Sunday, January 20, 2008

Greenspun's 10 Laws

Well.... my latest posts have been angry and serious. Maybe time for a change of pace. One of my little pet peeves is that Greenspun only had a 10th law and never did the other 9. So time to create a fake set of the 10 laws. I not even sure who among my readers is going to get the joke but its not a rant so enjoy:

Oh and please feel free to add any good ones to help co-create this.

Law 10 (Greenspun's 10th law): Any sufficiently complicated C or Fortran program contains an ad-hoc, informally-specified bug-ridden slow implementation of half of Common Lisp.

Law 9 (Norvig's variant): Any sufficiently complicated Common Lisp program contains an ad-hoc, informally-specified bug-ridden slow implementation of Prolog.

Law 8 (Haskell version): Any sufficiently advanced type system includes an incomplete and twisted subset of Scheme

Law 7 (Strong's version of the 10th): Any sufficiently complex data will be organized to contain a functional programming language

Law 6 (Ozen's refutation): Anyone who teaches and practices in a field still in its infancy has an informally specified, ad-hoc and bug-ridden collection of rules that often amuse but rarely enlighten.

Law 5 (Bone's Law): To fully understand any programming language, you must first implement a Lisp in it

Law 4 (Python Law): Most successful programming languages were invented by a brilliant programmer, Lisp is built into of the structure of the Universe.

Law 3 (Clarke's 3rd law): Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Law 2 (Law of variables): On a long enough time scale, all variables are temporary

Law 1 (Zawinski's Expansion Law): Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot so expand are replaced by ones which can.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Stepping off the bus

I waited a day to post this to check my feelings and they haven't changed. The discussion on Domestic Discipline went very badly. My original interest in anti-Patriarchy was accidental this blog picked up traffic when I explored the Jen Epstein (original and follow-up) case and I went where the need was. While I am still willing to help people who are fighting church discipline in Patriarchal churches, and I don't retract one word of Defense against Patriarchy I'm today publicly breaking with the anti-patriarchy crowd.

An argument has come forth again and again that Patriarchal churches encourage domestic violence. Christian Domestic Discipline was often used as an example of this encouragement.
This has now come to be a deliberate lie spread with malice and forethought. That is a strong charge that demands clarity and I will move to that directly below.

First off it is a lie. It is clear that Patriarchal churches are no more tolerant of DDers than they are of any other sexual minority, they show the same hostility and persecution. It is clear that every time I've asked people about this topic in their own churches whether the activity was either encouraged or even meaningfully addressed the answer is no. It is clear that patriarchal churches deal with domestic violence badly but they do consider it a sin. It is clear that every single example examined of people participating in CDD/DD do so in a fully consensual way completely in line with their cousins in the wider BDSM community. Quite simple Patriarchal churches do not encourage CDD/DD and CDD/DD is not domestic violence.

Second it is deliberate. On numerous occasions I've attempted when this issue has come up to raise the issue that CDD/DD is not domestic violence. Every time that has occurred there has been censorship. I raised the issue on this blog and faced controversy about even allowing for links. Yet the claim continues. When confronted with counter evidence most of the people spreading this lie simply refuse to discuss it.

Those that did discuss it that had pushed this agenda have in general done so with a level of maturity I would understandable but disappointing in a middle school child but intolerable in a high school age child. Without exception taking part in these discussions are parents and the vast vast majority are over 40.

Still, I struggled with my conscience here. Was I really asking too much in asking Fundamentalists to discuss this topic like adults. Was I simply imposing my own values and demanding they conform to them? The claim was being made over and over again that to discuss such a thing is inappropriately and immoral, and I was wrong to be doing so. I've thought about this and I have come to the conclusion I was not asking to much. I remembered an incident from a decade ago which was similar:

When I taught bio statistics there was a section in the book with a large number of problems which about plant reproduction, that assumed a detailed understanding. Almost without exception the students had forgotten how plants have sex. So in teaching the material I always had to do a refresher on plant reproduction and I always used as my basis human reproduction since it was one piece of related materials that I was sure the students were at least somewhat familiar with. The lecture was explicit and graphic much more so then I have been asking for the last six months.

For example to explain the various purposes of certain chemical reactions I used the analogy of male ejaculate and its effects on the vagina. I walked through in detail the production of male ejaculate and the corresponding chemicals. I did so with a diagram of the male and female reproductive system on a projected slides. At one point there was a question a type of plant where the pollon could fall down the wrong tube and I made an analogy to anal sex.

There were muslim woman with head coverings, fundamentalists, evangelicals, jehovah's witnesses, Sikh's who were in that lecture. They took notes, asked questions and did a nice job on a problem set that took them about 4 hours. That is, quite simply secular and religious student alike were able to engage with and absorb material about sex in an age appropriate manner. They had no problems there were no complaints, and the students certainly had no problems complaining about many other issues. I had a greater number of students turn in that assignment then most and the grades were higher, secular and religious students alike.

So no I don't think I'm asking too much. I have no choice but to conclude that there is simply a reluctance to honestly admit that what was claimed is occuring is not in fact occuring. The why brings us to the next point.

It is malicious. Patriarchal leaders have continuously rebuffed the assertion that their teachings lead to an uptick in domestic violence. CDD/DD seems to be an effective propaganda tool in convincing people that patriarchy can lead to domestic violence. That is this assertion is designed to humiliate patriarchal leaders. The fact that it further victimizes a sexual minority is seen as being of no consequence.

And finally forethought. This topic has come up before on multiple occasions in multiple forums. Many of the people spreading this lie have been challenged on it before. To spread a lie because one refuses to hear the truth constitutes forethought.

I've tolerated homophobia because I understand that from their perspective it is not a lie. But this issue has been bothering me for six months. I've tried my best to assume good faith.

If the anti-Patriarchy bus has gotten to the point that it is willing to defame Patriarchy with deliberate lies, its time for me to step off. In no way should this be seen as an endorsement of patriarchy. Their one case of this does not begin to rise to the level of the dozens or hundreds on the other side. But for me at least I can't see enough of a difference between the two shades of gray.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Open Discussion on Domestic Discipline and Patriarchy

This is meant to be a placeholder post on the issue of domestic discipline and patriarchy. There is no article but the comments section could be quite long. This topic comes up inevitably on various patriarchy discussion, and the idea is to create a place for people to discuss this topic without any rules.
  • Be as explicit as you want
  • Feel free to ask questions, any questions and hopefully someone will answer
  • If you want to post anonymously please sign the post with some sort of fake handle to keep the various anonymous posters threads clear
If anyone shows up I'll try and see if I can get some people who are into DD to join the conversation.

There are thousands of weblinks on this topic a small sample:
Just so everyone knows my editorial bias:
  1. I consider DD to be part of the BDSM umbrella
  2. I don't consider the practice immoral or oppressive
  3. I see lots of evidence that what's going on is that CDDers are using patriarchy as a fantasy backdrop, to their play. That doesn't mean they may not genuinely believe in traditional roles and/or see these roles as biblically sanctioned.
  4. I think patriarchy has lots of D/S themes but I see no evidence that a large percentage of the woman involved are either sexually or non sexually masochistic.
Feel free to disagree with any of the above or raise any part of this topic.



Well the discussion deadlocked. I'm going to discuss this more in a future post. Moreover, in trying to achieve a goal to far I violated my own integrity regarding best possible sources by not including, the link. I'm repenting and fixing that now
  • Taken in Hand an excellent support how/to site
  • An article and discussion on (warning banner ads may be R/X)
  • Under Much Grace discussion (including because the discussion to be forking to there)
  • A website run by psychologists discussing the difference between BDSM and abuse (some nudity)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Marian Guinn vs Church of Christ Collinsville

The Marian Guinn case in 1984 was a key precedent for the Hancock case. The case involved a nurse who started dating Pat Sharp, the Mayor of Collinsville. Because he was divorced on unbiblical grounds the Church of Christ forbid Marian from seeing him. She continued to see him and more confrontations insured. She in confidence admitted to having a sexual relations. A church discipline case was started, Marian quit the church. The church rejected the withdrawal, excommunicated her and then advised all the churches in the neighborhood of her actions. Marion sued and the case became a major precedent.
This case presents a wealth of topics. First off, the Oklahoma court found against Marian regarding the issue of internal confidentiality. Again churches are not required to maintain confidences there is no expectation of privacy (see Penley v. Westbrook for a modern example). This is something that comes up again and again in discussions regarding church discipline so its worth commenting here, that a member that talks within a church to another member has no legal rights of confidentiality. Readers here should note that if they want to maintain their legal rights, they should not discuss things in church or in a church capacity!
Second, the court again affirmed a high bar for oversight of those actions that occurred while she was a member of the church. A church can do whatever it wants without any legal oversight unless such actions endanger peace, safety or public order.
The third point though is one many conservative churches most certainly went against the notion of church covenant. The court held that binding commitments to a church had no effect in law. Quite simply after withdrawing a church court was just another entity:
Engel [ed: school led prayer is illegal] is supported by historical fact; many who left England and its governmentally established church for America did so in pursuit of religious freedom. The First Amendment of the United States [775 P.2d 777] Constitution was designed to preserve freedom of worship by prohibiting the establishment or endorsement of any official religion. One of the fundamental purposes of the First Amendment is to protect the people's right to worship as they choose. Implicit in the right to choose freely one's own form of worship is the right of unhindered and unimpeded withdrawal from the chosen form of worship. In Engel it was the government that, by advocating one particular form of religious worship, threatened to limit freedom of choice; here, it is the Collinsville Church of Christ that, by denying Parishioner's right to disassociate herself from a particular form of religious belief, is threatening to curtail her freedom of worship according to her choice. Unless Parishioner waived the constitutional right to withdraw her initial consent to be bound by the Church of Christ discipline and its governing Elders, her resignation was a constitutionally protected right....

By voluntarily uniting with the church, she impliedly consented to submitting to its form of religious government, but did not thereby consent to relinquishing a right which the civil law guarantees her as its constitutionally protected value. The intentional and voluntary relinquishment of a known right required for a finding of an effective waiver was never established. On the record before us Parishioner - a sui juris person - removed herself from the Church of Christ congregation rolls the moment she communicated to the Elders that she was withdrawing from membership.


While the First Amendment requires that citizens be tolerant of religious views different from and offensive to their own, it surely does not require that those like Parishioner, who choose not to submit to the authority of any religious association, be tolerant of that group's attempts to govern them. Only those "who unite themselves" in a religious association impliedly consent to its authority over them and are "bound to submit to it." Parishioner voluntarily joined the Church of Christ and by so doing consented to submit to its tenets. When she later removed herself from membership, Parishioner withdrew her consent, depriving the Church of the power actively to monitor her spiritual life through overt disciplinary acts. No real freedom to choose religion would exist in this land if under the shield of the First Amendment religious institutions could impose their will on the unwilling and claim immunity from secular judicature for their tortious acts.
This bears repeating. Once a withdraw has occurred the first amendment protections don't belong to the church, rather they belong to the individual. All religious activity in the United States is consensual, a person who publically claims not to be a member of a church is legally not a member of that church and church discipline cannot continue without consent. A church attempting to discipline a person that has withdrawn can be found to be engaging in a form of harassment.

The original judgment against Church of Christ was for $390,000 which was six times the annual budget of the church. The court did reverse the damages since the original court had failed to separate which tortuous acts had before and after her withdraw.

See Also

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Sovereign Grace Ministries

Sovereign Grace Ministries (SG) is a family of churches of the charismatic baptists led by C. J. Maheney, with a reformed theology. That is a reformed baptist outlook that is on the far right but not outside the American Christian mainstream. Pictured at the right is the well known "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" author Joshua Harris, who now leads Covenant Life Church, a flagship church for Sovereign Grace. Recently a discussion board by the name of Sovereign Grace Uncensored has been founded which aims to critique the church without the censorship which the blog maintainer (who goes by krismum7). During a thread Your Questions and Concerns a point was raised about church discipline and one of the posters recommended your humble author. So During the discussion your author actually found himself arguing that he saw no evidence that SG was anything but quite open and upfront that they practiced church discipline and that they expected their discipline to be respected by other churches. I agreed to do an analysis of a church covenant and the one currently pastored by Joshua Harris (hence the choice of pictures).

For readers with no association with the SG the main point of interest is that this covenant was written after the Norman Hancock ruling and thus explicitly comes into compliance with the law in a way that many Southern Baptist churches have not done yet. It also presents an opportunity to teach how one should read through one of these agreements in some detail and read between the lines.

Appendix C which is referred to several times in the document, the "Statement on Church Discipline"
As members of Covenant Life Church we take seriously our responsibility to “restore” members who fail to allow God to discipline them personally for their sins. This means that beginning with private confrontation and, if necessary, leading to public rebuke, we seek to help one another overcome any refusal to repent of those words and actions that the Bible clearly defines as sin. This includes not only sinful words and behavior, but also refusal to turn from heretical doctrine.
Jesus outlined a process for addressing another believer’s sin in Matthew 18:15-17.5 As a church we agree that this is the way for us to approach someone who refuses to appropriate God’s grace for change.
(Appendix C)
Two points worth mentioning:
  1. The church does punish heresy but as indicated below they don't have mechanisms for a heresy trial. Many of the members on SGUncensored complained of the repressive atmosphere regarding teachings and the origin of the problem is here.
  2. Everyone uses the "Matthew 18 process" this is standard and is covered in depth on my walk throughs section.
The document then goes on to describe parts 1 and 2 of Matthew 18. From here there is another clause worth discussing in detail:

When the church begins to formally discipline a member, the church’s pastors inquire with the individual member in question to confirm fact and to appeal for change. If change is not forthcoming, the pastors will inform the church of the member and his sin, urging members to contact the erring member and appeal for repentance. During this time, the member under discipline may not participate in the Lord’s Supper or attend meetings for the purpose of fellowship. Instead, his participation with members should revolve around his need for change. If, after a reasonable period of appeal, no repentance if forthcoming, the pastors will inform the church again, this time announcing that they must revoke membership and that the church must now treat the unrepentant person as they treat unbelievers: in other words, when they interact with this person they should not have “fellowship” as the Bible defines it, but they should appeal for the former member to put his faith in Jesus’ work on the cross for him and turn from his sin.
The Matthew 18 process is quite vague as it names 5 steps yet there is a tradition of a 4 step process:
  1. Individual confrontation
  2. Confrontation by 2 or 3 others
  3. Notification of the church
  4. Suspension of the Lord's supper
  5. Excommunication
Every church has the problem of exactly which steps to combine (interesting the Lutherans do actually make it a 5 step process). In the case of SG steps 3 and 4 are combined which is not unusual. The other common alternative to combine steps 4 and 5 and identify excommunication with suspension from the supper. These two positions have quite different idealogies. Combining 3&4 generally sees the process as progressing through ever increases circles of authority:
  1. Step 1 = an individual Christian, usually a 1st party to the events
  2. Step 2 = a small group of Christians, that is neutral 3rd parties
  3. Step 3,4 = Church leadership
  4. Step 5 = The church session which empowers the leadership
Conversely those that combine 4&5 have an ideology of levels of proof:
  1. Step 1 = An individual makes an accusation (like a complaint to the police)
  2. Step 2 = The accusation has grounds and is of the sort the church address (D.A files)
  3. Step 3 = The accusation has been confirmed by evidence (person is found guilty)
  4. Step 4, 5 = Punishment and then increasing punishment (think probation and then jail after a probation violation).
Both systems are reasonable and backed by centuries of tradition. However both systems have a concern with due process. In the 3&4 system it occurs with a series of very different bodies each examining the case. In the 4&5 system it occurs mainly in Step 3, the trial. To use a 4&5 system without a trial procedure and moreover expect the full session to enforce punishment sounds, quite frankly, like cultic behavior unworthy of a church or organization with close ties to SBC leadership.

Now there does appear to be some sort of a clause here where the leadership meets to "confirm fact" however:
  • What if they don't receive confirmation but they have strong evidence?
  • What if they receive partial confirmation?
  • What if they receive confirmation but there is disagreement on interpretation of fact?
  • What is there is disagreement on law?
  • What is there are complex extenuating circumstances and thus one party sees the acts as situational?
None of this is addressed. A policy like this begs for abuse. I should however mention so far no evidence has been presented as to whether this is an error (an act of ignorance) or a deliberate attempt to create a cultic atmosphere (an act of malice). I will be inviting SG to comment and my hope would be that I am misunderstanding the document or that there is another document which comments in much more detail on these questions, and what is above is a gross simplification of the process.

In the membership agreement the membership specifically agrees to uphold this process, in particular they waive a right to review cases before engaging in corporate punishment:

I will watch out for church members and admonish anyone whose practice of sin requires it. If one of our number requires corporate discipline, I will support the efforts and direction of the church, as led by its pastors, to call that member to repent of his sins. I agree with the church’s doctrine and practice of church discipline. (Appendix A: Membership Agreement)
Now as mentioned above they are in compliance with the law:
At times a member may seek to withdraw from the church to avoid church discipline and its consequences. Just as a good shepherd will go after a sheep that has wandered from the flock (Matt. 18:12-14; Ezek. 34:4,8,16), so shall the pastors and members of this church seek to restore a wandering member to the Lord through biblical discipline. Therefore, discipline may be instituted or continued either before or after a member seeks to withdraw from membership if the Board of Governing Pastors determines that such discipline may serve to guard and preserve the honor of God, protect the purity of the church, or restore the wandering member to the Lord. While the church cannot force a withdrawing member to remain in this congregation, the church has the right and the responsibility to encourage restoration, to bring the disciplinary process to an orderly conclusion, and to make a final determination as to the person’s membership status at the time withdrawal is sought or acknowledged. In doing so, the Board of Governing Pastors, at its discretion, may temporarily suspend further disciplinary proceedings, dismiss any or all charges pending against the accused, or proceed with discipline and pronounce an appropriate censure.
After having blasted them for the above I should mention that this passage is fully compliant with the law, and I applaud SG for that (as I did above). It acknowledges that church membership is a voluntary association which can terminated at will by the member. The church most certainly does have the right to determine status of an exiting member (i.e. they can excommunicate a member who wishes to leave under discipline) but they cannot continue a disciplinary process against their consent to remain a member. If you are an SG member attempting to leave (How to leave a church) addresses your issues, if you want to examine your options (including information on how to circumvent and undermine a disciplinary process, how to survive discipline)

The final section was the point of inquest:
If a member leaves the church while he is under the scrutiny of the disciplinary process or while a censure against him is still in effect, and if the Board of Governing Pastors learns that he is attending another church, the Board may inform that church that the person is currently under church discipline and may ask that church to encourage the accused to repent of his sin and to be restored to the Lord and to any people whom he has offended. Such communications enhance the possibility that a person may finally repent of his sin, and, at the same time, serve to warn the other church to be on guard against the harm that the accused might do to their members (see Matt. 18:12-14; Rom. 16:17; 1 Cor. 5:1-13; 2 Thess. 3:6-14; 2 Tim. 1:15; 2:16-18; 4:9, 14-15; 3 John 9-10).
Once the pastors make a sin publicly known, they commit as well to inform the church of repentance and restoration to fellowship as appropriate to the situation and the good of the church.
Christians who attend Covenant Life Church and have been excluded from fellowship from another church will not be allowed to participate in fellowship in Covenant Life unless they repent of their sins and make confession and restitution with their former church or the pastors of Covenant Life are able to determine that the former church did not apply church discipline according to Scripture.
Basically what this says is that SG respects the discipline of churches provided they would have acted similarly (that is they reserve appellate capacity) and at the same time expect other churches to uphold their excommunications. They also specifically commit to contacting other church to facilitate this. I'm not sure how to expand on my debating point here, SG frankly couldn't be more clear.

So in answer to, "As much as I admired and respected our SGM pastor, would I really want him (or, for that matter, any group of human authorities) to be able to dictate, for the rest of my life, the conditions of my church fellowship ANYWHERE?" that is precisely what this membership agreement asserts. Moreover this is not the only place they assert it, as I mentioned in the discussion on SGUncensored, one of if not the leader in the SBC for bring back pre civil war discipline is Mike Dever of 9Marks and Maheney wrote on the back cover that, "This is the best book I have read on this topic of critical importance.” Dever is also a founder of the "four friends" along with people like McArthur who have been preaching and practicing this sort of discipline for decades.

I find it curious that the SG membership didn't understand this position. Hopefully this point gets addressed in the discussion. And I will welcome SG leadership to comment on the above, in particular the complete lack of due process which neither Dever nor McArthur supports. There is no better way to undermine Church discipline then to create excommunications which the membership does not support but is required to uphold. History is replete with examples of the damage of invalid excommunications(see our QE series for examples). For a person looking to leave the church, a disagreement with these clauses in the membership agreement strike me as a very defensible reason for your letter of disaffiliation.

See also a later article on methodology of abuse.