“God loves sex,” according to new Church billboard

September 2, 2014

This is a case of a billboard doing what a billboard is supposed to do: drum up business. In this case, the business is a church, and the choice to add sex into the mix is a good way to get the public and the media into a frenzy talking about it. That link has since died but I already quoted parts of it:

A non-denominational church in Wilkes-Barre put up the billboard and it is already doing what it was intended to do: attract attention, mainly because it says that God loves sex.

Some pastors had a plan when they ordered the design for this billboard along Route 309.

Restored Church is trying to bring in new visitors but some people driving by think this message crosses the line.

Big surprise.

Pastor Dan Nichols says his congregation of 100 has been meeting for just one year. He hopes the billboard will draw new people to the church next month when the sermons will focus on sex in the bible’s Song of Solomon.

“If the culture can be so bold, I think the church can be so bold and speak directly on the subject and be up front about it.”

I don’t know a ton about the bible, but I know that the Song of Solomon is one of the most beautiful and poetic books the bible has to offer. I also know that there’s a theory about the Song of Songs – that it’s an allegory to Israel and its people who (at the time of writing the book) were encouraged to not turn their back on the country and all it had to offer.

Jewish interpreters, as represented by the Targum of the book (ca. seventh century a.d.), thought that the lover of the Song was Yahweh and the beloved Israel. Thus, when the woman pleads with the king to take her into his chamber (1:4), this has nothing to do with human lovemaking but rather describes the exodus from Egypt, God’s bedroom being the land of Palestine.

Early Christian interpreters also desexed the Song in this way, but, of course, identified the main characters with Jesus Christ and the church and/or the individual Christians. Hippolytus (ca. a.d. 200) was the first known Christian to allegorize the Song. From fragments of his commentary we learn that he takes the statement in 1:4 to mean that Christ has brought the worthy ones whom he has wedded into the church.

The Targum and Hippolytus are just examples of an interpretive tendency that was dominant from early times until the nineteenth century and still is occasionally found today.

Some biblical scholars (like the one who wrote this article) poo-pooh both allegorical takes on the tale but admit they may still have relevance.

When read in the context of the canon as a whole, the book forcefully communicates the intensely intimate relationship that Israel enjoys with God. In many Old Testament Scriptures, marriage is an underlying metaphor for Israel’s relationship with God. Unfortunately, due to Israel’s lack of trust, the metaphor often appears in a negative context, and Israel is pictured as a whore in its relationship with God ( Jer 2:20 ; 3:1 ; Eze 16,23). One of the most memorable scenes in the Old Testament is when God commands his prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute to symbolize his love for a faithless Israel.

I wonder how often that may come up during a bible study.

Oftentimes, the bible is a book on par with so many others in terms of the sheer number of attempts made to understand it and keep it relevant to today’s audiences.

I very much enjoyed the annotated version of Oscar Wilde’s classic, The Picture of Dorian Gray. It was so much easier for me to enjoy the tale by having the details about his history, the characters, his influences (people and art) and other factors that led up to the publishing of the story. I didn’t get a similar effect from the annotated Huck Finn, but I didn’t like that book as much, either.

Websites and books that try to sort out biblical tales based on the history of the people and the places at the time are always of enormous interest to me. It shows that people are willing to look into the stories, not just take them all at face value. I can’t help but wonder, though, how often this deep research leads people closer to atheism rather than cementing their faith in scripture as the inerrant word of god. I’m probably not the only one to wonder about this.

I think the bible makes for an interesting piece of history. I don’t see a point in living by it, necessarily, but I see how laws common to some of the books are still relevant for any society that hopes to prosper in this world and move forward. Other parts of it are evidence (to me at least) of a gross misunderstanding in how the world works and operates and how it came to be.

Continuing to hold as truth anything that contradicts current scientific thought is baffling and ludicrous to me. Admit for once that the book is flawed due to its age and be willing to adapt to current understanding about life, the universe and everything. There doesn’t have to be a schism here. There are still good ideas in the book at large, but when the book clashes with current thought processes, please don’t automatically assume the book is right and the prevailing culture is wrong.

