Holding Themselves Hostage

Awhile back, I saw a video of Jordan Peterson being confronted by some LGBT activists over the issue of “misgendering.” If you’re blissfully unaware, misgendering happens when a person claims a gender (whether real or invented) that is not rooted in biological reality & demands that he be addressed according to his claim, but someone around him doesn’t play along and addresses him according to biological reality rather than gender. In other words, it happens when someone uses the word “he” instead of “she” to refer to a man who thinks he’s a woman. Dr. Peterson’s rise to popularity was in large part due to him speaking out against the kind of authoritarian speech codes that demand such submission, so he naturally attracted a lot of controversy.

One of the arguments that’s leveled against him in the video is that there are trans people who are killing themselves because of misgendering, and so if people don’t start using he, she, xe, zir, thon, and so forth on demand, then they’re effectively responsible for these deaths. Peterson correctly points out that this kind of rhetoric makes dialogue impossible, but he doesn’t really unpack the “why” of it. Nevertheless, because this is a line I hear come up over and over, it got me thinking: what exactly is wrong with this kind of discourse?

Ultimately, this is one of the arguments that Social Justice Warriors use because it excuses their own fanaticism and lack of perspective. It’s a matter of life and death! People are dying in the streets every day! SJW’s sincerely believe that every time they call someone afflicted with gender sanity a bigot, they are saving lives. Every time they punch a “Nazi” (i.e. anyone who fundamentally disagrees with them), they think they are doing the work of angels.

And the rhetoric of it all catches the rest of us off-guard. Like the old loaded question about when you stopped beating your wife, the frame of the argument prevents rational discourse on the subject. Its assumptions bear the accusation of murder (or at least accessory to murder), and so every reason for not adopting the meaningless babble surrounding the innumerable proposed genders sounds like some kind of excuse for killing an innocent. But if the rhetoric is deceitful, then there’s no reason to abide by it. So let’s step back out of that frame and see whether their reasoning makes sense in analogous situations that aren’t so politically charged.

There are, for example, plenty of teenagers who have threatened to kill themselves if their girlfriend or boyfriends broke up with them–and there are too many who actually followed through. But that threat absolutely does not create any responsibility on the part of those significant others to maintain a romantic relationship with such an unstable person. No one has a right to abuse compassion and strong-arm another person in such a fashion. Likewise, if a mugger were to come up to you and demand your wallet but points his gun at himself instead of you, there is still no legal, ethical, or moral obligation for you to simply hand it over. Neither is there a social expectation that anyone would hand it over, which is probably why this strategy is confined to classic comedies.

So if a transgender person holds himself hostage in the same way and demands neologistic pronouns, phony affirmations, and other forms of patronization from the people around him who keep inadvertently reminding him of reality, it is not they who are a danger to him, but rather he who is a danger to himself. If there is no obligation to surrender your ongoing affection or your money in this kind of auto-hostage situation, how much less of an obligation is there to surrender something even more valuable like your integrity or the truth?

And really, I suspect there are no few transgenders who aren’t terribly happy when their self-appointed spokespeople put them in this category. Nobody thinks very highly of the crying teenage boy desperately trying to hang onto a girl who no longer likes him. Why would people who already have plenty of issues with public perception want to be portrayed in the same way?

Nobody wants trans people to die, and whether or not you play another person’s pronoun game is for each individual to decide in the context of their relationship with that person–its not a matter to be resolved by petty tyrants flexing their muscles. But when somebody is holding a gun to their own head, don’t let their rhetoric trick you into thinking your finger is the one on the trigger.

Posted in Ethics | Leave a comment

More on Theological Liberalism @ Issues Etc.

Issues Etc. was good enough to invite me back to talk about my last blog post.  You can listen to the interview here:

2182. The Theological Direction of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – Matthew Cochran, 8/6/18

Posted in Theological Liberalism | Leave a comment

Just Stay Ahead of the Wind

A gaggle of geese. A parliament of owls. A coven of ELCA Bishops?

That’s certainly the impression I get from a recent interview for Religion News Service. In it, the ELCA’s newest batch of six female “bishops” discuss their goddess, whom they apparently keep locked up in the basement:

Bishop Susan Briner of Southwestern Texas Synod declared: “Because I’m telling you what, the Spirit is up to something …”

And the other bishops responded: “Amen. Yes, she is.”

And Briner said: “… if we would just let her out.”

The bishops then responded: “Let her out. Get out of her way.”

