Why I’m Here (Updated)

In my second post, I explained why I started my blog. I have decided to do an updated post because there are other things I’ve thought about that I would like visitors to this blog and to my Twitter homepage to know. However, I am going to keep the old post up, which you can view here, though most stuff there will be repeated in this post.

Why does this blog exist? First of all, the name: it comes from Jeremy Beahan of the Reasonable Doubts Podcast. “Before you identify yourself as a Republican or a Democrat; before you identify as a Christian or a Jew; before you identify as anything, identify yourself — think of your primary identity as a seeker oftruth.Put that first above anything else. Then whatever is worthy should follow that.” Previous to this quote in the podcast Beahan said it’s important that we have the courage to seek opposing viewpoints; to listen to the other side. Thus, I hope this blog won’t be a liberal, conservative, or libertarian blog; it won’t be a Christian blog; it will be a blog for all seekers of truth — black, white; Jewish, Christian, Muslim, atheist, agnostic, Buddhist, Hindu; conservative, liberal, libertarian; cisgendered and straight as well as LGBTQIAP+. 

To share whatever I have that may help someone, that they may connect to. A little over a year ago I joined Twitter to connect with people beyond my bubble, to see alternative perspectives, to break the shell of provincialism.

People have called me smart for much of my life, but I really don’t know what I’m doing. However I think I need to share what I do have. The Quran says “Whoever is given knowledge is given indeed abundant wealth.”(Surah 2:269) and “O my Lord! Increase me in knowledge.”(20:114). The Bible says “If you seek it[wisdom] as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.”(Prov. 2:4-5, NIV)

Here are a few hadith(sayings of Muhammad): “Go back to your people and teach them.”(Bukhari 3:25); “Let him who is present impart knowledge to him who is absent.”(Bukhari 3:37); “Knowledge is only maintained through teaching.”(Bukhari 3:10). The idea of knowledge being wealth and the imperatives to share it reminds me of Psalms 72, in which Solomon prayed for wealth and power to be a voice to the voiceless. Like in the parable of the talents(Mt.25:14-30) I see a good mind as a gift, a trust. The two servants who used their talents were told “Well done thou good and faithful servant”(Mt. 25:21, 23); whereas the one who buried his talent was told “Thou wicked and slothful servant”(Mt. 25:26). 1 Peter 4:10 says “Each one of you should use whatever gifts he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its many forms.”

I mentioned above my reasons for getting a Twitter account. As I mentioned in other posts, I grew up in an insular Evangelical/Fundamentalist environment. Around age 18 I began to question my upbringing and wonder if there’s more than just my bubble. Plato’s Cave became a good friend, as it was the only way I could verbalize my sentiments. )That’s where my profile pic comes from.) In the Bible Jesus interacted with a variety of people, choosing for apostles a tax collector (basically a collaborator with the Roman occupation) and a Zealot (a group that wanted an armed revolt against Rome). The Epistle of Diognetus says, “Every foreign country is a fatherland to them, and every fatherland is foreign.”

I also seek to build bridges of understanding between peoples and resist tribalism and provincialism. The Bible says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.”(Matthew 5:9) and “For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees. He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace, and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed.”(Ephesians 2:14‭-‬16). Furthermore, it says, “Strive for peace and promote it!”(Psalms 34:14b). The Qur’an says, “O mankind! We made you from a male and a female into nations and tribes so that you may know each other.”(Surah 49:13) I’m here to help break down these walls and to help us to know each other. The us vs them mentalities are one of my pet peeves. There is so much more to the world than our little bubbles; it’s more beneficial for all that we transcend our provincialism and tribalism.

Due to having grown up in a controlling environment (and having wondered whether or not to label my experiences as abusive), I also want this to be a safe place for abuse victims/survivors; particularly for spiritual abuse, but also for all other abuse as well. I’ve learned a bit about this subject not talked about much in Evangelicalism and have found various online spaces helpful in sorting things out. I want this to be such a place (for people regardless of where they are on the political spectrum); it’s a way of expressing gratitude.

