Quran Read-A-Long: The Cow 229- 231 Talks of Divorce Laws

It’s nice to see healthy divorce laws in a religion, just as it was nice last week to discuss healthy sexual laws within a religion. I would reiterate that living in a post-Puritanical culture means that divorce was only legal because people had “irreconcilable differences” within the past 50 years. And for such high divorce rates, we’re not talking about a country that handles marriage particularly well – nor its dissolution. In Catholicism, it’s still not kosher, so to speak, to get divorced, and I think it’s important that the Quran has such a healthy attitude towards the whole affair.

When it says in 230 that “you are not allowed to take away the least of what you have given your wives” does it simply mean that you can’t take away everything and leave – you have to leave her with a means of supporting herself (i.e. alimony, in a sense)?

What are these limits set by God that are spoken of? Are they how many times you can divorce and get back together (two acceptable, three not). Interesting that a marriage can be legal again between a man and a woman once that woman has married another man. That is a lot of back and forth. How common is this situation? It seems like one that would be far less common in the early years of Islam (though the very existence of this verse contradicts that, I think) and far more useful in modern Islamic societies today (I don’t pass a cultural value with the word modern – I simply mean that the mobility of today’s life, the lack of more local tribal affiliations, the comparative plethora of options make divorce and husband-hopping a more plausible situation).

Thoughts about these verses and their historical context and modern application would be most appreciated. All other comments welcome as well!

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The Cow 229-231

230. Divorce is (revocable) two times (after pronouncement), after which (there are two ways open for husbands), either (to) keep (the wives) honorably, or part with them in a decent way. You are not allowed to take away the least of what you have given your wives, unless both of you fear that you would not be able to keep within the limits set by God. If you fear you cannot maintain the bounds fixed by God, there will be no blame on either if the woman redeems herself. Do not exceed the limits of God, for those who exceed the bounds set by God are transgressors. 231. If a man divorces her again (a third time), she becomes unlawful for him (and he cannot remarry her) until she has married another man. Then if he divorces her there is no harm if the two unite again if they think they will keep within the bounds set by God and made clear for those who understand. 232. When you have divorced your wives, and they have reached the end of the period of waiting, then keep them honorably (by revoking the divorce), or let them go with honor, and do not detain them with the intent of harassing lest you should transgress. He who does so will wrong himself. Do not mock the decrees of God, and remember the favors God has bestowed on you, and revealed to you the Book and the Law to warn you of the consequences of doing wrong. Have fear of God, and remember, God is cognizant of everything.

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The Truth Behind the Fame of Britney Spears is Revealed in South Park Episode 1202, “Britney’s New Look”

The implications about the importance of sacrifice to a society really come out in this episode, though I wonder to what degree it was intended, and to what degree it was just meant to be twisted.

Britney Spears is part of a media circus, hounded at every turn. And it’s gone too far. Hoping to land the photo that will get them the big bucks, the boys make it into her room at a local motel and try to snap a picture. Considering it the last straw, Britney tries to blow her own head off, but bungles that and ends up walking around with only half a head.

The boys make it their mission to help her get free of this mess, rehabilitate her and let her live her life in peace. However, the people around her keep trying to control her and drive this media frenzy, whether by recording a new album in her state, putting her on an awards show and more. And everybody keeps talking about her at every turn.

Eventually, though, the boys manage to get her away from all this nonsense and start to head with her towards the North Pole where they think she will finally be left alone. But that’s not going to happen. They are forced to get off in the middle of no where and they start running, only to be surrounded by the entire country. And then the sacrifice of Britney Spears takes place to appease the gods and ensure that the harvest will come in nicely. For you see, the gods have always demanded a young girl be sacrificed to them, and in our society we build one up to the top and then watch her get destroyed until she becomes the ultimate sacrifice.

This has undertones of so many child sacrifice stories, whether references to Canaanite cultures in the Bible, Iphigenia, or numerous other pagan societies. And it’s a disturbing comment on our own. A very weird and twisted episode.

What did you think? What was your favorite part?

