Saturday, March 17, 2018

Perfect Number Watches VeggieTales "LarryBoy and the Rumor Weed" (1999)

Thursday, March 15, 2018


Data and Stephen Hawking, on the set of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." Image source.
1. Non-binary teen celebrates ‘b’nei mitzvah’ (posted March 2) "A synagogue has held the first known gender-neutral “B’nei Mitzvah” in the UK for a non-binary teenager."

2. Stormy Daniels Is Not a Punchline (posted March 10) "By treating her as trashy or tainted or inherently ridiculous because of her job, we send the message that none of Trump’s flaws are worse than being a “porn star.” We make it seem like her mere existence is somehow more embarrassing than his worst offenses. This enormous gap between how we judge women and men is sexist, and bad men rely on it to get away with their actions."

3. How the Activists Who Tore Down Durham's Confederate Statue Got Away With It (posted February 21)

4. Take The Words "Judeo-Christian" Out Of Your Damn Mouth (posted March 1) "No Jew has ever used the term “Judeo-Christian,” because like the Sinbad movie Shazaam, it does not actually exist."

5. Police Officer Wins Settlement From City That Fired Him for Not Shooting a Black Man (posted February 12)

6. This scene from Star Trek: The Next Generation:

We will miss Stephen Hawking <3

7.  Can ‘Black Panther’ Change Chinese Attitudes Toward Race? (posted March 9) "Many job postings specify that only white or “native European” teachers may apply, or demand that candidates submit copies of their passport pages at the very start of the recruitment process in order to screen out people with dark skin."

8. Scott Kelly: NASA Twins Study Confirms Astronaut's DNA Actually Changed In Space (posted March 9) Wow!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Post About Masturbation

Putting a wedding ring on new spouse's finger at the wedding ceremony. Image source.
So I want to write about this article on Desiring God about masturbation. It's called If Your Right Hand Causes You to Sin, because of course it is. The article is from 2016 but I saw it being discussed on Twitter recently, and you all know God called me to blog about crap from Desiring God.

The article is quite long so I won't respond to the whole thing. I just want to talk about this part:
2. God purposed that all righteous forms of sexual expression be for the marriage bed. Masturbation removes sexual expression from its only God-intended context.

Sexual expression manifest in orgasm is a good gift of God (1 Timothy 4:2–5) that men and women are to enjoy only in the context of marital intimacy (Genesis 2:23; Song 8:4–6; 1 Corinthians 7:2–3; Hebrews 13:4). When people reach orgasm outside the covenant-confirming act of lovemaking in marriage, the act becomes solely self-seeking, divorced from its purpose of creating intimacy. Sexual expression through orgasm should be an overflow of a desire for a spouse, not merely for a feeling or experience.
  • “[Liars] forbid marriage . . . that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” (1 Timothy 4:2–5)
  • “Because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. . . . Do not deprive one another . . . so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (1 Corinthians 7:2–3, 5)
  • “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” (Hebrews 13:4)
So wait wait wait. Let's see if I'm understanding this: God wants you to only have orgasms if your spouse is there participating.


What is this business about "Sexual expression through orgasm should be an overflow of a desire for a spouse, not merely for a feeling or experience"? Like, this writer just completely made that up. Who made him the expert on everyone else's orgasms?

In this culture of "sexual purity" (which Desiring God is a part of), sex and love are connected in only one way. Sex (and anything involving orgasms or anything sort-of sexual) is something you do with your spouse, of the opposite gender, to whom you are committed for life, monogamously. That is, apparently, "God's design" for sex. Because sex means love, and sex means lifelong commitment, and marriage means sex. There's no acknowledgement that maybe sex could mean different things to different people.

I love my husband. And I am interested in learning about my own body through masturbation. And those two things just aren't in conflict. Like, why would they be? They're two completely unrelated things. Masturbation doesn't take away from my love for my husband- it has nothing to do with him at all. (Well, except in the sense that if I understand my own body better, then we will be able to have sex together better.) Just because we're in love and I fully intend to spend the rest of my life with him, why on earth would that mean that he needs to be present every time I stimulate my genitals?

