafted me. Amazing things can come from unconscious processes. Anyway, there’s many variations of this, often centering around the notion that the Big Bang and other processes (by the way, their man Ken Ham actually denies that the Big Bang happened, so they aren’t even keeping their own bullshit straight) have to have someone who started them. But, of course, that provokes a curious person to ask, “If everything that exists must have an intelligent force that created it, then who made God? And who made the person that made God? And who made them?” But these are incurious people. Indeed, one of their main points of incuriousity is regarding the people they are supposedly opposed to, “evolutionists”.

Spencer: No, perky lady, the word you’re looking for is “amazeballs.” Please re-write your sign.
 
Creationist
Q: Why do evolutionists/secularists/humanists/non-god-believing people reject the idea of their [sic] being a creator god but embrace the concept of intelligent design from aliens or other extra-terrestrial sources?

Marcotte: Just making shit up because actually bothering to learn anything about these various groups might cause him to actually reconsider his opinions.

Spencer: They don’t. Next question.
 
Creationist
Q: How do you explain the sunset if their [sic] is no god?

Marcotte: It’s true, this one is a stumper. Some say that the sunset is caused because the sun god who rides his chariot through the sky every day crash lands on the ground, only to be reborn in the sunset, gently expelled by Mother Earth in a ray of light every morning. Some say the sun is a giant fireball God throws across the sky that explodes every night. Scientists clearly have no explanation, which goes to show that they are full of shit.

Spencer: If you get to credit god with sunsets, can I finally get everybody to admit that Satan created the raisin? I look at raisins and I am certain THERE IS NO GOD.
 
Creationist
Q: Are you scared of a Divine Creator?

Marcotte: A little bit, but on the list of fictional characters I’m afraid of, he falls really low. Way below Amy from Gone Girl, but probably higher than Elizabeth Bennett.

Spencer: Yes. John Waters is terrifying.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Kooky, paranoiac Christian anti-Commie masterpiece: ‘If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?’
01.31.2014
03:56 am

Topics:
American-style (Republican) Christianity
Kooks
Movies

Tags:

If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?
 
In 1971 Estus W. Pirkle and Ron “Mesa of Lost Women” Ormond teamed up to make the deliriously apocalyptic If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? Pirkle was a Mississippi-based Baptist preacher who wrote several—books? tracts? whatever—about Hell, Heaven, and the Communist takeover of America, and Ormond is credited with directing the movie and also writing the screenplay, which was based on Pirkle’s words and narrated by Pirkle himself. In my brain Pirkle is the auteur here, but Ormond’s demented skill at concocting gruesomely vivid cut scenes is not to be denied.

If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? is just under an hour long, and I would reckon that just about every single minute of it features a mind-boggling image of Communist oppression of Christianity in America or, at the very least, a garish dress pattern or two. The movie suggests a Chick Tract as directed by a redneck Ed Wood—if that description doesn’t make you want to hit “play,” I’m not sure what will.
 
Estus W. Pirkle
Rev. Estus W. Pirkle
 
The title of the movie comes from Jeremiah 12:5: “If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out, Then how can you compete with horses? If you fall down in a land of peace, How will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?” In Pirkle’s vision, the footmen and horsemen (which he references incessantly) represent the Communist overlords of a totalitarian America that is about to happen any minute—or is already happening? Pirkle’s not super clear about what’s documented fact and what’s a likely outcome if the Christ-hating collectivists get their way.

Pirkle sincerely expects there to be a mass conflagration in the United States “within the next 24 months” that will result in “tens of millions of Americans” being “shot down like flies in our towns. Many of you listening to me today are going to see hundreds of dead bodies on the streets of your hometowns.” (Hmmm, are flies really ever “shot down”?)
 
Horsemen
Eek! The dread Communist horsemen!
 
