look ma, no ____!

Well, friends, my bete noir (which I say in jest) Randy has got himself perished. Not literally. But his blog has gone the way of the Estabrook and the original Fox. It's baleeted. Rumor? Fact? Conspiracy? What is it that makes men (and women) throw in the relational towel? In this case--though I'm going off of hearsay as I didn't read the actual post that contained his rationale--RS couldn't stomach Mel's The Passion of the Christ and, by some strange extension, Christians. I can see his point: if I watched Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Spaceballs and then met a group of people who decided to live by the precepts depicted in the movie, I might be a little weirded out. Maybe even a lot weirded out. And my state of weirded-outness might preclude me from wanting to talk to those people again. I can buy that. Problem is, we're talking about the fricking converse of this. No one (I shouldn't make generalizations like that, I know, but please let me know if you know of a single exception) sees the Passion as a proscriptive event. I don't think there has been any Christian in the last several centuries that has seriously advocated Roman-style flagelation (I had to use that word somewhere) as a good way to advance the cause of Christianity, to reach out to non-Christians. What Christians have used Passion plays for traditionally is to show the demonstrative narrative of Jesus' death. This narrative is didactic, but not in detail or in a proscriptive way. Here's what I mean: Christians believe in general that Christ's death was indicative of how far He was willing to go for us, but not necessarily what we needed to do for the world and definitely not what we need to do to the world. In that sense, Gandhi accurately reflected the Passion, though for different reasons. In that sense, the KKK does NOT reflect the Passion, though they use the symbolism of it. The Passion and Crucifixion really answers the question "What Would Jesus Do" with the only answer that makes sense 100% of the time: Jesus would suffer and even die on our behalf. (Incidentally, I heard a very funny "This American Life" where they talked about this very issue. WWJD? He would die.) The majority of Jesus' messages, especially the ones in the Gospel of John, predict this ultimate answer. How does one "truly live"? By dying to self in the hope that God will resurrect/rescue us. So I'm writing this with the assumption that RS is still reading, and stewing over, the logical wrench in this whole thing: why does there have to be such brutal bloodshed? Why would a (good) God desire His Son, or anyone else's son for that matter, to be shredded by a cat-o-nine-tails, beaten with poles, thorns, and fists, spat upon and insulted, and then in a coup de gras executed like a (worse than) common criminal--a la The Passion? Here's where a wise man would direct you to two more authoritative authorities. First of all, you have to check out N. T. Wright, especially when trying to deal with the historical context, symbolism, social history, and theological significance of the Crucifixion. Then I would also direct you to check out Alvin Plantinga's God, Freedom, and Evil. This book only touches on the Passion, but definitely hits theodicy--why a good God would allow bad things to happen. Not to divert the honest seeker from getting a little muddy (and muddled) with Wright and Plantinga, but I have to wonder how much throwing in the relational towel has to do with theodicy or any other theological question and how much has to do with internal conflicts over past experience or prejudices. For instance, if I had a really debilitatingly bad experience with Christians in the past, would I want to hear that they think they're right and I'm wrong? Would I care how holy and righteous their doctrine proclaimed itself to be? Would I even engage with those that had the gall to suggest that they, in their obvious moral degeneracy, had anything to offer me? Probably not. But I might if (1) I met others who declared themselves members of the same "movement" and yet acted differently, (b) those others consistently proclaimed their desire to interact with me as a person first and as a non-believer in their doctrine later, (3) the event(s) that caused me such pain in the past were entirely different in their contexts--perhaps even inconsistent with current interactions with this "movement," and (4) the particular event that made me withdraw (in this case, a movie) had little to do with the actual people I withdrew from. But I dunno. Perhaps at the end of this, I'm still just wondering: What the hell happened?!?!


Blogger John McCollum said...

Watched the thing on Lewis and Freud on PBS last night. Was underwhelmed.

But I was struck by something the naturalist/atheist on the panel said: "Most of us come to our beliefs based on how we FEEL about something, and then we select facts to support the worldview that FEELS best to us."

I hope he was including his own chosen worldview, that of scientism.

Many people are torn. Christianity makes sense, but doesn't feel right to them. Or vice-versa.

This is equally frustrating to the Christian, who believes that revelation is authoritative, even if he doesn't understand it, and to the naturalist, who knows instinctively that some things exist that he can never quantify or explain, but are off limits due to the limitations scientism places on his modes of inquiry.

9/16/2004 6:05 AM  
Blogger stu said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/17/2004 6:55 PM  
Blogger stu said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/17/2004 7:00 PM  
Blogger John McCollum said...

"PS. Erik and John- you are some of the finest hell raising gents IÕve yet to witness in the christoid sphere. I mean that. And I urge you to continually shake up your base like you are doing now. When you finally allow your personal freewill to take over, look me up. WeÕll smoke some pot, look at the stars, and find meaning in meaninglessness."

Wow. That sounds much better than my life!

Just kidding. Sort of.

Anyway, Randy, I appreciate your compliment, even in its twisted, backwards form. Good to see you're alive and, well, alive. I really would have liked to have seen you last weekend. Maybe some other time.

At any rate, I just thought I'd let you know that Erik uses phrases like 'a priori' because he is as erudite as he appears. I worked with him for about three years, and I learned that he is the real (and admittedly geeky) deal.

As a matter of fact, Erik dumbs it down for the rest of us in most of his posts, even on Hydra.

I'm keeping your most recent post in my 'hall of fame,' to whip out anytime people accuse Christians of being more closed minded and judgmental than atheists. I appreciate the materials. Makes my case all the stronger.



9/17/2004 7:04 PM  
Blogger stu said...

