Archive for May, 2008

30
May
08

We ain’t afraid of no ghost

As for the title of today’s post, don’t worry, we won’t need any Ghostbusters to come out and put the smackdown on some specters. I just wanted to say a quick word about the Holy Spirit, sometimes called the Holy Ghost (and I didn’t want my announcement earlier today of Miz Pink’s temporary takeover of the blog to be the only post of the day; I need to give you something substantive).

Anyway, if you haven’t thought much about the Holy Spirit, you’re not alone, and it either means you aren’t Christian—or you’re one of the probably 75% of Christians or more who just never think about the Holy Spirit.

Like, I said, you have a lot of company.

Oh, you read about him in the Bible from time to time, but he hardly gets any play. We’re so focused on God the father and creator, and on Jesus the messiah and savior, that we just don’t really pay any attention to the third party in the upper management structure of the universe. Granted, I was of the same mind from the time I became born again up until maybe a couple years ago. I did my best to serve God and to honor Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for me, but I never gave the Holy Spirit a second thought.

At least not until I went to a church that focused on the Holy Spirit. Now, that wasn’t altogether a good thing, mind you. Some churches, Pentacostal ones among them, have a tendency to get a little too worked up about the Holy Ghost and forget to give enough time to God and Jesus. So, while it was a good thing I went to the church in question long enough to get an appreciation for the Holy Spirit, I’m very glad I’m not going there anymore.

So, who is the Holy Spirit and why should you care? Upon becoming born again by accepting Jesus as lord and savior, you essentially build the bridge between you and God that has been missing all your life. Sin and corruption separated you from a personal relationship with God. Jesus made it possible for the bridge to be built. Once you accept Jesus, the Holy Spirit enters into you and voila, the bridge is complete.

Oversimplified description perhaps, but why stop with the oversimplification now? Another way to think of the Holy Spirit is as a super-conscience. Once you are born again, God essentially lives inside you, or at least a portion of Him does. This isn’t possession, because you still call the shots about what you are, or aren’t, going to do for God and whether you are going to take the paths in life that He wants you to or not. But the quality of your spiritual life depends a lot on how much you are willing to heed the nudgings of the Holy Spirit and how much you are willing to listen to him.

And yes, I’ve said “him” a couple times now. The Holy Spirit is a being, every bit as much as God and Jesus are. Whether or not God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost are separate beings representing a Trinity or whether they are all the same being in three different presentations is irrelevant. Regardless of which it is, the Holy Spirit is still someone to be respected, honored and listened to. The Holy Spirit is the comforter that Jesus sends to you and the guide for your faith walk.

So, don’t get so caught up in the Spirit that you lose perspective and forget to give proper attention to your creator and your savior. But at the same time, make sure you don’t ignore him, either, in your Christian walk. Because to do so is to be someone who is saved in terms of your soul, but perhaps lost in terms of getting through life in the best way possible for you and those around you.

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30
May
08

It’s a pink world after all

Just a heads up that the color of things around here is going to become decidely more feminine for a week, give or take. I’m not taking a vacation per se, but old Deacon Blue will be taking a vacation from blog posts for a short time (maybe one day a real vacation to a scenic locale will be in my future). In my place, I’ll be handing the reins to Miz Pink to (hopefully) keep up pretty much daily posting. I’ll probably post once or twice over the weekend before I go on my tiny sabbatical. Just wanted to let you know. I know you’re in good hands. Better looking ones, I’m sure, as well, if she’s as religious about moisturizer as my wife is. Also, this means that aside from looking at the word “shit” at the top of my page every time you come here, the language will be a lot cleaner for the time I’m gone. God bless.

29
May
08

St. Paul the Prickly

St. Paul…you know, the guy who is responsible for a good chunk of the New Testament thanks to those letters he wrote, mostly to young Gentile churches in the years after Jesus died and rose…well, he’s a lot like my father-in-law. I love him, and I can learn a lot from him religiously. But I wouldn’t talk much politics with him. Nor would I discuss many social issues like, say, feminism. And I sure wouldn’t ask him for much in the way of advice on communications in interpersonal relations.

That isn’t a knock, by the way. Both my father-in-law (who was once my pastor) and Paul show a lot of intellectual power. They are both strong in their spiritual faith. Both of them have a lot to teach me about how to be a better person: for God, my family and others in my life. I respect both of them greatly. And I pay attention to them.

But they can both be jerks, too. They can both be narrow-minded. To their credit, both of them also tend to qualify their statements (Paul in his letters and my father-in-law in church) when they are indeed their own thoughts as opposed to biblical doctrine. Admittedly, the line can blur sometimes, and there are moments in my father-in-law’s sermons when you know his personal feelings have crept in…just as there are moments in Paul’s letters when it looks like perhaps he was going off on a personal tangent without remembering to warn us.

None of this dilutes the value of their messages, but it requires a certain willingness to forgive the man for his faults and focus in on the message. Paul was a learned, disciplined, committed man. He was a Pharisee and was all too willing to take on the mission of hunting down and persecuting Jews who were preaching Jesus as the Messiah and as having risen from the dead to ascent to the right hand of God his father. Despite his conversion to a belief in Jesus as the son of God, Paul didn’t suddenly get a personality transplant and thus much of what he says is colored by the way he was raised and the way he saw the world.

Here’s a funny take on St. Paul from cross-dressing British comedian Eddie Izzard (there is some foul language, but you’d expect that with me, now wouldn’t you?). Watch it for a nice palate cleanser, and then we’ll continue…

So, there were a lot of people who probably would have liked to give Paul the middle finger and many more who still do today. Certainly, he doesn’t endear himself to modern women with this:

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. (1 Timothy 2:11-14)

First, some have argued that the misogyny was added later after Paul was long dead, but I’m going to give credit to Paul for this because…well, why the hell not? The man lived in a society far more male-centered than what Americans are accustomed to today. Women didn’t hold positions of power generally, and educating them certainly wasn’t a priority, so why would he want a woman telling him what to do? Jerky, yes. But for the time and place, pretty normal thought process. Besides, I think the intent of that passage is a bit more narrow than it seems, as I noted in this post. Just for the record, I talked about Paul and the Pauline letters a bit here, too.

That certainly isn’t the only place where Paul exhibited a certain prickly streak, but it is one of the most telling for our modern times. So, if the guy has some old-world, old boy network chips on his shoulder, why care about anything he says?

Well, the man’s writings lay out a huge chunk of the fundamental doctrine of the church. The other apostles actually listened to him (once they figured out he wasn’t trying to infiltrate them as some sort of trick to destroy them) when he challenged what they were doing. He challenged himself and was open about many of his own flaws. This isn’t the kind of guy who seems to be out to create a church to suit his own ends but someone who was on a mission. In this case, a mission for Christ.

Now, consider also the fact that while the other apostles focused on teaching the Jews about Jesus and his divinity, Paul was tasked with reaching everyone else. The Gentiles vastly outnumbered the Jews and represented a whole host of different belief systems or lack thereof. If Paul seems like a hard-ass at time in his letters, let’s remember that he had to try to stamp out heretical fires at every turn, often when he was far away from the churches that were under fire, and thus unable to counter the false doctrines in person. You’re trying to keep people in line under God’s laws and strengthen their faith while battling their very human natures and being persecuted yourself at every turn.

I’d be a bit salty too.

Fact is, there is little that Paul writes that isn’t fully in line with the teaching of Jesus and the laws of God. And what bits of personal bias he might show at times can often easily be reconciled with societal changes today without altering the core intent. I know a lot of women won’t like the fact that I agree with Paul that women aren’t meant to be pastors. But with educational levels being what they are today, I think they belong everywhere else in the church, and I think Paul would agree on that front as well, given that he recognized a couple women who were important in the evangelism of the early church.

I suspect Paul would hold fast to views against sexual immorality and other desires of the flesh, as well he should given that God doesn’t want us to sin in those ways. But I also don’t think he’d be pleased with people bombing abortion clinics or trying to force secular lawmakers to hold to biblical law on issues such as sexual intercourse.

Paul was a sonovabitch at times, but he was an honest one and a faithful one, and that gives him a lot of credit as far as I’m concerned.

I know I already have a link to some biographical info on Paul embedded in the first word of this post, but click here for a Wikipedia entry on him should you like to learn even more. I rely on Wikipedia for a lot of the informational hyperlinks around here and I just feel like I need to branch out sometimes.

28
May
08

Of scarves and fidelity

So, I’ve got a beef with the right wing and the left wing today, thanks to recent posts at The Field Negro and Raving Black Lunatic that have hipped me to some crazy stories in the news…well, online rants that have made the news, anyway.

