Saturday salmagundi

• The yearbook staff at Buzzfeed have a nice collection of “The 45 Most Powerful Images of 2012.”

• UPS is really, really good at delivering packages to businesses. And UPS can be really, really awful at delivering packages to residences.

• I’m linking to this, because the Slacktivixen would never link to it herself.

• And for the record, I did not propose to my wife. I said yes when she proposed to me.

The thing I love about America is that it’s full of, you know, PEOPLE.

• It’s time for someone to #askpontifex whether he approves of the Panetta-Burns Plan.

• Wherein we learn that anti-Muslim activist and former general Jerry Boykin, vice president of the Family Research Council, has never read the Communist Manifesto.

• Terry Jones is a jackass, a bigot, and a reckless fool. He should be denounced, condemned, ridiculed, shunned and excommunicated. But he should not be sentenced to death. Civil blasphemy laws are always, themselves, blasphemous. Always.

• “Barack the Destroyer”: Your periodic reminder that Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association is a big ol’ racist, and proud of it.

• And here’s your periodic reminder that the New Hampshire state legislature is too big.

• Headline: “Australian scientists develop coconut-tasting pineapple.” Next project for the Department of Agriculture in Queensland: Developing health food for people who are into champagne.

• The problem here is that Sister Kathy Sherman’s singing is too gently sweet and the folkie arrangement of her song too mild and pleasant to really convey the words. Those lyrics — “Rise up, sisters, rise up … with holy fire in our eyes” should scare the pants off of the all-male hierarchy, but this gentle rendition isn’t scary enough. Somebody needs to rock this song and turn it into an angry “Missionary-Man”-era-Annie-Lennox type anthem.

• Survey: A year after changes in liturgy, 7 in 10 Catholics like the new translation. Maybe, but I still heard a lot of “And alsth your spirit” at the last Catholic service I attended.

• And speaking of Catholic terminology, I’ve used “sister” and “nun” interchangeably. That’s wrong. All nuns are sisters, but most sisters aren’t nuns. OK, then.

• That’s from a “canon lawyer.” Romans 13:10 is 15 words long. Canon law is much, much longer. Therein lies the problem.

• Here is more evidence of that problem: “In the United States, some bishops have withdrawn funding or support for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, an annual collection that funds anti-poverty programs, many of them with little or no direct connection to the church.”

Lying about vaccination is the opposite of pro-life.

• I didn’t pile on when Two and a Half Men co-star Angus T. Jones had an awkward spiritual awakening this week. He’s 19, give him room. I was disappointed, though, to hear the show’s creators confirm that his character is the “half” in the show’s title. I thought it referred to Charlie Sheen’s character, which was the one artistic touch I had found to admire in the show.

• Given my own tendency to screw this up, I was amused to read this in an article on copyediting and constitutions: “There is even an ‘it’s’ where ‘its’ is called for – see Article I, Section 10.”

And here it is:

No state shall, without the consent of the Congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it’s inspection laws: and the net produce of all duties and imposts, laid by any state on imports or exports, shall be for the use of the treasury of the United States; and all such laws shall be subject to the revision and control of the Congress.

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  • AnonymousSam

    we recognize that God’s plan has grown to include people from all nations, tribes, and tongues.

    That’s good. Deuteronomy 13 was certainly a pretty big sign to the contrary for awhile there. :p

  • banancat

    Am I the only person who doesn’t like the idea of a marriage proposal in general?  Deciding to get married is BFD and it doesn’t seem wise to make that choice in a second.  I would take longer to consider a job offer or which apartment to live in, but either I or my (hypothetical) boyfriend is supposed to make the decision within a few minutes of being asked?  I guess most couples discuss it before the official proposal, but in that case, why is the proposal even necessary?

  • P J Evans

    One place I lived, the UPS driver was good enough at his job that he once stopped on the street and delivered a package to me when I was half a mile from home (it wasn’t large, fortunately). That’s service. (Also unexpected!)


    why is the proposal even necessary?

    Most people like being able to frame marriage narratives in crisp terms.

    When my husband and I got married, it was after we’d been together for more than fifteen years, and we didn’t really bother with most of the conventional narrative tropes; a number of people were sort of confused by that.

