Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Deconstructing Humans

The horror genre has a long history of terrifying us with distortions of humanity. Some of the monsters are inhuman (Silence of the Lambs, Saw, Hostel).  Some are superhuman (Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween).  Others are subhuman (The Descent, The Walking Dead).

The subhuman zombies of AMC’s The Walking Dead have reanimated a hot philosophical topic: What does it mean to be human?  It's one thing to identify deviations from the norm. Clarifying the standard from which we are deviating is a bit more difficult.
The Walking Dead and Philosophy, a companion book to the series, uses the undead to shine a spotlight on one of today's headlines:  Can humans lose their personhood - and thus their moral rights and standings?  I think most of us would immediately say, "Of course not," but  scientists, philosophers and theologians have a hard time agreeing on the answer to this question.  If "human" is merely one type of "person," then clearly a person does not have to be human. This distinction is not too controversial.  The controversial question is this: Can someone be human without being a person? 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Is Frankenstorm a Judgment from God?

“If a kid asks where rain comes from, I think a cute thing to tell him is, ‘God is crying,’ And if he asks why God is crying, another cute thing to tell him is, ‘Probably because of something you did.’” (Jack Handy, Deep Thoughts, 1992)
As America recovers from yet another massive natural disaster * – or “act of God,” in insurance company lingo - the inevitable question resurfaces in Christian circles: Why is God crying? What is God angry about?  What did we do? 
It’s a popular topic every time a storm hits, especially if it hits where we don't live. Usually, the apparent target of God’s wrath is a particular situation or people group about which the person claiming clarity happens to feel very strongly:

  •  It’s the abortion doctors! 
  • It’s because of international policies! 
  • It’s the Middle East conflict! 
  • It’s liberal, feminist Marxists! 
  • It’s the greedy Wall Street 1%! 
  • It’s evolution in our schools! 
  • It's the President! 
  • It's megachurches (yes, I saw that one online)
  • It's for someone with whom I am displeased!”

There’s quite a list that gets generated in the aftermath of a disaster like Hurricane Sandy. Apparently, God has lots of options.