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Monday, July 30, 2012

Blogaround

Image source.

Some things from around teh intarwebz:

1. 17-Year-Old Rape Victim Loses Her First Amendment Rights by Being Raped (posted July 22). This is all kinds of messed-up.

2. This video, which someone sent me after what I said about that whole myth of finding your one perfect soul-mate. This song is hilarious- it's called "If I Didn't Have You."


"If I didn't have you, I think that I would probably have somebody else."

"It's abstruse to deduce I found my soul mate at the age of 17, it's just mathematically unlikely that ... I happened to stumble on the one girl on earth specifically designed for me."

I love this video and can't even tell you how much I agree with it.

3. What I Wish I'd Known Before Watching Porn (posted July 23). Interesting article, specifically relating to women who watch porn.

4. Authorities: 14 Dead After Truck Crashes In Texas (posted July 23). Reading this article kind of showed me that I'm a terrible person... the people who died were illegal immigrants, and somehow my first reaction was to think that makes it less bad. And then I wondered if the article should have been written differently, if it should have emphasized that they're real people, rather than just using the label "illegal immigrant" as if they're just a controversial political topic.

5. For first time, women from every nation ready to rock Olympics (posted July 24). Awesome.

6. No, I'm not in "the gay lifestyle." Neither is anyone else. (posted July 24) I totally recommend this- written by a gay Christian.

Image source.
7. Boston mayor vows to keep Chick-Fil-A out of city (posted July 24). THIS IS NOT OKAY. THIS IS NOT OKAY. The GOVERNMENT is trying to discriminate against Chick-Fil-A because of statements that the owner made. Now, you can agree or disagree with Chick-Fil-A's opposition to gay marriage, and you can choose to eat there or not. That's fine. But for the GOVERNMENT to take action against a business because of its owner exercising his right to free speech and freedom of religion... I don't even.

I hope people on both sides of the gay-marriage debate will recognize how not-okay this is and speak out against it.

8. The Attraction to Legalism (posted July 23). I agree with this guy. And I think in some ways it's easier for Christians to try to keep a list of rules than to actually follow Jesus with everything we have.

9. Miss Zee's Coloring Book and the invisibility of little black girls (posted July 23). It's almost impossible to find a coloring book for kids featuring black characters. (I totally had never thought about that!) This post introduces a woman who is designing a coloring book about a black girl.

10. Mario Proposal: Woman Invites Boyfriend To Engage In Game Of Love (posted July 26). THIS IS ADORABLE!

Any other interesting links? Anything going on on your own blog?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Moses said "Let my people go" and blamed it on God

Hey remember the time Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said "Let my people go"? (link to part of the story, on biblegateway)  What reason did they give him for why he should free all the slaves?

Image source.

Perhaps they made some kind of convincing argument about why slavery is wrong.  Perhaps they gave Pharaoh a history lesson about how the first Israelite to come to Egypt was Joseph, who proceeded to save Egypt from a famine.

Nope.  The first time they came to see Pharaoh, they said “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the desert’” (Exodus 5:1) and they explain further, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Now let us take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, or he may strike us with plagues or with the sword.” (Exodus 5:3)

And again and again and again, that is the only reason given:  "Let my people go, so that they may worship me." (Exodus 7:16, 8:1, 8:20, 9:1, 9:13, 10:3)

And when Pharaoh finally says the people can go but the livestock can't, Moses and Aaron are like "we have to take the livestock- we're supposed to go make sacrifices and we don't know which animals we need yet, so we have to take all of them." (Exodus 10:26- haha, not an exact quote)  Blaming it on God. 

Better to be safe than smitten. Image source.

They don't give some kind of argument trying to convince Pharaoh why it's a good idea for him to free the people.  They just say God told us to go have a festival in the desert, and we might get in trouble if we don't.

This reminds me of learning how to say no to drugs in elementary school- one idea is "blame it on your parents"- when people want you to do drugs, you say "my parents won't let me, I'll get in so much trouble" so your "friends" can't get mad at you.  Make your parents the bad guy.

They make it sound like God's really harsh with them and for some reason this festival is really important to him and he's being really unreasonable about it.

Sheesh.  As if we don't already have enough to do.  You do realize we're in slavery, right God?

But that's not the real reason God wants Pharaoh to free the slaves.  God tells Moses the real reason: "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.  So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land..." (Exodus 3:7-8)

Yeah, the real reason is because God cares about them and sees them suffering.  Also, this: God's words to Pharaoh in Exodus 9:13-16, "Let my people go, so that they may worship me, or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth.  For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth.  But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth."

So, 2 reasons: Because God cares about the Israelites, and because God wants to show off his power.


When Moses and Aaron go talk to Pharaoh, they're not trying to explain to him why slavery is morally wrong, etc.  They're not trying to show him logically why he should free the slaves.  They're not trying to have a discussion. If that were the case, then it's Pharaoh arguing against Moses and Moses's ideas about morality and politics.  I really don't think Pharaoh's going to be won over by arguments.  As if he doesn't already know the slaves are suffering.  

The point is that God said to free the slaves, and you know what, it doesn't matter why- God said that and he means it.  No reason to explain any more than that.  If Pharoah has a problem with it, he has a problem with Israel's God, not Moses's debate points.

Because this wasn't about logic and morality.  It was about Israel's God vs Egypt's gods.  I love the part where Aaron's staff becomes a snake, and Pharoah's like "I see your staff-snake, and raise you my magicians' staff-snakes."  (Exodus 7:11, perfectnumber628's paraphrase)  Whereas a normal person would be like "HOLY CRAP!" 

Please. When I create snakes out of inanimate objects, they are WAY scarier than yours. Image source.

So, discussion questions: Does it make sense that Moses/Aaron/God did it this way?  Are there situations in which we should follow their example?  Was it unfair to Pharaoh to not have a "real" reason?  Is it okay for God to "show off his power" at the expense of Egypt?  Other cool insights about this story?

Click here for more posts on the book of Exodus. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Modesty: My Solution

Here is my previous post, in which I basically concluded that it would be most godly for me to not look like a girl.

And here is my answer, my personal stance on this whole "modesty" issue:

1. If modesty is for helping the boys, then it's ONLY for the decent boys.

If modesty is about helping boys not to lust, well, some boys are beyond help.  There are men who WANT to objectify women. Women have NO RESPONSIBILITY to "help" them not be perverts. There are men who stare at women on the bus. There are men who get on the internet and argue that women should take sexual harassment as a COMPLIMENT. There are men who make awful sexist superbowl commercials... Modesty is absolutely not for their benefit.

