Wednesday, August 31, 2011

testing...anyone out there?

*laugh* So, anyway. I'm going to do another post on Mere Christianity tonight. I'm such a slacker.

Today's announcement:

I appear to have developed a newscaster crush on Anderson Cooper.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Rival Conceptions of God

This is the first chapter in the section that's supposed to be about what Christian's believe.

"I have been asked to tell you what Christians believe, and I am going to begin by telling you one thing that Christians do not need to believe. If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake. If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all those religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth. When I was an atheist I had to persuade myself that most of the human race have always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most; when I became a Christian I was able to take a more liberal view."

Which is interesting. I know that there are many Christians who do believe this way, but there are many who do not. And I think there is something about Christianity, and all of the Abrahamic faiths for that matter, that assumes exclusivity. Christianity does make the claim that it is the only correct path to heaven, whether it states it explicitly or not. In recent years there has been a relaxation of this policy, with many of the Christian institutions stating that there exist aspects of grace outside of the fold of Christianity, but that has not been the historical understanding.

One of the things I found sort of telling and maybe helpful in explaining Lewis' viewpoints is his version of atheism. When Lewis was an atheist, he based his rejection of the idea of God on the fact that the world was not fair, or just. That if there was a God, and God was good, then how could He allow the world to continue in the way that it was? Rather than (at the time) understanding that free will and the fallen nature of the world is what impacts and creates the nature of the world, he decided that the unfairness of reality meant that there was no God. Okay, that was his view and he later changed it. That's fine. But Lewis seems to think that every other atheist on the planet for all time shares this same perspective and reasoning. Which I know is not true. There are many reasons that people have for being atheists.

Many, perhaps even most, weigh the evidence for a divine being against the evidence for other, less supernatural explanations for things and they find that the scales tip in the favour of a material universe, where there is no supernatural explanation for things.

Everyone's reason is their own, and it seems good to them. They might be wrong - people who believe in God or gods or the Unmoved Mover might be wrong as well. We don't really, ever, know. We work with the evidence we see, through the lense of the life that we have and we take things on faith, one way or the other. Lewis buttonholing everyone into the same thought process as he used sits badly with me.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Death Penalty II: It's Come Back!

Part II

I want to at least attempt to discuss the relationship between the Church and civil authority. Since we do have a separation of Church and State – in the sense that the Church is not the State and that the State is the entity charged with keeping order and punishing criminals, it seems germane.

I think that most people would agree that the human being somehow innately understands the necessity and value of societal order and justice that supersedes the individuals desires. Social order reflects a sort of collective consciousness that rises above any single individual's level of perfection in an imperfect world. We know from history that one individual with unchecked power doesn't really work well as a system of government. 'Absolute power corrupts absolutely' is a cliché for a reason.

According to Scripture all 'governmental systems' and civil authorities are established by God and are a necessary concession for the good order of the world because of the Fall. But our 'systems', even if ordained by God, are run by fallen humans. I doubt this fact is lost on anyone. 

In his commentary on Romans 13, St. John Chrysostom has this to say about how we should regard civil authority and evil politicians:

For do not tell me of some one who makes ill use of (the institutions of government) but look to the good order that is in the institution itself, and you will see the great wisdom of Him who enacted this law from the first...whether in punishing, or in honoring, the state is a Minister, in avenging virtue's cause, in driving vice away, as God wills.”

'Systems' of government and societal order are a collective hedge against individual human anarchy which tends toward evil, and it also provides more or less for some definition of 'the common welfare' of the members of society. And, of course, we know that while some systems might be better than others, no system, if occupied by evil people, will keep people from doing evil things. 

Every Christian anti-death penalty argument I've seen calls for society to 'forgive our enemies' because Christ calls on us to forgive our enemies. And I would acknowledge that I, as an individual, am called to forgive my personal enemies – which is HARD and I work at it daily, but I don't see that that extends to the State.

The call of the Gospel is ultimately to persons, not institutions. One must have belief in the Gospel to live it, not merely be following laws. While we obey laws because they are laws and there are consequences if we break them and we are caught (think, on the mild end of the spectrum, speed limits), our faith cannot work that way. A person can, theoretically, be forced to obey all the strictures of a faith, down to the last 't', but that doesn't give them faith. It doesn't make them a believer, and in the case of faith and religion, at least, it's the belief, the inner desires and thoughts that count. After all, God's Kingdom is not of this world.

All that being said, it is appropriate for the State to legislate against evil for the very same reason Noah was commanded to institute the death penalty – we are created in the Image of God. The God ordained order of the State, at some level, reflects the image of God in that it exists for the 'good of society' which calls for defining good and evil through civil law.

In the Old Testament, God dealt with human beings on a revelatory moral and religious level through Judaism and the Law. Even if one views Judaism as only a shadow of the Gospel, it was still God ordained, and carries some merit. The first layer of Godly order laid down into the moral chaos of the fallen world? Judaism was a revelation to the world of universally applicable moral and ethical precepts, and it included the death penalty. These aspects of the Law (I believe) which included capital punishment apart from the fullness of knowledge and belief in the Gospel are still a functional way to order a non-Gospel based human society. We in the modern world may (and do) disagree with the Law over who (and for what and how) should be put to death, but from Genesis to Revelation the overarching principles of law and order that include justice, fear of consequence, punishment and restraint that deal with evil are universally recognized to be necessary for civil order.

As far as I can see, nowhere in the New Testament is the State held to the standards of the Gospel in how it orders our society. Since inception the Church has existed and functioned within many diverse political systems – some good, some bad, some out and out evil. We don't find the New Testament writers confusing the roles of the Church and the State in the lives of people, most likely because in the times of the New Testament the State was either indifferent or actively hostile to the Church.

