More on gays and Christianity

A comment on MeFi puts it much more eloquently than I did in my recent blog post:

Typical anti-Christian MeFi thread unfolding… so I’d like to remove a couple of the straw man arguments from the discussion if I can.
Leviticus 18:22 and 22:13 – cited above – are Old Testament. In the broadest terms, the Old Testament chronicles the failure of God’s chosen people to live under the Law. Anyone who wants to try to live under the strictures of Old Testament Law is faced with this command: Persons committing homosexual acts are to be executed. This is the unambiguous command of scripture.
But Christians today live under the New Covenant of Jesus. Unable to meet God’s standards, we stood in need of someone to intercede for us. Jesus played that role. His teachings were all about love. There is only one passage in the NT that is unambiguously critical of homosexual behavior, Romans 1:26-27, and it is really about the absence of love, not homosexuality per se. The Message translation brings this out clearly:

26Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either–women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men. 27Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men–all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it–emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches.

The Bible has no sexual ethic. It accurately describes the rules that were in place 2000+ years ago, which were the sexual mores of the time. Mores change over time. Behaviors that were commonplace then are condemned now. Prostitution, polygamy, concubines and very early marriage (for the girl, age 11-13) are just a few examples. Behaviors that were condemned then are commonplace now. Nudity (under certain conditions), birth control, masturbation, naming sexual organs (the Bible uses “foot” or “thigh” instead!), intercourse during menstruation, and yes, homosexuality were all forbidden. But the Bible does have a love ethic. Ethics don’t change over time.
Rather than focusing on how archaic laws from thousands of years ago might be prejudiced against homosexuals today, why not focus on the new message, delivered by Jesus Himself when he asked, “Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?” (Luke 12:57).
In order to judge for yourself what is right, you need to have a firm ethical foundation. The Bible offers one that has stood the test of time for 2000 years. It is an ethos of love, and truly adopting it means living it to the standards set by Jesus. How you live it is up to you, but at least in part it surely means rejecting any mores – including sexual mores – that violate your own integrity and that of others, and striving to meet the standard of “love thy neighbor as thyself” as exemplified by Jesus. Some Christians are going to oppose homosexuality on that basis, others will not. It is, however, sad to see it politicized by both Christians and non-Christians. Christians, at least, should approach the issue from the perspective of love.
The Bible could be a valuable tool for homosexuals who seek to dialogue with conservatives or fundamentalists or evangelists on modern day issues of sexual mores and politics. Meaningful dialogue is easiest when parties approach a topic from a shared perspective, and when the perspective is “love” that’s even easier. You should read the Bible. It’s a good book.

…even if you don’t die

The following line from a radio ad for life insurance caught my attention this morning on the drive to work: “Ask about our term life policies that guarantee your money back even if you don’t die.”
Pretty safe offer for them to make, I guess.

Parenting in a nutshell

From a roundtable interview of new fathers at The Morning News:

I remember the first time we took our son on vacation, for instance. We spent our days making sure he was fed on time and always had a clean diaper and got plenty of naps—in other words, pretty much the exact same stuff we would have done at home. After about the third day it finally sunk in that, for the next 18 years, “vacation” just means “go to an exotic locale and still be a full-time parent.”

Do satanists have potlucks?

Teresa Nielsen Hayden observes:

One of the reasons I’ve never believed satanic ritual abuse narratives—the ones where the supposed victims are always being “groomed” (they always use that word) to become the high priest or priestess of the group—is that their stories are devoid of normal human complications. Nobody ever develops chest pains, and has to be gotten out of their ceremonial robes and rushed to an ER. Nothing funny ever happens. Nobody ever fluffs a complex ritual. The air conditioning never breaks down. There are no theological or procedural disputes, no arguments about bookkeeping, no rebellious music committees. Satanic covens are never incapacitated because the potato salad sat out too long before the pre-ceremony setup session potluck. But most tellingly of all, no satanic group is ever riven by dissension because a couple of its members have started selling Amway and they won’t shut up about it.

