SHORT AND SWEET – 12

Authority.

I have a love/hate relationship with this word. Instinctively I dislike it intensely. I misbehaved at school. Rather a lot. I couldn’t stand being told what to do. I wasn’t disrespectful, but I lived in my own world and authority figures cramped my style.

And yet, the collapse of authority in our society has been a catastrophe. Along with the loss of authority is the loss of deference. Everyone is open to abuse. Even the queen of England is taunted at times. It’s soul-destroying.

We so love democracy that we erroneously believe that everyone’s opinion is equally valid. It isn’t. We may all have opinions but we should respect those who simply know more than we do. Sorry if you thought that simply having an opinion was sufficient to challenge the truly wise in our world.

So I resist authority while simultaneously acknowledging how important it is. It is good to submit to and learn from wise teachers. It is right that we see our own deficiencies, our own ignorance, so that we can grow. Authority figures help us do this.

And of course, most important of all, each day I bow before the Ultimate Authority Figure. I willingly and without resistance, seek to follow the only authority figure who completely warrants my worship and devotion.

Just need to control that ‘naughty boy’ inside, who doesn’t want to do what he’s told!

Have a great day.

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SHORT AND SWEET – 11

Apart from watching The Wizard of Oz, ever met a straw man? Straw man is code in discussion forums for ‘an argument I’m not making.’ You struggle to make progress against the actual argument, so you mischaracterize your opponent’s argument, making it easier to dismantle.

Presumably because a straw man collapses so easily. Poof! It’s gone.

Here’s one you’ll hear a lot:

We secular humanists, we can be good too! You high-and-mighty religious people, you claim we can’t be good. That’s so unfair!

Behold the straw man.

So-called religious people – that is a perjorative very often, for Christians – never claim that secular people can’t be good people. That’s the straw man. Poof! Down he falls.

The argument we make is this:

Secularism cannot give a sound basis for ‘the good.’ There’s nothing here about a secular person not being virtuous or anything of the sort. It’s a philosophical argument, and it takes deep thinking to tease it out.

Doesn’t matter if you’re a Christian or secular, don’t mischaracterize your opponent. It’s wrong and misleading. Christians do it too. So, be careful to understand what your opponent is saying, so you can answer. How else will you be faithful to 1 Peter 3.15 if you’re not listening properly?

Have a great day.

SHORT AND SWEET – 10

So why doesn’t objectivity provide the basis for morality? Isn’t it clear what is good and what is bad? Well, no it isn’t. The reason is found in the meaning of two words:

Descriptive.

Prescriptive.

Descriptive means the act of describing. You can describe as much as you like and what you have is information. How things are. Science is great for this. It tells us all kinds of things about our world.

Prescriptive means the act of expressing ‘how things should be.’ Politics is the art of trying to turn the world into the kind we think it ‘should be.’ Ethics is the discipline of determining how we ‘should behave.’

Descriptive activities, like science, tell us ‘what is.’ Prescriptive statements tell us our desires and our moral sensibilities.

From ‘what is’ to ‘what ought to be.’ Now, that is a vast chasm. Can it be bridged? I think it can.

But you need some imagination. Join me next week for an adventure.

SHORT AND SWEET – 7

“A statue of founding father and writer of the Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson is sparking debate at the University of Missouri, with some students demanding that the statue be removed over Jefferson’s “offensive” history as a slave owner.” Online article. 

A similar thing took place with regard to a statue of Cecil B. Rhodes, the Victorian adventurer.

Yesterday, I wrote about Progress. Some refer to it, I suppose, as political correctness. Were figures from the past sexist and racist? No question. There’s just no way of getting around that. But the urge to remove commemorations of historical figures because you don’t approve of their values, I’m not so sure. As with all things progressive, where do you draw the line and on what grounds? For fear of offending people, we will end up living in a world with nothing but white-washed walls. A kind of modern Puritanism.

A while back, Bomber Harris’ statue was criticized because he was responsible for destroying Dresden during WW2. Should he be removed? I think not. Morality in times of war is notoriously difficult to assess.

As for Jefferson, his case is much clearer. As the author of the Declaration of Independence, he is one of the greatest Americans in history, whose life has affected millions. Worthy of honour, I think.

Feels like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

SHORT AND SWEET – 6

Ever heard this one? ‘You’re on the wrong side of history.’ This from David Cameron during the gay marriage debate: “Strong views exist on both sides but I believe MPs voting for gay people being able to marry too, is a step forward for our country.”

This is about Progress, we’re told.

But arguing for anything on the basis of Progress is a bad idea.