Since I have questioned my upbringing and had times of doubt, I also want this blog to be a safe place for doubters, a place where we can ask honest questions. In my Twitter bio I quote Michel de Montaigne, a 16th century French essayist: “Que sais-je?”, meaning “What do I know?” I say this as a rejection of dogmatism (like what I was raised with) and a willingness to learn from others. The 17th century Ethiopian philosopher Zera Yacoub urged people to submit their beliefs to a thorough examination. The Bible says, “But examine all things; hold fast to what is good.”(1 Thessalonians 5:21) and “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when what is perfect comes, the partial will be set aside.”(1 Corinthians 13:9‭-‬10). It was through wrestling with God that Jacob becomes Israel, and after Job has honestly expressed his doubts and feelings, God tells Jon’s friends, who had said pious clichés, “You have not spoken about me what is right, as my servant Job has.(Job 42:7). In her book Allah, Liberty, and Love Irshad Manji writes, “Faith doesn’t forbid exploration. It’s dogma that does. Dogma, by definition, is threatened by questions, while Faith welcomes questions because it trusts that God, being magisterial, can handle them.”

BOTTOM LINE: I have an inquisitive personality, have many interests, and am an intellectual. For me learning new things is fun. I want to share that; my experiences, my journey, my story, my studying, reflections — maybe it will be of help to someone; I hope to make connections, to develop a community in which we can learn, grow, connect, etc. Also psychology shows that sharing what we learn helps us to learn.
For more please see my post Meet Me.

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Friday the 13th, Calendar Geekery, and Inspiration (Well, You Be the Judge!)

At the time of writing and posting this, we are coming upon Friday the 13th (13 April 2018, to be exact), a day considered unlucky according to superstition. (I personally do not believe in that, and would be more likely to have a party.) Anyway, superstitions vary across cultures. In Spain, Tuesday the 13th is considered unlucky because martes, the Spanish word for Tuesday, is derived from Mars, the Roman god of war. Anyway, this year, we had a Tuesday 13th for two months in a row. This has not happened for 11 years, and it will be another 11 years before this happens again.

So, here is what I find inspiring. This little bit of calendar trivia has me thinking of where I was 11 years ago, where I am now, and what has happened in between. In 2007, I was alternating working between various odd jobs with people at chhrch. I had some dreams, such as travel the world, work for world peace, promote human rights, promote the right to an education (or even teach), and be a life coach. I knew, however, those were not the focus at church, and the church was pretty controlling. (I was hoping to move abroad and start pursuing these things.)

Then, I started working for a certain guy, and was paid less than minimum wage for years, and worked long hours. I was told that if I didn’t accept the job, my marriage and ministry would be postponed. Then, after Obama’s first election, the church got really into conspiracy theories (which became virtual articles of faith) and became more insular. (It became stronger over time.) In fact, some things I valued were labeled as ideas of the Illuminati. Over time, these dreams died, and I dismissed them as goofy ideas resulting from youthful ignorance.

However, a few years ago, after years of this, my friends started openly questioning dogma, which lead to our getting raises at minimum wage. I got a smartphone and social media. Over time, I remembered my former dreams, and realized how bad things were at church. After a few years, last year I left the church and got laid off from my job. I decided to go to college. (Actually, I had already decided to go to college, and was working towards it.) Now, I am doing well, thriving, figuring out goals, and even am in an honor society.

In short, eleven years ago, I would never have guessed that I would be talking on the internet about the bad things about my church and calling it “abuse”. And certainly I am much happier than I was five or six years ago, in which I hoped for more, despite the fact I saw nothing but day after day after day of the same thing. I will say that eleven years ago was much happier, and that the past year has been my best in 11 years, and I dare say the best (for my personal life) in my life. The intervening years were rough.

Now, the other thing I think about when it comes to the calendar’s not repeating itself for 11 years is where I want to be then. It makes a good benchmark for establishing long-term goals. Upon observing dates in which the calendar didn’t repeat for 11 years, I noticed that my life was always in a different spot in both spaces. So, this is an inspiration to think about where I would like to be in 2029. Life will likely be in a different place, so I wonder how I’ll feel about now, and how I will view the intervening time.

So, I can say the calendar geekery makes me happy as I look back and consider revived dreams and hope. While the intervening years were difficult, it is nice to see the dreams revived. As for the future, the goals inspire me, and help me to look forward with confidence.

