Week 3: Depression Makes an Entrance

How do you take care of yourself? Chocolate? Sleeping in? Working out? Maybe a bit of retail therapy? Whatever you do, hopefully it helps you cope when things get hard and you start feeling down or tired. Taking care of yourself is supposed to make you feel better, feel rejuvenated, be able to face challenges with calm and confidence.

Depressed people are used to being told to take care of themselves. We hear a lot of, “Have you taken your meds?” “Are you eating right?” “How are you sleeping?” “Maybe you just need to rest?” Everyone has a suggestion for what you should be doing to take care of yourself. As if you haven’t heard it all before. As if you don’t have reams of printouts on what foods to avoid for your depression or how to make your sleep quicker and more effective. As if this is a new problem. Or an old habit you just haven’t kicked yet.

This week I’ve struggled a bit. Monday and Tuesday were busy with trips to Parramatta so I could work and then an unexpected trip back to Parramatta to rescue my stranded wife from work. Then there was the two day migraine which I don’t even want to talk about because it hurt and made me feel like a shell filled with goo. And through it all there was the feeling that I just did not have the energy to fight back against all this.

At one point yesterday, my wife looked at me with concern and said, “I need you to take care of yourself. Workout, take your pills, whatever you need to do.” That’s the thing, though: sometimes you don’t know what to do to take care of yourself. You know things are wrong, but you have no idea what to do about it. And you don’t know because even doing the smallest thing hurts and makes things worse. Literally, going to the bathroom or microwaving food can be as difficult and insurmountable as climbing Everest.

Depression does more than just make you feel down and unable to function. It can literally rob you of knowing how to function or how to help yourself. And there’s nothing you can do about it. You can’t even tell someone how to help you because you don’t know yourself. Depression takes everything that is you away and replaces it with nothing more than mere existence.

As far as my health journey goes, it was fine until this week. I had days when I was tired and unmotivated but I was able to shake them off and I knew how to do that. This week has been different. I got hit with my depression like someone had dropped a piano on me. It has sucked and I’m not totally back to myself yet.

Here’s the important thing, though: I’m going to have days and weeks like this. That doesn’t mean I’ve failed or that I’m broken and can’t be fixed. It just means that I live with depression like millions of other people do all over the world. I do the best I can with it and eventually it subsides. It never goes away, but it doesn’t always stay. I need to know that about myself and about how I live my life. Maybe I can plan ahead and figure out how to deal with things before they happen. But that is not a surefire thing.

Ultimately, all I can do is be patient and kind to myself. And that’s all I can ask the people in my life to do, too. That’s how I need to take care of myself, whether I’m depressed or feeling okay.

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Tide’s Out: What Didn’t Make the Cut

Hello, everyone! This week and last week I’ve spent some time reading for pleasure as a release from my normal “everything is work” type of reading style. So this time on “Tide’s Out” I’m showing you what I read for fun!

H.P. Lovecraft Goes to the Movies

I love science fiction, but I’m not a huge fan of horror. I am, however, a fan of the history of science fiction and you can’t have a complete grasp of that without delving into the weird world of H.P. Lovecraft. This collection of his short stories adds in notes about which movies were made based on the stories, many of which seem to star the late and very great Christopher Lee.

These stories are rightfully legendary. They manage to be plain and simply creepy while still sounding scientific. For instance, one of my favorites is “The Dreams in the Witch House” which features a mathematics student dreaming his way into the occult by studying how maths can lead to interdimensional travel. Combining study of high level maths and occult tomes like the Necronomicon, the student travels through dimensions, chased by the evil and terrifying characters Keziah Mason (or Nahab) and her familiar “Brown Jenkins.” I was duly and enjoyable terrified and immediately decided that from now on I would only read this book in full daylight nowhere near bedtime.

Blue Beetle, Volume 1 & 2

So, my journey into comic books has been documented before, but usually through the favorite superheroes like Batman and Superman. This time around I tried to find heroes who are less mainstream. Blue Beetle was one of my choices and I grabbed the first two volumes of his New 52 incarnation.

