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Monday, February 29, 2016

Blogaround

An adorable doggie smelling flowers. Image source.
1. Sandra Bland Family's Suspicions Mount Amid Fight To Expose Death Evidence (posted February 18)

2. Donald Trump Says He’d Like to Punch Protester in the Face (posted February 23) He seems nice.

3. Taylor Swift Shows Her Support for Kesha With $250,000 Donation Amid Ongoing Legal Battle With Dr. Luke (posted February 22)

4. Atlas, The Next Generation (posted February 23) DAMN that is a nice robot.

5. People Are Finally Talking About The Thing Nobody Wants To Talk About (posted 2015) "'I started looking at the literature trying to understand why we still have this gap in schooling between girls and boys in lower-income regions.' There were a range of theories, but no one seemed to be paying attention to what struck Sommer as an obvious one: For girls, puberty means getting your period, and the schools she'd seen in Eritrea weren't exactly equipped for that. No toilets, no running water."

6. Why Is Kesha’s Abuse Being Used To Shame Taylor Swift? (posted February 22) "Guys can sit comfortably on the sidelines, tending their own careers and gazing into their own navels. No one expects them to care about sexual abuse, or about women, or even about the labor practices in their own industry."

7. Is Jane a Descendant of Belle?? (posted February 23) Wow. Someone has put a lot of work into this fan theory. There could actually be something to this.


8. Guest Post: Not a Nice Story (posted February 23) "We had 18+ years of being taught that we are worthless, that God cannot stand to look at us, that we killed Jesus, that our worth is in our virginity or how well we obey our parents, that who we are is dirty and sinful."

9. for the beauty of the earth (posted February 19) "It had never occurred to me that so much of what I thought of as “materialism” and “covetousness” could be a feature of my personality."

10. How “Inspiration Porn” Reporting Objectifies People With Disabilities (posted February 25) "There are many different versions, but teenagers with Down syndrome just living their lives often make for particularly compelling subjects for journalists looking to create viral stories using their stereotypical cuteness, sweetness, or angelic nature."

11. my sin is not just my own: systemic injustice and communal repentance (posted February 24) "We built and sustain the beast together, but saying the words: “We confess the sin of racism and the hatred toward people of color we have created” or “We repent of the violence against women we have caused with our words, beliefs, and inaction” ... seems incomprehensible for any of the churches I’ve attended." Wow. Same here.

12. How a Leading Christian College Turned Against Its Gay Leader (posted February 23) "The stories of the earnest students that sat in my office were sacred, and the people they yearn to please have sent a message that, at best, they might be kind of tolerated one day. If gays commit to never date or marry, if they keep their stories quiet, if they remain theologically conservative and they war against their gayness, then maybe they can kind of stick around. They probably won’t get a job on staff and there will certainly be special rules for them, but they might be tolerated someday." Lord have mercy.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

This Star Wars Fan Theory Is EXACTLY How Apologetics Works

Ponda Baba starts a fight with Luke Skywalker at Mos Eisley cantina. Image source.

Here is a Star Wars video which answers the question, “In ‘A New Hope’ when Obi-Wan cut off Ponda Baba’s arm, why was there blood?” No other lightsaber wounds bleed, because everyone knows the lightsaber cauterizes the wound.



Jongasm, the man in the video, first says, “A lot of people I know credit the bleeding to it happening in the first movie that was released and George Lucas and the writers not yet having established the science and physics behind lightsabers, but there might actually be a canonical explanation.” He then explains that Ponda Baba is part of an alien race which has some spider-like characteristics, so it may be the case that he has a completely different type of circulatory system from humans. Rather than narrow blood vessels transporting blood to all the parts of his body, he could have an open circulatory system, with large cavities of blood, like insects and spiders have. When humans are cut with a lightsaber, the blood vessels are completely cauterized because they are narrow. For Ponda Baba, not so much, and the blood in this huge blood cavity comes out.
Ponda Baba's bloody arm, after it's cut off by Obi-Wan. Image source.

And here’s my opinion: yeah, okay, this is a fun theory, but for real, George Lucas just hadn’t decided that lightsabers cauterize wounds yet. I really like the video, I love Star Wars and fan theories and over-analyzing things, but no, I don’t actually believe that explanation. Seems a bit far-fetched.

And I’m blogging about it because this is exactly how Christian apologetics works.

So you find something in the bible that doesn’t make sense. Maybe one particular detail in one bible story contradicts something from a different bible story. Oh no! It’s a huge problem! Real True Christians believe the bible is a collection of absolutely 100% true (and non-contradictory) statements, and anything that suggests this isn’t the case must be shot down.

Apologetics to the rescue!!!

So you search and analyze and research everything, and you decide this word didn’t exactly mean the exact thing that it would seem to mean, it meant a slightly different thing and therefore there is no contradiction. And you come up with some twisted and bizarre explanation which an unbiased observer would find so unlikely it’s laughable, but it is technically possible. Success!

That’s what “believing the bible” means.

You must never entertain the thought of considering the idea that, hey, maybe the bible was wrong here. You must find an in-universe explanation for everything.

R2-D2 and Obi-Wan work together throughout the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Then in Episode IV, R2-D2 is sent to find Obi-Wan, and when he does, Obi-Wan says, “I don’t seem to remember ever owning a droid” and seems to not recognize R2. This is CLEARLY because members of the Jedi order don’t own private property. All the droids belong to all the Jedi. So even though R2 and Obi-Wan were pretty much always together, technically Obi-Wan did not “own” him. So we should understand Obi-Wan’s statement “I don’t seem to remember ever owning a droid” to mean “as a Jedi, I do not technically own things” rather than “I’ve never seen this droid before.”

Yeah, okay. I find that just as likely as the existence of two different Goliaths, killed by different Israelite heroes.

Apologetics be like: In Genesis 1:26, God says “let us make man in our image”- so, who is “us”? Well some people would say that the writers of the bible hadn’t yet decided whether they believed in one god, or the universe was created by a group of gods. But! Not to worry, there could be an in-universe explanation! Later in the series, it is revealed that Jesus and the Holy Spirit were also present with God the Father at this time. Many fans actually refer to God as a “trinity”, though this word appears nowhere in the canon. So the “us” in Genesis 1:26 is God the Father, Son, and Spirit.

It’s fun. To assume that everything in the canon must be true, and follow that belief through whatever twisted logic it takes to make it work. It’s fun to read different fan interpretations and search through the source material for evidence that supports one theory or another. It’s fun to get caught up in little details- but don’t forget, none of this is real.

Or, actually, that’s not true. It is real. There’s a lot of truth in those stories. But you don’t find that truth by coming up with not-technically-impossible explanations for inconsistencies in the little details.

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See also this post about how the bible is like the Star Wars universe.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Now This Is Some High-Caliber Victim-Blaming

Ke$ha. Image source.

[trigger warning: rape and victim-blaming]

So, here's what's going on with Ke$ha: she says that her producer, Dr. Luke, drugged and raped her when she was 18, and also continued to abuse her after that. But because of her contract, she has to keep working with him. She challenged this in court, but the judge ruled that she could not get out of her contract.

As a feminist, I believe her, because statistically, women don't just make up rape accusations- in fact, it's much more common for rape victims to not report it because so often, victims aren't believed, or they're questioned about what they may have done to cause it, etc. And this case is interesting because it shows how acting "neutral"- not intervening to change Ke$ha's contract- would actually be harming the victim. Similarly, I have heard of situations where a person is raped by a roommate, and their landlord won't force the rapist to move out, so the victim ends up being the one who moves out, so they don't have to live with their rapist. This is something we need to think about when we talk about how to fight rape culture and make the world safer.

