Tenants From Hell

In Canada, July 1 is moving day for huge numbers of people.  It also is our national day.  The reason it is both our national day, and our moving day, is probably obvious: it is far easier to move on a holiday than to have to get time off from your boss.  Because of this, July 1 can be a living hell, anticipation-wise.

Why do I say such a thing?  Simple; you never know who will be moving into your building.  Or, if you’re the one moving, you don’t know who your new neighbors will be.  As a tenant, I’ve gone through both scenarios, and nine times out of ten, it has been bad.  Very bad.  I’ve been a bit more fortunate in the building I now live in, thank God for that, however my neighbors still fall short of considerate at times.  When the last lot moved in this past fall, well, they didn’t make a very good impression.  Fortunately, they did not turn out to be as bad as they first appeared to be, and I can pretty much live with them next door without too many issues cropping up.

I can only imagine how much worse it probably is for the owner of a building!  A tenant might look good on paper, might even have great references, but once they move in… .  Well, you never really know who they really are until it’s too late.  The person themselves might not be the problem; it could be their friends, their family, or even their dog which is causing an uproar and/or doing damage.

I found myself pondering this as I was going about my business today, mainly because something has been bothering me about the Old Testament.  Having stepped back from theology and scripture for several years, when I finally did get back to it, I found that I viewed the whole thing from an entirely new perspective.  The great and mysterious ‘covenant’ that God made with Abraham no longer looked like a divine selection of a chosen people, but a standard rental agreement.  No matter how I now looked at it, it always came back to a series of terms and conditions under which Abraham was given permission to live in the land of Canaan.   There were also plenty of clauses that allowed for eviction should he fail to respect the terms he’d agreed to.

As a tenant, Abraham turned out to be not half-bad.  He respected his neighbors, caused minimal problems, and generally honored the terms of the rental agreement.  It was as his family grew that the problems began.  Like so many renters, his sons stopped seeing the abode as someone else’s property, and started treating it as if it was their own personal possession.  They started fights with the neighbors, did what they pleased, and generally ignored the terms of their lease.  The neighbors complained, and God finally had to throw them out.

There was plenty of back-and-forthing going on throughout all of this, with God telling Abraham’s family that if they would just adhere to the terms of the lease, he’d let them back in, followed by their making endless promises to do so, only to renege again and again, over and over, again and again.  Finally, as all good landlords do, God gave them the boot, once and for all, and rented out their apartment to someone else.

And that is where it was supposed to end.  Unfortunately, they appealed to the rental board, and the rental board allowed them to force their way back in.  The peace of the neighborhood was once more destroyed.  In fact, it became an area and a building that no one in their right mind – except those who are truly desperate – want to live in.

That is the sad story of how all neighbors from hell cause property values to go down, and end up attracting other bad tenants to the building.  On this moving day, let us all remember how one bad tenant can wreck an entire neighborhood.

Jesus Was a Peacenik and a Communist

Where to begin with this one?  How did it start?  Where did it start?  Why did it start? And, most importantly, why am I going there?

Well, it started with an image being tweeted out that was so awful, the mere sight of it nearly caused me to go blind, and I was not alone.  At least one other viewer had a WTF?! moment, while numerous others seemed to be experiencing their own form of visual confusion.  Words cannot do justice to the awfulness the thing we saw, so I have provided the image in question directly below (with the offender’s name blocked out).

goldy

Now that you have experienced the joy of nearly going blind yourself, you can better understand just how misguided the theme actually is.  That is, unless you are a member of the religious right.  If that is the case, you probably can’t see what is so eye-hurtingly wrong here.  I will therefore explain it to you.

Jesus was a pacifist.  He did not advocate violence, even going so far as to heal the ear of the soldier Peter had injured during the scuffle that occurred during His arrest.  Jesus instructed His followers to love their enemies and pray for those who persecuted them.  At no time did He ever tell them to go out and slaughter people who believed in other gods, or belonged to a different religious system.  Violence was abhorrent to Him.  That alone should show up the notion of ‘Deus Vult’, and ‘it’s crusade o’clock’ for what it is: garbage that has no relation to Jesus’ teachings, and something that no true believer in His message would ever adorn their Twitter account with.

