Of Mad Men and Discredited Russian Philosophers: The Angst of Donald Draper


***DISCLAIMER: Massive Spoilers! But that should be obvious, right?***

 

Wikipedia

Wikipedia

Imagine a decade ago that I came to you and said I had an idea for a show. That idea would be to follow the lives of people who work in the office, in advertising, in the 1960s. You’d ask what happened, and I’d say, “Nothing. Nothing happens. They just live.” Would you green light the show? Probably not, but someone at AMC did and called it Mad Men, and the rest is history. Or at least soon to be history as the show comes to its conclusion.

For nigh on a decade (in show years; and kind of in real years) we’ve witnessed Donald Draper and the rest of the crew grow, develop, and collapse. All the while the question to the casual viewer is, “So when will something happen?” We thought that something was when Pete burst forth with the revelation that Donald Draper is actually Dick Whitman, to which Bernie Cooper gave a “Meh” response. The something was actually nothing. So goes the pattern of the show: Something major occurs, we think this is the *it* we’ve waited for, and it’s met with “meh.”

Yet, there’s an inescapable feeling that indeed something has happened, we just don’t know what that something is. After all, we’ve watched Don Draper live a “man’s dream,” of being successful, of marrying a woman half his age (who’s a french model), of drinking while on the job, and living a life with few consequences. But Don seems unhappy and unfulfilled. He fought to get his job back, only to continue to seek after other things. Don is never happy, nor is anyone else on the show. No one ever reaches the mountain and feels satisfaction, contentment is always a few elusive feet away, and for this we think something might have happened. Indeed, something has happened and continues to happen within the story of Mad Men: The battle for Don Draper’s soul.

No, this is not a Jesus Juke. This is not where I turn around and, much like the irate husband in this past week’s episode, tell Don Draper to find Jesus because “He can do some good things.” Rather, the battle for Don’s soul is fought on the existential level. One could say that the thing happening is the fight and struggle for Don Draper’s existence, for his identity, for his happiness. See, Don Draper isn’t really Don Draper, rather he’s two men. He’s Dick Whitman and Donald Draper. Rather than Draper being a cover so that Whitman could escape the horrors of Korea, Draper is also an entirely other personality.

Whitman is a carefree individual, not quite a hippie, not quite a beatnik, not quite an existentialist. But there’s no doubt that he loves life and desires freedom. In the very first episode of the first season we’re actually introduced to both Donald Draper and Dick Whitman. We see the businessman (Draper), the patriarch of the ideal family of four, living in the suburbs. In the darker elements we see a man living for himself, the ideal objectivist who uses anything and everything for his happiness. We also meet, albeit briefly, with Dick Whitman (though we don’t know his name), in having an affair with a bohemian-style woman, someone who seems incommensurable to the businessman. As the season and show progress the divide between the two personalities grows wider as the two fight for supremacy.  Continue reading

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Christian Porn is not Dead or, This Post Isn’t About Sex


School of Athens

School of Athens

Pornography has a reputation for creating unrealistic expectations and having horrendous acting. A man comes over to fix the cable and a scantily-clad model answers the door and, well, you can imagine where it goes from there…he fixes the cable. (Sorry, I’ll try not to be so fatuous). Essentially, it creates some false reality where sexual fantasies can be lived out; porn creates a type of “strawman” concerning sex itself, putting in unrealistic expectations and scenarios. At its base, porn isn’t so much about sex as it is about false self-affirmation, about putting one’s self in a mental state of imagining the impossible and ridiculous. Overall, even the “secular” media realizes that porn is a bad thing that desensitizes people to actual sex. Or to put it in hipster terms, porn is a chemical additive to the natural and organic act of sex, thus ruining the act.

Of course, porn doesn’t have to be sexual. There is a popular term called “disaster porn,” wherein the media blasts images from a disaster into people’s heads 24/7 until the public is immune to that disaster (or to disaster itself). Often times, the real news of the event is lost in the narrative that the media wants to shape. There is violence porn where television shows engage in too much violence, which then desensitizes the audience to violence in general. There’s even a new Superhero porn, where the plots of every single superhero movie out since 2003 are exactly the same, but hey, explosions, so why not? Christian culture, or more appropriately American Christian culture, is not immune to a type of porn; Christian porn, or the Christian cultural attempt to fit in.

