Accurate language for abortion

This “Life Quote” from Lutherans For Life was in our bulletin Sunday, strong words from apologist John Stott:

“How can we speak of the termination of a pregnancy when what we really mean is the destruction of a human life? How can we talk of therapeutic abortion when pregnancy is not a disease needing therapy and what abortion effects is not a cure but a killing? How can we talk of abortion as a kind of retroactive contraception when what it does is not prevent conception but destroy the conceptus? We need to have the courage to use accurate language. Abortion is feticide: the destruction of an unborn child. It is the shedding of innocent blood, and any society that can tolerate this, let alone legislate for it, has ceased to be civilized.”

John Stott, English Christian leader and Anglican cleric

via Lutherans For Life | Life Quotes.

Constructivist politics

Postmodernists, who believe that truth is relative, reject such retro concepts as logic, evidence, and reason, all of which assume that truth is objective.  Instead, postmodernists practice what they call “constructivism.”  Truth is not something we discover; rather, truth is something we “construct.”  Thus, argumentation involves “de-constructing” other people’s truth claims (showing them to be nothing more than impositions of power) and constructing “plausibility paradigms” to advance your own power-agenda.  And, since truth is inherently personal, another way to argue is to attack the person who holds to that truth.

We all need to understand this, especially in today’s political climate.  Both sides do it.  The very notion of “spin”–which is openly recognized to the point that TV networks set up “spin rooms” and both sides openly acknowledge having “spin doctors”–is an open acknowledgement of postmodernist techniques.  What matters is not overall truth but cherry-picking facts and then giving them an interpretation favorable to the power agenda of one side or another.  For postmodernists, interpretation is more important than information.  A successful argument is a construction of reality that wins over–indeed, that imposes itself on–other people

Here is a particularly blatant example of political constructivism, from the Washington Post in an article on President Obama’s post-debate campaign speech:

Obama said that when he reached the debate stage “I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney. But it couldn’t have been Mitt Romney,” Obama said, adding that the “real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy. The fellow on stage last night said he didn’t know anything about that.”

The Mitt Romney everyone saw onstage giving his views from his own mouth is not the real Romney.  The real Romney is the one we have been constructing in our campaign ads.

And notice how the fact cited here comes from an elaborately spinning interpretation:  It is claimed, perhaps accurately (a matter for old-school analysis), that Romney’s economic plan doesn’t add up and is off by $5 trillion.  The Democrats then use this number in different ways.  Here Obama calls it $5 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthy.  In the debate and in campaign ads he takes it as a $5 trillion tax increase on the middle class.  This is because for his numbers to add up, he would have to get the $5 trillion from somewhere, so he would have to raise taxes on the middle tax.  Notice the movement  from “would have to” to “will.”  Romney will raise your taxes.

Never mind the Republican belief in supply-side economics and that Republicans from the time of Ronald Reagan through George W. Bush never raise taxes to this magnitude, preferring instead to just let shortages add to the deficit.

Never mind that Romney said in the debate that he would not raise taxes by $5 trillion.  Furthermore, that he would not cut what the wealthy are paying now.

No, this is not his real position.  His real position is what we say it is, the way we have constructed it.

 

via Obama challenges Romney’s candor morning after 1st debate, says rival owes people ‘the truth’ – The Washington Post.

Connected TV dramas as the new novel

Since the time of the ancient Greeks, a dramatic production seldom lasts much more than two hours, about the limit of human endurance sitting in one place.  Thus, plays, movies, and TV shows tend to be relatively short.  Novels, though, can take weeks to read.  That means that novels can take up stories of greater length, complexity, and depth than the typical play or film.  (Not that those forms don’t have their own complexity and depth–I mean, think of Shakespeare–but there can’t be as much story as in a novel.)  When a novel is made into a film, we generally say, “The book is better than the movie,” but that’s to be expected.   How can you compress the incidents in a 350 page book into the two hours of a movie?

