Posted by: Harold Knight | 08/20/2011

‘Fight Club’ the movie: defying proof of proof itself

Authority from God or the State?

Authority from God or the State?

(Please note: Below is a reading list for your consideration—readings taking various positions on the issues I’ve raised.)
.
.
.

When I uploaded my previous post, I was pretty sure no one would “get it.” I have no idea what anyone thought about it except I received a message from another TLEptic whose hypergraphia makes mine seem like writer’s block. She commented on my disclaimer in my blog heading about my writing process, saying

. . .  your “free associations” are less random to me than they might be to some — either I understand them, or I don’t need to, because I can invest my own meanings in them because, you know, I’m wired that way . . . If religion is the search for meaning in the world, then indeed, we may be the hyper-religious, because we can find the intensity in a word, a juxtaposition, a falling leave, the last note of a fading song. . .

She is apparently more sanguine than I have been for most of my life, but have begun to be. She says she “wouldn’t live another way, from what I see, even with the trouble I’ve had from it.” The condition or the bundle of conditions: TLE with its incumbent brain oddities and dissociation, hypergraphia, and hyper-religiosity. To say nothing of white noise and the high B-flat ringing in my ears announcing an incipient seizure.

And the inexplicable (perhaps illogical) free associations my brain makes. Those connections make absolute sense to me.  I hope someone finds them at least entertaining—but I have to write them no matter.

Here’s one. I’m into Fight Club, the 1999 movie based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk, directed by David Fincher, and starring Brad Pitt and Helena Bonham Carter.

I’ve never watched Fight Club. However, my students tell me I must. The trailer on IMDB convinces me that not in a thousand years will I put myself through that (at least alone). But now I have to. If the Fight Club narrative “explores the creation of identity and self within the environment of the post-modern consumerist culture of the West” (1), how can I not watch it?

I stumbled upon Lockwood’s article in an academic data base search not even vaguely related to Fight Club. Lockwood is “in the Department of Studies in Religion at the University of Sydney, Australia. Her primary research focus is the study of new religious movements and issues regarding religion and modernity.”

New religious movements. So Fight Club is a about a new religious movement. In the film

. . . the development of new religious movements is examined through the sardonic representation of stereotypically negative ‘cult’ allusions and imagery. . .  the narrative moulds to the psychopathology model of cult innovation. . . the role of consumerism as a kind of religion is expressed in the narrative. Indeed, the power of consumerism as a major contributor to the transient nature of all things in post-modern times is the principal motivator for the creation of a fundamentalist doctrine. . . (2).

Heady stuff! Especially considering that this writing began as a diatribe against the dangerous Evangelical Christian “presuppositionalists.” How did I suddenly get from Fight Club to presuppositionalism—or was it the other way around?

Presuppositionalism

. . .  boils down to the slogans advocated by . . .  Francis Schaeffer: There is no such thing as neutrality. Every worldview is predicated on certain founding assumptions, and those of Christianity are incompatible with those undergirding the secular humanist worldview(3).

The state thus is not the source of law

The state thus is not the source of law

An interesting (and not unrelated) note: My citation (3) is not complete (I’m obsessed with perfect MLA format citations) because I failed to make proper notation for it. My internet router died, so I can’t find the print article with its complete publication information. I’ll come back soon and add the proper notation. Until then, the missing volume and number will haunt me.

I point out my obsession with MLA citations because it exemplifies part of my self-understanding, which is—in another “free association”—according to Lockwood

the third major theme [of “Fight Club”]. . . the construction of self and personal identity. . . ephemeral ownership of personal beliefs, value systems, and an understanding of self . . .(4)

This “understanding of self” is fluid and self-constructed. There are no certainties, no absolutes. Lockwood asserts that “The lack of absolutes within post-modern society has often been noted as a major contributor to the creation of fundamentalisms” (5). Worthen, in her description of the theology of Francis Schaeffer and Cornelius Van Til, says the “presuppositionalists often sound strangely postmodem: they deny the possibility of objective, unbiased perception—though not the existence of absolute truth, which belongs to Christians alone” (6).

My self-understanding requires the (arbitrary and ephemeral) value system of MLA formatting of citations. Worthen says for Van Til

. . .  the sovereignty of God was an epistemological principle: “The best, the only, the absolutely certain proof of the truth of Christianity is that unless its truth is presupposed there is no proof of anything, Christianity is proved as being the very foundation of the idea of proof itself” (7).

I love that. “. . . proved as being the very foundation of the idea of proof itself. . .” An incontrovertible air-tight understanding of reality (?), including the establishment of society. Therefore, Christianity, the proof of proof itself, must be the foundation of our society. Or something like that.

I admit I don’t get it. I have almost certainly misrepresented what Van Till and Schaeffer believed. Schaeffer was influenced by John Rushdoony, whose reconstructionism, the belief that society must be reconstructed absolutely on Christianity including the cultic laws of the Hebrew scriptures, became the practical application of the belief that Christianity is the proof of proof itself.

When unity and particularity (or individuality) are in their ultimate source transcendental and firmly grounded in the triune God, man’s realization of unity and individuality is freed from the oppressive presence of the state as the realized order (8).

Clobber me, but don't try to tell me who I am

Clobber me, but don't try to tell me who I am

All of ourephemeral ownership of personal beliefs, value systems, and an understanding of self” will be unnecessary because the reconstructionist theocrats will make decisions about the self for us. They

see civil government as a God-given institution whose duty is to enforce God’s [law] . . . and ideally it ought to be Christian and Bible-based. . .  They assert that God’s word includes the blueprint for contemporary government and that biblical covenant is the criteria by which to judge a government’s conformity to God’s will. By assuming political responsibility, Christians can roll back Satan’s sphere and impose God’s scriptural law on society (9).

I’d guess I won’t like Fight Club. I don’t like seeing macho men clobbering each other, whether they’re “explor[ing] the creation of identity and self” or just being violent. But they won’t bother me nearly as much as politicians seeking office who believe “Christians can roll back Satan’s sphere and impose God’s scriptural law on society” (10). A free association: Sock me in the jaw, but don’t force your beliefs on me, especially if God told you to do it.
______________________
(1) Lockwood, Renee D. “Cults, Consumerism, and the Construction of Self: Exploring the Religious within Fight Club.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 23.3 (2008): 321-335.
(2) Lockwood, op.cit.
(3) Worthen, Molly. “The Reformer: How Al Mohler transformed a seminary, helped change a denomination, and challenges a secular culture.” Christianity Today. 10/01/2010. Web. 18 Aug 2011.
(4) Lockwood loc. cit.
(5) Lockwood, op. cit.
(6) Worthen op. cit.
(7) Worthen op. cit.
(8) Rushdoony, John. The Foundations of Social Order: Studies in the Creeds and Councils of the Early Church. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Press, 1968 (78-79). Quoted in Worthen, Molly. “The Chalcedon Problem: Rousas John Rushdoony and the Origins of Christian Reconstructionism.” Church History 77:2 (June 2008), 399-437.
(9) Zeidan, David. “A Comparative Study of Selected Themes in Christian and Islamic Fundamentalist Discourses.” British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 30.1 (2003): 43–80. (10) Posner, Sarah. “Perry’s Challenge to Bachmann for Religious Right Vote.” RD. (Religious Dispatches). August 8, 2011. Web. 18 Aug 2011.

FOR FURTHER READING:

(The last may be the most important; a transcript of a speech by Rushdoony. You may want to consider it immediately after reading Whitehead’s opinion.)

URL for the Posner article cited above:
http://www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/sarahposner/4977/perry%27s_challenge_to_bachmann_for_religious_right_vote/

Blog, The American Book of the Dead:
http://www.theamericanbookofthedead.com/2011/08/14/rj-rushdoony/

Lizza, Ryan. “Leap of Faith: The Making of a Republican Front-runner.” New Yorker 87.24 (2011): 54-63, detailing the influence of Rushdoony on Michele Bachmann.
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/08/15/110815fa_fact_lizza

Whitehead, John W. “Setting the Record Straight: Michele Bachmann, Francis Schaeffer and the Christian Right.” Huffington Post. 8/19/11. Web. Aug 20 2011.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-w-whitehead/michele-bachmann-christian-right_b_930834.html

Miller, Lisa. “Be not afraid of evangelicals.”  On Faith. The Washington Post. August 18, 2011. Web. 20 Aug 2011.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/dominionism-beliefs-among-conservative-christians-overblown/2011/08/17/gIQAb5eaNJ_story.html

Rushdoony, Rousas John. “The Politics Of Babel.” Vital Speeches of the Day 39.14 (1973): 420.
An excerpt:
In classical antiquity, the state was always seen as the ultimate order and the essential environment of man. From the Biblical perspective, the state is and must be a religious institution, i.e.; under God and acting as God’s ministry of justice (Romans 13:1-6). It has a strictly limited sphere and is under law, God’s law, and it is under God’s order, not itself the source of order. While the ancient city-states located divinity variously in relation to the state (i.e., in the state, the rule, the office, etc.), in essence they held in some form that the state was god walking on earth.
As against this, Biblical faith asserted that the source of ultimate order is not the state but God. Ultimacy and ultimate order are transcendent rather than immanent. For the state to claim jurisdiction beyond its realm is sin. The Bible gives us numerous examples of what constitutes signal evil on the part of the state. Drafting youth for non-military services to the state and taxing beyond the head tax to as much as 10 per cent (a tithe) of a man’s wealth or income I cited as evil (I Sam. 8). For the state to claim a priestly role. . .  Suffice it to say that the state is at every point under law, God’s law.
The state thus is not the source of law but an administrator of one aspect of God’s law. This difference between Biblical faith and the doctrine of the state in antiquity and today is of critical importance.

Advertisements

Categories

%d bloggers like this: