Tag Archives: Religion

Weirdness in math & science

Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem, in layperson’s language, which I phrase to myself as “there are truths which cannot be proven”: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-is-godels-theorem/

(That’s not say those unprovable truths aren’t completely trivial; but it IS to say that even the best, most pure math is not automatically going to get you all the way.)

Quantum tunneling, which I see as “the universe is not just a bunch of billiard balls bouncing around in a way that would be totally predictable if we had a big enough computer”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_tunnelling#:~:text=Quantum%20tunnelling%20or%20tunneling%20(US,flow)%20appearing%20inside%20the%20barrier.

Spooky action at a distance, which I phrase to myself as “there are no limitations. How is that even possible?”:  https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/02/spooky-action-at-a-distance/516201/

«Measure photon A to be vertically polarized, and photon B instantaneously becomes horizontally polarized, even though B’s state was unspecified a moment earlier and no signal has had time to travel between them. This is the “spooky action” that Einstein was famously skeptical about in his arguments against the completeness of quantum mechanics in the 1930s and ’40s.»

Einstein is famous for saying that he does not believe that God plays dice with the universe, but I think God does exactly that. It’s just that, if the dice don’t fall the way God thinks they should, science has absolutely nothing to say about the possibility of God altering the results. (Or even about God’s existence, for that matter.)

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

(As they say.)

God-centered (Micah 6:8, Matthew 22:37-40)

A quick note that I might come back to later.

«“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”»

It’s not enough to just live by the Golden Rule (“treat others as you would yourself”). For one, some of us treat ourselves pretty badly. But also, in general, there’s a problem with “Policy X seems to me to be good for society in general (although some people will be hurt, but, hey, greatest good for greatest number), so let’s do Policy X.”

We are called to justice and mercy, and we should do justice and mercy *for no other reason than that God called us to it*. Not because it’s “fair” (do we really want to use human judgments of fairness? If someone hurts me, is it fair to hurt them back an equal amount?) or because it’s “good for society” (gassing Jews and sterilizing “mental defectives” was seen to be good for society, not so long ago).

There’s also what happens at the end of the book of Judges (ch. 21), as an example (the whole story is really the last three chapters of Judges, 19-21). The other 11 tribes of Israel decide to go to war with the tribe of Benjamin because of something bad that happened in a Benjaminite city. At the beginning of this war and as it progresses, they consult God repeatedly about what to do, but at some point they stop consulting God and just decide what to do by themselves. In other words, they leave God out of it. Here’s their solution, at the end:

«And they instructed the Benjaminites, saying, “Go and lie in wait in the vineyards, and watch; when the young women of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards and each of you carry off a wife for himself from the young women of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. Then if their fathers or their brothers come to complain to us, we will say to them, ‘Be generous and allow us to have them; because we did not capture in battle a wife for each man. But neither did you incur guilt by giving your daughters to them.’” The Benjaminites did so; they took wives for each of them from the dancers whom they abducted. Then they went and returned to their territory, and rebuilt the towns, and lived in them. So the Israelites departed from there at that time by tribes and families, and they went out from there to their own territories.

In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes.»

That last line is the very end of the book of Judges, and I see it as a bitterly sarcastic statement. This story ends with mass kidnapping and rape, sanctioned by the people who didn’t consult God about how to solve a problem, and that last line seems to carry a ton of weight.

To be fair, too much of either approach can be bad. We need both, and we need balance. (Duh, who hasn’t said that before?) But the God thing has to be present.

So go to worship, and pray. 🙂

Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg on Christians using the word “pharisees” negatively

https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1093962230369058816.html

Thread of threads I’m bookmarking. The one starting off with Oreos and diet Coke for communion is a good one. (https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1094596840010461187.html)

(Well… thread of THREADS OF THREADS here: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1211624621591666689.html. Hopefully never to be deleted by ThreadReaderApp, but we shall see.)