  • EllieMurasaki

    There does have to be some moment at which the couple agrees to marry. Granted that might (like with the parents of a friend of mine) end up being “Well, I guess we’ll be getting married one of these days”, but there has to be that moment of agreement.

  • There does have to be some moment at which the couple agrees to marry.

    My husband and I don’t have such a moment. There was a time when we didn’t intend to marry, and there was a later time when we did, but there’s no particular moment we can identify that separates the former time from the latter time.

    So I’m inclined to disagree with the idea that there has to be some moment like that.

    But I suppose there might have been some such moment that we just didn’t notice as it went by.

  • EllieMurasaki

    ‘Intend to’ is different from ‘agrees to’. If nothing else, there’s the moment when you two decided when to get the marriage license.

  • In some areas, UPS delivers for the USPS, too.

    That’s a new one! :O

    I was always given to understand USPS’s mandate is to deliver mail everywhere within the USA and territories. Why is USPS even using UPS at all? Some Republican fixed that up, I bet.

  • cjmr

    Apparently I’ve been lucky to pretty much only live in places where the UPS and USPS delivery systems both did not suck.  FedEx, OTOH…OY!  I came home with the kids one day and picked up a FedEx envelope that was blowing down the street. It was addressed to cjmr’s husband.  It contained a ‘reply within 10 days’ document from his employer.  If I hadn’t come home just then, or hadn’t noticed the envelope, or not chased it down…that could have cost us a LOT!

  • cjmr

    The regular setting we’re using isn’t terrible, but it isn’t nice, either.   Eventually SOMEONE will write a good setting.

    KWYM about the Gloria, though.  We’re learning a Christmas Gloria  for midnight Mass that you can either sing all the notes, or enunciate all the words, but not both.

  • I’m not looking for a semantic dispute, here, but if the difference between “intend to” and “agrees to” is important to your point I’m happy to listen to you clarify it further. At the moment I don’t quite get why it matters.

    In the meantime, what I’m telling you is that there exists at least one married couple whose marriage doesn’t have the kind of defining moment that you’re asserting is universally present. There simply wasn’t such a moment, for us… or if there was, I didn’t notice it going by.  We had a relationship, we talked about marriage for a long time, it wasn’t the most important question to either of us, we went back and forth a couple of times, we gradually decided it was a good idea, we got married, the relationship continued.

    Yes, there was a moment when we decided to get a marriage license. There was also a moment when we decided to hire a justice of the peace. In both cases, it was clear before that moment that we were going to get married; the license and the JoP were just paperwork. (There was also a moment when we decided to have a big party, but that was several months later.)

  • EllieMurasaki

    The moment that you both know that you both know that you’re going to get married, I think is what I’m going for.

  • Ah, I see. Thanks for the clarification.

    Yeah, thinking about it now, I guess I can remember the first such moment, some years before we got married. (It became less certain, subsequently, and became more certain afterwards, so there were several such moments over time.)

    It’s not particularly special to us, but you’re right that it exists, and I suppose it might have some intrinsic significance independent of its significance to us.

  • Dash1

    If God is not offended by menstruation, why is a menstruating woman unclean? And why is a man who touches a menstruating woman (or something she sat on) unclean for a full seven days?

    Seems to me there’s something being implied as wrong with menstruation there.

  • Dash1

    What/how I eat is important to God and I am to eat to his glory, but I can eat bacon and shellfish.

    Got it! Am I correct in assuming your view of sexual relationships is consistent with that approach? That is, you also hold that your sexual behavior is important to God and is to be engaged in to His glory (why no capital “H”?), but that he has no objections to same-sex relationships per se.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I could kind of buy the explanation that it’s a sacred distinction with no secular meaning, if there were an equivalent for people who don’t menstruate, and if it were not the same distinction that applies to, for example, lepers.

  • From the Slate article:

    …. this benevolent sexism that leeches women of much of their autonomy beyond just the right to say yes or no. (A right that is often compromised by the public proposal, a format rigged to guarantee a crowd to boo you if you decline.)

    So very much this. Hate hate hate. One of these days I so very much want to hear the woman respond by coming to the mike and saying, “Sweetie! You’re really proposing to me? Now? Here? In front of all these people? So that if I say no, everyone will boo and hiss and call me a bitch and feel sorry for you? I never knew what a manipulative jerk you were! But now I do! Thank you for clearing that up! And, by the way, no.

