My Half-Week At Scout Camp

I attend what in the LDS church is called a “singles’ ward,” but I maintain ties with the “family” ward in the same area.  So I had the (task? opportunity? burden?) of going to Boy Scout Camp for the last few days, to keep 12-14-yr-olds from burning down California.

1.  Monsters

Feral children are terrifying if you imagine a few years of testosterone in them.  Imagine having NRX ideas on proper rulership going through your head as you watch 12-yr-olds throw rocks at each other.  But with the restriction that you are not sovereign, because these aren’t your kids, they’re not even related to you.  So I broke no bones and raised no bruises, though I did bop one kid on the head, and overturned a pitcher of water on another.  And I was being light.

2.  Anarcho-tyranny

Is it a safe environment when random unrelated males are allowed to dispense corporal punishment?  Maybe, maybe not.  However, in the absence of sovereign force, kids throw rocks at each other, and that is not a safe environment either.  Were they abandoned in the wilderness, the biggest kid would have established order.  But ironically, our presence preventing overt violence made things worse by preventing that.

3.  Peace through superior firepower

The best of the bunch was a hulking giant-for-his-age fourteen-yr-old.  This guy will probably play college football in a few years.  He endured basically zero persecution, meted out none, and acted as a general calming force in the group.

4.  BSA are basically good

First aid, fishing, kayaking, swimming, camping, wilderness survival, how to stand in a line, how to shut up, how to function in a hierarchy, how to give and receive orders (proudest moment was when I quietly told the senior patrol leader to order someone to get some water for the table.  He picked the worst-behaved little **** of the bunch, and he obeyed).  A lot of these kids will get eaten by the Cathedral, another contingent will join the benighted guns-and-ammo-are-all-I-need crowd, but I have a hard time imagining a better NRX program for young men (well, some political philosophy would be nice but 13-yr-olds, whatchagunnado).  All of this under the auspices of three community-engaged fathers, and, well, me.

5. Men

This should go without saying, but there’s stuff boys learn from men that they don’t learn from women.  It’s not facts so much as facts with credibility.  Despite my complaints of lack of sovereignty before, my basic superiority in all things male (I know how to actually survive in the wilderness, I weigh half as much again as any of them, my frame is far superior) let me do things like point to a boy and say, “I need a volunteer.  You just volunteered,” and he’d follow without fuss to help me unpack something from my car or whatever.

6. That Happy Desert People

This was just something I noticed today, and I suspect it will be more noticeable tomorrow and Friday (although I left today and won’t be going back).  As I walked around the camp (as an adult, I didn’t have my schedule filled up with merit badge classes), I saw everyone busily at work (certainly with some misbehavior)—and generally happy about it.  Boys learning to start fires, to cook, being yelled at for misbehaving with knives—but purpose-driven activity, rather than the glazed eyes of the Virtual Option* or the soulless learning and teaching of government-mandated “concepts” for grades and money respectively. **

What I saw, I think, was the beginning of (short-lived; gone by the end of the week) asabiyyah.

So there you go.  What I Did This Summer, Early Edition.

*”All around the world, anywhere there is a slum with an X-Box in it, the Virtual Option is taking shape.”  ~ The Dire Problem and the Virtual Option

**”In my high school French class we were supposed to read Hugo’s Les Miserables. I don’t think any of us knew French well enough to make our way through this enormous book. Like the rest of the class, I just skimmed the Cliff’s Notes. When we were given a test on the book, I noticed that the questions sounded odd. They were full of long words that our teacher wouldn’t have used. Where had these questions come from? From the Cliff’s Notes, it turned out. The teacher was using them too. We were all just pretending.” ~ “Why Nerds Are Unpopular”

Notable Successes of Neoreaction

Arrests to date: 0.

Failed bomb plots:0

Lies told to the public: 0.

Financial scandals: 0.

Parlor conversations in which NRx comes up as “Those people”: unknown, but likely low

Suicides: Unknown, likely 0.

Individual lives benefited: inherently uncountable; this number should never be measured but often thought about

Families benefited: see above, more important than above.

We have no super-secret “methods for change,” folks.  The trick is understanding that the above are successes, and in fact are notable ones.  Different philosophies should measure their own successes differently.  Don’t keep score with the other guy’s rulebook!

Fun Stuff

Today in my ward we had a couple come present to us on pornography and its effects.  I’m sad to say that while their hearts were in the right place, I was not particularly impressed.  They had presumably visited yourbrainonporn.com, and had some very nice science.

The science probably holds up.  But I am extremely wary of taking moral directives from science.  Did you know that men are naturally polygamous?  Science says so!

If I could recommend a non-religious book to read (what am I talking about: all books are religious) I’d recommend Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age.  This passage in particular is relevant:

“Nell did not imagine that Constable Moore wanted to get into a detailed discussion of recent events, so she changed the subject. “I think I have finally worked out what you were trying to tell me, years ago, about being intelligent,” she said.

The Constable brightened all at once. “Pleased to hear it.”

“The Vic[torians, a “phyle,” or intentional society in an anarchocapitalist future] have an elaborate code of morals and conduct. It grew out of the moral squalor of an earlier generation, just as the original Victorians were preceded by the Georgians and the Regency. The old guard believe in that code because they came to it the hard way. They raise their children to believe in that code– but their children believe it for entirely different reasons.”

“They believe it,” the Constable said, “because they have been indoctrinated to believe it.”

“Yes. Some of them never challenge it– they grow up to be smallminded people, who can tell you what they believe but not why they believe it. Others become disillusioned by the hypocrisy of the society and rebel– as did Elizabeth Finkle-McGraw.”

Which path do you intend to take, Nell?” said the Constable, sounding very interested. “Conformity or rebellion?”

“Neither one. Both ways are simple-minded– they are only for people who cannot cope with contradiction and ambiguity.”

If this blog has a mini-theme, it is “dealing with ambiguity,” which I happen to pretty bad at.  But I’m getting better.

Here follow things hard to understand, mostly gleaned by my own intuition.  They are meant as guideposts for your intuition to follow or work toward, not as defensible statements:

1)There is a fundamental ambiguity in just about everything.  You should put money in stocks except when you shouldn’t; you should call the girl except when you shouldn’t; you should obey the laws of the land except when you shouldn’t.

2)As such, deciding what is the right choice, or “good,” in any situation is very difficult.  That said, there is something about the action of deciding that is godlike.

3)Ambiguity means that you need…something else…when making decisions.  I am not quite sure what that is.  It would perhaps be a set of rules that change whenever they wish to.  You might call that a “personality.”  Fortunately, you are exactly that.  We are not all that great at knowing what to choose, but we do have the guidance of God.  (Un?  No, I don’t think so)Fortunately, God tends to contradict Himself quite often.  This is what any reasonable person would do when trying to explain reality, because, as in 1) above, reality is contradictory.

Do you see?  Principles are good, but they cannot be your master.  The Israelites murdered for God; the wise men lied for Him; Christ broke the Sabbath.  Only God is unfailingly Good.

Things got interesting when one girl spoke up after they had finished and had a, well, impassioned outburst that the conversation was too euphemistic and one-sided.

As in most things, I was torn, because

1) She was absolutely right.

2)So were the presenters.  What, did you think a straight-laced Mormon guy like your humble blogger was going to come out in favor of pornography, even after my spiel above?  Nope.

My thoughts during the presentation were mostly along the lines of MCJDGI.  Impassioned outburst girl was pointing out the absurdity of pretending we’re sexless androgynes (is that a word?), and she was right, but she was also bordering on heresy with some of her phrasing.  Because the problem isn’t Church People Not Understanding Sex, but materialism pushing marriage back beyond normal human endurance—so, really, People Not Understanding Sex.  I’m a 28-yr-old virgin dude, so I’m hardly an expert, but I have read and paid attention to Genesis, and C.S. Lewis, understanding wind by standing against it, etc.*

Why the prelude about principles and ambiguity?  Because I get along best with people who try to navigate the ambiguity.  Some of them have left the Church, and I mourn them; but the ones who have stayed are uncommonly capable.  And this girl has the potential.  She’s holding a dinner in the next few days for further discussion; I’m going, hoping to keep it from derailing into sin and rebellion, and perhaps share some of what I’ve learned here.

