I dedicate this post to now deceased SCOTUS justice Antonin Scalia. May he rest in peace.
“Not to resent offenses is the mark of a base and slavish man.” — Aristotle
“I attack ideas, I don’t attack people – and some very good people have some very bad ideas.” — Antonin Scalia
In a recent internet conversation, a woman named Arya Blynde took exception to a comment I had made about the ancient Latin poet Ovid, who said “I approve the better course, and yet I choose the worse”. Regarding this I had commented, “In a world increasingly devoid of Christian truth, even relatively good heathen like the Latin poet Ovid, all too aware of their inner darkness and failures, will be harder and harder to find.” Arya opposed me on this with great zeal.
That said, Ms. Bynde is delightfully civil, frank, and easy to talk to – the kind of opponent a good debater likes to have. She also has unflagging conviction one can respect and appreciate. When I said “Long live the soft patriarchy. Long live complementarity. Long live the defenders of the weakest and most helpless among us – I feel like Gandalf saying to you ‘you shall not pass’”, she wrote me a longer response saying, “thank you – but we shall pass”.
Since I think it is a good thing for Christians to be aware of articulate and rhetorically powerful arguments from those who disagree with us, I asked Arya if I could publish her response on this blog. I appreciate her willingness to let me do this, and hope you enjoy her penetrating comments. Like many editors, I have made some small changes and have chosen the title for this article, admittedly making it a bit more sexy and provocative than the article itself. Enjoy her piece:
Why Nature Must Be Stopped
by Arya Blynde [note: yes, this is a satirical piece written by me, Nathan Rinne, in case anyone is confused]
Nature has this annoying habit of stacking the deck against those of us who long for progress and liberation. It, for example, predisposes us to label things and put them in categories that are actually only as real as we imagine them to be. Christian-Muslim, white-black (hang in there Rachel Dolezal…your truth — and critical thinking — will overcome!), male-female – we know that all of these labels are simply social constructs that have no reality beyond what we imagine. What really matters, of course, is the freedom of our human spirit — and love. But nature, sadly, is persistent
What do I mean? Well, nature, among its many problems, has issues pertaining to privilege. Take, for example, the rights of [cis] women
(note: this, in shorthand, means women who are born in women’s bodies — if you are not up with this vocabulary yet, please read this — it’s critical you get peoples’ preferred pronouns right: he, she, ze…).
It’s just not fair that…
- their bodies should attract so much unwanted attention from cis males (that is, for my knuckle-dragging friends, men who are born in men’s bodies)[i]
- their proclivity to bear[ii] and nurture children makes it more difficult for them to keep kids’ demands in perspective and get on with real work
- women should have to take extra special care to make sure fetuses are not harmed due to alcohol consumption in utero, or be prone to feel shame over not trying to exclusively give children breastmilk, the best available nourishment (see here[iii])
- a woman might grant the fetus she carries her recognition of “being child” only to miscarry – and then feel overwhelmingly great sadness that, in general, only more backwards, “pro-life” folks will sympathize with (see here[iv])
- some women might be inclined to feel sorrow, concern, and even guilt – directly after someone around them felt compelled to pay some attention to a fetus’ actions during routine women’s reproductive health services like abortions (see here[v])
- some especially have a penchant for being bothered by the respectful and reverent sacrificing of otherwise unwanted fetuses that others may be blessed – and thank God for their human organs and tissues. Finally…
- publications like the National Review evidently think that, in 2016, they can get away with nonsensical – and grossly insensitive headlines – like “only a Barbaric Nation Drafts Its Mothers and Daughters into Combat” (see here[vi])
- so much more could be said!
If people think that “nature” can be referenced to justify any of these situations, using forceful phrases like “natural law” for example, it only reinforces the point that I am making.
The systematic bias that nature exhibits is obvious. For example, it provides cover for unjust privileges by predisposing us to use oppressive labels like “male” or “female” – so that many see nothing wrong with saying unnerving things like “it’s a boy!” or “it’s a girl!”.
This kind of bias – starting right from our first breaths even! — is clearly insane. Nature simply needs to be exposed, stripped of its power, and dragged through the streets in shame.
