James Pyles is a published information technology and textbook author and editor. He also has a passion for theology and strength training, as well as reading and writing science fiction and fantasy. He has several new short stories being published in early 2019 and is currently working on his first full-length novel. Find out more at http://poweredbyrobots.com/ and visit his Amazon author's page at https://www.amazon.com/James-Pyles/e/B001IQXL38
I tend not to engage atheists when they want me to give them a logical argument for why the God of the Bible exists, because, in most cases, it’s a ploy to discredit people of faith. However, I found Huggins’ discussion worth sharing, so here it is.
There are many good and intelligent atheists, among whom I count many friends. Some have attacked my religion with skillful arguments. This is not one of them. Rules for the fisking: Just to switch it up (and because I forgot my own conventions) the fisked article is in bold, and my responses are in italics.
There are at least 4,200 religions in the world today, and countless more have been lost to history.
Yeah, especially since to get that count you have to count every single different denomination of, e.g. Christianity as a “different religion,” even though the vast majority of their adherents would consider the vast majority of them to be variants of the same religion. I’m going to guess that’s true for a lot of the non-Christian religions as well, because you’ve already demonstrated that neither intellectual rigor nor honesty are features of your position. Most…
I’m sure most of you have heard by now that actor and musician Jussie Smollet (born “Justin Smollett”) allegedly faked an attack upon himself on January 29, 2019, stating that he was assaulted by two white men who put a noose around his neck, poured bleach on him, and called him racist and homophobic slurs while also saying, “This is MAGA country.” Smollett is African-American and gay. He also allegedly received a threatening letter a week earlier containing a mysterious white powder which turned out to be Tylenol.
While all this is getting a lot of attention in social media, not everyone is condemning him, at least publicly. Some politicians, such as Nancy Pelosi and Cory Booker, have deleted their initial “tweets” on twitter that showed support for Smollett, however U.S. Representative Maxine Waters continues to believe him. Also, African-American author and screenwriter Steven Barnes, while not defending Smollett’s alleged crime outright, does say that faking the attack does not make him a racist (and who said it did?).
Now, although Smollett has gotten a severe “dressing down” from both African-American Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and African-American Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr. (I’m pointing out that both men are black so readers don’t believe their comments are based on racism), as Judge Lyke stated, before the law, Smollett is presumed innocent until the state proves its case against him (assuming they can).
However a blog, as well as social and news media, are not courts of law, so we can afford to make some assumptions. Let’s assume that all of the allegations against Smollett are true and that he not only mailed a threatening letter to himself (which may constitute mail fraud, a Federal offense), but hired two men he’s worked with on “Empire” to fake the attack. What can we say about this?
It seems like this 36-year-old man needs a lot of attention, and playing the role of a victim, both because he’s gay and black, would certainly qualify as attention. Having his “assailants” pretend to be white Trump supporters would likely result in immediate condemnation on Trump in particular (for inspiring hate) and white conservatives in general, both being pretty easy targets in the aforementioned social and news media. In other words, on the surface of it, the attack would seem credible to a lot of people.
But that’s not enough. Before Chicago P.D. formally charged Smollett, he described himself during the attack as a gay Tupac, meaning that he was tough and fought back (although the real life boxer Tupac Shakur, who was murdered in 1996 at the age of 25, had his own legal problems). Smollett apparently was attempting to dispel the traditional stereotype that gay men are effeminate and would be helpless in a physical fight (which is ridiculous because I’ve known gay men who have served in the Marine Corps and they are tough).
Smollett is alleged to have staged the attack, in part, because he was dissatisfied with the amount of money he was earning on “Empire” which was supposedly about $125,000 per episode. With 18 episodes per season, that comes out to over two million dollars a year. Of course, there are television actors who earn more, such as the cast of “Big Bang Theory” who are said to each pull down $900,000 per episode. Nice work if you can get it.
If you put everything together, you can make a case for Smollett being a talented but highly insecure individual who needed a lot more recognition than he was getting, and yes, money is definitely a form of recognition. Sympathy and admiration are other forms, which would play to his being a victim and valiantly fighting back against his two, supposedly MAGA loving white racist attackers.
Let’s face it, most of us feel insecure at times and probably want more attention than we’re getting, but most of us don’t go to such lengths to get that attention. Add Smollett’s own admission that he has a drug problem, and you have some significant psychopathology going on, which I bet this young man’s attorneys are going to significantly exploit in court.
But it doesn’t matter. Smollett’s already destroyed his life, at least for the next several years. However, consider actor Robert Downey Jr‘s own drug-related career damage. After five years of substance abuse, arrests, rehab, and relapse, he finally got this act together and now he’s one of the hottest tickets in Hollywood. I suppose that could happen to Smollett, too, but he could also pull a Lindsay Lohan. Or not, since I just read that her career is also slowly getting back on track. Who’d have thought?
