Thinking Out Loud

March 22, 2018

Marriage and Marijuana: When the Rules Change

Changes in the law are often viewed from a variety of vantage points.

I often wonder what happens when someone who has done prison time for pot possession thinks as they see state after state making weed legal. Or the person who was persecuted by family or friends for their homosexual cohabitation watching gay marriage legalized.

I realize that most of the people reading this fall into neither category. You may not directly know people who do. However, such individuals would have a rather different perspective on changing legislation in various states as well as Canada.

The end result of what pilots call a “graveyard spiral.”

Then there are those who will simply use this as an example of how society is going downhill; to use an aviation term, the graveyard spiral of society. It’s great sermon material if you want to get people revved up; what Skye Jethani would call pandering to the Fear-vangelical mindset.

But there’s another viewpoint I was considering today: The youth.

In particular, what does all this look like from the point of view of a child who is too young to smoke weed and too young to enter into a marriage relationship?

In some ways, it sends this message: If you wait long enough it — whatever it is — will eventually be made legal.

I know you’re thinking, ‘Yes, but some things are absolutely wrong and not subject to discussion.’

Really? Take the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” and then consider euthanasia, abortion or (for some) even war itself.

“Thou shalt not bear false witness.” What about lying where it is expedient, or situation ethics, manipulation of statistics, or the popular term today, fake news?

Again, I’m not talking about the “moral decay” itself, but about the appearance all this must present to young people who see nothing as absolute. Rules regulating behavior and lifestyle appear as in flux or in transition with no fixed reference points.

I’ve noted elsewhere on the blog that rules are often created at one time or for one group of people or in one particular place; whereas principles are timeless and transcend the limits of who they apply to or where they apply. The rules derive from the principles.

So in a world where alcohol is in common use, the addition of marijuana to the recreational mix may not appear to reflect a change in principles, but a kid or young teen doesn’t know that.

To children and youth, as things are subject to constant revision and updated legislation, all bets are off when it comes to whether anything is truly wrong.

February 8, 2010

Yichud

Okay, so first of all, if you’ve landed here from a Google blog search or a WordPress tag, you need to know that I’m not Jewish.   This is actually a Christian blog, and up until about an hour ago I’d never heard the word Yichud before.   Since then, I’ve been reading various internet articles, and while I’m not an expert, let me say to any Jewish readers who land here, I’m impressed with the concept.

The word and I crossed paths in a stage show review published Thursday  in The Toronto Star.     Longtime theatre critic Richard Ouzounian was reviewing a play bearing this word as its title, in an article titled Wedding Crashers.   The husband and wife in Yichud are, in real life, also husband and wife.     She grew up in Judiasm, while he converted from Roman Catholicism.

So what is Yichud?    Let’s start with Wikipedia which quickly alerts us to two different definitions around which the play Yichud revolves:

…the impermissibility of seclusion of a man and a woman a private area. Such seclusion is prohibited when the man and woman are not married to each other in order to prevent the two from being tempted or having the opportunity to commit adulterous or promiscuous acts. The laws of yichud are typically followed by Orthodox Jews. Some Orthodox authorities view these laws as so strict that they may not be broken even when a life is in danger.

Okay; got that one?   Then you’re ready to move on to meaning number two:

…a ritual during a Jewish wedding in which the newly married couple spends a period of time secluded in a room by themselves.

But it’s the first definition I want to return to.   The prohibition finds its roots in the story of David and Tamar, as spelled out here on the website JewishMag.Com.   (II Sam. 13: 1-29)    The restrictions — which extend to parents and siblings — are spelled out in detail by Rabbi Howard Jachter.

[Sidebar:  To my Christian readers — There is a Jewish internet world*, besides the Christian internet world.   You should check it out sometime.   Of course I realize this is going to come as a bit of a shock to some who didn’t realize there was a Christian internet world beyond the Calvinist internet world.]

Everybody back?  I want to return now to comments that were made by Aaron Willis, the Catholic-turned-Jewish actor in the Yichud review, and his wife Julie Tepperman:

“There are so many levels of seclusion, within religion, within family, within ourselves,” says Tepperman. “I came to realize that all the laws of Judaism keep us safe. The Torah is like a blueprint for life.”

Willis adds his perspective. “My experience with Judaism is that one of the most beautiful things about it is that you experience it by doing, rather than intellectualizing. There are 613 mitzvot or commandments and every one is capable of making your life fuller and deeper.”

What strikes me there is the complete trust that — without putting too many words in their mouths — God’s rules have our best interest at heart.   It reminded me of another scripture verse that may be more familiar to my regular readers:

Trust in the Lord with everything you’ve got,  and don’t depend on your own rationalizing.   Put Him first in every decision and He will illuminate the pathway for your journey.    Prov. 3: 5,6 (my paraphrase)

When it comes to definition number two…

…What Tepperman discovered was that “many people consider the time spent there more sacred that the wedding itself…”

The play itself  “revolves around an arranged marriage, where this is the first time the couple have been alone together. Originally developed by Convergence Theatre, the production transforms the entire theatre into an Orthodox Jewish Synagogue.” [Toronto Star stage play summary, Feb. 4]  And yes, the various websites on the subject indicate that some couples do, in fact, do it in the Yichud room, while a greater majority would indicate no, couples do not, in fact do it in the Yichud room.

Christians believe that with the coming of Christ, we moved from a period of law into what is called the “age of grace.”   However, we also believe that God is the same:  In the past, in the present and in the future to come.  (Hebrews 13:8 speaks specifically about Jesus, but the expansion from this to the very nature of God Himself is implicit, such that the verse is often misquoted with God as the subject.)

