I’m Going Spock on you all!

I’m going to conclude this arc of gender/sexuality-related posts by returning to one quote from the Catholocism Pure post that I referenced earlier this week:

We are dooming children like this to a life of hell on earth and, then, to one in eternity as well for their supreme revolt against God and nature

Earlier today, I learned about what’s called the Appeal to Nature fallacy. To put it in very abstract terms, it’s centred on the belief that only what is natural (occurring within nature) is good. To frame it within C.P.’s context, only what is natural is Godly, and only what is Godly will be spared from an eternity in hell. Therefore, being anything other than cisgender is bad for you.

Very bad!

What they don’t realise is that, logically, this probably negates their claim rather than enforces it.

They claim that choosing a gender that does not match your sex goes against nature, but that is only true if sex and gender are one and the same. On the contrary, we already know that gender is an indication of where you view and express yourself on a socially-constructed spectrum, based upon expected behaviours and characteristics. If gender is a social construct, it cannot be good; this renders all genders as ungodly – including the two that they claim are good.

Why this is called a “fallacy” is because the logic either doesn’t apply consistently, or requires more criteria in order to be evaluated. For example, Pokeberries are natural, but you eat them at your own peril. Eating one won’t damn you for all eternity, but you’ll probably spend a night hooked up to a stomach pump. Birds, on the other hand, are immune to their toxins; therefore, pokeberries are indeed natural, but whether they’re good or not depends on who’s going to eat them.

They also state the following:

We are told to consider all these identities as normal as we approach the new godless, genderless frontier of the future.

Feminists like Gloria Steinem are featured, announcing that “the most pressing gender issue of today is getting rid of the idea of gender.”

Logically, if natural equals godly, and we’ve already established that gender is a man-made concept, then only the absence of gender can be godly. Therefore, Gloria Steinem is correct. If you really want to take it to the next level, you could argue that a belief in God must be unnatural since no other species exhibit any form of religious belief and, in the wider view of human existence, religions are a relatively new invention. Unless, of course, you’re a Creationist.

While it’s framed as an Appeal to Nature, it actually looks like they’re mixing an Appeal to Tradition with an Appeal to Authority: it’s basically saying that because we’ve always equated sex with gender, and that was true during Biblical times, there’s no point in changing what’s already established. This appeal to tradition is of no use on its own since “that’s the way it’s always been” does not explicitly mean new ways should not be evaluated and judged on relative merits. The Appeal to Authority is blended in by equating the old ways with God’s way, and God’s way must be followed. As it’s not possible to debate the argument with God directly, God’s authority is invalid. Therefore, it becomes little more than a plea to maintain the status quo.

So, wherever you are on the gender spectrum (if you’re on it at all), don’t worry. Their claim that you’ll be spending eternity in hell is highly illogical.

So live long and prosper!

Do fundamentalists dream of a sex-segregated society?

I’ve been re-reading some of my older posts, and had a bit of a lightbulb moment. When I read the posts about how the late Baptist minister Jack Hyles went on at length about the way men and women should walk, talk and dress, coupled with the current resistance to (or rejection of) trans rights, it got me thinking:

Perhaps their dream is to implement some form of sex segregation?

In the sermon that I (somewhat mockingly) tore apart, Jack Hyles talked ferociously against what he dubbed “the unisex movement”: how men were growing their hair long, women were starting to wear trousers and both sexes were starting to look, and behave, alike. This was back in 1972 – the year the world stood awestruck at the androgynous wonders of David Bowie and Ziggy Stardust. Hyles was preaching that men and women should walk, talk, look and sit differently to each other – his church even ran groups teaching them “the correct ways” – but why was it so important that men and women be so easily identified as such?

My guess is that, as the books of the Bible were written for a time and place where men were powerful and women were property, he saw this as God’s required social model. With men and women becoming more conscious of their equality, he probably saw this as a mass rebellion against the divine.

Under such a strictly-segregated society, the definitions of “male” and “female” must be very rigid and detailed. I presume that by ingraining women to walk and sit in a “correct” way, any man would be able to spot from a distance any women trying to sneakily infiltrate their positions of power. Likewise, the women would be able to spot any roving males who were, shall we say, up to no good.

With Hyles stating that he had rule over his congregation, I’m very sure this kind of society would be much his liking, although I don’t know whether that would make him incredibly old-fashioned or just hungry for power!

Of course, with the trans communities becoming more and more visible, they represent a huge spanner in the works: not so much a convergence of the sexes but a glorious, true-colour, high-definition replacement for what was once a monochromatic gender spectrum.

When your aim is to segregate society into a one-dimensional binary, the addition of extra dimensions makes such a task exponentially more complex. After all, what do you do with those who have completed reassignment surgeries? It’s a lose-lose situation: you’re granting privileges to either women who were born male, or men who were born female. It would not surprise me at all if the plan-of-action involved mobilising their “army of righteousness” to lobby sympathetic government representatives into having all trans people sectioned.

Ultimately, I think the desire for segregation, and the rejection of LGBT+ rights, comes down to just one thing: sex. The survival of the human race is dependent on procreation, so you drive a huge religion-sized wedge along the lines of child-bearing ability and keep the potential mates together. I believe this is why there are still groups dismissive of gay and trans rights in order to protect the role of “the family”. Taking into account how much we know about sexuality, our advances in medicine and our improvements to both pre- and post-natal care, I can’t see how anyone within the broad LGBT+ community could be a threat to the survival of our species with infant mortality rates as low as they are.

