Friday, May 22, 2015

SLOUCHING TOWARDS HEAVEN....

SLOUCHING TOWARDS HEAVEN;
OR UNLOCKING THE GOD BOX;
OR THE RAMBLING CONFESSIONS OF A CHRISTIAN HERETIC

Know thyself.”
Socrates

In the 2014 film “I Origins”, there is a short but profound scene with the protagonist, an agnostic scientist, who is experimenting with the DNA of a specific type of earthworm that is born completely blind; in fact, with no genetic capability of sight at all. He is attempting to manipulate the DNA so that he can force the earthworms to pass on the genetic traits for an eye to their offspring and thus demonstrate how the “eye” as we know it may have evolved. His fiance, who is deeply spiritual and in tune with her individual concept of God, challenges him. Since the earthworm does not have the sense of sight, he is limited in his perceptions, she asks how an earthworm suddenly gaining sight would explain “light” to the other earthworms.
As she presses further, she begs him to consider whether it might be possible for some humans to have a rudimentary “sixth sense” that might actually enable them to capture a glimpse of reality outside our normal five senses. And if that is possible, how would they explain their perceptions to the rest of the world?

He is confused by what he obviously thinks is a childishly simplistic question but is incapable of delivering a competent answer precisely because altho simplistic, the question just pushed him to think outside of his own perceptual box. With that simple question, she upsets his paradigm with the implication that all that is knowable is not necessarily perceivable by his own limited five senses. He is suddenly challenged with the idea that there might be aspects of reality that exist but we simply are unaware and incapable of conceiving of them because we have no sensory starting point.

This was a cinematic moment that perfectly illustrated my own spiritual journey of understanding. It is fiction but it is grounded in a deeply philosophical rock that I have been climbing for a number of years. We humans are limited in our perceptions in so many ways, some of them by our basic DNA but also by our choices (both conscious and unconscious). It's like being given a closed and opaque box. We know there's something inside there but we can't touch, taste, smell, hear, or see it.

Do you remember the thrill as a child of being given a beautifully wrapped gift box? In a lot of ways, it rarely matters what is actually inside the box because it can never match the feelings of excited expectation and curiosity. But also, no matter what the gift actually is, it is utterly meaningless until the box is opened. Only then do you begin to appreciate the gift for what it truly is rather than the blind anticipation. Both are true and real feelings but only one is allowed to be fully actualized. If you never unwrap your gift and open the box, allowing the real gift to be experienced, you will stay in blissful ignorance, distracted by the beautiful trappings others have wrapped it up within, but you will also be missing out on the real and untarnished gift.

Now imagine that you have an image of God trapped inside that box and you feel the security of knowing that you have Him inside that box, but the longer you put off opening the box the more comfortable you become just letting it stay wrapped and unopened. Now what if I told you that until you open that box and allow your perception of God to expand outside of that comfortable box you will never touch the face of God or ever reach within to understand who you are in this infinite universe.

I believe this imaginary God-box is humanity's trap supplied by the institutionalized church (including Temples, Mosques, and Synagogues as well) and keeps us mired in the muck of confusion and conflict rooted in our battle to stay spiritually stagnant – even though our individual spirits are always craving more even if we choose not to listen.

I visualize the God-box like this:

A Venn diagram of three interlocking spheres (of influence). One sphere is labeled “Traditions, Rituals, Rules.” One is labeled “Culture, Media, Politics.” The last is labeled “Family, Friends, Peers.” Where the spheres intersect with each other is labeled “God (perception of).” The entire Venn diagram fits tightly within a square that I call the “God-box.” And this is where those within institutionalized churches are comfortable existing. However, if we would just take that small step to look outside that box we would see an infinite space in which God actually exists, but we cannot perceive Him because we have locked ourselves inside our God-box. Unlike The Doctor's T.A.R.D.I.S., the God-Box is actually smaller on the inside and infinite on the outside. Most people never even glimpse God because they are terrified of ever even looking outside that box, for to go outside the God-box means the very difficult (and sometimes painful) task of introspection and going within. Introspection is not a trait commonly encouraged by the institutions of power that control the flow of information in this world. Growth should be uncomfortable. If you're comfortable where you are then you are not growing and you are probably stagnating.



The real Truth in terms of an actual spiritual journey is that it can only come from within us individually for that is ultimately the only place we really can know God's heart – not from printed ink on thin paper and bound by faux leather with our names embossed in gold. I part company with institutionalized church dogma (those beliefs I am supposed to agree to as “sound” and “correct” as defined by other flawed humans) in my view of the Bible because they are circular and self-serving. Institutional churches, by necessity, require some sort of authoritative control over thoughts and behaviors. To accomplish this they must deify the Bible and arbitrarily declare it to be infallible and inerrant. I do not blindly accept the truth expressed by any individual or any institution that asserts such a thing. Perfect knowledge of the spiritual cannot be perfectly produced or understood by imperfect beings and most especially within the context of a hive-minded institution. The Bible is not God's "word". This is a term concocted to end debate with a “God said it. I believe it. And that's that.” type of thinking. What we call the Bible is not “God-breathed” nor is it “God-authored.” By its own terms, Jesus himself is the “Word,” not this disparate collection of writings and letters that range from the metaphysical to the historical to the mythological to the poetic to the prophetic to the didactic. It was not constructed by a magical hand appearing and writing it down. It was not written on golden plates and transcribed by a human. There is most likely some Divine inspiration within the text but Divine inspiration is not inerrant because for it to be expressed it must be filtered through the limited human prism of understanding and the personal biases of the one delivering the inspired thought. Divine inspiration can, and does, happen throughout history and throughout humanity and oftentimes in the most unexpected ways and requires us to seek it out intuitively to glean that inspiration. To believe that God can be captured inside a single antiquated collection or an institutional box of any kind, in fact, possibly borders on the blasphemous from my personal perspective.

