Some Social Commentary via the Marvel Universe: Feminists, Values, and “Going Dark”

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Our entertainment choices and works of fiction can bring out interesting observations on our culture. (Image: Marvel Studios logo; click for source & owners.)

After long absences from the blog like this, I normally start off with some sort of poking-fun-at-myself comment like, “Hey, looks like I forgot about my blog!” Well, this time I can actually say that. With our in-progress move to Charlotte taking up quite a few brain cells, not to mention actual trips to Charlotte for weddings, video work, and Council meetings, I truly did forget I actually had a blog out here.

And I must say that I suspect that the days of this blog are numbered, as much of the content-creation work I will be doing in Charlotte will begin to take the place of one of the things I have informally used this blog to do: keep me writing and create an opportunity for my congregants to stay in touch with me during the week, even if I am just writing about my kids’ innovative chess techniques. (On display here and here, by the way — beware the Power Pope!)

But, today I return to my poor neglected blog to get three things off of my chest — some social commentary born of observations from the growing Marvel Universe onscreen (technically, the Marvel Cinematic Universe). For those who don’t get the geek-speak (though, increasingly normal-speak), that refers to the fictional universe being created to display, and make money from, Marvel comic book properties on the big screen (and the small screen — looking at you, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.).

And I should make a couple of confessions and pre-comment comments here at the beginning. For one, this post is not a recommendation of any of these fictional works. I find that many could have good cause in their conscience not to partake of anything related to any such movies. Still, the films are looming large in the public eye, and if something has the public’s attention and can be used to make helpful, godly observations, I’m going for it. No one actually has to see the movies to appreciate the points I want to make, any more than one needs to actually read Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf to consider someone’s analysis of the book and what it might say about current trends in society.

Secondly, these comments aren’t really going to be about what happens in the movies as opposed to how our culture has interacted with the movies and what that interaction says about us. The characters in the movies are fictional. No one should emotionally invest in something that does not exist. But the people around us? Very much real and alive, and what can be learned, hoped, dreamed, regretted about real people is very important, indeed.

OK, on to the comments I want to make. Not many — just three.

(1) The incredibly stupid and immoral hatred some feminists have expressed concerning the value of motherhood in the recent Avengers: Age of Ultron movie.

The writer and director of the recent Avengers cash cow, Joss Whedon, is normally someone who likes writing tough, tail-kicking parts for women — just one more person in this world who is promoting the terrible idea that women can fight, punch, kick, etc. as hard as men. The recent Avengers flick is no different, with the Black Widow character, portrayed by Scarlett Johannson, being your standard female repentant-super-assassin-turned-good. Nothing really new here.

Except there was something new. (Spoiler alert, by the way.) In the movie, the character is reflecting on what had been done to her when she was young to help make her a government killing machine, and she laments that those who reared and trained her also sterilized her so that she would not be distracted by the possibility of having children and becoming a mother, not unlike ancient kingdoms did with male servants, making them eunuchs. The character admits a sadness that she would never be able to have children.

Bring on the feminist hand-wringing.

Well, that’s not exactly true. Joss Whedon apparently considers himself a feminist, and his constant stream of unrealistic super-tough female characters should establish his pro-feminist “street cred” according to many. Yet, in actually writing about a female character who laments that her ability to conceive and bear children was taken from her, he is perceived as having committed some great crime against the feminist cause. The angry outcry was great (imagine rants to the effect of “How dare he define women by their ability to make babies!”), and by some disputed accounts (included disputed by himself) the backlash drove him off of Twitter.

This is ridiculous on so many levels, but let me just focus on two: For one, it is insane to call oneself a feminist and to complain when a woman — portrayed as being tough-as-steel and an equal to all the men around her — laments that her ability to have children was taken from her against her will. Why in the world would someone complain about such a thing. Would they have preferred that she said, “You know, although they actually robbed me of one of the most gifts and powers a woman has in the world, but I don’t care — in fact, I’m better off”? Or even, “Yeah, they took my ovaries. No big whoop.” How ridiculous. For people who love to protest that the government should stay out of women’s wombs to protest that a female character in a movie objects to having a government ignore that and forcibly curtail a woman’s reproductive rights is completely illogical. I thought it was just that, “reproductive rights,” that they were defending? Apparently, they are only defending them if “reproductive rights” means “the right not to reproduce.” That would certainly explain how so many of them seem to hate large families (calling such mothers “breeders” and such). Crazy.

