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.

Posted in Culture | 2 Comments

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

The Power of Deceit

Leftist educators indoctrinating our youth in progressive thought is unfortunately a “dog bites man” story these days.  Conservatives, however, still have a tendency to underestimate the power of this indoctrination.  My latest at The Federalist takes a look at the deceptive rhetoric used in the curriculum at a nearby public school district:

Consider what teachers are instructed by the curriculum to tell students regarding pregnancy:

Say to the students, ‘Once a person confirms they are pregnant, they need to decide whether they are going to have the baby and become a parent, have the baby and let someone adopt it, or end the pregnancy (at its earliest stage). The second two options are available for a number of reasons, including that the pregnant person may not feel they would be able to take care of a baby because of their age or life circumstances.’ 

The statement doesn’t explicitly argue in favor of abortion. The word itself doesn’t even show up anywhere in the lesson. One might even claim it’s neutral in that it offers both abortion and adoption as choices. Nevertheless, it frames the issue in a way that brings the entire pro-abortion mindset in through the backdoor—without argument, without evidence, and without even the acknowledgment that any controversy on the subject exists.

To say that a “pregnant person” (we’ll get to that in a moment) has to decide whether “to have the baby and become a parent” presumes that an expectant mother is not already a parent, and that she does not already have a baby. It’s a rhetorical sleight of hand meant to obscure the reality that abortion is a grisly decision mothers make regarding the baby they already have.

The second deception is that the curriculum frames the lifecycle of a pregnancy as though abortion were just one of the natural outcomes. Entirely missing are any of the factual details on exactly how abortion ends a pregnancy—by deliberately killing a helpless and innocent human being. It’s like teaching that death is just a natural part of life when you’re talking about assassination.

Sure, like pregnancy, human lives “end,” but glossing over the moral weight that comes with deliberately choosing to end lives is fundamentally dishonest. Presenting the existence of another human being as some kind of innocuous consumer choice—“You can click ‘okay’ to proceed or ‘cancel’ to end your pregnancy”—is reprehensible. But then, while the teacher might have excluded her own views, Advocates for Youth are happy to force their radical ideas on vulnerable students at taxpayer expense.

Read the rest here.

 

Posted in Abortion, Christian Youth, Culture | Leave a comment

Criticism or Corroboration?

Having once been a regular reader there, I was happy to find that Dr. Gene Edward Veith shared my recent piece on churches’ contempt for men over on his blog.

His last paragraph as he opened it up for discussion particularly caught my eye. The piece obviously attracted a fair amount of criticism, and Dr. Veith’s questions helpfully roll a number of the most common complaints into one place:

And might men deserve to be criticized in this age of absent fathers and callous husbands? After all, if women are initiating most of the divorces, why is that? Shouldn’t a man who is the spiritual head of his family, in whom by virtue of his vocation is hidden Christ in His relationship with the church, prevent that from happening?

But even so, does he still have a point?

Let’s take these questions one by one.

“Might men deserve to be criticized in this age of absent fathers and callous husbands?”

Are we in an age of callous husbands at all? Particularly in comparison to husbands in various cultures throughout recorded history (which, if we’re talking about “ages” is the only applicable standard)? I suspect the answer here is no, in which case men don’t deserve to be criticized for it. Accordingly, I will wait for someone to make a compelling case that contemporary American husbands are particularly callous before I consider adding to that criticism.

Absent fathers, of course, are a different issue; this very much is an age of absent fathers. But before we heap the blame for that on men, we do need to consider why they’re absent. If you look at single-mother households (and exclude widows) there are two main categories:  never married, and divorced/separated.  I can’t find the stats at the moment, but I believe it’s roughly a 50/50 split between these two groups.

Let’s start with fathers absent from a divorced/separated household.  Since a supermajority of divorces are a result of the the wife unilaterally throwing the father out of the house, it’s not as though he is typically choosing to leave.  The more common circumstance is that the father is being forced out by the mother using the power of the state.  Accordingly, it seems a stretch to say that men are broadly to blame for this half of fatherless households.

The other half of fatherless households fall into the “never married” category. Here there is certainly room for blame and criticism towards men. However, the question remains whether this blame should be disproportionate to the blame that is due to women for the same circumstances. At the most basic level, it takes two people to create this kind of situation–a man who sired a child without securing a way to stay in his/her life, and a woman who conceived a child without securing a father for him/her. Men are to blame, but they’re not especially to blame in comparison to women.  If churches are only holding men accountable for fornication, then they’re not doing their jobs properly, and it indeed reveals a problem of contempt for men.

But there are deeper levels as well. Are we to assume that every never married mother actually wants the father in the home? Again, given the divorce situation, that hardly seems like a foregone conclusion. Among the never married single mothers I’ve known (at least the ones for whom I actually know the answer to the question) all but one of them didn’t want the father around. And as for the exception, she only wanted one of the fathers around–the rest she didn’t want around. (And that wanted father was in the household, though he would not get married.)

There’s also the fact that the rampant growth of this category is a result of the sexual revolution, which is largely the fault of feminism.  That’s another odd movement to lay squarely at the feet of men.

So yes, obviously men who voluntarily abandon their children deserve criticism. However, that is not the primary reason we’re in an age of absent fathers. While such men certainly exist, statistics and experience suggest that paternal abandonment is not the norm for fatherless households. The fact that so many people try to present it as the norm actually underscores churches’ contempt for men rather than refuting it.

“After all, if women are initiating most of the divorces, why is that?”

In context with the previous line, the message I’m getting here is a contention that “women initiate most divorces because men are so callous and absent.” I’ll go ahead and answer Dr’ Veith’s question from an article he linked to in one of his earlier blog posts.

“The majority of divorces today occur in marriages not characterized by serious conflict. The most common reasons cited for divorce are problems that affect most marriages, such as ‘growing apart’ and ‘not being able to talk together.'”

This fact challenges the rhetorical question’s presumption in two ways.

First of all, it’s hard to say the man is typically at fault for “growing apart” when the wife is typically the one using the law to enforce a separation, nor for being “unable to talk together” when the wife is typically the one who requires that they speak through lawyers. (You can say that no one is wholly innocent in a divorce–which is accurate corum deo–but that is true of literally every victim of every sin.  Why is divorce the only sin where that fact excuses the perpetrator and dismisses the victim corum mundo in our churches?)

More importantly, however, these majority reasons are by no means Biblical warrants for divorce. Considering what is at stake, that makes these divorces a grievous sin–typically committed against husbands (and their children) by their wives. In what other circumstances is it acceptable to look at the victims of grievous sin and assume that they must have done something to deserve it? If, for example, someone regards a victim of violent rape and assumes she must have been asking for it, it is rightly regarded by most as gross prejudice. I likewise see no reason to categorize the assumption that men usually deserve their divorces as anything other than gross prejudice.

“Shouldn’t a man who is the spiritual head of his family, in whom by virtue of his vocation is hidden Christ in His relationship with the church, prevent that from happening?”

Shouldn’t Christ, who is head of the Church, prevent people from leaving him? And yet, it happens; people make shipwrecks of their faith.  If our omnipotent and omniscient Lord does not always prevent that from happening in the Church, it seems a tall order to uniformly expect it from fallen and sinful mortals in their marriages.

American no-fault divorce is unilateral divorce. It only takes one, and the targeted spouse has no legal recourse to prevent it. You might say he could prevent it by being a better husband, but again that’s a wholly prejudicial assumption. It’s not like Christ could prevent unbelief and heresy by being a better husband to his church, so why should we assume that husbands must always or even typically be able to prevent divorce in like manner?

So do churches harbor contempt for men? At the end of his post, Dr. Veith asks whether I “still” have a point despite the questions he brought up. I would contend that I have a point because of them.

Posted in Feminism, The Modern Church | 6 Comments

Cold Civil War – Exhibit G

If you’ve been on the internet lately, you’ve probably heard about Dan Piepenbring’s absurd piece about Chick-Fil-A in the New Yorker last week.  After all, it’s being very thoroughly lampooned by folks on the right.  And deservedly so.  More than anything else, the piece reminds of a classic episode of NewsRadio where New York radio personality Bill McNeal (Phil Hartman) is stuck in a midwestern airport.  But whereas Hartman expertly hams up the elitist bigotry for comedic effect, Piepenbring seems wholly serious.

But at amusing as it is, the important takeaway isn’t the fact that there’s yet another coastal leftist hipster jumping the shark on snobbery.  Piepenbring is entirely transparent about the reasons he doesn’t want Chick-Fil-A in his town:

The brand’s arrival here feels like an infiltration, in no small part because of its pervasive Christian traditionalism. Its headquarters, in Atlanta, are adorned with Bible verses and a statue of Jesus washing a disciple’s feet. Its stores close on Sundays. Its C.E.O., Dan Cathy, has been accused of bigotry for using the company’s charitable wing to fund anti-gay causes, including groups that oppose same-sex marriage.

