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Archive for the ‘philosophy’ Category

I watched Moana for the first time yesterday. I’m kind of ambivalent about it, since I can think of some good and some bad messages, and as a 32-year-old, wasn’t all that captivated by the story (though I appreciated the quality of the animation).
Maybe because the setting is more tribal and not so Western, and maybe because of Disney’s motif of sort of refuting some of its earlier fairy tales, I was partially hopeful that this would be a story less about following your heart and more about courageously and sacrificially submitting to the leadership and community you were born to.  I was disappointed.

 

It wasn’t the demi-gods or coconut-demons or fire-monsters or reincarnated/ghost grandmas that most concerned me about this movie; it was that message of how to find out who you are meant to be: Disregard your parents and authority figures.  Be inspired by stories and legends.  Find some distant ancestors whose way of life is most appealing to you, and believe it’s an integral part of you.  Don’t prepare; just literally let yourself be thrown into something, and then pursue it with all the publicly rebellious determination you can muster.

 

One thing that complicates this for a Christian is that some of Moana’s discernment is based on the spiritual encounters she has.  There is no true God and Savior Jesus Christ in this movie, so other things stand in for the role He plays in directing our lives and gracing us to fulfill our “destinies”.  If the water-spirit that is so influential in Moana’s journey were actually the Creator God of the Bible, her story would be less concerning.  But it isn’t, and I believe that there are other spiritual forces in the real world, not only in fantasies, that stand-in for the place God ought to have in our lives.  And these beings are not good, not neutral; they are in evil opposition to the loving Lord of the universe.  What kind of message is it sending us and our kids to trust these kinds of spiritual experiences to direct us?

 

Moana did keep in mind and heart, always, how to serve and care for her people.  This is one of the better aspects of the “find your purpose” theme.  I was telling my brother that if they’d written the story of her father encouraging her to be different from him, while holding these same values of service to the tribe, I’d be way more excited about all of it.

 

Also a positive, in Moana, Disney has released another film that demonstrates the need for teamwork.  Moana and Maui each come to realize that they are more effective with each other’s help, and that the other does really need them in order to save their world.

 

I think I am actually most intrigued by the character of Maui, who wrestles with his own identity questions.  When we first meet him in person, we quickly recognize a dominant trait of arrogance, but later we learn that this is sort of a cover, a compensation for a deep insecurity.  The complex ways these issues affect his choices are fascinating; and over-all, I think they send a good message to audiences.

 

In the end, Moana does have a suitably communal argument for everyone having something to contribute, be it a peculiar chicken, a teenage girl, a demi-god with or without his hook, an experienced leader, or the village crazy lady – and the value of embracing what others have to offer.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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In an episode of the old TV show, The Beverly Hillbillies, a back-woods granny convinces a Beverly Hills banker that she has a home-remedy cure for the common cold.  After he’s all excited about the prospect of selling this marvelous discovery, she tells him the instructions that go with it: take with rest and lots of fruits and vegetables, and you’ll be better in 7-10 days.

I like to think about what made Granny believe she had a cure.  Probably there were a lot of competing local “cures” where she came from, and they may have had varying effects on symptoms.  But no one would have considered using no “cure” at all when there was one available, and known to produce the results of delivering the patient from sickness withing a fortnight.  So there was no “control”, no standard in their close-community by which to judge the success of a cure against none at all.

How many times do we do that?  Everyone does a thing, and we believe by tradition and assertion that it must be necessary and valuable and effective.

I appreciate that a growing number of people in my generation are challenging things.  They’re challenging shampoo, soap, the suburban lifestyle, not eating seeds, using synthetic medications to solve health problems.  We challenge assumptions about government and relationships and church.  We want to do things because we have a good reason.

But I want to be on guard against the things yet unchallenged in my life, whether it is flavor combinations or hairstyles or more serious things like my beliefs and philosophies.  It may be harder to receive when it is someone else challenging my ideas and habits, but I want to be open to that, too.  This is the essence of growing and learning, to be unashamed of realizing I was wrong and moving forward.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Fanny Price is one of the most boring heroines in literature.  She is always good, always correct, and it seems that her only faults lie in being too timid and being too easily fatigued.

Edmund Bertram is one of the least interesting heroes in literature.  He is sincere, intentional, and sober.  His primary shortcoming seems to be thinking the best of people and making the most of bad circumstances.

But isn’t real life and real goodness more like this duo?  Do they not refute our human tendency to buy into bright personalities, to follow confidence, to love foolishly?  Isn’t it hard to draw the line between dying to self and giving in to the pressures of those less wise?

Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen, does seem to be busy pressing these truths.  The most charming characters are the ones who oppose the good.  Mr. Henry Crawford and his sister Mary may not set out to be wicked, but they don’t try to be good.  They try to seem good.  They may even wish they were good.  What good could be done with them if good people took them under wing, befriended them, taught, influenced, married them?

How are good people to resist the allure of reforming their lovers?  How are good people to judge accurately?

While simultaneously facing these dilemmas and illustrating them, Fanny Price and Edmund Bertram move through the excitement of new connections in the small neighborhood that has been their comfortable home.  Over and over again you see the heroine and hero making mistakes because of the things that influence their perspectives.  They doubt themselves.  They deceive themselves.  They reproach themselves.  They deny themselves.

And all through the plot, following paths merely tangential to each other, they’re getting a chance to discover the value of each other’s steady, reverential characters.  So when the events conspire to divide them from all the temptation of flattery, charm, and attraction, little wonder they proceed to fall in love with unsatisfactory brevity and with a felicity the envy of all their foolish relations.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I remember reading the Anne of Green Gables series, how well it taught the lesson.  Anne turned down a silly farmer who asked her to marry him via his sister.  She said no to Gilbert who’d been her rival all through school.  She was disappointed when her best friend agreed to marry the ordinary local, Fred.  But maybe her friend Diana was onto something.  Maybe Anne’s tall, dark, handsome, charming ideal wasn’t what Anne really needed.  As fiction conveniently wends its way, Anne met with such a man at college.  They courted for months.  And in the final breathless moment when he asked her to be his wife, she realized that she’d been wrong.  Her girlhood husband list had been dreamy and foolish.  There was nothing so wrong with this man.  But her heart wasn’t in it.  The truth was, she had been meant for Gil all along, only her stubborn fantasies had kept her from accepting it.

Having a list seemed to help me when I was in high school.  It reminded me that love and marriage were about choice, not just feelings.  I still like my lists, even if only for self-knowledge.  In my case I was over 20 years old when I realized that a man doesn’t have to have a career plan for the rest of his life to make a good husband.  Many of the men I have ever respected (including my own dad) have been hard workers, caring for others, but trying different things, or whatever work they could find.  In a changing world, myself even desiring a bit of adventure, how could I demand stability? So my list has been modified.  As I’ve gained humility about my own certainty of how the world should be, I’ve grown a bit more relaxed about some of the things.

Never mind the unforeseen and unknown; what selfish attitude is it that tells me that I can decide what I want and demand that I get that or else?  How was that affecting my relationships with men?  Is that what marriage is about?  Is that what life is about?

I know lots of examples of people digressing from their lists as they matured:

A friend said she’d never marry someone in the military.  Then she met her husband on a military base in Japan, and she changed her mind.

Another friend said her husband would have to own a top hat.  Would she really turn down an otherwise perfect match because he didn’t own the ideal accessory?  (The answer was “no”, she wouldn’t turn him down!)

Some friends wrestled with more serious questions.  Could they marry someone who was not a virgin?  What if his views on finances (debt, saving, spending) was different from hers?  If God was calling her to ministry, could she marry someone who didn’t have that same calling?

I suppose it goes both ways.  No doubt men have their own hang-ups.  One man I know struggled because his family owned many animals and the woman he was interested in had severe allergies.  I’ve heard that many men planning to be missionaries look only for women who are pursuing the same goal.

Some of these things are generally good wisdom.  A pastor I know counsels people to marry only if they’re physically attracted to one another (successful legacy of arranged marriages notwithstanding).  I know couples who were not attracted at first, but as they proceeded with their relationships, gained such feelings.  I myself would rather not marry someone in the military because of the demands on time and loyalty.  It’s a good idea to be unified about things like money and children and ministry.  But they’re not essential.  And sometimes, especially when we’re young, we don’t know what we need.  One artist friend knew God would provide her with an artist-husband, whose soul could understand hers.  Another artist friend has been married for decades to a man who’s good with numbers instead.

Still other friends now happily married look back and think their “lists” or ideas were lacking some significant points, like respect for parents.

In our society we barely know what marriage is really about, let alone what makes for a good one.  Sometimes parents and mentors advise us.  Sometimes they’re just taking a guess and pioneering new territory they never ventured on in their own relationships. Some of it is good advice, general wisdom.  A lot of it is promoting self-interest.  Some of it is universally-useful advice about trusting God and loving others.

