Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Post for Marshall...

Years ago, I wrote a two part post that explained how I moved from "here" to "there" on the topic of marriage equity. I was raised and lived for the first ~30 years of my life as an extreme conservative Christian in the traditional Southern Baptist church mode. Given that, I was, of course, extremely opposed to any normalization of "the homosexual agenda..." I certainly did not intend to be unloving or ungracious towards anyone, but in hindsight, I surely was.

At any rate, I was solidly opposed to "gay marriage" - vehemently, so. I was absolutely certain that not only was the Bible and reason clearly against any sort of gay behavior, I had no room in my worldview for any Christian possibly even hinting at thinking it was possible. And yet, here I am today, fully recognizing (and repenting of) my errors in thinking and behavior from that time. In these two posts, I explained  how I moved from one position to the other and, not only that, but how I did it based on Bible study, prayer and reasoning from those two alone. At that time in my life, there was no room for any other way to "prove" anything.

Here are those posts...

My Journey, Part 1

My Journey, Part 2

Conservative blogger, Marshall recently said that I left questions unanswered there. I'm putting this post up to give Marshall a chance to ask a question that he thinks I left unanswered.

He, of course, does not find my process or reasoning compelling. That is fine, I wouldn't have found it compelling before I reached this point in my life, either. Now, I could not imagine anyway to find it anything but compelling.

The point I always make with Marshall and his comrades is that, just because the argument is not compelling to them, does not mean, 1. That there is no rational argument being made or, 2. That no one else could possibly find the arguments compelling.

It would be my guess that the main reason he doesn't find my arguments compelling (other than the cultural bias against it, and cultural biases being very hard to overcome) is that he approaches the Bible differently than I do. Where he finds literal history and literal commands from God, I find interesting stories that are told in mythic or epic fashion, and NOT literal commands from God.

Maybe, if one accepts the more fundamentalist view of the bible, my reasoning is terribly faulty. However, the real world fact is that not everyone finds the fundamentalist view of the Bible to be rational, moral or, in fact, biblical. So, you can't say, "You HAVE to hold my view of these texts and, given my view, you are wrong..." That is true only if I hold your view and I do not, so I am not in any rational, moral or biblical way compelled to accept your view.

Having said that: Feel free to ask your question, Marshall.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Anti-Intellectualism is Stupid

Anti-Intellectualism quote of the day (in response to my question, "Do you think all experience is equal: That the mailman who walks through a poor neighborhood and the social worker who has researched and studied poverty and worked as a case manager directly with the poor are equally informed as to the causes and effects of poverty in the lives of the poor? Or do you make room for the notion that people who actually work for years in a field might possibly be better-informed on the topic?...")

Social workers are trained to give people the benefit of the doubt and in my experience do so to the point of overlooking the obvious. They tend to make excuses for people because they’re trying to help. So no, I don’t generally trust social workers’ experiences. Look at all the kids they leave with negligent parents, yet try to remove kids from homes where parents let them walk to school for a block or two in safe neighborhoods. 

[Courtesy of John at the ironically named, Sifting Reality blog, although the attitude is not unique to him, so I'm talking about the comment, not the person...]

There is such an arrogance and wholly uninformed presumption and ignorance in that statement, that one hardly knows how to respond. Why are people like this? Have they been burned by, in this case, what the feel is a bad social worker so they project that hurt feeling out on to all social workers? And does this  person feel the same way about other professionals? Water quality experts? Car mechanics? Psychologists? Where does this ignorant hostility end?

Lord help us.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

An Answer for Bubba in return for a Question for Bubba

A question from Bubba:

Suppose that a child got a very serious cut on his arm, and the cut became infected with gangrene, a lethal infection if it goes untreated.
Suppose furthermore that antibiotic and anesthetic are unavailable, perhaps because the situation predates modern medicine or the family is marooned on an uninhabited island, Swiss Family Robinson style.
Suppose that, if the father doesn’t amputate the arm even without anesthetic, his child dies.
And suppose the child is too young to understand what death means but not too young to understand that getting his arm cut off is going to hurt. A LOT.
Finally, suppose that the father is a good father who has given his child every reason in the world to believe that he always has the kid’s best interests at heart, even enduring great hardship for his sake.
QUESTION 1: What is the father’s moral duty, to amputate without anesthetic, to let the child die, or to let this very young child decide whether he wants to live without an arm even if he doesn’t really understand the fatal alternative?

Amputate the arm, if the father knows well enough how to do this without making things worse. I would add the caveat that, if the child were old enough - a young man, for instance - then the decision about how to proceed should be the young adult's decision. But you stipulated a very young child, so that is my answer.

