Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Armageddon 2001 Revisited: Part 3

Last week, I commented on a 16-year-old DC comics event, and speculated about some parallels that could be drawn between that story and our world today. I then commented on the motivations of the main villain of the story, Monarch, and asked where we might "draw the line" between appropriate actions to make our world more secure, and inappropriate ones.

I have not yet commented much upon the "hero" of Armageddon 2001: Matthew Ryder, who becomes the time-traveling Waverider by the end of the first issue. Ryder, one of the few people living in his time openly dissatisfied with the society created by Monarch, seeks to eliminate Monarch from history altogether.

I'll stop just short of accusing Ryder of seeking to commit murder. We're not ever actually told how Ryder seeks to prevent Monarch's ascension. In fact, the whole point of the story is Ryder's search (now as Waverider) to find out which hero becomes Monarch. But what would Waverider have done once he found out who the would-be dictator is? We never really know.

We do know, however, how Waverider attempts to discover the answer to his question. As he comes into contact with each hero in the "present day" (1991 at the time), he is able to read that person's history: past, present and future — or, at least, whatever the most probable future is at the time Waverider comes into contact with the hero (this enables writers to come up with completely different future storylines for heroes, such as Superman, who have multiple titles devoted to them). In so doing, Waverider is able to, in an instant, learn all of the most intimate details of a person's life, without that person ever becoming aware of the intrusion.

I'm not sure if the writers of Armageddon 2001 intended this kind of moral ambiguity or not. It's entirely possible that they did, but I'm not sure that it's clear. In any event, the "hero" of Armageddon 2001 is at best an exponentially more intrusive "peeping tom." At worst, Waverider is not only a would-be murderer of a single man (however dangerous), but of an entire future timeline's worth of possible people who might never come to exist if Waverider succeeds in his goal (and, indeed, Ryder's native future is eventually eliminated altogether).

I commented last week that Armageddon 2001 came to be seen as something of a failure for DC, in part due to the last-minute change of Monarch's identity. It seems that DC never really knew quite what to do with either of the new characters introduced in this event. Monarch was used in a single 4-part story immediately after Armageddon 2001 ended, and then disappeared, only to resurface and be totally revised into a new character, "Extant," in the Zero Hour event of 1994. Waverider fared a little bit better in the short run, showing up every now and again in Superman stories, until the powers-that-be decided to kill him off in Zero Hour (a process that actually facilitated the transformation of Monarch into Extant). Waverider was then immediately re-created as the Matthew Ryder native to our own time (rather than the off-shoot future of Armageddon 2001), so ultimately little had changed, although Waverider's appearances became less common after that point. Extant disappeared again after Zero Hour, coming back just once, so DC could kill him off in the JSA title in 2000. A new Monarch was introduced, then quickly forgotten, in 1995, and DC finally got around to making Captain Atom into Monarch (as was originally intended, although he's not been explicitly called "Monarch" in the comics yet) just last year. And, about the same time, Waverider was apparently killed off again (apparently for good) in last year's 52 event, effectively eliminating the last element of the Armageddon 2001 event from continuity.

Perhaps it's just as well. The whole thing was a bit of a mess. Still, it's worth considering some of the moral issues that the story (consciously or unconsciously) attempted to deal with. Too many people seem to assume that certain actions are good just because they're committed by people we believe are "good." But isn't it more appropriate to determine if someone is "good" on the basis of their actions, rather than the other way around?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Armageddon 2001 Revisited: Part 2

In my last post, I set the stage for discussing the 1991 Armageddon 2001 series by DC comics, and I briefly discussed the two main characters: Matthew Ryder and Monarch. We'll talk about Ryder later, but as the story opens, all we know about Monarch is that he is the undisputed ruler of the world of the future: a "Big Brother" figure who used to be one of the world's costumed superheroes, but who betrayed them in the year 2001, killing them and uniting all the world's governments under his singular, totalitarian rule.

Monarch, perhaps not surprisingly, does not see himself as an evil person. Rather, he sees the world as he has been able to make it as "not perfect, but as close to it as it's ever been." He has reduced violent crime to near-nothing, and the world's diverse peoples now live in peace. That this peace has been bought at the cost of humanity's free will is seen as a small price to pay.

Naturally, it is the viewpoint of the authors (and, I expect, of most people) that this turn of events is a horrible tragedy, and Monarch is instantly understood by all as the "villain" of the story. And when I commented the other day about the "disturbing parallels" between Monarch's world, and what the real world has become in the years since the September 11th, 2001 attacks, I am certainly making a statement that some of the things that the US government has done for the sake of making the world a safer place have gone too far.

But it's worth taking a step back here. How much is too far? What measures are appropriate to be taken for the sake of personal and national security? Even if reports of police brutality and abuse are not uncommon in the news (especially here in the Los Angeles area), very few people think that the police should cease to exist, or that all laws forbidding certain dangerous behaviors should be repealed. Very few people think that anarchy is the solution.

But is there a point at which laws and/or enforcement cross the line? What laws are bad laws? What actions to enforce them are unacceptable? We might all agree that it's wrong for Monarch's police force to gun down a man in the middle of a public venue because the man happened to sell computer disks that contained politically forbidden material, but even in the fictional world of Armageddon 2001, the world didn't get to that point all at once. What we read in this story is the result of several decades of Monarch's rule after the world changed in that story's version of 2001 (itself still 10 years in the future when Armageddon 2001 was published). Is there some point at which people might have been able to say "that law went too far," or "that police action was uncalled for" before all but a few (such as Matthew Ryder) got to point of accepting even the most egregious actions as "normal?"

That is the debate that we have today in the real world. But as much as we might wish it were otherwise, it seems that there are no clear answers. Many actions are considered "over the line" by some people, while other people defend those actions. For example, is the President's wiretapping program "illegal" or "not?" Is it justified? Clearly, there are people of good intent who disagree on this question. Also, despite the unpopularity of the war in Iraq today, people are still bitterly divided over how we should respond (or, even, how we should have responded in the first place) to the situation as it stands, and just where that struggle falls within the greater "war on terror." But most people agree that terrorism must be fought. The question remains: how?

Fans of comics no doubt know that Armageddon 2001 (the story itself) was considered a mistake by many. The identity of Monarch was changed at the last minute as the news leaked that Captain Atom was supposed to become the dangerous future despot. Instead, Hawk was revealed to be Monarch, despite the fact that this created continuity difficulties within the summer's crossover issues themselves. As a result, the serious political commentary the story might have represented was somewhat blunted, and various events in recent DC history have (most likely) removed this tale from continuity altogether (although the character of Monarch remains, having been redefined a number of times until he really is Captain Atom now, as was originally intended).

But it seems to me that Armageddon 2001 raises some issues that are worth considering. Although we do not live in a world where costumed superheroes have ever existed, nor is there any one despotic figure who seems poised to rule over everyone, now or 30 years hence, we still have to wrestle with some of the same issues about what lengths we are willing to go through, or to allow our governments to go through on our behalf, to ensure safety and security for the majority.

Link to Part 3

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Armageddon 2001 Revisited: Part 1

I've recently been trying to sell a number of items on eBay to clear out some clutter and (hopefully) to make a little bit of extra money to keep my financial head above water in preparation for some expected lean times ahead. One of the auctions that recently closed was something of an experiment. Noticing that comic auctions often tended to end without bids, but not being able to locate a comic shop in my area that buys comics any more, I took advantage of the "Flat Rate" box provided by the USPS to auction off a set of 60 comics, all published by DC, and taking care to include several complete storylines (rather than a random assortment). That way, I hoped to attract buyers with a low-cost auction (even after shipping) containing a large number of books. I'm sorry to report that I only got one bid on the auction, but at least I didn't lose money (even after accounting for eBay and PayPal fees), and the few cents I made is still better than I would have done by throwing the books out!

Going through my old comics to set up the auction, I had occasion to re-read the Armageddon 2001 story that DC published back in 1991. This event was one of a series of summer "events" that comic book companies have been doing for the past couple of decades. Since it attempted to chronicle the events of a "future" that is now in our past, it seemed worthwhile to revisit this tale.

The first issue shows us a dystopian future, somewhere around the 2030's. The main protagonist, one Matthew Ryder, was saved as a child (in 1991) by a costumed superhero. Although Ryder is unable to remember which hero saved him, this pivotal event led Ryder to a fascination with heroes that would last into adulthood. This fragment of a memory would prove especially haunting to Ryder as, in the year 2001, all the world's superheroes were betrayed and killed by one of their own: a figure who came to be known only as "Monarch," who ruled the world of the future with an iron fist.

I'll deal more with the characters of Ryder and Monarch in future posts. For now, I'm going to focus on Armageddon 2001's vision of the future. Of course, there was no way that the writers of this comic book in 1991 could have known that the year 2001 would also be a pivotal point in real history, when the attacks of September 11th took place. One can only remark on the unfortunate parallel, and move on to discuss the impacts of these history-changing events.

In Armageddon 2001, the elimination of the world's superheroes paves the way for Monarch to rule the world as he sees fit. The story portrays Monarch as a "Big Brother"-like figure (if you're unfamiliar with the reference, check out George Orwell's 1984), seen in statues and posters everywhere, but who seldom intervenes in events directly, preferring to allow the police authorities to carry out his totalitarian rule. One particularly intriguing example of this is the use of "preemptives" — police actions designed to take out potentially dangerous criminals before they have a chance to strike. If any legal system exists in the world of the future, it is not seen in the pages we are given. The police strike swiftly and lethally, and civilians sometimes get caught in the crossfire (as evidenced by one incident in which Ryder saves a small child who is nearly struck down during a "preemptive" strike, and is berated by the authorities for his heroic action).

Now, all we get to see of the future of Armageddon 2001 is a point that would still be a few decades away. The story doesn't tell us what Monarch was able to do at intermediate points in time — say, a mere 6 years after that world's history-changing event. The policies Monarch imposes upon his world of the 2030's are undeniably more severe than anything we see in our world today. But as I look at the real world, and some of the policies that the US has taken in the 6 years after the September 11th attacks, I see some disturbing parallels.

I'll have more to say, including some reflections upon Monarch's motives, in my next post.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Blessed Assurance?

A recent example of Billy Graham's My Answer column brings out a very common question. One that I'm sure Graham himself has answered many, many times.

Here's a quick excerpt:
Q: My older brother is a Christian, and a couple of months ago he told me I needed to ask Jesus into my life. I did, but I can't tell that it's made much difference. I'm not even sure God has forgiven me. Does it work for some people but not for others? — D.M.


A: Dear D.M.,
No, Christ isn't like a medicine that works for some people but not for others. He is the universal remedy for sin for everyone who puts their trust in Him—including you. If you have sincerely turned from your sins and asked Christ to come into your life, you can be confident that He has done exactly that. And if you are unsure if you have done this, take that step of commitment right now.
This is the standard evangelical response to this kind of question: "All you have to do to secure God's forgiveness is to ask Jesus to come into your life." I've preached this message myself. I believe it. In a sense, it really is that simple.

On the other hand, in his commentaries on the Left Behind series, Slacktivist has often criticized this formula as being "magic:" Say the right words (as in an incantation), and you'll be saved. And Slacktivist rightly responds by noting that Jesus himself said "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21, TNIV) I don't think Billy Graham would argue against the point that Slacktivist is trying to make here. In fact, I think that this is implicit in the conditional clause that Graham inserts into his response: "If you have sincerely turned from your sins and asked Christ to come into your life...." Evangelicals (and, again, I count myself here) tend to believe that, if you're truly repentant of your sins, you will do the will of the Father. One necessarily flows out of the other.

