This will come across sanctimonious, like I’m trying to flaunt how good of a person I am. So let me start by offering the assurance that I prove no more courteous than anyone else, and may even be a bit below average. I use an example of my own courtesy because I remain well-informed as to its motivation.
I went to the gas station the other day to pick up a couple of snacks which I should not be eating. I was in no hurry. It was one of those meandering stops where you spend more time than you really need applying more thought than is rationally due to whether you should experiment with a new flavor of Combos.
When I finally completed my selection, I made my way to the register, where I stood in line behind one other person. A women rushed in from the arctic weather (uncharacteristically cold for this time of year, even in Minnesota) clasping onto a ten dollar bill and signaling without any sense of entitlement that she was in a hurry.
I stood next to be served and could have taken that privilege without objection. But I made the decision to yield my place in line to her. She paid her ten dollars for pump four and went on her way, delaying me mere seconds as opposed to the minute or so I may have delayed her.
As I left, seven layer dip tortilla Combos in hand, I pondered why I had stepped aside. Here I am, an admirer of Ayn Rand, an advocate of individual rights, frequently evoking rational self interest in my analysis of politics and culture. Was my tiny act of courtesy a violation of that principle? Did I fail to act in my own rational self interest by allowing a stranger to take my place in line? Did I sacrifice something of value for something of lesser or no value?
Some ideas trigger an intellectual gag reflex and leave your neurons gasping for reason. This image conveys one such idea.
Once you regain your composure, realize that this characterization says more about its leftist creator than it says about the Right. It’s because the cartoonist fixates upon the holdings of others that they project that fixation upon the Right.
Indeed, it’s the leftist who seeks to affect what everyone else owns, not the Right. It’s the leftist who presents a list of things others can’t have — large sodas, carbon-emitting vehicles, a healthcare plan they like, etc. It’s the Left that acts as Grinch, plundering in the guise of Santa.
Who has two thumbs and loves Back to the Future? This guy! Replete with such cornball humor, and stimulating the imagination to ponder mysteries of the universe like temporal displacement and women, the ’80s popcorn adventures hold up to this day.
As 2015 nears, boasting a movie release schedule packed with blockbuster franchises – everything from the next Star Wars to Avengers: Age of Ultron and Jurassic World – it saddens me to realize we won’t also see a revisiting of the Back to the Future universe. You may recall that 2015 was the year that Doc Brown and Marty McFly traveled to in the second film. That year will also mark the 30th anniversary of the franchise. A second volume of films centering around the disparity between 2015 as we will know it and the one encountered by Marty as a teenager carries a lot of potential. If only screenwriter Bob Gale and director Robert Zemeckis were reading.
Much of the fun in Back to the Future emerges from a clash of generations, how things change over time — and how they stay the same. The second film in the series addresses what might happen if you went back in time and told your younger self how to be successful. Marty McFly plots to take a sports almanac from 2015 back to 1985 so he can place bets on foreseen outcomes. When the book falls into the hands of an elderly and villainous Biff Tannen, he executes the same plan to disastrous effect.
Sure, sending your younger self stock tips or sports scores may be an underhanded way to achieve your best life now. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t less scandalous messages you could send which might produce a better result. Here are 6 warnings I would send my younger self.
Is money really the root of all evil? This Thanksgiving, I may argue that point with my brother-in-law. Our sparring began earlier this week on Facebook, discussing an episode of my Fightin Words podcast where I imagined a world without state-imposed hunting and fishing restrictions. In a truly free market, where government acted only to protect individual rights, our access to animals of value would be assured by market forces. After all, we’re in no danger of running out of turkeys for Thanksgiving, and government doesn’t ration those. So why do we need to ration deer and fish?
I attracted criticism from the Left for “coming out against fish and game laws,” though I would prefer to describe it as advocating for individual rights. The criticism was based on the belief that human greed unmitigated by state regulation enables the hunting of species to extinction. It’s happened before, the argument goes, and must be prevented in the future. My brother-in-law summed up the position like this:
Money kills everything.
Boy, oh boy. There may never be a more concise expression of the philosophies I work daily against. Here’s the context:
I think we would soon make everything extinct like we do everything else if not for laws… humans are extremely greedy and wasteful when it comes to hunting. Horrible shots that maim and wound, and they don’t know how to butcher the animals themselves much anymore either.
Pretty obvious to me that we need regulations. Especially in the ocean…money kills everything.
It’s one of those comments which lends itself to so many possible responses, picking a place to start proves difficult.
Star Wars holds a sacrosanct place in my heart, as it does with so many among my generation. As we’ve grown up, its mythology has served as a ready reference, shaping our perception of the world. Good and evil, light and dark, rebel and tyrant – while its moral dichotomy may prove simplistic, the struggles in Star Wars nonetheless resonate with conflicts we face in real life.
Anything which has such influence over a child, sparking imagination, shaping morality, and stimulating aspiration, ascends to an object of reverence. It becomes something we carry around with us (some more literally than others) and cling to like a sacred idol. A kind of theology develops around it, with conflicting doctrines advanced by competing denominations of fandom. So it is with Star Wars. For that reason, any tinkering with the the saga’s mythology inevitably draws cries of heresy.
Betsy Woodruff of National Review went so far as to declare Star Wars dead, due in large part to the brand’s acquisition by mega-corporation Disney. Citing George Lucas’ own introspection regarding his Vader-like transformation from ragtag rebel of the film industry to head of his own corporate empire, and detailing her experience trying out for a role in director J.J. Abrams’ forthcoming Episode VII, Woodruff concludes:
Here’s why Star Wars is dead: First, because they made a huge mistake in not casting me. Second, because it’s no longer in the hands of a bunch of nerds in California and because it’s been entrusted instead to the kind of people who think eight-hour meet-and-greets are a good idea either as A) publicity stunts (or, giving them the presumption of good faith) B) a good way to determine who’s going to be the next Luke Skywalker. It’s because Star Wars — a story that’s profoundly anti-centralization, anti-bureaucracy, anti-depersonalization — is being micromanaged and scrutinized by nameless bureaucrats who think that people who’ve stood in line for five hours will be satisfied with being directed to a website. And it’s because a film enterprise that was initially about risk is now about bet-hedging. No one should need to be told that the seventh film in a franchise probably isn’t going to be super great. But, you know, just in case, consider yourself warned.
Consider me a fan of another denomination. While the next film in the franchise may indeed bomb, it won’t do so for the reasons Woodruff cites.
Louis C.K. may not be the first person you think of when considering the topic of theology. Nevertheless, his work contains at least one observation about the human condition which reflects a truth about God found in Romans 11:33-36. That passage reads:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
For who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Unpacking those verses in a recent Sunday sermon, my pastor illustrated our relationship to God as the relationship between a young child and her parent. He recalled the experience of driving around town with his nine-year-old daughter in the backseat. Whether correcting his navigation or critiquing his road etiquette, our pastor’s little girl believes she knows how to drive better than him.
The tale reminded me of a stand-up comedy bit by Louis C.K. where he details a dispute with his three-year-old daughter over the name of a popular cookie:
So I give her a Fig Newton. … I go, “Here, honey. Have a Fig Netwon.”
She goes, “There not called Fig Netwons. They’re called pig newtons.”
“No, honey, they’re called Fig Newtons.”
She goes, “No, you’ don’t know. You don’t know. They’re called pig newtons.”
And I feel this rage building inside. Because, it’s not that she’s wrong. She’s three. She’s entitled to be wrong. But it’s the [expletive] arrogance of this kid, no humility, no decent sense of self-doubt. She’s not going, “Dad, I think those are pig newtons. Are you sure that you have it right?…”
… I’m like, “Really, I don’t know? I don’t know? Dude, I’m not even using my memory right now. I’m reading the [expletive] box!… You’re three and I’m forty-one! What are the odds that you’re right and I’m wrong? What are the sheer odds of that?”
These stories make us laugh because we see them from an adult perspective. We come at them with the benefit of an adult’s knowledge and experience. Yet, in many ways, we prove no less arrogant as adults when we question the ways of our father, God.
“How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” the Apostle Paul wrote. Like young children, we all like to believe we have life’s answers, or at least the means to discern them.
If you love movies, you owe it to yourself to subscribe to the AMC Theaters channel on YouTube. You will enjoy the thoughtful commentary offered by the crew at AMC Movie Talk.
