Friday, January 25, 2008

Hating the (Gay) Sin, Loving the (Gay) Sinner

The Christian opposition to homosexuality is one of the primary elements of the "culture war," yes? Christians are often accused of being hateful and bigoted, and the Christian response is to say "We can hate the sin of homosexuality, but love the sinner."

A lot of gays and gay allies refuse to take this statement at face value. They'll insist that this is an obfuscation or an excuse, that all it does is conceal a deep seated prejudice.

I disagree with them. I am perfectly happy to accept that many Christians do not hate gays. My problem is that the reason Christians offer is undergirded by something much more sinister that garden variety political incorrectness.

I would argue that when a Christian says "I hate the sin, but love the sinner," there is an unspoken supplement. I think that what this statement conceals, or perhaps really means, is the statement "I am just following orders."

I think the common Christian position on homosexuality is, in fact, "I don't hate gays. God says the act is evil, and I have to agree with him. I am just following orders." What the Christian does is push off responsibility for a moral judgment to another.

There are no other sins for which Christians constantly use that statement. It may occasionally appear when a family member is an alcoholic, for example. "I love my dad, but I hate his sin." I believe this statement is different in kind, however.

The Christian recourse to the Nuremberg defense has appeared because the place of homosexuality has changed in our culture, and this change has affected Christians as well. Christians recognize that a direct and outright condemnation of homosexuality is no longer possible -- even for Christians -- so they have to punt the condemnation to God. Christians don't make the same deferral in the case of child molesters, because it is socially possible to condemn child molesters in one's own name.

(I know Christians will read that last sentence and insist that they can only condemn child molesters in the name of God's law; such an argument is tangential to my own. It is simply not the social reality that Christians explicitly defer to God in the case of pedophilia, while they do make such an explicit deferral in the case of homosexuality.)

I think there are two consequences here. First, it says something about the nature of morality. Moral statements are constricted by social conditions. If this were not true, than Christians would not speak about homosexuality the way they do. Secondly, this shows that the gay culture's suspicion of church culture is justified, to an extent. No one likes to be on the receiving end of actions justified by the Nuremberg defense.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Year That Was, 2007

Like last year, this isn't a best-of 2007 list, but rather a list of the best things I first encountered in 2007.


Ten Nights of Dreams -- The best movie of the year, easily. I had the pleasure of watching this at a Montreal film festival. 10 short segments of various styles. Some hilarious, some sad, some horrifying, all utterly beautiful. Highly recommended.

No Country for Old Men -- I'll discuss my feelings on the book a little later, because my thoughts about the two are increasingly different. Which is odd, since this is one of the most faithful book to movie adaptations I've ever seen.

"No Country" is an exsquisite mix of chaos and stillness. There's no soundtrack, and the landscape is always still and quiet. The characters speak in hushed tones with a stoic ethos; and yet the hurricane winds of evil are all about.

The story telling structure is ballsy. Things happen off screen that any other story teller would have had front and centre. The ending doesn't really wrap up the plot, but if you have to be shackled to the plot, then you're missing something about how stories work.

I'll come out and say it. "No Country" separates people that have taste from people without taste. If "No Country" isn't in the top third of your own top ten of 2007 list, then you have bad taste. It's that simple.

I didn't feel this way after first seeing the movie. I thought it was amazing, but I've since read an incredibly insightful and persuasive review at this blog, which I recommend in general for strong truth. There's a quote from Jean-Luc Godard there:

"To me, style is just the outside of content, and content the inside of style, like the outside and the inside of the human body—both go together, they can’t be separated."

Can the Coens top "No Country"? We'll all be better off if they do.

Inland Empire -- David Lynch's latest act of insanity. The question I always come away with from his movies is about the position of the irrationality. Is the insanity accounted for within the world of the movie, i.e. one of the characters is crazy? Or is the insanity an excess, something that has no real place within the movie? Is David Lynch just crazy? I dunno, but I enjoy trying to find out.

