Uncommon Sense

politics and society are, unfortunately, much the same thing

HOW THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION BECAME A DOGMA

original article: THE ZEALOUS FAITH OF SECULARISM
January 2018 by Mary Eberstadt

 

Begin with a sobering fact. During the past ten years, some of the sharpest observers of our time have come to believe that the tectonic plates underlying Western civilization have shifted momentously. One result is a deep, creative struggle among the thoughtful for new imagery and fresh analogies to illuminate what’s perceived as a darkening time.

Thus, nine years ago, the late Richard John Neuhaus called this new place “American Babylon.” Today, in another eponymous book, Rod Dreher speaks of a “Benedict Option.” George Weigel called in his 2017 Simon Lecture for a new Great Awakening, and elsewhere for what he dubs “the Panula option” after the recently deceased Fr. Arne Panula, a tireless evangelizer. Using T. S. Eliot as a touchstone, First Things editor R. R. Reno argues for Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society. In Strangers in a Strange Land, Archbishop Charles Chaput develops an analogy between our time and that of the Book of Exodus. And in yet another book just published, Anthony Esolen evokes the image of the phoenix with Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture.

As this profusion of literary and historical analyses goes to show, to be Christian today is to be a sailor in search of an astrolabe. And no wonder: We are in open, roiling, uncharted waters, so looking up to fixed points would help. One other way to orient ourselves is to peer down beneath the currents and focus on what’s done most to shape the “post-Christian” or “ex-Christian” world: the sexual revolution.

That the revolution is what’s catapulted us to this place is a fact that more and more analysts now affirm. What may be less obvious, though just as important, is what the widespread Western embrace of the revolution has wrought not only in individual lives, but macrocosmically: It has given rise to an increasingly systematic, zealous, secularist faith. We cannot understand either the perils or opportunities of Christianity today without first understanding this developing, rival body of beliefs with which it contends.

To begin with a point to which many Christian thinkers would agree, the United States and other nations rooted in Judeo-Christianity have entered a time of paganization—what we might also call “re-paganization.” The gravitational pull of traditional religion seems to be diminishing, even as a-religious and anti-religious elements accumulate mass. This paganization is especially ascendant among the young, now famously more prone than any other group to checking “none of the above” when asked for their religious affiliation; according to the Pew Research Center and others, the combination of self-described atheists and self-defined “nones” is now the fastest-growing “religious” group.

Wider manifestations of this ongoing paganization have also become commonplaces: the proliferation of religious liberty court cases, legal and other attacks on Christian student groups at secular universities, demonization and caricature of religious believers, intimidation aimed at those who defend Judeo-Christian morality, and other instances of what Pope Francis himself has dubbed the “polite persecution” of believers in advanced societies. Paganization is also evident in the malignant conflation of Christianity with “hate speech,” a noxious form of ideological branding destined to unleash new forms of grief on believers in the time ahead.

So far, so familiar. And yet, we’ve not fully understood this new paganism after all.

According to the dominant paradigm shared by most people, religious and secular alike, the world is now divided into two camps: people of faith and people of no faith. But this either-or template is mistaken. Paganization as we now know it is driven by a new historical phenomenon: the development of a rival faith—a rival, secularist faith which sees Christianity as a competitor to be vanquished, rather than as an alternative set of beliefs to be tolerated in an open society.

How do we know this? We know it in part because today’s secularist faith behaves in ways that only a faith can.

Consider, for example, the scene on the steps of the Supreme Court of the United States on June 27, 2016, following the announcement of the decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a decision about Texas abortion clinics that was taken as a victory by proponents of abortion on demand. After that decision was made public, videos documented the outdoor party that resulted, spilling from the court steps on out into the city: a gyrating, weeping, waving, screaming sea of people, mostly women, behaving as if they were in the throes of religious ecstasy. Occam’s razor says they were in religious ecstasy—their kind of religious ecstasy, in which abortion on demand becomes the gnostic equivalent of a central sacrament, the repetition of which is judged essential to their quasi-religious community.

Or consider another snapshot: the so-called Women’s March on Washington following the election of Donald Trump. This public demonstration, too, was driven in large degree by a single force: animus against traditional Judeo-Christian moral teaching—specifically, teaching about sex. The totemic hats used to brand the event were named not for any conventional political concern—jobs, taxes, defense, the economy, health care, immigration—but for female genitalia. To clinch the point, the only women’s organization disinvited from this supposedly universal “women’s march” was a pro-life group. When forced to choose between women and abortion on demand, the women in charge chose abortion. That’s because, within this new church of secularism, pro-life women are heretics: despised transgressors of a religious community’s teaching and norms.

If the so-called right to choose were truly an exercise of choice—if the rhetoric of the people who defend it matched the reality of what they actually believe—one would expect its defenders to honor choosing against it here or there. But this does not happen: No “pro-choice” group holds up as an example any woman who chooses not to abort.

