Friday, April 30, 2010

Ephesians 5: 22 - 33

Another one of those 'trouble' verses is Ephesians 5: 22 - 23. But, in order to really understand what is being said, you need the entire section, which I provide here, along with the notes from my Bible.

22. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.+ 23. For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be subject to their own husbands in everything.

25. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26. that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27. that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

+5:22-33 - The model is Christ and the church (v. 32), which is then applied to marriage. Yet Christian marriage helps us understand the mystery of the Church.
(1) For wives, concerning headship (vv. 22-24): In both the Church and marriage, there is one who acts as head, who leads. As Man, Christ is first among equals, not superior to us in nature; yet He alone is the head of the church (v. 23). Likewise, wives are called to submit to their husbands, as equals.

(2) For husbands, concerning sacrificial love (vv. 25-31): Paul writes three sentences to wives, but writes at greater length to impress on husbands that they should love their wives. Just as the wife's submission is to accept the headship of the husband, the husband's submission to his wife is to sacrifice himself for her. In ancient Israel, the bride would bathe and dress and be escorted to the bridegroom by his friends. In the Church, baptism is that bathing and dressing in which we put on Christ (v. 26), and the groom Himself, Christ, escorts us (v. 27). In the Church, the baptized are one humanity, one flesh with Christ; in marriage, husband and wife are one flesh with each other.

Okay. So that's clear then, right? No more need to discuss. :)

Ah, you guys know better than that. Though I do like the way Fr. Farley put it in his notes. It's my understanding of the deeper (and more important, imho) meaning of the verses (in regards to Christ and the church), only put better.

Anyhow. First, let me say how amusing I find it that out of eleven verses, people focus on the three that mention women. That's...28% of these verses, and it gets at least 95% of the attention. What about the other 72% of the passage? That's all about men, and what their responsibility is toward their wives. But most people, in my experience, don't bring those up. They focus (either negatively or positively) on the wife's submission to her husband. *rolls eyes*

Okay. So. Wives are supposed to submit to their husbands. But what does that mean? For me, that doesn't mean that your husband has the final word on everything, and you just blindly obey, without thought. A marriage is a partnership of equals. As one of my favorite characters says, "Marriage, in my view, should be a balanced stalemate between equal adversaries." Which, okay, you don't have to be as martial as Amelia about it, but it's a balance between equals. If one party has all the power, it doesn't work out. And each couple has to work out what works best for them. 'Marriage' is not a monolithic concept. Every couples marriage is going to be different. That's why the first few years of a marriage can be rough. You're working out what works for you as a couple.

Right. So. Wifely submission. For *me*, I take that to mean that in a situation where there is a disagreement over what to do, the wife backs down rather than start a fight. But even that doesn't work for all situations. I mean, if the husband is clearly going 'off the rails' and is endangering himself or others, don't back down. It's a situation by situation call. But even that is assuming a Christian marriage with people who are committed to each other and to God. My understanding may not be what St. Paul meant, it may not even be the most 'popular' interpretation, but it's how I understand it.

I, however, find the husband's instructions much more interesting. Read it and really think about it. Men must love their wives as Christ loved the church. Christ sacrificed *everything* for His bride. He *died* for us. St. Paul is telling men that you have to love your wife enough that, not only are you willing to sacrifice everything for her, you have to be willing to die for her. Your wife is a part of you, just as you are a part of her.

*That* is the level of love and devotion and dedication that a husband must give to his wife, let alone his family. I think St. Paul spent so much more time emphasizing the husband's role because the men weren't doing it. They didn't know that that's what they needed to do, that that's how much they were called to love their wives. It was a shift of the entire paradigm. Rather than property and chattel, wives were to be loved and cherished. They were to be so close that each was a part of the other. Not something to be discarded at the drop of a hat, but something to be fought for.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

How I Got From There To Here, Sort Of

Susanne, I'm writing this post because of you. You asked somewhere, about how I got from being atheistic/agnostic to where I am now. This post is going to be rambling, and a little personal, but it's all connected, in my mind, so I have to put it out there.

First, I think most of you know that I was raised in a household with an abusive step-father. I try not to talk about it too much, but I also don't hide it. It was what it was, it happened, and I'm alive, so it could always have been worse.

I grew up, and I grew up angry. Angry is a pale, petty word for what I felt. I don't know how many of you would even understand the size and strength of the emotion I'm talking about here. It took up physical space inside of me. It was a part of me. I lived every second of every day, seething in anger. It was a solid rock that took up my entire chest. It was a living presence inside me, a parasite that I couldn't live without. And I can only really try to describe this in hindsight, because I never realized how angry I was, all the time, until I stopped being angry all the time. It was normal, and so I didn't notice it. I thought *everyone* lived like that, with this hatred.

Men, to me, were the cause of all the evil in the world. Men held women down, beat them, raped them, killed them, and they did it all because they were men, and they had all the power. Men needed to be got rid of. I loathed them all. They were scum, and worth less than nothing. I honestly wanted them all dead. Or enslaved. I longed for a matriarchal society to rise up and overthrow the men, who had been in power for far too long, and destroyed everything.

And religion. Hah. *All* the religions were skewed to give the *men* all the power. Every last one of them. Tools of the men. Useless. Women needed to get rid of the religions as well. I personally did away with it. I mocked religion. I insulted it. I argued against it at every chance I got. It was all a delusion. An extension of the male need to control everything. I hated it, because I saw it as just another patriarchal tool to oppress the people who *deserved* power - women.

In all of this, my mother had divorced my step-father, finally, and, eventually, we stopped hearing from him (mostly). By no means, people, think that just because you divorce/break up with a crazy s.o.b. that that is the end of it. It's not. They *never* go away. Just getting away from him did not make me any less angry. It was all still there. I was a vicious, nasty person. I hurt people (not physically, but I've got a very sharp tongue, and combined with being's not good.). I hurt myself. I raged against the world.

At some point, I decided that since I did, actually, believe in paranormal things (ghosts), being an atheist made no sense. I started trying on 'alternative' religions. I went to some very dark places. In the end, I settled on witchcraft. Not dark and dangerous, like some of the ways I traveled down, but it was all about women and their power, and the goddess. It appealed to me, and I could pay token respect to the god, and focus of the goddess.

About five years ago, my mother remarried to the man I refer to as Dad on the blog. He and his family were Mennonites (very modern and reformed). We all moved in together, and I continued to practice my witchcraft in secret, to keep the peace in the house. However, my mother insisted that I attend church with them. So I went, and I mocked. And I ripped apart the preacher's sermons, and I argued with Dad about everything that had to do with religion. In order to do that, I actually had to sit down, and read and learn about Christianity. It's difficult to properly destroy something you don't understand.

It's impossible for me to pinpoint when it happened, exactly, but somewhere along the way, while I was reading and learning, things began to seem less insane. Less silly. Less evil. And the anger...I feel like I woke up one day, and it was gone. It's a weird sensation, again, a physical one. Suddenly, I wasn't angry at *everything* any more. I don't know why. I can't point to one thing or even a handful. I can't even tell you what day it happened, because it took me a while even realize that that's what happened. I'd been angry for so long that I didn't know what it felt like to *not* be angry.

After that, things changed. Slowly, subtly, they changed. And here we are.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sex Ed

I know that this is a bizarre question coming from someone that neither has children nor is due to have any in the very near future. However, I've seen it pop up in quite a few places lately, and it's got me wondering.

I know that some people are very, very opposed to having Sex Ed taught in school. My understanding of the reasoning behind this breaks down to, basically, that the school program teaches kids how to have safe sex, as opposed to abstinence. And I think, if you feel that way, then as a parent you should be able to opt your child out of the class and teach them yourself, as opposed to doing away with the class entirely, which seems to be what some want done.

However, here's my issue. What about all the children whose parents will not teach their children anything about sex?

Let's use me as an example.

When I hit puberty, it was not discussed. I was handed a book with diagrams, and learned what the heck was going on myself. There was never any talking about it, or a parent explaining that it was natural. I had to read to know that I was not, actually, almost bleeding to death every month.

Somehow, and I'm thinking it had to do with me going to a private Christian school for middle/high school, I never took sex ed. If my parents weren't willing to discuss puberty, they *certainly* weren't going to give me 'the talk'. Do you know where I learned about sex? The internet. And a lot of porn. I'm not even kidding. I'm not going to go into the depth of my knowledge here, yeah. There's some stuff that *no one* ever should know, that I know. That I've known since a very young age. If I'd had sex ed, in a proper environment, I imagine that I wouldn't have had to go trawling through the vast morass that the web can be, and find things out myself.

