Saturday, June 23, 2012

In which I get hit by a bus and damnation

I had an interesting Thursday.

First, I get hit by a bus.  Not the famous Christian Hypothetical Bus, an actual bus.  Lucky for me I happened to be inside a bus myself at the time so I'm totally fine.  Word to the wise, if you really have to be hit by a bus I strongly recommend being in a bus yourself!  Aside from some slight whiplash that may or may not be entirely psychosomatic, I walked away without a scratch!

Then I get home and I get hit by a metaphorical bus in the form of my first ever blog related hate-mail.  Except it wasn't really "mail" in that it was a comment on my previous post and I'm also not sure if "hate" is the appropriate term since despite calling me the son of Satan and implying I should kill myself, I didn't really feel like it was that hateful.  So forgive the poor terminology but I had to call it something.

Now I have had people disagree with me in the comments before but this was a first for me.  At first I was a little stunned, then I was a little hurt - which I know is ridiculous because this is a total stranger from the internet and I really shouldn't care what they think of me but nevertheless, it wasn't pleasant to hear - but that passed eventually.  Now clearly Rebecca didn't come here looking for an argument, she took the time to read my blog, disagreed with its content (rather vehemently) and then composed a rather long comment to me explaining why.  That is all good, this is an open forum and I certainly don't expect everyone to agree with me.  Also, this is actually a great opportunity for me to think about and clarify my own beliefs, so thank you Rebecca.  I know you weren't asking for a response but I'm going to give it anyway and I'm doing it here rather than in the comments, not to be a dick, rather it's because I detest having to read long walls of text squeezed into the tiny comment strips and I suspect others may share my distaste. 

Ok, after reading through your blog I think you are doing what your father the devil tells you to do. You are turning everything upside down, you call evil good and good evil (like calling satanic Lady Gaga holy and a Nazarite), you paint a very unbalanced view on purpose, for example concerning modesty. 

I like how this starts by you casting yourself in the role of Jesus with me playing the role of the pharisee.  Obviously we aren't going to agree on much here.  I agree with you that there is an evil side and a good side here.  On the one side you have the Church, on the other side you have a pop star.  The one side is causing a lot of pain and shame and suicide in the GLBT community, the other side helps prevent such suicides by offering unconditional love, kindness and acceptance.  One of those sides is very good and the other side is really evil.  One of those sides can even be called "satanic".  I just don't think its Lady Gaga's side.

I have never heard a teaching about modesty that does not place responsibility on both sexes, but you chose to compare Christians to radical Muslims. Since you can express yourself very well I don't think this happens because you are stupid. I am sure you are intelligent. You are deceiving on purpose and at the same time you are being terribly deceived. The devil has obviously blinded your eyes. So sad.

The reason my view of Modesty seems unbalanced is because it is.  It may very well place responsibility on both sexes but the responsibility is overwhelmingly placed on the women.  In all my years in the church I have lost count of the many admonishments for the ladies not to "cause their brothers to stumble" but not once have I ever heart the same admonishment given to men.  Whether it is said or merely implied, the message is always there - men have trouble controlling themselves therefore women must carry the additional burden of being responsible for a man's lack of self control.  Men being a temptation to women is rarely if ever even discussed.  Have you ever heard words like "cheap", "trashy" or "easy" being used to describe men and how they look?  I certainly haven't!  Those are words you use to describe things, not people and yet somehow it's OK to use it to describe women.  While I appreciate you complimenting my intelligence and writing clarity, I obviously didn't express myself that well if you walked away with the idea that I'm comparing Christians to radical Muslims!  What I did do was point out how expecting women to bear the responsibility for not being "stumbling blocks" just leads to an endless shifting of the goal posts.  No matter how conservatively they dress, no matter how much they cover up, men will just find new "stumbling blocks".  You are clearly intelligent and not just some troll so I have to wonder how you missed that.  Maybe I'm not the one being blinded here...

I don't think you were ever a true Christian who believed with all his heart. You hate Gods word and you did not have the Holy Spirit to open it up for you this is why you don't understand it. You were never born again. Because born again people are sealed and persevere to the end.

I disagree but obviously you are never going to believe me.  I get it though.  The scaffolding that holds your worldview together cannot accommodate the possibility of someone moving from true believer to honest doubter.  I've been there.  Those truths are supposed to be self evident and anyone who looks at it is supposed to believe more, not less.  You have the blessed assurance, you know that you know that you know that you know that this is all true.  Therefore people like me must have just never really gotten it.  Not true but you're never going to believe me so just believe what you need to in order to function.

You could be striving to understand Gods Word correctly, like I did, and yes, it is a journey through a thick jungle of heresies and plain stupidity, it takes a lot of study and effort, but instead you are mocking Christians. 

You have no idea how much study and effort I put into that.  I just ended up at a different destination than you. I do think the very existence of that "thick jungle of heresies and plain stupidity" raises a lot of interesting questions though.

Where is the love you like to talk about so much? I don't see any love, kindness, forgiveness or humility from you. So perhaps you are not in the position to judge Christians for not being loving enough.
You may very well be right here.  I mean I try not to be a total asshole but I could very well be failing miserably at that without even realizing it.  My main beef with Christians is not their lack of love (though that pretty much falsifies the entire faith according to its Founder), I mainly take issue with them when they are cruel, dishonest and/or just plain wrong.  There is a difference.

Are Christians not loving enough? For sure. But we are not going to heaven because we are good, we are going to heaven because Jesus was good and we lean on His victory over sin and death. Frankly, I don't expect anything from my christian sisters and brothers, all my expectations are fixed on Jesus. Have I been treated unjust in the church? Oh yes. But that does not stop me from loving the church that Jesus has died for, how imperfect it may be. It is the only church we have. These are the children of God with whom I will spend eternity. And in the meantime we are commanded "to bear with one another". (Col 3, 13). Not an easy job, pretty exhausting sometimes. But we are to die to ourselves. We are to become LESS! Not expressing ourselves to the maximum like Lady Gaga. That is why your comparison totally stinks. Lady Gaga dies for nobody else. She does not try to cut parts of her selfish ego back to serve another human being. She serves only herself and mammon and satan. And she does not glorify the Creator!
OK first off, I said Lady Gaga is the last true Nazirite, at no point did I say she's the Messiah.  So apart from that last screed about Lady Gaga I don't quite get, you do raise some interesting matters.  Clearly you are not blind to just how bad things can get inside the church.  Does it ever bother you that the people inside and outside the church are basically indistinguishable despite the life altering power promised by the salvation experience?  Does it seem at all odd to you that an infinite and almighty creator God would create people to be unique and distinct persons and then expect them to empty themselves of all He created them to be so they can all be identical empty vessels for Him?  Sorry, that is probably a really long discussion and I know you're not looking for a debate here.  It just illustrates our differences I guess, that you can hold such strange contradictions in your mind and believe them both while I cannot.

It is one thing to call out heresy and to ask heretics like Benny Hinn to repentance, it is an entire different thing to mock all of Christianity.

In the midst of the congregation you have been like Judas has been in the group of Jesus desciples. A traitor. But we all know how Judas life ended

I would very much like to thank you for the sincerity of your comments.  You accept that we disagree and you didn't try to persuade me to change and I'm taking that as a sign of respect, whether you meant it to be or not.  I especially appreciate you not signing off with something condescending like "I'm praying for you".  Thank you for that.  However I can assure you that I am in the midst of no congregations and I haven't been for quite some time.  I labour under no illusions that I'm winning hearts and changing minds here.  This is just my tiny corner of the internet where I try to make sense of things.  So rest easy, I'm not leading anyone astray.  That's why - if it's all the same to you - I'm going to go ahead and NOT hang myself (or fall to my death, depending on which version of his death you are referring to).  Thanks!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Modesty vs Lust

A while ago I wrote a post objecting to the idea that men are unable to control themselves and that women are therefore the ones who had to assume the responsibility and help men not "sin" by desiring them sexually.  Now my post was about as clumsy and coherent as the previous sentence so here is a much simplified version.

