Quran Read-A-Long: The Cow 222-229 Talks about Family Planning, Oaths and Women’s Special Time

No, no, no – Don’t Touch!

In Judaism it’s also proscribed from nearing the womenfolk during their special time of the month. What’s interesting is that only the latter half of verse 222 implies that the “staying away” is of a sexual nature, saying that men may go near their women as “God has enjoined” when they are done with their womanly ways. The first half of the verse almost makes it seem like you should stay away from women altogether during this time. Is that what it’s saying? If the Quran says that men should stay away from women altogether during their monthly time then I must conclude beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is a man – and that he was, at some point, married.

Planned Parenthood – Quran Style!

I’m having a tough time beginning my thoughts on verse 223, which effectively is God telling people to undergo family planning but that the man makes the family planning decisions. The intended listener of the verse is interesting also, “Women are like fields for you,” which means, for you men – as in, this book is directed at men (or at least these verses). Now, it was my understanding that women were meant to hear the Quran, too; if so, how should this verse be taken? More importantly, what’s the family planning policy?

The reason I find this so interesting is because of the value of family planning to stable societies. However, the key to family planning being efficacious is when women have the control over that family planning and are the ones that decide when to have children and how many to have. Apparently women, in many cases (and largely for biological/evolutionary reasons) make different decisions than men (the whole, they have to nurture for the whole childhood thing while men can go seeding many fields at once – or four wives, as the case may be – thing) when it comes to family planning. So, unstable societies are those in which women have fewer rights (often a result of theocracies that support such a policy) and little control over their own reproductive processes. That results in a lot more children and a lot more adolescent males of ‘warring ages’ who ultimately get restless in societies that also happen to generally be poorer – and that all turns bad. The book I’d recommend on this is one I’ve reviewed on this blog: Sex and War. The end of the verse does note women’s rights but it’s unclear how it pertains to this issue and it is noted that men have an edge over women. How to take that in this work-a-day world?

Swearing up and down

In verse 225, it says that God won’t hold us accountable for what is senseless in our oaths, but only what is so in our hearts. Does that include oaths in which we include God’s name or is this saying that oaths – no matter their form – are invaluable because God cares more for what is in our hearts rather than what leaves our lips? I ask because in the books of Deuteronomy and Exodus (in the Ten Commandments) the Bible forbids using God’s name in oaths that will not be kept. It’s bad business. Does that mean that the Quran doesn’t share the same concern or am I misreading?

A Note on Quran Read-A-Long

Please feel free to answer and address any and all questions and comments below or add anything that I’ve left out. I would like to let everyone know that I have learned a ton from Quran Read-A-Long, which isn’t to say from my own readings of the Quran as much as the wonderful contributors who give their time and minds, week after week, to make this a worthwhile experience and a fruitful endeavor. Without them the verses of the Quran, to an amateur reader such as myself, might appear repetative and their richness and diversity of thought and wisdom would hardly be so apparent. Thank you to those of you who contribute, and to those of you who are still just reading along, feel free to join in whenever you have something to say.

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The Cow 222-229

222. They ask you about menstruation. Tell them: This is a period of stress. So keep away from women in this state will they are relieved of it. When they are free of it, you may go to them as God has enjoined. For God loves those who seek pardon, and those who are clean.” 223. Women are like fields for you; so seed them as you intend, but plan the future in advance. And fear God, and remember, you have to face Him in the end. So convey glad tidings to those who believe. 224. Do not implicate God in your oaths to avoid doing good and being pious and keeping peace among men, for God hears all and knows everything. 225. God will not call you to account for that which is senseless in your oaths, but only for what is in your hearts; for God is forgiving and forbearing. 226. Those who swear to keep away from their wives (with intent of divorcing them) have four months of grace; then if they reconcile (during this period), surely God is forgiving and kind. 227. And if they are bent on divorce, God hears all and knows everything. 228. Women who are divorced have to wait for three monthly periods, and if they believe in God and the Last Day they must not hide unlawfully what God has formed within their wombs. Their husbands would do well to take them back in that case, if they wish to be reconciled. Women also have recognized rights as men have, though men have an edge over them. But God is almighty and all-wise.

