Monday, February 9, 2009, 9:18 PM
The most common way to frame the discussion of abortion is in terms of "pro-choice" versus "pro-life," obviously implying that one cannot value both a woman's autonomy and "life," whatever that means.
I've never liked this way of framing things. Most pro-choice people are also pro-life, but not all pro-life people are pro-choice. The conflict here is over choice. The question here is not "is life good" but "is it good for a woman to choose for herself whether to have an abortion." So the argument is more properly framed as "pro-choice" versus "anti-choice."
But not on BeliefNet, evidently.
After my first post in the abortion discussion forum, I received a
warning. My tone was fine, and all I did was point out that--contrary
to the OP's rant--there was indeed an anti-choice ticket (since using
laws set down by Alaska's legislature doesn't actually say anything
about the head of its executive) in addition to the pro-choice ticket.
This violates the rules, the post was deleted by justme333, and I was warned. I sent an email to the mod, and here is the text of it:
I noticed that I was just warned and had a post removed because I did not frame the abortion debate using the terms you prefer.
"Finally, the only terms allowed in the description of positions for this board are Pro-Life and Pro-Choice."
Do you understand why there are many people who object to framing this issue in terms of one side which is in favor of "life" and one which is not? There is a very good reason why I do not describe the anti-choice position as "pro-life," most notably that it is not my life they are protecting.
I find it hard to believe you would not be aware of this issue of terms and why it is important, so I suppose the real question is why you object to this terminology so strongly that you will not even let anybody post using it. It is not offensive, it is not inaccurate. It is, in fact, a well-established and well-accepted way of framing the issue, which scholars in these matters use for a very good reason.
Except, evidently, on your board. Why?
I don't anticipate getting a satisfactory answer. The only reason anybody objects to the terms I'm using is that they resent the loss of a moral high ground they never earned, that of being the side that values "life."
But who knows. Perhaps I'll be surprised. Doubt it though.
Sunday, February 8, 2009, 1:19 PM
She's going to change the world...
She's going to change the world...
But she can't change me.
partner has commented in the past that I have an odd approach to
religion, even my own. I view it as a cultural system in which I either
want to participate or not. If I gain from it as a person, it's good.
If I do not, then I have no use for it and will leave it to the people
who can gain.
But what this means is that while I can
throw myself into a practice wholeheartedly, throwing myself into the
beliefs is somewhat of a trickier proposition. This is simplified by
the fact that I don't care about how a religion answers questions of
science or fact. I don't care if a holy book says that the world was
created in six days or whether an even more ancient oral tradition
posits a planet on the back of a turtle (on the back of a turtle on the
back of another turtle...). That stuff isn't for religion, and if I
make it about answering questions for which we simply have not figured
out the facts... well, I'm missing all the stuff it does that matters
(and is actually interesting).
Some people reading are aware
that I'm a member of a Wiccan circle. We play pretty fast and loose
with dogma in my circle, and that was essential to me feeling
comfortable there. We draw from many different traditions so that we
can attempt to learn or accomplish something
other my circle-mates are also aware of the colonialist implications of
picking buffet-style from other religions as well, so there's a lot of
respect there and I don't have to smack anyone with various bits of
miscellaneous scholarly discourse.
Anyway, that's not the point.
The point is that we negotiate lots of different traditions by
acknowledging that different things work for different people. The real
question here for many folk (Pagans in particular, though anyone in an
interfaith social group will face it eventually) is why
To some people, all gods are real. Some of these believe that we make them real
by creating or coalesce those divine power forces using our own
personal power of will. Some of these believe that there is simply one
massive pool of divine energy that everybody draws from in the way that
best fulfills their needs.
To some people, only some gods are
real. They have to be "real" gods, preferably ancient. After all, a
religion that sprang up two thousand years ago carries a lot more
weight than a religion that sprang up five years ago, or six months
(even if a religion scholar would see little functional difference
aside from age).
