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A national poll shows that while Americans are still holding on to some traditional moral values, it has validated immoral behaviors that are self-satisfying.
The poll, conducted by Gallup, revealed 91% of respondents considered extramarital affairs immoral. In addition to cheating spouses, polygamy, cloning humans, suicide and pornography all ranked as the top five immoral “sins” among Americans.
A majority of respondents also ranked abortion as an immoral behavior.
However, more respondents found cloning animals immoral (62%) than doctor assisted suicide (48%). A narrow 45% of Americans believe assisted suicide is morally acceptable. Cloning of animals also outweighed the moral importance of embryonic stem cell research (only 30% found it immoral), fornication (36%), gambling (31%) and divorce (23%).
The poll shows what Richard Land, president of Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, says is a deep-rooted problem with Americans’ sense of priorities.
Land says Americans’ moral values are skewed to focus less on their obligations and responsibilities and more on their “supposed rights and privileges.”
Americans’ supposed right to be loved has led a majority of respondents to value divorce (69%), homosexual relations (56%), sex outside of marriage (60%) and even having children outside of marriage (54%) as morally acceptable behaviors, according to the poll.
Land disagrees with the popular sentiment. He states that morals begin at home with the family. Yet, “Adults continue to convince themselves that they have the right walkout on their promises and obligations to their spouses and their children in search of their own self-fulfillment,” he noted.
When adults shirk their responsibilities as a husband, wife, father and mother, the effects seep into society, Land said.
The federal government spends millions of dollars in social and economic programs to correct the effects of moral depravity such as institutionalized poverty, crime and corruption, he explained. But he believes there is no substitution for a family with a wedded father and mother.
Land described putting self-fulfilling behavior over the biblically moral responsibility to family as “narcissistic,” “selfish,” “destructive,” and “self-idolatry.”
The new poll follows another Gallup poll released last week showing decreases in the number of Americans who believe America’s moral values are poor and are getting worse.
While more Americans believe that the country’s morality is poor and lacking, the Thursday poll shows that the percentage of those who believe the overall state of moral values in the U.S. is poor has dropped 7% to 38%. Meanwhile, the percentage of those who believe the country’s morality is excellent or good has risen eight points to 23%.
Fewer Americans also believe the country’s moral values are getting worse. 69%, down from 76% in 2010, say the state of moral values is worsening, while 22%, up from 14%, believe it’s getting better.
Land told The Christian Post that those who believe that there is no problem with America’s value system are part of the country’s moral decline.
He believes that America’s immoral culture is reaching a critical point.
“We’re seriously broken and it’s getting worse and we’re reaching a crisis point where we’re either going to have to restore traditional American values ... or we going to see our society denigrate,” he summed.
NEW YORK – Despite its anti-religious stance and lack of a theistic belief, Secular Humanism is a religion just as Christianity is one, argued a Christian scholar.
David Noebel, president of Summit Ministries, drew from his book, Clergy in the Classroom: The Religion of Secular Humanism, to discuss some of the parallels between the two religions while addressing students at The King’s College in New York City on Thursday.
After all, one doesn’t have to look far to see resemblances, according to the Christian scholar, who was invited to speak as part of the school’s Distinguished Visitor Series. The interview was conducted by Dr. Marvin Olasky, Provost of The King’s College and editor-in-chief of World magazine.
For starters, Christianity has the Christian Ichthys as one of its religious symbols while Secular Humanism has a developing religious symbol: the Darwin Fish. And like Christianity, Secular Humanism has clergy members that perform social ceremonies and preach a faith that is just as dogmatic: theological atheism, naturalism, spontaneous generation, and moral relativism, among other beliefs, Noebel points out in his book.
The author also references in his book the 1943 decision by the Second Circuit to grant conscientious objector status to Mathias Kauten, not on the basis of his belief in God, but on the basis of his “religious conscience.”
“Secular Humanism is a religion. It’s just as religious as all the other religions in the world,” Noebel asserted to students.
“Now, they deny it to the last drop only because they were caught. They caught themselves on conscientious objectors so they had to declare themselves somewhat of a religion.”
Secular Humanism is among the worldviews taught at one of Summit’s Student Worldview Conferences, a two-week program that teaches young evangelical Christians how to defend their faith and Christian worldview against major competing worldviews.
Noebel founded the ministry 48 years ago to equip Christian students entering secular colleges and universities. He said at least 30,000 people have been through Summit’s programs even though for years many people told him young Christians would never be interested in studying the Christian worldview.
Though earlier programs taught on fewer worldviews, the current curriculum at Summit teaches six worldviews. The latest edition of “Understanding the Times,” the textbook used in Summit’s young adult program, compares biblical Christianity against Islam, Secular Humanism, Marxist-Leninism (or Communism), Cosmic Humanism (or New Age), and Post-Modernism.
In the textbook, Noebel reviews the 6 worldviews by examining their positions in 10 different categories, including theology, philosophy, ethics, biology, political, psychology, sociology, law, politics, economics and history.
“The heart of the Christian worldview is that Christ is the key,” he said. “Christ is the foundation stone of all these areas and we tie him into how he influences all these areas.”
Noebel noted that while the worldviews associated with Christianity and Islam have the largest number of adherents, it is Secular Humanism that has caused more Christians to walk away from their faith.
He attributed the trend to the dominance of secular humanist ideas and teachings in public schools, saying secular humanists “run” the public school system from elementary school to graduate schools.
“Out of Secular Humanism, the one big appeal has always been Darwinism,” he said. “More Christians have probably stumbled in their faith over Charles Darwin than just about anyone else, more than Karl Marx.”
Concluding his talk, Noebel urged students to study the worldviews in order to be effective witnesses for Christ to a generation that is undergoing severe secularization.
“They should know them inside and out because they are going to live it – this generation for sure.”
“We have a responsibility to our generation,” he added. “We fulfill that responsibility the best we know how and the rest is up to God.”
The number of self-described “pro-life” Americans has increased since late last year and more visibly in 2009, a new USA Today/Gallup survey reveals.
Conducted in mid-July, the survey found 47% of Americans called themselves “pro-life,” compared to 46% who identified themselves as “pro-choice.” These latest figures reflect a loss for the pro-life camp when compared to a similar Gallup survey in May when 51% of Americans said they are pro-life and 42% said they are pro-choice.
But July’s very slight pro-life advantage over the pro-choice position is still much higher than all the similar Gallup Poll survey results from 1995 to 2008, during which the majority of Americans had described themselves as “pro-choice.”
America’s recent pro-life leaning position began around when Barack Obama was named President-elect, according to the Gallup graphs. The country hit its pro-life peak in May after heavy media coverage about the University of Notre Dame’s invitation of President Obama reignited the abortion debate.
Previously, from 1995 to 2008, the majority of Americans had described themselves as “pro-choice.” The average figure for the 18 Gallup surveys conducted from 1995 to 2008 on the topic are 49% for the pro-choice position and 42% for the pro-life position.
Yet while most Americans would describe themselves as pro-life now, the overwhelming majority takes a middle position when it comes to exceptions for when abortion should be legal.
Fifty-seven percent of respondents said abortion should be legal under certain circumstances. By comparison, around 20% took either of the extreme positions of abortions being legal under any circumstances (21%) and illegal in all circumstances (18%).
The survey findings, released Tuesday, come at a time when lawmakers in Washington as well as American citizens are intensely debating whether the new government-sponsored heath insurance plan should cover abortions.
With emotions running high on both sides of the argument, some experts wonder if disagreement over tax dollar-funded abortions will derail the ambitious health care overhaul.
President Obama has stated that health care reform is his highest domestic policy agenda, and the White House has pressed Democratic lawmakers to back the bill.
Gallup Poll commented that the latest shift in America’s abortion views reflects the increase in the number of Republicans (including independents who lean Republican) who call themselves pro-life. Over the past year, the number of pro-life Republicans has risen by nearly 10 points, from 60% to 68%.
The survey was conducted using telephone interviews with 1,006 national adults on July 17-19.
INDIANAPOLIS – Christian pollster George Barna reached out to members of the Christian press Wednesday night, insisting that United States is being destroyed from the inside and that the way to restore the country is through returning Americans to their core values.
The once great United States is decaying, declared Barna to hundreds of Christian journalists on the opening night of the joint annual convention of the Evangelical Press Association and the Associated Church Press.
America’s rates of divorce, abortion, STD transmission, spousal abuse and crime are the highest or among the highest compared to other developed nations, he added. And the percentage of students graduating from high school on time has not changed in 32 years.
“The enemy of America today is not Iraq. It is not Afghanistan or communism. It is not Somalian pirates. It’s the moral degradation and spiritual complacency of Americans,” contended Barna, founder of the research firm The Barna Group. “In essence it is the willingness of Americans to become victims of the imposition of values and objectives that defy our common good.”
Barna pointed to what he sees as the many factors that are leading America to its deterioration, including moving from mass production to mass consumption, moving from common values to now radical individualism with personal values, and competition among faith groups rather than cooperation.
“Just think about the shift in mottos that characterize our nation,” Barna noted. “We talked about one nation under God, but today really we are one nation under self, sometimes aided by one or more gods.
“We shifted from a nation that said ‘In God We Trust’ to ‘Reality and self we trust,’” he continued. “We transitioned from being a land of the free and the home of the brave, to now we are the land of the indebted and the home of the self-indulgent. We also shifted from a land that believes you can be all you can be to now it’s get all you can get.”
According to Barna, the deterioration of American society is fueled by the breakdown in leadership and core institutions such as family, government, and education. The nation as a whole has lost its shared vision and the shared values that help manage society, the well-known pollster said.
But Barna said he believes there is still hope for restoration if the country’s seven faith tribes return to their core values.
The seven faith tribes are the religious groups that Barna categorized based on the more than 30,000 interviews he conducted over the years. These tribes are: casual Christians (66% of the U.S. population), captive Christians (16%), Jews (2%), Mormons (2%), pantheists (2%), Muslims (0.5%), and skeptics (11%).
Barna lamented how these groups have for too long contributed to the problem of social decay. Instead of instilling values and morality in their congregants, these groups focus on building more and bigger buildings, offering more programs, establishing more nationally recognized leaders, and raising and spending more money, he noted.
But Barna says it is it is now time for the faith tribes to return to their core values and start restoring America.
Barna believes that by harnessing the 20 common values shared by faith tribes – including developing inner peace and purity, representing the truth, practicing self-restraint, respecting life, and being a good citizen – Americans can start to rebuild the country to one of civility, accountability, commitment and unity.
“In America, we are not one in theology, but we can be one in mind regarding how we can apply our disparate theology views in ways that honor our faith, nation, and each other,” Barna said.
Though Barna was very passionate in his declaration to the Christian press Wednesday, not everyone in the audience agreed with his ideas.
Ron Wilson, former EPA director, questioned whether the United States is really in as terrible a state as Barna claimed.
“We have trouble and the country is in trouble in many ways, but to me it has always been that way,” Wilson said to The Christian Post. “Has there been a time in our history that our sky isn’t falling? He is bringing up problems but what has really changed? I don’t know.”
Still, Wilson mildly praised Barna for presenting “thought-provoking” and “challenging” ideas.
“He (Barna) is right that he does have the gift of discouragement,” Wilson joked.
Similarly, ACP member Jerry Van Marter, director of the Presbyterian News Service, was unsure why Barna claimed the country is worse off now than before. Compared to previous decades, America no longer has the Jim Crow segregation laws or carries out the hysterical communist witch hunt. Also, women’s right has improved over the years in the United States.
Van Marter said he had come into the evening expecting Barna to present facts from his research, not personal opinions, especially the conclusion that faith tribes are the ones to restore America.
“I have long enjoyed and respected George Barna’s research,” Van Marter said. “And what I was really hoping to hear in his address were statements backed up by his research. And what I heard sounded too much like opinions.
“To hear so much unsubstantiated opinions from a highly respected researcher left me feeling confused and cheated. That’s my main criticism,” the news director for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) said. “You expect to hear research from a researcher. I didn’t see a connection between statistics he was citing in the beginning and the conclusion he was drawing in the end.”
Barna’s lecture Wednesday night is based on ideas he presents in his latest book, 7 Faith Tribes, published by Tyndale. He is the author of more than 40 books ranging from worldviews, trends and children to church life, spiritual growth and leadership. His company, The Barna Group, specializes in surveys concerning religious beliefs and behavior of Americans, and the intersection of faith and culture.
It is true. Most every person in the world has told a lie at one time or another. Maybe it was just a little “white lie” or possibly just an omission of the truth. No matter what the definition, lying is an issue worth examining, as many people believe it is a bigger problem today than it has ever been.
Most will agree that a lie is a deception of some kind and includes the range of means whereby people may be mislead.
Lying has been described as one of the most fundamental human activities that remains a flaw in our society.
There are frauds, fakes, omissions, and illusions dating back to the beginning of time. Never mind that the cultural and legal connotations of fraud and deceit are more evident from Descartes to the Clinton impeachment, but there are also attempts to model deception in the media and the political arena.
In the Bible, God tells us that he hates a “lying tongue” and defines a lie as “an intentional violation of the truth.”
Throughout the Bible there are hundreds of references to dishonesty, deceit, and false or misleading representations. Let us not forget one of the Ten Commandments says “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”
So, most of us know full well that lying is wrong.
Why do we do it?
Dr. Gail Saltz, a psychiatrist at the New York Presbyterian Hospital, says everybody lies for one reason or another.
“We start lying at around age four and five when children gain an awareness of the use and power of language,” Saltz said. “This first lying is not malicious, but rather to find out, or test, what can manipulated in a child’s environment.”
She said lying then becomes a process leading to children using a lie to get out of trouble or get something they want.
Saltz said the bottom line is that a person who feels compelled to lie about both the small and large stuff has a problem. The consistent liar or “pathological liars” will lie at the drop of a hat. They do it to protect themselves, look good, gain financially or socially and avoid punishment.
“A much more troubling group is those who lie a lot, and knowingly. for personal gain,” she said.
“These people may have a diagnosis called antisocial personality disorder, also known as being a sociopath, and often get into scrapes with the law.”
What happens when we lie?
Those who tell the occasional lie or omit the truth find out that lying often gets worse with the passage of time.
It is a serious problem in today’s society because our word does not mean what it used to mean. When a person lies, they have broken a bond with others around them.
Back in the day, people used to conduct huge business deals and close it with a gentleman’s handshake. Their word was their bond.
But, serious deception exists today and often makes it impossible for us to trust another person again. Because the issue of trust is on the line, coming clean about the lie as soon as possible is the best way to mend fences.
“If the truth only comes out once it is forced, repair of trust is far less likely,” Saltz said.
There is an ethical explanation about lying and is now being instructed as a university level class on ethics.
Tim C. Mazur of the Ethics and Compliance Officer Association says lies are morally wrong for two reasons.
“Lies flourish in social uncertainty, when people no longer understand, or agree on, the rules governing their behavior toward one another,” he said.
First, Mazur points out, is that lying corrupts the most important quality of a human being, which means it effects the ability to make free, rational choices.
Each lie contradicts the part of someone that gives them moral worth.
Second, lies rob others of their freedom to choose rationally.
Mazur said when a lie leads people to decide other than they would had they known the truth, the lies have harmed their human dignity and autonomy.
“As trust declines, cynicism spreads, and our overall quality of life drops,” he said.
“People may lie in pursuit of the greater good, but this can lead to a “slippery slope,” where the line between cleverly calculated moral justifications and empty excuses for selfish behavior is exceedingly thin. Sliding down the slope eventually kindles morally bankrupt statements .”
How do you know if someone is lying?
There are ways to detect whether a person is lying or telling the truth.
Police, forensic psychologists, security experts and other investigators often use deception detection techniques to determine if they are on the right track in an investigation.
There are gestures and verbal cues that may indicate someone is being untruthful.
First, a person who is lying will avoid making eye contact. Experts say someone who is in the midst of telling a lie will also position their hands touching their face, throat and mouth. Touching or scratching the nose or behind their ear are also signs of dishonesty.
They are not likely to touch his chest or heart with an open hand if they are telling the truth.
A guilty person gets defensive during a conversation and if they are accused of lying. An innocent person will often go on the offensive.
A statement with a contraction is more likely to be truthful: “I didn’t do it” instead of “I did not do it.”
Eyes are also a big give away when it comes to lying. Studies show that if a person looks up and to the left then they are thinking about the question and constructing a lie. So, looking to the left constitutes a made-up answer.
Experts say that making statements that just don’t hold together will make someone appear to be a generally suspicious person.
If someone lies all the time, even about unimportant things, they are likely to have a problem that will eventually cause relationship, financial or legal troubles.
“Figuring out what is driving you to lie in the first place will help heal this self-destructive behavior,” Saltz said.
“This may mean going into treatment with a therapist to discover why you feel the need to deceive.”
How to stop lying:
Dishonesty has become so commonplace in politics, in business, and in the world in general that it seems downright normal. Studies confirm that people know instinctively that they should tell the truth.
We certainly expect it from others, knowing that the world can’t function if no one is trustworthy.
Lies rob a person of all godly virtues. It comes as harmless yet its effects can be most devastating.
Christians believe that a person should not swear or tell a lie. But even the best people are tempted to tell a lie. Society must remember that a person’s word must be their bond during family, business and personal times in life.
Lying is much harder than telling the truth and a person should hold the desire to be a trust worthy advocate for friends, family, and business partners.
No matter how hard it is to start- lay your foundation on the truth.
Many have laid the foundation of their lives on lies. Sooner or later that foundation will crumble. If you gained admission into a higher institution through forged certificates, repent, restitute and start all over again.
If you told a friend a lie, call them and tell them what you did and start the healing process.
All “official” lies must stop. Sign correct time of arrival. Stop lying about number of children just to reduce tax deductions. Go and apologize to those you have lied to or against.
Nobody cannot afford to miss the blessings God gives us when we are honest and trustworthy in all we do.
Here are a few Bible references dealing with the truth:
“Do not testify falsely against your neighbor.”
“The LORD hates cheating, but he delights in honesty.”
“Truth stands the test of time; lies are soon exposed.”
“Telling lies about others is as harmful as hitting them with an ax, wounding them with a sword, or shooting them with a sharp arrow.”
“Though everyone else in the world is a liar, God is true.”
“People with integrity have firm footing, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall.”
“The godly person gives wise advice, but the tongue that deceives will be cut off.”
Proverbs 10:9, 31
“Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old evil nature and all its wicked deeds.”
More Americans believe moral values in the United States are getting worse, according to a new Gallup Poll.
The Gallup’s annual poll on moral values found 76% of Americans said moral values in the country are getting worse, up 5% from last year. This year’s rise marked the second highest one-year increase in nine years. In 2004, 77% of Americans said moral values were getting worse, marking a 10% rise from the previous year.
Opinions about moral values in the country tend to stay relatively stable between years.
The highest figure was in 2007 at 82%.
Respondents most often cited declining moral values/standards and disrespect of others (both at 15%) as ways they see moral values in the U.S. getting worse. The open-ended question also found popular responses to be: parents not instilling values in children (8%); dishonesty among government, business leaders (8%); and rising crime and violence (8%).
Others said the moral value decline can be seen in people moving away from religion, church and God (7%), the breakdown of family and unwed mothers (7%), and sex, promiscuity, and pornography (5%).
The hot-button issue of abortion and gay relations were each only cited by 3% of the respondents.
Overall, 45% of Americans said the state of moral values in the country is poor – three times more than those who said it is in excellent/good shape (15%). This figure has stayed relatively constant over the past four years, but is still among the worst Gallup has measured in the past nine years.
The Gallup results are based on telephone interviews with more than 1,029 national American adults from May 3 to 6, 2010.
For more than a hundred years liberals and conservatives have been arguing over the true meaning of justice. The left emphasizes just outcomes—seeking smaller gaps between rich and poor, and a comparably dignified standard of living for all members of society. The right stresses just procedures —making sure that individuals keep the fruits of their own labors and remain secure in their property, without seizure by their neighbors or by government.
Liberals accept unequal, potentially unfair treatment by government in order to achieve fair results; conservatives accept unequal, potentially unfair results so long as every citizen receives fair and comparable treatment by government.
These arguments have raged for generations without definitive resolution, but that doesn’t mean that both sides are right, or that the questions that divide them offer no final answers. In fact, key Biblical passages provide a strong indication that conservative concepts of economic justice comport far more closely to the religious and philosophical foundations of western civilization. If the Bible is indeed the word of God (as a big majority of Americans say they believe it is), then it’s difficult to escape the conclusion that the Almighty would cast his all-important ballot for Republicans.
For instance, as the weeks count down to the Jewish New Year this September, congregations around the world all read the same weekly Torah portions from the Book of Deuteronomy, including the famous exhortation, “Justice, justice, shall you pursue.” (Chapter 16, Verse 20). The obvious question on this verse is why the Bible repeats the Hebrew word, “Tzedek” – which means both “justice,” and “righteousness”. A great Polish sage from the late 1700’s, Rabbi Bunam of P’schischa, recorded a profound answer from the Tradition. The text uses the word “Tzedek” twice to make sure that when you pursue justice, you only use just-and-righteous-means. In other words, the Biblical view directly contradicts the leftist inclination: no, you can’t unjustly confiscate wealth from those who created it to fulfill the righteous goal of helping the poor. The Bible insists that no matter how worthy your purposes, you must employ only righteous means in achieving them.
This understanding turns up repeatedly in Scripture. For instance, a key passage in the Book of Leviticus (19:15) declares: “You shall not commit a perversion of justice; you shall not favor the poor and you shall not honor the great; with righteousness (Tzedek) shall you judge your fellow.” Amazingly, the Bible warns us not to “favor the poor” even before we’re instructed “not to honor the great,” because partiality for the unfortunate counts as an even stronger human temptation.
And what about all the Biblical demands, in both Old and New Testaments, to show compassion to widows, orphans and the poor?
Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi), the 11th century giant who became the most influential of all Torah expositors, explains that the verse in Leviticus draws an all-important, eternal distinction between charity and justice: “Do not say that since the wealthy man is obligated to help the poor one, it is proper for a judge to rule in favor of the poor litigant so that he will be supported in dignity. The Torah insists that justice be rendered honestly; charity may not interfere with it.”
In other words, assistance for the destitute remains an individual obligation on God-fearing individuals, but should not bring a tilt to the law to favor the less fortunate.
It is no coincidence, surely, that this crucial verse in Leviticus appears just two sentences away from the most famous declaration in all the Bible: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (19:18). This famous line makes clear that the same God who wants us to deal kindly with our fellow human beings, also requires that we respect and honor ourselves. You don’t demean or damage yourself for the sake of your fellow; the Bible consistently backs the conservative supposition that we help others best when we help ourselves.
