Enough with the “Guns Are Like Cars” Analogy! You’re Embarrassing Yourself!

If you want proof that opponents of gun control live in an ideological bubble, take a look at Exhibit A:

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Only people who limit their conversations to like-minded people would think this meme is clever, because it only takes a half-second of critical thought to trace the logic of this argument. If guns are like cars, then here’s what that would mean:

  • People could only use guns if (1) they were of a certain age, (2) passed a written exam to get a gun-learners permit, (3) spent several hundred hours on the range with a licensed gun owner, (4) and had to pass another written exam and (5) a gun-use demonstration with an official county representative before being granted a gun license.
  • Gun licenses would need to be renewed every few years.
  • The state would set limits on firing rates and police would hide at gun ranges and fine those who fired too quickly or who used their gun carelessly.
  • Judges would be able to revoke the gun licenses of those deemed unfit to use them.
  • Guns would be subject to federal safety regulations.
  • Guns would be subject to annual county excise taxes to cover the cost of licensing them.
  • Gun owners would be required to pay insurance on their weapons in the unlikely event of property damage, injury, or even death because of a firearm.
  • Guns could not be fired without being unlocked by their owners.

 

Dang! Not even the #marchforourlives folks are calling for such strict regulations. I applaud the US Concealed Carry Association for taking such a firm stance on common sense gun control legislation. If only every gun ownership group were as progressive!

Arm the Teachers! Are You F*@king Kidding Me!

Screen Shot 2018-02-16 at 4.56.26 PMTake a look at this cartoon! We are pretty much the only country in the world seriously talking about turning educators into a freak’n swat team. What the hell, America? What. The. Hell?

Check out the steely-eyed gaze of the teacher, presumably staring down the assailant just off frame. That is utter bullshit. It says a lot about the ignorance (or malevolence) of the cartoonist. At least the person posting this acknowledges that it is not enough to arm teachers. They must be trained. But in order for that training to be effective, they would need to train the way military and police do. It is not enough to spend a few hours at the range. When the bullets start firing, the reptilian brain takes over. One becomes all fear and adrenaline. Police and soldiers drill the same procedures over and over again because they know that that is what is essential to survive in a crisis situation. During a firefight, when life and death are on the line, pulling the trigger needs to become a reflex. You need to bypass the brain altogether. A lot of people seem to have bypassed the brain permanently.

Let me just remind everyone again of how ridiculous this is.

I am not sure what can be done about it, though. I wish I knew. After Sandy Hook, I thought we had a chance to pass the kinds of gun laws that work in every other country. I thought maybe the gruesome mental images of children bleeding out, calling for their mommies, would galvanize some people into changing their minds.

Nope.

If anything, conservatives just got more radicalized. At a state, local, and national level, laws have been passed that make it easier for people to purchase and carry weapons. The reasoning is that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. When is that going to start working, exactly?

Right now I am just angry. Cynical and angry. This is not a good place to be long term. But it is where I am right now. How do you have a discussion with someone who values their ideology over evidence? I don’t know. I wish I knew the words to say, but at the moment, all I can do is scream.

 

There’s No Sex in Your Violence

The pleasure that satisfies lust, qua lust, is not the enjoyment, physical or otherwise, of the awesome beauty of another person as the creation of God, because lust is based on pride, and pleasure in someone else’s being as God’s gift to them is rather pleasure in humility.

I have been thinking a great deal about Augustine’s theology of sex in light of all the various scandals involving powerful men and their abuse and intimidation of women. I worry that we may be focusing on all the bad apples to the neglect of the bigger problem of how we think about human sexuality as a society.

Augustine basically said that sex is sinful. Actually, it is more complicated and nuanced than that (check it). The problem, he said, is not sex itself but the way sexual pleasure “activates” pride. The Augustine scholar John Cavadini put it well when he wrote:

To fault Augustine in this context for not realizing that “sexual pleasure” can enrich a couple’s relationship, or to assess Augustine’s views against our own more “positive” view, may be, with all due respect, to beg the question. For Augustine, the question would not be whether sexual pleasure can enrich a couple’s relationship, but whether there is any sexual pleasure possible without a taint of violence or complacency (“self-pleasing”) in it. The question would be, what are we taking pleasure from? Pleasure, as Augustine is at pains to point out, is an affair of the soul, not the body. The pleasure that satisfies lust, qua lust, is not the enjoyment, physical or otherwise, of the awesome beauty of another person as the creation of God, because lust is based on pride, and pleasure in someone else’s being as God’s gift to them is rather pleasure in humility. For example, can we say that any act of sexual delight is completely free from smugness, from self-admiration, from the slightest hint of “self-pleasing” in the mastery of the “skill sets” of popular magazines, in the thought that one is an accomplished, or at least halfway decent, lover? Violence includes the admiration of power or ability as power or ability. [Emphasis mine.]

