Category Archives: Bible and Theology

#73: Authenticity of the New Testament Accounts

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #73, on the subject of Authenticity of the New Testament Accounts.

I have covered–or perhaps I should say I will be covering–this in my hopefully forthcoming book Why I Believe.  However, I recently read a work of fiction in which a widely embraced and repeated nineteenth century error was asserted, not once but twice, not casually but in the presence of a person trained in a presumably conservative seminary who instead of knowing better and saying so accepted the mistake and was significantly motivated by it.  The mistake is that the New Testament documents are not historically reliable, and specifically that the Bible contains four Gospel accounts written long after the first century pseudepigraphically (that is, by anonymous authors who took the names of famous persons), to tell the story the Church wanted at that point to tell.

There are so many problems with this view that it is difficult to know where to begin; however, the core problem is that attitude that the New Testament Gospels, which include the resurrection of Jesus, are not authentic historic accounts.

The "Jesus Papyrus", at Magdalen College, showing fragments of the Gospel of Matthew and plausibly dated to the mid first century.
The “Jesus Papyrus”, at Magdalen College, showing fragments of the Gospel of Matthew and plausibly dated to the mid first century.

The root of the problem is a circular argument that was the basis for a lot of what passed for nineteenth century scholarship:  miracles do not happen, and so we need to figure out why certain documents related to the Christian faith report that they did.  The obvious answer was that despite the fact that the church had always believed these documents were written by first century eyewitnesses or investigators, they were actually written centuries later by church leaders attempting to create a history that supported the religion they wanted.  At the same time, there were competing Christian sects which wrote their own similarly pseudepigraphal accounts which presented a different view of Jesus, which are just as valid–which is to say just as invalid–as those generally accepted.  The support for this theory is simply that it provides an adequate explanation for why accounts claiming to be, or be based on, eyewitness testimony report events we want to say never occurred:  the claims of historicity are invalidated by the late dates.

The fact that that is a circular argument is lost on most people, because most modern people buy the premise:  miracles do not happen, and therefore any account that claims miracles did happen must be false, and it’s just a matter of finding a plausible explanation for how such a false account could have been accepted as true.  That in turn is aided by the modern view that our forefathers were gullible idiots who believed many impossible things simply because they lacked the intellect for modern science.  The people who think this have never wrestled with the towering intellectual works of Augustine and Athanasius and Tertullian; they simply assume that people who believed in miracles must not have been very smart, because they don’t believe in miracles and have an inflated view of their own intellectual capabilities, and perhaps more defensibly because they know some other truly intelligent people who don’t believe in miracles.  Yet the events recounted in the Gospels are reported not because the writers thought miracles happened all the time, but precisely because the writers recognized that these were violations of the natural order, that events were occurring that ought to be impossible.  Our ancestors, and particularly the writers of these books, did not believe in miracles because they were gullible, but because the evidence available to them on the subject was overwhelmingly credible despite the seeming impossibility.

Let’s set aside the fact that the accounts read like eyewitness testimony.  There could be explanations for that–it is likely that at least parts, and sometimes substantial parts, of the Gospels themselves were compiled from source materials, short eyewitness accounts that had been put to paper before the Gospels themselves were composed.  This theory explains the kinds of similarities and differences we have, particularly between the three “synoptic” Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  At least part of their work involved compiling the earlier recorded accounts of others.  This, though, makes the accounts more, not less, reliable, as it suggests that the accounts were earlier than the Gospels themselves, and the Gospel writers selected those they thought most credible at the time.  We think that it is possible to invent something that sounds like an eyewitness account, filled with unimportant details, but such fictional accounts were unknown then, and certainly never attempted to report anything resembling historic events.  That is a feature of modern fiction not known in a time when things were written because they were important to someone.

Also, we must dispel the notion that the claimed writers were ignorant peasants who could not read nor write.  Luke is identified by Paul (we’ll get to him) as a “healer”, the word commonly taken to mean doctor, and the educated use of the Greek language in the two books attributed to him reflects that about him.  Matthew was said to be a tax collector, and it is unlikely that the Romans would have given the responsibility to assess and collect local taxes to someone who could not read and write.  What little we know about Mark suggests that he was the son of a wealthy Jewish family–Barnabas was a close relative, probably an uncle, and a propertied businessman.  The possibility of a wealthy Jewish boy not receiving an education in that era is non-existent.  People will claim that John was a poor peasant fisherman, pointing to places in the world in modern times where uneducated peasants eke out a living by lakesides.  However, John was co-owner of a fishing business (with his brother James and their friends, the brothers Peter and Andrew) which had employees, several boats and ample equipment, and was prosperous enough that the four owners could leave it in the care of their employees for most of several years while they took a sabbatical to learn from an itinerant teacher–and note that Peter, at least, had a family that would have to be supported by that business in his absence.  Our image of the peasant fisherman should be replaced by the image of a fishing magnate.  They were the Mrs. Paul’s, the Gorton’s of Gloucester, in their time.  They weren’t independently wealthy, but their business holdings were adequate to support them and their families while they took a couple years away from work.  They, too, were almost certainly educated; Jewish boys became Jewish men by proving at the age of 13 that they could read the Torah, Prophets, and Writings in public.  To think that they could not also work in the commercial language of the age is silly.

Besides, even very well educated persons, such as Paul (son of wealthy businessmen in a Roman city, student of one of the top Rabbis of all time), frequently dictated letters and books to a scribe, called an amanuensis, in the same way that twentieth century executives and authors dictated letters and books to stenographers (or later Dictaphones) to be typed, to ensure a clear and legible copy.  They did not need to write well physically to be the authors; they only needed to be able to tell the scribes what to write.

So these purported first century authors could have written these books; the more significant question is, did they?

To that, we have testimony as early as the end of the first century–Clement of Rome, writing c.90-110 AD, who asserted that there were four recognized accounts of the life of Jesus.  By the middle of the second century those four accounts had names, the same names as the books we have.  That testimony spreads across the Roman Empire, coming from sources in Alexandria (Egypt), Antioch (Syria), Smyrna (Turkey), Carthage (North Africa), and Rome (Italy), and from people who apparently had, and independently preserved, copies of them.  It is impossible to argue that these documents were not well known by the beginning of the second century, and almost as difficult to argue that the persons preserving them, separated as they were by long distances and relying on the documents to preserve the truth they believed, would have agreed to change them.  The hundreds of ancient copies of portions of the New Testament which we have today are traced back to origins in those diverse regions; they are the best attested ancient historic documents in the world.

There are also early fragments of these same books.  The ones pictured above in this article, sometimes called the Magdalen Fragments because they were stored at Magdalen College, more recently called the Jesus Papyrus, have recently been dated to sometime around fifty or sixty AD–the middle of the first century.  They show fragments of the Gospel of Matthew on both sides.  That makes them the earliest known extant copies of any part of any New Testament book–yet it is significant that they are copies, clearly showing evidence that they were copied from a previous version, and thus that the book was already in circulation and being copied and shared across long distances.  A well-known early first century original is thus virtually certain, based on this scholarship.

Yet even if we suppose that somehow they actually are later documents, that does not resolve the problem for those who deny the resurrection.  You still have to deal with the letters of Paul.  No one doubts that most of his letters to churches were written by someone of his name and description in the mid first century.  In almost every one of them the author reinforces the notion that Jesus arose from the grave, that that is the essence of the message; in several he asserts that he is one of the witnesses who saw Him, and he also tells us that he had met other witnesses, of which there were over five hundred.

The essential element of the Christian faith, that Jesus Christ was executed and arose from the grave, is incontrovertibly historically supported.  It is of course possible that it is not true–as it is possible that George Washington was not the first President of the United States, that Hitler did not run concentration camps in which Jews were exterminated, that Sir Isaac Newton did not create the famous laws of motion that are known by his name.  Everything that is historical is open to question on some level.  We evaluate the evidence and reach conclusions; we do not reach conclusions and then use them to discredit the evidence.

I hope to have the book available soon.  It goes into more detail on some of these issues and many others.  Meanwhile, don’t believe the disbelievers without examining the evidence.

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#72: Being an Author

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #72, on the subject of Being an Author.

One of my sons was in some sort of meeting or interview and was asked what his father did.  “He’s an author,” was his reply.

I wasn’t present, so I don’t know what was said or done at that moment, but my son got the distinct impression of disdain, a sort of, “Right, he’s a layabout who does nothing and thinks that people should give him money for scribbing on paper, but what does he have to show for it?”  My son, at least, felt that I was being insulted by the questioner’s attitude.

What strangers think of me is of no consequence, although I am concerned about the opinions of my readers and other fans (I am more than an author, being also a game designer and a musician and a Bible teacher).  I am more concerned that one of my other sons seems at times to be of the opinion that I waste my time trying to succeed at such a career, that I should have a “real” job that makes enough money to support the family.  He is not old enough to have known our lives when I was not making enough money to support the family working as a radio announcer, a microfilm technician, a drywall installer and painter, or a health insurance claims processor.  I suppose perhaps there are people who claim to be authors who lack any skill or talent in the field, and I think everyone in creative fields faces some self-doubt, some uncertainty as to whether they are really “good enough” to do this.  However, I think the notion that someone is not an author, or that this is a foolish idea, a flawed self-perception, is difficult to justify.  I am an author; I might not be terribly successful at it, but there are good reasons why the latter is not a good measure of the former.


This is not really about whether or not I am an “author” so much as about what it takes to qualify for that title.  For my part, I thought I would be a musician, and had the idea of being an author on a distant back burner–in college, circa 1977, I took a class entited Creative Writing:  Fiction, and began work on a fantasy epic that quickly bogged down into trouble and wound up on that same distant back burner.  Either the Lord or happenstance, depending on your viewpoint, landed me at WNNN-FM, a contemporary Christian radio station, first as a disc jockey/announcer, working my way up ultimately to program director, with a side job editing (and largely writing) the radio station newsletter.  Along the way I developed a relationship with the associate editor of a local newspaper (The Elmer Times), which at some point published a couple of pieces of political satire I wrote, about 1983.  I was published, but I was not yet thinking of myself as an author.  I also started putting together some notes about the controversy over Dungeons & Dragons™, and somewhere around 1991 composed a draft of an article which I tried unsuccessfully to farm to a few Christian magazines, impeded perhaps by the fact that I didn’t actually subscribe to or regularly read any magazines.

