December 28, 2010
More often than not, conservatives represent the internal Christian debate over the ethics of homosexuality as if it were between those who hold firm to traditional Christian values and those who have sold out to secular culture. But this way of framing the debate ignores the real motivations of progressive Christians like myself—motivations that spring from real human tragedies.
This past October a young gay man in Oklahoma took his own life. This hardly appears as a new or even unusual occurrence in the wake of a string of highly publicized suicides by young gay men—suicides blamed on bullying. But Zach Harrington’s suicide highlights the fact that for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) minorities in America, the problem runs much deeper than overt bullying, at least as that term is ordinarily understood.
Harrington didn’t kill himself because he was being bullied, however, but because he became painfully conscious of the self-righteous intolerance of a large segment of his community. Just about a week before he ended his life, Harrington attended a city council meeting at which a proposal to recognize LGBT History Month in the city was debated. Although the outcome was to approve the proclamation, the debate leading up to the vote was hardly an affirmation of gay identity.
On the contrary, the vote became an occasion for those with the most hateful views to be handed a microphone and afforded the chance to tell the community just how sick, sinful, perverted, and disgusting their gay and lesbian neighbors are. According to the Tulsa World report, Harrington’s father “said he feels his son may have glimpsed a hard reality at the September 28 council meeting, a place where the same sentiments that quietly tormented him in high school were being shouted out and applauded by adults the same age as his own parents.”
Predictably, many of the meeting attendees who spoke out against the proclamation justified their stance by appealing to biblical teachings. The message was clear: honoring LGBT history was, in their view, an insult to God. As they saw it, the very creator of the universe stood against homosexuality so strongly that any gesture of recognition, any acknowledgment of the lives and struggles of our gay and lesbian neighbors, was an atrocity. To the ears of a young gay man like Zach Harrington, this could only be heard as a fundamental rejection: your life and your struggles don’t matter, because you are an atrocity.
Wearing the cloak of righteousness
For Christian progressives like myself, this appeal to Scripture and God to justify anti-gay teachings is both tragic and appalling. But our reasons aren’t rooted in some treasonous embrace of the perceived individualistic permissiveness of secular culture. They’re rooted in the law of love. To wear the cloak of biblical righteousness while promulgating the categorical condemnation of homosexuality is, as we see it, unloving.
But why think that? The knee-jerk response of Christian conservatives is to say that it is always possible to love the sinner while hating the sin. Now, since sin is by definition toxic, I actually agree that one can’t love sinners without hating what really is a sin. But sometimes it’s unloving to take something to be a sin in the first place. Sometimes it’s the condemnation of a behavior, rather than the behavior itself, that’s toxic and should be called sin.
Consider a father who forbids all childhood play. Such a prohibition is devastating to the healthy development of children. Even if the father means to promote his children’s welfare, he’s seriously misguided, and his actions reveal a sharp disconnect between what the father means to do and what he’s actually doing. No loving person would endorse this prohibition if he or she knew the truth…
December 28, 2010
Egypt’s U.N. ambassador Maged Abdelaziz, speaking in a confidential arms control briefing last year with top U.S. officials, sought to burnish his country’s reputation as a responsible player on the nuclear front with an anecdote illustrating Cairo’s lack of interest in pursuing atomic weapons.
According to a leaked State Department cable released by WikiLeaks, Abdelaziz told Rose Gottemoeller, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Verification, Compliance and Implementation, that Russia had offered Egypt “nuclear scientists, materials and even weapons following the collapse of the Soviet Union, but Egypt had refused all such offers.”
“A/S Gottemoeller asked him how he knew this to be true, to which Abdelaziz replied he was in Moscow at that time and had direct personal knowledge,” the cable continued.
The claim by Abdelaziz — who was serving as a young first secretary in the Egyptian embassy in Moscow at the time — has been met with skepticism among arms control scholars and experts on the Soviet nuclear program. They acknowledge that in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s there were concerns about weak controls over nuclear materials and the risk of out-of-work nuclear scientists selling their expertise to the highest bidder, but they say that it’s now clear that nuclear warheads were always kept under strict control of the military. There is little evidence that Moscow — which had to struggle to exert control over nuclear weapons in Belarus and Ukraine — sought to export its nuclear program to Egypt or other countries.
“I know Abdelaziz well and would not discount what he said,” Dr. William C. Potter, an expert on nuclear weapons and the director of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, said in an email exchange. “However, I am very skeptical that his post-Soviet interlocutor could have delivered what he allegedly promised, especially an intact weapon. Control over nuclear material and know-how certainly was inadequate at the time and private nuclear entrepreneurs were rampant — including the infamous CHETEK Company that sought to peddle nukes for ‘environmental’ purposes. It is unlikely, however, that a first secretary would have been on the receiving end of a legitimate offer for a nuclear weapon.”
Abdelaziz declined through his spokeswoman to comment on the cable.
The eleven-page cable details Gottemoeller’s meetings with Abdelaziz and several other key diplomats in New York between May 5 and 7 earlier this year, on the sidelines of a final preparatory meeting on the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. The sessions were meant to prepare for a major review conference on the landmark 1970 nuclear treaty, which requires the world’s five original nuclear powers to disarm their atomic arsenals in an exchange for a commitment from the rest to forsake nuclear weapons…
December 28, 2010
TAKE a car, add an electric motor and some batteries. Build in a special gearbox which combines the output of the motor with that of an internal-combustion engine. Now all you need is a sophisticated electronic control system, and the result is a hybrid car like the Toyota Prius. It saves fuel, because when the driver brakes the car stores the lost kinetic energy in the battery, and when the driver hits the accelerator the electric motor kicks in, using that stored energy. But it took Toyota 13 years to convince customers that the Prius principle is the technology of the future.
Now, it seems, it has convinced builders of railway engines, too. Like carmakers, they are trying to combine internal-combustion engines and electric motors to save fuel. “Development is so advanced now, that we can use it, too,” says Peter Rieger of MTU, a German engine-builder. The main difference is that whereas the carmakers were able to design new vehicles around their new technology, locomotive-builders have had to construct their hybrid engines as packages that can replace the original motors of existing machines.As with cars, Japan leads the way. After a three-year trial JR East, a privately owned railway company, announced that it would introduce ten diesel-battery hybrid railcars. This would be the first fleet of hybrid diesel multiple units. The system is expected to reduce fuel consumption by 10% and to be much quieter than the current arrangement. But, unlike the European car industry, the European rail industry is not far behind Japan. MTU, for example, has developed a hybrid engine-gear package which can simply replace a conventional motor. Its engineers added an electric motor and a special gearbox to combine the output of both engines. All the components are built into a frame, which can be put into the space the old engine occupied…
December 28, 2010
This image has been posted with express written permission. This cartoon was originally published at Town Hall.