Thursday, February 28, 2013

CSCOPE, Homeschooling, and Appropriate Regulation

I came across a very troubling article the other day, about a curriculum called CSCOPE that is being taught in many public schools in Texas, my home state. The article alleges some shocking content/lessons, everything from an open-ended discussion of hijab, which suggests that the hijab is “freeing because it prevents others from making them into sexual objects,”or that “women need to be obscured so as not to arouse male desire” (what? don't get me started- as if a burqa prevented objectification! What the heck are they thinking?) to calling 9-11 hijackers freedom fighters instead of terrorists, to calling Christianity a cult while simultaneously glorifying Islam and neglecting to mention  the many human rights violations common in Islamic countries or in Sharia law, to calling the Boston Tea Party an act of terrorism. The curriculum also allegedly glorifies communism/socialism without also discussing their negative aspects or any negative results of their implementation in societies so far, and allegedly paints Paul Revere as being involved in illegal drug trafficking (?!?!?) and Christopher Columbus as an eco-warrior. (now that one's just funny.) The most troubling allegation, however, is that the curriculum is not available for public (even parental) perusal and that teachers have to sign non-disclosure agreements about its content. (??!?!?!?!) I'm not familiar enough with the source of this article to give it credence on its own, so I did some digging. I cannot confirm the content, because the curriculum is in fact under wraps- not even parents can get copies of it, and the course descriptions are ridiculously vague on the curriculum's website. What the what? Since when is it ok to teach things in school to children that you refuse to allow their parents to peruse? Since when is it ok to restrict public access to publicly funded, public school curricula? This is wrong on so many levels. Such hubris, and such disregard for the transparency that is crucial to a free state! I think I might have a chat with my congressperson about that.

This brings me to another question-  What part should the state play in regulating education? Who should have the final say in what children learn?

I do not believe in a total lack of regulation, though I do believe regulation should be on a state and local level, as opposed to federal. I was homeschooled myself, and Husband and I are homeschooling our own children. I am very much in favor of homeschooling, as, in my experience, it gives students the ability to go at their own pace and tailor the elective aspects of their studies to their own interests. It's also flexible, allows for family time and can be a good alternative to school situations that involve bullying or harassment or negative peer pressure. It also gives parents the freedom to direct their children's education according to their religious and moral beliefs. In my own experience, though there were a few gaps, homeschooling served me well. Neither my siblings nor I have had much trouble with college, and my parents did a great job of combining their own teaching with co-ops and extracurriculars to give us the best education they could. My own children do well with homeschooling; my older boys both learned to read at 4 and love to learn, especially if it involves 1.Space/Astronomy/Cool Spaceships, 2. Marine Biology/Really Cool Fish And/Or Whales, 3. Trains, especially steam engines, and 4. Dinosaurs. :) It concerns me, though, that not all homeschooling experiences are so positive. I have seen examples of families who claimed to homeschool, but whose children entered high school illiterate (or worse, graduated without being able to read- thankfully, I believe that extreme is uncommon, but I've seen it myself and it breaks my heart. ) or could not get a job above minimum wage upon graduation because they lacked basic reading, writing, or math skills. I see a spectrum of homeschooling, with the "horror stories" or illiterate, isolated children at one end and the high-performing, well-educated, socially adept children at the other. I am, therefore, passionately in favor of some state/local regulation of all education, including homeschooling. While I think education is the primary responsibility of parents, I also think that if a parent has it in their power to give their child a basic education and chooses instead to withhold it, they are in effect crippling their child's future and abusing their child. 
If the state exists to protect freedom and liberty and the punish the infringement of the same, (I believe it does) then the we as the voting, office-holding people of the state have a responsibility to protect the rights of the defenseless, including children- to say nothing of our moral or christian duties towards those who cannot protect themselves. Our responsibility does not only extend to protection from parents who lie and refuse their children an education, however- it also extends to protection from inaccurate, idea-indoctrinating curriculum taught in our schools. Should schools teach that all muslims are terrorists or that God intended men to be the heads of their homes? No, of course not. Schools should teach facts, not ideas, and basic skills, not systems of belief. Schools and school boards also should not have the authority to teach curriculum that is not avaiable for public or parental review, any more than they should control what ideas parents teach their children or any more than parents should withhold a basic education. 

