Saturday, February 26, 2011

America is Not Perfect, but America is Not an Empire

I thought this article by Zbigniew Mazaruk at American Thinker entitled "America is Not an Empire" was worth quoting extensively:
Isolationists and empire myth propagators also ignore the fact that the Bush administration reduced the number of America's bases abroad by 35% and brought back 70,000 American troopers (including 40,000 military servicemembers stationed in Europe) plus 100,000 civilians from foreign countries to the CONUS.

Well, what about all those land that the US has supposedly conquered during the last several decades? The answer is that, as General Powell has correctly said, during its history, America has conquered just enough land to bury its war dead. The only "provinces" of the "American empire" are large war cemeteries in countries like France, bases where American troops protecting endangered countries are stationed, and a number of small islands acquired by the U.S. during the 1890s (Hawaii, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, etc.), which have since then become territories of the U.S. (Hawaii is now a state.)

General Powell once told a former Archbishop of Canterbury the following:
I mean, it was not soft power that freed Europe. It was hard power. And what followed immediately after hard power? Did the United States ask for dominion over a single nation in Europe? No. Soft power came in the Marshall Plan. Soft power came with American GIs who put their weapons down once the was over and helped all those nations rebuild. We did the same thing in Japan.

We have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last hundred years and we've done this as recently as the last year in Afghanistan and put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in.
During the 20th century, Americans came to liberate Europe twice, during world wars started by Europeans. Half a million Americans died during those wars. During and after WW2, the U.S. provided huge aid programs to Europe (the Lend-Lease program and the Marshall Plan), with the U.K. being the only country to repay anything.
After WW2, a new threat to Europe emerged: a totalitarian, aggressive, imperialist Soviet Union. The U.S. shielded Western Europe, as well as many other countries, from the Soviet military. It saved South Korea from Kim Il-sung and continues to protect the ROK from the genocidal Pyongyang regime.

The U.S. has liberated Afghanistan from the Taliban and Iraq from Saddam Hussein, a dictator who murdered a million of his own people. It has also helped dozens of nations stricken by economic crises or natural disasters, including the Indonesians, the Pakistanis, the Russians, the Mexicans, and the South Koreans.

The U.S. is the country which ended the genocide in the Balkans -- genocide about which Europe was utterly unable to do anything.

Clearly, the world has never had a more benign hegemon than the U.S.

And where is the American empire? In those bases in countries whose governments have asked (and continue to ask) the U.S. to dispatch troops to their soil to defend them from their enemies? (Admittedly, this reduces the burden on these countries and allows some of them to evade their responsibilities, but nonetheless, American troops are defending, not occupying, these countries.)

As for Iraq and Afghanistan -- Obama has announced timetables for withdrawal of American troops from these countries, so they are hardly provinces of an American empire.

The U.S. has not conquered any part of Iraqi, Afghan, German, or Japanese territory. It has never imposed its political system on any other country. It is the only military hegemon which has never used its military might to impose its own political system nor its diktats on other countries, nor to conquer foreign countries and subjugate foreign nations (although the early 19th-century War Hawks dreamed of conquering Canada).

The "American empire" is a myth. It doesn't exist, and it never did. The only people spreading the myth are implacable ideological opponents of a strong defense like Ron Paul and his cohorts of fans. For them, every American military installation abroad and every war against a foreign country is proof of an empire.
Read it all here.

Sure, America has its flaws and it has done unjust things, particularly in the 18-19th century to native Americans. But one cannot compare the American presence in the world to, say the Soviet Empire of the mid-20th century. That really was an empire and the difference is not pedantic or one of semantics only, it is a moral and substantial difference. If all Great Powers were were as benign as America, even granting America's imperfections, the world would be a much better place.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Obama Stokes the Culture Wars

Barrack Obama, in an act of political interference in the administration of justice, has ordered his Attorney-General to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act. Obama, apparently, has a problem with this law because he has now dropped all pretense of believing in marriage. Now he wants "same-sex marriage" and he wants it now.

Janice Shaw Crouse writes in the American Spectator, in an article entitled: "Obama Abandons Marriage:"

In an unexpected move (particularly in the midst of the Libyan crisis), President Obama signaled that he thinks the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, and he has instructed Attorney General Eric Holder and the Justice Department (DOJ) to cease defending cases brought against DOMA. The wording of this surprise announcement suggests that the decision is another instance of this president's politicizing the administration of justice: the White House ordering the Justice Department what it should do in order to appeal to the extreme elements of its political base. So much for Obama's pivot to the middle, not that there was much doubt about that after his kowtowing to the unions in the Wisconsin imbroglio.

The president declared that Section 3 of DOMA (the part that prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex "marriages") "violates the equal protection component" of the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. This is the president's latest bow to "gay" rights activists and his latest move out of mainstream values over to far-left policies that undermine the nation's foundations and social structure. This is but the president's latest move to disregard the laws of this country; he has repeatedly put his radical ideology and personal preferences ahead of the expressed will of the nation's citizens. He seems determined to shape America into his image, regardless of what voters want or what the Constitution and national laws state.

Let us be clear about some things. Obama claims to be a Christian. Millions doubt his sincerity, but let us take his profession at face value. This means he is now a heretic, infected by the plague of postmodern constructivism that is currently ravaging liberal Protestantism. He denies that marriage is designed by God with procreation at its center and claims that it is any close relationship between two or more people that the Government and Courts currently say it is.

Fine, it is a free country (so far) and Obama is free to break a campaign promise and reveal himself to be a very different man than many voters thought he was. It is wrong, but he can do that. In a democracy, the people simply note that the next election is in 2012.

I just want to point out that Evangelicals or the Christian Right did not start this fight. Nobody on the conservative side manufactured this issue out of thin air in order to stoke the fires of the culture wars. With all the economic, national security and other issues clamoring for his attention, Barrack Obama has pushed this to the top of his priority list and has chosen to get in the face of Catholics, Evangelicals and conservatives of all stripes. Just remember that. We did not start it.

Two other quick notes on this depressing move was made now. First, I think he probably intended it to fly under the radar with all the Middle East crises dominating the news agenda. He knows it is a vote-loser and his preference would be to sneak it through. Second, by not waiting until the second term (which apparently was his first plan), it signals that he is growing increasingly doubtful that there will even be a second term. In this, I think he is right; but while it would be going too far to claim that this move is akin to running up the white flag, it certainly signals existential angst in the war councils of this most hard-nosed of culture warriors.

Hypocrisy Alert: Obama's Call for a New Civility and Union Violence

I can't resist pointing out how hypocritical the mainstream media is on the the issue of civility in public debate. When the tragic shooting of Gabrielle Giffords took place, the mainstream media exploited the situation to blame the right for creating an atmosphere of incitement in which violent acts could occur. All we heard for about two weeks was calls for civility and restraint in public speech. Sarah Palin was practically blamed for the act of a murderer just because she dared to use routine language about "battleground states" and "targeted races."

Now that the unions are fighting for their perks in Wisconson and other states and there is a need to fire up the left-wing troops, we are seeing just exactly who in today's America is wedded to violent rhetoric. From Lori Ziganto at Red State comes:

Yesterday, Massachusetts Democrat Representative Mike Capuano encouraged union members to go out in the streets and get a little bloody, as Guy Benson at TownHall reported earlier:

A Democratic Congressman from Massachusetts is raising the stakes in the nation’s fight over the future of public employee unions, saying emails aren’t enough to show support and that it is time to “get a little bloody.”

“I’m proud to be here with people who understand that it’s more than just sending an email to get you going. Every once and awhile you need to get out on the streets and get a little bloody when necessary,” Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Ma.) told a crowd in Boston on Tuesday rallying in solidarity for Wisconsin union members. …

This is not Capuano’s first brush with violent rhetoric. Last month Capuano said, “Politicians, I think are too bland today. I don’t know what they believe in. Nothing wrong with throwing a coffee cup at someone if you’re doing it for human rights.”

Firstly, oh, the irony in saying that throwing a coffee cup – at a human – is okay if it’s for human rights. Secondly, I suppose if throwing a coffee cup and “getting a little bloody” are just fine and dandy, it’s no surprise that union thugs decided that throwing phones and hitting a woman are just as proper. Oh, the new civility at work!
I guess we will have to wait a while for the Huffington Post, Sojourners, Daily Kos and Chris Matthews to get all worked up about the threat to democracy posed by union thuggery.

