Water. Rising.

What we were not told

we have heard.

When the walls dream

and the reeds speak in silence

of water. Rising.

 

The wise man wept at it

and the daemon-heroes

came and stood

on the bank of the river

up from the sea.

The wise man learned it in a dream.

 

So he will sprinkle many nations.

Air to Ask

The name God gave you

was the name they told you

when you were born.

But it never fit.

 

Year after year swept past you-

bringing rain and leaving

rust and cracks in the pavement.

They grew-  like frost or wild fires- in petals.

The fibers of the name shrank

under waves of fog and sun.

Or perhaps you grew.

But as the lacy flowers

bloomed and crumbled

the yarn pulled tighter

clawing your arms

creaking

when you tried to breathe.

 

Air was too much to ask

of God

who bid you be still and quiet, cursing,

As he ate his own stolen soul-

in secret-

As the wind walked on the waves-

As the bread and fishes multiplied themselves-

 

lost in the murmur and swell of all names

rolling through their mouths

the powers rejoiced in an unknown name.

Unknowing , a heart pronounced the word.

swimming

“I’m so glad you’re home.”

Granny squeezed my hand.  We were laying on towels out at the end of a borrowed dock. The sun was sinking towards the trees at the end of the lake. The water treatment plant for the neighboring city  stood out across the water.  It was turreted like a castle and the bricks glowed in the silky clouds.

We had been swimming.  When I was a little tyke and she was a lifeguard, she taught me to swim.  The water had been clear blue and sparkling, then.  The smell of chlorine was in everything and I had coughed and spluttered until I learned to breath and let the water hold me.

The water was murky now, with things decaying and coming to life in it’s ripples.

She was talking mostly.  One of my aunts, her adopted daughter, was coming to visit.  My cousin, who had run away to California and had accidentally gotten a girlfriend pregnant. They had carried the baby to term and were getting married soon.

She wasn’t too happy with him.

She got on to the topic of outside events.  Her voice was disgusted and a little angry.  But quiet.  Everything was quiet here.

“To think of them criticizing Israel, when those people put their women and children deliberately into danger, so they’ll get killed and and they can whip up public opinion against the Israelis.”

The haze in the clouds was inside my head too.  Images from Persepolis flitted past.  The Iranian army had sent children out to clear minefields- clear them by stumbling across all the mines and detonating them.

They had put up little booths in honor of the virgin martyrs thus created to whip up public opinion against the Iraqis.

“The Palestinians deliberately fire from civilian areas, and the Israelis defend themselves! They have to!”

“Well.”  I said drowsily. “Maybe people think that those children don’t deserve to die just because their parents are weird. Maybe that’s the objection.”

“It’s the women too!” she put in.

“Uuuu- the women too, don’t deserve to be shot, just because their leaders put them in danger.”

“They just don’t think of their women as anymore than animals!” she shakes her head.

Animals- because they think it’s ok if they’re shot for the greater good? If you, too, think it’s ok for them to be shot for the greater good… what…?

The conversation rolls away into the lake.  Evil Obama.  Immigrants.

“They send their children over here and Obama decides to spend all our money on that.  It’s going to be the end of us!”

The ripples run under the dock.  Their sunward sides are living gold. Their dark sides are deep brown darkness.

“Everything ends eventually.   If we knew for sure it would  ruin us, why not go out doing… something worth while?”

“Well,  they should send them back. What do they have here? No parents to raise them… no…”

“Some of those countries are riddled with violence.  Guerrilla wars and the drug cartels… Send them back and they’ll end up dead.”

“Well, it would be better than them growing up without being raised right!”

I look over at her.  Her white hair and  bikini and the light from the water rippling across the under belly of the trees overhead.  I wonder if the world is real.  If I really did just hear her say that.

“Says the one not in danger of being shot!”

The best response I could think of on the fly.

There’s a pause, barely noticeable. The breath between the verse and the chorus.

“It’s like getting old.””she tells me. “It not that it happens, so much as not being able to do stuff.”

I wonder how that’s related.  Because… dying isn’t as bad as not being able to perform?

My sister stopped hanging out with Granny because Granny competed with everything she said.  And then, without telling her, left her out of a trip they had planned together and took someone else instead- because she was afraid my sister wouldn’t be able to hike as much as she could.

My aunt is only a few years older than me.  Her birth mother shut her and her brother in a room and stopped the windows with rugs, hoping that they would sleep all the time and not bother her.  Her first adoptive family had broken her arm and left the two of them  standing barefoot in the snow til they got frostbite.

Better for them to be shot?

I wonder if Granny hears the things she says.

Did she always talk like this? Is it new? There were so many things I didn’t notice before- did I just not notice?

She’s onto another topic.

“I can’t do those dolphin dives any more. You know, the one’s where you go over backwards and come up facing the direction you came from?  I’ve been doing those since I was twelve, like they were nothing! But ever since I crashed my bike, I haven’t been able to do them…”

She’s getting old, after all this.  She gets worried sitting alone in her house and calls my mom.  When Granpa was alive, she had an unused pump organ, covered with medals and trophies.  Running, swimming, triathlons.

Something’s creeping up on her now that she can’t get away from by running.  Can’t out swim.

I trail my hand in the water.  Water doesn’t frighten me anymore, clean, dirty , muddy or chlorinated.  It holds you up.  It’s your friend.

I am frightened of amoebas. Certain ones. If you swallow them, your body takes them apart, finds the pieces it can use and discards the rest.  If you choke on the water- if it goes up your nose- it’s a different story.  Safe inside the walls of your skull, your body can’t tell the difference between what’s you and what’s not you.  It has no defenses.

They begin to eat your mind.

When they’re finished, you’re gone.

It’s the risk you take,  swimming out here in the unprocessed water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Out of Nowhere

There was a stock tank below the pulpit  The first row of seats was reserved for people being baptized. The next two were reserved for the families and friends of those being baptized today.  We took up most of a row.

It was my cousins’ church. Evangelical, non-denominational, non-Pentecostal, so hip that I regretted sitting in the aisle seat by the wall. Speakers pumped out repetitively cheerful choruses so loud that you could feel the music coming out of your mouth if you tried to sing.

I wasn’t there to sing. I was there for my family.  For my cousins.

So were a lot of others. ‘Saved’ and ‘unsaved’ alike. The church had pushed this as a life event.

They were talking about evangelism. They were so on top of things that they even mentioned colonialism.  Real evangelism had nothing to do with that, we were told.

“Now, I know a lot of us like to do something called friendship evangelism.” the pastor said.  “We become friends with an unsaved person and expect that, in the course of the friendship questions of faith will just naturally come up.”

“But here’s there real problem. Here’s where it can go wrong. We become so comfortable in the friendship, we value it so highly that we don’t want to rock the boat by bringing up the unpleasant things like sin.  We don’t want to offend”

Verses were invoked.  Darkness and light. Not yoking with unbelievers.  It’s not just about marriage, after all. It’s about lifestyle.

“We can’t become friends with people without evangelizing. We can’t be friends with people.” he repeated. “The friendship can only happen if evangelism the whole goal.”

The baptisms began.  Prerecorded video testimonies played in the background and the lighting shifted emotionally, people moved from the category of mere potential converts to that of full human beings whom one could befriend without ulterior motives.

It was mostly kids. Children who had accepted Jesus when they were six, and then again at summer camp, and were now trying to make it become real. My young cousin.  My uncle was also baptized. He was the only adult baptized that day. He was also the only black man in the entire extended family. He had said he was a Christian years ago, but (behind his back) no one in the family believed him.

No one believed him now either.

As we left the parking lot, my mom seemed cautiously optimistic, despite the loud music.

“Wasn’t that a great message for Sue to hear?” she asked my dad.

Sue and her family had come, of course.  She wasn’t a Christian, but she and my aunt had been friends for such a long time. They had been through so much together.  She’d come anyway.

***

“You should have been there for the earlier part.” my sister said.

I had intended to come to the Bible study today.  My  little brother had asked me to come, all hopeful and wide eyed, where the others buried my non-attendance in starchy silence.

I had gotten involved cleaning and had forgotten the time.  When I walked in, everyone looked up.

