Sunday, July 27, 2014

Playing the organ again!

It's been a crazy year, and I have neglected this blog for some time. I'm still homeschooling and teaching piano in the evenings, and now I am also the organist/accompanist for my church. My last organist position was in college, and I've missed it. The piano is still my favorite, but I really love the organ- I love that big, serious sound! Now to dig out some serious Bach and get my pedal feet in shape. :)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Thoughts on discrimination

I've been thinking about the cases recently in which, in order to comply with anti-discrimination legislation, business owners are compelled to provide services which violate their conscience. (e.g. the florist who didn't want to service a gay wedding because she felt that homosexuality is a sin.)

My first thought: arguably, homosexuality is an involuntary condition, such as race or gender, not a specific behavior. Someone is homosexual if they are attracted to members of the same sex, regardless of whether or not they ever consummate a physical union with a member of the same sex. In the same way, a person can be attracted to members of another race without marrying a person of another race. I think the homosexual marriage/interracial marriage analogy is appropriate, because both have/had a great deal of social stigma attached to them, and both involve the natural culmination of an inherent and natural disposition/personhood, as opposed to any conscious and active perversion. To be clear- I see no justification, morally, scripturally, or in any other way, for prohibiting interracial marriage, though there are those who do. The very idea of prohibiting, or looking askance at, interracial marriage is ludicrous and offensive to me in the extreme, because it presupposes fundamental differences between races that I hold to be entirely false. In the case of homosexual marriage, many more people still believe that it is sin, though many people do not. (I support the right of any two unmarried, consenting adults to obtain a civil marriage at their whim, by the way.) So- to be consistent, I think we must apply the same rules to gender, race, and sexual orientation when it comes to discrimination. If it is wrong to discriminate against a person of another race, then it is wrong to discriminate against a person of another sexual orientation. (I am assuming that any pedophelic behavior is not an orientation, but a predatory, criminal perversion of the most obscene and horrific sort)

That said..... to what degree are the dictates of our conscience subject to civil law? Ought we to be enforcing an enlightened perspective where it does not exist? And another important question- does a business owner, complete with personal conscience, differ as an entity from the owned business? To that, I would say no, unless the business was in some way publically owned and traded, publicly funded, contracted to the government, etc.

Here is where I'd draw the lines of anti-discrimination legislation, if they were mine to draw:

1. No discrimination against customers is allowable based on race, gender, sexual orientation, etc in the following places:

  • Any government entity of any level or function, or business which contracts with the government at any level or function.

  • Any business which is publicly owned, traded, maintained, or funded

  • Any business which performs lifesaving services or services the lack of which may leave a customer dead, injured, maimed, deformed, or unable to care for themselves or their dependents. (Examples include hospitals, emergency clinics, homeless shelters, food pantries, grocery stores, utility companies, home health agencies, elder care facilities, etc For things like clothing and auto/mechanics/parts houses and restaurants, I would say that if it's the only one in town, it provides an essential service and may not discriminate. If it is one of several in close proximity, it may discriminate as the owner wishes for all presumably-about-a-day of its commercial life.)


The business situations above are situations in which the private business is not synonymous with its owner.... indeed, I rather like that as a litmus test. :)



So, most businesses would be under anti-discrimination law. Those that would not would be privately owned entities dispensing non-essential goods and services like flowers, candy, event rental facilities, shoes, accessories, etc. Honestly, I think the number of people discriminating against other races, genders, or sexual orientations would hopefully be small at this point, and their businesses easily boycotted.

I think we should recognize that a sole proprietorship business type, particularly, assuming no outside control or civil involvement, should be synonymous with the owner/operator. A business is not an autonomous machine- it is the sum of the people who operate it- just as the government is a group of elected or appointed people, not a faceless entity. (At least it should be!) I am not different as the owner/operator of my Piano Studio- I am the same Mary in both cases. I behave the same, and the law should treat me the same. I would apply this to corporate taxation as well, by the way- there is no such thing as a business tax. There is only a tax on the owners, operators, employees, and customers of that business.

