Saturday, July 14, 2007

And this is the best thing on TV?

So, I'm watching a movie that never should have been made: Billy the Kid Versus Dracula.

Oh, yes. I kid you not.

Billy is our blond-haired blue-eyed, all-American hero. Or so it seems from the first thirty minutes, and I'm not sure how much more I'll be watching. Oh yes. And the rather wooden Dracula just isn't doing it for me; although, I'll admit I'm a bit spoiled on Alucard who is teh sex. I don't know, I just prefer my living dead to be a little more, um, animated. Oh, and we have the sweet and pure virgin betrothed of our Billy, Betty, who maketh me long for Winona Ryder's Mina. Needs to add some teeth to the part. Oh, oh, we have thinly veiled symbols -- lambs are showing up all over the ranch with their innocent little throats ripped out. And now our precious Betty is tore between her "uncle" and her fiance. Ah, alas and alack!

But in summary -- vampires should be sexy. This is my firm belief.

This is a not a sexy vampire. (Although, at an hour in, the actor has a little more of an edge to him than I first thought, but still no Gary Oldman.)

This is a sexy vampire.

And this is my late night ramble.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Oh no, now the Bible is part of that Gay Agenda!

Since I finished up the summer busy-work classes, I happily became free this weekend to return to reading things I'm actually interested in at a level of depth wherein I'm not scraping my knees repeated against the bottom of the pool.

So I tore through the rest of Theodore W. Jennings, Jr.'s, Jacob's Wound: Homoerotic Narrative in the Literature of Ancient Israel. It was tasty, tasty reading.

This man's writing style is freaking brilliant. He injects a healthy dose of humor into his arguments through creative turns of phrase and anachronistic adaptation of modern terminology. There are numerous passages in the book that make there point quite clearly but are also laugh out loud and get weird looks in the library funny. On a more somber note, there is also a repetition of a sort of sigh throughout the text, a repeated plea of "will we not, at least, consider this to be plausible?"

Jennings' main premise is that much of the narrative content of the Old Testament can be read in queer affirming ways, and has not been because the overwhelming emphasis placed on prohibitions of homosexuality in the law codes have blinded generations of readers to that possibility. The majority of the text is an elaboration on Jennings reading narratives in the Bible all of which are quite fascinating. And, while some venture into territory that is rather disturbing (one character trait of YHWH in certain narrative is "phallic aggression"), the vast majority if not all of Jennings readings are plausible, and frankly, some of the stories make much better sense with a homoerotic element. Lights snapped on inside my skull much as they did when I heard that feet is frequently used in the Bible as a euphemism for genitals, and what was going on with Ruth and Boaz suddenly made a heck of a lot more sense.

What's quite interesting to me is the discussion of homoeroticism as a facet of monotheism. YHWH's loner status causes him to interact almost exclusive with humans (in contrast with the Greek gods who interact with each other), and the androcentricism of the texts means that the object of YHWH's interaction is the male population of Israel. Since YHWH's interaction with humans is often of an erotic character (and I dare anyone who has read the prophets or Song of Songs to try and tell me it isn't) then these interactions will necessarily be homoerotic in character. This argument is particularly salient in Jennings discussion of the prophets and the "transgendering" of Israel in the prophetic books.

Anyway, fun book to read, quite interesting, and as best as I can tell, well-done.

Well, that explains it...

The straight mind cannot conceive of a culture, a society where hetereosexuality would not order not only all human relationships but also its very production of concepts and all the processes which escape consciousness, as well.

Monique Wittig, The Straight Mind (p. 28)
Memo to self: Reread this passage next time the urge to attempt to explain queer theology/exegesis to fundies strikes you. Meditate on it. Recognize that, at best, they will just look at you funny. Think hard before deciding if its worth it or not.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Cause Religious Freedom Apparently Only Applies to Evangelical Christian...

Again from Gandhi, "I like their Christ, but not their Christians."

Hindu Prayer in Senate Disrupted

I think Barry Lynn from Americans United For Separation of Church and State hits the nail on the head:
“America is a land of extraordinary religious diversity, and the Religious Right just can’t seem to accept that fact,” Lynn continued. “I don’t think the Senate should open with prayers, but if it’s going to happen, the invocations ought to reflect the diversity of the American people.”
But, what's the problem with a Hindu prayer opening the Senate? (I love Hindu services, myself.) We turn to the original American Family Association action alert to find out how these minds (dys)function.

Well, apparently, senators might hear that there are scriptures other than the Bible.
in his prayer he will likely include references to ancient Hindu scriptures, including Rig Veda, Upanishards, and Bhagavard-Gita.
They can't see Upanishads or Bhagavad-Gita correctly -- sounds like their research is top-notch. And I'm sure no one will admit that the Rig Veda is the oldest scripture known to mankind. But what other reasons could their be?

Well, Hinduism isn't a monotheistic religion.
"In Hindu, you have not one God, but many, many, many, many, many gods," the Christian historian explains. "And certainly that was never in the minds of those who did the Constitution, did the Declaration [of Independence] when they talked about Creator -- that's not one that fits here because we don't know which creator we're talking about within the Hindu religion."
Actually, buddy, and I might be wrong here because I have hardly scratched the surface of Hinduism, I think Hindus generally do know what Creator they are talking about because creation is a specific aspect of the Divine Being. Oh, and, Hinduism isn't polytheistic either -- the many gods are all different aspects of one God. So, in a way, Hinduism is more monotheistic than Christianity that has had so many problems working out the relation between the members of the Trinity.

It burns! The bigoted ignorance burns!

Faith and Devotion

"Hand me my sentence,
I'll show no repentance,

I'll suffer with pride."
Depeche Mode, 'Condemnation'

I pontificate. I preach. That's the main reason I started blogging, so I'd have an outlet that no one had to read if they didn't want to, and I could stop driving my friends batty with the preaching. I think, perhaps, I was meant to be a preacher.

But, as a result of today's Facebook fight picking and follow-up conversations with good friends, landed me in an interesting mood. Think Ivan at the end of the Brother Karamazov.

See, I'm quite devout in my own weird way. I've got a family that's convinced I don't believe in anything and most of them are probably afraid that I'm going to hell. They're concerned because my faith isn't recognizable to them. And, folk have trouble believing in something they can't put words to -- heck, sometimes that aspect makes me uncomfortable. But just because you can't put words to it, doesn't mean that something doesn't exist.

And, I believe in a Divine Being. Not only that, I believe in a Divine Being that has some sort of purpose for the world and for the individuals in the world. And, I don't believe we should cower in terror before the Divine. I think we were put here as inquisitive creatures not to swallow someone else's truth, but to seek our own, and the Divine is more interested in our taking the search seriously than in our getting it right. And, I don't believe there is anything innately wrong with me. I believe I'm flawed. I believe I'm catty. I believe I'm too quick to anger and to judge. I believe there are other things wrong with me, and that I miss most the opportunities to show kindness that come my way.

But there is nothing wrong with the core of me. There is nothing wrong with my stubbornness. There is nothing wrong with my brashness. There is nothing wrong with the fact that I will happily question any authority that comes along. And there is nothing wrong with my gender -- if God had intended for me to be more feminine certainly a larger helping would have come with the vagina. There is nothing the matter with my disinterest in children. There is nothing the matter with my firm belief that I am called to something other than marriage and motherhood. None of that should alienate me from the Divine or from the people of God.

But I've been told all my life that it does. That I'm defective. That if I'm going to be saved, I have to destroy or at least bury parts of myself. I have to be a good girl, ask fewer questions, be silent, submit already. (And granted, I got mixed messages, but honestly, I think that just made it worse. Maybe I could have been pretty and stupid otherwise.) That everything that is me alienates me from the Divine.

And yeah, I'd say there's a great deal of alienation between me and the people of God. Part of it's my doing -- I avoid churches because part of me is terrified of them. I'm terrified I'm going to wind up in another situation with people forcing me into some role that is not me and threatening me with hell if I don't conform. And I don't believe that I need to be within a church to continue with whatever journey I'm on. I don't want the safety of a church fold. I would rather risk an eternity in hell and be true to the vision that I see.

But, damn, it would be nice to have some help sometimes. Some community to talk to and listen to, the experiences of others to draw from. Some group that would embrace me as my individual self and as an equal child of God. Something a little more tangible than dead poets and theologians.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Shop Class Sexuality

So, following the old CofC boards again, and some brilliant young gentleman just decided to explain how homosexuality is unnatural via the illustration of electrical wiring. Basically, his argument was you can't connect two male ends of a wire or two female ends of a wire and get a circuit, you have to connect a male end and a female end.

My first thought was: Please, tell me that you didn't just reduce human sexuality to electrical wiring. My second was: Wait a minute, I don't think that analogy works quite right.

So, if I'm remembering correctly from my days back in the old shop class male and female connectors on both plumbing and wiring are arbitrarily placed onto a completely neutral wire or pipe. Unlike, say a magnet with a two ends with opposite forces, the pipe or the wire doesn't have a set male or female end. So, I could place two female connectors on both ends of a wire or on both ends of a pipe. And with a little creative thinking, I could get around the apparent problems of making a circuit with two male or two female connectors -- Cut the connectors strip a bit of the insulation from the wires and twist: yeah, it still needs a positive and negative end, but the analogy just doesn't work. Same thing with pipes. Give me a pipe cutter and some glue or a soldering torch, and -- heck -- I think you can buy converters for these things at your local hardware store. (Do I want/need to continue the metaphor at this point? No, not really.) Anyway, the analogy breaketh done and quickly at that. Because the key to ruling a shop is to be a creative thinker!

Beyond the bad analogies, the reduction of sexuality into wiring and then into reproduction (does this mean he got to second base in the sexual shaming game?) seems to just be another case of the disgust for sexuality in language discussed by dw3t-hthr:
We build this world with our hands and our voices, and some people choose to build it with words that mould it out of sexual shame and contempt even for their own partners.
It's fascinating, in a morbid sort of way, just how many collective unconscious hang-ups are revealed through off-hand language.

Exhibit A: Silencing

And, in today's Post we have an article showing an actual case where political force was exerted in order to censor a person. Assuming, of course, that the ex-Surgeon General is telling the truth, which given this administration, I'm inclined to believe that he is.

Ex-Surgeon General Says the White House Hushed Him

"Anything that doesn't fit into the political appointees' ideological, theological or political agenda is often ignored, marginalized or simply buried," he said. "The problem with this approach is that in public health, as in a democracy, there is nothing worse than ignoring science or marginalizing the voice of science for reasons driven by changing political winds."
But, I mean, it's perfectly okay to censor information about the effectiveness of teaching kids how to use condoms in high school sex ed classes, or the facts about emergency contraception, or stem cell research. After all, you're not actually playing with people's lives and health when you do that. And if you are, well, you prayed about it with Pat Robertson or James Dobson, Jesus wants you to do it, right? Besides it's mostly kids and women who are hurt, and they aren't actually people, you know.

I commented earlier to a friend regarding the Pope announcing Catholicism to be the only true church, that Jesus must have popped a couple of migraine pills and is laid out flat on his back in a darkened room in heaven praying to himself for it to just stop. I think that expression works here too.

Too bad I'm not a Sociology major...

I'd totally have my graduate work planned out. Anyway, I would love to see this done, perhaps it already has been done, in which case, if you know of it -- point me in that direction.

I'm skeptical of Freed-Hardeman University, a little Church of Christ college in Henderson, TN. Any place whose philosophy major is roughly the same as a Bible major and does not appear to have room to seriously consider atheist arguments, and where discussing sex roles in marriage from a "Biblical" perspective is confused with actual sociology is going to result in Metra raising her eyebrows. And, you can guess the thoughts that ran through my mind while reading that women Bible majors "may" substitute a course called "The Christian Woman" or "Teaching the Bible to Children" for the sermon prep class for all them preacher boys. But I know a lot of people who have degrees from Freed and are quite competent in their fields. (Of course, they're a generation or two ahead of me and things might have changed for the worse as they did with the CofC private school in Columbia.)

Anyway, there's only so much of a sense of a college's academic rigor that one can get from perusing catalogs. What I want to see is someone, preferably agnostic, atheist, or undefinably strange embedded at Freed taking notes on classes. What's taught? How it's taught? Is there actual room for dissent and discussion? Do poli sci classes manage to spend more time discussing Romans 13 than the US Constitution? (Ok, that was Harding, where I had the heart-warming experience of being a pro-stud courtesy of my mother's misguided attempts to save my soul.)

I mean, seriously, I want to know what they teach in their "Muslim Evangelism" course. Given the number of complete misunderstanding of Islam floating about the CofC, I really want to know. And does the department actually think that offering only on course on non-Christian religions (barring Muslim Evangelism) is really going to leave any of their students with any understanding. And it gets better, "Teaching the Bible to Children" is for women only -- because obviously none of the men are going to be interested in doing lowly women's work. Gotta enforce that hierarchy even when there's no possible Biblical justification. And for the life of me, I can't figure out why any serious Bible major wouldn't want to take the senior seminar -- women again "may" substitute one of the women-only classes. I have a feeling that "may" actually means, must. But I don't really know, you see.

Besides, there would be other nuances that I couldn't even get from calling up the registrar and demanding to know what "may" actually means there. Like student attitudes, and what attitudes the college fosters. Are folk there capable of actually responding to criticism or do they stick their proverbial fingers in their ears and chant? I'm really quite curious. This is the stuff you need to be a participant observer to understand.

Basically, I want to know how a fundamentalist educational institution functions. What are the unstated goals and how do their achieve them? The effects of isolation on the student body? And their are perhaps better targets -- maybe BJU or Liberty -- but heck, FHU is my own personal morbid fascination. Besides Bob Jones and Liberty are overtly insane. Freed has the advantage of being a little more subtle. Maybe you could get away with something a little less in depth and get the necessary information. A documentary, like the Jesus Camp one I should probably try watching to Louis Theroux's documentary on the Westboro Baptist Church. (Warning, the video linked to is highly disturbing and flat-out sickening at points.)

And, yeah, I'd be the wrong person to do this. I'm not a good enough actor to keep from picking fights. (Although, you see, you'd want to pick some fight at some point to see how they respond.) And that whole, infiltrating the boy's club would be even more difficult for Metra. Maybe Dimitri could do it -- fake a Russian accent or something and hope no one notices I'm a rather high tenor.

So, yeah, any sociology folks out there looking for a project?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Recommended Reading of the Day

Fearlessvk has a thought provoking post on state policies regarding racial discrimination in light of the recent Supreme Court decision. A breakdown of the "colorblind constitution" attitude and how it just doesn't reflect the reality of the situation and how simply calling an end to racism and segregation by the state is inadequate to addressing the problems.
Using this logic to examine school integration specifically, the problem with Justice Roberts' dictum becomes especially clear. Why is it that, 53 years after Brown, many school systems are still heavily segregated by race? Legal segregation has been dismantled; no states any longer require separate schools by race. Yet separate schools by race endure, not as a result of state policy but instead as a result of demographic changes. As the move outward into suburbs has been at first overwhelmingly and then predominantly white, the racial composition of school districts has reflected the resulting residential patterns of segregation, and we have seen urban schools effectively become black schools while suburban schools have effectively become white schools. The "whiteness" of suburban schools has declined in some (but not all) areas due to increasing numbers of blacks and other minorities moving to the suburbs, but even in such areas the schools left behind in the cities often hover around 98% black student populations. Because of the state action doctrine, this resegregation poses no constitutional problems - it has not been mandated by the state, but rather driven by private decisions about where to live.
The rest is also worthwhile reading.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

A Recognition

It would do wonders for my blood pressure to stop reading discussion on the CofC board. I mean, wonders. It would probably also be healthier for cinder block walls everywhere.