Saturday, January 23, 2016

a linkathon with a theme, what people say people shouldn't have or shouldn't do across time and space, master narratives, and things some choose to overlook

http://www.booksandculture.com/articles/2016/janfeb/early-church-on-war-and-killing.html?paging=off
... 
There are a substantial number of passages written over a period of many years that explicitly say that Christians must not and/or do not kill or join the military. Nine different Christian writers in 16 different treatises explicitly say that killing is wrong. Four writers in 5 treatises clearly argue that Christians do not and should not join the military. In addition, four writers in eight different works strongly imply that Christians should not join the military. At least eight times, five different authors apply the messianic prophecy about swords being beaten into ploughshares (Isa. 2:4) to Christ and his teaching. Ten different authors in at least 28 different places cite or allude to Jesus' teaching to love enemies, and, in at least nine of these places, they connect that teaching to some statement about Christians being peaceful, ignorant of war, opposed to attacking others, and so forth. All of this represents a considerable consensus.
 
Indeed, there is very little basis in the texts for describing the early Christian view as "divided and ambiguous." There are no authors who argue that killing or joining the military is permissible for Christians. On these questions, every writer who mentions the subject takes essentially the same position. Some pre-Constantinian Christian writers say more about these topics than others. Some do not discuss them at all. But to conclude from this relative silence or paucity of some surviving texts that other writers disagreed with the extant texts would be sheer speculation. The texts we have do not reflect any substantial disagreement. Every extant Christian statement on killing and war up until the time of Constantine says Christians must not kill, even in war.
 
That a growing number of Christians, especially in the late 3rd and early 4th centuries, acted contrary to that teaching is also clear. That in doing so they were following other Christian teachers and leaders who justified their conduct, we cannot deny with absolute certainty. But we have no evidence to support the suggestion that such teachers ever existed until the time of Constantine.

Noah Berlatsky, who was pretty sure that Episode 7 was going to be lame, nonetheless reliably points out that if Rey is a Mary Sue it's just because she's introduced into the franchise by someone not Lucas; he also highlights that if we compare Rey to the ultra-powered white male protagonists who have been pulp heroes of yore she isn't even all that mighty.

http://randomnerds.com/forget-rey-paul-atreides-real-mary-sue/
...Before criticizing the nonsensical unlikelihood of awesome Mary Sues like Rey, then, it’s worth remembering how pulp heroes used to be rationalized. Paul Atreides (and Tarzan, and Flash Gordon) were genetically engineered white male gods; their power was naturalized through the inevitable logic of masculine and racial superiority.
 If Mary Sue’s connection to the force is less visible, well, so much the better. Maybe the gratuitousness of her power is a small step towards acknowledging that there is no one natural heroic genetic code.
 The Mary Sue is a promise that anyone can be at the center of the universe, and of their own story.

The question isn't even rhetorical here, if white male pulp heroes get to be perfect across the board at the start of their respective franchises is it that bad that Rey seems too perfect to some people in Episode 7?  Lucas pretty well explained he made the Star Wars films with boys in mind.  It's not necessarily a problem if Disney, in the interest of sustaining what was always the best kind of mass market quasi-corporate hack work, decides that a woman can do the same kinds of things Luke did.

And I happened to enjoy Episode 7.  First time I've enjoyed a Star Wars film while watching it in the theater and didn't regret watching it days later (or while I was watching it in theaters) since 1983.

Meanwhile ... someone over at New Republic decided banning all guns all across the board needs to be a conceptual option.  There are those that consider a ban on all abortions all across the board to be necessary, too.  There are people on the left and the right who don't seem to care about what's actually in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights or what precedents there may be in judicial rulings. 

https://newrepublic.com/article/125498/its-time-ban-guns-yes-them

Decades ago I had a political history teacher who joked that conservatives wish the first amendment didn't exist while progressives wish the second amendment didn't exist, which might be reason enough we keep both of them.

We live in an era of master narratives describing the other team's motives and means.  Slate featured a piece on how Prohibition of alcohol fomented the rise of the contemporary right.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/history/2015/12/prohibition_history_how_the_ban_on_booze_produced_the_modern_american_right.single.html

It might seem like another just so story for a couple of reasons but it's not as though conservatives haven't had their versions.  Much as I was impressed as a teenager by Francis Schaeffer's trilogy it seems like a just-so story about the decline of the arts in the West that doesn't really square with a more detailed and nuanced history of the arts.  We may have a LOT more to say about that somewhere down the road but that's one incubating project among many.

