Recall, if you will, my call for lawyers who are Christian and work for the ACLU to come forward to refute the belief a correspondent of mine had, that there were no Christian lawyers at the ACLU. I’ve already rung the bell, but I’m ringing it again, because I’ve hauled in a big one:
Will the judgmental soul who doubted there were Christian lawyers with the ACLU please prepare to pony up another $50. I am a lawyer, law professor more precisely, and the immediate past President of the ACLU of Alabama. I am currently on the ACLU of Alabama Board of Directors and additionally serve on its Executive Committee. And, yes, I am a Christian.
I know of my own personal knowledge that the ACLU brings just as many lawsuits under the Free Exercise clause supporting various religious groups (including Christian churches as shown earlier in this thread) in their ability to practice their faith, as it does under the Establishment Clause attempting to prevent the overt endorsement of religion by government.
The true client of the ACLU is the Constitution of the United States. We represent specific, individual clients in order to promote constitutional rights. When we act to defend helpless individuals against oppressive government (a common scenario), I believe the ACLU acts in a truly Christian manner (although this is not intended as such, and my non-Christian colleagues on the ACLU Board would distance themselves from this). After all, Christ enjoined us to help the least among us, and often the ACLU finds itself representing the friendless and the scorned.
For myself, my beliefs are not so fragile that they require blaring public pronouncement, and especially public pronouncement by less-than-honest politicians. So what if there are no public statutes or monuments to any particular religious faith? Of what value is a belief system that needs such constant reinforcement?
I also ask myself what I would feel if I were a Muslim or a Hindu, living in the United States and constantly being made to feel second class by virtue of the religious prattle that comes out of the mouths of public officials. I would not want that for myself, and, as Christians, how can we possibly force onto others that which we would not want for ourselves?
David J. Langum
Whoever issued this challenge can please direct the $50 to: Office Manager, ACLU of Alabama, 207 Montgomery Street, Suite 825, Montgomery, Alabama 36104.
I’d already donated the $50 in question to the national organization, but I’m feeling good about this one, so I think I’ll tip in another $50. It also covers the other ACLU Christian lawyers that popped up in the thread — and my sincere thanks to them as well.
For those of you who are interested,I put a comment here (it’s the one dated 12/30/04 at 1:35 pm) on how I will occassionally be rude in online discussions as an intentional rhetorical maneuver. A snip:
It’s no secret to anyone here that I can at times be rude and confrontational. I think what generally less known is I’m not *always* rude because I’m a hothead; I’m sometimes rude because I find it’s a surprisingly effective rhetorical device that causes people to focus and clarify their arguments, and occasionally to understand how someone (and specifically, me) might find the formulation of their statements offensive and dismissive.
I think the assumption is that when you’re rude online, people will automatically be rude back, but I’ve found much of the time that’s not the case… Often times when I am rude to someone online, they take a step back examine, why I’m suddenly antagonistic and move to clarify.
You can read the full piece in the comment thread; if you have comments of your own on it, please leave them in that comment thread.
To clarify: Sometimes I’m simply rude because I’m as much a jerk as anyone else. I can’t claim the “It’s all a master plan!” defense every single time I act like an ass online.
Not to distract you all from the spectacle of me and Mr. Duemer frothing at the mouth like angry mad dogs while putatively discussing tolerance, but on his own site Devin Ganger has posted a variation of the Seven Maxims for Non-Believers, modified for use for believers. I think he’s done a fine job, and encourage you all to trundle over and check out his variation on the theme.
“Obviously Scalzi is a genius in line for a MacArthur grant; obviously he is someone whose very cyber-presence confers beneficence. Though, actually, when you read what he writes he comes off as a sort of self-important creep. The kind of guy whose loud certainty makes you edge away from him in a bar, you know. He’s the big guy with the shaved head & a lot of opinions about tolerance.”
Bwa ha ha ha ha ha!
I have to imagine he thinks I’m a big guy because of the picture here. I suppose the camera does add about 40 pounds, and six inches.
But if you think he gets angry with me, check this out. He gets positively apoplectic over Patrick Nielsen Hayden. At least he’s getting cardio out of it.