If such Biblical passages strongly support the conservative conception of justice, then why are so many churches, synagogues and divinity schools filled with outspokenly liberal clergy?
The answer reflects differing approaches to Biblical interpretation, with literalists in every denomination who focus on Scripture as written, without attempts at alteration or updating, lean overwhelmingly to the right.
Of course, many committed leftists dismiss the Bible as an ancient irrelevancy, but its call for a process-oriented, no-respecter-of-persons concept of justice has lasted far longer than today’s sense of ruthless compassion and legal favoritism, and the sweet reason of Biblical logic will continue to engage the human spirit when tender-hearted political correctness is no more than a sour memory.
Of all the issues that face the American family today, none of them has produced more heartache or tragedy than abortion. Many of us have failed to understand that human life is not like any other life. The Bible tells us that God made man in His image and breathed life into man. We are not just a part of the animal kingdom.
Yet since 1973, the legal status of unborn children has been that they’re not children at all, but “products of conception” that can be removed at the mother’s whim. (How there can be a mother but no child eludes me.)
The Bible’s teaching on the sanctity of each human life is unmistakable. Even so, the most endangered species in our culture is the unborn human being. You can abort your baby without penalty, but if you shoot your dog you can be arrested (not that I am condoning such animal cruelty).
We’ve been brutalized, desensitized, and paganized by an ever-rising tide of the blood of the unborn as our nation aborts over 3,300 babies a day. America is practicing child sacrifice through abortion and the abuse and neglect of our young children because we have forgotten God and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator.
God has a plan and a purpose for every single human life that is conceived (Jer. 29:11; Eph. 2:8–10). Have we aborted a gifted evangelist, or the researcher God sent to find a cure for cancer? Have we aborted an insightful theologian, a great president, an international peacemaker? Each of those American babies was a child—a child with a future and a purpose, sacrificed to the pagan gods of social convention, career advancement, and material well-being.
I can still remember as a young boy having a Sunday School lesson about how the children of God had become so paganized that they sacrificed their little children to the pagan god Molech. I could never have imagined then that I would live to see my country offering up its unborn children as a type of pagan sacrifice.
God judges us, I believe, in large part as a society, on how we deal with the most helpless and defenseless among us. We’ve lost our moral compass. And so there are going to be those around us who will give us conflicting advice, conflicting opinions. And there is no longer, as there once was, a presumption in favor of life, particularly for unborn babies.
Death has invaded the nursery and the retirement home too, making young and old alike the victims of biological bigotry. We must oppose the barbaric, lethal combination of technical expertise and spiritual ignorance that would deny that there is a spirit in man that is not in the animal kingdom. We must oppose those who would abort and experiment on the preborn, harvest fetal tissue, allow death into the nursery for our mentally and physically handicapped infants, and encourage euthanasia in hospitals and retirement homes.
Unless we reverse this relentless march of death, many of the people who are aborting their children will themselves be euthanized in their old age by the very same criteria they have used to eliminate their own offspring-when others consider them to be too ill, too embarrassing, too expensive, or merely too inconvenient.
For the first time in over a decade, more Americans say they are pro-life than pro-choice, a new Gallup poll revealed.
Just over half (51%) of Americans stand for the sanctity of human life while 42% consider themselves pro-choice, according to the May 2009 survey released Friday.
This marks the first time a majority of U.S. adults identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking the abortion question in 1995 when only 33% called themselves pro-life.
Since then the highest percentage identifying as pro-life was 46% in 2001 and 2002.
The Gallup Poll found the dramatic shift occurred just in the past year. In 2008, 44% said they were pro-life while 50% were pro-choice.
In terms of when abortions should be legal, Americans are about as likely to say the procedure should be illegal in all circumstances (23%) as they are to say it should be legal under any circumstances (22%).
53% say it should be legal only under certain circumstances. But more Americans are likely to say abortion should be legal only in “a few” circumstances (37%) than under “most” circumstances (15%).
The Gallup Poll confirmed Americans’ recent shift toward the pro-life position with two other surveys. The Gallup Values and Beliefs survey showed that 50% consider themselves pro-life while 43% identify as pro-choice. Moreover, a recent Pew Research Center survey also found that the percentage of Americans who say abortion should be legal in all or most cases dropped from 54% to 46% while the percentage of those who say the procedure should be legal in only a few or no cases jumped from 41 to 44%.
Increase in pro-life sentiment is seen across Christian religious affiliations. 59% of Protestants and “other Christians” identify as pro-life, a rise from 51% in 2008. Pro-lifers among Catholics rose from 45 to 52%. Even within the “other/none” group, there was a rise in pro-lifers from 27 to 31%.
The rise in pro-lifers was also largely seen among conservatives, moderates and Republicans, they survey found.
Among conservatives, pro-lifers rose from 66 to 71%. Pro-lifers also increased from 38 to 45% among moderates. Among Republicans and those who lean Republican, the poll found a rise in pro-lifers from 60 to 70% over the past year and a drop (36 to 26%) in those who call themselves pro-choice.
Liberals and Democrats, meanwhile, showed essentially no shift in their views with 19% and 33% identifying as pro-life, respectively.
The survey results were released as President Barack Obama has rescinded the Mexico City Policy, ending a ban on funding international groups that perform or promote abortions; lifted a ban on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research; brought on board Kathleen Sebelius who is tied to late-term abortionist George Tiller to his Cabinet; and expressed support for the Freedom of Choice Act, which would overturn virtually all federal and state limitations on abortion. He has also moved toward rescinding federal job protections for medical workers who refuse to participate in abortion procedures.
“It is possible that, through his abortion policies, Obama has pushed the public’s understanding of what it means to be ‘pro-choice’ slightly to the left, politically,” the Gallup Poll stated in its report.
Results of the survey are based on interviews with 1,015 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 7-10.
By Chuck Colson
The Good Society and the Moral Law
More than forty years ago, on August 28, 1963, a quarter million people gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial. They marched here for the cause of civil rights. And that day they heard Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, a speech in which he challenged America to fulfill her promise.
“I have a dream,” he said, “that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”
While we know of the speech, most people are unaware that King also penned one of the most eloquent defenses of the moral law: the law that formed the basis for his speech, for the civil rights movement, and for all of law, for that matter.
In the spring of 1963, King was arrested for leading a series of massive non-violent protests against the segregated lunch counters and discriminatory hiring practices rampant in Birmingham, Alabama. While in jail, King received a letter from eight Alabama ministers. They agreed with his goals, but they thought that he should call off the demonstrations and obey the law.
King explained why he disagreed in his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail. “One may well ask, how can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer “is found in the fact that there are two kinds of laws: just laws . . . and unjust laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws,” King said, “but conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
How does one determine whether the law is just or unjust? A just law, King wrote, “squares with the moral law of the law of God. An unjust law . . . is out of harmony with the moral law.”
Then King quoted Saint Augustine: “An unjust law is no law at all.” He quoted Thomas Aquinas: “An unjust law is a human law not rooted in eternal or natural law.”
This is the great issue today in the public square: Is the law rooted in truth? Is it transcendent, immutable, and morally binding? Or is it, as liberal interpreters argue, simply whatever courts say it is? Do we discover the law, or do we create it?
Many think of King as a liberal firebrand, waging war on traditional values. Nothing could be further from the truth. King was a great conservative on this central issue, and he stood on the shoulders of Augustine and Aquinas, striving to restore our heritage of justice rooted in the law of God.
Were he alive today, I believe he would be in the vanguard of the pro-life movement and would be supporting Judge Alito. I also believe that he would be horrified at the way in which out-of-control courts have trampled on the moral truths he advocated.
From the time of Emperor Nero, who declared Christianity illegal, to the days of the American slave trade, from the civil rights struggle of the sixties to our current battles against abortion, euthanasia, cloning, and same-sex “marriage,” Christians have always maintained exactly what King maintained.
King’s dream was to live in harmony with the moral law as God established it. So this Martin Luther King Day, reflect on that dream—for it is worthy of our aspirations, our hard work, and the same commitment Dr. King showed.
Have we now reached a stage of social evolution that is “beyond honesty?” That fascinating question is raised by author Ralph Keyes in his new book, The Post-Truth Era: Dishonesty and Deception in Contemporary Life. “I think it’s fair to say that honesty is on the ropes,” Keyes observes. “Deception has become commonplace at all levels of contemporary life.”
By the time you finish reading The Post-Truth Era, Keyes is likely to have convinced you that dishonesty is now the order of the day, and that deception has now been institutionalized at virtually every level of American culture.
Keyes is an author of keen perception and wide-ranging observation. He has pulled together an enormous body of evidence, all pointing to the pervasive rise of dishonesty in American life. As Jeremy Campbell remarked in The Liars’ Tale, “It is a creeping assumption at the start of a new millennium that there are things more important than truth.”
Keyes acknowledges that human beings have lied in the past, but he suggests that the current generation of liars has developed a skillfulness and nuance in lying that is virtually unprecedented in the human experience. “Even though there have always been liars, lies have usually been told with hesitation, a dash of anxiety, a bit of guilt, a little shame, at least some sheepishness,” Keyes notes. “Now, clever people that we are, we have come up with rationales for tampering with truth so we can dissemble guilt-free.”
Keyes has a label for this new age of dishonesty. “I call it post-truth. We live in a post-truth era.” Keyes credits the late Steve Tesich with coining this phrase, but Keyes now applies it with vigor to our contemporary culture. “Post-truthfulness exists in an ethical twilight zone,” he explains. “It allows us to dissemble without considering ourselves dishonest. When our behavior conflicts with our values, what we’re most likely to do is reconceive our values.” Since we do not want to think of ourselves as unethical, we simply “devise alternative approaches to morality.”
As evidence of this cultural acceptance of lying, Keyes notes the rise of euphemisms for deception. “We no longer tell lies. Instead we ‘misspeak.’ We ‘exaggerate.’ We ‘exercise poor judgment.’ ‘Mistakes were made,’ we say. The term ‘deceive’ gives way to the more playful ‘spin.’ At worst, saying ‘I wasn’t truthful’ sounds better than ‘I lied’.” Keyes suggests that the use of such euphemisms is a new cultural syndrome he identifies as “euphemasia.” This would include everything from terms such as “credibility gap,” to Winston Churchill’s “terminological inexactitudes.”
What are we to do with terms such as “poetic truth,” “nuanced truth,” “alternative reality,” or “strategic misrepresentations?” In our technological age, driven by a digitalized dimension of lying, we are now accustomed to talking about “virtual truth.”
In a fascinating section, Keyes traces the history of lying. He suggests that early civilizations depended on honesty, at least within the kinship group, for the establishment of stable order and trust. Once society becomes more complicated and diverse, lying becomes more routine. In some cultures, lying to an enemy or a stranger is not considered immoral at all.
In more modern eras, lying was raised to a higher art form. In the history of Protestant confessionalism, creeds were to be accepted “without hesitation or mental reservation.” This language continues among confessional Christians, who may wonder how the term “mental reservation” emerged in the first place.
Keyes supplies this explanation, tracing the use of “mental reservation” back to the Reformation era, when Catholics developed “mental reservation” as a defense for telling an untruth under threat of persecution. “In time, however, it became an easy way to rationalize all manner of prevarication,” Keyes explains. The device of “mental reservation” allowed an individual to hold or “reserve” the truth to himself even as he misled an interrogator. Before long, others used this excuse in order to give apparent assent to creedal statements while privately rejecting the very truths articulated in the statement of faith.
Just how important is honesty, after all? “Honesty’s market value is too little appreciated in the history of ethics,” Keyes argues. “Truth telling underlies not just individual reputations but the health of society as a whole.” Without honesty, there can be no confidence in legal contracts, no shared confidence in social arrangements, and no authority for the rule of law. As argued by Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant, a healthy society can’t remain healthy so long as it accepts lies. “For a lie always harms another,” Kant asserted, “if not some other particular man, still it harms mankind generally, for it vitiates the source of law itself.”
Is lying a symptom of social pathology? Keyes considers the argument that social dislocation and disconnectedness breed dishonesty. Surveying modern sociological literature, Keyes acknowledges a link between post-truthfulness and the loss of community. “When it comes to post-truthfulness, the fraying of human connections is both cause and effect. Not feeling connected to others makes it easier to lie, which in turn makes it harder to reconnect. Eroded communities foster dishonesty. Dishonesty contributes to the further erosion of communities. As communal bonds wither, unfettered self-interest is unleashed.”
Most of us are largely unaware of the pervasive dishonesty around us—even the dishonesty and deception included in our understanding of the past. Keyes goes after several of America’s most cherished historical legends, demonstrating that many are “apocryphal in whole or in part.” The famous story of George Washington and the cherry tree was invented by a moralistic clergyman, ironically as an argument for honesty.
“Puffery is an art form in the United States,” Keyes asserts. Self-invention becomes a way of climbing the social ladder. Ralph Lifshitz transforms himself into Ralph Lauren, and spawns one of America’s most famous and profitable lifestyle brands. The classical and Anglophile style of Ralph Lauren’s designs would be more awkwardly marketed under the name, Ralph Lifshitz.
Martha Stewart, now serving time in federal prison for lying to federal authorities, is identified by Keyes as one of “the quintessential reinvented Americans.” Unlike Ralph Lauren, who openly acknowledges his origins, Keyes accuses Martha Stewart of going to incredible and extreme effort to hide her humble roots.
In an article written for an early issue of Martha Stewart Living, Stewart wrote an editorial tribute to honesty. “We must remember,” she chided, “—and teach our children (and perhaps our political figures)—one essential; the truth shall make you free.” Nevertheless, Keyes presents a very different picture of America’s domestic adviser. “Martha Stewart routinely misrepresented the type of family she grew up in, her father’s occupation, whom she dated in college, where her roommate was from, what she earned as a model, the size of party she threw, her husband’s ability to father children, how much of her own writing she did, where her home was located (to avoid paying taxes), and why she sold her ImClone stocks.”
In the professional world, resumes are now assumed to be inflated. San Francisco mayor Willie Brown once observed, “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t lie on their resume.” The most pervasive form of “credential inflation” is the listing of unearned degrees. “An estimated half million Americans hold jobs for which their purported qualifications are spurious,” Keyes reports, adding that an investigation conducted by the General Accounting Office once revealed twenty-eight senior federal officials who did not actually hold the college degrees they claimed. Hauntingly, Keyes relates that one personnel official with a hospital told him that job applicants, once informed that their credentials would be checked by a professional firm, sometimes withdrew their applications. Reportedly, nearly a third of those applying for positions took back their applications and never returned.
Making his way through the terrain of deception in American life, Keyes notes that some individuals have become “recreational liars.” They spin tales which are willingly received by some as truths. While this may appear harmless, the practice lowers the credibility of the entire society.
What about the law? According to Black’s Law Dictionary, a “legal fiction” is “an assumption that something is true even though it may be untrue.” In other words, lawyers are obligated, according to the professional standards of the bar, to use whatever argument will work in defending a client, whether or not it is true. In one perverse case, Keyes documents the work of one Florida prosecutor who argued in one courtroom that a pair of teenage boys had killed their father and then entered another courtroom to argue that a family friend—not the teenagers—was the real murderer. “From a strictly legal perspective this was not inconsistent,” Keyes observes, “but it certainly put a spotlight on the contrast between concepts of truthfulness within courts of law and those without.”
Lies are now routinely accepted in political argument and in literature. The line between fiction and nonfiction is now blurry at best. Some recent best-selling titles in the “non-fiction” category have been highly fictional. Does anyone even care?
Keyes identifies the academic world as the source of much confusion when it comes to honesty. Postmodern philosophers routinely dismiss objective truth, and assert that all truth is simply social construction and invention. Authorities in power simply invent truth in order to buttress their authority, the postmodernists allege. Following this logic, lying becomes a means of liberation. As Keyes observes, “Jeremy Campbell exaggerated only slightly when he observed that to a postmodernist, being overly concerned with telling the truth ‘is a sign of depleted resources, a psychological disorder, a character defect, a kind of linguistic anorexia’.”
Debunking the postmodernist worldview, Keyes simply clarifies the obvious: “Asking what constitutes truth is an appropriate topic for intellectual inquiry, but it doesn’t follow that the difficulty of identifying what is objectively true gives us license to tell each other lies.”
The Post-Truth Era offers perceptive analysis of American culture in the new millennium. Without the recovery of truth, this civilization is doomed to a descent into even deeper levels of deception and dishonesty. As a culture, it’s about time we faced the truth about our acceptance of untruthfulness.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
Despite centuries of Christian history, European countries and Western nations in general are gradually turning from their Christian roots and accepting secularistic positions, according to the Religious Liberty Commission (RLC) of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA).
“It is now more difficult for Christians to freely express their faith and for Christian ministers to preach from the Bible without being criticized, fined, sued or even sent to prison,” the RLC reported Wednesday.
While most people tend to think of persecution of Christians in Muslim or Communist countries, the RLC said that in many post-Christian countries the word ‘persecution’ may soon be a stark reality as a Christian religious majority gradually becomes an unwelcome minority. “This trend is not so much due to large numbers migrating from non-Christian countries as to the reluctance of the population to maintain their former Christian heritage,” the Commission stated in their Prayer Bulletin.
“While a post-Christian humanistic society may still accept Christian cultural traditions as being entertaining and relaxing, the Christian moral and spiritual traditions are rejected as intolerant and old-fashioned,” added the RLC.
According to the Commission, some Christian leaders in recent years have expressed a mounting concern for declining Christian global influence and the world’s growing hostility to the Christian faith.
In March 2004, Rev. Bob Frost, President of UK-based Release International, said of Britain and Europe, “We are closer to persecution today than at any time in my life.”
Frost further expressed that Christians must be prepared for persecution soon as growing restrictions are being imposed on religious freedom in many countries across Europe.
News agencies have reported that in Europe today “Christians are mocked for their faith. Many young couples are ostracized socially if they want a lot of children. Those who oppose same-sex ‘marriage’ are considered intolerant.’”
Meanwhile in the U.S., the Texas-based Liberty Legal Institute (LLI)—which fights to protect religious freedoms and First Amendment rights for individuals, groups, and churches—presented some Senate members with a Hostility to Religious Expression Document in October 2004. The document detailed cases of discrimination or hostility towards believers. According to the RLC, the LLI specialists think there is a campaign aimed at purging any religious expression from public life. In one reported incident, a 12-year-old student was reprimanded at his school in St. Louis for quietly saying a prayer before eating. A schoolgirl in Colorado was banned from bringing a Bible to school. Teachers also can suffer because of their faith, RLC reported.
“This growing secularism and intolerance is especially obvious at all levels of education,” the RLC wrote.
In November 2004 it was reported that a Californian history teacher was prohibited from referring to historical documents where God is mentioned, such as parts of the Declaration of Independence and George Washington’s journal.
“Increasingly, Western Christians need to be aware of the coming danger and prepare for it. The imperative is true spiritual revival in the West,” the RLC said.
The World Evangelical Alliance RLC serves as a coordinating and networking team within the international advocacy community on behalf of Christians persecuted for their faith. Through the RLC, WEA has observer status at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Research and development are key functions of the RLC.
America’s pop culture is now a worldwide phenomenon. The music, movies, television programming, and assorted entertainments enjoyed by Americans—especially young Americans—are quickly carried around the world in a global cultural exchange that is now leading to a cultural backlash.
In some parts of the world, locals have had just about enough of the immorality celebrated and broadcast through American entertainment and pop culture. Former judge Robert Bork pointed to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 as one significant illustration of the problem. As soon as the wall came down, American rock music, blue jeans, and sexuality flowed into the formerly Communist nation of East Germany. “You almost began to want to put the wall back up,” Bork remarked.
As Scott Galupo of The Washington Times explains, “If there is one proposition on which Western European elites and radical Islamists, American social conservatives and snobby latte town aesthetes all seem to agree, it is this: American popular culture is a subversive thing.”
Radical Islamic leaders have been watching these developments for some time. Sayyid Qutb, one of the most significant founders of radical Islam, was offended by the gross immorality he detected in America during a visit in the 1940s. As Galupo relates, Qutb thought he saw the essence of American culture at a church dance held in Greeley, Colorado. These supposedly committed Christian believers danced as a disc jockey played the racy classic, “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” Qutb saw the dance as a repudiation of modesty, decorum, and religious devotion. “The dancing intensified,” he wrote. “The hall swarmed with legs . . . . arms circled arms, lips met lips, chests met chests, and the atmosphere was full of love.” If this kind of immorality happened at church, Qutb reasoned, one could only imagine what took place in other parts of the culture.
Later, Osama Bin Laden would portray the United States as Islam’s enemy in a “war against God.” From one perspective, it is almost as if America planned a calculated effort to offend moral principles around the world. We are a net exporter of pornography, sexually explicit entertainment, celebrated violence, and lawlessness. Political Islamists looking for moral ammunition to use against America need look no further than statistics related to adultery, premarital sex, divorce, illegitimate births, and other phenomena.
Even as America’s parents now see our national culture as increasingly toxic to our children, we are reminded that others are concerned about their children as well—and the world is watching.
Those looking for absolute proof that our culture is coming increasingly unhinged need look no further than the February issue of Consumer Reports magazine. For years, Consumer Reports has been the trusted adviser to America’s consumers on everything from vacuum cleaners to automobiles and microwave ovens. Now, it has published an analysis of birth-control options that includes abortion and offers a buyer’s guide to condoms. “Long gone are the days when there were just a few, well-known contraceptive choices,” the magazine declared. “Today’s options include rings, patches, and IUDs. Older contraceptive drugs are being used in ways that include emergency contraception, which is still misunderstood.”
The Consumer Reports analysis could have been written by agents for Planned Parenthood. The magazine celebrates virtually all forms of birth-control devices, and confuses technologies that claim a contraceptive effect with true contraceptives.
Interestingly, the magazine seems particularly keen to advocate the use of IUDs [intrauterine devices]. “This highly effective method of contraception has never recovered from the 1970s,” the magazine relates, “when the Dalkon Shield intrauterine device turned out to put users at major risk for fertility-destroying pelvic infections.” Nevertheless, “today’s IUDs have an excellent safety record, allow women years of ‘set it and forget it’ contraception and can be less expensive overall than other birth-control methods.”
Of course, IUDs are not contraceptives at all—at least not in a legitimate use of the term. The word “contraception” implies the prevention of conception, the fertilization of the egg by the sperm. The IUD does not prevent fertilization and conception, however, but prevents the successful implantation of the fertilized egg within the uterine wall. In order to disguise the fact that this is not a contraceptive device at all, the term has been redefined so that “contraception” is now broadened to mean not only the moment of conception, but successful implantation in the womb. In other words, the IUD is an abortifacient, not a contraceptive.
In other sections, the magazine celebrates the development of new hormonal medications that are “not your mother’s birth-control pills.” Furthermore, the magazine urges women to disregard concern about the use of hormonal contraceptives. “Women used to fear that hormonal contraception increased the risk of cancer, but it now appears the opposite is true. Long-term studies involving thousands of women have established that having taken the pill reduces the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer by 40% or more. Nor do modern birth-control pills increase the risk of breast cancer.”
When it comes to condoms, Consumer Reports offers a wealth of information and advice. In the magazine’s view, condoms are to be preferred over many other technologies simply because of the added “benefit” of preventing or inhibiting the spread of infective disease. Without going into unnecessary detail, we can report that the magazine reviewed more than twenty different brands and varieties of condoms, ranking them in terms of price, special features, and strength. Many readers were no doubt surprised to be informed that one Web site offered condoms in 55 different sizes.
The most shocking portion of the Consumer Reports analysis covered abortion. “Women having an abortion in the U.S. can choose one of two methods,” the magazine specified: “the so-called abortion pill or a surgical procedure.” Those seeking legal abortions should first date the pregnancy, usually by ultrasound. Armed with this knowledge, the magazine then advised women to consider as options the drug-induced abortion that “completely expels the pregnancy in more than 90% of users, usually within a day,” or a surgical abortion, described as “the standard surgical abortion method in the U.S. for pregnancies in the first trimester, when 88% of legal abortions take place.”
This is a truly chilling analysis offered in the cold and dispassionate language of a consumer review. Describing “Mifeperex,” the American brand name for the infamous abortion pill, RU-486, the magazine specifies that, if used within the first seven weeks of pregnancy, the drug “causes the developing embryo to detach from the uterine lining, but not to be expelled from the woman’s body.” The article goes on to identify a second drug, Cytotec (misoprostol) as the drug necessary to force the woman’s body to expel the embryo.
Absolutely devoid of moral context, the magazine’s analysis is presented as if abortion is simply another consumer option. Dealing with surgical abortion, usually known as “suction curettage,” the magazine describes the procedure in this way: “The cervix is enlarged to a diameter of about a half-inch, either by the use of dilating rods or the drug misoprostol. The uterine contents are sucked out using a manual or electric pump while the woman is under local anesthesia. Some women may have cramps afterward, and also intermittent bleeding for a week or two.” Note carefully that the unborn baby is referred to as nothing more than the “uterine contents.”
As a final insult to human dignity, the magazine ranks “comparative risks” related to abortion and pregnancy. “In the U.S., the fatality risk with mifepristone is slightly less than 1 per 100,000 cases, compared with 0.1 for surgical abortion at 8 weeks or less. Pregnancy itself carries a fatality risk of 11.8 per 100,000.” In other words, following the logic of this mathematical analysis, pregnancy is much more dangerous than abortion. Of course, the magazine’s twisted analysis is concerned only with the life of the mother. The unborn child is not even deserving of mention.
The birth-control analysis offered by Consumer Reports offers a unique illustration of how America has changed over the last several decades. A significant moral and cultural barrier is crossed when matters of life and death, focused on matters of sexuality and birth-control, are presented as little more than consumer choices.
For all too many Americans, one birth-control method is simply as good as another. Concerns about the dignity of human life and the sanctity of sex are simply disregarded in a headlong rush to sexual fulfillment. Sex is turned into a playground of excitements while birth-control methodologies are presented as consumer choices to be treated as little more than products available on the open market.
The logic of this worldview is now clear. Sex is stripped of its moral context, abortifacient birth-control methods are repackaged as contraceptives, condoms are ranked by strength and special features, and abortion is presented as just one more option—but an option even safer than pregnancy.
This is the face of America to the world. This special issue of America’s most respected consumer magazine represents an undeniable illustration of America’s moral confusion and increasing decadence. Furthermore, it ranks as further evidence of this culture’s increasing disregard for the dignity of human life.
Observers, both foreign and domestic, looking to gauge the moral climate of America and its influence in the world, will watch closely. Those who see America as a net exporter of immorality, sexual license, and amoral lifestyles will no longer need to hold up Penthouse, Playboy, and the racy men’s magazines—they can just hold up the February issue of Consumer Reports.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
What do Robert and Mary Schindler, Mansour al-Banna, Hanim Surucu and Kofi Annan have in common? Absolutely nothing. Really. By chance, though, they have all passed through, or, in the case of the Schindlers, remained, in the spotlight of the news in recent days because of their relationships with their children.
The Schindlers, of course, are the parents of Terri Schiavo. They famously and fruitlessly labored to restore their 41-year-old daughter’s right to life after her husband-cum-guardian discovered her right to death in the shadows and penumbras of his memory — seven years after her brain-damaging accident.
Mansour al-Banna is the Jordanian father of Raed al-Banna, who has been identified as the perpetrator of the most lethal terrorist bombing in Iraq. On Feb. 28, the 32-year-old al-Banna is believed to have killed 132 people, injuring 120, outside a health clinic in Hilla, 60 miles south of Bagdhad. According to the Middle East Research Institute’s analysis (on www.memri.org), the killer’s bereaved family celebrated with a party — a ‘wedding of the martyr’ to symbolize the son’s wedding in paradise with 72 virgins — that, not incidentally, has ignited a diplomatic crisis with Iraq.
Hanim Surucu is the Turkish-born mother of the late Hatun Surucu, who, on the night of Feb. 7, is believed to have become the sixth victim of a so-called “honor killing” in Berlin in as many months. German police have charged the 23-year-old Hatun’s three brothers in her slaying. The mother, “wearing an ankle-length green-and-blue print dress and matching hijab,” told the Los Angeles Times, “My sons didn’t do this. They went to work and then were taken away in handcuffs.”
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan is the father of Kojo Annan, who is at the reeking center of the oil-for-fraud scandal at the United Nations. Annan pere doesn’t really belong in this parental lineup since his son is facing not death, but disgrace. But Kofi’s parental plan of attack is striking. As a London Telegraph headline put it, “Annan will sacrifice son to save himself.” So much for Annan family values. Of course, no matter how big a zero Kojo might be, Kofi isn’t going to enhance his own reputation by trashing his son’s. But it’s the thought that counts.
Kofi and Kojo aside, do these wholly disparate stories of parent life and child death tell us anything? Again, these people have nothing to do with one another except for the fact that none of these adult children died a natural death. Terri was starved to death at her husband’s behest by the state; Raed was a family-feted suicide-bomber; and Hatun was murdered, allegedly by her brothers, to restore “honor” to her family. In other words, some considerable measure of family approval sanctioned all these deaths. Their lives were determined to be worse than their deaths.
Somehow, this combined experience put me in mind of something I recall from an earlier year in the “war on terror.” I can’t recall if it was in an Osama rant, a Zarqawi lament, or whether it was just the rhetoric of some frothing jihadi on the Internet. But I do remember taking pride in the blunt, cross-cultural attempt at a put-down: “You love life the way we love death,” it went.
You bet. Or so I thought. Maybe, after what Terry Schiavo, even in her profoundly diminished state, has revealed about her fellow citizens, it would have been more accurate for that jihadi to have accused us of loving quality of life, a conditional state of being that is none too categorical. And much less so than I thought back when “mercy death” conjured up the release of a comatose, machine-dependent, painwracked mortal to his maker — not the starvation of a brain-damaged lady who needed just three liquid squares to make it through the day.
You love some life, the jihadi might have said, the way we love some death — for what is paradise without 72 virgins? A bad dream, to say the least, but hardly worth the trouble of infidel-murder and self-detonation. It is a paradox, surely, that the “martyr’s” afterlife in paradise is defined by fleshy rewards — a brothel everlasting — while, in theory and in faith, a Western “culture of life” on earth makes no physical promise. But a culture of the quality of life may be something else again. It only loves some life better than death. Which makes me wonder if it can ward off a jihadi.
As the debate for a state-operated lottery in North Carolina intensifies, one rationale by certain lawmakers in favor of the measure contends: “If you think the lottery is sinful, it’s more sinful not to educate our children.” This approach to morality can be extremely dangerous. It’s essentially utilitarian, which erroneously argues the morally correct position in any given situation is the one that produces the greatest balance of benefits over the harms affected. In other words, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
In Calculating Consequences: The Utilitarian Approach to Ethics, Claire Andre and Manuel Velasquez say that “[t]he principle of utilitarianism can be traced to the writings of Jeremy Bentham, who lived in England during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Bentham, a legal reformer, sought an objective basis that would provide a publicly acceptable norm for determining what kinds of laws England should enact. He believed the most promising way of reaching such an agreement was to choose that policy that would bring about the greatest net benefits to society once the harms had been taken into account. His motto, a familiar one now, was ‘the greatest good for the greatest number.’”
The problem, however, with the utilitarian approach to morality is that it creates situations of gross injustice. It marginalizes certain people, sacrificing them for what is presumed to be a better end for the majority.
It was the utilitarian approach to morality that Neville Chamberlain employed when he signed the Munich Pact with Hitler in 1938. In the allusion of attaining “peace in our time,” Chamberlain sacrificed the people of Czechoslovakia to German conquest.
It was the utilitarian approach to morality that directed Nazi doctors to perform horrific experiments on Jews at Birkenau, Dachau, and Auschwitz during World War II. For the sake of the Third Reich, Jews were frozen to death, tested with drugs, put into pressure chambers, and sterilized.
It was the utilitarian approach to morality that medical scientists employed in the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. For approximately four decades, impoverished, uneducated black men in Macon County , Alabama, were used as subjects in a project designed to study the effects of syphilis. Despite the fact penicillin was available at the time and was known to be successful in the treatment of syphilis, the subjects were left untreated.
Gilbert Meilaender in The Weekly Standard contends the testing on the Tuskegee men was rationalized by arguing “the poverty, illiteracy, and race of these men meant that, even if the research were not undertaken, they almost surely would not have gotten treatment. The circumstances of their lives destined them to suffer from and perhaps die of complications resulting from syphilis.” So, why not profit from the suffering?
Interestingly, it is this same approach to morality that some lawmakers in North Carolina now utilize to whitewash the evils of enacting a state-operated lottery. Yes, legislators know lotteries exploit the poor and uneducated. They are cognizant of the fact that its various forms of advertising sell a false sense of hope that manipulates these people. Yes, lawmakers understand a state-operated lottery would create more than 300,000 compulsive gamblers in the Tar Heel State. Yes, they understand that lotteries cannot succeed without compulsive gamblers and that 10% of those who play the lottery are compulsive gamblers and account for 50% of the money wagered. Yes, they understand that of compulsive gamblers surveyed 22% divorced because of their gambling habit, 40% had lost or quit a job due to gambling, 49% stole from work to pay their gambling debts, 63% had contemplated suicide, and 79% said they wanted to die. But, you see, none of that really matters because the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few — the education of North Carolina’s children, they say, is at stake!!!
Besides, they add, people are going to gamble anyway. Gaming is a juggernaut that can’t be stopped. North Carolina is surrounded by states with lotteries, causing the state to lose some revenue. Why not make the best of the situation? If the state gets into the gambling business, it will be capitalizing on the weaknesses of a few — but it’s for the children, right? There’s really nothing so bad about that. Wrong!!! The end doesn’t justify the means!!!
William G. Wells has written: “‘The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few’ is just another way of saying ‘individuals aren’t very important.’ Jesus strongly disagreed. This is clear in His parable about the Shepherd who left 99 safe in the fold to go and find the one lost sheep.”
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying those who argue for a state-operated lottery for education in North Carolina are the Neville Chamberlains, Nazi doctors, and Tuskegee researchers of the world. I am simply saying we need to slow down and think again. The moral premise currently being exercised by some in favor of the lottery sets a dangerous precedent. It has its appeal, but it also creates a terrible injustice for an entire segment of our society. Moreover, it can have its ugly spin-offs that lead to even greater evils.
In his classic 1967 sermon, Where Do We Go from Here?, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., argues that the worst of sins is when we “thingify” people — when we make people into things to exploit, manipulate, and use. For those lawmakers in North Carolina who feel the lottery is needed to deal with an even greater evil — the state’s lack of educational resources — I hope they wouldn’t succumb to the temptation to “thingify” those that would be adversely hurt by such public policy. As they consider what they should do, perhaps another of King’s admonitions from the same sermon would be appropriate: “[L]et us remember that there is a creative force in this universe working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way.”
Rev. Mark H. Creech (email@example.com) is the executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc. Information regarding compulsive gambling was taken from resources provided by the North Carolina Family Policy Council; Charles Clotfelter and Philip Cook, Selling Hope, p. 241; and a report to the Senate, July 31, 1995, by Senator Paul Simon.
I count myself an ally of David Gelernter in almost all things, but in a recent piece in the Wall Street Journal, he offered a stinging reproach to James Dobson for invoking the experience with the Nazis and German science, in drawing lessons that bear on the current argument over embryonic stem cells.
Gelernter’s reflexes, in the past, have been reliably right, but in this case, he was not his usual, precise, just self. In fact, as he accused Dobson of sweeping judgments, without discrimination, he swept quite injudiciously himself. He remarked that “morally serious persons” will be sensitive to the differences between the killing of embryos and “full-fledged human beings.” Just where the difference finally turns he did not finally say, but he remarked that, “It’s not just that embryos ... feel no pain when they are destroyed. Not just that they leave no grief-stricken survivors in the sense that full-fledged human beings do, and rip no comparable hole in the community and the universe when they are murdered.” We gauge persons as “morally serious” when they offer morally serious reasons, but surely Gelernter must be aware that these grounds of distinction are patently untenable: The victim who is anaesthetized and feels no pain; the homeless person without relatives who leaves “no grief-stricken survivors” or rips no hole in the memory, and stirs no sense of loss — nothing in these features would establish that these people have lost their standing as “full-fledged human beings.” If the embryonic Joe DiMaggio had been swept away, he would not have left the enduring memory, and sense of loss, that David Gelernter and I may share. But that embryo was distinctly, solely, identically the same being, and he was never anything other than human at any stage.
Gelernter accuses Dobson of being too freewheeling in making comparisons with the Holocaust. Since my wife and I lost members of our own family in the Holocaust, I think I can claim a certain license to object to those too quick to censure all comparison with the Nazi experience. They curiously sail past at least two points that bear on the current controversy over embryonic stem cells, and which cannot be rejected without a certain obtuseness: (1) It was quite wrong to subject Jewish prisoners to lethal experiments even though “they were going to die anyway.” (2) It could have had vast utility, even for people who were not German, to find out just what temperatures the body could sustain in waters freezingly cold. But we seem to understand now that it would have been legitimate to impose a moral refusal on that kind of “research,” even though it would have blocked researchers from investigating what they passionately wished to know, and discover things that might have saved lives.
In the case of stem cells, Gelernter notes that “some Americans support expanded stem-cell research because they are frantic for science to find new cures for desperately ill friends or family members.” He then asks, “Is Dr. Dobson so small-hearted that he can’t cut such people a little slack?” Of course, that connection is quite speculative — there haven’t even been any clinical trials yet of any of the therapies that are projected from the embryonic cells. In striking contrast, there have been dramatic gains through the use of adult stem cells, which don’t require the destroying of human beings in their embryonic stage. Would Gelernter really regard it as hard-hearted if we insisted first on pursuing the research whose dramatic promise has been foretold already by its dramatic accomplishments — while we avoid research that is lethal?
As it turns out, that research conducted by the Nazi doctors did yield some results, which have proved useful for people who have been neither German nor Nazi. And yet, I don’t think David Gelernter would have regarded himself as “small-hearted” if he had refused to “cut such people a little slack” in pursuing their research, hoping to save the humans they happened to care about.
I understand, of course, David Gelernter’s concern: There has been a recent tendency in our politics, to invoke the Nazi analogy in a manner so untethered, so detached from any sober moral judgment, as to be nearly obscene. When George Soros compares George W. Bush to Hitler he suggests that he recognizes no moral difference between a regime of genocide, utterly detached from any restraints, legal and moral, and a conservative administration, operating under the constraints of law, and taking seriously the principles of the American Founding. But James Dobson does not fall into this class. And it would offer a moral instruction, quite as clumsy and wrong, to jump on people who invoke the lessons of the Nazi experience, in the places where those lessons remain chillingly apt.
— Hadley Arkes is the Ney Professor of Jurisprudence at Amherst College and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington.
Even as Americans are coming to terms with the complexity of end-of-life issues and the challenges of medical technologies, the lack of a worldview consensus on these basic questions reveals a dangerous confusion at every level of our national life. Doctors, lawyers, philosophers, and the public at large are divided over the most basic questions of human dignity, human life, and how to make decisions of right and wrong when these are essentially questions of life and death.
The tragedy of Terri Schiavo catapulted these questions into the nation’s consciousness. Nevertheless, it is by no means clear that the nation learned anything of significance through that tragedy and the attendant controversy. Indeed, a large number of Americans seem to be relieved that the tragedy of Terri Schiavo is safely out of mind and off the headlines.
Lennard J. Davis argues that the controversy over Terri Schiavo revealed a dangerous lack of “biocultural literacy” among the American people. Davis serves as Professor of English, Disability and Human Development, and Medical Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he also directs Project Biocultures. The complexity of Davis’s professorial title indicates something of the strangeness of his academic post.
In “Life, Death, and Biocultural Literacy,” published in the January 6, 2006 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education, Davis argues that the absence of biocultural literacy in the academy and in the general public leaves us all unable to cope with some of our most pressing contemporary questions.
Davis begins his essay by looking back to Victorian literature in which novelists such as Charles Dickens portrayed death as the moment when one’s identity “often comes to fruition.” He contrasts this with today’s clinical context of death. “But while Dickens had metaphorical hearts and angels to enhance self-revelation at the time of death, we have ventilators, feeding tubes, and defibrillators. Death for us isn’t so much a final revelation of identity as a series of decisions preceding a finality.” As Davis concludes, “Our sense of identity is much less clear than it was for people in the past.”
In that assessment, Davis is clearly on to something. Americans are no longer united in a worldview shaped by Christian truth that establishes identity and human dignity in Creation and in the reality of the image of God in every single human being.
Looking at the contemporary debate, Davis notes the contrast between liberal and conservative arguments. “Liberals might argue that one’s identity ceases to exist with the loss of a certain level of consciousness, accompanied by the necessity of mechanical life support, such as a feeding tube and a ventilator.” On the other hand, “The religious right contends that one has an identity as long as one’s heart is beating, regardless of one’s cognitive function or the need for external life support.”
Accordingly, some persons looked at Terri Schiavo and responded with the fear that they might at some point be reduced to being a “vegetable” with no consciousness or personal identity, while others looked at the same situation and feared the termination of life while one’s brain is still functioning and death is otherwise not imminent.
As Davis understands, a surge of interest in “living wills” was one practical result of the controversy. Nevertheless, these documents often fail to deliver on their promises, are often ignored by medical professionals, and often fail to protect the interests of the one who adopted the document in the first place.
Davis seems to believe that a greater depth of knowledge in all the related fields of medicine, technology, biology, religion, psychology, and law would lead to a better understanding of the moral questions involved in such crises. Beyond this, he would add disability studies and the relatively new field of bioethics.
There is undoubtedly some truth in his assessment. For example, when Davis asserts that most Americans “know very little about biology, don’t keep up on recent developments in neurology, and barely know the difference between a coma and a persistent vegetative state,” he is clearly describing a reality we can recognize.
Yet, Davis’s main concern is with the absence of an academic discipline that adequately integrates all the fields that have an interest in such questions. “The public historically has turned to scholars and researchers to inform difficult public debates,” he notes. “But it isn’t really clear what part of the academy should be the go-to profession or department.”
The bioethicists are ready to offer their advice, even as philosophers and political theorists are ready to speak of such questions in terms of justice and liberal theory. Davis also suggests that the field of disability studies, which is “beginning to pull together several disciplines to address the philosophical, moral, legal, medical, and cultural questions emerging from the intersection of biotechnology and identity” can offer important advice.
At the same time, Davis doesn’t believe that either of these academic disciplines is adequate to the task. The field of disability studies, he explains, “is fundamentally based on, among other things, the idea that people with disabilities should have autonomy over their own lives.” Bioethics, which emerged in recent years as an academic specialization, takes as its goal to promote a notion of patient autonomy as opposed to the previously unchallenged authority of the medical profession.”
The very fact that Davis has framed the debate in this manner demonstrates the inherent limitations of our concept of personal autonomy. For, as he is careful to observe, the bioethicists and the disability advocates generally ended up on opposite sides of the debate over Terri Schiavo. Though both were operating on a basic commitment to personal autonomy as the greatest good, the bioethicists tended to locate the autonomy in Terri Schiavo’s supposed wish to avoid living in any state of diminished consciousness (at least according to her husband), while the disability advocates saw her as a symbol of what happens when those who are debilitated or disabled are assumed to lack the ability to act on their own behalf. As disability advocates saw Terri Schiavo’s situation, here was an example of a human being denied a basic right to life on the basis of diminished capacity.
If nothing else, the controversy over Terri Schiavo demonstrated that personal autonomy is simply not a sufficient foundation for any medical ethic or understanding of human dignity.
Davis seems to understand this, at least in part. He cites the fact the bioethicists fear government intervention or the influence of religious groups because this might threaten to “muck up the principle of patient autonomy.” But, at the same time, he also explains that “autonomy is a somewhat limiting principle, despite its obvious utility, if you think of the issue not as what a legal guardian wants, or says a patient wants, but as what or how a society defines ‘a life worth living.’”
As an answer to this lack of national consensus, Davis suggests the development of “biocultural literacy.” While this term is never fully defined in his essay, Davis obviously has in mind an integrative approach that would bring together political, cultural, medical, scientific, and religious implications of hard cases and matters of life and death.
One of the central problems in Davis’s proposal is that his concept of biocultural literacy requires a simultaneous knowledge of so many disciplines and fields of study that no single individual, much less the man or woman on the street, can be expected to be conversant, much less an expert, on such matters. Nevertheless, the larger problem with this proposal is Davis’s confidence that an academic field of study is the proper arena for such questions to be adjudicated and such decisions to be made.
His approach does promise key insights when it takes the form of cultural and theoretical analysis. In an interesting section of his essay, Davis attempts to identify some of the strengths, weaknesses, and inconsistencies of positions taken by both liberals and conservatives on these crucial issues. He cites the fact that conservatives historically have supported individual autonomy against the state and thus the Right “has generally opposed federal intervention in individual states’ rights.” But in the case of Terri Schiavo, conservatives did seek federal intervention, arguing that Terri Schiavo’s inherent right to live was far more important than her husband’s supposed right to speak on her behalf in terms of moral autonomy.