To other people, no gods are real. Religion is
best experienced through allegory and metaphor, as a meditative
practice that allows for access to multiple perspectives, opportunity
to answer questions that many individuals just wouldn't think to ask.
am personally somewhere between a monist (it's all the same, just with
different faces on the divine to break It down into smaller,
easily-digestible pieces) and an atheist. How the fuck do I manage
that? By not fucking caring whether the facts are verifiably true,
instead worrying about the processes. Do the processes of the religion
do for me what I'm setting them up to do? Yes? Good! I win at religion!
don't think this necessarily makes me an agnostic. I'm not ambivalent
or indecisive, which is what "agnostic" implies to me. I genuinely do
not give a damn at this phase in my life whether god is blue or brown
or has four arms or two or a beard or exists at all. For many people
the idea of a deity watching over or supporting them is helpful, and is
a useful avenue for personal growth. Personally, no answer to that
question is useful to me.
If scientists proved tomorrow that
there is no divine force, deity, whatever, I'd be stunned that they'd
figured out a way to test it... but I wouldn't throw out religion. At
least not my
religion. I don't fucking care if there's a
god/dess, and I don't really tend to petition anything outside myself
in the way that many magick-users and praying Christians (though
there's not actually any difference if you ask a non-Christian). So why
do I care whether someone answers?
Same if they proved there was
a divine force, I think. Again, what the hell did they do to prove that
one, but... meh. I still reserve the right to disagree with or even
ignore a deity if I choose. Free will is awesome, and if I'm not
letting a deity tell me what to do... does it matter whether they're
shouting their divine heads off without me listening? It's still the
same world it was yesterday, and my life would still be my own.
It's not indecision. It's unconcern. It makes no nevermind to me one way or the other. I just plain do not care.
do care whether I am absorbing a code of ethics and customs that I
believe to be useful and beneficial in my life. If I find out
conclusively tomorrow that there is or isn't a deity out there, the
world will still be the same place it was today, and what works will
still be the same as it was today.
This means that I can accept
and cherish lots and lots of religious traditions without fretting over
whether telling beads really wins Catholics brownie points with God, or
whether my menstrual cycle is a cosmic metaphor, or whether I'll be
born again after I die. I am doing what I need to do to make my life
work, and I assume everyone else is as well.
I think that
perhaps someday I might make a useful sort of
spiritual-leader-type-person, simply because I'm good at making use of
what I've got and seeing the good in what we have. I ask decent
questions, and think a little ahead. I could be useful to other people
who are just looking for a set of customs and perspectives to fit them
better than the one to which they were likely born and raised.
there are problems. I can't just run out and become a priestess. For
one, does anyone really want to talk to a priestess who doesn't care
whether the divine force we're all here to revere actually exists? For
another thing, I don't know what it would do to my relationship with my
partner. I've already had to face the possibility that because I
practice a religion, he won't be able to commit to having me in his
life. If I became a religious leader
of some variety... it
might be more of a strain than our relationship can take. While I know
he would never demand that I give up any aspiration or dream for his
sake, I do have to consider what sacrifices I might be making. Whether
they'll be worth it in the end.
I'm still looking. I have a better idea of what I am, and I'm taking steps to get a better handle on that. The question of where
am can come later, but I'll have to chew on it eventually. I don't know
how that will resolve, but I foresee emerging a new person. I have to
trust myself and assume I will come out of it better. I always seem to
do that, and damn it I can do it again.
Sunday, February 8, 2009, 1:18 PM
Read a news article today. I am hesitant to link to the original page, for reasons that you'll understand if you've read this entry of mine. It has a picture of a dead man.
Here is the printer-friendly page.
-- This city has not always been a gentle place, but a series of events
over the past few, frigid days causes one to wonder how cold the
collective heart has grown.
It starts with a phone call made by
a man who said his friend found a dead body in the elevator shaft of an
abandoned building on the city's west side.
"He's encased in ice, except his legs, which are sticking out like Popsicle sticks," the caller phoned to tell this reporter.
