30 minutes

I haven’t written a blog entry in a while. It seems I’ve had some complicated (= long) trains of thought and just never seem to finish them. The result is that, while my facebook status gets updated semi-regularly, there’s not much substantial content flowing from my brain. In the interest of solving that, I hereby give myself 30 minutes to get it all out.

What follows is some trains of thought. They might not be complete, or might not be well thought out, or might not even be important. But, darn it, 30 minutes from now, the whole universe will know what I’ve been thinking lately. As for what I’ve been doing, I’ll have to leave that for another time (or get the play by play on facebook).

Rights, obligation, and charity

I started writing an essay last month titled Rights, Obligation, and Charity. I’ll finish it at some point (I hope). Any number of topics could have prompted me to write it, but it was the healthcare debate that put me over the edge. That said, it’s not about healthcare, really. The idea is simple. Rights are natural, individual, and negative and obligations cannot exist without consent. The only theological foundation suitable for anything other than that view is one which, regardless of its position on the existence of God(s), allows for forcing its views on others. That’s an affront to several major religions (Christianity included), as well as being grossly incompatible with a pluralistic society such as we live in.

Of course, focusing on rights and obligation is an incomplete view. Bleeding heart liberals use the crisis of the day to insist that violating rights by creating obligations without consent is necessary. They ignore the very real role of charity. Unfortunately, those whose fluency in rights theory is high enough to meaningfully engage them are frequently not fluent enough in theology to suggest a suitable foundation for charity. That missing link is where Christianity shines, in my opinion. Rights itself – the libertarian mantra – not only feels cold and empty (devoid of positive motivation), but is truly insufficient for a functioning society. The fallacy of the liberal is that, absent coercion, charity is insufficient for a functioning society. The truth is, the only formula for a healthy society is one that respects rights, obligates itself voluntarily, and is charitable with good Cause.

Abstract ethical principles v.s. concrete moral laws

This conflict presents a bit of a paradox. In a way it can be distracting. In the debate itself, I find myself favoring abstract ethical principles. Christian theologians have an easy time making a case for either view as there is plenty of text to support either. I think the trend towards the former tends to be led by liberal theologians. Some (though likely not all) might do so in an attempt to escape sin. The problem is, that’s impossible to do. The ethicist has as much of a challenge with sin as the moralist, maybe more. Orthodoxy has made good use of legalese to both condemn the righteous and excuse the evildoer. Ethicists might have a harder time pinning down which is which, but it seems to me that Romans 3:23 (“all have sinned…”) still applies. And having taken the ethical position, it might be all the more condemnable because it becomes all the more personal. Instead of breaking the law (God’s law about God or man), we have ‘broken’ (violated) God or man directly. That’s heavy…

The immaculate conception – Varrin’s heresy edition

I’m not suggesting throwing the scriptural (and traditional) accounts of the birth of Jesus out. But, for just a moment, let’s assume that one (and only one) charge against it is true: that Mary wasn’t a virgin and Jesus wasn’t conceived by the Holy Spirit. Further, let’s assume that she became pregnant not by Joseph (the usual suspect), but by another man all together.

The usual assault on the story is that Joseph gets Mary pregnant. But there would have been easier ways to handle that situation than the immaculate conception claim. You have to break so much more of the story in order for that to make sense. But if someone else got Mary pregnant, Joseph’s treatment of her, and the rest of the story makes much more sense. What would be remarkable about that heresy is how divinely inspired it looks.

Consider the circumstances. Mary’s infidelity is against Joseph. Joseph, like any man of the time, considers putting her away (she’d either be killed or suffer a horrible life). Instead, an angel convicts him to show her love. He forgives her, marries her, loves her, and raises the child as his own. In that day and age, that would be truly revolutionary. And how fitting, then, for the child who grew out of that revolution to carry it on… and then to be killed by the same cultural/religious/legal establishment against which his family revolted.

Of course, it’s not written that way…. but it was an interesting thought, anyway.

I had more, but I’m out of time…


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5 Responses to 30 minutes

  1. justusgirlz says:

    Wow, I didn’t think it possible, but you’ve been thinking in even *more* overtime than usual. Interesting post. I’m finding that more people seem to be “getting” the whole charity vs. taxation thing lately. Don’t know if it’s because I’ve moved to a new location, because of a very different circle of friends that I’m used to, because the economy and recent political development or a mix of all of that in various percentages. The good news is, people seem to be listening more, asking more questions and not falling back on the status quo.
    Your heretical edition of the Virgin Birth is actually a new one to me (go figure!) I always figured it was Joseph, otherwise, God was a rapist. Your spin is very interesting, but it won’t keep me from using the Virgin Birth story as a prime example that abstinence doesn’t always work. 😉

