Wednesday, September 28, 2022

If You're an American Living Abroad: Time to Vote!

Button that says "I Voted". Image source.

Vote vote vote vote!

Hey everyone, if you are an American living outside the US and you're going to be voting by absentee in the November 2022 election, it's time to do it!

Go to They have all the information on deadlines for each state, and which states require you to send your ballot by mail vs which states will accept email or fax. (And if your state requires fax, there are apps you can use that will send a pdf as a fax for you- you don't need to actually have a fax machine!)

The ballots for the November election are available now and have already been sent to voters who registered to vote from abroad. If you have registered, fill out your ballot and send it in now! If you haven't registered, check the deadlines for your state and see if you can still register. (Important: Even if you've already registered to vote in previous years, you still need to specifically register for the absentee ballot for 2022.)


Monday, September 26, 2022

Nucleic Acid Testing Station in Shanghai (photos)

Complete list is here: Index of Posts About the March 2022 Shanghai Covid Outbreak 


Hi readers~ so here in Shanghai, basically we are all getting covid-tested every 2-3 days. (The reality is actually a little more complicated: To enter public places, you need to show you have a negative nucleic acid test from within the past 72 hours. But, a lot of times the security guards don't actually check- they just glance at your phone screen but not closely enough to see if it says "72" or "48" or whatever. But then there are some places that are more strict and require a 48-hour test, like if you go to a big crowded event where people won't be wearing masks, or if you take a flight/train/bus to a different city. And, if you don't go out to public places at all, then you can get away with not getting covid-tested, because nobody's going to track you down and check. But if you're not tested for 7 days, your health code will turn yellow. Which may or may not actually be a problem for you- it's quite possible that if you're not going anywhere anyway, you wouldn't really care if your health code turns yellow. Also, in the schools, they test all the students every single day. So, like I said it's complicated, but you can just think of it as "everyone gets tested every 2-3 days.")

My point is, I have some photos to share!

I want to show you how the nucleic acid testing process works, in practical terms, for people living here. (This is nucleic acid testing- also called PCR testing- 核酸 in Chinese. When I say they're requiring you to get covid-tested, it means a nucleic acid test. Rapid antigen tests [抗原 in Chinese] are sometimes used sort of as a backup, for example if you show up at your office building for work and you don't have the right nucleic acid test in the right timeframe, because you got nucleic-acid-tested but your result hasn't come back yet- they might make you take a rapid antigen test right there. But basically my point is, when I say "covid-tested" I am talking about nucleic acid testing.)

Anyway, photos!

Saturday, September 24, 2022

More Covid Updates (Guizhou Bus Crash, Chengdu Lockdown Ends, Hong Kong Quarantine Policy Ends)

Traffic on a busy street in Chengdu after lockdown ends. Image source.

Complete list is here: Index of Posts About the March 2022 Shanghai Covid Outbreak 


Hi everyone, here's another update about covid in Shanghai and the rest of China.


Guizhou bus crash

Sixth Tone: 27 Killed as Bus Taking People to COVID Quarantine Crashes in China (September 19)

The Guardian: Anger in China after 27 people killed in Covid quarantine bus crash (September 18)


Chengdu lockdown ends

SHINE: Weeks-long lockdown lifted on southwest city of Chengdu (September 19)

Bloomberg: China Lifts Two-Week Lockdown in Chengdu, City of 21 Million (September 18) "Officials in Chengdu locked down sooner in their outbreak than authorities in Shanghai. That appears to have largely avoided the food and medicine shortages, manufacturing halts and supply-chain snarls that spurred protests and unrest in China’s most metropolitan city, dragging on growth in the world’s second-largest economy. Chengdu’s lockdown has been more in line with Shenzhen’s earlier in the year, with movement restrictions in the technology hub eased after about a week, as cases ebbed." Yeah, this makes a lot of sense. Not every lockdown is as bad as the Shanghai lockdown.

Al Jazeera: China lifts weeks-long lockdown on southwest Chengdu (September 19)

So Chengdu's lockdown was 2-3 weeks. In Shanghai, we were in lockdown for 2 and a half months (some parts of Shanghai it was "only" 2 months though). Still bad, though.



Sometime around September 12, there was a video being shared on WeChat, showing a Costco in Shanghai where customers were abandoning their shopping carts and rushing out of the store, because apparently there might have been a positive covid case there.

The video can be found here (I don't know how well it will load if you're not in China though).

It's just another example of how there's this fear of getting locked down. I can really understand that panic and just running out. Some of the online commenters noted there's no point to running- you already scanned the location code (which registers your personal information when you enter a location), so they're going to find you anyway. But even if it doesn't exactly make sense, I can understand why people reacted that way.


Hebei app

So you know how I always talk about the "health code" app? Well, the one I use is specific to Shanghai. It seems each Chinese province has their own app. And just recently I saw a WeChat post from someone who lives in Hebei province (not to be confused with Hubei province, where Wuhan is) who was happy to report that the Hebei health code app finally accepts passport numbers! In other words, international people have been unable to register on this app, until now, because it required a Chinese ID number. So every time you go somewhere that you have to show your health code (the WeChat commenter only mentioned hospitals- I suspect that it's not like in Shanghai where all public places ask you to show it) you have to have a whole conversation with the underpaid security guard about how we live in a society where there are always computer systems that non-Chinese are blocked from using. Blahhhh. 

Anyway, yay, it accepts passport numbers now!

(And my experience with the Shanghai health code app, as an immigrant, has been overall okay. There are always a few little extra confusing steps for people who don't have Chinese ID cards, and the pandemic workers whose job it is to know how to do it don't know how to do it, but at least it doesn't seem that Shanghai's app ever runs into a situation where the final answer is literally you can't do it and you have to just give up.)



Sixth Tone

All’s Not Well at Shanghai’s Tianzifang Tourist Hotspot (September 13) "Three months since Shanghai lifted its COVID-19 restrictions on June 1, its scars are still visible in places like Tianzifang, as shuttered shops and reduced traffic remind visitors and business owners of the lockdown’s economic toll."

Citing COVID, China Discourages Domestic Holiday Travel, Again (September 9) "China will tighten COVID-19 restrictions for domestic travel and group gatherings until the end of October to avoid more local outbreaks, the country’s health authority said Thursday, dampening holiday spirits ahead of one of the country’s major travel seasons." This is related to Mid-Autumn Festival (September 10-12) and National Day (October 1-7). National Day is the second-biggest holiday of the year in China (Chinese New Year is the biggest) and in the Before Times there was always a HUGE amount of people traveling.


Shanghai initiates 'landing PCR test' for all arrivals (September 19) "All arrivals are required to receive a PCR test within 24 hours. Those who fail to do so in 48 hours will get a pop-up notification on their health code". (This is specifically about domestic travelers- international travel has a WHOLE TON of other rules.)

48-hour PCR report required to take Line 11 to Kunshan (September 10) Kunshan is a city near Shanghai, and actually Shanghai's subway line 11 goes all the way out to Kunshan. There are people who live in Kunshan and commute to Shanghai for work. So the new policy is that you need a negative nucleic acid test from within the past 48 hours to take the subway between Shanghai and Kunshan (so this is a bit more strict than the 72-hour result you need to go to public places in general in Shanghai).

People from outside Shanghai must report online before arrival (September 10) "People traveling or returning to Shanghai from other provinces are required to report their itinerary online before arrival in a new measure to contain the transmission of the coronavirus."

48-hour PCR report required to take flights, trains, long-distance buses (September 8)

Did the regulatory authorities go overboard in slapping Paris Baguette with a 'hefty' fine? (September 8) So the story here is that, during the Shanghai lockdown, Paris Baguette (a bakery chain) was making their baked goods at a makeshift facility that didn't meet food safety standards, and they are now being fined for that.

It seems like public opinion on this is in support of Paris Baguette. During lockdown, when people couldn't even get food, and the government didn't do its job, Paris Baguette did their best to get food to customers, and now the government is punishing them for it? (Though I did see 1 comment from someone who works in the food/beverage industry, who was like "food safety is no joke, you guys.")


