The voices of children reared in same-sex “marriages” should be heard, too

Same-Sex Parents Icon
We’ve heard from the guys on the right and the left. How about the little guy in the middle? (Image from the Regnerus Fallout website; see link in post)

For years, studies have looked at the impact on children of having homes broken by divorce and by single parenting. The conclusions are universal that it is generally healthiest for children to be reared in a family with a married mother and a father. This is not to call families in which one parent has died or in which the parents are divorced “non-families,” but it is a matter of recognizing that children in such families are in a position that is not as healthy for them as it would be otherwise. One can’t help make up for a deficit without at least recognizing that a deficit exists.

Eyes now turn to the children of homosexual and transgender parents, but to listen to the most readily available reports they don’t seem to include a critical eye among them. Rather, they seem to be eyes already set, a priori, to be approving and accepting of whatever they see. But there are important voices we should hear when it comes to those circumstances.

Massive, undisciplined, parenthetical aside: Some might assume I am speaking of the Regnerus study concerning the impact of having same-sex parents. I am not. That said, though, I am not ignoring it because there is anything wrong with the Regnerus study, even if that is the message the media and homosexual activists would want you to think, as typified by the (so-called) Human Rights Campaign’s mostly defunct “Regnerus Fallout” website. In all the many ways in which the study, its results, and the scientist behind it were attacked, the study was vindicated as solid science–a fact which its attackers seem to ignore or remain unwilling to report with quite the same passion they possessed in their unfounded attacks. In fact, to date it is one of the most (if not the most) solid scientific examinations and explorations of the potential impact of having a homosexual parent. For instance, unlike many “studies” that preceded it, the Regnerus study began with a large sample base that used random subjects as opposed to “convenience samples” of smaller size. Some critique the study for its very few “stable” homosexual families instead of recognizing the important point that such stable families were frankly hard to find in the original sample of 15,000 people.

Ask the frankly honest homosexual authors of After the Ball why that might be. As Marshall Kirk and Hunter Masden admit in their own work about how to sell homosexuality to America (a work that has clearly been influential and followed to a “T”), comparing faulty heterosexual marriage fidelity to that of “committed” homosexuals: “[S]urely the cheating ratio of ‘married’ gay males, given enough time, approaches 100%.”

Sorry–that was a too tempting distraction from what I want to say. Put all of that aside. The voices of scientists like Mark Regnerus aren’t the voices I’m talking about in the title.

I’m talking about the voices of children, themselves, who have grown up in households with homosexual–and transexual–parents and who explain that, based on their own experience, that it is not a healthy place to be. And there are the voices of homosexuals, themselves, who recognize that there is nothing “equivalent” about their relationships and their capacity to be “married parents” for a child–voices which the influential in their own community don’t seem to welcome.

Aside from God’s own voice (which increasingly fewer people are interested in listening to), these may be the most relevant voices in the discussion, but they are the voices I don’t hear from news programs or in mainstream publications. If you’ve seen or heard an interview with such a person, let me know.

I’d like this post to be a place where I can curate such voices. If you come across more, feel free to let me know.

  • Heather Barwick’s story–a tale of “Heather Has Two Mommies” in real life–was the first I encountered here, and is very accessible and well written: “Dear Gay Community: Your Kids Are Hurting”
  • Robert Oscar Lopez, reared by two homosexual women, has written in multiple places, such as here and here, but I first came across him here in First Things.
  • Testimony of Katy Faust, Dawn Stefanowicz, B. N. Klein, and, again, Robert Oscar Lopez in the Washington Times.
  • Dolce & Gabbana’s comments are covered here. Google for more; it was quite a splash when it took place.
  • “We Are ‘Synthetic Children’ And We Agree With Dolce & Gabbana” — article by Hattie Hart and Alana Newman. Focuses on the effects of being conceived through artificial means and not living with both biological parents, not necessarily having homosexual parents, though, clearly, the latter requires the former. Even from the most dismissive point of view, one must agree that their comments concern growing up in a “family” situation other than being reared by one’s biological mother and father.
  • “I’m Gay, and I Oppose Same-Sex Marriage” — an article in The Federalist written by a homosexual man under a pseudonym, Paul Rosnick, presumably because he knows what his opinion would do to his standing with those in his community. Not a child of homosexual parents, but a voice in that community who recognizes the truth of the matter and is honest enough to admit it.
  • Great article by Denise Shick, “Children of Transgender Parents Deserve a Voice.” Her comment there is, essentially, the point of this particular post: “It should not only be only the adults whose voices are heard. The children who come from untraditional homes should be equally important.” More: “Children like me who grew up in painfully untraditional homes are not allowed the freedom to voice their true feelings in a society ruled by political correctness and the LGBT agenda. Most of us don’t even recognize what our circumstances cost us until we are adults, and in some situations not until one or both living parents are no longer with us. At that point we might comprehend it all and finally be able to express what our lost childhoods have done to the remainder of our lives.”

I will add more articles as I come across them here and there (and as I remember to do so). It seems to me that these are voices that should be heard in all of this discussion, and they are the very voices that no one is looking for — even worse, voices that many assume do not exist. They are certainly voices many do not want to exist. Yet, there they are.

I don’t want to pretend that there aren’t many voices out there of now-adult children of same-sex couples who claim to have had a pretty normal life. (As best I can tell, there isn’t much solid, legitimate science backing up the generalizations of such claims, but put that aside.) Their voices are encouraged, even celebrated today. I’m not interested in the voices that find their way to the front of the crowd–if anything, are thrust to the front of the crowd and given an agenda-driven priority over others in the noise. It’s the voices like these–voices shushed or intimidated into silence due to their agenda-evaluated inconvenience–that have my attention. How many more would there be if the culture were more welcoming? If they weren’t in the process of being publicly shamed for what they have to say?

One of the important facts about marriage that many miss, including most of those in evangelical or mainstream Christianity, is that, as an institution, it is about much, much more than the happiness and satisfaction of two people who want to be together. Among the many things one learns from the way of life God has designed is that, among many other things, the institution of marriage must include considerations of family and childrearing. Concern for the children created and reared by a marriage is something one must consider. Maybe more people will begin to listen to the voices of children who have actually been reared in families that functionally ignored that consideration before they begin endorsing a redefinition of “family” that will, by design, deprive future children of one of their greatest needs: a mother and a father.

(Photo courtesy of Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Why is society increasingly condemning “transgender” people to suffering?

The title may cause some to think this post is going to say something else, but that won’t change the truth of that title: Why is the world turning against transgender people?

If you will forgive what will come across as a shameless self-promotion, I recorded this Tomorrow’s World webcast last time I was in Charlotte: (Apologies if you have sound issues while watching. I know it was a bit quiet when I watched it, and on my iPhone the volume kept dropping at odd times. Hopefully your viewing is better.)

That commentary is one I have actually wanted to give for a long time — actually, since the day after Joshua Alcorn (again, not Leelah Alcorn) died. The President’s irresponsible comments concerning therapy for such individuals occasioned an opportunity to bring it up again in the context of recent events.

You can click here for the Dr. Paul HcHugh article on transgenderism in the WSJ that I referred to in the video. (The article is behind a paywall, I believe, but the link there goes through a Google search link which may allow the full article to be displayed with some WSJ ads.)

(Photo courtesy of Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Why are we condemning an increasing number of individuals to suffering and confusion and refusing to provide them the help they need? (Photo courtesy of Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

I’m sure I will discuss the topic again. One of the reasons I am being moved to Charlotte is to create more content to help keep pace with the growing scale of the Work, and that is intended to include webcasts. But until then, maybe I can vent a little more frustration about the topic here.

I have seen nothing substantial to refute the idea that Paul McHugh highlights in his article: Transgender people suffer from a disorder of assumption, just like those who suffer other such body-related disorders, and they need help. I’ve read some reactions to his paper, some from professionals in the field of mental health, and none of them seem to point to any significant evidence, at all, that the conclusion should be any different. You hear “stuck in the past” and “people have grown” and “now we know better” but no actual evidence that the changes that have happened in the profession in how they deal with the issue do anything more than reflect changing cultural attitudes.

The fact is, people who are trapped in a cycle where they are confused about their gender need help. They need a hand reaching out to them to help them through the maze they have become trapped in. Yet, we are in a place as a society where we are beginning to actually ban attempts to help such people in favor of simply accepting their suffering — even actively encouraging their harm to continue.

Those who consider themselves the “transgender community” seem to agree that they need help. They point to horrifying suicide rates, and, like Joshua Alcorn, claim that the solution is for society to become more accepting — claim that the cause of the suicides and depression is society’s unwillingness to accept them as they are.

