8-20-15 Thinking about soap operas.
I was watching a soap opera out of the corner of my eye one morning at the carousel. The Century Link kiosk always had a TV on. If an American soap opera comes on, one instantly says, "Oh that is a soap opera." Why is this? What is it about soap operas, particularly American soap operas, that is so distinctive?
The first thing that comes to mind is my mind is the lighting, very uniform, very artificial. Never a dark shadow. Never a badly lit corner of a room. No outdoor shots. They also often use a smoky or misty filter, as someone left oil on a hot plate just off screen. I remember this effect being used a lot for dream sequences on TV when I was a kid in the 70s. It used to be a lens filter, but it is probably digital effect nowadays.
The actresses makeup is generally heavy but kind of neutral. Guys usually have quite a bit on as well. Guys also tend to be unrealistically well groomed, like the boys in a Disney sitcom. Female clothing tends to be somewhat revealing but otherwise unremarkable. Male clothing is merely unremarkable. It is as if they got the entire cast's wardrobe at Penny's. Not Benetton, not Armani, not a thrift store, not Wal-Mart, something right in the the middle: Penny's. In fact every lamp, every rug, every desk, is a study in being unremarkable. Everything is nice and new but never really interesting or unique.
The actors and actresses themselves are similar, always attractive but never in a unique way, all Brendan Fraser but never Benedict Cumberbatch. There is something a bit boring about them, like, like models on posters for Penny's. I cannot in my life remember seeing a girl on an American soap and thinking to myself, “Wow, that is a fascinating young woman.” OK yeah, but not fascinating. Maybe it is just that I am not keen on all that makeup.
There is something about the audio as well. I cannot seem to put my finger on it. Maybe they use an audio filter of some sort. Maybe it is the lack of realistic background noises, or music like you have in a movie. Maybe everyone just kind of talks in a loud uniform voice. Maybe it is that they seem to always be on a TV that is turned up too loud. I can't figure this one out, but if there is a soap on in another room I know it is a soap without looking at the screen. On the old ones they used to have those dramatic emphasis organ bits.
I remember listening to an episode of Car Talk some years back where a caller inherited a nice big Oldsmobile or some similar vehicle. He said that it was a nice car but it had somewhat “mushy” handling and felt very disconnected from the road. One of the brothers responded that Detroit had spent decades perfecting this precise mushy feel. It was a specific goal, an great engineering achievement. The soaps seem like this, a carefully created image of an ideal that I cannot imagine thinking is very cool. Even counterculture or radical characters seem to be strained through the sieve of this image. Something in the back of my mind is frustrated by this.
It is worth noting that Latin American soaps or telenovelas are often at least aesthetically better than our domestic productions, with more interesting sets, outdoor shots, and marginally better casting.
I am not a fan of soap operas. I do not think that, from a moral point of view, that they are really healthy for anyone to watch. A lot of subject matter and situations are ones that could and do exist, but are not good to spend too much time thinking about. I like a lot of classical music, especially vocal pieces, and enjoy non-soap operas, except for parts of the plots which are crazy over dramatic and rather like, well, soap operas.
8-12-15 A few words about Donald Trump
Mr. Trump is currently leading the field of Republican contenders. Speaking from my traditional family values voter perspective, I really do not like him much, and I felt like this before the recent statements he has made, though those were neither very nice nor diplomatic.
The main thing to me is that he made his step into ultra-richness as a casino developer, with all that goes along with that, bars, shows and the like. Casinos, though legal in some areas, are not a positive thing for communities. They could not exist if they were not fed by people with serious compulsive gambling problems. Though not quite as bad as being a porno movie producer or an abortion services provider, it sure doesn't put you down in my book as being a good guy. His company also runs the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants. It is hard not to see that whole thing as a little sexist. I would not be comfortable with a dime of my money being invested in his company.
He is on his third wife. I remember hearing stories about parties he organized in between the marriages, models in bikinis and the like. Not illegal but well, just not the kind of person the average pew warmer looks up to.
In what I write, I really try to be polite even when talking about people or ideas that I don't agree with. I think this should be the ideal for commenting or participating in political matters. I do not really respect people who do not do this. Take someone like Amy Goodman, my total ideological opposite. I have never heard her be impolite on the scale of Mr. Trump. She gets some respect, even though she is wrong. It would be different if Trump were repentant, saying something like, "I said some things when I was younger that were really inappropriate. That was wrong. I am trying to do better now."
