Modesty vs. Rape Culture

I created this blog to discuss controversial and touchy topics.  And the touchiest subject being brought up right now is modesty.  That’s right folks, modesty has become one of the most sensitive issues for the Church particularly for believers in the West.  Why?  Well, the answer isn’t being offered from militant atheists or some obscure corner of our non-Christian culture.  It is coming from Christian women.  More specifically, women who are taking a stand against rape and “rape culture” (a societal norm where rapists are ignored or where rapists are the victims and women the root cause for it).  And that is what makes this so interesting and so divisive an issue.

First it should be noted that these ladies are not promoting members of their gender to dress like hookers or porn stars.  Their argument, usually, is not that they should be free to wear whatever they want without male approval.  Rather, they are upset that they are accused for being the cause of men’s lust.  And since the only difference between rape and lust is one acts out the thoughts and the other doesn’t, they conclude that blaming women for lust is indirectly promoting rape culture.  And to an extent this is a reasonable argument.  Just because a woman is scantily clad doesn’t mean that she wants sex or wishes to be raped.  A fashion style or lack thereof doesn’t mean “Yes” or “Take me!”

However, there are some problems with this because often times the argument is used when an authority figure or friends indicates a girl or young lady’s clothes are too suggestive and are causing the men around them to stumble.  The comment was probably not even intended to blame the woman for being the sole guilty party when it comes to lust.  Yet because the word “caused” was use, they believe it implies that responsibility belongs solely to women and not men.  And while I agree that men are the only ones who can be held accountable to what goes on in their minds, I disagree with the idea that men alone need to be taking action and women are the innocent party.

Consider Genesis 3, specifically verses 11-19.  Now Adam and Eve have just eaten the forbidden fruit and are standing before God.  When questioned about the matter, Adam blames Eve and God.  Eve points to the serpent.  Sound familiar?  It should because that is what’s happening in most dialogues concerning lust.  Men are blaming women as their reason for lust.  Women are blaming men for promoting an environment for rape.  Neither is willing to accept responsibility.  Yet God finds both guilty, as seen in verses 16-19.  Also, take note of the serpent.  The devil never shoved the apples (no one is quite sure what the fruit was) down their throats.  He never coerced Eve to eat the fruit and share some with her husband.  He only suggested that she ought to have a bite.  According to the logic being used about lust, the devil is free of any responsibility.  He is not to blame.  But that is not how God sees it.  He punishes the serpent for instigating the whole affair, despite the fact he didn’t have control over the actions of Adam and Eve.

Some might think this is a little over the top and perhaps insensitive for comparing immodest women to Satan.  I wish to say that is not my intent and that there are other verses and passages which make my point.  I used Genesis because it includes all parties and not just the one.  Look at another example in I Cor. 8.  Paul is telling the Corinthians that though they may have new freedoms and rights because of their faith, they shouldn’t to take those same freedoms and rights cause others to stumble.  He even goes so far as to say that he would stop eating meat (because most meats sold were originally sacrifices to idols) if it caused one of his brothers to stumble.  This is Paul, a man called by God to be an apostle, who is acknowledging his responsibility for being the cause of another’s sin even though it is the responsibility of the other person not to sin.  In Mark 9:42, Christ agrees with this concept and places blame on both the cause as well as the one committing the sin.

Now let’s clarify by what is meant by causing someone to sin.  The devil deserved to be judged because he was consciously trying to get Adam and Eve to sin.  Most women are not doing that when they get up and pick out their outfits for the day.  But what about unconsciously?  (I won’t go into subconsciously because I’m not God and I can’t know ultimate intentions without some form of revelation or discernment).  My response to this question would be to look at Paul and I Cor. 8.  Paul knows that some of his brothers and sisters in Christ struggle with eating meat “polluted by idols.”  And since he knows this, would he be honoring and loving them if he ate such meat in their presence?  Even if he wasn’t intending to offend or cause others to stumble?  I would say no.  He knew they were weak in part of their faith and still chose to do that which they find repulsive.  Therefore I would say, “Ladies be careful of how you dress, because it can prove to be a stumbling for your brothers in Christ whether you intended it or not.”

