Monday, September 30, 2013

Christians under attack around the world.

This opinion piece in the Washington Post points the violent attacks on Christians around the world.  Whether it's Pakistan, Egypt, Nigeria, Syria, or Kenya Christians are the target of violent attacks by Muslim extremists.  The writer also highlights the indifference of American society to their plight.
Hiding the Christian name on his ID with his thumb, Joshua Hakim approached the gunmen and showed them the plastic card. “They told me to go. Then an Indian man came forward, and they said, ‘What is the name of Muhammad’s mother?’ When he couldn’t answer they just shot him.”

That’s the way it went inside the Westgate Premier Shopping Mall in Nairobi last Saturday. If you said when asked that you were Muslim, you were let go. If you answered no, you stayed. And maybe died.

More than 60 patrons in that upscale mall in Kenya’s capital breathed their last that day, shot dead by Islamist militants from Somalia who call themselves al-Shabab. The massacre was not al-Shabab’s first attack on non-Muslims.

But why should we know much about the killing of Christians when news of Washington’s political food fights, the looming federal shutdown and the National Zoo’s new panda cub keep getting in the way?

Since 1999, more than 14,000 Nigerians have been killed in sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians, reports the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The militant group Boko Haram, which supports an extreme and violent interpretation of Islam, is behind most of the violence. It cites state and federal government action against Muslims, among other “reasons,” as justification for its strikes on churches.

In the past year alone, Boko Haram has bombed, burned or attacked at least 50 churches, killing more than 360 people, the publication Religion Today reports. The extremists are also known to have assaulted more than 160 Christians or people thought to be Christian in more than 30 incidents. Western education is a sin, according to Boko Haram.

The record of crimes against Christians is too terrible to ponder. Give us more Miley Cyrus.
Last Sunday in Peshawar, Pakistan, worshipers at All Saints Church may have left services with the blessing “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord” ringing in their ears.
But they were greeted outside by two suicide bombers who ripped apart at least 78 people, including 34 women and seven children.

It’s not safe for Christians in this country,” Mano Rumalshah, bishop emeritus of Peshawar, told the Guardian newspaper. “Everyone is ignoring the growing danger to Christians in Muslim-majority countries. The European countries don’t give a damn about us.”

Hello, only Europe?

In the Middle East, the Arab Spring has sprung misery upon Christians from Egypt to Syria.

Shortly after the Egyptian military’s bloody breakup of Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in Cairo in mid-August, at least 42 churches were attacked, with 37 burned or otherwise damaged, Human Rights Watch reported.

Consider this excerpt from a recent interview PBS’s Margaret Warner conducted with Fifi Awad, an Egyptian who witnessed the attack on his village’s 60-year-old Coptic Christian church. Speaking through an interpreter, Awad said: “They attacked the church. They took everything they could take, the generator, the refrigerator, even bags they thought had donation money. Then they burned the first and second floors and said, ‘Allahu akbar.’”

In Syria, a Christian community wasn’t burned; it was hammered. The ancient town of Maaloula endured the brunt of an attack this month led by militants of Jabhat al-Nusra, a terror group affiliated with al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Pelosi needs to repent according Vatican official.

Rep. Pelosi, certainly one of the most liberal, pro-abortion members of Congress, identifies herself as a Catholic.  Recent comments by her have led a leading Vatican official to say she should be denied communion. The comments were made by Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, former Archbishop of St. Louis and now a high Vatican official.
Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke said that Nancy Pelosi should be denied communion because her support of abortion is in conflict of her Catholic faith. He took particular issue with the minority leader’s refusal to comment on abortionist and murderer Kermit Gosnell because she said “as a practicing and respectful Catholic, this is sacred ground” for her.

“To say that these are simply questions of Catholic faith which have no part in politics is just false and wrong,” Cardinal Burke said in an interview with The Wanderer, a Catholic newspaper. “This is a person who obstinately, after repeated admonitions, persists in a grave sin — cooperating with the crime of procured abortion.”

“For Catholic institutions or individuals to give recognition to such persons, to honor them in any way, is a source of grave scandal for which they are responsible,” he continued. “In a certain way, they contribute to the sinfulness of the individuals involved.”

The cardinal said he feared for Pelosi “if she does not come to understand how gravely in error she is” and called on her to look to St. Thomas More as inspiration; More was a 16th-century member of Parliament who was executed for defending his Catholic faith.

Burke, a Wisconsin native, previously served as Archbishop of St. Louis. Since 2008, he has served as the prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, which is the Vatican’s highest judicial authority.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Obamacare will lead to more taxpayer funded abortions according to report.

It looks like Obamacare, among it's many problems and bad policy side effects, will result in taxpayers subsidizing between 71,000 to 111,500 abortions each year.  Another example of the fox guarding the chicken coop.
An analysis by the Charlotte Lozier Institute published this week suggests that the number of abortions that will be heavily subsidized via federal premium tax credits and Medicaid expansion is likely to be between 71,000 and 111,500 per year. This approaches one in ten abortions performed in the United States. The number is split roughly 50-50 between abortions subsidized by the ASPs in states that have not barred them from their exchanges and abortions newly reimbursable under Medicaid expansion in states that use their own taxpayer funds to underwrite them.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Powerful message of redemption involving Nazi war criminals.

A Lutheran pastor from a small town in Missouri served as the confessor to several Nazi war criminals on trial at the Nuremberg war trials.  Here are powerful stories of redemption and forgiveness.  They remind me of criminal on the on the cross with Jesus.  At the last minute some are repentant while others are not.

Here's his background.
Visiting condemned men in their cells was nothing new to Henry Gerecke.
Much of his early career was devoted to working in prisons. However, the men he went to see in their cells at Nuremberg, Germany, just after midnight on Wednesday, 16 October 1946, were no ordinary prisoners. They were high-ranking Nazis sentenced to be hanged for the vilest crimes.

He walked with each of the ten condemned men from their cells to the gallows. He heard all their last words. Some expressed thanks and faith. Others stayed defiant to the end, their belief in Hitler still unshaken, even though he was dead. One condemned man even shouted, ‘Heil Hitler!’ on the gallows before taking the final drop into the darkness.

The story of Henry Gerecke is little known and the events of the most important year of his life, November 1945 to November 1946, have been largely overlooked. In that year he acted as spiritual advisor and chaplain to Nazis on trial before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. His own accounts, written soon after the event while memory was fresh, survive in American archives. From these primary sources the following story is compiled. He never asked to be believed. He simply outlined his experiences.

Henry F. Gerecke was born in August 1893, the child of a farmer and his wife living at Gordonville, Missouri, USA. The family was bilingual. Young Henry spoke as much German as English in his early years. The family was very active spiritually. At home he was taught to pray and trust the Bible as the Word of God.  The family church was Lutheran, attached to the Missouri Synod. This is a decidedly evangelical body. Its beliefs were not unlike those of the Reformer Martin Luther, with his emphasis on being right with God by personal faith in Christ, rather than by trying to achieve communion with God by accumulating good deeds, even religious good deeds.

...Then, early in November 1945, Gerecke was called into the office of his commanding officer, Colonel James Sullivan. The fifty-two-year-old Gerecke had been assigned to the 6,850th Internal Security Detachment at Nuremberg. Why? To serve as spiritual advisor and chaplain to the top Nazi war criminals on trial there. Sullivan offered his opinion that it was the most unpopular assignment around. He told Gerecke that he did not have to go. He encouraged him to use his age as a reason to return to the inactive reserves in America. Gerecke wrote, ‘I almost went home.’ He prayed for guidance. ‘Slowly the men at Nuremberg became to me just lost souls whom I was being asked to help.’ After a few days he gave Colonel Sullivan his decision: ‘I’ll go.’

The US army had selected Gerecke for three reasons: first, he spoke German; secondly, he had extensive experience in prison ministry and, lastly, he was a Lutheran Protestant. Fifteen of the twenty-one Nazis on trial identified themselves as ‘Protestant’. Assisting him would be Roman Catholic chaplain Sixtus O’Connor. Six of the prisoners claimed to be ‘Roman Catholic’.

The most senior Nazis of all, such as Hitler, Himmler and Goebbels, had already committed suicide to avoid justice. As Gerecke looked at the crimes of which the fifteen were accused he felt totally inadequate. ‘How can a pastor, a Missouri farm boy, make any impression on these disciples of Adolf Hitler? How can I approach them? How can I summon the true Christian spirit that this mission demands of a chaplain? He prepared himself by praying ‘harder than I ever had in my life’, so that he could ‘somehow learn to hate the sin but love the sinner’....