In my opinion, appropriate regulation for public schools must include transparency and the opportunity for public review. As long as the basic facts of science and history (including the history of our justice system and a basic working knowledge of it) and good reading, writing, logic, and math skills are taught, states and communities should be able to vote curricula in or out. Students and parents should never be vilified for having a difference of opinion with the state curriculum, ans students and parents should be able to opt out of any social studies/projects that they find personally offensive or religiously problematic, so long as it would not compromise the student's ability to pass the same basic skills testing that would be required for a homeschooled student.

In my opinion, appropriate regulation for homeschooling would be very basic, and keep in mind the parents' rights to teach their children according to their own idealogical framework. I would be in favor of periodic mandatory testing in math and language skills for younger grades, with basic science and history facts/dates added in for high school. Not knowing when Texas became a state might someday be a disadvantage to a child, but it certainly won't cripple them. Nor will not memorizing the periodic table or not knowing what the laws of thermodynamics are, though we'd hope those things would always be taught. Not knowing basic algebra or not being able to read well  or not being able to put a cogent sentence on paper could very well cripple a child's educational or vocational future. 

Thus, in my opinion, the role of the state in education should be to work towards every child receiving basic instruction in math and language skills and a knowledge of basic science and history facts including how our justice system works and how our country came to be, and to implement public school curriculum that is approved by the state, the community, and the parents. The state works for the parents and students, not the reverse. It is better, in my view, to have students who have the basics and know how to learn the specifics of a particular discipline for themselves than to have students who drink in everything they are taught, and parrot the worldview in which they have been saturated. 

A Libertarian Conversation on Same Sex Marriage, part 3: Gender Essentialism

One issue that I see as central to the question of harm or infringement of rights by same sex marriage is the issue of gender, specifically gender essentialism. I would define gender essentialism as: the belief that there are uniquely feminine and uniquely masculine essences, specifically uniquely masculine and feminine social and behavioral traits, not referring to basic physical differences, which exist independently of cultural/social conditioning.

In my opinion, it is possible to reject gender essentialism and still believe that there are differences between men and women. Gender essentialism is more about behavior and psychological hard-wiring than it is about basic physical, biological, or neurological differences. For my purposes here I will assume that men and women have basic physical and psychological differences, but that those differences are averages, not absolutes (e.g. men are usually stronger and taller than women, but some women are stronger and taller than some men).

I would represent both social and physical traits, reproduction excepted, on a linear scale- meaning that for each trait there is a line, say aggression/compliance for example. On this line, the average female position and the average male position may fall weighted towards one end or the other, but individual positions for either gender could be anywhere on the line. I do not believe that men and women are opposites. I do believe that there are clear and significant statistical differences in physical areas such as upper body strength, though again they are not absolute- uncommon though it may be, some women are stronger than some men. (Also, training and conditioning have a huge effect on situational outcomes- for example, while assuming the same training and fitness level, men seriously have a significant advantage over women in the physical strength department, a woman with superior skill and training can absolutely be more than a match for a man who does not have that training.) In the case of social traits/behaviors, however, I believe that there is as much difference within genders as there is between them; that is to say, there is as much difference, or more perhaps, between two random women as there is between your average man and average woman. I do not think that all men are/should be dominant in certain traits, or that all women are/should be dominant in others. I see anecdotal evidence in my own life which supports my belief that I have more in common with males who share my personality type than with females who do not.

Also, if gender based social behavior was a biological, undeniable constant of the human experience then, except for the tendency towards male rule and oppression of the weaker by the stronger which I believe was the result of the fall, I would expect to see this gender based behavior as a constant across cultures and times, and socio-economic status. I do not see this- in fact, quite the opposite. The cultural norms for acceptable gender behavior may well be consistent in modern, western society, but that is not at all the same thing. For example- consider the view of women's sexual nature at the time of the reformation contrasted with the Victorian era. I would posit that gender norms in history as a whole are actually quite varied and fluid, but that is another post entirely. Also worthy of another post is the influence on our cultural perceptions of gender- not of fundamentally christian teaching, but of greek thought and philosophy.

The reason this issue is at the center of the debate over same sex marriage is, first, that it is reasonable to suppose that both a stable heterosexual couple and a stable homosexual couple could hypothetically bring the same backgrounds, education, experience, moral code, religious knowledge, et c. to their marriage and their parenting- really, the only difference is the gender of one of the parties. Are the genders so unique that a family or couple will lose a vital part of its essence if one gender is missing? No, I really don't think so. May they be different? Yes; but will they "miss out" on something to such a degree that we must refuse to legislate in favor of their marriage in order to protect society and any children they may have from this horrible loss? I really don't think so. This is, of course, merely my opinion; I am aware of no comprehensive studies of children/families/marriages which specifically compare same and cross gender couples, with other major variables being equal, to determine which families, spouses, and children are healthier.

Secondly, while gender differences/gender essentialism and gender roles are not the same thing, they are related- rejecting gender essentialism leads to the questioning of rigid gender roles and societal systems that require them in order to continue functioning. Unless gender-based prescriptive behavior is purely theological or ritual, with no basis in practical good or expediency/efficiency, believing that there are actually not rigid, biological, hard-wired social/behavioral ideals makes implementing rigid gender roles which are based purely on gender without regard to competency seems rather silly. In other words, why make mommies staying home/daddies working a moral/civil prescription if daddies can be just as nurturing as mommies and mommies really have no trouble navigating the wide, scary world of outside careers? Also, if men and women share social traits and differ more from opposite personalities than from opposite genders then the male rule, headship and female submission doctrines become at best a theological ritual with no basis in practicality. I honestly think that some of the more vitriolic rhetoric I've heard condemning same sex marriage comes from a place of fear- a fear that the systems that have supposedly kept society intact will slip away, or that a privileged position will be lost, or that the tidy boxes that we as christians are supposed to fit ourselves into in order to be "Godly" will go away. I honestly think that that would be a good thing, when it comes to gender roles.  We'd be left with freedom, relationships, and personal responsibility, and we wouldn't have to throw out godliness, christlikeness, or holiness to do it.

But.....roles and tidy boxes are easier. Really. They may not fit everyone, and they may chafe unbearably for some, but you're good to go if you can fit into them! It's certainly easier to have litmus tests and checklists for godly masculinity and femininity than it is to have to figure out how to hear the Holy Spirit, follow the guidelines Christ gives all Christians, and find and walk in the purposes, giftings and callings that are a part of each of our unique makeup as people and as followers of Christ. I am not saying, of course, to throw out all rules or commandments- but I think it would behoove us to resist making doctrines and prescriptive procedures of things that are not compatible with the teachings of Christ, the overall message of the gospel, and that don't work.

So- why is it, really, such an issue for gender to take less of a front seat in marriage and family issues? I have yet to see evidence that even reasonably assumes, let alone conclusively proves, that gender is the thing that makes such a difference to family and society that we must legislate it, even for those who believe differently than we do, as a moral and civil harm.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Home at the UMC

Our family has found a church home, after searching for several months. We visited a number of churches across various denominational traditions, from PCA Presbyterian to Baptist-like Conservative Non-Denominational, to United Methodist. Yes, we are now United Methodists! It was unusual for me, being adrift without a regular church family- I've never been untied from membership in a church for anywhere near that length of time before. I enjoyed the experience in some respects, (novelty and diversity have their own charms) but I am very glad to feel home again. I don't usually do things by halves- it may take me some time to come to a decision, but once I do, I jump in with both feet. :) Husband and I have therefore been reading and researching the beliefs and theology of our new family here, and we were honestly a little surprised by how much of it resonated with us.

 I love the three aspects of grace- prevenient, saving, and sanctifying- this seems to me, as I read it, to be a powerful balance of the sovereign grace of God and the free will and personal responsibility that are our duty, joy, and necessity as humans made in God's image.

 I love, love, love the liturgies we experience in the Sunday service- the Lord's Prayer, the Apostle's Creed, the Gloria Patri- and we have begun to teach them to our boys at home, explaining the meanings behind them. Not that liturgies ever take the place of scripture or the leading of the Holy Spirit, but they are beautiful reminders and pictures of our faith, and they add a lot for me.

I love, too, the welcoming attitude to our children that we've found here. There is always a place for them here, and they are considered and provided for. I felt so at home, walking in for the first time and seeing a cabinet in the back of the sanctuary with activity pages relating to the sermon and crayons/quiet toys for the use of the little ones. There is nursery for the littlest ones, of course, but it's not requisite.

