Friday, March 29, 2013

Rev Howard Bess, Modern Iconoclast


Easter Sunday, one of Christendom's holiest celebrations, is coming up this weekend. It's one of the two times that nominal Christians, also called C&E Christians (Christmas and Easter), are expected to show up in person for services. I once used the term disparagingly but  relocating where most of the Christians I know are Conservative Republicans had the effect of ostracizing me from their company. It didn't happen with any malevolence, of course. Christians here are not like that. They have as much contempt for Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church as any infidel. But protocols here in the South are more polite. Our dealings with extremists are more nuanced. They get the silent treatment, also called shunning, which has a rich religious history and is a cousin to iconoclasm.

Which brings me to a Rev. Howard Bess, a renegade Baptist preacher, who has been tearing at the fabric of some of Christianity's most cherished institutions for years. The Rev. Bess lives in Palmer, Alaska. His email address is hdbss@mtaonline.net.
It was while I was in seminary that I learned that the Bible is like every other book in that every word, every sentence, every paragraph was written by a human being and in a context. So, everything that is reported about Jesus had a context.

Early in the modern effort to understand Jesus in context, scholars concluded that Jesus was crucified by Romans soldiers (not by Jews) because he was a social and political rabble-rouser. The Roman rulers could not have cared less about Jesus’s ideas about heaven. They killed him for political reasons.

The idea that Jesus was a universal sacrifice for the sins of the whole world was a theological construction of Paul, who never knew Jesus and had little knowledge of his life. Indeed, in Paul’s many writings, he never indicates any awareness of the life of Jesus or his teachings.

Instead, Paul said he had an experience of the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus, and he developed a theology to fit his experience and his background in Judaism (with its emphasis on sacrifice, not forgiveness).

Despite Paul’s lack of contact with Jesus during his days as a teacher (and Paul’s strained relationship with Jesus’s disciples), Paul became the early church’s theologian, a brilliant thinker with unbounded energy. He was literate and wrote voluminously.

By contrast, Jesus’s disciples were not writers and none of the gospel writings can be traced to them. The gospels that we have in the Bible are collections of oral traditions reduced to writing and enlarged by unknown writers two generations after the death of Jesus.
His understanding of the significance of Easter is clearly heretical to respectable Christian doctrine. But seen through a secular, political lens, it is at least a springboard for discussion. Any sincere Christian wanting to engage non-believers in conversations leading to conversion must either be prepared to counter these claims, accept them or leave the matter to someone else.
The Two Views of Jesus’s Murder  
 By the Rev. Howard Bess, March 29, 2013
Christian Holy Week begins with Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) and concludes with his celebrated resurrection (Easter). But what happened during that fateful week and the meaning of the Crucifixion remain a central focus of Christian debate. 
Was Jesus killed by the Romans as an insurrectionist because he favored political and economic justice for the poor and acted out his outrage by overturning money-changing tables at the Temple? Or did he die as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of mankind in the eyes of God?

Rob Bell’s recent book, Love Wins, has brought the subject into sharp focus as a challenge to the traditional Christian theology that Jesus died as a sacrifice for sin and that his sacrificial death was somehow required by a just God so the sins of the world could be forgiven.
For many Christians this understanding of this sacrificial death of Jesus presents a stern, demanding God (arranging the brutal torture and murder of his only begotten son) rather than a loving heavenly father who embraces all of humankind out of boundless love. 
Bell argues that the two images of God (a demanding tyrant God and a loving God) are so incompatible that a choice must be made. Bell argues that there can be only one conclusion, i.e. the title of his book: Love Wins. 
Yet, among early Christians, there was no commonly accepted meaning and understanding of the death of Jesus. According to the gospel accounts, the Crucifixion took place because he was charged with insurrection, and his call for the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth was interpreted as seeking the overthrow of the Roman rulers. This history has strong supporting research. 
Based on that research, scholars believe that Jesus grew up and taught in a rural area 70 miles north of Jerusalem. His faith was shaped, not by Jerusalem and the Temple, but by weekly gatherings of the community elders as they read Torah (Jewish law) and discussed its meaning.
Jesus and his followers had only limited contact with Jerusalem’s social, political and religious leaders, mostly through the retainers (enforcers) of Herod’s Roman rule who also represented the Jerusalem Temple. Retainers made regular trips into the rural north to collect tithes and taxes. 
To understand Jesus, one must realize the depth of his contempt for both the rule of Herod and the religious rulers of the Temple. 
Northern Palestine was a hotbed for what was known as the small tradition, which found heroes in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Micah and other Old Testament prophets, almost all of whom were critics of the great tradition leaders who controlled the Temple in Jerusalem. 
As modern New Testament scholars have reconstructed the context in which Jesus lived and taught, they have realized that Jesus was not simply a religious figure. He was a severe critic of those who controlled the Temple, those who controlled the Empire, and those who controlled the economic systems that starved and robbed the poor and left the orphan and the widow to fend for themselves. To Jesus, these issues all tied together. 
But Jesus was a largely unknown and harmless critic as long as he remained in his northern rural setting. He was clearly an apocalyptic preacher. He advocated overthrow of a corrupt system. He believed the days of the oppressors were numbered. But he believed the overthrow could be accomplished by love, mercy and kindness. 
Jesus took his message to Jerusalem. However, to call his arrival a triumphal entry is to miss the point completely. He chose to enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey as mockery of the ruler’s horse. It was an ancient form of street theatre that Jesus and his followers used to make their point. The great tradition that was accepted by Jerusalem’s masses was being publicly taunted by a figure of the small tradition. 
But the critical point of Jesus’s visit to Jerusalem came when he visited the Temple. In no sense had he come to worship and make sacrifice. He went to disrupt and to make pronouncements about the judgment of God on the whole operation. He went to the Temple to announce the destruction of a whole way of life. 
As a result, the charges that were leveled against Jesus can be summed up as insurrection. There were three specific charges: encouraging non-payment of taxes, threatening to destroy property (the Temple), and claiming to be a king. It was the Temple incident that took Jesus from being an irritating, but harmless country rebel from the rural north to a nuisance in a city that controlled the great tradition. As a result, Rome’s retainers killed him on a cross. 
Yet, how Christians later interpreted these events was influenced by the Old Testament in which priests laid out a sacrificial system in which animals were ceremonially sacrificed to appease God for the sins of the people. Solomon had built a great Temple to carry out these sacrifices. Some Old Testament prophets protested this system, as did Jesus. 
The Gospel of John reflected the commonly held interpretation of Jesus’s Crucifixion in the early Second Century C.E. Stated simply, according to the John writer, Jesus died a martyr’s death on behalf of his friends in protest against a corrupt political and religious system. Jesus willingly died because he loved his friends. 
There is another notable insight found in John 15. Jesus is quoted as saying “No longer will I call you servants but rather I call you friends.” In a bold move, the John writer wipes out the master/servant relationship between Jesus and his disciples and makes it into a friendship so close that Jesus would gladly die for them. 
In the passage, Jesus is prompted to call his disciples “friends” four times. No other place in the four gospels are the disciples called “friends” of Jesus. 
However, centuries after Jesus’s death, the Latin interpretation of the Crucifixion took over the Church’s understanding of what happened on that first “Good Friday.” In Latinized Christianity, which followed the Old Testament sacrificial system, the cross became an altar on which Jesus became a sacrificial lamb. 
According to the Latinized version, Jesus died for the sins of the world to appease an upset God. Now, many thoughtful Christians, led by Rob Bell, are protesting as unacceptable that understanding of the cross. 
Yet, the passage found in John’s gospel gives us a new insight into the meaning of Holy Week and its celebrations. Holy Week does not find its most profound meaning in a sacrificial system that is demanded by an upset God. 
Holy Week is a time to celebrate a friendship with Jesus, who is viewed by Christians as the special son of a loving God, a friendship so profound that Jesus was willing to die for the just causes of his friends.

