Reading Through the Bible – Genesis

torahThis year I’ve made a goal to read through the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible (known as the New Testament). There are a number of interesting Jewish interpretations  of Torah but I’m not going to get into much of those at this time. I’m simply going to read straight through to get a reminder of the basic story lines and principles found within.

Starting at the beginning, it seems that the earth already exists. Of course, we realize the Bible is not a scientific book (obviously) but even from a theological perspective, this should mean something to those who hold to literal interpretations of the text. Another interesting note in the commentary is that the word בָּרָא, translated as the verb “create” never means to create out of nothing. At least at the start, the Bible does not assert that god created the world from nothing which is a complete contradiction to what creationists claim.

Skip ahead to Adam and Eve. The story from a Christian perspectives takes on literal meaning but in other traditions, there is room for interpretation. Adam and Eve eat the fruit of knowledge, thereby learning wrong from right. One could say this marks their entry into adulthood. Just like Adam and Eve, we too one day reach adulthood where we begin to know what is right and what is wrong. We’re then held responsible by our families, friends, communities and governments to act accordingly. As Adam and Eve had to leave the safety and security of the garden, we leave our homes and start our lives as adults in the wider world.

It is unfortunate that so many interpretations of the Biblical text are left to literal understanding, as when you look at the stories form different perspectives, they make a hell of a lot more sense…and they are slightly less disturbing.

At this point, looking superficially, we see Genesis degrade into lying, murder, worldwide genocide, more lying, child sacrifice, citywide genocide, offering up one’s own children for rape, incest, deception, seething jealousy, family conflict and general bad behavior. The most appealing theme in all of Genesis, I think, is that of brotherly reconciliation. After having stolen his birthright and blessing, Jacob meets up with his brother Esau (both the sons of Issac; Grandchildren of Abraham) twenty years later with fear that he and his family may be killed. Rather, his brother greets him with a hug.

Later, Jacob’s son Joseph is sold by his brothers who despise him. Jacob is understandably distraught but has been lead to believe the young boy is dead. Many years later, the men meet their brother in Egypt and after a few tricks to determine their character, Joseph tells them he is their long lost brother. Jacob is reunited with his son.

I noticed the tales of Abraham are more detailed than the first few. Once the book opens up to Jacob and his children, there is also more emotional drama. The reader is told of Jacob’s despair when his child is missing and repeatedly the text mentions Joseph crying in regards to seeing his brothers again.

That isn’t to say these stories aren’t still gruesome. This the same family wherein a daughter is raped, the boys murder the perpetrator (and his associates) and take all of the women and children in his clan for their own. The same family where envy for one brother leads them to consider killing him and then decide eh, they will just sell him instead. They also tend to lie. In short, they’ve got problems.

Pushing Christianity on Teen Prisoners

I’d like to think that in the United States, it would be illegal to proselytize incarcerated teenagers but I don’t know that to be true. Apparently in Russia, it’s just fine. Hands of Hope, a Joyce Meyer organization, visited Russia last month to share with them the message that they are in a battle with Satan. Because kids who are guilty of violent crime, kids who have been  neglected, kids who are trying to survive by engaging in criminal behavior can all be cured of their sinful disease if they just realize the devil wants their brains.

Feeling depressed or neglected? That’s Satan trying to control your thoughts (it couldn’t be that your parents literally abandoned you). Think there is no god or hell? Think again. That’s just a lie from the devil. Are you full of raging teenage hormones? The devil likes to use those against you. Have you been lying? Blame the devil. Tempted to have sex? Again, the devil! Oh and by the way, sex is a sin.

Attempting to use someone’s misfortune or negative circumstances in order to convert them to your religion is always unethical and downright shameful. Blaming all of their problems on an fictional character so that they don’t learn to handle their feelings in a mature manner, thus making it even more difficult for them to adjust to life as adults, is immoral. Shoving this nonsense on underage teenagers in detention centers should be illegal.

