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Egalitarian Music?

worship-in-churchI often find myself cringing at the lyrics that pass for contemporary Christian music as I listen to the radio (which, admittedly, I rarely do). From songs like “Courageous,” which makes it sound like only men can have courage… or at least that only they were “made to be” that way; to those like “Lead Me,” which encourages co-dependence in relationships, I find myself wondering if there are any egalitarian Christian musicians out there making music that shares that message. I know of none.

 

Anyone know of any?

The question, of course, is whether the concept of gender “roles” even needs to be an issue for egalitarian musicians. Moreover, how might an egalitarian theme be put forward meaningfully through music? I’m interested to know if anyone has thoughts on this.

Of course, all of this may just be another displayed symptom of the problem I’ve mentioned before with having a distinct genre of “Christian” music over and against other types of music.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Christian Discernment Regarding Music: A reflection and response– Here I react to a post encouraging discernment when thinking about the category of Christian music.

On Christian Music– I reflect on the category of “Christian Music” and whether it is even a functionally helpful tool.

Engaging Culture: Demon Hunter’s “Extremist” and the Apologetic Task– I discuss the latest album from Demon Hunter and how music may act as an apologetic endeavor.

SDG.

“Avatar”- A Christian reflection on the film

avatar-1I’ll admit it up front: I love the movie “Avatar.” I know that admission will immediately garner scoffers and the like, but I’d like to take this opportunity to look over some of the themes in the film to show why I like it so much. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

A Concern for Social Justice

First, it must be admitted that there is a strong concern for social justice throughout the film. This concern is borne out in three ways:

1) The disabled- Jake Sully is wheelchair-bound, and this leads to some overt  thematic elements related to this. Other characters make offhand remarks over his state. “That’s just wrong”–presumably referring to sending someone with such a disability to Pandora; Jake refuses help from others and relies on his military background to keep himself motivated to do whatever anyone else can. In the extended edition of the film, Jake is also bodily thrown out of a bar early on, which highlights his feelings of injustice and helplessness, while also  showing compassion demonstrated by his character. Jake’s veteran benefits can’t pay for a “new set” of legs, so he looks to Pandora for a fresh start.

From these portrayals, one may draw two primary areas of discussion. First, the ultimate solution to Jake’s status is transcendence into the Avatar body. His state is ultimately not one he can overcome himself but one which is ultimately reliant upon others–even deity (see next section). Second, there is some concern here for those with disabilities: we should neither treat them as deficient nor should we ignore the possibility of increasing the well-being of those in such situations.

2) The Environment- Some may not consider notions of concern for the environment a “social justice” issue. However, it should be clear that impact upon an environment definitely brings about societal change. If a group lives in a jungle, razing that jungle to the ground will have profound impact on that people group. Although the portrayal in the film is very straightforward (perhaps even simplistic), the concern for how destruction of an environment can lead to societal ills is certainly portrayed. In the Bible, we are given the command to care for creation. This should translate into a concern for societal well-being as well.

3) The “Other”- The Na’vi (interestingly similar to the Hebrew word for “prophet”) are the “other” in the film. From the human persepctive, they are a strange people. They have a seemingly paganistic nature worship along with inherent pantheism. They prefer to live in trees and tribal communities than building roads and buildings. The way in which the humans interact with the “Other” is ultimately a question of major concern and conflict. By downplaying the needs and disrespecting the culture of the “Other,” humans fail to learn from them and perhaps come to mutual understanding and a better relationship. Rather, the “Other” is seen as one to exploit for one’s own ends. For some discussion of how the “Other” is used in religious contexts, see my post on “The Myth of Religion.”

Deity- Or, Avatar is not Pantheistic

One aspect of the film I have heard other Christians complain about is that the religion of the Na’vi is pantheistic. However, it seems clear that Eywa is no friend to pantheism. Indeed, this “goddess” is far from the pantheistic all-in-all. Rather, it turns out in the climactic battle near the film’s end that Eywa “had heard” Jake’s prayer and in fact answers in rather extraordinary fashion. Eywa (again, interestingly similar to the name of the LORD in Hebrew) turns out to be not so much a pantheistic, monistic One as a theistic deity capable of activity within the natural realm.

