Friday, July 6, 2007

Silence and All Submission

Inspired by Renegade Evolution's question: "Does ones documentation of their lives, experiences, and mistreatment at the hands of others lead to silencing?" But deviating more or less substantially, because I was pleasantly tipsy whilst composing this.

I think I've mentioned I've only had one formal "women's studies" class before. And that some of the readings/discussions made me feel like clawing my eyes out. The lockstep, "you will believe this or you aren't one of us" vibe wasn't ringing true in Metra's ear. The tone of "how dare you think something different, that makes you a threat, and quite possibly a helper in the oppression, especially if you claim we are ignoring/inadvertently damaging you" -- yeah, I wasn't buying. Anyone who thinks that simply because a person disagrees with one, that person is attempting (or somehow magically managing) to silence one -- BS! (By the way, I think the same thing about the Creationists whining that they are being censored by the academic community.)

Not that there isn't such a thing as being silenced. It happens frequently. But it seems to me at least, that to be silenced requires that who have considerably more physical or perhaps social force directed against one.

I don't know fully what it means to be silenced because I was born into a family of oddballs who just live in the marginal of 'Shire society and do their own thing and have been doing so for more than a hundred years. So while I learned that the church would treat me differently from the boys and not let me led songs or speak, I was also reassured by virtually everyone within my family that while the Cathey's Creek CofC elders might think that, it wasn't actually true -- just play along and then think what you want to think anyway. And, I spent much/most of my formative years with my spinster great aunt who was known for wearing pants to church and removing snakes that had crawled into the building when the menfolk were too scared or too slow to do it, so maybe I didn't even have to play along all that much. But I am still trying to explain to my family that there are massive differences between the experience my father (who remained within the CofC) had and the experience I have. The most salient one -- he was actually permitted formal and public speech. And when one congregation stripped him of that right, he could in fact find another congregation that continued to recognize that. Conversely, I was forbidden to speak (or really act independently) in the public forum of worship even after I had well passed the age at which my male peers were invited (or in some cases dragged) into it. And, I bet that there are a number of people who would justifiably laugh out loud at my declaration of knowing something about being silenced. Because this is a silencing extremely limited in scope.

But, because the scope was limited, I know the difference being being forbidden to speak and being allowed to speak but vehemently disagreed with. I had a few forums in the old CofC. Limited, yes, but I loved the preacher at the congregation we were at (and actually, the youth minister too) because I knew that I could speak with them in private and they would both take me seriously. They might not understand, and they probably wouldn't agree, but both would have allowed me to have my opinion. I could and would speak in some of the classes (they ain't worship after all). This, actually, was why I was ostracized by the my peers, accused of not having a heart, and interrogated on my sexuality at the tender age of fourteen (which considering I still don't really have one thanks to year upon years of repression, makes me giggle). Oh, and that whole, going to hell/oh, you'll just grow out of this thing. But the fact is, none of that was silencing even though the goal was to persuade me to change my mind or at the very least, to stop raising cain. Yes, it was discouraging but not silencing.

Silencing was the fact that I was forbidden to speak at any official service. Silencing was the fact that I suspect that if I have ever gathered up the courage to stand up in the middle of a service and explain why I was firmly convinced that points x, y, and z were very wrong, I would have from my little self escorted out by several burly deacons. In that forum, I was -- in fact -- coerced into silence. The threat of being physically prevented from speaking was there. I would be silent, and I would submit, or else I would be made to do so. And to tell the truth -- compared to the much greater forces exerted around the world on numerous people to keep their mouths shut -- that is such a watered down form of coercion that it is like unto nothing. No one would have broken my jaw or tried to kill me, and I could walk away.

