Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Questioning Christian Postmodernism

So I decided to delve into some Christian postmodernism today, that is, on behalf of the resources of Homebrewed Christianity. From the outset I'd just like to say that despite the occasion when I express my disinterest and distrust toward some meta-narratives, I would like to clarify: I think postmodern Christianity is a disaster. And if I'm not contradicting myself already, I'm going to (somewhat) use Aquinas' formatting to make my case (that's a loose reference to a recent post).

Object 1: Let's start with discussing this video from Brian McLaren. To summarize, McLaren discusses how he always had a distrust toward the church's discussion / beliefs about homosexuality, namely that it's a choice, a lifestyle, and "all that kind of crap." After some meandering, he continues talking about how his theology has changed over time, that is, he got to the point of not seeing it as a sin. McLaren likens the common Christian response toward homosexuality to the church's historic attitudes about slavery and male superiority and notes how the Bible was used to advance those beliefs.

On the contrary: Were those historic attitudes of pro-slavery and male superiority present for all of Christendom's history and in all cultures or were they time specific and culture specific? McLaren talks about these beliefs as if they were widespread both in terms of location and time, that is, he himself is providing a meta-narrative in relation to the church. I have no reason, empirically speaking, to believe him as I haven't seen the evidence to support this idea of his. These issues require proper sociological analysis - and maybe somebody's done the work - but I don't have time to look into that. However, it's basic knowledge that the early Christian church was anything but lenient in their attitudes about the sinfulness of homosexual acts (which he apparently doesn't like). Does McLaren really believe that the church was wrong on the issue for nearly 2000 years? I have a hard time believing that.

Object 2: Tripp Fuller engages in some deconstruction of chapters 2 and 3 of Genesis. I'll admit, the first time I read this I was kind of hot-headed, but I liked it more the second time. However, some things about it still don't sit well with me. To look at the big picture, Fuller is prattling on about how Eve wanted to have a conversation about eating from the tree and the moral implications of that.

My response: On what grounds is Fuller making the assumption that Eve wanted to have a conversation? Why does he portray Adam as so passive-aggressive? Fuller gives no benefit of the doubt to Adam whatsoever, yet he's (unsurprisingly) eager to operate from a feminist framework in supposing that Eve was wronged by him. At least the author humbles himself and deems his ideas as being speculative (then again, what's not speculative for the postmodernist?), and so I do suppose he could be right, but this seems like a case of overthinking to me. Why make everything so complicated?

Object 3: Now that I've provided two particular examples and responses, I'd like to make a statement of / objection to what I perceive to be the zeitgeist of Christian postmodernism. I could get into the probable irony of their diatribes against capitalism and consumerism, or the possibility of their advocacy of moral relativism (this is disputable, it seems), but I'll save both you and I the grief. Postmodernism, whether secular or Christian, it seems to me, is hell-bent on making everything as confusing as possible. It idolizes theoretical pursuits and thinks that all these narratives and leftist-jargon serve as means to getting closer to God.

My response: I don't believe this for a second. As much as I enjoy theoretical pursuits and even leftist-jargon to some degree, I count these as rather meaningless. Who knows, maybe God can bring meaning out of these, but I don't think they're paramount. I'm thankful that God grants me the time to spend on these things under the sun, but let's not forget the first chapter of Ecclesiastes, which, first of all, tells us of the meaninglessness of life without God and secondly that nothing is new. Christian postmodernism places emphasis on new ideas to 'better match with' the world today. But if nothing is new in essence, then what's the point? And also, isn't a new understanding of old texts counterproductive since the situations you're reading about are void of the thinking you're utilizing, further meaning that your understanding is going to be blurred ipso facto. Do postmodernists really believe that the Christ's followers were meditating on similar things while he was still walking the earth, or even after? I guess it wouldn't matter to them because those were different times - but I wonder, do they ever ask themselves if they're just wasting time?

I'm not saying I have everything figured out. I'm still waffling through how exactly one communicates with and gets closer to God, but I think it goes deeper than any intellectual pursuit: postmodern or otherwise. True spirituality is a very contested phenomenon, indeed, especially in what sociologist Steve Bruce would call this 'global cafeteria.' However, consider this a recording of my thoughts on one paradigm at this point in time.

