Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI

Okay, clearly my statement that regular posts would start tomorrow last Monday was incorrect. I had good intentions, but life got in the way. It's been busy at work and our router at home is dying so internet (and TV) is hit and miss. You'd think this would make me more productive, reading or anything else wise, but you'd be wrong. I've been having a Doctor Who marathon that mostly just leaves me going WHYYYYYYYYYYY at the screen. A lot.

And we're just not going to talk about Torchwood. I'm still not over Children of Earth. Nope. Not even a little.

Moving on.

Today is the last day of Pope Benedict XVI's papacy. As of (assuming my time zone math is correct) 2 this afternoon EST, the pope will step down, becoming Pope Emeritus, His Holiness Benedict XVI. Well, he's already left the Vatican and is at Castel Gandolfo, where he will stay until his successor is elected. But the Swiss Guard doesn't stop guarding him until 8 pm Italian time, and that's what I think is the official end of his papacy.

There's been, and I'm sure it's going to continue until at least his death, all sorts of speculation that Benedict is stepping down because of scandals, because of pressure from within the Vatican, etc. etc. While I obviously don't have any secret knowledge of the goings on in the Vatican, and probably less knowledge than many, I don't believe that any of these speculations are true. I believe the Pope when he says that he is stepping down because his health doesn't allow him to fulfill the office of the pope in the way that it needs to be.

I think some people, because their experience is different, don't quite get the position of the pope. Politicians, for example, have to campaign. They're voted in and they have to keep running and there are term limits. Pastors and heads of other churches are hired/elected but they can also be fired and removed if the congregation doesn't like them or they do something wrong. That's not the case with the pope. There are two beings that can remove a pope. God and the pope himself. That's it.

If you are elected pope, you are put into a position of extreme, if not ultimate, power. You can't be removed. You're a head of state and the religious leader of billions of people around the world. You are God's representative on earth (to those who believe). It's an incredible responsibility, and a burden.

If someone was just there for the power (which is always a fear in any world leader), would they walk away? No. Our politicians don't walk away, even when they should.

It takes strength and an amazing spirit to have power and to set it aside and walk away.

That is what Benedict has done.

He's looked at himself, looked at the job that needs to be done for the Church, and he's given it back to God to entrust to the right man for the Church.

Monday, February 18, 2013

People should be more clever

I'm going to be forever disappointed that there's not a book series on the lives of the Popes titled 'The Good, the Bad, and the Holy'. I mean come on people. That's so obvious!

Regular posting will resume tomorrow.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Was It Something I Said?

Soo....the weekend that I go back to church, the Pope resigns.

That's totally not my fault. I swear.

And you know, I'm just...not ready for this. For Pope Benedict XVI to no longer be pope. He's not as *waves hands* as 'cuddly', I guess, as Blessed Pope John Paul II, but I feel like I'm just coming to appreciate what a treasure we've had in Pope Benedict XVI and now he's going to be gone.

He was the Pope I came into the Church to, you know?

I don't know. I'm just more affected by this, emotionally, than I would have thought.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fanfic Author Problem # 14

It's all the little details.

Like, okay, so I write this scene and it's kind of a gross scene, on purpose because what's happening is awful and I'm trying to be realistic, right? And basically the character is cleaning up vomit, trying to hide it but he has nothing to clean it with and nowhere to hide it. So he cleans it up with his hands and it all very graphic and that's awesome because that's what I was going for.

My beta told me it was excellently gross. :D

And then she's like...'but if you want to tone down the grossness a bit, maybe have him use the corner of the sheet? Because you didn't even have him clean his hands off when he was done.'

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*Dammit*. OF COURSE he cleaned off his hands afterward, the whole point is to *hide* the evidence and I know that he cleaned off his hands but if I don't type it onto the page then no one else knows because as wonderful as my readers are, they're not freaking psychics!

Or at least I hope they're not because man, there is some weird crap in my head and no one needs that.

Why can't all my writing just be, 'And then they sexed. The end.'

But noooooo...I have to have delusions of plot.

ps: and even if it was just 'and then the sex' fic, there's still all the limbs to keep track of and the anatomical rules of reality. Like I one time commentboxed a fic for a kinkmeme and when I went back to edit it later I realized that the guy would have had to have been an acrobat of *incredible* flexibleness in order to do what I said he did.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Lent is coming and suddenly, suddenly this is a *thing*

That awkward moment when you realize that you haven't been to confession in so long that you don't remember how.