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South Park Sings, Dances, Offends and Celebrates in Episode 315, “Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics”

This is a ridiculously silly episode and not a conventional one by any means. When I first started watching it, I expected to be bored, and I was pretty annoyed that Trey Parker and Matt Stone thought that they could get away with giving me some bs songs instead of a real Christmas episode. As it turns out, these had to be a lot harder to compose and produce than a regular episode and they were really funny, at that.

The episode is set up like a pitch for a Christmas album by Mr. Hankey, and he share his ten favorite Christmas songs with us, each of varying length but all sung by South Park characters in hilarious and new ways.

Cartman’s rendition of Silent Night that celebrates Jesus’ birth and lets him get presents is quite good. My personal favorites are the Hanukah song that opens everything up (a new take on the Dreidel song) and Mr. Garrison’s around the world explanation of how most people fail to celebrate Christmas adequately. He visits all kinds of eastern religions and countries and pretty much behaves like a bigoted, American asshole. Shocking!

A very amusing episode overall.

What did you think? Which was your favorite song?

Enjoy some great South Park Christmas quotes.

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April Fools! Trey Parker and Matt Stone Yelled with “Terrance and Phillip in ‘Not Without My Anus,'” South Park Episode 201

Definitely the funniest thing about this episode is why it exists. As you may have noticed, it’s the first episode of the second season. Well, the cliffhanger “to-be-continued” season finale of the first season was “Cartman’s Mom is a Dirty Slut,” and was all about learning who Cartman’s father was.

Fans eagerly awaited the second season so that they could learn who Cartman’s father was and when it turned out that this episode was supposed to be aired on April 1st, Trey Parker and Matt Stone thought that a little April Fool’s joke was in order and so they made this totally ridiculous episode that was all about Terrance and Philip and a whole bunch of other nonsense.

The fans were pissed off (I wasn’t a viewer at the time). They were on board when it came to ragging on other people but when the joke-stick was pointed their way, they were not amused. I think that’s hilarious, though if I’d cared at the time I’d probably have been pissed off too.

One notable moment in this episode is Terrance and Philip and the person at the airport having no ability to differentiate between Middle Eastern countries like Iran and Iraq, insisting that they’re all the same. A comment on American (or Canadian?) ignorance about important regions of the world, hmm?

What did you think of this episode? Did you want to see the other one back in the day?

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The Late Michael Crichton’s Next, Though Politically Charged, Is Not His Best

I think that Michael Crichton is a spectacular writer. Not only are his stories compelling, his plots engaging and his writing enjoyable, but his ability to incite something entirely different in his reader is remarkable. Why? Because he often writes about topics that are (or should be) important issues of public discourse.

Crichton does not merely pick some outrageous sci-fi notion and run with it to the ends of the earth. He writes science fiction that is well-researched and of practical public interest. He then crafts a story that pushes the boundaries of “what if” while demonstrating the numerous issues that surround the topic at hand, whether nanotechnology, biological experimentation or global warming – one of the largest thorns in his side.

He was an outspoken public critic of complacency and constantly sought to shake up the status-quo. When unethical or damaging tactics were allowed to plague an institute of government, a scientific research facility, or the media, he seized upon them and exposed them in the best way he knew how – creative science fiction grounded in reality.

Next was Crichton’s jab at genetic technology and gene experimentation. This well-researched book ended with a series of recommendations for how American politics, government and people should proceed in regards to these issues. The book itself was fascinating for the issues it exposed but for some reason this time I just couldn’t grab hold of the slightly over the top sci-fi elements.

I certainly feel more educated about genetic research and the state of affairs of politics and science than I did before – thanks to his grounding these books in facts – but the sci-fi elements themselves were just not for me this time. I won’t stop reading Crichton’s books, though, but sadly we won’t be seeing any more of them (that aren’t published posthumously).

Here’s to you, Mr. Crichton. Thanks!

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The Obama and McCain Election was a Front to Steal the Hope Diamond in “About Last Night,” South Park Episode 1212

We Got Jacked

The premise of the entire election, we learn, was that John McCain and Barack Obama are part of the world’s greatest thief syndicate. They both decided to run for president – a plan 10 years in the works – so that one of them had to win. Why president? Because an emergency escape tunnel runs from the Oval Office and under the Smithsonian, where the Hope Diamond – the current object of their thieving affections – is housed.

