Phony Christians and phony outrage

Over the weekend a news show at MSNBC made some waves by making some bold claims regarding opposition to Obamacare by conservative Christians or politicians who say they are Christians.  Ted Cruz in particular was singled out for his comments about defunding ACA and also for his overtly Christian rhetoric.

The Blaze noticed the comments by Ed Schultz and promptly publicized them.

To quote from the Blaze piece:

“This is good for America and I won’t let them lie,” Schultz said. “They’re phony Christians. Phony Christians when they say that they are Christian but then they want to take away from their next door neighbor. They don’t want to be their brother’s keeper.”

“A growing number of right wing Christians are coming out day after day as a Christian,” he continued. “I think I have the right to expose their hypocrisy and call them out for all the things they are saying wrong and how misguided they are.”

[…]

“It is very simple. If ObamaCare is repealed, Americans will die. Children of God will die,” he said.

They are, of course, standard fare for politics and yet another common salvo against conservatives: A few weeks ago, President Obama said that “The one unifying principle in the Republican Party at the moment is making sure that 30 million people don’t have health care,” among other things, and this is used to great effect in attack ads during every election.  Rhetorically, they have great strength, and are a reliable way to put an opponent on the defensive in a hurry without allowing much time or room to recover.  No one wants to have to answer the question of why they want others to suffer and die for seemingly insignificant reasons.  And it’s very easy to say the wrong thing trying to answer it.  Which is why we see it so much, and not just by liberals but by conservatives as well.  In the video segment linked by The Blaze, Cruz himself has difficulty answering a point-blank question of why he wants to take peoples’ health care away.

But Schultz’ comments about Christians who oppose Obamacare deserves comment first.  For starters, it begs all sorts of questions: Are Christians obligated to endorse anything that contains even the slightest bit of good?  Is the Golden Rule the Gospel?  Can a Christian be right about the Gospel and wrong about other things and still be a genuine Christian?   Is Ed Schultz a phony Christian himself for using a not-particularly-unique-to-Christianity-reason to call others phony?  (Answer: no.)

To put these questions (and Schultz’ comments) in perspective, we will reverse the situation.  Suppose that Ted Cruz states that only “phony Christians” oppose restrictions for abortion on demand.  (Hint: it would be Thunderdome.) Would Cruz be correct in saying that?  Of course not.  It would be as offensive as it is foolish.  And such is the case with Schultz’s comments.

On that note: What actually makes someone a Christian?  True, Jesus did command us to care for the poor, and the OT prophets spent an awful lot of time blasting the elite of Israel for their negligence in justice and caring for the poor even then, but is that what makes someone a Christian?   Last I checked, the Gospel has a little something to do with a Jewish preacher who was crucified for sedition and who, as his followers claimed, rose from the dead and promised to come again.  “Caring for others” is hardly a uniquely Christian trait, and is not what got Jesus crucified.

Now on to his most provocative claim: the claim that these “phony” Christians are just fine with, if not approving of, letting people die needlessly.  Or to put it as Obama did, conservatives are willing to let people slide straight into the grave because of some hidebound evidence-proof ideology.

But they have something in common that allows them to be easily answered.  And it’s time for this tactic to be neutralized.  Here’s how and why.

These comments make the mistake of confusing intention with foresight.  This is typically a distinction that only gets discussed in ethical situations that involve the abortion debate, but they are applicable here.  Furthermore, there is a difference between intrinsic evil and contingent evil at work here that blunts the attacks by Schultz and Obama.

If intention refers to the desire of a moral agent to bring something about, foresight is the ability to anticipate what might happen if a given event occurs.  Intrinsic evil is an act that is always wrong; it always (and intentionally) deprives someone of an inalienable good; a contingent evil is one that may result a deprivation of good that is not the intent of an act.  (One example used of a contingent evil is civilian casualties in a just war.  The casualties are foreseen as possible, but they are not intended and are not the goal of a just war.)  In this particular case, Schultz and Obama have switched the two, and accused their opponents of intending an outcome that is foreseen, and treating a contingent evil as though it were an intrinsic evil.