It asserts that morality is ‘progressing’ and therefore our ‘current morality’ is superior to anything that has gone before. Yet, if we’re progressing, if we’re on a continuum, then why think that we’re correct just because we live in 2016? It amounts to this: This is what we think nowadays and because we’re living now . . . er, then we must be right. Because that’s what we think . . . now. 

Bizarrely, this is counter to another popular viewpoint, namely cultural relativism. This assigns each culture’s practices an equal and inviolate value purely due to the status of being from a different part of the world.

Which do you prefer? Progress – everything is moving – or culture – we’re right because of our traditions?

God forbid we should actually argue for Truth.

SHORT AND SWEET – 3

‘You’re imposing your morality on me.’

Two responses. First, ‘Well, yes, of course, because morality is supposed to apply to all of us. It’s about how we should behave. All of us. It’s wrong to mistreat children. Yes, you over there. And me too. So, yes, I think some behaviours are right and some are wrong. Probably a little old-fashioned for our culture, but there you go.’ Pause.

‘But don’t you think the same? Don’t you also hold certain moral views? What privileges your views over mine? And when you accuse me of ‘imposing mine,’ isn’t that exactly what you’re doing to me? Rejecting my views because they conflict with yours?

Why is this attitude so common? Partly because it’s assumed that there’s actually an over-arching position of neutrality from which all views can be assessed and judged. From the outside. But that isn’t true. We’re all on the inside. The view is called the Myth of the Neutral Centre. Not a very sexy title, but true.

So, when you think I’m imposing my morality, methinks a little humility and clear-thinking might be in order.

And I haven’t even addressed assumptions. More soon on that.

SHORT AND SWEET – 2

What drives your moral judgements? Yesterday I suggested heart and not head. Here’s an example to get you started. It’s a story about ‘gendering’ in Manchester. Yes, it’s about toilets. My apologies.

Gendering? Where did this word come from? And it’s transitive. Oh my gosh, it’s actually transitive! You are gendering me! How dare you? There are few things more emotive than the charge ‘don’t gender me!’ Even with this horrible use of language. Forget reason, this is all emotion.

But it’s really postmodernism gone completely mad. There is no longer male and female. We are what we choose to be and apparently, it’s fluid. You want to cause massive confusion in a young person’s life, tell him/her that genitalia are no indicator of gender. Really. You can make it up as you go along.

I’m thinking three Scriptures, just for some enlightenment.

Male and female he created them. Gen. 1

For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God. Gen 3

In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit. Judges 21 

I hope you don’t think I’m ‘imposing my religion on you.’

That hot chestnut I’ll address tomorrow.

Dear Slugtail

I’m sure you’ve read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. This post is an homage to this book. The subject is the SCOTUS (Supreme Court . . . ) decision from a few weeks ago. Apologies for the delay. Do share. Thanks.

DEAR SLUGTAIL 

Dear Slugtail,

May I first congratulate you on your promotion. I never much liked Wormwood, although I often massaged his ego. How surprising that he didn’t notice my condescension. Or my lies for that matter. After all, the Enemy says I’m the Father of Inaccuracies – my spin, of course. So, welcome. And down to business.

Well, first I must express my disappointment with the recent Supreme Court decision regarding same-sex marriage. That slow-burner was producing tremendous fruit. I fail to see your logic in tipping it over the edge towards an actual decision. There is no question that it has caused immense damage in the few days following the decision, but couldn’t you have kept the issue smouldering for a little longer? Well, we are where we are.

In mitigation, I must applaud you on the way you have taken advantage of the darkness in the human heart, which this issue brings to light. Our light, of course. How pleasing first to see believers turn on each other. You are right to concentrate on relations within the Body of our Enemy. Undermine the communion of the faithful and the whole enterprise collapses. And this particular issue has always worked marvellously well to take their eyes off the goal. So little talk of the wonders of our Enemy, so little reference to the Son, that hated man.

In addition, they do find it so very difficult to exercise self-control. Before they know it, the insults creep in, offence is felt and temperatures rise. All achieved without almost any action on your part, Slugtail. I have watched this with immense satisfaction. I notice, also, the manner in which they fight. They speak past each other, hardly hearing what the other is saying. The qualities desired by our Enemy, graciousness, tact, not to mention love, are almost completely absent. It is a joy to watch.

And so to the substantive issue, which has little to do with same-sex marriage. In fact, such unions interest me little. No, far more importantly, this issue has had a most pleasing effect on the manner in which believers interpret The Books. There is not one verse in the entirety of them which espouses or reinforces same-sex union. Not one. And so they argue over ‘context,’ which leads most of them a merry dance of confusion. In despair, they end up invoking our favourite hermeneutic of all: love. Oh, we’re making tremendous progress with that word.

