God’s Murderers

A couple weeks ago I wrote a paper on Nietzsche’s Madman and his pronouncement of the death of God. While researching I came across this passage by Bernard Martin, which is certainly not what Nietzsche meant by “God is dead” but is interesting nonetheless.

It is necessary to kill God! … One can, in all good conscience, kill God, for the true God does not himself be killed. He is beyond all deicidal tendencies. And yet, it is necessary to kill one’s God! 

It is necessary to kill the God that we have learned! God is not learned. And if I have learned something about God, I can be certain that this is not truly he. The instruction that I received about God in my childhood was perhaps necessary. But today the God learned in my childhood no longer has any meaning. I am no longer young, and I need another God, the true God! Thus I must kill the God learned, even if it means that I can no longer proceed!

It is necessary to kill the God that I devise! The God that I dream up is never God. The thoughts that I am able to come up with concerning him never begin to express his majesty. My understanding can be extremely cultivated, yet the God that I imagine is always inevitable other than what he truly is. So I must kill the God that I have imagined and conceived, or I will risk remaining in a sterile and permanent thought. This God that I have imagined must die.

It is necessary to kill the God of my faith! Throughout my life I have been devoted to God with all my soul. In spite of appearances, I am still devoted to him with all my soul. But what must die is the God of my faith. My faith cannot reach God, and my theology, no matter how orthodox, will never be able to be a durable and absolute theology. And if I claim it because one day I make it on my own, then I am condemned to no longer understand what it is about. God is not dependent on my faith. He is, that’s all. I must acquiesce in killing the God of my faith!   

From If God Does Not Die (pg 19-20) as qtd. in “The Graveyard Theology” by Vernon C. Grounds in Is God “Dead”? (pg 32).Speaking of Nietzsche, I was at Barnes & Nobles and ran across Benjamin Wiker’s 10 Books That Screwed Up the World. Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil was in there, along with Marx, Darwin, Freud, etc. It’s basically fundamentalist anti-intellectualism masquerading as serious scholarship. I almost laughed out loud when Wiker said Nietzsche’s madness & then death was a result of his profound atheism and not, say, of syphilis-induced dementia. 

Intuitive Abortion Arguments

Many Pro-lifers love arguments based on intuition: show someone a photo of a fetus (always a fetus, never a blastocyst), and they’re supposed to intuitively feel that this is a person worth saving. So too with their photos of an aborted fetus, proffered in the hopes that America will legislate based on that which we find icky. Here’s my own emotional plea:

This is a zygote. It costs Americans ~$300 to kill a zygote.

This is an Iraqi girl. It costs Americans ~$1.5million to kill an Iraqi girl.

Which is more valuable, the zygote or the Iraqi? Which has more dignity? If you had to kill one, which would it be and why? How many deaths of one justify the loss of the other? 

The intuitive argument is thus: can you really honestly look the little Iraqi girl in the eyes and tell her she is worth no more than a diploid cell? That “what it means to be human” is simply to have a genome? 

Some (many?) of you now undoubtedly think I’ve “crossed the line.” So think carefully: what is that line, precisely? And why have I transgressed? And do your answers to those questions give clues to what’s wrong with the abortion debate and what to do about it?

Constantine’s Sword

Last night I watched Constantine’s Sword, based off the James Carroll book of the same name from seven years ago. It chronicles Christianity’s role in perpetuating antisemitism and our disgraceful ties to violent regimes.

The story and critique is mostly clear-eyed, and powerful when it takes a personal bent (Carroll has led a very interesting life). I’m uncomfortable, however, with how much antisemitism he reads into the Gospel accounts themselves. He intones, at one point, “At every Good Friday service, with the reading of that Passion narrative: ‘The Jews, the Jews, the Jews’… it really hits the ear. And Jesus is against the Jews. And I don’t know how else Christians can hear this story.

This strikes me as odd, for I’ve only ever read this story in one way. How else do I hear this story? I hear the Gospels blaming me. Who crucified Jesus? I did.

There’s a Goethe quote that I take quite seriously — he says something like “There is no crime so heinous that I cannot also imagine myself committing it.” This is good theology, and this is ignored theology. It requires hideous, uncomfortable self-awareness.

