Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Guideline For The United Methodist Church's General Conference On The Subject Of Human Sexuality

The following is what I as a United Methodist trained and studied in Methodist Theology, Human Psychology and logic believe would be a good path for the church's committee on the subject of human sexuality to follow.  I attempt to make no conclusion as to what the committee's end result should be.  I just point out a logical path to follow as they consider the questions involved.

The quadrilateral of reason, experience, tradition and scripture is not, as far too many published scholars and seminary professors suggest, like a supreme court where some members can be argued down or out-voted.  It is rather like a gear box where each gear must be made to work together.  Setting one part aside or just letting the whole sit idle is unacceptable.  So here I lay out a path to follow dictated by all of these four parts.  It is step by step, with what to do for each possible outcome at each decision point.

(1)  Is fornication a sin?  i.e. Is sex before marriage a sin?
If not then I think we're done.
If we agree that it is a sin then we move on to the next question.
If we can't agree on this answer then we're done with more than this subject.  It's time to think of the new names for our churches.

(2)  Since fornication is a sin (we've agreed on that in order to get here) then one of two things must be true about homosexual activity.  Either it's a sin in all cases or there is such a thing as same sex marriage.  So which is true?
If there is no such thing as same sex marriage then the issue is settled.  Homosexual activity is a sin in all cases.
        It would be prudent to go on to explain why we believe there is no such thing as same sex marriage.  Whether or not homosexual activity, a subset of fornication, is a sin would logically have no place in such an explanation, as it would be relevant in the same way that fornication is relevant to traditional marriage.  There must be a reason for it not existing stemming from things like definition and function of marriage.
        I realize I am imposing my own conclusion that homosexual activity is a sin because it is fornication in this case.  I recognize that certain specific acts within the larger set of all homosexual activity are identified in scripture as perversions, and thus sinful for that reason, but those specific acts need not be practiced for there to be a same sex marriage.  Thus the perversion argument doesn't apply to the question, the question as to whether there is a context in which some homosexual activity would not be a sin.
        For same sex marriage to just simply not exist, the reasons must depend largely on tradition and reason.  While one can determine through study of scripture what is meant by marriage when it mentions it, there is no proclamation within the scriptures to be found that says marriage between people of the same sex is wrong.  It's not a matter of if it's right or wrong, just one of whether such a marriage exists and whether we could rightly take it upon ourselves to make it exist.
        This of course leads to another couple questions.  Who defines the marriage that the Bible refers to?  And if the marriage referred to in the Bible is not the marriage referred to popularly and within secular law, how does that effect same sex couples who are Christians?
        I will interject my own conclusions here.  This is very much the same as a heterosexual couple who live together without getting married.  Both may have good reasons to believe they're not living in sin, including not having sex for example.  But in both cases, whatever conclusions they have drawn for themselves, it is best in both cases not to mention the controversial aspects of their relationship publicly.  The unmarried heterosexual couple would be wise not to mention they are not married, or if they do they should make it a point to insist they don't sleep together.  Likewise the same sex couple would be wise not to suggest they are anything other than just a couple of good friends living together.  These are not lies and they are Biblically sound ways of dealing with "meat sacrificed to idles" type subjects.
If on the other hand we conclude there is such a thing as same sex marriage then we need to carefully, consistently, and rationally define what marriage is.  We need to figure out where the defining line is around marriage that distinguishes it from other parts of the larger set of all committed and loving relationships.  To do less than this in this case is to make no meaningful statement at all, and to fail to live up to the Methodist tradition coordinating ourselves with reason, experience, tradition and scripture.  We will have most especially have fallen down on the reason and experience sides, as we will have failed to offer any real guidance on the subject.  The church would in such a failure make itself irrelevant and the opposite of constructive.

