Dickishly Reformed

This is my growing collection of anecdotal exchanges and musings about the perception and the reality that outspoken champions of Calvinism are douchebags. The most active social circles of a staunchly archconservative New Calvinism and the Reformed tradition nowadays attract and retain a distinctly high concentration of insufferable jerks.

1.

Me: It’s illuminating how everyone I meet in American Christianity knows precisely what I mean when I say “dickishly Reformed” to describe the flavor of Reformed Christian that I don’t want to be. The solution is as bad as the problem when it comes to archconservative Reformed people pushing back against anything and everything. It looks a lot like people ruled by emotion to me. On both sides.

Friend: It’s because “Reformed” is just a brand of consumerized Christianity that means Christianity for mildly autistic, reasonably well-educated, middle-class assholes. Almost no one I know who is Reformed whose parents (or grandparents if they are young people in a Reformed family) were Reformed. It’s a commodified consumerist brand as much as evanjellyfish megachurches.

Me: I’m stealing all of this for a new blog post. 😀

2.

Friend: Why does Reformed theology attract more than its fair share of argumentative men, especially young men? You know what I mean.

Me: I’ve said before that the archconservative Reformed camp is a personality enclave. It may not be a question of who it attracts as much as who it repels. One reason may be that only men who are exceptionally high in disagreeableness and low in negative emotionality can psychologically handle the Reformed doctrine of God’s providence and predestination and everything which flows from that. The toughest view of God may require the toughest temperament of men to bear it and defend it.

3.

Much like law enforcement, the Reformed tradition has a blesséd tendency to attract and produce a disproportionately large number of upstanding courageous defenders of the Faith. As a result, its influence on church and culture alike far exceeds its numbers.

And much like law enforcement, the Reformed tradition has a curséd tendency to attract more than its fair share of megalomaniacs and bullies. And when you watch the Reformed online world, it’s a big fight between whose version of megalomania is going to win.

God Creates Dinosaurs III

In my introduction to this series, I presented my thesis. The Jurassic Park movie series is about the sexual revolution in Western culture. De-extinction of dinosaurs is a symbol. It represents an unnatural, hubristic, and dangerous act perpetrated by man in rebellion. The motto “God creates dinosaurs” captures this conviction. This use of scientific power for consumerism is a metaphor for the sexual revolution. And the everyday signs of the sexual revolution are pervasive in the plots of the movies. They reinforce the connection. And the agency of functional family saves the day.

Signs of the Sexual Revolution in The Lost World (1997)

The movie opens with a rich family and their yacht crew anchored and vacationing on the beach of Isla Sorna. Mr. and Mrs. Bowman are squabbling over little daughter Cathy. She leaves their sight and is attacked by compsognathuses.

The story transitions to Dr. Ian Malcolm responding to a summons. He witnesses another rich family feud over control of the InGen Corporation. It’s another fight over that which has been birthed and its fate. And as we know about InGen Bioengineering later in the movie, their motto is:

We Make Your Future

What an ominous comment from those in the business of manufacturing this metaphor for the sexual revolution.

Nephew Peter Ludlow is maneuvering to seize control away from Uncle John Hammond. InGen “has been on the verge of chapter 11 ever since that incident in the park.” Some in corporate leadership want to exploit the dinosaurs on Site B as assets to bail the company out of debt. The corporate moneymen want to get back in the business. And we all know “sex sells” as they say.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Hammond’s new direction might not be the redemption he’s hoping to find. He’s “gone from capitalist to naturalist” in a very short time. And this may represent not so much a change for the better as a change for an other. When he presents his plans in light of his new philosophy, the following exchange ensues.

John: Don’t worry. I’m not making the same mistakes again.

Ian: No, you’re making all new ones.

Hammond made a name for himself with the de-extinction of dinosaurs. And that turned out to be a disasters. Now he wants to make a new name for himself with the preservation of dinosaurs. It’s as if what now is must be good and worth preserving simply because it is. As though somehow now it has the status of a thing resulting from the natural course of the natural order. Its mere persistence in our world has normalized it.

Ian, still the voice of warning about the unnaturalness of it all, says this move is no better than the last one. And he rebukes John for endangering more people after having caused the deaths of others.

You want to leave your name on something? Fine. But stop leaving it on other people’s headstones.

