More About that Fucking Flag


Including some stuff I didn’t know!

A Very Simple Solution


So many people still have no clue when it comes to gay marriage and believe it to be an abomination before God. Oddly, they don’t seem to have the same problem with people wearing clothes of more than one kind of cloth, people having tattoos, or people no longer having slaves, but there you are.

The Attorney General of Texas has said that county clerks who don’t want to perform same-sex weddings don’t have to. Mind you, these weddings are a completely secular institution that have nothing to do with religion, but, again, there you are. Also, a clerk in Mississippi, long known as a bastion of tolerance and decency toward all, has resigned rather than perform same-sex weddings.

One of these people has handled this correctly, and as a mature adult. The other is the Attorney General for Texas.

I think it’s stupid to bring your religious beliefs into the workplace, but if you genuinely have a problem with the idea of having to sign off on a marriage license for a gay couple, quitting your job is a valid option. It sucks that this woman feels that she has to do that, but that’s fine; it’s her choice.

On the other hand, telling people they don’t have to do a major component of their job, simply because they don’t like one permutation of that component, is childish and asinine. It also opens up a horrible can of worms that the former Confederacy really, really doesn’t need to be dealing with.

For example, why should this stop at same-sex couples? Should a Catholic clerk be allowed to refuse to marry two divorced people? What about a Muslim clerk, who doesn’t believe Christians and Muslims should marry? Would that clerk be allowed to pass? What about someone who believes, as many people actually still do, that mixed-race marriages shouldn’t exist? Are they allowed to cite their “deeply held beliefs” and refuse to do their job?

This finding from the AG is probably illegal, and certainly unwise. It’s not going to hold up in court, nor should it. But Texas is now going to have to waste time and money defending the concept.

I think the lady that resigned her position in Mississippi is an idiot, but at least she’s doing what she feels is right for her, and not demanding that her job be changed to suit her needs. I think she’s being foolish overall, but I can respect her choice. The Attorney General of Texas, however, is simply playing politics.

His solution is probably illegal, and certainly unworkable. Hers is silly and unwise, but it affects only her. One of these people chose the simple solution. The other did not.

Judge Not


I’ve never done a guest blog piece before, but when my own mother asks to do one, how can I say no? Enjoy!

Susan E. Lindsey

The Supreme Court’s recent decision about same-sex marriage brought forth a rainbow of celebration, but also dark clouds of anger and lightning bolts of hate.

Many—but not all—of those condemning the ruling identified themselves as Christian and cited various biblical passages to support their positions. Some—but not all—of those celebrating the decision made anti-Christian remarks.

I consider myself a Christian, and I don’t like the term being used as an all-encompassing label for rigid or ultra-conservative people who love to point the finger of sin and condemnation at others. Most Christians I know do not behave this way. The word Christian means a follower of Christ, and Jesus Christ did not call us to condemn or hate one another.

I support the decision of the court and think it’s long overdue. However, I also want to respect the beliefs of others and consider what they have to say, so let’s examine some of the scriptures most often cited by opponents to same-sex marriage.

I have to preface this by pointing out that marriage is both a civil/legal construct and a religious construct, which complicates the matter. I am a great believer in the separation of church and state. That is not an anti-Christian statement. I’m all for Christians practicing their faith. I am not in favor, however, of practitioners of any faith (Christian, Muslim, Judaism, Buddhism, or anything else) dictating the laws of this land.

I also realize that many people have come to their conclusions about homosexuality from a position of emotion, not logic, so trying to use logic to discuss this may be futile. All of that being said, let’s look at those scriptures. (Citations are from the Revised Standard Version.) First, the Old Testament.

Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Genesis 2:24

This scriptures provides a model for marriage, but it does not say that it is the only model for marriage, nor does it in fact use the word “marriage.” A similar New Testament passage (Matthew 10:6-8) likewise does not restrict marriage to this model.

In this passage from Genesis, Lot offers shelter in his home to two travelers identified as angels.

But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house; and they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” Lot went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please; only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”

Genesis 19:4-8

The passage is used as an argument against homosexuality, but it is really about attempted homosexual rape and Lot’s willingness to allow his virgin daughters to be raped instead of his guests. A similar story is told in the book of Judges, where a man provides overnight accommodations for a traveler.

22 As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, base fellows, beset the house round about, beating on the door; and they said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know him.” 23 And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brethren, do not act so wickedly; seeing that this man has come into my house, do not do this vile thing. 24 Behold, here are my virgin daughter and his concubine; let me bring them out now. Ravish them and do with them what seems good to you; but against this man do not do so vile a thing.” 25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine, and put her out to them; and they knew her, and abused her all night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go. 26 And as morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, till it was light.

27 And her master rose up in the morning, and when he opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, behold, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said to her, “Get up, let us be going.” But there was no answer. Then he put her upon the ass; and the man rose up and went away to his home. 29 And when he entered his house, he took a knife, and laying hold of his concubine he divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel.