However, he’ll have to go through a lot of hurdles first, not the least of which are the consequences of being convicted if it goes that way.
But he’s not the only one who will experience consequences.
Smollett’s ploy isn’t unique. According to USA Today, it’s actually pretty common, and as a result, each false allegation causes further damage to race relations, and in this case, will again make it more difficult for real victims of racism and prejudice against the LGBTQ community to be believed. Now each and every actual victim of a hate crime gets to “thank” Smollett and the many others who put their own issues ahead of everything else. Now, with each difficulty in being believed, in having their allegations be considered valid, at feeling like they’re not being taken seriously, these people can turn to Smollett and realize that he made it harder for them.
And as Catholic teenager Nick Sandmann found out, this also makes it more likely that anyone wearing a MAGA hat for any reason will be considered a violent racist.
Why am I writing this here on my religious blog? Because we’re supposed to be people of good conscience. We’re supposed to provide charity to the widow and the orphan, which is Biblical shorthand for the disadvantaged. I’ve been burned before giving charity to someone who had duped me, and I didn’t just waste my own money doing it. How do incidents like the one Smollett allegedly perpetrated affect our own willingness to believe the victim, offer help, give to the needy? After all, we’re people just like anyone else, and I don’t doubt that there are plenty of Christians right now who are raking Smollett over the virtual coals in social media, in their families, and in their churches.
Is that right?
The court will judge Smollett on legal matters, and like everyone else, God will judge him on how he’s treated the Almighty and other human beings. While we, as individual human beings, likely have an opinion about Smollett and the behavior he’s accused of committing, a wider or more “God-like” view should tell us that we too have a judge, and while we may not be guilty of faking racist or homophobic attacks on ourselves, we do need to pay attention to our own thoughts, words, and deeds first. Have we done something that hurts others because of our own selfishness? If the answer is yes, then it behooves us to make amends in our own lives. This won’t change Smollett, and it won’t justify us “badmouthing” him, but it will mean we’re capable of learning a lesson here. So, hopefully, is Jussie Smollett.
I’m going to get into a lot of trouble, at least in certain circles, for writing this, but it’s been bothering me for a while now and, as my long-time readers know, I process my thoughts and feelings by writing.
Believe it or not, back in the day, I used to be an agnostic/atheist and a Democrat. It seemed to be the default setting for most of the people I hung out with after High School (a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away). I didn’t think much about my politics or social opinions for a long time, and certainly didn’t do anything to challenge them.
Then I got married, and several years later, my wife became pregnant. Yes, we were at a stage in our lives when we wanted to start a family, so it was quite intentional. Like I imagine most pregnant couples to be, we immediately started bonding with our unborn baby (it wasn’t until about halfway through the pregnancy that we found out my wife was having twins).
Anyway, my wife started taking prenatal vitamins and otherwise doing whatever she could to make sure our baby was born healthy. We dabbled at picking out baby names, and as her due date got closer, began buying high chairs, car seats, a crib, decorating our children’s room (by then we knew there’d be two). We were drawing ever closer to our two sons even before they were born.
That’s what expectant parents do, right?
One day, on my commute to work, I passed by an abortion clinic. Maybe it was Planned Parenthood, I don’t remember. I know it was an abortion clinic because I saw people carrying signs outside protesting abortions. On other similar occasions in the past, I was mentally critical of the protesters, since I supported pro-choice, just like my politics said I should. I knew women who had abortions and as far as I could tell, the net effect was pretty benign. That wasn’t my only experience, but I’ll get to the others in a minute.
But on the occasion of driving past the protest, I thought about my pregnant wife, and I thought about how we felt about our unborn children. That set me off on a trajectory that would eventually lead me to make some life-altering decisions affecting my political/social outlook.
However, nearly ten years before that, I had worked at a Suicide Prevention hotline in Berkeley. I was on staff, hired to cover the midnight to 8 a.m. shift (since it was rare for a volunteer to want to work that late). Of course, I received all kinds of calls from insomniacs and such, plus we had our “regulars” who would call in (not everyone who phoned was actively suicidal).
However, some of the most heart-wrenching calls I took were from young women who had just had an abortion. This was the late 1970s and into the early 80s and Roe vs. Wade made abortions legal starting in 1973. These were women who were sobbing into the telephone, talking to a stranger in the middle of the night, pouring out their anguish because they had just killed their baby. That’s how they expressed it. I’m not putting words in anyone’s mouth.