Late in I think 1992 Ed Jones approached me about co-authoring his game idea, “Multiverse”, which was ultimately to become Multiverser™.  I had been running original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons™ since 1980, and he had been playing in my game for perhaps a year (and I for a slightly shorter time in his) during which we had had discussed role playing games generally at length and I had become one of his Multiverser™ playtesters; he had read the unpublished article.  In the spring of 1997 he withdrew from the project due to complications in his personal life and left me to finish the work and publish the game later that fall.  I now had two books in print (the Referee’s Rules and The First Book of Worlds), but did not think of myself as an author so much as a game designer.  I started half a dozen web sites (now all either gone or consolidated here as various sections of M. J. Young Net) primarily to promote the game; that defense of Dungeons & Dragons™ article I’d drafted a decade before became one of the founding works under the title Confessions of a Dungeons & Dragons™ Addict, along with web sites on time travel, D&D, law and politics, and Bible.  Still, the publication of Multiverser led to invitations to write for role playing game related web sites–starting with Gaming Outpost and extending to include articles at RPGNet, Places to Go, People to Be, The Forge,, and perhaps half a dozen others which no longer exist.  I was also asked to become the Chaplain of the Christian Gamers Guild, and contributed to their e-zine The Way, The Truth, and the Dice, and wrote a few articles mostly about such subjects as business, e-commerce, and morality in politics, which appeared on various sites around the web.  Multiverser:  The Second Book of Worlds went to print, confirming my authenticity as a game designer.

Sometime in 1998 Valdron Inc started discussing publishing a Multiverser comic book series, and since I was the in-house writer it fell to me to create the stories.  I began these, working as if they were comic books, writing individual panels.  I actually did not know that many authors who wrote books also wrote comic books and “illustrated novels”, but it was a short-lived endeavor–I wrote three issues, two episodes for each, and then the in-house artists said that there was no way that a comic could be produced on the kind of budget we had, and everything went onto that proverbial back burner, where it simmered.  However, this one started to boil over, and after consulting with Valdron’s people I rewrote those episodes and created Multiverser‘s first novel–my first novel–Verse Three, Chapter One.  Valdron put it into print, and we sold a few hardcover copies; I have no idea of the number.  However, at this point I thought of myself as an author:  I had a novel in print.

When I was in high school I worked stage crew (yeah, you probably guessed that, right?), as a sophomore for the junior class play.  At one point one of the characters questions another about a book he’d written.  It wasn’t a big deal, the author says; it only sold three hundred copies.  I’d like to read it, the questioner continued; where can I get it?  From me, the author responded; I have three hundred copies.  In the trade there has long been what is disdainfully called “vanity press”, the ability to write your own book and have it printed for a few thousand dollars, receiving a few hundred copies which you then can sell entirely on your own.  In the digital age that has become more complicated.  It is now possible to go through companies like and print your book at very little cost, get an international standard book number (ISBN), and have it listed through Amazon and other retailers.  That is not how those first four books went to press, but some might think they were “vanity press” anyway.  Having been through law school, I undertook the necessary steps to create a corporation, sold stock, got the stockholders to elect a board of directors who in turn appointed corporate officers, and spearheaded the effort to publish and promote the Multiverser game system and supplements.  I would say that none of us had a clue what we should do, but that’s not quite true–we all had a few clues, and we proceeded to stumble through the effort.  It would be wrong to say that the company was entirely comprised of my friends and family.  Many of the stockholders were family or friends, and most of the rest were friends of family or friends of friends, and of course it being a small company I ultimately met all of them, chatting with them at stockholder picnics and such.  My next few books were closer to the “vanity press” sort.  I wrote What Does God Expect?  A Gospel-based Approach to Christian Conduct, and when Valdron decided they did not want to be more closely associated with Christian book publishing I asked people for ideas on getting it in print, and thus was introduced to  That was also the venue I used to release About the Fruit, and I have not quite completed the process of releasing a book entitled Do You Trust Me? due to a failure on my part to stick to the process.  Valdron released a book version of what might be called the first season of the Game Ideas Unlimited series from Gaming Outpost; at the same time I did the same for the series entitled Faith and Gaming that had been published at the Christian Gamers Guild web site.  Some time after that Blackwyrm Publishing approached me about permitting them to publish an expanded edition of Faith and Gaming, and thus one of my books is in print through a publishing house in which I hold no interest otherwise.

The question, then, is not really whether I am an author.  Depending on how you count them I have between eight and ten books in print (two titles were published in two different editions); some of my online articles have been translated and printed in the French gaming magazine Joie de Role, and I was for quite a few years paid for regular contributions to  The question is at what point I became an author.

In this I am reminded that many authors struggle for many years.  Steven King’s financial problems were so great that even after he was famous and made a television commercial for them, American Express would not authorize a card for him; he kept a day job as a teacher until he sold the movie rights to Christine, which is when the tide turned for him.  Was he an author when his books were not bestsellers and he had to teach to support himself?  J. K. Rowling struggled as a single mother, and reportedly received a mere six thousand pounds for the rights to the first printing of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone; she is now reportedly wealthier than the Queen of England.  Was she an author when she was writing the book that started it all–and if so, who knew?

I have always been a musician; I have never made much money at it.  I have composed hundreds of songs, performed thousands times, been part of dozens of bands, choirs, combos, performing groups, and accompanist groups, and had some avid fans (in college some wanted to print Bach and Young T-shirts, but it was not so easy then).  I have one album, Collision Of Worlds, on the market.  Am I not a musician because I don’t make a living at it?  There are thousands upon thousands of singers and instrumentalists who play bars and nightclubs, weddings and parties, who hold regular jobs; it is a joke in the music industry to say to a young musician, “Don’t quit your day job.”  Are those not musicians, because they cannot support themselves doing what they love?

I am not an artist, but it is typical in the art world that painters and sculptors struggle for decades to make a name for themselves, to make a living creating artwork, only to die penniless–and then suddenly to have everything they ever created leap to new values.  Were they not really artists during their lives, but became so the moment they died?

In the creative world, people create, and it is that aspect of creating that makes them authors–or poets, artists, musicians.  Some authors eke out a living; some become incredibly wealthy; some spend more than they earn trying to become known.  That is true in all the creative arts, including filmmaking–for every Robert Townsend Hollywood Shuffle success story there are dozens of good but failed independent films.  Herman Melville was not well known prior to writing Moby Dick, despite having written for newspapers and magazines.  Being an author is not primarily defined by commercial success; it is defined by creative product.

I should footnote this by mentioning that that first novel has now been released on the Internet, and the second is following it in serialized format beginning today.  I am an author, even if I give away my product.  Your support through Patreon and otherwise helps make it possible for me to publish and you to enjoy some of that.  It does not change whether I am an author, only whether I am viewed as successful.

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#70: Writing Backwards and Forwards

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #70, on the subject of Writing Backwards and Forwards.

When I was at TheExaminer, I eventually took to creating indices of articles previously published; when I moved everything here last summer, I included those indices, and finished one that covered the first half of 2015 (through July).  On the last day of December I did a review piece indexing the rest of that year, as #34:  Happy Old Year.

It may seem premature to do another index; it is not even falling on a logical date (although as I write this I am not completely certain on which day it is going to be published).  However, some new “static” pages have made it to the web site, and quite a few more web log entries, and it seems to be a time of decision concerning what lies ahead.  Thus this post will take a look at everything that has been published so far this year, and give some consideration to options going forward.  You might find the informal index helpful; I do hope that you will read the latter part about the future of the site.


Temporal Anomalies/Time Travel

The most popular part of the web site is probably still the temporal anomalies pages.  It certainly stimulates the most mail, and the five web log posts (including those in the previous index) addressing temporal issues received 30% of the blog post traffic.  We added one static page since then, a temporal analysis of the movie 41.  We also added post #56:  Temporal Observations on the book Outlander, briefly considering its time travel elements of the first book in the series that has made it to cable television.  We’d like to do more movies, and there are movies out there, but the budget at present does not pay for video copies.

This part of the site has been recognized oft by others (before it was a Sci-Fi Weekly Site of the Week it was an Event Horizon Hotspot), and the latest to do so is the new Time Travel Nexus, a promising effort to create a hub for all things time-travel related; we wish them well, and thank them for including links to our efforts here.  They recently invited me to write time travel articles for them, although if I do it will have to be something different, and we have not yet determined quite what.


By sheer number of posts, this is the biggest section of the web log.  Although since the last of these indexing posts it has been running even with posts about writing and fiction, it has a significant head start, with half of the articles in that index connected to law or politics primarily.  Some of these have religious or theological connections as well–that can’t be helped, as even the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights recognizes that the protection of your right to believe what you wish, express that belief, and gather with others who share that belief is both a religious and a political right, and cannot always be distinguished.  (Anyone who says that religion and politics should always be kept separate misses this critical point, that they are really the same thing.  It’s a bit like saying that philosophy and theology should be kept separate–the difference is not whether God is involved, but how much emphasis is placed on Him.  So, too, politics is about religious beliefs in application.)

