Saturday, February 27, 2010

Delegate Bob Marshall Offends Everyone

The only thing I have found error with in this video is that Marshall did "apologize" if not to a local Fox outlet.

He basically says that everyone was misinterpreting him and that isn't what he believes. Besides, he never even said 'it's god's punishment'. Ahem, last time I checked, referencing the Old Testament can be construed as quoting the Christian God. Plus, he still tries to defend his statements by saying that there can be consequences for abortions, i.e. low birth weight and preterm labor. Hmmm. Well, as any qualified practitioner will tell you, every pregnancy and birth is different. It is a huge leap to state that those statistics represent "nature's vengeance,” especially considering low birth weight and preterm labor happen with women who have never had an abortion. I don't know where he pulled Cerebral Palsy from...

What shocks me about this story is not that Bob Marshall said something offensive, it is what the religious folks said in response. I swear I wish that they would read their own holy book. Ms. Kemper, an Arlington area consulting minister for the Unitarian Universalist Church of Loudoun was shocked by Marshall's statements.

As a minister, I believe that God is neither vengeful nor vindictive, and I am offended by Mr. Marshall's blatant use of religious zealotry to further his limited agenda. He claims to be a supporter of family and children while denigrating the most vulnerable group of children in our society. Children with disabilities are blessings from God, just as all children are, not proof of God's punishment. This increasingly common habit of blaming hardship and difficulty on the "sins" of one group or another is hurtful to the very people we ought to be helping and undermines the bedrock of compassion and decency that characterize American society at its best.
The part I find especially intriguing is her belief that the Christian God is "neither vengeful nor vindictive." Has she read the bible? Whether New Testament or Old, there are plenty of deplorable acts carried out by Yahweh. She isn't alone in her deluded perception of the Christian God either. Take this quote from the article of Marshall's apology that I linked earlier:
"I am amazed that someone has been able to slander my child, my wife and my God in one comment," said Brett Wills, 38, a Staunton paint salesman who is the father of an 8-year-old boy with autism. "To imply that someone's disabilities are an act of God to punish women in an immoral society is just the most outrageous thing I've ever heard."
Really? Several stories come to mind when I think of Yahweh punishing innocent bystanders and children of those who have pissed him off...I am not even thinking of stories that aren't well known. Let's see...

Exodus chapters 12 & 13 tell that ever so popular tale of Yahweh killing all of Egypt's firstborns. You know, that part of the movie The Ten Commandments where everyone is screaming their heads off after discovering their dead sons. Of course, the only screen shot we get is of the loyal followers who skip town across the Red Sea a few minutes later. Moses hates all the little boys in chapter 31 (specifically versus 15-19). Then there was that time that Yahweh flooded the entire Earth with the exception of one little family. Every man, woman, child, and infant.
Just check out: Hosea 13:16; Revelations 2:23; Ezekiel 9:5-6, 26:6; Lamentations chapters 2-4; Jeremiah 14:16, 19:9, 51:22; Isaiah 14:21...and on and on and on and on and on. Seriously, look these scriptures up. All of them tell stories of children being murdered for the supposed “sins” of their parents or religious/political leaders. In some cases, their parents were forced to eat them. Lovely guy that Yahweh, huh?

Then there is the fact that the entire Christian religion is based on the sin of Adam and Eve who by Creationists' calculations lived about 6,000 years ago which means that the whole of humanity still hasn't been able to make up for their little mishap, a mishap that no one living in all this time even committed. Really? 6,000 years isn't enough to satisfy your deity? Talk about holding a grudge against every man, woman, and child!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

My (Abridged) Breastfeeding Story

I knew I would breastfeed. I never questioned it, not even once. If you asked me why, I'm not so sure I could answer. I always knew it was the better choice but in a casual way, I never really cared either way. The only child I ever really witnessed being breastfed was my brother, I was seven when he was born and my mother switched to formula when he was 9 months old. I remember him walking around with his bottle more than anything else. Perhaps I had a psychological memory from my own infanthood. My mother breastfed me until I was a little over two. At that time she kept developing mastitis and when her doctor found out that I was two he told her she should wean me. Apparently it was a very difficult transition for both of us. My mother breastfed me because it was a wonderful, calming experience for both of us and she never really felt inclined me to wean me until the doctor recommended it. Also, it seems I was still an avid nurser and was not at all interested in weaning myself anytime soon. Maybe it was the traumatic weaning experience or the prior years of mutually enjoyed nursing that made an impression on my young mind. Perhaps neither. Either way, I knew I was going to nurse Audrey.