Are there legitimate deal-breakers?  Is it wrong to have a list of things we’re looking for?  What guiding principles are there for deciding to get married?  What is marriage?  What contributes to a good marriage?  If you choose rashly at first, is there hope for a good marriage in the end?

But the fuss we make about who to choose…

~ Miss Austen Regrets

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I took a walk last week, on the day after our first snow here in Colorado.  The air was nippy but not wintry yet, fighting its way back to sunny seventies soon.  My boots beat along the sidewalk, until I came beneath a certain tree.  No one had warned it about the snow the night before.  It had been bearing the glorious fruit of autumn only a few days prior – the air a balmy 80 degrees.  Who knew that cold would come?

I picked my way around fallen fruits, darkened by separation from the sap – whether because of the cold hardening the nutrients yesterday or from today when the branch let go, I couldn’t tell.  But what was plain to see was that the tree had surrendered to the surprise.  It didn’t keep on with its job of growing fruit.  Instead it let them splatter the ground, making an ugly mess.

So I pulled my jacket close against the wind, bowed my head beneath the somber scene, and prayed to not be like that tree.  Don’t let me give in to bitterness just because hard things were unexpected.  Please, God, let me be useful to You no matter what, to be drawing near and bearing fruit of love and joy and truth and glory to You.  Give me faith to keep trusting even when things look bleak.

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” ~ John 15:16

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I read once that Tolkien wrote with the pessimism of the pagan poets [1].  They uphold honor in despair, dying well, the heroic quest at the cost of losing everything you love.  But I read Tolkien and see hope scribed into every chapter.  No light, whimsical child’s hope: Tolkien’s hope is not ignorance of all things capable of clouding the good.  It’s a “fool’s hope,” [2] where anyone can see that in all likelihood, if things go on as they are, the fool will be disappointed.  In Tolkien, the fools know themselves to be fools.

 

Elven-King Fingolfin’s story weighs on the side of hopelessness.  The Silmarillion describes him as “fey” [3] when he challenges Melkor himself, living up to the epic’s heroic virtues.  What hope has an elf against a Vala?  But the Vala ought to be contended, resisted, fought.  Though the high king of the Noldor (elves) finally fell, his fight was not without effect.  The Dark Lord Melkor limped forever after.

 

At first reading, it seems that Aragorn commends this sort of despairing courage when he instructs his friends, “There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark.” [4]  But Gandalf, the wizard who knows his life-encompassing hope is foolish, lends a bit of insight early on.  Recognizing he is a fool, he embraces humility.  Do you hear it in Gandalf’s words? “Despair, or folly?  It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt.  We do not.  It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope.” [5]  He acknowledges that he may not have all the facts.  Indeed, thinking that he knew what the end would be was the prideful downfall of Denethor, who let his enemy select the facts he discovered, and so turn him to despair, and madness.  Tolkien’s works regularly discourage the assumption that we know the future.

 

He also discourages despair.  I know it doesn’t seem true.  There are some pivotal scenes driven by characters that rashly pursue death and glory.  Aragorn is accused of it when he takes the Paths of the Dead, but that perspective is refuted.  Though the way had been shut for long ages, the time had come.  Such is the way of hope.  Things go on in a certain way until the due time, and then change springs upon the world.

 

Perhaps most potent is the image of grey-eyed Dernhelm.  The warrior’s silent, calm assurance going in search of death chilled Merry.  And it awakens our empathy.  Why shouldn’t it?  Who hasn’t felt that life is going from bad to worse, and decided to rush forward to the end instead of waiting to be burned with the house?  I think maybe Tolkien intended to carry us along with this character, so that we could reach the same end.  Dernhelm was proud, seeking glory before duty, though demonstrating loyal love to King Theoden by staying close to him.  And glory was achieved.  And darkness did descend on the desperate hero.  Even as Dernhelm revealed herself as Eowyn, golden hair glittering in the storm-piercing sunrise like a figment of hope; she was cast down, poisoned, and taken for dead.  [6]

 

But now we come to it:  Tolkien’s hope is the kind that stands further and deeper than all those things – than despair and darkness and loss.  He knew about a resurrection hope, about seeds bringing forth fruit after they have fallen into the ground and died.  Maybe he knew that fruit is more glorious than merely putting an end to your enemies.  His hope embraces grief.  It accepts hard things.  Good is not determined by the outcome, but by some transcendent standard.  And this hope joyfully trusts that there is someOne good who may intervene yet.

