Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Re-entering History Through the Gospel: An Interview with Tyler Wigg-Stevenson on Christianity and Activism, Part II

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Interview by Matt Johnson

Ground Motive: I gather from your book and from talking to you that you consider the Gospel to be more than just a list of five things you can put in a tract. It has to include pursuing peace and justice. So first of all what is the Gospel to you, and secondly, what is our responsibility as Christians with regard to it? 

Tyler Wigg-Stevenson: Well, here's the tension: You want to be able to give an answer and then you also want to be able to say it's bigger than that. I would default to the Pauline language of the Gospel in terms of the good news, the things of first importance: that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah of Israel, that he died for our sins, that he was buried, he was raised on the third day, that he appeared to the apostles and to the many. 

Then within that one declaration of a historical event, it blossoms like a flower, and there are thousands upon thousands of petals that come out of that. So part of my trouble is that I don't want to limit it to one thing. Is it the forgiveness of sins? Yes, it's that. Is it reconciliation with God? Yes. Is it reconciliation with a neighbour? Yes. Does it redefine your disposition toward creation? Yes. If you re-enter history and your own life through this truth then everything is transformed, and you will spend a lifetime unpacking what it means and coming to understand what it means. 

GM: It seems problematic to me when we as Christians enter into situations with the mindset that if we can communicate these five truths that will save your soul if you believe them, we’ve done our part, and our hands are clean. On the other hand, I don’t think the answer is to leave the content of the Gospel out of our activism entirely. So how do we keep the Gospel intact in our activism without cheapening it, and how we do we avoid emphasizing the action of justice or pursuing peace over the actual truth of the Gospel? 

TWS: I wonder how much that dichotomy between the Gospel and activism perpetuates a problem. I find problematic the idea that the Gospel is separate and distinct from the activity it generates, or that the activity it generates is not grounded in a sense of what has been done for us in Christ. 

So to what extent is the situation you describe (that the Gospel is just these five truths that you have to believe before breakfast and then your soul is safe) smuggling in a problematic way of thinking about the Gospel? How much does an understanding of the Gospel as only cognitive assent ride remora-like on the critique of forms of Christian activism that purportedly fail to keep the Gospel intact? Does that critique still smuggle in a vision of the Gospel that interprets our commitment to its message solely as a kind of cognitive assent? 

I struggle to answer this question because I don't know if there's a technique that’s capable of giving us an answer to this problem. 

I started the Two Futures Project (which was the anti-nuclear organization I started primarily to reach evangelicals in the United States who weren't known for being associated with “ban the bomb” type activity) because all the religious and anti-nuclear vocabulary I heard would have caused an allergic reaction in the evangelical Christians I knew. It just wasn't speaking to their core principles. And so I wanted to articulate an indigenous case, one that was in the native tongue of evangelicals so that anti-nuclearism wasn't a foreign construct but was something that could be indigenously generated. 

In order to do that, we made a choice very consciously at the beginning of the effort that we were going to be upfront about Christian identity. Now, we did that because I thought it was necessary that evangelicals be able to feel evangelically anti-nuclear. In a certain way I feel like we accomplished that, and now what I'm asking people to do is to go be Christians in situations that are indifferent to religious claims, but to do so with their own integrity, putting their shoulder to the same wheel as people who might have different final commitments than they do. 

So are they now able to bring the Gospel into their activity? I hope so. But there were different stages of development. You see, at one point you might have alternated your sentences: anti-nuclear, Gospel, anti-nuclear, Gospel (what we would identity as Gospel, the central Gospel story). Now maybe we’re able to do activism differently, but maybe that slides too far, and then maybe we need a correction at the end. 

But if you re-enter your own life and history through this central claim of the Gospel that Jesus died for our sins and was raised, if you re-enter everything through that claim then you can ask the same question of every aspect of our privatised, modern world. Part and parcel of modernity is social differentiation. So there is the economic sphere, the political sphere, the social sector, religion. There are these differentiated spheres of expertise, and the idea is that each functions according to an autonomous logic. Well, a Christian has to approach this differentiated reality by saying all of these spheres are contained within the truth claims embedded within this Gospel claim. So you can equally ask the questions: How do we approach our politics without leaving the Gospel behind? How do we approach our economics without leaving the Gospel behind? There's nothing fundamentally or categorically different about those questions than the question of how we approach our activism without leaving the Gospel behind. 