Easy enough. Do you need any further clarification or does that suffice?

Dan's question for Bubba:

You hold several opinions about what God wants us to do/how God wants us to behave. You hold the opinion, for instance, that God is opposed to gay folk marrying one another (or words to that affect) or that God supports Christians going to war to kill their nation's enemies. Clearly, this and all of your opinions about what God thinks are your human opinions, interpretations that you take from biblical teachings. As your human opinions, they are your subjective, unprovable opinions, they are not objective facts about what God does or doesn't want. Is this correct?

IF it's not correct... IF you think that your opinions about what God wants are objective facts that are provable, demonstrable, please provide the hard data to support that claim.

Since, in the real world, these are clearly subjective and unprovable opinions, this should be an easy question to answer, but you tell me.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Research Confirms: Peace Works

Impressive research, worth citing...

"Between 1900 and 2006, campaigns of nonviolent resistance against authoritarian regimes were twice as likely to succeed as violent movements. Nonviolent resistance also increased the chances that the overthrow of a dictatorship would lead to peace and democratic rule. This was true even in highly authoritarian and repressive countries, where one might expect nonviolent resistance to fail. Contrary to conventional wisdom, no social, economic, or political structures have systematically prevented nonviolent campaigns from emerging or succeeding.

From strikes and protests to sit-ins and boycotts, civil resistance remains the best strategy for social and political change in the face of oppression. Movements that opt for violence often unleash terrible destruction and bloodshed, in both the short and the long term, usually without realizing the goals they set out to achieve. Even though tumult and fear persist today from Cairo to Kiev, there are still many reasons to be cautiously optimistic about the promise of civil resistance in the years to come.

In the United States and Europe, policymakers often seem at a loss when confronted with the questions of whether to support civilians resisting authoritarian regimes using nonviolent protest and, if so, what form that support should take. Liberal interventionists cited a “responsibility to protect” civilians to justify NATO’s intervention in Libya and have also invoked that argument in advocating for similar action in Syria. But the promise of civil resistance suggests an alternative: a “responsibility to assist” nonviolent activists and civic groups well before confrontations between civilians and authoritarian regimes devolve into violent conflicts.

Civil resistance does not succeed because it melts the hearts of dictators and secret police. It succeeds because it is more likely than armed struggle to attract a larger and more diverse base of participants and impose unsustainable costs on a regime. No single civil resistance campaign is the same, but the ones that work all have three things in common: they enjoy mass participation, they produce regime defections, and they employ flexible tactics. Historically, the larger and more diverse the campaign, the more likely it was to succeed."


Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Great Flood

Fiddle music rising over the hills
children laughing
dogs barking
friends playing and singing...

sorrows divided and
happiness multiplied
like loaves and bread

let the doubters haggle
and the believers settle down
into a chaotic mellowness

joy flooding the evening
raising us all to a blessed higher ground.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Safe Haven

Children seeking shelter and safety should never be considered or treated like criminals. We all need to be safe havens for children, especially those in dangerous places and situations.

Do we even need to have that discussion?

Thursday, July 31, 2014


This summer, during Ordinary Time, we, at my church, have been thinking on Sabbath. Here is my Sabbath reflection from last Sunday, which was accompanied by this video.

To float is to
rest and to
in forces, unseen

as a leaf drifting
down a wild mountain stream
or a crow circling
on a rising wind;

as an ember rising
from a campfire
as a seed dancing
on a delightful breeze
or a reflection bouncing
on a still lake's surface

and I sometimes find
my sabbath rest
in floating
where the day may lead...

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Friday, June 13, 2014

Widow Skimmer

She is a Grandeur
a Widow bathed in scintillation
and softly clothed in coruscation
a Glimmer and a Wink and a Glow

And when she flies
how she flies
with finesse
with grace
with elegance and lace
and the Joy she shares
as she tarries there
none other can ever know.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Over the years, I've heard many discuss the rational problems with the evangelical version of salvation and eternal punishment. One large complaint about their approach has to do with justice. Briefly, the approach I'm speaking of is this:

You must accept Jesus as Lord, confess your sins and embrace a pretty specific understanding of ideas about God, Jesus, salvation, forgiveness and a vague list of other ideals/opinions and if you don't, you will be condemned to an eternity in suffering and torment.

For some, it's not enough to even generally embrace the ideas of an eternal Creator God, God's son Jesus as a man who literally lived on earth, died and rose from the dead, the need of salvation by Grace and several other ideas, but you have to hold a specific understanding of these ideas. If you deviate too far from one specific understanding of these ideas, then you may not be saved. Even if you disagree with the "right" opinion in good faith and it turns out you were mistaken, then you might not be saved, just for simple flawed understanding.