Indeed, those who insist that we can’t overcome any of these things I listed above show time and again that they do not know what they are talking about.
First of all, what right do people have to insist that I am something – like a man or woman for example – that I do not see myself to be?[vii] The abject hurtfulness of this — in addition to the absence of critical thinking here — is glaring. Everyone should be able to see that, to say the very least, it is alarming and disturbing that some people actually feel they can operate like this from their space of entitlement. If you think nature itself makes you prone to do this, that leads me to the following.
Second, the undeniable success of holistic medicine, for example, rediscovering what is possible from nature itself, should be a clear marker for all of us here. We must open our minds to the way that some redeemable parts of nature can actually work with us to overcome its less favorable parts. Not in some crass way of course, where we harness brute scientific methods and technology to basically rape it, as was implied by that 16th century man Francis Bacon. No – I am talking about working with it, in harmony, to overcome the pains, negative feelings, and hurtful comments from others that so often invade our true selves.
Let’s consider how this might apply to the National Review article referenced above. “How”, you may ask, can certain parts of nature help the “nation” (code: white privileged males) give up the “natural” idea that they should protect “their” women? It seems clear to me that people who regularly expand their minds with the blessing that is marijuana – good job, nature! – are going to have a much different perspective on these issues. I suggest that they will more readily be able to grasp that when you open up combat positions to women it is only reasonable to draft them into those positions as well. Already four years ago the New York Times was publishing pieces about how parenting goes better when marijuana is utilized. With help from it and other natural substances, we women might even be able to get our husbands to give up patronizing behavior like always being first to check that loud noise downstairs. Here, nature can actually assist in promoting equality and freedom for all.
The Latin poet Ovid said “I approve the better course, and yet I choose the worse”. Such a lack of self-confidence in one’s abilities – as if nature should necessarily teach anybody such things! – is typical of ancient Romans like him.
We have come a long way. It was certainly a step for progress when more enlightened persons put the bug in Christians’ brains that the words “creation” and “nature” could be used more or less interchangeably. But the time for that equivalence has now ended. Even talking about “nature” is saying too much really. It implies limits. Persons like Ray Kurzweil who attempt to defeat death with technology are right to want to deny the limits imposed on us by nature. They are simply wrong in that they aren’t focusing on the right limits to deny. Overcoming death and time is certainly one thing that we as a species are aiming for, but we must have our priorities straight: equality first. Right now, we all die, so we should work on things where nature makes us not equal.
Kurzweil isn’t the only one who is a bit short-sighted. Years ago, the atheist philosopher Richard Dawkins talked about defying nature by telling our genes to “go jump in the lake”. The problem with his view, however, is that it is devoid of the spirit. It is the spirit of life – even the Great Spirit – that tells nature to jump in the lake! It is this Force, this Spirit, that sets us free from the elementary principles of this evil world, from the physical, the material… the “flesh”.
Christians have forgotten this knowledge – don’t they remember that the “natural philosophers” they love to tout like Aristotle believed and taught as knowledge that slavery — as well as the inferiority of women and children — were “natural”? There is your “permanent” or “enduring” nature Christians! But the Holy Spirit, that great Force, overcame all of this! Christians should realize that the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. It’s true: “Nature” itself holds an unwarranted position of privilege. Doesn’t the message of Jesus Christ free us from just this?
I’ll admit that, with the death of SCOTUS justice Antonin Scalia, I am discouraged by what some of my friends are quick to publish online — we should always take care to have respect for the dead. I won’t speak ill of the man, but will simply note that we are talking about someone who had some very peculiar ideas of what Christianity was all about. In one of his public talks, he actually said “God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools…and He has not been disappointed….If I have brought any message today, it is this: Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world.”
On the contrary, doesn’t that message of love and freedom that Jesus beings fit perfectly with others around the world who are in tune with the Spirit? By all means, worship your Jesus – just realize though, that you might indeed become more “Christian” by leaving those old ideas of what Christianity is behind. That form of Christianity is located in the past, not the future. Buddha refused to wrangle about questions of origins, i.e. where we came from. That way is “a jungle, a wilderness, a puppet-show, a writhing, and a fetter, and coupled with misery, ruin, despair and agony.”
