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Sunday, 14 August 2016

Aslan is on the move!

Aslan is on the move.

After one hundred years of always winter and never Christmas (as unlikely as such a situation is to conceive, without total starvation), things seemed as grim as they could get. Of the four humans sent into Narnia for some unknown purpose, one had already defected to the White Witch, and the other three were being hunted for their very lives. The beaver's home had been raided and his comrades turned to stone. How much worse could it get? Yet it was being whispered that despite all the bad tidings, a fundamental shift was taking place: Aslan was on the move.

Things are pretty discouraging right now on the front of religious liberty in the Western Hemisphere.  Whispers come at us from every direction. Whispers of Ken Miller being threatened with more hard time for refusing to testify against Philip. Whispers of Timo Miller being dragged off his bicycle on a Nicaraguan street into a waiting van and hauled off to who-know-where--perhaps the notorious Chipote Prison? Whispers of Interpol being involved, but no one willing to confirm anything officially. It's looking pretty grim.

Aslan is on the move. There is no outward evidence of it--only those whose undying loyalty he holds can sense it. But as the cycles of time wheel around to line up in their ultimate configuration, the current regime under which the whole world groans is developing cracks. It's going down.

Spring is coming; nothing can hold it back.

Take heart. Stand firm. Aslan is on the move.

UPDATE August 17: To those of you, especially in Nicaragua, coming here for an update on Timo Miller, I'm not going to be sharing everything I know. You probably have access to pretty much the same sources I do, and things are too up in the air to be drawing any conclusions from the data that is available. The main point is that while we may not know what is going on, God does. I will say I expect that when the kidnapping trial opens in Buffalo in the coming weeks, Timo will be present.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Another look at Loving v. Virginia

Today, in honor of Loving Day (which would have been celebrated yesterday, but for the modern habit of moving the observance of all holidays to Monday), The White Man will revisit the case which brought it about: Richard Perry Loving, Mildred Jeter Loving v. Virginia.
Right off the bat, there's a problem: look at the photo of the famous couple, described everywhere as being of separate races:

Note that whilst they are described as "white" and "black" respectively, it is evident that they have the same skin tone just by comparing where their bodies touch. Mildred Jeter, at the time Richard Loving impregnated her, was basically as white as he was. What she had, and he hadn't, was verified African and Native American Ancestry, in addition to the majority European ancestry that they both shared; and under the law then current in Virginia, their entire lives must needs conform to that almost invisible distinction.

This is very important: had it not been that all Virginians were already divided, first by convention and then by law, into discrete categories of Pure European and Not Pure European, there never would have been a case. Mildred's European ancestry, despite contributing the majority of her genome, counted for nothing, admixed as it was with the blood of supressed races. Thus the whole foundation of the Racial Integrity Act, which Loving v. Virginia overturned, was a distinct theology of racial purity which deliberately sought to ignore the reality of the racial mixing plainly evident just by looking at the co-defendants.  It is the height of hypocrisy that none of Mildred's European ancestors were ever prosecuted for raping their African slaves, yet her lawful husband was prosecuted for sleeping with her, with her full consent. It was a law that had no chance of surviving in a righteous nation.

Loving v. Virginia was long thought to be the culmination of Supreme Court decisions that invalidated laws meant to prevent fornication and adultery; but these were to resume under a new court after a 20-year hiatus. So rare was homosexuality in the mid-1960's, it's unlikely that anyone at the time would have been able to predict that in her own lifetime (and she only lived another four decades), Mildred Loving would be able to point out, to widespread acclaim, that by filing suit against the state that denied the validity of the one-flesh relationship she shared with her husband, she was laying the grounds for the invalidation of all laws that denied equal treatment in the eyes of the law to people of the same sex who cohabited in the same way she and Richard had.

Ironically, the eight years since Mildred Loving's death have still failed to eliminate the classification into which she is always placed, now usually referred to as "African-American," but recent months have seen the proliferation of people who are still pigeonholed by race, but left free to change their gender at will. Thus Virginia's Act could yet stand, with modern Lovings fully evading its force merely by claiming to be of the same sex. The bizarre twisting of reality gets ever worse: race is as immutable as ever, but it is sex that is now malleable to the will of the person claiming it.

