About Corazon

Monday, May 31, 2010

Gordon Wood on the Current Christian Nation Controversy

Over at his excellent blog, historian Jon Fea cited the following quote from Gordon Wood:
We can’t solve our current disputes over religion by looking back to the actual historical circumstances of the Founding [sic]; those circumstances are too complex, too confusing, and too biased toward Protestant Christianity to be used in courts today, and most of them are remote from or antagonistic to the particular needs of the twenty-first century. We do not, and cannot, base American constitutional jurisprudence on the historical reality of the Founding [sic]. . . . What Founders’ [sic] intent should we choose to emphasize? That of the deistic Jefferson and Madison? Or that of the churchgoing Washington and Adams, with their sympathies for religion? Or that of the countless numbers of evangelical Protestants who captured control of the culture to an extent most of the Founding [sic] elite never anticipated?
Wood, who is a surefire winner for this year's Pulitzer Prize, is not alone in feeling that the recent culture wars over church and state, the Founding Fathers and religion, etc. has clouded the truth. In his book, Founding Faith, author Steven Waldman states that:
In battles over prayer in school, courtroom displays of the Ten Commandments, and other emotional issues, both sides follow a well-worn script: The "religious" side wants less separation of church and state, and the "secularists" want more...For starters, many conservatives believe that if they can show that the Founding Fathers were very religious, they thereby also prove that the Founders abhorred separation of church and state...Some liberals, meanwhile, feel the need to prove the Founders were irreligious or secular and therefore, of course, in favor of separation...But in the heat of this custody battle over the spiritual lives of the Founding Fathers, BOTH SIDES DISTORT HISTORY...In fact, the culture wars have so warped our sense of history that we typically have a very limited understanding of how we came to have religious liberty.
And Jon Meacham, in his book American Gospel states:
Both sides feel they are fighting for the survival of what's best for America: liberals for openness and expanding rights, conservatives for a God-fearing, morally coherent culture...The conservative right's contention that we are a "Christian nation" that has fallen from pure origins and can achieve redemption by some kind of return to Christian values is based on wishful thinking, not convincing historical argument...the secularist arrogance that religion played no role in America's founding is equally ridiculous.
Yes, the virtual tug-o-war over America's "true" founding seems to be about everything except history! And is it possible that if we set aside the politics, religion, etc., we will find that the history doesn't prove a darn thing? In other words, perhaps these culture wars have nothing to do with the founders or early America but instead should be seen through a modern lens? Without the convoluted heritage of the founding?

Perhaps such a claim comes off sounding too unpatriotic, but I think Dr. Wood is right. Maybe we really "can’t solve our current disputes over religion by looking back to the actual historical circumstances of the Founding."

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Rockies v. Dodgers

Our Family's First
Major League Baseball Game

This evening our family attended our first Major League baseball game at Coors Field, where we saw the Colorado Rockies v. the Los Angeles Dodgers. Here are a few pics:

At home, all ready to leave for the game.
Arriving at the stadium. Coors Field has consistently been voted as one of the most popular stadiums in professional baseball, and now our family knows why. The stadium is absolutely beautiful.
Entering the stadium. Ball park tickets: $28 dollars. Parking pass: $13.00. Witnessing Jaxson's first reaction to seeing a REAL Major League baseball field: PRICELESS!!!
The center field of Coors Field has this beautiful water fountain. Another reason why it is rated one of the best in baseball.
Dodger manager Joe Torre supervising pitching practice. Torre was the man who brought four World Series titles to the New York Yankees between 1996-2007.
Jaxson taking in the awesomeness of Coors Field.
And even though our seats were way out in center field, we still had a decent view...and had a GREAT time.
Zakary getting ready to root, root, root for the home team!
Coors Field also has TONS of fun activities for kids. Here is Zakary doing some tee ball madness.
The whole clan having a blast! Who says baseball is boring!

And here's a short video of the 7th inning stretch where, by tradition, everyone sings "Take Me Out To The Ball Game."

