Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Marriage amendment vote fails

Another attempt at considering an amendment to the US Constitution failed in the House vote.

The amendment, just like its predecessor, sought to define marriage as existing only between a man and a woman and was a priority for many family-values groups in and out of the Beltway.

This was the third vote in the American Values Agenda, which House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) introduced last month to minimal fanfare. After the amendment fell short yesterday, the Speaker criticized Democrats who opposed the measure and said a majority of Americans support the ban.

“Be assured that this issue is not over and that we will continue to send a message to the American people that preserving and protecting marriage is a priority,” Hastert said in a statement.

House Democrats condemned the marriage vote as a partisan political maneuver after the Senate rejected a similar amendment on a procedural vote last month that prevented leaders from bringing it to a vote.

A lot of the comments I see considering this issue seem to miss the real point. The underlying issue is a semantic question: What does “marriage” mean?

The Family Proclamation answers this, succinctly and unequivocally. I believe the official church interest in this matter is driven by prophetic inspiration, which forsees a developing crises involving of much greater scope than concerns about “alternative” fringe interests.

The final clause of the Proclamation is clearly politically directed, recognizing that legally defining marriage is rightfully a political issue, notwithstanding the sophistry of those who wish to simply disappear the problem by asserting that it is not.

LDS Church leaders urged public support from members in a letter sent to US Church units, to receive a mixed political reaction from supporters and detractors.

Some have suggested that from an LDS perspective, forcing others by law to live by correct principles is what Satan tried to impose. As I understand it, the proposal by Lucifer was that we would not have the option to exercise our own volition. He would dictate our actions. This arrangement would have had little in common with human government and laws which attempt to direct the choices we make under human agency. Under “Satan’s Plan”, there would be no choices.

We are instructed that all beings are endowed with fundamental insight into what constitutes the basis for morality. As moral beings it is our obligation to acknowledge that insight, and to attempt to codify it into a government structure and a legal system that reflect a positive disposition toward things which are “good” and a negative posture toward things which are “bad”. That our laws are an imperfect reflection of the ideal is axiomatic and acceptable, as long as our collective voice agrees that we are pointed in the right direction.

This is the real basis for the “definition of marriage” controversy. Now we experience discord in discussion of these issues because minority interests object to general rules which frame an advantage for others, but fail to address their specific minority concerns. Of course the ideal would be to implement laws which give no unfair preference to any single group, but there appears to be no way to serve that ideal perfectly. The acceptable compromise has long been that general rules which best serve the greatest number should prevail.

To propose to discard rules to which any minority finds marginal objection falls down the slippery slope toward anarchy.

The other day I listened to some ideas from a college student about the sanctity of room-mate relationships, as a strange parallel to the "gay marriage" rationale. It made me laugh. I have actually been campaigning to gain legal sanction for my loving relationship with my 1995 Toyota 4-Runner. For some reason, most refuse to take me seriously. ;-)

I agree that any focus on “gay” interests in considering this issue is off base, even to the point of being ridiculous. The attendent arguments are subterfuge to sidestep the most substantive question regarding the protection of the cultural definition of marriage, which affects vastly greater numbers than any “gay” actions ever will.

Perhaps it would be an acceptable (and infinitely more entertaining) solution, to designate a new government office regulating “gay” interests. Let us create an entire Federal bureaucracy exclusively for serving self-designated “gays”. It would prove once and for all that there aren’t really enough of them to warrant such a fuss.

Again, in my perception all of the discussion of peripheral issues effectively bypasses the vital point.

Perhaps it is more appealing for people to ignore the danger to real marriage, the issue that more directly concerns the vast majority, and instead focus on fringe, virtually inconsequential issues. Like whether “gays” are as good as normal people. Or whether polygamy should be legal.

In proper perspective, these are doubtless legitimate concerns, but should hardly rightfully occupy the top-of-the-list priority for the majority of us.

Very few will ever suffer any negative repercussions if the questions surrounding “gays” are never settled. This thread unravels into the surreal. As one who aspires to be a true disciple in the restored gospel, I try my best to understand direct statements from the First Presidency and to follow their counsel. Ideas forwarded by some in this discussion have thoroughly confused me. I cannot see how such thinking can possibly reconcile with the intent of the official statement.

In this context I can see how President Hinckley gets the impression that things might be as bad today as in the evil society of Sodom and Gommorah. While the Lord’s spokesman warns us that the traditional family is under heavy attack, some of us respond by hoping for more fully funded social welfare programs. The damage that accrues from problems with conventional marriages negatively impacts so many countless lives. As the problems multiply it becomes progressively more rare to find a “normal” family untroubled by problems with conventional marriage. Many of these problems are obviously inventions of our contemporary culture, and we could presumably discover effective means to correct them, if we only tried. Yet we are always distracted from the task by hand-wringing about “gays”.

