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Friday, August 31, 2012

A Bunch of Names

Matthew kicks off his account of Jesus' life by tracing Jesus' genealogy, all the way from Abraham to Joseph (Jesus' "father"). Read it here: Matthew 1:1-17.

Here are my thoughts/observations/questions:

There are "extra people" in the genealogy.

Typically I would expect just the father, paternal grandfather, great-grandfather, etc to be in the genealogy. Matthew also includes some mothers and brothers of Jesus' direct male ancestors. Here they are, with the names of the "extra people" in bold:

"Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers..." I assume the brothers (or half-brothers- there was polygamy) are mentioned here because they are the fathers of the 12 tribes of Israel. Judah also had at least 1 sister (see Genesis 30:21). Probably more than 1- what are the odds of having 12 sons and only 1 daughter?

Really? Just one girl? Image source.

"Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar..." Perez and Zerah were twins, so I guess that's why they're mentioned together. The story of how they were born is told in Genesis 38 and it's pretty bizarre... Tamar (who had been married to Judah's son, but he died) pretended to be a prostitute, so Judah paid her for sex, not realizing she was his daughter-in-law... then it got really awkward when Judah turned out to be the father of her babies.

"Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab..." Rahab was not an Israelite- she was a prostitute who lived in Jericho, you know, before Joshua had everyone walk around it and destroy it and kill everyone. Rahab helped out the Israelite spies (Joshua 2) so she and her family were not violently killed when the Israelites took over the city (Joshua 6:25).

Then they made it into a story for little kids. Yay, war and genocide! Image source.

"Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth..." The story of Ruth and Boaz is great! (Here's a link to the first chapter of Ruth.) Ruth was also totally not an Israelite- she was a Moabite, a widow, very poor, until she married Boaz. And by the way: Ruth totally did not "wait" for Boaz.

"David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah's wife." Well, this is awkward. Why did Matthew write it like this? It's like he's blatantly pointing out "David totally stole another guy's wife." The story of David and Bathsheba is in 2 Samuel 11-12. In summary: David had sex with another guy's wife, then she got pregnant, then David sent that guy (Uriah) into battle so he'd get killed.

The whole thing was just really bad. Bathsheba's baby died, as punishment for David's sin (yes, I've already told God I have some problems with that), but Bathsheba ended up having another son, Solomon. Why did Solomon get to be king, instead of one of the sons of David's many other wives? I don't know.

"Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon..." Jeconiah was also known as Jehoiachin, and he was one of the last kings of Judah. (See 2 Kings 24.) Not sure why his brothers are mentioned too- maybe because they all got exiled together?

"Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ." We'll talk more about Mary and Joseph next week.

So why did Matthew include these "extra people"- particularly the women? Most of them were a little sketchy- they were foreigners, or having sex with people they shouldn't be having sex with.

It seems like Matthew was drawing his readers' attention to the sketchy parts of Jesus' family. Perhaps the reason is to show history as it really happened, uncensored. Matthew didn't HAVE TO include those particular women's names. (Also, why only those few? It's not like they didn't know the names of some the other mothers.)

Why does Matthew do this? I'll leave that as a discussion question for my readers.

Here's another question: Why did God use a family line that had adultery, prostitution, and murder? Was he unable to build a line of people who were "pure", who only had sex with their husband/wife? You can make the argument that the odds of not having even 1 illegitimate kid, over several dozen generations, are incredibly low- but he's God! He could have set that up.

I think the answer is God does not prefer the "pure" people over the "impure." How can we claim that God accepts everyone, but that only those who are "sexually pure" are worthy of being part of God's plan? Yes, God could have brought Jesus through a line of people who didn't hold hands until their wedding day- but then the message would be "God doesn't need you- he found someone else, someone with a better reputation- you're not good enough to be part of God's plan." And while it's true that God has access to whatever resources he wants, I don't think he rejects people that way.

(Though this line of thinking kind of contrasts with the whole "virgin birth" concept... we'll see what I end up writing for that next week...)

Why is this Joseph's genealogy, not Mary's?

Now you might be thinking, wait a second, Christians believe in a virgin birth. So what's the point of listing Joseph's ancestors? They're NOT Jesus' ancestors.

Don't know why Joseph has a halo here. He's not the father. Image source.

Indeed. Luke 3 records Mary's genealogy- well, that's what they say... it's totally not obvious from reading it- it seems to be presented as Joseph's genealogy. But the bible scholars say actually Luke wrote Mary's genealogy, so, okay whatever. I believe them.

I hypothesize that Matthew recorded Joseph's genealogy because it included Judah's kings. From David to Jeconiah, they're all kings. Matthew is presenting Jesus as royalty.

Some people are skipped.

Matthew 1:8 claims "Jehoram the father of Uzziah" but that's just not true. Actually, Jehoram was the father of Ahaziah (2 Kings 8:24), the father of Joash (2 Kings 11:2), the father of Amaziah (2 Kings 14:1), the father of Azariah/Uzziah (it's his nickname, or something) (2 Kings 14:21).

So he totally skipped Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah.

Matthew 1:11 claims "Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers", but actually Josiah was the father of Jehoiakim (2 Kings 23:34), the father of Jehoiachin/Jeconiah (again, it's a nickname, I guess) (2 Kings 24:6).

So he totally skipped Jehoiakim.

And I found no Old Testament references past Zerubbabel, so who knows whether any more generations near the end got skipped?

So why is Matthew skipping people? Is it a mistake? Maybe- I feel like if you're going to make a mistake copying the bible, a huge list of similar-sounding names is the place to do it.

I have also heard that in Jewish genealogies, sometimes they skipped people, and everyone knew that, and it was fine. Everyone knew that "father" didn't always mean father- could be grandfather, great-grandfather, whatever.

Did Matthew skip those 4 kings because they were less important than the others? Was there a reason? Was it because their names all sounded too much the same? I don't know. Readers, please discuss.

The count at the end is wrong.

Oh dear. Matthew 1:17 says, "Thus there were fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ."

From Abraham to David- if you count every direct male ancestor along the line (so, excluding the "extra people"), you get 14 people. So far so good.

From David to the exile- again, if you count every direct male ancestor, from Solomon (we already counted David in the previous section) to Jeconiah, it's 14 people. But remember, 4 people have been skipped. Were they skipped so the numbers would work out nicely? Wow, that's just dishonest.

From the exile to the Christ- There are 13 people in the direct line from Shealtiel to Jesus. Is "the exile" also getting counted as a "generation"? Seriously?