The only way we can really flourish as a society is if we are willing to change. The book can’t change that much, but its readers can choose to change at any time.


“Graffiti is bad. Go play sports.”

September 2, 2014

The Man and I got Community season 5 from the library this past week and we’re so happy that it’s as good as the other seasons. We’re big fans. The blog post title comes from their take on G.I. Joe as Jeff Winger copes (badly) with turning 40.

We probably aren’t going to buy the show, though, until the whole series is available as a set. (We’re frugal and the SILS library system loans out the seasons of this and every other popular TV show for free anyway. If you live in Saskatchewan, get yourself a library card if you don’t have one already. Those are also free. There’s no excuse to miss good TV.)

Huzzah! to Yahoo for greenlighting a season 6. Hot damn.

If you’re not watching this show already, what the blerp is wrong with you?

I love their Dungeons and Dragons episodes especially but also the paintball episodes and any other episodes that result in characters having uprisings and destroying the school any and all ridiculous reasons.

The MeowMeowBeenz app episode hit all my love buttons. So much hilarity. So much goodness. So much to say about society and how value is judged by one’s peers, and how this can be manipulated by those with ambition to do so. It’s fantastic.

For extra reading: Community vs Big Bang Theory (a show I also love, but not in the same way.)

Community will reshape it’s [sic] universe to be a mystery, a cop drama, heist movie, science fiction thriller. It can becomes animated, claymated, 8 bit, puppets – whatever the story or the characters need. It looks like a sitcom, but it’s bigger on the inside.

TBBT, on the other hand, has awful worldbuilding. It’s a small, boring little world, one that appears sometimes to consist entirely of a couch and a staircase…

If Community is an almost-genre work all about the possibilities of change, TBBT is like its evil counterpart. It’s a story about stasis. A show obsessed with the power of habit and inertia, a show about stillness and limitation. It’s people sitting on couches together, and being alone. People that have nothing stopping them from reaching out, except that it would require them to be a little braver than they are, a little more insightful, a little kinder. In short, it would require them to change, and TBBT turns that into the hardest thing in the world.

Community takes the loss of characters and character development very seriously. The Hot Lava episode of season 5 is good example of that. In the previous episode, everyone’s just returned from Pierce’s funeral and they all have to deal with their humanity and their capacity to lie to each other, and to themselves. Pierce bequeaths in his will that Troy can have all his wealth if Troy is willing to do what Pierce did not – sail around the world. He agrees to do it. In the Hot Lava episode, Troy’s best friend, Abed, chooses to deal with Troy leaving by calling a school-wide “avoid the floor” game and insisting everyone participate so the winner can receive his mint edition comic book worth $50,000. By the end of the game, Abed manages to explain to Troy and Britta, the last survivors, why he started the game in the first place; he has trouble letting go. Britta and Troy come up with a very elegant solution to his problem, which I won’t spoil.

The Dungeons and Dragons episode that season is awesome. The gang tries to fix the relationship professor Hickey has with his son – who’s an avid player – by setting up a game that’s supposed to help them bond. The son sees through it immediately, though, and manipulates the situation to ruin what he thinks is Abed’s story for everyone. He deliberately switches all the character profiles and actively plays to wound those in his party if necessary. When the group is torn asunder after a tragedy, his only ambition is to kill the necromancer before his dad can. The end of the episode does not result in a father/son happy reunion, but I think it ended as it had to end – with the two of them in a room together willing to work toward a common goal, even if they had to fight for it every step of the way. That’s the way it is with a lot of families, and I think it was smart (and brave) for the Community writers to leave it there and not try to create the contrived forgiveness hug scene that so often happens in other show scenarios.

I don’t know how to end this. Watch the show. That’s all I can say. I’m not a shill. I’m just a fan of good scripts.