Responding to a viewer question asking whether Hollywood will ever make an action hero or superhero film with a gay leading character, AMC’s John Campea offers several well-considered insights, none more so than this one:
The other thing I think is a little bit less nefarious than homophobia. And that’s simply the idea of cognitive identification. A lot of times, when we’re watching superhero films like – ridiculous guys like me. I watch Captain America and there’s a part of me that feels like I can be that guy. When I’m watching Iron Man, there’s a ridiculously disconnected [from reality] part of my brain that thinks, “I can be Tony Stark.” There’s an association with it… There’s very few things that are more strongly embedded within us, with our identity, than our sexuality.
The moment Captain America starts making out with another man, the ability of a heterosexual male to relate drops off substantially. Campea goes on to apply that observation beyond the context of sexual orientation to race, dialect, and other cultural differences.
Let’s say we see a guy, a character onscreen who is a small – speaks broken English – Asian gentleman. We have a hard time identifying with that. That’s not us. We can’t identify with him. And so we don’t really get attracted to those types of characters, those types of movies, and those types of projects.
It comes down to business and math. There just aren’t enough gay men in the world to justify catering a big budget action film to their particular tastes.
The closest a Christian comes to hearing the literal voice of God is when their familiarity with scripture evokes verses in answer to life’s queries. For instance, when confronted with the Washington Post’s profile of “tatted up, foul-mouthed” Lutheran minister Nadia Bolz-Weber, something like 2 Timothy 4:3-4 comes to mind:
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
The Post provides little from Bolz-Weber which passes for theology. Most of her quotes wash past vague and incoherent. The Blaze provides a thumbnail sketch:
While there is a growing group of believers interested in Bolz-Weber’s message, not everyone will be so enamored. For one, her use of what The Washington Post called a “frequently profane dialect” will certainly turn off more traditional church attendees. Still, she’s piquing the interest of others who are more theologically progressive in nature.
From nothing more than this habit, “frequently profane dialect” from the pulpit, we can assume with confidence that Bolz-Weber knows not of whom she speaks.
Why shouldn’t a pastor use foul language? Is criticism of folks like Mark Driscoll, a professing evangelical known as “the cussing pastor,” informed by a kind of Puritan asceticism? Does swearing make a Christian “real” or “relevant”?
As we take a too-infrequent moment to honor the service of our men and women in uniform this Veterans Day, let us consider our language and test whether it does them justice.
Commonly, we refer to the contribution made by those who serve in the military as a sacrifice. Our veterans have given up relatively comfortable alternatives to place themselves in harm’s way and protect our liberties. When we call that a sacrifice, we mean it honorably. Nevertheless, we may be selling our now and future veterans short by continuing to think of their choice in that way.
What is a sacrifice? It’s one of those words, like “love,” which has many nuanced meanings depending upon the context in which one uses it. For our purposes in this discussion, let’s settle upon this definition: a trade of value for something of lesser or no value. In order for something to be sacrificial, it must leave the giver worse off than they were before, right? How often do we lift up as virtue the notion of doing something for others without any expectation of receiving something in return?
Yet many of the things we commonly refer to as sacrifice do not fit that definition. When a college student passes on a night out with friends to stay in and study for a big test, he hardly ends up worse off for the trade. Yet, we call it a sacrifice. When a parent prioritizes the needs of their children above her own personal needs, she rarely thinks of the trade as a loss. Yet we think of that as sacrificial too.
In truth, many if not most of the things we call sacrifices actually stand as rational value judgments. Studying for an important test has greater value than a single night out on the town. Providing for one’s children has greater value than indulging yourself to their neglect. We make such choices in pursuit of our values, not at their expense.
The same applies to our men and women in uniform. Enlistment rationally values the nation’s security and individual liberties above mere safety. That is what makes it so honorable! That is why we stand in awe of our veterans and offer them our thanks, because the choice to protect what the rest of us take for granted declares something of their character. It tells us what they value, and how much they value it. I imagine few if any enlist hoping to lose life or limb as a “sacrifice.” Rather, they accept the risk to life and limb as an affirmation of that which they value — life in a free country. As the beneficiaries of that choice, we ought not diminish it by calling it a sacrifice.
PJTV’s Bill Whittle uses a great illustration that I’m about to shamelessly rip off. Imagine that you work in an office, occupying one of many cubicles. One afternoon, the boss calls you into his office and tells you that you’ve done such an incredible job that the company has decided to provide you with a $5,000 bonus. In that moment, how would you feel? Pretty darn good, right? Your day just got $5000 brighter! Your mind might go straight to what you could do with the money, the vacation you could take, the bills you could pay, the possible boost to your savings or investment accounts. You’d probably swell with pride at the recognition you’ve earned and head out to tell a friend and co-worker the great news. He would listen intently, then smile and tell you that he and everyone else earned a bonus too — only theirs is $10,000.