“For the right in general and the religious right in particular, one’s identity is based on the sanctity of life, extending to patients in comas or vegetative states, fetuses in the womb, and byproducts of fertilization such as stem cells and unused embryos,” Davis explains. “But any logician could inform the debate by pointing out the inconsistency between these positions and support for the death penalty, war, and even the eating of animals.”
If this is “biocultural literacy” we are in big trouble. Davis must be unaware of two millennia of Christian thinking on these issues that carefully makes distinctions between the very issues that he raises. If this is a demonstration of biocultural literacy at work, it is a dismal and embarrassing failure.
Davis also argues that, even as liberals favor autonomy with respect to the body and resist “the idea that the state should dictate how and what we do with our bodies,” it runs into conflict with its own basic principles when faced with the hard questions related to disability and those who are unable to express their own intentions in terms of personal autonomy. Furthermore, he rightly observes that, “because of biotechnical advances, the line between inside the womb and outside the womb has become somewhat arbitrary and largely a matter of conjecture.” So, on matters at the beginning of life as well as at its end, liberals should be forced to rethink their positions based upon developments in science and medicine.
In his essay, Davis is addressing himself to the academic community. “In the end, we are all poorly served by an academic community that does not promote biocultural literacy,” he argues. “As this century moves on, many issues the public needs to discuss will increasingly be tied to biotechnological advances that challenge our definitions of what it means to be human. We will need all the resources that we can command to come up with consistent, logical, and culturally relevant ways of conceiving of and bidding farewell to our bodies, ourselves.”
The Christian worldview, however, must press beyond a notion of “biocultural literacy.” If nothing else, Davis’s article should assist serious Christians to understand the limitations of personal autonomy as the foundation of any ethical system—much less an ethical system related to the excruciating questions that now arise at both the beginning and the end of life. The Christian worldview must point to a more comprehensive ethic—something even more demanding than biocultural literacy—that is based in a consistent affirmation of what it means for human beings to be made in the image of God and for all human life to be of sacred value—without regard to an individual’s ability to operate as a supposedly autonomous being.
Here again, we can foresee a confrontation between Christian and secular modes of thinking on important issues of public policy. Yet, there is more here than meets the eye, for this is also an opportunity for Christian witness, as thinking Christians should enter this debate ready to explain why we must define human beings in terms different from those of the secular academy. In its own way, this may be one of the most important avenues for Christian witness in our postmodern times.
Review by Leslie Carbone (bio | archive )
The most dangerous enemy is the one unrecognized.
Author David Kupelian argues that evil itself is being systematically repackaged as desirable in his 2005 book, The Marketing of Evil: How Radicals, Elitists, and Pseudo-Experts Sell Us Corruption Disguised as Freedom (WND Books, 256 pp, $24.95). Americans are being seduced into harmful beliefs and behaviors via the education system, the media, and even the churches, while activist courts enforce this corruption.
Evil is gussied up as good, and good is maligned as evil. Abortion is recast as a right. The exclusivity and heterosexuality of marriage are deemed optional, its order and indissolubility repressive and antiquated. Clever homosexual activists even manage to frame AIDS as a marketing plus. And God is no more than an old-fashioned killjoy.
Kupelian’s expose is targeted to parents, and Christian parents in particular, but his warnings would open virtually anyone’s eyes a little wider.
The book documents outrage after outrage in its indictment of our coarsened culture and its purveyors of evil. For example, school children have been taken to a mortuary and then required to discuss how they might commit suicide (p. 152). Students in some California middle schools play “jihad games” as part of a mandatory curriculum unit on Islam (p. 153).
Alongside his accounts of episodes like these, Kupelian offers insightful analysis about the roots of the modern embrace of evil. In a chapter on “gay rights,” Kupelian argues that the campaign is more about suppression of truth than equality under the law. “In truth, there is something wrong with homosexuality,” he points out. “[I]t is unnatural and self-destructive” (emphasis in original). Any reminder of that is deeply disturbing to a homosexual trying to silence his conscience, and even loving encouragement to seek healing can be misinterpreted as hatred. Hence the effort to silence those who oppose the homosexual lifestyle, and brand them as hateful. (pp. 35-36)
One of the most important features of the book is its historical perspective. In a chapter on “The Myth of Church-State Separation,” Kupelian sets the record of America’s Christian heritage straight. He points out, for example, that the Continental Congress “routinely designated days of fasting and prayer and other religious observances.” In 1777, Congress authorized the purchase of 20,000 Bibles to be distributed to the states comprising our newborn nation. (p. 41)
By contrast, in recent years, a judge overturned the sentence of a killer who beat a 71-year-old woman to death with an axe-handle—because the prosecutor mentioned a Bible verse in the courtroom. And a court ruled that a public cemetery may not feature a cross-shaped planter—because it might cause “emotional distress” to passers-by. (pp. 41-42)
So how did America degenerate into this twilight zone where the brutal killer of an old woman goes unpunished, but mourners must be protected from the emotionally distressing sight of a cross-shaped planter?
In answering that question, Kupelian recounts a piece of judicial history of which every American should be aware and too few are. As Kupelian reminds the reader, the First Amendment opens with the words: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Like the rest of the Constitution, the First Amendment was intended to restrain federal power. That’s why it explicitly restricts what Congress can enact. But in 1940, the Supreme Court, in Cantwell v. Connecticut, applied a legal doctrine called “incorporation” to the First Amendment. According to this doctrine, the First Amendment restricts not just Congress, but the states as well. (p. 54)
Working in tandem with the doctrine of incorporation is the notion of a “living, breathing” Constitution. According to this fallacy, the original intent of the drafters of the Constitution is irrelevant to its interpretation. The Constitution can legitimately be reinterpreted according to the whims and dictates of the moment. Thus the phrase “respecting an establishment of religion” can be perverted from its original prevention of the establishment of a national religion to an outright ban on any public religious expression.
As Kupelian insightfully points out, “[T]he illogic in all this is that if the Constitution—meant to be the standard by which we measure all other laws—can be changed on the whim of the current court, then we really have no Constitution.” (p. 53)
But Christianity faces an even more insidious enemy than America’s activist judges—itself. Some of Kupelian’s harshest criticism is aimed at the modern church. Rather than equipping young people to withstand the culture’s onslaught of evil, some churches deliberately appeal to the basest impulses of adolescents. For example, an Indiana youth pastor livened up a New Year’s Eve party with a game called Human Vegematic. He chewed up a mixture of dog food, sardines, meat, sauerkraut, cottage cheese, salsa, and eggnog, spat it into a glass, and asked his 13- and 14-year-old charges to drink it. (p. 231)
As Kupelian explains, degrading and foolish games like these, designed to attract young people to Christianity, are more likely to undermine its lessons by teaching kids to lose their inhibitions and give into peer pressure, while making the faith itself look insipid. (p. 232)
Even the Bible isn’t safe from the culture’s war on standards. Just as the Constitution is reinterpreted to fit the mores of the zeitgeist, so is the Good Book. One of the most traitorous translations of the Bible is the “Good as New” version. This version, which Kupelian reports has been endorsed by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, jumps headlong into modernity’s embrace of evil. For example, according to the King James Version, I Corinthians 7:8-9 reads: “I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” The Good as New version rewrites this as follows: “If you know you have strong needs, get yourself a partner. Better than being frustrated.” (pp. 217-18)
Regrettably, having provided documented evidence and insightful analysis of the way that modern snake oil salesmen pervert good and evil, Kupelian doesn’t offer any useful prescriptions.
Rather, he relies upon a future revival, which:
Will come to pass … when we all simply go to our rooms, close the door, take a deep breath, and take a good, long, hard, honest look at ourselves. And then, quietly and humbly and fervently, we ask the living God for help, for insight, for direction—for salvation.
When that happens, the spell with be broken, the sun will shine again, and every marketer of evil will have to go out and get an honest job. (p. 240)
No, they won’t. There will always be a market for evil in this world. And salvation is no guarantee against temptation. Fighting it requires more than sincere prayer. It requires wisdom, a critical mind, knowledge of one’s own weaknesses, and constant determination not to give into them. If fighting temptation was simple, we’d be doing it in the Garden of Eden.
But while Kupelian has failed to offer any useful strategies in the battle against evil, he has provided a valuable analysis of what the battle truly is, and for that his book is worth reading.
Cataloging campus outrages must be a time-consuming task, but The Collegiate Network has been doing this for some years. The Collegiate Network encourages conservative student journalists and monitors the atrocities on America’s college and university campuses. Evidently, there is enough nonsense on America’s campuses to keep this group busy.
In 2004, the big winners of the “Campus Outrage Awards” were Yale University and the University of California, Santa Barbara. For 2005, the schools recognized for the most lamentable atrocities were LeMoyne College, where a graduate student was expelled for defending spanking, as well as the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and Carnegie Mellon University.
Yale was recognized for its annual “Sex Week” on campus; an event started by students but now supported by Yale faculty members and administrators. Some of this year’s events were co-sponsored by Wicked Pictures, an “adult film company” that also provided one of its porn stars as a keynote speaker. The web site for the week is pornographic in itself—and that’s the point. Pornography is a big subject on college campuses today, not as a moral issue, but as a topic of academic “research.” That’s what won the tie for U.C. Santa Barbara. A student on that campus received accolades from administrators and professors for his thesis entitled, “Gay Men of Color in Porn.” According to the Collegiate Network’s press release, the presentation of this thesis “included showing clips from pornographic films and a lengthy discussion of how negative stereotypes of men of color in gay pornography adversely affects the men who watch it.” How’s that for missing the obvious?
What can explain the chaos on America’s elite college campuses? The undeniable fact is that education is in big trouble. Americans now lack any common conception of education in terms of its content or its process. The elite academic institutions of the nation have been taken hostage to the postmodern worldview and the educational system seems trapped in a web of confusion and politics. There is little hope for a secular recovery. The major institutions of higher education are now almost entirely captive to radical perspectives and the secular ideologies that compete for primacy on each campus. Though stalwart conservative professors continue to fight the good fight in these schools, they are outnumbered and outgunned.
This is a good time to remember that the Christian church has been the central patron of education in Western civilization. It was the church that developed the schools, established the medieval universities, and founded most of the great colleges and universities of this nation. The loss of so many great institutions should serve as a warning and an example—it will happen to any school that severs its commitments to Christian truth.
Far too many Christians neglect to pay attention to what is distinctively Christian about Christian education. In Romans 12:2, Paul wrote, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” That powerful sentence represents the very heart of Christian education. Rather than conforming to the prevailing worldview of the secular culture, Christian education is to be transformative—demonstrating the power of God’s truth in human lives.
A true Christian education is like a light shining in the darkness. In a day when the prevailing secular culture is not even certain that truth exists, Christian education is established in the name and to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
Transcendent truth, truth revealed by the living God, is the basis of all true education. We affirm that God’s truth is absolute, knowable, and unchanging. This very affirmation sets the Christian worldview apart from all others. Every worldview has a starting point for all thinking and certain propositions that frame all others. For Christianity, the existence of the self-revealing God, ultimately revealed in Jesus Christ, is the starting point for all other thoughts.
The modern academy is a circus of competing worldviews. Most of these highly secularized worldviews are of fairly recent vintage. Sadly, far too many Christians have succumbed to the spirit of the age and operate out of explicitly non-Christian worldviews. Claiming the name of Christ, they think and live out of a non-Christian frame of reference—often without even the slightest understanding of what they are doing. Like the fish in Aristotle’s parable, they do not even know they are wet.
A true Christian education is not only established in the transcendent truth of God’s Word, but encompasses a comprehensive Christian worldview. This worldview establishes reality in the eternal God who created the world, understands human beings as men and women made in God’s image, understands human sinfulness as the most basic problem of human existence, and points to the redemption accomplished through Jesus Christ our Lord as the only means of recovery.
While secular worldviews attract the attention of so many in the academy, an authentically Christian education must take root among God’s people. Christians must learn once again to be thinking disciples, constantly at work learning God’s truth for God’s glory.
This is no time for intellectual sloth or sloppiness. The secular world is hard at work, framing its secular worldviews and exercising an incalculable influence on the broader culture. Now is the time for vigorous Christian thinking, for the development of authentic Christian scholars who are able to confront the wisdom of the world. Generations to come will be shaped by the worldviews that prevail in this age. We dare not look on the battle of worldviews as mere spectators—we must enter the battle of ideas with both credibility and vigor.
The moral vacuum of the postmodern age is the direct result of an education that denies absolute truth and universal meaning. As C.S. Lewis once warned, such an educational system produces “men without chests.” They lack the crucial faculty of moral reasoning that links facts to feelings. Lewis warned that a generation of “men without chests” would lead to the virtual abolition of humanity.
A quick look at so much of what is produced by “modern scholarship” proves Lewis’ point. So much intellectual energy is committed to matters of virtually no consequence for peripheral issues of political correctness. The Christian worldview alone knows the unity of the good, the beautiful, and the true, refuses to separate fact from value, and insists that all truth finds its proper source and place in the one true and living God.
Without apology, we must stand for the total truthfulness of God’s Word and for the comprehensive meaningfulness of the Christian worldview. Ultimately, the only alternative to the Christian worldview is secular anarchy and a descent into moral oblivion. Just ask the students pondering Sex Week at Yale.
Albert einstein’s name has become synonymous with genius. Einstein didn’t drive a car, so he had a chauffer to take him from place to place. Once while on a lecture tour speaking about his theory of relativity, einstein’s chauffer said: “dr. Einstein, i’ve heard your lecture on relativity so often now, i believe i could give it myself.” “well, why don’t you do it,” said the brilliant scientist. “the people at the next university have never seen me and they won’t know who i am. You put on my clothes and i’ll wear your uniform and cap. You introduce me as your chauffer and i’ll introduce you as dr. Einstein.”
Everything went according to plan. The chauffer delivered the speech flawlessly. Einstein was sitting in the back of the lecture hall, enjoying it immensely. Then, something happened neither the chauffer nor einstein had expected. With some time left to spare, a question-and-answer period was allowed that precipitated a complicated, technical question from a mathematics professor that involved mathematical formulas the chauffer couldn’t possibly understand. Lacking the intellectual knowledge to get out of the jam, the chauffer, nonetheless, responded with considerable practical wisdom, saying: “sir, the answer to your question is so simple i can’t believe you asked me to answer it. Anybody can answer that question. And to prove my point, i’m going to have my chauffer come up and address it for you!”
Never has there been a day when wisdom, both intellectual and practical, was more needed than today. Yet, we’re not seeing much wisdom. In fact, we’re seeing just the opposite. No verse of holy scripture better speaks to our time concerning the need for wisdom than proverbs 1:20-23: “wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets: she crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she utttereth her words, saying, how long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? And the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof: behold, i will pour out my spirit unto you, i will make known my words unto you.”
Radio commentator michael savage is right when, in the title to his latest book, he claims liberalism is a mental disorder. It may sound savage, but savage says in his book that the liberalism of today is “made in much the same way as a sausage — it’s a blend of fascist, communist, and socialist ideologies from twentieth-century europe, with a pinch of nazism, all ground together, yet retaining the flavor of its various parts.” That’s an excellent description of the crazy political ideologies of liberalism!
Only those whose judgment has been profoundly diminished — whose ability to think and carefully weigh the facts, after witnessing the rioting of muslims around the world over something as silly as a cartoon — would still believe islam is essentially a peaceful religion. Only those who are not thinking straight would believe redefining marriage to allow same-sex couples to marry could ever be in the best interest of the nation. Only those who’ve been brainwashed by the screwy philosophies of our time would defend abortion, pornography, euthanasia, gambling, premarital sex, stem-cell research on embryos, the legalization of drugs and prostitution, removing the influence of prayer, bible reading, and the ten commandments from public life. This is all a form of madness!
In proverbs 1:20-23, king solomon, the wisest man who ever lived except for jesus christ, says that god calls men to wisdom and he makes it easily accessible. Wisdom “uttereth her voice in the streets,” “in the opening of the gates” and “in the city,” he writes. Yet, the “simple ones” still love “simplicity,” the “scorners delight in their scorning and fools hate knowledge.” The great bible commentator matthew henry writes concerning the rest of this text (v.23): “he [god] invites them to repent and become wise ... ‘turn you at my reproof,’ that is, return to your right mind, turn to god ...” God has promised to pour out his spirit of wisdom on those that look to him. “the means of this grace,” says henry, “is the word” [the word of god].
Real wisdom comes from god. Those who turn from their sins to christ, the living word, find it. And those who live by the inerrant written word, the bible, discover it. Other voices are simply unreliable and can lead to a darkened understanding, a defiled mind and conscience — much like what’s demonstrated in the many arguments of the atheists, the evolutionists, the theological modernists, and the secular humanists of today.
Many years ago, when mules were still used on the farm, one young farmer’s mule got sick. So he called his uncle joe, who once had a mule, and asked him what to do. “uncle joe,” asked the young fellow, “didn’t your mule get sick one time?” “yep,” said uncle joe. “what did you do?” Asked the young man. “well, i fed mine turpentine,” said uncle joe. Immediately, the young man hung up the telephone and went and fed his mule turpentine. To his surprise, however, his mule died. The young farmer called his uncle joe right away. “uncle joe,” he thundered over the telephone, “i thought you said you fed your sick mule turpentine.” “yep,” said uncle joe, “i did.” “well, i took your advice and it killed my mule,” said the young farmer. “yep, killed mine, too” said uncle joe.
One should be careful from whence he/she seeks wisdom. There is only one voice that will never lead us astray; only one voice of genuine wisdom — god’s voice, the one who calls out promising to give wisdom liberally to those who seek it (proverbs 1:20-23; james 1:5). To look elsewhere ultimately leads to a form of intellectual and spiritual insanity!
Rev. Mark H. Creech (Calact@Aol.Com) Is The Executive Director Of The Christian Action League Of North Carolina, Inc.
by Rebecca Hagelin
“Of course I dislike the Nazis. But who is to say they’re morally wrong?”
Whoa. If that statement floors you as much as it does me, then you probably can understand the need for “Christian Ethics in Plain Language,” an eye-opening book by Kerby Anderson that brings a biblical perspective to a variety of ethical issues, from abortion and euthanasia to drugs and gambling.
The statement above was spoken by a student at Hamilton College in New York. “Professor Roger Simon … said that he has never met a student who denied the Holocaust happened,” Anderson writes. “But he also reported that 10 to 20% of his students cannot bring themselves to say that killing millions of people is wrong.”
If this isn’t an indictment of how modern society has deified “tolerance,” nothing is. What could illustrate the dangerous folly of moral relativism more perfectly than a student who can’t admit that mass murder is wrong — not because of his feelings but because it’s a fact? A society of people who cannot condemn the Nazis is a society courting moral anarchy.
Anderson, the national director of Probe Ministries International, is well equipped to deliver the wake-up call that this student and his misguided peers need. An accomplished writer and speaker, as well as co-host of the popular radio show “Point of View” (heard on USA Radio Network), Anderson knows how to communicate effectively. His book is ideal for the time-pressed layman. As the title hints, “Christian Ethics in Plain Language” is succinct and accessible, which makes the job of being a Christian parent or teacher that much easier.
Take the chapter on abortion. In only 14 pages, Anderson gives us a history of this abhorrent practice, a brief description of the various abortion methods and an array of arguments against abortion — biblical, philosophical and medical. Readers get a section titled “Answers to Pro-Abortion Rhetoric” and one on stem cell research. The chapter on drugs is similar, with a look at the various types of drugs and their effects, answers to pro-legalization arguments and a biblical perspective.
Parents will find the chapter on sexual ethics particularly helpful. It includes information on teen sexuality, school-based clinics and sex education. Anderson also marshals a variety of studies that show why condoms are far less effective than we’ve been led to believe — and then explodes the so-called “comprehensive” approach to sex education with a telling quote from a New York Times reporter:
“I was sitting at a table with half a dozen 16-year-old girls, listening with some amazement as they showed off their knowledge of human sexuality. They knew how long sperm lived inside the body and how many women out of 100 using a diaphragm were statistically likely to get pregnant. One girl recited the steps of the ovulation cycle from day one to day twenty-eight. There was just one problem with this performance. Every one of the girls was pregnant.”
The lesson here is clear. Mere knowledge isn’t enough. It never has been, and it never will be. What matters is what we do with what we know. Return, for a moment, to the Nazi example: Does anyone doubt that Hitler and his minions were intelligent? No one calls them dumb. In fact, they combined their intelligence with a sickening moral depravity — i.e., ignorance or indifference to fixed definitions of right and wrong — to commit their heinous crimes.
It may seem like the height of sophistication to think that we can (or should) load our children with facts and figures and then leave it up to them to decide what’s right and wrong. In fact, it’s a moral abdication of our duties as parents. No, we can’t make our children see the truth. But we do them a grave disservice if we fail to show them, in word and deed, right from wrong on the most critical issues.
Even the best parent, of course, can use a little help — and that’s where Anderson’s marvelous book comes in handy. But “Christian Ethics in Plain Language” isn’t just for parents; it’s for anyone looking for concise, well-documented answers to the pressing ethical questions of our day. Want to know what the Bible says about cohabitation? What the social effects of pornography are? How to respond to questions about capital punishment, artificial reproduction and genetic engineering? It’s all there.
“We need a clear understanding of the moral issues of our age,” Anderson writes. Mission accomplished.
by Nathanael Blake
“They’re going to have sex anyway.”
This – with “they” including everyone past puberty who isn’t mentally or physically disabled – is generally considered a fait accompli; restraining youthful libidos is as futile as Xerxes’ scouring of the Hellespont.
And disability won’t serve to excuse one for long: in Denmark and Belgium physically handicapped men are demanding that welfare cover the cost of the prostitutes they hire, and The New York Times recently reported on a “new movement to promote healthy sexuality” for the mentally handicapped in America.
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To understand modern American society, it is necessary to realize that most view fornication and promiscuity as inevitable. Furthermore, those who have embraced libertinism in their own lives are not going to object to it in the lives of others. And if it is axiomatic that people will have sex, consequences be damned, responsible policies must consist of mitigating these consequences, rather than reducing the root cause of behavior.
For example, whenever abortion is discussed, it is presumed by one side that unwanted pregnancies will happen unless young men and women are outfitted with more and better prophylactics. Hence the cant that those who oppose abortion ought to be handing out condoms like the Gideons hand out Bibles. It is inconceivable to the modern mind that any rational person could oppose abortion and birth control.
The only way to reduce the first is to provide the second, because the kids can’t refrain from sex. There they lay, they can do no other.
Of course, there is a problem with this narrative. While most young men and women are having sex, some aren’t. The general response to this inconvenient fact takes two forms. The first is to assert that these abstainers simply can’t get any – they would be having sex if they could, but they’re too pathetic to attract anyone. The second is the claim that they must be a bunch of undersexed saps.
