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Saturday, July 04, 2020

Michael Bolton Rules

There had been a fashion for a while to appreciate Michael Bolton ironically, and he's a good sport about it, so you can almost imagine the comedy gold that results.

But I was growing up listening to the radio during the peak Michael Bolton time; he's great, as far as I'm concerned. He sings, and I feel things. I guess somebody more "woke" than me will go on about how "blue-eyed soul" is cultural appropriation. And maybe it is. I spent a good portion of my childhood and adolescent years appreciating Black culture. I'm still kind of doing that, to be honest. I digress.

An old friend announced his engagement yesterday on social media. I said I was "Michael Bolton on Dancing with the Stars" excited, which is a lot. You can blame Tommy Mottolla and Walter Afanasieff, I guess. It was in the air; what can you do? He'll never be my absolute favorite, but I like and love so much music that this doesn't say much. I'm a big fan. I'm never unhappy when I hear one of his songs.

Happy Fourth of July, everybody! And thanks again, Mr. Bolton.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Checking In On "Changed My Mind," With Luke T. Harrington (Jason Kettinger, AKA, Me)

There's no way I'm listening to this. [No way, I agree.--ed.] I suppose I could still publicize it, though. Do you recall if I said anything offensive? [The amount of time you can talk is offensive enough.--ed.]

I had fun, though! [You always have fun at other people's expense.--ed.] I guess I can't argue with that. I hope this episode doesn't start brawls in the streets, or lead to the cancellation of Luke's podcast. Although if it did, I would be morbidly pleased with myself.

[Wait until the Reformed watch-bloggers get a hold of this!--ed.] I know, right? Then again, they'll probably just blame the resulting social chaos on Jason Stellman. [Touche.--ed.]

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

He Is Also A Son Of Abraham

One interesting thing about the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19 can get overlooked. The leaders of the people are once again muttering, asking in their hearts--and maybe out loud--if Jesus knows that he is welcoming a sinner. Jesus answers by saying that salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. It was the social system that put this into doubt, not any confusion about the man's identity. So many times, we are confronted with the temptation to exclude someone from the mercy of God, because they don't appear to deserve it. However, does anyone deserve it?

Suppose Jesus just came over to your house. He simply invited himself. I doubt we would feel worthy, but it is the quality of faith to welcome him. A faith that lives is a faith that desires Jesus. That desire is shot through with hope, because hope disregards unworthiness, in order to seek communion.

They tell us in spiritual discernment to ask God to let the good desires grow. That principal desire will be for communion with God. When it is fanned into a flame, it cannot be stopped. This sinner had a true desire for God, and he began to nurture it. Let us be the ones who nurture this desire, who do not stand in the way of it growing. Let the words of Scripture be the kindling for this desire.

For Me, Or Against Me

I realized the other day that I don't recognize a middle ground on this. You're either for me, or against me. We all have disappointments and disagreements with those we love; most of that just rolls off, either with time, or experience. But if I have a doubt about whether someone cares about me--no matter the motivation--it's just over.

I can remember being trained in evangelism when I was young, and we would often talk about not making people into "projects". The trouble was, I think we actually did a lot of what we said we did not want to do.

I definitely work with the notion of "insider/outsider." You can give me advice, criticism, or whatever you like, but you better be an insider. You had better know your place. We all do this, even if we don't talk about it. But I'm getting to the point where I say exactly what I think, even if it sounds "arrogant" or any other words somebody would like to use.

It's funny to say this now, because I got a bit of a reputation of being overly diplomatic. But then, I'm thinking back over 20+ years of adulthood now. Things can change in 20 years, and hopefully they do, for the better.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Joyful Commemoration Is Affirmation

You get a lot of "first openly gay" or "first openly…" something in the popular culture today. I think there is a Christian tendency to try to celebrate that, as if we want to signal, "well, we're not the kind of Christians who would tie Matthew Shepard to a fence and beat him to death." As if telling someone that homosexual relations are contrary to God's law is equivalent to murder. It is actually a gift for someone to tell you that you are a sinner, and that you need to turn around. There are lots of hateful people in the world, who can get an issue right, but with the wrong heart. That is true. But we are hopelessly na├»ve, if we don't think and recognize that "first openly gay" language is an invitation to celebration. It forms a liturgy of affirmation. It forms a counter-liturgy of alternate practices pertaining to the human body.

The best you'll ever get from me, in response to the homosexuality of some famous person is, "I don't care." In fact, for me to say that I don't care may reflect a lack of love on my part, because I don't say to that person that practicing homosexuality puts your eternal soul at risk of damnation.

