Posted by: readerjohn | December 18, 2014

Thursday, 12/18/14

  1. Lie down with dogs, rise up with fleas
  2. The Francis Filtration
  3. Settling for the attainable
  4. Free to investigate, debate and challenge?
  5. Signs of true tolerance

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Posted by: readerjohn | December 17, 2014

Wednesday, 12/17/14

  1. The gray town’s outing
  2. Ballast. Yup. That’s me.
  3. Right in her glorious lefiness
  4. Moralistic Therapeutic Theism
  5. The Eye of the Soul

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Posted by: readerjohn | December 14, 2014

Welcome and Inclusion

This I believe:

The priest must support the struggling penitent in their desire to grow in all purity and chastity, and help them to know that their struggle will eventually lead them to the state where they can freely, and with joy, embrace the holiness that is their inheritance. If the priest ministers from his heart, and is grounded in the love of Christ, he will be able to give hope to the person who struggles with habitual sin, or relapses into sin already confessed.

When priests center the ministry of healing in compassion rather than passion, they are able to help the person who is struggling with same sex attraction embrace chastity as a gift, and not a terrible burden that forever dooms them to a life of loneliness and exclusion from the Mysteries of the Church. If priests do not marginalize the persons who are struggling with their homosexuality, but make a place for them within the life of the Church, they will give them the opportunity to grow in holiness and truth, just like all of us who have turned to the Church for healing.

Pushing aside those who have such a great cross to bear, or barring them from the life of the Church while accommodating those who relapse into sins such as masturbation, pornography, or gossiping, sends the wrong message to the lesbian or gay man who is struggling to maintain their Orthodox faith. They need love and support to live a life of chastity and holiness, and the priest must lead the parish community to be their welcoming family. The Church needs to lovingly say to the persons who struggle with same-sex inclinations that “we love you, and we are going to be patient with you. If you fall a thousand times, we will still be there for you”.

When we demonize those with same sex attraction, we do a disservice to everyone who is struggling with sin, for if that person’s sin is viewed as far more serious than ours, we are inadvertently distracted from our own road to repentance. If we would rather drive out the homosexual from our midst than create an atmosphere of hope and healing within the community of faith, we condemn ourselves, and our sin is compounded by our having judged another more harshly.

Thank you for saying it so well, Abbott Tryphon.

Let me break it down a bit:

  1. Purity and chastity are high virtues, not punchlines. Sanctity is not sanctimony, either.
  2. “[L]ead them to the state where they can freely, and with joy, embrace the holiness that is their inheritance.” Not “lead them to straight marriage.” That’s not the summum bonum. Re-read I Corinthians 7:7-9 if you think it is.
  3. “[G]ive hope to the person who struggles with habitual sin, or relapses into sin already confessed.” What serious ecclesial Christian (i.e., one whose church has a sacrament of confession) doesn’t struggle with habitual sin, relapsing, and confessing over and over again? (But remember: sin is not a moral problem.) I sure do.
  4. “[E]mbrace chastity as a gift, and not a terrible burden.” See point 1. I believe, from a combination of empathy (what would it feel like to be in those shoes?), hints from “between the lines” and occasional candid and insightful declaration, that the prospect of life without orgasm, ever (again), is a major driver of “progressive sexual ethics” in some Christian traditions. Faith oftener is lost in the bedroom than the library or classroom.
  5. “[J]ust like all of us who have turned to the Church for healing.” See point 3. And see point 4 if you think I’m micro-aggressing by equating sins like greed and life with same-sex attraction or gay identity. No doubt, especially in this sex-saturated culture, the latter seems harder to bear, but that’s not a fundamental difference, is it?
  6. The “priest must lead the parish community to be their welcoming family.” I know that this can be a huge issue, especially for folks with same-sex attraction who are totally out of the closet about it. And my own urge to push back with “can’t you be a bit more discreet?” (by which I do not mean “please go away” but rather “this may create bad reactions for you”)  probably is part of the problem – as is my conviction that sexuality issues are legitimately “on the front burner” of our culture and churches right now and that unilateral disarmament is ill-advised.

May God have mercy on us as we struggle to be a welcoming family without being “inclusive” in the relativistic term-of-art sense that I think it has taken on:

At the same time, we priests must not, in our desire to embrace them with our love and acceptance, fail to call them to repentance. Regardless of what psychologists are saying, or what the courts are declaring, or pop artists and sports heroes are proclaiming about themselves, the priest must not fail in his duty to proclaim the unchanging message of the scriptures regarding biblical morality. Priests must resist moral relativism, while remaining true messengers of Christ’s mercy.

* * * * *

The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research, but they are much, much less off-the-cuff than some of the stuff I routinely dish up.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Posted by: readerjohn | December 13, 2014

A dangerous intersection

I don’t know whether it’s just me, or if some of my usual sources really have gone a little flat recently. I won’t call out anyone in particular.

But the hiatus in links gives me a chance to turn to something that’s been bugging me for a while: the confusion over “consent” to sexual relations. Not just when it’s present or absent,  but why it has supplanted other considerations and how stupidly the legal system can apply the requirement, who consents implicitly and, well, I think I’ve gone far enough impersonating a journalist without a “what” question.

Why should consent as the standard for sexual behaviour succeed in minimizing harm when so many other standards, far more clear, have often failed?

Put differently, why are conservative sexual mores held in such disdain? In some places, CBC headquarters among them, the only thing less popular than non-consensual sex is the idea that sexual activity be reserved for marriage.

Pre-sexual revolution, consent came when you were prepared to commit for the long term, for life …

Post-sexual revolution, consent is far easier to get. Yet today, arguably, we have more people hurting than ever before.

This is in part because consent is not enough to prevent pain …

One of the most harmful things about 21st century sexual morality is that it refuses to condemn anything that is not outright criminal, even though tremendous suffering is caused by immature, unkind and possibly immoral, but legal, behaviour.

… [T]here is something wrong with a culture that allows for such confusion over something so intimate, so often. Consent will fail where commitment to the whole person is absent.

Let’s be clear: consensual adultery, promiscuity and BDSM are not illegal, nor should they be. But in the race to replace higher sexual standards with consensual hedonism, we have lost sight of the guidelines that define not what makes a criminal, but what makes a decent person.

Marriage as the sole appropriate context for sex is a high standard, and an imperfect one. Yet in theory, it demands commitment, not for a single encounter, but for a lifetime. It encourages respect and care not only for your partner’s body, but also for their heart, mind and soul.

Andrea Mrozek and Rebecca Walberg, Why not hold sexual relations to a higher standard? I almost could stop there, but I won’t.

“An Iowa legislator who allegedly had sex with his mentally incapacitated late wife has been charged with sexual abuse. Henry Rayhons, 78, a Republican state representative from Iowa House District 8, was told by medical staff on May 15 that his wife, 78-year-old Donna Rayhons, no longer had the mental ability to consent to sexual activity, according to a criminal complaint obtained by WHO-TV. Donna Rayhons, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, had been living in Concord Care Center in Garner, Iowa, since March, according to the Des Moines Register….

In an interview with law enforcement in June,Rayhons allegedly confessed to ‘having sexual contact’ with his wife, according to KCCI. He also allegedly admitted that he had a copy of the document that stated his wife did not have the cognitive ability to give consent. Rayhons was charged with third-degree sexual abuse on Friday.

Elizabeth Barnhill, executive director of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, told the Des Moines Register that even though spousal rape has been illegal in Iowa for about 25 years, arrests for the crime are rare and ‘convictions are even rarer.’ Barnhill also noted that sexual assault between spouses is not considered a ‘forcible felony’ in Iowa.”

Elder Law Prof Blog, State Legislator Charged with “Sexual Assault” of Wife In Complicated Nursing Home Case

The more one reads about the Iowa case, the sadder it seems.  Even though at first it seemed the husband, a state legislator, might be expected to have sophisticated legal knowledge of the implications of what it might mean for his wife to be diagnosed with dementia, it became pretty clear — at least to me, reading from afar — that the husband is a fairly simple guy: A farmer, high school education, part-time legislator who liked pig roasts and parades, and someone who cared deeply for his second wife, trying as hard as possible to see her as “just a little” impaired.

I suspect that for many of us who have experiences with a loved one with dementia, there is a phase of denial, not just about the fact of dementia, but about the level of dementia. I remember one instance where a client always had her husband sign their joint tax returns, because even with Alzheimer’s, he was “able” to sign his name clearly.

Reading the statute used to charge the Iowa husband also gave me pause. Iowa Code Section 709 was the basis of the sexual abuse charges.  Sexual abuse in the third degree under Section 709.4 could be charged where a sex act “is done by force or against the will of the other person.” That provision did not seem to apply.  Charges could also be brought where the act is between persons who are not cohabiting as husband and wife, “if any of the following” is true: “The other person is suffering from a mental defect or incapacity which precludes giving consent.”

Elder Law Prof Blog, When Does Dementia Mean You No Longer Have the Right to Say Yes to Sexual Activity? 

<HumbleBrag>I confess to having lost the ability to think like a law professor</HumbleBrag>, but this Iowa case really roils me. In fairness to law professors, it troubles Eugene Volokh, too, who links to maybe the longest popular news treatment of the story.

