Archive for the ‘Sociology’ Category

The Thinker

Will creationists ever evolve?

I remember a time when science was cool. So does my brother Jim, who fifty years ago attended the World’s Fair in New York City (I was too young to attend). NPR had a story on it today. It included predictions by the late Isaac Asimov on what 2014 would be like, most of which were wrong.

Heck, back in the 1960s not only was science cool, but engineering was cool. We were building computers and rockets to the moon and beyond. Being the school nerd wasn’t wrong. A lot of people looked up to you. The nerds may have not attracted the hottest women, but they had the best job prospects. Back in the 1960s, evolution was widely accepted too, even by most southern Baptists. They mostly just shrugged at their cognitive dissonance, like most religious people do about all sorts of things, like their duty to help the poor while cutting their food stamps.

What went wrong? Now it’s seems to be cool to be ignorant. Perhaps I am being too kind. If you are ignorant, it means you just haven’t been informed yet about a truth. Today lots of people are informed, but dismiss truth. Evolution is a perfect example. Despite irrefutable evidence, evolution conflicts with their bizarre interpretation of the Bible, so they won’t believe it. Evolution is just a theory, they are told, and any theory can be wrong. And God’s holy word must be right. Therefore evolution is wrong.

It’s true that God doesn’t say in the Bible anything specific about the year the earth was created. But by reading the Bible backwards many of these self-professed Biblical scholars think they have figured it all out. Call it 6,000 years plus or minus a few. Of course even within these devout scholars there is a lot of disagreement on the date. Archbishop James Ussher puts the start of the world at 4004 B.C. Julius Africanus in 240 C.E. put it at 5501 B.C. A. Helwigius thinks the earth was created in 3836 B.C. Considering all the holy wars we’ve had it’s curious we haven’t had this one yet.

In any event, in just seven days, creationists believe Almighty God put it altogether. He did a masterful job of it, because who but the Almighty could possibly befuddle us with so many clues that prove just the opposite: that the earth and our universe is unimaginably old. Our planet is roughly 4.54 billion years old. The universe itself is 13.798±0.037 billion years old, which means the universe went through nearly two thirds of its life before our planet formed from the detritus of star stuff.

If you are a creationist though, you have to believe crazy stuff. Like Almighty God has a sense of humor because he left all these dated fossils around which through the science of carbon dating indicates many are millions or hundreds of millions of years old. The further you go back in time the less evolved similar species appear. Almighty God is the ultimate practical jokester but he’s doing it for a good reason: he is testing our faith. I guess to actually move mountains you first have to believe the ridiculous. Curiously not even Jesus moved any mountains. I guess he was distracted. In fact, none of our holy men seem to have these sorts of powers. The best they can claim are some highly disputed events that appear miraculous. Many of us are left to conclude those reputed weeping statues of Mary that irregularly produce tears have a lot more to do with condensation than miracles. This is the best the Lord has got?

I’ll grant you that there is plenty about science that we don’t know yet. Few scientists will state conclusions without qualifications of some sort. But as far as evolution is concerned, it’s definitely not a matter of opinion. It happens all around us every day. What is different in the last few centuries is that a lot of evolution is manmade. For there are two types of evolution: natural evolution and deliberate evolution. Natural evolution, or natural selection as Charles Darwin coined it, is what happens naturally over time. Tiny chromosomal changes are introduced randomly, and some of these changes make some within a species better adapted to the current environment. These species tend to thrive. If the earth were just 6,000 years old then we would not notice a whole lot of natural selection. But over 4.54 billion years there is plenty of time for these changes to work themselves out.

Deliberate evolution is perhaps better called unnatural selection. It happens when man decides to speed up an evolutionary process. We do this for many reasons, but mainly because the nature we have is not quite the one we want. The agricultural company Monsanto is in the evolution business. It works to selectively create new versions of crops that give their new crops advantages over other crops: higher nutrition, perhaps, or more resistance to predators. Mankind has practiced unnatural selection for a long time, long before Darwin coined the term natural selection.

There is not a species of dog today that did not evolve unnaturally, unless you count the wolf, their common ancestor. We preferred the gentler wolf as a companion and nurtured those that could adapt to us, and showed disfavor or indifference to the rest. Over time we bred all sorts of dogs into breeds with different characteristics and temperaments. We can pretty much select the dog best suited to us now. Ten thousand years ago we had no such choices. God had nothing to do with all the variants of dogs around us except perhaps inventing the wolf.

We evolve nature all the time, often not very intelligently. New antibiotics often breed resistant strains of bacteria. Using bug killers often unnaturally selects bugs that can resist these sprays. We breed cats, horses, all sorts of pets and plants. We created the mule: the sterile creation of mating a horse with a donkey. All sorts of species are evolving indirectly due to our impact on the environment. Many are going extinct as we take over their habitat. Due to climate change it looks like the polar bear will soon be one of them. As we throw toxins and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, some are better adapted to these changes and will thrive, or at least not decline as fast as other species. We are evolving our world at a pace probably never experienced naturally on our planet before.

So evolution is not some abstract theory. It is all around us and it happens continuously. Much of it is created directly or indirectly by our presence, but much of it still natural. You too can practice evolution. I practiced it by getting a vasectomy after having one child, thus indirectly showing preference for non-Caucasians. You can become a molecular biologist and work for Monsanto and practice evolution by inventing tastier tomatoes. Or you can get credentials in in vitro fertilization and create some cloned animals or perhaps a new species. Or you can just spray some Black Flag around your kitchen.

So let’s call a spade a spade. Everyone is free to believe whatever he or she wants. But those who believe that the earth was created in seven days some six thousand years ago are either simple incurious and ignorant people or, much worse, ignoramuses. One wonders why they don’t try to walk through walls. For to deny that evolution is real when it is something you can do yourself is, well, nuts. And if you can do it, surely Almighty God can, and did.

 
The Thinker

Craigslist casual encounter weirdness: April 2014 edition

Spring has arrived in Northern Virginia, after one last snow event (not quite a snowstorm) on March 30. Flowers are coming out at last, and trees should belatedly start blooming any moment, along with probably toxic amounts of pollen. It seemed that all the snow and extremely cold weather had put a damper on my neighbors’ libidos, at least as judged by reading the Craigslist Northern Virginia casual encounter ads. For the most part there were lots of run of the mill ads, but little in the desperately strange and unusual category, which is my motivation for going there once a month. The other motivation is to get traffic to this site. There were at least 280 page views for my Craigslist posts in March, so it amounts to almost exactly ten percent of my traffic.