Christian porn is whenever Christian culture attempts to ape the world in music, products, television, style, or movies, but does so in a mediocre, “Not the cool kid but really want to be” way. Instead of Hootie and the Blowfish, in the 90s Christian porn produced Third Day. Instead of hip hop, Christian porn produced DC Talk. Somewhere around the early 2000s, MercyMe evolved the whole copying aspect of Christian music and said, “Hey, why not just create an entire genre?” Thus, since 2000 Christian porn has evolved its own genre of music, where lyrics and chords sound almost the same across “artists” and bands. Not to be outdone, Christian porn also gave us apocalyptic fiction via the Left Behind series, gave us Christian television in various, beautifully bad forms, and of course who can forget the Christian movies?

The latest product from Christian porn is God’s Not Dead, a movie that opened up to church groups movie theaters everywhere this past week. As someone who lives in the Bible Belt, I can say confidently that churches went full-force at this movie. The local movie theater didn’t have a single parking spot available on Sunday. Restaurants emptied earlier than normal on Sunday and weren’t busy that night as the theaters took all the business.

For those not in the know, you can watch the cringe-worthy trailer with the Newsboys (them?). Or, you can see that Rotten Tomatoes has it around 40%. To put that in perspective, Sharknado is around 82% and Noah is around 76% (but hey, at least it’s not Catwoman bad). The film deals with the typical Christian view of a philosophy professor; a man angry at God who doesn’t believe in God because of some personal tragedy and decides to indoctrinate all the students into believing that way. To further this trope, we’re led to believe that anyone not a freshman at this university no longer believes in God. I mean, the professor makes his students sign a pledge saying they don’t believe in God (academic freedom?), the professor gets angry when one, just one student, states a belief in God. Within the trailer we’re taken from some mysterious/probably unnecessary skeptic in Dean Cain (Superman is trying to eliminate the competition) while Hercules mocks God possibly for perceived daddy issues over abandonment (not realizing that Zeus and the Judeo-Christian God are different).

Of course, there are other subplots within the movie. A muslim girl converts to Christianity and is kicked out of her house by her father (just short of an honor killing I’m assuming), a vegan journalist discovers veganism causes cancer (or something like that), and somehow people end up at a Christian concert with the Newsboys (them?).

And the whole thing is really Christian porn. It presents an incredibly unrealistic scenario with bad acting where the plot doesn’t matter, but allows Christians to fulfill their fantasies and see those fantasies played out in “real life.” We always hear about the big, bad, dangerous atheist professors who are just waiting to destroy the faith of college students. Of course, most students lose their faith in college not because of what they learn in the classroom, but because of what they learn in the dorm room; their faith isn’t lost by reading Friedrich Nietzsche or David Hume, it’s lost when the Christian cultural bubble collapses and they’re exposed to a world unlike anything they’ve ever seen. If anything else, a more accurate description would be a hostile atheist student – whose sole education in the subject consists of a few YouTube videos and Reddit – yelling at a Christian or theistic philosophy professor. In fact, Quentin Smith laments the rise of theism within the field of philosophy a la Alvin Plantinga. Not to mention that Oxford University Press, Harvard Press, Philo, and other academic press agencies and journals regularly publish peer-reviewed pro-theistic/pro-Christian books/articles.

The movie God’s Not Dead simply serves to confirm biases and present a watered-down, emotional, and useless faith. Hercules’ Kevin Sorbos character asks about a God that would allow a 12 year old to have cancer, and we’re met with a song by the Newsboys (them?). We’re then confronted with the idea that the ONLY reason this professor could show such hostility to God is that he has personal issues. Of course, the idea of a 12 year old dying of cancer ought to cause us to question God; that’s not a lack of faith, that’s called being a decent human being. The Bible is full of its main characters questioning God in the face of evil, there’s even an entire book dedicated to such a thing (Job). Even Christ, God incarnate, while on the cross shouted out Eli, eli, lama sabachthani (“my God, my God, why have you forsaken me”). The point being, the movie allows for a very real question, but this provides a fluff answer.

Christianity has a very rich heritage of providing rational and solid responses to critical questions. The first philosophical defense of Christianity is found in the book of St. John, when the Apostle uses philosophical language to describe Christ, showing that Christ is an answer to the questions of Greek philosophy. In Christianity’s recorded history, however, St. Paul serves as the first philosophical defender. While the account of Mars Hill in Acts is a summary, St. Luke (being a genius), refers to Paul’s refutation of two competing philosophies (Epicureans and Stoics) and showing how Christianity served as a solution to their problems. Anyone versed in Greek philosophy who reads Acts 17 sees that Paul is refuting their claims while finding common ground; but most importantly he is giving substance and rational replies to their critiques.