Trying to sort these into sub-categories is difficult.  Several had to do with legal regulation of health care, several with discrimination, and we had articles on freedom of expression, government and constitutional issues, election matters.  These twenty-seven articles together drew 35% of readers to the web log, but a substantial part of that–13%–went to the two articles about the X-Files discrimination flap.  One article on this list has received not a single visit since it posted.  Thus rather than attempt to make sense of them, I’ll just list them in the order they appeared, with a bit of explanation for each:


As mentioned, some of the political posts are simultaneously religious or theological, and I won’t repeat those here.  There is one post that is really about everything, about the very existence of this blog, but which I have decided to list as primarily in this category:  #51:  In Memoriam on Groundhog Day, 160202.  This is a eulogy of sorts for my father, Cornelius Bryant Young, Jr., who is certainly the reason for the existence of the political materials, as he significantly supported my law school education and then regaled me with questions about whether Barrack Obama was a legitimate President.  He is missed.

I also wrote #65:  Being Married, which is not exactly my advice but my choice of the best advice I’ve received over several decades of marriage.  I’m hoping some found it helpful.

It should be noted that five days a week I post a study of scripture, and on a sixth day I post another essentially religious/theological/devotional post, on the Christian Gamers Guild’s Chaplain’s Teaching List.  That is far too many links to include here, but if you’re interested you can find the group through this explanatory page.


There were a couple game-related posts in the previous index, this time two of them specifically about Multiverser.  There was some discussion about some of its mechanics on a Facebook thread, and so I gave some explanations for how and why two aspects of the system work–the first, in #38:  Multiverser Magic, 160112:  addressing difficulties people expressed concerning its magic system, the second, in #40:  Multiverser Cover Value, 160114:  explaining the perhaps not as complicated as it seems way it determines the effect of armor.

There was also another game-related post, #44:  The Feeling of Victory, 160121:  which discussed a pinball game experience to illustrate a concept of fun game play.

The award-winning Dungeons & Dragons™ section of the site (most notably chosen as an old-school gem by Knights of the Dinner Table) continues to get occasional notice; someone recently asked to use part of the character creation materials for work they were doing on a different game, and someone asked if I had a copy of my house rules somewhere, in relation to some specific reference I made to them.  Although I’m running a game currently, I don’t know that anything new will appear there.  The good people at Places to Go, People to Be are continuing to unearth the lost Game Ideas Unlimited articles and translating for their French edition.  Unfortunately, Je parle un tres petit peux de francais; I can’t read my own work there.

Logic and Reasoning

Periodically a topic arises that is really only about thinking about things.  That came up a couple times in the past couple months.  first, someone wrote an article about the severe environmental impact of using the universal serial bus (USB) power port in your car to charge your smartphone while you drive, and in #45:  The Math of Charging Your Phone, 160122, we examined the math and found it at least a bit alarmist.  Then when people around here were frantically stripping local grocery store shelves of all the ingredients for French Toast (milk, bread, and eggs) because of a severe weather forecast, we published #46:  Blizzard Panic, 160124.

On Writing

I left this category for last for a couple of reasons, several of those reasons stemming from the fact that most of this connects to the free electronic publication of my book Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, and I just published the last installment of that to the site.  You can find it fully indexed, every chapter with a one-line reminder (not a summary, just a quip that will recall the events of a chapter to those who have read it but hopefully not spoil it for those who have not), here.  There have been about seventy-five chapters since the last of these posts, and that (like the Bible study posts) is too much to copy here when it is available there.  That index also includes links to these web log posts, but since this is here to provide links to the posts, I’ll include them here, and then continue with the part about the future of the site.

  1. #35:  Quiet on the Novel Front, 160101:  The eighth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 43 through 48.
  2. #37:  Character Diversity, 160108:  The ninth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 49 through Chapter 54.
  3. #39:  Character Futures, 160113:  The tenth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 55 through 60.
  4. #43:  Novel Worlds, 160119:  The eleventh behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 61 through 66.
  5. #47:  Character Routines, 160125:  The twelfth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 67 through 72.
  6. #50:  Stories Progress, 160131:  The thirteenth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 73 through 78.
  7. #53:  Character Battles, 160206:  The fourteenth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 79 through 84.
  8. #55:  Stories Winding Down, 160212:  The fifteenth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 85 through 90.
  9. #57:  Multiverse Variety, 160218:  The sixteenth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 91 through 96.
  10. #59:  Verser Lives and Deaths, 160218:  The seventeenth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 97 through 102.
  11. #61:  World Transitions, 160301:  The eighteenth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 103 through 108.
  12. #64:  Versers Gather, 160307:  The nineteenth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 109 through 114.
  13. #66:  Character Quest, 160313:  The twentieth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 115 through 120.
  14. #69:  Novel Conclusion, 160319:  The twenty-first and final behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 121 through 126.

The Future of the Site

I would like to be able to say that the future holds more of the same.  There are still plenty of time travel movies to analyze; I have started work on the analysis of a film entitled Time Lapse, but it will take at least a few days I expect.  This is a presidential election year and we have clowns to the left and jokers to the right, as the song said, and with the extreme and growing polarization of America there are plenty of hot issues, so there should be ample material for more political and legal columns.  The first novel has run its course, but there are more books in the pipeline which could possibly appear here.

However, it unfortunately all comes down to money.  My generous Patreon patrons are paying the hosting fees to keep this site alive, but I am a long way from meeting the costs of internet access and the other expenses of being here.  Time travel movies cost money even when viewed on Netflix.

The second novel, Old Verses New, is finished–sort of.  No artwork was ever done for it, and it is actually more difficult to promote articles on the Internet that do not have pictures (frustrating for someone who is a writer and musician but has no meaningful skill in the visual arts).  More complicating, Valdron Inc invested some money into it, paying an outside editor to go through it, and they still hope to find a way to recoup their investment at least.  I might have to buy their interest in it to be able to deliver it to you, and that again means more money.

So what can you do?

If you are not already a Patreon supporter, sign up.  A monthly dollar from every reader of the site would not make me wealthy, and probably would not cover all the bills, but it would go a long way in that direction.  Even a few more people giving five or ten dollars a month to keep me live would make a massive difference.  I think Patreon also has a means of making a one-time gift, and that also helps.

Even if you can’t do that, you can promote the site.  Whenever there is a new post or page here you think was worth a moment to read, take another moment to forward it–it is easy to do through most social media sites, some of which have buttons on the bottoms of the web log pages for quick posting, and in all cases I post new entries at Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, and even MySpace, all of which have some way of easily sharing or recommending posts.  Let people know if there’s a good political piece, or time travel article, or whatever it is.  Increased readership means, among other things, an increased potential donor base–support to keep us alive here.

There are other ways to help.  Several time travel fans have over the years provided DVD copies of movies, either from their own libraries or purchased and sent directly to me, all of which have been analyzed.  I now also have the ability (thanks to a gifted piece of not-quite-obsolete discarded technology) to watch and Netflix videos on my old (not widescreen) television, and with some difficulty to watch other internet videos on borrowed Chromecast equipment (not as satisfactory–can’t pause or rewind without leaving the room to access the desktop).  Links to (safe and legal) copies of theatrically-released time travel movies make it possible to cover them now, for as long as the money keeps me online.  (Yes, even “free” videos cost money to see.)  One reader very kindly gave me a Fandango gift card to see Terminator Genisys in the theatre, which was a great help and enabled me to do the quick temporal survey published here, although I had to obtain a copy of the DVD to do the full analysis web page (it is nigh impossible to take notes in a darkened movie theatre, and very difficult to get all the vital details from an audio recording).

You can also ask questions.  I don’t check e-mail very often (seriously, people started using it like an instant messaging system, I have cut back to every three to six weeks) but I do check it and will continue to do so as long as the hosting service and internet access can be maintained; I interact through Facebook and (to a much lesser degree) the other social media sites mentioned, and often take a question from elsewhere to address here.  That gives me material in which you, the readers, are interested.  I do write about things which interest me, but I do so in the hope that they also interest you, and if I know which ones do that helps more.

So here’s to the future, whatever it may bring, and to the hope that you will help it bring more to M. J. Young Net and the mark Joseph “young” web log.

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#65: Being Married

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #65, on the subject of Being Married.


These young couples, they don’t know–
They just think we’re old.
We took the silver years ago–
We’re going for the gold!

Photos from
Photos from

I have often thought about writing a piece about being married.  My wife has argued that I am in no position to give people advice about marriage, and she has a point.  Ours has been a rough marriage from the beginning.  However, that beginning is now–well, these web pages stay up a long time, but as I begin this I note that we are closer to our golden anniversary than to our silver.  It has been a long time.  I have been married twice as long as I was single.

I don’t presume, though, to give you any insights I have learned for how to keep a marriage together from my own observations.  Rather, over the years I have heard a lot of advice, and I have found some of it to be quite valuable, incredibly valuable.  I do not remember where I got it all, but I’ll try to note those points I can credit.

  1. Before we married, my father said that I needed to ask one question, and have an answer:  why are you marrying this person?

    My father’s experience gave him this, and it’s worth recounting.  He had been dating a girl–I’m not certain whether he was still in high school or already in college, but she kept talking about what they were going to do when they got married.  Finally one day he interrupted this by saying that he was not certain he was ready to marry just yet.  He was quite surprised three months later to read that she was marrying someone else.  Some people, he suggested, were in love with the idea of being married.  That’s not a satisfactory reason to marry; you need a reason to marry this person.

    The value of this particular bit of advice cannot be overstated.  Believe me, the day will almost certainly come when you are going to ask yourself this question:  Why did I marry this person?  If you have already answered it, you will know the answer when the question comes.  It can get you past some serious complications, knowing the answer, and particularly if it’s a good answer.  Even if you are already married, take a moment and give yourself that answer if you can.  If you’ve answered it adequately in the good times, the answer will be there in the time of crisis.

  2. I think I had already heard or read this somewhere before we married, but I remember that one of the many counselors we visited in attempting to work out our difficulties in the early days repeated and reinforced it:  divorce is not an option.  That was our attitude going into this, and it’s an important one.  Sure, people get divorced, even people who had no intention or expectation of doing so.  However, if your attitude is, “If it doesn’t work, we can get divorced,” you’ve got a vulnerability, a weak spot in your corporate armor.  The thing about marriage–about any commitment–is that it takes work, effort, in a word commitment.  If you’ve given yourself an emergency exit when you’ve built the thing, you’re going to be more inclined to use it when things get tough.  Face it, life has tough times, and there will be times when it will look like it would be easier to quit than to fight.  If quitting is off the table up front, fighting is the only choice, and you are more likely to put the effort into getting through.