Colonel Burton Andrus, the US commanding officer of the prison, made Gerecke’s task clear. He would be allowed to conduct services for any Protestant Nazi prisoner who wanted to come, and be available for spiritual counsel, but only if invited by the prisoner. Nothing he said or did would influence the outcome of the trial. That was in other hands.

It was 12 November 1945 – time to begin work. Gerecke decided that he would visit each prisoner. That experience provided him with his first impressions of the men on trial. He admitted later, ‘I was terribly frightened.’ There was nothing frightening in a physical sense, because the once all-powerful prisoners were now helpless. It was the nature of their crimes, their connection with the absolute depths of evil, which made Gerecke shudder.

Before going to the cells he made the decision to offer to shake hands with each of the accused. There was no intention of making light of what they had done. Gerecke wanted to be friendly so that his message would not be hindered by a wrong approach. In his 1947 account of his first visit to the cells, Gerecke records that he was criticized for this decision. Presumably his critics did not understand his spiritual motives.
 His encounter with Rudolf Hess.
The first cell contained fifty-one-year-old Rudolf Hess, who once had been Hitler’s deputy in the Nazi party. Hess ruled his life by astrology. Gerecke offered his hand. Hess responded.

Speaking in German, Gerecke asked, ‘Would you care to attend chapel service on Sunday evening?’
‘No,’ replied Hess, in English.

Gerecke then asked him, this time in English, ‘Do you feel you can get along as well without attending as if you did?’

‘I expect to be extremely busy preparing my defence,’ answered Hess. ‘If I have any praying to do, I’ll do it here.’

Gerecke left, knowing that he had accomplished nothing.
 Herman Goering
The next cell contained the highest-ranking Nazi on trial, fifty-two year old former Luftwaffe chief Hermann Goering. With a range of powers given to him by Hitler, he had been an agent of death, clearly guilty on all charges. Gerecke wrote, ‘I dreaded meeting the big flamboyant egotist worse than any of the others. Through the small aperture I had a chance to size him up for a moment. He was reading a book and smoking his meerschaum pipe.’

Any diffidence Gerecke felt was removed by Goering’s shrewdly calculated amiability. ‘I am glad to see you,’ said Goering, pulling up a chair for Gerecke. In conversation he seemed enthusiastic about attending chapel services, though the chaplain soon found out from the prison psychologist that he only went in order to get out of his cell for a while.
 Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, overall army commander.
The third cell contained sixty-three-year-old Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, chief of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces. His unquestioning obedience to Hitler led to his being responsible for more deaths than anybody could count. Gerecke found Keitel also reading a book. ‘I asked him what he was reading. He all but knocked me speechless by replying, “My Bible.”’

Keitel then said, ‘I know from this book that God can love a sinner like me.’

‘A phoney,’ thought Gerecke.

They talked, Yes he would come to chapel. Would the chaplain join his devotions now? ‘This I wanted to see,’ thought Gerecke.

Keitel knelt beside his bed and began to pray. He confessed his many sins and pleaded for mercy because of Christ’s sacrifice for sin. When Keitel finished his prayer, both men repeated the Lord’s Prayer together. Then Gerecke gave a benediction.
Fritz Sauckel, head of slave labor
The next cell contained fifty-one-year-old Fritz Sauckel. Once Head of Labour Supply, he was, according to the Chief Justice Jackson, ‘the greatest and cruellest slaver since the pharaohs of Egypt.’ He worked millions of slave labourers to death without mercy. When Gerecke appeared, he exclaimed with feeling: ‘As a pastor, you are one person to whom I can open my heart.’ During the conversation that followed he wiped away many tears. Yes, he would attend chapel services....
Joachim von Ribbentrop, Foreign Minister
He went to the next heavy door. Initial contact with fifty-two-year-old Joachim von Ribbentrop was not encouraging. He had been Hitler’s foreign minister. He was best remembered in Britain for greeting King George VI with a ‘Heil Hitler’ salute while ambassador to the UK. He had a string of difficulties about Christian belief, which he shared with Gerecke in the months before the verdict. Nor would Ribbentrop promise to come to the service on Sunday, commenting that, ‘This business of religion isn’t as serious as you consider it.’ In spite of this, he became a regular in the chapel.
Banker Walther Funk
Next was fifty-five-year-old Walther Funk, head of the German Central Bank and head of the war economy. He was another banker who protested his innocence. The Allies took the view that a man who filled the bank’s vaults with gold teeth and fillings taken from the mouths of the regime’s victims was a war criminal. Funk decided to go to chapel.
 Albert Speer, Minister of Armaments
The final man was forty-year-old Albert Speer, Minister of Armaments, who had caused as many deaths as any other man on trial. Every other Nazi claimed to be obeying orders. Speer probably saved himself from death by admitting responsibility and cooperating with his interrogators. He was to become known as ‘the Nazi who said sorry’.
Conversion experiences
At the end of the service Sauckel asked to see Gerecke in his cell. When the chaplain arrived, he sensed that Sauckel wanted to discuss spiritual matters. After some conversation on those lines, Sauckel implored Gerecke to read the Bible and pray with him. Unafraid and unashamed, Sauckel prayed at his bedside and ended with the words: ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.’ In the weeks that followed Sauckel was given his own Bible and Luther’s Catechism. Gerecke worked with Sauckel until he reached the point where he was satisfied in his own mind that the latter was a broken man with regard to what he had done. No restitution was possible, but Gerecke was convinced that Sauckel trusted in Christ as Saviour and had become a real Christian. In his written submissions about his work Gerecke repeatedly insisted: ‘I have had many years of experience as a prison chaplain and I do not believe I am easily deluded by phoney reformations at the eleventh hour.’

As Christmas 1945 approached, Gerecke noticed a change in the spiritual attitudes of Fritzsche, Schirach, and Speer. After instruction in the Christian faith these three joined Sauckel and Schellenberg, the organist, as communicants. The Lutheran preparation to receive the bread and the wine ends with the pastor addressing each proposed communicant in these words: ‘I now ask you before God, is this your sincere confession, that you heartily repent of your sins, believe on Jesus Christ, and sincerely and earnestly purpose, by the assistance of God the Holy Spirit, from now on to amend your sinful life? Then declare so by saying: “Yes.”’

The guards who were present at this first communion service were so impressed by the bearing of the penitent Nazis that they said to Gerecke, ‘Chaplain, you’ll not need us. This is holy business.’ They walked out, leaving Gerecke alone with his five communicants.

Gerecke wrote later, ‘I am very slow about ministering the Lord’s Supper. I must feel convinced that each candidate not only understands its significance, but that, in penitence and faith, he is ready for the sacrament.

Keitel was to follow the road to faith. Gerecke recorded: ‘On his knees and under deep emotional stress, he received the Body and Blood of our Saviour in the bread and the wine. With tears in his eyes he said, “May Christ, my Saviour, stand by me all the way. I shall need him so much.”’

In the spring of 1946 Raeder told Gerecke that he too wanted to be a Christian. He had stated initially that he could not accept certain Christian beliefs and Gerecke thought he was a genuine intellectual sceptic. He had a Bible and tried to dig for material to justify his doubts. After many services and much instruction in the meaning of Christian belief, he changed into ‘a devout Bible student’. Eventually Gerecke added him to the communicants.

Even more heartening for the American pastor was ‘the slow but steady change in von Ribbentrop’. In the course of several months he moved from cool, arrogant indifference to sincere questioning of Gerecke about various Christian teachings. He became more and more penitent, eager to turn from the past. After his final plea in the courtroom, Gerecke admitted him to communion, being convinced that God had worked in his soul.
The response of many were not to kind to his efforts.
"...after his death his eldest son, Henry, found a thick file of letters stored in a secret compartment in his father’s desk. They were postmarked from all over the US. ‘They called my father everything,’ reported Henry Gerecke. ‘He was called “Jew-hater”, “Nazi-lover”. They said that he should have been hanged at Nuremberg with the rest of them.’ All the letters were written in the ‘most hateful vituperative language imaginable’.

The Christian concepts of grace and mercy have always been opposed, not only by the liberal intelligentsia and those with no spiritual interests, but also by a cross-section of most societies...
They naturally and properly experienced temporal justice.  But they  experienced the far more important eternal mercy of God through Christ's sacrifice.  Which is available to all of us sinners in need of  savior.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Religious revival answer to America's problems. Another Ronald Reagan isn't enough.