The Apostles held up no political system as 'the one true party' and Christians are constrained to pray for all civil leaders, godly or not. Jesus Himself told Pilate as he was condemning Him that he had no power except that which was given him from God. In Romans 13, St. Paul (who was persecuted under both Jewish and Roman law) teaches us that the State has the God ordained responsibility to punish the evil doer and even to exact capital punishment if deemed necessary. St. Paul, in spite of the injustices he personally suffered, doesn't even deal with the possibility of civil law being unjustly administered. He doesn't seem to have an issue with the possibility of the State being in error or unjust at times. Both he and Christ personally stood above the civil order and the injustice they suffered and in so doing personally transformed the world around them without legislating 'Christian values' through governmental systems. 

The ancients understood that their moral and religious frameworks were not easily divorced from civil concerns, and throughout Church history it has always been considered, by most Christian expressions, a possibility to have a Christian State. Israel's history is the story of the 'Christian State' imperfectly administered by kings who would bring either blessings or curses upon the people depending on their actions. It was never a utopia, but it was an integration of Church and State. In light of this history the 'prophet/king' relationship and the wielding of power in their respective spheres is quite natural and has yielded, at times, good outcomes for the citizenry. However, it is also clear from Church history that religious coercion by the State does not generally yield good results.

The Church as State is untenable and cannot be justified scripturally or pragmatically. For an example we can look at John Calvin's Geneva to see how his theology of Church and State worked out in practice and what you see can best be described as a 'Christian Taliban'. The failure of Church as State doesn't mean, however, that the State can't or shouldn't align itself with the Gospel. However, it must be understood that there are boundaries between the roles of the Church and the State and not all of the Gospel's demands on the Church and the individual Christian can be integrated into a civil order. The mission of the Church in the world does not cancel God's divine order that the evildoer is restrained by means of the State. I'm not going to go into detail, but one only needs to look at the history of the Church as a State to know that it doesn't work. Theocracy is a bad idea – we loose something in the process. Men use the 'divine right' of their leadership to take advantage. Not all of them, no, but enough, and yes, that happens in secular states too (the corruption), but it's much harder to see and fight when 'God said I could do this'. Look at any of the cults in the world to see this in miniature. Or heck, lets take a brief sidetrack look at Saudi Arabia. Wonderful place. Very religious. Because they don't have a choice. It's a nice, dry place where girls can burn to death because they're not wearing their abaya. Because they're trying to flee a *burning building*! (takes a deep breath) We don't need to look very hard or very far to find historical or modern proof that theocracies don't work.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Problem solved.

I bought things. Not the things I was looking at. Other things. I bought a copy of The Help and The Lincoln Lawyer for Murdock. I almost bought The Devil Wears Prada, but I'm not a huge chick lit fan and I think that was just an impulse because I rewatched the movie version last night.

So now, when I finish the series I'm on (half a book, a vignette and a 400+ novel) I have my next two books to read. Not that I don't already have plenty of books to read. But I need something on Murdock for at the gym and I'm in the middle of reading my Stephen King collection in hard copy right now so I need something that is *not* Stephen King to read. My brain goes twisty with too much Stephen King.

I Can Resist Anything Except for Temptation

I want to shop. I want to buy things that I don't need, spend money I'm trying not to spend, and just have things delivered to me!


I don't know why, I just have this urge to buy things. I keep looking at them and reminding myself that they're not a particularly limited resource, that they will be there in a couple of months when I *am* ready to buy them and that I don't need them right now.

So far, so good.

But I *want* them!

Edited to include the Things What I Want:

Some of them are on sale, so I'm tempted, but I don't need them right now, I'm still in the OT, and I'm not even sure I'll like them. I wish I could find reviews from people who have used them.

Because Michael Fassbender is awesome and I love Jane Eyre so the two things together must be world shatteringly awesome!
It's Good Omens. This needs no other reason.

I'm too lazy to include all the covers for this, but the five Codex Alera books that I don't already have on CD. And a handful of other books I'm not going to get around to reading anytime soon. 

Also, clearly, the Lewis post did not happen last night. Mostly, I was betaing a story for a friend. And, reviewing the chapters, there's nothing in there that I haven't already covered. They're wrap up chapters, so I've made the executive decision to just skip on from them. I overslept this morning so I didn't get any Lewis reading in, so that's all on the back burner for the moment.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Thoughts on Mere Christianity

Though I still don't agree with Lewis that his point of view, his conclusion is inevitable and the best answer to the question of the original of morality, I think my main problem with the book so far is that it's not what I was led to believe it was. Everyone recommends it as this great work of Christian apologetics. They treat it as convincing. It's not, at least I haven't found it to be so far. If you're approaching the questions it addresses from a Christian point of view, it makes perfect sense and is logical to a certain point. If you're looking at it from outside of that mind frame, the arguments he raises are either no more or less valid than other arguments for other points of view, or they seem antiquated and incomplete - not through any fault of Lewis' really, but because we understand the human mind so much better than we did in his day and age and the drives that move us.

I took a few days off from the book after I finished the last two chapters of the first section and that's the conclusion I reached. I'm planning to do a post covering those two chapters tonight and then we can move on to the second section which is supposed to be about what Christians believe.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Hair! Take three for some people

Okay. For some of you this is duplication, but I'm covering all the bases, so this has been posted to FB, G+ and now Blogger!

I cut my hair. All of it. And the kitten (Penny) doesn't like it. :D

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Reality of the Law

So far the book is all about proving the existence of the Law of Human Nature and sort of defining why it is different from other laws of nature.

In the first place, I remain unconvinced that Lewis has made his point. I still think that what he calls the Law of Human Nature is the cultural morals that have been instilled in us.

