Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Odds 'n' Ends

So I’m currently in a race against time. See, I got a job (and a good one, no more selling my body on street corners!), but I’m waiting for a background check before I can start. Meanwhile, I developed the flu/a fever/west nile/the screaming gibblies over the weekend and every day I think, “Okay, today has to be the day this ends. But, um, it isn’t. So hopefully my background check will come in today and I’ll be healthy tomorrow and ready to get on with life. Anyway, I’ve got some thoughts to wrap up on my last series and I’ve still got two more installments of “The End of the World” over at Right Behind, but I’m just not feeling like it. Still, I feel like writing something, so here’s a nice odds ‘n’ ends entry. Let’s start with something that’s got my blood a boilin’ with a game I like to call Current Events Multiple Choice. Over the weekend John McCain said this was “one of the worst decisions in history.” Was he talking about: A. The Dred Scot case. B. Plessy v. Ferguson C. The Supreme Court’s decision to allow Gitmo detainees civil rights. D. Gallipoli E. Three more seasons of The Simpsons. Okay, to start off, to the best of my knowledge he didn’t call it one of the worst Supreme Court decisions. He called it one of the worst decisions. Period. I could have gotten a truncated version without the words Supreme Court. Let’s pretend, for a moment, that he did actually refer to Supreme Court decisions and I missed it. If not, well, I don’t need to tell you how frightening the idea is of having a President with that limited of a vision... Anyway, for those who don’t know, Dred Scot basically said that black people were property and had no rights. It kinda-sorta helped set up that whole American Civil War thing. Plessy v. Ferguson gave us the words “separate but equal,” one of the worst phrases in American Supreme Court judgment history. I say it’s “one of the worst” because it’s possible to imagine a world where “equal” was explicitly passed down to mean quantity and quality and strictly enforced. It still would have been a horrid idea, but there would have been less room for exploitation of the system. Gitmo, meanwhile, has been a giant step back in America’s history. Ever since the Declaration of Independence, America has been about extending the principles of freedom to more people and extending the protection of the government to ever more downtrodden folk. Gitmo might be the worst thing we’ve ever done, worse even than the treatment of West Coast Japanese in World War II (they, at least, were treated like human beings). Now, there is one point that must be made. Releasing Gitmo detainees might be a really bad thing. I imagine that if I were a Muslim back in ‘03 who really like America, wanted to move to So-Cal, attend USC, marry a Song Girl, and make my fortune, but then, due to accident of location or last name was rounded up and unjustly imprisoned in a tiny cage for five years, I might come out of it just a little bit pissed off. This, of course, is no excuse to not shut down Gitmo. The bigger the stupidity and the longer it lasts, the bigger the cost when its actually admitted. But being afraid to admit and fix mistakes is a lousy reason to avoid doing something that’s difficult. There’s no justifiable reason not to fix this massive mistake. And it would go a long way toward helping polish a little tarnish off the ol’ international image... On another note: Go California. As I’m sure most people know, folks who like other folks with the same-shaped genitalia are officially allowed to get married out on the Left Coast now. I heard a news report that some religious group tried to get a stall until November for a ballot measure. The powers that be (in the State Supreme Court, I think. I know it wasn’t Ah-nold) basically said, “Hey, we’ll put a referendum on the ballot in November, but there’s no reason not to let people get started now.” I like that attitude. Meanwhile, I heard one of those, “Don’t you read the Bible?” arguments in response to the law yesterday. This is a fun little trick of certain, shall we say, conservative Christian elements to re-frame the argument in their favor. For anybody who reads this and runs in to the argument, the best response is to shrug and say, “Have you read the Constitution?” See, and this is something I hated long before I gave up on Christianity, we live in a nation governed not by Biblical law, but by the Constitution. We have a Bill of Rights that contains something called the Establishment Clause that specifically forbids the creation of a state-religion and, therefore, religious laws for the nation. Yet there are plenty of people who just don’t get that. They also don’t get, as I’ve literally been arguing since high school, that this is a good thing. Theocracies are crappy places to live, even if you are in with the elite. They have this tendency to persecute outsiders until the insiders start to look suspicious too and just kind of make life a living hell for every one. So next time someone asks if you know what the Bible says about homosexuality, ask them if they know what the Constitution says about it (um, there may still be some places where the State Constitution will work against you on this comeback. I forget, but I think the sodomy laws were all overturned about four years ago). Furthermore, there’s a neat little rhetorical trick you can try. People all over the country are trying to get Constitutional Amendments passed making gay marriage illegal. Now, I’m no lawyer, but I’m pretty sure that’s a tacit admission that, as things stand, gay marriage isn’t actually illegal. Even if I’m wrong, I’ll bet it’s fun to watch heads explode in the face of that one... I also love the counties that are saying they won’t issue ANY marriage licenses. Watch the rhetoric on that one, too. See, it kind of goes like this. “They’re letting the gays get married and now they aren’t letting the good Christians do it.” I’ve never really been impressed with this sort of argument. It’s pretty easy to deal with, too. Alcohol, for instance, is legal in much of this nation. However, no one forces churches to open bars (although, really, I love the ones that do). Churches, meanwhile, are totally different organizations from County Clerk Offices. Hell, the church I used to attend wouldn’t let my sister and brother-in-law get married in its sanctuary and it sure as hell wouldn’t let me right now, either, no matter who I was marrying, woman, man, or horse. Churches actually have a great deal more power within their walls than the Christian right wants anyone to realize. Admitting it would take away their ability to act persecuted...