    I should caveat that not every marriage can be saved.  Some relationships are so broken that one party or the other is not willing to embrace the grace and forgiveness needed to heal it.  Some people are so broken that they need to be mended themselves before they can be part of someone else’s life (but if you are that person, finding a different partner is just seeking to ruin someone else).

  3. This one comes from Bob Mumford, but I’m not entirely sure whether he was applying it to marriage or to church relationships.  It’s true either way:  God gives us the person we need, not the person we might want.  Mumford did say that God made one man and one woman, and they’re very different.  That’s an important part of it.  God is working to form you into his child; your spouse is part of that process, pressing you to become more loving.  That means it will sometimes be difficult–as someone has said, it’s easy to love those that are lovely, but God calls us to love when we really don’t feel loving at all.  You’re not always going to be happy with His choice, but ultimately His choice is going to be best for forming you into who you ought to be, and thus for your ultimate happiness.

  4. The ideal spouse is an illusion, and the more so when you think that it is some spouse other than the one you already have.

    C. S. Lewis addressed this somewhere, noting that to some degree the fact that you have been married has already been part of the process that makes this person your “other half”.  Be married to someone for a week, and both of you change–maybe not in the ways either of you wishes, but the process has begun.  That process is rocky, sometimes painful, sometimes seemingly counterproductive, but it is moving both of you toward what God wants you to be.

    Meanwhile, the axiom that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence does not mean that it is, but that it appears to be so.  When you look at your reality, you see the bad parts; when you look at your fantasy, you see the good.  The fantasy is unlikely to be as good as the reality.  For one thing, you will be bringing your self into the next relationship, and you have just as much potential to spoil that one as you had to spoil this one, plus a bit more because you have added a track record for failure in the first relationship.  If you could not make the first marriage work, you have less chance to succeed with the second.

    It is true that the percentage of marriages which end in divorce has been rising over the years.  However, part of that is because second marriages are less likely to survive than first ones, and third marriages less than seconds.  Your best shot at long-term marriage is usually your first one.  If you let that break, you prove that you are the kind of person who will let your marriage break.

  5. The way forward in life is always into God.  If our direction is taking us closer to God, it is moving us forward; if it is the right way forward, it will take us further into God.  That often can help as a measure of which is the right path, as if we can see that one path takes us toward and the other away from God we can be pretty certain that if we’re seeing it clearly the former is the right choice.  It also should be seen as assurance:  if this is the right path, whatever it looks like from here, it is going to bring us closer to God.  God says that He hates divorce.  As a rule of thumb, then, breaking a marriage is moving away from God, and affirming one is moving toward God.

  6. You are going to have to give up your expectations.

    You probably will say that you don’t really have any expectations, but that’s not really possible.  You formed an image of what a marriage is like, of how it works, from the relationships of your parents and other adults among whom you were raised.  You are to some degree going to emulate that, and to some degree reject it; but similarly you are going to expect that your spouse has some of the same expectations about how it works as you do–and your spouse is going to have different expectations, for both of you.

    That means the wife is not just going to fall into the role the husband expects, and the husband is not automatically going to be what the wife expects.  Here are some “typical” clashes:

    • Each party has a belief about which of them manages the money and pays the bills.  Sometimes they won’t agree, and money is one of the top tensions in marriages.  Even when it is agreed as to which of you will balance the checkbook and cover the regular bills, there is still going to be an issue concerning the control of the “extra” money–what do you have to do to be able to buy yourself a new outfit, or a quick lunch?  Your parents probably had systems for this, but it is probably not the case that you both grew up with the same system.
    • In some houses, the man is expected to fix anything that breaks, because that’s what men do; in other houses, if something breaks you call a repairman or buy a replacement.  This is a simple example, but your relationship will be filled with things each of you thought, without ever considering it or recognizing that you thought this, was the way it would work.
    • It has gotten more complicated.  In today’s world, we cannot assume we know who washes the dishes, or who cooks the dinners.  Child care expectations are no longer simple.  There are also cultural expectations.  Interracial marriages mean cross-cultural marriages, which means that his family and her family both have ideas about what a bride or a groom ought to be and do, and they are not going to match.  You both will find yourself trying to explain to your extended families that this is not how things work in your spouse’s family, and that you have to adjust–without making them think you married someone who does not know how to be your spouse.  Complicating it, you probably are not completely convinced that your family is wrong.  After all, that’s how it worked when you were younger.
    • Then there are the wealth of holidays.  It is not even just which holidays you celebrate, but how you celebrate them.  Do you have a Christmas Tree?  Is it cut, balled, or artificial?  Does it go up the day after Thanksgiving, or the last weekend in Advent, or Christmas Eve?  When and how does it come down?  On what holidays do you have a big dinner, and on which ones is snacking the order of the day?  You expect that such celebrations will continue as they did when you were young, but so does your spouse, and there’s not a very high probability that those expectations will match.

    These are just obvious ones.  The point is that you expect each other to be and do certain things, and you expect that you yourself will fall into a specific role, and the role you envision for yourself is not going to match the one envisioned by your spouse.  That’s normal.  All of us take years figuring out how to make our relationships work, and you should not expect less for yourselves.

  7. This was actually one of the first things I realized, and one of the hardest to apply; I still fail at this frequently.  You must learn to express your love in two languages–the one you understand, and the one your spouse understands.

    Near the end of Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye starts singing to his wife Goldie a song that asks, “Do you love me?”  Her first reaction amounts to, what kind of question is that and why are you asking me this now, but they have had three daughters reject parental guidance and marry for love (and a slippery slope it proved to be, as the first married a good Jewish boy and the third a gentile Marxist).  Ultimately, though, she lists all the ordinary household chores she has done for him, like cooking and cleaning and washing, along with bearing and raising his children, so she concludes that that she must love him:  “I suppose I do.”  He replies, “And I suppose I love you.”

    We learn two things from this; the first is about speaking two languages.

    You think that all those things you do, which on some level you are doing for your spouse and which on some level that fact that you are doing them means your spouse does not have to do them, is expressing your love.  Whether it’s going to work, paying the bills, cleaning the house, making the meals, raising the children, maintaining the yard, driving, shopping, washing, repairing, whatever it is you do, you do it, on some level, because of love, and you think that’s understood.  Your spouse thinks the same thing about everything of which you are spared because your spouse handles it.  Yet you don’t see that as an expression of love for you.  In fact, at least sometimes you think that your spouse likes to do those things.  It does not occur to you that he hates driving, she hates laundry, but does it because of love for you.  On the other hand, it sometimes occurs to you that you are doing the driving, the laundry, because of love.  You are expressing love in a language you understand.  That is important, because it reminds you that you love this person, and will do this because of that.  However, your expression of love is not being heard.

    You need to speak the other language, the language that will be understood.  Michelle, ma belle, sont les mots qui vont tres bien ensemble, sings Paul McCartney–in French, Michelle, my lovely, are the words which go very well together.  Most of us do not need to learn another spoken language; but we do need to communicate in a way that our spouse recognizes as an expression of love–whether it’s flowers and candy or dinner and a movie, or breakfast in bed or a sporting event, or simply saying the right words at the right time, the unexpected display of affection, some way of letting that person know that there is love here.

    It also helps if you can learn to perceive the expression of love your spouse is constantly making in the language you don’t understand.  It’s probably there, and it is a mystery to the other person why you don’t realize it, just as you don’t understand why your expressions of love go unrecognized.

  8. The other thing we learn from Tevye and Goldie is that for the purpose of marriage love is not primarily somethng you feel; it is something you choose and do.  Throughout history in most of the world, marriages were arranged:  families chose brides for grooms and grooms for brides.  It is really the “normal” way; selecting your own spouse is only a recent and limited practice.  That means that most people learned over time how to love, or show love to, spouses who were selected for them by someone else.  It is not really that difficult to decide to love your spouse.  In the modern world, most people in arranged marriages will tell you yes, they do love their spouses.  It is a choice you make.  Feelings are too erratic to be the basis for commitment, but they will follow from decision.

  9. In I Corinthians 7:32ff Paul comments that the unmarried man worries about pleasing the Lord but the married man worries about pleasing his woman, and then says the same (gender reversed) about the unmarried and married women.  What is interesting is that Paul does not say that this is wrong; rather, he seems to be indicating that if you are married, pleasing your spouse is (at least) as important to you as pleasing the Lord, and that’s as it ought to be.  Sure, he says that it is better not to marry for that reason, but he also says that for most people it is better to marry, and that means that for most people there is that one person in life, the spouse, who matters as much as Christ.  We don’t like to think of it that way, but Paul says that we act that way, and he does not condemn us for it.  Spouses are important.

I was developing this for a “permanent” web page in the Bible and Theology section of the site, but decided that that was not the best way to do it.  That’s partly because when I had eight points I kept thinking of a ninth and then forgetting it before I had the chance to write it down, and then while I was trying to think of it I remembered the one that falls ninth here, which I know is not the one I kept forgetting.  I conclude two things from this.

The first is that no matter how many things I remember and put in this page, I am going to miss something, something that undoubtedly helped me through one of the true rough spots in my life and marriage, and I’m going to wish I had included it.  I could hold the page until I died, and still not manage to include everything.  I thus hope these points will help you now, and perhaps before we reach our fiftieth (should we both live so long) I’ll post a few more.

The second is that I am not always going to remember all of these points–and neither are you.  Make note of them, come back and read them again (as long as we manage to keep the site online through your support), and think about them more than just on the read-through.  They are all worth remembering; they will all help keep your marriage together a little longer.

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#58: Acceptable Killing In Our Society

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #58, on the subject of Acceptable Killing In Our Society.

