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It’s Your Time (Having a Baby): Second-Person Pronoun Abuse

January 21, 2010

This is the “New Non-Fiction” rack near the door in a Barnes and Noble. It holds only two books: It’s Your Time and YOU Having a Baby.

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Actually, the complete title of It’s Your Time, by megachurch pastor Joel Osteen, is It’s Your Time: Activate Your Faith, Achieve Your Dreams, and Increase in God’s Favor. (A “search inside the book” for the word “payday” brings up four references, all of them encouraging you to ask for yours).

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There’s no need to even debunk anything Osteen says, because Christians themselves are doing a fine enough job:

Did Jesus die so you could live in “total victory”? Is the story of the resurrection about “living an abundant life”? I mean, don’t get me wrong; I’m an atheist, and I think the Bible is a book of bad history mixed with fiction. But The Lord of the Rings is also fiction, and I’d get mad if you started telling me that Frodo traveled to Mordor as a way of overcoming mediocrity and living an abundant life (and you can too!)

Barbara Ehrenreich (whom I adore) wrote the following in the Huffington Post in 2008, when Osteen’s wife and co-pastor, Victoria, went on trial for assaulting a flight attendant:

Consider the ways the Lord works in the life of the Osteens, as recounted in Joel’s book Your Best Life Now, which has sold four million copies and is graced by a back cover photo of the smiling couple. Acting through Victoria, who kept “speaking words of faith and victory” on the subject, Joel was led to build the family “an elegant home.” On other occasions, God intervened to save Joel from a speeding ticket and to get him not only a good parking spot but “the premier spot in that parking lot.” Why God did not swoop down with a sponge and clean up the offending stain on the armrest remains a mystery, because Osteen’s deity is less the Master of the Universe than an obliging factotum.

But there’s a better reason for this post. The two books juxtaposed on the New Non-Fiction rack have something else in common.

51fmldxrol_sl500_aa240_.jpgNote the bizarre use of English in YOU Having a Baby. It sounds as though the book is written for pregnant ogres. ME HAVE BABY. READ BOOK, NO EAT BABY, NO HIT BABY WITH ROCK!

YOU Having a Baby is, of course, a followup to YOU On a Diet, YOU The Owner’s Manual, YOU Being Beautiful, YOU Staying Young, etc. BECAUSE IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU! Or, more importantly, if you just read a book about pregnancy or dieting, you would be unable to make the imaginative leap towards applying the advice therein to your very own self! Oh, say our sad little selves, Me human too? Book about me? Me diet? Me feel included like not ever before!

Osteen, also, employs a grating second-person address throughout his self-help tome. From the back cover:

Your dream may be just up [sic] around the corner. You may think it will take another two years. But if you stay in faith, who knows? It may just be two more months. You are closer than you think. I believe it’s your time.

Really? Is it all of our time? Let me get this straight — is it literally everyone’s time, or is it only the time of the people who bought the book? The former would seem to create a conundrum: we can’t all have God giving us the best parking spots at once. If the latter, then does Joel have magical powers that allow him to see all of us who were about to buy the book, and see into our futures? If not, and it’s merely the act of purchasing the book that makes you part of the titular “You,” then Joel has set up a grand tautology.

There are two reasons that the gratuitous second-person address is so grating. First, it’s illogical (as above). Second, it’s condescending in the extreme.

What’s the last book you read that addressed you in the second person? For me, it was the Choose Your Own Adventure series. Which, of course, was for children. (And I, of course, was a child).

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From The Abominable Snowman

Christopher Hitchens waxed weary on the subject in 2007 (The You Decade):

I suppose I started to notice it about two or three years ago, when the salespeople at Rite-Aid began wearing dish-sized lapel buttons stating that “YOU are the most important customer I will serve today.” It was all wrong, in the same way that a sign hung on a door saying “Back in five minutes” is out of time as soon as it is put in place. It was wrong in other ways, too, since it could be read from some distance (say, from 10 spaces back in a slow-moving line) and thus became an irritant to anyone who could grasp that “they”—or the “we” of this putative “you”—were not really important at all.

I believe it’s time to take a stand against second-person pronoun abuse (hint: that means you!)

And don’t forget, folks: YOU are the most important person reading this blog!

Go to Onancock! Try not to step in suspicious puddles.