Because they don't want help. Because they're beyond help. Because the only way to stop them from objectifying you is to not let them know you're a girl.

Usually it gets worded a bit more crudely... Image source.

Because if you're a pervert, and you want to be a pervert, that's your own problem. It makes no sense for me to change my behavior for someone who doesn't even respect women. It's ridiculous that I would even CONSIDER that maybe I should change my behavior for them. Absolutely not.

The best I can do is try not to think about it, because that's the creepiest thing...

No, the boys we are trying to "help" by being "modest" are the decent ones. They're the ones who respect women and treat them like, you know, people. Treat them like friends, like sisters. They are the ones who want to have a friendly conversation with you, and know that it would be wrong to stare at your boobs, and they don't want to stare, so help them out by not showing cleavage.

The decent guys are the ones who have thought about this stuff before, who know what lust is, and know their own weaknesses and limits. They live in the same world you do- they have to live in society every day and interact with women. As long as your appearance is within the realm of what people typically look like, the guys have seen it before and if this is really a problem for them, then they have faced it before and know what they need to do to deal with it.

So, not as much of a big deal as we girls might think.

(Decent guys out there- am I right?)

2. Cost vs benefit

One of the ideas behind "modesty" is that yes, girls totally have the freedom to wear whatever, but we should give up some of that freedom, to help out the guys. So, you could see it like this:

Cost to me, as a woman: I don't get to look as sexy as I want.

Benefit to men: They don't have to worry about guarding their minds against lust when they're around me.

Maybe that sounds reasonable in principle, but how does that work in a practical sense? Do women have to agonize over all their clothing choices, feel bad about their bodies if they look more "feminine", question their motives all the time, and feel guilty for wanting to be beautiful?

"Oh no this t-shirt has an image on the front! I'm worried that it draws too much attention to my chest..." Image source.

How it actually works out:

Cost to me, as a woman: I feel like I'm not allowed to look cute/beautiful/feminine at all. The logical conclusion is that I should wear a tent, you know, in order to help the guys as much as possible.

Benefit to men: Impossible to measure. Maybe it all didn't matter.

But the bible says to treat others better than ourselves. So shouldn't I give up my rights, without limit, in order to possibly help someone else a little bit?

No. The cost to me/ benefit to you ratio DOES matter. This would be like if I walked 5 miles to Tim Hortons and back to buy you a coffee in case you didn't like the one you already had. Every day.

My first rage comic! Be nice.

This is clearly unreasonable. But this is exactly what it's like for a woman to worry about her clothes and feel bad and fear that she might "cause her brother to stumble", and by extension feel like something is wrong with the feminine way her body was made, and that she's not allowed to be beautiful. Huge cost, no apparent benefit.

(Decent guys out there- speak up if I've got this all wrong.)

3. What you wear should be about YOU

For all body types, there are some clothes that look really good for that body type. Women should go ahead and figure out what makes them look good and feel good, and wear that.  

As far as "modesty" is concerned, well, I guess don't show a ton of cleavage, and don't wear some super-tight catwoman suit, but other than that, don't worry about it. Seriously, don't worry about it. I personally don't care about modesty at all any more. As long as what you look like is within the realm of what people typically look like, it's fine.

The most important thing about what you wear should be that YOU like it. I want women to feel awesome about how they look. Wear clothes that make you happy. What you wear should be about you, it shouldn't be to please someone else, and it definitely shouldn't be to "help" boys with some vaguely-understood phantom problem that they might have.

(And I no longer have the patience to be super-extreme-conservative about a "problem" that I can never directly observe or understand.)

Also, one component of "what makes you feel good" is how other people perceive you. Yeah, it's true that people will give you a different amount of respect depending on what you wear. Ideally it wouldn't be that way, but whatever. Figure out how that makes you feel, and dress accordingly.  

Also don't try to "dress to get attention from guys" ON PURPOSE. But that's not the same thing as feeling awesome about yourself. Yes, I think feeling good because you look cute is somewhat related to being attractive to guys. But don't kill yourself trying to tease out and analyze your motives. (In other words, I don't require that the dot product of "I want to wear this because it's cute" and "I want boys to think I'm attractive" is 0.) You're fine. Looking awesome is awesome. Go ahead and be awesome.

Seriously. Yeah basically this is my stance on modesty: Don't worry about the boys. Just wear whatever makes you look and feel awesome. If you're not TRYING to manipulate boys by wearing revealing stuff, then I'm sure you're fine. Please, just don't worry about it. It's not fair for women to have that burden.

4. We absolutely DO NOT judge other women's clothing choices.

I can think of very very few situations in which it would be okay for one women to tell another that her clothes were too "immodest." Certainly it would only be okay between very very good friends- and even then, very rarely.

I'm not okay with the stories I hear about Christian camp counselors punishing/shaming girls for wearing a two-piece swimsuit. (For tall skinny people like me, one-piece swimsuits just DO NOT EXIST. I bet there are other body-types with that issue too.)

"Thank goodness- they've relaxed the requirements this year! I can bring a one-piece swimsuit, or a two-piece made of unicorn fur!" Image source.

And I'm not okay with girls making comments: "she needs to put some clothes on" referring to some stranger they see out in public. Even if it's a girl walking around in a bikini in the mall. Yes I know that does not fit my requirement above about being "in the realm of what people typically wear" but that doesn't matter. That's a guideline I've set for myself, not something I'd like to force everyone to follow. You don't know her- don't judge her.

I'm DEFINITELY not okay with making little comments about what someone wears to church. It's the freaking church! We need to accept people, not judge them. (You may have heard of someone named Jesus who advocated this...?) If someone comes to your church, and you say "wow I can't believe she's wearing a shirt like that" instead of saying "Hi, welcome to church", then you’re doing it wrong.

------------------------------------

So, that's my solution to modesty. This is meant to be advice for what to do as an individual woman- I haven't addressed how this shows some of the problems of society in general, I haven't offered a solution about what to teach young Christian girls (and boys) about modesty/lust/beauty. And I think different women may have different "solutions" than I do. That's fine. We can disagree about everything except point #4, about not judging people- I stand by that point.

