Saturday salmagundi

Saturday salmagundi December 8, 2012

• 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• Here is more evidence of that problem: “In the United States, some bishops have withdrawn funding or support for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, an annual collection that funds anti-poverty programs, many of them with little or no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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  • Why are we having this conversation as if ejaculate isn’t also on the list of fluids that make people unclean? This isn’t a male/female thing.

    God created the world and he declared it “Good.” God created man and called him “Very Good.” God isn’t punishing humans for being human – he delights in our bodies and our fluids. 1st Century Jewish Pharisees living after the return from the exile began equating unclean with shame/guilt and for all of us Western thinkers we come after the line of Plato and his dualism that separated the body and the soul and made one better than the other. God does no such thing. Body shame isn’t found in the Ancient Near East – don’t read into Leviticus what isn’t there. 

    God commands his people to be fruitful and multiply, but the man who ejaculates is unclean and the woman giving birth is unclean. God isn’t commanding sin and he isn’t making those who are faithful and obedient to his commands second class citizens who should be regarded as “ew.” A new mother, while being unclean, was celebrated as faithful and blessed. She would not be stigmatized or looked down on or shamed or anything. 

    Where us western readers read  about being unclean as is they are being told to “treated like like ‘ew no get them away from me!'” that is not how women were treated back then. You are bringing a lot of assumptions to the text that simply are not there. I know women who have begged their employers and communities for the kind of Babymoons that Leviticus talks about. God really does want the best for his people.

  • Dash1


    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 Leviticus” to “what God

    This, Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart, is part of why I admire your approach to Christianity, or as much of it as I have seen on this blog, as well as Fred Clark’s. Your points in this discussion have all been clear and, IMO, well taken.

    I wanted to address Jason Knox in particular, as he keeps making broad categorical propositions without any support. What is particularly frustrating is his attempt, as we consider an ancient text, to claim that it doesn’t say what it says.

    Now, granted, we are reading translations. And a Hebrew scholar would have more to say about all of this. But, to go with the English for the moment–since it is Hebrew scholars who chose English words like “clean” and “unclean” as appropriate representations of the relevant Hebrew concepts–there are certain ramifications of the metaphor of clean(li)ness. And Jason Knox seems to want to avoid those ramifications. (It is actually far more likely that the ancients viewed femaleness as a pollutant.)

    Yes, of course, the rules for uncleanness after giving birth give the mother a nice “babymoon.” Does Jason Knox really think that women in other societies didn’t have a rest after giving birth? Of course, the “babymoon” was tainted by the knowledge that it wasn’t for her benefit or for the baby’s benefit, but because she was unclean. That’s got to have been a bit stressful. 

    If God wanted to give women a nice rest after having a baby, then why not say that a woman should rest after having a baby rather than that she is unclean (and more unclean for a daughter than for a son)? (I know that there are people who claim this favors daughters by giving them more bonding time with their mothers. Bull!)

  • Dash1

    Just to add to the point about uncleanness, Leviticus 5:1-13 establish that touching an unclean thing (including human uncleanness, which will presumably include the seat on which a menstruating woman sat) results in uncleanness, which is removed by an offering that our Hebrew translators seem to think is best rendered in English as “a sin offering.”

    Seems to me that negates Jason Knox’s “None of those “theories” makes uncleanines sin.” [sic]

  • EllieMurasaki

    If penis-equipped you do not want to be unclean due to ejaculation, then don’t ejaculate. Blue balls will not kill you.

    If uterus-equipped you do not want to be unclean due to menstruation, you can–er–um–well, if you take the Pill and skip from the one right before placebo week to the one right after, or IUDs suppress menstruation, I believe, or just have the lot of it taken out. But if you don’t have access to contraceptives that affect the menstrual cycle and you don’t want major abdominal surgery, you’re shit out of luck.

  • I choose ejaculation just as a counterpoint to menstruation, but there are dozens and dozens of fluids, activities, diseases, statues (I don’t have the actual count, I feel like it’s near a hundred but didn’t want to be accused of hyperbole) that make a person unclean.  Read through the book and you’ll see that it doesn’t single women out at all. All are included. That isn’t a helpful topic to advance the conversation of “Is Canon Law a problem?”