So how should women dress?  Well in my perfect world, everyone (men included) would dress as residents of medieval Scotland or the aristocrats of the Roman Republic.  But since we don’t live in that world, I say: use common sense.  Some articles of clothing like leggings, bikinis, tight jeans, short skirts, etc. have no real functional value other than to show off a woman’s body.  Others like yoga pants do have a function, usually to make working out more comfortable.  However, that is their purpose: to be used while exercising not as a substitute for actual pants.  I can’t say what is appropriate dress for women since I believe even Muslim men lust after women who are completely hidden in their burkas.  Therefore there are no lust free clothes.  Some are more provocative than others.  Which leaves us with my final comment.  Men do need to take responsibility and I believe the Church has been moving in that direction.  There are many websites like XXXchurch.com as well as accountability groups at local churches to help men with their struggle against lust.  However we cannot slack off and we shouldn’t blame our sisters and neighbors for our short comings.  God will deal with them as he sees fit.  Let us worry about ourselves and our own souls.

Responsibility of the Voters

We’re less than 40 days away from another election year and already some of the sound bites are starting to pop up.  And the ones which are intellectually dishonest tend not to be from liberal or Democratic campaign machines.  Instead, I’ve found they come from Right-wing groups.  To be fair both sides of the aisle can be annoying and dishonest at times.  However, Republicans recently have been employing more of a “head” approach while Democrats go straight for the heart.  For example have you ever heard, “We need term limits to make elected officials more responsible to voters”?  Or how about “If they don’t do their job, they shouldn’t get paid”?  And of course my favorite “They work for us!”  From the outside these sound very reasonable.  If an official is in office too long, then they begin to lose focus of what they’re supposed to be doing and get caught up in campaign favors or “Washington politics.”  And if I fail to do what my employer expects of me, then I don’t get paid.  Also, elected officials only get their jobs because we the people elected them.  There is just one small problem with all of this.  We the people voted for them!

Remember, the War for Independence freed us from a system of government where offices could be inherited for life or obtained as a favor from a monarch.  In both the Articles of Confederation and in the current Constitution, no one receives an office because of the station of his or her birth. With the exception of certain judges, no one comes to office by the appointment of another official.  Governors may appoint substitutes for vacancies in Congress, but that is only until an election can be made for a new Representative or Senator.  Which means that at the end of the day, politicians are beholden to the people for their positions.  Therefore if the politicians are doing a poor job governing, wouldn’t that suggest that we the people are doing a poor job voting?

That is what I find so dishonest from conservatives during the campaign season.  They seem to assume that incumbents will always win elections and that change will never happen.  Yet that flies in the face of how the American system works!  Sure, incumbents generally have an advantage over challengers simply because they have an on-the-job record to use.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean they will always win 100% of the time.  If it were, there ought to be more gray-haired politicians running about on Capitol Hill.  What Republicans, particularly TEA Partiers, need to do is provide better reasons why their candidates should be elected.  A candidate campaigning on term limits and “cleaning up the mess in Washington” won’t get elected.  Why?  Because the people like a statesman who can do the job and will thus continue to re-elect him as many times as he runs.  When he does a good job, he is rewarded by being re-elected.  If not, then he loses in November.  That is democracy in action.

Washington is a mess because we the people haven’t sent the right politicians to do the job.  Instead we elect those who promise wonderful things, but never come through with those promises.  Then we sit at home wondering why nothing is getting done.  We must stop listening to sound bites and start paying attention to what our representatives are doing if we want real change to occur.  And we when find one who isn’t working, then the solution is simple: vote for the other guy next time.  If the Congresswoman isn’t doing her job to your satisfaction, vote for someone to take her place.  If a Senator isn’t paying attention to the constituency, then elect his opponent at the next election.  Then we the people will have a chance to direct the government to act as we want it to act.  And we will not have to place any unnecessary restraints on government officials which will only harm our voice in government instead of protecting it.