Tell me what you think in the comments!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Modesty as she is taught

I especially want Christian men to read this, because every time I've tried to discuss "modesty" and all my confusion about it, the guys' response is along the lines of "what are you talking about?" I think Christian men don't know what Christian women are being taught about modesty, and if they did, they would think it was totally ridiculous. So here we go.

1. Men are visual.

What this apparently means is men tend to picture women naked. (Apparently gay men don't exist in this paradigm?) They can't help it. "That's how they're wired." (The first time I heard that, I thought it was a cool metaphor, because I'm an electrical engineer. By the thousandth time, I'd realized it's a way to say "this is just the way it is" without giving a real reason.) They see your bra strap sticking out and immediately a fantasy image of you being naked flashes (heh) in front of their eyes.

Is this true? To what extent does it go? Okay, I am not a straight guy. (If I see a bra, I don't think anything of it. That's a totally normal thing in my life- not sexual at all. But apparently my interpretation is wrong- I should be thinking of it the way a pervert does, duh.) I have ABSOLUTELY no way to directly observe whether this is true or not. Only straight guys can understand exactly how this bizarre phenomenon works. Also, I'm sure there is variation among the straight guys.

Oh, and also. If you are picturing me naked, I think that's creepy. I'm not okay with that.

But of course I can't attempt to understand this by actually having a conversation with a guy about it (well, I'd really need to talk to a bunch of guys to get a feel for how it works on average...) because that's super-awkward. No way I'm gonna have some guy tell me how this works in enough detail that I actually understand.

(The best I can do is read the comments on reddit... nope.)

So, we're starting out with a "problem" that I can never actually understand, and I'm responsible for helping the guys deal with this problem. Oh and I can't actually talk to them about it. Got it.

In other words, because guys think about sex all the time, I am assigned the chore of preemptively thinking about sex (haha just kidding, women don't want sex!) guessing what they are thinking about sex, in order to help them.

WAIT WAIT LET ME EDIT THAT. I am assigned the chore of preemptively guessing the creepy, perverted ways that boys might be objectifying and disrespecting me and my body. So I can attempt to prevent that.

And I would like to reiterate: I AM NOT A STRAIGHT GUY. Actually, all of the women who are taught this are, you know, by definition, not straight guys.

What could go wrong?

2. Women's bodies have power over men.

Yes, that's right. Men can't think straight (haha, straight) when they're picturing you naked. And lust is evil- we must do what we can to help keep our brothers from committing this terrible sin. Girls, you have the responsibility to save them from themselves!

Oh, and when they teach modesty, they always throw in the caveat that no, you are not responsible for a guy's thoughts. If he sins, that's his own fault. But you make it more difficult for him if you are "immodest." Shouldn't we help our brothers out as much as we can?

So much power. Boys apparently follow a girl around and give her attention if she's dressed "immodestly." I have actually never observed this phenomenon- is it real? Maybe that's because I'm generally oblivious to the people around me. Or maybe I don't have the right body-type for it to have all that "power"?

But anyway, the Christian women's groups told me my body had the potential to exert evil power over boys, and oh man, that sounds awesome. Yeah perfectnumber, you could be out there with this whole harem of guys, leading them on, they'd follow you around and want you (in a totally non-creepy way- this is my fantasy, I make the rules). I want boys to want me, I want them to serve me... that's my own personal temptation. That's not a good thing.

So you say I have this power, which I have never seen evidence of before, and which I would love to use for evil and manipulation if it did exist... Yep, this whole modesty thing seems pretty legit so far. -_-

3. And therefore, women must be careful about what they wear.

And maybe how they walk, and talk, etc. You can never be too careful. (Barf.)

Women, you know you have the freedom in Christ to wear what you want, and it's a guy's own fault if he lusts. But hey, Romans 14, don't use your freedom to cause your brother to stumble. Is it really worth it to wear that cute/sexy/whatever shirt, if it causes a brother to stumble?

So... in a practical sense, what do you want me to do?

Should I wear this
Image source.
or this
Image source.
I mean, the dress is cuter and I'd prefer that (heh, who am I kidding, I actually don't have a cute dress like that, but this is a thought experiment)... but... well, is it too low-cut in the front? And I can't guarantee that my bra straps will NEVER show. (Because PHYSICS. Not because I'm trying to "tempt" anyone.) Also, do you think it's too short? Are guys interested in my legs? Maybe? Who knows? Did I mention I'm not a straight guy? This might possibly "cause" someone to lust, I guess?

Perfectnumber, which do you care about more- doing the right thing or looking cute?

But...

Perfectnumber, didn't you commit your life 100% to Jesus? No matter what the cost, you obey him?

...Yes.

And he wants you to put others above yourself...

Okay, the dress is out.

How about that white t-shirt? Oh, actually, I don't know if that's okay either. Look how it doesn't come down far enough- you can see a tiny sliver of skin right at her waist. And you follow Jesus regardless of the cost, right? Right. Okay, you need to wear something under it. Cover up that skin.

And every time I have a tiny bit of uncertainty, I remember that I am ABSOLUTELY loyal to Jesus. If it comes at the cost of being cute, then that's my cross to bear.

But what if I'm doing all of this for nothing? What if it didn't actually matter to guys which one I wear? There's no way to get any feedback in this game.

And on the other hand, isn't it true that the more cute and beautiful and feminine I look, the more likely that a boy is going to lust? Why not going all the way to the extreme and wear an XXXL t-shirt, so my body won't look like a girl at all?

Why not go all the way to the extreme?

Why not go all the way to the extreme?

Why not go all the way to the extreme? There's a positive correlation between beauty and lust, right? Why not go all the way to the extreme?

Because me wanting to look awesome and beautiful pushes in one direction, and my concern for some mysterious problem that boys supposedly have pushes me in the other. It's godly to give up my rights in order to help other people, but is there anything godly about looking beautiful? Is it all just my selfishness that makes me not want to look like a tent?

They say God made beauty. Well he obviously did it wrong- we need to cover it all up before its evil power enslaves all the men.

 It's my cross to bear.  Image source.
Stay tuned for my answer to all this confusion, coming up in Friday's blog post.

edit: Here it is. Modesty: My Solution

Monday, July 23, 2012

Some Feminism/Sexism Posts I Gathered

1. How Stereotypes Can Drive Women To Quit Science (posted July 12). It's a very long article, but here's the important part: when women talk to men about science/research stuff, the women are often a bit worried that the men aren't taking them seriously. And this makes the women less confident, less excited about their work.