  • Carstonio


    Does Jason Knox really think that women in other societies didn’t have a rest after giving birth?

    A running joke among the women I know is that their great-grandmothers’ generation simply gave birth in the fields and kept on working. The obstetric equivalent of walking barefoot in the snow to school, uphill both ways.

  • EllieMurasaki

    So if we add all that up, an average healthy man in that society (who isn’t ejaculating) is excluded from participation in society for an average of a week a month, the way an average healthy woman in that society (who isn’t pregnant or otherwise baby-related suppressed menstruation) is excluded from participation in society for an average of a week a month? Or am I fundamentally misunderstanding how ritually clean people behave around someone who’s ritually unclean?

  • The unclean don’t have “full participation” in society but if you read Leviticus you’d know that that most of them are not excluded and isolated from society at all (lepers being the big exception). Menstruating women are not kicked out of town! They won’t go to the market or into the temple, but they aren’t exiled!

  • EllieMurasaki

    *beats head on desk*

    Can somebody please explain to this dude that it is one thing to say ‘I don’t want to go shopping this week because I am on my period and I feel like crap and don’t want to deal with people’ and something else entirely to be told ‘you cannot go shopping this week because if you do you will inevitably touch people and because you have your period that would be bad’, and that being forbidden from shopping for a week being a thing that happens to women and not men is really obviously and painfully sexist? Because he doesn’t seem to be getting it.

  • Dash1


    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.

    “For a second,” eh? I tried to read it that way for decades. What I found is that I couldn’t reconcile God being good and loving and just and compassionate (leaving “holy” out in the absence of a good definition thereof) and Leviticus as evidence of those characteristics.

    I’ve got a bit of history with this sort of thing, and I’m familiar with the “babymoon” argument and with the specious claim that women in surrounding societies necessarily had it worse. I’m more than familiar with the argument that the results obviate the stated purpose (the female newborn gets more bonding time with Mom under the excuse that giving birth to a daughter makes Mom unclean for longer) and the claims that all the “uncleanness” attribution is nothing but a value-neutral acknowledgement of women’s special womanliness.

    Those arguments do not hold water.

  • Why are we having this conversation as if ejaculate isn’t also on the
    list of fluids that make people unclean? This isn’t a male/female thing.

    TMI follows, ROT13d just in case, but it’s for jasonknox’s benefit:

    Bapr hcba n gvzr jura V jnf dhvgr lbhat (abg dhvgr n grrantre), va n gvzr jura V oryvrirq n ybg bs gur fghss gung pbzrf bhg bs gur Cynva Gehgu, naq unq guhf ernq zl Erivfrq Fgnaqneq Irefvba, cnegvphyneyl gur fghss nobhg hapyrna rzvffvbaf, V jnf dhvgr fher ng gur gvzr vg zrnag znyr naq srznyr rzvffvbaf obgu.

    Jryy, nf lbh znl vzntvar, nf lbhat oblf qb, V rkcrevraprq na vaibyhagnel ‘rzvffvba’, naq orvat dhvgr pbaprearq nobhg vg, jbaqrerq ubj V jbhyq rkcynva gung V arrqrq gb yrnir gur pybgurf sbe frira qnlf naq abg gbhpu gurz nsgre gurl jrer jnfurq.

    V bcgrq abg gb, naq fvzcyl harnfvyl jber zl (ynhaqrerq) pybgurf naq jbaqrerq vs gung zrnag V jnf n onq Puevfgvna.

  • EllieMurasaki

    ROT13ing this because Neutrino ROT13ed that:

    Yrivgvphf 15, Erivfrq Fgnaqneq Irefvba:

    16 “Naq vs n zna unf na rzvffvba bs frzra, ur funyy ongur uvf jubyr obql va jngre, naq or hapyrna hagvy gur riravat. 17 Naq rirel tnezrag naq rirel fxva ba juvpu gur frzra pbzrf funyy or jnfurq jvgu jngre, naq or hapyrna hagvy gur riravat. 18 Vs n zna yvrf jvgu n jbzna naq unf na rzvffvba bs frzra, obgu bs gurz funyy ongur gurzfryirf va jngre, naq or hapyrna hagvy gur riravat.