So that's my thing. If you don't want sex ed taught in the schools, then how would you like kids to learn about sex? You can only deal with your own children. Remember that not every parent is going to teach their kids anything, at all. But the kids *are* going to find out.

2 Chronicles 6:5

5. Since the day I brought My people out of Egypt, I chose no city from any tribe of Israel in which to build a house, that My name might be there, nor did I choose any man to be a ruler over My people Israel;

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Honest Things Scrap - aka All Susanne's Fault

So, I think there're supposed to be ten honest things in this? Whatever. I'm making it ten, even if it's not. Hmmm...things ya'll don't already know about me...

1. All the pens in my desk have been uncapped, on purpose. I can't stand reaching for a pen and having to take the cap off! I don't know why, but it drives me nuts. And I tried just having one pen with the cap off, but every time I reached for the pen, I wound up grabbing a different pen, and that was just silly because then I either had to uncap that pen to use it, or put it back and grab the uncapped pen. So. I have three pens at the moment, and they're all uncapped. So I can grab *any* pen, and go immediately to writing.

2. I am a spoiled, spoiled person. I know this. That being said, my room has two walk-in closets. I use the smaller one for clothes. The second, larger closet houses my thousands of comics (also half my dvds - the other half is on the shelves in the clothing closet, my cds, and a small doujinshi collection). It is a beautiful thing. :) Feel my nerd.

3. Josh Gates is my secret boyfriend crush. I would totally follow him into the craziest places and hunt monsters. Whatever. He is awesome and cute. I'm trying to figure out if I have any skills (other than monster bait) so I can be a part of Team Truth.

4. I rock out to really weird songs in my car. I mean, turn the volume up, windows shaking, rock out. And they're *weird* songs. For instance, if you see me jamming in the car, singing along, I may, in fact, be listening to Rock Me Amadeus by Falco. I'm not even kidding. I love that song.

5. Lady Gaga wins. She's a nut, and weird, but her music makes me bounce. It's awesome workout music.

6. I have dressed up for a fan convention. There will be no pictures, so don't bother asking. I'm not handing you people evidence. ;) But yes, I am that deep of a geek. And I am proud!

7. I will also play my music really loud, on occasion, and dance around my room. Whatever. Don't judge my immaturity. Sometimes you've just got to dance! (And, for the safety of those around me, I don't dance in public. Someone could lose an eye!)

8. I've named both the shredder and the cash register at work. The shredder is Rodney, and the cash register is Shepherd. These two names are related. Depending on your geek interests, you may or may not be able to figure it out. I'm certainly not explaining.

9. I will watch incredibly crappy/boring/stupid movies if there is an actor I love in them. I'm *that* dedicated a fan. (see: Shark Attack 3: Megalodon for John Barrowman and Stonehenge Apocalypse for Misha Collins)

10. My favorite Robin is Robin III (also Robin V and currently Red Robin, but I digress). Tim Drake, is, in fact, more Batman than Batman, and will eventually take over the world. For it's own good. Respect him writers, or else!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Thinkie From the Kinder

We're very close to the end of the 'school year'. I'm going to miss the little monsters. :)

Anyway, we were discussing, again, the Crucifixion, and we were talking about Judas, a little, and what happened to him.

I didn't sugar coat it, and told them that he did kill himself, though there's some question as to how. And I left it at that.

But one of the kids had a good point:

Judas had realized that he had done wrong, that he had sinned against Christ, and God. Obviously he felt guilt, because if he hadn't, he wouldn't have tried to give the money back. He wouldn't have killed himself.

If he'd spent all that time with Jesus, listening and learning, why didn't he realize that he could ask for forgiveness?

Any thoughts?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A 'Heroes Death'

Oh, fandom, you give me so much to think about.

The 'Heroes Death'. I think it's something we're all familiar with, even if maybe we don't always think about it in those terms. It's archetypal. It's powerful. It harkens to something deep within us, something we don't even understand, maybe. Self sacrifice.

Most modern fiction (well, prior to the late 90's and on), the heroes always lived. It was a simple, boiled down version of good versus evil. The bad guys wear black hats, cackle sinisterly, and live on islands shaped like skulls with giant lasers in them. And the fiction was fun, and safe, because you knew that nothing ever *really* happened to the good guys. Beaten, bloodied, but they lived, and they won, and they got the girl.

But those were insanely unrealistic, and simplified. I know it, you know it.

The bad guys don't always look like bad guys. Sometimes the good guys aren't shiny and pure white. Sometimes they're dirty and grimy and only heroes in comparison to the villains of the piece.

And sometimes, they can't save everyone.

Sometimes the person they can't save is themselves.

But that's not enough to make it a heroes death. A heroes death is one of sacrifice. Of knowing the odds are against you, of knowing that your death is inevitable, and doing what you have to do anyway, because it's right, and to do anything else would be unthinkable.

A true heroes death *saves* the lives of others. Maybe everyone. Maybe only one other person. But it's a sacrifice - the life of the hero for the defeat (sometimes even only to give others the chance to defeat) the evil they are confronted with.

Why do we love our heroes so much? Because they're willing to die for us. Because we wish, in a part of ourselves, that faced with that same situation, we would be able to stand up, to step forward, and make the sacrifice. To save the world. Or just the most important person in it, to us. And there's the gratitude, too, Thankfulness for the chance that they have just bought us with their blood, with their lives. The chance to do better. To be good. To be worthy of their belief in us.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sirach 5

*God Is the Lord*
1. Do not set your heart of your possessions,
And do not say, "I am independent."+

2. Do not follow yourself and your strength
So as to walk in the desires of your heart;

3. And do not say, "Who will be lord over me?"
For the Lord will surely punish you.

4. Do not say, "I sinned, so what happened to me?"
For the Lord is patient.

5. Do not be so confident of atonement
That you add sin to sin;

6. And do not say, "His compassion is great;
He will atone for the multitude of my sins,"
For both mercy and wrath come from Him;
And His anger rests on sinners.

7. Do not delay to turn to the Lord,
And do not put it off from day to day;
For suddenly the wrath of the Lord will come forth,
And in the day of vengeance, you will perish.

8. Do not set your heart on dishonest wealth,
For it will profit you nothing in the day of distress.

*Control of the Tongue*
9. Do not winnow with every wind
And do not follow every road;
For a double-tongued sinner is of such a kind.+

10. Be established in your understanding
And let your word be consistent.

11. Be quick to listen
And give your answer with patience.

12. If you have understanding, answer your neighbor,
But if not, let your hand be over your mouth.

13. There is glory and dishonor in speech,
And a man's tongue may cause him to fall.

14. Do not be called a slanderer,
And do not lie in ambush with your tongue;
For shame awaits a thief,
And a grievous condemnation will come upon
A double-tongued man.

15. In a great or in a small matter, do not go wrong.

OSB Notes:

+5:1-8 - Looking to possessions and being independent from God is dangerous to ones soul. To assume that God is unwilling or unable to deal with our sins and therefore we can escape the consequences of our deeds is also dangerous. Thus, Ben Sirach's exhortation: Do not delay to turn to the Lord (v. 7).

+5:9 - 6:1 - The double-tongued man is one who "talks out of both sides of his mouth" and brings shame and disgrace (6:1).

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Question of Good and Evil, a la James Bond

So, I'm currently reading the original James Bond novels. They're fun, as long as you remember the era they were written in, and can ignore certain things that would be horribly insulting now, but were acceptable at the time.

Anyway, I came across this dialogue in the first book, Casino Royale, and I loved it so much I decided to share. For context, this scene takes place after Bond has been tortured by the criminal of the book, Le Chiffre. He tied him naked to a chair that had had the bottom cut out, and beat on the 'dangly bits' with a rug beater. *wince* Ouch. So...Bond's in the hospital, recovering, and a fellow spy (though from a different service) who is his friend and worked the case with him comes and they're talking.

It's kind of long, but worth it, I think.

Mathis looked at him with his mouth open. `Resign?' he asked incredulously. `What the hell for?'

Bond looked away from Mathis. He studied his bandaged hands.

`When I was being beaten up,' he said, `I suddenly liked the idea of being alive. Before Le Chiffre began, he used a phrase which stuck in my mind ... "playing Red Indians". He said that's what I had been doing. Well, I suddenly thought he might be right.

`You see,' he said, still looking down at his bandages, 'when one's young, it seems very easy to distinguish between right and wrong, but as one gets older it becomes more difficult. At school it's easy to pick out one's own villains and heroes and one grows up wanting to be a hero and kill the villains.'

He looked obstinately at Mathis.