I hid in a corner.

“Pastor seemed so sad.  He’s worried about his nephew in the IDF.”

I hadn’t known Pastor had a nephew in the IDF.  His family is all in the East coast, but they aren’t Jewish that I’d ever heard. So this would be someone married in?  How does that work?

I fretted as I reviewed what I’d heard, trying to see how the earlier part would have played into the later.

Not enough people had showed up, so they were taking a break from the official study til next week. It seemed they were doing a question and answer session instead. My little brother asked why  there are so many translations of the Bible.  The short answer popping into my head was that words have more than one meaning and can be translated many different ways, and also most languages change so you have to keep retranslating into the new version of the language so that people still understand.

Pastor started in on Evil Greek Alexander imposing Greekness on everyone everywhere and the seventy translators of the Septuagint magically all coming up with the exact same translation.

I sat in the corner and drew.

“I’ve tried to reason with the KJV only people, but even when presented with the evidence they don’t seem to see.”

It went on and on.

But maybe he was scattered and not at the top of his form.

Finally, it came around to prophesy.  It usually does.

Apparently, at the end of the world, the state of Israel will be defeated and almost all Jewish people killed  as “the power of the holy people broken”  Then, and only then, will God deign to come back.

“People think that  since they’re so strong, since they have one of the best militaries in the world, they can take care of themselves. But that’s not how its going to be. They’re going to be almost totally destroyed.”

Various passages were discussed. The Lord, The Lord Almighty has a day of tumult and trampling and terror, of battering down of walls and crying out to the mountains, after all.

“But don’t you see? God has to let that happen.  Of all the the people in Israel today, only 10% take God seriously…”

I am trying to imagine how this would have sounded, with the additional fact that Pastor was worried for a family member.  It sounds worse, to me.

I mean, sitting around and saying God should totally wipe out some group of people is cold and frightening and apathetic and passive aggressive, but you could argue that no one loves a faceless stranger, and that groups are abstractions.

But he was thinking of a specific person? A family member?

God has to kill you, nephew, and all your countrymen. Because you didn’t believe what I think you should believe.

You can’t even say he was lulled into complacency by distance.

When I came home I told my mother that I wouldn’t discuss my questions with her or her underage children unless asked.  In all this time, I haven’t been.  Maybe I could have gotten away with it under the ‘but this is a question and answer session’ clause.  That didn’t occur to me, and frankly, my throat was clogged with angry.  Maybe I’m passive aggressive too.  I hadn’t thought about that.

I think, if I had been there for the earlier part, I still would have walked out.

He had had a little quaver in his voice.

***

Mom was sitting at the computer as I walked in. We exchanged pleasantries.

“Have you seen the news today?”

I had. I had spent the afternoon with an elderly gentleman, watching footage of rockets in Gaza and tunnels into Israel while he slept in his chair.

“Why, what’s up?”

She mentioned the things I had seen.  Then what her websites had said.

“It’s like it was before World War II. There’s a wave of Antisemitism going on. People are demonstrating against the Jews, and even here in America, at a school, they drew pictures of ovens and showed them to the Jewish kids.”

“It’s so weird. It’s just come out of nowhere.”

Holi-Day

A year or two ago, I remember reading an article about Dios de la Muertos. The author was exasperated that her ethnic group’s celebration was becoming mainstream- mainstream in the sense that a lot of fat white people were amusing themselves by dressing up in the festival costume of people they have treated and do treat like dirt. You Anglos celebrate our festival as a curiosity- as a cultural artifact that you take if you want and do with as you please, she said. But this is part of my religion. This isn’t a joke for me.

That was a year ago.  I haven’t been able to find that particular article.   If I do I’ll link to it.

Here are some  other articles.

http://www.maswired.com/disney-dia-de-los-muertos-culture-is-not-for-sale/

http://sundial.csun.edu/2013/10/for-this-year-dont-be-a-racist-for-halloween/

http://bitchmagazine.org/post/costume-cultural-appropriation

As I was thinking about this, I wondered- if it is bad for us to celebrate your holiday, what holiday should we anglos be celebrating?

Halloween, of course! They happen about the same time- they both have something to do with death.  So, we’ll just practice that version instead.

But then the irony hit me.  Halloween seems to have come from the Celtic holiday Sanhaim. It’s the holy day of a culture and language that was deliberately erased by the English- the original Anglos- in every way they could think of.  If I remember correctly, step dancing- dance of the celtic Irish- was designed so that patrolling English looking in the waist high windows wouldn’t notice they were dancing and come in and beat them up.

Halloween is ok to appropriate because it was appropriated before our time?

I suppose there a lot of arguments that could be made about that. But then I started thinking about some of our other holidays. Maybe the rest of you know this stuff already, but I hadn’t thought about it before. Here’s how it went.

Thanksgiving. The first European settlers that we will admit to (Jamestown was a stinky failure) nearly starved to death their first winter on these shores. The friendly local inhabitants saved their lives by bringing them food and teaching them how to plant crops in their new environment. The settlers thanked God for feeding them, and then (in the long run) proceeded to cheat, bully and massacre the original inhabitants because God said they could.

Christmas. God impregnated a 14 year old and she gave birth to the child. In our culture God would be prosecuted as a pedophile because the 14 year olds are so young and naive that the power imbalance between them and, say, a 19 or 20 year old who impregnates them, is so great that the relationship constitutes predation.

God is said to be at least billions of years old.

God also didn’t pay child support, but we at least don’t have a specific date on which to celebrate that.

Mardi Gras. A religious holiday? Um. We celebrate. People’s asses? What’s that one about again? Mostly celebrated in New Orleans where there used to be French people. In the rest of the country where there didn’t used to be French people, people sort of just wear the beads and giggle nervously.  Or travel to New Orleans for a chance to act like morons.

So… more inappropriate appropriation.

Valintines Day. A minor holiday. We celebrate romance. Or try. In a very shy, frigid and mass produced sort of way.

It also something to do with St. Valentine, but we try not to think about Saints very much because of the thing about  God feeling the death of the devoted is precious to him (psalm 116), and then how the people who were really devoted to God ending up being butchered in horrible and surprising ways.

Because… God isn’t a sadistic voyeur at all.

Fourth of July. Our forefathers embarked on their dangerous bid for a nation state of their own: an idealistic state structured around the principle that political liberty and equality were the innate right of all human beings- since all humans are created in the image of God and therefore have innate value that must be recognized politically. They proceeded to spend most of the next 100 years sailing to another Continent, kidnapping people, selling them as slaves, breeding them like livestock and working them to death.

These images of God were not innately valuable because obviously God is Caucasian and they didn’t resemble God as much as other people. Fully half of the Caucasians at the time were not given political equality (without which liberty is somewhat chancy) because God obviously has a penis and other male biological markers. So, these images didn’t look nearly as much like God as the others did.

Washington’s Birthday. Washington being one of the Founding Fathers, this is similar to the the Fourth of July. We mostly don’t remember who Washington was except for the Cherry Tree Story, which didn’t actually happen and heaven help us if we remember what the punchline was. “Father, I cannot tell my allies I’m spying on them, but I can’t not spy on them either.”

I think that was it.

Possibly this should be renamed Edward Snowden Day?

Lincoln’s birthday. Slavery- the buying, selling, breeding like livestock and working to death of other human beings- was such a non-issue that no one did anything about it until it screwed up our system of importing and exporting goods. Then somebody shot the politician who freed the slaves as part of the solution. Also there was a war.

Martin Luther King Day. We are Such Racist Fucks. A Caucasian shot an African American for having the audacity to say so. The African American was even using polite language. The Caucasian sure showed him wrong. Right?

Easter. A long time ago, it was a celebration of new life and fertility. But then God took it over.  Today, if we celebrate it at all, we celebrate by dressing up in happy pastel colors and going to church where we thank God for loving us so much that he would brutally torture his own child to death so that we could see what we have coming if we don’t  beg for forgiveness and thank God for ever little good thing that happens as if He were the direct instead of the ultimate cause.

(Alternately, God allowed us to torture His child to death, so that we would finally see what awful fucks we are for torturing his child to death.  Despite the fact that if God has one of us tortured to death, it’s “precious”.)

