Hard News by Russell Brown

I'm a Heathen

I saw Stephen Baldwin in a TV interview recently and thought he seemed quite strange. Then I read this story on Salon and I am now convinced he's a raving lunatic. The least talented of the acting Baldwin brothers, Stephen underwent a born-again experience on September 11, 2001. He gave up his coke habit and became the most loopy, unpleasant and apocalyptic sort of evangelist Christian.

Check this from the story:

Now Baldwin has released a memoir, "The Unusual Suspect," a reference to the one critically acclaimed film for which he's known. The book, the "Gospel according to Stevie B.," is part testimonial and part evangelical manifesto, a cocktail of anti-intellectualism and a biblical interpretation that would have Jesus spinning in his grave, had he stayed there. Baldwin preaches that free will is a lie of Satan -- we must shut off our brains, he says, and be led by what God tells our hearts. Furthermore, he writes, efforts to end global poverty and violence are just the sort of "stupid arrogance" that incur God's wrath, which we'll be feeling any day now in the coming apocalypse. I suppose when the star of "Bio-Dome" is advising the president and converting kids by the thousands to his gnarly brand of faith, the end is, indeed, nigh.

"The Unusual Suspect" features an open letter to Bono, lambasting him for lobbying for debt relief for developing countries instead of preaching the gospel on MTV. Bono must be in league with Satan, whom Baldwin spends a lot of time thinking about. "I am smart enough to know that Satan is alive and well today," he writes. "Satan has all kinds of power, and he is able to control the minds of anyone whose mind isn't controlled by God." Baldwin's theology -- and criticism of secularists and Christian poseurs like Bono -- is written with remarkable confidence for someone who can only recite six of the Ten Commandments and four of the Twelve Apostles.

Thing is, Baldwin is on his way to fundy stardom with an evangelical roadshow that targets the skate 'n' metal demographic and lures it into what Salon describes as "his church of celebrity and absolutism." He is also a "cultural advisor" to President Bush.

Baldwin calls God "Homey" and lauds one of his young skate crew as a "gangsta for Jesus". He's also very matey with Ryan Dobson, son of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson:

In Dobson's book "Be Intolerant," he rails against relativism, homosexuals, environmentalists and "inclusive, open-minded Christians," charging his readers to "get your armor on and take up your cross." He knows just how to instill pride in the heart of his father. "I bleed conservatism, Dobson told me when I met him at a Christian publishing convention in Denver last year, crossing his ornately inked arms over a T-shirt that says, "Jesus Loves My Tattoos." "I see conservatives like me everywhere, at hot rod shows in Vegas, surfing top breaks on the coast, crazy motocross freaks like me living for Jesus. We know we're right, we have the power of the truth behind us. And because of that, I see cities on fire."

For Dobson, Baldwin and young Americans the nation over who yearn for the certainty this brand of Christianity pitches, the personal is political. Absolutism reigns in the new evangelical youth movement, shining through the chaos of modernity, global terror, media bombardment and glorious moral relativism. Baldwin pitches the ultimate dumbed-down fundamentalism, offering reductive, brainless theology. "I sleep good at night because I am totally content in the knowledge that God is in control," he writes, a conviction glittered up with the fact that it sprung from the mind of an honest-to-God celebrity.

Fuck off, that 's all. Just fuck off.

Dobson's Dad, meanwhile, has declared that Rep. Mark Foley's grooming of 16 year-old Congressional pages - which prompted several of the boys to seek help over the years - was just "sort of a joke by the boy and some of the other pages." Lovely.

Adam Bogacki hipped me to this New York Times story about the astonishing (and growing) extent to which faith-based businesses are granted exemptions at all levels by government in the US. Don't want to pay any taxes or bother with health and safety or environmental regulations on your bowling alley or daycare business? Just hang up a cross on the front door. All the other suckers will carry the can.

In other fundy news, Iranian Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Khameini has confirmed on his website that masturbation during Ramadan constitutes a breaking of the fast, even if no spoogeing happens as a consequence. But if you just happen to accidentally touch yourself in a pleasurable way, that's alright: unless semen "really comes out". Don't you love it when they talk dirty like that?

And reader David Cormack was in touch with respect to yesterday's post on Mr Dalrymple: "Whilst I do not agree with his slightly erratic invective on all things leftish, by golly he does write a pretty prose. He wrote a particularly well written article on Islam which in itself is not entirely without sense." Agreed, actually: it's a good read.

The world waits for the Pope's big call on whether limbo - the halfway house between heaven and hell inhabited by unbaptised babies - will be officially abolished or not, and whether that means that stillborn babies go to hell instead. In all seriousness, I hope they do something sensible here. The last thing that the parents of a stillborn child need is to be told that the baby they've just lost has moved on to an eternity of suffering. (Islam, it should be noted, argues that stillborn children go directly upstairs.)

This just in: the Antichrist will be gay. Yes, but at least he'll be tidy

And also a report from the Values Voters Summit in Washington:

The day was not without moments of unintended hilarity, much of it related to the musical selections accompanying the introduction of each speaker. Even though seemingly endless oxygen was spent bashing Hollywood's "anti-Christian" bias, the theme from "Rocky" accompanied Perkins and Dobson to the stage, made only more amusing by Dobson's girly outrage at being spurned for the first 18 months of the second Bush administration. And even though homosexuality is the greatest threat to civilization, the panel "What Feminist Majority? American Women and the Values Agenda" took the stage to the gay anthem "I Will Survive."

Now that's funny.

PS: Dude, where's my National Party? First the climate change thing, then Lockwood Smith pops up voicing support for an incarcerated Iranian who has been repeatedly denied refugee status and is now fending off expulsion by refusing to sign an Iranian passport application. Ironically, Labour's David Cunliffe has previously written a letter in support of the man's case. Scoop has all the details. Labour won't want to lurch into another Zaoui debacle here.

PPS: I'm out out the door to Nelson in a few minutes, to record an episode of Off the Wire (now on Radio Live) this evening. We record at 6.30pm at Yaza Cafe and entry is free if you want to come along.