Thursday, June 25, 2009

Blogging will be sporadic and light over the next two weeks. It is time for our annual camping and canoeing vacation in Algonquin Park. We will come back when we have seen a few of these and gotten this tired, which at our ages takes less time than it used to take!

What is Worse than Legal Abortion? Coercive Abortion

Charles Colson's Breakpoint column "Where's the Choice in This?" deals with American funding of coercive abortion in China. This reality certainly strips the mask away and reveals that the "pro-choice" rhetoric is just that - empty rhetoric.

"Last year, a young Chinese woman—let’s call her Dan Li—ran afoul of the Chinese government. She had become “illegally pregnant.” By the time the authorities found out, Dan Li was seven months along. Family planning officials tied her to a bed, induced labor, and, when the baby was born, killed the baby.

What happened to Dan Li is an abomination—one, however, that tragically takes place regularly in China. But now, thanks to the U.S. Congress, you and I will be paying for it.
Last March, without fanfare, Congress passed a bill providing $50 million for the United Nations Population Fund. This organization promotes abortion around the globe—including in China. What makes the bill especially heinous is that it voided Kemp-Kasten, a bill which, for two decades, prevented our tax dollars from funding forced abortions and sterilization.
This blows the lid off the argument that abortion is all about giving a woman choice. If Congress really stands for choice, as they claim, why did they vote for coercion? If feminists are really for choice, why aren’t they fighting this law? Why isn’t our pro-choice President demanding that this brutalization of women be stopped?"


The only answer is that feminists and other pro-choice people are not really pro-choice. They are pro-abortion because they see abortion as the best solution to certain social problems. The same people eventally will view infanticide and euthanaia as solutions. This is a fundamental characteristic of the culture of death: viewing the killing of the innocent as an acceptable solution to social problems.

Read it all here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Modernity: Better to Reign in Hell Than Serve in Heaven

I'm still reading Gillespie. I've got to finish today and get on to other projects that have to be finished up before vacation. But this stuff is so good.

In his chapter on Hobbes, Gillespie notes the fact that scholasticism made use of Aristotle's four causes, but that Hobbes "reworks this Aristotelian notion of causality. He recognizes only a material and an efficient cause." (230) Hobbes does not believe in an unmoved mover, but is a first cause who himself is in perpetual motion. Gillespie writes:

"Hobbes thus rejects the Platonic claim essential to medieval Christianity that God and thus true being are unchanging. Rest in Hobbes' view cannot be attributed to God . . . Motion is the action of God, and this action in nominalistic fashion is not governed by any reason or purpose other than God's omnipotent and indifferent will. The cosmological consequence of this position is that there is no rational or natural goal of bodily motion. Effectively then for Hobbes, God is the same as the causal process or, in the words of Leviathan, nature is God's artifice, his continuing activity." (229)

Hobbes rejects the Christian idea of a personal God who personally creates the world and governs it by Providence so as to bring it to its eschatological conclusion. But he does not leave the world drifting aimlessly without guidance. Man takes the place of God. As Gillespie notes: "The goal of Hobbes' science is thus not merely to understand the world but to change it, to give human beings the power to preserve themselves and improve their earthly lot." (231) He quotes Hobbes' De Corpore as follows: "The end of knowledge is power." (231)

If the goal is to understand nature including human nature, then one needs to consider the final cause. However, if the goal is not to understand, but to change and dominate nature including human nature, then final cause is not just irrelevant but an actual impediment that must be done away with! To the extent that, say human sexuality to pick one currently relevant example, has a purpose - a natural end - designed by the Creator, there are limits on how man can change it, manipulate it, use it etc. Humans cannot, however, be prevented from asking "why" questions and so the idea of a final cause can never be banished from human thought entirely. The demonic genius of modernity (as seen here in Hobbes) is that it re-assigns final causation from the nature and acts of God to the will of man. In an inversion worthy of the imagination of the greatest of poets, man takes over God's role of determining ultimate ends and God (understood as motion in nature) takes man's role of conforming to the will of another.

It is surely fitting that Gillespie quotes from Milton's Paradise Lost at the beginning of his book the passage from 1.242-63 which ends with the words:

"We shall be free; th' Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure, and in my choice
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav'n.

A Very Good Question for Obama

Obama courted the black church during the election campaign with a speech in a large black church on Father's Day 2008. He was very effective in getting the black vote to swing his way, not doubt because statements like this one made him seem like on of them religiously as well as racially. But is he really in the mainstream of black Christianity, most of which is fervently conservative on abortion and marriage?

Watch this video. It only takes a few seconds. Sometimes the simplist points are the strongest.

Tony Perkins asks Barack Obama: "If I became a father at conception, when did Samuel here become my son?"

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Descartes' Understanding of Man

I am still reading Michael Allen Gillespie's thought-provoking book entitled The Theological Origins of Modernity (U. of Chicago Press, 2008). I have to return it to the library tomorrow since I'm off canoeing on Friday morning. The hardback edidition seems to be sold out and the paperback edition is scheduled for Sept. 15. This book is a detailed exposition of the thesis Gillespie first developed in his Nihilism Before Nietzsche (U. of Chicago Press, 1995).

He contends that modernity develops out of late medieval nominalism, which became believable in the midst of the multiple crises that afflicted Europe in the 14th century including the Black Death, the 100 Years War, the Little Ice Age and so on. The remote, unpredictable God of nominalism, who is so different from the rational God of Scholasticism, made sense to the people of the 14th century. The rise of modernity, and this is crucial, was not the rejection of theology and religion, but a new approach to metaphysics based on this new concept of God. The medieval culture in which the God of the classical Augustinian-Thomist tradition made sense had suffered such a series of shocks that the new teaching of nominalism and its God of sheer will took hold and shaped the thinking of many in the Rennaissance, the Reformation and early modern philosophy, including the thought of Descartes.

Here is what Gillespie has to say about Descartes: (my bolding)

Descartes' solution to the problem posed by the omnipotent God thus leads to a radically new vision of what it is to be a human being.

A human being for Descartes is a thinking thing (res cogitans). A thinking thing, however, is a representing, constructing thing, and is especially always a self-representing or self-positing thing. The Cartesian human being is thus at its core a self-positing thing, self-grounding being. Man in this way ceases to be considered the rational animal and instead is conceived as the willing being. Both humanism and the Reformation, as we have seen, similarly located man's humanity in the will rather than in the reason. Descartes is indebeted to both of them but moves also beyond them. In contrast to humanism, his subject is abstracted from the historical world, and has no personality, no virtues or vices, no concern with immortal fame. The willing subject, however, is thus not constrained by the finitude of this world and consequently can imagine becoming its absolute master. Similarly, the subject's will is not subordinate to or in conflict with the will of God. . .

This subject's rethinking of thinking as willing is the ground of Descartes' attempt to construct a citidal of reason for human beings against the potentially malevolent omnipotence of God. . . Doubting in one sense seems to stand between affirming and denying, but in another sense it looks as if it should be paired with faith or belief, which is perhaps surpressed in Descartes' account because of its controversial place in Reformation debates. In fact, for Descartes the concealed opposite of doubt is not belief or faith but certainty. Certainty and natural science thereby replace faith and theology for Descartes. (p. 199)

I have never read a better short summary of how modernity got started. In Gillsepie's account, it is easy to see how what begins in Descartes ultimately leads through Kant to Nietzsche. The willing self is the common thread through all three phases of modernity: (1) the rational phase of the 17-18th century Enlightenment, (2) the romantic or feeling phase of the 19th century and (3) the will to power phase of the 20th century.

Behind the new account of the Promethean, infinite will of the human subject lies the dark and foreboding vision of the unpredictable God of sheer will of nominalism. So if the autonomous, willing self is the central thread of modernity, behind the anthropology lies a theology. This means that modernity is essentially a Christian heresy. It is a heresy which has led to materialism, atheism and the culture of death. It is not something new in history (as for Hans Blumenberg) or a logical development of Christianity (Karl Lowith), but a heretical doctrine of God and a heretical doctrine of man. It can even be understood as a revival of ancient heresies in a new historical form. If this analysis is correct, then modernity is a dead end and the only way forward is the recovery of classical, Christian orthodoxy.

Is the Abortion Debate Over?

Micah Watson, over at Public Discourse (where some of the clearest and best writing on social issues on the net can be found) claims that the abortion debate is indeed over. Questions that were fuzzy 40 years ago when abortion was legalized are now clear and progress in science has steadily supported the pro-life position. Here is part of his argument.

"Consider the basic pro-life argument as it has developed over the last thirty years. Though there are many versions and several sophisticated philosophers who have made the case in more formal terms, the argument rests on three simple fundamental beliefs. The first is normative, the second medical or scientific, and the third is political.

The normative premise is that human life is a fundamental good and all human beings have a right to life. Some philosophers hold that this is a right not to be intentionally killed, though the killing of a human being may be accepted if it is the foreseen but unintended consequence of another justified action. Other philosophers do not completely rule out intending to kill a human being, but would take culpability and desert into account. Regardless, pro-lifers generally agree that unborn human beings have a right to life that cannot be violated.