(3)  However this issue is decided, we must not be superficial.  The word "love" in any such decision runs a major risk of being clumsy and misleading.  Whether two people love each other is meaningless because it tells us nothing clearly.  This is especially true when we are talking about human sexuality.  If a couple stop having or never have sex, do they love each-other less?  What of a couple completely devoid of affection but still willing to die for each-other?  Can their be a greater love?  Need I write, "of course not"?  So I implore my fellow Methodists not to abuse the word "love" in the statement of your conclusion.  Please don't use it like a hammer largely devoid of rationale.
Your conclusion must be clear and include definitions.  Is it in reference to sexual activity or sexual inclination?  Of course we shouldn't reject people for their inclinations or any activities they ask God to forgive them for.  This shouldn't need said in such a statement, and if said would be an insult to our members.
        And where the statement is in reference to activity we will need to clearly define the marriage referred to in scripture, and if we conclude it can be generalized to include current local civil definitions, we need to explain why.  Being relevant wont be enough there.  We would need to explain why we believe our conclusions fall within the original intent of the scriptures.
        If we conclude that there is no such thing as same sex marriage we should include why we believe that people have inclinations towards sinful activity and how that includes all of us.  Such a conclusion should probably include a strong statement about how we as Christians should deal with our own sinful inclinations and that of our fellow Christians.
        In that last context the word "love" should be fairly clear and would not be a hammer.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Thou Shall Not Lie To Oneself

I haven't posted for quite a while, and that's because my use for this blog as an outlet for for my thoughts on temporal controversies has largely passed.  I can thank a growing self-discipline for that.

But in light of recent discussions arising within my chosen Christian denomination, the United Methodist Church, I have felt a need to express some more, but only a little.  This will be a short read.

The subject is the recent ruling of the supreme court on something they've decided to call "marriage".  I put that in quotes because definitions of the term varies significantly from person to person, and what a word means makes all the difference in the world as to how one should treat any policy regarding something called by that word.

e.g. If I were the owner and operator of a ski resort and I had some slopes singled out for use by snow-boarders, the understood definition of the word "snow-board" would be critical.  If the intent was to pick out places ideally suited for snow-boarding and to keep skiers and snow-boarders from interfering with each other, it would be important that skiers not think that their skis are snow-boards.  Otherwise the posted signs would be ineffective at guiding them to the slopes best suited for their enjoyment.

So if due to reaching some point in the evolution of the language, a large number of people started to call skis snow-boards, I would have to make some changes at my resort.  If after myself and other winter sports people unsuccessfully tried to stop the drift in the language, we would all have to do something else.  We would have to find a new word for "snow-board".

We'd have to do this because all of our guide signs, pamphlets, and instructional materials that refer to snow-boarding refer to something critically different than the popular definition of that word refers to.

Getting back to "marriage" in the church, a careful search of biblical references to marriage will show that they simply and obviously do not refer to the popular contemporary definition of that term.  The fight to preserve the traditional definition has been lost, but no big deal.  When a word's meaning changes we simply start to use it differently.  There is no sound reason to change policies because of it.

Our missionaries have come across cultures and languages where words don't translate well for our purposes.  Some African language's words for things like kill, eat, and have sex are too similar for us to translate some passages in the Bible as literally into their language as the NASV does into English.  So we don't do it so literally.  Nor do we start to teach that the Lord's supper is a time to kill or have an orgy.  So it boggles my mind that anyone could look at the recent Supreme Court ruling as if it should in some way change how the church deals with "marriage".

It also bothers me that many confuse the definition of marriage that is relevant to the Bible's references with a moral statement or judgement.  The Bible refers to the union of a man and a woman because it refers to the union of a man and woman, no other reason.  In the same way that Jesus sometimes addressed Peter, not because He was thinking less of anyone else at the moment, but because He was addressing who he was addressing.

Thus to suggest that the "traditional definition of marriage" is some how out of step with our times is nonsense.  Not nonsense for any actual Biblical reason, but nonsense for purely logical and rational reasons.  We perform wedding ceremonies in the church because the Bible speaks of the union between a man and woman as having a positive role in a Christian community, and that's it.  If the Bible made as much of a fuss about intimate friendships, we'd have ceremonies for that as well, but it doesn't and we don't.

If some church decides it wants to do such a thing, that would be another issue, which I wont discuss here, but if the church should ever consider performing wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples (i.e. one possible example of intimate friends) we would need to change the words we use so as not to confuse people about the church's teachings on "marriage".

In conclusion on that point, we need a new word now.

Now for the moral question.

The moral question is logically independent from the marriage question.  If someone was hoping that homosexuality would become not a sin just by changing the definition of a word, that's not a very rational hope.

The real issue of all sexual sins is context.  All sexual activity between two people who are not married to each other is sin.  It's an area of sin almost all people at some point in their lives struggle with.  So we cannot disregard Biblical references to homosexual behavior as sinful as if it's some relic of the past.  For if we did we would have to logically condone all sex outside of marriage.  And this is no slippery slope argument.  If homosexual activity is okay outside of marriage, then what would make it special as opposed to others?  Does the absence of risk of pregnancy some how make all the difference?  Then what about birth control?  There is no need to complicate this.  Sex outside of marriage is sin and we're not moving from that position.

Now the question as to whether same-sex couples could escape a life of potential sin in this area by becoming married, that's another question, but not one that can be settled by fiddling with the definition of words.  "Marriage" in the Bible is not the "marriage" the supreme court just ruled on.  Their actions don't call upon us to change policies, just for us to find a new word.


The point of my title for this.  Perhaps if we're actually going to consider re-composing the Bible, we should add an 11th commandment, "Thou shalt not lie to oneself", or perhaps in a more modern translation, "do not deny reason". 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

State Of The Union In Two Words -- It Stinks

92,898,000 Americans of working age are not working.  That's the highest that number has ever been in our nation's history and even accounting for our general population being higher than its ever been, the proportion is at levels not seen since the great stagflation of the 70's or the great depression of the 30's.  

Unemployment numbers which look good currently are completely unrepresentative of reality since a huge number of unemployed are not counted as unemployed because it's assumed they no longer wish to work. This is based on how long they've been unemployed and how many job applications are being submitted. This is like assuming many of the victims of a famine have stopped wanting to eat since they no longer go out looking for food.

Many stock analysts believe that stocks are generally over-valued thanks largely to the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing.

Real-estate is said to have an optimistic outlook, but the reason frequently given for this should be disconcerting.  Most of the foreclosure related bargains have been bought up.  That's the reason given.  The thinking is that those bargain properties wont be competing with and bringing down the prices anymore.  But the question as to who is going to buy property at higher rates remains largely unanswered, and that should hamper optimism more than it is amongst real-estate industry people.

One must remember that people who's careers and lives are invested in a given market can only remain pessimistic about it for so long before they're changing professions.

The taunting insensitive bow on this wretched economy is the average household income which has dropped considerably since the crash of 08, and the new jobs are predominantly much lower paying than the ones they're trying to replace.  The word "trying" is appropriate since job growth is still not running ahead of growth in the potential workforce.

So any politician who boasts about the economy at this point is at best cruel and it's probably best not to use the words that would describe them at worst.

Yes America, the state of the union, it stinks.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Reactionary Liberalism

Why Modern Liberals Are Counter-revolutionaries

I almost hate using the word “enemies” to describe fellow citizens, especially considering many of which would be willing to lay their lives on the line for our country. Many of them are patriots, but I am not saying they are the enemies of the United States. What I'm about to lay out rather suggests they are enemies of the cause that gave birth to the country. Many of them love this country as much as I do but they also believe her founders and their ideas are losing relevance to today.

Are those ideas still just as relevant today as then? Are they still worth our efforts, our passion, our commitment even unto death? Or, have realities of the present day forced us into a context where this nation's purpose can no longer be the same as it was at its founding?


Does the revolution still matter?

This is an important logical point. Before I demonstrate that the modern liberal is a counter-revolutionary, I must first establish that the revolution hasn't lost relevance to our current times and the context of these times. Being a counter-revolutionary to a past and irrelevant revolution wouldn't matter much, but if that revolution is still relevant and even ongoing, then it matters a great deal.