This is the story of Jamie Reyes, a high schooler who gets saddled with an alien form of sentient tech that turns him into the Blue Beetle. Jamie struggles with the violent entity he is now melded with: the “bugsuit” wants to kill everything and take over the Earth, Jamie really just wants to date a girl and not kill his family. You know, typical teen stuff. It’s a really great story about a kid just trying to figure out very grown up and complicated things, experiencing life in a way that moves him from being a kid to being an adult. Not everyone gets a maniacal killer “bugsuit” and super powers, but I think most people know how Jamie feels anyway. Growing up sucks.

The Doctor and the Kid

Steampunk Wild West. That’s really all you need to know.

I haven’t read this one yet, though I did look at the first chapter. Doc Holliday is the main character and he is dying of consumption. In the first chapter he meets Oscar Wilde who engages him on a kind of mystery. I couldn’t not get this book from the library. Sadly, this is not the first book in the series, but I won’t let that stop me. I feel like these might stand on their own to a certain degree.

Secrets of the Knights Templar

There are few really good, real life conspiracy theories that thrill me as much as the Knights Templar. Knightly chivalry and possible magic and esoteric knowledge and a hidden treasure? What’s not to love? But the Knights Templar were also historical figures whose story is interwoven with the Crusades, one of the most interesting times in history. This book takes a very matter of fact look at the Templars and why some of the myths we love so much exist today. If I’m honest, there was less hidden treasure and magic than I would have liked, but this was a good read anyway.

Honorable Mention: Quarterly Essay, “Blood Year” by David Kilcullen

In my line of work, reading scholarly journals and political periodicals is all part of the job description. Quarterly Essay is one of the best publications around for in depth politics. This issue was written by David Kilcullen, an Australian who worked with the US government in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is his account of what happened and how it led to the rise of ISIS, as well as how the continuation of old policy is making things worse. If you want a good look at current events from scholars, experts and the people who were there when it happened, Quarterly Essay is what you want.

Original Sin: The World’s Biggest Con?

So I’m still reading this book Radical by David Platt and I’m preparing to review it and possibly look deeper into some of the questions it raises. I am fascinated by this iteration of American evangelical Christianity. I was not raised in it and I have an outsiders view of it, so reading what someone from inside this belief system says and how he wants to change it is instructive for me and actually quite enjoyable. But right now I have a serious question that has been niggling at me all day: what’s the deal with Original Sin?

Okay, so going back to my catholic roots, what I remember from catechism and church school is that Original Sin is the sinful nature of man passed down through the generations because of Adam, the first man. As the BBC page on it explains, “Original sin is an Augustine Christian doctrine that says that everyone is born sinful. This means that they are born with a built-in urge to do bad things and to disobey God.” The only way to get rid of Original Sin is baptism, something that both catholic and evangelical churches do.

Here’s my question: is this all a con?

Here’s my thinking: in the religious sphere, everyone makes gains by claiming that they are the only ones who are right and making people throw their lot in with them. Original Sin is the line they sell to make people believe that they need what that church is selling: salvation. Without Original Sin, there is less reason to follow any particular religion or quite possibly any religion at all. Thus, Christians of all stripes have a vested interest in this belief because it in many respects justifies their proselytizing.

Now I’m not just claiming this out of hand. Looking back at the history of the concept of Original Sin shows that there is some basis for this thinking. St. Augustine, who was a fan of Platonic philosophy, elucidated this doctrine in depth for the first time. He borrowed it from 2nd century church fathers who created the doctrine through reinterpretations of Genesis, not taking up any previous interpretations that were considered received wisdom. Through Augustine’s efforts, the concept of Original Sin became church doctrine. This is the history taken from a few sources and condensed to save me space (so look here and here to read my sources).

So the idea of Original Sin did not come from Jewish tradition, but from Augustine. This means that the whole shtick of man being born with the taint of Adam’s transgression has a definite start date that does not coincide with Early Church (meaning the church of the Apostles, specifically) teaching. More importantly, this doctrine has been used to justify the continual proselytizing of non-Christian peoples who neither asked for it or want it when they hear it. Original Sin, then, is one of the primary Christian beliefs that justifies Christian actions.

Take for instance, this passage in Radical, which was one of the things that made me think about this subject:

Look especially at the hypothetical question: “What happens to the innocent guy in the middle of Africa who dies without ever hearing the gospel?” (This is how most people word this question.)