Our human tendency is to always marginalize, to “otherize.” I am not like that one or those people. When, in fact, the truth is much more disturbing. “It is a simple tenet of human nature,” writes Dave Grossman, “that it is difficult to believe and accept that anyone we like and identify with is capable of these acts against our fellow human beings. And this simple, naive tendency to disbelieve or look the other way is, possibly more than any other factor, responsible for the perpetuation of atrocity and horror in our world today.”

There’s a poignant moment in Constantine’s Sword where Carroll is at Auschwitz-Birkenau and while contemplating the past nightmares but present-day beauty, the guide fills the void by simply saying: “There is no meaning… only Auschwitz… only butterflies… silence.”

What drives me crazy is the American pretension at moral authority. Dresden alone wiped out whatever supposed moral capital we’d accumulated in fighting the Nazis, not to mention our unspeakable atrocities inflicted upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I think the point is that none of us personally have any moral capital either. My heart is totally bankrupt. At the end of Jesus’ famous quip in Luke 6, I read in an extra clause:: “…and in reality, you will never be able to remove the log from your own eye.”

Of course, this hints at the missing piece here that was filled in for us by a murderous Judeofascist extremist who had a blinding encounter with a Jewish carpenter. It changed his life. And this is the crux: “While we were still terrorists, Christ died for us.”

An Open Letter to Christian Troops

An Open Letter to Christian US Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan: Who and Whose are you? An ex-Army elite powerfully describes why our culture of violence and revenge is diametrically opposed to the radical message of Jesus.

Loving the enemy neutralizes the category of enemy.Unfortunately, even with phalanxes of chaplains ready to distort and press the message of Christ into the business of war, this means that you are now part of an organization that has no reason to exist without an enemy. The ethic of the military is inscribed in the infantry phrase, “close with The Enemy and destroy him.” The ethic of Christ is inscribed in neighbor-love — love of anyone who is near, and enemy-love — the unmaking of the category of “enemy.” These two perspectives — military doctrine and the ethic of Christ — cannot be reconciled.

Christ told you to “love your enemies.” Break the cycle of enemy-making.

Yet the armed forces are based, at their very core, on the existence of an enemy to destroy. The very doctrine that governs your organization, your technology, and your methods, cannot exist without The Enemy. To accomplish that, the armed forces must do two things: they must devalue the lives of all who are not members of the nation, and they must set up an idol to supplant God.

This was written by Stan Goff and originally posted here — I’ve used the other link because it’s easier to read. Beyond the big picture, Goff and I seem to also share similar views of what demonic forces are — ie, structures of injustice. This view sees the satanic more as systems that perpetuate anti-Christ thought/behavior, and less as wily little ne’er-do-wells that are invisibly hopping around between us and magically prodding us toward sin. He’s also right to diagnose and critique a larger zeitgeist, since the problem is the entire politics of revenge of which the military is only one (albeit major) outworking.

Part-Time Hitchhiking For Fun And Profit

I’m back in Columbus again after a weekend in Cleveland/Sandusky for Dan Gifford’s wedding. I hitched a bit both ways for a total of about 100 miles. The rest via rides with Katie, Kraig, and Brenton. I will do a trip report tomorrow since I’m too exhausted tonight. Here’s some Douglas Coupland (from Life After God) instead:

…I think the price we paid for our golden life was an inability to fully believe in love; instead we gained an irony that scorched everything it touched. And I wonder if this irony is the price we paid for the loss of God.
But then I must remind myself we are living creatures – we have religious impulses – we must – and yet into what cracks do these impulses flow in a world without religion? It is something I think about every day. Sometimes I think it is the only thing I should be thinking about.

The Gospel from Outer Space

Back to our regularly scheduled programming. Here’s an excerpt from Slaughterhouse-Five by the inimitable Kurt Vonnegut:

…The visitor from outer space made a serious study of Christianity, to learn, if he could, why Christians found it so easy to be cruel. He concluded that at least part of the trouble was slipshod storytelling in the New Testament. He supposed that the intent of the Gospels was to teach people, among other things, to be merciful, even to the lowest of the low.
But the Gospels actually taught this:
Before you kill somebody, make absolutely sure he isn’t well connected. So it goes.

