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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Good Christian Sex: Why Chastity Isn't the Only Option‑And Other Things the Bible Says About Sex

Rev. Bromleigh McCleneghan (her sisters are named Whitney and Taylor) speaks about the book here (above is a sermon of hers). You can see various shades of reactions, positive, negative and mixed. Think I would provide a positive/mixed review, thinking her overall approach was good, but the book somewhat limited (and at times too rambling).  Overall, it is from a "mainline Protestant" (to quote) perspective, generally a good liberal viewpoint, average middle America style. A bit more bite might be needed at times.

The subtitle is a type of way to catch your attention, one not just about that to be fair. She talks about her own experiences, which does seem embarrassing (the reader is hard-pressed not to see her in a sexual way, I myself having a general tendency to put myself into the place of people in books, get a vision of what is happening -- here it's attraction, sexual etc.). And, this includes masturbation (which gets a chapter; pleasure is part of humanity), desire, sex before marriage and so forth.  But, this is not really a book where all the "good stuff" is checked off (that is, types of sex, porn, etc.).  The core involves relationships with others.

Late in the book, the author notes that though her husband is not a Christian, she "recognized in him a manifestation of the gospel - of trust and hope and forgiveness, of the abundance of love."  This is a somewhat common thing -- people often use "Christian" to in effect mean "good" or some such, which might confuse those who tie it to belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and so forth.  The book too expresses "Christian" in a big picture, the spirit of the enterprise, sort of way.  This is not to say Jesus is not referenced.  "Grace" is also referenced a lot.  

Still, "the Bible says" should be taken in a broad sense here.  The book rarely is particularly "Christian" as in "different from Jewish or Buddhist" about things.  This provides a wide audience but turns off some who view Christianity differently.  In the chapter about "playing fair," she also discusses how her "Protestant tradition" (again, quote, not the recent tendency to use that as snark) approaches the Bible.  It is "divine inspiration" but not "infallible."  Humans wrote it, though it still is in some fashion the "Word of God," and it is not the end of things.  God continues to speak "through the presence and work of the Spirit."  Thus, "reason or knowledge, tradition or collected wisdom, and experience, both personal and of others" are places to look for truth. 

She opposes "proof-text" techniques where biblical verses are picked out and strung along to make your argument, without regard for the greater overall intent.  This is a favored approach of some, verses used like proverbs, which tend to have meaning different for different people. All of this tends to also arise when dealing with constitutional analysis, including some of the same self-righteous tones. This includes trying to apply "original understanding" (or intent or whatever), which is often done without fully understanding what that was.  But, as suggested above, even then, specific guidelines for sexual activity found in the Bible might not be infallible.  Those anti-fornication verses of Paul won't trip her up.

She does cite them but basically in passing. The book is largely about how to have good relationships as a whole. Again, there is nothing uniquely "Christian" about much of this, the most Christian language to me at times the most forced parts of the book.  Then again, I'm more in the camp of her husband when it comes to Christian beliefs.  So, "playing fair" is respecting others, not treating them as things. "Chastity" is really temperance, which can be a good thing without (as seen with alcohol) prohibition; that didn't turn out that well.  Sex involves vulnerability but the ultimate connection can be wonderful.  But, you still need to know when it time to leave.

The book is very personal (though she used a survey to get other perspectives) and that is somewhat of a flaw.  Basically, we get one perspective -- a female leaning, heterosexual, comfortably middle class and probably white one.  For instance, she's clearly uncomfortable about porn from the few remarks referenced.  Homosexuality and the complexities of gender in relationships in that fashion is not really covered. The relationships are a tad too safe and idealized, though one chapter does cover those who were hurt.  She rejects settling, argues for the potential of marriage, the need to continue to find new things there.  But, for some, maybe not someone like her who found someone great young and still is with him, choices very well might be made. 

And, yes, at times, I thought the book rambled. It's a little over 200 pages, and it could have been shorter (or other things added).  I did obtain an "uncorrected proof" version, but gather it is mostly the same as the final copy.  But, overall, I would recommend the book.  It is what it is: a personal account that provides a lot of good things and those who want more probably can still build off what it gives.  Plus, any book where one endnote is "Ha" (in response to a pun) can't be that far off.

Arkansas Continues Their Execution Month

Mixed reports suggested the first lethal injection didn't go off without a hitch, but for the first time in years a state had two executions in the same day. Yay! This is a "clean case" (as far as we know) where innocence and other claims were not made, it coming down to the system itself. Beforehand: After three of the eight planned were stopped, the fourth went on with problems lingering. Which is a blatant problem: it's all so arbitrary. Meanwhile.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

420


Today is "420 Day," the "420" code originally standing for a good time to get high. It is also Justice Stevens' 97th birthday. And, then there are overlaps, cases where Stevens wrote opinions on both sides.  The video also touches upon how there are a myriad of policy questions involved here, including allowing states to have local discretion that goes beyond voluntary executive discretion. 

There are a myriad of constitutional questions involved here. For instance, one of the cases cited above held: "Congress’ Commerce Clause authority includes the power to prohibit the local cultivation and use of marijuana in compliance with California law." Reading Scalia's concurrence, one wonders why he did not go along with RBG in the PPACA cases. An earlier case dealt with the question of the defense of "necessity" and the concurrence appeared right to leave it open.  But, the Supreme Court was probably right in the first case.  Justice Stevens was sympathetic but rested on standard liberal Commerce Clause theory. 