I put those experiences all together over the subsequent years, did my research, and came to a single devastating conclusion: The only difference at all between a fetus and an unborn baby human being is whether the child is wanted or not.
My wife and I didn’t wait until some critical period in the gestation of our sons to start emotionally bonding with them, we began the minute we found out she was pregnant. My wife didn’t wait until some critical period in gestation to start taking prenatal vitamins, stop drinking alcohol (she’s never been a big drinker anyway) and doing everything in her power to make sure our unborn sons would be as healthy as possible, she began right away.
I’ve heard it said that in order for an otherwise sane and moral human being to be able to kill a person, their “enemy” has to be dehumanized. In other words, if the person you plan to kill isn’t considered human, then it’s easier in war, for example, to pull the trigger. Check out a number of World War Two propaganda posters. They depict Germans and Japanese in the most ghastly lights, as vicious killers and monsters. That’s what made it okay for American civilians to hate them, for our government to intern Japanese people in camps, and for soldiers to kill them in battle.
So a fetus is a potential human, but while that potential is unrealized, it’s okay to kill them. That’s pro-choice. The potential mommy’s body, her life, her attitudes, are all more important than her child’s life.
I know what some people are going to say. What about cases where a girl or woman becomes pregnant due to incest or rape?
According to “The New York Times” in a 1989 article (yes, it’s old, so the statistic has changed slightly), only One percent of abortions are performed because the girl or woman was a victim of those crimes. Only one percent. According to a 2011 article by Christian media group Focus on the Family, that figure had risen to 1.5%. So as of about seven or eight years ago, only 1.5% of all abortions nationwide were performed because of incest or rape. So much for that straw man argument.
But what about other reasons? Why do women get abortions? Yes, because the pregnancy is unwanted, but what are the specifics?
According to a 2005 paper published by the Guttmacher Institute and cited in Table 2 of their paper, the primary reasons in descending order are:
Having a baby would dramatically change my life interfering with education, job/career, other children/dependents
Can’t afford a baby now due to being unmarried, unemployed, or for reasons of poverty
Don’t want to be a single mother or am having relationship problems
Have completed my childbearing and don’t want additional children
You can click the links I provided to read the entire table for the full list of reasons, but these are the major ones.
According to Very Well Health, the most common reason women have abortions has to do with finances. Specifically, 40% of women are financially unprepared to have a baby, and this includes conditions of poverty and being on public assistance.
Depending on your perspective, poverty/finances might be a valid reason to have an abortion should a woman unintentionally become pregnant. After all, what costs more, an abortion or raising a child from infancy to age eighteen? It’s a tough argument to counter. On the other hand, it sounds like there’s a justification of ending a human life just because that person is poor. It has some horrible implications if you start applying the principle to people who have already been born. No, it’s not that pro-choice people are actively promoting murder of a born person, even a newly born infant, but where do you draw the line between late-term abortion and killing a viable child?
That question deserves further consideration. Toward the end of my wife’s pregnancy with our sons, she developed pre-eclampsia and had to be hospitalized until she gave birth. This was at Long Beach (California) Memorial Hospital which, at the time at least, had one of the best neonatal ICUs in the nation. I saw prematurely born babies, some as young as 20 weeks gestation, all struggling to stay alive, their parents in horrible anguish and heartbreak.
I know that by most standards, 20 weeks gestation (though some authorities go as young as 16 weeks) is the cut off point for late-term abortions. There may be some pro-abortion pro-choice advocates who would be okay with aborting a baby at 21 weeks, 22, 25, or 30, but I’m not sure about that. All I know is what I witnessed was another reason I believe the only difference between a fetus (which you can abort) and an unborn baby (which you can’t because it would be unthinkable), is whether or not the child is wanted. That’s the ONLY reason based on my experiences.
Some weeks ago, I watched a video of conservative political commentator, writer, attorney, and Orthodox Jew Ben Shapiro explaining why an unborn baby is not “a ball of goo.” You can watch it at LifeNews.com and read the accompanying article, but Ben’s argument is devastating.
Okay, so why am I writing this all right now (as opposed to last year, or next year, or never)? Because I read this today.
Regardless of where you land on the abortion debate, what person in their right mind forces their own abortion experience on children? She even tells children that having an abortion is part of God’s plan, like going to the dentist.
When I was a kid, I knew women became pregnant and had babies, but in my wildest imagination, I had no clue those pregnancies could be (at that time, illegally) terminated. I’m pretty sure my children didn’t grow up with that knowledge, at least before Junior or Senior High. I don’t know what my almost ten-year-old grandson knows, and to a high degree of confidence, I’m absolutely sure my three-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter doesn’t have a clue.