James said...

Interesting post...interesting topics on your blog, (at least the last two posts).

You said:

"So next time someone asks if you know what the Bible says about homosexuality, ask them if they know what the Constitution says about it"

It's easy to take note that the US Constitution trumps the Bible for you, of course we're ruled, as citizens of the United States, by the Constitution. However, have you considered the sources, ideas, concepts, and practices of law and laws that make up the US Constitution?

The Bible has a great deal of impact on the intentions (note that word) of the original authors of the document that I once saw Nicholas Cage steal.

And yet, even if you want to argue away the use of Scripture in the formation of our laws I'll ask a more basic question...where does morality (the basis for law) come from?

So, two questions for you to respond to and a quick comment:

As the events of gay marriage begin to take place this week in California I have began to reflect greatly on how this intersects (collides really) with a Biblical Worldview. One of the reflections that really struck me was this: In Scripture we read that women should be treated equally (women eventually gained the right to vote in this country, meaning that once they didn't have it). We also see that all races should be treated equally (Blacks and African-Americans gained the right to vote in this country, which means that once they didn't have it). Now we see gays wanting the right to get married and have the same protection under that covenant that traditional marriage has offered. Yet of these three (gender, race, sexual preference) Scripture CLEARLY does explain that homosexuality is wrong. Do you get my point? It doesn't say that women shouldn't be treated equal...it says they should be. It doesn't say that blacks and African-Americans shouldn't be treated equal...it says they should be. However the Bible clearly says that homosexuality is wrong.

Now this doesn't mean that gays should be hated, or mistreated. Though I think it pretty clearly suggests that their unorthodox lifestyle is, well, unorthodox! (Just as clearly as seeing that "Tab A" goes in "Slot A" not "Slot B" if you know what I mean.

If you read my latest post on Lars and the Real Girl (www.bfootblog.com) I think one of the ways that I'm curious of "playing along" might be in regard to homosexual relationships. How can I love the heck out of someone in a way that brings them to Truth and Life.

Looking forward to our conversation.

Geds said...

Oy. At the risk of feeding a concern troll...

No, james, I do not see your point. See, the Bible also states that eating pork is wrong. Yet there are pig farms and restaurants that serve BLTs all over the United States of America.

And, um, I hate to break it to you, but the Bible has a really, really bad track record on the whole idea of treating other races and the female gender equally. It's really hard to read Paul's instruction on the treatment of women and see anything other than a second-class status. Believe me, I tried to make it work as hard as I could before finally admitting that the whole system was pretty silly. And don't even get me started on the Jewish 2/3 of the Bible. Speaking of which, there was a whole lot of "kill the infidel" in that chunk and it really didn't seem to be overwhelmed by calls to be nice to strangers (although there was some of that. It's hard to parse that as ideals vs. execution, however, as both commands seemed to come from Yahweh).

Either way, the United States Constitution was built along the lines of Enlightenment principles. The Enlightenment didn't so much like religion. Although the United States wasn't nearly as rabidly anti-religion post-Revolution than France, similar ideals were at play in the foundation of the governments. Public atheism simply didn't become fashionable until the French Revolution, but someone who self-identified as a "Deist" then was actually basically what we would call an "Atheist" now.

And, yes, I have "considered the sources, ideas, concepts, and practices of law" in the United States Constitution. The sources were a combination of British Common and Parliamentary law, put in to a framework of the Enlightenment, especially John Locke's concept of the Social Contract. It was also an outgrowth of the European tendency toward liberalism that stretched back to the Middle Ages. Liberalism, fundamentally, is about freedom, progress, and the separation of Church and State. The stuff about the Founding Fathers being good little (probably Evangelical) Christians is largely wishful thinking and revisionist history used to steer any such conversation on to a court of the Conservative Christian's choosing. I refuse to play that game.

