Thursday, August 29, 2013

Leviticus

In her radio show, Dr Laura Schlesinger said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following response is an open letter to Dr. Laura, penned by a US resident, which was posted on the Internet. It's funny, as well as informative:

Dear Dr. Laura:
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can.  When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination ... end of debate.


I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them.
 1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighbouring nations.  A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify?  Why can't I own Canadians?
 2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7.  In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
 3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of Menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15: 19-24.  The problem is how do I tell?  I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

 4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odour for the Lord - Lev.1:9.  The problem is my neighbours.  They claim the odour is not pleasing to them.  Should I smite them?
 5. I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death.  Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?
 6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination, Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?  Are there 'degrees' of abomination?
 7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight.  I have to admit that I wear reading glasses.  Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here? 
 8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19 27.  How should they die?
 9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig make  me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
 10. My uncle has a farm.  He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot.  Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them?Lev. 24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14) Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.
Your adoring fan,
James M. Kauffman, Ed.D. Professor Emeritus, Dept. Of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education, University of Virginia.
PS. It would be a damned shame if I couldn’t own a Canadian.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Xabi + Xavi + Javi

ÁLEX GRIJELMO
La selección española suele contar en su equipo titular con Xabi Alonso y Xavi Hernández, vasco de Tolosa el jugador madridista y catalán de Terrassa el azulgrana. No pudieron jugar juntos en la Copa Confederaciones que se disputó el pasado junio, porque el tolosarra sufría una lesión, pero lo han hecho en innumerables ocasiones y —por el bien del fútbol— esperemos que coincidan muchas veces más.
La semejanza que algunos locutores han percibido en sus nombres y la búsqueda incesante de la originalidad en el periodismo han dado lugar a que en ciertas ocasiones se hable de “los dos Xabis” (¿o “los dos Xavis”?) en algunas emisoras que ofrecen de esta forma la alineación correspondiente a la zona medular: “En el centro del campo, los dos Xabis”.
Salvando todas las distancias, y con el respeto que merecen ambos futbolistas, el problema se parece a aquel chascarrillo según el cual una vaca viajaba subida en la baca y al accidentarse el coche se caían las dos. ¿Las dos bacas? ¿Las dos vacas?

La respuesta adecuada indicaba que no se podía hablar ni de bacas ni de vacas, pues se trataba no solo de dos significados diferentes sino también de dos significantes distintos.
Baca y vaca constituyen un claro ejemplo de términos que técnicamente se llaman “parónimos”: vocablos “que tienen entre sí relación o semejanza, por su etimología o solamente por su forma o sonido”. Y que no por ello son sinónimos.
Así sucede con Xabi y Xavi. Y también con Javi, porque la España plural disfruta de un fútbol tan rico que su calidad y variedad se extiende incluso a las formas léxicas. En el equipo conviven, con la contribución del navarro Javi Martínez, tres maneras distintas de expresar el mismo nombre en tres lenguas españolas.
¿Diremos algún día que coinciden en un partido de la selección “los tres Javis”, “los tres Xabis”, “los tres Xavis”?
El motivo de que Xabi se escriba con “be alta” y Xavi con “ve baja”, según designan a estas letras en América, no tiene relación alguna con la estatura de cada uno de ellos como oí una vez a alguien que hablaba con buen humor. La escritura es distinta porque se trata de dos palabras de dos idiomas diferentes.
En euskera la grafía correcta del apócope que en castellano escribimos “Javi” precisa de una equis y una be. Y en catalán, la be se torna una uve.

Esos dos nombres ni siquiera tienen la misma pronunciación, hecho al que debieran atender con más mimo (y mayor respeto a nuestras lenguas) algunos narradores deportivos: el “Xabi” vasco suena más a Sabi; mientras que el catalán anda cerca de la pronunciación Chavi. Pero oímos con frecuencia “Sabi Hernández” y “Chavi Alonso”, sin mayor criterio.
Igual sucedería con dos jugadores que se llamasen “Charles” y “Carlos”. ¿“Los dos Charles”, “los dos Carlos”? No, estamos ante dos palabras y dos lenguas distintas. La confusión se extiende a otros nombres vascos o catalanes, como Mikel y Miquel (llana aquella palabra en euskera, aguda esta en catalán).
Hace muchos años que convivimos en los medios de comunicación con nombres propios del catalán, el gallego y el euskera. Antaño casi nadie se llamaba en público Agustí, Brais o Ander, ni mucho menos en el registro. Incluso un periódico de Madrid castellanizó durante años, ya en plena democracia, los nombres propios de persona de otras lenguas españolas: “Miguel Roca” en vez de “Miquel Roca”, por ejemplo.

Los nombres de pila ajenos al castellano suelen ocasionar dificultades a quienes hablan en la radio o la televisión. Cuántas veces hemos oído “Ártur Mas” con acentuación llana en el nombre de pila pese a que corresponde aguda, pues no se trata de un inglés sino de un catalán. O Róbert donde procede “Robert” (en este caso con mayor intensidad en la última sílaba).

