Saturday, May 28, 2016

Does God Know Best?

(re-post from my other blog, the now-defunct Facile Nation, 8/24/2009)

There’s a fascinating and heartbreaking article in the current L.A. Weekly, written by Steve Friess; I’m writing in reaction to the article so I suggest you read it first and then come back here.

Friess hits the area of my focus right away:
In many ways, Penner’s path was standard-issue for those born male who have an inexplicable yet ultimately undeniable desire to be female. He would sneak into his mother’s closet in their Anaheim home to try on shoes and dabble with her makeup, then scrub it off shamefully before vowing never to do it again. Then, of course, he would do it again, a new helping of guilt raining down on his Catholic soul.
Why would Mike Penner feel guilty? And what does it have to do with his Catholicism?

Well, I can’t address all the alleged Catholic hang-ups about sex but almost anyone raised with a Bible-based religious core would struggle with a sense of “this is wrong” because, in fact, the Bible says it is wrong (Deuteronomy 22:5), that the person who cross-dresses is an abomination before the LORD. Note, however, that it’s not a stoning offense, as are adultery, male homosexuality, and bestiality (as I read it, the Hebrew scriptures don’t address female homosexuality, although Paul does in Romans 1:25-27), but it’s clearly an offense against God. Please note, I am writing from the perspective of one who is convinced that the Bible is indeed “God-breathed” and, while no translation is perfect, that God is capable of defending His word and the document evidence for the integrity of scripture is so strong I am convinced we can trust it, as God’s word. So arguments based on “the Bible is wrong” are simply not arguments I’m addressing; that’s someone else’s purview.

There’s a really interesting statement that Jesus makes in Matthew 19; He’s been explaining God’s design for human sexuality to some Pharisees who ask Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” (this very liberal approach to divorce was the current practice in ancient Judea). When Jesus tells them that the only legitimate reason for sundering a marriage is adultery, they are horrified: His disciples say to Him, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.” And He responds:
“Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.”
Right there we have evidence that Jesus (God in human flesh) knows that human sexuality doesn’t work perfectly. It this one of the multitude of results due to the fall of humanity? I suspect it is, coupled with an active enemy who preys on our more base nature and encourages us to exalt it. So I don’t see the argument that a person might be “born” with certain sex-related proclivities as bearing on what is the good and righteous exercise of our sexuality. Jesus gives us God’s perfect way and acknowledges that there are people who will not be able to accept it. He doesn’t damn them, He doesn’t advocate stoning them (that era had drawn to a close), He doesn’t even say, “If you don’t agree you have no part in Me.” He simply says, “This is how it is; accept it if you can.”

In this very sad story of Mike Penner we read of a man who is encouraged by sizable portions of society to embrace the temptation that caused him shame — and to reject the shame. I don’t know anything about the kind of psycho-therapy Mike Penner received before deciding to become Christine Daniels but I am quite confident that a significant portion of it would have denied shame and worked to make him feel “better” about his desire to cross-dress and encourage his fantasy of being a woman.

A “compassionate” world encouraged a man to make choices that separated him inexorably from his wife, who could not tolerate the essential change in identity which he embraced: she married a man, he repudiated being a man, she divorced the person who now identified as a woman.

I’m sure there are those who think that Penner’s wife is one of the villains in the piece, that if only she’d been willing to love Christine Daniels as she loved Mike Penner then everything would have been fine. There are certainly those who think society’s hang-ups (read: Bible-believers who persist in clinging to the values taught by the Bible) are the cause of Mike Penner’s misery.

The truth is there will always be differences of opinion and reaction; we cannot make society “perfect” — the longing for “utopia” is ultimately harmful because it interferes with the real work of improving the society in which we do live and minimizes the possibility of appreciating and enjoying reality.

So, in the real world, there will always be people who won’t support the fantasy: Mike Penner may have been happier ‘in his skin’ when he dressed and behaved like a woman* but he couldn’t get people in general to tell him he was attractive as a woman (this reminds me of the scene in Junior when an earnest Judy Collins tries to tell cross-dressing Arnold Schwarzenegger, the pregnant man, that he is beautiful); one of the realities that women experience on a daily basis is that we are not all equally beautiful, sexy, and attractive. A sex-change operation wasn’t going to make Christine into a beautiful woman; a certain amount of plastic surgery could have made her a more attractive woman but how acceptable is that, within the transgender community? Does the transgender community demand that society stop responding to beauty? Shades of early feminism demanding that men accept unshaved legs and stop preferring smooth ones, in high heels and nylons….

Ultimately Christine and Mike both were faced with the reality that life isn’t perfect and it isn’t “fair” and you can’t expect to get all the benefits and none of the liabilities. Chances are that, somewhere in there, somebody told Mike that if his wife really loved him, she would still love him as Christine, that the essential person hadn’t changed. While that might sound good and true in a greeting card kind of world, it’s just not reality. Mike’s wife wasn’t a lesbian and she wasn’t interested in having a wife; for her there was a huge loss, essentially a death: her husband was no more and, worse, he was choosing to be no more, to instead become female. Apparently Mike believed that, as he became Christine, that he could bring his wife around — but that was a fantasy, delusional.

Well-meaning souls who encouraged Mike/Christine in this delusion did him/her irreparable damage— good intentions simply do not change outcomes.

So what would the outcome be, if Mike had instead wrestled with God and the prohibition in Deuteronomy? Mike may well have continued to intermittently and secretly cross-dress and play with make-up and indulge the fantasy of being a woman in his head. And he would have felt ashamed and he would have resolved not to do it again. And he would be alive. He would not have had that heady year of transgender celebrity, the swirl, the attention, the fun. But the possibility of continuing to grapple with it, to reconcile himself to God, to try and figure out why he had to keep such a tight lid on “Mike”, to uncover and recognize the lies he had believed about himself, about what it is to be a man and what it is to be a woman, to recognize and mourn the reality that we live in a fallen world and some people are “born eunuchs” and what did Jesus mean by that, anyway? He would have had the possibility of continuing in a marriage with a woman he clearly loved.

Which is the better outcome? Is the repudiation of Biblical morality and shame really more compassionate?

Footnote: *this raises a really interesting question: why did Mike think that as a man he couldn’t be gregarious and friendly? What if Mike had worked on bringing the qualities of Christine into Mike rather than changing the body of Mike to conform with Christine?

Our Unsentimental God

(re-post from my other blog, the now-defunct Facile Nation, 12/30/2009)

For the Niños Christmas book, 2009

I heard Michael Shermer, founder of Skeptic Magazine, on the radio the other day. He was well-spoken and self-effacing and quite likable, but his thought processes revealed a series of devastating assumptions rooted in the human tendency to anthropomorphize things; in this case, God.

“How can God be jealous?” he asked and, because he conceptualized God as some kind of big human, he dismissed the possibility of God and can only conceive of God as an invention or projection of humanity. Jealousy is a bad thing, God says in scripture that He is jealous, therefore this whole God-idea falls apart — at least for Michael Shermer and other vocal atheists I’ve heard in the last few years.

But if we take a step backward and consider Exodus 20 where the word “jealous” first appears in scripture, we find another picture altogether: God is establishing the right boundary with His people Israel:
Then God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” (Exodus 20:1-6)
When God is jealous, He is outraged because that which is rightly His has been given to another. All of creation is rightly His and He may do with it as He pleases because it belongs to Him in the most profound way imaginable. The idolater makes an alliance with a rebel. How do we feel if we’ve gone to great lengths to make a sacrificial gift for someone and that someone proceeds to ignore us while gushing all over a third party, giving the third party all the thanks, credit, and appreciation for our effort.

Michael Shermer reveals his simplistic view of ‘jealousy’ — a little girl jealous because her friend is also friends with someone else, a man jealous because a coworker was promoted while he was not. But isn’t Shermer jealous of his wife? If his wife gives her body and her love to another man, isn’t Shermer appropriately jealous? So even within the context of human emotions, ‘jealousy’ can be right.

Going a step further, the Hebrew word used (qanna’) refers only to God; a different word is translated ‘jealous’ when it refers to human emotions.

I wish that Dr Shermer was a rarity in this kind of projection or that it was relegated to atheists and agnostics but I see an equally dangerous variant embraced by many Christians: anthropomorphizing God’s emotions in a sentimental way. I’ve seen some people read, “'As I live!' declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked,’” and completely ignore the rest of the verse: “'but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?'” (Ezekiel 33:11). They are tempted into universalism by God’s statement that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, as if that means God would prefer to tolerate wickedness rather than do justice if He cannot take pleasure in every aspect of it.

Think about the kind of deity we would have, if God were sentimental: Mary wouldn’t give birth to Jesus because what kind of God would put an innocent young woman through the trauma of giving birth as a virgin, alone with a husband in a crude barn, no midwife, no mother, aunt, or family present to assist or comfort? Rumors swirling around, her virtue impugned, “a sword will pierce your heart” — no, a sentimental God would never put a favored daughter through all that.

Sentimental Father-God would never ask God-the-Son to take on human flesh and pain and sin on the cross (and think how it would traumatize the disciples! No, that will never do). Sentimental Jesus, if such a Being could exist, would not say, “Get behind me, Satan!” to Peter when he stopped listening to the Holy Spirit and started listening to the enemy – no, that might bruise his self-esteem and how can Peter go on to be pope if his self-esteem is damaged?

Maybe the best argument against sentimental God is the existence of free will: sentimental God wouldn’t allow Adam & Eve to fall, taking the species and creation with them. Sentimental God would have been amenable to Lucifer sharing His glory – He’s got enough to spare, right? No skin off God’s nose…

As much as I struggle to grasp our Very Big God, I am so grateful that He isn’t sentimental, that He is jealous and holy, just and righteous and merciful. Jesus, fully God and fully man, laying down His life on the cross for the sake of all those willing to enter into relationship with Him — what a marvel! What a miracle.

Glory to God in the highest and, on earth, peace among men and women and children with whom He is pleased.


(re-post from my other blog, the now-defunct Facile Nation, 10/9/2009)

I heard some small nattering about this several months back but recently a couple of bloggers I enjoy have addressed it (The Anchoress for one and Ed Morrissey at Hot Air) so something is clearly in the air…

And what is that smell? The smell of stupid. Or maybe presumption. A special new Bible for conservatives– sheesh!

Now I understand the impulse. There are times when I hear some agenda-driven bizarre fruit loop translation and I cringe and think, “God help ‘em, they don’t know what they’re doing. And please protect naive people from being taken in.” But I’m sorry, one doesn’t counter error by compounding the error. God is big, we are small, none of us grasp Him fully.