Warning: This paragraph and the next may contain TMI for some readers. When I had Audrey I was still relatively young and very unassertive in uncomfortable situations (which is still the case today). My passive attitude led to a horrid birth experience. It also led to me not using the hospital's nursing consultant the way I should had. I went to the one-time nursing class the hospital held while I was pregnant, it wasn't very useful. The town we lived in at the time did not have an active La Leche League group so the hospital's class was my only option. When the nursing consultant visited me during my hospital stay I said everything was going well. Truth be told my latch was not very comfortable but it was hard for me to tell if that was because it was new or if it was due to an improper latch. Again, my reserved personality left me unwilling to truly converse with a stranger that kept trying to touch my boobs. When Audrey was four days old I became engorged, I might as well say my boobs ballooned to quadruple their already huge milk-filled state. They were so large and rock-hard that Audrey could not latch at all. I used the cheapy pump I had bought but barely succeeded in getting more than an ounce. Nevertheless, I put the measly amount in the one bottle we had and gave it to my starving newborn. It was late at night so my only option was to call the hospital. The nursing consultant had just gone on vacation and so I was left waiting for a call from the pediatrician on call. I basically got information that I already knew. "Try to pump...I hate to say give her formula...bottles will probably cause nipple confusion...she needs to eat." The hospital had sent me home with the customary formula bag and I sat in the closet staring at the contents contemplating all the possible effects that using it could have. I looked at the ingredients and I just couldn't do it. I gave Audrey water in a bottle and hoped we could wait it out until morning when I could go get help nursing. It was the longest night of my husband's and my life. Audrey was miserable, we were miserable. I felt helpless and defeated.

When morning came we rushed to the pediatrician who sent us to the hospital. Seeing as the nursing consultant was out of town, the nurses lent their help. Apparently, my engorgement had also flattened my nipples making latching even more strenuous. The nurse gave me a nipple shield and Audrey instantly latched. Feeling my milk letdown was miraculous though not a miracle. As soon as the engorgement abated I should have left the nursing shield behind but I had the new mom jitters and was terrified of a repeat of that awful night. So I kept the shield the time I felt comfortable taking it off my little girl was used to it and had nipple confusion. I think the shield might have helped protect me mastitis but I think it also dulled my feeling which might be a good thing when Audrey had the occasional nibble but not so good the rest of the time. I also think it might have caused me a few extra clogged ducts. In the end, I am thankful for the shield but not for the inconvenience it posed.

When the boy residing in my uterus pops out, I am determined to nurse sans shield. I am planning on attending the first LLL series of meetings for new breastfeeding mothers which will probably seem odd to most since I have been nursing Audrey for almost 3 years.

Other than that, I have recently experienced a breastfeeding agitation/nursing aversion due to my pregnancy. I started drinking more water and making sure I was getting my needed calories. That along with the knowledge that I wasn't going crazy has helped me get through it. If nothing else it definitely prepares me for how well I will need to take care of myself whenever it comes time to tandem nurse!

To Train Up A (Terrified) Child

There are a lot of differing opinions out there about the best way to discipline children. While I personally subscribe to the principles set out by Attachment Parenting, others prefer the Pearls. The Pearls represent the worst kind of Fundamentalist Christians. I ran across the books when my daughter was still quite young. I never actually read their infamous book, To Train Up a Child, but the information I received via online forum was more than enough to keep me away, far away. A few references, thanks to
1) The Pearls recommend whipping infants only a few months old on their bare skin. They describe whipping their own 4 month old daughter (p.9). They recommend whipping the bare skin of "every child" (p.2) for "Christians and non-Christians" (p.5) and for "every transgression" (p.1). Parents who don't whip their babies into complete submission are portrayed as indifferent, lazy, careless and neglectful (p.19) and are "creating a Nazi" (p.45).  
2) On p.60 they recommend whipping babies who cannot sleep and are crying, and to never allow them "to get up." On p.61 they recommend whipping a 12 month old girl for crying. On p.79 they recommend whipping a 7 month old for screaming.
3) On p.65 co-author Debi Pearl whips the bare leg of a 15 month old she is babysitting, 10 separate times, for not playing with something she tells him to play with. On p.56 Debi Pearl hits a 2 year old so hard "a karate chop like wheeze came from somewhere deep inside."
4) On p.44 they say not to let the child's crying while being hit to "cause you to lighten up on the intensity or duration of the spanking." On p.59 they recommend whipping a 3 year old until he is "totally broken."
5) On p.55 the Pearls say a mother should hit her child if he cries for her.
6) On p.46 the Pearls say that if a child does obey before being whipped, whip them anyway. And "if you have to sit on him to spank him, then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher." "Defeat him totally." On p.80 they recommend giving a child having a tantrum "a forceful spanking." On the same page they say to whip small children on their bare skin until they stop screaming. "Don't be bullied. Give him more of the same." They say to continue whipping until their crying turns into a "wounded, submissive whimper."
7) On p.47 they recommend their various whips, including "a belt or larger tree branch" to hit children.
8) The Pearls recommend pulling a nursing infant's hair (p.7), and describe tripping their non-swimming toddler so she falls into deep water (p.67). They recommend ignoring an infant's bumped head when he falls to the floor, and ignoring skinned knees (p.86). They also say "if your child is roughed-up by peers, rejoice." (p.81) And on p.103 the Pearls say if children lose their shoes, "let them go without until they (the children) can make the money to buy more."
Don't they sound like lovely people? *Barf.* The book is almost sold out on which terrifies me. While most of the reviews are either one star or five, the majority are the former. Many of the reviews that rated the book with a compelling five stars complain that people read the book too literally, focusing on the most aggressive parts and somehow suggest that this is not what the authors really meant. Apparently some Pearl followers missed the memo.
The Schatzes were arrested Saturday morning after their adopted daughter, Lydia, age 7, stopped breathing. She was subsequently pronounced dead. Her 11-year-old sister, Zariah Schatz, remains in critical condition at a Sacramento children's hospital, though she is showing some signs of recovery. The two were adopted at the same time with an infant girl, now 3, from the same African orphanage about three years ago.

