Uncommon Sense

politics and society are, unfortunately, much the same thing

Educating people about religion by keeping them dumb

original article: CNN religion quiz needs to take Christianity seriously
March 19, 2017 by John Stonestreet

In what has become an annual tradition of television programming claiming to reveal the real Jesus of Nazareth, it seems that CNN is off to an early start. Every Easter season, cable networks fill their lineups with specials featuring biblical and historical experts who often represent only the skeptical side of the longstanding debate about the historical Jesus.

This year, CNN even preempted their special series, “Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery,” with an even stronger than usual dose of their “we will tell you, especially you Christians, what Christianity really is…” attitude towards believers and matters of faith. At CNN.com, all are invited to take a ten-question online promotional quiz entitled, “Do you have faith in your knowledge of Christianity?”

Among the crucially important matters of faith revealed by this little test are what a commune in southwest France serves for the Easter meal, what household items believers in Norway hide from evil spirits, what objects are thrown to celebrate Fat Tuesday in the Belgian town of Binche, which African nation claims to have the Ark of the Covenant, and who the shortest reigning Pontiff was.

In a quiz claiming to test one’s knowledge of Christianity, there is sum total of one question about Jesus Christ (where did He walk on water?). Nothing is asked about Jesus’ birth, words, death or resurrection. There are no questions about the Christian understanding of truth, sin, or salvation. Nothing about Paul or Peter. Nothing about the afterlife. Nothing about the human condition.

In reality, the quiz reveals virtually nothing about one’s knowledge of Christianity. It does, however, reveal much about how CNN and so many secular elites view religion, and the blind spot that clouds their thinking:: that secularists are just as much people of faith as the faithful they hope to educate.

For secularists who tend to see religion as little more than a cultural artifact of a world fast slipping away, the sort of obscure questions asked in the CNN.com quiz makes sense. Religious truth claims, in this view, only reflect the irrational beliefs of people hanging onto traditions from a time before omniscient science and enlightened reason. Religion describes only what people believe and do. It does not, and cannot, describe the world as it is.

In a recent presentation to the employees at Google, Tim Keller of New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church called this view of religion “simplistic and naive.” First, the world – when one looks outside of Europe and North America – is getting more, not less, religious. To suggest the opposite is a statement of cultural imperialism. Second, if secularists are right about God – that He doesn’t exist – then the universe and everything that exists, including our brains, resulted from natural, mindless processes. If this is really our story, than how can we substantiate our faith in human reason? Third, and this is critical, our faith in human reason is just that: faith. The statement that all things must be proven by reason to be true is an assumption we make that itself is not provable by reason. If embraced, it is taken by faith.

None of this is to say that secularism is false and Christianity is true. Both secularism and Christianity make claims about the world we live in, about human nature, and about God. Both secularists and Christians, as Keller went on to demonstrate, rely on reason and faith in investigating and offering explanations about the world we experience.

Too many brilliant people, after investigating Christian truth claims in light of their own existential struggles, have embraced faith for it to be cavalierly dismissed. Atheists like Anthony Flew, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and C.S. Lewis came to believe that the intricate design and stubborn persistence of moral norms we see in the universe were best explained by the existence of a Higher Power. Skeptics like Lee Strobel and Malcolm Muggeridge found that there was far more to this Jesus of Nazareth and the historical evidence of His resurrection than typically presented in the annual network specials.

Christianity, like all belief systems, certainly deserves to be investigated and scrutinized. No one settle for an unexamined faith. But, by all means, it deserves to be taken seriously.

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Middlebury showed us how colleges today punish blasphemy

original article: The Dangerous Safety of College
March 11, 2017 by Frank Bruni

The moral of the recent melee at Middlebury College, where students shouted down and chased away a controversial social scientist, isn’t just about free speech, though that’s the rubric under which the ugly incident has been tucked. It’s about emotional coddling. It’s about intellectual impoverishment.

Somewhere along the way, those young men and women — our future leaders, perhaps — got the idea that they should be able to purge their world of perspectives offensive to them. They came to believe that it’s morally dignified and politically constructive to scream rather than to reason, to hurl slurs in place of arguments.

They have been done a terrible disservice. All of us have, and we need to reacquaint ourselves with what education really means and what colleges do and don’t owe their charges.

Physical safety? Absolutely. A smooth, validating passage across the ocean of ideas? No. If anything, colleges owe students turbulence, because it’s from a contest of perspectives and an assault on presumptions that truth emerges — and, with it, true confidence.

What happened at Middlebury was this: A group of conservative students invited Charles Murray to speak, and administrators rightly consented to it. Although his latest writings about class divisions in America have been perceptive, even prescient, his 1994 book “The Bell Curve” trafficked in race-based theories of intelligence and was broadly (and, in my opinion, correctly) denounced. The Southern Poverty Law Center labeled him a white nationalist.