It's not true all the time, but yes, I often do have those stereotypes in mind when I'm explaining something about my robotics research. Like, I gotta try really hard to say the right things and not sound too casual, because he probably already assumes I don't know what I'm talking about.

Xkcd said it better than anyone else. This is exactly what I'm afraid of. Image source.
2. Ranked: Disney Princesses From Least To Most Feminist (posted July 11). This is a really interesting article- I totally love Disney cartoons. This is definitely worth reading.

However, I feel kind of uncomfortable about saying "this character was more feminist than this character"- they all lived in different settings/times and had different personality types and had to work with what they had. Mulan is ranked as the "most feminist" because she pretended to be a man. Pocahontas is ranked as #2 because, among other things, "she's the only princess who doesn't end up with the man she's in love with."

So does that mean that if you like to cook and clean (like Snow White), you're not a feminist? Does that mean if you get stuck and need to be rescued (like Aurora), you're not a feminist? Does that mean if you make a choice to give up your dream in order to be with the man/frog you love (like Tiana), you're not a feminist? I'm actually really disturbed about the implication that the ideal feminist is one who rejects her own femininity, like Mulan.

"Now is probably not the best time to share my opinion on how women shouldn't be judged by what they wear." Image source.
I think you can't judge an individual character, but maybe you can judge a movie. You can look at the messages it's sending- and in order to understand that, you need to know the context of the culture it's in. If "Snow White" was the only movie in which we see beauty being a really big deal, then, well, whatever. But the fact is, that message is everywhere in American culture, and it gets reinforced in movies.

3. Why doesn't Sarah Robles, the strongest person in America, have all the athletic sponsorships? (posted July 3). Sarah Robles is a Olympic athlete, a weightlifter who can lift 568 lb. But unlike many incredibly talented athletes, she's not being paid a ton of money to endorse products. Why not? The easy answer is she doesn't fit the "standard of beauty" for women.

Image source.

But there has to be more to it than that. I don't think you can point to any particular person or company and say this is their fault. Companies are in it for the money- they will pick athletes who are well-known. There's no rule that says all the top athletes must be asked to be in ads.

This goes a lot deeper than "all the companies are evil and hate her because she's not skinny and 'feminine.'" If anything, it's not anyone's "fault"- it's a sad story about American culture in general.

4. And here is a really really cool article about "storing a password in your subconscious." Usually when you read news articles about science, the headline totally misrepresents it, and you read it and you get to the end and you're like "...so...?" (Well, at least that's been my experience.) This article actually IS awesome.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

"You Never Marry the Right Person" article

I was so happy to find this post over on Relevant Magazine. The author says the modern idea of "finding the ideal soul-mate" is totally wrong. The Christian view on this is that no one is perfect- whoever you marry is going to be a flawed, sinful human being. A lot of people are surprised when they have problems in their marriages because they thought if they were compatible, it would be easy to love each other. The author challenges this- why should it be EASY? It's not easy for a baseball player to learn to hit fastballs, or for an author to write some quality literature- why would it be EASY to live with another imperfect person? But through all the struggles, marriage illustrates some of the love of God, so it's a good thing.

Wow! I totally agree with this guy! And I'm so surprised, because I thought it was just me who was thinking "umm... this whole there's-one-person-perfect-for-you thing just makes no sense..." Seriously, I've NEVER heard anyone else say anything like this, unless I brought it up first.

Image source.

And actually, this is very good news! If there's exactly 1 perfect person, or if "being compatible" is binary (you two either are or you're not) then that's so much more pressure. If you marry the "wrong" person, you're screwed. But if every couple is somewhere on a spectrum of compatibility, and you can learn to live together as long as you are pretty compatible and you both selflessly love each other- well, then, yay! Marriage is not as impossible as I thought.

But I disagree with him on one little bit. He frames it as "oh our culture is obsessed with finding the ideal partner- but here is the Christian perspective on it." I have heard the exact same thing from the Christian side, except it was GOD destining you for that one perfect partner. This isn't just an idea that Christians happen to believe because we live in a culture that believes it- no, Christian culture has AFFIRMED and EMBELLISHED it by adding God.

And I think the Christian version is an entirely different beast. Much stronger. Because come on, finding your one true love? Life isn't a fairy-tale. But then you throw God into it, and ya know, God can do anything, and God has a plan for your life. Now it's suddenly believable.

"Find God's match for you"? Wow... wow where do I even start... Image source.

And because God has a plan for my life, if I like some boy but notice a little thing I don't like about him, then the answer has to be no. If I dated him, that would be "not trusting God." That would be trying to satisfy my own desires- because hey, I like boys- and God is highly suspicious of anyone having fun.

I'm supposed to deny my fleshly desires and "wait" for what God has that's better. Because of course God's intention is to set me up with a PERFECT guy- that's what they taught me in church. Wouldn't want to "settle" for less than "God's best."

"God has hand-crafted ONE person JUST for you, and you won't experience real love till you find that one person. So when the guy in 3rd period breaks your heart, just think of how perfect it will be when you find The Right One <3." Umm... citation needed? Image source.

(The text in the above image is SO WRONG. So wrong. Gold medal in the Olympics of Being Wrong.)

So... God wants to set you up with a perfect person. Better reject anyone who has a flaw.

Doesn't it seem weird that dating is about judging the other person, ditching them at the first sign of incompatibility, and marriage is about working together, loving unconditionally, and sticking together no matter what? Or at least, that's the story they told me.

And doesn't it seem weird that this hypothetical guy that God is manufacturing JUST FOR ME is an actual person? And our relationship will happen in the real world? There's no way he's "perfect." (Have you ever noticed that REAL PEOPLE get married all the time?) So I've hit a contradiction here. Help me find the error in my logic.

This whole methodology is so screwed up, and I don't know what parts are right and wrong. I don't know where to start, or what dating is supposed to look like for Christians.

This bear is sad because she doesn't understand dating. Image source.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Four Tones Are Totally Not That Bad

I remember a time I got annoyed at someone for referring to a certain holiday in November as THANKSgiving, rather than ThanksGIVing.

And if you understand the difference between saying THANKSgiving and ThanksGIVing, well congratulations, you are capable of understanding the different tones in Mandarin Chinese.

You may have heard that "Chinese is a tonal language." And you may have concluded that, obviously you had no idea what that meant and clearly learning Chinese is impossible. And I'm here to tell you it's NOT impossible. (source: I'm white and I speak Chinese.)