Backing up to the Racial Integrity Act, we see that it was specifically written to criminalize relationships such as that of the Lovings, which under common law had never been illegal:

"This bill aims at correcting a condition which only the more thoughtful people of Virginia know the existence of.
 It is estimated that there are in the State from 10,000 to 20,000, possibly more, near white people, who are known to possess an intermixture of colored blood, in some cases to a slight extent it is true, but still enough to prevent them from being white.
 In the past it has been possible for these people to declare themselves as white, or even to have the Court so declare them. Then they have demanded the admittance of their children in the white schools, and in not a few cases have intermarried with white people.
 In many counties they exist as distinct colonies holding themselves aloof from Negroes, but not being admitted by the white people as of their race.
 In any large gathering or school of colored people, especially in the cities, many will be observed who are scarcely distinguishable as colored.
 These persons, however, are not white in reality, nor by the new definition of this law, that a white person is one with no trace of the blood of another race, except that a person with one-sixteenth of the American Indian, if there is no other race mixture, may be classed as white. "

It is obvious on its face that this law was designed to reserve special rights and privileges to those with no discernible trace of non-European heritage (a loophole having been inserted to allow white people to claim descent from the famous princess Pocahontas).  This approach had already been roundly condemned by Justice White in his McLaughlin v. Florida decision earlier in the decade:

"That a general evil will be partially corrected may at times, and without more, serve to justify the limited application of a criminal law; but legislative discretion to employ the piecemeal approach stops short of permitting a State to narrow statutory coverage to focus on a racial group."

It is quite ironic that the Racial Integrity Act, a product of the American Eugenics Movement, is now so roundly condemned by everyone from Supreme Court Justices on down, whilst the other major achievement of that movement--the suppression of the black race by sterilization and abortion--is still celebrated as a major victory for women, its crowning victory, Roe v. Wade, having been handed down by the same court that overruled the decision of Pace v. Alabama.

Under the Racial Integrity Act, the sanctity of Mildred Loving's bedroom could be invaded by officers hoping to catch her in the act of sleeping with her husband. Under Obergefell v. Hodges, which cited Loving v. Virginia as precedent, the sanctity of her daughter's bathroom stall can now be invaded by any sexual predator claiming to share her gender.

This, we are told, is progress.

One more thing: Obergefell v. Hodges effectively replaced 'race' with 'gender' in evaluating whether any law since Loving v. Virginia can be held to provide equal treatment under the law. Just imagine all the implications of doing this to Associate Justice Potter Stewart's concurring opinion, in which he stated that "it is simply not possible for a state law to be valid under our Constitution which makes the criminality of an act depend upon the race of the actor."

The first result of this ruling being applied in such manner is that no state will be able to continue regulating the depiction nor the exhibition of any part of the human mammary gland (nor will Facebook, or eventually any other interactive website). Better get used to it; it's coming.

And it will be hailed as progress.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

My encounter with Donn Ketcham

I say, what a week. About a thousand people have accessed this blog in the past two days following the publication of a Christianity Today article on Donn Ketcham. For only the second time, albinism is the second most popular topic here. So it's only appropriate that I write a little further on the topic, including an account of my own encounter with the good doctor.

But first, an examination of the recently released  ABWE and Donn Ketcham Investigations Final Report. My comments will be interspersed, in italics.

Analysis indicates that there existed, and in some cases exist today, typically unspoken beliefs and attitudes within ABWE that were revealed through the investigation by way of documents and interviews – beliefs and attitudes that contributed to missionary family and ABWE administrative lack of awareness, lack of responsiveness, and poor decision-making regarding policy violations and abuse behaviors and events. The root causes of significant impact include:

1. There existed a prevailing attitude toward authority in evangelical circles, primarily that there was a "spirituality" standard that required unquestioning compliance with authority. This attitude prevented the development of a healthy system of checks and balances and openness to corrective actions. Critical thinking skills were suspended.

This is a prevalent problem in evangelical circles that have been influenced by Bill Gothard or the Patriarchy movement. But, on the mission field, it goes back way further than that--it probably originated in a military mindset.

2. There existed a focus on ministry as being the top priority. Individual needs and voices tended to be dismissed in the service of the "greater good", i.e. ministry and the spread of the Gospel.

There is also a warped sense of priorities: the work must go on, even if the worker is tainted by sin. Yet, nationals are held to a higher standard, and can be summarily dismissed if under suspicion of moral failure.

3. There existed a prevailing attitude about the status of women in the work place. Especially in the historical time period under investigation women were considered "support" personnel. As such, their opinions and observations carried less weight and were easier to dismiss and ignore. Because women were considered of lesser value, it was easier to "send them home" and/or remove them from the mission, i.e. Donn Ketcham’s lovers over the decades.

 This is a good point; it is almost always MEN who are kept on in spite of moral failure; single women are much more expendable.

4. There existed a prevailing attitude toward children relative to the ministry and to adults. Ministry activities were more important than child needs. Children were not to interfere with or block the "ministry". In fact, children were "sacrificed" so that the ministry would not be "discredited." This, in part, led to blaming a child for what was, in truth, the responsibility of an adult. This also led to children not speaking up about what was happening to them. The children saw much that the adults missed.

5. There existed a prevailing belief that missionaries are "more spiritual" than the average Christian, and because of their "sacrifices" are "entitled." This creates a vulnerability to and blindness about wrongful (and even criminal) behaviors, i.e. a tolerance of Donn Ketcham using inappropriate sexual joking and bragging about his sexual exploits with National women.

Missionaries are thought of as more spiritual, due to their biblical training and being in "Full-time Christian Service." There is also the Baptist focus on right theology over right living.

6. There existed a class system of value and importance on the field. A doctor was considered more important than others, which led to a sense of subservience and obedience on the part of the victims and observers who might have otherwise spoken out regarding Donn Ketcham’s abusive behaviors. This class system impacted the Donn Ketcham family as well.

7. There existed an idealization of Donn Ketcham, a doctor, whose charisma garnered many dollars for ABWE and blinded many people to his true character, i.e."How could such a wonderful man who did so much for the Ministry be that bad? was an oft reported sentiment." For example:

a. He became a demigod in the mission. Donn Ketcham contributed to his persona by presenting himself as a strong spiritual leader, preaching, speaking, and leading Bible studies. He often instructed and condemned others on the very sins he was and had been committing for decades.

b. A result of the idealization is that other decision-makers set aside their own opinions and capacities and deferred to Donn Ketcham, including ABWE administrators who were in positions of authority over Donn Ketcham.

8. There existed a customization of ABWE Principles and Practices and consequences for violation of those Principles and Practices for Donn Ketcham while the organization strictly enforced the Principles and Practices and violation consequences for other mission personnel. For example:

a. Donn Ketcham’s paramours were removed from the field in spite of their pleas to return, while Donn Ketcham was allowed to return.

b. One missionary family was sent home and required to attend 2 years of counseling followed by a period of observation for issues related to parenting a high-needs child. Donn Ketcham, on the other hand, was sent to Chittagong (a discipline that was not strictly enforced) and required to complete a recommended possible 30 sessions of counseling, of which he
only completed 17, for outright violation of ABWE’s code of behavior. Of note, the missionary family’s requirements for counseling were at Donn Ketcham’s insistence.

c. Counselors selected in the Donn Ketcham matter failed due to inadequate training and experience, a lack of professional certification and licensure, conflict of interest, accepting assignments outside of scope of expertise, and ethics violations as to working with the perpetrator and his victim/survivor.

9. There existed a conflict between administering ABWE as a faith-based entity (grace, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, etc.) versus a corporate/business entity (with protective policies and procedures in place, governance checks and balances, etc.). For example:

a. This confusion allowed compassion and forgiveness to block appropriate legal and administrative actions. Equally, it allowed organizational concerns (i.e. financial, the need for doctors) to repeatedly block appropriate responses to victim/survivors.

b. This confusion resulted in ABWE not reporting to authorities Donn Ketcham’s pedophilia as it became known to the organization over decades.

c. This confusion and lack of following corporate principles and practices in place, resulted in multiple affairs and the sexual and emotional abuse of both adult women and children.

d. This confusion allowed "forgiveness" (a faith-based concept) to be used in the service of corporate avoidance of tough issues, i.e. Donn Ketcham’s preferential treatment, a child being blamed for the sexual abuse perpetrated by Donn Ketcham in order to protect Donn Ketcham’s wife, Donn Ketcham continuing in a leadership role even while home for discipline, and a misleading confession avoiding the truth of child sexual abuse being presented with no supervision by ABWE.

e. This confusion contributed to ABWE’s failure to seek out or use appropriate professional and legal counsel for Donn Ketcham when the organization was aware of and had worked with such professionals in matters affecting other ABWE missionaries.

10. There existed a difficulty with logistics in that time period which resulted in a lack of timely communication between Bangladesh and the U.S. headquarters and vice versa.

a. This isolation tends to make people cling tighter to what is familiar, hence the development of "we’re all family" (aunts and uncles). Such a family sense makes it more difficult for people to have perspective, to ask for
information, to critique inappropriate actions, and to see reality, i.e. many still refer to the 13-14 year old missionary kid (MK) victim/survivor as a "consenting (implied) adult".

b. Such an isolated community also creates a "tribal knowledge" where facts are assumed, truth is unintentionally distorted (i.e. time frames, ages) – all of which lead to difficulty "connecting the dots" when abuse happens.

11. There existed a culture of naiveté, due in large part to the underlying mistaken belief that "abuse doesn’t happen in Christian circles."

a. This created an environment in which behavior that would activate a censorship response in most circles was dismissed or ignored.

b. Children’s fears (and in some cases terror) of physical exams with Donn Ketcham was ignored.

c. This attitude also prevented acquisition and dissemination of information about abuse, abuse behaviors, grooming behaviors, and symptoms displayed by abused victims. With no one educated about abuse, or aware that it is a possibility in ANY environment, the mission compound became a fertile field for a manipulator and abuser.

d. Naiveté also made it easy for Donn Ketcham to find, prey on, and intimidate victims and potential witnesses.

A final comment: I wonder if one reason why ABWE leadership was so willing to overlook Donn's sin was that they were blinded by their own guilt in the same areas. An example of this which has come to light is that of  R. C. Sproul Jr.

Okay, now for my encounter with Dr. Ketcham.

It is interesting now to think back to October 1987 and realize that at the time Donn Ketcham spoke in a missions conference I attended, he was already under counseling from ABWE for the very sort of behaviour for which he was not long  afterward expelled. Yet, there he was preaching as an official representative of ABWE. And I must say, he was a very good preacher--I still remember that his subject was Gideon. There was nothing in his persona as a preacher to indicate the darkness that was even then consuming his soul. Nor, I expect, was any big announcement made from that same pulpit 2 years later announcing the fall of that famous preacher. No, such smug announcements were always reserved for the guy from the other theological camp.

Monday, 2 May 2016

What is a transgender? An linguistic answer

Chances are you are arriving at this blog as the result of an internet search. This isn't surprising, as the concept of transgender has exploded upon the public consciousness of the western world rather recently, and many people are confused as to just what transgender means or is. As a scholar who has been following this topic for several decades, it is incumbent upon me to make things as plain as possible--as I did for my series of posts on albinism, which continue to enlighten thousands every year.

Let's start with a contemporary definition, taken from the first hit on a Google search:

Transgender: denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender.

So, right off we see that transgender is unconventional. From the same source, that word is defined:

Unconventional: not based on or conforming to what is generally done or believed.

So, transgender is something unusual, not ordinary. In fact, it doesn't even fit into a conventional belief system. To sum it up, transgender is a new way of looking at the world that conflicts with what has previously been done and believed. Let's go back a bit and see how earlier dictionaries defined it:

According to Google Ngram, the word was first coined at the dawn of the 20th century. But one will look in vain for even a mention of the word in any dictionary before the close of that century. It isn't found in my Funk & Wagnell's Unabridged Dictionary of 1929 (updated 1959), nor my Websters Collegiate Dictionary of 1983 (updated 1991; published citations of the word doubled in the following year). Popular usage of the word itself is younger than the majority of people claiming that it describes them. Instead, one will have to look elsewhere for a word that describes the actions and beliefs now codified in the word transgender: transvestite.

It first appears in Google Ingram in 1897, but the word, and the behaviour it connotes, were so new in 1929 that Funk & Wagnells didn't include it. It remained so obscure that even thirty years of updates failed to add it to the lexicon. By 1983, however, Websters includes the word, dating its origin to ca. 1922, and defines it as:

Transvestite: A person . . . who adopts the dress and often the behavior typical of the opposite sex esp. for purposes of emotional or sexual gratification.

This is exactly the definition of a transgender. Only the label has changed, and this transfer was not complete until the dawn of this century.

Why the change in label? It certainly isn't because 'transvestite' is no longer a useful word. Look through photos of those claiming to be trangender women (often abbreviated as 'trans woman') and you will see that virtually 100% have long hair. Why? Because although there is no longer any cultural expectation that a woman not shear her locks, long hair is still culturally associated with the female sex, and those desperate to present themselves as women universally subvert this cultural norm to their own purposes.

Likewise, dresses. "Trans women" are much more likely to appear in public wearing a dress then are women themselves. Again, it is all part of a desperate ploy to appear feminine using any cultural device available to them.