Others have referenced Jesus rebuking Peter (“Get thee behind me, Satan!” Matthew 16:21-26, particularly interesting as it immediately follows Peter’s great confession, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God,” when Jesus affirms that Peter has heard directly from the Holy Spirit) as an example of well-meaning humanity attempting to impose a human agenda upon God. But Joshua 5 springs to mind for me. Let me set the scene:

Moses (along with all the rebellious & unbelieving generation he so faithfully lead) has died in the wilderness and Joshua has just crossed over the river Jordan with this new generation, raised in the wilderness and accustomed to living by faith. Joshua is walking near Jericho on the eve of that famous event and he runs into an impressive man with a drawn sword and Joshua asks, “are you for us or for our enemies?”

I think this is a Christophany (because, if this isn’t God in human form, there’s a real problem with verse 5:15) and when you consider that God Himself selected Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to be the patriarchs of His (chosen, set apart, holy, peculiar) people Israel, that God Himself pushed Moses into returning to Egypt, confronting Pharaoh, leading the former-family-now-nation into the wilderness and gave him the Torah – well, can there be any doubt? Of course God is on the side of Israel!

But wait– what does this mighty warrior say in response to the question, “are you for us or for our enemies?”

The answer is, “Neither. But as captain (ruler, chief, general) of the host of the LORD I have come—”

In other words, “it’s not MY place to be on your side but your place to be on MY side.”

And Joshua falls on his face (because he recognizes Power and Authority when it stares him in the face) and asks, “what does my Lord wish to say to Your servant?” — as complete a reversal as you’re ever likely to see.

I’m pretty aware of this and I still find I have to regularly stop and repent for presuming that Jesus will line up with me and then ask for help from Him, that I might drop my agenda and line up with His word and will. So the idea of going through the Bible, which I believe is God-breathed, and cherry picking concepts to spin one way or another literally terrifies me. It strikes me as presumptuous, dangerous, and very very dumb.

Sometimes You Can’t Believe Your Eyes

(re-post from my other blog, the now-defunct Facile Nation, 9/30/2009)

A liberal friend of mine posted a video on her Facebook page that gathered a lot of outraged comments: it was this video of President Obama’s proffered hand being refused while every person shook President Medvedev’s hand as he followed behind. A tremendous sense of outrage was expressed over the rude and racist reaction of these Russians. Out of a couple of dozen comments, one person said, “that’s not what’s happening, take a closer look, Obama is introducing these people to Medvedev.”

Hmmm. I was bothered by the video because it’s looks terrible and the expression on President Obama’s face isn’t happy but somewhat resigned – but I was also intrigued by the one comment expressing another point of view. So I went seeking source material and found the original video (linked above) on YouTube rather than the Facebook page where I first saw it. And then I started looking for larger, longer versions of this meeting between world leaders. And I discovered a video referencing “the snub that wasn’t” but I was put off by the goofy soundtrack so I dug a little further and found the video without added music. Those folks who refused to shake the President’s hand? They weren’t Russians and they really hadn’t refused to shake hands: take a look. You can see that first President Medvedev introduces the American President and the Russians shake President Obama’s hand and *not* Medvedev’s. Then President Obama introduces his people to the Russian leader and they shake Medvedev’s hand.

The confusion arises from President Obama using his right hand to indicate an individual, extending it partly across his body, rather than his left hand, and the angle of the camera foreshortens the distance between President Obama and the person(s) he introduces.

So I posted a response which linked the second video and asked if the person who said, “that’s not what’s happening” might be right. A bunch more people comment about how awful & racist those (Russians) are and I figured that most of them didn’t read the comments which preceded their own. Another woman posts a link to Snopes which explains the confusion in detail and presents both videos as well (I felt vindicated; the materials I found were the same ones that Snopes referenced). But even after the clarification, some people refused to believe that their President was NOT suffering a racially-based snub at the hands of the Russians.

Happily my friend put up the link to Snopes and said, “I’ve been had!” and apologized for not doing her own research to confirm what was going on; she also took down the original video and the long comment thread (which I wish she’d left up; it was instructive). But I don’t think she did anything wrong in the first place: she saw a video and took it at face value – then, when she had more information, she posted a correction – what more could one possibly ask? Not everyone has the time or inclination to go sleuthing before posting; what’s important is the willingness to let go of the error and embrace reality.

But don’t you just love those guards who open the doors at the beginning of the second video?!

note: original you-tube links are no longer working but here is a similar video of news coverage from Canada.

Friday, May 27, 2016

We Got More Numbers Than You, Neener, neener!

(re-post from my other blog, the now-defunct Facile Nation, 9/19/2009)

There’s a political jockeying over numbers of participants at rallies & events – who knew?! *I* didn’t know (stop laughing at me; it’s not nice) (actually, go right a head and laugh, I’m laughing myself) until a friend posted a link on Facebook and I responded with a link and she countered with better data. So in poked around and found out it really was better data and that lead me to learning a whole bunch of interesting stuff about demonstrations and rallies and events held in Washington D.C.

First, the National Park Service used to provide official crowd estimates but no longer, not since Louis Farrakhan threatened to sue them over their estimate of 400,000 attendees at his Million Man March. This lead Farrakhan to approach Dr. Farouk El-Baz of Boston University* to provide a more favorable estimate: 837,000 +/- 20% (20% seems like a large margin of error but maybe that’s standard; remains to be seen). Check out Boston University’s account.