But now it’s possible to develop a filmed story that can go on for hours, days, weeks, even years.  Dramatic series on television are no longer self-contained one-hour tales.  Rather, the episodes are connected with each other to tell a bigger and bigger and longer and longer story.  Now filmed versions of novels can be quite faithful to the original.  And now TV series can constitute creative long-form fiction in the same way that a novel does.

Film scholar Thomas Doherty comments, proposing to call the new series “Arc TV”:

Long top dog in the media hierarchy, the Hollywood feature film—the star-studded best in show that garnered the respectful monographs, the critical cachet, and a secure place on the university curriculum—is being challenged by the lure of long-form, episodic television. Let’s call the breed Arc TV, a moniker that underscores the dramatic curvature of the finely crafted, adult-minded serials built around arcs of interconnected action unfolding over the life span of the series. Shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Homeland, Dexter, Boardwalk Empire, and Game of Thrones—the highest-profile entrees in a gourmet menu of premium programming—are where the talent, the prestige, and the cultural buzz now swirl. Fess up: Are you more jazzed about the release of the new Abraham Lincoln biopic by Steven Spielberg or the season premiere of Homeland (September 30, 10 p.m., on Showtime)? The lineup hasn’t quite yet dethroned the theatrical feature film as the preferred canvas for moving-image artistry, but Hollywood moviemakers are watching their backs.

This being from the medium that inspired the wisecrack “Imitation is the sincerest form of television,” Arc TV has antecedents aplenty. The format owes obvious debts to a swath of small-screen influences—the mid-70s explosion in quality TV, the BBC’s Masterpiece Theater imports on PBS, Steven Bochco’s Hill Street Blues (NBC, 1981-87) and L.A. Law (NBC, 1986-94), and especially Stephen J. Cannell’s Wiseguy (CBS, 1987-90), the show usually credited with bringing the multi-episode arc to serial American television.

Yet its real kinship is literary, not televisual. Like the bulky tomes of Dickens and Dreiser, Trollope and Wharton, the series are thick on character and dense in plot line, spanning generations and tribal networks and crisscrossing the currents of personal life and professional duty. Episode per episode, in milieux that stretch from the ruthless geopolitics of a medieval off-world to the gender dynamics of a post-zombie apocalypse, the tide of action ebbs and flows in a meandering but forward direction, gaining momentum over the course of a season (now likely to be a mere 13 episodes), before congealing and erupting in a go-for-broke season finale.Traditionally, even late into the age of cable, television thrived on two durable genres, the weekly 30-minute sitcom and the hourlong drama. Play the theme song, rack up the signature montage, and a virgin viewer has no trouble following along. Each episode was discrete and self-contained, wrapped up on schedule, with no overarching Ur-plot, designed to be digested full at one sitting, and meant to spiral autonomously ever after in syndication: Gilligan stranded forever on his island, Columbo freeze-framed in his trench coat.

The dramatis personae existed in a realm that was picaresque, a pre-novel mode in which a one-dimensional protagonist is hit by one damn thing after another. A viewer could spend years, maybe decades, with the likes of Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke or Steve McGarrett on Hawaii Five-O and not know a whit about the hero’s psychic interior or personal history. Many of the surviving remnants of network television follow that time-worn template. The repetition compulsion of Homer Simpson—always the same, never learning from experience—is an ironic homage to the picaresque legacy: “D’oh! D’oh! D’oh!”

By contrast, Arc TV is all about back story and evolution. Again like the novel, the aesthetic payoff comes from prolonged, deep involvement in the fictional universe and, like a serious play or film, the stagecraft demands close attention. For the show to cast its magic, the viewer must leap full body into the video slipstream. Watch, hour by hour, the slow-burn descent into the home-cooked hell of the high-school-chemistry-teacher-turned-meth-kingpin Walter White in Breaking Bad, or the unraveling by degrees of the bipolar CIA agent Carrie Mathison, falling off her meds and cracking to pieces in Homeland.