"Why didn't your friend call the police?"
was trespassing and didn't want to get in trouble," the caller replied.
As it happens, the caller's friend is an urban explorer who gets
thrills rummaging through and photographing the ruins of Detroit. It
turns out that this explorer last week was playing hockey with a group
of other explorers on the frozen waters that had collected in the
basement of the building. None of the men called the police, the
explorer said. They, in fact, continued their hockey game.
calling the police, this reporter went to check on the tip, skeptical
of a hoax. Sure enough, in the well of the cargo elevator, two feet
jutted out above the ice. Closer inspection revealed that the rest of
the body was encased in 2-3 feet of ice, the body prostrate, suspended
into the ice like a porpoising walrus.
The hem of a beige jacket
could be made out, as could the cuffs of blue jeans. The socks were
relatively clean and white. The left shoe was worn at the heel but
carried fresh laces. Adding to the macabre and incongruous scene was a
pillow that gently propped up the left foot of the corpse. It looked
What happened to this person, one wonders?
Murder in Motown is a definite possibility. Perhaps it was death by
alcoholic stupor. Perhaps the person was crawling around in the
elevator shaft trying to retrieve some metal that he could sell at a
scrap yard. In any event, there the person was. Stone-cold dead.
think that the reporter, Charlie LeDuff by name, covered this in as
sensitive and tasteful a manner as could be hoped. He used it as an
opportunity to discuss Detroit's homeless, and the ability of the city
to continue functioning unphased no matter what happens to them. If
you're homeless, damned near anything can happen to you--anything
even people who supposedly share your situation will be too busy with
their own struggles to worry much about you. LeDuff did an excellent
job with that, and I think that including a picture of those feet above
a plane of ice that you know hides the rest of a man is part of
hammering in that we only care because we don't see, or can pretend we
But I still have issues with the use of images of the
dead. If you don't know what I'm talking about, please check out the
entry I linked before. Read it here
; this'll make more sense if you do. I think that there I explained it as well as I am likely to do.
is my question. Do you feel that, considering a debt that comes with
viewing images of the dead, that LeDuff has paid his debt? Or has he
just used this homeless man's corpse and his suffering to make a
political point of his own? Is he taking up the unnamed corpse's cause,
or pursuing his own and using the power created by the stranger's death
to fuel his own cause?
And here's the really disturbing
question for me. Completely aside from considerations of LeDuff's debt
and the repayment thereof, what about me? I've seen this image, and
I've been touched by the emotional energy of a man's death. I owe him something,
but as I discussed in that previous entry... you cannot always know
just what it is you owe the dead. By helping people in Indiana get
foodstamps and Medicaid, am I helping to repay a man whose death was
caused by disregard? Or is that not what's required at all?
that the emotional/spiritual energy created by this man's suffering and
this man's death is part of the emotional/spiritual energy of my life,
what do I owe him for grokking his death in that way? By observing and
considering his death in such a way that it has become part of me and
my life (something which cannot be avoided now that the photo of his
corpse has been reflected in my eyes), I have taken something from him
and made it part of myself.
How can I repay it? I don't know what he wants. You can basically never know what the dead want.
What do you think?
Sunday, February 8, 2009, 1:16 PM
I have blogged before over here on what I think of the so-called "rape exceptions" in anti-choice legislation. To grab an excerpt:
they should have thought about that before they started having sex,"
you might say. It's a common enough argument. If women don't want to
get pregnant, they shouldn't engage in risky behavior like sex. Most
people will agree that a woman who is raped or molested at a young age
is not "to blame" for her sexual activity, and as a result an abortion
is okay in these cases.
But here's what this really says. A
woman who doesn't choose to have sex deserves the choice of whether to
keep an unwanted child. A woman who does choose to have sex does not
deserve the choice of whether to keep an unwanted child. What makes
this misogynist is that it takes a moral imperative ("good women don't
sleep around") and uses it as a framework to give "bad" women fewer
rights than "good" ones.