That first point is easily enough satisfied subjectively. It can be safely said that millions of people here in the United States and around the world believe the cause of individual liberty still needs fought for and continues to be fought for to this day. The American Revolution did not end with the Treaty of Paris in 1783, it did not culminate with the establishment of the United States government in 1789, and it did not achieve total victory even within the sovereign borders of the United States. As many of the founders acknowledged, they only started the struggle, the struggle to maximize individual liberty within the minimum confines of government necessary to protect us from major threats both within and without.

I could just simply have said that as in the case with any cause, that we believe it is relevant makes it so, but instead I thought it important to more fully express that sentiment. Suffice it to say, whether modern liberalism is a counter-revolutionary movement does matter.

Now to the business of making the case that it is. In order for me to demonstrate this I must first show what the founders sought to achieve, and then show that modern liberalism is set against it.


The founders intent.

It is argued that the founders were not of one mind and thus there is no such thing as any deep common cause or original intent to be drawn from what they wrote. This argument is clever but depends on getting a logical fallacy past us. Just because a group of people, by necessity of the legacy of the Tower of Babel, can never have exactly the same understanding of even the things they came together to agree on, doesn't mean the meaning of their agreement is nebulous or elusive. If that attempted logical fallacy were valid then we could freely disregard all laws and contracts, or at the very least be able to “reinterpret” them to mean whatever was convenient to us and our causes. I know that equally fallacious cousins of this argument are used by certain schools of history in order to bang all the square pegs historical evidence gives them into the round holes of their pet theories, but a crowd jumping off a bridge doesn't make it right, or lend it credibility for that matter. There is some degree of common cause and original intent to be credibly drawn from what the founders wrote. Unless they were a bunch of irrational blitherers there would have to be. So lets see what some of that was.

Now even most of those who buy into the above sort of kluging, designed to facilitate peg pounding, will at least accept this much about what the founders were after. They highly valued what they considered to be three fundamental rights, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. They'd even be likely to grant that, “the pursuit of happiness” largely involves the right to own and control property. Further still these three fundamental rights are all inseparable from each other. Not that the modern liberal believes that, but that their scholars would likely grant the framers of the constitution believed this for the most part. To do otherwise would be to take a departure from the facts of history even too radical for peg pounders.

Now to take these pieces of my case they'll grant me and put them together with some stuff I definitely need to source. The right to property and the inseparable nature of this with individual liberty caused James Madison, often called the father of the constitution, to worry.  He pondered a point we seem to be approaching today where all possible private land will become owned and most citizens will be unable to buy any in their lifetime (emphasis added by me).

"These (people without property) will either combine under the influence of their common situation; in which case, the rights of property & the public liberty, will not be secure in their hands: or which is more probable, they will become the tools of opulence & ambition, in which case there will be equal danger on the other side,"

Have-nots being banded together to threaten rights of property or otherwise being used by the very rich to serve their greedy ambitions? Does this not sound like the world described by modern liberals today? But what seems to be their solution to the crisis? They propose a powerful central government mandated by a majority to redistribute the wealth of a few to the many. In Madison's words, “ the rights of property & the public liberty, will not be secure in their hands”. Modern liberalism seems to see it as a choice between two evils, tyranny by government or tyranny by wealthy private interests.

[modern liberalism is not a solution at all but a surrender to collective rule, the sure enemy of individual liberty]

They don't see another way, other than the possibility that with the right sort of indoctrination a collective could actually rule with respect for individual dignity. Here they ignore some of the most sound advice of the founders. That being that a government ruled by a majority or any collective's interests will by its very nature, inevitably attack life, liberty, and property.

Madison wrote to Jefferson in 1788,
"Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression. In our Governments the real power lies in the majority of the community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended, not from acts of Government contrary to the sense of its constituents, but from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of the Constituents."

Madison takes it a step further in this quote, describing a completely unrestrained democracy in Federalist No. 10 (emphasis again added by me), "A pure democracy ... can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority, and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party... Hence it is that democracies have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of propertyand have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths."