*“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness — they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist.”

How To Christian; an American’s View

Theocracy; Wouldn’t It Be Nice, right?

The U.S. was, at one time, a Christian country.  We know this because only Christians would be so hateful as to write anti-homosexual prejudice into their very laws.  Good thing that’s over.

From the records we have, Judaism on a society-wide level began in Egypt, not because it was the beginning of a religion, but because it was the beginning of a society.

It had the obstacle of not being the society in power.  No one would argue, for instance, that Egypt at the time of Exodus was “A Jewish country.”

So, they left, and settled in the land of Canaan, and formed a state.  They were the society in power; they wrote the laws; they were ethnically uniform; it was most definitely “A Jewish country.”

Now, the important thing to note is that what country they were in had no real effect on their Jewishness.  Perhaps they were prohibited from worshipping according to their conscience as was Daniel in Babylon, but it is, empirically, possible to retain cultural identity in the midst of the Other.

Here is my thesis: the U.S., already has or is the midst of (save the handwringing for deciding which it is, please) transforming from a Christian country to that of the other, and—Christians should be saddened but not fazed by this.

America, after all, has its roots in theocracy, for better or for worse.  Mayflower?  Puritans?  Pilgrims? Remember those?  American exceptionalism?  “God bless America?” (They ain’t talking about Allah)

So, like, we’ve had a good run for the past few hundred years.  Hey hey!  Man, we don’t even need to make a big deal about the not-new practice of sodomy, the state does it for us!

Well, the situation has changed.  It is now more analogous to the early Christians, surrounded by the Roman Empire.

But that’s hardly the end of the world.  I mean, from there, Christianity took over the world.  We have quite a bit of advice on how to function in such an environment.  In the world not of it, don’t eat things sacrificed to idols, turn the other cheek, etc.  Nothing super-secret here.

The danger is mistaking the present state (Roman empire) for a theocratic state (Israel) and attempting to use cultural capital that has long since vanished.

Two Related, Quick Thoughts on a Saturday Morning

Warning: insights of one who has a hammer, pointing out nails.  But still.

First: Black-on-black violence.  Specifically, black-male-on-black-male violence.  Can a substantial portion of this be attributed to the decline of sexual regulation (marriage), fostering a more, err, meritocratic, winner-take-all system?  The free market incentivizes work; does a sexual free-for-all incentivize violence?

Second: White-on-white business predation, or, the technology startup sector.*  Can a substantial portion of this be attributed to the decline of sexual regulation (marriage), fostering a more, err, meritocratic, winner-take-all system?  These guys could all have been engineers for BigCo.

The broader question being: does the decline of marriage cause riskier behavior in young men?

*Don’t think I’m trying to paint a “black dudes kill each other, white guys invent Facebook” picture.  Or perhaps I am, that’s the point.  Facebook ain’t technology, folks.  Ditto for Color, Clinkle, etc.

Taken 3 And The Idiot Father

places hands up defensively   Whoa, whoa, I haven’t even seen it, I just read the Wikipedia article!

A bit of summary so we’re all on the same page:

The original Taken was a pretty fun film:  Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is an ex-CIA professional badass, but his dedication to his work over the years strained his marriage to the point of divorce, and his wife is now married to some rich dude who is, well, we don’t know much about him, but he is not a professional badass.  His daughter Kim lives with his ex-wife and stepfather, while Neeson/Mills works security jobs protecting celebrities from psycho stalkers.

His daughter is spoiled and reckless, but this is L.A. so whatever.  She wants to go to Paris with her friend to ostensibly stay with her friends’ cousins, but the real plan is to follow U2 around Europe and maybe get some personal development in.  Her mother conspires with her to hide this from Mills/Neeson, and he gets clucked/ganged-up on/deceived into giving his permission.