To get a sense of who’s posting for whom, I look at the first page and then count by various categories. There are 34 men looking for women, 43 men looking for men, 2 women looking for men, 3 women looking for women, 1 couple looking for a woman and 1 couple looking for a man. There are also 9 men looking for transvestites and 2 transvestites looking for fellow transvestites. So as usual it’s mostly a lot of horny guys, which means I’ll look past the first page to get a better sense of what “women” are looking for.

Anyhow, time to put on the dark glasses, tighten my chastity belt and head into that infamous Craigslist Twilight Zone. Warning: some links will take you to explicit pictures.

  • It’s not often you get senior citizens posting, particularly gay senior citizens. Today we have a 75-year-old man with three naked pictures of himself in Hybla Valley looking for, well, any guy for pretty much anything. Beggars can’t be choosers. At least he looks reasonably fit.
  • A 28-year-old woman from Fairfax is looking for her own gender. You don’t have to wait to see her naked in the spa, as she is open for business from the nose down in her selfie. She’s very clear she is looking for a woman, not some man pretending to be a woman, and she’s not willing to wait long. She also says: no pimps, no prostitutes and no perverts. This is obviously her first post on Craigslist and most likely her last as well if she’s going to have standards. Ladies, if you like women with broad hips and massive thighs, you’ll probably go for her.
  • A 27-year-old Asian guy is looking for a transsexual or cross dresser. His erection is only at half-mast, which makes me wonder if that prescription on the counter next to him is for Viagra.
  • Will curiosity kill the cat? A 40-year-old guy from the south side of Reston gets plenty of head from his wife and now wants to try giving it himself. He’s close to the Reston National Golf Course so perhaps you could swing by before your tee time. He doesn’t want a relationship but he does want to swallow whatever you have to give him. Somehow I’m betting this is not his first male-to-male encounter. White guys 35-55 only.
  • A 34-year-old man from Ashburn wants an older couple. You have to pick him up so I’m guessing he doesn’t have a car. What he does have is a full body shot and amazingly he’s in clothes and you can see his face. Nice goatee, dude.
  • Now this is different. Lots of guys are looking for guys, but this 44-year-old man from Centreville wants to find a guy into nylons. Sheer nude, grey or white stockings are his favorites. Guys with high arches are preferred.
  • Craigslist ads tend to be short, so if nothing else this 42-year-old guy gets some sort of award for a long and very specific ad. He’s looking for a “good girl” who wants to get in touch with her inner slut. In short, he wants to abuse you (with your consent) so when he is done you won’t know which way is up. It looks like he may tie you up as well, based on the photo with the ad. While he wants to do this to you, it’s important to know that he is otherwise normal. He’s basically just your normal guy with abusive fantasies running through his head looking for a consensual relationship. Kudos for laying it all out, but I doubt he will get any nibbles. Try fetfile.com or Washington’s Black Rose society if you are serious.
  • Couples, do you need a dominant “bull” of a man to take your wife to places she has never been before between the sheets? Lots of couples on Craigslist are looking for a BBC, and here’s a guy who qualifies and must work out in a gym twice a day because he seems to have nothing but rippling muscles. I assume those X-rated pictures are of him hard at work in previous encounters. No wonder he is particular. If I were the woman, I’d still insist he wear a condom. Make that two.
  • Here’s a married woman who wants to “play” but I think her idea of playing is to play with your wallet, since she says she likes “shopping”. An intimate picture of your nether region is required, but I think she’d prefer a picture of your credit card instead.
  • Here’s a woman who is obviously a Craigslist first timer. She wants a Salsa dancing partner. Boy is she in the wrong place!
  • So women actually do have casual encounters with men on Craigslist. Here’s proof because this 28-year-old woman from Woodbridge lost contact with her “breakfast club” buddy and wants him back! I am betting her mailbox is overwhelmed with false positives.
  • Here’s an unusual married woman whose husband is turning 40 and she wants his birthday to be memorable. She wants another woman to come on over, get in the hot tub and give him a full body massage. Don’t worry; she’s not the jealous type. I don’t know why but should any woman actually show up, I’m betting the wife is mysteriously absent.

So the guy into guys wearing nylons wins the award this month, but only by default. This month is not nearly as crazy as some postings in past months. Maybe next month the kinky hormones will be in more evidence.

 
The Thinker

Sex, the aging man and the journey toward being fully human

Men will notice some changes to their libido as they age. With rare exceptions, your libido is going to go down. This is primarily because the level of testosterone in your blood is going down. It decreases with age.

This is generally greatly disturbing to the middle aged man. That’s because they envision themselves as 20-something for life. Their hair may be receding and their gut may be expanding — all typical signs of aging in men — but somehow they figure their penis is exempt. All of this is entirely natural, but sadly a lot of this information is simply not discussed.

Physicians will usually write men a prescription for Viagra or Cialis easily enough. Rarely will physicians clue you in on what’s really likely to happen to your sex drive as you age. What it amounts to is that if you want a sex life after forty or fifty, you need to reduce your expectations. You need to stop chasing the illusion that you are 20-something. You need to communicate really well with your partner. And you need to change how you make love. That’s quite an agenda! No wonder so many men simply withdraw from sex. It’s too much pressure!

It’s also more than a little embarrassing. It used to be that erections just happened. In many cases, they arrived unwelcome and for no reason at all. Perhaps it was a fleeting memory of a previously great sexual encounter that caused you to shift legs on the subway to avoid embarrassment. When you are 40-something or older, the memory is still there, but it’s unlikely to kick off an erection. You may find that given the choice between making love to a willing and decently attractive woman and watching football, you’ll choose the football.

It’s easy for you to feel horny with relatively high levels of testosterone surging through your blood. Most men who use anti-impotence drugs soon realize that while once aroused these drugs help them maintain an erection, there is also now the issue of getting aroused. It usually helps to have a surplus of testosterone in the bloodstream to feel arousal. To the extent men have it, it comes from longer intervals between orgasms. And that’s when it becomes embarrassing. If you are used to shagging with the missus every night or every other night, maybe it’s now once a week, then biweekly, then once a month, and then maybe only on Valentine’s Day. It’s hard to tell your significant other that you just aren’t a stud anymore. Even if she is drop dead gorgeous, that’s sometimes not enough for your body to keep up with your mind.

Not that long ago this wasn’t much of a problem. This was because nature took care of the embarrassment problem, by tipping the scales that you would be dead before it mattered. Men went off to fight in wars and died nastily in the heat of a battle. Or they simply wore out chasing after sheep or hunting a saber tooth tiger. Or they were culled by the many diseases that are now easily prevented. Actually, a lot of men (and women) died from abscessed teeth. There were no schools of dentistry until recently. Now of course fewer of us serve in wars so we get to live to our doddering years. So now we are getting a close encounter with our declining sex drives, and it is often disturbing. It is made more disturbing by the simple lack of quality information on what is normal. You can find it if you look but you have to look real hard. I came across such a site, well actually just a web page, recently. Here it is.

