Tuesday, April 16, 2013

How Do The Arts Affect A Culture's Thinking About Church?

One of the things we do in our family is discuss how the producers of entertainment use it to manipulate our emotions and program our minds.  I picked up a season of The Big Valley off a bargain shelf recently and it provided us an excellent teachable moment.  

In an episode entitled "Fallen Hawk", one of the sons in the wealthy Barkly Family, Heath, (Lee Majors) maliciously challenged an old acquaintance who had always had a habit of mooching, to ride an unbroken horse in exchange for a financial favor. During his attempt to ride the horse he was thrown and was paralyzed.  Heath then felt that it was his duty to care for the injured man and his wife.

Heath's benevolence, especially as it pertained to the wife, were ridiculously imprudent.  And though there is purposeful ambiguity as to the possibility of a budding scandal, in the end, the reality that everything was on the up and up is firmly established.  But in the midst of this ambiguity, the scene below is inserted.  It advances the story line not one bit, but it does allow for the caricaturization of Christians as self-righteous, judgemental. 


video

This scene is obviously meant to elicit disdain. Nevermind the fact that, to be obedient to scripture, the deacon would have approached Heath if there was a concern, not his mother.  Worse, the deacon admits basing the conclusions on "the talk" around town.  What an easy church person to hate and ridicule.  But the Church doesn't get to defend itself in these kinds of scenes; or does it?  

This episode was aired in March of 1966.  

Another way we are manipulated is by music.  Two years after the airing of this episode a song written by Tom T. Hall and sung by Jeannie Riley entitled "Harper Valley PTA" topped the charts. The song is very similar in sentiment to this Big Valley clip.  With an ad hominem argument 1 the song effortlessly brushes aside the folly of a mother wearing immodest clothing, and "drinking, and a-runnin' 'round with men and going wild," in front of her teenaged daughter.  It simply accuses the accusers of being hypocrites. There.  Done.  One is left to presume that since everyone else is doing wrong too, evidently, it must be okay, and no one dare say anything for fear of being thought a hypocrite.  

This little musical ode, like the video clip, are just two examples of many.  They covertly program us to judge anyone as a hypocrite who dares to challenge our behavior while at the same time giving us aid and comfort in our own sin. After all, it does get one thing right, and that is that none among any of us is without sin.  But the idea of judging ourselves; or of a righteous God judging us, vanishes. 

But non-believers are not the only ones being affected by the arts.  The American Church has also been impacted.  Could it be that American Christianity now so desires to say, "We're really not like that", that it is willing to tailor its outreach, its worship services and its sermons around proving it?  Could this mentality be at the root of "Emrgent-ism" and "Seeker friendly-ism", and avoiding certain doctrines as one might avoid mention of a pink elephant?

I am one of those who sees the Church as the only hope in responding to all that ails our society.  While I doubt that the majority of preachers of the 1960's understood what was happening during that time, they certainly didn't understand it enough to teach their congregations how to mentally navigate the powers of the media, or the cultural shifts that that media was bringing about.  But such ought no longer to be the case.  It takes so little time to understand a few logical fallacies, and only a little more to teach on how to apply them to the predominant thinking of our day.  Perhaps if love tempted us to protect the unwitting, there would be fewer of them who are misled by the arts. 

More interesting reading    

Notes                                

1. Ad hominem is the act of attempting to discredit the argument by discrediting the person making the argument.  

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The 14th Amendment And "Marriage Equality"

I just read a blog post entitled "why are Christians opposed to marriage equality?"  The post explains that "marriage equality" is simply a word game meant to make opposition more difficult. But the author's reasoning from the perspective of history, as well as the current popularity of cohabitation, in his response to a commenter who disagreed with his post is most interesting.  The exchange: 

Commenter:  Alternatively, the phrase ‘marriage equality’ is intended to convey the principle that its advocates actually see as the issue. It relates directly to the argument that failure to recognize gay marriage constitutes a substantive violation of the 14th Amendment equal protection clause. You will dismiss this of course, but it is hardly the deceitful re-branding of the issue which you pretend it to be.