Hong Kong will scrap COVID hotel quarantine from Sept. 26 (September 23) "People [arriving in Hong Kong] will be allowed to go to work or school but will not be allowed to enter bars or restaurants for three days." Hong Kong has had different covid policies than mainland China for a while. This new change is another example of how big the difference is- mainland China's policy is currently 7 days of hotel quarantine + 3 days of home quarantine (but from what I've heard, in reality it's 10 days of hotel quarantine + 0 home quarantine), and it's a real quarantine where you literally can't open your door. Not like what they're doing in Hong Kong where you can go out but not, like, too much.

So it's good news for people who need to travel to Hong Kong. 


China Covid lockdowns leave residents short of food and essential items (September 12) These things are true, but the article makes you think that it's all of China having these problems- whereas in reality it's a handful of specific places. (Which is a problem I see in basically all western news reporting about covid in China.)

Some of these things- "In Yining city, the capital of Ili, a shared online document with over 300 urgent requests for food, medicine and sanitary pads was widely circulated." That happened in Shanghai too, and I can feel the fear and desperation and helplessness, reading this article. It's bad, it's really bad what's happening in areas of China where entire cities get locked down.

Thursday, September 22, 2022


1. All 81 Sudoku Digits Completed In 14 seconds! (2021) A 33-minute sudoku solve video- in this one, Simon fills in the ENTIRE grid with colors before even getting 1 digit. I love it.

2. Where did these guys come from? (September 16) "I’ve never heard a sermon on Ezra 10:15. There should be sermons on this passage. Lots of them. It should be the stuff of altar calls and bonfire dedications reserved for the last night of Bible camp or youth-group retreats. This should be one of those verses that appears on T-shirts and bumper stickers, inspirational posters and tattoos. It should’ve been one of the verses that Tim Tebow penciled into his eye-black."

(And, related to that, here's the Ezra fanfic I wrote a while ago: Love Wins (an Ezra fanfic))

3. Gray-Ace & Gray-Aro Survey: Results (September 16)

4. Mainland China reports first imported monkeypox case (September 17) 

5. “My Chains Are Gone”: When White Evangelicals Sing About Slavery (2021) "This is perhaps the central irony of White evangelicalism’s continued use of these images: those whose theology leads them to sing the most of enslavement and freedom as the central metaphor of Christian salvation are simultaneously the group most likely to downplay the significance of slavery’s lasting impact on the people of the United States and promote (or at least not oppose) policies that do harm to African Americans—the one group that knows the ongoing injustice and traumatic effects of enslavement."

6. Parents shocked that Christian school will kick out openly LGBTQ students (September 19) "You almost want to pat her on the head for being such a decent human being that she couldn’t imagine a Christian school doing anything this monstrous."

7. Is Joe Biden The Best President Unions Have Ever Had? And If Not, Why Not? (September 20) "The difference between Biden and most other presidents, though, is that through most of American history, the actions of presidents have been to just crush the union. In 1877, railroads forced workers out on strike in West Virginia after reducing pay for the second time in a year; soon the Great Railroad Strike swept the nation as a general protest against the dominance of the railroads over the lives of Americans — polluting them, killing them on the job and in the cities, dominating the economy through corruption, laying them off. President Rutherford B. Hayes sent the military to crush it, turning a nonviolent strike into a bloodbath."

8. The Cruel Story Behind The 'Reverse Freedom Rides' (2020) "Fuming over the civil rights movement, Southern segregationists had concocted a way to retaliate against Northern liberals. In 1962, they tricked about 200 African Americans from the South into moving north. The idea was simple: When large numbers of African Americans showed up on Northern doorsteps, Northerners would not be able to accommodate them. They would not want them, and their hypocrisy would be exposed." Relevant now because of what Texas and Florida are doing to immigrants.

Lying to people, transporting them hundreds of miles, and just leaving them there, to make a political point. Aren't these Republican politicians worried about going to hell?

DeSantis claims credit for sending 2 planes carrying migrants to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts (September 15) "'Our island jumped into action putting together 50 beds, giving everyone a good meal, providing a play area for the children, making sure people have the healthcare and support they need,' Fernandes wrote in another tweet. 'We are a community that comes together to support immigrants.'"

Migrants on Martha's Vineyard flight say they were told they were going to Boston (September 15)

I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you cared for me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

9. Patagonia company owner gives it away to Planet Earth in perpetuity (September 16) 

10. On the Operating Table, Supply Chain Issues Can Be Life or Death (September 20) "Five cardiovascular surgeons across China told Sixth Tone that the country has been suffering a shortage of artificial grafts since early in the pandemic, aggravated by the two-month lockdown of Shanghai."

11. Data polls and money polls (September 21) "Every other month, at least, we get news articles and commentary fretting about some recent poll showing that some allegedly worrisome percentage of some group either believes in something apparently anathema or else refuses to believe in something that’s supposed to be elementary and fundamental for that group."

12. Died: Ron Sider, Evangelical Who Pushed for Social Action (July 28) "For nearly 50 years, Sider called evangelicals to care about the poor and see poverty as a moral issue. He argued for an expanded understanding of sin to include social structures that perpetuate inequality and injustice, and urged Christians to see how their salvation should compel them to care for their neighbors."

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Well I have to blog about this "don't touch foreigners" nonsense because I'm white in China

"Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, at a news conference in Beijing on March 1, 2022." Image and caption source.

Ah, well. I have to blog about this: Don't touch foreigners to reduce monkeypox risk, China health official says (September 19)

A senior Chinese health official advised people to avoid contact with foreigners to prevent monkeypox infection after the first known case of the virus on mainland China was reported.

"To prevent possible monkeypox infection and as part of our healthy lifestyle, it is recommended that 1) you do not have direct skin-to-skin contact with foreigners," Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention posted on his official Weibo page on Saturday.

Wu also called for people to avoid such contact with people who have been abroad within the past three weeks as well as all "strangers", as he cautioned vigilance.

His post was widely shared across social media over the weekend, but the comments section under his initial post were disabled on Sunday and in the early hours of Monday in Beijing.

Oh great.

Here is Wu's Weibo post, and here is a repost from a Chinese news account, which did not disable its comments. The interesting bit is this: "1)不要同外国人发生肌肤直接接触" ["Don't have skin-to-skin contact with foreigners"] though I see that his original post has now been edited to "1)不要同近期(三周内)来自境外猴痘疫情流行区且有可能感染了猴痘的外国人发生亲密肌肤直接接触" ["Don't have skin-to-skin contact with foreigners who have come, within the past 3 weeks, from areas abroad with monkeypox outbreaks"] which is a bit silly because his recommendation #2 already was "don't have skin-to-skin contact with anyone who has been abroad in the past 3 weeks."

So, first of all: That's racist.

(And, you can edit, but we all know how to take screenshots. In Shanghai in particular, our screenshot/screen-recording skills developed A LOT during the lockdown because of all the censoring.)

Gif of a black boy saying "That's racist!" Image source.

Okay so, I'm white, I live in Shanghai, China, I've been living in China since 2013, here's what I have to say about it:

First, we have to talk about the word "外国人[wài guó rén]", which every dictionary will tell you means "foreigner". 2 things I want to say about this:

1. The English word "foreigner" has very negative connotations, in my opinion. Like "foreign" means something that shouldn't be here, that doesn't belong here. I guess other international people in China don't necessarily think so, because I always hear white people referring to themselves [in English] as "foreigners". (I mention white people specifically because I don't have first-hand observations about other races.) 

But- and this is important- the Chinese word "外国人[wài guó rén]" doesn't have those negative connotations. It just simply means someone from a different country. So when I first came to China/ first started studying Chinese, I was really mad about being called "外国人[wài guó rén]" all the time because people told me it meant "foreigner", and I would never EVER call an immigrant in the US a "foreigner", that sounds so mean! (Except maybe in a strict-legal-definition context, like if we were talking about paying taxes or something?)

Actually I'm still kind of low-key mad about how "外国人[wài guó rén]" is always translated as "foreigner." But I can't change that, so I just don't spend my time worrying about it. I personally use the term "international people" in English instead.

2. When Chinese people say "外国人[wài guó rén]" they actually mean people who are not ethnic Chinese. It's about race, not nationality.

