Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Warhammer 40k – Totalitarian & Libertarian Themes

Following Lee Herridge’s guest presentation on the Story & Themes of Warhammer 40,000 (see that video here: https://youtu.be/RicOlpJGerc ) James and Lee come together to discuss the totalitarian and libertarian themes that are found in one of science-fiction’s most unique and interactive worlds. Nerdiness abounds!

Check out Lee’s show Taking Liberties at: http://ift.tt/2ijcdDl

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

God, Pepe, & Petersonianism (with Jonathan Pageau)

James Fox Higgins is joined by Canadian writer, icon carver, artist and public speaker Jonathan Pageau, best known on YouTube for his video with Jordan Peterson on “The Metaphysics of Pepe” (Here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ixc9i1G7eew )

James and Jonathan discuss the nature of God, of phenomenology, and the Christian revolution that is emerging in the intellectual class of the West, spearheaded by people like Jordan Peterson with his Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories lecture series.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Atheist vs. Christian – ROUND 2

Sven and James reunite to further drill down into the differences between their worldviews. Can God exist? Can morality exist without God? Is Christianity merely a positive delusion, or is James experiencing the fruits of the Holy Spirit through his recent conversion?

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Monday, October 23, 2017

BLADE RUNNER 2049 – A Christian Analogy

What does it mean to be human?

Are memories proof of history, or merely illusory implants?

How do we know what is real?

These are some of the most basic and ever-plaguing questions of philosophers and theologians, and it delighted me to no end to find that they were the central questions of the new film Blade Runner 2049, written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, and directed by French-Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve. I wasn’t a big fan of Villeneuve’s last effort Arrival, but with this one, he nailed it.

For the Blade Runner sequel, Villeneuve teams up with legendary director of photography Roger Deakins, with whom he also worked on Sicario, and the result is splendorous to behold. This could certainly be considered for best cinematography of all time, and if it doesn’t win the Oscar AND the Golden Globe for that category in the new year, then I will eat my umbrella (but who cares about the opinions of anyone in Hollywood right now)! The film is certainly a visual feast, with Ridley Scott’s dystopian future Los Angeles finally realised in a visceral, stunning, and not-so-clunky way.

There are a few technical criticisms I have of the film, and I will get those out of the way now, as they present no spoilers. Firstly, the film is in so many ways a tip of the hat to the original 1982 film by Ridley Scott, and this is one of its downfalls, mostly when it comes to the editing. The pace of the film is ponderous, and I literally saw people falling asleep in their cinema seats a third of the way in. I even nodded off myself during a second viewing. The spectacular and panoramic vistas and travel sequences from place to place are long, and though scrumptious to view, they don’t propel the plot in any meaningful way, so by any normal standards people would deem them as horrible self-indulgences. But people won’t judge this film by normal standards, they will judge it by the original film, which was repeatedly heralded as a cinematic masterpiece, despite the fact that it took three editing attempts over twenty-five years for the director to even be happy enough to stop working on it. Scott’s obsessiveness about that film is only dwarfed by George Lucas’s incessant fiddling with the original Star Wars trilogy (thank God he’s off that project at last!). In an attempt to make these travel sequences a little less yawn-inducing (and don’t get me wrong, they are certainly much better than the ones in the original film, which mostly consist of Harrison Ford staring out the window, looking bored [at least Villeneuve had the good humour to show Ryan Gosling asleep in the first flying car internal]), Villeneuve commissioned Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch to generate Vangelis-esque synthesizer music that is so intense that it will either shake you out of your slumber, or induce a brief coma, as it did in my wife. For Chris Nolan’s Interstellar, Zimmer sat on his organ to produce the travel music. For this film, he sat on his Oberheim synth.

Aside from these criticisms, and the conscious strain it took for me to stay awake during this very long and slow paced film, I found it thoroughly intellectually engaging, and enjoyed all other aspects. From here on I’m going to discuss the plot, the themes, and the very clear Biblical parallels of the story that made it so enthralling for me. There will be severe spoilers ahead, so stop here if you haven’t seen the film.

*** SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT ***

Now, I should preface this plot review with the comment that I am a Christian, but I am only very new to Christianity and to theological study. I still have lots to learn, so there’s a good chance that I’ve missed important Biblical elements here, or even diverged from common Biblical interpretation. Now that I’ve said that, I’ll carry on assuming that its understood and forgiven in advance.