God then brought his child back to life so that 1) there would be a carrot  for obedience, and 2) it would be clear that even death wont save you from God.

There is still some fertility symbolism associated with the day.  But mostly it’s used to market candy.

Labor day. Like Mardi Gras, I can’t remember why we have this one. But I don’t think we stole it from anyone either. It’s clearly not religious because instead of gorging on clothing, gifts, candy, food or sex in attempt to relieve our anxiety, people usually just hang out with their families and have a nice time together.

Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day. In honor of the soldiers who have survived and the soldiers who have died in our near continual wars. Not particularly religious. Celebrated like Labor day.

Which brings us full circle to Halloween. Once a celebration of death as Easter was a celebration of life, when God took it over, the day upgraded very naturally to All Hallows Eve/All Saints Day, but then was downgraded to The Day We Get to Wear Costumes because we’re Not Catholic and we Don’t Like to Think About Saints.

There are a handful of others, like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Cinco de Mayo, and Dias De Los Muertos etc, practiced by constituant minorities. They are becoming more popular as we attempt/ pretend to be less racist. But we are still pretty racist on one hand and on the other hand it seems people don’t appreciate having their holy-days stolen by commercialists like us.

In short. I had a realization.  America doesn’t have a lot of good holidays.

Maybe that’s why we keep trying to steal more, huh?

It was recently the Fourth of July, the day on which we are supposed to try to feel patriotic.

What can I say? I honestly didn’t feel celebratory.

Maybe I can say this. Holidays are embedded in the past. Some of them commemorate past events. Some past persons. Some commemorate the cyclic passage of time, as we have experienced it thus far. They bring the past with us as we go, and sometimes the past has been horrible.

“But he who has no memories can have no wishes.”

Michael Ende said that. He wrote The Neverending Story.

If we wish the future to be different from the past. the past has to keep existing. In memories, in books, in rituals like holidays, it has to come with us, or we will never go anywhere.

As far the act of celebrating goes, if life is a good thing, then as long as we’re alive something can be found to celebrate.

We can celebrate birth, death, and love. We can celebrate the sacrifices that have been made to keep them from having to be made again, or made as often. We can celebrate the survival of everyone who has survived, whether they fought in war or escaped a genocide.
And if the founders didn’t describe the nation they built, perhaps they describe the nation we are building. A free nation with liberty and justice for all- it’s not what we have been.

But maybe it’s what we will one day be.

Or maybe that’s not even the point. Maybe they were describing the goal that we aim for- no matter how close we ever come or how far we fall short.

Maybe that’s what’s Holi about the Days.

 

snapshots and a rainbow

Sister 3: “Excellent, Sir!”

Brother 1: “Wait, why did you call [sister 2] ‘Sir’?”

Sister 3: “I called her Sir because she sounded brilliant and scientific!  Not like a lowly woman!”

***

My mom was explaining to my younger siblings  (aged 18, 16, 13 and 8) how the vast conspiracy aiming to take over America and destroy Christianity is getting the upper hand.

Me: “But if the Government was controlled by a conspiracy like that, they would hardly have given Hobby Lobby their case.”

Mom: “Oh, but that decision wasn’t unanimous! And I think they throw us a bone sometimes just to keep us quiet. Just to- test the resistance.”

Brother 2: “Ah!” He’s a lanky 18 year old in a rotting t-shirt full of holes. “So when people say that we’ve won something, it’s actually just Them tricking us into thinking things are getting better, so we wont fight Them.” His newly deep voice sounds confidant and cunning.  He sees that he understands something Most People don’t.  Most People aren’t clever like We are.

Me: “So if things don’t go your way it’s proof that They’re winning, and if things do go your way it’s also proof that They’re winning?”

***

Pastor stood behind the podium of the summer camp’s main hall. Everyone in the auditorium knew why we were here. So much of Christianity in America was corrupt, frivolous, and lacking commitment to God.  Also, years ago, the main church body had kept the building when they kicked Pastor out.

“Some people act like it’s a big deal that they turned their lives over to God.” he said. “They make it into this dramatic story about how they decided to give their lives to God. As if they did something.”

“No!’ he went on. “We are only saved because God allows us to be saved.  He does it! Not us!”

I felt a tad dizzy and kept my head down, focusing on my sketch. He had spent the first part of the sermon explaining how people who didn’t accept God and didn’t become Christians did this because they didn’t want to know the Truth, and deliberately turned away.

If you don’t chose God, it was your own evil choice and you are held responsible. But if you join God’s side, not even your choice counts as good.

No matter what happens, God is the only one responsible for Good and YOU are the one responsible for evil.

Despite God having all the power and you having none.

God’s a tricky devil, isn’t he?

 

The Fear of God

“… to call someone a Corinthian was really- well- it wasn’t a nice thing.”

I pulled the top off a new marker and continued to draw.  I’d been staying away from the the Church Bible Studies.  But  this one was at my parents house. All the people who had asked my family about me while I was gone were coming.  I had no real excuse that didn’t sound like obvious avoidance.

So I brought my sketchbook and some metallic markers and sat in a corner of the crowded room. This was what I had always done- I just hoped my expressions weren’t too expressive.  Pastor was talking about Corinthians.

“The church in Corinth was surrounded by horrible immorality.  Imagine if our church was plucked up and set down in the middle of San Francisco-  in the middle of…” he fumbled, looking for the words “-in the middle of a gay scene? Can you imagine how hard that would be? “

Camouflaged as a person among people, I tried to imagine.

You must not MIX with the immoral, Pastor explained.  You could be around them at work, he granted, but you couldn’t join your life with theirs in any significant way.  The only result would be suffering.  Terrible suffering.

The Church meets  at a summer camp and it’s member’s living rooms because it doesn’t have a building.  Most of the families home school/ed and most of the girls wore long denim skirts up until a couple years ago.  The youth were swept with a restless wind about that time. The girls started wearing long skirts made out of not denim, along with uber fashionable tops.

While they stayed home and waited for someone to marry them.  In their late twenties.

I wondered how the ‘adults’ would react if they suddenly were aware that that the immorality they had so studiously isolated their progeny from, and that they contemplated with such horror from half a nation away, was sitting in the room with them.

I kept drawing. Pastor went on.

“…Now, when we say ‘the fear of the Lord’, does that mean we sit around shaking with fear because God is going to come and get us?”

Que the explanation of how ‘the fear of the lord’ doesn’t mean abject terror but respect, etc. I told myself, planning  to pat myself on the back for knowing the talking points so well.

“It only partly means that.”  I looked up.  I thought I knew this routine.  “It does partially mean that, because after all, we serve an awesome God. But it also means having respect…”

They’ve been upgrading their definitions while I was away.  It isn’t the definition of fear that’s changed necessarily. He did still put the fear= respect thing in there.  It’s the definition of awesome that’s changed.

An ‘awesome’ person now means ‘a person so frightening that you would be immobilized with helplessness and terror at the thought of disagreeing with them, because they are going to show up and do horrible things to you in revenge”

I wonder if Rich Mullins knew that.

Awesome is no longer awesome.

The Pastor went on to talk about how  a true Christian must stand for one’s convictions even when surrounded by those who disagree with them.  Then he talked in a soft and tender voice about suffering.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw my mom move. He was saying this for her, I suspected. About her situation.

The point of life isn’t to be happy he said. The point of life is to obey. God. In whatever He wills for you.

They prayed.

The Bible Study ended.  I went to face/escape from a large gaggle of young women in long skirts and fashionable tops. In ecstatically happy voices that managed to sound prerecorded, they asked me how I was doing.

Closed in my sketchbook was a picture of a Hindu god. Stylized and glittering, the god’s arms and aura swirled around him.

“Now I am become Death- the Destroyer of Worlds”

 

 

 

 

The Nightmare Art Colony

Last night I was moving boxes. I noticed that my box of old journals was getting musty, and, I hate to say it, starting to mold. I took all the journals outside to air and drink a little lysol.  As any sane person in the middle of a project does, I leafed through one or two. It’s been years since I packed them away.

I found this entry in a book marked “2009-     “

For the sake of clarity, I am currently a bit Jungian. I think that dreams give you useful information about your own state of mind and can bring to your conscious attention things you have noticed or believe subconsciously. The subconscious tends to pick up on things before the conscious mind does. But I do not believe that dreams necessarily give you information from outside of your own head. So- if I dream about someone, it reflects what I subconsciously think,  not what they subconsciously think.

Also, things and people in dreams may be symbolic of other things that they themselves are not, in waking life.

2009 was before I had discovered Jung. I don’t know what I thought then.

***

I dreamed that I moved into one of Was Hurd’s Art colonies- except it really was one this time, established and a lot of people lived there. Something horrible was happening- some kind of plant got in and started to overgrown everything. People weren’t leaving but there were fewer and fewer people left. They [the ones who were left] were trying to get away.

I dreamed that a couple nights ago. [I had read something] just before I went to sleep about dreams being meaningful, and how you should record and consider them. I went over in my mind, how I used to do that and nothing ever really came of it, but fleetingly decided I might give it one more shot. I dreamed that, and wrote it down because it was odd.  Except for Kristen mentioning him once… I haven’t thought about Wes since I finished school, and didn’t have any massively strong opinions about him then. Later that morning, the mail came and the News and Views got plucked down in front of me. I got suddenly kind of scared, and when I opened it, in fact the article was by Wes Hurd.

The article was only the good old Gutenberg Message about the pursuit of truth and such. As I read it, however, it seemed to me that Wes kept referring to their [the Gutenberg] version [of Christianity] as ‘truer’ than ordinary American Xianity.

It occurs to me- what place can there be in existentialism for self congratulation? If you decide you have arrived, doesn’t that mean you have stopped the Pursuit [of Truth]? Isn’t the whole point of saying there is something wrong with Xianity in America that Xians in America seem to think they are as they should be, and have [therefore] stopped looking beyond themselves? But if we have stopped looking beyond ourselves, what good are we to them?

A plant that overgrows its surroundings kills everything that is not itself. A cancer kills [the body] when it begins to transform all the other tissues into it’s own kind of tissue.

We [Gutenbergers] complain that beliefs are held ritually and not through the passion of the mind and spirit- but do we really believe that there are no rituals of the intellect? We complain that they become a cancer, mindlessly reproducing themselves, but shouldn’t the accusation [leveled] outward make us turn fearfully inward [to see if we are doing the same thing]?

Have we really written down and codified the great Tao?

Couldn’t even our Pursuit of Truth become a Wild Hunt- where our fantasy selves are caught up into pursuit of an illusion- such that we pass even God by [without seeing him]?

I am venting here and not writing well. I’m not sure I should bring up the dream, but I think I should write Wes and ask him about this. The coincidence is too much.

***

I never did write him.

You Do WHAT in your Bible? The Ethics of Sex and the Demiurge (edited)

Sooo… I have to put an apology in here.  I posted this in a haze of tiredness and just-get-it-done.  I left out some thing that may be important.

Here is the edit.

Trigger Warning: Elliot Rodgers quotes.  Quotes from the Bible involving damnation. Discussion of  Biblical stories involving sexuality- some of them abusive.  Discussion of rape. Discussion of animal sexuality. Discussion of BDSM.  Discussion of Jack Crabtree’s version of God meeting  the technical definition of a sadist.  Discussion of the version of God derived from the Bible (when this is treated as an authority) having analogy to a misogynist serial killer. Use of Sarcastic language throughout, including during all the other triggers I have mentioned above.

This post is part of my response to Jack Crabtrees lecture On the Ethics of Sex in the Bible.  The notes, which I am going over, as well as audio recordings can be found here.

http://blog.gutenberg.edu/2014/the-ethics-of-sex-in-the-teaching-of-the-bible/

***

The class is over, but the show goes on.

I must admit that this section held little glamour for me. I also currently consider it the longest section of anything on the face of the earth.

Troublingly enough, this section has the best claim as the explanation of what the phrase Biblical Sexual Ethics means. You know- the title subject. Which we have not bothered to define till now.

IV. Biblical perspectives that are completely at odds with modern perspectives and that must be grasped in order to understand the Bible’s view of sexual ethics:

To the ordinary ear, it sounds as though we are going to to be talking about the Bible in this section. I mean, it does to mine anyway. So imagine my surprise when-

A. God created a purposeful, telic creation. Everything has a telos, a purpose, and it has a design to facilitate that purpose.

-it turns out we are talking about Aristotle!!!

A telos (from the Greek τέλος for “end”, “purpose”, or “goal”) is an end or purpose, in a fairly constrained sense used by philosophers such as Aristotle. It is the root of the term “teleology,” roughly the study of purposiveness, or the study of objects with a view to their aims, purposes, or intentions. Teleology figures centrally in Aristotle’s biology and in his theory of causes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telos_(philosophy)

Now. I cannot recall the Bible stating that ‘everything has a telos, a purpose, and is designed to facilitate that purpose.’ If there is one, and I have overlooked it, please, let me know.  In Psalms 119:91 the Psalmist states that

Your laws endure to this day,
for all things serve you.

But the laws referred to seem to be the Judaic Ritual Law (the only law that had then been issued)?  According to Acts 15 Gentile believers are not required to follow this. All things do not serve the ritual laws as their purpose, so probably the endurance of the law is instead the indirect result of all things serving God.

However, this brings up the troubling problem that even the damned, by their damnation, serve God. If we assume that (at least part of) the Telos of humans is to ‘live according to God’s telos for them’, the damned are actually serving God by failing to enact their telos. Thus they aren’t failing in their telos and should not be damned.

If we further consider that certain passages in the Bible state that God purposed the failure of the failing-

Romans 9:16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”…

Romans 9:19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”[h] 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?

22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory…?

-and actually designed them to fail, thus designing them to facilitate the purpose of not fulfilling their purpose, this statement on the part of Mr. Crabtree becomes highly suspect.

Let’s leave this ‘Telos for everything’ business aside. Maybe if we narrow our focus, things will become clearer.

Does the Bible state that God has a purpose for humans?

Yes, it does! It says that:

Gen 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Apparently the purpose of humans is to rule the world. Some people interpret this to mean ‘care for the world in a protective/nurturing manner.’ That makes more sense, as most of our attempts to dominate the earth have been setting off processes that will eventually destroy it, if God doesn’t show back up and destroy it first.

(Question for another time. Is it a good idea to take the advice of someone who has the stated intention of violently destroying your world?)

Unfortunately, in order to maintain a stable socio-political, economic, environmental state in which the earth was cared for by the human race, the human race will probably have to find ways to limit its own growth, as a finite system cannot sustain infinite growth in any one of it’s parts. As a biological phenomena, homosexuality limits population growth without attempting to render a large segment of the human population asexual.

An attempt that was actually made by the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages. It worked so well that Priestson became a family name.

http://www.americanlastnames.us/last-names/P/PRIESTSON.html

But we’re saying homosexuality is a horrible evil. So that can’t be it.

Tossing the Bible aside, where can we get a statement of God’s purpose for humans?

Westminster Catechism and random sermons by Puritans seem like as good a place as any, seeing Mr. Crabtree has given us no source for this statement. Telos!

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

http://www.reformed.org/documents/WSC.html

http://www.puritansermons.com/watson/watson5.htm

The trouble with this still is that Pharaoh glorified God by being destroyed.

Romans 9:17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”…

And the rebellion against God, for which he was destroyed? It wasn’t a question of predestination or free will (Exodus 9-14); God mind controlled Pharaoh so that Pharaoh would keep rebelling and God could keep destroying him until He had had enough fun destroying things for His own glory.

If you don’t love God, God is going to destroy you and glory in your destruction.

Totally free choice there.

But either way, the damned do not enjoy God.

God has still not designed humans such that their design facilitates their purpose.

Now, some kinder gentler christians have argued that hell and damnation don’t exist. Some of them say that if you don’t like God, you just go out like a candle and stop existing. Others say that eventually everyone is saved.

Here are the verses that made us think that God plans to subject everyone he doesn’t like to conscious eternal torment.