    What would just make it would be if all that were said in a bright, chirpy, gushing tone of voice, like you’d use for saying Darling! Oh, you shouldn’t have!. I mean, when you actually mean it, not when you’re being sarcastic. YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN>

    And all other instances of men enlisting the aid of a sympathetic public to shame/pressure a woman into responding the way he wants. Hate. Hate. Hate.

    My very first boyfriend – we’re talking early high school, here – pissed me off (by being irresponsible and disrepsectful, and then acting like it was no big deal when I called him on it, if you must know), and so I was on the outs with him. This was at a residential summer program, so we were living in dorms. And there was a “morning show” over the PA system where one of the RAs would say good morning, wake up, here’s some notes from today’s schedule, and here’s a song request from one of y’all out there… Well. The morning after our fight, I hear, “And this song goes out from [name of boyfriend], who’d like to say, ‘Niki, I’m sorry.'”

    I’m sorry, but 1) requesting a song and dedication is even lazier than buying flowers, in that it not only is easier than actually attempting to make amends for wrong doing, but it also doesn’t involve actually saying sorry to my face, like you mean it, and 2) the public shenanigans had the effect of enlisting the rest of campus in pressuring me into accepting his apology performance.

    Which I didn’t. I broke it off pretty quick after that. Anyone who said to me “But that was so sweet! How could you break up?” got an earful of exactly why.

    Today I’m happily married, and, like others up there, there was no real “proposal” moment, neither one-sided nor bilateral. There was the moment of finally getting the guts to say “I love you,” but after that we sort of both grew into the realization that the initial flush of OMG I LOVE YOU AND WANT TO MARRY YOU really did have its grounding in fact. Eventually we decided (who decided? Not sure. We just started talking about it) that we should probably start planning the actual wedding.

    But there was a moment when I bought a couple of one-size-fits-nobody hematite bands out of the French Market in downtown NOLA, and brought them over to him, and said, “OK, let’s do this,” and we took turns handing each other a ring and saying “Will you? Oh good!” and laughing about it. Mainly that was because I wanted to forestall romance running away with our life savings. Why’d the moment come then? I dunno. ‘Cause we were in the French Quarter and there was the dude selling rings, that’s why.

  • Joshua

     Who told you that? USPS is technically a government agency but they’ve had extensive partnerships with the private sector for decades. For example, they regularly rely on Fedex’s air fleet (the largest private cargo air fleet in the world) for delivering mail and packages — why get a fleet of their own when someone else already has one that they’re not really using? (Fedex’s planes are often idle during the daytime). It’s just good business sense for the USPS to borrow Fedex’s aircraft on the cheap than to operate its own.

    USPS is most efficient at delivering to rural / out-of-the-way areas, so UPS and Fedex (as well as other carriers) often hire USPS to deliver to these areas to save money. Why spend money expanding a service like that when you can just outsource it to someone who is A) better at it and B) already doing it anyway?

  • And how do you suppose USPS was delivering its mail before the concept of private couriering was anywhere as widespread as it is today?

    I am not fond, in principle, of the goverment-owned mail transport and delivery agency using private-sector agencies to help said transport and delivery, particularly given the almost-routine horror stories I hear of people getting packages from FedEx and UPS that look like dinoasurs sat on them and then used them for teething practice.

  • Dash1

     Yes, it is interesting, isn’t it, that one set of rules applies to a category that apparently consists of pathological discharges and menstruation (one of these things, as the saying goes, is not like the other), and another set of rules (i.e., the absence of rules) applies to non-pathological discharges, such as wet dreams and spit and sweat.

  • Joshua

    Er, the USPS has always contracted with private companies for air service. In fact, ferrying mail for the government was a big part of how the modern US air industry got started. It wasn’t until very recently (relatively speaking) that passenger planes became profitable to be the main focus of any of the major airlines. Before that, it was all mail — letters, packages, etc. You would have the large planes head out to the regional depots while smaller crafts fanned out from those to cover each area within a given territory.

     But once couriers like Fedex ended up building their massive air fleets, it was only commons sense for them to shift their contracts in large part from ordinary airlines to a company whose entire goal was getting things around the country quickly.

