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 IAmAnAtheist » Sarah Palin’s Christmas: Chapter 6

Sarah Palin’s Christmas: Chapter 6

My notes on “Double… Standards,” chapter 6 of Sarah Palin’s new book Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas.

The two visions of Christmas Yet to Come I am about to show you are wildly different. Let’s start with the first, which I’ve dubbed the “Vision of Christmas Yet to Come… if the Militant Atheists and Secular Liberals Have Their Way.” [Kindle location 1625]

Palin takes her readers on two imaginary trips into the future where she visits her grandson Tripp in college. Spoiler alert: She isn’t going to win a Hugo.

Karly sighs. “You might have a problem. Most of the Christian organizations have opted not to participate in our inclusive community, so we have no knowledge of their schedules or activities. You’d have to contact them independently, and I can’t offer their contact information, but their events would be decidedly off campus.” [Kindle location 1716]

Later, Palin makes more clear that “opted” is more of a code word for “forced.” One of the main themes of her dystopian future is that Christian groups are oppressed but non-Christian groups are welcomed.

This section more than any other in the book so far highlights how thoroughly she misunderstands “liberal” views of religion, and how badly she is misrepresenting her opponents’ positions by treating them as if they are held by the entire group. I have not personally seen a group that was trying to get only Christianity out of a public institution while welcoming other religions.

“It used to be that Christmas events happened all over the campus.” “Yes, but times change,” she says, looking at me with concern or pity. “We don’t have slavery anymore, either.” [Kindle location 1720]

I actually laughed at this and then got sad when I realized that Palin probably wasn’t joking. Then again, I have definitely heard from some atheists who would be very comfortable equating religion with slavery.

“Oh, that’s our ‘natural nativity,'” she says proudly. “It’s recognizing the rebirth of the Unconquered Sun.” [Kindle location 1746]

Palin says that almost everything she mentions in this dystopian section is based on a real event, one way or another. This particular quote refers to a display that the Freedom From Religion Foundation put in the Wisconsin Capitol Rotunda.

From the FFRF’s website about that same incident: “‘We nonbelievers don’t mind sharing the season with Christians,’ added FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor, ‘but we think there should be some acknowledgment that the Christians really “stole” the trimmings of Christmas, and the sun-god myths, from pagans.'”

It doesn’t sound to me like they’re trying to get rid of Christmas, but that’s what Palin’s story seems to imply.

I found it interesting that Christian groups that weren’t deemed “inclusive” are forbidden to be on campus. [Kindle location 1761]

This is actually a legitimate question. Should a college officially recognize non-inclusive student groups? I personally think they should. For example, I think a support group for women who have been abused shouldn’t be required to let men join, a group for African Americans should be allowed to exclude white students, and a Christian group shouldn’t be forced to allow an atheist to run for group leader.

“Is that a… crucifixion scene?” I gasp. “Why, yes, it is,” Karly says. “One of our clubs put that up to make a statement against the ‘religious’ aspects of the holiday season.” I look more closely. There, on the wooden cross, a plastic skeleton hangs, wearing a red Santa Claus hat. [Kindle location 1768]

The actual incident Palin is referring to involves such a skeleton being put up outside a courthouse as a protest. Very different, in my opinion, from a display that is tacitly endorsed by Palin’s fictional university that clearly wouldn’t allow a similar display by a group with the opposing opinion.

That’s when I see the welded metal sign hanging above the door: RESTROOM AND FOOT-WASHING STATION [Kindle location 1782]

Palin is referring to the University of Michigan–Dearborn which was the center of some controversy when it installed foot-washing stations in a couple of bathrooms on campus. The university wasn’t doing this as an endorsement of Islam, but because 10% of its students were Muslim and sinks were becoming dirty and being damaged from frequent student foot washing.

I know that quite a few atheists disagree with me, but I don’t see a problem with a public institution using funds to meet a not-unreasonable student need, particularly when it is doing so to save on repair costs. I don’t think that the fact that the need is based on religious practice is particularly relevant.

“Oh, I see.” I look at the tiny print. “UAA believes traditional Christian theology is sexist, patriarchal, racist, and”—a nice touch—”homophobic.” [Kindle location 1824]

If a university published a statement like this, I’d also be against it. Not all Christian theology meets these criteria.

Though society has yet to resemble the story above, we’re edging ever closer to that kind of reality. [Kindle location 1849]

Not really, no.

Instead of going into the future we’re careening toward at an alarming rate, let’s journey into an America of true religious freedom and tolerance. [Kindle location 1851]

One nice surprise in this section is that Palin doesn’t eliminate all of the protests against Christianity. Rather, she allows for discussion on campus. I disagree with some of what she presents, but at least her heart appears to be in the right place on this.

“So,” I hear her say to the guy next to the display, “you laugh and mock, you thump your chest proclaiming atheism, but you asked so I answered: That’s why we believe this whole ‘manger’ and ‘ass’ story. Now, are you sorry you asked?” [Kindle location 1889]

I have run into a great many religious people who think this is how a conversation would go if they ever had a chance to talk to an atheist. They think they’ll have a clever answer that will stop the atheist in their tracks and that will be the end of the conversation. Sure, this sometimes happens, but not nearly as often as some Christians believe. It turns out that there are lots of atheists who really have given a lot of thought to their position.

“In national news, President-elect Romney is preparing to finally move into the White House.”

“I guess the sixth time’s the charm,” I say. [Kindle location 1913]

This is one of two times in the book that I thought Palin was actually pretty funny on purpose. (The other involved her future self not being recognized by anyone except for a person who mistook her for Tina Fey).

Well, I didn’t just make up those almost unbelievable examples. Everything in that section (except our Triple Threat growing up in the blink of an eye, obviously) is based on true-life events that have already happened in America. [Kindle location 1948]

I don’t know how honest it is to say that these stories are based on true-life events. Context is pretty important, and all of these things happening in the same place is very different from them happening separately (because it implies a coordinated effort on many fronts).

In a sort-of similar vein, I could say that a story of my father driving his car at 80 miles an hour through the center of town was based on a true story if he had once driven at 80 through a ghost town. Knowing the real story might significantly change your impression of my father.

The foot baths are examples of colleges spending tens of thousands of dollars to make select students feel more welcome, even as they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to defund traditional Christian groups and toss them from campus. [Kindle location 1958]

The college wasn’t setting up foot baths to make certain students feel more welcome, it was doing it to protect its plumbing. Even if it was to make a significant number of students feel welcome, I could see an argument for it.

I don’t think Palin mentioned defunding before. If university funds go to on-campus groups, then I can see an argument for only funding “inclusive” groups — particularly if there is legal liability in doing otherwise. What I’m not clear on is why not funding a group would equate with throwing the group off campus. I’d like to hear details.

CHRISTIAN GROUPS BEING KICKED OFF CAMPUS FOR NOT BEING “INCLUSIVE” ENOUGH:Vanderbilt University—located in the “buckle of the Bible belt”—made Christian groups sign contracts that said they’d be open to having atheist and actively homosexual leadership. The Catholic and evangelical Christian groups refused to sign the contracts—except one that chickened out and signed—leaving hundreds of Vanderbilt students without spiritual leadership on campus. Sadly, Vanderbilt is only one of dozens of colleges that have tried a similar tactic. [Kindle location 1973]

I had to look this one up. The school’s policy, so far as I can find, said nothing about allowing atheist and homosexual leadership. Instead, it said that religion couldn’t be used as a criteria when choosing leaders.

Quoting Fox News: “‘Our nondiscrimination policy applies equally to all registered student organizations,’ [Vanderbilt vice chancellor of public affairs Beth] Fortune said. ‘We’re simply saying if you are going to be a registered student organization and use the Vanderbilt name and university funding, and have the privileges afforded a registered student organization, then you need to comply with our nondiscrimination policy.’”

The article on Fox also points out that un-registered groups aren’t asked to leave campus.

A similar publication at the University of Michigan mocked Bible believers in this way: Some texts of the Old Testament are used to condemn homosexuality. Taken literally and out of context, biblical passages can be used to justify slavery, prohibit the wearing of red dresses and eating of shrimp and shellfish, and to reinforce the inferiority of women. [Kindle location 1983]

I don’t know that this belongs in a university publication (it depends on the context), but the statement is true. In fact, it even takes pains to point out that using the Bible to justify slavery, etc., is done by taking the book out of context. I’d say that’s generous because when read in-context the Bible does pretty clearly justify many of these sorts of things (again, depending on context).

Were you led to believe radical liberals were all about “separation of church and state”? Hardly. They’ll stuff their theology down your kids’ collective throats before you’ve had a chance to unload their dorm gear from your trunk. [Kindle location 1988]

Any “radical” group is like this, conservatives included. But Palin’s hand-wringing aside, the large-scale attack on Christian existence just doesn’t exist in America.

Tomorrow, on to chapter 7.

Posted on November 22, 2013 at 10:58 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Books · Tagged with: ,

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