Saturday, July 04, 2015

Jesus chasing the money changers out the temple, by Giotto. Do you know what Jesus never got angry about? Same-sex marriage. Image credit

I have been absent from the blog because of the craziness of life, but lately I've been feeling the need to write a bit more about the things that have been circling around in my head. I cam across this article on Facebook about Tennessee county clerks resigning rather than issue licenses for same-sex marriages, which resulted in the following rant:

All the injustice in the world, all the war, the poverty, the racism, the environmental degradation, domestic violence, child abuse, the abject suffering, and THIS is the issue that people decide to take a stand on.

I've said it before. There is no "biblical definition of marriage." Same-sex marriage is not discussed at all in the Bible, because it was not a cultural possibility at the time the Bible was written. There are a handful of condemnations of gay sex, but either in the context of Levitical law, superseded in Christian belief by the New Law (which is why these ignorant bigots didn't resign en masse when they served ham sandwiches at the office party), or in the context of rape (Sodom and Gomorrah), or, in the epistles of Paul, in the context of "sexual immorality," that is, classed with adultery and fornication and not in the context of committed relationships. It's very weak soup to make the center of your religious conviction.

More importantly for these "Christians" is that same-sex behavior of any kind is not brought up once in the Gospels. Jesus has nothing to say about either sex or marriage between two people of the same gender. You know what he did condemn? Divorce, and quite clearly (Mark 10:2-12). So why did these clerks not resign when told to issue certificates of divorce?

I think that there is a very weak case for Christian condemnation of same-sex marriage, but even if you do believe there is and you're Christian, don't you think that it's a rather mild problem in relation to the greater suffering in the world that Jesus did condemn? Even if Jesus did mention divorce once (reported in Matthew and Mark and, it should be said, in its own context before stated as an article of law), he spent much more time decrying hatred, poverty, the dangers of wealth , and (ahem) hypocrisy. Maybe Christians should focus on those issues first.

Even if your Pharisaical and even Talibanish understanding of Christianity makes you focus on things like gay marriage and seeing the splinter in your neighbor's eye instead of the beam in your own, the answer is simple: don't marry someone of the same gender. Leave the rest of us alone. And if you're really interested in "the glory of God," maybe you should read His word with more intelligence and understanding, bringing to it fewer cultural taboos that have little to do with the actual text.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


I've decided to dust off the bog for this one.

For some deeply masochistic reason, I've been doing something I don't usually do – read comments on public Facebook posts. Not every detail of the Mike Brown case is entirely clear, but the facts as we have them make it very difficult to see the cop as anything but guilty. Guilty, I'm pretty sure, of murder in the first degree but at least manslaughter. The actions of the the Ferguson PD – leaving the body in the sun for hours, smearing Mike Brown's character with information that is questionable and is certainly not pertinent to the case – have been clearly despicable. Still there are a number of people that have their own set of dubious "facts" and a passionate, if sick, conclusion.

First, they take it as gospel truth that Mike Brown attacked the Darren Wilson, although there is absolutely no evidence for that except for the testimony of the killer himself.

Second, they have fallen hook, line, and sinker for the Ferguson PD's race baiting and proclaim to the high heavens that Brown was a "thief," "thug," and weirdly, a "felon."

Third, They are deeply attached to the idea that a white policeman could not kill a black youth even mistakenly, let alone murderously. Even if Mike Brown had committed a crime and attacked the cop, there is still no justification for his killing (unless you accept the fantasy, against several eyewitnesses, that a wounded kid would charge an armed cop). Usually though, they leap directly from the alleged theft or the alleged attack to a simple justification for the killing: "He was a thief..." "That's what you get when you're a thug..." "Did he think he could just attack a cop and get away with it?" In the end, there is a simple process that goes like this: black kid + alleged crime + alleged marijuana use  + rap, "gang signs," etc. = an irredeemable criminal who deserves nothing better than to be shot dead on the street.

All this about an eighteen-year-old kid.

This is what racism is about and this is what the protests in Ferguson are about. The Mike Brown murder is just another element in a long line of devaluing the citizenship and the very lives of African-Americans, something that apparently is a regular occurrence in Ferguson. It seems that a substantial sector of white America is complicit in this process, the deep, dark dismissal of the humanity of millions of their fellow citizens.

A couple of links: This series of tweets explains why the case against Wilson is s strong, and how the appeals to racism work. Ta-Nahisi Coates on Ferguson.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Miniature Story

I decided to contact the exorcist once I realized I had given the entire lecture in Akkadian, an ancient Mesopotamian language I do not know. I wished to consult him not only on my behalf, but also on that of my students, all of whom dutifully took notes in cuneiform.

Monday, December 17, 2012

After mourning, action

This was something I posted on Facebook, but I'm putting it here to give it a more permanent home and to perhaps breathe some life into the blog again:

"The NRA is a mighty thing. But as mighty as it is, it is no match for the political power of the 'parent lobby' in this country. If we parents ever decided to take a stand between our children and the gun lobby, we would perhaps be shielding thousands of our kids from the deadly bullets yet to come."

If this is like other shootings, all of us will eventually abandon our rage and return to our day to day life, abandon this issue for others, and meanwhile the NRA will be on the hill and their zombies will emailing, writing letters, and calling their representatives every time the most innocuous gun legislation comes up for consideration. The politicians, both Republican and Democratic, will feel that it is not worth it to take on the gun lobby. And so it will continue until another twisted tortured young man decides to see if he can do even worse than Newton. And then we will wring out hands again and say, "why"?

Unless we grab this moment. The gun nuts know this is a dangerous moment for them. The NRA took down its Facebook page. Pro-gun senators were afraid to go on the Sunday talk shows (is it a surprise these people are cowards?). Let's keep them on the defensive. Let's be there when legislation comes up. Let's get the facts out there. Let's let those people who are not gun nuts but just misinformed know the real facts. Let's dominate the discourse by our numbers, our passion, our knowledge of the truth and what's at stake, and our love of our children. Let's save our country from the bloody gun culture which has soaked our homes, schools, and streets in innocent blood.

Who's with me?

Monday, February 27, 2012


I said I would blog. I have not blogged. But here is an image from a medieval manuscript of monkeys on stilts (which I found googling images for "medieval illumination shame").

Monday, February 13, 2012

a return?

Liam and some others vowing to blog more.

It has been almost two years since my last blog post, and that one was only a complaint about being busy and a photo of a stave church. It's quite something that I found the time to blog in grad school yet can't now. Of course, when it comes to devouring one's time, babies win, and so that's a factor. I also have fallen into the general trend of using twitter and facebook more and more -- we gradually reduce our expression into more manageable bits, and some day soon I know twitter will be replaced by a site that limits us to grunts and monosyllables. Yet there are other factors. Still, let me vow to blog just a bit more. I promise something in the next week.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I am so busy...

... but Stave churches are so cool: