Winter Issue 8
FRESH AIR IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE:
DAVE RUBIN'S REFRESHING RUBIN REPORT
by Mark Carter
Nonetheless, human life takes on a sense of dignity because the ideal form of life and government will exist by respecting the basic human rights. Dave shows that a good and useful debate can go on by two people who hold different or opposite views when they respect the right of the other to hold their view. Dave’s criticism of the “regressive left” is that they fail to show that respect, and this is evident by how regressives “use illiberal tactics such as lying about and smearing their opponents to promote their cause.”
So why is The Rubin Report so refreshing? It is refreshing to see intellectual honesty in the public square. Dave discusses issues with people with whom he disagrees, and in some cases may even change part of his view when he recognizes his understanding is at fault. His approach demonstrates the difference between arguing one’s point simply to win and arguing something because one thinks it is right. If one's thinking is found to be wrong in part, then it can change in part. This seems to be the essence of his critique of the “regressive left,” which he claims is “illiberal” because it does not allow those who have opposing views to speak.
As Christians, we do not simply follow the path of logic and argument, but we humbly follow Jesus. Proverbs 17:27 says, “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.” It can be tempting to win arguments and push an agenda because it is the “right” way to think about a subject. However, if we want to engage with those who hold different views and bring reformation to the political rhetoric wars, then we need to heed the wisdom of Proverbs and hold our tongue when we want to rush to correct the other. Upholding the dignity of people as God’s created beings means giving the other a voice.
Have you experienced what it is like to be on a crowded bus on a muggy day when all the windows are closed? It is like trying to breathe through a wet towel. But when someone opens a window and the blast of fresh air hits your face and you inhale deeply, it is almost sweet it is so refreshing. I experienced that kind of refreshment after I watched The Rubin Report with Dave Rubin.
Dave Rubin started his career as a comedian, but transitioned into producing with podcasts and eventually to creating his own show. He has a degree in political science and found that, contrary to the rhetoric of the George H.W. Bush campaign era, liberalism was not the insidious ideology it was being made out to be by the media at that time. That insight launched him into delving further into the values of free speech, liberty, and the rights of the individual. In a recent interview with Forbes magazine, Dave said that somehow defending these rights has become a conservative position. Dave is also known for popularizing the term “regressive left” which was coined by Maajid Nawaz to indicate the progressive movement that has run wild, straying from its liberal principles. As a self-designated “classical liberal,” Dave’s show seeks to argue for liberalism in its classic sense and to critique the progressive movement in order to bring some balance to the current shouting match of political discourse.
I think Dave does a pretty good job at dealing with the question that Os Guinness raises, which is: “how do we live with our deepest differences. . . when those differences concern matters of our common public life?” Guinness’ solution is “soul freedom,” which means “the inviolable freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief that alone does full justice to the dictates of our humanity” (Guinness, Global Public Square, 14). Dave Rubin is an atheist and so has no reason to believe that human life is given dignity by God.
MIX AND (MIS)MATCH
by Little Divot
Most of us have taken some action (in dating) here and there, but haven’t met with much success. Theology draws out the less attractive "beta" males—the apotheosis of austere. But there's more. I’ve never met so many men with a resident like mine before Regent. I want mine dead. He’s overwhelmingly emotional, sensitive, quick to anger, empathetic, compassionate, and loves life—a perfect recipe for disaster in the real world, totally pathetic and embarrassing. When young girls realized that these traits made him vulnerable to use as a plaything, the harassment started. The funny thing is, those girls weren’t the last. Next came the abusive girlfriend of three years… and later the co-workers… and he learned to project apathy to hide his emotions: sadness, fear, anger, and powerlessness. He does this to keep safe. He does this because society "demands it." He does this out of a misplaced hope that it will honor God. Whenever he makes an appearance (and talking to the opposite sex as good as guarantees it), I don’t see a young woman whom I might befriend but through his eyes one of many faces I’d much rather forget; my resident gets between us and pleads (still hiding his emotion) with us both, "Please! Love me." Worst of all, I become him. I am him. And in that moment, how could I possibly explain to the woman in front of me how I feel?
I’d be shocked if this covers half of the secrets our peers are carrying.
For me, and probably for more of us than we realize, the idea of a “no-pressure date” should be filed right under “jumbo shrimp.” Honestly, for most of the issues I’ve observed and listed here the best solution isn’t a new dating initiative but a therapist; Lord knows I see one! Yes, it’s still early days for Mix and Match; perhaps I need to risk an implicit memory trigger experience and go. Yes, I do hope that others take a cue from this and risk getting to know one another better—this includes you ladies, it’s been a little too easy to avoid you. And yes, I want it to succeed. However, our situation is far too complex for a silver-bullet solution; deeper solutions take time. As we wait, the best I can urge is compassion; you never know who among us has a resident like mine who just needs to be loved.
