Some of Jesus’ Disciples Were Armed

Given some of the comments, I really wish I had taken the time to point this out in my latest Federalist piece on gun control…

So in Gethsemane, when the soldiers come to take Jesus, Peter takes his sword and cuts of the ear of the high priest’s servant, Malchus.  Jesus tells him to put it back in its sheath because those who live by the sword will die by the sword. (Matt 26:51-52).

“Ah-HA!” Cry people with a total lack of critical thinking skills.  “Jesus said not to ever use weapons to hurt people!”

So take a deep breath, step back from that tree trunk for a second, look at the forest, and ask yourself:  why was Peter walking around armed?

And Peter wasn’t the only one, according to Luke:  “When those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, ‘Lord, shall we strike with the sword?'”  (Luke 22:49).   For that matter, earlier in that chapter when Jesus says “let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one,” the disciples had at least two swords that they were immediately able to take out and show him.

What then are we to conclude?  That Jesus categorically forbade owning weapons but completely overlooked the fact that some of his closest disciples were going around armed?  Or should we rather conclude that Jesus was telling Peter that he had more important things to do than die in battle?

One of these conclusions is reasonable.  One is completely idiotic.  Choose wisely.



Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Then We Can No Longer Refer to You as Christians

It seems that the Episcopal diocese of Washington D.C. has passed a resolution to no longer refer to God with masculine language. Their reasoning is the typical boilerplate for theological liberals:

“Over the centuries our language and our understanding of God has continued to change and adapt,” the drafters of the resolution stated. The drafters said that referring to God using masculine pronouns is to “limit our understanding of God.”

“By expanding our language for God, we will expand our image of God and the nature of God,” they stated.

Unfortunately, this expansion of their “image” of God expands it away from the Trinity and therefore away from Christianity. As I’ve written in the past, the Father is not a metaphor. Neither is He an “understanding.” Jesus Christ didn’t laze about in a coffee shop trying to make sense of his God-experience before coming to the conclusion that God is very much like a human father and deciding to use that metaphor to help others understand. No, Christ proclaimed that God IS his Father—the Father. Human fathers are metaphorically like Him. Just as Jesus taught that he himself is God and that the Spirit is God, he also taught that the Father is God. Christ’s Apostles likewise proclaimed God the Father and explicitly referred to him with masculine language—this despite the fact that Greek, unlike English, actually has personal gender-neutral pronouns available for use. Like their Lord, they did not teach that God is understood as a father or is metaphorically like a father, but that God IS the Father and that the Father is God.

In contrast, theological liberals do not teach that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are God, but rather that they are metaphors for God. This is why they’re so comfortable replacing them with “mother,” “daughter,” and any number of other metaphors. It’s why they’re comfortable with universalism—because Allah, Vishnu, etc are just additional ways (or modes) of understanding god rather than God Himself. They teach that the true god is behind these temporary masks which are only there to help limited humans get a tiny little grasp on an infinite and unknowable deity. This is straight-up modalism and has been recognized as a heresy for nearly the entire existence of the Church.

When people change their theology to move away from the Father and the Son, they are not simply adjusting their language and understanding, but are changing their object of worship. They are creating an idol.  If their understanding of God prevents them from referring to Him as Christ did, then they cannot be referred to as Christian.

Theological liberals might keep some of the trappings of Christianity—pews, vestments, crosses (sometimes), and so forth—but they are a different religion that worships a false god and teaches a false gospel. Orthodox Christians have a responsibility to look past appearances and call a spade a spade:  These are not Christian denominations, and they are not part of Christ’s Church.  They are pagans who need to hear the Gospel and repent.

Posted in Theological Liberalism | 1 Comment

The Truth about Mansplaining

The feminist attempt to redefine all vice in terms of the male sex has been going on for a long time now. The term “Male Chauvinism” was coined back in the 30’s—appropriating a term for fanatical patriotism and applying it to sex differences. Roughly half a century ago, you’d hear academics talking about “the male gaze” with respect to first film and then society in general. And today, of course, this kind of terminology is proliferating: you have broad ideas of concupiscence like “toxic masculinity” and “male privilege” as well as specific sins like “manspreading” and “mansplaining.”

It’s this latter term that I wanted to write about here. The basic idea behind mansplaining is that it occurs when men explain things to women in a condescending manner—as we are supposedly prone to do. It’s a pretty simple idea that is then taken down the usual feminist avenues of privilege, discrimination, and so forth. But simple or not, there’s clearly more going on here than just the basic idea. After all, mansplaining is one of those interesting cases where there are a whole lot of women who believe they have been subjected to it, but virtually no men who think they’ve ever committed it. Those kinds of discrepancies in perception always indicate that there’s more going on—certainly more than the usual shallow complaints about patriarchy. A patriarchy that hasn’t existed in the West for at least a generation or two doesn’t really explain the ubiquitous male perception that we have not been condescending. On the contrary, it is simply an excuse for dismissing that perception.

As always, good explanations don’t dismiss half of the evidence, and so a better one must be found. Now, this is not a better explanation of condescension in general, but rather the specific experiences that feminists believe require a new category. Accordingly, a better understanding of mansplaining is that it occurs when a woman is unduly embarrassed when a man explains something to her—either because she feels she should have already understood it or because she disagrees but can’t fashion a coherent counter-argument.

Explanations happen. Everybody encounters circumstances when they need something explained to them by someone else. There could be a disparity of position (e.g. teacher to student), a mere disparity of know-how, or simply a disagreement. Generally, it’s not a cause for being disgruntled, even when one doesn’t agree with the explanation—that’s just part of dialogue and learning. But that reflexive feeling of embarrassment that can occur and how we handle it psychologically is what really makes the difference in these situations and turns explaining into something negative like mansplaining.

Sometimes the embarrassment occurs because one holds a position that implies an expertise that simply isn’t there. For example, I once attended a philosophy talk given by a guest professor who needed to have Plato explained to her during the course of the conversation. And I don’t mean she had an unusual take on Plato—I mean that by her own admission, she had somehow managed to achieve a PhD in philosophy without having ever read anything by Plato. That’s really embarrassing. Even my then professor who encouraged the class to attend and really talked up how wonderful it was that more women were getting involved in academic philosophy was noticeably disappointed. This is an extreme example, to be sure. Nevertheless, its not at all uncommon for people to be at least somewhat out of their depth in their professional lives—it’s part of what makes professions interesting and challenging. It’s also cause for the occasional embarrassment.

Other times embarrassment comes from making a stupid mistake. We all do this—it’s why we have terms like “brain fart” or “blonde moment.” Sometimes people just make dumb oversights; and sometimes these oversights get pointed out. For example, I once had to explain to someone how to unlock the back door of the car they regularly drove. She needed to get some stuff out of the back seat but said she couldn’t because it was locked and the key only unlocked the front door (nothing was broken; it was just an older car where you just needed to reach around from the front to unlock the back doors.) It was just a silly mistake borne from the fact that she encountered mild frustration on something she didn’t really want to be doing in the first place. We’ve all done stuff like that, and we’ve all been embarrassed about it.

And, of course, disagreeing with someone without being able to give a good reason why is a naturally embarrassing situation. Everybody wants to come out on top in a conflict, and when we believe we’re right and the other guy is wrong, we expect to come out on top. If the truth didn’t prevail in our hands, its our own fault. What’s more, this natural embarrassment is often compounded by the previous two circumstances—incompetence or stupid mistakes—because it highlights error on our part.

