"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Two Hands Full!

"Davy Crockett" had to give a report at school recently

 Ten years ago today I became an aunt to this fabulous fellow!

Michael dedicated this song to his mom at a recent family concert

Birthday party with the family

Showing off a Lego toy
We love you, Doodle Bug!


Friday, February 17, 2012

Torah and China: On Marrying Your Rapist

So I was reading No Tears For Mao by Niu-Niu this morning (my second book on China this week) and came across a chapter that reminded me of a disturbing section of the Old Testament about men who rape women being commanded to marry them.  Like any woman who has just been violated wants to marry the scum bag.  (So she says from her 21st century perspective ...)

I remembered when David's son raped his half sister and when he sent her away after the rape, she cried out that this was even more wrong!  My Bible's study notes read:

Though Tamar was no longer a virgin, Amnon could spare her some humiliation if he would own up to what he had done to her. By Israelite custom she would be forced to remain unmarried for the rest of her life. She therefore sought to be married to Amnon which, because of his sexual assault, was her right (Deut. 22:28-29).

pg. 437

It's kind of disturbing that patriarchy is so AWFUL that marrying your rapist is a right for women.  (So she says from her 21st century perspective...I know, I know.)

Or that women are considered so invaluable that having been violated meant she had to remain single the rest of her life.

The book I was reading was talking about the mid-seventies. As in not even forty years ago..so yeah 1976 to be exact. 

And this is in China so not exactly Jewish Law here either. 

Well, the story is that this woman was sent into the countryside for reeducation and when she refused to marry a "brutish" and "coarse" party official, he took his revenge by raping her.

Then he did "the most humiliating thing you could do to a woman" which was "forcing her to appear before a self-criticism session with a pair of shoes around her neck" signaling she was "damaged goods" in a sexual sense.

The young lady demanded justice, but due to this man's power, no one dared oppose him. So he "became even more arrogant and abusive: ... stripping and raping her in front of a group of intimidated peasants."

All sorts of injustices happened after that, but this is what reminded me of the Old Testament passages.

When the woman's family found out, they tried to get some justice for her, but the judge said there was no way of finding out if it were rape or consensual sex.

"Feeling completely desperate, my uncle realized his daughter's life was ruined since no young man would want to marry her; the only solution was to marry her to the man who had defiled her.  Lien-hua had reluctantly agreed to this. It was the only way for her to have a home and to expiate her shame, save face and, consequently, lead a normal life. The entire family was on its knees - begging this creature, promising anything that he demanded.  My uncle offered to give him his savings, so that they could buy furniture and whatever else was needed to set up a household, but the rapist continued to balk."  (pg. 165)

Oh my word. Can you imagine your parents and cousins begging a brutal rapist to marry your precious relative in order to save face and live a normal life? 

I declare, people, we are so so so so blessed to not be born in some cultures.  These books about Chinese women are eye-opening.

I suppose if this were the status of women of the world thousands of years ago, making rapists obligated to care for their victims was a step up. It seems bad for me looking backward, but if your sole purpose in life was to have a husband and children and having been defiled meant no one would marry you ...

*whew*  I wonder if much has changed in China regarding women's rights in these last 40 years.

I hope so.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What's land got to do with it?

The importance of land is a recurring theme in God Is Red by Vine Deloria, Jr.  You would have thought the name of the book would have given me a clue and it did in a way, but I thought more in broader terms like Mother Earth rather than specific parcels of land. Yet, what is Mother Earth made of than pieces of land and lots of water? 

I recall times when I've been irritated how people have fought for land.  Palestinians and Israelis.  That conflict readily comes to mind as both sides seek to keep what they say is theirs. The Israelis wanting their old homeland despite the fact they'd been driven from it centuries ago. And Palestinians who had been living there until Zionists drove them out.

Frustrated at the conflict, I remember "why are people fighting over dirt?!" coming out of my mouth.

Yes, really.

I've honestly been conflicted, too, because it seems in the history of the world "to the victor goes the spoils" is how it works. So if you fight and win it, you keep it.  I wasn't sure if Zionists fighting for Israel and their ability thus far to keep it, meant it "should" be theirs. Just as Mecca now belongs to Muslims and the United States belongs to former Europeans for the most part***.

But after reading this book, I think I understand better.  Vine Deloria speaks of lands having sacredness and certain properties so that even our lack of religious unity can be blamed on the land in which we reside!