That this doesn’t happen tells us something noteworthy. For secularist believers, abortion is not in fact a mere “choice,” as their value-free, consumerist rhetoric frames it. No, abortion is sacrosanct. It is a communal rite—one through which many enter their new religion in the first place. The popular, Internet-driven rage for “telling one’s own abortion story”—the phenomenon known as #shoutyourabortion—illustrates this point. Each individual story is a secularist pilgrim’s progress into a new faith whose community is united by this bloody rite of passage. Add the suggestively popular term “woke”—today’s gnostic version of “awakened”—and there’s more evidence that secularist progressivism has erected a church.

So the fury directed at Christianity can be pressed into a single word, sex. Christianity today, like Christianity past and Christianity to come, contends with many enemies. But the adversary now inflicting maximal damage on the Church is not dreamed of in Horatio’s philosophy. It is instead the absolutist defense of the sexual revolution by its faithful.

Christians and other dissidents aren’t being heckled from Hollywood to Capitol Hill for feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, or defending the commandments against lying and stealing. Bakers aren’t landing in court because of trying to follow what’s said in the Song of Songs. All of the expressions of animosity now aimed against Christianity by this new secularist faith share a common denominator. They are rooted in secularist dogma about the sexual revolution, according to which that revolution is an unequivocal and fundamental boon.

This substitute religion pantomimes Christianity itself in fascinating ways. It offers a hagiography of secular saints, all patrons of the sexual revolution: proselytizers for abortion and contraception such as Margaret Sanger and Gloria Steinem. Every year, Planned Parenthood confers on pro-abortion journalists, politicians, activists, and others prizes known affectionately as the “Maggies,” for Margaret Sanger—its “highest honor,” in the organization’s words, awarded in recent years to luminaries such as Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton.

This brings us to another feature of the new secularist faith: its lack of transparency. For decades, scholarship has established Sanger’s moral roots in eugenics, her faith in the inferiority of certain other people, her cynical use of African-American ministers to evangelize the black population about birth control in the hope of bringing their numbers down, and related beliefs out of odor today. Yet in a moment when Confederate statues are targets in the name of scrubbing racism from the public square, Margaret Sanger remains immune from moral revisionism. Why? Because she is the equivalent of a secularist saint of the revolution, off-limits from second thoughts.

Similar status and protection are accorded to pseudo-scientist Alfred C. Kinsey, founder of the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University, whose fabled “reports” on human sexuality included allowing so-called research “subjects” to inflict what is now called child sexual abuse. According to biographer James H. Jones in Alfred C. Kinsey: A Public/Private Life, the icon also filmed sex acts of employees and subordinates, walked in on students as they showered, had sex with people involved in his “research,” wrote letters of erotica to assistants and others, and otherwise appears to have fallen short of today’s standards concerning sexual harassment and coercion. Even before “Harvey Weinstein” became global shorthand for such depredations, Kinsey’s legacy would have been reviled—were he anything but Kinsey, a founding father of the new secularist faith. Instead, Kinsey and all his works, like Sanger’s, remain untouchable.

The rival faith sports foreign “missionaries,” too, in the form of progressive charities and international bureaucracies—those who carry word of the revolution and the pseudo-sacraments of contraception and abortion to women around the planet. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to name one prominent example, recently made the provision of contraception a centerpiece of its overseas work. It hopes thereby to reach “an additional 120 million women and girls in the poorest countries by 2020.”

Who, exactly, are these women? Judged by the photos on the Gates Foundation website, they do not hail from Iceland or Denmark. As the foundation explains, “Less than 20 percent of women in Sub-Saharan Africa and barely one-third of women in South Asia use modern contraceptives”—making these women targets of quasi-religious zeal.

In fact, preoccupation with the fertility of certain other people is a constant theme in the church of the new secularism. In July 2017, French president Emmanuel Macron revealed his own fealty to the faith when he dilated at an appearance in Germany—of all places—upon the “civilizational” challenges facing Africa, singling out the fact that women in some countries still have “seven or eight children.” Elsewhere that same summer, Canada’s minister of international development, Marie-Claude Bibeau, called abortion “a tool to end poverty.” In 2009, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made a similar slip in an interview with The New York Times Magazine, reflecting that “at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.”

Again, it’s the lack of transparency that makes this faith go round. Under any other circumstances, if well-heeled white people were to proclaim that the solution to the world’s problems is to have fewer dark people, public outrage would be the result. Yet in secular quarters, these statements above, and others like them, get a pass. This is what happens when one’s religion takes as its cornerstone the teaching that the sexual revolution and its consequences are beyond question—eugenics, sexual violations, and other transgressions be damned.