He arrived on campus wearing that tag, to encounter hundreds of protesters intent on registering their disgust. Many jammed the auditorium where he was supposed to be interviewed — by, mind you, a liberal professor — and stood with their backs to him. That much was fine, even commendable, but the protest didn’t stop there.

Chanting that Murray was “racist, sexist, anti-gay,” the students wouldn’t let him talk. And when he and the professor moved their planned interchange to a private room where it could be recorded on camera, protesters disrupted that, too, by pulling fire alarms and banging on windows. A subsequent confrontation between some of them and Murray grew physical enough that the professor with him sought medical treatment for a wrenched neck.

Middlebury isn’t every school, and only a small fraction of Middlebury students were involved. But we’d be foolish not to treat this as a wake-up call, because it’s of a piece with some of the extraordinary demands that students at other campuses have made, and it’s the fruit of a dangerous ideological conformity in too much of higher education.

It put me in mind of important remarks that the commentator Van Jones, a prominent Democrat, made just six days beforehand at the University of Chicago, where he upbraided students for insisting on being swaddled in Bubble Wrap.

“I don’t want you to be safe, ideologically,” he told them. “I don’t want you to be safe, emotionally. I want you to be strong. That’s different. I’m not going to pave the jungle for you. Put on some boots, and learn how to deal with adversity.”

“You are creating a kind of liberalism that the minute it crosses the street into the real world is not just useless, but obnoxious and dangerous,” he added. “I want you to be offended every single day on this campus. I want you to be deeply aggrieved and offended and upset, and then to learn how to speak back. Because that is what we need from you.”

The liberalism that Jones was bemoaning is really illiberalism, inasmuch as it issues repressive rules about what people should be able to say and hear. It’s part of what some angry voters in 2016 were reacting to and rebelling against. And colleges promote it by failing to summon a rich spectrum of voices.

“Certain things are not to be discussed,” said John McWhorter, a Columbia University professor who teaches linguistics and philosophy, speaking of a rigid political correctness that transcends college campuses but that he is especially disturbed to see there. Campuses are supposed to be realms of bold inquiry and fearless debate.

Reflecting on Middlebury, he told me, “Anybody whose approach to ideas that they don’t like is just to scream bloody murder has been failed in their education.” It hasn’t taught them that history is messy, society complicated and truth elusive.

Protests aren’t the problem, not in and of themselves. They’re vital, and so is work to end racism, sexism, homophobia and other bigotry. But much of the policing of imperfect language, silencing of dissent and shaming of dissenters runs counter to that goal, alienating the very onlookers who need illumination.

It’s an approach less practical than passionate, less strategic than cathartic, and partly for that reason, both McWhorter and the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt have likened it to a religion.

“When something becomes a religion, we don’t choose the actions that are most likely to solve the problem,” said Haidt, the author of the 2012 best seller “The Righteous Mind” and a professor at New York University. “We do the things that are the most ritually satisfying.”

He added that what he saw in footage of the confrontation at Middlebury “was a modern-day auto-da-fé: the celebration of a religious rite by burning the blasphemer.”

The protesters didn’t use Murray’s presence as an occasion to hone the most eloquent, irrefutable retort to him. They swarmed and swore.

McWhorter recalled that back when “The Bell Curve” was published, there was disagreement about whether journalists should give it currency by paying it heed. But he said that it was because they engaged the material in detail, rather than just branding it sacrilegious, that he learned enough to conclude on his own that its assertions were wrong — and why.

Both he and Haidt belong to Heterodox Academy, a group of hundreds of professors who, in joining, have pledged to support a diversity of viewpoints at colleges and universities. It was founded in 2015. It’s distressing that there was — and is — even a need for it.

But according to an essay in Bloomberg View last week by Stephen Carter, a professor of law at Yale, the impulse to squelch upsetting words with “odious behavior” is so common “that it’s tempting to greet it with a shrug.”

“The downshouters will go on behaving deplorably,” Carter wrote, “and reminding the rest of us that the true harbinger of an authoritarian future lives not in the White House but in the groves of academe.”

I wouldn’t go that far. But I worry that in too many instances, the groves of academe are better at pumping their denizens full of an easy, intoxicating fervor than at preparing them for constructive engagement in a society that won’t echo their convictions the way their campuses do.

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Is The Humanist Christophobic?

Let me begin with a hypothetical which I will tie into a real world scenario.

Imagine a Muslim publisher produces a graphic novel of the Holy Quran. And imagine a Christian organization reviews that graphic novel. They make the token compliments about art quality but criticize the content of that novel, arguing it is “rigged” against a Jewish or Christian reading. The main point of this hypothetical criticism is that the novel is written from an exclusively Muslim perspective.

