Monthly Archives: August 2012

Ken Ham, so near and yet so so so far

Ken Ham sometimes manages to cut so close to the truth it almost hurts. Today is one of those days. If you haven’t heard of Ken, he’s the homophobic, woman-hating and, oh, yeah, young-earth creationist head of Answers in Genesis ministries. AiG are, for want of a better word, the leading young-earth creationist group – their Creation Museum (presumably) has visitors, and their website looks like a mongrel cross between Scientific American and Watchtower, the Jehovah’s Witness periodical. The Ark Park, a proposed Kentucky amusement park which will combine all the fun of an inundation-themed day out with a hefty dose of biblical literalism, is going to be built just as soon as they can find enough morons to fund the thing. Or, failing that, Republicans.

So, it’s not really possible for a person to be more openly wrong about the origins of the earth and life on it. Evolution? Didn’t happen, too difficult. Earth more then 7,000 years old? A scientific conspiracy to destroy faith in the bible. Dinosaurs? Lived in the garden of Eden.

But there is one fact on which he and I agree. His ideas about the Bible make more sense than liberal Christians’. Don’t get me wrong, wooly-minded accommodationist Episcopalians are my natural political ally within that wide, wide range of beliefs that is Christianity. But I can’t help feeling that ken Ham has a point when it comes to reading the Bible:

In the sermon, the pastor challenges the accepted definition of inerrancy, claiming that the Bible has no original autographs.

There is no such thing as an original autograph of the Scripture, and to claim such a manuscript is the basis for the inerrancy is intellectually dishonest.

While it is true that we do not possess the original manuscripts today, Kremer is arguing that they never existed. He even goes so far as to claim that “the Bible is not a history book,” “the Bible is not a philosophy book,” and “the Bible is not a science book.” With all those caveats, what exactly can we trust in the Bible? More importantly, how can we trust all that it has to say about Jesus Christ? Well, that’s an exception, says Pastor Kremer.

When you come to talking about the character of God, the Bible is indeed inerrant. When you’re talking about the revelation of God in Christ, we can trust that information with perfect confidence.

My question to Dr. Kremer is this—“Who decided you can trust this section but not the rest? On what basis did you determine this? Or is it just your fallible human opinion?”

And here it is: a legitimate question. The Bible is a book filled with disgusting morality, with obvious scientific inaccuracies and with the odd bit of good stuff. How can we honestly reject the shit stuff while accepting the good stuff on the strength of the Bible alone? We can’t. To effectively decide what is and is not moral in the Bible, we need another source of information. We need something else to tell us what is good and what is not. And since godless bastards like me have a perfectly good moral compass (gays: great, women: great, people of colour: great, everybody else: also great), I might go so far as to suggest that Biblical accommodationists are imprinting their own morals upon the Bible and claiming their ideas are divinely inspired.

At least old Kenny is honest, and submits all of his judgement to some random book plucked out of history rather than just the bits he happens to agree with. After all:

After all, if we take secularist Richard Dawkins’s views of evolution and millions of years to the Bible, why not take his views that reject the Resurrection and Virgin Birth and reinterpret the Bible too?

Quite.

Either the Bible is inerrant truth, or it isn’t. If it is, then there should be no real evidence against its account of history. If it is, then every tenet of the Bible must surely fall under scrutiny. That’s not to say that every passage is wrong, just that we should no longer consider any of it ‘sacred’ and beyond real criticism.

Ken Ham is so close to the truth – if we reject literalism, we have so many good reasons to reject the whole thing. He just fails to reject literalism.

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Open Letter to Barclay’s

Hi Barclay’s,

I know this is going to sound petty. I know that you’ve probably had tons of letters about the LIBOR scandal, and your PR team are trying to find a way to minimise the damage from that little snafu. And if I’m honest, I know this is petty too. I know there’s all the problems with the rape culture in Western society. I know there are people homeless because banks like yourselves collateralised debt to obscure how risky your investments really were. And yes, I am aware that Zach from One Direction has quit Twitter and there are now hundreds of young teenagers weeping softly into their pillow just like I did when PJ and Duncan left Byker Grove.

But this issue has been sticking in my craw for too many years to remain silent. No longer will I allow this to silently continue without opposition: Why are you incentivising people to unnecessarily use up paper? Why, when the rest of the world is try to reduce their environmental footprint, are you encouraging people to waste resources?

Let me make my complaint clear. Actually, let me compare you with a competitor. I bank with the Cooperative. When I happen to pass through Narnia, where my nearest branch is located, I can withdraw money from a Coop cash machine.

Would I like an advice slip with my cash? “We take environment seriously” says the machine, “are you sure you need a receipt?” If I were to select yes (I never do), I’m confident the machine might get a bit annoyed at me. “Really?” I expect it to ask, “You had a receipt yesterday. Do you really want to have a hand in destroying the world?”

No, ATM, I’m sorry, I don’t, but I need to know my balance. “Well excuuuuse me,” replies the ATM, rolling its eyes, “I guess you were too stupid to see the ‘Check Balance’ button when you withdrew your cash. Maybe, once you know how much money you have, you’d like to murder a badger. Or cause an oil spill by encouraging poor safety regulation. YOU BASTARD! THE DEATH OF THE ENVIRONMENT IS ON YOUR HEAD! Have you seen the competitive interest rates on a Coop Savings Account?”

The point is that the Coop really want you to use their online banking system. And really don’t want you to waste paper.  As you may be able to guess, anonymous Barclay’s employee, I’m about to launch a comparison bomb at you.

Yesterday, like a selection of previous days in the last four years, I withdrew cash from a Barclay’s ATM (sorry, Hole in the Wall™). I would have used a Coop, but this was London so I was about 10 miles away from the nearest branch. I withdrew the big-spending £20 I needed without issue, but before I could receive my money I was asked the following question:

“Would you like an advice slip? Check the reverse to see if you’ve won a pair of Premier League tickets!”

I get it. You sponsored a bunch of overpaid borderline psychopaths to run around doing not very much at all. Presumably the execs missed the obvious irony in that gesture as they took their 7-figure bonuses. And now you have more Premier League tickets than you know what to do with. Bravo for giving them away.

But surely there must be a way to do that without getting football fans to use up otherwise unnecessary receipt paper. I know there are only so many executive days out you guys can take off before the economy gets ignored so hard it actually starts to improve, but why not do an independent goal of the month competition online, with real prizes like match of the day used to?

Hell, why not donate them to the hard working volunteers who try desperately hard to keep our kids playing sport instead of playing truant? Or throw them off of a balcony over Oxford Street and enjoy the spectacle of the proletariat duking it out over yourhand outs. Maybe that one’s more up your street.

But please. Please, please, please stop wasting paper like you don’t give a fuck. And while you’re at it, if you wouldn’t mind not fucking the public for the financial gain of just a few, even just for a month or two, I think we’d all appreciate it.

Yours sincerely,

Tim Ballantine

PS. I think there’s a joke about a Coop ATM and a Barclay’s ATM (sorry, Hole in the Wall™) walking down the street. Maybe the Barclay’s ATM (excuse me, Hole in the Wall™) litters and then the Coop ATM goes mental and murders the Barclay’s ATM (ugh, did it again, should be Hole in the Wall™) with a rusty switchblade.

I don’t know, maybe you guys can be funnier with it than me. After all it was your ex-CEO who said that the banks should stop apologising for the crisis after conspicuously never apologising in the first place; presumably you guys already understand humour.

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Filed under Banks, Environmentalism, Ethics, Letter