But these don’t stand up under scrutiny. What about the guy who was getting laid, converted to Christianity, and then remained chaste until marriage years later? Or the fellow who remained a virgin until marriage, but got really busy afterward? While the theories offered above might satisfy the desire to insult those who cleave to sexual standards, they’re ridiculous when scrutinized.
This is a problem for the defenders of promiscuity. If some aren’t having sex, despite having the urges and opportunities of everyone else, then the differences arise from neither situation nor inclination. This implies that we are not slaves to our hormones, which implies a free moral choice. And for those supporting the emulation of Casanova and Messalina, morals are something best left out of the discussion. It’s easier to argue for the inevitability of such behavior than for its morality.
But they do their best, declaring that the only moral wrong in regard to sex is to not have any. Chastity is the unhealthy repression of natural urges that ought to be freely indulged. This view finds merit in licentiousness and neurosis in virtue in terms ripped from Huxley’s Brave New World.
The modern mind’s need for this is easily seen. The alternative would be to admit that the ancient traditions and taboos that have been violated with impunity of late, were indeed of value. This would necessarily impute moral guilt to those who willingly violated those standards. If it can’t be argued that the hormones made someone do it, the only out is to say that it is morally right, and that those who fail to recognize such are either unhealthily neurotic, or guilty of moral misjudgment. The former is much preferred, because it allows the verdict a veneer of scientific respectability when coated with various psychological terms.
This stifles honest debate, because one side views the other as unrealistic, slightly loony, and judgmental. The last arises because those who have violated standards of sexual behavior will feel personally condemned when those standards are advocated, no matter how generally the argument is phrased.
Hence the common assertion that conservatives are “obsessed with sex.” Examined objectively, it’s a silly statement. Conservatives, by definition, are seeking to conserve; when sexual standards are attacked conservatives will attempt their preservation. It’s readily apparently that the interest conservatives have in societal sexual mores arises in reaction to liberal attempts to abolish those mores. Anyone interested in retaining the traditions of our society is forced to grapple with the changes in our culture’s view of sex.
Only a couple years ago, we were assiduously assured that the idea of gay marriage legitimized polygamy was a “red herring.” Now, Newsweek is running stories on a rising tide of polygamy activists who are taking their cues from the gay marriage movement.
How did it come to this? Most people aren’t polygamists or homosexuals, so why are they so willing to acquiesce to the demands of these minorities that the fundamental unit of society be changed to accommodate them, in defiance of thousands of years of Western civilization? The reason is that most people are serially monogamous, which is also a violation of the traditional standards of our culture. And people who are busily abolishing taboos for themselves are not likely to enforce related taboos.
For instance, proclaiming gay marriage to be morally repugnant is a declaration whose implications extend well beyond gay marriage. It is an appeal to a code of conduct that modern man has violated and repudiated, and knows himself to be condemned by. Even the living of a chaste life is a silent condemnation of those who are not, for it announces a belief in a standard of sexual conduct. Thus our culture is determined to imprecate what was formerly considered virtue, for any adherence to a moral standard is offensive to those in violation of it.
The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life
by Ramesh Ponnuru
Regnery, 320 pp., $27.95
RAMESH PONNURU’S READERS already know that he is a political writer of considerable intelligence and skill. Now, in his first book, he demonstrates the talent to become an author of considerable influence. His prose is clear and to the point, and the logic of his narrative compels the reader toward accepting the author’s conclusions.
At the same time, Ponnuru refrains from engaging in the kind of bitter vituperation and personal invective against those with whom he disagrees that fouls so much of contemporary political discourse. It is refreshing that, in a book that considers some of the most controversial and emotional issues of our time, the meanest thing about The Party of Death is its provocative title.
Ponnuru covers a broad swath of hot-potato cultural and political issues, ranging from abortion, to embryonic stem cell research, to assisted suicide, to the mainstream media’s general incompetence and bias in covering these issues. And while he doesn’t quite accuse the Democratic party as a whole of representing the “party of death,” he comes very close. More precisely, Ponnuru effectively demonstrates that the national Democratic party (there are plenty of local pro-life Democrats) is the primary engine driving our country toward accepting killing as an answer to life’s difficulties and a solution to the problems associated with human suffering.
The author’s primary target is Roe v. Wade. And here, his thesis about Democrats is unassailable. Supporting the “right to choose” is an uber litmus test for any ambitious party member seeking national influence. Indeed, Ponnuru identifies nationally influential pro-choice Democrats who began their political careers in the pro-life camp: Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Dick Gephardt, and Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, who used to boast that he had five times served as master of ceremonies at Springfield pro-life rallies, but who now supports partial-birth abortion. Even Delaware senator Joe Biden, who is running for president, once voted to amend the Constitution to reverse Roe.
This is in stark contrast to the big tent Democratic Party of yore that took a far more ecumenical view of abortion. Indeed, some of the party’s most esteemed leaders of the past were pro-life, including Hubert Humphrey and Edmund Muskie. The Democratic party “was the party of the little guy,” Ponnuru quips. “Yet somehow, it turned its back on the littlest guy of all.”
The first third of the book effectively deconstructs most, but not all, of the arguments in favor of abortion rights. Ponnuru quotes embryology textbooks to demonstrate unequivocally that, scientifically, human biological life begins with the completion of fertilization. This refutes Mario Cuomo’s nonsensical assertion that only religious belief leads to the conclusion that life begins at conception. Then Ponnuru smacks down Cuomo like a professional wrestling champion when he quotes the governor’s 1984 Notre Dame speech, in which Cuomo made the stunning assertion that today’s Roman Catholic Church should be as “realistic” about abortion as it was about slavery in the pre-Civil War era, an evil the Holy See apparently failed to condemn unequivocally.
“It is a mark of contemporary liberalism’s commitment to abortion,” Ponnuru writes, “that one of its leading lights should have been willing to support temporizing on slavery in order to defend it.”
But Ponnuru doesn’t confront as forcefully the primary reason abortion is legal up to and including the moment just prior to birth. This involves competing liberty interests: the right to life of the unborn human being versus the right to personal autonomy of the already-born woman.
Abortion is legal not because a fetus isn’t really a human being, or even because it isn’t deemed a “person,” a philosophical and bioethical notion that attributes moral value to possessing minimal cognitive capacities. Rather, the real nexus of the debate is whether or under what circumstances society should be able to force a pregnant woman to do with her body that which she does not wish to do, namely gestate and give birth. Ponnuru does not sufficiently explain why (in his view) a woman’s autonomy right should come second to the right to life of a fetus, particularly early in pregnancy.
He does, however, identify the right question to ask about this and other comparable issues: Does human life have intrinsic value simply because it is human? Answering in the affirmative is crucial to achieving universal human rights. Otherwise, who matters more and who matters less—who lives and who dies—depends on who has the power to decide. Moreover, Ponnuru demonstrates that the wrong answer is the key that opens the door to various killing practices beyond
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abortion. These include euthanasia, treating nascent and cognitively disabled humans as mere natural resources (embryonic stem cell research, cloned fetal farming, organ harvesting from patients in a persistent vegetative state, etc.), and resurrecting eugenics policies that would not only wipe out people with Down Syndrome, which is already happening, but also potentially lead to genetic engineering aimed at creating a “post-human” race of superbeings.
Ponnuru shows that the national Democratic party is either enthusiastically supportive of these other agendas, or at least more likely to be friendly to them. Indeed, while embryonic stem cell research divides Republicans, supporting embryonic stem cell research and human therapeutic cloning are now almost as much a litmus test for national Democrats as is supporting abortion. Ponnuru illustrates this point by ridiculing Ron Reagan’s hyping of the curative potential of human cloning in his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention. He also names some Republican supporters of cloning and embryonic stem cell research as adjunct members of the party of death. Anti-abortion senator Orrin Hatch of Utah apparently believes that the location of an embryo determines whether it is human, while Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter, who once said that he would never support creating embryos for research, now supports therapeutic cloning that would do just that.
Democrats are also more likely to support legalizing assisted suicide, although it must be said that the great sorting-out between the parties on this issue is not nearly as sharp as it was with abortion. Perhaps this is because one of the Democrats’ primary constituencies is the disability rights movement, which also happens to implacably oppose assisted suicide.
Ponnuru closes by ruminating on the potential political impact of the demise of Roe v. Wade. While some believe it would hurt the Republican party, he is not so sure: In the end, he hopes, allowing the people actually to decide the extent to which abortion should be legal may eventually result in the demise of the cultural party of death:
If abortion had not become the law of the land, we might not now be debating euthanasia or the killing of human embryos for research purposes. The same process might work in reverse. The more we reject abortion, the more we might come to reject other choices for death, too. . . . Most Americans already know that abortion is wrong. If Roe falls—when it falls—pro lifers will be able to demonstrate another truth about abortion: We can live without it.
Agree or disagree with Ramesh Ponnuru’s measured, yet passionate, defense of the pro-life cause, The Party of Death is a book worthy of being read and pondered.
Wesley J. Smith is the author, most recently, of a revised and updated Forced Exit: Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide, and the New Duty to Die.
Jenni Murray has made her pact with death. The popular and controversial presenter of “Woman’s Hour,” a popular program on the BBC, stated her views on a recent television program called “Don’t Get Me Started,” broadcast in Great Britain.
Murray, who is a member of the Order of the British Empire, announced on the program that she had entered into a “suicide pact” with two friends who agreed to kill each other if illness or incapacity should leave them unable to commit suicide.
“When my time comes I want to be able to decide about my destiny,” Murray stated, offering her own “personal rant” about the issues of euthanasia, assisted suicide, and mercy killing. Murray’s two friends, Sally Feldman and Jane Wilton, discussed how they came to this conclusion and then agreed to seal their pact with a formal document of agreement.
As the friends discussed their plans to end each other’s lives, Feldman told Murray that she would be willing to help her die only if she were suffering extreme pain or had “lost her marbles.” According to The Times [London], Murray, Feldman, and Wilton discussed possible methods of bringing about death such as “injections or smothering one another with a pillow.”
In delivering her “personal rant” Murray complained that assisted suicide is illegal in Great Britain only because it is demanded by a “religious minority” who hold to outdated views concerning the value of human life. Furthermore, this “religious minority” also holds to the quaint belief that children have a moral obligation to care for elderly parents.
Murray began her argument by suggesting that she did not want to be a burden to her own two children as she reaches advanced years. Nevertheless, she shocked her television audience by suggesting that she does not want to be “trapped” into caring for her own mother who is currently ill with Parkinson’s disease.
In response to controversy, a BBC spokesperson said: “Jenni is angry that, having fought so hard to become liberated and independent, woman are now being trapped into caring for dependent parents.”
Without doubt, this dimension of Murray’s argument—and the revealing statement released by the BBC—demonstrates the true nature of her pact with death. It is not just about ending her own life, but the obligation of others to die and get out of the way, lest they interfere with her own life plans.
Increasingly, arguments for “assisted suicide” and euthanasia are moving from claims of a supposed “right” to die to an obligation to die. The argument reflects the fact that, according to its proponents, an inordinate percentage of medical costs are directed towards the end stages of terminal diseases and the final years of life. With a rapidly aging population, the escalation of these costs is a fact that must be faced by all advanced societies.
Beyond this, the developing argument for a “duty to die” moves directly toward the concerns of Jenni Murray—concerns related to lifestyle issues and the question of whether there is any obligation to care for dependent parents.
Controversies over assisted suicide and euthanasia are now raging on both sides of the Atlantic. Of course, there are plenty of intellectuals and professional bioethicists ready to help make the case for a right or obligation to end one’s life.
In Great Britain, the most significant of these advocates is Mary Warnock, one of Britain’s most influential philosophers and, since 1985, Baroness Warnock of Weeke.
Warnock first came to international attention when she served as chair of the official British committee that established the basic framework for rules on in vitro fertilization in 1984. Now, after establishing herself as a major secular figure pushing the limits of modern morality, she has turned to the question of euthanasia and suicide.
In an interview published in Philosophy Now, Baroness Warnock declares that “it is high time that people spoke honestly about assisted dying.” In her view, the law ought to be changed so that persons can gain legal assistance in committing suicide. “What horrifies me most is that people, mostly old people, who are not competent anymore, are just allowed to wither away,” she stated. “Nobody has any policy about this at all; it just happens.”
Of course, there is a current policy—a policy that declares assisted suicide to be illegal. Speaking of herself, Baroness Warnock revealed that she would rather commit suicide than die in a “very slow process.”
In her own words: “I simply couldn’t bear to get into the position where my children began to feel, ‘Oh God, I think we better go and see her.’ I couldn’t bear it. And I see no point in living if one were ga-ga. I wouldn’t want to. One way or another I’d much rather die.”
For a woman whose academic work is marked by specificity and careful argument, this is particularly slippery. What is the medical definition of “ga-ga?”
Apparently, Baroness Warnock is, at least for now, ready to let individuals decide if they are burdens or not. But, she concedes that some elderly persons may feel the need to end their own lives, feeling, rightly or wrongly, that they have become a burden to their families.
When asked about the possibility that an elderly person might wrongly believe they are considered to be a burden by their families, Baroness Warnock responded: “This is one of those ‘slippery slope’ arguments. One can’t rule it out that they might feel they ought to. But then, I don’t know if that’s such a terribly bad outcome, because their family if they’re nice will say ‘you’re not a burden’ even if they are really. I don’t see why people should particularly want to stay alive if they’re not enjoying themselves. But if they are enjoying themselves, put up with it. I think that’s the criterion I’d use.”
In Baroness Warnock’s view, “I don’t think people any longer ought to suppose they should go on living the whole of their possible natural lives, because we all live so much longer these days.”
In Baroness Mary Warnock, we meet the face of the modern secular worldview. She is undoubtedly intelligent and clever, having served in a variety of illustrious and respected positions in academia and public life. There are few issues of public policy and debate in Great Britain which are not marked by her influence or leadership.
Interestingly, on the issue of assisted suicide Baroness Warnock is uncomfortable with the idea of a “right” to die. In her view, rights do not exist unless they are written into the positive law.
In other words, she rejects the entire structure of natural law argument, suggesting that there are virtually no natural rights. Of course, given the fact that she denies any divine or natural law, she is put in a position of great difficulty when she suggests that there is any basic “ought” to a moral question. In the end, the Baroness seems to suggest that euthanasia should not be a debate over either religion or rights. Instead, persons should simply be allowed this option, perhaps in light of the larger social obligation.
“I believe that people who are competent and suffering and who say they want to die should be able to do so, but I don’t think I base that belief on their autonomy, or not in any very general sense,” she insists. “I think that the decision should be theirs because they are the people who are suffering.” Finally, “I’m not particularly keen on a morality of rights anyway: given the many conflicting rights, one doesn’t quite know what one can claim as a right.”
In her view, objections to euthanasia or assisted suicide must be rooted in some form of religious argument. “I know a lot of people have religious objections to it, and of course they’re entitled to them; but I don’t see any reason why the religious view should be imposed on the people who aren’t religious.” In other words, a secular view should simply be imposed upon public policy. Yet, the most basic question remains: how can one construct a workable policy on a matter as significant as human dignity from an entirely secular worldview?
Moving beyond these questions, Baroness Warnock even suggests that the medical profession has “had too much input into the whole discussion.” As she sees it, the crucial issues are not medical, but social. In an article published in The Guardian [London], Baroness Warnock complained that many medical doctors seemed to be squeamish about the issue of assisted suicide. Indeed, the vast majority of British doctors are publicly opposed to current efforts to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide.
As Baroness Warnock recalled, “One imminent physician to whom I spoke said: ‘I would not be able to do it. I am programmed not to kill.’” Responding with the case of an elderly person who wished to have her ventilator turned off, Baroness Warnock stated this: “We should be grateful to the medical profession that, on the whole, we can trust them to try to keep us alive rather than kill us. Yet there is something chilling about a doctor ‘programmed’ to disregard the serious desire of an intelligent and far-sighted woman, even though compliance with her wish has been deemed lawful.”
These arguments reveal the great divide that separates the modern secular mind and the Christian worldview. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more unbridgeable gulf than that which stands between the belief that human beings, made in the image of God, possess both an inherent right to natural life and an obligation to care for others and, on the other hand, the view that some lives are simply not worth living or keeping alive.
Jenni Murray and Baroness Mary Warnock know exactly what they mean to argue. Murray’s suicide pact and Warnock’s public argument may indicate a shift in public opinion in both Great Britain and the United States. Will individuals understand what is at stake when Baroness Warnock declares, “In other contexts sacrificing oneself for one’s family would be considered good. I don’t see what is so horrible about the motive of not wanting to be an increasing nuisance . . . . I am not ashamed to say some lives are more worth living than others?” Will the viewers of Jenni Murray’s television program rise up in indignation when she declares that she does not want to be “trapped” into caring for her mother? Will the BBC face outrage when its spokesperson defends this statement by suggesting that the care of elderly parents threatens to limit the lifestyles and professional careers of “liberated and independent” women?
All that remains to be seen, though this debate seems to be taking an ominous turn on both sides of the Atlantic. In the meantime, these arguments should demand the attention of all persons who believe in the inherent dignity of human life. We are witnessing the embrace of a pact with death.
By Kathryn Jean Lopez
One day last January, Jonathan Tonkowich was sitting in math class at Thomas Aquinas College in southern California, daydreaming about how to do something constructive for the pro-life cause. What he came up with was Wash for Life, which will make its debut on Sept. 16.
His idea: Local pro-life youth groups in all 50 states will help raise money for the local crisis-pregnancy centers. The Wash for Lifers already have over 180 groups in 38 states set to wash cars that Saturday morning. “Car washes are the classic way that youth groups raise money for anything,” Jon tells me. “It made sense to make it a national day with thousands of youth participating so that youth would get excited, and we could make it into a story that tells that this generation is pro-life.”
Is he right? Is his generation pro-life? It could be trending in that direction. In 2004, UCLA’s annual poll of U.S. college freshmen found student support for legal abortion at its lowest level (54%) since the poll began in 1977. Glamour last year noted the “mysterious disappearance of young pro-choice women,” pointing to a 2003 CBS/New York Times poll that found only 35% of women 18-29 responded that “abortion should be available to anyone who wants it”; in 1993, it had been 50%.
“Unbelievably shocking,” said Alexander Sanger, head of Planned Parenthood. “Isn’t it obvious that young women have to be at the forefront of fighting for their reproductive rights because they’re the ones who need them?”
It’s certainly not obvious to Ingrid Mitchell, who works with Tonkowich on Wash for Life, “I worked for a shelter for unwed mothers for a summer and got to experience the courage these women have, and how much they need support and strength. These centers deserve to be recognized for the amazing help they give to women every day.”
Wash for Life brings some much-needed positive attention to the work the crisis-pregnancy centers (CPCs) do, in reaching out to women — and girls — who may have no other support. CPCs tend to be full of unnoticed heroes — brave women and the staff and volunteers who help them get what they need to mother their children.
I get the same encouraging vibe from another young woman, Danielle Huntley, a law student at Boston College. Huntley, president of Students for Life of America, says, “The Wash for Life idea is excellent, because it creates an event that young pro-lifers can nationally unite around. College students are particularly interested in working with CPCs because they see it as a concrete way that they can live out their pro-life convictions. I think many students also view it as a resource that more women on campus need to know about, because CPCs provide the resources — emotional, spiritual and material — that women do not receive from their campus health services.”
There’s no doubt these kids get the life part of “pro-life.” They’re passionate about saving specific lives. Kristin Hansen, spokeswoman for Care Net, a coalition of crisis-pregnancy centers whose database Wash for Life has used as a starting ground for making connections, says that in her experience young men and women like Tonkowich and Ingrid are more the rule than the exception: “We are seeing more young pro-lifers move in a similar direction as Wash for Life, with a desire to directly help the woman in need — and do more than march.”
This Sept. 16, young Americans will be getting their hands dirty. No aborted-fetus placards, no empty rhetoric; just good old-fashioned neighborly support for a member of the community. And when you ask them why they’re raising their rags to your windows, you might be as impressed and encouraged as I am. Almost 34 years after Roe, we might be getting somewhere — at least if these kids have anything to say about it.
By Chuck Colson
Christianity and the Triumph of the West
When you hear the word “globalization,” you probably think of Chinese factories or customer service centers in India. What you probably don’t think about is Christianity. Yet globalization and Christianity are linked in ways you may never have imagined.
Globalization is about more than markets and technology. It’s also about the spread across national boundaries of ideas and values—in other words, culture. While the spread and exchange of culture flow in many different directions, the ideas and values most associated with globalization are those of the West.
And this is where Christianity comes in. In his marvelous book, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success, Rodney Stark writes that “Christianity created Western Civilization.” Without Christianity’s commitment to “reason, progress, and moral equality, today the entire world would be about where non-European societies were in, say, 1800.”
This would be a world “with many astrologers and alchemists but no scientists. A world of despots, lacking universities, banks, factories, eyeglasses, chimneys, and pianos.” The “modern world,” to which globalization aspires, “arose only in Christian societies. Not in Islam. Not in Asia. Not in a ‘secular’ society—there having been none.”
Needless to say, Stark’s conclusions aren’t popular with academics and other intellectuals and have been savaged by liberal reviewers. These folks are all-too-happy to blame Christianity for some of the darker episodes in Western history, but they’re not about to give the faith credit for the Western success.
No matter. Non-westerners see the connection. For example, Chinese scholars were asked to “look into what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world.” After considering possible military, economic, political and cultural explanations, they concluded that the answer lay in what the Chinese scholars saw as the “heart” of the West’s pre-eminent culture: Christianity.
These non-Christian and non-western scholars had “no doubt” that “the Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and the successful transition to democratic politics.”
Apparently, many of their countrymen agree. Whereas there were approximately 2 million Christians in China when Mao came to power in 1949, today there are upwards of 100 million. What’s more, Christianity is especially popular among the “best-educated” and most modern Chinese.
Why? Because like people everywhere, except, ironically, in the West, they see Christianity as “intrinsic to becoming modern.” For them, Christianity is an alternative to a way of life that bred misery and oppression. They understand Christianity’s role in the rise of the West, even as Western elites deny the connection.
Of course, this isn’t the primary reason that Christianity is “becoming globalized far more rapidly than is democracy, capitalism or modernity.” That is due to the proclamation of the Gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit.
Still, it’s a powerful reminder of how Christianity transforms not only individual lives but entire societies, as well.
By Chuck Colson
Christianity and Freedom
Last week, President Bush took part in ceremonies commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Hungary’s 1956 uprising against its Soviet occupiers. According to the president, the Hungarians taught the world that “Liberty can be delayed, but it cannot be denied.”