Blog Recommendation -- NOT THE SINGULARITY

My former blog host, Steve Hynd, has put together a top-notch team of smart people at NOT THE SINGULARITY, an eclectic presentation -- the blogging equivalent of fresh red meat -- divided into four categories: Culture, Gaming, Tech and Politics.  I'm not "into" gaming at all, and my interest in technology is strictly that of a layman. But culture and politics are categories I can get my teeth into. They're mostly opinions. "...like a**holes: everybody has one & they all stink...."  And ...."I don't know if it's art but I know what I like."  Here is a sample of very rich content that caught my eye today.

Exposing the Abuse-Riddled “Troubled Teen” Industry
Yet another (*take-ur-pik*) Industrial Complex developing in our bubble economy...
Naturally, some teens are more confused and conflicted than others as a result of specific influences in their lives and may sometimes employ inadequate coping strategies. This often translates into troublesome behavior. It is this type of teen that the “troubled teen” industry latches onto with a fierce marketing campaign that speaks the language of love and caring to ensnare unsuspecting parents. Check out this recruiting website which exudes a sense of “softness” with its image of a pink flower positioned beside a few white capsules. 
However, many of these institutions are anything but caring heaping abuse upon abuse on these adolescents that have long-lasting effects.
There are places where no cell phones or Internet are permitted. Places isolated in the wilderness miles from any form of civilization, where children are taken to correct their behavior — and suffer a wide array of vicious torments.
Many of the survivors suffer from PTSD or continue to have nightmares years after their ‘treatment’ in one of these institutions.
How Destroying Evidence Of Torture Gets You Promoted In Obama’s CIA
The reader will discover here that Steve is nobody's sycophant.
If you helped cover up evidence of war crimes by destroying unknown numbers of tapes of torture during interrogations and had actually run the “black site” prisons into which detainees were disappeared for torture, then given the President’s past rhetoric the last thing you’d have expected the Obama administration to agree to would have been your promotion to head of the clandestine service of the nation’s premier intelligence agency, right?
Fast forward to 2013.
[...]
...the decision on whether to allow one of the worst perpetrators of this crime against humanity to lead the nation’s clandestine service is in the hands of John Brennan, keeper of Obama’s “kill list” and a man who during the Bush administration was either fully complicit in illegal rendition and “enhanced interrogation” or at minimum looked the other way.
Shocking: The Nazis Hated Jazz
In the short span of a few paragraphs Matthew Elliot points to another blog, a promising new movie (Yep, trailer included) and a historical factoid with contemporary resonance. (How do you spell Rap, Punk or Grunge?
As per the late Czech writer and dissident Josef Skvorecky, courtesy Open Culture (h/t):
An aspiring tenor saxophone player living in Third Reich-occupied Czechoslovakia, Skvorecky had ample opportunity to experience the Nazis’ “control-freak hatred of jazz.” In the intro to his short novel The Bass Saxophone, he recounts from memory a set of ten bizarre regulations issued by a Gauleiter, a regional Nazi official, that bound local dance orchestras during the Czech occupation.
HR933 “Monsanto Protection Act”
As I said, this blog is not anybody's sycophant. It's not hard to be Liberal and critical of Democrats at the same time when you're paying attention.
HR 933 was signed into law on Tuesday, called the ”Monsanto Protection Act”. This bill was suppose to be a simple spending bill but section 735 of the bill made it impossible for you or me to sue Monsanto if we get sick from their genetically modified crops. I want to scream at the Republicans for sending Sen. Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, to craft the provision with the help of Monsanto itself. I want to kick the ass of the Democrats like Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski who turned her “back on consumers” according to Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety,

Billy Joel at Vanderbilt

This recent You Tube video is one of my favorites.
I'm embedding it here to break the routine and see how a video looks in my new blog.
Enjoy.