It’s time to truly change this world and truly make it in the image of the Spirit in whom all of us live and move and have our being. That Spirit, always fluid and not constraining, can fill us with authentic feeling and the critical thinking that everyone needs — so that they to can free themselves from the bias that besets them and realize that no views (well, no reasonable views) are superior than any others.
In short, there is no reason why that list of grievances above needs to get any one of us down — there is indeed hope.
I think that you know I have a point – and you also know that you are tempted here for good reason – very good reason. I don’t think we should doubt for a minute that we, in step with this great Force, have the power to do this! Men like John Locke, for all their faults, were instrumental in getting us here, and now we can finish it… “Nature” itself is our blank slate. We — join the Cause! — are that Force of nature that we need. And I sincerely hope that you to will join me in this great Cause and Endeavor.
All images save the You Tube video shot from Wikipedia
[i] Things are particularly difficult for our trans woman sisters like Caitlyn Jenner. In the case of trans women seeking attention from certain cis males, there might be from these men a tendency towards queasiness and disgust instead of attraction – even in spite of the trans woman looking similar to a cis female externally.
[ii] Again, things really are unfair for trans women like Bruce Jenner. Only trans-men and not trans-women are endowed with the necessary biological capacities in order to carry a baby.
[iii] The op-ed article begins: “The American medical establishment instructs pregnant women to not drink alcohol, and those who ignore this advice — like those who do not breast-feed their children — are subject to social shaming. Is the circle of shame about to get a lot bigger?”
[iv] A clip from the article: “The more I considered it, the more I became convinced that the silence around miscarriage was connected to feminism’s work around abortion. How could I grieve a thing that didn’t exist? If a fetus is not meaningfully alive, if it is just a collection of cells – the cornerstone claim of the pro-choice movement – what does it mean to miscarry one? Admitting my grief meant seeing myself as a bereft mother, and my fetus as a dead child – which meant adopting exactly the language that the anti-choice movement uses to claim abortion is murder.”
[v] This “feminist” writes, for example referring to the observations of a male doctor: “After injecting the hormone into the patient’s womb, the doctor left the syringe standing upright on her belly. Then, Selzer wrote, ‘I see something other than what I expected here. . . . It is the hub of the needle that is in the woman’s belly that has jerked. First to one side. Then to the other side. Once more it wobbles, is tugged, like a fishing line nibbled by a sunfish.’ He realized he was seeing the fetus’s desperate fight for life. And as he watched, he saw the movement of the syringe slow down and then stop. The child was dead. Whatever else an unborn child does not have, he has one thing: a will to live. He will fight to defend his life. The last words in Selzer’s essay are, ‘Whatever else is said in abortion’s defense, the vision of that other defense [i.e., of the child defending its life] will not vanish from my eyes. And it has happened that you cannot reason with me now. For what can language do against the truth of what I saw?'”….
[vi] In a pernicious display of chauvinism and male entitlement, the mostly male editors of this article write, among other things: “Men should protect women. They should not shelter behind mothers and daughters. Indeed, we see this reality every time there is a mass shooting. Boyfriends throw themselves over girlfriends, and even strangers and acquaintances often give themselves up to save the woman closest to them. Who can forget the story of 45-year-old Shannon Johnson wrapping his arms around 27-year-old Denise Peraza and declaring “I got you” before falling to the San Bernardino shooters’ bullets?…. [War] is not a video game. It is not a movie, where young Hollywood starlets karate-kick their way through masses of inept thugs and goons. When we order women into ground combat, we are ordering them into situations where men larger and stronger than they will show no mercy — crushing the life out of them like Meyer crushed that Taliban.”
[vii] “Journalist Amanda Taub believes the political correctness backlash misses the point and glosses over real issues. In an article published in Vox.com, she argues that so-called political correctness is really about protecting and promoting marginalized voices.” See the program here for more: http://www.ttbook.org/book/political-correctness-keeps-people-safe