Then Briner said: “Open the doors and let her out.”

And her fellow bishops concluded: “She’s out! She is loose!”

Oh no! She’s loose!  Call the authorities!  Well, if their goddess is so weak that a handful of usurpers in vestments can restrain her from action, color me unimpressed.

Mark Tooley, in his solid commentary on the interview at Juicy Ecumenism, makes the following “personal prophecy:”

“In about 15-20 years, when these bishops and other current Mainline elites are retired, and their denominations have further shrunk to a fraction of their current size, a new generation of leadership will recognize the disaster and embrace orthodoxy as the only hope for rejuvenation. They will seek to resurrect great ecclesial traditions by which time evangelical nondenominationalism may have run its course.

I hope and pray so.”

Certainly, we should always hope and pray for repentance. Nevertheless, the prospect that closer proximity to the ELCA’s imminent death will cause them to change direction makes a questionable assumption: that death isn’t exactly what they’re looking for. Satan has always sought the destruction of God’s Church, and that’s what his minions pursue whether they realize it or not. Theological Liberalism is a parasite, but the fact that it kills its host is a feature, not a bug.

Neither can I think too much of the prospects for these women’s successors turning the tide. After all, what kind of leaders are going to willingly submit themselves to these heretics for the next 15-20 years while there exist “great ecclesial traditions” in denominations that don’t worship pagan goddesses? Orthodox Christians would never submit to that in the first place, and its unlikely that a steady diet of heresy will somehow convert their future leaders to orthodoxy. (And if you’re among those who believe that the importance of submission to your bishops exceeds the gravity of ubiquitous false teaching and heresy, then why haven’t you already crossed the Tiber or the Bosporus? Rome and the East both have far weightier ecclesial traditions than any mainline denomination.)

Here’s my own personal prophecy: In about 15-20 years when the bulk of these organizations shut down, the leftovers will disperse like spores to join other denominations with similar ceremonies and ecclesial trappings. And when they root themselves in their new hosts, they will start whispering the same poison that ravaged their dead congregations.

So yes: hope and pray for them. But also be vigilant when they move on to us–prepared to shut them down the moment they start trying to gain influence in our congregations. Be wary when those small innocuous changes first start being proposed–when they really love your congregation but wish it was just a little bit more like their old one that euthanized itself.  God has blessed us with the opportunity to learn from history. Let’s not squander it.

(Classical reference in headline, as they say on Instapundit)

Posted in Theological Liberalism | Leave a comment

Stop Shaming Men for Valuing Virginity

Look out: People are outraged on the internet!

Sorry; I should probably be more specific. A week or two ago, Lori Alexander wrote a blog post entitled “Men Prefer Debt Free Virgins Without Tattoos.” And predictably, a lot of Christian feminists got very very upset.

Now, as generalizations go, that title is about as accurate as you can get. The debt-free part is a no-brainer. (If you’d seriously rather be in debt than out of debt, I’d be happy to help you out; I look forward to receiving your monthly installments.) Tattoos are more complicated than I’d like to get into at the moment, but for now let this suffice: Like most art, a tattoo always makes a statement; and like much art, a tattoo always says a whole lot more than was intended–and it does so loudly.

But it’s really the virgin part that’s getting under people’s skin despite being another no-brainer. When considering a prospective wife, men absolutely prefer virgins. It’s a generalization, which means there are exceptions; but men who genuinely wish their wives had slept with a few more guys before they wed have got issues. The fact that Christians are getting outraged over this is a sad testament to the state of chastity in the Church.

If you’d like the rhetorically effective response to this outrage, this anonymous piece at The Federalist does the trick perfectly. (And since there have already been several speculations on the subject, no, I didn’t write it.) But if you’d like a dialectically effective response (i.e. a logical explanation for why is this outrage is woefully inappropriate) then read on.

So the big objection seems to be this: Because we’re forgiven by Christ, how can a Christian man possibly hold fornication against a prospective wife? The fact that so many Christians answer “he can’t!” reveals how badly we confuse righteousness coram deo (before God) and righteousness coram mundo (before the world.)

These two kinds of righteousness are according to the same moral Law, but because they involve different judges, they have different standards and consequences. Coram deo, one needs to keep the law absolutely perfectly in even the smallest detail because God is holy. Coram mundo, one need only be “a basically good person” because we’re all sinners and can therefore only be so strict without being both hypocritical and tyrannical. Consequently, our only hope of righteousness coram deo is the perfect imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, blotting out all of our sins before God and forgiving us of every penalty. But does this forgiveness also remove all penalties for sin coram mundo?