If there is an answer to this question, I tend to think that it's grounded in a commitment to a local congregation and the liturgical expression of that congregation, whether or not it's a "liturgical congregation." Every congregation is liturgical, it's just we have different liturgies, we have different orders. Because that's where we go to remember that time and space and are remade by the claim of the Gospel, and we hope that once a week is frequent enough to reorient our lives. 

So I would say the truest answer to the question of how do we do activism without leaving the Gospel behind is that we do that which is simply and fundamentally Christian, which is to be full members in the body of Christ, and then the rest falls into place. That's not to say that Christian activism doesn't require its own intention, but that the intention is probably context-specific, and I couldn't give a general answer to it. So what I would say is a matter of first priority is this: are you living a life where you are part of a congregation of the faithful and are you doing so faithfully? 

If you're doing this, you’ve at least taken a step in the right direction, and from within that space you can start to answer the question for whatever that means for you. 

GM: As a final question, for those interested in the Two Futures Project, how can they get involved? 

TWS: The Two Futures Project, at this point, represents a locus of concern for Christian commitment vis-à-vis nuclear security and ethics, specifically related to weapons, not power. So for people who are gripped by that concern, I hope that the website (when we get it back up – it’s down for maintenance) can be a resource for thinking through those two things in conjunction with each other. But my main suggestion right now, if anybody asks, my answer to them is please go find a place of activity and occupy it faithfully as a Christian whether or not the overall umbrella has any confessional content to it at all, because there are good efforts right now that are underway and we need faithful Christians in there in the exact same way that we need faithful Christians in the so-called autonomous spheres of politics and economics and anything else.

Tyler Wigg-Stevenson is the founder and director of the Two Futures Project and currently serves as the Chair of the Global Task Force on Nuclear Weapons, an initiative of the World Evangelical Alliance. He is the author of Brand Jesus: Christianity in a Consumerist Age and The World is Not Ours to Save: Finding the Freedom to Do Good and is currently pursuing a ThD from Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Don't Be a Hero: An Interview with Tyler Wigg-Stevenson on Christianity and Activism, Part I

Interview by Matt Johnson
Ground Motive: I very much enjoyed your book on Christianity and activism called The World is Not Ours to Save: Finding the Freedom to Do Good that came out in February of this year. I'd love to hear a little bit about what inspired it and what you were hoping to communicate with it.

Tyler Wigg-Stevenson: As I say in the first chapter, I've made something of a career in Christian anti-nuclear activism and nuclear policy. Advocacy and theology are the only two things I've done in my adult life, sometimes at the same time. Over the period starting about 2007, continuing through the present, I was doing this more than full time. The book came out of the exposure to that activity, that activism.

In the course of that activism I was exposed to the broader world of Christian activism, which in my opinion has blossomed, or exploded, depending on what your take on it is, over the past ten years. I’ve developed what I hope is a loving but critical attitude toward the Christian disposition and activism that I saw frequently and saw brimming up in myself.

And so to an extent, the book is an exercise in self-criticism, grounded in my own experience of the spiritual and practical pitfalls that I think dot the Christian activist landscape today. It's an attempt to name those pitfalls and to pose an alternative way of living faith in public.

GM: I was intrigued by what you say in your book about “hero activism” and the problems with it. Why is it a problem to go into activism thinking that you're a hero and that you can fix things?

TWS: This is the lead-off critique in the book, and it's one of those aspects of the world of Christian activism that I think once you see it, it's hard not to see it everywhere. You get subcultures that have their own celebrity names, and they're all over the place. So if you're talking about the conference circuit for example, the calendar's dotted with conference upon conference upon conference. These celebrity names that go on posters with the head shots are intended to draw people in, so presumably there's an audience for this. They are presented as heroic figures. One has to ask, what does this messaging communicate to this audience?

This is certainly not limited to the Christian universe. Every subculture has its kind of defining celebrities, its important voices. But I think from a theological perspective that demands a certain critical attitude toward what's going on here.

GM: Shouldn’t we look up to people who do great things and aspire to be like them? What’s wrong with wanting to be a hero?