Thus, the ultimate reality of the film is that there is such a thing as deity interfacing with the prayers of persons and with power to answer them. This is not to say the film is entirely friendly to Christian theism. For example, one line Jake Sully says to Eywa is that the inhabitants of Earth “killed their Earth-Mother.” Surely this is not an affirmation of theistic faith but rather hints at a kind of pantheon of deities for each planet! Well, not so fast: Jake says this before he even knows that Eywa is truly a deity capable of activity on the planet. He is trying to describe the situation in his doubt, and his prayer is that of a skeptic trying to make sure he’s covered all his bases. The answer of the extent of Eywa’s rule over Pandora (or beyond?) is left unanswered.

Again, I am not trying to suggest that Eywa should be identified with Christian theism. Rather, within the context of the film, it is clear that a deity exists and acts within the “real world.” I think it must be admitted that this is a far cry from the outlook of many films which are either anti-theistic or generally ignore the question of deity altogether.

Conclusion

Avatar” is a film that’s worth talking about for more than its beauty. Although many mock it for its emulation of some story tropes (Pocahontas in space!), there are more thoughtful elements in the film worth discussing. In particular, the question of divine activity is poignantly brought to the forefront. Moreover, the themes of social justice brought forward call into question our own assumptions about what is the best way to address various needs and issues.

What I’ve written here is only the beginning of possible discussions. A whole slew of topics remained untouched (what of mind/body connections and the use of the Avatars themselves?; what of the use of mercenaries?; what kind of criminal justice system could one have in a corporate run entity like this?; etc.), so I’d love to read your own thoughts on the film.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Escaping to Pandora– J. Warner Wallace notes other issues of apologetic importance of the movie “Avatar.” He specifically focuses on the real hope in heaven and the transcendent.

Caring for Creation: A discussion among evangelicals– I write about creation care from a number of perspectives offered at a recent panel of prominent evangelical thinkers in this area.

Also see my other looks into movies (scroll down for more).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Really Recommended Posts 8/7/15 – Planned Parenthood Edition

 

A Pro-Life Demonstration at the Supreme Court. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

A Pro-Life Demonstration at the Supreme Court. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

I think it is an appropriate time to present a series of posts on Planned Parenthood and the wrongs that are being perpetuated within our midst. Thus, I have accumulated some resources from all over for your to browse and become more informed on regarding Planned Parenthood, abortion, and related issues. Please read and share these posts. We can no longer be silent: we must speak up for those who are unable to speak up for themselves.

Meet the Filmmaker Exposing Planned Parenthood–  An interview with David Daleiden, the founder of the Center for Medical Process, the group that has released a number of videos exposing Planned Parenthood executives discussing the use of fetal body parts. A quote from the article: “All we had to do was say two things. Number one, that we supported their work. And number two, that we wanted to buy their fetal body parts. Those were the magic words. And they were willing to bend over backwards to accommodate that.”

Considering the “Planned Parenthood’s Abortion is only 3% of what it does” Defense– It has been parroted time and again: abortion is only 3% of what Planned Parenthood does! Therefore… what? When you look at the numbers, that 3% is pretty significant. Not only that, but the argument itself is quite faulty as an excuse.

Planned Parenthood Videos: Is this a Wilberforce Moment for the Church?– William Wilberforce was a defender of human rights who helped to get slavery outlawed across the British Empire. One of his strategies was to show people slave ships so that they couldn’t pretend not to know what was happening. The Planned Parenthood videos have shown only some of the horrors of abortion. We need to stand up, not look away, and refuse to allow it to continue.

The Faqs: What You Should Know about the Planned Parenthood Defunding Vote– This post discusses the vote to defund Planned Parenthood in light of various questions that arose around it, including why the Republican majority leader would vote against it (hint: it’s not because he’s in favor of abortion).

The ‘Ick Factor’ And The Planned Parenthood Videos– Is the response to the Planned Parenthood videos really just a gut “ick factor” reaction? Is it instead based on something more concrete?

“Keep Your Eye on the Ball”– A refutation of one of Planned Parenthood’s responses to the videos that are being released. It points to some of the absurdities being circulated in defense of Planned Parenthood.

Should You Be Outraged with Planned Parenthood Today? (Flowchart)– A flowchart that asks whether we should still be upset with Planned Parenthood over their abortion practices.

A Voice for the Voiceless– Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist, argues that feminists ought to speak up against abortion, particularly in light of the recent videos.

Now We Know Her– A personal story about a family prepared to abort their child should any defects have been spotted. This post demonstrates some of the inconsistency in the pro-choice reasoning, but does so in a winsome and personal fashion.