And the singing of the National Anthem:

Oh, and most important of all, the Rockies won the game! 11-3.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Random Pictures

I decided to clean out our camera today but before doing so I download the following random pictures:

Defending the Book of Mormon: The DNA Rebuttal

In the past year, a number of religious, scientific and historical skeptics have come forward with new evidence that they believe completely and utterly destroys the validity of the Book of Mormon. This new evidence, which centers on several DNA studies, states that the claims made in the Book of Mormon, particularly regarding the origins of Native Americans, is completely and utterly bogus. Now, as most religious people are aware, one cannot prove the validity/invalidity of the Book of Mormon (or any scripture for that matter) purely with science. Scripture, and religion in general, are matters of faith which transcend the physical world. As a result, any person of faith (from almost any religion) will tell you that a spiritual conversion is paramount to understanding matters of faith. And as our missionaries have been stating for over 100 years, one needs to pray sincerely and with real intent to the only source (God) that can give your soul clarity on such issues.

With all of that aside, I want to focus on these alleged "smoking gun" discoveries that supposedly shed "irrefutable" doubt on the validity of the BoM.

First off, as some of you probably already know, the Mormon Church recently made a one-word change to the introduction of the BoM. The old version read:
After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principle ancestors of the Native Americans (my emphasis).
The new version reads as follows:
After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and thy are among the ancestors of the Native Americans (my emphasis). "After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians."
So why the change? First off, let's keep in mind that this is NOT the first time that the Mormon Church has made changes to the BoM. There have been literally hundreds of changes over the years. Unlike many Evangelical Protestants, we as Mormons do not accept the doctrine of Sola Scriptura -- i.e the infallibility of scripture. We accept that ALL scripture (including the BoM) is written by man, and therefore subject to human error. Even the Title Page of the BoM reminds us of this:
And now, if there are any faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgement-seat of Christ.AndAnd now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God...
This simple fact helps us understand the change. The Mormon Church has always tried to update and correct its doctrine/scripture when necessary.

Now, skeptics will claim that these changes are the symptom of a church cover up. They will say that these recent DNA discoveries have forced the Mormon church to change fundamental doctrines in an effort to appease the scientific community. They are mistaken. The Mormon Church has never EVER claimed that our scripture was perfect. In fact, the very man who translated the BoM made such a claim:
"I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book."
Nowhere does Joseph Smith say that the BoM is infallible. Instead, he says "most correct." This still allows for human error to occur, but does not take away from the book still being the "most correct" of any on earth.

Now, this whole controversy over one stupid little word is the result of some recent scientific discoveries. In 2006, around the same time that the change to the BoM introduction was made, scientists were testing the DNA of several old Native American tribes that were still in existence. Their results: the DNA of Native Americans IS NOT Jewish/Hebrew/etc., but instead is ASIAN. As a result, Mormon skeptics have literally pounced on this proclamation and declared it to be proof-positive that the BoM is/was a fraud. After all, how can one refute DNA evidence? Isn't this the same evidence that is declared to be 99.8% accurate in a court of law? Case closed, right?

Not so fast.

There are a few factors that we must take into account before we simply declare this study to have closed the book on the BoM case. Here are four key issues that all of us (including the Mormon faithful) need to consider:

#1: New World Colonization
From all credible archaeological and historical accounts, the "New World" was populated with between 300 and 400 million native inhabitants. As we all know, after Christopher Columbus "sailed the ocean blue in 1492" and discovered the New World, a literal fever of exploration, colonization and conquest caused the Spanish, French, Dutch, English, Portuguese and others to stake their claims in these strange lands beyond the Atlantic. And as history shows, the European conquest was a huge success, a success that inadvertently caused the literal genocide of the vast and diverse Native American population. Between the early years of Columbus' discovery (1492) and the onset of the American Revolution (1776) most experts estimate that the amount of death (caused primarily by European disease) took the lives of over 80% of all Native people. In other words, 8 in 10 Native Americans were dead before the United States ever became a nation.

So what does this mean for the BoM? Simply put, the DNA samples taken from these various ancient tribes is only indicative of 20% of all Native Americans. In other words, the test conclusively proves that 2 in 10 Natives don't match what is preached in the BoM.

But it gets worse.

#2: Mitochondrial DNA
As most laymen (or women) know, DNA are the basic building blocks of life that is past on to offspring through sexual contact. Both male and female chromosomes combine to create a new life form, whose genetic makeup is a mix of both paternal and maternal DNA (I realize that as a novice in science I have no right to make any profound comments on DNA research but I think my very simplistic explanation is sound for this topic).