Update: Michael Rawdon wrote something very true in the comments, so I’m elevating it out of the comments for general consumption:
The Internet should come with a Surgeon General’s warning. Something like:
“WARNING: The Internet may contain people and subject matter which you find offensive. Engaging in dialogues with other inhabitants of the Internet may expose you to ideas, comments and language which you find offensive. Further, you may be made fun of for being offended. You may particularly be made fun of for posting journal entries complaining about people disagreeing with or making fun of you.”
Right on. So right on, in fact, that I propose this concept is henceforth codified as Rawdon’s Law of Blog Retreat:
When you write on your blog how mean everyone else was to you on some other blog, you are officially the loser.
Update: Mr. Duemer, the fellow who generated that lovely quote about me that is excerpted above, has made an appearance in the comment thread. We seem to be playing a little more nicely. Scroll down to 12/30 at 8:48 pm.
The other day Chad Orzel excerpted my post on teaching Athena about Christmas and did a compare and contrast with a comment about religion from another blogger who is a non-believer. This prompted a comment from a reader (who is, presumably, also a non-believer):
“I really can’t approve of John Scalzi’s Laodicean attitude. Believe, if you can. Disbelieve, if you must. But don’t pick out just the pretty parts to pass on.”
However, in the course of whacking on folks, I did sketch out seven Maxims for Non-Believers — seven heuristics that I use to reconcile my own utter lack of religious belief with the rather more religious world I live in. The maxims are:
1. Being a non-believer does not mean you have to be intolerant of those who believe.
2. Being a non-believer does not mean you have to be ignorant of the beliefs of those around you.
3. Being a non-believer doesn’t mean you need to keep your children ignorant of the beliefs around you either. Withholding information from your children is a very bad way to help them make responsible decisions.
4. Being a non-believer does not mean you can’t empathize with the religious impulse in others.
5. Being tolerant of belief, knowledgeable about beliefs and empathetic toward the desire for belief does not make one less of a non-believer. It makes one tolerant, knowledgeable and empathetic.
6. I believe that my tolerance, knowledge and empathy makes my own non-belief stronger, because I know why other people believe, and why I don’t.
7. I believe that in being tolerant, knowledgeable and empathetic toward believers, I encourage those who believe to be tolerant, knowledgeable and empathetic toward me.
Note for the record that these maxims do not preclude thumping on people of faith who are also ignorant as paste and would try to make me and mine just as ignorant. Since I don’t believe that faith requires adhesive levels of ignorance, I feel perfectly justified tolerating faith while whaling on active, aggressive know-nothingness. Jesus may love us all, even the morons, but that doesn’t mean being a moron should be an aspiration.
But I have to be honest: I find arrogant, intolerant non-believers just as annoying on a personal level as arrogant, intolerant believers. Just as having faith doesn’t require ignorance, neither does non-belief require sneering contempt. Ignorant believers, contemptuous non-believers: Both are equal in my eyes, since both should be laid upon hard with a shovel and put out of my misery.
Anyway: Tolerance. Knowledge. Empathy. They work for everyone. Believe it. Try them.
In case I don’t get back to y’all through the rest of 2004, have a very happy new year, and I hope your 2005 is everything you want it to be, so long as what you want it to be isn’t “The Year I and My Implacable Robot Hordes Conquer the Earth!” If that’s what you want, I sort of hope you’re disappointed.
Justine Larbalestier, whose perfectly fabulous YA novel is coming out in a few months, asked some author friends of hers what sort of advance they got for their first novels, because she’s curious and because enough people Googled her site to find out that she felt she might as well have the information there. The results of her informal polling are here; and yes, I’m one of the data points (I’m the 2002 entry, in case you’re wondering). Add this to a rather more extensive list of what romance publishers provide for advances, and you get the general indication that very few people who are not already famous (or related to someone famous) get a whole lot of advance money for their first works, particularly in genre markets. But then, if you hang out here, you should have known about that already.