That being said, I do not discount the importance of the collection as our best preserved source of the oral teachings passed down from Jesus of Nazareth. I accept the Bible as authoritative only in that sense and only so much as I believe the text translations are mostly reliable and accurate (unicorns in the King James Version notwithstanding). I do not believe it has been, or is, properly interpreted or applied by the institutional churches worldwide. My method of interpretation is very simple: I look to the words and the actions of Jesus as an example for my life and the prism through which I read and interpret the rest of the Bible (and other texts as well). What I see in Jesus is a very simple call to authenticity -- to know myself and be true to myself. To seek ever deeper understanding of the world we live in, the way people think and feel, and the spiritual realm. In so doing, I develop empathy and understanding of those around me and as I grow in my understanding of God and myself I can exhibit ever increasing love and grace to those I encounter. This inevitably allows God to shine through me and spread the good news that Jesus has bridged the gap between us (the physical) and God (the spiritual). He is the open door to the Divine. He brought the Kingdom of God to us in the here and now. The good news (gospel) is not really about the future, or eternity but the here and now. What happens in eternity will happen or not, that is beyond our ability to really understand on a human level. But we can understand the world we live in. We can see the suffering. We can see the horrors and the beauty. Jesus did not come to build an institution; all structured churches are entirely man-made -- the modern pharisees. There is value to the gathering of fellow believers to show God's love to each other and to the world. However, as soon as “Roberts Rules of Order” is invoked at a business meeting and task-forces start forming, then a political institution has been created and not the church that Jesus referred to.

The institutional church lives on but it's on life support as it attempts to sustain itself as the only source for proper validation of spiritual experience and beliefs. But we all can take comfort that there is no need to have this validated by someone else, even if you adhere to an authoritative view of the Bible from a personal perspective. As Paul explained in his letter to the first-century church in Rome, God's law is written on all of our hearts and our consciences bear witness to it. So, stop looking for external validation. Your own conscience will validate your experience with God and your understanding of Him. My rule of thumb is considering whether the philosophical destinations I arrive at are grounded in increasing humility based in love and understanding of humanity and the world at large or in self-aggrandizing judgment and condemnation of people and people-groups outside my comfort zones. I hold on to the former and work to discard the latter.

Jesus came to start a movement based on the two-part highest principle. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul; and Love your neighbor as yourself. Every single other rule, law, prescription, or restriction should be able to fall under this without jumping through the horrific and contradictory hurdles erected by Christian apologetics. In fact, if you need someone else to provide for you books and classes to memorize arguments for your “faith” and “beliefs” then I would question whether you really have a faith or are just trodding the path of the familiar because the unfamiliar is scary.

It may sound trite to say "What Would Jesus Do?" But it is the easiest way to suss out what is truly "authoritative" and not just what we want to be authoritative for whatever reason. If you drop your institutional, denominational, and doctrinal walls and simply step back and examine things moment by moment through the highest principle prism -- you will find out just how much we call "Christianity" is nothing more than prejudice, politics, and tribalism draped in the bloody cloak of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not come to tell us to set ourselves apart and above everyone else. If he did then he failed in his example to us. His recorded words and actions are those of someone who expected his followers to be a part of the world around them and not to sit in self-righteous judgment of others who are different. Jesus embraced everyone except the religious hypocrites. Why? Because they were using the religious institutions of the day as a means for greedily enriching themselves as well as a weapon to bully those around them to conform to their own arbitrary interpretations and applications of the accepted holy scriptures of that time (which included some, but not all, of what the modern Christian churches accept as authoritative today). The example of Jesus is one who lived with a culture of religious systems of the time but never conformed to them and instead challenged them to think outside their closed box and embrace the higher principle that this God of love always intended. The community of believers who caught the wave of Jesus' "Good News" were just that, a community, and how did he say the world would know them (us)? "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:35. Now do some research of the world outside your local church and ask yourself "How does the world know me(us)?"

With this view comes great humility and a willingness to be wrong so long as I am true to who I am and true to God as I know him through Jesus. What also comes is a great love for people and cultures that are very different from mine and it is a great equalizer in terms of beliefs and practices. So long as someone is earnest, authentic, and true to their beliefs without causing harm to others then I will embrace a fellow sojourner. As soon as your belief system starts requiring you to harm others or be an ass towards someone else (or a group) then as far as I'm concerned you have left the path that Jesus set forth for us all and are stomping your way through the overgrowth making your way down your own path of self-destruction. Good luck with that and ever attaining any real peace or understanding in this life or the next. You see, the beauty of finally shedding yourself of this God-Box defined by others is that for the first time in your life you will be able to experience the presence of God in a real and meaningful way without any need to paste on your Sunday church smile or drop another meaningless “God bless you.”

If God is love, then God is not political; God is not institutional; God is not cultural. If God is love, then God is transcendent and that means unknowable by our physical senses. God requires us to meet him inside.

It is only within that we can ever find the key to unlock that box and enter the infinite space God inhabits.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Duck Commander Singled out and Crucified? Let's Get Some Perspective

Phil Robertson of DUCK DYNASTY was punished by his employer A&E for some rather crude and insulting comments that are going to be published next month in a lengthy interview in GQ Magazine.  Besides the graphically crude descriptions of sex and his rather tilted tunnel-vision view of Christianity, he also expressed some severely ignorant opinions about his understanding of the experience of black Americans before and during the Civil Rights era.

Normally I really wouldn't care because the Robertson clan and their nauseating brand of Hillbilly homilies and self-righteous bumper-sticker talk do not appeal to me at all.  And honestly, I can't really even put myself into the mindset of those who do care for it.  I can understand chain-smoking and shooting up heroin before I can understand why someone would subject themelves to squatting in front of their television for that nonsense covered in gross rat's nest homeless men beards.

