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.

Unusual Plan

Agent Robert Thompson handed his partner Agent Jennifer Green to the traffickers in exchange for money. “I’ll kill her myself!”, Bobby said, “Jenn, I’m doing this for the kids, remember what I said!”

A ray shot out of his gun and Jennifer grew, clothes, accesories, and all. She placed her foot on the traffickers. “Where are the girls?”, Bobby demanded.

“There is a giant shoe on us!”, one cried, and revealed the location, while the leader insulted Jenn.

Jenn tossed her pendant aside to signal the rescue team. Once the girls were rescued, Jenn pressed her weight down on the traffickers.

This is a post for Friday Fictioneers by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, photo by Jennifer Pendergast.

A Day in the Life of a Bug

Harry the insect leaped off the pole and landed by a couple. The woman wore a black pantsuit and low heeled dress shoes, the man a jogging suit and sneakers. “Hey, hon, your shoes look nice on you”, the man said. 

She looked down and shouted, “A bug! I got it!”

Suddenly her shoe approached Harry. He saw the tread design get closer, until the sun was blotted out. He helplessly squirmed as weight pressed down on him…

Harry shot up in his bed. “Is everything ok, hon?”, his wife asked.

“I just had a really bizarre dream!”

This is a post for Friday Fictioneers by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, photo by Shaktiki Sharma.

Hashtag, Storm Chasers

A cloud started spinning, heading downwards. Julie turned the engine and started driving while Mike snapped a picture and posted it on Twitter, #StormChasers. They sent updates to the Weather Service, and Mike live tweeted. Torrential rain and golf ball sized hail pounded the truck, and an uprooted tree flew overhead. Suddenly Julie slammed on the brakes, saying, “Let’s get into the ditch!”

“Well”, Julie said, jumping in the ditch, “Maybe loafers weren’t the best footwear”, her feet getting wet.

“Beats heels”, Mike replied.

She laughed, then CRASH!: A telephone pole fell on the truck. Mike’s phone said, “No sevice”.

This is a post for Friday Fictioneers by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, who also provided the photo.

Being a Feminist: Between Clichés and Truths (by Sarah Andres; translation mine)

This post is a translation of a post on Sarah Andres’s blog. The word “post” links to the original. Now, for the words of Sarah Andres:

For many, “feminist” is an insult. A cuss word. A synonym for a bossy, domineering woman [French, dominatrice, “dominatrix” is an alternative translation]. Castrator. For this article dedicated to my[Sarah’s] life facing sexism, I’m making a compilation of remarks I receive when I say I’m a feminist. These come from those close to me as well as from strangers. They’re recurrent, and full of clichés to deconstruct.

“You’re a feminist? Well, you must be a lesbian, seeing that you don’t like men.”

That was said to me one day by a man I bumped into at a soirée. It was said without spitefulness, without aggressiveness, it was nearly a constant. You’re a feminist THEREFORE you don’t like men. Eh, no, my dear fellow. Whether or not I’m a lesbian (because we beat our mucous membranes) it’s not men that I dislike, but patriarchy. True, not all men are bidet scrapings. But even if not all men threaten women, all women are threatened by men. Sexism, like every other oppression, is institutional and systematic. It sets up a system, and that is really the problem.

Being a feminist is wanting equality. A man isn’t worth more than a woman, and vice versa. It’s not men that feminists dislike, it’s sexism. Is that really so hard to understand?

“Concretely, I don’t understand how one can be a feminist today! You women now have the right to vote like men, thus there is nothing else to demand.”

There again, this type of reflection often pops up in my face when I talk about feminism. The fight for gender equality doesn’t just stop at voting rights, abortion, contraception, etc., though they’re essential, as these rights are endlessly put in danger. On my blog[that is, Sarah Andres’s blog; link above under her name, site in French], you’ll find a plethora of articles on my daily life facing sexism. 

“And what does your boyfriend think of this? I mean, it can’t be easy having a feminist for a girlfriend.”

You’ll notice the heterocentrism of the question. No, sorry, the affirmation. Note that at the time of writing these lines, I have never had a romantic relationship. Nothing to do with my feminism, but if you want to know more about it, here you go: 

The line underneath says, “Feminism isn’t only reserved to women.”

“As long as you don’t shoe your breasts in public like Femen, it doesn’t bother me.”

In other words, looking at boobs in HD on porn sites and stark-naked women in advertisements doesn’t bother you. But should a woman parade by, airing her breasts, while making a political statement, that’s an issue. Basically, a pair of boobs should serve to breastfeed her kid, sell a vacuum cleaner, help you polish your broomstick, but it’s dirty if that becomes political. I can see we don’t live on the same planet.

Anyway, you aren’t credible; you can’t even agree with each other!”

It’s true that, when we look at the political parties, the multitude of social movements that exist or have existed, or even all the religions, all have the same political and social vision and ideological viewpoint in their thinking such that all agree amd are never divided. Bah, no. There are good women for bickering. Now, anyway.

“A feminist, that’s someone hysterical, sexually frustrated, hairy, ugly, frustrated, and with no sense of humor whatsoever.”

Well, I subscribe…

Why I Believe Jesus Is The Answer

Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”(John 14:6)

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”(John 1:14)

It is no mistake to say our world is broken: as Dr. King said, “Dangerous passions of pride, hatred, and selfishness are enthroned in our lives; truth lies prostrate on the rugged hills of nameless cavalries; and men do reverence before the false gods of nationalism and materialism.”(From the sermon, “Transformed Nonconformist”, reproduced in Strength to Love, p. 18). This has been the case since King spoke the words, and has continued, though it’s been swept under the rug. But, in the last year, the rug has been thrown out. Racial injustice continues, expressed hostility to minorities continues. People group together in their tribes; politically the other side is demonized. Religious Fundamentalists seek to use religion(be it Christianity, Islam, Hinduism) to impose their hateful agenda on others.

I grew up in a Religious Right echo chamber: we were far right conspiracy theorists, liberals were demonized as God-haters who wanted to remove all traces of America’s Judeo-Christian heritage, Muslims were stereotyped and demonized as out to kill non-Muslims, a jingoistic foreign policy was advocated.

I look at the world, the violence, injustice, and deceit, then I look to Jesus, and I see Someone worth following, Whose teachings inspire me that it doesn’t have to be this way. He scandalized the powers that be by hanging out with those the establishment called “sinners”: tax collectors(basically Jews who collaborated with the Roman occupation), prostitutes, and others. However, Jesus interacted with all sectors of society: Roman soldiers(who were a foreign power occupying Judea and Galilee), tax collectors, prostitutes, Zealots(who called for an armed uprising against Rome), scholars, fishermen, etc. Why, He had, in His inner circle, both a Zealot and a tax collector. He spoke up for “the least of these”(Mt. 25). He criticized most harshly those among the leaders who cared more for rules than people, who laid heavy burdens on people, who took advantage of the defenseless. He challenged the systems of power and privilege, saying the first shall be last, and the last first. Jesus also said , “The kings of the Gentiles Lord it over them, and those in authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’  Not so with you; instead the one who is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the one who serves.(Luke 22:25‭-‬26). In a time of imperialism He says to love your enemies, and that “He that takes up the sword shall perish by the sword.”(Mt. 26:52). 

While He was God, according to Christian teaching, Philippians 2 says that He gave up His divine privileges; according to other verses, this was to fix the brokenness of the world. In our world, people seek to go to the top, regardless of who gets trampled in the process, and jealously guard their position. Jesus shows a different way. In the second verse I quoted at the top of my post, it means that Jesus is essentially God’s moving into the neighborhood. In Colossians 1:20, it’s written that God is trying to reconcile all things to Himself through Jesus; in Ephesians 2 it’s written that Jesus destroyed the hostility between Jews and Gentiles (and thus between all groups in enmity), and the church concluded in Acts 15 that no culture has a monopoly on the Gospel. Basically, Jesus’ being the Way means that He is the Way from God to us; that He, by His life, showed us what God is like.