This began because someone of my acquaintance posted a video supporting abortion.  The blurb under the video read, in part:

There are many reasons why a woman might decide to end a pregnancy—and many barriers to safe and legal abortion.

I did not want to start a fight, but I found that statement quite offensive–offensive enough that I felt it necessary to reply:

There are many reasons why a parent might want to kill his or her own child, but that does not mean we as a society have to approve that.

The question is whether an unborn child is still a child.  The answer cannot be so easily presumed.

I included a link to mark Joseph “young” web log post #7:  The Most Persecuted Minority.

She replied:

You are close in trying to identify the correct question in regards to this issue.  The real question though, remains when in the stages of pregnancy do you develop a child?  Only when than [sic] can be determined, should it be appropriate to address your question.  In our society, the answer is yes.  It is acceptable to kill.  We kill in war.  We kill on the streets.  We allow for capital punishment.  We allow for assisted suicide.  I am never going to argue if abortion is morally correct.  But what you attempted to address is the one question others throw out there with buzz words like “kill,” and “child.”  If the question was simply, should a pregnant female be given rights to determine to carry a child to whatever capacity she chooses, then hotheads would have little to rage over.  What America is trying to measure with your argument Mark, is can we limit human potential, and if so, to what extent?

I could see that pursuing this in that format was going to become unwieldy, so I pondered for a while and decided to respond here.


I will confess that I am not entirely certain of everything she meant in that post, particularly at the end concerning the phrase “limit human potential”.  Is she talking about limiting the potential of mothers by requiring them to bear the children they have conceived, or of children by killing them before they breathe the air, or something else?  That, though, is not the bulk of her comment, and it is the other part that particularly disturbs me.  She raises the question of whether in our society killing is acceptable, and affirms that it is, following this by a list of “acceptable” situations for killing.  I am going to change the sequence some, but I argue that killing people is not acceptable behavior in our society, despite her examples to the contrary.

Let’s begin with

We kill on the streets.

I doubt she means in traffic accidents.  Vehicular homicide frequently results in at least an involuntary manslaughter charge.  Certainly there are accidents in which someone dies and it is ruled that no one is at fault, just as if a bit of space debris happens to crash into your house you can’t sue NASA.  That amounts to an admission that we accept that modern technological life is a bit dangerous and some people are going to die through no one’s fault.  Yet clearly, although there are vehicular murders (and they are so treated), this is hardly an example of society accepting that we are permitted to kill each other.

Killing on the streets seems rather to imply the intentional action of killing each other, and we have a fair amount of that in gang warfare and drive-by shootings.  That we have them, though, does not mean we accept them.  Every such incident is treated as a homicide investigation with the intention of bringing murder charges against the perpetrator.  They are not all solved, and not all the perpetrators are convicted, but we don’t really accept that these killings are blameless despite their frequency in our society.  Sometimes we call it “terrorism” and make a federal case of it.

On the other hand, it is sometimes the case that the police shoot people on the street and are exonerated.  The famous cases are of course when a white police officer shoots a black person, but black police officers shoot white people also.  In every case of an “officer-involved shooting” there is an investigation, the officer is usually suspended pending the outcome of the investigation, and in some cases charges ranging from disciplinary actions to murder convictions follow.  That in most cases our officers are cleared of guilt indicates bias only sometimes; it more often commends the training they have been given.  After all, there are situations in which we excuse and even justify killings–self-defense and defense of third persons the two that most commonly apply in these cases.  Yet when a claim is made of self-defense or defense of third persons, there is always an investigation to determine whether indeed those claims are justifiable.

Our justification for killing the unborn is that they pose a threat to the life or physical well-being of the mother, but no one investigates whether that claim is justifiable, and “the health of the mother” has become a phrase with little more meaning than her convenience.

So what of this:

We allow for assisted suicide.

Do we?

The most current information available to me says that four states–California, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont–have passed legislation permitting physician-assisted suicide, with very specific guidelines (patient must be a resident of the state, at least 18 years of age, have not more than six months of life expectancy remaining, and have requested help from the physician at least once in writing and twice orally not less than fifteen days apart).  One state, Montana, has a state supreme court ruling allowing physician-assisted suicide for state residents, without any clear parameters otherwise.  There are four other states in which the law is uncertain–Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, and North Carolina.  In the remaining forty-one states, if you assist someone in a suicide you may be charged with conspiracy to commit murder.  In no state is it lawful for someone who is not a physician to assist.  That hardly counts as “acceptable”.  It is also illegal in most countries around the world, although a few have permitted it under specified conditions.

Certainly there are a lot of people who think that we ought to permit suffering terminally ill persons to end their own lives, and allow medical professionals to help them.  There are also people who think we ought to do this for the severely handicapped, without their consent.  To this point, the bulk of public opinion is against the idea that people should be permitted to kill themselves, or to help others kill themselves, with impunity.

Our justification for assisted suicide, in those places where it is permitted, is that the patient wants to die, is suffering terribly, and will not live much longer anyway.  No one asks the unborn child if he would rather live or die.

The next might be more difficult:

We allow for capital punishment.

Yes, in many cases we do.  As of last year, thirty-one states had a legal death penalty; of those, four had such a law but with a moratorium declared by the governor so that there could be no executions until specific issues were resolved.  Nineteen states have made the death penalty illegal, and although they include populous states such as New York, New Jersey, and Illinois, they do not include the most populous California or the significant Ohio, Texas, and Florida.  Popular opinion seems to favor the death penalty.

However, death penalty cases involve what we call due process:  judges and juries must listen to the evidence and arguments presented by trained legal professionals, and reach the conclusion that this individual deserves to die.

One of the two objections to the death penalty, the one that is the more cogent in practice, is that given human fallibility it is entirely possible that we are killing the wrong person.  That criminals on death row are later released (not usually because they have been exonerated but because some flaw in the legal process leading to their conviction or sentencing has been identified) certainly demonstrates that fallibility.  That, though, only means that were we completely certain of the guilt and desert of the criminal the sentence would be accepted.  The more significant objection, in our present concern, is whether anyone ever deserves to be killed.  As Gandalf says to Frodo, many died fighting in the war who should have lived; if you are unable to restore them to life, do not be overly quick to take life from another, however guilty you might think him.  We might agree that someone ought to die, but object to the notion that any of us therefore ought to kill him.  So we have this argument, and gradually more and more of the country is rejecting capital punishment.

However, we are having this argument precisely because we have an agreed moral/ethical principle that it is wrong to kill another human being, and we disagree as to whether this is a viable exception to that rule.  Yet if it is, it is based on the conclusion that this person deserves to die.

No one has attempted to say that the aborted child deserved to die, or if they did it was by transference of hatred toward the parent to the child.

That leaves only the most difficult example:

We kill in war.

Yes, we do, and we consider such killing justified, at least when we do it.  Yet it is important to understand why.

There were quite a few wars in the twentieth century.  They occurred for one of two reasons:

  1. One group believed that their lives or freedoms were threatened or compromised by another group, and initiated a war to free themselves from this threat.
  2. One group desired to take possession of the territory, population, or resources of another group, usually based on some claim of right, and so initiated war to seize possession.

Throughout the twentieth century, the United States has always sided with groups we perceived as the oppressed or threatened and against the aggressors.  Our justification for being involved in the war was always the defense of third persons or, ultimately, defense of ourselves.  Our motives might be impugned in many instances–did we defend Kuwait for the sake of Kuwait or because of American oil interests?–but enough of us considered the defense of the people of one country from the aggressions of another a viable moral basis for becoming involved in a war that had already started that these fit the general pattern.  We do not approve war; we do not find it acceptable to wage war for any interests other than stopping someone else’s aggression or oppression.

The reasons for killing in war again do not apply to killing an unborn child.

There are ultimately only three questions concerning abortion:

  1. Is it wrong to kill a human being, absent some specific justification or excuse?  If you answer no to this question, you invalidate all laws against murder and manslaughter and all liability for accidental death.
  2. Is an unborn child a human being?  This is the usual point of the argument, to which I note first that in the absence of certainty we ought to err on the side of caution and defend the life of a “potential human being”, and second that most vegetarians who won’t eat chicken won’t eat eggs, either.
  3. Is the convenience of a parent a sufficient justification or excuse for killing a child?  If you answer yes to this, you justify infanticide, and must find a point at which that no longer applies.  People usually say “viability”, but on the one hand medical advances are pushing back the moment at which a child can survive outside the womb, and on the other hand if viability means the ability to survive completely unaided by anyone else, there are few adults in this country who could do so absent the infrastructural support of thousands of others who provide the necessities of life.  I’m not viable anymore; I could not survive a month in the wilderness unaided by supplies provided by others.

I thus disagree that our society has accepted killing, in the sense that it is acceptable to kill another human being.  If we had, the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Boston Marathon would not have been crimes.  We pretend that abortion is a justifiable killing because the victim is unable to speak for himself.  That applies, though, to thousands of infant, handicapped, and elderly persons, and society is not ready to justify the killings of those people, because we recognize them to be people and do not regard the killing of people as “acceptable”.

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#51: In Memoriam on Groundhog Day

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #51, on the subject of In Memoriam on Groundhog Day.

My father died a few days ago, at noon on January 27th, 2016.  There will be memorial visitation on Saturday, February 13th, from one to four in the afternoon at the Van Emburgh-Sneider-Pernice Funeral Home on Darlington Ave in Ramsey (New Jersey) near the home he has shared with my mother since I was twelve.  Before that we lived in Scotch Plains, and in Freeport, Long Island.  He came from Sardis, Mississippi, by way of an Electrical Engineering degree from Georgia Tech.  I will always remember him working decades for Western Union, but it had been decades since he was there and he had held a number of other jobs since.  He did not speak much of his education or his work, but I gather he had completed a masters at Stevens Institute of Technology, and worked sporadically toward a doctorate.  He held patents in focusing microwaves, and headed engineering in Western Union’s Data Services offshoot in the late 60’s.  He was the only person I knew who had worked in assembly language.