The Sunday school hour was great last week, for all of us- Husband and I thoroughly enjoyed our group, as did our children their respective classes. Our kids love it here, indeed. 

The style of worship is one that personally appeals to me, and I find it both comforting and refreshing. Though I have not been in a Methodist church since college, and Husband has never been a Methodist, the music is largely familiar to us. In fact, I am more able to engage in personal worship and meditation with the hymns and liturgies than I am with the more open, contemporary worship- this is, of course, simply personal preference, but there it is. 

Do we agree with everything? No. Are there imperfections in this, as in any church? Of course. But we are home, and glad to be here.

A Libertarian Conversation on Same Sex Marriage, Part 2: False Dichotomies

There are two things which are pet peeves of mine at the moment- "Straw men" and false dichotomies. I groan inwardly when I see them, and think something like "Really? Are you so incapable of factually proving your assertions that you have to surreptitiously foist illogical, unproven assumptions on this conversation?" If the dichotomy presented is proven/documented/logical, if the two entities really are fundamentally antithetical and mutually exclusive, well and good; otherwise, dichotomies, while dramatic, are annoying. 

 Straw Man/False Dichotomy

"Straw Man" refers to an outlining of an opposing position that is formulated to discredit that position by setting up a caricature of that position that looks obviously faulty or unappealing. A false dichotomy is basically either 1. grouping an issue/position into only two groups, with most of the negative aspects of a position lumped firmly with the stance the arguer is opposing, when there are actually many more possible options, or 2. Asserting that for a particular issue there are only two possible choices, when in fact there are more. For example, saying that by staying home with my kids I am fighting the cultural trend towards the abandonment in daycare by selfish moms who put personal fulfillment above their families would be a straw man- I just labelled moms who put their kids in daycare as selfish and neglectful, and who wants to be associated with that? Never mind that there are actually many reasons that childcare is needed, and that not all moms who work use daycare, and that not all those who do use it out of selfishness, and that not all daycare experiences are the same..... but I digress. A good example of a false dichotomy would be the way I've heard feminists characterized, as I'll lay out here:
  •  Feminists (box A)
Pro-choice, selfish, believing in legal and social equality of the sexes, not gender essentialist, never willing to sacrifice their desires for their family, work outside the home wen they do not have to, career focused, neglectful of their children, Pro-gay-marriage, socialist, politically liberal, socially liberal, man-hating, matriarchy-desiring, believe that there are no differences between sexes and/or "anything you can do I can do better," controlling, bitchy, aggressive, unfeminine, not believing in absolute truth, desiring equality in the church and rejecting male rule, and the list goes on
  • Good Traditional Women (box B)
Pro-life, politically, socially, and fiscally conservative, believe in complementarianism/female submission in some form, little personal career ambition, believe in distinct gender roles, loving, attentive mothers, unselfish wives,  respect and honor husbands, homemakers, homeschoolers when possible, rejecters of daycare, must want children, family and ministry focused, deeply religious, not desiring any control or official position in the church, tend to not be aggressive, do not desire authority over men, considered "feminine", et c. 

Of course this is a false dichotomy, because a woman can be a complex and individual mix of qualities from both boxes. For example, we could have box C, which looks like this:

  • Real Woman X (box C)
Pro-life, fiscally conservative, Pro-gay-marriage, socially liberal, politically libertarian or an eclectic mix of things, believing in legal and social equality of the sexes, not gender essentialist, loving, attentive mothers, unselfish wives,  respect and honor husbands, deeply religious, family and career and ministry focused, desiring equality in the church and rejecting male rule, believing in egalitarian marriage in which control is shared, desiring neither patriarchy nor matriarchy, not man-hating, but affirming men as brothers and equals, homeschoolers, rejecters of daycare,  authors of creative work/home balance so that the priorities of home, family, and a fulfilling career are weighed and attended to, homemakers, working outside the home when they do not have to, aggressive, only sporadically/somewhat feminine,  et c. 

Very seldom, I think, is it possible to accurately reduce any issue/position to two opposing stances/views/results. People and situations are complex and varied, and there's always a third option.

 In fact, I dare say that if you want to present a choice/position as only two different and opposing options you must be able to prove your assertion. To present two positions, stances, or categories as antithetical and mutually exclusive you must be able to accurately assert that every aspect of them is so. Otherwise, you must allow for a more nuanced and specific continuum rather than two tidy, but oversimplified, boxes.