Now, when testing the descendants of a particular individual/race/civilization, scientists are not able to simply take a regular DNA sample. Instead, they must look to MITOCHONDRIAL DNA. The Mitochondria is often referred to as "the powerhouse" of the human cell. And for some reason, it contains its own DNA that can be traced back thousands of years to determine one's origins. From all scientific standards, the testing of mitochondrial DNA is foolproof and considered a solid scientific practice. As a result, any assault on the testing of mitochondria, from the perspective of accuracy, would be futile. HOWEVER, there is one key element to mitochondrial DNA that does shed doubt on the DNA testing of Native Americans. Mitochondrial DNA is MATERNAL. In other words, a male cannot pass on his genetic material into the mitochondria of his children. Only the female can accomplish this.

So what does this mean for the DNA testing of Native Americans? It means that the results are a representation of FEMALE genetic origins. And since men account for roughly 50% of the human population, we are forced to omit 50% of all Native Americans from this test. So, we take our 20% of surviving Native Americans and divide it in half, which gives us roughly 10%. Simply put, the DNA testing of living Native Americans proves that only 10% of all Native Americans are of Asian decent.

Hence the reason for the change in the BoM intro. The testing clearly proves that 1 in 10 Native Americans do not fit with the BoM story. So, in an effort to reflect this reality, the Mormon Church has made the change..."AMONG the ancestors of the Native Americans."

#3: Reading the BoM the Right Way
This probably sounds conceded. I'm not suggesting that I know the right way to read the BOM. That's a personal decision. Instead, I am suggesting that we get rid of an old but persistent myth when reading the BoM. For too long, members (and non-members alike) have assumed that the BoM is the story of three separate migrations to the New World: the Jaredites, Lehi and his family, and the people of Mulek. The BoM mentions these three, AND ONLY THESE THREE independent migrations. For some reason, it is assumed that these parties arrived to a virgin land, vacant of any other human life, and that somehow these relatively small migrations multiplied until they became large enough to fill all the lands from Canada to the tip of South America.

My question: where does it say ANYTHING to this effect in the BoM? Why do we insist that Nephi, Lehi, Bro. of Jared, etc. were the ONLY people living here? Isn't that quite presumptuous? For one thing, the wives/daughters of Lehi, Nephi, Laman, Lemuel, etc. would have had to give birth to HUNDREDS of children each in order to hit the numbers that Columbus and other explorers encountered in 1492. Physically speaking, this was impossible for women of the ancient world.

Perhaps the following analogy will help make sense of this. When we read the records of the Puritan settlers of Massachusetts, they often make it sound as though they stumbled upon a fresh, untouched, virgin land just waiting for them to colonize. As we know this wasn't the case. Literally thousands of Native Americans lived in and around the region, not to mention the fact that a dozen or so European ventures had already been in the area. The Puritans didn't discover a virgin land and neither did Lehi, Nephi, etc.

#4: What Tribe Were They?
Last point. Remember what tribe Lehi was from? He was the son of Joseph, who was sold into Egypt (1 Nephi 5: 14-16). And as we know, Joseph had two sons: Ephraim and Manasseh. Now, we have no way of knowing which of the two Lehi came from, but it is at least very likely that they came from Manasseh. Why? Manasseh was a nomadic, wandering tribe that was heavily involved in shipping, trade and sheep-hearding. And if you recall, Nephi, Laman, etc. were unfamiliar with Jerusalem when asked to return to the city by Lehi. I find it interesting that Nephi keeps calling Jerusalem the "Land of our Inheritance" instead of "Home." Could it be that they were hardly ever there? Wandering about as Manasseh had always done? As quasi-nomads?

And then there's the case of Lehi. Isn't it amazing that he had no problem wandering in the "wilderness." It was almost as if he had done it before...lots of times. Could he have been a trader? How did he and his kids learn Egyptian?

And remember Ishmael? Back in Lehi's Day, "Ishmael" was a VERY popular name among...not Jews...but the ARABS! Why would Lehi be friends with an Arab?