I'm grateful for Ed Smith's candid take on the recent "Mix and Match" dating event. I found his writing engaging, his story relatable, and his encouragement earnest and much needed. If it wasn’t so believable I might’ve thought it comedic, and I certainly cracked a grin or two. I’m also grateful for any attempt at trying to ease people’s pain, and I’m hopeful that this new endeavor will bear fruit. However, as the question is in the limelight, it’s my hope that we will not neglect one of the darker and more difficult aspects of this question: that of the students among us (probably more than we realize) for whom pit stains would be the least of our worries. Instead we get the resident thirteen-year-old.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Some of us have this resident to contend with, for others our problems lie elsewhere. At Regent, we have an unusually high concentration of introverts for whom a mix and mingle event is a nightmare in sheep’s clothing, and I happen to count myself among them. Some of us are genuinely content with our lives or so focused on the stratospheric calling of a theological education that we don’t have time for a partner. I respect both positions—contentment being single and a passion for service to the kingdom are both praiseworthy—but I do worry that either leaves the question of the future unanswered and ignorance will run down the clock. Some of the women among us have probably been hit hard by the ugly truth that far too many men better deserve the moniker of “boy” or “dog,” and thus struggle either with extreme anxiety when men are around or in anger try to control them; either way, they contribute to an ever-climbing barricade both sexes are building to stave off intimacy. I wonder how many women need help and how many may not be aware that their actions border on aggression. I’m sure some of the women among us are oblivious to all of this and can only ask the question, “Why?” to a silent audience.
None of us were lead to expect this. Probably a number of us need to lower our standards to the humble description of “heroic” or “angelic” down from demigod or goddess. Up until now I’ve done little more than speculate, but what about the men at Regent?
HUMOROUS LITTLE HUMANS:
SHINE THAT LIGHT...AND LIGHTEN UP!
by Matthew Nelson
light self-deprecating joke thus became an occasion for the female friend to censure the male friend who (in fairness to the female friend’s perspective) has not always been as sensitive to different cultural sensibilities in the past.
Regardless of who was “in the right” strictly speaking, this moment felt like some kind of parable—and not just any old parable either, but one of those annoying ones that’s supposed to have one simple interpretation but reveals a multiplicity of meanings when closely examined. On the one hand, this moment showed that humor must be carefully employed, showing sensitivity given diverse audiences. On the other hand, the moment could be read as a sign that there is a hypersensitivity here that prevents people from speaking freely, a situation in which folks are too easily offended—a situation lacking humor.
Where do we draw the lines for what is OK and what is not OK to joke about? My sense is that what we are able and unable to laugh about reveals not only our sense of morality and what we hold “sacred,” but also displays our self-understanding. So for instance, if we contrasted a certain contemporary understanding of people—as having near-limitless self-potential (along with humanity as a whole)—with the traditional Christian perspective of human creatureliness, we would find the Christian view to be deeply comic. That is, this Christian understanding is basically that humans are a bunch of little creatures fumbling around (epically!), glorious because made in God’s image, but also “little lion men” (and women) who believe themselves better and more powerful than they actually are. In the South, we call this “getting too big for your britches.” In the Bible, this attitude is perhaps best represented by the story of those Babelonians building their cute little anthill Tower, to which God responds by coming down to help the little creatures not destroy themselves and the world. Thanks God!
In short, humor carries the potential to constructively humble (a corrective to destructive, prideful self-righteousness) or cruelly humiliate. Thus I’d suggest that we need humor and a certain lightness in order to remember our humble station as creatures of God, as humus, creatures formed of earthdust (and/or stardust—sayeth Science, Moby, Bowie, Joni, etc…), yet also dearly loved by God. So: here’s to keeping a sense of humor and being sensitive, appropriately inappropriate, the way of love.
One final note: early this week I found myself contemplating the similarity of the brand name Eggo and the word “ego.” Then today Erik Delange sends a cartoon making this connection. Providence, no? Yet another proof that the Holy Spirit has a super sweet sense of humor, I'd say!
[Get it, “super sweet?” Like an Eggo waffle ok yeah I see you got it sorry—]
When I was in the 4th grade, I remember being amused when my babysitter told me that, in Merriam Webster’s 3rd New International Dictionary, the word “fart” is first defined as “an explosion.” Presumably this means that, at one point in time, one might say that “the volcano farted” or “the bomb farted.” A Google search now reveals that “fart” was actually defined in this dictionary as “an explosion between the legs.” This is still very funny to me, though somewhat less satisfying. I’m sticking with my memory of this word’s hilarious dual meaning.
My apologies if this kind of talk is inappropriate or even offensive. Mainly I just wanted to make the observation that God’s good creation includes multiple kinds of farts—and also to broach the rather serious and unfairly marginalized importance of humor in higher education, especially in a school of theology like Regent. What is humor's importance, theologically speaking?