Following the symbology, perpetrating the beginning of sexual revolution was bad. And Ludlow’s vision for a second wave of sexual revolution is bad. But Hammond’s vision to preserve the results of the first wave as if they’re now good is also bad. Once a bad thing has gotten a foothold, that doesn’t make it a good thing.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

There’s the struggling family dynamic of Dr. Ian Malcolm, his daughter Kelly Curtis, and his independent girlfriend Dr. Sarah Harding. They pull together as a family, and it saves them through the films’s dangers in a manner similar to Dr. Alan Grant and the Murphy kids in Jurassic Park. Not much need to belabor that point.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Dr. Sarah Harding is a prominent figure for exploring key themes of the sexual revolution in our society. She tests female agency and the struggle and status of women coming into the working world shaped by men.

Harding has a feminist chip on her shoulder. She sees herself as a heroic challenger in the academic world. Her colleagues are rivals. Their work is an outdated obstacle. She wants to prove dinosaurs were nurturing parents rather than vicious lizards. And this seems laid out along lines where men as men are the purveyors of the old view. So there is either an irony or a fitting inevitability in this situation. A woman who’s not pursuing motherhood herself is arguing for idyllic motherhood in her research. This irony sets up a further irony (the reversal between human and dinosaur) in the fabric of the movie.

There’s a moment where Sarah’s struggle in her male-dominated working world becomes most clear. Sarah, Ian, and Nick are in the mobile headquarters dangling off the cliff. The vehicles plummet to the ocean below. The three ascend the rope in the pouring rain and darkness. Sarah takes the lead. She’s the first to reach the ledge. She pulls herself up over the rim. And who’s there waiting at the clifftop? Bending down (condescending) with an outstretched hand to pull her the rest of the way? Roland Tembo. The great white hunter. The man. And his company of men. The flashlight’s in her face, i.e. the spotlight is on her. And her look is one of frustration, exhaustion, and failure.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So, let’s face it. There’s only one intact functional natural family featured in this film. And it’s the Tyrannosauruses. The parental behavior of Mama and Papa T-Rex drives much of the plot in the movie.

Harding draws special attention to the importance of tyrannosaurs as good parents. She wants to stick it to fellow paleontologist and rival Dr. Robert Burke by name. He’s the one who called the T-Rex “a rogue who would abandon its young at the first opportunity.” By a happy coincidence, Burke’s on the island advising the InGen rivals who are rounding up dinosaurs. The parental behavior of the tyrannosaurs leads to Burke’s eventual death by Mama T-Rex. A poetic end to a man of the old order destroyed by his foolishness?

That parental behavior proves to be very reliable throughout the film. Roland relies on it to trap his prize, Papa T-Rex. Ian and Sarah rely on it to recover the rampaging father on the streets of San Diego. It gets Peter Ludlow killed as Daddy teaches Junior how to hunt.

One of the final shots of the film is Mama, Papa, and Baby Tyrannosaurus reunited at last. They’re together in a field like it’s a picturesque afternoon picnic in the park. Happy T-Rex family life has been restored.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It’s not in the movie, but there’s a noteworthy point about animal parenting in the novel. The velociraptors are the premier examples of dinosaurs lacking parenting. They have no social skills. These lab-grown clones never had a family and a community to impart their natural order to them. And they’re killing each other because of it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Roland Tembo the big-game hunter gives the moral of our story. His long-time hunting companion Ajay Sidhu has been killed by velociraptors. The hunter has tranquilized the male tyrannosaur he intended to kill. He turns to leave. He and Ludlow exchange words.

Peter: There’s a job at the park in San Diego if you want it.

Roland: No, thank you. I believe I’ve spent enough time in the company of death.

Roland has seen what happens with these de-extinct dinosaurs and figured out where all of this will lead. The pursuit of ongoing sexual revolution is a death wish.

God Creates Dinosaurs II

In my introduction to this series, I presented my thesis. The Jurassic Park movie series is about the sexual revolution in Western culture. De-extinction of dinosaurs is a symbol. It represents an unnatural, hubristic, and dangerous act perpetrated by man in rebellion. The motto “God creates dinosaurs” captures this conviction. This use of scientific power for consumerism is a metaphor for the sexual revolution. And the everyday signs of the sexual revolution are pervasive in the plots of the movies. They reinforce the connection. And the agency of the functional family saves the day.

Signs of the Sexual Revolution in Jurassic Park (1993)

In the beginning, Dr. Alan Grant is averse to having kids. He’s not fond of being around them. He’s annoyed by them. He finds fatherhood to be inconceivable (pun intended) in his case.

Then, John Hammond’s grandkids (Tim and Alexis “Lex” Murphy) enter the picture. The kids are spending the weekend with Grandpa, because his daughter is getting a divorce.

The guests all set out on the park tour. The power goes out. And the tour vehicles idle in the tropical storm by the tyrannosaur paddock.