January 2, 2008

On my recent drive to Virginia and back, I took this photo:


Onancock! For those of foggy Biblical memories, Onan is the fellow who lends his name to “onanism,” a word for masturbation, and his story is the basis of many modern-day Christians’ condemnation of the practice. Of course, the Bible says no such thing, but that’s not terribly surprising.

Allow me to digress a moment and talk about the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, the main “anti-gay” tale in the Bible.

In brief, Lot is a good guy who lives in the wicked city of Sodom. Two strange men come into town and Lot offers them a place to stay. He doesn’t know it, but the men are angels. When a gang-raping mob comes to Lot’s door, demanding to rape the angels, Lot responds by instead offering his virgin daughters to be gang-raped. The angels finally step in and blind the potential rapists, so that they become tired trying to find the door to Lot’s house. God then decides to destroy the people of Sodom, saving only Lot and his family, and giving them the arbitrary requirement that they shouldn’t look back. Lot’s wife does look back, and she is turned into a pillar of salt. Lot and his daughters survive, although that must’ve been awkward, considering that Lot had just recently offered his daughters to a gang-raping mob.

Just for kicks, here is a children’s version of the story:

“Lot! We want to meet your guests,” [the mob] shouted from outside the door. “Send them out so we can say hello.” But they were lying. They really wanted to have fun doing terrible things to Lot’s guests.

“Have fun doing terrible things” makes it sound kind of sexy, doesn’t it?

Anyway, this is the story from which much of the Biblical condemnation of homosexuality comes.

In a helpful act of exegesis, allow me to suggest several other, more appropriate morals to the story:

  1. Rape is bad!

  2. In the case of “gay rape,” it’s really the “rape” part that’s the problem.
  3. Fathers who offer their daughters to be gang-raped by mobs should hardly be rewarded by “God.”
  4. If for some terrible reason you are forced to either turn over your daughters or some strangers to a gang-raping mob, you should probably turn over the strangers. In Lot’s case the strangers happened to be angels, but Lot didn’t know that. Ergo, see #3 above.
  5. Rapists deserve to be blinded by magic.
  6. Even if you aren’t gay, “God” might turn you into a pillar of salt for an arbitrary reason.

(Religioustolerance.org offers both liberal and conservative perspectives on this story. The site also makes the fine point that if the entire gang-raping mob had been gay, it wouldn’t have made much sense for Lot to even offer up his daughters in the first place; additionally, the site points out that, since women married at quite a young age, Lot’s “virgin daughters” probably would have been around 14 years old).

And now, back to the <a HREF=”
http://www.jackinworld.com/library/articles/onan.html”>story of Onan:

And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar. And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord slew him. And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the Lord: wherefore he slew him also.

Boy, that God just smites like a bitch!

Side note: “Er” shares a name (well, minus an additional “r”) with this Mooninite, from Aqua Teen Hunger Force:


Anyway, Onan wasn’t masturbating; he was having sex with his widowed sister-in-law for the purpose of getting her pregnant, but then pulling out. Which just seems rude.

(Of course, he had a logical reason — Tamar was the widow of his older brother, so succeeding in producing an heir that would be “counted” as his brother’s would mean that that son would be the family’s firstborn, rather than a son Onan might have later that would be counted as his own. Incidentally, the story gets weirder, as after Onan’s death, Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute to get Er and Onan’s father, Judah, to impregnate her, and from her illegitimate twins ultimately come David, Solomon, and Joseph, foster-parent of Jesus).

If Onan had had enough mojo to impregnate Tamar, keep his own wife (had he had one) as constantly pregnant as possible so as to produce soldiers for Israel, and also masturbate a bit on the side, it seems we wouldn’t have had a problem. No need for half of Salt Lake City to tie their jerk-off hands to the bedpost at night.

Anyway, “Onancock” is a hilarious name for a small Virginia town. (It is, of course, a Native American name, in this case meaning “foggy place.” The official town website is careful to indicate that the name is pronounced “oh NAN cock”).

The Eastern Shore of Virginia also has a small town called “Assateague,” which is neither here nor there.

blasphemy on 42nd St.

December 17, 2007


For those not familiar with the Times Square-area subway stations, these people have a permanent, very lower-middle-class-looking Jesus exhibition at the 42nd St stop near the ACE.


Their many placards pull from the Bible very brief quotes — often containing beginning ellipses, closing ellipses, and internal ellipses (for extra accuracy!) — which give a highly effective proselytizing effect much like this:

“…FOR HE WHO… HOLDS … JESUS … PRAYER … DIES… IS … IN HEAVEN….” (So-and-So 3.24)


I do have the sense of humor of a thirteen-year-old boy, but I thought this one was funny.

