Sexuality and Gender – A Special Report

Sexuality and Gender – A Special Report

I think this report is essential reading here at the beginning of 2017. I don’t say that lightly. Given the pressing nature of these and related subjects, and given the ongoing politicization and social threatenings, being ignorant of reigning academic, psychological, and political claims, as well as their critics, is to do a disservice to ourselves and others. Here is the online blurb (borrowed from their website) by the editor of The New Atlantis:

Questions related to sexuality and gender bear on some of the most intimate and personal aspects of human life. In recent years they have also vexed American politics. We offer this report — written by Dr. Lawrence S. Mayer, an epidemiologist trained in psychiatry, and Dr. Paul R. McHugh, arguably the most important American psychiatrist of the last half-century — in the hope of improving public understanding of these questions. Examining research from the biological, psychological, and social sciences, this report shows that some of the most frequently heard claims about sexuality and gender are not supported by scientific evidence. The report has a special focus on the higher rates of mental health problems among LGBT populations, and it questions the scientific basis of trends in the treatment of children who do not identify with their biological sex. More effort is called for to provide these people with the understanding, care, and support they need to lead healthy, flourishing lives.

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10 Presentations You Must See

10 Presentations You Must See

Lists like this are a bit of a gimmick. “Click bait” is the term, I believe. But I’m listing them here out of a conviction that the presentations that follow are, in fact, worth your time. While other presentations surely are just as worthy of your time, these are ten that have impressed me as worth hearing here at the end of 2016 (and, no, these aren’t necessarily presentations made or posted in 2016).

Now, I struggled with even the thought of attempting to rank these, or even to put them here in any particular order. Different considerations would result in a different ordering. But I’m not ranking or ordering them in terms of importance. I feel like each is important is significant and notable ways. So, I offer you ten presentations I believe you’ll want to watch or hear.

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The Irrational Ethics of Ayn Rand

The following essay was written back in 1995 for a philosophy class at Denver Seminary. It has been online since around 2000. It is made available here in only slightly edited form. I have neither the inclination, nor the resources, nor the time to revise it, so I offer it for your reading in its current form. Enjoy!

The Ethics of Ayn Rand:
A Preliminary Assessment

Kevin James Bywater

Introduction

Ayn Rand was a prolific and very popular author. Her engaging philosophy has captured the minds of many, students and professionals. To many readers’ imaginations, her novels — especially Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead — provide an inspiring vision of the world as it is and as it could be. Even after her death in 1982, her books continue to be read and admired by many. As J. Charles King comments:

Because Rand has written both fiction and philosophical essays, her influence has been felt in very different ways. For some she has provided an inspiring vision of a society of liberty and individualism through her fiction, particularly Atlas Shrugged. For others she has provided the main thrust of a philosophical justification for the advocacy of liberty and individualism.[1]

ayn-rand-1957-filter

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Idols: Past and Present

Blindfolded-unhistorical

Idols: Past and Present

I find it interesting and perplexing when we Americans are so keen to argue for the relative acceptability of our nation’s earlier actions and so willing to critique more recent and comparable actions. Additionally, I find it interesting and perplexing when we Americans are so keen to argue for the relative acceptability of our nation’s recent actions and yet so willing to critique earlier and comparable actions. Is it simply because we favor or do not favor the current administrations? Does it really reduce to the degree of our own partisanship?

What is required of us that we might cultivate convictions and standards that are applied more consistently to the present as well as the past, to our own as well as to other nations, to ourselves as well as to other people?

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Restoring the Constitution: Senator Ben Sasse

Senator Ben SasseRestoring the Constitution
Senator Ben Sasse on
Uncommon Knowledge

In early 2016, Ben Sasse, a junior Congressman from Nebraska, was asked by Chuck Todd what conservatism meant to Sasse in the twenty-first century. His response almost sounded scripted. However, one gets the impression that the answer simply emerged from the clear and clarifying convictions regarding the U.S. Constitution that reside in the very marrow of Dr. Ben Sasse.

Now Senator Sasse has been interviewed by the intrepid Peter Robinson on the program Uncommon Knowledge. The topic? Restoring the Constitution. This is a conversation worth listening to a time or two or three. 

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When Scalia Died (updated)

When Scalia Died

When Justice Antonin Scalia (1936-2016) died, many American conservatives lost their breath…and their hope. Others, I imagine (and now know), rejoiced. Both to their shame.

