Monday, May 25, 2009

Original Sin

Scary Jordan 1997
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
The Doctrine of Original Sin is a theological treatise (or mythology?) that explains why we sin and the nature of human nature. There are two ways in which the term is used.

1. Adam's "original sin" in the book of Genesis, and
2. Humanity's "inheritance" of Adam's sin.

Now, growing up as a fairly traditional Baptist, my understanding of that second idea was this: That because Adam sinned, all of humanity inherited a "sin nature," or a "bent to sin." That is, we all have it within us this tendency towards sinning. It is because we sin and because God can't abide sin that we need the salvation of God, the reasoning goes.

This was the orthodox view in my traditional circles back then and, with some modifications, I'm still in the same ball park today. I certainly believe that we all, as humans, are less than perfect, we make mistakes, we sin. Each one of us. So, I'm not too far astray from orthodoxy on this point.

I bring this up because of a recent conversation at another blog (who won't be identified, to protect the innocent - although, according to his line of thinking, there are NO innocent...) where the topic came up.

His view on this point appeared to be (and I could never get a straight answer from him, so it may still be that I'm mistaking his view), that what this doctrine means is that we all inherit guilt for sin right at birth AND that we begin sinning right away. So that, this two minute old infant who is whining and "demanding" that he be attended to is placing himself in God's place, or ideas to that effect.

Now, as it turns out, there are (I believe) three theories of original sin - the term, "Original Sin," is not found within the Bible, these are all extrabiblical extrapolations that derive these theories.

The first two, Augustinian and Federal hold that, because Adam sinned, we all inherit the guilt for that sin AND that we are born sinners. So clearly, this fella I was talking with was more Augustinian in his viewpoint.

The third theory, the Theory of Mediate Imputation, holds that we don't inherit the guilt for Adam's Sin, just that we inherit a "sinful nature," and that is what makes us guilty and in need of salvation. With this line of thinking, babies aren't considered to be sinners, just that they have inherited a sinful nature. So, apparently, I'm closer to this theory.

(There are other Christian groups that reject the theory altogether, saying merely that each person is held accountable for their own sins, so it may be that I'm closer to this group... I'm not quite clear on the distinctions...)

I bring this all up to consider the differences between those who believe Babies = Sinners and those who believe just that we have a tendency towards sinning.

This fella's opinion (it appeared) was that we were utterly depraved and wholly incapable of good. Humanity is evil. Worms. And, further, this is how god views us, as reprobate abominable hideous slime whom god can't even bear to look upon. We can do NO good, and that is why we need the blood of Christ, to cover our hideous sins. Even newborn babies come out and begin sinning.

This appears to be fairly consistent with the Augustinian (and later, Calvinist) thinking.

On the other hand, prior to Augustine (in the 5th Century BCE), Jewish theology did not swing this way. It was a new take on both the nature of God and the nature of man, is my understanding. And, I believe (and maybe I'm wrong, I don't have any evidence beyond observation), since the enlightenment (which is when the third Theory of Original Sin developed), I believe that utter depravity view has lost ground, along with the Augustinian Theory.

We recognize that logically and biblically, there is no reason to assume that newborn babies sin. It is a ridiculous, absurd point to hold. What sin could a newborn possibly commit?! In my Baptist circles (and I believe beyond), we held to a belief in an "Age of Accountability," some point at which children become aware enough of their actions to understand the difference between right and wrong, but before which, one could not suggest that these little ones actually sin.

Beyond the infant thing, there is the more reasonable understanding of humanity that holds we are beloved children of God, capable of good and bad - not that we are utterly vile in every possible way. This fella balked at my suggestion that God may despair over our sins, but that ultimately God thinks of us as God's Beloved, not as filthy worms.

I found the whole conversation interesting and it made me wonder: Is it the case that some of the more strident of the Religious Right and some of the more vitriolic amongst the Political Right, if it's the case that they would tend to self-identify as Augustinian in their view of humanity? Such a low opinion of humanity would explain a lot and I'd be willing to bet that this is the case (with the acknowledgment that betting is a sin and I'm a vile, disgusting worm for suggesting such...)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Grandfather's Ram

Maston Basham
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Just cuz I like it, I thought I'd share my favorite Mark Twain short story...

