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Oshira and Aliens

National Review considers the likelihood of whether Republicans will add same sex marriage to the platform. It looks inevitable since support for gay marriage has spiked pronouncedly. Those holding out against are among the very old, the very religious and the very uneducated. The GOP is likely to accept gay marriage if implemented according to the principles of federalism, separation of powers, and protection of religious expression such as exemplified by Maryland’s question 6.

What difference education makes may require the specific type of pedagogy. I just saw Nagima Oshima’s “Realm of the Senses” (Japan, 1976) an explicitly erotic but arguably non-pornographic tragic romance based on a true story from 1936 about a couple who had a relationship outside of social customs that became so obsessed sexually that the man was accidentally killed by the woman. The woman was caught by the police with man’s severed genitalia in her possession.

The reason the film is not considered pornography is that, though the sex was very very explicit, it was not presented in a way that made the characters into objects of arousal for the viewer. Instead of objectifying the sexuality, the director shows the characters attending to each other as persons so as to bring out the audiences empathy. The point is to show the humanity of sex without arousing the audience.

Nonetheless the movie focused on the sex and though the couple is not homosexual, the couple’s adventures lead to the breaking of several taboos either openly or by suggestion (such as child molestation, incest, and necrophilia). The film is still never shown in Japan, in spite of it’s having it’s own “pink” culture, because of the implied criticisms of Japanese culture. (I’m getting this from the notes and interviews in the Criterion Collection DvD packet.)

The point is that by empathizing with the couple, you no longer see the occasion to condemn them as obscene, in spite of the taboo breaking. What you see is a couple marginalized by society for wanting to express their sexual love for each other but unable to realize their pure sexual expression and thus led to death. The idea is very similar to western romanticism.

When I see this, I think of Thomas Nagel’s paper on sexual perversion. Without taking a natural law perspective, Nagel still asks what could make sense of sex being perverted unless there was some norm that perversion departs from. The only candidate suggested by him is in the psychology of arousal. To make a longer story shorter, one is aroused by the other person, not just his or her body. More specifically one is aroused by that person’s own state of being aroused and coupling happens when each is aroused by the other’s being aroused by the first. And so on. This is normal sexuality for Nagel. A shoe fetish would thus be a perversion since the “other” could not be aroused. However, many normally offered candidates for perversion such homosexuality, pedophilia, and incest would not count as perverse on this view. But for Nagel sexual normality or perversity is a non-moral distinction. This is also the conclusion of Oshima. Full explicitness proves that there is no “obscenity” in the legal sense. We are supposed to think there is really none in the moral sense also. This is directly in opposition to the biblical view, illustrated by Noah’s curse on Ham for revealing Noah’s nakedness. For Oshima the hidden is the obscene. For the Bible, the revealed is.

Another example comes from Andrea Peyser, conservative columnist for the New York Post. She wrote (from my memory) some years ago about attending her daughter’s lesbian wedding. There was nothing about the ceremony that was explicit to any greater degree than kissing the bride(s). Again, like the film and Nagel’s arguments, the observer is left ambivalent with empathy toward the person’s involved. As a result, according to Peyser, looking at the happiness on her daughter’s face, she no longer saw any point in opposing gay marriage.

So the kind of education that unlearns the taboos against gay marriage is directly related to the emphasis on diversity as a pedagogical goal of education. It is simply by coming to know many gay friends that one becomes ambivalent to gay marriage and thus accepts it.

Yet there remains a civil point to opposing gay marriage even if there is no longer a political point for doing so, even granting the above. Admit that gay love or incest or pedophilia or good old fornication and adultery need not be the sort that objectifies the other, and that erotic love even requires the recognition that the other is a person, an autonomous rational agent that is also a sexual being with an amorphous capacity to experience sexual pleasure. Erotic love then is devotion to pleasure through devotion to the other’s experience and expression of sexual pleasure. It is pleasure in the pleasure of the other which is obtained in the service to the other. This pleasure becomes larger and more secure with the addition of several other others and thus tends to be polyamorous. Erotic love thus us a candidate for one’s telos and as shared teloi are the basis of bonds between people, this can potentially be the source of tight relations and an ethic of sexual care and sexual reciprocity.

However, such a community fails to make sense of all the features of family life and on particular it fails to make sense of having and raising children. It also fails to thus make sense of growing and developing a society beyond the community both geographically and in time. Thus it precludes other important purposes open to persons, many if which are arguably more important than sexual gratification, which fails to measure up to expected utility calculation in many cases. Also sexual gratification is a short term end in itself. The only way one might conceive of fulfilling such a telos is by maximizing the number and quality of orgasms. But it is also true that, due to the dependence on the human busy and it’s energy, sexual gratification is a scarce quantity. Eventually the body loses it’s ability to produce sexual experiences that can compete with it’s earlier experiences. In short, even though sexual gratification is a possible good to rational agents, it is too narrow a good to make the focus of a relationship. You might try to adapt society to accommodate to such an ideal, but the result will look like Logan’s Run or Brave New World.