  • I meant “for a second” to be rhetorical and I am sorry if it came across as diminishing your struggles – I was indelicate with my word choice and not attuned to the whole person that I was responding to (the danger of online discussion boards is that I often believe that I’m talking to an argument or idea instead of a person).

    I don’t see the child birth uncleanliness as some kind of weird exception as the only value-neutral acknowledgement – I don’t think any of the uncleanliness is a value judgement. I think that the modern “babymoon” is anachronistic to Leviticus and that the two are not the same, merely similar. I like that example because I think it most easily cuts through the cultural contexts to help us see that uncleanliness can result from faithful obedience to God and does not render a woman as a social outcast, religiously looked down upon, or somehow “wrong.” As do we, the Bible celebrates children and the amazing life giving birthing capabilities of women! We are not Platonic dualists – childbirth is a wonderful and righteous act!

    My passion is to see people delighting in God through his word. I believe that women have great value, I believe that God holds women in high esteem, and I believe that the Bible does too. I get sad when some people feel like we need to choose between loving women and loving the Bible. The more I have studied the Bible the more I see it affirming the glory, value, worth, dignity, esteem of women.
    These systems have been used to abuse and oppress women (though that need not mean that the systems themselves are abusive). While I can be aware of that happening I know that I cannot experience the hurt that comes with it. I don’t know your pain. As a White, Male, Christian I shamefully know that I have a share in the guilt – I can’t pretend to justify myself or my gender in all ways. I know that in several areas of this conversation men have lost their right to have a voice, but one area where I hope to always be able to speak is to advocate for the beauty and importance of God’s word. I am blessed to be friends with several women who have theologically have wrestled with these topics for decades longer than I have and have come out loving the book of Leviticus. Their joy in the scriptures is enviable and I wish it for everyone. “Sometimes you need to watch someone love something to learn how to love it yourself.”

    When I see someone claim that the Canon Law is part of the problem I can’t understand the hurt behind it, but I can feel like the best hope for their healing is in God and his word. I don’t believe that we’d be better off without it because we live in a world in which it exists and God gave it to us (which means that if we’d be better off without it we wouldn’t have it). 

    The whole notion of the many laws of Leviticus must be placed in their redemptive context – God already saved them out from Egypt. God already choose them and decided to dwell among them. God does not set aside grace to give his people these books of law – God always have and always will relate to his people by grace. The law is a call to put God’s grace in action. 

    Thank you for engaging me on this I am sorry for the way men have treated women over the millenia and it angers me that men do it under the guise of godliness – I hope you see that I want nothing but good for you. I want you to feel valued and loved and full of dignity and I want you to love God’s word too (which won’t require an act of intellectual striving as if you just don’t know enough to appreciate it now, but an act of God in healing you from very real and legitimate wounds that He weeps over even more than you).

  • EllieMurasaki

    When I see someone claim that the Canon Law is part of the problem I can’t understand the hurt behind it, but I can feel like the best hope for their healing is in God and his word.

    You can feel whatever you like, but speaking for myself and only myself (though I suspect there are many here with similar thoughts), the way to solve the problem of biblical law as it applies to me is to say, loudly and clearly and as often as necessary, biblical law does not apply to me.

  • I’ve never seen that r0t13 thing before – that seems very helpful!

    I remember that time in my preteen years as well. I think it’s a glorious thing that God doesn’t call us sinful for that, but calls us human. God doesn’t want us to not be human – God wants us to not pretend like we aren’t human and in those moments God calls us to use those opportunities to remember that it is no small thing to enter into God’s presence and shouldn’t be taken lightly. God wants us to not pretend to be brains on a stick (or souls on a stick?) and that in the rhythms of our bodily functions are reminders to be before the Lord always. He designed us that way!

  • My worry is that people equate “does not apply” with “let’s toss out the whole book!” which I whole heartily disagree with. I think they are relevant and helpful and beautiful, but they do not apply to you in several very important ways:

    As a modern gentile, these laws NEVER applied to you. The laws do not apply to you in a binding way. The laws do not apply to you as the basis for your salvation and relationship. The laws should not be reinforced by our government or our churches – except to the extent that we can see some of God’s heart and values in them and to the extent that they teach us principals for applying God’s general laws (do not murder, love the needy, etc).
    These laws will not save you. These laws are not the scale by which God will grade you. These laws do not establish your righteousness nor give anyone a pedestool to look down on anyone else.  These laws do not diminish your value or worth which is wholly God given.