Amelia Bonow and several other activists created the #ShoutYourAbortion movement, hashtag included. I guess she thought the other abortion advocates didn’t take it far enough, so in addition to just having abortions be legal, she wants women to be proud of them. Heck infamous popular celebrity Lena Dunham has gone on record saying she wishes she had an abortion. Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren compares abortion to having your tonsils removed. I don’t know if she’s ever had an abortion, but I do know she has two (adult age) children.
And who the heck would actually produce a book for children on abortion? My son, the father of my grandchildren, has similar political and social attitudes to my own (he’s actually a lot more conservative) and I’m sure he’ll agree that it’s a book my grandkids will never read, not until they’re old enough to buy it themselves or check it out from the library.
For crying out loud, let children BE children. You really don’t have to drag them into some of the messiness that goes along with being an adult. Honest. Stop it!
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about parenting and abortions. If you’ve never parented, maybe it’s easier to have an abortion, because you haven’t let yourself go through the experience of bonding with an unborn (and later born) child. But what if you’ve had children? You know what it feels like to grow close, to cherish, to nurture an unborn life. How can you simply turn around after having those profound experiences and have an abortion as if you were flipping off a light switch?
NBC recently promoted Napoles, in part, because he was featured cross-dressing and performing at a Gay club, with adult men waving money at him as if he were a stripper. I don’t know about you, but I consider that outrageous, and I can’t imagine why his parents allow such insanity.
Yes, I know this is an extreme example of poor parenting decisions, and you’re probably wondering what this has to do with abortion.
It has to do with objectifying and hypersexualizing young children. I mean, if a child means so little to you in the womb that you not only abort that child, but #ShoutYourAbortion to the world, including to children as young as little Desmond, how much can kids in general really mean in today’s progressive society (okay, so there are probably tons of progressive parents who love and cherish their children, but to the degree that all this other stuff is happening, there’s a problem)?
I know the counter-argument is that some conservative and religious parents do harm to their children as well, and I’m sure that’s true, but it doesn’t make any of the points I’ve established in this blog post less valid.
Something has changed in our world when women are told that having an abortion is not only a good thing, but a valid, right, and moral thing to achieve, no more harmful than going to the dentist or having your tonsils removed, and all part of God’s eternal plan for the salvation of the world. Something is horribly wrong when an eleven-year-old boy performs in drag in front of a bunch of men in a gay nightclub. Something is horribly wrong in our world, when that boy then performs on a major network (NBC) television show and is praised for being (in my opinion) sexually exploited, and millions of people in the audience think it’s okay.
It is not okay. How younger people are being programmed to believe ending a human life and sexually exploiting young boys is not okay.
Parents and grandparents and all the other caretakers of children out there, please protect your kids. Don’t let the culture corrupt and destroy them. If this is what morality looks like when progressives and atheists believe they are the highest moral and ethical force in the universe, I don’t think you have to look too far to figure out why I prefer that a perfect and Holy God is my moral compass.
About a month or so ago, my wife surprised me again. She doesn’t do that very often. After all, we’ve been married for over 35 years, so we know each other pretty well by now. However, after the Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting and several other antisemitic incidents that made the news, she said if it gets much worse, she’d consider having us move to Israel.
Yes, you could have knocked me over with the proverbial feather.
Her making aliyah and having us move to Israel used to be a dream of mine back in the day, but that was a day when our children were still young and we all would have moved together. My wife and I discussed it and I did a bit of research, but life went on and we never seriously pursued it. My passion for living in “the Land” faded over time, and well, that was that.
Until my wife made her rather earth shattering pronouncement.
She hasn’t mentioned it since, and I haven’t seen her do anything else about it, plus, as my mother ages and her memory continues to deteriorate, the missus has seriously discussed moving my Mom up here from southwestern Utah, and I can only imagine that precludes any further discussion of my wife making aliyah.
To be honest, in addition to my Mom, I don’t think I could make myself leave my grandkids. Oh sure, my son (their Dad) is Jewish and he could make aliyah as well, but I don’t see that in his future, and certainly his ex-wife would prevent their two children from leaving the country on a permanent basis because it would severely inhibit her visitation rights.
But retiring to Israel is an interesting thought. I wasn’t going to write about it, but then, I read an Aish.com article titled Why We Left a Secure Life in the U.S. and Moved to Israel by Rabbi Jonathan Feldman, PhD. Of course, Rabbi Feldman is writing from a Jewish perspective, which doesn’t touch upon what it would be like for a non-Jewish spouse to go through the experience.
The Law of Return states that “a family member of a Jew” can mean a child or grandchild of a Jew, or the spouse of a Jew, or the child or grandchild to a Jew. The law does not provide for the immigration of other family members, such as siblings or half siblings and grand-grandchildren.