I now enter very dangerous territory, where some dishonest people will accuse me of believing that a husband is entitled to rape his wife, but here goes: Shouldn’t we presume that spouses consent to sexual relations unless they affirmatively refuse?

  • If Donna “no longer had the mental ability to consent to sexual activity,” what if she enjoyed (or even enjOyed with a “Big O”) the attentions of Henry, her husband, to which she may have lacked the current ability to consent affirmatively but to which she had consented for years?
  • How many men have had sex with an tired and unenthusiastic but resigned wife a few times?
  • Are they all rapists?
  • Does marriage mean nothing?
  • Is every spousal (I almost said “husband/wife,” silly me) sexual encounter no different than back-seat groping on a date?
  • Since when do “medical staff” get to say “well, no more sexual pleasure for you, Mrs. Rayhons” with the backing of criminal prosecutors?

Meanwhile, some of the numbers for campus rape rates are being exposed as bogus by the Justice Department this very week. One coed in five? Nowhere close. Who made up those numbers: Andrea Dworkin?

I find myself turned off by the blatant exaggerations to the point where I must take myself by the scruff of the neck to remind myself that rape actually does happen, including on campus. That’s how exaggeration – from Andrea Dworkin to Rolling Stone to exaggerated “statistics” to dubious spousal rape charges – can poison the well.

And despite the claim that men are raped sometimes (By women? Really?), women will be the losers of any new indifference to rape occasioned by exaggerations and hysteria.

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Posted by: readerjohn | December 11, 2014

Thursday, 12/11/14

  1. Just two requests: …
  2. We used to say “under the radar”
  3. You knew, didn’t you?
  4. Abandoning chemical uterine defoliants is a start
  5. Our sincere, untrustworthy Governor

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Posted by: readerjohn | December 10, 2014

Wednesday, 12/10/14

  1. Is “snot-nosed barbarian zillionaire” “tone-deaf”?
  2. Half an in loco parentis is incoherent
  3. Just like his daddy, but left-handed
  4. Before the Frozen Turkey Marketing Association got to it …
  5. If sincerity isn’t enough, add a white smock

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Posted by: readerjohn | December 9, 2014

Tuesday, 12/9/14

  1. Tower of Babel
  2. Who smells worse abroad: Putin or US?
  3. Virtuosos and Barbarians
  4. What the naked Emperor-to-Be is up to these days
  5. Apt journalistic analogy

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Posted by: readerjohn | December 7, 2014

He called back the sheep who had been led astray

Today, my Parish joyously will worship God for the first time in our new Church building.

Our Patron Saint is Alexis Toth of Wilkes-Barre. Yes, he labored for God in North America, and was canonized just twenty years ago. He was instrumental in the return of 17 Carpatho-Russian and Galician Uniate parishes in America to Holy Orthodoxy, and also started 15-20 new parishes, so we sing of how “He called back the sheep who had been led astray.”

That’s what he’s done for us who have him as patron, since most of us in the Parish are grateful converts from other Christian traditions (together with a few whose families had been wrested from Orthodoxy). No, I wasn’t led astray from Orthodoxy; I was born astray from Orthodoxy – to devout parents who cast their lot with, and then did the best they could with, what they knew of Christianity in the North American milieu of the late 4os forward.

With our new Church building, we have room for about twice as many strays to come home. Y’all come! 2115 S.R. 225 East, Battle Ground, Indiana. Matins 8:15, Divine Liturgy 9:30.

Today also is the observance of St. Ambrose of Milan, who was instrumental in the conversion of St. Augustine of Hippo, and the 95th birthday of my late father (who, yes, turned 22 the day Pearl Harbor was attacked). He barely got to know anything about Orthodoxy between my conversion and his death, and one thing he read worried him (I won’t go into that now). But God is gracious, and loves mankind, and I’ve claimed Ambrose as dad’s patron saint, who I like to say “is Orthodox now.”

Too bad we’re in the Nativity Fast, because I feel like a party!

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Posted by: readerjohn | December 6, 2014

Feast of St. Nicholas 2014

  1. Capital Punishment for Loosies
  2. Undertaker, albatross & natterer
  3. Rehoboam wrecks a legacy
  4. Seamless web^n
  5. And the beat goes on
  6. Don’t mess with my mind, TAC!

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Posted by: readerjohn | December 4, 2014

Thursday 12/4/14

  1. When homelessness ain’t half bad
  2. Living within a regime
  3. Kiddie Lit
  4. It’s just a little awkward
  5. Suicide by clericalism

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