He currently sits at about 24%. One should keep in mind that this means that 76% of Republicans, though fragmented over a variety of candidates, would really prefer someone else. So would I.
6-9-15 Thoughts on Marco Rubio, Theology, and Gay Inherentcy.(1)
Marco Rubio made a few statements in an April 19 interview on CBS's face the nation that I find interesting.(2) Particularly: “I also don't believe that your sexual preferences are a choice for the vast and enormous majority of people. In fact...I believe that sexual preference is something that people are born with." I would think that most of the traditional family values block (including myself) feel that no one is inherently gay. This would not be so notable except that Rubio is kind of a tea party hero, and a lot of the traditional family values block (including myself) like him pretty well. Also he identifies himself as Christian.
It would seem that he holds the idea that homosexuality is both inherent (presumably genetically) and that it is at the same time morally wrong. I generally agree with his political comments on this issue, and he seems to be pretty rational about it. Perhaps I misunderstand him, and this will get cleared up in future statements. In any case, this idea deserves some discussion as it comes up from time to time.
I feel this idea to be a logical fallacy. It does not seem rational that a good God would create people who were inherently gay, and then say that it is morally wrong for them to practice homosexual behavior. If people are inherently gay then homosexual behavior cannot be wrong. In order for it to be morally wrong, it must be non-inherent. In my opinion, you can't have it both ways.
There are several other ways at looking at the issue, and though I do not agree with them, they are logically consistent. One could suppose that God never said that it was wrong to be gay, and that part of the Bible and Christian tradition is just a misunderstanding. This is what the liberal Christian denominations believe. One could suppose that there is no gods/god/God at all, and mankind must make their own decisions about any moral issue. I think if this as kind of the European view. Or one can suppose that God exists, but is not good, or not particularly caring. All of these ideas at least make logical sense.
I thought it might be something
connected to the Catholic viewpoint concerning this issue. (Rubio
is Catholic) I have heard Catholics say things more or less like
what Rubio said. Rubio is a politician, and he is trying to get
himself elected. We will hope he is sincere about this, but one
could see that these statements might help him with some voter
groups. If Rubio articulated this in the words of the Catholic
Church, that homosexuality is "a more or less strong tendency
ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil" from which certain
individuals may not be "curable",(3) he might not pick up as many
of those votes. For myself, I feel that I disagree more with what
Rubio said than with what the Catholic Church says.
1-31-15 I had a friend ask me about this seeming contradiction via a Facebook post. I had never really looked at the two scriptures side by side before this. It has taken forever to get this written out. I hope you find it interesting.
Notes on the seeming contradiction between James' and Paul's reference of Genesis 15:6, “And he (Abraham) believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”
If these scriptures are not fresh in your mind you might want to read (at least) Romans 4 and James 2.
My thought on this, which I would suppose is in line with most Protestant thought, is that two separate topics are being discussed here: (Topic A) “How a Christian is reconciled to God” and (Topic B) “How should we live as Christians.” I personally feel that I pretty much agree with what both Paul and James are saying, and that they are not particularly contradictory.
Topic A: How a Christian is reconciled to God. I, and most Christians, believe there to be a line that divides all of humanity into two groups, those that have faith in Jesus as Savior and those who do not. That is to say "Christians" and "unbelievers." Those who have this faith have the advantage of a reconciliation with God that unbelievers do not enjoy. (This is one of the things that places orthodox Christianity at odds with a lot of modern western thought) The believers also enjoy the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Though the Holy Spirit reaches out to unbelievers, he does not live within them in the same way that he does for believers. This division starts with a point of conversion. The evangelicals would call this being “saved.” Other terms might be being “converted” or “reconciled to God.” (1)
For the purposes of explaining this process, Paul, in Romans, speaks of faith as isolated from works. Faith, yet unproven, is the starting point of this process. Faith isolated from works exists only for a short period of time, perhaps for only a moment. It is not a way of life. At the moment of conversion, faith has not yet had the opportunity to validate itself by works. The validity of this faith can only be observed in retrospect. Sometimes it leads to a life of repentance and good works, and sometimes it does not. As Christians, if we observe in another professing Christian both confession of Christian faith and works, we suppose this faith to be valid. This however is only a supposition, and may occasionally be proved wrong. God alone knows the validity of anyone's faith. If faith is not followed by works and repentance, we suppose that it was never valid in the first place, only a fantasy or deception on the part of the supposed convert.