He hates Chick-Fil-A because he hates Christians.  It really isn’t any more complicated than that.  And it’s not particularly new or rare, either.  Liberals have been consistently uncomfortable with the fast-food chain for a long time now.

But we already knew all that, so why bring it up?

Because any conservative who still thinks talk of a national divorce is overblown needs to ask themselves a simple question:  If leftist bigots are disgusted even with the idea of Christians selling chicken sandwiches, exactly what place do you think they’ll allow us to occupy in society when they’re in charge?

They do not disagree with us; they want to annihilate us.  That makes this an existential conflict.  We need to treat it like one while we still have the freedom to do something about it.

Posted in Culture, Politics | Leave a comment

Issues Etc. & The Federalist

If you haven’t read it yet, my latest piece at The Federalist is about the growing absence of men from Western churches in light of the contempt that they often find there.

When Christians ponder the ongoing departure of men from the church, we have an unfortunate tendency to sound like Hillary Clinton pondering her failed presidential campaign. It’s understandable that Americans would vote against a candidate who holds them in such thinly veiled contempt. It should be just as understandable that men would avoid organizations that are obliviously contemptuous of males.

You can read the rest here.

And if that’s leaving you wanting more, you are in luck.  I had the opportunity to talk about the article on Issues Etc. this afternoon.  You can listen to the interview here.

Posted in Culture, Feminism, The Modern Church, Theology | 2 Comments

America’s Great Divorce?

I was pleased to see Jesse Kelly’s call for an amicable divorce in the Federalist today. While I’m no fan of divorce for married couples, I must concur that Americans can clearly no longer agree on how we want to be governed or even how we want to live together. Unfortunately, the reality of it is considerably stickier than that.

There was a time when Americans had shared principles but disagreed on how to implement them. That’s clearly no longer the case, but it gets worse. I’m old enough to have caught the tail-end of a time when Americans had different principles, but mostly agreed that we should all argue and vote based on our respective principles in order to determine how to run our nation. Even this is no longer the case. We now find ourselves in a situation where only one side still thinks, argues, and votes based (to some extent) on principles at all. The other side determines its views by means of narrative rather than reason and principle. Our differences have reached the point where neither side can even communicate coherently with the other, and we have no shared sense of ‘fair play’ left.

One way or another, a break-up is inevitable. While an amicable divorce would be ideal, the problem is that we are not ready for one, and the window of opportunity is closing.

I’m among those who believe America is already in a cold civil war. The only thing that will stop it from turning hot is if one side or the other collapses first. The left is already determined to annihilate the right in any way they can get away with. They are bound and determined to exile from civil society anyone who wavers from their current version of goodthink. The right, on the other hand, largely fails to understand their predicament. Most conservatives still try for a coexistence that the left no longer considers an acceptable outcome. It’s a naiveté that we desperately need to get over.

But the fact that we haven’t gotten over it is precisely why we’re not ready for an amicable divorce either. When a couple sees divorce on the horizon, they each have a plan. They have their own bank accounts. They have some idea of where they’re going to live. They have lawyers. Conservatives do not have any plan on how to live apart from liberals.

In the Federalist piece, Kelly divides America up by drawing a red line between the coastal & northern states and the southern & midwest states. But wherever you put the geographical line, too many of our differences aren’t geographical.

The left dominates most of our national institutions and the right has no plan for replacing them. Are the universities in Kelly’s southern territories profoundly less liberal than the ones on the coasts? Do the southern territories watch TV and movies produced anywhere except in the coastal territories? Fox News is the only mainstream national news outlet that is even arguably conservative (and they’re pretty damn globalist when it comes down to it,) and their HQ is squarely in Liberal Land. Even new cultural fixtures like social media are run almost exclusively by SJW’s who are increasingly flexing their muscles when it comes to forcing non-leftists off their platforms. Most conservatives aren’t ready to cut the cord on these institutions, and they have mostly failed to create viable alternatives. So conservatives are not prepared for a divorce.

The social justice left, on the other hand, does not want a divorce. They want only to destroy anyone over whom they cannot reign. There is no boundary at which they would be satisfied to stop and go no further. They want the whole enchilada, and so far, conservatives have done nothing to even suggest to them that they cannot have it in the end.