There is, however, good cause to suspect such claims. As journalist Dale O’Leary reported in the 2007 book One Man, One Woman,

“If these problems were caused entirely by lack of public acceptance of [same-sex attraction], we would expect to find fewer problems in places where tolerance was high and ‘homophobia’ low. But this isn’t the case. Studies done in the Netherlands and New Zealand, for example, where there is generally high tolerance of sexual ‘diversity’ found the same high rates of psychological difficulties as those done elsewhere.”

[Quoted from here.]

Even that evidence aside, where is the good evidence that transgenderism is anything but a disorder of association? No one is arguing that we should accept the self-perceptions of those suffering from anorexia or bulimia. Rather, we are driven to help such people to see themselves rightly, to help them address the self-damaging misperceptions reigning in their minds.

And note: This isn’t an argument that people suffering from gender confusion chose to feel and see themselves the way they do. At the same time, there are many perceptions people have, about themselves and others, that are not accurate but which have been formed by a variety of circumstances, both psychological and even chemical. Again, which anorexic or bulimic sufferer actually chose to see themselves or their bodies in such a manner?

Some might say, “But, transgenderism can show up in individuals at such a young age.” Really? Like the 9-year-old dying of anorexia reported by Salon? Like the 1500 anorexics between 13- & 15-years-old, 400 between 10- & 12-years-old, 99 between 8 & 9-years-old, and 98 between 5 & 7-years-old treated in England over a three year period according to the NHS, as reported by the Daily Mail? (Warning: The link is to the Daily Mail…) And those are reported cases. Conditions like anorexia are often unreported — surely that is so in children so young, where the condition is not normally expected.

I’m sorry, but the argument that “I have felt this way since I was very young” just doesn’t mean, in any way, that it is the way you are meant to be and doesn’t mean that it isn’t a condition that you can be helped to overcome and escape.

Yet, as those who have overcome anorexia often relate, overcoming it can take a long time with continuous help and an environment supportive of your healing. So, why are we, as a society, choosing increasingly to abandon those suffering with gender confusion — robbing them of both professional care that could help them and an environment that encourages the healing they need?

Part of the problem is that it has to do with sex and gender, and our society has a huge hang up about that. To suggest that male and female identities are anything but “fluid” these days is to invite wrath, regardless of what actual biology and (real) psychology might say. (Let alone the Bible! “Turn on the rage machine — someone mentioned Genesis!”)

It is caught up in the same storm that is dedicated to convincing everyone that people are “born” homosexual. Weakening one case weakens the other, and the direction in which our society is currently dragging itself demands that the “born that way” dogma not be questioned in any way whatsoever.

Yet it is a dogma that is begging to be questioned. Consider this comment from David Benkof, a homosexual historian, himself (underlining mine):

“Of course, none of this means people don’t have sexual orientations today, it just means sexual orientations are specific to our culture, and thus not basic human nature. In tech-speak, that means being gay is in the software of some people’s lives, but it’s in nobody’s hardware.

“The compelling evidence nobody’s born gay doesn’t necessarily have to shred the LGBT agenda. Legitimate reasons for more liberal attitudes and policies regarding gays and lesbians still exist, such as freedom of association, the right to privacy, and respect for other people’s experiences. But those who demand social or political change because gays are born that way just don’t know much about history.”

[Found here.]

I know — people will dismiss Benkof as a self-hating orthodox Jewish homosexual. That is to their detriment, because his point is well founded, corresponding to all we know right now in science and in culture.

His point is a good one. One does not have to relegate homosexual urges, mindsets, proclivities, or inclinations to pure “choice” and conservative social commentators from a wide variety of directions have admitted that there can be many influences that push a person in such a direction — just as is the case for many conditions, such as alcoholism, violence, other body disorders, etc. Even those searching for a “gay gene” have admitted that the scant evidence they have found for correlations between genetic features and homosexual men would not argue for anything that “causes” homosexuality but, at most, something that would have to combine with multiple other factors to bring about such strong influences in someone’s life. The “gay gene” that somehow “makes” a person a homosexual is a myth — it has been declared so by those who have come the closest to finding anything that might be called such, even while those who point to their studies ignore what they actually say.

Who could question that there are influences in this world that can push a person into wrong and harmful lifestyles and thought patterns — lifestyles and patterns they would never actively choose for themselves? I wouldn’t. But since when did we declare that just because there may be such influences we should embrace them rather than help people overcome them?

And it is no different concerning the transgender movement.

I read an excellent article in the Federalist yesterday titled, “It Isn’t Hateful To Point Out Bruce Jenner Isn’t a Woman” (May 12, 2015). It covers similar ground as I did in the video above, with a special emphasis on the insanity and harmfulness of mainstream journalism’s response to the transgender movement (e.g., accepting false pronouns), but I love how well the author, Daniel Payne, makes his points.

For instance, he asks what I think is a very relevant question: What if someone “identified” as a different race or ethnicity? Like me — I’m about as caucasian as Barry Manilow and Weird “Al” Yankovic, but what if I began identifying as Chinese or African-American? What if I believed — as in deeply, truly believed — that I was another very different ethnicity or race? Would everyone have to begin ignoring reality and start referring to me by the ethnicity I identified as?

Similarly, if a young woman suffers from anorexia, should everyone simply accept the individual’s self-perception — how she “identifies” — over the facts? Especially if the facts mean that she is suffering in her state, whether she believes she is suffering it or not?

The answers to these questions should be virtually self-evident. Yet, the insanity of our current culture means they are not. At least not when sex is concerned.

And even worse, just as our culture is creating more body-image problems in the young through the onslaught of marketing, movies, etc. that saturate their minds, we are doing the same thing with the young when it comes to gender confusion. As Dr. Paul McHugh had reported in his WSJ essay, somewhere around 75% of those who express gender confusion when they are young do pass through that time with such confusion spontaneously disappearing without intervention. Expect that number to drop as society begins increasingly sending such young people more and more messages, through every form of media imaginable and through the mouths of the perceived authorities in their lives, that teach them “This confusion means you aren’t really what you seem to be. Trust and follow that confusion.” How terrible. Frankly, how satanic.

Rather than solve a problem and seek to help people, we are intensifying a problem and abandoning people to it.

May God have mercy on our nation as we increasingly sentence more and more people, young and old, to suffering by refusing to help them — even by making it illegal to help them. What a messed up place.

Marvel Studios Logo

Some Social Commentary via the Marvel Universe: Feminists, Values, and “Going Dark”

Marvel Studios Logo
Our entertainment choices and works of fiction can bring out interesting observations on our culture. (Image: Marvel Studios logo; click for source & owners.)

After long absences from the blog like this, I normally start off with some sort of poking-fun-at-myself comment like, “Hey, looks like I forgot about my blog!” Well, this time I can actually say that. With our in-progress move to Charlotte taking up quite a few brain cells, not to mention actual trips to Charlotte for weddings, video work, and Council meetings, I truly did forget I actually had a blog out here.

And I must say that I suspect that the days of this blog are numbered, as much of the content-creation work I will be doing in Charlotte will begin to take the place of one of the things I have informally used this blog to do: keep me writing and create an opportunity for my congregants to stay in touch with me during the week, even if I am just writing about my kids’ innovative chess techniques. (On display here and here, by the way — beware the Power Pope!)

But, today I return to my poor neglected blog to get three things off of my chest — some social commentary born of observations from the growing Marvel Universe onscreen (technically, the Marvel Cinematic Universe). For those who don’t get the geek-speak (though, increasingly normal-speak), that refers to the fictional universe being created to display, and make money from, Marvel comic book properties on the big screen (and the small screen — looking at you, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.).

And I should make a couple of confessions and pre-comment comments here at the beginning. For one, this post is not a recommendation of any of these fictional works. I find that many could have good cause in their conscience not to partake of anything related to any such movies. Still, the films are looming large in the public eye, and if something has the public’s attention and can be used to make helpful, godly observations, I’m going for it. No one actually has to see the movies to appreciate the points I want to make, any more than one needs to actually read Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf to consider someone’s analysis of the book and what it might say about current trends in society.

Secondly, these comments aren’t really going to be about what happens in the movies as opposed to how our culture has interacted with the movies and what that interaction says about us. The characters in the movies are fictional. No one should emotionally invest in something that does not exist. But the people around us? Very much real and alive, and what can be learned, hoped, dreamed, regretted about real people is very important, indeed.

OK, on to the comments I want to make. Not many — just three.

(1) The incredibly stupid and immoral hatred some feminists have expressed concerning the value of motherhood in the recent Avengers: Age of Ultron movie.