  • EllieMurasaki

    The trouble arises when people say that the Levitical prohibition on gay sex is one that “we can see some of God’s heart and values in” and should therefore have the force of secular law on people who do not revere the Bible or who are putting that prohibition in the same box as the prohibitions on bacon cheeseburgers and cotton-polyester clothing. Or when people look at the general trend of biblical laws–menstruating women are untouchable, women who didn’t cry for help when raped in a populated area weren’t actually raped and are at fault for having consensual sex while unmarried, a man who rapes a virgin must marry her and to hell with how she feels about the situation–and conclude that, though it is never explicitly stated, “some of God’s heart and values” are firmly in support of the idea that women are less than men.

  • Thanks. I must have mixed the verses up, and I don’t know now why I thought the more restrictive rules applied.

  • The point I was trying to make is that I felt guilty about it. I felt bad about it.

    From reading the same damn Bible, or as near as, to yours.

    Square that with logic-chopping over not “calling it sinful”.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Poor reading comprehension is a problem anyone can have at any time. Fuck knows I often have and undoubtedly often will.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    This, Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart, is part of why I admire your approach to Christianity, or as much of it as I have seen on this blog, as well as Fred Clark’s. Your points in this discussion have all been clear and, IMO, well taken.

    Thanks, that’s nice of you to say.

    It’s not really on topic but I want to note that people like me who don’t have a “high view of scripture” (as they call it) still find the bible immensely valuable. Not just from cultural, historical, linguistic, anthropological perspectives, but spiritually as well. It’s one of the most common kick-offs for deep prayer for me. But, and I hope this analogy works outside my head, my approach to reading the bible is akin to hearing peope who loved my dad talk about him. It can give me new or deeper insights into his character but I know the stories aren’t always accurate–they’re bent by time and points of view and the psychological needs of the teller. But more importantly than conveying information, listening to people who loved my dad is a moving experience because it connects me to the other person, and both of us to him. And it’s just a shadow of hearing from him directly, but I’ll take the shadow because it’s what I’ve got. Does that make sense?

    To step back from the analogy, when I read scripture I don’t read it thinking “God said this” or even “the author as named said this”, but that doesn’t mean it has no power. In a dark night of the soul I read Psalm 42 over and over for weeks, knowing that someone wrote and meant those words just as deeply as I mean them in recitation thousands of years later. Maybe it was King David or maybe it was someone anonymous to history; it doesn’t matter. And in the intervening time who knows how many people have meditated on the same words in all kinds of situations. By praying with that psalm I’m connected to countless people across time and space and we’re all connected to God, and being aware of that immense web of relationship is, to me, no less mind blowing than the idea that God dictated some words to someone once. And I am reminded that I’m not alone. (My faith, like my politics, has a particularly communitarian emphasis to it)

    This was a great big tangent in response to nothing in particular, but I guess I felt like I wanted to note for the silent observer that there’s not a forced choice between biblical literalism and a great regard for and love of scripture.


    On topic, reading the continuing discussion with Jason about cleanliness is just making me want to plug Richard Beck’s book even more (I’m not his agent). It’s really, really, really, really, really, really interesting.

  • Lori


    I don’t think any of the uncleanliness is a value judgement.   

    Spoken like a person who, by virtue of genitalia, is not on the receiving end of the judgement.

  • Dash1

    I meant “for a second” to be
    rhetorical and I am sorry if it came across as diminishing your struggles – I
    was indelicate with my word choice and not attuned to the whole person that I was responding to (the danger of online discussion boards is that I often believe that I’m talking to an argument or idea instead of a person).

    First of all, thank you for considering the problem of discussing such matters from that perspective. Let me say, however, that you want to be careful about those assumptions. I, for example, like the fact that we can, online, be a couple of brains tossing ideas around. (This is not meant to suggest that sensitivity isn’t important or that others don’t have different preferences. That’s just me.) (Also, I really find myself wondering why you assume I’m female. Was it the relatively easy and non-queasy reference to menstruation?)