Now how do you feel? What only a moment prior was overflowing joy and celebration instantly metastasizes into something wholly different. You actually feel worse than you did before getting an extra $5000. Instead of thinking about what you can do with the money you got, you think of what you could have done with the money everyone else got. From a dark place, you acknowledge that you’d rather see no one receive a bonus — including yourself — than see others get more than you.
There’s something about the human heart which fosters such envy, an emotion so powerful that it can drive us to work against our own interests in pursuit of equity. It’s better that everyone get the same, even if the same is nothing, than for some people to get more than others. So that dark corner of our heart proclaims.
The above info-graphic comes from an exit poll conducted on Election Night 2012. It shows a fascinating trend in voting behavior broken down by education level. As you can see, voters without a college education favored President Obama over Romney 52.4% to 46%. Among voters with some college education, the vote was split nearly 50/50. Voters who had earned a college degree favored Romney by the same margin as those without a college education favored Obama. It would seem that as voters advance through post-secondary education, they become more likely to vote Republican.
But look on. Voters who remained in school after earning an undergraduate degree broke sharply in favor of Obama. Their support for the incumbent president was even more pronounced than that among voters with no college education.
What happened? What could account for such a dramatic reversal in what otherwise appears to be a trend indicating post-secondary education fosters Republican tendencies? You tell me.
My wife was a graduate student, studying counseling psychology at a university in the Midwest. Leftist ideology was an article of faith among the faculty and student cohort alike. Our status as Republican-voting Christian conservatives was regarded with a mixture of revulsion and morbid curiosity. I never thought to pick anyone’s brain about why they voted the way they did. But if I were forced to speculate in hindsight, I would say the university environment fosters the sense that any social problem can be micromanaged by a cadre of elite geniuses.
In his book Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole pastor Eric Mason describes a downward spiral with horrendous repercussions for our culture. He writes:
In inner-city communities, fatherlessness is heighted for a number of reasons including crime, cultural socialization, economic depression, the ratio of men to women, and imprisonment. Philadelphia, for example, is estimated to consist of 90 percent single-parent homes.
Mothers in Section 8 projects and rental properties fight to raise their children to live beyond the context of their community. But even if they escape, the father wounds plague the psyche of boys trying to make sense of themselves in a locale where survival is paramount. The images of manhood are limited to the TV and the neighborhood, both of which tend to portray manhood as thuggish. In these neighborhoods, thugs are looked up to for their knack of being able to navigate the harsh terrain of the hood. Observing this, boys desire that same level of prowess. Thugs, then, become viable candidates for the predominate image of manhood.
Fatherlessness fuels the thug life, and the thug life fuels fatherlessness.
How might we combat this trend and pull out of a cultural nosedive? As a Christian pastor, Mason prescribes the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Indeed, were young men to embrace Christ as their savior and example, they would forsake the thug life. Ironically, the value of what Christ has to offer may be conveyed by an appeal to the same temporal concern which draws young men to emulate thugs.
The perceived prowess of the thug fades under scrutiny. His strength is a mirage. The thug elevates his personal whims above not only the rights of others, but his own objective best interests. Whether they intellectually comprehend it or not, thieves, bullies, and murderers bear a life-crushing weight upon their soul. Real prowess creates. It does not take. Real prowess sustains. It does not merely consume. Real prowess yields life, not death. The thug fails these standards. He proves impotent without real men to feed upon.
Throwing Christ into the mix elevates our consideration of prowess to a whole new level. When we recognize God as the author of manhood, we realize how high the bar is actually set. What can a thief offer to trump the Giver? How can a bully one-up the Comforter? What threat does a murderer present to the Sustainer? These qualities of Holy God define real prowess. As his image-bearers, men must seek to emulate Him rather than the impotent thugs presented in our fallen culture.
An entire generation of young people will soon emerge from childhood without ever having gone to a video store. That inevitability motivated the above commentary from BuzzFeed, a nostalgic look back at our shared experience venturing out to find an evening’s entertainment. The narrator concludes:
But now video stores have gone the way of the American buffalo. There’s barely any left. You can’t just walk to the strip mall with friends and try to outdo each other with the weirdest looking movie cover. There’s no more chatting with the movie geek clerk about the uber-violent Japanese gangster movies he recommends, and no more Saturday afternoon trips because the weather was too ugly to play outside.
Somehow we decided it was just easier to never leave the house ever. And it’s definitely easier. But maybe it’s not better.
As the rate of technological advancement continues to increase, perhaps we will soon outgrow such “back in my day” nostalgia and come to recognize that market-driven progress is always better than the way things were. Watching this look back on the video-store culture reminds us of the myriad other ways in which yesterday becomes romanticized while the here and now lies in scorn.
As it turns out, there weren’t always video stores. It used to be that, if you wanted to watch a movie, you had to commit an entire evening to the adventure of cinema. You couldn’t just browse shelves of video cassettes or DVDs looking through a library of features culled from the history of film. Rather, your choices were limited to the latest releases, and you had to get out and see them quickly before they disappeared from theaters. Somehow we decided it was just easier to grab a video and head back home to view it at our convenience. And it’s definitely easier. But maybe it’s not better.
On second thought, video stores clearly were better than movie theaters in many situations, as internet streaming is clearly better than video stores. Otherwise, people would not choose one over the other.
President Obama wants you to understand what he really meant when he said you could keep your health insurance plan under Obamacare. The Washington Post reports:
Fact-checkers and journalists have ruled that Obama wasn’t being truthful when he claimed that people who liked their insurance could keep it. Obama during a speech in Boston sought to cast the issue Wednesday as trying to weed out “bad apple insurers” who don’t provide enough coverage.
“One of the things health reform was designed to do was to help not only the uninsured but also the under-insured,” Obama said. “And there are a number of Americans, fewer than 5 percent of Americans, who’ve got cut-rate plans that don’t offer real financial protection in the event of a serious illness or an accident.
“Remember, before the Affordable Care Act, these bad apple insurers had free rein every single year to limit the care that you received or used minor pre-existing conditions to jack up your premiums or bill you into bankruptcy.”
In other words, if President Obama likes your plan, you can keep it. This slight revision to his previous claim should be embraced on account of it serving your best interests, the president claims. Before Obamacare, those pesky insurance companies were providing you with precisely what you contracted for and not a penny more. Our national savior can’t have that.
It would have been nice if the president had led with this message from the start. Certainly, those of us who understood Obamacare when it was proposed knew that liking our plan would not necessarily mean we could keep it. After all, that’s the whole point of passing a law, interfering in chosen behavior. You don’t need to pass a law to let people keep what they have. You just need to leave them alone.
Julianne Hough probably didn’t think this one through. That’s the Huffington Post‘s take on the actress’s choice to attend a Halloween party dressed as a black character from Orange Is the New Black. As part of her transformation, Hough donned blackface. HuffPo reports:
The actress attended the Casamigos Tequila Halloween party in Hollywood with friends, who appear to have all gone as the cast of the hit Netflix series. No one in the group, however, seems to have given Hough a heads up about her offensive getup.
This comes during a persistent campaign to badger the Washington Redskins into changing their name. It also fuels the hand-wringing campaign to prevent “offensive” costumes from appearing on school campuses.
As a black man, I find myself wondering two things. First, why do I need white people to be offended on my behalf? Second and far more importantly, why should I be offended by something as trivial as a Halloween costume?
I’ve never quite understood why blackface should offend me. The act of wearing blackface does not harm me. It does not take something from me. It does not prevent me from acting upon my own judgment. It does not violate my rights. I accept that blackface offends some people. I understand that it may be distasteful. But I’m not sure why academics and journalists are so desperate to snuff blackface out of existence while ignoring or even advocating practices which actually harm black people.
Canada has death panels – and that’s a good thing. So reads a headline at Slate, where author Adam Goldenberg defends letting a government committee intervene in healthcare to decide who lives and who dies.
The death panel Goldenberg refers to is Ontario’s Consent and Capacity Board, a unique institution among Canada’s jurisdictions which holds the legal authority to supersede healthcare decisions made by next of kin when a patient lays incapacitated.
The Supreme Court of Canada recently ruled in favor of a family seeking to sustain the life of Hassan Rasouli, who fell victim to complications from brain surgery and has remained comatose for three years. Goldenberg writes:
In Canada, with our single-payer health care system, Rasouli’s situation has a very public bottom line: Should taxpayers foot the bill for his family’s indefinite goodbye?