My concern here is that Graham's response has the problem of communicating an unintended message to the new Christian: "If asking Jesus into your life hasn't made a difference, you must not have done it right (i.e. with true repentance)." While this is theologically true (according to my understanding), it puts the focus on the wrong point. It sets up the potential Christian to look for the difference within him/herself, rather than just getting on with the act of doing God's will out of a changed life. I've read Billy Graham's stuff enough to know that he would agree that such a self-focus is misleading (indeed, check out my comments on another of his columns, where he tells his readers not to put their trust in their feelings).

I think that this may be a main issue for many Evangelical Christians, both current and potential, in our day. Evangelicals have, for the past few decades, placed a lot of emphasis on the believer's "personal relationship with Christ." Graham demonstrates this in his closure to his recent column:
... becoming a Christian isn't the end of our spiritual journey, but the beginning. God wants you to grow in your relationship with Him—and you do this by spending time with Him. Take time each day to be alone with God, reading His Word, the Bible, and praying. Become active also in a church where Christ is taught and lived. Don't let your spiritual life whither, but take steps now to strengthen your faith in Christ.
Again, I do not mean to dispute the value of this in any way. But more and more people today wish to shift the emphasis. To paraphrase Matthew 7:21, Christians are to be about doing the will of God. This is how the new believer (and, more importantly, other people the believer will come in contact with) will know that he/she has been forgiven: by the empowering acts God performs through the believers actions! Far from being unsure whether accepting Christ has made any difference, the difference will be undeniable.

So, for those of you who are believers, what are you doing sitting there reading this blog (and what am I doing continuing to write it)? There's work to do!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Is There Another Way?

Despite the fact that I commented on Jerry Falwell as recently as Wednesday, I've tried to keep my more recent posts away from being explicitly political. While I do have some fairly strong opinions, there are some extremely complex issues out there, and I find that when I weigh in such matters, I tend to generate more heat than light. Nevertheless, the events of the past week have meant that political matters have been on my mind enough that I need to weigh in.

After hearing this letter during this past Sunday's broadcast of Speaking of Faith on my local NPR station, I had to pass on a link. The letter responds to a scholar who argues (and I'm being a bit simplistic here) for a self-sacrificing attitude to all of life, including military disputes. It tells of a soldier whose battalion was ordered not to retaliate when attacked. Only under very specific circumstances ("if we were 100 percent certain that a particular person had thrown a grenade or fired a shot at us") could a soldier fire back. You'll need to read the letter yourself for the full details, but the end result was that the civilians in the area of the dispute ended up realizing that the soldiers themselves weren't a threat, and they worked to make it clear that insurgent attacks were not welcome. This "victory" did not come without cost. Many soldiers were injured, and one was killed. But how many more people (especially civilians) might have injured or killed if the battalion had responded differently?

I do not know how much of this soldier's experience could actually be applied to Iraq, but it certainly sounds like a similar environment in many ways, and the soldier himself seems to think so, as well. It certainly serves as an anecdotal counter-argument against those who argue that unless such attacks are met with force, they will continue, and the insurgents will become emboldened. I pray that those who are in charge of our military action in Iraq may at least be exposed to letters like these, and that wisdom may be drawn from these experiences.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Jerry Falwell: RIP

I debated all day yesterday about whether or not I should devote a blog post to Jerry Falwell's unexpected passing. Anyone who knows about my political or theological beliefs already knows that I had little respect in life for Falwell, and actually considered him a threat to our country, as his political activism enabled people sharing his extremist attitudes to gain and hold political power in increasing numbers over the past couple of decades. And perhaps worse, I believe that Falwell was a threat to the spread of the true gospel of Jesus Christ, as a huge number of potential believers have been turned away from faith by his extreme right-wing attitudes. There's a sense in which it simply wouldn't be honest if I didn't admit that I won't miss him.

But a man has died, and unlike the group of people on the Allspark who have practically thrown parties over this death, I cannot bring myself to celebrate. It's not just that I find such behavior tasteless in the extreme (although I do), but that I find myself thinking of the fact that, for all of his faults, Falwell was a man who truly tried to follow Christ with everything that he was. The fact that I disagreed with his beliefs doesn't really matter here. Falwell had the courage to stand up for what he believed God wanted him to do, despite often fierce opposition. Although I wish that he would have been more open to persuasion from fellow Christians who held a different view, rather than often accusing them of being in league with the enemy, such devotion deserves respect.

I appreciated Jim Wallis' comments on Falwell's passing yesterday: Wallis acknowledged that he and Falwell "didn’t agree on many things", but still managed to compliment "his passionate commitment to his beliefs, and [their] shared commitment to bringing moral debate to the public square". This is a stark contrast from the Allspark members who said "burn in hell," and other similar statements.

I've always maintained that Christians are not saved by the rightness of our belief, but by the fact of our faith in Jesus Christ. Far from burning in hell, I'm confident that Jerry Falwell is now at peace in heaven. Do I think he deserves it? No, not really. But neither do I, nor does any Christian. I won't miss Falwell's right-wing rhetoric, but I acknowledge his authentic belief in Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul wrote: "...now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face." (1 Cor. 13:12) Falwell now knows exactly where he was right and where he was wrong. And when I get to heaven someday, I'll have my own misconceptions corrected. And we'll be happy to be corrected in this way, and finally be able to focus on what we have in common as followers of Jesus Christ.

I'm just sorry that it will take getting to heaven to be able to affirm that commonality.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Action Master Thundercracker: The Ultimate Weapon

Over on the club message boards, a topic about the upcoming Timelines Summer Special mentioned the garish coloring of Action Master Thundercracker. Look, and be horrified!

I asked if any fiction (official or fan-made) has ever been made using AM Thundercracker as a character, to which board member Victorysabre quipped, "I hear several people have tried, but during the attempt, all artists went blind for some reason." This immediately made me think of the classic Monty Python sketch about the funniest joke in the world.

It's parody time! And possibly the first piece of fiction anywhere to feature Action Master Thundercracker (although, given that the toy has existed for over 15 years, I fully acknowledge that this is unlikely).

Friday, May 11, 2007

Better Picture of Breakaway on Club Site

I was up ridiculously late last night catching up with some old friends, and am not terribly awake right now. I got up this morning to discover that the Transformers club has revealed a more accurate picture of Breakaway on the club site. So, head over there and enjoy that. I'll (hopefully) have something more intelligent to say after I've had the weekend to catch up on my rest.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Alpha Trion Rampage Continues

A couple of times over the past week, I've commented briefly in the context of other issues that a figure that appears to be a repaint of Vector Prime as Alpha Trion has been showing up on eBay. Alpha Trion is a character from the old '80s Transformers cartoon, and is notable for being one of the oldest Transformers, and for "creating" Optimus Prime (the cartoon actually says that he rebuilt a Transformer named "Orion Pax" as Prime, but that seems to be enough to call him "creator" for most folks).

To date, over 20 of these toys have shown up on eBay. That's an unusually huge number of toys for something that hasn't been released to the general market yet. Since these "Alpha Trions" have almost certainly been stolen, I'll not be posting links here. But the sheer quantity of "Alpha Trions" out there is very odd. Most folks think that this will be a BotCon exclusive. But no BotCon exclusive has ever been leaked before the convention in these numbers. The previous record holder seems to be pre-Beast-Wars Megatron, for which a little over a dozen toys leaked onto eBay over the course of a couple of months. We've already seen nearly twice that many in only a week or so!

Some folks are theorizing that this might be a sign that "Alpha Trion" is intended for mass release instead for a convention. Although nothing would make me happier, it's hard to imagine this being true. It's also a possibility that "Alpha Trion" will be available through the Transformers club in greater quantity than the convention exclusive would allow. But even this seems a bit of a long shot.

Fact is, we'll have to wait to find out for sure. In the meantime, I know it's tempting. I was tempted myself when those first "Alpha Trions" were going on eBay for fairly low prices. But please don't encourage these thieves by buying these items on eBay. It only encourages more of this kind of behavior in the future.

Monday, May 07, 2007

All Sold Out

The Transformers boards were virtually lit aflame this weekend after it was announced that the box sets for the 2007 BotCon exclusives were all sold out. On the good side, this enabled me to make an early update to my BotCon Exclusives Data Sheet, with numbers for the 2007 exclusives that we know so far. On the down side, it has given those who want to find something to complain about something new to accuse Fun Publications of having done wrong.

It doesn't matter that the number of exclusives made for this year's convention represents a 33% increase over previous years. It doesn't matter that this increase was made despite the fact that neither of the exclusive box sets from either of the previous years FP held the convention were able to sell out by the end of the convention (In fact, there were still over 200 box sets from 2005 available at the club store at the time of this writing! They only had 4 box sets from 2006 left as of Friday night, so those may be gone by now. I haven't checked.). It doesn't matter that FP was taking a huge financial risk by making a near-record number of these sets (there were years in which more of certain individual exclusives were made, although I'm not at all sure that even in those years did they sell as many as FP made this year, once you account for the loose sets added in. In any event, because FP sells these in sets of five toys, the only possible rivals for this distinction were far less expensive, so that's worth noting, too.). It doesn't matter that FP actively increased the number of these toys produced beyond their original plans after seeing the incredible response the first day or two after registration forms were first made available. No, all that matters to some people is that they don't have the option of getting the sets direct from the providers now.

I'm truly amazed at how little some fans understand the process. It's stunning how many people are asking FP to do another run of these figures to meet the (obviously still present) demand. It doesn't matter that it would be impossible to get such a second run done in time for the convention. It doesn't matter that it would be a slap in the face to the fans who diligently sent in their forms early rather than take their chances by waiting. It doesn't matter that there should be some difference in the definition of a convention exclusive versus a club (or any other kind of) exclusive. Or even that the word "exclusive" should have any meaning at all. No, there are just some people (many of whom complained about the set to start with) who are upset that they can't quickly and cheaply get some (admittedly pretty cool) toys.

Of course, very little of this is new. The one thing that I'd say is new about this whole thing is the fact that no exclusive toys have ever sold out before the convention before. But even there, most of the complaints are pretty predictable, and besides being strong cases of "sour grapes," usually represent absolutely no understanding of just how things work. I'm going to actually take a step out into "flame" territory and say that there are a lot of really stupid comments out there. I can understand that people are disappointed, but I really wish that people would at least try to understand what FP has managed to achieve here, and how these processes work.

Friday, May 04, 2007

BotCon Dreadwind... Should Have Been Darkwing?

All five figures to be included in the BotCon 2007 box set have now been revealed. The latest, Dreadwind, is (as expected) a repaint of Classics Jetfire with a new head. What has surprised me most about this one is how many people seem to think that they should have used Dreadwind's former G1 Powermaster partner Darkwing, instead of this character, who admittedly looks a bit like a "Green Jetfire," rather than a totally new character (especially if you keep the Jetfire helmet on, as in the main picture at botcon.com).

But I still think FP made the right choice. Here are some comparisons.

First, the robot modes. The original Dreadwind is on the left, and the new BotCon version is on the right:

Now, here's the robot mode of Darkwing to the right.

Of course, one does have to do some imagination to get past the colors, which were purposefully chosen for Dreadwind, but I would argue that the robot modes are still a clear match for the two Dreadwind's, and a "non-match" for Darkwing. The cockpits on the chest are especially important here.




But perhaps the vehicle modes tell a different story. Again, we'll put G1 Dreadwind on the left, BotCon Dreadwind on the right, and we'll add Darkwing below.

The point at which a lot of folks say "Aha! See?" is the fact that Darkwing has the "swing wings" that the BotCon mold has, which G1 Dreadwind does not. This is true. But other than that, I simply don't see enough significant differences in plane design between G1 Darkwing and G1 Dreadwind to consider one over the other. And given that the robot mode is a fairly clear match (and assuming that we're only talking about turning Classics Jetfire into one of these two characters. There are, of course, hundreds of other things they could have done), it seems to me that Dreadwind wins. I'd much rather have a close robot mode match than a vehicle mode match, especially when it's pretty close to begin with.

Of course, opinions are still bound to differ. I'm just happy that I'll be getting this toy. (Now if I can just figure out how to get that Alpha Trion that's been rumored! I've been wanting them to repaint Vector Prime into Alpha Trion for forever!)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Red Flags and Giving Credit Where Its Due

One of the advantages of working at Fuller right now is that I get to have lunch with my wife most days of the week. While talking about various things over our meal recently, she mentioned that she had recently visited the web site of the church she used to attend while she was in high school (which I will not name). This church is very fundamentalist (to twist a common phrase, I often say that such churches put the "mental" in "fundamental"), and is ironically responsible for making my wife the feminist she is today through their tactic of saying (in essence) "Shut up. Read the Bible. It doesn't allow you to preach. Get over it."

She was looking at the various statements of the church's identity: what they believe, who they are, etc. There were plenty of what I call "red flags:" statements that say more than they seem to on the surface, and which can fairly reliably be used to determine the theo-political environment of a church. For example, a church that makes a point of saying that they believe that the Bible is "inerrant in the original manuscripts" also tends to take certain conservative theological stances, even if those stances have not been spelled out in any official church statement (or even if those stances are in fact supported by the Bible). My wife did not have a frame of reference for understanding these "red flags" when she was in high school. She only knew how she felt about how she was treated. Now, she has an understanding of why that church acted this way.

While discussing the statements found on this church's web site, my wife commented on the following line:
Most of our attendees are in professional/managerial careers, or homemakers, although we also have craftsmen, students, retirees and others.
"Most" of the people at this church fit into two categories: "professional/managerial careers" or "homemakers." Everything else, if mentioned at all, was relegated to an "although we also have" statement, indicating that the numbers of such "other" people are comparably low. That says a rather large amount about this church right there. For example, this church is apparently comprised of people of a certain, fairly wealthy, demographic. Also, I don't need to make a point of mentioning it for most people to understand that the "professional/managerial" folks are one gender, and the "homemakers" are the other gender. But what I find especially interesting is the fact that "homemakers" is mentioned. In an earlier era, such a "position" would have been left off, and many people wouldn't have even considered the notion that this omission could indicate that women were being ignored. It is worth giving this church credit that they are making a point to recognize that the women of their congregation are important. Clearly, the members of this community are very traditional in their concepts of gender roles, but they know enough to give women recognition, in whatever role they're serving, rather than inadvertently causing women to be invisible by failing to mention them.

Part of the reason that this is worth mentioning is that it demonstrates how the debate about women's roles has changed. Even traditionalists now realize that it's not enough just to give cognitive assent and say that women are equal to men, but otherwise go on as they always have done. They recognize that they need to make the effort to recognize women in the roles that they're serving. If the women of this church are mostly housewives, that a good and noble calling, and I wish them well. But I'm glad that they are now being recognized for this calling, fully aware that this would not have been the case only a short while ago. We're still a long way off from recognizing the myriad of other roles that women (and men!) can serve. But progress is progress, and it deserves to be noted as such.

In completely unrelated news, a preview of the BotCon comic was posted at www.transformerclub.com yesterday, and a recent eBay auction (which I won't link to directly, but you can find it if you want to bad enough) hints that an upcoming convention (or dare I hope, club?) exclusive will be none other than Alpha Trion! Cool!

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