Second, there were lots of excited estimates of how many people would attend the inauguration of President Obama during the last few months of 2008. These ranged from 2 million to 5 million persons. The early estimate of the size of the crowd on January 20, 2009, was 1.8 million which was later halved (no longer online).

Third, Jane’s (the intel source) does IHS satellite analysis of such crowds and they estimated the PBHO inauguration crowd as 1.031 million and 1.411 million people present (not including the 240,000 ticket holders presumed present – why they aren’t included in the visual count, I don’t know). There’s an interesting article from a St. Louis newspaper (no longer online) which cites the L.A. Times article linked above (no longer online) as well as other sources.

Fourth, people use these estimates to support their position or discredit the opposing position. That’s the part that hadn’t occurred to me. Actually, the fact that estimates have such massive fluctuations hadn’t occurred to me, either. It would be instructive to notice when various media outlets consistently use low-ball estimates for one group and higher estimates for another.

That’s actually the part that’s most weird to me: I can’t understand wanting bad data or being comforted by bad data. I have no problem that we have different views and opinions — that goes with being human and it’s always helpful to me to hear a different POV — it makes me consider my position: is this a position I hold out of habit? Have the facts on the ground changed? Is my philosophical underpinning sound?

So I don’t understand why anyone would keep bad data (e.g. the “Dan Barna of NPS” quotes re: 9/12 protest march which actually referred to the PBHO inauguration) up on their website without updating it or correcting it as soon as reasonably possible. To me, that impacts the credibility of the source because either they don’t care about the real facts, wherever the bad data originated, or they’re not responding to challenges or they’re not sufficiently connected with what’s “out there” (in which case, what kind of source are they?!). I dig around a little but almost everything I find is on the first or second page of my searches; I’ll refine my searches when I discover that I’ve aimed badly (!!) but I’m not searching by ideology. Here’s a blog which reports a lot of varying data, appropriately linked, and I appreciate that (check out the Gormogons link; it’s very entertaining, especially after the UPDATE).

Sometimes it’s really hard to tell what’s going on in real time and I think it’s inappropriate to accuse folks of lying when in fact they may simply be passing along reportage “in the moment” which later changes. Websites change, stories get updated, numbers are adjusted one way or the other. MSNBC made a pretty good on-site report and their local folks estimated hundreds of thousands.

Perhaps the whole “mine’s bigger than yours” contest should be seen as essentially adolescent in nature – and yet in a democratic society, numbers do matter. If you can marginalize the “other side” by dismissing their events as fringe, well…

And I presume goodwill on the part of others, at least until I discover someone is playing fast & loose or holds a very different view regarding the importance of accuracy in data. So – thanks for being my friend! And thanks for not laughing too loud.

You can stop sniggering now…

*Throughout his career, Dr. El-Baz has succeeded in conveying the excitement of scientific research and the importance of using advanced technology. One of his efforts resolved the 1995 controversy about the crowd size in Washington DC’s “Million Man March”. He estimated the number of participants in the march using the same computer techniques applied to counting sand dunes in the desert. From Boston University’s webpage on Dr. El-Baz Farouk.

Memorial Day

(re-post from my other blog, the now-defunct Facile Nation, 5/25/2009)

I published the poem below at BigBlondeBlog more than a year ago but it’s appropriate to remember my father and honor him as a veteran of World War II – he was the radio operator on a B-24; they were the lead crew, flying bombing missions over Germany. Happily he survived the war, unlike so many of his generation.

He didn’t talk about his war experience much when we were kids. I suppose children aren’t a good audience for war reminiscences: they lack subtlety and don’t understand ambivalence. But in the last decade or so of his life he started to open up more. I remember watching The Tuskegee Airmen with him and he told me about his good ol’ southern boy pilot and their bomb run over Berlin, how the Tuskegee Airmen were their air support, going up against the first jets, and his pilot just shut up because –racist or not– he could appreciate that the Tuskegee Airmen never lost a bomber!

After VE Day they did a number of photographic missions; their regular pilot wasn’t available so a fighter pilot was assigned – and what a wild ride that was! An unladen B-24 has an awful lot of power and this pilot flew like he was still in a dogfight. When they landed back in England there were branches stuck in the bomb bay doors…

A Poem for My Father–

Shortly before Thanksgiving in 2007, while working with my organizer lady, I had a profound emotional experience; the next day I read in Diana Glyer’s The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community about Owen Barfield writing a poem for C.S. Lewis on the first anniversary of his death and it struck me that I should write about what happened the day before. Here is the result:

in sorting, shifting house
I came upon my dead father’s watch, a wristwatch
with large face and metal band
that marked it as of a certain time
in marking time

In my throat there caught and formed a swelling egg of grief, of loss

Brushing lightly across the well of tears
I staved them off
suppressed them as inconvenient
for I was working and not alone

Please, I pray, do not let this be a final dismissal
of his import or my gratitude

He was as large as life: expansive and wise
fixed and blindered
quick to laugh and quick to glare
too smart by half and always giving credit where perhaps little credit was due

I am his true child

I will miss him until Heaven.

November 15, 2007 © Lynn Maudlin, all rights reserved

To Bail and Succeed

(re-post from my other blog, the now-defunct Facile Nation, 12/11/2008)

I understand the dilemma for people who normally would say to GM and Chrysler (and kudos to Ford for not actually being in this equation), “sink or swim – if you’re not competitive, you’ve no one to blame but yourselves and your contracts and your choices.” But in late 2008, considering the global economic crisis, many of those market-driven folks think that America just can’t take the additional hit that these two companies would deliver, in total collapse.