Traditional religious believers should strive to bring the hidden premises of this rival faith into the open. For example, when people say that they hope the Church changes its position on marriage or birth control, they are not talking about one religious faith—i.e., the Christian one. What they really mean is that they hope the Church will suborn or replace its own theology with the theology of the new church of secularism. Or when politicians say they are “privately opposed to abortion”—even as they vote for policies that will ensure its ubiquity—they are using language to conceal rather than clarify their intention. What they really want is to enjoy a kind of dual religious citizenship, according to which they are “Catholic” or “Christian” in some circumstances, and followers of the church of secularism in any circumstances bearing on the sexual revolution.

This effort to keep a foot in both churches won’t work, any more than one can be simultaneously Muslim and Buddhist. Even so, the effort to enjoy dual religious citizenship, particularly among politicians and others in the public eye, remains commonplace. It should be understood for what it is: an attempt to serve two very different—indeed, competing—religious masters.

The fact that two faiths now compete in the West also explains the vehemence aimed at public figures who are practicing Christians—in particular, practicing Catholics. In September 2017, at the confirmation hearing of judicial nominee Amy Coney Barrett, a Catholic, several senators remarked upon and denounced her faith. The most telling rhetorical moment may have been Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s declaration that “the dogma lives loudly within you”—an expostulation more fitted to an exorcist preparing for battle with Satan than to an American elected official charged with ascertaining the judicial fitness of a highly qualified candidate. Which is exactly the point.

In sum, secularist progressivism is less a political movement than a church, and the so-called culture war has not been conducted by people of religious faith and people of no faith. It is instead a contest of competing faiths. One believes in the books of the Bible, and the other in the evolving, figurative book of orthodoxy about the sexual revolution.

What does this tour of the new church of secularism mean for those outside its congregation? First, traditional believers need to distinguish the competitive character of this new religion from the cooperative qualities of other, more familiar ones. At long last and after great troubles, Americans have grown accustomed to the peaceful coexistence of multiple faiths and denominations. The rival church of secularism seeks no such comity, as today’s unprecedented attacks on Christian schools, charities, colleges, and other works go to show. The new church of secularism serves a very jealous god.

We see this, again, in the new church’s chronic, self-perceived imperative to interfere with the fertility of other people. This spectacle—of pale people in increasingly barren societies telling certain other people not to have their own children—is going to look grotesque in history’s rearview mirror. It also shows that the Christian idea of the intrinsic dignity and worth of all human beings stands as an especially vivid sign of contradiction to secularism’s understanding that certain people would be better off dead, or otherwise not among us. And it’s at least ironic that a movement known by the slogan “keep your rules off my body” has no trouble telling other people what to do with theirs.

Its missionary aggression also explains why the new secular faith has insinuated itself successfully into many Christian institutions, and why this insinuation has been invariably destructive. At the micro level of personal behavior, the new faith tempts people toward disobedience and cafeteria Christianity. At the macro level, it’s institutionally divisive like no other issue of our day. It turns the followers of Christ into political interest groups. The scramble over doctrine in the Catholic Church today, conducted entirely by advocates who mistakenly believe that the dogmas of both faiths can be somehow reconciled, is a powerful example of the sexual revolution’s virulent workings within Christianity itself.

The most insidious threat to the real Church, and even to religious liberty, is not the new secularist church in itself. The greater threat is self-censorship. There is understandable temptation, including among Christians, to preemptively accommodate to this new faith, for all kinds of reasons: saving face, not being “judgy,” preventing the ostracism of one’s children, and other motivations plumbed so searchingly in Rod Dreher’s work, especially. As he also proves, it’s hard to find comity with a foe that wants to drive one’s own Church to perdition. Christians need to know that what’s paramount is confronting secular religion and its sex-fixated dogmas, not accommodating them.

This vocation of religious opposition is necessary not only for the protection of the Church, but also for the sake of the sexual revolution’s real and many victims. The new church of secularism, rooted in a false anthropology that mismeasures humanity and deprives it of redemption, generates human misery throughout Western societies. The malign consequences of secularist doctrine are playing out especially tragically among the young. The scene on many American campuses, to offer one example, has become surreal, replete with demonstrations and high emotional drama and seemingly inexplicable animosities. But why are more and more students behaving so bizarrely in the first place?

One novel thought is this. Maybe they’re claiming to be victims because they are victims—not so much of the “isms” they point to as putative oppressors, but of the church of the new secularism and its toxic works. Up until the sexual revolution, expectations remained largely the same throughout the ages: that one would grow up to have children and a family; that parents and siblings and extended family would remain one’s primal community; that one would have parents and siblings and extended family in the first place.

The revolution has upended every one of these expectations. It has erased the givenness into which generations are born. “Who am I?” is a universal human question. It becomes harder to answer if other questions are out of reach. Who is my brother? Who is my father? Where, if anywhere, are my cousins, grandparents, nieces, nephews, and the rest of the organic connections through which humanity up until now channeled everyday existence—including our relations with God?