The writer and director of the recent Avengers cash cow, Joss Whedon, is normally someone who likes writing tough, tail-kicking parts for women — just one more person in this world who is promoting the terrible idea that women can fight, punch, kick, etc. as hard as men. The recent Avengers flick is no different, with the Black Widow character, portrayed by Scarlett Johannson, being your standard female repentant-super-assassin-turned-good. Nothing really new here.

Except there was something new. (Spoiler alert, by the way.) In the movie, the character is reflecting on what had been done to her when she was young to help make her a government killing machine, and she laments that those who reared and trained her also sterilized her so that she would not be distracted by the possibility of having children and becoming a mother, not unlike ancient kingdoms did with male servants, making them eunuchs. The character admits a sadness that she would never be able to have children.

Bring on the feminist hand-wringing.

Well, that’s not exactly true. Joss Whedon apparently considers himself a feminist, and his constant stream of unrealistic super-tough female characters should establish his pro-feminist “street cred” according to many. Yet, in actually writing about a female character who laments that her ability to conceive and bear children was taken from her, he is perceived as having committed some great crime against the feminist cause. The angry outcry was great (imagine rants to the effect of “How dare he define women by their ability to make babies!”), and by some disputed accounts (included disputed by himself) the backlash drove him off of Twitter.

This is ridiculous on so many levels, but let me just focus on two: For one, it is insane to call oneself a feminist and to complain when a woman — portrayed as being tough-as-steel and an equal to all the men around her — laments that her ability to have children was taken from her against her will. Why in the world would someone complain about such a thing. Would they have preferred that she said, “You know, although they actually robbed me of one of the most gifts and powers a woman has in the world, but I don’t care — in fact, I’m better off”? Or even, “Yeah, they took my ovaries. No big whoop.” How ridiculous. For people who love to protest that the government should stay out of women’s wombs to protest that a female character in a movie objects to having a government ignore that and forcibly curtail a woman’s reproductive rights is completely illogical. I thought it was just that, “reproductive rights,” that they were defending? Apparently, they are only defending them if “reproductive rights” means “the right not to reproduce.” That would certainly explain how so many of them seem to hate large families (calling such mothers “breeders” and such). Crazy.

The second point about this is how utterly ungodly such complaints are. Being the one through whom the entire human race is perpetuated is one of the gifts and privileged burdens God has given women. There is a reason Adam honored his wife by calling her Eve, “the mother of all living.” To wring one’s hands and “sigh and cry” that a fictional character dare to complain that she was sterilized against her will is perverted. It is just one more example of the world being upside down. Really: Absolutely perverted. Let a fictional woman be the epitome of a “super woman” — able to fight with the toughest of men and beat them — and she is praised, but let her lament the loss of one, single, beautiful aspect of being a woman, and suddenly she is anathema and an enemy against all womankind. Really — satanic.

(Side note #1: I know that part of the rancor was also spurred by the very positive image of a pregnant wife and happy family behind the Hawkeye character, setting up the contrast between the wife and mother, who seemed very fulfilled, and the Black Widow character, who was damaged and conflicted. But if I don’t limit my rant a little bit, I will never move on, will I?)

(Side note #2: The irony in all of this — Scarlett Johansson was actually pregnant during the movie’s filming.)

(2) Captain America’s commitment to doing the right thing over success or even survival.

I could go on and on about this one, because I think it reflects one of society’s great faults — infecting even mainstream Christianity at an increasing rate, as evidenced by the growing “Christian” acceptance of homosexual “marriage.”

At one point in the new Avengers movie, Steve Rogers (Captain America) and Tony Stark (Iron Man) are debating the virtues of actions Stark had recently taken — which were independent and against the wishes of the rest of the team, though taken with good intention. Rogers takes him to task and says it was wrong for him to do that — that they should work together. Stark counters that if they stick with such a value then they will lose. And Rogers says, We’ll do that together, too.

I’m sorry, but that sort of sentiment is sorely absent from our culture: The idea that right is right and wrong is wrong, and we do the right thing regardless of even extreme consequences. (Well, I shouldn’t say that, I suppose. There are a number of things that today’s new moralists might be willing to sacrifice everything for, but, without going into too much detail, let me say that there is a very different spirit there.) John Quincy Adams is believed to have said, “Duty is ours; results are God’s” and implicit in that statement is the understand that you do your duty, regardless of the results. If it is optional, it isn’t duty.

Rogers’ statement in the flick that even if we lose, we lose together — that it isn’t worth doing the wrong thing, even if it means we lose — is, IMHO, very counter to the culture around us (and, I admit, the examples which come to mind for me are likely not examples that would be celebrated by many of those who made the movie).

Consider the Boy Scouts. I admired their stand against accepting homosexuality as lifestyle to be embraced as opposed to being a perversion to be acknowledged as such — at best, a condition to help people avoid and resist. As an institution standing for values and ethics, they took an unpopular stand on those values and ethics, and they recognized that one cannot repeat the Boy Scout Oath to keep oneself “morally straight” while also practicing homosexuality. (And, of course, any sexual activity outside of marriage is immoral, including heterosexual acts.)

What I saw in the Boy Scouts, as the public disapproval mounted and boycotts ensured, was a willingness to see the Boy Scouts destroyed before there would be any giving in. I saw that they were willing to allow the organization to be disbanded before they gave ground on their moral stand, in a culture that desperately needed such public, moral stands.

And, well, that didn’t last, did it? They took their moral stand until they didn’t.

We currently see individuals and businesses taking such stands — against not only civil lawsuits, but against state governments. Facing the loss of their livelihoods and tens of thousands of dollars in fines for not being willing to violate their consciences and celebrate homosexual “marriages” with their gifts and talents as photographers and artists, they stand and say, “Even if we lose and even if you destroy our businesses and our ability to earn and support our families, we cannot but stand here. We will not move.” Good for them. I see that sort of sentiment in Captain America’s statement (even if the industry that wrote that line wouldn’t agree with the examples I am using), and I wish there were more of it coming out of Hollywood.

It’s the sort of stand that the rest of us had better gear up for. Some values really are worth losing over.

(3) Marvel vs. DC — “Going dark”

There is quite a bit of pop culture buzz out there about the clear difference being seen in Marvel movies (in particular, the Disney-owned Marvel movies) and DC movies.

[Aside: For the uninitiated, Marvel and DC are the two major comic book publishers. Marvel makes the Avengers, Spider-Man, etc. and DC makes Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc. They have been considered rival publishers for decades. As a pre-teen, while I was aware of DC publications, I was very much a Marvel fan. I actually read Stan Lee’s letters in the comics, proclaimed “Make Mine Marvel,” and totally get it when someone exclaims “Excelsior!” (Please read all of that in the context I am about to provide, below.) The old comic book rivalry is turning into a movie rivalry, as Marvel movies featuring Marvel superheroes are doing box-office battle with DC movies featuring DC superheroes. This part of the post refers to this “conflict.”]

I freely admit that I wasted a sadly vast part of my youth on comic books, understanding enough about how immersive that world can be to decide I do not want my children to be a part of it. My old Marvel Godzilla comic books are all they have read of that industry, and we’ve talked about why I’d rather they never take up the comic book habit. Don’t get me wrong — my children aren’t perfect in the media-feeding department, and neither is their dad. But that particular vice — comic books — is one we have successfully avoided in their youth.

And my revulsion toward allowing them to get into comic books was based on my own youth and experience in the late 1970s and early 1980s. However, that revulsion is only enhanced by what comic books became not too long after I stopped participating, and what they became could be summarized in one word: Dark.

Some people trace the beginning of the dark trend now seemingly everywhere in comics to the 1986 publication of Frank Miller’s Batman story “The Dark Knight Returns.” I don’t know that that is true — I can see the beginnings even in my day earlier in the decade, but, regardless, comic books became, on the whole, nastier, grittier, uglier places to be. Again: Darker.

Gone was the “Boy Scout” hero (will we lose that adjective? ) who refuses to kill his foe — essentially, a Lone Ranger with super powers. In came the gritty, dark anti-heroes of questionable morals and ethics. Bad guys became more sadistic and horrifically cruel. Grotesquely violent. Gone were heroes like young Peter Parker, who struggled to understand the right thing to do on occasion, while still understanding that there was a right thing to do. (As a teenage boy struggling to understand how to do the right thing, myself, I got that.) In came the “heroes” who observe with jaded and cynical eye that there is no real “right” thing, and that sometimes we have to be bad, go to dark places in ourselves, etc., etc. ad nauseam.

Now, we have movies. Marvel has become known for bright, humorous fantasies, in which characters are still inherently virtuous — difficult pasts, yes, but overcoming those to do the right thing and stand for right things. Their characters make jokes and inhabit a world that is a pretty pleasant place to be in when the universe isn’t being threatened by aliens or whatever.

