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Monday, October 26, 2015

Blogaround

Image source.
1. Embracing the Gentiles (posted October 17) "Is it time for us, not to “accept [LGBTQ people] into the body,” as though we were making some momentous decision ourselves, but to recognize that God has already accepted them–and we simply need to acknowledge what God has done?" Amen.

2. Sin Problems and Skin Problems (posted October 18) "By even suggesting that racism isn't a "skin problem" immediately makes racism abstract. It erases the violent effects racism has on a specific population- people of color. If there is no racial skin problem, then there also aren't people with skin whose lives are deeply effected by racism."

3. Don't let time shield sex predators (posted October 19) "How many predators are roaming our neighborhoods, unknown to us because their victims have been denied the right to hold their abusers accountable?"

4. Hateful anti-abortion activists force creator of #ShoutYourAbortion into hiding (posted October 2) "Many women want to live in a world where you can say, ‘I’ve had an abortion, and I’m perfectly fine with that,’ and not have people saying they want to kill you."

5. What Do "Certificates of Purity" Communicate to Sexual Assault Survivors? (posted October 20) Oh my god this is disgusting.

6. David Was a Rapist, Abraham Was a Sex Trafficker (posted October 22) [trigger warning: rape] I really love how this article points out explicitly what nobody at church wants to say about, for example, David and Bathsheba. And at Christianity Today, too! But I feel kind of uneasy about some parts of it, like hinting at some form of 'oh isn't it great that God forgave David, God's forgiveness is all that matters, not the victim's'... but at the same time it also has stuff about how victim-blaming is a huge problem and that's not okay, and how there needs to be justice for victims, and if there's sex abuse in your church you go report it to the police RIGHT NOW. A lot of really good stuff that I'm glad Christianity Today is publishing, but... ehhh just using some of the language about "God's forgiveness" that Christians who victim-blame and cover up abuse use too.

7. 3 Ways to Keep Yourself Safe When You’re Not Ready to Leave Your Abusive Partner (posted April 28) "When I was being abused, the only advice I found was about how to leave an abusive partner, or how to heal after you’ve left."

8. 'Zeno effect' verified—atoms won't move while you watch (posted October 23) "One of the oddest predictions of quantum theory – that a system can't change while you're watching it – has been confirmed in an experiment by Cornell physicists." Cool!

9. Ads for Period Underwear Might Be Too Lewd for the NYC Subway (posted October 21) "Most of the many ads that have plastered women in various states of undress on subway walls have been designed from the perspective of how others (read: heterosexual men) see women. The THINX ads address how women see and take care of themselves. “You don’t want to talk about how women’s bodies actually work, but you want to doctor the way a woman feels about her body?” asked Agrawal, comparing THINX’s designs to the breast-augmentation ads."

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, Shanghai


Hi everyone! Today I'm happy to share the photos I took at the Shanghai branch of Madame Tussaud's wax museum. Here we go!