It’s this loss of givenness that drives the frenzied search for identity these days, whether in the secular scholasticism concerning how to speak about ethnicity, or in the belligerent fights over “cultural appropriation.” Such phenomena are indeed bizarre, if we examine them under the rationalist assumptions of the pre-revolutionary world. But if instead we understand them against the existential reality of today—one in which the family has imploded, and in which many people, no matter how well-off or privileged, have been deprived of the most elementary of human connections—we can grasp why “identity politics” is the headline that just won’t go away.

“Who am I?” An illiterate peasant of the Middle Ages was better equipped to answer that question than many people in advanced societies in this century. He may only have lived until age thirty—but he spent his days among family and in towns, practicing a shared faith, and thus developed a vivid sense of those to whom he was elementally connected, not just in the course of his life but before birth and after death. Post-Pill, confusion rules the earth. No wonder itinerant erotic leanings and ethnic claims have become substitute answers to that eternal question, “Who am I?” Many people, especially younger people, experience these as the only reliable answers to that question of identity—or at least, as the answers that seem less ambiguous and fraught than answers that refer back to their family, or families, or lack thereof.

In this ongoing catastrophe over the fundamental question of who we are,there is great opportunity. It is shocking but true: The overbearing secularist culture is itself sowing the seeds of a religious revival.

The wide range of fresh cultural and religious analysis mentioned earlier is one measure of a counterculture that’s thriving in this hour of paganization. Even the dominance of the secularist church in familiar venues looks to be less monolithic than is usually understood. Witness again how the conflagration that started with Harvey Weinstein has gone on to illuminate wrongdoing elsewhere, on the part of others who have acted on the premise that women are available for recreational sex anywhere and anytime. Meanwhile, new Catholic and other Christian associations proliferate on campuses and elsewhere, despite fierce secularist pushback. If the rise in “nones” is one emblematic story of our time, so too is the birth of countercultural campus communities like the Thomistic Institute, the Love and Fidelity Network, and FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students); the sharp rise in high schools grounded in classical education; the Leonine Forum for young professionals in Washington, D.C., now expanding into other cities; related ongoing intellectual projects like the Tertio Millennio Seminar in Poland, the Free Society Seminar in Slovakia, and more; and many other organic responses, both protective and proactive, to competition from the rival church of secularism.

These and other platoons like them will transform the American landscape. They encourage the search for transcendence in a world where neo-paganism insists there is none; they help those damaged collaterally by the sexual revolution to find answers to the question “Who am I?” The rival church of secularism shortchanges humanity, and humanity, plodding and delinquent though it may be, still shows signs of wanting more than the church of the new secularism can deliver.

Two such witnesses to that reality appeared in Washington, D. C., a few months ago, in the middle of a heat wave. They had gotten in touch with me to discuss a documentary they were creating to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of Humanae Vitae. Their studio in D.C. turned out to be their hotel room. The entourage for the shoot included their three very young children, with whom they took turns throughout the interview. They had made many sacrifices and traveled hundreds of miles because, they said, they were on a mission to tell the truth.

The young woman had grown up without knowing who her father was. Her mother, a radical feminist, raised her to fear and hate men. The young man came from Scandinavia, growing up as secular as Scandinavians can be. Both, if encountered earlier in their lives, would have been categorized as “nones.”

In their own estimations, they had escaped from behind enemy lines of the sexual revolution. Somehow, they found each other. Somehow, falling in love led them to question what had happened in their pasts. Somehow, they encountered a priest. Somehow, they read some books by faithful authors. And what with one improbable development and another, both ended up converting to Catholicism. Now they want to share with others the truths they discovered the hard way. That’s how the Church of the future will be rebuilt: stone by stone, picked up from the rubble, by witnesses to the initial blast.

Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles has connected our moment in the West to Juan Diego’s in Guadalupe, almost five hundred years ago. Today’s world, like Diego’s then, overflows with human damage. Today’s world, like his, has now raised up whole generations of men and women subjected to an inhuman account of human life. The resulting deformations are everywhere, and confusion can’t help but abound. Even so, the secularist faith remains vulnerable for the same reasons that a once-triumphant Marxism did: because its promises are false and its anthropology deluded.

The church that the sexual revolution has built is thriving, all right, and those outside need to know what’s in there. But its pews are packed with casualties—every one of them a convert waiting to happen, for the Church that does keep its promises.

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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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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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Gay marriage is not just a social revolution but a cosmological one

original article: Sex After Christianity
April 11, 2013 by ROD DREHER

Twenty years ago, new president Bill Clinton stepped on a political landmine when he tried to fulfill a campaign promise to permit gay soldiers to serve openly. Same-sex marriage barely registered as a political cause; the country was then three years away from the Defense of Marriage Act and four years from comedian Ellen DeGeneres’s prime-time coming out.

Then came what historians will one day recall as a cultural revolution. Now we’re entering the endgame of the struggle over gay rights and the meaning of homosexuality. Conservatives have been routed, both in court and increasingly in the court of public opinion. It is commonly believed that the only reason to oppose same-sex marriage is rank bigotry or for religious reasons, neither of which—the argument goes—has any place in determining laws or public standards.

The magnitude of the defeat suffered by moral traditionalists will become ever clearer as older Americans pass from the scene. Poll after poll shows that for the young, homosexuality is normal and gay marriage is no big deal—except, of course, if one opposes it, in which case one has the approximate moral status of a segregationist in the late 1960s.

All this is, in fact, a much bigger deal than most people on both sides realize, and for a reason that eludes even ardent opponents of gay rights. Back in 1993, a cover story in The Nation identified the gay-rights cause as the summit and keystone of the culture war:

All the crosscurrents of present-day liberation struggles are subsumed in the gay struggle. The gay moment is in some ways similar to the moment that other communities have experienced in the nation’s past, but it is also something more, because sexual identity is in crisis throughout the population, and gay people—at once the most conspicuous subjects and objects of the crisis—have been forced to invent a complete cosmology to grasp it. No one says the changes will come easily. But it’s just possible that a small and despised sexual minority will change America forever.

They were right, and though the word “cosmology” may strike readers as philosophically grandiose, its use now appears downright prophetic. The struggle for the rights of “a small and despised sexual minority” would not have succeeded if the old Christian cosmology had held: put bluntly, the gay-rights cause has succeeded precisely because the Christian cosmology has dissipated in the mind of the West.

Same-sex marriage strikes the decisive blow against the old order. The Nation’s triumphalist rhetoric from two decades ago is not overripe; the radicals appreciated what was at stake far better than did many—especially bourgeois apologists for same-sex marriage as a conservative phenomenon. Gay marriage will indeed change America forever, in ways that are only now becoming visible. For better or for worse, it will make ours a far less Christian culture. It already is doing exactly that.

 

When they were writing the widely acclaimed 2010 book American Grace, a comprehensive study of contemporary religious belief and practice, political scientists Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell noticed two inverse trend lines in social-science measures, both starting around 1990.

They found that young Americans coming into adulthood at that time began to accept homosexuality as morally licit in larger numbers. They also observed that younger Americans began more and more to fall away from organized religion. The evangelical boom of the 1970s and 1980s stopped, and if not for a tsunami of Hispanic immigration the U.S. Catholic church would be losing adherents at the same rate as the long-dwindling Protestant mainline.

graphic by Michael Hogue

Over time, the data showed, attitudes on moral issues proved to be strong predictors of religious engagement. In particular, the more liberal one was on homosexuality, the less likely one was to claim religious affiliation. It’s not that younger Americans were becoming atheists. Rather, most of them identify as “spiritual, but not religious.” Combined with atheists and agnostics, these “Nones”—the term is Putnam’s and Campbell’s—comprise the nation’s fastest-growing faith demographic.

Indeed, according to a 2012 Pew Research Center study, the Nones comprise one out of three Americans under 30. This is not simply a matter of young people doing what young people tend to do: keep church at arm’s length until they settle down. Pew’s Greg Smith told NPR that this generation is more religiously unaffiliated than any on record. Putnam—the Harvard scholar best known for his best-selling civic culture study Bowling Alone—has said that there’s no reason to think they will return to church in significant numbers as they age.

Putnam and Campbell were careful to say in American Grace that correlation is not causation, but they did point out that as gay activism moved toward center stage in American political life—around the time of The Nation’s cover story—the vivid public role many Christian leaders took in opposing gay rights alienated young Americans from organized religion.

In a dinner conversation not long after the publication of American Grace, Putnam told me that Christian churches would have to liberalize on sexual teaching if they hoped to retain the loyalty of younger generations. This seems at first like a reasonable conclusion, but the experience of America’s liberal denominations belies that prescription. Mainline Protestant churches, which have been far more accepting of homosexuality and sexual liberation in general, have continued their stark membership decline.

It seems that when people decide that historically normative Christianity is wrong about sex, they typically don’t find a church that endorses their liberal views. They quit going to church altogether.

This raises a critically important question: is sex the linchpin of Christian cultural order? Is it really the case that to cast off Christian teaching on sex and sexuality is to remove the factor that gives—or gave—Christianity its power as a social force?

 

Though he might not have put it quite that way, the eminent sociologist Philip Rieff would probably have said yes. Rieff’s landmark 1966 book The Triumph Of the Therapeutic analyzes what he calls the “deconversion” of the West from Christianity. Nearly everyone recognizes that this process has been underway since the Enlightenment, but Rieff showed that it had reached a more advanced stage than most people—least of all Christians—recognized.