If I’m right, and that is truly what they dream about, then to quote the words of Aerosmith:

Dream on!

Facts vs. Truths

In the post I wrote yesterday, published earlier this morning, I countered the argument that feelings were less important than facts on the grounds that feelings are also facts, just on an intrapersonal scale. I recall an interview with British musician Steven Wilson published last week, prior to the release of his new album, in which he commented on the extremely-polarised opinions his new work would likely receive, and how we rarely frame those opinions as opinions. He had a point, and it got me thinking.

The way I see it, “facts” are defined as verifiable binaries, universally-perfect within its environment. As a programmer, I deal with such facts on a daily basis as computers can only “think” in binary. If I write a program to tell the computer that “a = 3″, and then ask it “does a = 3″, it will say “yes”. If I write a different program that tells it “a = 2.9295″, and then ask it the same question, it will say “no”. Whichever computer you run this program on, you will always get the same responses. Do the same with a sample of humans, and you’ll find a range of different responses: you won’t just get “yes” and “no”, you’ll likely also get answers such as “almost” and “not quite”. That’s because, as humans, we are not universally-perfect; we have a larger lexicon with which we can evaluate and respond, and emotions to guide us in doing so.

For example, ask a sample of humans “is a roughly equal to 3″, and you’ll find more yes and no answers depending on what we feel is an acceptable margin of error. Perfect precision is not in our nature.

These are what I define as “truths”: individually-derived binaries. Our thoughts, feelings, beliefs and opinions all fall under this banner. A truth cannot be verified since it exists only within its host, but neither facts nor truths are disputable. If I say “I feel hungry”, you cannot respond with “No you don’t” without looking like some kind of brain-washing totalitarian. The only way to disprove me would be to become me.

The issue is when truths are presented as facts, much with the “Catholocism Pure” blog I referred to yesterday. Facts may be more valuable than truths since they are not objective, but no truth can ever be more valuable than another. You may think that gender non-conformity is abominable, I think it’s inspirational. Is one view more virtuous or valuable than the other? No, and they never will be. The existence of intersex individuals makes it impossible to define male/female as a universally-perfect binary, so the statement that “you are either male or female” cannot be anything more than an independently-held truth. Same with the statement “you are what God made you” – my Christian friends would likely agree with that statement but, as an Agnostic Atheist, I disagree. If it was a fact, there would be no disagreement.

Truths are also transient. We replace our old truths with new truths every day as a result what we learn and what we experience. So instead of pretending our truths are superior to everybody else’s, let’s open a discussion instead and learn together.

That’s what comments sections are for!

Ideology, Feelings and a Catholic Blog

I saw a link on Facebook pointing to an article published by the American College of Pediatricians, entitled Gender Ideology Is Harming Children. The person who shared it on the group was seeking a discussion on its content; they had read it expecting the usual anti-trans diatribe, but found it more explicitly advising against gender-reassignment surgeries and treatments for young children. Fair enough – surgery and psychology are two separate disciplines.

Whilst looking a bit deeper into the subject, I came across this blog post that referenced the same article, seeing it as evidence of their anti-trans prejudices, corroborated by a professional medical body. I would have commented but, whenever I’ve written a counterpoint on a religiously-themed blog, it never gets past their censors – no matter how respecfully it was written. Some days, it’s good to have a blog of your own!

Except it was hard to tell just what their argument was, beyond mere stating examples and expressing astonishment at them.

In the first few paragraphs, they cite the case of Scottish mother Kerri McFayden who is allowing her child, assigned male at birth, to live as a girl. Besides claims that she is “promoting confused thinking”, what was it about McFayden’s case that they disagreed with and why? If the child’s happy, why does it even matter? Personally, if I’m confused by something, I do a bit of extra research or ask for help… from the seems of things, she’d already done both of those!

They then go on to repeat sections of a Time magazine article that promoted young people choosing their gender, remarking that they were choosing from “the 60+ options offered by Facebook” rather than remaining “as God made them”. Ironically, the ACP article they are using to back up their stance states that gender “is a sociological and psychological concept; not an objective biological one.” – in other words, you can’t choose the biological sex you were born with – nobody can – but choosing one’s gender is down to personal expression; no different to choosing which football team to support. If you feel a sociological and psychological connection to West Bromwich Albion, perhaps out of local pride and how you like wearing blue and white stripes, you’re not going to listen to anyone saying “Your thinking is confused! You’re either Chelsea or Arsenal!”

Further down the article, they state: “We are told to consider all these identities as normal as we approach the new godless, genderless frontier of the future. Everything depends on feelings not facts.” How’s about this then….. [drum roll]…

Feelings ARE facts!

Well, they are – they’re just facts that exist on an individually internal level. As I write this, I’m feeling moderately hungry. FACT! I’m also feeling slight discomfort in my back from having sat in my chair for the past hour. FACT! I also feel like knocking down an ice-cold lager with my dinner tonight. FACT! As these facts relate to me and me only, I can’t support them with peer-reviewed evidence, nor can you claim they’re incorrect. How is that different from a biological male who says “I feel I’m a woman”?

