10 May 2014

Bring back the government shutdown

I don't generally venture out into the world all that much. I run the requisite errands to the grocery store but other that that I would prefer to spend my time in other ways. Where I live when the school year is about to start, the state offers a tax-free weekend to bolster spending and, in theory, help lower-income families prepare for the coming school year. This is usually a horror weekend that is best avoided at all costs. Unfortunately I had to venture forth to Target that weekend and I expected the worst.

When I arrived at Target on a Saturday afternoon, I totally expected to lose several hours of my life in the endless gridlock of aimless, wandering "shoppers" but I was unprepared for what I actually found. This tax-free weekend happened to coincide with the government shutdown. The result was the unexpected emptiness of the store and relative ease with which I was able to make my purchase and go home. Even the streets were eerily empty. The longer the shutdown went on, the fewer people were out in the stores and on the streets.

Perhaps most surprising was the way in which the shutdown revealed the underlying and usually hidden truth that we suspect exists but cannot see, a truth we're told is a mean-spirited lie. That truth is most people are living on borrowed time, borrowed money, and borrowed affluence. Nothing exposes the lie quite like taking the free ride away. Suddenly all those who rely heavily on debt are faced with the prospect of having to live within their means.

I was astounded at how different the world looked when the government was on the verge of defaulting. It looked more like the America of my youth, an America I never thought I would see again. And while this glimpse didn't last, it did provide me with some hope that it is possible to reverse our current doomed course, and I would love nothing more than to see that happen. It's time to end the government subsidies and let truth prevail.

09 May 2014

Against our better judgment

I came across a somewhat lengthy quote by G. K. Chesterton concerning the unwillingness of people to discern obvious differences. I was particularly struck by this part of the excerpt:

For this is a strange epoch; and while, in some ways, we have quite dangerously encouraged the appetites, we have quite ruthlessly crushed the instincts.

This brought to mind an article that I read some time ago in which the author recounts her journey from quasi-monogamous to full-fledged "sluthood."  What impressed me the most was the author's willingness to admit that she had problems with the transition and that she required the reassurance of her friends to make the transition. Ultimately she had to convince herself against her better judgment that the decision to have a one-night stand with someone who answered her ad on Craigslist was okay.

She writes about her thought process and how she ultimately arrived at her conclusion. It's interesting to note how often she defends herself against her own better judgment. First she admits to staying in relationships with people in whom she's not all that interested just to avoid feeling lonely and rejected, and she feels lonely and rejected a lot. She then proceeds to go on a date with a man that answers her Craigslist ad. After one hour of conversation during which he drops the phrase "male hegemony," she agrees to go to his conveniently located apartment, all the while fighting with herself about the wisdom of this decision.

The next day she has lunch with her friends, to whom she relates the whole sordid night, and in true feminist solidarity, they affirm her completely self-destructive behavior because it's impossible to continue inflicting harm upon yourself without the support of others:

I’m telling you this because sluthood requires support. Because any woman who indulges these urges carries with her a lifetime of censure and threat. That’s a loud chorus to overcome. A slut needs a posse who finds her exploits almost as delicious as she finds them herself, who cares about her safety and her stories and her happiness but not one whit about her virtue. A slut alone is a slut in difficulty, possibly in danger.

It's interesting to watch her justify her behavior. She's fallen into the typical modern, feminist trap of disregarding her feelings of unease at her behavior (her self-preservation instinct) to embrace a lifestyle of danger and promiscuity that doesn't make her feel good but she that she rationalizes intellectually as ethically superior. In doing so she's made the classic feminist mistake: believing that restrictions that are put on women's sexual behavior exist only to limit the pleasure and fulfillment of the women these restrictions are supposed to protect.

The truth is that it does matter how many people you've had sex with prior to marriage. Who really feels good knowing that their future spouse has been with numerous partners other than themselves, that they've shared the most intimate physical connection that two people can experience with such wanton disregard? It shows an amazing lack of self-control and ability to delay gratification which are not the best traits for a future spouse to possess. But more importantly it shows that a person is incapable of discerning healthy from unhealthy, and of the quashing of one's instincts. It is as Chesterton says, that we have encouraged our appetites while crushing the very instincts needed to regulate those appetites.


07 May 2014

Not so secular after all


I've spent a lot of time over this last year reading and studying, mostly the Bible. I spent many years loathing Christianity. Even while trying to read and take classes, I found that initially I couldn't stand it. I gave up entirely at one point. No one was more surprised than I to find that I re-enrolled and started to study again.

Then something happened. I started to change. I quit trying to inject myself and my opinion into everything I read and finally listened to what I was being taught, read the words that were right in front of me instead of the words I thought were on the page. I had a lot of preconceived notions I had to quell. And when I did that, I came to understand Christianity in a whole new light.