Another example of a false dichotomy comes from a brief on same sex marriage. * This book basically hinges on the idea that there are only two kinds of marriage: (that alone raises giant, red over-simplification flags for me) traditional and revisionist. They assume that traditional marriages are committed attachments composed of a comprehensive union (physical and spiritual) which should include the possibility of procreation and which has been the prop of civilization for millennia and which is not primarily based upon emotional attachment, though it is a good thing to be included. The only alternative the authors present to "traditional" marriage is "revisionist" marriage, which they present as being unfettered by commitment and solely based on romantic feeling and present emotional attachment. Thus they tie a committed, one-flesh relationship irrevocably to procreative, heterosexual unions. This is patently false- I myself exhibit in my marriage aspects of both of their ideas of marriage, and fit neatly into neither. They neither give data to prove that all marriages can be classified in one of their two categories, nor do they show any evidence which supports their assertions that comprehensive union is limited to heterosexual unions or that procreation is or should be a primary consideration in sacred or civil marriage policy. I would like to explore this particular book further, but any additional analysis deserves its own post. :) Suffice it to say that I have yet to see an argument in the marriage debate which accurately/verifiably separates homosexual and heterosexual marriages based on anything other than the physical sex/gender of the marriage partners. (need I point out, too, that it might be construed as a little offensive to assume that homosexual couples are any less committed or stable than their heterosexual counterparts based solely on the fact that they are attracted to someone who shares their gender?)

Another tactic I see is the black-and-white categorizing/ oversimplifying of a person or stance into a complex group based on one action, attribute or opinion. Some things are black and white to that degree, at least according to my paradigm, but most are not. For example, I can unequivocally say that anyone who molests a child is wrong, bad, evil, and deserving of the severest punishment, no matter what the circumstances are, no matter who they are, and no matter what other good they've done. I'm perfectly ok with categorizing anyone who molests a child as pathologically evil and faulty. However, most issues are not so simple or so easy. Many actions could be right or wrong, or more or less appropriate and tasteful, depending on motive and circumstance. People choose their positions, their beliefs, and their actions based on very complex and nuanced data, circumstances, and personalities. I believe it logically follows that if an action is not in itself a sin regardless of circumstances then to generalize it as such is inaccurate. It should also be obvious that  because an action or position is sometimes done/held by those behaving badly does not imply that everyone who holds that position/does that is also behaving badly.  For example, to say that divorce is an indication of weakness, selfishness or lack of commitment or that divorced people are hard, brittle, relationally damaged/inept or selfish would be inaccurate. While it might be true, it might also be completely false- did the person get a divorce because they fell in love with a coworker or were they simply getting out of an abusive or chronically neglectful situation? This logic is seen when anyone who is not categorically opposed to same sex marriage is assumed to also throw out ideas of absolute truth, committed marriages, political conservatism, christian authenticity, et c.

The same logic applies to shading all homosexuals as perverts or anti-religious-freedom activists who will "take a mile if we give an inch." Are there some? To be sure, but there are also plenty of heterosexual perverts and anti-freedom activists, and we don't associate their behavior with their sexual orientation. What does this have to do with same sex marriage? Simply this- I think that, to have a helpful conversation about same sex marriage, we must be clear about the assumptions we are bringing to the table, and be honest and open about how our opinions of what marriage is, and who and what homosexuals are, (and how allowing same sex marriage would affect our paradigm) affect what we view as acceptable legal policy. 

In my opinion, the more we can avoid theoretical and unproven generalizations and tend towards specific, verifiable data, the more accurate our conclusions will be. 

*What is Marriage? Man and woman: a defense", Girgis/Anderson/George

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The theory of enharmonicity.

Piano Jokes!