So, why does Matthew point out the "14 here, 14 here, 14 here" thing? It's not true. Seriously. I'm a math nerd so this is really important to me. My first reaction after reading the "14 here, 14 here, 14 here" bit was "WOW THAT'S COOL! God worked it out so the numbers would fit so nice- clearly this was the work of God!" But guess what, he didn't.

What Matthew should have said is "If you skip some people and then count 'the exile' as one of the generations, then look how cool the numbers work out!" Oh, wonderful. Look, if we arbitrarily make rules and process data inconsistently, cool patterns emerge!

I'm not a fan of this, Matthew.

I'm fine with skipping some of the generations. If that's how genealogies were understood in that culture, that's great. But you can't skip them and then say "WOW LOOK HOW COOL THE NUMBERS WORK OUT!"

I don't have an answer- I am unable to understand this verse as anything but incredibly dishonest/deceptive, and I don't know why it's in the bible. Anyone have some ideas?

Why is it important to start with a genealogy?

To introduce Jesus to his readers, Matthew starts with a bunch of names. Why?

I have heard that the gospel of Matthew was intended for a Jewish audience. That's why Matthew traces Jesus' ancestry back to Abraham (Luke traces it all the way to Adam). Also, as I mentioned above, Judah's line of kings is included in this genealogy.

Perhaps Matthew is trying to make a point that Jesus is the King of the Jews. Perhaps it was important that his readers know where Jesus came from, before they can consider what he did and taught. He's not just some random guy.

Summary/ take-home message:

In writing this genealogy, Matthew establishes Jesus as both a Jew (descendant of Abraham) and a king (descendant of David). Also, Matthew includes some reminders of the sketchier parts of Jesus' family history, perhaps to show that everyone can be accepted by God, no matter what they've done, and that God uses the sketchy/sinful things to bring good- in this case, to bring Jesus into the world. Also, the inclusion of Ruth and Rahab, who were not Israelites, points toward racial/ethnic reconciliation, and the fact that God loves people of all nations.

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

Appendix: Old Testament accounts of the people in the genealogy.
(For the ones with only a "mention" and not a whole story, I only listed the first or most important mention- they may appear in several similar genealogies throughout the Old Testament. Also, note that many of the stories in 2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings are retold in 1-2 Chronicles.)

Abraham - Genesis 12-25
Isaac - Genesis 21-35
Jacob - Genesis 25-49
Judah and his brothers - Genesis 29-50
Perez, Zerah, Tamar - Genesis 38
Hezron - mentioned in Genesis 46:12
Ram - mentioned in Ruth 4:19
Amminadab - mentioned in Exodus 6:23
Nahshon - mentioned in Numbers 2:3
Salmon - mentioned in Ruth 4:20
Rahab - Joshua 2, 6
Boaz, Ruth, Obed - Ruth 1-4
Jesse - 1 Samuel 16-17
David - 1 Samuel 16- all the rest of 1 Samuel, all of 2 Samuel, 1 Kings 1-2
Solomon - 1 Kings 1-11
Uriah's wife (Bathsheba) - 2 Samuel 11-12, 1 Kings 1-2
Rehoboam - 1 Kings 12, 14
Abijah (aka Abijam) - 1 Kings 15
Asa - 1 Kings 15
Jehoshaphat - 1 Kings 22, 2 Kings 3
Jehoram - 2 Kings 8
Uzziah (aka Azariah) - 2 Kings 15
Jotham - 2 Kings 15
Ahaz - 2 Kings 16
Hezekiah - 2 Kings 18-20
Manasseh - 2 Kings 21
Amon - 2 Kings 21
Josiah - 2 Kings 22-23
Jeconiah (aka Jehoiachin) and his brothers - 2 Kings 24-25
Shealtiel - mentioned in 1 Chronicles 3:17
Zerubbabel - Ezra 3-5, Haggai 1-2
Abiud - no information
Eliakim - no information
Azor - no information
Zadok - no information
Akim - no information
Eliud - no information
Eleazar - no information
Matthan - no information
Jacob - no information
Joseph, Mary, Jesus - lots about them in the New Testament

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This post is part of a series on the gospel of Matthew.

Previous post: "Healings of Jesus" Infographic

Next post: When a dream convinces you to marry your cheating girlfriend (Matthew 1:18-25)

Click here to go to the beginning of the series.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Cameras and Vegetarianism

A supermarket in Australia may start requiring its meat suppliers to have cameras in their sheds and slaughterhouses, in order to be sure they are following the standards for animal welfare, according to this post: Coles Supermarkets in Australia Wants Camera Surveillance In Supplier's Slaughterhouses, posted August 20.

Image source.

My first thought, upon reading this story, is "WHYYYYYYY would you want that?" Really? Cameras? Why would you want to digitally store footage of a bunch of pigs, so you can watch it and think, "All these pigs, which look quite alive in this video- they're all dead now. They were killed one by one and their bodies were cut up and covered in plastic wrap and sold."

That's horrifying. Why would anyone want MORE information available about what goes on in slaughterhouses?

But any line of thinking that says "the less you know, the better" is highly suspicious.

So here is my question: Do people who eat meat have a responsibility to know where it comes from?

In an ideal world, the right thing for me to do is become a vegetarian for now, do some research, decide what meat sources I'm okay with, based on how the animals are treated, and then only eat those kinds of meat. Right? Maybe everyone should try being a vegetarian for some short period of time.

But I can tell you I'm not about to do that. Being a vegetarian is incredibly inconvenient. And I have other things in my life that are more important than looking for information about slaughterhouses.

So I'm not sure what to conclude about this...

But here's another thing: Why is there this idea in American culture that eating meat is "manly" and vegetarians are weak and wimpy? And that caring about animals is just for crazy hippies? I've never tried being a vegetarian, but I imagine it's really hard- it's hard to find stuff you can eat when you're out somewhere, the vegetarian choices are so limited at restaurants, plus you have to deal with people thinking you're wimpy/over-sensitive/unreasonable for not eating meat. If anything, the vegetarians are the ones who are strong.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Blogaround

Thank you, reddit. Image source.
1. What Does it Mean to Pray in Jesus' Name? (posted August 20)

2. The 50% Divorce Rate Is A MYTH. I'll Tell You Why. (posted March 4, 2012) This is encouraging. Some analysis of different ways to use statistics to predict divorce rates.