While the other tactics used to instill or create cooperation amongst the youth or females (peer pressure, discounting opinions, the threat of going to hell for eternity, God's supposed phallus) were attempts to minimize disagreement/free thought, they were something very different. None of those had the power, ultimately, to prevent me from speaking. Even being accused of being an evil influence on my sister and being responsible for her not being saved isn't silencing. Annoying as everything, but the only way those tactics could actually shut me up was if I allowed them to get under my skin. And then the people who would listen to what my opinion was and then reply with the reasons why they thought differently -- well, I've never had a problem with them. Some disagreeing with my speech does nothing to silence me or even encourage silence on my part.

The badly made point is, it takes a heck of a lot more than someone disagreeing with your opinions or your actions -- or even outright mocking what you have said or done as sheer foolishness, stupidity, or bigotry -- before you have actually been silenced. A gun to the head, the possibility of being taken down physically, the threat of stoning, deprivation of liberty, physical violence, starvation in the streets, being thrown out of your community into the desert -- these can all legitimately be called silencing. Just being told you're a flaming idiot, whether rightly or wrongly, or that you have mistreated others -- nope, that is not being silenced.

A Militantly Agnostic Gnostic, or Everything's an Opinion

I don't know and you don't either.

"Wisest is he who knows he knows nothing." Socrates

For some unknown reason, I lurk on a couple of CofC discussion boards of Facebook. (My justification is that occasionally someone had to jump in a remind folk that there's more than one way to skin a cat or read a Bible.) Anyway, on a fairly regular basis someone will bring up the difference between personal opinions and the supposedly cold hard facts of scripture. At this point, I might read one or two comments in the threads then decide that I'm putting too many dents in the desk and ignore the thread. (My tolerance is inversely proportional to the number of people incapable of typing whole words with appropriate use of capital letters.)

I've yet to see an argument providing objective, non-circular proof for a reading of the Bible as the literal, final, and inerrant Word of God. And I've heard plenty. There is, of course, the classic Second Timothy citation: "all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (3:16). I figured out at some point in high school that using that verse made no sense at all. First of all, Paul or Pseudo-Paul couldn't have been referring to the modern canon of the New Testament or even the modern canon of the Old Testament. Besides, any text could claim to be the word of God. Heck, I could claim to be speaking the word (version K, after versions A-J weren't sufficient) -- that would NOT mean that I actually am speaking the word of God. My sister just reported a similarly circular statement, "We know the Bible is true because Jesus is God." Really now?

Then, there's the archaeological, historical confirmation nonsense. First, I would like to make the point that just because a text has it's historical duckies in a row does not mean that it's interpretation of those facts is correct. Other historical records from the Ancient Near East do confirm a sizable percentage of the battles from the historical books. Of course, this means the Bible confirms those historical records -- so which interpretation of events is right? Was the Israelite army obliterated because the Israelites had angered YHWH, or because the gods of the invading group was more powerful than YHWH? Both claims are made by texts with their historical ducks (dates, places, etc.) in order. Further, there's archaeological evidence for other ancient text once believed to be pure fiction. The location of Troy was discovered by a zealous fan of Homer using the descriptions in the Odyssey -- obviously, therefore, we must also accept the theological claims of the Odyssey. I'm all for Artemis and plan to take up silver-smithing in her honor -- it goes along with m'name, you see.

Point is, none of these proofs are objective. Circular reasoning is just that, and the fact that portions of the Bible can be historically verified says nothing about the legitimacy of the interpretations and theological claims made. People choose to accept or not to accept the authority of the Bible -- that in and of itself is an opinion.

In high school I got into an argument with two Bible class teachers (I know, hardly a fair fight). It finally got around to one of the teachers in exasperation telling me that I just had to have faith that the Bible was literally true about whatever it was we were arguing about. That's great, I said, but I have faith that X (where x equals God gave me the same rights as the boys, or there's more than one way to God, etc.) is true and the Bible is wrong. You don't have to agree with me on X, but why isn't my faith as good as yours?

And that's the thing. Everything is, to one extent or another, an opinion even if you cite some outside source because humans make choices as to what they will regard as an authority. The Bible is not an objective authority because people have to choose or not choose to recognize it has authoritative. Most of these choices can be amply justified by subjective evidence specific to each individuals unique experience. I'm not going to tell anyone that they can't believe the Bible; I will tell them that they shouldn't expect everyone else on the planet to agree with them.

I have an Itchy Foot

And, I've totally been on Voldemort's side for quite some time. Surprised, aren't cha?

So what will happen at the end of the Harry Potter saga? J.K. Rowlings will have the time to do crazy things, like actually revise her manuscripts before they are rushed to publication? Do I really remember what happened at the end of the last book? Nope, other than Dumbledore died, outliving my prediction of his demise by an entire book. Do I really care what happens at the end of this one? I'll read it anyway.

But, I suspect the pleasure I got from this Salon article on possible ends for the saga of the boy-wizard will be greater than whatever joy I will extract from the book after the little brother is finished with it. Maybe I can beat him with it in vengeance for having misplaced my Philip Pullman.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Oh, yeah, Happy July 4

You know, I like these. Wouldn't it be nice if the government actually paid some attention to them? I know, dream on. From here.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment VII

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

But I'm a real boy -- look, no strings!

Confession: I was involved, shall we say, in middle school and high school with this youth program affiliated with the Churches of Christ called Lads to Leaders/Leaderettes. And no, despite the misogyny on steroids name, it actually wasn't all bad. I had some great fun at the conventions. I still miss my puppet. (I'm such a geek, but my god, puppetry is FUN! And Carlos - I named my puppet -- and I were together for like four or five years, man.) And, inadvertently LtL had a lot of influence on me. For one thing, I really got my taste for playing with gender from puppetry. See, there was always a shortage of boys (puppets are aimed at kids, boys don't do kids stuff), so I was frequently cross-puppeteering, because I wasn't bothered by it and I had one of the least "girly" voices. And, I not only didn't mind, I outright relished it. So. Much. Fun. I got mad the first year I was sent back to playing a girl character -- incidentally, Carlos and I stayed together, I made him wig. I was even madder the next year, when it was decided that I could handle King David in the skit, but that it was preferable to have the sole male on the team talk to himself rather than having me take over either the voice of God or Moses. But still, fun times, on the whole.

But really, debate was where it was at for me. Oh, I love a debate. I love verbally ripping someone's unsuspecting throat out because no one was expecting that from a little girl. I delight greatly in the fact that due to crossed wires, I -- a lowly, sinful, weak female made it into the guy's debate (these things were strictly segregated, of course, and yes, I probably would have emasculated some poor unsuspecting boy). And, you know, a girl's gotta cut her teeth somewhere.

Soon after we switched churches to the one with the LtL program, my dad took over coaching the debate team at the congregation. He debated in high school and college and actually knew what he was doing. So when the debate resolution for that year showed up worded in such a way that the affirmative team couldn't even argue a case but would have to simply walk in and then walk out, he contacted the national office and explained the situation. They then, of course, put him in charge of fixing it, and next thing we know my dad is in charge running the debate competition: choosing resolutions, organizing the actual competition, formulating a new score card, etc. Groovy, huh?

So for several years, he worked on trying to switch the debate category from an extension of the speaking competitions into an actual debate program. And I spent a few decent amount of time looking over his shoulder. Here's what I can tell you. The main difference between my father and many people in the CofC is that he was interested in having actual debates. My dad was a firm believer in the principle that you can not fully understand your own argument until you understand those of your opponent. Thus, he tried to pick topics for the debate resolution that were not ones the strange powers that be structure in the CofC had already "ruled" on. So we debated things like pacifism, and the ethics of the lottery, etc. Dad's goal was to get something that was timely, but not so much of a hot-button issue that people couldn't see clearly (we are talking about high schoolers for the most part), and never ever should an issue of salvation be debated in the context. The reason being that high schoolers weren't mature enough to handle that type of a debate without everybody coming away hurt.

