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“Yay! The Supreme Court found in favour of Hobby Lobby! Woo-hoo!”

Such was the general consensus among many of my more conservative friends yesterday. They celebrated what has become a cause celebre in the right-wing allied factions within the Christian Church. The Green family–founders of the craft supply store I sometimes shop at called “Hobby Lobby”–said that they as Christians founded their company to be a reflection of their Christian values. As such they do not open to customers for business transactions on Sunday.[1] They play instrumental hymns over their store sound system, don’t sell things that promote drinking or drugs (no tacky Margaritaville signs!) and they pay their employees well. What they don’t want to do is pay for abortifacent (or alleged abortifacent) drugs under their employer-provided and government-mandated health care. There were four medicines in dispute.

Many Christians who are also pro-life (as I am) felt that this decision was a crucial stand for our freedoms. How, after all, can the government make a Christian pay for abortion?

When the decision came down on the morning of 30 June, 2014, it was celebrated as a triumph for the freedom of religion.

What got overlooked in all the yaysaying was this:

The most straightforward way of doing this would be for the Government to assume the cost of providing the four contraceptives at issue to any women who are unable to obtain them under their health-insurance policies due to their employers’ religious objections.

[2]

And who, you may ask, is “the Government”? Well, it’s all of us. Me, you, your pro-choice neighbour. In celebrating the right of for-profit corporations to have religious freedom everyone overlooked that a big ol’ slice of their own just got bartered away. It’s the most pyrrhic of victories.

The only ones who won here were the corporations. By ducking their share of the burden they in fact burdened other Christians with it, other pro-life people who aren’t Christians are equally burdened.

Of course the income tax system has several hiccups like this. My pacifist friends have long paid taxes that buy bombs. My atheist friends often shoulder a larger tax burden because churches are tax-exempt. When it comes to the cost of living in America everyone gives a little to get a lot. At what point does the giving become too onerus and the receiving become to minimal to countenance objectionable taxation? I don’t know. Those are longer conversations. Conversations we need to have.

But before we have them I’d like us all to be honest and to face what goes on with our eyes open. Hobby Lobby sold its case to the very Christians that it has now burdened as being a win for them when it was in fact a very large loss for everyone but Hobby Lobby, Conestoga and any future corporations who get to pass off their fiscal obligation to the taxpayers.

[1] They do buy wholesale product from manufacturers whose employees work on Sunday.

[2] Burwell V. Hobby Lobby, p41, paragraph 1

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The Players

Hachette Publishing

Hachette Publishing


Amazon

Amazon


The Buying Public

The Buying Public

The Plot

There is an old business that has existed for many decades and has ruled the town. They are the ones who make the product and if you want the product you get what they say you get. They’re in this to make money and they enjoy their seat at the head of the table.

Along comes another fellow who wants to make money, yes, but also wants to find a way to get people what they want at a good price. He puts together a scheme where the customers decide what to pay, where the people can invest their own work and earn a profit from shared production and cooperative exposure.

—-

A lot of words have been written about Hachette Vs. Amazon in the last couple of weeks. Hachette has been brilliant about the spin they’ve put on it. Just like Mr. Potter the Legacy Publishers have sat back and bemoaned the discontented, lazy rabble even as they put out an increasingly substandard, overpriced product. In their well-authored spin they’ve created a story whereby they are a crusader for the little guy (all us poor authors and our royalties! All those poor independent booksellers teetering on the brink of extinction!) and Amazon is the villain threatening to ruin the world with their blasted low prices and vast selection.

It’s a good story. Shame it is about as true as Mr. Potter’s love for the people of Bedford Falls.

So how exactly is Amazon the George Bailey of the story? Well, they aren’t exactly. Amazon is the Bailey Building and Loan. Amazon is the company that realised that authors needed a place to publish their works if only so they didn’t have to go crawling to Potter-er-Legacy Publishers like Hachette. Amazon provided another place for authors to get published. It provided a place where customers could find books they actually wanted instead of getting stuck with the few books the Publishing Conglomerate told them they could read.