At first glance you might wonder “why wouldn’t they?” Why wouldn’t the Muslim publisher present their own view of their own holy book? But common sense would get the better of you and you’d ask “why shouldn’t they?” After all, it’s their publication of their holy book, why shouldn’t they be able to cast it from their own perspective? Shouldn’t tolerance and plurality allow for a religious group to express their own views about their own sacred writings, especially when they are trying to share those views with outsiders?

Now for the real story.

Kingstone is a publishing company owned by an evangelical Christian pastor. The company’s website openly acknowledges its owner’s religious leanings. The Kingtone Bible, a 2000 page graphic novel of the Holy Bible, is the company’s flagship product. So let’s summarize the situation: a Christian publishing company produces a graphic novel of the Christian holy book, from a Christian perspective. An atheist organization, The Humanist, published a review of The Kingstone Bible written by Fred Edwords. Edwords makes token compliments about art quality but his main beef with the graphic novel is, well you can already guess. So let’s take a closer look.

Edwords’ first swipe at the work implies presenting the bible “seen through an evangelical Christian lens” is somehow a problem. In the next sentence he calls this “bias”.

It’s true that The Kingstone Bible isn’t strictly word for word. Edwords continues:

This isn’t strictly biblical; it’s a clarification of Christian doctrine. Thus, right out of the box the game is rigged against any Jewish, Muslim, or secular reading of what originated as Jewish scripture.

Keep in mind the graphic novel is about the Holy Bible, not the Tanakh, not the Quran. Now, if the novel purported to be about all three of these holy books I could understand criticizing it for adopting an exclusively Christian perspective. But it doesn’t purport to be religiously neutral. So I’m having trouble understanding the demand that The Kingstone Bible should have been told from a more religiously neutral perspective.

Besides, a typical secular idea is that all religions are basically the same and are equally valid. So if all religions are basically the same, what’s the problem in offering a religious product from only one religious tradition? Evidently, when an exclusively Christian perspective is offered suddenly our secular society remembers all religions are in fact not the same.

Another criticism Edwords offers which I may be inclined to agree with is the seeming whitewashing of “certain biblical horrors”. But keep in mind, in our current politically charged environment when anyone (not only Christians) speaks of certain Quranic horrors we are sure to hear accusations of Islamophobia. That’s a very common reaction I see when anyone even acknowledges modern violent horrors committed in the name of Islam. Whitewashing Islamic extremism is the status quo of our day so we really have no reason to objurgate any other religion for doing the same with their own history.

Some other criticisms Edwords has for the graphic novel are I think well made, such as some newly invented details about specific scenes not mentioned in the Bible. But other criticisms seem to me rather petty and even Christophobic. I really don’t understand why a Christian group should be knocked for “Christian evangelizing” especially considering Edwords’ review of The Kingstone Bible reads like an effort at atheist evangelizing.

Edwords’ closing paragraph I think demonstrates his own secular bias best. He ends with another swipe at the credibility of the bible and of Christianity in saying “if you have friends who believe in the Bible while never having really read it, this could be the perfect gift for waking them up to its true mythical nature.” Sadly that is a common thing, but it’s also very common to find atheists who take pleasure in criticizing religion in general (or Christianity in particular) who’ve never really read those religious texts either. Reading the bible only once isn’t much better, as the pretense of having infallible comprehension is also a common intellectually dishonest problem among skeptics. Add on top of that the innumerable critics of Christianity who have studied the bible, at least in part, yet have done so from an overtly hostile stand point pretending to be objective and we have the workings of a general disingenuous attitude among the skeptics could possibly benefit from an effort to challenge their views. After all, it’s remarkably difficult to find an atheist who has bothered to question their own doubt.

Considering the article altogether I could just as well criticize Edwords and The Humanist for producing a solidly secular review of The Kingstone Bible written from their decidedly atheistic perspective. But it’s an atheistic organization, so why wouldn’t they?

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New Jersey School District Teaches Islam But Censors Christianity

original article: New Jersey School District Teaches Islam But Censors Christianity
February 21, 2017 by AARON BANDLER

A New Jersey middle school has no problem teaching Islam to its students, but has censored students for bringing up the Bible.

Two mothers spoke up about their children’s experiences in at a Chatham Board of Education meeting in February. One of them, Nancy Gayer, voiced displeasure that her son’s fourth grade PowerPoint presentation from years ago was shut down because it briefly cited a line from the Bible in advertising for his efforts to gather gloves and hats for poor children. Gayer said that the teacher told her son that it “belongs in Sunday school, not in the classroom” and proceeded to claim that the computer wouldn’t allow the presentation to be shown to the class.

Gayer then took the matter to the school district, but the superintendent told her that the teacher’s actions were correct due to the district’s policy of prohibiting “proselytizing” in the classroom.

The line from the Bible her son cited was, “Caring for the poor is lending to the Lord, and you will be well repaid.”