The flaw in the Christ stories, said the visitor from outer space, was that Christ, who didn’t look like much, was actually the Son of the Most Powerful Being in the Universe. Readers understood that, so, when they came to the crucifixion, they naturally thought:
Oh, boy – they sure picked the wrong guy to lynch that time!
And that thought had a brother: “There are right people to lynch.” Who? People not well connected. So it goes.

The visitor from outer space made a gift to Earth of a new Gospel. In it, Jesus really was a nobody, and a pain in the neck to a lot of people with better connections than he had. He still got to say all the lovely and puzzling things in said in the Gospels.

So the people amused themselves one day by nailing him to a cross and planting the cross in the ground. There couldn’t possibly be any repercussions, the lynchers thought. The reader would have to think that, too, since the Gospel hammered home again and again what a nobody Jesus was.

And then, just before the nobody died, the heavens opened up, and there was thunder and lightning. The voice of God came crashing down. He told the people that he was adopting the bum as his son, giving him the full powers and privileges of The Son of the Creator of the Universe throughout all eternity. God said this: From this moment on, He will punish horribly anybody who torments a bum who has no connections!

Moral of the story: don’t be rude to the bum-looking old man eating alone in McDonald’s, because he might just end up giving you $20 to help you hitchhike to Seattle and then you’ll feel like an asshole for traveling 2000 miles and yet still being a shallow narcissist.

No guru, no method, no teacher.

For those of us who have lived by the cry Fuck the noise, what to do when we suddenly find that the Noise fucked us? We go walking I guess. On May 9th I plan on walking out my door in Ohio and starting a three-month trek to Seattle. I’ll be leaving on St. Christopher’s day, leaving the comforts of home for an ill-conceived trek. Abruptly sans site, I will become (a) para-site. I will join a Holy Order of saunterers and meanderers – of tramps. The opening to Thoreau’s “Walking” is worth repeating in full: (more…)

Hello Sunshine

Relatively Clean Rivers – Hello Sunshine mp3Phil Pearlman Gadahn circa 2004

“Listen up and I’ll tell a story / about an artist growing old,” sings Daniel Johnston, presumably referring to himself. Tonight these lyrics remind me of Phil Pearlman instead. The two men aren’t even wholly dissimilar: both are outsider musicians, both are legendary figures in certain limited circles, and both have led extreme lives (though in very different ways). In fact, extremes run through the Pearlman story in many ways.

Philip Pearlman was born in 1947 to a Jewish urologist and Protestant housewife, but was apparently raised pretty agnostic. He started playing music early and became your stereotypical Californian hippie: protesting the Vietnam war and playing in various musical “happenings” — groovyspeak for jam sessions. The most famous of these was called Beat of the Earth, a loose collective that recorded epic psychedelia in loose, unorganized gatherings. Their self-titled 1967 debut is essentially just two, 60-minute tracks and is now a prized collector item — if your specialty is obscure 60’s psych-folk of course. Pearlman’s next effort was The Electronic Hole in 1970, an interesting experimental musical grandfather to more modern psychedelic groups like Elephant 6.

Nearer to the mid-seventies, the story takes a slightly more unconventional turn. As the story goes, Pearlman is walking along the beach (maybe high, maybe not) and finds a Bible on a bench. Reading it gives him a spiritual epiphany and he promptly converts to Christianity. It’s just after this, in 1975, that he records Relatively Clean Rivers, celebrating his born again life and new perspective. It’s another album that’s attained cult-like status within a peculiar underground scene. Some have compared it, perhaps oddly, to the Velvet Underground. In retrospect it seems a misguided comparison save for one fact: both groups inspired a lot of other people to make music. It’s through one of these fans, Jeff Tweedy, that I first heard of Relatively Clean Rivers, starting down my Pearlman rabbit hole via Wilco.