By all means reach for the Cialis or Viagra, assuming you can afford these overpriced anti-impotence drugs. Men often use them to great effect, but soon discover that while it makes sex possible it doesn’t increase the frequency of sex or give you the chronic urge to have sex like you had as an adolescent. That usually just keeps declining with age. Some men figure out the real issue, which is why testosterone supplements are all the rage online. It doesn’t take much Googling to discover these supplements are of dubious value, and likely dangerous, probably much like estrogen supplements are dangerous for women during and after menopause.

The bottom line for men is that nature intends you to slow down. It wants you to smell the flowers instead of the scent of women. This is actually fine for most women your age. Many still want to have sex, but a lot less frequently. A frequent issue with menopause is vaginal dryness during sex, which means there will be a tube of lube in your future, as well as the Cialis, when you do have sex. Moreover, since your sex drive is declining and her sex drive is likely declining as well, you are both more likely to just cuddle instead. The exception may be when you are in your forties. Women tend to peak sexually in their forties while men start to noticeably decline sexually in their forties. That’s when it gets embarrassing for men. She wants it but you don’t necessarily want it, and you can’t always keep up with demand. And that makes you feel, well, less of a man, because real men with a hot woman can keep it up.

So what you might want to do is print out that web page and pass it on to your wife or significant other. First thing you want to do is to remove the shame factor, because shame will contribute to sexual dysfunction when what you are going through is completely normal. Second, if you do value having sex, albeit less frequently than before, you need to educate your S.O. on what she can do to increase the probability of success. You need to educate them that losing an erection during sex is normal for older men but with a decent amount of pressure it is likely to come back and if applied continuously your erection may not fade. All this takes intimate communications, usually a challenge for men who are trained to behave as if they are invulnerable and eternally youthful. If your partner loves you, then it’s not unrealistic to expect them to work with you and your aging body.

It’s also okay to now have sex and not necessarily have an orgasm. If she is horny and you are not, you can use a vibrator on her or better yet your mouth. You may get aroused to the point where you want to have sex, in which case you’ll be raring to go, or not. But most likely next time you will be in the mood. It’s okay. This is what nature intended.

Is there an upside to all this? Actually, there are many upsides for personal growth. First, sex can take on a deeper and richer meaning than it did when you were younger. It becomes more about intimacy and connection that it does about anxiously depositing semen. When you do have sex, it might well be longer and more enjoyable than when you were younger. It becomes more about making love, connecting and enjoying your partner in many dimensions. You can also become more aware that the tactile parts of lovemaking are very pleasurable too: simply touching, or caressing, looking in her eyes, nibbling her ears or kissing her can be very enjoyable.

Perhaps the biggest reason to enjoy your sexual decline is the one so rarely stated: you have the opportunity to see yourself, and your partner, as a human being with many dimensions, of which sex is but one aspect. Having spent most of your life defining yourself as a man, you may discover yourself as a human being instead. Things like sex still matter, but should matter less. You may find yourself being able to see someone as multi-dimensional, rather than as a role or an object. You may have a deeper appreciation for the experience of simply being a human.

These are some of the gifts of age, but they often require giving up some of the fallacious notions of youth and assumptions on how you should be because you are a male. This stuff is a graduate school for human relations. If you live long enough, and are brave enough to try it, you may find that this stage of life can be a great learning experience about what it means to be fully human. These are aspects of yourself that were always there, but which you ignored or deprecated. They too are precious in their own way.

Be brave and take that journey into being fully human.

 
The Thinker

Running scared

What would you do if you knew that your life, as you have known it, was going to change fundamentally? Great traumatic events happen to us in our lives, but none of us welcome them. When they happen, we tend to seek out the comfort of the known rather than confront the discomfort of the unknown.

Many Japanese warriors at the end of World War II preferred what they saw as suicide with dignity – crashing their aircraft into enemy aircraft carriers or self-immolation – to defeat and living in a world that was ordered fundamentally differently than the way they were raised. Others will instead find ways to resist. They think that change can be stopped somehow, and they will simply resist it to the last fiber of their being. And so they turn their houses into fortresses, buy arsenals of guns and create a fallout shelter stocked with years of food, water, medicines and other perishables.

Something like this is happening right now across much of Red America. They smell the winds of change. For years they have ignored it by expressing the opinion that while things may be changing out there it won’t happen here. At some point though the smell becomes too pervasive. Up go defenses and the barricades. For many in power though it means that they feel compelled to use it to their utmost advantage. It means highly gerrymandered districts allowing ever more extreme people to get elected to Congress. It also means creating laws that are clearly unconstitutional (like Missouri granting its citizens exemption from certain federal gun laws) to intrusive for people you don’t like (unnecessary vaginal ultrasounds for women prior to an abortion). It means that their values must be promoted with no exceptions. So out go textbooks that say evolution is established science and in come textbooks that promote creationism instead. You tighten the screws even more on the poor by reducing food stamps and making it harder to get on Medicaid. You sign laws that do away with early voting on weekends because you don’t want that kind to vote anyhow. You are running scared.

It’s quite an ordeal. In fact, the late Eric Hoffer wrote a book about it, The Ordeal of Change, which is an interesting read if you have the time. If you looked at our changing demographics and have read Hoffer’s book, what’s happening today should not be a surprise. In fact, it is entirely predictable. What’s going on in Red America has happened lots of times before and will keep happening in the future. We are now in the “no compromises to encroaching reality” phase of this ordeal of change.

Civilized people of course recognize that change can mean that long established social systems can be reordered. When it appears inevitable, we will seek to make change as easy as possible, to minimize anger and hurt. It’s not always possible, however. The denial phase seems to be in Red America’s rear view mirror, but the anger phase certainly isn’t. They feel terribly hurt because their society is fundamentally changing, and fear it will leave them in a less privileged place when complete.

So the anger gets expressed in laws that even ten years ago they would not have considered, such as transvaginal ultrasounds for pregnant women who want an abortion. They feel they must dish out in pain at least as much as they perceive they are receiving in pain. Why do they do this? Part of it is reflexive meanness toward those not like them, but part of it is also because when anger is served out, its recipients tend to hurt too. Most people give wide berth to bullies. By acting like bullies, they are ultimately hoping we will leave them alone.