Rieff, who died in 2006, was an unbeliever, but he understood that religion is the key to understanding any culture. For Rieff, the essence of any and every culture can be identified by what it forbids. Each imposes a series of moral demands on its members, for the sake of serving communal purposes, and helps them cope with these demands. A culture requires a cultus—a sense of sacred order, a cosmology that roots these moral demands within a metaphysical framework.

You don’t behave this way and not that way because it’s good for you; you do so because this moral vision is encoded in the nature of reality. This is the basis of natural-law theory, which has been at the heart of contemporary secular arguments against same-sex marriage (and which have persuaded no one).

Rieff, writing in the 1960s, identified the sexual revolution—though he did not use that term—as a leading indicator of Christianity’s death as a culturally determinative force. In classical Christian culture, he wrote, “the rejection of sexual individualism” was “very near the center of the symbolic that has not held.” He meant that renouncing the sexual autonomy and sensuality of pagan culture was at the core of Christian culture—a culture that, crucially, did not merely renounce but redirected the erotic instinct. That the West was rapidly re-paganizing around sensuality and sexual liberation was a powerful sign of Christianity’s demise.

It is nearly impossible for contemporary Americans to grasp why sex was a central concern of early Christianity. Sarah Ruden, the Yale-trained classics translator, explains the culture into which Christianity appeared in her 2010 book Paul Among The People. Ruden contends that it’s profoundly ignorant to think of the Apostle Paul as a dour proto-Puritan descending upon happy-go-lucky pagan hippies, ordering them to stop having fun.

In fact, Paul’s teachings on sexual purity and marriage were adopted as liberating in the pornographic, sexually exploitive Greco-Roman culture of the time—exploitive especially of slaves and women, whose value to pagan males lay chiefly in their ability to produce children and provide sexual pleasure. Christianity, as articulated by Paul, worked a cultural revolution, restraining and channeling male eros, elevating the status of both women and of the human body, and infusing marriage—and marital sexuality—with love.

Christian marriage, Ruden writes, was “as different from anything before or since as the command to turn the other cheek.” The point is not that Christianity was only, or primarily, about redefining and revaluing sexuality, but that within a Christian anthropology sex takes on a new and different meaning, one that mandated a radical change of behavior and cultural norms. In Christianity, what people do with their sexuality cannot be separated from what the human person is.

It would be absurd to claim that Christian civilization ever achieved a golden age of social harmony and sexual bliss. It is easy to find eras in Christian history when church authorities were obsessed with sexual purity. But as Rieff recognizes, Christianity did establish a way to harness the sexual instinct, embed it within a community, and direct it in positive ways.

What makes our own era different from the past, says Rieff, is that we have ceased to believe in the Christian cultural framework, yet we have made it impossible to believe in any other that does what culture must do: restrain individual passions and channel them creatively toward communal purposes.

Rather, in the modern era, we have inverted the role of culture. Instead of teaching us what we must deprive ourselves of to be civilized, we have a society that tells us we find meaning and purpose in releasing ourselves from the old prohibitions.

How this came to be is a complicated story involving the rise of humanism, the advent of the Enlightenment, and the coming of modernity. As philosopher Charles Taylor writes in his magisterial religious and cultural history A Secular Age, “The entire ethical stance of moderns supposes and follows on from the death of God (and of course, of the meaningful cosmos).” To be modern is to believe in one’s individual desires as the locus of authority and self-definition.

Gradually the West lost the sense that Christianity had much to do with civilizational order, Taylor writes. In the 20th century, casting off restrictive Christian ideals about sexuality became increasingly identified with health. By the 1960s, the conviction that sexual expression was healthy and good—the more of it, the better—and that sexual desire was intrinsic to one’s personal identity culminated in the sexual revolution, the animating spirit of which held that freedom and authenticity were to be found not in sexual withholding (the Christian view) but in sexual expression and assertion. That is how the modern American claims his freedom.

To Rieff, ours is a particular kind of “revolutionary epoch” because the revolution cannot by its nature be institutionalized. Because it denies the possibility of communal knowledge of binding truths transcending the individual, the revolution cannot establish a stable social order. As Rieff characterizes it, “The answer to all questions of ‘what for’ is ‘more’.”

Our post-Christian culture, then, is an “anti-culture.” We are compelled by the logic of modernity and the myth of individual freedom to continue tearing away the last vestiges of the old order, convinced that true happiness and harmony will be ours once all limits have been nullified.

Gay marriage signifies the final triumph of the Sexual Revolution and the dethroning of Christianity because it denies the core concept of Christian anthropology. In classical Christian teaching, the divinely sanctioned union of male and female is an icon of the relationship of Christ to His church and ultimately of God to His creation. This is why gay marriage negates Christian cosmology, from which we derive our modern concept of human rights and other fundamental goods of modernity. Whether we can keep them in the post-Christian epoch remains to be seen.