So revisiting the Schultz comments, what he has done is take a foreseen outcome and accused some Christians of making that the intended outcome, which is effectively a strawman attack.  It is true that some would die if Obamacare is repealed than if it were left in place, but these deaths are not the intent of those who oppose Obamacare.  And defending the defunding and repeal of Obamacare is much easier after distinguishing between intent and foresight, intrinsic and contingent evil.  Furthermore, it makes the attacks look unnecessarily harsh and foolish.

And Obama’s remarks about his Republican opponents fare no better: he has taken a foreseen consequence and accused the Republicans of making it their intended consequence.  It also helps that he has a willing media to faithfully repeat this attack.  And it also really helps that the Republicans who were the targets of these remarks are heretofore unable to effectively respond to them.

This distinction applies to other issues as well, particularly the marriage debate.  Recently I was asked why I wanted gay people to be unhappy.  But upon closer inspection, this too confuses intention with foresight: unhappiness is foreseen, but not intended, in saying traditional marriage has no other form than traditional marriage.  It might make some unhappy, but that is a foreseen consequence and not the intended consequence (which is stable, mother-father families).  Moreover, the usual moral framework is still in play: the moral status of homosexual acts, moral equivalence or neutrality, etc.  But knowing how to defuse a terribly intimidating attack may change how marriage is discussed, or at least remove some of the hostility–on both sides.  Defenders of traditional marriage use bad arguments too that can be answered using this distinction.

Of course, there is more wrong with Schultz’ remarks than just this confusion of intent and foresight.  Specifically, that the Christians who oppose Obamacare maintain their opposition to it on the grounds that intended, intrinsically evil acts are both allowed and mandated: the abortion mandate, the contraception mandate (as regards religious liberties), the death panels that suddenly don’t seem so outlandish, etc.  Yet Schultz ignores these, and simply accuses others of gross moral turpitude.  And it isn’t like the Republicans or the Christians Schultz accuses simply prefer no alternative to Obamacare other than death and destruction.  The Republican opponents of Obama maintain (and it should be noted this is up for debate) that the market is a better judge than government.  The Christian opponents of Obamacare maintain that government is not a good substitute for the church when it comes to charity, and for that reason oppose this particular ‘separation of church and state.’  And both typically think that government is not the only appropriate answer to human suffering.  Simply to say that Obamacare needs to be repealed is not to say that there should be no health care or charity at all.

So for Schultz, Obama, and others to malign their opponents with accusations of intent to harm, this amounts to slander.  An easily answerable slander at that.

Screwtape goes to Texas

(Somewhere in Hell)

My dearest Wormwood,

I must say it is with surprise and delight that you seem to be doing somewhat better for yourself having moved to the American Sector after that incident with the British fellow.  I will not deny that I was confounded when you sent that letter some time back saying “We need to wait it out and see what happens,” suggesting the situation after the latest of the humans’ big fancy wars was ripe for Infernal manipulation, but it seems you were right.

But word gets around down here; we had the internet installed quite some time ago (note: we had to settle for Comcast; don’t worry, they’ll get what’s coming to them in time) and we’ve been monitoring the situation in Texas for the last few weeks.  And we saw that some of your subjects were chanting “Hail, Satan” in some skirmish between those who support abortion and those who do not.

Unfortunately, word reached The Big Man Downstairs; He was none too thrilled that His title was taken so vainly.  It’s not that he disagrees with them; after all, they are on His side in the matter.  But it’s a matter of propriety.  His Maleficence doesn’t really want to be publicly associated with those who would actually defend the killing of viable children.  It’s a distraction.  So it needs to stop.  Also, it’s very bad PR, even for Satan.  He seems to think that the chanters were simply “trolling” (their word, not ours) the Enemy’s representatives.  As you know, He is much too grave a being to be trifled with like that.  Though He did commend them on their general Hellishness; they did a fine job of portraying the true nature of Hell, if you will recall our previous conversations about Music being drowned out by our Infernal Noise.