You can’t win a war if you don’t realize that one is happening. Neither can you achieve a cease-fire or a negotiated peace. If conservatives don’t wake up, their children will be pining for the days when writers were even allowed to posit the idea of an amicable divorce.

Posted in Politics | 2 Comments

Did You Really Think Anything Was Sacred?

Planned Parenthood apparently wants to up the SJW factor in Disney Princesses even further.  Here’s what they tweeted before it was taken down:

planned parenthood's wish list for Disney princesses

LifeNews notes that “nothing is sacred” to Planned Parenthood, but it’s really hard to get outraged over this–as though wanting to corrupt the kids is a bigger deal than wanting to dismember them and sell their body parts for profit.  What’s more, I have little doubt that we’ll see at least a few items from that list in the coming decade or two (if I were a betting man, I’d say illegal alien first followed by a boy who thinks he’s a girl.)

Instead, my fervent hope is that Disney will actually do all 5–with the same princess.

The reality is that Disney has been corrupting the youth for a long time at this point,  and hardly anybody notices.  The insanely popular “Let it Go” from Frozen promotes the same kind of radical self-worship that you’d find in the Church of Satan.  As Vox Day recently pointed out,  “It’s time to see what I can do / To test the limits and break through / No right, no wrong, no rules for me / I’m free!” isn’t appreciably different from Alastair Crowley’s “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.”  There’s a reason this song is embraced as an LGBT anthem, and yet Christians still willingly feed this stuff to their own kids.

I want Disney to create a pro-choice trans undocumented union worker princess who’s had a dozen abortions because something that radical might at least clue some people in to what they’re watching.

Posted in Abortion, Culture | 2 Comments

Entitlement, Responsibility, and Authority – A Thought Experiment

Entitlement, responsibility, and authority—these three facets of personal relationships must always exist in conjunction with one another. If you try to add or remove one, then you will inevitably add or remove all three. Likewise, if you try to corrupt one, you will ultimately corrupt all three. Trying to have one without the others is a recipe for human misery.

Entitlement and responsibility are inextricably linked. If you are entitled to something from someone else, then it is someone else’s responsibility to provide it to you. If they have no responsibility, then you’re not really entitled. If you’re not really entitled, then they have no real responsibility.

Responsibility and authority are also inextricably linked. In order to be responsible for anything, one must have the authority to properly carry out that responsibility. If that authority is taken away, then the responsibility cannot be properly carried out. If the responsibility is taken away, then there is no longer any reason for the authority to exist—irresponsible authority is inherently corrupted.

The interconnectedness of these three can easily be seen in the natural human lifecycle. When a child is conceived, he is immediately entitled to food, shelter, protection, and so forth from his parents. He cannot even survive without these normal and mundane provisions. The parents likewise have a responsibility to provide these things to the child. When a parent fails to provide, we rightly call him negligent. This is a simple matter of natural law—not an alien principle imposed on us by society or religion, but a moral absolute that we know by virtue of having a normal human mind. When the Apostle Paul spoke of the prospect of someone refusing to provide for his family, he called the person “worse than an unbeliever,” for even unbelievers know that parents are supposed to love and care for their children.

It is no less of a universal insight that because of this responsibility, parents also have authority over their children. The parents call the shots for their children in their household, and the children have both a moral obligation and a practical need to follow and obey. Parents cannot carry out their responsibility without this authority. They cannot keep a child safe who refuses to stop when they say stop. They cannot keep a child nourished who refuses to eat what they say to eat. No child obeys perfectly, of course, any more than any parent is perfectly responsible; but the more disobedience that exists on one side or irresponsibility that exists on the other, the more miserable the relationship will be and the more harm will come to the children whose entitlements are not fulfilled.

Nevertheless, as a child matures, he slowly loses his entitlements. As he becomes more mature and more capable, he needs to pick up his own toys, put on his own clothes, get his own snack, remember his own chores, choose his own courses, get his own job, and eventually provide his own food, shelter, and protection. As this transition occurs, parents likewise reduce their responsibility for all these little things in a controlled manner—allowing their child to suffer consequences appropriate to their success or failure in these tasks. But the consequence of this is that, though parents are to be honored by their children throughout their lives, their authority wanes along with those responsibilities, and the grown child gains authority over his own life. Nothing good comes of corrupting this transition. A child who never loses entitlements becomes a spoiled brat. A parent who never allows his child to suffer consequences is the one who spoils him. And a parent who never eases his authority will foster either rebellion or ineptitude in his child, depending on whether the child continues to submit to that abused authority.