And now that they’re finding their way of life in danger the publishers have decided to make George Bailey look like a thief and an embezzler.

Really, the parallels between the two stories are eerie. The Publisher War IS _It’s A Wonderful Life_. Think of all the independent authors–the Mr. Martinis if you will–who have a home for their work thanks to Amazon. Who got a better deal than the falling down “houses” (poor contracts) provided by Mr. Potter.

Who am I? I’m Violet Sharpe. I’m the whore for books. I’m the bad girl. The outsider. I love George Bailey and he helps me when I need a fix. Yes, I admit it. I’m on Amazon’s side in this. Hard not to be when you think about how Mr. Potter has ruined this town.

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I love bees.  I don’t love them as much as spiders (bees don’t do thread art) but I do love them.   Let’s flash back to the summer of 2000 for a moment.

In September of 1999 we moved into our house.  In January of 2000 my husband’s company–a tech startup–hit the skids.   We were hanging on by our teeth.   I went out and got a job and began learning a lot of lessons about how it’s not always getting what you want but keeping what you’ve gotten that drives a person.  The job in a bank was not a good one physically or emotionally and I did what I’ve always done when life’s tempestuous sea is battering against the gunwhale.  I read books.    The first book was The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King.   The idea of Sherlock Holmes keeping bees was a sort of super heaven for me and I sat on the front porch in the spring warmth and disappeared into that world.   When I finished all of King’s series I wanted something else to read.   There was a battered copy of a book in Tim’s home office that was given to us by a friend at the company.   I had at first told Tim I didn’t want it in the house but since the book was someone else’s property I didn’t think I should throw it away.   But it was evil and I didn’t want it around.   I told him to take it back to Steven but Steven was sailing in some flotilla down to Bermuda and the book stayed in its desultory place.  Finally my 30 year old self said “you have enough discernment.  You read it for yourself and see for yourself.  Then you can at least talk about it intelligently.”

That’s how I picked up Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone in the Summer of 2000.   Anyone who knows me knows what happened next, knows how the books became so close to my heart and how in their pages I found not a lurking Satan but a loving Christ.

It wasn’t until many years later that I made the connection and saw that God’s hand is so much in everything that even as it directs events it leaves poetry in the margins.

A main character in the Harry Potter series is Dumbledore.

Dumbledore is an old word for what is now more commonly called ‘bumblebee’

Deborah (my hebrew name and almost my given English name) comes from the same word root as ‘dumbledore’ (dbr) and that root means Word

In John 1 we see that  Jesus is the Living Word.

In the Middle Ages the Bee was used as a symbol of Christ himself.

It all weaves together in the prettiest of tapestries, in God signing “I Am” in the corner of the painting that is my life.

I love bees. And now bees are dying. There are several arguments as to exactly why. The cause is not yet known for certain. But it’s happening and it’s a major concern.

I know it’s trendy to keep chickens, and I can’t fault people for wanting fresh eggs, although I find chickens disgusting. Ideally more folks will start home beekeeping as well. Bees save the planet…kind of like Christ.

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I just logged into GoodReads to mark that I’d started reading Mildred Pierce by James N. Cain.   I’d long ago seen the movie version starring Joan Crawford and didn’t care for the people involved.  It never occurred to me that the film may be based on a novel or that the novel may be very good in spite of the essentially grim characters who people it.    But when Laura Lippmann mentioned offhandedly that the book was “quotidian” I downloaded that sucker from the library.    I adore quotidian stories, because I love the stories of everyday people having every day lives and making it through their everyday battles.   I love Maeve Binchy’s stories where the issue is “how do we earn enough for jam for tea?” and “how shall we brighten this dreary shed in the garden?”    Those are the kinds of stories that hide in the skin of all of us and those conflicts are oddly satisfying to see resolved.    Add to that usual fascination with the beauty of the ordinary the fact that lately I’ve tired of the endless parades of stories about What The King Is Doing Tonight.   All of the top books–and even some of my favourites–are about bloodshed and kingships.  All the conflict is intense and bloody and world-changing.   I was in the mood for some “let’s see how a normal person pays her mortgage”.   And so…quotidian book, here I come.