The second point about this is how utterly ungodly such complaints are. Being the one through whom the entire human race is perpetuated is one of the gifts and privileged burdens God has given women. There is a reason Adam honored his wife by calling her Eve, “the mother of all living.” To wring one’s hands and “sigh and cry” that a fictional character dare to complain that she was sterilized against her will is perverted. It is just one more example of the world being upside down. Really: Absolutely perverted. Let a fictional woman be the epitome of a “super woman” — able to fight with the toughest of men and beat them — and she is praised, but let her lament the loss of one, single, beautiful aspect of being a woman, and suddenly she is anathema and an enemy against all womankind. Really — satanic.

(Side note #1: I know that part of the rancor was also spurred by the very positive image of a pregnant wife and happy family behind the Hawkeye character, setting up the contrast between the wife and mother, who seemed very fulfilled, and the Black Widow character, who was damaged and conflicted. But if I don’t limit my rant a little bit, I will never move on, will I?)

(Side note #2: The irony in all of this — Scarlett Johansson was actually pregnant during the movie’s filming.)

(2) Captain America’s commitment to doing the right thing over success or even survival.

I could go on and on about this one, because I think it reflects one of society’s great faults — infecting even mainstream Christianity at an increasing rate, as evidenced by the growing “Christian” acceptance of homosexual “marriage.”

At one point in the new Avengers movie, Steve Rogers (Captain America) and Tony Stark (Iron Man) are debating the virtues of actions Stark had recently taken — which were independent and against the wishes of the rest of the team, though taken with good intention. Rogers takes him to task and says it was wrong for him to do that — that they should work together. Stark counters that if they stick with such a value then they will lose. And Rogers says, We’ll do that together, too.

I’m sorry, but that sort of sentiment is sorely absent from our culture: The idea that right is right and wrong is wrong, and we do the right thing regardless of even extreme consequences. (Well, I shouldn’t say that, I suppose. There are a number of things that today’s new moralists might be willing to sacrifice everything for, but, without going into too much detail, let me say that there is a very different spirit there.) John Quincy Adams is believed to have said, “Duty is ours; results are God’s” and implicit in that statement is the understand that you do your duty, regardless of the results. If it is optional, it isn’t duty.

Rogers’ statement in the flick that even if we lose, we lose together — that it isn’t worth doing the wrong thing, even if it means we lose — is, IMHO, very counter to the culture around us (and, I admit, the examples which come to mind for me are likely not examples that would be celebrated by many of those who made the movie).

Consider the Boy Scouts. I admired their stand against accepting homosexuality as lifestyle to be embraced as opposed to being a perversion to be acknowledged as such — at best, a condition to help people avoid and resist. As an institution standing for values and ethics, they took an unpopular stand on those values and ethics, and they recognized that one cannot repeat the Boy Scout Oath to keep oneself “morally straight” while also practicing homosexuality. (And, of course, any sexual activity outside of marriage is immoral, including heterosexual acts.)

What I saw in the Boy Scouts, as the public disapproval mounted and boycotts ensured, was a willingness to see the Boy Scouts destroyed before there would be any giving in. I saw that they were willing to allow the organization to be disbanded before they gave ground on their moral stand, in a culture that desperately needed such public, moral stands.

And, well, that didn’t last, did it? They took their moral stand until they didn’t.

We currently see individuals and businesses taking such stands — against not only civil lawsuits, but against state governments. Facing the loss of their livelihoods and tens of thousands of dollars in fines for not being willing to violate their consciences and celebrate homosexual “marriages” with their gifts and talents as photographers and artists, they stand and say, “Even if we lose and even if you destroy our businesses and our ability to earn and support our families, we cannot but stand here. We will not move.” Good for them. I see that sort of sentiment in Captain America’s statement (even if the industry that wrote that line wouldn’t agree with the examples I am using), and I wish there were more of it coming out of Hollywood.

It’s the sort of stand that the rest of us had better gear up for. Some values really are worth losing over.

(3) Marvel vs. DC — “Going dark”

There is quite a bit of pop culture buzz out there about the clear difference being seen in Marvel movies (in particular, the Disney-owned Marvel movies) and DC movies.

[Aside: For the uninitiated, Marvel and DC are the two major comic book publishers. Marvel makes the Avengers, Spider-Man, etc. and DC makes Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc. They have been considered rival publishers for decades. As a pre-teen, while I was aware of DC publications, I was very much a Marvel fan. I actually read Stan Lee’s letters in the comics, proclaimed “Make Mine Marvel,” and totally get it when someone exclaims “Excelsior!” (Please read all of that in the context I am about to provide, below.) The old comic book rivalry is turning into a movie rivalry, as Marvel movies featuring Marvel superheroes are doing box-office battle with DC movies featuring DC superheroes. This part of the post refers to this “conflict.”]

