Answering Those Important Female Questions

A female rabbi and a female Christian pastor have written a book, claiming that because theologians haven’t explicitly laid out regulations for every part of parenting and life with children, dem nasty male theologians don’t care!

Eheheh. No.

What we see here is the nasty female tendency to demand “queen bee” regulatory power over every tiny detail of life, and to try to make every person in the entire history of the world do everything the same exact way. (These are the same kinds of people who try to make rubrics for the laity’s actions in church at Mass, when traditionally the laity could pretty much do whatever the heck that didn’t frighten the horses, and who even try to regulate the direction of peoples’ thoughts while in the pews! To heck with that.)

Dem nasty male theologians have traditionally provided women with plenty of space to do things however they feel like, as individuals and as people living in different times and places under different conditions. But apparently privacy and autonomy are evil, when a Boomer deigns to want spiritual guidance.

I also see a lot of women theologians having disrespect for oral tradition among women, as well as a total devaluation of traditional female thought and action patterns. Only academic papers count. I get tired of this.

OTOH, it’s promising that these ladies did actually admit that, gosh, raising kids and making food is fulfilling and spiritual. But apparently you can’t just do it; you have to define it! and get men to listen! in only the correct way! because otherwise lived experience is valueless!

Sigh. Look, I’m a nerd, and even I think this is socially dysfunctional.

Also, for the record, as a kid I really loved all the bloody, scary parts of Scripture. (But not the mushy parts. Ew! Cooties!) This is pretty typical among kids. It’s the slightly older, more sensitive boys who tend to get bothered by the sacrifice of Isaac story, because they can start imagining themselves in the story. Maybe some girls worry about it too, but it’s boys who usually have the theological worries.

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Answering Those Important Male Questions

Steven Den Beste asked the rhetorical question, “Can wind lifts actually happen outside anime?”

1. Yes, they can.

2. If one is unwary, if one wears a badly-engineered or naturally flippy skirt, and if one does not wear a slip or shorts under one’s skirt. (And as an ex-schoolgirl who wore the classic plaid jumper, most of us wore our shorts underneath during most of the year. Sorry, guys.)

3. However, most girls learn early that one has to watch out for both wind and six-year-old guys; and they take countermeasures like holding the skirt down, or wearing a longish jacket/raincoat, or just not wearing a skirt on an overly windy day.

4. Bear in mind that if the wind is really that strong, you don’t really want your legs or hiney experiencing wind chill. It’s also probably pretty cold on the hiney, even with the skirt in its proper place. (Hence the current popularity of wearing leggings under skirts in the winter, or even shorts versions of long undies.)

5. In addition to being supposed to be worn significantly lower on the leg than anime girls do (and to be fair, I have heard that a lot of girls in the US, past and present, also have been known to hike up their skirts when they get out of sight of home), the classic plaid jumper pleats are engineered so as to hang down rather heavily and thus protect modesty. They feel pleasantly flippy to the wearer, but they are surprisingly difficult to mess up.

(The same is true of the short, tailored Victorian men’s kilt, from which the classic plaid jumper distantly derives. Since Scotsmen don’t wear any undies under their kilts except their shirt-tails, which of course do count as underwear from a medieval point of view, their Victorian tailors had a vested interest in protecting their tender bits from the cold north wind.)

6. So in real life, it’s a situation full of embarrassment and chagrin. Your organization and presentation have failed, as well as your attempts at modesty; this is a predictable wardrobe malfunction which you failed to prevent. Also, you have just exposed yourself to the rigors of the weather, as well as your neighbors. Of course, some woman somewhere is always going to be doing something like this on purpose, to attract attention, so one may also be anxious to establish that it was a true accident and not artifice. (“Why, yes, I’m an idiot, not a slut.”) Chagrin, chagrin, chagrin.

7. Now, there is the special case of “walking over a hot air grate in a city.” Most women would not actually do this while in a Marilyn Monroe outfit, because that entails wearing high heels. We have a lot of fear of our heels getting stuck in grates, and of accidental damage to the shoes from hitting the metal wrong. But it is pleasant to walk over a hot air grate in the fall or winter while wearing a skirt, if one is wearing a coat long enough to hold down the skirt, or if the hot air is not overly powerful. So as one would expect, the Marilyn Monroe version of this nice warm-up moment in the city is pure fantasy. But it’s an amusing fantasy.