TWS: One of the things we have to take a hard look at is the extent to which the hero trope requires the enemy and the extent to which that enemy defines the hero. That's part of a heroic story, where the narrative arc involves the hero confronting the dragon, the beast, the other or the opposite, and triumphing over it. But I don’t see that anywhere playing out in any sort of standard version of Christian discipleship. Christian discipleship is one of overcoming, but the overcoming is inward-focused.

In fact, the Biblical command is to “resist not evil” [Matthew 5:39]. It is not one of taking on the world and defeating it, at least as an individual. Rather, any defeat, any conquest is a participation in Christ’s conquest rather than ours, and what is overcome is that within us that resists participating in Him, which is the whole of Ephesians 6. That's the point. Yes, there is a battle, but it's not against the kingdoms of this world that are going to oppose us.

So the Christian life doesn't sync up with the standard heroic trope because to a certain extent the standard heroic trope requires the enemy, and maybe even celebrates the enemy. What is the Batman without the Joker? What is Spiderman without Doc Oc? You've got these characters that have their opponents, like Superman/Lex Luthor. They come in dyads. But I think the Christian vision is something different; we shouldn’t celebrate sin that much. The Christian vision is something else. It's imagining a world without conflict.

So that's not to dismiss hero stories. I think they can and do serve a really important function and can teach us quite a bit, but we should be a little bit critical about them.

The other concern I raise in the book is the way in which a heroic mindset, wanting to be a character of heroic proportions, really doesn't work with reading the Bible in terms of spiritual education. Christians reading the Bible will identify with protagonists. But if you take the gospel message seriously when you read the Bible, you are reading the most important story that will ever be told, and there is a limited number of highly important characters, of highly significant people.

So in terms of all the people who have ever lived, if you're named and you're important in the Bible, you're one of the more significant lives that has ever been lived. And yet we readily align ourselves with one of these important characters as if our mortal coil was at all comparable in historical significance to one of these figures in the salvation history, which is just ludicrous. Most of us, as far as the Bible goes, are the crowds; we're the masses, we're the faceless plural. But still we act like there are leadership lessons that we can derive from a David or a Solomon or Moses. We identify with these characters, and we do so in an entirely uncomplicated way.

To bring this all back to Christian activism, if you look at the kinds of cultural endeavours that are put forward by some very visible Christian activist projects, what is often offered is the chance to be a hero vis-à-vis the social problem. My response to that is not that we should not engage that social problem, but I think that this way of setting up the hero as a mode of engagement is a troublesome doorway.

GM: Do you have any practical advice for people who feel paralyzed by the enormity of the world's problems and don't even know how to even think about activism? How do you start getting involved?

TWS: I would say that you question whether the first step is “involvement.”

This is the activist appeal: problem A needs your involvement, and you are Variable B that will lead to Solution C. That's activist math. I've become allergic to activist rhetoric, especially the idea of “involvement” or “making a difference!” The things we're asked to make a difference in!

And “changing the world”! Really, for the life of me, I cannot understand why we're so obsessed with changing the world, and what most people think that means, as if we don't change the world by living in it. Of course we do. We transgress against the world; what we call “the world” is itself a matrix of interpersonal transgression, so what do we think we're doing by daily drawing breath?

But it seems to me that when people talk about changing the world what they mean is “changing the conditions of existence,” and that's a fundamentally problematic place to start because it buys into a whole set of presuppositions about the possibilities embedded in social engineering, which I think are highly troublesome and highly arguable and debatable.

So my short answer is, to those who feel paralyzed, I hope they read my book (if I may!) because they're the people I wrote it for. I think that embedded in the “how do I get involved?” question is nothing less than “why am I alive, and how am I to relate to the world's pain?” It also ought to be noted that that question often starts from a place of privilege because most people throughout time and space do not get to ask of their own lives, “How can my life change the overall pain level of the world?”

So a place to start is to recognize that place of privilege, to examine how it is that we can even ask “what is the best way for me to change the world?” and to consider why I encounter my inability to change the conditions of the world as existentially paralyzing. So I'd say, question the vocabulary, ask a question about asking the question.

Then I think it's important to be able to take in the comprehensive promise of the Kingdom of God and our absolute smallness in relationship to bringing the Kingdom about, recognizing our absolute incapacity to understand the way in which we are efficacious toward bringing the Kingdom about and then deciding to live faithfully according to what you can know. And I think the matter of living faithfully is largely determined by relationships.