In this context, a lot of what is going on in Red America and by Republicans in Congress begins to make sense. If you accept that the Affordable Care Act is the institutionalized law of the land then you realize that you can really only amend it, not repeal it. However, if your lines are drawn and your barricades are in place then you are left with a no surrender mentality. At least so far, there is no sign of surrendering to the rule of law. Republicans will accept nothing less than the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. They cannot even come up with a coherent replacement for it, in part because they reject the premise that our old system was not perfect. If they reject what was, then in some way they must also agree that their values were either incorrect or unworkable in the modern context. That creates cognitive dissonance, so it is repressed through the mechanism that tells them, like it told Commander Taggert, to “Never give up, never surrender.”

It is increasingly clear that marriage will soon be available to anyone regardless of their sexual orientation. The Supreme Court has pretty much declared at the federal level that doing otherwise is unconstitutional, because it gives privileges to one sort of citizen unavailable to another. Moreover, because of the Supremacy Clause in the constitution, federal law trumps state law when the two conflict. Consequently, entirely reasonable federal judges are invalidating state marriage laws across the country, even in deeply red states like Oklahoma and Utah. While good for gays and lesbians, it is not so good for those whose values are invalidated through the process of law. To some extent, their anger is counterproductive, because it stokes more anger, and adds to feelings of oppression and righteousness.

It’s unclear how this will all end. Change driven by demographics and social trends can be temporarily stymied but is rarely thwarted. It would help if Red America could look at the larger picture and take comfort from it. Our worship of capitalism will likely keep a large and poor working class for them to look down on. Also, anti-abortion laws will ensure a large population of poor people. Their churches will still be around when this is over, but the demographics will probably mean fewer of us will be in church. The people around us will be more multihued, but they already are: Red America simply isn’t looking close enough. For the most part, people will continue to cloister by combinations of race and class, as they have always done. In short, a lot of the angst from Red America, while predictable, is perhaps too much ado about much less change than they thought.

This should be a source of some comfort. Ultimately though few will understand what all the fuss was about. Only cranks complain about mixed race marriages today. In twenty years the same will be true with those complaining about gay marriage. Getting to the tranquil future from the enraged present though is likely to continue to be trying.

 
The Thinker

Value reprogramming our children

So many of us are raising our children mostly the way our parents raised us. It’s unclear why we do this. Perhaps we assume they did a great job, considering how awesome we turned out. Since we’re so awesome, we figure we’ll simply follow their formula and we’ll have awesome children too.

Or it could be we don’t want to suffer their wrath or disappointment. Parents can hurt us, even when we are in our middle years. Most likely, we don’t analyze our approach to parenting too much; we just do it reflexively. If we were raised Catholic, junior and his sister are raised Catholic. If we played Little League, our sons play in the Little League. If we went to Girl Scouts, our daughter goes to Girl Scouts.

Raising your kid differently than you were raised takes a certain amount of courage. Obviously, it takes less courage if you realize that you were raised wrong. If Dad beat you regularly with a belt, hopefully you won’t do that to your child, although chances are you will. Value programming seems to work this way. Both the good stuff and the bad stuff tend to get passed down from generation to generation. If your father beat up your mother, there’s a good chance if you are a male that you will beat your wife. Stranger still, if you were the daughter, there is a good chance you will be in a marriage where your spouse will beat you up. It’s unclear why this is, but it may be because we unconsciously seek out spouses that have characteristics of our parents. It happened to me: I married a gal from a poor family in Michigan, just like my father. At the time, this coincidence never occurred to me, but it was probably more than coincidence, particularly since my mother and I had issues.

Parenting comes with no rewind button. Instead, parenting is a continuous stream of events and choices applied to situations at the moment. From our children’s birth to our deaths it never really ends, but there is an unofficial end when our adult children finally move out of the house. (There is a good chance they will move back in some years later.) In retrospect, all of us parents wish we could have done some things differently. You do the best you can and try to forgive yourself for your parenting mistakes.

Parenting differently than the way you were parented takes reflection and mindfulness. My parents were not particularly physically affectionate. We got little in the way of hugs and kisses. They weren’t wholly absent; just that they were the exception rather than the rule. Unsurprisingly, I grew up feeling somewhat touch deprived. Also, my parents, although I am sure they loved each other, weren’t great at demonstrating affection with each other or really doing much together, other than dutifully raising us. Since I had about a decade as a bachelor, I had time to reflect on these concerns. I made up my mind that I would not replicate them with my daughter.

So I made a point to be lavish with hugs and kisses. I told her sincerely, and often, that I loved her. When near her I made sure to put an arm over her shoulder or around her waist. I wanted her to know that healthy human relationships should be naturally intimate, and that meant touching liberally. In short, I did not want to transmit what I considered to be a poor way of being raised. I wanted her to feel connection and intimacy. This meant more than words; it meant the constant pleasure and communication of touch. It’s delightful to see her as an adult being still so physically demonstrative with us.

My parents picked up something of a Puritan ethos common from their era. It meant the father made most of the major decisions, the mother’s role was to be supportive and children were supposed to quickly learn their place. It was generally understood that as children we were inexperienced and thus our parents knew best. We were told not just from them, but also from society in general, that our parents were our ultimate guides in life and to trust them implicitly. In general, the boys in our family learned that most emotions were better left bottled up, because we never saw dad cry or even get very upset.

Of course, society is a lot different now compared to then. The United States has more than doubled its population in my lifetime. Values have changed quite a bit as well. In the 1960s I did not know homosexuals existed. Today they have civil rights that were denied them including, increasingly, the right to marry. My country is much more ethnic in general too. I had to figure out how to put all this together in my parenting. It was not always easy and often it was lonely.

I had virtually no sex education, as was true of most of us Baby Boomers. I had to depend on factual books like Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex to get some rudimentary education. Reading about sex as opposed to experiencing it, of course, is quite different. Schools now generally teach sex education, but it is largely superficial. Certain topics are frequently off limits. Parents can teach their children sex education, but it is generally an awkward experience. It is better to come from an authoritative but independent source. Mostly, I didn’t want my daughter to start her sex life sexually ignorant. She needed a real grounding, both on the biological facts but on the physical and emotional issues of being a sexual person. I found such a program at my Unitarian Universalist Church: Our Whole Lives, wherein all these topics were discussed candidly but with trained facilitators. There is no question about it: sex is a big, complex and icky topic. But better to make sure she started with a firm foundation than to be ignorant and make the stupid mistakes I did when I became sexually awake.