I freely admit that I wasted a sadly vast part of my youth on comic books, understanding enough about how immersive that world can be to decide I do not want my children to be a part of it. My old Marvel Godzilla comic books are all they have read of that industry, and we’ve talked about why I’d rather they never take up the comic book habit. Don’t get me wrong — my children aren’t perfect in the media-feeding department, and neither is their dad. But that particular vice — comic books — is one we have successfully avoided in their youth.

And my revulsion toward allowing them to get into comic books was based on my own youth and experience in the late 1970s and early 1980s. However, that revulsion is only enhanced by what comic books became not too long after I stopped participating, and what they became could be summarized in one word: Dark.

Some people trace the beginning of the dark trend now seemingly everywhere in comics to the 1986 publication of Frank Miller’s Batman story “The Dark Knight Returns.” I don’t know that that is true — I can see the beginnings even in my day earlier in the decade, but, regardless, comic books became, on the whole, nastier, grittier, uglier places to be. Again: Darker.

Gone was the “Boy Scout” hero (will we lose that adjective? ) who refuses to kill his foe — essentially, a Lone Ranger with super powers. In came the gritty, dark anti-heroes of questionable morals and ethics. Bad guys became more sadistic and horrifically cruel. Grotesquely violent. Gone were heroes like young Peter Parker, who struggled to understand the right thing to do on occasion, while still understanding that there was a right thing to do. (As a teenage boy struggling to understand how to do the right thing, myself, I got that.) In came the “heroes” who observe with jaded and cynical eye that there is no real “right” thing, and that sometimes we have to be bad, go to dark places in ourselves, etc., etc. ad nauseam.

Now, we have movies. Marvel has become known for bright, humorous fantasies, in which characters are still inherently virtuous — difficult pasts, yes, but overcoming those to do the right thing and stand for right things. Their characters make jokes and inhabit a world that is a pretty pleasant place to be in when the universe isn’t being threatened by aliens or whatever.

DC, on the other hand, has become known for darker visions, in which even the heroes have a dark edge to them. Batman seems always on the edge of darkness. Even “Boy Scout” Superman (there’s that adjective again) gains such an edge in the new movies. When young Superman’s dad actually suggests that perhaps the young lad should have refused to save a school bus full of children from drowning rather than risk revealing his powers, the movies declared their dedication to a different sort of moralizing. A darker moralizing. Some will claim that such discussions and comments simply reflect and admit the existence of hard questions, but the problem is that it has lumped easy questions into the hard question category. That doesn’t reflect great moral maturing; it reflects a great moral confusion.

There was quite a bit of chatter on the Internet when the rumor spread that DC had made a rule across its productions that there was to be no joking at all. After all, these are “serious” movies. And someone showed me recently how the recent Superman had been artificially processed before being released so as to remove all bright colors, making even the very color palette of the flick a tool for enhancing the dark, monotone, moody feel.

Many have wondered when the Marvel movies, too, would follow suit. After all, dark is “the thing.” Most figured that the plan for Marvel was to start their movies nice, happy, and bright, but — eventually — once you have reeled everyone in, “go dark.”

To their credit, they say there are no plans to do that. Marvel head honcho, Kevin Feige, is reported on Reddit to have said that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) will never “go dark” in the movies:

“There is no dark turn in the MCU. He says every year fans come up to him and ask him if this movie is when the MCU goes ‘dark’ or takes a ‘dark’ turn. He said while the trailers may seem ominous or have a sense of impending doom, the movies do not have that feel, and will not. He said he ‘Hoped people would catch on by now’ – there will be no giant dark turns in the MCU where it then continues to head in that direction. The humor is in the DNA of the movies, there are no plans to change that.”

Movies aside, what I care about is what it says about the culture. And I think that the dark/not dark DC/Marvel difference here is interesting.

On one hand, people these days seem to want “dark.” There is a reason that people keep asking Feige when the “dark turn” is going to happen. It’s expected, and many people want that sort of darker, edgier content. We see similar desires seeking to be satisfied in television programming such as the CSI shows and crime dramas, where the perpetrators are increasingly terrible and sadistic. (I saw enough of one episode of “Criminal Minds” to realize I never want to see another one, ever.)

