The Modern Campus Cannot Comprehend Evil

The ever-unpredictable Camille Paglia continues to garner headlines with her anti-feminist feminism. In The Modern Campus Cannot Comprehend Evil, Paglia criticizes “wildly overblown claims about an epidemic of sexual assaults on American campuses” which she says are usually just “oafish hookup melodramas, arising from mixed signals and imprudence on both sides.”

Such misplaced focus, she says, obscures “the true danger to young women, too often distracted by cellphones or iPods in public places: the ancient sex crime of abduction and murder.”

Too many young middleclass women, raised far from the urban streets, seem to expect adult life to be an extension of their comfortable, overprotected homes. But the world remains a wilderness. The price of women’s modern freedoms is personal responsibility for vigilance and self-defense.

Misled by the naive optimism and “You go, girl!” boosterism of their upbringing, young women do not see the animal eyes glowing at them in the dark. They assume that bared flesh and sexy clothes are just a fashion statement containing no messages that might be misread and twisted by a psychotic. They do not understand the fragility of civilization and the constant nearness of savage nature.

I can’t see any man getting off with these words – which seem to shift way too much blame onto women, especially the many who have suffered sexual violence without any provocation from their side.

However, some of Paglia’s words have a resounding ring of truth about them, especially her pinpointing of the naive view of human nature that many young people grow up with, leaving them totally unprepared for the wild “wilderness” that is this world and fearfully unaware of the “constant nearness of savage nature.”

Where’s the sense of evil?

She traces this dangerous innocence to the lack of a profound sense of evil on both the right and the left. She says right-wing conservatism sees evil not as something inside of us, but as something “out there,” something they identify with “a foreign host of rising political forces united only in their rejection of Western values.” But she reserves her most withering criticism for the left:

The basic Leftist premise, descending from Marxism, is that all problems in human life stem from an unjust society and that corrections and fine-tunings of that social mechanism will eventually bring utopia. Progressives have unquestioned faith in the perfectibility of mankind.

The horrors and atrocities of history have been edited out of primary and secondary education except where they can be blamed on racism, sexism, and imperialism — toxins embedded in oppressive outside structures that must be smashed and remade. But the real problem resides in human nature, which religion as well as great art sees as eternally torn by a war between the forces of darkness and light.

She concludes with a final swipe at university academics, campus bureaucrats, and government regulators who deny sex differences are rooted in biology and who think that stronger administrative measures “can and will fundamentally alter all men.”

No Solutions

Paglia is a social critic, not a social constructor. As always, she’s good at the take-down but not at the build-up. She sees the problems, but has no solutions. She (unwittingly?) shares the Christian view of human depravity, but rejects Christian salvation. So why pay any attention to her words?

Well, as Christians, we can surely build on Paglia’s common grace observations about human nature and the human problem.

We can highlight how it’s not just Christians who see the inherent savagery of the human heart, and the accompanying fragility of civilization.

We can use her words to show the superficiality of modern responses to human evil – on both the left and the right.

We can warn about how vulnerable our society is without something greater than humanity to restrain and change the human heart.

We can prepare our children for the wilderness by teaching them about the nearness of savage nature, not only in others, but in themselves.

And above all, we can demonstrate how the Bible not only agrees with Paglia’s tear-down but also offers a rebuilding plan – both for individuals and our society. We have a solution, THE solution, that not only civilizes but saves.

Completing not Competing

When two different things work well together, we say they complement each other, they fit one another, enhance one another, perfect one another, and complete one another.

Take nuts and bolts for example; they are usually made of the same material, but they are quite different to look at and have quite different roles. However, for all the differences, they work perfectly together in connecting and strengthening materials.  

One without the other is pretty useless, and two nuts or two bolts are equally useless. But a nut and bolt complement one another. They don’t compete with one another, they complete one another. 

When we look at the nut and bolt, we don’t think one is superior or inferior to the other, we just see different designs for different but complementary purposes. We don’t try to make the nut into a bolt or vice versa; that’s just a waste of time and effort. And when we see them working well together, we may want to compliment the inventor of this complement. 

Complementary Voices

Or take four singers all singing the same song with the same notes. That can sound quite pleasant. However, a composer comes along and with his trained ear can sense that each voice has it’s own unique sound. He therefore trains them individually to sing different notes – one is a soprano, another a bass, and the other two are alto and tenor.

Then he brings them all together again and what a transformation. Although they are now all singing different notes they complement each other and the harmonious result is far more beautiful than before. They don’t compete with one another but complete one another. 

We don’t think of one being more important or superior to another, we just hear each voice suited to its own role. The bass doesn’t try to be the soprano or vice versa – that just doesn’t work. We listen with pleasure and praise for the composer, and leave paying compliments to the arranger of this complement

Complementary Genders

When we come to men and women, we clearly see how God made men and women quite different. Sure, we all have eyes, ears, mouths, etc., but we are different in many other ways – physically, emotionally, cognitively, and so on. And these differences are not a problem, they are the solution. The differences are not accidental but intentional.