Also, I'm sorry to say, but this: "How can I love the heck out of someone in a way that brings them to Truth and Life" is a massively offensive statement. See, you've gone and made love an obligation and a conditionally offered gift. Oh, and you've set up a carrot/stick dichotomy. It's just plain rude, like someone who comes up and acts like your friend, then hands you his business card and offers to sell you an insurance policy.

Fiat Lex said...

Best of luck with your Martian Death Flu, Ged-man!
I would also wish you luck with your background check. But from what I know of you, the fresh air and squeaky-clean living that characterize the researchable parts of your life are more likely to make the Background-Check-O-Tron start questioning its own life choices.

John McCain frightens me because America is filled with people like my mom. People who see other people through buzzwords and "goodguy badges." People who let the contents of a person's intentions slide of of awareness, so long as their preferred form is maintained.

They tend to elect losers like Bush, or, seemingly, McCain. The sort of leader who will let almost any evil deed slip out under their aegis, so long as they do not have to publicly admit responsibility for it.

I read a couple of your Right Behind stories and liked them! I'm'a read the rest at some point and give you more complete thoughts. :)

So how do you and this James fellow know each other? I went and looked at his blog, and it seemed most Christiany. Like the sort of fellow you'd've met at church.

James said...

BG: as a Christian Minister I feel a strong need to defend some of the things that you've written about. Things like marriage, the Bible, historical facts of Jesus, but most importantly the need to defend a high view of God.

While things like protecting the Biblical view of marriage are important to me, (I personally don't do a lot of them, though I have done a few and will be doing one here in a few weeks, August 16th to be exact), the most important thing to me is how people view God. In fact I believe that the most important view anyone has is their view of God and to the extent that their view of God is out of focus their life will be distorted.

Having said that, I'll get back to your coments.

First of all, I'm hardly a troll...more on that another time.

Secondly, your views on politics and faith have set some presuppositions that makes truth finding pretty difficult. Don't take this too negatively, I have presups too and they obviously affect the things I believe. Presups, however need to be checked for their authenticity if we're to arrive at truth.

Specifically, your views on Scripture in regard to women is off. I would challenge you to find ANE writtings that speak highly of woman (see Ruth, Esther, Hannah, Proverbs 31 and many others) and are as liberating for woman as the NT.

Also, your views of the creation of our government aren't wholly correct. To deny the impact of the Bible in the creation and development of our laws is something you can only do if you're historically blind. Sure enlightment thought had its impact but the modernist had a skeptical view of God not a complete abandonment as our post modern culture. Are your views too post modern for how a modernist would really think?

So since we're not seeing eye to eye yet let's go to a more basic level as I suggested in my initial comment:

Where does morality, the basis of law come from?

Finally, regarding love. It seems you took some offense to my comments on "loving the heck out of someone." Christian love is hardly a carrot and stick sideshow. While I'm incappable of loving how Jesus loved I sure try my hardest and am striving towards loving better. Its easy to get burned by "the church" because Christians are imperfect, thank God that Christ is sufficient.

Anyways, I'm willing to demonstrate Christian love to you. Are you willing to be a neighbor? See you Friday!

Geds said...

Best of luck with your Martian Death Flu, Ged-man!

Actually, I think I figured out what it is. I'm currently going through menopause.

So how do you and this James fellow know each other?

We don't. He just kinda showed up...

Anyways, I'm willing to demonstrate Christian love to you.

Just so you know, Mr. james, I've had quite enough demonstrations of Christian love. Most of them revolved around myself or people I care about being treated like crap in the name of Christian love, so I have very, very little respect for the concept.

And since you haven't been here for very long, let me let you in on a little secret: I spent the first 25 years of my life in the evangelical church and would be in Seminary right now had I stuck with my original plan. I do not say the things I do out of ignorance. Believe me.

James said...

Brian: I know quite a bit about you...you're serving as the best man at my brothers wedding.

Please don't take what I'm about to say as mean spirited, just an illustration.

When we close off our ability to see new things it becomes a dangerous time. Going around saying "I've experienced enough" is not only arrogant it leads to false belief and stagnates ones ability to think rightly, and wholly. Life is all about learning, growing, enjoying each other.