At its best, the world of Arc TV is as exquisitely calibrated as the social matrix of a Henry James novel.

via Cable Is the New Novel – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

I would argue that the novel still has advantages over what can be portrayed visually on television.  A novel can present a character’s thoughts and feelings and experiences directly and completely, right into the reader’s imagination. Some of that can be hinted by good acting and clever filmmaking, but it isn’t the same, just watching everything on a screen.  Reading has huge advantages over watching.  (I agree with Charles Lamb that it’s better to read Shakespeare than to watch a production of Shakespeare, that his plays work best performed in the “theatre of the mind.”)

Still, we don’t always want to give our imaginations a workout, so it can be pleasant and relaxing to let  someone else imagine the stories for us.  So I pay tribute to the fictional possibilities of this new artform.

Trash talk

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler illustrates why talking trash against an opponent is not wise.  Before his team played the Packers, he preened, he bragged, he taunted.  And then he got sacked 7 times and threw 4 interceptions:

When you talk trash to the opposing team before the game, and then throw a bunch of even more odiferous garbage around the field in a loss … well, you have what amounted to a very bad week for quarterback Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears. Not to mention, the other team has every right to talk right back at you.

Packers defensive back Charles Woodson put it best after the game. “Same old Jay. We don’t need luck — we just need to be in position. Jay will throw us the ball.”

Clay Matthews spent more time in Chicago’s backfield than Matt Forte did. (Getty Images)It started on Tuesday, when Cutler, fresh off an impressive Sunday outing against the Indianapolis Colts, stirred things up by saying that the Packers’ defense could bring whatever it wanted.

“Good luck,” Cutler said to his future tormentors. “Our speed guys are going to get around them and our big guys are going to throw and go … We invite press coverage. We invite man. And if we get in that type of game, our guys outside have to make some plays for us.”

“It’s all about matchups,” receiver Brandon Marshall said on the same day. “I’m 6-5, 230 pounds and there’s not too many DB’s walking around that big. If they want to get physical, I do welcome that.”

The Bears did not make plays, nor did they win any matchups, in a 23-10 disaster that was nowhere near as competitive as the score indicated — the Bears had zero net yards at the end of the first quarter, and Cutler was 7 of 18 for 70 yards and two interceptions after three quarters were done. He finished the game with 11 completions in 27 attempts for 126 yards, one touchdown, and four picks.

via Jay Cutler talks trash, throws picks, gets sacked in embarrassing loss to Packers | Shutdown Corner – Yahoo! Sports.

Here is the lesson in life, boys and girls and student athletes:  If you diminish your opponent, that diminishes your victory if you win.  And if you lose, you look oh, so foolish and pathetic.

Far better, even if you are playing a weak team, is to build them up and say how good they are and how you hardly have a chance.  Then if you beat them, you come across not only as a good sport but as a team that has accomplished something significant.  And if you lose, well, that’s understandable.

Also, you wouldn’t have fired up your opposing team and inspired them to wipe you off the field.

A lexicon of new racist words

One argument we are already hearing is that if you are against President Obama you must be racist.  That’s a powerful subliminal argument, though when it’s made explicit it can get pretty ridiculous.  Thus Democrats are taking umbrage (or pretending to do so) at a raft of seemingly-innocent words that they claim are actually code for racism.  Among them:

angry

Chicago

Constitution

Experienced

Golf

Food stamps

Holding Down the Fort

Kitchen Cabinet

Obamacare

Privileged

Professor

You people

For explanations and quotations see That’s Racist! – Michelle Malkin – National Review Online.

Tradition & Betrayal

Pastor Douthwaite gave a great sermon on Sunday, on Mark 7:1-13, in which Jesus chastizes the Pharisees for replacing God’s  word with the “traditions of men.”  The whole thing is very much worth reading, but I would like to focus on a curious fact that he brought out:  the Greek word translated as “tradition” is also the word translated as “betrayal.”  The verb form is paradidomi, meaning, literally handed down (as in a tradition) or handed over (as in a betrayal).  Pastor Douthwaite then plunged us into a fascinating word study, ringing the changes on all of those senses in a Law & Gospel kind of way.