Do we as Christians have the same trust that God is looking out for us, as Julie indicates in her appraisal of the commands?    Psalm 119 — the long Psalm — also testifies to a love of the law, with almost each of its 176 stanzas praising law, commandments, ordinances, statutes, etc.

Finally, the take-away from this for Christian parents with preteens and teens is huge.   Or even non-religious parents who are trying to maintain some kind of moral or ethical standard in the home.     Go back to the Rabbi Jachter link above, and show your children the rules that some teenagers live with, even in sex-saturated 2010.  I’ll bet the rent that it makes whatever rules you’ve got in place at your house seem tame by comparison.

Remind them that God doesn’t view our choices as simply good or bad, but that in his view, our good choices can be overshadowed by the possibility of better choices, and that those in turn, are nothing when compared with best choices.   God is looking out for our best.

Do we delight in his law to the same extent as Psalm 119 does?

*I tried to find an updated version of these 2006 awards for best Jewish blogs, but even though many of them may no longer exist, I’m posting the link anyway, because I want you to see the categories that they assign to various Jewish bloggers.

November 22, 2008

When Innocent People are Charged With Crimes

Filed under: ethics — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 3:38 pm

Although I try to keep this blog faith-focused, every once in awhile, I get passionate about an issue which is more civic in nature.  This is dangerous in itself, because scriptures tell us that soldiers (i.e. in God’s army) do not entangle themselves in civilian affairs.  I heard one pastor, Bruxy Cavey, suggest to his congregation that a Christian person really has no business running for President of the United States.   He said if could ask George Bush one question it would be, “What exactly are you doing there?”   Nonetheless, I needed to unburden myself of this one.

speed-trap1In the province where I live they passed a law a couple of years ago that states that if you are driving along on a divided highway or freeway (for you U.K. readers, that’s a dual carriageway, I think) and there are emergency vehicles pulled over on the side you are driving on, and there is nothing impeding you from making a lane change, you must change lanes and drive in the lane away from where the emergency vehicles are located.   Presumably this includes police, fire, ambulance and tow trucks with emergency lights flashing.

Trouble is, most drivers don’t know this law was passed.   You don’t get a letter in the mail when they pass laws here; it’s assumed that you get the newspaper delivered daily, or that you listen to the news on the radio daily, and that you don’t go on holidays or get sick so that you might miss any of these pronouncements.  While this law exists in many U.S. states, we’ve seen signs posted there to indicate this.  I have never seen signs with respect to this law in our province, and I do a lot of driving.

While the law is intended to protect emergency workers from undue risk, it is also gigantic cash cow.  I don’t buy the “it’s about safety, not revenue” argument.    People are being pulled over and fined $500 CDN and given three demerit points in situations that were set up purely as entrapment situations.    Consider this story told to me this week.   This driver:

  • was driving the speed limit to begin with
  • slowed down further as he passed the tow truck at the side
  • discovered as he approached that a police car was nested in front of the tow truck, generally invisible to the naked eye, not to mention the added factor that he…
  • was driving directly into the evening sun, making the police vehicle’s flashing lights invisible right up to the moment he was parallel to both vehicles
  • had the policeman suddenly step into his lane to wave him over, even though the policeman later said the ‘safety trap’ was to ensure that he ‘could get home safely each night to his wife and family;’ which means he’s missing the point that stepping into moving traffic isn’t the best way to ensure this
  • there was no emergency taking place; no vehicle or driver was receiving aid; presumably none had previously; was the tow-truck driver being paid?
  • the police officer was completely unapologetic; one of the reasons why I believe that it’s extremely difficult for a Christian to be a policeman; not to mention on the basis of the same scripture verse mentioned here at the outset; the job is simply riddled with inherent predilections to corruption or at least a blurring of the lines between honest law enforcement and entrapment, and this story to me best exemplifies a disregard for ethics.

The bearer of the story decided to fight the charges in court.   He hired one of those “ticket fighters” who sometimes advertise here in North America.  (Not sure if you have these in the U.K., NZ or Aus.)   He charged $300.   The fine was reduced to about $250; the demerit points thankfully were removed.   Because the court case was held in the jurisdiction where the driver was charged, he had to take a day off work and drive about three hours to that area, and then home again.  He figured it was about a $1,000 day; for breaking a law he didn’t know exist.

BTW, the reason we got into this conversation in the first place is because he was telling me about a notification that I am supposed to post in my store for my employees, which, if I fail to post it, can result in a fine of $300 if anyone drops by for inspection to see if the note is up.  I would estimate the vast majority of employers in my town do not know about this law; are unaware of the fine; and even if they are, not all employees would know where the notice is posted.    Furthermore, the notice is never sent to employers as a separate mailing.

This kind of story just makes me angry.

“But;” you say, “we’re not to entangle ourselves in civilian affairs, right?”  Yes, that’s what the Bible verse says.  But we’re also, according to the book of Micah, expected to “do justice;” not to mention “love mercy.”  Grace and mercy and complete unknowns in stories like this.   As Philip Yancey says so well, we Christians operate by the law of grace, while the larger society operates by the law of un-grace.   And justice is simply not being served by this kind of entrapment.

I believe, for that reason, that this kind of story makes God angry, too.

Yesterday, we were on the freeway for about six hours.   I drove almost the entire distance in the passing lane.   That way I didn’t have to think about it if there was an emergency on the right side, which is usually the preferred side for rendering assistance.

Of course, driving extended distances in the passing lane is probably also punishable by fine.   But I’ll bet it’s less than $500.

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