Silence in the Face of Evil (Comic) – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor who was martyred by the Nazis for his resistance, argued that silence in the face of evil was itself an act: not to act is to act. Here’s a little quote from him alongside a comic.

My Own Posts 

Whose Body Parts Are They?– I ask a simple question in light of the Planned Parenthood videos: whose body parts are they?

Abortion, the Violinist Analogy, and Body Parts– A common argument for the moral permissiveness of abortion is the violinist analogy. Here, I analyze that in light of the Planned Parenthood videos.

Planned Parenthood Does Much Good– I analyze the argument that Planned Parenthood does much good and whether that should matter.

Planned Parenthood Does Much Good

i_stand_with_planned_parenthoodOne of the most common reactions to the Planned Parenthood videos has been the positive response and defense that largely consists of: “But they do good things for people too.”

Well, yes, they do.

It kind of reminds me of Monty Python’s Life of Brian. One of my favorite scenes is the one in which they’re planning a revolt against Rome and one persons asks “What have the Romans ever done for us?” The responses begin to pour in: they’ve built roads, aqueducts, improved education and public health, and more. It’s quite a funny scene.

The humor fades if you examine historical accounts of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 (as described by Josephus), for just one example. Families starved to death–whole households. The Temple–the center of the Jewish cosmos–was torn apart and defiled. Before that destruction, of course, there were other “minor” skirmishes and slaughters. The Romans imposed a governor over the area and a military garrison in Jerusalem.

What have the Romans done for us, indeed?

We can envision a host of ravenous pro-life faceless hordes crying out in their foolish ignorance: “What has Planned Parenthood ever done for us?”

A host of responses could–and have–been offered. Who has not seen the people sharing images of themselves as someone who benefited directly or indirectly from the healthcare Planned Parenthood provides? They provide health support during pregnancy, sexual education, birth control, and more. The stories can and do pour in. We can imagine a Monty Python spoof happening that parallels the scenario: the dithering pro-life horde is silenced by the constant stream of stories from those who have benefited from Planned Parenthood.

Then, the facts start to confront us. We see videos that show the broken apart body of the unborn being picked apart. Then, we realize that hundreds of thousands of these procedures happen each year in the United States. Skulls are crushed, but those performing the operation are doing it in such a way that the organs will–hopefully–be intact. These unborn body parts, themselves part of a clearly separate individual from the mother, are then donated for a price to research.

Suddenly, the humor fades. Our smiles are washed away. What price did Jerusalem pay for those aqueducts, education, and public order? Infants starved to death; slaughter until the soldiers “tired of killing.” What price do we pay Planned Parenthood for that birth control, those health screenings, and the other care they provide? You can watch the videos yourself and see the tiny hands and feet cut apart and distributed.

#StandwithPP, indeed.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“Inside Out” – Feelings, Family, and Fun: A Christian Perspective

inside-outI recently got to see “Inside Out” in theaters and it was a huge treat. The plot was fairly predictable, but it was delightfully done and thought-provoking. Here, we will explore the film from a Christian worldview perspective. There will be SPOILERS in the following review.

Talking about Emotions

It is often quite difficult to talk about our feelings. “Inside Out” provides a springboard for having these discussions, whether with children or, frankly, with adults. Christianity is a faith of not just the mind but also the heart, and we need to be able to talk about how we feel and engage with our emotions in the context of faith.

As a parent, I was pleased to see how little there was objectionable in this movie, as it is one I could see using with my son (who is now 10 1/2 months old) in the future to talk about emotions.

Gender and Family

There are some issues with gender in the film as Riley’s parents were fairly stereotyped in some ways. However, this stereotyping was offset in many ways by Riley herself, who was a highly complex character with different interests and motivations that went beyond such gender stereotypes. As Christians we can have conversations about how our culture so often shoehorns people into strict gender categories without acknowledging its own cultural biases.

Another edifying aspect of the film is its focus on the importance of family. It does not undermine the value or struggles of those families that are non-“nuclear,” but it does affirm the ways that family can shape the lives of children. The formative impact of the parents in this film cannot be understated, and it showed not just in the “core memories” that Riley cherished, but also in her interests and concerns.

As Christians, there are a number of takeaways from this, but perhaps the most important one would be the way that our faith lives can shape our children. I sure hope that Luke has a formative experience that lets his “core memories” include faith at the center of his emotional and rational life. Like Riley’s parents, I am not going to just stand back and watch but rather be sure to expose him to the faith and prayer and allow him to ask questions and learn from an early age.