Right, in Christian circles, this idea that women have the responsibility to prevent men from lusting after them is called "modesty".  One Christian website defines it as:

"Modesty involves not doing or wearing anything that would cause our brother to stumble. It includes not causing our sisters to be envious. It involves not doing anything to attract attention to ourselves, elicit admiration, or the approval of the ungodly. It includes the way we walk, talk, and our body language. It includes not only our clothes, but our hair, our nails, our faces, our shoes, our accessories, everything about our appearance. Since our appearance displays our character to the world, modesty ensures that our witness glorifies God, not self. "

This modesty doctrine is kind of a big deal in Evangelical Christianity.  It's recommended that you start training your girl child as soon as possible.  For instance, one Modesty Ministry named "Pure Freedom" offers these fun tests your daughter can do to make sure she doesn't look like a little slut.  Which is important because men are unrestrained sex fiends and can't help themselves at all.  Therefore it is up to the ladies to make sure that the men have nothing to trigger their uncontrollable lust and dressing modestly fixes that completely.

Which is bullshit.  Why is it bullshit?  Well I can try and explain it again or I can just show you one picture that blows that entire line of reasoning right out of the water:

Reposted from Love, Joy, Feminism

If a man wants to lust it doesn't matter if you're in a burka or a bikini, he's going to go ahead and lust.  Women are not in control of that and they are sure as hell not responsible for a man's self control (or lack thereof).

That is all.

Monday, June 11, 2012

In which I propose fixing Game of Thrones and risk angering the fanboys

WARNING:  Here be spoilers.  You've been warned.  In this post I'll be talking about events from the end of season 2 of Game of Thrones.  If you haven't watched that far, don't read it.  If you haven't watched the series at all though you really should, it's great!

Game of Thrones may be one of the best shows ever to be on TV.  Up until now anyway.  The thing is, I'm a little worried about its future.

Firstly, when you watch the show you can't help but be awed by its intricacy and the deep complexity of the story.  So many threads are woven together with such skill it takes your breath away.  Clearly a lot of planning went into the writing!  But here's the thing - it was originally planned as a trilogy and currently we are at book 5 with no end in sight.  That kind of makes it seem like intricacy and detailed planning went out the door several books ago.

Which may be why the second season already started to give the impression that this story isn't in a hurry to go anywhere.  See this is what scares me most of all.  Here is the synopsis of book 1/season 1:

The kingdom descends into the chaos of civil war, while a mysterious supernatural threat arises far to the north, and an exiled princess across the sea plots to invade with the power of dragons. Many tangled plot lines are established with a horde of memorable characters.

Now here is the story in book 4:

The kingdom is wracked with the chaos of civil war, while a mysterious supernatural threat stirs far to the north, and an exiled princess across the sea gathers her army to invade with the power of dragons. Many tangled plot lines are tangled even more deeply, a horde of memorable characters have died, and there is a new horde of memorable characters.
That's not just a glacial pace, that's pretty much suspended animation!  If the series continues to follow the books we are going to end up with a medieval soap opera.  Sure, it's going to be a soap opera with ice zombies and dragons (beat that 7de Laan!) but come on, is that really what we thought we were signing up for in the beginning?

Speaking of book 4, The Onion AV club recently listed A Feast For Crows alongside such turds as The Godfather Part III and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in their article on rotten sections of otherwise really fantastic works.  Read this and tell me if that sounds like a description of 10 hour long episodes you would very much like to watch:

"Overwhelmed by the challenges in balancing any number of story threads and character perspectives while still turning out a novel at a reasonable length, Martin compromised with A Feast For Crows, a cast-off from what had been intended as a much larger novel. FFC tops out just under a thousand pages, and features few of the characters who had helped make the series such a success; worse, the book fails to capture the risky, anyone-can-die intensity of early books in the series, instead focusing on secondary characters as they trudge through an increasingly war-torn landscape. The concept—War Is Hell—isn’t terrible, but the novel lacks energy, trying to get too much mileage out of repetitive character behavior (Cersei is frustrated at the limits of her power! Brienne asks questions!) while bringing in additional, and apparently unjustified, plot complications. "

Honestly I'd rather watch Indy blast of in a fridge again than sit through that!  I haven't read book 5 but from what I've heard, while it's better than book 4 the story remains in a state of inertia.  Still no winners in the war, still no invasion by either dragons or ice zombies.  More characters die and more ones take their place.

Last thing that worries me is the end of the series.  Now it doesn't exist yet but when asked, the author said that "the end would be a cloud of dust or snow being driven by the wind across a vast graveyard full of tombstones. "  Now I know, he was probably just kidding.  Or was he...?  One thing that's pretty clear is that George RR Martin is not into happy endings.  Now in a book, that's sort of acceptable.  But on a TV show?  As anyone who spent years loyally following a show only to get a disappointing ending can tell you - that simply doesn't cut it.  If you don't get a satisfying conclusion from your favourite series, it's like a great big "fuck you" from the producers to thank you for all your time.

Don't get me wrong, I understand the fanboy rage you get when a screen adaptation screws around with a beloved piece of literary fiction, I really do.  I feel it myself ever so often.  Yet sometimes it's necessary to make some changes.  True Blood for instance left the source material behind early on, so did the Vampire Diaries and those were great.  So really don't look at it as someone taking a hatchet to your favourite book, think of it as someone creating something just as great using your favourite book as a base.

Right, now that all True Fans (tm) are too offended too read on, here is my suggestion of how to fix Game of Thrones, the series:  Leave the books behind completely.  Treat everything that has happened up till now as a stage setting prequel to what follows - the tale of Arya Stark, Ninja Assassin!

At the end of season 2, super awesome face changing ninja assassin Jaqen H'ghar offers to take young Arya with him so she can train to become a ninja too.  Now she refuses that option but come on, wouldn't you want to watch THAT show?  

So what if she uses the special coin, gets in touch with Jaqen and begins training to become a super ninja assassin?  Then when she has mastered the deadly arts (and presumably also started speaking in the 3rd person) she returns to Westeros to bring bloody justice to everyone who has harmed her family!  I would watch the EFF out of THAT show!  It gets a better ending and doesn't turn into a Dungeons & Dragons Soapie!  Could work!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sunday Schadenfreude

Did you ever watch one of those sleazy televangelists in action and think to yourself: "I wonder what kind of moron would actually send money to these con-men?!"  Well, I can tell you the answer to that.  This moron:

Now in my defense I was young and credulous and brought up in that subculture so their spiel about how God wanted to make me happy by giving me stuff sounded almost too good to be true.  Which it was.  I'm still pretty ashamed at how long it took me to figure out that the only people who get "blessed" (i.e. rich) by the Prosperity movement are the preachers of the Prosperity movement.

I like to think I took something away from it (apart from the valuable life lesson that anything that seems too good to be true probably is).  I'm one of the few people who get to call bullshit on these guys on purely empirical grounds.  I don't just say that the Prosperity Gospel message is bullshit because of some purely theoretical reasons, I actually tried it.  I did it all, I watched the sermons, I bought the merchandise, I followed the program, I gave and gave and named and claimed and BELIEVED! and all that got me was less money.  Tried it, tested it, got no results.  I can say with a lot of confidence that God doesn't just give you money unless you happen to be passing around an offering basket.

So with that in mind, I'm not even going to try to pretend that I don't get really gleeful when one of these Prosperity Gurus gets egg on their face.  I admit freely to smiling when I saw that Kenneth Copeland's BFF and one of the guys who got me hooked on the Prosperity thing, Creflo Dollar (real name) was arrested and spent some time in jail.

Yep, that's a mug shot!