I'm just going to link to another article for anyone who wants to focus in on the details of what he actually said but to me, the issue boils down to him speaking publicly in a gross and inappropriate way under the guise of just "speakin' the trooth" and demonstrated himself to be drastically ignorant of the life experience of gay people and black people in America while posturing himself under a self-righteous mask of Christian love.

Now it seems to me that people are going utterly and ridiculously insane over this without using reason or rationality at all.  On the left side of the spectrum, A&E is being cheered on and even being encouraged to go further and actually fire Phil from the show (which makes no logical sense as there will not be a DUCK DYNASTY without him).  Those on the right side of the spectrum want to attach themselves to him as their personal representative who is being unfairly punished for speaking forth the truth of their Christian beliefs.

The bottom line is simply that this guy is a celebrity and he works for A&E.  When he spoke up publicly like that in the way that he did and without the benefit of the DUCK DYNASTY editors around to cut and bleep his words, then he reflected back on his employer in an embarrassing (and potentially harmful to the ratings and marketing) way.  So, they punished him. 

This is not a free speech issue. The government is not constraining his speech here and A&E is not discriminating against him because of his beliefs.  He is being punished for publicly embarrassing his employer, who depends on the public consumption of their broadcast, with politically incorrect and plain stupid comments.  And this is not something that is unique to conservative Christians speaking their mind.  This is all about idiots speaking out publicly in such a way that embarrasses their employers.  It happens to Christians and non-Christians.  Without even hitting the Internet I could rattle off 10 similar instances of some media personality who mouthed off publicly and got in trouble or fired by his employer and none of them were for being Christian and all of them were for being inappropriate and stupid.


1.  DON IMUS

In 2007, radio/tv personality Don Imus was fired by CBS for an off-the-cuff racially insensitive remark.

2. ORSON SCOTT CARD

Earlier in 2013, author Orson Scott Card was fired by DC Comics from a SUPERMAN comic he was scheduled to write.  The reason was because of his outspoken anti-Gay statements and efforts in opposition to Gay Marriage.


3. MARTIN BASHIR

Earlier this month, broadcaster Martin Bashir "resigned" from MSNBC after embarrassing the company by saying on-air that "Someone should shit in Sarah Palin's mouth."









4. JUAN WILLIAMS

In 2010, broadcaster Juan Williams was fired from National Public Radio because of comments about Muslims he made on the O'REILLY FACTOR that were deemed by NPR to be inappropriate.











5. PAT BUCHANAN

In 2012, commentator Pat Buchanan was fired from MSNBC for statements he made in a book that they believed were bigoted in racial, ethnic, and gender-related ways.






6. DAVID CHALIAN

In 2012, Washington Bureau Chief David Chalian, was fired by Yahoo News over a hot-mic moment capturing him uttering a racially offensive remark.






7. JIMMY THE GREEK

In 1988, broadcaster Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder was fired by CBS for some racially insensitive and ignorant statements he made in an interview on a local station.

8. DIXIE CHICKS

In 2003, singer Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks made some politically charged anti-Pres. George Bush statements during a concert in England. The negative backlash resulted in their tour sponsor Lipton pulling their sponsorship.






9. CHARLIE SHEEN

In 2011, actor Charlie Sheen was fired from the TWO AND A HALF MEN tv show because of his self-destructive public behavior and belligerent statements about his employer.






10. MICHAEL SAVAGE

In 2003, MSNBC fired broadcaster Michael Savage after he made hateful anti-Gay statements on his show in an angry response to a caller.







So, yeah, I'm sure there's more if I wanted to start digging.  The point is, this is a business decision that has absolutely nothing to do with persecuting Christians and everything to do with punishing an employee who said stupid and insensitive things that embarrassed his employer.  Don't turn it into something it is not.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Debating the Morality of Polygamy from a Biblical Perspective

Debating the Morality of Polygamy from a Biblical Perspective


The recent ruling by the Supreme Court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act opened up the doors (from a Federal perspective) for any and all states to define marriage without Federal limitations.  While this paves the way for more and more states to readily allow same-sex marriage, I believe the language in the ruling sets the first rung on a ladder that may soon lead to challenges against another Federal law still in effect today – The Edmunds Anti-Polygamy Act of 1882.  This law offends my sense of moral indignation because it was implemented expressly to discriminate against and imprison citizens because of their religious beliefs.  The law was passed specifically to persecute members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Now, it has continued to be upheld because the Government continues to maintain non-discriminatory rationale for their regulation of marriage as to be limited to one man and one woman and not multiple men and/or multiple women.  Most of this rationale is similar type of hysterical nonsense associated with the anti-homosexual zealots with assertions that polygamy leads to incest or polygamy leads to sexual abuse of children.  This is absurd prima facie propaganda.  There really is no rational reason for it outside of a religious bias against it.  Which brings us to the root of the problem. 

Remove the anti-Mormon bigotry from the equation as to The Edmunds Act and it all boils down to the Christian influence of American culture and by extension, our government.  And this is what I specifically wanted to address right now.  The following springs from a debate I had with a fellow Christian about 9 months ago over the proper Biblical stance on the issue of Polygamy.  By Biblical I am referring to The Holy Bible as accepted and used by orthodox Protestant Christian denominations.  The reason why I want to use her words here is because I believe she presents a commonly held position and thinking from within orthodox Christianity on this topic, and it’s a position I think is wrong and springs from flawed thinking.  Her position was that she is opposed to Polygamy because the Biblical Scriptures teach that it is morally wrong in God’s eyes.  My position in response was that Scripture in no way teaches that it is morally wrong, but rather presents it as morally neutral and any “immorality” associated with it was her imposing her own beliefs onto Scripture rather than doing a plain reading and understanding of the text itself.