Isaiah 66: 22 “As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the Lord, “so will your name and descendants endure. 23 From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the Lord. 24 “And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”

Matthew 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Mark 9:43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out… 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell… 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where

“‘the worms that eat them do not die,
and the fire is not quenched.’

Luke 16:23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ …26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

2 Thessalonians 1:5 …as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. 6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.

Revelations 19:20 But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.

Revelations 20:10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Revelation 20: 11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

Revelation 21:7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

You know where else I’ve heard this line of thought?

‘I’m going to enter the hottest sorority house of UCSB and I will slaughter every single spoilt, stuck-up, blonde slut that I see inside there. All those girls that I’ve desired so much, they would’ve all rejected me and looked down on me as an inferior man if I ever made a sexual advance towards them…’

It’s not fair. You girls have never been attracted to me. I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me. But I will punish you all for it…

‘I’ll take great pleasure in slaughtering all of you. You will finally see that I am, in truth, the superior one. The true alpha male …’

http://bellejar.ca/2014/05/24/elliot-rodger-and-men-who-hate-women/

 Humanity has never accepted me among them, and now I know why. I am more than human. I am superior to them all. I am Elliot Rodger… Magnificent, glorious, supreme, eminent… Divine! I am the closest thing there is to a living god. Humanity is a disgusting, depraved, and evil species. It is my purpose to punish them all. I will purify the world of everything that is wrong with it. On the Day of Retribution, I will truly be a powerful god, punishing everyone I deem to be impure and depraved.

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Elliot_Rodger

Despite Augustine’s semantic squirming about evil being uncreated, there is only one person to blame for Hell. Mr. Crabtree himself once pointed out to me that if the New Heaven and Earth are perfect, if we’re there we probably wouldn’t sin. But we probably would have free will, or else our non-sinning wouldn’t be real- a.k.a. existentially chosen.

An argument routinely made by other Christians is that God had to allow sin (and hence evil) so that humans could have free will.

But apparently the sin we’re being damned for wasn’t necessary for the Creation to exist. God added it in because he wanted it.

And if reality is a novel that God is writing, not only is free will ultimately an illusion any way, but He could have easily written it such that everyone was saved.

If we take the parable of the sheep and the goats seriously, some of the people reading this are are goats. Goats, if there is a hell, you are going to meet me there.

Because I would rather go to Hell than to worship a Being this depraved.

Sheep, I sort of despise you. I would call you the ultimate quislings- traitors to sentient beings on every world and to all the Buddhas.

But you know what? You believe in God, and God is fekking scaring. You’re taking care of yourselves. Who am I to judge?

So much for purpose.

1. Human sexuality constitutes an objective reality to which human beings are
accountable. Human sexuality is not something that I can make into whatever I
want it to be. It is what it is (that is, it is what God designed and purposed it to
be); it is not mine to do with as I please.

If the universe is a novel written by God, the people who make sexuality into whatever they want (thus incurring the wrath of God and eternal torment), are what God designed and purposed them to be.

Sooo… why are we saying they are bad if God’s prescription sexuality is good? Or- if God can design something that’s bad, as long as it glorifies him, on what basis do we call the sexuality good just because God designed it?

Also, note the use of the word objective here. We’re still in section A. In sections C) D) and I) we are treated to a fascinating account of which parts of reality are to be treated as important- as really real. It sheds some light on the use of ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’.

Spoiler: According to Mr. Crabtree, reality isn’t necessarily the physically or experientially verifiable part.

…it is not mine to do with as I please.

Weeell, technically, even in this scenario sexuality is yours to do with as you please. It’s just that you are God’s property to do with as he pleases. If you don’t do it the way he likes you to do it, he’s going to make you wish you were never born.

2. The Biblical worldview is completely compatible with the notion that “natural laws” exist (if the concept of a “natural law” is understood in the right sort of way).

I just love tautologies.

This concept is completely compatible with that concept, as long as by that concept you mean this concept.

Yeah.

a) To speak of something as being “against nature” means to speak of something as being at odds with God’s purpose and design for what he has created.

A key to understanding what he’s saying here is the retroactive understanding that reality isn’t material. I swear this is actually coming- C, D, and I. ‘Nature’ doesn’t mean ‘biological existence as it actually occurs’. That would lend homosexuality and its variations the justification of being biological phenomena and actually occurring.

And we can’t have that.

No. ‘Nature’ means- ‘what the Bible says nature is’. Or rather, what Mr. Crabtree says Aristotle says that the Bible says that nature is.

(1) Therefore, to speak of sexual behavior as being “against nature” means that that sexual behavior is at odds with God’s purpose and design for human sexuality.

See? Against nature= ‘against what I think Aristotle thinks the Bible says.’

(2) Romans 1:26–2:2

Just as an aside.

Romans 1:26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

In my Mary Pride-filled youth, this verse was used to explain to me how women giving their babies formula (unnatural relations) instead of breastfeeding (natural relations) causes men to be gay. Also- I think- AIDS?

Or maybe that’s just what Mary Pride says the Bible says that nature is, hm?

b) When we consider what might be “natural” with regard to human sexuality,
we must ask what is “natural” with regard to human sexuality.

Hm. Interesting. Yes and no. According to Jared Diamond (author of Guns Germs and Steel), in his book, Why is Sex Fun? human sexuality has a number of traits that are uncommon or unique in the animal kingdom. He also gives fairly rational arguments as to how it evolved, and how the biological evolution of human sexuality has corresponded with human social evolution.

So yes, in a sense, humans have a unique pattern of sexuality. However, that does not mean that human sexuality is fixed. In fact, if society is to change further, I wonder if different forms of and attitudes towards sexuality might be the necessary groundwork.

I mean, not to go all John Lennon on you, but- a society without rape- where each person’s wishes for their own lives and bodies were respected and valued.

What would sexuallity look like in that society?

And wouldn’t that also have to be a world where the fact that a person was a person is more important than the religion they followed? Where people are more important than money or convenience? A world without genocide?

A world where an entire race of people couldn’t be massacred by, say, drowning them all in a flood?

(1) We cannot judge what is natural for human sexuality by observing what is “natural” in animal sexuality.

On the other hand, the author of proverbs sends his son to the ants as examples of diligence in order to learn wisdom (Prov 6:6-8) and these are moral traits. Morality is supposedly the thing that distinguishes humans and their God-yearning souls from the soulless animals.

If the Bible says we can learn moral lessons from the nature of animals, what’s the problem with learning about animal sexuality for lessons on what Nature is?

For instance- the great variety of roles that male and female play in animal societies might point towards the fact that the roles taken by male and female in OUR society are not necessarily Forms Dwelling in the Suprarenal Palace of Forms, informing all reality with our particular version of Male and Female-ness.

[Content Note: this link contains cartoon/symbolic nudity to indicate gender, but does not depict sex]

“If humans used animal mating rituals” http://9gag.com/gag/aZP2zgz?ref=fb.s

But the Bible isn’t actually important in this Biblical Sexual Ethic. Mr. Crabtree needs to not be able to learn from animals, because animals operate according to the rules of their biological existence. Other people, not Mr. Crabtree of course, would say they are ruled by Nature.

And Nature has to be what Mr.Crabtree says it is- NOT what’s observable. Otherwise it might not turn out to be what he says it it.

So. Those physical/ biological examples you have? Ditch them. After all, who needs facts when you have a theory about what the Bible says!

3. Given that this is the biblical worldview, it makes no sense whatsoever to reject the idea that “natural law” (if that is understood to mean whatever coherence to the created order would dictate) gives us important information about how we humans ought to behave.

Woah! Shit! When did the Bible come into this?

Oh right. This is the Biblical Worldview- a horse of a different color.

…whatever coherence to the created order would dictate…

The key word here is “created.” “Natural Law” is being used to mean ‘the rules of the material world when understood as a creation of God /the Bible/Aristotle.’

Well duh. Of course that’s not going to contradict the Bible. When squeezed and mutilated into being understood as a created order as defined by Mr. Crabtree’s interpretation of the Bible, the material world is going to always, 100%, going to agree with what he says the Bible says.

Wave your flag for team Tautology.

a) Accordingly, the fact that homosexual sex is incompatible with procreation is an important datum in one’s reaching a rational conclusion about the morality of homosexual behavior.

