Prof. Robert Cargill on Iowa Public Radio to Discuss Issues of Separation of Church and State in Iowa

I’ve been invited to discuss matters pertaining to the separation of church and state on Iowa Public Radio‘s “River to River” with Ben Kieffer tomorrow, Monday, June 2, 2014, from noon to 1pm.

Iowa Public Radio mugWe’ll likely be discussing the recent proclamation signed by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, as well as the use of public Iowa funds to build a Christian themed park in Sioux City, recent court decisions dealing with prayer at government meetings, and my favorite, the placement of religious monuments on government lands and buildings.

You can listen to the discussion live by clicking on the LISTEN LIVE button on the top of the page here.

Tune in tomorrow. Should be fun.

Prof. Robert Cargill to Appear on Iowa Public Radio’s “News Buzz” Today at 12:45c to Discuss List of Most and Least Bible-minded Cities

I’m scheduled to appear on Iowa Public Radio’s “News Buzz” segment today (Friday, January 24, 2014) at 12:45 (central) with Ben Kieffer.

I’ll be discussing a new report completed by the American Bible Society and the Barna Group, which ranked the most and least Bible-minded cities in the US. Specifically, I’ll be addressing the Cedar Rapids/Waterloo/Iowa City area, which ranked the 5th least Bible-minded city, up (or down, depending on your perspective) from #9 on last year’s inaugural list.

America's Most (and Least) Bible-minded Cities for 2014. (Image source: American Bible Society/Barna Group)

America’s Most (and Least) Bible-minded Cities for 2014. (Image source: American Bible Society/Barna Group)

The results were based upon responses to over 46,000 surveys of adults nationwide over a seven-year period asking whether respondents had “read the Bible withing the past seven days” and whether they “agreed strongly in the accuracy of the Bible”. According to Barna, “respondents who report reading the bible within the past seven days and who agree strongly in the accuracy of the Bible” are identified as “Bible-minded” individuals.

The Top 10 Bible-minded cities are:

1. Chattanooga, TN
2. Birmingham, AL
3. Roanoke/Lynchburg, VA
4. Springfield, MO
5. Shreveport, LA
6. Charlotte, NC
7. Greenville/Spartanburg, SC/Asheville, NC
8. Little Rock, AR
9. Jackson, MS
10. Knoxville, TN

By contrast, the least Bible-minded cities:

1. Providence, RI/ New Bedford, MA.
2. Albany, NY
3. Boston, MA
4. San Francisco, CA
5. Cedar Rapids/Waterloo, IA
6. Buffalo, NY
7. Hartford/New Haven, CN
8. Phoenix, AZ
9. Burlington, VT
10. Portland, ME

Time’s Denver Nicks points out that “many cities in the East Coast continued to rank as the least Bible-minded in 2013,” and suggested that New York City’s “large Jewish population may have rescued it from the bottom ten.” (The survey allowed respondents to determine for themselves whether or not reading the Torah counted as reading the Bible for the purposes of the survey.)

The Blaze’s Billy Hallowell has a nice analysis of the data.

The American Bible Society notes that of the top 25 most Bible-minded cities, only three of them have populations over one million people, suggesting an inverse relationship between urban population and Bible-mindedness. Smaller towns tend to be more Bible-minded.

Christianity Today notes that small towns that are home to Bible colleges tended to rank as much more Bible-minded. They note that “19 of the top 20 most ‘Bible-minded’ cities host sizable Christian colleges.”

I’ll contribute the following:

1) The highest ranked Bible-minded city in the upper-Midwest is #28 Indianapolis, IN, which coincidentally was the only Great Lakes state that voted from Romney in the 2012 Presidential election.

2) Iowa City lawyer and friend, Steve Klesner, points out that this may be due to the fact that the immigrants that settled the upper-Midwest are from places that traditionally value and abide by the rule of law and the authority of secular governments more so than, for instance, those immigrants that settled the South, who traditionally might be more likely to settle disputes personally (with fists or guns). This may be due to the historical South’s tendency to distrust the federal government and its legal system (dating all the way back to pre-Civil War days), or may be a result of a reliance on what Southerners believe to be a “higher authority” made knowable only through the Bible. In such a case, we might expect those who read the Bible both more frequently and literally to be less supportive of the federal government, while those who do not read the Bible as frequently or as literally might place more trust in the fairness of the government.

