I’ve been trying to put my finger on what is so troubling to me about some of the recent discussions of abortion. Aside from the distressingly obvious lack of female participants in the discussion, I think the thing that makes me twitchiest is the discussion of whether or not rape victims should be *allowed* to hear from a compassionate bishop that abortion is an acceptable course. I’ve been thinking a lot about how a bishop could provide appropriate and helpful counsel in that situation, and I have to say that I think the odds are stacked against him, even before he opens his mouth.
The Old Testament gives us all sorts of strange stories. One that I’ve been thinking about lately is the delightfully wacky book of Esther. In particular, I’ve been wondering about the lessons on sex and morality that we can learn from this book. And I find the answers a little surprising, to say the least. We’ll start with lesson one from Esther: Use sex to get power.
Somehow I ended up on the official Church website for UK and Ireland and found this on the top of the page: “The Gender Recognition Bill, which is currently being considered in the House of Commons will allow a man to become a woman in law (and vice versa). This means transsexuals will be able to marry in their assumed sex. The legislation also makes it a criminal offence to disclose the birth sex of a transsexual. We stress that this Bill poses a real threat to religious freedom and we oppose it because we believe it runs counter to the will of God. Please make your opposition known by writing to your local MP as soon as possible. “
As is often the case, Matt Evans was way ahead of the curve when he discussed polyamory back in January with the post, “The Conservative Case for Group and Sibling Marriage.” But here is a new angle (at least to me): some Unitarians are now actively promoting polyamory. The money quotation: It’s the new polygamy, and according to the Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness, their relationships are at least as ethical as other marriages — gay or straight. At least as ethical? The implication, of course, is that they may be even more ethical. How so? Consider this from Jasmine Walston, president of the Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness: “Polyamory is not an alternative to monogamy. It’s an alternative to cheating. For some of us, monogamy doesn’t work, and cheating was just abhorrent to me.” As Meg Ryan said (often) in Joe Versus the Volcano: “I have no response to that.” But I am sure someone else here does.
A recent article about the Justice Department committing new resources to prosecute a “war on porn” has started lots of discussion in the blogosphere. (See here, here, here). Many people think that setting up an office with 32 prosecutors, plus assorted investigators and FBI agents, is a misguided use of resources, given current budget deficits and the ongiong war in Iraq. And this isn’t child porn we’re talking about — some of the targets of the new investigation include soft-core cable programs on HBO, and adult movies offered at hotels on pay-per-view. What should we think of this effort, as church members? I’m a bit conflicted. Porn is clearly a problem; it is clearly a bad thing; and I hate to go on the record as being in favor of porn. On the other hand, I’m skeptical of laws telling people that they can’t voluntarily watch adult movies. (Child porn is a completely different issue — those laws should definitely be enforced). And this use of resources, as commenters suggest, does seem misguided. So, in the end, I find myself agreeing with Andrew Sullivan, who wrote with his typical pith: With the Justice Department having nothing better to do, like catch Jihadists, it’s very important that they keep a fierce and unrelenting eye on adults enjoying themselves in the privacy of their own homes. UPDATE: I just noticed that Eugene Volokh also has some commentary, suggesting that these efforts are…
I have spent the last week or so working on a child sex abuse case at work. As a result, I have been reading a large number of judicial cases describing various forms of sexual abuse of children.
I just read an article in the March 2004 issue of Harper’s Magazine by Francine Prose titled, “Voting Deomcracy Off The Island: Reality TV and the Republican Ethos.” It’s a rather long, impassioned exploration of the messages and influence of reality tv programs that I found quite disturbing, especially given the popularity, growth, and perceived innocuousness of such programs. She notes incentives for deceit and dishonesty; institutionalized deceit on the part of producers; cruelty and humor at the expense of others; “morality as an albatross or obstacle” to success; that “every human being can and will do anything for money” [italics hers]; and the reduction of marriage to seduction and consumerist spectacle. [Note: Prose doesn’t, I feel, make her case that these values are intrinsically Republican. Corporate, yes. Republican, not really. GOP’ers can safely read it while on the train driving their Hummers. ;) ] I never watch reality tv, or more accurately, “reality tv,” and didn’t know who Ryan and Trista were (or why they were on the cover of People every time I went to the store), but a series about The Bachelorette‘s $7mm wedding, including “the most expensive bridal shoe in the history of the world” [??] seems about as alien and demeaning to my ideals of marriage as I can imagine. These depictions of marriage strike me as both demeaning and utterly alien to a sincerely held LDS belief of eternal marriage, temple marriage.