There is something else that is disturbing here, though.  That is the misplaced reference to Isaiah.  Isaiah 6:8 reads: ‘Then I heard a voice of the Lord saying,”Whom shall I send?  Who will go for us?” “Here I am” I said; “send me!”  But… God never said ‘Go launch a crusade, Isaiah!’  Isaiah used words.  Fiery words, but not words of hate and division.  Isaiah was a prophet, not a warrior.  His job was to turn the people back to their God, and in so doing, keep them from being booted out of the land that He had given to them by covenant.

What Little Missy with her anime-crusade cover-photo is missing out on, is exactly what an entire segment of the religious right is also missing out on: that covenant, the Old Covenant, was rendered null and void by the Jews’ own failure to adhere to its rules and regulations.  It was replaced by a New Covenant between Jesus and His followers, which has nothing to do with the land of Israel, or the physical descendants of Abraham.  There is no ‘Holy Land’ to retake, and no crusade to wage, because the inheritance of Jesus’ followers is not an earthly one.

There are so many things wrong with the religious right that it boggles the mind.  Jesus was not a traditionalist; he did not advocate traditional roles for women.  He broke all the rules when it came to a woman’s ‘place’.  He spoke to women who were strangers to him, which was a big taboo in those days.  He fraternized with women who were considered the dregs of society, and he had women among his followers.  In the early Christian church, women acted as deacons, as organizers, and helped spread the Gospel both alone, and side by side with their husbands.  St. Paul advised women who became widowed not to remarry, and those who were not yet married to remain single, so that they could more effectively devote themselves to the work of God.

The religious right would now have all women back in the kitchen, under the authority of a husband.

That is just a taste of how far from the Gospel, and the spirit of Jesus, the right has wandered.  They’ve also thrown away the concept of salvation through faith, and returned to one of attempting to attain salvation through works (I’ve recently heard this described as ‘the Hebrew Roots Movement’, which, as a movement, is not new at all).  They’ve thrown their support behind the nation of Israel, refusing to condemn that nation when it commits heinous acts that Jesus would never have approved of.  For the love of God, Jesus talked to Samaritans, and the Samaritans ended up believing in Him!  Worst of all, the religious right pride themselves on an ideology that only people with hearts of stone could ever espouse.

What ideology is that, you ask?  One that has no sympathy for the poor, the outcast, and the unfortunate.   An ideology that spits on the poor and calls them ‘lazy’.  An ideology that believes giving to the poor only ‘enables’ them.  One that doesn’t even believe in taking care of the sick and suffering.

What would Jesus have said about that ideology?  Let’s see.  Jesus told his followers to sell everything they had, and give it to the poor.  He fed the hungry, healed the sick, and refused to condemn a woman who had been brought to him for judgement.  In the ideology of the religious right, these are the actions of a horrible, anti-American communist!  He provided FREE HEALTH CARE!  He didn’t just give out food-stamps, he GAVE AWAY FREE FOOD!  Worse yet, he GAVE OUT FREE MONEY!

By today’s standards, at least those of the crusade-fostering religious right, Jesus was a communist, a feminist, and a filthy, traitorous peacenik!  Oh, yes, he was also an antisemitic Jew-hater who believed Jews worship Satan and advocated the destruction of Israel and Jerusalem.  In the words of John 8:44 “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (NIV)

Somebody hand these religious right-wingers an easy to read copy of the New Testament, please!

To Shill, Or Not To Shill…

It is a sad fact of life that most people wear at least two faces; while one face is carefully constructed and maintained for public consumption, there is another that is strictly a private matter.  Nobody is immune, but not everyone’s intention is evil.  Some people simply want to keep sensitive matters private, and are sincerely embarrassed by their own dirty laundry.  There are, however, those people who construct public images for profit, and profit alone.  In some cases, the profit might be social status, in others, it might be financial, but regardless of what the profit is, it is still profit.

The ‘person of many faces’ is not the topic of this entry, however.  What I am concerned about is the proliferation of talking heads who are heaping up Patreon profits by riding the storm of political right-left tensions.  Some of them, such as the university professor in the screen-shot below, fell into internet fortune almost by accident.  In this case, the individual got into trouble with his employer over the use of gender pronouns, and suddenly the radical right got wind of it and made him into an overnight sensation.  A Globe and Mail reporter did what could loosely be called a ‘hit piece‘ on his rise from obscure professor hawking a writing program, to internet heavy-weight, in which the reporter mentioned that he now makes $30k Canadian via his Patreon account.