Here's the entrance.
Thor
Spiderman
So the problem with going to a wax museum in China is there are a lot of Chinese stars I don't know. Like in this picture, which are the famous wax people and which are the customers? Okay I'll tell you the answer: The woman in the pink is Dee Hsu, and the man in the colorful suit is Kevin Tsai, they are Taiwanese talk show hosts. (The others are flesh-and-blood humans.)
Yang Liping, a Chinese dancer, plus an admirer
Vicki Zhao, a Chinese actress
Tiger Woods
Kobe Bryant. The NBA is really popular in China.
Michael Jordan
Yao Ming is super-tall
Everyone wants to get their picture with Yao Ming
Liu Xiang, Chinese Olympic gold medalist hurdle runner
Guo Jingjing, Chinese Olympic diver
Li Xiaoshuang, Chinese Olympic gymnast
Nie Weiping, Chinese go champion
David Beckham wax figure and two actual humans
Sun Li, Chinese actress
Arnold Schwarzenegger wax figure (right) and actual human (left)
Zhang Yimou, Chinese film director
Bruce Lee wax figure (right) and actual human (left)
Sylvester Stallone
Pierce Brosnan and a random passerby
Marilyn Monroe
Li Yundi, Chinese pianist
Kelly Chan, Hong Kong singer
Anita Mui, Hong Kong singer
Nicholas Tse, Hong Kong singer, and who's that in the back- the Chinese version of Bruno Mars? It's Aaron Kwok, another Hong Kong singer.
Lady Gaga
Elvis
Princess Diana and an admirer
This girl really likes Winston Churchill
Vladimir Putin
You can get your picture taken with a really young Obama
Chen-Ning Yang, a Chinese physicist
Einstein wax figure (right) and actual human (left)
Yang Liwei, the first astronaut sent to space by the Chinese space program
Kate Winslet
Fan Bingbing, a Chinese actress
David and Victoria Beckham. Please somebody tell me she looks like Julia Roberts, because I was totally convinced this was Julia Roberts.
Robert Pattinson
Cecilia Cheung, Hong Kong actress and singer
Julia Roberts
Tom Cruise
There was a good mix of Chinese and international figures, from all different areas: sports, music, movies, world leaders, etc. To be honest, I was scared to go to the wax museum- I thought it was going to be super creepy. And it was a little bit creepy, but it was also full of actual living non-creepy humans who were excited and having fun and taking pictures, so I was able to ignore the creepiness.

The creepiest thing, though, was that the wax figures' feet are all bolted to the floor, so if you push them, they kind of wobble in a really unnatural way.

Overall, though, I thought it was so cool! The wax figures are amazing artwork. It was totally worth going.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

When I said "I don't know if you're going to hell" what I meant was "probably yes"

Grumpy Cat: "Don't know, don't care." Image source.

Here's an interesting post from Peter Mosley: Why It Wasn’t Good Enough for This Ex-Christian to Say the Eternal Fate of Others Was up to God. It's about this:
Almost every time I ask a Christian if non-believers go to heaven or hell, they answer that it’s not up to them. It’s up to God.
Yeah, I used to say that sometimes. You know, if you go out and "do evangelism" and somebody's like "but ... is my grandma in hell?" you can say "well I don't know, only God can judge."

Of course, for me, "well I don't know, only God can judge" actually meant "Was she a Christian? No? Well... unfortunately, yeah, she's probably in hell. But I don't want to actually say that out loud."

Here's what Mosley has to say about this kind of answer:
My experience of talking to Christians indicates that, for many of them, passing the buck on to God is good enough. But should it be? Honestly — if you really, deeply care for your friend, wouldn’t you want to make sure that they weren’t going to spend eternity in torment, instead of just being resigned to a third party? Wouldn’t you want to make sure God let them into heaven with you?

That’s how I felt, eventually, as a Christian. “It’s up to God” wasn’t good enough. I wanted to know for sure. Did hell exist? Who was going there? Who wasn’t?

And I also asked myself an arguably more difficult question: “What does it say about me that I believe in and worship a God whose law indicates that this person I care about might go to hell forever? What kind of person would I have to be to even think to worship a God like that?”
I'm kind of startled, to be honest. He says "if you really, deeply care for your friend" but when I used that answer, of course I didn't care. It was just a way to sidestep a particularly nasty part of "the gospel." Grandma was just a data point in an apologetics argument. Just an objection that had to be overcome so this person could "get saved."

I already knew the answer: yeah, she was most likely in hell. But I could get away with saying "I don't know, only God can judge" because it's possible she had a secret deathbed conversion, or maybe she had prayed the sinner's prayer at some point in her life and God counted it, or maybe the narrow gate is wider than it seemed. I hoped the narrow gate was wider than it seemed, I hoped for some kind of Christian universalism, but based on what I knew of "God", it was very unlikely.

So anyway, now I'm wondering, are there Christians who use this answer to mean something different than "yeah probably but I don't want to actually say that out loud"?