Which is not to say that he disagrees with them.  Oh, He finds it all amusing: the sideshow of those who speak of the issue in religious terms, on both sides, are doing a wonderful job of distracting everyone from the real issue at hand.  You must tell me, Wormwood–was it you that sought to clothe the Enemy’s resistance in almost purely religious garb?  Well, let me tell you, it has done a magnificent job–it’s a true stroke of genius!  It’s the distraction to end all distractions: by speaking of it only in our Enemy’s terms, as though He cares about it, allows those who have been influenced by our tempters to dismiss anything they say as that great and terrible faux pas, religious.  It took our Research Department a very long time (and at very great cost) to bring about the atmosphere of general distrust of anything that smacked of religion; but when it came about, it allowed for those hapless humans to dismiss almost anything from our Enemy’s camp because it was cheeky to speak about it at all.  And Hell have mercy (as if–but that’s for another letter) if someone appealed to metaphysics in order to argue something that applied to how humans behave and regard one another!  And thus the stage was set: even if a human disavowed the Enemy, if he took a stand on a matter of abortion he was regarded as being corrupted by ‘religion’ and dismissed as such.  So when it’s all said and done, even the humans under the Enemy’s control who spoke of abortion only in ‘religious’ terms were unable to hit the mark and provided us a useful distraction.

But the Enemy does seem to care about this sort of thing; His infuriating peons chose to sing a song about Forgiveness.  Forgiveness!  What gall!  What cheek!  Even after all the pains we went through to make the term ‘religious’ radioactive to them, they impose their insufferable mercy on those that we have convinced deserve no forgiveness and need no forgiveness.  We make it embarrassing and they went and did it anyway.  They might well even bring the whole charade down on accident.  And they’d better not, since we invested so much in making them seem cruel and heartless towards those who are tempted into abortion.  So it falls to you to rectify this situation.  Oh, to be sure, much of it is still beside the point and a useful distraction, and much of it is simply a bad argument, but it is all on terribly thin ice.  As are you.

Oh, the humans and their pathetic ‘rights.’  You’ve done well by getting them to think about rights selfishly, in terms of some sort of conflict, and in terms of unessential characteristics.  A death sentence simply for being the wrong gender–unthinkable after birth, but permissible before!  An unwanted child, deprived of life, simply because of how someone else regarded him!  Or because that human would deprive someone else of partaking in all manner of worldly pleasures that we’ve inculcated in them over the long years.  Know the gravity, then, of the thought that the mere presence of another human being that requires their attention may divert them from those worthwhile temptations and bring them into closer union with the Enemy.  Why He bothers to unite with them is still beyond us, but He has a knack for using things they perceive as ‘burdens’ to reveal Himself to them when our Noise is withheld.  We must work more on that.  Our Research Department is busy trying new ways to warp the thinking of some of those among them who call themselves “ethicists,” who are simply the most twisted sons of Hell you ever did see.  Can you imagine the scandal if anyone figured out their statements relied on metaphysics just as much as those who disagree with them?  Can you imagine the lack of chaos if they ever figured out the nature of rights?  Hence all the distractions.  Of course, they’ll have no rights at all Down Here, even if they wound up down here just insisting upon ‘their rights.’  But they’ll have no rights at all with the Enemy either; we’ll still tell them that much, but if they ever figure out how or why, the jig will be up.  Their concept of rights, as noble as they think of it, is still a very useful distraction when corrupted and debased.

But I digress.  Keep all the distractions going; even if they will not succeed this time, it is beside the point.  Our point is the myriad distraction.  Too few of them are fighting the real battles to make that much of a difference.  But if they start making much more of a difference, you will pay the price.  I hear the tempters at Comcast have a few openings, and no one wants to go there, do they?  I thought not.  Get to work.

 

Ever yours,

Screwtape

 

A Scout is Reverent

Monday turned out to be a wild day.  It was announced that the Scouts were ready to vote on changing the national policy banning openly homosexual men and teens from participating as Scout leaders and Scouts.  The new rule would allow individual troops to determine for themselves whether they would keep the policy or not.

One news source claimed that this was the result of two different factors: external pressure from pro-homosexual groups and corporate sponsors withholding contributions, and internal pressure from sponsoring organizations that were at odds with the policy, and corporate sponsors and their presence on the national board of directors.  “Scouting’s policy caused some volunteers and chartered organizations which oversee and deliver the program, to act in conflict with their missions, principles or religious beliefs,” one Scouting representative said.

Continue reading

An open letter to Senator Feinstein

The Honorable Diane Feinstein
331 Hart Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator:

I would like to share my thoughts regarding any upcoming legislation regarding firearms.

It is no surprise that many Americans disagree with your stance regarding the government’s role towards its citizens and firearms. But I think there may be some misunderstandings that I might be able to clarify.