Therefore, if a non-Jewish member of another religion only has a Jewish father, or Jewish grandparents, and does not have a Jewish mother, he or she, would be entitled to immigrate to Israel legally, in accordance with the Law of Return allowing Aliyah for family members. It is important to note that hundreds of thousands of people have made Aliyah to Israel as family members of Jews, despite not being considered Jewish by the law of return, but were eligible for Aliyah as a family member of a Jew.
However, relative to some members of my readership, the article goes on to say:
In fact, in the Supreme Court verdict 2708/06 Steckback v. the Interior Ministry (Court ruling from the 16th of April 2008) it was clearly determined that a Messianic Jew would be entitled to immigrate to Israel, as a family member of a Jew, according to Section 4a(a) of the Law of Return, provided that he or she does not have a Jewish mother.
The same logic would seem to apply to a Messianic Jew/Christian, whose mother converted to Messianic Judaism, or Christianity, or any other religion, before the birth of the person in question. As the mother had converted before the birth of the Aliyah applicant, this individual was not born to a Jewish mother, and would therefore not be defined as a Jew, according to Section 4(b) of the Law of Return.
As I mentioned above, all of this is probably moot. However, my Mom turns 87 this year and although she’s in good physical condition for her age, at some point, she will pass. Also, the grandchildren will grow older, and although I will always love and adore them, they might not need Grandpa and Bubbe as much in ten years. Assuming my wife and I are still alive and healthy then, it’s possible that we may still choose to retire in Israel.
Again, the probability isn’t high, but it’s still non-trivial, so who knows?
But what is life like in Israel for the non-Jewish spouse of a Jew? At this point, I can only wonder.
I don’t write here much anymore. Back in the day, I was practically fanatical in my rapid pace of authoring some sort of missive, sharing my perspectives on faith, Messiah, Judaism, and the people of the nations of the world.
Well, it got to the point where I felt I said everything I had to say. After all, I’m not a professional theologian. I haven’t been to school for this sort of thing, and have no special training beyond what any layperson in a faith community would have access to. I’m just a guy with an opinion, and believe me, there are far too many of us in the blogosphere, religious or otherwise, as it is.
However, yesterday, I had an interesting conversation with my friend Tom. I see Tom on Sunday afternoons every other week unless one or the other of us has another commitment. Tom suffers from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS, sometimes called “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” He is a man of great faith who, at least when I’m present, faces his ailment with remarkable courage.
We visit in the back bedroom of his home which has been converted to a small den or office. Topics of conversation run from science fiction, comic books, movies, the possibilities and problems with colonization of the Moon, Mars, and even Venus, and just about anything else. We also talk about our faith and what is called “Messianic Judaism” and “Hebrew Roots.”
Many years ago, I ceased attending my local Messianic community (which subsequently disbanded) because I was in a position of leadership and teaching, and as my understanding of my faith and its Biblical foundations evolved, I came to realize that what I had been teaching was pretty much dead wrong. I also realized I had no business teaching anyone anything because I was totally unqualified.
The people I worshiped with didn’t seem to mind one bit and said they enjoyed what I was teaching, but as a matter of conscience, I couldn’t continue.
For a lot of reasons I won’t mention here, I eventually started attending a small, local Baptist church. Just about everyone was nice, and the head Pastor took a liking to me, even to the point of having one-to-one meetings with me almost every Wednesday evening. But in the end, he was trying to convince me to become a good Baptist, and I was trying to convince him of the centrality of corporate Israel in God’s plan of redemption, that the Jewish people remain under the Sinai Covenant, and that the New Covenant, which for the past twenty centuries, has just been peeking through the door at the faithful, so to speak, is merely the writing of Torah on the hearts of Israel, rather than throwing the Five Books of Moses and the writings of the Prophets out the window.
We parted company, and in the years since, I haven’t heard anything from him or anyone else at church.
I’m pretty much a lone wolf these days, reading, studying, and worshiping privately.
So when my friend Tom, who does keep in touch with local, long-term members of the Messianic community, told me there were currently a total of seven “Hebraic” faith groups in our area, I was intrigued. Not enough to sample them, which would complicate matters, including my home life, but I was interested in hearing more.
He mentioned a couple who I’d met years ago, and how they had formed their own group. He also mentioned a schism in that group, which happens with some regularity in many of these collectives, but this one was interesting. I guess the problem started with a woman, who is a very intelligent and well-educated mathematician, and who also became a very strict Bible-literalist, as well as a King James Bible only proponent, believing all other translations of the Bible from the original languages into English are bogus.