I actually have encountered that- there was one time I was talking with some Chinese Christians about hell, and they seemed to be unaware that Christians were "supposed to" believe that people get into heaven based solely on whether they believed the right things about Jesus. (To be clear, I'm using the term "supposed to" here to make fun of the American evangelicals who think they know the correct definition of "Christianity" for all people for all time. In reality, Christianity manifests itself differently in different cultures.) So when we talked about hell, it was sort of hard to communicate because we had completely different assumptions about it.

When I asked them directly, what do you think the criteria is for going to heaven or hell, they said we don't know, only God can judge. So I asked them, do you think it's based on whether or not a person is a Christian? And they said no. It seemed that the idea was ridiculous to them. Of course hell would be based on if we treated people right or wrong in this life.

When I asked them, "so, do you think Christians should warn other people about hell?" they said yes, and I was surprised. But, upon further questioning, I realized they didn't mean warn people "you need to believe in Jesus, otherwise you'll go to hell" but to say to someone who's mistreating others "hey, there's going to be a judgment someday, better stop doing that."

I guess for them, "I don't know, only God can judge" meant "I'm not exactly sure how bad you have to be in order to get sent to hell. But it's definitely something along those lines." So was your grandma a pretty great person? Then God knows that. She's probably okay.

(I have no idea whether or not this is typical among Christians in China. But I would guess, since Christians are a minority and it's very common that a Chinese Christian's parents/ close family members/ friends are not Christians, it's much harder to sell the "all non-Christians go to hell" line here.)

Anyway, the other important point that Mosley makes is "What does it say about me that I believe in and worship a God whose law indicates that this person I care about might go to hell forever? What kind of person would I have to be to even think to worship a God like that?"

Yeah, I never questioned that.

Because I was taught that I was so sinful that I couldn't trust my own sense of what morality and justice are. Yeah, it may seem like it's awful to send the vast majority of the human population to hell, but a person would only think that because they're a sinner who's unable to understand what justice actually is.

The worst thing about this theory is that it's completely logically consistent. People deserve to go to hell. If they say, "no, we don't deserve to go to hell", well OF COURSE that's what they're going to say, they're sinners who deserve to go to hell.

We are so sinful we can't even understand how sinful we are, apparently. The only counterargument is "but... but... that's AWFUL!" and actually having a heart, and I was taught I can't trust my heart; it was in opposition to God's truth and God's justice.

So no, I didn't question. I didn't say, "Actually, it's not right for God to send my friends to hell." No. I really really really really didn't want my friends to go to hell, but I never once questioned that that's what God would have to do if they didn't believe the right things about Jesus. So I worked so hard at evangelism, and I prayed so hard for God to change their hearts so that they would realize they needed to become Christians.

In church, they said "God doesn't violate people's free will. He's not going to force them to become Christians." But if it was up to me, I would have totally violated EVERYONE'S free will. If I was able to, I would have, back then. If there was anything I could have said or done that would force my friends to become Christians, I would have done it. I tried everything.

My Christian friends told me, "God loves our friends even more than we do. God wants them to become saved even more than we do." (Which, on that topic, I also recommend this post by the Slacktivist. "One of the many problems with all of that was that it required us to believe that Bruce Springsteen is greater than God.") Apparently, God, who was sending our friends to hell, really really wanted not to. We said this to encourage each other when we tried so hard at evangelism and our friends remained stubbornly unsaved.

Apparently, God wanted my friends not to go to hell even more than I did. But God was sending them to hell anyway, and I believed that was right. I believed there could be no way out except for the loophole that Jesus made possible on the cross.

And I really think the worst part of this theology is when I have conversations with Christians who just CANNOT FATHOM why anyone would think it's offensive, unjust, unloving, or unreasonable to believe that everyone deserves to be tortured eternally. Evangelicalism has created a whole culture where "we're sinners" is the most important thing about people, and basic human compassion is "watering down the gospel" and being "soft on sin" and forgetting "God is holy."

