[Catherine the Great] decided to have herself and her family and her court inoculated. Inoculation was the great scientific advance…In France and other Catholic countries it was actually forbidden as being contrary to the Will of God. So says Professor Tony Lentin of the Open University at (15.00) here.
I find this quote attributed to Pope Leo XII: Whoever allows himself to be vaccinated ceases to be a child of God. Smallpox is a judgement from God : thus vaccination is an affront to Heaven. Could not God smite some other way? Had strokes and heart attacks increased as vaccination spread, we could use this as evidence of God!
Seeking evidence, I went to Wikipedia. Vaccine Controversies does not finger the Pope, but ascribes similar sentiments to “some Christian opponents“. The article Vaccination and religion has the hallmarks of vituperative editing: Anti-vaccination proponents were most common in Protestant countries, someone has crowed. As I write, it says Quakers opposed vaccination: we were in our Evangelical phase, but I think that unlikely.
Quodlibeta‘s article gives a wealth of detail, and the peroration Leo XII’s alleged ban of vaccination is a whiggish myth which has been repeated and promulgated slavishly ever since…No doubt in cyberspace it will continue amongst those who will swallow any myth as long as it is anti-catholic or anti-religious.
That is the problem. The story has started as anti-Catholic, and is now anti-Christian, showing how we opposed science to the detriment of believers and their victims. The classic such story is geocentrism.
Still in Wikipedia, where the battle rages between those who would maximise or minimise the church’s foolish perfidy, I read that all books refuting geocentrism were banned by the Catholic church until 1757, and Galileo’s Dialogue was prohibited until 1835. Pope John Paul II claimed not to contend with science: the Bible does not concern itself with the details of the physical world, the understanding of which is the competence of human experience and reasoning. Theology is about the human relationship with God, though psychological research impinges on even that.
Seeking a happily partisan view, I went to RationalWiki. It gives little detail on the slow progress of the Roman church, but quotes four verses of the Bible apparently affirming geocentrism, and a link: “Looking for outright lies? CreationWiki has a page on Geocentrism”. Oh, OK. The Encyclopedia of Creation Science points out Einstein’s relativity theory asserts that the frame of reference for observing motion is arbitrary- so you can say the Earth stands still if you want- but Mainstream creationists agree that the the Earth is in motion around the Sun.
The message I wanted to leave you with is that when partisans debate such details, there is more heat than light, and what is needed is a patient examination of the history of ideas, and levels of belief. What I end with is both RationalWiki (Thank God it attacks Creationists, rather than all Christians!) and CreationWiki saying moderately sensible things on Geocentrism; and a University professor peddling an anti-Papist myth.
I am fully known.
O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquent with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
In the Lord’s hands, I am like a candle flame, cupped between hands in the night, or a flower, held gently in hands so as not to crush it. The hands become wings, and I fly away.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it. Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night’, even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.
Why would I need to see more than I see now? God sees, and that is enough. I fear life, and I fear God; but God is Good, and I may learn trust.
For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
The depths of the Earth. I think of two images of Edinburgh: in one, there is the fair city of the Bridges, and the darkness underneath. In the other, the Castle viewed from Princes St is the Fortress against the sky on its Rock, and down below are the flowers of the Gardens.
The dark, the Shadow: the Shadow shall be Light and beauty.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed. How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! I try to count them—they are more than the sand; I come to the end—I am still with you.
I shall know fully.
Dressed as an American woman of style, said the New Yorker. I don’t see it myself, except in the pose.
Is that a sweater, rather than a shawl? The bag, too, is too large. The suit is not androgynous at all: his clothes and accessories are entirely masculine, but- My Dear! The Pose!
One debtor I pursued would pay my client the supplier just before making his next order. Eventually the supplier got fed up. Several made up spurious complaints about goods supplied: almost always I acted for the creditors, but once I acted for the debtor, and it was my client trying that on. Sometimes it seems that the debtor would rather pay more money to a solicitor, to avoid paying a smaller debt- or, perhaps, run up fees without intending to pay them, either.
I have always dealt with these people at one remove, but have met fantasists. One woman told me she had been dismissed after transition, and her manager had written to the Human Resources worker: “Never send me a pervert like that again”. The HR worker was so shocked by this that she sent the letter to my friend, who used it to obtain £75,000 in compensation. The way I have told it, the story is full of holes: she told it slightly better, and I cannot remember or care how she filled in those holes. She also told me that she had two X chromosomes, but one had an “SRY inclusion factor” which had made her develop in the womb as a male. Apparently this is possible but uncommon. She told me “You look so feminine, possibly you have that too”- and I went away in a dream, to crash down to earth shortly after. I still resent her for that. I met one fantasist and heard later of her terrifying violence.
Then there were the two men who had served seven years for attempted murder. After one lost his DLA appeal, he started a long paranoid rant about how people in the DSS were conspiring against him. He had all his anger and malice, but prison had broken his ability to carry it out, except to his partner and children. As for the broken, grey woman who had chosen the other one, I never heard her speak.
Treading on difficult ground, here. I started with a specific case known to a specific person, whom I would like to call a friend even if a blogging connection seems too tenuous for that. Some reading will know whom I mean. I write selfishly- I do everything from selfish motives- and I am trying to be constructive. I can use both empathy and analysis, separately.
These people are at the tip of the bell-curve, but not a species apart: they show what humans are capable of, just as our heroes do. We can distance ourselves by seeing them as the enemy, the out-group- cockroaches, infidels, “gay activists” are such out-groups, and this is more difficult for me being in one such out-group myself. They show what those around me might be capable of. Yet- not everyone is like that: out of luck, we manage to avoid such urges, and rub along together.
Seeing one beggar at close quarters makes a far greater impact on me than knowledge of thousands of them in the city. This is a human response. It is the way we are wired up.
Through our encounter, Cara, aged seven, either sat on her father’s knee or lay on the floor. She was starved of oxygen during birth, and had the most severe brain-damage I have come across: apparently her eyes had been normal, but she was unable either to interpret the signals from them or to dilate her iris according to light levels, so the retinae would be damaged by too much light. She made wordless moans much of the time. Her limbs spasmed. She wore incontinence pads.
On the floor, she would lie still or twitch or writhe. Eating, she needed food pushed into her mouth. Her father treated her with loving care, and she did not seem to show the wild distress of a baby: perhaps he was expert in meeting her needs. He had split from his wife, and they shared her care.
Bangs and thumps from next door, and shouting. The music isn’t as loud as it has been, and tonight it was Dexy’s Midnight Runners: I might, just, listen to that myself. Then I did: maybe not. The parents have been over quite a bit, making sure she’s alright.
Well, what can she do? She can drink, which drives away the demons for a bit, dulls thought and feeling or makes feeling stronger but more bearable, because it can be expressed, then, in shouting or weeping which you might not do when sober. Except she has absorbed the lesson: drinking stops you dealing with problems without making them go away, so makes them worse. Drinking is a Bad Thing.
You do need other ways of dealing with things, though. She can turn her face to the wall, or shout. She has the repertoire of a sulky teenager, which I never developed with my own parents and which does not suit a woman in her forties- Alison, like me, is supposed to be more mature, and I sometimes think what I am doing it just one huge sulk.
The three of us are completely and totally handless. Incapable. What’re we like? And yet, somehow, the three of us are OK.
All this stuff about Arizona. Blogger wrote that comparing gay rights to civil rights was like comparing the Holocaust to a stubbed toe, and one of his commenters compared a gay commenter to Satan. Well- slavery then segregation were appalling, but so were legal persecution and homophobic violence. Quickly Googling, I found this Guardian article and commented with a link. One responded that the deaths are suicides, so “that doesn’t quite equate to the Holocaust”, and another that gangs are known for random acts of violence so the attack might have been for any reason.
Is it good news that people don’t often get murdered for being gay? In London, there has not been a homophobic murder since 2009/10. I read the words “transphobic murder” (one investigated in London in 2009/10) and feel a multitude of feelings, and I do not like it being compared to a stubbed toe. There are not many of us: fewer than three thousand gender recognition certificates have been issued, so one of us murdered gives a murder rate thirty times that of straights. I know it is too small a sample for accurate comparison- so?
Lower down the scale, in 2012/13 in London there were fifty transphobic and 1008 homophobic hate crimes reported. I think back to experiences: no, I did not report when that man tried to push me in front of a car. There was a scuffle on a pavement, with me and him as witnesses, and he did not succeed. My word is not proof beyond reasonable doubt, so such a case would get nowhere, not as far as the CPS, even if I could identify him; and I wanted to go home and calm down, not get something done about it. In surveys as opposed to crime reports, a trans woman might experience what is a crime once a week. My friend, knowing the streets better than I, insisted on ferrying me by car rather than let me use buses alone at night.
The British Crime Survey asks people their experience of crime, their confidence in the police and their sexuality. 0.7% in London say we are gay. That low percentage is because this is a doorstep survey and people do not wish to reveal their sexuality: the Government uses the figure 5-7% of the population. The BCS says that 57% of hate crimes go unreported, and one in fourteen LGB people experience violence each year, compared to one in 33 of the general population.
This is not like Russia with organised groups seeking out gay people to humiliate. It is a Civil Rights issue. It is not as bad as what black people suffered in parts of the US until the sixties; and that is no excuse for it. Seeking to diminish the violence against us is seeking to excuse it.
The Kingdom of Heaven is like- what could that mean? I find the labourers in the vineyard a perplexing parable.
In an experiment, two monkeys in adjacent cages visible to each other co-operated in a task equally, and were rewarded unequally: one with a grape, one with a piece of cucumber. Both got angry, apparently at the unfairness. Here a landowner who has a manager to look after his land hires workers, some of whom labour a whole day, some only an hour, and he rewards them equally, with a denarius- what the d in £sd. stands for, a standard wage, just enough for a day’s needs.
Who is the landowner? It could be God. God has his servants the Jews working through the heat of the day, and then along come the Christians an hour before the Second Coming when everything on Earth gets turned alright- and the Jews have not just done the work, they have missed out on the promise because they didn’t understand. The trouble is, this is God acting capriciously, which even monkeys on top resent. We could take lessons of our unworthiness- there is no health in us, no-one deserves their blessings- but then everyone does, for the damned cannot be blamed either.
God looks on. The characters in this story are people. Jesus ate in the houses of prosperous men: perhaps he is addressing them. O you with your land, and your manager so that you do not even need to supervise, there are these men in the marketplace who, if they get no work today, will not eat. Feeling a bit stuffed, actually, a bit drunk, after a good belch, you happen to notice one of these starving, too proud to beg, and you give him an hour’s work rather than a day’s. But when you dispense your largesse, instead of seeing how wonderful you are, people grumble. Some people are never satisfied.
The verses immediately previous tell of an encounter with a rich man, and has that line many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first (19:30 and 20:16). That is how the world works. It is capricious: with varying luck, people make their varying ways in the world, and some cannot see the opportunities before them, and some cannot do the work to make the luck, and we prosper, or not. The Roman empire had taken over, and tax-collectors were taking payment for the Roman occupying forces, and the former rich who had lived comfortably on the surplus were getting squeezed. They resented this, and squeezed the poor. Judea boiled over in disastrous rebellion forty years later.
The story is not pie in the sky when you die, it is how the world is, here, now. And yet, it is the Kingdom of Heaven.