The most startling revelation was that she also is a Flat Earther. I was stunned.
Supposedly, she dismisses all of the evidence that we live on a globe as conspiracy theories, fake news, faked photographs, and such. This is quite surprising coming from a mathematician, but there are generally two areas of human understanding where dogma and belief seem to outweigh facts in most cases: politics and religion. When you enter those realms, faith and devotion to a set of beliefs, and in many cases, a charismatic leader figure (political or religious) trumps the facts (no pun intended).
The head Pastor at the church I once attended was something of a Bible literalist but not to such an outrageous degree. We live in an observable universe which, to the best of our techniques and our technology, we can objectively examine and re-examine using the scientific method.
Unlike some people I experience in the secular world, I believe science is NOT an object of absolute devotion, and it certainly doesn’t yield accurate results one hundred percent of the time, which is why science is never “settled.” It is a logical, fact-based process of asking questions about some observation, doing research, constructing a hypothesis, testing it, and so on. It is not merely a set of definitive pronouncements by people in lab coats who some treat as their “High Priests.”
All that said, as a person of faith and a rational, (hopefully) intelligent, and educated human being, I believe that the objective universe and the Bible cannot conflict, because in the former case, the universe was created by God, and in the latter case, our Holy writings were inspired by the same God (inspired, but not authored…it’s complicated).
I know atheists who would jump all over me at this point, citing multiple inconsistencies between Biblical text (which they read in English and with little or no background in solid hermeneutics) and what we know about the universe around us.
As far as how we understand scientific knowledge about some phenomenon, let’s consider black holes which are the end products of stars over a certain mass (our sun doesn’t quality and will eventually become a white dwarf star). Albert Einstein first predicted the existence of black holes in 1915, and when I was taking astronomy classes in the mid-1970s, I was taught a certain set of (then-known) “facts” about black holes. The late Stephen Hawking revolutionized our current understanding of black holes, and even more recent studies indicate that perhaps he didn’t get it quite right.
No, science is never “settled.”
However, if studies and experiments are unbiased (and remember, federal government grants fund an awful lot of scientific studies), the results, given the limitations of our tools and our understanding, should be taken as fairly reliable, which is why I believe the Earth is a sphere and not a flat dinner plate.
My understanding of the history of God’s interactions with human beings tells me that He encounters them/us in all manner of circumstances including worship contexts, which means that the Catholic Church, Seventh Day Adventists, or any other body of worshipers is NOT the one and only “true church” rendering every other congregations of believers invalid. Just look at how much the early worshipers of Christ during the lifetime of the apostles gathered, their praxis, and their prayers differ from most if not all church communities today.
But as I said before, politics and religion are areas where people seem to feel free to leave their brains at the door and rigidly adopt perspectives that are sometimes wildly outside of reality (to the best of our ability to understand said-reality).
Surprised at that last one? How can I say that? There are entire volumes published on trying to answer that question, but let’s briefly consider the nature of God. God creating all of timespace, everything we can observe about the universe and everything we can’t, is like me writing this blog post or drawing a sketch. The creator, by definition, cannot be dependent upon the creation.
Sure, I can write a story about myself, or make a self-portrait, but objectively, I still exist outside of those products. If I delete the blog post or burn the drawing in my fireplace, I don’t cease to exist. I’m still outside of those “universes.”
So is God.
Of course, God can choose to interact with human beings, and His “interaction” with Mount Sinai in Exodus 19 attests that He can physically affect geography, in this case burning the top of the mountain to ashes.
How He does this no one knows, which is why we call it a miracle.
We can observe, again to the best of technology and methodology, everything inside of the universe, but God is not in the universe, which is why whenever people attempt to experience God outside the context of prayer, they turn to arcane mysticism, which is a topic all its own.
In a nutshell, this is why I believe the Earth is a globe, we’ve put men on the Moon, we have populated Mars with human-made robots, and that God is real.
Understanding God, the Bible, and coming to faith isn’t something that happens in an instant and then the religion is “settled.” Yes, people can come to faith in a single moment, but for most of us, it’s a sometimes long process of exploration. It’s one that I haven’t finished yet, and I probably won’t until the day I die. Just like scientific study, the study of the Bible, and evolving in a life of faith is ongoing, and just like science, it is a never ending process. In both circumstances, we largely accept many things about reality because we have to live and interact in the world without constantly confusing ourselves. We have “faith” in the conclusions by which we operate in a day-by-day life, both scientific conclusions and Biblical conclusions.
But none of that means we know it all. The minute we stop asking questions is the minute we become ignorant, uninformed, dogmatic, rigid, and out of touch with the realities of the universe and the Bible.