The Forbidden Viewing

[Dr. Salwitz is a blogging oncologist whom I have followed for some time. He sees a lot of death and dying in his line of work. His observations are always sensitive and timely. Here is what he posted today.]
A single blue bulb on the covered front porch lights the empty funeral home parking lot dimly, while the moon casts pale illumination despite the clear winter sky. Occasionally, headlights and engine dash by, quickly leaving silence. The mass of the Victorian manor, black shutters against white clapboard, stares down, as it has for 125 years.
Steve cries silently as he waits. For too short a time they shared life, always together. Now, only one, he thinks of the cold body inside. 
A car pulls into the lot and parks askew the back door; black, small, probably a Civic. Steve pulls his coat high around his neck in a wasted attempt to arrest the chill and climbs out, forcing weak legs to take him, as the thin figure opens the unlit servant’s entrance, the back step barely a porch at all. An embracing handshake, squeeze on the elbow and the mortician leads Steve inside. 
The things that make the ancient building safe in the day; fireplace, caged bird song, music, soft lighting, people, are absent, leaving an invasive gloom which follows as they move from room to room; floorboards creak, and heavy curtains hang still. The greeting book is open on its ornate stand, waiting for morning visitors. The director turns on a few lights and leads Steve into the viewing room. 
They had a life of joy and wonder. Years of friends, success, failure, struggle, travel, learning, service and love. Those perfect times end in this last secret meeting in the dark. Memories shared with no one at midnight. 
Rows of chairs attend, seven on each side and seven deep. Empty wire frames guard, ready for flowers, which have not yet arrived. The casket has heavy brass oyster shell handles and is sky blue, while crude wisps of painted clouds play across its smooth surface. Three crosses anoint one side. 
The director opens the casket, and gently removes the soft white cloth placed to keep features and makeup intact. Steve stares into the dead face, nestled on a bed of navy velvet, a caricature of the man who was his world, his sole mate, and his lover. John is at peace now, no more suffering from the rotting disease. Steve wants to be grateful for that peace, that deliverance, but they still had so much to do, so much to share, so many hopes and dreams. Gone now for eternity. 
“What time is the funeral?” Asks Steve.
“10:00 at St Paul’s,” answers the director. “You know they have forbidden you to go.”
“Yes, I know. I thought maybe I would watch from across the cemetery or I’ll go to Sacred Heart and pray.”
“Better you stay away from the service.”
“You’re probably right.”
“How long were you together?”
“32 years.”
“Did you see his family over the years?”
“No. They never wanted us to be together. They only appeared recently at the hospital, when he was dying.”
“Were you with him when he died?”
“No… they wouldn’t let me see him. I only knew he was gone when a nurse from the hospital called.”
“I am very sorry.” 
Steve stands in the shadows; the only sound the blowing of the furnace, not enough to heat the dampness. Steve’s hand rests on John’s hard shoulder, the old suit too large. Memory and pain in his chest, feelings that fill every forlorn corner. 
1:00am. The mortician gently puts the white cloth across John’s face and closes the burial box. He guides Steve back through silent rooms, turning out the few lights as they go. Out the back, down the few steps, softly locks the door. 
An embracing handshake. Squeeze on the elbow. A cold wind now blows. The moon hides in a cloud and the lot has a faint azure glow. Heavy steps to the heatless car. The forbidden mourner.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

"The Pill made same-sex nuptials inevitable."

Donald Sensing is someone I knew from my former blogging life. 
This op-ed from the Wall Street Journal in 2004 was more than prescient. 
It was prophetic.