Sex education is just one area where I deviated from the values I was taught. While many were the same (love, compassion, neighborliness, the importance of education) many were also different. I taught respect for people regardless of sex, race, religion or (the hard one) because they have different beliefs than me. I told her that I was a human being, not a god, and thus I make mistakes. I encouraged those values that helped me succeed, some that worked (reading, debate) and some that did not stick (striving for excellence, exercise and diet). In the end, like me, my daughter had a lot to absorb, analyze and figure out what was right for her.

At least she appreciates the complexity of our modern world. It is far more complex than it was when I was her age. No wonder then that today adolescence seems to extend well into their twenties. It’s quite a brain dump we give our children, and harder than ever for them to structure it in a way that will help them deal with their reality.

At the same time, my daring experience at value reprogramming has been satisfying. My parents did the best they could to set my values with the skills they had at the time. I did my best as well. I am glad I did not simply parrot the way I was raised, but trusted my own judgment instead. I used values that seemed to work (thriftiness, for example) and discarded what did not seem to work (religious orthodoxy).

My daughter says she won’t have a child, but she is toying with the idea of adopting a child when she is self sufficient enough. If that time comes, I hope she is smart enough to do what I did: and discard those things about the way we raised her that did not work, and substitute her own judgment of the modern world as she perceives it.

 
The Thinker

Craigslist casual encounters weirdness: March 2014 edition

At the start of the year I mentioned that the weather outside was frightful. It hadn’t seemed to cool the libidos of my fellow Northern Virginians, at least those that hang out on Craigslist Casual Encounters hoping against hope to score some kinky shenanigans despite the largely impassible roads and the single digit temperatures, not to mention the wan hopes of actually succeeding on scoring on Craigslist.

Two months later the weather outside is still frightful. The polar vortex does not want to leave the area. It’s snowing with a fresh accumulation of up to nine inches of snow predicted by later today. The temperature is in the teens, eighteen degrees to be specific. If there is to be a spring thaw at last, perhaps it will come from the unleashed heat of my fellow horny Northern Virginians.

But first a quick report from the statistics desk. Last month I neglected to give a report on my Craigslist casual encounters hits. I got at least 323 page views for this stuff in January, and at least 272 in February. I say “at least” because I can’t convince Google Analytics to show me more than the top ten pages with “Craigslist” in the title. Regardless, there remains plenty of public interest in these reports, so I feel an obligation to keep them, er, coming, so to speak. Bringing up the first page in my browser, I can see it is mostly men advertising for, well, anyone. There are 67 men looking for women, 25 men looking for men, just 1 woman looking for a man, 2 women looking for a woman, 1 couple looking for a man and 1 couple looking for a woman. So I’ll have to expand the scope beyond the first page to include a disproportionate number of women.

Warning: links may take you to sexually explicit content. Let’s dig into the snow and the posts in the Craigslist Casual Encounters area for Northern Virginia:

  • A 32-year-old guy from, well, it’s not clear exactly but he’s looking at a territory from Leesburg to Reston, wants to know why it’s so hard to find a good friend with benefits. This is not too “hard”. First, consider the fact that most women, even here on Craigslist, probably don’t want to see a picture of your hard dick when viewing your ad. News alert: most women probably won’t swoon at a dick picture. Based on the minimal postings by women, it’s also probably because no one is reading your ad except, well, me, and purely for the purpose of statistical sampling. And I can assure you that your ad does nothing for me other than make me chuckle and shake my head at your cluelessness.
  • Here’s a guy who has a solution on how to have sex in spite of the snow: make it virtual! He wants to do a web cam show with a woman featuring his hand stroking his penis. But what’s the point? There is nothing to discover. You can see his tight abs and his dick easily enough because he’s posted pictures of both. He says doesn’t care what you look like, which is good because you can’t tell who is viewing you anyhow, which suggests that his viewers will actually be men perhaps pretending to be women.
  • I’m still trying to figure out how a guy can have sex with another couple and still claim he is straight. Anyhow, that’s what this 42-year-old guy with, sigh, yet another dick picture wants to do, and he is hosting in his “upscale” Arlington hotel. Only, I’m not sure the Metro is running in this snow. He wants the couple to be between 45 and 60. I suspect he’ll be ordering a lot of room service and to the extent he gets off, it will be from watching naughty pay per view movies on TV instead.
  • Why don’t some men just say they are bisexual already? They can’t quite form the words. But when you are a man advertising you want to try the cuckold side of a relationship that probably means you get leftovers, quite literally, which suggests to me you are bisexual. Anyhow, this 38-year-old man from Burke has a picture to suggest what he has in mind in his supplicant role. Careful what you wish for, Burke guy.
  • Here’s a 52-year-old gay guy from my area looking for another guy. He isn’t going to let snow stop him from getting off. He’s got a four-wheel drive vehicle and he wants to drop by for whatever you want him to do to you. I assume there is no delivery charge.
  • You would think if you were 63 years old, you wouldn’t be too choosy. Not all 63-year-old men have gotten the message, because here’s such a guy looking for a transvestite, but not just any transvestite or transgender. You must be between the ages of 18-30, have very high heels, a revealing outfit and must pose and/or dance. Oh and you also need to be clean and personable. He does not mention anything about having a four-wheel drive vehicle to facilitate transportation in this snow but that doesn’t matter. He’s written an ad guaranteed to attract no one. Oh, and he’s also married. It’s unclear if his wife will be watching, but I’m guessing she is clueless and if not she is laughing her ass off and wondering how she ended up marrying such a dweeb.
  • When the title of your ad is “{{{==== cUm bEnd Me oVer My bEd===}}” there is a 99.9% chance that this “woman” is actually a troll or a spammer. Most likely if you click on this ad it will have been flagged for removal. Go ahead and test my theory. Expect to see at least a dozen more like this posted over the course of today.
  • Oh dear. Here’s a 38-year-old woman from nearby Chantilly that wants you to come by and basically beat her up, but with a strap. It’s something about being stressed out or something. She also wants oral sex and intercourse but as written it has to be done with your strap, not your mouth or penis, which I think is physically impossible. It’s okay to bring drugs too.
  • A 20-year-old voluptuous woman in Fairfax County is looking for what appears to be a first close encounter with her own gender. She has three selfies to show you what she is all about. I will say she has an impressive rack. Meanwhile, a sexy 33-year-old dominant Latina with impressive shades is also looking for her own gender. Since she wants someone younger, perhaps she should hook up with the former poster.
  • A 42-year-old biracial couple (woman white, man black) wants to add a woman. They want to play in the snow, although it’s unclear which kind of white powder they mean. Looks like they can go skiing either way.

More next month.

 
The Thinker

Woody Allen and Dylan Farrow: beyond a reasonable doubt

Some years back I got in trouble (from some readers) because I called Michael Jackson a child molester. I was convinced that he was guilty of abusing two boys based on the news stories and public testimony. Obviously the jury was not, as Jackson got to go back to Neverland. There he somewhat mysteriously died from a narcotic that his physician incorrectly prescribed some years later.

With Jackson, the evidence seemed clear to me but apparently did not reach the criteria of being beyond a reasonable doubt to the jury. What to think then about these latest resurfaced charges that film director Woody Allen repeated molested his stepdaughter Dylan Farrow when she was a young child? Dylan’s memory is clear enough, even though she was young when the incidents occurred. Early memories can be incorrect, but by age seven a significant emotional event, particularly if it is repeated, will usually cement itself in memory. Recently, Allen issued yet another denial of the allegations.

If it were simply Dylan vs. Allen, maybe there would be some reasonable doubt here. But then there is the small matter of Allen’s other stepdaughter Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted Korean daughter of actress Mia Farrow, Allen’s wife at the time. Previn entered Allen’s life when she was about ten. When Previn was twenty, and above the age of consent, Farrow discovered naked pictures of her. It quickly became clear that Soon-Yi and Allen had more than a stepparent relationship. Today, Allen and Soon-Yi are something of an old married couple, married fifteen years.

No one can say if Soon-Yi was a minor when her relation with Allen turned intimate. The relationship, even if it started at or after the age of consent, would give most parents the willies. Unsurprisingly, this would be because there is an implicit trust relationship between a man and his stepdaughter. Allen says they fell in love and “that is that”. But both parents and stepparents know, or should know to respect boundaries. Any minor needs to trust older adults living in the household so they can develop into an adult free of power issues. A man of character would of course say, “Of course not,” if their legal age stepdaughter became flirtatious. Allen said, “That is that.”

Allen’s relationship with Soon-Yi certainly smells. Given that no one can prove molestation of a minor or that it began before she was of legal age, there is reasonable doubt. The alleged molestation of Dylan Farrow, however, goes beyond a reasonable doubt in my mind. This is because there were two potential episodes of sexual abuse of a minor by the same man.

It is possible that Dylan is a vindictive type and is supporting her mother in what ended up as a messy divorce between Allen and Farrow. However, there is no evidence that I have found that Farrow coached anyone. There is plenty of evidence that Allen’s behaviors were wrong. This Vanity Fair article outlines some of the damning facts in the case, now more than twenty years old. Perhaps the most damning was the state attorney’s contention that there was sufficient evidence to charge Allen for molesting Dylan, but he declined to do so due to the Dylan’s fragility at the time. There are also inconsistencies in Allen’s statements to police and the judge in the case calling Allen’s behavior with Dylan grossly inappropriate. No surprise there, of course.

So in the sad case of Dylan Farrow vs. Woody Allen, it’s not leaping to a conclusion at all to say that Allen is probably guilty of repeatedly molesting her. The case against Allen is really beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s amazing that Allen managed to dodge these charges, but it’s clear that it was not due to a lack of convincing evidence and certainly aided by his fat bank account and ability to hire top-notch lawyers.

It’s quite possible that Allen learned from his botched relationship with Dylan and adapted different strategies to win Soon-Yi’s trust, perhaps wooing her but not actually inappropriately touching her until she was at legal age. Regardless, the evidence is clear that Allen transgressed boundary issues with both of these women.

For myself, I don’t seek out Woody Allen movies and I don’t plan to watch anymore of his movies. I am more than a bit miffed that in Dylan’s case he seems to have escaped justice. He should have been convicted and sent to prison long ago. If he had served his sentence and is now on parole, he should not be allowed to be around any minors unsupervised again.

I believe that Allen is a child predator.

 
The Thinker

Craigslist casual encounters weirdness: February 2014 edition

Another month has come and gone. In January, I noted that the cold weather seemed to have dampened the libidos of my neighbors in Northern Virginia, at least in its Craigslist casual encounters area. A month later it is still cold but the libidos of my neighbors seem to be undergoing a bit of a spring thaw. I expect a plethora of kinkiness in March, but we’ll see.

Anyhow, here’s a review of a sampling of the ads I found today. Congrats to these winners, or something, for being selected from the heap of Craigslist casual encounter ads posted, because this post as is close as these ads will ever come to immortality.

  • A bisexual couple in their 30’s is looking for a “shemale” or transsexual male, which the male of the couple wants to “bottom”, quite literally, while presumably his DD-endowed curvy wife watches. I thought for a moment they were from New Jersey, since their location is listed as Exit 133, but it’s in Fredericksburg. Some minutes earlier likely the same couple posted another ad, this one for a submissive female or couple. To screen couples, you have to put her bra size in the subject of the email. I’m guessing they are not interested in AAs. Considering they want two sets of partners, I have to wonder just how “safe” they are.
  • Women, did you know that being in your 40s makes you older? It does to this 22-year-old woman from Alexandria who wants an older woman in this age range who is dominant and wants to make her be very nasty.
  • Ladies, want to get your fix for free? Whoops, this 34-year-old guy means do you want to party, and since he’s providing drugs it’s the same thing. Curiously he makes no mention of wanting to have sex with you too. I guess the mutual high he expects to have beats an orgasm. Party on, dude.
  • A bunch of young adults in Arlington, all male except for one submissive Asian female who you might say is the hostess, both figuratively and literally, are planning an orgy but you must be under 30 and preferably under 25. No beards or whiskers are allowed, but well endowed men are greatly preferred. Sorry, no gay or bi men are allowed.
  • A 28-year-old man from Herndon is looking for an exhibitionist woman to show off for him. He’s not looking for a private party, but wants to do this in public for their mutual titillation, quite literally. Based on his photos, he prefers panty-less women bending over in supermarket aisles. Good luck, dude, but I bet you’ll be wanking off to porn tonight instead. Here’s a suggestion: try a Wal-Mart. Occasionally they get female flashers but if you squint hard you can pretend those back boobs are on the front. You can also see guys with breasts there. Unfortunately, there’s no Wal-Marts in Herndon, but maybe the local Kohl’s will work.
  • A 25-year-old dude from Prince William County, who naturally assumes women will swoon over a picture of his engorged penis, so he’s posting it, is looking for a lonely housewife. How interesting. Hasn’t he learned that the only housewives left are in Mormon sections of Utah? So unless he moves there he is going to be disappointed.
  • I hardly know what to say about this one. Okay, I’m saying something. A 42-year-old submissive bi guy is into women’s nylon panties, specifically wearing them, and he wants to be topped by something other than his dildo for the very first time. Yes, he’s a butt virgin ready to be deflowered. He has six and a half inches and a photo to prove it, but what I find kind of mesmerizing is him wearing those green nylon girly panties. It’s mesmerizing in the same way passing a grisly car wreck is mesmerizing.
  • Ladies, are you overextended on your credit card? Willing to do almost anything to get rid of that outstanding balance? A 47-year-old man from Manassas claims he will take care of your credit card problem if you spend this evening masturbating with him.
  • Do you know what a glory hole is? If not, I assume you will Google it. Anyhow, here’s the thing about glory holes and Craigslist: since you never see the person that will give some glory to the male, the giver of this oral pleasure is always a guy. So basically it’s about a gay guy getting some action. So word to the wise to heterosexual men: avoid ads like this one.
  • Speaking as a heterosexual man, it’s always a bit sad when a woman posts for a woman and she’s a hottie. This means we can’t have her, and that makes me cry. She’s 31 and from well-moneyed Great Falls and most men would be baying at the moon after just seeing her picture. But we are off limits. And come to think of it, I’m pushing twice her age and have a wedding ring. Oh well.
  • Some ads get repeated daily or more often and thus have a reputation. I’ve been scanning these ads long enough now to know that this couple in search of voyeurs are just dope heads just interested in your wallet and getting their next high. Worse, they look like hell, so you won’t want to see them even with their clothes on. A couple of times a week at least they will scam someone and a red-faced scammee will write a post saying to avoid them. As with all things in their casual encounters area, it’s best to channel Nancy Reagan and just say no.