On the other hand, an encouraging other hand, there is still something in people — at least some people — who don’t want “dark.” Even putting aside the insane amount of money the first Avengers movie made, it was a comment in one of the reviews that got my attention. I can’t find it, otherwise I would link to it, but the reviewer commented about the consistent applause scene in that movie: When all of the heroes are gathered together for the first time in a circle to battle their overwhelming foes. The camera circles, the music swells, and the audience is treated to a moment they have been cinematically manipulated to appreciate for the previous hour-or-so. But the fact that the audience actually applauded and cheered at that moment grabbed the reviewers attention. Actually, it grabbed many reviewers’ attentions. As one noted, everyone was applauding a scene that most all of them had already seen in the trailer for the movie.

Actual applause seems rare in movies these days — at least to me. (Admittedly, I don’t actually see too many movies.) I remember as a kid seeing one of the Star Wars movies and hearing my mother applauding in the theater — the only one applauding and, of course, totally embarrassing me. (Of course, now I wish she were still here to embarrass me in the movie theater. Thank you, Father, that no one is gone from us forever.) Yet here were these normally jaded, cynical moviegoers, unabashedly applauding this scene in the first Avengers movie.

The reviewer who grabbed my attention explained his own opinion about the matter. He said that in a world full of darkness that has taken over even the heroes of our fantasies, there was something wonderful about seeing the good guys assemble together, overcome their differences, and act like good guys.

I think he was right. At last, I hope he was right.

Some say art should reflect reality back at us and cause is to meditate on it. Whatever. I’m not saying that there can’t be benefit to that, but the idea that movie blockbusters are there to do that is pretty ridiculous on the surface. History seems to show, at least to me, that art does less reflecting on reality and more shaping of it. Rather than becoming a mirror in which we can reflect and change, it becomes an amplifier, magnifying those qualities it depicts and reducing those it ignores. Boys N the Hood may have sought to make parts of gang life seem terrible and inglorious, but there was a reason, as police told me and some assembled teachers back in the 90s, that whenever they raided gang homes that they always–always–found that movie in the home, often playing in the VCR at the time. It caused fewer to reflect on the dangers of such a life than it caused to see it as something glamorized and something worthy of being glamorized, which is different, however subtly.

The world is dark, to be sure. But there is a reason that Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” What we reflect on tends to be what we become.

And the idea that, as much as people clamor for “dark and gritty,” they responded, perhaps despite themselves, to a cheesy, hopeful moment where good guys are actually good is encouraging to me.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not blind. I’ve seen ads for Marvel’s Daredevil series on Netflix and have read the reviews. I’m not even interested. If there is money to be made in grit and guts–in “dark”–then expect companies who want money to follow that money. And I’m also not deluded to think that what qualifies at “not dark” today is still, in many ways, quite dark. Sometimes the “not dark” material stands out against the “dark” material simply because it is “not as dark.” (I know: A lot of repetitious uses of “dark” in those sentences. Forgive me some lazy blogging…)

But, still, in a world of dark clouds (there’s that word again!–expect it a couple of more times, at least…), please don’t begrudge me one silver lining, however thin it may be and however quickly it may be receding. As the world becomes more and more obsessed with the perceived glamor of “evil” and the appeal of dark worlds and dark thoughts, the fact that at least one movie company sees profits in avoiding such a turn, however indirectly, is encouraging. Don’t know that it will last, but it’s still encouraging.

And, to wrap up: Again, none of this is meant to endorse or encourage anyone to actually see these movies, any more than Paul’s use of the “Unknown God” idol was meant to encourage idolatry or his use of gladiatorial imagery in multiple passages was meant to glamorize or approve of being entertained by watching slaves and prisoners fight to the death in the arena.

But as these sorts of flicks loom larger and larger in the culture — and as long as they make money, they will continue to loom large — they become yet another way to reflect on that culture. Sometimes the culture reveals itself best while it is occupied with trying to enjoy itself.

2013 in review

Wow — 2013 has flown by like nobody’s business! I cannot recall ever feeling like a year went by so fast as I feel this year.

For my own sake, I thought I would put together a few thoughts about the Roman year that is now passing. It has been a crazy 365 days, though it hasn’t necessarily been an unpredictable craziness…

The United States continues to broadcast its incompetence. As explained by a WSJ opinion piece today, the new president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, has “out-leadershipped” virtually every U.S. leader over the last year by actually making his country work and work better, addressing actual problems. Meanwhile, we keep applying new band aids on top of old band aids and our symptoms are beginning to multiply. “Dysfunctional” hardly seems like a sufficient word for what we have seen in our government over the course of 2013 (certainly a far cry from my fantasy Obama acceptance speech). Our debt continues to be nauseating, our military frustrated, our credibility in the world fatally compromised, and our morality continuing down the toilet.