The vetting process went something like this. Dad was in communication with a number of other debate coaches and interested parties through e-mail (every single e-mail was saved FYI, I can reconstruct the decision-making process). He'd make suggestions, take suggestions, and explain reasons why he would reject certain topics. One topic which was suggested and politely rejected every year was the issue of the necessity of baptism for salvation. Or Resolved: Baptism by immersion is essential for salvation. Their were a couple of reasons for not using that resolution. One, it isn't fair to potentially put high schoolers in the position of having to argue a case that damns them to hell. Second, the adults in the LtL aren't mature enough, for the most part, to admit that a case for salvation without baptism can indeed be made, so it wouldn't be a fair fight.

Then, he died. Whereupon virtually every principle he had tried to put into practice in the debate program was promptly ignored by the new boys in town. The first resolution picked by the new man in charge. Resolved: Baptism, by immersion, is essential for salvation. (Or whatever the wording eventually became, I was so mad I just played semantics to my heart's content.) Mad isn't strong enough. I was livid. I'm still enraged, oh dear people of the Lads to Leaders organization, if you happen to stop by.

Of course, that year my little sister and I were partners. Fran's first draft of her affirmative speech: Hi, my name is Fran, and I'm going to hell. You see, Fran's not baptized. (I'm also going to hell by their reckoning, but for different reasons.) Bad enough, right? Oh, it got worse.

Then, some darlings somewhere became offended that there little ones were being forced to consider negative arguments. That is -- there were parents and elders upset that the kids might have to consider the possibility that you could in fact be saved without being dunked. So, it was passed around by the powers that be, that a statement would be read prior to each debate at competition that it was acknowledged that the truth was that baptism, by immersion, was essential for salvation and that any argument put forth by the negative was incorrect.

I screamed. I had, at least, one complete melt-down at practice after I found that out. I contemplated murder. I contemplated a number of actions. I finally decided that the only thing to do was construct a negative case to end all negative cases. They were wrong, and I was going to prove it, even if no one heard me because the bastards had the girls separated off from the all important young men.

And so, with some help from various sympathetic sources, namely the local congregational coaches (who are both amazing people), I found that beautiful thing know as allegorical exegesis. And it was sweet. By the way, I took first place individual speaker, and my sister and I took home first place team. In part because we were the only team there that had a real negative case, and we also got one of the few female judges who knew enough about debate to understand and appreciate what we were doing. (I'll admit -- judging, incredibly subjective. I recognized the lady in question from past years.) Anyway, I felt slightly vindicated.

So, what was that long-winded story for? Well, the Christian Chronicle has an article up on the loss of the youth from the CofC. As one of the lost boys (um . . . youth), I disagree with the main point of the article. I recognize I'm an exception in a lot of ways, but still. Apparently, the CofC is losing youth because they spend too much time "debating" the issues.
“They’re not interested in debating instrumental music, women’s roles, clapping,” Jones said. “Instead, they’d rather discuss how to help the homeless population in their city, how to minister to homosexual friends, how to battle drug and alcohol abuse,” he said. “They want to know how Christ matters in the real world, not just inside the walls of a church building.”
Um, no. They might be losing some of your youth because they don't have enough of an outlet for zealotry. (I've also been to youth programs focused on increasing evangelism. First of all, scary brainwashing events. Second, I'm disgusted at some of the things people are telling these kids about their "homosexual" friends, or pagan friends, or Muslim friends, because most of it is factually incorrect.) But, the Church of Christ is losing most of their youth because no one is seriously debating issues that matter. The rant above explains where my suspicion that many CofC powers that be wouldn't know a real debate if it knocked them in the face. Youth are leaving in droves because rather than debating issues the majority of CofCs would rather just stick to the doctrines handed down seventy years ago than actually engage in any serious inquiry. Youth aren't satisfied with being brain-washed and told that the answer has already determined. Especially when what we are told we must believe contradicts what we have learned in our experiences -- even if they are short ("Let no man despise you for your youth . . ." 1 Tim. 4:12). Our questions are not even respected enough to be given the dignity of an actual debate, they are simply brushed aside.