"All I can say is the family is shocked; they are grieving the loss of their daughter and (ask) that people of faith will pray for everybody involved," the defense attorney stated outside of court Thursday.

Wow. Torture your children, murder one of them, and then ask for prayers in your favor...
I know prayer doesn't do shit but the audacity of these people strikes me in the most unfavorable way.
Prosecutors allege the two victims were subjected to "hours" of corporal punishment by their parents on successive days last Thursday and Friday with a quarter-inch-wide length of rubber or plastic tubing, which police reportedly recovered from the parents' bedroom. Police allege that the younger girl was being disciplined for mispronouncing a word during a home-school reading lesson the day before she died. The two young girls reportedly sustained deep bruising and multiple "whip-like" marks on their back, buttocks and legs, which authorities believe resulted in significant muscle tissue breakdown that impaired their kidneys and possibly other vital organs, said Ramsey.
Beating your child for mispronouncing a word...sounds like another news story that made headlines recently.
 He said investigators are researching a possible connection to an Internet website set up by "fundamentalist Christian people" that recommends use of the same whip-like implement "as an appropriate tool for biblical chastisement ... to train a child from infancy to make them a happier child and more obedient to God because they are obedient to the will of their parents," said Ramsey.
*Cough.* Pearls! *Cough.*
The other children in the home said the same rubber or plastic tube was used on all of them "as a standard method of discipline, but certainly not to the extent of these two girls," Ramsey added.
Hmm. I guess that the Schatzes weren't really following the Pearls' advice when it came to their biological children. ("On p.44 they say not to let the child's crying while being hit to 'cause you to lighten up on the intensity or duration of the spanking.'") It must have been easier to ignore the cries of their adopted children...sickening.

This isn't the first child murder case linked to the Pearls either, just Google Sean Paddock.

For the record, I am completely and utterly against spanking of any kind. A hit is a hit and spanking only teaches children that it is okay for adults to hit them.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Family Guy VS Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin is pissed off. Bleh.

Mrs. Fox Contributor was offended by the Family Guy episode that depicts Chris dating a girl with Down Syndrome. The writers took the opportunity to poke fun at Palin (the character's mom was "the former governor of Alaska").

As the aunt of someone with DS and an avid viewer of Family Guy, I figured I would offer my two cents. Family Guy gets most of its laughs from being socially inappropriate and politically incorrect. It is easy to get offended when they poke fun at something that has personal meaning to the watcher and I can imagine that the twinge of discomfort would grow if you were personally at the butt of a particular joke. In the end though, get over it. You can change the channel. You can choose not to watch it and not give it any attention. I'll admit that the show has made me squirm at times but I understand that discomfort is basically the premise and plot of the entire series. If they ever went too far over the line I would stop watching, pure and simple. The show is a smash hit so it obviously strikes a chord with a very large audience.

In this particular case I find it deliciously ironic that Palin now works for Fox, the network that carries not only Family Guy but The Simpsons. Fox has never been a network to shy away from controversy. In the end they are all about ratings whether it is on their "news" station or otherwise.

Another reason not to like Palin, surprise surprise.


The actress who played Ellen was Andrea Fay Friedman, a television actress who has Down Syndrome herself. She wrote an e-mail to the New York Times responding to Palin's critcism which the Times followed up with an interview.
I guess former Governor Palin does not have a sense of humor. I thought the line “I am the daughter of the former governor of Alaska” was very funny. I think the word is “sarcasm.” In my family we think laughing is good. My parents raised me to have a sense of humor and to live a normal life.

I watched on Channel 4, on “Extra,” and I saw Sarah Palin with her son Trig. I’m like, “I’m not Trig. This is my life.” I was making fun of Sarah Palin, but not her son.
Go Andrea! She hit it right on the nose!

Student Loan Hell

Our society at large has a very large problem with money. Everyone wants even when they cannot afford. We are told, either outright or subliminally, that our possessions represent our worth and accomplishments as human beings. It doesn't take a PhD to figure out how that leads us into overwhelming financial crisis whether on a personal scale or taking the form of a worldwide recession.

While the system is complicated and consumers are often at fault to some degree or another, there is a particularly nasty way in which greed rears its head: loans, more specifically, student loans. Other types of debt tend to lay blame on the consumer rather than the lender. However, when it comes to paying for your education, this does not always seem to be the case.

There are many parties at fault.
1) The Schools - Rising tuition costs are a huge concern for anyone attending or planning to attend college. Even amid a crippling recession, prices rise astronomically. College is a prerequisite to the majority of careers and this fact has led to full advantage being taken of broke students and their parents. I'm not implying that it is cheap to provide higher education but care should be taken to ensure that tuition is not excessive.
2) The Lenders - Ah, the artistry of the fine print. Are you kidding me? The title is linked to a story about a doctor with over $500,000 in student loans. While the amount may be unusual, the story is not.
A lot of debt is incurred in order to find a well paying, enjoyable career that sometimes ends up not paying so well. Huge student loan amounts kick in almost immediately after graduation with massive interest rates attached. Even a small personal financial hiccup can lead to getting behind in which case penalties are imposed and before you know what's happening you are traveling in a downward spiral of financial doom.
3) The Students - You're in college, you should know to read the damn fine print!