Emotions Rule?

One possible concern with the film could be the notion that it seems like the emotions are that which rule Riley’s life and actions. Indeed, the emotions cause specific acts in her day, and as different events occur, the different emotions take the controls to drive Riley entirely.

From a Christian perspective, we should interpret things generously (see Martin Luther on the 8th commandment), so the first aspect of a response to this would be to allow that the film had to make things fairly simplistic because, well, it is actually a kids movie, isn’t it? It would be tough to multiply complexity and discuss the importance of reason, logic, and abstract thought for action in a way children could easily understand.

Second, too often in Christian circles I have seen the downplaying of the importance of emotions for our reasoning process. The importance of passional reasoning (having emotions as part of the overall logical process) should not be forgotten. For older children, this film could be a great jumping off point to have a conversation about the interplay between such abstract thought and the emotions, and how they might interlink to form a life of faith and reason.

Third, related to the previous point, we sometimes need a corrective–particularly those of us who lean towards critical thinking–to remind ourselves of the importance of emotions. In a thoughtful, humorous way, Inside Out opens us to such conversations.

Conclusion

Inside Out is a delightful film with comedy, fun, and family all interwoven in a thought-provoking mix. I think it provides several ways for Christians to start conversations about a number of important topics, including reasoning, emotions, gender, and family. I recommend it.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Inside Out– One of my favorite websites, Empires and Mangers, shares some thoughts from a Christian perspective on the film. Anthony Weber approaches it from a slightly different angle, and his post is well worth the time spent reading it. Be sure to follow his excellent blog as well.

Movies– Read other posts on this site about movies written from a worldview perspective. (Scroll down for more.)

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Response to an Article on Welfare Recipients in Seattle

IMG_0691The purpose of this blog is to discuss things related to the Christian worldview. I tend to try to avoid political issues, but I recently saw a number of friends sharing an article entitled “Workers in Seattle Have Their Precious $15 Minimum Wage. But Now They Want Fewer Hours” and I wanted to respond. I will be analyzing the article from the Christian worldview perspective.

Summary of Article

The article in question points out that Seattle’s minimum wage was raised, but some who are working minimum wage have asked to work fewer hours so they do not lose their government benefits. The author writes:

[E]mployees of a non-profit group in Seattle who’ve achieved their glorious goal of the $15 minimum wage are actually asking their employers for FEWER hours. The reason? Now that they make more money, they no longer qualify for subsidized housing. So they figure if they work fewer hours, they’ll make less money and they can stay in their government-provided cheap apartments –

After sharing a few quotes, the author comments:

HOLY SOCIALISM, BATMAN!

Basically, they want a “living wage” (whatever the heck THAT means) AND they still want all the freebies the government gives them. Because that’s TOTALLY the point of working hard and being independent.

A Response

First, I ran the numbers given in the article regarding minimum wage and cost of living in Seattle. It’s fairly straightforward, as the author shared a quote (without disputing it) of the prices involved. According to the article, the cost of a one-bedroom apartment is 1200$ a month. The cost of child care was about 900$ a month. That adds up to 2100$. Now we do the math on the wages. $15 an hour, 40 hours a week, about 4.5 weeks per month = 2700$. Now this is basically granting the most possible money because some months do only get 4 pay checks, but we’ll go with it.

The math therefore shows that, ignoring any taxes whatsoever, there would be 600$ left over a month for utilities, food, auto/renters/life/health insurance, transportation and related costs, and the like.

Whatever else might be in question here–whatever economic theories one favors–these are the numbers the article itself acknowledges. For Christians, this is the kind of data that we should seek out and try to form our opinions around. Of course we need to have economic practices which are sustainable, but as Christians we must also keep in mind the demands on our conscience towards the “other” in need. We should seek more information and be cautious about making broad statements on either side; whether we agree or disagree. Misrepresenting liberals is just as bad as misrepresenting conservatives.

A Christian Moral Response

The bottom line is that there is absolutely no way around the biblical teaching about caring for the poor and needy–even if we don’t like their “life choices.” Thus, the tone of this article is highly inappropriate as it mocked those who were in need throughout with phrases like “I’m not addicted to government welfare…” thrown in as snide remarks towards those who are on some kind of welfare.