Well if you're going to do an entire post psycho analyzing me, I guess I can at least give you an explanation of my perishedness. I owe you at least that much.

I'm sorry if I have given the impression that I am "wrenching" over this in the sense that you are talking about. I wrench over it in the sense that people I care about actually believe this insanity. (you guessed correctly in your first paragraph)

To be totally honest, I find christianity to be a morally bankrupt system. It is based primarily on threats, fear, and intimidation.. for if Jesus died for us and we have to accept him for resurrection/rescue, then we truly have no free will. For that reason (and others) I see christianity or any like forms of spiritualism as an infinite regress.

Whatsmore it really is just a mind game. The rub here is that the mind game IS intuitive for humans (dualism) and that is one of the hardest problems I have to deal with as a naturalist. I would say that dualist intuitions explain supernaturalism tout court. But the reason dualism is intuitive is that the brain does not perceive itself and so ascribes mental activity to a separate source. Hallucinations of preternatural beings (ghosts, angels, aliens, god) are sensed as real entities--out of body and near death experiences are perceived as external events, and the pattern of information that is our memories, personality and "self" are sensed as a soul.

But religion is a particular form of dualist/supernaturalism--one that has a therapeutic function. That aspect of religion is best explained (I think) by the insinuation of desire into belief formation as opposed to an actual external, personal (to us) god.

Which brings me to your usage of the term a priori. You should stop using this term because I sense that you are using it in an attempt to sound intelligent when you canÕt be otherwise. I am somewhat put off when you throw this term around in relation me or to guys like Dan Barker, for we actually tried with all our hearts the god/Jesus hypothesis and for us and many others, that hypothesis has failed. (nothing fails like prayer! we like to say) but we say this because we arrived to an understanding that praying to god is really no different than rubbing the lucky rabbits foot or grabbing the goats testicles. When you accuse that we are just assuming 'no god' out of thin air (or past bad relations or other emotional appeals) --and then looking for just any ol' answer to back up our claim, then you question our genuineness, our experience, our intelligence.. and so we do it to each other on infinitum. (I'm admitting my own guilt here now in case you didn't pick that up)

I've just lost my stomach for the whole thing and think it has been building for quite some time. The passion was just the straw that broke the camels back. I really donÕt hang out with religious people at all but I thought I would see what my old clan (and some new clan members) were up to via my trusty keyboard. I know you are going to think I'm an ass for saying this, but, I DO find believers to be mildly schizophrenic and generally creepy. Personally, I prefer folks who can toss around ideas and fumble like the hairless monkeys that we are without having to reference a 2000 year old book to see if we are getting it right--folks, who strive for rationality, are proud of their skepticism and try to make life better for themselves and for those who come after us and that is all. We give meaning to life; it isn't given to us. As the old saying goes-

A man said to the universe:
"Sir I exist!"
"However," replied the universe,
"That fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation."

(Let me put it to you this way; if your particular god appeared to me right now, in the flesh.. no visions, mysteries or dreams.. just BAM. Appeared. Life for me would change very little. I'd be all like "Whats your godliness got to do with me? You are god and I am just one of the billions of humans. So what? You do your thing and I'll do mine. Rrrespekt" (in true Ali G fashion)
See? I would have more reverence for god than most who actually believe in it seem to have, for I would know that god is god and I am not and that is that. Why would I need to ask him for anything? He gave me my life didn't he? Why should I bug him to instill in me the obvious basic wisdom that humans have accumulated naturally, or, even worse, requesting a better job, a car that works, a meaningful relationship, or a larger penis? I would never presume on the friendship of an all powerful. And why should I? Besides, I have friends here on earth don't I? Whats wrong with them?)

Lastly, the rumors and conspiracy are true. My blog has gone incognito for reason that I fear the prayerful are reading it and saying to themselves "oh my, I must remember to pray for that boy" and I simply cannot contribute to such a meaningless endeavor. I started feeling like the resident atheist in the christian fishbowl. But, you know, my own orneriness put me there and now I must simply correct my own mistake.

PS. Erik and John- you are some of the finest hell raising gents I've yet to witness in the christoid sphere. I mean that. And I urge you to continually shake up your base like you are doing now. When you finally allow your personal freewill to take over, look me up. We'll smoke some pot, look at the stars, and find meaning in meaninglessness.

9/17/2004 7:08 PM  
Blogger Jeff Cannell said...

Good to here from you Randy (albeit indirectly). I'll see you on the upside.

9/17/2004 9:22 PM  
Blogger stu said...

jeff, you sound as if we haven't talked for years.

john, as per your comment (9 mins after my post!) and our phone conversation, you have completely lost all credibility with me. for a moment i thought you were a serious thinker, but its obvious now that you are just another reactionary. perhaps if you spent more time brushing up on your thinking and less time practicing israeli commando tactics you might find the ability to take pause and respond intelligently when you are challenged at your core.

think about it..

9/17/2004 11:33 PM  
Blogger John McCollum said...

I'm rubber, you're glue.
Bounces off of me and sticks to you.


C'mon, Randy. Read your post again. Read Erik's post again. Read my post again.

I was just coming to Erik's defense and poking a little fun. You can't honestly tell me you weren't trying to bait us.

Calling Erik a pseudo-intellectual? Calling Christians mentally unstable? Offering me a taste of drug-laced nihilism as an antidote to my self-delusion?

What did you expect? And what was so offputting about our barely coherent phone conversation? Again, I'm avoiding the trap of taking everything so seriously.

Like my mama used to say, "If you can't take it, don't dish it out."

I'm pursuing a civil dialogue with a wink in my eye and a tongue in my cheek.

You're much more endearing as a fencer than a javelin thrower.

Oh, well.

9/18/2004 7:55 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home