So far, we are only speaking of transvestites--a word composed of elements that refer to regulating one's public appearance to match that of the opposite sex. But transgender goes beyond that; it claims to have effected an actual transference from one sex to the other. In this, it co-ops another word that adequately describes what happens in nature when certain species make the transition from a phenotypical female to phenotypical male, or vice versa: transsexual, the usage of which, along with 'transvestite', began its decline at the dawn of this century. 'Transgender' has replaced them both, and thus suffers from an inbuilt ambiguity: is a transgender someone who has actually taken steps to transition from one sexual identity to another, or merely one who wishes to?

This inbuilt ambiguity is at the very heart of the controversy currently raging over whether or not transgenders should be able to use the public restroom of their choosing. The definition with which I began this post indicates that the wordsmiths desire it to be both: A person need nothing more than an inner desire to gain access to the toilets, locker rooms, and showers of either designation. Remember that: this is not about transsexuals, or even transvestites. Bathroom Bills which give transgenders access give access to anyone based on nothing more than his or her claim to be transgender. By definition, nothing more can be required of them.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

A review of The Demands of Christian Citizenship, a sermon by Adrian Rogers

I recently heard a sermon by the late Southern Baptist President Adrian Rogers, on The Demands of Christian Citizenship. Now, I like Adrian Rogers, and appreciate a lot about the man and his ministry. But some of what he teaches in this sermon concerns me, inasmuch as it calls into question my Christian credentials; there are demands in the sermon that I have no intention of meeting (although, as it happens, in an earlier life I actually did things to have met them fully). I've written elsewhere on how I would now differ from the Baptist view on such things (although there was a time in my life when I didn't), so in this post I'll only be briefly critiquing the main points of his sermon, which follow. I think there were six in the audio sermon, but no online source seems to list more than four--this is a compilation of the five I can remember (I think the sixth may have been Protect the Government, which see under my posts on warfare).

As Christian citizens, the Word of God directs us to these responsibilities to our country:

1. Pray for government 1 Timothy 2:1-3
Well, of course I can't dispute this, being a man, and given that Paul would that all men lift holy hands in prayer for those in authority, that we may live quiet and peaceable lives in all piety and integrity. I can only thank Dr. Rogers for encouraging me on to more frequent and fervent prayer.

2. Pay for government. Romans 13:1-7
Again, this is something for which I needed encouragement. It does get a little complicated, though, given that the government's desire is to pay me. So his argument begins to break down when faced with modern reality. He says, "simply no loophole when it comes to paying taxes. Jesus did it, so must we."  But in paying his taxes, Jesus himself said that as sons of the king, we really didn't have to. Sounds like a major loophole to me! So, no net benefit to me from this point.

3. Praise government. 1 Peter 2:17
Well, he does have some biblical precedent for this: Paul respectfully addressed Agrippa, and Peter did tell us to honor the king. I would have to admit that this point still needs emphasis, in a digital age where it is so easy to post satirical criticism of one's president or legislator. Definitely, that's not honoring the king. And he does balance this point out with the next one, so I'll grade this point as being well worth hearing as often as is needed for it to sink in.

4. Preach to government. Ephesians 4:15
He gives the example of John the Baptist, who was respectful enough in delivery to gain Herod's hearing, but hardline enough to get executed for the message itself. So, another good point to go along with the previous one--rebuke when necessary, but still in a respectful way that doesn't detract from the message. So far, I'm finding a lot to appreciate and apply from this sermon.

5. Participate in government. 1 Peter 2:12
Here is where Dr. Rogers makes a gigantic leap, both in hermeneutic and logic. Nowhere in the Bible are Christians actually commanded, or even recommended, to participate in government--so he has to quote Daniel Webster rather than Scripture for this point. Jesus certainly never participated in government (he fled when they would make him king), nor did any of the apostles. Government figures in Christian Scripture are generally the bad guys, to be respected or rebuked, even rewarded, but never to be joined in their governance. Furthermore, he says nothing of the alien, the felon, even the citizen lacking a social security number or otherwise disenfranchised for exercising his religions beliefs--none of whom are able to participate in government even at the lowest level of voting. So while I vehemently part ways with Dr. Rogers on this point, I propose that by diligently carrying out the first four duties, a Christian has fully discharged his responsibility to participate in government, and no civic limits apply to any of these.

So, a good sermon overall--just ignore his final point, and strive to apply the first four. That should keep you busy enough