It also remains to be seen whether we can keep Christianity without accepting Christian chastity. Sociologist Christian Smith’s research on what he has termed “moralistic therapeutic deism”—the feelgood, pseudo-Christianity that has supplanted the normative version of the faith in contemporary America—suggests that the task will be extremely difficult.

Conservative Christians have lost the fight over gay marriage and, as we have seen, did so decades before anyone even thought same-sex marriage was a possibility. Gay-marriage proponents succeeded so quickly because they showed the public that what they were fighting for was consonant with what most post-1960s Americans already believed about the meaning of sex and marriage. The question Western Christians face now is whether or not they are going to lose Christianity altogether in this new dispensation.

March/April 2013Too many of them think that same-sex marriage is merely a question of sexual ethics. They fail to see that gay marriage, and the concomitant collapse of marriage among poor and working-class heterosexuals, makes perfect sense given the autonomous individualism sacralized by modernity and embraced by contemporary culture—indeed, by many who call themselves Christians. They don’t grasp that Christianity, properly understood, is not a moralistic therapeutic adjunct to bourgeois individualism—a common response among American Christians, one denounced by Rieff in 2005 as “simply pathetic”—but is radically opposed to the cultural order (or disorder) that reigns today.

They are fighting the culture war moralistically, not cosmologically. They have not only lost the culture, but unless they understand the nature of the fight and change their strategy to fight cosmologically, within a few generations they may also lose their religion.

“The death of a culture begins when its normative institutions fail to communicate ideals in ways that remain inwardly compelling,” Rieff writes. By that standard, Christianity in America, if not American spirituality, is in mortal danger. The future is not foreordained: Taylor shares much of Rieff’s historical analysis but is more hopeful about the potential for renewal. Still, if the faith does not recover, the historical autopsy will conclude that gay marriage was not a cause but a symptom, the sign that revealed the patient’s terminal condition.

anti-religion, atheism, christian, civil rights, culture, diversity, ethics, family, freedom, history, homosexuality, ideology, philosophy, reform, religion, sex, theology, tradition

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Is Richard Dawkins actually thinking about religion now?

Are We Making a Difference?
May 20, 2010 by Larry Taunton

Last autumn I had a lengthy (and, frankly, bizarre) exchange with famed atheist provocateur Richard Dawkins. While I will not here divulge his remarks on that occasion, I will reveal one of mine and a subsequent statement he made to The Times. At one point in the conversation, I said:

“I have a theory that Islam is making great inroads in Britain precisely because of the collapse of the Church there and the corresponding rise of secularism. The Church is the traditional bulwark against barbarism and a secularist society is ill-equipped to defeat an absolutist ideology like Islam because it offers nothing of substance: no purpose, no moral foundation, and no hope.”

This was to refute his assertion that Christianity is irrational and in response to the concern he had expressed about radical Islam. I was pointing out to him that Christianity, the religion he attacks with such relish, is our only hope and defense against Islam, an idea that he had never countenanced. Suddenly, a few weeks ago, he was quoted as saying this to The Times:

“There are no Christians, as far as I know, blowing up buildings. I am not aware of any Christian suicide bombers. I am not aware of any major Christian denomination that believes the penalty for apostasy is death. I have mixed feelings about the decline of Christianity, in so far as Christianity might be a bulwark against something worse.”

It is a stunning reversal of his previous position that Christianity is a societal ill that must be eradicated. The comment also strongly suggests that our conversation was not without some effect on him. Dare we hope that he is realizing the damage he has done? Probably not…

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Scoffers pretend to pray for Glenn Beck

When Christ was asked about the lawfulness of Jews paying taxes to Ceasar, his response was one of acknowledging both God’s will and Ceasar’s authority:

Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.

Christ was evidently drawing a distinction between God’s will and His calling on mankind, and the power of government. There is a legitimate question of whether the Church should use government to accomplish God’s will. In American culture, when a right-wing Christian advocates such an idea it is usually shot down as an attempt to impose theocracy on the people. Yet when liberal/progressive Christians or even secularists suggest Christ would support government programs purportedly designed to help those in need the general reaction is quite the opposite.

Recently there has been a controversy between Glenn Beck and the Rev. Jim Wallis, President Obama’s new spiritual advisor. One source on this controversy can be found on the Sojourner’s blog: ‘Jim Wallis Loves His Enemies’ (With a Little Help From His Friends). This is a most curious exchange. Beck’s criticism of “social justice” as code words for socialism and communism is historically justified. But Rev. Wallis, and many others coming to his defense, insist on misrepresenting Beck, the Bible and history.