     I’m not sure why you’re portraying this as subversive or controversial, because it’s really not. Did you think that the USPS maintained its own air fleet? Imagine how much that would cost, and how little value it would add for the end consumer!

  • MaryKaye

    One day I happened to say to my housemate, “You know, if we got married my health insurance would cover you.”  He thought about it for a minute and said, “Okay.”  So we got married.

    The actual big decision was a whole year earlier when I said, “I’ve got a postdoc in Seattle.  Want to come?”  He thought about that a lot longer, and with good reason–*that* was the commitment moment.

    We’ll be celebrating our 21st anniversary next weekend, so I can vouch for the success potential of this approach, at least for us.

  • I’m not sure why you’re portraying this as subversive or controversial

    Because for all the bumpf and trumpeting I hear about the private sector being inherently better and more efficient and customer-focussed, the ongoing stories I hear of package mishandling among private-sector couriering companies implies the exact opposite, and letting them get their mitts on USPS mail only invites the same for the public sector.

  • Lori

    I share your hatred of the public proposal, but in fairness I have to say that the issue is not always with the guy trying to pressure/manipulate the woman into saying yes. I personally know of at least on case where it was the guy bowing the woman’s love of drama and desire to be the center of attention and (what she presumed to be) the envy of others.

    He was a coworker and told me pretty much straight out that he was sure that if he did a low-key, private proposal she would not have been happy. From what I know of her, he was right. He didn’t think that she would have said no (and I agreed with that assessment as well), but she wouldn’t have been happy. I didn’t keep in touch with him after I left the job so I have no idea where things stand with them now. My gut instinct is that a case of WIC-poisoning that severe can’t have lead to a happy marriage, but I could be wrong about that.

    I imagine that there are people who do public proposals for good, or at least mutual/complimentary, reasons but I think those are exceptions, not the rule.

  • JoshuaS

     I’m with you on that; private sector, public sector — the only person who thinks that one is automatically better is someone who hasn’t really worked with both before. The reality is that the human element — the variabiltiy of the service encounter — does vary from organization to organization but not from government to private sector. (And there are plenty of horror stories about USPS screwing stuff up too — it’s not just UPS; that’s what happens when you employ fallible humans).

    But, again, you’re kind of missing my point. Private sector companies have been “getting their mitts” on USPS mail since before most of us were even born, and the reverse has been true (USPS delivering stuff for UPS or FedEx) for almost as long. It’s nothing new. It’s nothing controversial. There’s no way that USPS is going to construct its own air force (or deliver every package across the country on foot) to the tune of billions of dollars just to prove some kind of point to you or anyone else. They’re already in trouble — partly due to business concerns (decline in the use of the mails) and partly due to the fact that Congress is basically looting the USPS, using burdensome overpayment rules to draw money from it to subsidize the rest of the federal pension system while at the same time smearing the USPS as another inefficient government bureaucracy.

  • Dash1


  • Lori

     WIC = Wedding Industrial Complex

    Basically, the woman was high off the princess fumes from The Knot and 87 pounds of bridal magazines per month and elevntybillion wedding blogs and she wanted A Show befitting Their Perfect Love.

  • The lock was added at USPS request to keep our mailroom secure.
    The only way to know if there’s a pattern or not is to complain and see who joins the chorus.

  • The everyday Gloria we use has guitar parts with two capo switches, one before the final verse, one after that for the refrain. We’ve only got one guitarist who can play the non-capo chords; the rest of us have to drop out to adjust.

    At that I’d still rather play the guitar for it than sing it.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Richard Beck (of the experimental theology blog) wrote a book, “Unclean”, that looks at disgust, taboos and concepts of sacredness. It’s really, really interesting.

    One of the things he points out is that there is one bodily fluid that doesn’t provoke feelings of disgust, and it’s the one associated with “higher emotions” instead of “base animal functions”–tears.

  • Dash1

     A lovely theory, but animals do weep, apparently for emotional reasons as well. And sweat occurs as a result of “higher emotions” (fear, nervousness, anticipation) as well as because of physical exertion. Actually, humans sweat more than many animals (dogs, cats, pigs, …). 

    And that doesn’t explain why Leviticus seems to think menstruation is worse than any other nonpathological exudate. I’m really interested in Jason Knox’s response on this, since he seems to have a theory about the laws and has so far only hinted at it.