371d36d75e05eda735858f8e467be99cI was reading something that made another point about this exception, and it's here
The author mentions those anti-choicers who're willing to admit that
rape is terribly sad but "why should the baby have to pay for someone
else's wrong?" She rightly questions just whose wrong we're looking at
here, suggesting that the figure blamed is seldom the father who didn't
wear a condom, but the woman who "wrongly" took an interest in sexual
And here's an excellent question, one that is asked
but seldom by people who seriously offer an answer. What about the
woman? Whose choices should she suffer for, and to what degree?
I know, it’s a radical thought, but really: what of them? Why should they have to pay for someone else’s wrong? What about their lives? Don’t they matter a damn bit? Or again, are we just assuming that they are partially at fault for the wrong committed?
course, anti-choicers will argue that we’re looking at disproportionate
interests/rights. The “baby” has a life; the woman just has
“convenience” and her lazy, selfish desire to not have a physical
reminder of her traumatizing experience every second of every day for 9
months, not to mention a child created by that rapist at the end of 9
In fact, regaining control after a rape experience
really can be about a woman’s life. Thankfully, I don’t know the trauma
of having been impregnated as the result of rape. But I do know the
trauma of rape itself. And I know, or can read in tons of readily
accessible literature, about how rape takes away a sense of control
over one’s body. It can, in fact, heavily make one question who that body belongs to.
anti-choicers want that answer to be the government. In spite of the
fact that the right to an abortion after rape really can be about a
woman’s life — since a woman may be easily made suicidal over a forced
pregnancy as the result of rape, or simply traumatized forever because
of it — anti-choicers think that a fetus’ rights overrule it. When
forced to choose between the life of a fetus, and the life of a woman
(and often thereby her fetus due to simple biology), anti-choicers
choose the fetus time and time again.
Once again. The unborn always take precedent for an anti-choicer over the already-born. Whose suffering has worth to you? Whose life
has worth to you?
This is why the anti-choice position is not pro-child. It is anti-woman. That's why we don't call them pro-life
, because it sure as hell isn't my
they're fighting for, nor is it yours. They'd sacrifice you in an
instant if it meant that those dirty fornicating whores get what they
deserve, subhumans who should have kept their damn legs closed, or not
had that third drink, or not worn that skirt, or screamed a little
louder, fought a little harder.
It's not about protection; it's
about punishing women who step out of line--a line drawn by misogynist
factions of our culture more concerned with keeping women in their
proscribed "traditional" gender role than with keeping women safe.
Sunday, February 8, 2009, 1:16 PM
I always did like this passage. It's pretty unambiguous, which is not usual for this book.
I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me
nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked
and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not
Then they also will answer, "Lord, when was it that
we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in
prison, and did not take care of you?"
Then he will answer
them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least
of these, you did not do it to me." - Matthew 25:42-45
371d36d75e05eda735858f8e467be99cI suppose this is one of the big differences between Jesus and Jeezus, the American folk hero. For some others, see here.
how people are so often willing to "vote their consciences" when it's
about denying women access to reproductive control, but they're not
willing to do the same when it comes to poverty. Even if they say
they believe it's virtuous to help the poor, they vote against such
efforts at every turn because they don't want charity to be mandated.
Guess what, guys! If we vote
for it, no one's shoving it on us. It is not a measure of your faith
and virtue to vote against social services in the hopes that private
charities will do the job instead. It's a measure of your unwillingness
to do what works to accomplish a goal you claim
is important to you.
if that's cool by you, fine. You're the one who'll be answering for all
those times you denied Jesus disability pay, or all those times that
you voted to deny food stamps to his family, or all those times you
scoffed at the needs of Jesus' children for affordable single-payer
You may not have to answer for the unborn babies
that you forced their mothers to bear, but you'd better start figuring
out how you're going to talk your way around what happens to those
children after they're born, at how little you did to ensure that
resources were available for their wellbeing and education. Because
"the least of me" doesn't just mean the unborn. There are people around
now who need you, and what exactly do
you think Jesus would do about it?