3. Once Broken, Never the Same (posted July 2012) A story of a Cambodian girl who sold herself into sex slavery because "My virginity was the most valuable possession my family had." This stuff is so sad, I don't know what to say.

4. Why "Did You Have Fun?" is the Wrong Question (posted August 19) Instead, ask your kids about the ways that they loved others- this is so much more important than their own personal entertainment.

5. What the Affordable Care Act Means for Transgender People (posted August 14) Transgender people often have a really hard time getting medical care- they face discrimination from doctors and insurance companies. The Affordable Care Act includes some parts that help fight against the discrimination.

6. The Bible Is Not a Diet Plan (posted August 13) Excellent post about how completely absurd and selfish it is to base a diet plan off the story of Daniel. Wow.

7. Ask An Indigenous Theologian (Response) (posted August 21) A Native American pastor talks about how the gospel is present in every culture, and how Christians need to first look for what God is already doing in a foreign culture, and be willing to learn and be changed. I totally love this post.

8. Why people think Christians are fake (posted August 22) Admitting that we are "prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love."

9. 40% of U.S. food wasted, report says (posted August 22) I like this article because it talks about the reasons why food gets wasted, at various points along the supply chain- by farms, stores, restaurants, consumers- instead of just "YOU'RE WASTING FOOD YOU SHOULD FEEL BAD YOU'RE KILLING THE EARTH."

10. Number of the Day (posted August 22) According to a recent poll, 0% of African Americans plan to vote for Romney. Wowwwwww.

11. iSideWith.com A pretty simple questionnaire that tells you which presidential candidate's views are closest to yours. I totally recommend this. (But it made me feel horribly not-knowledgable about politics...)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

"Healings of Jesus" Infographic


Get excited! Starting next week, I'll be blogging through the book of Matthew- each week 1 post will be dedicated toward my best attempt at some awesome, legit bible study, where I ask the weird questions and I'm okay with not having all the answers- but somehow, through it all, we'll learn more about why Jesus is AWESOME.

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This post is part of a series on the book of Matthew.

Previous post: "Words of Jesus" Wordle

Next post: A Bunch of Names (Matthew 1:1-17) 

Friday, August 24, 2012

I was wrong about being right

"All truth is God's truth." The writer of this excellent post, Without Fear: Books & Truth (posted August 20), says that though she has always claimed to believe this, she used to only read books written by Christian authors. She kept her reading list safe, censored, sanitized. But finally she realized that "All truth belongs to God. No truth, despite its origin, threatens God or diminishes His authority." Since then, she has taken every opportunity to read and learn from tons of different authors, even though she may not agree with them on everything. And it's been awesome.

I love this! It reminds me of how much of a n00b I was in the past...

I used to think that everything written by a Christian was true. Christian books, articles in Christian magazines, Christian music, anything said in a sermon- all of it was just wonderful and completely true. And that there was one right answer for "What do Christians believe about [fill in the blank]?"

I remember going to a seminar about creationism at a church many years ago. During Q&A time, a member of the audience expressed concern about the lack of "peer-reviewed research" or something. And I thought, "hey, whose side are you on?" Because CLEARLY this is what Christians believe. If you question it, that means you hate the bible. Or something.

I remember reading an apologetics book, with answers to a lot of common questions about Christianity. One of the questions was "If we say the universe is so complex that it requires a creator, doesn't that mean the creator is even more complex? Who created God?" And I thought, "wow, that's a good question." I read the answer given by the book, and I didn't understand it. But I thought, this is The Answer. I need to memorize this so I can recite it if anyone ever asks me this question. Something about God being eternal and not created.

I know, I was a n00b. This was back in middle school or high school, okay?

I thought becoming a Christian was about arguing. People would debate, and then if one of them ever didn't have an answer, they'd have to change religions. And the "answers" weren't things I'd decided after thinking through everything on my own- they were from books of apologetics, written by experts who were totally infallible.

It was a very "us vs them" mentality, about arguing and needing to always be right. Actually, I guess I subconsciously thought being right was more important than being honest.

Because under this "always right" mentality, let's suppose someone asks a hard question about Christianity. Here's what happens:
  1. Someone asks "if God is good, why do bad things happen?"
  2. I have a moment of fear- this is a hard question, and if I don't come up with an answer, then we'll all have to convert to atheism right now.
  3. Oh my goodness, I remember reading about this question in a book! Here's what it said: I list a couple points, with all the emotion of a computer program checking a look-up table.
  4. Good, crisis averted.
Soooo... that's incredibly insensitive. Yeah, as if people just need to have all their doubts and questions shot down by "oh, I've heard that argument before, and here's the answer." And then they'll become Christians.

Pictured: Helping people come to Jesus. Image source.

I don't believe that any more. I believe in actually wrestling with those questions. If God is good, why do bad things happen? Perfectnumber, take a minute to actually consider it, and understand why it's such a tough issue with so much emotion behind it. And maybe people don't need a bunch of words in the form of an argument- maybe they need my understanding and whatever compassion I can give.

And maybe it's okay for me to say I don't have an answer. Or, I have a couple thoughts but I understand if that doesn't answer it for you.

And all of this brings me back to the conclusion of the post I linked to above. Just like the writer of that post concluded that no truth threatens God, I conclude that no question threatens God. Now I believe everyone has something to say, and everyone is worth listening to. And I realize more and more that I was wrong about a lot of things- and that's okay, everyone is wrong about a lot of things- but I try not to be.

And "trying not to be" means actually thinking about these questions, not being afraid of doubt. It means listening to people. It means that compassion is more important than informing others about what "the right answer" is.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"Words of Jesus" Wordle


Click here to see the full-size version.

Get excited! Starting next week, I'll be blogging through the book of Matthew- each week 1 post will be dedicated toward my best attempt at some awesome, legit bible study, where I ask the weird questions and I'm okay with not having all the answers- but somehow, through it all, we'll learn more about why Jesus is AWESOME.

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

This is the first post in a series on the gospel of Matthew.

Next post: "Healings of Jesus" Infographic

Monday, August 20, 2012

Blogaround

1. 7 Reasons Why Diamonds are a Waste of your Money (posted August 13). I agree with this guy- don't spend a fortune on engagement rings. Personally, I think it should be kinda pretty and not cost much.

2. What's So Threatening About a Changed Mind? (Resisting the Term "Flip-Flopper") (posted August 13). This is an excellent post- changing one's mind isn't automatically a BAD THING.

3. FactChecker: The Cross an Electric Chair? (posted August 15). Some Christians have made the analogy that to wear a cross symbol is like wearing a little electric chair symbol. This article points out the DIFFERENCES between crucifixion and execution by electric chair.

