February 14, 2009

Saturday in the wild: February 14, 2009

Because of the blow-up over Jojo's pro-life talk at St. Mary's University last Thursday, I didn't get around to posting the regular list of blogosphere goodies. So this is, more or less, a twofer.

Fred Butler, a member of Grace Community Church, celebrated 40 years of having John MacArthur in the pulpit: a rare milestone, to be sure. Start with this post and read on. While MacArthur isn't one of my "go-to" theologians or preachers, I own several of his books and have always appreciated his ministry, particularly his emphases on personal and corporate holiness.

There were five of us home for Christmas this year, and no fewer than six copies of William Young's popular but controversial novel The Shack were exchanged. Tim Challies dug up this funny post at The Scriptorium: four parody reviews done in four literary styles, in The Shack: Four Walls, Five Reviews.

Jeremy Pierce posted an interesting read about the recent selection of Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor. Apparently some complaints are circulating that it was high time someone gave a shot at the role to a black or female actor. (Names like Catherine Zeta-Jones or Chiwetel Ejiofor have been suggested - as if euther of them would settle for the pay cut!)

You're casting for an iconic character with a history dating back over 40 years. You want to produce the best artistic product you can, and the choice of the lead role on such a show is huge. It would do a lot of good in the world to cast a black actor for the part. However, there are considerations more important than race, and those should never be put aside if it turns out all the black actors who audition are enough away from what you think the role needs to be like compared with a candidate who just stands out as perfect. According to all reports from the producers, they chose someone who does exactly that. He seemed exactly what they wanted. If they had a black actor who'd auditioned who could do the job passably, it seems to me that it would be immoral to hire him instead of the guy they went with. If they had someone who would have been great for the job if the guy they hired had never appeared, who perhaps might have otherwise been their first choice, then it becomes a harder question.

[Read Doctor Who Meets Affirmative Action Absolutism]

While I was ranting about censorship of pro-life views on the East Coast, Ezra Levant spent some time highlighting the censorship going on out West at the University of Calgary. In "University of Calgary alumni should cut off their donations," he argues:

This is not a pro-life vs. pro-choice discussion. That's irrelevant. This heavy-handed bullying by the U of C would be appalling no matter which side of the debate was being squashed. I think that any pro-life alumni should be extra angry that the university is officially gagging one side of that debate. But any pro-choicer who believes in freedom of speech should be disgusted with their alma mater, too."

(I disagree with Ezra on one point: it indeed is a pro-life vs. pro-choice discussion, to the extent that it is consistently pro-life speech that is being squelched from campus to campus. Pro-choice speech is not being censored, and the same student governments that condemn graphic images when pro-life advocates display them, defend their use as "freedom of speech" when it's pro-Palestinian advocates displaying them. I do agree with Ezra, however, that it really doesn't matter whose view is so censored; the fact that it happens at all is abhorrent to a democratic society.)

A few days later, Ezra added, in The University of Calgary is a disgrace:

A political group of students on campus – they happen to be the pro-life group, but does it really matter? – wanted to have a peaceful demonstration. Demonstrations, displays, banners, posters – these things are a daily occurrence at U of C and other universities. But only this one is being banned by the university administration.

As I noted the other day, the U of C isn’t just using its own student rules to silence these kids; and it isn’t just threatening them with civil lawsuits. It has dispatched the Calgary Police Service to hand-deliver criminal summonses to them, at their homes.

I’m all for private property and the law of trespass. But to try to shoehorn registered students at the U of C into the category of “trespasser”, simply because they have a strong political point of view, is a transparent sham.

It’s an abuse of process.

It’s an abuse of the police.

And that’s why the university did it.

Jill Stanek chimes in:

Contrast this free speech suffocation with the fact that at least twice the U of C has allowed exhibits of the Chinese government's torture of Falun Gong followers, in March 2007 and November 2008. The latter display was erected "[a] bare 30 metres from the [very] pro-life display" that is now the target of the lawsuit, according to a Calgary Herald editorial today decrying the university's legal action against pro-life students.

Ironically, the 2007 Falun Gong display included a "touching" painting of a born baby being killed, according to U of C's student newspaper, The Gaunlet. . . .

[Read "Protect" people from pictures of aborted babies?]

I will admit, by the way, to being of two minds on the U. of C. issue. Strictly speaking, the issue is not one of free speech, but the manner of speech: the school has not denied Campus Pro-Life permission to display the GAP images, just asked them to turn them around. In and of itself I don't find that unreasonable, and feel that it would not compromised the message for the CPL students to have complied. But if they have not made a similar request to other groups with similar displays (such as the aforementioned pro-Falun Gong demonstration), then there is a double standard.

Another one from the Parableman, this time an intriguing article on Charles Darwin's ideology, posted on his 200th birthday this Thursday:

I've been wanting to post some thoughts on a recent piece by Richard Gray in The Telegraph on a new book by Adrian Desmond and James Moore that details Charles Darwin's anti-slavery motivations. I've been putting it off, but I decided it would be fitting to write it up on the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth. Gray points to some journals from Darwin's voyages on the Beagle and letters of family members that reveal his disgust at the practice of enslaving fellow humans and involvement in the abolitionist movement. This is so contrary to the false portrayal of him in some circles that applies later Social-Darwinist ideas to Darwin himself, something he never endorsed and would not have tolerated.

This wasn't all that surprising to me, even though I didn't know of his outright abolitionist views. After all, Darwin was such a strong supporter of the common descent of all humans in explicit opposition to views that had different ancestries of different races without a single common ancestor population for humans. Such views were around in his day and had been put to use in support of slavery. In this way Darwin was closer than some of his contemporaries to the view found among many Christians that three races had arisen from Noah's three sons, with further divergence later on at the tower of Babel.

[Read Darwin's Ideological Motivation]

Charles Darwin was one of the three major 19th-century thinkers who most strongly shaped the 20th-century worldview, as well as the oldest. If I am still blogging and haven't moved on to some other Web 3.0 media, Karl Marx's bicentennial is not until May 5, 2018; Sigmund Freud's is the next day, May 6, only in 2056 - and if I'm still alive and writing, I'll be noting his 200th birthday at the ripe old age of 85.

Finally, speaking of Charles Darwin, he is the subject of this year's Pascal Lecture at the University of Waterloo: the speaker is Dr. Denis Alexander, research scientist from the University of Cambridge in cancer and immunology. The titles of his lectures are "Rescuing Darwin" and "Is Darwinism Incompatible with Purpose?" The Pascal lecture series is an annual forum for discussions of Christianity in the university. During my time at Waterloo I had the pleasure of attending two of them: geneticist R. J. Berry in 1994, and historian George Marsden in 1996. One of my regrets during that time is that I missed Margaret Avison in 1993, as she later became one of my favourite poets - really, one of the few I can stand. I don't believe I was on campus in any case, unfortunately.

Oh yeah - and apparently, today is Valentine's Day, or something.

Until next week, enjoy.