Sunday, November 30, 2008

We are not guilty of Adam's transgression... but what about Eve's?

I just remembered something that used to really bother me a few years ago. It doesn't bother me anymore and I'll explain why at the end.

I was obsessed with the idea that women were being punished for Eve's transgression, despite the fact that we are told that we are not guilty of Adam's transgression. The statement about Adam's transgression, of course, is a rebuttal to the Catholic belief that we are all born sinful because we are stained by Adam's sin. In essence, that simply being human is a sin.

So what did I even mean by being guilty of Eve's transgression? Well, first we'll look at the Catholic belief about original sin. They baptise little newborns to cleanse them of the sin they have supposedly been born with. So, we have a situation where a person is naturally fallen by virtue of their identity and not their actions, and requires specific action to reverse this affect. Now let's look at women: God cursed Eve that she must be subject to her husband because of her disobedience. In essence, Eve sinned and was being punished. So why is it that the rest of womanhood has to be subjected to their husbands because of something Eve did? We aren't guilty of Adam's transgression, but it seems as though women were guilty of Eve's.

Now, you might say that Adam was cursed, too, and that we're all subject to those curses as well. Adam's curse being that he had to labour by the sweat of his brow for all the days of his life. However, I would argue that the consequences of Adam's actions are natural whereas the consequence of Eve's actions are arbitrary. Because Adam partook of the fruit, he could no longer dwell in the Garden of Eden, and things outside the Garden of Eden are a certain way. They just are. Trees don't bare fruit spontaneously so you have to work hard to feed yourself. Fact of life. Eve's curse, on the other hand, seems totally artificial. Women certainly don't have to be subjected to their husbands, but the Bible seems to advocate the subjugation of women based on the account of Eve's life. We are taught to punish women. Besides that, women had their share of the natural consequences in the childbirth department. I have two kids, I can attest to this.

So why am I guilty of Eve's sin? Why do I need to be punished for something she did? Well, I promised that at the end I'd explain why I don't feel this way anymore, and I will. Basically, I don't believe that women are subject to their husbands and I don't believe that the Church (at least not the one I belong to) advocates the subjugation of women.

So, basically, I don't believe that I do have Eve's curse. This leads me to something else - why not? Why does the Bible teach it if it's not true? Well, I do believe many, many women have been subjected to their husbands throughout history. Abuse and inequality caused by the subjugation of women are a curse in their own right, but I do believe that curses are meant to be fought against, not embraced. For instance, if the land I live on grows food relatively easily, I'm not going to go out of my way to make it otherwise. If my labour and delivery isn't painful enough, I don't feel the need to stab myself in the eye to make it worse. In fact, mankind has several innovations to reverse these affects. We have tractors, fertilizer, combines, and the epidural. No one (in their right mind) thinks that it's a sin to use these things as a means of reversing our curses. Women have been prone to marginalisation due to their weaker statures. In a world where might is right, women are, unfortunately, often abused. Besides all this, my religion clearly teaches, sometimes ad naseum, that men and women are equal, that men are not to subjugate their wives, and that women are not obligated to put up with subjugation.

Personally, I feel quite empowered. Aside from the fact that I'm an equal partner with my husband, I don't feel marginalised or abused by my religion either. Sometimes, people's perceptions of women are an obstacle to me, but this is not mandated by God, nor is it necessary, or even acceptable. Women are not inferior to men, nor must they relinquish control of their lives to men. Unfortunately, there exist some men who feel that they have to treat women unfairly. I mean obvious things like abuse and withholding rights, but also little things, like the attitudes people have.

For instance, there's this dumb guy that works at Home Depot who tries to talk me out of buying things because he doesn't think I know what I'm doing. I've run into him a few times and now I refuse to talk to him. Once he told me that I couldn't use a rope clamp to make a loop in some nylon braided rope. Like heck I can't! He told me to weave it (I think he meant splice *eyeroll*). Little does he know that a splice causes the rope to lose roughly 20% of its strength, whereas a clamp loses only 5-10%. Anyway, what does he think rope clamps are for if not for clamping rope?

Anyway... my conclusion is that we are NOT guilty of Eve's transgression, and are not obligated to put up with subjugation. We live in a fallen world, so abuse happens. Our purpose in life is not to accept bad things as they are, but to try to reverse them. That is how we find our humanity and our godliness: we right wrongs and try to make the world better.

The Mind/Body Problem

Descartes said that the mind and the body were two distinctly different substances. We LDS folk, of course, believe that our purpose for coming to Earth was to gain a physical body. We believe that our intelligence have always existed, but that the Plan of Salvation is required for us to obtain physical bodies. I'll equate the mind with the spirit, as that means most logical from an LDS perspective.

So, this leads me to the mind/body problem. How does the mind/spirit control the body? If we need bodies (which are physical) to influence physical matter, then how is it that we are able to control our bodies in the first place? How is it that a spirit can influence a body directly, but no other physical substance?

My only explanation is really no explanation at all. I think that spiritual matter and physical matter co-exist but do not effect each other. Unless, of course, you have a portal from one realm into the next. That is to say, the body is the portal by which our spirits are capable of interacting with the physical world. Or, perhaps, our spirits do not possess any energy whatsoever, just will and purpose. Perhaps the physical world consists of energy and substance and the spiritual world consists only of awareness. Then, if you apply the spiritual to the physical, you have purposeful direction of energies and substances, rather than random chaos or latency. Think of a person lying completely still, then moving. What changed? Well, the energy and power needed to move was always there, but it had no will to move, and therefore didn't. Perhaps it is all part of our eternal mission: to bring order to chaos.