Let’s parse out that question using another sin: murder. Now, coram deo, even hating your brother is murder while coram mundo, only literal murder is murder; so to be clear, we’re going with literal murder here. What shall we do with a repentant murderer who is forgiven by Christ? Coram deo, he is completely forgiven and escapes eternal punishment because Christ was punished in his stead. The victim receives retribution but the murderer is nevertheless shown mercy.

Coram mundo, however, even repentant murderers still face temporal penalties. Open contrition and repentance might mitigate sentencing or qualify someone for earlier parole, but it’s not like receiving absolution from a prison chaplain gets you immediately released—nor should it. Temporal punishment and consequences carry the burden of civilization along with them. As sinners, we need to be disciplined by the law so that we aren’t constantly going about raping, murdering, and robbing one another. Even when we forgive one another our sins, many of the consequences of those sins remain—both by circumstance and by deliberate choice.

So coram mundo, even Christ’s forgiveness does not immediately annihilate every temporal penalty and consequence for sin—not for murder, and not for fornication. Forgiveness coram mundo doesn’t mean everyone should overlook your character flaws any more than it means the miraculous healing of your STD’s.

But that’s all pretty obvious—even if the specific theological terms are unfamiliar. So why are so many Christian women missing the boat on this? The source of the confusion lies in the fact that righteousness coram mundo requires us to overlook peccadilloes all the time. Calling out people for every little white lie, every inappropriate look, or every slightly rude gesture would require a perpetual state of outrage. Just look at any SJW to see how destructive (and exhausting) that is. So many women take the opinion that unlike our example of murder, a history of fornication is just another peccadillo. If repentance can mitigate penalties for murder, surely it means mere fornication can be overlooked altogether—especially in our culture where its so normalized that normal people don’t even use words like ‘fornication’ anymore.

But here’s the problem: while a spouse’s virginity is a small matter to women, it really isn’t a small matter to men. Men value a woman’s virginity in a way that women do not. To be sure, women can learn to value a man’s sexual purity—and women with traditional upbringings have a tendency to do so—but men instinctively value a woman’s sexual purity. We don’t have to be taught on the matter.

This shouldn’t come as a terribly big surprise. Parents are, by design, bound to our offspring. When you go into a modern maternity ward, they have all sorts of redundant measures in place to make sure that the baby you go home with is the same baby you brought in because babies are irreplaceable. A parent doesn’t just want a baby, he wants his baby. Losing your child in this way would be horrifying. Well, in a very real sense, this is precisely what happens when a wife cuckolds her husband.

Outside of science fiction scenarios, when a woman gives birth, there’s no real doubt as to whether or not its her baby. The same is not true for fathers. You can look for family resemblance or maybe do genetic testing, but at the end of the day, the way most of us know our children are ours is through trusting the mother. The primary basis for trusting anyone is through their character as demonstrated by past behavior and reputation. Because of this, fornication and promiscuity invariably degrade that incredibly important trust. It makes perfect sense that men would be far more inherently sensitive to these matters.

Fornication has severe implications for the durability of marriage as well. Marriage is far-and-away the biggest risk most men will ever take in their lives. The risk of divorce is as high as 50%. Between 60% and 80% of divorces are initiated by wives. The consequences of divorce as determined by our family court system are heavily weighted against men. They stand to lose not only their wives, but access to their children, their homes, and a huge chunk of their future income. When the overall risk of divorce is so high and the consequences so severe, it makes perfect sense for men to want to mitigate that risk.

As it turns out, study after study shows that a woman’s sexual history makes a huge impact on that risk. According to IFS’ recent analysis of CDC data, when marrying a virgin bride, the risk of divorce within 5 years is only about 5%. That quadruples to around 20% when the bride has had a single premarital partner, and increases to between 25-30% as the partner count remains in the single digits (it goes further up from there). Now, with their data also showing the proportion of virgin brides since 2000 at about 11% (and falling), that’s not exactly an easy option. Nevertheless, the legitimacy of men’s preference is clear, and the rarity of virginity only makes it that much more valuable to marriage-minded men.

Not only are men’s instincts on the matter pragmatic, they are far more in line with the Bible than women’s. Scripture consistently treats sexual sin as a big deal. Paul marks it out as being especially heinous in 1 Corinthians 6. What’s more, when it comes to the more significant spiritual matters of idolatry and unbelief, sexual sin is the go-to imagery used throughout the Bible. It’s always described as whoring after other gods or committing adultery with them. The consequence of marriage being an image of Christ and His Church written into fundamental human nature is that violations of marriage through sexual sin are especially bad.