But isn't it interested that when the Left wants a poster child for violence, they have to find a mentally-disturbed loner who isn't even a conservative like Jared Loughner, but to find a violent left-winger, you can easily find one right in Congress? That tells you which side is really wedded to violence. The only reason the Left (and their enablers in the media) so frequently accuse the Right of violence is to deflect attention from the blood on their own hands.

Said Musa is Free: Prayers are Answered!

Christianity Today is reporting that Said Musa, the Afghan convert to Christianity, has been released.

Said Musa, who lost his leg to a land mine while serving in the Afghan army, worked with fellow amputees for the International Committee of the Red Cross for 15 years. Eight years ago, he converted to Christianity.

International Christian Concern (ICC) reports that Musa was released from prison last week. "The call came on February 21 from an official from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul confirming that Said Musa was released and safely out of the country," ICC reports. Compass Direct has confirmed Musa's release.

"According to Afghanistan's constitution, if there is no clear verdict as to whether an act is criminal or not in the penal code of the Afghan Constitution, then it would be referred to sharia law where the judge has an open hand in reaching a verdict," Qamaruddin Shenwari, director of the Kabul courts' north zone, told CNN.

Converting from Islam to Christianity is a capital offense under Shari'ah law. Over the past several weeks, Musa's story has gained attention in Europe and the United States, with articles appearing in London's Sunday Times and The Wall Street Journal, along with a high-profile Twitter campaign by prominent evangelical pastors, including Bethlehem Baptist Church's John Piper and Saddleback pastor Rick Warren.

Many details are lacking, but we rejoice in answered prayer for this brave man. We can only pray that his family is safe as well. If anyone finds more updates and details, please let me know in the Comments section or by email.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Modern Sex Week: What is That All About?

Megan Fox has the growing phenomenon called "Sex Week" on contemporary university campuses all figured out. She writes a post called "Capturing the Culture: How 'Modern Sex Week' Advances an Insidious Marxist Agenda:"

Do you send your children to college to enter into the sex trade?

If you’re the parent of an Oregon State University student, that question isn’t as far-fetched as you think. Last week OSU sponsored “Modern Sex Week,” a campus event devoted to pornography, X-rated toys, and sexual how-tos.

Am I the only one who thinks 19-year-olds don’t need more sex education? I think most of them could teach the rest of us a thing or two in the boudoir. And even if their sexual education was lacking, is their science education that far advanced that they’re truly in need of “Modern Sex Week” awareness? Does the world need more sex experts? I didn’t realize there was a shortage. And why are college students learning how to participate in the sex trade? I am pretty sure you don’t even need a high school degree for that type of work.

Instead of churning out Pulitzer Prize winners and Nobel nominees, universities are sending our kids home from their $100,000 educations stuffed full of communist propaganda and lots of tolerance for things that you find intolerable. And as you’ll see, these absurd uses of educational dollars are all part of the Marxist blueprint to “capture the culture,” starting with impressionable college students.

But first, what is “Modern Sex”? Let’s find out shall we?

“Modern Sex Week” started out with a bang with “Anger and Female Sexual Pleasure” hosted by Veronica Monet (whose site is so vile my computer wouldn’t let me go there because it is deemed “dangerous.”) Being the fearless type, I Googled her and tried finding a way in that didn’t upset my security settings. (Isn’t it funny you can also catch a digital virus from Internet promiscuity? I think I just came up with a million dollar marketing idea for Norton Antivirus.) Monet is a “sex worker” and advertises her services online.

Veronica Monet takes pride in offering compassion, guidance and nurturing in the tradition of the ancient sacred temple prostitutes. Ms. Monet offers the benefits of education and experience tempered with intuition.

Monet is a graduate of OSU, if that gives you any indication of the level of education they offer. After learning about women and sexual anger, attendees could wander down to the seminar on the founding of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender) Center at OSU and all the “conflict” they’ve encountered. Nothing like tearing open old wounds to bring people together.

After the LGBT tour there was the keynote address that was supposed to feature Tristan Taormino, “feminist pornographer,” “sex educator,” and author of books such as The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex For Women. Taormino’s keynote speech was canceled, and the weird part is that it is assumed this had something to do with angry taxpayers objecting to a pornographer receiving $3,000 on their dime, but her replacement was another pornographer who sells sex toys for a living, Charlie Glickman.

I'll spare you rest of the gory details of this event, but if you want to read more go here to Fox's post. It is safe to say that the barbarians are not just outside the gates, they are running our universities. But what does it all mean? What agenda do these people have in organizing such events? Fox writes:

But perhaps the most important question is, why does the Left use sexual promiscuity to further their political cause? William Norman Grigg, Constitutionalist, has the answer.

Often, power cannot be seized through the sudden imposition of a total dictatorship; instead, it must be obtained through the process of patient gradualism — the persistent subversion of vital institutions and the incremental consolidation of power.

One only needs to look to the Marxist philosophers like Antonio Gramsci to find out how the Left has successfully used these tactics in the past and how they plan to use them in the future. “Modern Sex Week” on college campuses is part of the plan.

These efforts draw upon a blueprint composed by Italian Communist theoretician Antonio Gramsci, who understood that the creation of the total state requires the seizure of the “mediating institutions” that insulate the individual from the power of the government — the family, organized religion, and so forth — and a systematic redefinition of the culture in order to sustain the new political order. The battle cry of Gramsci’s disciples is: “Capture the culture!”

Uh oh. If it hasn’t been a total sack and plunder, they’re pretty close. When universities are charging $100,000 a year to educate your kids about hand jobs and dental dams and passing it off as legitimate “learning” it’s hard to say they haven’t won.

We need to get beyond the examination of conscious motives and ask the deeper question of why universities are going to such extreme lengths to destabilize traditional morality and corrupt young people into a lifestyle of debauchery and licentiousness. Is it just a lark? Is it just what humans do when moral restraints fade - sort of our "Lord of the Flies moment" as a culture?

The point is that whatever the individual and personal motives of the administrators and organizers of this kind of event may be, the effect is exactly what revolutionary Marxists want. So whether the organizers are committed Marxists, useful idiots or empty-headed, sexual nihilists is beside the point. The effect is the same.

In an age when socialism has failed as an economic system, the rage against capitalism continues and anarchists and Marxists still seek to destroy Western culture even though they have nothing to put in its place. This is nihilism rather than Communism; but it would be better to say that Communism has always had a deep strain of nihilism secreted within itself.
You can see it pretty clearly in "Modern Sex Week."

Inclusive Language: Motivations versus Effects

In my previous post, I wrote about how inclusive language serves a revolutionary purpose by cutting us off from our own cultural traditions insofar as it de-legitimizes all pre-1960's thought, ritual, literature, theology and philosophy as "sexist," "patriarchal" and "exclusive." This makes us ripe for social engineering and revolution.

Of course, many well-intentioned Christians do not recognize the revolutionary purpose of the push for "inclusive language" any more than they see any connection between the Marxist influence on second wave feminism (Frieden, Steinem, et. al.) and the sexual revolution. Many Christians understand the emphasis on "inclusive language" to be a form of chivalry or politeness or civility. Christian men who have been well brought up often adopt a reflexively protective stance toward women and bend over backwards to want to extend courtesy and avoid offending women, who they view as equals and want to avoid excluding or hurting in any way. I understand this motivation and feel it keenly myself.

This impulse, which leads them to accept so-called "inclusive language," is commendable and Christian in and of itself. They sincerely want to demonstrate an attitude of openness, fairness and respect to women, which is exactly what the Bible requires us to do. I cannot stress enough that the motivations are admirable in and of themselves.

But the problem, which most Evangelical Christians fail to think through before jumping on the "inclusive language" bandwagon, is that to require fundamental changes to language and speech is to make a negative judgment on all those who came before us and, by extension, their doctrinal beliefs.

What "inclusive language" says is that we are now enlightened and so we now recognize that in the past the exclusive, oppressive behavior of our ancestors was reflected in their language. So it is not enough to make concrete changes in society to, say allow women into the professions and the universities or give them equal property rights or the vote. We must also renounce past oppression by signaling in our speech habits our opprobrium for past habits of thought as well.