In the case of the “Flat Earth” lady, she believes in a certain, rigid understanding of the Bible that contradicts observable reality. In some other person’s case, they believe in a certain, sometimes rigid understanding of science, and that all of its conclusions are absolute and final, without considering realities that exist beyond the timespace continuum, and that can only be realized metaphysically.
No human being can know the mind of God, so, as the Apostle Paul quipped in 1 Corinthians 13:12:
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. (emph mine)
The best we can do in understanding both an infinite God and a finite universe is by looking “in a mirror dimly,” a highly distorted and limited set of lenses, because we ourselves and all of our tools and understanding are limited by design.
But it’s not always going to be that way. A day is coming when we will see clearly and everything that we puzzle over now or even downright deny will suddenly make sense. It will be like the day a resurrected Jesus (Yeshua) encountered two men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), and his explanation of key portions of scripture opened their eyes to the truth of the Messiah (and I wish what he said had been recorded by Luke, because I’d like to hear it, too). Someday it will be like that for all of us, but until then, we need to keep asking questions. Don’t take anything for granted, because if you do, if you stop asking questions, stop seeking a better understanding, whether you are religious or secular, you will become the moral equivalent of a “flat earther.”
I’m very grateful for my relationship with Tom and our regular conversations. He has a brilliant mind and a compassionate heart. He is a good friend and an excellent role model for a man of faith. As David wrote in Psalm 23:3, I think God uses him to restore my soul.
When it comes to racism, America has made it clear that prejudice based on color cannot be tolerated. Roseanne Barr destroyed her career with just one racist twitter and had to be removed from her own show for the transgression of an offensive comment.
Equality is in; demeaning stereotyping is not only out but seemingly bad enough to be deemed unforgivable.
Except when one group is the target.
Who are these terrible people exempt from the sin of stereotyping?
I’m not going to get into all of that. I’ve already written extensively about the Kavanaugh confirmation process HERE, HERE, and HERE.
I want to write about what we can expect next, which is the topic of Rabbi Blech’s essay: misandry, which is:
Noun – Definition of misandry: a hatred of men
Before anyone says it, yes, men have committed terrible, terrible acts against women and children across human history and into the current age. For example, there’s a huge surge in child trafficking in Africa and:
over two million people are trafficked annually, and of this number there is an estimated 30 000 children as young as 4, who are being prostituted in South Africa.
A 2013 study found that rape may be grossly underreported in the United States. Furthermore, a 2014 study suggested that police departments may eliminate or undercount rapes from official records in part to “create the illusion of success in fighting violent crime”. Based on the available data, 21.8% of American rapes of female victims are gang rapes. For the last reported year, 2013, the prevalence rate for all sexual assaults including rape was 0.1% (prevalence represents the number of victims, rather than the number of assaults since some are victimized more than once during the reporting period). The survey included males and females aged 12+. Since rapes are a subset of all sexual assaults, the prevalence of rape is lower than the combined statistic. Of those assaults, the Bureau of Justice Statistics stated that 34.8% were reported to the police, up from 29.3% in 2004.
Given the quote above, we may not have a very accurate picture of how many girls and woman have been raped based on victims not reporting as well as police departments apparently gaming their numbers. This may be why we see such a surge of “believe the victims” statements coming from the #MeToo movement and wider feminism. In fact, going back to the Kavanaugh hearings, once there was a disclosure from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford alleging that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her approximately 35 years ago, those who had been protesting against Kavanaugh for his perceived stand on Roe vs. Wade and other topics, focused on his guilt as a sexual abuser. From what I could see in the news, many woman projected their own victimization upon Kavanaugh, and now that he’s been confirmed, no doubt they will believe that Republicans in the Senate (and probably in the general public) all tacitly approve of sexual violence against woman.
So we have a perfect storm from which to accuse all men everywhere of participating in rape culture which must be battled at all costs, including violent protests.
I agree that sexual assault must be battled and the perpetrators arrested, tried, and if convicted, incarcerated to the maximum penalty allowed by law (and I think those penalties should be severe), but is it true that all men are evil?
No, but is it true that all men are, if not overt sexual offenders, covertly supportive of the subordination of women, especially as related to the sexual act?
That’s like asking if all white males in America tacitly approve of racism because of their white privilege, simply because we were all raised in a culture that is systematically racist.
It’s a tough one to crack.
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.
–Genesis 2:18-22 (NASB)
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.
–Ephesians 5:25-30 (NASB)
I’m not going to do an exhaustive search of what the Bible has to say about male-female relationships, but given these two examples, it seems that men and women are literally made for each other, and intended to work together cooperatively within the context of marriage. Further, men are expected to sacrifice themselves to protect their wives (and children), even unto death.
