POP CULTURE


If you wish to understand what Lewis referred to as Bulverism, then I’d suggest you listen in on current ‘debates’ about Same Sex Marriage. I’ve yet to be involved in a discussion in which I haven’t said in frustration ‘I’ve not brought up religion. Why do you feel compelled to?’

‘You must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong. The modern method is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became so silly. In the course of the last fifteen years I have found this vice so common that I have had to invent a name for it. I call it “Bulverism.” Some day I am going to write the biography of its imaginary inventor, Ezekiel Bulver, whose destiny was determined at the age of five when he heard his mother say to his father—who had been maintaining that two sides of a triangle were together greater than a third—“Oh you say that because you are a man.” “At that moment,” E. Bulver assures us, “there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refutation is no necessary part of argument. Assume that your opponent is wrong, and explain his error, and the world will be at your feet. Attempt to prove that he is wrong or (worse still) try to find out whether he is wrong or right, and the national dynamism of our age will thrust you to the wall.” That is how Bulver became one of the makers of the Twentieth Century.’

C.S Lewis- from Bulverism: or the Foundation of 20th Century Thought

Dear Kid’s

Gonna try to keep this as short as possible because… well, it’s sorta boring, but it’s absolutely necessary to understand, if you’re going to think about this issue.

Oh, oh. It does eventually have to do with sex, but….not in this letter.

Just read it. Please.

I want you to understand the nature and place of Institutions in human society. Tommy! Wake up! Esther, will you wake your brother up.

Let me quote from the venerable Wiki:

An institution is any structure or mechanism of social order and cooperation governing the behavior of a set of individuals within a given human community. Institutions are identified with a social purpose and permanence, transcending individual human lives and intention by enforcing rules that govern cooperative human behavior.

The thing to notice is that 1) an institution governs the behavior of individuals towards a social goal, and in working for that goal 2) it goes beyond individual lives and individual intentions.

So you have the institution and its goals (which are directed to society as a whole), and you have the goals of the individuals who enter into it.

That might seem complicated, but it’s really not. Just fancy talk for things you already know. Think of a University. As an institution its purpose is to provide higher education to persons who will benefit from such an education, and by doing so better the society in which we live by preserving and building on our shared cultural inheritance.

Now that has to sound familiar because it’s precisely why all your friends want to go to college, right? You’ve talked about that very thing at lunch.

Cultural Inheritance. Higher Education. Makes ya want to holler!

I’m just guessing, but I bet there was at least the occasional excitement over potential salaries, winning football seasons; … maybe beer pong. While some people want an education, others want to play ball, march in a band or simply party with college babes; There’s the ‘whole college experience.’ I know people who have gone to specific schools in hopes of finding a specific sort of mate.

Nothing to be ashamed of. That’s just how Institutions work. If you think about the Military, you’ll see the same thing going on. Our Military exists to fight wars, but people enlist all the time with absolutely no intention or interest in fighting a war. Some do, but others need a job, or an education funded; they covet an early retirement or they admire the tradition and perceived pomp and circumstance, etc.

The point is that Institutions exists for a specific social end, but people might legitimately enter into an institution for reasons that have little to do with the Institution’s ends.

Just a couple ‘o three obvious remarks, and I’ll stop.

First, Tommy! Wake up!

Second, because the Institution exists for a specific social goal, those who enter into it are expected to meet the basic requirements of that goal.

And lastly, an institution cannot change those requirements so that they match the individual reasons for which people enter into the institution without jeopardizing the very social mission of the institution- the reason society established it in the first place.

Wild parties happen at UGA, but UGA oughtn’t write wild parties into its mission statement or recruit potential students on the basis of their ability to contribute to the memorability of UGA parties. If it did so, UGA’s Education would suffer, and the same is true for all the other (even laudable) reasons for which people apply to UGA. That’s how an institution dies as an Institution. It is de-institutionalized, which means it ceases to transcend the individual lives and intentions of those who enter into it for a societal good. It becomes simply an opportunity for individual experience.

If the social purpose for which the institution was created is important, then that’s a really big deal. Does higher education matter? Better keep academic entrance requirements up. Does the ability to defend ourselves as a nation matter, then we better keep entrance requirements focused on that end.

Why bring this up? Marriage is an institution. Though people enter into it for many different reasons, it has a social end; and like every institution it can be destroyed by replacing or confusing that end with the myriad of reasons that motivate people to get married. That’s a big deal because its purpose is the most radically foundational of any Institution.

We’ll talk more about that later.

Love you all,

Dad

Letter I– The Discussion

Letter II– Equality

Letter IV– Human Stuff

Dear Kids,

Do you give a damn about equality?

That is the question you are being asked. Simple answer, please. No need for further discussion because surely everyone agrees that there is only one acceptable answer. Well, I guess there is an  alternative- either contempt for or indifference to equality; but seeing how either of these likely implies a white sheet and pointy hat hidden under the bed, I understand the impulse to answer with a hearty ‘heck, yes!’ There is only one answer…. for good people.

Equality is a word that carries all sorts of positive vibes. It’s a good word. A noble word… a powerful word.

For many it summarizes what we as a people are all about. Who could have a problem with equality? How can you have too much equality? What could be more American (or more relevant to our discussion) un-American than ones position on equality?

Well, kids (and hold on to something here) equality is just not a very helpful word- at least not for settling arguments… at least not for settling arguments honestly; and the reason probably isn’t what you think. The concept of equality isn’t helpful because no one really disagrees about it. That isn’t to say that it isn’t an effective tool. It’s incredibly useful for shutting down debate, but only by being very good at muddying the waters.

I’ve been told that Aristotle was the first to summarize the belief that ‘like cases ought to be treated alike’; but I’m sure human beings acted on that common sense principle long before him. There’s also a flip side: unlike cases oughtn’t to be treated alike. Think about it. We don’t have a problem with treating different things ‘unequally.’ When we’re not being all political or wordy, we simply think of this as wisdom of the ‘duh’ sort.

Iron skillet or basketball?

It makes a difference when it comes to the oven or the hoop. Appeals to fairness and equality are really wrong headed; and of course no one would make them. No amount of examining the concept of equality will enable us to determine whether we ought to attempt the baking of cornbread with a rubber sphere.

We come to that conclusion not by examining equality, but by examining iron skillets and bouncy balls.

The same is true in our societal and moral lives. We don’t encourage blind adults to practice dentistry or drive cars. Equality isn’t the issue. The nature of blindness, dentistry and cars are.

Thing to remember: when people argue about Equality, they aren’t really arguing about the principle of Equality at all. Rather they are arguing over the nature of things- whether A is really of like nature to B in terms of the purposes being discussed, and in any instance that may very well be a conversation that needs to happen.

But it is that conversation (and not the one that everyone seems to be having) that ought to take place: what is marriage and do same sex relationships qualify, and if not, ought we to honestly and in the light of day redefine marriage so as to include Same Sex Relationships?

Anyway; don’t be bullied. Don’t be shamed into not thinking. Demand the discussion. Perhaps Same Sex Marriage advocates can carry the argument; our society has been reprehensibly wrong in denying the ‘likeness of same’ before,  but they ought to be required to make an argument. Their position and our society will be the stronger for the honesty and effort.

Just so you won’t forget, here’s the question that I want to discuss further- one more time: There are all sorts of honorable and laudable relationships between human beings, which ought to be classified as marriage?

Love ya,

Dad

Letter I– The Discussion

Letter III– Institutions

Letter IV– Human Stuff

I probably smiled more than was fair while reading Drew McWeeny’s review of the latest Twilight movie.  Shows a flaw in my character, I’m sure.

Anyway, I hope you read the whole thing. Here’s the heart of his criticism. (HT to Halden Doerge)

Here’s where I have a problem.  I don’t care if they get married or not, because (more…)

I had forgotten about this until I saw it referenced in a recent blog post. I googled around, but couldn’t locate the source. Anyway, thought I’d put it up. It makes me smile and feel strangely melancholy, too.

The Semi-Pelagian Narrower Catechism

1. Q: What is the chief end of each individual Christian?
A: Each individual Christian’s chief end is to get saved. This is the first and great commandment.

2. Q: And what is the second great commandment?
A: The second, which is like unto it, is to get as many others saved as he can.

3. Q: What one work is required of thee for thy salvation?
A: It is required of me for my salvation that I make a Decision for Christ, which meaneth to accept Him into my heart to be my personal lord and saviour

4. Q: At what time must thou perform this work?
A: I must perform this work at such time as I have reached the Age of Accountability.

5. Q: At what time wilt thou have reached this Age?
A: That is a trick question. In order to determine this time, my mind must needs be sharper than any two-edged sword, able to pierce even to the division of bone and marrow; for, alas, the Age of Accountability is different for each individual, and is thus unknowable.

6. Q: By what means is a Decision for Christ made?
A: A Decision for Christ is made, not according to His own purpose and grace which was given to me in Christ Jesus before the world began, but according to the exercise of my own Free Will in saying the Sinner’s Prayer in my own words.

7. Q: If it be true then that man is responsible for this Decision, how then can God be sovereign?
A: He cannot be. God sovereignly chose not to be sovereign, and is therefore dependent upon me to come to Him for salvation. He standeth outside the door of my heart, forlornly knocking, until such time as I Decide to let Him in.

8. Q: How then can we make such a Decision, seeing that the Scripture saith, we are dead in our trespasses and sins?
A: By this the Scripture meaneth, not that we are dead, but only that we are sick or injured in them.

9. Q: What is the assurance of thy salvation?
A: The assurance of thy salvation is, that I know the date on which I prayed the Sinner’s Prayer, and have duly written this date on an official Decision card.

10. Q: What is thy story? What is thy song?
A: Praising my Savior all the day long.

11. Q: You ask me how I know he lives?
A: He lives within my heart.

12. Q: And what else hast thou got in thine heart?
A: I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.

13. Q: Where??
A: Down in my heart!

14. Q: Where???
A: Down in my heart!!

15. Q: What witness aid hath been given us as a technique by which we may win souls?
A: The tract known commonly as the Four Spiritual Laws, is the chief aid whereby we may win souls.

16. Q: What doth this tract principally teach?
A: The Four Spiritual Laws principally teach, that God’s entire plan for history and the universe centereth on me, and that I am powerful enough to thwart His divine purpose if I refuse to let Him pursue His Wonderful Plan for my life.

17. Q: What supplementary technique is given by which we may win souls?
A: The technique of giving our own Personal Testimony, in the which we must always be ready to give an answer concerning the years we spent in vanity and pride, and the wretched vices in which we wallowed all our lives until the day we got saved.

18. Q: I’m so happy, what’s the reason why?
A: Jesus took my burden all away!

19. Q: What are the means given whereby we may large crowds of souls in a spectacular manner?
A: Such a spectacle is accomplished by means of well-publicized Crusades and Revivals which (in order that none may be loath to attend) are best conducted anywhere else but in a Church.

20. Q: Am I a soldier of the Cross?
A: I am a soldier of the Cross if I join Campus Crusade, Boys’ Brigade, the Salvation Army, or the Wheaton Crusaders; of if I put on the helmet of Dispensationalism, the breastplate of Pietism, the shield of Tribulationism, and the sword of Zionism, having my feet shod with the gospel of Arminianism.

21. Q: Who is your boss?
A: My boss is a Jewish carpenter.

22. Q: Hath God predestined vessels of wrath to Hell?
A: God hath never performed such an omnipotent act, for any such thing would not reflect His primary attribute, which is Niceness.

23. Q: What is sanctification?
A: Sanctification is the work of my free Will, whereby I am renewed by having my Daily Quiet Time.

24. Q: What rule hath God for our direction in prayer?
A: The rule that we must bow our heads, close our eyes, and fold our hands.

25. Q: What doth the Lord’s Prayer teach us?
A: The Lord’s Prayer teacheth us that we must never memorize a prayer, or use one that hath been written down.

26. Q: What’s the book for thee?
A: The B-I-B-L-E.

27. Q: Which are among the first books which a Christian should read to his soul’s health?
A: Among the first books which a Christian should read are the books of Daniel and Revelation, and The Late Great Planet Earth.

28. Q: Who is on the Lord’s side?
A: He who doth support whatsoever is done by the nation of Israel, and who doth renounce the world, the flesh, and the Catholic Church.

29. Q: What are the seven deadly sins?
A: The seven deadly sins are smoking, drinking, dancing, card-playing, movie-going, baptizing babies, and having any creed but Christ.

30. Q: What is a sacrament?
A: A sacrament is an insidious invention devised by the Catholic Church whereby men are drawn into idolatry.

31. Q: What is the Lord’s Supper?
A: The Lord’s Supper is a dispensing of saltines and grape juice, in the which we remember Christ’s command to pretend that they are His body and
blood.

32. Q: What is baptism?
A: Baptism is the act whereby, by the performance of something that seems quite silly in front of everyone, I prove that I really, really mean it.

33. Q: What is the Church?
A: The Church is the tiny minority of individuals living at this time who have Jesus in their hearts, and who come together once a week for a sermon, fellowship and donuts.

34. Q: What is the office of the keys?
A: The office of the keys is that office held by the custodian.

35. Q: What meaneth “The Priesthood Of All Believers”?
A: The Priesthood Of All Believers meaneth that there exists no authority in the Church, as that falsely thought to be held by elders, presbyters, deacons, and bishops, but that each individual Christian acts as his own authority in all matters pertaining to the faith.

36. Q: Who is the Holy Spirit?
A: The Holy Spirit is a gentleman Who would never barge in.

37. Q: How long hath the Holy Spirit been at work?
A: The Holy Spirit hath been at work for more than a century: expressly, since the nineteenth-century Revitalization brought about by traveling Evangelists carrying tents across America.

38. Q: When will be the “Last Days” of which the Bible speaketh?
A: The “Last Days” are these days in which we are now living, in which the Antichrist, the Beast, and the Thief in the Night shall most certainly appear.

39. Q: What is the name of the event by which Christians will escape these dreadful entities?
A: The event commonly known as the Rapture, in the which it is our Blessed Hope that all cars driven by Christians will suddenly have no drivers.

40. Q: When is Jesus coming again?
A: Maybe morning, maybe noon, maybe evening, and maybe soon.

41. Q: When the roll, roll, roll, is called up yonder, where will you be?
A: There.

42. Q: Hallelu, hallelu, hallelu, hallelujah!
A: Praise ye the Lord!

43. Q: Praise ye the Lord!
A: Hallelujah!

44. Q: Where will we meet again?
A: Here, there, or in the air.

45. Q: What can a pastor say while all heads are bowed?
A. Yes, I see that hand.

46. Q. How is a person saved?
A. If you walk this aisle…”

47. Q. And what requirement is there if you should fall into sin?
A. You just need to rededicate your life to God.

48. Q: Can I hear an Ay-men?
A: Ay-men.