Something the article could have done a bit more with was point out how a progressive and even radical change in law and government could be motivated by what was ultimately a very socially conservative goal (domestic tranquility and reducing physical abuse).

Anyone who happens to have read Friedersdorf knows that his work has had a theme on speech and campuses in the last year.
http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/12/what-student-activists-can-learn-from-bygone-free-speech-fights/419178/

Another piece at The New Republic on the popularity of exorcisms these days.
 https://newrepublic.com/article/126607/exorcisms-popular-ever
...
Historian of religion David Frankfurter notes that conspiracy theories involving evil entities like demons and witches tend to flare up when local religious communities are confronted with outside forces such as globalization and modernity.

Attributing misfortune and social change to hidden evil forces, Frankfurter suggests, is a natural human reaction; the demonic provides a context that can make sense of unfamiliar or complex problems.
While Europeans practiced exorcism during the Middle Ages, the “golden age” of demonic paranoia took place in the early modern period. In the 16th and 17th centuries, thousands were killed in witch hunts and there were spectacular cases of possession, including entire convents of nuns.

A 1788 painting by Francisco Goya depicts Saint Francis performing an exorcism.Wikimedia Commons
The Protestant Reformation was a key contributor to these events. The resulting wars of religion devastated Europe’s population, creating a sense of apocalyptic anxiety. At the same time, exorcism became a way for the Catholic Church, and even some Protestant denominations, to demonstrate that their clergy wielded supernatural power over demons – something that their rivals lacked. In some cases, possessed people would even testify that rival churches were aligned with Satan.
...
People have historically used evil spirits to explain any number of misfortunes, whether its a physical illness or routine bad luck. But today, demons are frequently used to interpret contemporary political issues, such as abortion and gay rights. Since the 1970s, Protestant deliverance ministries have offered to “cure” gay teenagers by casting out demons. This practice now has corollaries in Islam—and even in Chinese holistic healing methods. When the state of Illinois legalized gay marriage in 2013, Bishop Thomas Paprocki held a public exorcism in protest. Politically, the bishop’s ritual served to frame changing social mores as a manifestation of demonic evil.


For those who don't subscribe formally to the existence of demons the preferred secularist alternative could be the rise of this or that rightwing political activity. Art Spiegelmann once declared that he didn't go in much for superhero comics because those are the power fantasies of children and he had adult power fantasies.  Right.  The older I Ge the less convinced I am that the difference between an adult's power fantasy and a child's power fantasy is one of any substance or ultimate distinction.  It seems easier and easier to reach this gloomy conclusion reading what people print in election cycles.  No, it seems that the difference between a child's power fantasy and adult's power fantasy is primarily that the kid knows the kid is a kid.  Adults, by contrast, not believing they have any juvenile capacities, and having acclimated themselves to social dynamics that let them wield various forms of social influence (power) see someone or something they want and decide they get to have it. 

For instance ... mangers and rock stars who feel they get to have sex with ... well, it's not that difficult to guess from the link titles

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/01/heathcliff-berru-music-publicity-sexual-assault-speaking-out/424869/

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/01/17/david-bowie-and-rock-n-roll-s-statutory-rape-problem.html

For all those folks who were dismissed as being too concerned that the rock and roll lifestyle was degenerate and nasty, could we throw those people a bone as story after story emerges showing that rock stars and managers take what they want even when the thing they want involved minors?  Thing is, people want heroes even if the heroes can turn out to have bad, bad qualities in their history.  It wasn't out of mere abstraction somebody wrote a little poem that said heroes are monsters whose use for their cause outweighs their well-known vice. It seems that you can pick a hero and he or she will stil have something monstrous about them.   Bowie is a lately assed musical hero but it doesn't mean there aren't skeletons in the closet.

Christians who would say their respective heroes at least don't cheat on their wives may miss the point, which is that some Christian celebrities of varying levels of popularity can turn out to be responsible for plagiarism. To go by how some Christians on the net react to that kind of thing, the reaction of saying plagiarism isn't "that" bad could be taken as a sign that where for worshippers of rock stars sex isn't that bad for worshippers of Christian celebrity authors taking credit for work you didn't do isn't that bad.  It seems that for each "tribe" there are sins that can't be forgiven and sins that can't be taken seriously as sins to begin with.

And on a somewhat spacier note ...

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/physicist-george-ellis-knocks-physicists-for-knocking-philosophy-falsification-free-will/?wt.mc=SA_Twitter-Share

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