The scientific belief that ties into the normative premise is the simple medical fact that embryos and fetuses are human beings. There is no longer, strictly speaking, any debate about “when life begins.” That question has been answered not by religious authority but by the disciplines of human biology and embryology. A human life begins at the moment of conception when a distinct and complete, though immature, human being forms from the joining of her parents’ gametes.

What follows from the conjoining of the scientific and normative beliefs is disarmingly simple: all human beings have a right to life; unborn human beings are human beings; thus unborn human beings have a right to life. When you add the basic political belief that the purpose of governments and laws is to protect fundamental human rights, you arrive at the basic pro-life position.

Read it all here.

I sense discouragement among pro-lifers during these days. Yes, the Republican Party has let us down. That was to be expected. Yes, the Democratic Party is trying desperately to pretend that the war is over and they have won, just like the ayatollah's in Iran. But the truth is hard to keep down forever. Those Americans who will not surrender to nihilism and violent self-will need to persevere in the culture wars. They must keep on praying, believing and working. The rest of the Western world has run up the white flag on sanctity of life issues. But America remains in play; the last act has not yet been written in our civilization. Pray that God will hold back judgment because of a righteous remmnant. And pray for revival. We have won the argument; what a pity it would be to lose the war.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The National Post Editorial Board on the HRC Issue

The National Post had a great editorial today on Jennifer Lynch and her hypocritical attack on the free speech of those who disagree with her. It begins this way:

"Monday in Montreal, Jennifer Lynch, chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), launched a counterattack against critics who, over the past couple of years, have suggested the commission is out of control and should have its power to investigate alleged hate speech taken away from it. In an address to a conference of other human rights commissioners, an excerpt of which is posted here, Ms. Lynch claimed to welcome debate on the future of human rights legislation no fewer than five times, then proceeded to dismiss anyone who questioned the legitimacy of commissions as unworthy of listening to.

She accused many of her institution’s detractors in “the mainstream media” of clouding the facts about commissions’ roles and tactics in an attempt to discredit them. “Critics of the human rights system are manipulating and misrepresenting information to further a new agenda: one that posits that human rights commissions and tribunals no longer serve a useful purpose.”

But claiming that the commissions have overstepped their original purposes and outlived their usefulness is a legitimate argument. It is clearly one Ms. Lynch disagrees with, but she does not get to be the final arbiter of what is and isn’t acceptable in debates about the commissions’ future.

Still, she can be forgiven for believing she is. The CHRC acts as investigator, prosecutor and judge of complaints of racism and hate speech. Moreover, it gets to decide what constitutes hatefulness in print or the spoken word. No wonder Ms. Lynch cannot understand why she should have to tolerate those who advocate the end of human rights commissions. In her daily working life, she gets to define away those she disagrees with, so why not in the broader public debate on rights and who should protect them?

I sense that the tide is turning. The politicians are way behind public opinion on this issue. Read the rest here.

Is More Contraception for Teens the Only Way to Reduce Abortions?

Steve Waldman of Beliefnet argues that pro-lifers should drop their opposition to the distibution of contraception for the sake of reducing the number of abortions.

He is an advocate of Obama's abortion "reduction" strategy. The word "reduction" is in scare quotes because the Democratic Party Platform and Melody Barnes, the presidential appointee in charge of this file, both say clearly that what they want to do is reduce the "need for" abortion, not necessarily the numbers of abortions per se. So there is considerable confusion about whether Obama really wants to reduce the number of abortions or if the goal is to confuse pro-life supporters into thinking that his higher taxes, higher welfare entitlements and free contraception for the masses strategies are actually going to reduce the number of abortions. People like Waldman would like us pro-lifers to support Obama's abortion "reduction" strategy. Let's listen to his argument. His words are in italics and my comments are in [bold in square brackets]. I'll have a few summary comments at the end:

"My “common ground” fantasy involves a pro-life leader standing up and declaring, “We will be open to looking at family planning efforts, including contraception, to reduce the number of abortions.” [Here Waldman is asking the Roman Catholics to support what they consider to be one evil in order to (maybe) reduce another.] This would be followed by a pro-choicer saying, “We accept that society would be better if there were fewer abortions.” [Now we see why he calls this a fantasy!] Let’s unpack why these sentences don’t normally get spoken, and why it’s important that they are.

If you dropped in from another planet and were asked who would be the strongest advocates for birth control, you might well say, “the people who care most about eliminating abortion.” Yet the opposite is the case. Why? [Well why not? After all, those who oppose contraception totally (the Roman Catholics) and those who oppose contraception for unmarried people (the Evangelicals) think that the more contraception you have the more you dissociate sex from reproduction and the more incentive you give people to have sex without commitment. Since sex always leads to pregnancies in a certain percentage of cases even with contraception, the more sex the more abortions will be "needed."]

The pro-life movement, like any movement, is a coalition. The Catholic Church is hugely important player in the pro-life coalition and, for reasons largely unrelated to abortion, they oppose birth control. Conservative evangelicals often oppose family planning for different reasons, a fear that it will lead to promiscuity and a de-sacralization of sex. [He may not be minimizing their reasons, (see below), but he is trying to get them to give up their convictions on contraception.]

I’m not minimizing their reasons – the Church’s teachings on sex are thought-provoking, and as the parent of teenagers, I find much merit in the Christian argument about the dangers of casual sex. But they are not fundamentally about abortion. So pro-lifers need to decide which of their beliefs is more important: their concern for the unborn or their concerns about the nature of premarital sex. [This is like saying: do you want to have police protection or fire protection; we can't afford both.]

Some pro-lifers try to avoid this trade off by asserting that family planning wouldn’t be effective in reducing the number of abortions -- because contraception would encourage sex, which leads to more unintended pregnancies and therefore abortions. But this is a practical, not a philosophical view. [I have no idea what this is supposed to mean. RC and Evangelical opposition to contraception is more than pragmatic.] So a truly single-minded pro-lifer, who places reducing the number of abortions above other coalition or philosophical considerations – would say, well this may work or it may not work, but there are so many babies’ lives at stakes, it’s certainly worth trying. [Why is it worth trying if there is no evidence it will work and much evidence that it won't?]

In other words, what we need are pro-life leaders who are MORE single-issue oriented, more focused on abortion, and able to disentangle their views on abortion from their beliefs about sex or contraception. [Disentangle makes it sounds like we are confused. I think someone sounds confused here, but it is not RC's and Evangelicals.]

As for pro-choicers, they’ve been all over the map on whether they want fewer abortions. Pro-choice groups cheered when Bill Clinton came up with the “safe, legal and rare” formulation to defend Roe v. Wade.

But more recently they’ve resisted the idea of “abortion reduction.” Melody Barnes, the domestic policy director, was quoted as saying those seeking common ground should avoid using that language and focus instead on reducing the “need” for abortion. In an earlier interview, Barnes said, “"Our goal is to reduce the need for abortions. . . . If people have better access to contraception, that's a way of addressing the issue at its root, rather than do a tally of abortions." [It is hard to take her seriously when she is so obviously so ideologically rigid on the pro-choice principle. Remember, pro-lifers are not the only rigid ones in this debate.]

Pro-life writers justifiably have called them out on the inconsistency. Why do you want abortion to be “rare” if there’s never anything wrong with them? How do you propose to make them rare without reducing their numbers? [Right.]

There’s also the small matter that these pro-choicers are out of step with what Obama and Biden have promised. During the campaign, Obama said that dealing with unintended pregnancies is “the best answer for reducing abortions.” After his election, at Notre Dame, he said, “let's work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions.” Joe Biden was even bolder: “What we're going to be spending our time doing is making sure that we reduce considerably the amount of abortions.” [There is a lot of confusion here; the question is whether or not it is deliberate strategy.]

Why are some pro-choicers resisting the abortion reduction language? In part, they feel it is “stigmatizes” women, implying that abortion is immoral. A few responses.

First, having the right to choose does not mean you get to be insulated from the debate about whether your choice is moral in every case. Let’s posit that there are some women out there making immoral decisions on abortion – say, getting a late term abortion because they don’t like the gender. A pro-choicer can look at that case and still argue simultaneously that a) her choice is immoral b) she should have the right to make it and c) society should try to convince her not to. [This assumes that private killing should be a matter of personal choice, which is what the whole debate is about. I would argue that killing the innocent should never be legal.]

Second, wanting to reduce the aggregate number of abortions says nothing about the morality of any individual’s decision. It says that as a whole, society would be better off if there were fewer of them – in part because of the reasons that pro-choice activists have been highlighting: it’s crazy that a woman’s choice of whether to have an abortion should be dictated heavily by finances; it’s disturbing that so many teens have babies; it’s strange that so many families who want to adopt must go overseas at a time when almost a million women terminate their pregnancies. Those are all good pro-choice-friendly reasons why it’s morally preferable as a society that there be fewer abortions. [Well, if you believe this why be pro-choice?]