Let’s start with history. The very idea of social justice was at the heart of Lenin’s and Stalin’s Soviet ideology, Hitler’s Nazi propaganda machine and every socialist regime in power around the world today. The concept of economic equality, not legal equality, was the basic premise behind the greatest evils of the twentieth century. Egalitarianism was the goal, the equalization of wealth, but not justice. Jews, the unborn, homosexuals, dissenters from the government agenda and others were denied their basic human rights by the regimes ostensibly designed to implement “social justice”. Justice had nothing to do with it because economic equality was the new definition of justice – an inequality of wealth equaled an injustice, almost as if this were a crime against humanity. Beck is right to warn that the term “social justice” has been the call of the greatest mass murderers of human history.

Beck’s comments, on the other hand, are also misrepresented by Rev. Wallis. Never have I heard Glenn Beck argue people should not help those in need, or that we should not give to the poor. The issue for Beck has always been on the historical record of government taking upon itself this benevolent role. History indeed shows us the government agenda to “take care of” the people ends up in the same place Lenin, Stalin, Hitler and other murderous despots brought their people – the opposite of social justice, the opposite of equality, the opposite of the place Christ would lead us. The aim of Beck’s critics on this issue is to make us believe Beck denies the Church’s role in helping the poor. Beck has never made such an outrageous assertion. What Beck does challenge is the insistence that government take on itself a role that rightly belongs to the Church. Please, anyone, find for me an example of Beck criticizing social justice in a way that is NOT also criticizing government oppression or its potential. Beck, and likewise anyone rejecting the notion of government as social savior, has never suggested the Church should NOT help the poor. Rev. Wallis knows this is not what Beck is suggesting, and yet he makes the accusation any way.

Then there is the Bible. From any number of blogs, news stories and more we can see a religious-left distortion of the proper role of the Church. What we see in this liberal/progressive revision of Christianity is a tragic replacement of God’s will with a mythical ideal of social justice. Remember, to the leftist, social justice is about economic equality. Christ was not about economic equality; he was about love. He was not about government loving the people, but about people loving God and loving each other. From government we should expect and if necessary demand justice, legal justice. We don’t really want justice from God, we want mercy. God’s justice would require that He reject us all, for we have all sinned. But, according to Christian belief, because of God’s love He sent his son Jesus, the Christ, to settle the debt owed by sin. Love is the integral part of God’s plan for humanity Rev. Wallis should be advocating – not justice, social or otherwise. Encouraging others to give to the poor or help those in need is not a matter of justice, but of basic human decency. Rev. Wallis is welcome to think “that most Christians believe social, economic, and racial justice are at the heart of the gospel” but even if that’s true (which I doubt) I believe this political interpretation is seriously in danger of perverting the gospel.

Love, the kind God would have us live and show to others, knows no bounds; and so social, economic and racial justice need not be forced on a people who are taught first to love one another. This is the Church’s failing. If Rev. Wallis has no faith in the ability of people to love one another perhaps he should devote less time to political activism and more time to his religious calling. After all, the problems of injustice and racism are a result of a deficiency of love among people, are they not? But I must ask, what does Rev. Wallis mean by “economic justice” if not the equalization of wealth? How is the equalization of wealth to be achieved without the use of tyranny?

Glenn Beck does not attack the heart of the Christian faith (for he does not reject love nor does he deny we should help others, nor does he deny Christ is the son of God who died as a ransom for many). But purposefully distorting that faith by pretending it is about social or economic justice, instead of love and mercy, does.

Christ’s command to help the needy seems aimed more at us individually, that we as individuals should have a heart of kindness and generosity. Government attempts to adopt such a heart require confiscation of resources we would use to help our fellow human beings. Government efforts to help those in need invariably end up trapping those same people in slavery, dependence on the state. Using government to do collectively what Christ told us to do individually robs us of the ability to help others. Government must tax the people to provide for the people, which in turn exacerbates the problem of being in need. Supporting government benevolence to this degree makes the social safety net a new idol and shows one’s faith is not in God to provide, but in government to care for us. This collectivist mentality leads us to an attitude of “in government we trust”. If a collective pool of resources is necessary to help the needy (as is often the case) wouldn’t it be better to give to the Church or private charity rather than corrupt government?

While Rev. Wallis and his supporters claim to love Glenn Beck (and this is quite possibly true) they unfortunately lie about him when they purposefully misrepresent his criticism of social justice. They, like the left in general, assert that to oppose government taking over your life is to reject compassion, or even the Christian faith. Rev. Wallis has suggested Beck lied to us just to boost his ratings. The end result of Wallis’s efforts is encouraging the American people to put our faith in government rather than in God. In effect, for progressives the state is the new Church. And in promoting this they mock and attack the heart of God’s plan for humanity – that we develop love and compassion in our own hearts for each other. But this requires putting at least a little faith in our fellow citizens. Glenn Beck is willing to do so, and in fact he encourages this, because he trusts freedom and acknowledges the giving spirit of Americans. America, who does Rev. Wallis trust more, you or government? If he trusts God, why does he put so much faith in the social safety net?

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CARM – Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry

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