Ayn Rand on Homeschooling



While exploring a bit of American literature last year, I stumbled onto a topic that many folks today would call “homeschooling.” I was surprised by the author who provided the occasion: it was Paul Ryan’s preferred sage, the extravagant Ayn Rand.

I have inferred from Jennifer Burns’ outstanding autobiographical work on Rand (Goddess of the Market, Oxford, 2009) that Rand’s cultish authoritarianism, her drugs, her infidelity, and her own irrational rage—while protesting anti-rationality—have not entirely eclipsed  her greatness, and her legacy they never could (you might recall Ted Turner’s 248 billboards asking, “who is John Galt ?”).  Perhaps some social conservatives will consider the truth of this suggestion after venturing the following passage from Atlas Shrugged (page 785 in my Plume by Penguin, 1999):

She often saw them wandering down the trails of the valley—two fearless beings, aged seven and four.  They seemed to face life as she had faced it.  They did not have the look she had seen in the children of the outer world—a look of fear, half-secretive, half-sneering, the look of a child’s defense against an adult, the look of a being in the process of discovering that he is hearing lies and of learning to feel hatred.  The two boys had the open, joyous, friendly confidence of kittens who do not expect to get hurt, they had an innocently natural, non-boastful sense of their own value and as innocent a trust in any stranger’s ability to recognize, they had the eager curiosity that would venture anywhere with the certainty that life held nothing unworthy of or closed to discovery, and they looked as if, should they encounter malevolence, they would reject it contemptuously, not as dangerous, but as stupid, they would not accept it in bruised resignation as the law of existence.

“They represent my particular career, Miss Taggart,” said the young mother. . . . “They’re the profession I’ve chosen to practice, which, in spite of all the guff about motherhood, one can’t practice successfully in the outer world. . . . I came here, not merely for the sake of my husband’s profession, but for the sake of my own.  I came here in order to bring up my sons as human beings.  I would not surrender them to the educational systems devised to stunt a child’s brain, to chaos with which he’s unable to deal, and thus reduce him to a state of chronic terror.  You marvel at the difference between my children and those outside, Miss Taggart?  Yet the cause is so simple.  The cause is that here, in Galt’s Gulch, there’s no person who would not consider it monstrous ever to confront a child with the slightest suggestion of the irrational.”

 

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Sphinn
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Mixx
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • StumbleUpon

An Email From An Old Friend – Who Now Sees Me As Human



This is a wonderful and insightful note from one of my original opponents during the days of Pooh’s Think, Part 1. (For contrast, also note the recent comments  from a current Kirker.)

Michael,

I’m not sure if you remember who I am, but I left several comments on Doug Wilson’s blog when the whole Saint Peter thing was going down, defending Saint Peter’s session and (often personally) attacking you. As an ex-member of Saint Peter (you know the drill: started reading Eastern Orthodox writers, started discussing the possible validity of Orthodoxy with friends of mine in the church including Laurence Windham, eventually left, was shunned and “excommunicated” by those whom I considered dear friends), I wanted to apologize for my ignorance and insensitivity towards you and your views. It’s easy to attack someone when you’ve never been in their position. Frank Schaeffer was right when he said, “The only answer to who you are is, ‘When?’” Now that I have gone through an experience comparable to yours, I wish I had listened to some of your comments and insights. The pain my wife and I went through was considerable (it nearly destroyed our marriage) and it was astonishing to see people that we thought we would be friends with forever abandon us overnight. The most painful for me was Laurence’s public denouncements (both of me and of Orthodoxy), which were so ill-informed as to be regarded stupid. He and I were astonishingly close for many years. Being, as a Saint Peter member once described it, “viewed as two faces of one body,” and having him lash out the way he did was a blindside to say the least. A big one.

So, you were right and I was wrong. But you knew that already. And, to be honest, that isn’t what this email is about. I ought to have empathized with your position rather than springing to the blind defense of those who, in the scheme of things, didn’t need defending. Regardless of what I thought, I should have regarded you as a fellow human being rather than disregarding you as the abstract proposition of, “These guys who I love are douche-bags.” But, hindsight, 20/20, clarity, and all that. My comments toward you were belittling. For that I ask your forgiveness.

Ultimately, I don’t blame these guys. I believe that they think what they did (and are doing) is right, and they did it because of that conviction. I don’t believe there was any intentional malice (though what was done was malicious). There’s no bitterness here. However, there is a deep hurt which I don’t anticipate will be resolved any time soon. Thanks for your work.

On a radically different note I was wondering about the Bayly post you made a couple days ago. You had mentioned that you tried to Google some of the quotes that Bayly used from the article concerning Calvin College and homosexuality and were unable to find results. I’m not sure if Bayly updated his post due to your comments, but I was able to find the article quickly using Google. I’m not defending him in any respect (one of them wears a bow-tie, for heaven’s sake — the very definition of douche-bag), but was just asking for the sake of clarification. In case you haven’t found the link to the article it’s from Christianity Today and can be found here.

Thanks again for your work. Knock out that book. Looking forward to reading it.

Cheers and all the best,
Matt Clement

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Sphinn
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Mixx
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • StumbleUpon

Towards a Unifying Theory of the Situation of Groups



First, a note about a new Page to the right: ‘Analytic Outline Of Entries Related To Hitchens, Wilson, & The Movie Collision’. This page provides chronological ordering of links (with summaries) to entries I have written related to the movie Collision. I will keep this page updated, but I will not always include entries that are related to only Wilson or only Hitchens.

Second, The Situationist recently linked to an excellent entry at Psyblog: ‘Essentials of Group Psychology’. I highly recommend reading this, whether your interest is business management, home schooling, or getting out of a religious cult (or a secular one for that matter).

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Sphinn
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Mixx
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • StumbleUpon

Faith & Reason, Part 7: Here I Stand



the-death-of-sapphira-wife-of-ananiusPlaying armchair chess with technical terms – what the mathematical monkeys and theology wonks consider precisely defined natural language – just might reveal a tension between Faith and Reason. Or it might not. Either way, it does not matter. We are after a real tension between faith as it is in the world and reason as it is in the world. Further, as we have seen, even a more sensitive armchair approach to central topics such as Belief, Knowledge, Narrative, and Metaphor has left us with the opposite of what we were out to accomplish. These topics, comfortably off the ground and up snug in the arm chair, evidence a harmony between Faith and Reason. Indeed, the two concepts, under contemporary and considerably subtle scrutiny, begin looking much the same.

Once we begin poking reality as it is now and as it has been recorded in world history, the situation changes a good deal. Despite the assuring platitudes of the rationalist cleric or the mystic philosopher, tensions, disharmony, polarization, enmity, and violence are seen everywhere. Faith is at war with Reason. But if this is reality, so much for the armchair.

I of course speak banality for the ignorant, although I feel the effort may be worth it given the size of this constituency, which comprises, H.L. Menken informs us, 99.8% of the civilized populace (an idea that took me 35 painful years to finally venture believing). And so I remind the idiots reading this blog: once we get off our armchair and quit our sanitized chess game, it becomes much easier to imagine opening a window or, even, venturing outside into the sun and one’s more natural place in the food chain – which, by the way, is fairly low. One is not educated unless they travel; but this need not be to Paris; it could be a trip to the cry closet of a lonely child, the sandbox where four year olds tussle, the den where grown men rape a thirteen year old girl, or the dusty battle field scarred with the rotten flesh of the latest empire and the latest theonomic regime. Getting out – and generalizing a bit – helps prepare one for the inescapable fact that they are a dumb and frail animal that knows more of its petty lusts for comfort and control than truth and justice.

Those aspects of the environment that pertain to Faith and Reason reinforce the idea nicely, as they are, despite the dictates of armchair philosophy, all bipolar: we see the church and the academy, the monastery and the University, Jerusalem and Athens, the monk and the philosopher, religion and science, the hypothesis and the creed, the sage and the self-critical, the loyal disciple and the free-intellect, dogmatics and the inquiry, the authoritative Bernard of Clairvaux and the denigrated Abelard.

And indeed, we see the Apostle Peter killing layman and hurling insult and condemnation at any political opponent in the new ecclesia; the Apostle Paul threatening the ‘rod’ for his baby birds at Corinth that dare think more highly of the classically trained teachers than they do of their jealous, manipulative father – exalting his flights into the seventh heaven over all the combined genuine wisdom of the ancient world; the author of Hebrews threatening – page after venomous page – nothing short than torture for those who wish to stop attending the mind-altering liturgies or wish to not ‘obey those that rule among them.’ Should it therefore be surprising in our own day that Dear Leader John Piper has warmly invited the harmful, raving orangutan in North Idaho to instruct the evangelical world about the glories of John Calvin’s Big Brother? This is just the New Testament of love I am here dealing with – with a final sprinkling of some Romans 9. Shall we even dare turn back and investigate the dark, barbaric violence alleged in the histories of the Old Testament?

Perhaps you see what kind of new methodology that awaits us: the anthropological, the historical, the investigative; in sum, the empirical.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Sphinn
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Mixx
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • StumbleUpon

Molly Worthen on Douglas Wilson



worthen_mollyThe kind lady at the local Christian bookstore has been poised with my cell phone number in hand for a few days now, knowing my determination to somehow find an April issue of Christianity Today somewhere in San Diego. “Is there someone you know in this issue?” she asked. “Yes, there is.” Molly Worthen now has a seven page article on my old teacher, titled “The Controversialist.”

 

I received the call Friday afternoon. A pleasant sense of accomplishment came over me once the magazine was physically in my hands.  A trip to Borders Books and Barnes and Noble had already turned out dry; neither of the local stores still carry Christianity Today. Although, I did accidentally see the name ‘Christopher Hitchens’ while browsing the magazine stands. Hitchens has decided to write a letter to the president of the United States – no more arrogant than arguing with God I suppose. The same was true for the local libraries: no Christianity Today and plenty of Hitchens. The small local library here in Cardiff By The Sea has likely never carried Christianity Today. Yet, the last time I stopped in, someone had thrown the most recent issue of Vanity Fair on top of the displayed weekend newspaper.

 

I went down to the Seaside Market to get a 6 pack of Heineken after writing the rough draft of this entry and once again had the experience. I found the latest issue of Vanity Fair staring at me at the checkout stand. Heineken is more difficult to locate at a grocery store than Christopher Hitchens. And this was only out of four magazines: three magazines of hot women and one with half naked men wearing barrels. It was the barrels that grabbed my attention. Perhaps Hitchens is becoming, unknowingly, the Big Brother he despises – he is everywhere, and he lets us all know what he thinks we ought to think.  

 

After this journey in search for April’s issue, there is little question in my mind why Worthen opens her piece with a paragraph extolling the accomplishments and status of, not Douglas Wilson, but my Big Brother Hitchens.  In reality, I do not recall knowing of the man before the Kirk came up with her latest marketing idea. Once again, I owe a good deal to my teacher Douglas Wilson. Another four books by Hitchens are on their way.

 

Before getting to the obvious task at hand, I wish to first seek some patience from the reader.  I keep saying that Pooh’s Think, Part 2, is not “about Douglas Wilson,” only to then continue writing about Douglas Wilson.  And it will not end here.  Not only is my analysis of Wilson’s debate (Canon Press) with Hitchens incomplete, I also have the two hour discussion between Hitchens and the four-and-a-half apologists at the Christian Book Expo to address – and boy was that something.  And now here is Molly Worthen once again writing about my beloved Kirk: “Wilson is becoming someone who even those minding their own business in the noncontroversial ‘mainstream’ cannot afford to ignore.” If other scholars would stop writing articles about Wilson or giving Wilson the stage lights of ‘debate,’ I could get further along with my book and write posts on something else.  As it is, I ask you to bear with me just a little bit longer. 

 

But I am starting to wonder if my promise to say off topic was a bit premature.  After all, if I was the only expert on the European Green Crab, would anyone object to my authoring a site dedicated to that species? I would think that my task would produce additional justification; the species of my expertise has been almost extinct the last 400 years.

 

____________

 

Molly Worthen is once again to be commended for her judicious reporting on the Kirk.  Her first task, in 2006, was a piece for the New York Times Magazine, “Onward Christian Soldiers.”    She touched briefly on Douglas Wilson, of all appearances a “lumber jack,” but that was not the focus of her thesis. The Christian soldiers were the students, fellows, and doctors of New St. Andrews College.  In this latest, the topic just is Douglas Wilson, the controversialist. I recommend reading the article, and not just my response below. I will post a link to the article here as soon as one is available. (more…)

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Sphinn
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Mixx
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • StumbleUpon

The Moral Argument, Part 1



splash_02“Is what is pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved?” This was an unsettling enquiry for our world’s first democratic society. Equilibrium was restored through nothing short of Socrates’ execution.  But today, this is a question warmly embraced by the ambassadors of heaven.  The answer is now obvious:   because it is loved.

 

To put it in more fashionable terms: a human action is moral only because God thinks it moral. And God is entitled to his opinions on this subject. His own immutable triune personhood is the very fount and standard of all we can rightfully call good, right, beautiful and just. The Almighty has, as the epistemologists say, “special access” to the relevant facts.

 

No matter what the growing body of evidence suggests about the relation between morality and religion – no matter how horrible God’s character might at times seem to be, how harsh his dictates, how petty and arbitrary his rule, cruel his command of exclusion, condemnation, and genocide – the debate is over as soon as it begins: religion provides the only sufficient standard for morality. Sure, God ordered his chosen people to slaughter all the unarmed women and children in a non-threatening neighboring community. This is of absolutely no consequence to issues of morality; without this God, there would be no such thing as right and wrong anyway.

 

Anti-theist Christopher Hitchens winces and then stares knowingly at this new confident Euthypro; with gate relaxed, his cheeks droop and swagger with defiance.  With his own brand of cavalier authority, Hitchens then  pronounces the truth that any half-wit mammal already knows: morality is “innate.” “I just don’t see what the big deal is,” Hitchens retorted while interviewed with Douglas Wilson on CBN.  

 

Well, is there a big deal? This is one question I want to explore. Does the non-theist have a basis for a robust moral claim? And while we are enquiring: Does the theist have a basis for a robust moral claim as he or she supposes?  And a third question arises: even if we were to grant a moral claim to  the non-theist, what then do we do with Hitchen’s ferocious pronouncements and censorial judgments against the immorality of the Christian faith? The inescapability of solidarity in human communities is one thing; the new atheism’s sermonic roasting of the poor Christian’s conscience is another. On the face of it, this at least seems to be a big deal.

 

Canon Press has recently published a debate between Wilson and Hitchens, splash_041also web published at Christianity Today.   As any good professing presuppositionalist would do, Wilson centers the debate on a neo-Van Tillian version of the moral argument. I plan to offer an analysis of this debate and in time get on to seeking some answers for the questions above. For now, I want to challenge Hitchens’ elegant claim that morality is simply “innate.” 

 

This claim reminded me of Colin Turnbull’s The Mountain People. During the time of my monastic career in the Kirk, Peter Leithart assigned Turnbull’s book as mandatory reading for his year-long theology class at New St. Andrews College.  Systematic theology, Leithart explained, does not do as good a job as Turnbull’s anthropology in illuminating the true nature of sin.  

 

Turnbull lived among a small group of “mountain people”, called the ‘Ik’, for two years in the mountains separating northern Uganda, Sudan and Kenya. (more…)

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Sphinn
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Mixx
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • StumbleUpon