If I were the sort of racist $%$^&%  who wanted to refuse to service people of color in my hypothetical florist shop, I could do that. If I wanted to refuse to sell auto parts to a woman, assuming I wasn't the only one in town, I could do that. I could also deal with the lack of business from the husbands of women and the friends of people of color and deal with my inevitable financial losses. On the other hand, if I were an OB I could not refuse to treat the surrogate carrying the child of a homosexual couple and I could not refuse to sell groceries to that nice interracial couple. I think we can, and should, find a balance between respecting the freedom of business owners to operate their businesses as they see fit and respecting the safety and dignity of those whose life path or person garners the disapproval of some. There are some people who would call me a heretic theologically, or a Jezebel, (thanks, feminism and egalitarianism!) or a homewrecker because I bring in an independent income. As revolting as those sentiments are, the policing of thought required to forcibly eliminate them is more revolting still. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Thoughts on the shutdown

My feelings on the partial US government shutdown boil down to two thoughts, really:

1. Math. Use it. If you don't have money, don't spend money.

2. Congress- know your job, and do it. The same thing goes for our President. Your job is to make a reasonable, mathematically viable budget and stick to it. If you disagree with your legislative colleagues, your job is to negotiate where you can. Refusal to converse or negotiate is generally immature.


Budget bills originate in our House of Representatives by law. The House decides the budget and submits it to the Senate. The Senate can approve or not, and they may send it back to the House/ suggest changes, but they don't write the budget. Neither does the President. The President can veto a budget bill as long as it doesn't have sufficient votes. It is the job of Congress to negotiate a workable budget, and refusing to cut spending from pet projects when there is a deficit in other places, and wanting instead to simply borrow more money, seems to me a truly irresponsible way to do this. Ahem... <senate.> The President and John Boehner cooperated on a deficit reduction plan in 2011, but now the President and the democrat-controlled Senate are unwilling to abide by it, and have instead been holding 800,000 + federal workers' salaries and large chunks of the government bureaucracy hostage until the House capitulates and the budget goes according to Democratic demands. This is a personal  subject for me, since my husband, the primary breadwinner for our family, will not be getting paid until the shutdown ends. (It is particularly frustrating because other similar jobs he could take in the private sector would be considered a conflict of interest and could result in his being permanently fired from his government job, or in certain other legal consequences. It is as if the government is telling us that he cannot work, cannot be paid, but also cannot go to work in a similar capacity elsewhere. His only option at this point is day/temp labor, as what long term employer outside his field is going to hire him, being both grossly overqualified and unlikely to work for them more than a few days or weeks at most? Hopefully, it will not come to that.) However, we support the House's efforts at fiscal responsibility and hope that they do not capitulate to bullying and intransigence.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Sex Ed series

I've been thinking about sex ed lately, both because of my kids beginning to ask questions and because of issues that friends are dealing with. This was one of the areas in which my own parents were very weak, and one which my husband and I have intentionally worked at with our children. It is so important that we teach them the physical stuff, as well as the emotional/relational stuff, (disease prevention, biology, contraception, consent, respect, intimacy, etc) and that we avoid turning limits of morality into shame. I came across the following series on another blog, and I thought I'd share. I don't agree with every minute detail here, (there are areas in which this blogger is probably a bit more conservative than I am) and I don't agree with everything else on her blog or that she links to, in case anyone is wondering. However, I thought it was generally very good, very balanced, and well worth sharing.


http://dulcefamily.blogspot.com/search/label/sex%20ed%20in%20a%20Christian%20home

The above is a link to all the posts (they're generally quite short) in the series. A few quotes:


"Perhaps the biggest distortion I see is the idolization of virginity.  So many portray it as the be all end all standard of sexual purity.  First of all, I think that sexual purity is just as important after marriage as before, and in fact, more so.  Furthermore, sexual purity isn't just lack of vaginal intercourse.  Such a narrow focus on outward behavior causes us to lose sight of the heart issue.  Some wind up doing everything except for vaginal intercourse, and have no idea of the possible consequences of things like oral sex, pornography, and other forms of sexual activity.  Others who do have sex feel that they are forever "second hand goods".  Both are terrible distortions of what sexual purity really means."


"I
 also find the double standard with gender that many adopt to be deeply disturbing. Sexual purity is for men as well as women, and the stereotypes of men as slavering beasts and women as cold manipulators are both inaccurate and degrading.  Both men and women are created with a strong sex drive.  That is a good thing.  And both are capable of self control.  That is also a good thing.  Women should be able to be themselves and dress comfortably without being consumed with worry about "causing their brothers to stumble".  Guys shouldn't be automatically viewed as predators simply because they have a penis.  Sex should never be seen as a commodity to trade in exchange for emotional security, and women shouldn't feel ashamed of wanting sex."


"Romance novels and romantic comedies have been called “porn for women.” It’s not just because some of the scenes can get steamy, but because of the unrealistic expectations they set up. Just as all bodies are perfect or airbrushed and exaggerated in proportion in a girlie magazine, all life is unrealistically centered on romance in those entertainments. The souls and emotions of the people portrayed in the pages and on the screen are no more real than the bodies enhanced with silicone, makeup, lighting and digital wizardry in a pornographic image or film.

These are not the messages I want my daughter to grow up with.

Not only does it objectify the male gender as a means to fulfilling romantic dreams, but for me at least, it resulted in a limited understanding of my own value as a human being, and a reduced ability to trust God with my romantic future. "


We teach our children about gender stereotypes from our first observations.  Do our girls hear that they are strong and powerful?  Do our boys learn that we value tenderness and sensitivity?  Our society is so proficient at marketing gender roles that by age three, most girls and boys know that pink is a girl color, and blue is for boys, that girls are princesses (passive and prissy) and boys are tough and active.  As toddlers, my little girl loved blue and Spiderman, and my son loved dolls and sparkly clothes.  Within just a couple of years, though, they were telling each other that blue was for boys and dolls are for girls. I believe that colors are gender-neutral, and that both sons and daughters grow up to be parents.  But we must speak up if we don't want our children to think there is something wrong with them.

"We teach our children about body image through our own.  Do they hear us putting ourselves down and criticizing our own bodies?  Do we point out our flaws or gripe about our weight?  Do they hear us make comments about other people and laugh at their appearance?  Each word nails in deeper the truth about our values, and what their own bodies are worth.

We also teach them about sexuality when they first begin to say no.  Comments like, "Give grandma a kiss or she'll be sad!" teach them to ignore their own body boundaries and give feigned affection to placate adults.  Acknowledging and respecting their right to say no to unwanted touches is vital.  It may mean intervening when relatives or friends try to bully them with unwanted hugs, kisses or tickles.  The message we send about their right to say no is far more important than a miffed adult."

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Where "Modesty" Leads, and the response of one very brave woman.



http://news.yahoo.com/sudan-woman-risks-flogging-over-uncovered-hair-143126249.html

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/09/08/sudan-woman-risks-flogging-over-uncovered-hair/

Amira Osman Hamed is fighting a law in Sudan which says that she must wear hijab and cover her hair. SHe refuses to do so, even though her refusal could mean a severe beating. My hat is off to this woman, who is risking much in standing up for right and justice.



Says the article:

"Sudanese woman says she is prepared to be flogged to defend the right to leave her hair uncovered in defiance of a "Taliban"-like law."

Amira Osman Hamed faces a possible whipping if convicted at a trial which could come on September 19.

Under Sudanese law her hair -- and that of all women -- is supposed to be covered with a "hijab". But Hamed, 35, refuses to wear one.

Her case has drawn support from civil rights activists and is the latest to highlight Sudan's series of laws governing morality which took effect after the 1989 Islamist-backed coup by President Omar al-Bashir.

"They want us to be like Taliban women," Hamed said in an interview with AFP, referring to the fundamentalist militant movement in Afghanistan.

