On Facebook, Fox News, and Intersexuality

I swear, the people at FoxNews aren’t just idiots, they’re proudly ignorant idiots, mocking that which (and those whom) they do not (and refuse to) understand.

Fox News personality Tucker Carlson refers to "intersex...whatever that is".

Fox News personality Tucker Carlson refers to “intersex…whatever that is”.

Facebook recently added additional gender options to its traditionally dichotomous male/female profile preferences. The gender terms provided by Facebook have been known for some time by those studying gender and sexuality, and have been explained to the public by professionals on several occasions.

So you can imagine why it may come as no a surprise to many that numerous pundits at Fox News not only do not know what many of these terms mean, but openly mock them.

Listen to the audio on the movie here.

Let me Google that for you: intersexThese are news people. They are supposedly investigators. So why mock intersexual people (or individuals exhibiting an intersexual condition) by saying on air “whatever that is”, when you can just as easily Google it.

Again, Tucker Carlson saying the words “whatever that is” in reference to intersex individuals is either evidence of incompetence as an investigative journalist, or sheer mockery of intersexuals.

Fox News personality Todd Starnes mocks intersexual individuals.

Fox News personality Todd Starnes mocks intersexual individuals.

And when Todd Starnes, host of the radio program Fox News & Commentary and a regular guest on Fox & Friends, says on Facebook,

“In the beginning God made man and woman…but Facebook decided to improve on the original models.”

or the idiotic

“What if you identify as a pine cone or a chicken or a weed whacker? Facebook doesn’t offer those options.”

and concerning “gender-fluid” individuals, who fluctuate somewhere on the spectrum between male and female, Starnes joked,

“You might want to have a roll of paper towels handy — just in case.”

I shake my head. It’s not news. And it’s a poor attempt at comedy. It’s a feigned ignorance for the purposes of mocking very real persons.

Intersexuals are not hypothetical individuals, and they are far more prevalent than you might think. Depending on the definition, about 1-1.7% of all live births – one or two out of every hundred people you know – show some form of sexual ambiguity, with 1 in 10 of those requiring optional surgery to assign them to a traditional male or female sex category.

I’ve blogged on this issue before. The case of Caster Semenya is but one higher profile example of an intersexual individual being questioned in the public spotlight.

And intersexual individuals are not new. There are photographs documenting intersexual individuals dating almost as far back as photography itself. Hell, the Greeks wrote complete myths about intersexuals in an attempt to explain their (divine) origin.

But it is this continued, deliberate ignorance of the existence of intersexual individuals – and the complete apathy concerning learning about them – that explains why so may religious conservatives (including those at Fox News) make the ignorant arguments they do concerning same-sex marriage. To put it simply, the existence of intersexual individuals implodes all arguments they make both about their opposition to anything but heterosexual marriage, and their claims that individuals choose their sexuality and are not born or “created” that way.

To argue age-old gender related religious arguments like “men are the spiritual leaders” and “women cannot be elders in the church” and “marriage is only between one man and one woman” falsely assumes that all individuals are either male or female. This is simply not the case, whether the Bible acknowledges intersexual individuals or not. Remember, science is not the Bible’s strong suit, and there are many realities of the modern world that the Bible simply does not acknowledge (for instance, that disease is caused by germs and not possession by evil spirits).

Intersexual individuals (formerly called Hermaphrodites after the Greek god Hermaphroditos, the son of Hermes and Aphrodite, who, according to Ovid, fused with a nymph (Salmacis) resulting in his possessing the physical traits of both a man and a woman) are very real individuals who do not fall into the traditional male-female dichotomy. Additionally, intersexual organisms are very common in nature. For example, clownfish (of the subfamily Amphiprioninae) of “Finding Nemo” fame are sequential intersexuals, with all specimens being born initially male, but with the largest fish in the group transforming very naturally into a female for reproductive purposes. (Remember that next time you watch the Disney favorite!)