But I respectfully point out that a bailout is only a bailout if it succeeds in turning these companies around. Without teeth to renegotiate the elaborate UAW contracts, all this money can do is delay the inevitable – or, worse, become the initial trickle in a massive ongoing stream of tax-payer funding to enable GM, Chrysler, and the UAW to continue “business as usual.”

Face it, the legitimate sense of outrage from the American people regarding the AIG bailout is that they did, indeed, carry on with business as usual. Junkets, salaries, bonuses – no. A company receiving a tax-payer bailout must immediately begin to operate in a different reality. Radical reduction in salaries, particularly at the top, from which the failure stems. Bonuses come back into the bail-out fund to help other companies, as needed.

Taking federal assistance needs to be painful to a company; they need to be motivated to look for every other possible alternative to dependence upon the American taxpayers because dependence on us is going to so radically change the way they do business.

Otherwise how do we succeed? How does anything turn around if we subsidize failure?

Rights and Sacraments

(re-post from my other blog, the now-defunct Facile Nation, 11/7/2008)

I’ve been rather amazed to watch the post-election hysteria of the pro same-sex marriage crowd, holding rallies (a little late, guys) and demonstrations against the hapless Mormon church in West Hollywood.

Their view, as presented, is that a basic human right has been taken from them.

I don’t think so. Marriage between any two humans has never been a ‘right’ anywhere. They claim that two humans who love each other should be allowed to marry, forgetting entirely that marriage based upon mutual love is quite a recent phenomenon. Even in Ancient Greece where homosexuality was about as normative as it’s ever been anywhere, marriage was something that took place between a man and a woman for the purpose of raising up the next generation, for the stability of the nation itself.

But even without focusing on the historical facts, marriage is not a ‘right’ — it is a sacrament. When Caligula ‘married’ his horse, that wasn’t a marriage, it was mockery of a sacrament.

The line gets blurred for modern humanity because 1) by and large we have so little understanding of the sacramental and 2) traditionally society has accorded certain rights and privileges to the married state (these same rights and privileges are available, at least here in California and many other states, to domestic partners). The encouragement for people to take part in the sacrament of marriage benefits the state and brings stability to the nation. In a time when women at least were mostly celibate outside marriage, a man might be motivated to marry in order to have access to his own woman, to a woman he believed would be a suitable mother to his heirs.

A right is something we have inherently: we have the right to breathe, we have to right to sleep. In America we believe in the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (the pursuit of happiness and not happiness itself—). We have these rights: freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to keep and bear arms, freedom to vote, etc. None of these are absolute rights: we cannot yell “Fire!” in a crowded auditorium; we may need to obtain a permit in order to stage a demonstration; we now require the person buying a gun to be licensed and we limit the kinds of arms a person can bear; one must be an adult citizen (and generally not a felon) in order to vote.

Marriage is not in the bill of rights. Neither is driving. The state says that you must be of a certain age and prove a certain ability, which may include the taking of courses, in order to hold a driver’s license. Throughout all of human history the state (kingdom, etc.) has said that marriage is between a man and a woman and that they must be willing participants or their parents give consent in the case of early betrothals. With extremely rare exceptions, a man cannot capture a woman and impose marriage upon her; if he captures a woman and imposes himself upon her sexually it is rape and if he keeps her it is a form of slavery.

All of these are ways of looking at marriage and seeing how it is different from a right – but why do I say that it is a sacrament? As a Christian that’s easy: Genesis 2:24, echoed by Jesus Christ when challenged on the matter of divorce in Matthew 19:4
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
Marriage is the first sacrament (well, one could argue that keeping the Sabbath is the first sacrament because God did it in Genesis 2:2) and its terms are established by our Creator: one male and female, each old enough to live without parents.

Throughout scripture God uses the example of marriage to illustrate aspects of His relationship with Israel and the relationship of Christ with the Church — marriage is unique among human institutions because of its use as an exemplar or type. He also uses father as a type to describe His relationship with His people (not all people but His people) — and we don’t try to redefine ‘father’ as ‘parent who disciplines’ or ‘legally responsible parent.’ No, ‘father’ isn’t even simply the sperm donor; ‘father’ is so much more than all that.

In fact, it is because of its quality as a sacrament that the gay and lesbian community fight to have marriage rather than civil unions: marriage entails a particular kind of blessing which is, by nature, sacramental.

But when a man ‘marries’ a man or a woman ‘marries’ a woman, it is like Caligula and his horse – it is a mockery of the sacrament and not the sacrament itself. We are created in the image of God; male and female together reflect the image of God; in order to reflect God both male and female are required. Two people of the same sex can have a legal partnership, a civil union, a committed and loving relationship; in some places they can even get a marriage license and ‘marry’ — but that doesn’t make it a marriage in reality. I can tie my shoe to my head and call it a hat but it’s still a shoe.

In California in particular we have a problem because the people of the state voted years ago to legally define marriage as “between one man and one woman” and then four California State Supreme Court judges decided that the people collectively have their heads up their asses, threw it out as unconstitutional and refused to hold off on granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples until after the November election. So this current legal brouhaha is entirely the fault of those four judges and the people who pushed the same-sex marriage agenda.

