Swinging Pendulums and Relationships

Six years ago, back in my political blogging days, I wrote about Swinging Pendulums, specifically as they related to politics.

I began by describing the science of pendulums, and I shall copy that description here:

When you swing a pendulum one way, it will go a certain distance before stopping, reversing, and swinging an equal distance the other way. If energy is added on the return swing, it will actually go further on that swing, before once again reversing and swinging an equal distance the original direction. This will continue ad infinitum, until eventually the pendulum makes a complete revolution on its axis. Even then, if more energy is continually added, the swinging will continue to get faster and faster, and the revolutions will thus happen more and more frequently.

While discussing my post about Paul and his position on women teaching men in the Church yesterday, I began noticing that the pendulum post applied. I’ll not go into any specifics on that particular case, but instead use my work with Cop Block as my example of the pendulum amongst individuals and groups.

The pendulum regarding cops swings from one side who has absolute faith in cops to the other side of those who have absolutely no faith in cops or anything remotely connected to cops.

I’ve known people on both extremes, and admittedly I may be more on the “no faith” side than at the zero point on this particular pendulum. But that is exactly what I want to talk about.

You see, I openly acknowledge that I was abused by cops as a kid. Fortunately, my abuse didn’t involve beatings, rapes, or murder, but it was still cops abusing their power rather than trying to understand an Autistic teenager. In my particular case, the first instance was when cops tried to question me over something that I learned existed when they began questioning me. They first questioned me in a school conference room with no lawyer, parent, or even school counselor present. They then subjected me to a lie detector test, where they asked about the girl I had a massive crush on at the time. At the time, I was firmly in the “absolute faith” camp, so I “consented” to all of this. I later got a letter from one of the girls involved apologizing for causing all the drama, a letter I have to this day. The second instance of my abuse was a few months later, at the Egelston Christmas Parade in Atlanta. I had found a large rock at school, and because this was the first Saturday in December, my mom required me to take a coat to the parade. I put the coat in my backpack, but the pack was too light. So I put the rock in it as well. At the parade, I stood where I had stood for years, in the parking deck above the then Planet Hollywood across from the Hard Rock Atlanta. At some point, I took the rock out and placed it on the ledge for a moment. Within moments, I had units from Atlanta Police Department’s Red Dogs – a unit later known for such brutality that it was disbanded, including the raid on the Atlanta Eagle – questioning me and walking me back to my mother, who was on street level at the McDonald’s about half a block away. But it really wasn’t until years later, when I saw friends and even strangers being abused and murdered by cops that these events took hold as being a scourge. I knew the cops were wrong to harass me even at the time, but then, I’m used to people not understanding me and not trying. Peril of being Autistic. It was only much later, after the murder of Kathryn Johnston and Jonathan Ayers -as well as the Eagle raid and police detaining two guys who were doing nothing more than driving around America in a motor home, looking for liberty – that I began to see these events in a truly different light.

So because of that, I don’t trust cops. With only one exception, because he is a member of the church I grew up in. But even my trust in him is tenuous, knowing that when it comes down to it, he will treat me as any cop would rather than the person he knows I am.

But here is where the pendulum comes in: Even I acknowledge that from time to time, I lash out in my hurt and anger. I’ve screamed people down on Facebook, I openly flip off cops as they pass me by, etc etc etc. I have friends of friends that have been hurt even more than I by cops, and they openly advocate the murder of cops. I see my actions flipping cops off as moving the pendulum back to zero – but openly advocating the murder of cops as moving the pendulum back to the other side, and adding force to it. This is not a good thing, and I’ve become at least somewhat known in the Cop Block community for standing against these people, at least as it relates to the outright murder of cops. (My caveat here being that if *anyone* is actively attacking you, you have the right to defend yourself with whatever force necessary to stop the attack – no matter the clothing they are wearing at the time.)

But then I see the people, even inside my own family, that advocate cops becoming ever more powerful. They say that cops’ jobs are dangerous and that cops “don’t know who will be taking their uniform off when they put it on in the morning”. Despite the fact that by their own numbers, cops in 2014 were literally 10,000x more likely to shoot and kill a civilian than a civilian was to shoot and kill a cop. But these people are simply being hurt and reacting to even my flipping cops off – much less the friends of friends openly calling for murder of cops. At least I choose to believe so. Particularly since these people know well my own history with cops, I really hope they are not so crass as to simply want cops to have more power, period.

So both sides get hurt, and both sides actively seek to harm the other. This just keeps the cycle of pain ever spinning, and the pendulum ever swinging.

Instead, we need people more in the middle. We need people to acknowledge the pain of both sides, and work to get back to the point we had in the days of Sheriff Taylor, when people were distrustful yet respecting of cops – and cops didn’t actively lie about people in order to steal from them or murder them. We need to reset the pendulum here to zero.