DC, on the other hand, has become known for darker visions, in which even the heroes have a dark edge to them. Batman seems always on the edge of darkness. Even “Boy Scout” Superman (there’s that adjective again) gains such an edge in the new movies. When young Superman’s dad actually suggests that perhaps the young lad should have refused to save a school bus full of children from drowning rather than risk revealing his powers, the movies declared their dedication to a different sort of moralizing. A darker moralizing. Some will claim that such discussions and comments simply reflect and admit the existence of hard questions, but the problem is that it has lumped easy questions into the hard question category. That doesn’t reflect great moral maturing; it reflects a great moral confusion.

There was quite a bit of chatter on the Internet when the rumor spread that DC had made a rule across its productions that there was to be no joking at all. After all, these are “serious” movies. And someone showed me recently how the recent Superman had been artificially processed before being released so as to remove all bright colors, making even the very color palette of the flick a tool for enhancing the dark, monotone, moody feel.

Many have wondered when the Marvel movies, too, would follow suit. After all, dark is “the thing.” Most figured that the plan for Marvel was to start their movies nice, happy, and bright, but — eventually — once you have reeled everyone in, “go dark.”

To their credit, they say there are no plans to do that. Marvel head honcho, Kevin Feige, is reported on Reddit to have said that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) will never “go dark” in the movies:

“There is no dark turn in the MCU. He says every year fans come up to him and ask him if this movie is when the MCU goes ‘dark’ or takes a ‘dark’ turn. He said while the trailers may seem ominous or have a sense of impending doom, the movies do not have that feel, and will not. He said he ‘Hoped people would catch on by now’ – there will be no giant dark turns in the MCU where it then continues to head in that direction. The humor is in the DNA of the movies, there are no plans to change that.”

Movies aside, what I care about is what it says about the culture. And I think that the dark/not dark DC/Marvel difference here is interesting.

On one hand, people these days seem to want “dark.” There is a reason that people keep asking Feige when the “dark turn” is going to happen. It’s expected, and many people want that sort of darker, edgier content. We see similar desires seeking to be satisfied in television programming such as the CSI shows and crime dramas, where the perpetrators are increasingly terrible and sadistic. (I saw enough of one episode of “Criminal Minds” to realize I never want to see another one, ever.)

On the other hand, an encouraging other hand, there is still something in people — at least some people — who don’t want “dark.” Even putting aside the insane amount of money the first Avengers movie made, it was a comment in one of the reviews that got my attention. I can’t find it, otherwise I would link to it, but the reviewer commented about the consistent applause scene in that movie: When all of the heroes are gathered together for the first time in a circle to battle their overwhelming foes. The camera circles, the music swells, and the audience is treated to a moment they have been cinematically manipulated to appreciate for the previous hour-or-so. But the fact that the audience actually applauded and cheered at that moment grabbed the reviewers attention. Actually, it grabbed many reviewers’ attentions. As one noted, everyone was applauding a scene that most all of them had already seen in the trailer for the movie.

Actual applause seems rare in movies these days — at least to me. (Admittedly, I don’t actually see too many movies.) I remember as a kid seeing one of the Star Wars movies and hearing my mother applauding in the theater — the only one applauding and, of course, totally embarrassing me. (Of course, now I wish she were still here to embarrass me in the movie theater. Thank you, Father, that no one is gone from us forever.) Yet here were these normally jaded, cynical moviegoers, unabashedly applauding this scene in the first Avengers movie.

The reviewer who grabbed my attention explained his own opinion about the matter. He said that in a world full of darkness that has taken over even the heroes of our fantasies, there was something wonderful about seeing the good guys assemble together, overcome their differences, and act like good guys.

I think he was right. At last, I hope he was right.

Some say art should reflect reality back at us and cause is to meditate on it. Whatever. I’m not saying that there can’t be benefit to that, but the idea that movie blockbusters are there to do that is pretty ridiculous on the surface. History seems to show, at least to me, that art does less reflecting on reality and more shaping of it. Rather than becoming a mirror in which we can reflect and change, it becomes an amplifier, magnifying those qualities it depicts and reducing those it ignores. Boys N the Hood may have sought to make parts of gang life seem terrible and inglorious, but there was a reason, as police told me and some assembled teachers back in the 90s, that whenever they raided gang homes that they always–always–found that movie in the home, often playing in the VCR at the time. It caused fewer to reflect on the dangers of such a life than it caused to see it as something glamorized and something worthy of being glamorized, which is different, however subtly.

The world is dark, to be sure. But there is a reason that Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” What we reflect on tends to be what we become.

And the idea that, as much as people clamor for “dark and gritty,” they responded, perhaps despite themselves, to a cheesy, hopeful moment where good guys are actually good is encouraging to me.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not blind. I’ve seen ads for Marvel’s Daredevil series on Netflix and have read the reviews. I’m not even interested. If there is money to be made in grit and guts–in “dark”–then expect companies who want money to follow that money. And I’m also not deluded to think that what qualifies at “not dark” today is still, in many ways, quite dark. Sometimes the “not dark” material stands out against the “dark” material simply because it is “not as dark.” (I know: A lot of repetitious uses of “dark” in those sentences. Forgive me some lazy blogging…)

But, still, in a world of dark clouds (there’s that word again!–expect it a couple of more times, at least…), please don’t begrudge me one silver lining, however thin it may be and however quickly it may be receding. As the world becomes more and more obsessed with the perceived glamor of “evil” and the appeal of dark worlds and dark thoughts, the fact that at least one movie company sees profits in avoiding such a turn, however indirectly, is encouraging. Don’t know that it will last, but it’s still encouraging.

And, to wrap up: Again, none of this is meant to endorse or encourage anyone to actually see these movies, any more than Paul’s use of the “Unknown God” idol was meant to encourage idolatry or his use of gladiatorial imagery in multiple passages was meant to glamorize or approve of being entertained by watching slaves and prisoners fight to the death in the arena.

But as these sorts of flicks loom larger and larger in the culture — and as long as they make money, they will continue to loom large — they become yet another way to reflect on that culture. Sometimes the culture reveals itself best while it is occupied with trying to enjoy itself.

Groucho Marx (from Wikipedia)

Yes, Virginia, you CAN prove a negative

Groucho Marx (from Wikipedia)
Thanks for loaning the elephant, Groucho. I’ll try to have the pajamas pressed. (Image from Wikipedia)

Logic class, today! After a week of house hunting, a quick post like this feels like just the thing to cleanse the palate, so please forgive my indulgence.

Though it is often claimed–and tempting to believe, because it can sound sensible–it is completely false that you cannot prove a negative. (That is, for instance, that you cannot prove something doesn’t exist.)

I have heard the claim many times, often by wonderful and sincere people but, to be sure, wonderful and sincere people who don’t know what they are talking about — club of which all of us are members from time to time. For instance, I have heard atheists say “You can’t prove a negative!” in an effort to absolve themselves of the need to justify their belief that God does not exist. On the other side, I have heard Christians say “You can’t prove a negative!” in an effort to show that the atheist position is impossible.

Both are in error. Both seem to miss the fact that we prove negatives all the time and the fact that the same sort of “reasoning” they offer would defend belief in Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, and flying purple leprechauns named Marty.

This was brought up to me more than once by someone who objected to what I wrote for Tomorrow’s World publications concerning the non-existent 2012 Mayan Apocalypse. I would point out that, based on all the evidence we have, the Mayans said no such thing about the year 2012. All of the hoopla and hype was due to New Age goofiness (drug use included) and sloppy, agenda-driven non-scholarship performed by hobbyists and individuals with something to sell. And this is definitely the record we have of the Maya culture–no modern, credible scholar of Mesoamerican culture disagrees with the assessment that the Maya simply did not believe in a 2012 apocalypse.

However, someone apparently bothered when I pointed that out would sometimes write, saying, “You can’t prove a negative!” His point seemed to be that you can’t say that the Mayans never said that the universe would end in 2012. Of course, if it is true that you can’t prove the Mayans did not say something, then it would also be “logically” unreasonable to believe that the Mayans never said President Obama would be elected in 2008, that the Mayans never said “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” or that the Mayans never said they were the descendants of the undiscovered planet Great Googly Gumdrops and never prophesied the coming of their most dangerous foe, Mork from Ork.

Often (though not always, it should be said), the claim “you can’t prove a negative” is made in reaction to something one does not want to hear, as if it will somehow back their opponent into a logical corner. But that is far from the truth.

In fact, you absolutely can prove a negative.