Georgia teen recorded his family’s “pray the gay away” attempts

September 1, 2014

This is a hard video to listen to and the comments below it are awful and kind of sad. I quote one:

The kid is so disrespectful almost to the point where it is more vile than the parents’ actions. In addition, the people posting rude comments saying “fuck god” or “he’s not real” disgusts me. Stop blaming religion for every single thing that goes viral; it is clearly the family not religion. The family is living their lives based on what they perceive religion to be. Until there is realistic proof that god is not real; I will argue against you. 

“Scientific proof trumps the word of God,” the teen says in the video early on, “in my opinion.” His mother (stepmother?) disagrees with him but he’s still right. Scientifically speaking, it may be mostly his mother’s faut that he’s gay, but not because of his upbringing.

Researchers from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis have said the genetics that makes a person more likely to be gay are passed from fathers to daughters and mothers to sons.

They suggest the answer lies in epigenetics, or how the expression of genes is controlled by ‘temporary switches’, such as how a gene behaves, known as epi-marks.

Gender-specific epi-marks are usually ‘erased’ from generation to generation, but when they do not and they pass from a parent to a child, it can result in homosexuality.

William Rice, the lead author of that piece, thought at the time that it might have something to do with testosterone levels and the release schedule within an embryo.

…these epi-marks protect fathers and mothers from excess or underexposure to testosterone, when they carry over to opposite-sex offspring, ‘it can cause the masculinization of females or the feminization of males.’

With the theory, Rice believes it could also be used to explain the occurrence of identical twins.

The researchers have not tested yet on parents, and as the epi-marks are ‘highly variable’ it can be difficult to assess. However Rice said it is the most ‘plausible explanation so far’.

‘We’ve found a story that looks really good,’ Rice said. ‘This can be tested and proven within six months. It’s easy to test. If it’s a bad idea, we can throw it away in short order.

That line there is what makes everything awesome about science. If it turns out they’re wrong, they can try something else. The point is to find the more likely answer. An answer others could arrive at with similar experiments and study.

That article was published at the end of 2012 but at the end of May 2014, charismanews.com reported on the Royal College of Psychologists who were ready to put down on record their willingness to claim that People Are Not Born Gay. At which point, I say, what the fuck? I don’t normally write in swears here, so you know this is serious.

Core Issues Trust (CIT), which is campaigning against a ban on therapy being offered to people who want to move away from a homosexual lifestyle, says the latest statement by the Royal College admits what it previously denied.

“They now say that the causes of homosexuality are a combination of ‘biological and postnatal environment factors.’ So, if a child does not encounter such postnatal life experiences, he or she will grow up heterosexual,” says the director of CIT, Mike Davidson.

This just makes me want to say fuck psychologists, what the fuck do they know!? Maybe I should quiz my psychologist Freethinker friend and see if he concurs with their stance.

That said, “biological” winds up being another way to mean nature as opposed to nurture. It sounds more like these psychologists are actually hedging their bets and admitting they have no repudiable facts to back up their position on whether or not a person can be born gay.

My dad has a couple cousins from the same parents who both got married to people of the opposite sex but later decided to end those marriages because they were gay. The guy cousin has been with his partner since at least 1992. I can’t speak for the girl cousin because I’ve only met her once or twice in my life that I can recall and never with a partner. I don’t know about my great-uncle, but I think my great aunt was fairly religious during their upbringing, as in, regular protestant church goer. (Her health fails her now in terms of attendance.) I have my doubts that either child has set foot in a church beyond weddings and funerals for a very long time but I’d be overstepping to assume that to be the case. (The one cousin did train to be a Justice of the Peace, though. I briefly considered asking him to officiate our very atheist/agnostic wedding ceremony.)

The Telegraph notes that a gay gene may have some influence in gender identification, but those scientists claim only 40% worth of assurance there.

Dr Bailey said: “Sexual orientation has nothing to do with choice. Our findings suggest there may be genes at play – we found evidence for two sets that affect whether a man is gay or straight.