However, for me, this was the paragraph I found most interesting:
Of the 18 people I asked, only seven are full-time writers (no, Samuel R. Delany is not one of them, he earns his dosh as a university professor) and of those only two of them are doing fine (New York Times’ bestseller, Shut-up! or I’m-getting-the next-round advances fine—definitely no longer worrying about where the next cheque is coming from). The rest are in their words “scraping by” or “barely comfortable” and depend overly much on their redit cards, except for Scalzi who is smart enought to also make money writing non-fiction.
Yup. Non-fiction and also corporate and newspaper/magazine work; if I had to rely only on the money I get for books under my own name, I’d be doing a lot less fine, both in terms of raw income and in terms of spreading out the income I did get throughout the year. Bills come on a regular cycle, even if book money doesn’t. Although book-writing income has become a greater percentage of my writing income, at the end of the day it’s still the minority.
And the income from fiction writing — which at this point is purely advance money — is a small enough amount that, to be quite blunt about it, I pretty much forgot I was owed an advance on The Android’s Dream until Krissy (who manages the money around here, and thank God) reminded me and told me to pester Tor about it. As a functional part of my income (i.e., the part that pays bills, mortgages and other such things), my fiction advances are not a consideration, and at the level that I’m paid for fiction at the moment, if it did become part of my functional income, I imagine I’d be pretty concerned. I’d need to both lower my expenses and raise my income.
Would I like to get larger advances writing fiction? Well, sure, and I am; I’m getting more for The Ghost Brigades, for example (for Android’s Dream I made the same amount as for OMW). But unless I become a major-selling author, and reliably so, it would be unrealistic to assume I will get eye-popping advances, and in any event it will take a few years to see where I stand in terms of moving books off the shelves. In other words, even if I do get to continue to publish fiction (and I hope I do), realistically I expect fiction advances to be one of the smaller segments of my income pie for some time to come.
And if it stays a small portion of my income, well, I’m fine with that. One doesn’t get to the income level I’m at without being money conscious (and reasonably not-stupid about money)but neither am I wholly money-motivated, particularly when it comes to writing fiction; the fact I put Old Man’s War on my Web site to begin with, rather than shop it to publishers, bolsters this point. I want to make money with my fiction, yes. But what I really want to do with my fiction is write some really good stories. If I make a lot of money, swell. If no one buys them and I post them here and get not a single red cent, that’s fine, too. It’s nice to be in a financial position where I can do either and not have to count my change walking away.
(Note to publishers: Please do not assume this means I’ll be happy being low-balled. My agent is likely to correct such misapprehensions.)
Athena’s six today. Here’s what I wrote when she was born.
Christmas Eve, 1998 —
When you were born, God decided that it should snow. Not much, just enough to cover the ground with a powdery white crust that terrified drivers. Snow! They said. I better drive five miles an hour! And they did, somehow still managing to tip their minivans and sport utility vehicles into light poles, highway medians, mail boxes, and each other. It took me the better part of an hour to drive the five miles home from the hospital in which you were born, watching grown men and women slip and slide in their vehicles in front of me. I of course, drove perfectly. As you grow, Athena, you will discover that I do everything perfectly. Do not listen to those who would tell you your dad is a raging doofus. They are sad, sad people, even though most of them are among my best of friends.
You can’t blame most of those people for being upset with the snow on the ground, Athena. They didn’t know what it meant. You see, when you were born, the world was changed, permanently, forever. One minute you were not in this world, the next you were. This was a momentus occassion, one that should have been marked. God, being God, decided to note it in the appropriate way: Changing the world. One minute there was no snow on the ground, the next there was (well, technically, it accumulated. But it did so while your mother was laboring to bring you into this world. By the time you arrived, it covered as far as the eye could see).
I think God’s choice was an appropriate one. Sure, he could have gone and done something flashy. Like a star in the sky. But he’s already done that. And by all reports you have to actually be a blood relation for Him to make that sort of effort. But the snow was right: It was the first snow of the season, so it was new. It doesn’t snow here often, so it was unusual, remarkable. There was just a little, so it was fragile. And as it blanketed the ground to the edges of the horizon, it was beautiful. It made everything else beautiful. It was, in short, like you.