For this chapter, Lewis starts out by going back to one of his foundational points. That humans do not always obey this Law. He says that a natural question may be why fault humans for not being perfect? Which is what it may seem like Lewis is doing when he calls people on not following the Law. His argument is that this is a good point, but he's not trying to assign *blame* which is where that point would have weight. Lewis is concerned with finding out the truth. And there, he says, the very idea of something not being perfect has consequences.

Everything is as it should be. Except for man. When we look at a tree or a rock or something else that is not doing what we wish it would do and say that it's flawed or imperfect, we don't really mean that, not in the sense that they aren't following the laws of nature that govern them. What we really mean, basically, is that the rock or whatever is not suitable for *our* plans. However, everything in nature follows the laws of nature that govern it - there's no choice. And the same is true for humans in the context of the laws of nature. Gravity, conservation of energy, etc. There is no choice in the matter, no conscious thought required.

Lewis goes on to say that some might be tempted to explain this away. Just to say that, well, saying that a human is doing something Wrong is about as useful as saying that a rock is imperfect. That both can only be the way they are, following the laws that govern them. That we only call the actions bad or wrong that are inconvenient to us.

He, of course, argues that this is not so. Take someone accidentally tripping you versus someone trying to trip you and failing. The first, while it may inconvenience, is not Wrong - it was an accident. The second, while it doesn't inconvenience you, is more likely to cause long lasting anger. So Wrong cannot just be what is inconvenient.

He does not believe that we can merely call decent behavior, Right, what is convenient to us.

Lewis briefly addresses the theory that morality is based on the common good and survival of the species. He dismisses it rather quickly, I think, by saying that it's a circular argument. You ask someone why they should be unselfish and they will respond that it's good for society. Then you ask them why you should give a rat's behind about what's good for society except where it's also good for you. And then the person responds, well you should be unselfish.

I don't think it's a good argument. Look, maybe that's some sort of grade school argument. Why should we care what is good for society? Because what is good for society is good for us, personally. The better society is, the conscious and involved in raising up the human condition, the better our lives tend to be. And, beyond the personal concern of, how is this good for *me*, there is the natural instinctive drive to preserve the species. What is good for society is good for humanity.

I'm not saying my argument is any better than Lewis', just that it makes more sense to me than his.

Death Penalty I: the Repostening

A year (and some change) ago I did a pair of posts supporting the idea that a Christian could be a proponent of the death penalty and not be hypocritical or have kicked themselves out of Christianity for it. They were very long, and a few people (more than I originally thought) read them all. I did a meme of 7 Special Posts and mentioned these. Sol suggested that I repost them and I thought it was a good idea. Which brings us to here and now. I'm reposting those original posts, but I'm going to divide them into smaller chunks and do it as the mood and opportunity strikes.

Here we go:

“Do Not Seek to Be More Righteous Than Your Creator”

I'll get this out of the way first – I'm pro-death penalty. I've lived my entire life in one of the few states that both still has the death penalty on the books and still actually implements it. Perhaps it's because Florida somehow produces an inordinate number of nut jobs? Or maybe it's just the natural reaction to the fact that, as Dean Winchester says, 'Some freaky shit happens in Florida.' For the record, Florida has executed a total of 238 people (169 from 1924-1964 and 69 from 1976-present). So, growing up here, I'm comfortable with the idea that there are some crimes for which the ultimate punishment is necessary. Also, I suspect that my grandfather had something to do with it. My grandfather was a very 'law and order' kind of man. He'd served in the Navy in WWII. He was a police officer for most of his life and worked with the FBI and the CIA at different points in his career. Whenever the death penalty was discussed, it was supported by my family – so I grew up believing that there were some crimes for which you forfeited, not just your right to live in society, but your right to live. I hear about people crying about the 'inhumane' executions. Were the murderers 'humane' to their victims? Did they care about their pain and suffering or the lives of the families that were being left behind? If called upon, I can confidently say that I would be able to pass on a death sentence if I believed that a person was guilty. I dare say I'd even be able to 'throw the switch' without a twitch. As for the more personal, 'self defense' – I am willing to kill in the preservation of my own life or that of a loved one. I'm certainly not going to go looking for people to fight with, but if a situation came down to me or the guy attacking me? I choose to live. Every time, without question. I value my life more than the life of the person attacking me. So. With all that out of the way, on to the post!

The official teaching of the Catholic Church in regards to the death penalty is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2267:

Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.
If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.
Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which execution of the offender is an absolute necessity 'are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”

The Catechism was revised under Pope John Paul II, and I feel that the last two paragraphs reflect his personal feelings on the matter. The Church, at least in my experience, has taken it to heart though, and being a Catholic in favor of the death penalty is looked at unfavorably, to say the least.

I would, for the sake of balance, like to post the official position of the Orthodox Church, but I don't believe that there is one. (Of course, if I'm wrong on that, someone please point me to it!) I've found statements both for and against it from Orthodox sources, so I'm assuming that it's left as a matter of personal conscience. As to the Protestant position, it appears to vary from denomination to denomination, and, I would assume, from church to church within the denominations. Likely it breaks down, even further, on the personal level. So I can't post a 'Protestant position' either. 

Okay, so what is the argument here? It really boils down to life in prison versus execution, and which is, from a moral or ethical perspective, more humane and just. I'm not going to go into the monetary issue – which is more cost effective, life imprisonment or execution – because I don't think that anyone really only considers the cost of a persons life when coming to a decision on the death penalty. (That being said – bullets are cheap.)

As a Christian, it seems as though the answer to the question of the death penalty is simple: the Gospel is ultimately about mercy, forgiveness and the affirmation of life – thus the death penalty is antithetical to what God is and wants for humanity. It would seem, then, that life in prison is the only permissible answer. Well, there you go. Discussion over. Bye now. ;) Hah. You know better than that...

