The Image of God: Each Man Makes Heaven and Earth Anew

In Genesis 1:1-2, God makes the heavens and the earth.

In Genesis 1:26-31, God makes man in his image.

Okay.

We’re not able to engage in creating a cosmos from nothing.

But here’s what we can do.

We construct the world in unique ways, each of us.

The objective world, of course, is real.

But any particular first person point of view is as vast as the universe itself and it is entirely unique from all other first person points of view.

And so, by going through the world, we come to new perspectives on the heavens and the earth from out point of view that are more or less true depending on how we came to them.

But the point is that in each of us is a universe. To be a human being is, in a subjective sense, to create the world anew.

Maybe that’s why gaining the whole world is not worth losing your soul.

Whether we live or die, Aslan will be our good lord.

At two points in C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair, Prince Rillian makes an important claim about the state of their adventure:

“Doubtless this signifies,” said the Prince, “that Aslan will be our good lord, whether he means us to live or die. All’s one for that.”

“Courage friends,” came Prince Rillian’s voice, “whether we live or die, Aslan will be our good lord.”

These two passages have haunted my mind since I finished the book a couple of weeks ago. As Christians we often face such a sense of anxiety over non-essentials in life, that we miss a sense of reality that our intellectual ancestors understood quite well:

I should wish neither, for my own part; but if it were necessary either to do wrong or to suffer it, I should choose to suffer rather than do it.1 – Socrates

Pro 15:16 Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it.

Pro 15:17 Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it.

It is better to die moral than it is to do immoral deeds. Similarly, it is better for Rillian and company to die in the service of Aslan (the good), than to commit themselves so deeply to survival that they are willing to do evil.

This is same lesson of Daniel refusing obeisance to the king, Paul preaching though he knew he’d take a beating, and every Christian act of political resistance or generosity. It is better to suffer an injustice for being in the right than to use evil to get what we want.

Courage friends, whether we live or die, Jesus will be our good lord.

References

1Plato, Plato in Twelve Volumes Translated by W.R.M. Lamb., vol. 3 (Medford, MA: Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd., 1967).

Christian Conflict Resolution

Like all people, Christians have conflict over ideas, practices, preferred traditions, and how the to spend money. Conflict is good. It helps solve problems. But we frequently handle this conflict in ways that contradict the purpose of the church and the content of the gospel message! When we value a minor thing as though it were a major thing, we let our emotional response guide us rather than truth, practicality, or ethics. And so below, I’ll explain what appears to me to be a New Testament guide to conflict resolution among Christians:

Christian Conflict Resolution

A Translation of Philippians 4:2-9:[1]

“I am urging Euodia and I am urging Syntyche to have the same way of thinking in the Lord. Yes, I am even asking you, true yoke-fellow, assist these women. They struggled in the gospel alongside me with both Clement and the rest of my co-workers whose names are in the Book of Life.

Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say: rejoice! Let your reasonableness be made known to all people, the Lord is near. Do not make a habit of fretting about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. Then the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is honest, whatever is noble, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever causes affection, whatever is commendable, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy take account of these things; and that which you learned and received, and heard and observed in me, put these things into practice and the God of peace will be with you.”

Below is an attempt to give a commentary on the passage above, followed by an argument for why I think it is meant to conflict resolution. But for those more interested in the practical take away, here it is. In list form, Paul’s recommendations for Christian conflict resolution:

  1. Call to mind your calling as Christians
    If you remember, in the midst of a conflict, who you are, who the other person is, and where you are, and why you’re together in the first place, then you’ll have a foundation for productive Christian conflict. To “have the same way of thinking” in the passage hearkens back to Philippians 2:5-11. It doesn’t mean “agree in all things.” It means remember to try to be like Jesus.
  2. Rejoice in the Lord always.
    Think of specific reasons to be joyful in connection with your faith. So think of Christ’s death for sins, your forgiveness, the greatness of God’s love, answered prayers, etc. 
  3. Behave reasonably (esp.) when you have an audience
    Paul recommends that when others are present, you put extra care into being moderate and reasonable. This makes sense, as acting vindictive or angry in public exacerbates things.
  4. Recognize the nearness of the Lord
    Just like realizing you have an audience might make you circumspect, remembering that the Lord is near ought to make you more so. 
  5. Do not fret about anything
    Allowing a thought to occupy your mind obsessively can blow it out of proportion. Instead of thinking constantly about how you’re not getting your way, Paul recommends the next step.
  6. Thankfully ask God to grant your requests
    Think of specific reasons to be thankful, and in that attitude of thanksgiving, ask God to give you what is best. God may grant your request. Also, you’re preparing yourself to seek the best thing, not merely what you want in the moment. And so Christian arguments should include time for prayer. 
  7. Think about what is good in the other.
    It’s harder to hate somebody and aim to thwart their desires without reason when you sit and consider what it best in them. For instance, you’ve probably had the experience where somebody tells you a true, positive fact when you’re mad or sad and you start to laugh. That’s a sign that you’re being persuaded into a positive frame of mind.
  8. Practice the Paul’s spiritual disciplines in accordance with Paul’s gospel.
    Finally, everybody involved should be practicing self-denial, prayer, fasting, etc. Every Christian ought to be aiming their life at Christ-likeness. And in this letter and spread throughout the New Testament are the practices in accord with that lifestyle.

A Christian Conflict Resolution Commentary

  1. I am urging Euodia and I am urging Syntyche to have the same way of thinking in the Lord. Yes, I am even asking you, true yoke-fellow, assist these women. They struggled in the gospel alongside me with both Clement and the rest of my co-workers whose names are in the Book of Life.
    Paul reminds the women and the entire Philippian church that they are co-workers in the gospel. And the gospel comes with a calling to acquire the mind of Christ. And so if you remember that you’re on the same task force, it will be easier to get along. And in fact, if you remember that your partners in conflict have their names in the book of life, you’ll remember how much God loves them too!
  2. Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say: rejoice!
    In order for these women to get along, Paul challenges them to rejoice in the Lord. The idea here is that when dealing with disagreement, if both of you think about the reasons that Jesus Christ has given you to rejoice, then this will set the tone for your own approach to the issue.
  3. Let your reasonableness be made known to all people.
    The idea here is that being open to reason and dealing with a conflict in a winsome and evidence based way not is not only the right thing to do, but it goes a long way in preserving the public image of the Christian church for its members as well as for its opponents. In other words, think about the issue enough to talk about it well, have a discussion and deal with it in a self-controlled and moderate manner. Paul will go on to tell them not to let the issue occupy their minds constantly as human beings are wont to do.
  4. The Lord is near. Do not make a habit of fretting about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
    Conflict has a tendency to create anxiety or annoyance. So, remembering that the Lord Jesus Christ is near, Christians ought to pray when they have conflict rather than letting the distress of the difficult occupy and distract their minds until it foments into a terrible argument. Instead, it is better to pray and move on.
  5. Then the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
    Paul then says that if these steps are followed on both sides, that the peace of God, which is impossible to grasp for outsiders, will protect their hearts and minds from needless divisions, grumbling, and conflict. Do note the focus on peace in relationship to the conflict mentioned above and that it comes up again at the end of verse 9.
  6. Finally, brothers
    This address is the biggest piece of evidence against the conflict resolution interpretation (that and the fact that as far as I can tell, no commentary agrees with me). But I think it is possible for his advice to Euodia and Syntyche, to include an address to the whole church. This makes sense when you consider that 4:2-7 are already in a letter which was to be read aloud to everybody.

    1. whatever is honest
      Assuming the conflict-resolution-interpretation, whatever is true would mean whatever integrity and fidelity is apparent in somebody’s life. This makes sense when one considers that αληθη can mean “honest, truthful, or right.”
    2. whatever is noble
      Here, then, Paul is challenging them to think about whatever it is in somebody that is noble of character. Presumably, the focus is on character traits which pertain to achieving honorable status in God’s kingdom and in society in general. There is also such a thing as ascribed honor, but σεμνος seems to me to be focused on character traits, not offices or birth.
    3. whatever is just
      Whatever this person does toward God and man that is right.
    4. whatever is pure
      The word pure carries the weight of ancient rites of sacrifice and ceremonial washing that pertained to the difference between the realm of the gods and man. In the case of Christians this word was transformed into a word about the status of those who have been received into God’s family and into a word about morality rather than about ritual cleansing. So, think about that this person is cleansed by Christ and that this person refrains from this or that sin that they used to do.
    5. whatever causes affection
      Whatever causes you to have warm feelings toward somebody, think on these things. Think about their laugh, their kindness to others, a moment when they were pitiable before God and contrite about their sins, and so-on.
    6. whatever is commendable
      Here, the idea is concerning that which others speak highly of them about. What are they good at? What moral traits go before them? Do they dress well, manage their family well, are they eloquent, and so-on? Think about these things.
    7. if there is any virtue
      If anything in them lines up with the classical virtues: courage, prudence, justice, and self-control. Think about these things.
    8. and if there is anything praiseworthy
      Does this person have any trait that makes them a figure worthy of public appellation, not just private praise? Are they a patron, a benefactor, a broker, of good blood, do they show kindness, do they share the gospel? In the case of Christians, are they a member of a good nation or an important family (yes and yes)?
    9. take account of these things;
      Paul wants them to consider all of these factors in one another when they are having disagreements. The practical reason for this is obvious. It allows for rhetorical and dialectical charity in the leadership affairs of those who are “citizens of heaven” (3:20, cf. 1:27).
  7. and that which you learned and received, and heard and observed in me, put these things into practice
    Here, Paul is using his gospel message (2:5-11) and his own example (1 Corinthians 8:1-11:1 and 2 Corinthians 11-13) to show them how to deal with conflict with those inside the group. Paul is reminding them to that only by putting these things into practice will they make progress, since Paul is a designated representative of the Jesus whom they mutually claim to be their Lord.
  8. and the God of peace will be with you.
    The take away here is that once these habits of thought are put into practice, then God’s peace will reside with the church. 

Appendix:

The Dominant Interpretation of Philippians 4:2-9

The passage of Scripture above is often (in the majority of commentaries) interpreted as a paraenesis (a collection of general and miscellaneous ethical advice).[2]

The passage seems more specific than that to me. Philippians 4:2-9 is an attempt on Paul’s part to resolve a conflict in the church at Philippi. The passage above is Paul’s application of generally wise advice on Christian living (4:4-9) to the specific issue at hand (4:2-3): a conflict between two notable members of the church leadership. It is notable that David Alan Black suggests a similar point of view for verses 4:2-7 in his book Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek.

In Philippians 4:2-3, Paul urges two women to start working together or at least to come to have “the same way of thinking” that Paul has urged elsewhere in the letter which is summed up in the humility of Jesus demonstrated in the gospel story (see especially 1:27-2:11). So, Paul rhetorically hooks this section directly to 1:27 and 2:1-5.

It may not matter, but Paul does use the present tense of the word translated above as “I am urging” which could mean one of two things:

  1. Paul is performing a speech-act (like saying, “I pronounce you husband and wife”) wherein Paul is urging, in that very sentence, for them to get along.
  2. An introduction to a new line of thought: “I am urging, in what follows, that you be of one mind.”

If we take 4:2-3 to be the end of Paul’s instruction about getting along (option 1), then the rest of the passage is simply general moral and spiritual advice. But if 4:2-3 is introducing what follows (option 2), then we have Paul’s vision of Christian conflict resolution. There are four main reasons for seeing 4:2-3 as an introduction to the material that follows all the way until verse 9.

  1. It allows this closing material to fit with the apparent thesis statement of the letter (1:27-30).
  2. It helps make sense of the fact that several of the things Paul says to “take account of” are characteristics of persons, not ideals to be contemplated.
  3. Paul’s says that following these instructions will result in peace.
  4. It is generally true that the New Testament Epistles are more concerned with group cohesiveness than individual spiritual disciplines (although group cohesion almost always relies upon the spiritual health of individual Christians).

Bibliography

Aland, Kurt et al., Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th Edition. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012).

Arndt, Danker, and Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000).

Liddell, Henry George et al., A Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996).

[1] Translated from Kurt Aland et al., Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th Edition. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012), Php 4:2–9.

[2] There are good reasons for accepting this view. Several Biblical scholars accept this view (Bruce, Barth, Cohick, O’Brien, Fee, and Witherington) as does my pastor, whose judgment about such matters is very well reasoned. The take away of this perspective is essentially that Paul wants us to think about positively virtuous and God honoring things (which elsewhere he clearly does say to do). I totally agree with the ethical idea that comes from the majority interpretation. It is Pauline advice, it is reasonable advice, it is advice that accords with the sort of meditation that has been prescribed throughout the Christian tradition for centuries, and it seems to be advice that helps people who receive cognitive psychological therapy (thinking about different things to manage bad thought patterns). So don’t hear me being mean about people who see the passage in the more traditional way.

 

The life of the mind in early Christianity

This is the best couple of paragraphs from N.T. Wright’s massive two volume tome:

That is the point at which Paul found himself inventing and developing this new discipline we call, in retrospect, ‘Christian theology’. The radically new worldview in which he and his converts found themselves was bound to face the question ‘why’ at every corner, and in order to answer it, and to teach his churches to answer it for themselves, he had to speak of one particular God, and of the world, in a way nobody had done before.

 

This had an important result: the life of the mind was itself elevated by Paul from a secondary social activity, for those with the leisure to muse and ponder life’s tricky questions, to a primary socio-cultural activity for all the Messiah’s people. The interesting question of whether one thinks oneself into a new way of acting or acts oneself into a new way of thinking will, I suspect, continue to tease those who try to answer it (not least because it is of course reflexive: should you answer it by thinking or by acting?).

 

N. T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, vol. 4, Christian Origins and the Question of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013), 27.

For the early Christians, philosophy became a way of life. 

Abba Joseph, Beetle Kings, and Jesus

This little piece from the desert Fathers helpfully illustrates Matthew 5:14-16:

Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, “Abba, as far as I can I say my Little Office. I fast a little. I pray. I meditate. I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else am I to do?” “What else,” Abba Lot says, “can I do?” Then the old man stood up, stretched his hands towards heaven and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire, and he said to him, “If you will, you can become all flame.”

Jesus, in the passage mentioned, challenges his disciples to be the light of the world. Abba Joseph above tells Abba Lot, “If you will [desire to be a light], you can become all flame.”

But to will the destruction of our most cherished unnatural impulses can be hard.

I want comfort. I want my way. I want my space to myself, my time to myself, my feelings to myself, my whatever.

But Jesus is already the light of the world. So, why not become all flame? Aaron Weiss from mewithoutYou asks that question in his song, “The King Beetle on the Coconut Estate.

Are you really better?

Stephanie, at Girl with the Dragonfly Tattoo, criticizes a blogger for her reasoning that outrage over actions like pedophilia is improper due to our own moral failures. Here is her main thought: 

She “laughs” at the incongruity of normal people daring to judge a child molester when calling for justice to be done. 

Why would a Christian laugh at a situation dealing with something so clearly evil, and something we are supposed to view with soberness and yes, we are called to judge and expose evil (Eph 5).

 

In the comments, when responding to a victim of child molestation 😦 , who obviously was very offended by her suggestions in this post, she defends herself and takes this analogy even further to include other evil acts some humans engage in: killing a police officer – which earns people the death penalty in some states.  Don’t judge them, she says.  You’re no better as a person, than a cop killer.

 

Ok, so where does this “you’re no better than a truly evil person” stop with this line of reasoning?

With all the mass murdering happening in the news lately, first the church that was my Uncle and Aunt’s old church being shot up with MANY children and even pregnant women murdered last week, to just this morning hearing of an elementary school being another target of an evil mass murderer.  Are we really called to “not judge” evil doers who commit acts like these?  Is it really better “to laugh” at the people who DO get angry and voice their sentiments of desiring justice?

Her philosophical exercise is revealing. The fact of human beings being all equally under condemnation for sin by no means implies that all are under equal sentences or are guilty of equally evil sins. But it got me to thinking about the Biblical justification for the claim that universal human sinfulness does not entail universal moral equality. Here are some Biblical justifications:

  1. The Old Testament teaches that Enoch and Noah were morally superior to their contemporaries and the Abel was morally superior to Cain.
  2. Old Testament laws have different penalties. Jesus teaches different levels of punishment for different levels of sin in Luke 12:35-48.
  3. He also teaches different levels of sin in John 9:40-41.
  4. Again, he teaches different levels of sin in Mark 3:28-29.
  5. Paul, in Romans 2:6-9, assumes that people have different responses to God’s revelation in conscience.
  6. Paul teaches some who are spiritual have the right and responsibility to correct their brothers and sisters in Galatians 6:1-4. These verses line up exactly with what Jesus says in Matthew 7:1-5, human judgment (instantiated as criticism and correction) is for those who first correct themselves.
  7. Peter teaches that you can get morally worse (2 Peter 2:20).
  8. James, who says not to judge your brothers lest you become a judge of the law of God, also says to turn sinners back to the truth (James 5:19-20). Through his epistle, he also criticizes the rich exploiters of the poor, those who distort faith into mere assent, and those who blame God for their personal sins. So whatever James means by ‘judge,’ he doesn’t mean, ‘don’t publicly criticize sin or sinners.’
  9. Finally, for the New Testament to teach that Christ can redeem us is to teach that at least one person is morally superior to all other people.

So, moral superiority is real and actual (not merely potential). But what does that mean? Well for one, it means that you ought not pray as though you haven’t sinned at all (Luke 18:10-14), but as one unworthy of heaven’s favor. It means that you are now responsible for correcting your brothers and sisters in such a fashion that they do not just turn around and automatically judge you because you’ve corrected your flaws so thoroughly and are willing to accept similar correction even from the person who is sinful in ways you are not. 

In the post Stephanie is criticizing, the author runs into a common problem for those who think Jesus teaches to never judge. In any act of correcting Christians who judge (read: correct or claim somebody did evil), you necessarily are judging. It is perhaps best to see Jesus’ teaching about judgment as normative: Judge with righteous judgment (John 7:24). So don’t just judge by how things appear, but judge based on careful reasoning.

My suspicion is that the original post is meant to be taken as more of a puritan exercise in self-examination. They recommended that you see in yourself the depths of depravity that are truly there through the lens of the deeds you abhor in others, then be grateful for God’s grace (see Jonathan Edwards’ Resolution 8). Exercises of this sort keep you from doing such horrible sins. 

All of this is to say that it’s important judge and it’s important to judge in such a way that allows you to remain humble.

Sherlock Holmes, Moriarty, and the Devil

In the three most recent adaptations of Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock, Elementary, and the Game of Shadows) at crucial moments Holmes is deceived by Moriarty into making a tactical error and in the mean time a song about demon forces is played.

There Are Spoilers Below

In the movie, Holmes is fooled into thinking Moriarty intended to bomb an Opera house during Don Giovanni. Upon Holmes’ arrival, the chorus of demons is played as the main character is received into Hell. 

In the American procedural, Holmes is fooled into thinking a serial killer is Moriarty (when indeed the real Moriarty’s identity remains opaque to him) and Gil Scott-Heron’s, Me and the Devil, plays:

And in BBC’s version, Sherlock rides to the court house to function as an expert witness, and Nina Simone’s Sinnerman plays in the background:

 

Now, is this all just a coincidence or does something in the source material lend to this interpretation? No, it is not a coincidence. Yes, there is one reference to Moriarty as an evil on a diabolical level:

“[He] has, to all appearance, a most brilliant career before him. But the man had hereditary tendencies of a most diabolical kind. A criminal strain ran in his blood, which, instead of being modified, was increased and rendered infinitely more dangerous by his extraordinary mental powers. Dark rumours gathered round him in the university town, and eventually he was compelled to resign his chair and to come down to London…” – Sherlock Holmes on Moriarty in The Final Problem

 

I doubt that anybody I know was interested enough in that confluence of media and Sherlock Holmes source material. I had wondered to myself, “why had they utilized that sort of theme in these modern versions of Holmes, particularly when he’s portrayed as an atheist in two of them?” Since I hadn’t read the Final Problem in a while, the answer was unknown to me. When I went back to it, there it was.

I think part of the appeal of Holmes today is that his intelligence is used in fighting evil, I hope people go back to the books and read them though. Holmes is portrayed more humanely, more philosophically, and though I love the modern adaptations, more excellently in the originals.

Cosmic Remarriage: A Sermon by Chris Borah with some Reflection

Below, you’ll find the audio to a sermon by one Chris Borah:

16 July Cosmic Remarriage by Chris Borah

It’s worth a listen. 