I've said it before and I'll say it many more times in the future. Hell ruins everything about Christianity.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Blogaround

Pangolins. Image source.
1. ‘Who gets a casserole?’ (posted October 8) "That family who lost their home to fire, flood or tornado faces a hardship that we can clearly understand and that we know how to fix. They lost their home, so we can build them a new one. And once we do that, their problem will be fixed and we won’t have to worry about it anymore. But people whose problems are more chronic or enduring, whose problems don’t have such an obvious and final fix, are less likely to get a casserole."

2. California ‘Redskins’ Ban a Rare Statewide Win for Movement (posted October 12) Great!

3. Is Hermione Granger White? (posted October 9) "A story about racial hatred and oppression, in which zero major characters are actual racial minorities, would be a bit strange, would it not?"

4. Using the Bible To Run From Jesus (What If Jesus Actually Is Enough?) (posted October 9) "In the end, I found that one of the best ways to avoid doing what Jesus taught, and one of the easiest ways to find excuses for why we shouldn’t live the way he lived, was to use the Bible to do it."

5. NonStampCollector – Bible Interpretation: Upside Down (posted October 15) A really interesting video parodying bible interpretation.

And another video from the same producer: Christian Apologetics: Hitler can't help you. Wow, this one is really good.

6. When There Is No Justice in Scripture: The Rape of Tamar (posted October 12) "Throughout my life in the church, I had never heard the name “Tamar.” No reference to this daughter of King David. No remembrance of her profound suffering and grief."

7. Why White Parents Won't Choose Black Schools (posted October 15) "Our schools are more segregated than they have ever been. Our educational system is deeply inequitable. Things are only getting worse. They shook their concerned liberal head in sadness wondering what they could do. Then they made sure their child got into the very white, pretty affluent charter school that is not representative of their neighborhood."

8. Why It’s So Difficult to Diagnose Autism in Girls (posted October 8) Yep.

9. Christians, Quit Waiting to Take Advantage of Tragedies in Our Lives to Convert Us (posted October 9) "I’ve even sat in on sermons and advice from apologists to college students saying Christians should wait till a friend has a hard time in their lives before sharing the Gospel to them."

10. The Problem with Gendering Kids’ Halloween Costumes Is Othering, Not Sexualizing (posted October 13) "What does it communicate to girls, I wonder, when they’re presented with “girlified” career uniforms that look nothing like what women in those careers actually wear?"

11. How being poor can lead to a negative spiral of fear and self-loathing (posted June 30) "The study also reported a “negative self-stereotyping” effect, whereby people in long-term poverty absorbed the prevalent media stereotypes of people on benefits or facing unemployment as being “low in warmth and low in competence”."

12. Once Seed Was Planted, Chinese Headwear Fad Grew Like Weeds (posted October 7) YOU GUYS YOU GUYS YOU GUYS. There is a new trend in China where people appear to be growing tiny plants on the tops of their heads.

More photos here.
Have a good week!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Feminism 101: Gaslighting

Image source.
Feminism 101 is a series in which I define some of the terms that feminists like to throw around. My goal is to help those who are totally new to feminism understand what it's all about.

Today's entry: gaslighting

Gaslighting, as defined by Wikipedia, is "a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity." The name comes from the 1938 play "Gas Light", where an abusive husband often dimmed the gas lights in the house and when his wife pointed it out, he convinced her that she was just imagining it.

Basically, it means someone is telling you that the things you experienced are not real, that your memory is lying to you, that you can't trust your own mind.

(A few more links about gaslighting: Gaslighting Is a Common Victim-Blaming Abuse Tactic – Here Are 4 Ways to Recognize It in Your Life and 10 Things I wish I’d known About Gaslighting)

Gaslighting is a tactic used by abusers to weaken their victims, but it occurs in other situations too. Gaslighting occurs anytime someone tries to convince you "no that didn't really happen to you" or "no you don't really feel that way."