Save Marriage? It's Too Late. The Pill made same-sex nuptials inevitable.
By DONALD SENSING
Opponents of legalized same-sex marriage say they're trying to protect a beleaguered institution, but they're a little late. The walls of traditional marriage were breached 40 years ago; what we are witnessing now is the storming of the last bastion. 
Marriage is primarily a social institution, not a religious one. That is, marriage is a universal phenomenon of human cultures in all times and places, regardless of the religion of the people concerned, and has taken the same basic form in all those cultures. Marriage existed long before Abraham, Jesus or any other religious figure. The institution of marriage is literally prehistoric. 
The three monotheistic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) actually recognize this explicitly in their holy writings. The book of Genesis ascribes the foundation of marriage in the very acts of God himself in the creation of the world: "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him. . . . A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:18, 24). 
The three great religions base their definition of marriage on these verses and others that echo them. In Christian theological terms, the definition of marriage is part of the natural law of the creation; therefore, the definition may not be changed by human will except in peril to the health of human community. 
Psychobiologists argue that marriage evolved as a way of mediating the conflicting reproductive interests of men and women. It was the means by which a woman could guarantee to a specific man that the children she bore were his. In biological terms, men can sire hundreds of children in their lives, but this biological ability is limited by the fact that no one woman can keep pace.
Siring kids by multiple women is the only way men can achieve high levels of reproduction, but there is no adaptive advantage for women in bearing children by men who are simply trying to sire as many children as possible. For a mother, carrying and raising a child is a resource-intensive, years-long business. Doing it alone is a marked adaptive disadvantage for single mothers and their children. 
So the economics of sex evolved into a win-win deal. Women agreed to give men exclusive sexual rights and guaranteed paternity in exchange for their sexual loyalty and enduring assistance with childbearing and -rearing. The man's promise of sexual loyalty meant that he would expend his labor and resources supporting her children, not another woman's. For the man, this arrangement lessens the number of potential children he can sire, but it ensures that her kids are his kids. Guaranteed sex with one woman also enabled him to conserve his resources and energies for other pursuits than repetitive courtship, which consumes both greatly. 
Weddings ceremoniously legitimated the sexual union of a particular man and woman under the guidance of the greater community. In granting this license, society also promised structures beneficial to children arising from the marriage and ensuring their well-being.
Society's stake in marriage as an institution is nothing less than the perpetuation of the society itself, a matter of much greater than merely private concern. Yet society cannot compel men and women to bring forth their replacements. Marriage as conventionally defined is still the ordinary practice in Europe, yet the birthrate in most of Europe is now less than the replacement rate, which will have all sorts of dire consequences for its future. 
Today, though, sexual intercourse is delinked from procreation. Since the invention of the Pill some 40 years ago, human beings have for the first time been able to control reproduction with a very high degree of assurance. That led to what our grandparents would have called rampant promiscuity. The causal relationships between sex, pregnancy and marriage were severed in a fundamental way. The impulse toward premarital chastity for women was always the fear of bearing a child alone. The Pill removed this fear. Along with it went the need of men to commit themselves exclusively to one woman in order to enjoy sexual relations at all. Over the past four decades, women have trained men that marriage is no longer necessary for sex. But women have also sadly discovered that they can't reliably gain men's sexual and emotional commitment to them by giving them sex before marriage. 
Nationwide, the marriage rate has plunged 43% since 1960. Instead of getting married, men and women are just living together, cohabitation having increased tenfold in the same period. According to a University of Chicago study, cohabitation has become the norm. More than half the men and women who do get married have already lived together. 
The widespread social acceptance of these changes is impelling the move toward homosexual marriage. Men and women living together and having sexual relations "without benefit of clergy," as the old phrasing goes, became not merely an accepted lifestyle, but the dominant lifestyle in the under-30 demographic within the past few years. Because they are able to control their reproductive abilities--that is, have sex without sex's results--the arguments against homosexual consanguinity began to wilt. 
When society decided--and we have decided, this fight is over--that society would no longer decide the legitimacy of sexual relations between particular men and women, weddings became basically symbolic rather than substantive, and have come for most couples the shortcut way to make the legal compact regarding property rights, inheritance and certain other regulatory benefits. But what weddings do not do any longer is give to a man and a woman society's permission to have sex and procreate. 
Sex, childbearing and marriage now have no necessary connection to one another, because the biological connection between sex and childbearing is controllable. The fundamental basis for marriage has thus been technologically obviated. Pair that development with rampant, easy divorce without social stigma, and talk in 2004 of "saving marriage" is pretty specious. There's little there left to save. Men and women today who have successful, enduring marriages till death do them part do so in spite of society, not because of it 
If society has abandoned regulating heterosexual conduct of men and women, what right does it have to regulate homosexual conduct, including the regulation of their legal and property relationship with one another to mirror exactly that of hetero, married couples?
I believe that this state of affairs is contrary to the will of God. But traditionalists, especially Christian traditionalists (in whose ranks I include myself) need to get a clue about what has really been going on and face the fact that same-sex marriage, if it comes about, will not cause the degeneration of the institution of marriage; it is the result of it.