Of course this is all speculation, but the evidence seems to support it. And here's one last thing to consider about Manasseh: Since they were a wandering tribe, that meant they were regularly in contact with other civilizations. In fact, national identity in the ancient world was nothing like it is now, and as a result, the intermixing of blood was common. Could Manasseh have incorporated some Asian blood? Oh, and keep in mind that the Assyrians conquered and led away the tribe of Manasseh during their conquest of Jerusalem. It wouldn't be hard to see how intermixing could have taken place at that time as well!

In conclusion, the so-called "smoking gun" evidence provided by DNA testing is anything but. Fortunately, we don't have to rely on that.  In the end, The Book of Mormon, like any book of scripture, requires faith.  Science, history, etc. have their roles but so does scripture, and for that I am glad we have the Book of Mormon today.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Glenn Beck Check, Part V: Summing Up My Problem With Glenn Beck

If you follow my blog with any regularity, surely you have read some of my "Glenn Beck Check" posts in which I debunk the myths, half truths and downright lies of America's favorite doomsday practitioner. And though I have received a number of comments and emails from people who agree with me 100% that Beck is a fraud, a smaller (but growing) number of friends and family members have asked me why I choose to attack Beck when all he is trying to do is (according to them) inspire people to love their country, be patriotic, fear God again, do good, etc., etc., etc. Some have even gone so far as to send "nasty grams" via Facebook in which they label me as a closet liberal who has been brainwashed by the "progressive" media and university, afterwhich they quickly de-friend me from their Facebook list (which is probably a good thing. If differing political views cause you to freak out to that level then you are no friend of mine). In addition, some are shocked to see me attack a fellow Mormon. After all, don't Mormons support and stand by their own?

First off, let's back up a little bit here. Let me state loud and clear to all that I am NOT a liberal, democrat or progressive, and that attacking Glenn Beck does not automatically make somebody such. Like most conservatives, I believe in fiscal responsibility, smaller government, less government programs, etc. What I don't agree with, however, is the doomsday approach to politics that many conservatives seem to embrace these days. The "Obama is a fascist, socialist, Maoist, Marxist, Nazi, progressive" nonsense is just that: nonsense. Not only are such accusations untrue but they make conservatives look like brainless thugs bent on destroying the opposition because they can't get over the sour grape taste in their mouths from losing an election. Simply put, it's as if modern conservatives have made a virtue out of stupidity.

In my opinion, nobody has done more to further the nonsensical, doomsday, apocalyptic approach to modern conservatism than Glenn Beck. His constant rants on progressivism, socialism, communism, etc., which he believes are creeping into the White House, drives me nuts. I'm not saying that Beck doesn't have th right to criticize Obama. On the contrary. In fact, I happen to agree with Beck on many POLITICAL issues. What I don't agree with, however, is his end of times approach to politics, which does nothing more than invoke an emotional response from his target audience. If you want to question and attack the president on spending, healthcare, or his Supreme Court selection I am all for it. Just do so without calling him a Hitler, Stalin, Maoist, Marxist meany head!

But that's not the only reason I have a problem with Glenn Beck. For those of you who know me (or have followed my blog) you know that I am quite passionate about history, particularly early American history. I've spent the majority of my adult life studying, dissecting and researching different aspects of early American history and believe (at the risk of possibly sounding conceded) that I have a very strong knowledge of the time period. I even have one of those evil "progressive" graduate degrees in history to prove it!

Anyway, I mention this because my fundamental issue with Glenn Beck is not political, it's historical. If you go back and read my 4 "Glenn Beck Check" posts you will see that they deal almost exclusively with Glenn Beck's portrayal of American history. And much like his political rants, Glenn Beck has used the same rhetoric with his history, primarily relying on the timeless conservative tradition of ridiculing experts, scholars, etc. as "progressives" bent on brainwashing their students.

Let me be blunt: Glenn Beck's history SUCKS! Though he fancies himself as a student of American history (particularly early American history) his portrayal of it is absolutely atrocious. I won't rehash the several examples of where Beck has distorted, misrepresented and outright lied about American history (you can read some of them in my other posts). Rather I will simply point out some of the incredible hypocrisy in Beck's approach to and portrayal of American history.

