Posts Tagged ‘No Otters?’

Femme Fatal: Women Are People Too?

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Perhaps Most Terrifying

I have always been confused by the term feminism.  Images of dark, dangerous, and deadly women wielding rusted scissors coming do violence to my manhood come to mind but so does the image of man and woman getting paid the same for doing the same work.  If the latter is feminism then certainly I am one.  It seems silly to suggest that a woman should be paid less for her work on the basis of her sex.  That isn’t to say she should work for a salary in the first place.  How I come at this issue I’m not certain.  Often I have a double impulse one traditional and the other more liberalizing.  I am prone to agreeing with Christopher Hitchens:  [youtube][/youtube]  If a woman wants to work then by all means work.  If a woman wants to be a ‘full-time mom’ then so be it, no judgement.  I believe there are virtues associated with both options and that the ‘full-time mom’ is able, by virtue of time, to provide more hominess to the home and her children’s experience of it.  That is not to say that she loves her children more or that the working mother loves her children less.

Be There Because You Care

But what of the male role in this equation?  Mary Daly is very clear, and I think rightly so, in pointing out the churches (only the Catholic Church, it would seem) negative role in propagating the ‘back-seat’ (or even ‘out-of-the-car-entirely’!) position of the father.  What of his responsibilities and care for his children?  Should they really end solely at the office?  I suppose it makes sense, given the unavoidable ignorance of scientific reproduction, that many/most/nearly all church Fathers and theologians assumed woman was merely the passive agent procreation.  The male plants his seed within the waiting receptacle of woman who incubates and births his progeny.  But, in the end, it does take two and let’s not forget that “It’s Different for Women”:[youtube][/youtube]  Male/female relations starts to very much look like a power structure with women taking an early lead which men quickly stole in ‘civilization’.  That might be a slight too cynical (and simplistic) but after awhile the whole thing starts to look like a self fulfilling statement.  “Women shouldn’t be educated.  Why shouldn’t they?  Well, because it isn’t in their nature.  Oh, are you sure; have you bothered to teach them?  Well, no but that’s because they couldn’t learn since it’s in their nature.”  Our best example presently to bust this notion is simply the many thoughtful, competent, and educated women around us today who have made and make the world a better place.

Nice Breasts, But You Exist for Other Purposes Too

How does feminism (whatever it’s definition is) apply to organized religion?  Clearly this is a point of great debate today withing many Protestant churches and among many Catholics.  Churches are not established public institutions but ideally institutions for the public.  So, in effect, this is not an issue to which they are legally required to acquiesce.  Certainly, social pressures and those working within to change the system itself might act to influence the institution but there exists no legal injunction commanding obedience.  That isn’t to say such a law will never be passed but the odds do seem slim and might not that law be taking things too far?  There are, however, laws which prohibit discrimination based on disability and race (I assume they apply to private businesses and the like) so why not sex?  In short, yes or no to female ordination in churches and is this an issue the state should even be pressing?  In light of all this controversy, I am prone to asking the old, cliched, sort of cheesy question of WWJD.  So, What Would Jesus Do (or What Did Jesus (already) Say)?

Truth Hurts

A Very Negative Association: Personal Reflection and the Religious Right

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Say Jerry Falwell in public and you’re likely to get a very negative and a very positive response.  Let’s face it, he’s a guys people either love or love to hate.  Most students here on campus do not care for the man and what he stood for but there are many outside our academic setting who have no problem with him or his message.  Even within my own friend group there is a sharp divide.  Many of my more conservative Christian friends think highly of his school, although not all, while others of my Christian friends feel as though he portrays a very negative image of Christians.  This, I suppose, is an example of the so called ‘culture wars’ which have apparently ravaged our country lo, these many decades.

Growing up, I often felt like a fish out of water when it came to religion and social issues.  I am, as many of you know, a Presbyterian but in Floyd County, Virginia that counts for religious diversity.  The great preponderance of people in Floyd are Baptist, Brethren, of Church of Christ.  We have one Methodist, one Lutheran (both in town), and two Presbyterian Churches (one in town).  The very small Catholic congregation met, until very recently, in the basement of the Lutheran Church (how’s that for an historical funny?).  I knew fundamentalism and the revivalist fever existed– how could I not being so

Channeling My Inner Hippie

surrounded by them?– but they were things I never actively participated in.  In short, I got to be the Conservative Democrat/Southern Democrat caught between the staunchly religious conservative right and the hippie liberal left (there are a surprising number of hippies and communes in Floyd County).  Most of what I had to say, when I said it, rarely endeared me to either side for too long.