Now there is a class of men that isn’t terribly bothered by a woman’s promiscuity: men whose own partner counts dwarf those of most women they encounter. They usually don’t even wonder about sexual history. Naturally, there’s a catch. These men are, ipso facto, the ones who A) find women inherently replaceable and B) have plenty of options to choose from. Their trust isn’t based so much on a woman’s character, but rather on an unspoken threat point: If she betrays him in any substantial way, he will kick her to the curb without a second thought and trip over several better women as soon as he turns around. Because of this, they’re not particularly inclined to faithfully marry in the first place. On top of that, their myriad of options means very high competition. Unless women bring something exceptional to the table like super-model good looks, these men aren’t really a practical option for most women.

Given the state of sexual mores in America, I don’t doubt that confronting the obvious truth that men prefer virgin wives hurts a lot of feelings. It’s natural to feel disappointment and even shame upon learning that you flushed a winning lottery ticket. But most of our lives have too many squandered opportunities, and we mustn’t take these realizations in unhealthy ways. First, it’s no reason to despair—the happiest course of action is always to make the best of what you have, no matter what injuries you’ve sustained. Second, it’s certainly no reason to hide this reality from other women who haven’t yet made these same mistakes and thereby injure them as well. And finally, it’s no reason to shame men for instinctively recognizing this reality. We are most certainly better served by listening to those instincts.

Posted in Chastity, Feminism, The Modern Church | 2 Comments

Conspiracies & Paradigms

I love conspiracy theories. That’s not to say I don’t take them with Jimmy Buffet’s lost shaker of salt; but any good conspiracy theory is, at the very least, a fun bit of alternate history.

“Have a nice flight!”

My favorites are the ones surrounding Denver International Airport. I lived in Colorado for a number of years and flew out of DIA often. It has certain features that just cry out for a colorful explanation. The first thing you see when you approach is a giant anatomically-correct cobalt blue demon horse with glowing red eyes (exactly the kind of thing you want to see when you’re about to board an airplane.) Even better (well.. from the conspiracy angle) is the fact that Blucifer, as locals named him, managed to kill his creator (a piece of the statue fell off and severed the sculptor’s artery.) Once inside the terminal, you’ll find a series of giant murals depicting war, genocide, and rebirth (exactly the kind of thing you want to see when you’re about to board an airplane.) There are also a bunch of statues of gargoyles popping out of suitcases (exactly the kind of thing you— well, you get the picture: The artwork is almost uniformly creepy.)

But it’s not just the art. There are rumors of secret tunnels. The dedication ceremony apparently involved all sorts of Masonic rites. There’s also the mysterious dedication stone, which not only has a number of Masonic symbols, but also attributes the facility’s creation to the “New World Airport Commission,” an organization whose existence has no written record other than the dedication stone itself. We’ll cut the list short there, but DIA has plenty of appetizers for the imagination. This, of course, leads to some rather imaginative explanations for these facts—everything from alien landing pads to Illuminati bunkers.

And that’s the fun part of conspiracy theory: imagination. We all have various paradigms—ways we look at the world which we use to interpret our experiences. Naturally, some of these paradigms turn out to be false or deceptive. We realize this as we begin to notice things in the world that don’t really fit with a particular paradigm. That’s how we moved from geocentricity to heliocentricity—too many celestial observations didn’t really make sense if the sun revolved around the earth. But paradigms are a mental necessity. When one paradigm falls apart, we have to imagine another. And in the early days of paradigm shift, a lot of varied hypothesizing goes on. It’s not terribly strange that some of the hypotheses are going to be fanciful when the most mundane explanation is no longer on the table.

The problem with taking conspiracy theories too seriously, however, is that even in circumstances when we know the official story is untrustworthy, that doesn’t necessarily mean we can know what the real story is. The proliferation of different (often mutually exclusive) theories really underscores this. People who theorize about the JFK assasination all agree that the official lone gunman story doesn’t work, but the alternative stories are all over the place. The Onion’s book, Our Dumb Century has a great headline to this effect: “Kennedy Slain by CIA, Mafia, Castro, LBJ, Teamsters, Freemasons; President Shot 129 Different Times from 43 Angles.” There are a lot of theories and no good way of determining their veracity. In the absence of verifiable facts, speculation rushes in to fill the void. And just like using real money makes gambling more addictive, taking conspiracy theories too seriously makes the speculation more enticing.