Third, there’s a fear that if you accept abortion reduction language, it will lead to efforts to restrict abortions through laws. But Obama has already dealt with that by declaring that outside the purview of the common ground discussions.

It’s hard for pro-choicers to take pro-life “common grounders” seriously if they won’t budget on birth control; it’s equally hard for pro-lifers to take pro-choice common grounders seriously if they won’t accept the basic premise of the exercise. So who will be the brave souls to break that conceptual logjam? [Pro-choice people are afraid of compromising on the basic principle because once they do, they are afraid that the logic will be unstoppable.]

Final Comments:
I think that this line of argument is unhelpful and a little bit dishonest. It is dishonest because it asks pro-lifers to choose between two evils when there is no reason to think that such a choice is necessary. It is a seductive attempt to get pro-lifers to start thinking of their anti-contraceptive mentality stance as the problem, when it is actually part of the solution.

If we could reduce the amount of contraception education in public schools we could at least raise the average age of first sexual encounters and thus reduce the number of teen pregnancies, which Waldman agrees is a good goal. If we reduced the emphasis on contraception we could spend time teaching girls how to say no without necessarily losing their boyfriend. We could also show girls and women that the authority structures of society stand behind them and empower them to say no to unwanted sexual activity. The problem is peer pressure for both boys and girls and contraception simpy reinforces peer pressure. Ultimately more contraception leads to more abortion. So the best way to reduce abortions is to reduce contraception, not increase it.

I therefore call on Steve Waldman and the Obama administration to support the reduction of contraception distribution in public schools and to teens especially as a common ground abortion reduction strategy.

The Meaning and Effect of Late Medieval Nominalism

Here is a quote from Gillespie's The Theological Origins of Modernity, p. 29. His writing is excellent and at times lyrical.

"Nominalism sought to tear the rationalistic veil from the face of God in order to found a true Christianity, but in doing so it revealed a capricious God, fearsome in his power, unknowable, unpredictable, unconstrained by nature and reason, and indifferent to good and evil. This vision of God turned the order of nature into a chaos of individual beings and the order of logic into a mere concatenation of names. Man himself was dethroned from his exalted place in the natural order of things and cast adrift in an infinite universe with no natural law to guide him and no certain path to salvation. It is thus not surprising that for all but the most extreme ascetics and mystics, this dark God of nominalism proved to be a profound source of anxiety and insecurity.

While the influence of this new vision of God derived much of its force from the power of the idea itself and from its scriptural foundation, the concrete conditions of life in the second half of the fourteenth century and early fifteenth centuries played an essential role in its success. During this period, three momentous events, the Black Death, the Great Schism, and the Hundred Years Wawr, shook the foundations of medieval civilization that had already been weakened by the failure of the Crusades, the invention of gunpowder, and the severe blow that the Little Ice Age dealt to the agrarian economy that was the foundation of feudal life. While such a vision of God might have been regarded as an absurdity in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the catastrophes of the succeeding period helped make such a God believable."

It can be argued (as I do in my new book) that the doctrine of God arising out of nominalism is an heretical understanding of God and so the new anthropology that arises out of this view of God is also heretical. During the modern period, the view of God gradually withers away but the anthropology of man as essentially a willing creature remains. The primacy of the human will becomes the central unifying element in what has come to be known as "modernity" and, of course, in its current iteration it manifests itself in the ideology of "freedom of choice."

Three Views of Modernity

In his highly suggestive and groundbreaking work, The Theological Origins of Modernity (U. of Chicago Press, 2008), Michael Allen Gillespie suggests that there are three ways of understanding the way forward for Western culture. The crisis of the Twentieth century - from the Great War to the Holocaust - has demonstrated the failure of modernity to deliver on its promises of peace, rationality, justice and progress. The fall of the Berlin wall is counter-balanced by the events of 9/11, which demonstrate that war, conflict and opposing religions are as much a part of the twenty-first century world as they were of 17th century Europe. The Enlightenment Project has failed.

Gillespie outlines a three-fold typology of responses.

1. The Premoderns: First, there are those who call us to return to something pre-modern. Edmund Husserl's The Crisis of the European Sciences is a key work here. Leo Strauss argued that the overwhelming of natural law and ancient rationalism by a "technology of power and a doctrine of natural rights" is the problem. (8) Hannah Arendt puts her hope for renewal in "the aesthetic politics and public life of Athenian democracy." (8) Eric Voegelin saw "a revival of Platonic Christianity as the best hope for renewal." (9)

We could add to the list here. Pope John Paul II was a scholar of Husserl and Phenomenology and wrote his second doctoral thesis on Max Scheler. He developed a personalist anthropology by combining phenomenology and Thomism. Benedict XVI calls for a revival of Platonic Christianity in his Regensberg Lecture. John Milbank and Radical Orthodoxy also look to ancient and medieval philosophy for the basis for building an alternative to modern and postmodern philosophy.

2. The Postmoderns: Second, there are those who see the crisis of modernity as a crisis of the entire tradition of Western thought beginning with Plato and culminating with Hegel. Martin Heidegger's Being and Time is the key work here. Here, the critique is directed not against a peculiarly modern form of rationality, but against "logocentrism" itself. the solution for thinkers like Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard and company is a post-structuralist philosphy of difference, which is seen as being capable of delivering us from modernity.

3. The Moderns: Third, there are those who believe that the only problem with modernity is that it has not yet been modern enough; that Western culture has not yet been able to rid itself of the irrational hang-overs of past superstitions and atavistic beliefs. So National Socialism is seen not as modern, but as a remnant of a Teutonic past or as a romantic reaction against modernity. The totalitarian character of socialism in Russia is explained, not as a logical result of the implementation of a Marxist philosophy but as a carry-over of the long spiritual authoritarianism of Russian Orthodoxy. The collapse of the Soviet Union is viewed as a vindication of modernity and as a sign of the progress of the modern project. The motto here is that you can't make an omlette without cracking a few eggs.

For all the talk of postmodernism, this third option is still in many ways the most powerful in Western cuture today. And it is possible (my view, not Gillespie's) to see modernism and postmodernism blending together, as for example, when thinkers supposedly as radical as Foucault and Derrida turn out in the end to have no alternative to liberalism and to, in fact, be liberals. (See Who's Afraid of Postmodernism? by J. K. Smith.)

Gillespie's contribution is to try to clarify the real origins of modernity, which is a real service to those who are attracted to the first option above. He does not locate the origin of modernity in the Enlightenment or in modern science or in a new concept of reason. Instead, he sees modernity as arising out of the crumbling of medieval culture in the 14th century and as employing an element of medieval thought, namely nominalism. For Gillespie, the growth of nominalism between the 14th and 16th centuries and its new concept of God as sheer will, as omnipotence, and the destruction of the scholastic theology in which God could be known by reason from His works, is the origin of modernity. By the age of Luther, only one university in Germany was not dominated by nominalism.

The self-assertion, which Hans Blumenberg sees as the essence of modernity in his The Legitimacy of the Modern Age (MIT Press, 1989), is understood by Gillespie to be rooted in the need of man to assert himself over against the threat of an arbitrary God whose unpredictableness makes life frightening and whose will must be resisted by man asserting his own will over against the will of God. The project of attaining power over nature has it roots in this new understanding of God and the new understanding of man that flows from it.

George Grant understood modernity about as well as anyone and his analysis of technology and power uncovers the essence of modernity. It is interesting to note that his name can be added to the list of those who view the recovery of the Platonic Christian tradition as essential to the reinvigoration of Western culture.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Mennonites, Obama and Abortion

It seems strange to me that most of the US Mennonites that I know voted for Obama. Now, I am not claiming that most Mennonites in the US voted that way but I it surprises me that when the chips are down and the Evangelicals and Catholics are in tough in a pro-life battle, the Mennonites seem to be nowhere in sight. They are like the liberal Catholics who, apparently, put expanding the welfare state as a higher moral priority than direct killing of the innocent in abortion and euthanasia. Although most Mennonite denominations are on record as opposing abortion, most of the statements I have read are tortured, ambiguous attempts at being "balanced," as if being against taking innocent human life and not taking it were two morally praiseworthy positions in need of support and recognition.

The Obama administration is making the exporting of abortion around the world a centerpiece of its foreign policy and is bent on making the world safe for those who would pursue scientific research that involves disposing of human beings at the earliest stages of life as waste - a mere by-product of progress. Obama talks moderately and acts as an extremist. His spin doctors then accuse those who oppose him of being extreme because they do not consider him a moderate. But to earn a deserved reputation for being a moderate, one must actually do some moderate things. It is the result of unbelievably effective public relations management by his aides that he is given credit for not introducing and lobbying for the Freedom of Choice Act. It is like an abusive husband being admired for not hitting his wife harder than he did. FCOA is being pursued quietly piecemeal one issue at a time - at least in this first term - but to suggest that Obama deserves to be called a moderate for not proceding faster is ludicrous.

I recently talked with a Mennonite friend who has no problem being outspoken about the immorality of war and who would not hesitate to support legislative action to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet he voted for Obama. Since the election, my prediction has sadly come true that Obama would not end either of the two wars. In fact, the number of troops in Afghanistan has been increased by Obama's order. With McCain we might have had continued war plus a 5th ant-Roe vote on the Supreme Court. With Obama we ge continued war plus another solid pro-Roe vote. The logic here puzzles me. If we can't save all life, why not save what we can? Of course, I don't advocate a consequentialist approach, but the consequentialist logic in this case coheres with the moral duty to avoid material cooperation in grave moral evil.

What causes the Mennonites I know to take a general left-wing line on a whole host of economic and social issues? I thought I understood their criticism of Bush until I realized they were happily voting for Obama. Oddly, the killing of human beings seems not to be decisive for them even though one usually thinks of Mennonites as deeply formed by their pacifist convictions. The admirable opposition to taking human life, which has been the centerpiece of the Mennonite witness to the world for five centuries, is an outstanding contribution to the Church and a great witness to the world. It would truely be a shame, however, if that witness were replaced by a general and predictable left-wing social stance that functions as an echo of the liberal Protestant stance, which itself is but an echo of the modern, secular left.

An echo of an echo is a long way from the strong and clear blast of the trumpet.

Friday, June 19, 2009

PETA - Not Quite Beyond Parody Yet

Here is PETA's response to the "moral crisis" the other night when President Obama swatted a fly while on TV. Iowahawk shows that while PETA skirts the line frequently, it is still (barely) possible to parody it. But to do so requres real talent and Iowahawk has the right stuff:

Widow of Murdered Fly Seeks White House Apology, Shit

WASHINGTON -- The widow of the housefly murdered by Barack Obama during a recent CNBC television interview announced this morning that she would be filing a wrongful death suit against the President in federal district court. The plaintiff brief -- citing pain, suffering and loss of income -- seeks a formal apology and compensatory damages, including an unspecified quantity of shit.

"Bob was a wonderful husband and provider," said the widow, Mrs. Vivian Vvzzvzwwzzz, wiping tears from her compound eyes. "Even though he was always busy at the Rose Garden turd pile, he always flew home in time to tuck in our maggots."

The 17-day old widow said the grieving process since the murder has taken its toll.

"Although it's been nearly 48 hours, I still get an empty feeling in my thorax everytime I think about it," she said. "I feel like I've aged an entire week. Mating season is over, and here I am, stuck trying to raise 532 larvae on my own."

Vvzzvzwwzzz described the "abdomen-wrenching horror" she experienced while watching the President casually assassinate her husband during the live broadcast.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Jennifer Lynch Defends Kangaroo Courts

Note to Readers: If this post and others like it on my blog seems like "inside baseball" to you because you just don't "get" the ins and outs of Canadian politics, I suggest that you read Ezra Levant's Shakedown: How Our Government is Undermining Democracy in the Name of Human Rights and visit his blog at: The links there will take you to other blogs. You can find out about the Calgary pastor who was ordered not to say anything about homosexuality in public for the rest of his life because he wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper. You can find out about the Catholic priest who was persecuted for saying what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches about homosexuality. You can find out about how Ezra Levant was persecuted for publishing the Danish cartoons of Mohammed in his magazine - etc. No, this is not North Korea or Saudi Arabia we are talking about. It is good old Canada. Ezra is a Conservative, but his campaign for change is drawing support from across the political spectrum including PEN, Egale, and other liberal groups, as well as many liberal MP's and Senators. He is a loudmouth; but he is also right on this one.

Jennifer Lynch, the head of the Canadian "Human Rights" Commission (sic), gave a speech the other day in which she gave indications that she finally is beginning to understand that the HRC's are becoming pariahs in Canada. But she seems unable to comprehend what could possibly be wrong with a little government censorship between friends.

The National Post published part of her speech and here is an excerpt, with [my comments interspersed in bold]. I am doing this partly to raise awareness of creeping totalitarianism in Canada and partly because if nothing changes in a few years I won't be allowed to criticize the bureaucratic nannies this way.

"As personal attacks were made against anyone who tried to correct the record, the number of people willing to make the effort dwindled. There is tangible proof of this: Fifty percent of interviewees for an upcoming book on human rights have stated that they feel "chilled" about speaking up. [Subjective feeling here are taken as "proving" chill. What this proves is that Jennifer Lynch interprets chill in totally subjective terms; it is a feeling. But all kinds of people feel all sorts of ways and it is cheap and easy to say you feel chilled even if nothing has happened to you except that someone has not let you have your own way or argued back against you. This should not be the basis for discriminating against people.]

Ironically, those who are claiming that human rights commissions' jurisdiction over hate speech is "chilling" to freedom of expression have successfully created their own reverse chill. [So reverse chill is bad, but non-reverse chill is good? I'm having a bit of trouble following this. But it seems to come down to this: she equates people expressing a subjective feeling with people being hauled before a tribunal and forced to spend $100,000 defending their right to free speech. Both are "chill." Look, if all Ezra Levant could say was "I feel disagreed with and disparged as a person" would I be concerned about his subjective feelings? No. But the fact that he was hauled in before a tribunal and forced to hire a lawyer at his own expense to defend his right to free speech is not a matter of "subjective feelings" but of "objective persecution."]

Critics of the human rights system are manipulating and misrepresenting information to further a new agenda--one that posits that human rights commissions and tribunals no longer serve a useful purpose. [Well, they don't serve any useful purpose. What would be helpful here would be an argument that they do serve a useful purpose. But she won't argue that - she merely assumes it.]

Because the Maclean's case was about a journalist, it naturally attracted the attention of many other journalists, who quite rightly see their role as a bulwark against incursions on freedom of expression. [No kidding, really?]

But I do believe that some are unwitting accomplices in a gross oversimplification of the issue, who flame the controversy by repeating inaccuracies. [Note that she does not have the nerve to say that the journalists were wrong or that the HRC's were not intruding on freedom of expression. She contents herself with hinting that maybe the journalists were wrong about some minor technicality or other. But so what? Are they threatening freedom of journalistic expression or not? Come on, Jennifer. Engage with the argument. If you think you are not guilty at least say why. Name one inaccuracy. She doesn't because she can't.]

It seems that, fundamentally, detractors do not believe that access to administrative tribunals in search of equality is something that our country should ensure." [Well, at least you have managed to grasp that much.]

Ezra Levant, on his blog yesterday, calls attention to an article on - of all places - The Daily Kos, the extreme liberal blog conglomerate that situates itself somewhere to the left of the Democratic Party close to NDP land. He quotes Sean Parnell, who quotes from The National Post article and concludes by saying that Lynch's thinking is "almost beyond my ability to mock." He also warns that attempts by the left to chill free speech in the US are dangerous and counter-productive. Let's put a mark on the wall: this is the first time I've found something on The Daily Kos to agree with. I just hope this doesn't become a habit.

There is one other quote from her speech that I want to highlight. It wasn't in The National Post but is on the CHR Commission website

"Freedom of expression is a fundamental right in Canada. As all of you will know it is enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Because no right is absolute, the modern concept of rights is that of a matrix with different rights and freedoms mutually reinforcing each other to build a strong and durable human rights system."

I agree that no right is absolute, although some are fundamental - which is the point of having the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The question is "Who should decide what the limits to freedom of expression are?" We have actual laws in this country against fraud, incitement, libel and other restrictions on absolute free speech and we have real courts to rule on when these laws apply. We have actual defences like truth as well. The key is that someone has to be harmed; then there is a remedy. But Jennifer Lynch wants to restrict free speech whenever she feels like it and someone feels outraged regardless of whether a real law has been broken or anyone actually has been harmed. This is a very, very bad idea. It is, in fact, incompatible with freedom of speech and the rule of law. The rule of law I can take; the rule of lefitist, ideologically-driven busybody bureaucrats with too much power and too big a budget for their own good is quite another thing.
Ezra now has his own analysis of the Lynch speech up on his blog today. I really appreciate his forthrightness about defending conservative Christians. Since he is a Jew it is hard for the opposition to attack him for self-interest in defending Christians. Jews know a thing or two about persecution and it is time for Christians to realize that we need to speak out for our rights while it is still legal to do so. Meanwhile, Ezra is doing what he can to keep our rights safe.

The Toronto Star is doing its best to set the stage for using the HRC's as a wedge issue to discredit the Tories in the 2011 provincial election. All it talks about today in its story on last night's leadership candidates debate is the HRC issue. Hudak and Hilliar want reform of the Ontario HRC and Tribunal as part of the Conservative Party Platform. Elliot and Klees (astonishingly!) don't because they are afraid the liberals will exploit the lack of public understanding of the issues to make the Tories look like they are against human rights. (!) In other words, Orwellian inversion of the truth looks like the winner this year, according to the polls. The Star is not to be trusted on this issue; it has drifted far from its liberal roots and now hews pretty closely to the administrative totalitarian line. This should be a very interesting campaign. At least the Conservative are getting it. In the long run, it will be very interesting to see if the Ontario Liberals actually find that defending the Kangaroo Courts is a winning election issue. I suspect that they might find the electorate of a different mind than the Star.