He was Cornelius Bryant Young, Jr.  Technically, he was the third, but his grandfather had died while his father was still young, and his father married old, so my granddad took “senior” and made him “junior” (although they never, as far as I know, called him that).  Since his grandfather was “Cornelius” his father was always “Bryant”, and he wound up with “C.B.”, although it was often reduced to “Seeb”, which is what my mother generally called him.  He hated nicknames–I never understood why, and as “Mark” always wished that there was a more familiar form distinguished as “my friends call me”.  (I might then have felt that I had friends.)  My mother wanted to name one of us Cornelius Bryant Young IV and call him Neil, and my father always said, “If you want to call him Neil, name him Neil.”  My little brother is Neil Bryant Young.  My wife also wanted to name a child Cornelius Bryant Young IV and call him Cory, but my father said–well, you know what he said.  My second son is Kyler Cornelius Bryant Young, and my third has Cory as a middle name.

I will remember many of the wonderful things he said over the years.  They come to mind particularly because he often quipped about today–Groundhog Day–saying “If the groundhog sees his shadow, we will have six more weeks of winter, but if he doesn’t, it will be a month and a half.”

Cornelius B. Young, Jr., in 2015 at his brother-in-law's birthday party.
Cornelius B. Young, Jr., in 2015 at his brother-in-law’s birthday party.

He gave the name Young’s Theorem to a quip he created and put on signs in a working lab he headed before I was born.  People working on various projects would find that they did not have the particular piece of equipment they needed, so would substitute something similar–“not the same, but not really different”–and then be surprised at the results.  My father’s sign read, “Things that are not the same are different.”

It was from him that I first heard Murphy’s Law, and he delighted in collecting such witicisms.  He gave me (appropriately, given the recent reaction to my article a few days ago on the X-Files sexism flap), “I know that you believe that you understand what you think I said, but I am not certain you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”  I was still in Cub Scouts, having trouble working on a Pinewood Derby model car, when he said, with a wonderfully instructive facetiousness, “If you cut it too short you can always stretch it, but what can you do if you cut it too long?”

He was the most patient man I ever knew (although once when I said that to my mother, she told me to remember that he lost his temper at me more than once).  I only heard him swear once in my life, in a famous story of our effort to navigate Skinner’s Falls on the Delaware River when it was several feet above flood stage.  He remained constantly calmly rational–my model of unemotive rationality long before Spock appeared.  It has impacted me significantly, as I, too, am generally not effusive in my expressions of emotion, regard foul language as an indication of a poor intellect, and choose rational response over impatient reaction.  Yet it had its negative side.  He would often praise my efforts after a success in my school days, such as a band or choral concert, but because he knew that his cool rationalism would not sound sincere he forced an enthusiasm that always sounded less sincere in my ears, and so I never received praise well from him–and in turn I made a point with my own sons not to attempt to sound enthusiastic in my praise.  I can only hope they understood that I was sincere.

He was always there for us when we were in trouble.  I think perhaps we relied too much on him.  I wonder, often, whether his available support caused me to rely less on God in times of trouble, or whether it taught me that a father is always there for you.  I probably called him for help about a tenth as many times as my wife suggested.  I knew I was a disappointment to him in that area, and that that was important to him.  I shall need more help from others in the years ahead, I expect, as he is no longer there.

He was, and in a sense continues to be, the reason for much that is in this web log.  Because of my law school degree (for which he paid a significant portion, and for which he never received an adequate return on his investment) he regaled me with articles, clippings in envelopes and links online, claiming that President Obama was not legitimately elected because he was not a “natural born Citizen” as required by the Constitution.  That led to the composition of my series on The Birther Issue and the addenda on The Birth Certificate, and my title as Newark Political Buzz Examiner.  The law and politics section of my website has been expanded to many times its previous size by those articles, and I still keep an eye on the political news and write about it here sporadically.  One of the last clippings he sent me before he died was an insightful piece on whether Ted Cruz was a “natural born Citizen”, although I had already addressed that.  I have not checked my e-mail since before his final hospitalization, but expect that I will find something there from him that might require me to respond here.

I miss him.  We rarely talked, and always when we did I felt that I had failed in the ways he had most hoped I would succeed, but I knew he loved me despite his cool exterior, and I know that my life will be a lot harder and a little lonelier without him.

He was a Southern Baptist in Mississippi, but had settled into the (calmer and less conservative) American Baptist Convention churches by the time I was born.  He often expressed doubts and raised questions about Christian faith, and I wanted him to read the draft of my hopefully forthcoming book Why I Believe (tentative title).  I don’t know whether he expressed those to me because of my degrees in Biblical Studies, and I never could be certain exactly about his faith in Christ, but I have good reason to hope that he has had those doubts resolved and is in the presence of our Lord even now.

Dad, if you get this message, my long-remembered college friend Steve Freed established the rendezvous location for us and I promised to meet him there, along with everyone else:  East Side, Center Gate.  I hope to see you there in a few short years.

With tears on my face,

    I love you, Dad.

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#36: Ligation Litigation

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #36, on the subject of Ligation Litigation.

Let me begin with ideas that might not seem immediately on-topic.

You are certainly welcome to stay for supper.  You’re in luck–we do not often have a roast, but someone gave us this boneless pork loin, and it’s almost finished roasting…what’s that, you don’t eat pork?  Well, I’m very sorry.  Unfortunately, I roasted the carrots and potatoes and onions in the same pan, so if that’s a problem, I’m not sure what to say.

Maybe I could scrounge something up for my unexpected guest, but really, my extended hospitality is to share what I have, not what I don’t have.

Just relax, we’ll reach the hospital in a few minutes.  What?  Yes, I have morphine.  No, I can’t give you morphine; it would be illegal, for one thing.  A doctor has to say that you should have it.  Of course I care that you’re in pain, but I’m not going to risk my job to give you something that quite possibly you shouldn’t have.

Of course, I could give the morphine–I am certainly physically able to do so–but there are good reasons for me not to do so.

No, I’m not going to go deer hunting with you.  I know it’s legal; I know it’s even considered necessary:  in a world in which we have decimated the predator population we must also kill the prey animals or they will overpopulate and starve themselves.  Kill them if you wish, but please don’t ask me to be part of it.  I don’t really enjoy killing animals, and I do not want to become the kind of person who does.

I’ll have to think about whether I’ll eat your venison, and obviously I know that someone kills the meat I do eat, but it doesn’t have to be me.

Mercy Medical Center in Redding, California
Mercy Medical Center in Redding, California

Rebecca Chamorro, mother of a third child, is suing Mercy Medical Center in Redding, California, a two hundred sixty-seven bed hospital sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy of Auburn.  She claims that the hospital violated her rights by refusing to permit her doctor to perform a tubal ligation while delivering her third child by caesarean section.

The hospital claims that such an operation violates the “ERDs”, that is, the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, a document of health care directives established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  The document bans abortions; I presume it also bans euthanasia, although I have not read it (being neither Catholic nor employed in a medical facility).  It lists these things as “intrinsically immoral”, and includes on that list direct sterilizations, certain prenatal genetic tests, and most forms of contraception.  The Catholic Church maintains that children are a gift from God, and participation in sexual relations is an open invitation to God to give that gift; therefore refusing the gift or misusing sex for something other than reproduction is an affront to God.

Obviously, you may disagree with the Roman Catholic Church.  Even many Christians of other denominations, including many (but not all) conservative Christians among the Evangelicals, the conservative Lutherans, and the Eastern Orthodox churches, allow many forms of birth control while remaining adamantly opposed to abortions and abortofacients.  That, though, is not the point.  The point is whether a Roman Catholic hospital should be forced to permit the use of its facilities and equipment for procedures it regards immoral.

The plaintiff’s primary argument is that the refusal to perform legal medical procedures is discriminatory.  There is a sense in which it is not–the same restrictions against tubal ligation also apply to vasectomies–but the argument is that pregnancies are unevenly discriminatory (much more of a burden on women than on men) and thus the refusal to assist in their prevention is unevenly discriminatory.  This, though, is founded on the premise that the hospital is a public institution offering a commercial service–and that’s not exactly true.

At one time all, or nearly all, hospitals were run by religious orders, most of them Roman Catholic.  The nursing staff of such hospitals were nuns–volunteers who devoted their lives to the service of others through the church, tending the sick, compensated essentially with room, board, and basic necessities.  Priests served as doctors, in a time when only a few went to university and those who did were doctors, lawyers, or priests, with some overlap.  People supported the hospitals with their gifts; patients were treated based on need.

Certainly the world has changed.  Hospital staff now includes many employees, most of them paid and not all of them Catholic, although many Catholic hospitals are still staffed in part by nuns and other volunteers.  Medicine is overseen by licensed physicians, because laws forbid the practice by those who do not have such licenses.  However, the mission has not changed, nor the motivation:  to help sick people heal.  These are non-profit hospitals, and the church runs them voluntarily to help the sick.

If you complained that I did not make something special for you as an unexpected dinner guest when you did not want to eat my roast pork, I would politely suggest you find somewhere else to eat.  If you complained that I did not give you morphine on the way to the hospital, I would tell you to talk to my lawyer.  If you complained that I was unwilling to go deer hunting with you, I would tell you to go–well, I wouldn’t, because I’m not like that, but it would put a serious damper on our friendship.

The Roman Catholic Church, of its own volition, offers medical care to persons in need.  They offer more charity care than most hospitals, although they welcome paying patients and insurance programs.  However, they are specific about what care they do–and do not–offer.  If you don’t like it, there are other hospitals.  If it is inconvenient for you to travel to a hospital that is willing to provide the services you desire–and note that this is in no sense an emergency situation here, it is not as if the hospital is refusing life-saving treatment to a patient brought in to the emergency room–then it is apparently inconvenient for you to get the elective procedure you desire.  That seems fairly straightforward to me.