“But it is not completely determinative; there are certainly other environmental factors involved. “The study shows that there are genes involved in male sexual orientation.

“Although this could one day lead to a pre-natal test for male sexual orientation, it would not be very accurate, as there are other factors that can influence the outcome.”

Dr Alan Sanders, associate Professor of Psychiatry at Northwestern University, who led the study said that it was it was an ‘oversimplification’ to suggest there was a ‘gay gene.’

“We don’t think genetics is the whole story. It’s not. We have a gene that contributes to homosexuality but you could say it is linked to heterosexuality. It is the variation.”

Again, this is what makes scientific inquiry so damned awesome. Nobody really says they’re right. They’ll say, “this is what the data seems to suggest” and then other researchers are free to try to duplicate or disprove those findings. People like Ken Ham see this as a flaw in the scientific method whereas the rest of us see this as proof that it works like it’s supposed to work.

Back to Daniel Pierce and his video that prompted this post.

Pierce’s boyfriend started a GoFundMe account to raise money for living expenses after he was told to leave the house.

“When you watch the video and then you hear what my blood relatives said, and then you look at the comments (online)… it was just crazy,” he said.

Pierce feels overwhelmed by the entire situation. He says he is still trying to process everything and has some counseling sessions set up. He is not alone, and is staying in the care with a friend he considers “chosen family.”

That GoFundMe account has raised more than $88,000 in just two days. He hoped for $2,000. Pierce says he plans to donate some of the money to LGBT support groups, including “Lost and Found Youth.”

I’m glad for him, and I’m glad for the support. Locally, in terms of gay youth, there’s something called fYrefly which runs a summer camp and other activities for LGBTQ kids.

Camp fYrefly-Saskatchewan is an educational, social, and personal learning retreat for sexual minority and gender variant youth (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-identified, two-spirited, intersexed, queer, questioning, and allied). It focuses on building and nurturing their leadership potential and personal resiliency in an effort to help them learn how to make significant contributions to their own lives and to their schools, home/group-home environments, and communities. The camp is designed for sexual minority and gender variant youth between the ages of 14 and 24.

The worst thing a person can do to these kids is tell them something is horribly wrong with them. It’s great to know that a support system exists in this country to help these kids and help them find other kids with a similar life history.

If it turns out that the Little Man is gay, I won’t give a damn, his dad won’t give a damn, and I know his mother won’t give a damn either. Gay or Bi or Straight– he’ll know that he is loved and cared for by all of us and he’ll know his life choices are respected. We’ll teach him to treat his loved ones properly, no matter what gender they wish to identify by (if any). It really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. What matters is how people treat the people they like and love. That’s it. Nothing else worth saying in terms of that.

But, like every time, I welcome comments. Anything to add or argue about here?


The most important question ever asked: How long was Jesus’ hair?

September 1, 2014

I wave my hands up in the air
How long was Jesus’ hair?
I wave my hands up in the air
and wonder just who would care!

How long was Jesus’ hair?
Could he braid it down his back?
How long was Jesus’ hair?
Was it blond or was it black?

I wave my hands up in the air
How long was Jesus’ hair…

I could go on, but I’m laughing too much as it is. Does it look like I have a future as a rapper? I think so. Maybe the Man can throw some music onto that and we can record it for release on this blog. I’ll ask him. Oh dear, that’s some funny.. I throw my hands up.. Oh my. I’d want video, but we’re not equipped here.

Until then, watch this one (I can’t find a better sound quality version):

(The library does not have the film version of Hair. Damn it all to Hades!)

Anywho, this article:

The apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians offers an insightful commentary into the Jewish attitude of men’s hair. It notes, “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him?” Paul’s argument is that men were not to be known for hair that looked like that of women. While this does not indicate the length of Jesus’ hair, it does reveal that He likely had hair shorter than Jewish females of the time. Though some exceptions are found in the Bible of men with long hair (such as Samson and John the Baptist), most Jewish men kept shorter hair to distinguish themselves from women as well as for practical purposes.