An average citizen who owns a firearm has a particular way of looking at the world, and that firearm fits into that worldview. Our world comprises a vast range of ideas, emotions, acts, intentions, and possibilities, good and evil, and an indeterminate amount of risk. A firearm, then, becomes a very real reminder that civilization is always challenged on two fronts: by barbarism on one side, and by tyranny on the other, and that there is a certain amount of responsibility that is acknowledged by the bearer of such a weapon that both such dangers can literally be within firing range. The firearm just happens to be the current instrument of choice; we have not always had firearms, but we have always had to confront barbarity and tyranny, sometimes on the personal level. And those people who have an interest in firearms do not see an acknowledgement of that reality by those who advocate greater regulation of firearms. It is seen as a denial of a duty that has existed as long as humanity itself. They regard the Second Amendment not as the creation of a right but as a recognition of a right that every human has.

And I would venture to guess that many of these Americans do not know just how perilous life is outside of the States. We do not live in neighborhoods with armed security, where every home is protected by an eight-to-ten foot fence topped with razor wire, broken glass bottles, or electric fencing, with a metal gate that prevents unauthorized vehicular entry. We do not live, as South Africa does, in a nightmare where every single citizen has either been the victim of a violent crime or knows someone firsthand who has been the victim of violent crime. Even those who do not know of the reality of a huge swath of the world recognize that the capacity to defend one’s home and family is greatly enhanced by the capacity to own firearms, even those such as AR-15s and other semi-automatic rifles. The more that guns are eliminated, the more our homes will become fortresses.

So they tend to view further restrictions on firearms not as a strengthening of a society, but a weakening of society, because civilization itself is maintained primarily by individuals. They do not accept that we are made better by such a move, because the results will never match the intentions, no matter how caring.

There is one other point that many Americans feel is lost on those who advocate further comprehensive firearms reform. Many of them, if not most of them, have a real problem with law-abiding gun owners being regarded (and in some cases treated) like law-breaking gun users. Many of them feel that it is supremely unfair and uncivil to fail to distinguish between the lawful and the lawless concerning guns, and when that distinction fails to be acknowledged, they ascribe it to a sort of moral relativism on the part of those who make that claim. And I think they have a point: when those who abide by the law are regarded no differently than those who ignore it, there is reason for concern, because it comes from a morally colorblind worldview. That worldview is disturbing to those who see firearms as a critical instrument in upholding a civil society, because it suggests that there is a fundamental amorality at work. Since the Connecticut shooting that apprehension has been well-founded. It smells like tyranny, of a government that does not trust its citizenry.

That’s all, I suppose. I am just a citizen, you are an elected official, and elections have consequences. Nevertheless, I felt it worthwhile to share my thoughts on the matter.

Respectfully yours,

David

My thoughts on The Hobbit

Since a few folks wanted to know what I thought about The Hobbit, I thought I’d take a blog post and do exactly that.

Oh yeah: Spoiler alert.

First, the good things.

I really liked almost all of the casting choices.  Martin Freeman makes a very good Bilbo, and Richard Armitage makes for an excellent Thorin Oakenshield.  I really look forward to seeing how he plays Thorin in the next two films.

New Zealand once again makes for a sumptuous Middle Earth.  Thanks again for making me want to visit and see these places.

Gandalf got a little preachy in Rivendell, but he turned out to have a really great line about the power of little ordinary acts of goodness versus looking for the rare hero.  Which turned out to be serendipitously comforting after the Connecticut shooting earlier in the day.

The rescue at the end of the film–mostly.  More on that later.

The soundtrack is very good, and I really like Neill Finn’s “Song of the Lonely Mountain.”  I think I like how they took the Dwarves’ version of the song and made it the foundation for all the new musical themes…and, of course, the old theme of the Ring and a few others that snuck in, mostly around Hobbiton and Rivendell.

One highlight were the two awesome flashback scenes to the arrival of Smaug and the destruction of the town of Dale, and the giant battle between the Dwarves and the Orcs where Thror is killed and Thorin earns the title of Oakenshield.  Very cool.  Was not expecting either of them.  Will look forward to seeing if the epilogue shows the restoration of Erebor is comparable to its splendor before Smaug took it.