Speaking as a Protestant, it is very important to understand how this process works, in order to show that the reconciliation to God is not earned, but is rather His gift to us. This places the Christian in the proper position of humility before God. “Lest any man should boast.” (Eph 2:9) “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.” (Rom 4:4) I take this to mean that if we can earn our salvation by works, this places God in our debt. It does not work that way. It is a gift. Works, though extremely important, do not form a part of the mechanics of our salvation. They are not part of the means by which salvation is achieved. Another way of looking at a works based salvation, is that it is kind of a “deal” with God, the mortal has obligations to do such and such, and God in return can be expected to grant such and such to the mortal. This is reminiscent of a lot of pagan thought, the sort of thing that comes up a often in the Illiad or similar works.
Let us define the Christian life in three stages.
1. Faith in Christ as Savior.
2. Reconciliation, God's gift.
3. Proving ones faith by repentance and works.
This is the process that a genuine conversion takes. Works do not take the place of faith and reconciliation, rather it proves that they were valid. Works which are not preceded by Faith and Reconciliation are still good works, they benefit the recipients, and are representations of man's God given potential to do good. They do not however make a person a Christian, merely a righteous pagan or a righteous unbeliever. I think that in a certain sense that God is pleased with every kind act, even those done by pagans, but they are not Christians, and live outside the state of reconciliation that they would have through Jesus, outside the path that God wants for all His children.
In the interest of being objective and honest concerning human observations, one can find certain examples of individual pagans who do a better job of pursuing Christian virtue than certain individual Christians. I do not however think that this is a generality. If it were, Christianity, having so little to show as far as the good works of its adherents, would have shriveled up and died in its infancy back in the first century.
Topic B: How a Christian should act. This is what I feel James 2 is discussing. Some churches today take the “salvation by grace” idea of Romans 4 out of context to indicate that the works do not matter. Though heretical, it is easy to see the attractiveness of such a theology, one may keep whatever comfortable sins one pleases, fornication, debauchery, financial irresponsibility, lying, and ignore them by saying “We are not under the law but under grace” (Rom 6:14) I think it is reasonable to assume that some churches in the first century had the same misinterpretation of this part of Romans, and that James is addressing them directly, using the part of Romans that is being confused. James had probably read Romans. It is possible that he had not read Romans exactly as we have today, or that he had not read it at all, but had heard of the discussion Paul makes in Romans 4, and the of heresies springing from it. I think that it is highly unlikely that the two parallel references are simply coincidental. Note that I say that James addresses the erring churches (or individuals) directly, but I do not say that he addresses Paul directly. I see no reason that, if he wished to do so, he might not have said, “ 'Abraham believed God....,' as Paul of Tarsus erroneously references in his letter to the Roman Jews, etc.” I would like to note that he does not do this, he only directly opposes the errors of the “works do not matter” theology, which, in my opinion, Paul himself also opposes.
Let us briefly discuss how this theology is, in my opinion, taking Paul out of context by looking back at Romans. I have included a few other references to similar concepts from other Pauline epistles. This could certainly be more extensive, and I will try to add more references as I find them.
In the Pauline epistles works matter because:
1. We seek a better father-child relationship with God and that relationship is damaged by sin and lack of good works. (Romans 8:14... also Gal 4)
2. It is our duty, calling and purpose as Christians. (Romans 12:1)
3. To live in sin is incompatible with the new relationship we have with God as Christians. (Rom 6:11-13, Gal 4:9 more)
3. There is a time of judgment on the works of all mortals be they Christians or no. (Romans 2:6-8, 2Cor 5:10, Rom 14:10)
It should be noted that Paul spends a significant percentage of all of his epistles talking about works, very directly about what a Christian should and should not do. Off the top of my head, without going through them all verse by verse, I would guess this to be about one third of the text of all the Pauline epistles. (2) A good place to start looking at this is Romans 6:15: “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.” “God forbid” is pretty strong and clear language. As long as one is taking things out of context (that is to say taking one idea without letting the other ideas balance it) it is possible to defend a works based salvation using, not James, but the letters of Paul themselves. See 1Cor 6:10-11, Rom 2:7-11.
