The Fifteenth

What, exactly, counts as sin? Is the color of my skin a sin? My genealogy? Used to be. Is coveting another’s things (including spouse) a sin? Surely we’ve all committed that one. Disrespecting our parents? Anyone who was with their parents from about 12 to 19 is guilty of that one.

Loving the wrong person? Well now…

There’s a song and a video, the song released as a single in 2013, and part of an album in 2014, recently featured on the Grammys and SNL.

The artist stated the song and video were a reaction to what he saw as the hypocrisy in the Catholic church he grew up with, in Ireland, as well as a comparison between love and death. The second concept might be a bit more difficult to see for some. The comments on the videos for this song have gotten into theological arguments, unsurprisingly. I’ve noticed a trend, condemning the extremists, conservatives, often religious, who are responsible for some of the more reprehensible acts in the name of religion. The solution, though, is not the one often proposed – Getting rid of religion will not get rid of the extremists, the ones who respond to dissent with anger, fear and violence; it will only give them a different name, and cause them to find a new rallying point. It’s also not all bad. A lot of good has been done in the name of religion. Is it required for a moral life? No, it isn’t. It can be a guide, but it’s not required. For me, personally, it is a way that a gauge my life, how I make my decisions, how I view the world. I believe in the Bible, as a book written by Man*, inspired by God. If it were the immutable word of God, then the translations would be accurate, the same, and we would all be able to understand them in the same way. There would be no questions, no concerns about comprehension; if these were the literal words of God, we would know. So I believe.

We don’t know; we are guessing. We have free will; we have the ability to think for ourselves, to reason, to conclude. We are capable of great kindness and great evil, humans. I don’t believe there is a devil causing these things. He’s a convenient scapegoat, though. To their credit, the people who believe the devil has made them behave badly recognize that they are behaving badly, that what they’ve done is wrong. Passing blame, however, is not helpful to anyone. Recognize that the being who pulled the trigger was not the Devil, but you, and don’t do it again. Atone, repent, go and sin no more.

Slight tangent, there; wouldn’t be my post if there weren’t.

As the ones in power, or with some degree of it, it’s easy to spot them, the conservative religious extremists. They’re the ones in the US, for instance, who say the country has lost its moral compass, who believe wholeheartedly they know what is best for everyone else, who say they want small government, but also want the things they don’t agree with legislated into oblivion, controlled by, well, the government. Basically, they just want the government to leave them alone and control everyone else. Strong feelings can lead to irrational behavior, and while it is not the sole province of religious extremists, they’re the ones getting the most press with it.

Worse is the issues that get all the focus are drawing attention from ones that really need addressing: There’s the fact that our government is bought and sold by corporations, that the minimum wage, which was intended to be a living wage, has not kept up with the cost of living, that most incomes, in fact, haven’t. The failing infrastructure that is underfunded, because it’s not “sexy,” the failing schools that they’re aching to privatize, the prisons they already have privatized, the environment we are destroying, and the ways that we can reduce that impact, all of these things are lost in issues that distract. Issues such as women’s health – which does include birth control and abortion (no, they’re not the same thing), and same-sex marriage, which impacts only those couples who wish to get married but can’t. Oklahoma passed a bill in their state House, recently, protecting clergy who didn’t want to marry same-sex couples. What this shows is a distinct lack of understanding how our government works. This was a completely unnecessary waste of time and tax dollars – clergy ALREADY cannot be forced to marry anyone they don’t want. If that were the case, churches would have to allow any denomination to marry, and they don’t.

There are days I’d like to just fire all the politicians and start over. Maybe rewrite the 1st amendment so that the press is required to report the actual facts, and can’t just make them up; that there is at least one incorruptible source of information about our country, our government, our cities, states, regions, rather than knowing that news organizations are not required by law to be honest, so long as they don’t commit slander or libel. Or, at least, have the first couple of lines tattooed on a few foreheads – Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof… Individual states are trying to do that, and while holding up the Constitution saying their rights are being violated, conveniently ignoring the parts they don’t like.

Another video of Take Me to Church, this one performed by a Ukrainian ballet dancer, Sergei Polunin. The bulge was a bit distracting at first – and I’ve known a lot of dancers – but you can ignore it after a while.

Valentine’s scripture:

2014-05-24 Intern Wedd_0068b Corinthians 13:1-13 (NIV)

13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Heading Home Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

_________________________

*Literal man; woman probably didn’t have much to do with it. At least, not the versions we have.

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