But people react to embarrassment of these sorts in different ways. For the most part, people with a healthy sense of self just shrug it off without drama. Some even take the opportunity to up their game and improve their knowledge or arguments. Other people, however, end up getting defensive when embarrassed. Embarrassment is not a pleasant feeling—particularly if one is already insecure—and so they feel the need to both attack the person who triggered the feeling and shore themselves up emotionally by rationalizing why they shouldn’t have to feel embarrassed in the first place. The path of least resistance when one is embarrassed by an explanation is to accuse the other party of condescension.

Once one makes that accusation, it’s always easy to find supporting evidence for it. After all, every good explanation begins with some common ground before moving into the unknown. Consequently, every good explanation involves stating something that the other person already knows. When being defensive, it’s very easy to leap on that one starting point and cry, “I don’t need you to tell me that! You’re treating me like I’m stupid!” And, of course, there’s always a degree of ambiguity when you’re establishing common ground—we don’t always know exactly what the other persons knows or doesn’t know. So explanations often include the establishment of more common ground than is strictly necessary, which makes it even easier to presume condescension where none occurred.

This is easier still in cases in which the embarrassment stems from having a skill set that is insufficient to one’s role. Consider the philosophy professor who never read Plato: Any time a colleague or a student has to explain to her what Symposium is about, there’s a weirdness to it because she’s basically in the position of a student taking philosophy 101. Explaining something about someone else’s area of expertise is always going to look a little condescending—even when it’s truly necessary. Embarrassment encourages a person to take that appearance and run with it. Add in the natural human inclination towards confirmation bias, and in the end, we only notice what we want to see—what will make us feel better about ourselves.

And so, here we have a very common phenomena that results in one party feeling condescended towards while the other has no such intention or awareness—precisely what we see when it comes to mansplaining. But this explanation is still missing one key piece. Thus far, I’ve described behavior that isn’t particularly unique to either sex. We all make mistakes. Men and women can both get defensive. Confirmation bias is ubiquitous. How, then, would we end up with a sexually charged term like mansplaining? In other words, why would women in particular get defensive when this kind of embarrassment is triggered by men?

The biggest reason is that it’s simply the spirit of our age. We are at peak feminism in the West. Think back to all the anti-male terminology in the first paragraph: manspreading, mansplaining, toxic masculinity, male privilege, male gaze, male chauvinism. Feminism’s raison d’etre is blaming men for social circumstances that women don’t like. It is currently normal for women’s negative experiences to receive a sex-based categorization and for fault to be automatically ascribed to men.

At the same time, misandry is entirely socially acceptable. Even most conservatives are conserving feminism and are therefore unwilling to defend men or call out women for this kind of prejudice. The pushback against feminism in the West is still in its infancy, and its voices are still at the relative fringes of society. But the idea that women are the perpetual victims of evil men is just an everyday part of the cultural narrative.

One must also consider the growing sense of entitlement that is disproportionately cultivated in women by feminism—especially the conviction that women are entitled to particular feelings. You can see this playing out in family law. In the past, a married man was responsible for being a faithful and loving husband. Today, he is responsible for making sure his wife feels happy, because if he doesn’t, she can unilaterally end their marriage and take their children, home, and his future income with her when she leaves—and most people don’t see anything wrong with it.

You can see the same entitlement playing out in criminal law. So much of our talk about rape culture revolves around the idea that women are entitled to engage in risky sexual behavior without ever feeling imperiled or even uncomfortable. Just look at the curious case of Aziz Ansari. His awkward sexual encounter with a woman is being placarded as some kind of sexual assault—another #MeToo story. And yet, this is not because he refused to take no for an answer or forced her into anything against her will; it’s because she was uncomfortable about choosing to strip down with him and not particularly into their subsequent fooling around. In other words, she didn’t feel sufficiently enthusiastic about the encounter. And yes, there are people dedicated to the idea that women are entitled to constant levels of high enthusiasm in every sexual encounter and that anything less is violent rape. Believing oneself to be entitled to never feeling embarrassed is just one more natural extension of this same entitlement mindset—and no less absurd.

Finally, we must not dismiss social circumstances that prime the pump of embarrassment and disproportionately create these situations. Inasmuch as affirmative action makes any difference at all, it does so by employing women over men in situations where skill sets are similar. The inescapable logical consequence is that in any context in which affirmative action is effective, a man needs to be more qualified than a woman in order to occupy the same professional space. This means that situations like the one in which that philosophy professor found herself are going to be skewed so that women are more likely to be on the embarrassing end of them.

I am certainly not claiming that genuine condescension never happens. Nor am I claiming that men are never condescending towards women. What I am claiming is that this phenomenon of mansplaining is less a widespread besetting sin amongst men and more a product of unhealthy mindsets of women that have been warped by feminism. If factors like these are at the root of mansplaining, then they account for the experiences of both the men and the women who are involved instead of ignoring half the story. No doubt, feminists won’t find this explanation terribly flattering. They might even be embarrassed enough to label it mansplaining. But that has no bearing on whether or not it’s a better explanation.

And to those men who have been thus accused: Feel free to consider whether you’ve been condescending, but don’t labor under the false impression that you and all men are guilty of misogyny or that society needs to be “fixed” to correct it. The facts simply don’t warrant it.

Posted in Feminism | 3 Comments

A Missionary’s Positions

We had a guest speaker at my church this past Sunday—a missionary who spoke to us about mission—both the specific program he oversees and the broader task of making disciples of all nations given to the Church. He gave everyone a lot to think about—much good, but some bad. Given how many churches he’s spoken at, I’d wager a lot of other Lutherans have heard him as well, so I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on his presentation here.

First, some of his good points:

  • Don’t be normal.  

    Just to clarify, his message here was not that of the modern American cult of Self—to have contempt for “normal” things like marriage, family, responsibility, etc so that you have as much room as possible to gratify your own narcissism by pretending you’re too extraordinary for the rest of humanity. I would never be labeling that as a good point.

    There’s a far better sense in which we shouldn’t be normal, and I believe another way of putting his point is “Don’t be worldly.” It’s worldly to be casual about mission, to keep religion and private life separate, to despise the teaching of God’s word as an annoying obligation rather than a gift, etc. Like the miracle of birth, Christianity is a truly extraordinary thing no matter how much we might be surrounded by it. Merely going through the usual motions and keeping your participation in Christ’s Church as convenient and unobtrusive as possible is inconsistent with what Christ has done and is doing for us, within us, and around us.

    For a long time, America was considered a Christian nation to some extent. Cultural norms reflected religious norms. But the less true that this becomes, the less that faithful Christians are going to look like ordinary Americans. We can no longer simply go with the flow. What remains is coming up with the best ways of going against the tide, and that’s a task we need to start taking personally and seriously.

  • Don’t be afraid to talk about politics. 

    Obviously there’s a time and a place for this subject and politics are not the point of Christianity, but Christians are terrified of any assigning any time and place for this–especially in church and Bible studies. But if God’s Word addresses a subject of popular controversy, then any preacher or teacher of that Word should be likewise addressing that subject.

    If you’re too scared of inadvertently causing offense, you’re never going to speak to people in any profound way. People get argumentative and offended about subjects like politics (and religion, for that matter) because those subjects are extremely important to them. If you never allow your message to be offensive, then you’re literally making your message unimportant to your hearers. This is precisely why Jesus, his Apostles, and the Prophets were constantly being put to death for offending everyone around them.

    And he practiced what he preached—he brought up subjects like abortion, gay marriage, the trans movement, etc and faithfully presented what God’s word says about them in Scripture.

There was also one point that was good so long as it is understood properly.

  • Everyone is a missionary. 

