The Three Perspectives of Genesis 11:1-9

Matthew Lipscomb

Exercise 8

Old Testament Survey

8/22/12

 

 

 

The Three Perspectives of Genesis 11:1-9

 

 

Perspective One: The World Behind the Text

            Genesis 11:1-9 is perhaps one of the best known bible stories, because it is, in many ways – reflective of the diversity of the modern world and its sundry languages.  But from what kind of world did this text come from? The Oxford bible states that this passage is generally accepted as having come from the “non-Priestly Yahwistic primeval history” – the ‘J’ of the so-called JDEP Theory; which defined the compositional elements of the Torah as having come from distinct sources and times. This academic position, though popular in the early part of the 20th century, has had to make room for other, more nuanced theories which generally advance an aggregationalist theory.

Perspective Two: The World Inside the Text

            The story of Genesis 11:1-9 is essentially one of pride. The events take place after the great flood and are composed of people coming out of Noah’s linage. In the story, the people devise an idea to build a tower that will reach into heaven. It is perhaps, one of the first recorded attempts at a stimulation of the imagination of what might happen, were one able to escape the surface of the earth – at least by virtue of building a tower that was high enough to reach into the area beyond it.  An important question is – what is the real meaning of the text in terms of its form? Is it a literal history – or is it a poetic warning; such as the proverbial children’s tale Jack and the Beanstalk: is what it says about the situation more important then the how?

 

Perspective Three: The World In Front of the Text 

            Biblical literalists and those who embrace the potential for supernatural events can apply the story as a literal history of how the diversity of languages in the world came to be. Those who seek more subjective interpretations, may see it as a warning against the arrogance and presumptive, abstracted humanism of materialist science. If together we are capable of doing anything – are there things that we ought not be doing? Nuclear weapons research, genetic re-engineering of humanity, and the superstring, quantum mechanics of modern Physics – which is probing at the very foundations of time and space – are just a few of the issues that some argue we have no business playing with. For example: prior to the launch of the Hadron Super Collider, the Internet was abuzz with the hand-wringing of prominent theoretical physicists, who openly worried that the Hadron Collider might inadvertently spawn an earth-devouring black hole. Others assured that such a creation was impossible – or at least highly improbably. For others – ‘highly improbable’ and ‘impossible’ were not rhetorically dissimilar enough – especially when the existence of the whole of humanity is taken together. A google search for “hadron super collider black hole” brings to one’s browser the still-ongoing concerns of many, highly education scientists. Capable of anything – have we outgrown the limitations that differing languages impose upon research and the corresponding creativity of science? The Internet and the explosive growth of technology have worked together to rapidly conflate and to sometimes demote to irrelevance differing languages and even the social dynamics that exist between nations and traditions. Recently, a well-known particle and theoretical physicist claimed that he had discovered within the very math of his quantum theory calculations ‘self-correcting computer-like code’ which seemed to show that the very foundations of Time and Space are themselves seemingly evidentially written by a would-be master programmer. Genesis 11:1-9 speaks to a generation that is once again, seemingly building a tower to heaven once more. The question is – is it actually possible, in either subjective or objective terms – and, if it is – what will that look like? The answers are not given in Genesis, but we are provided with the story of a people who thought, even in a crude, pre-historical way, that they could. The nature of the actions that were dealt against them then, were recorded and provided to us. It is up to our own decision to interpret the hows and the ways and the ifs – for our own time.

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Propaganda & Persuasion – Chomsky Study Questions

Matthew Lipscomb

Dr. Heather Palmer

Propaganda & Persuasion, 2/1/2011

Chomsky Study Questions

Part One: Pre-Viewing Questions

 

1) What do you know about Noam Chomsky?
         I know that I do not like him. I have had a bit of exposure to his ideas in terms of my own readings. More decidedly, however, my father was a student in Kent State when the National Guard shootings occurred there on May 3rd 1970 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/

Kent_State_shootings). During vacations to Ravenna, Ohio (where the campus is located and where my dad is from) he would tell us stories about the protests. I have seen the art sculpture that the bullets went through. I know that my mom cried and begged him not to go to class that day – because she had heard that there was a sniper on top of the arts building, where my dad had his class. He told her he would not – but then an hour later – he changed his mind. As he was going out the door he heard the ambulances screaming down the street. He remembered hearing his dad (who worked as a maintenance man on campus, and who had served in the army in WWII) later say that he “knew they were real bullets, from the sound that they made.” I know that the SDS Students for a Democratic Society (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Students_for_a_Democratic_Society) were heavily involved in the agitation of and the demonstrations on Kent States’ campus. Leftist activists (because of its moderate, northern political environment) deliberately targeted Kent. When the SDA came on campus to purposefully foment controversy – they were seeking to deliberately import/transpose the campus radicalism that was ideologically inbred and native to many of the other Western Campuses such as what Chomsky was instrumental in on the west coast. When the violence and bloodshed started – they had all gone back home. I know that Chomsky is a revered leftist icon for his ideology. I know that he considers himself to be some form of anarchist socialist – but I consider him to be an embittered Marxist. I have studied the political left, not just out of my own philosophical & political curiousity – but also because of how it affected by dad. He could have easily been one of the innocent students shot that day.

In regards to Chomsky, I have no doubt that he thought that Vietnam would grow to a great country after the United States’ capitulation. It is still a politically repressed and thoroughly impoverished nation. South Korea is a modern nation, with a modern political system. The North is a ticking time bomb of nuclear and financial desolation. Russia has collapses into a totalitarian state that is trying to pass itself off as democratic and capitalist – but is probably more so neo-Fascist in terms of its evolving form of totalitarian/state-guided Capitalism. China relies on constant brutal oppression to maintain power – as it slowly accepts the power of Free Market Capitalism, while still seeking to retain the absolute state control of the individual – in keeping with Maoist/Marxist Leninist-derivational totalitarianism. All of Chomsky’s political ideas have been relegated to the dustbin of economic history. All he can do is be the equivalent of a canine ‘ankle biter’ – in that he is a discredited nuisance, who serves only to make a career out of criticizing Free Market Capitalism.

 

2) What information do you need to know to fill out your understanding of his theory “The Propaganda Model?
         I cannot think of anything at this present time without creatively trying to make something up just to put here – so in the interest of further authenticity, I will refrain from this.

 

3) What is your overall impression of the Propaganda Model?

 


         I think that Chomsky is guilty of playing ontological chess. By this – I mean that he is shifting epistemological ontologies around to suit his own ideological purposes. Another way of saying this – is that he has a selective view of reality. He is going to tell us all about how to avoid propaganda – when he, himself, is working to propagate his own ideology. This is the most dangerous kind of propagandist. The ‘black’ propagandist who tries to paint himself as being ‘white.’ I do think that Chomsky is useful insofar as he is talking about potential abuses – even abuses that are on going and future-potent. However, the issue is that all of this ‘conversation’ that Chomsky is having is subterfuge in terms of his attempt to propagandize us with his own leftist ideologies.

 

 

Part Two: Viewing Questions

 

1) What do Chomsky mean by “Thought Control? Briefly, how does it operate according to him?
         He believes that there are elemental truths that are all around us but we have been deceived into thinking otherwise by systemized deceit. He believes that there are systems in place to control the way that we thing and interact with the world around us. This is pure hypocrisy on his part. His own system of Anarchy is only sustainable when everybody is completely  ‘on board’ with it. There would be an ongoing effort to ‘reprogram’ everybody  (just as already takes place in Communist “re-education” camps) with the Anarchist-Syndicalist mindset, with its attendant ideological presuppositions.

 

2) Finish this analogy he makes: propaganda is to democracy as x is to a dictatorship.
         “Propaganda is to a democracy what violence is to a dictatorship.”

 

3) What is Chomsky’s opinion of “Common Sense”? –does he  believe the US. citizen has it? What does he mean?
         Chomsky believes that language functions from ‘the unfolding’ of a genetic code. He disagrees with the psychologist B.F. Skinner – in that he does not think that our minds are ‘blank slates’ – insofar as we have an innate capacity to both communicate and understand language. The type of language that is used is secondary to the neurological circuits that exist upon which they are programmed and then henceforth execute their logic. The basic structures of language is therefore present in the same capacity across all cultures and races. He states that he believes in a “Cartesian” common sense – and by this I suppose that he feels that common sense begins by questions that are based on the capacity to think for one’s own self.

 

4) For Chomsky, when is coercion or control justified?
         He felt that there was a justification for what he calls a ‘totalitarian society’ during the time of WWII. He also notes examples of times that a parent may be justified to exert control and coercion over a child. He states that most times, however, that coercion and control are not justified.

 

5) The Title “Manufacturing Consent is taken exactly from what?
         It is the title of one of the books that Chomsky wrote. It initially came from the works of Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion published in 1921.  Lippmann described a revolution in the practice of Democracy, He argued that there has to be a class that is set aside from the public who are specialized in terms of their ability to control and manipulate the masses towards common goals.  My conviction is that that there is a very dark irony here – in regards to how Marxism and Anarchy must have ideological luminaries who convince the masses that that each respective system of politics/economics is suitable and justifiable. Chomsky no doubt sees himself as this exact “special class” who’s responsibility it is to foist anarchy upon us all.