From Joy of Color in My Piano:

Why is an 11-foot concert grand better than a studio upright?  Because it makes a much bigger kaboom when dropped over a cliff.
Why are pianists’ fingers like lightning?  They rarely strike the same place twice.
Why was the piano invented?  So the pianist would have a place to put his coffee.
What’s the difference between a piano accompanist and a terrorist?  You can negotiate with a terrorist.
What do you get when you drop a piano down a mineshaft?  A flat minor.
What do you get when you drop a piano on an army base?  A flat major.
What’s the difference between a pianist and a large pizza? A large pizza can feed a family of four.
Two people are walking down the street. One is a pianist; the other didn’t have any money either.
How do you make a million dollars playing the piano?  Start with two million.
Definition of a piano tuner: A person employed to come into the home, rearrange the furniture, and annoy the cat. The tuner’s chief purpose is to ascertain the breaking point of the piano’s strings.
Piano Tuner: I’ve come to tune the piano.
Music Teacher: But we didn’t send for you.
Piano Tuner: No, but the people who live across the street did.

How do you get two piano players to play in perfect unison?  Shoot one.
Did you hear about the piano player who played in rhythm?  Neither did I.
What do you get when an army officer puts his nose to the grindstone?  A sharp major.
The audience at a piano recital was appalled when a telephone rang just off stage. Without missing a note the soloist glanced toward the wings and called, “If that’s my agent, tell him I’m working!”
The piano player went into a coffee shop but kept fidgeting so much that he could not enjoy his coffee. Finally the server asked him what was wrong. The piano player replied, “My keys, my keys! I can’t seem to find my keys!”
My dad bought my mom a piano for her birthday.  A few weeks later, I asked how she was doing with it.
“Oh,” said my dad, “I persuaded her to switch to a clarinet.”
“How come?” I asked.
“Well,” he answered, “because with a clarinet, she can’t sing….”

Mrs. Smith needed to have her piano tuned so she asked a friend for a recommendation.  She then made an appointment with the piano tuner, Mr. Oppernockity.  He arrived 2 days later, tuned the piano satisfactorily, and left.  Several days later Mrs. Smith noticed that the piano was terribly out of tune again.  She called the tuner to complain about the tuning and to ask for a return visit to solve the problem.  However, the tuner replied, “I’m sorry ma’am, but Oppernockity only tunes once!”
A pianist and singer are rehearsing “Autumn Leaves” for a concert and the pianist says:?”OK. We will start in G minor and then on the third bar, modulate to B major and go into 5/4. When you get to the bridge, modulate back down to F# minor and alternate a 4/4 bar with a 7/4 bar. On the last A section go into double time and slowly modulate back to G minor.”? The singer says: “Wow, I don’t think I can remember all of that.” The pianist says: “Well, that’s what you did last time.”
When Beethoven passed away, he was buried in a churchyard. A couple days later, the town drunk was walking through the cemetery and heard some strange noise coming from the area where Beethoven was buried. Terrified, the drunk ran and got the priest to come and listen to it. The priest bent close to the grave and heard some faint, unrecognizable music coming from the grave. Frightened, the priest ran and got the town magistrate. When the magistrate arrived, he bent his ear to the grave, listened for a moment, and said, “Ah, yes, that’s Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, being played backwards.” He listened a while longer, and said, “There’s the Eighth Symphony, and it’s backwards, too. Most puzzling.” So the magistrate kept listening; “There’s the Seventh… the Sixth… the Fifth…” Suddenly the realization of what was happening dawned on the magistrate; he stood up and announced to the crowd that had gathered in the cemetery, “My fellow citizens, there’s nothing to worry about. It’s just Beethoven decomposing.”

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Libertarian Conversation on Same Sex Marriage, Part 1: Framing the discussion

I am often frustrated by some of the more illogical arguments that I see employed in the debate over same sex marriage. Frankly, I find them a little embarrassing, coming as they do from Evangelical Christianity, which is where I place myself as well. Sometimes I want to ask- How do people who believe same sex marriage is evil think they'll ever win their point when their arguments go down in a logical fireball at the slightest test? Why choose shoddy arguments to prove a point that can be addressed with much more reasonable hypotheses, perhaps with similar results? I'd like to propose a few arguments that I think should really never be used in such a policy discussion:

1. It's always been this way

By this logic, the world is flat and women do not contribute DNA to their children. Also, science is evil and germs are not a thing.

2. It was this way in the bible

(as opposed to endorsed specifically by scripture-the normative/prescriptive
 distinction is important here)
By that logic, marriage does not require consent, monogamy, or female agency. Scary.