But anyway, I came across this pretty terrible video, called Kesha Cries in Court - After Realizing Selling Her Soul to Satan was Wrong Choice. Sounds super-compassionate, right? [sarcasm]



I mean, you don't have to watch the video, because it's so terrible. Here's the main point: Look how sad Ke$ha is. Well, that's what happens when you sell your soul to the devil.

Umm, okay then. It seems this person believes that the music industry is controlled by satan, and that by entering into a contract with Sony, Ke$ha sold her soul to the devil, which was obviously a bad choice and so OF COURSE it would end badly for her.

That's EXACTLY what victim-blaming is. When something bad happens to someone, and instead of caring about them, you say "see I told you it was a bad idea to do ABC, now look what's happened to you."

The creator of this video doesn't care about Ke$ha. Yeah, sure, he says he cares about her. But he doesn't. Instead, he cares about how this situation can be spun as evidence to support his ideas about how satan totally controls the music industry. He's happy to have an opportunity to say "I told you so."

The video says that this whole situation is Ke$ha's fault- she shouldn't have signed a music contract in the first place. THIS IS VICTIM-BLAMING. Nowhere does the video say that hey, maybe it's the accused rapist's fault. Maybe it's Sony's fault. Maybe it's the system that is forcing her to stay in the contract.

And instead of saying, "hey let's make the world safer for female musicians, so that they're able to sign contracts and be successful without the risk of being stuck with a rapist", the creator of the video wants to see bad things happen to Ke$ha, to show that his claims about satan were right.

It's a pretty good example of how someone's pet theory about "don't do ABC because bad things will happen to you" can be a motivation for victim-blaming.

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note: Okay let's just talk about the demon stuff a little bit. In my experience in Christian culture, nobody talked like the guy in the video. This is really really extreme and not normal for Christians, in my experience. [I'm saying this because I usually have examples on my blog where I say "a Christian said this, and it sounds really extreme and fringe, but actually it's totally consistent with everything about the Christian culture I used to be in- people just don't usually say it out loud." This is not one of those times.] Like, people in my church definitely believed in demons and shared anecdotes about how somebody tried to copy a spell in Harry Potter and then terrible things happened to them, but mostly the belief in demons was very vague and not often mentioned- I never heard anyone point to a specific event and say a demon caused it, or point to a specific person and say "this person is possessed by a demon", or warn against a specific action because that action could cause satan to come into your life. I know some people who talked about "spiritual warfare" a lot, and I was never sure if they literally believed that satan was personally affecting events in our lives, or what. It felt too ridiculous to actually say that out loud in order to ask them.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Blogaround

Three dogs cuddling together. Image source.

1. Gravitational waves make me glad I’m not a Christian anymore (posted February 12) "We’d have all of eternity to catch up on physics. Right now the important thing is staying faithful to God."

2. How Should We Understand Children’s Political Agency? (posted February 15) "I’m sorry, but this baby cannot be a Rubio “supporter.” This baby does not even know what a president is."

3. These "Mario Kart" Fans Turned A Real Mall Into Coconut Mall (posted February 18) NICE.

4. Apple opposes judge's order to hack San Bernardino shooter's iPhone (posted February 18) Read Apple's statement here.

5. Saeed Abedini and Franklin Graham Promote “Couples Counseling” to Reconcile the Abedinis. Because of Saeed’s Abuse, is This Counterproductive? (posted February 15) "I’ve seen Saeed’s language and approach before. It’s typical flowery manipulative abuser language meant to draw people to his side."

6. This generation has far too many ‘Ezras’ already, thanks (posted February 10) "When “pro-family” preachers turn to the Bible to collect proof-texts on divorce, they always seem to forget the “clear biblical teaching” of the final chapters of Ezra. For Ezra, divorce is not merely permitted — it’s mandatory. Divorce is commanded by God. And so is the abandonment of racially impure children."

7. Do Multicultural Churches Reinforce Racism? (posted February 9) "If the racial hierarchy that has developed over the past 500 years is condensed to the issue of, “Why are all the black people sitting together?” then having everyone sit side by side in the pews becomes the solution and not sitting side by side is the problem."

8. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Voting (posted February 14)

9. Albert Woodfox released from jail after 43 years in solitary confinement (posted February 19) "the prisoner finally escaped a form of captivity that has widely been denounced as torture, and that has deprived him of all meaningful human contact for more than four decades."

10. The ongoing Great Disappointment (posted February 16) "For Ryrie and for the many generations of Rapture prophets he belongs to, that passage is no longer a source of hope to comfort our sorrow. It’s not about death, but about the Rapture, and quoting it now would just add insult to injury by reminding us that Ryrie, by dying, has missed out on that Rapture."

11. If Hell Is Real, Why Did God Wait So Darn Long To Warn Us About It? (posted January 30) "Hell, with all of our modern images of what it’s like, simply doesn’t exist in the Old Testament. We think it does because some English translators now translate sheol as “hell,” which causes us to import modern concepts of hell into the text."

12. No, The Super Bowl Isn’t The Largest Sex Trafficking Event In The World (posted February 2)

13. Having It All Kinda Sucks (posted February 15) "It's like we all said hey, let's change the narrative for women, but not change anything else."

14. Abortion ban linked to dangerous miscarriages at Catholic hospital, report claims (posted February 18) "Doctors decided they would delay until the woman showed signs of sepsis – a life-threatening response to an advanced infection – or the fetal heart stopped on its own."

15. “Would we even be here if Julian Acox was white?” Race, self-defense and making of a murder charge (posted January 6) "Would the laws that protected George Zimmerman and Darren Wilson equally protect a young African-American male who used a firearm to protect himself and the two (white) women with him?"

16. For those of you who are American citizens living overseas: Time to think about how to get an absentee ballot!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Getting Engaged Isn’t Exactly a Thing in China

Jia Nialiang, a Chinese star, proposes to his girlfriend with a diamond ring. Image source.

I just got engaged to a Chinese guy, and suddenly everything is really confusing. Turns out that in Chinese culture, the process of getting married is so incredibly different from what we do in western countries that it’s practically unrecognizable to me.

The biggest difference is that in China, you don’t get the marriage certificate on the same day you have the wedding. Let me repeat: getting legally married and having a wedding are TWO SEPARATE EVENTS in China. (Usually they get the marriage license a few months before the wedding.)

Now obviously, when I first heard this fact a few years ago and I was going through the process of rejecting purity culture, my first thought was, “But how do they know when they’re supposed to have sex????!!!” I theorized that purity culture’s response to this would be that it doesn’t matter what the government thinks, you’re married when you stand in front of God and your friends and family and make your vows, and after that you’re allowed to have sex. (But maybe the fact that you’re married in a legal sense could be a source of temptation! Oh no!) (My boyfriend- now fiancé- was like “wait, you mean we would be married but wouldn’t be able to live together yet?” He was not a fan. Good thing I’m not in purity culture any more so this isn’t an issue.) Kind of like how Mary and Joseph were betrothed and that meant they couldn’t have sex yet, but legally they would need a divorce to break up.

Anyway, what I really want to know is, at what point do Chinese people consider themselves married? When they’re legally married, or when they have the wedding? My fiancé, Hendrix, said this just depends on people’s own opinions. When do you personally consider yourself to be married?