Like why does genital stimulation need to have anything to do with love?

Yes, I grew up in that culture, I know the reasons that Christians say masturbating is bad. Because if you get good at masturbating, then maybe you won't be interested in having sex with your spouse any more. And if you don't have enough sex with your spouse, then you two will feel like you're not close. Blah blah blah. Sure, it's possible that could happen in some cases- so if you find yourself in those cases, then take a step back and figure out where you went wrong and what you need to do to get your marriage healthy. But that's no reason to teach that masturbating is bad for EVERYONE in ALL CASES. I'm tired of being afraid of my own goddamn body, and I'm angry.

Why, in "God's design," is "sexual" supposedly synonymous with "lifelong love and exclusive commitment"? Why would a certain physical action always have the same emotional and symbolic meaning, to everyone? Why?

Many married people have had sex with an ex before they got married, and they're fine. Some couples (who are having sex- not that it's any of your business though) choose not to get married, even though they are committed to each other. Some people have casual sex. Some people are polyamorous and have sexual or romantic relationships with multiple partners, and do so in a healthy way that relies on honest communication between all the partners involved. Some married couples don't have sex at all, maybe because they're both asexual. Or maybe they don't have sex with each other because one spouse is asexual, but the allosexual (non-asexual) spouse has sex with someone else.

And all of those examples about relationships aren't even related to masturbation at all. You can just masturbate by yourself, no matter what your relationship structure is. It doesn't have to "mean anything" about your love for your partner(s).

Like, there are a lot of ways to mix and match sex, love, and commitment. How on earth could it be possible that those things would map to each other in EXACTLY THE SAME WAY for every person in the world? Above all, we need to value consent, respect, and honest communication.

And I'll conclude by saying this: I very much recommend masturbation. I see no downsides at all- it's just a thing one does by oneself, it doesn't have the emotional vulnerability risk factor that partnered sex does, and you can learn about your own body. I wish I had started a long time ago, like maybe when I was a teenager, rather than believing that masturbating was sinful and being terrified of it. I personally use a magic wand sex toy like this.

And maybe that's "too much information" but I am saying it here because I spent all those years not allowed to talk about it, not allowed to have desires or even curiosity, too scared to even think about the existence of my genitals. No one should have to live like that and I'm ****ing angry. I want to preach the good news of masturbation to all the church kids. 

Especially the aces. Because they're the ones most likely to actually be able to keep the rules about abstinence and no masturbation. They're the ones who are likely to remain ignorant about their own genitals, because they don't learn it through "falling into temptation" and beating themselves up about it like other kids. I feel so sad for all the good pure baby aces out there who believe they're so godly and that someday they'll be rewarded with mind-blowing awesome honeymoon sex. (And speaking of asexuality- I want to make it clear that some people just aren't interested in masturbation or sex and THAT'S ALSO COMPLETELY 100% FINE AND NORMAL. I personally am very interested even though I don't experience sexual attraction.)

All right. Anyway, the point is, that Desiring God article believes that God intends for orgasms to only ever happen in the presence of one's spouse. Which is just so absurd. So laughably ridiculous. My favorite part was how the writer couldn't even find bible verses that said anything like that- the examples given are along the lines of "marriage is important, and don't be sexually immoral." Apparently, figuring out a reason why masturbation is "sexually immoral" is left as an exercise for the reader.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Reading US History Inerrantly

A painting of George Washington at Mount Vernon, with slaves working in the background. Image source.
[content note: racism in US history]

I'm going to do a blog series on James Cone's book The Cross and the Lynching Tree. It's about the US's history of anti-black violence and the ways that black people have found inspiration and courage in the story of Jesus' crucifixion.