The reality is, the innocent guy in Africa will go to heaven because if he is innocent, then he has no need for a Savior to save him from his sin. As a result, he doesn’t need the goespel. But there is a significant problem here.

The innocent guy doesn’t exist… in Africa or anywhere else.

And why not? Original sin. Platt in his book uses Romans chapter 3 to justify this and that chapter has been used to justify Original Sin as well. But look at the verse he uses (which I quote from his text):

There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.

Nowhere in this verse does it say this is because of the sin of Adam. Nowhere are these people held guilty for the sins of someone else. Only their own actions condemn them.

Why does this mean there is Original Sin, then? Well, it doesn’t look like it does. Unless someone comes along and interprets it that way and gets their interpretation made into church doctrine (*cough* Augustine *cough*).

And why do we even need the idea of Original Sin anyway? If we functioned just fine without it before Augustine, was it really necessary? Unless only by saying that there are no good people outside of Christianity was a really good selling point, which it looks like it is.

So. Original Sin – con or not? Kinda sounds like a con to me. What do you think?

Week 2: I’m Starting to Love This

I liked what I was doing before. Learning the fundamentals, feeling kickass after a workout, sweating and bumping fists with people who were doing the same thing I was. Now at the end of week 2 with Crossfit, I’m starting to really fall in love.

It’s like we met, we talked, we went on a few dates and now we’re starting to have those first awkward, heavy make-out sessions. Crossfit and I are starting to get it on.

You may be thinking, “Dude, did we really need the image of you making out with… someone?” (For those of you who like that sort of thing, imagine any of your favorite female celebrities puckering up and feel free to leave me out of it. Personally, I imagine her.) And my answer to you is, “No, probably not.” But that’s how good it feels, man! It feels like those first times you get close to someone you’re into. It’s exhilarating!

I did not feel that way last week. Last week I was slow, sluggish and unmotivated. This week, it feels a lot different. It’s a little easier to go to the gym now. I’m used to being slower than others, I’m used to learning and feeling my way around, and I’m getting used to other people being around. This is all part of the process of getting comfortable and feeling at home at RMA.

And I have to say, probably the biggest thing that has me so excited this week is the people. Everyone at Revolute is really fun to be around. They are positive people, enthusiastic and supportive people. I feel better about everything after I’ve spent time with them.

Today while doing burpee box jumps (buck furpees, man), the top of the box said “Effort = Respect.” It isn’t about how much you’re doing or how you’re doing. It’s about the fact that you’re trying your hardest. Am I the slowest person in the gym? You bet I am! But I’m working as hard as everyone else is. And I’ll get better. I’ll be able to do more. But for me, personally, knowing that my effort, as bad as it looks, is what earns me respect really means something. It gives me more respect for myself.

If I never get abs; if I never do a real pull up; if I never do a handstand walk, it doesn’t matter. The self-respect that Crossfit and RMA is giving me is better than all of that.

Why I’m Angry at Christians

I’m reading a book right now called Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream. I’ll have more to say about it later, but as I read this book by pastor David Platt, I find myself being inexplicably angry. Very angry. So angry that my hands clench into fists and my face turns into a frown. I can’t control this anger and I’m trying to understand it, but all my brain can come up with is, “I am so damn angry at Christians.”

Why am I so angry with Christians? What is it that has me so frustrated and irate? Sure, I’m reading a book by a pastor. That isn’t a guaranteed way to turn me into the Hulk. It has nothing to do with me being the righteous anger version of the Hulk. I’m actually always angry with Christians. And I’m starting to figure out why.

It starts out with many Christians (I will not say all, though I fear it’s most) who refuse to help others. I’m not talking about homeless people on the street or donating to the Red Cross after the latest tragedy in some third world country. I’m talking simple things that they don’t even see as helping others.

Like taxes.

A lot of taxes goes to help other people. Government programs for education, healthcare and foreign aid all help people who are in trouble. Sometimes a lot of trouble. I’m not saying everything the government does with tax money is right and good, but I am saying that people who begrudge their taxes are contributing to the shortfall that will affect needy people. What are the first programs cut? Assistance programs. Why are they cut? Because people don’t want to pay taxes.