I am concerned that any other answer ultimately becomes an imposition on the faith of the Roman Catholic Church, and indeed on other religiously-affiliated medical facilities (and many churches support these).  It is a small step from asserting that the hospital must permit sterilization procedures it find immoral to asserting the same about abortions; and if (or more likely when) it becomes legal, it is a small step beyond that to requiring hospitals to permit euthanasia in their facilities.

If that happens, I am fairly certain the Roman Catholic Church will close its many hospitals and look for some other way to help needy people.  A two hundred sixty-seven bed homeless shelter might be a great help.

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#34: Happy Old Year

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #34, on the subject of Happy Old Year.

At this time of year, readers are bombarded with “year in review” pieces, part of the media’s need to have news even when there is no news, to make news out of nonsense and trivia–the reason Time Magazine first created its “Man of the Year” issue (the first was Adolph Hitler).  When I was at The Examiner, I began doing something of the same thing, creating indices of articles from the year for readers who missed something or who vaguely remember something.  Quite a bit has been published this year, and it might help to have a bit of a review of it all, as some of you might have missed some of it.  We have articles in quite a few categories.

The web log is of course self-sorting, and you can find articles in its various categories by following the category links, or in subjects by following tag links; still, it will be worth touching on those pieces here, and there are also quite a few “static pages”, that is, regular web pages added to the site, that you might have missed.

At the beginning of the year we were still writing for The Examiner; all of that has been republished here, much of it which was originally done in serialized format consolidated into larger articles.  My reasons for that are explained here on the blog in #8:  Open Letter to the Editors of The Examiner, if you missed them.  It is still hoped that the Patreon campaign will pick up the slack and pay the bills needed to support continuing the efforts here at M. J. Young Net.


Let’s start with the law and politics pieces.  This is a good place to start, because when at the beginning of the year we moved everything from The Examiner, we included a final New Jersey Political Buzz Index Early 2015, with articles on Coalition Government, Broadcasting, Marriage Law Articles, Judiciary, Internet Law, Congress, Discrimination, Election Law, Search and Seizure, Presidential, Health Care, and Insurrection, most subjects covering several articles consolidated with other articles, along with links to earlier indices.  There was also a new main law/politics index page, appropriately Articles on Law and Politics, covering the old and the new, and we added a static page to that, continuing a series on tax we had begun previously, What’s Wrong with the Flat Tax?.

We’ve also had a number of law and politics posts on this blog, including

We also covered New Jersey’s 2015 off-year election with a couple posts, #12:  The 2015 Election, and #15:  The 2015 Election Results.

There were a few web log posts that were on Bible/theology subjects, particularly last week’s #32:  Celebrating Christmas, about why we celebrate, and why this particular day; plus some that were both political and theological, including #3:  Reality versus Experience, #23:  Armageddon and Presidential Politics, and #24:  Religious Liberty and Gay Rights:  A Definitive Problem.

Then there was the time travel material.  This also included some that were originally published at The Examiner and moved here, sometimes consolidated into single pieces.  We started the year with a serialized (and now consolidated) analysis of Predestination, followed by one of Project Almanac.  We also gave a nod to (Some of) The Best Time Travel Comedies and (Some of) The Best Time Travel Thrillers, before moving here.

Once here, we began our temporal insights with a couple of web log posts, the first #6:  Terminator Genisys Quick Temporal Survey, and then #17:  Interstellar Quick Temporal Survey, both thanks to the generosity of readers who provided for us to see these films.  We eventually managed to add a new analysis to the web site, Terminator Genisys, one of the longest and most complicated analyses we have yet done–but we were not done.  Remembering that our original analysis of the first two films in the franchise made some suggestions concerning a future direction for the series, and having commented on the problems with continuing it after the latest installment, we wrote #28:  A Terminator Vision, giving some ideas for a next film.  Then in response to a reply to the analysis, we added #31:  A Genisys Multiverse, explaining why we don’t think a multiverse-type solution resolves the problems of the film.

The site was expanded on another long-neglected front, the Stories from the Verse section:  the directors of Valdron Inc gave me permission to serialize Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel; as of today, the first forty-seven of one hundred twenty-six chapters (they’re mostly short chapters) have been published; there is an index which conveniently lists all the chapters from the first to the most recent published in the left column and from the most recent to the first in the right, so that you can begin at the beginning if you have not read it at all, or find where you left off going backwards if you’ve read most of it.  The chapters also link to each other for convenient page turning.

I don’t know whether it makes it more interesting or takes away some of the magic, but I also began running a set of “behind the writings” blog posts to accompany the novel.  These are my recollections of the process that brought the pages to life–where I got some of the ideas, my interactions with the editor and other pre-publication readers,, changes that were made, and how it all came to be.  There are now seven of them in print–

  1. #18:  A Novel Comic Milestone,

  2. #20:  Becoming Novel,
  3. #22:  Getting Into Characters,
  4. #25:  Novel Changes,
  5. #27:  A Novel Continuation,
  6. #30:  Novel Directions,
  7. #33:  Novel Struggles,

–and I expect to publish another tomorrow for the next six chapters.

Looking at the few posts that have not yet fit in one of these categories, whether logic or trivia or something else, one, #29:  Saving the Elite, was really advice for writing a certain kind of story.  Our first post in the blog, #1:  Probabilities and Solitaire, was a bit of a lesson in probabilities in card games, and #26:  The Cream in My Coffee applied physics to how you lighten and sweeten your hot beverages.

So that’s what we’ve been doing this year, or at least, that’s the part that sticks above the water.  We’ve answered questions by e-mail, posted to Facebook (and PInterest and Twitter and LinkedIn and MySpace and Google+ and IMDB and GoodReads and who knows where else), kept the Bible study going, worked on the novels, and tried to keep the home fires burning at the same time.  That’s all important, but somewhat ephemeral–it passes with time faster than that which is published.  Here’s hoping that you’ve benefited in some way from something I wrote this year, and that you’ll continue encouraging me in the year ahead.

Happy old year.

Happy new year.

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#32: Celebrating Christmas

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #32, on the subject of Celebrating Christmas.

I can remember wondering whether Jesus was born on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Night.  After all, it is obvious from the accounts that he was born during the night, and if he was born on Christmas, by our way of reckoning, that would be Christmas Night.  But it always seemed that Christmas Eve was the time that was celebrated, so maybe he was actually born on Christmas Eve, but after midnight, so it was already Christmas Day.  It all made more sense when I learned that the Jewish way of identifying days started them at sunset (nice to think that you start your day by getting some sleep), and thus what we call Christmas Eve would have been the night that is part of Christmas Day, and what we call Christmas Night would have been the beginning of the day after Christmas, what is variously called Boxing Day or the Feast of St. Steven (yes, mentioned in the carol “Good King Wenceslas”, which is actually a Boxing Day Carol, not a Christmas Carol).  So that would suggest that He was born on Christmas Day during the nighttime hours that came before sunrise.

Of course, he wasn’t.  Our Jehovah’s Witnesses friends are correct in their assertion that Christmas is not a biblical holy day.  The Bible does not specify when He was born, but we know that shepherds don’t tend their flocks in fields in late December in Palestine, and they do do that in our spring, say, April.  So if we know that our date for Jesus’ birth is entirely wrong, why do we celebrate it?  And particularly, why do we sing all those silly songs about snow lying on the ground on Christmas night when Jesus was born?


If we mean why do we celebrate it on December 25th, the answer is simple:  for a couple of very pragmatic reasons.

The first any pagan can tell you:  it was already a holiday.  For the Romans, it was Saturnalia, but since it was the winter solstice nearly every culture in the world had a holiday marking the astronomical event of the sun reaching its southernmost point and starting to return north.  For some, this is a fatal accusation:  we are celebrating a pagan holiday and trying to Christianize it.  However, this was actually pretty smart of the church.  People want their celebrations.  If you say, “don’t celebrate because this day has been set aside to celebrate something that Christians should not celebrate,” you wind up with a lot of people celebrating whatever-it-is anyway (a problem with the objections to Halloween, which even has a Christianized name).  The better answer is to give them something else to celebrate at the same time.  We don’t celebrate an astronomical event or a supposed tie between that event and a pagan god (nor even, really, between the astronomical event and God–in that sense, the astronomical event is incidental).  We celebrate something about which Christians can rejoice, while others are celebrating whatever they choose.

The second pragmatic reason has to do with the church calendar.  After all, we are given something like a date for Easter–not exactly a date, but a connection to Passover, which is fixed to the Jewish calendar.  We don’t really celebrate it on the right date because we’ve disconnected it from both calendars and connected it to astronomical events and a specific day of the week, but we do retain the fact that Easter is celebrated in the Spring, and it would be a bit of a crowded calendar to put the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus all within a few days of each other.  We also have a pretty well established date for Pentecost, and so to put everything in some kind of orderly fashion it makes good sense to celebrate the birth of Jesus a few months before the celebration of his death, so we have time for other things like Lent, and for some time that is not really connected to a holiday.  Besides, there is a poetic benefit to having this joyous holiday mark the winter solstice, in the notion of the best thing to come to humanity coming at the darkest time of the year.  (It doesn’t work that way in Australia, of course, but it’s only an incidental.)  It’s a good time to celebrate it.

But the more fundamental question is why we celebrate the event at all.  It is clear that our first century predecessors did not do so; if they knew the date they chose not to record it, and only two of the four biographers give us any information about that birth at all.  The day that God became man was not particularly important to them.

However, the fact that God became man was of paramount importance.  John’s Gospel does not tell us anything about the birth of Jesus, but this:  “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father.”  God became man–a turning point in all that God was doing for man–and that was something to celebrate every single day.

We, however, are not all that good at celebrating something every single day.  The very concept of a “celebration” to us requires that it be a divergence from the norm.  Many of us celebrate a Sabbath, even if we have moved the Sabbath to the day after the Sabbath, in part because we need the reminder that our time is God’s time, in part because having that moment of specific devotion helps to refocus us on the ordinary devotion that should permeate the rest of our lives.  In something of the same way, celebrating the coming of God into the world on a specific day brings it forward afresh, so that we are a bit better able to celebrate it every day.

