Category Archives: Christianity

the age of accountability

Tim has written an excellent, thought-provoking essay about the FLDS sect and their indoctrination of woman and children into the belief that it’s OK for a middle-aged man to “marry” and have sex with multiple underage “wives.” He points out that many religions offer their own indoctrinations of one sort or another, and he points out that in many Christian churches, very young children are encouraged to get up and proclaim their own personal relationship with Jesus. He ends his essay as follows:

Perhaps the members of the FLDS Church are afraid that if the girls were older, that they might choose to not marry 49 year-old men. Perhaps they might not choose to engage in that kind of lifestyle at all. Perhaps they would choose to think for themselves, instead of just falling mindlessly into behaviors that are so easily encouraged when a child is so young.

Perhaps Christians (like myself) are guilty of the same thing with spiritual issues.

I had no idea that children made “professions of faith” at age 5 or 7. But here’s the thing: kids that age also make “professions of faith” in Santa Claus. They’re raised in an environment where the adults around them tell tales of a big guy in a red suit who arrives by night with a sleigh full of toys; and sure enough, on Christmas morning, the toys are there. So of course they believe in Santa: the proof is under the tree, plus their parents told them this was The Truth. They’ll continue to believe until reason and common sense (or friends in the know) convince them otherwise.

Now I’ll use Christianity as an example, although I don’t mean to single it out. Take a small child who’s being raised in a Christian environment. The child’s parents tell them about the big guy in heaven and his son, and about all the wonders that befall those who Believe. It’s clear that having a “personal relationship with Jesus” is a Very Big Deal to the child’s family and friends. And sure enough, the child sees that when people get up in church on Sunday and talk about their relationship with Jesus, those folks get a lot of positive attention. The child knows that their parents expect them to announce their belief at some point. Maybe one of their friends has already made the trip to the altar and been subsequently showered with praise. So of course the child will do the same thing: all the evidence is that they’ll be rewarded for doing so, and their parents have told them that this is The Truth. They’ll continue to believe — how long? In some cases, forever. In other cases, until new people, new situations, or their own contemplation, convinces them to change their minds.

I go to a Unitarian Universalist church. We don’t have a specific creed or dogma; each member is free to determine their own spiritual path and individual belief structure. Our Sunday School classes teach the basics of all the major world religions, familiarizing our children with the history, major figures, and beliefs of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Humanism, and more. We stress to the kids that it will be up to them to determine what they believe.

But despite that broad education, the fact is that our kids also have a natural tendency to believe in the same things their parents do. My own children have grown up with a Humanist/Atheist mother and a Humanist father who has a vague sense of god as the life force that binds the world together. We’re very liberal Democrats. And surprise, surprise, our teenage kids have liberal beliefs about social issues, they’re Obama supporters, and my daughter is a professed Atheist.

My daughter is 16. I believe she’s mature enough to make a statement about her belief (or lack thereof). My son is 13; he’s still sorting out his thoughts, and I wouldn’t ask him to make a firm statement about where he stands on religion. I wouldn’t begin to ask a 5 or 7 year old for a real, permanent statement of their faith — just as they’ll say they believe in Santa, if you ask them about religion you’ll get a recitation of what they know their parents want to hear and whatever will get them the most positive attention.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

Along similar lines, I expect this is why nationally, laws indicate that kids under 16 can’t legally consent to have sex; having raised a child to that age, I’ve definitely seen this age as a defining point in her growth and maturity. My almost-13 year old son is by no means anywhere close to being ready for the emotional or physical toll of a sexual relationship.

I consider it unconscionable for the FLDS sect to “marry” girls that age to men so much older; girls of 13 or 14 aren’t ready to give informed consent to sex with anyone, let alone a 40 or 50 year old man. I absolutely believe that those women and children go along with the program because domineering older men have embedded those thoughts in their heads from infancy on; and in their sequestered environment, they don’t know any other way. As Tim suggests, if the sect waited until the girls were mature enough to make their own choice, they would almost certainly resist the idea of a union with a vastly older partner they have no affection for.