Do you know any men who fit that description? I do, plenty of them. They don’t make the news because men loving their wives and children, providing for them, and protecting them isn’t sensational, and it doesn’t rile people up.
In his article, Rabbi Blech quotes a number of feminist sources saying some pretty rough things about men such as:
“I want to see a man beaten to a bloody pulp with a high-heel shoved in his mouth, like an apple in the mouth of a pig.” -Andrea Dworkin
“All sex, even consensual sex between a married couple, is an act of violence perpetrated against a woman.” -Catherine MacKinnon
I haven’t researched the contexts for those statements, and perhaps their original contexts modify them, but you have to admit, on the surface, they seem pretty raw.
In the days, weeks, and months to come, I expect to see plenty of misandry in the news and social media, specifically because of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.
What I hope people consider, and especially those who think the Kavanaugh confirmation equals “all men are scum” (although I found this article from last July encouraging), is that you’ll take some time to think of the men who are or were in your life who aren’t or weren’t scum, and in fact, who are or were really supportive.
Maybe it was your Dad, an Uncle, or Grandpa. It could have been a teacher, a neighbor, a bus driver. If national attention has become a raw nerve in terms of Kavanaugh in specific and men in general, it’s important to remember the other side of the coin. Men, from God’s point of view, were not intended to victimize women, we are intended to protect and nurture women, including from men who would harm them.
One of my Facebook (and in real life) friends posted a lengthy quote about a week and a half ago:
Men ask why women are so pissed off. Even guys with wives and daughters. Jackson Katz, a prominent social researcher, illustrates why. He’s done it with hundreds of audiences:
“I draw a line down the middle of a chalkboard, sketching a male symbol on one side and a female symbol on the other.
Then I ask just the men: What steps do you guys take, on a daily basis, to prevent yourselves from being sexually assaulted? At first there is a kind of awkward silence as the men try to figure out if they’ve been asked a trick question. The silence gives way to a smattering of nervous laughter. Occasionally, a young a guy will raise his hand and say, ‘I stay out of prison.’ This is typically followed by another moment of laughter, before someone finally raises his hand and soberly states, ‘Nothing. I don’t think about it.’
Then I ask the women the same question. What steps do you take on a daily basis to prevent yourselves from being sexually assaulted? Women throughout the audience immediately start raising their hands. As the men sit in stunned silence, the women recount safety precautions they take as part of their daily routine.
Hold my keys as a potential weapon. Look in the back seat of the car before getting in. Carry a cell phone. Don’t go jogging at night. Lock all the windows when I sleep, even on hot summer nights. Be careful not to drink too much. Don’t put my drink down and come back to it; make sure I see it being poured. Own a big dog. Carry Mace or pepper spray. Have an unlisted phone number. Have a man’s voice on my answering machine. Park in well-lit areas. Don’t use parking garages. Don’t get on elevators with only one man, or with a group of men. Vary my route home from work. Watch what I wear. Don’t use highway rest areas. Use a home alarm system. Don’t wear headphones when jogging. Avoid forests or wooded areas, even in the daytime. Don’t take a first-floor apartment. Go out in groups. Own a firearm. Meet men on first dates in public places. Make sure to have a car or cab fare. Don’t make eye contact with men on the street. Make assertive eye contact with men on the street.”
― Jackson Katz, The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help
(The first man to minor in women’s studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, holds a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a Ph.D. in cultural studies and education from UCLA.)
It bothered me, but it took a while for me to figure out why. One man responded thus:
Funny, he never asked what men do to protect their wives and daughters from assault. Let alone the neverending worry that comes with the weight of responsibility of being the protector of the family. Men aren’t heartless mongrels. Unfortunately, they don’t teach that fact in women’s studies.
This is a portion of my response:
This bothered me a lot when I first read it, but I couldn’t figure out why. Then, last night, I had a nightmare about two people trying to take my grandson from me. Even though I stopped it in my dream, I still work up horrified.
I realized the question you ask men isn’t what they do to protect themselves, but what they do to protect their families, because after all, that’s our role, at least once we marry, and especially once we have children, and in my case, grandchildren.
Also, this wee missive assumes there is only one kind of assault, sexual assault. In fact, men, women, and children are subject to all manner of physical assault.
Know that if there are some men in the world who are dangerous to women and children, there are also plenty of us who are not, and in fact, who are dedicated to protecting our families. I hope you know a man like that. If you do, and if he’s around, you might want to talk with him for a while today and remind yourself that men can be good, too.
"When you awake in the morning, learn something to inspire you and mediate upon it, then plunge forward full of light with which to illuminate the darkness." -Rabbi Tzvi Freeman