Upon arriving in Paris, the two girls meet a cute foreign dude who suggests they share a taxi to their destination.  He invites them to a party, and Kim’s friend gleefully announces that she’s going to sleep with Foreign Boy (thereby establishing that despite the deception, small-mindedness, and disobedience, Neeson’s daughter is Totally Not A Slut, Just Her Friend Is).  In fact the foreign dude is a scout for creepy Albanian (north of Greece, if you were wondering) sex slavers who come to abduct the girls.  As Kim realizes what’s happening, she calls her dad and he hears the whole thing, thereby beginning Neeson’s bloody trail through Paris to find and rescue his daughter.  And totally justified, of course, because he’s fighting for that outmoded ideal, womanly purity.  At one point he finds Kim’s friend in a squalid brothel, dead from a heroin overdose.  We are to understand that this is the punishment for her earlier intended sluttery.  Neeson fights some more guys, follows a trail, etc., and eventually rescues his daughter from a fat sheik on a yacht..

Understand:  this is crack for conservative divorced dads.  Despite being a badass, Neeson is overlooked, overridden, and ignored at the beginning of the movie, but then is revealed to have been Right and Competent All Along as the movie progresses.  Plus he gets to karate a bunch of guys.  And all of this is for his daughter, and not even that, but for his daughter’s virginity, so he doesn’t even have moral ambiguity to deal with.

In the third movie, from Wikipedia:

In the aftermath of [villain]’s arrest, Kim, who is pregnant, informs Bryan that she wants to name her baby Lenore, after her mother.

Understand that is is portrayed as a good thing.  See, she respects her parents!  She’s naming her baby after her mom!  With her mom dead and stepfather arrested [long story], presumably she’ll live with her badass father and they’ll be a family.

And yet.  If she was just going to get knocked up anyway, why not the sheik?

Neeson’s character is the perfect symbol of the modern conservative father:  bluff and bluster and maybe even competence within his own sphere, but completely unaware of the actual problem.  Despite all his kung fu, Neeson has still failed to keep his daughter marriageable.  He has been completely outmaneuvered.  Where scary Albanians failed, UCLA succeeded.  I bet he feels like a hero.

Sacrifice Brings Forth The Blessings Of Heaven

Was reading Gregory Hood’s post and this passage in particular struck me with reference to Christianity in the West:

 

The spiritual core of the contemporary West is thus a kind of depraved burlesque show, with God alternately denied, turned against us, or somehow both simultaneously.

 

The phrase “turned against us” in particular struck me.  It made me consider the opposite:  what does a civilization that imagines God on their side talk like?

 

Good luck!  And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking. ~Eisenhower, message to troops before D-Day

 

I don’t mean to whitewash the Allies during WWII, but I do think that civilization was in a better state then than it is now.  So this is a worthwhile comparison.

Note the use of the word beseech.  That is a beta word, and I mean that as the highest compliment.  Beseeching is begging.

There’s a line in a hymn my church favors—the title of this post: “Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven.”  Sacrifice empowers us to ask the Almighty’s aid.

 

Why?  Perhaps the place to start is: why not?  Why do people who ostensibly believe in a loving God fear to invoke His blessings?

Sin, duh.  The same reason you don’t ask for a raise after you lost the big account, or your allowance after you crashed the family car.

There’s an uncertainty in peoples’ minds: if I approach God as I am, I may receive the asked-for blessing, but I may instead get (well-deserved) divine wrath.  Better to try and slog it out on my own.

It’s the uncertainty that stops them from approaching.  When people are actually enduring adversity they eventually wise up and humble themselves.  When things are OK for now but declining, they tend to live on a sea of denial and procrastinate consequences to the future.

The remedy to this is to take the uncertainty out of it.

Sacrifice is hard.  That’s the point.  Money, time, pride…it hurts to let any of those go.  It’s so hard that you have to change your heart just to be able to do it.  And that is the real objective of sacrifice:  changing hearts.  If you are ready and willing to accept justified divine wrath for your sins, then that overcomes the one obstacle stopping you from approaching the throne of grace for…well, grace.

The goal here is not to win over God to our side with a show of sacrifice.  Rather, it is for us to join His side—and to know it, such that we fear nothing God will do, because we agree with it, even if it means the end of us:

 

This is why it seems harder to believe that God is on the side of the West than it used to be.  Not because we sin—everyone does—but because we’re not certain that we’re on His side.  What have we sacrificed?  Not lust or pride, at any rate.