Thoughts on Family

Family is a very full word.  It carries most of our memories, aspirations, relationships and identity.  Defining family is the closest we can come to approaching but not reaching the act of defining self.

When I think of the division between conservatism and liberalism (as strange and twisted as both definitions have become in American politics), I cannot think of a starker difference in opinion than on the nature and significance of family.

On the one hand, you have organizations like the fundamentally ugly quiverfull, and the people their brand of thinking inspires (via inmate1972):

So I’m in this cafe with the Super Breeding Quiverfull Family of 14 and while some people giggled at the father trying to remember one his daughters’ first name, I focused instead on the incredibly sad look on the girl’s face and she corrected him no less than three times. But who is this kid to expect to feel special when she exists soley as a fullfillment of a mission?

That’s heartbreaking.  But I think its a mentality that plays out in many right wing positions.  In the war that grinds through a generation of soldiers, leaving some dead, and more deeply wounded in both mind and body.  In posititions on birth control that have led to preventable deaths.  The idea that a child is a punishment for having sex outside religiously acceptible terms is best viewed through the lens of people who have made the conscious decision to have children.  When you see the effort, love, and weird transformations (“I’m comfortable with picking another person’s nose now” – Rich) involved, you can’t help be see the child who is viewed as a weight as a victim of the cruelest loss.  And of course there is health care.  Any political idealogy that counts uninsured children as a necessity has embraced a cold and detached violence that replaces compassion with psychotic indifference.

On the other hand, there is the liberal view of family.  Blonder than You wrote this incredibly moving post on her accompanyment of a friend to the Emergency Room:

i kept playing it over in my head….you are not family…you are not family….

what the hell do these people know about family???? they dont know him they dont know me..they certainly dont know about our “family”….they dont know:

that his parents are assholes and kicked him out of the house when he told them he was gay

that i moved in with him for several months a few years ago when he first got cancer…to take him back and forth to chemo and to care for him after the treatments left him a mess…

that he gets realllly scared at hospitals… i mean you really only have to go through cancer treatments once for hospitals to leave a bad taste in your mouth…three times… and well…. you’ll pretty much freak out when they try to put an iv in your arm too…

that when i needed it..he offered to let me live with him…rent free… for as long as i needed (seriously… isnt THAT family)

Family is more than a social unit.  It is a level of connection that reaches compassionately into our deepest weaknesses to offer support.  Its knowing you can call and share your latest ideas, fears, passions and triumphs.  It leans over the line where the terms “close friend” and “best friend” sit as close as they can to each other.

Defining family is powerful:

but i swear … the whole thing…. made me agonizingly aware of the magnitude of not allowing gay partners to marry…i know that gay couples go through this kind of thing often… and … its awful… i cant really imagine it…two hours and i was near crazy…

step back folks…it isnt about having two dudes or two chicks on the top of a cake…. it isnt just about having a “wedding” …..it isnt about what “your god” preaches…..its about being legally defined as family….. not having to explain to a 17 year old receptionist who cant even tie her shoes..(she was born in the age of velcro) … what FAMILY is… cause reallly… its none of her business…

It is a way of defining who we are.  The battle for gay marriage is often viewed “merely” as a civil rights struggle of a particular group of people.  It goes far beyond that.  It is simply one front in the battle over a fundamental question.  Do we posses the liberty to determine our own relationships?

When you take your dear friend to the hospital, and you are the only one there, you are family.

When Obama wins office, one of the key points his platform advocated (as did Clinton, Edwards, and every other Democrat), was the idea of furthering patient’s rights.  The definition of “family” ought to be a part of that.  Hell, if the campaign was really smart, they’d make it a cornerstone.  Because nothing takes the hypocritical punch of “Family Values” out of right wing discourse like shoving real family values into the spotlight.

But on a more personal level, as I reflect back on the conversations I’ve had over the past few weeks, it reminds me how dearly I love the people in my life.  And how no matter how close a friend you are, it is never expected that you would take time to listen to my worries or my adventures, and always flooring to know that I could be the object of such caring.  And it always moves me that I am ever able to be the same sort of person for you.  So I owe some people a very big thank you.  And I am reminded how much is as stake, whether during an election cycle or not.

So I invite you, dear readers, to make politics personal.  Politics isn’t an abstract and filthy thing politicians do to keep the country running.  It is the energy that builds the world we live our lives in.  So it is by nature personal.  And what is more personal than how we are allowed to define family?

Lieberman, McCain and End Times Christianism

Lieberman spoke before the group “Christians United for Israel”, a far right group lead by disgraced pastor Hagee, who McCain’s campaign sought belatedly to distance itself from after his disgusting remarks about the Holocaust:

Mr. Hagee’s support for Mr. McCain had been seen as a boon to Mr. McCain’s outreach to evangelical voters until the disclosure of earlier remarks in which Mr. Hagee said, “Hitler and the Nazis were sent by God, to chase Jews back to the land of Israel.”