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Newman Explains Vatican News

I’ve been reading Bl. John Henry Newman’s famous history book, Arians of the Fourth Century. The more he researched and wrote it, the more he recognized the failings of his own beloved Anglican Church. After he finished the book and moved on to studying the fifth century Monophysites, the situation got even worse for him. As he famously pointed out in his conversion autobiography, Apologia pro Vita Sua:

“….here, in the middle of the fifth century, I found, as it seemed to me, Christendom of the sixteenth and the nineteenth centuries reflected. I saw my face in that mirror, and I was a Monophysite. The Church of the Via Media was in the position of the Oriental communion; Rome was, where she now is; and the Protestants were the Eutychians.”

So if you’ve ever wondered why he said that “To be deep in history is to cease being Protestant,” that’s why.

Anyway, human nature is human nature at all times and places, even though culture can change its expression radically. So let’s look into Newman’s Arian mirror and see some familiar faces!

One of the most important points that Newman brings up is that Arius was far from being the first Arian. He did his studies in Syria, not Alexandria. The Antioch schools were known for teaching literal and historical studies of the Bible, in contrast to Alexandria’s love of studying spiritual meanings. But Antioch was also known for its long line of heretics, starting with Bishop Paulus of Samosata (an ex-sophist who sucked up to Queen Zenobia and lost his see for teaching heresies). More, there was his friend St. Lucian of Antioch, who died a repentant martyr and lived as a scholar and editor of a new Septuagint edition, but who first managed to get himself excommunicated for many years for teaching a long list of heresies. He was the actual direct teacher of Arius, Eusebius of Nicomedia, Leontius, and a host of other prominent Arian and Semi-Arian bishops, and they constantly leaned on his teaching authority to explain their bizarre ideas. Then they leaned on Paulus’ sophist rhetorical techniques to confuse the issues.

During this time, it was still customary for the Church to observe the disciplina arcani, a reverent concealment from the unbaptized of the really big doctrines of the Faith, which also entailed the departure of unbaptized persons from Mass before the Liturgy of the Eucharist could begin. There was a great deal of zeal for evangelization by pious pastors, but a great deal of reluctance to argue sacred doctrines in public, and thus drag God’s family matters through the mud. It was very difficult for people who knew better to argue against heresies, under these conditions. It was also tragically easy for glib Arians to drag unbaptized Christians into their groups, because they were willing to publicly “explain” the mysteries not yet revealed to them. There were also a lot of Christian academics running around who were perfectly willing to “explain” the Bible in some very loose, undemanding ways. People didn’t know who to believe.

Newman quotes Tertullian about similar practices among the Gnostics:

“It is uncertain… who among them is catechumen, who believer. They meet alike, they hear alike, they pray alike; nay, though the heathen should drop in, they will cast holy things to dogs, and their pearls, false jewels as they are, to swine. This overthrow of order they call simplicity, and our attention to it they call meretricious embellishment. They [receive Communion] with all men promiscuously; it being nothing to them in what they differ from them, provided they join with them for the destruction of the truth. They are all high-minded; all make pretence of knowledge. Their catechumens are perfect in the faith before they are fully taught.”

(De praescriptione haereticorum, 41.)

Newman explains why strong debate suddenly had to become a big thing for orthodox Catholics:

“Under these circumstances, it was the duty of the rulers of the Church, at whatever sacrifice of their feelings, to discuss the subject in controversy fully and unreservedly, and to state their decision openly. The only alternative was an unmanly non-interference, and an arbitrary or treacherous prohibition of the discussion. To enjoin silence on perplexed inquirers, is not to silence their thoughts; and in the case of serious minds, it is but natural to turn to the spiritual ruler for advice and relief, and to feel disappointment at the timidity, or irritation at the harshness, of those who refuse to lead a lawful inquiry which they cannot stifle. Such a course, then, is most unwise as well as cruel, inasmuch as it throws the question in dispute upon other arbitrators; or rather, it is more commonly insincere, the traitorous act of those who care little for the question in dispute, and are content that opinions should secretly prevail which they profess to condemn.”

Some people tried to create harmony in the Church by finding some formula that everybody could agree upon. That didn’t work.

“To attempt comprehensions of opinion, amiable as the motive frequently is, is to mistake arrangements of words, which have no existence except on paper, for habits which are realities; and ingenious generalizations of discordant sentiments for that practical agreement which alone can lead to co-operation…

…there are no two opinions so contrary to each other, but some form of words may be found vague enough to comprehend them both.”

