Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Jesus the terrorist

I went to round table with Megan at University Presbyterian Church this last Thursday morning, with my strep and everything. I will say in my own defense I didn't know at the time that the thing with which I had already been suffering for 2 days *was* strep.

They read John 2:12-23. This is the story where Jesus makes a whip and chases merchants and loan sharks out of the temple in Jerusalem.

When the Passover Feast, celebrated each spring by the Jews, was about to take place, Jesus traveled up to Jerusalem. He found the Temple teeming with people selling cattle and sheep and doves. The loan sharks were also there in full strength.
Jesus put together a whip out of strips of leather and chased them out of the Temple, stampeding the sheep and cattle, upending the tables of the loan sharks, spilling coins left and right. He told the dove merchants, "Get your things out of here! Stop turning my Father's house into a shopping mall!" That's when his disciples remembered the Scripture, "Zeal for your house consumes me."

But the Jews were upset. They asked, "What credentials can you present to justify this?" Jesus answered, "Tear down this Temple and in three days I'll put it back together."

They were indignant: "It took forty-six years to build this Temple, and you're going to rebuild it in three days?" But Jesus was talking about his body as the Temple. Later, after he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this. They then put two and two together and believed both what was written in Scripture and what Jesus had said.

During the time he was in Jerusalem, those days of the Passover Feast, many people noticed the signs he was displaying and, seeing they pointed straight to God, entrusted their lives to him. But Jesus didn't entrust his life to them. He knew them inside and out, knew how untrustworthy they were. He didn't need any help in seeing right through them.

A good friend of mine, Renee, in the process of defending Jesus against my accusations that he was a nut-case, said that it was about economic justice--about standing up for the poor in the face of the overwhelming cultural and institutional power of the rich who would make them pay in order to worship (Or something like that).

This made me wonder to what extent Jesus' actions here could be called terrorism? Of course the word has now become to some extent useless. Even if it's not useless, I'm no doubt performing some rather aggregious eisogesis. I just remember Brian McClaren talking about how from one perspective the "terrorists" have chosen an astoundingly effective modus operandi. For instance, how much did Bin Laden and co spend on planning, orchestrating, and carrying out the 9-11 attacks? To what extent has our Trillion Dollar + military response led directly to our current economic difficulties? Put another way--aren't the actions of "terrorists" like Hamas (for instance) to some extent the actions of the worlds poorest striking out against the world's richest?

It's easy to try to to frame these actions of Jesus in such a way that he's *not* a nut case. But honestly, if anyone did such a thing now, they'd at *best* end up involuntarily in a mental hospital. It *was* violence. He was turning over tables and causing people's livestock to stampede. Definite danger in such a situation of people getting badly hurt or killed. He paused (thoughtfully?) at the beginning to hand make a *whip*, for use in his ... rampage.

I'm trying to think of what in American life amounts to something similar to the temple at Jerusalem--a sort of profoundly significant religious, cultural and historical *center* of the nation. The national Cathedral? What if someone came into the national cathedral and starting creating such mayhem with a whip and an attitude? Exactly--multiple people would pull out their cell phones and call 911. Then the perpetrator would go to jail to await trial. That is if someone didn't just pull out a gun and shoot him.

Is it called for? Does Jesus accomplish anything with such behavior? Was it unthought out--an act of passion? My friend Katie said clearly not. He stops at the beginning to take the time to find and put together the pieces of what became his whip.

Is this the only act of violence Jesus ever does? If so, taken in the overall story of his life, what does it teach us about violence? We must only ever be perpetrators of violence *once* in our lifetime, so make it count? Against whom is Jesus directing the violence? Certainly not against foreigners--these are other Israelites. It's "internecine" violence.

Is it unreasonable to see a link between Jesus' use of violence against the Israeli power brokers in this story and their use, three years later, of violence in Jesus' own death? Jesus himself makes this connection.

Ultimately, to me, it's just gross and ugly. I can't see any justification for it. I wonder if Jesus later regretted it. I'm still not convinced that violence ultimately moves us toward any of the goals toward which we really want to move. BICBW.

Monday, January 26, 2009

How do they *do* that?