I am not without compassion; I understand the desire to be approved, to be accepted, to be “the same as” – but when I used to hang out with a group of lesbian musicians, I was not the same. They would joke with me and laugh with me and sometimes exert a little pressure on me – but it didn’t make me a lesbian. I finally stopped going out with them socially when they were amused by lesbian sexual harassment against me instead of outraged and protective. They proved they were not ‘safe’ people and their values were inherently different from mine when it came to dealing with unwanted sexual attention; there was a double standard.

I understand that the shoe pinches if you read the Bible and it says that ‘man lying with man as man lies with woman’ is a stoning offense (Leviticus 20:13) or it describes lesbian activity as a degrading passion (Romans 1:24); I understand because the shoe pinched me when I was living with my boyfriend, 30-some years ago. And the choice I had was to either agree with God and continue trying to follow Him, or to do what I damn well pleased. I knew I couldn’t do what I damn well pleased and pretend I was following God, once I knew it wasn’t okay for me to indulge in sexual activity outside of the sacrament of marriage. And my boyfriend didn’t want to marry me (—the fool!).

I did not, however, stage a political movement against the Church and the plain reading and historic understanding of the scripture passages which convicted me of ungodly behavior. My choice was continue my ungodly behavior because it was what I wanted to do (and it was very much what I wanted to do) or give up the ungodly behavior (repent) and attempt to live a godly life because that was more important than the desires of my flesh.

But the GLBT movement, without by and large embracing Judaism or Christianity, demands that Judaism and Christianity change to accommodate the desires of their flesh. This is not something the faithful can do, no matter how much they love GLBT family members and friends – because the choice is between God and man and those who desire to live righteous know that God must win primacy in our hearts.

What I don’t understand is this: why do you care what a bunch of Jews or Christians think? If you believe your behavior is acceptable to God, why do you care whether I agree or not?

Now I’ve heard the argument that the scriptural bias encourages hate crimes against the GLBT community. That makes no sense because those very crimes are forbidden by scripture itself. You cannot blame bad behavior on scripture when scripture condemns that behavior, too.

Anyone who thinks that GLBT individuals should be stoned (killed, abused, harassed) hasn’t read and understood the context of the scripture: that was the Law as given to ancient Israel, for ancient Israel. Israel was not supposed to impose their God-given Law upon the other nations but aliens living within Israel were held to the Law. Even in first century Judea that law wasn’t being enforced because the Jewish people had lost the power of capital punishment (this is why the Romans crucified Jesus, instead of the Sanhedrin stoning Jesus). The Law is valuable to us today because it shows us something of God’s heart, God’s direction for His people. The vast majority of the Law is detailed “live like this” instruction; a very small portion of the Law details stoning offenses — we should pay attention to stoning offenses because God apparently viewed them as destructive to the nation in a particular way, a contagious way.

We can argue with the Law, we can come up with all sorts of reasons God was wrong and we are right but we can’t legitimately equate mixing two different fibers with homosexual behavior because God didn’t equate them in the Law.

The relevant instruction, in this day and age, are the two great laws: 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind' and 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' The GLBT community asks people of faith to love their neighbor (the GLBT community) more than the faithful love God; that we cannot do, we dare not.

The other relevant direction comes from Jeremiah 29, God’s direction to His people when they are living in exile: ‘Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’

We do not live in Ancient Israel under the Torah nor do we yet live in the Millennial Kingdom under Messiah: we are living in exile. People of faith are called to embrace their faith and live their faith and put God first at the same time that we live in an ungodly world, secular communities, a nation which demands separation between church and state. But when the state steps in and tries to redefine a God-defined sacrament, we must stand up and hold fast. Happily we live in a nation which still accords us that freedom; it may not always and then it becomes more challenging.

In the meantime we cannot disagree with God in order to agree with the GLBT community; we must resist the temptation to fall into sentimentality or to bless that which God does not bless. We are told, "Don't judge!" but making a judgment includes approval, not only disapproval — in order not to judge, we must avoid approving of these changes, too. And the GLBT community may become very angry at us because of it. That makes me sad; I still have lots of friends who define as GLBT and I don’t like it when my friends are angry with me. But I would rather endure the wrath of my friends than the wrath of God.

Mythcon 39 in New Britain, Connecticut

(re-post from my other blog, the now-defunct Facile Nation, 7/9/2008)

August 15-18, a very affordable Mythcon, as such things go. I’ve just started prodding local press, hoping to get some awareness - a challenge, because the committee is primarily located in NYC (and Boston–), so our site liaison is local and none other.

Still, a really quick and gratifying response from Richard Kamins in his Hartford Courant arts & entertainment blog. The man obviously ‘gets it’ when it comes to the MythSoc and puns!

On the more grim side of things, this first week in July has been dreadful for the SF community - a devastating traffic accident on the way to Westercon in Las Vegas killed Roberta Carlson, the driver, and injured the other passengers and, on the other side of the country, the very talented Thomas M. Disch committed suicide. The New York Times article gives an overview. Following Mike Glyer’s coverage in his File 770 blog and the blossoming links is pretty powerful. Disch’s own Is Thomas Disch the Right God for You? LiveJournal entry on June 24th is sad and ironic and the world is so full of pain.

Personally, a good friend’s father also died. Grab someone you love and give ‘em a hug - we’ve got to appreciate each other while we can.