3) The above supports what appears to be an obvious correlation between traditional “red states” and “blue states” and this survey of Bible-mindedness. Note that the Bible Belt is home to most of the top Bible-minded cities, whereas the northeast and west coast are home to many of the least Bible-minded cities.

Note that the Top 20 Bible-minded cities are all in states that voted for the Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the 2012 Presidential election with the exception of the swing states of Virginia and Florida. The exceptions can be explained by noting that both exceptions listed in the Top 20 (#3 Roanoke/Lynchburg, VA in western Virginia, and #18 Jacksonville, FL in northeastern Florida near Georgia) are considered conservative strongholds within these swing states.

2012 US Presidential Election Electoral Results

2012 US Presidential Election Electoral Results

4) This correlation is also consistent with surveys that have ranked the smartest cities and/or states in America. According to multiple surveys, there is an inverse correlation to overall education level of a state’s residents (based upon high school graduation rate, percentage of residents with college and graduate degrees, etc.) and what this survey would characterize as Bible-mindedness. That is, with few exceptions, the cities that rank as the smartest cities in the nation generally correlate with cities listed as the least Bible-minded in the survey. So for cities in Iowa to be listed along side well known intellectual centers like Boston and the San Francisco Bay Area is a well-deserved achievement, and accurately reflects the priority Iowans place on education as well as the payoff we are beginning to realize on the investment Iowans are making in public education.

5) Specifically addressing the Waterloo/Cedar Rapids/Iowa City area as the 5th least Bible-minded city, this may be explained by the fact that Iowans, and in this case, eastern Iowans are relatively highly educated, fiercely independent, and do not take well to being told how to think by any organized group, whether it be a religious group, a political group, or any other kind of organization. Kevin Hall of the Iowa Republican writes that:

“Democrats in Iowa outnumbered Republicans 640,776-636,315, a difference of 4,461…Both parties are dwarfed by the number of registered independents, which surged to 722,348.”

That is, there are more registered Independents in Iowa than either registered Republicans or Democrats, again supporting the independent-mindedness of Iowans.

6) Without a doubt respondents who answered that they neither read the Bible nor believe the Bible to be accurate must contribute to some of these Cedar Rapids/Waterloo/Iowa City numbers. Thus, we cannot overlook the fact that a large concentration of Iowa independents and free thinkers necessarily suggests a growing number of increasingly proud and vocal atheist, secularist, and humanist groups in Iowa.

7) However, I believe it is also important to differentiate between the two criteria used by the survey to describe “Bible-mindedness”, as the survey’s questionable methodology may undervalue the presence and significance of a large number of progressively-minded Christians. While many respondents in the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City area may have reported reading the Bible within the past seven days, the frequency of one’s reading of the Bible is quite different from how one might judge the “accuracy” of the Bible, which may or may not be understood as “inerrancy” or “infallibility” of the biblical text by those taking the survey. That is to say, there may be many quite faithful Christians in this area who may have been educated in a non-confessional religious studies department like the University of Iowa’s Department of Religious Studies in which I teach, where the approach to the biblical text is one based upon literary critical, archaeological, and generally more academically analytical approaches, as opposed to the more apologetic, theological, and/or confessional approaches employed by the faculties of many of the small Bible colleges present in 19 of the Top 20 Bible-minded towns.

Thus, a respondent who felt the Bible is not factually “accurate” with respect to stories such as a six-day creation, the biblical flood, etc., may be identified as not Bible-minded by the survey, despite the fact that they read the Bible daily and may be an active, confessing Christian. That is, the survey may be better described as a survey of “fundamentalist Bible-mindedness” or “Biblical-literalist cities,” as the survey tends to equate Bible-mindedness with a belief in the “accuracy” of the biblical text – something that progressive-minded Christians are more inclined to reject as evidenced by other recent surveys that show that nearly two-thirds of Christians now accept human evolution.