 

For Eowyn woke, and repented her destructive ideals.  Day came again.  Darkness was not unescapable.  Faramir described the moment, “I do not know what is happening.  The reason of my waking mind tells me that great evil has befallen and we stand at the end of days.  But my heart says nay; and all my limbs are light, and a hope and joy are come to me that no reason can deny.  … in this hour I do not believe that any darkness will endure!” [7]  So Eowyn moved and married, healed and tended gardens. [8]  Her story is a fuller exposition of the transformation the Fellowship underwent in Moria.  They lost their way and lost their guide.  They had descended black depths and awakened demons so that they lost hope.  But on the field high on the mountain slopes, “they came beyond hope under the sky and felt the wind on their faces.” [9]

 

[1] Hopeless Courage by Loren Rosson, III (http://www.hollywoodjesus.com/lord_of_the_rings_guest_03.htm)

[2] The Return of the King: “The Siege of Gondor” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 797)

[3] See etymology of “fey” at http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=fey&allowed_in_frame=0

[4] The Two Towers: “The Riders of Rohan” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 430)

[5] The Fellowship of the Ring: “The Council of Elrond” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 262)

[6] The Return of the King: “The Battle of the Pelennor Fields” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 823-824)

[7] The Return of the King: “The Steward and the King” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 941)

[8] The Return of the King: “The Steward and the King” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 943-944)

[9] The Fellowship of the Ring: “The Bridge of Khazad-Dum” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 323)

 

See also, The Silmarillion: “Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin” by JRR Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Given Away

“That’s ours flower pot.  We gave it to them.”

– some little boys I was taking on a walk around their block

 

Once you give a flower pot away, it is theirs.  Once you give friendship away, it is theirs.  The moment is irreversible.  The deed has been done.

 

I used to be very selfish in my friendships.  I wanted people to listen to me, to entertain me, to help me not notice that I felt timid or overwhelmed.  Back then, whatever I put into a friendship was seen as a necessary cost of having friends in the future.  When I graduated high school, most of those friendships changed substantially.  In a lot of cases, we weren’t really friends anymore.  All that lost investment left me feeling disappointed, and lonely.

 

Some few years after that I realized that God commanded Christians to be loving to others without considering whether we get anything out of it.  I had been afraid to get to know people, to give them attention and consideration, to pray for them or praise them – because what if this doesn’t last?  What if they move away and we never speak again?  What if they aren’t there for me when I’m having a hard time?  What if that man isn’t the man I spend the rest of my life with?  The answer was clear and daring: walk the line of pouring yourself into people without demands.

 

Give love away, and it’s theirs.  The character of your friends is forever impacted by how you bless them.  And at the very least, you were there to help them to survive, or excel, even if that is someone else’s role in the future.

 

Loss and betrayal are excruciating.  And even as good friendships continue, there are some disappointments.  People aren’t perfect.  They will neglect you or say something harsh when you need comfort.  They’ll tease you instead of teaching you.  These things happen.  They hurt.  Pain is increased, the more of yourself you’ve given to them.  You’re more vulnerable, the more they know you.

 

The Bible says “perfect love casts out fear.”  The things to be feared are still real: pain, loss, being taken advantage of.  But love says people are worth the risk.  Maybe they won’t take advantage of you.  Maybe they won’t move on or away or die before you.  It is only a risk.  Yet you’re willing, if you love someone, to lay down your life living or dying.  You say that whatever you can do for them is worth more to you than protecting yourself.  Being with them for this moment in friendship is more important than the things you fear.

 

I’m abundantly grateful God has given me friends who likewise keep on loving me.  By His grace, He has made Christian community, when healthy and striving to please Him, to be mutual.  My friends are merciful to me.  We love being together.  They do give back, encourage me, listen when I’m discouraged or self-absorbed.  I do have friends who point me to truth.  They invite me to invade their lives with my needs.  It’s amazing.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Media (books and movies) should not be censored.  Original authors may censor their own works, in a sense, by omitting immoral content.  Should this resolution be adopted, there would be no fast-forwarding unwanted scenes in movies.  Ideally there would be no need to fast forward, since creators of media would not put inappropriate things in their works.  But this highlights a clash of values, where the artist and consumer may not agree on what is appropriate.  Refusing censorship increases freedom.  As a consumer, you have the freedom to reject a whole work – but you should not take someone else’s work and chop it up to use for your own ends.  This applies market pressure on producers to only present works whose content is not morally objectionable.  Ratings could be helpful in deciding ahead of time whether to watch a movie or read a book.  Or ratings could be a form of censorship, especially as the government limits audiences based on ratings.  Governments having the right to censor gives them too much power over the education of the populace.  Movie ratings of R and NC-17 have legal restrictions associated with them.  The government also controls who is sold “mature” materials.  Does it control who views them?  Is there a legal penalty for, say, parents letting their children view NC-17 films?  Individuals are welcome to censor for themselves, or for children, so long as they censor in whole.  Why is censorship a bad thing?  Objectionable content and explicit material sometimes get an idea across in the way the creator thinks is best or most powerful.  Explicit material negatives may outweigh the positives of being exposed to a new idea, for some consumers.  Also media tends to be complex with multiple subpoints versus one whole idea – so you may only be censoring a subpoint by fast forwarding one scene.  How do we judge criteria for including (whether the idea is important enough to be presented via explicit material)?  If the consumer is to make his own judgment call, how can he before viewing the piece and seeing how the scene ties in with the entirety?

Proverbs says*: the righteous foresee danger and take precautions. The fool goes on and suffers the harm, so we ought to prepare to live in third world conditions.  Third world conditions are defined as being without running water, electricity, plumbing, or transportation systems (for some examples).  The reason we should be ready is to survive and to help others survive.  We need to plan, to figure out what will be the most effective means of survival.  Stockpiling food is probably not a good long-term strategy.  Stock-piling guns so we can take food from other people or to hunt for more food was suggested, arguing that there is a concentration of food in the city that would not quickly run out.  But there is a difficulty of transporting food from where found and grown to where people are gathered in cities.  So maybe we should spread out, buy several acres and start a commune.  It would need to be protected well, grow food, raise goats and chickens.  And if the goal is survival, we might want to make sure that the members have skills needed to contribute to the commune (and exclude those who wouldn’t be assets).  Is this a realistic foreseen danger, that our country will suffer third world conditions?  Why should we believe that the prophets foreseeing this danger are righteous (or prudent as in the verse) and that we ought to follow their “wisdom”?  Reasons for suspecting upcoming danger are: specialization of skills, and the direction of our economy.  Is prevention possibly more important than preparation, and how should we balance these in priority with limited time?  Are we putting too much emphasis on one proverb or teaching?  Is not the proverb referring to an imminent danger seen just ahead – not a risk of possible danger?  How would we do this and store up treasure in heaven?  There are other benefits of preparing skills that could be useful even if the danger does not come to pass.  It would be unwise to not prepare at all.  What about “seeking first thekingdom ofGod” because our heavenly Father knows our needs?  The ability to produce necessities could help neighbors, whom we are commanded to love.

*Proverbs 27:12 (NLT, closest I could find to what was quoted in the resolution) says: “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.”

A healthy marriage is one that fights… WELL.  Fighting well is defined as with respect but no violence and without avoiding the conflict.  Never fighting is bad.  An assumption was made that there will be internalization of an offense, leading to growing bitterness, if it is not addressed between them.  The other extreme is that of violence, doing injury to one another.  A good marriage is in the middle, acknowledging and dealing with disagreement as a couple.  If the wife is obedient, isn’t there no fighting?  How does fighting well contribute to the purpose of marriage?  If conflict exists, married couples must deal with it well.  But is the existence of conflict a sign of a good marriage?  How frequently should conflict arise to prove a good marriage?  Is fighting the best way to deal with it?  Is conflict sinful?  The debaters speaking seemed frequently to assume that conflicts arose when one person sinned against another, but are there other reasons for conflict?  Is fighting sinful?  When you fight you have to work through a disagreement.  Repentance (of sin if there was sin causing the conflict) is more important than fighting. Why doesn’t the wife just submit as a way of dealing with it?  A wife should sharpen her husband (as opposed to always being silent and never expressing a dissenting opinion).  An example was given of a polygamous marriage in which one wife is sharpening her husband because that is the sort of relationship they have, but the other wives are to submit quietly and contribute to the household (think Jacob and his four wives, Rachel being the one he really wanted the emotional relationship with).  Assuming there is conflict, fighting badly and avoiding the conflict would not, either one, be productive responses.  A good marriage is one that communicates, that works as a team, and those virtues are hindered by the bad extremes of dealing with conflict.  A couple should decide in conference whether an issue is worth fighting about, and if not, let it go.  Allowing bitterness to grow (through avoiding conflict or not) is sinful.  It is a spouse’s spiritual duty as a Christian ‘brother’ to confront sin.  But it is less important to fight about non-sin.