However, this same standard apparently does not apply to Islam, as Gayer pointed out that her son is being taught about the intricacies of the religion in a seventh grade class at Chatham Middle School, including being shown a video explaining the Five Pillars of Islam that featured lines like “Allah is the creator of everything, the one true God.”:

“In my opinion, I call this proselytizing, for by definition of this word it means convert or attempt to convert from one religion, belief or opinion to another,” Gayers said.

Another mother, Libby Hilsenrath, echoed Gayers’ sentiments, pointing out that the seventh grade class went into detail about the various aspects of Islam, but did not teach Judaism and Christianity. She also brought forth further course material that could be seen as proselytizing for Islam, which included a video providing an introduction to Islam that quoted excerpts from the Koran such as “And they say: Be Jews and Christians, then ye will be rightly guided. Say (unto them, O Muhammed) Nay, but (we follow) the religion of Abraham, the upright, and he was not of the idolators” and “Lo, we have sent thee (O Muhammed) with the truth, a bringer of glad tidings and warner.”

However, the superintendent, Michael LaSusa, refused to eliminate the course because “it is part of the New Jersey curriculum core content standards to teach students about the various religions of the world.” He also refused to meet with Gayers and Hilsenrath.

Gayers and Hilsenrath have since been smeared as Islamophobic by various people in the area.

“We were labeled as bigots immediately following the Board of Ed meeting in an op-ed,” Hilsenrath told Fox News host Tucker Carlson, “and then all over Facebook with people who knew us or didn’t know us. Xenophobic, Islamophobe, I mean it went as far as the KKK, which I don’t know what that has to do with this.”

“Unfortunately I was stared down at a grocery store too,” Gayers added, “and I believe I was in the express line with just 10 items but yet I was still stared down. It was pretty unnerving.”

The op-ed that Hilsenrath referenced was a letter to the editor on Tap Into Chatham by resident Susan O’Brien, who called Gayers and Hilsenrath’s concerns as  “at worst veiled bigotry and at best sad and ignorant.”

“I believe that ignorance breads fear and fear breeds hatred; the more we understand about other cultures and religions the better we are equipped to deal with the issues we face in today’s world,” O’Brien wrote.

O’Brien did not attend the Board of Education meeting and nowhere in her letter did she address the glaring inconsistency of the district’s religion in the classroom policy.

As the mothers have pointed out, there is nothing wrong with being taught about the intricacies of world religions, but it’s a problem when only one religion is being taught and not others, especially when a presentation featuring a brief line from the Bible was shut down. In today’s politically correct society, voicing such concerns has resulted in Gayer and Hilsenbrath being “verbally bullied” and as smeared as “bigots,” as Gayers said in a press release sent to the Daily Wire.

The mothers’ speeches at the Board of Education meeting and their appearance on Carlson’s show can be seen below:

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Did the Obama admin discriminate for job positions based on race or religion?

original article: LEAKED: Obama Team Kept List of Muslims For Top Jobs, Excluded Non-Muslims
October 24, 2016 by Justin Caruso

The newest batch of John Podesta’s hacked emails released by Wikileaks shows Obama’s transition team kept lists of Muslim and Asian candidates for jobs in the administration.

According to an email chain from 2008, John Podesta received lists of exclusively Muslims and Asians to be considered for jobs in the Obama administration. The email chain revealed that in this process, Middle Eastern Christians were purposefully excluded, or set aside in a separate list, with an aide writing,

In the candidates for top jobs, I excluded those with some Arab American background but who are not Muslim (e.g., George Mitchell). Many Lebanese Americans, for example, are Christian. In the last list (of outside boards/commissions), most who are listed appear to be Muslim American, except that a handful (where noted) may be Arab American but of uncertain religion (esp. Christian).

Also notable, there was concern that some of the Muslims suggested would not survive media scrutiny, with one aide writing, “High-profile Muslim Americans tend to be the subject of a fair amount of blogger criticism, and so the individuals on this list would need to be ESPECIALLY carefully vetted.”

She continues, “I suspect some of the people I list would not survive such a vet — but I do personally know, at least in part, virtually all of the candidates in the 1st two categories (but I know very few of those listed for outside boards/commissions).”

Within the lists themselves, candidates were further broken down, with every candidate labeled by their nationality and sometimes race.

This follows a pattern of the Obama Administration using race and religion to determine hiring, with other leaked emails showing potential political appointees being labeled with an F for female, B for black, H for Hispanic, and M for Muslim.

Another Wikileaks release showed the Obama transition team keeping extensive lists of non-white candidates for administration posts.

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Does Pelosi think it’s okay to use religion as a guide for public policy?

original article: Pelosi: Democrats Do ‘the Lord’s Work,’ Republicans ‘Dishonor God’
January 24, 2017 by TYLER O’NEIL

In yet another example of moral narcissism and the liberal inability to understand conservative positions on faith, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi declared that her party, the Democratic Party, does the will of God while Republicans dishonor their Creator.