    Inasmuch as this means that we should all witness to the people God brings into our lives and not just assume that church staff will take care of it, then this is important. First and foremost, parents should be explicitly raising their children in the faith. That means talking to them about God, praying with them, teaching them what they’re able to understand, bringing them to Christ’s church to receive His Word and Sacraments, etc. There are also adult children and grandchildren who have left the Church. Sometimes, there are friends and neighbors. Anyone with whom you talk about important things is someone with whom you can talk about the Most Important Thing.

    However, we should discard this point inasmuch as it expunges the notion of vocation and creates two tiers of Christians (ones who evangelize and ones who merely do the things God has told them to do like raise their kids and feed their families and whatnot.) One of the great realizations of the Reformers is that the faithful maid or blacksmith isn’t any less spiritual than the monk or the priest (or missionary.) We all have different gifts and callings, and we shouldn’t be in the business of forcing everyone into the same mold or declaring that some gifts put their bearers in a higher tier of godliness.

    And here, I need to give special attention to my fellow introverts. The people who go through the conference circuit, have a billion personal evangelism stories, or visit 1700 churches to give talks about missionary work are usually raging extroverts. They genuinely fail to understand that introverts aren’t constantly talking with our neighbors and coworkers, that we don’t have a huge social circle, and that we don’t strike up conversations with strangers. They ask the congregation when they last invited their neighbors to church, and we’re all sitting there trying to remember the last time we even spoke with our neighbors and what their names are. The natural consequence of this is that the shape of personal evangelism is very very different for us. Super-spiritual extroverts tend to dismiss that difference as shyness, cowardice, laziness, ungodliness, and so forth, but they do so in great ignorance.

    Remember the Widow’s Mite. Though she offered only a small coin, Jesus said that out of her poverty she gave more than anyone else. The same holds true when it comes to the introverted, the autistic, and all those who live in some manner of social poverty. Popular speakers who are socially wealthy may not know what personal evangelism costs you, but God does.

God instructs us to test our teachers, and unfortunately, I have to point out that it was not all great. Along with the good, he did make a number of faulty points as well that deserve to be addressed.

  • We’re shrinking because of our shameful lack of witness. 

    This is an empirical falsehood that still gets thrown around by missional Lutherans. According to recent independent studies commissioned by the LCMS, we are actually pretty good at evangelizing relative to other American denominations. It takes us roughly 44 adult members to get one convert. By comparison, it takes Southern Baptists, who have a very good reputation for evangelism, 47 adult members. That’s pretty comparable. Even the Mormons, with their extremely rigorous efforts at outreach, still need about 40 adult members.

    The actual cause of our decline is simple demographics. The LCMS is growing where the broader population is growing and shrinking where the broader population is shrinking. In other words, there are so few kids in church because we haven’t been having very many kids—something that is affecting most Christian denominations in the West. We’re reaping the consequences of generations of the West’s selfish anti-child mindset that has been adopted by Western Christians. It’s a critical problem that, even if we all repent today, will take generations to fix—should we last that long.

    To be sure, our conversion rate is good only by American standards. In contrast, the missionary pointed out that 1000’s of people are being baptized every day in Ethiopia. But there are a whole lot of other differences going on between America and Ethiopia besides less enthusiastic witness (remember how hard it is for the rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven?) God is to be praised for what He’s doing there, and we are rightly condemned for our own lukewarm disregard for Christ here. We absolutely should embrace and support mission work both at home and abroad. But none of that changes the underlying demographic reality of our decline. Christ has given us enough to do without taking on the additional burden of thinking that conversion is our work rather than the Holy Spirit’s.

  • Lutheranism sucks. 

    No, he didn’t say this explicitly. However, I couldn’t help but notice that his every reference to Lutheranism was derogatory or derisive. And yes, I mean that literally. He consistently treated our denomination, our traditions, and our theology as some kind of shackle from which we need to be released. There was definitely a strong note of that “Oh, if only we were more like Baptists, then an omnipotent and omniscient God could maybe finally find some way to use us to proclaim His Word” nonsense from the previous point.

    It’s not as though I think Lutherans or the Synod are beyond criticism—a quick review of this blog will tell you that. At the same time, our heritage of theology, hymnody, and history is a precious treasure won through hard-fought spiritual warfare against the Devil and this world. There are certainly things we need to change—mainly having to do with our embrace of modern worldliness and rejection of God’s word and our theological heritage—but one should not broadly treat precious things in such a manner, nor encourage others to do the same.

  • Theology sucks. 

    Again, this wasn’t an explicit statement, but he repeatedly mocked people who use theological words like “exegetical” as ineffective at best and Pharisaical at worst. Now, I think that what he was trying to do was encourage people without a strong theological background to take up their tasks as missionaries as well—and so they should.

    But there are two huge problems with this approach. First, elevating one group of people by tearing down another is not only uncreative, it’s downright cruel and discouraging to the second group who have their own work to do in the Church. More importantly, he was maligning the rigorous study of God’s word in a cultural context of Biblical and theological illiteracy where most Christians have very little conscious knowledge of what they believe and why they believe it. It’s really hard to tell people about something you don’t really get yourself.

    We should remember that Christ praised Mary over Martha when the former chose to sit at her Master’s feet and learn from him while the latter busied herself with serving. To be sure, Christianity is not in any way a religion for scholars alone. But everyone should witness according to the knowledge that has been given to them, and learn according to their intellectual aptitude. In other words, be at least as learned and articulate about Christianity as you are about football, Game of Thrones, or whatever your other favorite things happen to be. Theological terminology is there for a reason, and capable people should embrace learning it rather than being made ashamed of it.

  • We need a revival! 

    This one was an explicit statement, and he did mean it in the Baptist sense (in one of his many jabs at Lutheranism, he said in mock horror “Oh no! That’s a Baptist word! We can’t say that!”)

    But we do not need that kind of revival. Why? Because revivalism was and is all about creating motivation through emotional excitement. While there’s nothing wrong with excitement, the Church is not built on a foundation of emotional highs, for they always wear off before too long. If you look revivalism, what you’ll find is a history of charismatic preachers trying to find ever more extreme ways of eliciting those emotional highs and suffering the usual diminishing returns associated with getting their next fix. You get places like the “burned over” districts that spawned people like Joseph Smith—places visited by so many revivalists that everyone was too jaded to be set on fire for the Lord anymore and required heresy just to become interested. The end (I hope) result of all that is preachers doing Sunday-morning bull-riding and other such nonsense just to try to keep the crowds coming in the doors.

    The Church needs better than a storm of manipulated emotions. We need Jesus Christ. We need his teachings handed down through the Apostles. We need the sacraments he instituted. Our job as missionaries is not to artificially create crowds, it’s to take what we have been given in Christ and hand it to the rest of the world. I believe that if we were more faithful in this task, we would see God working through it in profound ways. But even if we saw no such thing, that remains what He has called us to do. A tiny congregation of geriatrics in a dying rural town need Christ no less than the multitudes of Ethiopia. Let Christ save and grow his Church—you do what has been given to you.

Posted in Lutheranism, Theology, Tradition | 4 Comments

Cultural Doggie Bag: Star Wars – The Last Jedi

Hugely polarizing movies are always interesting to me—whether I love it or hate it, there’s always something interesting to think about with respect to films that sharply divide audiences. The new Star Wars movie certainly falls into this category, what with its lofty 92% critics rating and dismal 54% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I finally saw The Last Jedi the other night, and I went into the theater with high hopes. The trailers sold it very well and The Force Awakens had set up a number of mysteries that I was looking forward to exploring.

Unfortunately, though I started out enjoying myself, I found myself landing squarely on the hate side of the division by the time the credits were rolling. If you want to know why, keep reading, but there are MASSIVE SPOILERS from here on out, so be warned.