With the movement of Christianity to the North American continent, and the subsequent freedom to develop religious expressions offered by the land, the possibility of constituting a Christian culture or unity vanished. Christianity shattered on the shores of this continent, producing hundreds of sects in the same manner that the tribes continually subdivided in an effort to relate to the rhythms of the land.  It is probably in the nature of this continent that divisiveness is one of its greatest characteristics, a virtually uncontrollable freedom of the spirit. (pg. 143)

See? We cannot help ourselves from splitting!  I wonder if this helps explain our political divisiveness as well ...

Tribal religions place more importance on land and sacred mountains or rivers.  Judaism is a tribal religion and you read often in the Bible about setting up stones to remember places.  Also the importance of land is a strong theme throughout the Tanakh.  So I understand why Jews desire their land (or what they consider their God-given land.) It also better explains why Muslims want Mecca and Medina only for themselves. It's not for those outside the "tribe" (i.e., faith).   Deloria explained that there were Native religious ceremonies done privately and not open to outsiders. This may explain why certain mosques do not welcome nonMuslims as well as why certain Mormon religious experiences are not open for nonMormons. 

Membership has its privileges.

What are your thoughts on land and sacred spaces? Do you think certain lands have certain properties that transfer to the quality of life? Do we have freedoms in the United States because the land oozes freedom?

*** This book shows how Natives view the land that we Europeans took. I now wonder how the Canaanites felt about the land before the children of Israel came through. And how the pre-Islamic Arabs thought of Mecca and other parts of Arabia. Are lands made for all or for whoever can keep them?  Are lands something to be possessed and, er, hoarded?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Tribal Religions v. Christianity on Views of Death

"If the Christian religion is a victory over death, why do Western peoples who have had the benefits of the Christian religion for two thousand years fear death?"

I'm currently reading God Is Red by Vine Deloria, Jr.  You might recall I read another of his books last year so I put this one on my Amazon Wishlist and received it for Christmas.  This "Native View of Religion" presents quite a few challenges for me especially since the author contrasts tribal religions mostly with Christianity, the predominant religion of the white man in the Americas.  On many issues he makes great points. I've read some of them to Andrew and we've agreed how sadly truthful those things are.

Yet I was reading this chapter on death and wanted to discuss a few things because I wasn't sure I agreed with his conclusions about Christian and/or Western beliefs on death. 

Deloria cites the work of Oscar Cullman who came to the conclusion that "death, in the Christian context, was a feared foe. ... an event to be avoided at all costs, because it meant the cessation of identity."

Cullman's book deals with the Greek and Christian ideas of immortality of the soul (Greek) and resurrection of the dead (Christian).  This he says explains why

"death was a welcome visitor for Socrates but a dreaded and tormenting experience for Jesus."
Socrates was glad to be free from his body in which the Greeks  thought their souls were trapped.  So death was like getting out of prison apparently.  Yet for the Christian, death meant the body was no more. Thus death is much more traumatic, right? 

Deloria claims "a majority of tribal religions simply assume some form of personal survival beyond the grave. As Chief Seattle remarked, death is merely a changing of worlds."

"For the tribal people, death in a sense fulfills their destiny, for as their bodies become dust once again they contribute to the ongoing life cycle of creation.  For Christians, the estrangement from nature, their religion's central theme, makes this most natural of conclusions fraught with danger. Believing that they are saved and interpreting this salvation as accumulating material possessions, Western people cannot accept death except as a form of punishment by God. ... Death is feared and rarely understood. People somehow want to see the death of their loved one as part of God's plan (i.e., God needed Elvis to sing in heaven)."

Several things about this:

1. I believe similarly to Chief Seattle. How often have I heard "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord" - a quote from Paul's letter to the Corinthians?  This is what I believe! This is what is quoted at Christian funerals all the time in order to give comfort to the families who are missing their loved ones' presence here. Yet thinking of them with the Lord is comforting. Or it is for me anyway.

2.  He mentions this "estrangement from nature" that we have several times in his book. I'm guessing he thinks we hate nature because we have chosen to cut down trees for houses and clear lands for shopping malls and dig and drill under the earth for oil and coal and natural gas. I suppose "progress" is actually a subjective term and for many living life simply - off the land - as our ancestors did is the better option.  Or maybe he has seen the truly bad things: the pollution from dumping chemicals in water sources, the depleted uranium from bombs contaminating soil, the slaughter of animals on the Plains.  Regardless, I don't know that this is Christianity's central theme!  What do you think?