Entertainment is wrong.  Entertainment defined as anything you do simply for pleasure or fun.  If you have more purposes, it is not entertainment.  Entertainment has unintended benefits.  Why would it be wrong?  It distracts from beneficial behavior.  It causes people to ignore good works.  It selfishly seeks gratification.  Laziness is bad.  Could we just say that entertainment shouldn’t be placed above something more beneficial?  Should people always do the most beneficial thing?  Being conscious of your motives is essential.  Are there other restrictions on fun or pleasure besides motives – extravagance of spending, content, frequency?  There is such a thing as Christian pleasure.  We are not choosing between something fun and some good work, but good works that can also be fun – or at least bring us pleasure as we honor God with our lives.  Friendship is impoverished when people cannot connect on pleasures and interests.  Does this resolution lead to justifying entertainment by adding other motives?  Or do we add entertainment to other central motives so that we get enough fun in?

In the following resolution, ‘Church’ is defined as the assembling of Christians as described in the New Testament.  Because Pigfests are so much like Church, we should let women be silent.  (This was my resolution, and as a female, I refused to say anything more after this for fifteen minutes.  A few women continued to contribute, but the debate was mostly carried by the men present.)  Pigfests are not enough like Church, in that they are not claiming to be church; only then could rules about Church apply.  Churches, definitionally, have leadership structures that Pigfests lack.  Is women’s silence useful for something in particular?  (after a pause in conversation) Things get decided faster!  The New Testament says that where two or more believers are gathered, that is Church.  So if Christians are driving in a car, the women shouldn’t talk?  If only two Christian women are present there would be no talking?  That would make for less gossip (though men gossip also).  Is a Pigfest more like church than those (in car, 2 women) gatherings?  New Testament Church was a gathering devoted to doctrine, teaching, and reading the Word of God.  New Testament church gathered for edification (one of the stated purposes for Pigfests).  New Testament Church is for worship.  Where is the verse about women being silent?  There is a scarcity of conversation when men who are used to women participating are faced with women being silent.  1 Corinthians 14:34 was read: “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says.” (NKJV)/“Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.” (NIV)  The verses assume that women are present, listening.  A husband or father can benefit in at least two ways from the “asking at home” in verse 35: 1) He needs to pay extra attention to be able to answer, 2) The man has the responsibility to participate at Church, whereas the woman just observes and has a more objective perspective.  These two perspectives are joined at home through the personal interaction with the women who saved up questions and thoughts.  How do unmarried women get their questions answered?  (In jest, it was suggested that unmarried women did not belong at church and should be out finding husbands instead.)  Unmarried women can learn from fathers.  Most “churches” in theUnited States let women speak.  Does silence mean what we think?  Why ‘let’?  Corinthians also says a few chapters before that women praying and prophesying in Church should have their heads covered, allowing speaking in some circumstances.  Both passages deal with subjection and are perhaps driving at a deeper concept that would be applicable at Pigfests.

Churches should draft all attendees to serve in preschool nursery care during service.  (My summary is not based on notes for this one, but on memory of segments caught while I was preparing dinner in the adjacent room.)  Assumes churches have nurseries.  Give visitors a few weeks before requiring them to serve.  Should service be determined by gifting, desire, request of elders/deacons, or by mandatory rule?  What are the dangers of having someone who is not a Christian or who knows nothing about taking care of children serving in those ministries?  Why are parents often expected to serve when they’re the most burnt out?  Specifically mentioned was the class of empty-nesters and older people who could be a help to young parents.  Parents need a break from children.  Why this ministry above others?  Evangelizing children is so important because you are so much more likely to get a conversion from people before they reach adulthood.  And the kids are ready to be learning truths about God and stories from the Bible that will benefit them their whole lives.  But is that what Church is for?  The same people tend to serve in many ministries and get burnt out, but a draft would ensure that those accustomed to coming to church as only consumers would contribute.  (Again, I apologize for not having more detailed notes.)