First, we have right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin, who in her blog post Of Donuts and Dumb Celebrities tries to make the case that a scarf worn by Rachael Ray in a Dunkin Donuts commercial somehow legitimates and supports terrorism because is supposedly so obviously a keffiyeh. Given that it’s still pretty rare to find a die-hard conservative who is an atheist, I’ll work under the assumption that she’s Christian. And in putting forth this rant (which actually convinced Dunkin Donuts to pull the ad), she epitomizes one of the things that pisses me off about narrow-minded right-wing Christians, which is that they think you can reduce terror-loving religious extremists to something like a scarf. They are so frickin paranoid that we’re going to be overrun by swarthy Jesus-hating footsoldiers that they are concerned someone will see Rachael Ray in something keffiyeh-like and sympathize with terrorists.

Way to oversimplify religious extremism while completely ignoring your own.

But hey, I have a left-leaning Democrat in my sights too. Let it never be said I never have anything bad to say about the folks who are a bit closer to my political views. In this case, Sylvia Welsh, in a blog post titled The Shrinkage Factor, actually suggests that Barack Obama’s seemingly unassailable fidelity to his wife is some sign that perhaps he’s not tough enough to be president. That’s right, she actually tries to weave together a blog post that can somehow posit that by being faithful to his wife he’s too much of a nice guy (granted she makes a lot of other points in this blog as well, few of which make any damn sense). And in this we see the hypocrisy of someone whom I’m certain would be quick to decry a conservative Christian for cheating on his wife while espousing family values, but can also be among those who expect Obama to repudiate his pastor of 20 years and also knock him for not cheating on his wife. What Bizarro World suburb does this woman live in?

*Sigh* God save me from the idiots on the right of me and the idiots on the left of me…please.

27
May
08

Gender bender by Miz Pink

So, Sir Pink and I survived yet another large holiday cookout/get together with my family. No relatives were injured in the making of this event and my darling chivalrous hubby wasn’t (as has happened several times before) put in a position of feeling he had to step in and protect me from an ideological attack from any of my many relatives who take a rather narrow conservative view of most religious, social and political stuff. Good thing, too, because Sir Pink left his charger and lance at home hundreds of miles away.

But the lack of personal involvement in heated debates doesn’t mean I didn’t hear my fair share, including one of my uncles, who is a reverand and who likes to preach that homosexuality is a special kind of sin that puts you in immediate damnation because it’s a sin against the Holy Ghost. For those of you not familiar with this conept of blasphemy agaisnt the Holy spirit, here you go…from Matthew chapter 12 (in Jesus’s own words):

31 Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. 32 “And whoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the {age} to come.

I know, pretty heady stuff to know that there is a sin that even Jesus says cannot be forgiven. But before I go on too much longer, let me tell you that my uncle is full of it. I’ll encourage the good Deacon to post some other day on what blasphemy against the Holy Spirit really is. Not that it will change my uncle’s mind of course.

Anyhoo, my uncle’s twisted logic on this is that God determines what gender you are at birth, and thus what sexual orientation (since its only supposed to be boys on girls, dontcha know), and therefore to go against that is to fundementally reject God’s design for you. And that is supposedly a sin against the Holy Spirit and a form of blasphemy. I haven’t heard anyone else make this silly argument, but in the interests of not causing family warfare, I have stopped telling my uncle that.

So at the Memorial Day park gathering, what better way to celebrate fallen soldiers than to reiterate his argument to the huddled, beer-besotten masses (well, the half dozen people sitting near him anyway) his view on this subject, with the added notation that people who undergo sex change operations are doubly guilty of blaspheming against the Holy Ghost because they have rejected not only their assigned sexual preference but assigned gender as well.

Again: total bull. But at the risk of making anyone mad around here, I will agree with my uncle on one point. Transgender stuff creeps me out big time. Gay and lesbian sex? Doesn’t really raise my hairs. Cross-dressing? Cool, if that’s your thing. Sex change? Makes me break out in goosebumps just thinking about it and not the good kind of goosebumps either.

I don’t think it’s some unforgivable sin, mind you. I just don’t get it. If you tell me you are only attracted to your own gender, I get that. It’s a personal lifestyle choice. But to say God gave you the wrong body? C’mon! Get real!

