Beware the Ides of March

For the Romans, the 15th (or sometimes the 13th) of every month was called the “Ides,” marking the full moon.  Today is the Ides of March.

On this day in 44 B.C., Julius Caesar was assassinated by a group of Senators led by his friend Brutus, who was trying to preserve the Roman Republic by killing the man who was turning Rome into an empire.  The action only delayed briefly the fall of the republic.  (We tend to fixate on the fall of the Roman empire, but we need to worry more about parallels with the fall of the Roman republic.)

See Ides of March – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

So this Roman centurion goes into a bar and orders a martinus.  The bartender asks, “Do you mean a martini?”  The centurion says, “Look, if I wanted a double I’d tell you!”

Let us observe the Ides of March with Latin jokes, reasons why Latin should be taught in school, parallels with the transition from republic to empire, predictions of doom, or whatever else seems appropriate.

More on Japan’s earthquake

Officials estimate that at least 10,000 may be dead–with thousands more still missing–due to the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan.  Meanwhile, more nuclear power plants are in danger of meltdown.

See 10K dead in Japan amid fears of nuclear meltdowns – Yahoo! News.

Japan has been a world leader in the design of earthquake-resistant structures.  Read this confident–but now ironic–account of all that Japan does to ensure safety during an earthquake.

But this goes to show that all of the ingenious engineering does little if the earthquake is powerful enough.

Go here to help.

What does this mean for California, midwesterners along the New Madris fault, and other potential earthquake zones in the U.S.A.?

A different kind of gay marriage

Ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel have come up with an acceptable form of gay marriage:  gay men marry lesbians.

Rabbis from the religious Zionist community have launched an initiative to marry gay men to lesbian women – with some surprising successes.

So far, 11 marriages have been performed. Haaretz conducted an email interview with one such couple, Etti and Roni (not their real names ).

Etti and Roni, both religious, were married five years ago. Though they were honest with each other about their sexual orientations from their first meeting, to the outside world, they portray themselves as a normal heterosexual couple. Today, they have two children, and are thrilled with the results.

“It’s incredible,” they wrote. “Six years ago, we didn’t think we would ever be this happy. We thought everything was black, that we’d lost our chance of a normal life. But today, things are good for us. There are gaps, but that’s true in every case. And we fill them with the great love we give to and receive from our children, and also enjoy the simple human love we give each other, such as any two people can give and receive.”

 

All the matches were arranged by Rabbi Areleh Harel of the West Bank settlement of Shilo. He teaches at a yeshiva in Elon Moreh and has a name in religious circles as the go-to rabbi for homosexuals.

Harel said all his couples receive close support from a team of psychologists, marriage counselors and social workers. They also consult frequently with rabbis, including Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein of the Har Etzion Yeshiva, Chief Rabbi of Ramat Gan Yaakov Ariel, and especially Rabbi Menachem Burstein, head of the Puah Institute, which specializes in halakhic solutions to fertility problems.

His 12th couple has just announced their engagement, Harel said, and he has a list of another 30 gays and 20 lesbians seeking matches. They don’t deny their sexual identity, he stressed, but “they want to establish a home, whether for the sake of becoming parents or for the social recognition. A family isn’t just sex and love. It’s an instrumental partnership, though not just a technical one.”

As a result, he and his colleagues have now decided to institutionalize the venture, including working with a well-known religious matchmaking organization.

Gay-lesbian marriages have long been practiced among the ultra-Orthodox, but the current initiative is different in that it stems not from an effort to sweep the issue under the carpet, but from a growing acknowledgment of homosexuality, prompted in part by four organizations for religious homosexuals: Havruta, Bat Kol, Hod and Kamocha.

Harel explained that while secular homosexuals see gay marriage as the solution, religious homosexuals are often unwilling to violate the halakhic prohibition on homosexual sex, and are thus seeking other solutions.

“Most of the couples agree not to have relationships with members of their own sex, but if there are ‘lapses’ once every few years, they don’t see this as a betrayal,” he said. “Generally, it’s between them and their Creator.”

He said each couple decides for itself how its marriage should work, and he is not involved in that decision. Rather, he deals mainly with halakhic issues like artificial insemination.

Roni, 35, owns a business; Etti, 30, is a paramedic. Roni tried conversion therapy to change his sexual orientation, with no success. He said he also had relationships with various other men, “until I decided this isn’t for me; I want a family and children.”

Etti said her family still doesn’t know she’s a lesbian. She had one “serious” lesbian relationship, but “realized it was more important to me to raise children and live in a normal family.”

Both said that upholding the religious prohibition on homosexual sex was “very important” to them, as was their desire for “more or less normal parenthood,” and both factors had influenced their decision.

Harel introduced them, and as the first of his gay-lesbian couples, they term themselves “guinea pigs.” They are careful to keep up normal appearances before the children and the outside world, even sleeping in the same room, though they don’t sleep together. Their children were born through artificial insemination.