Relatively Clean Rivers – Easy Ride mp3

Thing is, after Relatively Clean Rivers, that was pretty much it for Pearlman. He married, settled down, and had four kids. Except Pearlman really took the hippie aesthetic to heart: he moved out to a rural country farm with no electricity and no indoor plumbing. Phil Pearlman changed his name to Phil Gadahn (a play on “Gideon”) and started raising and slaughtering goats. He claims to have invented a “humane” way to kill the goats, which he then sold to the Muslim butchers down the road who appreciated his approach. This is where the story could, maybe should, end. Typical hippie musician shuns our materialistic, consumerist, warmongering society and leads extremely stripped-down existence in the middle of nowhere. Or maybe sell the story this way: tortured artist finds God, records masterpiece, disappears into wilderness and obscurity. I have no doubt that Phil Pearlman would still be remembered in 2007 simply because of his musical legacy. Except in many ways, Phil Pearlman is now most famous, in the mainstream at least, for who he fathered.

The story of families are almost always more interesting than any single, isolated life. It’s why we love Oedipus Rex and One Hundred Years of Solitude. In terms of father-son sagas, it might be hard to beat King David and his murderous, long-haired son Absalom. But lately I’ve preferred the Phil Pearlman and Adam Gadahn story.1 Because as it turns out, one of the four children Pearlman raised on that goat farm in California, one of the four kids who would illicitly crowd around a small battery-powered TV against their hippie father’s wishes, would later end up becoming Azzam al-Amriki: radical Islamic fundamentalist, al-Qaeda operative, and, as of 2004, the first American convicted of treason since 1952.

How do you go from the son of humble Christian goat-farming beatkniks to a top suspect on the FBI’s Most Wanted list? There are no quick quips here, no relatively clean answers. Born in 1978, Gadahn did perhaps have a pretty atypical childhood. Homeschooled out there on the farm with his siblings until 16, he then moved in with relatives in the city where he developed an intense, year-long obsession with death metal music. Like his father, young Gadahn also recorded some epic 60-minute songs, though his feature slightly more screaming and atonal gothic chants.

In 1995 it all ended however, and fairly abruptly. While browsing AOL at his grandparent’s house, he began reading up on Islam and became more and more convinced of its truth. Gadahn undoubtedly remembered the neighborhood butchers his father sold goats to. He would later describe these Muslims as completely unlike the monstrous murderers the media portrayed. He officially converted under Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, then imam at Islamic Society of Orange County. This is the same Dr. Siddiqi who presented President Bush with a Koran after 9/11 and made clear to Bush that the peace-loving religion of Islam in no way condones such brutal attacks. This is tragically ironic in that one of Siddiqi’s former students – the son of a Christian hippie, former death metal obsessive is now an Islamic extremist absolutely convinced that flying planes into buildings is a completely reasonable way to express disagreement. For after staying with the Islamic Society of Orange County, the now-renamed Yahiye Gadahn got involved with followers of a fundamentalist, and violent, strain of Islam.

A trip to Pakistan in 1998 seems to have completely sealed the deal. He married an Afghan refugee and, after starting low, worked his way up the al Qaeda ladder. In more recent years he’s been the face for messages from Osama. Now known as Azzam the American, he’s the bearded white kid you’ve no doubt seen on TV: with finger raised for effect, Azzam’s always condemning us, urging converts, and promising the complete annihilation of the American way of life.

The typical American way of life, it should be noted, is something Azzam/Adam never really had. But you can’t pin his radicalism on that no more than you can tie it to his love of death metal. I think it’s natural to feel a lot of sympathy for his parents. The last time his mother spoke to Adam on the phone, she asked him about his accented English. He flatly informed her that he hadn’t spoken English in 8 months. Neither parent really grants interviews anymore. I don’t blame them.

It seems obvious that to some, Phil Pearlman is a pretty unusual character. He did, after all, homeschool his kids on a goat farm that didn’t have electricity. On the other hand, I can’t help but still see Phil Pearlman as just one more beat dude who lived his ideals. He dropped out to get away, like many of us have desired, to rebel against a lot of what actually is wrong with this world. But unlike his wayward son, Dad never wanted to actually kill all those yuppies in LA with fancy cars and homes, and their slavish pursuit of the almighty dollar. The contrast between peace-loving father and radically violent son couldn’t be starker.