Judges 19:22-29

In this gruesome tale, the host protects his guest by throwing the guest’s concubine into the street (after first also offering up his virgin daughter). The concubine is gang-raped all night. When she crawls back to the house, she’s thrown over a donkey for the trip home, where she is murdered. Again, not a tale about same-sex relationships, but a horrific tale of rape, a culture of blaming the victim, and the disposability of women. Why would anyone want to use follow the advice of the writers of these stories?

In the Old Testament book of Leviticus, the Levitical priests lay down the law and specifically address sex in chapter 18. Verses 12-17 of the chapter deal with prohibitions against incest. Verse 18 prohibits a man from marrying his wife’s sister. Verses 19-23 prohibit sex during a woman’s period, adultery with neighbors, child sacrifice, gay sex, and bestiality.

19 You shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness while she is in her menstrual uncleanness. 20 And you shall not lie carnally with your neighbor’s wife, and defile yourself with her. 21 You shall not give any of your children to devote them by fire to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord. 22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. 23 And you shall not lie with any beast and defile yourself with it, neither shall any woman give herself to a beast to lie with it: it is perversion.

—Leviticus 18:19-23

Apparently, the priests considered these to be comparable levels of bad stuff. However, I have a difficult time believing that sex during a woman’s period or gay sex compare in any way to child sacrifice or bestiality. And this passage is from a book that also discusses the rules of animal sacrifices, outlaws the eating of pork or rabbit, requires male circumcision, and forbids getting tattoos or trimming beards. Can we agree that some of it might be outdated?

Once in a while, people will cite passages from the book of I Kings. Chapter 14 tells about a ruler establishing male prostitution cults in Judah; chapter 15 tells about a subsequent ruler who puts an end to the practice. Neither of these passages deal with loving same-sex relationships, but rather with male prostitution in a cult setting. It brings up the question: were female prostitutes in a cult setting OK? Or was prostitution of either sex in a non-cult setting somehow acceptable?

These Old Testament passages were written long before Jesus was born. Let’s look at the New Testament.

21 for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened . . .

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

32 Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them.

—Romans 1:21 and 26, 27, 32

These are Paul’s words in a letter to the Romans. Paul is speaking of people who knew about God, but did not honor him. In this passage, Paul rants against those who believe and live differently than he does. He labels same-sex relations as dishonorable, unnatural, and shameless, but seems to be condemning them more for not honoring God. He then advocates for their murder and the murder of those who approve of such practices. Not exactly a shining example of Christian love. In another letter, Paul writes to the Corinthians:

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10

It is easy to define thieves and robbers, adulterers and drunkards. The other definitions are broader: who defines what is immoral, what is idolatry, and what is sexual perversion? It was once considered immoral for women to show their ankles. In many cultures, any kind of sex besides heterosexual / missionary position / with your spouse is considered perversion. In this same letter, Paul writes about marriage, advocating celibacy for those who can live that way (as Paul did), but marriage for those who cannot:

Now concerning the matters about which you wrote. It is well for a man not to touch a woman. But because of the temptation to immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. . . . I say this by way of concession, not of command. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.

—1 Corinthians 7:1-3 and 6-9

This is another passage sometimes cited as a definition for marriage. But Paul isn’t celebrating marriage as a union of one man and one woman. He is saying it would be best if we all could be celibate, but if we can’t, then we should marry. Paul may very well have been asexual, without desire for sex with anyone. He chose, instead, to devote his life to his faith. But if everyone were celibate, the human race would end. If, as Christians, we believe that God created us, then he also gave us sexual desire. We hear again from Paul when he writes to Timothy:

Now we know that the law is good, if any one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 immoral persons, sodomites, kidnapers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,

1 Timothy 1:8-10

Dictionaries define sodomy in various ways: as homosexual acts, as oral sex, as anal sex, as bestiality, as sex that is not intended for procreation. Many heterosexuals engage in sex that is not for procreation, and have oral sex or anal sex. So sodomites does not refer exclusively to same-sex relations. And Paul is equating vastly different “sins”—is telling fib equal to killing your mother?

I don’t believe that the Bible forbids same-sex marriages or condemns homosexuality. It certainly isn’t listed in the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20), and there is no record that Jesus said anything one way or another about same-sex relationships.

We have learned much about human sexuality in the centuries since Paul was alive. There is a range of sexual behavior and identities that are clearly biological: these include heterosexuality, homosexuality, asexuality, transgender, and intersexuality.

As a Christian, I follow Christ—not Paul and not the writers of the Old Testament. We are called to love one another and to avoid judging others.