You were not pleased to be brought into this world, Athena. From the moment you hit the air, you loudly complained to everyone in earshot. Hey, you said. I was comfortable in there! No one told me about this. I was not consulted. I was pleased to hear it. Both sides of your family tree have a strong sense of self, Athena, that is frequently confused with stubbornness. Your displeasure about being out of the loop on this whole birth thing is a good indication that the family traits are well in evidence. It won’t make raising you easy, I’m sure. But it will make it interesting, which, in the end, is a better state of affairs.
Besides, Athena, take it from me: It’s really not such a bad place. Yes, yes, it has wars, and hunger, and pain, and bad TV. But that’s why you have parents. We’re going to do what we can to protect you from those things (ironically, it’ll be the bad TV that’s going to be the hardest to save you from. If I’m lucky, the first you’ll hear of the Teletubbies, Barney and Rugrats will be when you’re a teenager). But it’s also a place where wonderful things can and do happen, best evidenced by your own birth. I think you’ll be happy here. We’re going to try to make you happy.
Athena, I’m just rambling. It’s been less than a full day since your birth, and still my emotions are so jumbled I hardly know what to do with myself. Writing is how I try to sort them out, but they’re resisting. All I feel, all I have felt since you’ve been born, is an enduring sense of joy. After you were born, the nurses wisked you to your birthing station, where they did the things they had to do: Put air in your face so you would pink up (you were born a rather striking shade of magenta), put the band on you so you wouldn’t be confused with one of the five other babies who shared your birthday, inked your feet for footprints, and so on. After they were done with that, they wrapped you tight in three blankets (which prompted me to turn to your mother and say, Congratulations, you’ve given birth to a burrito). And then you were handed to me.
Oh, Athena. Words don’t come for what I felt then. Here you were. Here you are — my daughter, the work of mine and your mother’s conjoined souls. All I could do was cry, cry and hold my head against your mother’s hand. It was overwhelming. It still is. I try to find the words that express everything I felt — that I am feeling, even as I write this — and I fail. I fail spectacularly. It doesn’t translate in the world of words. None fit. Except for these: Athena Marie. Your name. And the word: Welcome.
Welcome, Athena. Welcome to this world, to our home, to our love. Welcome to everything. Your mother and I are so happy to see you. We’re so happy. I thank God and your mother for you. The snow on the ground only told us what we already knew: Everything is changed. Welcome Athena. Welcome.
The other day I asked Christians who were also ACLU lawyers to come forward to disprove a correspondent’s mouth-gaping belief that there were no Christian lawyers at the ACLU. This morning someone came forward who was close enough for my purposes: A law student actively involved with the ACLU in Kentucky, and who (as entirely expected) can speak first-hand of ACLU lawyers who are also Christian. He also posts an excellent and cogent explanation of why one who is Christian might also choose the ideals of the ACLU, and I commend it to you all; read the full comment here (you’ll need to scroll down; it was written 12/23 at 9:24am). A particularly good point I’ll note here:
In the same vein, as a man of faith I am profoundly offended by the sanctimonious would-be demagogues who treat Christianity as if it were some kind of virus that spreads on mere contact. What has a Bible verse read over a school intercom to do with the teaching of Christ’s love? We are told by the Bible to be fishers of men; finders of converts. It never commands us to do it stupidly. The best (and in my experience, the only) way to truly gain converts is to exemplify Christian ideals. Be kind to others. Help those who are most in need of help (without any proselytization involved). Strive to better yourself whilst leaving the judgment of others to God. Then when asked why you do these things that so few others do, you explain how you are driven by faith. Those who would have forced prayer in every classroom and the Ten Commandments on every public wall seem to be interested more in publicity and theocratic clout than in actually winning people’s souls.
Amen to that.
To my mind this comment post presents the evidence I need to disprove my correspondent’s assertion, so that means, as promised, the ACLU now gets $50 of my money, to help continue their efforts to safeguard the constitutional rights of all Americans. Rock on, ACLU! Rock on, US Constitution!