I loved this quote from this news story:

In addition, Japan's population is aging at a faster pace than any other country in the world.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Is Polygamy "wrong"?

"Moonaroo" has an interesting series of posts surrounding the raid last year of the Yearning For Zion Ranch/FLDS, and the forcible removal of 400+ children on allegations of child abuse, which were later dismissed by the Texas Supreme Court.

  Her posts, in order, are here, here, and here.  That last one is  Larry King Interview with some women from the FLDS which set off all sort of warning bells for me.

 Moonaroo was apparently inundated with comments many of which were rather rude, and the great majority of which were from guys.  She's looking to hear what the gals think.

  Her posts raised an interesting question for me:  Is polygamy "wrong"?  "Wrong" is of course a shockingly loaded term.  But I mean ... is it inherently less ideal than monogamy? Is it inherently more dangerous and/or degrading to women than monogamy? Do the answers to these questions change based on culture/time?  Why or why not?  Etc.

 For myself I wouldn't want to be married to more than one woman.  I love Megan, and she rocks, and I'm totally happy with her, AND sometimes it takes a great deal of concentration and commitment on my part to be a good husband to her (and no doubt vice versa).   But I definitely don't have enough concentration and committment to do that with two people, even if I wanted to, which I don't.

  But maybe some guys *do* have enough concentration and committment?  Or maybe in some cultures that are less individualistic (there's a loaded term) marriage in *general* is easier?  Or maybe ....

  There--I'm sure I've opened at least a couple of cans of worms, and no doubt garnered a great deal of trouble for myself by doing so. =)  Your thoughts?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hope amidst the darkness

Warning: Battlestar Galactica spoilers! If you haven't seen the latest episode, you might want to stop reading now =)

I liked this interview with Kate Vernon, the actress who plays Ellen Tigh on the TV series Battlestar Galactica. Last night's first episode of the second half of season four revealed that her character, who had died and been written out of the series, has come back as the mysterious and much wondered about final Cylon.

Kate says with regards to when her character got killed off of the show back in 2006:

"I wasn't done with the character," Vernon moaned. "They killed me off. I was devastated. Why me? What did I do wrong?"

A small reprieve came when executive producer Ron Moore told her she would return as a dark vision of her husband's tortured mind, but Vernon resigned herself to the fact that her role in "one of the greatest shows ever made" was over. Then, on an especially wrenching afternoon many months ago, she got a phone call.

"I was crawling down Sepulveda and I had just come from a therapy session and I was crying, my eyes were swollen like clam eyes, and I was hanging on my steering wheel wondering what was going on in my life and my career. The phone rang. It was Ron's assistant.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Who are the "terrorists", and who is "us", and who is "them" (and who is my ingroup, *really*)?

Brooke asks

why is hamas considered a terrorist organization but not the israeli government - or the us government for that matter? i don’t understand what deliniates terrorist versus legitimate. is it terrorist when the bombs are handmade and legitimate when they are factory made? i don’t understand, i really really don’t understand.

My first reaction (and this is typical for me)--I want to go to Wikipedia and see what the article on terrorism says (love of learning). But I didn't really need to--it says pretty much what I would have thought it was going to say, if I had thought for a moment.

This use of language is as old as humanity. "They" are bad, pagan, heathen, heretics, communists, terrorists, fascists, etc. etc. (these "they"s, as you can see, spring from my own particular place/time of existing.) It's a way to ... feel safe, or retain control, or ....

Here's an interesting question: Ask people what first comes to mind when you say "They--those people".

For me: Happy people, republicans, the military, Evangelicals, jingoists,

This leads to the other question: What comes to mind when I say "We-us"? For me: my family. Americans. Depressed people. Weird people. People who love to read.

I see that I don't find much comfort from either of my lists: outgroups nor ingroups. Which leads me to the question: What groups *do* I find comfort in listing (maybe this will help me identify my true ingroups?)?

What comes to mind when I say "comfort"?: Megs, E., C., university (aha--there's an interesting one), learning, 12 steps, Dad, Russell and Nath, Tony and Diana, Bill and Mary, David D., Sam and Becca, Seren, Kate, The Healing Center, James B and Renee, ....