First, Glenn Beck often invites several "experts" in American history to come on his show and tell his audience how modern historians are "misrepresenting" and even "changing" history to fit their "progressive" agenda. Usually these "experts" are not historians at all but instead are political or religious activists who are themselves more guilty of misrepresenting and changing history than anyone else. Men like David Barton, Peter Lillback, Jerry Falwell Jr. etc. are some of the common "experts" that Beck will cite in his quest to teach the "true" version of American history. And, interestingly enough, many of these same "historians" have been forced to recant the errors and misrepresentations in their books, articles, etc. because those same evil, progressive, fascist historians called them out on their crap. As a result, almost every single "expert" that Beck has on his show has zero credibility in the historical community.

So here are my questions for Beck: oftentimes you will hear him say on his radio/television programs that Americans need to "read the words of the founders" in order to "discover the truth for yourselves." In addition, Beck will tell his audience to "not rely on the opinions of the so-called experts of history" who are out to "change the history books." Guess what...I couldn't agree more. Americans really do need to read the actual words of the founders. And when they do, they will discover just how full of crap Glenn Beck really is. In addition, it is silly to exclusively rely on the so-called experts. For example, Peter Lillback, a well known Evangelical activist, pseudo historian and author of the book, George Washington's Sacred Fire was unable to get any legitimate publisher to publish his book, simply because it is so full of nonsense. However, after bringing Lillback on his show and telling his audience to read the book, Glenn Beck was able to lift George Washington's Sacred Fire to #2 on Amazon's best seller list. In other words, Beck is guilty of doing exactly what he tells his audience not to do: to read and give ear to the opinions of the so-called experts who are bent on changing history to fit their biased agenda.

The saddest part is that Beck's audience will eat up Lillback's distorted view of history, accepting what a political/religious activist has to say over the opinions and work of actual historians. But this is precisely what Beck wants. Beck thrives on castigating authority by proclaiming to one and all that a liberal, socialist, progressive conspiracy is taking place and that the so-called "experts" cannot be trusted. Instead, people need to turn to the "credible" voices of "reason" who just happen to be in Beck's camp (how convenient). Like I said before, modern conservatism really has made a virtue out of stupidity.

So to all my Glenn Beck-loving friends, let me ask you a couple of simple questions: Don't you find it AMAZING that America has been gripped by this terrible, horrible, fascist, Marxist, socialist, progressive movement that has slowly infiltrated America since the early part of the 20th century and all of the experts/smart people over the decades have completely missed it? But Glenn Beck, a morning radio D.J. by trade, was able to single-handedly uncover the truth? Simply amazing isn't it! And then there's Beck's quest to "refound" America and return it to its original roots. My question to you is this: when exactly was this era? Which generation of Americans shared the same view of America that Glenn Beck advocates? Which period of American history embraced this Utopian (or better put "Beckonian") view of American republicanism?

Well, let me answer those questions: there is no fascist, Marxist conspiracy and NO GENERATION of Americans ever embraced Beck's view of America. Why you ask? Because Beck's reality isn't reality. As I said before, Beck's history sucks. As a result, his view of America sucks. It isn't based on fact.

In conclusion, I think my analogy of WWE wrestlers and modern American political pundits is appropriate. I have stated, many times, that I believe modern American politicians and pundits can be likened to WWE wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, etc. Why you ask? Because they both sell a product that triggers an emotional response from its target audience. Though almost everyone accepts the fact that WWE wrestling is fake, millions of fans still passionately follow their favorite wrestler with great excitement and devotion. The same can be said of politicians and pundits. Though most of what they say is simply geared to getting people worked up for their cause by lying and twisting the facts (a reality that almost everyone accepts) people still choose to give their allegiance to a particular party/pundit/politician. And of course, this causes extreme partisanship over issues that are relatively unimportant or on which the difference of opinion isn't as great as we are lead to believe.

So, I will conclude this post with the following video and ask you all to tell me how it is any way different than what people like Glenn Beck do every day on their radio/television program. In my opinion, there is no difference:

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Zakary's 3rd Birthday

Today we celebrated the first stage of what is sure to be a week long birthday extravaganza for Zakary. Here are a few pics of the cake, ice cream, dinosaurs, etc.:

Our happy (and crazy) three-year-old boy.
Big brother looking on.
Zakary's dinosaur cake.
Mom dishing up the goods.
Dinosaurs eating cake and ice cream. They actually ate more of it than Zakary did.
A "Cakeosaurus."
Licking the dinos clean.

And here's a short video: