Thursday, January 16, 2020

Blogaround

1. There Is No Line (from the January 2020 issue) "To qualify for this visa, you will usually need a bachelor's degree (or training that's equivalent to a bachelor's degree) considered necessary to perform the 'specialized and complex' job you're being hired to do. No bachelor's degree? No problem—assuming you're a fashion model 'of prominence.'"

2. So, somebody called you a Unicorn Hunter? An informative article about the problems with "unicorn hunting" (when a couple decides to try opening up their relationship by looking for a magical person who wants to be equally involved with both of them).

3. The Names of 1.8 Million Emancipated Slaves Are Now Searchable in the World’s Largest Genealogical Database, Helping African Americans Find Lost Ancestors (posted January 3)

Monday, January 13, 2020

Don't You Think If It Was Possible To Re-Implant Ectopic Pregnancies, We Would Already Be Doing That?

A diagram showing a fertilized egg implanted in the uterus in a healthy pregnancy (not an ectopic pregnancy). Image source.
Recently there was a "pro-life" bill in Ohio that wants doctors to "re-implant" ectopic pregnancies. This is ridiculous because it's just not medically possible. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the uterus. It is not possible for the fertilized egg to then develop into a baby. This is actually life-threatening for the pregnant person, so it requires immediate treatment. From an actual doctor. Not a politician who's making things up.

A few links about this:
From Mama Doctor Jones (a gynecologist and youtuber): ObGyn: Re-Implanting Ectopic Pregnancies | Extreme Polarization as a Legislative Distraction
And this news article: Lawmaker Says He Didn't Research Ectopic Pregnancy Procedure Before Adding To Bill (wow no kidding)

And I would like to point this out: If we had the medical technology to treat an ectopic pregnancy by taking that fertilized egg and re-implanting it in the uterus, and then the pregnancy continued as normal and developed into a baby, THAT WOULD BE GREAT NEWS. It's BIZARRE that this is being written into a "pro-life" bill as if it's something that doctors and pregnant people would need to be forced to do.

In the United States, about half of all pregnancies are planned and half are unplanned. So we can assume that in half of all ectopic pregnancies, the pregnant person really wanted to have a baby. It sucks that instead they end up with a life-threatening medical emergency and no way to save the "unborn baby's" life.

What if we could just re-implant it and you could go on to have a baby? Of course many patients would want that.

It's as if these "pro-life" politicians live in a bizarro world where "pro-choice" means "looking for any excuse to end a pregnancy." As if "pro-choice" means you LOVE ectopic pregnancies because then you get to have an abortion. As if obgyn doctors are anti-pregnancy and the law needs to step in and foil their attempts to get rid of a fertilized egg that totally could have been saved.

Over here in reality, an ectopic pregnancy is a life-threatening medical emergency, not some kind of "gotcha" in the abortion debate. Over here in reality, many women WANT to be pregnant, and it's tragic when they lose their unborn child because of things like this. If ectopic pregnancies could be re-implanted, that would be good news for everyone. And "pro-choice" doesn't mean anti-pregnancy.

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Related:
Why I Am Pro-Choice
Evangelical Ideology is Anti-Choice on Abortion Because it's Anti-Choice on Everything for Everyone

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Blogaround

1. There's a Dangerous Racial Bias in the Body Mass Index (posted 2017) So basically the correlation between BMI and certain diseases is different for different ethnic groups. And doctors aren't screening for stuff like diabetes because your BMI is "healthy." This is a problem.

2. The Tulsa Massacre Warns Us Not to Trust History to Judge Trump on Impeachment (posted December 23) [content note: anti-black violence] "Incidents like the Greenwood massacre are omitted from our textbooks, and students become adults without learning about moments incongruous with an idea of the Exceptional America."

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Blogaround

Baby Yoda cookie, from link #2.
1. Treating Food And Exercise Like A Zero-Sum Game Is Peak Eating Disorder Culture (posted December 12) "Putting the number of minutes required to ‘work off’ a food is peak eating disorder culture because food and movement are two different aspects of life that should not be presented as prerequisites for one another. You deserve to eat whether or not you exercise. You deserve to enjoy exercise without verging on the brink of collapse."

YES. 100% agree with this blogger. This whole "putting the amount of exercise to work off the food" on food labels is a TERRIBLE idea. Because what's the objective? Do you want people to literally go out and exercise for that exact amount of time after they eat the food? That's called having an eating disorder. Or do you expect people will go ahead and eat stuff just like they normally do, but feel a little more shame about it, like there's this mountain of exercise debt they're never going to work off?

None of this is a healthy way to view food.

2. Baking hack: Chop off angel head for a homemade Baby Yoda cookie cutter.<**> (posted December 14) This is the way.

3. A Bethel Leader Is Asking the Church to Pray for Her Daughter’s Resurrection (posted December 17) [content note: child death] I have many many feelings and opinions about this. Not going to post them right now though.

4. sometimes I wonder / if Mary breastfed Jesus. / if she cried out when he bit her / or if she sobbed when he would not latch. (posted December 16)

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Blogaround

Nativity set figures of Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus, in 3 separate cages. (From link #2 in this list.)
1. Regulators: Healthcare Sharing Ministries Can Only Scam Christians (posted December 4) "In effect, federal and state regulators have struck a bizarre bargain in which they have decided to let healthcare sharing ministries sell a subpar, shitty product, without requiring them to meet the typical quality standards for this product … so long as they only sell it to Christian individuals and families."

2. Church's nativity scene depicts Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as a family separated at the border (posted December 9) Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me.

3. What would happen if we randomly gave $1,000 to poor families? Now we know. (posted December 4) "Their findings are significant: Cash transfers benefited the entire local economy, not just direct recipients. As money made its way through the area, both families who did and did not receive cash ended up substantially better off."

4. Deaf Actor Makes Star Wars Debut In The Mandalorian (posted December 8)

5. Harry Potter Theory: Snape Killed Hedwig?! (posted December 5) [content note: spoilers for "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"]


Wednesday, December 11, 2019

"The Wise Men Came 2 Years After the Shepherds" Is Just a Fan Theory

A Nativity set, with Mary, Joseph, Jesus, 3 wise men, a shepherd, and some animals. Image source.
I was raised in the evangelical church. I was a good Sunday School kid. A bible nerd. And therefore, I knew that Nativity scenes, as they are commonly designed, aren't accurate. See, the wise men weren't there at the manger the night Jesus was born. (And the bible never says there were 3.) No, see, the wise men came later, when Jesus was around 2 years old.

I always knew this, and I was always proud of myself for having this bit of knowledge about a common misconception.

Well. I just realized, that's not what the bible says.

The bible does NOT say "the wise men weren't there at the manger with the shepherds the night Jesus was born; they came 2 years later." No, let me tell you what it says:
  1. Luke says Mary gave birth in Bethlehem, and put baby Jesus in a manger because there was no room in the inn. Then angels appeared to tell a group of shepherds, who came to see Jesus.
  2. Matthew says wise men followed a star, which led them to a house in Bethlehem, where they found Jesus. Later, King Herod killed all the baby boys in Bethlehem who were 2 and under, based on the time frame the wise men had told him. (Jesus was not killed because his family had moved to Egypt.)
Notice what it doesn't say?

Luke is telling one story, and Matthew is telling a different story. The idea that "well actually, Nativity sets aren't biblically accurate because the wise men came 2 years after the shepherds" only makes sense if you add inerrancy and the idea that everything is taking place in the same universe. The bible doesn't say that.

To put everyone there together in one Nativity scene is no less "biblically accurate" than "the shepherds came when Jesus was born, and then the wise men came 2 years later." In both cases, we're not showing the story that Luke is telling, and we're not showing the story that Matthew is telling, we're showing a fan-made crossover.

[spoilers for "Spider-Man: Far From Home" and "Spider-Man" (2002) in the next paragraph]

It's EXACTLY like this: Let's say you watch "Spider-Man: Far From Home" (where Tom Holland plays Spiderman), and you see that Mary Jane finds out Peter Parker is Spiderman while they are high school students. Then you go watch the 2002 Spiderman movie (where Tobey Maguire plays Spiderman), and both Peter and Mary Jane are older than high school. So all throughout the movie, you think to yourself "ah, so she already knows Spiderman's real identity." You feel so proud of yourself for having this bit of insider knowledge which the movie didn't say directly- BECAUSE IT'S JUST NOT TRUE. In fact, the 2002 Spiderman movie has Peter deliberately hiding his identity in order to protect Mary Jane. Ah but you don't notice that subplot. You "know" that Mary Jane already knows. And so you miss out on the actual story that the actual movie is actually telling.

I now believe we have to read Luke's story for what it is, and Matthew's story for what it is. Don't take elements from Luke and add them to Matthew because of a fan theory that says they both happened in the same universe.

Yes, I'm saying that things in reality did not happen exactly the way the bible says. The bible is not inerrant. The stories are still valuable though. And we should be asking why Matthew and Luke chose to write the way they did, to include some parts and leave others out, rather than asking how we can fit them together so they're both telling the same story. I believe that trying to "harmonize" them misses the point.

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Related:
The Bible Stories As I Read Them Were Never Actually In The Bible
The Bible and the Pixar Theory

Friday, December 6, 2019

Blogaround

A cat tree that's green and shaped like a Christmas tree, with 3 cats enjoying it. Image source.
1. How Blind People See With Sound… feat. Molly Burke! (posted August 10) Wow this is amazing! People can learn to use echolocation to map their environment. I thought only bats could do that.

2. Do Kids Really Learn Languages Faster Than Adults? (posted November 29) "This all adds up to not just the perception but the reality that adults who attempt to learn new languages often fail while their kids succeed, despite studies showing conclusively that adults are actually better at learning new languages when they actually put the effort in."

Highly recommend this video. I am fluent in Mandarin Chinese, which I started studying when I was about 20. At the beginning I genuinely believed that perhaps no matter how hard I worked, I might never be able to speak Chinese, because I had always heard white Americans talking about "I tried to learn a new language, but I guess my brain just can't" or "if you're not exposed to it as a baby, you can never ever learn to understand it." That's total nonsense.

Yes, learning a language is hard. It requires a lot of time and effort. You need to practice speaking, and that means you need to accept that you're going to make mistakes, and just learn to laugh at yourself rather than be too scared to try.

Because it's so hard, I completely understand if you choose not to do it. That's totally fine. People who speak multiple languages aren't superior; people who speak 1 language shouldn't feel ashamed. But I want people to accept the reality that the reason they only speak 1 language is because they have other, higher-priority things going on in their lives, and therefore they don't spend time on studying, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Don't go around spreading myths like "my brain just can't" and discourage those of us who really want to learn a second language.

3. ICE arrests 90 more students at fake university in Michigan (posted November 27) What on earth? The Department of Homeland Security made a fake university and then arrested the international students who came? For real?

4. 'Star Wars' Billy Dee Williams Uses Both Male and Female Pronouns (posted November 30) Cool~

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Blogaround

A baby elephant standing with an adult elephant. Image source.
1. Why It’s Easier to Accept David as a Murderer than a Rapist (posted October 14) "If David was merely a weak man who fell prey to a tempting woman on a lonely night, then we don’t have to grapple with the far more insidious reality: David was one of many (mostly men) throughout history who used their power for sexual exploitation."

2. ‘Meth. We’re on it,’ South Dakota says in ridiculed ad campaign that cost $449,000 (posted November 19) LOLOLOLOLOL

3. Here’s What’s Actually Going on With the Chick-Fil-a Charitable Giving ‘Controversy’ (posted November 18) It's sort of good news, but not as much of a big deal as people are making it out to be- and as a queer Christian, I am still not supporting Chick-Fil-a.

4. This tweet from @AspieHuman:

Wow. This is EXACTLY my experience. Really really valuable to see someone put it into words like this.

5. Star Trek Doesn't Actually Understand Evolution (posted November 20) Yep.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Francis Chan and Objectivity

Globe. Image source.
Last week I posted Culture, Objectivity, God, and the Real Reason I Moved to China, a blog post where I finally put into words my thoughts about the mistaken notion that anyone can or should be an objective outside observer of the world. We are not objective; we have our own culture, and that is the lens through which we experience everything. Your experiences and your idea of "normal" are not universal- they are just one tiny little subculture in this giant diverse world.