Man Tells Woman to Shut Up and Be Liberated!

The CBC is reporting that the Liberal leader of Alberta, Mr. David Swann, is badly bent out of shape by an opinion expressed by an Alberta cabinet minister that is not politically correct. He gets downright cranky about putting "that woman" in her place:

"Alberta's Liberal leader is demanding an apology from Finance Minister Iris Evans, who suggested that in order to raise children "properly" one parent should stay at home while the other goes to work.

"If she really said these things, she must apologize. If she doesn't apologize, the premier must fire her," David Swann said in a statement Wednesday. "These are truly outrageous claims. I have never been as stunned by the sheer arrogance and ignorance of the Tories as I am today."

So David Swann, a man please note, is outraged by the idea that Iris Evans, a women please note, is giving a voice to the largely voiceless and marginalized women who are rebelling and refusing meekly to accept their assigned role of earning money by working outside the home in addition to homemaking and raising children and are tired of being discriminated against by the tax system, by the way.

Isn't it fascinating that the liberation of women entails a man saying "must" so much? What an interesting concept of "liberation." How are women supposed to be liberated if the women won't just shut up? He won't put up with expressions of dissent. There is no room for free speech when the opinions are not judged politically correct by the noisy, bossy feminists Mr. Swann obviously trembles in fear of offending and whose mouthpiece he is.

The idea that this is an issue that requires debate, that better solutions might arise from a vigourous exchange of opposing points of view, is foreign to Mr. Swann's universe. The concept that the debate might actually be about what is best for children has obviously never entered his mind.

This is heresy! This is an assult on a item of high orthodoxy that cannot be questioned lest the foundations of modern society tremble. This must be stamped out by force!

Oh please. Get a grip. If she is so obviously wrong it should not be hard to show how she is wrong with a few well reasoned arguments. Or can't you think of any, Mr. Swann? Is that why all you can do is call for her to be fired?

OK, two can play the bluster game. I demand the David Swann be fired immediately as leader of the Alberta Liberal Party. I have never been so outraged etc. etc. blah blah blah.

Q. Now where does that get us? A. Nowhere.

Mr. Swann, all you have managed to do is to convince us of three things:

1) that you think that you know what is best for women better than women do
2) that you don't like actual debate about serious issues
3) that you are against free speech

None of these would induce a reasonable person to want to vote for you. And your "on behalf of women" stance is as phoney as a three dollar bill.

Homosexuality and Scripture II: Gen. 19

In the last post in this series, we looked at the "Ignored Passages" (Gen. 1-3, Matt. 19, Eph. 5) that define human nature as created male and female with the sexes complementing each other and God's plan for human sexuality in marraige. Liberal Protestants (and their Catholic dissident fellow travellers) who wish to argue that the Bible does not condemn homosexual behaviour wisely choose to ignore these passages and hope against hope that no one calls them on it. What else can they do?

Then they zero in on the few passages in Scripture that explicitly treat homosexuality. There are only a few because condemning something so obviously at odds with God's created order is like beating a dead horse. But homosexuality does come up a few times, usually in passages that use it to illustrate how evil pagan society is and how necessary it is for the people of God to come out from among them and be separate.

These verses are not difficult to understand when read in the context of the "Ignored Passages" but only beome obscure when read out of context. The rule here is that Scripture must be allowed to interpret Scripture. For revisionists modern culture must be allowed to interpret Scripture, but the Church cannot read Scripture that way.

This is certainly the case in the story of Lot's escape from Sodom in Gen. 19. Here the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah have reached the point where their sin is so extreme that God's wrath is about to fall on them as a warning to others. The angels come to warn Lot to flee with his family before judgment falls. A mob gathers around Lot's house in the night and demands that the strangers (angels, if they only knew) be brought out so they can rape them. Lot has obviously been living in Sodom way too long and so he offers his daughters to them instead. (This detail shows how Lot's fate is now hanging by the slimist of threads.) Yet Lot has enough residual knowledge of the power and holiness of God that he is frightened to death by the idea that the messangers of the LORD God might be harmed by the mob. The angels unleash a little tiny fraction of the power they bear and disable with blindness the men trying to break down the door. Then they say to Lot that he must get out of Sodom and take with him anyone he loves. At dawn they flee and before they are out of sight of the city the smell of sulphur rises from its ashes as the LORD God rains down burning sulphur on Sodom and Gomorrah.

Revisionists employ special pleading here to claim that the sin of Sodom was not Sodomy, but rather inhospitality. Now certainly inhospitality was a grave offence in the culture of that day and the men of Sodom defninitely sinned by being inhospitable. But to admit that is in no way to make any less likely that the inhospitality took the form of homosexual gang rape, seeing as how that is what the text explicitly says. Some make a big deal out of Ezek. 16:49, which defines the sin of Sodom as a lack of concern for the poor:

" 'Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy." (Ezek. 16:49)

No doubt Sodom was guilty of many sins; was this not the point of the fact that God's wrath was so aroused against Sodom in the first place? The point of the mention of homosexual gang rape in Gen. 19 was not that the Sodomites could do anything they wanted but when they did this particular sin it was game over. No, the Divine decision to judge had already been made before the angels went to Sodom. The mention of the homosexuality detail is just the narrator's way of emphasizing the extreme nature of Sodom's depravity. Sex outside of marriage is bad. Adulterous sex outside of marriage is worse. Rape is worse still. Violent gang rape is even worse still. But homosexual gang rape is the worst. The point here is that when the narrator reaches for a way to state the extremity of the sin of the Sodomites, this is what he comes up with.

Liberal who want to argue that the Exek. 16:49 verse "proves" that the problem with Sodom was lack of concern for the poor rather than homosexuality should not get so excited. Jude 7 makes it crystal clear that the NT (in agreement with Gen. 19) regards sexual immorality as the prototypical sin of Sodom and a particularly clear sign of its decadence:

"In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire." (Jude 7)

The fact is that sexual immorality and lack of concern for the poor are often connected in Scripture just as sexual purity and compassion for the poor are often connected. It is only modern revisionists who try to drive a wedge between lack of concern for sexual purity and lack of concern for the physical well-being of others. A theology that properly emphasizes the body, both as far as sin is concerned and as far as redemption is concerned, will reject the gnostic idea that we can ignore either sexual bodily purity or the bodily needs of the poor. The Gospel is all about the redemption of the body and redemption includes salvation from sexual perversion.

Passages like Gen. 19 are not difficult to understand when read in the context of the "Ignored Passage." They only become obscure when read out of context. The rule here is that Scripture must be allowed to interpret Scripture. For revisionists modern culture must be allowed to interpret Scripture, so one knows in advance of reading it that the one thing the passage cannot say is that homosexual behaviour is sinful. But the Church cannot read Scripture that way for the Church, unlike modern culture, lives under the authority of Holy Scripture. The Word of God calls the Church into being and orders her life and morals.

The Demise of Fatherhood in the Western World

Andrew J. Peach has a terrific article "On the Demise of Fatherhood" at First Things. He argues that the Enlightenment call to rational self-determination has led to fathers abandoning their posts:

"I would like to propose that the demise of fatherhood is largely the result of a relatively recent and thoroughly unjustifiable faith in rational self-determination. Indeed, nearly all of the culprits that cultural observers have previously identified—contraceptives, abortion, women’s liberation, increased secularity, the usurpation of the functions of the father by the state—can probably best be understood as instances of this more general tendency."

Here is a section near the end that is lyrical and profound:

"Most fathers-to-be suppose that their old ego-centered lives will continue more or less unabated after the child arrives. With the exception of a few more obstacles and demands on their time, their involvement with their children is envisioned as being something manageable and marginal. Nothing like a complete transformation—an abrupt end to their former life—really enters men’s minds.

But then the onslaught begins, and a man begins to realize that these people, his wife and children, are literally and perhaps even intentionally killing his old self. All around him everything is changing, without any signs of ever reverting back to the way they used to be. Into the indefinite future, nearly every hour of his days threatens to be filled with activities that, as a single-person or even a childless husband, he never would have chosen. Due to the continual interruptions of sleep, he is always mildly fatigued; due to long-term financial concerns, he is cautious in spending, forsaking old consumer habits and personal indulgences; he finds his wife equally exhausted and preoccupied with the children; connections with former friends start to slip away; traveling with his children is like traveling third class in Bulgaria, to quote H.L. Mencken; and the changes go on and on. In short, he discovers, in a terrifying realization, what Dostoevsky proclaimed long ago: “[A]ctive love is a harsh and fearful reality compared with love in dreams.” Fatherhood is just not what he bargained for.