Fasting is bribing God to do what you want Him to do.  Does it always work – that God gives us what we want when we fast?  The Bible does say, of fasting, that God rewards what is done in secret.  But that reward might not be granting what we ask.  Bribery is wrong when it perverts justice.  Fasting is different from prayer.  It puts us in the mindset or mood to accept God’s will.  But people in the Bible initiate fasting when they really want something (example of Esther).  Are there other motives than asking God for something?  Should we fast merely to be open to find what God’s will is?  The act of fasting, apart from God “answering” in some way, practices self-denial and being open.  The hunger is a reminder that we are hungering for other things.  It helps us remember to pray, to practice for or relate to famine and starvation in the world.  Jesus talked about praying in secret and fasting in secret, not seeking the praise of men.  Jesus’ disciples did not fast, Jesus said, because they had the bridegroom with them.  So fasting is an appropriate response when separated, a sort of mourning.  Is Jesus with us now?  Matthew 6 contains Jesus’ teaching on fasting.  Feasting is the opposite of fasting.  Jesus also said that some demons came out by prayer and fasting.  Why did Jesus fast for 40 days?  Does the Old Testament Law have instructions for fasting, especially why?  Was there some tradition of fasting when separated from a bridegroom?  Husbands and wives, in 1 Corinthians 7, are allowed to be separate from each other only for a time of fasting.

Premarital sex is not wrong; you just have to marry the person.  Is marriage, then, to be seen as a penalty?  Paying the dowry was also required by the Old Testament law.  Fornication is often forbidden in the Bible.  The Hebrew and Greek words translated fornication are mostly associated with harlotry, or descriptions of sexual immorality or sin which would include the other sins listed in the Old Testament Law: incest, homosexuality, beastiality, rape, and adultery.  Is a male paying for dinner sufficient payment for relations to be considered prostitution?  If the woman cooks a man dinner, is she paying him?  What is the penalty in the Mosaic Law for visiting a prostitute?  Is almost barely permissible really “ok”?  What if the woman doesn’t want to marry the man?  Are they then sinning?  If the father refused, in the Old Testament, they didn’t have to marry.  It is not beneficial to prove that unwise things (as being debated: premarital sex) aren’t sinful.  Would the couple be sinning if they repeatedly had sex before they were married?  Is there a time limit before they must marry?  What is the impact of telling people they’re sinners if they aren’t sinning before God?  There are positive instructions in the Bible to keep our bodies pure, not prostituting them.  Women, at least, are also told to be chaste – and what is the definition for that?  The Old Testament allowed a man to annul his marriage if he discovered that the woman he married was not pure – not a virgin.  Is it a fair argument that because the Mosaic Law does not treat premarital sex with the same consequence (death) as other sexual sins, that it is not immoral or sinful?  The law about requiring a couple to marry is a protection for a woman, who gets one chance to choose whom she marries.  It is better, Paul said, to marry than to burn – not to give in to the burning and then get married.  What are we doing to teens who engage in this behavior but are not encouraged to marry?

*A Pigfest is 15 minutes long, and I am glad that such a topic cannot be thoroughly explored in that time.  Pigfest topics often spur further conversation, study, and debate after the party has ended.  I am aware of many such discussions and investigations following this particular resolution.  In the interest of spurring people on to holiness, I am adding some notes that were not covered in the debate.  1) It is almost impossible for premarital sex to occur without sinning in some other way – especially in dishonoring parents.  2) If Jesus’ relationship with the Church is to be well-pictured by weddings and marriages of Christians, then there will be abstinence until marriage.  Abstinence also accords with the way God instituted marriage.  3) As our ceremony and vows are not described in biblical accounts of weddings, it is hard to determine what constitutes a marriage before God.  However, the act of intercourse, it is made clear by the law in question, is not sufficient to make one married.  4) The biblical understanding of harlotry comprised more than our modern understanding of prostitutes for hire; it very likely included all premarital sex.  5) Christian virtue calls for purity, self-control, fleeing youthful lusts.  6) Marriage that is supposed to be a life-long commitment, recognizing submission as ordained by God – not governed by force or passion – is not starting out on a good foot if it is begun in insubordination to parents, giving in to lusts, and letting self control rather than be controlled.  7) We ought to hold Christians to the high standard of God, and in the New Testament era, to exercise church discipline on those unrepentant about their sin – so long as we identify sin for what it is.  8) Christians should be clear on the source of their understanding of what constitutes sin.