(My answer is, I’ll consider us married after the US wedding. [We’re having 2 weddings: US and China.] Well, that’s my answer now. It might change if I get tired of explaining to Chinese people “well technically we’re married but we’re not like, MARRIED MARRIED. You know?” because no, they don’t know.)

I heard one of my colleagues talking about “my wife” and he wears a wedding ring- but it turns out they haven’t held the wedding yet. I asked my fiancé if this is normal- would you use the words “husband” and “wife” after you get the marriage license but before the wedding? He said, yeah that’s normal, people do that.

This is shocking to me. Because what does the English word “wedding” mean? Isn’t it the event where a set of people becomes married to each other? Like, before the wedding, you are not married. After the wedding, you are married. In my mind, this is so essential to the definition of what a wedding is that I really think “wedding” is not exactly the correct translation of the Chinese word “婚礼 [hūn lǐ]”.

“Wedding” is definitely the BEST translation of “婚礼 [hūn lǐ]”, but … “婚礼 [hūn lǐ]” is not a wedding. It’s more like, holding a big celebration of the fact that we are already married. (Or maybe they get the marriage license after the wedding. Apparently that’s fine too. Apparently nobody in charge at the “婚礼 [hūn lǐ]” is even checking if the marriage is legally valid.)

In the US, if people go to the courthouse and get married, and then later have a party with family and friends, we call it a “reception.” But “婚礼 [hūn lǐ]” should DEFINITELY NOT be translated as “reception.” If people have a reception, well, that’s pretty rare- there must have been some kind of problem that made them decide to get the marriage license without having a big event around it. Maybe they really needed to get the spouse onto their health insurance plan. Maybe they were having huge fights with their families about planning the wedding, and they decided to just run off and elope and then have a party that would be less pressure and less work than a wedding. In English, a “reception” is less of a big deal than a “wedding,” and it’s not the normal route that people go. In China, a “婚礼 [hūn lǐ]” IS the big deal- equal to a wedding in terms of how much of a big deal it is. It is not the less-of-a-big-deal option, and it is not an unusual situation. No, “reception” would be a terrible translation of “婚礼 [hūn lǐ]”.

So I will always translate it as “wedding.” But it’s not. But it is. Translation is hard. “Wedding” is the closest word we have in English, but it’s not the same thing.

And let’s talk about engagement.

So the whole “buy a diamond ring and set up a huge romantic surprise and propose to her” is a western tradition. Not native to Chinese culture. But nowadays, some Chinese young people do this, because of influence from western culture. (Hendrix totally did this. He is so romantic and nice.) But ya know, people say “Chinese weddings have become very westernized” but I bet it’s in the same way that China does stuff like Christmas and Halloween- they copy the outward appearance of a tradition, but they don’t actually know how the tradition is actually done or what the meaning is. Like the time I showed a picture of my family’s Christmas tree, and somebody pointed at the presents and asked me if they were empty boxes or they actually had gifts inside. Yeah. Because all the Christmas tree displays in China are the fake ones in malls.

(Oh my goodness, I JUST REALIZED this is exactly what “cultural appropriation” means. You copy some other culture’s tradition, but you actually have no idea how it works, and then if somebody from that culture comes along and says “let’s do [thing that is very obviously a part of the tradition you think you’re doing]” people are like “what are you talking about? We’re not doing that, that’s ridiculous.” This is what white people do to all the other cultures. Wow. No wonder people are always writing blog posts about why cultural appropriation is bad.)

Yeah, so my point is, I’m sure modern Chinese weddings have a lot of elements that look like things from western weddings, but they’re used in a completely different way. So I’m quite skeptical when I ask someone to tell me about what a Chinese wedding is like and they say “modern weddings are really westernized” as if that completely answers my question.

Right okay, so what was I talking about? Oh, right, we got engaged, I have a diamond ring. So then for Chinese New Year, we went to see Hendrix’s relatives. When we saw one group of relatives, they treated us as if our relationship was the same as before. No “oh my goodness you guys are engaged now! Congratulations! Welcome to the family!” We talked with them about plans for weddings- but just practical stuff. It’s as if they don’t see getting a diamond ring as a huge massive event that completely changes the relationship.

Then we went to see a different group of relatives, and they treated me like I was already part of the family. They told their children to call me “舅妈 [jiù mā]” , which I’m just going to translate as “aunt” without going into the whole thing about Chinese words for family members, ahem, translation is hard, we’ve covered this, it doesn’t mean the same thing as “aunt”, but when Hendrix and I are married, that’s what I’ll be to them (mom’s cousin’s wife, if you really want to know).

So I asked Hendrix, why did the first group act as though nothing has changed, and the second group acted like we were already married? He said the first group knows we haven’t gotten the marriage license yet, and in Chinese tradition, getting engaged isn’t really a thing [or rather, to the extent that it's a thing, it's traditionally more along the lines of two families arranging a marriage], so for them, nothing really has changed. (Like I said, young people sometimes do the whole diamond-ring-proposal thing, but these were Hendrix’s aunts and uncles- their generation didn’t do that.) And the second group, they probably think we’ve already gotten the marriage license. Because it’s pretty normal to start telling people you’re getting married after you’ve already gotten the marriage license. So they probably think we already did.

Some people would do a diamond-ring-proposal, and some couples would just talk about it and talk with their families and decide to get married and then they can just go whenever they want and get the marriage license, and then after that they plan the wedding. (Oh and the man’s family buys gifts for the woman’s family, and the man is expected to own a home first before he’s marriage material, but I won’t get into those traditions. I’ll just say that this puts way too much pressure on Chinese men, and as a feminist I don’t think it should be that way.)

One more fun story: so we also hung out with some of Hendrix’s friends from school, and talked about wedding plans. They asked when we’re planning to get the marriage license, and when we’re planning to have the wedding. And he told them! I was surprised- I had kind of assumed that people wouldn’t really be so public about the fact that the wedding and the legal start of the marriage were at different points in time. Like it’s a “dirty little secret” that we are actually married before the wedding.

I mean, that’s EXACTLY what I plan to do for the US wedding. I’m totally not going to publicize the fact that we’ll already be legally married in China. People would be like “so this isn’t even a real wedding? Why did we come all the way here?” I mean, if people ask for details about how marriage works in China, I’ll tell them, but other than that, no Americans need to know.

Why on earth did I assume Chinese people would see it the same way? No, for them this is totally normal. This is how it works. The wedding is NOT the day you get legally married- that’s not what a “婚礼 [hūn lǐ]” is. Everybody knows that.

I’m still really confused about how this all works. I’ll be figuring it out all through the next year. It’ll be an adventure.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

So apparently getting “left behind” is good and my mind is blown

A guy on a park bench, pretending to be surprised as he looks at clothes with what appears to be smoke rising out of them. Image text says, "behold, I come quickly". Image source.

Y’all. If you grew up in American evangelical culture, you MUST read this post by the Slacktivist (Fred Clark): Pray that you will be among those ‘left behind’.

So. As it turns out, in Matthew 24 when Jesus says, “Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left,” “taken” means they died in some terrible disaster. “Left” means they survived. “Taken” is bad. “Left” is good.

Clark says this:
There’s nothing ambiguous at all about this passage as written. Getting taken, or robbed, or swept away is Bad. Being left — left alone and left behind — is Good.

