Whatever happened to basic human decency?

The Longview News-Journal recently published a guest editorial that attempted to take on the thorny issue of sexual violence under the title “Whatever happened to self discipline?”

Go read it, if you have the stomach. However, survivors of sexual violence may wish to pass.

Whatever happened to self-discipline? That’s certainly a valid question to ask of any man who presumes to force himself upon a woman. Unfortunately, the author takes the completely wrong-headed approach of asking that question of the “women … whose breasts [are] almost literally hanging out of their shirts or dresses.”

Let me be clear: implying that a victim of sexual violence deserved it because of what they may or may not have been wearing is absolutely wrong. A culture of victim blaming creates a tremendous disincentive to report the crime, and compounds the psychological trauma that accompanies a physical assault. We must do better than this!

The author deals heavily in generalizations and personal anecdotes:

“I knew intuitively what social science now teaches: Men are turned on sexually by what they see. Women are turned on by what they feel.”

This is an insidious cultural lie, because it gives the rapist an out; he couldn’t help it, she was just so hot! But men are not animals; insinuating that they lose their minds at the slightest suggestion of female flesh is incredibly degrading. Whatever happened to self-discipline? This belief would have you think that men are incapable of it altogether. Meanwhile, what science actually says about the difference between male and female arousal is more complex.

Even worse:

“I made sure I didn’t dress provocatively, but that didn’t stop the advances of some men. I made sure I never was in a situation or place where I could be raped. A firm, “No,” was sufficient to stop the inappropriate behavior.”

Sadly, there is no such thing as a situation or place where rape can never occur, and statements like this once again lay blame for an assault at the victim’s feet. Obviously, if everyone just stayed away from the bad part of town, then we’ll have that pesky rape problem solved. How did we not think of this before? As for just saying “No,” well, that’s what Janese Talton-Jackson did. Twice. “No” did not save her.

The remainder of the op-ed is frankly rather rambling, with digressions on inappropriately-dressed receptionists, the Kardashians, and the author’s belief that women who dress provocatively are “missing something” in that they fail to “value themselves as they are.” Adele makes an appearance, too, as an example of how a lady should behave. The author concludes with another doozy:

“Is the rising incidence of sexual crimes, particularly toward children, due to increasing instances of undress in women that turn a man on sexually?”

Lord have mercy. How do you make the logical leap from adult female fashion to child abuse?

Rape is not about sex; sex is a consensual act. Rather, rape is about entitlement; a stronger party forcing their desires upon a weaker party, regardless of the weaker party’s wishes. Breaking down this sense of entitlement is the key to reducing (dare I dream eliminating?) rape.

Men are not entitled to women’s attention.

Men are not entitled to women’s time.

Men are not entitled to women’s bodies.

Men are not entitled to respond with violence when their advances are rebuffed.

Et cetera, ad infinitum.

Let us heap our scorn and shame on anyone who believes or acts otherwise, and regain our basic human decency towards those in our midst who have survived hell.


That Dreadful Courtesy

I am upset.

Lately there is so much to be upset about. Thousands dead, and thousands more fleeing from Syria’s civil war. The Islamic State crucifying and decapitating any and all dissenters in its annexed corners of Syria and Iraq. The worst outbreak of Ebola ever in West Africa with hundreds dead and a 50% fatality rate, only gaining traction with the U.S. news machine now that two Americans have been infected. Tens of thousands of children at the U.S. border, fleeing violence in their Central American home countries, and being met with stern faces and angry voices.

All of these things are heartbreaking in their own way, but right now my heart keeps getting drawn back to be broken in Gaza.

So much rubble. So much destruction. So many dead children.

I’m not entirely ignorant of the troubled recent history of the Middle East. Today’s pictures of black smoke rising above ruined streets are not new, and don’t have much to distinguish them from pictures taken in the same region two years ago, five years ago, fourteen years ago; but this time around I find them much more disturbing.

In years past, I felt that Israel was generally doing the right thing in seeking to protect itself. No nation can tolerate a situation where its citizens are blown up at cafés or buses on a regular basis. The walls and military actions may have been distasteful, but they were necessary for the security of Israel’s citizens. The effect that they had on everyday Palestinians was lost on me at the time.