I feel astoundingly happy right now, having made that last list. Hooray!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Country Music, and a confession

Consider this a bit of a confession. I used to like country music. I mean like as in listened to a lot, knew a bit about, etc. Back in the 90's.

Now I live in Seattle, among people with a higher median education level than most people in the country or the world. Country music is associated with various things which all have bad connotations in Seattle, such as Rednecks, the military, American jingoism, and so forth.

But I still turn it on on the car radio occasionally. So recently I turned on the local country radio station and they were counting down the top whatever number of songs from 2008, and this song came on which had gone number one, and which had been nominated for country music association's song of the year, and so forth. It made me realize I don't like country music all that much anymore.

One of the things that country is supposed to be good at is being melodic. And this song the melody is just not working at all, in my humble opinion.

the video is pretty cheesy, but it has the music, so there it is.

Does it affect you the same way? The whole song I'm thinking "My God, the melody is just frakked. Whoever composed it should be fired".

Maybe part of my lessening like for country music *is* it's embrace and promotion of certain (incredibly obvious) rather dangerous cultural lies. As in the lyrics from this song, Courtesy of the Red White and Blue (The Angry American) by Toby Keith, which went number one on Billboards Country Charts back in 2002.

American girls and American guys
Will always stand up and salute
Will always recognize
When we see old glory flying
There's a lot of men dead
So we can sleep in peace at night
When we lay down our head

My daddy served in the army
Where he lost his right eye
But he flew a flag out in our yard
Until the day that he died
He wanted my mother, my brother, my sister and me
To grow up and live happy
In the land of the free.

Now this nation that I love
Has fallen under attack
A mighty sucker punch came flyin' in
From somewhere in the back
Soon as we could see clearly
Through our big black eye
Man, we lit up your world
Like the 4th of July.

When uncle Sam
Puts your name at the top of his list
And the statue of liberty
Started shakin' her fist
And the eagle will fly
Man, its gonna be hell
When you hear mother freedom
Start ringin' her bell
And it feels like the whole wide world is raining down on you
Brought to you courtesy of the red white and blue

Justice will be served
And the battle will rage
This big dog will bite
When you rattle his cage
And you'll be sorry that you messed with
The U.S. of A.
Cause well put a boot in your ass
It's the american way

Hey uncle Sam
Put your name at the top of his list
And the statue of liberty
Started shakin' her fist
And the eagle will fly
Man, its gonna be hell
When you hear mother freedom
Start ringin' her bell
And it feels like the whole wide world is raining down on you
Brought to you courtesy of the red white and blue.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Snow Woman!

Snow in Seattle *again*!! Hooray. E and C helped build this snowwoman in our front yard.

the tiny beginnings of an education on "wine tasting"

Today I was listening to the splendid table and they were talking about a wine tasting trip they went on.

In the past I've *heard*, vaguely, of wine tasting. But I've never done it, nor known much about it. I was enjoying the program up until a certain point when I came to understand that wine tasting apparently involves spitting the wine out after you taste it.

I am led to believe that the following demonstrates that I am nearly altogether uncultured and a bit (or perhaps a lot) weird to boot:

I found this shocking, and ... the word "evil" came to mind.

It just seemed wrong to me me. Very very wrong. I'm not saying it *is* wrong. I'm just saying that's how it struck me. The term "cultural anorexia" came to mind. As well as "having one's cake and eating it too". And also "obscene overconsumption/wealth". And of course while wine tasters can "taste" 20, 30, 40, even 50 wines in a day, which of course I guess they could *not* do if they were taking a swallow of every wine they tasted, one billion people will not have access to safe potable water today. As in enough to drink to stay hydrated.

Seems to me one perhaps *shouldn't* (warning: the word "should" has been introduced) taste more wines in a day than one can cope with swallowing. Nor, if one wants to taste wine, should one avoid the accompanying intoxication.

But what do I know? I suppose one could compare it to using birth control. The comparison doesn't work for me at all, but I can see the an analogy there.

It just *seems* and *feels* very wrong.

It doesn't feel the same as other cultural differences I've run up against in the past. There has been a certain discomfort--a "makes-me-squirm" element--with lots of things because I haven't experienced before. But they don't generally include this feeling of moral wrongness.

I'm sure I'll get over it. =)