Monday, February 4, 2013

ARQ Project: al-Anfaal & Baraah

I'm behind and these are short, note wise, so I'm going to combine two surah's into one post. :)

First, surah 8 al-Anfaal or Spoils of War:

41. And know that whatever ye take as spoils of war, lo! a fifth thereof is for Allah, and for the messenger and for the kinsman (who hath need) and orphans and the needy and the wayfarer, if ye believe in Allah and that which We revealed unto Our slave on the Day of Discrimination, the day when the two armies met. And Allah is Able to do all things.

I don't know why I find this verse interesting, I just do. Whatever a warrior captures in battle, he's to give a fifth of it up to God, the messenger, and people in need.  And it doesn't seem, to me, that a fifth of an individuals' booty is an exorbitant amount. I know some people have this vision of Mohammed as a greedy, power hungry man and I just don't see it. If he was really all about the money, there was an opportunity here to demand a much larger portion of the booty for 'god' and the orphans, which of course Mohammed would be the executor of. It happens in modern times, in different 'Christian' missions or programs.

43. When Allah showed them unto thee (O Muhammad) in thy dream as few in number, and if He had shown them to thee as many, ye (Muslims) would have faltered and would have quarrelled over the affair. But Allah saved (you). Lo! He knoweth what is in the breasts (of men).

Okay, so this verse is laid out as though God lied to Mohammed in order to get him into this battle. He showed Mohammed, in a dream, the army arrayed against him so that Mohammed would pass this information on to the Muslims following him. But God showed him a much smaller force than was actually there. This falls into the same category as the assertion that God tricked everyone at the Crucifixion into believing that they had crucified Jesus by putting Jesus' face on another man. It does not sit well with me that God lies. People can make their own choices, fine, and they can choose rightly or wrongly but for God to deliberately mislead people just...doesn't work with my concept of God as an ultimate Good.

53. That is because Allah never changeth the grace He hath bestowed on any people until they first change that which is in their hearts, and (that is) because Allah is Hearer, Knower.

I read this as something like a 'God helps those who help themselves' saying. I know so many people who sit around and do nothing in the face of all the tragedy around them, all of the shortages and deaths that could be prevented (and I know plenty who do something about these things too), saying that God will take care of it. That this suffering is God's will and that there's a purpose to it. Which is just bullshit. I don't believe that God's got his fingers in everything that happens. The earth is kind of like a preserve, or an ant colony. God set things up, got the ball rolling, and then stepped back to watch for the most part. Because if God was intervening in every little thing then we wouldn't really have 'free' will, would we?

And now surah 9, Baraah or Repentance.

30. And the Jews say: Ezra is the son of Allah, and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah. That is their saying with their mouths. They imitate the saying of those who disbelieved of old. Allah (Himself) fighteth against them. How perverse are they!

And again, this is a misunderstanding of what is meant by the use of the term 'son of'. It's not used in a biological sense. Christian's don't believe that God came down like Zeus or any of the old gods and physically impregnated anyone, and neither did the Jews. There are actually two different meanings being used here and neither of them is the one that the Qur'an seems to think is being used. 

31. They have taken as lords beside Allah their rabbis and their monks and the Messiah son of Mary, when they were bidden to worship only One Allah. There is no Allah save Him. Be He Glorified from all that they ascribe as partner (unto Him)!

*sigh* No. No one worships monks or priests or Mary or anyone else. There is a distinct difference between the worship directed at God and the honor given to Saints. 

34. O ye who believe! Lo! many of the (Jewish) rabbis and the (Christian) monks devour the wealth of mankind wantonly and debar (men) from the way of Allah. They who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah, unto them give tidings (O Muhammad) of a painful doom,

People suck. Even people who have supposedly given their lives to God can suck. We have free will, we can make these choices. That doesn't mean that you should discredit an entire group based on the fact that some of them aren't trustworthy. It just means that you should be careful who you trust. Don't follow blindly, don't just hand over your money for some project you know nothing about.

80. Ask forgiveness for them (O Muhammad), or ask not forgiveness for them; though thou ask forgiveness for them seventy times Allah will not forgive them. That is because they disbelieved in Allah and His messenger, and Allah guideth not wrongdoing folk.