For ease of reading, I will present each of my friend’s arguments (in italics and edited but just for clarity) against Polygamy, and then follow each argument with my response in bold.  In the end, I will leave it to the reader to decide for him- or herself as to which position is more sound.

From the very beginning God made one woman for one man and God said THIS is good. This was His design from the beginning. There is a "Bride theme" through out all of Scripture that gives us a picture of the truths that God intends for marriage to reflect (from God presenting the first Bride to the "first Adam" in Genesis to the Bride in Revelation being presented to the Bridegroom--or the "second Adam"--which is Christ.  Also, the prophet Jeremiah's “Return, O backsliding children,” says the Lord; “for I am married to you." (Jer. 3:14) to Paul's admonition "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her", (Eph. 5) and his "For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." (2 Cor.11) The institution of marriage and its message spans the whole of Scripture. It is very much a metaphor and those of us who are married; we are literally "living object lessons" that point to something much bigger.
 This is all true but none of it really speaks to Polygamy, they merely stress the importance of the husband and wife relationships in a practical and metaphorical sense.
Polygamy violates this beautiful typology and is strictly something that began with those who rejected God's teachings. This particular sin eventually infiltrated into Israel and its leadership, but not without consequence.
This is not necessarily true. There is no Scriptural evidence that Polygamy began with those who rejected God’s teachings.  It’s a declaration without support.  If it were, then the incidences of such would have been met by direct and clear condemnation by God rather than passive allowance.

Recognizing an ideal to aspire to does not make it morally superior – simply an implied preference.
 In the Old Testament, the first reference to polygamy (multiple wives) in the Bible was with Lamech a descendant of Cain. (Gen. 4:19) I think this is key as it is a precedent for what will become a "cultural norm" for those people groups that Israel was to drive out of the Promised Land.

Saying something emphatically does not make it true. This is a presentation of an historical occurrence presented within the text without moral judgment.
 The next incident of Polygamy is in Gen. 26:34,35 "When Esau was forty years old, he took as wives Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite. And they were a grief of mind to Isaac and Rebekah." I don't think this is a mistake that the next time we see Polygamy it is with someone that has the character of Esau. Interestingly, Hebrews 12:16 even calls Esau a "fornicator". 
There is no moral judgment concerning Polygamy made in those references to Esau. There is simply an historical event that is recorded without judgment. The fact that the women brought grief to Esau has nothing to do with Polygamy. And the HEBREWS text does not either. The text reads "Lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright." The use of “or” here separates the fornication reference from Esau. And even if you do want to extend the use of the word to Esau here, ignoring the grammatical structure, then it is a spiritual fornication or profane act by Esau that is actually identified here in the text – “who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.” The logistical hurtles to get to a condemnation of Polygamy here violates all hermeneutical sense because the intent of the word is defined in the sentence itself. To better comprehend the meaning in a clearer sense, I would reference the New Century Version translation which properly breaks it up like this: “Be careful that no one takes part in sexual sin or is like Esau and never thinks about God. As the oldest son, Esau would have received everything from his father, but he sold all that for a single meal.”

God's Scriptural instructions for the leaders of the country in Deut. 17. says specifically... "Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself." Well, yeah, I don't think they did so well with that... Solomon I think was the "poster child" for that one. (1 Kings 11:11) But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites, from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, “You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods." I think with both David and Solomon they were drawn into the cultural norms of their day. It was a strategic and expected thing for a king to make alliances and ensure political protection to marry into these neighboring people groups.... but God did WARN them about such things, and with both David and Solomon the women got them into trouble. This was NOT a good thing!

Again, looking to other translations, the more correct translation of Deut. 17:17 as to the things to look for when choosing a king is “The king must not have many wives, or his heart will be led away from God.”

This is not a statement of one wife, but not having “many” wives.

This is a nebulous statement that recognizes a truism that was played out with Solomon and David as you point out. Too many wives, especially too many foreign wives who bring their foreign gods into the equation, and you have a recipe for disaster by distracting the King away from God.

But it’s not anything that presents a universal moral principle of one spouse only.

Sorry to say, when the Kings behave as such then the "church leadership" slips down the slippery slope as well. (Ezra 9:1-3) "When these things were done, the leaders came to me, saying, ‘The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, with respect to the abominations of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that the holy seed is mixed with the peoples of those lands. Indeed, the hand of the leaders and rulers has been foremost in this trespass.’ So when I heard this thing, I tore my garment and my robe, and plucked out some of the hair of my head and beard, and sat down astonished." (Mal. 2:11) "Judah has dealt treacherously, and an abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem, for Judah has profaned the Lord’s holy institution which He loves: he has married the daughter of a foreign god."
These verses have nothing to do with marrying more than one woman and everything to do with marrying foreign women who worshipped foreign gods and brought those into the families and the nation tainting God’s people.  But let’s move on out of the Prophets and talk New Testament now.

Who were the Men of God in the New Testament that had multiple wives?

None.

No one that I can find has more than one wife. (Let me know if you find one!) There may have been a few cultural hold-outs within the converted Gentiles, (hence Paul's admonition in Tim. and Titus,) but as far as I can tell Israel had abandoned Polygamy.

What does the New Testament say about Polygamy? 
It is true that the New Testament does not bear record to Men of God having multiple wives, but for a very good reason. By the time of the New Testament, monogamy was the norm for Greek and Roman societies but it was still residually hanging on within Palestinian Judaism. For example, Josephus records that Herod in the first century had 10 wives plus a large harem and the school of Shammai was still a proponent of polygamy as a cultural practice. The practice was a dying practice, however. But not because God’s command through Scripture or prophecy. It was an intellectual debate between the different rabbinical schools and leaders that was stemming the tide toward a more ordered society which benefited by the carnal restraint of monogamy.