Since I’ve already started apologizing (how else to begin speaking while in Canada?), I feel I must also apologize by warning you that my comedic sensibilities may be a bit coarse and unrefined. See the cinematic oeuvre of Adam Sandler for my formative cultural experiences in this area (anybody else find that scene with the bloody clown in Billy Madison to be side-splitting hilarity? No? Ok). Part of my cultural formation also includes growing up in the American South, where we delight in making fun of one another. That’s how you know you’re amongst real friends, ya know?—and also how you learn to tolerate (and internalize) a kind of bullying as well.
What I’m trying to say is that joking is serious business. Laughing really matters, and that’s no laughing matter (sorry y’all—even I’m groaning right now). Humor is clearly a means and constituent of truth in many ways. For instance, humor bonds people together, promoting community and common culture; it establishes frames of reference, the possibility of “in-jokes,” etc; and humor can also be a way of truth-telling social commentary, as is the case with stand-up comedians in (what often amounts to) entertaining secular sermons, i.e., George Carlin on religion, Dave Chappelle on race relations, and Trevor Noah on immigration. As mentioned above, humor can also manifest callousness and cruelty when employed bluntly in personal interactions, cutting people down as a form of bullying; in turn, this has the effect of inflating the bully’s sense of self, and can otherwise demonstrate a smug sense of self-righteous superiority (looking at you Bill Maher!).
Motivating this reflection is an interaction I recently beheld, in which I saw how much humor matters—and how this is related to cultural differences. A Regent friend (male from a certain country) had related an observation which employed a metaphor that another Regent friend (female from a different country) found deeply offensive. What was meant as a
CONFESSIONS OF A
by Jon Berends
I want to be able to stand by my wife and share stories of the richness of our marriage, of us being the iron that sharpens each other’s iron—but only a blissful and poetic sharpening of iron that is expressed in us writing music together, because I don’t want us to have to argue.
I want to live meaningfully in the heart of the city, with a big family in a big historic house, and in community—although not with any of the inconveniences that come with community living. I want us to own land and have a big garden in this heart-of-the-city home. And I want this garden to be forever and impressively bountiful, tended by me and my children who rush home from school eager to get their fingers in the dirt, birthing in them a joy that can only be truly known in the sounds of hearty laughter and finely tuned harmonies that surround our regular evening campfires.
I want to make my own wine from the grapes that I grow in my garden.
I want to be a no-need-for-attention school teacher who does science experiments in his garden with students who are consequently motivated to write poetry, to bring renewal to the city, and to give up their life for Jesus. I want to be headhunted by someone important who, recognizing my inspirational no-need-for-attention teaching, desires for me to lead the city to important change, only for me to turn down his offer as I sit peacefully on my front porch drinking scotch, articulating my contentedness in continuing in my humble profession. And what I want to come out of me in this life in this city is of course a deeply rooted and earthy theology of place that would be told in stories praising me for my Christ-like humility—a humility that would be well-attested in my obvious frustration for all the aforementioned attention.
And finally, I want Loren Wilkinson to come through my garden and walk slowly up the front stairs of my porch to sit with me over a glass of scotch or my homemade wine, giddily sharing thoughts on gardening and kenosis in a picture that closely resembles the one we all have of Ben Nelson and Iain McGilchrist on the Isle of Skye.
This is all I want.
And it feels good to get it off my chest.
I need to share something.
I understand that life is filled with disappointment, that disappointment in life is unavoidable and ongoing.
I understand that disappointment is perhaps even necessary, that it can be formative, and that there is often unexpected joy and beauty lying in the hidden depths of seeming disappointments.
I get all of that. And part of me does truly want to live in a way that houses this understanding in my daily practices and that seeks first God’s kingdom above the satisfaction of my own disappointed longings.
But part of me is tired.
I am tired of trying to be holy and humble.
I am tired of trying to say the right things while finishing most days sick of myself for the ways that, despite all my efforts, my narcissistic and self-righteous self just comes out anyway.
So I just need to get this off my chest. I need a moment to not embrace disappointed longings.
I need to articulate a clear picture of what I really want.
I want everyone in my life to be happy. My family especially. And I want them to be happy in a way where they can identify the integral role I play in their happiness.
I want to be one of those dads who dresses really cool without trying or even noticing that I dress really cool, all the while being recognized for how unintentionally cool I dress as a representation of how unintentionally cool I am.
I want to be a man of few words who only says things that change people's lives.
I want to have a well-defined jawline with a perfect amount of wonderfully soft stubble that stops above my adam’s apple and that doesn’t ever need trimming.
POEM OF THE WEEK:
POEM FROM THE BEDSIDE 54
by Andrew Headley
Empty vessels make most noise.
That's a quote, from Joyce.
And it's easiest to imagine this:
A still woman on the beach,
Facing the sand, not the deep,
Eyes closed so as not to miss
The elusive sound of the conch,
The frustration of trying to grip
The ocean's voice from within.
Crush, it comes, a crumbling rush,
thunder loud and timpani pound,
the heartbeat of the world at her feet.
And if she quiets herself enough,
breath held in the rest between beats,
she is able to make it out, the sea.