Like the real life case that is the basis of Oshira’s story, there is currently a case being tried now in the US prosecuting a beautiful young woman for killing her boyfriend. He was a Mormon who led a pure lifestyle until he met this woman who introduced him to “benefits”. But as time went on, anytime he wanted to leave and go back to his former way life, she would up the anti on her sexual favors to more erotic services. Finally, when tried to make decisive break and return to his church, she feared fir the loss of her sexual relationship and killed him. Although she had no prior history of sociopathic behavior, toward the end, her approach to him, became sociopath-like through manipulation and objectification. What may have started as Nagel like case of arousal may have through sexual obsession become more like a classic case of objectification. The exclusive narrowness of erotic love may tend to and logically entail such obsession. (Having no other purpose to make sense of.)

For all these reasons, while there is a kind of reciprocity in erotic love, we cannot will to universalize erotic love as a sole end. In the film, the two adulterers hold a faux marriage in a brothel which clearly has no significance except as symbol of the erotic devotion to one another. But a real marriage supposes a covenant to each other for all time which has a broad scope beyond sexual cherishing. Traditional marriage has the complete well being of each partner, their commonwealth, their children, and their society in view. But we could not will such a thing for the sake of erotic love.

One reply will be that such relationships do not have such a narrow scope, as the phrase “friends with benefits” suggests. As friends or partners we do not just look to the sexual desires of the other but care for the other in toto. But neither erotic love nor friendship is the basis for marriage. We need to have an ethic of care as well as duties to one another anyway and the state has laws and rights that already cover this. Friends can become brothers by trading saki cups without the public recognition. This is because friendship is also a private affair that does not necessarily take society into its scope.

But marriage and family as traditionally conceived and practiced includes caring for the other even when they are no longer loved or befriended. They have to take you back when you come again. Marriage and family have to see if devotion can be rekindled. Free relations of friendship and erotic love are not so obliged. Not can we but we must will to universalize traditional marriage.

It is natural to be ambivalent about another’s happiness at a time and to not want to do anything to harm it. But dedication to erotic love involves a self-deception by looking only to the present moment, not only for those in love but also for ambivalent spectators. We need to ask what it would be like if our devotion at the moment became the norm. Suppose Earth was invaded by a race of genderless aliens that were able to copulate with any and human at any age with perfect sentient recognition of each other’s arousal and do so with perfect intensity on an asymptotically increasing scale in one continuous act. It would mean the end of the human race.


Polyamory and Happiness

The Love that calls for marriage.

I read a piece recently that argued polyamory as being superior to traditional marriage because it tended to result in better character in those participating in it. Traditional marriage breads jealousy and thus hostility and violence. This happens when a spouse has relations outside of marriage. But if this happens in polyamory, this doesn’t happen since the point of polyamory is complete openness to experience sexually with others. In fact, instead of jealousy, the partner feels happiness in the other’s success sexually. Rather than tending to violence, sex with other people tends to happiness in the case of the partner.

The problem with this view is that it overlooks the case where the partner does not have relations with anyone else. In the case of the polyamorous partner, she must be required to be sad for her dedicated partner for not succeeding with others but not only that she must at all times realize that she has no special claim to any of her partners’ affections nor they to hers. Polyamory instills an imperative to be open to providing “benefits” with many partners. She’s not even to be dedicated to certain sets of partners. Polyamory tends to a kind of ubiquity of relations to the point where e en friendship is irrelevant. But a traditional marriage understands that partners are partners because they have been chosen. Not only that but chosen with lifelong dedication. Marriage traditionally conceived is an exclusive covenant and promise. When one says “I do”, one sets a precedent against predictable future discounting and this assures the partner that right now when and while one is right minded and whole hearted one dedicates to their partner for all of life. This is a kind of precious love. Conjugal family creation specifically calls for covenantal love and thus traditional marriage.

Polyamorous arrangements assume no effort will be made to prevent discounting the future and that everyone involved will simply follow the mood at the time. The aim is to avoid sabotaging the heat of the moment and to mitigate the need to sublimate the libido. In polyamorous agreements, persons volunteer to be mere means. This is not as readily seen as it is in the case of slavery or Old Mormon style polygamy where the man is a kind of king and his wives are like his retainers. In polyamory however you have a kind of original position where several people contract to exchange sexual benefits with each other in the future. This is to grant each other property in the other’s bodies but only, though not necessarily exclusively, for pleasure.

So polyamory is only finding a happiness in another’s increased utility, like when a friend wins at Lotto. It’s not violent but also not much since the ends obtained come and go. But the anger that goes with infidelity is righteous indignation and need not be brute violence. On the other hand, there is no sense of dedicated love in polyamory and polyamory would resist and discourage such love by requiring infidelity to justify the lifestyle. Further, polyamory includes no provision for children. It would have to make special provisions if children are had or desired that would either compromise polyamory or compromise children. This could include sterilization or abortion, so polyamory is not necessarily without it’s violence.