The not so good things:

The very first overall impression that I got was that The Hobbit did not translate especially well to the style of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.  The Hobbit is a children’s book; so when it was adapted for the same style as LOTR, something got lost.  The more fanciful and fantastical elements simply seem contrived in Jackson’s retelling, though not completely–but just enough to really be noticed.  I will see if this is the case if (when) I see it again.

The “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” rule ought to have applied.  There was no reason for Elrond to be running around killing orcs (even if he was wearing some seriously cool armor).  It’s not like he actually needed to work that hard at it, considering he had a whole river at his command for the defense of Rivendell.

I was perplexed by the portrayal of Radagast the Brown.  For Pete’s sake, he’s a wizard, not Radagast the Crazy Cat Lady.  The notable trail of bird crap down the side of his face really didn’t endear him to much of anyone, either.  It was nice of them to write him in, but it was totally unnecessary.  Perhaps this was more a bone thrown to the LOTR fans who didn’t get Radagast in that trilogy.  Heck, by the time they get to the third movie they might throw Bombadil in (don’t quote me on that, heaven knows LOTR fans are excitable enough as it is over canonicity, remember the balrog wing controversy?  We don’t want that again).

The wargs.  The book just said ‘wolves.’  What’s wrong with plain old wolves?

(Edit:  The book did say wargs.  My bad!  Thank you Brandon and Fio!)

The Great Goblin was…uh…a little more sarcastic than I recall in the book.  Which made for a funny scene, but was…odd.

Azog.  He died in that great big battle depicted when Thorin got his name Oakenshield.  Why not leave him dead?  Why not just introduce Bolg since he was the one who was alive then?

Thoughts on Connecticut (and the gun control debate)

Yesterday on Facebook I posted a question in response to the shooting: What chain of events transpires in a person’s mind that concludes with “And then I will execute an entire classroom of kindergartners?”  Let’s take a look at just a few things that someone would have to believe in order to come to that conclusion (and I trust the reader to forgive me for leaving any out):

  • Life is of no worth.  Specifically, certain individual lives that are within reach.
  • My life is of no more worth than theirs.
  • The world is such that it does not matter whether or not these lives continue or not.
  • Life is not fair.  If life will not be fair to me, I will not be fair to it.
  • There must not be anything after death–if there is such a thing as cosmic-scale justice, and such an act were to violate it, and that death would not erase that injustice, it is not worth risking such an injustice.
  • Heaven and hell cannot be real (and thus no God to govern the present or the future).

It seems to me that at least all of these things must be believed before such an act can happen.  At each and every step, certain beliefs about the world and humanity have to be denied and suppressed.

So to my fellow Christians, I would simply ask: live and talk and think in ways that show that life matters, that all specific lives matter, that material life–the substance of our being–matters, and that there is a Judge who will ‘set the world to rights’ one day.   Are we as Christians walking and talking the walk and talk that conveys that the above list is actually false?  Do everyday people we pass on the street come to that conclusion after meeting us?  I’d say most of us do, but it’s worth thinking about more.

But there’s another debate in all of this, that inevitably follows: shouldn’t we do something about the guns?

At the very outset, it appears to me that there is one key principle that an awful lot of people seem to ignore: that regardless of stance, both sides of the debate seek the same moral good: that no shootings like this ever occur again.    That’s the high moral good that should be the guiding principle in these discussions, but it seems to be left out an awful lot.

I don’t think it’s necessary or helpful to complain about people immediately making their case for or against gun control right after events like this happen.  First, it’s a very natural response, almost a reflex, of people on the outside who are observing the whole thing from a distance.  Second, people naturally can’t stand a problem they can’t fix, and, well, this is a big problem that can’t be easily fixed (and so it drives us nuts).  Third, everyone on the argument spectrum naturally sees events like this through their worldview ‘filter,’ so it easily fits into a given spot in a particular overall argument.  So I don’t begrudge anyone what they believe about much of anything, even if it does seem overly soon–because of reason #1, that it is really hard to avoid doing.  And we’ll eventually draw worldview-level conclusions about the event anyway, whether or not we say them right off the bat.  It seems to be just looking for offense to be offended at an argument when we’re all distant observers (unless, of course, it happens close to home, then we really do have bigger things to worry about).  It’s still people seeking a particular good, and I have little reason to be upset with that.