`Well, in the last few years I've killed two villains. The first was in New York – a Japanese cipher expert cracking our codes on the thirty-sixth floor of the RCA building in the Rockefeller centre, where the Japs had their consulate. I took a room on the fortieth floor of the next-door skyscraper and I could look across the street into his room and see him working. Then I got a colleague from our organization in New York and a couple of Remington thirty-thirty's with telescopic sights and silencers. We smuggled them up to my room and sat for days waiting for our chance. He shot at the man a second before me. His job was only to blast a hole through the windows so that I could shoot the Jap through it. They have tough windows at the Rockefeller centre to keep the noise out. It worked very well. As I expected, his bullet got deflected by the glass and went God knows where. But I shot immediately after him, through the hole he had made. I got the Jap in the mouth as he turned to gape at the broken window.'

Bond smoked for a minute.

'It was a pretty sound job. Nice and clean too. Three hundred yards away, No personal contact. The next time in Stockholm wasn't so pretty. I had to kill a Norwegian who was doubling against us for the Germans. He'd managed to get two of our men captured – probably bumped off for all I know. For various reasons it had to be an absolutely silent job. I chose the bedroom of his flat and a knife. And, well, he just didn't die very quickly.
`For those two jobs I was awarded a Double 0 number in the Service. Felt pretty clever and got a reputation for being good and tough. A Double 0 number in our Service means you've had to kill a chap in cold blood in the course of some job.

`Now,' he looked up again at Mathis, `that's all very fine. The hero kills two villains, but when the hero Le Chiffre starts to kill the villain Bond and the villain Bond knows he isn't a villain at all, you see the other side of the medal. The villains and heroes get all mixed up.

`Of course,' he added, as Mathis started to expostulate, `patriotism comes along and makes it seem fairly all right, but this country-right-or-wrong business is getting a little out-of-date. Today we are fighting Communism. Okay. If I'd been alive fifty years ago, the brand of Conservatism we have today would have been damn near called Communism and we should have been told to go and fight that. History is moving pretty quickly these days and the heroes and villains keep on changing parts.'

Mathis stared at him aghast. Then he tapped his head and put a calming hand on Bond's arm.

`You mean to say that this precious Le Chiffre who did his best to turn you into a eunuch doesn't qualify as a villain?' he asked. `Anyone would think from the rot you talk that he had been battering your head instead of your ...' He gestured down the bed. `You wait till M tells you to get after another Le Chiffre. I bet you'll go after him all right. And what about SMERSH? I can tell you I don't like the idea of these chaps running around France killing anyone they feel has been a traitor to their precious political system. You're a bloody anarchist.'

He threw his arms in the air and let them fall helplessly to his sides.

Bond laughed.

`All right,' he said. `Take our friend Le Chiffre. It's simple enough to say he was an evil man, at least it's simple enough for me because he did evil things to me. If he was here now, I wouldn't hesitate to kill him, but out of personal revenge and not, I'm afraid, for some high moral reason or for the sake of my country.'

He looked up at Mathis to see how bored he was getting with these introspective refinements of what, to Mathis, was a simple question of duty.

Mathis smiled back at him.

`Continue, my dear friend. It is interesting for me to see this new Bond. Englishmen are so odd. They are like a nest of Chinese boxes. It takes a very long time to get to the centre of them. When one gets there the result is unrewarding, but the process is instructive and entertaining. Continue. Develop your arguments. There maybe something I can use to my own chief the next time I want to get out of an unpleasant job.' He grinned maliciously.
Bond ignored him.

`Now in order to tell the difference between good and evil, we have manufactured two images representing the extremes — representing the deepest black and the purest white — and we call them God and the Devil. But in doing so we have cheated a bit. God is a clear image, you can see every hair on His beard. But the Devil. What does he look like?' Bond looked triumphantly at Mathis.

Mathis laughed ironically.

`A woman.'

`It's all very fine,' said Bond, `but I've been thinking about these things and I'm wondering whose side I ought to be on. I'm getting very sorry for the Devil and his disciples such as the good Le Chiffre. The Devil has a rotten time and I always like to be on the side of the underdog. We don't give the poor chap a chance. There's a Good Book about goodness and how to be good and so forth, but there's no Evil Book about evil and how to be bad. The Devil has no prophets to write his Ten Commandments and no team of authors to write his biography. His case has gone completely by default. We know nothing about him but a lot of fairy stories from our parents and schoolmasters. He has no book from which we can learn the nature of evil in all its forms, with parables about evil people, proverbs about evil people, folk-lore about evil people. All we have is the living example of the people who are least good, or our own intuition.

`So,' continued Bond, warming to his argument, `Le Chiffre was serving a wonderful purpose, a really vital purpose, perhaps the best and highest purpose of all. By his evil existence, which foolishly I have helped to destroy, he was creating a norm of badness by which, and by which alone, an opposite norm of goodness could exist. We were privileged, in our short knowledge of him, to see and estimate his wickedness and we emerge from the acquaintanceship better and more virtuous men.'

'Bravo,' said Mathis. 'I'm proud of you. You ought to be tortured every day. I really must remember to do something evil this evening. I must start at once. I have a few marks in my favour – only small ones, alas,' he added ruefully – `but I shall work fast now that I have seen the light. What a splendid time I'm going to have. Now, let's see, where shall I start, murder, arson, rape? But no, these are peccadilloes. I must really consult the good Marquis de Sade. I am a child, an absolute child in these matters.'

His face fell.

`Ah, but our conscience, my dear Bond. What shall we do with him while we are committing some juicy sin? That is a problem. He is a crafty person this con-science and very old, as old as the first family of apes which gave birth to him. We must give that problem really careful thought or we shall spoil our enjoyment. Of course, we should murder him first, but he is a tough bird. It will be difficult, but if we succeed, we could be worse even than Le Chiffre.

'For you, dear James, it is easy. You can start off by resigning. That was a brilliant thought of yours, a splendid start to your new career. And so simple. Everyone has the revolver of resignation in his pocket. All you've got to do is pull the trigger and you will have made a big hole in your country and your conscience at the same time. A murder and a suicide with one bullet! Splendid! What a difficult and glorious profession. As for me, I must start embracing the new cause at once.'

He looked at his watch.

`Good. I've started already. I'm half an hour late for a meeting with the chief of police.'
He rose to his feet laughing.

`That was most enjoyable, my dear James. You really ought to go on the halls. Now about that little problem of yours, this business of not knowing good men from bad men and villains from heroes, and so forth. It is, of course, a difficult problem in the abstract. The secret lies in personal experience, whether you're a Chinaman or an Englishman.'

He paused at the door.

`You admit that Le Chiffre did you personal evil and that you would kill him if he appeared in front of you now?

`Well, when you get back to London you will find there are other Le Chiffres seeking to destroy you and your friends and your country. M will tell you about them. And now that you have seen a really evil man, you will know how evil they can be and you will go after them to destroy them in order to protect yourself and the people you love. You won't wait to argue about it. You know what they look like now and what they can do to people. You may be a bit more choosy about the jobs you take on. You may want to be certain that the target really is black, but there are plenty of really black targets around. There's still plenty for you to do. And you'll do it. And when you fall in love and have a mistress or a wife and children to look after, it will seem all the easier.'

Mathis opened the door and stopped on the threshold.

`Surround yourself with human beings, my dear James. They are easier to fight for than principles.'

He laughed. `But don't let me down and become human yourself. We would lose such a wonderful machine.'

Thoughts? Commentary? Am I the only one who loves this passage?

In the Immortal Words of Jon Stewart...

So, I was unaware, until last night, of this huge mess with South Park and some Muslim extremist whackjobs.

Here's a link to an article on it on CNN, but honestly, if you google 'muslim death threats south park' you'll come up with a *ton*.

It basically breaks down like this: South Park did an episode that portrayed Mohammed appearing in a bear suit. And these nut bars got all pissed off about it and started levying death threats against the creators of the show. So Comedy Central edited the episode to remove 'Mohammed'.

Look, in the first place, these guys are fucking idiotic nut jobs. That's clear. They do not, in my experience, represent the majority of Islam. But here's the thing - you don't see the rest of the Muslim world standing up and saying, 'hell, no'. Why? Because they don't talk as loud as the crazy shit people. It's easy to get attention when you're threatening violence, *especially* if it's violence in the name of religion, and then even more especially if you're a Muslim. It's harder to get heard if you're not a crazy fucker.

These guys are sitting here, in the US, protected by our own laws, allowed to spew hateful shit, all the while they want to destroy our way of life. They're *free* to say this stuff. But the creators of South Park *aren't* free to express themselves? How does that work?

*Why* are we kowtowing to the nutbars? All it does is teach them that that's the way to get what they want. Freedom of speech has to work for all people, or it doesn't fucking work at all. I'm almost as pissed off at the people who decide not to air the cartoon in it's original form or who bow down and edit comic strips because of shit like this.

Look, I don't like Glen Beck or his ilk. I think they're right wing conspiracy nuts and I think it's *sad* that so many people believe every word that comes out of his mouth. But he does have the right to express himself. I find much of what he says offensive. Do you know what would happen if I made veiled or otherwise threats against him? I'd be in jail! But because these idiots are *Muslim*, all that happens is that the cartoon doesn't get aired.

Hell, *I* find South Park offensive. You know what, I JUST DON'T WATCH IT! There are ways to express yourselves that don't involved cries of 'Death!' every five seconds.

So, y'know what, to all the religious whackjobs out there who use violence and the threat of violence to spread their 'message', and to the assholes who infringe on free speech to placate these people who are the enemies of all that we hold dear:


Thursday, April 22, 2010


Dear Kripke:

We love you. Why do you torture us so?

I am forced to reject this portion of your reality.

Gabriel disapproves of this fuckwittery.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I'm Not Sure That Means What You Think It Means...

First, let me say that I *know* that the papacy is not the biggest issue between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. I feel like, in my thinking, I'm focusing on this one little detail, but, to be honest, it's an issue for me. I don't think that anyone would argue that St. Peter had a special place among the Apostles. The issue, of course, in that instance is what does 'special' get you? Does it make you first among equals, or does it put you in charge?

But that's a question for another time, I think. What about the claim of papal infallibility? First, 'infallibility' does not mean that the pope is right every time he says something. Infallibility only comes into play in matters of doctrine regarding faith and morals.

The conditions, according to the First Vatican Council (where papal infallibility was decreed a dogma by a council of bishops, thus making it an infallible decree of the Church and a requirement of the faith) are as follows:

1. 'the Roman Pontiff' - meaning the pope
2. 'speaks ex cathedra' ("that is, when in the discharge of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, and by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority…") - 'ex cathedra' by the way, means 'from the chair' - it refers back to the belief that the pope 'sits' in St. Peter's 'chair' as his successor.
3. he defines that a doctrine concerning faith or morals must be held by the whole Church.

Since papal infallibility was declared, it's been used rarely, according to most sources. They point to the declaration of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary and the Assumption of the Virgin Mary as two of the infallible declarations since the 1870 declaration of infallibility itself. However, there's (I've learned) not an actual list or record of everything that a pope has declared infallibly. So it's sort of hard to tell how often this power has been exercised.

There are plenty of sites that you can look up and get explanations of where the Church gets their basis for declaring the pope infallible. I thought about going into it, but really, I'm just not going to.

The end point, the crux of this post is:

I just don't believe it.

I've read the arguments, I've looked at the texts (and certainly not all, by any means, don't get me wrong - there's *lots* of things that I don't know.), and I see what they're saying, but I honestly do not see a Biblical or historical basis for the successor to St. Peter (where ever he was posted) declaring matters of faith all on his own and having the whole Church follow him. I don't see it, and I can't believe it.

I can see and believe that the Church (through the Bishops, acting together in councils) can be infallible in matters of doctrine, morals and faith. But not one man, no matter whose successor he may be.

Which...means I can't be Catholic anymore.

1 Chronicles 6:5

5. of Gershon were Libni his son, Jahath his son, Zimmah his son

here endeth your randomness of the day...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

1 Corinthians 14: 34 -35

34 The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says.

35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.

This is another one of those verses that people look at and feel like the Bible is telling women to 'sit down and shut up'.

I think, in this case, context is important. It can't be said that women are not permitted to speak at all in the church, because, in this same letter, in Chapter 11 (which I talked about earlier), women are instructed to cover their heads when they pray or prophecy. So, clearly, women were and are permitted to speak in church. However, it has a 'place'. Just like *any* layperson speaking in church does.

Do people in your church hollar to one another across the room? Throw paper airplanes with notes? Do they? If they do, you have a problem in your church. Whether or not you believe in the Real Presence, you go to church to worship God. And that *should* demand your respect and therefore respectful behavior.

Anyway. Back then, women and men had very prescribed roles and places in the Jewish faith (according to my understanding.) If you look at the layout of the Temple, the women had a separate 'court' where they stayed while the men were permitted further in and therefore closer (though still far away) to the Holy of Holies.

This same separation was kept in the synagogues. Even today, in some Orthodox Synagogues there is a women's section and a men's section. It may be a simple, women on one side, men on the other, or a balcony room for the women, but they are separated.

So, you have Christianity arising out of Judaism, where the men and the women sit, at least, on different sides of the room. Because, in Christianity, lay men and women are equal, basically, *everything* changed. Women were being called to interact in their new faith in different ways. And they had questions. The men, at that point, were better educated (for the most part) about Torah. They understood, better, the connections between their Jewish faith and Christianity.

I think the women had questions, and had been told, 'there is no male or female in Christ' and there was confusion, as the people were learning. And I think that, in Corinth and probably some other places, there was some disruption - maybe women yelling over to their husbands to ask a question. Maybe just talking amongst themselves (and we all know how disruptive it is when the 'audience' of anything talks amongst itself. They can't hear the speaker.).

And the Church in Corinth wrote to St. Paul, asking for advice. I think that gets forgotten, sometimes, that there was a letter *before* any Epistle. One asking questions. We don't have that. We don't know, exactly what the issue was. Whatever the exact problem was, St. Paul's answer was for the women to keep silent in church, and consult their husbands later. It was the tradition (little 't') of the time. Even so, I'd rather *nobody* spoke in church unless there was call to do so. Responses to the prayers, chanting, singing hymns, yelling 'fire!' if a fire breaks out. Important things. Church is *not* the place to discuss what you did that week. Most, if not all, churches have coffee hours afterward. Discuss your lives then. You're in church to worship, not gossip.

Monday, April 19, 2010

John 21: 1 -19

Ooohh, hey. This is my 400th post. Cool. Or, possibly, disturbing. I talk too much, even on the internet! :)

Anyway, on to me rambling whatever comes into my head. Today, I shall ramble about Sunday's Gospel: John 21: 1 - 19:

1 After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will also come with you." They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing. 4 But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 So Jesus said to them, "Children, you do not have any fish, do you?" They answered Him, "No." 6 And He said to them, "Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch." So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. 7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord." So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish. 9 So when they got out on the land, they saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish which you have now caught." 11 Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn.
12 Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples ventured to question Him, "Who are You?" knowing that it was the Lord 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and the fish likewise. 14 This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead.
15 So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You " He said to him, "Tend My lambs." 16 He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Shepherd My sheep." 17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You " Jesus said to him, "Tend My sheep.

18 "Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go." 19 Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow Me!"

We start out after the Crucifixion, after the Resurrection, and after Jesus has already appeared to the disciples twice. And seven of them are going fishing. I can see the little wheels turning, going, what? Why aren't they out there, converting souls for Jesus? They've seen Him! They *know*! All true. Still, they had to eat. They still had to provide for their families. St. John, who was on the boat, had to also provide for Mary, who had been commended to his care. I mean, it's what they knew.

This whole, continued non-recognition of Jesus: I think He didn't *quite* look like Himself. He had a glorified body now, so while it was still the flesh that He had had before, it was different. Different enough that His closest companions didn't recognize Him at first.

The fishing: What did they do differently when Jesus said to toss the net in than they had been doing the whole night before? Nothing, except that they were doing it at the direction of God. So, you can do the right thing, time and time again, but it doesn't bear fruit (true, spiritual fruit), until you're doing it under God, joined with His Will. Make sense to anyone else?

I'd like to note that it was St. John, not St. Peter who realized that it was Jesus speaking to them. St. John is the beloved disciple. And I head this interesting take on his 'belovedness' on the radio Sunday on my way to Mass. A lot of people think that because he is referred to as 'the beloved' that Jesus had a special affection for St. John. That he was His 'favorite'. After all, He gave His mother to St. John (and to all of us, spiritually, but at the time, very practically, He gave St. John 'custody'.) However, the priest who was speaking said that the Church's position is actually that St. John called himself 'the beloved' not because he was loved better or more than the other disciples, but because he had an awareness of the love that Jesus had for him, and all the other disciples, equally. That, had the other disciples shared his particular comprehension of this fact, they too would have referred to themselves as 'the beloved'. Interesting.