On that last point, as Yahoo! News noted (hat tip to SW!) 2013 was, according to the so-called Human Rights Campaign, the “gayest year in gay history.” What we have witnessed in terms of cultural collapse and moral change in 2013 has been breathtaking in its speed. But, as I have tried to say before, the changes we see in the state of “marriage” are not the problem as much as they are the symptom. If marriage had remained a sacred and honored institution and if sexual activity had continued to be seen as something belonging within the domain of marriage, none of this would be happening. Admittedly, it is a symptom that the disease is in its final stages, but it is merely a symptom. We’ve only gotten to these final stages here in 2013 because all previous symptoms were willfully ignored.

(That said, the signs of our cultural rot in the U.S.A. are too many for me to even want to list here, as I would love to move on. Let me only add here in parentheses that it would be wonderful if 2014 involved no news items that contained the word “twerk.” That would be great.)

On the world scene, the changes and challenges have also been breathtaking. The Eurozone survived the predictions of many that it would crumble. The Middle East, Egypt and Syria in particular, continues to be scrambled up in a manner that will eventually enable a King of the South. Not to ignore other countries in the area: In 2013, Iraq experienced its deadliest year since 2008 and Iran got a big, wet, kiss on the lips by the U.S. and its buddies. The world continues to become configured in a manner consistent with the picture the Bible paints of the End Times.

And stepping into that world scene is a pope like none that world has seen for quite some time. Taking on the name “Francis I” which suggests that he is of a mind to reform, he has begun to do that — attempting to reform both the Roman Catholic Church’s image and its institutions. In addressing its image, many homosexuals and abortionists were encouraged by his comments that such topics dominate too much of the RCC’s dialogues and that it should focus on other things. What he did not say, of course, is that the positions and doctrines of the RCC were actually going to be changed in such matters — something that those who actually pay attention were sure to notice. Still, by focusing on projecting an image of humility and outgoing concern for the impoverished and the unheard, Pope Francis is creating the sort of picture that better matches the RCC’s talk and is reforming its image in a way that few could have imagined before 2013. The news speaks of record numbers of young, intelligent, educated women choosing the “calling” of the nunnery, and even many atheists are singing his praises, with one woman tweeting, “I’m an atheist, but the more I hear about Pope Francis, the more I like him.” Her opinion is not an isolated one, and I have read of many atheists considering giving the RCC another chance at winning their hearts–perhaps loosening the grip that Richard Dawkins, et al., have had on their minds.

Whether or not he is the last one and whether or not his honeymoon with the world continues unabated in 2014, the pope that the RCC received in 2013 is a game changer. It was a remarkable event of the past year with ramifications that will continue to be felt for much longer.

Concerning the Work of God, 2013 was an incredible year, with some of the most dramatic changes I have seen since I have had the privilege to be a part of it in this way! The Tomorrow’s World studio has been transformed, we’ve grown from a one-camera operation to three (including a jib), our graphics and planning for each program are being taken to a new level, the magazine underwent a powerful redesign, and our online presence has exploded through social networks at an almost frightening rate. The new TW Short videos are being viewed by tens and even hundreds of thousands of people at a time and are bringing thousands of additional people to our booklets and materials. Individuals all across the northern hemisphere are hearing the Tomorrow’s World program being broadcast in Russian for the first time. Dr. Roderick Meredith’s live Tomorrow’s World presentations online rocked, and, in my personal experience, the number of people who responded to the local TW presentations were greater than I had ever seen. And all of this (and so much more) just represents 2013! It doesn’t include any of the many things on the horizon just waiting for the trigger to be pulled. As far as I am concerned, this really is perhaps the most exciting time to be a part of the Work of God that I have ever experienced, in which it seems so blatantly obvious to those with eyes to see that His own hands are at work in the Church’s efforts.