What is a tonal language?

"Tone" is the pitch of your voice while pronouncing a word. In a tonal language, the tone is actually really really important- if you pronounce it with a different tone, you're actually saying a different word.

Here is a diagram of the 4 tones in Mandarin Chinese. The top of the image would be a high pitch, the bottom is a low pitch. You know, like in music.

Image source.
(Oh, also- you see those numbers on the side from 1 to 5? Don't worry about them- no one's measuring whether your voice started at a 2 or 3. The important thing is just to go up or down correctly.)

You really have to hear them to get it, so here is a youtube video. Just listen for like 30 seconds- beyond that, she goes on to talk about other things. (You know, other things related to the fact that Chinese is totally not that hard.)

So you have nī, ní, nǐ, and nì. (And actually there's also a "5th tone" or "no tone", which is when you say it so fast that nobody can tell what tone it was.)

But Perfect Number! I listened to that youtube video like 5 times and they all sounded the same! I can never learn Chinese!

Yes, at first they do all sound the same. That's because in English it totally doesn't matter, so you're not used to paying attention to it.

(They all sounded the same for me too at the beginning. But guess what? After practicing it a billion times, they don't sound the same at all.)

Let me tell you a secret: Chinese people can't tell you offhand what tone a word is either. Maybe someone tells me "apple is píng guǒ" and as I'm writing it down, I ask what tone to put on the "ping".

And then I hear him quietly say to himself "ping ping ping ping" and then he tells me "second." He says it all 4 ways and then picks the one that matches.

And the moral of this story: Chinese people are not thinking about the tones as they talk. So don't worry, once you have enough practice, you don't have to either.

They know how to pronounce it with the right tone because that's the only way they've ever heard people say it. Not because they're thinking "okay this syllable needs the first tone, this next syllable needs the third tone..."

It would just sound weird to use the wrong tone.

When you speak English, no one ever asks you "was that a long or short A", right?

Not even the grammar police. Their only concerned with weather your using the right kind of "there." Image source.

So on one hand, the tones are totally not a big deal. With enough practice, it'll just come naturally, because you pronounce it the way you've heard it pronounced. (Personally, I don't think about the tones at all when I speak Chinese, unless it's a word that I'm unfamiliar with and I'm trying really hard to get the pronunciation right.) Also, if you get a few wrong, people can still figure out what you're saying, usually.

But on the other hand, it is really important because if you say them all wrong, no one will understand you. This is why it's SUPER SUPER important to have a Chinese person to practice with. Then they'll correct you. Easy. I think the tones would only be super-hard if you were trying to learn it completely on your own, with no audio samples of what it SHOULD sound like, and no feedback about whether or not you're close enough.

In summary: If you want to go learn Chinese, don't let anyone tell you it's too hard. I mean, it's hard- you're learning another language, what did you expect? But it's not impossible. When I started studying Chinese, I really thought it might be impossible for white people to speak Chinese, since I always heard Americans give reasons for why Chinese is "hard." Lies.

And the four tones? Totally not a big deal.

-----------------------

A quick note on the difference between the terms "Chinese" and "Mandarin." When people talk about "speaking Chinese" they almost always mean Mandarin, but there are actually many Chinese languages. As far as I can tell, everyone in China can speak Mandarin, but most of them also know a "local dialect" which is really another language. I speak Mandarin- I don't know any other Chinese languages. Most people (myself included) seem to use the terms "Chinese" and "Mandarin" interchangeably.

Click here for more posts on learning Mandarin. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Starbucks, Gay Oreos, and Controversy

Some people want to Dump Starbucks because Starbucks issued a statement (January 2012) saying gay marriage should be legal, and that Starbucks is totally all about the inclusion and respect and "domestic partner benefits", all that stuff. (Here is more info on that story.)

I'm rather baffled about the whole thing.

On a related note, behold, the gay pride oreo:

Image source.

Unfortunately this is just photoshop. It's not a real oreo you can buy. (You'd probably die from that much sugar anyway. Or at least need a large glass of milk from a lesbian cow.)

But some people on the internet got all angry about this. And then other people on the internet got angry about the fact that people got angry. And some people (presumably in real life) are boycotting oreos and some people want to buy a ton, to show their support of oreo's support of gay marriage, and some people are completely confused about how one would even go about eating an oreo that thick.

(Seriously. It doesn't seem like a very structurally-sound design. And you know how the inside gets a little soft and melty when it's humid- especially in double-stufs?)

(Here is a blog post with an incredibly good perspective on this: My right to be offended by your existence trumps your right to exist, basically saying "What are people angry about? They're offended that oreo recognizes that gay people exist?")

And there was also a big deal made about JC Penney's Father's Day ad, featuring 2 dads.

The text says, "First Pals: What makes Dad so cool? He's the swim coach, tent maker, best friend, bike fixer and hug giver- all rolled into one. Or two." Image source.

Now I will ask a bunch of questions in an attempt to understand this.

Some people argue that companies shouldn't take a stand on a political issue. Historically, is that true? Have (seemingly-non-politics-related) companies come out with statements on political issues? Is that weird?

Some people argue that this is NOT a political issue. It's more of a human rights issue. Gay marriage is a human right. And gay people are real people. When an ad features a family with 2 gay dads, why is that a controversial "political statement"? Families like that do exist, and they're real people- they don't go about their one-dimensional lives just plotting to take over the government and destroy every straight person's family. (I mean, I assume they don't- I haven't actually asked any of them.) They just do normal-people things.

And the gay oreo- on the image it just says "Pride." You could interpret this in a lot of ways. Does it mean "gay marriage should be legal"? Does it mean "we're making a cool thing that some of our gay customers will appreciate"?

But no, it's different than a football oreo, and all those other special types of oreos. It IS a statement. They knew it would be controversial when they made that image. They made it because they think it's an important issue that they need to take a stand on.

Or maybe they're just in it for the money. Who wants to guess how many times that oreo image was shared on Facebook? That's free advertising.

And this isn't just abstract thought about "should companies make political statements?" This is about real people who get mocked or judged or excluded. And oreo is telling them "You are not alone. We support you." And maybe that's great to hear, in a culture where you just don't know how people are going to respond when they find out you're gay.