Again, this does not do anything more than utilize the New Testament as a source for recognizing a cultural shift between the end of the OT period and the beginning of the NT period. It does not give support to the notion that Polygamy itself is anything other than morally neutral.
 So here are the New Testament verses concerning wives and marriage: Christ echoes the original intent of marriage in Matt. 19:4 “And He answered and said to them, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” 
This is true, but it has no bearing on the topic of the morality of polygamy. Becoming “one flesh” is simply a reference to sexual intercourse as evidenced by the verse in 1 Cor. 6:15-17: "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Messiah? Shall I then take the members of Messiah and make them members of a whore? Let it not be! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a whore is one body? For He says, ‘The two shall become one flesh.’ And he who is joined to the Master is one spirit."

In other words, be careful who you have sex with because it is not simply a physical union between the two of you but the two of you become one flesh together – it is a carnal and spiritual union whether we want to admit it or not. Sex is not to be entered into frivolously.

But that has no bearing on Polygamy itself as a concept. It is entirely possible for someone to leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and then take another wife. In fact, we have centuries of recorded scriptural history where this was the case and done without moral judgment against it by God. In fact, in some instances, where a man’s brother dies and he is obligated by moral and scriptural law to marry his brother’s widow (regardless of whether he is already married), it could be argued that God encourages it.
 Again in Mark 10:6-7 “But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female. ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife.’" 
Again, you can maybe argue a certain spiritual “ideal” here, but all I see is the basic recognition of man and woman as intended to be together but no requirement that it be exclusive.
 The "husband of one wife" verses: (1Tim 3:2) "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach." (1Tim 3:12) "Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well." 
A great verse, but all it establishes is 2 things: (1) Polygamy must have been practiced in the church for him to make this point. (2) the author, as led by the Holy Spirit, pronounces no moral judgment against Polygamy itself but instead recognizes the practical reality that the type of person the church would want in leadership should not be trying to manage a house with multiple wives and all the distractions that would create (most especially the number of children). I say this, because all of the references are combined with other level-headed practical aspects and not focusing on the spiritual side so much. These are examples of the type of person who would be well-suited for leading out in what amounts to a miniature sub-society within the greater society.

There are plenty of times that Paul rebukes sin within the church. He avoids doing it here, further driving home my point that he may have believed Monogamy was the proper ideal (he was a Roman citizen and so was likely raised with that cultural belief) but he avoided condemning the Polygamous practice in the church. Further evidence that Polygamy itself is morally neutral.
 (Titus 1:6) "if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination." 
Actually, this is not just a general reference to the generic “man.” It is direction from Paul to Titus specifically about the qualities to look for when appointing “elders” in the churches he planted. His words are simple variations of the same words used to Timothy for appointing elders/bishops and deacons. Paul obviously believed the better ideal was monogamy but avoided condemning the practice of polygamy because he had no moral or scriptural authority to do it.
 The instruction is in reference to wives in the singular and not the plural: (1Cor. 7:1-2) "Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband." 
Actually, the word translated “own” as in “let each man have his own wife” is the Greek “heautou” and the word translated “own” as in “let each woman have her own husband” is the very different “idios.”

Heatou” is singular possessive such as “eating his own bread”.

Idios” is the more passive sense of being the one to whom I belong such as serving your “own” master (who may well have other servants as well) or as when scripture refers to Jesus returning to His “own” country (which would be the country of many other citizens as well).

Paul is reinforcing Genesis 3:18 where God said that it isn’t good for man to be alone. He is not addressing Polygamy or Monogamy. However, if we are going to go there with that scripture, it actually supports the notion of Polygamy rather than work against it by establishing that the man “owns” the woman as a possessive but that she is “owned” by him as one of possibly many.
 (Eph. 5:33) “Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” 
That statement has no bearing on Polygamy.  Why is it impossible to love more than one wife as himself? The directive to the wife would apply to all the wives.  Just as we can love all of our children fully and equally, if a man has more than one wife there is nothing inherent in our make-up that says he can’t love both (or more) equally – even if that is hard for us to understand because of our cultural bias.
  (1Pet. 3:7) “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.” 
This has nothing to do with polygamy and everything to do with loving and honoring your wife (or wives if you so chose).

Exo. 21:10 and Deut. 21:15 both expressly allow a man to take more than one wife – even a wife he does not love.

Remember when the Sadducees attempted to trap Jesus by giving him a hypothetical based on Deut. 25:5 about the aforementioned requirement of a brother to marry his brother’s widow (a requirement that makes no distinction as to whether the surviving brother is already married or not – in fact, within the culture, it is implicit that unless each surviving brother in the hypothetical were just reaching marrying age, they would already be married or at least promised to someone else). Jesus did not take the bait and instead responded back to them that they obviously do not know the scripture or they would realize that there is no marriage in Heaven and that in the resurrection none will marry – so it is effectively an irrelevant emphasis by them that misses the point of eternity.

So, does that mean I’m positing or advocating support for Polygamy as the norm across this nation and the world? No. I am asserting that when the whole of Scripture is read without imposing a presupposition, then there is no support for the notion of a moral basis against polygamy itself as an institution. There are practical reasons to avoid it, for sure. There have even been societal reasons that highly support the notion of Monogamy as the most conducive to a Western-type of culture. And there are demonstrative problems with the practice as imposed by religious inculcation where it is abused and used as a means of controlling women and indulging in lustful behavior.

But abuse of the practice does not make it inherently “wrong.”

What it means is that it is a practice with a greater probability of problems. But, of course, we also live in a society now where more than 50% of the marriages end in divorce, and the number is actually slightly higher than the national average among professing Christians. So, I think throwing stones at those who desire a Polygamist lifestyle is just tossing them through our own glass house and perhaps it’s time we stopped using scripture to justify our own misgivings about something that simply rubs us wrong primarily because we were raised in a culture that tells us it is wrong. It is the ongoing debate over malum in se versus malum prohibitum – something that is wrong in itself versus something that is wrong because it is against the law.