Newman also talks about why people who don’t really care about God or religion would try to impose a certain creed on other people who do love God, or would work so hard to find mental evasions around the truth. (Bolding mine.)

“It may at first sight excite our surprise, that men who were so little careful to be consistent in their professions of faith, should be at the pains to find evasions for a test, which they might have subscribed as a matter of course, and then dismissed from their thoughts. But, not to mention the natural desire of continuing an opposition to which they had once committed themselves, and especially after a defeat, there is, moreover, that in religious mysteries which is ever distasteful to secular minds. The marvellous, which is sure to excite the impatience and resentment of the baffled reason, becomes insupportable when found in those solemn topics, which it would fain look upon, as necessary indeed for the uneducated, but irrelevant when addressed to those who are already skilled in the knowledge and the superficial decencies of virtue. The difficulties of science may be dismissed from the mind, and virtually forgotten; the precepts of morality, imperative as they are, may be received with the condescension, and applied with the modifications, of a self-applauding refinement. But what at once demands attention, yet refuses to satisfy curiosity, places itself above the human mind, imprints on it the thought of Him who is eternal, and enforces the necessity of obedience for its own sake. And thus it becomes to the proud and irreverent, what the consciousness of guilt is to the sinner: a spectre haunting the field, and disturbing the complacency, of their intellectual investigations….

“…it is not wonderful, that those, who would confine our knowledge of God to things seen, should dislike to hear of His true and only Image. If the unbeliever has attempted to account for the rise of the doctrine, by the alleged natural growth of a veneration for the Person and acts of the Redeemer, let it at least be allowed to Christians to reverse the process of argument, and to maintain rather, that a low estimation of the evangelical blessings leads to unworthy conceptions of the Author of them. In the case of laymen it will show itself in a sceptical neglect of the subject of religion altogether; while ecclesiastics, on whose minds religion is forced, are tempted either to an undue exaltation of their order, or to a creed dishonourable to their Lord.”

Newman also talks about the Semi-Arians. Some of them were good Christians who were just confused, and some of them became saints and martyrs. But others were pretty nasty customers. One of the more interesting cases was St. Mark of Arethusa, a Semi-Arian bishop who once saved the life of young Julian the Apostate when some of the imperial family wanted to murder him along with his family. When Julian became Emperor, he learned that St. Mark had once pulled down a pagan temple. Julian condemned his savior, but “only” demanded that Mark rebuild the temple at his own or Church expense. Revolted by the very idea, St. Mark fled. People from his diocese were taken hostage against his return. St. Mark came back, and now the Emperor’s rescuer was to be treated like his enemy. He was scourged, had his beard torn out, was tortured in many ways, and then was dipped in honey, suspended in a net hanging from a frame, and thus was exposed while totally naked to all kinds of biting and stinging insects. While refusing to donate even one piece of gold to rebuild a pagan temple, he bore his sufferings bravely and humorously, and eventually was freed.

There’s a lot of good stuff here. There’s the discussion of how Patriarch Alexander of Alexandria let Arius get out of hand:

“In a public meeting of the clergy of Alexandria, [Arius] accused his diocesan of Sabellianism; an insult which Alexander, from deference to the talents and learning of the objector, sustained with somewhat too little of the dignity befitting “the ruler of the people.” The mischief which ensued from his misplaced meekness was considerable. Arius was one of the public preachers of Alexandria; and, as some suppose, Master of the Catechetical School. Others of the city Presbyters were stimulated by his example to similar irregularities. Colluthus, Carponas, and Sarmatas began to form each his own party in a Church which Meletius had already troubled; and Colluthus went so far as to promulgate an heretical doctrine, and to found a sect. Still hoping to settle these disorders without the exercise of his episcopal power, Alexander summoned a meeting of his clergy, in which Arius was allowed to state his doctrines freely, and to argue in their defence; and, whether from a desire not to overbear the discussion, or from distrust in his own power of accurately expressing the truth, and anxiety about the charge of heresy brought against himself, the Primate, though in no wise a man of feeble mind, is said to have refrained from committing himself on the controverted subject, “applauding,” as Sozomen tells us, “sometimes the one party, sometimes the other.” At length the error of Arius appeared to be of so serious and confirmed a nature, that countenance of it would have been sinful. It began to spread beyond the Alexandrian Church; the indecision of Alexander excited the murmurs of the Catholics; till, called unwillingly to the discharge of a severe duty, he gave public evidence of his real indignation against the blasphemies which he had so long endured, by excommunicating Arius with his followers.”