InGen attorney Donald Gennaro flees the tyrannosaur in terror. He abandons the Murphy children in the SUV. Lex reacts by repeating in a panic, “He left us. He left us.” This is an obvious allusion to the traumatization caused by the divorce of her mom and dad. “He left us. He left us.” Every man in charge of the kids leaves them to save himself.

After the road attack, Lex is still hysterical. “He left us. He left us.” Dr. Grant has to man up, look her in the eyes, and assure her, “But that’s not what I’m going to do.”

Dr. Grant spends the rest of the film living into the call of surrogate father to Lex and Tim. In doing so, he becomes more competent. He gains confidence and affection for children. He teaches them the ways of life as they navigate the wilderness of the park. He protects them all the way to the end. Lex and Tim nap safe and sound in Alan’s welcoming arms on the helicopter to the mainland.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Then we have the curious conundrum of Dr. Ian Malcolm. He’s the mouthpiece in this movie giving us the moral of the story. And yet he’s no hero in this narrative. His life is that of a man who’s bought stock in the enterprise of free sex and easy divorce. And his crippled condition later in the movie links him to his lecherousness and serial infidelity.

Does he have children?

Me? Oh, hell ya. I love kids. Anything at all can and does happen.

Is he married?

Occasionally. Yeah, I’m always on the lookout for a future ex Mrs. Malcolm.

Malcolm loves having children. But he doesn’t seem very enthusiastic about giving them a stable home life. He’s a guy who can’t make marriage work. And he gets injured and has to rely on others to save him.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And then there’s the case of Dr. Ellie Sattler. At times, she’s the voice of motherhood.

She taunts her partner Alan about his disdain for children. And she expresses her desire to be a mother. She takes a shine to Lex and Tim and continues her games prodding Alan with the help of the kids.

Ellie and John have a heart to heart over melting ice cream and fond old memories. They express typical male and female ways of responding to the crisis. John wants to act and control the chaos. Ellie wants to feel her way through the chaos rather than trusting in cold reasoning.

And yet there are occasions where another voice comes out of Dr. Sattler’s mouth.

Malcolm makes his quip.

God creates dinosaurs.
God destroys dinosaurs.
God creates man.
Man destroys God.
Man creates dinosaurs.

Sattler adds to it in a manner that amends the original meaning.

Dinosaurs eat man.
Woman inherits the earth.

In Genesis 5:1-2 (cf. Genesis 1:26-28), we read the following.

In the day that God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them mankind [i.e. Adam] in the day they were created.

But Sattler extracts Woman out from Man as though Woman can stand apart in this way. Her quip is the “Woman destroys God” counterpart to Ian’s comment “Man destroys God”.

On two occasions, Sattler ventures out to do something dangerous.

The first time is when she goes with game warden Robert Muldoon to rescue the group stranded in the park. She announces she’s going. And no one thinks anything of it. It is what it is. Ellie is being a helper. Good work.

The second time is when she goes to turn the power back on. She and Hammond have an awkward moment about who should be the one to go. It draws attention to the question of “sexism in survival situations”. And by doing so, the viewer must consider everything that follows in light of that question.

What is the significance of Robert Muldoon providing cover for Sattler in the jungle? And what of the velociraptors all being female? And what about “clever girl” in this context? And what of an old man and a crippled man arguing over who’s right in guiding Sattler to her goal? And most chillingly of all, what is the significance of Sattler almost electrocuting the Murphy children in ignorance? A woman with good intentions who went out to do a man’s work endangered the children unbeknownst to her.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

At the climax of the film, the sexual revolution eats itself alive as tyrannosaur collides with velociraptor. Alan, Ellie, and the kids escape Rex vs. Raptor under the rotunda and race to the Jeep out front with Hammond behind the wheel. Grant (as the dad in this functional family) and Hammond (the visionary architect of this theme park) have an exchange.

Alan: Mr. Hammond, after careful consideration, I’ve decided not to endorse your park.

John: So have I.

They’ve rendered their collective judgment on this allegory for the sexual revolution after nearly being destroyed by it. And being more like natural family was their salvation.

God Creates Dinosaurs

If you pay close attention, you’ll notice a book lurking around in two different scenes in Jurassic World (2015). Zara Young picks up Zach and Gray Mitchell at the Isla Nublar dock. Then she’s sitting behind the boys and reading this book on the monorail from the dock to the main complex. It’s also lurking on Lowery Cruthers’ desk in the control room. It’s the book God Creates Dinosaurs by Dr. Ian Malcolm.

I’m surprised Jurassic World employees are reading this book or are permitted to read it. But I enjoyed seeing it foreshadow the inevitable breakdown of the new theme park.