  1. The film is internally incoherent

    You can think of The Last Jedi as a bad movie wearing the skin of good movies—Buffalo Bill style. There is definitely a lot of awesome stuff in there: cool moments, some great action set pieces, legitimate drama and so forth. But all these pieces are just loosely stitched together and they just don’t make sense in what is supposed to be a larger tapestry.

    Half the movie concerns the last remnants of the rebellion that are on the run from the First Order. (You might have thought that the good guys won at the end of The Force Awakens, but you would be mistaken. The Republic was apparently inconsequential enough that it could not survive the loss of a a few planets, the First Order basically controls the entire galaxy, and the resistance has become a rebellion that’s down to a handful of ships and the people on board.) The First Order is mysteriously tracking the Rebels through light speed, and the Rebels are forced to barely stay ahead at sub-light speeds because they only have about 18 hours of fuel left. The odd strategic bread from The Force Awakens aside, it’s a setup that could create some good tension—if the movie weren’t so sloppy about it.

    Take the intriguing mystery of how they’re being tracked. Tracking ships at light speed is apparently thought to be impossible by most people. Leia treats it as a mystery. Snoke is impressed enough that he refrains from killing the space Nazi general in charge of his fleet. How are they doing it? Did they get a homing beacon aboard the ship? Is there a traitor in the ranks? No. The First Order just has a scanner than can track a ship at light speed. The movie sets it up as significant and curious, but it’s ultimately nothing more than “they just can, I guess.” Apparently Snoke didn’t read the memo about inventing that and installing it on his own ship.

    It was awesome when Leia got blown up and blasted from her ship into the vacuum of space, only to use the Force to fly back on board like freaking Superman. Except that it’s literally the only time she ever does anything at all like that in any of the movies. Yeah, Return of the Jedi set her up as a Skywalker who has the same kind of potential with the Force as Luke, but there is no other indication anywhere in The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi that she ever developed that potential. There’s not even any throwaway line like “oh, it’s just something my brother taught me” to hang a lantern on it or a comment from other rebels about her doing stuff like that on occasion to set it up. It just comes out of nowhere to the point that it almost becomes comical.

    It was totally awesome towards the end when—after having to abandon their last big ship in order to escape—the last remaining rebel on board (who momentarily forgot about the existence of auto-pilot) points the ship at the enemy fleet and takes it to light speed, obliterating a bunch of star destroyers and causing massive damage to even the huge capital ships of the First Order. It was expertly animated and extremely satisfying. At least it was until you remember that they had to ditch several other big ships earlier in the film and just let them get blown up instead of using them in exactly the same super-effective way that would have let the rest escape. It was so awesomely effective that it makes me wonder why this isn’t a normal tactic in the Star Wars universe—building giant torpedoes with hyper-drives and launching them at enemy ships.

    And I was already filled with this same kind of “wonder” in other respects. Why is it that fully fueled First Order ships capable of light speed can’t catch up with ships forced to go slower? Why they can’t send half the ships ahead of them to stop them from staying outside of effective weapons range? Why they can’t call in other ships to come out of hyperspace ahead of them—they control the whole galaxy, they must have more ships. And they had plenty of time. After all, Finn & Rose were able to go off and have an ultimately pointless mini adventure on the Evil Rich Person Planet, get knocked out and thrown in prison, free some animals, find a code-breaker, give the 1% their comeuppance and then come back while this slow chase was going on.
    Everything cool about the movie is there simply for the sake of being cool—but very little of it is an organic part of the setting and circumstances. It’s as if every scene came from a different writer thinking “wouldn’t it be cool if ______ happened?”

  2. Most of the mysteries from The Force Awakens are just written off.
    I left The Force Awakens wanting more. For example, who is this supreme leader Snoke fellow? Where did he come from? He is a mysterious and powerful figure who was never hinted at in the other six movies, so what’s his deal? Well, I still don’t know and since he died like a chump 2/3 of the way through the movie, I doubt I’ll be finding out any time soon. He was set up as so mysterious and powerful and conniving and so forth by J.J. Abrams, but there was absolutely no payoff. He came out of nowhere and went right back where he came from when his narrative role was finished.

    What about Rey’s parents? Is she a Skywalker? A Kenobi? A Palpatine? Fans were abuzz with theories about this one, but nobody could have guessed the real answer: Nobody important. Just some lazy junkies who sold their daughter for drugs. After the last movie, a lot of people pointed out that Rey was a Mary Sue—a stand-in character for female viewers who was inexplicably good at everything and loved by everyone except the villains. She could immediately pilot and repair the Millennium Falcon better than Han and Chewie. She could use the Force to great effect and dominate Kylo Ren with a lightsaber—all without any of the training from Jedi Masters, hard work, and sacrifice that Luke needed in the original trilogy. Unlike Luke, Leia, or…. anyone, gruff old Han Solo took an immediate shine to Rey. And when Han died, Leia walks right past her old friend Chewbacca to embrace Rey, who had known Han for all of a day or two. I was skeptical of the assessment because I assumed that her mysterious backstory would give a reasonable explanation for all of this. It did not. She has no real backstory, and there was no reason to make it appear mysterious. There’s no reason for skepticism any longer. Rey is the most blatant and shameless Mary Sue character I’ve ever seen outside of fan fiction—which basically means that Last Jedi retroactively ruins Force Awakens.

    And there’s a thousand other tiny plot threads from Force Awakens that are just abandoned. What kind of training was Snoke going to give Kylo? Who are the Knights of Ren? We left off with Finn seriously injured and unconscious, but he immediately wakes up fine. It really reminds me of the first season or two of Lost—setting up mysteries that seemed cool but had no real payoff. Only I don’t think it’s J.J. Abrams fault this time. The impression I get is more that Rian Johnson found episodes 1-7 to be a burden rather than a foundation and was simply eager to get away from it all and do his own thing.

    But what about the mystery surrounding Luke? Why did he disappear to find the first Jedi Temple? Why did he abandon his friends in their fight for freedom? Why did he leave behind a map to find him in a mysteriously deactivated R2D2? Well, that leads us to…

  3. The character of Luke is crapped on.

    There was a lot of potential here. After Luke’s falling out with Kylo, did he want to explore ancient Jedi writings to find out where he went wrong? Why did he think the Jedi needed to end? Because he found a deep flaw in their philosophy or uncover some dark secret?

    Well, here’s the actual explanation: As indicated in Force Awakens, Luke was trying to start a new Jedi Order and was training a number of students, including his nephew, Kylo Ren. He sensed the dark side growing in young Kylo (apparently because of Snoke… somehow.) So Luke visited him at night and scans his soul for the dark side. Astonished at how deeply Kylo was into it, Luke impulsively decided to straight up murder his nephew—the only son of his twin sister and best friend. But Kylo woke up scared and angry, and knocked Luke out, destroyed his training temple, and ran off to join Snoke. Luke, knowing he had failed Kylo, ran off for the sole purpose of dying alone in despair.

    What does that have to do with R2, the map, and the first Jedi temple? Not a damn thing, apparently. Yet more teases with no payoff.

    But more importantly, how is this the same Luke Skywalker we know from the original trilogy? I seem to remember his hero’s journey reaching a climax when he went on a suicide mission to the Death Star because he refused to give up on the idea that there was good inside his evil mass-murdering space tyrant father. He even refused to kill him in their last duel. But his nephew—who is still conflicted about the whole light/dark thing—was just beginning to fall to the dark side, and his knee-jerk reaction is to immediately give up on him and kill him? I seem to remember Luke refusing to abandon his friends even when Obi Wan and Yoda were both begging him not to. I seem to remember Luke never giving up despite his failures and persevering till the end. What happened to him? Was what happened with Kylo a tragedy? Sure, but he’s already overcome bigger things than that. It trashes Luke’s legacy and obliterates his entire character arc from the original trilogy.
    And the same is true for Luke’s death.