We're smarter than many people think. Many of us know when we're being manipulated, when peer pressure is being used to try and force us into among youth. And that doesn't fly well. Some might leave for other denominations. Some for other religions that give them a better framework for understanding the world. Some have such a bad taste in their mouth from being played like a puppet that they won't go anywhere near God-talk. Some of us have layers of issues built up from being told for so long that we had to destroy everything we were or go to hell. Some of us become Satanic in the sense that we turn our attention to interrogating the layers of metaphors and models that have been built for the Divine in hope of catching some fleeting glimpse of the reality.

So, yeah, I learned a lot of things from Lads to Leaders. I learned to not focus too much people telling me that I'm wrong and to just use that as a motivation to make my point that much louder and that much clearer. They might not listen but at least I know where I stand. More importantly though, I think, I know about puppetry. And I know I am not a puppet to be manipulated. I am a person.

Hate Crime versus Mundane Crime?

In the ridiculousness of the current nutter rallying cry that adding sexual orientation, gender, and disability to the list of "hate crimes" would somehow prevent Christians from categorizing homosexuality as a sin, an entirely separate debate over whether or not there should even be a category of "hate crimes" separate from mundane crimes has gotten swept under the rug.

It's an interesting argument, popular amongst many libertarians. Basically, the thought is that all crimes ( and criminals) should be treated equally by the law and not given special treatment because of the motivation for the crime. To some extent, I think, it's also rooted in the belief that most acts of violence against another individual are rooted in some sort of hate -- every crime is a hate crime. This article from Reason Magazine is just one of the first one's I pulled up. It's succint and sums up the formulations, I've heard.

And, if you limit the system in which a crime occurs (can you tell I've been in a physics class for a month?) to only the attackers and the directly affected victim, that argument has a point. In isolation one murder, or one beating, is directly equivalent to any other murder or beating regardless of the motivations behind them. However, crime does not happen in isolation.

The distinct nature of a hate crime, at least from where I'm standing, is that the intended victim of the crime is not a single individual. The average murderer only intends to affect a single person, whoever his or her target is. The motivation might be revenge, curiosity, a simple dislike of the victim's face, whatever, but the muderer only intends to kill one person, and that's that. The intention of a hate crime is vastly different.

The intended victim of a hate crime is not an individual but a community of individuals. The intention is not to kill or hurt the specific victim, but to send a message to the community to which the victim is perceived to have belonged and of which the victim has become a representative to the perpretrators. The criminals intend to show victim's community (or perceived community) what they'd like to do every member. They're communicating a message of "this is what we do to blacks," or "this is what happens to sissy-boys," or "to dykes," or "to Jews," or "to Sikhs," or "to women who don't know their place," or to any other group. And, unfortunately, the expanded intention of the criminal is frequently acheived. The community of the directly affected individual is also affected. A crime such as this is a terrorist act, intended not just to harm a single individual but also to cause an entire community or group of people to live in fear. The designation of an act as a "hate crime" is intended to recognize the expanded scope of the victims of an act and respond accordingly. The increase in the harshness of punishment is related to the motivation of the crime only in that the motivation is linked to the fact that damage has been done to an entire community rather than to a single person.

Monday, July 2, 2007

This could get interesting...

Fred Thompson inches closer to declaring a campaign for president.

You know, I doubt I'll just fall head over heels in love with Thompson (okay, just looked at his voting record -- ain't going to happen), but the enemy of my enemy is my friend effect at least adds some humor to the bleak realm of presidential possibilities. After all, James Dobson has already declared that Fred Thompson, a Church of Christ boy, is not a Christian. Does Mr. Dobson not realize how many CofCers make me feel nausous by substituting Focus on the Family for the denominational structures the CofC lacks? Are his CofC puppets also not Christians? Oh wait, it was just because Thompson isn't public enough in his expressive of faith. Because, Jesus didn't actually mean it when he said not to pray in public but to go shut yourself in your closet.

