This present darkness

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Ephesians 6:12 (New American Standard Bible)

For many Christians, this verse serves to situate and orient believers in a context of a hidden, larger world: an ever-present spiritual power-struggle.  It hints at meta-physical hierarchies and malevolent entities. Some Christian denominations hold that it opens a window onto a plane of spiritual warfare between very literal angels and demons. This view even spawned a series of fiction books that I read with rapt attention as a youth.

Recently, this verse acquired new poignancy for me. This quote from an account of an ex-Westboro Baptist member illustrates why:

When David Abitbol learned that the sisters had left Westboro, he invited them to speak at the next Jewlicious festival in Long Beach. They agreed, hoping that the experience might help them to find their way, and to finally understand a community that they had vilified for so long. “It was like we were just reaching out and grabbing on to whatever was around,” Megan said. Abitbol said, “People, before they met them, were, like, ‘So, now they’re not batshit-crazy gay haters and we’re supposed to love them? Fuck that.’ ” He added, “And then they heard them speak, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”

Daily I see people speak cruel, hateful, venomous words. I witness bigotry, hatred, and disdain for the least fortunate members of society. I watch people take on ugly, judgemental, callous attitudes.

Paul the Apostle himself was no stranger to judgmental views. But intentionally or not, his letter to the Ephesians reminds me that my struggle is not against flesh and blood. It is not against people.

It is against the “principalities and powers”, as some translations put it, which possess and rule people’s minds. The belief systems that worm their way in where fear provides an entrance. The oversimplified memes. The biases. The stereotypes, false formalisms, and persistent misconceptions that hold human minds in bondage.

This verse reminds me that I am not here to do battle with individuals. I am here to reach out, to retrieve, to rescue. Not to defeat, but to save

Disrupting Judaism

Last summer Rabbi Dovi Scheiner and his wife Esty realized they had a problem. Over the past decade they had done the improbable: created a sexy, enticing synagogue named Soho Synagogue for young Jewish professionals. At a comedy event in September named “Laughter Before Yom Kippur” every performer obsessed over how […]

Source: This Synagogue Is Breaking Away from a 2,000-Year-Old Model and Solving Judaism’s Biggest Problem – Forbes

I’m pretty sure I never expected to read the phrase “sexy, enticing synagogue”. I’m pretty sure I never wanted to either.

Amazingly, it just gets creepier.

The initial idea, drummed up last summer, was to create a paywall protected website that gave Jews access to Soho Synagogue. They could pay either one dollar or two dollars a day and then sign up for religious or social events. Once the website was built, however, they realized they could do so much more with it. They added a vertical where members could view one another’s profiles and message to ask for a date or a job opportunity. They created a space for young people to blog about Jewish issues they care about (One related to the afterlife was called “You had me at Hell Oh”) and for the Rabbi to publish D’var Torahs or Jewish words of the day.

Synago is “an answer that answered every question,” said Rabbi Scheiner. It wasn’t like the synagogue needed to raise money so it opened a car dealership or sold bagel and lox to strangers. Rather, it raised money by selling a product that added even more value to people’s lives and gave them an even better Jewish experience. “We are able to deliver exponential inspiration, exponential identity, exponential networking,” he said. “It’s an absolute fantasy.”

Speaking both as a Jew and as a technologist: ewwwwwwwww.

Mike Huckabee admits he’s a moral black hole

Huckabee: I Should Have Pretended To Be Transgender In School To ‘Shower With The Girls

This is the inevitable outcome of Christian (or any religion) “total depravity” thinking. “I am a moral vacuum without God and Uncle Sam to keep me in line, so all I can imagine is how I would have tried to abuse a system in order to get my jollies [and been promptly been disciplined for it, no doubt]. Therefore, we should do psychic damage to hundreds of thousands of struggling transgender kids because dipshit men like me can only think with their dongs. And it’s more important to make it hard for us to sin than to make it easy for other people to exist in the world.”

I wonder if he also objects to the fact that kids in schools were “forced” to be part of the “social experiment” of desegregation.

Somebody Loves Me

I collect Chick tracts whenever I find them. Many of them are unintentionally hilarious. But recently one came into my possession that is just plain dark and depressing: Somebody Loves Me. Warning: violence and neglect towards a young (cartoon) child.

I don’t even know what I’m supposed to take away from this. Surely ole’ jack sees this as an example of God being the only hope in a fallen world. But it seems more likely to prompt the kinds of questions that begin “What kind of god…”