The movie really has to be seen to be believed. The narrative is episodic, insofar as it frequently returns to Pirkle’s own fervent face as he describes the horrors to come, before cutting away to yet another schlocky scene of bloodthirsty Communists torturing innocent Christians and whatnot. The Communists in Pirkle’s mindset are remarkably well organized, although why they use horses to get around in 1971 is anybody’s guess (because Jeremiah 12:5 says so!). One of the terrors the Communists will impose is the mandatory consumption of “lectures” in which phrases like “Communism is good! .... Christianity is stupid!” are repeated over and over again. If that phraseology rings a bell, it’s probably because Negativland used audio samples from the movie for their signature song “Christianity is Stupid” and their 1989 opus Helter Stupid. (If you want to see that bit of business, go to minute 34.)
 
Bamboo shoots
Time for the old bamboo eardrum torture
 
If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? is awash with slow pans over the bodies of massacred Christians—as always, the evangelical proclivity to entertain visions of horrifying violence is right up there with that of any atheist. (Of course, it’s all worth it if it keeps the flock on the straight and narrow.) In the communistic society to come, a moustachio’d teacher insists, “I personally believe that premarital sex is necessary” before elucidating “the seven erotic zones of passion in every woman.” (Dagnabbit, I must have missed that class at the local indoctrination center!) Later, a dastardly Commie punctures a child’s ears with bamboo shoots and—oh, for Pete’s sake, just watch it. You will be amazed.
 

 
Here’s Negativland’s “The Mashin’ of the Christ” video, set to the tune of “Christianity is Stupid”

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Evangelicals and the atom bomb: Are you ready for the great atomic power?
01.15.2014
05:24 am

Topics:
American-style (Republican) Christianity
Belief

Tags:

atomic pamphlet
 
My only actively religious family (my paternal grandparents and their copious siblings) are staunch, old-time religion Evangelicals. And though their church is marked by a fear of women, queer folks, Catholics, and virtually anyone outside of their own insular community, there are some unexpected strengths in Evangelical culture. For example, we have a very, very literal belief in the apocalypse, which we embrace with utter joy. While perhaps not an overly healthy perspective on life, our belief in the imminent end of the world tends to give us a devil-may-care, come-what-may kind of insanity that is not without its charm. It’s an oversimplification, but the old joke, “What’s a redneck’s final words?” (“Hey! Watch this!”), has some grounding in our cultural reality. We’re just not that worried—the Lord will protect us until He’s ready to take us home.

I cannot tell you how how many family meals have been graced with the blithest of reminders, “Jesus is comin’ back, you know. Any day now. You want some more potatoes?” It’s why we’re obsessed with Israel—gotta’ get them Jews back to the homeland so the world can end! It’s why we panic over major changes and/or progress—it’s obviously a sign, and we have to warn those strayed from the flock! It’s why we tend toward disaster-based scenarios, often leaning libertarian and perusing bomb shelter catalogs while cleaning our guns. The world is going to end, and we want to be ready. (Before our souls ascend, of course.)

So I wasn’t at all surprised when (during one of my regular investigative searches on atomic culture), I found these old religious pamphlets using nuclear warfare as Biblical fodder. Nowadays, we’re less concerned with the bomb itself, but fears of warfare (nuclear, chemical, or otherwise) have always been a popular theory for Evangelical catastrophists. Moreover, I’m very familiar with what may be the most resilient artifact of Evangelical nuclear scare—The Louvin Brothers’ 1952 gospel classic, “Great Atomic Power.” In addition to being a truly killer song, it’s got the “all doom, no gloom” sentiment down pat. I advise you to have a listen to the track at the end—your very soul may depend on it.
 
atomic pamphlet
 
atomic pamphlet
 
atomic pamphlet
 

 
Via Ptak Science Books

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Christ-teens battle porno demon in the movie of the year!
01.03.2014
08:06 am

Topics:
American-style (Republican) Christianity
Movies
Sex

Tags:

PORNO DEMON!
 
In an amusingly fifteen-years-too-late effort to ride the crest of the Blair Witch wave, Christian “comedian” Rich Praytor has made a found footage style scare movie about a porno magazine unleashing a demon into a church youth group’s overnight lock in. If you’re not familiar with the concept, the film’s press release is happy to help:

During the lock in, members of the youth group are “locked in” the church to have fun, play games, and get to know one another. In spite of the youth pastor’s attempt to intervene, the boys must come to terms with the pornographic images themselves in order to be truly freed from the demon.