Oh, please, oh, please, can the Libertarians and the Green party get in on the debates this time around inside of getting the lock-up. Pretty, pretty please. With sugar on top.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

I picked up Chris Cornell's new solo album, Carry On, the other day. In was inevitable, I'm a loyal Cornell fan. I'm too young to have caught Soundgarden when they were at their height, so Audioslave's first album was the first Cornell I had heard that I could identify. (I had heard "Black Hole Sun" a couple of times on the radio, but didn't know who it was.) I was driving down the Goo Giant back in the 'Shire headed toward Columbia when "Show Me How to Live" came on the radio. Oh, it was sweet! Made sweeter by the rest of the crap that was on the radio at the time. So, I can't share the disdain that a lot of people have for Audioslave. I probably wouldn't have stumbled into Soundgarden otherwise. So Audioslave first, then A-Sides because I didn't know where to start with Soundgarden, then I picked up Badmotorfinger and Superunknown and Down on the Upside all together. Now there are some good tracks on Badmotorfinger and Down on the Upside, specifically I'm thinking of "Pretty Noose" and "Burden in My Hand" which are simply sublime. But it's Superunknown that really stands out as a superb album.

Then Audioslave's second album came out. Ouch. The singles from it, not bad, but the album as a whole just doesn't work for me. Revelations was considerably better, several catchy tracks, good driving music, still nothing near Superunknown.

Anyway, I got kinda excited when I heard Cornell was splitting from the Rage portion of Audioslave. The guitar riffs going on forever and forever were starting to grate on my nerves. (Sorry, Rage fans.) But I really didn't know what to expect from another solo album. I like Euphoria Morning, it's pleasing music, but it doesn't have the religio-philosophical qualities that I really admire from the best of Cornell's music. And, honestly, Out of Exile was just painful, so it was with a mixture of trepidation and excitement that I tore the shrink wrap off of Carry On in the Best Buy parking lot.

I'm digging the more acoustic sound to the album. It's got a lovely folky feeling to it, which is highlighted by the graphic design of the album and liner notes. The vocals are a mixed bag. His voice has aged considerably and rapidly -- he just can't hit the notes that he once could. My sister pointed out that when he keeps to what his range is now, his voice works fine. It's not the same voice from the nineties, but he's still got a good voice. And the raw edge works very nicely in several of the tracks. The cover of "Billie Jean" is an example of a case of the aged, roughened voice fitting perfectly with the song. "She'll Never Be Your Man" has a nice melding of vocals and instrumentals. On other tracks, the attempts to hit high notes just don't work.

Lyrically, this album doesn't have the elements first hooked me with Audioslave and that have Superunknown enshrined forever in my rock pantheon. That said, I've stopped listening to the radio because I can't deal with the sheer amount of whining from groups like Blue October. These lyrics remain at least a head, and in some cases head and shoulders, above the rest. Maturity is only to be expected since Cornell has considerably more life experience than the average rock god, but it's still refreshing (even to an immature little thing like me). Overall, I like "She'll Never Be Your Man." It's catchy. There's a part of me that really wants to see Amanda Palmer or some other female singer do a cover of the song in answer to the premise. It other tracks, Cornell contains to conjure up interesting imagery -- a concreteness that is sorely lacking from the current radio fare.

Overall, this album isn't a let down. I've stopped expecting anything like Superunknown and there are many things to like about this album. Mature lyrics. A great folk rock sound to the majority of the tracks -- a few don't strike the right balance between rock and folk. I can dig it.

And now, it's really getting on my nerves...

Or, how Church of Christ gender discrimination is now screwing up my writing. All of this could have been averted by not having seperate classes for the boys and the girls.

So, I'm trying to write a character. Name: Lawrence. Male. Early twenties. Raised CofC, conservative side of mainstream Tennessee. Still is CofC. Not a sheltered Freedom-Hardly boy though, would probably fit in nicely with the Abilene crowd from what I've seen of the Abilene crowd on the Internet. And not the type of guy whose morals are based on exactly what he's been told since birth, but he places more weight on tradition/letter of the scripture than I do.

All of this makes him a delight to write. He's got a nicely complex system of morality. And I have to work a bit to get into his head because he and I don't have the same and or closely overlapping views on things. But you would think that the raised CofC thing would help with figuring out my character's mental landscape. I should know, at least, what programming he got on X subject and then be able to figure out how that will interact with the other influences and ideas floating about in Lawrence's skull. Right? Well, it depends on the subject.

See the sticky moral dilemma I've pitched my Lawrence into involves *cough* sex *cough* Now, this is not to say I haven't had a full CofC sex-education. But, I've had the programming for the "young ladies." Mind you, this programming was all about the boys, and how the boys just don't have control, and how we young ladies have to be extra careful to not cause the boys to lust. Never ever heard anything that about dealing with, sublimating, or repressing lust, because it was apparently assumed that young ladies never experienced lust. Frankly, I think that's all bollocks. Both the first and the second propositions. My opinion on all that wouldn't matter so much for the figuring out what's in Lawrence's skull (there are other things I believe to be bollocks that Lawrence takes quite seriously), but I also highly doubt that that's the CofC sex ed that the boys got. We were carefully segregated for these things. If Lawrence were Larissa I'd be confident of knowing what lurks in her skull. (But that would also add another fish to the kettle now wouldn't it.)

Anyhow, I need to know what programming the boys got. Did they even focus upon the dating, marriage, dating, marriage, find a mate, with the intensity that the girls were forced to? I've suspected for quite some time that they didn't. I'm managing to get a bit of an idea from male responses on Facebook CofC group threads, but it's not enough for a full reconstruction. And, I get the feeling that just flat-out posting a question, of "hey, what'd they tell you, man?" wouldn't get a good reception. I've poked around some of Focus on the Family's online material for the boys (I hope the CofC isn't quite that screwy, fyi), because the CofC doesn't have a standardized propaganda system of their own. But, I can only do so much of that at once.

It's getting tempting to just e-mail the youth minister and ask him what they tell the boys. He already knows I'm as strange as they come. Not quite there yet though. Time for poking about the website for one large CofC youth rally and some more discussion board lurking.

The Libertarian in Me Isn't So Sure About This

Universal Health Care in Massachusetts?

Umm... is requiring people to buy health insurance or face a penalty on their state taxes really a good idea? And at least, the state has thought through this enough to know that they need to offer subsidies to help folks out and exemptions for the people who still won't be able to afford it, but I'm still hitting a brick wall in trying to comprehend how requiring that individuals have health insurance (rather than simple trying to create a system in which basic health insurance is available to those who desire it at a reasonable rate) is, well, frankly, ethical.

The argument that it's for their own good doesn't work for me. Doesn't work for me with mandatory seat belt laws, won't work for me on this. And I'm not saying that the health care system in the US isn't broke or that trying to extend access to health coverage to the vast majority if not everyone is a bad thing. I just don't think that coercion of individuals by the government is the right way to go about it. Maybe indirect coercion where the system is fixed to the point that everyone has access to health insurance if they want it, and if an individual chooses not to have insurance he or she also accepts sole responsibility for any medical bills incurred.

Yeah, the libertarian isn't too delighted with this idea and seriously hopes that no feds decide they want to try and follow it. The conspiracy theorist is also thinking that its one short step from "You will have health insurance." to "You will turn your body over to the state health care system because it's for your own good. We want to make sure you get preventative health care. And now we're going to force you to get treatment for disease X. No, no, we don't care that you don't want treatment. You can't refuse." Yeah, yeah, I know slippery slope. Whatever. I did say I have a tendency to think in terms of conspiracy theories. Everyone is out to get me.