Absolutely nothing in the text itself suggests reading it the other way around. That reading — Norman’s interpretation, and Hal Lindsey’s and Tim LaHaye’s and John Hagee’s and Rafael Cruz’s — would never occur to anyone approaching this text unless that person were already, prior to reading it, committed to the Rapture mythology of PMD “Bible prophecy” folklore. Only someone like Irene Steele, caught up in the fantasy of “Jesus coming back to get us before we die,” could come away from this text thinking that getting swept away was something desirable and that getting left behind was something grim.

This is one of the two cornerstone biblical passages cited as teaching the “Rapture,” but as you can see, it teaches nothing of the sort. You can’t read the idea of the Rapture out of this text, you can only try to read the Rapture into it. You simply cannot go to Matthew 24 and find there any credible support for the idea that Christians should wait and long and pray for the day when they get swept away in the flood, just like all those favored with destruction and death in the days of Noah.

And my mind is blown.

I remember one time at a bible study in college, when we studied the parallel passage in Mark, and the bible study leader told us, “For this passage, we can’t really figure out the meaning just by discussing it like usual, I have to tell you about some history. [talks about the destruction of the temple in AD 70]” Which was really good. For some parts. But somehow I never extended that line of interpretation to the “one will be taken and the other left” bit; I never imagined that it means that the taken one DIED and that’s BAD.

(Actually, at this point we could talk about death and heaven and things like that. If dying means you go to heaven, then isn’t death actually good? But if we all believed that, we would totally kill ourselves. So no, the vast majority of people do not literally believe that life after death is WAY BETTER than life now. [Or they believe in some technicality like 'if you kill yourself you don't go to heaven.'] But… I mean, Christianity has to include something about hope after death, right? After death should be something good enough that we can have a little bit of optimism when someone dies, but not so good that we actually think it would be a good idea to kill ourselves/other people. So. Hmm. I mean personally I believe the whole world will be resurrected, which is a much more optimistic belief than this balancing act I seem to be requiring here. Hmm.)

So I reread all of Matthew 24, and there are some other bits that very much say to me “this is CLEARLY about the end of the world and the rapture.” Like “…and then the end will come” and “[the Son of Man] will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” But what if it’s not the end of the world, but the end of life as we know it (and then after that, we adapt and life goes on)? What if it’s not gathering good Christians and taking them directly to heaven, but survivors of the disaster coming together and becoming stronger as they help each other survive?

Yeah. As I’ve said before, people coming out of evangelicalism need somebody to teach us how to read the bible all over again.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Blogaround

A yellow lab who believes itself to be stuck under a laundry basket. Image source.

1. Law of Kindness: how Christianity affects my ethics (posted February 5) "There’s a mental separation I have to live with: as a public citizen, as a voter, as a member of interfaith communities and activism movements, I’m not a pacifist. I believe that mandating pacifism on oppressed peoples is another act of violence against them. I think that enforcing standards like “be kind” or “stay calm” or “tolerate ignorant shitheads” onto trauma survivors can re-victimize them all over again."

2. Why the “God Is a Father and Must Punish His Children” Defense of Hell Makes No Sense to Me (posted February 9) "A lot of justifications of hell revolve around seeing God as a parent who must punish his wayward children. But here’s the thing—I don’t punish my children."

3. Beyoncé's Formation reclaims black America's narrative from the margins (posted February 8) Also, watch Beyonce's Superbowl performance here.

4. A request from your fat friend: what I need when we talk about bodies. (posted February 7) "Every discussion about bodies — whether in the media or amongst friends — is about how to avoid the horrible fate of looking like me."

5. Cam Newton, the Super Bowl, and Racist Stereotypes Against a Black Quarterback (posted February 6) "A white reporter demanding that a black quarterback answer for white stereotypes against black quarterbacks points to the power structures of racism in American culture. Black people must answer for racism? Really?"

6. Beyoncé is Not Racist or ‘Anti-Cop’/ And Neither were the Black Panthers (posted February 10)

7. Here Is Why Only Women Showed Up to the Senate After Snowmageddon (posted January 27) "Because if you’re not a white dude, you basically have to prove everything. Forever."

8. Gravitational waves, Einstein’s ripples in spacetime, spotted for first time (posted February 11) "The observation tests Einstein’s theory of gravity, the general theory of relativity, with unprecedented rigor and provides proof positive that black holes exist." Cool!

9. Peyton Manning’s squeaky-clean image was built on lies, as detailed in explosive court documents showing ugly smear campaign against his alleged sex assault victim (posted February 13) Oh my god. [trigger warning, sexual assault]

10. The Truth About Hymens And Sex (video) "Our bodies don't come with built-in virginity detectors, and sex isn't 'supposed to'' hurt the first time."

11. Christian Ed: Not Quite Dead? (posted February 13) "The problem with Christian colleges ... is the conviction that thinking the right things is what defines us as faithfully Christian. And so we create lists of things we have to think in order to play on one particular playing field. The problem with this is that the whole point of academic pursuit is the expansion of knowledge. And if knowledge is expanding, it will always come at the expense of what we thought we knew before."

12. How I Was Moved To Support Same-Sex Marriage In The Church (posted February 4) "For 13 years I was mostly on board with leaders who maintained that marriage was between a man and a woman, assuming they were onto something I was missing."

13. Doing Christianity “Jewishly”: Asking all the hard questions (posted January 25)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Cheerios. A lot of Cheerios.

When you’re an American living in China, you go back to the US for Christmas.

When you go back to the US for Christmas, you experience so much reverse culture shock (“YOU GUYS! THERE ARE BAGELS HERE! LOOK!!!!!! AND OHMYGOODNESS CHEESE!!!!!!!!!!”) and eat so much American food.

When you eat American food, you decide to take some back to China with you.

When you decide to take American food back to China, you buy a box of Honey Nut Cheerios, take the inside bag out of the box, put the bag of Cheerios in your suitcase, and bring it back to China.

When you bring Honey Nut Cheerios back to China, you eat them for breakfast every morning.

When you eat Honey Nut Cheerios every morning, pretty soon you run out.

When you run out, you start searching for Chinese websites where you can buy Cheerios online.

When you start searching Chinese websites to buy Cheerios online, you end up ordering a huge box and paying 130 kuai for it.

And that’s how I spent 20 bucks on Cheerios.

Have you ever seen a box of Cheerios this big? Actually it is two boxes stuck together.
Two "super jumbo" boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios.

Here is a cat for scale:
Honey Nut Cheerios boxes, plus an adorable cat.

And even though the website listed it as imported from the US, the back of the box is all in French. So, I just don’t even know.
"Cheerios au miel et aux noix."

So worth it.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

He's Not "My Future Husband"

A blind date. Apparently. Image source.

me: “Hey babe… so… in purity culture, girls are supposed to write letters to their ‘future husband’… so… I wrote some, a long time ago.”
fiancé: “Ooh! I want to see!”
me: “No, I don’t think you do. They’re all about how I know that you love Jesus more than anything.”

So. Hendrix and I got engaged. Which means that in the future, he will be my husband. But he’s not “my future husband.” Because for me, that phrase- “my future husband”- is all about purity culture. It means much much more than “a person who will be my husband in the future.” It means “the perfect Christian guy that God chose for me, whom I’m working so hard to stay pure for.”

And that’s not Hendrix at all. Hendrix is NOT “my future husband.”