But I don't believe that it is that simple – God is not that simply or easily defined. God is love, yes, but He has been intimately involved with death since the beginning of humanity. One cannot deal with the nature of God without dealing with the nature of death – after all, if God defines all things - who God is defines what death is.

No one can deny that people do evil things, and that some of them do horrifically evil things. And I don't think you'll find anyone who would deny that everyone dies. A coherent theology of the fall is the key to understanding both evil and death and the relationship between the two. The scriptures teach us that death is a consequence of the Fall. Death, even a 'natural' one, is unnatural, in that understanding. It is foreign to our nature – we were not created to die. According to the Fathers of the Church, death and evil are interconnected. Death is the ultimate constraint on evil. Death has actually been called by the Fathers 'the blessed curse' and it was added to humanity to cut short the days of man so he can not continue to grown progressively more evil. 

The Old Testament is full of stories of God and man dealing out death to the grossly immoral and ungodly. And I know people say, 'that was the Old Testament! Jesus is the New Testament, and He was all about peace, love and understanding!' Okay, even if that were true, which it's not – did God change? Take a Vicodin or something between Testaments? The answer is no, God did not change. There is but one God and He is the same in either Testament – in the beginning, in the past, now and in the future. So then, is Jesus different from God? For those of us who confess that Christ is God, is the second Person of the Trinity, the answer must be 'no'. God does not deal differently with people in the New Testament than He does in the Old. Take, for example, Acts 5. God immediately strikes Ananaias dead before the congregation for lying about his tithe. Then, when his wife Sapphira shows up, St. Peter asks her a loaded question which she answers wrongly. He then informs her of her husbands fate and that the same punishment is hers for participating in her husbands lie to God. And she is struck dead as well. God Himself did the executing, but St. Peter did not plead for clemency – and St. Luke records that great fear came upon the Church and all who heard of it. I'm guessing that thats Biblical language for 'public execution via Divine Retribution for lying to the Apostles and the Church was an effective deterrent.'

Let's go back to the Old Testament for a bit. Starting with Cain in Genesis 4, and the first killing. From my two posts on Cain, I've concluded that, based on what we know, and God's command in regards to the treatment of premeditated murders versus the treatment of manslaughter, that Cain was most likely not fully culpable for the crime he committed against his brother. 

In Genesis 6, God smites all of humanity (baring Noah and his family) for their incredible wickedness. Following the Flood, and the cleansing of the earth, God requires the death of the person who commits murder. (Genesis 9)

Whoever sheds man's blood, by man will his blood be shed, for in the Image of God He made man.” (Genesis 9:6) This rationale for the death penalty is the same rationale used by some Christians against the death penalty – that we can't execute a person because they are created in the image of God. But it seems to me that God is saying He requires the death of the murderer because he has violated the image of God in his fellow man and also within himself. While I'm not going to reference them all, the death penalty is part and parcel of the Mosaic law, so the base laid down to Noah was continued through the Jewish nation and Moses.

It's inarguable that in both Testaments people received 'clemency' from God – David, St. Paul, the woman taken in adultery, and Cain (depending on your opinion of his crime) for example. Jesus, in His ministry, did the same things as God did. He showed mercy on some sinners. While Jesus never 'personally killed' anyone during His ministry, in His parables on judgment He likens God to an angry king who kills the evil vineyard keepers. While our theology affirms that God desires the death of no man and the salvation of all, it also affirms that all death is in the hands of God as an event within the providential Love of God – even if He deems to kill them personally or permits them to be killed while still unrepentant.

Part II

Monday, August 15, 2011

I try to avoid political things, but...

There's this little brouhaha going on about Michele Bachmann and a reporter who asked her about her belief that wives should be submissive to their husbands. People who are calling foul on the question are saying that it's 'personal' and 'anti-Christian'.

Look, first of all, I don't like Michele Bachmann. I don't like her politics and I find her personality almost as grating as Sarah Palin. I don't agree with her on about a million things (ALL the things, as far as I can tell. We may not even agree that the Earth is round) and my soul would *die* if she became President. And I doubt we'd ever be friends. I know that breaks everyones hearts! :D

That being said, I think that the question was a fair one. Bachmann has made much of her evangelical Christian beliefs as she courts the religious right. It is a valid question, based on the fact that she has stated, in an interview, that the only reason she pursued a Tax Law degree was because her husband told her to and that she obeyed him because he had authority over her. She did not want to pursue the degree. She did something she disagreed with (or so it seems) because her husband told her to.

I think that's something that, theoretically, has bearing on her (God forbid!) Presidency. I know that there's always concern over the influence that the spouse of the President may exert on the President, and I think this is at least partially that. But the question becomes a little more important because we don't know, and have no real way of knowing, how much she and her husband subscribe to this belief. How does it play out in their lives? It's clearly not merely a religious context, as in he leads prayer, etc. It does impact their secular lives.

And if that works for them, then fine. I don't have to like it, or their application of it, to accept it as a lifestyle choice for them. But, and there's always that 'but'. But the possibility of that impacting the way she (God forbid!) runs the country must be explored.

It's something that she brought into the light, something that she is apparently proud of and believes in. And it's something that needs to be explored so that voters can make informed decisions.

Or that's my take on it anyway. It all boils down to this - I don't think the question was out of line. And, you know what, if she was someone else. Let's say, in a totally theoretical, this will never happen in my lifetime or the lives of my childrens children, a Muslimah. You think all the people howling about the question being asked of Bachmann wouldn't be howling that same question at the Muslimah candidate just as loud and more viciously? I think they would be. And probably worse.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Gwen Cooper, I maybe no longer dislike you

Okay. I've never liked Gwen. The latest episode of Miracle Day may have changed that. GO GWEN!