James 2 discusses the third stage, proving our faith by repentance and works. It does not generally speak of salvation, but proving oneself to be righteous, with the exception of verse 14, which is where we will start.
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?” (James 2:14)
I would say no, a claimed faith that does not lead to works will not save a person. I do not think that this is the “faith” that Paul is discussing in Romans 4. Real faith leads to works. Only false faith does not lead to works. False faith will save no one.
Moving on to v18., switching to NIV here(3)
18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.
19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. (4)
20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?
21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?
22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.
24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
The idea of being “considered righteous” to me points more to the proving ones faith, the third stage discussed above. James does not here go so far as saying “a person is saved by what they do” rather he says “a person is considered righteous by what they do.” Thus we are not talking here about how a person is saved (converted, reconciled) but rather about how they go about proving their faith. This example of “faith and actions working together” is to be emulated by the Christian.
In summary, looking again at “he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness,” Paul uses this to demonstrate that faith was the seed of Abraham's righteous life, and James states that this seed of faith did indeed lead to definable works, and faith that does not lead to definable works is useless or dead. The works being necessary to prove the validity of the faith, does not contradict the fact the faith comes first in the process, not the works. The idea that faith (in sincere examples) initiates the process of conversion before works exist to prove it, does not contradict the idea that works are necessary to prove this faith. Abraham, if his faith had not led to works, would not have been an example, either for James or for Paul.
Paul writes in Romans 2:4 that “the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance” I would take this to mean (at least in one way of looking at it) that the grace of Jesus dying for us as a free gift is the “goodness,” and that this “goodness” should lead the believer into repentance. I believe that this is the model that God has for his Children.
(1) I have a friend who says that she can never remember not being a Christian. I have spent enough time around her that I am not inclined to doubt her faith. I think in some cases perhaps a coming to awareness as a small child is simultaneous with acceptance of Christ's love. However, at some point, (or at several points) as they get older they have to make an intellectual assessment of this faith and decide to continue in it or to abandon it. In some individuals it may be hard to pin down exactly where moment of conversion is, whether a young childllike faith, or an older faith persevering, but that does not mean that it has not occurred.
(2) I am working on a longer discussion of this on my blog with the “Commentary on Romans”
(3) I here use the NIV as opposed to my normal KJV as I prefer that it uses “proved righteous” as opposed to “justified.” The word justified is a little enigmatic in modern English, sometimes meaning “proved correct” or defended (intellectually or logically) instead of “proved righteous.”
(4) Deism, which is what is defined in verse 19, is not Christianity. Many of the “works do not matter” churches today believe not only in one God, but in Jesus as Savior, and in the Holy Spirit as well. That does not erase their error, nor does it make them, in my definition, Christian. Hypothetically, if you could actually somehow get the truth from a demon about what they believe about God, Jesus, sin, etc., I think that we would find them to be more orthodox than many modern churches.
I am at this point struggling with a few statements in the Pauline epistles. I feel that perhaps some small statements in Paul's writings cannot be defended in terms of Christian thought. It is going to take some time to get through it and think it all out. Paul was just a guy like us after all, and would be the first to tell you that he was not perfect. I do not think that this means that we should throw him out of the New Testament. I will try to write another essay and list the points that concern me, if by that time they still concern me, but I think it is premature at this point.
In any case, I feel pretty comfortable with Romans. I say “pretty comfortable” because Romans definitely has some confusing bits. I would really question anyone that feels like they have absolutely all of Romans figured out, in all of its layers. Paul has sometimes, in my opinion, a really weird way of explaining things. He kind of talks around in circles and I sometimes cannot figure out where the circles meet up.
10-22-14 For whoever might be interested, The New Mexico judges involved in the Elane Photography VS Vanessa Willock case are as follows. Four are up for retention in this November 4 election. All of these judges ruled against Elane Photography in this case:
District Court case, single judge:
Alan Malott, 2nd Judicial District, Division 15 (up for retention, Bernalillo County ballots only)
Appeals Court case, three judges:
Cynthia Fry (up for retention, will be on all NM ballots)
James Wechsler (up for retention, will be on all NM ballots)
Timothy Garcia (not up for retention in this election)
NM Supreme Court Case Justices:
Edward Chavez (up for retention, will be on all NM ballots)
Petra Jimenez-Maez (not up for retention in this election)
Charles Daniels (not up for retention in this election)
Richard Bosson (not up for retention in this election)
Barbara Vigil (not up for retention in this election)
If you wish to confirm the judges names, the Appeals court ruling is available at the following link:
Judge Alan Malott is referenced at the top as the District Court judge over the initial court case. The Appeals Court Judges are listed at the bottom of the document. None are listed as dissenting.
The New Mexico Supreme Court ruling is available at:
Judge Alan Malott is again referenced at the top as the District Court judge over the initial court case. The five Supreme Court Justices are listed at the bottom of the document. None are listed as dissenting.
Click here for a printer friendly list of these judges, if one might like help remembering the names at the ballot box.
If you are not familiar with this case, a Santa Fe photographer was fined around $6600 for refusing to photograph a same-sex couple's commitment ceremony. Elane Photography is a husband and wife LLC. It should be clearly noted that they did not refuse to serve Ms. Willock because she was gay, they stated that would have been happy to preform any neutral photography work, such as portraits. They felt that a same-sex commitment ceremony (effectively a gay “wedding” before these were officially legal in NM) was not a neutral subject because it was a celebration of what they felt was a union that was contrary to their religious principles. Personally, I do not think I can remember a case or political action in New Mexico that I have found more upsetting than this one. If these statutes continue to be enforced in this manner, it would mean that a whole range of businesses could lose their right to run their businesses in accordance with their consciences. I do not consider myself to be particularly radical as far as this issue is concerned. I support civil unions and equal legal rights for same sex couples. (I do not feel that these unions should be called “marriage” under civil law. Read my longish essay on this here.) It is rational in a country with mixed opinions that people of same-sex orientation and people who believe such activity to be wrong should both be treated with respect under the law. I feel that the traditional values Christians should treat people who choose same-sex orientation with complete respect and courtesy, as far as is possible within a conscience that believes those actions to be morally wrong. Those of the same-sex community should in turn treat the traditional values Christians with respect and courtesy as far as is possible within their respective consciences. I favor “equality” though perhaps not by everyone's definition. I do not feel that this case is about “equality,” but rather state-sponsored discrimination against one group that is currently in favor with the judges against another group that is currently not in favor with the same judges. There are dozens of articles on the internet about this case, and I list a few below if you would like to look into it further. Obviously some of my fellow Americans may disagree, but the way this case ended is not acceptable to me.
The case started in the New Mexico Human Rights Commission in 2008, where an initial complaint of discrimination was made. It then went on to District Court, then the New Mexico Court of Appeals, then the New Mexico Supreme Court, which also ruled unanimously against them. The US Supreme Court declined to hear the case a few months ago, effectively ending the legal possibilities for Elane Photography.
As it turns out several of these NM judges are up for retention. (see above) They have to get 57% of the vote to remain in place. I am not so much concerned about whether or not they are retained, that is in God's hands, but rather I am troubled that I might have voted to retain them in ignorance with their involvement with this case. I would like to do what I can to inform others so that they do not do this either. I have started an essay discussing this issue further, which I will put up at a later time.
Other Articles on this case:
Christian Photographer Who Refused Gay Wedding Lost Lawsuit
Summary from Alliance Defending Freedom, who represented Elane Photography
This article by Sherry F. Colb, though written from the opposite veiwpoint to my own, offers some good information about the case.
New Mexico Center for Family Policy has some info on Justice Edward Chavez in their voter guide, as well as a lot of general info on traditional family values issues.
1-20-14 I have been working on transferring my blog over to hawkemorgan.com. I saw that the url was not taken, and I couldn't resist. I would like to post some new things here, a commentary on Romans, and a little info about hunting edible mushrooms in the Albuquerque area.
Samisue, the baby, and I nearly got hit by a speeding getaway car last week. It was a big white Dodge Magnum wagon. They lost control coming around the little bend in Copper just west of San Mateo. They were sliding sideways towards my little beetle at about 20 mph, but were thankfully stopped by a telephone pole about 10 feet away from us. One of those times when one feels like God is watching out for them. As soon as they stopped two guys got out and started running. Soon after two dozen cops appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. A few of the early ones chased the guys down. We had to hang out for half an hour and fill out a statement. I drove by the pole today and it was hit pretty hard. It is still standing but it is leaning a little. I don't think it was leaning that much before. The whole thing was scarier after it happened, which is a weird feeling.
2013 blog (not much there, new baby and all)
2009 blog with Panama pix