While the president was right, that still leaves the question: Who taught the Hungarians, or the West, for that matter, about freedom? What moved the Hungarians to give their lives to be free? Unfortunately, most Americans haven’t got a clue where this belief originated. If pressed, they might guess the American Revolution or maybe even Enlightenment figures like John Locke.
But as Rodney Stark tells us in his classic work The Victory of Reason, Locke and others built on a foundation laid by Christianity. According to Stark, Western ideas about democracy and equality stem from “the central Christian doctrine that . . . inequality in the most important sense does not exist . . .”
By the eleventh century, the Christian belief that we are all made in God’s image and therefore equal “in the eyes of God and in the world to come” brought an end to slavery in Europe. Slavery only returned after Christianity’s cultural influence had waned.
Another way that Christianity contributed to our concept of freedom was its stress on the individual, especially in the moral realm. The Christian idea of Free Will meant that, instead of being captives to fate, people were responsible for their actions and choices. As a result, people increasingly saw themselves as having control over their lives. Western ideas about freedom are rooted in this Christian understanding of the individual.
In addition to changing the way ordinary people thought about themselves, Western Christianity changed the way people thought about governance. The idea that there are limits to the sovereign’s power over his subjects is a distinctly Christian one. It became particularly clear during the Reformation that there were aspects of life over which the king had no legitimate authority. The Reformers called it “sphere sovereignty” – every sphere carrying out its own responsibility before God.
These limits on state power, as Stark tells us, weren’t limited to Church matters. Christianity insisted that “the state must respect private property and not intrude on the freedom of its citizens to pursue virtue.” This is one reason President Bush so frequently says freedom is a God-given gift to all humanity.
Sadly, this isn’t what’s being taught in our schools today. Instead, students are taught that freedom resulted from putting as much distance between us and our Christian past as possible.
This is what Stark calls the “myth” of the “Dark Ages.” Like many myths, it has little basis in fact, but it reflects what some people need to be true if their secularist worldview is to make sense.
This not only does violence to the past, but it also hurts the present. It leaves people unable to understand why “all men and women should be free.” Clearly as modern Western nations (including our own) continue to distance themselves from Christianity, they imperil their freedom. A sobering, cautionary thought for us as we prepare next week to celebrate our freedom.
By Chuck Colson
Scientism, Crowbars, and Bats
The late Stephen Jay Gould at Harvard used to describe religion and science as occupying “non-overlapping magisterial authority,” or what he called NOMA. That is, science and religion occupied different “domains,” or areas of life, in which each held “the appropriate tools for meaningful discourse and resolution.”
There were many problems with Gould’s approach, but at least a lack of respect for religion and religious people wasn’t one of them. Not so with some of today’s scientists.
The New York Times reported on a conference recently held in Costa Mesa, California, that turned into the secular materialist equivalent of a revival meeting.
Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg told attendees that “the world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief.” According to Weinberg, “anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization.”
Another Nobel laureate, chemist Sir Harold Kroto, suggested that the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion be given to Richard Dawkins for his new book The God Delusion.
Continuing the theme, Carolyn Porco of the Space Science Institute called for teaching “our children from a very young age about the story of the universe and its incredible richness and beauty.”
In case you were in doubt about which worldview would inform this “catechesis,” she then added: “It is already so much more glorious and awesome—and even comforting—than anything offered by any scripture or God concept I know.”
Attempts at a Gould-like détente between religion and science didn’t sit well with this crowd. A presentation by Stanford biologist Joan Roughgarden on how to make evolution more acceptable to Christians was disrupted by Dawkins himself who called it “bad poetry.”
After a while, the rancor and stridency got to be too much for some of the attendees. One scientist called it a “den of vipers” where the only debate is “should we bash religion with a crowbar or only with a baseball bat?”
Another, physicist Lawrence Krauss, chided them, saying “science does not make it impossible to believe in God . . . [and] we should recognize that fact . . . and stop being so pompous about it.”
Fat chance. What’s behind all of this animosity? It is a worldview known as “scientism,” the belief that there is no supernatural, only a material world. And it will not countenance any rivals. It is a “jealous god.”
As Weinberg’s comments illustrate, it regards any other belief system other than scientism as irrational and the enemy of progress. Given the chance, as in the former Soviet Union, it wants to eliminate its rivals. It is no respecter of pluralism.
But this really exposes the difference between the worldviews of these scientists and Christians. We welcome science; it’s the healthy exploration of God’s world. The greatest scientists in history have been Christians who believe science was possible only in a world that was orderly and created by God. We don’t rule out any natural phenomenon.
The naturalists, on the other hand, rule out even science that tends to show intelligence, because that might lead to a God. Now, who is narrow-minded?
By Chuck Colson
After September 11, 2001, you may recall that many members of the press were going around asking plaintively, “Why do they hate us?” Some journalists seemed to imply that if we could just be a little nicer, a little more “tolerant,” the jihadists would opt for a group hug instead of terrorism.
I’m pretty sure those pundits and reporters would not have expected—or liked—the answer that Mark Steyn gives in his excellent new book, America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It. As Steyn sees it, one major reason the Islamo-fascists hate us is not that our beliefs are inimical to theirs, but that more and more of us believe in nothing at all beyond self-indulgence. And they look down on us for this—but they are also learning how to use it to their advantage.
As Steyn points out, and as my colleague Roberto Rivera has written, an important factor in radical Islam’s spread is simply a matter of demographics. Native Europeans, addicted to an affluent and self-centered lifestyle, are not having babies, and radical Muslims are. But there’s more to it than that. Observing the rapid growth of radical Islam in Europe, Steyn writes, “If you’re a teenager in most European cities these days, you’ve a choice between two competing identities—a robust confident Islamic identity or a tentative post-nationalist cringingly apologetic European identity.”
Radical Islam is not luring Europeans away from a solid belief system; it’s providing many of them with the first real belief system they have ever had. It’s filling a void for people who have nothing else to believe in or hold on to.
Secularists in Europe—and in America as well—do not understand this. As Steyn writes, “One reason why the developed world has a difficult job grappling with the Islamist threat is that it doesn’t take religion seriously. It condescends to it.” That condescension makes secularists unable to see what’s going on right under their noses.
It’s similar to the situation that’s been going on in our prisons for years now, which I’ve talked about several times on “BreakPoint.” Prisoners all share one thing: a need for something to fill the emptiness in their lives. We have seen this in the thousands of prisons we work in. Radical Islamists know this, and they have made a point of targeting prisoners for conversion. Their brand of religion offers people that sense of belonging, of something worth living and dying for, that people need—the very thing that postmodern secular societies do not offer. And that’s a big part of what makes radical Islam so dangerous.
As Steyn put it in a recent interview for our “BreakPoint” website, “[Radical] Islam is a weak enemy, and its strength is determined by what it’s pushing against.” The problem is that Europe and, increasingly, America are putting up very little resistance. If Christians won’t stand up for our worldview, and secularists won’t stand up for anything, one day we may have no one but ourselves to blame for the triumph of radical Islam. The greatest offense against aggressive Islam is a strong, vibrant Christian faith, which, of course, comes right down to you and me.
Christians are constantly asking themselves how they can transform “the culture.” The way to do it, according to one of the foremost thinkers on the intersection of faith and culture, is to create culture.
Andy Crouch, executive producer of Intersect|Culture, a series of short documentary films, calls it “culture-making.”
“As I was thinking about cultural transformation I became convinced that culture changes when people actually make more and better culture,” he said in an interview with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s Student Soul.
“If we want to transform culture, what we actually have to do is to get into the midst of the human cultural project and create some new cultural goods that reshape the way people imagine and experience their world,” said Crouch.
It’s an ever-changing America and culture’s constant has always been changed.
Yet in the past, Christians largely tended to condemn culture or avoid it, which fails to actually change it. And Christians are known for being critical and not people who are creative, Crouch pointed out.
“How many boycotts really work?” he said. “If all we do is stay away from the movie theater, then that theater is still going to show movies.”
Over the decades, condemning culture turned into critiquing it, then copying, and now, Christians are consuming culture.
“If all we do is just go to whatever movies are being shown, that isn’t going to change what’s being offered to the public either,” Crouch added.
The only way to transform culture, or in this case change what’s being shown at the movie theater, is to make something different.
“It’s only when you make something different that the culture of the movie theater or the movie industry will change.”
The latest example of that is a local Baptist church in Albany, Ga., that produced a Christian movie and released it nationwide. “Facing the Giants” by Sherwood Productions raked in more than $10 million in 15 weeks and the church was applauded by Christian leaders for engaging the culture in outreach efforts.
“We seek the transformation of every culture but how we do it is by actually making culture,” said Crouch.
Crouch visited five “very different” cultural environments in North America to shoot short documentary films for Intersect|Culture. The films encourage Christians to change the cultural context around them, such as a local neighborhood, rather than the mass culture.
“Cultural change almost always starts small,” he noted.
Crouch is editorial director for The Christian Voice Project at Christianity Today International. He was the editor-in-chief of re:generation quarterly magazine for an emerging generation of culturally creative Christians and served as campus minister with InterVarsity at Harvard University.
Speaking to believers in the 21st century, Crouch called Christians to now take the step from consuming culture to creating it.
“When you become creative, when you become someone whose life is about what you’re doing with other people to shape the culture, the appeal of just consuming diminishes.”
As you well know, there is a spiritual war going on for this young generation. We see the evidence of it all around us every day—young people are broken and hurting. The battle that is raging is not just a spiritual battle for the hearts and souls of youth, but also a cultural one. And as Christian adults, we must also become involved in this culture war that is raging.
If we look around, it is not hard to see that culture is being shaped by many people who don’t believe the Bible and are often hostile to the values of our faith. When you see and hear the issues we’re facing, you may ask yourself, “How do I launch into the culture war?” It’s simple: just let your voice as a Christian be heard. When you see something that disagrees with your biblical values, lift your voice to declare the truth in a kind and caring way. As a result of encouraging people all over this country to raise their voices in the culture battle, we’re hearing amazing stories of the boldness of teens.
Recently, Caite and her youth group from The Vine, in Spring Hill, Florida, went to the local mall to visit Victoria’s Secret. They entered the store one at a time and pleaded with the manager to take down the posters because they have been destroying a generation. One at a time, the manager kicked them out and the next teen entered the store. After trying individually, they walked in together and in unison pleaded, “Please take these posters down. They are destroying our generation.” The whole store fell silent, and all the shoppers froze. The manager took the posters down.
Another youth group in Jacksonville, Florida, protested the sale of pornography during the Christmas shopping season. The students gathered at Regency Square Mall to oppose the sale of X-rated Christmas tree ornaments, called “pornaments,” that were being sold at Spencer’s stores across the country. They sang songs, chanted protests, and pleaded with the local store to take them off the shelves. Their youth pastor, Clint Wilder, said the kids protested because they are tired of having things marketed to their generation that promote sex and pornography. A news report on the protest reported that half of the stores pulled the “pornaments” from the shelves because people raised their voices to say it was wrong.
Young people may not be of voting age, but more and more of them are realizing that they can take action now to shape their culture. As an adult, you can be an important example to the young generation by lifting your voice when you see something in your community that disagrees with the biblical foundation upon which our country was built. The examples above show that those who speak up are heard. If we only let those without our values do the talking, then they will shape the culture for the next generation. Make no mistake; there is a spiritual and cultural battle taking place for the hearts and souls of teens. I encourage you to engage in the middle of both.
By now you’ve probably heard about Teen Mania’s BattleCry for a Generation campaign, which is designed to equip and encourage churches to disciple and double their youth group every year for the next five years. Through the campaign we have developed many resources to help Christian leaders win the spiritual battle. If your church has not yet become a BattleCry33 church, then do whatever you can to get your pastor, youth pastor and congregation engaged by going to BattleCry.com. The website is designed to offer tools to open the hearts and minds of the local church to the battle our young people face daily and show how we as adults can band together to turn the tide. Resources include videos produced specifically for pastors, youth pastors and teens. You will also find more testimonies of young people and adults who are taking a stand for biblical values in our culture.
Be an advocate for the young people in your church and community. Encourage them to join the spiritual and culture wars to take back this generation for Christ!
Ron Luce is the founder of Teen Mania, one of the world’s largest Christian youth organizations, which inspires, empowers, and equips teens to reject the negative influences of pop culture and embrace the “coolness” of Christ.
Dr. Tony Beam
Is morality in America dead? Two recent events may suggest that it is time to write the epitaph for a shared understanding of morality. Major General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which makes him the highest ranking military officer in the country said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune “I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts.” He went on to explain that it isn’t just homosexuality that he finds immoral but he also considers adultery to be immoral. Pace said, “As an individual, I would not want acceptance of gay behavior to be our policy, just like I would not want it to be our policy that if we were to find out that so-and-so was sleeping with somebody else’s wife, that we would just look the other way, which we do not. We prosecute that kind of immoral behavior.”
General Pace made these comments in the context of a discussion about whether or not he supported the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy which bans open displays of homosexual behavior but does not disqualify homosexuals who keep their behavior to themselves. His comments caused a fire storm because apparently the word “immoral” has been relegated to the politically correct closet by our morally relativistic society.
Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council appeared on The Factor with Bill O’Reilly to defend the General’s comments. He was told by O’Reilly that the General went way off the reservation when he injected his personal views into the debate. According to O’Reilly, it is fine for the military to ban homosexual behavior but we cannot ban the behavior because it is immoral. We have to come up with some kind of practical reason which relates to military discipline but we can’t refer to adultery and homosexuality as immoral because that requires making a judgment based on an agreed upon standard. Since absolute truth was the first casualty of the culture war, many believe we cannot consider anything to be simply immoral.
But the fact is adultery and open homosexuality lead to a breakdown in morale and discipline precisely because it is immoral behavior. You can’t divorce the moral standard from the action and the results of an action. Part of what defines immoral behavior is the havoc it causes when the moral standard is abandoned. Perkins tried to point out the fact that the military code of justice has long recognized certain acts as either moral or immoral but he was waved off by O’Reilly who believers the question of morality cannot be raised when we are talking about policies we all have to live under. While it is true not everyone considers homosexuality or adultery to be immoral it is also true that for most of recorded history (up until about the last 40 years) our collective culture has considered both adultery and homosexuality to be wrong because both violate the cultures shared understanding of what is right and wrong. Without this shared understanding of right and wrong we have no basis for upholding laws apart from our need to survive. If we are ever reduced to a culture that is concerned only with its own survival and unconcerned about what standard of life our survival leads to we will be a culture that is on the level of the animal kingdom where survival is the only reason for behavior.
Later, on another edition of the O’Reilly Factor, Bill interviewed a mom and a daughter about the behavior of college students during spring break. The segment featured film footage of college students engaging in dangerous drinking games and open displays of sexual behavior. After talking about how these acts had progressed downward over the years, O’Reilly asked the mom what she would do if she discovered that her daughter was taking part in the kind of things she was seeing displayed on the screen. The mom said she would certainly get on a plane or in the car and have a face to face encounter with her daughter letting her know how displeased she was in her actions. O’Reilly then posed the million dollar question to the mother. Why would you be upset with your daughter? The mother seemed stunned at the question. She stammered out an answer saying it was hurting her daughter’s self-esteem. O’Reilly was not satisfied and asked why she thought it would hurt her daughter’s self-esteem. The mother couldn’t bring herself to condemn the actions as immoral. The best she could do was to say that as a mother she would pass judgment on the actions. Excuse me….you have to be a mother to know that drunkenness and lesbian behavior deserves a judgment call? When a mother sees open displays of immoral behavior and can’t find it in her heart to call it what it is, we are well on our way to seeing the death of morality.
God has certainly not left us in the dark concerning the days in which we live. Paul told Timothy “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boaster, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…”(2 Tim. 3:1-4 NASV emphasis mine).
Our culture can’t survive without a shared understanding of the difference between right and wrong and the will to stand for what is right.
Dr. Tony Beam is Director of the Christian Worldview Center at North Greenville University in Tigerville, South Carolina.
Homosexual relations and doctor-assisted suicide are the top most controversial and divisive issues in the country when it comes to moral acceptance, a new Gallup poll found.
Results from a May 10-13 survey found a large consensus among 1,003 American adults on such issues as the death penalty, divorce, and medical research using stem cells obtained from human embryos, with the majority finding them morally acceptable and less than a third saying they are morally wrong.
Americans, however, were most closely split down the middle on doctor assisted suicide with 49% saying it is morally acceptable and 44% saying it’s morally wrong, and homosexual relations with 47% calling it morally acceptable and 49%, morally wrong. The latter issue also had the largest liberal-conservative gap with 83% of liberals calling homosexual relations “morally acceptable” compared to only 23% of conservatives.
Of the 16 social issues Americans rated, the gap between liberals and conservatives were starkly large on issues around sexuality. According to the poll, 89% of liberals call sex between an unmarried man and woman morally acceptable while only 34% of conservatives say the same; 83% of liberals say it is morally acceptable to have a baby outside of marriage while only 33% of conservatives agree.
A significant gap was also seen on the issue of abortion and divorce with 67% of liberals calling abortion morally acceptable compared to 24% of conservatives, and 87% of liberals saying divorce is morally acceptable compared to 49% of conservatives.
Among Americans in general, 40% say abortion is morally acceptable and 51% say it is morally wrong.
Attitudes towards the issues has not changed much since 2001 or 2002, according to the Gallup report, but more Americans are finding medical research using stem cells obtained from human embryos and homosexual relations morally acceptable.
An earlier Gallup poll found America’s pro-gay attitudes reaching high points with 57% of the American public believing homosexuality should be sanctioned as an acceptable alternative lifestyle and 59% saying homosexual relations should be legal.
Young adults are more likely than those 55 and older to consider various activities tested to be morally acceptable. The sharpest generational differences were seen with issues around homosexual, premarital sex, having a baby outside of marriage and abortion, the poll also found.
Among other results, 16% of Americans say suicide is morally acceptable compared to 78% who say it is morally wrong; 59% say medical testing on animals is morally acceptable compared to 37% who call it morally wrong; and 36% say cloning animals is morally acceptable and 59% say it is morally wrong.
By Chuck Colson
Free Will and Honesty
Nearly every major story involving an ethical or moral lapse is soon followed by an explanation of why such failures are inevitable.
These “explanations” do not involve Original Sin or flawed institutions created by fallen people. Instead, they usually invoke materialistic causes rooted in natural selection: People do what they do because such behavior enabled their ancestors to pass on their genes.
This denial of free will is known as determinism.
Determinists insist that their explanations neither justify wrongdoing nor weaken people’s resolve to do the right thing.
A recent study shows just how wrong they are.
Researchers recently published the results of experiments testing the link between the belief in free will—that is the ability to choose right and wrong—and honesty. Kathleen Vohls of the University of Minnesota and Jonathan Schooler of the University of British Columbia gave college students a math exam in which students would be paid for each correct answer.
They told the students that “a computer glitch would cause the answers to appear on the screen” and that they should press a key to keep from seeing the answers. Students were told that failure to press the key was cheating, although no one would know who had cheated.
Prior to taking the exam, some of the students were asked to read a piece that said that “most educated people do not believe in free will.” Another group read a piece affirming free will, and a third read about sugar. Really.
You can probably guess what happened: The “no free will” group was “more likely to let the answer appear”—that is, to cheat.
This pattern held up in another test involving self-grading: Students in the “no free will” group were, again, significantly more likely to cheat.
Vohls told Mercatornet Magazine that these findings tie “in with evidence that cheating is on the increase” among college students. While there “are many possible reasons for this,” the erosion in our belief in free will and conscience is almost certainly one of them.
Thus, according to Vohls, it is important to understand the “dangers” posed by the “links between determinism and unethical behavior.”
She is right, and what is more troubling is that one piece was all it took to alter student’s behavior. Imagine what a lifetime of this kind of indoctrination can do.
It is difficult to imagine a better example of why worldview matters. The issues we discuss here at “BreakPoint” are not abstractions unconnected to real life. What our kids¾and we¾are being taught about who we are and why we are here shapes our worldview. It determines the kind of people we will become.
The belief that we are the product of random and impersonal forces makes it absurd to see ourselves as moral agents. So it is not hard to see why so many people take a “why bother” attitude toward moral issues.
Of course, Christians are not determinists. We know that things like compassion and valor and honesty are more than electrical impulses in the brain. Thus, not only can we explain why people do evil, but also we can explain why it is reasonable to expect them to do good as well.
S. Michael Craven
For more than five decades, self-proclaimed experts and so-called sexual reformers, beginning with Alfred Kinsey, have worked to advance the belief that there are no public consequences to private sexual behavior. And Americans, for the most part, have bought into this notion, proving what Lenin said, “A lie told often enough becomes the truth!”
This ideological offensive, which gained traction during the sexual revolution of the 1960s, led to the erosion of all prior social and legal boundaries, which restrained sex to monogamous marriage. This exclusive union—which strictly limited the acceptable relationship for sex and esteemed the traditional family—was reinforced through the stigmatization of sex outside of marriage and the criminalization of certain acts.
Historically, most states in the U.S. had legal prohibitions against adultery, often called “crimes against marriage,” which were designed to protect marriage by punishing those who jeopardized the family by seeking sexual satisfaction beyond their spouse. Virtually every advanced civilization has had some form of prohibition against adultery. Granted, these have not always been evenly applied to both husband and wife including within Christianized cultures, despite the fact that Scripture equally condemns both male and female offenders.
Today, the enforceability of criminal sanctions for adultery is problematic in light of Supreme Court decisions since 1965 relating to privacy and sexual intimacy. However, this right of privacy never existed until Kinsey asserted that there were no public consequences to private sexual behavior.
Similarly, most states had laws against fornication, which criminalized sex between unmarried persons. In 2001, Jesse McClure was convicted under Georgia’s fornication law. When McClure was 16, he was caught having sex with his girlfriend in her bedroom. The girl’s mother reported the incident to her daughter’s probation officer, who then brought charges. McClure was ordered to pay a $200 fine and write an essay explaining why he should not have engaged in sex. Instead, he wrote that it was not the business of the court to know why. As McClure told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Invading personal privacy just isn’t right.”
In 2003, the Georgia Supreme Court threw out McClure’s conviction. Chief Justice Norman Fletcher wrote, “The government may not reach into the bedroom of a private residence and criminalize the private, noncommercial, consensual sexual acts of two persons legally capable of consenting to those acts.”
ACLU attorney Catherine Sanderson, who represented McClure, insisted the issue is again one of privacy and therefore, “no longer does the state have any say in regulating private sexual activity between consenting persons of legal age.” Journalists and others heralded this as a “great victory” for civil liberties calling such laws “relics of a Calvinist past,” “a stupid law,” and “ancient” — the implication being that we will all be better off now that we can legally have sex with whomever we want!