I do not subscribe to the doctrine of malum prohibitum on moral issues (free will and individual responsibility reign in these areas) and Polygamy is not malum in seor God would have been explicit about it rather than requiring us to connect disparate dots buried out of context throughout the Bible.



Sunday, December 30, 2012

just shut up: Essential Recommended Reading from Tumblr

This past year or so, there were a few movies that connected with me but were very different from each other: CABIN IN THE WOODS, THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU and, suprisingly of all things, MEN IN BLACK 3.  Where most everyone (possibly including the writers and director themselves) focused on CITW as a self-aware horror movie slightly spoofing the entire horror genre, I saw something much deeper.  Similar themes were noticed by me with TAB that may have been missed by those just intrigued by the love story and sci-fi/fantasy mind-bending adventure.  MIB fans were likely more fixated on the astounding performance of Josh Brolin channeling Tommy Lee Jones or distracted by how Will Smith never ages.

The aspects that I focused on infuse rewatching and deeper thinking about those movies, and that is that these films at their philosophical core deal with the nagging conflict between the competing worldviews of Calvinism/Determinism and Armenianism/Free-Will.  In other words, are we humans merely going through the motions predetermined for us by a higher power or evolution with free-will merely an illusion to keep from going crazy OR are we truly creating our path moment-by-moment with every single choice that we make?

When I make the effort of pointing these aspects out to people, I tend to get one of two reactions.  Either their eyes glaze over as if I am speaking Esperanto or they tend to want to know more and then their interpretation of the films takes on a new level of appreciation.  Or they may just be humoring me; which is fine also.  Anyway, my point is to lead into this reblog from Tumblr that I want to share here.  It involves taking a deeper look at a beloved Disney family film and shining a different light on it that brings a much darker message going out into our homes than the filmmakers probably intended.

The impact of these deeper aspects of film are not really quantifiable objectively, but because the impact is so subjective it is difficult to argue that these elements of philosophical or cultural conditioning do not have any effect.  Art (by way of film), even in commercial venues, is intended to connect with the viewer and entertain but it can also be used as a form of propaganda to push political, religious, and other worldviews and inadvertently perpetuate damaging examples of behavior to children.

So, read this piece from the not language but a map Tumblr blog and absorb the message.  Her words struck a chord with me and I felt a need to share them with my circle of readers.

The piece is called just shut up:
First, a story. So, my first semester of my freshman year of college, I took this Intro to Women’s Studies class. The class met for five hours a week, one two hour session and one three hour session, and the breakdown of students was what I eventually discovered to be the typical sampling in any Women’s Studies class with no pre-recs at my mid-sized, southern Ohio state school. There were a number of girls who would become, or were already part of, the feminist advocacy groups on campus; there were a number of girls who would prove themselves to be opposed to feminism in both concept and practice, one of whom I distinctly recall giving a presentation on the merits of the “Mrs. Degree,” while my professor’s eye twitched in muted horror; there were a handful of girls and at least one guy I’d come to know later through assorted campus queer groups; and there were, of course, the three to six dudebros, self-admittedly there to “meet chicks,” all but one or two of whom would drop the class after the first midterm. At eighteen, I was myself a feminist in name but not in practice—I believed in the idea behind feminism (which is, for the record, that people should be on equal footing regardless of gender, not that we should CRUSH ALL MEN BENEATH THE VICIOUS HEELS OF OUR DOC MARTENS GLORY HALLELUJAH), but I didn’t actually know anything about it. I could not identify the waves of feminism. Intersectionality and how the movement is crap at it were not things of which I was aware. Never had I ever encountered the writings of bell hooks. In a lucky break, you do not need to know about the waves of feminism, or know what intersectionality is, or have read bell hooks to read this essay! (But you should read bell hooks. Everyone should read bell hooks. bell hooks is FUCKING AWESOME.)  
The first couple of weeks of this class were about what you’d expect. The professor was fun and engaging, but she was not exactly pulling out the eye-opening stops on our wide-eyed freshman asses. There were handouts. There were selections of the textbook for reading. There was a very depressing class about domestic violence, abuse, and rape that was the typical rattling off of terms and horrific statistics that everyone winced at, but that nobody really internalized. The dudebros snickered in the back corner, grouped together like they would be infested by cooties if they spread out, occasionally chiming in with helpful comments like, “Dude, the lady on the back of this book is smoking,” and getting turned down by each girl in the class, on whom they were hitting in what I can only assume was a pre-determined descending order of hotness. The queer kids, myself included, huddled in the other corner making pithy comments. The up-and-coming active feminists glared at the bros, who leered back, and the Mrs. Degree-friendly crowd mostly texted under their desks and made it very clear that they were only there for humanities credit. Again, it was a fairly typical southern Ohio state school class full of fairly typical southern Ohio state school freshmen. Nobody was super engaged, is what I am saying here. Nobody, myself included, was really eating it up with a spoon. 
And then one day, my professor opened the class with, “So, who here has seen Beauty and the Beast?”  
Read More

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Facebook Breeds Overreaction.

We have all seen it.  It's the classic Facebook overreaction to something innocuous.  What follows is an exact one-sided exchange excerpted (without edit) from Facebook simply because I and others posted a funny meme that makes an admittedly non-nuanced point (but isn't that the case with all memes?).

I posted this image.