But whether in the human lifecycle or anywhere else, entitlement, responsibility and authority remain intertwined. Decoupling any of these three from the others ultimately results in nothing but misery and relational dysfunction.

Entitlement without a corresponding responsibility produces nothing but resentment and disappointment. Loss, though often tragic, simply happens. But failure to fulfill a perceived entitlement is necessarily seen as an injustice; it demands blame and breeds resentment. And indeed, take look at any of the many people around us who demand more and more absurd entitlements—whether from society or from individuals—you will never find an unhappier group of people.

At the same time, responsibility without a corresponding authority produces nothing but frustration and slavery. Anyone who has had a micromanaging boss understands the frustration angle. Demands for results without empowering the employee to actually achieve those results imposes a Sisyphean burden. But at its worst, taking away authority from the responsible enslaves them to the entitled—for there is no true participation in the product of one’s labors or investment in their achievement, only inviolable and insatiable demands for more without any regard for the cost. The worker is reduced to a consumable resource.

Finally, authority without entitlement and responsibility is without purpose and either disappears or devolves into abuse. If an authority is irresponsible—that is, he does not wield his position according to its intended purpose—then people cease to treat it as an authority. If he does nothing about this disrespect then he becomes a mere figurehead with no real authority at all. On the other hand, if he uses his power to enforce respect regardless of irresponsibility, then he becomes a tyrant tyrant whose power over others serves nothing but his own pleasure and ambition.

And with this, the circle of misery is complete. Entitlement, responsibility and authority are a package deal. We carve them up only at our own peril. But how do these observations help us? What wisdom is offered by recognizing and understanding this relational trinity?

Perhaps their most immediately obvious applicability is in the realm of government, in which it can inform us of the price of entitlements. Every entitlement we demand from government necessarily increases government’s authority over us. If we claim entitlement, then they have responsibility and therefore claim authority to carry it out. For some things, this is a worthwhile trade. For example, we claim entitlement to a fair trial, which means that the government is responsible for conducting fair trials and therefore that government has the authority to maintain courts, pass sentences, and enforce law. We make this deal because the alternative is vigilantism—in which we are each responsible for carrying out justice on our own—and all the chaos that goes along with that. We make the same trade when it comes to national defense. We want entitlement to protection against invasion, therefore the government has the responsibility and authority to maintain a functional army. These are relatively sensible trade-offs.

But the fact that a trade-off must happen is constant no matter what the entitlement is, and some trades are quite destructive. Take, for example, the recent claim of an entitlement to healthcare. If Americans are entitled to their healthcare, then government must be responsible for it, and so government must have authority over healthcare decisions. Even putting the best construction on that authority—that they need the ability to efficiently and effectively administrate healthcare for the nation under the guidance of medical and scientific experts—it still has the horrifying implication of giving government bureaucrats the authority to decide who lives and who dies or who is worthy of treatment and who is not. It is not as though we need to speculate about how government has used that authority. As the father of a child with an expensive disability, I know quite well what government “efficiency” would mean for him, just as I know how scientific experts like Nobel prize winner James D. Watson (discoverer of DNA) would have had my son euthanized at birth because his APGAR score was too low to be worthy of care.

That is what government-run healthcare looks like in practice—and it has to. Human life is priceless, but government healthcare must put a price on it regardless, for its resources are vast, but limited. Whether rich or poor, a private individual can treat life as priceless because they do everything they can to save their family (whether or not everything is enough.) Government cannot do the same. They could pour trillions of dollars into saving one life—provided they abandon all the other lives in their care. To do everything for one means to do nothing for another, and so, unlike an individual, the government has no choice but to choose who lives and who dies. And if they are to do so with any kind of deliberation, then they must create policies that make some lives more worthy of care than others. The only way to avoid this horrific mindset and the atrocities that have always accompanied it is to refrain from authorizing government to entitle us to healthcare in the first place.

The entitlement-responsibility-authority dynamic can also help explain the cause of so many of our current social issues—for example, why feminism is a peerless engine of human misery. Like all the bastard offspring of critical theory, feminism is, at its core, an attack on authority. In the words of feminist icon Gloria Steinem, “Feminism starts out being very simple. It starts out being the instinct of a little child who says it’s not fair and you are not the boss of me…and it ends up being a worldview that questions hierarchy altogether.” Most specifically, feminists target the authority that husbands and fathers have over their wives and daughters—whether directly, or by means of the social standards such men have woven into the civilization they built.