Every now and then, in these days, the boys used to tell me I ought to get one Jim Blaine to tell me the stirring story of his grandfather’s old ram–but they always added that I must not mention the matter unless Jim was drunk at the time–just comfortably and sociably drunk...

As I entered, he was sitting upon an empty powder-keg, with a clay pipe in one hand and the other raised to command silence. His face was round, red, and very serious; his throat was bare and his hair tumbled; in general appearance and costume he was a stalwart miner of the period. On the pine table stood a candle, and its dim light revealed “the boys” sitting here and there on bunks, candle-boxes, powder-kegs, etc. They said:

“Sh–! Don’t speak–he’s going to commence.”

I found a seat at once, and Blaine said:

I don’t reckon them times will ever come again. There never was a more bullier old ram than what he was. Grandfather fetched him from Illinois–got him of a man by the name of Yates–Bill Yates – maybe you might have heard of him; his father was a deacon – Baptist – and he was a rustler, too; a man had to get up ruther early to get the start of old Thankful Yates; it was him that put the Greens up to jining teams with my grandfather when he moved west.

Seth Green was prob’ly the pick of the flock; he married a Wilkerson – Sarah Wilkerson – good cretur, she was – one of the likeliest heifers that was ever raised in old Stoddard, everybody said that knowed her. She could heft a bar’l of flour as easy as I can flirt a flapjack. And spin? Don’t mention it! Independent? Humph! When Sile Hawkins come a browsing around her, she let him know that for all his tin he couldn’t trot in harness alongside of her. You see, Sile Hawkins was – no, it warn’t Sile Hawkins, after all – it was a galoot by the name of Filkins – I disremember his first name; but he was a stump – come into pra’r meeting drunk, one night, hooraying for Nixon, becuz he thought it was a primary; and old deacon Ferguson up and scooted him through the window and he lit on old Miss Jefferson’s head, poor old filly.

She was a good soul – had a glass eye and used to lend it to old Miss Wagner, that hadn’t any, to receive company in; it warn’t big enough, and when Miss Wagner warn’t noticing, it would get twisted around in the socket, and look up, maybe, or out to one side, and every which way, while t’ other one was looking as straight ahead as a spy-glass. Grown people didn’t mind it, but it most always made the children cry, it was so sort of scary. She tried packing it in raw cotton, but it wouldn’t work, somehow – the cotton would get loose and stick out and look so kind of awful that the children couldn’t stand it no way.

She was always dropping it out, and turning up her old -light on the company empty, and making them oncomfortable, becuz she never could tell when it hopped out, being blind on that side, you see. So somebody would have to hunch her and say, “Your game eye has fetched loose, Miss Wagner dear”–and then all of them would have to sit and wait till she jammed it in again–wrong side before, as a general thing, and green as a bird’s egg, being a bashful cretur and easy sot back before company. But being wrong side before warn’t much difference, anyway; becuz her own eye was sky-blue and the glass one was yaller on the front side, so whichever way she turned it it didn’t match nohow.

Old Miss Wagner was considerable on the borrow, she was. When she had a quilting, or Dorcas S’iety at her house she gen’ally borrowed Miss Higgins’s wooden leg to stump around on; it was considerable shorter than her other pin, but much she minded
that. She said she couldn’t abide crutches when she had company, becuz they were so slow; said when she had company and things had to be done, she wanted to get up and hump herself. She was as bald as a jug, and so she used to borrow Miss Jacops’s wig – Miss Jacops was the coffin-peddler’s wife – a ratty old buzzard, he was, that used to go roosting around where people was sick, waiting for ‘em; and there that old rip would sit all day, in the shade, on a coffin that he judged would fit the can’idate; and if it was a slow customer and kind of uncertain, he’d fetch his rations and a blanket along and sleep in the coffin nights.

He was anchored out that way, in frosty weather, for about three weeks, once, before old Robbins’s place, waiting for him; and after that, for as much as two years, Jacops was not on speaking terms with the old man, on account of his disapp’inting him. He got one of his feet froze, and lost money, too, becuz old Robbins took a favorable turn and got well. The next time Robbins got sick, Jacops tried to make up with him, and varnished up the same old coffin and fetched it along; but old Robbins was too many for him; he had him in, and ‘peared to be powerful weak; he bought the coffin for ten dollars and Jacops was to pay it back and twenty-five more besides if Robbins didn’t like the coffin after he’d tried it.

