What I’ve been reading: Faith Healing & Court Scrutiny

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Hey, Christians. Feeling Persecuted? Don’t Be Evil!

Some light reading for your weekend.

ValerieTarico.com

Christians and LionIn the debris of the Hobby Lobby ruling, the Atlanta Banana published a satirical news report: Little Caesar’s Pizza had been granted the religious freedom to feed Christian employees to lions.

Never mind that the trope of Christians getting fed to lions may have been made up by early Christians themselves; the Little Caesar story was almost inevitable. Faced with a barrage of conscience claims, frustrated secularists are wondering whether there’s any limit to the privileges some people will claim in the name of “religious freedom” or any limit to the exemptions and entitlements they will be granted by co-religionists in positions of power.

Turning frustration into humor is a time honored tradition, but serious Bible believers are unlikely to find the Little Caesar’s story funny. The notion of martyrdom as the apogee of faith is as old as the Catholic Church. To quote Christian History for Everyman

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Finding Balance in Perfection

Words are very important in Christian Science, one of the most commonly used words is perfect, for example, man is made in God’s perfect image and likeness. In Christian Science, perfect is used as an adjective — man is ideal, flawless ,without fault, exemplary. Man’s state of perfection is presented as FACT, to accept anything less is to allow aggressive mental suggestion (which is unreal) to undermine man’s perfection and leave him vulnerable to the Christian Science Trio of Doom — Sin, Disease and Death.
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I struggle with perfection. Society tells us we must have the perfect house, the perfect car, the perfectly well behaved children, the perfect holiday, the perfect birthday party, the perfect material stuff. Christian Science tells us we must have our thoughts constantly, perfectly aligned with God, otherwise, all our material perfection — the perfect house, our perfect health, our perfect job (or perfect source of income) none of which is real anyway — will come crashing down. The condition of our unreal material existence is dependent on our Spiritual Perfection.

In Christian Science perfect is always used as an adjective, it is the state of man, perfect is never a verb, it is not something to be aspired to, we are perfect. We do not need to be improved, or refined, we ARE PERFECT.

Except when we fall short, when we fail to realize our birthright as Children of God. When we imbibe alcohol, indulge in tobacco, or consume caffeine. We are perfect except when we are distracted by the lusts of the flesh, or seduced by the false unreality of matter. We are perfect until we drop our guard and fall prey to Malicious Animal Magnetism, or Aggressive Mental Suggestion — those are error, which is false and unreal, but something to be very much on guard for.

Perfect as an adjective is unrealistic, nothing is truly flawless. The Bible, the supposed foundation of Christian Science, and the key figures of Ms. Eddy’s inspiration, Jesus, Paul and Luther all had flaws. Ms. Eddy herself failed to consistently live up to her lofty aspirations: her material body did not ascend, it was buried.

Perfect as a verb is a bit more manageable, it is possible to refine something to improve it, but you also have to know when to step back and acknowledge that sometimes it is good enough. Finding that balance of refinement and acceptance that it is good enough is tricky, and something I struggle with daily.

Related Reading:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dg3PberzvXo#t=225 – Not Perfect by Tim Minchins

opting out of sex-ed

An article entitled Should Kids Need Parental Consent to Get Sex Education in School? (1) recently appeared in my facebook feed. Apparently the need for parental consent is “to protect the children”

Republican state Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook sponsored bills S.B. 376 and H.B. 2620 after a constituent came to her in January appalled at a poster hanging in his daughter’s middle school. Titled “How Do People Express Their Sexual Feelings?,” the poster highlighted sexual activities, such as “grinding,” “oral sex,” “kissing,” and “sexual fantasy,” that could put them at risk for contracting an STD.

“We need to protect children from hurtful material in schools,” Pilcher-Cook said last week. “We need to protect the rights of parents to shield and protect their children from harmful material.”

I have mixed feelings about such posters, would I want one on my wall at home? No. But are they “harmful material” to have in a middle school? No. Keeping middle school students in the dark about about their bodies, emotions, relationships, consent, and how they might catch STDs is far more harmful than some poorly-designed poster.

As a child who was “opted out” of sex ed, in an abstinence-only red-state, for religious reasons (thanks Christian Science) I feel very strongly that children should not need to get parental consent, nor should they be allowed to “opt out” regardless of their religion (or lack there of). I went to public school, but I can relate all-too-well with many of the stories shared on Homeschoolers Anonymous and their Let’s Talk About Sex (Ed) Week (2).

My first experiences with “sex ed” was in the fourth and fifth grade when we were shown the “our changing bodies” video where they talked about menstruation in the dullest possible way, and sent us home with little bags packed to the brim with samples to insure we’d be hooked on their products (pads and deodorant) for years to come. My mother pre-screened the content in the School Nurse’s office to make sure it was “appropriate.”

My parents were unhelpful. I got some pretty terrible advice, including “don’t turn your husband down if he wants sex — if he’s not getting enough he’ll cheat, you want to keep him happy” and “you can douche with coke to kill sperm” (do NOT try that at home).