All becomes clear towards the end: “We are dooming children like this to a life of hell on earth and, then, to one in eternity as well for their supreme revolt against God and nature”. If they are expressing themselves in a way that is natural to them, what exactly are they revolting against? Also, back on the subject of facts, where exactly does it state – as a proven hard fact, complete with empirical evidence – they will be forced into eternal torment for doing so? You feel that they will – that’s a fact – but what are the chances? The so-called “hell on earth” that they’d face is not so much because of their choices, but because of those who see it as their duty to invalidate those choices. If, as the ACP article states, gender is a psychological and socialogical concept, then you can hardly claim a centures-old book from the Middle East has absolute authority over gender: our knowledge of human psychology has become far more advanced in the centuries since. Our understanding of gender is relatively new, and whenever there’s new learning, there will always be resistance from those who adhere to the old learning. But, as through history, the old learning fades into obscure footnotes.

Besides, if being genderless is so heinous… what gender is God exactly?

Rant in B-sharp: Interfering Wowsers

Last night, in the few minutes between getting into bed and falling asleep, one question wafted into my mind:

Why do some people believe it’s okay to interfere in, criticise or control the lives and choices of others?

In Australia and New Zealand, they have a brilliant word for such people: wowsers. People so prim, proper and moralistic, they suck the fun out of everything. People so easily-offended, freedom of choice and freedom of expression is a scary prospect to them.

Thinking about it further got me more than a little wound up. I’ve been on the receiving end of a fair share of criticism over the years from people who saw themselves on the moral or cultural high ground and saw it as their right to pass comment on others. Therefore, this post may get rather ranty, a bit sarcastic and perhaps a little satirical too. We all need to vent sometimes.

I’d been watching a video on the sexual double standard. If you’re not already familiar with the term, it’s where having many sexual partners is regarded negatively for women, but virtuous for men. From what I gathered, it’s an anachronistic and conservative throwback to the days before contraceptives, where promiscuous women were seen as potential harbingers of venereal diseases… so don’t go there! As such, a woman with no, or few, previous sexual partners was seen as appropriate; however, a man with a similar history must have something seriously wrong with him. How on earth is this still relevant today, and what right do we have to criticise others for what they get up to in the bedroom anyway? If you’re happy and healthy, who cares?!

The same goes for those who believe conversion therapy works, and either encourage, pressure or force their friends or family members to undergo such treatment. What’s the matter? Is the shame of having a gay person in the family so bad that you’ll gladly chip away at your loved ones’ mind through extreme, Clockwork Orange-style therapies; just so you can sleep a little easier? I’m sorry, but if you’re only willing to say “I love you” after you’ve had their nuts wired to a car battery, then you’re the one who needs to seek help.

And while we’re on the subject, stop lobbying your representatives in Government to legally remove the rights of others based on your personal religious views. The same goes for international religious lobby groups too. If you want the freedom to practice your religion without discrimination, then keep your nose out of civic affairsFreedom of religion is a universal human right, as is freedom of conscience, which applies to all and not just your little collective. Freedom from offence is not a human right… so put the placard down and move along.

And finally, here’s a list of a few more things people publicly criticise others for that really pisses me off:

  • Their physical appearance.
  • Their wardrobe choices. There’s a reason Trinny and Susannah aren’t on the air anymore.
  • Their gender identity. Is that stranger over there confusing you because they don’t look quite right? If I were you, I’d go home and take a couple of paracetamol if thinking is making your head hurt.
  • Their diet. Are you a doctor or a nutritionist? No? Then shut up!
  • Their political beliefs. There is no right and wrong on the political spectrum – contribute to the debate or go back to your right-wing safe space on the Daily Mail forums!
  • Their mental health. No, we can’t just “cheer up” or “snap out of it”.
  • Their possessions. Am I making you late for work by not driving a faster car? Sue me.
  • Their personal tastes. I quite liked Pink Floyd’s Endless River. Deal with it.
  • Their accent. I’m sick of hearing how disliked or “unattractive” the West Midlands accent is, or how it makes us sound unintelligent! Yow can bugger off, arroight!

Rant over.

Losing My Religion Part II: Dealing with the last big trigger

Although such a thing doesn’t happen as much as it used to, whenever my mood takes a significant dip, Captain Paranoia burrows deep into my long-term memory, resurfacing with a handful of mental images I believed were long-forgotten. Stupid things I’ve said or done, mistakes I’ve made, chances I’ve wasted and any number of past regrets. When the Captain returns from the depths, he always says “Do you remember these? You were soooooo stupid back then! What on earth were you thinking?! You want to learn about who you really are? Well there you go. That’s you in a nutshell: complete and total idiot… and once an idiot, always an idiot!

It’s getting easier to ignore the Captain, but sometimes the painful reminders don’t come from him.

Trying to distance myself from, or come to terms with, my time in the church is still a major hurdle because the triggers are all the more real. I’m still, technically-speaking, a member of the church. I’m still on the electoral roll (not that I’ve been to an AGM in five years), and the Standing Order still goes out every month in my name for tax purposes. Even small things can trigger bad memories – earlier, when I saw a Phatfish CD in a local charity shop, it reminded me of the many times I was required to lead the music group in yet another rendition of This is My Worship. That’s another thing – in my head, I’m well and truly done with the music group, but I’ve never officially left. It just feels like a loose end I don’t want to tie up.