The film begins with Officer KD6-3.7 (whose name is a little nod to the original author, Philip K Dick), a replicant of the new Wallace Corporation obedient design, landing on a protein farm to apprehend a loose old-style replicant he has been seeking. It has been thirty years since we last saw this world, since Officer Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) finally slay the creepy replicant Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), and ran off with the newly orphaned replicant babe Rachael (Sean Young) after Roy killed her (and his) father Eldon Tyrell. The first question that the very title of this sequel raises is: why thirty years? It’s actually been thirty-five years since the first film, and Harrison Ford has certainly aged that much, so why did they inconveniently cut five years out of the fictional world? I believe it was not just for the nicety of a round number, but because Jesus Christ began his ministry at the age of thirty, and setting this film precisely thirty years after the first was the initial hint from the writers that this film is an analogy for the life of Christ.

In those decades, a few key points about the replicants have changed, presumably to accomodate the expanded story that this film offers:

1) After the dangerous Nexus 6 model replicants were all wiped out, there was a range of Nexus 8 models who would live longer than three or four years. Hence some of them still knocking around in this film, needing hunting by Gosling’s Nexus 9 Blade Running self.

2) Nexus 8’s are still disobedient, hence their hiding out, but Nexus 9’s like “K” are designed to obey. This aspect of K’s rigid personality is evident in his quiet submission to the bigotry he faces from his human police counterparts.

3) The only known Nexus 7 model was Rachael Tyrell, whose bones are found buried under a dead tree on the farm.

4) The clunky and time-consuming Voight-Kampf test has been replaced with a simple eye scanner that reveals replicant serial numbers (thank God!).

In the opening fight scene, K displays himself to be an unusual person in his rigid and cold, yet polite manner. It is no surprise that they reveal his artificial nature so soon, as it would have been obvious to viewers before much longer. He displays an unusual level of trust, and a desire to not physically harm his target if it can be avoided – the quality of gentleness, which will be important later in this article, so pay attention. This strange form of compassion is the first clue that K is more than he appears to be. Nonetheless, he is forced to kill Sapper Morton, the Nexus 8 who buried Rachael and has been protecting her secret.

Before his demise, Morton says to K: “You newer models are happy scraping the shit because you’ve never seen a miracle.” This immediately frames K as a character like Saul of Tarsus (aka Saint Paul), who was a devout Jewish Pharisee sent out to persecute the Christians of the early Church, but along the way unexpectedly encountered the resurrected Christ and converted. Are you paying attention?

The bones of Rachael are retrieved and returned to the LAPD labs, where Lieutenant Joshi aka “Madame” (Robin Wright), whose name suggests a pimp-like relationship, commands a team of scientists who discover (through K’s superhuman visual perception) that this skeleton, who was a woman who died in childbirth, was indeed a Nexus 7 replicant. They don’t know at this stage that it’s Rachael Tyrell, but anyone familiar with the original film would find it more than obvious at this point, and the filmmakers are tasteful in not over-emphasising this mystery. Madame explains to K how important it is for him to find the child, destroy it, and keep the whole affair secret. “This breaks the world”, she says. Again, the natural birth of a replicant child bears similarity to the virgin birth of Christ, and while there is no prophecy behind it, the “miracle” that Morton referred to is clearly this, and understood as a world-shattering event for all involved. But who is this Messianic child, and where are they now? They should be about thirty years old. The quest begins.

When K returns home, after a gruelling psychological evaluation to ensure that he is still at “baseline” levels, he finds his holographic girlfriend waiting for him. Having received his bonus for retiring Sapper Morton, he has bought her a gift: an emanator, the equivalent of the holographic Doctor’s mobile emitter in Star Trek: Voyager. While she seems like a mere novelty at first, Joi, as she is called, is actually a central and crucial figure in the story of the film. Her presence and persona deepens the existential questions. Why would a computer-generated fake girlfriend be so emotionally overwhelmed by the gift of mobility? Why would walking in the rain for the first time appear to move her? Why does she appear to truly love K; is she merely programmed to do so? Is an artificial intelligence that resides in a computer relay actually capable of carrying a soul?

These questions are further confused when we later see a gigantic advertisement for the JOI product, with the slogan “Everything you want to hear”. Indeed, the acronym J.O.I. is a genre of pornography standing for “Jerk-Off Instruction” (a virtual partner who can talk to you, instruct you, but whom you cannot touch; the exact dilemma that K faces in his romantic aspirations for this devoted digital apparition).

And of course the existential crisis goes layers deeper with the presence of Joi in the film. K is a replicant owned and controlled by Madame and the Police Force. He is of flesh, but without emotions. Joi is a virtual person; without flesh, but with convincingly simulated emotions – the very thing that K appears to be striving for, like Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation, or indeed like Pinocchio, upon whom Data was based. The Pinocchio influence is spelled out in crayon later when Joi insists to K that he is a “real boy now”, but I leap ahead.