The oceanic pleasure of the experience machine of polyamory that constitutes it’s “spirituality” is certainly spiritual in the original paganism of the human race. But in the spirituality of western theism the model of religion is marriage. God’s people are a “chosen people”, his prized possession, the apple of his eye. And he is a “jealous God”. In paganism the people find useful deities, but God says, “You did not choose me. I chose you.” God makes a covenant with his people and they are thus identified with each other. God’s love is unconditional but still exclusive. This is the difference between Eros and Agape.

Here at the me, I an celebrating “French Gay (Touquivillian) Atheist Day”, having a burger with French Gay Atheist Fries and so on. What could drive an Anglophillic Straight Theist to such festivities? It is to honor those gay atheists in France today who are marching with the opponents of the government’s attempt to push gay marriage. Not only this, but their arguments are stunningly perspicuous and compelling moral reasons that put many Americans to shame for there lack of clarity. Such stunning moral perspicacity from such persons runs counter to the narrative about them in Christian circles. One could say that they are deeply beholden in theory and disposition to the excellent social reasoning in their Catholic backgrounds. But this in no way dims their excellent arguments.

Putting various reports together the argument they give can be compellingly and efficiently given.

(1) The rights of the child trump the rights to a child.
(2) Every child has a right to have both it’s mother and father.
(3) Thus the state has a duty to see to it that the child has it’s father and mother.
(4) Gay marriage will not see to it that the child has it’s own father and mother even allowing for adoption.
(5) Thus, the state has no duty to support gay marriage over normal marriage.

I don’t care to consider the whole argument now but I do want to look at parts of it. Clearly the notion of right in the first phrase of (1) and in (2) is that of a natural liberty right prior to state and legislation design. The “right” in the second phrase (1), in cases not involving the children that parents have by birthing them, refers to positive “rights” that are creatures of legislation, such as adopting. Also, (1) and (2) are synthetic a priori moral truths, given the properties of natural rights.

While this last bit will no doubt be challenged, I simply give my best sweeping “consult the literature” arm wave and move on. One interesting implication of natural rights of children is that they illustrate an implication of natural rights, namely that they imply duties not only contemporary with the person but before the person exists. If a person P has a natural right at a time T then others have the duty to secure P’s rights not only at T but prior to T. If children have a natural right to a mother and father we need to secure that right insofar as we have anything to do with that outcome even before the child exists. Every child that is going to exist has the right.

If this is true of the natural right to a mother and father, it is also true of another natural right: the right to life. Children have a right to life that trumps the right to get or not get children. If a a child is going to exist we have the duty to protect that future life. This implies a prima facie duty to protect life from conception. If there is a conceptus there will be a child with a right to life. We can prevent the existence of a child with a right to life by terminating the embryo but this is exactly what is forbidden by the future child’s right to life, the future child whose existence has been rendered disposed to happen by the existence of the conceptus.

Thus (1) is an axiom that makes clear the duties regarding marriage and childbirth, two of the many contended areas of social concerns. No doubt it has bearing of freedom of religious expression but we will leave that as an exercise. But we do owe French Gay Atheist marriage advocates and major debt. Happy French Gay Atheist day.

Hot on the tail of the previous post: Bottom points out that up until The post-WWI period in America, there was a relationship between religion, politics, and economics as spheres of cultural life that provided the common language be means of which all could make sense of and appreciate rival points of view: denominational pluralism, commercial capitalism, and republican federalism. The picture focuses on these as they are in themselves but also jointly as a common culture. See the previous posted article.

As one looks at these components, it’s clear that separately they each apply what Thomas Sowell called “The Constrained View” as opposed to “The Unconstrained View”. So it’s very plausible that the Constrained View is the jointly held perspective that holds it all together and provides the common presupposition to the language. Thus, the abstract idea [constrained/unconstrained] is the key to understanding.

Capitalism is rational given the constrained view given man’s irrevocable selfishness. Socialism is rational given the unconstrained view since with direction human economy is capable of greater perfection. Similarly, republicanism is rational given the constrained view by instituting obstacles of review to curb the self-deceit of government. Statism is rational under the unconstrained view since there is nothing that needs an obstacle to check. Similarly, Protestantism is characterized by it’s belief in the ubiquity of sin in human nature. Further, the need to allow a plurality of denominations allowed for checks and balances between them. This is the constrained view. Modernism was characterized by a therapeutic perfectionistic deism with a similar structure of competent elitism.

To the constrained view, humans are universally characterized as having weakness of will, always preferring the bird in the hand to the two in the bush, in spite of what of what the expected utilities are. It would be difficult to imagine how expected utility calculation would have evolved and how man would have survived this long if not conscience evolved along with it to impose painful penalties over time as the immediate price of doing what experience has taught as inexpedient, thus making moral formation possible. Even then, the goodness thus achieved is fragile as conscience can become numb. Fragility is also a feature of the measures humans take (religion, government, economy) to anticipate and check weakness of will.