Of Republicans, the Democrat congresswoman from California declared, “They pray in church on Sunday and they prey on people the rest of the week. And while we’re doing the Lord’s work, ministering to the needs of God’s creation, they are ignoring those needs which is to dishonor the God who made them.”

Perhaps emboldened by Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change, Pelosi thus equated the climate alarmism and draconian regulations pushed by her party with a godly care for the environment. In doing so, she failed to understand that there are good reasons to doubt the “scientific consensus” on man-made global warming. She also failed to note that God’s care for “the least of these” can justify cutting regulations, which will unleash economic growth which helps the poor as well as the rich.

This is why Pelosi’s declaration that Republicans “prey on people” was important. By falsely equating free market policies with the kind of crony capitalism that leads to monopoly, Democrats argue that the Republican agenda enables the rich to harm the poor.

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Where culture, politics, and religion meet in America

original article: Tocqueville and Democracy’s Fall in America
January 19, 2017 by Samuel Gregg

For Alexis de Tocqueville, American democracy’s passion for equality was a potentially fatal flaw—one that religion could help address. But what happens when religion also becomes preoccupied with equality?

Over the past year, lots of people, I suspect, have been reading Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (1835/1840) as they ask themselves how the United States could have found itself having to choose in 2016 between two of the most unpopular candidates ever to face off for the office of president.

Historical factors contributed to America reaching this political point. These range from profound inner divisions characterizing American conservatism to deep frustration with the political class, as well as preexisting philosophical, cultural, and economic problems that have become more acute.

Tocqueville, however, recognized that such problems are often symptoms of subterranean currents that, once in place, are hard to reverse. A champion of liberty, Tocqueville was no determinist. He nevertheless understood that once particular habits become widespread in elite and popular culture, the consequences are difficult to avoid. In the case of democracy—perhaps especially American democracy—Tocqueville wondered whether its emphasis on equality might not eventually make the whole thing come undone.

The Passion for Equality

When Democracy in America’s second volume appeared in 1840, many reviewers noted that it was more critical of democracy than the first volume. In more recent times, Tocqueville’s warnings about democracy’s capacity to generate its own forms of despotism have been portrayed as prefiguring a political dynamic associated with the welfare state: i.e., people voting for politicians who promise to give them more things in return for which voters voluntarily surrender more and more of their freedom.

This very real problem, however, has distracted attention from Tocqueville’s interest in the deeper dynamic at work. This concerns how democracy encourages a focus on an equality of conditions. For Tocqueville, democratic societies’ dominant feature is the craving for equality—not liberty. Throughout Democracy in America, equality of conditions is described as “generative.” By this, Tocqueville meant that a concern for equalization becomes the driving force shaping everything: politics, economics, family life . . . even religion.

Democracy’s emphasis on equality helps to break down many unjust forms of discrimination and inequality. Women gradually cease, for instance, to be regarded as inherently inferior. Likewise, the fundamental injustice of slavery becomes harder and harder to rationalize.

At the same time, as Tocqueville scholar Pierre Manent has observed, democracies gravitate toward a fascination with producing total equality. Democracy requires everyone to relate to each other through the medium of democratic equality. We consequently start seeing and disliking any disparity contradicting this equality of conditions. Equality turns out to be very antagonistic to difference per se, even when differences are genetic (such as between men and women) or merited (some are wealthier because they freely assume more risks). But it’s also ambivalent about something that any society needs to inculcate among its members: virtue.

The idea of virtue implies that there are choices whose object is always good and others that are wrong in themselves. Courage is always better than recklessness and cowardice. But language such as “better than,” or “superior to” is intolerable to egalitarianism of the leveling kind. That’s one reason why many people in democratic societies prefer to speak of “values.” Such language implies that (1) all values are basically equal, and (2) there’s something impolite if not downright wrong with suggesting that some purportedly ethical commitments are irrational and wrong.

But in such a world, who am I to judge that some of the values espoused by, say, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, or any other political figure for that matter, might reflect seriously defective evaluations of right and wrong? All that would matter is that “they have values.” The truth, however, is that democracies don’t need “people with values.” They require virtuous people: individuals and communities whose habits of the heart shape what Tocqueville called the “whole mental and intellectual state” of a people as they associate together, pursue their economic self-interest, make laws, and vote.

The Religion of Egalitarian Sentimentalism

At the best of times, living a virtuous life is difficult. This is especially true when a fixation with equality makes many people reluctant to distinguish between baseness and honor, beauty and ugliness, rationality and feelings-talk, truth and falsehood. Much of Democracy in America consequently seeks to show how democratic societies could contain their equalizing inclinations.