Even outside of Biblical tradition there are great Christian thinkers who defended the faith while also raising questions. Justin Martyr gave a strong philosophical defense of Christianity with arguments so solid that they are used today. St. John of Damascus gave a summary of the faith, providing a defense for the existence of God (this after he wrote a work on logic and philosophy). After experiencing the Russian revolution, S.L. Frank wrote The Meaning of Life where he openly questions if life has any purpose and goes on seeking a purpose. Of course the other famous Russian writer, Fyodor Dostoevsky, gave the best argument against the existence of God via evil in The Brothers Karamazov, and he did this while being a devout Christian. Some of the greatest music, greatest ideas, greatest art masterpieces, greatest scientific discoveries, and so on for the past 2,000 years in Western history have been accomplished by Christians. How did we go from the Sistine Chapel to Thomas Kinkade?

The problem is that many Christians feel they have to be countercultural in their artistic endeavors while equally being overly spiritual. There can’t be a subtle message, there can’t be any mystery, rather it has to be an in-your-face, moment by moment display of the Christian message. Gone are the days where Lord of the Rings is appreciated as a great epic and in are the days where Jesus is seen as Gandalf and Kirk Cameron should star as Aragorn.  Gone are the days where a Christian can have great dialogue over the question, “If God is dead, then what?” and in are the days where when faced with the question of if God is dead, we answer with Hercules, Superman, and the Newsboys (them?).

Christians need to wise up and realize that they are deserving of better. Instead of supporting low-budget, low-quality productions, they ought to support good stories that are well-done. No one is saying the Christian message cannot be overt in a work of art done by a Christian. The Christian message is incredibly overt in Dostoevsky’s Brothers, but it’s also a beautiful work of art. Dante’s Inferno is blatantly Christian in its message, as is Milton’s Paradise Lost, but you can’t get through an English major without having to read both of them due to their artistic beauty. While subtlety is preferred in today’s market, it’s okay for Christian art to be overt in a Christian message, but it must be done well. Movies like God’s Not Dead are not only a disservice to living Christians, but also to those who helped develop the Western-style of art that is so abused and neglected by today’s Christian “artists.”

We live in a world where Michael Bay, J.J. Abrams, and others are considered innovative directors because of explosions and light glare on a lens. Our culture’s idea of music is Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, and Miley Cyrus. Art, true art, is more and more being confined to museums, the rich, and The New Yorker. As our culture degenerates more and more, as it succumbs to the entropic hole left by the collapse of postmodernism, it is in desperate need of an artistic voice in the wilderness. Before, during, and after Rome’s collapse, Christians stood tall as the saviors of civilization. Christian monks preserved the works of the pagan Greeks even though the pagan Vikings sought to destroy anything not of value to them. Christian iconography allowed for art to continue, even outside the church. The Renaissance was a Christian affair. Christians didn’t just have a voice in the formation of Western art; Christians formed Western art. It’s high time that Christians moved back to such a position, producing quality and supporting quality. After all, we’re made in the image of God, who is the Creator. This means that we ought to be creative. If God isn’t dead then neither should we let our creativity die, we should give up our taste for Christian porn. Christians don’t need to become countercultural and watered-down in their artistic endeavors; they need to lead the culture and become the pinnacle of artistic standards.

Death of Virtue or, Here Once Stood Virtuous Men and Women


IMG_0352There is no escaping the fact that we live in a society that is void of virtue. The title of this post is not meant to be read literally as virtue, being abstracted, cannot die. We do not live in the aftermath of virtue’s death, rather we fail to live because we ignore the life of virtue. For those wanting a more in depth understanding of virtue, you can see my thoughts on it here, here, and here. For an example of this, we can look to a young man in Calgary who stood up for a friend who was being bullied and even had a knife pulled on him. Rather than being celebrated by the school for an act of bravery, he was chastised (though not punished) for intervening. The school went so far as to say that it wasn’t necessarily a case of another kid being bullied, but rather was two students just fighting and one pulled out a knife.