1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce, you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

—Matthew 7:1-16

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

—John 13:34

37 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

—Matthew 22:37-39

History is filled with people who cited the Bible, Koran, or other religious writings to shore up arguments for everything from slavery to domestic abuse to wars. If you’re going to cite the Bible, understand the context and history of the passages. Apply some common sense and thought, and recognize that your own experiences and fears color your views. Don’t support a stance just because your friends or relatives support it, without doing your own thinking.

Finally, if you’re opposed to gay sex, don’t have gay sex. If you’re opposed to gay marriage, don’t marry someone of the same sex.

The world if filled with enough hate: let people love who they love.

Hello, Sweetie!


Spoilers!

Spoilers!

Massive congratulations to Big Finish for getting as close as they possibly can to making new series Doctor Who stories without actually doing so. I mean, ok, they are, but without a “main range” new series…series. But still!

download (1)

Here’s what they’ve announced today, and I couldn’t be more excited. While I’m unsure how well the Weeping Angels will work in an audio-only format, and while I don’t much like the Sycorax or the Judoon, I’m remaining confident that Big Finish will find a way to make this work. They’ve seldom disappointed in the past. Plus a series with Eight and River is all sorts of exciting all on its own!

This is nothing but a win for Big Finish, and on several levels. First, most obviously, it’s going to lure in some new series fans. Hopefully, most of them will actually pay for the audios instead of stealing them.

But in a larger view, this is good news because, frankly, no one involved with the old series is getting any younger. For Big Finish to continue as a company, they need to be able to access new series elements, even if they can’t yet do full-on new series Doctor stories. And while this isn’t that, it’s as close as we’re going to get until Eccleston, Tennant and Smith really get hard-up for cash.

So bring it all on! I’m really quite excited about this. :)

50 States, 6 Territories, and 1 District Down!


We won.

In a larger, more inclusive sense, everyone wins, and that’s because no one really loses. If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get gay married. If your church is against the concept, they won’t be forced to allow same-sex couples to marry, just like they currently aren’t forced to allow mixed-race couples to marry, or allow divorced couples to marry. If your business does flowers for weddings, and you won’t do business with gays then, well, clearly money is something you hate. Also, you kind of have to do it, so suck it up and reel in the cash.

I don’t have too much more to say about this, so I’ll let Andrew Sullivan take it from here. I’ll also remind my friends that while this is good and great, we still have one more major problem to overcome before full equality; adoptions of children by gay people, which is still illegal in several states. But once that’s gone…that’s that.

And So, Progress is Made


I had planned to write about today’s 6/3 Supreme Court ruling that basically guarantees that Obamacare won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. At least not until people realize how basically broken it still is and we go to single payer. But I can sum up my feelings on that with this.

So instead of that, I’m going to dive right in on the Confederate flag thingy.

You know, this piece of shit.

You know, this piece of shit.

As we all know, it’s a very popular image throughout the south; or at least it was as of two weeks ago. Now it’s rather rapidly retreating into history, rather like the Army of the Confederacy itself.

zlogo_purple

I’ve always thought it very weird that people, and for that matter, state governments, would fly the flag of a rebel army that lost a war against our country over 150 years ago. It just never made any real sense to me. I’ve always regarded people like Robert E Lee, Jefferson Davis, Judah Benjamin, “Stonewall” Jackson, and others, as traitors to the United States. These were men who fought for a hideous and evil cause; that of preserving slavery.

Now is when the defenders of the south will cry out, “No! It was about heritage! It was about preserving states’ rights! It was about a way of life that was held sacred!” Yes, it was about those things. It was about a heritage of slavery, the right of states to set their own laws about slavery, and a way of life that centered on slavery. And that slavery was racially-based. This was, in every way possible, a war to preserve slavery and racism. It was an evil war with an evil goal.

Lest you doubt me, allow me to present the Mississippi Declaration of Secession, wherein they laid out the reasons they were leaving the Union. Here’s paragraph two.

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

The people back in 1861 knew what they were fighting for. So keep that in the back of your mind as we continue on here.

The Confederate battle flag, and indeed all the symbols of the Confederacy, is a racist emblem that’s designed to evoke a past where blacks were property and slavery was the order of the day. If you fly it, I will reach the not-entirely-unjustified conclusion that you are a racist asshole.

Now maybe you fly it because your great-great grandpappy fought for the Army of Northern Virginia and you feel some pride in this. Let me remind you of two things. One: It’s really fucking weird to take any pride in something that you had nothing to do with. Two: Your great-great grandpappy fought to defend slavery and racism.

For those of you who continue to dismiss how damaging it still is to fly this flag, I want you to try to imagine something. Try to picture yourself just as you are now, but black and living in the South. You leave your home (at the intersection of Robert E Lee Blvd and Stonewall Jackson Avenue), for work in the morning (a home that’s likely in a neighborhood that’s mostly black, and probably fairly poor), drive to work on the Jefferson Davis Highway, past your city’s Confederate War Memorial (does it have a civil rights memorial? Probably not), past the state capitol building, which proudly flies the Confederate Battle Flag just a bit higher than the other flags (including your state flag, which has the Confederate flag incorporated into it), and finally you arrive at your job at Nathan Bedford Forrest Elementary School.