Now, this issue is multi-faceted and much more complex than a few paragraphs can do justice but I just have to say that SOMETHING must be done. I, myself, am a fan of completely eradicating the monetary system but I will have to write a blog about that another day (soon).

On a personal note, my husband and I have very little debt (thankfully) but the little we have has already shown me how quickly things can get out of control and I know we will proceed with great caution on all future financial decisions because of it.
I chose not to go to college because I did not want to take out student loans. There was literally no college fund for me and though I had some minor scholarship offers it would have never been enough. I would have majored in either English or Journalism…now let's be honest, those fields do not usually yield high paying salaries and I did not want to be stuck with thousands of dollars in loans for the rest of my life. I loved school and I know I would have loved college. However, after seeing the financial mess my mother went through I was not willing to allow my life to become one collection call after another.

Calling All Ex-Jehovah's Witnesses

Who likes surveys?

YouTuber Tim Kilgore is doing a large research project and needs your help! Click on the title or here and you'll be redirected to his video explaining what to do. Basically, it is 20 general multiple choice questions about what led to you leaving the organization as well as your feelings about it today. Help a fellow out!

Friday, February 12, 2010


Disclaimer: No, this is not my belly but check out the photographer's online studio. Super neat!
I am now a little over six months pregnant and my back is well aware of the evils that can entail. However, it also has me all mushy, gushy emotional (and horny). My little girl will be three right around the time her brother pops out. I can't believe it! Three has never sounded like such a huge number before! Time flies, especially when we have lived in seven different homes in three (technically five) different cities since she was born. I spent some time today looking at her baby pictures. She found them fascinating (she loves being told how adorable she is and is always very concerned at the pictures that caught her crying or with a booboo). It just passes so fast. I think my favorite stage up until now was the newborn stage but I think we are hitting a new competitor for favorite. She is learning so much every day now. She loves to play and read and soak up every bit of every experience she can.

We had over 9 inches of snow here today and it was such a blast! I haven't seen snow like that in years, literally YEARS! We made a snow girl with jawbreaker eyes, bubble gum lips, a dog treat hair bow, and oddly shaped snow lumps for a body. We named her Candi. Our little toddler is a lot of fun but she is also emotionally high maintenance, even for a 2.5 year old. Then again, I have always been a bit of an emotional basketcase so I suppose it is only fair. Hopefully she will find more balance with age.
Our little bubba should be here sometime in late May and while part of me wishes he was here already another part of me can't believe I'm pregnant. This was a planned pregnancy and has gone very well so far (other than the excruciating backache that is) but it never seems quite real until you hold them. My favorite picture of me and my baby girl is still the first time I ever held her. All my motherly chemicals gush at the mere sight of it.

I'm so excited! I hope I make the most of every moment with them. I hope I live up to everything that I can be for them. I have learned so much in these last (almost) three years and I can only imagine what the next 3 and beyond will teach me. I love my kids :)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Jehovah Eats Blood

Above is a copy of an older version of the Jehovah's Witnesses medical alert card stating that they will not accept blood transfusions. Though the newer ones are quite a bit less dramatic and more lawfully worded, the end result is the same: "Don't give me any blood because of a few scriptures in the bible." They point to two specific passages most often: Genesis 9:4 and Leviticus 17:10-14. Here they are, respectively:
But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.

And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood. ... Therefore I said unto the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood. ... And whatsoever man there be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, which hunteth and catcheth any beast or fowl that may be eaten; he shall even pour out the blood thereof, and cover it with dust. For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof: therefore I said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh: for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof: whosoever eateth it shall be cut off.
Most of the members of my family have the updated version of the 'No Blood' card in the wallet. *Gag.* While the intricacies and specifics of what they can and cannot accept has changed over the years, a few things have remained the same. Most witnesses only understand that they are against transfusions because "blood is sacred" or "it belongs to Jehovah" or something equally ambiguous. In reality, the Governing Body translates these scriptures as meaning "don't eat blood." Instead of having strenuous diets like Orthodox Jews, they don't accept blood transfusions. A nice rare steak is up for grabs though. I have experienced the real world effects of these cards in two ways.

A couple that have been lifelong friends with my uncle are very indoctrinated in the religion. They have 3 children. The wife gave birth to 5. The last two children were twins born slightly premature but with several issues. As Jehovah's Witnesses, they refused blood transfusions for their newborns, believing that is what their all-loving god truly wanted. While they were praying their doctors were trying to get an injunction from the courts. While the hospital succeeded, it was too late and both babies died. To this day, you can see the pain and suffering etched in their faces. Their torment is eased only by the false hope that they will see their children alive and healthy on a paradise Earth sometime in the future.

Another couple, newly married and lightly involved in Witness activities also had twins. Ignoring the dogma that had plagued their lives, they accepted blood transfusions. Their twins are now five years old.

Anyone who believes the blood bullshit that is put forth by the Witnesses needs to seriously review their own dogma. I wrote this blog because I was reminded of the very important topic by an article that is linked to the title. I am now wondering if I received blood in either of my two childhood surgeries. The holder of this information is my newly refurbished JW mother. What an interesting conversation that will be, I'll update.

Death in the Family and More

Our hamster, Captain Jack, died last week. :(

Here are a few articles that I did not write but that should certainly be read:

This one is about breastfeeding/nursing in public (NIP). This article has gone viral; the author's name is at the end.

