A Linkspam

Thursday, 9 June 2011 07:49 am
cjbanning: (St. Thomas)
I have a few things I'd like to share, but don't really have enough to say about to justify a post for each on its own, so I'll compile them here:
  • Ross Douthat in the NYT: Dr. Kevorkian’s Victims and Suicide and Abortion. "If we allow that the right to die exists, the arguments for confining it to the dying seem arbitrary at best." Of course, if one believes, as I do--and this has been my consistent position for as long as I can remember--that there exists a universal, positive right to take one's own life (just as I believe there exists a positive right to terminate one's own pregnancy), then the logic seems both obvious and not particularly problematic. Douthat recognizes much of this himself this morning with his blogpost What's Wrong with Suicide?: "The slippery slope that I discussed in the column doesn’t amount to much if you don’t disapprove at all of people deciding to take their own lives." I'd argue the right to suicide flows naturally and inevitably from the understandings of autonomy, self-determination, and human dignity which are foundational to liberal democracy (and as such, to progressive Christianity). As such, any religiously-motivated argument against suicide should of course be considered irrelevant to our public policy. But I also don't think the so-called "Christian" argument against suicide is as well-supported as most people seem to assume. Scripture seems to be largely silent on the issue, so far as I can tell. (Then again, I don't claim to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible, so if I'm missing a particularly salient verse or set of verses, feel free to point it/them out to me.)
  • Sarah Posner writes at Religion Dispatches that The Problem with Ayn Rand Isn’t Atheism. I'd say that the problem isn't with atheism or atheists in general--to reject someone's policy insights because they don't believe in God would of course be foolish in the extreme. But at the same time, to treat Rand like a libertarian who just happens to be an a theist as well is to misunderstand both Ayn Rand's psychology and Objectivism as a system down to their respective cores. Just as Rand's hatreds of communism and of the Church shared many distinctive features, so do her rejections of altruism and of theism ultimately stem from the same poisoned well. Richard Beck at Experimental Theology asks a similar question with Can a Christian Be a Follower of Ayn Rand?
  • Dear Reese Witherspoon: All Girls Are ‘Good Girls.’ "If we are dedicated to promoting the collective power of girls and women, we cannot police their sexuality in an attempt to make girls 'good.'" Amen.
  • Mike King, in asking How has evangelism changed in the past two or three decades? puts forth what I think are two useful models of the ecclesiology/evangelism interaction: believe-behave-belong ("If we can just get people to believe the gospel, they will begin behaving properly, and eventually they can belong to our churches") and belong-behave-believe ("Evangelism happens quite naturally when we are entrenched in faith communities that are actively caught up in cooperating with God’s compelling work of restoration").
cjbanning: (Trinity)
AnthemAnthem by Ayn Rand

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Rand's description of a socialist/communist dystopia and the story of a man and a woman who somehow manage to regain their individuality within it nonetheless. Is it fair to Marxism? Probably not, but it's true that the theory's weakest point is the vagueness of its eschatological vision, and so I can well believe that this is what Rand took away as believing the "collectivists" were arguing for.

Politics aside, the problem is that as a writer, the premise doesn't really allow her to shine: her best books, like Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead are ones where the focus is on characters which, if not quite fully realized and three-dimensional, are at least fun to read about, like Dagny Taggert and Dominique Francon. Watching these characters debate philosophy while running around like Nietzschean ubermenschen and living larger-than-life lives can be entertaining even if one doesn't agree with the position she is pushing, but here there really isn't anything left but the didacticism.

Rand's misogyny and anti-feminism are in full presence here as elsewhere in Rand's work. The story is told from the male's perspective, with the female character being silent throughut the work, denied a voice of her own. While one of the male's most triumphant moments is when he gives himself a name, this is denied to the female; he names her too. Maybe these are the kinds of things Rand herself looked forward to and saw as providing hope that utopia would rise from dystopia, but I don't think most women would find them so.

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"This is my prayer: that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best."
-- St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians 1:9-10

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