But now we have reached scoping were many think science and technology have made all this unnecessary. Humans even as we find them are plastic and it only takes competent social engineering be the best and brightest to shape that clay to an ever more optimal society. We can now transcend our cultural evolution. This is the unconstrained vision. This also includes seeing through conventional morality now that it need not apply to the brave new humans we might develop. The religious function need no longer be based on the arbitrary stories that percolate out of ancient history. Religion is just movement psychology that can be fulfilled by taking up the crusades that the experts pick out to suit the greater purpose of improved social functioning such as global warming, non-smoking, gay marriage, euthanasia, and so on.

But according to the constrained view, this grossly underestimates human weakness and without factoring this in is bound at the end of the day to be an elaborate social self-delusion of the most Machiavellian sort. But if checks and balances remain there’s hope that human will can keep in line with the rest of human nature to promote human happiness for more humans. So one of the most important checks is the lionizing of the sine qua nons of human happiness in the form of a regime of human liberty rights and corresponding perfect duties. This includes the freedom of religious expression.

So in America, the constrained view has finally been displaced from the central position it had in the National Mind and the unconstrained view has become the new center of thought.

Here is Joseph Bottom’s insightful and prophetic study on the death of American Protestantism from 2008. This has ramifications both for American conservative reform and Christian apologetics and domestic missions.

Does Jesus need to be forgiven?

Morrisey, lead singer of the alternative group “the Smiths” and outspoken homosexual and gay activist, sings to Jesus that he has forgiven Jesus, no doubt for being a moral monster fir making the unreasonable and thus malicious claim that there is something worthy of damnation about the homosexual lifestyle. This shows that Morrisey is the better person. But one could understand if one should rather tell Jesus to go to Hell himself for such an inhuman and arbitrary opinion. Morrisey is thus being more gracious than need be and more than perhaps most of us would care to be, the true embodiment of grace in thus conversation. Meanwhile, Jesus has proven to be a failure as a moral teacher and psychologically unstable for his homophobia. At best, Jesus is a figure that failed to perfectly rise above his own time and place in the ancient past and thus his life is best unregarded by us today. The same could be said of Jesus’ book, the Bible, to which Jesus gladly submits as authoritatively teaching right and wrong, including on issues like the condemnation of homosexuality and approval of ritual blood sacrifice. It’s fine as a quaint artifact but it’s continued use in public ceremonies such as swearing an oath of presidential office can no longer by tolerated as a custom but rejected lest we imply any condoning if it as a moral guide to justice.

Even the presuppositions of Jesus and the Bible are positively obstructive. Even in the recent past we may have had tolerate religious customs and bizarre comments about science and public policy by yahoos claiming only the authority of the Bible on their side, just from their numbers and previous status as citizens. But we are now at the point where we can simply push all this nonsense away and build more sound culture based on proper science and pragmatic policy. We should not be ashamed to openly legislate against this but rather be ashamed that we let the moral monsters of the Judeo-Christian tradition survive another day.

This speech characterizes the point of view of our society and our mission field in the West as Christians. We no longer live in the early 20th century where there was still a residual tissue in the language and customs of society – and thus in the conceptual schemes of most citizens – that made sense of the Christian faith even for those who didn’t hold it. Even while many did not believe the gospel of Christ, one could briefly explain the Gospel in it’s traditioned terms and it would still get across. A program like Billy Graham’s crusade ministry was possible and appreciable.

But this us no longer true. Today our society is highly educated. College study is widely distributed and includes acquiring the skills of critical thinking and the hermeneutic of suspicion. What it does not include is an appreciation of classical liberal learning and the western tradition but rather the deconstruction of all traditions to a scheme of competing interests.

As the opening paragraphs show this has had the two-fold result of losing all touch with Christian literacy and with it a commensurability with the conceptual scheme of the gospel. Critical ideas such “God”, “sin”, “reconciliation”, “repentance”, etc. no longer hold the sane meaning for Christians and today’s non-Christians. On top of this, there is in the non-Christian point of view a prima facie case that becoming acquainted with the Christian conceptual scheme is foolish and immoral. The program is now to eliminate the Christian view once and for all with confident belief that at any point we can ourselves create our own conceptual scheme whenever we need to through quilting a new one.

The situation of the church today has gone back to that of the apostle Paul in the Hellenistic world having to start from scratch and using concepts available from the culture of Athens to make his points and help the gospel make sense to the Greek world. Francis Schaeffer wrote concerning apologetics that while it had the negative function of defending the faith, it also had the positive function of communicating the faith. This us all the more true today. Even if one were to argue that argument and evidence could never be the sort to demonstrate or compel assent to Christ and his truth claims, it would still be necessary to give a reasonable account of faith if only to communicate it in a way that makes lucid the meaning and plausibility of the gospel. Our approach must reckon with both the analytic acumen and sense of justified resistance to the gospel of today’s non-Christian.