And there you have it: my narrative on the matter. I hold myself responsible for any misunderstanding I might have about something that can't be properly understood (I want to laugh, but I don't usually express that in my writing, so this is as close as it's going to get). From this point forward, I consider myself free from the distraction that I brought upon myself today. Discourse can only go so far, and I think it's time that we end this conversation.

Edit: I wanted to add this blurb from The Homebrewed Christianity Guide to Jesus: "C. S. Lewis's infamous "liar, lunatic, and Lord" scheme is no longer intellectually tenable. This may be a guide to Jesus, but for Christians, Fuller is guiding us toward a deeper understanding of God. He thinks it's good news—good news about a God who is so invested in the world that God refuses to be God without us."

Just let that pretension sink in for a few minutes.

American Football - The Summer Ends

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

My Knee Jerk Reaction to Spinoza

I've been reading Spinoza's Ethics for my Early Modern Philosophy course. It's been a painful follow up to Descartes' wonderful Meditations to say the least. A few points of frustration:

  • It reads like Hegel, or at least, what I would intuitively think Hegel's writing would be like. I've only read about Hegel and not Hegel's work itself (though I'm somewhat interested). Apparently Hegel was influenced by Spinoza, so this makes sense: pantheistic, quasi-pagan meandering in its finest hour.
  • It reads like Aquinas in the sense that he beats you over the head with abstract words like essence, God, nature, power, etc. without properly explaining what he's exactly referring to.
  • It doesn't even address morality, at least, not that I've seen. What a misleading title for arguably the most boring philosophic work I've set my hands on.

That's about it. I shall continue mulling through. While I'm at it, I may as well express my disinterest in Aquinas. I managed to find Penguin Classics' Selected Writings from Aquinas in a free books bin last year, so I took it. As nice as it is to find a free book, based on what I've read of his work, his ideas don't even hold a candle to Augustine (I've read Confessions). Maybe it's because Aquinas was so heavily influenced by Aristotle (whom I've not read much if anything from - I forget - I should really get on that since philosophy is my minor)? Then again, Augustine was influenced by both Plato and Aristotle ... but wait, according to Wikipedia, both influenced Aquinas as well! I'm pretty sure he liked Aristotle more, though. Anyway, I probably need to read more Plato and Aristotle in order to prepare me for Aquinas. On the contrary, I did enjoy his commentary on Aristotle's definition of the soul. I just think he's overrated at this point and I don't quite understand where the zeal of his admirers comes from.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Vans Warped Tour and its Intentions

I've been complaining to myself more and more about meta-narratives as of late. It's not that I find them all unconvincing because that's simply not the case. For instance, I ardently support moral absolutism. I can't imagine ever supporting moral relativism, a system of ethics that has been criticized by religious and non-religious people alike.

But that's neither here nor there. I guess this is technically about business ethics but I'm not going to try and conjure up anything too complex from that quagmire of moral ideas. Sometimes I just want to write about things that bother me, and so, that's my intent. Can that ever be a good intent, to write about something bothersome, or what I deem 'ungood?'

It's annoying because they [the meta-narratives] don't ultimately matter; many meta-narratives are annoying because they're a waste of time. I guess that's exactly what I'm doing here. But sometimes you just can't help but believe that nearly everyone is lying and that they're unaware of their falsity and that it might perhaps be, at least, a morally neutral idea to inform them of such falsity and so you go with your intuition no matter how impractical.

If you are familiar with contemporary music festivals, it's likely that you've heard of Vans Warped Tour. It's been around for a long time - I don't know how long - but I won't bore you with the facts. Anyway, the festival has hosted bands like The Used, Hawthorne Heights, and The Spill Canvas, just to name three.