I still like the analogy though- the cross isn't just some cute symbol- it's really horrific.

4. NASA And We Know It video:



5. Dawen Covers "Call Me Maybe" in Chinese (posted August 13). Well, this is awesome. Mandarin cover of "Call Me Maybe."

6. Debunking the "Only Men Are Visual" Myth (posted August 15). Guess what? Women deal with lust. Women want sex. Why have I never heard the church acknowledge this?

7. Tech companies make progress on "blood phones" and "conflict minerals" (posted August 16).

8. The "Just You Wait" Mantra: Is Marriage Really That Hard? (posted August 17). Older Christians like to warn young people that marriage is so hard, you'll have problems and strife, "gloom and doom"... The author of this post talks about how those warnings made her incredibly fearful during her first years of marriage.

I love this article! I hear that message so much- that "marriage is hard." Instead, people should be getting a REALISTIC view of what marriage is like. My guess is that it doesn't always feel magical like in movies, but since I have an incredibly strong desire to be married, for me it would be much better than being single my whole life.

9. Faith Inspires: Yusef Ramelize's "Homeless For A Week" Project (posted August 17). In order to raise money and awareness to help the homeless, Yusef Ramelize, a Muslim man in New York City, lives as a homeless person for a week during Ramadan. Cool.

10. A new recipe for humble pie (posted August 17). A fantastic post about what "humility" is. Are feminists being "selfish" by standing up for our rights, when we should be "humble" and let people oppress others?

11. Marriage Still Means Something (posted August 20). A very interesting post about how the percentage of Americans who get married has dropped, and how the reasons for getting married have changed. Also some analysis and criticism about marriage-related jokes which say that the woman is trying to "catch" the man and he's trying to run away.

Did you see any interesting posts this week? Leave a link in the comments. ^_^

Saturday, August 18, 2012

No girls in the history bee

So I was sitting on the couch looking for something to watch on tv and came upon "the history bee", on The History Channel.  Apparently it's a national competition for middle-schoolers or something.  And there were 8 kids competing, and all of them were boys.

First of all, I want to make it clear I don't actually know anything about what "the history bee" is or how it works, but that's not really relevant to this discussion.

Oh and I don't really think this is such a big deal by itself (it totally doesn't matter to me what goes down in the history bee)- but it's a symptom of a larger problem.

Image source.

So, keeping that in mind, here we go:

I was surprised that, out of the 8 kids, there were no girls.  Ironically enough, if there was 1 girl and 7 boys, I wouldn't have thought anything of it.  I'm an electrical engineering student- that's pretty much the ratio I encounter all the time.  Totally normal.

When I point out that "oh, that's odd, none of them are girls", it's not because I'm angry about it.  I'm not accusing anyone of anything.  I'm just noticing something that seems kind of strange and must have an explanation.

I'm not blaming it on the boys who were there on tv, in the competition.  I'm not like "oh you did something bad, you don't deserve to be here."  No, I'm sure they all have studied a lot and do deserve to be there.

I'm not blaming it on whoever's in charge of the competition.  I don't know how they picked their contestants, but I'm sure it's some way that makes sense, whatever it is.  I totally DON'T think they should have done something to make it easier for female students.  In fact, never ever suggest anything like that to me.  I won my share of math awards in high school, and anyone who tries to connect that with the fact that I'm a girl deserves to be punched in the face.  Or to at least have me monologue at them for a while.

No, I don't think there were no girls in the history bee because some bad person somewhere is sexist.  I think it's something about American culture.

And I think that's why we have to talk about racism and sexism and stuff.  Because people aren't doing it on purpose.  There are attitudes and assumptions perpetuated in our culture, and people don't realize them, but they are real and they are harmful.  So let's call these things out when we see them.

So let's speculate about the history bee.  Because theoretically, it would be half male and half female, varying a bit from year to year, following a normal(ish) distribution, right?  So that means something weird is going on- there must be a reason there were no girls.  If it really was a 50/50 chance, then the odds of getting all 8 boys is (1/2)^8 = 1/256.  (Odds of 7 boys, 1 girl is 8C1*(1/2)^8 = 1/32.  Let me know if you want me to calculate any other probabilities.)

Maybe girls tend to be naturally less driven and competitive and obsessed with history.  If so, then isn't it unfair to have a competition that favors students with more "male-ish" qualities?  Eh, I don't think so.  I mean, you can set up whatever contest you want- who cares?  Unless it's like "this contest will find the student who is THE BEST AT HISTORY."  But that's ridiculous- it's obvious that to win you have to know a lot of history and be good at dealing with the structure of the competition.  No one thinks the winner is by definition "the best at history."

Maybe boys are encouraged more to do this kind of thing.  By their parents, teachers, and culture in general.  So, if that's the case, then how do we address that?  Because that's totally not fair- a hypothetical male student and female student with equal ability get treated differently.

It's embedded in the culture.  It's not easy to change that.  Maybe you need to have special programs to particularly target girls and encourage them to, you know, pursue the things that they're good at.  There are a lot of things I don't like about this solution, but hey, there's no perfect solution.

So that's all I have to say about that.  I guess I have mostly questions and speculation, no answers.  Feel free to add your own speculations.

And if anyone wants to talk about the creepy alien hunter shows on The History Channel, I'm up for that too.

Friday, August 17, 2012

So I have water. You want me to feel bad?

I saw this graphic on Facebook, and I wonder what the intended message is:

Image source.
Text: "Each day, the average American uses a minimum of 130 gallons of clean water. Each day, 783 million people use as little as 5 gallons of unclean water."

So, no source is cited, but I'll just assume those 2 statements are true. Even though I don't get what it means by "the average American uses a minimum of 130 gallons"- how can it be both average and minimum? Maybe they took an average for every day of the year, and the lowest average was 130? Who knows. Whatever. I don't like how it's worded.

So we have 2 true statements here, but since they're presented together like that, the reader is obviously supposed to see it as some kind of a comparison.

Maybe it's innocent. Maybe the comparison is just to give me an idea of what amount of water I think is "normal", so that I'm able to understand how low 5 gallons is. Perhaps if I had no idea how much water I use every day, I wouldn't understand that "5 gallons" is absurdly low.

Maybe it's just to show that other people live very differently than I do, and that's just reality.