More next month.

 
The Thinker

Craigslist casual encounters weirdness: January 2014 Edition

(Warning: this post is Rated R and some of the ads link to X-rated pictures.)

Oh the weather outside is frightful, as is curiously the Craigslist Casual Encounters Northern Virginia edition on this second day of the New Year. It sounds crass to say it’s always the guys who are horny on this site, but that’s generally the case. I pulled up the first page of ads, as I always do, and found 53 men looking for women ads, 32 men looking for men ads, 4 women looking for men ads and 2 women looking for women ads. There is also one couple looking for a woman and one guy looking for a couple. So shed a tear, but only a small one, for the many guys out there with surging hormones and little chance of finding relief on Craigslist. They are all busy casting lures into a small pond for the one fish that probably isn’t there.

So I’m going beyond the first page this month, simply because men looking for anyone ads are generally so boring. So ladies first please.

  • Lisa is looking for a woman for her new FWB (friend with benefits) and is wearing a pink bra and a big smile. She’s after a woman, of course, but she doesn’t mind a man if you bring one along. He is limited to watching politely only. Okay, I’ll bite. Unfortunately, my wife isn’t interested so any ladies who want to try Lisa and bring along a man, hit me up! I figure just looking is not cheating.
  • Some men are so horny to even have a chance that their ad will be read by a woman that they will advertise as a woman in hopes of snagging a lesbian. But get this, he is not up for sex or a relationship, but “I’m up for oral and masturbation and nipple play ect”. My goodness! He must have studied at the Bill Clinton (“I did not have sex with that woman”) School of Sex.
  • A 28-year-old woman from Manassas is one of the few women looking for a guy tonight. “Def looking to go skiing and 420 is always a plus. Gonna be in the area for a few HH beers!” Yes, it’s snowing outside but she doesn’t mean to hit the ski slopes. She’s looking for a line or two of cocaine. “420” of course is the buzzword for drugs, so other forms of dope are welcome too. So basically she’s looking to do drugs and hopes the guy will supply her fix(es). Curiously her ad makes no promise of what the guy really wants: sex. The ending is good for a chuckle: “Please no creepers”. Geez, you creep me out lady!
  • Here’s a 43-year-old married white male looking for a guy. Lots of married men want their own sex, of course, and usually their wives don’t have a clue. I assume he is worried about STDs because he specifically asks for a “butt virgin or near virgin”, ideally 18 but he will go up to age 40. He likes his candidate orifices tight but he is also open to fisting. If you don’t know what it is, look it up. Suffice to say it is not for any “virgin” orifice. You must send a picture of your derriere. He must be expecting a crowd of applicants, so if you have thong panties or a jock strap you will move to the front of his line.
  • Good lord, Craigslist men don’t even screen applicants anymore. Here’s a guy in Room 302 at the Manassas Park Red Roof Inn, door ajar, blindfolded, naked, butt in the air and waiting for another guy. I guess he won’t be checking replies to his ad. If you are not prepared, don’t worry. He has condoms and lube.
  • A 40-year-old local man is open to anything, as long as it’s with a woman. So if you are a woman and you want to try something you have been denied to see if you like it and without fear of embarrassment, I guess this is your chance. He’s worried that the woman might be scared to try it so he offers all sorts of reassuring words. However, he’s not worried they won’t be more scared to contact some stranger on the Internet. Go figure. To weed out spam he requires you to put “let’s try this” in the subject line.
  • Ladies, are you embarrassed because you have puny breasts? This guy in Alexandria prefers them, and the smaller the better.
  • Horny heterosexual men: there is some hope for you tonight, as long as you don’t mind having sex with a 50-year-old couple, or more specifically a 50-year-old submissive woman, and you don’t mind tag teaming with her husband. You need to be in your mid thirties, a dominant and not mind working with another dominant. There’s a picture of the woman you get to dominate, at least from below the neck. I personally would give her the pass.
  • 69-year-old men still have hormones, but this 69’er just wants a woman to lick between her legs. I’m guessing he suffers from erectile dysfunction. The good news is that while he’s old, he’s at least “generous”, which is the code word for he’ll pay for the privilege. I guess at his age that’s likely the only way it’s going to happen. There’s another ad from a 69’er that I think is the same man.
  • Ladies, admit it: most of you want to try a black man. Moreover, you really want a strong black man, and this apparent 30-year-old neighbor of mine from nearby Herndon has pictures to show you he and Charles Atlas have much in common. As for what’s below his belt, if you are curious you can see it too instead of waiting to see it in person. I’m not sure though but I think he may be a gigolo, as he has cleverly embedded his phone number in the ad in a way so it won’t get automatically flagged.
  • Looking to cuddle up on a cold night when temperatures will drop into the single digits? A 45-year-old Reston man can accommodate, your place or his and he swears he is single (well divorced) and STD free. Plus, you get the bonus of body heat and maybe watching the snow fall between each bout of passion.
  • How to put this delicately: here’s a guy (warning: extremely explicit picture) who wants to have his orgasm in a woman’s mouth, preferably women’s mouths. He has a very explicit picture to show you what he has in mind, but I’m thinking even the horny women aren’t going to want to see this. As for two girls at once, he claims he’s done it before. I wonder: how much did it cost him? He’s apparently got a room with all the equipment and straps to make sure you will be immobilized.
  • Any ladies want to try a beaver bong (warning: explicit pictures)? Wow, this is a new one for me! I might go for the bong but not the beaver. Congratulations to this 25-year-old Arlington man for posting the weirdest post of the month.

As for my Craigslist statistics, I count 271 posts in December for Craigslist, versus 302 in November. Either the quality of my writing has gone done, or testosterone levels drop in December.

More in February.

 
The Thinker

Decking the secular halls

So an atheist, a Buddhist, a Unitarian Universalist (me), his un-churched sister, her sarcastic college age son and the cynical brother who says he only worships Baal get together for dinner. The occasion: Christmas, of course.

That’s right, our Christmas tree is festooned with lights and bulbs. An angel adorns its top proclaiming the good news of Jesus’s birth. Our halls (such as they are) are decked out. There are cookie tins stuffed with ginger snaps and butter cookies.  Charlotte Church’s coloratura voice is coming out of speakers singing, of course, Christmas carols. Our porch and garage door are lined with blue lights that I put up weeks ago to celebrate the Christmas season. We have all the signs of Christmas except for the Christ part. We’re having ourselves a fully secular Christmas.

If you had to pick a Christian among us, I would come the closest. The roots of Unitarian Universalism are in Christianity. There are in fact many practicing Christian UUs, although I can’t find them in my “church” which seems to be at least half atheists. Still, UUs generally admire Jesus, such as he is imperfectly revealed to us in the gospels. I don’t think he was divine, as is true of most of us UUs. Also I don’t put much faith in prayer or miracles, but I do think Jesus probably existed and obviously inspired enough people so that his ideas carried forward after his death in a viral manner. There is no historical record of his existence outside of the Gospels, but that’s good enough for me; it passes my Occam’s Razor test.

Of course there is no evidence that Jesus was born on December 25th anyhow, but it is convenient to the winter solstice, which was likely why it is celebrated on this date. There used to be a lot of heathens around and if you are going to convert them you have to work with their natural worship dates.  So most likely we are celebrating the birth of a man who might well be fictional, that most rational people cannot consider divine, whose birthday we don’t know and whose legend is known only because oral tradition was eventually written down and then rewritten, often with errors and omissions, over the centuries. Along the way we picked up saints, including a Greek bishop called St. Nicholas, and morphed this single aesthete into an obese citizen of the North Pole who dwelled in his own small kingdom full of elves and flying reindeer, and that fly despite the absence of wings. St. Nick magically supplies toys just one night a year to all the good Christian children in the world and keeps up an impressive schedule making appearances at local shopping malls. As adults we of course laugh at this childish nonsense, even while seventy three percent of us Americans also profess to believe that Jesus was born to a virgin.

Myth has morphed into rarely challenged creed. A compelling new book suggests Judaism was simply made up by a bunch of elders in an attempt to unite the Judeans and the Galileans so they could fight common encroachers. If correct there was likely no Abraham, no Moses, no enslavement of the Jews in Egypt (for which there is no independent record), no burning bush, and no forty years of wandering in the desert of the Sinai which, lacking an oasis, would probably kill a large group of Jews dead within a few weeks anyhow.

And yet still we celebrate Christmas, and this includes the hopelessly secular among us like most of my family who, sadly, were raised as devout Catholics. My adult daughter, a professed atheist and now back in her bedroom after graduation, is fully into the Christmas season. She was pushing us early to put up Christmas lights and the Christmas tree. She was ready to deck our halls and could be heard singing Christmas carols in her bedroom. She was aghast that I forgot to buy some kielbasa for Christmas breakfast, a tradition that dates back to my deceased mother and which we carry on, if I don’t forget about it, on Christmas mornings. So it was off to the Food Lion before they closed Christmas Eve for some of the sacred sausage, served with scrambled eggs somewhat hurriedly before unwrapping presents under our Christmas tree.

No White Christmas this year, which is actually par for the course here in Northern Virginia. You can expect one every fifteen years or so. However, it was cold enough to qualify for Christmas, with temperatures that never made it officially above freezing despite clear skies. Walking this afternoon for exercise and bundled in my warmest parka, I felt gratitude, not just for Jesus but also for warm houses. Living outside in this weather like our distant ancestors did must have sucked. The only people these days who have an inkling of what it is like are our homeless, the exact sort of people Jesus would have cared the most about. As we raise our eggnog and sing our carols, we try not to think about them. Let them sleep in the woods in a tent and get dinner out of a dumpster. Sadly, some of our leaders clearly want to increase their ranks, and in the recently passed budget agreement succeeded by reducing food stamp allowances and heating assistance and ending long-term unemployment benefits. This is based on the curious and erroneous belief that this will make them get off their duffs and earn a living, but really was done because they are sadists absent compassion for anyone not like them. For many of these poor, 2014 will be bleaker than 2013.

For those of us lucky enough to have some wealth and privilege, we can wrap ourselves up inside our houses, sing carols in front of a hearth (probably with a gas log), tell and retell dated family stories, eat too much food and mostly forget about Jesus. If he were alive he’d probably be suggesting that we bring some food and eggnog outside to our neighbors in the woods, or maybe invite them inside our house for some home cooking, a shower, use of our washing machines and a night in a clean bed. Most of us are not that brave, convinced that the homeless are mentally ill, thus likely to strangle us in our sleep. We like the idea of being kind to those less fortunate to us more than the soiling our hands through the actual doing of deeds. Some of us will work in a soup kitchen for a day or two. Some may even give out blankets to prevent hypothermia for the homeless. To the extent that I put my values into action this year, it was to talk for five minutes with the guy from Goodwill who empties my trash in the office on Christmas Eve, learn about his son and daughter and wish him a happy holiday. I also bought $75 in gift cards for a local 16-year-old teenage girl through the Secret Santa program at our church. I also give money to charities, but this is an implicit admission that I want others to do the work that I can’t seem to do personally. I too am hypocritical, although perhaps less than most.

Yet still we huddle around our tree on Christmas Eve, unwrap our presents on Christmas Day and listen to holiday tunes on the player, many of which proclaim a savior was born today. Looking at our actions toward each other, there’s not much evidence that Jesus succeeded. And while none of us believe in Jesus’s divinity, we do sort of wish, like Santa Claus, that he actually did all those wonderful things. We just haven’t drunk enough spiked eggnog to short-circuit the logical parts of our brains.

If we could actually minister like Jesus, well then perhaps Christmas would be worthy of our celebration.

 

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