Thus from the point of view of at least the founder described as the father of the constitution, the one who by his own telling, never missed a meeting in the process of the constitution being worked out, the solution offered by modern liberalism is not a solution at all but a surrender to collective rule, the sure enemy of individual liberty.

Now they're water carriers in the towers of academia insist that the reduction of individual liberty, greater and greater government intervention in property ownership and wealth distribution, and even life is the inevitable direction of things in a world ever more crowded and still possessed of finite resources. The founders definition of individual liberty can't be relevant in a world where only a few can own land and thus ones liberty must only exist to the extent that governments can manage to allow it while still assuring subsistence for all.One could say, using their reasoning, Europe is the way it is because it had to face the reality of finite resources centuries before the United States did, and the United States really doesn't have a choice but to become more like Europe. In essence, via the demographics of population growth, it already has.

Thus I can understand their feeling justified in doing what they're doing to this nation, but then I never thought modern liberal collectivists realized that much of what they do is evil. Like almost all other collectives that have practiced evil in history, they believe they're actions to be both good and rational. I dare not list actual examples since all of the collectives ever proven to be evil have since come to be seen as wittingly so, their members all the willing participants in evil. It seems an unfortunate sociological defense mechanism that we look at any large group of evil-doers and refuse to consider that given the right context of despair, peer pressure, and/or bad information we ourselves could become involved in such things.

Now that I've explained what some of the despair, peer pressure, and bad information was that led to the existence of modern liberalism, that being perceived lack of opportunity for propertyacademic peg pounders, and lots of mutual enabling, allow me to show the way forward with the American Revolution they don't see and James Madison apparently failed to anticipate.

It's simple really, at least from our modern perspective. Wealth is property, not just land, and a well restrained government can do relatively little to abridge individual liberty. The mechanism is already in place for us to look after and modify as necessary the restraints on our government. It's the amendment process of the constitution. Whenever the government disregards the intent of it being minimal in power and scope, or powerful private institutions claim power over the unwilling, and normal political and legal processes fail to remedy these threats to individual liberty, it demands we attempt to amend the constitution. That is our last resort before revolution. If we pass on both of these, amending or revolution, we will by default have selected another option, surrender. And whether it is government or corporations that oppress us, it is essentially the same enemy that defeats us, collectivism.

You see the American Revolution, the one still ongoing, is about individual liberty and dignity, and our enemy is collectivism for it inevitably sets out to minimize the individual.Modern liberalism is just the collectivism of the day, little different from liberty's perspective than absolute monarchies, fascism, communism, and despotism. Modern liberalism sounds nicer and more enlightened to us, and certainly seems that way to its subscribers, but where it counts to the current subscribers of the American Revolution it is still the revolution's enemyperhaps the greatest counter-revolution in human historyIt is a matter of course that it must not just be beaten in elections from time to time, it must be destroyed. This is done by revealing its inconsistencies with our nation's foundations and goals, marginalizing it, and adding sufficient amendments to the constitution as to remove any tools it could use to advance its agenda should it or any other collectivist movement ever gain sway in all branches of government again.

I for one grow impatient with fellow travelers who are satisfied with hitting one of these fronts at a time. The political pendulum is swinging our way from a recent liberal apex. We are gaining the momentum. In the years to come we need to put as many restrictions on governmental power in place as is both possible and within reason. We also need to start challenging the peg pounding status quo in academia. We will be fools if we mistake our current momentum for a constant trend. Like our founders, we must recognize that the forces of counter-revolution will inevitably be back and as the founders did in 1791 with the Bill of Rights, we should place into the constitution restraints to keep counter-revolutionaries from undoing the republic. The iron will soon be hot and then for liberty's sake we must strike, for all we are worth.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My New Years Resolution Right Up To 2017

Here is my new years wish right up until 2017.  I said as much when I entitled it last year around this time.  And yes, it is still my new years wish.  May we find the humility that brings true strength.