When you find yourself in a situation in which you believe that society’s ordinary investagative institutions are untrustworthy, deep investigations become extremely difficult. There’s only so much that one person can do on his own, and crowd-sourcing on something like this has its own inherent limitations. When it comes to the veracity of most conspiracy theories, there are three basic answers. The virtue-signaling answer is “That’s absolutely ridiculous and I’m not the kind of person who would ever believe anything of the kind.” The ego-stroking answer is “I’m one of the few elite minds who has pierced the veil of secrecy and discovered the Truth.” The correct answer is “I don’t know.”

Oddly enough, that’s also an entirely pragmatic response—even when it comes to epic stories of secret societies ruling the world. If there is one, it’s amazing how little it actually matters in your day-to-day choices. Most people don’t have the wherewithal to fight a global conspiracy. And if its a matter of distrusting certain people or institutions, well, it’s almost certainly the case that one believes a conspiracy because he already distrusted the people and institutions involved.

I’ve been thinking about the subject lately because I’ve been reading bits and pieces about “Qanon” and “The Storm” at Vox Popoli. The short version, if you’re unaware, is that there’s been an anonymous poster on 4chan & 8chan referred to as Q (hence Q + anon) who is supposedly a Trump administration insider with (of course) the highest of security clearances. He’s been posting a bunch of breadcrumbs that have been leading people to develop a new conspiracy theory with two key features: First, that there is a globalist Cabal intent on imposing its vision on the world through nefarious means (and is also deeply involved in rather nasty occult practices.) And second, that Trump’s primary goal as president is to expose and prosecute this Cabal in a way that will undermine most of our social & political paradigms (a predicted event referred to as “The Storm.”) There are certainly many more fantastical details, but those are the basics.

Whether or not The Storm is anything more than a wish-fulfillment fantasy, it’s certainly the perfect storm when it comes to conspiracy fodder. For one thing, Q’s posts are generally in the form of open-ended questions that are supposed to lead people in the right direction—the perfect format for engaging the imagination. And they’re posted in a community which makes free speech an absolute that completely dissolves any boundary–whether legal or simply social–so there’s no limit on where the answers to those question might go.

At the same time, we’re living in an era of paradigm shift. Multiculturalism is in its last death throes, and civic nationalism is increasingly unable to function where there’s no clear majority. Western nations are unable to stop accumulating unsustainable debts that can never be payed off. Our society is being torn apart from within by SJW’s who zealously believe things which are more absurd than any conspiracy theory I’ve mentioned and yet can also be debunked by mere casual observation and common sense. As they say, what can’t continue won’t. We may not know what we’re changing into, but we know we’re fundamentally changing.

On top of that, our hyper-elitist ruling class makes it incredibly easy to believe the worst about them. We expect them to lie & cheat, and we are not disappointed. We all pretty much assume that the scandals which make the news are only the tip of the iceberg. Even if you restrict yourself to completely open and mundane information, who can possibly look at people like the Clintons and say, “that all seems perfectly legit”?

And where are our investigative institutions? Journalism is in an absolutely atrocious state. Their monolithic ideological bias and frequent incompetence has decimated their credibility over the past few decades. And ever since the election, Trump Derangement Syndrome has made them look like raving lunatics to boot. As for our legal investigators, the CIA & NSA have always appeared pretty shady; and the veil being torn off the FBI lately has damaged its credibility beyond repair. Our academic institutions are likewise falling deeper into self-parody seemingly every day. We call this the information age, but in some respects, tracking down the truth has never been more complicated.

But when it comes to The Storm, the usual answer suffices: I don’t know. My skepticism naturally rises along with the outlandishness of any given detail, but I’d be lying if I claimed to have any real insight into what powerful people do with themselves all day. The usual answer also remains the pragmatic one. As a Christian, I already believe that Satan, though ultimately defeated, is still in a certain sense “the prince of this world” until the eschaton. How much does it really matter whether or not he uses a Cabal of rich and powerful occultists as his middlemen? While I would love to see any such people brought into the light and made to answer for their crimes, making it happen is not exactly in my wheelhouse—aside from prayer, of course, but I already do that.