The Primary NIP Myth: "The Right Not To Be Offended"

People suppose they have the right not to be made uncomfortable by seeing a baby nursing, but that is their desire, not the actual case. That kind of sense of entitlement is founded on a false premise.

There is no such thing as "The Right Not To Be Offended".

For example, if I am eating out and the man at the table next to me does something I find offensive, say, chews loudly with his mouth wide open, (which actually does make me sick and can ruin a meal for me) I can go over to his table and request for him to sit somewhere else, or I can ask the wait staff to have him finish his meal in the car, or possibly cover up with a tablecloth, right? We all know I’d be laughed out of the place if I responded that way, even though in my opinion, it is obvious he was being impolite. It isn’t reasonable to believe that my opinion of his actions should obligate him to change his behavior, even though I wish he would. It isn’t reasonable to believe that holding the opinion that breastfeeding is impolite means a mom should be obligated to avoid doing it in front of you or to do it in a way you find acceptable.

It is apparent that many people think they are entitled to have others meet their personal comfort needs, they seem to feel that rather than taking responsibility for their own discomfort if they see something they don’t like, that the "offender" should then assume responsibility for making them more comfortable. Adults are capable of meeting their own comfort needs. All it takes on their part to avoid being uncomfortable is to look away. But rather than doing so, they choose not to meet their own needs and then blame someone else for their discomfort.

If you have eyes and ears the reality is that you will sometimes see and hear things that you would rather not. A desire to be comfortable with the way the babies around you are eating is a preference that no one else is obligated to accommodate. It’s not a matter of politeness or courtesy - feeding a baby is neither impolite nor "inconsiderate" nor discourteous in itself. It is unrealistic and self-absorbed to expect someone else to meet your own petty comfort needs. The general public is not responsible for understanding and accommodating everyone else's personal preferences.

Whether I like seeing a baby breastfeeding or not, it’s my responsibility to take care of my own comfort. It’s not up to perfect strangers going about their business to see that I remain in my own personal comfort zone.

Copyright © Sher Maloney
The whole 'Right Not to be Offended' concept is interesting. My sensibilities are constantly offended by religious folks but their freedom of speech trumps my irritation. While I believe that religion is better kept a private thing I don't want to stop people from spouting off their opinion, even if it is ridiculous. As a matter of fact, I want them to voice their opinions so that they can be openly challenged. I do, however, draw the line at their superstitious beliefs becoming part of secular law.

As a reasonable adult, I reject the bible as a moral authority. Those that would oppose that stance tend to be against gay marriage. They would do well to read the following article by Lisa Miller of Newsweek.

Let's try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel—all these fathers and heroes were polygamists. The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments—especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. "It is better to marry than to burn with passion," says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple—who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love—turn to the Bible as a how-to script?
Of course not, yet the religious opponents of gay marriage would have it be so.
The battle over gay marriage has been waged for more than a decade, but within the last six months—since California legalized gay marriage and then, with a ballot initiative in November, amended its Constitution to prohibit it—the debate has grown into a full-scale war, with religious-rhetoric slinging to match. Not since 1860, when the country's pulpits were full of preachers pronouncing on slavery, pro and con, has one of our basic social (and economic) institutions been so subject to biblical scrutiny. But whereas in the Civil War the traditionalists had their James Henley Thornwell—and the advocates for change, their Henry Ward Beecher—this time the sides are unevenly matched. All the religious rhetoric, it seems, has been on the side of the gay-marriage opponents, who use Scripture as the foundation for their objections.
The argument goes something like this statement, which the Rev. Richard A. Hunter, a United Methodist minister, gave to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in June: "The Bible and Jesus define marriage as between one man and one woman. The church cannot condone or bless same-sex marriages because this stands in opposition to Scripture and our tradition."
To which there are two obvious responses: First, while the Bible and Jesus say many important things about love and family, neither explicitly defines marriage as between one man and one woman. And second, as the examples above illustrate, no sensible modern person wants marriage—theirs or anyone else's —to look in its particulars anything like what the Bible describes. "Marriage" in America refers to two separate things, a religious institution and a civil one, though it is most often enacted as a messy conflation of the two. As a civil institution, marriage offers practical benefits to both partners: contractual rights having to do with taxes; insurance; the care and custody of children; visitation rights; and inheritance. As a religious institution, marriage offers something else: a commitment of both partners before God to love, honor and cherish each other—in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer—in accordance with God's will. In a religious marriage, two people promise to take care of each other, profoundly, the way they believe God cares for them. Biblical literalists will disagree, but the Bible is a living document, powerful for more than 2,000 years because its truths speak to us even as we change through history. In that light, Scripture gives us no good reason why gays and lesbians should not be (civilly and religiously) married—and a number of excellent reasons why they should.

In the Old Testament, the concept of family is fundamental, but examples of what social conservatives would call "the traditional family" are scarcely to be found. Marriage was critical to the passing along of tradition and history, as well as to maintaining the Jews' precious and fragile monotheism. But as the Barnard University Bible scholar Alan Segal puts it, the arrangement was between "one man and as many women as he could pay for." Social conservatives point to Adam and Eve as evidence for their one man, one woman argument—in particular, this verse from Genesis: "Therefore shall a man leave his mother and father, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh." But as Segal says, if you believe that the Bible was written by men and not handed down in its leather bindings by God, then that verse was written by people for whom polygamy was the way of the world. (The fact that homosexual couples cannot procreate has also been raised as a biblical objection, for didn't God say, "Be fruitful and multiply"? But the Bible authors could never have imagined the brave new world of international adoption and assisted reproductive technology—and besides, heterosexuals who are infertile or past the age of reproducing get married all the time.)
Ozzie and Harriet are nowhere in the New Testament either. The biblical Jesus was—in spite of recent efforts of novelists to paint him otherwise—emphatically unmarried. He preached a radical kind of family, a caring community of believers, whose bond in God superseded all blood ties. Leave your families and follow me, Jesus says in the gospels. There will be no marriage in heaven, he says in Matthew. Jesus never mentions homosexuality, but he roundly condemns divorce (leaving a loophole in some cases for the husbands of unfaithful women).
The apostle Paul echoed the Christian Lord's lack of interest in matters of the flesh. For him, celibacy was the Christian ideal, but family stability was the best alternative. Marry if you must, he told his audiences, but do not get divorced. "To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): a wife must not separate from her husband." It probably goes without saying that the phrase "gay marriage" does not appear in the Bible at all.
If the bible doesn't give abundant examples of traditional marriage, then what are the gay-marriage opponents really exercised about? Well, homosexuality, of course—specifically sex between men. Sex between women has never, even in biblical times, raised as much ire. In its entry on "Homosexual Practices," the Anchor Bible Dictionary notes that nowhere in the Bible do its authors refer to sex between women, "possibly because it did not result in true physical 'union' (by male entry)." The Bible does condemn gay male sex in a handful of passages. Twice Leviticus refers to sex between men as "an abomination" (King James version), but these are throwaway lines in a peculiar text given over to codes for living in the ancient Jewish world, a text that devotes verse after verse to treatments for leprosy, cleanliness rituals for menstruating women and the correct way to sacrifice a goat—or a lamb or a turtle dove. Most of us no longer heed Leviticus on haircuts or blood sacrifices; our modern understanding of the world has surpassed its prescriptions. Why would we regard its condemnation of homosexuality with more seriousness than we regard its advice, which is far lengthier, on the best price to pay for a slave?
Paul was tough on homosexuality, though recently progressive scholars have argued that his condemnation of men who "were inflamed with lust for one another" (which he calls "a perversion") is really a critique of the worst kind of wickedness: self-delusion, violence, promiscuity and debauchery. In his book "The Arrogance of Nations," the scholar Neil Elliott argues that Paul is referring in this famous passage to the depravity of the Roman emperors, the craven habits of Nero and Caligula, a reference his audience would have grasped instantly. "Paul is not talking about what we call homosexuality at all," Elliott says. "He's talking about a certain group of people who have done everything in this list. We're not dealing with anything like gay love or gay marriage. We're talking about really, really violent people who meet their end and are judged by God." In any case, one might add, Paul argued more strenuously against divorce—and at least half of the Christians in America disregard that teaching.
Religious objections to gay marriage are rooted not in the Bible at all, then, but in custom and tradition (and, to talk turkey for a minute, a personal discomfort with gay sex that transcends theological argument). Common prayers and rituals reflect our common practice: the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer describes the participants in a marriage as "the man and the woman." But common practice changes—and for the better, as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice." The Bible endorses slavery, a practice that Americans now universally consider shameful and barbaric. It recommends the death penalty for adulterers (and in Leviticus, for men who have sex with men, for that matter). It provides conceptual shelter for anti-Semites. A mature view of scriptural authority requires us, as we have in the past, to move beyond literalism. The Bible was written for a world so unlike our own, it's impossible to apply its rules, at face value, to ours.
Marriage, specifically, has evolved so as to be unrecognizable to the wives of Abraham and Jacob. Monogamy became the norm in the Christian world in the sixth century; husbands' frequent enjoyment of mistresses and prostitutes became taboo by the beginning of the 20th. (In the NEWSWEEK POLL, 55 percent of respondents said that married heterosexuals who have sex with someone other than their spouses are more morally objectionable than a gay couple in a committed sexual relationship.) By the mid-19th century, U.S. courts were siding with wives who were the victims of domestic violence, and by the 1970s most states had gotten rid of their "head and master" laws, which gave husbands the right to decide where a family would live and whether a wife would be able to take a job. Today's vision of marriage as a union of equal partners, joined in a relationship both romantic and pragmatic, is, by very recent standards, radical, says Stephanie Coontz, author of "Marriage, a History."
Religious wedding ceremonies have already changed to reflect new conceptions of marriage. Remember when we used to say "man and wife" instead of "husband and wife"? Remember when we stopped using the word "obey"? Even Miss Manners, the voice of tradition and reason, approved in 1997 of that change. "It seems," she wrote, "that dropping 'obey' was a sensible editing of a service that made assumptions about marriage that the society no longer holds."
We cannot look to the Bible as a marriage manual, but we can read it for universal truths as we struggle toward a more just future. The Bible offers inspiration and warning on the subjects of love, marriage, family and community. It speaks eloquently of the crucial role of families in a fair society and the risks we incur to ourselves and our children should we cease trying to bind ourselves together in loving pairs. Gay men like to point to the story of passionate King David and his friend Jonathan, with whom he was "one spirit" and whom he "loved as he loved himself." Conservatives say this is a story about a platonic friendship, but it is also a story about two men who stand up for each other in turbulent times, through violent war and the disapproval of a powerful parent. David rends his clothes at Jonathan's death and, in grieving, writes a song:
I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother;
You were very dear to me.
Your love for me was wonderful,
More wonderful than that of women.