Another foot of snow overnight, and now my front porch looks like this. Contrast this with the picture from the same place on my porch yesterday, and you realize this whole snow thing has gotten out of hand. In fact, we’re in a Level 3 situation in our county, which means no one is allowed to drive unless what you’re driving is a cop car, a fire engine or an ambulance.
For another perspective on the snow, here’s the back porch:
I realize that none of this will impress those of you in, say Minnesota, Alaska or Canada. But jeez, for someone raised in Southern California, this is pretty serious stuff.
Here Athena and Krissy confer on the snow, which you can see piled up at the window. That’s a second story window, incidentally. Fortunately, we are reasonably well stocked for the day, and should make it through until the snow plows come later this afternoon, after it’s stopped snowing. And if it gets any worse, well, we’ll eat Rex first. He’s old and lived a good life.
It’s been snowing, it is snowing, and from I am informed by others more knowledgeable about such matters than I, it will continue snowing at least through tomorrow. So naturally, some idiot took this opportunity to knock over my mailbox, occasioning me to go out into said snow. As long as I was out there, I got some pictures. You may see them after the cut (because they are large, and I don’t want to burden those with slow connections).
Behold! Kristine Scalzi’s Rather Tasty Kahlua Cake, none of which I will consume, alas, since she baked it for an office party tomorrow. Her office, not mine. Again, I say: Alas.
But wait, there’s more! The creator of this mocha masterpiece has graciously deigned to appear for a motion picture interview, to allow special insight into her creative process and to share the secrets of successful cake making. Call it Martha Stewart meets Zelda Fitzgerald, if you will.
The Reason: Because unlike Kos, I don’t have to wait until six weeks after the election to point out the obvious, which is that there was no way John Kerry should have lost to a president as monumentally incompetent (and, as Kos notes, as unpopular) as Dubya. Although I do think my suggestion of beating Kerry to death with own shoes beats Kos’ suggestion of lining up folks and shooting them. It gives it just a little extra kick, as it were.
Actually, she didn’t really walk uphill, in the snow, both ways. But there was snow, she had to go to more than one store, and she did parallel park in a parking structure to get the book. Which I figure is the early 21st century equivalent. So thank you, dear reader, for making the effort. Thank all of you who make the effort to rouse yourself toward the general direction of a book store (or Amazon), to do the same.
Of course, now I’m paranoid that she’ll get through the book, scrunch up her face, and think “I parallel-parked in a parking structure for this?!?” And will then find me and beat me to death with my own book. So here’s hoping she does indeed find the book worth all the effort. And if she doesn’t, that she will have to walk uphill in the snow, both ways, to beat me to death with it.
I have a difficult time expressing how extraordinarily stupid I think this whole “Happy Holidays”/”Merry Christmas” thing that’s going on this year is, not in the least because, for those of you who slept through remedial etymology, “holiday” means “holy day.” Which is an awfully funny word to have representing secularism, if you ask me. People who complain that saying “Happy Holidays” somehow disenfranchises Christians are basically showing their profound ignorance of language, which is not exactly a reassuring thing when so many of these same folks also maintain that the Bible is literally true.
Here’s the deal. Wish me a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. Either way, I’ll get what you mean, I’ll take it in the spirit in which it is given, and in either case, you’re likely to get the same response (i.e., “Thanks. You too.”). On the other hand, wish me a “Merry Christmas” with that defiant air that means that you are driving your Christ-sticky foot into the ground and digging in against the godless forces of “Happy Holidays,” and what you’re declaring is that you are, indeed, a first-class idjit. It also signals that you’re less interested in wishing me joy and glad tidings than in pimping the baby Jesus, in the guise of being nice. So not only are you a first class idjit, you’re also rude. If you’re going to wish me a Merry Christmas, try to mean it, for Christ’s sake.
How will I know which “Merry Christmas” you will offer to me? Well, of course, maybe I won’t. Being the sort of person I am, I’ll assume you mean well. It’s that “Golden Rule” thing you hear so much about. However, you will know which “Merry Christmas” you are offering, and, one imagines, so will the birthday boy in question. A thought to consider.