Damn straight! *fist pump*

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Movie: Water

Usually, movie talk would go on the other blog. But this isn't so much about fangirling as it is having seen an incredible and disturbing film.

I caught this one almost by accident. We have Cinemax free for the weekend (they're promoting a new show or something) so I look through the guide and dvr any movies that I want to see. It was while I was doing that that the title 'Water' caught my eye. Somewhere in the past, I'd read about this movie. It's part of a trilogy of sorts - Fire, Earth, and Water. I remember thinking, when I read about those three movies that I'd never get to see them because they're not the kind of thing that would be played on local or cable channels. When I realized what I was seeing, I dvr'd it quickly and looked for the other two. Sadly, they're not being played.

This I said. It's disturbing, especially when you keep in mind that while this particular story is fictional, it is based on reality.

Without spoiling, the basic premise is this:

The movie is set in 1938 India, when the country was still under British rule. Mahatma Ghandi was just becoming, well, Ghandi. Chuyia is an eight year old girl who has just recently been married to a much older man. Who then proceeds to die, leaving Chuyia an 8 year old widow. She is packed off to an ashram, where she is expected to live out the rest of her life, theoretically in prayer and contemplation, so that she can come back in her next life in a better situation.

The lives of the widows are not pretty. I really don't want to say too much because I think this is a movie that needs to be seen, if at all possible. Chuyia believes and clings to the belief for a very long time that any day her mother will come and take her home. The other women, who are all older than she is of course, indulge her a little. Some of them anyway. Others, most of all the 'head' widow, are cruel. Just because that's the way people are, and these women are in a terrible situation. There's no industry that they work at to provide funds for food or anything else. They *beg* for money for their survival.

Well, beg and the other 'industry'. The head widow pimps out the youngest, prettiest widow (and yes, that bodes about as well for Chuyia as you think it does) to supplement her income. There's tragic love and pain and general crapiness of life, mixed in with hope and yet more suffering. It's a brilliant movie and I could honestly go on abut it forever, but I'm trying not to give away the plot.

If you get the chance, watch this movie. Watch all of them!

Friday, August 12, 2011

'Some Objections'

The chapters are short so far. The second chapter is about objections that Lewis received to his theory of the Law of Human Nature.

He ended the first chapter by saying that the foundation of 'all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in' are two facts. One, 'that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it.' Two, 'that they do not in fact behave that way.' People all know the Law of Human Nature, but they ignore it and go against it when they choose to. He views this second chapter at firming up his claim.

Lewis says that he received letters asking him, 'Isn't what you call the Moral Law simply our herd instinct and hasn't it been developed just like all our other instincts?' He doesn't argue that humans have this herd, or community instinct to take care of the collective group to ensure the survival of the species, but he says that this is different from the Law of Human Nature.

Lewis says that, in any given situation, a person will have two instincts. For example, you hear someone calling out for help. One instinct will tell you to go to their aid. The other will tell you to avoid the danger to preserve yourself. What he calls the Law of Human Nature, this absolute Right, is the thing that tells you, even when the desire for self preservation is stronger, that you *should* go and try to help. *That* is the instinct for Right that everyone has within them and it cannot be the same thing as the 'preserve the community' instinct because how could it encourage you to strengthen itself?

I don't know that I agree. This argument doesn't seem to take into account the cultural conditioning that goes into the creation of morality. We have the two instincts, both of which serve in some way to preserve the community. One by trying to save another member of it, the other by preserving yourself, as a member of the community as well. Those are natural. It's the third thing, what he calls the Law of Human Nature that is morality. We are *taught* that the 'right' thing to do is to try and save the other person. And *that* is where the strengthening of one instinct over the other comes from. Not an absolute, cosmic Right, but the morals of the culture that we are raised in.

For instance, in our culture, if we saw someone beating his wife, we know that the right thing to do is to stop them. Whether that involves doing something ourselves or calling the police, we know that it is *wrong*. Why? Because that's the culture we've been raised in. Go back fifty years or so and a man 'disciplining' his family was not a 'problem'. It was a private matter. The morals have changed. They've changed for the better, don't get me wrong, but they have changed.

Lewis' argument in this chapter seems to boil down to the idea that if there is no absolute Right, then there's no point in arguing that one group is more moral or less moral than any other. And...that's actually kind of right. It is impossible to judge a group's morality in a vacuum. But we compare that other morality not to some absolute Right, but to *our* morality and judge them from that. Even if you say, oh, but we judge ourselves based on Biblical standards of morality.

Fine. But those were created in a specific time, place and culture as well. Some of them remain useful. Some not so much.

And just to really win my affection, he ends with this:

"I have met people who exaggerate the differences, because they have not distinguished between differences of morality and differences of belief about facts. For example, one man said to me, 'Three hundred years ago people in England were putting witches to death. Was that what you call the Rule of Human Nature or Right Conduct?' But surely the reason we do not execute witches now is that we do not believe there are such things. If we did - if we really thought that there were people going about who had sold themselves to the devil and received supernatural powers to kill their neighbors or drive them mad or bring bad weather - surely we would all agree that if anyone deserved the death penalty, then these filthy quislings did? There is no difference of moral principle here: the difference is simply about matter of fact. It may be a great advance in knowledge not to believe in witches: there is no moral advance in not executing them when you do no think they are there."

So, for all those people out there, *coughyouknowwhoyouarecough* who believe that there really are women out there making deals with devils for powers, it's okay for you to kill them. Because that's the moral thing to do. But only if you *really believe*. *blink*

But don't our advances in understanding the world around us also create advances in morality? I think they do.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

'The Law of Nature'

I'm doing this from memory rather than having the book in front of me, so it's going to be a little short of quotes. Sorry!