I have wondered if just the open discussion of such trivia perhaps serves a bit of latent prurient interest.

(Speaking first for myself, of course. ;-)

Further discussion of BYU actions against "gay" protesters demonstrating on campus here and here.

I would observe that although it might be so inferred from certain comments on the internet, I would suppose that neither BYU nor the church has any independent civil authority to arrest protesters, or to so act in any other matters under the jurisdiction of civil laws. Offenders would be arrested by law enforcement officers, and answerable for legal violations directly to officers of the court, not BYU staff or officials.

Strangely, we also find homosexual apologists within the church actually looking to the Book of Mormon for proof-texts to represent the righteousness of accommodating homosexual activist demands. It makes little sense -- would we argue that because there is no Book of Mormon passage which explicitly forbids same-sex marriage, then it should be okay?

Indeed, as far as I know, there is no specific mention of proscriptions against homosexuality in the Book of Mormon, but there is explicit recognition of strict cultural observance of the Law of Moses. The Brass Plates apparently contained texts similar to our Old Testament, which offers condemnation for all kinds of sexual perversions in the most specific and unequivocal terms imaginable..

This Old Testament passage characterizes the law under which Book of Mormon society operated.

Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion.

Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you:

And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants. (Leviticus 18:22-25)

I strongly suspect no specifics were ever mentioned explicitly in the abridged histories of the Book of Mormon because the editors considered the topic of such abominations too disgusting and degrading to mention. Because they lived with and accepted this law, they already recognized how evil and awful the consequences of sexual immorality, therefore it needed no further elaboration.

Defenders of sexual deviance are ever wont to point out that such perversions have ancient historical roots and have existed in all societies from the beginning of time. This assertion, even if true, hardly constitutes a rational defense or justification for evil practices.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Men and women...

Let me enthrall you with a few trivial incosequential but true factoids about men and women...

Women's hearts beat faster than men's.

Proportional to their weight, men are stronger than horses.

Men get hiccups more often than women.

Men can read smaller print than women; women can hear better.

A bolt of lightning...

Lightning forks across the sky today, thunder rumbles through the nearby canyons.

Read some interesting notes about lightning here.

Are you worried about being struck during a lightning storm? Consider what might happen to swimmers in the water.

Current from a lightning strike will follow the path of least resistance within the area of potential to ground. A human swimmer in open water would probably not intersect such a low-resistance path, except in rare circumstances.

Not so with a person in the bathtub of water. Plumbing fixtures in houses tend to be good conductors of electricity, and might carry electrical potential right down to ya! If you happen to be right in the way, some of the current will pass through you. (Electrifying thought!)

But the bottom line is, the path of a lightning strike is impossible to predict -- no matter where you are standing.

A number of years ago, I was in the middle of a brief but violent thundershower while we were boating on Lake Havasu. In anticipation of strong winds and big waves, my dad and I anchored our boat in deep water offshore. When the storm hit, there were numerous lightning strikes all around us--it literally lit up the sky for a period of half an hour.

However, as far as I could tell, most of the strikes hit on the sand dunes and hills around the lake. Few of them hit the water. I did not spot any dead fish.

The group of our young scouts were not as prudent in their choice of ground to weather the storm. Several of them could be seen scampering across the tops of nearby dunes, with bolts of lightning detonating all around them -- one of even pausing to water the weeds, in defiance or ignorance, or just responding to the urgency of the moment, I cannot tell. Though we thought they looked like prime targets for flash-barbeque, amidst the all the roaring and flashing, none of the scouts were harmed.

I understand this capriciousness of lightning is presumed to be due to the localized accumulation of electrical potential that causes a lightning strike. It may well be that there is a better conductor nearby, but the location of the highest potential seems to be a bigger factor. Among the lightning folk tales we hear so often, some suggest that some type of insulation from the ground, like rubber tennis shoes, may provide a safety factor. But this seems a rather pitiful provision, considering that the electrical charge may have already passed through miles of air, which is a very good insulator.

If you do happen to provide a convenient ground conductor for one of these frightful bolts from the blue, just remember, there is still hope. In wilderness first aid training I learned that the most common outcome from being struck by lightning (other than flash burns) is cardiac fibrillation.

The electrical discharge through the body disrupts the electrical rhythm of the heart pacemaker, with the result that the heart muscles lose their coordinated pumping action, and just flutter ineffectually. Reportedly, CPR can be very effective in sustaining the life of a person in this condition. Ideally, an AED can be used immediately to restart the heart rhythm.

The American Heart Association has recently published new guidelines for CPR and the application of AED devices.

Temple divorce II

Reiterating some thoughts shared elsewhere...

I am vitally interested in these questions. While I have implicit faith that Heavenly Father will eventually help us understand all the implications, I don't know exactly what a divorce means in terms of my temple covenants.

For myself, I suppose that civil divorce from a temple marriage is relatively meaningless, in the eternal scheme of things. This is an act intended to cover a situation that can only exist in this temporary state. I am thinking that perhaps Jesus' words about divorce in the New Testament have strong application to the idea of cancelling a temple sealing. He said that the followers of Moses were given permission to divorce only because they stubbornly and wilfully insisted. I don't believe this was to their credit, and the pervasiveness of divorce in our society has similar significance.

I prefer to think that I stand assured of the blessings that have been promised, if I keep myself worthy, regardless of the acts or worthiness of others. While I cannot imagine exactly how these blessings will come about, I trust that it is so. My temple covenants are eternal. They cannot be abrogated or compromised by decrees of civil law, nor by the faithlessness of others. It is a fundamental doctrine of the gospel that we are accountable for our own acts, and will not be punished for the misdeeds of others.

Yet it stands to reason that we could not have any kind of eternal relationship - as in my case, given the fact that my exwife and I could not even survive a couple of decades of trial here. Alma counsels that "this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God" and that the same spirit which possesses our bodies now will continue with us in the worlds to come. Our marital relations will not undergo some miraculous transformation at the last day. Impossible to guess now how these difficulties will be worked out, but they must be, and will be, eventually.

It may be that some of our struggle with a rationale for divorced and fragmented families stems from our inability to understand the real nature of celestial marriage. I suppose what we can picture now is a very simplified version of what life with Heavenly Father will really be. We strive to model our earthly families after the form and function of the celestial, as far as we can envision that environment. From my perspective, this is a good thing to look forward to-things can only get better. (And I find myself feeling as though they could not get much worse, just now.)

I will always wonder, though: If I was really a good person, perhaps these evil things would not have happened to me. During the time when I was happily married - and it was quite a long stretch - I often expressed in prayers my gratitude for such a good marriage. What can I say now? Thanks for the memories, it was good while it lasted? I just don't feel as if "Better luck next time" is a very comforting thought.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

What to think about women?

Two current news articles together form an interesting backdrop for questions of the day.

Why are women outperforming men on campus?

Are they? Some authorities think so.

"Yes, there are a lot of guys doing well, even exceptionally well, in college. But the trend is otherwise. Women now make up 58 percent of those in our colleges and universities; in some places, their ratio is 2 to 1. They are a majority in graduate schools. And they win most of the places on honors lists. (Yes, men are more likely to graduate from college than they were two decades ago, but socially speaking that's not the achievement it was two decades ago.)"

The editorial confuses quantity with quality, which has been a misdirected focus of the liberal-minded affirmative action crowd for most of my life. It was thought that numbers equated with representation, therefore if there were fewer women in college, they were poorly represented. Of course we understood that the reason was patriarchal discrimination.

If that was true then, what is the cause of the current female overpopulation in colleges today? It seems that the promotion of women's causes has nothing to do with it. The editors opine that men are absent from college today because they're lazy and play too many video games.

That answers it for me.

Another fascinating editorial offering from the Wall Street Journal.

If you're married to clergy do you have to host church teas?

While this discussion extrapolates only loosely to mormon culture, it opens some fascinating questions for me. Some of the ideas I have been dwelling on for decades.
Second-wave feminism was, for clerical wives, a double-edged sword: No longer were women accorded honor and respect simply because they were married to a minister. And some clergy wives, reading "The Feminine Mystique" along with everyone else, began to rethink all those hours they had devoted to polishing the church silver. A role that had once seemed noble began to seem, well, exploitative...

...The problem with a facile feminist critique of the role of clergy wife is that it misses the real beauty of the collaboration sometimes found in clerical marriages. There is something wonderfully seamless about their lives--their work and their marriage is all of a piece. Husband and wife are profoundly knitted together, and their shared calling offers something of a rebuke to the hyper-individualism that characterizes so many American marriages. Indeed, they may set a nice example for the flock.

"The Bishop's Wife" makes an interesting parallel, doesn't it? Actually, the entire final paragraph tips up a red flag with regard to all contemporary marriages. There used to be beauty in collaboration. The clergy wife did not require separate recognition to lend a sense of self-worth. She and her spouse were literally "as one". Traditional marriage used to be based in similar axioms. This is truly an indication of what value has been sacrificed in the name of equalizing the competitive plane for women.

I've been following another parallel thought in a blog discussion about hyphenated-names for women. When I see these, to my irreverent and bigoted eyes, they always end up mapping into something suggestive of lesbians.