  • cjmr

    Yeah, that was similar to our decision-making process.  “If we get married before Dec. 31, we’ll be independent students (and can get financial aid), if not, we’ll have to take out massive loans next school year.”  

    22 years (as of last Thursday) so far.

  • cjmr

    Ugh.  I’ve never noticed if our guitar players have to change capo for the Gloria.  But I suspect not–our music director is not a virtuoso organist (unlike two of the previous three parishes I’ve been at) and so tends to choose music that doesn’t require virtuosity from the instrumentalists.

    The VOCALISTS, on the other hand…

  • DorothyD

    The actual big decision was a whole year earlier when I said, “I’ve got a postdoc in Seattle.  Want to come?”  He thought about that a lot longer, and with good reason–*that* was the commitment moment.

    That’s pretty much how we did things, too. We were already living
    together, the end of grad school was on the horizon. I was the one who
    brought up the subject, something along the lines of, “I think we should
    stay together” which got me a quick reply of “Want to get married?”
    which was sweet. The whole thing with the ring after that – we went
    through the motions but didn’t really care. Twenty three years now so we
    must have done something right. 

    As for public proposals, on please no. That said, I have to admire the guy who arranged to have his worked into a New York Times crossword puzzle.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Clarification: it’s our psychological association of certain things as “animalistic” or “higher” that he’s talking about, not the actual biology of what humans do compared to other animals. Makes more sense in the context of the whole book than my extremely reduced comment :)

    Re Leviticus–possibly contagious skin diseases are also treated with great disgust. I know you said “nonpathological” but from what I’ve read of psychology, we’re not very good about making rational distinctions when it comes to what repulses us. Blood in general once it’s outside the body pretty reliably evokes disgust.

    Although now I’m wandering down the path of why the people who came up with the content of Leviticus assigned particular taboos to menstrual blood (and other things), so I believe I’m operating from a very different premise to Jason. I’m interested in why people assign concepts of sacredness and profanity to various things rather than equating “recorded in Genesis” to “what God reckons”.

  • Andrea

    rabbits that chew the cud.

    This may be stretching the definition of chewing cud, but it does involve re-chewing and re-ingesting materials that have already passed through the digestive tract – rabbits produce two varieties of poop, the hard ones like Cocoa Puffs, and a softer variety called “cecal pellets”, partially digested food that they retrieve as it comes out, to eat again and get another go and getting nutrients out of it.

  • Dash1

     So Bugs Bunny’s famous question, “What’s up, Doc?” had more levels of profundity than we suspected.

  • Münchner Kindl

    It would also be a good idea to do way with the whole cultural ideology that
    a man who decides to marry a woman (instead of them both deciding it mutually) makes her “a honest woman”
    everybdoy who’s not a teen/twen should marry at the earliest.

    Of course this goes against the strong patriarchial influence where women do belong to the father and are handed over to the stewardship of the husbands, as the fundies loudly proclaim. What with purity balls and promise rings and all that stuff still influencing mainstream culture, it would be better to simply stop for a few generations.

  •  My understanding is that the lion’s share of the USPS’s financial woes come from the fact that they are legally required to fully pay up the pensions of USPS employees who haven’t been born yet.

  • Lori

    The lock was added at USPS request to keep our mailroom secure.

    It was the location of the mailroom that seemed less than optimal to me. I assume the request for the lock  had something to do with it being down in the basement instead of in a high traffic area.

    The only way to know if there’s a pattern or not is to complain and see who joins the chorus.  

    I wasn’t suggesting that you shouldn’t complain. I was merely pointing out that unless/until others join the chorus it’s not really accurate to call your situation evidence that the USPS sucks.

  • histrogeek

     Some idiot back in 2009 said something similar to Boykins. Something like “Lenin would have supported everything in the bank bailout plan.” I remember thinking, “Well he might have supported government involvement in the commanding heights, but I think he would have found it a bit light on liquidating class enemies.”