But American critics of Canadian health care will declare that merely asking this question is unacceptable, unethical, even unthinkable—and that it proves that the Canadian system gives doctors a dangerous incentive to kill off their patients as quickly as possible. They are wrong. The Hippocratic Oath’s promise to do no harm still applies. But they are also only wrong in part. When taxpayers provide only a finite number of acute care beds in public hospitals, a patient whose life has all but ended, but whose family insists on keeping her on life support, is occupying precious space that might otherwise house a patient whose best years are still ahead.
The incentives in the American health care system point in the opposite direction. In the United States, keeping an all-but-dead patient alive on life support in a hospital bed generates income for the hospital, for as long as its bills get paid.
Everything wrong with the Left’s view of economics, morality, and healthcare in particular can be observed in that passage. Goldenberg’s analysis ignores any consideration of individual rights.
Lies. Damned Lies. And statistics. Propagandists commonly spin the latter utilizing a trick called the end-point fallacy, cherry-picking the range of measured data in order to create the false impression of a trend. Climate alarmists love the tactic, sculpting favorable data to create an impression of imminent environmental catastrophe.
Consider. If you choose to track the outdoor temperature from four in the morning until noon and extrapolate a trend absent any other context, you might predict an imminent roast of all life on Earth. Of course, no one would believe such a claim, because even the children among us have enough experience with the day and night cycle to understand that temperature regularly rises to a high, than falls to a low before rising again.
But what if you were dealing with some ignorant community of subterranean mole men who had never seen the sun? Until experience enlightened them, they could be convinced that a morning’s warming might continue unhindered.
Many illusions rely upon an application of the endpoint fallacy. In television’s golden age, George Reeves created the illusion that he could fly by leaping into the air as Superman. The film would cut at the apex of his jump, propelling him in our mind’s eye and suspending disbelief.
Extrapolated to a contemplation of the universe and its whole history, the endpoint fallacy suggests that many of our assumptions about existence may be flawed. We assume that things have always been the way they are now, that what we can observe today accurately reflects what occurred in the past, that perceived constants have always been so, that rates of decay, expansion, consumption, and adaptation can be extrapolated into both past and future. Yet, an honest assessment must concede that our mortality, limited perception, and incomplete view of history place us in a position not unlike that community of mole men. On a cosmic scale, our experience with the universe seems comparable to a cave-dweller’s first dawn.
As the federal government shutdown drama wrapped up, I asked if the Tea Party just wants to watch the world burn. Motivating that question was an observed division among activists on the Right between those seeking to work within the system to elect majorities and those seeking to “fight” at any electoral cost.
The latter faction claims exclusive title to principle. Over and over again, leading up to and during the shutdown, we were told that a vote for a continuing resolution which did not defund Obamacare was “a vote to fund Obamacare.” In other words, we were told that you cannot claim to oppose a policy on principle if you take an action which acquiesces to it.
As logical as it may sound on first pass, that premise deserves to be challenged. If universally applied, it establishes a standard which precisely no one can meet. No elected official, including Tea Party darling Senator Ted Cruz, can claim to have never taken an action which supports an institution or policy violating their principles. No resident of this country can either.
As a libertarian purist, if you’ve received and spent Federal Reserve notes, if you’ve paid a tax, if you’ve driven on public roads, if you attended or sent your children to a public school, if you’ve dialed 9-1-1, if you’ve claimed unemployment, if you’ve watched television or seen a movie or turned on a radio, if you’ve flown, if you’ve bought a product produced and distributed under our American system of coercive regulations — if you’ve lived in this country, then you have supported institutions and policies which violate your sacred principles.
A common attack upon the integrity of Ayn Rand cites that she took Social Security and Medicare benefits. She was a hypocrite, critics charge, because she railed against such programs throughout her career. Missed in such criticism is acknowledgement of the fundamental difference between acting as an individual under the system in which you live and condoning the specific rights-violating policies and institutions which make up that system. Being philosophically opposed to the way things are does not create some obligation to act against your own interest in a futile attempt to keep your hands clean of the system.
Spoiler Alert: Key plot elements of Atlas Shrugged discussed below.