Galatians 2:11-14 NRSV;CEB – Paul Rebukes Peter at Antioch

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Galatians+2%3A11-14&version=NRSV;CEB

I’ve always gotten a kick out of this passage, for some reason. Disagreement in the church goes WAAAY back. Plus Paul: ain’t afraid to get in somebody’s face.

«But when Cephas [Peter[1]] came to Antioch, I [Paul] opposed him to his face, because he was wrong. He had been eating with the Gentiles before certain people came from James. But when they came, he began to back out and separate himself, because he was afraid of the people who promoted circumcision. And the rest of the Jews[2] also joined him in this hypocrisy so that even Barnabas got carried away with them in their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they weren’t acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of everyone, “If you, though you’re a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you require the Gentiles to live like Jews?”»

(Quick side note, for those who don’t know (like me, a few years ago): Paul was kind of a super-villain, a super-pharisee (if you will[3]) who killed a lot of Christians before he decided to take a road trip to Damascus:

«Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.»

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts%209%3A1-2&version=NRSV;CEB

Guess who wound up changing his name?)

So, notes:

[1] “Cephas” was Peter’s name in Aramaic, the language most commonly spoken in ancient Israel at that time. “Peter” is Greek. They both mean “stone” (and they both refer to the same person).

[2] “Jews” is “Christians who used to be Jews”. Everyone in Israel starts this story out Jewish. Jewishness was the water they swam in; the context.

[3] I use that word “pharisee” advisedly; it’s tricky, since SOME people who call(ed) themselves “Christians” accuse Jews of being “Christ-killers” (Hitler and the German Nazis, for instance.) However, Saul/Paul studied at the feet of Gamaliel, one of the great Jewish teachers of the time, and he turns out to be quite the theological ninja (Acts 23:6-10, *snerk*), so I think “pharisee” might be fair.

As We Make Our Way Back Home – Western Jurisdiction of The UMC

http://westernjurisdictionumc.org/as-we-make-our-way-back-home/

CrrrACK.

We, laity and clergy, of the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church,
  as one body, deeply saddened and greatly harmed
  by the rending actions of the 2019 General Conference,
Reaffirm our commitment to a radically hospitable church in two converging ways.

I.

As United Methodists, we must resist injustice and insist that the Church repent of the exclusionary principles of the Traditional Plan.

II.

Grounded in our Wesleyan heritage, we will foster a new movement to gather the energy of inclusive United Methodists throughout our global connection

Study asks: Are 13 seminaries sustainable? | United Methodist News Service

https://www.umnews.org/en/news/study-asks-are-13-seminaries-sustainable

«“If the UMC wants to promote racial justice, the seminaries are already extraordinary laboratories where a wide variety of racial groups and international students learn to live in community,” said Jan Love, dean of Emory University’s Candler School of Theology in Atlanta. She was president of the Association of United Methodist Theological Schools when it commissioned the study.»

Sexual sin

https://twitter.com/jblossom/status/1100526182611800066

This response to a tweet I posted earlier gives me opportunity to blog about (discuss?) something that’s been on my mind for a few years. What follows is not perfect prose (by a long shot), but I’ve worked on it long enough and covered enough of the major points I’ve thought of over the years that I guess I can release it into the wild.

«Thinking humbly, I wonder if the non-hetero community will have to consider carefully how it can address the nature of sexual sin within non-hetero orientations and identities. It might be an effective way to help the UMC community to present a consistent salvation story.»

This tweet strikes me as having a particular focus on the non-hetero community’s sexual practices, as if one “community”[1] is more depraved than another. It seems as if to say “eww, gay sex, blech!” I believe ALL of our sexual practices could use a little consideration.

I believe Biblical injunctions against same-sex sex is really about something else. And that is: asymmetric power relationships, expressed sexually (in this case). Really, the Bible (and other great religious texts) is all about asymmetric power relationships: the marginalized (the orphan and the widow), the alien among us, the Psalmist beset on all sides by enemies, the wealthy vs. the poor, Caesar vs. those who “fear”[2] God, the Syro-Phoenician woman, and on and on. But, there are five passages that take a quick break from talking about money to talk about sex.

Truly, I believe the topic is sexual victimization. The master taking advantage of the hired help (or the coerced help). I understand this was part of the culture of that day.

And today.

So, yes, let us do talk about the nature of sexual sin. Girls are trafficked from China to pleasure NFL football team owners. Trafficking is an ongoing and widespread scourge; it’s not just that one story in Florida recently. Comfortably well-off (usually male) tourists travel to Thailand to partake of whatever is there. (I’m thinking it’s not usually a visit to Angkor Wat.)

Everything #metoo is about: the corporate executive, the movie director, the pastor (yes, even church), the law enforcement officer, the hotel guest. We are so familiar with these stories; they just go on and on and on.

There is so frequently a power dynamic at play.

And let’s add in people who have sex to validate themselves. You get the abusive boyfriend/husband. You get (maybe, I’m not as familiar with this side of the issue as I am the male side) the woman who feels she needs to use sex to gain protection or validity. (Why did the Samaritan woman at the well have five husbands? Was it just economics?)

Somehow, we don’t get as exercised about college hook-up culture (although some of us do get plenty exercised). Hook-up culture isn’t any worse than it ever was, but, apparently (I would’t know, being an old), it’s actually gotten less loving and intimate, as evidenced by this Hidden Brain podcast episode: https://www.npr.org/2017/09/25/552582404/hookup-culture-the-unspoken-rules-of-sex-on-college-campuses.

There’s the distortion created by pornography, the social pressure. There seems to be so much nonsense (I’d use a more pungent word, but I’m trying to clean this post up) promulgated by men with an agenda, advocating for things like polyamory. I know warm, loving relationships are possible in many contexts, but the world of “kink” seems to have more than its share of (male) predators.

(Not to equate tabletob role-playing gaming (which I love, especially the sci-fi types) with the above to any degree, but here’s another item that came across my radar recently, and speaks to this issue: https://www.polygon.com/2019/2/20/18232181/dungeons-dragons-zak-smith-sabbath-abuse-accusations-players-handbook.)

What do God and Jesus want? Wholesome, healthy human relationships. Not exploitation, manipulation, abuse.

I believe we, as the Church, need to be talking about this. Don’t manipulate or exploit other people. Don’t use other people. Don’t believe that you are somehow faulty if you’re not having a lot of sex. Sexual intimacy is not something to be taken lightly; it is powerful and precious. Irrespective of the risk of pregnancy and disease.

Do we support loving sexual relationships? Yes. (Really, we think true commitment (as in: marriage) between two people is best.) Do we oppose sexual relationships undertaken because one party needs to feel powerful, and can only do so by denigrating the other party? Yes. Do we oppose sexual relationships arising out of insecurity? Yes.

Do we care about the genders of the people involved? No.

Don’t be mean. That is all.

So, that’s my take on sexual sin, and it has nothing to do with whether one is in a “non-hetero community” or not.

We, the Church, very definitely need to talk about it. Not in a finger-wagging way, but in a supporting, encouraging, holding-each-other-accountable way (although, really, we should be careful that “holding each other accountable” isn’t a code phrase for something a bit more negative).

We also need to be careful of our messaging and gentle in our responses. I have heard stories of people raised in the “purity” culture who get raped. With the inputs of what they have been taught they are sometimes left wondering if they’re going to Hell. When they turn to their church for support, they sometimes get none. This is the sort of thing suicide is made of.

Somehow, sometimes, those in the church guilty of heterosexual misdeeds are not treated with the same sort of revulsion we reserve for gay people. Somehow, when this occurs, the conversation turns to “forgiveness”.

Notes

[1] Are we really dividing folks into “communities”. Isn’t that a polite word for an ugly tendency in this case?

[2] “Fear.” I understand the ancient word(s) used here might also be translated “respect.”