Yet, through the exhaustion, financial stress, screaming, and general chaos, there enters in at times, mysteriously and unexpectedly, deep contentment and gratitude. It is not the pleasure or amusement of high school or college but rather the honor and nobility of sacrifice and commitment, like that felt by a soldier. What happens to his children now happens to him; his life, though awhirl with the trivial concerns of children, is more serious than it ever was before. Everything he does, from bringing home a paycheck to painting a bedroom, has a new end and, hence, a greater significance. The joys and sorrows of his children are now his joys and sorrows; the stakes of his life have risen. And if he is faithful to his calling, he might come to find that, against nearly all prior expectations, he never wants to return to the way things used to be."

Many of us who are fathers recognize ourselves in this description. The deep wisdom of the words of Jesus that it is only in losing our lives that we find life are worked out by Peach in his analysis of fatherhood. Being out of control is the only way for a finite creature to be truely happy. Happy Father's Day! Read it all here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Pathetic Bill Maher Piles On in a Desperate Bid for Attention

Bill Maher couldn't let David Letterman have all the spotlight so he had to attack the Palin family too. I've never watched his show because I don't watch TV but reports are that his lechery is just as bad and his language worse. Do they really let this stuff on TV these days? Boy, it is really getting stupid out there.

The issue is not how evil Letterman and Maher are. (That is obvious.) And the issue is not whether their right to free speech should be tolerated. (It should.) The issue is what kind of a society finds them entertaining and rewards their anti-women antics with megabucks and fame? Folks, it is about what is wrong with us.

Some people thought that I was trying to start a debate about whether or not Sarah Palin is a good politician or a good candidate for the GOP in 2012. That has nothing to do with my point; in fact, it is a distraction from it. She could be the worst politician in the world and wrong on every public policy issue, but the ferocity and crudity of the liberal and mainstream media attack on her places the spotlight right on the media, not on her. I'm not interested in debating Sarah Palin's electability, though that will be an interesting story to watch unfold over the next few years. I'm concerned about three things:

1. Liberal hypocrisy for simultaneously claiming to be pro-women while wallowing in hatred of women to sell itself.

2. Blatant liberal bias in the media and how it is harming democracy by destroying the credibility of the press with the population.

3. The liberal hatred of Christian ethics and lifestyle (eg. resisiting the abortion temptation, embracing the handicapped child, speaking openly of faith)

Homosexuality and Scripture I: The Ignored Passages

In this series of posts, I am examining critically the liberal Protestant arguements for accepting homosexuality as normal and even morally praiseworthy.

The Liberal Talking Points
(1) A candidate for a teaching position was being interviewed by the faculty of my university college. He claimed that the Bible is practically silent on the issue of homosexulity, that Jesus has nothing to say about it and that there are only 7 passages that refer to it in the Bible. (He was not hired, thankfully.) (2) Balswick and Balswick's Authentic Human Sexuality, a text published by IVP and used in many Evangelical colleges and seminaries says that only 5 biblical passages deal with homosexuality and, not surprisingly, Gen. 1-2, Matt. 19 and Eph. 5 are not on the list. (3) An Anglican bishop claims that the Bible says nothing decisive about homosexuality as we understand it today.

So what is going on in these three examples? Again and again we hear the same line: the Bible is practically silent on homosexuality and where it speaks it has marbles in its mouth and can't be understood. The same liberal talking points are repeated endlessly and the oversimplifications and misrepresentations continue.

What is Missing?
The problem here is the "silenced passages" which deal with God's intent and plan in creating man in two sexes as male and female. The word in Gen. 2:18 which is translated "helper" in the NIV really means "one who completes." In other words the sexes are complementary. There is no support for a unisex ideal or the concept that gender is completely socially constructed. The sexes are not merely biological differences but personal differences and the male and the female were made to complement each other. In Gen. 1:27 the creation of man as male and female is closely linked to the creation of man in the image of God. But it is not merely that man is in two sexes so far as reproductive biology is concerned, for animals are sexually diffrentiated as well, but the meaning of the sexes in man as a rational, moral creature made in God's image is that man is thereby enabled to love in a personal way that images or reflects (abiet imperfectly) the love that defines the relations of the persons in the Trinity. The creation of man in two sexes is meant to speak of the personal love that lies at the root of the experience of being human and it is meant to be a reflection of the Creator who creates a creature in his image and likeness to reflect his glory in the creation.

The Biblical Doctrine of Creation versus Gnosticism
Now to assume, without argument, that all this has nothing whatsoever to do with homosexuality is to be willfully obtuse. It is to reject the Christian doctrine of creation as found in Scripture and the first article of the creed and it is to flirt with gnosticism. To understand that the Creator is imaged in the love of husband and wife, a fruitful love that forms the basis for community through procreation, is to understand why sterile homosexual behaviour is itself not only closely connected with idolatry but is actually itself a form of idolatry. To claim the right to the pleasure of sexual stimulation but to reject the Divine plan for personal and fruitful communion is to image an idol of sterilty and death rather than the Triune God of fruitful self-giving and life.

Jesus and Paul Read Genesis
Both Jesus (Matt. 19:4, Eph. 5:31) quote Gen. 2:24, which is the summary statement for the narrative of the creation of man as male and female: "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh." The first words "For this reason" points back to the story of the creation of Adam and Eve and the rest of the verse proclaims the end result of the Creator's intent: marriage. Jesus says in Matt. 19:1-4 that God made man male and female for the purpose of marriage. Paul sees the Divine purpose in marriage as an insight into the relationship between Christ and the Church. Marriage is centrally embedded both in creation and redemption, both in God's design of his creation and also in his plan of redemption for his cosmos. Just as Adam is a type of Christ, so the marriage of Adam and Eve is a type of the relationship of Christ and the Church.

Why is all of this important to the debate on homosexuality? It is crucial to see that marriage is not some sort of human invention or a mere random accident of biological evolution. Rather, marriage is deeply embedded in the Divine plan for creation and redemption and recognizing this fact is integral to the spritual life. Homosexuality is an exception, a falling short, a perversion of the Divinely mandated Good. It can never be held up a equal to marriage and to sacralize it is idolatry.

Of course the liberal Protestant defenders of homosexuality have to ignore the passages discussed here because they are impossible to reconcile with the polyamorist and pansexualist agenda behind the current agitation for homosexual "rights." Naturally, such passages have to be deemed irrelevant to the debate for they are too powerful to twist into support for the sexual revolution. But note the cost involved. Liberal Protestants have basically accepted a naturalistic account of human sexuality as evolving by chance and amenable to the exertion of the human will, which can make of sexuality anything the individual or society wants. This is a high cost, for it means that humans are no longer uniquely designed by the Creator in his image. Humans are basically just evolving animals who can now take charge of evolution and direct the evolution of their own natures in whatever way they want. Is there any wonder homosexuality is associated with idolatry in Romans 1 and much second temple Judaism?

On Beating Dead Horses
Scripture has a lot to say about homosexuality indirectly. It shows where the perversion falls short by lifting up the Divinely designed ideal. But there is one more point to note here. Every time the liberal talking points reduce the list of Biblical passages that directly address the topic of homosexuality and every time the point is made that Romans 1 is not about homosexuality per se, but is using homosexuality as an example of the wider point it seeks to make about universal sinfulness, the more clear the Bible's anti-homosexual stance becomes. Why? Because the Bible is so clear about the Divine plan for human sexuality that it is redundant - beating a dead horse - to say over and over again that the homosexual behaviour that characterizes the pagan world around Israel is wrong. It doesn't need to be said in so many words because it is so blindingly obvious from what is stated about creation!

Homosexuality was all around Israel in every period of her existence up to the first century AD and it was prevalent in the Greco-Roman world of the early church. But the writers of the Bible did not sit around all day having Indaba sessions and wringing their hands over the painful questions of whether homosexuality is just as natural as normal sexuality. They simply weren't conflicted and it is not because they were not informed. To take the Bible's near silence on homosexuality as evidence of an ambivalent attitute is to get it totally backwards. It actually is evidence of a united, clear-minded and deeply held belief in the goodness of God's created order including the creation of man as male and female.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Letterman Apologizes - Palin Graciously Accepts His Apology

I commented the other day about David Letterman's bad case of "Palin Derangement Syndrome" and criticized him for crossing the line between humour and savage attacks on women that no one should find the least bit funny. Here is Jill Stanek's blog with both the video of the apology and a transcript.

He still maintains that he never intended to make a joke about the 14 year old, Willow, but only about the 18 year old, Bristol, as if it is pefectly fine to joke about the sexual lives of 18 year olds as a way of getting at their mother. Maybe that is the moral standard of the crowd he runs in. And he clearly still despises Sarah Palin, as evidenced by the fact that there was no apology for the "slutty flight attendant" slur.

Nevertheless, Palin graciously accepted the apology on behalf of young women like her daughters who were offended. I think she was more than gracious to do so. I think I would have let him stew in his juices. A lot of fathers are definitely going to be less gracious than Sarah Palin has been about the whole thing.