    After a pep talk from Yoda, Luke decides to join the fray after all—or so it seems. He shows up when the rebels are making their last stand, and he goes out alone to face the First Order’s army. He takes all sorts of fire from their walkers and just shrugs it off—goading Kylo Ren to come down and face him. They sort of duel, but Luke is only dodging and their light sabers never make contact. Eventaully Kylo Ren cuts him down… only to find that Luke was just doing some kind of force astral projection thing the whole time—he wasn’t really there, just projecting an image of himself from his temple. So he basically tricked the First Order into focusing on him while the rebels escaped all from the safety of being light-years away. But then Luke dies anyway—I guess from over-exerting himself. So Luke Skywalker, who once took down the Empire dies alone from doing an elaborate Jedi mind trick. And the point of doing it all remotely was…. what exactly? The movie made a point of showing Luke’s ship on his planet. There is absolutely no reason he couldn’t have been there in person and had a heroic send-off that was actually real. It’s just one more injustice done to the character.

    Mark Hamill is on the record as fundamentally disagreeing with everything they chose to do with his character, and I cannot blame him one bit. We all wanted to see Luke at the height of his powers, but all the creators did was inexplicably take him down a dozen notches just so that the new characters have a shot at being interesting in comparison. It’s lazy, disrespectful writing and there’s no excuse for it. And that brings us to #4

  4. The new characters are largely uninteresting

    I do like Finn. He has enough dimensions to be interesting and John Boyega brings enough charm to the role that he’s likable. And apart from all the SJW posturing in his story arc regarding the evil slave-owning animal-abusing weapon-selling rich people, I thought his side story was fun enough (even though it turned out to be worse than meaningless to the movie as a whole; more on that in a minute.)

    I still don’t know why the movies want me to think Poe is important. He’s a hot-shot pilot whose also impulsive and hot-headed (yawn.) But he’s still hanging around Leia all the time so he can seem central to the rebellion. I like the fact that he actually has something of a character arc in this one where he learns that being hot-headed isn’t always the best approach to challenges. However, the lesson is learned at a truly awful cost that is just glossed over. Once Leia is unconscious after her superman episode, Poe distrusts the rebel leadership because they’re seemingly not doing anything to save the fleet and the rebellion—and to be fair to Poe, they give every impression of this being the case. That’s why he sends Finn off on his side-quest and ultimately mutinies against the Rebel leadership. But they did have a plan that they kept secret for no discernible reason (and this was a really easy mistake to avoid; they established this mysterious tracking of their ships and they could have easily used that to create distrust among the rebels because they’re afraid of a traitor.) Poe’s mutiny ends up turning their secret plan into a disaster resulting in the deaths of roughly 75% of the remaining rebels. He learns his lesson, but the gravity of this monumental screw-up is never really acknowledged.

    Kylo Ren is still an angsty putz who can’t really be taken seriously as a villain. Except now we’re stuck with him as the sole main villain because Snoke is dead.

    Rey, as we already mentioned, is just a zero-personality Mary Sue. Her interactions with Kylo in this movie are genuinely interesting, but other than that, her only real struggle is trying to find her role in everything—which in her case, just comes off as “what am I supposed to do with all this incredible awesomeness I have?” And I wholly expect that Episode 9 is just going to tell us she should just be following her heart and creating her own role—making her hero’s journey nothing more than coming to realize how incredibly awesome she always was.

In some ways, this is the worst of the Star Wars movies. As a self-contained film, it’s certainly not the dumpster fire that Attack of the Clones was, and sufficient suspension of disbelief might cover up enough of the plot holes to make it a good, fun movie. But none of these films are self-contained—they’re part of a whole whether we like it or not. And in that respect, its casual disregard for the entire canon whilst being part of that canon does a whole lot of damage to the Star Wars mythos. I don’t think it’s impossible for Episode 9 to make a comeback if handled properly. Time heals a whole lot of wounds, and I would actually suggest a 10-year time skip as a way of creating a better starting point than we were left with (Kylo can grow up, Rey can train, the rebellion can be rebuilt, etc.) Nevertheless, The Last Jedi creates a whole lot of disappointments—a lot of which cannot be erased from the Star Wars saga.

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Babel is a Feature, not a Bug

It’s not exactly rare for the Bible to clash with modernism. The six days of creation, the global flood, and Jonah’s fishy situation certainly upset our philosophy of science—the rules under which scientists analyze data which forbid any consideration of the miraculous. The 10 Commandments and all the accompanying details don’t really mesh with our amoral utilitarian ethics. Even the Atonement—God’s greatest act of love in which he gave his Son to die for us—is written off as divine child abuse. These issues are typically the meat and potatoes of the various controversies between the Church and the modern (and therefore the postmodern*) West.

And yet, if there’s one story from the Bible that goes right for modernism’s jugular, it’s really the Tower of Babel. This is not merely because it conflicts with contemporary theories on the development of language. Neither is it because it implies that the universe is three-tiered rather than Copernican. (Mainly because it doesn’t. “Reaching the heavens” wasn’t precisely the point anymore than “scraping the sky” is the goal when we build our own tall towers.) It is not primarily science which rejects Babel, for even science is subservient to a deeper part of modernistic philosophy—the progressive ideal of the perfectibility of man and civilization through iterative collective effort.

Science’s place in modern thought largely results from the violence and chaos coming out of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. With the dissolution of the Roman monopoly on reading the Bible, the theological issues that had been festering untreated for centuries all came out at once. It seemed like no two theologians—even the ones shouting Sola Scriptura—could agree on what Scripture actually said. Neither could those shouting tradition or patricians or bishops agree on whose traditions or patricians or bishops to follow, for the Great Schism had long ago shattered that form of unity. As those theological conflicts got caught up in politics, they quickly became bloody as well. In the end, it became too difficult for European elites to look to religion for any kind of unity or coherent worldview by which to navigate life.

At that same time, science was really starting to come into its own. Superstitions were being overturned, our understanding of the world was growing by leaps and bounds, and material benefits were beginning to emerge from that understanding. Better yet, science was thought to transcend the religious and political differences that had torn the continent apart. If a Papist, a Lutheran, and a Calvinist walk into a bar and perform a scientific experiment, they should all get the same result. The same should be true of a monarchist and a revolutionary. Combined with the burgeoning humanism that saw man as able to do solve all mysteries and achieve all things, the hope for unlimited unity, peace, and prosperity was placed on the shoulders of science by Enlightenment thinkers. This attitude is the reason that today’s progressives still rhapsodize about how much they “f***ing love science.”

Of course, time and hindsight have revealed just how ridiculously naive that hope was. These were the same folks who seriously called World War I “the war to end all wars,” a hope that the 20th century didn’t exactly bear out. As for human knowledge, it’s become increasingly clear that science is no more immune from the various human foibles that cause disagreement than theology is. Large swaths of gold-standard science are being found to be invalid. Issues like global warming have become hopelessly politicized. Peer review can become nothing more than peer pressure when entrenched paradigms are threatened. The “self-correcting” parts of scientific methodology fail to be carried out because they don’t earn scientists grants, tenure, and publication. Blind to all of this, modernists sneered at the Queen of the Sciences; but setting up a naively optimistic view of science against a maliciously pessimistic view of theology is hardly an apples-to-apples comparison.