2013 seems to be a year I shouldn't miss.  Though life's experience thus far has taught me there always seems to be some memories to cherish even in hard times.

I met a 1st cousin of my mother's who has an amazingly sharp mind in spite of frequently forgetting what was said just a minute or two ago.  The contrast between her short term and long term memories was amazing and I felt just as amazingly fortunate to have met her.  I know, how many times could I use the word 'amazing' there, but it seems quite fitting in spite of whatever literary critique it may attract.

I saw lightning bugs which I hadn't seen since my childhood, and for the first time I saw the attic bedrooms that my father and his siblings used when they were growing up.  I've decided I want an attic like that myself some day.  Nothing like having three or four bedrooms right there in case company comes over.

And oh yes, the public's perception of the president has finally begun to come down.  We in the United States in general seem to have an entirely unjustified reverence for whoever we elect president.  It's as if somehow by electing a president the nation bestows the dignity and honor of the collective populace upon that person.  

It's collectivist nonsense at its finest.  By essentially worshiping a president we worship ourselves, and even worse than worshiping ourselves as individuals, we worship ourselves as a collective we call the "American people".  As fine a country as the United States may be and as unusually common is nobility amongst its people, worship is inappropriate.  Especially when it is of any collective.

Too many of us read way to much meaning into the fact that the president is the only nationally elected public office.  Instead of seeing democracy as a lesser of evils that only represents at best a momentary glimmer of a generally vague public sentiment, too many of us see the president as the people's avatar.

This I suspect explains why approval polls consistently put any congress below the same ratings of their contemporary president.  It's because many people see the president as the human embodiment of the nation as a whole and to assign the president blame for things would be like accepting the blame themselves.  And it is human nature to want to blame others first.

Though I would hope the current president's drop in the polls would actually translate into Americans accepting responsibility for our problems, I suspect that rather they are finding ways to transform Barack Obama from their avatar into their scapegoat.

In other words I look on this good news from 2013 with a scant eye.  If he continues to slide in the polls right onto 2016 I fear the same group of foolish avatar-makers will just find themselves a new one.

What we really need is someone like George Washington who will step in and announce to the American people that no one person can or should be as important as we keep trying to make our presidents.  And that it is not that an individual can ever be so important, but that the individual always is even more so.

Can we hope for that much wisdom in such a high office?  That is my new years wish.

I wish you a happy new year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Merry Christmas 2014

Merry Christmas to all my readers, and here's a link to a video of a great combination of time and place.

A Helen Christmas

Anything I can do to help my friends and family in this wonderful place.

Merry Christmas from Eddie Fontaigne

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Day The World Was Wrong : Except Honduras Was Right

On December 1st, 2009 the people of Honduras scored a victory for themselves by showing
with their votes they did not want former president Manuel Zelaya to be able to run over
their constitution.  More importantly they struck a huge blow to ugly-elitism world-wide.

 Politicians around the world have thought too much of themselves for centuries and in
2009 we saw a humble but proud little nation defy them and win.  They did this by
electing Porfino Lobo president with 55% of the vote.

Even as the United States state department was backing away from its previous
anti-Honduran-constitution stance, elements of the world press were still referring to
Zalaya's ouster as a military coup 

( ).  This in spite of his ouster being ordered by both the Supreme Court and congress. 

The world's politicians and their sycophants in the press were still feeling the sting. 
A politician with apparent good intentions defied his nation's legislature, courts, and
constitution and ended up standing in his pajamas on the tarmac of a Costa Rican
airfield, his country moving on without him.  

The inevitable evolution of society towards a socialist collectivism had not just been defied by the tiny nation of Honduras, it's proponents had been humiliated.  Zalaya in ankle chains in his pajamas had become the new symbol to replace the tared and feathered tax collectors in pre-revolution Massachusetts.  

International socialism was potently portrayed as very possibly being on the wrong side of 
history just as absolute monarchy had been a few centuries earlier.

So let those who share our values, who respect individual dignity and see the value of the rule of law, never forget that day.

Long live liberty!