But the pendulum doesn’t just apply to cops. It applies to *all* individuals and groups. Whenever there is conflict, there is a pendulum. And there are people getting hurt and reacting to that pain – not always in people-centered manners. And if someone doesn’t actively step in to slow the pendulum in these conflicts, the pendulum will continue to swing and eventually it will go full cycle – a situation no one wants, as people *will* get hurt in the revolution. Life isn’t an amusement park pirate ship ride, where people are safely strapped in so that when the revolution happens, it is part of the fun. When the revolution happens in real life conflict, real people are going to get hurt even more.

So we *have* to have peacemakers, or at least people at least somewhat reasonable enough to acknowledge the concerns of both their camp and the opposite camp, and work for genuine reconciliation of both. Not that we will ever completely agree on anything, but enough to keep the pain of both sides to a minimum.

And I know I’m rambling, I’ve written this post in the 3a hour where even I am usually zoned out playing video games rather than doing the hard thinking of this post. But hopefully it makes some degree of sense.

What If Paul Had A Point?

The Apostle Paul’s admonitions against women in teaching and preaching positions in the church are rather infamous.

For those unaware, while much of 1 Timothy 2 would be concerning for modern society, in v12 Paul specifically states “I do not permit a woman to teach or to hold authority over a man; she must be quiet.”

Now, see my last post, regarding Frank Viola’s example of Marvin Snurdley, for a great illustration of why we should take this with likely a boulder of salt.

But what if Paul had a grain of truth for us there? Sure, he could have phrased it better for modern sensibilities, but the dude has been dead for nearly two millenia, so I’ll give him a pass there.

But let’s think about it. Shaunti Feldhahn has made a career over the last 15 yrs or so with the ground breaking research she did for her books For Women Only and For Men Only. I personally once allowed a coworker to borrow my copies of those two books when he spent a week on my couch while in a rough spot with his wife, and they saved his marriage – at least at that point. (It has been nearly a decade since I heard from him.)

Part of that research was finding out and explaining to women just how visual men are and just how much we think about sex. To say that most women who read that book are shocked would not be a minor understatement, to say the least.

I can even point to a couple of examples from my own early teenage years, 8th grade in particular.

In 8th grade, my English teacher was absolutely stunning. Sure, I had teachers before and since that were good looking, but this lady… let’s just say she put my 13yo hormones in overdrive, even though she rarely showed much skin at all. (Long skirts with sleeved tops of some form, usually, but even these were very flattering to her form, at times. One white cashmere sweater in particular, when she put the strap of her purse across her chest…. moving on now.)

My Social Studies teacher that year was one I had been around for years at that point, and would be in similar circles for years later. She was at my elementary school teaching 4th grade right next to the 4th grade class I was in, and I would have her as a teacher in both middle school and high school. In addition, her husband was at the time a preacher at whose church I would occasionally go to Vacation Bible School. The man is currently a sitting State Representative in my home State, representing at least part of my home town.

Anyway, this teacher and I never really got along, for reasons that are not relevant to this post. But one day when I was in 8th grade, I saw something. Apparently her top was a little too small that day, and as a result, the fabric opened slightly in the middle along the button line. I do not remember the circumstances, but I remember seeing between those buttons that day. I could describe exactly what I saw, but people in my hometown already know exactly who this woman is, and I’ll not embarass her any further here.

But tying these two instances to Shaunti’s research and Paul’s admonitions:

I don’t remember the lessons of those two teachers *at all*. I likely retain the information, but do not remember it was they that first presented it to me. But I remember those two particular images, nearly 20 years later. And those were just one day of middle school English and Social Studies lessons.

Now think of just how crucial and truly life altering good, solid Christian teaching can be – or, for the more pessimistic, how damaging bad, weak Christian teaching can be.

With pubescent boys and even grown men so distracted by sex, does Paul have a degree of a point in his admonishment that women not teach or hold authority over men?

I believe that yes, he does. Perhaps he could have been more nuanced in making his point, but I do believe that at least two a certain extent, his point was valid.

I point to Shanti’s research and my own experiences – which at least in that example I believe to be common – as my reasoning. Even when a woman dresses to appease even the most stringent of modesty culture purists, she can still be a stumbling block to men who will be distracted by her body and pay her words no heed. Let me be clear: I am in no way blaming the woman in question for this. I am simply pointing out that at least some men will have this difficulty.

Of course, this is also where a degree of nuance is needed: for gay or bisexual men, even a male teacher or preacher could be exactly the same stumbling block that a female teacher or preacher could be for straight men. Would Paul thus argue that men should not teach men?

Here, I’ll simply point back to
Marvin Snurdley and say that Paul’s teachings do not neccessarily apply for all people for all times in all situations.