Some of Tocqueville’s recommendations focus on constitutional restraints on government power. He understood that the political regime’s nature matters. But Tocqueville also believed that the main forces that promoted virtue, and that limited the leveling egalitarianism that relativizes moral choices, lay beyond politics. In America’s case, he observed, religion played an important role in moderating fixations with equality-as-sameness.

Tocqueville didn’t have just any religion in mind. He was specifically concerned with Christianity. For all the important doctrinal differences marking the Christian confessions scattered across America in Tocqueville’s time, few held to relativistic accounts of morality. Words like “virtue,” “vice,” “good,” and “evil” were used consistently and had concrete meaning.

Christianity did underscore a commitment to equality insofar as everyone was made as imago Dei and was thus owed equality before the law. This conviction helped to secure slavery’s eventual abolition. Nevertheless Christianity in America also emphasized another quintessentially Christian theme: freedom—political, economic, and religious. In the United States, the word “liberty” wasn’t associated with the anti-Christian violence instinctively linked by European Christians with the French Revolution.

Religions, however, aren’t immune to the cultures in which they exist. So what happens if a religion starts succumbing to the hunger for equalization that Tocqueville associated with democratic ways? Most often, such religions begin abandoning their distinctiveness, as self-evidently false propositions such as “all religions are the same” take hold. Truth claims and reasoned debate about religious and moral truth are relegated to the periphery. Why? Because trying to resolve them would mean affirming that certain religious and moral claims are false and thus unequal to those that are true.

When Christians go down this path, the inevitable theological void is filled by a sentimentalism that arises naturally from egalitarianism. God is condensed to the Great Non-Judge in the Sky: a nice, harmless deity who’s just like us. Likewise, such Christians increasingly take their moral cues from democratic culture. The consequent emphasis on equality-as-sameness doesn’t just mean that liturgy and doctrine are reduced to inoffensive banalities. The horizons of Christian conceptions of justice also shrink to the abolition of difference. The truth that many forms of inequality are just, including in the economic realm, is thus rendered incomprehensible. In the end, Christian confessions that embrace such positions collapse into pale facsimiles of secular egalitarianism and social justice activism.

A Fatal Combination?

These religions are incapable of performing the role that Tocqueville thought was played by many religious communities in the America he surveyed in the early 1830s. Of course, the object of religion isn’t to provide social lubrication. Religion is concerned with the truth about the divine, and living our lives in accordance with the truth about such matters. However, if religion ceases to be about truth, its capacity to resist (let alone correct) errors and half-truths such as “values-talk,” or justice’s reduction to equality-as-sameness, is diminished.

There’s no shortage of evidence of just how far large segments of American religious opinion have drifted in this direction. We have political operatives demanding, for example, “a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic Church”—as if the dogmatic and doctrinal truths proclaimed by a 2000-year-old universal church should be subordinated to a twentieth-first-century progressive American conception of equality. Plenty of older Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox clergy offer political commentaries that owe more to John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice than to C.S. Lewis, Aquinas, the Church Fathers, or Christ. For many American Jews, Jewish faith and identity is the pursuit of progressive politics. Such religions cannot speak seriously about virtue (or much else) in the face of the relentless drive for equalization in democracy that so worried Tocqueville.

Politics is clearly shaped by culture. Yet at any culture’s heart is the dominant cultus. America’s ability to resist democratic equalization’s deadening effects on freedom requires religions that are not consumed by the obsession with equality that Tocqueville thought might be democracy’s fatal flaw. For Tocqueville, part of America’s genius was that religion and liberty went hand in hand. In the next few years, America is going to discover whether that’s still true.

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Reclaim Christmas

Many of us have fond childhood memories of Christmas. That, above all, seems to be the reason Western culture continues in the typical Christmas traditions such as gift giving and tree decoration.

But these traditions are becoming somewhat of an oddity. It is increasingly common to see the word Christmas replaced with any number of substitutes, such as festivus party, holiday tree, seasons greetings, and more. That’s in addition to the retail worship Westerners engage in and the obsession with Santa Claus – really, why is Santa garb EVERYWHERE? With the leftward march toward a more pluralistic society we curiously find “pluralism” to mean religiously neutral rather than tolerant. Believing in Santa is okay, but believing in God is just too much for our enlightened society. But that is an oddity in itself: a religiously neutral push in a society that is not religiously neutral.

I’m not talking about the growing theophobic animus (though that is an issue worth discussing – check out what religious plurality looks like in Hong Kong, for example). I’m talking about those who want to practice Christmas traditions in a way that is honoring to the real “reason for the season” rather than fall prey to consumerism. I’m talking to those who want to focus on the true meaning of Christmas – Jesus, the Christ.