Female equality was achieved by the first wave of feminism from the late 19th century to the 1950s. By the dawn of the 1960s, women in the West were the most free, had the most legal rights, and had the widest scope for action of any generation of women in any society in the entire history of the world. And the reaction of the new wave of feminism that arose in the late 1950s to 1970s and which was highly influenced by Marxism, was to condemn violently the society which produced this state of affairs as racist, colonialist, patriarchal, oppressive, violent and evil.

An attack on the family was launched in the form of the sexual revolution and the sexual revolution, with its hedonism and extreme individualism, is still being institutionalized in Western society today. Inclusive language is part of that process of institutionalizing the sexual revolution and second wave feminism as the "new orthodoxy" of our society and if Evangelical Christians are unreflective enough to go along with it for their own reasons, that is fine by the cultural revolutionaries for now. But Evangelicals should not be naive enough to think that it stops there.

Speech codes are a never ending cascade of fundamental change imposed from above on individuals and they are designed to re-shape our way of thinking. If you think that just referring to "men and women" all the time instead of to "men" is the end of it, you would be wrong. The changes to our language reflect the "progressive" changes to social mores and since such changes are unending so are the changes to language.

Recently there was a story about how the US State Department has decided that US passports would no use the terms "father" and "mother" and instead use the terms "parent one and parent two." (See "Parent One, Parent Two to replace references to mother, father on passport form" - Jan. 7 Washington Post). Even when applying for your passport you must be reminded that enlightened, modern people accept homosexuality as normal. This is now what "inclusive language" means. This is the kind of thing I mean and examples could be multiplied endlessly.

Not only do the social revolutionaries want homosexuality to be legal and homosexuals left alone, that was achieved 50 years ago but it is not enough.

Not only do the social revolutionaries want homosexuality recognized as good and normal in law, that was achieved long ago but it is not enough.

Not only do the social revolutionaries want everyone to recognize the goodness and normalcy of homosexuality, they want use public institutions and public funding to inculcate their moral views into the children in public schools and into the public at large. But even this is not enough.

Finally, the social revolutionaries want to to pass laws to hunt down and punish those who do not conform to the new group think that they are imposing by coercive means on society. (See, for example, the work of Canadian Human Rights Commissions.)

My point is that it is naive and ineffective to simply capitulate on one point at a time and by doing so to think that if you are just cooperative this one time they won't be back for more. This has been proven to be wishful thinking.

Evangelicals who adopt inclusive language policies may have the very best of intentions and
the purest of motivations. But my question is: Where do we draw the line? The one answer that is totally unrealistic is the naive position that no lines have to be drawn in the culture war against the traditional family.

Thought Control: The Real Effect of "Inclusive Language"

One of the most absurd examples of political correctness in the contemporary West is the idea that traditional language is sexist and exclusionary of women. The claim is that speaking of how God loves all mankind actually means that God only loves men and that when we speak of a "chairman" of a committee we imply that no woman could be a chairman of such a committee. The claim is demonstrably false. We know that from reading documents from the pre-PC era (pre-1960s) and observing from the context that the use of the masculine pronoun, for example, was a convention that was universally understood to be a convenient way of referring to the human race.

It is easier to write clear prose using such harmless conventions. To say that a certain character in a play represents "Everyman" is easier than saying that such a character represents "Every man and every woman." And since the postmodern relativists consider gender to be a social construct and since they now believe in multiple genders, even saying "Every man and every woman" is exclusive of those newly discovered genders.

This is not an issue of clarity in communication; it actually obscures clarity. No, the issue is whether or not the entire history of Western civilization is immoral. The postmodern, constructivists wish to paint the entirely of Western culture prior to the 1960s as "patriarchal," which to them means bad. The point of casting traditional culture as evil is to justify social engineering, social experimentation and social revolution.

The real point of inclusive language is to place all pre-1960s literature, religion, ethics, politics, philosophy, and tradition under suspicion. It is a way of cutting people off from their roots and traditions and rendering them postmodern, virtual, free-floating individuals with no solidity and no defense against the social engineers of the managerial class of the modern, bureaucratic state.

Inclusive language forces individuals, by means of coercion, intimidation and punishment, to do pennance for the supposed sins of their ancestors and pay obeisance to the cultural Marxism that is working hard to destroy our culture, our traditions, the family and Christianity.

It is a fad that Christians do well to reject, oppose and refuse to comply with wherever possible. If they control the way you talk, they control the way you think.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Stealing Democratically

It has become a widely accepted position that the voting public can vote in politicians who promise to change laws so as to seize part of the wealth of certain people - deemed to be 'the rich' - and then turn around and redistribute that money to other people - deemed to be 'the needy' - and that this action is morally right.

Why is stealing right?

Augustine tells of an encounter between Alexander the Great and a pirate, who cheekily said to the Emperor: "Why is it that when I do with my one ship what you do with your great fleet, it is called robbery?" Well, that is a good question. Alexander, like many other emperors before and since was roaming around the world invading, conquering and looting territories too weak to defend themselves from his army and navy.

Private property is private property and stealing is stealing. I don't see any escape from this logic. The Bible is full of calls to the rich to share generously with the poor but I don't see any calls in Scripture for governments to play Robin Hood and steal from the rich in order to give to the poor. Insofar as the king is rich, he too is obligated to be charitable and insofar as a government is rich it too is obligated to be charitable.

But to be charitable to the poor, who have a claim on our generosity because everyone has to live and to ignore the needs of the poor is scandalous in God's eyes, is not the same as adopting a government policy that wealth should be relatively equal and that this should be accomplished by the coercive power of the state.

Karl Marx offered a possible theoretical justification for government redistribution of wealth in the theory of surplus value, which says that workers are entitled to the full value of the products of industry after the costs of production are subtracted. In other words, profits are immoral. But this is a myth based on the fallacy that entrepreneurship, risk-taking and creativity are of no value in the production of goods and services. This is simply implausible.

So why do so many of us so readily assume that government redistribution of wealth by coercion is morally justifiable? Why do so many even go further and claim that it is morally obligatory and urgently required by justice? Why is stealing deemed morally right when it is done by a large, powerful entity against which there is no recourse and varnished with the trappings of procedural democracy in which the majority vote themselves a share of the private property of the few?

I got thinking about this today because of the events taking place in Madison, WI, where a special interest group, the public sector unionized workers, are attempting to subvert democracy and frustrate the will of the people. Gov. Scott Walker ran on a platform of balancing the budget by rolling back the power and excessive benefits of public employees and he won decisively. Yet, when he proceeds to implement his election platform as promised, the public employees march, scream and call him Hitler.

It is funny, isn't it, how social democrats scream "injustice" when democracy works against them, yet are happy to utilize it whenever they can to loot the public treasury. Unions spend hundreds of millions electing Democratic politicians, who then become their employers. These politicians clearly have a conflict of interest but they never declare it. Instead, they pay off their supporters with cushy contracts and collect the next round of donations in preparation for the next election. It is a corrupt system run for the benefit of the politicians and the unions at the expense of ordinary taxpayers. And it is all justified in the name of "democracy" until the majority of taxpayers catch on to the game

Now the majority is going to take back from the few what the few originally took from the majority. But it is all so democratic.

Maybe the problem here is that democracy is being misused and abused. Maybe the problem is that stealing is still stealing even when it is done democratically. Maybe the problem is that democracy is not the right way to set prices and wages. Maybe the market should do that and government should restrict itself to the limited functions of maintaining law and order, national defense and such matters.

Maybe stealing democratically is still stealing. After all, the Eighth Commandment does not say: "Thou shalt not steal, unless by majority vote."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Please Pray for Said Musa

Something horrifyingly evil is happening in Afghanistan and it seems that nobody cares. Writing in The National Review, Paul Marshall raises the alarm in "America Quiet on the Execution of Afghan Christian Said Musa."

A terrible drama is unfolding in Afghanistan: There are reports that Said Musa, whose situation I described at Christmas, will soon be executed for the ‘crime’ of choosing to become a Christian. (For background, see here.)

Musa was one of about 25 Christians arrested on May 31, 2010, after a May 27 Noorin TV program showed video of a worship service held by indigenous Afghan Christians; he was arrested as he attempted to seek asylum at the German embassy. He converted to Christianity eight years ago, is the father of six young children, had a leg amputated after he stepped on a landmine while serving in the Afghan Army, and now has a prosthetic leg. His oldest child is eight and one is disabled (she cannot speak). He worked for the Red Cross/Red Crescent as an adviser to other amputees.