And then Robbins died, and at the funeral he bursted off the lid and riz up in his shroud and told the parson to let up on the performances, becuz he could not stand such a coffin as that.

You see he had been in a trance once before, when he was young, and he took the chances on another, cal’lating that if he made the trip it was money in his pocket, and if he missed fire he couldn’t lose a cent. And by George he sued Jacops for the rhino and got jedgment; and he set up the coffin in his back parlor and said he ‘lowed to take his time, now. It was always an aggravation to Jacops, the way that miserable old thing acted. He moved back to Indiany pretty soon – went to Wellsville – Wellsville was the place the Hogadorns was from. Mighty fine family. Old Maryland stock.

Old Squire Hogadorn could carry around more mixed licker, and cuss better than most any man I ever see. His second wife was the widder Billings–she that was Becky Martin; her dam was deacon Dunlap’s first wife. Her oldest child, Maria, married a missionary and died in grace–et up by the savages. They et him, too, poor feller–biled him. It warn’t the custom, so they say, but they explained to friends of his’n that went down there to bring away his things, that they’d tried missionaries every other way and never could get any good out of ‘em–and so it annoyed all his relations to find out that that man’s life was fooled away just out of a dern’d experiment, so to speak.

But mind you, there ain’t anything ever reely lost; everything that people can’t understand and don’t see the reason of does good if you only hold on and give it a fair shake; Prov’dence don’t fire no blank ca’tridges, boys. That there missionary’s substance, unbeknowns to himself, actu’ly converted every last one of them heathens that took a chance at the barbacue. Nothing ever fetched them but that. Don’t tell me it was an that he was biled. There ain’t no such a thing as an .

When my uncle Lem was leaning up agin a scaffolding once, sick, or drunk, or suthin, an Irishman with a hod full of bricks fell on him out of the third story and broke the old man’s back in two places. People said it was an . Much there was about that. He didn’t know what he was there for, but he was there for a good object. If he hadn’t been there the Irishman would have been killed. Nobody can ever make me believe anything different from that.

Uncle Lem’s dog was there. Why didn’t the Irishman fall on the dog? Becuz the dog would a seen him a coming and stood from under. That’s the reason the dog warn’t appinted. A dog can’t be depended on to carry out a special providence. Mark my words it was a put-up thing. s don’t happen, boys. Uncle Lem’s dog – I wish you could a seen that dog.

He was a reglar shepherd – or ruther he was part bull and part shepherd–splendid animal; belonged to parson Hagar before Uncle Lem got him. Parson Hagar belonged to the Western Reserve Hagars; prime family; his mother was a Watson; one of
his sisters married a Wheeler; they settled in Morgan county, and he got nipped by the machinery in a carpet factory and went through in less than a quarter of a minute; his widder bought the piece of carpet that had his remains wove in, and people come a hundred mile to ‘tend the funeral. There was fourteen yards in the piece.

She wouldn’t let them roll him up, but planted him just so–full length. The church was middling small where they preached the funeral, and they had to let one end of the coffin stick out of the window. They didn’t bury him–they planted one end, and let him stand up, same as a monument. And they nailed a sign on it and put–put on–put on it–sacred to–the m-e-m-o-r-y–of fourteen y-a-r-d-s–of three-ply–car–-pet–containing all that was–m-o-r-t-a-l–of–of–W-i-l-l-i-a-m–W-h-e–”

Jim Blaine had been growing gradually drowsy and drowsier–his head nodded, once, twice, three times–dropped peacefully upon his breast, and he fell tranquilly asleep. The tears were running down the boys’ cheeks – they were suffocating with suppressed laughter – and had been from the start, though I had never noticed it. I perceived that I was “sold.”

I learned then that Jim Blaine’s peculiarity was that whenever he reached a certain stage of intoxication, no human power could keep him from setting out, with impressive unction, to tell about a wonderful adventure which he had once had with his grandfather’s old ram–and the mention of the ram in the first sentence was as far as any man had ever heard him get, concerning it. He always maundered off, interminably, from one thing to another, till his whisky got the best of him and he fell asleep. What the thing was that happened to him and his grandfather’s old ram is a dark mystery to this day, for nobody has ever yet found out.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Considering Actual Costs

My Bike
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
While we're in Bike Month, I would also like to point to a post I did last year in which I question the car as a time-saving device (that being one of its chief benefits, supposedly).