Before I actually get to talking about the book, I want to say something about the history I learned in school. The facts about slavery, Jim Crow laws, lynching, and the Civil Rights movement were covered. There were diagrams of how many people got crammed onto ships and brought from Africa, and shocking statistics about how many died. We read graphic accounts about beatings that slaves suffered. There were novels about heroic characters who escaped from slavery. We learned about the various laws to stop black people from voting- sneaky stuff like literacy tests and grandfather clauses. There were articles about how "separate but equal" really wasn't equal at all. We learned about protests during the Civil Rights movement- sit-ins and boycotts and the March on Washington- and the laws that were passed that finally guaranteed equal rights for black Americans.

So I knew all those facts. But I didn't really *get* it.

Because there was something else I learned too: American exceptionalism. Adults told me "this is the greatest country in the world." We have more freedom and democracy than any other country. The founding fathers were Christians and America was founded as a Christian nation. And they did such a good job writing the Constitution- such perfection, 3 branches of government, checks and balances, ingenious compromises between delegates from large and small states. It's so good that it's used as a model for other democracies all over the world.

The "big picture" I believed was that the US government, in its original form as laid out by the Constitution, was perfect. And, you know, throughout history there have been some bad things that have happened, but those are exceptions. My concept of "the United States is the greatest nation because it's a Christian nation built on principles of freedom and equality" was never really challenged.

Or was it? I remember on more than one occasion, a history teacher saying "you know back when this country was started, they had slavery, and women couldn't vote, so when they said 'all men are created equal' they really just meant white men who owned land." I remember one lesson where we discussed this hypothetical: Imagine aliens visited earth during the Civil War, and then visited again a few years later during Reconstruction. Based on what they saw during the Reconstruction era, which side would they conclude had won the war? (The answer is the South, and if you're wondering why, go and learn what happened during Reconstruction.) I remember when our history teacher told us that ending slavery wasn't really a priority for Lincoln; he wanted to keep the country together more than anything else- he didn't really believe in equality for black people. Little hints where it was pointed out that this big American ideal of equality wasn't really equality for everyone.

But still, there was nothing that ever caused me to seriously question that whole "the US is better than any other country because we have FREEDOM." There was a lot of conservative Christian propaganda about how the founding fathers did everything right and they were led by God, and how our country has totally gone downhill from there. 

I'm just now realizing that that's an EXTREMELY RACIST thing to believe.

I remember in middle school history class, at the beginning of the school year we took a quiz to see how much we already knew. One of the questions was "True or false: The Constitution allowed slavery." I wasn't sure on the timeline- slavery was a thing that happened a long time ago, and the Constitution was a thing that was written a long time ago, but I didn't know which was first. But I was certain that the founding fathers were guided by God to write a uniquely perfect and completely good document. So I figured, no there's no way the Constitution could have allowed slavery. Surely that was added later by bad people.

(For those of you following along at home, the answer is yes, the Constitution allowed slavery. Until the 13th Amendment came along in 1865.)

Then there was the time we learned about the compromises that went into making the Constitution. How the founders were so intelligent and came up with such good solutions that took into account arguments made by delegates from all the states. There was the Great Compromise- which said that representation in the House would be based on each state's population, and in the Senate each state would have 2 senators. Wow wasn't that such a good idea- then the large states and small states were both happy. How wonderful. And there was the Three-Fifths Compromise, which said that when counting state population for the purposes of representation and taxes, slaves would be counted as three-fifths of a person.

And middle-school-Perfect-Number was like, wait that doesn't make sense. They weren't actually letting the slaves vote. They weren't giving them representation- so OF COURSE they shouldn't be counted in population numbers for determining how many representatives each state should have. This has the practical effect of giving white people in slave states a disproportionately large say in the government. I mean, this is just totally illogical.

(Many many years later, I realized that laws get passed by the government because they managed to get enough people to agree to them. It's not really about what's good and fair and makes sense.)