Channeling My Inner Angry Jesus

I remember one day in spring, during gym, we went out to play tennis.  I was and am a poor tennis player but I was having fun clumsily whacking the ball around with a friend when I overheard the most startling conversation.  Three of my classmates were walking around the court allegedly looking for their missing tennis ball.  I was simply shocked and disgusted.  They went on about the various ills of society.  I learned that everything started to go downhill after the Civil War.  Black people should be back in their proper place as slaves in the field for the white man since they were inferior and stupid to the white man (really funny in hindsight considering how these three were possibly the dullest tools in my schools proverbial shed).  I’m afraid they didn’t use ‘black people’ either but I’ll let you guess at what they said instead.  These three went on to tackle the issue of women’s suffrage and liberation.  Basically, women just needed to get back in the kitchen and keep their mouths shut.  Now, these three were not what you might call religious or devout in their actions and professions but they did go to church (their family churches, that is, which is an entirely different sort of dysfunction if you ask me).  Their justification for these beliefs was simply that it was surely what God intended for them (their own cultural Christianity–and yes, I mean for that to be taken diminutively).  These notions serve as a personal example of what many people find so objectionable to the propositions the ‘Religious Right’ puts forward for their political platform year in and year out.  And while certainly not all, perhaps not most people in the Religious Right harbor sentiments exactly like that which I related it is often what people on the Left and the Religious Left fear.  Although, Jerry doesn’t really need the help of these three ‘friends’ of mine to offend:

To be fair to the other side:[youtube][/youtube]

Those two videos express something of the different opinions expressed by those around me in my childhood.  Fortunately, we were all able to enjoy the Jamboree and our beloved Bluegrass music!

But now, to lighten the mood, a personal and very lame joke:

“You know, it’s just so difficult to talk to the Religious Right.  They’re never wrong!  And don’t get me started on the Religious Left.  They’re never around to talk.”

Hell Now or Later? Disease and Eternal Punishment: The Will of God in Sex

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Back Foul Beast!

I wanted to start off by saying I don’t really know all that much about birth control- not all the ins and outs anyway.  All the differences of nuance and meaning between contraception and birth control, how ‘the pill’ works exactly, exactly what is family planning, and this whole business of a woman’s menstruation cycle is something of a mystery to me and, for now in part, I’d like to keep it that way.  I don’t normally advocate for ignorance-is-bliss but I’d rather learn it bit by bit.  I’ve often joked about representing the old guard of husbands who waited outside the delivery room for his child to be born (I’m sure if and when I come to it, I will be on hand, although at that point I’d need my own medical attention).

To the reading, I found it curious how similar much of the language was concerning religion and the worlds problems.  It seems as we have been traveling through time that the medium and language of analysis has shifted.  We have addressed the purely theological approach to sex and gender, the ‘new science’ of the late 19th century, early psychology, and now, continuing in this social science trend, economics.  Clearly a backdrop to the issues raised in “An Instrument of Genocide,” this new application of an economic consideration on a familial as well as a global scale seems to influence religion in a serious manner.  Humanae Vitae mentions this economic– and social– consideration before discussing the Catholic position on contraception and family planning and the churches counsel in such matters.  Martin Luther King, Jr. goes against the prevailing wisdom of his day in detailing how an intelligent mother would want to be a responsible mother who was able to afford the proper care of her children, aka. don’t have so many you cannot sufficiently feed, clothe, and support them.  This dynamic often, even now, comes between Protestants and Catholics as farcically represented in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life:[youtube][/youtube]

This notion of God’s will is a curious business.  Can a human being frustrate, interfere, or thwart the will of God?  It seems a reasonable question in light of birth control since we’ve said of the Catholic position that if God wants you to have a baby, then you will have a baby.  If that is so, then why not simply use protection and if you are truly meant to get pregnant, then you will?  Would you end up in hell for such a thing? [youtube][/youtube]

Perhaps I am looking at this issue too simply.  If the Christian God exists he would have created the universe and all therein.  That would necessitate a movement of the will toward creating which presupposes an intelligence.  One cannot will anything to my knowledge without an intelligence to move toward an end.  So, in this action it seems God’s will can be absolute and immutable (I said light and I could not not have created it) but it also seems there exists a will that is more equated with desire or pleasure.  The apostle Paul writes “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (2 Thessalonians 4:3).  He is addressing a community of professing followers of Christ and telling them that it is the will of God that they be continually set apart unto God, to be sanctified, to be made holy daily.  He goes on in the same verse to implore these early Christians to “abstain from sexual immorality” so obviously there were temptations and quite likely failures to abstain entirely and always which would suggest that God’s will used here is meant to express the desire of God that his people would abstain from sexual immorality and not that he absolutely ensures by an absolute will their obedience.  At this point, I’m not sure if this helps to clarify my original wondering at all.  I suppose what I’m really driving at is whether or not God’s will, when employed for explanatory purposes by the Catholic Church, is meant to be taken absolutely when it comes to having children (God said let her have a child and she did) or simply that he maintains a will of desire toward procreation (God said I want you to have a child and I chose to/not to have one).  To me, and I’m sure I’m showing my Protestant colors– not that I haven’t already, mind you– it seems uncharitable and unreasonable to so strongly advocate against the use of contraception when AIDS/HIV ravages sub-Saharan Africa, when families have too many mouths to feed and not enough means by which to provide food, and when the resources of our planet are not limitless.  You might say ‘God will provide’ for me and mine but might not the condom be a provision overlooked?