Here's a spot on commentary by Ray Nothstine of the Acton Institute on what ails America and the antidote - religious revival.  People need to be working in every cultural arena but the answer to America's deep problems is a spiritual revival.  He points out that our problems go deeper than what a political leader can answer, hence the statement that another Ronald Reagan can't fix our problems.  In other words, the patient, our nation, is far sicker than we realize.
Often many on the political right believe that reform or change in the country is just one election or another president away. Some declare another Ronald Reagan can fix America’s problems, but entirely miss that there may be no culture left to support a president like Reagan. For almost every problem in this nation, there is not a political solution that will make any lasting impact or change for the better. This point is entirely missed by so many during all the political debates and shouting matches today. Politics is becoming a mere distraction from the deeper problems. Washington D.C. is the obvious and best example of this fact.

Today we are living through the dissolution of the greater truths that once permeated Western Culture. We are living through a repaganizing of the West that was transformed and lifted up by Christendom. It’s odd to think about the fact we are living through this very monumental time in history and most people are missing it or unaware of it entirely.

Only spiritual enlightenment and a recovery of these truths can transform society and culture today. The evangelistic and holiness revivals in 18th century England completely reformed an amoral and unjust culture. Many historians have concluded that it alone prevented another bloody revolution in that nation.
He points out the wisdom of Calvin Coolidge on this matter.
Below are excerpted remarks from then Vice President Calvin Coolidge to the New York State Convention of the Y.M.C.A. in Albany, New York in 1923. The title of the address is “The Place of Religion in National Life.” There is not a full copy of the address online but you can find it in The Price of Freedom: Speeches and Addresses by Coolidge.

If you follow national politics closely today you may find it odd to hear a political leader speak confidently about universal truths when it comes to government, man, and society. Unfortunately, we don’t normally hear this kind of language from American leaders today. But it’s a valuable reminder of the significance of religious revival if there is going to be any change in the culture, institutions, or government. Coolidge powerfully makes the point that culture drives law and politics. Change and progress ultimately is born in the human heart and does not emanate from the halls or palaces of power.
Coolidge:
When we explore the real foundation of our institutions, of their historical development or their logical support, we come very soon to the matter of religious belief. It was the great religious awakening of the sixteenth century that brought about the political awakening of the seventeenth century. The American Revolution was preceded by the great religious revival of the middle of the eighteenth, which had its effect both in England and in the colonies. When the common people turned to the reading of the Bible, as they did in the Netherlands and in England, when they were stirred by a great revival, as they were in the days of the preaching of Edwards and Whitfield, the way was prepared for William, for Cromwell, and for Washington. It was because religion gave the people a new importance and a new glory that demanded a new freedom and a new government. We cannot in our generation reject the cause and retain the same result.
If the institutions they adopted are to survive, if the governments which they founded are to endure, it will be because the people continue to have similar religious beliefs. It is idle to discuss freedom and equality on any other basis. It is useless to expect substantial reforms from any other motive. They cannot be administered from without they must come from within. That is why laws alone are so impotent. To enact or to repeal laws is not to secure reform. It is necessary to take these problems directly to the individual. There will be a proper use of our material prosperity when the individual feels a divine responsibility. There will be a broadening scholarship when the individual feels that science, literature, and history are the revelation of divine truths. There will be obedience to law when the individual feels the government represents a divine authority.
It is these beliefs, these religious convictions, that represent the strength of America, the strength of all civilized society.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Is marriage ready for a comeback among Millennials? Maybe.

Part of the reason for the advance of same sex "marriage" in Minnesota and other states is a result of how devalued marriage as an institution has become.  It's become whatever we want it to become.  Life long commit?  Forget it.  Unilateral divorce.  Man and woman?  Unnecessary.  It's whatever any two (and eventually more) people want it to be.  Fidelity?  No way.  If someone else comes along no problem.  (This is the next shoe to drop.)

Yet it appears there maybe an awakening among Millennials to look at marriage more seriously.    Here's an interesting article by a St. Thomas professor and the feedback she's getting from students who she says aren't particularly religious.
It’s a cold, sleety Minnesota day, and I’m in a classroom with 25 undergraduate students, talking about marriage. This discussion is the culmination of a mini-unit in which (among other things) we examined sociological data showing worrisome marital trends in America.

We discussed how various social problems, particularly among the poor, might be ameliorated through a strengthening of marriage. Charles Murray’s portrayal of “Fishtown,” combined with the New York Times’ “Two Classes, Divided By ‘I Do,’” painted vividly the challenges that a weak marriage culture creates for poor families. Now I put the question to the students: What might help? How can we better encourage people to get and stay married?

A young man raises his hand. “This unit was interesting, but the university should offer whole classes on marriage. A lot of people don’t realize how important it is, for their kids and just for having a happy life.”

Another hand. “They should talk about this in high school, too. It seems like we heard a lot of warnings about drugs and dropping out and safe sex. I don’t remember hearing anything about marriage.”

A third student chimes in, “Parents should talk with their kids about it. Mine never did. I sort of wanted them to, but it was awkward to ask, you know?” A number of heads nodded in agreement.
The first time I heard students talk like this, I was amazed. I have rarely known undergraduates to be so self-aware. I would almost have thought that they were telling me what I wanted to hear, had not long experience taught me that students were thoroughly inept at discerning what I wanted to hear.

Now, after several semesters of discussing marriage with my introductory ethics classes, I’ve heard these concerns expressed enough times to conclude that, for all their righteous zeal concerning sexual freedom, undergraduates do actually know that they are confused about marriage.

This is interesting, particularly since the young people in question are not particularly religious or conservative. My students represent a fairly standard cross-section of middle-class American 20-year-olds. They can talk all day about the evils of global warming and homophobia, but the decline of marriage is, for most of them, a fairly new subject. Nevertheless, they are easily convinced that our society has a marriage problem, because they know that they have a marriage problem, which their teachers and parents have done little to help them resolve.

To me, this frank uncertainty about marriage makes a fitting centerpiece in the tragic tableau of today’s young Americans. They seem to be almost perfectly unsuited to the social and political climate of their time, like hothouse flowers whose cultivators failed to note that they were destined to be planted in an alpine tundra. The problem, in a nutshell, is this: young people want the right things (security, love, and a prosperous life), but they have very wrong ideas about how best to attain them.

Today’s undergraduates are not, for the most part, radicals and revolutionaries. They harbor conventional hopes of professional success and happy marriages. But while they believe that the first can reliably be secured through hard work and dedication, marriage seems in their minds to require a mysterious mixture of good fortune and good chemistry, perhaps combined with the social status that they hope to win through professional success.

Unfortunately, they have things exactly backwards. A good marriage is the sort of thing that almost anyone can aspire to, regardless of skills, education, or status. The most important ingredients for marital success are within any individual’s power to attain. Professional success, by contrast, does reflect hard work and commitment, but it also depends on complex external factors that no individual person can control. For today’s rising generation, those external factors are not looking promising.

The students of private universities are, for the most part, children of privilege, and they behave as such. David Brooks has written extensively on this, and my observations agree largely with his: today’s undergraduates are industrious, well-habituated rule followers who have been superbly socialized to conform to the expectations of their elders. They take it as axiomatic that they have obligations to alleviate the suffering of the less fortunate through political action, which is the duty they pay for their ideological commitment to equality.

At the same time, they regard it as their birthright to inherit the prosperous and secure world that their parents mostly enjoyed. Even as they stand on the cusp of significant political and economic change, I find my students to be curiously uninterested in helping to reshape the future. For the most part, they are content with their conventional goals of upward mobility, material comfort, and marital success....

It is encouraging to find, at least, that many young people today are open to learning more about marriage. They may be relieved to hear that it is not, after all, such a mystery. Eons of wisdom can help us to make sense of what it is, and how it works, and how it can be made to work. Marriage has given structure and purpose to the lives of an incredibly diverse array of people, across millennia of human history. It can work for young Americans today. And the consolations of family life could help to compensate for the other disappointments and challenges that these over-optimistic youth are likely to encounter once they move beyond the classroom.

Millennials want to hear this, and they need to know. If their elders want to atone for the mistakes of yesteryear, now is the time to start talking about marriage.


Friday, September 20, 2013

It's making the headlines. A NFL football player who's saving sex until marriage.

New York Giants football player Prince Amukamara is making the headlines.  Why?  He got into trouble?  Said something outrageous?  Nope.  He's not a drinker nor is he having sex until marriage.

Here's his interview with Muscle and fitness magazine.
When we spoke right after you entered the league, you said you had never been drunk in your life, and that you’ve actually never had a drop of alcohol. Is that still true?
A lot can happen in that time, but it is still true. I still haven’t had a drink. I told my fiancĂ© that I’ll probably take my first drink at my bachelor party. I don’t know if I will, but…

Maybe you should wait til the wedding. If you do it at the bachelor party, that could get out of hand quickly.
[Laughs] I know. I still haven’t had one, though.

If you plan on having one, clearly you’re not against it. How is it that you’ve waited this long?
I grew up Catholic, so it just started out as one of those things. I’d think, “If I do this, maybe I can get to heaven,” so I said no drinks, no sex, all the big things. As I grew up, I realized that’s not what it’s about. It’s about having a relationship with Jesus. It’s not about “Don’t do this. Don’t do that.” But still, it’s just one of those things I haven’t done, and I don’t see any benefit to doing it. You’re always reading about people getting DUIs. So many bad things that happen and wind up in the paper are alcohol-related, so by not drinking, it saves me, my team, and my family a lot of trouble.

When we spoke right after you entered the league, you said you had never been drunk in your life, and that you’ve actually never had a drop of alcohol. Is that still true?
A lot can happen in that time, but it is still true. I still haven’t had a drink. I told my fiancĂ© that I’ll probably take my first drink at my bachelor party. I don’t know if I will, but…

Maybe you should wait til the wedding. If you do it at the bachelor party, that could get out of hand quickly.
[Laughs] I know. I still haven’t had one, though.

If you plan on having one, clearly you’re not against it. How is it that you’ve waited this long?
I grew up Catholic, so it just started out as one of those things. I’d think, “If I do this, maybe I can get to heaven,” so I said no drinks, no sex, all the big things. As I grew up, I realized that’s not what it’s about. It’s about having a relationship with Jesus. It’s not about “Don’t do this. Don’t do that.” But still, it’s just one of those things I haven’t done, and I don’t see any benefit to doing it. You’re always reading about people getting DUIs. So many bad things that happen and wind up in the paper are alcohol-related, so by not drinking, it saves me, my team, and my family a lot of trouble.
Here's how the New York Post reported on his interview.
Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara’s teammates didn’t know that he wears a chastity belt underneath his jockstrap — and they’re all supporting him.

“When I first heard it, I was like, ‘Wow,’ ” cornerback Jayron Hosley told The Post Thursday of the 24-year-old’s vow to stay a virgin until marriage.

“But everyone comes from different places. Nobody’s the same. You can’t expect that coming into a locker room.

“He’s doing it for a reason, for something that he believes in, that he feels is right for him. I respect that.”

The devoutly religious Amukamara made headlines this week when he told Muscle & Fitness magazine he doesn’t drink and hasn’t had sex, earning him the nickname “the black Tebow” from peers.

“There’s more guys out there like that than you think,” Hosley said. “Negative publicity seems to get the headlines, but there’s a lot of good guys out here doing a lot of great things.”

It's quite a commentary on society when this behavior is what makes headlines.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Are Millennials leaving the faith? If so, why and what can be done about it?

Are young people, Millenials leaving the church/faith in droves?  According to polling data analyzed by Focus on the Family that's not necessarily true though the numbers are high.  18% did leave their faith while another 20% simply switched churches.  Of the 18% who did leave the faith, it turns out 89% of them never had a strong faith to begin with.  Only 11% said they strongly believed.
Pew Research recently found that 18% of young adults leaving their faith altogether and another 20% are switching from one faith to another. This latter cohort, while leaving individual churches, are not leaving their individual faith. They might be switching to a church across town or to one near their college campus. With more young adults switching than leaving, it's odd very few are talking about those switching. In fact, many, we suspect, have been counting them along with those who are leaving....

Perhaps most interesting is what Pew learned about those leaving their faith. Pew asked those leaving if they ever had a strong faith as a child. Only 11% said they did. The other 89% said they never had a strong faith in the first place. As our report says:
Not surprisingly, homes modeling lukewarm faith do not create enduring faith in children. Homes modeling vibrant faith do. So these young adults are leaving something they never had a good grasp of in the first place. This is not a crisis of faith, per se, but of parenting.
Mainline Protestant churches took a bigger hit than evangelical churches.
Also interesting is the huge difference between conservative, Bible-teaching churches and mainline Protestant churches. The General Social Survey, perhaps the most academically-trusted source for demographic data back through 1972, recently noted a 2.2% decline in mainline churches and a slight 0.6% increase among conservative churches (from 1991 to 2012).
The key factor in development of faith in youth are their parents.  Increasingly these parents are failing to pass on their faith.
Young adults are not developing a strong faith as children and walking away as they enter adulthood. Instead, the majority are failing to develop strong faith in the first place and then walking away. As Notre Dame Sociology Professor Christian Smith writes,
Religious outcomes in emerging adulthood ... flow quite predictably from formative religious influences that shape persons' lives in early years ... religious commitments, practices and investments made during childhood and the teenage years, by parents and others in families and religious communities, matter - they make a difference.
What do parents need to do to pass on their faith to their children?
This has huge implications for those working to instill faith in our children. First, it's encouraging that those children who develop a deep faith early on will likely hold onto that faith throughout their lives. But secondly, this shows being in and around church is simply insufficient to develop strong faith for many children. Taking children to church and Sunday school, while important, should not be seen as the only, or even best, way to instill strong faith in our children.

Parents should be intentional about creating homes where their children learn a vibrant faith from God-fearing parents, relatives and other adults. Parents should teach personal habits of prayer and Bible reading in their children, which makes them much more likely to hold onto their faith.
Christian Smith doesn't mince words: "Parents are huge, absolutely huge, nearly a necessary condition" for a child to remain strong in their faith into young adulthood. He concludes "without question, the most important pastor a child will ever have in their life is a parent."

There are many reasons why young adults leave their faith, but perhaps the most significant is that they never developed a strong faith in the first place. Instead of trying to appeal to those with lukewarm faith, perhaps we should back up and consider how we can teach parents to cultivate strong, lasting faith long before our children enter adulthood.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Is there a link between porn use and support for same sex "marriage"?

I came across this article recently.  A bit dated, from December, but it posits a possible link between use of pornography and support for same sex "marriage".  It sounds like a stretch initially but at a closer look it makes some sense.  The article is written by researcher Mark Regnerus.
Recently I read the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy article by Sherif Girgis, Robert P. George, and Ryan T. Anderson, titled “What Is Marriage?” (The article, I am told, has been extensively revised and expanded, and has just been released as a book.) Their explanation of marriage’s distinctiveness as a one man-one woman union includes the following claim:

Marriage has its characteristic structure largely because of its orientation to procreation; it involves developing and sharing one’s body and whole self in the way best suited for honorable parenthood—among other things, permanently and exclusively.

Given that I study the sexual and relationship lives of emerging adults, I couldn’t help but note the contrast between this description of marital sexuality and how sex is portrayed in modern pornography. Indeed, the latter redirects sex—by graphic depiction of it—away from any sense of it as a baby-making activity. Porn also undermines the concept that in the act of sexual intercourse, we share our “body and whole self … permanently and exclusively.” On the contrary, it reinforces the idea that people can share their bodies but not their inmost selves, and that they can do so temporarily and (definitely) not exclusively without harm.
Here's the data backing up his idea.
Data from the New Family Structures Study reveal that when young adult Americans (ages 23-39) are asked about their level of agreement with the statement “It should be legal for gays and lesbians to marry in America,” the gender difference emerges, just as expected: 42 percent of men agreed or strongly agreed, compared with 47 percent of women of the same age. More men than women disagreed or strongly disagreed (37 versus 30 percent), while comparable levels (21-23 percent) said they were “unsure.”

But of the men who view pornographic material “every day or almost every day,” 54 percent “strongly agreed” that gay and lesbian marriage should be legal, compared with around 13 percent of those whose porn-use patterns were either monthly or less often than that. Statistical tests confirmed that porn use is a (very) significant predictor of men’s support for same-sex marriage, even after controlling for other obvious factors that might influence one’s perspective, such as political affiliation, religiosity, marital status, age, education, and sexual orientation.

The same pattern emerges for the statement, “Gay and lesbian couples do just as good a job raising children as heterosexual couples.” Only 26 percent of the lightest porn users concurred, compared to 63 percent of the heaviest consumers. It’s a linear association for men: the more porn they consume, the more they affirm this statement. More rigorous statistical tests confirmed that this association too is a very robust one.

Theoretically, the same pattern should hold when considering support for marriage in general. And it does, though not quite as distinctively. The less time spent viewing porn, the less critical men are of the institution of marriage. Forty-nine (49) percent of the lightest porn users “strongly disagreed” with a statement suggesting that “marriage is an outdated institution” (and an additional 26 percent simply “disagreed” with it), compared with 14 percent of the heaviest porn users.