Your inability to even see and understand who is talking to you illustrates this. So far you've approached this conversation as "knowing everything" but you haven't taken the time to know who you're talking to. That isn't very neighborly, and that, so far is all that I've asked from you.

On a more general note. It drives me completely crazy when people demand complete tolerance of all people regardless of race, gender, sexual pref, or religion...well unless you're a Christian, we won't tolerate them.
I can't apologize for those who may have hurt you and your friends. I can apologize if they've done it in the name of Christ. With that I'll say I'm willing to be your neighbor.

Grace and peace!

Geds said...

Your brother's wedding, eh? Yet Ryan doesn't have a brother named "James." He does have one named Jamie who is a pastor, but it hardly seems honest to show up and complain that I'm not trying to find out who you are when you aren't using a recognizable name, didn't identify yourself until now, and are coming in to my little corner of the internet as a guest and calling me ignorant. Ya might want to think about that before you take too much offense...

Going around saying "I've experienced enough" is not only arrogant it leads to false belief and stagnates ones ability to think rightly, and wholly. Life is all about learning, growing, enjoying each other.

For the record, that completely twists what I said in the first place. I've never said that I've "experienced enough," as I'm a big fan of trying new things. What I said was "I've had enough," i.e. I'm sick of these people. That's a completely different concept.

It drives me completely crazy when people demand complete tolerance of all people regardless of race, gender, sexual pref, or religion...well unless you're a Christian, we won't tolerate them.

So please tell me how allowing gays to marry is being intolerant of Christianity. And it doesn't count if the response involves the government not bowing to Biblical law, as that's not even a remotely cogent point.

Fiat Lex said...

:D A note or two! My flamey sense is tingling...I cannot stay away...

Note 1 (terminology): Geds did not call James a "troll", he said a "concern troll." Trolls post unwanted or offensive content for the sheer joy of being paid attention to. Concern trolls are more sophisticated, professing concern or feelings of friendship, hiding their unwanted or offensive content behind a veneer of topicality. The fight that lurks within must come out eventually, for it was always intended. Unless all parties concerned get bored and give up first which seems unlikely here.

Note 2 (identity): Geds, go and read the blog to which he posted the url above, www.bfootblog.com. His name is actually Jamie Page, and he does present as a pastor, with bona fides including a two-years'-deep archive and blogpost comments very like those congregants would leave on a pastor's blog.

I would be gleeful to be allowed to take part in this fight further, though it is none of mine. Only say the word.

James said...

Offically my name is James. That's how I register for everything online. That's how google knows me. And that's how they reveal me on comments.

You invited me to your corner of the web be including a link on your announcement for whirley ball.

That means you also have my email addy, which you could have identified me by on your blog as well.

I invited you to my blog which you probably determined wasn't worth your time. There you could have seen who you were talking to.

Finally, in my second comment I refrenced the wedding that you're standing up in and that I was looking forward to seeing you Friday.

Messages in "quotes" (as I've used them) are generally taken as "in general" comments as you should know (unless you're obviously quoting a quotation". So when I said "experienced enough" and you said "I've had enough" its generally the same thing. Think about it...isn't it. Isn't it what you're saying "I've experienced enough and therefore I've had enough and don't want anymore" ?

Anyways. I'm enjoying this. Hope you're as good hearted about it as I am.

You rock man. We'll figure this out. And I hope we're on opposite teams on friday because I love to trash talk and you seem like a good person to trash talk to (meaning you can take it and give it back)

Good times!

Geds said...

Dude, in the second post you said, "See you Friday," which was simply totally confusing to me. That was the only clue I had and it required me to know you go by James and not Jamie on the interweb. It was actually kind of creepy.

Bear in mind, I've had commenters come in from random places before and "james" isn't exactly an uncommon name. And I hadn't decided your blog wasn't worth my time. Remember, I've been sick, I start a new job tomorrow and the NBA Finals were last night.

Oh, and a little bit of history: about six months ago I wrote
this entry
and got an actual concern troll attempting to tell me why Joseph McCarthy was a true American hero.

I have limited patience for concern trolls and try to identify them as quickly as possible. They're like someone you invite in to your home who walks in and immediately poops on your carpet. I don't like it when people poop on my carpet.

And the thing you should probably realize is that pretty much everything in the first comment you left hit something that annoys me about modern American Christian rhetoric. There's a much, much longer discussion in there, but believe me when I say you couldn't have picked a better way to start out on my bad side if you'd tried. I almost left a comment to that effect this morning, but you'd already called me ignorant repeatedly, so I wasn't in the most charitable mood at the time...