June 2015 Archives

Over at The Federalist (which is rapidly becoming my favorite site for news and opinion), Peter Burfeind has written an essay that explains the philosophical roots of the sexual revolution in this country, as part of a larger rebellion against nature and reality -- an ancient rebellion known as Gnosticism: "Gnostic Mysticism Grounds Modern Progressive Ideology." I want you to read the whole thing, but I need to quote a few points to pique your interest.

Marriage institutionalizes the reproductive system in the same way a restaurant or dinner table institutionalizes the digestive system. Again, cultural variances are granted, but the basic natural order of male sex organ depositing seed into female sex organ in order to propagate the species is simply what the reproductive organs and system are all about.

True, nature introduced attraction to the mix to draw male and female together, but, like tastes in food, the attraction fosters a greater biological purpose. Historically, societies have wrestled with the tension between the pure biological purpose and the element of attraction, in regards to both reproduction and digestion, but generally when the attraction becomes totally disconnected from the biological purpose, this has been seen as indulgence, gluttony, promiscuity, and immoderate behavior.

Such nature-based reasoning is downright offensive in a post-'60s world where sexuality has indeed been disconnected from its biological and natural purpose and rests in personal attraction alone. The spiritual pathology of this cultural revolution is exactly this revolution toward Gnostic paradigms of thinking, particularly its understanding of sexual love.....

Burfeind asks us to consider the absurdity of divorcing sexuality from biological reality with an illustration of the consequences of divorcing eating from biological reality:

Let's say I determined the biological "rules" of the digestive system were oppressive. Let's say I preferred to glory in the taste of food alone, but not its digestion, so that I vomited everything I ate. Let's say I got my nutrition intravenously, so that wasn't an issue.

Society currently calls this an "eating disorder," but isn't such thinking oppressively bound by the natural "rules" of the digestive system, the "rules" of our biology? ...

But what about biology? What about the digestive system and its clear biological purpose? Ahhh, this is where our Gnosticism comes in handy, because all nature-based or flesh-based "systems" are inherently unjust and oppressive, creating prison cells from which true redemption demands an escape. In a way, the vomiter is the truly liberated one, one of the few not oppressed by his biology....

Matching people against the standards set by biological realities has always been a trustworthy way of identifying disorders, and in the end it actually helped people. When that standard is removed as oppressive, people will be left to wallow in an understanding of humanity rooted not in nature but self-determination alone. Psychology categorized homosexuality a disorder until 1973 for a reason, because it was and remains a breach of the natural reproductive order.

Now that the Supreme Court has legalized gay marriage for all states, and the Rubicon of nature-rebellion has been completely crossed, what real authority remains to declare anything a disorder? As many conservative commentators have pointed out, what argument remains to say "body integrity identity disorder" is not simply the misnomer for transabled people who can only live out their "authentic" identity once they've cut off the limb they feel shouldn't exist?

Of course this is madness, but if madness is sacralized through a wave of pop-culture affirmation and nature is chased out with pitchfork, what real argument does society have to declare anything a disorder? We already allow a male who believes himself female to amputate his sex organ. Why not amputation of limbs?

Again, I urge you to read the whole thing, and you might find Burfeind's blog Gnostic America interesting.

Literary critic Harold Bloom's 1992 book, The American Religion: The Emergence of the Post-Christian Nation, looked at popular religious movements in America through the lens of his own Gnostic faith, and found Gnosticism expressed in Mormonism, Word-Faith Pentecostalism, and the Southern Baptist Convention. Regarding the SBC, Bloom was specifically referring to the "soul competency" doctrine that became prevalent under the early 20th century leadership of E. Y. Mullins, and not the recapture of the SBC in the 1980s by adherents of Biblical inerrancy:

For Bloom, who argues that Americans are prone to a Gnosticism through self-worship. Mullins is the pioneer of the Southern Baptist tradition taken up by moderates in the inerrancy controversy, "the definer of their creedless faith." According to Bloom, Mullins' doctrine of soul competency so focuses all meaning and truth in the autonomous individual-"sanctioning endless interpretive possibilities"-that all religious authority is vaporized, even the authority of Scripture.

Mullins has been portrayed as a bold progressivist seeking to bring enlightenment to Southern Baptists, but thwarted by insularity and conservative opposition; and as a calculating denominational politician, who changed his colors in order to save his seminary and his personal leadership....

The central thrust of E. Y. Mullins' theological legacy is his focus on individual experience. Whatever his intention, this massive methodological shift in theology set the stage for doctrinal ambiguity and theological minimalism. The compromise Mullins sought to forge in the 1920s was significantly altered by later generations, with personal experience inevitably gaining ground at the expense of revealed truth.

Once the autonomous individual is made the central authority in matters of theology-a move made necessary by Mullins' emphasis on religious experience-the authority of Scripture becomes secondary at best, regardless of what may be claimed in honor of Scripture's preeminence. Either personal experience will be submitted to revelation, or revelation will be submitted to personal experience. There is no escape from this theological dilemma, and every theologian must choose between these two methodological options. The full consequences of a shift in theological method may take generations to appear, but by the 1960s most Southern Baptists were aware of a growing theological divide within the denomination, and especially its seminaries.

In 1990, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship was founded by dissenters from the conservative resurgence in the SBC. The CBF became a home for Baptist pastors, scholars, and leaders who embraced Mullins' emphasis on individual experience and elevated individual autonomy over doctrine. Although the CBF is miniscule compared to the SBC (roughly 1900 congregations to 46000; the CBF doesn't maintain membership counts), SBC pews are still full of congregants whose understanding of the Christian faith was shaped by the Mullins perspective, as expressed in the education materials produced by the SBC's Sunday School Board and in pastors educated in Baptist colleges and seminaries during the years of Mullinsite dominance.

Just under the wire, I submitted my comments a week ago Saturday on the draft for public comment of the proposed zoning code for the City of Tulsa. This is a critical document for Tulsa's future, far more important than the debate over water-in-the-river.

The current zoning code is nearly 40 years old, based on the Vision 2000 comprehensive planning process of the 1970s. While the current code has been tweaked at the margins, it still reflects the view of urban planning that was in vogue in the age of bell bottoms, earth tones, and avocado green kitchen appliances: Strictly segregate work from home from church from school from shopping. Zone for what happens inside the building, rather than for what affects the neighbors (parking, noise, building scale and appearance). Treat established neighborhoods as obsolete areas in need of redevelopment.

The mid-'70s planning approach dates back even further. You can see the same themes in the earliest planning documents produced by the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission in the late '50s. These principles have shaped Tulsa's development as it tripled in land area in 1966 and filled in the new territory over the next half-century, producing the traffic headaches we see particularly in south Tulsa and the erosion of many of Tulsa's closer-in pre-war neighborhoods.

Tulsa's new comprehensive plan reflects a better approach to development, as I explained when I spoke in support of its adoption in 2010:

The PLANiTULSA Policy Plan does an admirable job of accommodating growth and redevelopment while protecting the qualities that make most of Tulsa's neighborhoods desirable places to live, shop, play, and work. If the plan's recommendations are adopted and ultimately implemented in the City of Tulsa zoning code, the result will be clear, objective standards and a predictable environment for all stakeholders, including both property owners and developers. That predictable environment will help to reduce conflicts, uncertainty, and costs in redevelopment.

(In a 2006 column, I explained in greater detail the principles that should guide the ideal system of land-use regulation.)

Note the emphasis added above. The comprehensive plan doesn't accomplish anything unless it guides the development of city ordinances and capital improvements. So the City of Tulsa hired Duncan Associates to develop a new zoning code guided by the plan, and in February a draft was released, opening a four-month public comment period. On the Feedback Tulsa website -- the City's official online forum -- you can read background information about the draft zoning code, the draft, and the public comments that were submitted.

While you can find the draft code on the city's website, here is a local copy of the 2015 draft Tulsa zoning code for your convenience.

I submitted a brief overall comment and a spreadsheet of comments addressing specific provisions of the code. Here's the overall comment:

The draft code is well-organized, and the language is clear. The illustrations are helpful. I appreciate the thrust of the code toward handling routine and benign matters administratively rather than continuing to clog the BoA and Council agendas. The addition of new building types and new zoning types is also welcome. It should be remembered that the zoning code exists to serve the interests of all Tulsans -- home owners, commercial property owners, and tenants -- not just the interests of those who make a living in the real estate and development industry.

While the zoning code draft embodies many of the principles set out in the new comprehensive plan, it appears to bear the hatchet marks of development lobbyists seeking to continue to do business the same old way. Effectively killing form-based codes, granting of significant authority to a temporary city contractor, building high hurdles for the establishment of overlay districts which are weaker than those available in peer cities in this region, and limiting historic preservation to residential areas are examples of the vandalism that appears to have been perpetrated in the drafting of this code by those who were granted a special seat at the table.

In addition to the comments below, I concur with the comments submitted by Tulsa Now and Jamie Jamieson.

After submitting my comments, I noticed several more that I would endorse; I'll try to provide some excerpts in a separate entry. Here is a link to Tulsa Now's statement on the draft zoning code.

I should explain the reference to a temporary city contractor. The City of Tulsa contracts with the Indian Nations Council of Governments (INCOG) to maintain its zoning and planning records and to analyze and make recommendations on zoning, special exception, and variance cases that come before the city's Board of Adjustment and the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission. INCOG has two core roles under state statute, but its role in the City of Tulsa's land use planning process is contractual and renewed annually. It is also somewhat redundant, as Tulsa has its own planning staff which is quite capable of analyzing applications and making recommendations as well. Most of Tulsa's neighboring municipalities handle zoning and planning internally -- their own staff and their own planning commission, more directly accountable to the voters' elected representatives.

The draft of the zoning code gives considerable discretionary powers to a "land use administrator" who is identified as the director of development services for INCOG. One provision in the draft code gives the same discretionary power to both the land use administrator and the development administrator (an official in the City's planning department), presumably so that if a developer doesn't get the answer he wants from one official, he can get approval from the other official. If this INCOG land use administrator is biased in the exercise of his discretionary powers, city officials would have very little recourse. In my comments, I state that INCOG staff should only be given the task of record-keeping and administering the process; discretionary powers should be retained within city government.

My suspicion is that the development industry representatives who were given a special seat at the table to guide the drafting of the zoning code felt that they would have more influence, as they have in the past, over INCOG planning staff than over City of Tulsa planning staff.

And here (after the jump) are my comments on specific provisions:

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from June 2015 listed from newest to oldest.

May 2015 is the previous archive.

July 2015 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feed:
[What is this?]