Links Post 21/01/2017

Some links from the past week.

John Milbank: What Liberal Intellectuals Get Wrong About Transgenderism

So two controversial points about transgenderism follow from this. First, that we are not talking here about simply the discovery of “another” minority condition that demands recognition and emancipation, but rather about a necessary extended footnote to the rendering of homosexuality as the new norm. For once we give equal status to attraction towards “the same” as to attraction towards “the other”, we have already rendered sexual difference a subordinate irrelevance.

Secondly, that the contradiction I described earlier is still there: “transgender” oscillates between being merely a matter of choice, and being something unchosen, something lodged in a presumed non-pathological soul.

Andrew Perriman: 16 Reasons for Thinking that the Conversion of the Empire was at the Heart of NT Eschatology. Controversial but stimulating thesis.

The Real Problem With Hypocrisy

Once you understand moral criticism this way, you can see why people feel deceived by hypocrites. In another set of studies, we found that people viewed hypocrites as dishonest—more dishonest, in fact, than people who uttered outright falsehoods. Remarkably, hypocrites were rated as less trustworthy, less likable and less morally upright than those who openly lied: e.g., characters who wasted energy after explicitly stating that they never wasted energy.

It seems to me that the widespread character of the belief that politicians are generally hypocrites can help us to understand why people might prefer a politician who is patently a liar.

Donkeys, Alexander, and Christ

New arrival completes chain of first British family spanning six generations

The cultural evolution of trousers—part 1, part 2

Blindsight eye contact

The Institution of Ideology in Sociology

Recent changes in LGBT demographics

First Three-Parent Baby Born to Infertile Couple

Autism Risk May Arise from Sex Specific Traits

Gender Equality Can Cause Sex Differences to Grow Bigger

Against the Renting of Persons, a conversation with David Ellerman

Shakespeare in the Bush—trying to explain the meaning of Hamlet to West African tribespeople

The Blank Slateism of the Right

People who betray Jesus can still teach us about being Christian. Scorsese’s ‘Silence’ shows us how. Interesting discussion of the subject from Elizabeth Bruenig.

For $8,000 this startup will fill your veins with the blood of young people

Will Zuckerberg run in 2020?

The Antiheroine Unveiled. Stimulating reflections on the character of the antiheroine, as distinct from the female antihero or female villain.

12 words peculiar to Irish English

How Antarctic bases went from wooden huts to sci-fi chic

Origins of Atheism: “Modern atheism did indeed emerge in Europe in the teeth of religious, i.e. Christian, opposition. But it had only a limited amount to do with reason and even less with science. The creation myth in which a few brave souls forged weapons made of a previously unknown material, to which the religious were relentlessly opposed, is an invention of the later nineteenth century, albeit one with ongoing popular appeal. In reality . . . modern atheism was primarily a political and social cause, its development in Europe having rather more to do with the (ab)use of theologically legitimized political authority than it does with developments in science or philosophy.”

Early Transhumanism

God, Gift, and Sacrament

Look and See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry


Incredible trick shot in Bristol sports bar:

North Koreans Try American BBQ

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
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17 Responses to Links Post 21/01/2017

  1. WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

    the antiheroine piece had me thinking of Beckinsale’s turn as Susan Vernon from last year’s Love & Friendship. Caught that last year and ended up binge-watching everything Stillman’s done.

    • Yes, she’s a great example! I love that film: I watched it at the cinema and bought the DVD too. Whit Stillman is great more generally. I watched Metropolitan a couple of weeks ago.

    • Ian Miller says:

      That’s a fascinating idea, though I think Lady Susan is pretty clearly a villain. She has no vulnerability, and key to Mann’s archtypical conclusion, she clearly loves herself quite well. (Also, Stillman is fantastic – I still haven’t seen Barcelona, but I’ve seen all the others – particularly love Metropolitan and Damsels in Distress, after Love and Friendship.) (also, it’s possible that you agree that Lady Susan is a villain, and the article was just a trigger to thinking about her.)

      • WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

        I nearly wrote that Vernon can be read as an antiheroine or a villain in the Stillman setting but that Austen’s story doesn’t leave room for doubt. Still, I read Richard Brody’s rave about L&F last year where he seemed to think Vernon was genuinely the heroine of the tale. I can see villain and antiheroine but not hero for Lady Susan.

      • Ian Miller says:

        I am not convinced that Stillman really gives Vernon more virtue than Austen, though he does give her more room to play and be enjoyable in her wickedness. I think I read Brody’s review, and I firmly disagree with the idea that Lady Susan is the hero. She’s triumphant, but she does not accomplish anything good intentionally. She’s a moral Jar-Jar Binks – any good to come of her actions is either accidental or completely unintended.

  2. Eric says:

    Shakespeare in the Bush was delightful.

    “You tell the story well, and we are listening. But it is clear that the elders of your country have never told you what the story really means. No, don’t interrupt! We believe you when you say your marriage customs are different, or your clothes and weapons. But people are the same everywhere; therefore, there are always witches and it is we, the elders, who know how witches work.”

  3. cal says:

    The 16 Reasons the NT predicts Constantine was interesting, but I found his hermeneutic severely reductionistic. I understand historical context, but if the NT is solely predicting the judgement of the Greeks (expanded to Romans(?)) rather than thinking about Gentiles wholly, does that not make the Bible lose any sense of urgency after 314 (being short-hand, I guess, for Theodosios who really sealed the deal)? There’s probably a way to expand it typologically, rather than a hyper-historicist lens.

    And the Milibank article was frustrating. He has interesting insights sprinkled through an other-wise stupid diatribe. When he gets his wife to stop being a priestess, then I’ll listen to his complaints about gender-bending and liberal comfort.


  4. Ian Miller says:

    The antiheroine piece is really quite fascinating. I find Regina Mills, the Evil Queen from the generally awful but occasionally very interesting Once Upon A Time, to be a fairly strong example of an antihero type, focused too much on themselves, and finding redemption in learning to care about others instead of her own desires. On the other hand, Jules from My Best Friend’s Wedding seems like she could very much be an antiheroine in Mann’s mold.

  5. Physiocrat1 says:

    The blank slatism of the Right is a largely accurate although I suspect a caricature of Rand. Following this what’s needed is a theory of the scope, geographically and intensity, of one’s responsibilities and thus responsibilities to others.

    The anti-heroine article was interesting although I’m dubious of the widespread appeal of the role. It could be the examples used in the essay but I’d just find them obnoxious unlike many anti-Heroes – my wife, I’m sure would agree with me. Lady Susan could well be an anti-heroine but my wife fell asleep 30mins in and I also stopped watching- we didn’t return to it.

    • Ian Miller says:

      I think you’re absolutely right about the appeal of the anti-heroine, since it was so hard for the writer to come up with examples or an archetype.

      • Physiocrat1 says:

        What I find interesting is that my wife has a more visceral and negative reaction to the female characters exhibiting the traits cited in the article than I do.

      • Ian Miller says:

        That makes sense to me – in my experience with fandom, the female fan tends to be more invested in a male character with strongly attractive traits, or in a female character who is fairly open to identification with for vicarious relational and ability sensation. A female antihero is often very specific, and thus not very open to identification.

  6. bethyada says:

    Not so certain the hypocrisy article identifies why such behaviour is annoying. Firstly, hypocrisy seems to be more than not practicing what you preach. Paul noted that some preach the gospel out of envy and that, motives wrong, at least Christ is preached. I am not so sure that we struggle with hypocrisy when we find people fail to live up to what they claim.

    I think the issue is more in the condemnation aspect. And that hypocrites do more than just fail to live their morals. Rather that they exempt themselves from the rules for specious reasons while asking others to abide by them. It is as if you and they are being judged in the same court for the same thing and they are the judge. Then they condemn you and acquit themselves.

    It is an attack on justice. Not so much an issue of honesty: that they falsely claim their virtue; but an issue of injustice, where they demonstrate that they are in fact an unjust person and yet take on the role of judge and jury.

  7. WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

    bethyada, I think I agree about the condemnation aspect.

    Over the years I’ve concluded that the possibility of hypocrisy is likely for all of us. We can all espouse ideals we fail to live by. But what the piece on hypocrisy tried to articulate is, or my impression is that this is the thing, what we often describe as a hypocrite is someone who exercises a double standard. Very often what we find people objecting to is not the “hypocrisy” of partisans on the left and right but double standards. In describing what the hypocrite does the article gave us a description of a double standard. If you espouse an ideal that you fail to live by and admit you’re failing to live by it the reason you’ve exempted yourself from being a hypocrite happens to the extent that you admit you’re failing but have not given up on the ideal.

    Someone who is failing to quit smoking but is trying won’t look like a hypocrite for telling someone else to stop smoking, but someone who tells someone else they must quit smoking for health reasons but smokes themselves and is fine with this because he/she is convinced it won’t do them any meaningful long term harm is exercising an explicit double standard. Since that was a punchline in a Scrubs episode that one’s pretty easy for me to remember as an example.

    • quinnjones2 says:

      Hi bethyada and Wenatcheethehatchet, I have had similar thoughts about the condemnation and judging aspect. I am also interested in your example of smoking, WtheH. I am an ex-smoker and I wish I’d never smoked in the first place. I know that ‘give up smoking!’ is more easily said than done and that is what I say to friends who still struggle with this addiction. I know one person who was dying of lung cancer (and also still ‘dying for a fag’!) whose doctor told him to smoke as much as he wanted because the potential physical harm of continuing to smoke was probably less that the potential harm of the stress from nicotine-withdrawal. What eventually gave me the push to stop smoking was my keen awareness that my body was God’s temple and that I was being a very poor steward of this God-given gift. It was God’s patience and love that helped me – condemnation did not help me one iota.

    • bethyada says:

      Agreed. I find it interesting that Jesus extended much grace to those who sinned but knew that they shouldn’t, yet was very hard on those who were hypocritical.

      I think that Christian leaders should not lead when they sin for that reason: that they are not in a position to denounce sin (and the related reason that they may start to care less about their own sin).

      If we denounce people in an area we need to have dealt with it previously ourselves (though encouraging others to leave sin while admitting we struggle I think is allowed). This is the point about specks and logs is it not?

      • quinnjones2 says:

        Yes, I think that is the point about specks and logs.
        I am mindful of these words from James: ‘If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.’ I think all of us, including Christian leaders,are ‘broken vessels’, people who are not without sin. I prefer to be around people who acknowledge this, though I don’t expect anyone to provide us with a detailed catalogue of all their sins – I’d probably be bored to tears if they did! The more I think about the word ‘hypocrite’, the more I wonder what it means exactly. I’m not sure whether or not this is an example of hypocrisy:
        Several years ago I heard a sermon on John the Baptist. The preacher opened by saying that John was ‘strange’ . He then described people known to us (mainly former members of our church) who, in his opinion, were ‘strange’. After a while I became impatient and I wondered if the preacher would include himself in this list of ‘strange’ people – if he had done so, I would have found his words more convincing. I also wondered if the preacher would ever get round to talking about the scripture passage. He did eventually, and I think his point was that God’s ways are not our ways, and that God works in people we may not rate too highly. I sat in church thinking that this was a rather strange sermon, but I said nothing about it later to the preacher. Was I, in remaining silent about this, guilty of hypocrisy?

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