So now that I've laid all that out in a blog post, I've decided to continue to point out this attitude of "we look at the world from an objective outside perspective" wherever I see it, because it's EVERYWHERE. Most people don't even notice, because it's everywhere and it feels so normal. And that's why I have to point it out. (You're welcome.)

So, I would like to present this article: Francis Chan Is Moving to Asia to Be a Missionary. For those of you who don't know, Chan is a pastor and is a big deal among young cool evangelicals who care about missions and saving the world. (In other words, me 10 years ago.) Here's an excerpt from the article:
Chan used an extended fishing metaphor in his address to the Asuza students explaining his decision to move. “I feel like I’ve been fishing in the same pond my whole life,” he said. “And now there’s like thousands of other fishermen at the same pond, and our lines are getting tangled and everyone’s fighting over stupid things, and one guy tries some new lure and we go, ‘Oh, he caught a fish, let’s all try his method!’ And it just feels like, what are we all doing here?”
I happened upon this article just days after publishing my whole big post about objectivity and the world, and I was just FASCINATED. What an informative example of exactly this fallacy! Let's take a closer look.

I hear this metaphor, and I interpret it to mean something like this: "Here in the US, we have all these Christian leaders trying to share the gospel and get people saved, such a high concentration of us that it's not effective and we end up fighting with each other. Meanwhile the whole rest of the world is out there. It doesn't make sense that we all stay here. Results would be much better if we went somewhere else to spread Christianity."

So many incorrect assumptions in there! Here, let's see how many we can find:
  • Everyone in the world needs to hear about Christianity.
  • The United States is where the Christians are, so we're in charge of sending people out to the rest of the world.
  • Other countries don't have many Christians. They don't send missionaries.
  • Our brand of (white American evangelical) Christianity is something the entire world needs, not something specific to our tiny subculture.
  • American Christians are the objective outside observers of the world. We are the authority figures who know what everyone else in the world needs.
Even though Chan didn't say any of these things, his statement doesn't make sense without them. When you realize that in reality, every group of people in this world is doing their own thing in their own culture, just like we do our own thing in our own culture, and we know nothing about how they live or what they need if we haven't done extensive research... When you realize all that, Chan's whole point sounds like complete nonsense.

But this brings up an interesting question: In last week's post, I said God is objective and relates to every person and every culture in the world equally. But here's a question: Is Christianity also objective and applicable to everyone, or is it culture-specific?

Ooooh. Well that's a question. I'm not even sure what my answer is to that.

Here are a few thoughts though:

I'm a Christian, and I'm very happy about being a Christian. I believe Jesus really did live and die and resurrect- so you could categorize that as "objective" in the sense that [according to my ideology] those things really did happen. But the part that's not "objective" is our interpretation of those events- how much importance we place on them, how they affect us today. A lot of things happened in the world in 33 AD [or whenever it was]; the reason I am specifically interested in Jesus' resurrection and not any of those other things has EVERYTHING to do with my cultural background.

Also, even though I believe those things literally did happen, that's not really the main point of my Christian belief. I'm more interested in the big concepts of incarnation and resurrection. Yes, I believe in the Incarnation- but more importantly, I believe in incarnation. God is with us right now. God lives in every person in the world. Yes, I believe in the Resurrection- but more importantly, I believe in resurrection. God will resurrect the whole world and bring justice.

And big abstract ideas like incarnation and resurrection can certainly be meaningful to people from any culture. (Or not meaningful. That's also fine.) But the religious system built up around those ideas is extremely culture-specific. And all of my background as a white American evangelical is extremely culture-specific.

Furthermore, I recognize that the reason I'm still a Christian now has EVERYTHING TO DO WITH the fact that I was raised evangelical. If I had been raised in a different religion, then no, I don't think it would benefit me to convert to Christianity. But I am happy being a Christian because I've always been a Christian- and even though I feel that my entire religious ideology has changed, I'm still glad that I can keep or reclaim a lot of the language and symbols. Which, again, is all about culture.

And one more point I would like to make: I do not believe everyone needs to be a Christian. I do not believe everyone would benefit from becoming a Christian. I do not believe non-Christians go to hell. I believe going to heaven or hell has nothing to do with what religion you belong to; instead, it's based on "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink," and so on, "whatever you did for the least of these."