And now that I think about it, it’s incredibly bizarre to have pre-teen girls writing letters to “their future husbands.” (Ahem, full disclosure: I wrote maybe 2 or 3 such letters when I was in college, that’s all.) Like, why on earth would anyone assume that you could know anything about the kind of relationship you would have in the future, the kind of person you would decide to marry, the kind of person you would be at that point in your life? Ah, because in purity culture, people don’t grow and change and discover what kind of person they are and what they want, nope, in purity culture, we have a set of rules which are the rules FOR EVERYONE. No matter who you are, purity culture is confident that following these specific rules will be the best possible thing for you. (Also, this plays right into the idea that the entire purpose of a woman’s life is to get married, and her “pre-married” life is all about looking forward to that marriage and preparing for it. Because purity culture doesn’t understand the concept of time. You must always be loyal to your husband, whether it’s your present husband or a hypothetical future husband you haven’t even met, who may or may not exist.)

It’s kind of cute and fun to read something your romantic partner wrote back before you met, or see pictures from when they were a kid. This is not that. This is not “oh look how cute you were back then!” This is “I seriously believe that, at 12/15/18/20 years old, I have something meaningful to say to the person I will eventually marry, even though I don’t know who that is.”

Furthermore, I very much believe that all communication must be based on some level of common understanding between the two parties communicating. There must be a shared language, assumptions that the other person agrees with you on certain basic concepts, etc. This is most apparent when I’m trying to explain something and I have THE PERFECT words to explain it, except that I’m in China and I’m pretty sure my listener is not familiar with those particular English words, and therefore they are NOT the perfect words to explain it. Those words would actually be completely useless for communication in this case. In other words, you have to know your audience. This is also one of the main reasons I don’t pray very much- I don’t want to assume that God agrees with me about this topic or that topic (remember back when I believed all that bullshit propaganda about how “homosexuals” are “destroying the family” and I prayed against LGB rights, assuming that God also believed the bullshit propaganda? Yeah, I never want to do anything like that again), and if I can’t assume anything about the other party’s opinions, then it’s impossible to have meaningful communication with them.

Same thing with “my future husband.” I had to assume a lot of things about what kind of person he would be, how he had specific opinions about religion and about purity. I had to assume I “knew my audience” in order to write to him. Of course, in purity culture all those things are obvious- of course we already know what sort of person we will marry. Of course we already know what his (oh by the way it’s definitely a man, in purity land everyone is straight) opinions are on religion and purity.

Spoiler: yeah, Hendrix does NOT believe those particular things about religion and purity. And so, what I wrote back then fails spectacularly to communicate with Hendrix. They are not letters for him. They are for someone else who, it turns out, doesn’t exist. (I’m totally going to let him read them though. Uh, except those letters are on the other side of the earth, at my parents’ house. Stay tuned for a follow-up blog post after he reads them at Christmas 2016, I guess.)

The letters I wrote back then were for “my future husband”, a completely different person from my real-life fiancé.

The most important quality about “my future husband” is that he is a Christian, and not just a Christian, but a REAL Christian, totally 100% dedicated to Jesus.

My fiancé doesn’t believe in God.

“My future husband” is proud to say he loves Jesus more than he loves me.

If I told my fiancé about the whole “you know somebody is a really good husband if he loves Jesus more than he loves you” thing, he would probably be shocked.

“My future husband” is very very concerned about what romantic or sexual experiences I have before meeting him. He believes that I owe all those experiences to him, and anything I did with another guy takes away from our marriage.

My fiancé was a bit baffled when I asked him if we should describe to each other, in careful detail, exactly “how far” we have gone in the past. (Because, you know, you need to quantify how pure you are.) Yeah, so we ended up not doing that.

“My future husband” feels very hurt that I had crushes on guys in high school, that I dated in college, that I said “I love you” to a guy, that I kissed a guy, etc.

My fiancé thinks all of that is normal and not a big deal.

“My future husband” will be my spiritual leader.

My fiancé doesn’t think I need a leader, that I can make my own decisions about what I believe and whether I go to church or not. And he knows Christianity is really important to me, and he supports the decisions I make.

God will direct the events of our lives such that “my future husband” and I meet each other and start dating. God will give the okay for us to get married.

My fiancé and I chose each other.

“My future husband” is very concerned that we follow the purity rules and stay away from temptation and not do anything remotely sexual. And definitely not live together, that’s probably the worst sin in purity land.

My fiancé and I live together and, well I won’t tell you any details beyond that. ;)

“My future husband” is DEFINITELY a man. And probably white. He can definitely read the letters I wrote in English to him.

My fiancé is a Chinese man. He speaks English really well. ^_^

“My future husband” doesn’t exist.

My fiancé does. Hooray!

And can we also talk about the phenomenon that is praying for one’s “future husband”? Like, it only makes sense if the girl who’s praying is going to get married, to a man, exactly one time. What about women who never marry? Or who marry a woman or non-binary person? Or who get married more than once? Like, what does God do when they pray for their “future husband”? (And this is completely ignoring the whole question of free will and whether God knows the future.) If purity-culture Christians believe God really does listen to prayer and perform actions in the real world in response to prayer, then what does God do when someone for whom “my future husband” is not a well-defined term prays for their “future husband”? God just goes “this prayer doesn’t even make any sense, I can’t do anything with it” or what? Remember what I said about communication? Your prayer is based on the assumption that “my future husband” is one specific person that God knows. What if God doesn’t hold that assumption? Then your prayer is meaningless and you’ve completely failed to communicate with God.

(A note to those Christians who would like to take the “you’re taking this too literally” route: so, do you believe God actually listens and responds to prayers, or not? Do you believe that God takes every prayer seriously and acts on it or at least answers in some way (maybe with “no”)? Maybe not every prayer, just some prayers? How does it all work, exactly? And what does God do with the prayers that, unbeknownst to the pray-er, make no sense? Maybe God is like “yeah I understand the emotion behind this, at least your heart’s in the right place”, something like that? Maybe most of our prayers make no sense and that’s why we need the whole “groans which words cannot express” thing.)

Seriously, though. I used to be so sure about what kind of person “my future husband” would be. But now I’m glad I’m going to marry Hendrix instead.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Blogaround (and Happy Chinese New Year!!!)

A Chinese-style image of a monkey, with the words "猴年吉祥 2016 Happy New Year." Image source.
Happy year of the monkey, everyone! Last night was the big night- Chinese New Year! And here are the links for this week:

1. The Three Letter Word Missing From the Zika Virus Warnings (posted February 3) "Rather than telling women to “avoid pregnancy” in the manner of avoiding a pothole, why are none of these assorted agencies telling men to stop having procreative sex until we know more about Zika? Why does the very suggestion of any government recommending men to practice abstinence for two years seem like a joke?"

2. Iowa Caucus Results: 6 Things That Explain How It Happened (posted February 2)

3. Unpublished Black History. "Every day during Black History Month, we will publish at least one of these photographs online, illuminating stories that were never told in our pages and others that have been mostly forgotten."

4. Slaves in the hands of an angry white God (posted January 26) “Because every other thing I’ve read about that famous pastor’s famous sermon approaches it from the pretense that it is insignificant and not worth mentioning that this is the sermon of a slave-owner delivered at a time when the northern colonies were gripped with the fear of slave revolts. And the contention that none of that had any influence on Edwards, on Edwards’ theology, or on his composition and delivery of this particular sermon, is more outlandishly absurd and patently false than anything suggested in that unreliable essay.”

5. Donald Trump Accidentally Sat Through A Sermon About Welcoming Immigrants (posted January 25)

6. Donald Trump and a Tale of Two Gospels (posted January 28) “This is the gospel of Donald Trump, his “good news” to Christian voters: Stick with me and you’ll be a winner. Stick with me and I’ll give you power, protection, prestige. It’s also the very thing Satan promised Jesus when he tempted him in the desert.”