Easy DIY Lavender Sachet From Items Around the House

sachetOf the 4 R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle, re-purpose), the last is probably the most fun unless you happen to love sorting garbage. Children do, I have learned, love to sort garbage but the rest of us might get more thrills from making new things out of old things. Unfortunately, some of us  also lack repurposing  skills. That’s okay!

Last year I bought some cheesecloth which I now realize I haven’t used, may never use and won’t need in such abundance. I also had some old dried lavender from  used dryer bags. I added new oil, wrapped in cheesecloth and tied it piece of ribbon I found in the closet. Voila! A homemade sachet. It really couldn’t be much easier and it smells really nice.

Why God Allows Humans to Suffer

First, I have no intention to pick on Jacob Shire; he just happens to have written on the topic I want to discuss. He is certainly not the only one who espouses the idea that God lets people suffer in part to encourage relationship and faith in him. You can find his post on the topic here.

To Encourage Devotion

Our relationship with God is never more deepened than at times of suffering. Flavel maintained that affliction “drives [Christians] nearer to God, makes them see the necessity of the life of faith, with multitudes of other benefits.” It moves us to pray more fervently, commune more deeply, and trust more assuredly.

Imagine you’re in your 30’s. You’ve been married to your high-school sweetheart for thirteen years. You’ve had a solid relationship based on friendship, shared interests and common goals. Having saved money for a long time, you’re now able to buy your dream home. One month into your new place, you awake in the night smelling smoke. You look to the right. Your husband isn’t there. You run to the bedroom door, it’s hot. Panic sets in. Where is he? What should you do? Where should you go? The bedroom is on the second floor so you just can’t crawl out of the window. You run over anyway, open it and scream as loud as your lungs allow. Smoke is starting to rise in the room. It’s getting more difficult to breath. Is he downstairs? Is he hurt? You see something in the yard. It’s him!! He’s okay! But wait…he was sleeping next to you. Why is he outside?

You wake up in an uncomfortable bed. Looking around, realize you’re in a hospital. You find a nurse call button and push it. A few minutes later, a woman in scrubs enters the room, smiles and says “good morning”. Before you can ask what happened, you see your husband standing  at the door. You’re relieved and confused all at once. After the initial hugs and tears, the nurse explains your injuries before leaving you two alone. You have just one question. How did he get out into the yard without you?

It’s simple, he explains. He woke up, walked into the hall, smelled smoke, realized the house was on fire and ran down the stairs and out the door. But why didn’t he wake you? Well, he knew it was a risk but he also knew that through this experience, it would give the two of your the opportunity to come closer together as he sat by your side.. Your relationship would grow stronger. You would trust him to care for you as your heal both physically and emotionally. You would depend on him and grow to love him even more, as he supported your recovery. I know what you’re thinking. A sane man would never purposely leave his wife alone in a burning house in order to deepen their emotion connection. There is just no reason to believe this scenario would ever take place. A loving husband would protect his wife if he was able. Anything else would make him a monster.

Fifty Shades of Consent

By now most people are likely aware of last weeks debut of Fifty Shades of Grey. Aside from the fact that the books were poorly written and many reviews have indicated the actors have about as much chemistry as two floor lamps, the story brings up numerous issues pertaining to abuse, sexual assault and consent. I have no issue with kinky bedroom activities, nor with erotic literature. I take issue not with the content of the story but the response to it. Millions of women see a wealthy, handsome sex god that leaves them a wet, quivering mess. I see a manipulative, coercive, rapist. If a woman enjoys story about control, extreme submission or even rape, that’s her business. I’m only disturbed by the fact that so few women notice these elements are even present in the relationship between Christian Grey and Ana Steele. He is actually kinda awful. In real life we’d get a restraining order and stay away from him.

Of course, I was told by 50 Shades fans that I’m way off base. Eventually, Ana “breaks” Christian so to speak, of his need to dominate, control and beat her. Oh, well that makes it okay. Right? No. You can’t fix a rapist like he’s a puppy that needs potty trained. What happens in book 2 & 3 is irrelevant. In the first he’s a controlling, abusive jerk who preys on a young, naive, sexually inexperienced girl who does not know what it means to consent and apparently can’t identify assault, either. That isn’t the kind of man to be admired. If someone ia truly in a BDSM lifestyle, they don’t need to be “fixed” because there is nothing wrong with them in the first place. But BDSM shouldn’t involve confusion, fear or begging someone not to hit you again (like Ana does). It SHOULD involve mutual trust and communication, where all parties understand what is going to happen, and what is expected of one another. I don’t see that in this story.