This allowed me to break out of my shell to reach out to liberals, Muslims, and the LGBT community. Many liberals dismiss conservatives, especially Trump voters. I didn’t vote for Trump; in fact, I think he represents many horrible things, and a lot that’s wrong with our world. But, I choose to interact with his supporters(mainly because they include my friends; by the way, I am mixed race). First, I was taught, growing up, that liberals are terrible, that abortion is killing babies, and thus depraved. However, upon interacting with pro-choicers online, I came to see their viewpoint. (I will not be discussing this, as I’m a cisgendered male who can never get pregnant; however, I do think there is too much dogmatism on both sides.) Jesus met people where they were, and guided them to wholeness.

Well, these are my thoughts, as a Christian. In another post, I will address some of the issues the first verse I quoted raises, and other issues raised by my post. I recognize that Christians aren’t the only ones with stories, or that can be good. So, if you are a non-Christian, I am willing to listen to your story if you are willing to share it; and, please, leave any objections in the comments, and I will try to include them in the follow-up post. 

 A Male’s Gratitude to Feminism

CONTENT NOTE: This is an “PG-13” rated post and talks about sex, rape, and misogyny.

TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of rape, misogyny, and spiritual abuse

READER DISCRETION ADVISED

This post was inspired by the following tweet from a follower under #SpiritualAbuseIs: Check out @iSierraNichole’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/iSierraNichole/status/832015035153186816?s=09
This is what was taught at the church in which I was raised: the pastor often blamed wives for their husbands’ unfaithfulness, saying the husbands cheated because the wives wouldn’t have sex with them, saying, “If you don’t do your homework, someone else will.”

This was actually preached frequently. The verse used to support this is 1 Cor. 7:5, “Do not deprive each other, except by mutual agreement for a specified time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

The teaching was, in sex, couples should be Creative, Interesting, and Available (abbreviated CIA). In theory, it applied to both men and women, but 99.9% of the time it was preached against the women. One of the comments was, “Ladies, how hard is it to spread your legs and smile?”

The pastor also once made a remark that people should move, rather than just lying there. I have since read online that lack of movement in sex is often a response to rape. (More on this below.)

We guys were fed a generous helping of misogynistic propaganda. We were told things like, “The system is biased towards women, against men. Society and most of the church are this way, but I, and there are very few others, have the guts to tell you the Truth[TM]”, and, “All a woman has to do is to bang her head a few times in order to bleed, call the cops, and the husband is powerless, because they’ll believe her”; also, “She can hit you, but if you hit back, you’ll get in trouble.” We were also told that after six months most women “close the garage door”, meaning sex would be rare. In fact, when I expressed a desire to go overseas, and was not released, I was told, “God is only trying to protect you, for 80% of women out there won’t do you right. They’ll turn you down for sex and you’ll be tempted to cheat with her girlfriend.”

On one occasion, when I expressed doubts about my faith after being confronted on lust, I was told this was my last chance, for God was getting bricks with which to knock me upside the head.  I was told that if I were to backside, I would either go insane(the pastor said, “You need me more if you’re smart”), get a venereal disease from being a womanizer, or end up in an unhappy, sexless marriage. But, I was told that if I went with God(TM), I could have a wonderful marriage, and all I would need to do would be to tell my wife to put on her teddies for sex. 

Even at the time it wasn’t appealing; it seemed crude, disgusting, and was a turn-off. Now for a confession: back in those days, had I gotten married, I would have begged until I got it. This is why I am thankful for all the feminists I encountered on Twitter and on blogs (especially the Love, Joy, Feminism commentariat, who patiently have answered my questions, even when I’m exasperating at not getting it!). I now know that what I would have done is wrong, and I’m grateful to have been enlightened before I even started dating, let alone got married. Even though the church presented themselves as experts on marriage and family, I feel I’ve learned more in the nearly two years of being on social media and interacting with feminists than my entire time at the church! I think, thanks to them, I can be a better boyfriend and husband than I would be otherwise. Also, it is due to what I read on these blogs that I recognize that the remark that people shouldn’t just lie there immobile was making light of marital rape, something that would never have occurred to me otherwise. (In my days of ignorance I also made some comments that make me cringe nowadays.)