Of course, correlation doesn’t mean causation, and I’m not suggesting causation here. But I’m also pretty confident the “causal arrow” wouldn’t run in the other direction. (Why would supporting same-sex marriage encourage you to look at porn?) Still, we should consider alternative explanations. What might predict both porn use and support for new family forms? Religion? Politics? While religiosity indeed matters for perceiving marriage as outdated, it does little to alter the stable link between porn use and same-sex marriage support. The same is true of political affiliation. It matters. It just doesn’t weaken the association between porn use and supporting nontraditional family forms.
In the end, contrary to what we might wish to think, young adult men’s support for redefining marriage may not be entirely the product of ideals about expansive freedoms, rights, liberties, and a noble commitment to fairness. It may be, at least in part, a byproduct of regular exposure to diverse and graphic sex acts.
When one thinks about it the possibility of a link between pornography use and marriage is reasonable.  Sex and sexuality are an integral part of marriage.  Something impacting a person's views of the former can be expected to impact that person's views of the latter.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Enduring Revolution by Chuck Colson. Still a prophetic message for America and the West.

I recently came across an old cassette of Chuck Colson's 1993 address, "The Enduring Revolution", which he delivered before an audience made up of people from many different religions in an event connected to the Templeton Prize at the University of Chicago.  His remarks were a respectful but unapologetic statement of his Christian faith while at the same time an insightful look at modernism and postmodernism and the challenges they present to society.

His remarks are as relevant as the day he delivered them 20 years ago.  You can listen to them here. You can read it here.

Regarding his faith.
I speak as one transformed by Jesus Christ, the living God. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He has lived in me for 20 years. His presence is the sole explanation for whatever is praiseworthy in my work, the only reason for my receiving this award (the Templeton Prize).

That is more than a statement about myself. It is a claim to truth. It is a claim that may contradict your own.
Even then he noted that religious liberty was the first liberty or freedom.
Yet on this, at least, we must agree: the right to do what I've just done--to state my faith without fear--is the first human right. Religious liberty is the essence of human dignity. We cannot build our temples on the ruins of individual conscience. For faith does not come through the weight of power, but through the hope of glory.

It is a sad fact that religious oppression is often practiced by religious groups. Sad--and inexcusable. A believer may risk prison for his own religious beliefs, but he may never build prisons for those of other beliefs.

It is our obligation--all of us here--to bring back a renewed passion for religious liberty to every nation from which we came. It is our duty to create a cultural environment where conscience can flourish. I say this for the sake of every believer imprisoned for boldness or silenced by fear. I say this for the sake of every society that has yet to learn the benefits of vital and voluntary religious faith.

The beliefs that divide us should not be minimized. But neither should the aspirations we share: for spiritual understanding; for justice and compassion; for proper stewardship of God's creation; for religious influence--not oppression--in the right ordering of society. And for truth against the arrogant lies of our modern age.

For at the close of this century, every religious tradition finds common ground in a common task--a struggle over the meaning and future of our world and our own particular culture. Each of us has an obligation to expose the deceptions that are incompatible with true faith. It is to this end I will direct my remarks today.
He then talked about the four Horseman of the present apocalypse.
The first is the myth of "goodness of man".
Four great myths define our times--the four horsemen of the present apocalypse. The first myth is the goodness of man. The first horseman rails against heaven with the presumptuous question: Why do bad things happen to good people? He multiplies evil by denying its existence.

This myth deludes people into thinking that they are always victims, never villains; always deprived, never depraved. It dismisses responsibility as the teaching of a darker age. It can excuse any crime, because it can always blame something else--a sickness of our society or a sickness of the mind.

One writer called the modern age "the golden age of exoneration." When guilt is dismissed as the illusion of narrow minds, then no one is accountable, even to his conscience.

The irony is that this should come alive in this century, of all centuries, with its gulags and death camps and killing fields. As G.K. Chesterton once said, the doctrine of original sin is the only philosophy empirically validated by centuries of recorded human history.

It was a holocaust survivor who exposed this myth most eloquently. Yehiel Dinur was a witness during the trial of Adolf Eichmann. Dinur entered the courtroom and stared at the man behind the bulletproof glass--the man who had presided over the slaughter of millions. The court was hushed as a victim confronted a butcher.

Then suddenly Dinur began to sob, and collapsed to the floor. Not out of anger or bitterness. As he explained later in an interview, what struck him at that instant was a terrifying realization. "I was afraid about myself," Dinur said. "I saw that I am capable to do this...Exactly like he."

The reporter interviewing Dinur understood precisely. "How was it possible for a man to act as Eichmann acted?" he asked. "Was he a monster? A madman? Or was he perhaps something even more terrifying...Was he normal?"

Yehiel Dinur, in a moment of chilling clarity, saw the skull beneath the skin. "Eichmann," he concluded, "is in all of us."

Jesus said it plainly: "That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man" (Mark 7:20).
The second myth is utopianism.
The second myth of modernity is the promise of coming utopia. The second horseman arrives with sword and slaughter.

This is the myth that human nature can be perfected by government; that a new Jerusalem can be built using the tools of politics.

From the birth of this century, ruthless ideologies claimed history as their own. They moved swiftly from nation to nation on the strength of a promised utopia. They pledged to move the world, but could only stain it with blood.

In communism and fascism we have seen rulers who bear the mark of Cain as a badge of honor; who pursue a savage virtue, devoid of humility and humanity. We have seen more people killed in this century by their own governments than in all its wars combined. We have seen every utopian experiment fall exhausted from the pace of its own brutality.

Yet utopian temptations persist, even in the world's democracies--stripped of their terrors perhaps, but not of their risks. The political illusion still deceives, whether it is called the great society, the new covenant, or the new world order. In each case it promises government solutions to our deepest needs for security, peace, and meaning.
The third is moral relativism.
The third myth is the relativity of moral values. The third horseman sows chaos and confusion.

This myth hides the dividing line between good and evil, noble and base. It has thus created a crisis in the realm of truth. When a society abandons its transcendent values, each individual's moral vision becomes purely personal and finally equal. Society becomes merely the sum total of individual preferences, and since no preference is morally preferable, anything that can be dared will be permitted.

This leaves the moral consensus for our laws and manners in tatters. Moral neutrality slips into moral relativism. Tolerance substitutes for truth, indifference for religious conviction. And in the end, confusion undercuts all our creeds.
 And the fourth is radical individualism.
The fourth modern myth is radical individualism. The fourth horseman brings excess and isolation.

This myth dismisses the importance of family, church, and community; denies the value of sacrifice; and elevates individual rights and pleasures as the ultimate social value.

But with no higher principles to live by, men and women suffocate under their own expanding pleasures. Consumerism becomes empty and leveling, leaving society full of possessions but drained of ideals. This is what Vaclav Havel calls "totalitarian consumerism."

A psychologist tells the story of a despairing young woman, spent in an endless round of parties, exhausted by the pursuit of pleasure. When told she should simply stop, she responded, "You mean I don't have to do what I want to do?"

As author George MacDonald once wrote, "The one principle of hell is 'I am my own.'"
And answer to this looming crisis?  A return to our roots to, our heritage as a society and civilization, to Christianity and it's truths about man and a society.
Make no mistake: This humanizing, civilizing influence is the Judeo-Christian heritage. It is a heritage brought to life anew in each generation by men and women whose lives are transformed by the living God and filled with holy conviction.

Despite the failures of some of its followers--the crusades and inquisitions--this heritage has laid the foundations of freedom in the West. It has established a standard of justice over both men and nations. It has proclaimed a higher law that exposes the pretensions of tyrants. It has taught that every human soul is on a path of immortality, that every man and woman is to be treated as the child of a King.

This muscular faith has motivated excellence in art and discovery in science. It has undergirded an ethic of work and an ethic of service. It has tempered freedom with internal restraint, so our laws could be permissive while our society was not.

Christian conviction inspires public virtue, the moral impulse to do good. It has sent legions into battle against disease, oppression, and bigotry. It ended the slave trade, built hospitals and orphanages, tamed the brutality of mental wards and prisons.

In every age it has given divine mercy a human face in the lives of those who follow Christ--from Francis of Assisi to the great social reformers Wilberforce and Shaftesbury to Mother Teresa to the tens of thousands of

Prison Fellowship volunteers who take hope to the captives--and who are the true recipients of this award.

Christian conviction also shapes personal virtue, the moral imperative to be good. It subdues an obstinate will. It ties a tether to self-interest and violence.