Here, the Bible praises enduring love between men. What Jonathan and David did or did not do in privacy is perhaps best left to history and our own imaginations.

In addition to its praise of friendship and its condemnation of divorce, the Bible gives many examples of marriages that defy convention yet benefit the greater community. The Torah discouraged the ancient Hebrews from marrying outside the tribe, yet Moses himself is married to a foreigner, Zipporah. Queen Esther is married to a non-Jew and, according to legend, saves the Jewish people. Rabbi Arthur Waskow, of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia, believes that Judaism thrives through diversity and inclusion. "I don't think Judaism should or ought to want to leave any portion of the human population outside the religious process," he says. "We should not want to leave [homosexuals] outside the sacred tent." The marriage of Joseph and Mary is also unorthodox (to say the least), a case of an unconventional arrangement accepted by society for the common good. The boy needed two human parents, after all.

In the Christian story, the message of acceptance for all is codified. Jesus reaches out to everyone, especially those on the margins, and brings the whole Christian community into his embrace. The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author, cites the story of Jesus revealing himself to the woman at the well— no matter that she had five former husbands and a current boyfriend—as evidence of Christ's all-encompassing love. The great Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann, emeritus professor at Columbia Theological Seminary, quotes the apostle Paul when he looks for biblical support of gay marriage: "There is neither Greek nor Jew, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ." The religious argument for gay marriage, he adds, "is not generally made with reference to particular texts, but with the general conviction that the Bible is bent toward inclusiveness."
The practice of inclusion, even in defiance of social convention, the reaching out to outcasts, the emphasis on togetherness and community over and against chaos, depravity, indifference—all these biblical values argue for gay marriage. If one is for racial equality and the common nature of humanity, then the values of stability, monogamy and family necessarily follow. Terry Davis is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Hartford, Conn., and has been presiding over "holy unions" since 1992. "I'm against promiscuity—love ought to be expressed in committed relationships, not through casual sex, and I think the church should recognize the validity of committed same-sex relationships," he says.
Still, very few Jewish or Christian denominations do officially endorse gay marriage, even in the states where it is legal. The practice varies by region, by church or synagogue, even by cleric. More progressive denominations—the United Church of Christ, for example—have agreed to support gay marriage. Other denominations and dioceses will do "holy union" or "blessing" ceremonies, but shy away from the word "marriage" because it is politically explosive. So the frustrating, semantic question remains: should gay people be married in the same, sacramental sense that straight people are? I would argue that they should. If we are all God's children, made in his likeness and image, then to deny access to any sacrament based on sexuality is exactly the same thing as denying it based on skin color—and no serious (or even semiserious) person would argue that. People get married "for their mutual joy," explains the Rev. Chloe Breyer, executive director of the Interfaith Center in New York, quoting the Episcopal marriage ceremony. That's what religious people do: care for each other in spite of difficulty, she adds. In marriage, couples grow closer to God: "Being with one another in community is how you love God. That's what marriage is about."

More basic than theology, though, is human need. We want, as Abraham did, to grow old surrounded by friends and family and to be buried at last peacefully among them. We want, as Jesus taught, to love one another for our own good—and, not to be too grandiose about it, for the good of the world. We want our children to grow up in stable homes. What happens in the bedroom, really, has nothing to do with any of this. My friend the priest James Martin says his favorite Scripture relating to the question of homosexuality is Psalm 139, a song that praises the beauty and imperfection in all of us and that glorifies God's knowledge of our most secret selves: "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." And then he adds that in his heart he believes that if Jesus were alive today, he would reach out especially to the gays and lesbians among us, for "Jesus does not want people to be lonely and sad." Let the priest's prayer be our own.
With Sarah Ball and Anne Underwood
© 2008
I personally think she made Jesus sound a bit nicer than he was. He did endorse the entire Old Testament (Matthew 5:17), admits to leading everyone into hell with his words (Mark 4:11-12), advocated murdering your children (Mark 7:9), and approves of beating your slaves (Luke 12:47). There are other scriptures with Jesus further endorsing these immoral evils but I don't feel like looking them up.

This Will Just Hurt A Bit

Vaccines. Ah, the wonderful debate that 8 letter word can start. I never gave much thought to vaccines until my daughter was born. Let me add a disclaimer here, read this entire blog before making any rash comments. Now to continue...

My side of the family is extremely into natural living: a good, fresh diet that limits highly processed foods; using herbs, minerals, and vitamins to sustain your health, and avoid unnecessary medical intervention. Basically, live in a way that promotes your body's own defenses and avoid the side effects of more advanced medicine. Now I think anyone can agree with doing those things, add a little exercise and we would all be a lot better off. Unfortunately, the women in my family are also big proponents of homeopathic medicine. I was always a bit skeptical (especially since you give the same dose to a newborn as you give to an adult) and after a bit of research into the studies that have been done, my suspicions were confirmed: nothing but an expensive placebo. The placebo effect has worked well for them and they continue to spend their hard earned money in spite of my protests. Since this is the information I grew up hearing, however, I have come to a different conclusion than the average majority regarding modern medicine and the place it should play in our lives.

