Everything is impossibly complicated

Archive for January, 2016

Trump and Evangelical Infidelity

I remember when W was being elected for the first time. The semi-fundamentalist community I grew up in was desperate for him to win. He was “our guy”, a true follower of G-d (determined using the fundamentalist superpower of being able to know who’s a “real” Christian on the inside), and just as importantly, a Republican, the chosen party of G-d. On the other side was Gore, who, if elected, would bring G-d’s judgement on America, and “probably wasn’t the Antichrist” (as we so reasonably conceded) “but would likely usher him in”.

The second time W ran was similar. I remember a woman at my university saying she’d probably vote for Kerry “to give him a chance and change things up”. She was in our Christian group on campus, and I remember feeling the default fundamentalist horror at someone who had deliberately blinded herself and was now walking in darkness. Kerry was evil, and if he got elected we would never escape G-d’s judgement on our country.

Things started to get weird with the Obama/McCain election (or possibly they were always that way but I finally started to see it). First, when Hillary was making her bid for the Democratic nomination, the fundamentalist email trains were aflutter with Biblical references to Deborah and grave pronouncements that a woman leader was a sign of G-d’s judgement on a country. But after Hillary lost the nomination and McCain chose Palin as his running mate, suddenly people were talking about their visions of bees (Deborah is Hebrew for “bee”) and praising her as a Deborah who would save us (what happened to the judgement?).

I also remember people struggling with McCain’s nomination, since the he had no kinship with fundamentalists. He was the one selected for G-d’s Holy Party, but he himself wasn’t holy (evaluated using the above-mentioned fundamentalist superpower). Someone else on this email train reported struggling over this very issue until she got a vision in which she heard “McCain, McCain, why are you rejecting My anointed?” (note that “anointed” is the English translation of the Hebrew word Mashiach, which is commonly translated “Messiah”).

That was the first time the whole thing struck me as odd. It made sense to me to vote Republican when the party nominated a “good Christian” like W–obviously any group would feel more comfortable with one of their own running the country. But McCain wasn’t one of us. Why would he be G-d’s “Messiah”? It could just as easily have been the Democrat in that case (although Obama, with his Arabic-sounding name, was being explicitly predicted to be the Antichrist by some of my friends).

Obama got elected, life went on, and then came Romney and with him the unbelievable attachment of fundamentalists to the Republican party got even worse. Romney was Mormon, a group that when I was growing up was synonymous with “infidel” (and was viewed in much the same way as Muslims are today by that group). Yet once again, the conservative Christians rallied behind the Republican former-infidel-now-brother as the savior of our country (though admittedly with less enthusiasm than I saw for Bush or McCain).

Now it’s 2016, and Trump is the front runner, and more and more evangelicals are falling in line behind him. This is insane. There’s nothing Christian about Trump. He uses people, he promotes immorality (via the “immodesty” of his beauty pageants), he’s on his third marriage (divorce was considered an unforgivable sin when I was growing up), and he obviously doesn’t even know the Bible! Yet Liberty University welcomed him enthusiastically, Jerry Falwell Jr called him a “servant leader” in the tradition of Christ (the biggest load of bullshit I’ve ever heard from a Christian leader), and after Palin’s endorsement Christians are increasingly supporting him.

Trump is everything we despised growing up: an “obvious” unbeliever, an immoral and liberal businessman, and not a true conservative. The fact that he’s now being accepted as the chosen one shows that evangelicals are no longer even pretending to be choosing who to vote for based on their religious principles. They have merged with the “non-Christian” (their words) conservative culture and established that over their own religion and over the Bible. And consequently, they’ve lost their voice to talk about G-d in our society, and they’re deceiving only themselves with regard to what their political motivations are.

Enthusiastic Consent

Samantha Field, in her blog post titled Consent Isn’t Enough, argues that technical consent isn’t sufficient for having sex, but that sex instead requires enthusiastic consent–meaning consent given completely freely, without any pressure or sense of obligation.

On the one hand, I appreciate the position woman have been in for centuries (and still are today) of being seen as something to satisfy men’s desires, as opposed to someone with her own desires that deserve to be satisfied. I agree emphasis needs to be put on female pleasure and female comfort, and to get there from where we currently are requires emphasizing a woman’s consent in sexual activities, to ensure that the activities aren’t serving the one-sided desire of men.

But on the other hand, the post struck me as being rather overly idealistic. She mentions:

A long time ago, I watched a movie (I think it might have been Sunshine Cleaning?) where one of the main characters has sex with her boyfriend, and eventually gets so bored that she flips on the TV and starts watching something banal until he finishes. What I saw happening there wasn’t rape, but what I did see was a guy being a complete and total asshole.

I didn’t see this movie, and I don’t doubt that in the context of the movie that her assessment of the situation is correct, but on its own, I’m bothered by the all-or-nothing approach to sex that this represents. There’s nothing to guarantee that sex will always be mind-blowing, or even particularly striking. Sometimes sex is boring. If there’s consent, even if one person is bored, if both people accept it for what it is, what’s the problem?

Further, she says:

Sex should not be a “duty.” It shouldn’t be an act we feel obligated to perform for other people.

(which, to be fair, is then followed by “It should never be manipulated or coerced” which I’m not disagreeing with–the little things that bother me are intertwined with an overall argument that I appreciate). To this I wonder, why can’t sex be a “duty”? Two people in a relationship do all sorts of things for each other, and some of those things are going to be experienced as duties. Why can’t sex fall into that category for some people in some situations?

I grant that it’s entirely possible that Samantha would allow for the idea of sex-as-duty but didn’t see any reason to focus on it in light of the much more important point that inasmuch as sex being seen as a duty is the normal experience of females and not males, something is wrong and needs to be fixed. And with that I agree entirely. But I feel it’s important to remember, as we try to implement a fix, that sex isn’t magic. Sex is a human activity, and it enjoys all the benefits and suffers all the flaws of any human activity. The reason our society views sex so idealistically is precisely a side effect of having so many taboos around it–what’s forbidden gets elevated to something supernatural. As we learn to reclaim sex as a normal human activity and not a taboo one, we must also fully accept its normalness instead of expecting it to be a supernatural experience.

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