At first blush, this may not seem like a serious entry, but it is. (Well, mostly serious anyway.) The other night, I was watching television just before midnight. I don’t remember the program for sure, but since I have a limited palate, it must have been Law & Order, Monk, or a college baskeball game. In other words, nothing that would have signalled to me that I should be especially cautious about the commercials. Suddenly, I was assaulted by a commercial featuring a woman talking about “that special part of a man’s body.” I could not believe what I was watching! And, of course, like a gawker by an accident, I could not change the channel. I just sat there, slack-jawed. She kept saying that phrase over and over, using her tone to put it into italics.
A February 25 statement by Congressman Jim McDermott highlights some of the potential problems of arguing that marriage should be (as the Presidential prayer team has suggested) based on “biblical principles.” Such as: A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed. Ouch! (See also this blog providing further textual support for the passages the Congressman didn’t give verses for). (Link via Heidi Bond).
Stake visitors amble through the hallways during Sunday School time of ward conference in an urban Chicago ward. Suddenly, bellowing from the young women’s classroom, comes the teacher’s mighty voice: “Chastity means NO SEX, NO SEX, NO SEX!” Just how do we communicate sexual standards in understandable, meaningful, practical ways?
This recent New York Times article discusses how important gay marriage has become for conservatives, providing many conservative groups with a new focal point. Indeed, gay marriage (or the specter of it) is probably a more important issue to conservatives than it is to liberals. For many liberals, the issue is relatively unimportant, compared with, say, war in Iraq, federal judiciary appointments, drilling in Alaska, and deprivation of civil liberties under the Patriot Act. Meanwhile, for many conservatives, gay marriage seems to be the most important issue. And that difference in relative importance influences how politicians approach the question.
Adding further to the discussion of whether or not homosexuality can be considered natural, an article in today’s New York Times discusses the apparently prevalent phenomenon of gay penguins. Who would have thought?
A while back on an abortion-related thread, one commenter broughtup the old idea that abortion rights could suggest conjoined twins might have a right to kill the twin. That line of argument may no longer be dealing in hypotheticals. Doctors are now preparing to remove the second head from an infant born with two heads. The second head, while not attached to a body of its own, has a partially formed brain, eyes, ears, and lips, and its mouth moves when the baby breast-feeds.
A recent Meridian Magazine article discusses gay marriage. While the article has been praised elsewhere in the blogosphere, I thought the article as a whole was unconvincing, and there was one sentence in particular that I found disturbing. Ms. Barlow states that: “There is no societal benefit to homosexual unions which are based primarily on genital stimulation and the perception of love.” Quite frankly, anyone who thinks that gay relationships are based primarily on “genital stimulation” (wow – she can’t even bring herself to say “sex”!) should actually meet a few gays. Or even crack open a newspaper once in a while and read about committed, long-term gay relationships. Many Mormons seem to have the idea that all gays are wild partiers running naked around Greenwich Village. (And if that were true, then gay marriage might be a bad idea — but it’s not the case.)
In his column last November, David Brooks’ argued for gay marriage on the premise that it would channel gays into monogamous relationships, and that monogamous relationships are healthy and fulfilling. If gay couples want to be faithful and monogamous, Brooks opines, conservatives should be doing all they can to encourage and support them. He’s partly right. But he’s mostly wrong because he doesn’t go far enough.
In his attempt to overcome the ‘secularist’ charge and to prove he understands religion, Howard Dean said this week, “[f]rom a religious point of view, if God had thought homosexuality is a sin, he would not have created gay people.” Let me start by noting that if this statement is typical of the quality of Dean’s thinking “from a religious point of view,” it’s not hard to figure out why Dean isn’t religious. Even if he isn’t religious, he’s not an idiot, either, so his argument must have made sense according to his secular worldview. (Andrew Sullivan seems to think it’s compelling, too.) By religious and secular standards, this argument is foolish, no matter that many otherwise-intelligent people have been hoodwinked by it. Too many people think that if they can only prove their behavior is biologically based, due to factors beyond their control, true to their innate identity, or “natural”, then their behavior is justified. But being “born that way” tells us nothing about whether a behavior is right or wrong.
Is it good, bad, or neutral, to have sex before marriage? This topic comes up often in discussions in many places. The church has taken the unambiguous position that pre-marital sex is wrong. For us as members, what does the church’s teaching mean about its (and our) attitudes about sex generally?
This was sent to me by my friend Dan Burk, who is currently a visiting professor at Berkeley: The consecration of Gene Robison as bishop of the New Hampshire Diocese of the Episcopal Church is an affront to Christians everywhere. I am just thankful that the church’s founder, Henry VIII, and his wife Catherine of Aragon, and his wife Anne Boleyn, and his wife Jane Seymour, and his wife Anne of Cleves, and his wife Katherine Howard, and his wife Catherine Parr are no longer here to suffer through this assault on traditional Christian marriage. — Paul Emmons, Westchester University
Polygamy is in the news once again. CNN reports that an excommunicated member was banned from discussing his ideas about polygamy with his daughter in a child-custody case, and is now suing for the right to teach her about polygamy.