Now, I would love a critic of the book to say, “Well, that leaves people where they are, then.” It would be reasonable for someone to say to the book in a critical way, “If you just leave people where they are, then they might help the people with whom they have relationships, but you don't do anything to undermine the overall social structure.” I think that's legitimate, and I think there's probably some place to go with that criticism.

Nonetheless, I still think that taking a much more humble approach to ourselves vis-à-vis the course of history, and then to ask, “What does life look like when I have a more accurate understanding of how big I am vis-à-vis the Kingdom of God?” is a good place to start.

It's like when you look at the Mercator Projection and you think that Greenland is really, really big. But it is not as big as it looks, not nearly as big as Australia. Christians have a Mercator Projection of their own where they're Greenland and the world is the Kingdom of God, and if they looked at a globe instead, if they had an accurate portrayal of the thing, they would recognize their own smallness.

I can give you one concrete suggestion: I walked the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage route through Northern Spain, with my wife last year in June. For the month I didn't read a newspaper, I didn't have cell phone access, and we only had an email address specifically for the trip that we gave to our families in case of emergency. So other than that, I was totally disconnected. As far as everyone outside of our immediate families was concerned, it was as if we had been hit by a bus. As far as “the world” went, we ceased to exist meaningfully for a month. And everything went just fine. None of us knows when we're going to die and that simple fact should help us realize how utterly unessential we are to the running of the world.

GM: I suppose coming to terms with this humility is probably one of the reasons why the academy has become so important to you, so you can step back and ask “what are we doing, and why are we doing it?” rather than blundering forward in an attempt to change the world. Would you say that this kind of thoughtful reflection is one of the important things Christian scholarship needs to be involved in?

TWS: Yes, although academics can represent its own sort of taking account and giving the grand theory that then becomes a different sphere of mastery. I think you could say that one of my fundamental critiques of the activist culture is that it represents a sphere of attempted mastery in a way that's entirely inappropriate to the human condition and the problems which we face. I think that concerted human action can bring about extraordinary good, but it can also bring about extraordinary evil.

The biggest things that happen aren't engineered, let alone targeted. They are the product of forces that are well beyond our capacity to guide. So I'm leery of activism or of academics thinking, “Well, I know what's going on now and so X, Y and Z.” As I go on, I hope it's in the direction of maturity. I don't know. But the more I dive in, the more convinced I am that we have only the barest understanding of causality and really no idea about the extended effects of most of what we do, and I have very little faith in the directedness of grand plans.

So my interest in academics represents a capacity to interrogate faithfully the questions that I think are interesting and significant, and ones that I think the interrogation of which represents a faithful use of what's been given to me and the time that's been given to me. As to how my work is used or to what great effect it has, I have no grand ambitions. This is for me a time of giving up grand ambitions.

Tyler Wigg-Stevenson is the founder and director of the Two Futures Project and currently serves as the Chair of the Global Task Force on Nuclear Weapons, an initiative of the World Evangelical Alliance. He is the author of Brand Jesus: Christianity in a Consumerist Age and The World is Not Ours to Save: Finding the Freedom to Do Good and is currently pursuing a ThD from Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Wake Me Up When the Semester Starts: Highlights from Summer 2013

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“Summer has come and passed
The innocent will never last
Wake me up when September ends”
     - Green Day

Around this time of year I always seem to find myself humming that classic emo tune that makes a perfect theme song for the period of limbo between summer and fall. But what’s so bad about September? My wheezing air conditioner finally gets some much needed R & R, the leaves start to consider turning crazy colours, I start craving pumpkin pie (too early?), and we plunge into a new year of invigorating study. I think I’ll stay awake for September, thank you very much.

So maybe I’m not quite as cynical about September as Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, but I can at least agree that the summer has come and passed, and I think it’s worth taking a second to look back at the highlights of Ground Motive’s summer escapades.

Ground Motive had some exhilarating successes this summer and some spellbinding content both homegrown and outsourced. Here are some highlights.

Most Viewed - How to Be Boring: Faking Philosophy
This article is a bit polarizing. Some people loved it; others hated it. It seems to have resonated with friends of philosophers who find themselves patiently putting up with endless mind-bending philosophy talk, and it also makes us philosophers and academics stop to consider whether our jargon is a useful tool or just something to hide behind.

Best Discussion Starter - The Spiritual Mistake of Star Wars and the Political Failure of Modern Culture
Joe Kirby’s first summer contribution launched the idea for a series on culture and narratives called “Popular Mythology.” Drawing Star Wars fans, philosophers, and those interested in thinking carefully about culture, this post lit up the /r/Philosophy board on and sparked vibrant and heated conversation, both on Ground Motive and on Reddit.

Most Popular Guest Post - Evolving Our Understanding of Evolution
We brought in scientist Jill Johnson to give us a primer on what evolution really is, pitched for non-scientist philosophers and Christians. It’s an engaging article that provides a great opportunity for us non-scientists to get our terms all sorted out before we say things about science that we’ll regret later.

Best Handling of a Controversial Issue - We Love You But…
Director of the CPRSE Ron Kuipers gave us a well-balanced, informative, and thought-provoking assessment of the recent developments related to the Christian attitude toward the LGBTQ community in the Christian Reformed Church of North America. He hopes for the day when the Christian church won’t have a “we love you but…” attitude.

Most HeroicJustice and Texts as Superheroes
Exploring the connections between justice and faith, Allyson Carr (associate director of the CPRSE) posted a beautiful bit of prose on reading the Bible as a call to stand up against injustice. The important questions raised in this piece lead deep into the heart of the CPRSE’s ongoing research projects related to faith and justice.

Longest Discussion in the Comments - Forty Days Later on a Thursday
While this post waxes poetic and borders on stream of consciousness, it handles biblical hermeneutics and metaphysics in a way that generated a lengthy conversation about metaphysics and the nature of justice.

Some Honorable Mentions

Most Extraterrestrial - The Hermeneutics of Ancient Astronaut Theory
Best Sports Metaphor - Stickhandling Tradition: Freedom and Constraint in Religious Life
Best Use of Particle PhysicsEthics and the Theory of Everything
Best Philosophical TakedownSam Harris and the Morality of Torture
Best Post Published on September 6, 2013 - You're reading it.
Most MusicalFrayed Anthems: When Creativity Scandalized America
Best InterviewFiction Stronger than Truth: An Interview with Richard Kearney

Thanks to everyone who contributed this summer. In the coming semester, we look forward to many more exciting conversations about questions that arise when philosophy, religion, and social ethics meet.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

How to Be a Being: On Brainless Bots, Martin Heidegger, and Mental Representation

As the light dims darker, Elsie feels herself start to slow as if the whole world had tipped uphill, and she knows she has to get herself home soon to rest. Lumbering forward, she spots a glow in the growing darkness and hopes it is the first flicker of home sweet home. She angles toward it and races forward. To her surprise, she topples into Elmer, who starts scanning side to side in the darkness with his headlamp. They dance for an awkward moment, sidestepping each other’s bright beams and clumsily collide. As endearing as this dance is, Elsie has home on her mind, knowing that if she doesn’t get there soon, she’ll be stranded for sure. Finally, the fading lights (or is it her eyes?) of home catch her eye, and Elsie bids Elmer good night, coaxing one last sprint out of her tired body… 

Elsie, 1950
In 1948, inventor William Grey Walter brought to life Elsie and Elmer, two simple three-wheeled robots who seemed to have minds of their own. They could explore rooms, “dance” with each other, and even find their way back to their hutches to recharge when their batteries ran low.

But Elsie and Elmer had no brains.

Instead of a brain-like central processor, each had one visual sensor, a touch sensor and a set of simple on/off reflexes. But their simple reflex commands led to complicated behaviors, allowing them to act in a way that made them seem incredibly lifelike. So while an observer might be able to tell a story that attributes to them the kind of inner experience that comes from having a mind in order to explain their behaviour, in reality the robots themselves are far simpler.

We often think of our brains as central processors, supercomputers that can crunch immense amounts of data at incredible speeds, which allow us to have (both inner and outer) experiences and to act in the world in complicated ways. And while in a certain sense this may be true, Elsie and Elmer remind us that you actually don’t need an inner experience or a complicated central processor to do complex things; even the simplest responses to a complex world can result in complicated behaviour (see Louise Barrett, Beyond the Brain, 42-48).