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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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Happiest Day of the Year

An equation that measures happiness has allowed a mathematician to determine that today is the happiest day of the year, due in part to the length of evenings, proportion of outdoor activities and nice weather, and the first day of summer and its association with positive childhood memories. Well, personally, I’m always pretty happy. I have a sweet life, a great woman and a working brain. What more could anyone want? Is this the apex of my happiness, though? Will there be a downswing from here?

Somehow, I doubt it.

Happiness, though I firmly believe it can be affected by the weather, is not determined by the day of the year, even when a meeting of these factors is in effect. It makes sense why it’s a happy day, just like it makes sense that January 15th is the most depressed day of the year. However, considering the general things that are contributing to the average person’s woes: the state of the economy, the price of gas and food, the political climate, America’s international standing, the job market (or lack thereof), etc., I doubt that most people will stand up today and declare, “You know, this is the happiest I’ve been in a while.”

And you know what? That’s a shame.

Should their happiness and its concomitant declaration have anything to do with today’s date? No. But it should have to do with positive attitudes (lame sounding, I know) and the desire every day to be happier than the day before. Make an effort to be happier. Do something that makes you happy. Life is too short to be unhappy. My life only got consistently happy when I decided that that was a lot better than not being happy and that with a little effort – and being grateful for what I had, gratitude is key – I could walk around happily all the time.

An even better approach: try to make someone else happy today. Do something nice for someone in your life. Make your significant other chocolate covered strawberries. Buy someone a drink – maybe someone you don’t even know (and who you’re not hitting on). Help someone with his or her groceries. This isn’t about that pay-it-forward crap (though I do like that), but about making a collective effort to make other people happier – or at least a little more satisfied. Let’s remind people that the human decency is still left in us all.

Today, we’re all going to make a little more effort to be happy and make others happy and not rely on the factors coalescing on this day of the year. Let’s try it every day and see how things go, hmm.

What did you do for someone else today? Did it make you feel good? What will you do tomorrow? Any suggestions for making people happier?

Progress, Process, and Some Basics

Is the book finished yet? Have you started contacting publishers? What is the process like? – these are questions that I recently received from a friend, and they made me realize that I had not introduced the basics about myself and my book to you all yet, and that doing so, at this stage, would be most prudent.

So, my name is Jay Solomon and I am writing The Zen of South Park: Finding the Middle Ground in American Religion. The book is about the show South Park and the ways that it relates to and treats religion. It is meant as both a study of the show’s thoughts and opinions as well as a way of teaching religion and raising numerous relevant issues about religion in American society. Though the book is not yet complete, it is on its way. I’m a nut when it comes to editing, believing firmly in the adage, There are no great writers, only great editors. So, while the bulk of the body is written, I am still tweaking and seeking a few outside readers. After that is done I will step back and look at the project overall before writing the introduction and conclusion.

In the meantime I’ve launched the website and this blog, believing that they are important elements of the project. I want to make religion and religious topics more accessible for those who are curious but who do not feel strong personal connections themselves. Basically, studying and understanding religion in a secular way – historically and with no religious biases and hang-ups – is something I consider very important, and South Park has an excellent part in bringing an equitable approach to religion to the forefront. The show makes fun of it all. I want to discuss what they make fun of, why it’s funny and what issues are really being driven at. Feel free to contact me about any issue, historical, theological or otherwise, related to religion and I’ll be happy to discuss it with you.

As for the publication process, I do have an agent, and therefore, the publishing part is out of my hands (thank goodness). Her name Barbara Rosenberg (there is a link to her site on mine), and she’s fantastic. She handles finding a publisher for the book. It’s a slow and tedious process, but I’m sure it will pay off. When I’m done writing the book and have a publisher, the whole thing is out of my hands. I pretty much lose all creative control at that point over the look of the book, the price, where it’s sold and everything else. But I don’t mind – when it’s done, I want it to be done so that I can move onto the next project. But don’t worry, I’ll keep up the blog, maintain the website and plan my College Bookstore Tour.

Do you have any questions for me? Next Wednesday I’ll talk about the process of getting an agent with query letters and proposals. If you want to know how that works for fiction check out Chandler’s blog, but I’ll be talking about how querying for nonfiction works. Are you a published author? Would you like to talk about your experiences?

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