The question of what makes us human? is the central question of the film. As a replicant, K is created, and not born, but as the film progresses and he faces greater challenges, his humanity emerges. Joi’s humanity is apparent from the beginning, and yet she is without form, without freedom, indeed without free will, and so the viewer will perceive her hollowness from the outset to her eventual demise.

There’s a scene charged with sexual tension in the first third of the film, where Lt. Joshi visits K in his home, to further urge him on his quest to destroy the child. He observes that souls belong to those who are born, and not created, to which she responds “You’ve been getting on fine without one”, but it is clear that K is not so sure of this. She asks him about his childhood memories, and K quizzically acknowledges that his memories, though experienced as real, are false because he knows they were implanted in him. She orders him to share one, and he submits, telling the tale of a small wooden horse that he had to hide from assailing bullies at an orphanage in the scrapheaps of San Diego. The memory is clearly visceral to him, and the symbology is powerful to the attentive viewer. The horse is a small nod to the source material, Philip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep”, in which Deckard’s neighbour has a pet horse of which he is very envious for the social status it gives. But more than that, the symbol of having a precious secret that others want to destroy, and hiding it away to preserve it is reminiscent of the plight of tortured Jesuits in feudal Japan, or the many Christians who are persecuted in Islamic countries and must practise their faith in secret to preserve their very lives.

When K’s recollection is done, a curious thing happens. Madame makes a not-so-subtle sexual pass at him, but K reacts with a robotic deflection. It makes one wonder if he is disinterested in sex altogether, or if he feels a sense of faithfulness to his holographic bride.

K is compelled to return to the burial site of the analogous “Virgin Mother”, and there he finds a date of death scratched into the dead tree: 6.10.21 This is the moment that K’s humanity burgeons. The date on the tree is the precise same date that was carved into the foot of the wooden horse in his memory, and for the first time he considers that his memories may not only be real, but indeed they might indicate that he is the Messianic child himself. Though he struggles to remain skeptical, denying the possibility despite the behest of his zealous holo-wife, K has begun to regard himself as a human being, and there is no turning back. Signs of emotion begin to emerge, though at this point he does pass his baseline test again, through what appears to be an act of self-mastery (or self-control as we will see is relevant to the Biblical text below).

With his superhuman reading ability, K reviews the DNA records of every child born in the region on 6.10.21, and he finds an anomalous pair of records with identical DNA patterns; one male, one female. The male is recorded as being assigned to an orphanage, which further stirs his vivid childhood memory. The female is listed as dying of a genetic disorder: Galatians Syndrome (ANOTHER BIG CLUE).

In the book of Galatians, Saint Paul (K’s Biblical counterpart) writes “but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” All of these virtues are displayed by a particular character who comes along next in the film. Curiously, the first two “fruits of the spirit” love and joy, are the names of the two female leads; Luv, and Joi.

Luv is K’s evil counterpart; the Nexus 9 who serves the malevolent Niander Wallace as his “angel of death”. A friend of mine remarked quite insightfully that she is a representation of the dark side of love; for love is not universally virtuous, when (as he put it) you consider the love of country and race that leads to such atrocities as Nazi death camps. Every light must have its shadow. K displays a kind of love for Joi that in some ways is aligned with the Christian ideal of love (in humans) as an act of the will. C.S. Lewis suggests that love is not the feeling that comes upon one and determines a course of action beyond will (that would more aptly describe lust, affection, or attraction), but rather an act of the will, to love, even when the emotions are absent. Indeed K does not have love for Joi if he is incapable of emotion, but he acts as though he loves her, which curiously leads to the feeling being real; or does it?

The replicant named Luv is a natural-made killer, the demonic errand-girl of Wallace, who declares his self-importance very early on by quoting Biblical passages about creation, and generations of man, himself conveniently positioned as the God of said creation. Jared Leto’s performance as the augmented human is creepy to boot, and his expressed desire to create a generation of born replicants to be his angels confirms his self-perception as God in a most Luciferian manner. His depraved psychopathy is best demonstrated when he “births” a new replicant model, touches her wet, naked form, then examines her with his mind-controlled flying probes to see if she has a child-bearing womb. She falls short of his hope – the same hope that the now deceased Rachael fulfilled before his time as the lord of the clones. He kisses her, then slices her gut open, and she silently bleeds to death before him as he casually moves on to the next item in his agenda. A truly Satanic villain.

As we observe K navigate his way through the difficult terrain of his investigation we see that he only internally lacks three of the fruits of the Spirit: Love, Joy and Peace. Indeed, K may seem serene in his observance of his purpose to obey his owners, and to find, and slay his fellow replicants, but as soon as he becomes privy to the miracle of the natural born Messiah, we see how fragile his apparent peace truly is.

K travels to the wasteland orphanage (at great peril) with the mobile Joi to try to find out what happened to the child, and which of the DNA records was real. After being led to the junkyard slave-keeper by dirty shaven-headed orphan children (in a manner quite like Jesus being touched by the lepers and sinners), K finds that the records of the year 2021 have been stolen, seemingly ending the trail. But K realises that this place resembles the memory of the toy horse, and with trembling hands he goes to the hiding place of the treasure, and finds it. The emotion, though suppressed by K, is electric in this scene. He now holds tangible evidence that his memory is real. The date on the horse’s foot is 6.10.21, and K struggles to reject the idea that he is the child of Rachael.

Joi insists at this point that K is a “real boy” (another nod to Pinnochio from the film’s proxy Jiminy Cricket) and she forces him to assume the name Joe, which he doesn’t like at first. He is not ready to fully accept his memories as real, nor as proof of his identity. So he seeks the one who makes the memories for replicants.

Here we meet Doctor Anna Stelline who is a girl in a bubble due to a immune system disorder that she does not name, that prevents her from contact with the outside world. Anna is a Latinate variant of the Hebrew name Hannah, meaning “full of grace”, and indeed Doctor Stelline (whose surname could be derived from Saint Elian of Syria, who was martyred for not renouncing his faith in Christ… though that is probably reaching a bit!) is the embodiment of the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patiencekindness, goodness, faithfulnessgentlenessself-control. Such a perfect expression of the fruits of the Spirit needs a name… perhaps Galatians Syndrome?

Her immediate persona is one of welcoming, appreciation for a visitor, and warmth towards the stranger K. She lives in a tragic, potentially unbearable situation, trapped alone behind a pane of glass, and yet she exudes a serene, peaceful kind of joy. Her first request is for patience, that she may continue her work while she converses, and in the work itself she demonstrates the patience of a master artist. Her kindness is seen in the work that she does, and her motivation for doing it: she wishes to give a subjugated and oppressed class of society joyful childhood memories that will grant them a human aspect. Indeed, it may only be the false memories in replicants that make them so human in their behaviour, and Doctor Stelline has taken it upon herself to make the memories as wholesome, visceral, and human as possible.

Stelline explains that sometimes the artist imprints a part of themselves on the memories they create, and K allows her to look inside his head, seeing the memory of the horse, the bullies, and the orphanage. Stelline’s reaction is deeply emotional. She says with a tear “someone lived this”. To K, and to the audience being strung along with him, this is the confirmation that K is indeed more than a mere clone, and that he is in fact the son of Rachael, and presumably of Officer Deckard. The veneer of K’s robotic personality finally collapses as, trembling, he mutters “I know what’s real” and then has a glorious outburst of rage that momentarily frightens Stelline.

To the second time (or astute) viewer, this revelation is mere sleight-of-hand on the writers’ part. The unnamed “immune system disorder”, the Christ-like personality, and the deep emotional reaction to the memory that she witnesses are not mere coincidence, curiosity, or evidence of K’s Messianic truth, but rather the veiled revelation that she is the daughter of Rachael, and the memory was hers. This is a beautiful piece of writing, because when one comes back to consider the convergence of these characters in this scene, we have K, tormented replicant desperately trying to become human, and we have Anna, full of grace, who directly gave K the memory that forms the foundation of his burgeoning humanity. Anna is most certainly his spiritual creator; or his Christ.

Under constant surveillance, K is immediately apprehended for his emotional digression from baseline, tested and found wanting, and thrust before his earthly mother-come-pimp, Lieutenant Joshi. And faced with termination for his emotional disturbance, K (now perhaps self-identifying as Joe) does a peculiar thing; he LIES. He tells his boss that he has found and killed the child. In a strange way, it is not false in his mind, as he has found that he is the child, and by experiencing real emotions he has transformed into something new. Indeed, he met his God, and was instantaneously reborn as a real human being (which is the central goal of Christianity, and God’s plan for every human). But with his humanity, came the fall, in which he is able to lie and breach the primary feature of his design; to obey.

With two days granted to Joe to find his place again before he is executed, he returns home with a plan to go AWOL and get to the bottom of his origins. When he arrives, he finds that Joi has invited home a prostitute who was earlier tasked to monitor K and find out what he was about by a shady old lady with one eye. The girl bears a striking (and no doubt intentional) resemblance to young Daryl Hannah, which was my first clue that she is a replicant. What follows is perhaps the most bizarre scene of eroticism you may ever witness, where the hologram of Joi merges with the prostitute in order to give physical form to herself and provide K with his first sexual experience, further confirming his transition into full human being. In the morning, the svelte Pris 2.0 finds the toy horse, and seems to recognise it, whispering to herself in wonder “it’s from a dream”. This is the next major clue that Joe is not the Messiah, that the memory is shared, and that it in fact originates from the true Messiah herself. She then plants a tracking bug in Joe’s ubiquitous green jacket (which looks rad, hats off to the amazing costume department!), and then takes a moment as Joi dismisses her, to mock Joi’s with the snide remark that she’s seen inside her, and found her empty.

Curiously, in stark contrast to the prostitute’s disdain for the immaterial artificial entity, Joi encourages Joe to delete her from the apartment’s mainframe and place her program in the emanator only, to protect him from detection, and at great risk to her own existence. Perhaps she merely hasn’t been programmed with a sense of self-preservation, but the emotion of her appeal certainly suggests that she has, and that she is defying it. She describes her new mortality as being “like a real girl”, but perhaps it is not the mortality alone, as much as the self-sacrifice that comes with it that makes her real. One of the great unanswered questions of the film is whether or not Joi was a sentient, self-aware, real person like Joe has obviously become (or has been all along), but I suspect that (within the fictional world of the film) she indeed was.

Death angel Luv accosts Madame, demanding to know where the now obscured Joe has gone, and the maternal instinct of Lt. Joshi shows as she allows herself to be killed rather than surrender her unlikely friend, the replicant. “I like him,” Luv says of Joe, “he’s a good boy” (Pinocchio, once more). Before her death, she provokes Luv to a terrifying sad rage by telling her that the child was found, and is dead, to which Luv responds: “You tiny thing, in the face of the new your only thought is to kill, for fear of change”. The sentiment certainly mirrors how the disciples must have felt as Christ died on the cross.

Detecting the radiation carried by the toy horse, Joe is led to the post-nuclear Las Vegas, which has been uninhabited for decades. There he finds fallen monuments of gigantic men and women; the giants of the once great race of human beings who are now being supplanted by the superior replicants. But in the shadow of the fallen men, he also witnesses his second miracle: teeming hives of living bees, evidently kept by a person. After an enthralling cat-and-mouse chase through an abandoned palatial casino, with cute cameos from Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and Liberace, Joe finally meets the man we naively assume is his father: retired LAPD Officer Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford).

Deckard’s first line of dialogue to Joe is a stunning piece of literary homage: “You mightn’t happen to have a piece of cheese about you now, boy?” which is immediately revealed as a quote from Treasure Island. The quirky line carries great meaning for this film though. It is a quote from Ben Gunn who was a pirate; an outlaw on the run from the authorities, just like Deckard. During Gunn’s long time in solitude on the island he develops a strong hankering for cheese, and it is one of the first things he asks Jim Hawkins when he is discovered. The subtext in this reference is that Ben Gunn was also the keeper of the secret of the island’s hidden treasure which Jim was seeking. If Jim had only asked, Gunn would likely have told him; but he never asked. This parallels the fact that when Joe repeatedly says “I want to ask you some questions” and Deckard responds with disdain and hostility “what questions!?” it is a clue that Joe is simply asking the wrong question: had Joe asked if Deckard had a son or a daughter, his torment would have ended immediately, but he doesn’t ask that.

Evidently triggered by the interrogation, their conversation ends abruptly with Deckard saying: “Sometimes to love someone, you gotta be a stranger,” before storming off. Joe’s pain in this moment is palpable, as he believes this man is his long lost father, and again he is leaving.

Then chaos strikes, as Luv has tracked Joe using the LAPD system, and they storm the building, kidnap Deckard, and severely injure Joe. Joi tries to bargain for Joe’s life, and Luv sadistically crushes her emanator, killing her, and leaving Joe beaten and bleeding, his purpose and meaning in life having reached an end. Discarded by all those who should value him (if he is indeed the Messiah) Joe is rescued by the Daryl Hannah lookalike’s collaborators, who take him before the military leader of a replicant uprising; Freysa, played by Israeli actress Hiam Abbass (who was incidentally born in Nazareth, where Jesus grew up). She delivered the child, and Rachael died in her arms, and though she was listed in the LAPD database as retired, she stands before him, alive, because she cleverly sacrificed her barcoded right eye (perhaps in the inaugural Replicant Covenant of Optical Circumcision). 

It is now that the facts converge and Joe finds out that he is not the Messiah he had thought he was; the Messiah is a girl. Deckard himself had taught Freysa, Sapper and the others how to obscure the records, create the fake DNA matched boy-child, and steal the records from the orphanage. The girl did not die of Galatians Syndrome, in fact she is not even sick at all, but has been cleverly hidden in plain sight where she can be protected until the time comes to awaken her to her destiny as the leader of the replicant revolution. Freysa is much like the Jewish Zealots, who wanted to use the Messiah not for the spiritual awakening of all men, but rather for a military coup d’├ętat against the oppressive Roman Empire. Freysa charges Joe with the task of killing Deckard to ensure that he is not tortured by Wallace to reveal the location of the child.

Meanwhile, Deckard is faced by Satan in his lair, as Wallace expresses his awe at meeting the man who planted the seed of his would-be angelic generation of natural born replicants. Wallace quotes Genesis, saying “And God remembered Rachael, heeded her, and opened her womb”, as he holds the skull of the woman Deckard loved, and the absolute creepiness prevails – assisted beautifully by the brilliant light-through-rippling-water effects of the set. Deckard is presented with a resurrected Sean Young, offered up to him that he may relive his youth and impregnate her again, fulfilling Wallace’s quest for a self-replicating synthetic life-form that he can enslave. But Deckard rejects her, after a moment of immense pain, noticing that her eyes are the wrong colour, and seeing the falseness of her likeness. Wallace commands Luv to shoot her in the head, and Deckard can’t help but wince. Wallace decides to take Deckard off-world to torture him for information.

Joe, now fully cognisant of his ordinariness as a replicant, marches sadly through the rain trying to decide what to do next. He is greeted by a gigantic holographic advertisement of the Joi program, who is the same likeness as his now destroyed lover. She tells him he looks like a “good Joe”. This seems to be the watershed moment for Joe. The illusion of replicable souls is dissolved. Joe can see that his Joi was unique compared to another who is supposed to be identical. Through her experience growing with him, she became something more than a mere program. In kind, Joe has grown from his experience to be something more than a mere replicant. He has loved, he has feared, he has raged, he has experienced sexual pleasure, he has lied and disobeyed, he has felt loss. In these few short days he has sampled the full range of human emotion, and now he must take the final action to establish himself as a real boy. Though Freysa urged him to kill Deckard, Joe makes another plan.

In the final showdown, Joe drags his bleeding and battered body through a torturous ordeal to gun down Wallace’s ships, then attempt to rescue his would-be father (Deckard) as he is trapped and near to drowning as the tide rises and floods the crashed ship. Here is the final Pinocchio reference, as the wooden boy rescues his father from the belly of the whale. But Luv doesn’t make it easy, and a number of times it looks as though the angel of death has overcome the good boy, but his determination to fulfil his anthropomorphic destiny outweighs her passionate loyalty to the dark prince, and finally, through a veil of rippling water, like a glass darkly, he drowns her.

The epilogue of the film shows Joe sending Deckard into Stelline’s laboratory to meet his daughter for the first time. Having completed his task of rescuing the man he wished was his father, restoring a broken family, and preventing the death of more innocents (perhaps even preventing a war, assuming Deckard frees his daughter from the military servitude that Freysa had planned for her), Joe lays down, finally at peace, having expressed the highest form of love there is (self-sacrificial love). I believe that in that moment, just before he dies in the gentle snowfall on the steps of the Messiah’s temple, Joe becomes a human being, and experiences the final missing fruit of the Spirit: joy.

CONCLUSION

I don’t know if the writers or director intended for this film to be an analogy of Jesus, or merely to borrow from the most seminal library of books of all time for their mythopoetic value, but as a Christian myself, I believe that this film represented the basic narrative of human existence in a beautiful way. Although there was no direct revelation of God to K/Joe, we did watch him transform through what I would call God’s power, as he was exposed to the beauty of the Christ-like figure and what she represented to all who wanted something from her. To him, however, she was not a mother, or a daughter, or a militant Zealot’s Messiah. She was merely the Way to his humanity: she planted the very seeds of humanity in him, she modelled to him the potential perfection of human character, and she enabled him to make the ultimate sacrifice for the higher cause of love. This transition from flailing sinner in existential doubt, to morally upstanding, good-deed-doing, righteous and joyful spiritual being (aka real boy) is the journey of all men through Christ. As such, I choose to chalk Blade Runner 2049 up as a beautiful Christian apologetic.

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Christianity Surpasses All Politics

It’s been a while since I’ve written an article for The Rational Rise, and that is largely because I have been immersing myself of late in real life, stepping away from studious examination of politics, and finally giving decent time to a study of Christianity. As a grateful member of Western Civilisation, it was about time for me to honour the cultural cornerstone of our great empire, and so I finally picked up the Bible for the first time and started reading with an open mind.

I think my mind could only really be opened because I primed it with thirty-six hours of Jordan Peterson lectures on the Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories. That lecture series alone gave me a new appreciation of the ancient text of the Book of Genesis, and helped me see that there was a different way to conceptualise God; something much more nuanced and believable than the childish image of an angry and punishing bearded patriarch in the clouds with the power to smite me if I masturbate too much.

