My first YouTube video, because COVID

In the beginning…

YouTubeA couple of summers ago, I was supposed to read the Scripture for our online church service. My daughter recorded me on her phone, but we were having a difficult time. The reading was only about a minute long. My daughter could only record about 30 seconds at a time. I wouldn’t even try it on my irritating device at that time. Fortunately, Dwight, the tech magician for the church, could piece the snippets together.

Then in the fall, one of my pastors asked me to read Genesis 1:1-2:4 for the Sunday school class that was starting online. It wasn’t a traditional reading, but rather a piece from something called Growing in God’s Love: A Story Bible. The book was edited by Elizabeth F. Caldwell and Carol A. Wehrheim.

Clearly, I needed a different way to record the new video. The reading is nearly three minutes long. Hey, wait! My free ZOOM account allows for recording, doesn’t it? The button along the bottom suggests it does.

I tried a couple of test runs. First, I needed to actually FIND where the video resided. Here’s a YouTube video for that. Ah, the file is an MP4.

Nuts. The sun from behind the blinds kept changing in intensity. On the finished product, my head looks shiny on the top, as it often does. My eye contact with the camera was only so-so. The video, though, was more than adequate for the purpose, I was told.

Channel THAT

Hmm. I think I have a YouTube channel, somehow tied to my Google account. Indeed I do. It has links to other people’s videos I would watch if there were 48 hours in a day. I download the file. Voila, I have my first YouTube video.

I suppose you thought I was going to link to it. Nah. I just wanted to share the fact that because of the pandemic, I did a new thing.

Sigh. OK. Here it is. My favorite is the test video because I REALLY didn’t know what I was doing.  

The Curse of Canaan (or Ham)

The explanation that black Africans, as the “sons of Ham”, were cursed, possibly “blackened” by their sins, became increasingly common during the slave trade of the 18th and 19th centuries.

When we were investigating some aspects of black history this year at church, I was intrigued by the fact that, for a time in the mid-17th century, slavery based on race wasn’t really codified in the United States. There were white indentured servants and black slaves, but the former were often given ever-changing terms of servitude, making them functionally little better off than slaves.

In the 1670s, Bacon’s Rebellion “demonstrated that poor whites and poor blacks could be united in a cause. This was a great fear of the ruling class — what would prevent the poor from uniting to fight them? This fear hastened the transition to racial slavery.”

The status of blacks in Virginia slowly changed over the last half of the 17th century.“The black indentured servant, with his hope of freedom, was increasingly being replaced by the black slave.” So why bother with indentured servants who, after 7, 18, or 21 years [would have to be freed], when you could have Africans serve their lifetime, and serve in perpetuity through their children?
But HOW was the idea of permanent black enslavement developed? In part, from the Bible. Specifically from Genesis 9, starting with verse 18. After Noah has too much wine, “Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brethren outside.” Noah curses Canaan (not Ham) to be the lowest of slaves “to his brothers,” specifically to Ham’s brothers, Japheth and Shem.

From the Wikipedia:

While Genesis 9 never says that Ham was black, he became associated with black skin, through folk etymology deriving his name from a similar, but actually unconnected, word meaning “dark” or “brown”…

The explanation that black Africans, as the “sons of Ham”, were cursed, possibly “blackened” by their sins, was advanced only sporadically during the Middle Ages, but it became increasingly common during the slave trade of the 18th and 19th centuries. The justification of slavery itself through the sins of Ham was well suited to the ideological interests of the elite; with the emergence of the slave trade, its racialized version justified the exploitation of African labour.

Read Black Slavery as the “Curse of Ham”: Bible Truth or Racist Apologetic?

The notion that blackness is equal to sin, used to “prove” black people’s “natural” inferiority, and lack of moral character, also shows up in the Book of Mormon, published in the 1820s (2 Nephi 5:21):

And [God] had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people, the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them. And thus saith the Lord God; I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities.”