  • I would say that my view of sexual relationships is consistent with that approach, but that doesn’t lead me to conclude that he has no objections with same-sex relationships. IF the ONLY mention of marriage, sex. and homosexuality was that one verse in Leviticus I imagine that I would still agree with it, but be incredibly open and understanding to people having other interpretations – admitting that the Bible is not clearly opposed to it. Yet, that isn’t the only mention of it in the Bible and, in fact, we see the Bible several times rooting it in the conversation of creation and it being part of God’s designed natural order – designed for a purpose – to image God’s union to the dissimilar (us). A reading of the whole of scripture, both Testaments, make this pretty plain in overt descriptions and the subtle arch of the Bible’s narrative.

    Again, returning to the OP, I think that is why Canon Law is so lengthy and important – it teaches us the principals for applying the general “be engaged in to His Glory” in specifics. The distinction between male and female is important and their union serves the function of declarative playacting in the proclamation of his Glory and image throughout the world.

    As far as civil government law is concerned I’m all for gay marriage, but I think the state and the Bible define marriage differently and things get muddled when we conflate the two.

  • Reread the book of Leviticus – particularly after reading the book of Exodus. In Psalm 19 the people sing aloud that the book of Leviticus is like honey and more desirable than money. For me, I had to actually sit with and ACTUAL Old Testament scholar and watch him love Leviticus to learn how to love Leviticus on my own. 

    Maybe once my finals are over I’ll be able to get into this with more detail. I would refer you to a link that Fred Clark once referred all of us to:

    He claims that our instinct is to immediately paint the woman at the well as a horrible sinner instead of a victim. Some 1st Century Jewish leaders equated uncleanliness with sin and we’ve been doing it ever since.  I suggest that if you read the Book of Leviticus without the lens of “uncleanness = sin” you’ll begin to see the book as beautiful as the ancient Israelites did. 

    Assume that God isn’t against menstruation (or ejaculation or birth or disease) and that is is for holiness (imagine you were an ancient Israelite and just a child when you were freed from Egypt and all of the sudden God has declared that he desires to dwell among his people!) and then reread the book.

  • EllieMurasaki

    So excluding lepers is also for holiness, in the same way that excluding menstruators is for holiness?

    One of these things, you realize, is not like the other.


    As far as civil government law is concerned I’m all for gay marriage, but I think the state and the Bible define marriage differently and things get muddled when we conflate the two.

    This is admirably succinct, and I agree completely. Especially when the state is officially pluralist, as the U.S. is, it’s really best to avoid conflating the two.

    Individuals who wish to marry within the constraints of both the state (as interpreted by current law) and the Bible (as interpreted by anyone they choose) are of course free to do so.

  • No, excluding lepers is not for holiness in a “lepers are unholy” way. I keep saying that “unclealiness = unholy.”

    Leviticus is a big book and historically complex book. If you are looking for a one size fits all hermanutic the best we can do is “this is what it looks like a for a Holy God to dwell among an unholy people” but to understand each and every bit takes work. Don’t demand a simplistic answer to a complicated topic – yes, one of these things is NOT like the other, therefore don’t try to use my answer for one thing to say that I can’t explain a different question. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    Leviticus 13:3: “it is a plague of leprosy: and the priest shall look on him, and pronounce him unclean.” (KJV)

    Leviticus 15:19: “When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening.” (NIV)

    (I’m using different translations here because the KJV doesn’t say ‘menstruation’ in Lev 15 and the NIV doesn’t say ‘leprosy’ in Lev 13. They both do say ‘unclean’ in both.)

    I am finding it really difficult to believe that these are different kinds of unclean. Which is a problem, because leprosy is a contagious disease and menstruation is a normal function of the uterus-equipped body.

  • The short answer isn’t that there is no “one-sized fits all” theory to help us understand each and every law.

    The only umbrella theories is looking at it in the context of the whole Pentateuch: God creates humankind in his image, walks with them, humankind rebels causing sin and the curse is introduced, God is committed to his people and proclaims that he will use them as agents of his redemption of this cosmos, God’s people become a whole nation, God says that he intended to live and walk among them again, God gives them the law so the former slaves can now live as a nation in a way that images God’s rule in the world (like in the garden, but now on a bigger scale and in light of the rebellion) and that God can dwell among them in a way that they don’t burn up (when Moses saw a piece of God’s backside he glowed so much the people couldn’t stand to look at Moses).  Then remember the context of Israel being a church-state-nexus at this point in history.