7. Naghmeh Abedini, Franklin Graham, and the Silencing of Evangelical Abuse Victims (posted February 3) “Meanwhile, both of them have positioned the restoration of the couple’s marriage as a victory from God and the destruction of their marriage as a victory for Satan. In other words, if Naghmeh decides to make the separation permanent, she will have allowed Satan to win. Think, for a moment, about the impossible position in which that puts Naghmeh.”

8. These “Legal Rape” Advocates Cancelled Their Plans Because They Didn’t Feel Safe At Night (posted February 4)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Brace Yourselves, Wedding Posts Are Coming

A bride using a laptop. Image source.


So, I got engaged! Yay! For the purposes of blogging, my fiance has decided he wants to use the name Hendrix, so that's what y'all can call him. (I tried to convince him to use a nerdy math name like me, like Fermat's Little or Countable Infinity or The Set Of All Sets That Do Not Contain Themselves, but no luck. Or Mersenne Prime, except that's a little bit too, ahem, explicit.) Go ahead and start cross-stitching your "Perfect Number + Hendrix 4ever" pillows.

So now that I'm thinking about weddings and marriage, I suddenly have a ton of things to blog about. Here are some topics I plan to cover:
  1. Purity culture. When you get that engagement ring on your finger, that's when you can finally stop guarding your heart. That's when you can finally fully love a romantic partner. And then the wedding- and the wedding night- that's what us purity culture girls all dreamed about and looked forward to, all those lonely nights we spent because we weren't allowed to love. Um, yeah... I plan to blog about everything that happens differently from the myth that purity culture promised. (Check back next week for a post called "He's Not 'My Future Husband.'")
  2. Feminism. So, making a wedding feminist is an interesting task. So many traditions are based on the whole "the woman is property being given to the man" sort of thing. But people (including me) really love a lot of those traditions, so I don't want to just get rid of anything that has roots in patriarchy. Like for example, I'm sure my dad really really really wants to walk me down the aisle, so we'll do that. But there will be no talk of "giving me away."
  3. Chinese culture. So Hendrix is Chinese and we're going to do 2 weddings- one in China, one in the US. Traditional Chinese weddings are very different from anything I would have imagined when hearing the word "wedding." So, we'll have to figure out that whole thing. And I'm sure I will have a lot of things to say about the different cultural expectations about weddings and marriage. Like for example, in the US, when a woman gets engaged, everyone is like "oh my goodness let me see the ring! How did he ask?" and they want to hear some super-romantic story. In China, not so much.
  4. All the fun and chaos that is wedding planning. Yeah. Fun and chaos and gender essentialism and cultural expectations. Like it's assumed that the bride is going to plan the whole thing and the grooom's just going to nod along. And how people always say "it's the happiest day of your life" as if that's just axiomatically true- uh, what the heck? That's ridiculous. The wedding should be a pretty good day, possibly the best day, but not definitely the best day. This whole "it's the happiest day of your life" myth puts a ton of pressure on you to be happy or else you're being a bride wrong, and if some details don't work out perfect then you'll be all worried that you've ruined "the happiest day of your life." And after that, the rest of your life will be all downhill. Yeah, that's just so absurd it's laughable. (Pretty much as laughable as "your virginity is the most precious gift you can give your husband." lolololol why would anyone say that? [note: yeah I totally used to believe that])
  5. Marriage. So I'm realizing that marriage is A REALLY BIG DEAL. Like, we're deciding to spend our whole lives togther. Wow. In purity culture it's just assumed that everyone's going to get married- but wow, I mean WOW getting married is a HUGE decision.
So to all my wonderful readers, thanks for reading and being awesome! I'm excited to write about all the stuff I learn about weddings and marriage. <3

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

This is so much like me in purity culture it's kind of freaky

Drawing of a girl and boy who seem to have a crush on each other. Image source.

Libby Anne at Love, Joy, Feminism has been doing a review of the book  "Anonymous Tip" by Michael Farris. It's a book which was apparently written to show homeschoolers how Child Protective Services is evil and wants to take away their kids. In the story, Gwen is a mother whose daughter, Casey, was taken away, and her lawyer, Peter, is helping her get Casey back. Peter is a Good Christian Man, and Gwen is beautiful... and you guys, the way Peter's thoughts and feelings about Gwen are portrayed in this book is EXACTLY the way I felt back when I was in purity culture and I had crushes on guys.

Like, I'm kind of shocked at how perfectly this matches what I felt.

Let's see some examples!

1. From Anonymous Tip: In Which Peter Says Too Much:

Gwen's first lawyer, Bill, sexually harrassed her. When she meets Peter and he offers to take her case, she wants some kind of assurance that he's not also going to try to take advantage of her. Here's what he says:
“I believe that the Bible teaches that as a single man I am unable to marry a woman who was divorced under circumstances like yours. Not all born-again Christians believe this. But I do. So because of that . . . ”

He paused for a moment, looked down briefly, and continued, “Because of that I would never begin to pursue a relationship with you. I would like to be your lawyer and your friend, but . . . nothing more. I shouldn’t’ have brought this all up. I just wanted you to know that you could trust me to do you a favor without an ulterior motive. OK?”
I... what? What? What? This is in the context of a lawyer-client professional relationship. Why would he say that?

(As someone on the internet once said, "If this red flag was any bigger, China would slap 5 stars on it and claim it was visible from space.")

But this is SO what I was like in purity culture. Completely missing the point when relationships came up in conversation, saying bizarre, overly-personal stuff that left normal people like "what?"

Like the time I told a friend he needed to be careful that he and his girlfriend were "safe" and when he asked what that meant, I said they should make sure not to get "too emotionally attached." Which is a completely normal thing to say in purity culture, but he had no idea what I was talking about.

Or the time some guy I barely knew from high school asked me out, and I said no, and I gave him this whole long explanation about how I would only date a Christian guy who puts God first in everything, and I pray for God's direction about who to date, etc. Like... no, you don't need to say all that. If you're not interested in someone, you can just say no, and you don't owe anyone an explanation. (Related: purity culture teaches girls to make decisions based on the rules and what God says- but you are never supposed to consider your own feelings or what you want. It leads to feeling like we should at least "give him a chance" if we're not able to present a logical argument about why we are not interested in dating some guy.)

Or when I was at training for my TA (teaching assistant) job in college, and there were some ethical questions we were supposed to discuss, and one was what do you do if you want to date a student in the class you are TAing? And my first thought was I would get on my knees and pray about it, because dang, being in a relationship is some super-serious dangerous stuff, and I'm only doing it if God clearly gives approval. And no, I did not say any of that out loud. (Related: Though I would definitely take seriously the ethical issue of dating somebody whose grades I control, and what the university's rules were for that situation, God's yes or no would supercede that.)

So here we have Peter, who seems to be a purity-culture Christian and doesn't know how to just respond like a normal person and say "I'm a lawyer and it would be unethical for me to be romantically involved with a client." Instead he says a bunch of very personal stuff about the kind of woman he is allowed to marry and how Gwen doesn't meet that standard. Like, what the heck? Creepy.