The traditional arrangement between men and women is one that is in harmony with the dynamic. Women have long been the beneficiaries of various kinds of special entitlements from men. This includes things like special protection (e.g. “women and children first”, “never hit a woman,” “exempt women from the draft”), special provision (e.g. bread winning), special courtesy (e.g. chivalry and propriety), and the like. The natural consequence of this is that men took responsibility for these things and held authority over women for the sake of carrying them out. And the arrangement worked relatively well—not that there weren’t abuses of authority against women, but rather that it was consistent enough with both male nature and female nature that it allowed for happy & successful families and therefore civilization.

But while feminism explicitly rejects these traditional forms of authority (which is damaging in its own right), it simultaneously insists that women’s entitlements increase rather than decrease. While Feminists openly disdain things like chivalry per se, they increasingly depend on the same kind of special entitlements that it provided. In terms of special provision from men, feminists now demand free childcare, free contraception, paid maternity leave, alimony, child support, a no-questions-asked raise to close the supposed wage gap, and the like. Feminist demands for special courtesy are likewise growing even more egregious. For example, men are supposed to pretend that a woman’s sexual history doesn’t matter (regardless of how much virginity reduces the risk of divorce) and women are to be uncritically believed whenever they accuse a man of sexual misconduct—due process be damned. Feminists are even demanding a “only an enthusiastic yes means yes” standard for sexual assault, effectively making failure to romantically or sexually satisfy a woman a heinous crime. Entitlements this massive cannot be supported without an equally powerful authority to match—and they won’t be. The only thing they do is promote resentment, both among the women whose now massive appetites cannot be sated and among the men who have actually tried to exhaust themselves providing for them only to be rewarded with nothing more than women’s resentment.

Now, if feminists were swayed by wisdom, they wouldn’t be feminists in the first place. However, the problem is not simply on the feminist end of the issue, but on the social conservative end as well. Conservatives miss chivalry—and understandably so. But as a rule, conservatives are terrified of being labeled misogynists and so they are unwilling to address the feminist rejection of male authority that eroded chivalry in the first place. And while they may hem and haw a bit at the latest novel entitlement, they nevertheless devote the bulk of their energies to impressing responsibility on men. Doing so serves only to increase the crushing burdens that feminism already imposes—simply reiterating responsibility does not create the authority necessary to carry out those responsibilities. They insist that, for the sake of family, men “man up” and marry unchaste women. But at the same time, they consistently look the other way when those women go on to unilaterally divorce those same men and take their children, homes, and future income with them on the way out the door. Conservatives set men up to fail while simultaneously making an extra effort to shame them for failure.

Furthermore, what happens on large social scales is reflected in smaller scales as well. Even small acts of special courtesy such as the man always taking the side closest to the road when going for a walk with a woman are difficult when the woman refuses to follow his lead. (As soon as they get to an intersection there’s a fight about who stepped in front of whom or who ran whom off the sidewalk or onto the curb.) Small gestures like these often fail to be positive experiences because, like romance, they hinge on the submission of the recipient of chivalry. While this may not hold true for older couples whose habits were shaped by a culture that still knew better, among younger men, those who try the hardest to be chivalrous are also among the most miserable. Social conservatives who shame men for failing to be chivalrous in the current social context heap misery on top of misery.

But let’s not end on such a negative note, because this dynamic has positive implications as well—particularly when it comes to Christianity. This past Sunday, our epistle reading was Philippians 2:5-1:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Even here, you may notice some elements of the entitlement-responsibility-authority dynamic at work. Jesus Christ, though himself God, emptied himself of all entitlement, and so there are none who take responsibility for him or hold authority over him. But instead, by submitting himself to death, he took responsibility for the sins of the whole world, and so he possesses absolute authority to match. But that authority is not without purpose, for it entitles every last human being to the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. We receive that entitlement through faith in him—that is to say, by trusting that Christ has taken responsibility for us and recognizing the authority by which he has done so. From end to end, the dynamic is kept intact, and by the grace of God it results in eternal life to all who believe.

So just as attempts to sever entitlement, responsibility and from one another result in misery, embracing the dynamic produces joy. Whether it is the citizen recognizing that recklessly claiming entitlement will result in tyranny or the Christian knowing the blessing that comes with the call to empty ourselves in imitation of Christ (that whoever would be great among you must be your servant), knowing the relationship between these three provides us with a helpful lens through which to view the world around us.

Posted in Culture, Feminism, Gospel, Musings, Natural Law, Politics | 3 Comments