But that's not what I felt when I read this. I felt like it was almost an accusation. It was trying to make me feel guilt. The juxtaposition of those 2 statistics sends the message "Americans are hogging all the water, and they should feel BAD because other people don't have clean water."

As if there's something WRONG with Americans using 130 gallons, when other people don't even have clean water.

No. The amount of water I use on a given day has NO EFFECT on the water available to people ON A DIFFERENT CONTINENT.

Seriously.

This cat keeps flushing the toilet, and that's the reason that children in India die of diarrhea. Image source.

If other people don't have clean water, it's because they don't have the infrastructure to bring them water where they live. It's because the technology hasn't been put in place where they live. And that's a problem. Everyone should have clean water. But I don't see how any good can come out of a comparison like the one in the above image. It seems like it's just trying to make Americans feel bad.

If you want to judge whether it's good or bad for the average American to use 130 gallons of water, let's look at what it's doing to the environment. Let's look at what it's doing to the supply of fresh water in the US. But the fact that someone 5000 miles away doesn't have a pipe going to their house has no bearing on whether it's somehow immoral for me to take a long shower.

Yes, let's donate to World Vision (I just did) and other organizations that work to bring water to every part of the world. Because it totally is a problem, and it totally is something that a lot of organizations are working on, making progress, improving people's lives. But I see no reason that I should think it's immoral to use 130 gallons of water for myself every day.

And issues like this- about poverty, injustice, lack of resources- they're so hard to understand because I've never experienced anything like that before. I don't know what I'm supposed to feel. I tried my best to present the facts accurately when I wrote about the world's water and sanitation crisis. It's a problem, and those of us who are able to donate money should definitely do so, but at the same time I don't think it's right to guilt people into it, and I don't want us to view other parts of the world as some homogeneous lump of impoverished one-dimensional people, who spend all their time being sad about how they don't have food or education. They're real people. They have families, they have inside jokes, they have interests and dreams.

And maybe it's impossible for me to understand without actually visiting another country and meeting the people who live that way.

What do you think? Is there some kind of accusation/guilt implied in the above graphic? How should we respond to those statistics?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

God of Language

If you were the Holy Spirit, how would you make an entrance?

Back in the days of the early church, right after Jesus had left, and the Holy Spirit was coming to live among people for the first time- whatever he chooses for his first appearance is going to say a lot about him, and about the nature of how God interacts with humans and what the church should be like.

What did he do? He showed up speaking every language.


Here it is, in Acts 2:1-4. "When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them."

And this gets people's attention. Turns out there were Jews there from a ton of different countries, and they were all surprised to hear someone speaking their native languages.

And I love this. What does it say about our God, when the first thing the Holy Spirit does to kick off the early church is reach out to every culture represented there by speaking their native languages?

Do you think those people who heard, who were in Jerusalem at the time, couldn't speak Aramaic (or whatever the common language was- correct me if I'm wrong) and that's why the Holy Spirit spoke in their first languages instead? No, I don't think so.

This means that my God is the God of the whole world. This means that Christianity was, before it was about anything else, all about reaching the nations. All about entering someone else's culture.

In this Christianity, there's no room for complaining "why don't they just speak English?" There's no room for mocking other languages. There's no room for my belief in a god who mostly speaks English and lives in the northern US, who knows that the CORRECT climate is one where it's below freezing for about 3 months out of the year.

Christianity's not an American thing.

Okay, wait. Back up. Perfectnumber, what are you even talking about? Why would anyone think that Christianity's an American thing?

Image source.
Okay, point on the map to where Christianity was started. Now point to the US. On the one hand, I feel like I'm making a profound statement, to say "Christianity's not an American thing," because I really did subconsciously believe it was. On the other hand... seriously, look at the map. Why are we even talking about this.

But I did. Because I went only heard about God through a church full of white Americans. (Maybe I'll do another post sometime about how lack of diversity hurts us like this.)

But my God's not an American.

And I thought I was weird, when I discovered China is FREAKING AWESOME and I want to go there and speak Chinese. I imagined God was completely caught off-guard.

"You want to go WHERE?" Image source.

No. The Holy Spirit's presence on earth began in the form of sending people off speaking foreign languages. Not only does God "understand", this is so much deeper into the heart of God, the heart of Christianity, than I ever realized.

I thought I was asking God, "This is crazy, but can we edit the plan for my life? I know you wanted me to live in the US... I know you don't get it, and maybe it won't turn out as good as your original plan, but I would really like permission to move to China."

And I never realized it before, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Because my God is the God of the whole world. My God has no limits, no ignorance, no racism. And the first thing the Holy Spirit did was send people out speaking foreign languages. Unlike everyone else I meet, God does NOT think it's weird that I speak Chinese.

It's more than saying "God understands. God knows every language." It would be much more accurate to say, "God speaks every language all day long." This is such an essential part of who God is, and what Christianity is. He made the disciples speak other people's languages. He didn't say "well they came to this country, why don't they learn our language?"

And this fact just continues to blow my mind. I could write and write forever. I'm really writing to myself- because I'm still not convinced God's response is any different from the responses I get in church, when I tell people I'm moving to China. I'm still not convinced that God's first language isn't English. I'm still not convinced that God isn't sheltered and naive like me.

So I'll just end this post with my favorite bible verse:

使徒行传17:26-27
“他从一本造出万族的人,住在全地上,并且预先定准他们的年限和所住的疆界,要叫他们寻求神,或者可以揣摩而得,其实他离我们各人不远。”
Acts 17:26-27
"From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us."

Monday, August 13, 2012

Blogaround

Things that Perfectnumber finds interesting:

Image source.

1. A woman ref will officiate an NFL game for the first time ever this week (posted August 7). Awesome.

2. What I've Learned Along the Way (posted August 6). It's about how preaching sermons is a hard job for pastors, and it can be discouraging. This inspired me to send a nice postcard to my pastor. If you go to church, I recommend you do this too.

3. 5 Ways You Don't Realize Movies Are Controlling Your Brain (posted August 6). From Cracked.com. Some interesting points here.

4. Breastfeeding As Worship (posted August 1). The writer says that Christians are totally screwing up by thinking that breastfeeding is sexual and should be covered up- instead it's an awesome thing that represents giving life and showing God's glory.

Alysia Montano. Image source.
5. Why Alysia Montano wears a flower in her hair during every race (posted August 8). Because she's proud of her femininity. This makes me happy.

6. Seat swap outcry moves Virgin to think again (posted August 10). A man on a plane was forced to switch seats because all men are probably pedophiles and shouldn't sit next to children. This is so many kinds of messed-up.