A dragonslayer needs to know all about dragons, but that’s not who most of us are. Regardless of whether any conspiracies of this kind are true, most of our jobs remain essentially the same. We strive to be good fathers, mothers, husbands, and wives. We raise our children in the faith and defend them from harm. We serve our neighbors whom God has put in our lives. We exercise the small authorities given to us wisely. We honor the honorable and shun the shameful. And the truth of the matter is, if even most of us did these ordinary things faithfully, there wouldn’t be much power leftover for any Cabal to wield.

Posted in Musings | Leave a comment

A Theory on Mind-Reading

Ever hear guys complain that their wives expect them to be mind-readers? Of course you have, it’s not exactly uncommon. By why would such an absurd complaint be so commonplace? It’s not as though any woman really thinks she’s married to Professor X. I believe a large part of the answer has to do with a conflict between God’s design and the expectations of a feminist society.

God created men and women to compliment one another in marriage, and part of that creation was to make the husband the head of the wife just as Christ is head of the Church. As controversial as that is in 21st century America, we can still observe the reality of it. The fact is, women really do expect men to lead–to the point that they generally find men who are unable or unwilling to take the initiative fundamentally unattractive. This isn’t any kind of conscious choice but an instinctive reaction rooted in her God-given design.

But our feminist culture says exactly the opposite–that a woman should never be in a position of submission to a man and that initiative is domineering. The different ways in which this is drilled into men and women alike are more numerous than the sands on the seashore. So even for godly women, it’s a struggle to really accept God’s teaching on the subject; and far more common in our churches are women who struggle to find ways to reject the teaching instead. The result is that most American women think that submission is not only unnecessary, but actually immoral–an utter rejection of how they’ve been taught to behave.  As a result, many wives are in a position where her instinct requires her husband to lead but her will & intellect simultaneously refuse to submit.

You might be asking how that could possibly work, and the answer is “not very well.” While people can believe contradictions, contradictions can’t actually exist. So wives in this situation are inexorably drawn into various attempts to distort both instinct and belief until they can be made to fit. One of the most common of these is to expect her husband to lead and take the initiative–but only in exactly the way she wants him to. That way, she can get what her instincts demand without actually having to submit to anything at all.

Naturally, that’s a pretty tenuous arrangement, and one has to be very careful not to break the illusion. On one hand, she can never actually tell her husband what she wants–even if he specifically asks her. Neither can she ask him for it. At the end of the day, most husbands actually want to make their wives happy. Being providers by nature, if our wives ask for something, we’ll usually go out of our way to try and provide it. But if she tells him what she wants before he does it for her, then her instinct is no longer satisfied–he’s following instead of leading.

On the other hand, she can never accept what her husband provides unless it either matches or exceeds her expectations. If he takes the initiative in a way she doesn’t immediately approve of, then acknowledging his leadership would require actual submission. When that happens, her offense is doubled. Not only did she not get what she wanted, but everything she’s been taught tells her that initiative of this kind is an assault on her very sense of self. It’s only natural that she would react according to her offense and get upset.

If she deeply commits to this endeavor, a vicious cycle of misery begins. The husband knows something is wrong and tries to figure out what because he cares about her. But the more he tries to coax an answer out of her, the angrier she gets. After all, the closer she gets to actually telling him, the more it feels like he’s failing to lead, and the more she’s tempted to double-down on her strategy. When she does answer, she does so with spite and contempt.  What’s more, Because her bent instincts are demanding that she ask for nothing, she begins to believe that she shouldn’t have to ask for anything in the first place. As this sense of entitlement grows, she grows more resentful at her husband’s failure to understand what she wants. This deepens the offense she feels when he leads “wrongly,” which tempts him to try harder to figure out the problem, and the cycle grows worse.

But what would this cycle look like from the husband’s point of view? Well, he’s not an idiot. He knows that his wife wants things that he isn’t giving her. He also knows that she knows what these things are and refuses to tell him, but expects them all the same. In other words, it seems like she’s expecting him to be a mind-reader. And it fits quite a few cliches–from the whole “What’s wrong? / NOTHING!” dialogue to cyclical arguments about where to go to dinner.

So what can be done about it? Well, a husband in this situation can stop feeding the cycle by constantly trying to figure out what his wife wants. That’s not going to erase her existing sense of entitlement, but it can at least inhibit the growth of resentment on both sides. The key, however, lies with the wife. If she can, as the Apostle Peter instructs, resist her fear and submit to her husband, then she can halt this cycle dead in its tracks. The more she does this, the more she can perceive his leadership & provision as a gift rather than an entitlement. What’s more, she also frees herself to be more open with him about her own feelings and desires without nagging and backbiting, so that he can welcome her input instead of learning to dread it.  Rather than a cycle of misery and entitlement, she can create a cycle of gift and gratitude–and that’s a far better way to live for both spouses.

