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 show 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.

God’s Hosts/Guests (originally by James Woody; translation mine)

Today I am doing another translation; this time a sermon by James Woody (a Protestant pastor in Montpellier) called “Les Hôtes de Dieu”(original in link). Now, for Pastor Woody.

Hebrews 13:1-3
“1)Persevere in brotherly love.

2)Don’t forget hospitality; for, while exercising it, some have welcomed angels without knowing it. 3) Remember prisoners, as if you were also prisoners; and those who are mistreated, as if you yourselves were in a body.”

“Some, without knowing it, have welcomed angels”, as a result of the hospitality which they showed. Without knowing it…in other words, while being unaware, without knowing anything in particular, without dominating the events, without controlling precisely who was arriving, without following a church project to the letter. In an unexpected manner, some welcomed angels.
DON’T DOMINATE

To not dominate the entirety of events is to allow those whom we meet the liberty to be themselves and to be bearers of differences that could enrich us. Even better, to not dominate from beginning to end those who arrive in the course of the meeting  a discussion, or an interview, is to accept change in contact with the Other, and to not impose limits on reading and interviews, a predetermined  order of required passages. There’s no divine liturgy in the sense of mechanics of the sacred that, without fail, bring in the presence of God.

To not dominate is to not presume who will arrive to a dialogue, a meal, or a walk. It is, in the case of a dialogue, to not know how one will respond before our interlocutor has finished responding.

THE AMBIGUITY OF “HÔTES” 

The word “hospitality” comes from the French word “hospitalité”,  which gives the French language the word “hôte”, used in the French title of this piece and charged with a delicious ambiguity. The word “hôte” leaves us unaware; meaning that when we say “hôte”, we don’t know in advance who welcomes and who is welcomed. To be l’hôte (host, guest) of God could be welcomed by God, or whoever is welcomed, to welcome him. This uncertainty is sweet, because it indicates that we welcome each other, that we never know very well who welcomes, and who is welcomed. This indicated that welcoming is an affair that both enjoy.

Without knowing it, some who thought they were welcoming had been welcomed by those much greater, as a result of the hospitality that they manifested. They were simply available, open, and welcoming of the events that presented themselves. They were opportunists in the sense that they were prepared to take hold of the opportunites that life offered them.

To tell the truth, the Greek text speaks of “philoxénia”, the inverse of xenophobia: the love of foreignness, the love of the foreigner/stranger [“L’ Étranger” can mean both], neaning that the invitation made is to appreciate whoever arrives and not to consider him a priori to be a threat.

DIACONIAN WORSHIP

Some people, thinking to offer a meal, ended up at worship; for worship isn’t only Thursday at noon and Sunday morning. Worship is each time we live hosting the life that the Gospel speaks of, each time we have the desire to embody the Gospel, to be the living word of God in Jesus Christ.

Worship is each time we’re a soul; that is, when we are host of life, capable of welcoming opportunities; and guests of life, ready to be taken by that which life proposes to us, by the projects that are developed, by the adventures that are conceived. Worship is each time we’re a soul in the sense where our personality gets up and grows in the view of the Other, in interaction with whoever introduces himself and enlarges our horizon as much as he deepens our understanding of the world. Worship is each time we are a soul, that we are deeply moved by the world that knocks on the door of our personal story, and to which we extend a nice welcome, unless it be the world that welcome us.

Remembering those in prison, as the letter to the Hebrews invites us to do, is to be host to those that society judges less worthy, the outcasts, those from whom one wants to protect him/herself. The church responds to its call when it is host to those wothout rank, those of ill repute, the importune, and even the guilty. According to the words of theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The church is only really itself when it is the church for others.” The church is the host of the world, welcoming people into intimacy with God; and guest of the world, in making itself at home on the concerns of its contemporaries.

We could call this “diaconian worship”: the service rendered to those we welcome and who welcome us, a service giving meaning to the living, in the manner of the angels that guide, that consists of strengthening brotherhood and developing gestures of solidarity. We all get enjoyment when we help each other.

“Hospitality” is, perhaps, a term that we could have in mind to give the assembly of church life an intensity rising to the heights at which the Gospel invites us to live: to make our church a place to be the hosts and guests of God.