Trip to Cedar Point

Bobby had come a long way concerning amusement parks. As a kid, he rode mostly round rides in Kiddie Land. As a teen, his friends helped him overcome his fear of roller coasters. He was now at Cedar Point, on the 200′ Magnum with his friend Pat. The roller coaster slowly climbed the hill, and Bobby enjoyed the view before the drop. Bobby didn’t scream, as he felt that was cheesy. When the ride came to hills, Bobby let go of the restraints to get the full 0-G feeling.

Afterwards, Bobby and Pat said in unison, “Let’s ride again!”

This is a post for Friday Fictioneers by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, photo by J. Hardy Carroll.

Mayan Adventure

Robert Jones, an American EFL* teacher and archaeologist among the Maya in Guatemala, was exploring the ancient Mayan temple (dated to the Archaic Period**) with his colleagues Professors Maria and Delores Kan from the university, Fr. Pedro Tun, and Santiago Tupac, a shaman from the local village. They came upon a Long Count Calendar, and a discussion started about the Mayan calendar. 

As they spoke, a glow appeared near the calendar, and three women (dressed in ancient Mayan dresses) and three men (dressed in jaguar skins, two as warriors one as a priest) just materialized. The priest, in proto-Mayan, told how, through a secret ritual, they went to the beginning of the next Great Cycle. Santiago indicated his belief in the story, and Robert suggested that the time travellers accompany them to the university. 

On the way there, they stopped to get the time travelers modern clothes. As they were leaving the store, an inter-dimensional monster showed up. Nothing Santiago, Pedro, or the priest worked, but one of the female time travelers shrunk and jumped on the monster, crushing it beneath her new tassel loafers.

Maria simply commented, “A woman saves the day!”, to which Robert cheers with approval. 

This is a post for Sunday Photo Fiction by Al Forbes. 

*English as a Foreign Language

**Before 2000 BCE

Spying on the Lovebirds

I was sitting in the kitchen when the lovebirds, Marlene and Bob, returned to the WG* we share with two others. From what I hear, Bob is an American student here in Germany. The lovebirds talked, and were about to kiss when Marlene looked at me and shrieked, “A spider!”

Next thing I knew, I was on the floor at her feet. I gulped as she raised her foot to step on me. I squirmed under the sole of her penny loafer as she increased the weight until my body, unable to support the weight, collapsed with a loud crunch. 

*WG, Wohngemeinschaft (lit., living community), in Germany, is a living arrangement in which people live together to share expenses.

This is a post for Friday Fictioneers by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, photo by Victor and Sarah Potter.

In Holland

Jake’s world tour was going phenomenally. He was just arriving in Amsterdam harbor on a boat from London. He grabbed his stuff and exited into the dusk. He found a bike shop, where he rented a bike and pedaled through the streets of Amsterdam. While doing so, he snapped pictures of the buildings, the canals, and the lights, and posted them on Twitter. He went to a café to finally meet Greta, whom he met on Twitter. After having snacks and drinks and talking, Jake headed to the hostel and fell asleep immediately.

The next morning he went to the rendezvous location, where Greta was standing outside a car. They got in and Greta drove off. “Now, off to Friesland and the Elfstedentocht*! I was practicing even in USA with both rollerblading and ice skating so I could participate in this 11-city race! I am so excited!”

Greta smiled, and said, “I’m glad you can participate, after all you went through back in the States!”

Jake smiled and enjoyed the scenery and Greta’s company. However, halfway to Friesland, the car made weird signs and stopped. Greta tried to rev it, but failed to start it. 

The Elfstedentocht is an 11-city ice-skating race that occurs in the Dutch province of Friesland when the weather freezes the canals.

This is a post for Sunday Photo Fiction by Al Forbes, who also provided the photo.

Roman Laws on Slavery

The following post is a paper I did for World Civilizations I:

Slavery was widespread in the Roman Empire. In this post, which, I discuss Roman slavery laws based on the Institutes of Gaius, an ancient Roman legal textbook, and the Code of Theodosius. I will talk about freedmen and slaves in the Roman Empire, the conditions under which slave owners were liable for killing their slaves, and reflect on whether or not the Romans had a fairly liberal view of slavery, and whether or not they treated their slaves well.