 

6) What is “emotionally potent oversimplification”? How is it used?
         It comes from Reinhold Niebuhr, where he speaks of, “the big myths that keep things in order”. He argues that “Rationality belongs to the cool observer,” in his book Man and Immoral Society. Because of the stupidity of the common man, he follows not reason but naive faith. This naive faith requires necessary illusion and emotionally potent oversimplifications, which are provided by the myth makers to keep the ordinary person on course.

 

7) What Class does Chomsky identify his childhood with?
         Chomsky describes his childhood as a time absorbed in the reading of French and Russian classics. His parents were Jewish intellectuals, whom he describes as being lower-middle class. He says that they very interested in socialist bi-nationalism and Hebrew-Palestinian cooperation. He describes them as being ‘working class’ people.  I suppose that that answer is that his parents were members of the political left.

 

8) Who are the “deciders” in our society?
         Chomsky argues that the “special interests” are the deciders. They are those who are in positions to make the decisions that run the world. He argues that they are a small conglomerate of individuals and  tightly integrated business that constantly and pervasively exert their influence upon the world.

 

9) What is the most important paper in our society, according to Chomsky, if not the world?
         Chomsky says that the most important paper in the world is the New York Times. He argues that they carry a special burden in terms of history. He argues that history is what appears in the New York Times archives. But he asks of us what it the process by which things are decided in terms of the inclusion or certain things within it.

 

10) What is important point about the alleged liberal and conservative bias in the media that Chomsky makes? How do these divisions serve to maintain power relations?
         He argues that whatever supposedly can be called the “liberal” or the “conservative” side of politics – that they still fall within the same framework of assumptions in terms of his Propaganda Model.  He argues that certain streams of thought are purposefully described as being liberal, so that they can “bind” thought into certain constrictures. The liberal presuppositions in the liberal media are therefore ‘sacrosanct’ because to propose anything beyond them would be like “taking off from a different planet”. Thus far and no further – therefore is the presuppositional idiom by which ideology is frames and judged. Major corporations are owned by successively bigger corporation – all of whom resolve their power ontologically into smaller and smaller groups of individuals.  They preserve these liberal/conservative dichotomatic divisions by speaking to the individuals, who are of the ruling class, and incorporating them into a measure of their own exerted power.

 

11) What is the most practical way to make changes to the existing power structure/media nexus?
         Chomsky argues that action that takes direct action against the power structures – such as draft resistance – is a good system of resistance.  He also mentions the power of advertising.

 

Part Three: Post-Viewing Questions

 

1) According to Eli Lehrer, Chomsky’s “ideas about the media are probably his most quoted but are the least plausible of his theories. His analysis is very much that of an outsider who knows relatively little about the media and has scant interest in the subject except to the degree the media subservience serves to explain why there is no outcry against the evils that he sees everywhere in the American enterprise. His theories are based on illogical, flawed, or fallacious arguments.” Do you agree or disagree with this assessment (or at least parts of it)? Why or why not?

       I do agree with Lehrer. My conviction in regards to Chomsky is that he is, for lack of a better term, an inveterate ideologue. The larger issue is that many leftist-leaning activists went back to school and became teachers and politicians. The case of William Ayers is a good example. Ayers was another individual involved in the SDA/Weathermen (Leftist/Marxist/Anarchist Political movements) – who both built and planted numerous bombs. The only difference between himself and Timothy McVeigh is that McVeigh was a capable bomb builder – whereas Ayers was essentially grossly incompetent. I believe that one Weatherman activist actually accidently blew themselves up, while trying to built a bomb. These people were not rational – they were (and I believe remain to this day) blinkered fanatics. Ayers stood trial for domestic terrorism and was acquitted on a technicality – or lack of evidence, or some such nonsense. He famously subsequently said “guilty as hell, free as a bird – America is a great country.” (http://www.city-journal.org/2008/eon1006ss.html). We praise anarchists, Marxist and terrorists as ‘great intellectuals’ – and I take great issue with that.

I will grant that Chomsky has done two things, which can potentially be seen as contributions. The first is that he has identified what are arguably true ideological dynamics within the societal-propaganda matrix. I am not convinced, however, that Chomsky is not operating as a discrete propaganda agent for his own Marxist-Anarchist ideologies. I am well aware that he does not consider himself a Marxist but rather a Anarchist-Syndicalist. I do not buy into the idea that these are some how intrinsically different political ideologies. I consider any attempt to significantly divide them to be an act of sophistry on the part of the one trying to make one more acceptable, given the openly accepted and widely known bankruptcy of the other. They are both stridently anti-capitalist and deny the sociological norms of classes, insofar as their normative forms function within society. They are both irreparably idealist. Chomsky speaks a great deal of the “imagination” – I suppose this is because this is the only place any of his political ideologies actually work.  It is also in his work – within propaganda – that I consider him to be dangerous. In telling us about the propaganda of others – he is offering his own propaganda – which is (in my own opinion) much more dangerous and self-destructive then that which he is seeking to expose.

The second way that he potentially contributes is based on my own Hegelian presuppositions in regards to how ‘the world works’. Hegel believed that everything essentially involves two different ideas  (thesis/antithesis) that contrast with one another to form something new (synthesis). For Hegel – this was a ‘spiritual’ process in which Geist (spirit) was transformed into history – and he referred to this process as an ongoing dialectical process. Marx took the spiritual dimension and gutted it – essentially replacing it with a mindset that only understood materialism (hence therefore known as dialectical materialism), which is completely devoid of any metaphysics by purposeful design. I am apposed to Marxism, but I see the Hegelian Dialectic as a very real force-process at work. In this sense – Chomsky serves as a thesis – in that he is the extreme opposite of a secondary, alternate ideology (antithesis). Perhaps he knows that  he is merely ‘dialectical fodder’ – and chooses to embrace that role. Perhaps he himself embraced the inadequacy and bankruptcy of his own ideals a long time ago – and merely continues on in a sense that he sees fruition through a dialectic – which would therefore presuppose a truly wasted effort on his part outside of it.
2) Lehrer also asserts that  “[Chomsky] believes that all Americans – including the working class whose patron he fancies himself to be – are either too stupid to understand how the media manipulates every aspect of their lives, or are complicit ‘pawns’ who ‘goosestep’ to every whim of the despotic rich.”  Do you think that this is a fair assessment of the arguments we’ve looked at? Why or why not?

         I think that there is a great truth here. I think that there is a profound arrogance on the part of many leftist intellectuals that rivals the religious fervor of any televangelist. This may sound ridiculous on its face – but I submit to you that it is nonetheless a correct statement, insofar as these types of thinkers think themselves to be a form of orthodoxy that bears religious-like devotion and calls for evangelization. Chomsky himself is a crypto-evangelist for anarchism. He is still fighting the battles that he fought on the streets of his youth. Understanding what I know about the politics of the Weimar Republic in Pre-WWII Germany – then it is easy to see how the streets were filled with Chomsky-like thugs. My conviction is that Chomsky, by way of becoming a professor of Linguistics, learned early on of the power of Rhetoric. In this sense – I believe that he has embraced a form of sophistry – which is one of the tools of the Academic Left as well. This can be traced back into the anti-Foundationalist school of Critical Theory, which is – one can argue – merely academically sublimated Marxism. It is a philosophy in search of a foundation – having abandoned that of the external-to-self metaphysical. Self is too prone to bankruptcy – but language can neither defend nor speak for itself (ironically so) and therefore is (in many branches of anti-Foundationalist thought) a foundations in that it goes “all the way down” (I believe that it was Terry Eagleton who actually said this –but it may have been Stanley Fish). This is important, as well – because it shows that linguists like Chomsky (and Eagleton and Fish, and other anti-Foundationalists) presuppose themselves to be on a ‘higher order’ by nature of both their understanding of and commad of the language. Understanding that there is is no foundations outside of language – then there is no concrete guide for any rationality or pragmaticism – as everything resolves back to the importance and power of language. I could argue here (and perhaps will elsewhere) that language is the currency of neo-Marxism.

Bill Ayers – after all – did not become a professor of Economics, but rather English. Conservatives tend to think of Liberals of naïve, but Liberals tend to think of Conservatives as uneducated and ignorant. There is a crucial difference here – I would argue. You make a more significant accusation –  if you accuse someone of being uneducated vs. being merely naïve. You can correct for naivety much easier then you can for a lack of a comprehensive education. Recently, this “uneducated” typology as been used against the Tea Party by those in opposition to it in terms of their unexpected (and unwelcomed) political gains. Adherents/constituents are regarded as back woods and racist. In the recent developments at NPR, two high level executives resigned after a ‘sting operation’ caught one of them saying that tea party members were more or less backward, uneducated hicks. (http://www.ktuu.com/news/la-pn-npr-chief-resigns-20110309,0,7651507.story?track=rss).

What is true about our economy is that greed is king – and that we live in a video-saturated society. There may be generalized trends that can be studied, and it may also be true that many have studied them to their great benefit – but the whole “dot-com” phenomena has proven that you can still create a product to match a need that you either perceive (or create) and then deliver a subsequent product to match it – even if it is ‘off the grid’ in terms of what you would expect. Whatever ontology of power exists from a propaganda standpoint is being flattened, and will continue to be flattened in the future. The power of Facebook is an example of this, especially one taking place under ‘rogue’ circumstances, rising outside of the perceived halls of engrained ‘institutional power’. A second issue is that of the horizontal conflation of the news by ways of the growing popularity of the so-called Blogosphere. In the early days – much information was granted from the main news networks. Now, people get as much news from grass-roots bloggers. If anything – institutionalized networks have lost control of the media. This has been functionally replicated in the Middle East political uprisings – insofar as totalitarian power structures can no longer control (if they ever could) streams of information which are too divested in terms of sources and ways and means of information dissemination. If technology progresses to the point whereby all information, cable, cell phone, tv, internet, all potentially comes from satellites – then even nations, such as China, will be unable to sort and block information on a network level, which with brute force control they still can. This will have even greater destabilization of whatever degree of control anybody ever presuppositionally had.

 

3) According to David Horowitz’ article “Noam Chomsky’s Anti-American Obsession,” he claims that Chomsky’s “mission in life and his everlasting infamy” is to “kill the memory of American achievement along with the American idea(l).” Discuss the veracity of this claim, given Horowitz’s evidence.       

       I agree with Horowitz. I am actually glad to see his work included in this course. I have read his book Destructive Generation, Second Thoughts about the Sixties

(http://www.amazon.com/Destructive-Generation-Second-Thoughts-Sixties/dp/1594030820) several years ago. I also want to read Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey (http://www.amazon.com/Radical-Son-Generational-David-Horowitz/dp/0684840057/ref=sr_1_4?s

=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1300394209&sr=1-4). As someone who has studied philosophy, I am always drawn to those who have followed an ‘arc’ or a path through which they changed their minds based on experience and further knowledge. Horowitz began as an editor to the Leftist Ramparts Magazine, and subsequently followed a path that led to his becoming a political Conservative. In addition to his political commentaries – he has published several award winning documentaries on the Kennedys, the Fords, the Rockefellers, and the Roosevelts (http://www.amazon.com/David-Horowitz/e/B000APT1L4/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1). I don’t think that Horowitz is a hack. He is an accomplished biographer who has an excellent grasp on history both from an ideological and a political perspective, owing both to the biographical books that he has written and his own histo-ideological continuum that he has traversed. I agree with what he terms as Chomky’s “redemptive illusions” in terms of the self-delusion that Marxist and Anarchists must submit themselves to. I agree that he is an “embittered academic” surrounded by “political groupies”. America has become a world superpower, built upon Free Market Capitalism, and – while it is far from perfect – it has brought many up from poverty along with it. The arguments put forth by Anarchists, such as Chomsky for a classless society fly, in the face of human nature. Humanity is inescapably ontologically tribal. It is hardwired into our DNA. Regardless of context, a tribe will form. It has been said that you can take the man out of the tribe, but you cannot take the tribe out of the man. There will be those who refuse to partake in the tribe – and they will self-destruct themselves financially, emotionally, and ideologically. These same ‘drop outs’ force a further “tribe delineation” between those who have (because they have worked hard for it), and those who have not (because they refused to work at all). Capitalism works because it is ontologically concomitant to the anthropologic ontologies intrinsic to a complete and authentic understanding of human nature. It is by nature of this anthro-ontological authenticity that it is pragmatically realist in terms of an objective approximation to the ‘capital T’ Truth of a ‘capital R’ Reality.          Marxism and Anarchism are ideological forms of pseudo-anthro-ontological reality. They are idealistically divorced from how human nature functions from an actual, natural standpoint. One might argue that Capitalism is hardcoded into the DNA of man. Whereas Marxism and Anarchism can only be temporary forced over it. It is in this ‘forced state’ that it is unsupportable in terms of long-term self-sustenance. The anthro-dynamics of self-sufficiency, self-autonomy presuppose any long-term commitment that essentially necessarily entails any form of pervasive existential debasement. If the whole of a person is oppressed for the ‘presupposed good of the group,’ then given the eventually forthcoming revelation-knowledge of the actuality of the aforementioned existential debasement – the individual will seek a break from the tribe and form their own. This is why Marxism and even (ironically so) Anarchism always intrinsically create internal classes (between willing submitters and rebels) and therefore must become totalitarian to enforce ‘rebels’ to rejoin the necessary homogeneity that Marxism and Anarchism require to survive. Chomsky is a purveyor of illusions; Destructive, dangerous, and evil illusions.

I have also studied Gnostic Dualims and Manicheanism, which Horowitz references a descriptor in regards to Chomsky’s ideology, in terms of materialism as being intrinsically evil. I believe that this is actually the key to unlocking Chomsky’s illusion. This is why he sees America as a threat to the survival of the world – because America offers a productive materialism that is divorced from the collective “dialectical materialism” of Marxism/Anarchism. I will refrain from unpacking what I see are logical expression of Gnostic Dualism in other fields, such as that of Religion – where it is often primarily historically identified with its historical namesake – the Manicheans. This same ideological denigration of non-communal materialism is expressed in philosophical modes as well, but that is a digression – outside of arguing that Chomsky’s ideology presupposes any desire to achieve materialist wealth as evil over and against a pseudo-spiritual sense of communal creativity. Nonetheless – in this sense – Chomsky is the perfect example of a political-economically sublimated Manichean Gnostic Dualism:  that any allowable materialism must necessarily resolve back to a ‘spiritual element’ ( which can be read as “shared economic wealth practices’) – and that outside of that – it is just evil. I wish that Horowitz had unpacked this to a greater degree. It is unfortunate that he did not.

I agree that Chomsky plays fast and loose with the facts – such as his recalling of the events that led to Clinton’s response in terms of his missile strikes against factories that were thought to be producing weapons of terror. Chomsky leaves out that these were done at night to minimalize causalities and that they were done in response to the blowing up of two embassies.

 

I find it laughable that Chomsky does not count the attack on Pearl Harbor because it was a “colony” – and the accusations that America is a Nazi twin are just ridiculous.

Chomsky is the result of pervasive “ideological inbreeding” – there is no expression of anything else other then ‘self’; and just as this leads to deformity and non-sustainability in the biological sphere, the same holds true in the ideological. It is this incapability of Chomsky to ‘mediate’ that marks him a cancer: something that cannot work with anything else, but only seeks to perpetually replicate its own broken copy. Chomsky only sees and understands one thing: ‘steal from the poor and give to the rich’ – and all of his work resolves back to that. When he sees America – he only sees the sublimation of that tired old Marxist maxim, by saying that all of America exists to “protect our doctrine that the rich should steal from the poor”.

I also agree with Horowitz that it is not America that is afraid that somewhere in a Marxist/Anarchist run country that they will see a “positive example of successful development”  – but that rather it is Chomsky who has buried his head in the sand – because all around him stand the testimonies of successful Capitalism.

Furthermore – based on my own before mentioned academic studies here at UTC (I am a German history minor, and I have also taken Dr. Anthony Steinhoff’s class – Europe Under the Shadow of Hitler) I agree with Horowitz’s assessment of post-war Europe, in regards to how America completely demilitarized (in comparison) whereas Russia kept two million men in eastern Europe and forced their abominable Marxism upon them by force.

Furthermore – I believe that Horowitz is correct on the Chomsky’s misrepresentation of the United States invasion of Grenada. I agree with what he says about the huge income disparity between Vietnam (a per capita income of $370) vs. that of South Korea ($8,490). I have a good friend who was born in Vietnam – and I once asked him these kinds of questions. He told me that most Vietnamese wish the United States had persevered. They feel that their country would be much more like South Korea – then the impoverished, police state that it is today.

In conclusion – I found it very interesting what he said about Cuba. It is very true that they have free trade with anybody and everybody else in the world besides us – and that they have received massive amounts of aid from Russia. Their only poverty is that they are both denied Capitalism – and, to prove the point (I suppose) they are cut off from any secondary benefits from it. Their poverty inescapably proves the poverty of their own nation. And this – is what must haunt Chomsky – if he his capable of lucid moments – that his own blinkered functionally-Marxist  Anarchism is completely bankrupt – politically, ideologically, and financially – everywhere, for all time, and for everyone who ever has or ever will be subjected to it.