In the face of opposition from Jewish Peace Group J Street, why did Lieberman buck McCain’s leash and whatever good sense he possesses to go speak?  (Emphasis Mine):

Asserting that Mr. Hagee had worked hard to fight anti-Semitism, Mr. Lieberman said: “I don’t agree with everything Pastor Hagee has said, and I can safely say that the pastor doesn’t agree with everything that I’ve said. But there’s so much more than that that we agree on.

Now thats an interesting statement.  Especially in light of this(emphasis mine):

J Street and its allies note that the vast majority of American Jews support a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians, something Hagee believes God opposes. Hagee believes an end-time narrative that requires Jews to relocate to Israel before Jesus returns and they convert to Christianity.

Is this what Lieberman and Hagee agree on?

It certainly throws Lieberman’s support for the Christian right and his efforts to erase boundaries between Church and State under a new light.  So far the McCain campaign is declining to comment.  They must figure there won’t be enough public awareness and pressure to force them to back off.

Gays in the Military: Allowed to Die but not to Marry

Its encouraging that 75% of Americans reject McCain’s dangerous stand against Homosexuals serving in the military.  Temper that with the knowledge that the majority of Americans oppose Gay Marriage.

Allowed to die for your country, but not marry the one you love.  A large chunk of my fellow Americans have the polar opposite of “make love not war” shoved ironically up their collective asses.

Playing Make Believe: Claiming Science is Religion

This is idiotic:

Modern science requires conversion, has priests, espouses a strict system of doctrine, and, most importantly, requires the steadfast faith of its adherents. Modern science is very much like religion.

What a load!  Science is simply a method of trying to figure out truth:

Scientific method refers to the body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. It is based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.[1] A scientific method consists of the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.[2]

No faith.  No doctrine.  Just because people who accept the results of a well-researched and executed study without having done the research themselves, does not mean they accept it on faith.  There is a world of difference between the anti-reason called faith, and testable, repeatable experiments and theories generated by science.

Religious folks have pretended to be historians, scientists, and more in their desperate attempt to claim the legitimacy of the scientific approach without any of the rigor.  Its become fashionable to fight a rear-guard action by instead claiming the scientific approach is hogwash without a trace of (well earned) irony.

The argument often makes an appearance when secularists argue for the separation of Church and State, in the form of “Science is a religion too!”.  Well no, it is not.  Stop playing make believe.

Expelled Intelligence

Following the painful trend of painting right-wing conservative Christianity as persecuted in the face of the oh so evil elitist secular scientists, Expelled is … specialOvercompensating:

The purpose of this here comic is to warn you in case you’re the kind of person who goes to watch movies on a whim based on the poster, and think to youself “Man it seems like a movie with Ben Stein dressed as a schoolboy would be pretty good!” They you would get in and be all mad because it’s actually a movie about how it isn’t fair that Intelligent Design is a roundly rejected notion by all them hoighty-toighty science types that ain’t open to new ideas man and oh also they are not unlike Nazis.

Let’s take a look:

Where to start?

  • “smart new ideas”.  Last I checked, creationism isn’t exactly new.
  • Rebel“.  Is it possible for a defender of the Republican status quo like Ben Stein to be a rebel?  Who is he rebelling against?  What strange power?
  • “Big Science”.  Trying to position science, a way of understanding the world through repeatable experimentation and testable theories, as equivalent to corporate lobbyists is puzzling.  Perhaps the abuse of monetary power is the only kind Conservatives like Ben Stein understand?
  • Suppression“.  No one is talking about suppressing attempts to teach creationism.  What secularists don’t like is false advertising.  Intelligent Design, for all its straining, is not science.  It does not offer up testable theories.  Its perfectly welcome in classes on religion or philosophy.

Looking beyond Ben Stein to the people behind the movie (its a flash site, click through to “principal bios”.) reveals a range of big business and Christian movers and shakers, notably Paul Lauer, who has been involved with marketing for “The Passion of the Christ” and “The Chronicle of Narnia”.

Their goal is to fool us into seeing the creationists as the noble underdog in a struggle for academic freedom.  The truth is that creationists are trying to erase the boundaries between Church and State to spread their beliefs under demonstrably false pretenses.

Biblically Justified Rape

Neil has very cleverly titled post, and I was perusing it when a line struck me sideways (emphasis mine):

Aside from the verses below and the fact that the Bible never claims perpetual virginity for her, it would have been a sin for Mary not to have sex with Joseph.

Genesis 2:24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

1 Corinthians 7:5 Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Sex in marriage is not sinful!  To put such emphasis on the myth of her perpetual virginity is to be make Puritans look downright worldly.

I think Neil is dead on in his interpretation here.  The Christian Bible is clearly stating that once married one must have sex if one partner wants to.  Even if one partner does not want to.  How is that not Rape?

Now imagine the separation of Church and State dissolving, and the Bible becoming a legal text.  Would a theocratic United States amend laws against rape to exclude married couples?

Why They Call it Homo Phobia

There are a number of issues that arise around the notion of sexuality and gender that, honestly, could use a healthy debate. Issues like should a Church be allowed to practice discrimination? (4Simpsons):

4. Apparently churches shouldn’t be able to discipline according to the Bible

A gay Christian who won a claim against the Church of England has been awarded more than £47,000 in compensation. John Reaney took the Hereford diocesan board of finance to an employment tribunal after his appointment as a youth worker was blocked.

Or the possibly competing comfort levels of trans-gendered folks and women:

3. You’re transphobic if you oppose letting people go in the bathroom of their choosing. If your young daughter wonders why the bearded guy in the dress is in the women’s room, accuse her of hate speech.

But that really isn’t possible for some folks, and Neil disappoints by joining their ranks. His positions and conclusions reek of hysteria:

Political perspective: These folks have successfully infiltrated churches, the education establishment and government. It is only going to get worse if “civil unions” are approved more broadly, because they establish a precedent for sexual preferences being civil rights.

This is the old “the world is going to end if we recognize the equality of gay people” argument. And hey folks, its true, just look at the smoking hole in the ground where Massachusetts used to be. God totally zapped that heathen state. (Emphasis mine):

2. Judges: ‘Gay’ exposure OK for kindergarteners

As WND reported in 2006, U.S. District Judge Mark L. Wolf dismissed the civil rights lawsuit by David and Tonia Parker of Lexington, concluding there is an obligation for public schools to teach young children to accept and endorse homosexuality.

Is he kidding? Endorse? From Wing Nut Daily (emphasis mine):

In a case that could wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court, an appeals panel upheld dismissal of a lawsuit by Massachusetts parents seeking to prevent discussion of homosexual families in their children’s elementary school classrooms.

They don’t even want to talk about homosexual families. Your personal faith can be bigoted I suppose, but that is just denying reality. (emphasis mine)

“Public schools,” wrote Judge Sandra L. Lynch, “are not obliged to shield individual students from ideas which potentially are religiously offensive, particularly when the school imposes no requirement that the student agree with or affirm those ideas, or even participate in discussions about them.

I guess these parents will opt to keep their kids home to school, where they may remain shielded and dumb to the outside world. Sandra Lynch is absolutely correct in her opinion. Note that last part. How does an optional discussion of the existence of homosexual parents constitute either endorsement or even acceptance? Thats just dishonest.

4. Apparently churches shouldn’t be able to discipline according to the Bible

A gay Christian who won a claim against the Church of England has been awarded more than £47,000 in compensation. John Reaney took the Hereford diocesan board of finance to an employment tribunal after his appointment as a youth worker was blocked.

This is an interesting case. Should Christian Identity churches be allowed to keep people of color from working for them? (Frankly, stunts like these are just another reason for removing the tax-exempt status of Churches). As an employer, why should they be allowed to discriminate while secular employers cannot? Why should Churches operate above the law?

Unfortunately there are some interesting issues to discuss here, without getting frantic.

1, Christian photographer hauled before Human Rights Commission for refusing same-sex job. I wish it would have been a Muslim photographer. That would have made it more interesting.

“I wish it would have been a Muslim photographer”? Wow. It would have been every bit as heinous. Why stop at photography? Why not allow hotels to ban gay customers, or restaurants to refuse to server LGBT individuals? What’s even more disturbing is the couple’s insistence (it was actually a couple who owned a small photography business, if you read past the headline) that this was “communicating a message”. It was a marriage. They wanted pictures for their album. This just heads back to the Christianist hysteria that the Gays are trying to spread homosexuality.

Neil ends on a positive note with a quote from his favorite holy book (which is faultless and dictated by God, btw):

Matthew 18:6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

That’s beautiful Neil. That’s effectively calling for the Lexington school district, teachers, gay rights advocates, lawyers in the case, and the judges along the way who affirmed those rights, to be killed. Neil has crossed the line that divides bigotry and hate, and done so with an eliminationist flourish.

UPDATE:  A commentor at 4Simpsons, one “Bubba”, has invited folks who comment here to journey on over and offer their opinions right into the gnashing teeth of the beast.  (It seems the fundies don’t like coming over to play on the liberal /rational side of the fence, Neil and Theobromophile excluded).