Aronofsky’s Noah

A firestorm has broken out on the internet concerning a new movie to be released in theatres next year.  It is Aronofsky’s Noah.  According to imdb.com, the film will be more or less focused around the biblical story while trying to answer questions left unresolved in the Genesis narrative.  For example, what was Noah thinking while building the ark?  Did nearby people threaten him or dismiss him as being crazy?  Did Noah feel unworthy to be saved by God or did he think he was the only logical choice?  Unfortunately until the film is released, it would be imprudent to judge how the movie answers those questions.  Instead, I’d like to address some of the concerns raised from the faith community as well as some of the accusations from secularists.

First, should Christians see it if it doesn’t follow the Genesis account of the flood?  Again without seeing the film, we won’t know how faithful to the source they will be.  However, I’d like to point out that Hollywood does cut and paste when making film adaptations from books.  See Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and Moby Dick starring Gregory Peck.  Even the highly acclaimed To Kill a Mockingbird is an adaptation which does not completely followed on screen.  All of these did very well and stayed true to their sources despite a few cuts and changes to the plot and characters.  Also, remember that Genesis doesn’t tell us everything.  We are not told if Noah and his sons didn’t fight first about having to build an ark.  It is possible that Shem, Japheth, and Ham thought their father had lost it.  And as mentioned above, it doesn’t tell us what the rest of humanity (or at least the people near Noah) thought about this project.  This allows some artistic license on part the writers and the director which is what makes movies…well, art.  Based on the Wikipedia article and cast lineup on imdb, they may be relying upon Jewish writings which are not considered canon to help fill in some of the blanks.

What about grittiness?  Will the possibility of actions scenes, widespread death, violence, and possible sex scenes detract from the message of the story?  Maybe.  Aronofsky is know for doing violent, sensual films.  And considering the state of the world before the Flood, there is a very high chance the director will exploit this.  However, this doesn’t necessarily mean it will detract from biblical message of Noah.  “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually…And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence.  Behold, I will destroy them with the world.'” (Gen. 6:5,13 ESV).  Notice that the world is so full of evil that God decides to wipe it out and try again with Noah.  This implies people were involved in very obscene, revolting, and wicked acts.  As much as we complain about how bad today’s world has become, it has nothing on what was occurring during the time of Noah.  Therefore, showing some grittiness will only reinforce what the Bible already teaches.

Also, consider Mel Gibson’s The Passion.  While very violent and gory, the film did a wonderful job showing the pain and the torture Christ went through on the first Good Friday.  And as much as we would like the Church and the world to focus on the good things that are wholesome and nice, life is rough and dirty.  There are many stories in the Bible which wouldn’t fit the G or PG mentality of some believers.  In II Samuel, King David’s daughter Tamar is raped by her half-brother.  In Judges, a woman is raped and mutilated.  And according to Hebrews, some of the prophets were sawn in half.  This doesn’t make someone’s faith weak if he or she is unable to handle the edgy party of reality or the Bible.  Rather these accounts should help us to realize that the Bible was written to handle real world problems and real emotions that people have in response.

That being said, the violence in this story has provided fuel for those who hate the Church and the faith.  They’ll see God unfairly, and quite cruelly, killing off people without giving them a second chance.  How can a loving God do such a thing?  And they may point out there is a lack of evidence to support a global or large local flood.  Some may even comment that future Old Testament films should be done to both discredit the doctrine of God’s love and to mockingly revel in the “horrors committed by God’s people.”  All of these things need to be answered by the Church because are good points of contention.  How do we as believers reconcile John 3:16 with the Flood in Genesis?  Can we prove outside the Bible that the Flood did in fact take place?  If not, how will this affect our faith?

Therefore, I strongly urge Christians to see this film despite whatever reservations they may have about it.  First, it may be very well done and accurately portray the narrative in Genesis.  Second, it could provide us a new perspective on how to see God’s salvation for all living things through Noah and the ark.  And third, it will provide us a context by which we can effectively communicate our faith to others.  Hiding our heads in the sand will not help us plant seeds in hostile environments.  God did not call us to be cowardly in sharing the gospel or tell us to expect non-believers to meet us where we are spiritually.  This is why Jesus taught in parables.  This why God allowed myths to be made.  This is why we love stories.  They are chances for us to learn and grow closer to God.