Finally, Christian conviction provides a principled belief in human freedom. As Lord Action explained, "Liberty is the highest political end of man...[But] no country can be free without religion. It creates and strengthens the notion of duty. If men are not kept straight by duty, they must be by fear. The more they are kept by fear, the less they are free. The greater the strength of duty, the greater the liberty."

The kind of duty to which Action refers is driven by the most compelling motivation. I and every other Christian have experienced it. It is the duty that flows from gratitude to God that He would send His only Son to die so we might live.
But even more fundamentally, to truly strike at the heart of the situation we need to return to the enduring revolution of the cross and resurrection and all that entails.
Admittedly the signs are not auspicious, as I have been at pains to show, and it is easy to become discouraged. But a Christian has neither the reason nor the right. For history's cadence is called with a confident voice. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob reigns. His plan and purpose rob the future of its fears.

By the Cross He offers hope, by the Resurrection He assures His triumph. This cannot be resisted or delayed. Mankind's only choice is to recognize Him now or in the moment of ultimate judgment. Our only decision is to welcome His rule or to fear it.

But this gives everyone hope. For this is a vision beyond a vain utopia or a timid new world order. It is the vision of an Enduring Revolution. One that breaks more than the chains of tyranny, it breaks the chains of sin and death. And it proclaims a liberation that the cruelest prison cannot contain.

The Templeton Prize is awarded for progress in religion. In a technological age, we often equate progress with breaking through barriers in science and knowledge. But progress does not always mean discovering something new. Sometimes it means rediscovering wisdom that is ancient and eternal. Sometimes, in our search for advancement, we find it only where we began. The greatest progress in religion today is to meet every nation's most urgent need: a revolution that begins in the human heart. It is the Enduring Revolution.

In the aftermath of the tragedy in Waco, Texas, and terrorist bombings in New York, we heard dire warnings, even from the president of the United States, of religious extremism. But that, with due respect, is not the world's gravest threat. Far more dangerous is the decline of true religion and of its humanizing values in our daily lives. No ideology--not even liberal democracy--is sufficient. Every noble hope is empty apart from the Enduring Revolution.

This revolution reaches across centuries and beyond politics. It confounds the ambitions of kings and rewards the faith of a child. It clothes itself in the rags of common lives, then emerges with sudden splendor. It violates every jaded expectation with the paradox of its power.

The evidence of its power is humility. The evidence of its conquest is peace. The evidence of its triumph is service. But that still, small voice of humility, of peace, of service becomes a thundering judgment that shakes every human institution to its foundation.

The Enduring Revolution teaches that freedom is found in submission to a moral law. It says that duty is our sharpest weapon against fear and tyranny. This revolution raises an unchanging and eternal moral standard--and offers hope to everyone who fails to reach it. This revolution sets the content of justice--and transforms the will to achieve it. It builds communities of character--and of compassion.

On occasion, God provides glimpses of this glory. I witnessed one in an unlikely place--a prison in Brazil like none I've ever seen.

Twenty years ago in the city of San Jose dos Campos, a prison was turned over to two Christian laymen. They called it Humaita, and their plan was to run it on Christian principles.

The prison has only two full-time staff; the rest of the work is done by inmates. Every prisoner is assigned another inmate to whom he is accountable. In addition, every prisoner is assigned a volunteer family from the outside that works with him during his term and after his release. Every prisoner joins a chapel program, or else takes a course in character development.

When I visited Humaita, I found the inmates smiling--particularly the murderer who held the keys, opened the gates, and let me in. Wherever I walked I saw men at peace. I saw clean living areas. I saw people working industriously. The walls were decorated with biblical sayings from Psalms and Proverbs.

Humaita has an astonishing record. Its recidivism rate is 4 percent compared to 75 percent in the rest of Brazil and the United States. How is that possible?

I saw the answer when my inmate guide escorted me to the notorious punishment cell once used for torture. Today, he told me, that block houses only a single inmate. As we reached the end of the long concrete corridor and he put the key into the lock, he paused and asked, "Are you sure you want to go in?"

"Of course," I replied impatiently. "I've been in isolation cells all over the world." Slowly he swung open the massive door, and I saw the prisoner in that punishment cell: a crucifix, beautifully carved by the Humaita inmates--the prisoner Jesus, hanging on the cross.

"He's doing time for all the rest of us," my guide said softly.

In that cross carved by loving hands is a holy subversion. It heralds change more radical than mankind's most fevered dreams. Its followers expand the boundaries of a kingdom that can never fail. A shining kingdom that reaches into the darkest corners of every community, into the darkest corners of every mind. A kingdom of deathless hope, of restless virtue, of endless peace.

This work proceeds, this hope remains, this fire will not be quenched: The Enduring Revolution of the Cross of Christ.

It's a powerful message worth studying.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Minnesota anti-bullying bill. Ultimate goal? Indoctrination.

Here's a short piece on the anti-bullying legislation which passed the House last year but failed to pass the Senate at the end of the Minnesota legislative session this past May.

Written by Walter Hudson, the piece points out what he believes will be the ultimate effect of the legislation  - not addressing bullying but indoctrinating young students.
Five-year-old Suzie heads off to kindergarten in rural Minnesota. She settles into her class routine full of activity, discovery, and friendship.

Then the day takes a turn. As part of newly mandated diversity training, Suzie’s teacher brings out Heather Has Two Mommies for some light mid-morning reading. A typically precocious kindergartener, Suzie pipes up during the story to correct the teacher’s telling. “God gave us a mommy and a daddy,” she exclaims.

Though no student takes exception to Suzie’s remark, the teacher cringes and becomes keenly aware of her state-mandated role to report any incident which could be construed as bullying. So Suzie gets pulled out of class and taken to the principal’s office where she’s met by a counselor.

There begins a process of formative intervention and remedial discipline. More than correction for objectively inappropriate behavior, this intervention focuses on changing who Suzie is, on correcting her values to ensure that she accepts each of her classmates and values their diverse backgrounds.

Confused, disturbed, and teary-eyed, Suzie comes away from the experience convinced she has done something wrong. Worse, she feels the very sense of rejection which her accusers claim to deplore. She learns her lesson, that the values taught at home are not welcome in school. A bit of her innocence dies. She grows more guarded, less expressive, and unfairly subdued.

Such a tale may be among the tamest of experiences awaiting children in Minnesota, if a task force of social engineers commissioned by Governor Mark Dayton succeed in lobbying for legislation which has already been approved by the State House. House File 826, misleadingly titled the Safe and Supportive Schools Act, serves as a trial balloon modeling what its supporters would like to implement nationally – a radical transformation of schools from institutions of academic achievement into political reeducation camps which correct Orwellian Wrong Think.

Sold colloquially as an “anti-bullying bill,” the proposed legislation actually institutionalizes bullying, targeting political minorities with suppressive badgering. The bill would repeal existing anti-bullying statutes which have proven effective. It would create an invasive, overbearing, and unfunded new state bureaucracy to impose politically correct values upon students, teachers, parents, staff, and anyone serving in or around the educational system. It would affect both public and private schools. In a state which already has one of the worst achievement gaps between white and black students in the nation, the bill would burden struggling districts with new mandates diverting precious resources away from academics. Teachers and staff will become thought police and value mediators, shifting their disciplinary focus from correcting inappropriate behavior to remediating students’ belief systems. As with any state bureaucracy, reams of new data will be generated and follow students throughout their academic career, if not the rest of their lives.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Atheist professors, Christians, faith, logic and God's grace.

It goes without saying that universities are populated with very liberal professors extremely hostile to Christianity.  How should, can a 18 year old freshman student who is a believer in Christianity and the Bible make it through a university education?

Here's an interesting blog post which addresses this question.

For one the writer says logic is on the side of Christians.   For instance, the usual lines of attack against Christians are somewhat predictable.
"I'm a liberal, pacifist, atheist, and if you don't like it, you can leave," the professor said as he began the first day of Renaissance history at the University of Colorado. Joni Raille, who grew up in a conservative Christian home, was taken aback and wondered what her professor's bluntness had to do with Renaissance history. I asked her if she ever considered dropping the course. "No," she replied, "I can learn from anybody, even if he is an atheist." A few days later, Joni's professor began speaking of religious changes within European Christian culture. He wrote a Bible verse from the Gospel of Matthew on the board. "How many of you are Christians? Raise your hand!" Joni felt singled out. But she, along with four other students, raised their hands. The professor probed further. "How many of you read the Bible everyday? Keep your hand up." Joni kept her hand up. She was the only one. "What, are you going to be a nun or something?" Joni smiled, and politely said, "No." The professor smiled back. "C'mon Joni, I think you would look good wearing a religious habit like a nun." Not being equipped to confront these attacks cause many Christian kids to abandon their faith.

