Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Evils of Syncretism

So Vicki's back in school and gets some news from Bruce: Janie, her jailbird friend, the one she took a shiv for, is coming to live with her and Chaya. But it isn't long before trouble strikes! Apparently Janie is still a party girl, still drinks and smokes, and gets into trouble. This is all very shocking to Vicki who had expected her to change overnight because it's not like smoking and drinking are diseases with causes that take time to fix and must be addressed before they can be. No, apparently, they're supposed to instantly straighten up and fly right in the presence of Bruce "Useless" Barnes.

But we get evidence that Vicki isn't completely pure as snow when she prays this to Zod:

"Lord, if it's okay with you, I pray that Judd and I would become more than just friends."

You just know Irene Steele would get the vapors if she heard such ungodly talk. But this is a fairly normal prayer for a teenage girl--praying that some boy would like her--so I'll let it slide.

Anyway they celebrate Thanksgiving now renamed Fall Festival Day by the eeevil NWO and discuss distributing their paper via the mail. They do this and there's a big jump to Christmas Eve. I have to say, this is somewhat shocking that they would actually fast-forward a good chunk of time given Ellanjay's fetish for making sure that you know exactly what a character is doing and when. I would applaud them for just fast-forwarding through all the phone calls and other minutia they're obsessed with but my bad writing sense is tingling, telling me something is waiting for me.

Anyway, Vicki gets a cross necklace for Christmas and Ryan is pissed when she assumes Judd gave it to her and storms off upstairs, only to catch Janie smoking something in her room. But she denies everything when the YTF question her.

Next chapter is a big jump to four months later and we get yet another ridiculous name, Judd's religion teacher, Mr. Syncrete. Now, I guess Syncrete is supposed to be a play on Syncretism which defines as:

the attempted reconciliation or union of different or opposing principles, practices, or parties, as in philosophy or religion.

So naturally I'm guessing this is Ellanjay's way of attacking Syncretism, though syncretism is a natural part of human nature. When two cultures meet, both sides will draw ideas from the other. No culture exists in a vaccuum; even America, is blending together of a wide variety of cultures and beliefs, yet they manage to coexist mostly because of syncretism. Though we may have pillaged and plundered Indian cultures and saw them as inferior, we also drew a lot of our native dishes and place names from them; nearly every state in the union has an Indian name.

In fact a lot of Christian practices are syncretism. The characters celebrated Christmas which is basically a pagan solstice festival dusted off and given a Christian feel (don't tell me Ellanjay really believes Jesus was born on December 25), as is Easter. I could go on and on about examples of syncretism but my main point is this: Syncretism exists as a natural flowing from the interactions of various cultures.

But naturally, Ellanjay see anything less than purity as evil (though when you think about it, purity doesn't really exist) so Mr. Syncrete is an eeevil employee of the NWO teaching system what with his insistence on tolerance for everyone even if they aren't Judeo-Christian.

For some reason though, the NWO requires religious education for graduation. Why, I don't know. You'd think the anti-Christ would oppose that sort of thing, learning about other faiths than the one he's trying to promote but maybe I should give up trying to apply logic where it doesn't belong.

So apparently Judd and Mr. Syncrete get into debates. Unfortunately, it's not much of a debate: it lasts two sentences long. You can't help but feel ripped off that Ellanjay can't even set up a decent strawman for their protagonist to knock down. Here's the stunning debate:

"You have no basis for saying that," Mr. Syncrete said once. "Give me one shred of evidence that the so-called Ressurection isn't the work of fishermen turned fiction writers."
"I'll give you the evidence," Judd said, "if you'll admit that the Ressurrection of Jesus, if it happened, changes everything your teaching."

First of all, Judd, no way a sixteen-year-old boy can do what centuries of Christian apologists couldn't: prove that Jesus rose from the dead. It's one of the things we accept on faith and many of us feel that the teachings of Christ's life are way more important than whether or not he rose from the dead. Unless you can pull out time-lapse photos taken from the tomb, you can't really prove anything. And don't point to apologetics: all that proves is that a lot of people believe something and that doesn't necessarily make it true.

But anyway Judd is offended by the test he has to take for Mr. Syncrete and is even more offended when he finds out that by walking out on the essay part of the test that he has failed the class. Entitled much, Judd? You're a constant pain in the ass to the teacher, and you still expect to get an A even though you didn't do the work. The test was to show how much you've learned, Judd, not what you believe. You couldn't just bullshit your way through the class?! I am totally on Mr. Syncrete's side and not just because I like his name.

Anyway to end the chapter, Janie is busted for drugs and Bruce decides to send her back to the Detention center. Oh and even though he failed one of his classes and acted like a total turd to his teacher guess what? Judd gets to be salutatorian for his graduating class. :starts massaging temples: I wonder what pearls of wisdom we have to look forward to in the next few chapters. I might need to start drinking something stronger than water to get through this.


Firedrake said...

And of course nobody can ever smoke or drink in moderation - you're either a total abstainer or a one-woman pit of depravity.

Presumably Vicki should be praying that Judd will court her properly and ask her father for permission... oh, wait.