Here some brief festoonings and trains of thought brought up by his sermon (they may be of interest or help even if you don’t listen:

  1. Personal: I don’t ever have a cadence when I’m speaking, I try to change my cadence and pronunciation as I go to see what sound better to me. Chris apparently doesn’t do that. It’s a better option.
  2. Personal: I have a really high stress tolerance but also a really long term sense of threat detection. This makes me anxious more than is helpful or virtuous. This sermon as a good challenge to that. 
  3. Theological: And Chris never mentioned this explicitly, but he named two sides of an important issue. “Don’t be anxious” (Matthew 6:19-34). But also, Chris said that real life is lived around the table, and to have food at the table, you’ve got to sow, reap, and store into barns even though the birds don’t. And so there is an unrighteous and idolatrous way to worry over tomorrow, over your food, your both, and you life. But there is also a way to “fear always” (Proverbs 28:14) that is good. As an aside, the ESV translates that as “fear the LORD,” but the word for Lord isn’t there. The passage either means, “anxiously fears w/respect to not wanting to sin” or “anxiously fears w/respect to potential calamity of any sort,” but both in such a way that leads to getting things done. The hardened heart in Scripture is a disorder that always leads toward the worst possible outcome on the present course. Tension is the wrong word, as different kinds of anxiety exist and the Bible multiplies the species of various traits and habits. 
  4. Dendrological: Chris said that there is something more true about seeing trees as Ents and Dryads than there is to seeing them as inert statues of slowly growing wood or pre-furniture. Interestingly, the materialistic practice of those crazy scientists has found that trees and other plants do communicate. My high school English teacher speculated that this was true and hypothesized that they used electrical impulses in soil and pheromones. Both are accurate. Also see: The Hidden Life of Trees.
  5. Theological: I’m of the opinion that God created chaos and that it’s good and must be balanced with order (if you ask me to define these, expect a great deal of incoherence). A good article about Genesis’ teaching about this is Did God create chaos? Unresolved tension in Genesis 1:1-2 by Robin Routlege. This has led me to all sorts of fruitful reflections upon what it means to be human, even before the fall. For instance, negotiating chaos and order is necessary in a garden and even more necessary if you leave the garden to subdue the rest of the earth. 

Conservatism Conserves What?

This is an edit of a post from October 21st, 2016
When I was in junior high I learned about conservatives and liberals.
I was really confused about the fact that liberals wanted more rules for business owners and that conservatives wanted to spend more money on war.
A couple of years later, I converted to Christianity and found several conservative political positions to line up with my emerging moral consciousness. But, I also found several of them to abhorrent.
  1. Pro-life made sense. Abortion is the most insane inversion of the order nature I could and can imagine.
  2. I thought prison sentences for most crimes made no sense.
  3. Keeping the government mostly out of the market made sense (though I was skeptical of conservative opposition to minimum wage increases and I thought tariffs made sense)
  4. I also thought that going to war all of the time seemed to be a “liberal” use of money.

My Skepticism Rose

During Bush the Younger’s presidency, I remembered thinking that the privacy intrusions of the intelligence agencies, the quickness with which we went to war with Iraq over 9/11? WMDs? oil? (how and why was that wise?) and the reticence to do anything about abortion showed that conservatives meant [based on observing their actions] neither to conserve human life in general, American lives, nor the constitution.
Now that I’ve realized how little conservatives care to conserve. I tend to think that Republicans don’t actually want to win the pro-life argument at the legal level because then they couldn’t use the platform to get elected.

The Five Stages of Conservative

Ed Feser expertly mocked the conservative way of being in the world here:
  1. Stage 1: “Mark my words: if the extreme left had its way, they’d foist X upon us! These nutjobs must be opposed at all costs.”
  2. Stage 2: “Omigosh, now even thoughtful, mainstream liberals favor X! Fortunately, it’s political suicide.”
  3. Stage 3: “X now exists in 45 out of 50 states. Fellow conservatives, we need to learn how to adjust to this grim new reality.”
  4. Stage 4: “X isn’t so bad, really, when you think about it. And you know, sometimes change is good. Consider slavery…”
  5. Stage 5: “Hey, I was always in favor of X! You must have me confused with a [paleocon, theocon, Bible thumper, etc.]. But everyone knows that mainstream conservatism has nothing to do with those nutjobs…

Stage five describes contemporary conservatives thoroughly.