Now unfortunately it wasn't for something ironic or funny, like fraud or buying meth from a rent boy.  No, he was arrested for assaulting his teenage daughter, which I have to admit harshes my buzz quite a bit*.

"The police report says Dollar choked his daughter, then threw her to the ground, punched her and hit her with his shoe during a fight at his metro Atlanta home.

When police interviewed Dollar, he said he tried to restrain his daughter when she "became very disrespectful," according to the report."

She wanted to go to a party, he didn't want her to go, she didn't obediently submit like godly womenfolk are supposed to and so he had to choke her basically.  He didn't see anything wrong with that but clearly the police didn't think that physical violence was the correct response to a "disrespectful" teenager.  Now this may be a controversial opinion but I'm going to give it anyway.  I agree with the cops.  I get that teenagers can be infuriating but IT IS NEVER OK FOR A GROWN ASS MAN TO BEAT UP A 15 YEAR OLD GIRL!

So anyway I guess we will have to wait and see what happens with this story.  Clearly Pastor Doctor Dollar is in a bit of trouble right now but I have a recommendation.  Here is a book on dealing with the things that trouble your life.  I can only hope that it helps him exactly as much as it helped me!

*Though not as much as all the people in the comments of that article defending what he did...

Friday, June 8, 2012

Strange New Godview: Thug Jesus

Usually in this series on Godviews, I look at how someone acts or talks about God and then ask myself "so what does God look like to this guy?".  But not this time!  I didn't have to do any guessing because Pastor Mark Driscoll (from the other Mars Hill) pointed this out in so many words - his Jesus is a thug, a rapper, a badass mofo come to kick ass and chew bubblegum (and He's all out of bubblegum).  Behold:

Now Mark Driscoll is by no means the only one, this Godview is fast gaining popularity in certain churches.  Seems you can't throw a brick at a Men's Ministry without hitting a guy who is tired of the commonly held view that Jesus was some kind of pacifist wuss and would like very much to tell you how Jesus was in fact a super badass manly man!  See these guys know that the Church has a problem and they know how to fix it.

The problem?  The Church isn't the power player it used to be.  It doesn't call all the shots anymore, it doesn't get all the respect anymore and now people don't feel like they really have be there and give money all the time.  The reason for this?  Well duh, it's because there are too many women and not enough men!  Nevermind the fact that God and pretty much every major Biblical leader is male as well as the fact that leadership and ministry in most churches is almost exclusively male, the church is just not manly enough!  It's been feminized!  It turns men in to wusses!  Pew's are full of limp wristed "nice guys" with nary an MANLY MAN in sight!  Clearly this is the problem!  Churches have become too feminine!  And we all know that "feminine" is bad because it's weak and second best and if you don't agree you're probably queer!
How men are treated in church, basically.

So therefore the church needs to get into sports!  The church needs to get more warlike!  The time has come to kick out all that "turn the other cheek", "bless those who curse you" bullshit and get some MANLY damn sermons up in that bee-otch!  Stuff about MANLY MEN, like David and Moses and Samson!  Not weaklings like all those Apostles and early Christians running around getting martyred and shit.  That ain't manly!  Real men don't get martyred!  Real men have SWORDS!  And they could KICK YOUR ASS!  There should be so much manliness flying around, women should risk pregnancy just from breathing the air!  Five year olds should walk into the building and immediately hit puberty from all the testosterone in the church dammit!

So if you want your church to be the top dog again you need to up the testosterone!  Out with the Lamb, in with the Lion!  It's easy, all you have to do is throw out 26 of the 27 books of the New Testament and BAM!  You got a manly thug Jesus right there in Revelation*.  That will totally fix everything!  Wives will be submissive, children will be obedient and everyone will have a perfect sex life!  Not to mention how people will totally start streaming back in droves to a more manly church!  Because that's what's been the problem all alongObviously.

Once you put the women in their place EVERYTHING IS FIXED!

*Just don't go too far into that book either because after the initial badassness, it's all "blah blah, Lamb who was slain" again...