    Another umbrella theory ties this back to the OP – the book of Leviticus helps us understand the 10 Commandments and God’s Creation mandate (fill the world with my image) by elaborating on them. So we know not to murder people but now we can also see that if people are going to be working and sleeping on our roofs then we need to put a fence around them so they don’t trip and fall to their deaths (or roll off it and die in their sleep). Therefore, the umbrella rule teaches me that even though I don’t own a roof this law still applies to me and I need to think not just about the floor of the law (don’t murder) but I need to think about the ceiling of the law (protect and guard human life) in all aspects of my life .

    The only other umbrella big enough to explain all of the laws is that God wove clealiness and uncleanliness into the warp and woof of the daily lives of the Israelites so that they couldn’t go about their lives unthinking and unconcerned with the reality that they are God’s holy people among whom God dwells (smoke by day, fire by night). The presence of God among them means that all of their daily choices actually matter (where they sit, what clothes they wear, how they care for the poor, how they relate to one another, how they do business  etc) and that they can not enter into His presence lightly or unthinking or without preparation. God “set them apart” as different from their neighbors to demonstrate that they are a unique people and that their God is unlike any of the other gods. None of those “theories” makes uncleanines sin – making themselves distinct does not mean that doing the things that wouldn’t make them distinct (like eating pigs or wearing mixed fabrics) are things that are offensive to God, but God is offended by his people pretending like they aren’t his people. 

    Again, those are the big umbrellas, but that doesn’t mean that each and every law shouldn’t be looked at to learn more or that each and every law is completely understandable to us thousands of years later. However, just because we can’t explain/understand each one that doesn’t mean that it didn’t make perfect sense to them OR that we shouldn’t try to understand them either. For some of the laws all we have are these bigger umbrellas, but for many of them we can see even more sense behind them. 

    God hasn’t changed since he first gave those Laws – yet we are in a new context. I am a gentile who never lived in God’s church-state-nexus, and so I’m not going to stone absurdly disobedient children, but I am going to recognize that disobedience is a significant issue and not to be taken lightly. This shows me the heartbeat of God.

    Good grief, I have spent hours on this discussion when I should be writing my grad school paper due tomorrow. I want people to know that this is important and that Canon Law is not the problem, but something highly valuable and beautiful, but I can’t spend much more time on here for now. Reread Exodus and then reread Leviticus – it really can be quite complex and confusing but also wonderful!

  • Ellie, 
    In both cases though – unclean does not equal guilty of sin.

    I think it is a smart way to read the book  by not trying to understand those two verses as dealing with the same thing – they are not dealing with the same thing and the answer is not to try to cram them both into one box – no one answer will satisfy both of them.

    God is highly aware that menstruation is a normal function. God commands his people to be “fruitful and multiply” but at the same time he requires mothers who just had birth to be unclean. God is not commanding sin. Try not looking at this as a western people latently influenced by Plato and his duality between body and soul. God never declares the body to be bad – he thinks his creation is good and that humans are VERY good! God hasn’t forgot all of that by the time he gives these laws. Try reading Leviticus again this way and really ask yourself what are the consequences of being “uncleasn.” If you are not a western living after Plato – or a 1st century pharisee living after the exile – you are not going to conclude that these unclean women are shameful or guilty in any way. You’ll see them as obedient and blessed – yet still somehow unclean (maybe being unclean isn’t as bad as you once thought!) Body shame is pretty new. God clearly isn’t ashamed of our fluids.

    For a second, assume that God is good and loving and holy and just and compassionate, different than the other gods,  and protective of his people and wants nothing but the best for them (namely, giving them himself and dwelling among them!) and then reread Leviticus. Maybe you’ll see it another way.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Unclean != sinful. Got it. Strangely enough, my argument does not rely on unclean being equivalent to sinful. It relies on the fact that people with leprosy and people with menstruation are both being treated like ew no get them away from me. That’s all right for people with leprosy, sort of, in the sense that staying away from contagious people is the best way to not catch the contagion. Sucks balls to be the leper, but it does keep everyone else from becoming lepers. But people who menstruate are being booted from society for an average of a week a month for no good reason.
    For a second, assume that God is good and loving and holy and just and compassionate, different than the other gods, and protective of his people and wants nothing but the best for them

    You’re kidding, right?