Cannot Go Home Anymore

(re-post from my other blog, the now-defunct Facile Nation, 6/12/2008)

Cannot Go Home Anymore
Feeling awkward and clumsy
and fallen from grace
the doors and the windows are closed in my face
I feel displaced
all the locks have been changed
and we cannot go home anymore

The woman is awkward
the child is wise
so look at this placed through those innocent eyes
they don’t see the lies
that live in the woodwork
and we cannot go home anymore

I wish that I could do without it
sing and laugh and shout about it
wish I could see through the walls
and the curtain calls
that put on this show
but no–
The lighting is different
you can see that at a glance
and, standing divided, we’re trying to dance
they’ve sealed the past
revealed at last
that we cannot go home anymore

written by Lynn Maudlin; © Moonbird Music Co. 1974, all rights reserved
When I was 22 my parents moved from Los Angeles to San Diego, selling the house I grew up in. I have faint, fleeting memories, only flashes really, of the house we lived in the first scant two years of my life so, for practical purposes, I’d lived my whole childhood in this house. I literally got married in this house, at the tender green age of 17 to my high school boyfriend; a friend of the family played the love theme from Romeo and Juliet on the baby grand piano in the living room; later we all sat down to a dinner of cornish game hens.

It was a terrific house: five bedrooms, seven bathrooms (well, five full baths and two half baths) on a corner lot in Los Feliz. Summer evening traffic was a pain because we were on the Greek Theatre route but we knew how to drive to avoid the worst of it. It was lovely to be able to walk up the hill to attend most of the Crosby, Stills & Nash concerts (Neil Young was added between the booking and the gigs), either by an employee-friend letting us in, or patrons leaving after hearing Joni Mitchell (yes, she opened for the boys), or in the trees if need be…

It had a large lot with plenty of room for a swimming pool but my parents weren’t interested. In fact, there had been a pool in the house when first built, a therapeutic pool for a wheel-chair bound owner, in the middle of the patio. We called it “the patio” in accordance with the American Heritage Dictionary’s definition:
The Spanish word patio refers to the roofless inner courtyard that forms the center of the house in many parts of the Spanish-speaking world. In English, however, the word has come to have a broader meaning and can also refer to paved spaces that adjoin a house. Patio first appears in English in the 1700s in descriptions of houses in the Spanish-speaking world.
My parents remodeled the kitchen and dining room, adding a sliding glass door from kitchen to patio as well as a wet counter with a pass-through window, making it very easy to have outdoor buffets; after that we often ate outdoors at a small table round table, even breakfast throughout much of the year.

It was a great space for parties. I remember my dad inviting many people from his work at the Naval Ordinance Test Station to watch Neil Armstrong step onto the moon on July 20th of 1969. My dad and older brother managed to lug the massive color television set up onto the roof, facing the patio, and we set up chairs and folding chairs and maybe even borrowed chairs so we could all watch that incredible event. I was already pregnant, although no one knew and I wouldn’t be sure for another few weeks.

After Pete and I got married we moved into the “rumpus room” - it was a massive room with a separate entrance and bath (–of course!); the single-story house was situated on a gentle slope so this room was on the downside at the back of the house, about two feet below ground level at its entrance and probably 6 feet below ground level at the deepest point. This made it a naturally cool room, very pleasant in the summer. My folks had a 21-foot travel trailer parked behind the house, about 15 feet from the rumpus room door and we used its little kitchen. We lived there for eight or nine months while we both graduated from high school (I skipped ahead to graduate in February, seven months pregnant, and Pete graduated, president of the senior class, in June. I brought our son to the graduation ceremony; we were a big hit). I remember timing my labor in that room, finally waking Pete at midnight on a school night (!!) to say, “I think you’d better drive me to the hospital now.” Seven hours later our son was born.

My grandparents had moved out from Iowa about 6 years earlier and bought a house a mile or so away, a “triplex” - a three bedroom house on the bottom and two one bedroom apartments upstairs; when one of their tenants moved out, we were offered the vacant apartment at no increase of rent, I don’t remember if it was $75 or $80 per month. We took it gratefully and that’s where we were living when the big Sylmar Earthquake hit in February of 1971.

I remember the sound of the timber tearing, a soft roaring sound, and of course the insistent rattling of the windows. Every aftershock brought that window-rattling and for days my adrenaline would punch skyhigh; this was my first fear-of-death experience, the first time I really believed I might die - and I had absolutely no control over it.

I couldn’t stand being in the apartment so we bundled into the car and drove up to my folks’ house, my old home. It just felt more solid (well, it was more solid) and I was there when a Navy operator managed to get through the jammed phone lines, checking on our well-being for Dad, who was on one of his frequent business trips back to D.C.

Some eighteen months later, I moved back into that house with my son and lived there for a school year (August or September to June of 1973). My folks did an admirable job of letting me have some autonomy without entirely compromising their boundaries and standards; looking back at it I’m very impressed, although I didn’t have the maturity to appreciate it at the time. I made a close friend at L.A.C.C. and we rented a bizarre little apartment together: it was the upstairs of four garages with a stairway up the middle, two large rooms on either side in the front, a small bedroom, a bathroom with no door and the kitchen on the backside. Beth took the northern front room and I took the southern front room and my son took the little bedroom; I painted a concentric rainbow on his ceiling and stippled the color gradations - it was really beautiful.

We had a wild and woolly time for a bit more than a year, as I recall, and then that same upstairs apartment in my grandparents house became available again; I moved back.

My parents owned a lot with two houses on it, maybe a mile and a quarter from their home; the long-term tenants moved out of the front house concurrent with some friends looking for a rental property so Beth’s older brother and his wife and my son and I moved into this three bedroom house and I was living there when my folks decided to move to San Diego.