And usually, they actually mean white people. I've had conversations with Chinese people where they say things like "外国人[wài guó rén] have blue eyes" or "外国人[wài guó rén] speak English" or "外国人[wài guó rén] don't eat rice", and they ask me questions about if "外国人[wài guó rén]" do this or that, and I'm trying to find a way to say, "you know there's a whole big world of 外国人[wài guó rén], right? Everyone who's not Chinese is a 外国人[wài guó rén], but you are just asking me about white Americans."

One time I think I broke some Chinese person's brain when I asked them, "are Koreans 外国人[wài guó rén]?" They spent a long time thinking about it, and then said "yes... they are... but that's not what I meant." Because a Korean person walking down the street in China wouldn't get called a "外国人[wài guó rén]" because ethnically they look similar enough to Chinese that you can't tell. So actually, even though the technical definition of "外国人[wài guó rén]" is about what country you're from, in reality it's not about that, it's about race.

So really I would say there are 3 groups of 外国人[wài guó rén], which get treated differently in China:

  1. Ethnic Chinese who are not Chinese citizens (for example, American-born Chinese). Chinese people would say that these people are Chinese, they are not 外国人[wài guó rén]. I have seen people get into arguments like "I am American"- "No you're not, you're Chinese." From a Chinese point of view, it's your family heritage that determines your identity, it's not about which country you have legal citizenship in due to being born there or whatever. And ethnic Chinese face a certain kind of racism in China- always getting judged because they don't speak Chinese well enough (meanwhile, a white person can show up and say "ni hao" and then Chinese people fall all over themselves to say "your Chinese is so good"- they don't really mean it though, lol). It's very common that schools refuse to hire an American-born Chinese as an English teacher- even though they are a native English speaker- because the school only wants to hire white people. Sometimes you even see white Europeans whose second language is English, being hired as English teachers instead of non-white native English speakers. That's just racist.
  2. East Asian ethnicity- for example, Japanese, Korean- from Asia or from western countries (like Korean Americans, etc). These people look similar enough to Chinese that they won't get treated like a "外国人[wài guó rén]" by random strangers. (It will probably become obvious they're not Chinese, though, if someone tries to talk to them and finds they don't speak Chinese, or they speak Chinese with an obvious accent.) Very common that schools don't want to hire them as English teachers, again, because they don't "look" like native English speakers, or some bullshit like that.
  3. All other races (white, black, etc)- If you're in this group, then your race is a factor in every single interaction you have with any Chinese people. People always refer to you as "外国人[wài guó rén]". Like you're not just a person, you're a 外国[wài guó] person. When I first came to China, I always got mad about this, but now it usually doesn't bother me anymore, because that's just how it is and I can't change the culture. And people assume I can't speak Chinese, so I have to talk first, otherwise they just awkwardly don't talk, or they awkwardly try English. But whatever, turns out most white people in Shanghai actually can't speak Chinese, so that's why Chinese people assume that. So I just have to talk first.

So basically, the advice "don't touch foreigners", if taken seriously by the public in China, would actually only be applied to the third category there.

And honestly, white people would be less likely to be seen as "you're dirty and diseased" than other races. I've heard Chinese people make various racist statements... at least Americans know that if you have a racist opinion, you shouldn't say it out loud- in China this is not so! But the stereotypes about white people are much more "positive" than other races. Like, white people, they're all rich, but they don't speak Chinese and they're guests in our country and need our help, and also, rich+clueless is a good target for scammers. (Geez, whenever I go to a super super touristy place, and the street vendors are all over me with their overpriced crap and I have to yell at them in Chinese... Although, now that we're in a pandemic and China isn't issuing tourist visas, perhaps this isn't a thing any more?) Anyway, my point is, "foreigners" who aren't white have much more negative stereotypes than that.

So if this Wu guy inspires Chinese people to be racist toward "foreigners", it's not white people who will be getting the worst of it, is what I'm saying.

Also, the dynamics of being white in China are very different if you're in a big city with a good-size international population, like Shanghai, vs if you're in a small city where people have literally never seen a white person before (except on TV). In small cities, you get random people on the street yelling "HELLO" at you, and people all staring at you, asking bystanders where you're from, asking various rude and offensive questions... That doesn't really happen in Shanghai because everyone has seen a white person before. It's not like, the highlight of their day, seeing a random white person on the street.

(I mean, I said it doesn't really happen in Shanghai, but: There was this one time, in Shanghai, I was at a museum with a black friend, and some Chinese woman said she wanted to take a photo with us. Which I agreed to even though I felt really uncomfortable with it... Perhaps black people get stared at in Shanghai even though white people don't? I don't have enough data to answer that.)

So, if this Wu guy inspires Chinese people to be racist toward "foreigners", it will be much worse for foreigners in small cities where a lot of people are really ignorant about things like race and culture.

Anyway, let's take a look at the Reuters article again:

Some, who commented on forwarded or screenshot versions of his post, questioned why foreigners in China, many of whom are long-term residents and have not left recently due to COVID-19 barriers, were considered more dangerous than Chinese people.

YES, thank you. Because of covid, international people aren't coming to China because "I've always wanted to see the Great Wall" and fun little reasons like that, like they used to. Those of us who are here are here long-term. We either haven't seen our families since 2019, or we entered China and had to do 14 or 21 or 10 days of hotel quarantine. In some cities, we have lived through lockdowns. We have done all the waves of mass testing, struggled with all the new apps that are used now to prove one's low-risk status, we were last for the vaccine rollout because they had to make a whole separate computer system for signing up people who don't have Chinese ID cards.

And this Wu guy thinks we probably have monkeypox. Come on.

Or, as one of my white friends put it, "My dude, you have been out of the country more than I have."

The majority of people entering China right now are Chinese citizens. I mean, if you're aware of how hard it is to enter China right now, and how there's a 10-day quarantine, and how China isn't issuing visas for tourism and short-term business trips- if you realize these facts, and you spend 1 minute thinking about it, it should be obvious that the majority of people entering China now are Chinese citizens. (If you're not convinced, you can check the data that Shanghai publishes every day about how many "imported" covid cases were detected- they always say the infected person's nationality and what country they were traveling from. Most of them are Chinese citizens. In other words, most people who take an international flight and arrive in China and are found to be covid-positive are Chinese citizens, which is a reflection of the fact that most people on those flights in the first place are Chinese citizens. And, I'm willing to bet, most of the "foreigners" entering China are probably ethnic Chinese. [I don't have any way to fact-check that, though. Just like, my experience waiting in the "foreigner" line at the airport in the Before Times...] So whatever image Chinese people have of "foreigners", that's not who is bringing covid into the country at this point.)

And, surprise surprise:

The southwestern city of Chongqing recorded a monkeypox virus infection on Friday in an individual who arrived from abroad, marking mainland China's first known monkeypox infection amid the recent global outbreak of the virus.

The infected person was a 29-year-old Chinese national who flew to Chongqing on Sept. 14 from Spain, the Center for Disease Control said later.

(Also, here's a Chinese article that also says that. If you want to fact-check.)

Ah, so the 1 monkeypox case in China is a Chinese person. (Like I said, statistically, I would expect this, because the majority of people entering China now are Chinese citizens.) So what's this bullshit about "don't touch foreigners"?

Anyway, in Shanghai I saw a lot of people speaking out about this on WeChat, calling it out as racist. Good! As a white person in Shanghai, I'm not really going to be affected by this. But it could be a problem for people of other races, or living in smaller cities in China.


See also, CNN's article: Don’t touch foreigners, warns senior health official after China’s first monkeypox case. I like it because of this quote, in the section about "Covid fatigue":

Shanghai, for instance, was locked down just days after officials insisted there were no plans for such a measure, leaving many of its residents unable to access food, medical care or other basic supplies.

Yep, that's what happened.


Also, there's this, which happened in early 2020: Africans in Guangzhou are on edge, after many are left homeless amid rising xenophobia as China fights a second wave of coronavirus. NOT COOL.



On Immigration and Double Standards 

China Bans Foreigners (Like Me) From Entering the Country

Great Wall's "First Pass Under Heaven" (Qinhuangdao, China)

Monday, September 19, 2022

"Well I don't know what to tell you..."

Gif of a woman saying "I don't know what to tell you." Image source.

So here's a cool little thing I happened to be daydreaming about: 

I was thinking about what if, someday, I am at a church, and I mention that I don't pray, and then some church person says "well you can't be a Christian if you don't pray." And my first reaction is kind of an astonished laugh, the kind of laugh you make when someone says something so ridiculous and unconnected to reality that you just don't have any idea how to respond to it, and then I would say "well I don't know what to tell you, then, because I *am* a Christian." 

I think it's a very good thing, a sign that I no longer have churchy PTSD or whatever you'd call it- because in the past, I have definitely fantasized about how to argue about these things, like what I could say to convince church people, what kind of evangelical jargon to wrap it in (ie, if I want to say the church is doing something harmful, call it "legalism" rather than try to make an argument that humans inherently deserve to have our needs cared for). And replaying conversations over and over in my head, and getting angry at the imaginary people accusing me of "falling away" and all that.

No, as I imagined this recently, I didn't get angry or argue with anyone. I just said "well I don't know what to tell you, because I am a Christian" and that was all I wanted to say.

(And if I really was going to say more, to give a reason why I don't pray, it would be this: I think it would be cruel and immoral if God chose who to help based on whether or not you prayed "correctly." I don't believe in a God like that. So that's what I would tell church people, if they wanted to know, but if they don't agree with me then I don't need to say anything else or argue.)

What's changed is I don't care if I can convince them or not. I don't need approval from church people. If they don't believe I'm a Christian, what do I care? They can just be wrong by themselves, while I continue to live my life.

I like to at least say 1 sentence to summarize what I think, just so that bystanders know that not everyone at the church agrees with everything- so we don't cause little ones to stumble by telling them that it's impossible to be a Christian and believe xyz. I want to be there, openly believing xyz, not arguing about it or giving a huge explanation of all the reasons why, but just being enough to put a crack in the belief that "all Christians" believe this or that.

(Well, when I say "I want to be there," I mean if I happened to be visiting a church with family members or something. I definitely wouldn't go to a church like that regularly.)

I believe in boundaries now. I believe in "they can't do anything to me." People might say I'm not a Christian, but it doesn't matter. There will always be people saying incorrect things. So what? It's not my problem.

Honestly, though, I'm oversimplifying it. If you had told me 10 years ago that I just needed to stop caring what church people thought about me, no, that would not have helped. They were my people. They were my best friends. You can't just suddenly stop caring. You can't just logic yourself into it with "why would you even want their acceptance, if you have to hide your true self to get it?" They were my people. So it took a long time- of course it took a long time- but yes, I'm happy to see I'm at a place where I don't feel I need to argue with random church people.

Obviously, though, if they don't believe I'm a Christian, then that's not going to be my church. Obviously, I'm not going to form deep relationships with people like that. Boundaries.

But yeah, if someone says I'm not a Christian, I'll shrug my shoulders and act like they just said something so very odd that it's not even worth a response. Because I don't need anything from them.



Boundaries and My Religion

Captain Marvel, Boundaries, and Why I Don't Go To Church

Accepting Myself (or, I'm Great, and It Doesn't Matter What God Thinks) 

Prayer Rates Don't Correlate With Actual Risk

Sunday, September 18, 2022


1. Ukraine war: Shock and joy in newly liberated villages (September 11)

2. How to tell if you’re allosexual, if you’re a journalist (September 8) "It reads like it comes from a parallel universe where asexuality is the default, and questioning people wonder if just maybe they’re not asexual after all."

3. The tangled web of evangelical opposition to abortion while believing in original sin, eternal conscious torment and the mysterious age of accountability (May 10) "Would a blastocyst soul that dies three days after conception with no consciousness suddenly wake up with a fully developed human body burning in eternal conscious torment?"

4. Collections: War Elephants, Part I: Battle Pachyderms (2019) A blog series about war elephants, which were a real thing in history!

5. Zhengzhou Becomes First Big City to Scrap ‘Hukou’ Restrictions (September 15) "China’s hukou system has been in place since the 1950s and is tied to certain social welfare benefits, including access to health care, education, and the right to purchase properties. Recently, a Chinese province and cities with fewer than 3 million people have either scrapped or readjusted their hukou policies, with Shanghai becoming one major city offering the hukou to master’s students graduating from the city’s universities."

6. ‘Ask how the Americans did it’: How racial bias in US medicine inspired Hitler and persists today (September 10) [content note: descriptions of evil racist medical experiments] "My medical training had taught me that diseases common in Black people, like diabetes and high blood pressure, were the result of race itself—that Black people had a biological tendency toward certain conditions. There was no mention of the structural racism that creates the conditions for ill health to thrive."

7. Judge: HIV drug mandate violates religious freedom of anti-gay Christians (September 7) "If all of this holds up, and PrEP drugs become harder to access, it would have disastrous consequences"

8. Mainland China reports first imported monkeypox case (September 17)

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

My Asexual Opinions On This Article About Prayer

A crowd of people with their hands raised in worship, in front of a cross. Image source.

[content note: NSFW]

I came across this post from 2019, Prayer and Orgasm Have More in Common Than You Think (Guest Post by Kelly Deutsch), and I have some asexual things to say about it.

First of all, I guess I'll put a disclaimer here: I'm not saying "allosexuals think prayer is like sex, and here is why I don't agree with that as an asexual." ("Allosexual" means not asexual or any of the other related identities under the asexual umbrella. Most people are allosexual.) It's not true that most people think prayer is like sex/orgasm- and this writer, Kelly Deutsch, obviously knows that; that's why she wrote a blog post to make her arguments for it. No, the part I take issue with is all the assumptions in her blog post about what sex is like. Her argument is basically "you know how when you have sex, you do X? well can be similar to doing Y during prayer" and I'm over here like "... I don't do X during sex..."

And I see this sort of thing all the time, in the way people talk about sex. The unstated assumptions about what sex is about. I felt like this article serves as a good example of it, so I'm going to blog about it here.

(Sometimes when I write a post about "people say X about sex, and here is why that makes no sense to me as an asexual", readers leave comments saying "I also think it makes no sense, and I'm not asexual." Yes! I appreciate those comments! Surely a lot of these things just inherently don't make sense, unrelated to the fact that I'm asexual. I'm really glad that IDing as ace gives me the space to talk about that, and I would love to see people who aren't asexual also talking about it.)

Okay let's start:

I can’t remember the first time it happened in prayer. But I remember the first conversation I tried to have about it.

“My prayer has been… I mean, it’s been wonderful.” My eyes sparkled, but I struggled to find the words. “It’s like… it’s spousal. It’s like my heart blooms open, to a place deeper than I knew existed—and God pours himself out there. Sometimes it leaves me breathless!”


Over the years, I came to learn that this kind of profound experience in prayer was not uncommon. Mystics from nearly every religion speak of the divine as “beloved” or “lover.”

Sexuality and Spirituality are a lot closer than many of us might think.

Don’t believe me? Check out Teresa of Avila’s poetry:

When He touches me I clutch the sky’s sheets, the way other lovers do the earth’s weave of clay. Any real ecstasy is a sign you are moving in the right direction, don’t let any prude tell you otherwise.

Or John of the Cross:

O sweet cautery, O delightful wound! O gentle hand! O delicate touch That tastes of eternal life…  How gently and lovingly You wake my heart…  And by Your sweet breathing, How tenderly You swell my heart with love!

Or Rumi:

The wakened lover speaks directly to the beloved, ‘You are the sky my spirit circles in, The love inside love, the resurrection place… Are these words or tears? Is weeping speech?  What shall I do, my love?’

So he speaks, and everyone around Begins to cry with him, laughing crazily, Moaning in the spreading union Of lover and beloved.

This is the true religion.

Okay, I see a lot here that is guaranteed to make a group of middle-school boys devolve into uncontrolled giggling, but in my opinion that doesn't actually mean it's sexual. Does that make sense? I don't read it as sexual. There are a few bits that mention something sexual as an analogy to what they're experiencing ("spousal", "other lovers", "prude") but I really don't see that as saying the actual religious experience is sexual. 

("spousal" is a weird word to use though, like wtf does that mean. As an immigrant I gotta say I've heard people say "spousal visa" but that's it.)

It sort of reminds me of what I wrote in my post "You Weren't There, the Night Jesus Found Me":

It's choosing to pour out worship on Jesus. I know I said I'd never worship again- which is true- but I mean this in a different way. It's choosing to do it, this one time, because of how I feel. Celebration. Love. And that's real right now, but I make no promises for the future. I've said before, I'm never going to be in a personal relationship with a god again. But I see that maybe I can worship with no strings attached. Just enjoy it for what it is in the moment. It doesn't mean I'm giving my whole life to Them, or anything like that.


Can I worship God when I want, without commitment, and it's more meaningful because They know it's real every time, rather than being out of obligation?

I was aware, when I wrote that, that it sounds very similar to arguments about why casual sex "no strings attached" can be a good thing. My feeling on this is basically, "Well I meant what I said. It's not a sexual thing at all. The fact that other people use that same sort of language to talk about sex is not my problem." Like, okay, if you're going to list of examples of situations where generally it's expected that something is supposed to occur in the context of a committed relationship, but some people argue that outside of a committed relationship it can also be a good and beautiful thing... in my blog post, I put "worship" on that list. Many other people have put "sex" on that list. That doesn't mean my view on worship is sexual, or some nonsense like that. 

Unless you see sex as like the default background noise behind everything. Which, well, yeah, people do, and as an asexual I hate that.

And speaking of "the default background noise behind everything"- back to Deutsch's article:

It was no secret to the mystics! Eros, that creative, life-giving energy that fuels our sexuality is the same energy within the divine. Actually, it’s the reverse: God is the wild and beautiful dance between eros (desire, longing, creative energy) and agape (self-giving, fruitful love). When we make love, we participate in that dance.

And so we do when we pray.


Okay let's have a little reality check here. Sex- the definition of sex. Sex is getting together with another person and messing around with each other's genitals. That's what sex is. Okay? That's what it is.

Like seriously, that's what it is. That's it.

All this stuff about "creative, life-giving energy", "desire, longing"- those are very abstract things, and sex can be that, to some people, but there's an extra step in there. How do you connect the very concrete act of genital stimulation to these big abstract concepts? As an asexual, I argue that they are not *inherently* connected. I suppose it's true that, for many people, the gateway to all these big abstract ideas about pleasure and desire and feeling alive is... *checks notes* ... *checks notes again* ... doing stuff with your genitals (?????) but I don't see why those things would be inherently connected, and we certainly shouldn't assume that they're connected for everyone. 

Story time: Back when I had never had sex, I thought I really really really wanted sex, because I really really really wanted all these wonderful abstract ideas about love and emotional connection. I know that I had heard of asexuality back then, but of course I thought I couldn't possibly be asexual- I really really wanted sex! Because I viewed sex as like, this transcendent, intimate experience, where you truly give yourself to your partner, and feel love in the most direct and powerful way, and all that- of course I want to have sex! I knew that in practical terms, it was brought about by doing stuff with your genitals, but I didn't think that would be ... like... something you would need to pay attention to, as you get swept up in the romance and emotion of it.

(Wow I just realized my naive view on sex from back then sounds EXTREMELY ASEXUAL.)

But, when I started having sex, it wasn't like that at all. It was like, trying to figure out how to put our genitals together. Like, that's it. Really. That's what it was.

So I'm not buying this stuff about "Eros, that creative, life-giving energy that fuels our sexuality is the same energy within the divine". Like, okay, I can believe that there is "creative, life-giving energy". But if you want to convince me that we can access that energy through sex- which, remember, means finding a partner and messing around with each other's genitals- you're going to need to at least offer some kind of argument to make that connection. Really bizarre how the connection is just assumed.

Moving along:

Lovemaking requires vulnerability. At the very least, it requires you to bare a private part of you, physically. At the very best, it asks you to bare your most intimate parts– emotionally and spiritually.

Prayer is simply another word for “relationship with the divine.” It, too, requires vulnerability in order to be intimate. You can have a surface-level relationship with Infinite Love just as you can with your spouse. You can hide, perform your perceived duties, and live separate lives while still calling yourself “spiritual” or “holy” or “Christian” (or “married”!). Or– you can be in a rich, satisfying, jovial relationship with the divine. It is as real and nuanced as your relationship with your spouse.

Consider the amount of trust it takes to be truly naked with someone. It might be easy to take off your clothes; but how easy is it to bare your heart? To share your fears? To be seen in all your flaws and imperfections—and be loved there? It’s like your husband kissing that flabby spot you’re secretly ashamed of, or your wife revering that hairy mole you find revolting. But she loves it because it is a part of YOU.

That’s the kind of tenderness God shows us. He caresses our pride. He reveres our epic failures that spark shame in us. While we beat ourselves up (“How could I be so stupid and selfish?? How could I hurt the friend who loves me so well?”), the divine pours mercy in that spot. He soothes the shame, washing it out with the waters of tenderness. He doesn’t pour out wrath: we’re the ones who do that.

So... okay, I would say the analogy is a bit confused here because the writer is actually talking about sex in 2 different ways:

  1. Sex
  2. Sex when you are with a partner that you fully love and trust and that you feel safe being vulnerable with

She is saying that prayer should have vulnerability similar to item 2 on that list, and therefore prayer/spirituality can be sexual. But... uh... sex isn't always vulnerable like that. And she seems to realize this, because the section I pasted above says things like "It might be easy to take off your clothes; but how easy is it to bare your heart?"- in other words, being naked/ having sex doesn't necessarily mean you're also sharing your heart with your partner.

So it seems really weird to me that the argument is like "Sometimes sex is vulnerable and emotionally intimate, and sometimes it is not. Prayer can also be vulnerable and emotionally intimate- therefore prayer, at its best, is like sex." Like... seems like the sex is a separate thing from the concept of vulnerability. So the conclusion doesn't really follow.

My best guess is, she views this kind of vulnerable/intimate sex as the "correct" way to have sex, and therefore sex which doesn't meet those criteria isn't worth being considered as she makes her argument about how prayer can be like sex.

(I guess I'll put some examples of "less vulnerable" types of sex, in case it's not clear what I mean. Okay, for one thing, you don't have to actually be naked to have sex. You just need to expose whichever genitals you need for whichever specific sex act you're doing. If you're still confused, here is a bunch of erotica about it [NSFW], you're welcome. Also, as far as I know, if you're having sex early on in the relationship, or having a one-time hookup, or with a stranger, you won't just go ahead and let them see whatever body parts you feel weird about. You would present yourself in a certain way, specifically to reduce that vulnerability... actually, for safety reasons, I think it's important to reduce that vulnerability if you don't know your partner well enough. Also, don't tell strangers where you live, etc. I don't have experience with this, but apparently having random hookups with people you don't want to be emotionally intimate with- and actually shouldn't be emotionally intimate with, because you don't know them well enough to trust them- is a common thing.)

And for me personally, I'm not saying sex isn't vulnerable, I'm saying that it's a lot of other things too- like confusing, and it was painful when I had vaginismus... so I'm not on board with a metaphor that treats vulnerability as if it's THE most important aspect.

It's weird to me, though, that if the thing she's actually getting at is the vulnerability, then why does she seem to think that the thing she's getting at is the sex?

Oh and also, I guess I should mention, I used to have a "personal relationship with God" which was vulnerable and emotionally intimate and all that. (But it wasn't sexual, because, of course not, wtf?) And I did spend time praying and worshiping just because I enjoyed it and wanted to be with God, and did at times feel huge overwhelming mind-blowing happy emotions. But it wasn't like an orgasm, obviously, because an orgasm happens in your genitals.

But I don't have a "personal relationship with God" anymore. Actually I believe in a different God now (I'm still Christian, but a different kind of Christian than before), but I am not willing to have a "personal relationship" with Them. I'm not willing to have that vulnerability with any God at all, because of what happened with the evangelical God.

But if Deutsch's spirituality is sexual, then that's fine for her. Glad she is happy about it. I just take issue with how what she's describing as "sex" isn't what sex is for everyone. And also, honestly, I don't think her spirituality *is* sexual; I think she conceptualizes it as being *metaphorically* sexual.