Concerning those related to COGdom but outside the borders of God’s Work, if you will, in 2013 the rumormongers continued rumormongering, the self-appointed grew in number (as they always do), and the weird fantasies continued to multiply. Someone claimed to see in the Bible that Mr. Meredith would die this past year. And while it isn’t exactly the boldest prediction in the world that a man in his mid-80s would die, it, of course, flopped. Weird stories and predictions about the Church and its leaders crafted by various heretics and apostle-wannabes that were provably complete delusional fantasies did not pan out, as usual. Some folks here and there on the Internet finally acted on personal ambitions and self-delusions they have held for years. The earth kept spinning. The moon continued to orbit the earth. Boasters kept boasting. Accusers kept accusing. In those ways, 2013 was just another day in the office, as it has been for 2000 years. 🙂

Personally, it was a joy to serve my congregations in 2013. We grew, with a number of additions from those who have seen the telecast, received our literature, responded to the local presentations, and impressed with friends and loved ones who are in the Church. Frankly, I’ve never been involved in so many baptism counselings simultaneously, and it looks as though our Passover halls will happily be a bit more crowded! Growth aside, it is a privilege to get to serve so many wonderful people in this area, and I appreciate so much their patience with me. My family and I are so happy to make our home here.

Speaking of home, 2013 was quite a year on the home front! It was the first full year that my wonderful father- and mother-in-law have loved here, which has been such a blessing. It also was the year when I officially became shorter than 50% of my children, making me the third shortest person in a house filled with eight people. I lost 20 lbs. (Huzzah!) But have gained almost half of that back. (Booooo…) My wife and I had the humbling opportunity to travel to Europe, which was life-changing in a number of ways. Boy #1 continues to excel at fencing (the kind with masks and foils, not paint and wood), while Boy #2 has taken up Tae Kwon Do. Boy #3 is almost as tall as me, even though he is only 12-years-old, and Boy #4 has, here at the end of the year, gotten a pair of glasses that officially make him look smarter than me. 🙂 My Beautiful Wife began trying to sell some of her beautiful quilts (Etsy store: “Jeanine’s Quilted Things”). We painted our house. My work on Wally 4.0 proceeded apace, though not as “apace” as I would like (I still think it’s in beta). I converted to the Apple Ecosystem — in fact, I even got a MacBook Air to replace my old PC laptop (which I am surprised I haven’t blogged about, given how I’ve gone on about earlier matters), making me virtually 100% Apple-powered (though still rooting for Surface to do well).

More could be said, to be sure, but this Roman year of 2013 is ending with quite a bit having happened and with much promise of more to come in 2014.

In particular, this past year for me and my family was another opportunity to know that God has blessed us, that Jesus Christ rules in the Church and in our family, and that all our answers are found there in Him. All we have and know is worth having and knowing only because He grants that we have and know it, and all we do not have or know is not our concern as long as we are continually open and yielding to the One who, in His good time and for His good purposes, should one day grant that we have or know it. And until that day, having Him is sufficient. I think I saw that a little more clearly in 2013.

Perhaps the best thing about 2013 (even better than being 99% done with 2012 Maya-related silliness!) is knowing that Jesus’ return and His Kingdom is another solar revolution closer than it was this time last year. And whether I am alive when He comes back to earth or whether He determines in His wisdom that my end should come earlier than that, that is — beyond a doubt — a very good thing. (Does Martha Stewart have that phrase copyrighted? I hope not.)

Australia’s “You’re having a lesbian” ad versus Logic

By now many have heard of or seen directly the advertisement running in Australia in an effort to increase support for the concept of homosexual “marriage.” If not, here’s the add, from YouTube:

If you didn’t want to watch it, here’s a summary of the essentials. A young couple–a man and a woman with child (notice, pro-abortionists: we still say “with child”; but that’s another blog post)–is visiting their doctor for an ultrasound and listening to the baby’s heartbeat. The doctor asks if they want to know what they are having. They agree that they do, and the doctor tells them, “You’re having a lesbian.” The couple is delighted, and words appear on the screen saying, “Any child can be born gay. So marriage equality is every family’s issue.”

A number of points could be made about this, and surely many are out there making those points. The most common point made is that it has not been scientifically established that people are born with their sexual preferences locked in. Not at all.

However, I’d like to step around that for the moment and address a point that sometimes seems to go unsaid: that the argument underlying the “Homosexuals are born that way so homosexuality must be a morally acceptable choice” propaganda is false from the get go. And looking at why gives us a chance to play with logical structures. And, I admit: that’s the real reason I am bringing this up anyway. 🙂

The argument can be structured in Modus Ponens form:

(1) If homosexual tendencies are genetically determined, then homosexuality must be considered a morally acceptable lifestyle choice.

(2) Homosexual tendencies are genetically determined.

(3) Therefore, homosexuality must be considered a morally acceptable lifestyle choice.

[And, I should note that “genetically determined” is a specific filler for what could be a number of “nature versus nurture” possibilities, such as “determined by inherent brain structures,” etc.]