Jeffrey Toobin Sez DOMA Is Dead

About midway through the argument, Paul Clement, who was representing the House Republicans and defending DOMA, was cruising along. He was portraying DOMA as almost a kind of housekeeping measure, designed to keep federal law consistent across all fifty states. As Clement told it, there was almost no ideological content to the law at all. 
Then Justice Elena Kagan swiftly and elegantly lowered the boom on him. She said, “Well, is what happened in 1996—and I’m going to quote from the House Report here—is that ‘Congress decided … to express moral disapproval of homosexuality.’” A collective woo went through the audience. Kagan had the temerity to tell what everyone knew to be the truth—that DOMA was a bigoted law designed to humiliate and oppress gay people. 
Clement, an eloquent advocate in oral arguments, was reduced to stammering like Ralph Kramden. He said that was not enough to invalidate the law: “Look, we are not going to strike down a statute just because a couple of legislators may have had an improper motive.” But suddenly it was clear. No one could deny that there was an improper motive—anti-gay prejudice—underlying DOMA. 
But the second key moment illustrated the difference between 1996 and 2013. Toward the end of the argument, Roberts asked Roberta Kaplan, the lawyer for Windsor, “You don’t doubt that the lobby supporting the enactment of same sex-marriage laws in different states is politically powerful, do you?” Kaplan—somewhat improbably —denied it. Roberts fought back: “As far as I can tell, political figures are falling over themselves to endorse your side of the case.” 
But Roberts was right on both counts—that the gay-rights movement is politically powerful and many politicians have been lining up to support same-sex marriage. Roberts was raising the point to argue that gay people no longer needed the protection of the courts. They could take care of themselves in the rough and tumble of politics. In this Roberts was half right. Gay people now can take care of themselves—but they also suffer under the yoke of discriminatory laws like DOMA. 
The larger point was clear: times have changed. Gay people deserve changes in the law—now. That’s why we have courts. But the extraordinary subtext of the two days of arguments was that everyone knew those changes were coming, with or without the Supreme Court. That’s why everyone could relax (sort of) in the courtroom. Everyone knew how this story ended.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Notes on Marriage and Taxes

[Starting this new blog a couple days ago, I did not aim to make the first post topical. It's supposed to be an introduction to me and my background, replete with links, etc. But I haven't time this morning for all that so the following notes will be recorded here instead...]