He was forced to appear before a judge without any legal counsel and without knowledge of the charges against him. “Nobody [wanted to be my] defender before the court. When I said ‘I am a Christian man,’ he [a potential lawyer] immediately spat on me and abused me and mocked me. . . . I am alone between 400 [people with] terrible values in the jail, like a sheep.” He has been beaten, mocked, and subjected to sleep deprivation and sexual abuse while in prison. No Afghan lawyer will defend him and authorities denied him access to a foreign lawyer.

Any and every human being who is imprisoned, abused, or tortured for the free and peaceful expression of their faith deserves our support, but Musa is also a remarkable person and Christian. In a letter smuggled to the West, he says, “The authority and prisoners in jail did many bad behaviour with me about my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. For example, they did sexual things with me, beat me by wood, by hands, by legs, put some things on my head.”

He added a thing much more important to him, that they “mocked me ‘he’s Jesus Christ,’ spat on me, nobody let me for sleep night and day. . . . Please, please, for the sake of Lord Jesus Christ help me.” (View the full letter here)

- snip -

Newspapers in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe have reported the story, but with, the exception of the Wall Street Journal and, of course, NRO, American outlets have not found it worthy of attention. The Journal reports that “Afghan officials have been unapologetic: ‘The sentence for a convert is death and there is no exception,’ said Jamal Khan, chief of staff at the Ministry of Justice. ‘They must be sentenced to death to serve as a lesson for others.’”

The U.S. government — reportedly including Secretary of State Clinton — and other governments have pushed for his release, but to no avail.

But the president has been silent, even as we fight a war that has among its goals the creation of a government that conforms to international human-rights standards.

An American president certainly needs to guard and shepherd his political capital, and should not speak out about every prisoner. But Musa himself has appealed to “President Brother Obama” to rescue him from his current jail. And when an obscure and aberrant Florida pastor, Terry Jones, threatened to burn a Koran, not only President Obama but much of his cabinet, as well as General Petraeus, weighed in on the matter.

If the actions of a Florida pastor who threatened to destroy a book holy to Muslims deserved public and presidential attention, then the actions of the Afghan government, ostensibly a ‘democratic’ ally, to destroy something holy to Christians, a human being made in the image of God, also deserve public and presidential attention.

When the absurd Terry Jones incident was unfolding, the charitable interpretation to put on the actions of President Obama and the astonishing number of high officials who spoke out against the proposed Koran-burning was that, although they recognized his constitutional right to free speech they feared for the lives of innocent people who might die in the violence committed by fanatical Muslims. The less charitable interpretation, of course, was that they were all craven and in the process of capitulating one step at a time to Muslim domination.

Well, if the charitable interpretation was true, don't you think President Obama would speak out on this case? If he really was concerned about violence against innocent people, wouldn't he care about this man?

If there ever was a good reason to go to war against Afghanistan, actions like this would be it. If these are our friends, I can't wait to see our enemies. To allow the Afghan government to proceed with this atrocity is an insult to every person who has died in Afghanistan trying to set that country free from religious tyranny.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Violent Rhetoric on the Left No Problem for the Left-wing Media

The left-wing media in America is utterly hypocritical and not to be trusted. That is the conclusion a rational, unbiased observer would have to draw based on media coverage of the events this weekend in Madison, Wisconsin as thousands of hateful, violent threats were uttered by left-wing union members against Governor Scott Walker and the media said nothing.

Just a few short weeks ago we were inundated with a constant barrage of stories, quotes, head-shaking and hand-wringing over the supposedly "violent" rhetoric of conservatives in the wake of the shooting rampage by a deranged individual in Arizona. The tone of public debate had created an environment in which such individuals were encouraged to act. Sarah Palin was excoriated because she put targets on winnable seats in the last election on a graphic.

Now we know they were not serious. Of course we actually knew that all along, but now we have empirical, irrefutable proof. Watch this:

Remember, when conservatives start winning the political argument the Left immediately pull the "let's shut them up by attacking them" tactic. Who wants to talk about immigration when the facts are against the Left? Who wants to talk about the deficit when the facts are against the Left? Who wants to talk about public sector unions spending millions to elect friendly public officials who then let them raid the treasury? Who wants to talk about declining American prestige abroad due to a dangerous, incoherent foreign policy that scorns friends and bows and scrapes before enemies and dictators? Better to attack the rhetoric of conservatives.

It is insincere. It is dishonest. It is slimey. But, best of all, it is not working any more. The November midterm elections showed that.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Alasdair MacIntyre's Flawed Critique of Capitalism

Robert T. Miller has a great article in the February 2011 First Things entitled "Waiting for St. Vladimir" in which he critiques Alasdair MacIntyre's critique of capitalism. (It is not available online except by subscription so I can't link to it.)

I have taught MacIntyre's great book After Virtue (hereafter AV) in my Christianity and Culture class for the last 7 or 8 years and I have greatly profited by reading and re-reading it. Like Miller, I revere MacIntyre as one of the greatest living philosophers and I think AV is one of the great books of the 20th century. It amazes me how lucid and engaging it is compared to some of MacIntyre's other books, which leave me cold and bored.

But AV is a story and a corker at that. It is the story of how we got to the point where, as a culture, we can no longer articulate coherent reasons for moral positions and are thus left drifting aimlessly along with no way to resolve moral disagreements other than by force. It seems clear that a culture in this predicament faces the alternatives of collapsing or embracing tyranny. And that is a lot of insight to get from one 300 page book.

I completely resonate with him when Miller calls MacIntyre one of his "intellectual heroes" and so Miller's criticism of MacIntyre is not based on any desire to undermine MacIntyre's ethics in general or to discredit him as a Christian philosopher. I believe MacIntyre is right about so many things that it pains me to find him wrong at one very important point. For the past several years now, in my final lecture on AV I have had to point out that MacIntyre seems to be somewhat naive about Marxism and Capitalism insofar as he seems to think that the Marxist critique of Capitalism is valid even though Marxism itself has been completely discredited. Miller explains the root of MacIntyre's critique of Capitalism and thus throw light on this puzzling position of MacIntyre's.

Miller describes a lecture given by MacIntyre at Cambridge in the summer of 2010 on the financial crisis of 2007-08 in which MacIntyre reiterated his anti-Capitalist views and expounded on them. Miller points to the classical Marxist theory of surplus value as the foundation of MacIntyre's argument. Miller writes:
"Following classical Marxist theory, MacIntyre defines surplus value as 'the difference between what the labor of productive workers earns in wages and what capitalists receive for the products of that labor' - that is, the difference between the value of the goods produced by a firm and the amount paid in the aggregate to its workers. Capitalists appropriate this difference and so exploit labor." (38)
MacIntyre argues that capitalists are caught in the dilemma of wanting to maximize profits by minimizing wages, on the one hand, and needing consumers with buying power to purchase the goods, on the other. Capitalism solves this dilemma by inventing credit, what he terms "the infliction of debt." (38) In creating the necessary financial products to facilitate debt, capitalists transferred a high amount of risk to unsuspecting individuals without explaining what was going on and thus caused a debt crisis.

Miller points out that if MacIntrye is right, the only solution is not regulation but revolution. The whole system is rotten morally and must be replaced. So we are not waiting for a new St. Benedict, but for a new St. Vladimir (as in Lenin). In the 1995 preface to his 1953 book Marxism and Christianity, "MacIntyre mentions 'relatively small-scale and local communities' such as certain ancient cities, medieval communes, and 'modern cooperative farming and fishing enterprises.'" He claims that in such communities the uses of power and wealth are subordinated to the goods internal to communal practices. While it is not clear in AV, Miller observes that "the local communities in which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained" that MacIntyre mentions in AV's conclusion turn out to be economic communities.

As Miller observes, the Marxist theory of surplus value is rejected by most economists today. Theologians and philosophers, apparently, have not all received the memo as yet, however.

Why is the theory wrong? It is because the value of goods is determined by all the inputs into the production process and not merely the labor of human beings alone. It depends on the cost of raw materials, plant and equipment, patents and technology and other inputs. Workers are entitled not to the entire value of the goods produced, but only to the portion of the value of the goods due to their efforts. Owners of capital deserve the portion of the value of the goods attributable to the capital.