Response:  Thank you for visiting my blog and for your comments. Both are greatly appreciated.
Firstly, you say “alternatively, the phrase “marriage equality” is intended to convey the principle that it’s advocates actually see as the issue.” Tell me then, Daniel, “what was intended to be conveyed as the principle by advocates when they used terminology (phraseology) as gay marriage / same-sex marriage / homosexual (gay) union?” The concept of “Equal Protection of Law” of the 14th Amendment has been with us since the period of Abraham Lincoln. Yet only now are these advocated of same sex marriages challenging traditional marriage with Constitutional Law and “Equal Protection.”
For many years there was what was referred to as the “Common Law.” In Ohio the Common law encompassed “equality of marriage.” It was referred to as “Common Law Marriage” and until (I believe) October 10th, 1991 the Common Law Marriage Laws remained in full-force. specifically the Common Law Marriage gave equal rights to cohabitating persons who would claim to be married. Though they’d not undergone any ceremony or received license certifying their union. I do not believe, at this writing, the Ohio Common Marriage Laws specifically stated that it be between a man and a woman. At the time of such writing legislators would have no need to be gender specific as to who qualified as a married couple. yet, I find no record of any gay couple taking advantage of such legislation, nor if questioned as to the legitimacy of their union, giving rise to the Common Law itself as it’s protector. The fact is clear, gays have always, in one manner or another, been allowed to become married.
Homosexuality pre-dates the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and yet no gay advocate utilized this possible free pass founded in Ohio. If indeed it existed to the extent of permissibility of homosexuals and homosexuality, whether knowingly or not, we cannot be certain as it was never challenged. and Perhaps other states as well held similar laws upon their books.. I believe that this new challenge to traditional marriage and the notion of gays being both a minority and disenfranchised is yet another attempt to demoralize America and break down Christian values held in our nation for nearly 400 years.
“Cohabitating heterosexuals” aren’t seeking special treatment, nor benefit, under the law yet they reside together as man and wife. If their living in a happy, sinful life-style is good enough for them why then shouldn't it be for gays? I would venture to say that at this time in our lives there are more people cohabitating than are married. Gays posit themselves as a minority and a disenfranchised people in need of “Equal Protection under the Law.” Your counter-part, the cohabitating heterosexual, does not see it that way. When counting, worldwide, the number of gays cohabitating and cohabitating heterosexuals, it is we, the traditional married couple, who are a minority and soon to become disenfranchised. And therefore in need of “Equal Protection of the law” in order to preserve our traditional way of life..”
The phrase “marriage equality” is intended to convey the principle that it’s advocates actually see as the issue.” I stand on my principle that God ordained marriage to be between a man and a woman and too; homosexuality is an unnatural act and an abomination before God Almighty.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Abortion Roman Style Versus Canadian Style

The degradation of the meaning and sanctity of life has its consequences.  An infant who finds himself in the birth-canal can be murdered with impunity, and in some cases, perhaps, with celebration.  Just inches and moments later that same baby has acquired all the rights of a citizenship and his life is protected by law... or so we may suppose.  But even a child knows that inches and seconds do not human rights make.

So it should not surprise us that, given the modern mindset among modern elites, an elitist Canadian Judge would defend a mother who strangled her newborn child.  Judge Joanne From "The Blaze":
“The fact that Canada has no abortion laws reflects that ‘while many Canadians undoubtedly view abortion as a less than ideal solution to unprotected sex and unwanted pregnancy, they generally understand, accept and sympathize with the onerous demands pregnancy and childbirth exact from mothers, especially mothers without support,"
 So what is the punishment for a mother killing her newborn?
“Every female person who commits infanticide is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.”
This article brought to mind a passage from "The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire" wherein Gibbons paints a similar picture, but with different motives.  A practice that had become somewhat common during Rome's decline was the killing of newborn infants.  But pay attention to the motivations.  Gibbons explains as follows:

There are many of [Constantine's] laws, which, as far as they concern the rights and property of individuals, and the practice of the bar, are more properly referred to the private than to the public jurisprudence of the empire; and he published many edicts of so local and temporary a nature, that they would ill deserve the notice of a general history. Two laws, however, may be selected from the crowd; the one for its importance, the other for its singularity; the former for its remarkable benevolence, the latter for its excessive severity. 1. The horrid practice, so familiar to the ancients, of exposing or murdering their new-born infants, was become every day more frequent in the provinces, and especially in Italy. It was the effect of distress; and the distress was principally occasioned by the intolerant burden of taxes, and by the vexatious as well as cruel prosecutions of the officers of the revenue against their insolvent debtors. The less opulent [well off] or less industrious part of mankind, instead of rejoicing in an increase of family, deemed it an act of paternal tenderness to release their children from the impending miseries of a life which they themselves were unable to support. The humanity of Constantine; moved, perhaps, by some recent and extraordinary instances of despair, * engaged him to address an edict to all the cities of Italy, and afterwards of Africa, directing immediate and sufficient relief to be given to those parents who should produce before the magistrates the children whom their own poverty would not allow them to educate. (*)

So in Canada, murdering your offspring is understandable because having babies can be depressing and onerous while in ancient Rome it was considered acceptable because the parents didn't want their children to experience the same distresses of poverty and enslavement by government.  It would seem that ancients rationalized it out of compassion for the child, while in modernity it is rationalized out of the compassion for the self.

It would seem to me that the charge of murder against the Canadian girl is a little too severe for our modern sensibilities.  Perhaps practicing medicine without a licence would be more agreeable to our palate.  After all, it's not like she murdered her child with a gun.
 
Notes:
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* Gibbon, Edward (2008-07-24). The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Kindle Locations 6406-6414).  . Kindle Edition.