While only a handful of states maintain fornication and adultery laws on the book, none actually enforce these statutes and most people today would likely regard any attempt to do so as ridiculous. But are they right? Are there, in fact, no public consequences to any private sexual behavior? If there are, does the individual’s right to privacy trump the greater good of society?
First, our right to privacy does not extend to any and every consensual behavior. For example, one cannot evade conviction for the possession and use of illegal narcotics on the basis of using them in the privacy of one’s own home. Illegal drug use has enormous societal consequences in both human and economic terms. Therefore, it becomes an essential role of government to intervene [over and against the right to privacy] in effort to preserve and promote public safety and well-being among its citizenry.
Secondly, contrary to the propaganda of the last five decades; there is recent data which demonstrates there is in fact a public consequence to certain private sexual behaviors. In first-ever research, a scholarly study, entitled The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing: First-Ever Estimates for the Nation and All 50 States quantifies a minimum $112 billion annual taxpayer cost from high rates of divorce and unmarried childbearing. This amounts to more than $1 trillion in taxpayer expense over the last decade that is directly attributable to marital breakdown and out-of-wedlock births.
“These costs are due to increased taxpayer expenditures for anti-poverty, criminal justice and education programs, and through lower levels of taxes paid by individuals whose adult productivity has been negatively affected by increased childhood poverty caused by family fragmentation,” according to Ben Scafidi, Ph.D., one of the study’s authors and economics professor at Georgia College & State University.
Add to this, the highest rates of sexually transmitted disease among all other industrialized nations, the highest rates of teen pregnancies, the largest producing and consuming nation of pornography, the highest rape rates, and more than 40 million abortions since 1972 and one must be willfully blind to suggest that there are no public consequences to any private sexual behavior.
By first accepting sexual activity outside of monogamous marriage, the legal and social structures, which served to protect and promote marriage were either weakened or eliminated. As sex was increasingly separated from marriage, marriage became less and less necessary. Alternative family forms such as single-parent, cohabitating and most recently same-sex came to be merely modern family “options” equal to the traditional two-parent family. I understand that single-parenthood is a pervasive reality, and that these single-parents are working as hard if not harder than any other parent to raise and care for their children. So, I am not denigrating these families by asserting that the traditional family is superior. The two-parent family is by every objective standard, both today and throughout history, the best possible arrangement. I’m sure most single-parents would be the first to agree.
Suffice it to say, divorce and out-of-wedlock birthrates all skyrocketed as society separated sex from marriage, demonstrating there is a devastating public consequence (or cost) to private sexual behavior, apparently more than $112 billion a year!
As God’s called people we are to demonstrate the reign of God. This is a significant area in society where we can begin to act as a redemptive influence by living under God’s rule related to sex and the family. Of course this means that Christians stop divorcing at the same or greater rate than those outside the church. It means that Christians stop cohabitating, that they remain chaste until marriage and that Christians stop “struggling” with pornography and actually flee sexuality immorality—three vices within the church that are near equal in scale to those outside the church! If we do this then we can proclaim that Christ changes us!
By living in obedience in these areas we can once again advance the establishment of social and legal structures that promote and protect marriage as the only acceptable relationship for sex. This is not mere moralizing on the part of simple “religious folk” but the answer to a pressing social problem that, as the evidence demonstrates, has enormous human, social and economic costs.
By S. Michael Craven
Responding to the conclusion of my series “In Defense of Marriage,” there were some who expressed concern that I was advocating capitulation or withdrawal from the culture, which, of course, I am not. I appreciated the thoughtfulness with which many of you responded and the gracious manner in which you expressed your disagreements. This is healthy and — let’s be honest — we’re not dealing with essential doctrines of the Christian faith, so there should be room for disagreement, debate, and discussion. That is precisely what I hope to encourage. Otherwise, we can remain blindly entrenched in old patterns of thinking and conduct that render the church and its message irrelevant as the culture around us changes. The faithful Christian will always wrestle with the execution of his calling in a changing cultural context (see 1 Cor. 9:22).
Let me say up front, I offer no absolutes on this point. Hopefully you’ll see mine as a thoughtful opinion, but again, I am not dealing with Christian orthodoxy as much as I am methodology. More specifically, I am grappling with the church’s posture when addressing difficult moral and social issues in a post-Christian cultural context.
As one who lives on the forefront of pressing Christ in the culture, I am wrestling with my own understanding as I seek to balance challenging the moribund morality of the culture with proclaiming the gospel. (I believe this, too, is healthy.) I simply think we need to carefully reconsider our approach to these moral and social issues, given our rapidly changing context. So I search the Scriptures, putting aside my own cultural assumptions, biases, and opinions. I know better than to trust in my own understanding. Believe me, my nature is to go to war (teeth, hair, eyeballs!), but I know better than to put confidence in the flesh and rely upon my nature.
One problem, as I see it, is that we tend to look to the past—namely our American past. We long for the time when America was nobler and its citizenry more virtuous. It is from there we seek to reclaim what is being lost: the glory days of our founding, for example, when people weren’t as selfish and narcissistic, when morality was not mocked, and civility was the norm. Debates over homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia, stem-cell research, and the like would have been inconceivable. However, we should also be careful not to romanticize the past into something it wasn’t.
Nonetheless, this attempt to restore what once was fails to consider the unprecedented post-Christendom reality of today. The cultural hegemony of the last 1600 years that the church once enjoyed is no longer present anywhere in the West. This twenty-first century condition presents never before seen challenges to the American church that demand serious thought. In light of this, we are moving more toward similarities with the church in China more so than the church of eighteenth-century America. I think this is the first paradigm that must be overcome.
Our tendency, it seems, is to recall the prior social and cultural impact of Christianity and the profoundly positive influence it has had on the formation of the nation, our government, culture, and society. Even when the church was weak, the social and cultural consensus, or worldview, was still largely Christian up until the Enlightenment. This does not mean that everyone in America was individually Christian; they weren’t. But Christianity was the consensus worldview. However, this was prior to Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche, and others, not to mention modernity, the sexual revolution, rampant consumerism, and postmodernism.
Ideologically speaking, the world was a very different place from the one that confronts us today, and these factors must be considered when trying to understand how to effectively engage the culture. Although this past influence is undeniable, it occurred under very different circumstances and thus the manner and means by which former Christians engaged culture may not be relevant to today. While knowing this historic influence is important to knowing where we came from, I would argue it offers little in the way of where we are going and how the Christian community is to live in these emerging conditions. The cultural changes that now confront us are not abstract and minor; they are very real and monumental. I fear we have been slow to either recognize or accept this fact.
Under Christendom, the church held a position of cultural and social authority, which went largely unquestioned. But over time this has changed. Our culture no longer labors under a Christian worldview. Pluralism, radical individualism, relativism, multiculturalism, and the like have destroyed any notion of a single overarching truth available for discovery. The church has no authority in the culture; we’re not welcome in the public square and more and more we are finding Christian ideas barred from our most influential cultural institutions. However, we tend to speak and act as if we still posses this authority, as if the people to whom we’re speaking still believe in truth—and this, it appears, has proven harmful to the mission of the church. Our “conquering spirit” materializes and the love of Christ is obscured, at best, and at worst, we are seen as anything but Christlike.
The fundamental question is this: is the “problem” in America spiritual or political? Of course, the answer is spiritual—so why do we continue to put so much stock in political solutions? It may be that the political route appeals to our desire for power and control. However, as Christians, we must remember that power and control are left to God; we trust in Him to dispense these according to His good will and pleasure. This does not mean that we become passive and withdraw from society, politics, and cultural engagement. Again, the issue is one of posture and method. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus draws a sharp contrast between the methods of the world and those of the kingdom of God. Throughout, Jesus is addressing the attitude and disposition of those who would follow Him. As followers of Jesus, we function in almost complete contradiction to what the world understands and expects. Jesus exalts the poor in spirit, the meek, the merciful, the pure, the peacemakers, and the persecuted. Jesus forbids retaliation, calling on those who are oppressed to “not resist the one who is evil,” and to love our enemies.
The church is not a revolutionary instrument (this would be the extreme politicization of Christianity) but a transformative instrument that draws its strength from the Living God. We trust in Him, giving thanks in all things, including persecution. First Peter is filled with statements that challenge the church to this effect. In fact, when chapter three speaks of “the end of all things” being near, Peter encourages the church to be “clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.” He doesn’t say organize and fight. He doesn’t even say resist. Instead he goes on to say, “Above all, love each other deeply…offer hospitality…without grumbling…serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in various forms.” He is describing the contradictory kingdom life of the church. He follows this with his passage on “rejoicing in suffering.”
Of course, this doesn’t mean we stop sharing Christian truth with those we meet. We most certainly do. But this is different than politicizing Christian values and trying to press them through collective political coercion.
Americans are now more clearly in favor of the government promoting “traditional values” than against – a change from recent years, when the public’s views were more divided.
In this year’s annual Gallup Governance poll, 53% of Americans said the government should promote traditional values, while 42% said they disagree and believe the government should not favor any particular set of values. Last year, Americans were divided right down the middle, with 48% taking each position.
“The shift in attitudes this year comes primarily from the political middle,” observed the Gallup organization in a summary of its findings. “Independents’ views show a dramatic turnaround, from a 55%-37% split against government-promoted morality last year to a 54%-40% division in favor of it today. By contrast, Republicans’ and Democrats’ views have been relatively stable, with the former solidly in favor of the government’s promoting traditional morality, and a majority of the latter opposed.”
This year’s results marked the first time in recent years that a notable gap appeared between those in favor of the government promoting “traditional values” than those against.
Last year’s survey results had marked the highest percentage of Americans opposed to a government role in promoting traditional morality since Gallup’s initial measurement of this question in 1993. Opposition had been rising steadily since 1999 while support had been decreasing since late 2001, when the percentage of those favor peaked to 59%.
From around the middle of 2005 until last year, the gap between those in favor of promoting values and those opposed was only slight, with the largest difference being about 6 points in 2006.
Notably, the poll does not define what the term “traditional values” means, so respondents answer according to their understanding of the term.
“The results by party and ideology discussed here suggest that respondents understand traditional values to be those generally favored by the Republican Party,” the Gallup organization noted.
Results were based on telephone interviews with 1,026 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Aug. 31-Sept. 2.
The widest margin in the survey’s 18-year history was the 21 point gap in late 2008, when only 37% of Americans were against the government promoting traditional values.
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — A new Gallup poll shows Americans returning to their historic stance that the government should promote traditional values, which includes a pro-life stance on abortion. Since 1993, with the exception of last year, a strong majority of Americans have consistently taken such a stance.
In this year’s annual Gallup Governance poll, 53% of Americans say the government should promote traditional values, while 42% disagree.
Last year, Americans were divided with 48% taking each position, but the election of pro-abortion President Barack Obama appeared to have awaken Americans’ sensitivity to values issues like abortion.
The poll does not define what the term “traditional values” means; thus, respondents answer in light of their understanding of the term, but Gallup’s analysis confirms abortion has always been one of the issues voters consider as a values concern.
The 2008 results marked the high point in the percentage opposed to a government role in promoting traditional morality since Gallup’s initial measurement of this question in 1993. In most other years, an average of 55% said they wanted promotion of traditional values while 40% said no.
The shift in attitudes this year comes primarily from the political middle, Gallup explains.
“Independents’ views show a dramatic turnaround, from a 55%-37% split against government-promoted morality last year to a 54%-40% division in favor of it today. By contrast, Republicans’ and Democrats’ views have been relatively stable, with the former solidly in favor of the government’s promoting traditional morality, and a majority of the latter opposed,” Gallup notes.
Republicans want traditional values promoted on a 67-31% margin while Democrats oppose it on a 54-42%age point margin.
“Americans’ attitudes reverted to a more conservative point of view on the matter. Now, Americans favor the government’s promoting traditional values by an 11-point margin, similar to the double-digit margins favoring that view through much of the prior two decades,” Gallup concluded.
The polling company also talked about its surveys from earlier this year showing Americans moving in a pro-life direction on abortion.
“Gallup has found several instances this year in which Americans’ positions on policy issues — including moral issues such as abortion and stem cell research ... have changed,” it reports. “On most of these issues, the changes have been toward a more conservative point of view.”
Results for this new poll are based on telephone interviews with 1,026 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Aug. 31-Sept. 2, 2009.
WASHINGTON – Americans who watch more hours of television tend to be less committed to classical virtues such as honesty and fairness and less likely to value religious principles, according to a conservative media watchdog.
In a study commissioned by the Culture and Media Institute (CMI), 47% of light TV viewers (one hour or less per evening) attend church frequently compared to 28% of heavy TV viewers (four or more hours). And while 29% of light TV viewers rarely or never attend church, the number jumps to 51% among heavy TV viewers.
Moreover, 43% of light TV viewers try to live by God’s principles compared to 32% of heavy TV viewers.
Measuring how the general American public perceives the impact of news and entertainment media, the study found the majority of Americans believe the media have a negative effect on moral values in America.
Another major finding in the study, titled “The Media Assault on American Values,” revealed that the more television a person watches, the less likely the person is to believe the media are negatively impacting the nation’s moral values.
According to the newly released study, 76% of light TV viewers see the media’s impact as negative, but only 58% of heavy TV viewers agree. Also, only 6% of light TV viewers believe the media are helping moral values while 14% of heavy viewers see a positive effect.
Some five decades ago, television had presented a traditional perspective on life that was more consistent with the values parents held, according to Dr. S. Robert Lichter, president of Center for Media and Public Affairs.
“That world did exist,” he said Wednesday at the release of the report whose cover depicts mainstream media as soldiers attacking such traditional institutions as family and church.
Today, viewers frequently find sexualized content on television. Thirty-nine percent of light TV viewers say sex between unmarried adults is always wrong compared to 26% of heavy TV viewers. A recent episode of CBS’ popular Two and a Half Men featured a casual conversation between lead character Charlie and Myra just after they had sex in a coat closet at the wedding of her brother Herb and Judith. “I’m two for two at Judith’s weddings,” said Charlie in the April episode. He later says, “[W]hat about funerals? Can you beat a three-way in a hearse?”
“This is not unusual for television,” said Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Media Institute, as he presented the study results.
Overall, 74% of Americans believe the nation’s moral values have declined over the past 20 years and 68% say the media have a negative impact on moral values. Also, 64% agree the media are an important factor in shaping moral values in this country.
Today, however, national broadcast and cable networks and newspapers have lost huge chunks of their audience. As L. Brent Bozell III, founder and president of Media Research Center, put it, “The national media are on a meltdown.” Meanwhile, Americans are flooding radio talk show programs and the top 20 recently listed (ranked by listening audience) were all conservative, according to Michael Medved who hosts one of the most popular radio talk shows.
Forty-four percent of Americans see the news media tilting left; 27% say news media are balanced; and 17% say the news media favors conservatives.
“Given the fact that you have such a clear indication that people see the media as biased ... why, with the profit-motive operative, do you still have the media clearly tilting left and people recognize that they tilt to the left,” posed Medved.
But there has been progress, Medved noted, with the rise of religion in media, including Hollywood. This past weekend, two movies debuted at the box office – “Knocked Up” and “Mr. Brooks.” Both debuted in the top five and although not faith-based, both had pro-life messages, Medved pointed out. The messages are reflective of the sharp drop of abortions in the United States since 1980 from 43% to 22% per 1,000 teens, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
So there is progress, said Medved.
Still, the media’s impact is negative, the majority of Americans believe. And Medved does not just point to the quality of what the media presents. The “problem is high quantity, not low quality,” he said.
Medved clarified that the study measures differential correlation based upon the quantity of television a person watches and not the quality.
“We need to employ increasingly demand-side solutions, not supply-side solutions,” he urged. “We have been increasingly concerned with what Hollywood makes and not what we take.”
“The Media Assault on American Values” report is the second in a series of reports of CMI’s National Cultural Values Survey. The overall study was conducted on 2,000 American adults in December 2006.
WASHINGTON – Faith-based organizations that subscribe to conservative social values have banded together to redefine the way the Church engages in culture and politics.
Calling themselves the Freedom Federation, the groups see an urgent need to collaborate to protect the Judeo-Christian values that they feel are being threatened.
Rather than approaching such issues as life, marriage, justice and politics as individual organizations, the Freedom Federation is hoping to get past the divisive rhetoric among Christians and tackle the issues together.
“The battles that we face today [and] the needs of the culture are too big for blacks to fight it by themselves, Hispanics to fight it by themselves or any one group to fight the battle by itself,” said Bishop Harry Jackson, who leads the High Impact Leadership Coalition, at the launch of the federation on Tuesday.
“Today the most urgent issues as far as we’re concerned ... can only be solved by a unified group that sees themselves first as Christians and secondarily [as] some other subculture,” Jackson emphasized.
The groups at the launch hesitated to label the federation a purely conservative Christian one although most of the groups are of historic, orthodox faith-based traditions. They were looking to avoid the “left, right” language and instead place emphasis on the common core values that bring them together across ethnic, party and generational lines.
Former Ohio Secretary of State John Kenneth Blackwell said simply that the federation was “a process of addition and multiplication, not subtraction and division.”
Some of the groups forming the federation include the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Liberty University, Family Research Council, Liberty Counsel, Vision America, Teen Mania, The Call to Action, and Catholic Online.
They will work together by dialoguing, sharing ideas and looking for commonality of agendas. They will further strategize, message and mobilize their various constituents to advance their shared core values.
The shared values are outlined in the “Declaration of American Values” and they include securing: the sanctity of human life, our national interest in the institution of marriage and family, the free exercise of religion, and our national sovereignty and domestic tranquility.
Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said the Freedom Federation will stand “as a canopy of mobilization and messaging where fragmentation will be replaced by the kingdom agenda that will preserve our Judeo-Christian value system while defending religious and individual liberty.”
And through the federation, the “stereotypical media-exacerbated image of the angry white evangelical will be replaced by an evangelical movement that will reconcile uncompromised core values of compassion – truth with mercy and righteousness with justice,” Rodriguez noted.
Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, told The Christian Post that the federation is not in reaction to the media’s negative portrayal of Christians but rather in response to the shared core values they have.
Through ongoing communication with one another, the groups realized that they have more in common than they have differences and it became very apparent that they needed to work together, Staver explained.
“When you break down all the rhetoric and you get past all the labels and so forth, we begin to realize that we agree on a lot of these issues,” Staver said.
The federation was also birthed out of a sense of urgency. The Judeo-Christian values, Staver said, have been weakened, injustices have increased, and the life and marriage issue as well as the role of government in people’s lives have “crescendoed to a certain point where we are concerned with the need to protect these values.”
Blackwell made clear that they are not looking for a theocracy.
“We’re not saying that governmentally we are a Christian nation,” he explained. “We’re saying that this is a nation that has at its roots, at its foundation a Judeo-Christian moral foundation.”
National Addictions Awareness Week begins today (Nov. 18-24). Everybody — informed or otherwise — has an opinion on addiction and how to treat it, so the subject never fails to generate animated public debate.
The literature on addiction is voluminous. Any amateur researcher trying to get a handle on the constant outpouring of medical, governmental and ideologically-tuned advocacy literature (both for and against legalization of drugs) will find it a daunting and confusing business. I have tried, so I know.
In the end it’s pretty simple. Everyone agrees addiction takes a terrible human and societal toll. It’s what to do about it that polarizes us. Opinion invariably drifts toward one of two basic camps, depending on one’s view of human nature.
According to the Tough Love (TL) school, human beings are endowed with moral agency and can control their choices. In this view, however painful the circumstances driving the flight into the oblivion drugs provide, nobody is beyond redemption if he chooses — and even if he doesn’t choose, but is forced into – long-term community-based rehabilitative therapy.
According to the Romantic school, summed up in the philosophy of Harm Reduction (HR), addiction is a chronic disease, like rheumatoid arthritis, that befalls victims. The best we can hope to do, from this perspective, is palliate the misery and mitigate the spread of disease and crime, while enabling the addiction’s perpetuation more hygenically.
For the ultimate Romantic approach, read Gabor Maté’s 2008 book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts. Dr. Maté, a sainted icon of the drug legalization movement, ministers full time to hard-core substance abusers. An admittedly neurotic personality with multiple manias and a hunger for both celebrity and vicarious suffering, the spiritually restless doctor found his bliss in his identification with the inhabitants of the Portland hotel, home to Vancouver’s most unregenerate human wreckage (“I saw the cockroaches and fell in love”).
Maté sees all of humanity as more or less addicted to something. For himself it is classical CDs; Conrad Black is “addicted to status”; and perhaps you are addicted to chocolate cake. Oh yes, and that emaciated parody of a human being lying spaced out in his own vomit is addicted to a “substance.” It’s all one, you see. And therefore: “Addiction can never be understood if looked at through the lens of moralism and judgment.”
After wading through Maté’s hagiography of junkiedom, you may, as I did, yearn for nothing so much as a heavy dose of moralism and judgment, not to mention assurance you are not an addict, even if, like me, you tend to buy a lot of books you may never read. You will find compelling abundance of both moralism and judgment in the Emmy-award winning TV series about addiction, Intervention. I have no use for reality shows in general, but this one I’m addic — er, I really like.
At the end of every Intervention segment, the addict — of alcohol, cocaine, heroin, gambling, oxycontin, you name it — is surprised with an intervention by his loved ones, facilitated by one of three plain-spoken ex-addicts.
You would not believe the tears that flow on this show, or the outpouring of love — real, passionately felt, unconditional — the parents and siblings and friends feel for the addict, love the addict accepts as an entitlement or shrugs off with indifference.
Unlike the co-suffering, romanticizing Maté, the ex-addict facilitators are pragmatic, cool, been-there-done-that realists. They are unmoved by the addict’s narcissism, self-pity and grievance-collecting.
The format of the intervention capping the addict’s documented downward spiral is invariable: The addict is seated in the midst of those whose lives he or she is ruining. Up to now they have been enabling the addict out of helplessly protective love.
The intervention begins with family members reading their own texts, enumerating the enabling behaviours they will no longer endorse (money, free accommodation, etc.), all ending with, “Will you accept this gift [of 90-day community rehabilitation therapy]?”
Usually the addict breaks down, as each of the addict’s victims makes clear the devastating scope of addiction’s consequences on others, especially children. They accept the rehabilitation, with varying degrees of gratitude or reluctance. Some succeed at it; some don’t.
The dramatic televised difference between the addicts in the grip of their grotesque enslavement and their mature acceptance of responsibility for their lives 60 days later is remarkable and inspiring.
In a nutshell: HR thinks shaming and blaming addicts is cruel and unfair. TL thinks shaming and blaming addicts is the only way to open their eyes wide enough to their own selfishness and degradation to push them into recovery. Read the “compassionate” Maté book, then see the “tough” Intervention, and then tell me: Which would you choose for someone you love?