2. From Anonymous Tip: Sir Peter the Handsome:

Peter agrees to take Gwen's case, and goes to meet her at work:
Presently Gwen Landis came striding down the hall in her nursing whites. Peter couldn’t help staring at her. A smile broke out on his face involuntarily. And with the smile, there came a momentary pang of spiritual conviction. He realized that he was not guarding his heart very well. Not only was Gwen divorced, but he had no reason to assume she was a believer. He had very strict standards and had not dated a nonbeliever in years. He focused his mind quickly on his legal mission, and greeted Gwen with a mix of warmth and professionalism.
OH MY GOODNESS. This. Exactly this. This is what "guarding your heart" feels like. You have a momentary feeling of attraction to someone, and then you squash it as hard as you can and feel really guilty about it. Because you have very strict rules from God about the kind of person you are allowed to be attracted to.

3. From Anonymous Tip: Peter Makes His Move:

Peter invites Gwen to his church. Then this:
As he walked to the elevator, he said to himself, “It’s evangelism. It’s not a date. It’s evangelism.” Then he thought of Aaron and Proverbs 21:2: All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart. He hit the heel of his hand on the elevator door. I don’t know. I just don’t know what is going on inside of me.
Y'all. I have TOTALLY had the "it's evangelism, it's not a date" debate with myself. See, back when I was a Real True Christian, two of the most important areas in which I demonstrated my total devotion to God were purity culture and evangelism. Purity culture says "don't be too friendly with the opposite sex, because you might start to like them and then lose part of your heart/purity, or you'll lead them on and then it'll be your fault." Evangelism says "you need to do everything you possibly can to talk to people and try to convince them to become Christians. It doesn't matter if it's risky or socially unacceptable or seems like a really bad idea. Heaven and hell are at stake here!"

So, do I invite a guy friend to read the bible with me, or not? Maybe it's God giving me this great evangelism opportunity! Or maybe I'm "leading him on" and he's getting the wrong idea and everyone's going to think there's "something going on" with us.

(To add further unhealthy elements to the situation: In purity culture, you're not allowed to date someone or express any interest in them without approval from God. So the only way for a girl who's really really interested in boys to get any kind of romantic anything is to have a boy like her and then she rejects him. You guys, I spent so much time having worried conversations with friends about "what if he likes me? What if I'm giving him the wrong idea? Should I keep meeting with him for bible study or not?" and a big part of it was that I wanted to be desired. I wanted to talk and talk and talk about the possibility that a boy might like me, because in purity culture, that's the closest to romance that I could get and still be "pure." I wasn't even attracted to him or interested in dating him- I just wanted to be wanted.)

Libby Anne points out that in Peter's case, he is Gwen's lawyer, so there should be no evangelism OR dating going on. Yep.

4. From Anonymous Tip: In Which Lingering Eyes Make Peter Forget All His Doctrine:

Peter brings Gwen to church. Aaron, his accountability partner (because of course he has an accountability partner) expresses concern:
Aaron and Lynn rushed over to Peter and Gwen immediately after the last song. Lynn struck up a friendly conversation with Gwen. Aaron turned to Peter and whispered, “Who is she?”

“She’s my new client you told me to witness to.”

Aaron had been watching Peter watching Gwen during the service.

“You’d better be careful,” was all Aaron could say without prolonging the side conversation.
Yep, because in purity land, beautiful women are DANGEROUS. They tempt good godly men, just by existing as beautiful women. Be careful.

5. From Anonymous Tip: In Which Bruises Are Not Abuse:

And then, here are some of Peter's thoughts as their non-relationship develops:
“Me too,” Peter said, again pulling his gaze away from her face. I’ve got to stop staring at her, he told himself. But he didn’t. Finally, looking down at his desk, feeling convicted in his spirit, he said, “Well, I’d better get to work.”
I'd like to point out how out-of-control Peter feels here. He's attracted to Gwen, he likes looking at her, and he believes this makes him a dirty sinner, locked in a battle to guard his heart, and losing badly. Cascading out of control down the slippery slope full of all kinds of temptation and before you know it, you've had sex and lost all your purity because you couldn't control yourself.

I totally felt like this, back in my guard-your-heart days. I couldn't stop myself from having feelings and romantic attraction. And I was so scared- it meant I couldn't control myself. And if I couldn't control myself in this area, who knew what other sin I was capable of? Merely noticing someone was attractive was a HUGE CRISIS.

All right, reality check. It is totally normal and okay to be attracted to someone. That's out of your control. But you are definitely able to control your actions. You are 100% capable of liking someone but NOT acting creepy toward them, NOT asking them out, NOT touching them, etc etc etc. That is what normal people do. But purity culture taught me it was all one huge slippery slope and I wouldn't be able to control myself- and then I found yes, it's true, I'm not able to control my feelings of attraction. OH NO! PANIC!

6. From Anonymous Tip: In Which Peter Has Second Thoughts

After winning the case, Peter is sad that he won't have an excuse to see Gwen again:
The legal victory was bittersweet. He had poured his heart and soul into winning, but winning meant less contact with Gwen. That thought was both disappointing and troubling. He was disappointed because he wanted to keep seeing her. Yet he was troubled because he knew his desires did not mesh with the lessons he believed the Bible taught. Gwen was not a believer. But Peter believed that her spiritual condition might well change anytime. Her status as a divorcee was unchangeable—absent the unlikely possibility Gordon [Gwen's ex-husband] would drink himself to death sometime soon.
WHAT?

"Absent the unlikely possibility that Gordon would drink himself to death sometime soon."

Excuse me, WHAT?

Peter believes that he can't marry a woman who was divorced without "biblical grounds." (The book emphasizes that not all Real True Christians believe this, though.) Basically the only way he and Gwen can be together is if Gordon dies, because then Gwen would be a widow and it's okay to marry a widow but not to marry a divorcee.

This is what happens when something like having sex is treated as a life-and-death issue. Pretty soon you end up inserting the concept of death into situations where it totally should not be. You get people imagining hypothetical situations where somebody is threatened with death if they don't "give up their purity" and have sex, and everyone gives their opinion on which would be worse: to not be a virgin, or to be dead. [Ahem. This would be rape. Even if the victim says "yes" it does NOT count as consent if they're being threatened.] You get stories of pastors who tell rape victims "too bad he didn't kill you, at least you would have still been a virgin." You get girls who believe their lives are ruined- who don't think it's even worth trying to escape from their abuser, because what's the point? They're worthless now anyway.

And then there was me, super-angry upon discovering a vent in the bathroom of my college dorm which maybe would allow somebody in the next room over to look through and see into our bathroom. So so so angry because what if a boy saw me, then knowledge about my body would be out there in the world, rather than saved for only my future husband- unless of course I killed the random boy who happened to look through the bathroom vent (doesn't matter if it was an accident or what). Yep, then I would still be pure.

For Peter, divorce is not an acceptable way to end a marriage (unless there's adultery, I assume- then God allows divorce), but death is. DOES NO ONE REALIZE HOW COMPLETELY MESSED-UP THIS IS? In the real world, divorce is awful and it sucks, but it gets better. Life goes on. And hopefully you end up much better off than you were in the bad marriage. Divorce is not the end of your life. But in purity culture, it is. (Actually, purity culture says just breaking up with your boyfriend is pretty much the end of your life- divorce would be unimaginable.)

So here's Peter, sort-of-not-exactly hoping that a person DIES, because the rules say that's the only way he can get with Gwen.