First of all, the Institutes of Gaius classifies human  as either slaves or free. The free were classified as either ingénue (born free) or libertine (freed slaves). The libertini were further subdivided as either Roman citizens, Latins, or deditici (subjects, the same category as conquered people).

Libertini were classified as deditici if they had been subject to chains, interrogation, and/or torture for a crime they had committed, or had been gladiators. Such freedmen were ineligible for both Roman citizenship and Latin status, and were barred from coming within 100 miles of Rome, on pain of being enslaved for life. They were deditici for life.

Libertini who neither fulfilled the requirements to become Roman citizens nor were deditici were classified as Latins. The conditions for citizenship were to be released after age thirty in front of a council for a just cause, to have served six years in the vigils (Roman police force), or, if a Latin, to be married either to a Latin of the same status or to a Roman citizen with seven adult Roman citizens as witnesses, then had a child, and next appeared before the local magistrate after the child’s first birthday to prove the process had been carried out in accordance with Roman law.

My mention of a just cause in reference to manumission brings up one of two types of slaves I would like to discuss. One condition that was considered “just cause” for manumission was to free the pedagogus, who was a slave who took care of children. The pedagogus would thus, if over thirty when freed (which is highly likely) and the master were at least twenty, become a Roman citizen, provided he had done nothing to earn the status of deditici. 

The vigils were the ancient Roman police force. Slaves who served in the vigils got the special privilege of obtaining Roman citizenship upon release after six years of service (later reduced to three years), even if they were under thirty. Other slaves had to be at least thirty upon manumission to be eligible for Roman citizenship. However, these benefits only applied to Latins; deditici received no special privileges from serving in the police force.

The Code of Theodosius provided circumstances under which a slave owner could be charged with homicide in the death of a slave. One condition in which an owner was NOT liable was if a slave died in custody after a beating. However, the owner was liable if a slave died during a beating. Owners were also liable for inflicting lethal wounds, hanging slaves, having them thrown from heights, using punishments reserved for the state, and torturing them to death.

Now, did Rome have a fairly liberal view of slavery? On the one hand, no, in that they practiced slavery in the first place. On the other hand, “yes”, if the key word is “fairly”, as is shown by contrasting it with 19th-century American slavery. Roman law specifically called slaves “human”, whereas American slaves were not considered himan. Freedmen could become citizens in Rome, whereas American slaves only became citizens after the abolition of slavery. (It is true that the deditici could never be citizens; but that was based om behavior. In American slavery, it was race that barred a person from citizenship.) Roman law offered slaves protection that American law did not, in that an owner in the American South could kill his slaves and not face prosecution. (On the other hand, that raises the question of whether or not the Romans enforced their laws.)

Did the Romans treat their slaves well? Ultimately, the answer is “no” because owning someone is, by default, not treating that person well. It can be said that, for their era, the Romans treated their slaves well, especially compared to American slavery. For example, freed slaves were eligible for citizenship and had legal protections from excessive brutality. However, they were not protected from beatings and could lose their eligibility for citizenship. The question is, how easy was it for them to be accused of crimes that would get them labeled deditici? Was it easy for owners to kill slaves and make it seem legal? I have to say that the Romans were paternalistic in their treatment of slaves.

To um up, Roman law classified people as slaves or free, with the free consisting of those who were born free and those who were freed slaves. The freedmen includee Roman citizens, Latins, and subjects, with various conditions determining status. Subjects (deditici) were in that category for life, but Latins could become citizens. Two categories of slaves, the pedagogus and the vigils had a good chance of becoming citizens. Roman law allowed for owners in some cases to be prosecuted for killing slaves. The Roman views of slavery were not liberal due to their acceptance of slavery, but they were less brutal in many ways than was American slavery centuries later.

Things Heat Up in a Swedish Ice Bar

Elena stomped out her cigarette before entering the Swedish ice bar and ordering a cosmopolitan. As she took her drink and began to sit down, she felt a slap to her rear. She knocks him over with a kick to the chest and steps on him. An American guy said to her, “Nice boots! Would you like to dance?”

Elena looks down and says, “Yes”. POW! The American is punched in the face, and a man calls him racial slurs. The American responds in Swedish, and as they begin to fight, security guards remove the Nazi from the premises.

This is a post for Friday Fictioneers by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, photo by Roger Bultot.