I have yet to see any Christian make the connection between taxes and helping the poor. If anything, I hear a lot about how the poor are poor because they don’t work hard enough and are lazy and deserve to be where they are. Growing up I heard a lot about how some homeless people wanted to be homeless and that was an excuse not to help them. All I hear are rationalizations for reasons not to help people.

“God helps those who help themselves” is the biggest bit of crock I’ve ever heard. All it is is an excuse not to do exactly what Christ told Christians to do. I am not surprised that this bit of wisdom came from one of America’s “Founding Fathers.” American history is rife with the causes of the modern Gospel, and this is just one instance of that. Christ didn’t help people because they were helping themselves first. He was helping the people who could do nothing else for themselves and needed help from others. He didn’t say to people, “Yeah, I’ll help you as soon as you jump through these hoops.” He helped them and didn’t ask anything in return.

Christians are literally so un-Christlike that I cannot stomach them. And I’m angry because they should know better! Supposedly they have the only “way, truth and the life” that there is. They delight in telling people that only their way is the way to heaven and that everyone else is wrong. Their hypocrisy makes me angry.

The start of this Radical book tells a story of Platt visiting with Christians in Asia. Like many stories of modern Christian heroism, these Christians are persecuted. It is illegal for them to be Christians where they live. And Platt sits there and listens to them pray and admires them and then uses them as an example to chastise the American Christians reading his book for not being more like them.

But those Christians have nothing in common with American Christians. Those Christians pray, “Jesus, we give our lives to you and for you.” Americans can’t even say they’ll give their taxes to the least of these their brethren. Americans are camels trying to go through the eye of the needle. Remember when Jesus talked about that?

American Christians have no care for anyone but themselves. They may say they care, but they don’t. Their actions belie their pious words. They do more harm than good in the world.

I have met a few real Christians and some of them may even read this post. But they are the minority. They are the people who don’t want me to use their names because they don’t want recognition or fame. They are the people who do not begrudge their time, money, effort or health in order to help other people. Not preach at people, but help them with things like medicine, food, shelter, clothing and education. They’re not famous, political and they’re not trying to sell books with catchy titles. I wish there were more people like them in the world and less people like David Platt with his megachurch, his stories and his books.

No Jokes for Charleston, SC

There have been a few times over the past couple of weeks that I’ve been tempted to blog about current events. I’ve studiously kept away from it, partly because the news is heavy and partly because I haven’t been sure of my own thoughts. But the news from Charleston, South Carolina, has created a deep sadness in me that I cannot help but address.

I am sad because people who believed they were in a place of safety had that safety horrifically violated. Being in church carries with it the connotation of sanctuary, an historical association that many Christians still have. That sanctuary was taken from them. But not just from those in Charleston. It was taken from millions of other black Christians who now have to wonder if it can happen to them. Something fundamental has been taken from them and I think we’re not recognizing that enough.

Having said that, let me be clear. This was a racially motivated attack. The attacker said, “I want to shoot black people.” There is absolutely no doubt about what motivated the attacker to kill nine people in an historically black church. That should not be ignored in favor of saying that Christians were targeted. FOX News did that. I will not speculate about why. I will say FOX News is wrong. This was about the people’s race, not about their faith.

I’m going to let Larry Wilmore explain what’s wrong with FOX:

Having let Larry have his say, let me make a very serious point:

When FOX News emphasizes this as an attack on Christians, they take a piece of solidarity away from the Christian community. All Christians enjoy the feeling of sanctuary, whether they be protestant, Catholic or otherwise. Christians need to recognize that this has been taken away from some of their brethren. Black Christians now have a target on their back because of their race. It is up to Christians of all races to recognize this and to make a really important stand against racism.

As the Bible says in Galatians 3:28,

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

The Christian community can live this out by pointing out the racial motivations of this attack and saying, “We do not stand for this.” I have yet to see it happen. All I have seen is analysis like that on FOX News where it is an either-or proposition. Either the attack was on Christians, or it was on black people. And we’ve already seen which side FOX took.