I’m about 40% of the way through the story now, and just thought to log it in GoodReads before I forgot altogether.   When I got there I saw that a GR Friend from a Christian Reading Group had given the book two stars.   No explanation was appended; the two stars were all the friend was going to say.  After three years of seeing this person remark upon books, though, I had a fairly good idea what the issue was.   And while this person didn’t address it directly others did.   They didn’t like the book because the characters drink.  The characters get divorced.   The characters have sex outside of marriage.

IS THE BOOK GOOD?  IS THE STORY WELL-WRITTEN? ARE THE CHARACTERS REALISTIC?  

Those are reasons to dislike a book.  Yes, I have my prejudices.  I know that I  personally have trouble with a book when an animal is in jeopardy.  I can’t get into a book if none of the characters are at all likable.    Those may not be fair prejudices but I own them and I admit them when they affect a review.

I’ve read countless reviews from other Christians where well-written, masterful works of fiction are given a poor grade because the occasional “foul language” shows up or the characters do something that Good People Don’t Do.   I used to just chalk it up to the cost of doing business in a vacuum but now I think I’m truly over it.

I’m over people who can’t appreciate the beauty of a thing, the essential good in the thing simply  because the thing isn’t perfect.  There’s that old saying about perfect being the enemy of the good and it’s never more true than when some Christians evaluate stories.      These folks think that standing ground and frowning upon humans acting human in story is what God would want from them.   The same God who loves them in spite of their flaws…

This book is well-written.  I know it is because I don’t think the characters are especially likable but the story has exacted such a pull upon me that I can’t put it down in spite of the characters’ basic baseness.   This is not a two-star book, quality-wise.   It’s a story of how flawed humans get through life.   It’s the story God has read billions of times since our creation.   Rating books is not an exercise in censorship.

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I know a lot of writers and entertainers make use of the thing where they get a google alert every time their name gets mentioned somewhere online.   I’m pretty sure the talked-about-incessently people like Miley Cyrus don’t use them but I’ve gotten enough blog comments and emails from various authors when I’ve talked about there work here to know that it’s common enough.

So I’m resorting to this cheap, underhanded, probably useless trick.   I’ve tried everything else.  I started simple, hitting minor notification buttons on other websites.   Then I started emailing.

Now I’m using my blog to openly plead.

Marge Piercy, I’m begging you.  I’m pleading with you.  I don’t know what pull you have–if any–with your publisher.   I know they’ve converted many of your wonderful books to e-book already.

But back in the 80s you wrote what may be one of the top three novels about World War II, and is definitely the absolute hands-down best book about how the war was lived by women.   Yes, Marge Piercy, I have read Gone To Soldiers at least a dozen times since I first read it in 1986 or 1987 as a teenager recovering from surgery.    There is a well-worn paperback copy in the shelf next to my bed where I keep the books that mean the most to me.   (Yes, you’re right next to the Bible, funnily enough.)

The problem is that now I’m disabled by RA and can’t hold the giant book anymore.   I have a Kindle because it’s the assistive device that allows me to continue reading wonderful things.   Once a week–every monday–I check Amazon to see if Gone To Soldiers has been added to the Kindle format.   It never is.   Marge Piercy, I have been doing this FOR FOUR YEARS NOW.    Please, Marge Piercy, you’re one of my favourite authors.   You wrote one of my favourite books.   Please put it on ebook so that I can read it again and so that I can brag to people about how this is one of the books they HAVE to read so go buy it right now.

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I’ve been neglecting my blog.  Most of my conversations  happen now on Facebook, in staccato bursts of thinking.  I hit my opinions in the little box and then I’m off to like this cat or that photo of a church sign.   It’s how I interact now online and I’m starting to feel the itch of longer things to say.  I find myself thinking long form again, now that my brain is growing back (thank you, iron) and somehow the little box just isn’t enough.  Yet I doubt anyone is left who reads these long-dormant pages.  Oh well.  I do this for me.  That’s the thing we say…”I do this for me.”  But it isn’t strictly true.  I don’t do it just for me.  I do it to reach out, to connect, to see if what I do for me matches what you do for you.