Christians do this, too.

“Those other Christians are bad, please like me now.”

I think I used to do it, too. Seminary trains you to want approval from non-Christians. Several professors I know are like this.

One of them is so condescending, even to people to whom he used to be a pastor, it’s difficult to imagine that he ever called himself a Christian. Usually hating Christians is the wine of atheists. But his main point is to signal to his academic friends that he’s not like all those low IQ rednecks he used to pastor.

No “Conservative Principles”

Even when conservatives claim to be using logic rather than rhetoric to make arguments against this or that idea or candidate, the same logic is applicable against them. Heck, I’ve heard conservatives rail against the tendency of populist movements to appeal to the poor and if anybody appeals to the poor they should be ignored. But that’s precisely part of Jesus’ appeal in the ancient world. Conservatives, in their effort to get people to see them as “not like those other conservatives” will make up principles they’ve never adopted before. This reminds me of when Publius Decius Mus opined that many of conservatives deep “principled concerns” aren’t even principles:

What, specifically, is good in a political context varies with the times and with circumstance, as does how best to achieve the good in a given context. The good is not tax rates or free trade. Those aren’t even principles. In the American political context, the good is the well-being of the physical America and its people, well-being defined (in terms that reflect both Aristotle and the American Founding) as their “safety and happiness.” That’s what conservatism should be working to conserve.

Examples

Mark Rubio said that he didn’t think conservatives should look at wikileaks materials because it might happen to conservatives one day. In other words, “It’s bad for politicians to be forced into transparency.” No moral principle such as privacy was evoked, but merely interest in power. Heck, it wasn’t even a, “Do unto others…” thing.

Elsewhere, on the Tweeter, Rick Wilson (a goober in love with family values rhetoric) asked Ann Coulter (who never claims to be polite) personal sex questions of a deeply disturbing nature.

In the National Review, Kevin Williamson exuberantly rhapsodized about how people who live in flyover communities deserve to die for no other reason except a “conservative” form of social darwinism which implies that politicians have no obligations toward the well being of their voters. No mention, of course, that it was bad trade deals supported by conservatives which sent their jobs overseas.

I’m Not Conservative

I’m not conservative by any respectably accepted definition. Conservatives, at least public pundits, are not interested in conserving principles, traditions, people, the economy, or the rule of law. They’re more interested in being the irenic but losing opposition to any of the forces bent on dissolving Western Civilization. The idea that sacrificing your view of the truth in response to social pressure is noble is unacceptable to me.

Six cool tricks for sounding smart

People are always telling me, “Geoff, you’re such a smart guy.”

Lot’s of people think I’m a smart guy. It’s an empty compliment, but I enjoy it. Sherlock Holmes was the same way:

“I shall never do that,” I [Watson] answered; “you have brought detection as near an exact science as it ever will be brought in this world.” My companion flushed up with pleasure at my words, and the earnest way in which I uttered them. I had already observed that he was as sensitive to flattery on the score of his art as any girl could be of her beauty.

But the main reason to be smart, of course, is that it makes it easier to help people because they trust you. If you’re actually competent, then you’re smart persona is a net benefit to society.

How to do it:

I use these six steps to trick people into thinking I’m smart:

  1. First, pick a constellation of useful skills you can use to make money by helping others: lock smithing, cooking, computer programming, small engine repair, etc.
  2. Pick a few subjects interesting to you that seem important for understanding the world. A list might look like this: American History, Logic, Evolutionary Psychology, Exercise Science, and Economics.
  3. Read the most important books you can find about them and consult living experts to test your knowledge. Twitter, blogs, and email make this possible.
  4. Then, start bringing up the most important facts in conversation and discussing the ideas and difficulties in those fields with interested people.
  5. Use the most powerful ideas to improve your life, craft your destiny, and assist those around you.
  6. Finally, learn another language. I made the mistake of learning ancient languages. Learn modern ones first.

Once you do this, people will think you’re brilliant. Smile. You’ve got them fooled. All you did was read a bunch of books.