One thing I’ve managed to avoid so far is a face-to-face confrontation. I’ve seen a few members around, and have exchanged a pleasantry or two with them, but there are some members who I hope I never bump into. They will ask the one question I don’t want to be asked: why don’t you come to church any more? In their eyes, I’ve just gotten a little lost and they can help me find my way back to the right path. All it takes is an invitation to the Alpha course… or to Back to Church Sunday… or to one of the more “fun” services… or, better yet, to a social. Something to ease me back onto the path of salvation by showing me that church, and church members, aren’t always dull and dreary.

They assume my faith is intact but my relationship with the church needs a bit of a bandage, and a little pastoral care will soon fix that. It’s not that simple. I’d woken up to realise that my faith was always paper-thin, and I was merely trying to convince others that it wasn’t. My path is no longer the Christian path: they mostly run parallel with each other, and occasionally merge, but I simply cannot let myself sleep-walk through the rest of my life. For me, living equals learning, and you can’t learn anything with a centuries-old book filtering what you see.

Most importantly, though: I’m not going to try and change your path – please don’t try to change mine.

Conservative Christianity + Politics = Baffled!!

Vinyl records have been a passion of mine since my mid-teens, but I’ve never actually owned an old 78 – the ones I tend to come across are rather scabby and all scratched up and, even if they were still in pristine condition, they weren’t my kind of music anyway. I know in order to play these old records I’d need a special 3 mil stylus to track the much wider grooves, but say I’d got one and some records to play – how would I go about cleaning them?

Well, I found a page telling me everything I needed to know, just in case, and I thought I’d take a look around the website – after all, with a URL of 78rpm.com, they sound like they’re the experts.

The first thing that greeted me on their homepage was a reaction to the recent US Election. I read it, and was rather baffled by it. I just don’t get the mindset of fundamentalist Christians. They say one thing, but they want the opposite.

The pundits and pollsters will debate the cause of this new American revolution for years to come, but the Church should understand one thing: God has moved.

Are you sure it was God that intervened? Some news sources say it was Vladimir Putin.

President-elect Trump is a very flawed man. As far as we can see, his greatest weakness is his pride, and we know how God feels about that. It was pride that caused the downfall of Lucifer, and it may be his pride that brings about the downfall of Trump (and with him, this country) if he doesn’t also humble himself and seek God.

This is where I begin to get baffled. Do you want the full-on, ultra-confident and assertive Trump who will mince all those nasty liberals into slurry, keep those pesky Mexicans away from your stuff, and stop Muslims practising their religion near your children… or do you want a humble, peaceful and Christ-like Trump? I don’t think you can have both.

God, please forgive us for neglecting this most important discipline of the Christian life, and strengthen us to engage the enemy and advance Your kingdom in prayer from this day forward.

And whom, may I ask, is this so-called “enemy”? Why is everything always “Us vs. Them”?

The return to righteousness and the rollback of ungodly laws will not happen without serious battles, perhaps not unlike the fight that led to this historic moment.

Wait, what?! I thought America was supposed to be the land of hope, freedom, glory with liberty and justice and Cable TV for all etc… it kind-of sounds like they’d exchange all of that to live in a Conservative Christian theocracy.

Economic decisions and foreign policy shifts will be easy compared to the fundamental cultural and moral issues we face. Whatever we do regarding the former will ultimately be of no value if we do not attend to the latter

Oh here we go.

For God has chosen to bring judgement upon this country in the form of foreign aggression and a crumbling economy precisely because we have allowed our nation to descend into a moral pit

No, your economy is crumbling because you elect the economically-incompetent. Foreign powers act aggressive towards the US because aggression is all they get from the US. Study economics, stop acting like the playground bully and you’ll find “immorality” was not to blame for the country’s woes… well, not the cultural immorality I’m sure we’ll hear about soon enough.

The end of abortion … If we don’t rid ourselves of this abomination, nothing else will matter. Trump has pledged his support for this cause and we must hold his feet to the fire.

I’m so not going there. Abortion is not a black-and-white issue, and I find it hugely hypocritical when those who cry about the “right to life” only define “life” as the mere state of being alive. They have no concern for the mother or her well-being, and they have no concern for the child’s quality of life post-partum. If you’ve not been in that position, having to make that decision for yourself, you are not qualified on the subject. I find it even more hypocritical when said “pro-lifers” want to retain the death penalty and/or protest against gun control. It’s not okay to kill someone still in the womb, but they’re fair game once they’re on the outside? I don’t always agree with him, but I’m with George Carlin on this one.

The restoration of traditional marriage. This will be even more difficult than ending abortion, and it may not be something the administration wishes to pursue

I’ve said before, each person interprets scripture differently and there is no universal consensus on this issue. If churches want to keep marriages wholly traditional, that’s their prerogative, but civil and non-Christian marriages are none of their business.

The return of God to our schools, government, institutions and the public arena. Our gracious Father enters where He is invited, and we need to replace political correctness with spiritual correctness.

Or, in other words, create a theocracy. Get ’em while they’re young, eh?