As I said in February of 2008...

...According to that last website, my wife and I are spending a little under $7,000/year for our car [which is about the average in the US].

Let me go ahead and say $7,000 for the purpose of my following illustration.

Now, if we work 250 days (5 day workweek x 50 weeks) a year, that means we're paying $28/work day for owning a car (7000/250). That means, if you make $9/hour, you have to work 3 hours every day to pay for that car. If you make $14/hour, you're working 1 1/2 hours to pay for it.

I bring this up because I want to make the case for walking/biking/busing places instead of driving. Some people look at me and say, "You're spending 1 1/2 hours each day walking to work and back home! That's great if you can work it out, but how do you have the time to do so??!!"

The answer is, because I'm not working 1 1/2-2 hours to pay for a car. In fact, by the time you figure that if I drove, I'd be spending at least 1/2 hour to get to and from work, then I'm coming out with at least 1/2 hour MORE free time than the person in my situation who drives. More still, if that person also later drives to a gym (where they pay MORE money) to exercise...

More to come...

Stop This Car! I Want Out!

Dylan Jordan Driving
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
In honor of Bicycle Month, some less-than-flattering car stats...

• In 2006, 17 cents of every family dollar went to automobiles.

(US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2006, in Arends, B., 2008, "A real auto bailout: Escape your car," The Wall Street Journal Online, December 22, 2008)

• It costs $100,000 to buy and drive a Ford F-250 the average amount (15,000 miles/year) for the typical amount of time (5 years).

[Leonhardt, D., Big vehicles stagger under the weight of $4 gas, The New York Times, June 4, 2008]

• The average annual operating cost of a bicycle is $308, 2.25% that of an average car ($13,646).

[Bike cost from Moritz, W., 1997, Survey of North American bicycle commuters: Design and aggregate results, Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 1578, 91-101. Automobile cost based on U.S. average of 40.2 daily person miles traveled (2001 National Household Travel Survey) and direct driving expense of $0.93 per mile (Commute Solutions)]

• Americans spend more on transportation than any other category except housing. On average, 18% of household expenditures are for transportation.

[U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Research and Innovative Technology Administration, and Department of Transportation, 2009, Pocket Guide to Transportation 2009]

• The average American household spends an entire three months' pay on transportation.

[Center for Neighborhood Technology, 2009, in AZ, 2009, "Average cost of transport consumes 3 months' pay"]

• The average American household spends more on transportation than on clothing, health care, and entertainment combined.

[Bureau of Labor Statistics in "The Costs of Owning a Car," Motavalli, J., The New York Times, 18 March, 2009]

• Excess air pollution in parts of California costs $28 billion annually (up to $1,600 per person) in health care costs, school absences, missed work and lost income potential from premature deaths.

[Hall, J., et al., 2008, The benefits of meeting Federal Clean Air standards in the South Coast and San Joaquin Valley Air Basins, California State University Institute for Economic and Environmental Studies (IEES)]

• The US is responsible for a quarter of global oil consumption. The transportation sector accounts for two-thirds of this.

[US Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 2007, in Jacobson, S., and D. King, 2009, Measuring the potential for automobile fuel savings in the US: The impact of obesity, Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, 14, 6-13]

• In 2005, the average annual delay for every person using motorized travel during peak periods was 38 hours.

[Schrank, D., and T. Lomax, 2007, The 2007 Urban Mobility Report, Texas Transportation Institute]

• The average amount of time an American spends in a vehicle is slightly more than an hour a day.

[Hu, P., and T. Reuscher, 2004, Summary of Travel Trends: 2001 National Household Travel Survey, U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration]

• The U.S. transportation sector is almost entirely dependent on petroleum as an energy source. Nearly two-thirds of the petroleum used in the U.S. is imported.

[US Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Research and Innovative Technology Administration, and Department of Transportation, 2009, Pocket Guide to Transportation 2009]

• One billion extra gallons of gasoline are consumed annually due to overweight and obesity in the US.

[Jacobson, S., and D. King, 2009, Measuring the potential for automobile fuel savings in the US: The impact of obesity, Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, 14, 6-13]

• Every one-pound increase in the average weight of American car passengers increases fuel consumption by 40 million gallons.

[Jacobson, S., and D. King, 2009, Measuring the potential for automobile fuel savings in the US: The impact of obesity, Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, 14, 6-13

...More analysis later...