FOX News is a joke. Its faux seriousness about the attack was in truly poor taste and completely ignored the facts. But then again, it is a symptom of what is going on in America. In a very serious segment, Jon Stewart, a comedian, said it best:

America probably isn’t going to do anything about the racially motivated violence against minorities. America has already proven that it won’t do anything to restrict the weapons that make such violence possible. But I hope that Charleston will not be a moment when Christians fail, too. I hope that it throws the Christian community into action to protect its own, to stand with each other in solidarity because their faith makes them brothers and sisters. If any group of people should be doing this, it should be Christians.

If they don’t- if Christians act like FOX News and do not do something good with this situation- then they have made their faith a joke. And it isn’t funny.

Week 1 Recap: The First Lesson…

Last week was my first week being a crossfitter. The fundamentals are done, I did my first WOD and now I’m heading into week 2. But being me, I’m spending some time this Sunday looking back at my week before I look forward, trying to find the areas I really need to work on and the obstacles that tripped me up. Before I can look forward, I need to see what I’m taking with me into the future.

You vs. You

A trainer I once spent some time with liked to say that working out is about “you versus you.” His point was that fitness and most of life is not a battle between you and other people or other things. It is about fighting against yourself.

Last week was a lot about that. Sure, there were some things I couldn’t help, like my partner being sick, work, Shark Week, etc.. But a lot of the problems I had last week stemmed from me, not something outside of me.

Really, my biggest obstacle to making myself better is the old me that is comfortable being exactly what I am – an overweight, unfit, unhealthy couch potato. And this isn’t going to change any time soon. A lot of the crossfit blogs I follow like to remind you with graphics and images that it doesn’t get any easier. You just get stronger. Well, I’m probably always going to like carbs over protein, sugar over not sugar and sitting around reading rather than running. But eventually I want my brain and my commitment to be stronger than my desire to not do healthy things.

It’s me versus myself. I’m always going to win this battle. The question is, which side am I on?

All-Rounder

Crossfit is about being prepared for anything by training for everything. It’s a lot like life in that way. I’m not a very good all-rounder. I have specialties. I read. I am a critical thinker. I write. I do these things fast and well. I am not as good at other things.

Right now, I’m trying to get better at things I’ve never been really good at. Doing things in groups, physical activity, healthier eating, etc.. I feel very much at a disadvantage. These are not my specialties. Working on them makes me uncomfortable.

But it’s important to remember that I didn’t start out as a writer, reader and thinker. I learned these things. I got very good at them over a very long period of time. I cannot compare what I’m doing with crossfit to these things. I will only become an all-rounder by putting in the same amount of time and effort into crossfit and fitness that I have to writing and reading.

Next Week

So what I’m going to work on next week?

Well, for starters I want to do more than I did this week. One WOD? I don’t think so! I want to do more. Ideally, I want to go every weekday. But that’s an ideal. It’s the goal I have, but as long as I do more than I did in Week 1, I will have succeeded.

Beyond fitness, I have some new goals. I recently signed a contract with my work that means I’m fully employed. While I’m still listed as a freelancer, I have permission now to write more. There are no limits on my quota. I want to write more now that I have this freedom. This week, I want to figure out how best to do that. I’ve already started that process a little bit. That’s why I haven’t posted as much on here. But this week, I need to figure out my work routine. Hopefully, that means more posts on the blog as well.

Finally, I have one mental goal. This is a tough one. I am sometimes easily discouraged. I want to change that. This week, I want to redefine my conception of failure. I feel like I failed because I didn’t do so well last week. But I didn’t fail. I took a first step and it was smaller than I thought it would be. Failure doesn’t mean not getting there. Failure is if I give up.

Failure connotes an end. A point at which there is nothing beyond it. But that’s not what this is about. Crossfit and my goals are about a continuum. They are about not stopping at any point. Literally, I can’t fail as long as I am still trying. That’s what I need to remember right now. I can’t fail.

Evil’s a Laugh! ‘On Evil’ [Review]

I finished reading a book called On Evil by Terry Eagleton this week. It was fascinating. I don’t often contemplate evil. Why would I? It is simply not an enjoyable thing to do. But I enjoyed reading this book. It made me think about things in a different way. So how can I explain what it said? I think a superhero analogy is in order.