Christian Clown Training #1

May 8, 2007

This video, “Christian Clown Training #1,” advises Christian clowns just starting out to begin by performing in nursing homes.

“There are a few common sense rules that every clown ought to be aware of before coming into a nursing home.” The first is to call and ask for permission to come! Otherwise, you will SCARE THE SHIT OUT OF SOME OLD PEOPLE.

More advice:

“If it’s your first time, plan on about a half-hour visit. During that one half-hour visit of non-speaking clowning, you will discover a lot of energy has been expended.”

Also:

“Be sure to choose a partner. Two clowns together are really great.” However, three or four clowns can be intimidating, apparently.

The last part of the video advises clowns to NEVER fulfill requests such as lifting a person, taking them outdoors, or “handing them something.”

Because it would be SO AWESOME to be an old person in a nursing home who can’t get out of bed, wants to go outside, and really needs a glass of water to be “entertained” by a pair of INCREDIBLY UNHELPFUL amateur Christian clowns.

TV in Memphis

September 8, 2006

While on tour down south, I was on Memphis News Channel 3’s “Live at 9,” along with a Christian trashcan-drumming group and some fainting goats.

I thought some of the trashcan-drumming boys were kind of cute until I read their deceptively rock-n-roll-lookin’ t-shirts (not pictured) and spied the middle-aged televangelist-looking man ushering them around. I desperately wanted to say to hosts Alex and Marybeth:

“Religion is fine and all, but I’m not sure Jesus has the best possible use for virile teenage boys’ banging power.”

An Inconvenient Truth

June 9, 2006

Tonight I saw the Al Gore/global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth. It was extremely persuasive.


There were gobs of science, interspersed with just a tiny bit of heart-tugging (for the first time, polar bears are drowning because of the melting of polar ice caps), and topped off with a “what you can do.”

This last part was not comforting; after all of the horrifying explanations of what a twenty-foot rise in sea level will do to the world (and how unfair it is that it’s going to swallow half of India, as well as entire island nations in the Pacific, when the US has caused such a highly disproportionate share of the damage), the addendum on “buy a hybrid car!” and “write to Congress” kind of made me go “um, I think we’ll still be fucked.”

I highly recommend taking an hour and a half of your life to see this film.

That said, the reason Americans are not on board with stopping global warming isn’t a lack of factual information. It’s that 50 million (!) of us believe that we are living in the biblical end-times. I just googled “Christians” and “global warming” and found this article:

Many Christian fundamentalists feel that concern for the future of our planet is irrelevant, because it has no future. They believe we are living in the End Time, when the son of God will return, the righteous will enter heaven, and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire. They may also believe, along with millions of other Christian fundamentalists, that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually welcomed — even hastened — as a sign of the coming Apocalypse.

The Left Behind set is really not concerned with preserving the planet for future generations, as their souls are being airlifted out any day now.


This hilarious image looks like a programming bug in
The Sims, but is actually from this site, which helps Christians
prepare for the Rapture (and not by buying hybrid cars).
(Note: looks like only thin people go to heaven!)

Also from this article:

At RaptureReady.com, the “Rapture Index” tracks all the latest news in relation to biblical prophecy. Among its leading environmental indicators of Apocalypse are oil supply and price, famine, drought, plagues, wild weather, floods, and climate. RaptureReady webmaster Todd Strandberg writes to explain why climate change made the list: “I used to think there was no real need for Christians to monitor the changes related to greenhouse gases. If it was going to take a couple hundred years for things to get serious, I assumed the nearness of the End Times would overshadow this problem. With the speed of climate change now seen as moving much faster, global warming could very well be a major factor in the plagues of the tribulation.”

See, it’s, um, not really the science at issue here.

At the end of the film, a list of “things you can do” includes something like “if you believe in prayer, pray that people will have the courage to change.” That watered-down sentiment probably didn’t provide much persuasive power to any religious folk who actually showed up for the movie, especially considering the Melissa Etheridge song playing in the background. (When did Melissa stop rockin’ out and turn to exclusively recording anthems about social problems for the Oprah set?)

“Earth in the balance,” indeed, and the outcome depends on…


Cameron vs. Gore!

praise Jesus, now eat some ham

March 27, 2005

Today is Easter, when Christ rose from the dead and squatted outside his tomb to bring forth multicolored eggs from his cold, ashen loins.