Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Thoughts and responses for today, August 21, 2007

A victory for freedom of thought

Haleh Esfandiari is being let out of jail! But Kian Tajbakhsh, Parnaz Azima, and Ali Shakeri are still in jail. Hopefully, these individuals will be freed soon. Then Iran will need to allow Tajbakhsh, Azima, Shakeri, and Esfandiari along with Parnaz Azima, a journalist, Kian Tajbakhsh, an urban planner, and Ali Shakeri, with the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding at the University of California, Irvine, who are barred from leaving Iran.

What is this all about?

“In academic feuds, as in war, there is no telling how far people will go once the shooting starts.” So reads the lead in a story about J. Michael Bailey, a psychologist at Northwestern University, by Benedict Cary in today’s NYT. We know with certainty this is true in war. As if there ever was such a thing as a “just war” where noncombatants were not targeted (Tell me if you know of one? Maybe in defense?). War and the tactics used have mostly been the result of technology, not morals. But this academic war sounds like a know-holds-barred battle.

It really shouldn’t matter why someone seeks a sex-change operation. It is certain that mistakes happen in nature. It is also clear that human nature is complicated and mixed-up with self-reflection that human choice is always a blended choice, even (and often!) from the perspective of the human person making that choice. Biology, environment, psychology, and individual experience and thought, among many other abstracted elements, enter into a choice to seek a sex change.

I believe we live in a postmodern, post-Christian world. This is not necessarily a bad thing. As I already wrote, I am an empiricist. But I am one with a small “e.” We humans are, most certainly, part of a Universe, or creation—either one will do for now—that has been evolving for billions of years. What is, is what is, and to deny this is futile. Science must be listened to and when it contradicts cherished folk-wisdom that folk-wisdom must be modified and understood as a culturally constructed belief.

It is high time we Christians recognize this and let go of some of our folk-wisdom. Human nature is not so cut and dried. We are made in God’s image, but that image, i.e. being human in this world, is a lot bigger than we believed. And, also, remember we play a huge part in creating this image culturally with our culture-bound language. It is time we recognized that homosexuality and transgenderness are normal outcomes of this fine creation. They are no more flawed than the serial, heterosexual monogamists that many of us Christians seem to be. It is time we treat homosexuals and transgendered people as equals before the law and God. In the end, what are we talking about? Isn’t it love?

Ingmar Bergman

In 1955 “The Seventh Seal,” began a series of seven films explored faith in a post-Holocaust, post-Christian world. This project continued with “Wild Strawberries” (1957), “The Magician” (1958), “The Virgin Spring” (1960), “Through a Glass Darkly” (1961), “Winter Light” (1962), and, finally, “The Silence” (1963).

As I wrote above, I believe we live in a postmodern, post-Christian world. This is a statement about the cultural milieu of the Western (the North, the first, the developed?) world. Maybe I even think like a postmodern? Anyway, Francis Schaeffer made me think about Bergman back in the 1970s. And more so in the early 1980s. I wanted to be an art and film critic from a Christian perspective. Bergman was the filmmaker par-excellence. I will have to watch these movies—I haven’t seen most of them—sometime. But I did see a couple while reading Schaeffer in the late 1970s.

I can’t write much about Schaeffer yet. I am still rereading him.

After this brief excursion into thoughts for today, back to memories of childhood.

My discipline at home was mostly dispassionate, including when I was spanked. If I remember accurately, the only emotion I recollect is one like exasperation (“Jimmy, you are smarter than this.” Or, “Jimmy, you know better.”). And this feeling expressed mostly verbally, as in the aforementioned sentences. I was a growing boy with lots of freedom to explore and, no doubt, a tendency to go too far again and again. But I grew-up healthy.

My memories are of exploring the “cave” of our basement Catholic Church. The Church building had not been build yet because other things were more important. Like the kids schooling. All Saints Catholic Church and School head Mass in the basement of a two-story brick building.

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