This is not the blog to discuss whether or not health care should be a for-profit business but the fact that it is has effected my opinions on the subject. Western culture has the horrid mentality of 'popping a pill' for every little ailment and enduring the side effects rather than trying to be balanced in our diet and exercise. I'm sorry, but when advertisements for medications list death as a possible side effect I wonder about the pro/con lists people are creating. Health care and insurance is a hot topic here in America and that is not going to change anytime soon. There is colossal amounts of money to be made, especially when quick fixes are preferred over true health. All these things considered, I think our health care system is more of a lazy care system most of the time.

Back to the topic, the little needles in little arms. When Audrey was born until she was about 6 months old, she received all of her shots according to the CDC schedule. Then I started doing research and freaked myself out. I ended up asking her pediatrician to hold off at her next appointment on some of the more debated vaccines, at least until I could do more research. This is my child we were talking about and I wanted to do what was best for her, fully informed. Due to the afore mentioned reasons, I am not one to just listen to my doctor unquestioningly. They are, after all, fallible humans just like the rest of us. Instead of trying to rationally address my concerns, however, my daughter's pediatrician freaked. She became very emotional and insulted me on several levels. She told me she would do whatever I wanted to do that day but that I needed to find a new pediatrician since I wasn't willing to take her advice. Now, I know it can be an emotional issue on all sides but I needed a calm, rational opinion not someone telling me to accept their authority and shut up. It is easy to lose sight of reason when it comes to your children and her response only served to anger me.

We moved to another city not long after and I found a new pediatrician for my daughter who let me pick and choose but failed to give any truly helpful advice. I spent months sifting through studies, opinions, stories, and more. Looking back, I read too much anecdote and not enough science. It seemed that no matter what I read, it was emotionally charged and I never felt comfortable making any clear cut decisions. Meanwhile, my little girl was receiving most of her vaccinations but not all. She has a urological birth defect and was on several different antibiotics over the first year of her life. She always had some sort of reaction to the antibiotics, no matter which kind, and I was always on edge. My tightrope walk was not improved by the statistics showing children with chronic problems and allergic reactions being more at risk for increased side effects from vaccines. Every time she got a shot she got a fever and was lethargic, well in the realm of normal. However, when she only received one vaccination (as opposed to the normal schedule's 3 or 4 each containing several vaccines in one) she didn't even get a low grade fever.

Finally, I started looking ONLY at independent, well researched trials. Long, long, long story short....
I do not feel comfortable with all the ingredients in vaccines. Not because I think they cause Autism but because of the well documented side effects that can develop. There are risks that go along with giving your child vaccines. But, here is how I look at it now. We are surrounded by all sorts of things that are bad for us. Cell phones are being shown to be harmful on several levels by good science, but we are willing to accept those effects for convenience sake. Just like we are willing to accept an elevated risk of getting into a car wreck for the convenience of a higher speed limit. We like fast food and processed snacks not so much for taste, and definitely not for their nutritional benefits, but for their convenience. There are a lot of activities I participate in that are not good for my health all in the name of convenience. Vaccines are not all in the name of convenience. They actually save lives, protect populations as a whole, and prevent catastrophe. I would rather try to improve my overall health in other areas and take the heightened risk associated with vaccines for the benefits that they DO provide. Give me the less technologically enabled cell, a fresh veggie instead of a fry, etc. and give me the shot. My daughter now receives all of her vaccines at the recommended age, but not all at once. I take the time to go back to the pediatrician over and over so that her immune system can fully handle each vaccine individually. Her system seems to be more delicate than most and prone to reactions. This system is how I, as a parent, feel comfortable and confident that I am doing what is best for her. I plan on doing the same for her brother when he is born. Some will agree with me and some will not, boo hoo. I spent too long listening to junk when I should have been looking at actual studies doing actual science.

I will admit that I am still weary of the fact that they keep putting more vaccines into one shot which I think is unnecessary. I am also on edge when it comes to seasonal shots, like those for the flu. I understand the need for the shot to be updated quickly and be put on the market as soon as possible. It concerns me only because there is such a rush and so little time for making sure everything is truly in order. There seems to be a problem in some way with one batch or another every year. I also take issue with the a certain vaccine that has come out to prevent cancer. Worthy cause, no doubt. My issue comes when it is a cancer you only receive through an STD gone wrong and they are recommending it for girls as young as 9 years old. I understand the whole idea of it being more effective when given earlier and that we live in an age where more and more teens are sexually active at a younger age but COME ON! Why not try a little parenting? Talk to your kids about being sexually responsible and then decide whether or not they are at risk. Don't just stick them with something that has already been shown to have very serious side effects, i.e. paralyzation. If you aren't going to practice safe sex and check out who you are sleeping with it is probably a great idea to get the vaccine. Admittedly, most teens are not going to tell their parents "I'm going to have unsafe sex with multiple partners that I know nothing about so please give me the vaccine." It is complicated but it goes against my sensibilities nonetheless.

In the end, vaccines present a complex issue as they are preventative medicine that carries risks. In the end, I think that vaccines are a risk well worth taking and the science backs up that opinion.