Sunday, February 8, 2009, 1:14 PM
I wanted to relay this entry
to you guys. Seemed like the kind of thing that young people these days
ought to keep track of, even if you or your friends or whatever aren't
in contact with "those druggies."
Pharmacy colleague (and I hope he doesn't mind my calling him that) and fellow blogger Abel Pharmboy*
provides a most excellent summary of the current buzz in the
blogosphere about statements made by Dr. Bertha Madras. Dr. Madras, in
the event that you were unaware, is a head member of the White House
Office on National Drug Control Policy. And Dr. Madras would rather see
opioid abusers die than distribute rescue kits that "encourage" opioid
What denying needles (and Narcan) to addicts
does do is send a powerful message. It says "society doesn't care about
you, and we're secretly hoping you die so that we don't have to deal
with the problem anymore."
As a personal note, you'll probably meet fewer people in the universe with less
sympathy for drug users than I have. I'm pretty spectacularly callous.
But that doesn't mean I'm blind to what actually works and what
doesn't. It means I won't claim I'm saving lives or solving problems if
I don't care to do either.371d36d75e05eda735858f8e467be99cThese people.... they're potentially more callous than I am, and
they're hiding it under a veneer of prim determination to reform these
junkies by letting as many of them die as possible to teach the others
Think about that for a second. Protective measures "encourage drug use" by reducing the risk. It means that the risk
is what people like Madras think deters drug users (despite evidence
to the contrary). But let's depart from the obvious factual problems
here. The fact that this makes no damned sense in light of what drug
users actually do is easy enough to see.
My problem is with the people who advocate this plan in the absence of evidence. With no evidence
in favor of this, people like Madras are completely comfortable with
the implications of these statements. Unless drug users continue to
overdose, contract hepatitis and AIDS, and eventually die terribly...
their plan doesn't work. Their plan depends on people dying tortuous
deaths as an example to others. That's sick.
Sicker than any junkie I've known, and I've known some gems.
turned into a longer rant than I'd expected, but this upsets me. If
you're comfortable with damning whole groups of people because you
don't think they deserve to live, come out and say it. Don't pretend
there's any compassion in a stance like that, and don't pretend that
you're saying it because you think it'll somehow help them.
*Text from Abel Pharmboy's entry, in case you didn't check out the page: Since
being distributed in 16 communities the overdose-rescue kits [at $9.95
each] have saved 2600 lives, nearly the number of people who perished
in the combined terrorist attacks of 11 Sept 2001.
Sunday, February 8, 2009, 1:12 PM
Corinthians 4:5. "...you are to deliver this man to Satan 4 for the
destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of
Paul suggests giving people over to Satan for the
destruction of their flesh, so that their spirit can be saved. I was
struck by this. Satan is surprisingly helpful here; you can count on
him to do you favors.
"We've got this guy, and he's kind of
corrupt. Ah.... if you could take him and give him back when he's
better... yeah. That'd be great. Right, also, if you could come in on
Saturday to take away our incestuous pagans? Greeaaat."371d36d75e05eda735858f8e467be99c
Sunday, February 8, 2009, 1:10 PM
James McGrath posted in his blog
about a comment I made in class one day. Now, I'm starting from the
common metaphor that the relationship between God and Israel (or Christ
and his Church, take your pick) is analogous to the relationship between a man and his wife.
Men and their wives are close, have bonds of loyalty and mutual respect
and various obligations they owe one another. They even cause each
other pain, as men and wives can. As cited on that page:
Joshua ben Levi says: “The Assembly of Israel said to the Holy One:
Even though He embitters me and causes me to suffer, He shall lie
between my breasts” (Yalkut Shimoni, Song of Songs, 984).