And that brings us to the rub. While most people say Christmas is about something noble like spending time with family, they act like Christmas is really about gifts. And that’s not the only contradiction involved here. On the one hand we hear about greedy businesses staying open at odd hours (even intruding into Thanksgiving day); on the other hand many completely ignore the fact that PEOPLE WILL SPEND THEIR MONEY AT THOSE TIMES! Businesses are open for business because they know people will shop.

No one is forcing people to go out and spend their money. But many people pretend the “evil corporations” are making them do it (probably because blaming corporations is easier than being honest). In my family we refuse to shop on Thanksgiving day. It’s not difficult at all. Some of us don’t go shopping on Black Friday either. If you can’t stop yourself from shopping on Thanksgiving day it’s you who has a problem, not “capitalism”.

The mass hysteria that happens in the Christmas shopping season is a problem. The tragic stories of greedy shoppers should be eye opening. Greed is a part of the Christmas experience, especially in the United States. But so is giving. (What could be more Christian than giving?) If we want to redeem Christmas how do we get away from the greed but keep the giving? After all, every year I hear someone say it is better to give than to receive. And that’s true. And a mentality of giving is much better for society than a mentality of getting.

A friend of mine had a great idea about this, one which you could try next year. It’s a different tack on giving, but we still get to give. Imagine instead of being gift-based, the giving can be service-based. Here’s how it works.

Everyone in the household (or extended family, or other type of group) take a few strips of paper. On each strip, write one request you would like someone to help you with. A one-time gift of service can be of almost anything – within tasteful limitations of course. It could be helping to rake the yard, or learning how to cook a special dish, or learning how to change the oil in your car, cleaning out the garage/basement, setting up that annoying tech thing you can’t get to work, or anything you would like someone to help you with. You choose, it’s your request – a one-time gift of service written so anyone around the house during this time of year could serve you.

We all have varying skill sets. So keep than in mind when writing your requests. Chances are at least one of them can be met by someone in the household. Instead of putting gifts under the tree you can decorate the tree with acts of service that others could give to you. Imagine colorful service requests adorning the tree, where the “gifts” you receive have meaning specifically for you, and avoiding the stress of the commercial cattle run of shopping. On Christmas day you search the tree for acts of service you can give to others – and you don’t have guess about what they might want.

And you can modify this idea to your liking. One physical gift plus the gifts of service might work for you and your family, or what ever variation you want. Keep in mind, though, the purpose of this idea is to move away from the “getting” or shopping frenzy and move into a “serving” frame of mind.

Remember when I said many of us have fond memories of Christmas? If you’re capable of reading this chances are you’re aware the Christmas season can be a painful time of year for many people. If you can make the time, think of gifts of service you could offer to others outside your home. The neighbor who lives alone, or that person dealing with a stressful situation, or the retirement home you never visit, or the soup kitchen.

Imagine how Western culture could be different with adults who grew up with a mindset of service rather than a mindset of presents. You can start a new tradition, one which builds a stronger community. Think about it over the next 12 months. You might find next year’s Christmas has more “Christ” in it than you ever imagined.

culture, family, ideology, philosophy, religion

Filed under: culture, family, ideology, philosophy, religion

Does Obama deny religious oppression happens?

We’ve seen people accused of denying racism exists merely for acknowledging the social progress we’ve fought for. We’ve seen people accused of denying black deaths at the hands of cops merely by acknowledging black on black crime is far worse. We’ve seen people accused of denying rape happens merely for acknowledging the many fraudulent cases of rape allegations were in fact fraudulent allegations. We’ve seen people accused of denying the climate is changeable merely for acknowledging the climate has been changing for as long as the planet has existed.

So please excuse me if, by the standards current in place, it seems to me President Obama denies religious oppression happens.

Obama to Christian Novelist Marilynne Robinson: ‘Folks Who Take Religion the Most Seriously’ Often ‘Suspicious’ of Others

Obama: What really concerns me are those “less-than-loving expressions by Christians”

Again Muslim terrorists murder people, Obama wants to defend Islam

There is clearly a different attitude taken by the Obama administration and liberals in general between Islam and any other religion. While mass murder is not only old hat for Islam but is currently increasing around the world, the Obama admin is more concerned about anyone who could be perceived as the political right.

President reserves judgement for Fort Hood assassin, but not for Cambridge Cop

DHS seems confused on terror threat at home

Are You An ‘Extremist’ According To This Definition?

Perhaps it is not that religious people are suspicious of people who are different from them. Perhaps they merely recognize the double standard and obvious Islamic sympathy being institutionalized in American culture. But, according to the current standards, to acknowledge this reality is tantamount to Islamophobia. And to acknowledge the blatant anti-Christian (but conspicuously absent anti-Islamic) bias in our increasingly gay-friendly society is tantamount to homophobia. Maybe anyone who finds themselves disagreeing with Obama on any issue has good reason to be suspicious.