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Discussion Questions for K. Burke’s “Rhetoric of Hitler’s Battle”

Matthew Lipscomb

Dr. Heather Palmer

Propaganda & Persuasion, 3/10/2011

Discussion Questions for K. Burke’s “Rhetoric of Hitler’s Battle”

1) Burke tells us that “Hitler combines and coalesces ideas the way that a poet combines or coalesces images” (158)-explain what he means by this and give examples

Essentially what Burke is describing here is Hitler’s rhetorical skill. Hitler understood that this was critical to the impartation of his ‘message’ and (as a side note, from an alternate historical source [William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich], Hitler is purported to have spent hours watching videos and studying picture frames of himself delivering his oratory. He understood that it was not just content but also style that was critical, in terms of his capability to connect with his intended audience. But all the intensity and theatrics (both visual/speech-related and textual/persuasion writing) are/were not sufficient without a degree of actual content (regardless, for that matter, if the material be sophistic or ontologically defensible). From this perspective – Hitler sought to persuasively write by incorporating various ontological substrates/contextual identifiers and sought to interrelate-intercontextualize them with one another. This endeavor (if successful) results in a transfer of teleological authority in the awareness/attention of the reader-viewer. In effect, the ‘power-posit’ of an idea is teleologically sublimated-transferred from one ontological base into another; the effect of which (for example) is to transfer/translate the power (as represented by the mystery, fear, wonder, love-of, or other subjective/objective-dimensional attributes of the given subject) from ‘one place – into another’ in the continuum of the participant’s imagination. For instance, Hitler incorporated sexuality into his arguments. By doing this – he captured the fear, the desire, the mystery, and the inescapability of sexuality that existed within the listener-reader’s imagination and moved them from one dimension into one of his own engineering – and whereas these ideas served as a emotio-existential ‘power source’ in the previous, contextual substrate (the reader-listener’s sexuality for example) this had the affect of them essentially then becoming the ‘power source’ for the ideological structure rhetorically assembled him (the speaker) within the imagination of the reader-listener. If this is successful – the fear and wonder powering the sexuality of the conversation participant – can power/suffuse their politics. An example of this – is Hitler’s portrayal of the Jew as a dirty old man – laying in wait to sexually defile ‘good, pure, German girls.’  This captures not just the desire to protect the sexuality of the imaginarily contextualized and idealized German girls – but also the subtle and disguised forces of jealousy on the part of young German men.

 

Sexuality is the most base, yet most irresistibly emotive-ethoic persuasional agent for any political/economic/marketing argument – and it is still pervasively used today.

 

A second, and equally powerful component of Hitler’s rhetoric – was that he was able to take elements of the church and incorporate them into his own ‘political religion’ by which he established Nazism as having very strong elements of religious ritualism. It is well known that an integral part of Nazi ideology was the pantheistic hero-worship archetypically resonate with traditional Germanic folk religion. As past heroes were worshiped as pseudo-divine entities, racial supremacy and “blood and soil” archetypes became pervasive and compelling dimensions to the way that Germans saw themselves in terms of global contextualization. They were superior from a divine/creational standpoint – and intended by God to rule the world. The issue was that this was from a Nietzschean “will-to-power” dichotomy vs. the traditional Judeo-Christian ‘strength-through-weakness’ and ‘leadership-through-servanthood’ dialectic(s). The Darwinian-Nietzschean ideology that formed the crux of Nazi political ideology borrowed from the Christian forms and structures and ‘echoed’ their ‘poetry’ through they had a completely different ‘sound’ and ‘meaning.’

Throughout the article, Burke makes the case that the strength of Hitlerian rhetoric is his “unification devices.” He lists several (155-156)—explain how they are used by Hitler and give examples of the following
 

2) Inborn dignity

 

The concept of inborn dignity is the idea that there is an engrained and irrevocable state or essence intrinsic to the human condition. From the perspective of American political history-theory, our own constitution reflects back on this when it says: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…”

 

 

3) Projection device

 

This is an important dynamic from both a religious and a political standpoint.

 

In terms of politics – it is a useful tool for the defining of self, or of the group. This identity is formed from relational differentiation – or a contrast with the other. For instance- Republicans will often describe Democrats as ‘tax and spend’ politicians. In this sense – an identity for the Republicans is formed by nature of the fact that they stand in opposition to the projected character of the Democrats.

 

In terms of religion – it functions in a two-fold manner. The first is from a salvic (or in the case of Christianity – a soteriological) standpoint. In order to save (or change the existent state) the sins (or corporate brokenness) are projected (by way of theology [belief-faith and/or ritual]) onto another entity and/or group. The second is by the incorporation of a separation dichotomy, whereby a dualist perspective is adopted and the division is made between the ‘sacred’ and the ‘profane’.

 

Hitler utilized this dynamic by projecting the Jews as to be the problem (a political device, by referential qualification) but then he utilized both religious dynamics by offering a plan of salvation (via separation), which found its essence in understanding one race to be sacred-superior and the other profane-inferior.

 

 

4) Symbolic rebirth

 

This device builds upon the previous dynamics, in terms that it functionally incorporates them. This is also a part of the religious dichotomy – in terms that a Christian is thought to be ‘born again’ and to find a new life which begins at a definitive and defining point in time. For Hitler, he creates a moment – whereby he claims that Germany can find a new point in her own existence – whereby the old is put away and there is a new political-genetic lineage established.

 

5) Commercial Use

 

An ideology is more or less worthless if it is never intercontextually related: which is to say, if it never makes it off of the drawing board and is applied in some sense or dynamic – it cannot exert any effect or causes upon secondary ideologies and/or dynamics. Hitler was a master at “selling his ideology” to those who would both support it from a financial standpoint (banks, business leaders) and those who vote/fight for it (political leaders, workers, academics). His process entailed the idea of finding a way to make it sellable to a third party. One of the ways that he did this was giving it a marketing potential in terms of how attractive it would be to a potential customer: anyone looking for an ideology to adopt, or essentially consume. By scapegoating the Jews – he was able to put a Germanic face upon his ideology – which made it very fashionable to fellow Germans and tapped into national pride.

 

6) What is the “persecution mania” Hitler is symptomatic of? See page 162. Burke quotes from Freud’s Totem and Taboo—how does it apply to Hitler? Note that Burke tells us that Hitler is forging a new identity—that of the Aryan against the old identity of the Hebrew. How does this fit into the father-son Oedipal dynamic? (persecution of the son by the father)

 

 

It potentially fits into the Oedipal dynamic – but I think that it may be an academic extrapolation/nuance. In my own opinion – there is a tendency within secular-Marxist thinking to try to absolve Hitler of any kind of sense of innate evil – by virtue of having an alternate or non-existent comprehension of it. It is the embodiment of a radical relativism, one that essentially makes Hitler’s problems tangential in some regard; which is to argue that he was not evil or wrong – but merely out of step with a presupposed standard. I once heard a student exclaim that she had “’gotten’ it and understood that everything was simply relative to something else.” And if “Hitler walked in the door of this room – I would kiss him on the lips!”

 

Hitler, by virtue of his contextual relation from his own political substrate, was ‘born’ out of it. “It” was a hot bed of thuggery, violence, national disaffection, doubt in what seemed to be the failure of capitalism and democracy, and a mixture of competing political ideologies from virtually every conceivable spectrum. Hitler is the bastard son of all these – and he carried the doubt (of the so-called ‘other’), the violence and the extreme idealism of communist and anarchist thought, and the radical pride and hope of the German people as defined by unimaginable-to-us-today economic suffering. The only pragmatics employed is the accepted use of violence as both a “handmaiden for change” (Marx) and a continuance of the break from other rules (anarchism). He shares all their DNA, yet they are all out to kill him – and he uses the violence and forms of relativism, absolutism, idealism, and pragmatism as they are present in their natural forms within them themselves.

 

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Propaganda & Persuasion – Benays’ Questions

Matthew Lipscomb

Dr. Heather Palmer

Propaganda & Persuasion, 2/1/2011

Benays’ Questions

 

 

1)How does Bernays defend propaganda?
       Bernays defends Propaganda because he feels that it is a necessary dynamic within our present culture, one that is inescapably critical to its continued stability and propagation. Given the ever-increasing complexity intrinsic to it – he sees it as sort of a cohesive glue that guides and instructs societal participants on a multitude of layers such as (for example) business methodologies, social thinking, and ethical assertions. Bernays labels the entities which control these thought frame-works or established cognitive reference points “invisible governors.’

When does it become “vicious and reprehensible?” Give a few examples.
       Bernays states that propaganda is only “vicious and reprehensible” when it purposefully and knowingly disseminates known lies and/or takes deliberate aim at certain cultural dynamics, which they also know to be generally oriented towards the “common good.”

Examples would include:

A) If Taco Bell, in order to save money on the cost of beef in its tacos were to purposefully replace a given percentage of beef with other meaningless and or useless fillers which are cheaper and offer no additional nutritional and/or flavor enhancement, then this would constitute a direct lie. A Recent suit filed in federal court claims that Taco Bell’s taco meat does not meet federal standards for actually being considered meat. Taco Bell has responded with a counter-campaign, arguing that what non-meat content is there, but that it is strictly for the purposes of flavor and cooking enhancement.

B) If a professor felt an intense hatred for Christianity because his parents made him go to church 3 times a week when he was younger, and he channeled that bitterness into perpetual confrontations with his students regarding Christianity, constantly arguing that Christianity had never done any good anywhere – then he would be purposefully attacking Christianity, not from any true academic standpoint, but only from his own existential and psychological dysfunction.

C) It is an established fact that a certain dynamic exists within so-called “Hollywood marriages.”  If a starlet who is a ‘B’ movie grade actor, experiences a substantial increase in her cumulative market value in terms of her acting potential/ability and movie/tv programming role placement, insofar has she then alternatively becomes a so-called “A-list”  actor, then it is known that with an almost clock-work like predictability, she will “upgrade” her Hollywood marriage, just as she has upgraded her status in the creative echelons of Hollywood. By nature of the legal and social status of marriage, and because it is a generally accepted norm as to make marriages hard to dissolve (as they are generally accepted communally as serious oaths; ‘for better or for worse, through sickness unto death, etc) the necessary employment of lies on the part of the party desiring separation against the opposite party is employed, especially in the event of the potential reticence towards the separative process on the part of the other spouse. Because it is generally understood that a high percentage of accusations made under such circumstances are in fact lies – it is law that such divorce details are sealed because of their often fantastic, spurious and usually thoroughly contrived and imaginative natures.
Noted actress Jeri Ryan achieve significant increase in her market viability through her roles as Star Trek Voyager’s Borg 6 of 9 character, and later role on TV’s Boston Public drama. On august 27, 1999 she predictably divorced her investment banker and then later senate candidate husband Jack Ryan. On June 22, 2004 Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Schnider, by request of the Chicago Tribune and against the express wishes of both Jeri and her former husband, agreed to release details of Jeri Ryan’s accusations against her former husband which included accusations of demanding that she have sex with him in public and his supposed forcing of her to go to various strip clubs, one of which she described as “a bizarre club with cages, whips and other apparatus hanging from the ceiling.” Then-Senatorial candidate Jack Ryan resultantly experienced a profound degree of humiliation and condemnation in the general media – and immediately withdrew his candidacy for the senatorial seat, which was later easily won by eventual-to-be-President Barrack Obama. Obama did not directly address or attempt to refute the actions or the attempts to open the scandalous files on the part of the media, until a week before the judge ruled the files could be opened. Up until that point, various sub-operators in his campaign and related organizational/ideological, political campaign counterparts/so-called ‘talking heads made extensive hay of the rumors and of the supposed necessity for the public need to have access to such knowledge, which, it should be pointed out, was as noted strenuously objected to by both the Ryans because they were concerned with their child and the effects that it would arguably have on them. The Judge, in the end, ruled that it would have no such deleterious effects upon them – and moved to make the accusations open information. As would be argued by some, Obama’s pseudo-innocuously late-to-the-game, grotesquely obsequious grandstanding, effectively shielded him from the collateral damage of being ever seen as directly participating in the controversy, yet afforded him all the benefits of its devastating effects against his primary opponent. Those who pointed this fact out, were – ironically – accused of being inappropriately salacious muckrakers in terms of their own political intentions –by the mere mentioning of any of it, themselves.

 

 

 

2)How does Bernays define “modern propaganda?”
       “Modern propaganda is a consistent, enduring effort to create or shape events to influence the relations of the public to an enterprise, idea or group.” He argues that this change took place after WWI.
In addition to this definition, Bernays argues for a more neutral understanding of the word, removed from its now generally derogatory understanding, which he argues began with the catholic churches use of the term in their own respective missional endeavors.

Why is it essential to our present social organization?
       It is essential because our society functions on a completely different level – as apposed to how it previous did. After the war, the complexity and the respective dynamics changed radically. Before the war, there was a default emphasis on the individual. The massive affects of the war and its organizational dynamics proved to both illustrate and entrap the individual as not just being an isolated unit of influence, but instead a participant in larger, ever converging and diverging streams of social affluence.

How has the practice of propaganda since the war (WWI) “assumed different forms”?
       Essentially, propaganda no longer only looks at the individual, as a cellular or granular component (because of the above paradigm shift) – but rather sees each individual as a member of a larger, interlocking component. It takes into consideration, not just the micro-existential (personal) dynamics, but also more so the macro societal-cultural dynamics in which that given person is inextricably immersed.

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‘Oh, For The Love Of Christ,’ Exploring the Word αγάπη (Agapē) from Within Judeo-Christian Thought.

‘Oh, For The Love Of Christ,’ Exploring the Word αγάπη (Agapē) from Within Judeo-Christian Thought.

 

I love you even if you think that I don’t.

Sometimes I find you doubt my love for you but I don’t mind.

Why should I mind? Why should I mind? What is love anyway?

Does anybody love anybody anyway? What is love anyway?

Does anybody love anybody anyway?

Can anybody love anyone so much that they will never fear?

 – Howard Jones, What is Love?

 

It presupposes a considerable amount of difficulty to broach the subject; one which – among all the words of the English language – must surely be the most complex, nuanced, and even potentially misunderstood word that one can have at ones linguistical disposal: Love. ‘I love you’ seems so much to be an overly-worn phrase – endlessly recycled by pop-stars and poets alike; but as the British 80’s rocker Howard Jones introspectively asks, we must ourselves ask also – ‘does anybody love anybody anyway?’  Beyond the erotic-inhering, lustful passion casually offered up as such by our own culture (eros), and reaching past the feelings sometimes found between members of a community or that which grows between two friends (philia), we find, in the Greek, a term which would seem potentially denigrated by a natural association and subsequent confusion with all the former definitions: Agapē. What is Agapē – and is there a suitable context that we can apprehend, apply, and ascend to it? Within this essay I will attempt to map out a possible course by which these things can be attempted, while comparing and contrasting it within both philosophical and cultural continuities, using the Love of Christ (as understood in the Judeo-Christian Tradition) as a central reference point while engaging multiple contrasting philosophical points of view.

 

Before we can attempt this, however, the question must be asked – is it entirely legal to use the Christian canon (the Bible) as a reference point for understanding Agapē, or is this merely a presumptuous assertion on my part? It is generally accepted that while the understanding of the word is not exclusively Christian – in its definition/nature – the word itself was almost assuredly a neologism (an invented word) created by New Testament writers to differentiate the certain type of love expressed by God for His creation from the sexual and communal types of love understood within their own culture.

 

Agapē, a term much used in the New Testament, was probably coined by the biblical writers, party to avoid the sexual connotations of eros and partly to express a specific form of love that they held to be beyond both eros and philia: a love that is rooted in and issues from God and is to be found specifically within the Christian community wherever this is in a state of spiritual health. (Dictionary of Religion and Philosophy, Geddes MacGregor, pg. 12)

 

If we are to therefore accept that Agapē, as a word, is more or less a Christian term (at least in its origin) then the second question that must be asked follows in line with the last referenced sentence in MacGregor’s definition; what then does a Christian community “in a state of spiritual health” look like?

 

As I write these words, the world is somberly marking the 30th anniversary of the infamous Jonestown Massacre. In the preface of his book Raven, The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People, Tim Reiterman (who was wounded in the air strip attack that killed U.S. Senator Leo Ryan) makes an attempt to address ten “enduring misconceptions” about Jim Jones and his Peoples Temple church.

 

Rather then social misfits, Jones’ followers generally were decent, hardworking, socially conscious people, some highly educated, who were drawn to the interracial church. Many wanted to help their fellow man and to serve God, not embrace a self-proclaimed deity on earth. (Raven, The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People, Tim Reiterman, pg. x)

 

Reiterman’s book’s title Raven, comes from a Jim Jones quote, “I come with the black hair of a raven. I come as God Socialist!” Megalomaniacal imperatives aside, the heart of Jones’ Gospel was one of manifest Agapē; an attempt to build a community on the premise of unconditional love: an acceptance outside of race, gender, wealth, or any other cultural classification. Before Jones began his final descent into madness, thousands thronged to his meetings and politicians cheered him and held him in open close association. Willie Brown, Walter Mondale, Rosaline Carter, and Harvey Milk[1]; all held close ties with a man seen as completely revolutionizing the way that community was seen to be in the light of religious faith.  But even as ‘San Francisco’s gift to the world’[2] was picking up his bible and angrily throwing it across his church’s sanctuary – while verbally denigrating and rejecting it and Christianity as a “fly away religion” – others, elsewhere, also were also eagerly attempting to experience a sense of Agapē for themselves in their own communal interpretations. Indeed, the entire “hippie” generation of the 60’s can be seen as an attempt to find personal peace in the face of worldwide war, unconditional community in a time of social division, personal acceptance in the face of social stratification, and individual freedom in the light of apprehended-as monolithic social constraints. Concomitant to all these endeavors was one single word; the light by which, their leaders either genuinely or deceptively desperately sought to guide their ways to success: Agapē.

 

But in the end, so much of it was merely an elusive dream. A mea culpa admitting such, aptly titled “My Elusive Dream,” can be found, air brushed from the floor to the ceiling, in the sandwich deli, The Yellow Deli, which lies on the fringe the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga campus. Self-professed hippies from the 60’s & 70’s, the leaders of the 12 Tribes religious movement, who run the store, admit to their own disillusionment in their own pursuit of an Agapē-based communal utopia.