The first chapter of Mere Christianity is called 'THE LAW OF HUMAN NATURE' and it deals with the idea that there is a natural sense of Right and Wrong that everyone, everywhere for all time knows. Lewis' argument is based, partially, on arguments between people. For example, he uses the 'possession' of a chair. If one person is sitting there, gets up and then comes back to find it occupied by someone else, they may say 'That was *my* seat. I was sitting there first.' and the person now sitting in the chair will argue that there was no one in the chair when they got there and no indication it was taken, etc. indicating, by the nature of their argument that there is a *right* to the chair that belongs to the person who was sitting there 'first'. It's a mutually understood concept between the two parties, even if it's unstated because if they didn't both understand and agree that the right of the first person existed, then the argument would be different. It would be an argument that didn't try to justify the 'taking' of the chair by the second party because there would be no understanding of the ownership, however temporary of the chair by the first party.

There's a mutual understanding of a shared standard of behavior that people will try to make excuses for why they fail to uphold, but they will very rarely flat out deny the existence or validity of this standard.

Lewis says that there are plenty of natural laws that humans are subject to. We don't have a choice about gravity, for example. If we jump off of a diving board, we'll fall (hopefully into a pool full of water!). Even planes, which seem to defy gravity are just working within the natural laws that define it. It's a loophole, but the laws are still there and we've got to work with them. The Law of Nature that Lewis is speaking of is really the 'Law of Human Nature' - the one law, he says, that humans can choose to obey or disobey. It's the idea that there is a basic Right and a basic Wrong and everyone knows it. They may choose to ignore or go against it, but they *know* that they are doing so whether they acknowledge this fact or not.

He brings up the Nazis (not a strange thing since these radio talks were given during WWII) and how if there was no universal Right and Wrong, no Law of Human Nature, then there was no sense in telling the enemy (the Nazis) that they were wrong. "What was the sense in saying the enemy were in the wrong unless Right is a real thing which the Nazis at bottom knew as well as we did and ought to have practised? If they had had no notion of what we mean by right, then, though we might still have had to fight the, we could no more have blamed them for that than for the colour of their hair."

He goes on to state that there are some people who do not believe in the Law of Human Nature because different civilizations have had different sets of moralities throughout the ages. Lewis says that this is not so. That while there have been differences in moralities, these basically amounted to no difference at all. He says that if someone were to take the trouble to compare the Babylonians, the Egyptians, Hindu, Chinese, Greeks and Romans that they would find how very similar they are to one another (morality wise) and how similar they are to modern (at his time) morality.

Is that really true, do you think? He doesn't go into detail, apparently he did that in another book called The Abolition of Man. But I'm thinking about cases in ancient cultures where human sacrifice was a matter of course. They didn't view it as immoral. However, there were other ancient cultures that did. And we certainly do now. Or how about in the Old Testament where a man, if he raped a virgin, married her. This was by Jewish law. How horrible is it to modern senses of morality to think of a woman, raped by a total stranger and then told by the law, by the entity that is supposed to help protect her that she has to marry him and live with him for the rest of their lives? Or what defined 'moral' sexual behavior? Business practices?

I know that I've said that there are certain core moral absolutes, the largest of which is murder. But each society and time has their own definitions of what constitutes these moral absolutes. And the devil is in the details in that case. The view of that morality makes a very big difference in how it is applied and that's the thing we have to live with. Not some grandiose vision of perfect morality, but how it is lived out in the trenches, as it were.

I think Lewis is vastly oversimplifying the differences in morality between cultures and societies. I've only read the first chapter, so I could be wrong, but that's how I'm looking at it. Reading that section really threw me because it's just so wrong from where I'm standing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Delayed Thought/Question About the Local Mosque and the Women There

I know, I know. You all thought we were done with this topic. You heard about it a million times while I was wittering and being a nutter, and I said I was done, so why am I talking about it again? I know. Sorry? :)

I dreamt about my visit to the local mosque last night. Nothing weird or freaky, just a replay basically. But it reminded me of something that I thought was strange but forgot to mention when I was originally talking about the visit.

So I was in the women's section, which is a room side by side with the men's section. It's separated by sliding glass doors and the lights are kept turned off so that it turns the doors on the men's side into mirrors, basically. There was a speaker so we could hear the imam and we could see him as well if we turned our heads to the side. From what I hear of other mosques, all and all not the worst set up ever. The room seemed clean and it was cool enough, no broken a/c or stained carpets that I saw.

It was weirder than I thought it would be, being separated but it wasn't an awful little space is what I'm saying. There was plenty of room for the number of women that were there. All of which bears on my question/observation.

When it came time to pray, only one of the women did so. You could look over and see the men praying, the movements everyone is familiar with for salat. But only one of the women did the same. The others all just sat there, quietly. I assume that they were praying without making the movements. Oh! I stand corrected. One of the older women who sat was making the motions with her hands. And I believe, as I recall, that it is allowed to make changes to the prescribed movements allowing for illness, infirmity and the like. And some of the women it was clear that that was likely the case, as in the woman who was obviously making the motions that she could. But what about the young ones? Like I was saying, the space wasn't anything fancy, but it seemed to be perfectly adequate space wise and it wasn't *dirty*, so why would the women, seemingly collectively, not pray in what I understand as the correct fashion? Is there some facet of Islamic practice that I'm forgetting? Or is it maybe because women aren't required to attend jumah?

The Hall of JusticeChristianity

I've started reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. One of those books that everyone says to read and I've had on my shelf for forever. But it's time has finally come! The Fates have decreed that it is the title I pulled from the Bag of Non-Fiction!

I've just finished the preface, which is Lewis explaining his intentions for the book (which actually began life as radio broadcasts, something I did not know!) and why he left some things out (because he didn't feel qualified to speak on them). I found the last few paragraphs of the preface very interesting.