God made men and women different in order that they would complement each other, work better together than apart. They don’t compete with each other, they complete each other. 

They differ physically; they differ in the way each thinks, feels, and relates; they differ in their roles and responsibilities. And yet because God deliberately designed the differences to help and perfect the other, when these differences are accepted and celebrated, both the man and the woman flourish and thrive. Neither is superior nor inferior to the other, and neither is suited to the roles and responsibilities of the other.

Even in sinless paradise, God saw that man was incomplete while alone. With great wisdom and skill He made the first woman, Eve, not to compete with Adam but to complete him (and vice versa). God did not design another man for Adam – that would not have solved the problem, but simply doubled it. He created a woman, and when Adam immediately saw how she complemented him and he her, he complimented both her and the one who made them so complementary.

Let’s all of us praise God for His gender design skills, and cooperate with His plan rather than substitute our own. If married, why not ask, “How can we better complement each other?” or if unmarried and yet hoping to be married, “What areas should I develop, in order to be more complementary to my future husband/wife?”

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A Feature Length Documentary on The Life & Legacy of Scotland’s Reformer

This from a friend in Scotland:

2014 marks the 500th anniversary of John Knox – the dynamic and controversial man who led the Reformation in Scotland. To mark the occasion, we are making a full length documentary. The title comes from Knox’ famous prayer: ‘Give me Scotland, or I die’ and the film would retell the engaging and dramatic story of Knox and explore the relevance of the man and of his Reformational message in the 21st Century.

You can read more here and also contribute to the funding of the film – $4000 remains to be raised.

Murdo Macleod, the producer, is the son of a pastor friend of mine in Scotland. Here’s a little about Murdo:

Murdo has a 1st Class Honours degree in Pure Maths at the University of Glasgow. He went on to do a second degree at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) where he completed a BA in Digital Film and Television. Previous short films which he has worked on have won awards with BAFTA and with the Royal Television Society and have been screened at film festivals around the world, including Beijing, Toronto, Chicago and London. He launched Trinity Digital earlier this year as a means to provide film and video resources particularly to churches and Christian organizations.

If you are interested in giving more than $500, please contact Murdo directly via the contact form here.

9 Vital Answers About Depression And Suicide

According to the CDC, US life expectancy has reached an all time high of 79, but at the same time suicide rates have climbed to a 25-year high.

Some research suggests suicides increase during hard economic times, but this trend has persisted before, during, and after the recession of 2007-2009. Some experts have said the sale and abuse of prescription painkillers in the last decade have been a contributing factor.

In the United States, young adult and teen suicide is the third leading cause of death for those between the ages of 10-24 according to the U.S. Centers for Disease control. Young adults and late teens dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts often keep to themselves and can be afraid or unwilling to talk to their parents or other influential adults in their lives. Dr. Jesse Vinver from the Yellowbrick treatment center  has put together a list of the warning signs and causes of depression and suicide in young adults along with tips for seeking help and providing support that can be seen in this helpful infographic.

I’m not endorsing Yellowbrick ( I don’t know enough about them) but I thought this was a helpful basic infographic that might help suffering families.

Depression-Suicide Graphic

Depression-Suicide Graphic

Dealing With Disruptive Students (and Kids)

The Tomorrow’s Professor blog from Standford University recently gave tips on how to deal with disruptive students. As we don’t have any of these at PRTS, of course, I thought I’d pass them on to other teachers; but also to parents, because so many of the points apply to parenting also.

The rather lengthy (@3000 word blog post) deals with many kinds of disruptive behavior and offers many helpful tips for various teaching (and parenting situations). It also outlines a ten-step approach for dealing with disruptive students (and children?) which I’ve summarized below:

1. Don’t take the disruption personally: Focus on the distraction rather than on the student.  By remaining objective and not taking the situation personally, you can respond in a calm manner.

2. Stay calm: You will be much more authoritative when you are perceived to be dealing with the distraction in a composed manner and when students believe that you like them.

3. Decide when you will deal with the situation: Quickly and briefly in class or privately and at length after class. Allow students to save face where possible.

4. Be polite: It is far better to say “I’d like to continue with the class” or “It is important that you concentrate for the next few minutes” than “Don’t talk when I’m talking.”

5. Listen to the student: Really listen to what a disruptive student is saying. Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand what is lying behind the disruption.

6. Check you understand: Ask questions until you have enough information to understand the situation.

7. Decide what you’re going to do: Think win-win but always prioritize the learning experience of the non-disruptive students.

8. Explain your decision to the student: Tell the students what you have decided, explain your rationale and check they understand.

9. Follow through: You must do what you said you would do!

10. Document your decisions: Where the disruption has resulted in significant action it is a good idea to document the nature of the disruption, your actions and the rationale for your decision.  This will help you to reflect and evaluate.

The article closes with this cheery reminder: “Finally, remember that most students (and children?) are polite and helpful and want to learn!”

Read the whole post here, or the book from which the article is extracted: Making Teaching Work: Teaching Smarter in Post-Compulsory Education.