Things are different now.

Israel is still under siege from Hamas’ rocket attacks and tunnel incursions, and I acknowledge that I, sitting comfortably half the world away in Texas, can never appreciate the psychological burden of living under those conditions. However, in a real sense, the Iron Dome anti-missile system seems to have almost completely neutralized the threat of significant damage from these rockets. The most recent suicide bombing in Israel was in 2008. Being able to effectively keep Hamas at arm’s length should give Israel the luxury of pursuing peace, however slow the process may be.

Instead, the Israeli government cynically used the violent death of three teenagers as a pretext to resume bombing Gaza and crush Hamas once and for all. Never mind that we have now learned (and Israeli intelligence knew along) that Hamas was not responsible for killing those boys. Never mind that Gaza is the most densely populated area on the planet. Never mind that the millions of Palestinian civilians, when warned to evacuate their homes mere seconds before they get summarily demolished from above, literally have no safe place to go.

Justified actions. Proportionate response. Regrettable collateral damage.

These words do such violence to their dictionary meaning that we should call them what they are: lies.

What’s the body count since Operation Protective Edge began on July 8, 2014? As I write this on July 29, more than 1000 Palestinians have lost their lives. At least 70% of these casualties were civilians.

There is no moral justification for these numbers.

What is a proportionate response when an inbound rocket is intercepted by Iron Dome, or raiders attack Israeli soldiers from a hidden tunnel? Israel believes that leveling an entire neighborhood is acceptable. Too bad, so sad if the residents disagree.

There is nothing proportionate about the recent action in Shejaiya.

And about that collateral damage. Israel’s response to the butcher bill it has inflicted on Gaza’s civilians does not even rise to the level of regret. Israeli shells killed four young boys as they played football on an empty beach in front of a hotel full of international journalists. Multiple reports from these journalist witnesses state that they were killed as they were running away from the first shot. When your demonstrated strategy includes deliberately targeting children, you have thrown away any possible claim of occupying the moral high ground.

So many dead children.

Here’s what is different for me this time around: as I see picture after picture of distraught men holding the lifeless husks that used to be their daughters and sons, I picture myself in their shoes, holding one or both of my boys.

I can’t deal with that line of thinking for very long. Palestinians are forced to live with it, day after bloody day, waiting for that dreadful courtesy knock on the roof, wondering if today it will be their turn to gather the pieces of their children from the rubble.

Hamas has plenty of blood on its hands, no doubt about it.

But Israel, acting from a vastly superior position of strength, is exacting its vengeance on the people who have the least culpability while being the most vulnerable. This is immoral, unjust, and will do nothing to improve the long-term prospects for peace.

So I offer my small voice on behalf of the besieged Palestinian civilians. Israel must end its campaign of unrestricted violence and terror. The innocent blood in what’s left of Gaza’s streets cries out for justice. Without justice, there will never be peace.

Lions’ Den

What of the desperate house wife?

Makeup concealing the bruise on her face

He tells her it’s all her fault

But her pastor says that she has to forgive

Where can she go for shelter

When Your house is a lions’ den?


Lions’ den, lions’ den

Struggling for life in a lions’ den

Lions’ den, lions’ den

Does anybody know she’s being beaten in a lions’ den?


What of the boy in his closet?

Full of questions and doubts and wonders and fears

Clobbered by their thunderous sermons

Dismissed by their judgmental fingers

Where can he go for shelter

When Your house is a lions’ den?


Lions’ den, lions’ den

Struggling for life in a lions’ den

Lions’ den, lions’ den

Does anybody know he’s being broken in a lions’ den?


And what of the youth-group Lolita?

The light of his life, the fire in his loins

Tarnished by his quicksilver tongue

Her innocence stolen, and she is so young

Oh God, where can she go for shelter

When Your house is a lions’ den?


Lions’ den, lions’ den

She’s hanging on for dear life in a lions’ den

Lions’ den, lions’ den

Does anybody know she’s being eaten in a lions’ den?


Does anybody care they’re dying slowly in a lions’ den?