Samson’s story is one I can say I’m slightly familiar with. His hair gave him strength for some reason. God magic, essentially. He falls in love with Delilah and all would have been well but the leader of the Philistines wanted to know his secret and insisted Delilah find out so they could defeat him. They bribed her with what sounds, even now, like a hell of a lot of money. Samson outwits all of them repeatedly but then at Judges 16:15,

Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength.” 16 With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was sick to death of it.

Damn, chick! Three different nights you set the man up to be attacked by Philistines in the bedroom and you’re pissed off because he got the better of you every time? Alas, this love bribery works on him and he confesses:

17 So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.”

So, she tells the Philistines this and they slice his braids off with a razor, defeat him, and pay her all they agreed to give.

Sigh.

At that point, I don’t know who we’re supposed to root for in this story, or for what outcome specifically.

Samson get tortured, his eyes get cut out, and the Philistines put him in prison sentenced to hard labour. They promptly forget about his magic hair power and let the stuff grow, however. They continue to worship and rally around their god, Dagon, and one day call for Samson the loser to be put on display to entertain the priests and three thousand other people at the temple.

28 Then Samson prayed to the Lord, “Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” 29 Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, 30 Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.

All’s well that ends dead? Revenge is a dish best served flattened and crushed? It’s the bible. What more do you expect?

Moving forward to the new testament and John the Baptist — a writer at answers.com calling himself WisdomOfSolomon notes that John was probably a Nazerite like Samson and therefore would have had long hair at the time. Details out of Luke seem to suggest that was his culture and lifestyle based on the verses indicating what he would and wouldn’t drink or eat.

Unrelated to the hair thing, but a good example of what makes bible translation so hard to do let alone get “right”:

John the Baptist’s diet has been the centre of much discussion. For many years it was traditional to interpret locust as referring to not the insect, but rather the seed pods of the carob tree. The two words are very similar, but most scholars today feel this passage is referring to the insects. Locusts are mentioned 22 other times in the Bible and all other mentions are quite clearly referring to the insect. Locusts are still commonly eaten in Arabia. Eaten either raw or roasted they are quite nutritious and a source of many vitamins. While most insects were considered unclean under Mosaic law, Leviticus 11:22 specifically states that locusts are permitted. Albright and Mann believe the attempt to portray John the Baptist as eating seed pods was concern for having such a revered figure eating insects and also a belief that a true ascetic should be completely vegetarian.[5] What is meant by honey is also disputed. While bee honey was a common food in the area at the time, Jones believes that it refers to the tree gum from that tamarisk tree, a tasteless but nutritious liquid, rather than the honey made by bees.[

Short of inventing a time machine to go back and find out if any of these people ever lived at all, the debate will rage on in the circles of those who care. Not me, overmuch, but I’m a fan of fact as much as any other skeptic. Aim to be as accurate as possible, even in terms of biblical storytelling.

So much confusion is sown by misinterpretation and misunderstanding. Aim to get it right. Do whatever research into the history of those ancient peoples might be required in order to do that. Don’t just quote the text and smile because you remembered the verse verbatim. Aim to understand the culture and history that led up to that verse getting written down anywhere at all.

Even an atheist can respect that level of commitment to a faith. I certainly do.


Atheist Scruples 2014: women and boobs

August 31, 2014

A couple different issues trigger this one. First, should women be allowed to go topless like men can? I think the answer should be yes but that doesn’t mean I’ll want to be one of them. I’m pro-choice in many ways.

In Saskatoon last August a woman got charged for going topless on the sandbars by the river.

Danielle Forget was tanning at the sand bar near Spadina Crescent Thursday when she decided to go topless. The move offended at least one other beach comber, and the police showed up at the beach.

“It’s a public place, a kid and a family friendly place. We don’t need that here,” said Jenelyn Ong, who called the police about Forget’s topless tanning.

“My nephew is 13, going into high school. He’s never been exposed to anything like that,” she said.