[Again, note that in this Pew research poll, a disproportionate number of white, evangelical Protestants (who would make up a large percentage of those believing in the inerrancy and infallibility, and therefore the “accuracy” of the Bible), still reject evolution and cling to the biblical account of Creation.]

For more, be sure to tune in at 12:45 today to listen.

Audio of my interview on Iowa Public Radio’s “River to River” with Ben Kieffer

Dr. Robert Cargill in Qumran Cave 4. Photo by Yuval Peleg.

Dr. Robert Cargill in Qumran Cave 4. Photo by Yuval Peleg.

Yesterday, I was interviewed by Ben Kieffer on Iowa Public Radio‘s “River to River” show. Many thanks to Ben Kieffer for a great experience, and to Producer Emily Woodbury for setting it up and making me feel at home.

Description:

“On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer sits down with University of Iowa archeologist and religious scholar, Robert Cargill. They discuss Cargill’s trip to Israel with UI students for an excavation of Tel Azekah, as well as his latest project – a six-part documentary called “Bible Secrets Revealed.” It begins airing this week on the History Channel, starting Wednesday November 13 at 9 p.m.”

Give the interview a listen.

And tune in to “Bible Secrets Revealed” on History tonight, Nov 13, 2013 at 10/9c. The series airs every Wednesday for the next six weeks.

Live tweet your comments and feedback with the hashtag #BibleSecretsRevealed.

For more, visit the official “Bible Secrets Revealed” website.

happy 40th birthday npr and ‘all things considered’

Happy Birthday NPR and All Things ConsideredPlease help me in wishing a very happy 40th birthday to NPR and All Things Considered. Thanx for all you do for me during my 101-405 commute. Thank you Robert Siegel, Michele Norris, Melissa Block, and Guy Raz, and to everyone who makes the production so outstanding.

(HT: JW via FB)

on the prophetic nature of board games: bp offshore oil strike

you simply won’t believe this.

BP Offshore Oil Strikefor those of you who roll your eyes at ‘prophecy’ and divine manifestations in ordinary occurrences like images of the virgin mary in water stains and jesus cheetos, here’s one that is sure to make you laugh (or cry… or hate the 70’s… or hate the fact that we’re still repeating the mistakes of the 70’s despite our technological advances):

in the 1970’s, bp teamed up with a game company named printabox to create this foreboding game: bp offshore oil strike.

npr and cnn have reported on the prescient playtime masterpiece, where players learn the risks and rewards of searching for oil in the ocean. geek system has a complete description of the game.

simply ironic prophetic i told you so we knew better unbelievable.

(ht: peter lanfer)

in honor of earth day 2010

Recycle Logomost of you know i’m an advocate for the environment. i recycle my coffee grounds, use my organic npr cotton tote bags when i go to trader joe’s, drive an original, pre-hatchback toyota prius (175,000+ miles), advocate for the voter-approved super train from la to the central valley, want desperately a metro train in los angeles, grow my own vegetables and herbs, and belong to several environmental organizations including the national geographic society, global green usa, ducks unlimited, sierra club, and santa monica mountain trails council inc. (yes, i believe i’m the only living member of du and the the sierra club.) so, i can safely say that i take the environment fairly seriously.

that said, i don’t like militants, obnoxious nutjobs, or people who yell for any reason. replanting trees is just as much an environmental exercise as is eating what you kill when you hunt. humans eating other animals is just as ‘natural’ as when other animals do it. and as for research and testing on animals, as long as it is done as humanely as possible, i’m all for it; that’s all part of being a natural animal on the top of the food chain, and it’s how we evolved to be where we are as a species. thus, as much as i am an advocate for the environment, i cannot stand environmental militants. to me, they are just as disdainful as religious or political militants.

therefore, in honor of earth day, i offer to you what is without exception the single greatest environmental protest fail video ever. enjoy!

carl kasell’s voice has finally arrived!