Now, I should qualify that when I say “prove” I mean the same thing we faulty human beings commonly mean when we talk about “proving” anything — for instance, establishing something as the most reasonable position to take among known alternatives. If “prove” means “prove with mathematical exactness and precision but in real life” then virtually all “proofs” would escape us, meaning we could prove neither negatives nor positives! (Actually, we can thank Gödel for helping us to see that, in a very real way, such “proofs” can’t even be assumed for mathematics, itself.)

But if you mean “prove” as in “I can prove you took the cookie from the cookie jar” — a belief established by the preponderance of the evidence — then, oh yeah, we’re golden. We can prove negative statements to just as high a level of certainty as we are able to prove positive statements. In fact, we draw reasonable, sound conclusions about the truth of negatives all the time.

It seems to me that the question is often related to the old saying, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” which is usually abused in this context. Because, very simply, sometimes absence of evidence is, indeed, evidence of absence. For instance, if I told you that, right now, there was an elephant in your kitchen wearing your pajamas (hat tip to Groucho), and you went into your tiny kitchen and saw no pajama-wearing elephant, you would be perfectly justified by the lack of evidence in saying, “I have proven there is no elephant in my kitchen wearing my pajamas.” Why? Because were a pajama-wearing elephant actually in your kitchen, you would be justified in expecting evidence to be left. If you don’t even see a table pushed out of the way as the elephant fled in embarrassment upon hearing your approach (elephants have big ears), you have very good cause to say that your position is proved. For someone to say, “Well, you can’t say you’ve proven there is no elephant in your kitchen because you can’t prove a negative!” would say more about their misunderstanding of logic than it would about your argument. Your argument would be absolutely valid and sound.

If evidence is to be expected and no evidence is present, then absence can be logically inferred. So, perhaps the saying should be amended to say, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence unless evidence should be expected.”

This is why we can, indeed, reasonably conclude that the ancient Mayan culture did not expect the universe to end in some sort of cataclysm on December of 2012. For all the New Agers’ and misguided hobbyists’ hoopla about what was supposed to be a universe-changing event, the evidence that the Maya thought about it as such a vastly significant date is just simply absent. Despite the vast volumes of cultural artifacts we have including volumes and volumes of information they, themselves, inscribed and wrote down, they say nothing about such a day being the end of the world. I won’t go into all of the details again [you can search the blog on “2012” and probably find more than you ever wanted to know], but the tiny crumbs that are generally offered by ill-informed hobbyists and tainted “researchers” always fail to pass the test. Monument 6 in Tortuguero? Understood in cultural context (as opposed to ignorantly imposing upon it non-Mayan ideas), it says nothing about the end of the world. The Comalcalco tile? Ditto. The much-later, Christianity-corrupted Chilam Balam? Actually evidence against 2012 date-setting theories when you understand it. The Dresden Codex? Not even.

(FYI on that last point: As all the unchristian 2012-addiction died down back then, the last stab I saw at trying to magically turn the Dresden Codex into “evidence” that the Mayans thought 2012 might be the end of the world was claiming that the last page of the codex is depicting the transit of Venus. No one offered proof the last page said anything like this, or even real evidence. Just an assertion that it is so, in the apparent hope that a confident sounding statement will add some credibility to what they are saying. Except that people — people with actual training in astronomy and Mayan works — have said that, no, the Dresden Codex absolutely does not mention the Venus Transit. Anyone who says the transit of Venus is in the Codex has no credibility. In fact, there’s a negative that can be proved: “The Dresden Codex does not mention the Transit of Venus.” — Sorry! So much of that pointless 2012 goofiness is still running around in my noggin that it spills out sometimes… Back to the post!)

For what should have been the one of the most significant events in their culture’s eschatology, the supposed “end of the world” date of December 2012 was remarkably and unreasonably absent from the vast collection of writings we have. Indeed, absence of evidence is, in this case, evidence of absence.

And, frankly, all of that ignores the positive evidence that the Mayans did not believe 2012 was the end of the world: many inscriptions concerning dates further out that 2012, the calendar discovery at Xultún, et al., ad nauseam. But that is an aside unrelated to the point of this lazy post, today.:)

In similar manner, you can prove the negative that Santa did not come down your chimney last Christmas. (Of course, he’d better not come to my house!) The absence of evidence that a fat man crawled down your chimney while you were asleep is pretty good evidence for the absence of such a fat man.

We can, indeed, prove negatives, and lack of evidence is sometimes evidence, itself. When an atheist claims that he doesn’t need to justify his belief that God doesn’t exist because you can’t prove a negative, he is not being rational. When a believer claims that the atheist’s position is not logical because you can’t prove a negative, he is also not being rational. No one gets off the hook. (Don’t get me started on the illogical fad among many atheists today to claim that “belief” doesn’t mean “belief” anymore. That would be a whole ‘nuther post…)

If someone ever tries to shut you down by claiming “You can’t prove a negative,” feel free to ask them to prove that such a proof does not exist, since that would require proving a negative, themselves. (Did you see that? I turned it around, didn’t I? Yes, I do think I’m clever, thank you.) Or, you can just ask them if it’s reasonable to strongly believe that Santa Claus does not exist. If they won’t say “Yes” to that, then I suspect they have more problems than their grasp of logic. In that case, you might recommend that they keep an eye out for any pajama-coveting elephants…

I’ve hardly scratched the surface of the topic, but I’ve seen the “you can’t prove a negative” fallacy used enough that I thought it would be something fun to write about. Yes, I have an odd idea of “fun,” but it has succeeded in relaxing me a bit after all of this house hunting! If anyone wants to read more about the mistaken notion that one cannot prove a negative, here is a decent essay by Dr. Steven Hales of Bloomsburg University, appropriately titled “You Can Prove a Negative” — knock yourself out.:)

"Live and let live?" Apparently not...

“Gay Wedding” lawsuits and boycotts put the lie to “live and let live”

"Live and let live?" Apparently not...
“Live and let live?” Apparently not…

I’ve been thinking similar thoughts, but a Wall Street Journal editorial that I read today really put it very well.

The opinion piece — “Indiana’s Libertarian Moment” — by Bill McGurn makes the case that many of the strongest defenders of cake makers, wedding planners, etc. and their right to refuse to participate in a homosexual “wedding” on religious grounds are some of the very people — libertarians — who argued so powerfully for the right for homosexuals to “marry” in the first place.

They see that the very arguments that homosexuals were using to say that they should have the freedom to “marry” are the very arguments that also defend the rights of individuals not to participate. And they recognize that all of the fury over Indiana’s RFRA law (which I discussed a few days ago) is wrongly placed, wrongly directed, and wrongly founded — generally on grounds that homosexuals, themselves, used to advance their cause.

Mr. McGurn says what he says very well in his article, so I would encourage you to read it for yourself. However, I will quote a few passages here and add my own comments.

He uses Richard Epstein of New York University, whom he notes is “arguably America’s leading libertarian law professor,” as a case in point. McGurn points out that Mr. Epstein has argued that that American principles of freedom should mean that the government does not have the right to withhold marriage licenses from homosexual couples, but also…

[Epstein] further argues that the same freedom of association requires that the law not be used to coerce those who disagree with gay marriage. He notes too the asymmetry of forces here, with big organizations such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association and Wal-Mart denouncing the religious-liberty law while the owner of a small Indiana pizzeria became a national new story after she told a reporter that while she happily serves gay customers, she wouldn’t feel comfortable catering a gay wedding.

“Civil-rights laws are turned upside down when used to harass small businesses with minority viewpoints,” says Mr. Epstein. “These viewpoints need constitutional space between them and the relentless ambitions of an ascendant gay rights movement that seems to have quickly forgotten that its members were once on the receiving end of the unthinking and abusive exercise of state criminal law.”

McGurn notes comments from other leading libertarians in his piece. He highlights John Stossel’s comment that the homosexual “marriage” movement has changed its focus from “tolerance to totalitarianism” (some will understandably question whether it was ever just about “tolerance,” but let me put that aside temporarily). And his quote from the editor of Reason magazine, Matt Welch, who had also advocated from the right of homosexuals to “marry,” is just as strong:

“The bad news, for those of us on the suddenly victorious side of the gay marriage debate, is that too many people are acting like sore winners, not merely content with the revolutionary step of removing state discrimination against same-sex couples in the legal recognition of marriage, but seeking to use state power to punish anyone who refuses to lend their business services to wedding ceremonies they find objectionable.”

The point about the logical consequences of saying that the Constitution gives people the right to a wedding cake from the business of their choice is something I think I touched on in my last blog entry on this topic, but one which I would like to blather on further in a subsequent post if I write one. But let me stay focused (for once in my life?) on this topic for now.