That said, I do have a few thoughts about the gun control debate.

The presence and absence of guns doesn’t really seem to matter much.  Countries like Japan are touted for having extremely few guns and hardly any gun crime, and countries like Switzerland are touted for having tons and tons of guns and no gun crime.  This tells me that it’s not the guns, it’s possibly culture, or more probably worldview-related.

Gun-free zones are probably a bad idea.  It sounds good, to have zones where guns ought not be, but that is premised on the idea that every single person will obey that law at all times regardless of mental state.  Thus far, we have had an abundance of mass shootings in gun-free zones: schools, a church, a movie theater, and a mall.  Hospitals are about the only places that don’t need guns, and even then just about every guard carries one.

In each of these recent (and past) shootings, the question arises: Could one more gun have limited or stopped this tragedy?  And that answer is almost always yes.  And that should tell us something about both guns and people who use guns.

Thomas Sowell makes a great point in his books about the difference between solutions and trade-offs.  Solutions rarely ever turn out to be solutions, but trade-offs recognize and mitigate risk.  Banning guns is not the solution it is promised to be; the trade-off of more citizens legally owning guns and having the training to wield them is a more optimal solution in a world of uncertainty.

The media has a hand in this.  They’ve already been criticized for how they handled this shooting and others (Jared Loughner of non-tea-party fame), and the Aurora shooting, also of non-tea-party fame, and this time they identified the wrong person, and have generally been invading the privacy and solace of a grieving town for news consumption.  But gun crimes are big, dramatic events that get lots and lots of airtime and hand-wringing and kvetching of all kinds.  Yet guns kill relatively few people every year compared to things with very high death rates like cars, but nobody makes that big a deal about it, which tells me that the publicity generated by a shooting may be a significant motivator in these shootings: the world will see me, and see the mark I made on the world.  I reckon if gun crime were treated no differently than any other cause of death, or other causes of death with greater rates were treated like gun crime, it would be a vastly different picture.  But there’s a narrative to uphold, so gun crime gets lots of attention.  And yet another inconsistency: Ten people were shot last night in Chicago alone, four of them teenagers, yet did that make the news?  No.  Chicago is notorious for its absurdly high levels of gun crime and murders.  So not all gun crime is even regarded as worthy of equal attention by the media.  Why is this so?

Each and every event makes me consider getting a conceal/carry permit.

On that note: at heart in the gun control debate is a view of humanity itself: an optimistic view, that says that with enough influence and education, events like this won’t occur; and a tragic view, that says that mankind is flawed to some extent and that events like this, however rare, are inevitable, and therefore individuals must be on guard to use force, even deadly force, to protect lives.

It is not simply enough to say to those who argue for proliferation of conceal/carry licenses or abolition of most gun-free zones that “it’s absurd” or “it’s irrational” or whatever else you might well think it is.  Show how it is so.  I trust you’ll understand if I can’t just take your word for it.  But be warned: you will have to show that there is no meaningful difference between lawful gun ownership and use and unlawful gun ownership and use.  And that may be a bridge too far.

Conversely, those who argue for conceal/carry expansion, take the time to recognize that those you disagree with seek the same moral good as you, and be willing and able to show that an argument, no matter how well-meaning, cannot account for the extent of the evil that all people are capable of (as well as arguing that that difference is also critical to the debate) and that it is a higher moral good for individuals to be able to defend others lawfully and forcefully, in equal measure.

As I write this, I’m seeing reports on Twitter of a mall shooting in California.  Which brings me back to my previous statement: there might come a time when we cannot wait ‘until another day’ to have this debate.  So…regardless of what side you’re on, you’d better be on your game when this debate breaks out big time.  Because one of these days we won’t have another day to wait.  May the best argument and worldview win.

Why I’m a Brony, or, Aristotle’s Revenge

Seems like a strange thing to blog on, yes?  Well, it is.  But it’s worth it.  In celebration of the premiere of Season Three this Saturday, it seems right.

So…My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.  A kid’s show.  A kid’s show that managed to attract an unforseen fanbase of which I call myself a member.

“Why do you like a show made for little girls?”

Sure, it was made for little girls.  But the intended audience happens to be irrelevant to why I like it.  I don’t like it because it is a kid’s show, I like a show that happens to be a kid’s show.

I like it for several different reasons.  Here are the top ones.