This title alludes back to Jurassic Park (1993). Dr. Malcolm, Dr. Grant, and Dr. Sattler are watching for the tyrannosaur with bated breath. Then Malcolm quips:

God creates dinosaurs.
God destroys dinosaurs.
God creates man.
Man destroys God.
Man creates dinosaurs.

Ian Malcolm’s phrase “God creates dinosaurs” becomes the motto for his thesis. The use of genetic engineering to bring about the de-extinction of dinosaurs is unnatural, hubristic, and dangerous. Mankind has wielded power to do things we have no business doing. And we’ll dehumanize and destroy ourselves in the process.

This is exactly the problem in the real world with another exercise of power. De-extinction of dinosaurs stands as a metaphor for something much closer to home in our culture. And the signs of this problem pepper the plots and the characters’ lives in the film franchise. It links the unnatural creation of dinosaurs by mankind to this pervasive cultural problem in a way that’s profound and not coincidental.

The Jurassic Park franchise is about the sexual revolution. And when I’ve explained this to you, you’re going to slap a facepalm and wonder how you never noticed this until now.

Long ago and far away … Okay, after college and elsewhere in town, my father-in-law and I would watch films once the kids went to bed. Afterward, we’d discuss cultural themes at work in the flicks. By 2:30 AM, we’d usually solved the world’s problems for the week.

We observed how the original Jurassic Park trilogy contained a lot of dysfunctional family dynamics. Also on display were the duties, expectations, and places of men and women in the modern social order. This trend has continued in Jurassic World and Fallen Kingdom. Men, women, and children are in social distress, dinosaurs look to be the death of them all, and forming functional family structures saves the day. Our confrontation with the natural order run amok catalyzes this transformation and redemption.

The bold and defiant act of cloning dinosaurs and everything that results is an allegory. It’s an allegory for the sexual revolution and its repercussions. It’s about divorcing sex, marriage, and procreation from each other. About commodifying sterile sexual activity and commercializing child-making. About every sort of reproductive intervention and artificiality to create (or not create) children. About blurring the lines of male and female spheres of activity. About muddying up male and female agency. About human life in the modern world contrasted with human life in the natural world.

Think about it. Why clone dinosaurs? Entertainment. It’s the only effective motivation to fork over the funding. You could try to be noble and say it’s about research and scientific knowledge. But Dr. Henry Wu the chief geneticist tells you there’s nothing natural about this. And he knew this from the beginning. In the original novel, he even argues it would be a feature rather than a bug. He wants to make the dinosaurs less real, less natural, by making them more stereotypical to conform to our uninformed prejudices. Dr. Wu wants to create unnatural dinosaurs to be what we want them to be, not what they where when God created them. And we are to think of them as natural because they fit our fantasies.

You clone dinosaurs for the same reasons you precipitate a sexual revolution. To denature nature and convert it into a commodity for our pleasure-seeking consumerism.

In the posts ahead, I will show how this plays out film by film.

Stottlemeyer der Denker

So, I promised earlier to tell the tale of my nickname “Stottlemeyer” as it was bestowed upon me by a mailman. And I keep my promises. Except when I don’t.

During middle school, a family living down and around the block adopted me into their fold. I spent a lot of time hanging out with two of the three brothers. One is a year older than me; the other is two years younger than me.

I haven’t kept up with that family as well as I should’ve in the past couple of decades, but I still hear from them.

The parents declared me the most favored son when I washed dishes after supper. I did it to show up the native-born sons who whined about having to do the dishes. (My friends could tell how I still wash dishes to shamelessly curry favor with people. But I digress.)

Anyway, the mom and dad in that family both worked for the U.S. Post Office. The dad was a rural mail carrier. He was very skilled at driving on the passenger side of a truck for easy access to roadside mailboxes. During my time around their home, my Adopt-a-Pop noticed I was a rather awkward and brainy little thinker or philosophizer. It didn’t take much for “Aaron” to become “Aristotle” coming for him.

But eventually, I had been “Aristotle” for so long the nickname had become bland. Things needed a little spicing up. So in good Germanic fashion (as befits the older South Dakota immigration patterns), I gained a Germanic employment surname as a new nickname. I was “Stottlemeyer”. (FYI, stottlemeyer means a tenant farmer or a wholesale merchant as best as I can tell.)

So, in the Spirit of Stottlemeyer, I leave you with these parting words. Ancient wisdom from philosophizers of old:

To do is to be.
– Socrates

To be is to do.
– Jean-Paul Sartre

To be or not to be.
– Billy Shakespeare

Dooby dooby doo.
– Frankie Sinatra

Scooby dooby doo!
– Scooby Doo

Yabba dabba doo!
– Fred Flintstone

Hey, hey, hey! Ay, Boo Boo?
– Yogi Bear

Aaron the Baron

For a brief period in my childhood, I thought I was meant to grow up to be a pilot. Not a modern pilot, mind you. A gentleman flyer of the days long past. An ace of the air with goggles, scarf, and a flashy crimson biplane.

For heaven’s sake, how did that happen?!

Well, I was six or seven years old or thereabouts. I was hanging out in the evenings with my dad at his tavern called the Hitchin’ Post.

Yes. That’s right. A grade-schooler. At a tavern and liquor store.

Does that alarm you? Hmmm. Then, it may be a bad time to mention that on Saturday mornings, my little sister and I also used to open the place up with our dad. My job was restocking the packs and cases of beer in the coolers.

Oops.

Anyway, I was at the bar. A couple of my relatives (Uncle Steve and his cousin Lil’ Earl) would shout out “Aaron the Baron” whenever they saw me. To this day, I assume it was nothing more than an easy rhyme to them.

And I consumed lots of Red Baron® pepperoni pizza at the time. I also like how the little pepperonis curl up into these diminutive bowls filled with pools of shiny serene grease. And I’d usually eat the pizza at home while playing with my Lego® stockpile.

But I digress.

So, “Aaron the Baron” plus Red Baron® pepperoni pizza equals future in early twentieth-century aviation. Even as a little child, I could form strong associations from the most tenuous connections. And I still do!

Yes. You’re right. There was no educational point at all in anything I’ve said here. Your point being?

Tune in next time to find out how I got the nickname “Stottlemeyer” from a mailman.

When Shame Swirls

Bwūsh. Sounds like a toilet flushing, doesn’t it? That’s an apt word-picture. It’s the Hebrew word for shame. Feeling or being human sewage.

Shame is a peculiar thing. It entered the world through Adam’s sin as guilt’s twin brother. I’ve heard attempts to parse the difference between guilt and shame. I’ve heard some say, “Ashamed is what you feel; guilty is what you are.” I’m not convinced by that. Guilt is both a legal status and a feeling about that legal status. I can be guilty and feel guilty, be guilty and not feel guilty, or not be guilty and feel guilty. The same goes for being shameful and feeling ashamed as I see it.

Shame is an experience correlated with the condition of nakedness and humiliation. It’s about feeling existentially threatened or exposed in the midst of vulnerability. It’s about feeling a crippling sense of worthlessness. A sense of being human garbage. It’s meant to correlate with behaving like human garbage. And as sinful creatures, it goes hand in hand with exposure to a Holy God.

Not so long ago, a friend recommended a sermon by a guest pastor hoping to encourage me. The topic of the sermon was the grace of shame. After hearing the title, my emotional state bounced between apoplexy and despondency. I may have been more receptive to the notion if a life lived had not already conditioned me against it. And the biggest turnoff to me was the particular pastor and church culture that promoted it.

It’s taken me a while to appreciate the idea of the grace of shame. I also realize it’s playing with fire. It sounds wrong. And it should on its face. If we speak of the grace of shame, we should also speak of the grace of guilt, of suffering, of death, and of sin. And actually, we can do that in the same way.

But let’s be clear. Shame, guilt, suffering, death, and sin are not good things. They’re not good in themselves. They’re bad things. The only way in which these bad things are grace to us is when our loving Heavenly Father turns the bad occasion for our good. Otherwise, they’re no different than the worldly sorrow that produces death.

A sense of shame about that which is shameful which prevents shameful deeds is a harsh mercy. Better the restraint of shame than the practice of shameful things without shame.

Shame is for the shameful who lack the knowledge of it. Shame is for the lawless outside Christ. It would be the saving grace of God for them to experience their shamefulness and turn in repentance to find mercy.

Shame is not for those who are in Christ. Not for those who look to Christ to deliver them from shame, because they know shame. A believer may still do a shameful thing, and the grace of God in that moment will call that believer to repentance through recognition of the shame of that deed.

But if believers are living under a cloud of shame, then something is wrong. And it’s not necessarily something wrong with them. Addressing such shame is as delicate and skilled as addressing doubt, despair, and sorrow. Thickheadedness will not suffice. Telling fellow Christians racked with shame that they could use more in their lives is additional torture. And shaming a brother or sister in Christ with a shame complex is shameful.

If a Christian wishes to encourage a fellow Christian about the grace of shame, he or she must be graceful and gracious. Or grace is no longer grace.

When fellow saints feel trapped in life’s toilet, don’t flush.