After revelling in Doctor Peterson’s engrossing and incredibly detailed analysis of the oldest scriptures, and reminding myself of who Jesus was through old movies like The Greatest Story Ever Told and Jesus of Nazareth, I found myself identifying (humorously) as a Christian Atheist – one who wholly accepts the superiority of Christianity over other religions, and its immeasurable contribution to the very structure of modern life, but who remains an atheist.

Then a good (Christian) friend of mine told me to check out the 1985 debate between Doctors Greg Bahnsen and Gordon Stein, and I was stunned to realise at the end that the Christian theist had beaten the atheist on logical grounds! How could he have done this? If I was being honest, the result of that two hour debate left me considering the possibility that I could believe in God without having to abandon my passionate commitment to reason, logic and evidence.

And so my deeper study began, and what has followed over an intense month has been the consumption of apologetics books by C.S. Lewis, Lee Strobel, William Lane Craig, as well as Andrew Klavan’s beautiful memoir The Great Good Thing, and of course a slow and considered reading of the New Testament gospels. Full disclosure: I’ve only read the four gospels (of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) so far, but in so doing, along with the hours of extra-scriptural study, I’ve reached a few profound and life changing realisations. In this article, I would like to share just one of them; the one most relevant to our readers at The Rational Rise.

The more I study its scriptures and apologetics, the more I can see clearly that Christianity is a worldview that surpasses all political ideology and truly deals with the core issues facing humanity.

To begin, we must understand that politics by nature are systems of external governance or enforcement. Woah there, Libertarians! Our political philosophy is no different. On the one hand we have totalitarian (fully externally enforced) systems of law, such as Communism, and on the other extreme we have Anarcho-Capitalism, where there are no state-managed systems of enforcement, only private enterprise and individuals using non-coercive systems to manage social norms. Both extremes, and everything in between from democracy to monarchy, are external systems.

Libertarianism has no objective or universal internal systems of governance, because the only law that is recognised by that particular ideology is the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP). Thus, the only things considered to be undesirable behaviours are transactional, i.e. coercive actions between individuals. By this reasoning an individual can choose to do whatever they want with their time, money, and life, so long as it does no harm to another. This is why, to libertarians, drugs and prostitution are perfectly acceptable so long as they are entirely voluntary. On the surface, it seems like the most moral and virtuous social order, and in practical terms, it’s probably the best we can hope to do on Earth, but its major problem is that it doesn’t deal with social degeneracy. For those who misunderstand the idea of degeneracy, it’s simply that if everyone was engaging in a certain behaviour, society would collapse. Obviously drugs and prostitution fall into this category. If everyone did it, society wouldn’t last a month. If many do it, society will decay slowly.

But what to do with these issues of degeneracy when they do start to take a hold; when a society becomes too progressive or liberal?

Many ex-libertarians would tell you that fascism is the answer. Others call for ethno-statism, or the like. And so the swinging pendulum returns back towards totalitarianism, and so it goes. Progressivism, conservatism, rinse and repeat ad nauseum.

But there’s an answer that transcends the spectrum of external political systems, and it’s the hardest one for modern man to swallow, but I believe it is the only way to ensure we don’t destroy ourselves completely: belief in God, and not just any God, but the one true God who sent Jesus Christ to Earth to die for our sins. The difficulty of swallowing the notion is self-evident in the previous sentence, but I won’t get too deep into the spiritual aspects today. I’m interested in discussing the practical applications of Christian doctrine on a societal level.

Christianity is the only one of the Abrahamic religions (and possibly of all religions the world over, though I am not educated enough to say that with confidence) that places its central governance within the individual. Yes, God is seen as the external force that determines the moral code, and designed the very laws of nature to which we must adhere without a choice, but he is not seen in Christianity as a punisher, but rather as a curious and loving creator who wants us to seek him out, to ensure that our eternal life beyond the grave is spent in paradise, and not in hell. And so, we have free will. God won’t punish us for our sins in this life, we’re more likely to do that to ourselves (and one way or another, we and nature do). Because we have free will, we have the choice to adhere to the Christian commandments of God, or not. So self-governance is required.

And what are the Christian commandments?

Well, the two most important are:

1) “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”

2) “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”

A person is not truly Christian unless they take these two commandments as the highest laws governing how they use their will.

The first of these commandments is a virtually impossible feat, given that all humans fail and falter and get distracted and there has never been a perfect man (except Christ, if you believe in him). But the idea is to humble yourself before the notion of a loving creator who wants you to do good, and not evil. It’s in the act of remaining humble before God, even letting him take command of your very being, that one can actually achieve the second of these commandments.