Thanksgiving isn't particularly autumn-related, is it? More "early winter".

I suspect that what Judd mostly gets to be is "on the secret police watch-list, to see if he's getting his ideas from anyone who might actually be worth arresting - like that Barnes fellow".

May I recommend Wisniowka, one of the Polish cherry vodkas?

Rappy said...

(Relatively) long time reader, first time poster.

So, if I get this right, the Eeeevil NWO has rechristened Thanksgiving, but Christmas is left alone?

That seems...baffling, to say the least. Then again, Ellenjay.

aunursa said...

"I'll give you the evidence," Judd said, "if you'll admit that the Ressurrection of Jesus, if it happened, changes everything your teaching."

Christian theologians often state that the entire Christian religion stands or falls on whether Jesus rose from the dead. This is based on Paul's teaching, "[I]f Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith." (1 Cor 15:12)

From a Jewish perspective, however, it doesn't matter. If I were convinced that Jesus actually rose from the dead, it would not change my faith or cause me to convert to Christianity. The Torah teaches that if a prophet performs a miracle, and then that prophet tells us to follow a foreign god (that we had not known), then he is a false prophet. In answer to the question of why God would allow a false prophet to perform a miracle, the Torah indicates that God uses such instances to test our faith. (Deut 13:1-4)

Mouse said...

Thank you as always for your perspective, Aunursa. As you can tell, I am very skeptical of any proof that Judd can offer up. Unless he's got, say, time-lapse photos taken from the tomb, he can't prove anything, as I put it in my snark.

Mouse said...

Oh and as always I am accepting fanfiction for this series. Ideas include more stuff about Ryan's parents and right now, if anyone could write a real debate between Mr. Syncrete and Judd, that would be awesome. Mostly because I want Judd to be schooled so bad.

aunursa said...

Oh, evangelists will offer you much circumstantial evidence. This includes,

* Empty tomb
* Hundreds of eyewitnesses
* Transformed lives
* Willing martyrs

Using a tactic similar to the Liar-Lunatic-Lord trilemma, they may try to trap you into accepting five or six possible explanations, or "Resurrection Theories". After refuting and dismissing the other options, only one will be left: "Jesus really did rise from the dead."

The problem is that virtually all of their evidence is derived from the New Testament itself. Thus it becomes a case of circular reasoning.


Evil Paul said...

Man, EllenJay must have had some weak-ass teachers growing up. I can think of a dozen I had that would have cut a mouthy student like Judd down in a heartbeat.

"I'll give you the evidence," Judd said, "if you'll admit that the Ressurrection of Jesus, if it happened, changes everything your teaching."
"Of course it would change everything I'm teaching, that's the whole point of living in the real world: You go where the evidence points you! And now that I've gone out on a limb in front of the entire class it's time for you to step up as well: Do you have even a shred of evidence that the Biblical account of the life, death, and alleged ressurrection of Jesus is historically true?"
"Sit down please Judd."

Mouse said...

What we really need is Severus Snape right there. That'll cut Judd down to size.

Evil Paul said...

Snape? He'd send Judd fleeing from the classroom in tears!

Hmmmm. And then Vicki could pick up on the fact that Judd only acts tough when he's pushing Ryan around, realize that he's a bully and a douche and decide NOT to spend the last seven years of her life pining after him!...

...a good story plus a valuable moral example for the kids!

Muenchner Kindl said...

to EvilPaul:

if the teacher were a real scientist and not a strawman-person, I can't see how a person rising from the dead, even if proven, would change things. To a scientist, a miracle is simply "one non-repeatable unique event without a sufficient explanation (at the current time)". Esp. in medicine (unlike hard physics), miracles happen regularly - that is, individual people don't always follow the textbook explanation of human physiology.

There are some accounts of people "waking up" from death in the autopsy room or even the morgue, not only in the 19th century, when it was a bit difficult to determine death yet; but there was a case in the 1970s in Brasil reported in the newspapers and some people revived after cold (hence why somebody isn't dead until he's dead and warm, as the EMTs and doctors emphasize).

So even if could be proven - which it obviously never can, we simply have no evidence or witnesses for that time, unlike a person in the 1970s in Brasil, where doctors and journalists could do neutral observations and investigations.

For physics, scientists could be more easily swayed if a fundamental law of nature is broken before their eyes - but I think the usual reaction would not be "Aliens can destroy matter without conversion into energy, they are god(s)", but rather "This appears to be impossible, either there's a trick somewhere, or we need to re-write the laws".

After all, when Einstein's theory of relativity came around, the Newtonian physicists didn't have a crisis of faith or conversion; they said "well Newton is still valid for slow speeds below c, for anything approaching c we will use the new formulas".

When somebody claims to have a perpetual motion machine, the typical proper real-life scientist's reaction is not "Oh my god I was wrong I will convert" but rather "There must be a trick somewhere, let's find out where and how".

So a real scientist would say "Evidence can't change my worldview, and you have no objective evidence anyway. Unless you have a time-machine which you used to record a video with independent witnesses; in which case, I would need to investigate the time machine first as far greater 'miracle'".