It wasn’t entirely their choice; the Navy Lab in Pasadena was closing and relocating to Point Loma and it wasn’t thinkable for my dad not to go; after all, he had all those computers to move and a couple of hundred people working for him at this point. The housing market had boomed in San Diego and was soft in L.A. - it took them more than a year to sell the Los Feliz home; I remember my dad getting nervous about the possibility of not selling it within the window for the rollover capital gains exclusion (that would have been disastrous).

During this time I did some of the care of the property. My former roommate Beth’s other older brother moved into the small front bedroom of my old home and kept the lawn mowed and the house occupied while real estate agents brought clients in and out and tried to sell the place.

Somewhere early in that window I wrote this song, Cannot Go Home Anymore, with apologies to Thomas Wolfe whose novel You Cannot Go Home Again was published posthumously in 1940. Writing the song was the way I processed the loss of this massive, solid, amazing house that I’d lived in for nearly 18 years of my life and around whose gravitational pull I’d orbited in every successive and intervening move. There were nine moves in less than eight years, all but one in the same zip code.

Real Love in C.S. Lewis

(re-post from my other blog, the now-defunct Facile Nation, 5/27/2008)

or Pullman be damned!

My friend Diana wrote a fabulous blog entry called Lewis the Lover at C.S. Lewis: Original works on and about C.S. Lewis, a blog sponsored by HarperOne.

I am in fact joking about Philip Pullman; I genuinely hope he isn’t damned. I just find his angry vehemence against C.S. Lewis and Narnia to be weird and poisonous; anyone who proclaims himself the anti-CSL isn’t going to have much appeal for me personally.

God's Dilemma

(re-post from my other blog, the now-defunct Facile Nation, 5/15/2008)
Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel, saying, “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.” 1 Samuel 15:10-11
How can God regret doing something?

This isn’t the first time we see God express regret; the first time is Genesis 6:6-7 which says The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” This is problematic, if one believes God (as I do) when He says, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’.” Isaiah 46:9-10

If God knows the end from the beginning, being Creator God outside the constraints of the time domain, why would He do anything He would regret? Would He not foresee His regret? Perhaps God doesn’t foresee His own emotional responses or, more likely, His emotional reactions are not the basis on which He makes decisions (what a thought— would that we all had that capacity).

Maybe ‘regret’ (nacham) doesn’t fully encompass His thinking, His emotions – or at least doesn’t for us. Certainly Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us that God’s thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways; perhaps this post is simply folly because I’m pondering things that I cannot know. At the same time, God invites us to know Him better, to enter in, to strive to come into agreement with Him.

But I think it may be related to the fact that God values freewill; He lets us make our choices even when they hurt us. He tells us what is good, what is the way of life and blessing versus the way of death and cursing, and He exhorts us to “choose life that you might live” but He doesn’t impose that choice upon us.

So, despite the fact that God sees the end from the beginning, God lets us go through the experience. He doesn’t sit at the beginning and judge humanity, choosing some and damning some based upon His foreknowledge. If He did, we would of course cry out, “That’s not fair! I haven’t done anything!” We go through the painful and joyful reality of life and freedom to make stupid and glorious choices.

This is always a poignant and delicate area for me: I married at 25 under the firm conviction that God told me to marry this man. This man wasn’t my ‘type’, this man didn’t make my heart catch in my throat or my stomach drop out from under me (those indicators I sought in the past, looking for chemistry) – but this man was a professing Christian, a virtuous man, a man who ardently pursued me (warts and all, divorced with child and all), an intelligent man, a funny man, an excellent musician with whom I enjoyed playing and performing and attending concerts. This man asked God to give me to him for a wife – and God granted that request.

Now this man might look at it and think, “why did I ever ask such a thing?” – if this man does any self-examination at all, which I suspect is not the case. But that would be his blog, not mine. I look at it and ask, “God, why did you tell me (invite me, anyway) to marry this man knowing that he would blindside me 17 years later, that he would blow up the marriage in as destructive a way as he could manage?”

And maybe, just maybe, it relates to this Saul thing– that God, rejected by Israel from being King over them, gave them Saul because they wanted a king (and Saul appeared to be kingly; he was an imposing figure) – so Samuel anoints Saul and prophesies to him and concludes with, “Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you mightily, and you shall prophesy with them and be changed into another man.” 1 Samuel 10:6

Saul was given the opportunity to be a godly king over Israel; God put His Spirit upon him and changed him into another kind of man, but Saul continually made choices inconsistent with God’s clear direction (via Samuel) and will (evident in the Torah) – so at a certain point God removed His Spirit from Saul (Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD terrorized him. 1 Samuel 16:14 — a truly terrifying thought) and He removed His blessing from Saul as the anointed king of Israel.

A year or so into the long, grievous divorce process God showed me that our marriage had the opportunity to be a good thing, He had a vision for our marriage – but we weren’t faithful to that vision and finally He redeemed out of the marriage that which was willing to be redeemed. Thus far that’s me. I hope one day it will include my ex – but it hasn’t yet; God has shown me specific things that will mark that redemption. Not things I’m looking forward to, btw, except in the sense that they’re signs of that redemption.

Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death; for Samuel grieved over Saul. And the LORD regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel. (1 Samuel 15:35 to end of the chapter).

Tags: Bible questions, divorce, freewill, marriage, pondering