"I hope no reader will suppose that 'mere' Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions - as if a man could adopt it in preference to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or anything else. It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. For that purpose the worst of the rooms (whichever that may be) is, I think, preferable. It is true that some people may find they have to wait in the hall for a considerable time, while others do not know why there is this difference, but I am sure God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait. When you do get to your room you will find that the long wait has done you some kind of good which you would not have had otherwise. But you must regard it as waiting, not as camping. You must keep on praying for light; and, of course, even in the hall, you must begin trying to obey the rules which are common to the whole house. And above all you must be asking which door is the true one; not which pleases you best by its paint and panelling. In plain language, the question should never be: 'Do I like that kind of service?' but 'Are these doctrines true: Is holiness here? Does my conscience move me toward this? Is my reluctance to known at this door due to my pride, or my mere taste, or my personal dislike of this particular door-keeper?'

"When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house."

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Movie: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

I'm not sure I have words to express how much I loved this movie.

Now, I've never been a huge *fan* of the first movie. I mean, I've seen it, I enjoyed it. Chuck Heston chewing the scenery and all. It's a classic and I watch it whenever it's on. But it was never one of those movies that caught fire in my brain or anything. Originally, when the previews for Rise came out, I was pretty 'meh' about it. 'Oh, James Franco, pretty!' and that was pretty much it. But the more and more previews I saw, I got excited about it. It looked good, regardless of whether or not I was a fangirl over the first one.

And we're not even going to *talk* about the *spit*remake they made back in '01. I just rewatched that because I'm a masochist and ugh. Oh, Mark Wahlberg, why? WHY?

Back to the movie. I thought the effects were well done. The apes were beautiful and Andy Serkis is much loved around these parts, let me tell you. I felt so *sorry* for the apes. They did a fabulous job with their expressions and making them, even when they weren't 'intelligent' look so sympathetic. The story line made sense and I caught several references back to the original movie. Some subtle, some not so much. The bonus surprise! Tom Felton and David Hewlett were great too.

It was fun and exciting and heartbreaking and actually not that far fetched. The genius ape thing, yes. Far fetched. But the experimenting that led to the apes? And the consequences for humanity? Yes. The drive and the strain between the one man who is in it to make money and the one who is just trying to save his father was very human, very real.

And the- right, this is probably a spoiler. So you are warned, just in case!

We all know that the apes talk in the original movie, right? Right? I knew that, eventually, the apes would learn to talk. But I wasn't expecting it when it happened. That first shouted "NO!" from Caesar literally made the entire theater go dead freaking silent. I have never had that happen before. Never. There was no movement, nothing. I'm half sure that people stopped breathing.

I want more.

I also admit to wanting Caesar to go back, grab Will (his human dad/creator) and take him to live with the apes so he'll be relatively safe from all the crap that's about to go down.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Seven Special Posts

Okay, bored at work again. Which I shouldn't be, since I have work to do. But whatever! Becky tagged me a little while back and I've been keeping it in the back of my mind because I wasn't sure what I'd answer to the categories. But, boredom. So here goes nothing.


Um. I don't know. I don't think I've ever really set out to do a touching post or anything. If I have to pick one, I guess I'd go with No Book Should Ever Be Burnt. I've written others about death, and I think they might generally be considered more beautiful, but this is the one I think of.


Based on the number of comments, the most popular post of all this blog's time is VBV Ch. 4 Pt. 11. I was reading this REALLY awful book that was supposed to be about Islam but was almost entirely wrong all of the time and the posts were explaining how I thought they were wrong from what I'd learned about Islam etc. This particular post was about salvation and how one gained it in Islam from the authors of the book's point of view. Which segued into discussion of salvation in Christianity as well.


I...don't know. I can't think of one that was really controversial...I think my blog readership is too small for me to start a controversy. I guess the post that had the most possibility to create controversy would be Menstruation and Communion. Mostly because people are touchy about the subject of menstruation, especially in religious circles, and the idea of closed communion and women being left out or asked not to participate because of something God gave to them could get people in a dither too.


I don't try to be helpful either! :D HAH! Mmm...okay. My post(s) on icons, I think. Icons and Icons, Part Deux. Because I think there's a lot of misunderstanding outside of the circles (and probably some within them as well) of people who use icons in their worship and anything I can do to get better information out there and help people understand that icons do not equal worship of the icon is helpful!


This really brief, like, 'I'm making a note' post I did a while back while I was listening to an Orthodox radio program called Our Life in Christ. It was on Baptism and Confession. I was surprised, based on the little that I put in the post how many people had something to say about it!


Easy. My posts on the death penalty and whether or not a Christian can, in good conscience, support it. Death Penalty I & Death Penalty II. I think it's because they were so long, but there's no way to make my point in fewer words. It really disappointed me that more people didn't read them. I'm actually half certain that no one but me has ever read the entire post!

And now I'm supposed to tag people, but I suck at that because I can never make up my mind. So consider yourself tagged if you want to do it!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Honesty vs. Rudeness

We have one woman here in the department who is very proud of her faith. I've spoken of her before, Southern Baptist Woman!*

*Disclaimer: Her actions and/or beliefs are not to be taken as universal to all Southern Baptists.

SBW! likes to say that she never lies because lying is a sin. Okay. I'm behind that. I try not to lie for the same reason. I don't claim that I *never* lie, because I do. So saying I didn't would be another lie! I do my best not to lie, of course, but I used to be a nearly compulsive liar. It's a hard habit to break, especially when the truth is something I personally don't like. But this is not about me! :) Anyway. SBW! makes a big deal of her lack of lying. And I'll say that I've never caught her in a lie, so it may even be true. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt there.