Sometime in the last few years, a good Christian woman, who reportedly has studied the Bible carefully, indicated, more or less out of the blue, that I was descended from Ham. Yet, in spite of my “cursed state,” the love of Jesus Christ was still available to me. Circumstances warranted that I had no opportunity for reply.

THIS is my reply: lady, your “Biblical history” is BS.

A is for Adam and Eve

What bothers me about the literal Creationists is not that they believe what they believe. It’s that a whole pseudoscience that was created around it.

Big fat caveat upfront; I don’t mean to make light of anyone’s faith, I’m just trying to understand.

Someone I know only online, who I suspect wouldn’t consider herself a particularly religious person, decided to read the Bible. She stopped after Genesis 2. She complained that there were two seemingly contradictory Creation stories. In Genesis 1, the creatures came, then the man and the woman. But in Genesis 2, you get the Adam’s rib version, where the man is seemingly created before the creatures, but definitely before the woman. I say “seemingly”, because the NIV version reads at v. 19 “Now the LORD God HAD formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man…”; the “had” suggests the possibility that the animal had already existed and that the man, hanging out in the garden, simply hadn’t seen them.

The problem, I contended, is that the person was reading the stories as history, as science, not allegory. If you read it as history, and Adam and Eve were in fact the first people, what does it mean in terms of their descendants? Who was Cain’s wife, and who were the people he feared might kill him in Genesis 4? That specific issue confounded me when I was a teenager, and was one of the items that indeed shook my faith at the time.

Once I realized it was not a literal history, it became much easier to understand.

This is why I’m quite puzzled by those who have decided to take Genesis 1 verbatim. The earth and all its creatures, including humans, were formed in six days – possible? Sure, in a “God can do anything” way, but not at all likely. And the order of the creation seems to mesh pretty well with the evolutionary cycle we’ve come to understand, albeit considerably longer. The word “day” may not have meant 24 hours; remember, no one wrote this down at the time, but rather learned it from the oral tradition, transcribing it relatively quite recently, in the last millennium Before the Christian Era. This philosophy, I’ve learned, is called progressive creationism.

What bothers me about the literal Creationists is not that they believe what they believe. It’s that a whole pseudoscience that was created around it, of people walking the earth with the dinosaurs only 4000 years ago, and the planet only 10,000, rather than humans being around for 50,000 to 200,000 years, the dinosaurs having been extinct for 65 million years, and the Earth itself being about 4.6 billion years old. How does this narrative conflict with “some vast eternal plan”, quoting Fiddler on the Roof?

I guess I’m saying that I don’t think science and creation are that much at odds. The shoehorning of a literal six-day earth making – that seems to be a lot more work.

Can someone please explain this to me? Oh, and check out this recent Doonesbury strip, which addresses the issue.

ABC Wednesday team – Round 9

Citation to top piece of artwork.

Genesis 38: Onan

So instead of mocking Christine O’Donnell, I want to thank her for bringing the conversation of self-gratification to the public forum.

WARNING: not for those easily offended. Ah, my first “mature audience” post, and it’s based on the Bible, no less.

I have to blame US Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell (R-Delaware) for my need to reread the 38th chapter of the first book of the Bible. Those of you unfamiliar with that person need only know that she has made public comments about witchcraft and onanism. Don’t know that latter word? You will, very soon.

In the Biblical tale, it seems that Judah – a son of Jacob, a/k/a Israel – who was behind the selling off of his brother Joseph (the Technicolor Dreamcoat dude) into slavery, moved out of town and married a Canaanite woman named Shua, which wasn’t kosher. He had three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah. Judah fixed up Er with a woman named Tamar. But Er ticked off God, though we’re never specifically told in what fashion and God kills him.

OK, so Onan is supposed to marry his sister-in-law and impregnate her, but the male heir would be considered Er’s son, not Onan’s. Now Onan didn’t mind having sex with Tamar but didn’t want to put her “in a family way”, as it used to be called, so he engaged in a bit of coitus interruptus, and his seed spilled on the ground. This ticked off God and He killed Onan too.