Let us assume that one kid was not being bullied. Does that mean the young man should not have intervened? We are told that he put his safety in danger, but since when does doing the right thing come with a promissory of safety? Certainly in standing up for justice, or love of one’s neighbor, or courage one is likely to face danger to one’s safety. That is, after all, the entire point of virtue; this life isn’t about you, but is about the Good and the pursuit of the Good, meaning that sometimes you must take risks.

A fulfilled life is not the safe life, a fulfilled life is full of scrapes and bruises, it’s full of struggle and pain; it is what weak-willed adults called unstable and what playful children call adventure. We lack adventure in our world. We create the simulation of danger, a simulacrum of courage, we tell people to jump off bridges with a bungee cord attached, we encourage rides on amusement parks, we pump money into the artificial stimulation of adrenaline. We are rational animals and our body, being a beast, can be easily tricked. Provide enough simulation and the body will react and think it is in a dangerous situation when it really is not. After all, with the bungee cord, though there is some danger, it is controlled. The same stands true for rides on amusement parts or any other “adrenaline junkie” favorites.

Jumping from an airplane with safety equipment and a tested parachute with a low to no fail rate doesn’t require courage, at least not true courage. Jumping from an airplane with that same equipment and parachute into an occupied territory in an attempt to deliver liberty to a people, knowing that you may have to give your life to advance the cause of liberty, now that takes courage. True courage doesn’t exist unless there is a little bit of danger involved, unless there is a little risk of personal harm; after all, if harm (either physical or emotional) is not a risk in doing something then how does it take courage to do that something?

Thus, the boy in Calgary was courageous and rather than saying, “You could have gotten yourself hurt,” we should applaud him for acting as he did in lieu of the knowledge that he could have been harmed. The “it’s not my business” mentality and “I don’t want to suffer harm” is what has allowed perpetrators to continue to have victims. But not only did this boy show courage, he also showed love. He showed love not only to the potential victim, but also to the victimizer.  Continue reading

Christianity, Diversity, and Tolerance


A common myth surrounding Christianity, at least traditional Christianity, is that it is boring, monotonous, and composed of old white people. Even though Christianity is the most diverse faith in the world, somehow, it has gained the reputation of being ethnocentric; or to use a different phrase, Christianity (traditional Christianity) is intolerant.

However, as it is with most things in the modern world, perception does not match reality. Christianity, true Christianity, is and always has been a celebration of diversity, especially when compared to the modern secular system calling for “tolerance.” Christianity is special in that we are the united body of Christ, yet still diverse, which is a reflection of our God. The core of our faith, the Trinity, teaches that while God is one, God is many. God is one in essence, but three Persons. In turn, his Church is one unified body, but composed of different persons and nationalities. This is why there is no such thing as a Christian culture, because Christianity itself has no culture. Rather, just as Christ became incarnate within our world, so too do Christians become incarnate within their culture. Christ did not condemn human nature by taking it on, but instead He transformed it into something better. Likewise, Christians do not condemn culture, but instead transform it into something better.

Such a transformation requires true tolerance. True Christianity requires Christians to allow other ideas, other beliefs, and other religions to function within society. For one, we believe in significant human freedom, so we cannot restrict the choice of an individual (so long as the consequences of that choice don’t negatively impact the common good). If an individual chooses to engage in an illicit sexual activity with another consenting adult, while we can say it’s morally wrong, we cannot really do anything about it. While we disagree with Islam, we should allow Muslims to build their mosques because we support their right to be wrong. That is true tolerance; allowing beliefs and actions to occur even though you don’t necessarily agree with those beliefs and actions.

The modern secular world, however, is solely about unity and not diversity. While it may preach diversity, the reality is that all secular societies end up being monotone. The reason for this is that diversity is seen as disagreement, and disagreement is seen as intolerance. Take, for instance, Marilyn Sewell’s piece in the Huffington Post. In it she states that she cannot tolerate Christian fundamentalism because, “I believe those who teach it and preach it are doing great harm, and I in no way wish to be an ally.” In other words, because she cannot ally with the belief she therefore cannot tolerate it. That’s not tolerance, that’s bigotry. Yet, this is the direction of the modern world; if I don’t agree with you, then I can’t tolerate you. There is no allowance for differing opinions, not if we deem them to be dangerous even if we have no proof of the danger.

