Friday, January 02, 2015

Throwing Out the Baby; Keeping The Bathwater

Reading this Scott Alexander post on the nerd-shaming strand of feminism (which I can stand behind close to 97% of), I was struck by this passage from Scott Aaronson about the depths to which his lack of romantic success coupled with feminist indoctrination plunged him:

At one point, I actually begged a psychiatrist to prescribe drugs that would chemically castrate me (I had researched which ones), because a life of mathematical asceticism was the only future that I could imagine for myself. The psychiatrist refused to prescribe them, but he also couldn’t suggest any alternative: my case genuinely stumped him. 

And I thought to myself -- how did I avoid a similar fate?

I certainly had my dark moments.  I certainly got my share of indoctrination. I could fairly be described as a "nerd."  I am generally sensitive to other people's pain, and wouldn't want to cause any, and can identify with Aaronson's desire not to be a creep or scare people off.

But I never got near the point where I considered myself a menace and chemical castration was the only response.

Why?

Some possibilities:

  • While I am "nerdy," I was probably not an exact match for the stereotype. I enjoyed both watching and playing sports (though I was never very athletic). I usually had a sense of proper dress and fashion, and was willing to conform. I didn't get a lot of female attention, but it was non-zero. 
  • It's possible by sex drive is/was not as strong for me as for others. I could generally be in the presence of a girl/woman I was attracted to without being consumed by a desire to kiss her.
But, I think the main reason was my Faith.  That I was part of a faith tradition and community that told me I was created good, loved and saved by God, and that even my sexuality was good, regardless of what the rest of the world said.

Perhaps this stuck out to me because I had just finished this Joseph Bottum piece on how our politics may have shed explicit grounding in religion, but maintain a sensibility formed by our religious tradition, resulting in conviction of sin, but no means to escape the prison it puts us in.

I'm pretty sure none of the people taking place in the above conversation would describe themselves as religious people, and likely hold religion in disdain.  But that apparently has not not stopped them from retaining some of the worst artifacts of religion -- scruples, the notion that they are irredeemably bad, that sex and sexuality are bad and dirty, the notion that there can only be one suffering which we are destined to endure in private.

Often, we need to fight the temptation to celebrate Easter Sunday without observing Good Friday.  I get the sense that Aaronson is getting Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, but missing Christmas and Easter (the baby I refer to in the title can be quite literal).  People are living with guilt, with their own sinfulness without any knowledge or hope of being set free.

I literally cannot imagine what it must be like to bear the notion that all your desires are wrong without the the underlying faith that you were created fundamentally good, so good that God cam in into the world, lived, suffered, and died to save you.  

Perhaps, living with this faith is the greatest "privilege" of all. Evangelization is spreading this Good News to all so we can all live in it and enjoy it.

Is life with this faith always a bed of roses and free of suffering? Certainly not. But it sure beats suffering without hope.
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