There is much talk of re-defining marriage. How ridiculous! Marriage can’t be re-defined, even we know that. It is discovered by man and ordained by the Enemy, more’s the pity. No, it is not marriage that has been re-defined. We have gained something far greater and more valuable.

We have re-defined love itself.

The holy grail. Re-defining love has far greater power. Do ensure that believers don’t refer to the actual definition found in The Books: And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments. 2 John.

It’s particularly galling to see John talk about ‘walking in the truth.’ Never forget. It is incredibly important to keep emphasizing that love has no connection with truth. The moment they go seeking what the Enemy actually desires, we’re lost.

No, as you have done so well up until now, guide humans towards their own definition, ‘love means approving of whatever behaviours I tell you make me happy.’ It’s gloriously coupled with the admonition you have worked so hard to cultivate: ‘do not judge.’ Presenting love as ‘approval for whatever behaviour I tell you brings me happiness’ is truly a masterstroke. I see it everywhere, especially between believers.

And how gratifying to see how effective you’ve been in ridiculing those believers who present a considered, balanced and clearly argued perspective. No sooner out of the mouth or typed into a website than the believer is denounced as ‘hateful.’ This truly warms my heart. Of course, the media has always helped us with this, but now, believers are turning on each other with the same accusation.

I see that you have also carefully co-opted strategically important vocabulary to achieve your goals. Just as those who sought to protect human life were labelled ‘anti-choice,’ so now believers – merely by presenting their heart-felt convictions, well, they’re ‘anti-gay.’ Who can support people who are ‘anti’ anything!? We have cornered our enemies and made them look like killjoys and hate-driven bigots who are out of touch with people who ‘just want to love each other.’ Ho ho, on reflection, perhaps that Supreme Court decision was the necessary catalyst for all this escalating conflict. It certainly fills me with joy, I must say.

Keep up the good work,

Screwtape

© Richard Collins 2015

 

 

Newsroom – Part Two

Just a short post today. Some memories of reporting at BBC Radio Solent. Hope you enjoy them.

NEWSROOM – PART TWO

As I’m sure you’re aware, there is a debate about truth in journalism. Does it exist? What agenda does the news organisation have? Is the BBC chronically biased towards the left or is that just a rumour? Hmm. Well, speaking of truth, I believe in pursuing it with the utmost devotion.

Even in local news. Except in certain circumstances.

When it’s raining and you’re miles from the station in the late afternoon. Yes, sometimes compromise can happen. On one occasion, I arranged an interview with a museum curator that had to do with some ancient stone artifacts. I made the mistake of assuming that a person representing the museum would actually know about the displays in the museum. Silly me. So I arrive and it’s clear she hasn’t a clue. In fact I know more about Druidic stone circles than she does and I’m not the one wearing the tie-dye skirt and the crystals round my neck. So I do a little more than the regular coaching. Normally I allowed myself to coax an answer. A little ‘can you mention this’ or ‘can you say this, then that, put them together’, that kind of thing. Not this time. “Er, madam, why, for goodness sake, did you invite me out here if you know more about your gift shop profits than your exhibits?” That’s what I thought. I actually said, “Okay, Ms Silkington, let’s go over this once again” and I proceeded to tell her exactly what she had to say. By the twentieth time she had it just about memorized. More or less. I left her clutching a piece of greenish stone and the scrap of paper on which she’d written her lines.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Radio is a slave to the clock. It’s really no good starting the news at 1 o’clock with the line, ‘Erm, nearly there, nearly there, hold on, hold on … Bill! Bill! Excuse us here, there’s a queue at the photocopy machine and Ethel from janitorial is just moving her bucket and …oops, my coffee’s spilled … we’ll be right with you … okay, now where was I? Oh yes, ‘The Prime Minister said today …’ No, it’s the one o’clock news, not the 1.02pm or the 1.03pm news. One evening, when the news day was winding down, one of the reporters responsible for reading the 8pm news was having a bad evening. I think it was a lunchtime curry but the hour mark was approaching and he was last seen diving for the door. He was also rather forgetful. 7.58pm, no Paul. 7.59pm and no Paul. Fifteen seconds to go and he comes running in and grabs the news before tearing into the news booth to read the news. Note to potential newsreaders: Don’t read the news when you’re out of breath. It’s bad enough without the lack of oxygen and the dizzy feeling. I threw him as much news as I could get my hands on. I think he may have led with the racing news. The national news crept in just after the weather because it was hiding under some carts in the corner. He stumbled out of the newsroom panting and wishing for an electrical storm to strike the radio antenna on the roof ten minutes back in time. “Oh please don’t let anyone have heard that,” he said in terrible English, the only time I heard any reporter wish not to be heard over the air waves in all my time at BBC Radio Solent.