No snow this year

A battered round plastic sled came along when we moved back to Austin from New Jersey in 1997. After a couple of years of no use, it made its way to the attic. When we moved to our current house two years ago, the sled, along with a couple of other unused items lurking at the back of the attic, got left behind.
Well, since we’ve lived in this house, we’ve had two opportunities to sled: a severe ice storm two years ago, and a little bit of snow on Valentine’s Day last winter. In both instances, we had to try our luck with cardboard or stand in line to use the sled that one family in the neighborhood dug out of their attic.
After last spring’s snow, I promised the kids that I would buy a sled before this winter. I used an gift certificate to buy this bad boy. But as Katie keeps telling me, having a sled pretty much guarantees that we won’t get any snow or ice for the foreseeable future.

Horse sense

Last week, Hannah had to do a report on an extinct animal of her choosing. Since she’s such a horse nut, we decided she would write about one of the ancestors of the modern horse. As I was helping her find sources via Google, I was amazed by the number of hits that were creationist challenges to the scientifically accepted theory of horse evolution.
I’m not going to dignify any of those pages with a link, but this page summarizes and debunks the creationist arguments.
But the biggest puzzle to me was why the creationists have targeted equine evolution. As near as I can tell, it’s not because the theory of horse evolution is particularly shaky. Rather, it’s simply because horse evolution is apparently covered in some public school science textbooks.
Side note: asking kids to write a report about extinct animals seems to be a good indication that Hannah’s school isn’t caving in to the religious wackos.

Fascinating personal fact #4,331,017

When I was a kid, my mother had a small poodle (toy size, I think) named Chanel. In the car, Chanel would ride on the back of the seat behind my mother’s neck–or, when cars started coming with headrests, wedged between my mother’s neck and the headrest.

The truth about hybrid cars

As I’ve read about gas/electric hybrid cars over the last couple of years, it’s stuck me that some of the energy- and emission-saving features that they tout aren’t specific to hybrids, specifically an engine that turns off when you stop and/or put the manual transmission in neutral.
In Switzerland, for example, the law says you must turn off your car’s motor at a stop light or when waiting for a train to cross. I’ve heard that is why European stoplights go red-YELLOW-green: to give motorists notice of impending green light so that they can start their engines.
This article, The Truth About Hybrids, addresses this issue:

[M]anufacturers try to…add to the hybrid’s headline-grabbing mileage figures by the extensive use of non-hybrid gas-saving technology. Engine shut-off at idle, electric power steering, harder and reduced rolling resistance tires (at the expense of comfort and traction), reduced option content, reduced engine performance, and, in the case of the Ford, a continuously variable transmission (CVT) all help raise the cars’ overall efficiency.
Of course, if gas mileage is the ultimate goal, all of these strategies could be applied to a ‘standard’ car. A non-hybrid model with the equivalent modifications would significantly narrow the mileage gap with its hybrid sibling. In fact, in normal use, the margin between truly comparable hybrid and non-hybrid cars could be less than 10%– hardly enough to justify the extra purchase price.

My conventional Corolla gets 30+ mpg in city driving and almost 40 mpg on road trips. Therefore, I’ve not been that impressed with the supposed mileage of hybrids. For all their technological advances, they only get a few more miles per gallon (and according to the article, actual mileage of hybrids is not as good as the EPA numbers). Add a few of those features to my car, and I’d be right up there, too.
Related rant: One of my pet peeves is people who leave their cars idling when they’re stopped somewhere: talking on their phone in a parking lot, running in to a store for a minute, etc. I can understand leaving the car running if you’re sitting in it in hot Texas weather. Otherwise, it’s just a big waste of fuel. This morning, I was sorely tempted to try to educate a fellow patron of my local bagel shop when she came out to get in her car that she’d left idling while getting her breakfast.