Carl Kasell, NPR Newscaster, Wait Wait...Dont Tell Me! Judge, and quite possible the coolest man around!

Carl Kasell, NPR Newscaster, Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! Judge, and quite possible the coolest man on earth!

how cool is this!

perhaps the most coveted prize in all of comedy, game shows, and general geekdom has finally arrived. carl kasell has recorded the message on my iphone and i could not be happier. after my win on wait wait…don’t tell me!, i was ecstatic. however, i had always wondered how they’d get carl’s voice onto my voice mail. when i learned that i got to write the message i wanted him to say, i figured i’d have a little fun with it. so i did, and to his credit, carl kasell was an excellent sport and read my message as i wrote it – self-deprecating portions and all! what a thrill.

i bow to carl kasell a thousand times for his sense of humor and his willingness to make an npr nerd’s day. thank you to carl kasell, emily ecton, peter sagal, and the entire npr and wait wait team.

thank you. thank you. thank you!

now, to keep you all from calling me, i have uploaded an mp3 of carl kasell’s message for my iphone on my server. tell me what you think in the comments below. and listen to npr!!!

if m.i.t.’s methodology is correct, i may be outed against my knowledge

researchers at boston’s massachusetts institute of technology (m.i.t.) have apparently developed a way to determine whether or not someone is gay (well, at least gay on facebook). this new technological advance purports to determine statistically whether or not one is gay by examining a person’s facebook profile, including the sexual orientation of one’s facebook friends.

…two students in a course on Internet ethics and law designed a program that looked at the profile information—including gender and sexuality—of a person’s Facebook friends and analyzed the information to predict the person’s sexuality. The students called the program “Gaydar.”

as many of you know, i’m a huge facebooker. in fact, facebook was instrumental in helping me win carl kasell’s voice on my home answering device on ‘wait wait…don’t tell me!,’ the npr news quiz. and i’ll tell you right now: i have many facebook friends, including many gay facebook friends. up until recently, my relationship status has always been hidden (in keeping with my now six-year old policy of ‘my private life is none of your business.’) likewise, i have regularly written against california’s proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in california (see also here and here and here). likewise, i am single, clean, in shape, in my mid-thrities, use a mac, drive a hybrid prius, own a cat, love coldplay, regularly write poetry, work in west los angeles, and have generally been described as a ‘metrosexual’ (however one defines it).

so i am curious (not bi-curious, just curious): what will the m.i.t. researchers conclude about me? imho, the fact that i’m writing about this betrays what i already think their conclusion will be. i don’t care if m.i.t. or fresno city college is running the numbers, statistically, i’m gonna make a few blips on the so-called ‘gaydar.’

but should this be the case? should we assume that advocates for same-sex marriage and those who love listening to ani difranco sing ‘little plastic castle’ are themselves gay? part of the reason i never answer the question of ‘are you gay’ is because so much of the anti-gay and anti-same-sex marriage lobby relies on the assumption that those who show solidarity with gay causes must themselves be gay. they may never say so aloud, but they rely on the assumed implication to marginalize the person at church at work within certain social circles. while this may not necessarily be the case, every time a straight man emphatically answers, ‘no!’ to the question of, ‘are you gay,’ it perpetuates this assumption. of course, there are some occasions where the question can and should be answered (like getting hit on in a bar, or a party, or a library, or a public lecture, or at sbl, or at church or, well, you get the picture). but, when someone inappropriately asks, ‘are you gay?’ for reasons of marginalizing the one questioned, straight men need to begin answering, ‘that’s none of your business.’ the sooner straight individuals stop answering the question, the sooner those asking will learn that is an inappropriate question to ask.