 I used to play poker and I played it very well.  I quit when I realised that who I was when I played poker was not who I should be.  That person is calculating and arrogant and more than a little unkind.  She is not allowed out.   But blogging reminds me of a conversational poker or perhaps a conversational game of slapjack.   I put all my thoughts out  there like a card and someone else lays theirs on top.   

If that’s the case than this post is a three of clubs.  Nothing special.  No face card wisdom or power…just a card.  A regular card like the regular maundering thoughts.   

During the worst of the anemia time leaked around me like a puddle in which I congealed, unable to gather myself or order the minutes that pooled around me and soaked into the carpet.   As I recover I again have time in measurable units which I can carve up into bits of doing.   I’m sewing again.  I’m writing again.  I’m actually recording videos of my cross-stitch and posting those to YouTube.  It’s a strange thing, but it makes me feel like I’m part of a world-wide crafting circle.  I enjoy the feeling.  

I just realised that this quick page doesn’t show me how many words I’ve written while I’m writing so I have no idea if I’ve overstayed my welcome.   So I guess I’ll conclude here.  Thank you for reading. 

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Earlier this week, WorldVision Charity announced that it would willingly hire Gay Christians in Same-Sex marriages.   This has caused a firestorm within the Christian community.   WorldVision is an interdenominational organisation.   As such, they have to work with people who have different interpretations of the Scripture and associated doctrines.   I imagine it’s not uncommon for people working alongside each other to have to swallow their objections to their coworkers’ beliefs.   A room filled with ten Christians will have ten different bodies of belief.  Even seated around my family’s dinner table at Christmas there’s a wide range of interpretations.   Angel sockhops in the sewing room have to be set aside for other times when Christians need to accomplish things.

So is it all right for WorldVision to hire Gay married Christians?  Sure.  Is it all right to not give your money to WorldVision anymore?  Sure.  After all, who am I, the person who doesn’t buy sandwiches from Chik Fil A, to say how another person’s conscience should direct her to spend her money.

So what’s the problem?   The problem is two-fold, as I see it.

The first problem is that WorldVision has hired divorced people to work there for years.  I have no data to prove this because nobody writes articles about it because it’s a foregone conclusion.   Divorce–something that the Bible actually says God hates–is ubiquitous in modern society.   I am not speaking against all divorced people here.  Each end of a marriage is its own story and has its own causes and effects.   It is between the parties in the marriage and their pastors and support persons.   But the fact of the matter is that if we’re going by things the  Bible is pretty clear about, divorce would rank right up there.   Actually, now that I think about it, so would “all”.  As in “For all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.”*  Yet WorldVision has persisted for most of its long duration as a visible charity upon hiring human  beings.   Shocking, yet the truth cannot be denied.   Why is it just now that millions of words are being spent across Christendom to wrestle with “how we should respond to WorldVision”?   Scratch that.  We know the reason.  It’s because right now “gay” is the number one enemy we all hate.  Nothing unites people like a common enemy and we’ve already done Divorce in the 1950s, drugs and  alcohol in the 1960s and 1970s, Women’s rights in the 1980s and…now it’s Gay people.

So what’s the second problem?  Frankly, it’s all the talk about everyone acting as though they are really aggrieved about how they spend their $35 or $70 dollars a month.  I’ve read a lot of people waxing eloquently about the various poor children in sundry villages that their family so bravely supports because it is The Right Thing To Do.     As though shining a spotlight on one’s charitable actions is all of a sudden an acceptable thing for Christians.  Even though that’s something else that Christ spoke directly against.    Everyone is so busy talking about how they feel led to withhold their charitable giving because of other people’s sin when they don’t acknowledge that the conversation itself is warned against by Jesus Christ.