Taserface announces "It's metaphorical!" (Scene from "Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2") Image source.

Which, yeah sure, it's fine that she wants to use this metaphor to describe her experience. I just find it weird that she doesn't realize there are many places where, for many people, the metaphor can break down. 

Let's continue reading the article!

I once was talking to a friend of mine who was having a hard time in her prayer life. I also knew that it had taken years after getting married for her to experience an orgasm. (Which is not a rare experience for women.) I asked, “What made the difference when you were finally able to come?”  She pondered for a moment. “You know,” she replied softly, “it was when I finally allowed myself to surrender. I had to let go of all my fears and rigidity. You really have to relax and let go in order for climax to happen.”

Uh. I have 1 question: WHY DIDN'T SHE BUY A SEX TOY?

Like, this strikes me as very weird, this idea that if a woman can't figure out how to have an orgasm, she needs to "relax and let go." No, you don't need to do that. BUY A SEX TOY.

[Edit: Based on the discussion in the comments section, I decided I need to make an edit here: I was working under the assumption that this woman's problem was that she had never had an orgasm before, and wanted to have an orgasm, but had no idea about the physical mechanics of it. In that case- which is probably one of the simplest cases- buying a sex toy will likely be all that's needed to solve that problem. But if it's more complicated than that, and it's a mix of conflicting societal expectations vs how you want your partner to see you vs how you feel about your own identity, etc, then maybe a sex toy won't help at all. And if she feels like "I need to buy a sex toy so I can learn to orgasm so I can perform sex correctly for my husband" then that's no good either. Your sex life should be about you first. Figure out yourself first, then you can choose to share it with another person.]

Nobody tells men to "relax and let go" in order to solve their sexual problems. But apparently it's FINE if a married woman doesn't have orgasms for YEARS, while her husband presumably DOES have orgasms. Apparently that's just the way it is, until she can teach herself to "relax and let go."

Absolutely no judgment on this woman- it's not her fault, and my experience was similar. This is a failure of the sex ed system, is what it is.

Yeah, when I started having sex, I didn't know what arousal was. I didn't know that a woman having an orgasm was supposed to be part of sex. Or, I had heard of the idea of women having orgasms, but I thought it would be just... like... you do what feels good, and then it suddenly happens. Umm, no no, I'm asexual, so "what feels good" is cuddling a lot and then falling asleep together, which doesn't have anything to do with orgasms. Okay, if you're as naive as I was and you don't know this, let me spell it out for you: To get an orgasm, you have to stimulate your genitals in ways that feel good and make you feel like "ooh I want to keep stimulating my genitals like this" so then you do just that, for a while, and that's how you get an orgasm. If you don't have the "I want to keep stimulating my genitals like this" feeling, then you are *not* on track to get an orgasm. It doesn't just come out of nowhere. It doesn't come from, like, being really "relaxed." (For the very naive readers, let me spell this out more: In this anecdote about the woman who got orgasms when she finally learned to "relax", she (and/or her husband) was definitely also physically stimulating her genitals in ways that felt like "I want to keep stimulating my genitals" but couldn't quite get the orgasm until she added 1 last component, which was the emotional state of "relax and let go." Why am I writing about this on the internet?) Here, if you still have questions, go read the Wikipedia article on orgasms. I always heard people say that an orgasm is indescribable, but that's not true; Wikipedia does a pretty good job describing it.

ANYWAY, don't try to psych yourself up into this weird, badly-defined "relax and let go" emotional state. BUY A ****ING VIBRATOR.

Okay... well... some people don't like the idea of using a sex toy. That's fine- if you don't want to use a sex toy, then don't. But it should be your decision. You should know what your reasons are, and they should be reasons that matter to you. Not because society says there's something wrong with it and it's not the "correct" way to have sex. Not because your partner doesn't like the idea- your partner, who is fine with himself having orgasms and you not having orgasms- if that's the situation you're in, and your partner is saying you "shouldn't" try a sex toy, ask yourself this question: What the f***?

Even if you want to learn how to orgasm without a sex toy, the sex toy can be a useful tool because you'll at least find out what an orgasm is, and the basic general outlines of what you need to do to get it. (Well, actually, let me add the disclaimer that not every sex toy works for everyone.) Once you have that knowledge, you'll be in a much better position to try and get an orgasm without the sex toy.

Because, if one partner has orgasms, and the other partner *never* has orgasms, that should be a red flag. Like, I don't want to say it's *definitely* wrong- I believe sex can be whatever you define it to be, and there's no "correct" way to do it- as long as everyone involved is okay with it. Sure, I can imagine situations where one partner is fine with participating in sex but not having any orgasms themself. There's nothing *inherently* wrong with that. But that's an unusual situation, and there should be a good reason for it. Not just, well, this is how it is for women, *shrug*, why can't she just learn to "relax and let go"?

(I'm also a little mad about the "relax" advice because I had vaginismus, and I asked several doctors "why is sex painful?" and they all said "just relax" which was useless because I actually HAD VAGINISMUS. Like, AN ACTUAL MEDICAL PROBLEM. And I had to figure out what to do about it my own damn self, and the answer was not "relax", the answer was very carefully and analytically trying, with lube, to put one's own fingers in one's vagina. Or, alternatively, "don't have vaginal sex" also works a perfectly valid answer.)

Anyway... wow this blog post is getting long. Sometimes I ask myself why I'm out here on the internet, as an asexual, giving sex ed advice.

Okay skimming over the rest of Deutsch's article... here's a bit at the end I have to mention:

[content note: explicit description of sex]

That is one of the simplest ways to divine union: sitting in your longing. Open up that space to the divine and ask him to fill you, much like a husband fills his wife. We are all feminine before the divine. Spread wide your cavern, your longing, and he will hasten to fill you with himself. How could he resist such beauty?

Okay, I have 2 things to say here:

  1. Eww
  2. My God is too queer for this heteronormative analogy

To her credit, the writer acknowledges my first objection:

If the genital analogy doesn’t work for you, leave it. But for millennia, it is the best analogy mystics have come up with to explain the delicious ecstasy found in the heights of prayer.

Yeah, I mean, if it works for you, then that's great. But it's just an analogy, not what sex actually *is*, so you have to understand that there are people whose experience of sex doesn't fit this idea.

At the end of her article, there are some practical suggestions for how to get to this kind of "orgasm" connection with God. I guess if you are interested in trying it yourself, you can go read it.

But also, I realize, I guess I have had the experience that she's talking about. As I said earlier in this very long blog post, I used to have a "personal relationship with God", and I did feel His presence in amazing ways. I kind of just realize now, as I come to practical suggestions at the end of Deutsch's article, that those experiences are (probably?) what she means by this whole orgasm analogy. Yeah, I ... back then... I did feel it, overwhelming, in my heart, passion, desire, devotion, chasing God, huge emotions that made me shout and fall to my knees and dance in worship, and I loved it, and I experienced God. 

But, first of all, just because it had those powerful strong pleasurable emotions didn't mean it was like an orgasm (wtf), and second, yeah I'm not doing that with a God ever again.

So yeah, that's my asexual opinion on that. I sometimes see people talking about sex in ways that have these hidden assumptions about what sex is- like the idea that sex is about vulnerability, sex connects us with the life-giving energy of the universe, etc. And I find it quite odd, because actually sex is about doing stuff with your genitals. If you experience sex in a certain way, and you want to make an analogy about that, then good for you, but the analogy won't apply to everyone.


A bit of an aside: I had a similar issue with the book "Radical Love: Introduction to Queer Theology." Overall I liked it, but it definitely had A LOT of this kind of argument "you know how you do X during sex- well that's similar to this other thing, Y, related to religion" and I'm like "since when do people do X during sex???"

Here's what I wrote in my review of that book, in 2018:

Yeah, there were A LOT of places in this book where it was talking about theology and such and I was following along, no problem, and then SUDDENLY it just became EXTREMELY SEXUAL and I found myself way too asexual to even figure out what it was talking about. Like, if it says desire for God in prayer is like sexual desire, I'm like... trying to remember how allosexuals view sexual desire so I can try to figure out what on earth is being communicated with this analogy.