For one purpose only

Now, what’s peculiar with the interpretation of this story thus far by many people is that what Onan did was masturbation. Thus the word onanism has come to mean masturbation. Others have suggested that it was a text saying that people should have sex ONLY for the purpose of procreation, not recreation since every seed was potentially life. (See, e.g., the video of Every Sperm is Sacred from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life.) The only thing that IS clear is that Onan disobeyed GOD and that he and his elder brother REALLY ticked Him off.

Back to the story: Shelah, Judah’s youngest, grows up and should be married off to Tamar, but Judah was afraid he’d suffer the same fate as his brothers. Meanwhile, Judah’s wife dies. Tamar covered her face, pretending to be harlot, has sex with her father-in-law, and gets pregnant. When Judah discovers that Tamar played a harlot – though not yet HIS harlot – he orders her to be burned until it was revealed that it was Judah himself who slept with her.

He then realizes that she did what she had to, while Judah had dealt dishonorably with Tamar by not providing her with a (third) husband, without which she had no economic means. He has twin sons, Perez (in some translations, Pharez) and Zerah, and though it’s not stated here, Perez’s descendants would include King David, and a carpenter named Joseph, the (human) father figure of Jesus of Nazareth. Which only goes to show that God moves in very mysterious ways.


So instead of mocking Christine O’Donnell, I want to thank her for bringing the conversation of self-gratification to the public forum. Why even Jimmy Carter, the former President of the United States, recently mentioned it, albeit obliquely, on national television. On the September 20 episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, starting at about the 4:15 mark, Carter talks about O’Donnell’s toying with witchcraft in her younger days. He said he’s never engaged in witchcraft, but in his younger days might have partaken in that OTHER thing she had been talking about. A slightly embarrassed Stewart says that didn’t think Carter would be going there. (But he should have: in an interview with PLAYBOY in 1976, Presidential candidate Carter talked about “lust in his heart.”)

I’d hardly be the first person to note how peculiar Americans are about sex. Did you know the movie A Clockwork Orange, was originally rated X, not because of violence but because of an extremely speeded up sex scene performed to an extremely speeded up Lone Ranger theme (William Tell Overture)? People getting tortured? OK to see with the kids. People getting horizontal? Not so much. [And cut! Movie sex scenes not part of the act for parents, kids]

I think, despite all manner of sexuality in the marketplace, that puritanical streak is still stubbornly embedded, at least in the US. If sex is only for procreation, does that mean that people beyond the age of child-bearing oughtn’t to have sex? I think that, even now, that has been the message, which is why younger people tend to giggle at the thought of people in their seventies and beyond still “doing it”. There is a ban on birth control in the Catholic church, which the vast majority of US Catholics ignore regularly.

No insanity

To the matter at hand – probably a poor choice of words – the Wikipedia article on masturbation has all sorts of health benefits, not the least of which is the lessened likelihood of prostate cancer, as well as increased motility when one DOES want to engage in procreative activities. There’s no proof that it will make one go insane or grow hair on one’s palms.

One is to be “celibate in singleness, and faithful in marriage”, according to the traditions of many Christians and other believers. Even the apostle Paul, who preferred the faithful to be celibate recognized the power of sexuality. So even though I don’t think it’s really anyone else’s business, I’m not quite sure what is it about the act that is so wrong, especially since all reports, going back at least to the 1950s, suggests that a majority of women and a vast majority of males are doing it anyway. How does one talk to one’s partner about what he or she likes without self-discovery? Lack of self-awareness seems the more selfish act.

Incidentally, it was not my intention to dwell on the male side of the conversation, rather than the female. It’s just that it generates greater data. There was even a song in the 1990s called Firing the Surgeon General that contained many euphemisms for the male act, a recent recording of which I found here.


The Brothers of Onan and Middle East peace

Sodomy from the Broadway musical Hair

I named my pet canary Onan, because he spills his seed upon the ground. —Dorothy Parker

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