I don’t intend to answer the question about whether Jesus should be forgiven but rather point to a way to find the answer and motivate taking that way.

Starting with the later, while the emphasis on the present and the alleged ability to construct a conceptual scheme de novo blocks any argument for becoming literate in the Judeo-Christian tradition from the obvious fact that the Christian scheme has influenced Western thought until recently, one still has to confront the false claim self-sufficiency in evaluating such a product. Like doctors, writers who edit themselves have fools for clients.

To really appreciate the value of your scheme construction, you cannot keep bootstrapping on your own perspective alone. You need to be able to get a view of your thinking from a point of view outside of your thinking. But since the new technology is bringing about a global scheme building operation, there is no “other” point of view to be found contemporary to yours that is other in a sufficiently radical sense. The only alternative is to revisit the past and enter sympathetically into what were once the viable traditions and try to understand them as moral points of view, thus appreciating the moral shock they would have about the modern world. This would be necessary to avoid self-deception through self-absorption.

This would open the prospect of reconsidering the Christian worldview on spite of it’s features that offend modern moral sensibilities. The fact is that Christians like any other holders of great traditions gave gone through the exercise of setting up a dialogue between traditional and then contemporary thought as well as between western and eastern thought and thus have continued until and including now, avoiding the extremes of isolated fundamentalism and capitulating “liberalism”. They are following the example set by Paul in Athens.

Some reply that one of the features of modern global conceptual scheme formation is that diversity of points of view is not denied but radically emphasized. We are all other to each other and to ourselves moment by moment. Now either thus claim is genuine in which case the Christian tradition should be considered seriously and appreciatively just like any other point of view or this is just a protocol statement that uniformly defines and applies to the global contemporary scheme and still requires a genuinely outside stance to critique it. Conclusion: while not necessarily imposing a personal obligation on the individual reader to consider the Christian way of thinking, it does argue that the project of considering the Christian worldview should be taken up by some in behalf of all, and that anyone of good will ought to agree that rejecting the consideration of Christianity by eliminating it is wrong whether it’s Dennett’s way or Barzum’s.

But I have another reason that non-Christians should not refuse to consider the Christian worldview and learn to appreciate it as a conceptual scheme with it’s own moral point of view, and that is the case for Christ and the Bible as original sources of authority. If Jesus is God, then obedience is the only reasonable response and we need to reconstruct our views accordingly. Of course, it must be God as morally perfect in himself alone that could make us change our moral views with reasonable contentedness and so this claim that Jesus is God must be explained and defended. but this is what apologetics does – which is what I attempt to do in this book:

I won’t develop the point further here but I expect that anyone who takes up my project seriously will discover that it’s Morrisey that needs forgiveness and not Jesus

Apologetics ministry has become necessary in the 21st century. Apologetics and evangelism have become one in a West where Christianity has become a second language.

Dangerous Games for Boys

The other night, I had a great time playing a home-brewed pick-up Role-Playing Game with my good friends’ two boyfull boys who have just started school who are full of energy, imagination, and derring-do. We actually started this game awhile ago and they had been aching to continue it.

The “game” is not in itself “complete” or well-defined and I have mostly been relying on my experience with such games to make snap situational judgments about how to conduct things. For those who don’t know in a role-playing game, players take the role of characters in a fictional setting and determine the actions of the characters as the fiction proceeds, deciding for them what their aims in the fictional world are. The world fiction is conducted by a referee, called the Game Master or GM. The GM provides the world setting, reports the results of the players’ characters actions in their environment, and sees to it that such interactions are fairly determined according to a set of rules agreed to by both players and GM. You might say the GM is the author of everything except the players characters. In this case, I am the GM and there was no mastered rule set. The kids are trusting me and I am winging it. But the most important responsibility of a GM is to see to it that his customers have a worthy time.

This game was built around my iPod, using the “Pocket Oracle” app. This app is like a “Magic 8 Ball” that you design yourself. The “ball in the Ball” is actually a dodecahedron – a twenty sided die. I designed the die using an imperfect FUDGE ladder, named from a famous open sourced RPG system. It looked like this.

1. Excellent!
2. Very Great!
3. Great.
4. Very Good
5. Very Good
6. Good
7. Good
8. Very Fair
9. Very Fair
10. Fair
11. Fair
12. Barely Fair
13. Barely Fair
14. Mediocre
15. Mediocre
16. Barely Mediocre
17. Barely Mediocre
18. Poor!
19. Barely Poor!
20. Terrible!