This gets me to my next point. McGrath links 1 Corinthians 10:6-12
should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and were killed by
snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the
destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were
written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages
has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you
This goes beyond the acceptance that
spouses may occasionally inadvertently hurt each other. Every time
Israel displeases God, a great and terrible wrath is unleashed, to
human eyes seeming way out of proportion to the crimes committed. And
yet Israel is still to blame for these outbursts. No matter what God
does, if it was something Israel did to set Him off... Israel is
required to repent. Israel must not test the Lord, and Israel must not
complain. Otherwise God is left doing something terrible and asking,
"Baby, why do you make me hit you? You know how I get."
easily end here and say that Christianity is essentially patriarchal,
both based in misogyny and perpetuating it by elevating it to God-like
behavior. But that's a boring place to end, and reserved for really
lazy scholars. The big question is, which came first, the chicken or
the egg?371d36d75e05eda735858f8e467be99cDid ideas about God's right to abuse Israel give the Israelites fuel to
abuse their wives? Or did the norms of Israelite marriage color their
portrayal of God's relationship with Israel? One thing seems certain:
the normative relationship between married people in America does not
include one party using corporeal punishment to discipline the other,
and then blaming the violence on the disciplined party. In this our
cultural context is very different from what the Israelites were taking
Now, does this mean we have to throw out the
spousal metaphor because our spousal relationships have changed? Or can
we keep the spousal metaphor and change our relationship with God to
suit it? Now that women are encouraged to take onto themselves more
autonomy and agency, even at the expense of their husbands' power, does
that recast the roles of God and Israel, or of Christ and the Church?
Just as women are demanding more respect and consideration from men,
are Christians free to demand more respect and consideration from God?
seems to me that we either have to throw out the spousal metaphor now
that men aren't allowed to abuse women the way God abuses Israel, or we
have to demand that God keep up with modern ideals. I personally find
this latter option much more interesting. If men and women are rightly
treated as equals in a marriage, does that mean that God and Israel
should be rightly treated as equals?
This implication totally
turns the mainstream Christian hierarchy on its head. While Judaism
allows for much more dispute with God (Israel itself means "struggle
with God"), Christianity tends to adopt a much more submission-oriented
approach. The assumption that humans must submit to God no matter what
seems at odds with the "equality resolution." The only option then is
to decide we're wrong to treat men and women as equals. Instead of
changing our relationship with God to fit our modern social context, we must reverse our modern social context
to match an earlier relationship with God.
seems in the interest of Biblical orthodoxy one would have to choose
the latter. It's the neatest way to seal up this nasty friction
resulting from a metaphor that no longer seems to apply. Return
everyone to the conditions under which the metaphor worked.
As a woman who doesn't particularly want to go that route, I'll suggest
a new relationship with God. What happens when humans demand the
equality and respect from God that wives demand of husbands? It might
require a re-imagining of God's place in our lives, and that
re-imagining may essentially change a religion whose core is "submit
yourselves to God; He knows best." If we essentially change
Christianity to fit God into new ideas of mutual spousal respect, is it
still Christianity anymore? If no... what is it?
Sunday, February 8, 2009, 1:08 PM
From our beloved Orcinus!
Things Americans don't like to talk about Tuesday, April 29, 2008
of the oddities of the emerging media meta-narrative about Jeremiah
Wright is the way it is now readily assumed by the broad range of
talking heads that Wright's recent comments have only proven the charge
that he is deeply "anti-American," embodied in the endlessly repeated
"God damn America" sound bite.
There's no doubt that a lot of
Wright's views are indeed deeply critical of America, even pugnaciously
(and thus disconcertingly) so, and some -- particularly his apparent
absorption of racial theories regarding the spread of HIV -- are
dubious at best. Considering Wright's contentious performance yesterday
at the National Press Club, one really can't blame Obama for washing
his hands of the man.
But it's also apparent that the larger context in which Wright condemns American behavior -- the reason
he shouts "God damn America" -- in fact reflects hard historical
realities that Americans, and the American media especially, really
don't want to talk about, let alone confront the present-day
And doing so, evidently, is now proof of being "anti-American."