She is charged under Article 152 which prohibits "indecent" clothing.

Activists say the vaguely worded law leaves women subject to police harassment and disproportionately targets the poor in an effort to maintain "public order".

"This public order law changed Sudanese women from victims to criminals," says Hamed, a divorced computer engineer who runs her own company.

"This law is targeting the dignity of Sudanese people."

Friday, September 6, 2013

Because You Can Never Have Too Many Cute Kid Moments....

My oldest, Mr. 6 1/2 yr old, just joined the Cub Scouts. He is excited- well, that's actually an understatement. He is already planning badges to earn and projects to do. My second child, Mr. 5 yr old, can't be in Scouts for another year due to his age. Mr. 6 was very worried that his little brother would feel left out, so they got up early a couple of mornings ago and Mr. 6 made Mr. 5 a shirt, hat, bag, "handbook," and "sash" out of construction paper. Mr. 6 then proceeded to come up with "badges" that Mr. 5 could earn, and they spent most of the day going through them. The "badges" were cute- little circles made out of construction paper, taped to the sash- but the activities were the best. There was a "building with legos" badge, a "geography and touring" badge, (for that one, Mr. 5 had to visit every room in the house) a "crafting with paper" badge, etc, etc. They had such fun, and watching them run around "doing badge stuff" with all the attendant whispering and giggling was simply delightful. (We aren't starting the homeschool semester until next week, so they had time for all this.)

An Edit to the Facebook Post

I added the following to my earlier post about how not to embarrass yourself on facebook:

For Religious Folks Who Love their Scriptures (and on a slightly more serious note)

I'm a Christian. That fact is not exactly a secret. I believe that the Bible is inspired and authoritative, and should be my rule of faith and practice. Sometimes, when I'm talking with people, whether on facebook, via email, in person, etc, I reference scripture as a catalyst or justification for something. However, I am not telepathic. I wish that I were, because that would be simply awesome, but I am not. Therefore, I cannot throw out a great scripture passage without any explanation and expect people to understand why I used it and the point I was trying to make with it. Which brings me to:

1. Don't quote a scripture without telling your audience why you quoted it, what you think it says, and how it relates to the subject at hand, unless the literal text speaks directly to your subject so clearly that.... actually, not even then. Never. A few words of explanation will cost you little and foster exponentially better communication. For example: If I'm talking about.....and this is just a hypothetical..... why I left a previous church and someone comes back with "and every man did what was right in his own eyes," I would have no idea whether they were indulging in satire, disapproving of me, or disapproving of someone else. That could mean almost anything, depending on context. Which brings me to

2. Use something that's actually relevant when quoting scripture. Resist the temptation to use Ecc. 11:4  "He who observes the wind will not sow, And he who regards the clouds will not reap" as a justification for your not wanting your child to be a meteorologist, for example. It's also probably not a good idea to use the verse about God's spirit hovering over the waters when you're talking about helicopters. You get the idea.

3. Don't assume that everyone interprets scripture as you do. (one reason why elaboration is so, so necessary) Believe it or not, even within mainstream evangelical/protestant Christianity, there has never been a single, universal interpretation of every verse of the Bible. There are traditional ways to interpret things, but those have never really been entirely unchallenged. Try to remember that your interpretation is just that, and that people can be just as committed to the authority of scripture and to responsible hermeneutics as you are and still come up with a different interpretation. If you disagree with someone's interpretation, by all means tell them, giving sound historical and logical reasons for your take on things. You may still end up in sincere disagreement, but it's no reason why you can't be friends.

4. Don't use scripture to beat your friends over the head with wrongdoing unless you are really close, have a relationship that lends itself to mutual accountability, and are in private.

5. You can be a Christian without using scripture to back up everything you say on the internet. It is ok to argue a rational point. Since your faith should color everything you do, you are not doing it a disservice by occasionally leaving it out of unrelated arguments. Scripture is wonderful, but do you need to cite specific verses in a conversation about teething or immunizations or healthcare? Probably not.