I still believe that the ideas I espoused in my first post are self-evident and true regardless of religion, that they are based on reality and are thus immutable, but I found that the Bible is an incredibly realistic text. A lot of the platitudes that people had been parroting at me over the years -- and that I foolishly took to be real Christianity -- were, at best, misunderstandings of Scripture and, at worst, willful misrepresentations meant for personal gain.

I have traveled various paths to get here: atheism, paganism, occultism. What I discovered about these various paths and about secularism is that they all have "self" at the center. When you're praying to a god in a pantheon or when you disavow God altogether, you've put yourself and your wants at the center of your universe. We can't all be the center of the universe. It's no wonder we can't all agree on common goals.

All those so-called "Christians" that claim that Jesus never condemned homosexuality, that he says we shouldn't judge other people, and that sin is outside of us and not in our hearts has never read the Bible or is choosing verses that can be misconstrued out of context. These are people that are putting themselves and their own agendas ahead of everything else, in this case God and reality.

The people that I've met that are truly devout are some of the most realistic and functional people I have ever met. They are constantly striving to live lives that reflect very concrete tenets in a book that they revere as holy. The solipsistic masses scorn such beliefs, believing that they know better and that they are more enlightened than these silly Christians. I know: I used to be one of them. Now I'm trying my hardest not to be. It is so much more fulfilling to remove myself and my trivial needs from the equation and focus on living a life that is aligned with eternal truths.

Can you do this without Christianity? Probably, but I think that as a person of Western European descent it makes sense to embrace a religious tradition that has influenced so much of our history and culture. I would argue that our most productive times have occurred in conjunction with Christianity, and I would further argue that we should not take such a heritage lightly. If we are going to defeat the evils of this time that threaten to destroy all that we hold dear, we need something bigger than ourselves. Unity in God might just fill that need.

06 May 2014

To be a majority minority

Living in one of the largest cities in the US, I find myself more and more reticent to leave the house. Every time I venture out, I am reminded that this is no longer the nation that I knew as a child growing up in the '70s. I am usually the only white face -- or one of a very few -- anywhere I go. Even Ann Coulter has commented on this. And let's be clear: I am going to places that have been traditionally frequented by the "old" majority of Western European/British Isles-descended people. Not so anymore.

Most of America doesn't seem to view this as a problem. To them it's just business as usual, albeit business with an Asian, Hispanic or black person. The problem that I've been encountering lately is an increasing hostility towards me as a white woman. I'm extremely fair-skinned and soft-featured, and that translates to "push over" for most people.

Take today, for example. While driving to an appointment I encountered the usual unending road construction. When I approached said construction I was vaguely gestured to by a black police officer. Since I couldn't determine what he was trying to say since his hand was barely raised above hip level and I could hardly see it, I was going to slow down and go around. No big deal, I figured, since there was no on-coming traffic and the construction seemed to be very contained on the side of the road. This was apparently not the deference to authority that was expected. I think he tried to signal for me to pull over and stop, for what reason I couldn't discern, but his hand gestures were still vague. As I drove on my way, another Hispanic officer tried to get me stop and when I wouldn't, he kicked at my car and cursed me. I still don't know what they were trying to get me to do. There was no reason to stop. Funnily enough, neither police officer tried to stop any of the cars behind me, only me.

This may seem like a non-story but it happens with alarming regularity: people of minority ethnicity in positions of pseudo-power use that power to try to coerce whites to defer to them. I see this even when I go shopping for clothes. Clothing isn't designed for me. I wouldn't wear most of the loud patterns and strangely cut clothes that are manufactured today. It's getting hard to find eyeglasses too. Most are made for a face type that is nothing like mine but would be much better-suited for a face that has harsh angles and a larger nose. Even most skincare products are for skin that is much darker or oilier than mine.

The message I'm getting from this is pretty clear: this isn't your world anymore. When the world around you ceases to reflect your needs and interests, it's not your world anymore. America isn't becoming a third world nation. It already is.

05 January 2013

Learning as I go

I started this blog with every intention of posting regularly and with gusto. The funny thing is, the more I thought about what I wanted to write, the more unsure I became.

Even though the consequences of the lifestyle choices most people make today are obviously detrimental to them, they continue to make the same choices time and time again. Then they justify their dubious choices and demand that the rest of us validate their decisions too (using Hollywood and other famous people is an excellent example of this). It's a vicious circle that most don't seem interested in breaking. And those of us who see this, who see the downward spiral of the world, can't seem to rally together in any meaningful way to stop it. I'm beginning to understand the role that religion plays in this equation.

It all started with my new attendance at a church. I never thought that I would willingly attend but I considered that perhaps I was opposed to something that I may not fully understand. And while I still believe that it is unnecessary to rely on religion as the only solution to the world's moral ills, I also see what it has to offer that the secular world does not, namely a unity of purpose that dwarfs anything I've experienced in the secular realm.