Anyway. The image of St. Peter jumping into the sea to swim to shore because he can't wait for the boat to sail in is amusing to me. :)

By the time the rest of the disciples got to shore, there was already fish there. Where'd those come from? Did St. Peter catch it in his bare hands? Jesus brought the fish. A reminder of the feeding of the five thousand? Another Eucharistic supper?

Now, the 'do you love me?' three times. Remember that St. Peter had previously *denied* Jesus three times. I think that's why Jesus asked him this question three times. A chance to change his answer. To acknowledge His God as he had previously denied him, and bring himself back into 'balance'. To redress his sin in equal proportion.

And the last: ah, prophecy. It sounds so nice and harmless until you're there waiting to be martyred.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Book: John Adams

This is, and has been for a while now, my non-fiction reading. I'm only on page 180 and it's a 651 page book. It's going so slowly because I really only get a chance to read it first thing in the morning, and so...slowness.

But so far, it's a very, very interesting book. It briefly covers John Adams' family background, childhood, education, courtship and marriage, and then gets into the beginnings of the Revolution and all the contributions that Adams made to America's birth.

It's laced with sections of the letters between Adams and his wife Abigail, which I really enjoy. It's very, very nice to see into the relationship between the two of them, which covered a very difficult period of time in history, with them being separated for years at a time, really, and the love and respect that they seem to have had for each other really shows through. You can tell that Adams respected his wife, and her intelligence, and that, more than that, they loved each other.

Anyway, in one letter he bemoans the state of the army (Washington was getting his butt kicked at the time), and Congress (with Adams as the head of the Board of War) was making many adjustments to the 'army' - their pay being increased and the punishments being increased as well. He wonders whether or not the state of the men was the fault of the times:

'Unfaithfulness in public stations is deeply criminal. But there is no encouragement to be faithful. Neither profit, nor honor, nor applause is acquired by faithfulness...There is too much corruption, even in this infant age of our Republic. Virtue is not in fashion. Vice is not infamous.'

Heh. Proof that nothing ever really changes. All those people who complain that our forefathers were more honest, etc., etc. - humanity never changes. They had the same moral issues 'back then' that we do now. The difference is in how well known they've become. Due to modern technology and media, it's hard to hide things that wouldn't have become widely known in the past.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Sirach 4

*Care of the Poor and Needy*
1. My son, do not deprive the poor of his living,
And do not keep eyes in need waiting.

2. Do not grieve a soul who is hungry,
Nor provoke to anger a man in despair.

3. Do not trouble a heart that was made resentful,
And do not put off the gift of a man in need.

4. Do not reject a supplicant who is afflicted
Nor turn your face away from a poor man.

5. Do not turn your eye away from a needy man,
And do not give a man occasion to curse you;

6. For if he curses you in the bitterness of his soul,
His Maker will hear his prayer.

7. Make yourself beloved in the assembly
And bow your head to a great man.

8. Incline your ear to a poor man
And answer him peaceably and with gentleness.

9. Deliver a person who has been wronged
From the hand of the wrongdoer,
And do not be fainthearted when you judge his case.

10. Be like a father to orphans
And like a husband to their mother;
And you will be like a son of the Most High,
And He will love you more than your mother.+

*Pursuit of Wisdom*
11. Wisdom exalts her children
And lays hold of those who seek her.+

12. Whoever loves her loves life,
And those who come to her early in the morning
Will be filled with gladness.

13. He who holds fast to her will inherit glory,
And the Lord blesses every place she enters.

14. Those who serve her will minister to the Holy One.
And the Lord loves those who love her.

15. He who obeys her will judge the nations;
And he that gives heed to her will live with confidence.

16. If he trusts in her, he will inherit her.
And his posterity will be in possession of her.

17. At first she will walk with him on disturbing paths
And bring fear and dread upon him;
And she will torment him with her discipline
Until she can trust his soul
And test him with her ordinances.

18. Then she will come straight back to him,
And will gladden him, and reveal her secrets to him.

19. If he wanders away, she will forsake him
And hand him over to his ruin.

*Shame and Sin*
20. Watch for a proper opportunity and keep yourself from evil;
And do not bring shame upon your soul.

21. For there is a shame that brings sin,
And there is a shame which is glory and grace.

22. Do not show partiality to someone to your own harm,
And do not let your respect cause another to fall.

23. Do not withhold a word in time of need;

24. For wisdom is made known be a word,
And instruction by a word of the tongue.

25. Do not speak against the truth,
And do not be put to shame by your ignorance.

26. Do not be ashamed to confess your sins,
And do not exercise force against the current of a river.

27. Do not subject yourself to a foolish man,
And do not show partiality to a ruler.

28. Fight to the death for the truth,
And the Lord God will fight for you.

29. Do not be rash with your tongue
And sluggish and neglectful in your works.

30. Do not be like a lion in your home
And act in pretense with your servants.

31. Do not let your hand be extended to receive
And shut when you should repay.

Notes from OSB:

+4:10 - The care of the poor, the needy, and the orphan is nothing short of Christlike: you will be like a son of the Most High.

+4:11-19 - Gaining wisdom is not passive or automatic. Note the action verbs: seek (v. 11); loves (v. 12); come (v. 12); holds fast (v. 13); serve (v. 14); obeys (v. 15); gives heed (v. 15); trusts (v. 16).

Friday, April 16, 2010

Doubting Thomas or Natural Inquirer

John 20: 19-28:
19 So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." 20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you." 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 "If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained." 24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples were saying to him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe."

26 After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you." 27 Then He said to Thomas, "Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing." 28 Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" 29 Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed."

I'm sure we all know this story, after Jesus' resurrection, Thomas had to see Him and actually be able to *touch* Him before he would believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. It's where we get the phrase 'Doubting Thomas' (and didn't *I* feel old when I used that in class and none of the kids knew it...) Anyway, 'Doubting Thomas' is a term that is used to describe someone who refuses to believe something without direct, physical, personal evidence.

And, in my experience, it's treated as something bad.

But, really, where's the line between being a 'doubting Thomas', and being naturally inquisitive? I mean, let's all be honest. If you were Thomas, would your first reaction to the news of the other disciples be, 'Ah! Wonderful, He has appeared to you. Great. I'll take it on your word alone.' Or would it have been, like mine, 'Okay, guys, the stress has gotten to you. We're all under a *lot* of pressure, and it's understandable. And maybe you should lay off the wine.'

Don't get me wrong, I take literally 'Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.' Christians, past the first couple of generations, haven't seen Christ. They haven't even seen those who did know Christ personally. We take it on faith. But it's not meant to be a *blind* faith.

If we can't question things, if we can't ask for evidence, historical or otherwise, we're just blindly following, without using our brains. And that's not how it was meant to be. Christianity, in my opinion, is meant to be a mix of faith, but also reason. That doesn't mean that we have to nitpick and reason down to the last iota everything that happens.

Faith needs to be, to a certain extent, fluid. Accepting of mystery. We're never going to understand it all. And the...the need to justify our faith to the secular world, to the skeptics, is playing their game! To be able to say, 'scientifically' that this, that and the other thing happened. I don't see the need for *that*. However, we must also be free to question our beliefs. A religion that refuses to allow it's adherents, or even non-believers to study it's history and pick at it, has something to hide. If you don't believe that your faith, your religion, can hold up to scholarly scrutiny, there is something wrong.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

We Now Have....

a rooster.

His name is Rocket Man, and we got him from friends of my parents. They apparently had one too many roosters, and the other rooster was three times Rocket Man's size, and was picking on him. So they decided to either find him a new home, or ship him off with some other chickens on Saturday to be butchered. He apparently started life as a show rooster named 'Buttercup'.

My parents went over to see him last night, and, shock of shocks, he came home with them. He's currently living in a temporary pen/shed until we get proper chicken things. Now, I didn't want the rooster, and I'm all worried about him.

Does he need a girlfriend? Is he going to fly away? Is he going to get eaten?

So, hopefully we'll still have a rooster when I get home tonight. Because, while I could have lived without a rooster, now that he's here, I have the need to make sure he's happy and healthy. *sigh*

I can see that this is the beginning of a downhill slope. Next thing you know we'll have goats and pigs and things. And more chickens. Plus, my sister wants a duck. What're we going to do with a duck? She also wanted a horse, but I am *not* going to deal with a horse. Nope. Lovely, but *lots* of work, and you just know she's not going to get up at the crack of dawn to feed him. (She doesn't get up until *noonish*.)

4 Kingdoms 6:5

aka Second Kings

5. But as one man was cutting a log, the iron ax head fell into the water. He cried out and said, "Alas, master, it was borrowed."