Among the things, evidently, that we're not supposed to bring up because it interrupts Peggy Noonan's fantasy vision of an American history populated mostly by noble 49ers and industrious Henry Fords, are the following:
-- The genocide committed against Native Americans.
-- The "lynching era" and Jim Crow.
-- Sundown towns.
-- The forced incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II.
human, of course, to want to think of yourself as a good person, and
your country as a good country. Which is why it's human of white
Americans -- the descendants and beneficiaries of the people who
perpetrated these atrocities -- to want to forget that these things
happened. And they want to believe that because these events were in
the past, and they took some initial steps toward reconciliation 40
years ago, the issues should have gone away, and if they haven't, well,
it's the victims' fault.
The victims and their descendants,
however, cannot forget that these things happened, because they
continue to live with the legacy of them every day. And white Americans
should not delude themselves into thinking that they could or should
have forgotten, either. Ask any Native American living on a
reservation, or any descendant of Japanese camp internees, or any
African American, whether they can forget these things.
when young black men no longer face persistent job discrimination or
lowered life expectancies, when racial residential segregation is no
longer a persistent reality, when hate crimes are a distant memory,
when our response to great national war-inducing traumas is no longer
imbued with xenophobic hysteria -- perhaps when white Americans take
actual steps beyond those four-decade-old baby steps to confront the
legacy of their very real history of shameful behavior toward
nonwhites, then perhaps we can ask for that forgetting.
that they should -- and indeed insisting that the fact that they
haven't is proof that they "hate America" -- is simply childish. But
then, that's what we've come to expect both of the American right and
the American media.
These historical realities in fact were what provided the context of Wright's "God damn America" snippet. Here's the key passage from the sermon:
governments change, God does not change. God is the same yesterday,
today and forever more. That’s what his name I Am means. He does not
God was against slavery on yesterday, and God, who
does not change, is still against slavery today. God was a God of love
yesterday, and God who does not change, is still a God of love today.
God was a God of justice on yesterday, and God who does not change, is
still a God of justice today. God does not change.
United States of America government, when it came to treating her
citizens of Indian descent fairly, she failed. She put them on the
When it came to treating her citizens of Japanese descent fairly, she failed. She put them in internment prison camps.
it came to treating the citizens of African descent fairly, America
failed. She put them in chains. The government put them on slave
quarters. Put them on auction blocks. Put them in cotton fields. Put
them in inferior schools. Put them in substandard housing. Put them in
scientific experiments. Put them in the lowest paying jobs. Put them
outside the equal protection of the law. Kept them out of the racist
bastions of higher education, and locked them into positions of
hopelessness and helplessness.
The government gives them the
drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three strike law and then wants
us to sing God Bless America. Naw, naw, naw. Not God Bless America. God
Damn America! That’s in the Bible. For killing innocent people. God
Damn America for treating its citizens as less than human. God Damn
America as long as she tries to act like she is God and she is Supreme.
obvious, in fact, is that the longtime right-wing "America, love it or
leave it" style of patriotism has become part of the media's standard
narrative in the post-9/11 world. I think Al Franken had it right:
you listen to a lot of conservatives, they'll tell you that the
difference between them and us is that conservatives love America and
liberals hate America.... They don't get it. We love America just as
much as they do. But in a different Way. You see, they love America the
way a 4-year-old loves her Mommy. Liberals love America like grown-ups.
a 4-year-old, everything Mommy does is wonderful and anyone who
criticizes Mommy is bad. Grown-up love means actually understanding
what you love, taking the good with the bad, and helping your loved one
grow. Love takes attention and work and is the best thing in the world.
the new media universe, Mommy America would never ever hurt those poor
black people. And if maybe she did once upon a time, well, she made up
for it a long time ago and now things are all better. Bringing up
evidence to the contrary just means you hate Mommy.
Which might explain why people like Wright get all contemptuous on their asses.