Posted in Feminism | 1 Comment

Civility is a Social Contract, not a Moral Absolute

My latest piece at The Federalist considers the ethics of civility in uncivil times:

Because civility is not a moral absolute and its form is always adjusting along with culture, it’s requirements are determined primarily by social contract — the kind of behavior we all implicitly or explicitly agree to when interacting with one another. Historically, some of these contracts have been great blessings while others have been reprehensible, but all are, by nature, contracts.

The detail that conservatives tend to forget is that when one party violates a contract, the other party is no longer bound by all of its terms. If you sign a contract to buy a car, and the dealer refuses to turn it over you, you aren’t “sinking to their level” by refusing to hand over your money. If you contract an employee who never shows up for work, you aren’t “repaying evil for evil” by withholding his wages. The same is true when dealing with people who are deliberately uncivil to civil people — it fundamentally changes what the rest of society owes them.

While I’d rather we all be civil with each other, our God-given vocations and love for our neighbor sometimes demands that we be uncivil.  You can read the rest here.

Posted in Ethics, Politics, Tradition | Leave a comment

The Last Jedi & Postmodernism

Do I still have to give a spoiler warning for Star Wars: The Last Jedi ? If so, then consider it given.

I’ve written before about how much I detest this film and why. But while I noted the huge gulf between the critics rating and the user rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I didn’t really get into why the film is so divisive. A lot of people seem to love this movie while a whole lot of other people hate it. That split in opinion seems to correspond pretty well to political ideologies–liberals seem to be the ones that love it while right-leaning people tend to be the ones that hate it. What’s curious, though, is that the movie isn’t really that leftist, politically speaking. I mean, sure there’s the Planet of the One Percent that it gets sidetracked on where no one can be rich without being an arms dealer; and yes, the men of the film tend to get trashed for the sake of making the women look good in comparison; but as contemporary movies go, it’s not that politically stilted. Those conservatives who can’t look past that much in order to enjoy the movie probably aren’t watching contemporary movies at all (though I can’t really blame them). So why do opinions split the way they do?

The answer finally dawned on me while I was listening to one of Vox Day’s old Darkstreams the other day about postmodern literature.  In it, he explains his own epiphany that he tended to dislike the really acclaimed postmodern books because they took a very different approach to writing. Their prose is not meant to be read word for word in order to find meaning. Instead, it’s meant to be skimmed over so that the reader is left with an impression. In other words, they don’t write in order to say particular things but rather to evoke particular feelings. Textual coherence is set aside for the sake of evocative imagery in a kind of “word salad” as Vox put it.

There is something very similar going on in The Last Jedi. Anyone who is looking for a coherent story that comprises a new chapter of a saga that takes place in a fleshed-out universe with an established history is going to be terribly disappointed. From scene to scene, the whole movie is an incoherent mess. It’s incoherent with the original trilogy: For example Luke Skywalker, who had selflessly risked his life to redeem his Space-Hitler father from the Dark Side in the old movies, now straight-up attempts to murder his nephew because Kylo was merely conflicted about the Dark Side. It’s incoherent with the first part of the new trilogy: For example, Luke & Anakin’s old lightsaber is presented as a profoundly significant piece of history in The Force Awakens, but is tossed aside like trash in The Last Jedi. It’s even incoherent with itself: For example, people who (in a universe with auto-pilot) sacrificed their lives by staying behind to pilot ships that were just going to run out of gas and be destroyed anyway. Totally pointless, but they did it twice. (The more noticeable one was Vice Admiral Hair Dye, who explicitly says she has to stay on their last cruiser because someone has to pilot the ship, but does so from the hangar bay while she’s saying goodbye to the very last of the crew who were leaving. In other words, if the ship absolutely had to have a pilot–even for the short time it had left–then who was piloting it while she and literally everyone else was down in the hangar bay? And even when it cuts to her back on the bridge, she’s still just looking out a window and not piloting anything.) Oh, and if you want an exhaustive list of these kinds of problems, try the Anti-Trekker’s lengthy review on Youtube.

