One man's view of theology, sports, politics, and whatever else in life that happens to interest me. A little bit about me.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Painting with a Broad Brush

Photo Credit
It’s the beginning of summer. If you have Facebook and if you have lots of conservative evangelical friends (and I do, since I am one), that means it’s time for lots of articles and videos advising women about how they should dress during the summer. It’s never a bad time for us to be reminded to dress modestly, but most of the articles go beyond that. They perpetuate lies about how men and women relate.
These articles find their source at the confluence of two cultural lies that come from very divergent sources yet are surprisingly similar. One is the feminist lie that all men are pigs. The other is the Victorian lie that women are responsible for the reactions of men. Bring these two lies together, throw in some twisted Bible verses and you get the basis for way too many of these articles: all men are raging sex monsters, and it’s up to women to keep them at bay by dressing modestly.
It’s unfair to both men and women to let the lie stand that this is how men and women relate. Perpetuating it puts men in a never-ending spiral of despair. Jesus clearly taught that lust is just as much a sin as adultery. Far be it from me to deny that lust is a problem. But if a man can’t help but lust any time he sees an immodestly dressed woman in person or photograph, then what is he to do? Never venture outside? Never read or watch the news? Never work in the same workplace as a woman? Perpetuating these lies also gives women a false view of men and of the world. If no man is to be trusted, if all men are one glance away from lust and worse, then why should she respect any man? Why should she spiritually submit to any man, whether as a husband, pastor or whatever, if men are helpless to keep from sinning?
If you read these articles they say things like men are stimulated by sight exclusively, and they can’t help but lust when they see a woman’s thighs or cleavage. Such statements are not only untrue, they are patently absurd. Blind men become fathers all the time. It’s actually quite the common occurrence. If men have to see stimulating images to be aroused, then it would be impossible for blind men to reproduce. If these lies are true, then why is it legal for a man to be an ob-gyn? If one glance at a bikini-clad woman renders a man helpless to control his lust, then by the very nature of his job it stands to reason that a male ob-gyn would be driven so out of control he couldn’t possibly hope to contain himself. He would be out of his practice and in jail within a week.
I’m not denying the fact that there are some men who think that way or who treat women shamefully. Nor am I denying my own capability to lust. I’m just trying to provide a little bit of balance because I don’t think the way those articles say I do, and thankfully I don’t know very many men that do follow the stereotype. With so many exceptions to the rule out there, it’s about time we stop pretending the rule exists and start dealing with reality.
The reality is that we as believers have the Holy Spirit. We have the capability to handle a tempting
situation without sinning. Obviously part of that is being wise enough to avoid tempting situations to start with, but that’s not always possible. Temptation is not a trap door that automatically drops us into sin. We have a choice in how we respond. A Christian man can choose to lust or he can choose to escape the temptation when he finds himself in a situation he did not plan for. I know I’m certainly not above making a wrong choice, and I would love to read some honest articles about dealing with these real-life situations.
But no. Instead we get articles about how the author’s poor husband or boyfriend needs the cooperation of all the women out there to protect him from sin. That’s demeaning to both men and women. I feel sorry for the men whose wives write about them in such disparaging terms. I know I would be embarrassed if my wife wrote the things about me that I read about other men in these articles. The way some of these women write about their husbands, they should be brought before the church for discipline and restoration. They certainly shouldn’t be pastors, deacons or leaders in the church, like so many of their wives claim they are. Before I would write anything that embarrassing about my lovely wife I would seek some private counseling for both of us.
I can’t read people’s hearts. I don’t pretend to know what motivates some people to do what they do. I’m just tossing out some general examples of stuff I've seen. I do know that privately dealing with a relationship issue is much healthier for anyone than publicly blaming others for a problem. I also know that the lie that men are helpless against lust undermines both sexes’ role in the church and in society. But we can’t talk about it, because it has become the conventional wisdom of our society, including the church. Men and women are afraid of speaking against it because they are afraid of being labeled as insensitive to real issues of rape or abuse. Well it’s time that stopped. My mom didn’t raise no pig. People should be judged on the content of their individual character, not pigeonholed into stereotypes.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Open Runoff Elections - Fair or Unfair?

Let me preface this with a quick primer on my political views: I consider myself an independent, a Christian libertarian. I have never voted a straight party ticket in my life. I try to stay informed the best I can and vote for the best person, in my view. I have always lived in open primary states, so in the primary I choose whichever ballot has the most action. In southeast Missouri where I grew up, I took a Democrat ballot. In northern Alabama, I take a Republican ballot.