Shout-out to Dr. Cain’s 101

Thank you Snoopy.  That said, we could all use a little humor:[youtube][/youtube]


Static Faith and the Revival Experience

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

I have sometimes found it challenging to confront  the idea some people maintain that religion is a static experience (means of worship, doctrine, governance, etc.).  I believe that people who adhere to this strict and inflexible idea operate chiefly from a position of fear.  They fear they will lose their perceived truth because this truth is bound principally in their doctrinal and social beliefs.  Case in point, what do you say (even as, myself, a Christian) to someone who emphatically believes that the only legitimate translation of scripture is the King James Version?  Never mind its inaccessibility to many people or the several errors in translation, it is correct, even truth.  Never mind that William Tyndale utilized the “thee, thou” language because it was used among the common man and therefore made scripture more accessible to the masses (why then not strive to translate into an intelligible language to the masses now?).  And never mind that this scripture was purportedly God-breathed or inspired (theopneustos)- 2 Timothy 3:16-17– throughout the history of ancient Israel through the Apostolic era into the 1st century AD (although, I imagine an argument could be made here in trying to determine if Paul is only referring to the Hebrew Bible or if we can safely include the New Testament since the established canon of his day was only the Hebrew Bible).  Given this information, it must only be fear that would tie a person to this belief, namely, that they perceive some truth in this translation and set of propositions which establish that translation as truth whereby the questioning and subsequent falsifying of that belief would thereby erode and destroy their truth.  As a Christian to a Christian in this situation, I would warn them to find truth only in the person of Jesus Christ and not peripheral issues to his nature and person.  Forgive my rant (it’s been bugging me for awhile).

Here again, in the city of Chicago, nativism rears its ugly head.  Over a period of spellbinding growth, even after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and intense urban and industrialization Protestants felt themselves to be on-the-ropes.  Viewing the poor, laboring, and largely Catholic immigrants as immoral by virtue of their lifestyles and backgrounds, they went about seeking to convert them to the true religion and a relationship with Jesus for the betterment of their poor condition and that of the nation as a whole.  As a part of this conversion, immigrants (or people new to the country and Chicago) were expected to adopt the gender roles of their WASP ‘saviors’.  This necessitated the acceptance of separate male/female spheres of existence in all things including the spiritual.  Women were home having and raising babies and, most importantly, inculcating religious, specifically Christian, feeling within their children, ideally for the making of strong male character.  It is curious here how women were chiefly invested in raising children of Christian character.  This exacerbates the tension between the female spiritual and male material spheres of existence which helped to bring about such intense revivalism and especially revivalism in which men were actively sought as converts.

Revivalism is not a dead concept today.  I found it curious to discover something of the origin of the revival concept.  Let’s just say that the ‘Third Great Awakening’ revivalism is still alive and well in Floyd County, Virginia (and I’m sure many other rural counties in America).  Go to Floyd, drive around and you will quickly come across signs, mostly outside of churches (not all churches but mainly some Baptist, Church of Christ/God, and Pentecostal churches).  In the summer you’re especially likely to come find plenty of large white tents for revival gatherings.  Oftentimes, these revivals last a week at a time.  My first encounter with this intense revivalism came when I was nine or ten years old.  My Presbyterian friend Russell and I were invited by our Baptist friend Cayman to his churches Vacation Bible School.  We thought nothing of it.  Both Russell and I participated actively and regularly in our churches activities including our own Vacation Bible School (which Cayman did not attend although he was invited).  We were met with a very aggressive teaching which threw the both of us, despite our age, into concern.  We were made to stay late after one class because we did not express an immediate and enthusiastic expression of acceptance when the teacher talked and asked us about Noah’s Ark and Goliath (for some reason, the exact height of Goliath was very important to our salvation).  After a few days of this sort of inquiry our parents pulled us from the weeks activities and were saved (no pun intended).

But these sorts of concerns are legitimate to a great many people and have their origin in this period of revivalism.  I enjoy watching A&E’s adaptation of P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster book series staring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry.  Bertie Wooster (played by Hugh Laurie) is a very wealthy British bachelor who must constantly wrangle out of the machinations of his numerous aunts to see him marry various respectable but peculiar women.  In this endeavor, he is aided by his valet (manservant or butler) Jeeves.  In short, P.G. Wodehouse has a knack for capturing and satirizing the world of the British aristocracy and it is quite funny.  This scene has them in New York City in the 1920s.  The elderly woman in the scene has just come from the revival service of a certain Jimmy Mundy and now reviles the vice she encouraged her nephew to pursue previously (skip to minute 4:30):


As a side note, I recently re-watched Disney’s The Lady and the Tramp (1955) and was astounded to note the interlayering of gender, class, and race within the story.  This is one of my favorite childhood movies and I had never noted these themes before.  Wonderful and terrible all at once.  Proof that this class is broadening my horizons and expanding the way in which I view the world and analyze information.  Feel free to watch.  It’s only 75 minutes long.