But while these scenes made absolutely no logical sense, they did create evocative images. Luke’s attempted murder presented the powerful image of a fallen hero who couldn’t live up to his own legend. The discarded lightsaber subverted audience expectations to create feelings of uncertainty. The captains going down with their ships were images of bravery, dedication, and self-sacrifice. Everything in the film had a purpose inasmuch as it was meant to manipulate the audience into feeling particular ways. So from the postmodern perspective where those kinds of subjective experiences are the only things that really exist, the film hit all the right notes.

And that takes us back to the split opinions along ideological lines.  That postmodern perspective is much more common on the left than on the right. Just look at the world of social justice, and you’ll find evidence of that in spades. It’s all narrative thinking in which the moment-to-moment impressions given by a fluid cultural story are the only things that matter. There’s nothing objectively wrong about asking where a person is from, but it gives an impression of alienation, and so it’s a microagression. There’s nothing racial about the word ‘niggardly’, but it reminds people of a specific slur, and so its racist. The whole “only an enthusiastic ‘yes’ means ‘yes'” standard for sexual assault has no objective meaning, but if a woman gets an impression of rape, then it was rape. Leftists are used to thinking within an incoherent mess of a framework when it comes to reality, so why would that bother them when it comes to fiction?

But the problem (both with the film and the postmodern perspective) is that subjective experiences cannot exist in a vacuum–they need to be tied to an objective reality to be truly meaningful. Sacrifice doesn’t work as a concept without giving up something of real value in exchange for something else of real value. Subverted expectations are just irritation unless the expectation and what actually happens are both organically rooted in reality. Even the image of a fallen hero needs to be under-girded with A) real heroism and B) a fall that proceeds from real flaws actually possessed by that hero.

Just as social justice is a parasite on civilization, The Last Jedi is a parasite on the Star Wars saga. It adds nothing new to it–it cannot, for the very idea of Creation is alien to postmodern philosophy. It merely consumes what came before it to evoke some ephemeral impressions–leaving everyone more impoverished than they were before.

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Rhetoric & Indoctrination – Issues Etc. Interview

Issues Etc was good enough to have me on the show again this past Friday.  You can check out the interview here.

Posted in Abortion, Chastity, Culture, Natural Law, Politics | Leave a comment

Keeping Jesus at Arm’s Length

Do you want to learn from Jesus? Or do you simply want to make sure Jesus isn’t stepping on your toes?

The former proceeds from faith. When you believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died for your sins, its only natural that you’d want to sit at his feet and learn from him.

The latter proceeds from unbelief. You really only care what you yourself believe and–for some reason or another–want the security of thinking that Jesus isn’t contradicting you.

I bring this up because of the all-to-common assertion that “Jesus never taught anything about gay marriage.”

Anyone who wants to learn from Jesus will find out very quickly that this assertion is false. They’ll read Matthew 19, for example, and observe that Jesus roots his teaching on marriage in the fact that God created humans as male and female and that marriage proceeds from this divinely ordained aspect of human nature. They’ll read about Jesus’ repeated & clear teaching that the Old Testament is the very word of God, and they’ll notice what the Old Testament says about homosexual liaisons. They’ll read about Jesus’ promises to the Apostles that the Holy Spirit will lead them into all truth and notice what the Apostles say about homosexual liaisons. In short, anyone who genuinely wants to learn from Jesus is not going to be unaware of his teaching on the issue. They may not like it; they may not really understand why Jesus taught what he taught; but they will rightly understand that Jesus taught that a marriage can only exist between a man and a woman.

In contrast, this reasoning will be entirely opaque to those who–in unbelief–only desire the comfort that Jesus is not disagreeing with them. They will find out that the phrase “gay marriage” does not exist in the Bible and leave it at that. It will never even occur to them that the concept that two men or two women can be married to each other would make many of Jesus’ teachings incoherent. It will never occur to them because they never tried to understand Jesus’ teachings in the first place and so they don’t really need the prerequisite of coherence. With that, Jesus can be safely dismissed and kept out of the way.

But there is no safety in keeping our Savior at arm’s length. And if you find yourself in that latter category because Jesus teachings on this or any other issue make you really uncomfortable, here’s what I suggest: Be honest. Go to Christ in prayer and tell him what you think. Yell at him, curse at him if you must, and demand to know why he’s so hateful or whatever your issue is. He’s God; he can take it. And then, when you’ve got that out of your system, say “Lord… you’re God and I’m not–but I don’t understand. Please help me believe you.” And then, when you have faith in Christ rather than faith in your own feelings of comfort, that faith can begin seeking understanding.

Posted in Chastity, Theology | Leave a comment