And I have a huge problem with the Christianity that says "everyone needs to believe what we believe, in order to not go to hell." Seeing yourself and your beliefs as something objective and universal that applies to everyone. You believe you have a personal relationship with God- who is objective and outside of culture- you believe you know Them so well, so closely, spending time with God every day, making your relationship with God the highest priority in your life. You're so closely tied to a truly objective being, so then you believe you are objective as well. Or at least, the parts of your life that are most influenced by your relationship with God are necessarily the most objective and correct and applicable to everyone in the whole world. "God agrees with me."

The whole concept of a "personal relationship with God" leads us to believe very wrong things about our own objectivity. (For me personally, one of the biggest factors in ending my relationship with God was when I found out about systemic racism. People of color in the United States are constantly dealing with this- it affects job opportunities, education, voting rights, where they can live, interactions with police, and so on and so on, while I benefit from white privilege, and God never thought to mention it to me? God, who supposedly loves all people of all races equally. God, who I prayed to every day. I would sit and listen for what God wanted to say to me, every day, for years- and NOT A PEEP about systemic racism.)

And also, I would like to say this: Me, a person who is a member of a very specific tiny subculture at a very specific time in the history of the world, in a "personal relationship" with a God who knows every person and every culture and every time period completely intimately. That alone is a huge power imbalance, before you even get to the whole omnipotence thing. Which is why I am no longer willing to be in a relationship like that ever again. I thought I knew Them so well, but now I see that's impossible. And maybe it would be okay to have an all-knowing being like that as just an acquaintance, but to build every aspect of my life on that relationship, to commit myself to Them 100%, "he must become greater, I must become less", bringing every single aspect of my entire life under Their control, "I surrender all", no, there's no way that can be healthy.

So. Well I started out talking about Francis Chan and now we're here, at the intersection of objectivity, culture, and a "personal relationship with God." I plan to continue to write blog posts pointing out when Americans are talking as if we are the objective observers of the world. Chan is basically saying, "There are so many Christian leaders right here in this little geographic area, compared to the rest of the world, which doesn't make sense because what we have here is equally applicable to everyone in the entire world. So I'm moving to Asia." On the one hand, I wish him good luck, because I also moved to Asia and it's great but it's hard to be an immigrant. But on the other hand, he has some very misguided ideas because he's talking as if culture doesn't exist.

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Related:
Culture, Objectivity, God, and the Real Reason I Moved to China
God Is With Us (a post about autism)
They Prayed About It (a post about the #NashvilleStatement)

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Blogaround

Five kittens. Image source.
1. John Crist Cancels 2019 Tour Dates After Reports of Sexting, Harassment, Manipulation (posted November 6) #churchtoo

2. ObGyn Reacts to Virginity Testing Daughters | Rapper T.I. & Deyjah Harris (posted November 7) "So what T.I. can't count on is any reliable information from this exam. But what he can count on is that his daughter is never coming to him with a problem. ... I know T.I. will never watch this, but if you're out there doing things like this to your child, shame on you. ... This is not an acceptable exam, and no physician should be participating in 'virginity testing' of any sort. The hymen has no purpose for sexual intercourse or any indication of whether a person has had sexual intercourse. The culture of owning somebody else's body or having control over a daughter or a son or a spouse is unacceptable. You are in control of your body, and you don't get to choose how other people use theirs." Mama Doctor Jones is preaching the gospel.

3. HOGWARTS EXACT LOCATION REVEALED | Harry Potter Theory (posted November 12) Oooh what an interesting idea. The Super Carlin Brothers did a bunch of research- using the Harry Potter books and movies and real-life tools like Google Maps- to find an actual location in the real world and claim it's Hogwarts. Reminds me of the fan theories about what star or planet specifically the wise men followed to find baby Jesus.

4. Disney+ Has A New Version of ‘Star Wars’ Infamous Han Shot First Scene (posted November 12) What. Umm, okay.

5. Audio Adrenaline and White Jesus (posted November 14) "What does it mean that Big House can be interpreted to mean that heaven is a plantation? What does it say that the christian music industry can call that the song of the decade for the 90s and have it occur to no one white and empowered that there is an American historical meaning behind a building called the Big House?"

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