Whenever a charter attempts to do something that is important and risky, the player (or GM if the character is not controlled by a player) “rolls” (shakes the iPod in this case) and the resulting word tells how the Player’s character did. The GM then adds detail to this result to apply it to the specific situation the character was in. So if a character is disarming a trap and rolls “Terrible” not only dies he fail to disarm it but he sets it and all the nearby traps off. This roll can be modified if the GM or player thinks they face an unusual challenge or difficulty. If there is, the GM adds or subtracts a “level” to the roll result. When adding or subtracting levels, jeep the modifier (very, barely, or none) and change the value to next one up or down. So to level up very fair you get very good. To level down very fair you still get very mediocre even though that’s not on the die.

The modifiers really come into play in contests. If two people are arm wrestling for example, both roll and the highest roll wins. If one rolls “good” and the other rolls “very good” the second player wins. Contests may involve different types of actions. If one character is trying to sneak around a guard, he must pit his sneak attempt roll against the guard’s alertness roll. If it’s greater then the sneak attempt is successful. In contests, the description of results is determined not by the winning roll but by the degree of difference. “Fair” is the base from which you calculate and keep the modifier. So if the winner rolls “very good” and the loser rolls “good” the winner’s result is “very fair”. If the winner rolls “good” and the loser’s roll is “barely mediocre” the winner’s result is “great”. If the winner rolls “barely mediocre” and the loser rolls “terrible”, the winner’s result is “barely great”.

Combat is a special case of a contest roll. Before combat can begin it must be determined if one character surprises another. This is a contest like the sneak-guard case above. If a player fails an alertness contest, his character is surprised and cannot attack or defend in the first round. His opponent gets a free uncontested hit role which may be modified by the circumstances (magical weapons or dwarven craft armor, etc.).

After surprises are resolved all characters are aware of the combat. Each contestant rolls once and combat turns are determined from highest to lowest. This is the initiative contest and us based on the characters natural agility, training, and encumbrance. Significant factors here can modify the roll.

Once combat turns are assigned, on each Player’s turn, he can have his character move (change his location, ready a weapon, load a weapon, change his position, ready a spell, etc) or attack one opponent with one weapon if the opponent is in range of the weapon. In face to face melees the character must be next to his opponent.

If the character the character attacks with a melee weapon (sword, hammer, mace, roundhouse kick) the opponent may if he us able defend from the blow (parry with his own weapon, block with his shield, or dodge out of the way) if he can. If be can’t, then the attack is an uncontested modifiable roll. If he can, it’s a contested roll. If the attacker is successful use the quality of results to determine damage. If not, nothing happens. If the attacker does really badly (poor or terrible) he could lose or break his weapon or hurt himself.

If the attacker hits, he does damage according to the level of success.

Fair – Fatigue damage
Good – Equipment or stunning damage
Great – Stunning or wounding damage
Excellent -wounding or fatal damage

Fatigue damage simply means you are getting tired. All damage does fatiguing damage but fair damage only fatigues. If you sustain enough fatigue you will not be able to stand up. You may want to retreat before then. Equipment damage means that the defender’s equipment was able to absorb much of the blow depending on the defense used (weapon in parrying, shield in blocking, armor in dodging). This cannot last though. Equipment becomes weaker sustaining blows and eventually either breaks or fails to protect the defender. When equipment fails the results shift up fir each level as the table shows. Stunning damage dazed the opponent off his balance. Enough will knock him unconscious. Wounding damage draws blood and could lead to the loss of a limb. Final lethal blows effect vital areas of the body and could be fatal. Damage is described and recorded on the player’s Character notes. Damage nay be healed through rest, equipment repair, first aid, and magical healing.

A long range weapon such as a crossbow, throwing axe, or flintlock is an uncontested roll (unless the target is aware of the shootist) open to modification based on skill, range, coverage of the target, and the target’s armor.

I won’t say much about magic except that spells have to be ready before combat only by wizards or others with the constitution, training and immediate required components for the spell. In combat, a wizard must take several rounds to get ready to cast a spell. When he does, the roll is a contested roll against his opponent’s natural magic resistance. If the roll is successful, the wizard makes a distinct roll for the effect of the magic. If the wizard makes a poor or terrible result, the wizard makes an effect roll and applies it to himself or his party.

In all of this, the results are determined “according to the draw of the narrative”. There are no real numerical calculations and some times dice results are massaged a bit fir the sake of plausibility and fun. It’s all at the GMs discretion but the players will be the final judge with their feet.

For this adventure, I had the boys tap into their picture of fantasy helped along by seeing TLOTR movies. I asked then to pick a race (dwarf, human, elf) and a medieval fantasy class (knight, wizard, thief) and tell a story about how someone of their race came to be in their class. I have found that if a person can come up with plausible answers to biographical puzzles then they have a clearer grasp of their character concept to predict what their character will do in novel situations. I had them write their stories down on sheets and keep them to update as the story progressed. That, plus the descriptive aspect of the die used, made it natural for them to imagine how things went.

That night, the boy’s dwarven knights had discovered an old abandoned castle (it mysteriously and gradually appeared as the sun set on a cliff by the seashore) and had discovered the remains of an open air market inside it’s outer Bailey. Searching, the found a map to the layout of the castle and discovered a secret passage to the interior.