Continue reading “There’s No Sex in Your Violence”

Liberals Should Stop Mocking Martyrdom

Far be it from me not to point out when “my people” do or say something stupid or evil. But just as irritating are liberals who would rather make fun of conservative Christians than try to understand them. 

In the wake of the Texas mass shooting, RawStory posted an article with the subtle, and not-at-all mocking title, “Conservative writer: God was ‘answering prayers’ of Texas victims by letting them get shot.” Yes, “Step right up folks! And witness another ridiculous Christian saying something ridiculous!”

Of course, the original column was pretty ridiculous. It was naive and insensitive. Far be it from me not to point out when “my people” do or say something stupid or evil. But just as irritating are liberals who would rather make fun of conservative Christians than try to understand them.  Continue reading “Liberals Should Stop Mocking Martyrdom”

Academe Needs More VSA

 

As some of you know, my money-making job is basically something like an assistant to the academic dean at a summer boarding school for gifted high schoolers. It’s called Vanderbilt Summer Academy. In short, in the fall I recruit a diverse crew of academics to geek out about their respectively disciplines for a few weeks; in the spring I help them turn that geeking-out into a syllabus; and in the summer I do observations, feedback, and general support. It is about 18 months of work for about 6 weeks of magic. And the academy needs more of it.

The magic I am referring to is not the magic of learning. It is the magic of taking all those people you interviewed—engineers, theologians, writers, mathematicians—and having a few beers with them after work, or sitting with them around the lunch table, and listening to the conversations unfold. The thing about academics is that we are naturally curious people, but we spend most of our lives focusing our curiosity into a narrow set of problems or questions. There is nothing quite like watching the enthusiasm on a historian’s face as an environmental engineer talks about water polymers.

 

It is worth noting that Vanderbilt has a robust culture of interdisciplinary collaboration. Believe it or not, when you are a biologist studying antibiotic resistance, it helps to know a chemist. Even informal collaboration has a creative benefit. We all need to get outside of our own heads every once-in-a-while. During the summers, the faculty I work with have very little time to do their own research, yet they keep coming back. There are a number of reasons for this. Most of them say that working with our students helps them fall in love with teaching all over again. Their students are also very creative, and so a lot of our instructors come away with new ideas for their own work. I would also like to think that those lunch and happy hour conversations have a lot to do with it. At least, they do for me.

Knowledge is its own good. It is divine. I believe this is something most academics intuit (even the atheist ones). The natural enthusiasm that comes from conversations experts have with peers from other departments and other disciplines feels a lot like worship in some ways. It is an eschatological event of sorts. The kingdom of God comes to earth…over beers.

A Letter to My Sister on Her Birthday

Dear Toni,

Or shall I call you “Joan”? Sometimes it’s both. You are 37 now. And you are four months pregnant. Dude! For the record, I have this other open letter I’ve been working on, about how I think about you and pray for you when it comes to your new status as a mom. I just cannot seem to find the words. I have been struggling with that lately—finding the words—especially the closer I feel to a person. I guess it is that the closer I feel to someone, the more I appreciate the mystery that they are. The more depths and layers I see. They become more dynamic, less two-dimensional. Hence my struggle writing something to you. You are very dynamic.

I just want to thank you for making me a better person. You may not know you have. Most of us don’t realize the difference we make in other people’s lives, for good or ill. You have made a very good difference in my life, very good indeed. Apart from the fact that I just plain admire you, over the years you have also helped me to be more compassionate. You helped me to be more patient. You have helped me to face down some demons that I would have rather ignored.

There are a number of fond memories I have of you. Two of them stand out. I remember the night we left Indy. You and Dan helped us pack. You were crying. We had just gotten closer, you said, and now we were moving away. I think that was the first time I saw you cry as a grown-up. Then I think about when you made me cry as a grownup. You sent me a text and asked me to pray about something; I think it was the first time you had asked me to do that. I understand why. When I found Jesus in Junior High, I became kind of an asshole for a while. I felt like we had gotten over something when you asked for my prayers. I did pray for you, by the way, and I still do. Often. Pretty much every day. I’ve been asking Joachim and Anna to watch over you; I have asked the Mother of God to give you wisdom. I have asked St. Nektarios to intercede for you as well. He is credited with at least one fertility miracle. He was also pretty badass, like you.

Apart from my prayers and this post, I haven’t got you a present yet. You always get me such good gifts. You are so much better with that than me. I always struggle. What do I get the girl whose interests and tastes are so beyond me? What can I get you that you need and would appreciate? (Breast pump?) I will come up with something. It will be late, but I know you are okay with that, because you’re cool like that. I want to try to get this right. (Dan, if you are reading this, help!)

For now, Happy 37th birthday! You’ve not yet reached half of your life-expectancy! Congratulations! And my God grant you many, many years!

With love from Tennessee,

David