And so now, without quoting a single verse, passage or Creation Science Study, we are assuming that the purpose of sexuality is procreation.

The Biblical Book On Sex, The Song of Solomon, is overflowing with intimate and metaphoric details of the lovers delighting in each other. And never once mentions procreation.

David’s first wife, Michal- you know, the one he bought for the price of several hundred severed Philistine dicks (oh alright, foreskins)- who was madly in love with him at the time, never produced a child in conjugal relations with him. But she saved his life when her dad ordered him killed (1 Samuel 18-19, 2 Samuel 6). Were their sexual relations immoral?

Or how about David’s pretty little bed warmer, Abishag? He never even had conjugal relations with her, but once he was dead, her remarriage was considered a political threat to his son Solomon (1 Kings 1). It wasn’t because of any children she had had or could have, but because she had been the king’s consort.

Was Abraham and Sarah’s relationship illicit (well, other than that it was incest) in the years before it produced a child? Or why were Abraham’s children by his concubine Keturah (Genesis 25:1-5) simply given a sack lunch and a walking stick and thrown out when they were too old to be cute anymore? Like dumped pets. God more or less micromanaged Abraham’s life. If he was doing something wrong, you would expect God would have popped up and smote him or something. But of all the many children Abraham procreated, only Isaac counted to him (and kind of Ishmael). If the procreated themselves didn’t matter to Abraham, how could procreation be the point of the sex that produced them?

But perhaps all those examples are not important because the Bible gives us bad examples as well as good ones, eh?

Maybe we should be looking to Jewish covenantal/ritual law to tell us what the purpose of sex is.

You know. The law that evil modern society has by and large discarded because they think that kidnapping people of a different ethnic group and selling them like talking pottery is a detestable ?

I don’t have time to go into it here. And Mr. Crabtree didn’t either. But maybe those are not important because they only apply to the Jews. Or something.

Maybe we know that procreation is the purpose of Sex because in first chapter of the book of the Book of Genesis, God says that his reason for making humankind is so that they will rule the earth and he tells them to reproduce in order to do it.

But if sex is the means of procreation and procreating is part of the reason humans exist, it doesn’t logically follow that procreating is the only reason for sex.

Your hands are useful both for lifting things up and for setting things down. If we could establish that the purpose of your existence was to lift boxes onto shelves- that might end up meaning that your hands are necessary to move the crates already on the shelves down onto the floor in order to make room for said boxes.

The purpose of your hands’ existence might be both actions, even if the purpose of your existence was only one of them.

There is a great deal in the Bible to be dealt with before one decides what God has decided the point of sex is. It has emotional, social, and political aspects as well as procreative ones- and that isn’t even starting on economics or demographics.

But to just decide halfway through a sentence- without dealing with any of this? Are you kidding me?

This is the argumentative equivalent of a Piggybank marked ‘Jesus Saves’.

(1) Because it gives us important information about God’s purpose and design for human sexuality.

A design we pulled out of our ass.

Excuse me while I have trouble taking this seriously.

B. A moral judgment with regard to sexual behavior (as with regard to any and all
behavior) must be made on the basis of a rational moral judgment (grounded in the
biblical worldview), not on the basis of what feels right, natural, or acceptable.

Ahem.

Polanyi`s concept of knowledge is based on three main theses: First, true discovery, cannot be accounted for by a set of articulated rules or algorithms. Second, knowledge is public and also to a very great extent personal (i.e. it is constructed by humans and therefore contains emotions, “passion”.). Third, the knowledge that underlies the explicit knowledge is more fundamental; all knowledge is either tacit or rooted in tacit knowledge.

http://www.sveiby.com/articles/Polanyi.html

Emphasis added.

1. The moral judgment we place on any behavior (including our sexual behavior)
must NOT be made on the basis of what seems right to us, for what seems right
(and natural) to us is derived from our acculturation in and by a particular culture.
It is not typically a function of our rational, moral judgment.

Broca’s work seemed particularly invulnerable to
refutation. Had he not measured with the most
scrupulous care and accuracy? (Indeed, he had. I have
the greatest respect for Broca’s meticulous procedure.
His numbers are sound. But science is an inferential
exercise, not a catalog of facts. Numbers, by themselves, specify nothing. All depends upon what you do with them.) Broca depicted himself as an apostle of objectivity, a man who bowed before facts and cast aside superstition and sentimentality. He declared that “there is no faith, however respectable, no interest, however legitimate, which must not accommodate itself to the progress of human knowledge and bend before truth.”

Women, like it or not, had smaller brains than men and, therefore, could not equal them in intelligence.

Broca understood, of course, that part of this difference could be attributed to the greater height of males. Yet he made no attempt to measure the effect of size alone and actually stated that it cannot account for the entire
difference because we know, a priori, that women are not as intelligent as men (a premise that the data were supposed to test, not rest upon)

http://faculty.washington.edu/lynnhank/wbgould.pdf

The declaration that one is functioning rationality and not emotionally is no protection against cultural prejudice. The otherwise impeccable practice of rationality does not protect one against cultural prejudice.

Rational thought falls prey to culture just as easily as gut instinct does.

My suspicion is that the only real protection against cultural prejudice that exists is the injunction to know thyself- and to actively pursue knowing the culture as well.

a) To the member of a tribe of cannibals, eating his enemies (though they are
human beings) feels comfortably “right” and “natural.” Why wouldn’t it? That
is all he has ever known.

Apparently, Broca noticed that German brains were on average larger than French brains. A good Frenchman, Broca corrected his study of French and German brains to account for the average physical difference in height.

He thought it was perfectly right and natural to not correct his data on male and female brain sizes for differences in height.

http://books.google.com/books?id=MAw5Ol_VnmwC&pg=PA217&lpg=PA217&dq=broca+women%27s+brains++Gratiolet&source=bl&ots=iMH3z66bbz&sig=cFpxXgT-yG1vccF393nZrJov-Go&hl=en&sa=X&ei=yFuXU-kdyKfIBN2ogqgJ&ved=0CCgQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=broca%20women’s%20brains%20%20Gratiolet&f=false

Rationality won’t save you.

b) From a biblical perspective, it is important that we be willing to have our cultural attitudes and perspectives completely undermined and overturned.

Kind of like how God’s perspective was completely overturned between saying

Ezekiel 18:1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel:
“‘The parents eat sour grapes,
and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?
3 “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. 4 For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die…

19 “Yet you ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’ Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live. 20 The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.

And saying

Exodus 34: 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

I mean if the ultimate cookie cutter of morality for all of reality sometimes changes his mind on what it means to be moral, we shouldn’t be afraid to either, right?

(1) “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” > Romans 12:2.

In the verse before this, Paul talks about offering your body as a living sacrifice to God. One has to wonder if this is similar to what the Israelites are said to have done to the children of the citizens of Jericho.

Joshua 6:16 …Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! 17 The city and all that is in it are to be devoted[a] to the Lord…

Footnote a. Joshua 6:17 The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them; also in verses 18 and 21.

20 When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city. 21 They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.

Were those children living sacrifices before they were ‘given over’ to God ? Or only after?

At any rate, our minds must be renewed and transformed such that the murder of children is acceptable to us before the Biblical View will make sense.

To conclude IV B, I believe that the human mind is finite. Even if God exists and has gifted us with an absolute revelation, our understanding of that revelation is going to be limited. I see no reason to try rid ourselves of emotion (or rationality) in a misguided attempt to obtain absolute knowledge.

There is a verse in Ecclesiastes that talks about eternity being set in the heart, and a passage in Corinthians that talks about gaining the Mind of Christ. Perhaps you don’t share my bleak view of the limitations of knowledge.

Even so, no one said that the mind of Christ could be gained by simply discarding our human emotions in favor of our human mind.

C. My physical sexual nature is not an essential element of what I am as a human being— it is not an essential facet of what I am as a creature created in the image of God.

And now we are in Section C. The long awaited.

I have to ask. Did Adam, before he fell, have a body?

Gen 2:7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

God begins with straight out and out matter and adds a spirit. Adam was never without a body, even when he was without a soul. The answer appears to be yes.