Furthermore:

The demon is a metaphor for the true damage pornography can have in the lives of youth. There are never graphic or pornographic images shown in the movie. The producers of the film felt that it was important to tell a Christian story about real issues but to keep the images family friendly so anyone could be entertained without fear of exposure to questionable pictures.

THE DEMON IS A METAPHOR YOU GUYS! And THAT’S how you know this film is going to be smart. In keeping with the pimp-it-like-it’s-1999 theme, the film’s site has an about page that jacks (heh) Blair Witch‘s fake viral angle:

In the spring of 2010, a church lock in at First Baptist Church was organized by Pastor Chris.  In the first hour of the lock in, one of the students, Justin, had an unusual “incident” and was “inconsolable.”

It was reported that he calmed down and kept to himself for the remainder of the event. 

Two days after the lock in, Justin reportedly broke down to his parents that he experienced something “evil” at the lock in.  He also claimed he captured everything on tape.

After watching the footage, the parents met with church leaders to discuss criminal charges they were considering filing against the church for child endangerment, neglect and torture. 

A special hearing was immediately organized to find out what was on the tape. 

Two pastors, six elders and an unknown number of overseers met at an undisclosed location to view the footage of the tape.  It was reported that two of the elders resigned their duties immediately after viewing the footage.

Pastor Chris, after viewing the footage, turned in his immediate resignation to the church board. 

A undisclosed settlement was made between the church and families involved. 

The footage was officially released in May of 2013 in full cooperation with the families and individuals involved.

Holy Moly Pictures would like to thank the families and the First Baptist Church for their cooperation in releasing the footage to the public.

This is starting to seem like a lot more work than is merited just to keep teenaged boys from touching their penises—it merits mentioning that The Bible contains no prohibition against masturbating. Also, a porno magazine? Isn’t that more than a little quaint? Anyone who wants to look at pictures of naked people can do so for free on his or her phone.

Praytor has a more than glancing familiarity with beating (heh) dead-horse tropes. Here he is keenly observing, perhaps in homage to the comedy stylings of the early 1980s, that white people and black people are OMG LIKE TOTALLY DIFFERENT!
 

 
Tell me you laughed once during that.

And so here we see, as we do time and time again, that American Christianity’s great power lies not in spiritual redemption, but in turning every unique and powerful cultural expression it appropriates into a lame and bathetic puddle of insipid goo. These are the people who claim sole possession of the spark of the divine, and yet they can make nothing that doesn’t utterly blow. You’ve waited long enough for the money shot (heh) - here’s the trailer, in all its lookin’-like-it-was-shot-on-VHS glory. Smart money bets that the totally predictable morphing effect at the end ate about 90% of the film’s budget, as it costs very little to get kids to run through hallways and yell a lot.
 

 
You can avoid seeing The Lock In and just go on with what you were already going to be doing anyway starting on January 9th.

Via Film Drunk

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Which FBI public service announcement is the most worthless? YOU decide!

The X-Files
The only feds I’ll ever love…
 
Listen people, you probably know me well enough by now to realize that I’m no austerity hawk! I’m as red (not to be confused with “red state,” I mean commie) as they come, and I say tax the rich like they deserve it (they do), and spend all their money on comprehensive social programs, beautiful, harmonious infrastructure, and an efficient, innovative public sector! I’m just saying that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is not the best example of a that ideal infrastructure, that’s all!

So when Paul Ryan’s latest baby, The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, promised not only to avoid $700 million in FBI budget cuts in 2014 (the FBI’s budget request for 2013 was $8.2 billion), but also, to increase FBI funding… well, I have to wonder what they’re spending it on. And before you say, “OMG, Amber! They’re spending it on super-secret important spy stuff they’re using to keep the free world safe from terrorism,” let’s take a little look at the public face of the FBI.

I’m not sure how much these FBI public service announcements cost, but I guarantee it is too damn much, so let’s play a little game! Let’s watch my top three picks from the FBI YouTube channel (all of which are made in conjunction with private industry), and we’ll let the readers of Dangerous Minds pick which one is the worst! The FBI is obviously Internet-savvy, so I’m sure they’ll appreciate the feedback and re-tool their YouTube presence accordingly!