This was his response:

Screenshot j peterson

I will admit that I initially felt a degree of sympathy for the man.  That, however, was only in the early days of his crusade.  I am deadly opposed to being forced to use silly non-words in order to describe people.  While I accept the usage of the now common ‘Ms.’, I do remember when it was first invented, and I do remember how silly the whole thing was.  In other cultures, such as the German one, ‘Frauline’ is no longer used when addressing any adult woman, regardless of marital status.  Its usage has been relegated almost elusively to that of denoting an underage girl.  ‘Frau’ is now used for both married and unmarried women.  In the French culture, in Quebec at least, ‘Madam’ is used in exactly the same way as the German ‘Frau’, while ‘Mademoiselle’ has likewise been relegated to the underage crowd.  No fuss.  No commotion.  Just a simple solution to a modern problem.  Problem solved.

The English-speaking world would have done well to have followed  the German and French examples.  Unfortunately, the English-speaking world being what it is, the powers-that-be had to make things complicated in a big way.  We are now facing the same thing all over again, and it may not be long before such detestable words as ‘zhe’ find their way into common acceptance.  We can ignore it, we can go along with it, but in the end, only time will tell if this new scourge has any more staying power than the expression ‘I dig it’ had.

All of that is to say that, while I did sympathize with the man, I stopped sympathizing when I saw how he started working his followers in order to extend his fifteen minutes of fame into something more substantial.  That made me uneasy.  Something rang false.  Then came the article, with points galore that he could have fairly contested, and what did he choose to do?  He corrected the reporter on how much he is actually earning, which happens to be almost double the amount she quoted.

His mask slipped, albeit briefly, and revealed something ugly underneath.  The thing that it revealed was a man willing to ride the wave, and shill for a political stance, because suddenly he became someone special, and was making a lot of extra bucks, too boot.

Meanwhile, his ‘followers’ praise him bigly, and feed his ego largely.  For him, it is a win-win situation, and as long as he can keep whipping them up, he can continue growing his audience, his fame, and his fortune.

But, slap my ass and call me ‘Sally’, if he is still sincere in what he has to say.  I’d be willing to bet that he isn’t the quiet, soft-spoken professor he comes across as on YouTube.

I should add that I don’t know the man, and do not know anyone who does, so I can’t say what he really is like in his everyday life.  There is, however, another university professor – this one from Montreal – who is also stirring things up for the profit of his own ego, and possibly his pocketbook.  He choose anti-Muslim sentiment as his stepping-stone to internet adoration, and is now the darling of the anti-Muslim conservative Canadian and international right.  He comes across as a jolly bon-vivant, and his followers routinely post adoring comments, telling him what a wonderful person he is.

This gentleman, admittedly, has some grounds for his hostility, due to his background and life experiences.  Unfortunately, to package personal rage as political truth is quite a leap, and I cannot condone validating other people’s hysteria by feeding into it, which he does.

Yet, again, I got the niggling impression that the man was not what his YouTube persona made him out to be.  I wondered about this.  I thought it over.  I sent a text message.  The answer I got back was, ‘euwww’.  In fact,  ‘euwww’ was mentioned twice in the same text reply.  The second ‘euwww’ was a summation of the opinions of my contact’s colleagues who also know the man.

This theme continues wherever you go on the internet.  Pundits present one face, and gullible idiots fall for it.  I could come up with a long list of wanna-be philosophers, purveyors of ‘alternate’ new sites, supposed reporters and thinkers.  It’s all the same.  Adoring followers emptying their pocket-books into their idols Patreon accounts, while their idols feed into the fears and prejudices of their fan-bases in order to squeeze out more.  Then, when the hour-long rant against cholesterol and how mega-fast-food chains are killing us for profit is over, and the camera is finally turned off, the internet idol heads straight out to McDonalds for a big, greasy hamburger, with a side-order of super-sized fries and a milkshake.

The moral of this story is: you don’t know who these people are in real life, or what they are really like _ as one YouTuber, I believe it was T.J.Kirk (the Amazing Atheist) straightforwardly pointed out about himself.  But, unlike T.J. Kirk, many of these people want you to believe that they are exactly what and who they tell you they are.  They get off on your adulation, as well as your donations.  While they may have started out as sincere individuals, they have consciously made the choice to shill on behalf of a political or social agenda because it makes them important people on the internet.  Their ego and their wallets are what’s talking now.

Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani

“My God, my God.  Why have you forsaken me?”  Jesus’ penultimate words on the cross.  But what do they mean, and why would God accuse Himself of forsaking Him?

Makes no sense when you look at it that way.  It is recorded in the New Testament that the people watching believed Jesus was calling on Elijah or Moses.  Theologians have been arguing about it for as long as there has been Christian theology.  No one understands it.

Well, maybe that is because they are looking at it from the wrong angle.   Jesus was being crucified in Jerusalem, by the people who claimed to be His chosen ones.  The people who called him ‘God’.  Bu they had rejected Him when he walked among them.  So now, there he was on the cross being crucified, and he says to them ‘You called me God.  So why have you now forsaken me?”

It was a lament and an accusation.  Think about it.

Snowflakes…

27603-Rude-Critical-People

I need to address a topic from the flip side once again.  This time, it is the concept of sensitivity to criticism, and all of the other things that have come together to create ‘snowflake culture’.  Conservatives like to believe that there is something inherently wrong with anyone taking exception to what they, the conservative right, deem justifiable criticism.  If such a person expresses upset, hurt, or indignation at the criticism received, then that individual can only be a liberal wuss.

The problem, however, lies in defining what justifiable or ‘constructive’ criticism actually is, when it is appropriate to use it, and what the correct approach to it should be.  Sadly, many people these days have difficulty understanding the concept of boundaries insofar as what can and cannot be criticized, what should and should not be criticized, how far to go with criticism, and the importance of tone in its delivery.  Contrary to what they believe it is not okay, and it is not their ‘right’ to tell someone else that the shade of green they are wearing today makes them look nauseous.  Nor should the victim of their barbed tongue simply ‘suck it up’ and change into more complimentary clothes.  The same goes for a whole host of other things that many people these days believe falls under the category of ‘freedom of expression’.

One of the worst ideas bouncing round in people’s heads is that of  ‘tough love’, which is often used as an excuse for being direct, blunt, and unforgiving.  You don’t like your friend’s new hairstyle or significant other?  Then grab her/him by the arm, drag her/him off somewhere, and tell her/him what a lousy choice she/he has made.  After telling her/him this, just use the excuse that you are only doing it because you care, and you like seeing her/him making a fool of her/himself.  Behavior like that is not only way outside the ballpark of what anyone who actually cares would do, it is also socially inappropriate – and this where the problem began.  When people refuse to acknowledge that there are limits on what can be criticized, other people within striking range will end up being subject to endless brutalization at that person’s hands.

The same can be said of those people who refuse to show others respect unless it is ‘earned’.  The inverse is actually true: people deserve respect until they do something that proves they haven’t earned it.

It is important for everyone to understand that society created codes of civility in order to protect people from insensitive clods.  It is not simply a matter of people having to ‘suck it up’; it is about people not having to put up with being bludgeoned day in, day out by other people’s nastiness.  If things have now come so far that young adults are having meltdowns over insignificant ‘micro-aggressions’, it is because that code has been smashed to pieces in recent decades.  The elastic band has snapped and overcompensation is the result.  As a reaction to one section of society becoming increasingly rude and insensitive, another section has become increasingly obsessed with stamping out that rudeness and showing concern for people’s feelings.

That’s life / live with it.

The attitude of “that’s life / live with it” is often used as an excuse for the uncouth to behave in a mean or malicious manner, to the detriment of our society.  If everyone had the empathy needed to put themselves in another person’s shoes, then there would be no need of moral codes to govern our conduct when interacting with each other.  Since that is not the case, and because there are numerous individuals who get a sadistic pleasure out of the ‘cruel to be kind’ bandwagon, we have no choice but to create codes of conduct.  The right of one person to be mean, nasty, and insensitive to others does not override the rights of everyone else to go about their lives in a peaceful manner.  That is why every culture has developed its own set of social conventions.

Now to the ‘snowflakes’.  Is it normal, or even acceptable for them to behave as they do?  Ummm… no.  That is taking it way too far.  But they are the product of increasing rudeness in our society.  Their parents, their teachers, and other people around them have all had their own experiences with the rudeness and vitriol that is currently infiltrating every aspect of our lives.  They now see increasing incidences of bullying in their own children’s lives at schools, at parties, and on internet sites, and are concerned.  As parents, educators, social workers, etc… they want to do something to protect the young people under their care.  They also want society to return to a saner time, a time when people actually treated each other civilly.