Miller points out that MacIntyre's argument is implausible. For one thing, capitalists are not really able to set wages at any level they want because of stiff competition from other firms who compete for the services of workers. Wages set in a competitive environment are fair.

MacIntyre speaks as if all capitalists functioned as a collectivity, when in reality they are competing against each other. As Miller points out, capitalism has produced, through this kind of competition, a greater equality of wealth and income than any other system in history. Even workers are investors (capitalists) in contemporary societies. Most large companies are publicly traded and owned partially by workers. Workers invest their retirement savings in mutual funds, which invest in companies.

Credit products like mortgages exist because they meet a need, not because capitalists scheme to inflict debt on unsuspecting workers. A young couple thus can buy a house when their children are young, rather than waiting until the children are grown.

Miller is clear that capitalism is not perfect. But the costs of the capitalist system are less than those of the alternatives. All that need be claimed is that it is the least imperfect system in a fallen world; no Utopianism is required. Thus, as Miller says, an attack on capitalism is really an attack on poor people, who have been most helped by capitalism.

MacIntyre admits that capitalism has generated more material prosperity than any other system but is still unjust because of the surplus theory of value. But this theory is simply false.

Miller may well get to a deeper reason why MacIntyre thinks capitalism is evil when he notes that MacIntyre, following Aristotle, thinks that all communities have a purpose and that since capitalism is so good at generating wealth that must be its purpose. However, Miller argues that capitalism exists not to facilitate any particular purpose but rather to facilitate the attainment of the goals individuals set for themselves.

MacIntyre has made some serious mistakes in political philosophy. But Miller demonstrates that MacIntyre's anti-Capitalist view are not derived from his Aristotelian philosophy. They are merely the barnacles of MacIntyre's rather old-fashioned Marxist ideology.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Real Threat to Academic Freedom on Campus: It's Not What the CAUT Thinks It Is

If the CAUT was really interested in promoting academic freedom, (rather than doing the opposite by attempting to stamp out intellectual diversity by harassing small Christian universities), it might consider launching investigations into the shocking and Orwellian squashing of free speech at Canadian universities (that is, the publicly funded ones at which its members actually teach) through the use of unconstitutional speech codes.

Greg Halvorson at American Thinker blog explains how much of a threat speech codes are in his post: "Fighting campus speech codes with FIRE."
Speech-code. Sounds like something from George Orwell's pen or a Stephen King tale, but it's not. According to Adam Kissel, from the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education, two-thirds of college campuses enforce speech-codes, violating the First Amendment rights of their students. Thanks to FIRE, however, codes are being challenged, speech is alive, and awareness is being raised. While two-thirds isn't good, this is down from a shameful nine-tenths, and each day, with FIRE's help, administrators are relenting.
Kissel, at CPAC, explained how codes work. They're all about "diversity," demanding it at the expense of expression. If a student opposes Islam, say, or the homosexual lobby (prominent campus clubs), he can be hauled before a panel with expulsion authority. The affect is to chill speech, of course, but on a larger scale, to destroy education's true purpose.
If no one can be criticized because it may offend - if all it takes is "You annoy me!" to bring censure - this doesn't produce analytic thinkers but instead conformists desperate to "be liked." In place of a wholesome learning forum, colleges become homogenized vacuums in which censorship trumps debate.
But FIRE is fighting back. Here is how it states its mission on its website:
The mission of FIRE is to defend and sustain individual rights at America's colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience — the essential qualities of individual liberty and dignity. FIRE's core mission is to protect the unprotected and to educate the public and communities of concerned Americans about the threats to these rights on our campuses and about the means to preserve them.
Here is an interview with Adam Kissel of FIRE in which he explains how conservatives are the most common victims on today's campuses when it comes to taking away rights to free speech.

The problem is that many people have confused left-wing, paternalistic, moralism and coercive political correctness for respect for individual human beings. Yes, academic freedom, freedom of thought and freedom of speech are under attack in today's universities. But it is not Christian statements of faith that constitute the threat: it is speech codes.

The hypocrisy of the CAUT is breathtaking. If they really care about open debate and freedom of investigation, then why not join with FIRE in the fight against unconstitutional, paternalistic, Orwellian speech codes?

Why Do So Many People Hate Capitalism? Are Christian Ministers and Theologians Being Irresponsible in Their Teaching?

The reason I ask is that I have encountered so many Christians who reflexively hate capitalism, businesses and the whole apparatus of modern economic life. They tend to blame the recent recession on "greedy bankers" and they believe modern, socialist, redistribution of wealth by government coercion to be mandated by the Bible. They are sure that business people are evil and greedy because they exploit the workers by stealing what rightfully belongs to the workers in the form of profits. They think that the profit motive equals greed and that everyone ought to be willing to work for the common good without the incentive to keep what they earn.

When you study economics and approach economics objectively and rationally, you realize that all these beliefs are false and destructive. Capitalism has done more to raise living standards, lift poor people out of poverty and improve the quality of life than any other economic system in the history of the world. Capitalism is a recent innovation - less than 4 centuries old - in the grand scheme of human history. Profit is not evil, private property is a pillar of civilization and is rooted in Biblical revelation, specifically in the Eighth Commandment. And government intervention in the economy is unfailingly harmful to ordinary people including workers and the poor.

So what gives? Why are so many Christians so poorly informed? Why do so many people accept emotionally-driven myths about the evils of capitalism and the virtues of socialism? Why do even those Christians who recognize the massive failures of socialist systems in the 20th century still persist in believing that the Marxist critique of capitalism is valid?

The Social Gospel in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was a movement within liberal Protestantism to turn the Churches into vehicles for the promotion of socialism. Liberation Theology in the 1960s to 1980s was an attempt to revive this movement and revive socialism. But since the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, socialist systems have crumbled, socialist dogmas have been exposed as fraudulent and socialism as a political-economic option has receded.

Yet, even as the the grudging realization that socialism as an economic system might be Utopian and unworkable in practice has penetrated the consciousness of most Christians, the myth that the Marxist critique of capitalism is valid has persisted. What is forgotten is that Marx assumed the mantle of an 8th century Hebrew prophet both in the sense of "forth-telling" and also in the sense of "fore-telling." He uttered a prophetic word of judgment on capitalism as morally evil and he also predicted its imminent demise as a result of its own inner contradictions.

But whereas the predictions of the 8th century Hebrew prophets came true when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 587 BC, and they were accredited as prophets whose prophecies came true, Marx's predictions failed to come true and he thus stands discredited as a false prophet.

What one ought not to fail to notice is that Marx's analysis of capitalism's moral shortcomings has also been rejected both by most modern economists and also by the Judeo-Christian moral theology. The social teaching of the Roman Catholic Church and the moral theology of historic, continuing Protestantism (as opposed to the liberal sectarian offshoot that is currently dying), has re-affirmed the goodness of private property.

The problem is that there has been confusion for the past 150 years over how to understand the implications of the doctrine of private property in the context of the capitalist, industrial revolution in which Marx's labor theory of value challenged the idea that capital derived from profits is genuinely the private property of the capitalist owners of the business enterprises which generated those profits.

The essence of the labor theory of value is that these profits actually belong to the workers and not to the business owners, so they have been unlawfully stolen from them. So the dispute is not technically over whether the doctrine of private property is true, for both sides recognize that it is; rather, the dispute is over whose property profits in a capitalist system actually are.

The moral basis for the redistribution of wealth in a modern socialist or social democratic welfare state is Marx's labor theory of value. If the profits belong by natural right to the workers (if Marxists can stand to put it that way - I'm just trying to express it in the strongest possible terms), then to have democratic votes on levels of taxation and redistribution makes sense. Nobody is stealing the business owners' profits, we are just returning stolen property to its rightful owners.

On the other hand, if the profits do not actually belong to the workers in the first place, then the only way to justify redistribution of wealth is the doctrine of Thrasymachus in Plato's Republic and of Nietzsche in many of his writings, namely, that the strong should exploit the weak if they get the chance. Ironically, this doctrine justifies both capitalist exploitation and socialist redistribution. Whoever has the guns should take what they want from the other.