The snow and the cold?  Well, that’s just because these are the conditions which accompany our celebration.  It reminds us that Jesus came into our lives–there might never have been snow in Palestine during His entire life, but there is snow in our lives, and He comes into those lives where we are, as we celebrate where we are, in the midst of our own situations and conditions.  I live in the snow and the cold, and Jesus came into my life, which I am celebrating.  If I lived in Australia, I’m sure I’d sing Christmas carols about shrimp on the barbee and swimming in the billabong, because those would be my life situations during the celebration.  Jesus joins us in our lives, as he did in Bethlehem two millennia ago.  That is what we celebrate; that is why.

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#24: Religious Liberty and Gay Rights: A Definitive Problem

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #24, on the subject of Religious Liberty and Gay Rights:  A Definitive Problem.

Christians today are being forced to recognize the marital unions of homosexual (and lesbian) couples as just as valid as those of heterosexuals, and even to participate in the celebration of those unions by providing services, from signing marriage licenses to baking wedding cakes and taking photographs.  Many Christians hold the view that homosexuals cannot legitimately be “married”, that homosexual relationships are an affront to God and to nature, and that it is an affront to our faith to be forced to participate–akin perhaps to insisting that Muslims and Jews participate in a feast at which a pig will be roasted and served to all the guests.  We ought to be excused from such offensive events.  Yet time and again the courts rule against us, despite the First Amendment to the Constitution which protects Americans from government intrusion into religious faith and practice.  It is confusing, at the least.  Why is this happening?

The answer is that over the past century or so the meanings of several critical words have changed just enough that our objections have been voided.  Three words in particular have taken altered definitions, and left Christians behind.

Of course the word marriage has changed meaning over time.  It comes into English through French from Latin, the Latin referring to a sexual relationship and thus, for the Romans at least, to an ongoing sexual relationship between a man and a woman.  The Romans were rather specific about this, and that definition came with the word into English thanks largely to the Roman Catholic Church.  A marriage, well into the early twentieth century, was a permanent commitment between a man and a woman with a view to producing and raising children; it was definitively a procreative relationship.


It was also primarily regulated by the church in most of the western world, even in the United States.  Marriage “licenses” were created originally to bypass “the banns” (we’ve discussed this before), the rule that required an intended marriage be announced publicly several weeks in advance of the wedding in the home region of the couple so that objections could be known in advance; the parties could in effect post a cash bond guaranteeing that there were no impediments to the marriage, and so marry more quickly or in a place where one or the other was a stranger.  They were optional, even through the early twentieth century–but they had become required first for interracial marriages, gradually for all marriages, and for the very telling purpose that the government wanted to regulate the number of mixed-race children and then additionally prevent incestuous marriages.  Marriage licenses were about regulating sex, and guaranteeing that a couple who had sex would thereafter be jointly responsible for the children produced by their act.

Several things happened in the twentieth century.  One had to do with the Federal Income Tax system, because someone decided that if a couple had children, or was trying to have children, that probably meant one of them (usually the woman) would not be working, and the income of the other would have to support both–and since the government wanted to encourage procreative relationships, such couples, identified by a legal “marriage”, were given a lower tax rate.

The second thing that happened was really many things.  Divorce law changed such that gradually it became easier for couples to separate.  Divorces being very messy cases, courts and legislatures tried to disentangle themselves from the mess by moving toward a system by which what had been presumptively permanent commitments now became readily dissolved.  Further, attitudes toward sex changed, and the judiciary took the view that it was inappropriate for government to regulate sexual activities outside those special cases in which it was likely that someone was being compromised (rape, incest, possibly prostitution).  That meant it did not matter whether someone’s sexual preferences were “aberrant”, as long as they were not abusive.  Any adult could have sex with any other adult, and the government would mind its own business if no one was being harmed.  There is still an issue as to whether anyone is being harmed in these relationships, but the government has decided that in most cases they aren’t even if they are, or at least that they assumed the risk that they would be harmed when they entered the relationship.

The upshot is that marriage is no longer defined as a permanent procreative relationship, but rather as a disolvable partnership between friends.  A critical element has been changed.

The word homosexual did not not exist in the nineteenth century.  Such men were called “sodomites”, and it had a very negative connotation.  Early in the twentieth century someone in the psychology field coined the new word to identify what was then regarded a psychological aberration for study and treatment.  The word itself was criticized as a nasty hybridization of a Greek prefix (homo, “same”) with a Latin root (sexual, “pertaining to gender”).


As attitudes about sex changed in the mid twentieth century, part of that was the notion that two persons engaging in sex were not hurting anyone and ought to be permitted to enjoy themselves.  This justified what had previously been called fornication but was now called free love, what had previously been called adultery but was now called having an affair, and, eventually, what had been called sodomy but was now called same-sex love.  What had been an unspeakable perversion in the nineteenth century by the dawn of the twenty-first was simply a different lifestyle.

However, the definitional change goes deeper than this.  This is not so simple as a different lifestyle.  It’s not like choosing whether or not to be a vegetarian, or deciding to join a convent, or moving to a farm.  Although science has produced not a shred of evidence that homosexuality is genetic, homosexuals have insisted that they are born that way, and that therefore they cannot really be classed as “men” and “women”, but instead are two more, different, sexes, that homosexual male is no more heterosexual male than heterosexual female.  The assertion is that they are a separate group, another sex, very much like a race.  With the most recent Supreme Court decisions, it seems that the law has agreed.

Therein lies the key problem, the reason our bakers and photographers and caterers and honeymoon hotels are all being told that they cannot refuse service to homosexual couples.  Under the law, it would be the same as excludng service to Blacks or Chinese because of their race.  We went through this in the sixties, as Whites–not just southern Whites, it happened also in Chicago–tried to segregate Blacks by legislation and private practice, when restaurants would not serve persons of color and school boards sent black students to their own schools.  It was an ugly time in that regard, and while we can argue to what degree racial discrimination has been ended (we’ve addressed that before, too) we can probably agree that things have improved from then, and that we do not want to go back to that.  However, the problem is that under law homosexuals are in essence the new Blacks, the group we are not permitted to segregate or exclude, not permitted to refuse to serve, because they are not ordinary men and women engaged in a disgusting sexual perversion, but newly-recognized genders whose different proclivities are ordinary for them and protected by law.

The upshot is that homosexuality is no longer defined as an aberrant sexual practice, but rather as a third (and fourth, and maybe fifth and we do not know how many more) sex, to be protected as women are protected, and any expression of a different attitude on the subject has legally been defined as discrimination.

One more word has changed its meaning significantly over the past century.  The word is wrong.

To say that the word wrong has changed its meaning is, well, wrong; it still retains most of the meanings it ever had.  The problem is that in jurisprudence the acceptable meaning of the word has shifted, and things which were once almost universally understood as “wrong” are not.  Not that this is news, nor even different–society has always been in flux concerning what it regards as wrong in the details.  However, there has been something of a fundamental shift, not a problem with what specific things are wrong but a problem with what constitutes “wrongness” itself.


Jonathan Haidt has studied morality, and has written rather persuasively that the kind of morality we have in “Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic” (acronym WEIRD) societies is based primarily on one of six fundamental moral values that the rest of the world, now and from time immemorial, shares.  For progressive liberals, the moral value that matters is dubbed “care/harm” (making the lives of others better, not worse), although they also recognize a “liberty/oppression” value (the primary value recognized by libertarians, individual autonomy).  There is a third value, “fairness/cheating”, recognized, to which we will return.

Conservatives recognize these values, but also recognize three others that are embraced by most of the rest of the world (outside WEIRD areas).  These are “loyalty/betrayal” (what makes it wrong to be a “traitor”), “authority/subversion” (respect and obedience within a hierarchy), and “sanctity/degradation” (the notion that some things, whether churches or flags or sports teams, deserve respect, and others are perversions deserving disgust).  Thus for most of the world, yes, it is wrong to hurt others, wrong to oppress, wrong to cheat, but it is also wrong to betray your own family, to disobey your leaders, and to disrespect your flag or other culturally identified artifacts of identity.  These meanings are not completely lost on people–when someone says, “That’s just wrong,” he is probably tapping into this notion of sanctity/degradation.  However, progressives are so far from these understandings of morality that many of them consider them the enemy, obstacles to what genuinely matters.

I said we would return to the “fairness/cheating” value, because it is universally held but at the same time it is expressed in two distinct ways.  For progressive liberals, “fairness” is about equality of outcome; the ideal for them is the socialist model, in which everyone gets everything he needs regardless of how much he is able to contribute.  For everyone else, “fairness” is about proportionality, that you reap as you sow, that people who work harder should earn more, people who contribute more to society should get more from it.  Thus for most of the world, it is “fair” for potentially procreative heterosexual couples who commit to long-term child-raising relationships to receive benefits which enable that which are not available to others (e.g., tax breaks), but for progressive liberals–and for the current United States legal system and that of other WEIRD countries–it is unfair for such couples to receive such benefits merely because they are giving society a future population.

Christians are thus stymied in finding an appropriate legitimately legal response to what a century ago would have been universally recognized as a complete perversion of the legal system, because over time the meanings of these three words have changed.  To have said then that recognition of a procreative union between two members of the same sex engaging in sexual relationships is a perversion of that which is inherently sacred would have made perfect sense.  Today the words “homosexual marriage is wrong” no longer mean that.  They mean something like, “It is unkind to allow members of one sex to have the same rights available to those of other sexes regarding temporary relational partnerships,” which is not something anyone believes.  To Christians, the old meaning is still the meaning; to the progressive liberals and their legal system in western countries, it is akin to saying that blacks cannot function as free people and need to be slaves.  The world has changed, and expects us to keep up.

Yet as we have also previously said, keeping up with the world is not always the right thing to do.

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