There’s a long discussion about why Emperor Constantine got fooled by the Arians into thinking that their theological differences were no big deal. I’ll only quote part of it:

“Concord is so eminently the perfection of the Christian temper, conduct, and discipline, and it had been so wonderfully exemplified in the previous history of the Church, that it was almost unavoidable in a heathen soldier and statesman to regard it as the sole precept of the Gospel.”

Here’s a really good bit about why the Church gets mixed up in politics:

“Strictly speaking, the Christian Church, as being a visible society, is necessarily a political power or party. It may be a party triumphant, or a party under persecution; but a party it always must be, prior in existence to the civil institutions with which it is surrounded, and from its latent divinity formidable and influential, even to the end of time. The grant of permanency was made in the beginning, not to the mere doctrine of the Gospel, but to the Association itself built upon the doctrine; in prediction, not only of the indestructibility of Christianity, but of the medium also through which it was to be manifested to the world. Thus the Ecclesiastical Body is a divinely-appointed means, towards realizing the great evangelical blessings. Christians depart from their duty, or become in an offensive sense political, not when they act as members of one community, but when they do so for temporal ends or in an illegal manner; not when they assume the attitude of a party, but when they split into many. If the primitive believers did not interfere with the acts of the civil government, it was merely because they had no civil rights enabling them legally to do so. But where they have rights, the case is different; and the existence of a secular spirit is to be ascertained, not by their using these, but their using them for ends short of the ends for which they were given.

“…In truth, the Church was framed for the express purpose of interfering, or (as irreligious men will say) meddling with the world. It is the plain duty of its members, not only to associate internally, but also to develop that internal union in an external warfare with the spirit of evil, whether in Kings’ courts or among the mixed multitude; and, if they can do nothing else, at least they can suffer for the truth, and remind men of it, by inflicting on them the task of persecution.”

I’m still reading the book, but Arians of the Fourth Century is excellent. You can download a nice PDF from archive.org, or you can read it over at Newman Reader.

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Mother Angelica’s Passing

She passed away on Easter Sunday, which is certainly fitting.

With God’s help and for His glory, she started with a tiny apostolate and a garage, and ended up with two religious orders and a media empire.

Grant eternal rest unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace. Amen.

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Good News, Bad News

The good news is that I have a day off.

The bad news is that I woke up with a cold.

I am now drinking soup with lots of garlic and chicken in it.

PS – Wednesday is the spectacular two-part season finale of Rebels. Be there or be square!

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The Legend of Serah, Daughter of Asher

Okay, I definitely have never heard about this female Biblical character before. I’m afraid my eyes went right over her name.

According to the Bible, Serah or Serach was a daughter of Asher who traveled to Egypt to live there under Joseph’s patronage (Gen. 46:17). And also according to the Bible, there was a Serah, daughter of Asher, who went out of Egypt during the Exodus. 210 years later. (Num. 26:46) (1 Chron. 7:30)

This of course was noticed by the ancient rabbis, and made her the subject of a lot of speculation and stories. (Hint: she was a good guy.) She was supposedly the one person who was able to identify Moses and Aaron as sent by God to save the Israelites, thanks to a prophecy passed to her by Asher. She was also the one who remembered where Joseph’s coffin was kept. Some legends even connect her to the “wise woman” in the Book of Samuel (2 Samuel 20:16) who negotiated with Joab and agreed to get the townspeople of Abel Beth-Maacah to execute Sheba son of Bikri, according to an interpretation that reads “I am peaceable and faithful in Israel” (2 Sam. 20:19) or “I seek the welfare of the faithful in Israel” [shelomei emunei Yisrael] as “I completed [the number of] the faithful of Israel.” [shelumai emunei Yisrael] Furthermore, it was said by some rabbis that because she was so good and wise, God allowed her to enter Paradise without dying first (just like Enoch).

The women of the tribe of Asher were traditionally supposed to have been very beautiful, refined, modest, devoted to their kids, and wise (and hence very popular as wives for priests, and for high status men of other tribes). The prophetess Anna daughter of Phanuel, whom Luke tells us never left the Temple and was waiting for the Messiah to be born, was from the tribe of Asher. Asher tribeswomen were all known as “daughters of Asher,” so obviously it might not have been the same Serah before and after the Exodus! But it is a cool story, and shows yet again that Mary’s Assumption is part of a long tradition about righteous Jews going to heaven body and soul.

The downside of the popularity of Asher tribe girls was that the tribe of Asher never got very big!

Here’s another article recounting legends about Serach, such as that her brothers and cousins looked to her to break the news that Joseph was still alive, without giving Jacob a heart attack.:) Read the whole thing, including the footnotes, to find out about how Serach was supposedly a prophetess, and about how pious Jews invoked her name for a safe journey, and for protection against being harmed by wicked people.

More about Serah bat Asher. This article names her as the one who saw angels at the crossing of the Red Sea/Reed Sea, and elaborates further on the legend that she was able to tell later generations what it looked like to have the sea rise up on the right and left. It also elaborates on her fate: perhaps she still wanders the earth keeping an eye on the Jews (like some stories about Elijah); and perhaps she runs a women’s Torah school in Heaven, where all the saintly women who worked hard as caregivers can finally sit down and learn Torah instead.

This Jewish encyclopedia article has more about Serach’s legend, including the association of her name with the expression “serah ha-odef” [“something left over”, or “the remnant remaining”] in Ex. 26:12.

There’s also a rabbinical list of all the people who went to Paradise alive: “Enoch, Elijah, Pharaoh’s daughter Bithiah (1 Chron. 4:17-18), the three sons of Korah, King Hiram of Tyre, Jabez, Jonadab son of Rechab and his descendants, Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, Abraham’s servant Eliezer, the slave of Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi, and Rabbi Joshua ben Levi.”

And that’s a very mixed bunch!

Serah bat Asher on Wikipedia.

“Serah Bat Asher in Rabbinical Literature”: PDF. An academic article about Serah’s legend, which points out that unlike Dinah and Miriam, the other famous and named unmarried women of this part of the Bible, tradition never provides Serah with a husband or children. She’s a virgin all her life. This article goes into detail about the Persian tradition that she died in a horrible medieval synagogue fire in Isfahan, and that her mausoleum was a place of pilgrimage for Persian Jews. Only people of good character could get past the doorposts of the tomb, because the doorway shrinks to keep out the unrighteous. She also shows up as a character in Thomas Mann’s novel, Joseph and His Brothers.

This article says that during the Exodus, Serah was the only one able to look upon God and live. She showed David the Foundation Stone for the Temple, and she helped Jeremiah to hide the Ark and the sacred vessels. This article gives a different version of the Persian synagogue fire: it was caused by a fiery chariot coming to pick Serah up, the fire did not harm the Isfahan synagogue, and the grave is just a memorial cenotaph with no body in it.

This article talks about the connection between Joseph’s words in Gen. 50:24-25, and Moses’ words in Ex. 3:16, as well as Gen. 21:1 and the story of Sarah and Isaac. Traditionally it is Serah who points out the similarity of words.

An interesting analysis of the meaning of the Hebrew name “Serah.” It would seem that her name means something like “free” or “unrestrained” as well as something like “abundance” and “overlapping, excess.”

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Interesting Talk about Wright Field’s History

There is now such a thing as the Fairborn Historical Society, and they held a very interesting talk today about the history of Wright Field. There were two speakers. The first one had written several short histories about Dayton aviation and Wright-Patterson AFB, and the second one was the architect in charge of restoring Wright-Patt’s historic buildings. There was a lot of good information.

One thing that was new to me was the existence of a POW camp at Wright Field during WWII, almost literally next door to several classified research areas. The German and Italian POWs unloaded train cars. They also left a 120 foot mural behind.

One of the base’s contributions to the war effort was Project LUSTY, which stood for LUftwaffe Secret TechnologY. (Yeah, a little bit of acronym torture….) Captured planes and documents were brought over to the US and studied. One pristine Messerschmidt jet plane was delivered fresh from the factory to the Americans in France, courtesy of its ferry pilot’s decision to defect. Thanks to test flights, this plane eventually ended up as wreckage in a field two miles outside Xenia. The farmer held out for money from the government before permitting retrieval… and he’s still waiting! It’s still there!

We also learned about the amazing airminded skullduggery of Colonel Deeds, something that I certainly had never heard about. What was really amazing was that he was never indicted. Dayton’s local heroes are a very mixed bag!

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