 

If Jim Jones instilled an unwavering dedication in his followers to his own God-like/professed personality to exert order and control, the 12 Tribes church uses a interesting mix of Peoples Temple-like shared, closed-loop group socialism, informed by a dedication to a self-styled Judiac-centric Christian theology. Deeply suspicioned as a cult, and practically driven out of Chattanooga at least once before (after several members were “abducted” and sent to “deprogrammers”), the church makes no claim other then that they are essentially the modern-day manifestation of the biblically spoken of 12 tribes of Israel.  Jones and his automatons perpetually spoke of social justice and equality – whereas 12 Tribes, describes trying to “get back to the Garden[3],” in their quest for their own hoped for respective Agapē utopia[4]. With each group, different control/guidance methods were/are used to achieve similarly intended social control over their constituents and those (outside of the community) in direct relation to their affluence.

 

Laura Kipnis in her polemically-geared book, Against Love, argues that Love is itself a system of social control[5]. Kipnis argues that the essence of Love actually serves as an excellent societal control mechanism, in that it is an internally-geared one[6], as apposed to an external force that would try to exert conformity within a given social structure. Whereas Kipnis merely relegates Love to a control methodology, the German philosopher Schopenhauer relegates Love, not as the controlling agent employed by a given person for control of another, but rather as Nature herself, enforcing and maintaining her own edict: that of our own specieial propagation[7]. Nietzsche tried to dig even deeper, pushing aside Agapē  – and the Christianity that tried to define it – declaring that it was nothing more then the exaltation of weakness, and a control mechanism of the weak to control and manipulate the strong. Having deposed the pursuit of Agapē as a foundational existential concept – he tried to replace it with what he termed “The Will” of the individual[8]. In terms of an ontological progression, Nietzsche sought to replace the Christian theological dichotomy with various other mechanisms by which “the will” could be understood, and ascended to. Nietzche sought to use the music of Richard Wagner as a suitable social structure by which he could bring about the “Übermensch,” (roughly translated ‘overman’ or superior person): his neologistic personal archetype for one who had set aside the idea of Agapē, along with the church that had created it. Nietzsche, in The Gay Science, however – seems to acquiesce to notion that humanity is not quite ready for the “death of God.”

This prodigious event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time, the light of the stars requires time, deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than the most distant stars—and yet they have done it themselves. (trans. Walter Kaufmann, The Gay Science, sect. 125)

 

But is God dead yet, in our own present age or is He alive and well? Obviously, it would appear – by nature of the ongoing propagation of best-selling polemical works by writers such as Christopher Hitchens,[9] Richard Dawkins,[10] and Sam Harris –[11] that God is in fact alive and well in the metaphysical fabric of our present society, and that the attempts at His profligation have thus far been unsuccessful – as Hitchens and others seem comfortable to continue engaging in their own Nietzschean attemps to ‘off’ him, as if it is somehow still necessary – perhaps more tellingly – it is still thought possible to do so. Nietzsche and his watchman would be proud.

 

Schopenhauer would consider Agapē to be a mask for other forces, whereas both Kipnis and Nietzsche (and his modern counterparts) would argue that any manifestation of not just Christianity, but it’s attendant and intrinsic concept of Agapē are inherently broken, and that the previously discussed examples of attempts at communally expressed Agapē are merely examples of it’s failure and intrinsic fallibility. But is this a fair assessment? Is it possible to see wholeness even among the weakness, brokenness, spiritual carnage and shipwrecked lives resultant from failed attempts at communal expressions of Agapē such as these?

 

It would indeed seem that the whole affair of attempting to demonstrate Agapē either personally or within a structured philosophy or religious environment is intrinsically potentially fraught with danger. Even those who seek to demonstrate Christianity through a practical and applicable theology that follows along more open, traditional lines – even among their number, there is on certain levels inherent conflict and non-cohesion.

 

Take for instance, the very understanding of the word Agapē; for some it means a literally unbounded, limitless expression of love and forgiveness. Others – attach conditions to it, citing that if it is treated with a casual disregard and token appreciation; it becomes, as coined by Bonhoeffer, “a cheap grace[12].” Within the phone directories of most mid-size cities, it is possible to find a church such as the Congregational Church; which prides itself in the liberal tradition of seeking social justice and equality, and welcomes anyone regardless of race or sexual persuasion. On the same street you might find a Church of Christ congregation; wherein you will find weekly hell-fire sermons regarding just how fast drinking, dancing and playing cards can consign you to the fires of hell. To each congregation, the view is that the other congregation is the one driving the bus straight to hell.

 

This liberal vs. conservative dichotomatic split, according to Helmut Thielicke, in his book The Evangelical Faith – Volume One: Prolegomena, The Relation of Theology to Modern Thought Forms, is nothing less then the churches divergent applications of Agapē, pursuant to their own understanding and application of God’s knowledge and the revelation of Himself in light of our own applied reason. Both Thielicke and later Paul C. McClasson in his own book, An Invitation to Dogmatic Theology – A Canonical Approach, assert that after the Enlightenment’s dawn of Cartesian reason, one group asserted that Agapē was best demonstrated by the exertion of a soteriological – or salvation-centric[13] – gospel, whereas the other side saw Agapē as best manifest in terms of social justice and equality.

 

A very good example of this is the issue of homosexuality. Liberals see the conservative’s definition of biblical Agapē as oppressive, conditional and rules-oriented, whereas the conservatives see the Liberals has embracing a reinvented Antinomianism[14]. This theological divergence can further be seen in a Stoic vs. Aristotelian light, in that Liberals tend to see a God with little or no Anger manifesting in a modern sense. Jesus Christ was a wise-teacher who taught peace and hope and a host of other warm and fuzzy things – a deity (if indeed it is granted that He is seen as such, as some Liberals discount the actual deity of Christ and view him as having value only from with a mythological sense) who has little if not a complete absence of Anger in his personality. Some movements in church history, such as the Manichean[15] Gnostics, considered these stark differences between the Christ of the New Testament and the God of the Old to be so shocking in terms of their revealed character, as they pertain to Anger, that they suggested that the God of the Old Testament was perhaps a ‘demi’ or a lesser God then that of the greater, more truly holy God of the New. Within mainstream theology – an Aristotelian view of God’s potential for having anger is generally accepted, and the opposing Stoicist interpretation largely relegated to the theological dustbin. It should be pointed out, however, that in certain branches of conservative Christianity, great emphasis on holiness and what is sometimes termed “Clothesline Preaching[16],” A high and exacting behavioral standard is often expected; and it is beyond the scope of this present paper to do justice to what this present writer would view as correct vs. incorrect holiness teaching – but it must be conceded, that certain elements within the tradition either directly or indirectly espouse a ‘four minute mile’ approach to becoming a better, ‘more holy’ christian. In it’s extreme forms, an outsider looking in would seem to observe individuals trying to make it a ‘two second mile.’ Even this question in regards to the nature of the personal holiness of the believer, comes back to ones apprehension of God’s Agapē-centric relation to man. Questions related to the salvation of man, for Christians, begin with the sobering realization of a mighty, omniscient God who was swept off His feet by His own creation[17]. Theologians, often when wresting with the heavy-hitting terms like ‘Vicarious’ or ‘Atonement,’ begin with the comment that Salvation is a unique possibility for Humanity within the scope of all Creation[18]; the angels never captured God’s heart in the way that we did.

 

A common refutation to extreme holiness teaching is a reminder that the salvation that is offered to man comes from an Agapē love, which means that while it is not a pie-in-the-sky, carnival candy idea, it is a soul-shaking, beyond belief Love that is anchored in far more then our capacity to earn it or be worthy of it. The Christian concept of Agapē is anchored – in the very character of God.

 

But if the foundations of this place and all places begin to crumble, cynicism itself crumbles with them. And only two alternatives remain — despair, which is the certainty of eternal destruction, or faith, which is the certainty of eternal salvation.  “The world itself shall crumble, but, my salvation knows no end,” says the Lord.” This is the alternative for which the prophets stood. This is what we should call religion, or more precisely, the religious ground for all religion. When the earth grows old and wears out, when nations and cultures die, the Eternal changes the garments of His infinite being. He is the foundation on which all foundations are laid; and this foundation cannot be shaken…This is what we should call religion, or more precisely, the religious ground for all religion.  (Paul Tillich, The Shaking of the Foundations [http://www.religion-online.org/showbook.asp?title=378] )

 

To experience Agapē is to experience something more then the desire to make love to your spouse. It is more then the desire to hang out with a good friend. It is more then the way you would feel if you participate in a neighborhood beautification project. It is the recognition of something that you probably did not deserve, could not have earned, and in no way ever expected.