…2″So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3″But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,–Matthew 6:2,3

So do or don’t do as you see fit.  But think it through all the way and make the decision quietly.   (As for me speaking about chik-fil-a, this is not analagous.  That’s not a charity, that’s a boycott.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*  [Yes, I realise this is read by people who are not Christians or who have different beliefs about sin, Grace, original sin, etc.  My point is not to argue about the nature of sin or to list sins.  My point is to emphasise that if you are looking in the Bible to seek and destroy sin, you have to look at the whole Bible.  I of course would argue that by so doing you'd see that the judgment of individuals is between God and that person, but that's a song I sing a lot, so chances are you know the tune and most of the words.]

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My husband and I had a fight on the way to Bellevue, and the  O’Tuesdays  where we ate with our group was about the worst restaurant I’d ever been to.  So by the time we were seated for our showing of Passion of the Christ I was not in the best of moods.    I allow that may be why I did not care for it.  Yes, I felt moved.  But I also felt very much as though I was being compelled through artifice to feel moved.   Anyone who watches a person endure torture and doesn’t feel moved–regardless of their feelings about the person being tortured–has issues that should be seen to in therapy.     But the movie didn’t change me.  It didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know.  And it ended without the resurrection, so as far as I was concerned it was no missional piece.   It was just Bible-themed torture porn.

So WHY did it make more money than a Dasani machine in Hell?    I keep reading articles about that, and those articles are everywhere now that Noah is on the way.    Some people theorise that it’s because anything with Jesus will sell to the Evangelicals.   Other people bring up the violent aspect and suggest (more politely than I just did) that the extreme level of violence appeals to some moviegoers.

I went with my Sunday School group.   Many people did; in fact everyone I know to have seen it saw it with a church group.   We all got discount tickets via a special package sold through our churches (an issue that troubled me as it tread closely to moneychanging, I thought.)  But that’s not why everyone went.

Dear Hollywood:  Everybody went to see Passion Of The Christ because Mel Gibson sold himself as a Member Of The Team.   We didn’t go to see Jesus.  We didn’t go for a cheap date.   We didn’t go to see a man beaten bloody and suffocating to death.

We went because Mel went to every TV show and magazine in the English-speaking world and told the story about when they filmed the crucifixion scene it was a closeup of HIS hand driving the nail.   And every one of us knew that to be a very deeply personal expression of Christianity because we know the verse that says “when you sin you crucify Christ anew.”  We knew that Mel was One Of Us.

Nothing will motivate Christians faster than to give One Of Us a position in what many of us see  as The Enemy Camp.   We are  in a schizoid culture of faith.  We want to believe that Christian presidents and politicians are a natural and frequent occurence, yet we believe that Christians in “the media” (eg. films and television and newsertainment) are rare as hens’ teeth and often barred from positions higher up the food chain than coffee girl.    So when you tell us that The Biggest Movie Star In The World is part of the faith and that he spent his own money in defiance of The Studios to make this movie about Jesus…well, you’ve just passed the biggest offering plate in the world.

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Parenting a dog is often like having one of those first-generation voice-command phones.   You have to be veeeery careful not only of what you say but how you say it.  Because the thing they learn is the thing you’re going to be stuck repeating a thousand times a week.    So just as my father had to shout “DAVE TWO HOME” in just exactly the right way to get his phone to dial my brother’s house, I am stuck saying some mightily bizarre things to get my dogs to respond correctly.

The prime example begins with my Croc Knock-offs.   I was told in one of the fora for sick people who whinge to each other about how sick we are (there are only a few of those on the internet) that Crocs were the best shoes for arthritic feet.  And I don’t mean “oh, these are the best shoes.”  I mean “These shoes will cause you to send letters to your God and the gods of all other religions and your congressional representative to express your gratitude for the wonder of how they cradle your feet.”    It was an emphatic and near-endless endorsement.   So I got a pair of knock-offs on close-out at Target.  This is a side benefit to not having children.  You can take your vacations when everyone else is back at work in September.  That means you can shop for those vacations when all the vacation clothing is on close-out.   Of course this means you head to Disney World in what are effectively society’s unwanted castoffs.  But they are bargain castoffs.  So.  And so.