Maybe if the companies were silent on the issue, that wouldn't communicate "being neutral"- it would communicate the idea that gay people don't exist or matter. If JC Penney has ads with straight couples but not gay couples, doesn't that send the message that being straight is normal, and being gay is controversial and appalling and we can't have children seeing that? (You can argue about whether it's true that straight is "normal" and gay is "appalling"- maybe it's true, maybe not- but by not showing any gay couples, the advertisers ARE taking a side. Sometimes being silent is interpreted as agreement.)

Some people are angry that people are boycotting Starbucks. Why are they angry? People have a right to boycott whatever they want. I would assume the thinking is not "hey, you can't band together and boycott something- that's not fair!" but more along the lines of "it's terrible that they hate gay people so much that they would go to such lengths and boycott."

Are we only supposed to buy from companies whose values match perfectly with our values? Dude, it's a company. Since when do they have "values"? Besides maybe "make high-quality stuff and treat the employees/customers right." Their purpose is to sell you overpriced coffee. Their purpose is not to bring justice and human rights to the world.

But, if you were in a position of power in a company, and you thought there was a really really important issue going on in the world, and you had the power to make a statement that a lot of people would hear, shouldn't you use that power?

And the consumers' money/ purchasing decisions hold a lot of power over the company. Should consumers use that power for the greater good, and not just for getting themselves some tasty snacks?

I think part of the argument against companies that support gay rights is "You are sending the message that being gay is good and normal- but it's not. You're a bad influence." So, is there any validity here? If someone believes that gay relationships are sinful, then that statement seems to make sense. We shouldn't be encouraging something that's actually harmful.

And I feel like countering this with "you can't impose your religious beliefs on other people" doesn't work- the belief is that support for gay rights is bad for society as a whole. Therefore, people need to be warned that same-sex attraction is harmful. They could even argue that JC Penney is trying to impose on people a "religious belief" that "gay marriage isn't bad."

Maybe it comes back to the issue of whether being gay is "a choice."

Or maybe there has to be a distinction between who you are (which, in the case of being gay, is not a choice) and what you do.

Or maybe I'm missing the point. Maybe trying to make that distinction isn't helping anything. It still looks like hate to say "yeah I accept you- but you need to either become straight or be forever alone."

Or maybe it's not valid to claim that "support for gay rights is bad for society as a whole" without listening to what gay people have to say.

And at the same time, maybe you shouldn't call people bigots and assume their anger over the rainbow oreo is from intentional hatred.

So, lots of different questions/issues- I'm trying to understand all of the sides. Anyone have insight here? Or perhaps some more questions?

Image source.

edit: Oh snap, let's throw Chick-Fil-A in here too, with their position against gay marriage. How is that similar/different to the pro-gay-rights companies I've mentioned?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Blogaround

The Blue Angels. Image source.

Interesting stuff from around teh intarwebz:

1. Recalculating: How Study Bibles Can Limit Bible Study (posted July 11). This post compares a study bible to a GPS device- it tells you the "answers" but in the end you have no real knowledge of the bible/city.

I had never thought about this before. I've always had a study bible, until earlier this year when I got a Chinese/English bible (so it's technically 2 bibles- no room for little notes). I think it's really important to know about the culture/ historical background/ writing style of the bible- but we definitely shouldn't think that the commentary in a study bible is going to tell us all the "answers."

There have been many times I read a bible story and I was like "what was with that?" (for example, when God was about to kill Moses but then Moses's wife saved the day by quickly circumcising their child- WHAT?) and looked for answers in commentaries or the notes in my study bible, and none of them addressed the obvious question: "WTF?" They either ignored the passage completely or said vague things.

2. So a Girl Walks into a Comedy Club... (posted July 10). This is so horrible. Comedian Daniel Tosh, in response to being "heckled" by a woman in the audience, says, "Wouldn't it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now?" and other horrible things.

And the reaction on the internet: you have some people saying "I can't believe this- this is so horrible" and some people saying "but he has free speech, and you have to expect rape jokes at his show, duh. Oh and rape is funny."

There's nothing I can even say because this story is so obviously disgusting and appalling and terrible. I cannot comprehend the existence of a line of "reasoning" that says it was "funny" and totally okay for him to threaten her like that.

3. Here's something a bit nicer. This chicken stole some kittens from their mother and pretended they were her own. The pictures are pretty cute. Found it on reddit. And don't worry, the mom cat got her kittens back.

4. Pornography, Respect, and Responsibility: A Letter to the Hotel Industry (posted July 9). The authors request hotels to stop offering pornographic movies, because porn is degrading and is about treating people like objects. I don't know enough about this issue to say much, but it is worth reading.

5. Mandarin Chinese cover of "Oh Happy Day," a worship song. This is one of my favorite Chinese songs.


(Here is the link to youtube.)

"Oh, happy day, happy day!
你洗净我的罪 [you washed away my sins]
Oh, happy day, happy day!
生命完全改变 [my life is completely changed]
永远不再一样 [never again the same]"

6. This blogger is currently in Ethiopia, and she wrote about meeting the leaders of a village that is being assisted by Food for the Hungry. I found this very interesting because it shows some of how things actually happen in a practical sense when you give money to organizations like that. Also this is a cute story about meeting her sponsored child.

Any other cool links you want to share? What's going on on your own blog lately?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

4 Reasons "Megamind" is a Feminist Movie

I watched "Megamind" recently- a nontraditional superhero cartoon from 2010- and loved it!  It was very funny (I especially enjoyed the running joke about Megamind being unable to pronounce words- for example, he said "shool" instead of "school") and it had really good music ("Highway to Hell", Michael Jackson's "Bad", old songs like that).

But most importantly, it wasn't sexist!

Yep, as the movie started, and Megamind (the villain, but he's also the main character- it's complicated) was holding Roxanne, a beautiful woman, hostage, I was cringing and imagining what stupid sexist tropes were coming, and how after the movie I'd have to analyze it and point out all that stuff, to be sure I don't subconsciously accept it. 

Because kidnapping is sexy...?  Image source.
You've seen this trope before, right?  She's the damsel in distress, and the villain is about to start hitting on her.  Fantastic.

But I was wrong.  Instead the two of them started joking about how many times he's kidnapped her, and his plans always fail and she's totally not scared of him.

And from there, the movie subverted a ton of other tropes, and it was funny and unpredictable.  Here are my 4 reasons "Megamind" is a feminist movie:

1. Roxanne was absolutely not helpless.  She was incredibly dedicated to saving the city, fighting the damage that Megamind (and later Titan) had done.  She worked together with Megamind (yeah... I promise this does make sense- I'm not going to explain the whole plot now), and she was the force behind a lot of their ideas and plans.