The only way to get society back on track is, in fact, re-education.  That means teaching children the old rules of behavior, and having a zero tolerance policy towards uncivil behavior.  Etiquette needs to be reinstated, with penalties for anyone who feels it is their right to run stomping on other people’s sensibilities like a maddened rhinoceros.  Children need to be taught, in no uncertain terms, that it is rude to comment on things that are considered to be of a highly personal nature.  They need to learn to keep their opinions to themselves if nothing constructive can come of them, and to never use ‘constructive criticism’ as an excuse to tear someone else down.

Verbal abuse is one of the most painful things you can inflict on someone else.  Sad to say, much of what goes by the name of ‘criticism’ these days is little more than that.  This is the end result of loosening social constraints way too far, and the emphasis on ‘personal freedom’ over respecting and genuinely caring about others.  People have become so battered and bruised that they really do need safe-places to escape into.  As someone who endured verbal abuse throughout my childhood, I can vouch for the PTSD it leaves you with.  The ruder our society becomes, the more people will find themselves unable to cope.  That is something to be concerned about.  Unfortunately, people who believe they are saving the world by spewing venom at others are not going to listen to me, or anyone else.

Cain and Abel

I have spent a lot of time wondering about the story of Cain and Abel.  The question that keeps gnawing away at me is why God would have acted in such a cruel and unfair manner by rejecting Cain’s sacrifice, while accepting Abel’s.  There is no reason given.  None at all.  Was God simply favoring Abel?  Was Cain’s sacrifice somehow flawed?

I don’t think that either was the case.  The problem with the biblical text is that it does not explain the reason sacrifice was being offered in the first place.  Sacrifices were not random things that people did for no reason at all.  Some offerings were tithes, some were thank-offerings, made after divine help was received, and others were pleas for divine assistance.  The mistake I made was in assuming that Cain and Abel were offering up tithe-type offerings, and that Cain had offered something of poor quality.

That is where I believe I was completely wrong.  Tithe-type offerings were not even required at that point in scripture.  In fact, Cain and Abel’s offerings were the very first mentioned in the bible.  So the question people should be asking first, is ‘what was the reason for their offerings?’.  Once we know why the offerings were made, we can better theorize as to what happened, and why God rejected one while accepting the other.

My theory is this: both brothers made their offerings as part of a request for God’s assistance in a matter.  Perhaps both brothers were vying for the same thing, perhaps they were requesting different things.  What happened was that God agreed to provide Abel with whatever he requested, while refusing to provide Cain with his request.  Cain then became angry, first because God had refused him, and then because Abel had gotten what he asked for, when he, Cain had been refused.  The seeming unfairness of it ate away at Cain’s heart until it turned into jealousy and rage.  The next thing he knew, he lost it and killed Abel, probably during an argument of some sort.

I somehow don’t think Cain lay in wait for Abel, then murdered him in cold blood.  God showed him mercy, which I don’t think would have been the case if Cain had turned completely evil.

The burning question that remains is why did God refuse Cain’s request?  It is possible that Cain asked for something that was not beneficial to himself.  It might have been something that would harm him in the long run, but Cain could not see that.  If he and Abel were asking for the same thing, and only one could have it, it may have been that Abel was the one more suited to it.  Again, in the long run, Cain would not have benefited from it.

So God turned down Cain’s request.  That is what a rejected offering signifies: God has heard the request, and decided not to grant it.  Nothing more, nothing less.

So, those are my thoughts on a rather vague, but important passage.  It also clarifies a lot of other mumbo-jumbo that we come across later on in the New Testament about why God does not always respond to our prayers.  It even touches on Jesus’ words about a father not giving his son a serpent when the child asks for bread.  If the request is beneficial to the individual, God hears and grants it.  But if it isn’t, He will reject it.  It is not about favoritism, or capriciousness on God’s part, it is about the well-being of the individual.  Like the child in Jesus’ parable, the seeker may not know that the food he is begging for is tainted with poison; but the Father knows, and refuses to give him what is not good for him.

The moral of the story is not to fall into the trap that Cain did, even though God warned him what would happen if he did not put his resentment aside.