Ultimately, Paul has a degree of a point. Does it apply to us today? To some degree, yes. But not neccessarily completely, and certainly not in as totalitarian a position as some groups have taken it over the years.

Frank Viola’s The Letters of Marvin Snurdley

Over the last month or so, I’ve been listening to Frank Viola‘s Pagan Christianity: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices via Audible on my 10k runs. The entire book has been utterly fascinating, particularly for someone like me who saw quite a bit of this over the years but could never quite give it voice.

The story of the Letters of Marvin Snurdley was a particularly fascinating example found in Chapter 11 (of 12), but the only place I could find it online was on a blog called “Common Sense Atheism“, and since they go on to attack Christianity in general, I thought I would copy it here with no commentary other than these notes and a strong recommendation to acquire and study this book for yourself. The story, in case it isn’t clear, is a direct examination of exactly what happened to form the largest single piece of the New Testament: The Pauline Epistles. Frank then does a great job throughout the rest of the chapter of examining and explaining why the issues presented in the story of the Letters of Marvin Snurdley unfortunately affect us all in the real world.

Marvin Snurdly is a world-renowned marital counselor. In his twenty-year career as a marriage therapist, Marvin has counseled thousands of troubled couples. He has an Internet presence. Each day hundreds of couples write letters to Marvin about their marital sob stories. The letters come from all over the globe. And Marvin answers them all.

A hundred years pass, and Marvin Snurdly is resting peacefully in his grave. He has a great-great-grandson named Fielding Melish. Fielding decides to recover the lost letters of his great great grandfather. But Fielding can find only thirteen of Marvin’s letters…

These letters were all written within a twenty-year time frame: from 1980 to 2000. Fielding Melish plans to compile these letters into a volume. But there is something interesting about the way Marvin wrote his letters that makes Fielding’s task somewhat difficult. First, Marvin had an annoying habit of never dating his letters. No days, months, or years appear on any of the thirteen letters. Second, the letters only portray half the conversation. The initial letters written to Marvin that provoked his responses no longer exist. Consequently, the only way to understand the backdrop of each of Marvin’s letters is by reconstructing the marital situation from Marvin’s response.

Each letter was written at a different time, to people in a different culture, about a different problem. For example, in 1985, Marvin wrote a letter to Paul and Sally from Virginia, who were experiencing sexual problems early in their marriage. In 1990, Marvin wrote a letter to Jethro and Matilda from Australia, who were having problems with their children. In 1995, Marvin wrote a letter to a wife from Mexico who was experiencing a midlife crisis. Unfortunately, Fielding has no way of knowing when the letters were written.

Take note: twenty years – thirteen letters – all written to different people at different times in different cultures – all experiencing different problems.

It is Fielding Melish’s desire to put these thirteen letters in chronological order. But without the dates, he cannot do this. So Fielding puts them in the order of descending length. That is, he takes the longest letter that Marvin wrote and puts it first. He puts Marvin’s second longest letter after that. He takes the third longest and puts it third. The compilation ends with the shortest letter that Marvin penned. The thirteen letters are arranged, not chronologically, but by their length.

The volume hits the presses and becomes an overnight best seller.
One hundred years pass, and The Collected Works of Marvin Snurdly compiled by Fielding Melish stands the test of time. The work is still very popular. Another one hundred years pass, and this volume is being used copiously throughout the Western world.

The book is translated into dozens of languages. Marriage counselors quote it left and right. Universities employ it in their sociology classes. It is so widely used that someone gets a bright idea on how to make the volume easier to quote and handle. What is that idea? It is to divide Marvin’s letters into chapters and numbered sentences (or verses). So chapters and verses are added to The Collected Works of Marvin Snurdly.

But by adding chapter and verse to these once living letters, something changes that goes unnoticed. The letters lose their personal touch. Instead, they take on the texture of a manual. Different sociologists begin writing books about marriage and the family. Their main source? The Collected Works of Marvin Snurdly. Pick up any book in the twenty-fourth century on the subject of marriage, and you will find the author quoting chapters and verses from Marvin’s letters.
It usually looks like this: In making a particular point, an author will quote a verse from Marvin’s letter written to Paul and Sally. The author will then lift another verse from the letter written to Jethro and Matilda. He will extract another verse from another letter. Then he will sew these three verses together and upon them he will build his particular marital philosophy.

Virtually every sociologist and marital therapist that authors a book on marriage does the same thing. Yet the irony is this: Each of these authors frequently contradicts the others, even though they are all using the same source!

But that is not all. Not only have Marvin’s letters been turned into cold prose when they were originally living, breathing epistles to real people in real places, they have become a weapon in the hands of agenda-driven men. Not a few authors on marriage begin employing isolated proof texts from Marvin’s work to hammer away at those who disagree with their marital philosophy.