Have you ever considered Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker? He won a posthumous Oscar for it and quite deservedly so. He was creepy, unsettling and cool all at the same time. But what was so good about it really? Many people talked (and still talk) about how he inhabited the role, became the Joker as fully as he could. He was a very good method actor. But how did he do it? What makes people say this about him?

I think the answer lies in the nature of the evil he portrayed. We’re used to low levels of evil in our world. Systemic evil, the evil of bureaucrats – things that Eagleton calles wickedness. They happen not because of any one person’s personal evil nature, but because evil exists in the world and it manifests itself in the unfairness of systems. Unfairness is a form of evil, but not an earth shattering one.

The Joker, however, is definitely earth-shatteringly evil. He is evil simply to be evil. “Some men just want to watch the world burn.” That’s the quote people remember from the movie. It sums the Joker up nicely.

Eagleton says something slightly more philosophical about this kind of evil.

“Let us return, then, to the question of whether evil is best seen as a kind of purposeless or nonpragmatic wickedness. In one sense, the answer is surely yes. Evil is not primarily concerned with practical consequences. As the French psychoanalyst Andre Green writes, “Evil is without ‘why’ because its raison d’etre is to proclaim that everything which exists has no meaning, obeys no order, pursues no aim, depends only on the power it can exercise to impose its will on the objects of its appetite.” … Yet the evil do have purposes of a kind. They seem to lay waste simply for the hell of it, but this is not the whole truth. We have seen already that they visit violence upon those who pose a threat to their own identity. But they also smash and sabotage to ease the hellish conflict in which they are caught.”

Eagleton believes that evil people like the Joker are also in pain and they seek to ease that pain in diabolical ways.

Is the Joker in pain? Perhaps. He certainly has a death wish. In almost all the iterations of the Batman-Joker animus, the Joker taunts the hero to kill him. The fact that Batman does not kill makes him the hero. The fact that Joker wants to destroy that hero by making him stoop to Joker’s own level is partially what makes him a villain. Joker wants to die, sure, but he also wants to take down the symbol of goodness with him. Somehow, he seems to think that will make him happy, though why he is unhappy is never really explained.

This desire to destroy Batman’s goodness is also part of Eagleton’s conception of evil.

“Part of the rage of the damned, as we have seen, is the knowledge that they are parasitic on goodness, as the rebel is dependent on the authority he spurns. They are obsessed with the virtue they despise, and are thus the reverse of religious types who can think of nothing but sex.”

 Again, a theme of the Joker is that he would not exist without the Batman. In fact, in Frank Miller’s amazing Dark Knight comics, when Batman disappears for awhile, so does the Joker. The Joker is held in an asylum and treated and he becomes an almost normal being. Without the Batman, his desire for the crazy evil he represents has gone. Only when the Batman resurfaces does the Joker go back to being evil. (Side note: as far as ethical conundrums go, Frank Miller is perhaps one of the best writers of any medium on those points.)

These are just a few of the things from Eagleton’s book. Honestly, it is a thought provoking read. Some of its concepts are complex and take a bit of thought to understand, but for me, the Joker helped that understanding along.

But more importantly, it got me thinking about the Jokers you find in the real world. Evil is not as clear cut as you think it is. Some of the traits of evil, then, are found in people and systems that we think of as “good.” Good and evil are really two sides of the same coin and they share some characteristics. For instance, that second quote from Eagleton’s book notes that some religious people are sex-obsessed, just like evil is obsessed with the virtue it does not have. These kind of similarities are important and knowing that makes you look at supposedly good things with a far more informed critical eye.

Evil is something that we do not consider enough. Eagleton is duly critical of liberals who look at the world like everyone is good and have rose colored glasses on. I have been guilty of this at times. We don’t want to believe that evil exists, but it does. More importantly, it is rarely what we think is evil. ISIS, terrorists, black ops who torture innocents – these are not the be-all-end-all evil they sometimes get called. They are almost too obviously bad to be truly evil.

So what is evil? It is rarely as obvious as the Joker’s kind of evil is. But being able to look at something and notice what it has in common with the Joker is a good first step to being able to figure out what is.