2. Roxanne's coworker, Hal, makes a few failed attempts to ask her out at the beginning of the movie.  Later, he gets superpowers and becomes Titan, and he agrees to work towards "being a hero" only because "the hero gets the girl."  The movie makes it very obvious that Titan is a creepy sexist jerk, and quite directly mocks this whole "the hero gets the girl" thing.  (Megamind even laments that "the bad guy does not get the girl" when he is discouraged that he might never be with Roxanne.)  At one point, Titan grabs Roxanne and flies around over the city, expecting her to be impressed by his superpowers and immediately fall for him.  He even tells her "the hero gets the girl."  She rejects him (for obvious reasons, plus she already has a boyfriend) and he suggests maybe he should rescue her a few times and then she'll want him.  Yeah right.

3. For a while, Roxanne and Bernard are dating, but Bernard is actually Megamind in disguise.  (Also, can we give a shout-out for a nerdy guy having a girlfriend?  There's a stereotype that says that's bizarre or impossible.)

Bernard and Roxanne.  Image source.
When she finds out that he's lying to her, she dumps him.  Later, as Titan is destroying the city, Megamind comes back to ask for Roxanne's help to stop him.  He tells her "you're the smartest person I know" and they begin to work together again- not dating, just working as a team to figure things out and save the city.  Because, believe it or not, women can do other things besides be someone's girlfriend.  A man and woman can work together without a romantic connection between them.  He had lied to her- it's not like they're just automatically back together.  They rebuild trust and stuff as friends first.

4. Roxanne was beautiful throughout the whole movie- wearing clothes that were beautiful and feminine, ranging from a formal dress to a t-shirt.  Yes, she was beautiful even when she was working to solve the problem and figure out how to save the city.  The fact that I was surprised by this kind of scares me.  Because, you know, women should look beautiful and feminine when they're being captured by the bad guy, when they need to be rescued, and they should look not-that-beautiful and gender-neutral when they're thinking and being smart and figuring stuff out.  But in "Megamind", no matter what Roxanne was doing or wearing, she looked very feminine and hour-glass-y.

She's in this formal dress when she gets an epiphany about Titan.  Image source.
Again, I was surprised that a movie had a woman figuring things out and being beautiful AT THE SAME TIME.  This is why we need to look for these little patterns and stereotypes in media- it seems that I had just believed that one without realizing how totally sexist and messed-up it is.

(In fact, even as I do some image-searching on google and see her wearing those dresses, my reflex response is to question my conclusion that this is a feminist movie- because she looks beautiful and so clearly the movie must not have respected her as an actual human being.  But no, it did.  It's just my mind that's screwed up.)

And here's my last disclaimer:  Okay, so I'm afraid that when I use the term "feminist" I'll lose some people.  Because surely a "feminist movie" is about women getting all upset over some phantom sexism.  No.  "Megamind" is a nontraditional superhero movie.  It messes with a lot of the tropes from that genre, and I'm just happy it messed with the sexist ones.  I call it a "feminist movie" because as a feminist I can watch it without constantly cringing at predictable sexist tropes.

And no it doesn't pass the Bechdel test.  Roxanne is the only female character.

I'm happy to say I enjoyed this movie, and I'm sure my family members are glad I didn't need to debrief it afterwards.

Image source.
And I have to include this relevant xkcd...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Belief in a logical impossibility is not faith

This post, Christianity's New F-Word, claims that some Christians have become so obsessed with using "reason" to defend Christianity that they are losing touch of "faith." I think the author is correct in saying that evidence and explanations aren't the most important thing in the world, but I disagree with most of the rest of it.

Or rather, the author's message could be interpreted several different ways, depending on one's definition of "faith." So I'll just examine a few different definitions here:

Sunday School answer definition: "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1"

Yeah, this is "the right answer" that Christians are supposed to give when they have a discussion on "what faith is." But I don't think this definition is any good. "What we hope for"? So, what would that be? Just pick something that you hope will happen, and have faith that it will? That makes no sense.

If you read the rest of Hebrews 11, it's about a lot of people in the bible who obeyed God, even though they might not have understood why and the rewards didn't come in their lifetime. So perhaps Hebrews 11:1 is saying "Faith is believing that God will do what he promised you, believing that obeying him is the best course of action, no matter what the situation currently looks like."

Atheist definition: "Faith is belief without evidence, or belief despite evidence to the contrary. Faith is blind."

And I hate the fact that I've heard this same idea from Christians. That somehow it's GOOD to believe things for no reason.

I hate the idea that "faith" and "reason" are somehow opposed. As if there are some things I believe that make sense- that's the "reason" part- and some things I believe that make no sense- that's the "faith" part- and you need to have a balance. No. Absolutely not.

Because logic is, by definition, true. There's no "balance." If you have proven something is true using logic, then it IS TRUE. There is no room for other interpretations, or your feelings, or whatever.

I have a degree in math so I know what logic is. And I get so angry when I hear Christians say, after being unable to provide an answer to someone's criticism of Christianity, "well... that's what faith is." Or even worse, when it's all like I'm-better-than-you, when people proudly claim "It's called FAITH [with an implied 'duh!']."

No. If someone asks you a question about Christianity, and you don't know the answer, you DO NOT say the answer is "faith." No. You say you don't know the answer. There IS an answer though. If Christianity is true, then all parts of it have an explanation. NOTHING exists outside the reach of logic.

And it may be that it's an answer no one knows, or no human could understand. It's okay for me to not have an answer. I believe in God for a lot of reasons, and your question about free will or pi being equal to 3 is definitely not shaking my entire belief system to its core, even though I don't have a good answer to give you right at this moment.

"Mayday, mayday! Someone asked me why God made mosquitoes!" Image source.

However, I want to be careful about the difference between something that "doesn't make sense" and something that's logically impossible. For example, I like to say that "God, in his unreasonable mercy, rescued me when I didn't deserve it." Yes, I believe God's mercy is unreasonable. Because I didn't deserve it. That's not the same as saying it's completely impossible or easily disproven by logic.

Because a lot of things happen that are "unreasonable." That is why rage comics exist.

Just because a statement is mind-bogglingly stupid doesn't mean someone didn't say it. Image source.
I remember one time I was with a group of people about to eat cake, and they started handing out empty plates. I was like, "Shouldn't you put cake on the plates before you give them to everyone?" and then everyone was like "...oh."