What is most telling in all of this is that at least one CBS advertiser has pulled its ads and there have been numerous calls to fire Letterman, who just happens to be on the cusp of signing a contract extension with CBS. So it looks like he took a week to "find religion" on this and that in the end money talked. So he calculated that some humble pie in return for his millions in salary was a good deal for him. I still don't think he cares about women or integrity or modesty or crudity. He has come out of this looking worse and worse.

Sarah Palin, on the other hand, looks more confident and like someone you can picture wiping the floor with scum like Letterman. And that only boosts her stock. All those "Feminists" who looked the other way during this little episode are big losers in terms of credibility, along with Letterman.

One last point; there was obviously a well-organized campaign to respond to this incident and it was lightning fast getting out of the gate. That is an interesting development that the pros won't fail to note. The next media thug who assumes Sarah is an easy target might just wait until after his contract is signed and the money in the bank. That isn't much, but it is progress.

Quick Update:
The Times of London nails this story with its headline: "Letterman Forced Into Palin Apology."

Homosexuality and Nature

In my opinion, the reasons given by liberal Protestants for why they have conformed to the neo-pagan culture around us on the issue of sexual morality are confused, shallow and lacking in substance. They have caved in to social pressure, not just on homosexuality, but on a host of issues including divorce, cohabitation, premarital sex, casual sex and the acceptance of homosexuality. The current debate on homosexuality is just another stage in a series of capitulations to the spirit of the age.

In this post and a couple to follow I want to analyze liberal Christian arguments justifying adopting the neo-pagan position on homosexuality. Liberal Protestants argue (1) from nature, (2) from history and (3) from Scripture to justify their position. In today's post, I look at the arguments from nature.

Nature "Proves" Homosexuality
When it comes to nature, pro-homosexualists argue in contradictory ways. On the one hand, they are quick to sieze on anything in nature that seems to support their point of view. One would think they were fervent natural law theorists from their delight in discovering penguins that seem to engage in homosexual behaviour or their triumphant announcement that homosexuality is "in our genes." (Don't think about the fact that cystic fibrosis and other genetic diseases are also "in our genes.") The argument here seems to be that we can derive an "ought" from an "is" after all, that what is found in nature is a justification for ethical decisions, that animal behaviour is a valid precedent for human behaviour. Just to state it in these terms, however, is rather deflating. But, for the sake of argument, let us conceed (though in truth there is much to debate) the whole empirical package of evidence. Let us say that homosexuality does exist in nature.

First, with regard to animal homosexual behaviour, clearly it is a "blip," an exception, an abnormality compared to how many animals reproduce heterosexually (i.e. all of them). So if we take nature as our model, we can easily interpret the evidence as teaching us that homosexuality is abnormal. We can say that it occurs. Now, by saying that, have we made a moral statement yet, let alone come to a moral conclusion? It should be obvious that we have not. Humans are not animals. When a male lion vanquishes the head of a pride and takes over as leader, he typically kill the cubs of the old leader. Is that a valid precedent for a man murdering the children of the divorced woman he marries? Would that stand up as a defence in a murder trial? How could anything be more blindingly obvious than the fact that not all animal behaviour is a valid model for human behaviour?

Second, with regard to the so-called "gay gene," there are two problems. One is that no such gene has been found, even though many researchers had talked themselves into thinking that it must be there. The American Psychological Association has quietly revised its public education materials to drop claims for the existence of the "gay gene." See here, here, and here.

But, secondly, even if there is a genetic predisposition to homosexual behaviour, it would only be that: a predisposition. It would not be an iron clad "you can only act in a homosexual manner" kind of by-passing of free will. People have genetic predispositions to all sorts of things, like obesity and alcoholism. From my family history, I strongly suspect that I have a predisposition to alcoholism and so that is why I don't drink. I have no desire to find out for sure, since there is only one way to do so! Most clinicians would agree that a genetic predisposition, combined with certain family situations and other environmental factors plus a healthy dose of free will all go into the formation of a homosexuality identity.

So there is no such thing as exclusive, genetically determined homsexuality. Most homosexuals have had heterosexual sex. It isn't really true that there is a "third" sex called homosexual that is exclusively homosexual. In fact, even homosexual activists don't claim that we all are either one or the other. In fact, they claim that some people are bisexual, which is what one would expect if free will is part of the equation. So the idea that everybody is born exclusively heterosexual or homosexual is just bogus. Everyone is on a spectrum and homosexual behaviour is a minor temptation for some, a strong temptation for others, and not a temptation at all for others - just like alcohol.

The attemt to portray homosexuality as "natural" is a rhetorical strategy for deceiving little old church ladies and gullible Anglican bishops into thinking that homosexuals are "just like us" except for one little relatively insignificant detail. But homosexuality is not just like heterosexuality, especially male homosexuality. Male homosexuality and the homosexual ideology in general valorizes pormiscuity and regards heterosexual monogamy as too limiting or even oppressive. To approve of homosexuality is to lay a foundation for approval of polyamory.

Nature is Irrelevant to Homosexuality
But, on the other hand, homosexualists also argue that nature is irrelavent when it suits their purpose. One of the strongest arguments against homosexuality - one that most people in Western culture found convincing for centuries and has never been refuted - is that the male and female bodies were obviously made to fit together. We are "naturally" designed to complement each other - and that complementarity goes far beyond simply intercourse. Males and female are complementary in many ways and these sex roles are rooted in nature.

So, confronted with this argument, the homosexualist activists deny that "biology is destiny" and downplay the significance of nature for what should be a matter of freedom and choice. (So much for geneitics or "homosexual penguins.") It turns out that nature is just so much raw material that we can alter, manipulate and utilize by an act of will for whatever purposes we choose. No one should have the right to "impose" his sexual preferences on anyone else. Everyone should be "free" to express him or herself sexually in whatever way he or she desires.

Having One's Cake and Eating It Too
Well, here we arrive at a logical contradiction. Can we derive an "ought" from an "is" or not? The liberal Protestants who argue for homosexuality often argue both ways and hope no one will notice the contradiction. Or individual apologists or books stress one side of the coin or the other (either the absoluteness of choice or the "naturalness" of homosexuality) but they don't usually contradict the other side of the coin. The reason they keep coming back to arguing that homosexuality is in some sense natural is interesting. My observation is that they do this, even though they are really engaged in a gnostic project of overcoming nature by means of will, because the idea of reason and nature being in harmony is so strongly ingrained in our culture because of the 2000 year legacy of Christianity. So the appeal to nature is powerful. Unfortunately, for the pro-homosexual position it is also self-contradictory.

Nevertheless, 0ur modern society has embraced moral relativism to such a great extent that many people are easily manipulated by slogans, emotions and the intensity of the feelings of those who portray themselves as victims. Unfortunately, the appeal to nature and the denial of nature go hand in hand in liberal Protestant after the face rationalizations of a behaviour they want to adopt on other grounds. But nature really has very little to do with it.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Proposed Explanation for "Palin Derangement Syndrome"

Jay Valentine, over at American Thinker, has an explanation for what makes left-wingers so crazy when you mention the name of Sarah Palin. He writes:

"The left is telling us something many feel, many find as a hunch, that Sarah Palin is the most dangerous threat to the Obama administration with no close second. The left is telling us this by their "over the top" attacks. Not just the Letterman assaults, but the constant barrage of grievances filed against her in Alaska. The attacks every day on Palin for no apparent reason -- except that the left seems to see her quite differently from any Republican candidate. A difference of kind, not of degree.

They would never do this to Romney, Huckabee or Newt, at least not to this level. There is a clear reason -- these guys couldn't fill up a high school stadium unless they were giving out free beer.

What is the Sarah difference? Well, it's not the issues, at least that is not all of it. It is the charisma factor. Charisma is not learned, it is innate. One is born with it and no amount of training can inject it. Jack Kennedy had it. So did Reagan. Now Obama. Out of the thousands of politicians who have come and gone over the last generation, not one other person has shown "it.""

If you think about it, did Ronald Reagan in 1976 look like he had a chance to become president in 1980? How does Palin's situtation today compare to his in 1977? Is Valentine right to put her in the same category as Kennedy, Reagan and Obama as far as charisma is concerned? Is he right that charisma trumps big money in the internet era?

I'm not usually one to hesitate to express an opinion, but in this case I am not sure. I admire Sarah Palin as a person and she is definitely a symbol of middle America. I admire her beliefs, her tenacity and her cheerfulness in the face of stuff most of us could not put up with. But is she the right candidate for the Republican Party? Is she presidential material? Does she look like the only option just because the leadership of the Republican Party is in such bad shape? I don't know.

What I do know is that she is certainly smarter than Joe Biden. But then . . .

The Southern Baptists Contemplate Starting a Christian School System

There are signs that the Southern Baptist Convention may begin a movement to educate their own children in their own schools because of the increasing secularism and anti-Christian atmosphere in government schools. The debate this article describes may have reached a turning point.

Given their network, resources, energy and spiritual commitment, the SBC is positioned as few other denominations are to create a dynamic, outreach-based ministry of K-12 education. Note two points in the following exerpt: 1) the strategic targeting of the inner city and 2) the concept of the school as a hub for family ministry.

"Moreover, Dr. Chapman sees the need for greatly expanding Christian education as urgent: "In recent days, two questions have weighed heavily on my soul. If Southern Baptists don't do it, who will? If we don't do it now, do we risk forever losing the opportunity to build schools for God's glory and the future of our children, grandchildren and the land we love?"

To implement his vision of a major expansion of Christian education, Dr. Chapman advocates two initial concrete steps. First, he identifies the inner cities as places where a Christian education ministry is much needed and would be welcomed. As Dr. Chapman sees it: "In such areas, Kingdom schools would serve as a central ministry among a myriad of ministries that would help families recover from the chaos that now exists and help them establish Christ in the home.""

The question is whether Christians can actually be salt and light within the government schools or whether they are forced to acquiesce in so much moral relativism, political correctness, multiculturalism and secularism that they can only conform or leave. And there is no reason why a Christian could not be a teacher in a secular school even though he or she sends his or her own child to a Christian school. Let the adults enter enemy territory and risk martyrdom; why send our children to be educated by enemies of the Faith?

What I like about the Southern Baptists is that they think offense, not defense. The idea of starting Christian schools in inner cities is a terrific one. On the whole, I like this idea.

G. K. Chesterton

Aw. . . I can't believe I missed the 73rd anniversary of the death of the prophet Chesterton yesterday, June 14. Francis Beckwith has a collection of great Chesterton quotes and links to more. Here are a few of my favorites:

On Pluralism

"There are those who hate Christianity and call their hatred an all-embracing love for all religions." - ILN, 1/13/06

"Religious liberty might be supposed to mean that everybody is free to discuss religion. In practice it means that hardly anybody is allowed to mention it." - Autobiography, 1937

On Economics

"Big Business and State Socialism are very much alike, especially Big Business." - G.K.'s Weekly, 4/10/26

"[No society can survive the socialist] fallacy that there is an absolutely unlimited number of inspired officials and an absolutely unlimited amount of money to pay them." - The Debate with Bertrand Russell, BBC Magazine, 11/27/35

"A citizen can hardly distinguish between a tax and a fine, except that the fine is generally much lighter." - ILN, 5/25/31

On Ethics

"The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice." - A Defense of Humilities, The Defendant, 1901

"Customs are generally unselfish. Habits are nearly always selfish." - ILN 1-11-08

Are You Worried About Christian Extremists?

Here is the "Quote of the Day" from the Sojourners email newsletter.

"I am more concerned with the threat from the Christian-identity groups than the homegrown Islamic terrorists. It’s a disaster waiting to happen. The fact that this guy did what he did may be symptomatic of things to come."
- Maria Haberfeld, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, on yesterday's shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. (Source: The Washington Times)

Well, isn't that just precious? She is more worried about Christian terrorism than about Islamist terrorism. Now that makes sense! What an opportunistic misuse of a headline grabbing event to slam Christianity. What a warped view of the world. She is quick to identify a nutcase as representative, not of some radical, fringe group, but as "Christian," a member of a "Christian-identity group." I'm a Baptist; I believe that would be a Christian-identity group. (The apostle Paul was into the same sort of thing - going around claiming that his citizenship was in heaven.)

Ironically, she would probably object strongly to calling the suicide bomber a representative of Islam. This is the kind of rhetorical double standard one would expect from an anti-Christian propogandist.

Some people just hate Christianity and take every opportunity to taint Christianity with all the evil in the world (eg. Christopher Hitchens). She could have condemned the hateful actions of this spiteful old man without condemning Christianity as such. She just chose not to. And Sojourners thought it was so profound and insightful that it chose to display it proudly at the top of its newsletter. That tells you a lot about how far Sojourners has fallen from its original Christian roots.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Why Judaism Rejected Homosexuality

Dennis Prager has a very interesting article entitled "Judaism's Sexual Revolution: Why Judaism Rejected Homosexuality." He writes,

"When Judaism demanded that all sexual activity be channeled into marriage, it changed the world. The Torah's prohibition of non-marital sex quite simply made the creation of Western civilization possible."

Much of the time the modern, Western narrative of progress is used as the framework for the story of sexual liberation that is the defining mark of contemporary Western progressive politics. So anti-homosexuality must be the conservative position and pro-homosexuality must be progressive. It just is. Don't ask questions. But Prager reminds us that promiscuity and pro-homosexuality attitudes are far older than the Judeo-Christian view of marriage. He writes:

"Societies that did not place boundaries around sexuality were stymied in their development. The subsequent dominance of the Western world can largely be attributed to the sexual revolution initiated by Judaism and later carried forward by Christianity.

This revolution consisted of forcing the sexual genie into the marital bottle. It ensured that sex no longer dominated society, heightened male-female love and sexuality (and thereby almost alone created the possibility of love and eroticism within marriage), and began the arduous task of elevating the status of women.

Prager here connects true progress in elevating the status of women with conservative Judaism, not with the rejection of Torah.

It is probably impossible for us, who live thousands of years after Judaism began this process, to perceive the extent to which undisciplined sex can dominate man's life and the life of society. Throughout the ancient world, and up to the recent past in many parts of the world, sexuality infused virtually all of society.

Does this remind you of any society you know?

Human sexuality, especially male sexuality, is polymorphous, or utterly wild (far more so than animal sexuality). Men have had sex with women and with men; with little girls and young boys; with a single partner and in large groups; with total strangers and immediate family members; and with a variety of domesticated animals. They have achieved orgasm with inanimate objects such as leather, shoes, and other pieces of clothing, through urinating and defecating on each other (interested readers can see a photograph of the former at select art museums exhibiting the works of the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe); by dressing in women's garments; by watching other human beings being tortured; by fondling children of either sex; by listening to a woman's disembodied voice (e.g., "phone sex"); and, of course, by looking at pictures of bodies or parts of bodies. There is little, animate or inanimate, that has not excited some men to orgasm. Of course, not all of these practices have been condoned by societies --- parent-child incest and seducing another's man's wife have rarely been countenanced --- but many have, and all illustrate what the unchanneled, or in Freudian terms, the "un-sublimated," sex drive can lead to."

- snip -

"Judaism placed controls on sexual activity. It could no longer dominate religion and social life. It was to be sanctified --- which in Hebrew means "separated" --- from the world and placed in the home, in the bed of husband and wife. Judaism's restricting of sexual behavior was one of the essential elements that enabled society to progress. Along with ethical monotheism, the revolution begun by the Torah when it declared war on the sexual practices of the world wrought the most far-reaching changes in history."

- snip -

"Judaism cannot make peace with homosexuality because homosexuality denies many of Judaism's most fundamental principles. It denies life, it denies God's expressed desire that men and women cohabit, and it denies the root structure that Judaism wishes for all mankind, the family."

You can read the whole thing here.

Ancient versus Modern Ethical Systems and Conservatism

Kathrine Dalton, over at Front Porch Republic, (one of my favorite blogs), has a great post on Thomas Flemming's book on the superiority of ancient to modern ethical systems. It begins:

"Those of us foolish enough to call ourselves “conservative” are forced to admit that culturally and politically at least we live amidst less and less worth conserving. We can and should continue to mind our own business, and tackle daily life as cheerfully as possible, but some days one wants to take up the fight for the reformation of this bloated and addled culture of ours. Where to find a cudgel? With a culture on the skids, the regressively-minded must acknowledge that it is not enough to look back a decade or two, or a lifetime or two, for what we would restore and retain. We have to look back a good deal further than that.

While Thomas Fleming is not the first or the only to make this argument, he has long been making it, and it is one that comes naturally to a Greek Ph.D., a traditionalist Catholic, and the longtime editor of the paleoconservative magazine Chronicles. The central argument of his 2004 book, The Morality of Everyday Life: Rediscovering an Ancient Alternative to the Liberal Tradition, is that the traditions of the ancient Greeks, Jews, Romans, and Medieval Christians (as well as Eastern cultures) can provide us with tools for sorting through the moral dilemmas of daily life much better than what Enlightenment ethicists and their modern children offer us."

She notes that he is right that the individualistic and rationalistic ideas of the "Enlightenment" arose largely in opposition to orthodox Christianity and she also notes that: "In opposition Dr. Fleming cites Greek philosophers, Roman law, church fathers and Jesus Himself to support the argument for personal ties and particularity—what most of us would call common sense and common humanity." The whole post is worth reading.

But I confess that what struck me most was the way Flemming and Dalton both take a very straight-forward and matter-of-fact stance against modernity as a whole as constituting real conservativism. This is the kind of thinking in which we need to engage if we are to get our heads around the real issues we face. Conservatives are not just liberals who are not in a hurry; they are serious about rejecting much of what passes for conventional wisdom and incontrovertable facts of life.