Like St. Paul said in 1 Tim. 1:13, “I acted in ignorance”; well, since I’m a virgin, technically not “acted”, but the point remains. The problem with my begging is that it does not allow for a “no”, and a “yes” is meaningless if “no” won’t be taken for an answer. But, growing up, we weren’t taught boundaries, we always had to be ready if the church needed something, and not listening to the pastor, as God’s Delegated Authority(TM), was as not listening to God. This does not allow a healthy culture that honors boundaries and consent to form. Feminists say, “Men, you need to respect women’s boundaries and consent, for women are people too.”, which implies being human means the right to set boundaries. Also, since we were taught that since the Bible says, “You were bought with a price”(1 Cor. 6:19-20), the idea of bodily autonomy would have been anathema. (Interestingly, they didn’t mention “You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human masters.”, 1 Cor. 7:23, NRSV.) Thus, I am grateful also to feminists in letting me know that I can set my own boundaries.

However, since I heard that some women have a higher libido than their husbands, I considered that possibility frequently, and often interpreted the CIA teaching in that light. Maybe with being a virgin who never dated and who is uninformed on sex, it’s too early to say it, but, even taking into consideration the fact that my autonomy and consent matter, I still want to be available to my wife when I get married, mainly to make her happy and to express gratitude for picking me out of 7 billion people.

I will end with this: though I did it in ignorance, to the feminists out there reading this post and all women, I am sorry for my role in perpetuating the system. Though I was brainwashed, and didn’t know, I am still sorry. I am glad  have been enlightened and have a chance to change direction. (From a religious viewpoint, I think this is what repentance is. In Judaism, part of repentance[teshuvah in Hebrew] is recognizing the damage caused. Sadly, in the matrix I grew up in, the damage was erased; the shadow on the cave wall was interpreted differently.)

Critical Thinking Series: Ad Hominem

The ad hominem (Latin for, “to the person”) fallacy is attacking the person rather than the argument, by saying that the person must be wrong due to the group they belong to, the motivations for holding the position, whom they associate with, etc. An argument is an ad hominem when one of these categories is brought up to discredit an unrelated claim. 

Now for a few examples: “You’re only an atheist because you don’t want to be held accountable for your lifestyle.” It may be true that an atheist doesn’t want to live by religious rules; but that neither proves nor disproves the existence of God. 

“People only oppose political correctness and identity politics because they want to maintain white supremacy.” This may be true, and there are racist things said in the name of being “politically incorrect”, but a person’s motivations do not necessarily mean that the case they make is invalid, or mean that there is nothing wrong with PC culture. 

Sometimes the ad hominem fallacy is used to attack an argument based on whom the speaker associates with. A personal example: a coworker once went on about a conspiracy theorist who went on bashing Mandela. When I pointed out alternative interpretations, he accused me of only supporting Mandela because I’m black. However, even if that were true, that says nothing about his claims about Mandela. 

Similarly, this fallacy is committed when the speaker is disnissed as a libtard, a SJW, etc. This may be true, but merely being conservative, liberal, or a SJW does not make an argument right or wrong. 

This is closely related to the genetic fallacy, rejecting something due to the source. For example, Pythagoras, the namesake of the Pythagorean Theorem, belonged to a number-worshipping cult. It would be the genetic fallacy to dismiss the Pythagorean Theorem because you don’t believe in worshipping numbers. Another example is rejecting an idea because you hear it on a news source you don’t agree with (Fox, the so-called liberal media, etc.). 

The last category I’ll talk about is the tu quoque(Latin for “you too”) fallacy. Examples of this include Radovan Karadžić’s claim, during his trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity, that Croats and Bosniaks also committed war crimes. This may be true, but it doesn’t mean that Srebrenica wasn’t a genocide. Also, in response to references to racism, some white people make reference to “reverse racism”. Even if you accept the existence of reverse racism, it’s existence doesn’t mean that black people don’t face  that white people don’t. 

The bottom line is, in a discussion, focus on what your interlocutor is saying, the argument, and respond to that. Remember, debates are searches for the truth, not games to be won. The point is to learn more, and to connect across tribal lines. What matters is what the argument is, and what is most supported by what we know, and recognition that we don’t know everything. 

It’s like the Golden Rule says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It’s a good way to stand for truth and principles while also keeping an open mind and being tolerant. Avoiding the ad hominem helps build bridges, and helps one to have more accurate views.