So what will it be? The evils of counterfeit fashion (as if name-brand stuff isn’t made in sweatshops, too)? The evils of illegal downloading, which is just “not cool”? Or “cyber-bullying,” because apparently it’s cool if kids are harassed, as long as it’s not online? Cast your vote now!
 

 

 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Bad Religion’s ‘Christmas Songs’ is surprisingly reverent
12.02.2013
07:03 am

Topics:
American-style (Republican) Christianity
Music
Punk

Tags:


 
It has begun, as it does creepingly earlier every year - “The Holidays” are here. But in spite of the ecumenical plural, we all know that really just means “Christmastime,” the single most alienating time of year not to be a part of the majority. As a Jewish kid, this was the annual month-long reminder that I wasn’t really a member of The America Club, and as an atheist adult, it’s no less disaffecting. And in recent years, with bloviating jackass loudmouth discord-sowers like John Gibson and Bill O’Reilly ginning up the mass delusion that a “war” against the American hegemonic religion’s single most deeply penetrative auto-fellatiothon could possibly exist - in order to inflame the ignorant passions of Tea Party shitheads and sell books, because values - it’s become an unbearable time of breathless news reports about awful, AWFUL secularists mortally wounding the oh-so-persecuted majority by offering inclusive greetings at cash registers and ruthlessly denying them their totally unconstitutional City Hall creches.

Sometimes it’s enough to make me wish the “War On Christmas” were real and literal, if only just to see all the tacky plastic decorations get blowed up real good. I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe… Inflatable Rudolphs on fire off the shoulder of Orion…

But as thoroughly obnoxious as the inescapable cultural takeover of chintzy display and mandatory cheer is for six goddamn weeks a year, it’s impossible to hate on everything about Christmas. Anyone who doesn’t love gingerbread, I’m not sure I want to know. Horatio Sanz’s wonderful Christmas song from SNL justifies that man’s entire existence. Thirsty Dog Brewing’s Christmas Ale is pretty awesome. And it should go without saying FUCK YEAH, RANKIN-BASS SPECIALS.

And music. Lovely, lovely music. Yeah, there’s a plurality of dreck in the Christmas song canon - wherever there’s an obscene pigpile of cash to be hauled in, you’re going to have plenty of dross to sift through. But babies, bathwater, something something - would you want to live in a world without the Bach Cantatas, the Hallelujah Chorus, or David Bowie and Bing Crosby singing “The Little Drummer Boy?” You would not. Yeah, stuff like “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Santa Baby” is horrid moneygrubbing hackwork that can go pound sand, but the older, more liturgically-slanted Christmas music encompasses some of the greatest musical craft of all time - it was inspired, after all, by someone’s idea of the divine.

Which brings us around to how punk stalwarts Bad Religion have joined Il Volo, Kelly Clarkson, and Susan Boyle in releasing a Christmas album this year. Though I’ve never been a super huge fan of the band’s fairly hidebound hardcore singalongs, I’m not one to hate on them, either, so this news intrigued me. The band’s lyricist and leader Greg Graffin is a man I’ve always abidingly respected - an outspoken atheist with iconoclastic left-wing views, absolutely one of rock music’s great public intellectuals. Would this be a powerful, stinging indictment of the Christmas-Commercial Complex I’ve spent a lifetime growing to despise? It couldn’t possibly be a lamely punked-up novelty covers album a la Me First And The Gimme Gimmes, could it? As it turns out, and much to my further curiosity, the track listing is loaded with reverential, traditional songs. So, um, HUH?

And so I listened. It immediately became clear that this would indeed be WAY better than a Me First type one-dimensional joke; Graffin’s expressively gruff voice is well-suited to the material. But still, the first half of the album actually alternates greatness with meh - the opener, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” is really, really nice, but “O Come All Ye Faithful” sounds like a punk rock cover of that song conceived by any old random person with a rudimentary understanding of how punk rock is supposed to sound. “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is propulsive, emotively forceful, and just plain old FANTASTIC, probably the best thing on the album, then “White Christmas” comes on and sounds exactly how you’re already imagining it if you’ve ever heard even one Bad Religion song.
 