3.  I've never been taught or felt salvation interpreted means that I'm supposed to accumulate possessions although I can see why Deloria observing us with all our stuff might feel this is true!  By contrast Jesus teaches us to give to the poor and often speaks of getting rid of things.  (Yes, I realize there is a disconnect between what Jesus taught and what Christians actually decide to do.)

4. I do tend to view the death of someone as part of God's plan although the Elvis example is taking it a bit too far. OK, I may have joked that way before, but .. maybe Deloria is too??  I don't believe God takes people to heaven because He needs a good laugh or great entertainment.

I could go on and say more, but I'm more curious what your thoughts are on this topic. Do you fear death? If so, why? If not, WHY?  Do you think Deloria has correctly assessed Christianity and/or the Western view of death?  We speak of someone "passing" rather than "dying" for instance.

By the way, why do you think death was a "tormenting experience" for Jesus (if you believe this)?

What does your religion or belief system teach about death?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on any of it.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

20 Questions

I got this from Niki's blog...

1) What is one of your favorite ways to spend a Saturday?

At the mountains or beach

2) List your top three favorite TV shows.
The Amazing Race

3) Would you rather be in pictures or take them?
I like taking them, but also being in some to remember that I was there

4) Why do you blog?
Sometimes i just feel the urge to write or "talk" about things. And it's been a fun way to meet people over the years. I've learned quite a bit from reading others' blogs and comments on those blogs.

5) Share five websites that you visit regularly.
American Bedu
several other blogs

6) If you could have lunch with one person from your Twitter list who would it be?
I've not been on Twitter in ages and can't recall who all is on there so I'll say my blogging friends although that's more than one person.

7) List a few of your favorite snacks.
Hershey's Special Dark chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate chips, cheese and crackers, Wheat Thins

8 ) Do you have a pet? If so, what kind?

9) Which three material possessions would you struggle to live without?
my computer, car, house

10) What’s your favorite drink?

11) Do you enjoy cooking?

12) Do you have children?

13) What are your favorite hobbies?
looking at Facebook
reading blogs

14) Would you consider yourself to be shy or outgoing?
a bit more outgoing than shy, but not overly outgoing either

15) If you could change one thing about yourself, what would you change?
I'd delete my back pain

16) Who is your favorite actor/actress?
most of the people on NCIS and NCIS: LA

17) What’s the coolest thing you’ve done this week?
reserve a hostel room in Salzburg, Austria

18) Do you live near your family or far from them?
My parents and siblings live within 20 minutes of me.

19) List three of your talents.
I'm not really good at much of anything except I can read!  And sometimes I am a good encourager.

20) What is your greatest attribute?
I try to understand other points of view and not hate people.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I declare, they read my mind!

Remember how we've talked about freaky coincidences in the past?  (Like this post from Halloween and this one about tuna.)  Well, this morning I was flipping through the radio stations because the one I was tuned into started messing up. 

I stopped on a song that reminded me of high school.

That made me remember riding in someone's car.

Which made me recall learning to drive...and how awful I thought I was (and probably indeed was until I became so expert..ha)

Which lead to thinking of people I've come across on blogs who were not thrilled with driving or learning to drive later in life.  (Where I live we start driver's ed around age 14.)

That lead to a passing thought of Saudi Arabia and my not even being allowed to drive.

THEN I thought of men or women being better drivers.

Who got distracted more and caused more accidents.

(I thought of how sometimes Zach distracts me while I'm driving with him because he'll be looking at me or playing with his bottle or thrashing the part of his car seat that is supposed to keep the sun out of his eyes.)

About that time the song that started this train of thought ended and the morning radio hosts introduced their next segment


Oh, weird, I thought. I'd just been thinking about this pertaining to driving.

So their battle today:  distracted driving!

Doubly weird. Did they read my mind?!

Isn't it funny when stuff like this happens?  Have you had something similar happen lately?

This isn't exactly the same, but also recently a friend wrote about squirrel feeders and I joked that bird feeders were for squirrels as well, weren't they? And then in the Sunday Parade magazine insert in my parents' newspaper there was an article about squirrels in bird feeders which I had fun sharing with her.  In case you were wondering, the lady in the Parade article named "her" squirrel Floyd.  :)