Some parents who raised their sons and daughters in the church fear that their student will leave the faith while in college. There is some reason for their fear. As Cathy Lynn Grossman wrote,

Seven in ten Protestants ages 18 to 30—both evangelical and mainline—who went to church regularly in high school said they quit attending by age 23, according to the survey by LifeWay Research. And 34 percent of those said they had not returned, even sporadically, by age 30. That means about one in four Protestant young people have left the church.
The attacks and goals of undermining faith in God are quite deliberate by some.
Bill Savage, distinguished senior lecturer in English at Northwestern University, sees no problem with students walking away from their narrow-minded faith. Savage wrote,
For the foreseeable future, loyal ditto-heads [conservative parents] will continue to drop off their children at the dorms. After a teary-eyed hug, mom and dad will drive their SUVs off toward the nearest gas station, leaving their beloved progeny behind.

And then they all are mine.
And as the late Princeton philosopher Richard Rorty said, "We try to arrange things so that students who enter as bigoted, homophobic, religious fundamentalists will leave college with views more like our own."
What are Christian kids to do?  For one, realize logic and truth are on the side of a Christian worldview.
Stephen Guise left the small, evangelical Johnson Bible College in Tennessee to attend the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, to study business. He was required to take Philosophy 101. Stephen says that having a foundation of logical principles and Bible doctrine before entering the course helped him maintain his faith. The professor often played a Socratic role and allowed the students to discuss among themselves the issue of whether truth is relative or absolute. "The class was always exciting," Stephen recalled. "I was the only outspoken believer in God, and so it required a little courage to speak up." Stephen questioned his teacher, "Your statement, professor—'There is no absolute truth'—is that statement absolutely true?"

Many students find they don't need to get into heated argument or even say much at all in defense of their faith. They merely apply the law of non-contradiction to criticism. Sometimes they ask a simple question of clarification. An agnostic professor might say, "When it comes to matters of faith or God, you can't be certain about anything." A student like Stephen may think, Are you certain about that? A professor of sociology will say, "The religious must accept the reality and goodness of gay marriage, because we can't tolerate a lack of tolerance." A student who knows the logical principle of non-contradiction may ask, "Why are you being so intolerant of intolerance?" An atheistic lecturer may say, "You should reject belief in God, because you can't know anything is true unless it is scientifically verifiable, tested, and proven." But has her theory been verified, tested, or proven? Was it proven in the lab? If so, when? Where is the data? Because if this professor's statement is correct that her theory (which is really a philosophy) has been proven in the lab—scientifically verified and tested—then why should we believe it is true?
C. S. Lewis was convinced that reason is on the side of Christianity. In his classic fictional work The Screwtape Letters, he describes a veteran, experienced demon named Screwtape who advises a young, naive demon named Wormwood on how to keep his patient (a Christian) out of God's (the Enemy's) hand:
Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don't waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong, or stark, or courageous—that it is the philosophy of the future . . . .The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle on to the Enemy's (God's) own ground. He can argue too. . . . By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient's reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result?
Yet logic alone isn't enough.  Here's a great quote by Chesterton.
Logic is a friend to people of faith and can be an aid for students to maintain their faith. But it is not the only factor in maintaining religious convictions. Joni, whom I mentioned earlier, was convinced that the grace of God preserved her relationship with Jesus. "In so many ways," she said, "I really don't know how I got out of college in one piece." For Joni, her "logic flowed from her faith." She cited G. K. Chesterton: "You can only find truth with logic if you have already found truth without it."

Young believers who persevere in orthodox or traditional Christianity love God with all their intellect but also with all their heart and strength as they love their neighbors as themselves. The inward witness of the Holy Spirit convicts them of the reality of God when life gets difficult. Logic and reason are tools that can certainly help prevent our sons and daughters from leaving the faith. But the most important means of preventing your child from leaving the faith is pointing them to spiritual conviction of Christ's grace.
I'm convinced we all exercise, place our faith in something.  Whether you're a Christian or not.  The question is what will one put their faith in and will it be the truth. Christianity has nothing to fear from rigorous intellectual debate.  The Bible which is a written account of truth has survived many an attack over the years yet it hasn't been discredited in the least.  I think that's because it is truth.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Work, morality, politicians and the church

Here's an interesting discussion on the role of work, morality and character.  It's an interesting discussion because for many, most people there's a disconnect between morality and work and the economy.  As a result work either isn't meaningful or it becomes an end in itself.

Noonan sees the link but this blog post by Greg Forster believes she neglects the important role the church should play.
Over the Labor Day weekend, columnist Peggy Noonan wrote about “Work and the American Character.” Her column points to the critical connection between the spiritual value of work and the moral strength of our culture. Unfortunately, in her search for a beacon of hope that can point us back toward the dignity of work, she neglects the church in favor of less promising possibilities.
Noonan begins by highlighting the meaningfulness of work as the critical foundation of culture:

A job isn't only a means to a paycheck, it's more. "To work is to pray," the old priests used to say. God made us as many things, including as workers. When you work you serve and take part. To work is to be integrated into the daily life of the nation. There is pride and satisfaction in doing work well, in working with others and learning a discipline or a craft or an art. To work is to grow and to find out who you are.

In return for performing your duties, whatever they are, you receive money that you can use freely and in accordance with your highest desire. A job allows you the satisfaction of supporting yourself or your family, or starting a family. Work allows you to renew your life, which is part of the renewing of civilization.

Work gives us purpose, stability, integration, shared mission. And so to be unable to work—unable to find or hold a job—is a kind of catastrophe for a human being…This is the real reason jobs and employment are the No. 1 issue in America's domestic life.

In the rest of her column, she connects the economic crisis to the American people’s sense of anxiety about declining moral character. What kind of people are we? People who find meaning in our lives as we “serve and take part,” or people who think the good life is found in narcissistic self-expression and indulgence?

It’s no coincidence that the culture has increased its celebration of immorality at the same time it has decreased its emphasis on the intrinsic dignity and meaning of work. In two lectures he gave in January on “economic wisdom” and the role of the pastor, Dallas Willard outlined in detail the common thread between these two developments: we value work less and we value immorality more because, increasingly, we have lost the ability to “say no to our desires” when moral goodness requires it (c.f. Titus 2:12).

God didn’t create us just to sit back and think good thoughts. He made us to go out and love our neighbors – to love our neighbors in action, not just with cheap talk (c.f. I John 3:18). That means rolling up our sleeves and getting to work! Our work is how we serve others and shape ourselves into the kind of people God wants us to be.

Also notice the seamless connection Noonan draws between our obedience to God through our work and our participation in the life of the civil community. Work isn’t an isolated experience. It takes place in community and it is designed for community. As Noonan says, “to work is to be integrated into the daily life of the nation” – and of the state, county, city, town, and neighborhood.

That’s why work is not just central to each individual’s life; it’s central to the life of society. A jobs crisis is a spiritual crisis. To lack the opportunity to work isn’t simply a financial hardship, it’s a “catastrophe for a human being.” That is, it strikes a blow to the heart of our humanity.

Economic systems are part of a nation’s shared spiritual life. As Willard argued in his lectures, there is a seamless connection between the values embodied in an economic system and the character of individuals within that system. The system and the individual are two sides of the same coin. An economic system embodying the cultural belief that all people can and should support themselves and make a contribution to society through their work will be associated with people who have dignity, honesty, self-control, diligence, social solidarity, concern for the needs of others, and generosity – because those are the qualities of fruitful workers. Meanwhile, an economic system embodying the cultural belief that happiness comes from satisfying your natural desires will be associated with individuals who are greedy, slothful, self-indulgent, cynical, and resentful.

Willard also argued that an economic system focused on satisfying our desires instead of on productive work inevitably leads to catastrophic political conflict. This is why the role of the pastor is so critical. Pastors have a prophetic mission to speak to us as citizens about the guiding moral values, principles, and practices of our civil community, yet at the same time it is not the calling of pastors to participate in electoral politics. This positions them – almost alone – as people who are able to equip and empower our culture to turn back from the rising tide of materialism and narcissism.

Forster says Noonan misses the important role pastors need to play in elevating the virtue of work and instead she points to politicans and what they can and need to do.