    • varrin says:

      The rights, obligation, and charity section is a brief summary of the idea. So far I have 3 pages on an essay that is likely to go 5 or 6 if I cut what I’ve already written by 30-50%.
      As for God being a rapist, Mary said (to the angel), “May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38) And, for the record, according to the text, that was before she actually became pregnant (“The Holy Spirit *will* come upon you…” in v.35). Doesn’t sound like rape to me. Yes, everyone thinks of Joseph, but really that story wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense. I would contend that Joseph is actually the *least* likely father.
      I guess all the abstinence literature should say 99.999999999% effective instead of 100% 😉 😉 😉

      • justusgirlz says:

        What Mary said sounds more like resignation than rapturous joy at the prospect. Kindof an old-school, begrudging “Yes, dear.” I went and read a Luke 1:26-38. You left out the part where she acknowledged being a servant. “I am the Lord’s servant . . .” which, back in the day, that’s what women were – second class citizens -well, heh, not *even* citizens at that. Besides, like you said, the angel said she “. . . *will* be with child and give birth to a son, and *you are to* give him the name Jesus . . .The Holy Spirit *will* come upon you, and the power of the most high *will overshadow* you.” Emphasis mine, of course. There is NO question whether or not she has a choice – these things WILL happen. The angel’s words are commandments, not requests. Then again, maybe she was given a choice – do this or be sent to hell. It’s just not in the verse. But again, her answer certainly has no joy in it, (and you’d think she’d be giddy with delight at the prospect of bearing God’s son, no?) and that says volumes.
        I went back to the original story from which this was derived (the Birth of Horus) – but it’s all hieroglyphs and the translation doesn’t say whether or not Isis was for/against/neutral to the idea, neither does it’s retelling in the story of (virgin) Queen Mut-em-ua, the mother of Amen-hetep. So the original version(s) are no help in answering that question.

        • varrin says:

          Yes, the servant reply would be what was expected of a woman at the time. Obviously the context for the story was not the 21st century western world. And your conclusion regarding choice doesn’t really fit with the whole of the Biblical narrative. Commands were given and broken by men *and* women (obviously that still happens). And there are examples of individual commands (though, overall, that’s less common) that are not followed (think Jonah). As to whether there is a choice or not, the (apparent) paradox of God’s sovereignty and our free will is important to understand as fully as practical. The truth is, every Biblical actor had a choice. Many of them responded positively as Mary did, but many of them did not in very big ways (Eve, Adam, Abraham, David, Jonah, even Peter). Given the overall context, Mary’s response appears fitting (i.e. not culturally bizarre) and positive.
          As for the assertion that Christ is a story derived from Horus (and/or other ancient myths), I’m sure we won’t settle that debate here. I’ve heard that line of reasoning on many occasions and, for many reasons, it never added up. When I explored the specifics of Horus some time back, I came to the same conclusion. A skeptical (of Christianity) conspiracy theorist type would easily be interested and persuaded by such things, but a good look at the evidence leads me to conclude that there are far better reasons to disbelieve (in Christianity) than the existence of the Horus story.

          • justusgirlz says:

            For Mary to break this commandment she would have had to have aborted the fetus at some point, I’m thinking. Back in the day, if they could even find a surgeon or midwife willing to do that (good luck with that), the risk of death would have been greater than the risk of dying in childbirth. It also would have been costly. Silphium, which was used both as a contraceptive and as an abortifacient during that time was rare and expensive – so she probably didn’t have access to it, either. Which means, the only choice she had was to risk death or carry through with the pregnancy. Remember, she was told by a male angel that this was going to (will) happen (with no option reported that she had a choice(may or could happen)) and being a woman in ancient times (who considered herself a servant) she would do as she was commanded to do. Her mildly ‘positive’ response, which was neither joyous nor grateful at being chosen, really needs to be looked at in the context of her time, her position as a sub-citizen, her religious belief that she had to submit to God, her father, her soon-to-be husband and any other male she encountered. She does not sound thrilled about this *at all*.
            As for Eve, I don’t think she considered herself a servant when she broke the commandment. She also wasn’t living in a society where women were considered and treated as property. Also, being newly created, I think she would have been more child-like than women of a later era, so her breaking of the commandment would have been in the spirit of a child disobeying a parent due to peer pressure rather than a willful ‘raising the middle finger’ at God.
            As for the Horus/Jesus myth similarities, you’re right we won’t settle that one either, lol. There are plenty of other similar myths and festivals that were integrated from older religions into Christianity that we can debate about, if you like. And you’re right, there are far better reasons to disbelieve than the existence of that one story.
            Glad we can debate it like civilized people. 😀

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