Just because something "doesn't make sense" doesn't mean it didn't happen.

If God does exist, it's totally possible that he loves derpy people like me. It's pretty weird, but I have a lot of reasons for why I believe this.

And that's just it. If something seems too bizarre or has a lot of evidence against it, well, you better have a pretty good reason for believing it. And, for those of you just joining us from the Kansas City/ San Francisco game, "oh I have faith" is not a good reason.

And if something is a logical impossibility, and I hear you say something about "well you have your logic, I have my faith" I will probably hit you with the nearest stick-like object.

In a very loving, Christian way, of course. Image source.

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for: 

perfectnumber628's definition: "Faith is believing something that SHOULD be true, based on logic and your original axioms about the world, even though emotionally it doesn't FEEL true. Faith is acting on it like it is true."

(Disclaimer: No I haven't included bible references to back this up. Sue me.)

(Okay just kidding, that actually is a legitimate objection. It would be a really good idea for me to do a post on what the bible says faith is.)

Here's an example: During the past 2 years, as I've been studying Chinese, I've been thinking about whether God understands Chinese. So, let me show you what faith is in this case:

Axiom: God knows everything. (This is unprovable, but I believe it for a bunch of different reasons. For example, I believe God made everything in the physical world (yeah I know, also unprovable), so it seems reasonable that he knows how it all works.)
Fact: Mandarin Chinese is a thing that exists in "everything."
Conclusion: Therefore God understands Chinese.

My reaction: "真的啊?太奇怪了..." ("Really? That's too weird.") Because Chinese is this crazy new thing in my life- surely it's new to God too, right? I only ever heard about God in English, in a church full of white people. Surely God is sheltered and ignorant like me. I've just always thought he was an American. Of course he's been to all the other countries, but he didn't like them that much. His headquarters is in the US.

And this is where I need to have faith. That yes, it is true that God understands Chinese. And guess what, tons of people talk to God in Chinese every day. (I do sometimes.)

God (and, you know, 1.3 billion people) can read this. Image source.
But my feelings say that's just too crazy! I've never thought of God like that! No way! But this is where I have to have faith.

Perfectnumber, you believe God knows everything, right?

Yes, I believe that.

So it follows that he understands Chinese. I know it sounds crazy, but it's totally true.

Yes, but...

You can't argue with the logic.

And this is really important to me, because I really really like speaking Chinese, but on some level I still believe "Oh this can't possibly be God's plan for my life. Surely it's never even occurred to God that white people can learn Chinese." But I only think that because it had never occurred to ME.

And there are a ton of other examples of this belief-in-a-completely-logical-conclusion-that-just-doesn't-feel-right faith. For example, I can say I trust God, but then worry about what if he doesn't understand some concern in my life. Faith is knowing that he DOES understand, even if it doesn't feel like it.

To recap: Christians' faith should not be blind. There's nothing virtuous about arbitrarily believing something for no reason. Faith is understanding the implications of what you claim to believe, and living as if they are 100% true.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Follow God and Snag a Guy

I saw this on Facebook and could not let it pass by without a challenge:

Image source.

"I say I want this [cutting a wedding cake]
So I'am [sic] chasing After This [bible]
So I can be blessed With this [man kissing the bible (???)]
And end up like this [man and woman cuddling while pretending to read the bible]."

No. NO. NO! Absolutely not. You use God in order to find a husband/wife? Because marriage is the most important thing ever, and God is a means to get it? No. No. NO.

The above example actually comes right out and says that. But I've seen this same idea in much subtler forms:

Image source.

"I love boys* [and then in very small text] *who love Jesus."

Right. I love boys first and Jesus second. Or, I love boys more than anything, but I at least put a Christian spin on it. That makes it okay. Right...

Image source.
"A woman's heart should be so lost in God, that a man needs to seek Him first in order to find her."

I've heard this quote a lot of times, and I would agree that it's technically true- as a Christian woman, it would be impossible for me to really connect with a guy if he didn't also love God. So, there's that.

But unfortunately, I often hear this quote in the context of advice towards Christian women. It's not presented as just a fact, it's presented as what you should do in order to get a godly guy.

And wait a minute, is this hypothetical man pursuing God only to impress the Christian girl?

I remember, many years ago, hearing one of my friends in college sharing a story of how she broke up with her boyfriend because she knew he wasn't right for her, and God was saying they should break up. She went on to talk about how God was totally there for her, and yes it was the right decision, and God is awesome.

And as I listened to this story, I thought, "No, you're wrong. This isn't a happy ending- now it's a year later, and you're still single."

(By the way, she's married now. Oh good, God finally did come through and give her a happy ending. /sarcasm)

The happy ending isn't "I worked really hard at following God, and FINALLY he set me up with an amazing guy." No, following God is itself the "happy ending"- though I actually don't think we should use the term "happy ending." It's the best way to live, but it's not a a bunch of magic and rainbows.

Pictured: Being a Christian. (Your results may vary.) Image source.
Because there have been times I believed this too. If I just follow Jesus really good, and learn how to listen to God, and read enough Christian books about dating, and talk it out with my friends a lot, gather a ton of information, find out the secrets to getting a guy, then God will set me up with an awesome guy who's PERFECT.

No amount of dating advice and information will cause the right guy to come into your life. No amount of prayer will make God set you up with a husband, if God already knows that's not what he wants for you right now.

As Christians, we do not follow Jesus so that he'll give us what we want. We follow him because we need him. We follow him because he has promised to never forget about us, to always hear and understand our needs, when we don't even know how to express them. We follow him because he loves and forgives us no matter what. And this is the greatest thing that could ever be. 

Nothing- not marriage, not sex, not romance, not friendship, not family, not education, not career, not possessions, not money, not power, not fame, not drugs or music or amusement parks or bouncy castles or non-Newtonian fluids- nothing can compare to knowing Jesus.

"What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ." Philippians 3:8

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want [whether single or in a relationship]. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:12-13

This is the truth that changed my life. This is what set me free. That day in 2008, when I missed my ex-boyfriend and I suddenly realized that God is all I need. This is how I've lived an awesome life for 4 years, single, desiring a boy's affection but knowing that it just wasn't time yet, and completely confident that, though I expect to be married someday, my life is not missing anything when I'm single.

I follow Jesus because he's Jesus.

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