Also, I just happened to remember that Rob Bell wrote a book called Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections Between Sexuality and Spirituality

Sex. God. You know the two subjects are connected; you just don't have the words for how they are connected.

LOLLLLLLLLL maybe if I have time, I'll review this book, asexually.



Here's an article about evangelical women and sex

What Sex Is Like (According to Purity Culture) 

"Moon Knight" and Boundaries With God 

How Pregnancy and Childbirth Changed My Asexuality (or, actually, A Post About Vaginismus) 

The things I've never let myself say about worship

Monday, September 12, 2022

Taking My Kid To Church: "The Belief That Baffled the Best of the Buddhists"

Image text: "I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart." Image source.

Part of the Taking My Kid To Church blog series


Those of you who grew up in the church, going to VBS and Christian camps, probably know this song:

I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart
Down in my heart
Down in my heart
I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart
Down in my heart to stay

(Apologies if that song is stuck in your head for the rest of the day.)

There are a bunch of other verses to this song too- "I've got the peace that passes understanding down in my heart", "I've got the love of Jesus, love of Jesus, down in my heart", "I've got the wonderful love of my blessed Redeemer way down in the depths of my heart." And of course, "And if the devil doesn't like it he can sit on a tack."

It's the sort of song that's very easy to make up new verses for. It's upbeat and goofy and fun, especially on those verses that try to shove a whole long phrase into the space where "joy, joy, joy, joy" was. I remember one especially fun camp leader that would add some flourishes like "and I'm so happy WOO WOO so very happy WOO WOO, I've got the love of Jesus in my H-E-A-R-T" etc. 

Anyway, yeah this song has lots of verses, some more "official" than others, and I remember hearing one verse that goes like this: "I've got the belief that baffled the best of the Buddhists way down in the depths of my heart."

Doing a bit of googling, I don't find this verse in any official writeup of the lyrics to this song, though there are references to something like it here, here, and here. I guess it's an extra verse that someone made up but never really got widespread popularity.

Okay but let's stop and think about this. Why is "the belief that baffled the best of the Buddhists" thrown into this song as a positive way to describe our faith in Jesus, and nobody bats an eye? Isn't that a little, uh, weird? Isn't that a little, uh, us-vs-them, kind of introducing an unnecessary conflict into this song? And also, why do we Christians see it as a good thing that followers of other religions are "baffled" about us? And, has anyone singing this song ever even met a Buddhist? Do we have any actual evidence for this claim that Buddhists are baffled?

I don't actually think Buddhists are sitting around being "baffled" by Christians, and if they were, why would that be a good thing?

Even though this particular verse of "I've got the joy joy joy joy" doesn't seem to have caught on, the ideas found in it are widespread in white evangelical American culture. The idea that people of other religions just don't understand Christianity, and that they all judge us and think we're ridiculous and our faith makes no sense, and we Christians see that as a badge of honor. And the way that we're so quick to buy into these one-dimensional stereotypes about people who believe differently than us, happily repeating them in a fun song, without stopping to think about whether we're misunderstanding or misrepresenting other people's views. The idea that we should actually ask them what they believe never even occurs to us. (Can't do that- you might be led astray! You need a Christian leader to tell you what atheists believe, what Jews believe, what Buddhists believe, what Muslims believe, etc.)

So all of this has got me thinking about what I'm going to tell my kid about ideologies I don't agree with. I'm not evangelical anymore; I'm a Christian feminist- so the "ideologies I don't agree with" is a very different set than back then. But this is something every parent should think about, regardless of which beliefs they themselves hold.

Okay let me give you an example. In my August 27 blogaround, I had some mean things to say about Matt Walsh: "I totally understand if you do not want to spend 1 hour and 10 minutes of your time thinking about Matt Walsh" and "If you are unfortunate enough to know who Matt Walsh is". I stand by that; I believe his ideology is abhorrent enough that it calls for this kind of criticism. 

BUT. This is not how you should explain him to your children.

When I write in that way, I expect that my readers recognize that I'm coming from a certain perspective, and I have strong opinions about things- typically things like feminism and queer acceptance- and so I have this kind of emotional reaction, and I believe that it's fair to use this kind of strong language, but you don't have to agree with me on that. Even if you generally agree with me on issues related to feminism, that doesn't even necessarily mean that you yourself would also describe Matt Walsh in such harsh terms. When someone uses language like that, you should recognize that their own feelings and biases are playing a big role in it. And sure, there may be a lot of solid evidence to back up those feelings and biases- but you should really look into the evidence yourself first, before you just accept their description at face value. (Although, honestly, your life will be better if you don't bother learning who Matt Walsh is. ... Wow this is so meta, because hopefully you also recognize that that statement has a lot to do with my own biases. IT'S THE TRUTH THOUGH.)

Anyway what I want to say is, children don't know any of that. Or, maybe I should just speak for myself- when I was a child, I thought in terms of what's true and what's false, and I trusted that my parents had the right answers. Yes, I was one of those kids who questioned a lot, but overall I believed it. It never would have occurred to me to realize "we are describing this group of people (who believes differently than us) in a way that is COMPLETELY NOT what they would say to describe themselves."

I'm not even sure if "bias" is the right word for this. It's more like... when you describe the ideology of people who disagree with you, do you make them sound ridiculous, or just plain evil, or do you make them sound like good people who have good reasons for their beliefs but they're just missing a few key facts, or somewhere in between, or what? And it's totally valid to answer that question differently in different situations, depending on your audience and what goal you are trying to achieve. Are you trying to have a reasonable discussion and convince people to change their minds, or are you "blowing off steam" in a setting where everyone already shares your ideology? There's a time and place for both of those- but you have to be aware of that. 

And my point is, children are not aware of that.

Like if I tell my kid "conservative Christians want to make such-and-such law because they hate trans people", isn't the kid gonna take it at face value? Like he will think I mean if you walk up to a conservative Christian and say "so, you support such-and-such law because you hate trans people?" then they will respond "yes, that's right." Whereas actually what I mean is, people on both sides of this issue make all sorts of arguments about it, but in my personal opinion, it can all be summed up by saying they hate trans people. If you're familiar with how arguing about politics works, then it's obvious that that's what I meant. But a little kid doesn't have that background knowledge.

(Though honestly I don't actually think the issue is "they hate trans people"- I think there's more to it than that, I think it's about people in power throwing trans people under the bus because it's politically useful for them, and then the average conservative person hears all this misinformation about trans people and buys into it- which, to some extent it's ignorance, but also they're not innocent, because if you're an adult you should be able to recognize when some ideology is that full of bullshit- you should realize "hey they are saying a lot of dehumanizing things about trans people, without actually talking to actual trans people about what their lives are actually like- something feels wrong about this"... lol I am not going to tell my kid all of that either. He is a toddler.)


This is one reason that I'm glad my husband is not a Christian. It's good for our son to see that people can believe different things and it's fine. And if any Christian tries to teach him some strawman argument about what non-Christians believe, he'll know it's not true, because that's not what Daddy is like.

Though of course when you say it's "fine" for people to believe different things, well, it really depends what belief you're talking about. Some ideologies are really harmful. There may be some ideologies that are so evil that you decide no, I'm not going to let my kid interact with that at all. You have to decide where to draw that line- and there could be a bunch of different factors that come into it, like whether you yourself are part of the demographic that is harmed by that ideology, whether you have close family members that believe in that ideology and you want your kids to be able to meet them, etc. I don't think there's one "right answer."

I realize that I've written this whole blog post but it doesn't actually have any answers. I guess I won't try to give answers here, because it really depends a lot on the specific situation. I just want to write this to say this is an important thing that parents should all be aware of. The power difference between a parent and a little kid is so huge that you can easily make them believe in whatever ideology you believe in, as if it's so obvious that it's true and everyone who disagrees with you is evil or stupid. But I would say it's immoral to use the power difference in that way. And when the kid gets older, that power difference won't exist anymore, at least not in the same way- so that strategy won't "work" in the long run. Your kid will realize the world is bigger than what you told them.