It has been argued that Ana does consent because she stays in the relationship and she doesn’t say “no”. Here lies the problem. Consent goes far beyond “no means no”. It’s a lot of things. If you are drunk, you are unable to consent. If you are too young or naive to understand the situation, you are unable to give consent. If you are coerced, that is not consent. If you are too afraid to say no, that is not consent. Ana is all of the above. It appears to me than even adults are a little fuzzy on consent; how much more so are children and teenagers? If we can’t pinpoint it, how are we going to teach our children? It’s important that they now in order to protect themselves and so that they can be respectful and considerate of others. I understand that in fantasy, consent is trivial but let’s not pretend we can’t see when it’s violated. It’s much too important in our real lives to be ignored.

Happy Darwin Day!

cookies

I’m not a baker and this was my first time making shapes with chocolate, so they are a little squiggly. Unfortunately, my local area doesn’t have any Darwin Day events planned, at least that I could find. Perhaps next year?! Perhaps I’ll could even plan something myself. I’m curious to hear what others do to celebrate Darwin Day in their communities, at school or even at home.

4 Good Reasons to get Rid of Your Stuff

Sorting through our possessions (or those of someone else) can be tremendously difficult. It can bring up feelings of pain, fear or loss. I believe the benefits, once we can see them, outweigh all the work and negative feelings. I’m now in my second year leading a group of about 100 people as we decided what adds value to our lives and what does not. For me, it’s my third year and I know that my husband and I have donated over 2000 items. That may seem like a high number but I assure our house is still full of “stuff”. There are a number of personal reasons that may motivate you to consider how much you own and whether you really need every item. But going through our things and donating what we don’t need isn’t’ just about us, it’s about others as well.

1. You don’t need it. Someone else might.
– Many of us don’t need half of what we own. While we’re holding on to objects that only weigh us down, there are millions in this country (and billions worldwide) who don’t have enough. By donating items to a local charity you may be providing a family with something they truly needed. My donations go to a local organization that uses the funds from sales to help city residents in emergencies by covering bus fares, utilities, medication and household needs. Most towns probably have such a service. Instead of keeping the things we do not need, why not make sure someone else is able to get something they do?

2. Your relatives have less burden if you die.
– When my grandmother died she had already sold or donated most of her possessions. She left behind things that used or that she knew her children and grandchildren could keep. A lot of people do not do this and their families are forced to sort through an entire house worth of things which takes a huge emotional toll. Not only do they have to sort though it, they have to decide what to do with each and every item, perhaps feeling guilt over anything they choose to give away. The more you own, the bigger the burden for your family if something should happen to you. This goes for young people too, not just our parents and grandparents.

3. You have more time to focus on things that are important to you.
– It has been said that the less you own, the easier it is to keep your house clean. I can personally vouch for this. I do find that since we’ve decluttered a large number of items from our home, it is easier to keep things clean. Organization is a hot topic. Pinterest is full of tips on how to organize each room of your home. You can watch television shows or pick up books devoted to teaching you how to best organize your possessions. Organization is all well and good, but pushing around the same junk over and over just wastes your time. Getting rid of it leaves you free to spend more time with your family or friends, invest in a new hobby or volunteer in your community.

4. You’ll have more money.

– I hear numerous stories about people who decided to declutter their lives and ended up making money. I personally do not sell my items but I do give them to charity. This is one way you can give. I also find that once people really invest in simplifying, they realize that material possessions were not bringing them the happiness they wanted. Before buying anything new, they give it more consideration and choose only what they really need or what they find beautiful. This allows them to save money which they can then use to work towards getting out of debt, cushioning savings or giving to others. You’d be surprised at how giving away your things can change your perspective on what you do and do not need.