I'm not sure if any of this made sense. I'll have to read this again tomorrow and see if I'm out of my gourde or what.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Prop 8: Living and Letting Live

The obvious issue for my first (serious) post seems to be prop 8 which recently passed in California. What a time to be mormon! Things are getting increasingly heated between those who support prop 8 and those who oppose it. I'll weigh in, and try to be fair to both sides.

The likelihood of proposition 8 passing were looking pretty slim to begin with; all but the most conservative seemed against the idea. So, what changed? Well, I'd say most of the voters were of the "live-and-let-live" variety and, at first, saw no harm in allowing homosexuals the right to marry. However, things seemed to change when reports came out of children being taken to gay weddings, books condoning gay marriage being read in schools, and religious charities closing because of pressure from gay rights groups. At this point, I think the live-and-let-live crowd started to think that the LGBT community wasn't going to live and let live, which made them feel threatened.

In fact, this may be what lead the Church to want to take action this time and not other times. Gay marriage has been an issue in other states and countries (Canada, for instance) and in those instances, the message coming from the First Presidency of the Church was to get involved if you wish, but not in the Church's name. This may suggest that they felt something else was at stake here, not just whether or not gay people could marry. Although, to be clear, the Church has not donated any money whatsoever, they simply sent a letter out encouraging people to get involved. Also, no one is obligated to get involved. Many LDS people have been opposed to proposition 8, and no action has been taken against them.

Since the proposition has passed, there has been a lot of talk of rights being taken away and people not accepting the love that two people have for one another. This kind of language seeks an emotional response, although it isn't accurate. I don't feel it's appropriate to talk in terms of "rights". Technically speaking, no rights were taken away, as a civil union carries with it exactly the same rights as a marriage. Also, prop 8 really had nothing to do with love. No one's ability to be in a loving, committed relationship has been compromised. I feel it is a strategy of prop 8 opponents to make it seem like more has been taken away than really has or that prop 8 supporters feel a certain way about homosexual couples when they really don't.

The argument has also been made that redefining marriage shouldn't be an issue since blacks used to not be allowed to marry whites and slaves used to not be allowed to marry at all. However, marriage has never been defined as between "a man and a woman, but not of different races and as long as they're not slaves". The definition of marriage has always been "a union between one man and one woman", that contract was simply being withheld from certain people. Also, it's important to note that marriage has been in practise for thousands of years and is not limited to American history. There have been various restrictions based on culture (caste system in India, to name one) but it has always been a contract between one man and one woman. Even when polygamy has been in practise throughout history, it has been a contract between one man and one woman, the men having multiple contracts with different people (this being the distinction between polygamy and polyamory). Even in Roman times when homosexuality was quite rampant and widely accepted, there were never marriages between two men. A man would have a wife in addition to male sexual partners; they were considered two seperate things. I'm not saying this to mean that the definition could never change, only that this argument shouldn't be used to support the legalisation of gay marriage.

And now, we come to the reality of the situation. (Most) prop 8 supporters aren't actually interested in taking people's rights away and (most) prop 8 opponents aren't actually upset about a lack of rights. Both sides are worried about something else and I think all this talk of "rights" is just beating around the bush. This is really a multi-million dollar argument over the word marriage. So why all the fuss over a word? Well, let's look at this from both sides.

First, we have the gay side. This is really a plea for acceptance. They have all the rights of straight people and can enter into de facto marriages, but they lack the connotation of being "married". I understand the desire, and don't find it to be all that unreasonable. When homosexuals first started "coming out", they adopted the term "gay" because it was a positive word. So, in this case, I feel the desire for marriage is a desire to use a word that gives the impression of a normal, healthy, loving relationship and apply it to themselves. It's really a way of saying, "hey, we're just like you guys, and we want to be treated the same."

On the religious right, I feel that there is a group of people who want to deny the word marriage to the LGBT community for this very reason. They don't want to grant official acceptance of homosexual relationships. The majority of those opposed to gay marriage, however, are probably just afraid of having their own rights taken away, at least this is most likely what swayed the vote in prop 8's favour. There's a pervading "give them an inch and they'll take a mile" mentality that says that if we allow gay marriage, religious leaders will start getting sued for not performing these gay marriages and children will be indoctrinated in the schools. I'm sure there are some gay people who want these things, but most of them probably don't care. As with most things, there are extremists and bigots on either side of the fence.

Really, we just have two sides who are both afraid of the same thing, and that is that their freedom to live as they choose will be taken away. The solution is probably an open dialogue between both sides. Both sides seem to feel that if they let live, they will no longer be able to live themselves. In Canada, when gay marriage was legalised, there were also measures taken to protect religious freedom, which I think is a good compromise. We just need to make sure that both sides are protected and no one has their rights taken away.

What we definitely don't need is more anger, hatred, and disrespect. Let's permanently throw out mudslinging language because it's not getting us anywhere. Besides, it just makes your opponent feel more resolve. When gay people start calling mormons bigots, vandalising churches, and threatening to have their tax-exempt status away, it just solidifies the fears of religious freedom being taken away. Some of the harassment that LDS people are receiving in the name of equal rights is completely ridiculous. If I were a member of the LGBT community, I would be distancing myself from these people as much as possible.

We're all in this together, living in the same world and breathing the same air. We need to co-exist peacefully with our fellow citizens. If we can't do that, we have a serious failure on our hands.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

First Post Jitters and the Virgin Mary

Okay, I admit, I have a bit of blog-fright about making my first non-introductory post. I feel like I have to get off on the right foot, make a good first impression, and so on. I'm pretty sure no one knows this blog exists as of yet, but try telling my nerves that. Whenever I'm nervous I go into stand-up comedian mode and if you're going to read my blog, you'd better get used to it. Anyway, here's a light-hearted post to break the ice.

An image of the Virgin Mary is on my pantry door. No joke. I've known it for a while, but last night I took a picture so everyone would know I was serious. Check it out:

So there you go.