For his sake, I still think of Phil Pearlman as a happenin’ psych-folk musician and not in the ignominious terms of heartbroken father to Azzam al-Amriki, America’s most wanted terrorist traitor. I, for example, really love the groovy Phil Pearlman of Relatively Clean Rivers. An optimist who inscribed the record jacket with these words:

“Here’s a story I hope you’ve all been waiting to hear it’s about
L.A. skies, tsetse flies, alibis,
And a European-Oriental-Asian-Caucasian-Negro-African-American
Soldier, sitting in a ditch somewhere, near a Sigh-Gone city or farm
Somewhere, wanting to drain the malaria out of some
Crocodile infested swamp maybe,
Hoping we can all get together, the Arabs and the Jews,
And melt down weapons into water sprinklers,
Tractors, shovels and hoes,
Irrigation pipes…”

Relatively Clean Rivers – Journey Through the Valley of 0 mp3


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1
As for brothers, lately I’ve also been really intrigued by the story of Edwin Booth, highly-revered Shakespearean actor, and John Wilkes Booth, deluded assassin of our greatest president.

Sources:

  • Azzam the American
  • Radical Conversion
  • Beat of the Earth
  • Becoming Muslim
  • Peace, Love, and Death Metal
  • Major Regrets

    Why aren’t I an English major? What was I thinking?

    Dear Future Freshmen,
    I don’t recommend that you pick a major on a lark, as I did.
    Love,
    Kevin

    In other news… over three nights during break I watched all 6+ hours of The Many Faces of Benny Hinn, a collection of exposés put together by Ole Anthony. I went through a pretty serious obsession with Charismatic criticism in high school, so watching Benny Hinn in action again was a lot of fun. Like I said, the 3 DVD set is over six hours but if you get a chance I highly recommend watching at least one disc.

    Post-Christmas, while bored out of my mind in Philadelphia, I saw all of season 2 of BBC’s The Office. I have little-to-no idea what Steve Carroll’s US version is like but the British original is BLOODY awesome. Probably one of the funniest things I’ve seen in all my life. Now I just have to find season 1 somewhere that’s not Blockbuster.

    Worldview Weekend’s Existence is a Sign of God’s Wrath

    Worldview Weekend is coming up here at Cedarville. We college kids are so unbelievably stoked for this extravaganza. I took the Worldview Quiz and scored 6% meaning I’m a “Socialist Worldview Thinker.” I actually scored a 50% on the religion portion, but my views on economics, law, history, and politics make me a closet commie (apparently). This is interesting: let’s say you’re like me and need a worldview re-orientation – “Want to improve your biblical worldview? We [at Worldview Weekend] recommend the following things…”
    1. Read your Bible
    2. Join a church
    3. Pray
    4. Pay $36 to attend a Worldview Weekend conference
    5. Buy a $50 study series
    6. Order over $100 in worldview-correcting books
    7. Etc ad nauseam

    Moving on… three videos via PutFile: Who should we invade next? | morbid VW tv ad | horrific drag racing crash from last Friday

  • Marios. 64 of em.
  • Abandoned wrecks on Staten Island
  • The Tiger Strikes Again – review of a new complete collection of Calvin and Hobbes strips.
  • Sears Tower from Jenga blocks
  • Ragdoll Bush (flash)
  • Kroger + Redemptive Truth

    I just saved $9.69 with my Kroger Plus Card. It’s beyond me how a quick trip to the store for Oreos ended up being an all out run on Cream Corn and Smoked Turkey. It’s like Y2k all over again, except I’m preparing for a pickle drought.

    How would you personally answer this question:
    “Do you think that there is a single set of beliefs which can serve a redemptive role in the lives of all human beings, which can be rationally justified to all human beings under optimal communicative conditions, and which will thus form the natural terminus of inquiry?”1 Comments appreciated.

    Feeling generous? Buy me this awesome Office Space gift set. Or actually, any of the hilarious t-shirts from Busted Tees.

    In case you missed it: Simon Wiesenthal has passed away peacefully at the age of 96.

    For the curious, check out Who Makes How Much, “An impertinent look at other people’s paychecks.”

    Lastly: On the Internet, Nobody Knows You’re a Bot. A look at the most popular poker bot out there. If you’ve got $200 to spend on me, this might not be a bad idea either.