Thursday, 31 March 2011

Birthday Twins

Happy birthday to me... AND to my tenth great-grandfather John Eades, who was born on this date 338 years before I was!

John Eades was born in Essex, England in 1651 and at some point in time made the crossing to the new world! Well, to Massachusetts to be exact. He was the son of John Eades, the son of John Eades (I guess name choices were based more on tradition than on creativity). His mother was possibly named Elizabeth Gladwyn, but I haven't found any documents to back that up. Isn't it ironic that we're more likely to record a kid's father, even though the mother is technically much more verifiable?

John married Mary Tufts in 1674 in the USA and proceeded to have children with her. Assuming that the mothers were all honest about the fathers of their children AND that the 300 years worth of historical documents are correct AND that there weren't numerous John Eades running around Massachusetts, my relationship to John Eades the Third goes like this:

John Eades (b. MARCH 31, 1651)
Sarah Eades (b. 1691)
Sarah Wager (b. 1714)
Walter Dickerson (b. 1739)
Noadiah Dickerson (b. 1760)
Daniel Dickerson (b. 1787)
Chilion Ford Dickerson (b. 1808)
Viola Almaretta Dickerson (b. 1851)
Florence Ethel Lovelace (b. 1881)
Mave Hope Waters (b. 1906)
Muriel Joy Klaproth (b. 1930)
Sandra Leanne Meginbir (b. 1963)
Carla Muriel Heinrichs (b. MARCH 31, 1989)

Yeah, it might not be exactly accurate, but it's gotta be close. I love family history!

“People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.” Edmund Burke

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Bonhoeffer was NOT Canadian

Yet for a moment I thought he had stood in for my grandfather in some of the family pictures... The one of the far left is either the famous theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer or he's my maternal grandfather, Albert Meginbir.

This one is also Dietrich.

This one, on the other hand, is definitely my grandfather. But no, that is not my grandmother. And no, I don't approve of her smoking. But regardless of who she is and what she is doing, don't you agree that my grandpa could have passed for Bonhoeffer in a pinch if they happened to find themselves the same age in the same decade? Not that he would want to, seeing as Bonhoeffer was executed by the Nazis, but still...

I don't have any quotes at all from my grandfather, as he died when my mom was small, so I'll use a random quote by Bonhoeffer instead:

“It is not only what is said that matters, but also the man who says it.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Pedestrian Power

There is a one-way street downtown which must be crossed over twice during the course of a day if you happen to volunteer at the Distress Centre and your primary mode of transportation is the C-train. In order to cross this one-way street, a pedestrian has two options: jay walk, or cross legally at the intersection when the walking-man light tells you it's safe to cross.

Which is the better option? Well, usually I choose the latter. However, this one-way street is not terribly busy. Plus, the C-train runs across it, sometimes blocking off all traffic entirely. And even when the C-train is not there, it is still a very simple matter to glance down the street to see whether any moving vehicles at all are in within a three-block range. And the little walking-man light is not in tune with any of these circumstances.

Walking home last week, I was stopped at this intersection, waiting for the light to turn. No cars were coming. There was a couple with a stroller across the street from me, also waiting, and another woman behind them... guess what, waiting. We were all waiting. And no cars were coming. Yet the light still didn't change.

So I glanced around for any police and, seeing none, I stepped off the curb, onto the road. And I strode across the pavement as if the bright orange hand weren't still glaring at me from the light post. Almost immediately, the couple with the stroller also stepped off the curb and began crossing. And so did the woman behind them - even though the light still said DON'T WALK. I had influenced those other people to cross the street.

It was a strange feeling. Usually, when I exert power over others, I am overcome with a sense of glee. This time, however, I didn't feel a sense of glee. I guess influencing others to follow me into crime just doesn't give me the same thrill that exerting more benevolent power does. That's probably a good thing.

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." Abraham Lincoln

Monday, 7 March 2011

Faced with the Veil

Is it possible to dress too modestly? Or, rather, should anyone be allowed to wear full burkhas with face veils in Canada? I really dislike this picture, by the way.

Ignore for a moment the fact that many women are forced into wearing burkhas, as it probably is true that some choose to wear it of their own free will. In their view, a woman showing her face is immodest and provocative. We generally respond to this with something along the lines of, "You're in Canada now. Your face is fine. Deal with it." As far as I am aware, a woman must show her face in certain situations, like when she is pulled over by a police officer for speeding. He has to verify that she is who she says she is, and she can't demand to show only a female because there may not be a female officer present.

But suppose we head down to the jungle of Ecuador somewhere and we come across a village where the people wear g-strings and precious little else. It is certainly counter-cultural to then wear a standard amount of Western clothing. We would probably be quite uncomfortable taking off our clothes just to fit in with the locals. Yet, what if we were required by law to bare all? Is that fair? What if beaches in Canada required all swimmers to wear bikinis or speedos and nothing else? I suspect there would be some backlash.

Apart from being oppressive and dehumanizing, the thing about face veils is that they can actually prove to be a security risk. For all we know, it could be a man under there using the veil as a way to get into some place he shouldn't be. Or perhaps it is a female, after all, but the not the female who is supposed to be taking the exam or who has the license to drive (naturally, this is only a problem in more Westernized nations where women are allowed to take exams and drive). And I wouldn't be surprised if you could smuggle a bazooka into a school under a burkha.

But then, if we start considering clothing as security risks, things get silly fast. Bulky clothing itself can be a problem, because of how easy it is to smuggle something in under a full skirt or a hoodie. In warmer climates, this problem could be fixed by having everyone join a nudist colony. In Canada, however, we would quickly end up a bunch of naked popsicles. I suspect that the best way to combat this would be to have electrically heated spandex unitards for everyone to wear. I'm not sure if spandex would burn or melt or not, but currently it's my best idea.

Finding the reasonable middle ground may prove difficult, but unless we already suspect that someone may try to smuggle contraband, then it's not really all that bad for them to wear some clothes. And in the vast majority of cases, if not all, there are other ways to make sure people aren't carrying weapons than to strip them naked.

So, if we are reasonably sure that a woman isn't armed and just wants to wear a burkha because she likes wearing them and not because someone will throw acid on her face if she doesn't, should she be allowed to do so? At what point does security trump personal rights? Well, if someone insisted that they should be allowed to wear a balaclava around the mall, how far would they get?

It's not like we're nomads in the desert, where you may need something over your lower face to keep you from breathing in sand and to keep your face from burning off. In Canada, you might need something over your face while you're outside on the coldest days of the year, just to keep your nose from falling off. Beyond that, however, there is no practical reason to wear face veils like that, except to hide your identity. If you don't want an identity, that's your choice, but if you don't care to have an identity then why do you care to be a part of Canadian society?

Your identity isn't hidden at all if you wear western clothes in the jungle. Being modest isn't the issue - the issue is who you are. What you do in your own home is up to you, but I say no to allowing burkhas in public.

Mormon Church: An Analysis

There's a Mormon church only a couple blocks down the way from where my family resides, so we naturally get hit up by Mormon missionaries on a fairly regular basis. If life isn't too crazy at the moment, my Dad typically invites them and we spend a few weeks trying to get them to tell us why we should be Mormons.

Normally, the missionaries call it quits after three or four discussions and leave us be until the next batch of missionaries arrive. However, after a few years of this, and the Mormon/Evangelical beliefs comparison that blogger friend Cavan and I did, I figured that I really should get around to actually visiting a Mormon church. I can hardly claim to be highly knowledgeable of the religion without paying at least one visit to their base of operations.

So this Sunday we (myself, my sister, and our roommate Rachel) woke up bright and early to hem and haw over whether or not to wear skirts. The only winter skirt I have I made myself when I was fourteen. Whatever. I wore it anyway. Then we piled into the car and began our trek down the road and into foreign territory.

First impression: Nice entryway. Very nice.

One of the missionaries was waiting at the sanctuary door for us and expressed only mild disappointment that our brother hadn't come as well. He was very friendly and ushered us over to some seats on a pew they had saved for us (I had let them know ahead of time we were coming). We had a minute or two to glance around and peruse the bulletins handed to us before the meeting started. I guess I hadn't really expected to see a cross anywhere inside the sanctuary, seeing as how Mormon churches don't have them outside the building, either, but it still felt odd staring at a big blank wall without any sign of a cross anywhere.

Second impression: They have a single adults hotline? And the church is throwing a dance? It's not only encouraging young people to dance together, but it's announcing it in the bulletin? Oy, definitely not Mennonite! And what is this about needing a "dance card" to be able to attend?

Actually, it appears you also need an "ordinance temple card" to visit the temple. This may or may not have been the same thing as a "temple recommend", which seemingly has to be renewed by a member of the bishopric. It doesn't take too long to figure out that the church is extremely hierarchical and regulated.

The churches I'm used to typically require you to be a church "member" in order to vote for the elder board and other occasional big decisions. Also, I've had to have a criminal record check to volunteer with the kids, but that's about as regulated as it's gotten.

So anyway, the service started. All in all, it was different from my church, but most of it still seemed familiar. I would slot it along with the more traditional church styles - hymnals rather than PowerPoint, organ rather than worship team, pews rather than chairs, etc. We passed the bread and water by during the Sacrament (they use water instead of grape juice or wine).

The morning was divided into three parts: Sacrament Meeting, Sunday School, and Women's Relief Society. The Sacrament Meeting, rather than having a single speaker, had an open mic time, where anyone could go up and share their testimony. Apparently this happens once a month.

When the mic was first opened, there seemed to be a semi-awkward lull where nobody went up. I wondered how long it would be before one of our host missionaries would crack and get the ball rolling. As it turned out, only a few seconds. It was also quite obvious from his testimony that he was well-aware we were listening, as it had just to do with what we had been discussing during our prior meetings - how we can know that the book of Mormon is true. :-) I admit that I appreciated how he was attempting to keep things relevant for us. After the first missionary, other people started going up and the whole semi-awkward pause thing died out.

Impression number three: These testimonies feel almost Islamic in a non-Arab way. I didn't know there was a Mormon shahada, but I keep hearing it, almost word for word - "I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and Joseph Smith is his Prophet!"

For Sunday School, we were slotted into the Gospel Basics class, with the missionaries and other Mormon newbies. The topic of the day just happened to be "Prophets of God". This surprised me a little bit, although maybe it shouldn't have after the shahada thing. Perhaps it was just fluke that we ended up attending on the one day when the topic was extremely Mormon, but I had been expecting something a little more basic to the Christian faith - say, the death and resurrection, grace, or the Ten Commandments or something like that.

While I'm well aware that Mormons differ from "standard" Christians in accepting Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon on top of Jesus and the Bible, I wasn't expecting it to be so Joseph-Smith-and-Book-of-Mormon heavy. I guess I expected pretty much the standard Christian fare with added bits, but the added bits seem to have stolen the spotlight and become the main emphasis. I definitely heard more about Joseph Smith and modern-day prophets than I heard about Jesus - in fact, barring one testimony that mentioned Christ's atonement, I'm not sure I heard anything Jesus or grace-centric all morning. That was rather disappointing.

The missionaries obviously couldn't accompany us to the third part of the morning, the Women's Relief Society Meeting, but a church member introduced us to his wife, and she chatted with us and was very friendly in their place.

Impression number four: This seems to be a highly emotional setting. People keep crying. It's got the semi-rigid formality of a Mennonite Brethren church, but the spiritual emotionality of a Pentecostal church. What an interesting mix.

The topic of the Women's meeting was revelation and how to get it. An interesting comparison between revelation and radio waves was made, which I actually might use some time. Beyond that, however, I don't think I picked up anything useful, as the speaker said that only worthy people could get revelation, and I'm not really convinced I'm worthy.

All the teaching in the Women's meeting came from the higher-ups, that is, from apostles or prophets or other people of authority. There were a few personal anecdotes to illustrate points, but, to me, at least, it felt like the whole discussion was just parroting others rather than the result of critical thought and Biblical study.

Sunday School was similar in this regard. For example, someone mentioned how the current prophet (or someone close to him) warned the church about the dangers of being addicted to video games, and how this demonstrated that he was receiving inspiration from God. Given that I could have told them to beware video games and yet I don't fancy myself a prophet, it made me wonder whether these particular Mormons weren't thinking for themselves or were just pretending they weren't in order to elevate the church leaders.

Rachel, Brianna and I all agree that the "weirdest" event of the morning was the very last hymn, which came at the close of the Women's Relief Society meeting. Entitled "Families Can Be Together Forever", it was rather reminiscent of "I Love You, You Love Me" from Barney the Purple Dinosaur. The main idea of the hymn was that we love our families so much that we want to spend all eternity with them and that we'll be good so that we can get married in the temple and do just that. Needless to say, despite loving our families intensely, none of us actually sang along with that one, though it was interesting to listen to.

One thing that we really liked about Mormon church was the strong community aspect. There was a lot of interaction between the members themselves and even the speakers and the members. Everyone was involved - it's the kind of place where it would be hard to just go and passively sit and listen. Things are designed so that the community grows together, and everyone seemed to know everyone else's name. The Mormon community was pretty tight-knit, and it's nice to see that, especially when my own background has seen four out of the five churches I've regularly attended fall apart due largely to conflicts within the church (though not necessarily while we were still attending).

People were very warm and welcoming and it's easy to see how investigators could find themselves quite at home. I'm really glad we went. It was a good experience and very interesting. However, I can still solidly assure everyone that I am not a Mormon, nor thinking about becoming one.

Next week: Normal church!

I don't have any particularly good quotes about Mormonism, so I'll revert to quotes from the kids at the Sunday School of my own church:

Val: Do you kids know what the first five books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy – are called? It starts with a P... Penta...