This was the reaction on the page of one of my FB-only friends:

I'm sorry, but comparing Food Stamps to feeding wild animals is pretty repulsive and finding it funny is horrible. I'd say "fuck you" but I'm not going to be so crude. Needless to say: it just shows how uncompassionate you are - which is especially weird if you consider yourself a "proud Christian." Because, as we all know, Jesus just told starving people to eat trash and all that multiplying loafs of bread and fish had nothing to do with it (though it did)! I suppose I take some offense because, when I was a child, my mother and I had to live on them for some time as she had medical problems and difficulty finding decent work due to it. I suppose, by your logic, we were just "wild animals" that shouldn't be fed because that'd make us reliant on the government...though we probably would've starved otherwise. Just keep that in mind when posting some "hilarious" pic or quip you heard...

Another fact: one of the reasons you are not to feed wild animals is because they are already capable of getting food on their own, in their particular environment. Food Stamps are usually given to those who due to long-term unemployment (which is more common these days for many reasons) and thus, were they not given such, would die of malnutrition or starvation. But I guess they're just "lazy" and should "look for a job"...even though a lot of jobs get a ton of applicants these days and thus far more difficult to actually get one. Again, are conservatives and libertarians stuck in the 1950's? It seems like they are with their reactionary attitude towards women and their dismissal of modern economic issues. Assuming that getting a job is as easy as walking up to a manager to chat with and then seal the deal with a handshake, apparently. It's particularly annoying given the same people who say this are already well-off and have work which they get paid for - it's like thinking that being lactose intolerant isn't a "real thing" because you don't have it. Having tunnel vision and unwarranted certitude doesn't make you superior, just self-involved and ignorant of your surroundings.
Don't tell me the be "open-minded" either because it is your ideology - that's not an excuse. I'd feel the same if part of your ideology involved racial segregation too, because "agreeing to disagree" means I find it sensible or valid. So, if someone isn't able to get food, they should just starve or resort to eating whatever they can find? Maybe you'll say "of course not" but what alternative do you have beyond "The Market will fix that" or "they just need to get a job"? If neither of those are possible, then the person still dies because they starved or ate rotten food from metal trash bins. I'm also quite bewildered that, though it takes up such a small percent of the budget, Food Stamps are demonized along with PBS as somehow being a "drain" on our economy. Oh, but not the over-bloated Defense budget that goes to waste anyway with things like Iraq? Not the totally ineffective and just-as-expensive "War on Drugs"? Not the bailout money to companies that failed miserably but still got them because they just so happened to be connected to Wall Street? Once you actually complain about the horrendous spending on those areas, maybe I'll take you seriously - instead of just imaging a spoiled child in a suit pointing and laughing at homeless people as he walks by and tells them to "get a job" though all they have are rags and their address is a box in an alleyway. 'Cause, y'know, that's "just sensible"... though it's really just dickish.


My short response is here on this blog.  Thank you for not saying "fuck you."  I might have been hurt by that, but at least you aren't that crude.  I would wonder when I've ever considered myself a "proud Christian."  Thanks for reading my mind and assuming all the things I would say to you if you had actually engaged me in a conversation.  I am sure they are just as accurate as any assumptions I might make about you.

As for dependency on Welfare.  Regardless of you or I and our respective experiences with it.  Here's some facts about it.  Read at your leisure.  Welfare dependency is a problem recognized by the government that issues the welfare or else we would not have report after report after report to Congress about it. Y'know.  Actually backed up with statistics and facts rather than just an embarrassing emotional outburst over a silly bumper sticker.



http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/indicators08/index.shtml

Friday, August 3, 2012

We Need to Get Over Ourselves: A Response to the Chick-Fil-A Response

My spicy hate-sandwich with a side of hate-fries.

As we come to the end of a tumultuous week regarding Chick-Fil-A and their hate sandwiches and their anti-paisley shirts philosophy, I wanted to wrap the week up by weighing in on it just a bit.  Primarily, I wanted to weigh in on it because the most recent blog that is lighting up the Facebook world is a very impassioned personal blog entry titled "The Chick Fellatio: stuck in the craw" by playwright Wayne Self.  Click here to read the full text.

Up front, I want to say I really respect what Wayne has to say here. I understand that he is coming from this as someone who does experience prejudice and discrimination.  It clearly can be a tough thing in this world to live life as a gay man, that is true.  I totally give him that and take none of his passion away.  What I do take issue with is that he is writing entirely from an emotional perspective.  I'm afraid that this inevitably leads to faulty reasoning, bad logic, and misleading information.  And since this thing has gone viral and is showing up everywhere, I wanted to bring just a little bit of facts to bear on it because I think nearly everyone seems to be missing the point -- including Wayne.

I am particularly focusing on just his first point.  I may, at a later time, address the other points but probably not since the other points all build on the faulty presumptions of the first point.

Wayne writes:

1. This isn’t simply about marriage. Shocker, right? It’s extremely frustrating that same-sex marriage is the great continental divide. People are judged according to how they stand on this issue, as if no other issue matters. Did you know that a person can be for same-sex marriage and still be homophobic? Did you know that a person can be against same-sex marriage and be gay? We all get categorized very quickly based on the marriage issue and maybe that’s not fair. But here’s what you should know:
In 29 states in America today, my partner of 18 years, Cody, or I could be fired for being gay. Period. No questions asked. One of those states is Louisiana, our home state. We live in self-imposed exile from beloved homeland, family, and friends, in part, because of this legal restriction on our ability to live our lives together.

No.  This is an appeal to pity, flawed reasoning and a twisted way of looking at it.  This seems to be a common refrain within the activist LGBT community  but it is based on a flawed worldview in the face of the “At-Will” employment doctrine – that is, states that allow employers to fire employees without cause so long as it is not for an unconstitutional reason, in violation of a contract, etc.

The leap that Wayne makes is that he takes that doctrine and twists it to be narrowly focused against him and his partner in that if there is not a law on the books that specifically grants special protection for gay or transgendered from being fired then he is being punished.  He does not point to any actual discrimination against him. He asserts that he lives in self-imposed exile that is entirely unnecessary and demonstrates a martyr syndrome.  There is no legal restriction in place that prevents he and Cody from living their lives together and openly.

Louisiana is an At-Will state.  He and Cody could be fired simply because the employer didn’t care for the way they combed their hair.   I have little sympathy for someone who takes something like an At-Will doctrine and personalizes it into a direct assault or imposition against himself. The courts have  consistently recognized that sexual orientation is not a Constitutional exception of the same level as race, creed, sex, etc.  The reason is that orientation is focused not on a state of being or a belief system, it is behaviorally determined.  And nowhere is the At-Will doctrine intended or implemented for the sole purpose of discriminating against gay people.  If an employer uses his own prejudice to do that, then he is a despicable person but he is within his rights to do so.

And I can’t imagine any gay person would want to continue working within that type of environment anyway.  In other words, it’s time to move on, but there is nothing and noone “exiling” he and Cody except his own figurative self-immolation.

Wayne continues:

In 75 countries in the world, being gay is illegal. In many, the penalty is life in prison. These are countries we can’t openly visit. In 9 countries, being gay is punishable by death. In many others, violence against gays is tacitly accepted by the authorities. These are countries where we would be killed. Killed. 

This may or may not be true.  Without citation to any source or authority, I have to take his word for this.  I will assume it to be true and agree that it is a horrible and inexcusable thing.  However, it is irrelevant to us here in the United States and I question the point of bringing it up except that I know why he brought it up – it is a fallacious appeal to the emotions of the reader so that he can then make an equally fallacious “Guilt by Association” leap to connect the Family Research Council and the Marriage & Family Foundation to these countries.

Wayne continues:
- Two organizations that work very hard to maintain this status quo and roll back any protections that we may have are the Family Research Council and the Marriage & Family Foundation. For example, the Family Research council leadership has officially stated that same-gender-loving behavior should be criminalized in this country. They draw their pay, in part, from the donations of companies like Chick-Fil-A. Both groups have also done “missionary” work abroad that served to strengthen and promote criminalization of same-sex relations.

The Marriage & Family Foundation is a foundation that is either defunct or so small and ineffective that I couldn’t even find a Wiki page on it.  It was allegedly founded by Chick-Fil-A president Dan Cathy himself as a part of some other ineffective and practically unknown group called the Marriage CoMission.  I did find a link to Media Matters that purported to have the “purpose” statement of the Marriage & Family Foundation but when I clicked on it, it was a dead link.  But there was a cached link to it still available and that is here.

So, I limited my research to the Family Research Council (FRC), simply because it seemed to be getting the most attention this past week or so.  First, let’s clarify a few things.  Yes, the FRC, for religious reasons, is a group that makes one of their missions to promote what they consider the “traditional” marriage (heterosexual) and to opine and lobby against efforts to implement “same sex” marriage and “educate” people as to what they perceive as the dangers to family and society of homosexual behavior.  (Read this link for info).

I do not support their efforts there but that is a great big leap to mention countries where the law demands the killing of homosexuals and connect it to a rather small activist group whose primary efforts are publishing position papers for and against different political and moral issues.  Position papers, editorials, and blogs do not equal legal killings.

Furthermore, the writer says that the FRC has officially stated that homosexual behavior should be criminalized in this country.  No, what the FRC has said is that states that already have “criminal sanctions” in place for homosexual behavior should be enforcing them.  There is a difference.  If you choose not to accept that difference, then you are contributing to the problem rather than fixing it.  In fact, FRC President Tony Perkins has stated officially that criminalizing homosexuality is not a goal of the FRC.  I also looked at a few different sites such as Ministry Watch and Open Secrets to see how the FRC spends its money and realized that it is a very ineffective PAC simply because it does not bring in enough revenue to really make much of a difference.  The flaw in the LGBT drawing all this attention onto the FRC this week is that it will probably cause a spike in donations the same way that Chick-Fil-A posted record revenue this week.  This is why boycotts never actually work but positive support for companies does.


Wayne concludes with:

Chick-Fil-A has given roughly $5M to these organizations to support their work.

Actually, Chick-Fil-A has given exactly $1,188,380 to the Marriage & Family Foundation and $1,000 to FRC.  There’s a big difference between spending $1,189,380 and “roughly $5M”.  That is intentionally inflating numbers to provoke people’s emotions.

Look, this whole thing has gotten ridiculous and I can only assume it is because this is an election year.  If this country is going to make it, we have got to learn how to disagree philosophically, religiously, sexually, morally, and politically without it turning into this insane spew of emotional bumper-sticker lines and propaganda.  Someone who supports gay marriage is not necessarily an evil person committed to the corruption of our children and the destruction of the family unit and committed to mocking all things Jesus.  Likewise, someone who opposes gay marriage is not necessarily an evil homophobic slobbering redneck committed to depriving gay people of happiness and destroying their lives.

There are extremists on all sides and they do not speak for the majority.

Stop taking offense because all it does it put everyone on the defensive.

Stop arguing all the time over the wrong thing.

In this case, it isn’t really about the morality or immorality of same-sex marriage or behavior.  That is legitimately an issue where people of differing religious, intellectual, and philosophical positions can disagree and should be able to express themselves without fear of reprisal.  The issue is over the fact that our government is unwilling to stand firm and outlaw all unequal treatment (in terms of medical issues, survivor benefits, insurance coverage, etc.) of committed couples who are same-sex.  That is a legitimate issue because it is discriminatory without justification.  That’s where our efforts need to be placed and not in another stupid boycott.  Anyone remember the idiotic boycotts of Ben & Jerry’s and Target  by conservative groups?  Those did as much good as this idiotic boycott of Chick-Fil-A over a $1,000 donation to a group whose only real accomplishments are publishing position papers.

How about we all move on now.