Betrothal should last at least one year consisting of spending a lot of supervised time with no physical intimacy.  Why so long?  Can you back out of a betrothal?  Parents would be more comfortable giving their child in marriage after such a year.  In that year a couple could learn about conflict resolution and be more mature about their relationship.  The goal would be less divorce, discovering compatibility.  Pre-arranged marriages (which had basically no interaction before the wedding) also have less divorce and are more mature, since they start with a commitment to work through the marriage.  Short engagements save you from temptation.  Should we be saved from temptations?  Long engagements enable you to save money for a wedding.  It is possible (preferable?) to know people well before you get engaged so that you wouldn’t need a year-long betrothal to get to know them.  Shouldn’t Christians just be able to have a good marriage with anyone else who is a Christian?  Why do we need all these conditions and preparations?  (For example, arranged marriages work in many cultures.)  Parents know their kids well.  Who better to decide whom they should marry?  God might know better.  It would be beneficial, in the proposed betrothal situation, to have that support and accountability that comes from the supervision.  But wouldn’t such support and accountability be just as useful if it were instituted at the beginning of a marriage?  Should community help (not supervision) end at the wedding?  Church discipline should be an option for divorce or marital problems, a further example of accountability after the wedding.  There is value in a vow.  Following people with church discipline (the only way to effectively do it in this age of church choice and denominations) can get you sued.  Do the right thing anyway; help couples to have a good relationship and hold them accountable for sin.  A show of hands revealed that there was almost unanimous support present for short engagements.  When people get married for love, then the ‘butterflies’ go away and they don’t feel like being married any more.  (Would the butterflies go away because of the year-long highly supervised, get to know each other very well betrothal?)  Some husbands ‘testified’ that the butterflies haven’t gone away.  Awwww….

Gluttony is one of the most prevalent and least talked about sins in America.  The silence is surprising given the number of health problems related to gluttony.  Gluttony is defined as desirous of food to the point where you put it above God.  How would it be put above God?  Testimony was reported of one whose “soul reached out to eating food,” that it was a focus of his life.  If gluttony was so prevalent, more people would be 400 pounds.  But there can be gluttony even in a culture with much higher risks of suffering starvation.  Gluttons desire to eat – and they aren’t picky about eating good food; in this way as in other ways, it is similar to drunkenness.  It is, however, harder to tell when a person is being gluttonous.  Obesity or lack thereof is not proof of gluttony – or of not being a glutton.  It is not gluttonous to occasionally, at feasts (think Thanksgiving), eat too much.  Why does our culture address it – when it does – as a health issue or a corporate issue instead of as sin?  The main verses addressing gluttony were found and read, particularly those in Deuteronomy and Proverbs.  Bulimia – partaking without consequences of nourishment – might be related to gluttony, though it is likely associated with other mental health (spiritual?) issues more.  If someone struggles with gluttony, it should be treated as sin – and deliverance should be sought by acknowledging it to be sin.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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As a sidewalk counselor, I encounter various arguments for abortion.  One of the arguments is that a woman has a right to self-determination.  She has the right, they say, not to be pregnant.  A person has the right to eliminate consequences of their own choices and actions.

 

Of course the real world doesn’t allow us to erase causes – or effects.  When we deal with effects, we are making more choices leading to more causes of more effects.  The initial choice is never un-made.  Likewise abortion does not un-make a child; it kills him.

 

When faced with an unwanted pregnancy, it is useful to counsel a woman about where to go from here rather than what would have been ideal.  She has a baby.  Now what?  Murder that child, give that child away, or keep that child and receive its love.  Each of those will have consequences, for the mom and the baby.  So we try to focus on those facts about the real world, when we’re out sidewalk counseling.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Last week after a prayer meeting I usually attend, a few of us got to talking about the Declaration of Independence.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life,Libertyand the pursuit of Happiness.”  One says he doesn’t believe in the right to life, but in the right to property.  Another agrees with the declaration.  I say, “Um, what does ‘rights’ mean?”  And it sounds like a silly question, but we struggle with it.  If God gives a right, is it irrevocable, even by Him, even if we do something to deserve ourselves out of it?  If our right to liberty is limited – by nature, by moral laws, or by civil laws – what does liberty even mean?  When you die, do you lose your rights?  If your rights aren’t enforced, are you stripped of them or are they merely violated?  Does having inalienable rights just mean that the rules are consistent throughout your lifetime?

Some things, besides confusion, that I came away with, are: Libertydoes not mean either the ability or the permission to make the world the way you want it – even regarding yourself.  God owns the rights to life.  God sometimes delegates His authority over the rights of others.  The Old Testament emphasizes property rights in a way that exalts land ownership higher than I am accustomed.  Israelites could sell their land, but they got it back at Jubilee.  And fathering an heir to the land, to carry on the family name and almost to own the land, was very important.  Basically, a right that furthered our dominion responsibility given by God, is much more important than some right of self-determination.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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