The appointment of godly men and women to our federal, state and municipal courts and most especially to the Supreme Court.

Or, in other words, create a theocracy. How “godly” would they have to be: Moby, Ned Flanders or Fred Phelps? Am I alone in thinking that if you hand full legal and judicial control to a group of fundamentalist Christians, it won’t be long before someone is in the dock accused of witchcraft?

We must seek to restore the proper role of government in our society and restrain politicians, ideologues and bureaucrats from unwarranted intrusion into our lives.

You are joking, right? The bulk of this document has been advocating turning the US into a theocracy based on one particular Christian ideology. You also have no qualms about intruding into peoples lives when it’s something you don’t agree with – or does telling women what they can and can’t do with their bodies fall under “warranted intrusion”? How do you think they feel about that? Or are their feelings secondary concerns because what (you think) God wants, God gets?

A greater respect for the privacy, freedoms and property rights of all US citizens. A government with unbridled access to unlimited data detailing the personal lives of the American populace is a threat to democracy, a boon to tyranny and a powerful tool in the hands of the Enemy

I do actually agree with this, but I doubt that if such fundamentalists were in power, liberally covering all that is civil and judicial with their scriptural interpretations, they’d be all that quick to close down the data farms. Aren’t you even tempted to find out who has been checking out Richard Dawkins books from the library? Wouldn’t you like to see who on Facebook recently changed their marital status so you can verify the sexes of the happy couple?

You can’t say you want to respect people’s freedoms while, at the same time, imposing restrictions on said freedoms based on your religious ideology.

If I were you, I’d stay out of politics and stick to selling records.

A Completely (funda)Mental View of a Woman’s Role in Marriage

1996
The web design is the most modern thing about this website.

I’m actually quite enjoying taking the piss out of fundamentalist dogmas, especially ones that want to “educate” women. I saw this one page about “The Woman’s Role in Marriage” by David J. Stewart (no, not the bloke out of Eurythmics) and I thought I’d take a peek to see how it reflects my wife’s role in our marriage.

Long story short, it doesn’t. Not one bit. My wife is my equal, not my subordinate, and if I spoke to her the way that article does, I’d be dragged into court answering divorce proceedings within 10 minutes flat. And I’d deserve it too.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Fundamentalist Christians – they’re just the same as any normal sociopath – but you’ve got to admit that they’re more than a little behind the times.

Let the piss-taking commence!


I wish it were a crime for churches to interfere in people’s marriages, because a lot of pastors and pastor’s wives would be in prison today. Church people will ruin your marriage faster than the heathens down at the local tavern. I’ve seen it happen again and again.

And yet they never learn. I’m all for church people advising others on their marriages, but they have to bear in mind these two things:

  1. There’s no such thing as a generic, bog-standard, biscuit-cutter marriage.
  2. If you insist on poking your nose in where it’s not wanted, don’t be surprised if said nose gets broken!

There is a cocky arrogance in many of our churches today, where people view the pastor as a type of god, where whatever he says is law, and his wife is a feminist in sheep’s clothing. This is tragic.

If we’re talking about Jack Hyles here, I think that grumpy old sod got off on giving his parishioners commands and laws to follow so that he didn’t have to deal with anything “modern” that the antiquated lump of fossilised wood known as his “brain” couldn’t cope with.

As for the wife being a “feminist in sheep’s clothing” – what definition of feminist are we talking here? Are we talking the accepted definition of feminism where men and women have equal rights and opportunities, or the conservative alarmist definition of feminism (which is actually closer to misandry) used to brainwash people so that they don’t find out what the word actually means?

And besides – what’s wrong with sheep’s clothing? Wool can be very comfortable, unless you’re allergic.

The Authority of the Church is the Word of God; and not the pastor. Such pastors feel they have a right to advice women in their church to go against their husband’s decisions.

Nothing wrong with advising if it’s asked for – you still have a choice on whether to follow or reject that advice.

Going against their husband’s decisions? That’s a different matter. If your husband’s decision would be considered idiotic by anyone with an IQ of 6 or above, nobody is going to blame you for going against him. Alternatively, work on a water-tight escape plan so that when his idiotic decision goes belly-up, you can walk out of there with your head held high, leaving the bastard to clean up his own mess.

A perfect example is church attendance. I know of numerous Baptist pastors who teach that a wife should go to church, even if her husband says “no.” This is rebellion on the part of the wife.

Argh! Not rebellion! For the love of God, man, CONTROL YOUR WOMAN! One day it’s church, next day she’s donning leathers and joining a biker gang! Do you REALLY want your pastor to call you a sissy in front of the whole congregation?!

(O sarcasm, how I love thee)

Pastor Hutson teaches that a wife should stay home from church if her husband tells her to. I know this may harelip every dog in the county; but it is Biblical. Before God ever created a church, a family, or kids — He created the MARRIAGE!

But before God could create marriage, he had to create people to marry. Those people were once kids, so he’d have had to have created the kids before he created marriage, right? But then the kids would’ve had parents who would have had to have been married before marriage was even created. I’m assuming they’re not advocating sex before marriage or having children out of wedlock – that’s not usually their thing.

I’m confused – it’s the Chicken and the Egg all over again! Which idiot was it that said religion has all the answers?

Besides, shouldn’t the wife be free to attend church? I thought this was America: land of FREEDOM, hope, glory, bald eagles and all that starry-stripy type stuff….?

You are to show the world the relationship of the church of Christ, and your part is to make the church look best you can.

Literally translated: The flower-arranging rota is over there. Here’s a pen.

It is the husband’s part to make Christ look as good to the world as he can by playing the part of Christ.

What, even in the Nativity play? They make adult-sized mangers now? Who’d have thunk it!?

The Holy Spirit says, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ. so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”

True – but it also said “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” and “In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” To me, that reads like husbands and wives become one and have equal duty to each other, not a biblical edict to yell:

cartman_pie

I made a mistake as a young pastor that I corrected later. I told a lady, when her husband told her not to go to church, “You just tell him you are going to church anyway. You are going to live for God.”

Yeah. You go, girl!

I gave her unscriptural advice. You are to be to your husband what the church is to Christ — submissive, obedient.

You mean like a dog?! This is sooooooo not going to end well.

Submission is a right attitude, recognizing that the husband is the head. That doesn’t mean the wife can’t make suggestions–that she can’t tell him what she wants. But the husband is to lead the home, and he is make the final decision.

I’m the man of my family so you’re saying that what I say goes. Well, I say we work through the decision together, each adding our own input, and arriving at a conclusion that will provide a more satisfactory outcome! I’m a man – I can waive my male privilege if I want to! Don’t like it? Well…

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Someone says, “Now, wait a minute. I have said, ‘I do,’ The drama is on. I know my role. Now, what is my husband’s role?”

[Drum roll]

But there is no need to talk about him; he is not here.

“In which case, and I’m sorry to ask this of you – me being a mere woman and all, but could you tell Joe to get his arse out of that manger and come here please?”

Your role is to be submissive. Look at Titus 2. Your role is to love your husband. Your role is to be discrete, chaste, keepers at home. Did you know a woman’s home is her career? It should be…

I warned you this was not going to end well!

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It is easy to forget your role. When your husband asks you to do something, it is easy to say, “Do it yourself. I am not your slave.” Remember, you are not playing the role of the church when you do that.

So what you’re ultimately saying is that wives ARE the slaves of their husbands? What’s the matter – you can’t tear West Africans from their homes any more, so you go for the next best thing?

You know what? If you think the Bible gives you carte blanche to be a sexist dinosaur, go right ahead.

Here’s the recipe.

Make your own fucking pie.

Mahler and Me: Triggering Transformation

It’s funny how something as seemingly-unimportant as a piece of music can cause such an upheaval in one’s life.

gustav-mahler-kohutYesterday, I bought a copy of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 from a local charity shop, a 1987 recording by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), then under the direction of Simon Rattle. I used to have it as part of a CD box set, but I got rid of it. I can’t really explain why, but I found having all 10 of Mahler’s Symphonies in one set was a bit overwhelming. Hunting down and spending time with each one individually works much better.

I’ve loved this piece of music ever since I first heard it – it normally takes a symphony 4-5 times to work its magic on me, but Mahler’s 2nd slapped me in the face with its brilliance. When I listened to the final five minutes earlier this morning, I felt as if I wanted to burst out into tears. I’d never felt that way before about this music – why now?

My mind was cast back to the last time I played it in full: It was the day I learned that my paternal grandmother had died. That was just over 3 years ago. To save writing reams of family history, my parents split up when I was 8 years old and, after that, family relations got a little icy – especially towards my dad’s side of the family – so any contact I had with them was minimal. I used to visit my nan from time-to-time as I studied at Dudley College and she lived about 15 minutes walk away, a stone’s throw away from where comedian Lenny Henry grew up. I could tell back then she was showing signs of Alzheimers. When I started university and taking part-time jobs, I saw her less and less – within a few years, her memory had degenerated so far that she was moved to a local care home.

I never went to visit her at the home. When I heard she’d passed away, I felt guilty for not paying her a visit or showing her her new great-grandchildren, and for letting family politics get in the way of seeing her more before the dementia set in deeply. At the same time, I was glad I never saw her at her worst – I had some very fond memories of her, and they remain untainted. If I did go to see her at the home, she wouldn’t have recognise me: I’d heard from other family members that, in her mind, I was still a young child.

That lunchtime, I felt I needed to play Mahler 2. I don’t know why – I was just drawn to it.

It spoke to me.

That’s when the transformation began.

My then-regular church life fell apart as I tried to comprehend and validate it all. I’ve already written about that part of the story. Last year, my mental health worsened and I was signed-off for a few months with anxiety and depression, at which point I took one-on-one counselling with cognitive behavioural therapy to help improve my mood, cope with all the pressure I was under, and deal with my almost non-existent self-esteem. Earlier this year, when I was at risk of losing my job, I knew I needed to change who I was. Not so much ‘change’, but scrape away the ugly parasites clinging on to my true self. I’ve already written about that part of the story too.

But what has Malher got to do with this? Looking back at it now, the words in the final choral movement of his second symphony are quite profound:

O believe, my heart, O believe:
Nothing to you is lost!
Yours is, yes yours, is what you desired
Yours, what you have loved
What you have fought for!
O believe,
You were not born for nothing!
Have not for nothing, lived, suffered!
What was created
Must perish,
What perished, rise again!
Cease from trembling!
Prepare yourself to live!
O Pain, You piercer of all things,
From you, I have been wrested!
O Death, You conqueror of all things,
Now, are you conquered!
With wings which I have won for myself,
In love’s fierce striving,
I shall soar upwards
To the light which no eye has penetrated!
Die shall I in order to live.
Rise again, yes, rise again,
Will you, my heart, in an instant!
That for which you suffered,
To God shall it carry you!

The music in the final five minutes of the piece is, without question, the most perfect finale I have ever heard. When I hear it, I picture music so powerful it will open the pearly gates themselves, revealing the glory of Heaven to the mortal world.

The symphony represents the finality of an old life, and the powerful creation of the new, condensed into 80 minutes of music.

The symphony represents my new life.

Meet Brother Hyles Part 2: Walk This Way!

Ladies, Gentlemen and everybody in-between… I am proud to present… more from Fundamentalist Christianity’s answer to Trinny and Susannah… PASTOR JACK HYLES!

In the first part, we learned that:

1. Pastor Hyles doesn’t like men with long hair
2. Pastor Hyles doesn’t like women wearing trousers
3. Pastor Hyles thinks that those who do are going to hell

I pick things up at the second part of his sermon, entitled “The Devil is using long hair on men to break down the barrier between the sexes.”

In the first part, I could respond to some of the sections quite seriously but, in the second half of the sermon, he goes way off the chart so what some of my responses lack in length, they make up for in flippancy.


Marshall McLuhan asked theoretically, “In what may seem a ludicrous statement, they are sending a message to all who will listen: ‘We are no longer afraid to display what you may call feminine. We are willing to reveal that we have feelings and weaknesses'”

Yes. We all do. It’s part and parcel of being human. We all have strengths and weaknesses, even Pastor Hyles, but we play to our strengths. I have quite a strong sense of detail and logic, but I don’t have an abundance of confidence and charisma. That’s why I work as an Analyst and not a Sales Rep.

“Well,”” somebody says, “what about Jesus? He had long hair.” You’ve got to be kidding! “Well,” you say, “in all the pictures I’ve seen of Him, He had long hair.” What kind of camera was used to take that picture? Was it a Kodak? You know where we got those pictures? We got them from sissy artist who had long hair. If I drew a picture of Jesus, He would be balding!

Nobody really knows what Jesus looked like. He may have had long hair, he may have been balding, he may have had short hair. We’re in the realms of Schrödinger’s Haircut, where Jesus has every conceivable hairstyle… even a Skullet. Nobody is right, nobody is wrong. Nil points all round.

In Asia, men hold hands. Why? They do it because pagan religion is in Asia.

No, they do so because it’s how their culture expresses friendliness – just because it translates into something else in America does not change its original context. Also, congratulations on potentially offending almost half a billion people. Have you met Boris Johnson, by any chance?

In Russia, men kiss each other on the mouth! Boy! I’d go to the electric chair first!

Again, culture. That’s another 70 million people potentially offended. I’d recommend you stay out of Russia but, given that this is 1972, you probably weren’t planning a visit.

EDIT: Hyles’ ultimate fear:

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I was watching a basketball game the other day. The announcer came on, and he was a doll! You men who cover up you ears with your hair, you’re pitiful! It just curls around so only your beautician knows! Ladies, if your boy doesn’t want to show his ears, cut them off!

So, by that logic, if the boy doesn’t want to show his doodle, that should be cut off too? Wouldn’t that make him even more of a woman? Come on, Hyles – show some consistency man!

You high school girls ought to go home tonight, take every pair of slacks you own, and destroy them. A lot of them would if you mothers would keep you noses out of their business in that respect.

Being a bit paternalistic, aren’t we? I think someone’s taking a bit too much interest in the teenage girls’ wardrobes.

Let me tell you one reason why I’m against a female wearing slacks. A female in slacks can sit like a man with one leg up on the other knee, and they do it. No female ought to sit like that!

Show me the passage in the Bible that explicitly tells women how to sit.

Go on.

There isn’t one, is there?

Thought so.

Do you know what? We ought to have more girls at this meeting on Thursday night to learn how to be gracious and feminine than we have at any other activity in this church, apart from soul winning. You mothers ought to insist that your daughters get up here and let someone teach them how to walk and sit.

In other words, you want girls to come to what is, in effect, an obedience school. You’re equating teenage girls with unruly dogs – you know that, right?

I go to Hammond Baptist High School sometimes an, even though the skirts are long enough, you can see as much when the girl sits down as you can see when a girl is wearing a miniskirt. Why? They have not been taught how to sit.

How about we teach Pastors not to look up girls’ skirts when they sit down?! No wonder rape culture is still an issue.

In this class, on Thursday nights, they have the girls bring an encyclopaedia. Do you think they study that encyclopaedia? No. They put it on their heads and the girls learn to walk like girls. (Any boy who can take three steps without dropping is not right with God!) A girl ought to know how to walk like a girl. Girls are not “one of the guys.” Don’t walk like one!

Girls are also not robots, yet it sounds like you’re training them to be one.

Walk this way! Talk this way! Hey… there’s a hit song in there somewhere…

Bugger, Aerosmith beat me to it.