For example, there have been times when I was talking about how incredibly harmful purity culture is, and I was told, "No one was teaching that. You have Asperger's, so you always take things to extremes." This person would have me believe that the church tried to teach me a perfectly healthy, abstinence-based view of relationships, and then my Asperger's-brain invented purity culture.

Ha. Haha. NO.

(And here would be a good time to point out the intersection between gaslighting and mental health/ neurodiversity.)

I did not invent the idea that "guard your heart" means "be constantly worried that you like a boy 'too much'". I did not invent the idea of getting too "emotionally attached" to someone and "losing pieces of your heart". I did not invent the idea that if I break up with someone, I'm less pure than I was before the relationship started, so logically maybe it's better to stay in a bad relationship.

These are all things that purity culture explicitly teaches. These are all things that I have heard Christians say, or I have read in Christian books about how to date "God's way."

And yet, this person tried to gaslight me and claim "no one was teaching that."

The same thing is true for the topic of hell and evangelism. Apparently, the idea of being disrespectful to people in the name of evangelism is something my Asperger's-brain came up with, completely unwarranted by any church teaching.

Yeah, NO. I did not invent the doctrine of eternal, infinite torture for all non-Christians. I did not imagine Christians preaching "which is worse: a little awkwardness and the risk of losing a friendship, or your friend spending eternity in hell?"

In fact, I see this same gaslighting happen to a lot of people who grew up Christian and now are very critical of the church. Christians want to tell us "oh that's not what the church was REALLY teaching- you misunderstood!" Gaslighting. Gaslighting, all of it.

Back when I was "on fire for God," when I believed that crap 100% and lived every day of my life in devotion to it, they all thought it was so wonderful that I was bold and living for God. Nobody said a word about "actually I think this belief you have is too extreme and unhealthy." But now that I'm critical of those teachings, suddenly it's "no, we have never taught anything like that."

Gaslighting.

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

One more thing to add: this post, a response to a comic claiming that opposing marriage equality is about loving gay people, says this about gaslighting (emphasis mine):
He then uses this to revisit his original statement of beliefs and tell you that the things you thought were attacks on gay people actually aren’t. They’re signs of how much Adam loves you. As many other articles have said (and as I grew up hearing), true love doesn’t let gay people be gay. If you truly love them, you must pester them until they decide not to be gay anymore. That’s what articles like this mean, when they say that they love gay people: it means that they love them so much that they simply can’t allow them to live out their life unharassed, without being told constantly how much they’re hurting themselves. Because true love looks after their immortal soul.

There’s a term for telling people that the things they are experiencing as attacks aren’t, that they should instead take them as signs of love, and that they should doubt their entire perception of the world. It’s called gaslighting. And it’s mental abuse.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Trip to Hangzhou [photos]

Photos I took in 杭州 Hangzhou (for those of you unfamiliar with Chinese pronunciation, it's like "hong joe"), a city in 浙江 Zhejiang (umm... "juh jong") province.

The big attraction in 杭州 Hangzhou is 西湖 [xī hú] West Lake. It's really beautiful:


"请勿躺卧 Do Not Lie Down"
Plus a little symbol of a guy in a sexy "draw me like one of your French girls" pose


You can buy snacks and little toys and stuff here.







West Lake is a World Heritage site

Starbucks

Haagen-Dazs


This area is apparently called "Three Pools Mirroring the Moon"

So. I promise this is not a swastika. It is a Chinese character called 卍 (wàn) and here is a whole page about how this character comes from ancient Buddhism in India. That web page is in Chinese, here's one in English but with less information. Google Translate and any website where I've looked for an English definition say "swastika" but that's not what it means when you see it on some traditional Buddhist cultural site in China.
Anyway the point here is that the pavilion is shaped like a 卍 (wàn) and it means "all is at peace."




These next pictures are from a street full of little shops and stuff:


Cheap street food.

Snails.


Some sort of flat bread-ish thing, which is made by these guys pounding at it with mallets.

杭州 Hangzhou is nice~ I hope I can go again and see more of it sometime. ^_^

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