It is precisely that blindly arrogant self-optimism that is confronted at the Tower of Babel. In this story, God goes straight for that progressive conceit that tried to make science the whole mental toolbox rather than accept it as the fine hammer that it is—this “Star Trek” idea that by setting aside our differences, humanity can resolve all of its problems and accomplish its wildest dreams. After the Flood, God commanded the survivors to disperse and fill the earth. Instead, they decided to stay in one place. Being enamored with their new discovery of bricks, they sought to build a tall tower—not to make a ladder to climb up and have tea with God, but because the taller the tower was, the more people could live within sight of it. It was both a monument to and the mechanism for their own strength, unity, and accomplishment.

When God visits and sees what’s going on, he makes a peculiar observation: “This is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will be impossible for them.” If that sounds familiar, it’s probably because the sentiment is the cornerstone of contemporary progressive hopes and dreams—the idea that if humanity can be unified, there’s no problem we cannot solve and no limit to what we can achieve.

But what modernism holds as an ideal to which we must aspire, God declares here as an indictment. He deliberately breaks their unity and therefore their capacity for accomplishment by confusing their languages, at which point humanity does what he told them to do in the first place and disperses over the face of the earth. They were now too different to work together.

While the modernist might be confused or incensed at the prospect of God striking humanity down at their greatest moment of triumph, the history of the 20th century demonstrates what a united humanity for whom nothing is impossible is really like. The major unity movements of the early 20th century were communism and fascism—two heads of the same modernistic progressive hydra. Communists sought to break down all “artificial” distinctions between different people to create a single commune, while fascists sought to bind all people together (using the image of a fascio, or bundle of sticks) and thereby make them unbreakable.

Both movements, of course, were characterized by mass-murder and totalitarianism—for one must do something with those who refuse to unite with the vision—and both of them violently sought world domination lest any person be left outside of their beneficence. But these efforts failed precisely because of the divisions gifted to us by God at Babel that prevented them from spreading further. Fascism, of course, was explicitly nationalistic; and while Communists officially eschewed nationalism, they leveraged it when they had to and used customs, language standards, and cults of personality to pursue a unity that aped nationalism to a large extent. But mankind was not united with a single language and culture, and so other nations were not altogether willing to let themselves be swallowed up by them. While some submitted, others fought back. While some individuals resigned themselves to tyranny, others had somewhere to which they could run. And so, these movements failed in their aspirations. Thank God that not everything we propose to do is possible for us!

In name, at least, Communism and Fascism are both largely defunct today, but it’s worth pondering God’s gift of Babel as Western society is ever more threatened by the new heads of the progressive hydra that are still springing up where the old ones were lopped up. Now that globalism and multiculturalism are picking up the same old program, there are a few lessons from Babel that we ought to consider:

  1. Diversity is not a strength. At least, it’s not a strength in the granular sense that the left proclaims today (i.e. that America’s or any other singular nation’s strength correlates positively with its internal diversity.) God gave us different languages (and consequently cultures) specifically to curb sinful humanity, make us weaker, and break us apart.It’s not hard to observe precisely that happening in America today. Mass migration has done what it has always done throughout history and put the different interests of native & migrant (and migrant & migrant) at odds with one another. Our exponentially growing list of identities has fractured us into a mess of special interests who cannot agree on how we want to live together, how we want to be governed, or how we want to be educated.The Biblical and the empirical reality is that diversity divides rather than unites precisely because we are less capable when a mish-mash of different cultures and ideologies are forced together into the same mold.
  2. Having different nations in the world is a good thing. Diversity is a weakness for a nation, but a strength for humanity as a whole. As has already been mentioned, when one nation succumbs to evil, others can defend themselves against it. Even in the worst cases, there’s at least somewhere to run.But even apart from the times when tyrants arise, not everybody in the world wants to live the same way—and that’s ok. There are a multitude of ways to restrain wickedness and form a civilization, but some work better than others—and some work better in different circumstances and for different people. Having many different nations means that we have many different attempts at exploring these possibilities and different options for different people.And this is the work of generations, not just the work of a few social programs and orientation classes.  One cannot simply take a people who have trained themselves in one way and expect them to immediately adopt another. Neither can one expect a mishmash of people trained in radically different ways of life to effectively live together.  There are certainly moral values and shared characteristics that are universal to humanity, but they are expressed and pursued in different ways. Some do so well, some do so poorly, but having different ways of doing so is a blessing in a fallen world.Globalism, in contrast, proclaims that humans are fungible—that an American can be replaced by a Mexican, a Swede by an Arab, etc. Though it wears the happy face of peace & unity, it is an anti-human ideology that attempts to expunge all of the particulars—heritage, culture, identity, religion, and family–that make us who we are. Because a truly diverse assortment of people cannot effectively join together at one, globalism has no choice but to attempt to dissolve those differences and undo Babel.  You see this same dynamic at work on a large scale in communism and fascism and on a small scale every time multiculturalists celebrate diversity by annihilating culture.
  3. We should be thankful for the resurgence of nationalism taking place in the West. If having different nations is a good thing in this world, then we should welcome the preservation of those differences.Nationalism’s reputation is tainted mainly due to our endless history of war between nations. When different nations have conflicting interests, then these conflicts will sometimes erupt into violence. The naive progressive will compare this sorry state of affairs with an imagined nationless world in which there are no remaining differences over which to fight—and they will then wonder why anyone would want to preserve the nations at all. The wise man, however, will not compare gritty reality with ephemeral utopia—he will compare one gritty reality with another.When it comes to violence and human misery, wars between nations pale in comparison to what utopians have done to their own people in the past century or so. Progressive unity movements ruthlessly slaughtered tens of millions of people for the sake of annihilating humans distinctions like race, class, and culture that prevented the kind of human cooperation they sought. Progressivism was and remains an attempt to undo God’s work at Babel and rebuild Nimrod’s Tower out of corpses in the hopes of finally reaching the heavens.Nationalism is by no means perfect, but it is the golden mean between tribalism and globalism. It allows for the unity of some portion of compatible tribes to work together for the sake of civilization without demanding the conquest of the incompatible tribes.
  4. Pentecost is for the Church, not the World. On the first day of Pentecost after the Resurrection, the Holy Spirit came upon Christ’s Apostles and everyone heard them in their own language. God Himself undid the confusion of Babel so that the Gospel would be proclaimed to all nations. Paul likewise tells us that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek. The book of Revelation describes a great multitude from every tribe and nation who stand together before the throne of God. The division of humanity for the sake of restraining our sinfulness is the middle of the story, but not the end. In the end, it is God who unites us all through Jesus Christ, for he died for the sins of the whole world.But although the Church transcends the nations, she does not replace them. Jesus told us in no uncertain terms that his Kingdom is not of this world and that this is why his followers did not fight to save him. The Church’s task is to deliver the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation to the entire world, not to exert temporal authority over it. In contrast, the task of temporal authority is that of civilization—to punish wrongdoing and commend right-doing so that we can live in relative peace with one another instead of living in constant fear of being raped, robbed, or murdered. These are two different missions, and Christians need to take care not to confuse them.It is therefore not our job to try and dissolve national boundaries anymore than its the job of civil authorities to dissolve the boundaries between different religions. We should not be insisting that our nation open its borders to the world anymore than our nation should insist that Muslims, Hindus, and Satanists have equal representation in our various organizations. When we conflate these two kingdoms, we do nothing but increase human misery and deprive people of God’s gifts to us.

By Christian reckoning, God, like any father, disciplines those whom he loves for their own good. Babel is one example of such discipline, and it is a gift. Discipline comes to an end when it has run its course, and so God has promised an end to war, conflict, and division when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead. In the meantime, however, we ought not try to bring a premature end to God’s discipline. And whether one believes in God or not, one can still look at history and easily observe the consequences of progressivism and ponder the blood that has been spilled for utopian ideals. One can still observe the utility of nations and the dangers of globalism.