Those quotes and comments from libertarians who supported homosexual “marriage” are powerful enough, but what I believed was really the kicker in McGurn’s article was how well he highlighted the hypocrisy showing itself in the homosexual “marriage” movement now that it seems increasingly to be the victor in the struggle over public policy. And I would add that it is a hypocrisy in more than the homosexual “marriage” movement, but the overall movement for increased “tolerance” for homosexuality in the culture, in general.

Rather than give more quotes (I don’t mean to rob the WSJ of traffic — click and go read it), let me summarize the points in my own words, even if Mr. McGurn’s are probably better.

So often in the past, many homosexual activists — seeking to defend a “live and let live” approach to their lifestyles — would argue, “What difference does it make to you if I am allowed to marry someone else of my own sex? How does my lifestyle impact you in any way?”

And now, we know the answer to that: “The difference it makes is that my business may be forced to close, my livelihood may be destroyed, and I may be forced by the state to pay thousands and even millions in fines unless I violate my conscience. The difference it makes is that the adoption service that my faith runs to help children may be forced by the state to close unless we violate our religious convictions. The difference it makes is that I could be fired for not agreeing with your position.” (On this last item, case-in-point, as McGurn implies: Brendan Eich, formerly CEO of Mozilla.)

In other words: When many in the homosexual acceptance movement said they were simply seeking the right we should all have to “live and let live,” it was a lie.

Not a lie for all of them. The Memories Pizza incident is demonstrating that. But for many, apparently it was just that.

The claim “It shouldn’t make a difference to you whether or not I marry someone of my own sex — it doesn’t affect you in any way” is not in any way compatible with “Participate in my wedding or I am going to sue you for everything you have, make the state shut your business down, and prevent you from ever working in this industry, again.”

Those claims are the opposites of each other.

The latter statement is now the reality. Was the former one ever a reality? Ever a sincerely held belief by those who made the claim? Will those making the latter statement now come to themselves and say, “Wow, I’m sorry! I’ve really contradicted myself, huh?” Or will they at least have the integrity to admit that the original claim was a lie to begin with?

McGurn puts it well when he points out that, for those who believe in marriage as it should be (my words, not his) — believers in what is now called “traditional marriage” — the question has changed. It is no longer whether or not the majority of society will continue to mirror their views. It is whether or not they will even be allowed by that society to live their lives and support their families in accordance with those views — in accordance with the dictates of their own consciences. Increasingly, it seems that the answer is “No, you won’t.”

Isaiah 5:20 says, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.” Anyone who does not see this reflected in these very days isn’t paying attention. These things will bring woe.

That's right, kids. This is what e-mail used to look like! (Image credit: Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Quick survey: Do you save old letters and correspondence?

I hope everyone’s Sunday has gone well! Even though this quick post has nothing to do with what many have been focused on today, I will feel remiss if I don’t address it. So if Easter was a part of your day, today, please do hang around, but you might want to check out any one of these first (in fact, check them all out):

Sorry — given the day, I couldn’t help myself!

However, that really is not what this post is about. Rather, I have a question: Do you save old correspondence, at all?

That's right, kids. This is what e-mail used to look like! (Image credit: Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
That’s right, kids. This is what e-mail used to look like! (Image credit: Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

I’m a pretty sentimental sort. I save letters and cards. Cards I will eventually throw away before letters, but letters — I mean, real letters, handwritten by friends and loved ones — I usually cannot bring myself to throw away. Not entirely sure why, but it’s certainly true.

This has been brought to light by a little water damage part of our belongings experienced not too long ago. Here were we are staying while we are “between homes,” we were storing some things in a room that allowed some water in (totally our fault!) which our stored belongings in their cardboard boxes dutifully soaked up. (Good job, stuff!) Much of the newly soggified items were, thankfully, items that I had only packed up out of laziness and which I should have gotten rid of in the first round of moving — items in my library that I will never read again, nor care all that much to keep, some old schoolwork from my kids from years ago that should have been thrown away (not the cute little essays or writings; more like the boring, fill-in-the-blank worksheets). Some of the items were or more importance (some old photos and some actually worthwhile books), but not that big of a deal.

However, one thing that did get soaked that caught my attention were some old letters. Just this morning, I was going through some of them, and they included, for instance, some of the letters the Now-Mrs. Wallace Smith and I had exchanged during our early friendship and dating in the pre-Mrs. Wallace Smith days. These things are precious to me, and — again, as a sentimental sort — I hold on to stuff like this. I see them as “the historical documents” (I think I got that phrase from the movie Galaxy Quest). I imagine my kids one day reading through them after I’m dead (hopefully later than next week, by the way:) ) and seeing how our family came together. Needless to say, I am letting them dry out and planning to keep them, even if the ink is a little blurred, now.

Other letters are there, as well — from back when I was in high school, or on the other side of the child/adult divide, from friends after college. Of course, with Gmail, one can keep everything, and I keep way too much out of laziness. But all of these are from a day when writing someone took more effort, and first drafts were often the only drafts.

I often question whether I am too sentimental about such things. Maybe all of it should be chucked. Or maybe none of it should be chucked. Or maybe those notes to my sweetheart should be kept, but the others should go the way of my decades-old tax records. (Actually, come to think of it I still have those. I’ll try to think of another example as I warm up the shredder…)

So, let me turn it over to you: Do you hold on to your old correspondence? That is, your non-email correspondence? If so, do you keep it all? Do you keep some? Is there a date when it becomes “old enough” to throw away? Do you keep only special letters, or is it a matter of keeping letters from special someones, whether significant in content or not?

Let me know, below, if you’re in the mood. It’s a lot faster than writing me a letter.:)

Lamb (square)

“Because He is risen, I don’t keep Easter” — plus a great chart contrasting Easter and Passover

Passover Lamb or Easter Bunny? Mr. Mike DeSimone has something worthwhile to say about that. (So does the Bible...)
Passover Lamb or Easter Bunny? Mr. Mike DeSimone has something worthwhile to say about that. (So does the Bible…)

It’s a busy day, today! As did the ancient, faithful Christian Polycrates, my family “observe(s) the day when the people put out the leaven.” With Passover last night and the Days of Unleavened Bread beginning tonight, we’ve got loose ends to tie up — really, final crumbs to throw out. And I can’t stay down here in my hovel typing on my blog while they are doing all the work upstairs. (Or, can I…)

Still, I do like to post something at this time of year — in particular, I like to mention why I, as a Christian, simply cannot keep Easter. So, I thought I would provide some reruns today in the event that some may not have seen them before.

The one post I’ve written on the topic that I like the most is “Because He is risen, I don’t keep Easter” — which was eventually cleaned up and turned into the Tomorrow’s World commentary, “Because He Is Risen, I Do Not Keep Easter.” It’s a rare example where I found the ability to be concise.:)

And the Tomorrow’s World website has a number of resources for anyone interested in why Christians should not keep Easter and why they should consider the biblical Holy Days, instead. (You’ll note that the statement presumes that Easter is not a biblical Holy Day. Not an accidental contrast there.)

Speaking (however parenthetically) of contrasts, the commentary published just today (I think) on the Tomorrow’s World website is excellent: “Easter or Passover” by Mr. Mike DeSimone. It includes a very good chart contrasting Easter and the Christian Passover that really nicely lays out points one should consider. I highly recommend it.

That’s all from me today. Those last stubborn crumbs await! For those who keep the biblical Holy Days, I pray that all of us have a meaningful and profitable Days of Unleavened Bread!

"Live and let live?" Apparently not...

Indiana and the RFRA: Erotic Liberty Über Alles

Preparing to fly over the capitol building in Indianapolis, perhaps? (image: Wikipedia)
Preparing to fly over the capitol building in Indianapolis, perhaps? (image: Wikipedia)

The current, weird furor over Indiana’s state version of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is really, really instructive. One one hand, I don’t get it. On the other hand, I do.

The news is giving (however poorly) the background, so let me summarize quickly in the event you don’t know. In 1993, President Clinton signed the federal RFRA. It was an amazing piece of work, with rare agreement across the political aisle. It was approved unanimously by the House of Representatives (since when has a major piece of legislation been approved unanimously by both parties?), and 97-3 in the Senate. Both the ACLU and the Christian Coalition behind it. (Sort of like watching dogs and cats hold hands, right?) It was introduced in their respective chambers by Democrats Chuck Schumer and Ted Kennedy. And the President praised it.

The RFRA was meant to protect religious freedom against unnecessary government infringement while, at the same time, creating a means for government to test when such infringement might actually be necessary. It was simple and clear. The law said that the government cannot substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion without showing, both, that the state has a compelling interest at stake in doing so and that it is the least restrictive means of achieving that interest.

The First Amendment had take some hits from recent court cases, and the RFRA was a means of addressing that. It shored up the government’s commitment to the First Amendment and clarified its obligations to honor the free exercise of religion while simultaneously providing a means of testing to see if there might be a legitimate, societal need to restrict that free exercise in some cases.