Oh, you sweet, ignorant woman. Of course he has. And if he hasn’t, he may as well see it now so he’s not surprised later. Women look like that with their tops off, kid.. Use it as a learning experience and be the cool aunt, not the crochety old bag he’ll complain about spending a summer with later on in life.

John Gormley is a local talk radio host I don’t listen to, but I found a facebook page where this news story was getting discussed. Most of the comments leaned toward, “They’re boobs; get over it.” It’s natural. It’s not unseemly. It’s not wrong. It’s natural.

The strange UFO cult called the Raelians recently picketed in Montreal for the right of women to go topless.

There were about two dozen women at the protest, along with several shirtless men showing support by wearing bras.

Onlookers taking cellphone pictures of the topless women outnumbered protesters.

Go Topless Day was founded in 2007 by Rael, the spiritual leader of the Raelians, and Sunday’s event was the second Go Topless rally in Montreal.

Clearly I don’t keep up with topless news on a regular basis. Never heard of this.

Also recently, also Montreal: Read the rest of this entry »


Sounds of Sunday – Cannon’s Jug Band

August 31, 2014

A remarkable musician (he could play five-string banjo and jug simultaneously), Gus Cannon bridged the gap between early blues and the minstrel and folk styles that preceded it. His band of the ’20s and ’30s, Cannon’s Jug Stompers, represents the apogee of the jug band style. Songs they recorded, notably the raggy “Walk Right In,” were staples of the folk repertoire decades later, and Cannon himself continued to record and perform into the 1970s.

Self-taught on an instrument made from a frying pan and a raccoon skin…

Envision that for a moment.

Then, click to read the rest of Cannon’s short biography.

Mississippi Writers and Musicians lists where his work can be found and offers more biographical details.


Recipe for a Saturday

August 30, 2014

Ingredients

1 day drizzle (or double this for Sunday leftovers)
1 energetic kid
1 inventive mother figure

First, divide the day into randomly shaped segments and take turns filling them with ideas. Warning: do not let child think he can get away with filling his segments with nothing but boredom or episodes of Green Lantern the Animated Series

The Man’s working Friday – Monday, sadly, leaving the Little Man and me to fend for ourselves.

I took the day off work yesterday, partially on account of that but also because of a new sofa delivery (yay!). Yesterday afternoon we walked to a couple close garage sales. I managed to pick up two of the three Indiana Jones movies worth watching (the seller couldn’t find his copy of Temple of Doom to include with the set, unfortunately) and he borrowed a couple dollars out of my pocket so he could afford a collection of well-used Beyblades and an “arena”. Do you know to build a Beyblade? I do now…

Today’s a bit up in the air on account of rain and more is expected tomorrow. We may miss out on hitting more garage sales but he has rain gear so he can’t use the intermittent drizzle as an excuse to stay inside watching movies all day.

We also have a lot of games around like Uno, Battleship, Skip-Bo and now a game called Harvest Time.

First, gardens are planted. Then everyone rolls the special die. to do the harvesting. The job is to harvest the gardens before Winter comes. Will we get them all? Maybe, if we remember to help each other out.

Don’t think it’s a ripoff of Farmville or something; it’s a cooperative game that’s been around since 1980 and “draws the most fan mail.” The Man played it quite a bit as a boy and was glad to find it still at his folks’ place the last time we were there. I’ve never heard of this company but since Christmas is only a few months away, their website might offer you some options that big box stores can’t match. I’d say, “Tell them 1minion sent you,” but they’d just reply with “Who’s 1minion?”

Another option of enjoyment for the weekend will be baking. We can throw some cookies together. He enjoys helping with that kind of thing. For one thing, it’s kind of fun. For another, he can eat them later. I have a hankering for shortbread, myself, but we have the fixings for several types around. I like having a well-stocked pantry.

Well anyway, this is the only post out of me today. Have a video. I should bring this movie home again sometime. Haven’t seen it in ages.


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