 

Recently, a co-worker told me the story of a medical lab tech she used to work with in a local hospital laboratory, who was an intensely hateful, bitterly vile person, who blamed every problem in the world on the derogatory term for African Americans. He was an alcoholic who spent much of his time drinking at a certain bar. The only person who ever associated with him there or anywhere, was a black man; a drinking buddy of sorts – who for some strange, perhaps alcohol-induced reason, was a friend to the man; at least within the confines of the walls of the bar. When the lab tech died, he was financially destitute and so despised that no one would come forward to claim his body or even pay for his funeral. Not even his family cared anything about him or wanted anything to do with him in life – or in death. To the absolute shock of everyone, the black man – from the bar – came forward and claimed his body, and paid all his bills; for the hospital stay, a decent funeral and even a respectable place for him to rest – besides the paupers grave he was headed for. Everyone at work was so completely blown way- they were literally speechless. Spontaneously, everyone took up a collection to try to defray the black man’s expenses – which everyone knew was very substantial; so much so that regardless of how much money they contributed, it would only put a small dent in what he had paid out of his own pocket. Had that man been able to look back from the grave – he would have seen Agapē love. He would have seen something incredibly extraordinary – if not out of this world: a love that was unconditional and in no way something that he even remotely deserved.

 

I have come to believe that if Schopenhauer is right, then life is merely a grueling, mechanized existence, made merely superficially tolerable via an illusory veneer that the hard realities of life are perpetually scraping off. I am convinced that if Kipnis is right, we are not just in a factory forever controlled by ones more crafty then ourselves, but we are also terminally resigned to a permanently selfish existence. If Nietzche is right, then I am among all men to be most pitied – not just because I have placed all my faith in a non-existent deity, but also because I am relationally autistic[19] and therefore I am not only just intrinsically weak, but – regardless of how strong a will I possess – I am terminally incapable of even trying to control those who would be considered “the strong,” were I even to attempt such a task. If Seneca[20] is right, then I must surely see a rope in my future, as to have embraced a concept such as Agapē, only to see it revealed as a farce, it is a despair that I know I would never be able to overcome.

 

In closing, I ask the forgiveness of the reader, for the gross over-simplification of the following story; which to fully recall and relate, would necessitate far more space and time then this present endeavor allows for here. Approximately 7 years ago, I left the church that I had more or less grown up in, an Assemblies of God affiliated church, to join an independent, non-denominational church that many of my closest friends had already been attending for about 7 years themselves. I joined the church, and began serving as their sound man, at the continued request of an Associate Pastor, whose name, he would request I probably not use. I found the main leader/head pastor of the church enthralling and found myself listening to more and more of his sermons. Having grown up my whole life in the AG church, and having spent countless hours debating the finer points of theology with friends, I had begun to find most pastors sermons shallow and boring. His were deep and complicated and I was deeply drawn to his teaching. The church and its affiliates were essentially their own denominational structure, and he was seen as the leader of all of them. I also had a close female friend, who was a secretary at the church. Unknown to us, the head pastor, began to attempt to pursue a sexual relationship with her. Eventually, she confided this reality to the associate pastor. Without counting the cost – he immediately confronted the head pastor. The associate pastor was removed from his position, and the church was essentially destroyed in the aftermath. The head pastor continued to enjoy acclaim and a steady following among those who both knew the reality of his sexual darkness/manipulation, and those who did not. Many simply chose not to care. The associate pastor became a pariah and an anathema within an amazingly interconnected maze of circles of relations and influences. Through careful and amazingly crafty, insidious means – the Associate Pastors Ministry was essentially destroyed. Today, he works for the Department of Human Services, and ghost writes books and sermons for some of Chattanooga and the surrounding areas most influential and well-known pastors. But as a pastor himself, he has virtually no pastoral ministry anymore.

 

The politics of personal destruction at work within the situation that unfolded was such that my mind and heart were both numbed and shocked to see and experience it: all that was done wrong – and all that was done right. All that should have never happened  – but all that did. All that no one in the world deserved to go through. A young woman, sent to a psychiatric hospital because she had convinced herself she was “Satan’s tool to destroy churches.” My own business – overnight – suddenly struggling to keep our doors open, because clients no longer wanted to even talk to us. The pain and disillusionment cannot be written in such a way as to even remotely, adequately describe it.

 

But I saw.

 

For in a moment, I saw it all – all as a great illusion, and religion and church as vain and deceptive ways and means of controlling weak people, conspired by those who are strong-willed, personality-capable and intelligently resourceful. I saw brokenness, weakness and absolutely shipwrecked lives. But through my own tears, and the tears of all the others who likewise survived; I saw something that restored my hope. Something that – in many ways, perhaps – is the reason I can still go to church, have faith, and still believe in my religion, my hope, my God, and most of all Love. I saw a man. I saw a man who chose to lay down everything that he had gone to undergraduate school and then seminary for years for, worked very hard for, and valued greatly: his job, his church, his respect & his reputation. I watched him lay it all down, to protect one – innocent – lamb – that he loved. I saw, and for the first time genuinely understood the weight of a word that early church fathers had tried so hard to express to a disbelieving, self-absorbed, controlling, altogether lost world: I saw the Love of Christ. I saw Agapē.

 

And maybe love is letting people be just what they want to be.

The door always must be left unlocked.


To love when circumstance may lead someone away from you.

And not to spend the time just doubting.

What is love anyway, does anybody Love anybody anyway?

– Howard Jones, What is Love

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

 

 

MacGregor, Geddes. Dictionary of Religion and Philosophy. New York, New York: Paragon House, 1991.

 

Reiterman, Tim. Raven, The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People. New York, New York: Penguin Group, 2008.

 

My Elusive Dream. Chattanooga, TN: 12 Tribes, 2008.

 

American Experience. Jonestown – The Life and Death of Jonestown. New York, New York: PBS, 2006. DVD.

 

“Asperger syndrome.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 23 Nov 2008, 01:22 UTC. 24 Nov 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Asperger_syndrome&oldid=253506224>.

 

Jones, Howard. What is Love? What is Love?, 1993. CD.

 

Theilicke, Helmut. The Evangelical Faith. Volume One: Prolegomena, The Relation of Theology to Modern Thought Forms. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmands Publishing Company, 1974.

C. McClasson, Paul. Invitation to Dogmatic Theology, A Canonical Approach. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Brazos Press, 2006.

Tillich, Paul. The Shaking of the Foundations. New York, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1955.

 

Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Gay Science: With a Prelude in Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs. Translated, Walter Kaufmann New York: new York:Vintage Books, 1974.

 

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. New York: Macmillan, 1966.

 

 


[1] PBS American Experience: Jonestown – The Life and Death of Jonestown (http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3625536419231928674)

[2] This descriptive epithet is not my own. Unfortunately, I am unable to recall/locate the author who coined it. It is meant to emphasis that Jones was very much a part of the San Francisco political/religious scene, and in many ways, it was the culture and attitudes of San Francisco that provided a fertile environment wherein Jones could, at least for a time, build his self-serving cult under the appearance of both Christianity and Social Equality; all of which were ruses that he employed for his own means. Jones can be seen, here in this sense, to be a Nietzschean “Übermensch,” in that he was capable of using forces around him to control the weak and exert his will to his own purposes.

[3] My Elusive Dream, pgs 35-42.

[4] Both the mural and the tract that 12 Tribes hands out (which is associated with it), make reference to Thomas More’s Utopia.

[5] Against Love, Laura Kipnis, pgs. 35-41

[6] Against Love, Laura Kipnis, pg. 26

[7] Schopenhauer, pgs. 71-72

[8] Nietzsche For Beginners, pgs 68-77

[9] Author of God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

[10] Author of The God Delusion

[11] Author of Letter to a Christian Nation

[12] “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

[13] See proceeding footnote comparing Justification theology with Antinomian Theology.

[14] A theological term associated with theology that emphasizes a “no rules” approach to morality or biblical principles. The natural opposite of an Antinomianalist Theology would be one of Justification or Atonement Theology; which is an emphasis on the necessity for identification with Christ and his work on the Cross which grants Salvation. Antinomianism generally believes that Salvation has already been granted, and there is no process that is necessary, nor guidelines to be followed to attain/retain it. Sometimes associated with Universalism, which teaches that Christ’s sacrifice covers the sin of all mankind regardless of acceptance, faith, and obedience to the idea. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antinomianism)

[15] An early form of Gnosticism, founded by a Gnostic named Mani.

[16] A term used to describe preaching against wearing jewelry, makeup, watching television, drinking alcohol, playing cards, watching movies, and/or women wearing pants.

[17] It is the orthodox Christian view that the Song of Solomon is a love song between God and his Creation.

[18] There is, for example, no ‘plan of salvation’ for the Angels – only Judgment, Condemnation, and eventual destruction for those who rebelled against God. We are told that the Angels themselves look upon God’s Agapē for humanity and the plan of salvation He set aside for men and women with absolute utter amazement. (cf. Matthew 25:41; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6)

 

[20] Seneca, On Anger, Book 3, pg. 92

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Wrede (On Paul and the Law; Viewpoints in the ‘New Perspective on Paul’)

Wrede – 11/3/2011

 

Wrede spends the bulk of his time discussing the nature of Christ as it relates to Paul’s doctrine. For Wrede this means examining ‘the Person’ and ‘the Work’ of Christ’.  For Wrede, this is central to understanding how Paul functions within and outside of Judaism, in terms of what he feels is two central issues in Paul: his Doctrine of Redemption and his opposition to Judaism.