These shoes were indeed the bargain cast-offs of the Croc world.  Two dollars apparently buys you an open sandal in vivid magenta, with a weird sort of bias crossing the top of your foot.   Are the comfortable?  Very.   Could I walk all over Disney World unaided by the wheelchair?  Were these Crocs the Marjoe Gortner of footwear, healing my feet on contact?  Not quite.

Can I wear these shoes anywhere other than a Floridian vacation destination without looking like someone who has to have her home address pinned inside her shirt before she leaves the house?   No.  Emphatically no.    That means when we returned home to Tennessee and our furry surrogate children, the Most Wonderful Shoes In Creation got relegated to the basement closet.   The only time I wear them is when I have to slide something on in a hurry to get my  disobedient dogs to stop re-enacting a Duran Duran video and come inside.

Now, when I reach the point of charging outdoors in the dead of winter to bring in dogs who have been called (thrice) and “didn’t hear”, I am not in the best of moods.   And I am not hesitant to tell the dog about that mood, either.   “You made me get my pink shoes!! That is NOT good, young man.  GET IN THAT HOUSE!!!!”      After a month I found  that  even opening the back door with the pink shoes on my feet got them to hustle inside.     Fast-forward three months to March.   “Come in” doesn’t work.  “Get inside” works sporadically.   But open the back door and yell “PINK SHOES”…the dogs come running.     And yes, it’s great to have them come on command.  But I’m still stuck with yelling what sounds like nonsense out my back door.

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Appropriately enough I received a follow-up call this morning from the Oncology Center regarding my anemia.   Time for another infusion of iron and injection of B12!   I appreciate that life has that much of a sense of humour.

Probably in tandem with my recent rage I’m also enjoying the sickest bent of humour in society lately.   This is the type of mood wherein I laugh at bleak jokes.  Then again, I’m always  one to be struck funny at funerals.   It’s not polite, but there you go.  I’m ghoulish.     I’m repeating here the thing that happened yesterday and was posted to facebook because I want to keep it for always and if there’s one thing about FB that sucks it’s the complete lack of permanence.    Everything ostensibly stays in their vaults but YOU can’t access it.   Sometimes I wonder if they don’t do that on purpose.   For whatever reason it means that although I may use the site as sort of a micro-blog  it is in NO way a journaling tool.  If you don’t want to lose a recipe you have to put it in bookmarks or Pinterest.   If you don’t want to lose an anecdote you have to blog it.

Thus beginneth the repeat:

I was watching a true crime show where a woman’s dismemebered body was found floating in a lake near her family home.   There was the requisite segment where those who knew her talked about how devastated they were by this.   (And of course we had to hear the usual tommyrot about “why kill her?  She was so pretty!”  As though we are fine with ugly people being slaughtered.)   Her former boss, the editor in chief of the local paper said  that everyone was asking “why? why? why? And it was because Karen was such a bouyant young woman and everyone liked her.”   

That really happened.  And it will never not crack me up.

Thus endeth the repeat.

And yes, it is Ash Wednesday, which means that we begin Lent.   I didn’t grow up practicing Lent.  It’s one of those High Church things that the Mennonites abjure out of tradition as much as anything else.   It wasn’t until 2000 that Lent became more of a practice in the Low Church; now most places at least name-check it.    I personally have a philosophical objection to the Give Something Up idea; since I didn’t grow up in a church where it was a matter of course and therefore part of the fabric of my tradition it strikes me now as odd.    We’re celebrating Christ’s sacrifice that allows us to approach the throne of Grace…by focusing on _works_?   It seems wrong-footed to me.    I do use the 40 days to focus on Wandering and to ponder the miracle of Grace.

For me the worst part of Lent are the casual jokes:  “Im so ready to get back to eating chocolate! I can’t take it!”   It seems to make too light of something that is very essential to the faith.   Which I realise now is odd coming from a woman who just 300 words ago admitted she laughs at funerals.

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