We have to note that the logical structure is valid, meaning that if premise (1) is true and premise (2) is true, then the conclusion in (3) must be accepted as unavoidably true, also. Therefore, understanding whether the conclusion is true requires us to visit the premises, themselves, to see if they are true. If they are not, then the conclusion cannot be said to be true.

Normally, I see defenders of marriage attacking premise (2), the idea that homosexual tendencies are genetically determined. And I can understand why, since it is taken as a given by an increasing number of people (as illustrated in the Australian ad) even though it has not been established as true at all.

However, I’d like to fill in the gap by pointing out that premise (1) is not true. That is, it is not true to say, “If homosexual tendencies are genetically determined, then homosexuality must be considered a morally acceptable lifestyle choice.”

Of course, according to the Bible it is immediately seen as not true. Outside of liberal thelogians looking to recraft God and Jesus Christ in their own image, this is generally well understood. (Rather than go on at length about this, I happily point folks to the Tomorrow’s World website, where they can search the topic “homosexuality” and read what comes up. Plain truth, folks.) But for someone who hesitates to take the Bible at its word, can it still be shown to be false? Indeed.

Consider substituting “homosexuality” with other conditions that have even stronger ties according to some studies to genetic predisposition. I have read of studies that demonstrate individuals with tendencies toward violence can have genetic predispositions and that some alcoholics can have can have genetic predispositions toward alcohol abuse. Again, these studies–if I recall correctly–show even stronger evidence of a cause and effect relationship. (Which would bring an element of a fortiori.) So consider these statements:

  • If alcoholic tendencies are genetically determined, then alcoholism must be considered a morally acceptable lifestyle choice.
  • If violent tendencies are genetically determined, then violence must be considered a morally acceptable lifestyle choice.

I don’t know anyone who would rationally agree with either of those statements, and, certainly, more could be made. (E.g., Here’s a paper discussing genetic predisposition to drug abuse.) The point is that, no, premise (1) is not acceptable: Even if it were found to be true that homosexual tendencies were genetically determined (again, something not yet achieved, by the way), then it would not follow that homosexuality must be considered a morally acceptable lifestyle choice–not in any way, shape, or form. Genetic predispositions (or other such nature over nurture considerations) make for horrible determiners concerning moral acceptability. Consequently, whether premise (2) is true or not, the conclusion still does not follow as true.

And, frankly, the only reason we are living in a world in which the content of our genes is considered to be viable ground for deciding issues of morality is because we are losing our connection with the only solid source in existence of any absolute morality: An eternal God and Creator.

Gotta love logic. Don’t leave home–or watch TV in Australia–without it.

Kudos to Mr. Huckabee for honesty on homosexual marriage

Back in the WiFi parking lot!  Well, actually I came in this time and am sitting in the McDonalds enjoying a (horribly) sweet iced tea and waiting for my iPhone software to update.  I needed to get out and update the Branson Festival website with housing options and this was the place to do it!  (Please forgive an increase in typos, by the way. It seems to happen every time I use my wife’s Mac!)

So, while the phone finishes downloading and installing, I decided to “cruise the news” and came across an item on Yahoo! (actually the Associated Press) making much ado of former governor and 2008 presidential contender Mike Huckabee’s comments concerning legalizing homosexual marriage.  Read it yourself here: “Huckabee likens gay marriage to incest, polygamy.”

Now, I don’t know if Mr. Huckabee is planning a 2012 run, but let me simply say, “Kudos!”  It seems few who have public attention are willing to make the obvious points that he does.  If we can change the definition of “marriage” to include two men or two women, then what is to prevent it from being changed to one man and two women? Or two men and one woman? Or brother and sister?  How would an argument that justifies allowing the former circumstances not also justify allowing the latter circumstances?

Some would say that all of those circumstances should be allowed and that none of them should be forbidden.  These are those who would rather society be done with marriage and moral discernment in sexuality altogether (at least among adults).  Some would say that the later things should not be allowed because they are still socially unacceptable.  Of course, “still” is the operative word, here, and the same could have been said of homosexual relationships not too long ago in this country.  These are those who believe that morality is not a constant — that it varies based on human whim, which, of course, varies from year to year and generation to generation.

The facts are that our society has plummeted to such an extent that the concept of “sin” is meaningless, and we actually have states taking a word assigned to one of the most beautiful creations of God — marriage — and applying it to perversion, without distinction between the clean and the unclean and between the sacred and the profane (cf. Ezekiel 44:23).