Did his body have a sexual aspect?

Gen 1:27 …male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

The answer appears to be yes.

Were the body and its sexual aspects part of God’s image?

Gen 1: 26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them…

Again, yes.

Was it good?

Gen 1:31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

It wasn’t just good, it was very good.

This entire point of Mr. Crabtree’s, if the Bible is our authority, is complete bunk.

The ‘image of God’ was pronounced on Adam as a total being. There was no disclaimer made about which aspect was the Image. So, if the Image was everything he then was, how is the rejection of sexuality anything less than the rejection of God?

Well- because God doesn’t have a body- the reasoning might go. God doesn’t look like a barely evolved monkey like we do. God doesn’t have sex. He doesn’t shit. The Image of God must be something other than our physicalness.

I’m afraid I have a lot of sympathy for the Via Negativa on this. If it isn’t generally useful to pursue the Via Negativa it is also useful to not forget it. God- if such a being exists- exists outside of  the created reality that informs our concepts.

As far as we know, God doesn’t have a spirit, as we understand spirits. The human spirit or consciousness is a lonely thing- embedded in material reality- most likely an illusion created by the firing of neurons.

http://www.amazon.com/Phantoms-Brain-Probing-Mysteries-Human/dp/0688172172

Hence the importance of being given a New Body when resurrected into the New Heavens and Earth. If you weren’t given a new body and new neurons in the new physical reality, you probably wouldn’t exist.

As far as we know, God doesn’t have neurons.

God, as the source of reality and as a being previous to and greater than reality as we know it, is no more accurately described by the word ‘spirit’ than he is by ‘matter’. Or ‘red’ or ‘blue’.

He’s on a different ontological level than we are.

If God can accurately be described as the author of the novel which is the universe, ‘spirit’ ‘will’ and ‘existential decision’ are just as much created items as the ‘body’ and its sexuality.  No more and no less.

If the entities that experience existence and  decision (our spirits, for lack of a better term) can be a metaphor of God, what prohibits bodies from being metaphor along with them?

1. In the biblical worldview, I transcend my body. My physical body, in general, is
not an essential element to what makes me “me.”

a) I will eventually have another, wholly new “physical” body. I don’t require
being in this present body to be me.

My impulse is to smart off, but this is an interesting question. I suspect that the new “physical” body Mr. Crabtree is talking about here is the resurrected body, alive in the New Heavens and Earth. And yet…

Your body replaces the matter you are made up of every seven years. And yet your experience of yourself as yourself persists. Different material being. Same identity. Clearly the person does transcend the body, right?

Let’s look closer. Your soul does not simply migrate from one block of matter to a different block of matter on the stroke of midnight every seventh year. It replaces that matter a little at a time. It discards and replaces the molecules you consist of according to a consistent pattern. At no time, during the seven year cycle, does that pattern simply and suddenly change. If the pattern according to which you are continually being made ever does simply and suddenly change, it’s called a genetic disorder, an autoimmune disease, or cancer, and may cause you to cease to exist in any measurable sense.

Pattern transcends matter.

But what governs this pattern?

Your DNA.

What is DNA made of?

Matter.

In any sense we can verify, your physical body is the essential element of what it means to be you.

2. When it comes to my sexuality, it is helpful to think of myself as a person—a
being created in the image of God—given an animal-like body through which to
act and express myself.

Maybe I just have a dirty mind. But you know what this person/animal/sexuality dynamic reminds me of?

Ponyplay.

Ponyplay is a combination of BDSM and erotic role play where the bottom assumes the role of an equid and becomes a ponygirl (or ponyboy)…

I would classify ponyplay into two very general types:

“Forced” ponyplay in which the pony still considers himself to be a human but is treated as an animal and is compelled by his trainer/owner/handler to behave as an animal. This type of ponyplay typically involves humiliation since the pony is a human who is forced to take on the role of an equid and may thus feel degraded.

Note: While it should not have to be said, it is still worth noting that in forced ponyplay (as with BDSM generally), the pony has consented to play and is not literally being forced. Ponyplay is consensual!

“Equine role play” in contrast, is when the human “becomes” an equid and does not have a human persona while in pony role. Humiliation does not typically play a role in this type of ponyplay since animals are generally not considered to be able to be humiliated, and in any event there would be no reason a horse would feel humiliated simply for being a horse.

http://www.cpony.com/home/faq.html

If we assume the body is an Animal that I, the Person, have to indwell- it sounds vaguely like God is into ponyplay.

a) The animal-like body through which I do and must express myself is a less
noble, less eternal, and less beautiful facet of who I am.

And not just Equine Role Play, either. God is going the ‘forced’/humiliation route.

b) It is my true identity as a “person” that constitutes the ultimate, eternal, noble,
beautiful, and essential facet of who I will be.

Let me reiterate something here.

Note: While it should not have to be said, it is still worth noting that in forced ponyplay (as with BDSM generally), the pony has consented to play and is not literally being forced. Ponyplay is consensual!

The difference between BDSM and actual torture and humiliation, as I understand it, is that the person being done to, in BDSM, has voluntarily entered their role.

As I understand it no one in the ‘created’ universe has entered their role voluntarily. The Bible is at pains to emphasise that point.

Isaiah 45:9 “Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker,
those who are nothing but potsherds
among the potsherds on the ground.
Does the clay say to the potter,
‘What are you making?’
Does your work say,
‘The potter has no hands’?

Romans 9:20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”

God hasn’t just created a kinky universe, where he has People running around in Animal bodies.

God is actually a sadist.

“You are a person, a beautiful image of the Most Holy. But I have you in my power and, without your consent, I’m going to trap you in an animal body that will subject you to horrible perverse urges. I’m going to watch you continually to see if you slip up and have your fellow Animal People butcher you- like an animal- if you fail. You have NO RIGHT to want anything other than what I want, so if you dare to be angry or resentful of what I’ve done, or do anything other than praise me and /or beg for forgiveness for your continual failures, I’m going to take you back out of the body and drown you in fire which will torment you but of which you cannot die.”

If being a Person is different than being a Body- who the hell would do this?

The Gnostics (of whom much has been written and of whom I do not feel qualified to speak authoritatively), seem to have believed that People were different entities than their bodies. Their responses to this belief differed. Some, I believe, proscribed ascetic practices, constricting and controlling the body so that it would not interfere with the Person. Some  were said to have proscribed complete licence. After all, if the body is so unimportant, what does it matter what the Body does?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnosticism#Moral_and_ritual_practice

But they tended to agree that the Creation of the material universe was not the work of the Good God. Creation was the act of an evil minor deity- the Demiurge.  Where Christians longed for a New Earth, the most sensible thing the Gnostic could long for was that Creation would dissolve completely and the work of the Evil One would be undone. The trapped souls then would be released to return to the Good God from whom they had been separated.

I have to hand it to them. The Gnostics were at least sharp enough that they didn’t worship the Demiurge.

3. Sexual desire per se is not spiritual, transcendent, eternal, or even ennobling. It is
not an ultimate good. Indeed, being connected with an inferior animal-like facet
of who I am, it has the potential to be demeaning.

Actually, according to the first chapter of Genesis.

You know.  In the Bible.

It’s part of the Image of God.

Not to bring up the sadist thing again- but given Mr. Crabtree’s Worldview why exactly did God/ the Demiurge trap People in bodies that reproduce sexually?

The last time I read anything about it, asexual reproduction is a pretty viable solution to the problem of biological death. God/the Demiurge either knew that humans would fall or created them broken to begin with. He also apparently has this very particular taste in human sex such that he needed to make all these rules and is upset if we don’t follow them.

So why not do some damage control and foreknowingly make the physical bodies ones that wouldn’t get on his nerves in case of Fall?

Did he want to pack in the most humiliation and brokenness possible in retaliation for humans not being good enough? Or what?

a) So long as the expression of my sexuality is kept within the bounds of its God-given purpose—it can be an expression of what is good, noble, right, and of God. But, if it is not kept within the bounds of its God-given purpose, then it will become evil, dirty, demeaning, and unclean.

So, the other day, I was walking along and saw a smashed set of earbud wires lying on the side of the road. I picked them up, cleaned them up, braided them into a single strand, and made them into a DYS, totally punk necklace.