If we all waited until our children were 16 before we mentioned our religious beliefs (or political stands, or any other strongly held opinions), then I think many people would be surprised and perhaps shocked at the outcome. If I presented the notion of Santa Claus to my daughter out of the blue today, she’d be very unlikely to believe. If a 16 year old who had never heard stories of any supernatural origin of the earth or been told of a supreme being were given an outline of Christianity’s fundamental tenets, including the 7-day creation, the virgin birth, the rising of the dead man, and so on, I think they’d be very unlikely to believe that, either.

But we all want our children to be like us, and to believe what we believe. I am a parent; thus I indoctrinate. The important difference between me (or my Christian friends) and people like those in the FLDS sect is that we’re trying to give our children positive, constructive beliefs that we think will help them lead good lives and be good people. The FLDS parents (and others in similar cults) are giving their children negative beliefs that encourage them to participate in harmful, destructive, even illegal behavior. As far as I’m concerned, their right to teach their children about their faith ends when child abuse begins.

another closet door forced open

https://i2.wp.com/cuboidal.org/photos/2004/08/08/IMG_6207-medium.jpgAnother Republican politician has been caught trying to entertain his natural impulses. Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) was arrested in June after making signals to an undercover police officer in the adjoining stall of the Minneapolis airport restroom. The police had received complaints about sexual activity in said restroom and were investigating. The following is from the breaking report filed yesterday by Roll Call:

Airport police previously had made numerous arrests in the men’s restroom of the Northstar Crossing in the Lindbergh Terminal in connection with sexual activity.

[Officer] Karsnia entered the bathroom at noon that day and about 13 minutes after taking a seat in a stall, he stated he could see “an older white male with grey hair standing outside my stall.”

… Craig then entered the stall next to Karsnia’s and placed his roller bag against the front of the stall door.“My experience has shown that individuals engaging in lewd conduct use their bags to block the view from the front of their stall,” Karsnia stated in his report. “From my seated position, I could observe the shoes and ankles of Craig seated to the left of me.”

… “At 1216 hours, Craig tapped his right foot. I recognized this as a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct. Craig tapped his toes several times and moved his foot closer to my foot. I moved my foot up and down slowly. While this was occurring, the male in the stall to my right was still present. I could hear several unknown persons in the restroom that appeared to use the restroom for its intended use. The presence of others did not seem to deter Craig as he moved his right foot so that it touched the side of my left foot which was within my stall area,” the report states.

Craig then proceeded to swipe his hand under the stall divider several times …

Despite his claims that it was all a misunderstanding (perhaps he was just asking the guy in the next stall to hand him some toilet paper?), Craig has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.

He has also resigned as co-chairman of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign; he has yet to determine whether he’ll run for relection.

There have been past investigations into and questions about Sen. Craig’s sexual orientation, and he has denied participating in homosexual activity. According to this long article, “In an interview on May 14, Craig told the Idaho Statesman he’d never engaged in sex with a man or solicited sex with a man.” Given that he’s apparently well-versed in the nonverbal restroom behavior that will hook you up with something quick and dirty, I’d say he was lying.

But who can blame him? He’s a Republican in an extremely conservative state. He’s married and has three children and nine grandchildren. He’s held public office since 1974 and has been in the Senate since 1990. He was born in a time and a place where homosexuality would have been utterly condemned by friends and family. Despite the fact that he’s almost certainly recognized his homosexuality since childhood, he would have rigorously denied it and made every effort to live the “normal,” heterosexual, God-fearing, Republican life expected of a member of his family and his community.

Craig’s family owns a ranch, which his grandfather originally homesteaded in 1899. I wonder whether he saw Brokeback Mountain. I wonder what he thought, deep in his heart, of those men and the inestimably sad and frustrating course they were forced to take to avoid the condemnation of society. All too probably, he thought something along the lines of “That’s exactly why I got married and made myself have sex with a woman I didn’t desire and have kept this dark and terrible part of myself hidden from sight.” I’m sure he hates his sexuality, which he cannot change, no matter what all those preachers say; it’s part of him, an indestructable part of who he is, and yet it defies everything he was taught growing up and all the sexual mores of the people with whom he identifies most strongly.