Today is primary election day here in Alabama. Alabama’s election process includes a runoff election between the primary and the general election. In a primary election you can have any number of candidates from each party for a certain office. The purpose of the primary election is for party loyalists to choose their favorite candidate for the general election. After the regular primary election, in Alabama we have also have a runoff election. (It’s scheduled for July 15.) In the event no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote the top two candidates face off in the runoff election. It’s sort of a second round of the primary. It certainly makes the election process more interesting. When there are three or four candidates in the primary, the favorite is going to push to win the primary outright so he can avoid the runoff. When there is a huge field, everyone knows there will be a runoff, so the real battle is for second place in the election so he can win a spot in the runoff.
As I said, Alabama is an open primary state. That means you can come to the polling place on election day and choose which party you want to vote for. Other states require you to register as a member of a certain party, and you have to take that party’s ballot in the primary. I don’t have an objection to either of these methods. Of course anyone can choose any candidate on the general election ballot, regardless of party. No one is obligated to vote for their chosen party on the general ballot.
The quirk in Alabama’s system is that the runoff election is open, too. It’s honestly not that big of a deal, it’s just something I remember vividly from the last election, and I find it remarkable that neither of the major parties has sought to close that loophole, especially given Alabama’s history of one-party rule.
Let me illustrate the issue with the real-life events that happened in the last election year. In 2010 there was a particular Republican candidate I wanted to win the governor’s race (I don’t even remember his name now), but it was a crowded field with seven or eight candidates. The candidate I wanted to win won first place in the primary. The second place winner was a surprise – Robert Bentley, a nondescript dermatologist from Tuscaloosa whose main claim to fame was that he once treated Bear Bryant (If you wonder why that matters, you’ve never been to Alabama).
There was a strong Democrat race for governor as well, but it was between two candidates. The one candidate won the primary, and that was it. So we had another six weeks of the two Republican governor candidates duking it out on the campaign trail and endless TV and radio commercials. Meanwhile here in Morgan County, if I remember right, there was one minor county office and one minor state office – secretary of state or something like that – on the Democrat ballot. Naturally the Republican governor’s race was the main focus of the public and the media during the campaign cycle.
When I went to the polls on the runoff election day, I was the 77th person to vote at that precinct, Decatur Baptist Church on Danville Road. I know this because I signed my name on the 76th blank to receive a Republican ballot. When I looked at the Democrat sheet, there was only one signature. The final results in Morgan County were not that far off from that. More than 90 percent of the votes cast were on the Republican ticket. I know Decatur is mostly a Republican town, especially the area I happened to be voting in that year. But you can’t tell me Republicans outnumber Democrats 76 to 1, or even 9 to 1.
And the numbers weren’t that unbalanced because all the Democrats stayed home. The runoff turnout was only slightly smaller than the primary turnout. No, the results were that way because lots of Democrats voted in the Republican primary. And I think it is safe to assume the vast majority of them voted for Bentley, the more moderate of the two candidates. So was I disappointed that my candidate didn’t win? Yeah. Would he have done that much different from what Bentley has done the last 3 ½ years? I don’t know, probably not.
But the point is that is not the purpose of the primary election. The primary election is for party supporters to choose for themselves. That’s why you have separate ballots. I remember some people saying at the time that Bentley was the Democrats’ real nominee for governor. I wouldn’t go that far, but it does reflect a flaw in the system. People may see a candidate who wins this way as a less than legitimate candidate.
There is an easy solution for this that would preserve the open primary system: have an open primary and a closed runoff. When you take a ballot in the primary election, the poll worker could note which party you took. It wouldn’t be that hard. Then when you come to the polls for the runoff, the poll worker looks at the letter printed beside your name and hands you the same party’s ballot that you selected in the primary. No one would be allowed to vote in the runoff who hadn’t voted in the primary, unless there is something like a statewide ballot issue, and they would only receive that ballot. No one would be obligated to take the same party ballot in the primary in the next election cycle. This would preserve the open primary system.
I’m not a native Alabamian, but frankly I am surprised neither party has “fixed” this already. Since the Civil War Alabama’s government has been characterized by one-party rule. By one-party rule I mean the governor and the majority of both houses of the legislature and the Supreme Court have been all of one party. It hasn’t happened every election cycle, but most of the time it has. You would think that with that much control of the legislative process the party in charge would have kept such a situation as I described above from taking place. But they haven’t. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it is a way to preserve the voice of the people in a one-party system. But neither of the main parties is concerned as much with the will of the people as they are with preserving power. That’s why I’m surprised the runoffs are open.
Don’t forget to vote today if you are in Alabama!