Bad Religion - “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”

Bad Religion - “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”

It picks up. From the much more inventive than expected “Little Drummer Boy” to a straight but admirably executed take on “Angels We Have Heard On High,” the band’s energy never flags, the riffs’ catchiness holds the material aloft, and nothing disappoints. But the finishing move seems like a copout to me. It’s the twenty-year-old song “American Jesus.” A blisteringly ironic excoriation of that xenophobic, destructive, American-exceptionalist form of Christianity that any thinking human should rightly loathe, for sure, but still, heard it twenty years ago and it’s not really even slightly a Christmas song. Andy Wallace remixed it though, so yay?

So the Grinch in me leaves unsatisfied. Am I asking too much of this? Am I demanding that someone else’s album express my agenda? But given the intellects, histories and reputations of the members of this band, am I so wrong for wishing it had just absolutely killed my face off? In the end, it’s a much better than average collection of punk rock Christmas covers. I have every confidence that people who’re more FUCK YEAH about Bad Religion than I am will absolutely love this, and they probably won’t be the only ones. Its tracks will surely assume their rightful place on Christmas mix CDs for decades to come.

Here’s Bad Religion live, from a French television broadcast earlier this year.
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Oh Jesus: ‘Left Behind’ author’s group behind apocalyptic Tea party shutdown?


 
For those of you either too young to remember them—or perhaps not raised in the Bible Belt—among the very top best-selling books of the 1970s were Hal Lindsey’s The Late, Great Planet Earth and its sequel Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth. These books are literalist readings of the Book of Revelation, presenting a fanciful, goofy paranoiac eschatology comparing vaguely worded end-time prophecies written over 2000 years ago (and reworded an unknown number of times since) with (then) current events. They’re about as intellectually serious as Chick tracts.

Nevertheless, The Late, Great Planet Earth was marketed as non-fiction Bible prophecy predicting and decoding last days milestones—the USSR invading Israel, the coming of the Anti-Christ who would rule over the European Union, famine, plagues, etc, etc, etc—before the Rapture and the subsequent return of Jesus. One of Lindsey’s main themes was that Jesus would come back “one generation” after the state of Israel was established, so by the 1970s, this was a very hot topic in what we now refer to as red states. (If you have ever wondered WHY Southern evangelical Christians are so obsessed with Israel, wonder no more, Hal Lindsey’s books were—and still would be, although I think people forget this—a huge, huge part of this strain of American Christianity. It was there already, but he brought it to prime-time, so to speak and amplified it culturally.)

Hal Lindsey’s books (co-authored by Carole C. Carlson) rivaled the sales of titles like Jaws, The Godfather and The Exorcist as the books most likely to be read by people who didn’t read very much. These books were staples of nearly every garage sale back then. Apparently over 28 million copies of The Late, Great Planet Earth were sold.

Among the known fans of Lindsey’s books in the 1970s was California Governor Ronald Reagan.

In December 6, 1983, during an Oval Office interview, Reagan informed two stunned reporters from People magazine:

“There were times in the past when we thought the end of the world was coming, but never anything like this.”

Tea party nitwit Pat Boone was one of Reagan’s closest friends. He said of the President:

“I believe that Ronald Reagan would make no decision that would run counter to his understanding of God’s direction and what God says is going to happen and what God says he wants to happen.”

(Reagan said this of Boone to a group of evangelicals at the kickoff of his reelection campaign: “And Pat Boone stood up, and in speaking to this crowd, he said, in talking of communism, that he had daughters, they were little girls then, and he said, ‘I love them more than anything on earth.’ And he said, (and I thought, ‘I know what he is going to say,’ and ‘Oh, you must not say that,’ and yet I had underestimated him). He said, “I would rather that they die now believing in God than live to grow up under communism and die one day no longer believing in God.” Big round of applause for Pat Boone, father of the (20th) century…)

Among Reagan’s cabinet members were men known to be to some degree influenced by Christian millennialist beliefs that we were living in the end times. Reagan’s notably asinine Secretary of the Interior, James G. Watt didn’t believe in ecological conservation because Jesus was coming back. It is known that General John Vesse, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Chief of Naval Operations, James Watkins, would meet regularly inside the Pentagon with Herbert Ellingwood, deputy Counsel to the President and Attorney General Edwin Meese III to discuss their common faith. I think it’s safe to assume that talk of Bible prophecy and a nuclear end of the world was on the menu at such meetings!