And then Putin made my day. Scary as the man is, I do love him for his tendency to tell the Shrub off, either subtly or not so subtly.

Putin to Shrub: My dog is bigger than your dog, little man.

Lift Up the Receiver, I'll Make You a Believer

Feeling blunt, by the way.

So, I was flipping through the blog of a preacher I rather like and saw this post on prayer. My first thought was: for pete's sake, don't be the flaming idiot who says something along the lines of "well, God just wanted your loved one home." Cause I can tell you that I will look God in the eye and tell him that I don't give a damn if he wanted my dad in heaven, I want my dad here, and God can just wait. (Yes, then I would be promptly sent to hell. I get it. I'm willing to take that risk. Or maybe God's far more complicated than some omni-benevolent model who wants groveling respect and is trying to goad us into taking God seriously enough to interrogate God and demand to know the answer.) Just don't be the idiot who inspires that complaint. Incidentally, if you are that idiot, probably nobody you've said that to remembers exactly who said it. They just remember it was one of the least helpful statements they have ever heard.

Anyway, back to prayer. Here's the confession of the week: I haven't prayed in the conventional sense of the word in going on six years now. Want to know what the last prayer was? I'll tell you anyway. "Dear God, those doctors have been wrong about everything else, let them be wrong about this too." Guess what, the only statement the doctors weren't wrong about was 'there's nothing else we can do.' Nice work, considering they were the geniuses who miscalculated the chemo dosage in the first place. Anyhoo . . . returning to the issue at hand. I don't pray, not in the sense of asking God for anything. Maybe this makes me a bad person, maybe it means I'm going to hell, maybe it means nothing at all.

Now, if you open up the scope of prayer a bit, it could indeed be said that I pray. It's easy for me to become lost in amazement at the way everything in the world is connected with everything else. I've been taken a physics class for the past month, and I feel an urge to go around grabbing random people and asking "Have you shared oxygen with Buddha/Jesus/Gandhi/Mary of Egypt today?" and then giggle insanely and tell them that, "Yes, yes, you have! The nature of atoms is such that if you've been breathing for more than seven years, you're taking in oxygen atoms that were once breathed in by virtually any other person who ever lived. " It's remarkable, wonderful, and mind-boggling. Or stopping and contemplating all the forces acting and reacting on each other in some simple moment like taking a step. Or the sheer number of people who have contributed to the production of whatever I'm eating. Anyway, I'm good with wonder at the mystery, which might explain my attraction to churches with a strong liturgical tradition.

But I don't really talk to the Divine, per se. The Bellevue Baptist billboards with the "Given up? Get a relationship with Jesus!" make me laugh bitterly. First of all, there are my issues with Bellevue and that christology. Second, I'm not really convinced that the Divine is that concerned with individuals. Odd given that I'm also fascinated with the image of Lady Wisdom crying in the streets and have an odd ambition to become a female member of the Knighthood of the Divine Lady Sophia. Or maybe not so odd, since I also think Aleksandr Blok's formulation of a rather sado-masochistic relationship with Sophia is more dead-on than Soloviev's happy, happy, I am loved formulation. And I just wandered off in Russian arcaneness again. (Murr, I can't find a translation of a good example of Blok online. Curses.)

I have noticed lately that I find the idea of asking a saint to intercede for me is much less daunting than going directly to the source. This is probably partly rooted in my newly discovered attraction to Mary of Egypt and the sensation I've been having lately that I owe her a handful of votive candles. I haven't thought enough on it to really have processed it. Could be related to the "I'm not really convinced the Divine is interested in individuals" quirk, or it could go back even further into my early teenage recognition that the Catholics (hadn't yet been introduced to the Orthodox) were onto something -- Mary (Virgin) would probably have a better understanding of menstrual pains than J.C. would, some feminine understanding would be nice (no, that is NOT petty). Of course, Mary of Egypt isn't precisely feminine understanding, but that's the attraction for me.

Oh, so many different rabbit holes I could follow in that. Later.