Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Michelle Obama

Frankly, folks, I kinda wish she were running for president. It's high time some leader in the country stopped pandering nationalistic bullshit and did something to fix the problems that can be fixed and improve what demands to be improved. It's all relative, darlings. I doubt the British papers painted Jefferson, Madison, Washington, et al. as "patriots."

It's also high time that the supposedly fair and balanced Fox news network quite using fearmongering and smear campaigns to up their ratings.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Let's Talk About Sex

The following theoretical was written as a response to a question about how to determine correct sexual ethics on a rather nicely varied discussion board of the Christian persuasion. I'm debating whether or not to post it, and probably sign it -- the celibate libertine.

I’m very wary of declarations of the “Biblical” code of sexuality. I think to a very large extent concepts don’t translate well between 1st and 2nd centuries C.E. and today.

The Biblical view of sexuality is complicated, to say the very least. For instance, if I said that rape (in the modern sex-without-consent understanding) is immoral, I would hope that I wouldn’t get much argument. But if you consider the way marriage has worked for the vast majority of human history, an awful lot of sex-without-consent has taken place while being dubbed marriage. (Ladies, close your eyes and think of England!) The idea of consent is constructed in a very different way – for instance, modern ethics would insist (and rightly so) on the consent of both parties involved; whereas, historically, the consent of the fathers involved was considered to be more important to forming a legitimate marriage or sexual union. Examples off the top of my head: Lot offering his daughters to be raped and the rule in Deuteronomy 22: 28-29, where if a man “rapes” a unbetrothed girl he’s to pay off the father and marry her. (I recognize that the law at least ensures financial security for the woman involved, or perhaps just relives her father of needing to provide for her – but I think it still illustrates the vastly different understanding of “moral” behavior in different times.)

The Bible is also an extremely androcentric book, which is another point to consider. There was a thread on another board about whether or not masturbation was moral. Well, the directly applicable Bible verses relate only to male masturbation. If we limit the scope to the Old Testament, this also applies to homosexuality. Male homosexuality is condemned, but there’s no mention of female homosexuality. Much of the Bible also assumes a male audience – one illustrative quip I’ve heard is that if a group of lesbian women were instructed that they were not to lie with a man as with a woman, the response would be something along the lines of “well, of course!”

My point is not that the Bible, Church tradition, community standards, what have you, should be ignored -- a egotistic standard of sexuality that is not in conversation with these and other sources is certainly not going to be moral. My point, which I think, a number of us here would agree on to varying degrees, is that reasonable people could disagree of the exact parameters of "moral" sexuality in good faith.

Working from Jesus’s command to love your neighbor as yourself, and the recognition of the basic personhood of women, I think the most fundamental rule for any Christian of any gender would be that exploitative sex and nonconsensual sex are absolutely wrong. The description of marriage in Ephesians 5 is one of the relatively few positive descriptions of human sexuality in the Bible. Frequently, the headship of the husband is emphasized as the defining feature, but it really is more proper to emphasize the idea that the husband is to love his wife as his own flesh. The trust, love, and loss of egotism in the relationship between the two partners is the defining element.* In fact, my feminist addition, is that the androcentric nature of the text should lead one to emphasize the action of the husband as the defining factor. (Now if we harmonize this with Galatians 3:16, treat husband and wife as arbitary constructs of human society, things get interesting.)

Depending on one’s understanding of the Bible, Church tradition, which Church tradition, I also believe that there can be a number of good faith understandings of how that principle should be put into practice. Additionally, while I firmly disagree, I don’t take issue with the belief, based on a literal reading of the Bible or logical paths, that homosexual activity is a sin provided that the person holding said belief treats all people with basic human respect. And now, I'll piss people off and say that treating all people with basic human respect means NOT forcing your opinions on what constitutes sin onto someone else's life via the secular government.

‘Tis complicated. To not even bring up the issue of exactly how the categories of immoral, unethical, and sinful should be broken up. Cheerios!

*There's varied several texts I'm drawing this idea from: First, a podcast from Ancient Faith Radio, you can find at:
For an extremely different and yet similar understanding see Vladimir Soloviev's essay, "The Meaning of Love" (which was actually written to defend a long-running affair). It's published in the collection The Heart of Reality, trans. Vladimir Wozniuk.