Last week the Post published excerpts from the new guidebook issued by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship. I was asked by a radio talk show host what difference the guidebook would make in terms of my own writing on issues the new text raised, especially the section on gender relations, one of my niche topics. I replied that I would still be saying exactly what I have always said, but now that the government’s official position is the same as mine, I won’t have to feel defensive anymore. I was thinking specifically of the passage in the section “The Equality of Women and Men” (note the word order) where the guidebook says: “Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, ‘honour killings,’... or other gender-based violence.”
Barbaric? Barbaric? That’s a judgment — a negative judgment — of other people’s cultural practices. We may have arrived at a watershed moment in the history of multiculturalism. Indeed, this may be our official policy of multiculturalism’s “tear-down-this-wall” moment. It may even soon be possible to say that multiculturalism has failed as a national policy without being labelled a racist.
Good on Jason Kenney for pointing out this particular naked emperor. For too long violence in the West directed against girls and women from honour/shame societies by their male relatives, often with the complicity of their female relatives, has been reflexively lumped in with all domestic violence (DV). The refusal to distinguish between the two types of violence is championed by gender ideologues who can’t bear the idea that some forms of violence against women are a culturally imposed pathology and not, as they would prefer, a tragic but predictable example of the inherently misogynistic and controlling instincts of all men.
Ideologues are abetted in this wilful sabotage of common sense by ethnic associations who at best ignore the abuse and at worst deflect criticism from their cultural “values” by insisting such abuse is normative.
When 16-year-old Aqsa Parvez was allegedly murdered by her father in Mississauga, Ont., reportedly in part for not wearing a hijab, Mohamed Elmasry of the Canadian Islamic Congress brushed off the tragedy with a stunningly cynical dumbing-down of its horror: “I don’t want the public to think that this is an Islamic issue or an immigrant issue. It is a teenager issue.”
But Elmasry is right about one thing: Honour killing is largely (about 90%), but not solely, a practice of Muslim societies. Amandeep Atwal, 17, of British Columbia, was stabbed 11 times by her father, Rajinder Singh Atwal, for refusing to end a relationship with a non-Sikh boyfriend. Hindus and even Christians coming from South Asian cultures kill girls and women for reasons of family or community “honour.” It’s difficult to ascertain numbers: Many honour killings are passed off by the victims’ families to authorities as suicide or accidents.
While honour killings are a minority of all domestic killings, they are also a distinct phenomenon. Lenore Walker, author of The Battered Woman Syndrome (2000), notes the difference between the victim-perpetrator in honour killings and those in Western society: “In ordinary domestic violence involving Westerners, it is rare for brothers to kill sisters or for male cousins to kill female cousins. And while child abuse occurs in which fathers may kill infants and children, it is very rare for Western fathers to kill teenage daughters.”
In the West it is far more typical for fathers who disapprove of their daughters’ lifestyle or behaviour to shun them or disassociate from them. There are a whole slew of differences besides these between honour killing and normative domestic violence. Honour killings target mostly daughters; normative DV is bilateral between intimate adult partners. Honour killings are carefully planned; DV is spontaneous. Honour killings involve complicity with other family members; DV is a private affair. Honour killing is motivated by perceived family humiliation; DV is not about honour: DV springs from personal psychological problems. Honour killings are perpetrated with extreme ferocity (rape, burning, stoning, hacking, even burying alive); DV is simply and hastily executed — usually by gun, knife or blunt object. Most important of all: Honour killings elicit approval in their communities; DV elicits disgust.
Perhaps now that the government has “outed” the obvious fact that systemic, socially approved male violence against women is not a genetic but a cultural pathology, we can begin to address it seriously and help the thousands of immigrant women who are kept in ignorance of their rights and the thousands of immigrant men who are oblivious of their culpability.
But we must do more than educate them. Because even when these brainwashed women become aware they have rights, they are usually too frightened of retribution for their perceived rebelliousness — and justifiably so — to challenge the collective dogmas of their kinship groups.
This guidebook is a great first step. The next step should be to extend meaningful outreach and protection to women inside these communities. I would hope that feminists would applaud Jason Kenney’s courage in admitting an unpleasant truth, and support him loudly and clearly. If they don’t, they can hardly call themselves feminists.
Now that the dust is beginning to settle on the dramatic revelations of Tiger Woods’s extra-marital affairs, it is worth reflecting on what, if any, useful lessons can be gleaned from the sports star’s scandal. While Mr. Woods may have a difficult time detecting anything positive in the difficulties he brought on himself through appallingly bad behaviour, there is, for the rest of us, a message of hope buried in the morass. The intensity of the public backlash against the world’s top golfer suggests that society is, thankfully, not yet ready to abandon the sort of values that are regularly said to be endangered, and which Mr. Woods so spectacularly violated.
Mr. Woods’s well-known “transgressions” extend beyond his serial—and apparently tireless — infidelity. If even a portion of the allegations against him are true, he was lying to his wife virtually from the moment he proposed to her. He deceived her right up to, and through, her pregnancies and the birth of their two children. He enlisted the help of an old friend to plan and organize his trysts while keeping his wife in the dark, belittled his own marriage to his various girlfriends and was so recklessly brazen he left incriminating voice and text messages with women whose discretion he had every reason to doubt.
Offensive as all this may seem, when the scandal first broke it couldn’t have been taken for granted that Mr. Woods would suffer the level of opprobrium that has developed. We’ve all become accustomed — through years of non-stop exposure to celebrity culture — to the rich and famous acting like the low and ignorant. Pornography is easily accessed on the Internet. One of the top-rated comedies on television, Two and a Half Men, is a one-gag wonder in which one brother has sex with a lot of brainless bimbos, while his nerdy brother can’t get a girl. Bill Clinton’s Oval Office dalliance with Monica Lewinsky set a new standard for cheating politicians, making it possible to flagrantly betray your wife and remain widely popular, as long as you apologize well and often enough and she forgives you.
There has been such a steady diluting of morality that you could easily conclude people no longer take things like honesty, fidelity or marriage seriously. Sure, maybe the religious right insist on proclaiming their faith in family values, but for the most part they’re mocked or belittled as cranks or conservative extremists for their trouble.
Mr. Woods, though, is paying a heavy price for violating those same values. Corporate sponsors, attracted by his clean-living image, are dumping him as no longer suitable for polite company. Accenture, the global consulting firm, concluded Mr. Woods “is no longer the right representative for its advertising.” Manufacturers of shave cream and watches don’t want to be associated with him. Friends and associates, including caddy Steve Williams, have been distancing themselves, professing no knowledge of his affairs. His personal stature has sunk so low he hasn’t been seen in public for three weeks and has announced an indefinite leave from golf.
All because he lied and cheated on his wife — and, by extension, on the many fans who took him at his image. It is encouraging to know that even a society hardened to regular public displays of dishonesty, infidelity and immoral ity can still be offended by something as basic as the trust expected between spouses.
A Church of England priest has found himself at the center of controversy after he told his congregation it was morally justifiable for the poor to shoplift.
Father Tim Jones of St. Lawrence and Hilda Church in York said this week that he did not believe it was right for people to shoplift but maintained it was the “least worst option” for people in desperate situations.
He gave the example of prisoners being released from prison without benefits or other financial assistance, saying it was for better for people in such circumstances to turn to shoplifting from large retailers rather than prostitution, mugging or burglary.
“My advice does not contradict the Bible’s eighth commandment because God’s love for the poor and despised outweighs the property rights of the rich,” he said in a sermon Sunday.
A spokesman for supermarket chain Asda, in response, argued that shoplifting affected hardworking store staff more than the rich.
“Maybe Father Tim Jones could repeat his sermon at our York store and see what reaction he gets?” he was quoted as saying by the York Press. “He’s one psalm short of a sermon!”
Jones was also criticized by the North Yorkshire Police, who reminded the priest it was a criminal offence to steal. A spokesperson for the force was quoted by the Metro as saying it was “highly irresponsible” of a priest to “justify this course of action under any circumstances”.
Speaking on behalf of the Anglican Diocese of York, Archdeacon of York the Venerable Richard Seed said the Church of England “does not advise anyone to shoplift or break the law in any way”.
“Fr. Tim Jones is raising important issues about the difficulties people face when benefits are not forthcoming, but shoplifting is not the way to overcome these difficulties,” he said.
“There are many organizations and charities working with people in need, and the Citizens’ Advice Bureau is a good first place to call,” Seed added.
By Chuck Colson
This month marks a tragic date: the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, when our “robed masters”-the Supreme Court-discovered a constitutional right to kill innocent babies waiting to be born.
The good news is that polls reveal that Americans are more pro-life than ever. The bad news is the culture of death is making ominous inroads on many other fronts.
A few months ago, as most of you know, theologian Timothy George, Princeton scholar Robby George, and I co-authored a document called the Manhattan Declaration. Two hundred Christian leaders and hundreds of thousands of lay people have signed it online. Some younger evangelicals, however, demurred. Why limit the agenda to life, family, and religious liberty, they asked. What about social justice and the environment?
What these well-meaning folks fail to realize is that a strong pro-life commitment is absolutely essential for social justice. For 34 years I’ve gone into America’s prisons to witness to the most marginalized among us, precisely because I believe every human being is made in God’s image. When I walk through the vile-smelling cell blocks, I don’t see tattooed inmates; I see children of God.
There is no social justice, you see, without respect for the innate dignity of each human being created in God’s image.
Many of us will learn this truth afresh should any of these health care bills pass. They all contain provisions which will result in medical services being rationed. Decisions historically made between doctor and patient, and maybe clergy, will now be made by government bureaucrats.
Under the bill’s provisions, prescribed treatments of Medicare patients must be approved by a government commission. Medicare is publicly funded. So the government decides which services it will pay for and which it won’t. Older Americans will be hardest hit.
Imagine you’re 85 with a chronic heart condition and you experience renal failure. Should you receive dialysis? Who decides?
If we don’t have a consistent ethic about the sanctity of human life, decisions will not be made on the basis of what care we need, but on what the government can afford. Patients will be judged, not by their innate worth, but by their perceived value to society. Do the elderly and infirm have a right to life-or a duty to die?
This is why evangelicals, Catholics, and Orthodox leaders are so concerned about abortion. The infamous Roe decision was merely the camel’s nose under the tent. Up for grabs today is the question of what it means to be human.
No matter how exhausting the battles, the church must adhere to and contend for the biblical teaching that all human beings are made in God’s image, and that all life, at every stage, is precious in His sight. This truth must inform all of our ethical decisions.
As the Manhattan Declaration makes clear, the threshold issues are life, liberty, and family. If we don’t fight the assaults on these fronts, there will ultimately be no “social justice,” or dignity of life, for anyone.
Spiritual warfare is a reality and Christians must realize they have an enemy, exhorted a prominent theologian over the weekend.
“All of our ministry, all of our marriage, all of our child-rearing, everything we know as believers inside the arena of the church and the home and then outside in the world is in the context of the fact that we have an enemy and this enemy is seeking someone to devour,” said Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
So while talking about spiritual warfare makes some evangelicals nervous and some are concerned about misusing “combat language,” the conservative theologian said it would be “an act of intellectual suicide to deny what we know is true.”
“It is an act of great danger to our souls and to the souls of our children if we are not aware that it is true,” he told attendees at the “Connecting Church and Home” conference on Saturday, before noting how some marriages, homes, churches, and congregations are being “devoured.”.
The two-day conference, held at the seminary, was aimed at calling back Christians to a biblically and theologically grounded relationship between the church and home.
Speaking on the second day of the conference, Mohler emphasized the critical importance of the family and the local church, which he said have become disconnected in a fallen world.
And in the context of post-Christian America, the family is very much under attack, Mohler stressed.
“We have to be better than our parents were,” he told attendees.
“If our parents by and large failed at any single or several points in parenthood, there was a support system that would almost immediately come in to fill the gap,” he said. “At least when I was growing up what my parents taught me was not subverted in the school, it was supported.”
And the only television shows on at the time were “Gunsmoke,” “Bonanza,” “Dragnet” or Disney shows.
“But today’s parents have to worry about all kinds of things,” Mohler noted. “We’ve got to be more alert. We’ve got to be more aware.”
The problems, however, are not all external, he acknowledged.
“The greatest warfare is not what’s out there in the fallen society,” Mohler said. “It’s also far more importantly something that goes on within our own soul, within our own hearts.
“It is a war by which the enemy seeks casualties by keeping believers from doing that which brings God greatest glory,” he stated.
Continuing, Mohler lamented over the absence of parental influence along with weak preaching in the church, which he said are what’s largely creating a generation of moralistic therapeutic deists.
Moralistic therapeutic deists, a term Mohler borrowed from sociologist Christian Smith, are young adults who believe God exists, believe God wants people to be nice and fair to each other, believe the central goal of life is to be happy, doesn’t involve God in life except when a problem arises, and believe good people go to heaven when they die.
While such a belief system may sound good, Mohler made clear that it’s not the Gospel.
Citing from Smith’s Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults, Mohler said keeping the next generation connected to biblical Christianity requires the parents to stay engaged with their children and the local church to be in the picture, particularly by providing accountability to the young adults through relationships with older people.
Before concluding, Mohler left attendees with a few exhortations.
The church, he said, must present a faithful and vibrant vision of the Christian family and teach in order to equip believers to accomplish this. And the church must further overcome the “zone of privacy and personal autonomy” that separates believers from accountability and fellowship.
“We’ve got to get into each other’s space,” Mohler asserted. “That means our parenting and our marriages and our family life is not properly ours. It is Christ’s.”
Finally, Mohler exhorted, “the church has to be a place where families are rescued and armed for the combat to which we are called ... a place where every week we come because we can’t afford not to come.”
“We’ve got to come back every single week and every opportunity to get armed for the combat to which we are called,” he stressed.
“It’s got to be the place ... where we need to get together regularly and we know we do,” Mohler added.
“We’re going to live by the teaching and preaching of the Word of God because without it we’re not going to be able to father rightly, we’re not going to be able to mother rightly, we’re not going to be able to husband and wife rightly, we’re not going to be able to raise our children rightly and our children are not going to be what we know they should be in the school of Christ,” the theologian concluded.
A new poll reveals that though many Americans are quick to identify negative contributions Christians have made to society, evangelicals are even more likely to acknowledge the faults of believers.
The Barna Group released a survey Monday that shows a quarter of Americans listed violence, hatred, bigotry, intolerance and a lack of love for others as the largest negative contributions of Christians. Among evangelicals, 48% listed the same items. [KH: notice that these are acts of individuals against what Christianity teaches, not from Christianity.]
When broken down, one out of five Americans said violence or hatred incited in the name of Jesus Christ was a negative contribution. This was the most frequent response to an open-ended question asked by the Ventura, Calif.-based research group.
Not surprisingly, those associated with non-Christian faiths (35%) were most likely to list that. But evangelicals were right behind them, with 31% listing the same thing.
The Barna Group conducted telephone interviews Aug. 16-22 with a random sample of 1,000 adults in the United States. The group did not list any possibilities of positive and negative contributions by Christianity when conducting the survey but asked respondents to provide their own answers.
One of the most frequently listed positive contributions of Christians was their aiding of the poor or underprivileged people. Nineteen percent mentioned the activity. Interestingly, adults under the age of 25 were more likely to cite such service (34%) along with self-identified liberals (29%). Only 11% of evangelicals said the same.
Evangelicals were instead more likely to list efforts related to evangelism or advancing belief in God or Jesus Christ as Christians’ positive contribution to society. While a quarter of evangelicals listed evangelism, only 16% of Americans overall said the same.
Only 14% of Americans overall listed shaping or protecting the values and morals of the nation as a positive contribution made by Christians.
Meanwhile, 11% of adults said Christianity had not made any positive contributions to U.S. society.
Notably, 25% said they could not recall any positive contribution made by Christians in recent years.
Among the listed negative contributions, 13% of adults said the opposition to gay marriage was a major negative and 12% cited churches being too involved in politics.
Overall, 12% said they could not think of any negative contributions of Christians. But evangelicals (6%) were among the subgroups that were least likely to say they were unable to identify any negative contributions by Christians. The Barna Group thus concluded that they were “the single, most critical subgroup of all” and statistically tied with the 7% of liberals who gave that reply.
As the Director of a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic, Abby Johnson oversaw the abortions of thousands of preborn babies. She poured her energy into counseling the mothers who faced difficult pregnancies, believing that abortion was often the right solution.
Abby truly believed she was helping the women. Daily, she drove past ardent pro-lifers who deplored the deadly business Abby directed. They too believed in their mission. A high, ugly fence divided the clinic staff and the pro-lifers—starkly symbolic.
As we mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, abortion continues to be highly “divisive” – and will always remain so - because the stakes are high—life or death. And the “divide” between people on each side is a chasm, because there is no middle ground between life and death.
As the gruesome reality of abortion becomes more difficult to hide (Exhibit A: the “house of horrors” run by abortionist Kermit Gosnell, where babies born alive were murdered, a mother was killed, and scores of others injured), it’s more important than ever that pro-life advocates (note to self) show that what motivates us is our love for the mothers in trouble and the helpless lives they carry.
From Abby’s side of the fence, angry protestors were worrisome. She and her colleagues received death threats regularly. Stories of clinic violence in other parts of the country kept her on edge. Unbridled anger and the violence of a “crazy few” convinced the workers that the “enemy” is driven by hate.
How to Save Your Family – and Others – From the Tragedy of Abortion
Today, Abby stands as a powerful example of how, when we allow Christ’s love to direct our attitudes and actions, hearts can change. The Coalition for Life, which began organizing sidewalk counselors outside Abby’s clinic, offered compassion and practical help to desperate women. They became the face and helping hands of Christ and offered a love that permeated the fence in ways that angry words never could. Abby began to feel that they cared about the women as much as she did.
And they cared about her. Always sincerely reaching out in warmth, they were approachable, and held their hearts open for Abby—and years later, she felt comfortable opening her heart to them too.
In her compelling new book, Unplanned, Abby recounts the painful path that led to her dramatic conversion of heart. As a college intern, Abby believed the mantra that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.” But Planned Parenthood’s push to raise its quota of abortions each month began to shatter her illusions. No matter how much she cared about the women, at the end of the day, Planned Parenthood was a business. And abortion was its moneymaker.
But Abby’s real awakening came the day she watched a preborn baby as he was killed—while she herself held the sonogram wand for the abortionist. When reality hit, Abby turned for help to the prolife counselors who had befriended her from the other side of the fence.
The supernatural love those pro-life advocates gave to Abby has been multiplied many times over as she has shared it with others – and both women and their little babies have been saved. Oh, that our own lives would be marked by such pure, unconditional love.
After thirty-eight years of legal abortion, nearly every family has, in some way, been wounded by this tragedy. According to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, “At least half of American women will experience an unintended pregnancy by age 45, and, at current rates, about one-third will have had an abortion.”
Mothers who have had abortions—and the fathers involved—need us to reach through the fence to deliver the message of God’s forgiveness and love. And to the desperate mother headed for the entrance of her baby’s death chamber, as well as to those working inside, may we have enough faith in Jesus and in his life changing power to boldly speak and show His truth, in His love.
The legal establishment of same-sex marriage in New York state—not by a rogue court, mind you, but by legislative act—raises pressing questions for the Church. Will we stand for Christian principles in the face of this blindly egalitarian normalization of homosexuality, and the polygamy and incest that will logically follow? Will we stand firm when people call us bigots and compare us with unreconstructed racists? Will we continue to follow uncritically the principles of the world around us? Evangelicals have a history of cultural accommodation, after all. Will we join with our clearly anti-Christian society in this moral collapse, or will we present an alternative by clearly identifying, thoroughly rejecting, and firmly replacing those socially self-destructive principles?
Facing the same-sex marriage development, I suddenly feel like a mainline Presbyterian who now thinks his denomination has crossed the line because it has voted to ordain homosexuals. But that is like finally leaving a burning house because the roof fell in. Prior to that, it was an inferno. Prior to that, it was on fire. Prior to that, you watched passively while your children were playing with matches in the basement.
At some point, the Presbyterian Church (USA) unwittingly imported principles that were fundamentally hostile to the Christian faith. That bit of leaven has leavened the whole lump. The ordination of women in the mainline churches could pass only because they had already replaced their biblical foundations with individualistic ones drawn from modern cosmology. Was it the denomination’s adoption of The Book of Confessions in 1967? No, the problem far predated that. J. Gresham Machen left Princeton and the Northern Presbyterian Church in 1930s after his clash with them over modernism. The Southern church took longer to decline, so it was not until 1973 that the conservatives there finally made their break.
If same-sex marriage in the nation parallels the ordination of homosexuals in the PC(USA), where was America’s point of departure from Christian principles? (My concern here is chiefly for the integrity of Christians in America, not for America herself.) Was it a Supreme Court decision? Was it the Progressive Era? Was it the arrival of the German academic tradition in the late 19th century, or the Second Great Awakening earlier in that century? Was it the triumph of the Federalists over the Anti-Federalists at the time of the Founding, or was it even in what both schools of thought shared in their embrace of Enlightenment individualism? The further back we find the ultimate cause, the more radical our disagreement will turn out to be with our non-Christian fellow citizens.
If the Church continues to address individual issues as isolated challenges—abortion, divorce, teen rebellion, same-sex marriage—she will continue to plug holes in the dike while the rising waters come up through the ground to her knees, to her elbows, and then to her neck. The problem is not this-and-that hole where the water is leaking in, but where you are standing relative to the sea. Christians need a more thorough understanding of the culture and seek the high ground in the mind of Christ.
In the age of same-sex marriage, how radical a Reformation do we need if the Church is to remain distinct from the world? Remaining distinct is not about hemlines, how much you drink, nose studs, what entertains you, etc., though being distinct has consequences for these things. It means being transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2). It means understanding the world in distinctly Christian categories of thought.
In Lectures on Calvinism (1898), Abraham Kuyper distinguishes Christianity and modernism as two fundamentally different life-systems. Remaining distinct from the world is especially difficult in modern times. First, the modern world has many widely available and very attractive pleasures to seduce us. Some of those are inherently wrong. Some are merely imprudent. Some are perfectly wholesome but not if enjoyed in the wrong way or to the wrong degree, as the modern world tempts us to do.
Second, the modern world holds principles that look like Christian principles and perhaps have some reference back to Christian principles but are distinctly different and lead to cultural death. Both Christianity and modernism teach liberty, equality, and compassion, but the modern world does so in a way that is independent of God and places each person at the center of his or her own universe of concern.
If we do not understand this, then when our world calls us to conform to its Christianity-aping principles, we will blink and follow, submitting to what we think is our Christian conscience. Theologically, philosophically, and culturally, we need to be battle-ready.