(EDIT: I can access the whole of Wikipedia on my phone. With my phone on top of my head, I was able to take more than 3 steps before it fell off. So does that mean I walk like a girl? To be honest, I couldn’t give a rats arse if it does.)

You say, “Brother Hyles, I’ll just pack up and go some place where a preacher doesn’t preach like this.” Well, good! It will keep us from borrowing two and three quarters of a million dollars. You can do it, but you know that the unisex crowd is pleased with your trousers. It’s time we had an old-fashioned altar call about women wearing britches, just like we do about drinking and smoking and gambling and everything else.

And you’ll be preaching to an old-fashioned congregation that, in time, will dwindle into nothing. If the Great Commission calls on you to spread the Gospel to all corners of the earth, why are you so intent on pushing people away from it?

While I’m at it, let me just pay my respects to the women’s liberation movement. I think everyone in it is right.

Wait. WHAT?!

They’re not women; they ought to be liberated! I think they’re right; they’re not Miss or Mister or Mrs. They’re just Ms.!

Oh, you were demeaning women again. This is becoming a recurring thing.

Then you fellows, for Pete’s sake, or Harry’s sake, or anybody’s sake, don’t walk like a girl- swinging your hips and being prissy as you walk! If I walked like that, I would go down to some Texas ranch and ride the wildest Brahma bull they had. You say, “I might get thrown off!” That’s exactly what I had in mind! You say, “He might stick his horns right through my gizzard!” You’ve got my second idea too, but at least I would come back a man! I would rather my boy have a bull’s horn through his gizzard and bury him tomorrow than for him to priss across the platform like Miss America.

I could hear through the channels of history the collective relief of all the women in the congregation as he lays into the men for once.

So, basically, what you’re saying is that in order to be a REAL MAN, you have to be BRAVE… and that bravery should come in the form of RECKLESS STUPIDITY. Tell me this, if America needs REAL MEN, then why are you trying to get them to come within an inch of killing themselves just to prove that they are?!

I’m teaching grown men how to walk. I’m teaching them that a man doesn’t lean back when he walks; a man bounces when he walks and walks like he’s going somewhere. I wouldn’t have to teach them if you moms and dads would teach them when they were kids. Cut their hair! Take the make-up off of their faces! Take your dresses off their bodies! Put some blue jeans on them! Let them get in a fight every once in a while! Make boys out of them, and I won’t have to try to correct them when they grow up!

If he seriously wants men to be strong, brave, decisive and dominant – what’s he going to do when someone squares up to him, decides he’s having no more of this crap and tells Brother Hyles EXACTLY where he can stick his walking lessons!


To be honest, I’m glad I’m now at the end of that sermon. That was gruelling! Obviously, I never knew Pastor Hyles, but based on this one sermon, I don’t think I’d want to.

It sounds like he has absolutely no respect for other people, as if he seriously wants to put hard limits on their individual expression so they conduct themselves the way he wants them to – if this was any random person in the street, they’d be brushed aside or dismissed, so he claims God’s authority for himself and uses the threat of damnation to scare his congregation into conformity. Well, the less critically-thinking ones at least. The man sounds like an absolute control freak! He told the women they were behaving like men, the men they were behaving like women and the parents that they weren’t doing a good enough job – pardon my French, but I’d have stood up and told him to mind his own business and go raise his own fucking kids!

It’s worth noting that, throughout the whole sermon, Jesus was only mentioned 5 times. Four of those times were when he was slating the “sissy, long-haired, effeminate, homosexual” artists who painted pictures of Jesus with long hair. That leads me to believe that his sermon was based more on his political beliefs than his spiritual beliefs. The Jesus I read about several years ago was far more concerned about people’s hearts than their clothes.

I’d even go as far as saying he’s afraid. Very afraid. What of, I can’t be too sure. It’s a bit concerning that he spent a portion of the second part sticking his nose into girls’ wardrobes and looking up their skirts to see if they’re “sitting correctly”. And why is he so afraid of men showing even the slightest bit of effeminacy? My guess is that he’s no different from any other ultra-conservative: keep the nuclear family sacrosanct so that more people get married and have children. There’s a 50/50 chance they’ll have a boy and, if they do, buy him some toy soldiers and teach him how to be strong and tough. Got to replenish the army somehow, haven’t we? Especially as, at the time, the US had sacrificed so many families’ sons in Vietnam.

I’m sorry, but just don’t get the “fundamentalist” way of thinking. From this angle, it looks comparable to a factory farm where people are caged, confined and fed a special diet so that they emerge with the most desirable attributes. But like a battery hen, there is no chance at a full life – you’re bound by what is and isn’t written in a centuries-old collection of books because the fear of eternal torment prevents you from taking a gamble on a less-literal interpretation. When I studied the Bible, I always saw the Old Testament as the historical context for the “life manual” of the Gospels. I cannot say with any certainty that Jesus existed and the records in the Gospels are historically accurate, but even if that Jesus exists only on paper, the teachings of that literary Jesus are still highly significant and relevant today. If there is a god (again, I’m uncertain yet open-minded) and Jesus is wholly representative of that god, it gives life a much fuller purpose than the god described by Pastor Hyles.

One thing I am certain though: whether or not a Heaven is waiting for us after death, there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t create one while we’re still alive.