In terms of criticism, I believe that it is overreaching for Wrede to state that that today there is no one who understands Paul’s thoughts “in the sense in which they were really meant.” I also find fault with Wrede’s overt modernism – in terms of his presumptuously painting Paul as pervasively superstitious in terms of  his belief in spirits. This is specious reasoning.  Furthermore, I believe that Wrede accuses Paul of crypto-Docetism when he accuses Pauline theology as presenting Christ as “an impalpable phantom”. Wrede also seems to hint that Pauline theology has shades of Gnostic Dualism – in that it is all about transferring one’s spiritual awareness into a “suprasensual region” and that Redemption is more then just “liberation from the body” but also being “freed from the bonds of the body and from the earthly world.”             I also disagree with Wrede when he says that “The whole picture of redemption has something impersonal and cold about it.” I believe that if it is so, for Wrede – then it is consequential to his overt Modernism, and his own understanding of theology as being devoid of any allowable mysticism and/or a classicist-medieval Weltanschauung. Wrede writes of the “remoteness of modern thought from that of Paul.”  I believe that it can be argued that it is not Paul who needs to be moved out of a non-Modern context – but rather Wrede needs to reassess his own Modernism.

 

Word Count: 300

 

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Rudolf Bultman (On Paul and the Law; Viewpoints in the ‘New Perspective on Paul’)

Rudolf Bultman – 10/17/2011

 

 

Bultman is essentially defined by two rubrics: Existentialism and Demythologization. Existentialism can be seen as a method of correlating the self to the given context, whereas Demythologization is understood to relate in terms of finding the discursive truth-essence or the meaning behind something as it relates to the implied context. These serve as the foundation for both his thought and his hermeneutics.

For Bultman, the Law is “the totality of the historical given demands” as it soteriologically & contextually relates to the individual.  The ‘discursive truth-essence’ of the Law is that sin (in contextual, existential relation to humanity) represents man’s attempt to “undergird his own existence in forgetfulness of his own creaturely existence” and, secondly, (because he is already existentially broken in terms his relation to the Divine) he is “always already a sinner” and “already involved in a falsely-oriented understanding of his existence.” The “subjective despair” of the law functions only in light of an understanding of Grace in terms of any (allowable) pedagogical role. Once Grace is understood – any teaching ability of the Law, must be exclusively limited within that rubric, thus any ‘schoolmaster’ concept is inadmissible.

A suitable soteriological teleology must function within a Grace-to-Faith-to-Righteousness progression; where works may allowably be seen as fruits of salvation – but are not ontologically integrated into an understanding of salvation in an of itself. Thus ‘receiving life,’ ‘exclusively through grace,’ can be seen more so in the essence of being “rightwised.” Any ‘striving for righteousness,’ in Bultman, is contextually and existentially secondary to an internalized desire to be sovereignty declared as being righteous by God – outside any eforts, on the part of the individual to find, earn, or gain it, in an organized or self-contingent manner.

In terms of his method, Bultman’s emphasis on the existential and the innate subjectivity of so-called ‘discursive truth-telling’/demythologization are always potentially problematic and can be seen as creating theologies that are too overtly anthromorphologically-oriented and thus potentially misguided, in terms of an objective description.

 

 

 

 

Total Word Count:  329

 

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J. Louis Martyn (On Paul and the Law; Viewpoints in the ‘New Perspective on Paul’)

J. Louis Martyn – 11/3/2011

 

 

Martyn’s focus in this essay is to attempt to unpack an understanding of Pauline Doctrine through an apocalyptic rubric. Initially, Martyn’s approach is to go through the traditional methods of Pauline Theory – followed by a respective, concluding rebuttal. Martyn terms those who came into the churches that Paul is addressing as “visiting evangelists.” Most of us can recall such individuals who came and spoke – and potentially referenced doctrines that did not completely square with previous things heard from the same pulpit. This is – essentially – what Martyn argues has happened to the churches that Paul is writing to.

Martyn describes this ‘corruption,’ as “The circular exchange and it’s corruption of the Two Ways.” By two ways, Martyn means the stark contrasts spiritual death or life. The circular exchange is Martyn’s terms for ‘this for that’ exchange between God and Man, in terms of salvation. Martyn takes a radical stance on grace – disavowing any type of effort on the part of man, in terms of him helping himself in relation to God’s salvation.

Martyn, instead, moves us forward to what he refers to as the ‘God’s good news as apocalypse’ whereby he highlights Paul’s incorporation of an eschatological dualism – or the idea of their being an ‘old, sinful and broken order’ being radically replaced by a ‘holy, righteous and whole’ one.  As a central thesis Martyn states: “The root problem is not or sins, but in the power called the present evil age, for the present evil age has the strength to enslave us, indeed to enslave us all.”

In a deft synthesis of theology and literature, Martyn tells the story of Mrs. Ruby Turpin’s encounter with an albeit grotesque & world-upending, but nonetheless, penetrating encounter with redemption – in Flannery O’Connors classic story “Revelation.

One critique of Martyn is that his view may seem to demean the idea of a ‘goodness of creation’ or – “a life and life more abundantly” hope for this present world.

 

Word Count: 325

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Krister Stendahl (On Paul and the Law; Viewpoints in the ‘New Perspective on Paul’)

Krister Stendahl – 10/13/2011

 

 

The crux of what Stendahl is speaking of in this writing is the importance of taking into consideration what might be termed “the modern mindset,” in regards to the general practice and style of traditional biblical hermeneutical interpretation. Stendahl argues that Augustine can be considered the first modern theologian, in that he articulated his own anxieties in his writing and sublimated them into this thought – giving rise to the modernist tradition – best typified by an archetypical internalization of piety. Given Augustine’s time as a Manichean – one can argue that that time/phase in his life continued to be pervasively influential – especially in regards to sexuality (which he is generally accepted as having had a far too condescending view of). Thus, such a view is potentially problematic in the larger scheme of things.

 

The question of modernization, however – is not to be readily dismissed. Rather, the appropriate use of such a tool – is a better question; especially within a use-standpoint. When does a ‘tool’ become a ‘foundation’ – or vice-versa?  And when (if ever) is it legitimately appropriate? Stendahl has an agenda and an argument – the question bears merit: is Stendahl confusing his ‘tool’ for his ‘foundation’?

 

I would argue that it may not necessarily be “striking” (as Stendahl puts it) that Paul never urges Jews to find in Christ the answer to an anguished conscience. It believe that it could be argued that there are corresponding tautologies in Paul’s rhetorical language that suggest otherwise.

 

Stendahl offers several challenging assertions in regards to how a modernist-influenced internalized piety has a hermeneutical consequence.  But, equally important, other conjectures can be equally posited: given the eschatological urgency and the important, albeit limited church structure of the early church – wouldn’t an externalized view be naturally, contextually prevalent? With the modern church as diversified in style and pervasive in presence, the focus would (arguably, by nature of sheer overload) switch to a more personable nature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total Word Count: 321

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James D.G. Dunn (On Paul and the Law; Viewpoints in the ‘New Perspective on Paul’)

James D.G. Dunn – 10/27/2011

 

In James Dunn’s treatment of Paul, he offers a new path similar to E.P. Sanders – whom he states is the only author, in the last 20 years, to truly be worthy of having ‘broken the mould’ of past Pauline studies.  He notes his unity with Sanders, in regards to Sanders assertion that the Judaism that is historically caricatured in conventional Pauline studies is false. Dunn notes how easy it is to read Paul’s depiction of Judaism as being “coldly and calculatingly legalistic”.  That said, he moves on to Sander’s view: that the law has been given by God as a representational framework for a through which a covenantal expression was affirmed in the lives of Judaic believers.  For practioners of the Judaic tradition, the law was not as much how one got into the Judaic faith, and the covenant that went along with it – but rather, how one remained inside it.

While he does praise Sanders, Dunn criticizes him for not doing more. He argues that Sanders has been one-dimension in his critique of the Lutheran Paul, in that he only concentrates on the differences between what Paul seems to say about Judaism and what our conventional, historical understandings of Judaic religion say. Dunn argues that Sanders ultimately fails to make full use of his own innovative method.

Dunn begins his argument with Gal. 2.16. Dunn points out that the justification that is referenced here, seems to portend a future event – one not yet transpired.  Dunn goes into detail regarding the rites and traditions of Judiasm – which are understood as ‘works of law’ – as they relate to the religious identity of the Jewish believers and serve as ‘badges’ which represent God’s covenant grace. Dunn concludes by arguing that Paul is arguing for a separate identity of Covenant relation – one that comes from faith in Christ.

 

 

 

Total Word Count: 305

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