In considering how Christianity is truly multicultural, look to the teachings of V.S. Soloviev;

“Does Christianity abolish nationality? No, rather, it preserves it. Nationality is not abolished, but nationalism is. The bitter persecution and killing of Christ was the work not of the Hebrew nationality, for which Christ was its supreme flowering, but this was the work of a narrow and blind nationalism of such patriots as Caiaphas…The fruits of the English nationality we see in Shakespeare and Byron, in Berkely and in Newton; the fruits of English nationalism are worldwide robbery, the exploits of Warren Hastings and Lord Seymour, destruction and killing. The fruits of the great German nationality are Lessing and Goethe, Kant and Schelling, the fruit of German nationalism – is the forcible Germanization of neighbors from the times of the Teutonic knights right up to our own day. (Politics, Law, and Morality, p. 11)

Christianity recognizes the accomplishments of each nation (and race) and gives praise where praise is due. But it doesn’t seek the monotony of nationalism, the teaching that all groups should conform to one group.

The secular world is a new type of nationalism. When we think of nationalism we are tempted to think about Hitler’s Germany or Mussolini’s Italy. We think of fascism along with nationalism, of neo-Nazis and, to an extent, the modern preachers of American exceptionalism. But there is another type of nationalism in the materialistic world that has gone unnoticed, and that’s the nationalism of ideas. Karl Marx would have undoubtedly hated Hitler’s physical nationalism, yet still taught conformity to Communism. Whereas Hitler believed all nations should be conformed to the Germany way of life, eradicating all cultural differences, the Communists believed in a worldwide revolution to overthrow the bourgeoisie and install a common culture around the world. Seeking a world without borders and a monolithic culture, is not a repudiation of nationalism, but a different type of nationalism.

This same type of nationalism is found within Sewell’s use of the word “tolerance” and even within secular society in general. Cultural differences and religious differences are hidden from the public view because they may be offensive to some. A Jew cannot place a menorah in the public square. A Christian cannot display the cross. A Muslim must fight to have a community center built in a major city. An atheist student struggles to form an atheist club at his high school. Black History Month is viewed as racist in and of itself for extolling what black people have contributed to society. Saying that people of European ancestry have helped progress the world is viewed as racist because it ignores all the harm Europeans have caused in the world. In the name of tolerance and multiculturalism, we have become intolerant of anything that offends us and anti-diversity in our practice. Christianity seeks to be tolerant – that is, we allow things to happen – of all things do not directly harm others. We may condemn the actions and beliefs, we may speak out against them, but when it comes to those who are not Christians, we simply let it occur (at least in traditional Christianity – historically some Christians have attempted to ruin human freedom and impose moral regulations, but this is in contradiction to the central Christian message).

True Christianity seeks out tolerance and diversity, but in the truest senses of the terms. We don’t seek to change one culture into another culture, but to redeem the culture through Christ. We don’t seek to eradicate beliefs and actions through legislation, but to tolerate them and let people make mistakes, so long as those mistakes don’t directly harm others. This runs in opposition to secularism, which ruins culture and removes all that makes us distinct and happy. True Christianity is not the lack of diversity, but the beginning of all that is diverse.

I’m not a “Christian” Writer: Revisiting the Secular/Sacred Split


A couple of weeks ago I wrote several posts encouraging Christians to stop investing in what I termed ‘top-down’ approaches to cultural transformation.  Instead, I argued that cultures are transformed from the ‘bottom-up.’  Only when virtue is cultivated, faith is engendered, and the hearts of the people are changed, shall we see true cultural transformation.  Today I’d like to examine another facet of the problem of cultural transformation which is intimately related with the above issue: the so called secular/sacred split.

The late Francis Schaeffer often spoke about modern man’s unfortunate tendency to compartmentalize life—that is to separate, or segregate, the various fields of knowledge and human experience into non-overlapping boxes.  We see this problem among the various academic disciplines which are often taught as if they were completely isolated subject matters.  Consequentially, many scientists fail to understand the philosophical underpinnings of their discipline, many artists and musicians know absolutely nothing about the scientific aspect of their work, and so on and so forth.  When we become so specialized that we fail to see the intimate connection points between the various fields of knowledge we have fallen victim to this harmful form of compartmentalization.

The secular/sacred split is somewhat similar to this.  Evangelical Christians often segregate the things they perceive to be ‘secular’ and the things they perceive to be ‘sacred’—and act as if there are some things which are ‘spiritual activities’ and others which are simply neutral or ‘non-Christian.”  For instance, many would consider going to church on Sunday morning a ‘sacred’ activity—in contrast, few Christians would consider going to eat at McDonald’s ‘sacred.’  Now, I’m not arguing that these activities are one and the same (clearly there are huge differences); however, there is a problem when we fail to see the sacred aspect of even the most mundane parts of our life, like going to McDonald’s.  We are still Christians when we go to McDonald’s, we are still called to live out our faith at McDonald’s, to honor God at McDonald’s, to respect and love people at McDonald’s . . .