Again, if you are going to argue that God made people, then God made intersexual people the way they are. (Right? Because “God don’t make no mistakes.”) They certainly didn’t “choose” to be intersexual; they were born that way. And while many intersexual individuals are proud of who they are and of the way they are, many others struggle with acceptance in a society so obsessed with sexuality and sexual conformity (especially to conservative religious traditions).

So tell me, praytell, who can intersexual individuals marry? Can they serve in leadership roles in a church?

These are real questions about real people, and the idiots at Fox News are too ignorant to know what they are, too stupid to look it up, and to bigoted to do anything but laugh at them. There is no excusing it. It is sheer mockery. They mock what they do not (and refuse to) understand because it does not fit their religious right wing narrative.

It is not news; it’s public social mockery of that which is “different” or “outside” and “beyond” the conservative worldview resulting from the religious blinders imposed by the Conservative Evangelical Republican political machine.

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The Latest on the So-called “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” and the Benefits of Scholars Blogging

So-called Gospel of Jesus’ Wife Appears to be a forgery, in which the forger accidentally copied a typo from an online PDF translation of the Gospel of Thomas.

Jeremy Hsu at FoxNews has published an article entitled, “Did Jesus have a wife? Scholar calls parchment ‘forgery’“, that highlights the benefit of university professors, trained graduate students, and professional scholars using online resources like blogs and Facebook to share their research and findings regarding archaeological claims to craft together viable theories based in evidence.

This account was impressive:

The smoking gun
All the grammatical anomalies in the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife suggest the writer was not a native speaker or even an academic expert in Coptic — the ancient, dead language of early Christians living in Egypt. Instead, Bernhard says that the pattern of errors and suspiciously similar line breaks suggests an amateur might have forged the “patchwork” text using individual words and phrases taken from Michael Grondin’s Interlinear Coptic-English Translation of the Gospel of Thomas. [Most European Languages Unlikely to Survive Online]

“There’s this general pattern in that everywhere the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife could diverge from gospel of Thomas, it doesn’t, and in places where it does [diverge], it appears it’s following Mike’s Interlinear,” Bernhard told TechNewsDaily.

One the most suspicious grammatical errors in the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife appeared to be a direct copy of a typo in the PDF file version of the Interlinear translation — a connection that Grondin himself made when he was examining his translation. He shared that knowledge with Mark Goodacre, an associate professor of New Testament at Duke University, who had been writing up a blog post independently about the possibility of the “Jesus’ Wife fragment” being a forgery.

Goodacre and Bernhard eventually got in touch and agreed to coordinate the online publishing of their respective blog post and paper. Goodacre credits Bernhard with first making the connection between the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife and the online version of the Gospel of Thomas.

“I would have already put money on this thing being problematic, given the links between the fragment and the Coptic Gospel of Thomas,” Goodacre explained. “But the link with the online Interlinear version of the Gospel of Thomas really makes, for me, the case of authenticity a very difficult one.”

It is amazing how the internet is evolving with scholarship, and how scholars are beginning to harness the power of social media to share preliminary research. Of course, these results must still be subject to academic peer review, but because social media allows many more scholars to provide initial feedback (either making additional contributions by highlighting potentially overlooked evidence, or by encouraging the discard of poorer arguments through scholarly criticism and refutation), the arguments are usually much stronger by the time they reach the publisher’s desk. This is a good thing.

Check out the article. And read the summaries of the scholarly consensus, which appear to be leaning toward declaring the unprovenanced document, acquried from an anonymous antiquities dealer, as some sort of forgery. Of course there are some amateurs and pseudoscientists and pretend scholars who, for reasons of their own financial gain, attention, or conspiracy mongering, really really want this to be authentic. But those scholars who use scholarship to share evidence and debate claims and craft together a working theory based in fact are trending toward forgery.

And kudos to my colleague, Mark Goodacre!!