Christians, naturally, are somewhat uncomfortable with how the big fish eating the little fish philosophy meshes with the Golden Rule and the Greatest Commandment of our Lord. So it is imperative for Christian anti-capitalists to believe that their redistributive policies are merely rectifying injustices by returning stolen property (in the form of profits) to their rightful owners (poor workers).

So it appears to me that the whole left-wing Christian argument (whether in the forms of the old-fashioned Social Gospel, the now mostly defunct Liberation Theology, or the newer Evangelical Left) for wealth redistribution by government coercion depends directly on the now-discredited Marxist labor theory of value. Am I missing something here? Is there another basis for redistribution?

Of course, there is the moral argument for charity. That is deeply embedded in the Christian tradition but it is irrelevant to the question of social justice. Charity is no more a matter of justice than grace is a matter of merit. Of course Christian ought to care about the poor and given money to help them. No one would deny that. But is government redistribution of profits in a capitalist system to the workers and to the poor a matter of justice? That is a separate question from the issue of charity. But I find Christians confusingly conflating them all the time.

The question I am raising in this post is whether or not there is a moral basis for Christians advocating for coercive government redistribution of wealth as a matter of justice or not. If the only basis is the labor theory of value, then the argument rests on a flimsy reed. In the next post, I will discuss Robert T. Miller's recent criticism of Alasdair MacIntryre's critique of capitalism, which addresses this issue head on.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I Have an Idea: Let's Investigate the CAUT

Redeemer University College has announced that it will not be cooperating with the CAUT's "investigation." Instead they want dialogue about the CAUT's premise that no Christian university ever could have academic freedom.

From The National Post:

A Christian university accused of stifling academic freedom said Wednesday it would no longer co-operate with the investigation by Canada’s largest teachers’ federation.

“The report’s findings are a foregone conclusion,” said Hubert Krygsman, president of Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Ont.

The college issued a news release late Wednesday saying it would gladly discuss the issues with the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) but would not submit to an official process.

“Instead, Redeemer has invited the CAUT to an open and honest philosophical discussion about differing paradigms of academic freedom and the relation of faith to learning,” the release says.

CAUT was not available for comment on Wednesday.

I don't imagine the CAUT wants a philosophical debate on the issue. They depend on a sneaky tactic to influence public opinion against Christian universities because their argument have no substance.

Now for the back-peddling. From The National Post yesterday:

The country’s largest association of university teachers has vowed to change how it investigates Christian schools over allegations that faculty are required to sign statements of faith.

James Turk, head of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), said Tuesday that his group would no longer send a team of investigators to uncover what critics say was readily available by a phone call.

“In hindsight we started out using our elaborate investigative procedures because we wanted to be fair to the institutions,” said Mr. Turk. “We didn’t want to say the schools were doing something inappropriate without checking it out carefully.”

CAUT, which represents 65,000 faculty members, has issued lengthy reports on three schools since 2006 that took months to complete. They concluded that Trinity Western University in British Columbia, Crandall University in New Brunswick and Canadian Mennonite in Winnipeg made faculty sign a statement of Christian belief as a requirement of employment. A fourth school, Redeemer University College in Ontario, is now under investigation.

The targeted schools, none of whose faculty belong to CAUT, said the investigations were not necessary because the statement of faith requirements were readily available on their websites and in their academic catalogues.

But by taking months to investigate and then issuing a lengthy report on their findings, CAUT created an air of doubt about the schools that has resulted in some parents and donors wondering whether there was a problem, said Justin Cooper, president of Christian Higher Education Canada, the umbrella group of Canada’s 33 private Christian universities and colleges.

The issue here was never whether or not Christian schools have a faith statement that faculty signs. Everyone knows that; in fact, it is a selling point that these universities use to promote themselves to potential students, parents and donors. It is part of their whole reason for existence.

But some left-wing radicals at the CAUT don't like Christianity or Christian universities, so they invented a phony "investigation" and sent out Captain Obvious out to do an investigation that would breathlessly report back that indeed, what the PR literature and the Academic Calendar and the university website all state is, in fact, (gasp!) actually true!

As Cooper points out the purpose of this charade is merely to create an atmosphere of suspicion around Christian universities and thus harm them.

I think Canadian universities should get together and raise a sum of money to mount an advertising campaign around the theme: "Hated by the CAUT; you know you can trust us with your kids!" In other words, turn the tables and use some pointed humor to skewer the witch hunters. What they are doing depends on confusion, misinformation and half truths. The best way to fight back is to shine the search light on them.

I would even go further. I would announce the formation of an investigative committee to probe the ideological leanings of the CAUT. The purpose of this committee would be to bring to light the political positions taken by CAUT over the past couple of decades and the range of ideological positions taken by its staff. Questions to be answered would include:

1. Does the CAUT represent a wide range of political, religious, ethical and social views or does it represent only a narrow swath of such views as compared to the Canadian public?

2. Are any religious people working for CAUT and on its governing board? Are any of them Christian? Are any of them Evangelicals?

3. Does the CAUT approve of programs in Canadian universities that require professors to hold a certain ideology such as Gender Studies professorships?

4. Does the CAUT campaign for free speech on campus or does it seen rigid speech codes?

5. Has the CAUT targeted any non-Christians schools for investigation? Does it plan to do so?

6. Has the CAUT membership as a whole endorsed this witch hunt or was it dreamed up by a cadre of paid staff?

The point would be to show that the CAUT is being used by radicals using Alinsky-inspired tactics to undermine Christian institutions as part of a wider agenda of Cutural Marxism.

US Policy Continues to Move Away From Support for Israel

According to reports here the Obama administration is contemplating a first by supporting a Palestinian UN resolution stating that the UN ""does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity." The administration is framing it as a compromise in that supporting such a resolution would avoid the US having to veto a stronger resolution being promoted by the Muslim block.

The stealth campaign to undermine Israel in any way possible by bowing and scraping before the genocidal enemies of both Israel and the West continues and the cynicism and hypocrisy of it is sickening.

I have an alternative suggestion. Why doesn't the US and Europe support a UN resolution like the following:
"Since the West Bank is land captured by Israel in a defensive war against unwarranted aggression by foreign nations on record as wishing to destroy Israel, and since turning this land over to hostile nations still bent on destroying the state of Israel would be imprudent and unreasonable, the UN calls on all Arab nations, parties, factions and political entities to express support for Israel's right to exist, affirm the goal of a two-state solution, cease all hostile actions toward Israel and normalize relations with Israel. When that has been done, this body will consider a resolution calling on Israel to negotiate a settlement that involves a Palestinian homeland."
Just asking.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Academic Freedom: Where May It Be Found?

Ian Hunter has a terrific article, "Education thrives in a world without 'equity officers'" in The National Post today about the CAUT witch hunt against Christian universities in Canada

In a Feb. 11 letter to the National Post, responding to recent criticism of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, CAUT executive director James Turk defended his organization’s witch-hunt against faith-based universities. He argued that CAUT’s investigation of religious schools was necessary to ensure that parents know what kinds of institutions their sons and daughters are attending — and, as Mr. Turk puts it, “to ensure that neither universities nor outside groups impose ideological requirements on academic staff.” In other words, we are asked to believe that CAUT commissioned studies of Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C., Redeemer University in Ancaster, Ont., and others, in an effort to glean information readily available to anyone who took the time to glance at the universities’ respective calendars.

I found the CAUT report on Trinity Western University particularly risible: Two academics (Professors William Bruneau and Thomas Friedman) burrow away through 22 turgid pages — plus four Appendices and 24 footnotes — to discover what the university’s Mission Statement says on the first page of the calendar; namely, that TWU is a Christian institution intended “to develop godly Christian leaders, goal-oriented University graduates … who [will] serve God and people in various marketplaces of life.”
Likewise Redeemer, and the other institutions under scrutiny, do not exactly hide their light under a bushel.

And that is precisely the problem. These institutions, you see, are committed to something other than secular relativism; and that sticks in the craw of the CAUT and however many of its 65,000 members actually support these ludicrous investigations.

So far, Hunter is rehearsing the obvious: those who have been following the controversy know that the CAUT has been caught out perpetrating a witch hunt in the name of "academic freedom," a particularly Orwellian move even for left-wing academics.

But the next part is Hunter's personal testimony to the greater degree of actual academic freedom that exists on Christian university campuses as compared to the speech-code ridden, equality officer dominated, fearful, politically correct atmospheres of most contemporary, Canadian, secular campuses.

