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Guest Column by Jeremiah Keenan | (Un)fit arbiters of free speech

(05/04/17 12:00am)

In last Wednesday’s paper Calvary Rogers argued in favor of increasing soft censorship in America and at Penn. Soft censorship differs from “hard” censorship in that it usually involves social/economic action — shouting people down, denying them venues or firing them from their jobs — rather than direct legislation forbidding publication of particular opinions or ideas. Rogers lamented the fact that many at Penn believe in “speech tolerance” — even for opinions we personally find abhorrent.

Jeremiah Keenan | Free Government

(12/08/16 2:31am)

The world’s most successful notion of free government arose from what was called “the principle of the sovereignty of the people.” This principle viewed government as a regrettable necessity. Individuals assented to follow rules not because collective political wisdom was the best means of directing life, but because selfish human beings cannot reasonably be expected to interact equitably without some “regulating force” maintaining uniform rules of interaction. On this theory, the purview of the local government extended only over the interactions between one citizen and another.

Jeremiah Keenan | Not born this way

(11/03/16 3:02am)

“The idea that people are born gay — or lesbian or bisexual — is appealing for lots of reasons,” noted John D’Emilio, former director of the Policy Institute at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “It’s an idea designed to allay the ingrained fears of a homophobic society and the internalized fears of gays, lesbians and bisexuals. What’s most amazing to me about the ‘born gay’ phenomenon is that the scientific evidence for it is thin as a reed, yet it doesn’t matter.”

Jeremiah Keenan | Smile in the elevator

(10/13/16 1:26am)

A handsome Asian man pushed an oversized cardboard box on wheels into the elevator and squeezed in behind it on the side opposite myself. There was a moment — as he came in — when we looked at each other. Then he looked down at the empty box as if to make sure it didn’t roll through the floor and I stared at the steel panel in front of me and wondered if I should check my cell phone for text messages that weren’t there or check my email on the Wi-Fi I didn’t have.

Jeremiah Keenan | Stereotyping

(09/01/16 3:52am)

She was a cosmopolitan-looking, middle-aged doctor with the kind of precisely preserved physiognomy that I imagine develops 15 years out from an Ivy League sorority. Polite and friendly, she asked me questions about my background as she clicked through my medical records. Of course, she was curious why I grew up in China, and I explained that my parents were religious missionaries. Her reaction was remarkable. She literally shivered from her shoulders to the seat of her chair and gave a little “Ouh” like I’d slipped an ice cube down her spine.

Jeremiah Keenan | The diversity pie-chart

(12/09/15 4:11am)

At Penn, it seems that the need for racial and gender diversity is never very far from anyone’s mind. Olympian figureheads remind us that “our quest for eminence [at Penn] depends on great minds that represent a wide array of perspectives and backgrounds.” Eager freshmen echo the idea more simply: “I love how diverse we are — I mean, we’ve got whites and Asians and blacks ...”

Jeremiah Keenan | Hooked on porn

(11/12/15 4:44am)

“Sally” — we’ll call her — started watching pornography at the age of 12. Nothing too strange about that. According to one study, modern American children are first exposed to porn at an average age of 11. Sally’s habit rapidly developed into what she described as an addiction. Also none too peculiar — though regular porn use and self-reported “addiction” — is more common among men than women.

Jeremiah Keenan | Not a chance

(09/30/15 3:50am)

Many believe that the Theory of Evolution scientifically confirms a strictly materialistic view of the origin of life. I, like most Americans, am profoundly skeptical of this claim. But, unlike most Americans, my reasons do not stem from religion. They are, in fact, much more closely related to elementary probability theory and a family of proteins called aminoacyl tRNA synthetase.

Jeremiah Keenan | Burn-covered warriors

(09/16/15 3:19am)

By some combination of a ghostly white mask, irregularly cropped hair and a shirt from her mother’s wardrobe, she had finally managed to make herself look unattractive. I would have found it amusing — the usual mishaps of a middle-school girl trying on adulthood — if it hadn’t been for the anger in her hazel-grey eyes and the stolid resentment in her voice; both as new to her as the fashion she was in the process of adopting.

Jeremiah Keenan | The privilege of watching Fox (and CNN, too)

(09/02/15 2:00am)

I first heard of the Falun Gong in the early 2000s. The house church I attended in Guangzhou was a little nervous about the increase in police scrutiny of religious events. But we were relieved to find that the police weren’t coming after Christians — they were looking for practitioners of an “evil cult,” some sort of wacky group practicing self-immolation. I remember feeling good, in a middle-schooler sort of way, that I had nothing to do with that “evil cult”— and grateful that, for once, the Religious Affairs Bureau was focused on something worth investigating.

Guest column by Jeremiah Keenan | Flowers, cake and the RFRA

(04/23/15 3:19am)

In last Tuesday’s “Toe the Line,” Carter Skeel argued that Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act is a reasonable law. Former members of Penn College Republicans rushed in a letter to express their “utter dismay.” Current Penn Republicans repudiated the article on their Facebook page. Anonymous commentors spewed expletives and suggested that Mr. Skeel be disenfranchised; friendly commentors told him to retract the article ASAP. Surprisingly few — in fragmented Disqus comments — tackled the more difficult subtleties of the Act.

Jeremiah Keenan | Science vs religion

(12/10/14 5:35am)

According to popular assumption, there’s a simple dichotomy between science and religion. Science represents collective knowledge of objective reality; religion, a traditional codification of subjective experience. Everyone is entitled to their own religion just as they are to their own cheesesteak — provided, of course, that the pursuit of your cheesesteak doesn’t upset somebody else’s bowl of peas. Whether you subscribe to a religion with sacred scrolls and ceremonies that predate history or give your God your own first name, it’s assumed that you don’t relate empirical observation and rational deduction to faith.

Jeremiah Keenan | Getting s---- done and being happy

(12/03/14 3:39am)

K anye West recently commented that “the point of life is getting s--- done and being happy.” This boiled-down philosophy is not a bad approximation of what appears to motivate the average Penn student. Some of us work harder than others; some of us play harder. But the overall point of life is to balance our craving for serotonin with the desire to get one thing done or another.

Jeremiah Keenan | Public practice of private faith

(11/19/14 2:17am)

I n th e P eople’s Republic of China, “freedom of religious belief” and “normal” religious practice are guaranteed in the Constitution. If, however, you are caught proselytizing outside of your own mosque or preaching the biblical account of the nativity at a private Christmas party, you are liable to land in jail. Why the discrepancy? It’s simple — in China, as in most sovereign states , there’s the Constitution and then there’s constitutional interpretation . The one guarantees freedom of speech and religion; the other ensures that the press and preacher are strictly censored.