“Most of the time, it’s good for us together, like business partners. Of course we have quarrels and tensions, but who doesn’t? … Like good friends, we have a great deal of mutual respect and a great deal of platonic love.”

via Israeli rabbis launch initiative to marry gay men to lesbian women ­ – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News.

These individuals are willing to be chaste and thus faithful to their spouses–except for those lapses–but want children and a family life.  Could that work with a Christian understanding of marriage?  Or would this kind of arrangement be problematic also?

NFL labor dispute

One effect of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s successful effort to limit collective bargaining by the state employee’s union is that labor unions are once again in the national spotlight.  Unions consider this to be a good thing, after years of neglect, since much of the public seems to be taking their side.  And now a labor issue of even greater concern to the general public has emerged:  The National Football League is headed for a work stoppage.  After negotiations over a new contract fell apart, the players decertified their union, a tactic that allowed for court action, and the players essentially locked out the players.  Next year’s season is in jeopardy.  See  NFL talks collapse, shutdown of pro football expected – The Washington Post.

Unions for sweatshops, casualties of the industrial revolution paid subsistence wages, and other cases of the exploited proletariat are one thing.  It’s harder to be sympathetic to white collar unions and–what do we call them?–spandex collar unions, especially professional sports laborers who make untold millions and are in a dispute about how to share in additional billions.

Still, some may argue that the principles are the same?  Going from a 16-game season to an 18-game season would surely mean a greater chance for career-ending injuries.  Can’t millionaire athletes be exploited too?  Or is there a difference of kind as well as magnitude here?

And what would be the real effects of a work stoppage?  When the garbage collectors’ union goes on strike, the trash does not get picked up.  But who is hurt if professional athletes don’t go to work, other than themselves and the owners?  I have heard it said that “this only hurts the fans,” but I would contend that fans are not hurt at all, not really.  Missing a few hours of entertainment on Sunday afternoon will not hurt anyone.  Fans can always read a book, play video games, spend time with the family, or take a nap.

What do you think about all of this?

Earthquake, tsunami devastate Japan

An earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale hit northern Japan, causing massive damage.  Then came the tsunami, which sent a 30-foot wall of water three miles inland, killing untold numbers.  The tsunami also traveled at 500 m.p.h.–as fast as a airplane–hitting Hawaii and America’s west coast.  Marinas and boats were damaged, but, as of this moment, I have heard no reports of American deaths.

Now fires have broken out in Japan, and–what really has people worried–nuclear power plants are releasing radiation and at least two are in danger of meltdown.

Lord, have mercy!

UPDATE:  25-year-old Joey Young from Crescent, California, was taking pictures of the incoming tsunami when he was swept out to sea and drowned.  Another California man with a history of heart problems was found dead on his boat.

Japan earthquake, tsunami said to kill hundreds; little impact on Hawaii, other islands.

 

The next step in open communion

Anglicans already share communion with other Christians.  In Canada, they are working on the next step:  Sharing communion with the unbaptized.  And people who follow other religions:

Canadian Anglicans will hold discussions this spring about whether baptism is necessary for taking part in communion — questioning a requirement of Christianity that has existed for 2,000 years.

“Official teaching is you have to be baptized first. But a number of clergy across the country feel strongly about this as an issue and many have approached their bishops about allowing for an ‘open table’ in which all could take communion,” said Archdeacon Paul Feheley, who is the principal secretary to Archbishop Fred Hiltz, head of the Anglican Church of Canada.

It will be discussed when the House of Bishops meet in April, but not as an official topic, he said.

The idea — already rejected as a dangerous step by more orthodox Anglicans — was raised in an article this week in the AnglicanJournal.com in which an Ontario church pastor argues that removing the requirement of baptism would help stop the decline in the number of Anglicans attending services.

Rev. Gary Nicolosi said that if Jesus did not discriminate about who he invited to his table, then the Church should follow his lead.

“How, in our multicultural and pluralistic society, can our churches be places of hospitality if we exclude table fellowship with the non-baptized? This is not an academic question,” wrote Rev. Nicolosi, the pastor at St. James Westminster Anglican Church in London, Ont., and an official Church consultant on how to build membership.

“In Canada, a growing number of the population is not baptized. Included are people from different religious traditions or people with no religious affiliation at all. Quite likely, some are our grandchildren or great-grandchildren, whose parents neglected or refused to have them baptized.

“How can the church effectively minister in a post-Christian world where a significant percentage of the population is not baptized? Some Anglican churches are attempting to meet this challenge by becoming open and inclusive faith communities, ready and willing to support people in their spiritual journeys.”

via Anglicans to consider opening communion to unbaptized | Holy Post | National Post.

HT:James Kushiner


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