Sunday, February 8, 2009, 1:06 PM
I was having a discussion once with a born-again Christian who was
arguing passionately that it is best for women to be under the "loving headship"
of a man, the way that the church is under the loving headship of
Christ. The ideal marriage is not an egalitarian one, but one in which
a man governs the woman based on his own consideration and love for her.371d36d75e05eda735858f8e467be99c
did not see this as an ideal marriage, and have little interest in it.
I'm one of those college-educated "women's libbers" who feels that I'm
qualified to have my own means of economic support, and the same social
and political autonomy as a man. Most importantly, I feel I'm better
off this way.
My issue with taking the gender roles offered in
the Bible at face value is that traditional heteronormative (if you'll
forgive the jargon) marriage roles are upheld as "Biblical" (which is
itself a largely-undefined term), but advocates are really just picking
and choosing from what's in the Bible to support what they'd like.
I know that "picking and choosing" is a trigger-phrase for a lot of
people who are debating the Bible, and it's often used as a way to
instantly condemn as "UnBiblical" whoever gets it applied to them. I
feel it's appropriate here, though. There are a lot of aspects of the
submissive-woman/leading-man arrangement that clearly came from the
culture in which the Bible was written.Levirate marriage
is the best example of this I can think of. Because women in those
times didn't have any economic power of their own (aside from
prostitution, which is not exactly desirable), they had to be married
to survive. If their husband died, it was his brother's duty to marry
the widow (often in addition to his own wife) so that he could support
her and give her the offspring that his late brother could not.
This came up in Matthew 22:23
and Christ doesn't deny the worth of this practice. He just says that
in the world to come NO ONE will be married. If Christ had a problem
with the practice, that was his chance to say something. He did not,
and Matthew 22:23 is actually a better argument against romantic
relationships overall than it is against Levirate marriage.
reason I bring up Levirate marriage is that it's a practice that was
assumed as normal in the time of Christ, and not condemned by him as
adultery. The reason people don't practice it today is because we live
in a different culture. "Oh, that's just what they did then," people
say. "We know better now. Marriage is between one man and one woman,
and these are the obligations each has to the other. The Bible says so
(in the parts that we choose if we ignore the parts that we don't
Marriage in the time of Christ (and in the early church
of Christ) was a much more complex thing than it gets credit for, and
if we can accept that Levirate marriage doesn't belong in our modern
society, why are we blindly accepting all gender roles attributed to
the Bible? To put it another way, if we can trace practices like
Levirate marriage back to the culture of the Bible's authors and thus
dismiss their applicability for us, but we ascribe divine sanctity and
authority to the parts we DO like... how is that honest? At the very
least I think it requires that we find another definition of what
counts as "Biblical," since clearly "it's okay in the Bible" is not
Of course, another alternative is to pay close attention
to what the cultural atmosphere was like at the time the Bible was
written. What did the authors take for granted? What was "normal" to
them, and what was deplorable? It was normal and natural to them that a
woman could not support herself without a man. It was normal and
natural to them that if men are good, women will be supported. If men
are not good, women are the ones who suffer. Oh well.
my big problem with attempting to reinstate millenia-old cultural norms
by encouraging women to be economically dependent on men. Sure, in an
ideal world this'd all work out fine. But we don't live in an ideal
world, and in the world where we live now... if anybody in this system
fall short (which Christian theology teaches that they must) women
suffer. Women will bear the brunt of their own failings AND the
failings of the men on whom they are dependent.
feminists don't like these gender roles. It's not that they hate men.
It's that men have to be perfect in order for this system to work, and
even Christian theology admits that this is a lost cause. Because
feminists are concerned with women being able to survive in a world
where humans are imperfect, they assert that women need to have their
own social and economic viability. Feminists therefore take issue with
the Christian "traditional" marriage. It assumes that it's important
for women to be healthy, safe, and otherwise well off, but not
important enough to build a system that will actually produce that end.