Archive for January, 2009

Traditional Marriage, Bible-style

January 3, 2009

Apropos that last post, I should say that I really don’t understand Rick Warren’s statement (with which I’m certain many others would agree) that

For 5,000 years, marriage has been defined by every single culture and every single religion – this is not a Christian issue. Buddhist, Muslims, Jews – historically, marriage is a man and a woman.

It doesn’t take a particularly deep reading of our own sacred scriptures to see how wildly wrong that is. Biblically, marriage is a man and a woman, and another woman, and another woman… Mitt Romney was sorta right on that one, if you really believe your scriptures. And let’s not get started on Levirate marriage.

That’s all Old Testament, of course. Without knowing anything about it I assume that Hellenization and then Romanization put the kibosh on polygamy at some point after the Exile. Or maybe it was just relative peace—polygamy works better if there are constant wars and things to create a nice supply of widows. But the New Testament isn’t particularly friendly to “traditional marriage.” Jesus—not noticeably family-friendly—seemed to care at least as much about marriage as a metaphor as an institution. And has there ever been a less ringing endorsement of anything than Paul’s “better to marry than to burn?”

So seriously, can anyone explain this to me? It’s not a rhetorical question. I genuinely don’t understand how anyone who has read the Bible can think it even conceives of, let alone mandates, anything like what we label “traditional marriage.”

The Purpose-Driven Inauguration

January 3, 2009

I was not at all surprised that Barack Obama picked Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration. Not that I called it, but hey, I did write that “he’s headed towards being the next Billy Graham, only without the anti-Semitism.” I was surprised at the outraged reaction of many of my fellow liberals, including those who are generally thoughtful and reasonable—see for example Dahlia Lithwick (whose writing I love) et al. of Slate‘s “XX Factor.”1 We liberals loved Obama’s inclusive bipartisan rhetoric, but many of us are apparently appalled to find that he actually meant it.

Now I understand not much liking Rick Warren. I wouldn’t go to his church. His book left me cold.2 I am annoyed about Proposition 8. But (AFAICT) Warren is very much not Pat Robertson and James Dobson. Maybe I’m deluding myself, but he really does seems to represent what’s good about evangelical Christianity. And there is much that is, or can be, good about evangelical Christianity. The fact that so many of us liberals don’t seem to understand that saddens me. Anathemizing anyone who disagrees with you just isn’t good policy. Warren and the many evangelicals he represents don’t demonize us; we shouldn’t demonize them.

The Bush administration and its many admirers lived in an echo chamber that drowned out anything they didn’t want to hear. We shouldn’t make that mistake.

[But if you’d prefer to think of Obama as Machiavellian than broad-minded, see this.]


1. Christopher Hitchens, on the other hand, objects to Warren for more considered self-consistent reasons: he objects to anyone religious.

2. True, I had a hard time getting past the font.

O Pioneers!

January 3, 2009

What a lot of things I haven’t been blogging about! Let’s see if I can get back into this, with one of the many reasons I’ve done nothing for the last month.

We were smack in the middle of the Great Ice Storm of Aught-Eight last month. Thursday night we went to bed expecting to spend a dreary Friday without power, but nothing more. We were awakened in the night by the CRACK!s of branches and limbs and entire trees falling, one a minute or so. It was really quite terrifying. In the morning we were greeted by, well, nothing at all except more falling branches: not only were the usual house noises silenced by the power outage, but the whole street was eerily empty.

The house hadn’t been crushed by a falling tree during the night—very few were, although I heard of a number of squashed cars—but that was really the only bright spot. No power means no water and no heat. We spent Friday huddled around the fireplace, in moods of varying badness. For most of the day we were trapped. Clearing the driveway was easy enough (although a chainsaw would have helped—I have one, but it’s electric), but the roads were effectively impassable, as I found out when I tried to leave. The problem wasn’t so much the immense fallen branches and piles of brush and downed power lines (hey, it’s not like any of them were live), bad as they were, as at was the limbs that continued to fall through the day. Walking would have been suicidal.

It was pretty, though, in a horrifying sort of way. Everything, still standing or not, was covered with a glittering coat of ice. Imagine Narnia after an artillery battle.

By Friday evening the roads were barely passable, in part because things had been cleared a little but mostly because the debris had mostly stopped falling from above. We spent the night with friends who had been spared the power outage, thanks to the miracle of buried power lines. After that we lived as nomads. I mostly slept at home in the cold. Sleeping in the cold wasn’t really a problem—I did worse on purpose when I was a Boy Scout—but getting to bed and getting up were painful. I took showers at work, and never had the nasty little locker room there seemed so nice.

The whole episode was enormously discouraging. The week just felt lost—no one I talked to managed to get anything at all done during the week, at a time when there was a lot to do, and at the end of it we all felt (and looked) shell-shocked. What lousy pioneers we would have made! A mere six days without power teaches you just what a soft and wimpy weenie you really are. And perhaps more to the point, how spoiled compared to much of the world’s population.

But enough of my pathetic whining! We’re long since back to taking electricity for granted, so on to other things—