As it happens, I have lectured at both Trinity Western and at Redeemer College, as well as many secular Canadian Universities, and, for that matter, at Oxford and Cambridge in England. So I am in a position to offer a bit of direct evidence, evidence overlooked by the prolix twosome of Bruneau and Friedman: Yes, faith-based Universities are different. Allow me to explain.

At Redeemer and Trinity Western, the buildings are clean, the walls undefaced by graffiti. The knuckles of their students do not drag the ground. I noticed immediately that informal and animated discussions were going on everywhere on campus between students and faculty — and the faculty seemed to know each student’s name.

The Staley Lectures, which I was at Redeemer and Trinity Western to deliver, continued over several days: public addresses, seminars and discussions, an evening panel, etc. I experienced culture shock.

I discovered that these faculty and students were unafraid of concepts such as “truth,” or “good” and “evil” — words not only foreign to, but suspect in, the secular university. The students, mirabile dictu, were not intimidated by intellectual debate; ideas were not threatening to them, nor was free ranging inquiry immediately challenged as “offensive.” In fact, I never once heard the word “offensive.” Controversy was not something to be avoided. I quickly realized how long it had been since I had spoken at a school without speech codes and “equity officers.”

It was the experience of lecturing at such institutions that reminded me of what universities once were.

Hunter's point is well-taken: today's Christian universities are essentially conservative institutions where the Western cultural commitments to free speech and an unfettered search for the good, the true and the beautiful still continue to exist.

By contrast, the late modern dogma of relativism makes the unfettered search for truth impossible. By applying a hermeneutic of suspicion to all debate and reducing arguments about truth to nothing but a superficial cover for underlying racism, patriarchy and colonialism, the modern university dismisses old-fashioned truth seeking as naive and insincere. Therefore, all discourse must be examined for political bias and purged of all political incorrectness. The search for truth is turned into the quest for inoffensiveness as the acids of cultural relativism turn all academic discourse into a clash of wills to power.

Now the real problem that CAUT has with Christian universities having faith statements comes to light. They hate and fear any commitment to any kind of truth because for them all truth-claims are nothing but power-grabs. Unable to take the debate over what is true and good and beautiful seriously, they impose relativism on everyone dogmatically - thus showing them selves to have a serious irony deficiency.

The issue is not that Christian universities have a faith stance or a commitment to certain truths like the existence of God, the problem is that they have the wrong faith stance according to the CAUT. If they took an unofficial position of cultural relativism, they could blend right in with the other universities and the CAUT would not spend time "investigating" them.

How strange it is that those who call themselves relativists when they want to blame Christians for saying that Christianity is true and materialism is false, are so dogmatic when it comes time to deciding what a true university is allowed to be or not be. If they are really so anti-dogmatic, why not just let a thousand flowers bloom? Why not just let the conversation go on? Why not allow a healthy debate between serious people about the big questions?

What are they afraid of?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mark Steyn on Abortion: The Government's Back Alley Butchers

I have commented on the state of abortion in our society frequently, but Mark Steyn writes with an edge and startling directness in his "Big Government's Back Alley." I think we ought to listen.

As I was leaving Fox News last night, I glanced up at the monitor and caught Juan Williams expressing mystification to Sean Hannity as to why Republicans in Congress were wasting the country's time on a "little thing" like abortion.

Gee, I dunno. Maybe it's something to do with a mass murderer in Pennsylvania, or Planned Parenthood clinics facilitating the sex trafficking of minors. From the Office of the District Attorney in Philadelphia:

Viable babies were born*. Gosnell killed them by plunging scissors into their spinal cords. He taught his staff to do the same.

This is a remarkable moment in American life: A man is killing actual living, gurgling, bouncing babies on an industrial scale - and it barely makes the papers. Had he plunged his scissors into the spinal cord of a Democrat politician in Arizona, then The New York Times, ABC, CBS, NBC and everyone else would be linking it to Sarah Palin's uncivil call for dramatic cuts in government spending. But "Doctor" Kermit Gosnell's mound of corpses is apparently entirely unconnected to the broader culture.

There is something pathological about a new media that can concentrate on anything else when such things are happening routinely all over America. Here in Canada even Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is supposed to be a conservative and a Christian, votes against a bill to make a crime to force a woman to have an abortion. Steyn shows that forcing women to have abortions in back alley clinics is precisely what the pro-choice camp is defending tooth and nail.
Ever since Roe v Wade, proponents of a woman's "right to choose" have warned us against going back to the bad old days of rusty coat hangers and unsterilized instruments from money-grubbing butchers on the wrong side of town. Now, happily, the back alley is on the main drag, and with a state permit framed on the wall.

In Philadelphia:

Furniture and blankets were stained with blood. Instruments were not properly sterilized. Disposable medical supplies were not disposed of; they were reused, over and over again. Medical equipment – such as the defibrillator, the EKG, the pulse oximeter, the blood pressure cuff – was generally broken; even when it worked, it wasn’t used. The emergency exit was padlocked shut. And scattered throughout, in cabinets, in the basement, in a freezer, in jars and bags and plastic jugs, were fetal remains. It was a baby charnel house.

In New Jersey:

The Department of Health and Senior Services investigated the abortion facility and found dirty forceps, rusty crochet hooks used to remove IUDs, and a quarter-inch of dirt and debris under an examining table.

For years, the supposed regulators averted their gaze - as a matter of policy. For abortion's ideological enforcers, the official euphemisms trump reality. For those on the receiving end of infection, mutilation, sterilization and death, reality has a way of intruding.
Steyn sums up this way:

The back alley is back, and supersized: The above New Jersey clinic performs 10,000 abortions a year. When the pro-choice rally ends and Cameron Diaz, Ashley Judd and other celebrities d'un certain age return to Hollywood, and the upper-middle-class women with the one designer baby go back to their suburbs, a woman's "right to choose" means that, day in, day out, the blessings of this "right" fall disproportionately on all the identity groups the upscale liberals profess to care about - poor women, black women, Hispanic women, undocumented women, and other denizens of Big Government's back alley.

A government back alley, licensed and supposedly regulated, is worse than the old kind, because it implies the approval of the state, and of society. That's what Gosnell thought he had, when he murdered those babies and mutilated those teenage girls. That's what Planned Parenthood think they have, when they facilitate the sexual exploitation of Third World children. And, given the silence of the PC media, maybe they are right.
If this is what our society tolerates, God help us.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Multiculturalism and Moral Relativism

European leaders (Merkel, Cameron, Sarkozy) are finally beginning to say out loud what everybody has known for years but were afraid to say in public: the Western idea of multiculturalism has failed. It promised peace and harmony; it has produced hate and suspicion. It promised enlightened interaction between equals; it has produced ghettos. It promised respect for the other; it has produced racism.

Western culture suffered a horrendous blow to its self-confidence and its convictions in the debacle that was the 40 years war in Europe (1914-1945). The supposedly scientific, advanced nations of Western Europe fell upon each other with a barbarism, ferocity and nihilistic bloodlust that convinced much of the European intellectual elite that its own civilization - its religion, its moral ideals, its political institutions and its philosophical foundations - were all a thin veneer of superficial window-dressing covering up rapacity, greed, racism and the will to power, which were the fundamental realities of life.

There was a certain undeniable plausibility to this cynicism because the philosophical, religious, moral and cultural foundations of Europe had been rotting for centuries. Since the 14th century and the rise of nominalism, the worldview of Christian Europe had been declining. From the rise of Cartesian philosophy with its attempt to find new foundations in the autonomous self to the rise of a mechanistic technology that eschews the search for wisdom in its haste to obtain power over nature to the hubris of the Enlightenment with its call to set aside the wisdom of the past and trust man's unaided Reason, (always with a capital R), Europe attempted to rebuild its civilization on a humanistic and materialistic foundation.

So when the postmodern philosophers criticize the Enlightenment worship of Reason, they are right. But because they believed that the Enlightenment was somehow a legitimate or even inevitable development of the Greco-Roman and Christian civilizations which preceded it, the entirely of Western civilization, including Christianity, was implicated along with the Enlightenment.

A multude of diverse voices have warned that a wrong turn was taken at the dawn of the modern age and that the rejection of Christian worldview of the Medieval world must lead to disaster. They included Lewis and Tolkien, Dawson and Butterfield, von Balthasar and Milbank, Elliot and Kirk, Chesterton and Belloc, Newman and MacIntyre, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. They have been largely ignored by the elites of our society.