The problem with this is the problem of God's nature as we understand it. Christians and many others accept the notion that God is perfectly loving and perfectly just and fair. But this other version of God and salvation is an affront to justice. How is it fair to punish someone who believed the right general ideas, but misunderstood some of the finer points? How is it reasonable, fair and proportionate to not only punish this person, but to do so for an eternity of suffering in hell for simple misunderstanding?

Or what of the person who heard Christians speaking of God in ways such as this and rejected that version of God as being unjust and irrational? Those people never "accepted Jesus," never confessed their sins, maybe never believed that Jesus was an actual historical character. And some of those people will live lives of relative decency. They'll never once kill, rape, abuse or rob anyone. They will, of course, commit thousands of "sins..." they'll be jealous, gossip, tell some lies, maybe cut some corners on paying their taxes, pollute, maybe have extramarital sex... they will absolutely be imperfect. Humans ARE imperfect, that is our nature, the way we've been made, if you look at it that way.

And so, for this person, they will be punished for a lifetime of these sins which don't rise to the level of human crimes. And, to be fair, they'll also do good deeds - help the poor, feed the hungry, give to good causes, help a neighbor, be good parents and good children to their parents. They'll be just regular, imperfect schmucks, with some good and some bad.

Now, if a nation were to say, "Juan Smith, we know that you've committed 10,000 of these smaller 'sins.' You don't deny it, they clearly happened. Therefore, the nation of Blarbistan is going to punish you to a lifetime in a prison..."

If a nation did that, there would be an outcry. "That is unjust!" people would complain, and rightly so. Yes, sure, these people committed those sins and we may agree that they were bad things to do. But, the punishment is disproportionate to the crime, and that makes the punishment unjust, unfair and unreasonable, as well as those doling out the punishment.

Does anyone dispute this?

Then, if we agree that this would be unjust for a nation to do it for a single lifetime, what of a god who would punish someone for an eternity... and NOT just in a human prison, but in a place of "eternal torment, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth..."? And where there is no chance of pardon or parole... HOW is that a Just punishment? How is that not whimsical, irrational and horribly unjust?

The response you hear all the time... "God's ways are not our ways..."

As someone recently put it at another blog, that God punishes...

...based on HIS notion of love and justice, not ours. He doesn’t think like us and His way is not our way.

So then, in that theory, God isn’t talking about justice, as commonly understood in the English language, meaning “agreeing with what is considered morally right or good; treating people in a way that is considered morally right; reasonable or proper…” but it means this Other Thing, let’s call it “Blarb.”

So, when people like this picture God and God’s justice, they do not appear to be talking about the English language word, Justice, at all. They appear to be speaking about Blarb. And Blarb‘s definition is, what, exactly?

If I were to give a shot at what they seem to be describing, I’d say it’s something like this:

Blarb: adj. according to some in the Christian tradition, this is “agreeing with a rather whimsical and unjust notion of adhering perfectly to some subset of God’s rules, rules which we can not know or understand perfectly, and yet, being held accountable to them as if we could understand them perfectly. This may include a wildly out-of-proportion-to-the-”crime” set of punishments that are neither just, reasonable, consistent or fair, but are “blarb-ish.”

But that’s just my guess based on what they have said (and, to be clear, what I would have agreed with at one time).

If anyone is interested who believes in this Other notion of "god's justice," which is different than the word Justice in the English language, how would you define this Other Idea, the one that isn’t justice as we understand it in the English language, but is “blarb…”?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Who is repeating a falsehood?

Okay, just as I did for Bubba, I'm posting a new post just for the benefit of another of my detractors, Craig. He says that I have lied, that I have demonstrated myself as a liar, that there is no other conclusion he can reach.

Of course, as they often do, he did this on a post where the subject was not "Is Dan a Liar," and thus, made an off topic, ad hom attack, rather than dealing with my points on the post.

So, rather than chasing that off topic ad hom false report at that place, I'm giving Craig all the room he needs to make his case and where I can respond to him, hopefully clearing up his clear misunderstanding.

It is, of course, a clear misunderstanding, because while I am always capable of making a mistake, I have never deliberately lied in this here blogosphere. So, Brother Craig, here is your chance: Make your case, show where I have stated a falsehood.

If I DID do so, it was, of course, an accident and you will be doing me a favor and I can apologize and clarify my actual intent.

If not, then you can retract your claim and apologize for your mistake.

The ball is in your court.