Their original purpose, for which they were made was to transmit sound. The purpose I used them for was not that.

Some people don’t like Punk very much and that’s ok. But pretend you like Punk. Or that I had striped the plastic off and used them to wire a machine that makes shoes for orphans or something. You know what those wires were when I repurposed them?

They weren’t evil. They weren’t dirty. They weren’t demeaning. And they weren’t unclean.

Now, in real life (or in in the hypothetical version where I know how to wire machines), the purpose I put the earbud wires to was either innocuous or down right noble.

What if I had instead used them to strangle some one to death?

The wires would still not be evil. Or dirty. Or unclean.

You know what would be unclean if I decided to use the wires for murder?

Me. The person who had commited murder. And only me. The wires would be just what they were before.

Wires.

(1) While it is true that sexual desire and sexual behavior is not necessarily “dirty,” neither is it “transcendent,” beautiful, and a higher aspect of my being.

Either sexuality is morally neutral or it isn’t a possible element of both Good or Evil. Get your story straight.

(a) Sexual desire and behavior can readily become “dirty,” when they transgress their created purpose.

Sigh. There goes birth control.

And yet, the lecture is about how homosexuals are dirty. Pick on the minority, will you?

(2) While it is true that sexual desire and sexual behavior is not an inherently good and ennobling facet of who I am as a human being, yet it is nonetheless true that sexual desire and sexual behavior can become an expression of and a part of that which is good, righteous, beautiful and noble.

So, dispite the fact that sexuality is neither dirty nor trancendent in and of itself, it is for some reason not morally neutral either. When used for ‘the good purpose’ it is taken up into the Telos and becomes a moral good. When used for anything else, it is a perversion.

(a) Our physical sexuality is NOT inherently noble and good, but it can be taken up into that which is noble and good.

Is it just me, or is there a lot of repetition in this section?

(b) This is where the biblical worldview parts company with the Platonic worldview that has infused so much of Christianity.

Uuuh. I’m not going to try and figure out what he thinks the Platonic/Christian hybrid is with regards to sexuality- given that Christianity has by and large taken an extremely low view of sexuality since the time of Augutine (a Platonizer in other respects) whereas Plato described sexual attraction as a rung on the ladder that we climb to reach the Good. A very low rung, but a rung nonetheless.

The real difference from Platonism itself may be that Christians often think that there is an alternative to God (who nominally corresponds with the Platonic Good).

In the Platoninc universe, what Christians call evil can be created by stopping on any given rung of the ladder- loving the beauty of the body and not going on to love the soul as well results in lust- loving the beauty of one particular body/soul and not the beauty of all body/souls results in covetousness, loving people only and not the harmony of people desired by the laws of the polis results in political discord. Etc.

But in Plato’s universe, there only exists good which has not been taken far enough to be Good. There are only deficiancies of Good.

It seems to me that Mr. Crabtree believes in Evil as well as Good.

You can subjegate a thing to a Good Purpose. And then it is a step towards the Good. But there exists Evil Purpose as well. And the thing you subject to the Evil Purpose becomes a step towards Evil.

This, despite believing that God is Good and that everything in Creation is produced by him and is intimately under his control.

Somehow, Something, Somewhere, exists that is Against Him.

O Uncreated, speak thy name.

4. If I choose to act sexually in a manner that is inconsistent with what is morally good, then my sexuality has become beast-like.

AAAGH!!! SO MUCH REPITITION!!!! YES YOU ALREADY SAID THIS!!!

Note the dichotomy that’s been set up here. Physical desire (“urges”) are beastlike. What he says Aristotle say the Bible say God says, on the other hand, is morally good, despite being incredibly not well justified Biblically.

One’s sexuality is defined by the choice one makes.

One one hand, if his theory of sexuality is treated as a theory, he forces you to chose between verifiable reality, the nature of one’s own body and one’s own consistent physical responses- and how he believes things ought to work. Believes, I might add, in direct contradiction to the Bible, whilst claiming the Bible as his authority.

If you don’t chose his theory, you are beastlike.

On the other hand, if his theory were to be treated as the Moral Good that he says it is, one is forced to chose between material reality (the Animal body you have been trapped in by God/the Demiurge) and the immaterial reality of the Good.

You must reject material reality entirely if you want to be accepted by the Good.

a) It is not the God-created person inside of me that is determining what I do with my sexuality; rather, it is the animal-like body I have been given that is determining what I do with my sexuality.

AGH!!!! JACK HAS A PERSON INSIDE OF HIM!!!!!! AAAAAAAAGGGHHH!!!

In the previous point Mr.Crabtree said you could act inconsistently with his moral good if you  chose to do so. Here, he’s saying that if your actions are inconsistant with his moral good, it is not the Person who is determining your actions but the Animal.

Guess what? “You” are not the God-created person. “You” have a God-created Person contained within your borders-

but the God-created Person is not the part that choses.

If “you” are capable of choosing between being a Person and being an Animal, I have to ask-

What are “you”?

Isn’t the point of Existentialism that since you are a Person, you must chose?

Maybe I misunderstood existentalism.

But at any rate, the Gnostic soul/body Good/Evil split is being furthered. One must escape what is normally referred to as reality and superimpose on yourself the world of your mind. Ah. Well. Jack’s mind.

And, conveniently, Mr. Crabtree has found a way to claim that his opponents are literally Animals.

Thanks so much, teacher.

5. The physical (animalistic) nature of my sexuality is, in and of itself, morally undiscerning and does not discriminate between various sexual behaviors. (That is, there is not a class of sexual behaviors that is inappropriate to the animal in us.) Hence, physical sexual response can be influenced, trained, or channeled to respond to anything.

ARGH!!!!

I hate to bring this up. However.

The physical (animalistic) nature of my sexuality is, in and of itself, morally undiscerning and does not discriminate between various sexual behaviors.

I am suspicious that Mr. Crabtree doesn’t know anything about animals. Animals may not be morally discerning. But most species of animal are definitely discriminatory about sexual behavior- unless being raped by a human. Most animal species have sexual patterns, some of which are different than normative human patterns. But individual animals of the species stick to their species’ pattern.

The only species that breaks pattern, by, for instance, occasionally raping animals of a different species, is the human one.

What Mr. Crabtree is calling animalism is actually pretty unique to humans. If I were assuming a Christian worldview, my first impression would it was a direct result (via the Fall) to human moral nature.

Animals just don’t do shit like this.

(That is, there is not a class of sexual behaviors that is inappropriate to the animal in us.)

Appropriate? I think you would have to be either an anatomist or a biologist to say yes or no to that. I am neither.

Hence, physical sexual response can be influenced, trained, or channeled to respond to anything.

Uh. Wrong.

For the human race as a whole, I would refer you to the biologist. I have no clue. I do believe that the normative human sexual pattern is not fixed, as we have already been able to watch ourselves moving away from harems (characteristic of some species of apes and the patriarchs) towards monogamy.

However, as individuals go- there are some humans who will never find ponyplay appealing. No matter how much training is applied towards that end.

Some individuals will never be turned on by cars. Some individuals are asexual- and will never be turned on by another individual of any species.

Some people will never be turned on by people of the same gender.

And do you know what?

That is totally ok.

I believe it is necessary to respect other beings and not force on them behaviors that they don’t understand or do not consent to. But other than that, no two people are exactly alike. And while you can probably force someone to CLAIM that they respond to certain things, by, say, threatening to take them outside the city walls and throwing rocks at them until they’re dead- you can’t threaten, influence or channel a person into actually changing their preference.

a) Therefore, the things in which human beings become sexually interested should come as no surprise to us. Just because a human being finds something sexually interesting does not make it “natural” and, therefore, moral.

Because “nature” means “Mr. Crabtree’s interpretation of the Bible” instead of “the physical/material/biological structure of the universe”.

But, yes. I am ceasing to be surprised.

 

 

 

Thus ends Section IV, A through C. Next time? Section IV, D through J.

Because Section IV is the longest section on earth.

Thank you, whitechocolatelatte, for pointing out Gnosticism. That was incredibly ept.