    Anyway, let’s talk about those ideas. My problem with your argument isn’t that you’re not being sensitive enough. It’s that (a) you’re not giving me a handle from which to talk about your ideas, and, relatedly (b) you’re not addressing your audience. That is, your arguments are based on premises that many people here, and specifically the ones engaging you, don’t accept. You appear to assume that God is the (fairly direct) author of (e.g.) Leviticus, and that the text reflects God’s priorities more than it reflects a certain bronze age sensibility associated with the original audience. As Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart has pointed out, one can be a Christian and take the text very seriously without holding either of those beliefs.

    I hope this doesn’t sound condescending–and I apologize if it does–but it might be useful to decide what you want to accomplish. If you want to persuade the audience here that your claims are correct, you will want to adjust your argument so that you start with premises we can all agree on. Otherwise, we’ll just start quoting our favorite Jesuit teachers at you: “what you freely assert, I can as freely deny. Support your claim.” (Interestingly, a newer post on this board deals with evidence.) (Doesn’t matter which Jesuit teacher–is there one in the world that has not aimed that question at a student at some point?)

    If, on the other hand, you merely want to toss your view of the text into the pot as one possible opinion, well, then, you can start by taking your premises as given for the purposes of your argument, but not by taking them as accepted by your audience. In other words, it helps if you say at the outset, as many people here do, “As an atheist, I hold this view”; “as someone
    who believes X, I look at this this way”; and so on.

    I hope your grad school paper is going well. Don’t forget to proofread! :-)

    [Edited because Disqus messed up all the line breaks. It is EEEEVIL.]

  • Dash1

    As for the arguments against Plato, well, this is a case
    where I really, once again, really, really miss hapax. (Also
    because she’d be reminding us that it’s Advent, not actually Christmas yet, so all those folks wearing the “Feel Free To Wish Me a Merry Christmas” button are jumping the gun on their passive-aggressive pre-emptive attacks.)

  • I hope your grad school paper is going well. Don’t forget to proofread! :-)

    And a good proofreader cna be worth their weight in gold, as my thesis attests. :)

  • That said, I think some boys or men (depending on when they read their Bible) will take rather literally the old prohibitions listed (because for all the handwaving about “Oh, that’s the Old Testament, ignore it!” the fact is that fundamentalists eager to reinforce patriarchal and kyriarchal roles of men and women selectively choose which Old Testament sections that are still in force even today as a shaming tool), and feel bad or guilty about certain natural bodily functions.

    Contrary to jasonknox’s bounciful bumpf about how God thinks we are just sooooooo totes ~wonderful~, the fact is that it’s human interpretation of ‘God’s Word” that can lead to personal difficulties and unnecessary shame and guilt.

  • Dash1

     Very, very true. I will, however, make one point in jasonknox’s defense, such as it can be: once you’ve been trained to read something a certain way, it can be very difficult to see it from another perspective, or, importantly, to approach the text in any remotely neutral fashion. You’ll always see the text you were originally taught was there.

    And I am so stealing the phrase “bounciful bumpf.”

  • Steal away! d(^_^)

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     So, how does God feel about killing disobedient children?  ISTR that is A Thing in the Old Testament.

  • Oops. Anyway, which chapter and verse?

  • I suspect that if jasonknox had anything like a thesis defence, he’s busy recovering from it now with a nice long beer-soaked evening. :P 

    I meant to put the more general comment HERE, as opposed to my reply to CU5012.

  • The_L1985

    How could it confuse us?  Everyone knows God’s personal name is Howard.  Says so in the Lord’s Prayer:  “Our Father, who art in heaven, Howard be thy name…” ;)

  • The_L1985

     Yet men are only unclean for less than 24 hours if they ejaculate, whereas women are unclean for an entire week while they’re menstruating.  Do you honestly not see the HUGE, OBVIOUS DISCREPANCY there?

  •  Yeah. Women are only considered unclean for about the length of time menstruaton lasts, while men are considered unclean for something on the order of 40,000-80,000 times as long as it takes to ejaculate. Not cool.

  •  What? No, it says very clearly, “Our father, who is Art in heaven.”

  • EllieMurasaki

    Not funny.