Tal vez resulte interesante para la mejor convivencia de las culturas peninsulares, y sin desdén alguno hacia las insulares, que todos conociésemos algunos rudimentos de las lenguas autonómicas: que los castellanohablantes supiéramos, por ejemplo, contar hasta diez en catalán o en euskera o en gallego, o decir “buenos días” y “buena suerte”, o “hasta mañana” y “feliz Navidad” o “feliz cumpleaños” en cualquiera de esos idiomas; o “felicidades por la victoria de tu equipo ayer”.
Quizás para algunas generaciones resulte algo difícil a estas alturas, pero al menos los periodistas que han de citar a diario nombres propios en catalán, gallego o euskera sí pueden, si así lo desean, afrontar el esfuerzo de saber bien cómo se pronuncian. Y tal vez no sea mala idea que los maestros de toda España ocupen algunos ratos de sus clases —incluso a iniciativa personal— para impartir ciertas nociones sobre esos idiomas y sus palabras más usuales. (Quizás muchos ya lo hacen).
Quién sabe si así todos sentiremos más nuestras las otras lenguas que, en tanto que ciudadanos de una nación rica en culturas, también podemos considerar como propias. El País, 18 de agosto de 2013

Sunday, August 04, 2013

A Papal Surprise: Humility

By JOHN CORVINO

The New York Times, Published: July 30, 2013


DETROIT — When I was a kid and someone said anything judgmental, my Brooklyn Italian relatives would retort: “Oh, yeah? Who died and made you pope?” So I was astonished to learn that Pope Francis, during his flight back to Rome from Brazil on Monday, told reporters: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

“Um, you’re the pope!” is the expected refrain from traditionalist Catholics, who have recently complained about everything from the new pope’s fashion choices (“What? No brocade? Not even the red shoes?”) to his relative silence on conservative political causes. And who can blame them for feeling disoriented? Judgment — especially in matters of sexuality — has for many centuries seemed to be part of the papal job description. 

To be clear, the pope’s remarks do not signal a change in doctrine. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that sex outside marriage is wrong, and that marriage means one man, one woman. Before he became pope, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires, called same-sex marriage a “destructive attack on God’s plan.” He has not rescinded those remarks, and no one expects him to.
Yet it has also been reported that Cardinal Bergoglio quietly favored a compromise that would have permitted civil unions in Argentina (which, over the church’s vehement opposition, legalized same-sex marriage, in 2010). And it’s hard to know how much of his public stance was a function of his being a company man — no longer a factor now that the man heads the company.

Pope Francis’s surprising remarks came in response to a question about an alleged “gay lobby” in the Vatican. His response: “When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency is not the problem.” He added: “They’re our brothers.” 

These comments leave plenty of room for parsing. Progressives will emphasize his claim that homosexual orientation is “not the problem,” a far cry from the approach of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who in response to the church sex-abuse scandal said that those with “strong homosexual inclinations,” even if celibate, were unfit to be priests. 

When he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the church’s doctrinal enforcer, Benedict, who resigned in February, called homosexuality an “objective disorder” that tends toward “an intrinsic moral evil.” With his retired predecessor living a short walk away in Vatican City, Francis is unlikely to formally repudiate that doctrine. 

As for “who am I to judge,” surely the pope is not relinquishing the church’s assertion of authority in matters of faith and morals. But he was adopting a tone of humility. And tone matters.
It matters because it signals that the Vatican might stop scapegoating gays for its problems of personnel and governance. And it matters to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth, especially those raised Catholic, who grow up thinking that their desires are not just a sin but a perversion, a moral stain of the highest order. 

Not long after Francis assumed the papacy, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the archbishop of New York, made similarly conciliatory remarks. Asked how he would respond to a loving same-sex couple, he replied: “Well, the first thing I’d say to them is, ‘I love you, too. And God loves you. And you are made in God’s image and likeness.’ ” 

While being careful to say only that gays were “entitled to friendship,” he went on to observe that the church must “do better to see that our defense of marriage is not reduced to an attack on gay people. And I admit, we haven’t been too good at that.” 

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, a gay Catholic group, called Cardinal Dolan’s remarks “nothing short of an Easter miracle.” 

Rising from the dead would be an Easter miracle. Not attacking gays is just simple human decency — not to mention good politics, since most American Catholics support marriage rights for same-sex couples. Surely the church’s leaders, in America and in Rome, recognize that, in much of the Western world, homophobia is a losing long-term strategy.
Many will see Pope Francis’s remarks, like Cardinals Dolan’s, as simply a retooled version of “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” When applied to homosexuality, that paradigm has always been unstable: the “sin” in question is not some isolated misstep, like lying on a tax return or tweeting a picture of your crotch. It’s about the fundamental relationships around which people organize their lives.

Still, when the pope asks “who am I to judge?” and calls gays “our brothers,” he brings the “love” part of “love the sinner” front and center. That’s rare, refreshing and welcome. 


John Corvino is an associate professor and the chairman of the philosophy department at Wayne State University.