The rest of the episode goes down like an Ocean’s Eleven movie – and everybody’s in on it. Michelle is a computer whiz. Palin speaks stupidly to reporters about running for vice-president in ’09, but when talking to McCain and the team has a British accent and speaks about complicated, technical jargon (Elektra). They even all fake their own deaths at the end so that no one comes looking for them.

Some Meat and Potatoes

As hilarious as this context is, the actual portrayal of America is where the meat and potatoes of the episode really are. Obama supporters are ecstatic with their candidate’s win and Randy Marsh is ‘jumping the couch’ in his state of excitement. People are partying and wasted in the streets, overturning Barbrady’s cop-car, fighting, drinking, cursing out bosses, and insisting that everything is going to be different from that moment forward. They’re chanting “Yes we can,” and “Change!”

This is the delusion: that everything is going to be different with the simple election of Barack Obama – that we would wake up to CHANGE. There’s nothing wrong with the hope and excitement of this new presidency. It’s just that people seemed to think that it meant something immediate rather than long-term. This episode throws that in America’s face.

And not just on the Obama side either. The McCain supporters look like idiots, too. They build a bunker to start hiding in and fighting people off and insisting that it’s the collapse of society.

One line sums this up excellently. After Ike jumps out the window and is taken to the hospital the nurse asks, “Was he a McCain supporter or an Obama supporter.” The boys have no idea why this is relevant and she says, Because I need to know if he partied too hard or if he tried to kill himself.

Summary

This episode was classic and amazing South Park. Extreme satire and ridiculous situations reflected and distorted America’s experience last night and the feelings across the country. In the meantime it made profound points about what the reality was, as evidenced by McCain supporters going outside and seeing that the world was still standing the next day and Randy waking up hungover, unemployed and with fewer luxury goods (no tv or pants) and realizing that nothing had changed the night Obama was elected president.

Is that to say that nothing has really changed? No, plenty has and last night was a momentous night in American history. However, Obama put it best in his speech. Nothing is over. It’s only just begun. If we want real change we’re going to have to work a lot harder – and together – than anybody did to get Obama elected president.

What did you think of this episode? Did you like the plot? Did you like the points?

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An Open Letter to Sarah Palin about Her Fundamentalist Christian Beliefs

Before you is a letter from someone I know and respect whose work is all about helping fundamentalist Christians who have chosen to leave their abusive and delusional religions do so in a safe and psychologically sound way. As the author of this letter has written, “Marlene Winell is a Bay Area psychologist who specializes in recovery from fundamentalist religion. She is author of Leaving the Fold:  A guide for former fundamentalists and others leaving their religion. She is the daughter of Assemblies of God missionaries. A longer article about Sarah Palin’s religion is on Dr. Winell’s website:  http://www.marlenewinell.net.”

Please feel free to leave any comments at the bottom of this letter and reproduce the letter in its entirety elsewhere on the internet (so long as you provide Dr. Winell as the author). If you would like to read an interview that I once conducted with Dr. Winell, please click HERE.

An open letter to Sarah Palin, from Marlene Winell, Ph.D.

Dear Sarah,

As a former fundamentalist, I’d like to call you on what you are doing.

This is not about disrespecting your private beliefs.  But you have a huge conflict of interest here by running for office and you can’t have it both ways (see Jesus’ words in John 2:15).

You have not been honest about the most important thing about you:  the fact that you are a born-again, literal Bible-believing, fundamentalist Christian.   Voters need to know you are not merely a “Christian” – a follower of Christ’s teachings.

Most people who have never been entrenched in the subculture of fundamentalist Christianity may not understand what this really means, but I do. Like you, I was raised in the Assemblies of God and I was a zealous part of the Jesus Movement.  Like you, my life was consumed with seeking God’s will for my life and awaiting the imminent return of Jesus.  It’s clear to me that you want to do the Lord’s will; you’ve said and done things like a true believer would. You are on a mission from God. If that is not true, then I challenge you to deny it.

Former fundamentalists like me know that your worldview is so encompassing, authoritarian, and powerful that it defines who you think you are, the way you view the world, history, other people, the future, and your place in the world.  It defines you far more than hockey mom, wife, woman, hunter, governor, or VP candidate.