The Bourne Ultimatum -- Once again, the character of Bourne is the smartest, most capable fellow around. That's a repetition of the first two movies, of course. There's basically one reason this movie is on this list: the rooftop chase in the middle east. It reminded me of this article, which reveals that the Isreali Defense Force is making certain philosophy books required reading for the brass. The idea is to fashion a new form of urban warfare, in which inside is the outside. The chase scene in this movie seemed to fit that model perfectly. Who says philosophy isn't useful?

Paprika -- Some well badass anime. A great soundtrack, and a dose of Lynchian insanity. Highly recommended.

Honourable Mention: 28 Weeks Later, 300

Yeah, slim pickings this year. It's strange. Why did I see so few good movies?


The Boxer by The National -- Nice mellow rock. A friend with a better ear for music than I tells me that the drummer is a genius.

Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? by Of Montreal -- I fell in love with the first cute girl that I met who could appreciate Georges Bataille. That's right, its an album by a bunch of theory geeks, so hey. Plus the music is awesome.


The Ticklish Subject by Slavoj Zizek -- Universal subjectivity is back, and it exhorts you to dare. The chapter on Alain Badiou alone is excellent, and the chapter on Heidegger's reading of Kant is required.

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie -- I'm actually not yet finished this book, but so far it is a serious work of art. The density is incredible; there is more meat on a page of this book than in entire chapters of, say, Orson Scott Card. This might be a test case for taste in books, like "No Country" is a test case for taste in movies.

Ethics: An Essay On The Understanding of Evil by Alain Badiou -- A highly readable book on why the standard blathering about morality and human rights is really just a cover for a lack of adventurousness in life.

Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche -- Does reading this book accord with good sleep? Thankfully no.

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy -- Sparse prose and the ballsy structure that inspired the Coen Brothers movie. An amazing book, but I think it actually translated into a better movie.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Excessive Religion, Part 9: The Temporal Structure

Part 8

Recap of Part 8: What is the relationship between knowledge and non-knowledge, sacred time and secular time?

Part of the answer involves the difference between Lacanian jouissance and the Bataillian accursed share. Jouissance is rooted in the interplay of the registers of the subject. It is an aspect of the libidinal economy of the subject. The accursed share, however, is not limited to the economy of the subject. The accursed share is a movement in the general economy of the entire globe. The movement to non-knowledge, to the experience of radical excess, is to have access to that economy. Jouissance is a local phenomena; the forms of excess like the festival and war are global phenomena, and the moment of non-knowledge is an attempt to tap into the global economy rather than to enjoy a experience of the subject.

So the temporal structure is thus. Non-knowledge cannot be produced by knowledge; discursive reason and projects will never themselves produce excess. It is the subject’s experience of metonymic desire that pushes them into the future, chasing after object a. The moment of non-knowledge, unlike jouissance, is not a direct effect of a certain moment in the libidinal economy. What a relationship to one’s desire offers is fertile ground for such a moment to appear.

Bataille says that “in common conditions, time is annulled.” However, if we emphasize the “metonymic” time of desire? Projects and discursive reason put off life until “later,” which is an empty future in which one will only find more projects and more reason. Striving for an object cause, however, requires one to live their life in a current state, anticipating and working for a particular, contingent future. Life is not dramatized by the endless calculating of projects and discursive reason. Rather, it is dramatized by the grasping, charging, abandoned movement of desire. Bataille says that only reason can tear down what reason has built up - but the movement of desire which is active in “common conditions” underlies projects. Desire itself is neither a project nor reason, and thus it is desire that offers the ability to undo what reason has built up.

This is not entirely true for faith, however. The pleasure and enjoyment experienced by the faithful is rooted in the fantasmic belief that desire will be fulfilled in the future; the enjoyment received in dancing before one’s God is that of arousing the enjoyment of the barred Other. God must have several confusing characteristics for this fantasy to function. He must be a present to hand being, one among others. He must also occupy both a position in the imaginary register as object a and a position in the symbolic as Autre. The relationship to this object relies on a rejection of lack in the Other. Faith relies on a symbolic realm without lack. Faith has a powerful object cause and thus offer a powerful way to dramatize, but it relies on the impossible expectation of fulfilled desire.