These people believe in their purpose in such a profound way and, as a result, are unified in purpose in such a way that they can really make change manifest in people's lives. It's a belief that transcends merely a unity of ideology. I think that when people are viewing each other as souls or as a creation of God, they tend to view each other's actions with greater scrutiny. I've really come to enjoy the moral accountability of the reformed Christians. I also respect their unity of vision and commitment to living in a moral, sane way.

I just wish I knew how to accomplish this in the secular world.

15 October 2012

Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?, by Rhoda Janzen

Does This Church Make Me Look Fat? A Mennonite Finds Faith, Meets Mr. Right, and Solves Her Lady Problems
by Rhoda Janzen
First Edition. 257 pages, Grand Central Publishing, $16

I am always looking for ways in which others have reconciled themselves to a more traditional church and have opted back in to that culture, rejecting the modern world and its supposed values.

When I read Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?, I once again found  that the opposite was true. Really I should qualify that statement because I didn't actually read this book in its entirety. Instead, I read the first few pages and then opened the book to a random passage to see if it got any better. It didn't.

The writing itself is the current popular style of writing books like blog posts where the author tries to make you believe that she's your best friend, divulging extremely personal information which should remain, as the term suggests, personal. She also flaunts her PhD as proof that perhaps such an educated woman should not have returned to a conservative church, one that doesn't ordain women.

This is the fateful passage to which I opened:

The issue of women in church leadership had long been a tender spot for me. It was one of the issues that had propelled me away from my church of origin thirty years earlier. In the early 1980s the American Mennonites were engaging the issue, but their pace was much too slow for me. As a young woman I had zero patience for any group who did not instantly and wholeheartedly affirm inclusivity in both governance and practice. At eighteen I thought it was much more important to be right than loving. Go figure. Now, at forty-eight, I think it is much more important to be loving than right. (117)

What I find most compelling is her assumption that she is right. I am well aware of what the apostle Paul had to say about ordaining women (don't) and so I see the biblical precedent for this. If you're going to go to a traditional, conservative church that is what you can expect: adherence to an orthodoxy that has not been corrupted by modern ideologies.

I also see an innate difference between men and women. Does that mean that there isn't a woman in the world who can lead? Of course not. But most women are terrible at it. Then again, most people are terrible leaders. In an age of forced equality, no one really understands what it means to be a leader and what a difficult task leading is. Most people just see the power and the prestige and feel denied their rightful due if they don't get the chance to have that for themselves.

There is one thing that author Rhoda Janzen does get right and that's her insight into premarital sex. This is one of those realizations that doesn't require Christianity in order to be valid and valuable:

And our season of abstinence showed us something that we might not have otherwise seen. We learned directly, experientially, that both of us has misused sex in the past, and that our vision of sex had been blocking our spiritual growth. It's not that we had overvalued sex. It's that we had been using it as a substitute for real intimacy. (154)

I find it interesting that she can see the value in abstinence but not in different roles for different genders. Of course one of these exercises benefits her in ways that she can tangibly experience in the present. The other presumes a wisdom of order that she isn't able to comprehend because it seems to be limiting to her immediate personal experience. And it's also as if all of her "education" has led her to believe that she is much better equipped to understand centuries of theological discourse than her male predecessors which, quite frankly, seems to be the tone of her entire book.

13 October 2012

A brief explanation

I believe that it is entirely possible to live a moral life without Christianity as the guide. The belief that a person cannot reach the conclusion that certain things are bad for them (e.g. sexual liberation) without the context of God is absurd. I am above all a consequentialist. That some actions had negative consequences and should therefore not be engaged in is a logical conclusion. That most of the world seems to continue to engage in behaviors that lead them to ruin is a function of human denial, not a lack of God.

I do believe that God and Christianity serve a great purpose. I also believe that modern Christianity has lost a lot of what it needs to be a functioning guide. It has absorbed too much of the liberal world's ideology. The last thing people need is a church that changes with the times and reflects the modern world. The church should be a place of refuge from the modern world, not a mirror of it. As a result of this misguided attempt at relevance, churches have alienated the very people it has tried to reach.

This is why I believe that the only way to change the world is through a logical approach. It worked with cigarette smoking. We all know the consequences of smoking on health. The same is true for a number of sacred cows in the world: premarital sex, cohabitation, gender and race equality, world peace. These holy icons of the modern age need to be slain and they can be so destroyed through the employment of logical thought.

As much as I wish that this could be done through some universal belief in God and Jesus, this just isn't going to happen. We need to defeat the evils of our time and win others to our cause through inspection of the facts and an understanding of reality. Because as much as liberals want you to believe that reality can be something we can all construct through positive thinking and visualization, that's just not the case.