This split happens in other more subtle ways too.  For instance, Evangelicals have created their own subculture by attaching the label ‘Christian’ to art, music, film, and literature.   For many Evangelicals music, to use an obvious example, is ‘secular’ unless we attach the descriptor ‘Christian’ to it—hence, we now have Contemporary Christian Music.  The same has happened with all of the above categories—we now have Christian Fiction, Christian Movies, and Christian Artists.  We’ve created our very own subpar, subculture.

When I was a teenager I used to be proud of the fact that I didn’t listen to ‘secular’ music.  I would tell my friends that I only listened to ‘Christian’ music.  The truth is, however, music is neither secular nor Christian—people are.  That is to say, people can be Christians not music (although, I would add that music, by nature, is a great good, in virtue of the fact that God created it).  Christ calls people, like you and me, to help redeem the culture through living out our faith in the culture.

To redeem a culture, to transform it from the bottom-up, we have to break through the secular/sacred split and allow our faith to penetrate every aspect of our being.  This takes far more than merely “Christianizing” the arts and sciences—that is, duplicating what the general culture is doing, badly, and attaching pithy scripture verses to it to make it sound spiritual.  Rather, it takes Christians approaching their individual vocations with the heart and mind of Christ.  It means striving for excellence, striving to attain virtue, and striving for truth in all that we do.  Most importantly, it involves doing this in the general culture.

A Christian who is a musician should not, by default, assume the only way he can pursue his vocation is by writing and performing “worship” music.  Rather, he should strive, first and foremost, to be a good musician.  He should seek to cultivate virtue through his music.  He should think about and theorize about music through the lens of the Christian worldview, he should develop his skills and abilities (striving for excellence), and honor God through the work of his hands (or mouth if you sing or play a wind instrument).  He should conduct business honorably—with honesty and fairness.  He should use his music to support the weak and less fortunate.  Music can be, and should be, sacred even when we don’t sing the words “Jesus loves you.”  And this is true of all of the arts and sciences.

Christians should be on the New-York Times Bestsellers list, not as “Christian Authors,” but as authors who are Christians.  Their faith should be evident in the quality and depth of their work, in the nobility and justness of their business practices, in the way they treat others and use the money they make, etc…  Christians should be at the top of their academic field, not because they are “Christian Biologists,” or “Christian Psychologists,” or “Christian Philosophers,” but because they strive for excellence in all they do, live lives of holiness and virtue, and bring their faith to bare on every decision they make or theory they propound.  Christians who are artists should strive to have their work on display in the world’s top galleries–not merely paint quaint landscapes to be sold as household decorative items at Lifeway Christian Bookstore.

If we truly want to transform our culture we’re going to have to break free from our subculture—tear down the divide—and allow the Holy Spirit to use us as a source of renewal and life.

Random Musings: Erotic Love


1) Where does erotic love stand in relation to human existence?

2) Perhaps erotic love is the very end of man’s existence – his final goal, his purpose.  If God is dead, then it must be conceded that reproduction is the unconscious irrational driving force behind every decision we make.  Erotic love, under this worldview, becomes the primary tool utilized by evolution (please pardon my use of teleological language) in the preservation and further development of a species; it, thus, becomes the very meaning of our existence . . .

3) If, however, erotic love is the end of our existence then human beings are nothing but sexual objects.  This is precisely what we see in Western culture today – sexuality has been reduced to a mere biological process, a mere physical happening, and, in consequence, looks no different than the buying and selling of Cod at the fish market.  People have become products to be consumed.  Women lust after Magic Mike without a care in the world for his soul, his wellbeing, his happiness.  Men satiate their sexual appetites through internet porn without a care in the world for the sexual health or individual worth of the actors (or in most cases victims of human trafficking) on their computer screen.  We justify this behavior with the soothing notion that human beings are passive agents helplessly blown and tossed by a sea of physical laws and biological determination.  Our hands, we say, are simply tied behind our backs.

4) Sexuality becomes something mechanical and base – something devoid of true love and intimacy, something impersonal and selfish – when we live as if erotic love is the end of humanity.