However, as established by the Supreme Court, the reach of RFRA was limited to the federal government and did not include concerns at the state level. So, many states have enacted their own version of RFRA, and they have done so without too much difficulty. States considered, both, very conservative and very liberal have done so (Connecticut’s was established even before the federal government’s, I think). Such agreement across political and cultural lines has reflected the spirit in which the federal RFRA was established.

Yet, Indiana is now under fire for doing just as others have done, with businesses, even other state governments, declaring that they will ban travel to the state unless their RFRA is repealed.

The hypocrisy in many of those decisions and proclamations have been highlighted by many. Bands I don’t care about have cancelled the parts of their tours to take place in Indiana, yet their tours continue in other states with their own RFRA. State governments with their own RFRA have wagged their finger. The wife of the President who so praisingly signed the federal RFRA has tweeted, “Sad this new Indiana law can happen in America today.” Weird, when her husband set the precedent.

What’s going on? I think two things are involved — probably one more than the other.

First, RFRA played a crucial role in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision, in which the Supreme Court decided that Obamacare (as then currently configured–who knows how it will look day-to-day?) placed an inappropriate religious burden on the owners of Hobby Lobby by requiring them to violate their conscience and(no matter how you look at it) pay for certain forms of birth control (e.g., abortion).

This was a wake up call to some who have begun to see the freedom to exercise religion as a barrier to the political ends they very desperately want. Part of why America was founded was freedom of conscience, and Burwell demonstrated that this principle still has bite. The state may have a “compelling interest” in providing abhorrent forms of “birth control” free to all women (not agreeing that it does; saying so just for argument), but RFRA requires the government to prove that forcing people to pay for it when such payments would violate their conscience is, by far, not the least restrictive means for doing so. The challenge is that those other means (e.g., through general taxation) are politically problematic.

To some extent, I think this is what has caused news items to refer to RFRA not as a “religious freedom” law, as it has normally been seen, but as a “religious objection” law. On one hand, both concepts fall into the same category (freedom means freedom to object). On the other hand, the second characterization reveals a lot about how the media wishes to color the dispute. It isn’t their biggest tell, however…

Even more than Burwell, the stunning reversal of America’s attitude toward homosexual “marriage” has changed RFRA laws’ image from that of protection for a cherished, national freedom to some sort Taliban-like tool of oppression.

Consider the full tweet from Mrs. Clinton: “Sad this new Indiana law can happen in America today. We shouldn’t discriminate against ppl bc of who they love #LGBT” followed by a link to a Puffington Host article.

RFRA-type laws are now seen in light of the cultural decay of the last decade. The stories of wedding planners, cake makers, etc., who being sued by individuals and punished by state governments because they can’t, in good conscience, apply their artistic talent to support homosexual “weddings” have brought to the forefront the realization that society’s increased acceptance of homosexual “marriage” places many in direct conflict given their sincerely and deeply held religious convictions.

So, now, RFRA is seen as a tool for discrimination — a “cover” meant to allow continued discrimination against homosexuals.

There are more observations to make here that should be obvious to even the most casual observer, but which I just don’t have time to list. For instance, the RFRA law — even Indiana’s version — does not mention discrimination. The propensity of some media outlets to describe it as a “Gay-discrimination” law is saddening in, depending on the source, ignorance or dishonesty. It is no more a “gay-discrimination” law than the federal law on which everyone agreed, and no more than those passed by other states, some of which are even stronger than Indiana’s version. Which also puts the lie to those who claim that it is the small differences in Indiana’s law that makes it onerous. Why are other states getting away scot-free? It isn’t the content of the law, it’s the timing.

However, what seems the strangest to me is that Indiana’s RFRA law, just like all the others, is designed to handle exactly the concern that its haters have brought up. If, for instance, forcing a wedding planner to pour all of his talents and skills into planning a homosexual “wedding” even though it violates her conscience is, indeed, a compelling state interest, and such coercion is the best means of achieving that interest, then it will totally pass the RFRA test. (And, frankly, court case after court case in this country seems to increasingly demonstrate that such coercion will, indeed, succeed in passing such a test.)

What is wrong with requiring a case to be made that it is worth society’s while to punish someone for being unwilling to violate his or her religious convictions, regardless of what we think of those convictions, personally?

For instance, if someone were to go to a Muslim-owned cake store and request a cake depicting Mohammed–say, reproducing a Charlie Hebdo cover for a local journalism school activity celebrating freedom of the press–should the sincere Muslim cake designer be forced by the government to do so? I don’t think he should. But, regardless, at least RFRA laws give an orderly framework for deciding whether or not it is in society’s interest to require such things.

The government may decide that, yes, we all have a constitutional right to the cake of our choice from the baker of our choice, regardless of the First Amendment. But at least RFRA provides a means of testing whether such coercion is justified (well, probably deserves scare-quotes: “justified”).

[As an aside, can I just add that all of this seems dumb at an amazingly fundamental level. Even religious considerations aside, can’t a person specialize in cakes for homosexual “weddings”? Geek-and-nerd weddings? Muslim weddings? Jewish weddings? Is the only wedding type for which specialization is banned heterosexual weddings? What a weird world mankind is creating…]

If anything, if giving those who desire a homosexual “wedding” access to every cake-making business in existence in the name of “non-discrimination” actually is a compelling state interest and forcing those business owners who disagree with homosexual “marriage” to comply or be crushed out of business is the best way to achieve that end, then RFRA gives such efforts extra bite. If something passes RFRA standards, then it isn’t considered violating individual’s First Amendment rights and the way is clear, and all such future objections are pretty much doomed. Yet, if such an interest is not compelling or if less religiously offensive means are available to accomplish it — that is, if it fails the RFRA test — then why would we want to trample on people’s religious convictions, even if we disagree with them?

Really, it’s hard to see where the problem is. And even some legal scholars who support homosexual “marriage” agree and also support Indiana’s RFRA law. Dr. Douglas Laycock of University of Virginia’s law school is one.

The Indiana RFRA furor seems, fundamentally, a storm based not on fact but on the state of our culture and its current, relentless obsession: For some, absolutely nothing — not even our most cherished and fundamental freedoms — that presents a risk, however low, of slowing the progress of embracing the advance of homosexual “marriage” can be contemplated.

I heard Dr. Albert Mohler coin a name some time ago (at least I think he coined it; perhaps someone else did) that seems to apply: erotic liberty. While the free exercise of religion has long been one of the fundamental freedoms in the United States — long cherished, long celebrated, long protected — it is falling to a new freedom a growing number of people wish to enshrine above it. Increasingly, religious liberty takes a backseat to erotic liberty. And the events these days in Indiana demonstrate just how far back that backseat really is.

The Indiana RFRA dispute is all about the current obsession with erotic liberty. It hasn’t helped that backers of the law have been less that courageous. For instance, if RFRA means that the discriminatory attitudes of some, if rooted in religious convictions, may be protected if there is no compelling state reason to make the practice of those convictions illegal, then admit it. On the other hand, those who hate the law could stand to be more honest, as well. Instead of larger principles like “discrimination” which can sound very noble, if their concern is really that they want the state to have unquestioned authority to force wedding planners and cake makers out of business unless they are willing to use their talents in the service of weddings that violate their deeply held positions of conscience, then say so. They accuse the law’s supporters of hiding the particulars of their concerns, but they could stand to be more honest about their own. If they believe that erotic liberty is a cause so worthy that it justifies denying people their First Amendment rights, then just say so.

It isn’t that there’s not a great discussion to be had concerning RFRA laws and how religious freedom is supposed to operate in a culture moving in the direction America’s is headed. But that great discussion is not being had concerning Indiana’s new law. Quite the opposite. Rather, we’re seeing politics at its worst, where huge, cultural impacts will be made and multiple generations affected by nothing more than pretense, positioning, and pandering. Yuck.

I am so thankful that I have been called by God to something different,and that I do not participate in politics. It allows a vantage point to see things as they are, I think, without being caught up in the distraction of trying to drive them in a particular direction. RFRA or no RFRA, “homosexual marriage” is an oxymoron in God’s eyes — about as substantial as “married bachelors” or “square circles.” The outcome of all the fuss is not so relevant to me as what the back-and-forth of the fuss reveals concerning where our culture and national conscience currently stands. And the position of that culture, or at least the position of the drivers of that culture, seems pretty clear: Erotic liberty über alles.

Lamb (square)

Did Jesus only pay the price for Adam’s sin?