My personal take is that if you think you’re a woman trapped in a man’s body or the other way around, I think you need to get some counseling, not surgery. Advances in surgery that allows “gender reassignment” make sense for the poor little babies born with both sets of gender equipment or none at all. That’s a genetic mashup and God gave us the brains to take that on, so we should. But to argue as a person with fully functioning natural parts that you got the wrong set is plain nutty. Is that insensitive of me? Maybe so but it’s how I feel.

I remember a guy friend in college joking with me that he felt like he was a lesbian trapped in a man’s body. I think he was sweet on me and was trying to turn it into some sort of come hither line, but if so it didn’t work. He probably would have loved to try on a woman’s body just long enough to enjoy some lesbian action but he was joking, and I’m sure many other men have made similar jokes.

And yet…I read a year or two ago about a man who did indeed get a sex change operation to become a woman, but who continued to have sex with women. A guy who really thought he was a lesbian trapped in a man’s body! And this goes to show how we misuse medical technology, usually to try to look better when we shouldn’t be trying to…but sometimes to just change what God gave us just because we aren’t satisfied with our private parts. It’s something that also bugs me when women go for fertility drugs and in vitro because they so desparately want kids, and then they end up with 6 or 7 or 8 of them and start crying for help to pay for and raise their ungainly gaggle of little’uns. Medical science isn’t a toy, and sometimes, nature (and God) know best.

So what’s next as medical technology advances? Species reassignment? Always wanted to be a wolf or a bear or a horse? Here’s your chance! I’m a gay tiger trapped in a female human body. Let me out! I want to hook up with Siegfried or Roy.

Whether you believe in God or not, sometimes I think we just need to accept what is set before us. Or in this case accept what we are set inside of…our very own bodies.

26
May
08

To our fallen heroes

It’s a little late in the day, or the long holiday weekend for that matter, to be posting about Memorial Day I suppose (if I have any readers outside the U.S., that is a holiday honoring those who have died while in military service to the country). But given that I have a household full of sickies this weekend (myself included), I hope I can be forgiven.

Certainly, not all who die in military service are heroes. But most of the people in the military are there because they believe they have a patriotic duty, and they take the safety of their country seriously. Seriously enough to leave limbs, peace of mind and sometimes even their lives behind. I have had serious disagreements with most conflicts in which the U.S. has engaged during my lifetime, but that doesn’t dilute the respect I have for those who wear the uniforms of the various U.S. military branches with honor and dignity.

With so many having died in Iraq alone—not just U.S. service men and women but Iraqi citizens as well—I am reminded that everything I do here in this country and everything that I enjoy has been paid for in blood at some point—sometimes the blood of soldiers, sometimes the blood of abused workers in other countries, sometimes the blood of other people entirely. That bloodletting doesn’t always involve death, and it’s not the divine kind of blood that Jesus shed for our sins, but it’s blood nonetheless.

Sometimes blood has been shed with good cause and sometimes not, but people have bled all the same. Looking to those who have served the U.S., I have this to say: For the majority who survived, I say “God bless.” To those who have perished in honorable service and to their families, I say “Thank you.” I look forward to the day when we won’t have to send our sons and daughters to die for any cause.

24
May
08

How would Jesus roll?

There is a hilarious exchange beginning about three-quarters of the way down in the comments of this post at Deus Ex Malcontent in which a guy named “Bill White” (yeah, right) poses as a right-wing nutjob. At first, it seems like he might be serious and really believe what he writes, but as things progress, it eventually becomes clear it’s just sophisticated parody. I point this out only because there is a comment by Bill White that he drives an F-150 and someone later jokes that if he were a true Jesus freak, he would drive an F-350.

It’s funny to me, at least, because I think there are so many Christians of the more right-leaning persuasion (and other persuasions, probably, to be honest) who really do drive big, honkin, gas-guzzling vehicles. These are the same people who probably stuck “What Would Jesus Do?” stickers on the bumpers or the back window back when the WWJD thing was all the rage.

Sadly, what such folks seem to have forgotten was that Jesus mostly walked around, and when he rode into Jerusalem in his final days on Earth, he rode on a friggin donkey. So, let’s consider how Jesus would roll if he had a car. Hell, if Jesus were in the flesh here on planet Earth today, and if he were driving anything, it wouldn’t be anything flashier than a Prius. And frankly, that would be too much for him to be comfortable with, I suspect.

To be honest, I think he’d be driving a used Geo Metro.




Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley

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