(So, you ask, which do I use? Personally, I tend to go with “Merry Christmas,” because that’s the holiday I celebrate, and also, as previously mentioned, I don’t think you have to be Christian to recognize that Jesus’ birth is worth celebrating. Also, in rural Ohio, it’s a safe bet. However, for people I know who prefer not to be Merry Christmassed, “Happy Holidays” works fine, although sometimes I will get cheeky and say “have an enjoyable seasonal celebration of your preference!” which both celebrates and mocks the situation. But I only use that for special people. You know who you are.)
(Oh, and before I forget, Happy Solstice to one and all!)
Someone who is very close to me (who will remain nameless for the moment) just presented the opinion to me that, for various reasons, she strongly suspects there are no lawyers who work for the ACLU who are also Christians, since she was also of the opinion that the ACLU isn’t interested in the constitutional rights of Christians — a theory which I attempted to pop by bring up twoexamples in the last year of the ACLU being very much interested in their constitutional rights. Nevertheless, she continued to profess her opinion that there were no Christian lawyers at the ACLU.
Naturally, I was appalled at this statement and told her that I would make it my mission to find her an ACLU lawyer who was also a Christian, and that upon finding such a specimen, that I would ask her to consider the possibility that one could be a Christian and a lawyer and consider as one’s mission the constitutional rights of all Americans. I have a call in to my local ACLU branch, but I imagine they’ll listen to the voice mail and suspect I’m insane, so:
If you are a lawyer who loves Christ and are either on staff or has worked for the ACLU, would you please come forward to say hello? Also, if it’s not too much trouble, if you could explain how being an ACLU lawyer is consistent with your faith, that would be greatly appreciated. Just go ahead and leave a message in the comment threads.
To sweeten the pot, I make the following pledge: For every Christian ACLU lawyer who comes forward and leaves a message before the end of 2004, I will donate a dollar — up to, oh, let’s say $200 — to the ACLU. And to start things along, the first one that shows up to comment will cause me to kick in $50 (which means a $50 minimum donation for the ACLU, with every additional one adding a dollar to that). Because, crazy me, I don’t think it’s inconsistent to be a Christian and a lawyer for the ACLU, and I’m willing to back up my appeal to counter religious stereotyping, to celebrate the cause of pretecting every Americans’ constitutional rights, and to prove my point to this well-loved correspondent with my own hard-earned cash.
So work with me here, Christian ACLU lawyers! “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” Let’s make it comprehend, shall we? I thank you.
(P.S.: Everyone who is not a Christian ACLU Lawyer — please feel free to spread the word.)
Lots to do today, and not a whole lot of time in which to do it, so, a quick participatory entry for y’all, so you can make your own fun while I’m off slavin’ for the man:
Your Christmas gift is the ability to expunge one highly annoying yet popular Christmas song from the history of the world. Which one is it?
The one I would expunge:
Words cannot express how truly annoying this song is. It’s Guantanamo Bay torture technique annoying; it’s the forced squat of Christmas tunes. It has nothing to do with its bilingual nature; it has to do with its utter lyrical and musical insipidness and the mad, crazed repetition of both, driving into your ear like a seasonally festive ice pick, stabbing merrily across your gray matter like a 1920s lobotomy scraper. Having said that, the fact the song is insipid in two entirely different languages does give it an extra lift above the many other truly annoying Christmas songs out there.
And of course I do suspect that –aside from the seasonal inertia of Christmas tunes, in which the same sixteen songs get played over and over and over again just because they always have — its bilingual nature is the only reason it persists on radio playlists; this is some former frat boy radio programmer’s lazy idea of diversity — well, this and Christina Augilera’s version of “O Holy Night,” ’cause she’s, like, hot and all. On behalf of my Hispanic family members, including my wife and child, I am outraged. For God’s sake, someone pester Los Lobos to get out there and give us some Christmas tunage.
I am happy for Mr. Feliciano that the persistence of this particular tune one month out of the year means he can pay his mortgage the other 11, but I suggest we provide the man with a lump sum payment that will care for him and his mortgage for the rest of their natural lives and then incinerate every last copy of this tune. He’ll still have his version of “Light My Fire” to fall back on if things get tight.