Only for Adam's SinThe title here reflects one idea behind the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and it seemed a decent topic to bring up as we approach Passover. In particular, while some may quibble with the wording, it is a summary of how Jehovah’s Witnesses approach the issue of how Jesus’ death atones for sin: The idea that in His death, Jesus paid the price of Adam’s sin, one man for one man, and that by paying, through His perfect life, for the sins of Adam, all of us are then “ransomed” from death. Actually, here’s how one of the JW resources summarizes it: “[H]e would pay the wage for Adam’s sin … the ransom would cut off the destructive power of sin right at its source [that is, Adam’s sin — WGS].”

They reference many verses — the verses you would expect one to refer to if you were trying to justify such a position. (Noting that through one man’s sin death entered the world, etc.) But they do not establish the central point: That Jesus atoning death paid only for Adam’s sin and that the gift of forgiveness is extended to all of us through an architecture of “legal consequences.”

And it is a false point, contradicting God’s Word concerning death, guilt, and sin. None of us die in connection to Adam’s sin other than in the fact that we are following in Human Dad’s sinful footsteps. The death we experience due to sin was, indeed, “welcomed” into the world when he sinned, but the death we earn is our own and is due to our own sins, not his.

God sets out the “legal doctrine,” if you will, very plainly in the book of Ezekiel:

“The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” — Ezekiel 18:20

The whole passage is worth a read (of course), but this is a great one verse summary. God wanted to make it clear, and He does. Crystal.

  • “The son shall not bear the guilt of the father”–meaning none of us bear Adam’s guilt. We bear our own.
  • “The soul who sins shall die”–meaning Adam’s sin earned his death, not mine and not yours. My sin earns mine. Your sin earns yours.
  • “The wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself”–meaning Adam’s wickedness is on Adam. Mine is on me. Yours is on you.

Sin entered the world through Adam–true. But I didn’t have to dance with it, myself. But I have.

In contrast to that faulty idea of atonement, the one Mr. Armstrong made so plain is so much more sensible: Only the Eternal, Divine Creator’s death was sufficient to cover all of ours.

John 1:1 — translated accurately — says that the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ, existing as the Word, the Logos, “was with God” and “was God.” If John did not believe in the Divinity of Jesus Christ and His equality with God (which He did not claw at, desperately, to keep it but, rather, gave it up willingly for us and emptied Himself: Phil. 2:6), then this is one of the most poorly written statements in the entire Bible. But knowing the truth — that there are two Persons in the Divine Family that is God — John 1:1 shows itself for what it is: a beautiful poetic statement of a beautiful and remarkable truth. (And it is a truth with profound implications for all of us.)

With that understood, we can see how three days and three nights in the grave for the Son of God, our Creator (John 1:3; Col. 1:16), can pay the price of eternal death for all of us. No life was worth more. And the death of an infinite life there on Calvary, for however long it would have been, is enough to pay the price for all the sin we could ever have committed in all of our little finite lives combined.

[Sort-of-side note… That, to me, provided an answer, however speculative, that used to allude me, to a question that vexed my little math brain: If the ultimate penalty of sin is eternal death, how could a death that lasted only 3 days pay that price? No problem: The death of the Eternal, for however long at all, is the ending of an eternal life. That the Eternal, Himself, who inhabits eternity, is the one who died, what death of a finite creature–even an unending one–could ever compare? His taste of death (Heb. 2:9) was more than all the death I could ever drink in. If you will forgive the math-ish slang: Whether you look at it as ∞ × n = ∞ or n × ∞ = ∞, the result is still ∞.]

Claiming Jesus Christ is a created being is heresy, and it is heresy for very good reason. It not only robs the Son of God of all that is due Him — all that His Father and ours wants recognized in Him — but it also robs His atonement for all of its force and robs our purpose of all of its meaning and significance, as we are to be made like He is (1 John 3:1-3).

For those who claim Jesus Christ is a created being, the ability of His sacrifice to pay for all of our sins becomes a problem. That’s why you see nonsense like this idea that His death really only paid for Adam’s sin, and our own sins are forgiven through some legal architecture.

But it is a legal architecture that is contradicted by God’s Word. As God makes plain through Ezekiel, we all die for our own sins, and we do not bear the guilt of our forefathers’ — not even Adam’s.

All this brings to mind two things for me. First, theology matters. The idea that some doctrines, like the nature of the Godhead and the deity of Jesus Christ, are simply theoretical and don’t make much difference is wrongheaded. It makes a great difference. Jesus, Himself, said on that Passover 1,984 years ago, that “this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). If Jesus Christ is God, then it is a stretch to believe that one knows Him if one doesn’t know that. (Seems to me that it would be the equivalent of claiming that one knows George Washington while believing that he is a cocker spaniel.)

Secondly, it reminds me that when I am sitting there Thursday night on Passover, meditating on what Jesus Christ did for me and how I need it, I am in that need because of what I have done. The life I have lived. The choices I have made. The guilt lifted off of me every time I kneel and ask God to forgive me day-by-day is my own. I cannot blame it on others. I cannot blame it on Adam. I cannot blame it on my neighbor. I cannot blame it on my wife. I cannot blame it on my kids. It is all mine.

Yet, the beautiful and magnificent Eternal was willing to empty Himself so that He could take my guilt–the guilt I owned, I earned, and I had compiled over a lifetime of ignoring Him and disobeying Him–and make it His, to rid me of it forever.

What an amazing thing.

Pinterest Logo

OK, so I’m on Pinterest. And, yes, I’m a dude.

Pinterest LogoI give up. I’ve seen Pinterest all over the place over the last year or so, but I still figured it was where young girls went to pin photos of their dream wedding dresses, etc. Wow, I was wrong.

Guy Kawasaki opened my brain up on the matter during his presentation at the recent NRB conference, and the various statistics displayed by him and by other presenters told the tale. As far as social media goes, Pinterest was second only to Facebook in use and popularity — more than both Instagram and Twitter. And Kawasaki noted that in many ways it is becoming the new Google. The example he gave (I think) was that, for many, rather than Googling to find information on how to cook a turkey, more and more are going to Pinterest for such queries.

Overcoming my uneducated fear that I would visit the site and be overwhelmed with unicorns and glitter (actually, glitter-free unicorns aren’t that bad), I headed out to Pinterest and was hooked. It is a well-designed, click-generating share-monster.

OK, that doesn’t sound right. It seemed to me a way of gathering content available in the wild into your own, personalized magazine, issued as frequently as you like. The requirement of an image for every, single article or post is brilliant. It’s like an organically growing table of contents, with each article accompanied by an image that increases the likelihood you’ll say, “OK, I have to check that out…”

Also, while it might seem a negative by some as an element that adds an air of disorganization, the fact that the image/blurb tiles on your page aren’t lined up in a neat little “grid” but vary in size and are densely space filling seems, again, an effective element of the presentation. When your eye can’t follow neatly in a line from article to article — say, left-to-right — then one is much more likely to wander around, being exposed to more titles than one normally would be. I’ve seen it before in other websites designed for exactly that purpose — getting you to notice more articles than you might otherwise — and it’s been pretty effective.

After clicking around, finding myself educated and entertained far too easily, I gave in, made my own account, and joined the Pinterest thing. I did it partially because I enjoy experimenting in the social media world and want to understand how to best benefit the Work. (Learning often happens best in the doing.) But also because it succeeded in grabbing my attention as a worthwhile platform for discovering new ideas, sharing ideas with others, and even saving things that grab your attention for reading later.

For anyone out there who is already on Pinterest, you can find me using some of the links below. And if I post a single image of something glittery–anything glittery–please help me.

Here’s my profile:

Here’s my experiment in building a home-made Pinterest version of the Tomorrow’s World magazine for my own perusal (all links back to the original TW website articles):

Here’s a board I just added for this personal blog [EDIT, 1pm: Images weren’t loading that well last I checked. Link works, though.]:

And here’s an example of a single post with a pretty sweet video demonstrating the force of the Fine-Tuning Argument (from the fine folks at Reasonable Faith) concerning the existence of God [EDIT, 1pm: Ditto, but the link seems to work. Maybe the fact that the pin is of a video messes up the image. Still stuff to learn…]:

I’m actually not going out to Pinterestville too much, yet, as my surfing has been drastically reduced as of late. Life has been remarkably and wonderfully hectic these days (last blog post was more than a month ago). But when I do venture out, digitally speaking, I am increasingly adding Pinterest to my regular surfing.

And you never know — in the end, we may find that the “Share” buttons of Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and the like may end up being one of the major means by which the gospel of the Kingdom of God is spread on the Internet. After all, the Christians of Acts 8:4 were doing more than hitting the “Like” button…


And in the event you are not already following Tomorrow’s World and the Living Church of God on social media, here are some links to help you rectify that!