Their first encounter in this passage was with a the ghost of of the former Prince of the castle, whom they defeated and dissipated in a battle but not before they hot some useful information from him. It turns out that his loss of the prince’s father and the condition of the castle was the work of an evil wizard.

They then discovered a well stocked armory and replaced their worn equipment. Then one discovered a specially crafted dwarven war-hammer (roll twice and take best roll when attacking). The other didn’t find anything at first but (after pleading with “uncle GM” with sincere outcries), he eventually found a cool matched set of throwing daggers.

They eventually found another stretch of secret passage that went up several stairs. After a good trap detect roll, they noticed that there were holes in the wall on each side of the stairs. But these holes were at the level of the head of a normal human, not a dwarf. One decided to brave a few of the stairs to see how the traps worked. Getting an excellent result, he climbed the entire flight of stars and set off the spear traps. At each set of holes, a spear automatically thrust out of one hole and into the opposite hole but too high to harm the keen dwarf.

His partner was not quite so fortunate. At one point, a spear thrust out of a hole in one if the stairs (not noticed by check for traps attempt). He dodged the spear but it caught the inside of his new shield from the armory and pinned it to the ceiling. disappointed, he retained his old wood shield to replace it.

The door at the top of the stairs turned out to be a secret passage into the main throne room. They had been warned by the ghost that the throne had been cursed but did not know how. It turned out there were four thrones at the other end of the great room from the main entrance doors.

They decided to inspect the main entrance for jewels or other things. But this put them in a position to see that they were not alone in the throne room. Hidden from their earlier vantage point, up amid the tops if the columns, was the castle guardian, a giant crawfish (or a really, really, really large lobster – we had crawfish for dinner, which the boys were both disgusted and fascinated by). The crawfish had noticed them before they saw him and was on the way down to the floor to engage them. (So no surprise.)

Each knight engaged one of the claws (each treated as an individual fighter) and won their initiative. One managed to get in some stunning damage (no real distinction to be made between equipment and bodily damage – a crawfish’s armor is its body). The other missed and both were bracing for the monster’s attack when the dad cane in and announced bed time.

The boys ran all around and went to bed with visions and tactics for defeating a giant crawfish. “It’s like Lord of the Rings!” (with crawfish). Wait until they discover it’s breath weapon!

The great thing about GMing with kids is that you don’t need to worry about being short of ideas. Their excitement and imagination produces a virtual fountain of ideas. I just had to listen to the boys to pick out my adventure. It made for a great pick-up experience.

Kevin Williamson posted a critical factor 1 piece for conservatives and Republicans – especially orthodox ones. His discussion genuinely moves the ball forward with insight on the 2012 debacle regarding the conservative message. It points to a compassionate conservativism that is truly conservative but also opening areas where at present conservatives show a lack of love.

Subsidiarity & Religious Psychology

William James in his work on the psychology of religion, characterizes two types of religious psychology that he observes in the religious experience of humanity. One he calls the healthy minded, morally strong type. A good example is Zen Buddhism which emphasizes self-help and the sufficiency of reason and practice in religious formation. Charismatic leaders play only an ancillary role in facilitating religious development in followers which is neither necessary mor sufficient to their success. Eventually, religious followed should be able to reconstruct the path to religious success for themselves.

The other type is what Janes calls the sick-souled spiritually dependent type. A good example is the Shin schools of Buddhism where the supplicant admits that he is unable to make sufficient progress on his own and must rely on surrogate labors of others. Religious figured are indispensable for their objective work on behalf of others. Fruits of such labor cannot be discovered by reason alone but require proclamation and tradition in the form of legends technique will not obtain this help which can only be acknowledged, requested, and relied on.

In Christianity, the same is observed. Focusing on Western Christianity, believers struggle to avoid two extremes, Pelagianism or autosoterism, in which God’s role is only to acknowledge moral perfection when it is achieved by the striving of the saint and Christ’s work on the cross is only an example of morality to us. The other extreme is theologism the view that God is the sole cause of all that happens in creation and redemption such that secondary causes are mere illusions.

Within those boundaries, the church in the west has been divided into the Roman Catholic and the Protestant branches. The first seems to emphasize moral strength more. Salvation as justification depends on your works being sufficiently worthy to justly earn heaven. Both the work of Christ and other forms of grace are necessary for success but they are all ancillary to this result. The tradition also gives greater scope to natural reason for moral guidance as well as institutional support through the catholic church hierarchy.

The Augustinian-Jansenist-Protestant branch of western theology reflects the spiritual dependence theme. Salvation is all of grace even to the point of being chosen before time for salvation independently of our own existence. The believer is absolutely dependent on God for salvation. He is not just sick but dead in his guilt and sin and cannot save or seek salvation of himself. In Protestantism, Christ is not merely an example nor even just ancillary to salvation but rather is the complete and sufficient achievement of that salvation for believers. This is known by special revelation only which while compatible with objective morality relies on it primarily to expose the absolute need for grace. This has tended to make the believer immediately present in her own subjectivity before God and has deemphasized the institutional church.