7. Male synchronized swimming team not welcome at Olympics (posted July 30). "The London Olympics include two sports where men are not allowed: rhythmic gymnastics and synchronized swimming."

8. Arkansas Atheists: Even If It's Unenforceable, the Constitution Still Says We Can't Run for Office (posted August 10). This really surprises me.

9. Men Photographed in Stereotypical Pin-Up Poses (posted October 4, 2011). Kind of silly, or maybe profound.

10. Olympic Medals Per Capita. Congrats to Grenada, with the highest number of Olympic medals per capita. US ranked 49th, with 1 medal per 3,000,000 Americans.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

I really hope my God isn't sexist

I wonder if God knows why I'm a feminist. I wonder if he understands, or just thinks it's some new-fangled thing all the kids are talking about it.

I mean, he's God, of course he understands. And my take on feminism is it's all about loving others- that's what God wants Christians to do anyway! The idea that God supports me in this- maybe it doesn't FEEL true, but that's what I said faith was. Surely God is all for it.

But then...

Exodus 22:16-17 "If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife. If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins."

Exodus 23:17 "Three times a year all the men are to appear before the Sovereign Lord."

So the first verse there- that's terrible. A women should marry her rapist. That's terrible. The second example is also sexist but way more subtle- the men have to come "appear before the Sovereign Lord", but the women don't, because, who cares about them.

The answer I've heard for why God wanted a woman to marry her rapist goes like this: Well, if she wasn't a virgin, no other man would want her, and she wouldn't be able to get married, so she'd be really poor. That's how the culture worked back then, and God set up this policy so at least there would be someone to take care of her.

God, don't you realize this is terrible? Do you really think women are less important than men?

And here's my attempt at an answer.

Let's look at the injustice that exists in American culture. Black people are less likely than white people to graduate high school or college. Women get paid less than men. (I'm making some big generalizations here, but you know what I'm talking about.) So, what do we do?

Okay. Well, we could ignore the problem. Don't do anything to address the difference. Awesome, then it just perpetuates itself. That doesn't help anything.

Well, we could put some affirmative-action programs in place, to help minorities get into college. But if their high school education wasn't that good, they're going to be totally screwed in college. Also, what if white people just assume the minorities are totally not qualified, just getting into college because we need to be "diverse" or "politically correct"? Then that just reinforces the existing racism. It pits one group against another.

My point is that as a society we need to do something to address this injustice, but every possible solution is going to have problems. In every case, there will be something that someone can complain about. There's no perfect solution. You can't just "fix" racism.

Similarly, back when God gave Moses the law, the culture God was working with was INCREDIBLY SEXIST. There really was no good solution for what to do for a woman who got raped. This was the best policy God could come up with, without some kind of creepy mind-control to magically make everyone stop being sexist.

Yeah. Hopefully, God didn't actually think this was a GOOD idea. Hopefully, he knows the whole thing was terrible, and he is working to somehow bring justice for the women oppressed by the stupid sexist societies that have existed throughout history.

That's all I got. What do you think?

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For more posts about the book of Exodus, click here.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Chinese doesn't have verb conjugation!

I can't believe how well-kept this secret is- the fact that Chinese doesn't have verb conjugation, and so it works in the most straightforward way possible. You just take your subject, take your verb, and you're done. Chinese is easy.

Example: Let's look at the verb 看(pronounced kàn) which means to see or to read. So let's suppose you want to read books- that would be 看书 (kàn shū). Here's how to say it (for present tense):

我看书 (wǒ kàn shū) I read
你看书 (nǐ kàn shū) you read
他看书 (tā kàn shū) he reads
我们看书 (wǒmen kàn shū) we read

(Although I feel like these aren't necessarily sentences on their own- if you just want to say "I'm reading a book" and that's the whole sentence, you'd better say 我在看书 (wǒ zài kàn shū), the 在 shows that you're doing it right now.)

(But I stand by my point about Chinese being easy because of lack of verb conjugation.)

Seriously, it is that easy. And if you're saying "I like to read" or whatever, you use the same 看, without some kind of infinitive verb "to read"- nope, it's the same. There really is no verb conjugation.

In case you didn't get it, here's another example: In English we have "to be" and then you say "I am", "you are", "it is", "they are", see there's all these different conjugations of "be", depending on who the subject is. Mandarin Chinese doesn't have that. You use the same freaking word for all of them.

While we're here, let's learn Chinese pronouns, because they are quite easy.

First of all, you use the same word whether it's a subject or an object. 我 (wǒ) means both "I" and "me". And they're ALL like that. So simple.

我 (wǒ) I/me
你 (nǐ) you (singular)
他 (tā) he/him
她 (tā) she/her
它 (tā) it

You may have noticed that "he", "she", and "it" all have the same pronunciation in Chinese. Different characters- so they actually ARE different words- but the same pronunciation. You may have noticed a common mistake that Chinese people make while speaking English- they get "he" and "she" mixed up. Yes, they do know the difference between "he" and "she", but it's easy to make that mistake because it's not a distinction they normally think about while speaking.

And the plural pronouns:

我们 (wǒ men) we/us
你们 (nǐ men) you (plural)
他们 (tā men) they/them (masculine or mixed-gender group)
她们 (tā men) they/them (feminine)
它们 (tā men) they/them (objects)

Yeah, you just take the singular form and put 们 on the end. It really is that easy.

And sometimes this 们 is used to make other nouns plural. In general, in Chinese there isn't a singular and plural form of a noun, it's just the same. (In English, to make a noun plural you usually add "s". In Chinese, eh, no difference between singular and plural.) For example, 朋友 (péng yǒu) means "friend" but it also means "friends". Sometimes if you want to make sure everyone knows it's plural, you say 朋友们 (péng yǒu men). But I've only ever seen 们 used like this for plural groups of people, not objects. And using 们 like that isn't necessary- you're better off not doing it if you're not sure.

And something I want to say about 它 and 它们 (meaning "it" and "they", referring to objects or animals): These words don't get used that much. I'm actually not sure if I've EVER heard 它们 used. Usually instead of saying "it" in Chinese you just use the actual name of the object.

And here's a mistake I make when speaking Chinese (you know, to go along with the anecdote about Chinese people mixing up "he" and "she"): So you know how in English, if you're talking about somebody but you don't know if they're male or female, you just say "they"? It's not really grammatically correct but it's what we do.