In Ayn Rand’s influential novel Atlas Shrugged, a tension builds between Dagny Taggart, partial heir and productive heart of her family’s railroad company, and an enigmatic figure known as John Galt. Both uphold the principle of individual rights, believing that men ought to be free to apply their own judgment to achieve their own values in pursuit of their own happiness. Both believe that men ought to deal with each other through reason, persuasion, and consent. Both oppose evermore egregious encroachments by a state which throttles the productivity of individuals and threatens the general welfare of the nation. The tension between Dagny and Galt arises from a difference not in principle, but in methodology.
Dagny reacts to a rising tide of statist interventions by fighting that much harder to stay atop of it. She produces more, comes up with better ideas, and innovates new ways of defying the system while still working within it. Galt, on the other hand, has resolved to defy the system by withdrawing from it. He removes himself and his productive capacity from society and creates a new community in a hidden gulch. Over time, he and his cohort recruit new residents from among the most productive and intellectually honest capitalists in the nation. As that class begins to disappear from public view, the remaining populace wilts under the predictable consequences of collectivist policies. Dagny, only vaguely aware of Galt’s agenda, views him as “the Destroyer,” an antagonist keeping her from saving the country by steadily removing productive individuals from the economy. Dagny eventually finds herself confronted with the choice to join Galt’s strike or continue to work within a crumbling system.
Last week, I took exception to the assertion by my PJM colleague Rhonda Robinson that “Christians Should Agree with Jews’ Disinterest in Heaven and Hell.” I pointed out that the blessed hope of eternal life in heaven alongside our glorious Lord fulfills the purpose of our lives. We exist to bring Him glory, and will do so either as examples of his undeserved grace or convicts under his perfect justice. That is the Gospel. That is the Good News. That is Christianity. So how could we Christians ever allow ourselves to become disinterested in it?
Robinson wrapped up her consideration of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s Kosher Jesus asking “Could We Restore America If Jews and Christians Accepted a Hyphenated Jesus?” She concluded:
The author has gone to great lengths to point out that Jesus was in fact an observant Jew, one whose life of walking in righteousness (whether you believe him to be the son of God or not) is worth emulating. Jesus of Nazareth will forever bind us together.
We can spend a lot of time arguing about differences, using that hyphen to divide us. Or we can choose to embrace it, to forgive the hurts of the past and face the future united. As Americans we face real enemies, both cultural and physical.
Isn’t it time we stopped trying so hard to simply make a point, and give our lives as Jesus did, to make a difference?
I’m not even sure what that means. Clearly, the Gospel purpose of Christ’s death cannot be what Robinson here references. Aside from atoning for the sin of mankind so that believers could be credited with His righteous life and avoid the eternal judgment of Holy God, what difference did Christ’s death make worth talking about? Why would Christians want to unite in spiritual congress with those who deny the foundational tenant of Christianity? Even if such ecumenical union could somehow restore America (whatever that means), why would we sideline the truth of salvation for a temporal end?
In her ongoing reflection upon Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s Kosher Jesus, my PJM colleague Rhonda Robinson asserts that “Christians Should Agree with Jews’ Disinterest in Heaven and Hell.” In her quest for inter-faith unity, she drags Christianity back down to Earth.
Boteach explains that “Jews do not follow Judaism for the purpose of reward in the afterlife.” Honestly, neither should Christians. And I would venture to say, most don’t.
It’s easy to see where that is the perception. That’s what most evangelists preach: the infamous knock on the door, followed by “if you die tonight where would you go?” style of evangelism.
Those who honestly seek to follow Christ, do in fact live out what Boteach is trying to say that true Judaism is, by bringing more light into the world. Some of the best schools, hospitals and outreaches have been started and flourished by Christians living out this very principle.
When asked by Christians “Do you know where you’re going?” Boteach’s response is worth noting,
My worship of God is not about me. It’s not about saving myself from hell. I’m not here on this earth to spend my life accruing virtue so I get some divine reward. I don’t worship God so it ultimately benefits me. I do it because I want to be in a relationship with Him. I do it because it’s right. And I do it to make this world a better place. I love God unconditionally and unequivocally. Not because I expect anything in return.
Most Christians I know could have said the very same thing.
How wonderfully pious.
Let us dare to ask some essential questions. Why should anyone worship God? Why should anyone love Him? Why should anyone want to “be in a relationship with Him”? What’s the point? Boteach asserts that he loves God “because it’s right.” But where’s he getting that from? Why is it right? Why would not loving God be wrong?
I’m not quite ready to part ways with my Xbox 360. The box has been an integral part of my living room, towed through eight residences in as many years. In that time, it has grown, developed, and matured much as I have. Years of updates, upgrades, and expansions have turned it into an entirely different machine than the one I first purchased.
Comparing a launch title like Perfect Dark Zero to this year’s stunning Grand Theft Auto V makes it hard to believe that each belongs to the same generation of hardware. The leaps and bounds that developers have been able to take with the console over its eight year lifespan have kept the experience fresh.
Perhaps that is why so few people are seriously considering a next generation console purchase this holiday season. From IGN:
In a limited poll surveying 1,297 people, 64% of respondents stated they would not buy new video game hardware this holiday season, according to Reuters. This includes, of course, next-generation consoles such as PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, as well as Nintendo’s upcoming 2DS or Valve’s recently revealed Steam Machines.
The minor interest in next-gen gaming points to something else emphasized in the poll: The games respondents most desire are non-exclusive, third-party sequels that, in many cases, will release on current hardware. Call of Duty: Ghosts Assassin’s Creed 4, Madden NFL 25, Battlefield 4 topped the interest list, alongside GTA 5.
Games drive the market more than hardware. Indeed, thinking back on my early adoption of the Xbox 360, it provided very little value at first. When a new generation of hardware launches, the first wave of games typically fumble while developers explore what the new hardware can do. Dead Rising, an early zombie-slaying title for the Xbox 360, was little more than a tech demo for how many unique characters could be rendered on-screen. The gameplay, in retrospect, seems pretty terrible.
Developer Rockstar Games could have gotten away with simply recycling Grand Theft Auto IV, the previous iteration released during the same console generation. People would have bought their new game even if it were just more of the same. Certainly, many other developers crank out sequel after sequel with little to no functional improvements year after year. And gamers lap it up. However, Rockstar has never been satisfied merely meeting expectations. They seek to defy them, and defy them they have.
Grand Theft Auto V achieves what its predecessors strove toward, convincingly immersing the player in the experience of being a criminal. Though law-breaking and havoc have always fueled the Grand Theft Auto experience, the games have typically felt more like amusement parks than actual worlds. Each mission played like a specific ride which you got on, enjoyed, and then got off in search of the next one. Though Rockstar made valiant attempts to create a sense of persistent identity in an immersive world, the overall game mechanics never really came together to fully suspend disbelief.
By contrast, logging into Grand Theft Auto V feels like waking up to another life, that of a professional criminal confronting a world of persistent challenges while negotiating meaningful relationships. A storyline which switches the player between three main characters keeps the experience fresh. Just as you get into a rhythm as one character, the story calls you to take the reins of another, and each has their own unique misadventures to get into.
Personally, I love bounty hunting as the psychopathic Trevor Phillips. The bounties come as text messages with a mug shot of the bail jumper and an aerial shot of the terrain where they were last seen. Tracking them involves searching the landscape for the right area, then searching that area for the target before apprehending them. The experience delivers a refreshing departure from the typical go-here-and-shoot-this mission, requiring the player to show initiative, patience, and strategy.
Aside from the scope and diversity of its gameplay, Grand Theft Auto V immerses the player by effectively conveying the sense that crime is, well, crime. Here are 5 ways Grand Theft Auto V makes you feel like a criminal.
Even as the follow-up to Man of Steel introduces Ben Affleck’s iteration of Batman to the rebooted DC Comics universe, the Dark Knight’s ally in the Gotham City police department, Commissioner Gordon, lands his own series on FOX. IGN reports:
The series will focus on a young Detective James Gordon and “the villains that made Gotham famous.” Bruno Heller (Rome, The Mentalist) is writing the Commissioner Gordon, which will presumably launch during the 2014-2015 TV season. Gotham will take place before Gordon meets Batman, who will not be a part of the series.
The news comes as Marvel’s Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. premieres on ABC to rave reviews. Should we view this as the dawn of a new trend, superhero series without superheroes in them? Hopefully, the Gotham show proves to be more than a conceptual copycat.
Marvel Studios has done an incredible job managing its brand, maintaining an on-screen continuity which ties together its many separate franchises. In the wake of Marvel’s The Avengers’ tremendous box office success, it was apparent that Warner Bros. execs were eager to dust off the Justice League and get in on the superhero cash stream. The move to follow Man of Steel with a Batman/Superman team-up seems to indicate the studio’s desire to fast-track a DC Comics film dynasty to rival Marvel’s.