And now, for something completely different…

While teaching kids with learning disabilities in Las Vegas, I became convinced of the tremendous power of music as a learning aid. Students who had difficulty with rote memorization seemed especially to benefit from musical mnemonic devices.

My process for teaching kids to easily compute multiplication facts is simple and twofold:

  1. Teach kids how to skip-count (count by multiples)
  2. Teach kids how to multiply using skip-counting

In order to teach my kids how to skip-count, I created several funky songs to that end.  They may be listened to, downloaded and shared freely*:  Skip-counting songs

And here is my method for teaching the songs and how to multiply using skip-counting:  Instructions (pdf)

I will periodically add more songs, so stay ‘tuned’ (Har!).

*provided you don’t turn around and sell them, etc.  Full terms of the license found here.

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President Obama's Inauguration Speech

President Obama's Inauguration Speech

Made on Wordle using this transcript.

God is genderqueer

I realized the other night that I don’t experience God as simply male or female.  With all due respect to my Lord and Savior, who, according to the Gospel writers, gave God a decidedly masculine ‘Father’ identity for God, I simply can’t make gendered pronouns for God fit my experience of God.  Neither “Father” this, “She” that, nor “God Hirself” quite seems to do it.

Not that my gender-confusion over God is a bad thing.  To the contrary, a singular notion of the image of God is so far beyond my comprehension that having no good pronouns actually works better than forcing inept ones.genderqueer

To me, God is combination of two or more elements: a stable, all-encompassing entity of spirit-force who is amorphous and certainly un-gendered in any conventional sense, juxtaposed with a hundred trillion images of all of the diversity of creation: animals, plants, earth, sky, and humans too.  In that sense, that of specific manifestations of God, characteristics like gender, sex, identity, race, ability, outward appearance, to name a few, may be in fact intricately connected to the fundamental nature of God.

Meanwhile, here’s what some of the internets say about genderqueerness, helpfully edited by me to be inclusive towards deities.

Wikipedia:

Genderqueer and intergender are catchall terms for gender identities other than man and woman. People [and/or deities] who identify as genderqueer may think of themselves as being both male and female, as being neither male nor female, or as falling completely outside the gender binary. Some wish to have certain features of the opposite sex and not all characteristics; others want it all.

Fact-index:

…There are different modes of being genderqueer, and it is an evolving concept. Some believe they are a little of both or feel they have no gender at all. Others believe that gender is a social construct, and choose not to adhere to that construct. Some genderqueers do fit into the stereotypical gender roles expected of their sex [and/or divinity], but still reject gender as a social construct. Still other people [and/or deities] identify as genderqueer since…they do not fit many of society’s expectations for the gender in which they identify…

A God who falls completely outside the gender-binary?  Who transcends the expectations and limitations of society?  Who manifests certain features of masculinity and femininity at once?  Now that makes sense to me.  God is genderqueer!

Separation of Church (marriage) and State (unions)

One of the more frustrating aspects about the current debate over same-sex marriage is the utter shallowness of the theology on the anti-marriage side.  Having wrongfully presumed that it is their prerogative to determine whether other people’s civil marriages meet their theological criteria, the only theological criteria they offer up is that of gender. Britney Spears wants to drunkenly marry some guy for 15 minutes?  No problem.  A couple of straight swingers want to get married and swap partners every night til death do them part?  Let ’em.  But to allow any two women or two men to get married would go against their religion.

Of course, few if any would advocate that we hold anyone else’ civil marriages up to religious scrutiny.  That would be considered inappropriate, overreaching.  Yet, that is precisely what we do any time civil marriage is denied on the basis of gender, as there is no argument against same-sex marriage that is not religious in origin.

Here’s the problem:  gay people not only are allowed to get married in my church, but have been for decades.  As far as religious marriage – as opposed to civil marriage – is concerned, we will continue this forever.  Yet, other peoples’ concept of religious marriage have overreached into our church building, effectively neutralizing our religious marriages so that they do not result in the same civil benefits as others.  If religious marriage is going to be interchangeable with civil marriage, as is presently the case in American society, fine.  But not if only one narrow interpretation of religious marriage is going to be enforced on everybody.

So the sanctity of marriage should be protected.  The marriages that my church conduct should have the same legal standing as any other religious marriages.  People smarter than me have drawn up big arguments around the following idea, but in a nutshell, here is my plan for restoring marriage in America.

  1. Religious and civil marriages should no longer be synonymous.
  2. Civil marriages should be called civil unions.
  3. Civil unions would provide all civil rights presently enjoyed by those who are married.
  4. Religious marriages would retain the title of “marriage” but would not, in and of themselves, provide any civil rights, benefits, etc. from the national, state, or local government.
  5. Civil unions would be not be denied on the basis of gender.
  6. It is up to the individual community of faith to determine its own rules regarding who may be married there.

Then and now

It’s fucked up to spend all day in a class about the Book of Judges, reading account after account about how Yhwh is understood to have demonstrated his love for the ancient people of Israel by helping them kill all their neighboring enemies – and then come home to this:

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This image (NYT) comes from airstrikes that occurred in Gaza City today.  This particular child was buried when the Israeli army destroyed a house filled with thirty people – because, naturally, the house belongs to a member of Hamas.  Other highlights from today’s airstrikes are that a U.N. school was hit, killing at least 30.

The most tragic thing is, this new violence isn’t new at all.  There have been 2800 years at minimum, and counting, of cyclical violence in this region – between roughly the same ethnic groups.  So will somebody please explain to me how even more violence now is going to finally achieve the peace for which both sides have so long been fighting?

Deep thoughts

Why do some people think that a person’s having a vagina or penis actually has anything to do with their resulting sexual preference? Does having particular genitalia supposedly cause you to have certain desires? Because if so, that seems oddly humorous.

Tune in tomorrow for a new installment of, “The Random Thought Which Popped Right Into Tom’s Head During Class Today.”