A Christian response to this should be to immediately shut down any kind of mockery of other persons, period. There is no space in the Christian moral system for carelessly decrying those who are in need. Regarding the exact phrase in question, suppose we take it literally–what is the Christian response to addiction? Should it be to point out how we ourselves are not addicted and move on from the one who is? I don’t think so. I believe that we must continue to help those in need–even if addicted. That said, the dubiousness of taking the meaning literally is of course clear. It, like the rest of the article, was directed as mockery of those in need and those who have rival economic theories trying to help them.

I’m not trying to favor one theory over another–whether pure capitalism or pure socialism or some mix is best is a topic for a completely different day and post–the issue involved is rather the tone we should carry even in disagreement. Rather than mock, should we not aid and instruct as needed?

A Rejoinder

The most frequent response I received when I shared concerns related to the article was that I needed to be instructed on economic theory.

Note that I have not commented on whether we need to raise minimum wage or whether we need to make it a “living wage.” I don’t particularly want to enter that debate and the quagmire that follows it. My comments have been on the ethical concerns with the article and its tone. We have looked at the numbers involved, and I suggested those should be a consideration regarding a Christian response to such issues. Other than that I think that we must at all costs avoid the kind of tone present in the article. We ought to treat others as we would be treated.

Conclusion

Finally, as a practical concern, would not a reasoned response sharing one’s own disputes about the economic theory(ies) involved in the article be more convincing than poking fun at the specifics of another’s situation? I believe so. I certainly don’t respond well when the beliefs I hold are mocked. That is a surefire way to shut down conversation rather than spur it forward. If the intent is to convince, would not a winsome approach work better?

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

John Wesley’s Directions for Singing Hymns

449px-NürnbergReformationsGedKircheA while ago, I was visiting my Grandma’s church. She goes to a United Methodist church. When I visit other churches, I like to go through hymnals, bulletins, etc. and see what they say about where they’re coming from. I was delighted to come upon some comments from John Wesley in the beginning of the hymnal, because I think they’re fairly well on-point for how we should sing in worship to this day:

1. Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find a blessing.

2. Sing lustily, and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.

3. Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above, or distinct from, the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.

4. Sing in time. Whatever time is sung, be sure to keep with it. Do not run before, nor stay behind it; but attend closely to the leading voices and move therewith as exactly as you can. And take care you sing not too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from among us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.

5. Above all, sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim to pleasing Him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this, attend strictly to the sense of what you sing; and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve of here, and reward when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.

I’ve excluded his first two from this list because he also exhorts readers to learn hymns in a specific way and try to unlearn other ways (presumably to help with unity in singing). These comments are from Wesley’s Select Hymns (1761), according to multiple sources I found. However, I was unable to track down a copy to browse online to ensure this is the correct citation and I apologize if I have incorrectly cited it.

As I said, I believe these instructions are just as good for today as they were in 1761. Too often, I go to a church and very few people are singing apart from those in the choir. Hey, my voice is not that great, but if I follow the directions above, my average-quality voice will lend itself alongside some better singers and together we’ll make a joyful noise unto the Lord! Just a thought! Let’s all sing along to those words which sing praises to our God.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“Jurassic World”- A Christian Perspective: Gender, Dinosaurs, and Genetic Engineering

See this? This is what would have happened if we'd lived with dinosaurs.

See this? This is what would have happened if we’d lived with dinosaurs.

I had the chance to watch “Jurassic World” this weekend. It was pretty cool to see the dinosaurs back in action on the big screen. I enjoyed the tie-ins to the previous movies as well. Here, I will reflect on some of the worldview issues the movie raised. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

Genetic Engineering

I’ve reflected on genetic engineering of humans in the past, but Jurassic World brings up some other difficulties that would perhaps be brought about by such a practice. Unintended side-effects were part of what created the Indominus Rex, a truly terrifying beast that had aspects of all kinds of different dinosaurs mixed into it to make it scarier.

I am by no means an expert on genetic engineering, but I do wonder whether tampering with the human genetic code could lead to some unintended side effects as well. Is it possible that our messing around with certain factors could deeply impact others? If so, what might that suggest about the moral status of genetic engineering?

Dinosaurs Would Kill People!

Jurassic World is not a friendly place for humans. Carnivorous dinosaurs–and even herbivorous dinosaurs–would be extremely dangerous to humans to say the least. Sure, the Velociraptors would have been smaller, and there is no Indominus Rex, but there were Ultraraptors and Giganotosaurous and the like. Why care about this from a worldview perspective? Well, most simply, because it seems that any worldview which would suggest that humans and dinosaurs managed to survive alongside each other has some serious difficulties with which to deal if it is to be believed. The young earth creationist position does hold to this exact view: that humans and dinosaurs at one point lived alongside each other.