My issue is that SBW! uses this 'honesty policy' as an excuse for absolute rudeness. For example: One of the other women in the department is trying out new contact lenses. She's got to use tri-focals, and I guess these are contacts that do the same thing. We're very used to her wearing glasses, so when she came in the first day without the glasses it was very obvious. SBW!, when we were talking about the glasses vs. contact lenses thing, busts out with, 'When you first walked in, I thought you had two black eyes!'. And we all just *stared* at her. Because yes, the woman did have fairly noticeable bags under her eyes - she's not used to having to put makeup on to cover them because the glasses covered them - but SBW! said it exactly that way, in front of the entire department. Rather than just saying something polite, like, 'Oh, I think you look better with the glasses', or even, taking her aside and pointing out that she had bags under her eyes one on one, privately.

And she does this a lot. It's never anything untrue, but the way she does it is rude. There's a way to be both honest and polite, and SBW! doesn't seem to either get it or care about it. She seems to think that as long as she doesn't lie, she can say whatever she wants to say.

That's not true.

It's true that sometimes what we will say, no matter how we try and say it, will hurt someones feelings or make them angry. And sometimes what must be said should be said without sugar coating. But there are plenty of times, most of the time in fact, where a little tact is called for. A little consideration for the feelings and humanity of the person you're talking to.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I bet you all didn't realize my secret identity...

I just started receiving reviews on this story that I'm writing. It's actually part of a series, and the commenter has gone back to all of the stories to comment. Which is awesome. The funniest part: I am apparently an awesome, awesome feminist person who writes and touches on so very many important topics for women. I write strong women who aren't trying to be masculine and it's all very realistic. About abuse and recovery or just plain not dealing with it and how it messes with relationships. Also, the mob's maiden/mother/whore complex vis a vis a woman dating the head of the outfit who does not fit in the 'mob girlfriend' box. I win at life, essentially. *blinks* Hah. AH-HAHAAAHHAAAAAAAAAA.... I am flattered, pleased and amused all at the same time. So, congrats. Apparently I'm secretly a feminist. So secretly, *I* didn't even know it. :D

How Do You Decide Who To Read?

How do you decide which theologians to listen to? There's about a million of them out there, writing books, claiming that this that or the other thing is right.

Personally, I try to only read authors, when I'm looking for theological insight, etc. who are Orthodox. And when I was Catholic, I stuck with authors who were Catholic. Which is not to say that I don't read other denominations' works, just that I don't look to them for theology to base or compare (and try to adapt) my beliefs to.

Does everyone do the same thing? Or do you just read and take the bits and pieces that make sense and adapt them into your personal theology?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Reasons Given Not to Read the Bible

Ugh. So I wanted to do a post on the list of reasons that some of St. John Chrysostom's parishioners gave him for not reading the Bible. But I can't find it! ARGH!

I can only remember a few of them.

1. Don't own a copy of the Bible.
2. Can't read.
3. No time.
4. Can't understand the meaning of the text.
5. I'm not going to be a monk or a nun, so why should I?

Of course, there's an answer to each of these. I think the one I like the best was to the last one, that the person isn't going to be a monk or a nun so why do they need to read the Bible. The answer was something along the lines of, 'If you were going to be a monk I would worry less. As it is, you're living out in the world so you're the ones who really need to study the Scripture!'

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Ramadan 'Project'

So for some reason I've decided to read the Qur'an during Ramadan. Shouldn't be too hard, right? It's not a very long book. I decided this last night and then got interrupted by Baby Sis before I could actually start reading. I'll start tonight and we'll see how it goes.

I'm kind of sorry we don't get HBO at my house. I saw a commercial for a documentary that they were playing last night about little kids who were competing in a Qur'an memorization competition. I think that would have been really interesting to watch. Ah well. Maybe it'll come on the Documentary channel or something later on.

And I've found a Bible study online at Ancient Faith Radio called 'Search the Scriptures'. I can download the lessons to my mp3 player and listen to them while I'm at the gym or whatever. I'm only up to lesson three and I only loaded the first seven, but I'm really enjoying it. The teacher, Dr. Jeannie Constantinou has a very engaging way of speaking and explaining things. I haven't actually gotten to any of the Bible lessons yet, she's still explaining who the Church Fathers are in Orthodoxy and base information like that.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Alien or Angel - a post about nothing

First of all, guess what week it is! Go on, guess. I bet you'll never get it. :D

So what do ya'll think about aliens?

I was watching this show on tv this weekend, Ancient Aliens. The premise is that they're presenting evidence and theories about aliens interacting with humanity in ancient times. One of the prevailing theories, according to what I watched is that the aliens came here and created humanity as a slave race to help them mine whatever it was they needed from our planet. And humans worshiped them as gods. They interbred with humans, giving us the 'demigods' and nephilim.

Funnily enough, I'm reading 1 Enoch which (at least in the beginning) deals with the story of the Watchers and how they fell into lust with the daughters of man and forced God to wipe out humanity with the Flood to get rid of their seed and the wickedness they'd caused. Which is one of the stories that the proponents of the ancient alien theory say is an example of aliens breeding with humans and then other aliens putting a stop to it.

Aside from the whole alien thing, I find the idea of angels managing to breed with humans both compelling and odd. If they have no physical bodies, which we don't believe they do, how did they manage that? There're two versions of how it happened (not the mechanics, but the sequence of events). In the first one, the angels (Watchers) saw the daughters of men and were so attracted to them that they just had to have them. Once they were down there, having kids and living with these women, they started to teach them magic and other skills. In the second version, the Watchers went down to the humans to teach them useful things and while they were down there the daughters of men seduced them and led them into sin.

Either way, it ends with God sending out the four archangels to lay a smackdown on everyone and wiping out humanity to get rid of the mixed children, who were monstrous. Hence, the Flood.
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