So in Chinese I find myself saying 他们, the literal translation of "they". But that's totally wrong- dude, the words for "he" and "she" are both pronounced "tā", so this is TOTALLY NOT AN ISSUE when speaking Chinese. Just say "tā" and it could mean either "he" or "she". But, you know, my first language is English, so this is a mistake I tend to make.

Speaking Chinese is just so freaking fascinating.

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Click here for other posts on learning Mandarin. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bullying, Beauty, And Plastic Surgery You Don't Need

Nadia Ilse, a 14-year-old girl, received $40,000 in free plastic surgery to get her ears pinned back and her nose and chin modified. Why? Well the simplest answer is because kids in school bullied her, but I think it goes much deeper than that.

Here and here are some links about this story.


There are so many problems I have with this; where do I start?

First of all, it would be the wrong response to read this story, look at the "before" photo, say "ah come on, there's nothing wrong with her, she looks fine" and conclude that she was wrong to get the surgery.

It's TRUE that there was nothing wrong with her. But if you go tell her some cliche about being beautiful, why should she believe you? Why should she believe you when bullies make her ashamed to walk around in public with her ears sticking out? Why should she believe you when the media is full of images of women with a certain body type, implying that those images are the ideal, and that a woman's worth is based on her appearance?

You can't solve this by giving girls some cliches about self-esteem or inner beauty or whatever. (See also: We CANNOT say "everyone is beautiful.") You need to address the culture that perpetuates these stupid sexist ideas about what women are "supposed" to look like.

So maybe in her situation, getting the surgery did make sense. I don't know. I don't know what level of bullying she was dealing with. But even if it was "the right decision", it's not supposed to be this way. People are not supposed to bully other people. Women are not supposed to hate their bodies. High-school kids are not supposed to be getting plastic surgery.

I don't know; maybe it was the right decision in her situation. But it shows something is terribly, terribly wrong with society.

Also: Does anyone actually think this a guaranteed solution to her bullying problem? Do you really think bullies operate on logic? And the reason she was bullied was simply "her ears are big" and now that that's not the case anymore, there will be no more bullying?

Right...

Perhaps the most disturbing is the idea that you should solve your problems by changing yourself to fit a stereotype, to fit what other people say you should be. Apparently the bullies were right- her ears WERE too big, and something needed to be done. And now that she's changed herself, things are much better. This is not okay.

This is not okay. And I hope Nadia can get away from that environment of bullying. I hope she can love her body. I hope she will learn to be strong and fight against all the illogical criticism of women's bodies. I hope she can follow her dreams without being held back by any of this garbage.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Blogaround


1. Our Favorite Disney Princesses Transformed Into Women Of Color (posted July 30). Very cool.

2. Mississippi Church Refuses to Marry Black Couple (posted July 28). Really? Really? In 2012, in America? Really?

3. 13 ways to make an immersion environment (posted October 8, 2011). A totally awesome article full of tips for "immersing" yourself in whatever foreign language you're studying. I actually do a lot of these with Mandarin.

4. Is it okay to ask if someone's kids are adopted? (posted February 9, 2012). Written by a mother who has several adopted kids of a different race. Very interesting.

5. Robot Apocalypse (posted July 31). "If all that experience has taught me anything, it's that the robot revolution would end quickly, because the robots would all break down or get stuck against walls. Robots never, ever work right." Yes! I work in a lab with robots every day, and then I hear people talk about the idea of robots taking over society... that is SO far from reality.

6. This comic:

Yes! Image source.

7. Find out how much of a Chinese newspaper you can understand. This will only be interesting to people studying Chinese. It's a short quiz, and at the end it gives you an estimate for number of words you know and what percent of a newspaper you can read.

I got 68.3% and 2635 Chinese words (words, not characters- I estimate I know 700 characters).

8. Top 10 Saddest/Craziest/Understandable Things I've Seen Christians Believe About Relationships (posted July 27). Wow. The stuff on this list resonated with me so much- things I used to believe or I still subconsciously believe.

9. So you ate mor chickin yesterday. Now what? (posted August 2). "What I wonder is this: did our focus on Chick-fil-A also cause us to neglect 'the more important matters of the Law: justice, peace, and faith' (Matthew 23:23, CEB)." This is something a lot of Christians need to hear.

10. 5 Reasons Why The Church Failed Yesterday (posted August 2). Again, about Chick-Fil-A.

11. There Are Olympians Without Countries-- And Millions of Regular People, Too (posted August 1).

12. Acid attacks, poison: What Afghan girls risk by going to school (posted August 2). This is so intense. I'm astonished at how much sexism and hate they're facing. I didn't know cultures like that existed in the world.

13. Dreaming of a spiral bound Bible (posted July 30). "Am I really to believe that the community of those who love puppies is larger than the community of those in this country and around the world who live every day with a disability? ... Refusing to design a Bible for those with disabilities is shocking to me in this day. ADA was passed over two decades ago and it is the church which is still trailing instead of leading the world."

Any interesting links you want to share?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The plagues of Egypt ruined everything

I present: The 10 Plagues of Egypt finger puppets!


Awww look how cute the locust is!  And that hailstone with the smiley face!  And the cow sick in bed, haha he's sticking his tongue out!

Dude... no.  This is like making finger puppets to teach kids about the Holocaust.  I never realized this in Sunday school as a little kid, but the plagues of Egypt were really really terrible and it's a pretty safe bet that people died from most of them.  It's horrible to imagine, but that's the only conclusion I can reasonably come to after reading the story in Exodus 7-12.

Background info: God's people, the Israelites, were slaves in Egypt, and God told Moses and Aaron to go tell Pharoah to "let my people go" (and to blame it on God).  But Pharoah said no, over and over, so God brought 10 plagues to help convince him.

Here is my list of all 10 plagues and how they ruined Egypt's economy and killed a significant amount of people:

1. Blood
The water in the Nile turned into blood.  So, what does that mean?  It's chemically the same as blood?  It looks like blood?  It's not really blood, because blood has to come from some animal or person, right?  Artificial blood?  Okay, whatever.

So no one could use the water from the river.  Well, that's kind of gross but is it a big deal?  I mean, how often do I use water from a river?  No, dude.  The equivalent would be if the water from the faucet was blood.  So how are you going to wash your hands?  How are you going to cook- boil water for pasta, wash off vegetables...?  What are you going to drink?  This is totally a huge problem and I know personally it's hard for me to realize how much of a big deal it is, because I have access to running water all the time- it's so convenient that I don't even notice.