Perhaps the young earth creationist would simply argue that the really powerful and dangerous dinosaurs did not exist alongside humans. The Earth is indeed a massive place–perhaps God simply ordered things such that the T-Rex and the human were not living in the same area. This counter-argument has some power to it, but then we must consider the very foundation of the young earth perspective: that this view is allegedly based on the Bible. Yet the authors of the Bible are allegedly aware of dinosaurs, according to some young earth creationists, and used words like behemoth to describe them [I do not think this is a legitimate interpretation; the behemoth is not a dinosaur]. In that case, it seems that such dinosaurs did indeed live alongside humans.

Moreover, the question would have to be asked of what biblical evidence there is for such convenient ecological sorting that would keep dinosaurs from utterly obliterating humanity.

Men and Women

There are a number of issues with statements or assumptions about gender that come up in the movie without being addressed. Why does Claire keep her high-heels on the whole time and how do they not break? Is it for the sake of the viewer? What about Zach’s continual lusting after the young women his age when he has a seemingly loyal girlfriend back home?

Interestingly, it is Claire who ultimately saves the day, despite Owen seeming to be the hero throughout. Her quick action to grab T-Rex to fight Indominus was a good turnabout on the expectations the movie built up regarding men and women.

Are You Not Entertained?

The investors in Jurassic World were worried that the profit margins weren’t as high as they had hoped. The answer was, as argued by Claire, was to genetically modify the dinosaurs to make them more fearsome and interesting. There was something deeply ironic about this because the movie almost seemed to be referencing itself: perhaps people have gotten bored by seeing T-Rex doing stuff: they need INDOMINUS!

I was thinking about how this might reflect on our culture and our insatiable need for newer, bigger, and better. But is this a true need or is it something that we are using to fill the voids in our world? I think too often we try to fill the holes in our view of reality with the wrong things, and the ironic commentary here–intended or not–was well-taken.

Conclusion

Jurassic World is not a movie made for deep reflection on the various issues it raises. But the fact that it does raise this issues is, in itself, interesting and worth thinking about. What are your thoughts on the movie? What of genetic engineering, gender issues, or humans living with dinosaurs?

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Movies– Read other posts on this site about movies written from a worldview perspective. (Scroll down for more.)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“The Giver”- Hope, Freedom, and Suffering

the-giver-movieI recently got “The Giver” from the library. I remember quite enjoying the book but admit I haven’t read it in… well over a decade so I didn’t remember it hardly at all as I watched the film. I enjoyed the movie and have taken the time to reflect on it here. There will be SPOILERS for the movie in what follows.

Freedom

One thing that humanity in this apparently post-apocalyptic world lacks is freedom. They take drugs to prevent emotions, demand “precision of language” that eliminates the use of words like “love” from the vocabulary, and live under a set of rules in which sameness is not only encouraged but enforced. It is only “The Giver” and “Receiver” who know what humanity used to be like, with all the joys and sorrows that accompanied it.

Perhaps the most prevalent theme throughout the movie is the notion that this loss of human freedom, though it apparently ensures survival of the species and eliminates much evil, is itself doing great harm to humanity. People commit infanticide and euthanasia without even having knowledge of what they are doing. A kind of blissful ignorance surrounds acts that would be considered morally barbaric. But the people’s ignorance means that it is more sad than appalling at first.

The film asks us to reflect on our own nature and think what we have done with our freedom. How have we used our freedom of choice to bring about good or evil? Is it worth sacrificing this freedom in order to have a facade of civility and “ending” of suffering.

Suffering

A theme that is extremely prominent in the movie is the notion that freedom leads to suffering. This is not because freedom is inherently evil or painful, but rather because humanity so often uses freedom to bring about suffering. As noted above, the society in which people live seems to be free from evil, but has real atrocities being committed even without knowledge of the magnitude of the actions.

The movie itself is a kind of exploration of the problem of evil and the “free will defense” to this problem. Supposing that our world was created by a benevolent being, why is there evil? The answer in “The Giver” seems to be that we have used our given freedom to bring about great wrongs. Even when we attempt to create our own perfect society, that society remains inherently corrupt. We have squandered our freedom.

Hope

What “The Giver” paints is a picture of humanity as being inherently good; not in the moral sense in which we are perfect, but in the sense that humanity as created–along with the freedom of the will to use for good or ill–is a good thing. At once this hearkens back to the notion of a “very good” creation by God in the beginning and also looks forward to a day of hope.