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Filed under: anti-religion, bias, bigotry, culture, Democrats, discrimination, diversity, elitism, hate speech, hypocrisy, ideology, indoctrination, intolerance, islam, left wing, liberalism, philosophy, political correctness, politics, progressive, propaganda, relativism, religion

Say Goodbye to Bride and Groom in Florida

original article: Say Goodbye to Bride and Groom in Florida
September 28, 2015 by Michael Brown

N. T. Wright is one of the most world’s foremost New Testament scholars, a sober-minded man not given to extreme rhetoric. Yet when it came to the question of redefining marriage, Wright did not hold back, explaining how dangerous it is to change the fundamental meaning of words:

“When anybody—pressure groups, governments, civilizations—suddenly change the meaning of key words, you really should watch out. If you go to a German dictionary and just open at random, you may well see several German words which have a little square bracket saying ‘N.S.,’ meaning National Socialist or Nazi. The Nazis gave those words a certain meaning. In post-1917 Russia, there were whole categories of people who were called “former persons,” because by the Communist diktat they had ceased to be relevant for the state, and once you call them former persons it was extremely easy to ship them off somewhere and have them killed.”

He continued, “It’s like a government voting that black should be white. Sorry, you can vote that if you like, you can pass it by a total majority, but it isn’t actually going to change the reality.”

That’s why I have often said that once you redefine marriage, you render it meaningless.

It would be like saying a couple can now consist of five people, or a pair can refer to one item, or a tricycle can have two wheels.

Redefining those terms doesn’t change reality, and when it comes to marriage, if you don’t have the two essential components, namely a husband and a wife, you don’t have marriage.

Consequently, if you change the fundamental meaning of marriage, you change the meaning of husband and wife as well.

As I pointed out last year in an article entitled, “I Now Pronounce You Spouse and Spouse,” as England began to move towards redefining marriage, the Daily Telegraph reported that, “The word ‘husband’ will in future be applied to women and the word ‘wife’ will refer to men, the Government has decided.”

According to John Bingham, “Civil servants have overruled the Oxford English Dictionary and hundreds years of common usage effectively abolishing the traditional meaning of the words for spouses.”

In the government’s proposed guidelines, “‘husband’ here will include a man or a woman in a same sex marriage, as well as a man married to a woman. In a similar way, ‘wife’ will include a woman married to another woman or a man married to a man.”

So, a man could be a wife if married to another man (or not), while a woman could be a husband if married to another woman (or not), all of which begs the question: Why use words at all if they have utterly lost their meaning? It’s like saying that up is down (or up) and down is up (or down), while north is south (or north) and south is north (or south).

In the same article, I cited the Huffington Post, which reported that “California’s same-sex couples may now be pronounced spouse and spouse after Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill [last] Monday eliminating outdated ‘husband and wife’ references from state laws.”

Not surprisingly, according to California bill AB 1951, birth certificates will have three options: “mother,” “father,” or simply “parent,” meaning that, in the case of two lesbians, one could be designated “father,” while in the case of two gay men, one could be designated “mother.” (The bill would also allow for three parents to be listed on the birth certificate, since there’s obviously a missing third party in the event of two men or two women “having” a baby.)

This means that we’ve come to a place of semantic insanity, a place where you can have male wives, female husbands, male mothers, and female fathers.

Do people really think you can just turn the world upside down without having any adverse effects?

In keeping with this social madness, the state of Florida recently changed its marriage certificates, removing the terms “bride” and “groom” and replacing them with “spouse.”

This goes hand in hand with other international trends. As I pointed out in 2011, “In Ontario, Canada, as a result of the legalization of same-sex marriage, all references to terms like husband, wife, and widow were removed from the law books in 2005. In Spain, birth certificates were changed from ‘Father’ and ‘Mother’ to ‘Progenitor A’ and ‘Progenitor B.’”

But of course!

That’s why principle #4 in my new book is: Refuse to Redefine Marriage, since, to repeat, once you redefine marriage, you render it meaningless.

The Supreme Court can gives its ruling; laws can be passed; public opinion can shift and turn, but that doesn’t mean we have to affirm it, participate in it or, God forbid, celebrate it.

But all is not lost. True marriage – natural marriage, marriage the way God intended it from the beginning (see Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:4-6) – will endure, while radically redefined marriage will undo itself.

I was reminded of this as I watched some baby dedications at a church service on Sunday, with the proud moms and dads holding their precious little ones in their arms: There’s no substitute for marriage and family the way God set it up, regardless of what Florida or California or England or Spain or Canada might say.

anti-religion, bias, bigotry, biology, bullies, bureaucracy, civil rights, culture, discrimination, diversity, extremism, family, freedom, government, homosexuality, hypocrisy, ideology, indoctrination, intolerance, law, left wing, liberalism, nanny state, philosophy, political correctness, progressive, propaganda, public policy, relativism, religion, scandal, sex

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