It’s time we stop trying “fix” Babel.


*For all postmodernism’s valid criticisms of modernism, none of them really upset the apple cart on the big conflicts between contemporary philosophies/worldviews and Christianity. For the most part, it just accepts the major errors of the Enlightenment and compounds them by removing objectivity from the mix altogether. From a premodernist perspective, postmodernism is in many respects just another flavor of modernism rather than a replacement.  Even the name implies as much, as its defined solely in relation to modernism.

Posted in Culture, Theology | 1 Comment

On ‘The Narrative’

Conservatives are well aware of certain tendencies in the way that mainstream media outlets twist and distort the facts. And so, when we learn about important details missing from stories or relevant stories that largely go without coverage (e.g. hate crimes against whites or scandals involving Democrats or well-connected liberals) we often say that the media is trying to preserve the narrative by excluding any facts that don’t fit. But what exactly is “the Narrative?”

The Narrative is a form of prejudice employed by the left—particularly SJW’s—that arises out of a progressive mythology of oppression. It tells a story of good guys and bad guys where the heroes and villains are identity groups rather than individuals. For example, one of the most well-known narratives is Whites vs. Blacks. According to this narrative, evil whites enslaved innocent blacks and treated them as subhuman chattel. Even after blacks gained their freedom from whites, the oppression then continued through segregation and now through both the economy and the criminal justice system as whites portray blacks as gang bangers, drug addicts, and welfare queens.

I described this as “mythology” because these charges against whites aren’t exactly false, but they’re only true in a kind of Hollywood based-on-a-true-story sense. After all, the narrative ignores some really important facts that don’t fit in with the Evil Whites vs. Good Blacks theme: Hundreds of thousands of whites gave their lives in order to free black slaves. Black slaves were sold to whites by the blacks (and sometimes Middle-Easterners) who enslaved them in the first place. Slavery has been a fixture of most races and civilizations throughout history (even, our word “slave” comes from “Slav”) and the more unique aspect to the enslavement of blacks by whites is that whites eventually fought to end it. To be sure, none of these facts make American slavery any less of an abomination or slavery in general any less immoral, but they do spoil the simplistic good guys against bad guys narrative used by BlackLivesMatter activists, social justice warriors, and the left in general.

Critical thinkers recognize this kind of narrative as propaganda, and so it is. However, while it may have started as the left using propaganda as a tool to achieve its agenda, it now goes far deeper. The left has been drinking its own Kool-Aid for more than a generation now, and today Narrative represents an entirely different way of analyzing the world from what conservatives are typically familiar with. Conservatives analyze facts in light of principles, and we expect the left to do so as well—even if their principles are different, we expect them to have the same style of thought. And indeed, the left used to think this way (and some of their older thinkers still do.) However, this is clearly no longer the case for the social justice left.

Consider the way rape accusations are often handled on college campuses. The big push from feminists has been to demand that everyone should automatically believe all accusations made by women; and colleges have largely obliged them in this. The logically necessary corollary to this, of course, is that accused men must be automatically considered guilty, and colleges have largely embraced this as well. The kind of unaccountable kangaroo courts that our higher education use to adjudicate these matters lack any sense of due process or even fairness and have created plenty of new victims.
The principled thinker will look at a situation like this and recognize that it’s unjust, for he knows the value of due process. Even the pragmatic thinker will recognize that it’s unwise to create a system that’s so easy to abuse. The narrative thinker, however, is untroubled by it. By their analysis, men have been oppressing women for nearly all of human history, and now that women are finally making some headway, it’s absurd to start worrying about the possibility that life is unfair to the occasional oppressor. Some rich white frat boy gets bumped out of school? Boo-hoo! He can dry his tears on his huge pile of daddy’s money—which was basically stolen from women and minorities anyway. And yes, people really do think this way. Whether an individual man is technically innocent or not doesn’t really change the fact that men are the bad guys and are just getting their comeuppance. Who cares if the bad guys suffer so that the good guys can win?

Or consider Rotherham (or Cologne or other instances of sexual abuse brought about by importing rape culture into Europe.) In case you need a refresher, a sex-slavery ring in Rotherham, England that entailed the rape of around 1200 girls was actively covered up by city officials. Why? Because the perpetrators were mainly Pakistani immigrants, and the city officials didn’t want to create an anti-immigrant backlash. Again, a principled thinker would recognize that rape is abhorrent no matter who is committing it and work to rescue the victims. Narrative thinkers, however, show partiality based on the Narrative—which in this case, tells a story of Western imperialism and racism. According to the Narrative, Muslim migrants are the poor oppressed good guys whereas white Westerners are the oppressive bad guys—even when they’re being raped by said good guys. It’s a sub-narrative that supersedes even the men vs women sub-narrative, for the current migrant crisis and ongoing issues with Islamic terrorism make it more timely.

And that is how the narrative evolves. Being an element of leftist thought, the story always changes according to the notion of progress—that humanity is on a path towards improving ourselves and gaining freedom from oppression. Progressives believe that in general, the next generation of humans is always smarter, better, more moral, and more enlightened than the one that preceded it. This creates what I’ve occasionally called the “liberal hierarchy of grievance.” Once they gain critical mass, movements seeking to fight against oppression are prioritized according to their current relevance in the public consciousness—newer is generally better. When the Narrative picks heroes and villains in current circumstance, it is usually done according to the relative priority of their grievances.

For example, all other things being equal, fighting for the rights of an otherwise generic poor underclass—peasants, slaves, etc—has become a very low priority, for the various leftward political revolutions in Europe were a long time ago at this point. You can see this in the now-dawning realization that the African slave trade has resumed in Libya and weird lack of coverage by the more left-leaning news outlets. One whose principles inform him that slavery is such a great evil that even the ancestors of those who owned slaves still need to receive retribution in the form of reparations, affirmative action, and so forth would make an even bigger deal about slavery that is still going on right now. But what is inexplicable according to principle is explained by narrative. After all, the slave traders who are once more selling Africans are Middle Eastern Muslims rather than White Christians.

The same kind of reasoning explains why being ‘trans’ now trumps all other considerations. When Bruce Jenner decided to openly pretend to be a woman, actress Alice Eve complained about him adopting her gender without having experienced all the oppression that goes along with it. It was a very feminist thing to say, but she was roundly denounced by the left for being transphobic—after all, mere misogyny is old news in comparison. Indeed, the way the trans movement commodifies womanhood on behalf of men has been making quite a few feminists uncomfortable, but the Narrative rolls on regardless. Women are falling further and further down the hierarchy—you can’t call out men who adopt their sex, nor can you call out Muslim nations for their treatment of women. Even our institutional bastions of the far left like Hollywood and the mainstream media are turning out to have been systematically abusing women all along. Straight White and East Asian males are the really the only remaining groups that are always the bad guys when placed in opposition to non-minority women.

I’ve often heard conservatives claim that if the left didn’t have double standards, it would have no standards at all. This is, unfortunately, a bit of an understatement when it often seems that most leftists are now ideologically bound up in the crusades of SJW’s, even if they’re not personally out there protesting, rioting, getting political opponents fired, etc. It’s hard to even call them hypocrites, for a hypocrite at least has principles to betray. Narrative thinking has far more in common with children who are caught up with their favorite TV show—the hero gets the bad guy, and any comeuppance that the bad guy receives is cause for celebration. You can’t argue rationally with children about their favorite stories, and neither can you argue rationally with the social justice left, for narrative thinking is no less childish.