You believe that every bit of the Bible is God’s perfect word.  You have a supernatural view of reality where Satan is a real entity and where good and evil beings are engaged in “spiritual warfare” (Ephesians 6:12).   Like Queen Esther, you believe that God has “called” and “anointed” you to lead America.  This is why you have accepted blessing for office through the “laying on of hands” and prayer to protect you from witchcraft.

So what does this mean for governing?  What could Americans expect with you at the helm?

You cannot affirm basic human decency or capability, because according to your dogma, we are sinful, weak, and dependant on God. And so, your decisions would not be based on expert advice or even your own reasoning, but on your gut-level, intuitive interpretation of God’s will.

This would allow you to do anything and claim you were led by God.

Your thinking necessarily is black or white.  People and policies are either good or bad.  After all, Jesus said, “He who is not with me is against me” (Matt. 12:30).  Under your leadership, diplomacy and cultural nuance would be less important than not blinking.  In a spiritual war, you don’t negotiate with the devil.

Regarding social policy, as a believer in individual salvation, you would emphasize individual morality and responsibility, not a community approach with structural solutions.  You would be judgmental and controlling of personal choices regarding sex, reproduction, and library books instead of addressing global warming, torture, poverty, and war.  Your belief in eternal hell-fire, your deference to a literal Bible despite its cruelties and vengeful god, and your indoctrination to disbelieve your own compassionate instincts, are likely to leave you numb at your moral core.  You might recall the verse, “If a man will not work he shall not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10).  However, faith-based initiatives would be okay because they would use caring to evangelize.

How about science?  As it has in your governorship, your interpretation of the Bible would trump scientific scholarship and findings.  You would deny the human role in global warming because God is in control.  More importantly, you would not make the environment a priority because you do not expect the earth to last.

International affairs?  Since your subculture has identified the establishment of Israel in 1948 as the beginning of the end, you would see war, epidemics, climate change, and natural disasters, all as hopeful signs of Jesus’ return.  You would be a staunch supporter of Israel and deeply suspicious of countries like Russia identified with the antichrist in the end times literature.  (You have publicly said that you expect Jesus to return in your lifetime and that it guides you every day.)

The Christian fundamentalism that has shaped your thinking teaches that working for peace is unbiblical and wrong because peace is not humanly possible without the return of Jesus (1 Thess. 5:2,3).  Conflict, even outright war is inevitable, for Jesus came not to bring peace but a sword (Matt: 10:34-37).  Like millions of fundamentalist Christians, you may actually find joy in global crises because these things portend His return (Luke 21:28).

But all of this certainty and fantasy in today’s complex world is dangerous, Sarah.  There was a time when all of humanity thought the world was flat.  Today, the stakes for such massive error are much higher.

So we want to know, Sarah, Warrior Princess for God —  How dare you presume to take responsibility for our country and our planet when you, in your own mind, do not consider this home?   I mean home for the long haul, not just until your rescue arrives from space.  How dare you look forward to Christ’s return, leaving your public office empty like a scene from the movie, Left Behind?

What if you are completely wrong and you wreak havoc instead with your policies?  If you deny global warming, brand people and countries “evil,” support war, and neglect global issues, you can create the apocalypse you are expecting.  And as it gets worse and worse, and you look up for redemption, you just may not see it.  What then?  In that moment, you and all who have shared your delusion may have the most horrifying realization imaginable.   And it will be too late.  Too late to avoid destruction and too late to apologize to all the people who tried to turn the tide and needed you on board.

And you, John McCain, how dare you endanger all of us for the sake of your politics?  How dare you choose a partner who is all symbol and no substance, preying on the fears of millions of Americans?   Shame on both of you.

Leave this beautiful, fragile earth to us, the unbelievers in your fantasy.  It’s the only heaven we have and you have no right to make it a hell.

Sincerely,
Marlene

Marlene Winell, Ph.D.
October 21, 2008

Press Release – October 21, 2008
Contact:  mwinell@gmail.com

If you would like to read an interview that I once conducted with Dr. Winell, please click HERE.

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