while statistical correlations can sometimes indicate certain likelihoods, these statistical trends cannot and should not be used to stereotype, pigeonhole, discriminate against, or define individuals. being friends with, hanging out with, or spending time with individuals of certain persuasions does not result in one being of a similar persuasion. was jesus a prostitute? a tax-collector? a leper? a drunk?? black friends do not make me black. muslim friends do not make me muslim. straight friends do not make me straight. and gay friends do not make me gay. likewise, one who supports the civil rights of homosexuals is not necessarily gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that), just as supporting the civil rights of women, blacks, or straight white males does not make one a woman, black, or a straight white male. we should be free to love one another and do business with, eat dinner with, worship with, marry, live next to, and simply befriend individuals of all races, religions, nationalities, genders, and sexual orientations without being chastised for being friends with them.

i am very comfortable with my masculinity and i do not need to act macho, make fun of homosexuals, denigrate women, or drive a muscle car to try to convince prove to the world i am straight. to me, raging, macho heterosexuals are just as annoying as flamboyant, in-your-face homosexuals. why can’t we simply comfortable with who we are? let the quirky be quirky. let the nerds be nerds. let the gregarious be gregarious. let the soft-spoken be soft-spoken. let the straight be straight. let the gay be gay. and let those who cannot accept those who are different from themselves (or some contrived religious ideal) remain alone in their insecure, judgmental, cookie-cutter, tract housing, suburban, plain vanilla lives.

as for me, i shall continue to state what i have always stated: i like what i like, i’ll date whomever i’ll date, and my sexual orientation is none of your business. i shall continue to add gay and straight friends alike on facebook, and will not ignore their friend requests because they happen to declare a different sexual orientation than my own. and if researchers at m.i.t. want to think i’m gay, it’s fine by me. from what i’ve experienced, they won’t be the only ones.

i just won the ‘bluff the listener’ game on npr’s ‘wait wait don’t tell me’

Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!

one of the most significant events of my academic life took place on september 10, 2009: i won on npr’s ‘wait wait don’t tell me.’

every saturday, npr broadcasts the smartest game show on the airwaves, which also happens to be some of the smartest comedy on air. hosted by peter sagal, the show features an assorted cast of authors and comedians that answer questions about the past week’s news. the panelists include mo roccatom bodettpaul provenzapaula poundstoneroxanne robertscharlie piercep.j. o’rourkekyrie o’connoradam felberamy dickensonroy blount, jr., and julia sweeney.

in addition, there are several games where listener contestants call in and participate in games including, ‘who’s carl this time’ (a game where venerable npr news man carl kasell reads quotes from the week’s news and the listener contestant must guess what newsmaker said it), the listener limerick challenge (where listeners must fill in the last word of a limerick that rhymes something odd about the week’s news), and the ‘bluff the listener’ game (where each panelist reads a far-fetched story from the week’s news and the listener must choose truth from fiction by selecting the real story).

after writing to npr and begging notifying them that i wanted to participate, i was selected to play the ‘bluff the listener game.’ i received the good news from producer emily ecton, who told me how the taping of the show would work. i waited for her call on september 10, and was ready to play. i was uncertain that i would have any success because i rarely choose the correct story on the ‘bluff the listener’ game while listening in my car.

finally, the moment of truth came. peter sagal welcomed me, and after a brief introduction and chit chat about my job as an archaeologist and instructional technologist at ucla, i heard the panelists’ three stories:

kyrie o’connor told a story about two girls stuck in a storm drain and who, instead of using their cell phone to call 911, used it to update their facebook status to cry for help.

charlie pierce told a story of a farmer who shaved letters in alpacas to advertise a farm, but who became embarrassed when the alpacas moved around and ended up spelling some not-so-appropriate words.

p.j. o’rourke told a story about a man who injured himself with a weed wacker, and who went to the blue cross headquarters instead of a hospital.

i made my decision quickly. i said that while all three stories were very clever, i had to choose kyrie’s story because i am a huge facebooker and i’d forever regret it if i didn’t. and i was right! i chose the correct story and won my long-desired prize: carl kasell’s voice on my voice mail answering machine.

i was already an npr listener, contributing member, and huge fan of wait wait. now, i can humbly, but proudly say that i am small part of the long history of wait wait…don’t tell me.

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