Over the last handful of years I have come to appreciate and admire Justice Scalia. I have read a number of his Supreme Court opinions and dissents (though I think I like his dissents much more as they are an education in themselves!), as well as some of his books: A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law, Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges, and Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts. I’m no legal scholar. I’ve not gone to law school. But there are times when I’ve wondered whether I should have.

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Do and Don’t: The Golden Rule and Its Negative Version

Do and Don’t: The Golden Rule and Its Negative Version

Kevin James Bywater

• • •

While at a British New Testament Conference in 2007,  I participated in a number of seminars focused on interpreting the New Testament in light of the literature of Second Temple Judaism. One presenter discussed the positive and negative formulations of the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It was noted that most often in the literature of the early church the rule appears in a negative form: “Don’t do to others what you would not like them to do to you.”

Now, some have proposed that this negative form has a more limited force since it merely discourages doing harm to others rather than encouraging the doing of service for them. As such, the negative version may lend itself to a more restrictive application (e.g., “Hey, I didn’t hurt anyone!”). Also, it is conceivable that someone could use the negative form to justify inaction. However, others have proposed that the two forms imply each other. For me, while I could see the positive formulation implying the negative, the opposite is more difficult to manage.

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Readings at Summit Oxford • Spring Term 2016

It undoubtedly is a truism that one can be wearied by the reading of many books. Perhaps even more so, the reading of many online articles, a bulk of blogs, frenzied Facebook statuses, hasty hashtags, and awful opinions. Even so, some publications actually can be enlightening, perhaps challenging. Some most certainly are fuel for our conversations at Summit Oxford. And sometimes our conversation get to be a bit energetic. I call these CHAT times: Christians Happily Arguing Theology (hopefully with an emphasis upon happily).

Readings at Summit Oxford • Hilary Term 2016

Our reading list changes a bit from term to term. New books are published, older ones seem less pressing or helpful, and there is ever a steady stream of articles and chapters on subjects that beg to be included. We do read a lot, mind you, approaching 2500 pages.

For the upcoming coming Autumn Term (September – December), along with a selection of articles, essays, and other items, we are reading and discussing the ten volumes listed below. I have listed them roughly in the order we will read them. Well, actually, several of them will be divvied up over the course of several days, with a chapter or section each day. Often I have our students read the books in their entirety and prepare reports/summaries for select chapters or sections. I’ve provided links to Amazon, if you care to purchase any of them.

December2015

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Sharia, Ballet, Mosques and Damp Socks

Sharia, Ballet, Mosques and Damp Socks

Personal Reflections on Exploring Views Online,
in History, in Person, and in Islamic Legal Texts

Kevin James Bywater
• • •

Please forgive me for the length of this post. I’ve decided not to divide it up into separate posts since it is more coherent as a single post. There are three sections: the first explains that I’ve recently been conversing online about Sharia with a Muslim man; the second recounts my time with him in London on Saturday; the third presents my follow-up thoughts regarding a Sharia manual that he had recommended I consult.

emmeline ballet

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Islam, Refugees, and the Kingdom of God: A Potpourri of Thoughts

Islam, Refugees, and the Kingdom of God

A Potpourri of Thoughts

Kevin James Bywater

• • •

The world simply won’t stop spinning – more like wobbling on its axis. So much is happening right now, and so quickly, that many have retreated to the morally corrupting and mentally dulling practice of argument by meme regarding refugees. God forbid! Beyond this, there is simply a swirling torrent of very energetic and hasty opinions expressed on social media. Some seek the solace of slogans. Others establish cliques around clichés. We might suppose that it is all simply like the fog of war. I suspect it more likely is simply the heady fog of not thinking with care, of not caring to think, of failing to practice the discipline of seeking to enhance the well-being of others. Again, this is no more evident than in so many verbal ejaculations on social media. Of course, blurting and chiding, taunting and demeaning – such emissions may bring us pleasure, but they neither enhance nor reproduce life.  

Thinking about Refugees

How can we see through this fog? There is no easy answer, as if one could simply drive up, speak into a box, move forward, pay a modest fee, and get your answer in a small paper bag. Rather, I think it is a discipline, a patient discipline that we develop over years – years complete with a menagerie of missteps and mistakes and misperceptions and misconceptions. But they are years lived with friends and mentors and neighbors, listening to those who emulate the wisdom and uprightness, the charity and clarity that provide guidance through the cacophony of voices that distract us from diligence and yet vie for our allegiance. 

Below are some bullet-pointed thoughts interspersed with some resources that may help anyone interested in escaping the morass of memed opinions sloshing about online.

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