5) What if we made Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Justice, and Love Himself the end of our existence?  What if we made living up to the image and likeness of the One who brought us into being our purpose?  What if we lived as if other human beings were of great value and importance?  What if we embraced erotic love as an act of self-giving instead of an act of narcissistic self-love?  What if we defined erotic love as two individuals giving of themselves to each other and becoming one flesh; as the intimate sharing of pleasure between two souls bent on each others happiness?  What if we understood that erotic love is a life giving process – the first step in the bringing into being of a new and uniquely special individual?

The Wall Street Journal and Slavery


I’m quite surprised that an article in the Wall Street Journal about how to retire “cheap” to Bali hasn’t caused a bigger stir. The reason I’m shocked this hasn’t caused a stir – other than how completely pretentious it is and how the average retired couple couple actually afford this “cheap” retirement – is because of this section right here:

When it comes to cooking—and cleaning and all of those other daily time-consumers—we hire Balinese help. Our cook, who is paid $75 a month, shops in the market at 6:30 a.m. and prepares all of our meals from scratch. It’s very healthy. Sundays we are on our own, and that is our brunch and pizza day.

Now, since they’re “on their own” on Sundays, once we avreage out what they pay their cook it’s about $2.88 A DAY. Now, some might point out that Indonesia’s poverty-line is at $1 a day, so they’re paying the cook above the poverty-line. But such thinking ignores that Indonesia recently lowered their poverty line to the international poverty line (it would be like the United States lowering its poverty line to Mexico’s poverty line). Thus, the statistics are vastly skewed and in reality even $2 a day puts a person in the definition of poverty. To put this in perspective; in America, poverty means you struggle to pay your rent and get enough food without the aid of food stamps. In most of the world, however, poverty means you’re living in a shack or an overcrowded apartment and struggling to get to just 2,000 calories a day.

The “$1 a day” poverty line works for nations where there is no industry and the vast majority of the population is poor (mostly Sub-Saharan African). It doesn’t work for industrialized nations or nations that are becoming industrialized; $1 a day in England, France, the United States, Australia, or China would result in a person dying from starvation and being homeless. In Indonesia, which is a growing economy and competitive on the Southeast Asian stage, $1 a day simply will not feed a person. $2.88 a day doesn’t bring someone above the poverty line.

Thus, we have an article in the Wall Street Journal promoting using cheap/slave labor to achieve a cheap retirement. But this has always been the excuse for slavery. When we read the old justifications for slavery in Europe and the New World, it was always about how it made things cheaper, how if we didn’t have slaves then we couldn’t increase our goods. And to a certain extent, such calculations are right. If we didn’t have slave labor overseas today, just like if we didn’t have slaves picking cotton, the price of the goods would be too high for most people to afford the goods. If a cook who shopped and cooked for you in Indonesia was paid a fair wage, chances are this couple wouldn’t pay for him as it would’t be the bargain they’re getting right now. But an economy should never be driven by pragmatism, instead it should be driven by virtue.

The ultimate goal of any economy should be to grow, but it should be through ethical means. When it’s accomplished via unethical means, you ultimately create other problems that will eventually undermine society. Use slaves and eventually the slaves will rebel. Preach selfishness and eventually people will cheat and lie to gain more money, which eventually collapses the company, taking more from the economy than was ever put into it. Use low-labor as a foreigner and eventually the “natives” will get restless and kill you (it’s happened quite a bit in world history, shocking how we never learn). When you violate natural laws and natural orders there are natural consequences. If you jump off a building, the natural law of gravity will cause you to plummet to your death. If you stay under water without a breathing apparatus, do to the laws attached to your physiology you will die. But these natural laws extend to morality; if you live a life of vice, eventually there will be consequences for you or those who come after you. When you rob humans of their God-given dignity and freedom, eventually those humans will strike back and fight to regain their dignity and freedom.

Ultimately, we should treat humans beings with dignity because they’re human beings. We should pay a fair wage because it’s the right thing to do and we should want to do the right thing simply because it’s right. Now certainly you’re not going to pay a cook in Indonesia what you would pay a cook in the United States. With the difference in economies it will be cheaper to hire a cook in Indonesia. But it’s not difficult to still live cheap while also giving a fair wage to the cook. It doesn’t take a lot of compromise to treat people like people, but it certainly takes a lot of dignity.