Jonas’ actions to bring back emotions and memories to humanity is a quest of salvation. It is salvation from a kind of hell that humanity built for itself, putting up walls around the very things that could be used for good. The answer to the problem of evil is a solution from the “outside.” From beyond the capacity of the humans themselves, salvation was brought to them in the restoration of their free will. Yet the ultimate hope remains fleeting: the hope for a world in which suffering can be brought to a final end.

Conclusion

“The Giver” has a kind of eschatological scope in its study: a human-made utopia has failed. Can there be better waiting for us? With questions of free will, the problem of evil, and more in view, it is a worthy movie to watch and discuss.

The image in this post is an official movie poster and is used under fair use.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Movies– Read other posts on this site about movies written from a worldview perspective. (Scroll down for more.)

The Hunger Games (category)– Like Dystopia? Check out my posts on the Hunger Games series of books and movies.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Robert Sawyer’s “The Neanderthal Parallax” – Faith, Scientism, and Humanity

neanderthal-sawyerI recently finished reading Robert Sawyer’s trilogy “The Neanderthal Parallax.” I found the plot intriguing, but the worldview issues the books brought up had great difficulties in how they were conveyed and the kind of hidden premises smuggled in. Every story has a worldview, and the worldview of these books was surprisingly hostile and disingenuous particularly to Christians. I have enjoyed Robert Sawyer’s work in the past, but feel forced to interact with these books in a fairly critical fashion. There will be SPOILERS in what follows. I’ll not summarize the plot, but interested readers can see summaries on Wikipedia. I have written a review of the books here.

Faith

Perhaps the most unfortunate aspect of the books is that Sawyer seemingly did not put anything close to the amount of research and care into his portrayal of faith as he did his portrayal of biology, cosmology, and the like. On the latter topics, great detail is put into explaining aspects of various sciences and even invented science that Sawyer employs to support the plot. But people of faith are put up as frequently hypocritical but also lacking in erudition and thoughtfulness.

The central faith figure is Mary Vaughan, a specialist in ancient genetics. She consistently is put forth as the faithful counterweight to the faithlessness of the Neanderthals. However, she is an alleged Roman Catholic who later reveals she denounces and disagrees with the Roman Church’s view on abortion, women, homosexuality, birth control, and more. She rejects the doctrine of original sin. One must wonder how Roman Catholic this woman actually is to begin with. I’m not suggesting that there are no people who have great cognitive dissonance in their beliefs–obviously many people do. The problem is that Sawyer uses Mary as the central image of Christianity throughout the novels, but she is woefully inept at even holding to the faith she claims for herself.

At one point in Humans, Ponter is talking to Mary at the Vietnam Memorial about life after death(188-207). He simply asserts that if you can’t see something it doesn’t exist. But of course this is as absurd as he claims “Gliskins'” (homo sapiens sapiens as opposed to the Neanderthals) belief in things like God is. I cannot see my own thoughts, yet they exist. Neither can I observe other people’s mental life, yet I am not irrational in believing that the people around me are also having thoughts.

In Hominids, Ponter speaks to Mary about the Gliskins’ viewing of a Mass taking place and again basically asserts that Christian belief in deity is absurd on its face. Mary struggles to articulate even the slightest defense of the Incarnation and other central Christian doctrines. Again, plenty of believers would struggle in this fashion, but Sawyer uses Mary as a kind of foil for all of Christianity. She’s got the best defenses Christians have to offer, and she can’t do anything but stutter when challenges to her faith are raised.

At several points, Big Bang Cosmology is challenged as something the Gliskins cling to because of their necessity of belief in a finite universe to support deity. Yet not only was Big Bang Cosmology initially rejected by the scientific community for this and other reasons (and only later accepted due to the mounting evidence for it), but even were the universe infinite, it would hardly follow that it is uncreated, as Ponter asserted without challenge. Sawyer seems to be unaware of–or at least makes his characters ignorant of–the entirety of Scholastic thought on the topic of continuous creation. Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest thinkers in the history of the world, defended this view in several places in his writings. Thus, for Christians it is hardly an either/or of either eternal universe or finite universe. Either fits in with various strands of historic Christian theology. But again, Sawyer seems to have been either ignorant of this or willfully ignoring it to portray belief in deity in a more negative and indefensible light.