I don’t know about you, but if I were a black person under those circumstances, I’d start to get the impression that maybe I wasn’t welcome.

Now the next thing I’m going to say might piss off a few people, but, fuck it, when have I ever really worried about that? So here we go: The Confederate Battle Flag is equal to, and has the same basic symbolic meaning, as this flag:

Man, uploading this makes me feel icky.

Man, uploading this makes me feel icky.

Now it’s true that the South didn’t engage in a massive, organized genocide that set out to kill black people. No, instead they destroyed cultures, separated families, and did not, in fact, engage in mass-murder of blacks, but only because that would have made it hard to force them into slave labor; something the Nazis did with Jews and others.

There is no fundamental difference between the Nazi flag and the Confederate flag. Both are symbols of evil intent and evil deeds. Yes, some good men fought for “their country” on the side of the Confederacy, but the “good German” concept is alive and well, and I’m sure many people would say, “Yes, my uncle fought in the Wehrmacht, but he wasn’t an actual Nazi! I mean, yeah, he joined the party, but it’s what you did back then!”

Take that example I cited above and instead picture a Jewish person living in Germany, with all the above names and symbols replaced with Nazi ones and tell me that wouldn’t be terrible. Tell me that the government shouldn’t remove all that stuff. The Confederate symbolism is the same.

The South lost the war. They lost. They lost it 150 years ago, and putting it behind them is the best, most healthy thing they could do for themselves. Finally putting a stake in the heart of the romantic struggle is the best thing that could ever happen. I hope this has finally done that, and for those of you still longing for that great ante belleum past, please keep in mind what you’re really longing for is a day when whites owned blacks, and racism was the rule of the day.

A Failure of Imagination


Last night I watched the first episode of Killjoys. It’s a new show airing on Syfy and it’s actually science fiction. That’s something I want to encourage more of, especially since there was also an ad for Sharknado 3: No, We Don’t Have a Sense of Shame, Why Do You Ask?.

Killjoys was entertaining enough, I suppose. I have no interest in watching it again, but if it were on and I had nothing better to point my eyes at, I would be fine with watching it. It seems constructed largely of tropes and stereotypes, though to be fair, at least the Asian guy hasn’t shown himself to be a martial arts expert. Yet. Though, hey, at least in that one episode I saw more Asians than an the entire run of Firefly

Anyhow, the program also displayed something else that caught my attention. It’s something I’ve noticed with a lot of science fiction over the last few years, especially that which you see on television. It showed an incredible lack of imagination in depicting the future.

I don’t know how far into the future the series took place, but it was far enough away that hyperlight travel seemed to exist, as do large spaceships and colony worlds that are very far from Earth. Are those colony worlds somewhat lawless places ruled over by an entity simply called “The Corporation”? Of course they are, because apparently it’s still 1988.

But ignoring that, and ignoring the somewhat dodgy special effects that frankly paled next to those of Red Dwarf, what really caught my attention was how much like “now” this future looked. People dressed basically the same, there was a guy riding a Vespa, and all the props and buildings looked pretty much the same. This future was, essentially, the present, but with spaceships.

If this was something largely confined to this one show, I wouldn’t have noticed or cared, and it is something that can be used to great effect in some programs (Battlestar Galactica, for example), but here, as in so many other programs, including Firefly, and my beloved Doctor Who, which does this all the time lately, it just comes across as corner-cutting and a complete lack of vision

Even movies suffer from this problem. I quite liked Interstellar, but despite taking place 20 minutes into the future, we never really got much of a sense that it was happening at any time other than roughly now.

This hasn’t always been the case. Look back at sci-fi TV and movies during the 1970s. Logan’s Run, Space: 1999, Star Trek (in all its incarnations), Blake’s 7, and even the original Doctor Who frequently depicted futures that were very different and looked and felt almost nothing like here and now. There was exceptions within the programs, it’s true, but the bridge of any of the starships Enterprise looks far more interesting and futuristic than anything I’ve seen on most TV or movies lately.

Now all of those shows and movies haven’t aged especially well when it comes to certain design elements, but I’m willing to bet that 30 or 40 years from now, if anyone remembers Killjoys, it won’t have aged particularly well, either. But at least the other TV programs and movies mentioned here were trying to show something interesting and new and different. Killjoys, and so many other shows like it, seem to just want to show us the current world, with nothing especially interesting to it. That’s sad, and it’s a shame. Science fiction should try to showcase the different, the strange, the alien, the future, and do so with some real vision to it. But good luck finding that these days.

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