Reagan’s Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, an Episcopalian, told students at Harvard:

“I have read the Book of Revelation, and, yes, I believe the world is going to end - by an act of God, I hope - and every day I think that time is running out.”

Yep, these were the folks who had their mitts on the fuckin’ nukes. This was our side! (It should be noted that the Soviets were atheists! WHAT must the KGB have thought of these guys???)

When the great Texas progressive muckraker Ronnie Dugger penned the article “Does Reagan Expect Armageddon?” for the Washington Post in 1984, the frightening prospects of the crazy Americans bringing an end to the human race became a cause for alarm all across Europe. I lived in London then and there was a lot of anti-American sentiment at the time. I can vividly recall being quizzed about HOW?!?!? HOW?!?!?! could these (or did they say “you”?) idiot Americans believe in this stupid shit from three exasperated French guys and a perplexed English punk rock couple at a party once. I tried to explain it as best I could, but I don’t think my shoulder-shrugging “Look, that’s just the way it is over there, what can I tell you?” rationale for “my peeps” was in the least comforting to them!

Something I read this morning made me think back to those halcyon Cold War days of the almost quaint-seeming batshit crazy Republican Christianists of the 1980s: According to an article in the New York Times yesterday, one of the principal reichwing pressure groups architecting and advocating for the current Tea party-led GOP government shutdown was founded by none other than Tim LaHaye, the author of this current last generation’s mega, mega apocalyptic best-sellers, the “Left Behind” series. Tim LaHaye is basically today’s Hal Lindsey.

Lee Fang writes at The Nation:

The coalition is managed by Heritage and the Council for National Policy. The latter organization, dubbed once as “the most powerful conservative group you’ve never heard of,” is a thirty-year-old nonprofit dedicated to transforming the country into a more right-wing Christian society. Founded by Tim LaHaye, the Rapture-obsessed author of the “Left Behind” series, CNP is now run by Christian-right luminaries such as Phyllis Schlafly, Tony Perkins and Kenneth Blackwell.

Guess who else has his fingerprints all over this shutdown mess? Reagan’s Attorney General Edwin Meese III...

The Council for National Policy, the Conservative Action Project and Ed Meese himself know all too well that racial—not to mention religious—demographic trends in the US mean that there is a very strong likelihood there “their type” will probably never get their hands anywhere near the nukes again, but not content to merely fantasize, sidelined, about the end of the world (and their own perceived ROLES in this cosmic battle between good and evil, like the Reaganites who actually carried the nuclear football for eight fuckin’ years), this cabal of numbskull, dumbshit apocalypse-obsessed morons want to bring it on by destroying the world economy!

You have to give these Teahadist types some credit, they know how to fight dirty. These Republican economic suicide bombers are willing to shred the Constitution to bits to “save” the country from majority rule, aren’t they?

Yo’ dawg, they’ll end the world to save it. It makes perfect sense. TO THEM. Because Jeebus is on their side, of course!

This latest news introduces a whole new level of apocalyptic weirdness into the mix. I encourage you to read “Meet the Evangelical Cabal Orchestrating the Shutdown” by Lee Fang at The Nation. The implications of what he’s written there are fairly staggering if you ask me.

This is a battle between good and evil. It is if at least one side sees it that way. The Tea party jihadis want a Christian theocracy and they don’t really care if they have to force it on everyone else. In this way, how is the Christian Right in any way different from the Muslim Brotherhood they fear so much? Their brain-damaged beatific vision of a theocratic America, a country cleansed of gays, Muslims, liberals, illegal immigrants, science and where non-white people don’t get to vote will never, ever come to pass absent a massive genocide occurring in North America, which I don’t think is going to happen anytime soon. The concept of “the American Taliban” is becoming more real with every passing day and the rest of the world (especially the business community and China) is starting to notice it, too. And they are alarmed at what they see. Even the Taliban are brutally mocking us for being stupid!

Holy shit. Literally.
 

“I reveal my innermost self, to God.”
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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