The second one used to piss me off a lot, because I didn’t understand it. C.S. Lewis set me straight. It does not mean “just love” or “love is all you need” or any of that fluffy spiritualist garbage. It means to love your fellow man in the same way that you love yourself. And how do we love ourselves? Well, we don’t always. We hate much of our behaviour. We punish ourselves, and deride the folly actions we take, and sometimes we even hate our very selves for what we have done… but we always HOPE to get better. We always hope that we can become better people. And that is the key. I didn’t realise this until starting this study of Christianity, but I’ve most certainly taken enjoyment out of other people getting it wrong, because it makes me look good. If other people are assholes, or fascists, or ignorant, or illogical, I take pleasure in their failings because by contrast it makes me look like top shit. And that is how we breach the second of Christ’s commandments. So to change that into rightfully abhorring abhorrent behaviour in others, but hoping that the human being behind those behaviours will improve, will find a better way, and loving the more essential part of them that has the potential for goodness, that is the message of that commandment. Understanding that has made me love Christ all the more.

Both of these commandments, and many other aspects of the Christian doctrine place the essential power in the hands of the individual to choose to have a personal relationship with God, through Christ, and in so doing take a new kind of governance over their own behaviour. This means that not only is the NAP totally compatible with Christian thought by virtue of the commandments, but also that the individuals who adhere to this do not have the option to wilfully corrupt themselves, their families, or their nations, by indulging in a life of degenerate behaviour.

The problem of politics ultimately comes from our distrust for one another. Most people recognise (or self-delude) that they may have high values and morals, but the average pleb doesn’t and shouldn’t be trusted with rights that may cause them harm. Strangely, people look to political systems to resolve this. I say it’s strange, because by their nature political systems are ways of entrusting rights to others. Libertarianism is no anomaly here, it simply replaces coercive states with markets, which ultimately are dominated by other people.

The individual only has dominion over his own life, his internal state, and his behaviour and personal conduct. Christianity recognises this, and makes personal accountability (not to other men, but rather to God himself) the central tenet of human life on Earth. A society of true Christians, were it to ever exist, would look a lot like a Libertarian community, but without the drugs, premarital sex, divorce, or the instability that would be inherent to a society that enforces only very simple transactional laws, but does little to restrain personal conduct.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think the idea of a Christian society on Earth is as utopian as Anarcho-capitalism or Communism are, but it’s interesting to examine where the weaknesses in each theoretical absolute manifestation of philosophical ideas lie, and I believe that a theoretical Christian utopia is vastly superior (if not downright superlative) to an atheistic (or religiously pluralistic) Libertarian one.

My recommendation to philosophers and Libertarians, who believe they are deeply committed to trying to build and sustain the most morally excellent society possible, is to investigate and open your mind to the doctrines of Christianity. And you don’t even need to start with the scriptures themselves, if that’s daunting for you. Start with C.S. Lewis’s book Mere Christianity which is a concise and brilliant explainer of the practicals of what it means to be a Christian.

Many atheists I know already acknowledge that the Christian worldview is vastly superior in its life-affecting ramifications (both individually and societally) to the post-modern atheism that seems to be the default of Western society at this moment in history. It was that very realistic (albeit non-committal) view that led me to open a New Testament for the first time with a truly open heart and mind, as well as to finally explore Christian apologetics and the logical arguments for God that I had always assumed (in great prejudice) were intellectually wanting. The intellectual and scientific rigour of the apologists surprised me more than I can adequately express, and the practically applicable wisdom of the Bible even more so.

Then, through opening myself intellectually to the teachings of Christianity, my heart began to slowly soften to it as well, and what followed was nothing short of a miraculous, spontaneous transformation of my very person. That particular aspect of my journey in Christianity is for another time, as it does deal with the spiritual/internal experience, and doesn’t fit well with the particular point of this essay.

Suffice to say, politically I can see that Christ is the way. Metaphysically I can see that Christ is the truth. Personally, I am discovering that Christ is the life.

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Jordan Peterson Is A Gateway Drug To Christianity #EvenKlavan

This is a video of confessions, coming out, and Christ.

Many young truth-seekers have found themselves enamoured with the work of one Doctor Jordan B Peterson, and it is evident from his success as a public commentator and teacher of psychology, philosophy, and even his own brand of theology (heavily informed by Jungian archetypal psychology) that he is touching hearts and minds, and starting a movement.

But does Jordan Peterson’s evolutionary psychology oriented analysis of the Biblical stories have the power to turn atheists into true believing Christians? James at The Rational Rise says “yes!”, because it happened to him. Naturally, atheist Sven has some questions…

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Threats to Freedom of Speech on Australian Campuses with TOM BLAKE (Students for Liberty)

After meeting at the Friedman Conference in Sydney earlier this year, James interviewed Tom Blake, a student in Western Australia, on the increasing threats to free speech on Australian Campuses, and the growing movement of students with Libertarian values who are organising to battle this regressive cancer.

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