It seems that healthy minded religion and sick souled religion are supposed to be incompatible. Yet either one if not taken to extremes us something that is prima facie good in it’s own right. Also each is supported by it’s own primary intuition: health mindedness by the intuition of personal moral responsibility and the sick-souled by the intuition of absolute dependence. Both of which is a part of out intuition of God as sovereign and as mysterium tremendum et fascinans.

In spite of these differences, Protestants and Catholics have discovered a very important area if common ground emerging from their respective traditions. From the Protestant side it’s called “sphere sovereignty”. From the Catholic side, it’s called “Subsidiarity”. Both terms highlight that there are different spheres of responsibility that a person may act it. The first highlights them as distinct jurisdictions and the second their ordering relations.

An example is the relation between the family and the state. According to Subsidiarity, the two spheres are distinct in that they have specific responsibilities that are primarily theirs. Yet each has on obligation to assure the ends of the other. So for example, the mission of the family is to see to the being and well-being of it’s members. This includes their health but also the development of their potential and character. However, the state sees to the security of it’s citizens and their prosperity and posterity. It thus recognizes that developing character in it’s citizen’s is a public good. But it also sees that developing character is principally the purpose of the family. So the state sees to it’s proper public good by facilitating the family in it’s own pursuit in it’s own mission and not by doing the family’s job for it (unless the family has become so broken down that it cannot do it’s job). Citizens with good character are a public good but the role of the state is subsidiary to the role of the family.

Now I suggest that Subsidiarity may help us to reconcile the the healthy minded and sick souled sides of western Christianity and thus may shed s useful light on some of the plights of Western Christianity today.

One if the great concerns of Protestantism is it’s apparent co-belligerency with early modern thought in taking the subjective turn. But a better way of thinking about this is to recognize that it’s good for theism to see that there are many ways something could be, one if which is to be subjectively. What the early modern period discovered or re-discovered is the sphere of the individual, that alongside the social spheres of responsibility there is also for each person the sphere of the self that she is accountable for. So if we see that we can see that the priorities of religion of the sick souled are the priorities of religion in the sphere of the individual sphere. On the other hand, the priorities of the religion of the healthy minded are the priorities of religion in the social spheres, beginning with the family. Finally, the priorities of religion per se or per the religious object are the priorities of the sphere of the religious institution, the church, temple, shrine, or mosque.

The western church’s primary responsibility is orthodoxology, the right speaking of God in proclamation and worship. But this also includes holding the spiritual and moral well-being of it’s members as individuals and as a community since repentance is the appropriate response to the evangel. But the church’s role is secondary to the family in cultivating the pedagogy of moral and compassionate becoming that makes for community. The real know-how and direct supervision for that belongs to parents and peers. But such wisdom will be a natural wisdom common to all families with a presumption of virtue and prudence. All this is wholly appropriate to cultivating moral strength. Here is the grist that helps us understand the theology of sanctification, mortification, and divine chastening.

But it also is an aim of the church to see to the salvation of souls. This takes up the soul’s own responsibility for her own happiness and her intimate knowledge of fallenness, sinfulness, and irreconciliation with God. The church guides with Christian direction but this is ancillary to the soul’s own response to grace. This can only be appropriate to the soul based on self-awareness even though this is sabotaged by self-deception. The awareness of one’s own helplessness appropriately calls for dependence. The soul may balk at this because of uncertainty created by worries that melancholia is misleading them but that is yet another feature that makes total dependence rational. But the church seeks to direct the individual to the word of God as to the truth apart from all self-deception. But the soul must choose to apply that truth to itself. And here we have the whole forensic and relational theology of graces like substitution, justification, assurance of salvation and so on.

So the consistency of healthy mindedness and sick souledness is consistent because these modes of the psychology of religion are true relative to a sphere. The fact that individuals are placed immediately before the presence of God in the individual sphere of concern for salvation is consistent with the fact that communities as communities are directly present to God according to the other social spheres and their specific economies, including the church.

Of course, this solution does not automatically dictate how specific doctrinal conflicts between branches of the church should be worked out. But it should take off the table objections to doctrines that are based on consequentialist arguments such as that this or that doctrine leads to either rugged individualism or group think.

“If the Spaniards were to prohibit the French from trading with the Spanish kingdoms, not for the good of Spain but to prevent the French from sharing in any profits, this would be an unjust enactment, and contrary to Christian charity. But if this prohibition cannot justly be proscribed in law, neither can it be justly carried out in practice, since an unjust law becomes inequitable precisely when it is carried into execution. And “nature has decreed a certain kinship between all men” (Dig. 1.1.3), so that it is against natural law for one man to turn against another without due cause, man is not a ‘wolf to his fellow man,’ as Ovid [actually Plautus, Asinaria 495], says, but a fellow.”