But this three-fifths crap is written into the Constitution. I should have realized right then that all this stuff about "the Constitution is such a perfect document" was a myth.

But I didn't. Because I had a lifetime of experience laughing about that time Elisha called God to send bears to maul some kids, while still believing the bible was inerrant.

See, the way white American Christians talk about the Constitution is very similar to the way they talk about the bible. Apparently, back when the Constitution was written, the founders had this big ideal of how America would be a Christian nation and a democracy where everyone was equal, and ever since that time, our culture has moved away from that perfection and become more and more immoral. Oh if only we could just get back to the Constitution! We need Supreme Court justices who just do what the Constitution says, not like these liberals who add all this other junk because they're secular and don't want to follow what the founding fathers intended. Just stick to the plain meaning of the text!

They framed it like there's the good, honest people who obey what the Constitution clearly says, vs the bad liberals who want to change our country into some kind of awful godless wasteland, who make dishonest arguments to try to lead people astray and twist the words of the Constitution into something they were never meant to be. Just like the good honest people who just obey the bible and the fake Christians who only pick out the parts of the bible they like and preach some kind of weak lovey-dovey God who just wants everyone to have good self-esteem.

I eventually discovered that interpreting the bible isn't so clear- that every Christian comes in with their own perspective about what the bible is and what it's for, everyone has their own biases, and those things determine the conclusions they reach about "what the bible says"- not their own honesty and good intentions or lack thereof.

Much later, I realized the same thing is true about the Constitution. So it's meaningless to say we want Supreme Court justices who "just follow what the Constitution says."

They said the bible was good and perfect and inerrant and inspired by God. Then I went and read the bible and there were a lot of foreskins and God killing people and graphic scary prophecies about war and destruction. And I had to believe that was all fine and didn't in any way affect the bible's status as good and perfect. As a good church kid who read the bible a lot, I developed the habit of not noticing or questioning those things. Or, I did notice them, but I saw them as fun bits of trivia that would show off my bible knowledge. I trusted God so much, so I was sure there was a good reason he did all those shady genocidal things. In fact, I was so confident, I would laugh about the atrocities God committed in the bible.

They said the United States is a Christian nation, the best country in the world, and that the founders were good Christians who prayed and were guided by God to write the Constitution. Then I went to history class and learned about slavery and segregation and violence. And just as I had trained myself to read about the Canaanite genocide without ever thinking "hey, maybe this was a bad thing that God commanded here", I read about the kidnapping, sale, torture, beating, and murder of African people without ever thinking "hey, maybe it's actually NOT true that this country was founded on principles of liberty and justice for all." Sure, those things were awful, and there were times that I cried when I read about families being split up when they were sold into slavery. But I saw these horrific events as exceptions that didn't have any bearing on the United States's identity as "a Christian nation, the greatest nation in the world because we have freedom." It was just an isolated thing, a bad thing some racist white people did back then. Just like God can command an army to "kill everything that breathes" and still be perfectly good and worthy of worship.

So I learned all the facts about racism in US history, but I wasn't able to really *get* it. There was no way I could get it, when all the adults said "this is the greatest nation in the world." And I read the bible from cover to cover and believed it all really happened, but the thought that maybe God is a monster never crossed my mind. There was no way I could get it.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Perfect Number Watches VeggieTales "Madame Blueberry" (1998)

And one more thing I want to add: If it is the case that you're always saying "oh if only I had xyz then I would be happy" and then you get xyz and you're still not happy, you're like "oh if only I had abc then I would be happy"- you should really examine your emotions and desires and try to figure out why you feel that way. If you expect that getting a new thing will make you feel good, but then it doesn't, then it seems like your desire wasn't really for the thing itself. Like there's some other underlying issue, and for some reason you've developed unrealistic expectations about how to solve that underlying issue.

Your emotions and desires are real and important. Ask yourself why you feel that way and what you actually want. That's how you will figure out how to feel better.

Way more useful than "the way you feel is SINFUL so just STOP IT."