3. The Greek Philosophers were for/against this

Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle are fun to read. They have a great many very smart things to say, particularly about law and government. Are they, however, infallible, or even universally reliable? Not a chance, as per their draconian views on gender, women, and the origins of the human race. Are they worthy of citation and consideration and thought? Yes! Does their opinion prove anything? No! It is their opinion, nothing more. The most intelligent and forward-thinking opinion, without substantiation, is still just an opinion. And some of their warped views of gender issues (yes, I'm going to get into that in more detail later) have shaped society, even christian society, and its views of the subject from their day to this one. That is not, in my opinion, a good thing.

4. Things we like will magically disappear if this happens

If we were legislating homosexual marriage instead of heterosexual marriage, this would be true. I do not think, however, that anyone wants to do that. All of the heterosexual people that would have gotten married will still, you know, get married. And allowing gay marriage does not automatically remove the commitment aspect of christian marriage, nor does it affect in any way the manner in which I or any other heterosexual christian lives out our marriages. This point is debated sometimes, in that some people say that allowing same sex marriage must completely redefine the institution in a way that damages and cheapens all marriages. I disagree; more on that later.

There are variations of these arguments which I will explore in more detail as time goes on, but the four above are the basis for those arguments which, in my opinion, it would behoove us to dismiss entirely.

So- what questions do I think we should be asking? What arguments should we be making

Assuming, for the purposes of this discussion, that American judicial, legislative, an political policy is and should be based upon protecting its citizens' rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness so long as they do not cause harm or infringe upon others' said rights:

Does same sex marriage infringe on the rights of others?
Does same sex marriage harm any one outside that marriage, specifically those who cannot advocate for themselves? (and yes, this includes hypothetical children raised in such a household)
Does same sex marriage remove/replace other, more expedient institutions?
What would same sex marriage cost, in resources, the state or community?
Does same sex marriage cause quantifiable harm to any person or institution which is not themselves causing harm?
Does same sex marriage carry any benefits to the state, community, or individuals?
Does the fact that many people believe something to be a moral sin mean that it should be legislated as such, purely for that reason?

Three things I think it's important to remember in discussions like these, particularly as we attempt to define harm and wrestle with what same sex marriage is and what are its implications for society-

 Correlation does not equal causation, 

 Genetic does not equal hereditary, and 

 Statistically likely does not equal universal, superior, or prescriptive.

In framing the discussion about possible harms from same sex marriage, too, I think that it is important to distinguish between data that may indicate a connection between harm (familial instability, for instance) and same sex marriage, and data that demonstrates in a reputable, scientific way a causality between harm of some sort and some aspect of same sex marriage: for example the gender of one's parents. To demonstrate this alleged harm, it would be important that the control parents be equitable in everything but gender. E.G. it would be illogical to cite two bisexual romantic partners who do not cohabit as a same sex couple for the purposes of comparison and statistics. We should try to approach data collecting and interpretation here with the same objectivity that we would any other question, in my opinion.

It should be noted that I have no intention of arguing whether or not homosexuality and same sex marriage are sin or inappropriate for christian practice. Nor do I feel that this series of posts is the appropriate venue to delve into my own opinions on that topic and my interpretations of the scriptures pertaining to it. Most christians believe that the bible clearly vilifies homosexual behavior, so for my purposes here I will equate that with the majority christian view. 

This series of posts is simply about legislating for or against same sex marriage- should we allow it, shouldn't we, or how do we decide?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Phrases I LIke

Many times, walking into Hobby Lobby or a friend's house, I see those decorative word art arrangements/plaques/graphic sculptures:  words like Family, Laugh, Love, et c. I like the idea of them, but I've always thought they were very....general. Boring, even. If I ever put words up as art, I think I'd gravitate more toward the following:

1. Correlation =/= Causation  *
2. Predilect to Perspecuity; Eschew Obfucsation  *
3. Statistical probability is more probable than absolute certainty is certain.
4. Normative =/= Prescriptive
5. Sound hermaneutics, loving hearts
6. Truth and Knowledge <3 Love and Grace
7. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.. (1 Cor. 13:12)
8. Inexplicable =/= Unscientific.
9. No certainty of anything is possible without Faith.
10. Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove.... (Shakespeare)
11. There is no downside to Bach
12. Capitalism is the prop of humanitarian venture.

And, of course, most of the things that I could say to represent my life or my self in my home are far to long to be graphic art, particularly since I am rather verbose. :) (me? really?)

*not original to me; origins unknown

Gender Rolls!