Ah, haha, my verses are so incredibly random...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

BtVS Season 5: The Body

Let me tell you about one of the best episodes of television, ever.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in Season Five, had an episode called 'The Body'. Now, however dark Buffy had gotten, as a show, before, it was all monsters and evil. 'Fun', unrealistic things. Sure, they were metaphors, much of the time, for real life problems, but still. Most of us don't worry about vampires or a Hellmouth opening up and sucking our school into oblivion.

But The Body is all about human suffering, and 'children' (only in quotes because the majority of them are college age, but still children in many ways) dealing with death and loss and 'what now?'

Buffy, our heroine, comes home. Now, you should know that her mother, Joyce, has survived a *lot* over the years. Vampires, werewolves, demons, and, very recently, a brain tumour. She's recovered from that, dating, moving on with her life. So. Buffy comes home, sees flowers that Joyce's boyfriend has sent over, and yells hello. Then she starts talking up the stairs, thinking that's where her mother is. But we, the viewer, can see, fuzzily in the background, her mother laying sprawled on the couch.

Finally, Buffy turns and sees her there. And she *knows* there's something very wrong. You can see Joyce is dead, but Buffy, her daughter, doesn't want to believe it. She stands there, eyes welling up with tears: 'Mom? Mom? Mommy?' Because even when you're an adult, that is still your mommy.

The whole episode is *brilliant*, and it makes you want to *cry*. Which I *do* through so much of it. The flashbacks to happy times, with the whole Scooby family together, happy. The fantasies that Buffy randomly has of having been in time to *do something* that saves her mother, even though she's told over and over again that there was nothing to be done. (For the record, Joyce dies of an aneurysm. Again, brilliant - natural death in this show is more painful than the other deaths we've seen.)

When the 911 operator refers to Joyce as 'the body' (Buffy, even though she won't admit it, has said enough that the operator realizes that Joyce is dead), Buffy corrects her, 'no, my *mom*' and wants to know if she should make her warm, if that will help...Buffy calling Giles, her father figure, tugging her mom's skirt down just a little bit, because it's her *mom*, and then, after the paramedics leave (leaving her with the body, because they've declared her dead and they have an emergency and the coroner is on the way) wandering into another room to vomit.

The show is *silent*, on the music front. There's no score for the majority of the ep. Just like real life, there's no soundtrack for our pain.

Buffy having to tell Giles, having to tell her sister Dawn. All of the Scoobies' reaction to Joyce's death. Joyce, who has been there for them all since the beginning. It's heart wrenching.

The, in my opinion, best lines are given to Anya, who is Xander's girlfriend. Anya, because I assume most of you don't know this, is only recently human. She was a demon for the past 1500 years, and so she asks a lot of weird questions, and doesn't quite *get* why humans react to things. And she's been doing this through the ep, and you just assume that it's her usual thoughtlessness and lack of comprehension, until the four friends are all in a dorm room, with Willow trying to figure out appropriate clothing (it's her way of trying to deal - nothing seems *right*, and she can't find this sweater that Joyce had liked, and it's not vanity, it's her trying to focus on something other than Joyce being dead). Anyway, Willow yells at Anya, and this is what Anya says:

'But I don't understand. I don't understand how this all happens. How we go through this. I mean I knew her and then she's...there's just a body. And I don't understand why she just can't get back in it and not be dead any more. It's stupid. It's mortal. And stupid. And...and Xander's crying and not talking. And- and I was having fruit punch and I thought, Joyce will never have any more fruit punch, ever. And she'll never have eggs, or yawn, or brush her hair, not ever. And no one will explain to me *why*.'

And at the end, Dawn keeps wanting to see her, and sneaks into the morgue, and there's a fight with a vampire, and in the fight, Dawn trips and accidentally pulls the sheet off of her mother. After Buffy's killed the vampire, they both notice, and they're staring, and:

'Is she cold?'

'It's not her. It's not her. She's gone.'

'Where'd she go?'

And it ends with a shot of Dawn's hand reaching out to touch her mother's cheek.

Um, yeah. Guess what I've been watching?

1 Corinthians 11: 2-16

We might be working off a theme here, women. There are some verses that are considered 'troubling' or 'demeaning' to women in the Bible. (I know, I know, take a minute to control your shock.) And, because I'm off today (I had to go renew my driver's license in person, so I took the whole day off), I thought I'd talk about one of them. What follows will be, of course, my opinion, and only mine. I make no claims to anything approaching inerrant or even clever thought.

So. First up, 1 Corinthians:

2. Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. 3. But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

So, we start of with a hierarchy, of sorts. God is the 'head', the source of Christ. Christ is the source of man, and man is the source of woman. And, I can see that face you're making. It says *head*, Amber, not *source*. Yes, I can read. Thanks. :) However, 'head', has a lot of definitions, all related, of course. Position, authority, yadda, yadda. But it also means the *source* of things. So, and since this is all about my opinion, 'source'. God exists. Christ proceeded from God the Father (Christ, of course, also being God.) Man was created through Christ. (John 1:3, John 1:10, 1 Corinthians 8:6, Colossians 1:16, Hebrews 1:2) Man 'proceeded' from Christ. And, if we go back to Genesis, woman proceeded from man. (Genesis 2: 21-23)

4. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head.

Why? I don't know. My personal theory is that it's because, at the time, most of the Christians were Jewish converts. Jews were required to cover their heads to pray. Perhaps this uncovering of the Christian believers head was partially a way to distinguish themselves.

5. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. 6. For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered.

As for this, it is my understanding that at this time period, all respectable women covered their hair, no matter their faith. Women of 'ill repute' would go about with their hair showing. A way of advertising their 'wares', almost. And, I'd like to point out, that it says, 'prays or prophecies' - which I take to mean, 'in front of the congregation'. So, following from that, my brain tells me that the woman needs to be sure that she is covered properly (for the time period) in front of a mixed group because she will be speaking in front of men who are not related to her, who have no right to see all of her beauty. It also refutes the claim I've heard that hair is all the covering a woman needs. It makes no sense for hair = covering in the sense spoken of above if you can say, 'if a woman uncovers, shave her. both are equally shameful.' because, according to the hair = covering theory, if she's uncovered, she's already shaved!

7. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8. For man is not from woman, but woman from man. 9. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.

I tend to take this this way: Man is the image and glory of God because Christ was a man. It ties in, for me, to the reasons why women cannot be priests. A priest is acting in the person of Christ - he is the *icon* of Christ. And yes, all Christians are a part of the 'priesthood of believers', but there's another, set apart priesthood that traces back to the Apostles. Anyway. It all ties back to the order of creation. Man is a glory to God, because man came 'directly' from God. Woman is a glory to man, because she came out from him. But, as is pointed out a little later in this section, *both* ultimately come from God. So, in the end, all glory, as is proper, belongs to God.

10. For this reason the woman out to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.

And why? Why do angels care if women cover their head? I don't know. I've heard a variety of explanations, ranging from ones that make a fair bit of sense, that angels value it simply for the obedience that it shows to God, to the not so much: such as the fact that angels, being hierarchical in nature, place importance on knowing the 'rank' of other beings. To the completely kind of 'huh?' like the theory that a woman's hair is *so* beautiful that the sight of her, all exposed, drives angels to uh...'know' the women. And that never ends well.

11. Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. 12. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.

Like I said. All things are from God. Whatever glory a woman gives to man, it all goes back to God, in the end. Because all things are from and *for* God, properly.

13. Judge amongst yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14. Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? 15. But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. 16. But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God. actually says, 'judge amongst yourselves'. So, is it? Is it proper, today, for women to pray to God with their hair uncovered? Is the covering just a cultural issue? For me, personally, I say it's not. But that's something that I feel *personally* called to. At the time this letter was written, the answer would have been 'no' - it is *not* proper for women to go about uncovered. Today, if you look around, I don't believe that we can use the way that the world, or even many, many Christians dress as a judge of what is proper. So we need to either look to the past to what was considered appropriate and adapt modern clothing to meet those standards, or look into ourselves to find what is appropriate.

And...I may have gotten off topic somewhere in there. I'm not even sure if it makes any sense. But, that's just me, going through and reading on my own.

When I Rule the World

Men, take note:

When I finally manage to take over the world/have my own country/*whatever*, you will all be required to dress like this:

Watson, not Holmes. Now, you don't all have to suddenly look like Jude Law (though it'd be nice...), but *that* style of dress.

Just, you know, giving you guys a heads up.