I think there is a reasonable liberty claim for those who need it for medicinal usage and a statutory (or agency) one to deal with the scheduling.  As a matter of general policy, yes, I would at least allow state and local discretion here. As is, state liberalization leaves open federal prosecution and things like using cash in a big money business because of federal banking regulations. But, marijuana is a major national and international business. At the very least, the regulation of medicinal usage here involves enough activity to constitutionally be up for regulation.

Various liberty arguments do arise. Overall right to privacy arguments as well as specific Fourth Amendment claims can arise. A link above addresses the First Amendment claim involving a puerile banner, but such an argument could arise in a more serious situation.  Students have a right to promote the view that marijuana should be legal.  Doctors should be able to talk to patients about it without problems arising. Marijuana also clearly has a certain message overall as shown by its association with jazz and other counterculture matters.  Finally, the change of consciousness involved can have religious connotations. And, fines/punishments/forfeiture here can also raise various constitutional problems.  Other matters might be cited.*

[One might even raise Second Amendment concerns since breaking the law is one area that might result in loss of rights in that area.] 

Meanwhile, a broad amount of people use marijuana, legal or not.  This doesn't mean the rules do not matter.  They run the risk of falling afoul of them, especially those of certain races and classes.  The number of people in the criminal justice system on account of marijuana offenses is far from trivial.  Likewise, there are various benefits that might be lost, including public housing even if third parties are involved.  And, if this usage should be deemed constitutionally protected, basic infringement of constitutional rights are involved.  Harshing one's mellow there would both be bad policy and unconstitutional to boot.

Again, Happy Birthday, John Paul Stevens.

---

* Justice Clark, repeatedly a conservative dissenter in criminal cases in the Warren Court, provides a taste:
Justice Clark had personally expressed great concern for those who used drugs. In an article published after stepping down from the Supreme Court, which today seems wholly extraordinary, Justice Clark spoke about the “badge of criminality” that a conviction for marijuana use placed on “thousands and thousands of our children” and called for the repeal of marijuana laws.
He also suggested the right to privacy applied.  A recent bipartisan rule by an unclear degree disallows federal funds to be used to for federal prosecutions when the activity is protected by local law.  This might be a matter that will arise in the next few years as well as other questions such as damage claims for "leakage" to states that still has bans. Lots of material here.

The Islamic Jesus: How the King of the Jews Became a Prophet of the Muslims

The book is an interesting and well sourced take that in effect argues that the Quran provides a Jewish Christian take on Jesus. It even tosses in a take (without Joseph) of a virgin birth. Jesus gets rather top billing, down to the final days (if a bit more hazy there)! It ends with the author's liberal/reformist take, the "something for everyone" approach fitting rather well there. Some of the details might be open to debate (and weeds a bit tedious), but it's overall rather fascinating. More of all faiths need to know the details here. Well written.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

SCOTUS Watch

Various actions in Judge Gorsuch's first week at oral arguments, including this order in the ongoing Arkansas death penalty drama which might be the first thing he formally took part in. Didn't take part in various orders and decisions (only one somewhat notable to me) handed down. Today was a very well moot religious liberty case that the Supremes might reach out to decide. Eh. I'm with Sotomayor. Finally, this doesn't bode well ala Gorsuch. And, Emoluments.


Update: The Arkansas drama continues, even if one person was executed after the Supreme Court rejected a stay 5-4. Doubtful the guy is innocent [but see], but the process, as Sotomayor/Breyer noted in dissent, was a mess. Due process reasons again. Unconstitutional and bad policy. ETA: NYT might have questionable political coverage at times, but some of their commentary (and entertainment/etc. coverage) is pretty good, including this.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Tax Day

Taxes are what we pay for civilized society, including the chance to insure.
The weekend pushes things to Monday, but still a useful reminder from Justice Holmes. Rather so given the basis of the PPACA Cases. Then, there is the tyranny of Trump never releasing his tax returns. And, there continues to be the Emoluments Clause[s] issue. While they formulate means to screw us over tax-wise, perhaps the Republican Congress can help.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Easter

It involves a good amount of supposition to understand what might have "really happened," but is important to get a sense of the context of the times. This is so even if you are an atheist and don't accept the (rather hard to take seriously, if you think too much about it) supernatural components. There is also a way to accept a meaning to it all, like Christmas, it having certain somewhat universal aspects such as rebirth. Ditto Passover in some sense.

And Then There Was None


Good t.v. adaption of Agatha Christie story.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Elle


I really enjoyed Isabelle Huppert in Things to Come, a leisurely film of sorts about a certain time in a woman's life. She has a commanding presence and style that impresses. This film is somewhat similar though is a tad more twisted, starting with the opening scene involving her being raped. We first see this from the perspective of her cat. The fact she is a businesswoman crafting a violent video game involving a woman being raped by a monster suggests a certain ongoing theme here. Some overlap in relations with family too. Very good.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Tainted Supreme Court

2nd Monday in April: when every decision by SCOTUS is a bit tainted because of stolen seat being sworn in (cute baby justice stories time! reference to an article about Kagan helping the new junior "justice," who has certain jobs like messenger boy at Conference). No, after over FORTY YEARS, we don't finally have a 5-4 somewhat liberal leaning Court. I'm depressed and pissed on about equal levels. God he looks like one pleased sanctimonious asshole.