But despite that element of self hatred, despite his marriage and his undoubted love for his family, despite his knowledge of the myriad risks, when his sexuality screamed in his head and his desire for release overwhelmed his thoughts, he went looking for a man to make it all better, at least for a little while. Once the fire was damped he could hide again in his closet of denial until the next time desire came calling too loudly to resist.

How unspeakably sad that this man could not be, from the beginning of his life, the person he really is. He’s worked tirelessly on adoption issues in the Senate; if only he had been able to make a loving home life with a male partner, adopting children to form a family. If only his sexuality hadn’t stood in the way of family acceptance and a political career.

I hear stories like this one, over and over again, and I remain amazed that so many people in our country continue to deny the legitimacy of homosexuality as a state of being. How many thousands — millions — of Americans remain in their self-imposed closets, fearful of admitting their truth and losing everything in a wave of revulsion and hatred? How many are risking their health, their families, and their careers each day as they find shadowed ways to meet the physical and emotional needs that overwhelm them?

Why can’t we let these people live honest, happy lives?

Why do we care who they love?

…Therefore, God exists.

https://i1.wp.com/growabrain.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/jesus_is_coming.jpgMany, many thanks to Ben in cold and snowy Chicago, who has been keeping himself warm by investigating the possibility of the divine. (As opposed to the possibility of the Divine, who died, tragically, in 1988.) This post describes a site offering Hundreds of Proofs of God’s Existence.

A few of my personal favorites for your edification:

TYLER’S ARGUMENT FROM JESSICA ALBA
(1) Jessica Alba is a friggin’ goddess!
(2) Therefore, goddesses exist.
(3) Therefore, God exists.

ARGUMENT FROM JOHN LENNON
(1) John Lennon once said that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus.
(2) I didn’t like that.
(3) Somebody killed him for saying that.
(4) Obviously, God didn’t like him saying that, either.
(5) Therefore, God exists.

7th ANGEL’S ARGUMENT (CONDENSED)
(1) Is are five when lemon fell purple left thinks acrophobe sticks.
(2) For sharp king jigsaw white roll quick double; quality bunny done press highly.
(3) Therefore, God exists, and it all makes sense.

ARGUMENT FROM FLUFFY CATS IN SUNLIGHT
(1) A cat basking in sunlight smells good.
(2) Therefore, God exists.

ARGUMENT FROM PULP FICTION
(1) God CAME down from heaven, and stopped those motha-fuckin’ bullets.
(2) Therefore, God exists.

ARGUMENT FROM SPOUSE
(1) If you are still on that damned computer, God help you!
(2) Therefore, God exists.

ARGUMENT FROM AMERICA, a.k.a. GEORGE W. BUSH’S ARGUMENT
(1) God bless America.
(2) You’re either with us or against us, remember.
(3) Therefore, God exists.

ARGUMENT FROM FORCE
(1) [argument from Atheist]
(2) [Theist shoots Atheist.]
(3) Therefore, God exists.

ARGUMENT FROM META-SMUGNESS
(1) Fuck you.
(2) Therefore, God exists.

stranger in a strange land

I have just returned from an unknown place where I took part in a series of experiences that I didn’t understand. The place was West Virginia; the experiences were an open-casket visitation and a funeral.

I have not understood, do not understand, and will never understand what has been called “the American way of death” (I’m planning to order the book by that name, to get some insight into the funeral industry). It has to do with being the only child of an only child, and attending no open-casket visitations and darn few funerals when I was growing up. My mother’s parents and my dad were cremated; after they died, we held memorial services at times that were convenient for family travelling from far away, and we celebrated their lives with music, stories, and songs. These were not “funerals”; they were deeply personal memorials to people we loved.

Continue reading

I happened upon this powerful quote today. As far as I’m concerned, it sums things up beautifully:

Here is the real lesson of the story of Jesus, the main myth of our Christian culture: oppose us and we will kill you, speak to us of love and we will nail you to a cross. We will deify your image and ignore your words. Within the span of three generations, your precious people wil be killing each other in your name.

Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words