All of this wouldn’t be as unfortunate if Sawyer didn’t put discussions like this forward as if they were the best defenses Christians could come up with for their positions. Had they been simply believers who were also uninformed or insincere, it would not be as great an error. But Sawyer paints these interactions as though the defenses are the best Christians can come up with. As we have just surveyed very briefly, this is mistaken. I enjoyed the stories Sawyer put forward here, but his portrayal of people of faith is deeply flawed.

Religious Experience

Sawyer uses the books to explore the notion of a God part of the brain which, when triggered, can set off religious experiences. In Humans, it is discovered that Gliskins have a part in their brain which is able to have “religious experiences” triggered through electromagnetic interaction, while Neanderthals do not have a corresponding part of their brains.

A central scene in the entire series is near the end of Hybrids in Times Square, New York City. The Earth’s magnetic field is resetting and it triggers religious experiences, UFO sightings, and the like among the crowd gathered as this part of the Gliskin (homo sapien, remember) brain is triggered. People are crying out to their deities, fending off invading aliens, and the like all over Times Square. From this, Mary Vaughan’s faith is finally shattered:

The Pope had some ‘splainin’ to do.
All religious leaders did…
“It’s all a crock, isn’t it?” [Mary] said [to Ponter].
…”Look, I’ve changed my mind. About our child… Our daughter should not have the God organ…” (389)

Thus, we find that in Sawyer’s universe, the notion that we can induce religious experiences in the brain (and other types of experience like UFOs) means that these experiences are baseless in reality. Mary decides that her child should not have the capacity to have religious experience because it is all “a crock.” The Pope and others have some “‘splainin’ to do.” Presumably they are expected to take this as some kind of major challenge to their respective faiths.

The main problem with this is that we can conceivably trigger all sorts of things in the brain. It does not seem too outlandish to suppose that if we triggered a certain part of the brain, we might bring up a memory. If we extrapolate more, Sawyer’s vision of electromagnetically triggered religious experiences could be on par with memories as well, which could (in this scenario) be triggered in the same way. Should we start to distrust our perceptions or memories if we are able to trigger them with various impulses? Certainly not. This way lies (true) madness: distrust in our own memories and senses.

So what is left? What does the notion that religious experiences might be triggered by various brain activity demonstrate? Just that: religious experience may be triggered through manipulation. Full stop. This doesn’t in any way undercut evidence for theism or other beliefs from religious experience any more than our capacity to trigger scents, sounds, or memories would undercut our rational basis for believing this things to be real (or about real events).

Social Ills?

Sawyer uses the trilogy to attack all kinds of perceived and real social ills, from our treatment of the environment to gun control laws, and the like. But the question is how can he realistically put forward any kind of inter-cultural critique when the whole view he puts forward in the books is ultimately subjective. Mary Vaughan suffers a grotesque act of violence in a rape scene, but this is only used as an instrument in the plot (see my discussion here). Any moral critique Sawyer offers through his characters falls hollow because his only basis for it is some vague concept of pragmatism and self-preservation. Thus, it seems there is no ultimate basis for his criticisms of various ethical wrongs, and his use of several of these as mere instruments to advance the plot betrays this inability to provide an objective basis for right and wrong.

Conclusion

I’ve already written much on the difficulties with worldview in these novels. There are many more I could discuss. Again, I want to emphasize that it is very true that many Christians and believers would struggle to articulate their faith, be unable to defend various aspects of it, and not agree with at least some teachings of their church body. The problem is that Sawyer portrays this as the best Christianity can come up with. I was deeply disappointed to see that the overall thrust of the books was ultimately a kind of attack on my own faith, without any reasonable portrayal or interaction with stronger versions of it. Would that Sawyer had put the time into his depiction and study of faith as he had with the science behind this science fiction. For further reading, check out my reviews of the trilogy.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews: “The Neanderthal Parallax” – Hominids, Humans, and Hybrids by Robert Sawyer– I wrote a review of the trilogy on my other interests site. This review brings up some of the other worldview issues in the books, in addition to a brief summary of the plot outline and look at the science fiction elements.

Aliens that believe in God: The theological speculations in Robert Sawyer’s “Calculating God”– I write about a different Robert Sawyer book that I did enjoy quite a bit, Calculating God. I even wrote a second post discussing abortion, fundamentalism, and other issues the book raised.

Source

Robert Sawyer, Hominids (New York: Tor, 2002).

—, Humans (New York: Tor, 2003).

—, Hybrids (New York: Tor, 2003).

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

 

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