Here Noonan could learn something from Willard. In her column, she argues that to restore dignity and hope to our culture, we need politicians who celebrate – sincerely, not as a focus-group-tested messaging gimmick – the extraordinary possibilities of work, enterprise, and entrepreneurship to transform our lives and our culture for the better. I think she’s right that politicians who did that would be a positive cultural force. However, turning to politicians as our primary cultural hope is a mistake.
 Philosopher Dallas Willard says this turn to politicians is a sign we're not turning to God.
 As Willard pointed out, the very fact that we mostly turn to politicians to tell us what the good life is – and to provide it for us – is itself a sign that we’ve turned away from God. We will never get away from catastrophic political conflict as long as people turn mainly to politicians when they seek hope. Government has an important social role to play, of course, and not just in forbidding force and fraud – libertarianism is as much a false hope as socialism. But “the American character” will never recover until we look to pastors as our primary guides and teachers in building a culture (which includes the economic system) that provides hope, dignity, and flourishing.
Noonan herself laments that “the old priests used to say” that “to work is to pray.” Why then does she now look only for politicians to say it? Are there no more pastors? Are today’s pastors incapable of saying it, mired in a truncated vision of their role in our lives, permanently stricken with prophetic laryngitis? Or is it that we no longer believe pastors matter?

Supermajorities of Americans say they don’t have a sense that their work is meaningful. How would Christianity be positioned to influence the culture if Christians became known as the people who know why work is meaningful, and who have wisdom on how businesses and economic systems should run? Pastors have the power to equip them with that knowledge. It’s a big job, but that’s all the more reason to roll up our sleeves and get to work.
Certainly politicians have a role to play in the economy and society but I think their role in society becomes improperly elevated as people turn from God.  People look to politicians rather than God and His ways for their answers and security.  Politicians and by extension the state have a God ordained jurisdiction they're supposed to operate in.  It's limited.  The same is true for the other, primaryGod ordained institutions in society, e.g. family and church.  People look for the state to take over family responsibilities.  For instance our social welfare system makes fathers in many instances superfluous through generous benefits.  As a result it often facilitates irresponsible behavior.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Bible and Americans.

The American Bible Society did a survey of Americans and their view of the Bible.  They found 88% of American households own a Bible. 
While an amazing 88 percent of the nation’s homes own a Bible, more and more are switching to the internet, cell phones and iPad for their weekly inspiration, according to a sweeping new survey of Bible use. 
In their latest survey of Bible use, the American Bible Society finds that 41 percent of Americans used the internet to read the good book on a computer. Some 29 percent said they searched Bible verses on a cell phone and 17 percent said they read an electronic version of the Bible on a Kindle or iPad.

The trend is similar in the news business, with the readers shifting to digital over paper.

“The data shows a continual shift to digital content. The number of Bible readers who use their smart phone or cell phone to search for Bible content has increased each year, with a 6 percent increase in the use of this format from 2012,” said the Society. “Use of internet to find Bible content has also increased, up 4 percent from 2011,” they added.

And, said the survey of 2,083, the most read and searched version of the Bible was the King James version. Thirty-eight percent preferred that over the New King James version, which just 14 percent prefer.

Americans also said that the Bible is king over the Koran, with 80 percent calling the Bible sacred, with just 8 percent citing the Koran. That was followed by the Torah, at 4 percent, and Book of Mormon at 3 percent.
The Bible influences people's political beliefs.  69% say their personal faith influences their political beliefs.  A scary thought I'm sure for the ACLU and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.
With more people tapping into the Bible for direction and inspiration, the most read book in the world is also having a bigger influence in American politics. More than two-thirds, or 69 percent, said their personal faith has at least a little influence in political issues. And the percentage of those who said their faith influences their political leanings has increased from 27 percent last year to 31 percent this year.
77% of Americans believe morality is on decline in America and 33% blame it on lack of Bible reading. 66% believe the Bible should be taught in the public schools.  Interestingly 54% say the Bible and politics don't mix though above 69% say their faith influences their political beliefs. 
-- 77 percent believe that morality in America is on the decline, with a third blaming the lack of bible reading.
-- 66 percent believing teaching the Bible in public schools is important.
-- 54% of adults agreed with the statement, "the Bible and politics do not mix."
-- 22% of adults believe the Bible should be taken literally, word for word

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Which country is moving away from socialism - Sweden or the US?


Here's an interesting post comparing economic freedom in the US and Sweden.  

Sweden has the reputation for socialism par excellence.  It appears that's changing and quite dramatically over the last twenty years.  In fact, regarding economic freedom, Sweden is on par with the US which is moving in the opposite direction.  They've cut government spending and taxes.  The US has been moving in the other direction.
Sweden is no longer a typical European welfare state. Through deregulation, budget discipline, and an extensive overhaul of the welfare state over the past two decades, the country has transformed itself from a stagnant, benefit-based society to a vibrant modern economy.

As documented in the Index of Economic Freedom, Sweden has measurably advanced economic freedom over the past 20 years and dramatically narrowed the gap with America, whose economic freedom has been declining at an alarming rate. (continues below chart)
 BL-sweden-econ-freedom
Since 1995, Sweden has reduced its government spending as a portion of gross domestic product by almost 20 percent while America’s has increased by close to 10 percent. Not content merely to downsize government, the country known for ABBA and IKEA has also engaged in the global tax-cutting race and reduced its corporate tax rate to 26.3 percent from 60 percent. Notably, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has implemented a further reduction of the corporate tax rate to 22 percent, pointing out that corporate income tax is “probably the most harmful tax of all.”

It is not surprising that Sweden has shown enviable economic resilience during the global downturn, even as America’s entrepreneurial pulse is on virtual life support due to the big-government policies of the Obama Administration.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

German police, government officials treat home schooling parents as criminals.

Here's a story out of Germany where German Christian home schooling parents had their children forceably removed from their home by German social workers and police.  As you read the account it looks like a story in a police state.  The anti-state activity?  Educating one's children at home.  (I thought that's what parents were supposed to do - educate their kids.)
Four children, ages 7 to 14, have been forcibly taken from their Darmstadt, Germany, home by police armed with a battering ram, and their parents have been told they won’t see them again soon, all over the issue of homeschooling, according to a stunning new report from the Home School Legal Defense Association.

HSLDA, the world’s premiere advocate for homeschoolers, said the family of Dirk and Petra Wunderlich has battled for several years Germany’s World War II-era requirement that all children submit to the indoctrination programs in the nation’s public schools.

The shocking raid was made solely because the parents were providing their children’s education, HSLDA said. The organization noted the paperwork that authorized police officers and social workers to use force on the children contained no claims of mistreatment.

“The children were taken to unknown locations,” HSLDA said. “Officials ominously promised the parents that they would not be seeing their children anytime soon.”

The raid, which took place Thursday at 8 a.m. as the children were beginning their day’s classes, has been described by observers as “brutal and vicious.”

A team of 20 social workers, police and special agents stormed the family’s home. HSLDA reported a Judge Koenig, who is assigned to the Darmstadt family court, signed an order authorizing the immediate seizure of the children by force.

“Citing the parents’ failure to cooperate ‘with the authorities to send the children to school,’ the judge also authorized the use of force ‘against the children’ … reasoning that such force might be required because the children had ‘adopted the parents’ opinions’ regarding homeschooling and that ‘no cooperation could be expected’ from either the parents or the children,” HSLDA said.

Dirk Wunderlich told the homeschool group: “I looked through a side window and saw many people, police and special agents, all armed. They told me they wanted to come in to speak with me. I tried to ask questions, but within seconds, three police officers brought a battering ram and were about to break the door in, so I opened it.”

His narration continued: “The police shoved me into a chair and wouldn’t let me even make a phone call at first. It was chaotic as they told me they had an order to take the children. At my slightest movement the agents would grab me, as if I were a terrorist. You would never expect anything like this to happen in our calm, peaceful village. It was like a scene out of a science fiction movie. Our neighbors and children have been traumatized by this invasion.”
Sounds like the parents' rights were violated even under European law.
Michael Farris, HSLDA founder, said in a report the actions violated a number of established European precedents, including provisions of the European Convention of Human Rights.

“The right to homeschool is a human right,” he said, “and so is the right to freely move and to leave a country. Germany has grossly violated these rights of this family.

“This latest act of seizing these four beautiful innocent children is an outrageous act of a rogue nation.”

Farris said the U.S. Constitution is “not alone in upholding the right of parents to decide how to educate their children.”

“Germany is a party to numerous human rights treaties that recognize the right of parents to provide an education distinct from the public schools so that children can be educated according to the parents’ religious convictions,” he said.

“Germany has simply not met its obligations under these treaties or as a liberal democracy. HSLDA and I will do whatever we can to help this family regain custody of their children and ensure that they are safe from this persecution. This case demonstrates conclusively why the Romeike asylum case is so important. Families in Germany need a safe place where they can educate their children in peace.”