While it’s difficult to debunk the brain-as-central-processor metaphor, it’s quite clumsy and doesn’t quite stand alone when we think about our actual experience. If someone throws a ball at our face, we catch it (I hope). If we have a hammer in our hand, we can just pound some nails. Sometimes we find ourselves just doing even very complicated things without stopping to process, think, or have any inner experience at all; there doesn’t always seem to be an intermediate “representation” phase between perceiving and acting. So in these cases, what actually happens might be something closer to Elsie and Elmer’s reflex commands.

Martin Heidegger
The common sense fact that, like William Grey Walter’s simple robots, we sometimes seem to be able to act without inner mental representation was an idea that Martin Heidegger, in his 1927 groundbreaking work Being and Time, used to flip the traditional Cartesian conception of the mind on its head, making for a radical redefinition of what it means to be human. The human person, Heidegger suggests, is not primarily a mind that thinks, as Descartes argued. It is a being that is always somewhere, hence his term for the human person Dasein (in English “being-there”). So for Heidegger we can’t exist apart from our being “there,” and the only way to think about ourselves is in terms of what we are like in this “there.” In other words, the only way to consider myself a “self” is by thinking about the way I am, have been, or could be in the world. There’s really no way to think about yourself in an abstract way without reference to the “there” where you act. For Heidegger, the bottom line is that a lot of the time we (literally) find ourselves just doing stuff, and we discover ourselves after already having acted.

But, you might say, if I imagine, if I picture in my mind’s eye, a situation where someone kicks me in the shin, I know whether or not I am the type of person that will kick that person back without actually having to be there—my inner representation tells me about who I am. The thing is, though, thinking you are the kind of person that kicks back only makes sense in situations in the world. There is no abstract or “unworlded” way to think about whether or not you are that kind of person. So Heidegger locates what it means for a person to exist within a person’s activity in the world. In every case, when you think about yourself, you end up thinking about the world too.

Heidegger’s reconception of what it means to be a person in the world means that we can no longer think about ourselves as only isolated inner minds, cordoned off from everyone and everything else. This means that our actions both affect the world of others and also help shape who we are in a very real way. If we humour Heidegger for a moment, we begin to see that our actions matter. They help make us who we are, and we are so tightly bound to others and to the world in which we find ourselves that just as we change others and our world, they change us. We can’t opt out.

Elsie and Elmer are interesting because they couldn’t opt out either. Apart from things to run into and react to, their behaviour would be entirely predictable and uninteresting. But when you factor in an environment, complex and interesting behaviour can emerge. So maybe, just like Elsie and Elmer, the only reason why we’re interesting (even to ourselves) is not because we have really interesting internal mental lives; perhaps it’s because we have a world full of stuff and people to bump up against, an environment in which we can discover ourselves.

We find ourselves always and already so entrenched in the stuff and the people we encounter that, when we really stop to think about it as Heidegger suggests that we do, we can’t separate where our world ends from where we begin. Like Elsie and Elmer, we’re already acting in and interacting with the environment long before we explain to ourselves what that means and who acting in that way makes us. Yet unlike Elsie and Elmer, we’re actually able to interpret and reflect upon our way of being in the world. But reflection always comes later.

The difference between us (Dasein) and Grey Walter’s robots is that, unlike the robots (presumably), we have the capability to care about our activity in the world. If you are Dasein, you are able to tell yourself something about what your activity in the world means for who you are and are able to project who you think you are into future situations. Where Elsie and Elmer just react to the environment, Dasein can care about the fact that it is something that reacts. So though we can describe Elsie and Elmer’s “dance” behaviour as if they can care and reflect like Dasein can, it’s really just anthropomorphism, making them out to be more human-like than they are. But this human ability to care about and interpret our activity in the world requires careful consideration as we try to make sense of what it means to be the kind of thing a human person is.

Regardless of whether or not we take cues from Heidegger’s philosophy, everything we do affects the people around us who, in turn, affect us. Perhaps, following the example of a couple of brainless robots and hearing the advice of a German philosopher, we can come to think of ourselves as deeply and inextricably connected to each other, bound together by the shared world in which we always find ourselves already involved.           

Matthew E. Johnson is a junior member at the Institute for Christian Studies, currently serving as the research assistant for the CPRSE.

Special thanks to Reuben Hoggett from for his image collections and articles on Elsie and Elmer and for permission to use the above image of Elsie (see the source article from here).