I think that if people spent more time thinking about the implications of what they claim, we wouldn't sit here screaming at each other about whether "love is love," because we all know it isn't, in this case. Why have some people had to work so hard to convince their fellow citizens that how and with whom someone uses their sex organs is irrelevant, if it is so obvious to right-thinking people? We know better; maybe some of us want to be bold enough to say that we know better, to face the social stigma of saying, "There is one, ordinary, obvious way for two people to become parents. They are persons of the opposite sex, and they have conjugal relations."

I have met people before that were openly and obviously struggling with their gender identity. Personally, I have no direct experience of what that is like. I feel compassion for those people in that situation. I think of Bruce Jenner; I've seen the video footage of him as a young peak athlete; I have felt the patriotic pride at the memory of his accomplishments, albeit achieved before I was even born. Sometimes, I have been moved to tears at the thought of his personal struggle. I actually have enjoyed the various Kardashian shows at different points in time. They're still people, even if their success and visibility reflects something negative about our society. I still can never say truthfully that Bruce Jenner is a woman. I suppose that any of us has the right to change our names, especially for a sufficiently grave reason, like safety. But I don't think I could call him Caitlin, even if he wanted me to. We are heading into what I like to call "the limits of self-definition".

After the age of 16, I haven't really given much thought as to whether I thought homosexual relations were "disgusting." As a passionate seeker of pleasure myself, I don't think I have any firm ground to judge anyone else's mistakes, or at least make judgments of preference about the desirability of those mistakes. I don't think it prudent or wise for Christians to use a certain "gross-out factor" in arguments against certain alternative sexual practices. If any of us have ever sought sexual pleasure for its own sake, we immediately lose credibility, anyway.

If anything, I feel guilty for trivializing sexuality, in a way, normalizing the opposite of my own views, when the indulgence of homosexual desires can be and is very damaging. There a lot of people who have no interest in telling you about the health risks of doing those things, and they have no interest in hearing the stories of the emotional toll of that life. There are some people who can't even affirm the validity of one person's experience of turning around, and doing something else. People claim to believe that we can make our own way, and our own choices, but when other people actually make those choices in contravention to a certain narrative that they themselves have chosen, they often love to make those "rebels" into non-people.

I have no doubt that someone I respect and care for could convince me that they are happy, despite living in contradiction to a Christian vision of happiness and goodness. But what is "happiness"? In what does true happiness consist? Isn't that the real point of discussion? If the point of discussion were "the things that make Jason Kettinger happy, according to Jason Kettinger," I wouldn't be doing this right now. I wouldn't even think about praying. Praying almost never makes me happy, in that sense. Reading complicated books almost never makes me happy that way, either. Nor graduate studies in theology. But you get the idea. We can at least theoretically imagine difficult or unpleasant things that would be better to do than the things we want to do. And yet, some of us have enlisted the entire civil society in the affirmation of our momentary pleasurable whims. Somebody has to be rude about it, and tell the truth. The civil society had involved itself in male-female sex pairings, because we know that sexual relations between men and women tend to produce children. And children are the future of a society. In a pluralistic democracy, especially given to capitalism, we know that there are a few different ways to create a child. Fundamentally though, you need a man, a woman, and sex. I can't wait to find out whatever imperialism I happen to be involved in, at having simply said these obvious things. And I'm willing to be called a "hater," or a "bigot," as a result. Tolerance is one thing, and acceptance or affirmation is another.

If I see a counter-narrative that is counter to the vision of true happiness, I have to say something. It's actually been my pleasure lately to talk about the right-wing things that are counter to that vision of true happiness, but that true vision is assailed from all sides. I still think that my role in life is to tell the truth that most people see, but are afraid to say. I don't like it, at least not always. But I don't like a lot of things I have to do.

Abolish The Death Penalty

Rather than seemingly argue endlessly about just how systemically racist the justice system is, my insight is this: Death is its highest penalty. If the system is unjust, it will be enforcing its highest penalty unjustly. We can’t undo it, once it’s done. Let’s take the whole thing off the table. We still need to address the destruction of people by extralegal means. And indeed, perhaps there is a disturbing reservoir of white support for police violence, precisely because the legal machinery of death doesn’t move fast enough. Nevertheless, it’s a counter-liturgy of death, and it’s past time to end it.

I should not have to say this, but let’s end abortion, too.

We either believe in redemption, and the abundant life, or we keep religion as an heirloom, and a trinket. Choose you this day.