I can't help but think of these verses from Matthew:  21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. 26 So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ 27 And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ 30 But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. 31 So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. 32 Then summoning him, his lord *said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ 34 And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 35 My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”

In the ayah from the Qur'an it feels like God is saying, 'It doesn't matter. I'm done with you.' and turning away because these people have made mistakes. I realize that it is saying that *Mohammed's* prayers for forgiveness for other people will make no difference to their fate and I assume that the implication carries through that if these people who have sinned repent and pray for their own forgiveness that they will be granted it if they are sincere. But it just feels less hopeful to me somehow than the passage from Matthew.  I think it's clear, Biblically, that there is no *earning* of salvation or forgiveness. God forgives because God loves. It seems, to me, to be less clear in the Qur'an. 

Is that how it seems to the rest of you? 

Especially in light of these ayah further down:

102. And (there are) others who have acknowledged their faults. They mixed a righteous action with another that was bad. It may be that Allah will relent toward them. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. 103. Take alms of their wealth, wherewith thou mayst purify them and mayst make them grow, and pray for them. Lo! thy prayer is an assuagement for them. Allah is Hearer, Knower.

It reads as if the people are having to pay for Mohammed to perform some sort of purification on them (even though we are told above that Mohammed's prayers for people to be forgiven make no difference). I know that, in the past, such things have happened in other traditions. They were wrong in those traditions and wrong in general.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Book: The Book of Mormon Girl by Joanna Brooks

So obviously there have been no new Qur'an (or any other kind of) posts for a while. I've been busy, sorry. Work. Always with the wanting me to actually work. :p Bah.

And now I'm on a little mini-break, taking a four day weekend to just basically not go to work. Ahhh...

In order to not feel like a *complete* slacker, have a post!

I picked up The Book of Mormon Girl because I saw an interview that Joanna Brooks did was either Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert. I'm gonna go with Jon Stewart at this point, but I won't swear to it because it was a little while ago. Anyway. I saw the interview, enjoyed it, and I've read some of her posts on ReligionDispatches and her own blog. I like her style and I thought hey, the book would be interesting and informative.

And it was interesting. So there's that.

This is something of a strange position for me to be in, but here: I enjoyed this book, but I didn't *like* it. Maybe it's because I had certain expectations for it that it simply wasn't designed to meet?

I expected to learn something of Mormonism from this book and I didn't. Everything that was touched upon, and I feel touched upon very briefly, was something that I was already aware of. And I honestly don't think that I know all that much about Mormons. I don't, to my knowledge, know any Mormon's in real life. I live in a small Southern town. I don't even know if we have...hang on. To the Google!

Hey, lookit that. We have Mormons! Who knew? Okay.

Small, small town. I'm not even kidding.

Still. Without ever having met a Mormon, I feel like I live in a realm of relative ignorance about them. Joseph Smith, golden tablets, Jewish tribes that became Native Americans, bees, seagulls, polygamy, driving across the country to try and find someplace they could practice their faith, the US government cracking down on them, no African American priesthood (until recently), 'traditional' male/female roles, something about eternal pregnancies in the afterlife and getting to heaven through plural marriage. "Secret" (read sacred) temple ceremonies.

Baptism for the dead. All the dead. Even my ancestors, theoretically, I guess. If I have a relative who's a Mormon and does that.

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PS, theoretical Mormon relatives: Don't.

And nothing in this book made me think any differently about Mormons or taught me anything I didn't know. It was a really easy read and like I said I did enjoy it but I came away feeling like it was a beach read. Girl grows up in fairly conservative, sheltered environment. Goes away to college, meets real world. Finds that she doesn't agree with everything her childhood culture taught her. Abandons much of it, feels guilt, waffles back and forth. Finds true love, marries. Babies, career, pretty good life. The end.

I'm seriously, honestly, left with only one thought or question.

Are these purity pledge things a real, actual, *thing*? Because I must have missed that somehow. I'm not saying it's a Mormon thing, because Rachel Held Evans mentioned that she signed a purity pledge at one point as well. But I just don't recall anyone ever coming up, even in my Southern Baptist run middle/high school, and telling us that we needed to pledge our virginity to God or our fathers or even ourselves. Every time I hear about them I'm just...confused.

Are these seriously a thing? REALLY? In the current century?

And then I remember that purity balls are a thing. And it just all becomes terribly depressing. And disturbing.

Mostly disturbing.
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