God Judges Social Constructs

Nearly everyone now says gender is a social construct and therefore fluid or a spectrum rather than a binary. Many conservatives dismiss or ridicule them while many progressives chant them enthusiastically. Rachel Doelzal (now Nkechi Amare Diallo) uses skin darkener, hair dye, and gets her hair permed in order to be a light-skinned black woman. She claims “race is a social construct” and considers herself “trans-black.” But no one has stopped to ask what we mean by “social,” how it constructs anything, and what God thinks of social constructs. Let me take a few moments to consider these questions.

By “social constructs” what I believe we mean are generally agreed upon definitions of what we expect of people. When you see photos from the ‘40s and ‘50s, men commonly wore jackets and ties and hats. Now men wear them (minus the hats) in more formal settings. In Burma men commonly wear long skirts tied at their wastes with a particular kind of knot and carry their belongings what we would call purses. Likewise, they wear suits in more formal situations. So what we mean by “social” is what we agree upon. Social constructs are the rules that societies have so people can live together.

How these rules are made is immensely complex. In older societies, they are rooted in deep traditions. For example, a friend from New York was surprised when she went to a party in the Midwest and saw people sit down. She said in New York you would never sit down at a party because it would be rude. The society in New York is older than it is in Chicago; Chicago was at one time considered the frontier. The further West you move across America, the more lax the rules get yet there are rules or constructs. Constructs are formed by things like tradition, media, necessity of survival, reaction against old rules, influences from other societies, etc.

Read On…

Raspberry Airplay

My next Raspberry Pi project was to stream music to my stereo system. Since I’m all Apple at home, I decided I need something that uses Apple’s Airplay and the Raspberry Pi seemed the natural choice.

After some research, I learned (unsurprisingly) that the earphone jack on the Pi would be insufficient. It just doesn’t have a high enough bit rate DAC (Digital/Analog Converter) driving it. The first option I explored was to use an external USB DAC. There are some fine ones but they are expensive and bulky. I have to admit though, some of the tube-based DACs look pretty good and I’m sure the sound is impressive but they are cost prohibitive. What to do?

I found HifiBerry. They have a few choices of DACs that plug right into the GPIO (general purpose I/O) port on the Pi. They also sell cases that hold the Pi and DAC very nicely. I found the HifiBerry DAC I wanted on Amazon, added the case and Pi 3 B to my cart but found that ordering a bundle straight from HifiBerry was about $20 cheaper. I already owned a spare MicroSD card an power cord so the project cost me around $100.

I decided on the DAC+ Standard. I didn’t need the DAC+ Pro with its gold plated RCA connectors because I don’t think they make a difference. But some real audiophiles will disagree.

Ordering a bundle from HifiBerry was a bit confusing. What comes with the bundles and what do I need to add? Turns out you need to pick your package and customize everything. For me, I selected the DAC+ Bundle and added the DAC+ Standard, the HifiBerry Universal case, and the Raspberry Pi 3B. If you need a power supply you might find one cheaper elsewhere. If you don’t have an adapter to plug the SD card into your computer, you will need one and HifiBerry’s seems a reasonable price.

If you buy from HifiBerry, the order ships from Switzerland so expect some delay. Shipping information from Switzerland to JFK was provided but once it hit JFK, shipping info disappeared. Since I didn’t get a notification that it was stuck in customs I decided to wait. Ten days later it showed up via USPS. So if time is important, you might pay more and get it from Amazon.

Instructions below the fold…

Read On…

Who Created You?

A while ago I was in a coffee shop trying to work. Two post-high schoolers were sitting across the table from me talking, (having bought nothing). They both were all about “goin’ home and cutting some beats.” One played a song on his cellphone so we all got to listen to it. It was some sick beats and I mean that in the same sense that Huey Lewis and the News meant “sometimes bad is bad.” “Ah, kids!” I thought to myself. What must I have sounded like to people 35 years older than me when I was their age? Probably similar.

One said he had to wait for his mom to pick him up. The other asked him why and explained that the first kid’s mom should buy him a car. And this is where my response as a 20 year-old would have differed greatly from theirs.

“Who created you?” kid A asked.
“I know. I don’t wanna make her buy me a ride.” answered kid B.
“She created you so she owe you!” opined kid A.

This made my blood run cold. Various lines of post-modern thought collided here:

  • First, it highlights a horrible, unintended consequence of the pro-choice world we live in: post Roe v. Wade children see themselves as disposable.
  • Second, since mothers have a choice to not give birth to them, these children are only there because of mom’s decision and therefore mom is somehow more responsible for them. “If you didn’t want to provide for me, you should have aborted me. Since you didn’t, you gotta provide!”
  • Third, for all the talk about women’s “freedom to chose” and how abortion would liberate them sexually and socially, this places a gigantic burden on mothers; at least in eyes of their chosen children. Add to this the huge number of fathers who walk away since the woman chose not to abort and how is a single mother supposed to live with this kind of responsibility?

Abortion does not liberate women. It damages them and their children, both the victims and the survivors. I understand that sometimes women who become pregnant see a future that feels crushing. Any choice they make will have consequences for them and for their child. This coffeehouse conversation highlighted for me implications I hadn’t seen before.

Lord have mercy on us all.

Queen Vashti in Ephesus

If you read Esther chapter 1 and your takeaway is that Queen Vashti is the hero because she stood up to the patriarchy, you’re reading it wrong. I don’t say that to defend the patriarchy but to defend the historical setting of the text.

In a nutshell, Ahasuerus was the king of the known world and he threw a party. When you’re king of the known world, your parties tend to be epic and not in the sense in which we use the word “epic” to describe a burrito. At the end of a feast, when the king had a pleasant wine buzz, he called for Queen Vashti to come and present herself before the princes and the people (verse 11). Vashti was a beautiful woman and judging from the way Ahasuerus threw a dinner party, I’m sure she would be decked out in the best clothing and jewels the kingdom had to offer. Ahasuerus wanted to parade her out as he did with the decorations of the palace (verse 6-7). Vashti refused to come.

Why? The Bible doesn’t say because it doesn’t matter. The chapter isn’t about a brave proto-feminist standing up against the patriarchy. Vashti didn’t burn her bra in protest, she simply refused to come (verse 12). The author’s point isn’t Vashti. It is Ahasuerus. He consumes the first chapter of the book and that chapter establishes the magnitude of Ahasuerus’ power and his ruthlessness. If anyone, including his wife, defies his orders they are dealt with in a swift, kingdom-wide manner (verse 20). The intent is for us to fear Ahasuerus, not the patriarchy. Vashti isn’t a hero, she is a victim just as the Jews will be targeted to be, just as Mordecai will be targeted to be, and just as Haman will be after his attempt to manipulate Ahasuerus’ power becomes known.

Along similar lines, there is an interesting account of the history of first century Ephesus. According to the article, the people who eventually go on to establish the city were a pretty vicious matriarchy lead by a queen who “promulgated laws whereby she led forth the women to martial strife, while on the men she fastened humiliation and servitude.” These women may have been the fabled Amazons from whence comes Wonder Woman.

If this accurately represents the historical background on the city of Ephesus (granting, for the moment, that it is correct), we may get a richer, more nuanced understanding of 1 Timothy. When Paul wrote to Timothy, he was writing to a young minister working to establish the church in Ephesus. Establishing leadership would require that he take care to not allow any abusive control present in the culture to be included within the new community of the church.

Where we can run into the same danger of misreading Timothy the way we might misread Esther when we want to layer on top of the text our current culture issues. When we think we’ve found the approach that shows how the text speaks to our current issue, we can be blind to other parts that may make it not fit. So with Esther the silence as to why Vashti refused to do as the king commanded could be filled in with our pet issue.

Likewise with Timothy. The article linked to above applies the history briefly recounted and concludes:

Given this understanding of “authentein” and the religious history of Ephesus, it is unlikely that Paul was warning against women (in general) “exercising authority” over men in the church. It is more likely that along with his warnings against false teaching, mythology, and forbidding marriage and the eating of certain foods, he was also warning against an abusive form of power.

The meaning of the Greek word authentein is disputable since it only appears in 1 Timothy 2:12, but the article trys to explain its apparent prohibition on women in authority in church by pointing to a history of abusive matriarchy in Ephesus. In the end, the author believes, this does not establish patriarchy in the place of matriarchy but rather 1 Timothy 2 is supposed to ensure that there is no abusive leadership in place in the church.

Except it doesn’t. You can’t take half of 1 Timothy 2 in isolation, even with this historical data, and claim to have correctly interpreted the meaning of one word. Let’s assume for a moment that 1 Timothy 2 doesn’t establish patriarchy. Okay. Keep reading. When you get to chapter 3 you run into Paul’s requirements for the role of elder/bishop/presbyter and deacon. An elder must be “the husband of one wife.” That’s not something a woman can do. Also, all of the qualifications for elder are given in masculine pronouns; “he must”, “he must not”, etc. This sounds like Paul is indeed establishing a patriarchy.

What about deacons? A similar thing happens there but then we get to 1 Timothy 3:11. The ESV says “Their wives likewise must be dignified…” but that’s not a translation, it is an interpretation. The word behind “wives” is gune which can be translated as “wife” or “woman”. Paul is allowing for women to be deacons but not elders. Let that sink in for a moment. Paul give the qualifications for female deacons but not for female elders. And just to make the point that this is not a unique situation in Ephesus, he tells the same thing to Titus on Crete in Titus 1:5-9. Again, all masculine pronouns and no qualifications for female elders.

Looking beyond the verse in question and asking more of the text can give us better answers. The rest of the book of Esther is not about ending patriarchy but about God delivering his people though brave and faithful Esther and Mordecai. The rest of the context of Paul’s instruction to Timothy about establishing leadership is about faithful men as elders and men and women as deacons.

But let’s go back a little. The history of Ephesus used in the article is sketchy. According to the Wikipedia article on Ephesus:

The mythical founder of the city was a prince of Athens named Androklos, who had to leave his country after the death of his father, King Kadros. According to the legend, he founded Ephesus on the place where the oracle of Delphi became reality (“A fish and a boar will show you the way”)…

Later, Greek historians such as Pausanias, Strabo and Herodotos and the poet Kallinos reassigned the city’s mythological foundation to Ephos, queen of the Amazons.

Catch that? “Later” they “reassigned” the foundation to the queen of the Amazons. The foundation of Ephesus is wrapped in mythology. This seems a very shaky foundation to build Biblical exegesis on.

When interpreting scripture, we must resist the desire to push our modern ideas and sensibilities into gaps, point, and yell “Ah ha!” Let’s keep Vashti out of Ephesians.

Raspberry Pi as Apple Time Capsule

I’ll skip the obvious stuff about having to own a Raspberry Pi and external hard drive and how to set up the Pi since the first two should be obvious and the third you can find 1,000 other places. Instead I’ll just cut to the chase. This worked for me on a Raspberry Pi 2 and so it should work on a 3 as well.

I found the instructions here. They are mostly right but the formatting is a little inconsistent and I thought some of the steps were out of order so I’m going to summarize it, clean it up, and inject what I learned from my experience. Instructions after the fold.

Read On…

Two Natures in One Person


The Chalcedoinian Definition (451 A.D.) says, in part, that Jesus is “to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved…” He is fully human (without sin) and he is fully divine.

In Jesus, these two natures don’t mix into something else (“inconfusedly”) and they are not “active” in him at different times (“indivisibly”). His human nature does what sinless, unfallen human nature does and his divine nature does what undiminished divinity does. The two natures must remain distinct from each other and yet united in the one person of Jesus because the distinction is not taken away by the union.

This raises very rich questions when you think of Jesus as one person with two natures. For example,

  • When Jesus was tempted could he have sinned?
  • Is Jesus’ humanity omniscient? Is it omnipresent?
  • Did Jesus’ divine nature sleep in the stern of the boat?
  • Can divinity die?
  • Did the will of infant in the manger hold the universe together?
  • Did Jesus create Mary who gave birth to him?
  • Did the Second person of the Trinity “grow in wisdom and stature before God and man”?

As you contemplate these questions, remember to keep his natures truly human and truly divine, not mixed, confused, or separated.

As difficult as this is to understand, it is the only way that God could become human and still be fully God and fully human at the same time. And that means that our salvation depends on this union of natures in Jesus. It is confusing and mysterious and glorious. We worship an amazing God.

Christians After The 2016 Election

I’d like to report that the sun came up this morning. However it did not scorch the unrighteous nor was it attended by a choir of singing angels. Today isn’t the end of days nor the dawning of the new heavens and new earth.

I hear sirens and helicopters but they’re not coming to take our guns nor are they rounding up immigrants. They are going to help hurting people and to deal with crime.

Employment and joblessness are at levels about where they were yesterday and it seems they will stay there in the immediate future.

Indications are that the moon will rise this evening and not be blood red. Nor will it be a perpetual silvery full moon that smiles on us and sings happy songs.

Regardless of what the American people decided on November 8th, there are still people in need, people hurting, people who feel empty and hopeless, people who say, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry!” and have no idea that God says, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you!”

The call, the commission, the mission of the church remains. Go make disciples, whether Diocletian or Constantine is on the throne.

Why I Will Vote Third Party


This post will not be about why I won’t vote for Hillary or Trump. Suffice it to say that I believe they are both power-hungry narcissists and I disagree with both of them on important political and social issues. There is no guarantee that either will nominate Supreme Court justices who will defend and interpret the constitution. In my estimation, neither candidate is suited to lead this great nation.

Politically, I am a moderate but I’m a social conservative. That means I believe there is a role for government beyond erecting traffic signs and less than outlawing large sodas. My approach to voting has been to vote for the candidate I believe will be able to do the least amount of damage, which means that I have voted Republican and Democrat in the past. This election I have decided to vote for neither since I believe they are both capable of inflicting an equal amount of damage. Here’s why I believe it is important for me to vote for a third party.

I live in California. My state has voted solidly Democrat since 1992 and is considered to be very “strongly safe Clinton”. It is highly unlikely California will swing Republican so in a sense, my vote doesn’t really matter. California’s Electoral College votes are almost certainly going to Clinton. This is frustrating but at the same time liberating. If I vote my conscience I am not giving my state to Clinton no matter what any talking head says.

But in a very important way, my vote still matters. By voting for a third party I am able to register my dissatisfaction with both parties. True, my candidate won’t win but my vote still can. If a large enough portion of the voting public votes third party we can make a third party viable even if it isn’t in this election. The argument against voting third party is that if you don’t vote for X you’re voting for Y. I’ve heard this from both Democrats and Republicans and I solidly reject that reasoning.

We’ve all lived with only Democrat and Republican parties so we forget it wasn’t always so. The first Republican president was Abraham Lincoln. The political landscape has changed in the past and it can be changed in the future. For too long we have been told that we must choose one of two options presented. My vote can no longer be coerced by a two-party system that has consistently presented poor options since 1992. The unacceptable options presented in this election cycle have finally pushed me to break out of that system.

So how will I be voting? The Libertarian party seems to be gaining steam and may be a contender though I have very little confidence in their candidates. To me, Johnson is the lesser of three evils. The independent Evan McMullin is the first conservative voice I’ve heard in a while. I’m considering voting for him. His Mormon view of America and its “inspired” constitution give me pause but it isn’t like he’s going to win.

Why the Golden Rule Isn’t So Original

The ‘Golden Rule’ is much older than any monotheism, and…no human society would have been possible or even thinkable without elementary solidarity (which also allows for self-interest) between its members. – Christopher Hitchens, “Is Christianity Good For The World”, Christianity Today, May 8, 2007

The golden rule is something you don’t have to teach a child. There is no need to say, “And if you don’t follow this rule, you’ll burn in hell.” – Christopher Hitchens, “Hitchens, Sharpton and Faith”, The New York Times, May 7, 2007

The first thing to get clear about Christian morality between man and man is that in this department Christ did not come to preach any brand new morality. The Golden Rule of the New Testament (Do as you would be done by) is a summing up of what everyone, at bottom, had always known to be right. Really great moral teachers never do introduce new moralities: it is quacks and cranks who do that…The real job of every moral teacher is to keep on bringing us back, time after time, to the old simple principles which we are all so anxious not to see; like bringing a horse back and back to the fence it has refused to jump or bringing a child back and back to the bit in its lesson that it wants to shirk. – C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Love and Laws

A comedian I really like tweeted the following:

Recognizing that this is a tweet and is therefore limited to 140 characters, also recognizing that she is an atheist and therefore probably doesn’t have a robust understanding of prayer, also that she is a comedian so this is a schtick, I’d still like to use her tweet as a springboard to engage this a bit.

First, I don’t know anyone who thinks prayer for shooting victims is all that needs to be done. It is a generalization that is unfair to “religion”. Many religions operate hospitals; have chaplains in hospitals, police forces, and prisons; and many people from many different stripes of religion are on different sides of the gun control debate.

Second, her assumption is that the answer to gun violence is gun laws. Gun laws, in and of themselves, are incapable of stopping gun violence. I’d just point to the tragic case of Chicago which has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation and some of the highest gun violence and deaths in the nation as well. The number of laws on the books has swollen over the past few decades and crime is not abated in the least.

Third, prayer is actually more effective than adding laws to laws. Christians (a subset of “religion”) believe that when we pray, we are asking the greatest Power in the universe to employ the greatest wisdom in the universe motivated by the greatest love in the universe to act on the situation we care deeply about but only understand a fraction of. It is not simply sending positive thoughts at the clouds. God is capable of changing human hearts and ruling over nations.

“So,” I can image her asking, “why doesn’t he do something about this? Either he is indifferent, incapable, or imaginary.” Not so fast. God has done things about this and we’re ignoring them. He has told us that humans are created in his image and therefore are sacred. Instead we have determined that humans are sophisticated animals and nothing more. When you degrade human life, don’t be surprised when it is treated and taken cheaply. If we were to understand humans the way God has made us, we might take human life much more serious.

The other thing we’ve done to ignore God’s method of restraining this kind of violence is that we’re getting rid of capital punishment. The non-religious opposition to this is very confusing to me. If, as atheists assume, humans are mere animals why shouldn’t we kill them if they become this dangerous?1There is a Christian opposition to capital punishment but that is beyond the point I’m trying to make here. Since we are made in God’s image, God doesn’t give us that kind of liberty in executing people. Because humans are created in his image, anyone who kills a human is to be killed (Gen. 9:6). The punishment must fit the crime. Instead we no long punish but seek to rehabilitate and therefore the punishment never ends. Executing murders is not meant to teach people who to not kill, it is intended to show how special human life is and remind people what the consequence is of taking it.

To be fair, the way we’re currently employing capital punishment needs very much to be reformed. It is not being applied fairly. But that doesn’t mean that we should throw it out instead of addressing it.

So two of the ways that God has given the nations to control violence are largely cast aside and then people complain about the results.

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1. There is a Christian opposition to capital punishment but that is beyond the point I’m trying to make here.