Get Rid of Your Junk in 2015

Continuing a theme from last year, I’m again leading a group of 100 people who want to get rid of the junk that takes up their space and their time. Last year the group collected over 8000 items to donate.  This is my third year, so I’m aiming for only 200 items. This challenge is not about organizing our junk. It’s about letting it go.  You can push around your crap over and over again but it’s still there, getting in your way, taking up your time and costing you money. If it weren’t – you wouldn’t be thinking about organizing it. The better option? Get rid of it!  There are a numbers of ways to go about it. I choose to set a goal for the year and meet or exceed it.

Other options include the 30 Day Minimalism Game where you challenge a friend to toss out 1 item on day one, 2 items on day two, 3 items on day three….and so on, until one of you is finished. Another more dramatic option is the Packing Party, where you essentially put everything you own into a box and unpack slowly. Whatever you do not use in a given amount of time, you do not need. It goes. You could also tailor either of these to meet your own needs. Pack up your child’s toys and see what they miss. Not much? Perhaps they have more toys than they need. Put off of you clothes in an extra closet. Whatever you don’t go pull out in the next six months, you don’t wear and you don’t need. The same can be done with shoes, kitchen items, accessories, tools, art supplies, books, etc.

It’s your stuff and you should make the rules but don’t let yourself off the hook too easily. The goal is to remove the “stuff” from your life that isn’t serving you, bringing you joy or making your life much easier. You may have to carefully consider what is and what isn’t truly adding value to your life. Some people find it very difficult while others have fun. But I’ve yet to meet anyone who regrets giving it a try.

Religious Phone Calls?

My husband and I received a strange phone call tonight. First, two girls argued with him about religion for about 30 minutes and then told him to go to hell when he let them know he wanted to hang up. I’ve never had a call like this and I find it very strange. The girls told him they were Catholic, but I find that suspicious as this doesn’t seem like normal Catholic behavior. I’m curious if anyone else has had these types of calls?

Ark Park Genocide Celebration

Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter has been national news for sometime now. He wrongly accuses “atheists and secularists” of trying to prevent his park from being built. What is really being asked is that he adhere to the law and not try to gain tax incentives for a religious based organization with discriminatory hiring practices. If Ham wants to build a theme park based on genocide, he’s free to do so – but why does he want to? The website describes the park as providing education and entertainment.

The story of Noah is a tragic one. God creates the earth, populates it with humans and animals, which he declares good. Many years pass. He decides that no, in fact, it is not good. It’s all very very bad. Everything must go. Every plant, every land animal, every man, every woman and even every child, except for the small number that were put on the Ark – are killed. God shuts the door to the boat and chaos consumes the globe.

On December 26, 2004 a tsunami hit 14 countries and killing over 200,000 people. A tsunami also hit Japan in 2011. As devastating and horrific as these disasters, one has to assume that a flood intended to kill every living thing on earth would surpass anything we’ve ever seen or could imagine. There would be no survivors to tell their story. There would be no heartwarming tales of parents reuniting with their children or newly married couples finding each other among the crowds. Every story, every devastating moment, would be lost. Every family torn apart. Every elderly couple separated forever. Every infant drowned.

Photos of the 2004 tsunami can be found @ James Robert Fuller Photography. Please be aware these graphic images are not appropriate for children. For video and accounts of the 2004 tsunami, see Tsunami: Caught on Camera which can be found online or on youtube. The documentary does include footage of people drowning, dead children being pulled from the water, and other scenes that you may may upsetting.

The traditionally religious can spin this however they’d like but the central idea of the Noah story is the mass slaughter of an entire planet. This is what Ken Ham would have you believe should be supported by tax incentives in the state of Kentucky. This is what he’d have you believe is the will of a divine creator and something to celebrate. He says this is entertainment. Again, creationists and anyone else is free to believe it to be true, teach it to their kids and build an entire theme park dedicated to the disgusting story. But the rest of us should not let them forget exactly what it is they are promoting. We should not let their visitors forget exactly what it is they are paying to see.