This public service announcement brought to you by your future (benevolent!) overlady.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Death Penalty II

(cont. from I)

While the Church as the State is an unscriptural and unworkable concept, the Church influencing the State is, of course, another matter entirely. The Christian influence on anyone is a matter of persuasion, not coercion. But what if the State actually governed an unbelieving society based on that one, singular Christian ethic of forgiveness? Let's say, theoretically, that the justice system operates on this basis: if the victim (or family of the victim in cases where the victim is dead) forgives the criminal, then the criminal goes free. No consequences for their actions. What happens when a murdering pedophile is set free because the parents of his victim forgive him. He's still a pedophile. He will rape and murder another child. People like that cannot change. They cannot stop. There is no 'rehabilitation' no 'fix'. I was talking to a friend the other day, whose uncle works in law enforcement. He's getting near to retirement, and works in a jail now, as a guard. He said that where they used to only need one bloc for the pedophiles, now they need two whole wings. And the men sit there, for the duration of their sentences, watching kids' shows. You know why? So they can be up on the current trends when they get out. So they can go right back to preying on children. But in this fictional world where mercy and forgiveness are given more weight than justice, these men would be free to perpetuate their horrors. Because their enemies forgave them. And that next child who's raped or murdered? Whose fault is that? Who shoulders the responsibility of knowing that they had him, and they let him go? My beta actually brought up chemical castration, but it's my understanding that even this is not a fool proof method. It does appear to reduce the sexual fantasies and drives, and give the patients greater control over their sexual urges in about 80% of the offenders while they're on the drugs. There are, of course, side effects, which I'm less concerned about than the fact that there's still that 20% on whom it doesn't appear to work. I'm not, however, throwing it out entirely. While I'd really, really like to have all pedophiles executed, whether they kill their victims or not, that's a personal bit of viciousness.

Forgiveness cannot mean removal of the consequences or removal of the State's responsibility to protect the innocent from the criminal. All Christians, when it comes down to it, do not hold that forgiveness means removal of all consequences for sin or evil, and, I think, most will acknowledge that fact. A church may forgive the embezzlement of funds by one of its members, but it cannot commute the restitution required by law. The Church can forgive the sin of adultery, but it will neither pay the child support of the adulterer or tell them they don't have to pay it. The Church can forgive the sin, but the consequence of that sin, in the world, remains. Consequences are not always abrogated by forgiveness. The Church cam affirm life, repentance and forgiveness, and at the same time permit the State to deal with the good order of the society within which the Church functions. The State might be influenced by the Church, but it is not the Church. It is only the Church, and it's members, that is held to the Gospel. No Christian who supports capital punishment believes the Church should execute the evildoer, or even its own sinners, heretics or apostates. (Though that has been the case in the past.) The Church exists for the redemption of the human being and as an agent of the Gospel of forgiveness, the giver of the sacraments, and the bearer of grace to the fallen race.

But we still have the question of the boundaries and relationships of the Church and the State when it comes to the death penalty?

The historic consensus of the great theologians (East and West) affirms the existence of the State as a God ordained power separate from the Church and its authority to exact capital punishment as an option for the good of society.

A quote I came across quite a few times in my search, from the anti-death penalty camp is from St. John Chrysostom is this: “in our case (as Christians) the wrong-doer must be made better, not by force, but by persuasion”. However, the entire quote is actually as follows:

“Christians above all men are not permitted forcibly to correct the failings of those who sin. Secular judges indeed, when they have captured malefactors under the law, show their authority to be great, and prevent them even against their will from following their own devices; but in our case the wrong-doer must be made better, not by force, but by persuasion.”

St. John Chrysostom is not denying the authority of the State or its responsibility to punish and restrain the criminal. He is instead saying that the Church does not use force to convert souls. St. Thomas Aquinas, in his commentary on 1 Corinthians 5 sums up the thoughts of the West: “if a man be dangerous and infectious to the community, on account of some sin, it is praiseworthy and advantageous that he be killed in order to safeguard the common good, since 'a little leaven corrupteth the whole lump'” (1 Corinthians 5:6).

“The state does not bear the sword for naught” St. Paul says, in Romans 13, and St. John Chrysostom comments, “For he bears not the sword in vain. You see how (God) has furnished him with arms, and set him on guard like a soldier for a terror to those that commit sin. For he is the minister of God to execute wrath, a revenger upon him that does evil.”

The State has its own realm of authority and does not need the Church to validate or direct its operations in order for it to be an agent of God's will for humanity. (However much we may look at it and doubt it at any given moment). However, it's also clear that the Church is called to be leaven and that there is no prohibition to the Church influencing the State's decisions in matters moral and ethical.

Part of the problem is that we've muddied our personal convictions, what we feel we need to do in personal relationships, and our understanding of how the State should function for the good of society. If we accept the essential separation of the Gospel's demands on the Church and the State, the issue becomes: 'Can I, as a Christian, personally participate in killing a human being?'

On another level, if we accept that civil authority is God ordained and human beings are invested with the powers of life and death, we have to ask: 'How does an individual who is finite and imperfect whether Christian or not, perfectly join justice and mercy within civil order?' And, extended from that, how can a justice system work when all of the offices, the points along the way, are occupied by these same imperfect beings?

It is undeniable that human beings are neither personally nor collectively omniscient, but does that mean that we cannot act, merely because we don't possess all of the knowledge that God does? If we take that as a legitimate boundary, then we have to ask, if God knew we could not know what only He knows, then why did He ordain civil authority for both believers and the unbelieving pagan societies and give those societies the power to judge and punish evil doers even unto death? If a person dies unjustly under the auspices of a flawed legal system (which is a main argument against the death penalty), is that an eternal issue?

The groundswell of anti-death penalty activism began in Europe on the heels of WWII and the horrors of the Nazi regime, and within the context of post Enlightenment Europe's decline of faith. Without a belief in the afterlife, humanistic and utilitarian philosophy has defined physical death as the ultimate evil and insult to human worth and dignity. The decline of Christianity and a belief in eternal life went hand in hand with the rise of opposition to the death penalty in Europe. Cardinal Dulles, a Jesuit theologian noted in a 2001 article, “many governments in Europe and elsewhere have eliminated the death penalty in the twentieth century, often against the protests of religious believers. While this change may be viewed as moral progress, it is probably due, in part, to the evaporation of the sense of sin, guilt, and retributive justice, all of which are essential to biblical religion and Catholic faith. The abolition of the death penalty in formerly Christian countries may owe more to secular humanism than to deeper penetration into the Gospel.” Christians have accepted the Godless categories of secular humanists and their re-framing of the death penalty as unjust, contrary to the dignity of the human being, and cruel and inhuman in the face of the biblical rationales for the validity of the use of the death penalty. It is clear from the Biblical witness that it can and should be applied even in the fallen order, it is applied precisely because of the dignity of human life, and cannot be defined as 'inhuman' because the creator of humanity not only commanded it but exacted it Himself.

If death is the end of the human being, then yes, it is to be avoided at any cost. However, for the Christian, death, in the end, is not the final affront to the dignity of our humanity, it is the loss of our humanity in eternity separated from its true source and definition in God. We cannot let the humanists define the categories of life and death for us.

To the Christian, ultimately retributive justice is about love, even under Mosaic Law which demanded capital punishment. Because we believe in objective love, the killer is killed because more than mere biology has been violated, something more than just a mass of chemicals has ceased to function, and our reaction to that is more than just vague evolutionary sentimentality and another mass of chemical interactions in my head. Objective love has been violated. At the core of our existence because we are created in the image of God who is love, we know that if we have no love, we have no life. Even a humanistic definition attempts to define society by love in some way. What is society? An amalgam of beings that economically join together in a community mutually respecting and affirming life for the well being of all: which is really a dim definition of 'love' at a primeval level. This is what makes murder and other heinous crimes inhuman even within a humanistic framework: The killer exhibits no love and kills someone who is loved by someone else thus not just violating the individual but also the community. From a Christian perspective, that community includes God.

It is on the basis of the Incarnation of God in Christ that we believe that the honor given to a material icon passes to the person whom the icon depicts. Materiality and the spiritual are not divorced. It is in, by, and through the material that we ultimately honor the spiritual. God ultimately honors the image of Himself in man by becoming man. This is the reality that Genesis 9:6 points us to. Murder is not merely the ending of a material existence. It is a sin against the entire man created in love by God in His image, thus, and this is the crux of the matter, the disregard for and destruction of the image passes to the one in whose image man is created. It is ultimately a rejection and desecration of God Himself. The murderer rejects the entirety of the cosmos both external and within himself. God ordains civil authority with the power to condemn and kill the ones who are so inhuman and anti-social that they do not live according to their own created image in respect and honor for the love of God and the love of man in others. The death penalty honors the image of God in both the perpetrator and the victim by holding the perpetrator responsible, as a human being in the image of God, for his actions.

