Friday, June 15, 2007

Reason and accountability

This is a better theme for serious "Father's Day" discussion than the perpetual silliness that goes on here, for example. So many participants in the "Bloggernacle" just seem to love to muse and moon over meaningless questions.

I've wondered for a long time how men could surrender themselves to the bland impotence that so characterizes such discussions, amongst the obsessively politically correct, and elsewhere. To me, it seems to represent a concerted effort to betray most of the meaningful things that distinguish us as men.

We can focus in on the one of the particular points of doctrine that so offends, especially at this weekend event that at least theoretically used to be about celebrating "fatherhood", but is now more commonly used as an opportunity to denigrate.

The Family: A Proclamation to the World proclaims, among others:
By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.
The Proclamation is dynamic and bold -- and that offends quite a few people. Though it is not politically correct, it should go without saying that men have a unique role that differentiates them from women. This axiomatic premise parallels Melvin Udall's stereotyped thinking, in the film "As Good as it Gets".
Receptionist: How do you write women so well?
Melvin Udall: I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability.
There are fundamental differences between men and women, males and females. Some institutional implementations are founded upon those ideas, and they function successfully to the degree that those sex differences are recognized and properly accommodated. While Udall's encapsulation may not perfectly characterize the kernel of the fundamental difference, he does far better than most, in this age of unreasoning antipathy toward the male of the species.

Check some earlier comments that relate to this issue, in fascinating and intriguing ways.

(Interspersing some replies from that other blog discussion...)
Melvin Udall was held up in the film as a generally reprehensible (and somewhat insane) human being — that was the point.
Yes, I think I understand why you felt we were intended to regard the character of Udall as “reprehensible” and insane. But in fact, his most offensive trait in the film seemed to be a rather painful and brutal degree of honesty.

How does honesty become anti-social and pathological?

(Other blog reply...)
Jim, let me ask you a yes or no question: do you believe that in order to describe women, you “think of a man… and take away reason and accountability”?
I could discuss this question at some length, but first, you must answer a yes or no question: Do you believe in the “divine design” reflected in the Proclamation?

Your antipathy for this line of thinking makes me uncomfortable to pursue it further. Sorry for disturbing the peace. Please feel free to ignore my comments, if it will make you feel happier.

(Other blog reply...)
Cobabe, don’t confuse antipathy for you with antipathy for the Proclamation. Consider yourself persona non grata until you answer my question, you coward.

And to show you that I’m not a coward, I’ll answer your question, you loathsome wuss: Yes, I believe the “divine design” part. Now what?
(Further quote from "As Good as it Gets"...)
Carol Connelly: Do you have any control over how creepy you allow yourself to get?
Melvin Udall: Yes I do, as a matter of fact. And to prove it, I have not gotten personal, and you have.
Yes, I obviously thought I saw something instructive in Udall’s unusually hyperbolic thinking. Of course it is not correct to so simply characterize differences between men and women — doesn’t do it justice at all. That would be an interesting and complex subject in itself.

Then too, I see this with the understanding that Udall is a fictional character, a sort of composite caricature of someone manifesting psychiatric dysfunction. Udall is not a real person, neither is the thinking reflected in his fictional character an accurate portrayal of o-c disorder. His character is as exaggerated as his statement about how he writes women.

The sad fact is that Udall is able, in his twisted sense, to readily identify an important truth that our politically correct society cannot countenance. Udall is honest about his perceptions. Many of the rest of us have to pretend to deny what is fundamentally true. Those laboring under this bizarre obsession/compulsion are perhaps more seriously mentally afflicted than Udall himself.

Perhaps, when we look at the Family Proclamation, the reductionist approach is somewhat problematic. The initial selection of one phrase in isolation from the rest of the Proclamation may detract from the obviously holistic intent of that instrument. As I read it, the Proclamation intends to advocate for a particular balance. All members of a family are included and to be considered as a unit, notwithstanding the different contributions each member brings to the group. Regarding the individual pieces, particularly from a defensive or antagonistic perspective, probably distracts us enough from the original intent that the real message of the Proclamation is compromised.

Men and women do not exist independent of each other. Rather, their different roles complement each other to create a relationship that works to satisfy the specific and individual needs of all its members.

"Unrighteous dominion" is almost an automatic reaction for many liberal-minded LDS Church members in this context. One of the considerations that generally seems to be neglected when we invoke “unrighteous dominion” is that it would seem to imply that “righteous dominion” is also a possibility.

In fact, I would suggest that “righteous dominion” predominates in almost all cases, and “unrighteous dominion” is, for practical purposes, a temporary and transitory state. I suspect most of us wander into that territory from time to time. Thank God we have the opportunity to repent and correct our mistakes.

One more thought — unrighteous dominion. It is not just a man’s territory. Anyone can tread there.

In the church there is a peculiar tendency to become blind to this, perhaps because the scriptures make such a dramatic point in condemning the problem as manifested in the ranks of priesthood. For priesthood-holding men, unrighteous dominion has certain unpleasant implications that do not affect non-priesthood-holders. But abuse of authority is an egregious sin, in any case — whether the offender be a man or a woman.

I further extend my previous comments about “dominion” in general. Under the guiding principles of the gospel, it is our prerogative to have dominion over our individual stewardships. This applies to men and women, fathers and mothers — and children, in a more limited sense. One of the challenges of mortality is to learn to administer our dominion according to righteous principles.

Each of us has a unique assignment that constitutes our stewardship. This principle is taught in the parable of the talents. Dominion over our own stewardship is righteousness inasmuch as it is guided by gospel principles. It is a reflection of the eternal stewardship we look forward to, modelled after Heavenly Father’s eternal kingdoms.

I think it is instructive to compare phrases like
…reinforcing the norm of gender-disparate economic power
Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.
If I were to make it the subject of intensive study, which one of the philosophical approaches these statements epitomize would seem likely to yield the most productive result — e.g. happiness, fairness, prosperity.

I don’t share any grave concerns about catering to the lunatic fringe on either side of the “iron rod”.

Innovative contemporary sociological theories modelling marriage relationships are all just nicey-nice. Gay and lesbian stuff is, well, enticing, I suppose, for a select minority. But the majority — more than 95% of us, I would guess — will be best served by striving for obedience to the correct principles outlined in the Proclamation. Notwithstanding the popular clamor for "diversity", there is no reason for most of us to experiment with any of these distasteful distractions or perversions from the “divine design”.

And, I presume for those who, like me, occasionally come to themselves, and find themselves straying outside of the ideal — if you’re like a happy pig, pleased to be wallowing in mire, well and good for you.

But if you're unhappy, and cannot understand why, perhaps you would be interested to see my further elaboration on this idea. If and when you come to realize how you have been mislead and cheated, and can see how far off the path you have strayed, please make an effort to repent and seek forgiveness, and set your steps to return to the true church.

Prodigal sons, as ever, will be welcomed back to the fold.

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