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8:23 am EDT        41°F (5°C) in Schiller Park, IL

Calendar of Updates

I am going to lead off this update with a couple of tidbits about this weekend's NCAA basketball Final Four. I think nothing more needs to be said about the first item than, "the more things change, the more they stay the same …" There is a reason why, when my friend Pat and I wrote new lyrics to Moo U's fight song in 1999, we included the line "Its specialty is rioting / When the Spartans play bad ball" in the opening portion of the song.

The second item actually looks forward in time about 12 hours, instead of back to Saturday night. Again, I'm going to be rather indirect in the way I make my point, but I must say the following about tonight's championship game:

Old Princeton yells her Tiger,
Wisconsin her Varsity,
And they give the same old RAH! RAH! RAH!
For each university.
But the yell that always thrills me,
And fills my heart with joy,
Is the good old Oskee-Wow-Wow
That they yell at Illinois.

Oskee-Wow-Wow, Illinois!
Our eyes are all on you.
Oskee-Wow-Wow, Illinois!
Wave your Orange and your Blue, RAH! RAH!
As the team trots out before you,
Every man stand up and yell,
Back the team to gain a victory,
Oskee-Wow-Wow Illinois! HEY!

(An MP3 of the Marching Illini's "Oskee Wow-Wow" can be found here.)

As I'm sure everybody knows by now, Pope John Paul II died this past Saturday. Given that he was elected in 1978 and I was born in 1980, he is obviously the only pope I've ever known, and I'm sure it will sound strange to hear another name after "Pope" for a while. I'll leave most of the commentary to the "pundits" and "experts," but as a former Catholic who left the Church once I forced my parents to realize they couldn't force their religion on me, I am a bit troubled by my inability to satisfactorily answer one particularly important question. How could a man who was so right ("right" here meaning correct, not right-wing or conservative) on so many things, including Third World debt relief, reconciliation of centuries-old differences with Jews, and the evils of totalitarian regimes, have been so wrong when it came to sexual issues such as birth control and homosexuality?

For me, at least, that question leads to several broader questions about the so-called "Christian" approach to sexuality. While I can mostly agree with the "Christian" position on abortion — I don't think it's right, but I realize that in some real-life situations, it may be the least of several evils — their views on some other related topics are way off-base. On the one hand, most "Christians" will say that life begins at conception, but then on the other hand, at least Catholics (and I'm sure a whole bunch of other Christians, too) believe that contraception is wrong. This is a logically inconsistent dichotomy: if life begins at conception, and a condom or "the Pill" prevents conception from occurring in the first place, there was never a life, right? The view that contraception is morally wrong would seem to suggest that a "life begins at ejaculation" belief is more appropriate.

The "Christian" view on embryonic stem-cell research is similarly inconsistent with the "life begins at conception" idea. We are talking about tiny blobs of cells that have been created by joining sperm and egg in a laboratory setting; the egg(s) have been surgically harvested from a woman's ovaries, and it should be quite obvious how the sperm are obtained. Given that fertilization is not occurring in a woman's womb — a necessary pre-condition for conception, which occurs when the fertilized egg latches on to the uterine lining — conception cannot occur, and life never begins, yet the "Christians" scream bloody murder and claim that babies are being killed. Again, this view on stem-cell research doesn't fit with the "life begins at conception" idea, and again, a "life begins at ejaculation" approach is more logically consistent. Honestly, I have to wonder where they'll go next: life begins at erection? Life begins at the start of foreplay? Life begins when you pop the porno tape in the VCR?

Finally, the "Christian" beliefs on homosexuality are anything but Christian. Considering that all Christian sub-faiths, denominations, etc., derive their very existence from Jesus Christ Himself, I would dare say that when there is any conflict or ambiguity in the Bible, it is the direct words of Jesus in the Gospels that take precedence over all else. There is not one word about homosexuals or homosexuality in any of the four Gospels; all six of the Bible passages that "Christians" love to use to condemn gay people are found in either the Old Testament or the epistles of Paul.

Even if you do take "fundamentalists" at face value and accept their argument that the Greek words arsenokoitai (poisoner of boys, or pedophile) and malakoi (weak, especially in a moral sense) are better translated as references to the two roles in male-male sex, Jesus' own words still trump Paul's writings in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy. Again, assuming the "fundamentalist" translations to be correct (and in reality, they aren't), Paul apparently wanted us to believe that there's no way homos can get into heaven; however, in John 14:6, Jesus so eloquently stated, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; nobody can come to the Father, except through Me."

Notice that Jesus didn't say that you would get into heaven by heeding Paul's word; He said that the only way into heaven is through Him — that is, by always striving to emulate His example of perfect love for all humankind. (As for the other four references, two of them have nothing to do with homosexuality, and the other two are a hypocritical selective use of Scripture — the very thing for which Jesus so frequently condemned the Pharisees.) If you want to believe in Paul and the Old Testament, call your religion "Paulianity" or "Old-Testamentianity" and stop falsely calling it "Christianity."

Believe it or not, it can literally be said that I hauled shit last week. Last Wednesday afternoon in Florida, I was sent to a facility that processes animal manure for agricultural use. After they loaded me with 880 bags of said shit, weighing almost 46,000 lbs. (20,866 kg), I was on my way to Virginia, where I delivered the shit last Friday. Granted, the shit was in 50-lb. (22.7-kg) bags, palletized, and shrink-wrapped, so it didn't particularly stink, but for the benefit of those people like my friend Marc who find bathroom humor hilarious, I had to mention this. As he would say, "NYAAAAH! NYAAAAH! P-U!" wink (And no, I didn't haul my next load in the same trailer, thank you very much.)

Between now and midnight, I have an all-Illinois load to go haul: it picks up in Ottawa, along Interstate 80, and comes back over here to the suburbs of Chicago. At least I won't be anywhere near Champaign-Urbana, which will be a madhouse should the Fighting Illini win tonight.