7. From Anonymous Tip: Aaron Gives Peter a Talking To:

Peter tells Aaron that, though earlier he had made a commitment not to marry a divorced woman, he's now starting to wonder if that's REALLY the rule that the bible teaches.
“So, you’ve got a different kind of issue than pure scriptural interpretation. You’ve reached a conviction in the past about the meaning of Scripture and made a commitment to God based on that understanding. And now, when a very attractive alternative interpretation of Scripture comes on the scene, you are rethinking your convictions. I don’t think that’s the way that God wants us to operate. Sure, there are times we should change our views. None of us interprets Scripture with one-hundred-percent accuracy. But I don’t believe that we should change our convictions in the heat of the moment—especially when the reason for the change is not some new insight from Scripture, but simply a very attractive temptation to vary what we have believed.”

Peter sighed deeply and fiddled with his coffee cup. “I was afraid you were going to say something like that. You’re probably right.”

“Well,” Aaron replied, “I don’t feel that it is appropriate for me to give you a blanket answer about divorce. If God changes your mind, that’s one thing. But if it is a beautiful woman responsible for the change, I fear you set a very dangerous spiritual precedent in your life.”

“Well thanks—I think,” Peter said with a weak smile.
This line of thinking is SO dangerous.

Here's what's going on: Peter believes it would be wrong to marry a divorced woman. But now that he's interested in Gwen, he's thinking maybe he was wrong, maybe it would be okay for him to marry a divorced woman. Aaron warns him that he must not change his beliefs based on his situation- he can only change if God tells him.

In other words, purity culture teaches that we must form our beliefs before we have any real-world experience, because real-world experience is temptation and it will make us biased and just want to do what feels good and what's easy, rather than what God really wants.

So you end up with girls who haven't even entered puberty yet, making vows that they won't kiss a boy until the pastor says "you may now kiss the bride" at their wedding. They don't know anything about sex. They don't know anything about kissing. All they know is that God apparently wants them to be pure by not doing ANYTHING until the wedding.

And then when they grow up and start dating and end up kissing a boy, purity culture judges them. Look at how they broke their promises. They were alone with a boy and there was just too much temptation and they sinned. Oh, if only they had believed in that promise even harder before entering a romantic relationship! If only they had avoided any situation which might enable them to learn actual information about kissing and their own desires- ahem, er, avoided temptation.

It is my firm belief that people do not break their purity pledges because of temptation. They break their purity pledges because they realize that those pledges were based on misinformation.

Or, here's another example: I used to make lists of the characteristics I was looking for in a "future husband." I was very careful to divide everything into 3 categories: things that were absolutely essential, things that were maybe not absolutely 100% essential but it might be a red flag if the guy didn't have them, and preferences. I did this because I did not trust myself to objectively evaluate a guy if I had a crush on him. Surely I would just say "oh he doesn't meet this requirement, but eh, that's okay, it's not a very important requirement." That's why I needed to be very very clear about which things were absolutely non-negotiable, before I even got into a situation where it mattered.

So here's Peter, who believes divorced people are not marriage material, and then he meets Gwen and sees she's a great person and THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH HER. But instead of saying "oh, I guess I was wrong, I was basing my beliefs on a stereotype about what divorced women are like" and then being glad that he now has more reliable information on which to base his beliefs, he's like "this is what I've decided and I can't change it because that would be giving in to temptation."

(This is ignoring the fact that he's her lawyer, so there should be no romantic anything going on with them. Peter ignores that fact throughout the entire book.)

8. From Anonymous Tip: The Most Awkward Dinner Ever

Peter goes to Gwen's house for dinner. Her daughter Casey has a bad dream, and Peter goes to comfort her. Then this:
Gwen just stood there in amazement. As Peter made his way to the door, it was obvious that Gwen was not going to move. As he approached her, he reached out his hand, grasping her arm gently to rouse her so they could both leave the room.

“Peter,” she whispered. “You are wonderful. You are truly wonderful.”

Peter’s head was swimming. It was the closest they had ever been. He could smell her hair and feel her breath. He lingered. If only her parents had not been in the outer room . . . how he desired at that moment to kiss her with reckless abandon.

“I think you’re more than wonderful,” he whispered.
Yep, that's purity culture. Remember the whole thing about thinking you're totally out of control? Well here Peter imagines that he could kiss Gwen- and maybe he would even do it if her parents weren't in the next room. Almost like he's having trouble controlling himself and the only thing holding him back is the presence of Gwen's parents.

Notice that it totally doesn't matter whether Gwen wants to kiss him or not. Purity culture teaches that people are unable to control themselves, so don't expect anyone to respect anyone else's boundaries or ask for consent or anything like that. Nope.

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Yeah. So, to sum up, Peter's thoughts about Gwen in this book are a perfect illustration of the scared, guilty, out-of-control, bound-by-rules, cognitive-dissonant, out-of-touch-with-reality way that purity culture followers respond to their own feelings of romantic or sexual attraction. I know because I used to live that way.

Follow Libby Anne's blog to find out where this goes. Personally, my money's on "we find out that Gordon had cheated on Gwen back when they were married, so suddenly the divorce becomes valid in the eyes of God, and Peter and Gwen ride off together into the sunset, far far away from any consequences of all Peter's ethical violations."

Monday, February 1, 2016

Blogaround

A dog trying to eat a floating bubble. Image source.

1. The Flint water crisis is a perfect example of environmental racism (posted January 23)

2. The faithless promises of God’s covenants and evangelical tenure (posted January 13) "The God they believe revoked a promise to Abraham can just as easily, at any time, revoke any promises to them."

3. Rick Warren: “You won’t be on earth long, so don’t get too attached” (posted January 27) "I’ve had some people look at me and say, “But if you don’t believe in God, you just live for yourself” — and when they do I feel deeply sorry for them, because they seem to be telling me that the promise of a lie is stealing away their chance to live for themselves."

4. 2 Abortion Foes Behind Planned Parenthood Videos Are Indicted (posted January 25) "On Monday, the Harris County district attorney, Devon Anderson, said in a statement that grand jurors had cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing."

5. Culture-blindness and the Bible (posted January 30) "Conveniently, all of the people who take the highest pains to stress to me that our most important identity must be in Christ, not race, happen to see themselves as white."

6. The Handbook: The Magic Christian (Doesn’t Exist). (posted January 26) "'Magic Christians' think that there’s this one little detail that we simply didn’t know, this one little spin-doctoring of an atrocious concept that maybe we didn’t think about in the right way. Once we hear the Magic Christian’s patient explanation, the expectation is that we will smack our foreheads, say I never thought of that! and reconvert immediately." I totally did this to people back when I was a "Real True Christian." I'm sorry.

7. Young Earth Creationism’s Important Scientific Veneer (posted January 27) "See, there are entire creationist books about the flood and about the ark. There are books full of scientific calculations explaining how Noah and his sons and their wives could have housed and fed two of every animals for months on end. These books explain how the ark would have been constructed, discuss the materials that would have bene available, and answer criticism thrown at the story. No one at Answers in Genesis thinks the image above is science. Instead, they think it’s nonsense."

8. Wanted Pregnancies and Unwanted Abortions (posted January 25) "I spoke with dozens of women over the course of nearly a year, but what struck me most were the women who told me they didn’t want to have an abortion—women who cried and who spoke sadly of their “child” but who simply couldn’t see any way to make it work financially."

9. Saeed and Naghmeh Abedini — Two Kinds of Violence, Both Still a Prison (posted January 16) "Just because one is a Christian pastor and held prisoner in Iran does not remove the possibility that one can also be an abuser. Yet the thought of that scenario is too messy."

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