So back to the earlier question: 'Why does God allow fallen, finite beings to make life and death decisions?'

God has no illusions of either the human potential for evil nor of the possibility of humanity to achieve a perfect justice system. The fallen human condition is bent toward sin and virtue is an uphill battle. Unrestrained, unpunished evil results in greater and greater evils. While we affirm the image of God in the human being is never lost, God is more realistic than most people about how deeply that image can be buried in evil. Thus, God requires the death penalty. No matter how meticulously crafted a justice system is, it will never rise about human failure. There will be injustice, both intentional and through ignorance and negligence. The hard truth is that innocent people will die, both from direct evil and as a consequence of the limitations of humanity in this fallen order. The Christian world view includes the tragedy of random injustice and does not cringe from the possibility of it occurring due to human error for the greater purpose of curtailing even greater evil and the stability and order of human society. In the end, we must come to terms with an imperfect world. Legal injustice is not the only affront to our sensibilities of 'what is fair'. The world is full of normal injustices like being a victim of random human evil, natural calamities, poverty or handicap by virtue of birth, and tragic accidents visited on the undeserving or innocent. Civil injustice is merely another sorrowful reality of the fallen order. Within the civil realm, unlike the natural realm, there are avenues for righting purposeful injustice. For the Christian, there is also a higher justice that will deal with the ones who abuse power or do evil in the end, no matter what happens here on earth.

Christians, because of our understanding of death and the consequences of the fall, should have a higher tolerance level for the fact that the world will never be perfect and that human beings are fallible. Christians have no illusions that imperfect and even evil men occupy places of God ordained authority and they make life and death decisions for members of society. The best we can hope for is that those in authority are sober, humble, and fearful of the great burden of the sword they are bearing. Though we know, all too well, that a very great many of them are not. I heard an estimate once that over 160 million innocent people have been killed by despotic rulers and governments. The call to abolish the death penalty for justly tried and guilty criminals is a separate issue, and the abolition of the death penalty won't keep evil men from killing or rising to power and committing genocide. The Christian call for justice notwithstanding, death, even an unjust death, is not the end of the story. The Cross of Christ, and the two crucified with Him, is a microcosm of the divine order. It is the ultimate witness that the power given from above is, in human hands, both just and unjust, but that gross injustice in the providential hand of God in a much grander scheme of the universe than we can imagine, is in the end redemptive in some way. It is with this understanding that the Saints could command us to submit to unchristian, imperfect and even unjust civil rule.

Now, what do I mean when I say that the Cross and the two crucified with Him is a microcosm of the divine order? One is justly condemned, another's punishment may have been disproportionate, and one was unjustly condemned. In the providence of God, one saves, another is saved, and the last exemplifies the unrepentant human even in the presence of the love of God. It would have been a perfect object lesson regarding capital punishment and forgiveness, but Jesus died and let the other two die with Him, one saved and the other damned. Perhaps we need to look at the Crucifixion scene in this way, and see God's view of civil authority, divine love and the fallen world fully explicated. And, again, lets recall that Jesus is the same as the God of the Old Testament. There was no divine happy pill between Testaments. Remember also that He will come again in the end to judge the living and the dead and to cast the evildoers into a lake of eternal fire as punishment if they are unrepentant. We tend to have this fluffy, 'Disney-fied' view of Biblical things, like angels, or Jesus, and I can only think that that comes from a vast majority of us never bothering to read the Bible, but relying on what we remember from Sunday school, which is a vastly sanitized version for our young minds.

Now, what about the idea that we can't execute a criminal because they must be provided with ample time to repent. The reality is that, except in the cases of 'crimes of passion', most murderers have long histories of criminal behavior. So, what about all the time they had before, to repent? Have they used it? Or have they been bent on feeding their own selfish, sinful urges? As Christians, we believe that the opportunity for repentance abounds every minute of every day, and that God is constantly at work in people's lives to bring them to repentance. It is always the 'right time' to repent. One of the ways God brings us to repentance is through temporal consequences for our sins. One such consequence for exceedingly gross evil is death by the State. The sentence of death on a killer is the first step to redemption because it is a clear statement that his sin is particularly depraved and a violation of all creation. It is also redemptive in that it provides the evildoer the only true motivation most sinners initially understand to repent: we are going to die and face eternal judgment for our sins. And here's another 'bonus' – while, as Christians, we try to keep ourselves mindful that we could die at any moment, and be in a repentant from of mind, walking in the Grace of God at all moments because of that fact, we still have no idea of the hour and day of our deaths. The criminal on death row does. They are perfectly aware of when, how, and why they are going to die. They have foreknowledge that the majority of us will never have. They have a better chance and motivation to repent than your average person who, say what they might, subconsciously believes that they will live for 70, 80 years. So the execution can be viewed as a mercy to the criminal. Unlike the natural order, at least the State gives you fair warning. A last meal and a chance to say goodbye to your loved ones before you are shuffled off this mortal coil.

If we are to make a decision for permitting a criminal to live, it must be made on some other basis than a vague hope that more time may be helpful to leading them to repentance. For some, this might be true, but for others, more time is just more opportunity to do evil. Just look at the prison systems and how being in prison fails to keep the people in the prisons from committing thefts, rapes, beatings, and more murders, even while in prison. God will judge those who might have committed more evil, just as He will judge those who may have repented if given more time. He knows the depths of the human heart, where we can only guess. And we should not second guess God who has established the role and responsibility of civil authority in this area. I read somewhere that capital punishment is a temporal judgment and exacts the first death in order to bring about the fear of the second judgment and second death. If a Christian believes in eternal life, this is ultimately humane. We can't push all matters of earthly order, consequences for sin, and judgment of evil onto God in eternity. Romans 13 and 1 Timothy 2 make it clear that God did not remove Himself from the civil affairs of the human race after the Cross, nor did He remove Himself from judging sinful people within the Church.

We are not given the luxury of deferring all judgment of human behavior to the last day in either civil or Church governance. We don't believe the God of the Old Testament is no longer concerned about civil law and order in the New Testament world. Civil authority is still God ordained and has its authority from God even under the Gospel. Death is still the blessed curse and a motivation to repent whether it comes from nature or the State. And the scriptures also make it clear that the fear of immanent death brings some to repentance and some to curse God and die in their sins, even when they are being killed justly along side God Himself.

Is the death penalty a deterrent? For some, yes. Realistically, for others, no. There will always be those who don't fear a particular consequence for breaking some law. There are some who are born 'flawed'. I'm thinking of those who are mentally ill – sociopaths, psychopaths, the like. People who will do what they will do, no matter what. Because they are sick, and they can't help themselves. They don't fear the consequences of their actions in a way that 'normal' people would. Not that that fear stops everyone from committing crimes, but it does stop the majority of them. The 'deterrent' aspect though, has never been the only reason that murderers are executed. It is only part of the reality – the consequence ultimately addresses the anti-social act of the criminal and it is addressed to his violation of humanity and social order.

Does the death penalty restrain the criminal? Very, very finally. But what about life in prison? Doesn't that restrain them as well? And without the added onus of having to execute them? Not so much. Again, we know for a fact that criminals in prison still find ways to commit more crimes. And that's assuming that they can even keep the criminals in prison. Let's look at Ted Bundy as an example: It is estimated that he killed 35 girls and women, though some speculate that the number may be higher. He was first arrested in 1975, and escaped twice! After his second, successful escape, he severely beat three women severely, murdered two more women, and raped and murdered his final victim, a twelve year old girl. There is no fool proof way to hold a killer and guarantee that they will not kill again. Whether it be a fellow inmate, a guard, or an innocent person. The only certain way to keep a murderer from killing again is to remove them in an extremely permanent fashion. Hence, the death penalty.

I think my point is really this: It is theologically permissible for a Christian to support the death penalty. But I'm not demanding that everyone agree with me. I'm not standing here declaring that I'm right and you're all wrong, and you must all change your minds to agree with me! I believe that I have grounds, theologically, for continuing to believe as I believed already (based on non-religious reasons). However, I'm not a theologian. I'm not a scholar, or even particularly well versed. All of the above is from my research – other people thought it all first. I know enough to know that I could be wrong, and I admit that. Some day, perhaps, my belief will change, and I'll be out in front of a prison protesting an execution. (This is so painfully unlikely I can't even begin to explain.) There are those out there who believe otherwise. And that's their choice. They believe that no one should be killed, no matter how heinous their crimes. Okay. I disagree. But it is, I believe, ultimately, a personal issue.
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