More:
http://www.ntweblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/jesus-wife-fragment-further-evidence-of.html
http://www.ntweblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/divorcing-mrs-jesus-leo-depuydts-report.html
http://www.ntweblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-gospel-of-jesus-wife-latest.html
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2012/10/jesus-wife-an-egyptologists-perspective.html

cutthroat or genius? google to index facebook comments

Google vs. FacebookWhen I first read that Google now plans to index Facebook comments so that they will now appear in search results, I thought to myself, “Welp, that’s it. I’m done with Facebook.”

Then I realized, that’s EXACTLY what Google wants me to do.

By announcing that they will begin crawling and indexing Facebook comments, Google has taken the shrewd step of deliberately (but legally) exacerbating the one thing about which Facebook users are most wary: privacy concerns. While Google makes clear that they will only crawl comments on public Facebook “pages” and apps, and not on private user pages, I am still left confused as to whether comments on a “user page” that is visible to the public will be indexed.

Of course, the answer doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that with this simple action, Google will introduce enough additional doubt and fear into the minds of Facebook users (who are already suspicious of privacy measures due to “upgrade fatigue” from Facebook’s seemingly monthly changes to its functionality and user interface), that they will leave Facebook for something else.

And, because the recently introduced Google+ is now a viable alternative with a greater ease of use and superior graphics (now that Facebook has become nearly as painful to the eyes as MySpace once was), more and more Facebookers will be flocking to Google+, where I am guessing public and private comments will not be indexed and available for search.

It may be cutthroat, but it’s also genius, and may be just the thing Facebook needs to get it to stop selling out its existing users in the name of expanding its user base.

mark driscoll responds after his elders ‘sit him down’, offers no apology

There was no apology, but neo-fundamentalist Mars Hill Church Pastor Mark Driscoll responded to the backlash of criticism (including my own, Rachel, Joel, Jim, Scott, and others) about his general theology of men and women self-described “flippant” remarks made on Facebook:

Mars Hill Church Pastor Mark Driscoll incites gossip about "effeminate" worship leaders and asks his followers to name names.

Mars Hill Church Pastor Mark Driscoll incites gossip about "effeminate" worship leaders and asks his followers to tell their stories.

as well as a number of past comments about “effeminate” men. (Kudos, btw, to John Von Rader and Rick Allen (above) for immediately calling Mr. Driscoll on his incitement of gossip in this public forum. And conversely, I hereby offer the following Merriam-Webster.com link to Will and Virgil.)

Mr. Driscoll’s response wasn’t actually so much a response to the merits of the objections raised against his behavior as it was a mere acknowledgment that some people didn’t like his recent Facebook incitement of homophobic gossip comments. Glaringly absent, however, from his comments was any form of an apology whatsoever. Mr. Driscoll did acknowledge in a carefully worded statement that his executive elders “sat him down,” saying:

As a man under authority, my executive elders sat me down and said I need to do better by hitting real issues with real content in a real context.

I’m not sure whether to interpret this as an acknowledgment of disapproval by his superiors (methinks so?), or an attempt to deflect criticism by suggesting that what is really needed is a better venue to publish his unapologetic thoughts on the gender issue. I lean toward the latter because where the apology should have been, Mr. Driscoll instead promised to create a new website where he will attempt to better articulate his “complementarian” position of using “biblical authority” to continue to suppress discuss the roles of women in the the church. Not unexpectedly, Mr. Driscoll states that he will use the first post on the new website to hock a new book that he and his wife have written tentatively entitled, “Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship, and Life Together” (apparently differentiating real marriage from same-sex marriage, which Mr. Driscoll opposes) to be published by Thomas Nelson publishers.

Driscoll reasserted his position that King David was properly qualified to be the chief psalmist (the apparent equivalent of “worship leader” to Mr. Driscoll, who appears to have forgotten about the worship function of the Levitical priests in early Israelite religion) of the Bible because he still possessed the very “masculine” trait of being “a warrior king who started killing people as a boy.” (Driscoll’s actual quote is this:

I explained the main guy doing the music in the Bible was David, who was a warrior king who started killing people as a boy and who was also a songwriter and musician.)

So in the end, Mr. Driscoll appears not to be saying that he said something inappropriate, but by offering to create a new website to promote discussion of his views, he appears to be saying that we don’t understand him because he’s not saying it loud enough. Go figure.

Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church.” 1 Corinthians 13:4ff defines love as “patient, kind,” etc. Nowhere in 1 Cor. 13, however, do I see the masculine love husbands are to show defined as “watchin’ football, makin’ money, climbin’ a mountain, shootin’ a gun, or working on a truck” (see the 2:50 mark here).

Don’t forget that Mr. Driscoll’s Mars Hill church sees its primary mission as the proselytization of 22-25-year old “young, single, non-Christian, perverted, educated, technological men” (see the 3:45 mark here). Mr. Driscoll made his name as a pastor by appealing to young men. He does a lot of consulting on the side and has achieved much success within Evangelical circles because of his strategies to appeal to young men. This means there is much potential personal and financial incentive for Mr. Driscoll to preach a gospel that appeals to “young, single, non-Christian, perverted” heterosexual men who like to “slaughter other men,” “win a fight,” and “punch you in the nose” (see the 2:20 mark here). Perhaps this is why we continue to hear and read repeated homophobic and gender-discriminatory comments from Mr. Driscoll: his “gospel” is designed to appeal to the “young, single, non-Christian, perverted” men from whom he gains his power.

Imagine if these men ever learned about the real Jesus presented in the Bible. I’m guessing that would be bad for business…

HT: Rachel Held Evans

a study in masculinity: comparing michael irvin and mark driscoll

Michael IrvinESPN is reporting that Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin will be appearing shirtless (well, abs-uncovered at least) on the cover of next month’s August issue of Out magazine. Why, you might ask, would a straight male appear on the cover of the world’s most widely-read gay magazine?

According to the article by Cyd Zeigler, Irvin is attempting to honor the life and struggles of his gay brother, Vaughn, who died in 2006, by speaking out:

Now, after working through some of his personal demons with his long-time bishop, T.D. Jakes of the Potter’s House church in Dallas, Texas, Irvin is ready to talk about Vaughn. More than that, he’s become a passionate supporter of gay athletes and equal rights for same-sex couples.

Michael Irvin also has a pointed message for the African-American Christian community:

“I don’t see how any African-American with any inkling of history can say that you don’t have the right to live your life how you want to live your life. No one should be telling you who you should love, no one should be telling you who you should be spending the rest of your life with. When we start talking about equality and everybody being treated equally, I don’t want to know an African-American who will say everybody doesn’t deserve equality.”

[Note that 2008 California election exit polls indicated that an overwhelming 70% of the California African-American community supported Prop 8 (which sought to ban same-sex marriage), while the ballot initiative only passed with a slim 52.24% majority.]

Good for Michael Irvin. Irvin is now admitting that much of the womanizing he did in his younger years was, in part, due to the fact that he knew his brother was gay, and he didn’t want people to think he was gay. I applaud Irvin’s honesty, especially on a topic where many men are not honest. I firmly believe that many men oppose marriage equality for same-sex couples simply because they do not wish to be perceived as gay.

I know this from experience. Despite my wife and child, many of my “good ol’ boy” friends from back home in Madera and Fresno, CA (especially the Christians) and an even greater number of folks who only know me from appearances on TV or pieces I’ve written either assume I am gay, bisexual, or am no longer a Christian because I advocated so strongly against California’s Proposition 8 (here and here and here and here). They call me all the names you’d use to tease a gay man, as if I’d somehow be embarrassed or offended by names if I were. And while I don’t let petty name calling trouble me much, I do think that many other straight men (especially people of faith) are so afraid of the mere concept of homosexuality (i.e., that it might somehow “rub off” on them or, like Michael Irvin admitted, that it may be a genetic thing and they may carry a recessive “gay” gene that may present at any time), or are simply so afraid of being called gay, that they overemphasize their masculinity and vehemently oppose homosexuality, and even go so far as opposing equal rights for homosexuals. These men, who fear feelings and emotions they may or may not experience or understand, attempt to purge their minds of the perceived threat by condemning gays, opposing their civil rights, and insisting that men stick out their chests, work on their trucks, play football, cuss, suppress the roles of women, and “not act like a bunch of ‘chickified’ church dudes” who “wear sweater vests.”