The reason that the alt-right is ascendant in comparison to conservatives is that conservatives are still trying to argue with the left. We think that if only we can show liberals how they’re being hypocritical and betraying their own principles, then they’ll finally see reason. But this is a futile endeavor when targeting narrative thinkers for they have abandoned principle altogether. The alt-right, in contrast, is fighting the left by creating a counter-narrative through bold rhetoric—and its working because their narrative is far closer to observable reality than the left’s is (admittedly, that’s not a terribly high bar when you consider the left’s current fanaticism surrounding men pretending to be women, but still.) It’s not always a good narrative, and I can see why conservatives are uncomfortable with it, but in terms of overall approach, it’s far more effective than what we’ve been doing. Despite decades of culture wars, we have practically nothing to show for it. Arguments are great for equipping the right, convincing the principled, and making sure that one’s own narrative conforms to reality. But even Aristotle recognized that most people are persuaded only through rhetoric.

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A Brief History of Gender

In 1955, sexologist John Money borrowed a term from linguistics and used it for a new concept in the study of human sexuality. “Gender” thereby became the go-to label for what is essentially a bundle of stereotypes associated with biological sex. This bundle includes roles in home and society (e.g. men go to work and earn money while women tend the home and children,) patterns of speech (e.g. it’s not ladylike to curse), fashion (e.g. in formal settings, women wear gowns while men wear tuxedos), and innumerable other other social touchstones for men and women. Feminists in particular bought into the concept of gender as it was a useful way of highlighting what they believe are unfair social restrictions designed by men to oppress women.

Naturally, in subsequent years, people began to realize the blatantly obvious fact that stereotypes are fluid. After all, some cultures have different stereotypes than others; stereotypes in the same culture change over time; and everywhere you look, you find people who do not conform to some (or many, or most) of the stereotypes associated with their biological sex. Again, this transformation was adopted and stressed by feminists in particular, as establishing fluidity of this sort would make it much easier to change what they considered to be repressive social norms.

Today, of course, this recognition of fluidity has been emphasized to a truly extreme degree. Some have multiplied the number of genders by orders of magnitude beyond the original two. Others have gone so far as to assert that there is no real difference between masculinity and femininity and thereby abolish the original two genders for all practical purposes. What’s more, many have altogether disassociated gender from biological sex while simultaneously attaching all sexual referents in our language (he, she, man, woman, etc) to gender instead of sex, deliberately leaving sex in a linguistic no-man’s land.

To progressives, of course, this brief history of gender is necessarily a brief history of progress. By their reckoning, people used to think that there were male humans and female humans, but science has now advanced to the point where we realize that this distinction–so fundamental to not only human history and civilization but also to continued human existence–was really just an illusion all along.

But even this brief history makes that conclusion a hard sell for non-progressives who examine it critically–and recognize the fact that half a century is a pretty tiny slice of human history rather than an indelible upward trend. For if gender has become so fluid that male and female are essentially meaningless categories, then the concept of gender has utterly failed at the purpose for which it was invented–to help describe the various social structures associated with males and females. In other words, this recently invented notion of gender has now become a fundamentally useless concept. Is doubling-down on a useless concept really worth the kind of ridiculous social upheaval being carried out by social justice warriors?

And so, there is a choice before us: On one hand, we could accept both the chaos that accompanies the idea that men who think they’re women are actually women and the consequent authoritarianism that requires anyone who disagrees to be deemed a dangerous science-denying bigot who must be punished. On the other hand, we could accept that the concept of gender turned out to be a failure–a thought experiment that ultimately fell apart–and return to the very real concept of biological sex. A blind ideological faith in human progress requires the former; but wisdom tells us that sometimes when you have made a wrong turn, true progress requires you to retrace your steps until you can get back on track.

Posted in Culture, Feminism, Science | 2 Comments

Making Christianity Heresy Again

How many outfits is the corpse of Theological Liberalism going to wear before it finally stops twitching?

Apparently the future of Christianity now rests on the collective backs of Woke Young People Trying to Make Christianity Cool Again according to Vice (an aptly named forum for this story if ever there was one.) It’s a quick profile of a half a dozen fashionable young folks raised in American evangelicalism—each with an issue that’s near and dear to them—whose pursuit of worldliness under the guise of Christ has earned them some attention. But make no mistake, it’s the same old song and dance that Christianity must change or die that we’ve been hearing for almost 200 years. And in its characteristically rigid adherence to current political trends, this means that Christianity needs to fight climate change, racism, and the death penalty whilst engaging in LGBTetc advocacy and promoting open borders.

Quite tellingly, the big “issue” is not Christ crucified for a single one of these trendy little minions of the Spirit of the Age.

But those of us who prefer to be well-informed rather than “woke” all realize that Christianity was never cool in the first place. Christ was so popular and in line with the political trends of his time that he and almost all his Apostles were put to death. These were the same guys who recognized that their own message was foolishness to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews, promised persecution and hatred for their followers, and recognized that few of those followers numbered among the wise, powerful, or noble people of the world. Anybody who is trying to make Christianity cool is trying to make it into something other than Christianity.

And perhaps the most pathetic part of the whole deal is that theological liberals have been sacrificing the Gospel to receive worldly acclaim for centuries now and it’s never actually worked. In terms of numbers, Christianity in general has been on the decline in the West for awhile now, but its the theologically liberal mainline denominations that are hemorrhaging members faster than anyone else—to the point that many of them may not even exist in a generation or two. As much as they scream “change or die,” the reality has turned out to be “change and die.”

And good riddance to them. Co-opting pulpits to preach leftist politics isn’t going to make Christianity anything except the social justice version of Pelagianism.

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The Reformation Never Ends

Today, Lutherans and protestants celebrate the 500th anniversary of Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses. They were not an act of defiance, but an attempt by a faithful servant of the Pope to start an academic debate on a terrible abuse of indulgences by Rome that fell heavily on the Christians he was called to serve. It was at much the nature of Rome’s response (which was basically “shut up; how dare you question us”) as it was Luther’s perseverance in God’s Word that lead to the Reformation as we know it and both the recovery of the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ as well as the fracturing of the organizational unity of the western church.

In all these groups of Christians coming out of the Reformation, the temptation is to say that our job is done—that the Reformation happened (past tense.) For some, that takes the form of their theology having already been definitively declared, whether in the Book of Concord, the Council of Trent, the Westminster Confession, or some other record. For others, its a matter of a sensitivity to division that exceeds their sensitivity to false teaching, and so the calls to set doctrine aside in order to unite on some social issue or another are legion.

But the Reformation never ends any more than it really began in 1517. The entire history of the Church is one of Satan planting errors and God raising up faithful men to oppose those errors and return us to the Faith once and for all delivered to the saints—a task that spans denominations, whether we try to find that Faith in Scripture or in tradition. It is a task that still falls to us today, for false teachings both new and old still threaten to overwhelm and overtake us.

Nearly every major ancient heresy is alive and well: Gnosticism among those who despise their embodied existence; modalism among those who think the god of every religion is just a mask worn by a hidden god; Pelegianism among the droves who still think that salvation is a matter of being a good enough person. The issues that plagued the church 500 years ago are likewise still with us: Rome still offers indulgences; most Evangelicals believe we contribute to our own salvation in some way or another; people search for God’s Word in dreams, visions, and traditions where he never promised to be and neglect his certain Word. And we’ve collected our fair share of new ones as well: theological liberalism, the word-faith movement, feminist neo-paganism, and so forth.

Who will stand against the devil and the world as they confront us today? Who will stand on the Truth of God’s Word even as the whole world rises in condemnation?

Seek the Truth. Contend for it zealously. Suffer the divisions that are always caused as truth is divided from error. Pray to God to aid us all in these darkening times. The Reformation is not over, for our task does not end until we rest in eternity with Christ.

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