Day 7: The Lull

Last week was great. I went to the gym (almost) every day. I pushed myself. I exceeded my expectations. I also lost three pounds.

Then there’s this week.

It’s Wednesday and tonight I have things to look forward to. The Origin series Game 2 is on tonight. It’s a pivotal game. If the New South Wales Blues don’t win, then they lose the series to Queensland. I don’t want them to lose. Like any sports fan, I have pre-game anxiety on behalf of my team.

I’m also looking forward to a night with my wife. As much as she hates sports, I know she’ll indulge me and think I’m cute. And since she’s been feeling poorly these last few days, I’m hoping that her doctor’s visit today has helped. She’s getting her prescriptions filled and we’ll be back to our semblance of normal.

And then there’s the gym.

I miss my morning workout because sleep is just stupidly hard to come by. I miss one day without a sleeping pill and I’m a mess. Last night, I had a sleeping pill and slept an extra three hours to make up for the deficit. Those three hours coincided with my workout time.

So tonight I can go to the gym and do kickboxing. It’s an hour and a half class that ends at 7:30. Kickboxing is my wheelhouse. It’s close enough to my TKD training from high school that I should be pretty comfortable doing it. It also sounds like a lot of fun. No one loves punching things more than me.

 

However…

It ends at 7:30 pm. The game starts at 7:30 pm. And my wife gets home at 5:30 pm. To workout, I have to miss time from both of them.

This week is a lull for me. It’s a lull in the initial excitement. It’s a lull in my initial confidence. I’m doing new things again and now I’m nervous. That has taken some wind out of my sails.

It’s also where I realize just how much I have to sacrifice in order to achieve my fitness goals. Time with my wife, time watching footy, sleep – I have to change my usual combination of these things to accommodate my fitness. Something’s gotta give.

Here’s something you can’t be told about fitness: sacrifices have to be made. Sure, you may expect to sacrifice cookies or alcohol or some combination of food. But you don’t expect to sacrifice time with your family or time doing your hobbies. Even if you’re not training for something specific, like a marathon or something like my own body goals (which are quite specific), your physical fitness will require this agonizing type of sacrifice.

But think of it this way: by not focusing on your fitness, you’re already making a sacrifice. You’re sacrificing your health daily. If I wake up early enough to go to my morning workout, I’m losing 2-3 hours of sleep. But I’m still getting 7-8 hours of sleep, which is all the sleep I need. Yeah, staying in bed and cuddling my cats is far more enjoyable than having my coach kick my ass, at least initially. But it will be less enjoyable in, say, ten years when I’m in bed because I’m short of breath because I never did any cardio and gained another 100 pounds.

This week is a lull. I’m a bit down about it. But I’m trying to look at it in a different way. This is the time to get into a rhythm, to find a routine. Basically, I’m checking out which sacrifices need to be made. Ultimately, I will be able to enjoy everything more when I’m healthier. So this is the crucial time when I find out how I’m going to do that. In the lulls. That’s where all the work gets done.

‘Holy Misogyny:’ How Gender Conflict in the Church Affects the Foundations of Faith [Review]

April DeConick’s book Holy Misogyny: Why Sex and Gender Conflicts in the Early Church Still Matter is probably one of the most earth-shaking books I’ve read all year. That is a big claim, but I think the book backs it up completely. In this book, DeConick looks at the history of the early Christian church and how the role of women as leaders was erased over time. In fact, this book arguably looks at how the feminine in religion was maligned, erased and dominated by male power. As DeConick writes in her book,

The story of women in the early Church is a story of their increasing marginalization and limitation, a process that was fully engaged in the fourth and fifth centuries. One of our primary witnesses of this process is the Bishop of Salamis, Epiphanius. He takes great effort to demonstrate that women have never baptized, been apostles, or been bishops.

In fact, they have been all of that and more in the history of the church and then they were made into nothing.

Throughout the book, you can clearly see a concerted campaign to marginalize women, even by changing the words of the Bible itself to support certain misogynistic views. One famous and often cited passage in the Bible comes under fire for just this, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35:

34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.