Of course, this is simply the meeting of two trends of societal degradation: degradation of the esteem with which marriage is held (“no fault” divorces, etc., “living together” as an equal alternative, etc.), and degradation of the regard with which sexuality is held (the detachment of sex from marriage, the view of sex that treats it as a “biological toy,” the idea that moral sexual boundaries are prudish and unnecessarily restrictive, etc.).

Actually, in light of what God has to say about the matter, Mr. Huckabee’s comments are quite tame and far less than what the nation’s plight calls for.  Yet, compared with his fellow politicians (or former politicians) and talking heads, his willingness to be clear and straightforward is a breath of fresh air.

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Hoping your President is a liar? Really?

Yesterday’s Best of the Web Today had a great section titled “Cynicism: The New Trust” that hammered away at a topic I have brought up here, several times before: The fact that some actually seem to want hypocrisy in their leadership, in particular at this time, the Presidency.  (Previous discussions: “So, Miss California agrees with President Obama…” and “An actual request for hypocrisy?”)

In the BOTW feature, the WSJ’s James Taranto points his readers to a piece on the Washington Post by James Kirchick titled “Obama said ‘I Don’t.’ He may just mean it.” Taranto notes that, essentially, the Kirchick piece is addressing those who hope the President secretly supports the concept of homosexual “marriage” (to whom Kirchick seems sympathetic) and is intended to warn them thusly: “Hey — I know that you guys & gals are hoping that President Obama is lying when he says that he is against homosexual ‘marriage,’ but watch out: we may not be able to trust him to lie about this.”  Really: He equates not being able to trust President Obama with not being able to trust him to be lying.  Incredible.

Actually, Taranto summarizes the piece better than I do (though with a sense of “political realism” I don’t share) : “When faced with a choice between two politicians with the same stated position on a matter, it is entirely reasonable for a voter who disagrees with that position to prefer the candidate he believes is less sincere, or less likely to stick to his position. But this is a cynical calculation; to characterize it as an act of ‘trust’ is bizarre.”

The Scriptures talk about a people not being able to distinguish between the clean and the unclean, or the holy and the unholy.  I would say that such sensibilities — when virtues are more related to cynical calculation than, well, virtue — fall into this category.

And according to the news today, it seems as though the President is facing the same issues with health care.  In the past (2003) he clearly stated that he supported a one payer health care system and that it would have to be achieved in stages (unedited clip here).  This is, of course, what many of his current detractors accuse him of secretly seeking in reform — something which he strenuously denies.  So many are banking on his insincerity, hoping that he was simply pandering (that is, lying) in 2003 to the extreme among his party to gain their support.  His current actions, on the other hand, are upsetting one payer activists who feel betrayed that he seems to be keeping a one payer option off the table.  So they, too, are banking on his insincerity, hoping that he is trying to temporarily appease more conservative elements in a crafty way (that is, by lying) so that his previously stated goal of a one payer system can come to fruition after all.

How is it that America feels so complacent about a system in which everyone hopes their leadership is insincere and that they cannot be trusted to believe what they say?  How insane is that?

Am I trying to slam President Obama, in particular?  Not at all.  For one, I should allow that his views on one payer health care may have changed since 2003 (believe it or not, people do change), and he should not be charged with guilt of lying simply because supporters of homosexual “marriage” believe — and happily hope — that he is doing so.  And even if he is practicing deceit, he is simply acting in a way that the current system in America sadly requires for political success.  Those who believe that one party has a monopoly on lying and habitual hypocrisy is fooling himself.   The vice of insincerity seems to fill the halls of government from wall to wall, ceiling to floor, and infects both parties.  While I am sure there are exceptions (please tell me there are exceptions…), Democrat and Republican, alike, seem to lie as if it is second nature to them, and it would be downright depressing if one didn’t know that this system will one day be replaced by one that is just, good, and right — lead by Him who is Just, Good, and Right.

Actually, my beef lies more with the American people than the politicians they appoint, and with the idea that continues to startle me: that so many of them seem to want leaders lacking in personal virtue and trustworthiness.

I am reminded of two passages of Scripture, applicable in sentiment if not in detail:

“An astonishing and horrible thing
Has been committed in the land:
The prophets prophesy falsely,
And the priests rule by their own power;
And My people love to have it so.
But what will you do in the end?”

– Jeremiah 5:30-31

“That this is a rebellious people,
Lying children,
Children who will not hear the law of the LORD;
Who say to the seers, ‘Do not see,’
And to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us right things;
Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits.'”

– Isaiah 30:9-10

May God soon deliver us from such a sorry state of affairs in which people pray their leaders are liars and in which insincerity and hypocrisy in leadership is considered a virtue.