This song was inspired by the stories that came from #TakeDownThatPost and also by Connor Brassington’s story of almost dying at the hands of conservative religion. The recording is a very rough demo, and I consider the song to be a work in progress. Your comments are welcome!


They Tweeted, I Fav’d, Now You Read

The ripples from that Christianity Today/Leadership Journal article from two weeks ago are still washing up heartbreaking and vital stories.

#HowOldWereYou: Origins of a Heatbreaking HashtagKaren Swallow Prior

Perhaps if the church dealt more honestly with sexual temptation, temptation would lead less frequently to acting out on it. Keeping talk of such temptations taboo leads naturally to imagining that one’s temptations are somehow unique, which leads, in turn, to imagining oneself as somehow unique and, therefore, entitled in one’s status as “special” to act on one’s temptations.

To Publish a PredatorHalee Gray Scott

Last week, when I read the Leadership Journal article, “My Easy Trip From Youth Minister to Felon,” I had much the same reaction as when I first read Lolita. “This is a narrator who cannot be trusted. This is the voice of a sexual predator.” For many people, like me, it was all too familiar. We readily recognize the biased perspective of sexual predators because we’ve been on the other side, as victims.

The Case for ExcommunicationBronwyn Lea

I am reminded of this one incident, more than a dozen years ago, when I read of pastors committing sexual offenses against parishioners in their churches.

Yes, they should be prosecuted by law. Yes, they should be fired.

But for the health of our communities – they should also be excommunicated. There is healing in a hurting community standing together and saying “that is NOT right, and we will not have it here.” It is an extreme thing to do- but it occurs to me that in these extreme cases which cause extreme pain, it is appropriate. The hurting church is not without remedy to call out evil.

And more than that: I believe the Gospel demands it.

As I tweeted in response, I think Bronwyn hits on how to tell if excommunication is being applied appropriately with this implied question: is the action in response to a community as a whole being hurt by unrepentant sin, or is someone in charge attempting to remove a perceived threat that the body as a whole is unaware of?

Forever ForeignKathy Khang via Emily Maynard

She was told that she didn’t belong, that there was no f-ing way she was American. She was told she would be sent back to where she came from, where she belonged. She was told she would be dead and that her family would be dead, too. She didn’t belong because she didn’t sound like them or look like them. In the news she was labeled as a naturalized citizen from China, reminding everyone else, reminding me, of her “otherness”. People like me aren’t really people. We are illegal. We are naturalized. We are born here. We are labeled or we choose labels. We are “others” and others get what’s coming to them.

Immigration: The Unforgivable Sin?Bronwyn Lea

It strikes me as incongruous that the ‘crime’ of illegally immigrating has, in some ways, a more punitive dimension than some violent crimes. Under the current law there is no possibility of release. No way of making restitution.

Iraq’s implosion is another disaster for Christians in the Middle EastFr Alexander Lucie-Smith

Luigi was more cautious. He told me that he had no doubt that the US and their allies could easily overthrow Saddam (He did not seem to share the idea that the Republican Guard were a serious fighting force). But, he said, he was equally sure that if Saddam were overthrown, there would be a civil war in Iraq. I found this quite impossible to believe. We had several conversations on this topic, and he was adamant that this is what would happen. Moreover, he was sure that if Saddam fell, and civil war ensued, this would be utterly disastrous for the country’s Christian minority.

We spoke about these things before the US-led invasion in March 2003. Since that time some 12 years have passed, and everything Luigi has said has come to pass.

Unlearning the lies we learned from the theologians of slavery – Part 1 | Part 2Fred Clark via Boze Herrington

Whitefield’s slave-owning and his lobbying for the legalization of slavery in Georgia were, in fact, an integral part of his identity. They were an integral part of his theology — his piety, his revivalism, his hermeneutic, his doctrine.

And thus they have become an integral part of our theology, piety, revivalism, hermeneutic and doctrine. Whitefield’s theology shaped the American church. Whitefield’s theology was grossly and essentially misshapen by slavery.

American theology and the American church are grossly and essentially misshapen by slavery.

And finally, some awesome pictures of the blue dot that we live on from current ISS residents Reid Wiseman and Alexander Gerst:

You can follow me on Twitter @mrDuncalfe.