35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

This has been used as proof that Saint Paul was a misogynist, but it is entirely possible that hew as not as bad as some people have said. In other places, he acknowledges the work of female apostles, showing that he probably had no issues with them. So what explains the oddly virulent strain of misogyny in this passage? DeConick explains:

It is very likely that the passage in question silencing women in the churches originated from the pen of a scribe commenting on Paul, rather than from Paul himself. The words, in fact, appear to support the type of Christianity that grew up in the Apostolic churches in the second century as evidenced by the later Pastoral letters – 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus – which, as we will see later in this book, severely censored and subordinated women in the church, removing them from their positions as apostles, prophets and deacons.

This is just one part of the book that really got me thinking. The foundations of the Christian faith can hardly claim to be divine if they are susceptible not just to an agenda made by men (literal men, not “humanity” men) which even led to an editing of Christianity’s most holy text. I’ve harped on the idea that religion is a man-made power system before, but everything I’ve thought about that was just confirmed by this book. Let’s look at another example, one that I particularly liked.

The veiling of women is kind of a big deal in the Christian church. It can take a variety of forms, but essentially it’s all about regulating the appearance of women through their dress. Today it might be women only wearing dresses or wearing a head-covering in church as the Catholics do. In ancient times, it was about wearing the veil.

Veiling adult women was a universal practice in the ancient Mediterranean world. It was part and parcel of Roman public life, and it was practiced by the Jews as well. Veils were worn by adult Jewish women in public to show their shame and modesty, as was believed to be proper for women who were good wives and not adulteresses. To unveil was to invite sexual impropriety and even violence according to the ancient people. To unveil publicly was a dishonor and a disgrace for women.

Christianity, in a big way, changed that. The egalitarian nature of Christianity on a spiritual level freed people from the less important societal mores of inequality. The women in the church in Corinth were worshiping unveiled in order to show that spiritual equality to the world.

They had mobilized their church by making their spiritual experience a social reality. Following the logic of Galatians 3.28 – “There is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – they believed that they had been recreated in the androgynous image of God as a result of their baptism with his Spirit. As such, the strict gender hierarchy of their immediate world had been abolished for them.

Essentially, the unveiled women of Corinth were living their faith outwardly. But they were also opening themselves and by extension the church to the censure of the Roman world, which they saw plenty of. Their faith was counter-cultural, but in order to preserve it from the Romans Paul and others had to do something about it.

Instead of supporting them, Paul told them off. In fact, he even threatened them a little in a weird, ancient mythology sort of way. I want to wrap this discussion up, but it is worthwhile to put DeConick’s full explanation down here so this makes more sense.

Women need to wear a veil on their heads, openly acknowledging their husband’s authority over them, Paul says, “because of the angels.” Paul’s puzzling explanation here appears to have been such common knowledge to his readers that he did not need to explain himself further. More than likely, the angels that the veil protected the woman from were the fallen angels who raped women at the beginning of time according to Genesis 6.

So cover up, ladies, or demons will rape you. And you know what won’t be any help to you at all? The Christian faith which is supposed to protect you from that stuff by sanctifying you to Christ. Oh well.

Essentially, this story shows that some of the doctrines of the church as we know them now aren’t actually spiritual at all. They’re just the customs of the Roman world transposed into religion and brought through time. So much for eternal laws and divinely directed rules. Actually, it’s just because Paul wanted his church to have good standing in the Roman society and he used spiritual threats to do it.

So we have scribes changing what the Bible says to suit their own opinions and Paul making up rules for Christian women based, not on good theology, but a desire to be in with the Romans. All throughout this book, I kept asking myself the question: what does this do to the foundations of faith? To my mind, it radically changes our position in regards to Christianity. There are three possibilities here:

  1. This means that nothing about Christianity is really true.
  2. Christianity can be true, but now we have to re-evaluate just how much of it is really true.
  3. All of it is true anyway.

We know that number three isn’t correct. We have proof that people have fiddled with the truth, changed it to suit their desires or the to fit in with the society around them. So that leaves the first two options, and that is where the debate should really begin.

Honestly, the more you know about the history of the early church and what really happened (not just the myth of what happened), the more you have to question the church we have today. The misogyny we see in the church now is just one issue that shows this. The question is now: do we reforms the church or is it time to end the charade entirely?