Which brings us to Mars Hill Church Pastor Mark Driscoll, who in this case study, must be viewed as the Christian antithesis of Michael Irvin and those of us fighting on behalf of social justice and civil rights for all persons.

Opposition to homosexuals, same-sex marriage, and what he calls “effeminate” men is nothing new to Mr. Driscoll. I’m referring to comments after comments he has made about both women and men he feels do not meet the Christian criterion for “dudes,” including “chickified church boys,” and “nice, soft, tender” men “walking around singing love songs to Jesus.” (see below. And, don’t miss the mash-up of the below video here.)

In the above interview (around the 1:50 mark), Mark Driscoll rants about “effeminate” men, saying they are:

“church boys wearing sweater vests and walking around singing love songs to Jesus…nice, soft, tender, ‘chickified’ church boys”

and arguing real Christian men should be characterized as:

“slaughter other men, heterosexual, win a fight, punch you in the nose, dudes”

Driscoll goes on to complain that:

“60% of Christians are chicks, and the 40% that are dudes are still sort of chicks…it’s just sad”

“You walk in and it’s sea foam green, and fuschia, and lemon yellow, and the whole architecture and the whole aesthetic is real feminine and the preacher’s kinda feminine, and the music’s kinda emotional and feminine…”

“and the innovative dudes are home watchin’ football, or they’re out makin’ money, or climbin’ a mountain or shootin’ a gun or working on their truck.”

Note that Mr. Driscoll is not specifically opposing gay men in the above clip, but “effeminate” men whom he feels are not real Christian men who, of course, punch people in the nose and climb mountains.

[Btw, I wonder how he’d feel about a 6’1″, 220 lb., free thinking, sharp tongued, former redneck from Fresno who ate something his father shot four nights a week for dinner growing up, who is still an equally good shot with a 7mm Remington Magnum or a .357 Magnum, who has climbed that mountain, fixed that truck, won that baseball championship, and took on that bully, and who, now as a Mensan with a formal graduate education in biblical studies and ancient languages, regularly advocates for social justice and the civil rights of those being oppressed by Christian neo-fundamentalists like Driscoll? I wonder how he’d feel about the kind of man who is actually comfortable enough with his own masculinity to wear Uggs and regularly wear a leather satchel which his daughter refers to as a “murse” (i.e., a man-purse) to a professional conference of his peers? Because, you know, they’re out there keeping people honest. Just a thought…]

And this isn’t a one-time thing for Mr. Driscoll. Just this past week, Pastor Mark Driscoll placed the following on his Facebook page. (And yes, since the public backlash best expressed by Rachel Held Evans and countless others), he’s since deleted it from his wall. But fear not, I always make screen shots ;-):

Mark Driscoll asks his Facebook followers to opine on "effeminate" men.

Mark Driscoll incites his Facebook followers to opine and name "effeminate" men.

And Mr. Driscoll is not “just kidding around” as so many of his numb-minded followers are quick to assert in his defense. His neo-fundamentalist pattern of behavior (which I define as a 1950’s fundamentalist in an edgy screen printed hoodie and a pair of designer jeans) is consistent and unapologetic.

Here, when questioned about whether or not he’s “just kidding,” he defines precisely what he’s asking:

driscoll_definition

Mark Driscoll articulates to his Facebook followers what he meant by "effeminate" when questioned by a respondent about what he was asking.

And, lest you think Mr. Driscoll felt he made a mistake, he defends his asking the question:

Unfortunately, bigotry like this is not limited to the (other) Mars Hill (the better, truer Mars Hill is here), and it is time for people of all faiths to stand up and combat racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and bigotry in all its forms.