My understanding of basic human anatomy fared poorly as well. From an early age, everything was labeled as “privates” and aside from rinsing “down there” with water from time to time, little else was said. When I first got my period, my mother handed me a package of maxi pads and told me to be sure and “rinse the blood stains with cold water so they won’t set.” Tampons were never really talked about, my mother referred to them as “plugs” and mentioned they were “useful for swimming.” I didn’t try them until I was in college and my period coincided with my PE swim class. It was not a pleasant experience.

The over all experience was not empowering, it was embarrassing. My body was transforming into an icky, sweaty, bloody mess, complete with breasts, hormonal swings, and bras which never seemed to fit right.

My sex “education” came from older friends (who were often nearly as sheltered as I was), and the internet. As a bonus, we had the conservative Christian, misogynistic, red-state mindset that reinforced the virgin/whore dichotomy, when you add Christian Science and all the unreality to the mix, it makes for some pretty warped perspectives. It can also lead to some awful relationship decisions. Hindsight, is 20/20, in the moment, it seems perfectly reasonable to victim-blame, slut-shame, and “avoid the appearance of evil” even if it isn’t really evil. The notion that women had sexual desires was laughable. Masturbation was not discussed. People who used sex toys were to be pitied. Sex before marriage? Never. Rape and sexual assault didn’t happen to “good girls.” It was a slut-shaming paradise. (3)

We talked about sex in my Christian Science Sunday School class, where a few of us were brave enough to broach the otherwise taboo topic. The general consensus was as follows:

  • No sex before marriage, sex primarily for procreation (although recreational sex is okay, as long as it is for the “right” reasons – aka keeping the husband happy so he won’t cheat/leave)
  • No using hormonal birth control, but condoms are probably OK
  • Abortion is probably a bad idea, you should pray about it — this was the most grey zone, apparently prayer can end a pregnancy, but it is really up to God. One of the young men at the table asked innocently “why would anyone need one?”

I feel strongly that everyone needs a solid sex-education and they need to get it in a safe, non-judgmental environment. They also need facts, not urban-legends, and scare-tactics. They need to learn it is okay to turn someone down, and that “not saying no” is not the same as an enthusiastic yes! I’m not sure how that is supposed to happen, but I know the few days of co-ed “sex-ed” didn’t work so well when we covered the mandatory STDs in my high school health class.

I agree, we need to protect our children, but I disagree with Republican state Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook about what that protection entails. Protecting children includes teaching them basic facts about their bodies, demonstrating and modeling healthy relationships, educating them about proper methods of birth control and STI prevention.

The children in question are middle schoolers, ages 11-14, they are old enough to father children or get pregnant and some of them engage in such activities. Protect them by giving them the information they need to prevent abusive and emotionally manipulative relationships, unplanned/unwanted pregnancies, and STDs.

Parents should not be able to opt their children out of sex-ed any more than they should be allowed to opt their children out of learning mathematics. Abstaining from teaching children about the human body and sex does not work. It is a VERY, VERY BAD IDEA (4)

Thankfully, in-spite of parental and governmental bungling, we seem to be living in the golden age of teen sexual responsibility: teen pregnancy is down, and teens are more likely to use condoms than their elders (5).


Further reading & Helpful Sex Ed Resources

End Notes

  1. http://www.takepart.com/article/2014/02/24/sex-education-in-schools-kansas-bill?cmpid=tp-fb
  2. http://homeschoolersanonymous.wordpress.com/category/lets-talk-abut-sex-ed-week/
  3. For some context most of us listened to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity – I will not be linking to them
  4. Along that same line of reasoning, abstinence-only sex-ed does not work either – http://www.takepart.com/article/2013/04/03/how-abstinence-only-sex-ed-driving-std-rates
  5. http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/03/25/golden-age-teen-sexual-responsibilty/

What I’ve been Reading: Measles, the Dead & Healthcare Access

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image via Refutations to Anti-Vaccine Memes

Christian Science: Lobbying It or Living It?

A Christian Scientists perspective on Congressional Lobbying over healthcare and exemptions for Christian Scientists. Beautifully put and well worth the read.

Adventures of the Madcap Christian Scientist

The letter of Science plentifully reaches humanity to-day, but its spirit comes only in small degrees. The vital part, the heart and soul of Christian Science, is Love. Without this, the letter is but the dead body of Science, – pulseless, cold, inanimate. – Mary Baker Eddy.

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In the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy defines “Church” as the “structure of Truth and Love” and says the role of Church is to rouse “the dormant understanding… to the apprehension of spiritual ideas…” 

Lately some members of the Christian Science church have been busy lobbying their politicians for exemptions for Christian Scientists from health insurance and laws regarding child neglect. And I’m sorry, but I have to ask – how is exempting Christian Scientists from health insurance laws and child neglect laws in any way going to help rouse anyone’s…

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