Europe is dying of old age because she has cut herself off from her Medieval Christian roots. The failure of modernity is not the failure of Western civilization; it is the failure of the Modern rebellion against the Christian West.

Relativism is the standpoint of all civilizations in their dotage. It is not new, nor is it unique to the West. It is the standard default position of any civilization which has cut itself off from its roots from which alone can come renewal. Moral and cultural relativism lies behind the failed policy of multiculturalism and behind that lies moral and cultural rot.

Since the 1960s cultural Marxism has marched through the institutions of the West trumpeting moral relativism, multiculturalism and a self-loathing that is difficult to watch and painful to endure. This is marketed as the sophisticated views of a self-confident culture but the object of the confidence of these confidence men is as ephemeral and unreal as the snake oil they would have hawked in earlier times.

The equivalent of the ancient Sophists hated by Socrates have taken over our universities and taught our young people the slogans and political correctness needed to rise in this kind of decaying society. They exist because those who lead us intellectually have failed us. Modernity is dead as an idea even though the institutions it created live on for a time until the bills come due and fiddler demands his pay.

Multiculturalism is the rotten fruit. Moral relativism is the disease. The tree is Western civilization. How long before the axe is taken to a tree that no longer bears good fruit?

The Voice of Freedom in Europe: Will it Be Silenced Forever?

Geert Wilders is on trial for utilizing his right to free speech by criticizing Islam for its violence, its threats to those who oppose it and its Islamic supremacist ideology. After a first trial fell apart, it has now resumed. The left-leaning elites who have ruled the Netherlands for decades are determined to silence him, but the people vote for his party in increasing numbers and his party now props up the ruling coalition. Here is the voice of freedom.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Possible Scientific Explanation for Anti-Christian Witch Hunts

A story in the New York Times (!) describes the liberal (actually leftist) bias which exists in the contemporary university in a story entitled: "Social Scientist Sees Bias Within."

Discrimination is always high on the agenda at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology’s conference, where psychologists discuss their research on racial prejudice, homophobia, sexism, stereotype threat and unconscious bias against minorities. But the most talked-about speech at this year’s meeting, which ended Jan. 30, involved a new “outgroup.”

It was identified by Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia who studies the intuitive foundations of morality and ideology. He polled his audience at the San Antonio Convention Center, starting by asking how many considered themselves politically liberal. A sea of hands appeared, and Dr. Haidt estimated that liberals made up 80 percent of the 1,000 psychologists in the ballroom. When he asked for centrists and libertarians, he spotted fewer than three dozen hands. And then, when he asked for conservatives, he counted a grand total of three.

“This is a statistically impossible lack of diversity,” Dr. Haidt concluded, noting polls showing that 40 percent of Americans are conservative and 20 percent are liberal. In his speech and in an interview, Dr. Haidt argued that social psychologists are a “tribal-moral community” united by “sacred values” that hinder research and damage their credibility — and blind them to the hostile climate they’ve created for non-liberals.

“Anywhere in the world that social psychologists see women or minorities underrepresented by a factor of two or three, our minds jump to discrimination as the explanation,” said Dr. Haidt, who called himself a longtime liberal turned centrist. “But when we find out that conservatives are underrepresented among us by a factor of more than 100, suddenly everyone finds it quite easy to generate alternate explanations.”

Read the rest here.

I propose that here we have a perfectly scientific, empirical explanation of why the staff of CAUT could go on a McCarthy-style witch hunt against small, Christian universities and not feel that it was being biased or illiberal. A significant blind spot obviously exists (to put it with the utmost in charity) in such a group when it thinks that stamping out diversity of opinion is the way to protect academic freedom or when it gratuitously conflates religiosity with narrow-mindedness. The problem is "leftist group think."

The fact that the Society of Personality and Social Psychology is so in-grown is no accident. It is the result of systematic bias and discrimination. But it would be utterly irresponsible to assume that this one particular learned society is somehow an aberration or unique. I propose that similar studies of other disciplinary bodies would yield similar results. I invite anyone who disputes that claim to test it empirically and let me know the results, which I would be happy to publish here on this blog.

So, the problem is group think, which is caused by systematically excluding certain views from the academy. The most obvious solution is not Professor Heidt's call for affirmative action, but rather simply academic freedom for religiously-inspired universities which spring up from the grass roots. What is needed is openness to civil society and less, rather than more, social engineering from above.

The lesson to be learned from all of this for the CAUT is that if they are reallly serious about increasing academic freedom and encouraging diversity, they have no better allies in the cause than small, Christian universities and their unique perspective on old debates.

HT to Al Mohler's blog, where I found the link to this story.

Pushing Back Against the Anti-Christian Witch Hunt on Campus

Congratulations to Dr. Paul Allen of Concordia University in Montreal for organizing a petition to push back against the McCarthy-style witch hunt currently being waged by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) against small, Christian universities in Canada. The National Post reported in a story on Tuesday entitled: "Professors group accused of anti-Christian bullying" that:

"What we have here is an academic union ganging up on these smaller Christian universities, and I thought it was high time that people from the public universities take a stand," said Paul Allen, an associate professor of theology at Concordia University in Montreal.

The protest is a direct response to reports that the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) issued against Trinity Western University in British Columbia more than a year ago, Crandall University in New Brunswick in July and Winnipeg's Canadian Mennonite University in October.

"It bothered me that this is anti-religious ideology masked as supposedly an academic freedom issue," said Mr. Allen, who has started a petition to warn about CAUT's actions. "This was an opportunity in the current [secular climate] to go after religion."

The petition, which now has 140 signatures, said the investigations are unwarranted and invasive.

Mr. Allen and many others who signed the petition are members of CAUT, which has 65,000 members. Academics at the schools that were investigated are not members.

Read the rest here. The National Post also has an editorial this morning entitled: "Stop the anti-Christian witchhunt on campus." Its description of the process by which a small group of radicals on the Association's staff are abusing their positions in order to perpetuate their own biases against all things Christian is withering:

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) — which describes itself as Canada’s “national voice for academic staff” — says it has investigated four small Christian colleges and universities in the past 18 months because it wants parents to know what kind of institutions their sons and daughters might attend. In other words, we are told, there is nothing nefarious in the 65,000-member union’s action. It is merely performing a valuable public service.

This is disingenuous nonsense. The CAUT is on a thinly disguised anti-Christian witch hunt. There is no other way to describe it.

The investigations were instigated entirely by CAUT executive and staff. The staff at the four universities aren’t even members of the association, so do not come under its mandate. No authorization was sought from the association’s members. There was no resolution passed at any annual meeting encouraging senior staff to scrutinize the schools’ hiring practices. No complaints were received from members — or anyone else — about the faith-based hiring and teaching at the schools: Trinity Western University in British Columbia, Crandall University in New Brunswick, Winnipeg’s Canadian Mennonite University and Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Ont.

Association leaders seem simply to have gotten it in their heads that where Christian values are part of a school’s hiring standards and curriculum, good, independent scholarship is impossible.
So they launched probes all on their own.

Dr. Allen's petition can be found here. It reads:
We object in principle to CAUT’s arbitrary restriction of academic freedom to individuals and its failure to consider the corporate dimensions of that freedom. We note that the very concept of academic freedom arose historically in religiously founded institutions. In a time when colleges and universities are under great pressure to serve the interests of commercial and political initiatives, religious institutions can play a special role in preserving academic freedom.

We also observe that the missional specificity of religious institutions is not without analogue in public institutions, which may contain within them institutes or research centres with their own acknowledged pre-commitments. Both remain free associations of scholars.

We call on CAUT to cease its harassment of these institutions, for which there is no mandate from the membership at large. That harassment is inconsistent with the ethos of religious freedom affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada and human rights law
This is a moderate, historically-informed, liberal, sensible statement which reflects the kinds of attitudes found in institutions where true academic freedom flourishes. Increasingly, true academic freedom is found to flourish less and less in the most secularized environments and more so in traditionally religious institutions. The university was founded in the bosom of the Church and will likely survive there even when the major, publicly-funded universities of the Western world degenerate into ideologically-driven bastions of cultural Marxist-inspired political correctness.