Obamacare and Obama’s Legacy

If you’ve been following the news, you’ve probably noticed the hype surrounding the defects with the new healthcare website as well as the “hidden stipulations” in the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a.: Obamacare).  You may have read stories of cancer patients losing insurance plans that worked for them and were affordable.  And you may have heard the political bulldogs fighting over whether this new healthcare system is even salvageable.  Fox News talk shows and TEA Party leaders are calling it a failed plan that’s hurting America.  Their liberal counterparts firing back that it is a good plan that simply needs some tweaking.  As interesting as these little brawls are, they lose sight of the historical importance Obamacare has for American politics.  More specifically, they miss the impact this will have on the legacy of the Obama Administration.

Each president is remembered fondly, or infamously, for at least one thing.  Washington is known for leading the War of Independence and the country as the first president.  Lincoln is remembered for keeping the country united; FDR for his charismatic bravery in the Depression; and Reagan for ending the Cold War.  These legacies outlast their respective administrations and help to build a sense of national identity as well as provide a political basis for future presidents.  Right now, Pres. Obama’s legacy is and will revolve around Obamacare.

Consider that when the President came into office, he had a favorable Congress with both houses holding Democratic majorities.  He campaigned as the opposite of predecessor, all but promising to undo everything Pres. Bush had accomplished over the last eight years.  And he used his charisma to inspire hope during a devastating financial crisis.  He was to be the man who would lead America out of the Dark Ages of capitalism and self-interest policies into an era of social cooperation at both the domestic and international levels.  America would finally confront her social injustices and begin implementing laws to correct them.  Guantanamo Bay prison would be closed; healthcare would be affordable to all; nations of the world would respect us without envy or fear; and minorities would finally be able to have a strong and equal voice in policy.  With the exception of the latter, none of this has come to pass.

Guantanamo is still open with no shut down plans in the near future.  Allies as well as hostile nations find our diplomatic positions weak, unrealistic, and (especially with the drone usage) terribly arrogant.  Attempts to solve social injustices, toward African Americans and the LGBT community, have only polarized the country.  Only Pres. Obama’s healthcare law has gone according to plan until recently.  And the fact it is now being met with sharp criticism and opposition is not a sign of ACA being poorly written, bad policy, or incompetent implementation.  Rather it summarizes the Obama Administration’s inability to communicate and to lead politically.

In 2008 and 2012, the President proved he could organize and manage a strong campaign machine.  But after the elections, he has been unable to appreciate the sublties of Washington politics.  This includes confidence in a proposed agenda, the initiative to fight for the agenda, and to compromise on said agenda.  Obama can do the first two but he has thus far refused to do the latter.  Yes he has claimed to be open to compromises at debt ceiling talks and during the shutdown in October, but declaring the only items up for debate to be off limits.  He only speaks with Republican leaders when an impasse occurs.  He attacks any opponents to his ideas and calls them narrow-minded.  He has set himself up with an image of pride, being above any mistake or reproach.  All of which is manifested in Obamacare.  He rammed it through in 2009-2010 without Republican support or consultation.  He ignored any questions invovling specific details about implementation and brushed off Americans who were uneasy with its passage.  It is indeed the product of his “My way or the highway” position.

And this view has been the reason for all his other policy problems.  His inability to get Iran to sit down and talk about the Persian nuclear program and to rally bipartisan support for immigration or Guantanamo are all examples of this.  He has the plan and the vision.  He believes he alone is capable of fulfilling them properly.  Yet this individualistic mindset doesn’t work in politics.  Politics requires some level of cooperation with others, and Obama has refused to do so.  This is why Obamacare is important.  If it turns out to be an utter failure, then Obama will remembered for his inability to “play nicely with others” and ACA will be the prime example of it.  We’re not just seeing another political spat, but the historical judgment of an administration.