Some sample lyrics from these musicians:

I'll be just fine
Pretending I'm not
I'm far from lonely
And it's all that I've got

~ The Used, "All That I've Got"

So cut my wrists and black my eyes
So I can fall asleep tonight, or die
~ Hawthorne Heights, "Ohio is for Lovers" 

Take this razor and cut your palms
I'll do the same until
a river of crimson begins to flow
~ The Spill Canvas, "Black Dresses"

Now of course, these are only samples, so the entirety of these songs cannot be evaluated solely on these excerpts. But it seems quite intuitive that these quotes were created out of loneliness and an inclination toward self-harm. And yet, one of Warped Tour's most successful sponsors has been a company that tries to raise awareness of and help those who struggle with self-harm: To Write Love On Her Arms.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself "that's all well and good because To Write Love On Her Arms is at the right place to help the right people." I won't deny that the organization has made a positive impact on certain peoples lives - I sincerely think they have. I enjoy some of this emo, scenester, whatever-sort-of-music you'd like to call it, music, too.

But here's what I'm wondering about: does Vans Warped Tour, as a whole, encourage this self-loathing and self-harm, or does it encourage its attendees to turn away from this darkened psychology and unhealthy treatment of self? When looking at the two pieces of the puzzle I provided (the bands and the organization), no clear answer exactly surfaces.

Note: I sincerely think that "Black Dresses" is a quality song and that the dark imagery is not meant to be taken literally but that it's actually used to describe the transition between youth and adulthood. I remember the first time I heard the song, around 6 years ago, and I have yet to hear any other guitar playing that I enjoy so much.

Edit: I did not provide any meta-narrative, though I think there is one to accurately describe the case.

Edit 2: I've been editing this post way too much (notice that edit within an edit?). I only note this to inform potential readers who have potentially (no matter how slight that potential may be) read the article more than once and have thought to themselves: "this looked different last time I saw it." It probably was.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Hiddenness of Art

American essayist Clement Greenberg defined modern art as the use of characteristic methods of a discipline to criticize the discipline itself.

He continued:

Realistic, naturalistic art had dissembled the medium, using art to conceal art; modernism used art to call attention to art. The limitations that constitute the medium of painting—the flat surface, the shape of the support, the properties of the pigment—were treated by the Old Masters as negative factors that could be acknowledged only implicitly or indirectly. Under Modernism these same limitations came to be regarded as positive factors, and were acknowledged openly.

End quote.

I really have nothing intelligent to add to this wonderful snapshot of art theory ... other than the suggestion of utilizing Greenberg's observation as a snappy retort against one's mid-19th century art connoisseur of an acquaintance. Don't use it when they're near a fragile work of art though - they might damage the property in their dismay.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Losing Time

Shakespeare wrote in Macbeth that an idiot is "...full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Of course, he was wielding anthropomorphism here. Shakespeare lent the attributes of a damnable fool to human life itself, that is, he inferred that human life was an experience of ultimate meaninglessness. But what led Macbeth to reason that there would be a conclusion at all? It seems apt for Macbeth to believe that human expression can be very void ... but why did he think it would ever end?

Did you see Saint Peter upside down? Did you see that cross stuck in the ground? Mustard seeds adorn the dirt of Golgotha, and so we smell the flowers, the hope. But if the cross never leaves the mud, is it all for nought? What does it take for the cross to be unearthed?

It's incredible how so many points of substance can be so empty in actuality. Not one is able to ascertain. In themselves, perhaps mere guessing can be made as to what certain objects contain, but the phenomenon of knowing such substances for yourself is entirely different. Is this all some color-blindness of aspiration? Is every green light red in actuality?

We are alone in the "our" because consciousness can never be replicated. Not even empathy can hold a candle to individuality. But people continue to be clumsy with the matches. They believe so sincerely that they hold an adequate understanding of what's going on in the world (what is "the world," anyway?), and yet, they are completely in the dark as to what's truly occurring in their life ... Kierkegaard's loss of self.

Who waits on the divine? Are you like Kreeft, waiting for angels to pour from the usual and static stone walls? Does anyone even believe in the after? 

Forgetfulness is born out of either apathy or intention. What makes one so forgettable? Maybe it's literally nothing: if you have nothing to be remembered by, you cannot be forgotten in the first place. But creators are forgotten all the time. How many times have you heard "x was not well-recognized in their lifetime" and yet they're nowadays talked about quite a lot. I guess things eventually work out for some. But how could you forget me?

The bus! The bus! Time is crumbling. Waltz and mosey - do what you must - as long as lateness doesn't find you. Find timeliness ... the black wheels are fortune.

What is of proper time? How do I know? I lost time ... here. It hasn't ended yet.