This is what Michael Irvin and most sound Christian scholars, bloggers, advocates, and people of faith are combating. This is the bigotry and nonsense that has plagued the church for so long.

I may not understand the gay mind, but just because I do not understand something does not mean I should oppress the civil rights of those who do. In fact, when asked if I am gay, I always refuse to answer the question and usually reply with the classic “West Wing/CJ Cregg” response of, “It’s none of your damn business.” (See also this clip. And this one. And this one. West Wing said it best!) In a panel discussion at Pepperdine University on racism and homophobia, I explained that I say this because I believe that the sooner straight men stop answering the question, the sooner the question will stop being asked. It is not enough for straight men to say that they support same-sex marriage, but then when asked, “Are you gay,” respond with, “W/Hell no, I’m not gay!” as if there is something embarrassing about it. Straight men should speak out more often in support of marriage equality and we all should stop answering (and asking) the question “Are you gay?”

So I applaud Michael Irvin’s decision to face his fears, honor his brother, and speak out in favor of marriage equality. I’m not a Cowboys fan, and never have really been a Michael Irvin fan. But this decision has turned my opinion of Mr. Irvin to a favorable one, and I am now a fan. I applaud his decision, and I hope this is the beginning of yet another long and distinguished career of public advocacy on behalf of the oppressed for the heralded “Playmaker.”


P.S. If you’d like to contact Mark Driscoll’s church’s “elders,” you may do so here.

how facebook’s launch of video calling can help scholars

Facebook + Skype = VideoCalling

Facebook + Skype = VideoCalling

what would have been the death of skype is now its salvation. facebook launched its ‘videocalling‘ today (most likely because ‘videoconferencing‘ was already taken by this guy – which is a story in itself!)

skype’s collaboration with facebook benefits both companies. i can now video chat someone as easily as i can fb message them, meaning i’ll likely never use standalone skype again because the only people i’d want to watch me talk to them are already friends on facebook.

but videocalling shouldn’t be simply seen as the mother of all distractions from actual work. videocalling has the potential to be a very time effective tool for scholars, as instant video communication with trusted colleagues can allow scholars to discuss articles, relay visual information, and will be especially helpful for language studies involving pronunciations and languages that do not use western characters and therefore do not lend themselves to easy transcription into digital fonts. and as soon as group video chat is launched (standalone skype already does this), colleagues can hold meetings and plan conferences right over facebook. and did i mention the service is free? (for now…)

now, i’m just waiting for the first documented case of, “omg! i accidentally left my fb videochat on and he saw me naked / watched me eat / heard me fart / saw me dancing to justin beiber / heard me laughing at student essay answers while grading” or, worse yet, “my wife saw me working on that article while i was talking to her.”

review of tout: it’s twitter for youtube

ToutWith Shaq’s recent announcement that he is retiring coming via the new social networking technology Tout, I thought I’d sign up (Tout: XKV8R) and give it a try.

Here’s my brief review.

Tout is Twitter for YouTube. You take a YouTube video, clip it (read: crop it) down to 15 seconds (which must be the Tout equivalent of Twitter’s 140 characters), tag it with some keywords, and you’re done. You can then share your Tout to Twitter and Facebook. The result is a Tout page with an aggregate of 15-second clips of YouTube videos you like (which may very well be uploads to your own YouTube channel), along with the Touts of those you follow.

I found it:

  • Very easy to sign up
  • Very quick to edit your account info (bio, email, location, etc.) and add background and icon pictures (note to Mac users: use Safari – Firefox is buggy with icon pic)
  • VERY intuitive (read: no directions needed). Just paste in a YouTube URL, clip it, add some tags, and share.
  • Excellent integration to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube
  • Click on the YouTube logo to browse to the full length YouTube videos you want to watch

This will be a solid tool for aggregating your favorite YouTube clips and those of your friends. If you like browsing YouTube and you are on Twitter (especially if you have ever uploaded videos to YouTube), you should check out Tout!

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