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My Facebook friend Kami Donnelly (who has been a cyber-friend for years, but that story will have to wait for another post) put a simple question on her timeline:  "Am I the only one that thinks government shouldn't be in the marriage business in the first place???"  
She received a short string of comments, including mine, which I am capturing here for future reference...
Probably not. But as long as tax policy and survivor benefits are a matter of law the role of government is inevitable. The "marriage penalty" for instance means that a lot of old people are shacking up instead of getting married lest one or the other lose part of their income. Same dilemma for two wage earners who decide if "filing jointly" or "filing separately" results in a lower tax rate. Then there is the matter of child support, alimony and which parent may claim a child of a divorce as a dependent. All these financial and legal puzzles arise from marriage policies.  
Tomorrow the Court will hear arguments about the Defense of Marriage Act which disallows even same-sex companions granted "civil union" status in several states from receiving federal benefits -- insurance coverage or any benefits forthcoming to veterans or military casualties. Again, the definition of what constitutes marriage will be the centerpiece of the argument.
Thanks to the Tenth Amendment most of those definitions are considered state responsibility rather than federal. For example the legal ages for voting, drinking, consent to marry, status of "emancipated minor" and others is a state matter and varies from state to state. That list of race, religion, place of national origin, gender, etc which defines what is called the "protected classes" for the purpose of legally defining discrimination has NOT thus far included sexual orientation as a "protected class." Employment issues dividing the "right to work" states from those which are more union-friendly is another example of an issue that has historically been a state matter, not federal. 
When a state or national government collects taxes it becomes responsible for how that those taxes are used. The creation of a marriage -- in fact the legal creation of any entity called "church" -- involves tax policy. Without a license the relationship of two people living together falls into a grey area that the law has recognized from ancient times, "common law marriage". By licensing marriage the state clarifies and recognizes the relationship legally (not morally -- morality is not decided by law) for tax purposes. Moreover, a clear, dated, filed and legally established marriage clarifies matters of divorce, inheritance, child support and benefits status of spouses. (In fact, a marriage license gives legal meaning to the commonly used word "spouse" which does not refer to gender.) As long as churches (and church related business operations -- hospitals, schools, other properties) enjoy the benefits of being tax-exempt, they have traded their "separateness from the state" for those tax advantages. And don't forget that church contributions are also tax deductible, another tax benefit bestowed on both churches and their membership by the state.

Arguments for the separation of church and state quickly melt when taxes become part of the discussion.
Already I have used these notes to interact with another blog post at Not The oSingularity.
I have a feeling that keeping up with a blog in addition to Twitter and Facebook is gonna require me to be quick on my  feet   keyboard.

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Seems like when I first wake up my mind works most clearly. My first Facebook comments often come out better organized than later in the day when my head gets full of too many distracting thoughts. This is what just came out this morning in response to someone else's "status update" reflecting on the Supreme Court's session today hearing arguments regarding the constitutionality of California's Proposition Eight, which made gay marriage illegal in that state.

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I've watched sincere religious folks working all my life to use the law to make everybody's beliefs and behaviors conform to their own. How many times have we heard "there oughta be a law"? It's a human impulse, I suppose. It was tried with drinking so we got prohibition (which clearly failed to stop that behavior). As everybody knows by now there is a subset of faithful Muslims who want to make religious law trump civil law, although in places where that has been imposed results are way short of the goals (provisions must be made for infidels to drink and even religious laws must bend to wink at prostitution). The reality is that legality and morality are not congruent. They never were and never will be identical. I think it was one of the Federalist papers that observed that if men were angels there would be no government.

Those who want to encourage and support traditional marriage would serve their aims better by discovering and working on the reasons for the failure rate as reflected in divorce statistics and what has been called "serial monogamy." Likewise, those who would make end of life and beginning of life rules normative for all would be more effective by changing their goals. Encouraging widespread sex education and accessibility to effective family planning, including effective, easily obtained contraception, would dramatically reduce abortion rates much better than the blunt instruments being wielded by the so-called "pro-life" crowd. And the religious extremists (who say the afterlife is better than this one) would make the end of this one less painful by advancing the causes of palliative care and hospice instead of yelling about death panels.

The Court only hears arguments today. We won't discover the final decision for some time. Let's hope they find a way that we can all just get along. Where the is a will there is a way. A way to "get along" is what I mean, not to make everybody agree. Isn't that what democracy is really about? There is a story about Jews and Christians arguing about the Messiah. As Christians wait for a Second Coming, Jews still wait for the First. They finally decided to get along when someone suggested "let's wait for Him to come, and when he gets here we can ask Him if He's ever been here before."