Overall, the goal has to be teaching your kid critical thinking skills, rather than teaching them the "correct" opinion to hold on every single issue. Your kid will end up disagreeing with you on some things, and that's okay. I think the main thing has to be teaching them to have compassion for people, and let that guide them as they try to sift through what's true and what's not.

And definitely teach them that it's a huge red flag when someone says "here is what people from this other ideology (which I don't agree with) believe", without actually listening to actual members of the ideology describe their beliefs in their own words.



I Went to a Buddhist Site and Nothing Was "Sad"

This "Do Not Intermarry With Them" Stuff Hits Different Now

Taking My Kid To Church: "We are so happy to know Jesus, we want to share that with other people!"

"My Evangelism Isn't Working" is a Very Creepy Thing to Say 

"This Doesn't Make Sense, But It Must Be Right"

Sunday, September 11, 2022


1. Powerful Sichuan Quake Leaves a Trail of Deaths and Destruction (September 6)

2. Top 6 Mistakes in the Academic Field of Asexuality Studies (September 6) "The 1% number is how many of those British residents reported no sexual attraction, not how much of the world’s population identifies as asexual."

3. On the Condemnation of Gray Areas (2014) "Even if we presume that gray zones are invalid as a basis for a label, think about the effect these adamant proclamations could have on nervous, uncertain newbies who’ve just learned about asexuality and aren’t sure how well it describes them: if there’s no buffer zone, no midway space, no gray area, then they could (and do) feel pressured to be on high alert for any brief glimmer of sexual attraction in their lives as if it’s a game changer, and to stress over which of their physical attractions could be construed as somewhat almost sexual, and then they feel obligated to treat a few dubious outliers as grounds for another full-blown identity crisis as they once again question and fret over and wrestle with how best to label themselves."

OMG this is SO REAL! When I was first trying to figure out if I was asexual, it helped me A LOT to know that "gray-asexual" was also a thing, also part of the ace community, also queer. That even if I'm not 100% sure that I've never ever ever ever experienced sexual attraction (and how could I be sure, if I can't even figure out what it is?) I can still "count" as part of the ace community. To be honest, that's still kind of how I view gray-asexuality- it's for asexuals who worry that they're not "allowed" to id as asexual because they can't prove with 100% certainty that they've really never experienced sexual attraction. (This is just my opinion- I am sure that there are gray-asexuals who view it differently- so don't necessarily take my word for it...)

4. Polyamory: Never a One-sided Deal, even in Mixed Relationships (Guest Post) (2013) "I don’t deny there must be some mixed couples like this as well, where the ace partner is completely comfortable with the sexual partner’s other relationships but doesn’t need multiple partners themself. If it works for them, that’s great. However, my point is this (or any other) arrangement should be discussed and agreed on by both parties, not decided or assumed by one of them."

5. 9/7 Flashback: Steve Strang, genocidaire (September 7) "It’s important that this horrific, indefensible garbage — published in God’s name — not be forgotten or memory-holed. Charisma did this. Steve Strang did this."

6. Some links about Kiwi Farms- I had heard it mentioned here and there on the internet but didn't know what was going on, so I was glad to find a few articles that gave an overview:
The takedown of Kiwi Farms is basically another 9/11, Gender critical transphobes explain (September 5)
As Kiwi Farms struggles to stay online, transphobes hail it as “one of the last free places on the internet” (August 25)
Campaign pushes Cloudflare to drop trans hate site (August 25)

Wow yeah, glad that site was taken down.

7. Collections: Bread, How Did They Make It? Part I: Farmers! (2020) This is a VERY LONG blog post about the agricultural work of common farmers in ancient societies. I'm sharing it here because of the part where it explains that their first priority was minimizing risk, rather than running their farm in the most efficient way possible- to modern readers, it may look like these ancient subsistence farmers made bad decisions, but really in their situation, those were good decisions because their first priority had to be reducing the risk of starving to death.

"So what do our farmers do during a good harvest to prepare for a bad one? They banquet their neighbors, contribute to village festivals, marry off their sons and daughters with the best dowry they can manage, and try to pay back any favors they called in from friends recently. I stress these not merely because they are survival strategies (though they are) but because these sorts of activities end up (along with market days and the seasonal cycles) defining a great deal of life in these villages. But these events also built that social capital which can be ‘cashed out’ in an emergency. And they are a good survival strategy. Grain rots and money can be stolen, but your neighbor is far likelier to still be your neighbor in a year, especially because these relationships are (if maintained) almost always heritable and apply to entire households rather than individuals, making them able to endure deaths and the cycles of generations."

I wonder if some of this is also true for people now who live paycheck-to-paycheck. Like the idea that there's a network of people- your family, friends, neighbors- who all need financial help from time to time, and even though it's not great to be in need and have to rely on other people (because sometimes you won't end up getting the help you need), "investing" your money in the social relationships in this network is a better strategy than squirreling away 5 dollars here and there into your own savings account like the financial advice people say.

I am probably oversimplifying here- if anyone has more insight or links to other articles along those lines, go ahead and leave a comment about it. :)

8. Collections: The Practical Case on Why We Need the Humanities (2020) "And it should come thus as little surprise that these skills – a sense of empathy, of epistemic humility, sound reasoning and effective communication – are the skills we generally look for in effective leaders. Because, fundamentally, the purpose of formal education in the humanities, since the classical period, was as training in leadership."

YES! Agree with all of this! When I was in school, I was only interested in math and science, and didn't think history/literature/etc mattered at all. Now here I am spending hours and hours every week writing this blog about religion and feminism and life as an immigrant in China- what changed? 

Back in school, I thought history was about memorizing names and dates and places- I remember sometimes the students would ask "What's the point of learning this? When will we ever need this? What kind of job can you get from studying history?" (And I remember some adult said "you can become a history teacher" which struck high-school-Perfect-Number as a very nonsensical "turtles all the way down" thing to say- and I now see that it was a pretty bad answer. There are much much better answers.)

No, here is the real reason why people need to study history: It's not about memorizing which army general was in which war 100 years ago. It's about having a big-picture awareness of how a society functions, because we make decisions in the present about what kind of society we want to live in. We need to learn from history, or else we will make the same bad decisions that societies made in the past.

An example from science: Sometimes I see news articles about how an AI was developed to classify this or that, to make decisions on this or that, and people treat it like this AI is somehow intrinsically correct and objective, and sees a deeper truth that humans wouldn't be able to see, just because it's "scientific." Umm, no. Science is not "objective"- it is shaped by the biases of the scientists who set up the experiment, who chose what dataset to feed into the neural net, etc. Back in the day, they were doing science to "prove" that black people weren't as intelligent as white people. (I say "back in the day", but actually the NFL was still trying this bullshit in the year 2021.) We have to know that history, to make sure we are not doing the same things. (I was going to say "make sure we're not making the same mistakes" but calling scientific racism a "mistake" is letting them off too easy.)

An example from religion: I was an apologetics nerd, back in the day. Knew all the steps to logically reason from one belief to another. I had a whole logically-consistent evangelical Christian ideology. But I never asked the questions, "Where did this ideology come from? How did it develop historically?" I never knew that white Christians who supported slavery and segregation, back in the day, also had a whole logically-consistent Christian ideology about that- which looked scarily similar to my own. I mean, YIKES. We need to know that history. 

And, more broadly, I only recently realized that the United States has never really repented of our sin of slavery and racism. Yes, slavery was made illegal in 1865, yes, the law says it's illegal to discriminate by race- but that progress was made mainly because black activists kept pushing for it, little by little- it was NOT because the white majority recognized that we had committed a terrible, monstrous sin, and repented of it. So if you ever hear someone say "slavery was such a long time ago, why can't they just get over it", well, that's why. We need to know that history, because it shapes the decisions we need to make for justice and equality today.

9. Ocean Park animals have their cake and eat it (September 10) Love this! Zoo animals in Shanghai were given "moon cakes" for Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节) which was on September 10 this year.

10. The middle school boys thought their teacher was a ‘creep.’ So they tracked how he treated the girls. (September 9) "They had tried talking to adults about what they heard and saw. None of the adults listened or took them seriously, the student told the Globe." These boys did the right thing. Teach your sons this.