He began by citing traditions we have (turkey on Thanksgiving, wedding customs), which can end up displacing the true meaning of what the traditions are supposed to be about (Turkey Day as opposed to giving thanks to God; white dresses and the bride’s perfect day as opposed to marriage as the one flesh union between a man and a woman that is an image of Christ and the Church):

Those are examples of when tradition becomes betrayal. And I put it like that because in the Bible, in the Greek of the New Testament, tradition and betrayal are the same word – paradidomi – which means to hand down or to hand over. When something is handed down (paradidomi-ed) from one generation to the next, it is a tradition. When Jesus is handed over (paradidomi-ed) by Judas, it is betrayal. And so traditions – all those things I mentioned before – are good, as long as they do not become betrayals; as long as they do not betray their original meaning and purpose. . . .

You see, because you and me are as we are – sinful and unclean – therefore, the wonderful thing God will do is Jesus. He is (literally) the tradition of God. For He was handed down (paradidomi-ed) to us, the Father handed down His Son to us, that He be handed over (paradidomi-ed) into death for us – death on the cross for our sins – that raised from the dead (for us), we who once walked in darkness (or inside-out and upside-down, as Isaiah also puts it) now live a new life in His light. Living not because of what we do, but because of what our Lord does for us. For you.

Living by what He does for you in Holy Baptism, where Jesus’ cross becomes your cross; where Jesus joins you to Himself and raises you with Himself from the death of sin to a new life in Him. In that water you were born from above to a new life with a new Father and a new heart and a new Spirit. In that water all your sins, all your betrayals, were washed away – the old is gone, behold the new has come. That’s what your Lord hands down and hands over (paradidomis) to you there.

And living by what He does for you in Holy Communion, where Jesus – on the night when He was paradidomi-ed (betrayed) – before He was paradidomi-ed first handed over (paradidomi-ed) His Body and Blood to His disciples and said: keep doing this, keep eating and drinking this, keep remembering and receiving this, for the forgiveness of your sins. That the new life and faith only your Lord can give be fed and strengthened by the food only your Lord can give. 

And living by what He does for you when you hear the Word of God – the Gospel of all that Jesus, the wonderful one, has done for you – whether it’s in the sermon or in the words of absolution or in the consolation of a fellow Christian, it is the voice of Jesus you hear, that is being handed over (paradidomi-ed) to you. Not advice, but good news. Not instruction, but the very Word of the Lord that opens the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf, that changes hearts of stone to hearts of flesh, and which has done all that for you.

That why St. Paul calls Jesus the good and perfect bridegroom who came to hand over (paradidomi) His life for His dirty, sinful bride, that she – that you and me – may be dirty and sinful no more. It’s all about what He has done, that we may be. It’s all about His cross, His death and resurrection, that we who are born dead in sin may rise with Him. It’s all about His love that we may love. It’s all about His washing that we may be clean. It’s all about His tradition that we may be traditioned; that we receive what He has come to hand down and hand over to us.

And then, having received all that, there is a new tradition, and we begin to see others, those around us – our husbands and wives, our families, our friends and neighbors – as those our Lord has handed over to us, that we not withhold or “Corban” them, but hand down to them, what we ourselves have received. For that’s what tradition is all about, isn’t it? Handing down to others what has been handed down to us. And so the care and love and forgiveness and mercy and word we have received doesn’t stop with us, but is traditioned, paradidomi-ed, handed down. That’s good tradition, right tradition, godly tradition.

And – to turn Jesus’ words around just a bit – and many such things you do. Yes, you. As a Christian. A sinner-saint, forgiven and new. Not perfectly, to be sure. Always repenting and receiving forgiveness. But in Christ, made new. In Christ, handing yourself over – traditioning yourself – for others. That they too may receive what you have received. For that is the tradition we have received from Him.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Pentecost 13 Sermon.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X