2. Frogs
Did you watch the cartoons about Moses when you were a little kid?  Haha, frogs.  Open the cabinet and a frog jumps out.  Haha!  But no, this is not a joke.  There were so many frogs that it's inevitable there would be dead frogs.  Did you dissect a dead frog in high school?  What if you found one of those in your house?  What if you accidentally stepped on a frog and its guts and everything were everywhere?  What if it was in the cabinet with all your food and it peed on everything?

This, but in your bed.  Image source.

And then, when Moses prayed to God to "take the frogs away", do you know what happened?  Exodus 8:13-14 says "And the Lord did what Moses asked.  The frogs died in the houses, in the courtyards and in the fields.  They were piled into heaps, and the land reeked of them."

There were piles of dead frogs.  And people were probably still finding dead ones in their houses weeks later.

Well.  Umm.  Solved that problem. 

3. Gnats
There were swarms of gnats.  I don't think I need to do much explaining as to why this one was gross- have you ever been camping and accidentally walked through a swarm of gnats and got one in your mouth...  Can you imagine people trying to mix up soup or bread or something and gnats keep landing on it and dying?  People definitely ate gnats during this plague.  Unavoidable.

Yeah, those black specks?  Those are poppy seeds.  I promise.  Image source.

4. Flies
Oh, good, swarms of flies.  Hey remember how there were just piles and piles of disgusting dead frogs?  Well maybe that had something to do with it.  And I can imagine that flies spread disease.  And just like the gnats, I'm sure they died and got in people's food.  Gross.

5. Livestock die
All the Egyptian livestock died.  So now they had a bunch of rotting cow carcasses.  FANTASTIC.  I bet that smelled great.  Do you think they piled them up like the dead frogs?  Also, this is where it starts really threatening people's lives- no more meat to eat.

6. Boils
Apparently they were so painful that "the magicians could not stand before Moses" (Exodus 9:11).  So people aren't able to go to work.  This is torture.

Protip: Don't do a google image search for "boils."  Image source.

7. Hail
HUGE hailstones came down and killed any livestock that were outside (I guess they got new ones after plague #5- it's not like all the plagues happened in 1 week or anything), and a good portion of the crops.  (Exodus 9:31-32 says the hail destroyed the flax and barley, but not the wheat and spelt.  I have no idea what "spelt" is.)  Seriously, this is how famines happen.  What do you think happened to Egypt after all this?  Seems like the only possibility is a huge famine that killed a lot of people.

Is it ironic that the first Israelite to enter Egypt prevented a famine, and then hundreds of years later God CAUSED a famine in order to get them out?

8. Locusts
Exodus 10:7 "Pharoah's officials said to him, 'How long will this man be a snare to us?  Let the people go, so that they may worship the Lord their God.  Do you not yet realize that Egypt is ruined?'"

Pharoah's officials saw the disaster that was happening, the irreversible damage.  They begged Pharoah to just let the people go, before things got worse.  But Pharoah said no, and then the locusts came.

These things look so disgusting.  Don't do a google image search for them either.  Image source.
Remember the part where the hail didn't destroy the wheat and spelt?  Yeah, so much for that.  So essentially all the agriculture in Egypt is gone.  I have no idea how the Egyptians got through this.

9. Darkness
3 days of darkness.  Now that's just creepy.  This sounds like psychological torment.

10. Death of the firstborn
And then "the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt."  People died.  One person in each family died.  By this point, all the Egyptians are like "GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!" and they're kicking the Israelites out the door in a panic.

It's like their life was a horror movie.

And surely more people died in the months following the Exodus, because, you know, there was no food.

Seriously, I wonder what percentage of Egypt's population died because of the 10 plagues.

Why did God do this?

This isn't a game- it's a war.  God vs Egypt.  And all those innocent Egyptians died because Pharoah really wanted to have slaves.  This is horrifying, and I'm not okay with what God did.  Does God love everyone, or not?  Did he love the firstborn sons of Egypt?  Did he know they each had a face and a personality and hobbies and dreams?

Suddenly this verse feels incredibly creepy.  Image source.

Like I said, I'm not okay with it, and the only answer I can give is "well... God can do whatever he wants..."  But I don't understand and I don't like it.

Why am I writing about this?

Because I heard this story in Sunday school and I didn't understand.  Because I laughed when I watched the cartoons with the Egyptians' horrified reactions to the river of blood.

I guess I thought Pharaoh finally agreed to let the people go because the plagues were annoying.  Like senior pranks in high school.  I didn't know it was actually because EVERYONE WAS GOING TO DIE.

I am a Christian, and therefore I need to know what the bible REALLY says, not the cleaned-up silly version with cute animals.

This was a genocide.

My God caused a genocide.

And I'm not writing this because I want to tell everyone "God is really terrible, the bible is really terrible."  No, he's my God.  I trust him and I love him... and I'm not okay with the plagues of Egypt.  Really REALLY not okay.  And I'm not afraid to speak my mind.  If God's real, he can handle my criticism.

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For more posts on the book of Exodus, click here.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Is this shampoo commercial sexist or not?


(here's the link to youtube)

Tell me what you think, because I read a blog post which claims that this commercial is full of sexism, and it made the author of the post really angry.

But I don't see it. I've watched the commercial, and it seems to be saying, "Hey, I'm an Olympic athlete and I'm awesome. But the pool water really damages my hair. So I use Pantene shampoo and it's awesome."

And the claim, in the aforementioned blog post, is that this commercial is saying, "Even if you're an Olympic athlete, as a woman you're still not good enough unless your hair is perfect and you fit this standard of beauty."

I think the context is really really important when determining if something is sexist/racist/etc. If the commercial was perpetuating a harmful sexist stereotype that already exists in the minds of its audience, then that would be bad and sexist.

But I don't think it is. Really, I don't. I don't see any problem.

During the Olympics, there has been a lot of talk in the land of feminist blogs (blogosphere? I have some doubts about whether it is, in fact, a sphere) about how the media is portraying the female athletes. And I agree that that criticism is valid- it IS dumb and sexist for the media to make a big deal about an athlete's weight or physical appearance, and to do this to woman athletes and not men. Like... they're athletes, they're the best in the world, and you really think it's valid to criticize their bodies? Really? Really?

But I stand by my statement that I don't see any harmful messages towards women in that commercial. I'm sure if I thought about it enough, I could come up with some convoluted message of sexism, but nothing was obvious when I first watched the commercial, so I think it's not worth analyzing in any more detail than that.

What do y'all think?

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