It’s clever.

The creators of this show took what has been a show for kids, that appealed only to kids, and shifted the goal of each episode to make it a show for kids that appeals to nearly everyone.  This is the fourth generation of the show, and a comparison of the episodes of the past and shows from Friendship is Magic show that difference.

The art style is neat.

The show is animated with Flash, and has a unique art style that works very well for the show and world that was created for the reboot.  It has its own benefits and challenges, which differ from the old hand-drawn shows, but without it we would not have the endearing Derpy Hooves (more on her later).

It’s good clean fun.

It’s completely guiltless: like being able to eat an entire pie with no adverse side effects.

Aristotle would have been a brony.

I think so, and here’s why: Friendship is Magic is ethics in disguise.  Instead of being just a show about ponies, the show uses the characters to teach a lesson about friendship, but which is almost always rooted in good ethics.  It’s no longer about ponies just doing things: it’s about ponies doing things that exemplify what friendship looks like, and it looks an awful lot like good, old-fashioned ethics.  It becomes a sort of new Aesop’s Fables (up to and including a tortoise winning a race).  Which I then get to discuss with my nieces and nephews if they watch any episodes.

Each of the ‘Mane Six’ characters each exemplifies a given virtue.  Applejack is honest, Fluttershy is kind, Pinkie Pie is joyous, Rainbow Dash is loyal, Rarity is generous, but the main character Twilight Sparkle is on a mission to learn about these attributes of friendship and to learn as much as she can about them.  And each of them has a ‘cutie mark’ that shows what their given virtue is.

But the more I watch the show, I’ve come to the conclusion that of the mane six, their cutie marks are emblematic of what saves them.  In a few cases, this is dramatic: Fluttershy is saved from being turned into a pancake by butterflies, right before she discovers her love of nature; AJ’s farm saves her from a life she found much different than what she expected; Pinkie Pie is saved from an joyless vacuum by her discovery of what brings joy; and so on.  This is not often the case with other ponies, most of whom have random cutie marks.

Derpy Hooves.  

As mentioned earlier, this poor pony would not have existed had it not been for an animation error which flipped one of her eyes upside down, which gave her a very funny expression.  She immediately became a fan favorite, and the animators even worked her into later episodes (one of which she features very prominently).  This poor pony is a complete klutz, but this does not stop her from trying to help as much as possible–and almost always with disastrous results.  But if she were to exemplify a virtue, she would surely exemplify magnanimity.  She is selfless, and always tries to help with a cheerful attitude, even while the world crashes down around her as a result.  You can’t help but love this little pony.  She’s downright adorable, and I hope we see more of her in the future.

The other things I like:

The music.  Daniel Ingraham is a gifted composer, and the show’s music is enjoyable as a result.

Pop culture references: while usually subtle, they are a nod to the show’s other audience.

Things I don’t like: 

There are a few things I don’t like about the show.  But they are few:

The show has a skewed idea of ‘the supernatural.’  Twilight dismisses a particular book because it has the word “supernatural” in the title, and describes the supernatural as things like ghosts or zombies and such.  Which is not exactly accurate.

Pinkie Pie gives Twilight a world of trouble in one episode because her intuition refuses to fit squarely into Twilight’s sense of explaining things through science.  Eventually she just gives up trying to figure it out.

Some of the fans.  Yes, some of the fans: because a subset of the teen/adult fans have taken the show and interpreted the characters through their own ideas, and the result is quite a few supposedly lesbian characters, up to and including Rainbow Dash.  But this ignores that it is a kid’s show; and it also seems an unnecessary imposition upon the character design the show has cultivated.  It also seems to ignore the show’s focus on what friendship looks like.

In closing:

By all means, give the show a try, but I recommend starting with Episode 3 of Season One; I found the pilot to be a bad indication of what the individual episodes were like.

On fundamentalism and abortion

More often than not, I come across material to blog about on things I see posted to Facebook.  It might be on the passive side, but every now and then something shows up on the radar that is worth commenting on.  And such was the case with a blog post that another person was asked to comment on, and after being badgered to answer it here, I decided I might as well.

The piece is called “How I Lost Faith in the “Pro-Life Movement,” by Libby Anne, of the “Love, Joy, Feminism” blog at Patheos.  And what a piece it is.

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