In 2006, Illusion software released a 3D game called RapeLay, which casts the player into the role of a Japanese sex maniac. Players advance by raping women but get penalized if the baby lives. “If she does become pregnant you’re supposed to force her to get an abortion,” one reviewer revealed.

This is entertainment? I suppose you could call this a kind of Sex and the City, but something about it just doesn’t sit right. Margaret Sanger might not recognize it as such, but RapeLay is her life’s work come to fruition, albeit in the extreme.

Born in 1879, the feminist activist, atheist, and daughter of a socialist devoted her life to promoting birth control. An indefatigable advocate of “free love” (the 19th century euphemism for a lifestyle of sex with no moral restraint or obligation – more aptly called “free sex”), Sanger launched the American Birth Control League in 1921, which in 1942 became Planned Parenthood. The largest abortion provider in the world, Planned Parenthood still pursues Sanger’s mission by expanding sex education and eliminating physical by-products. “Our goal,” one staffer wrote, “is to be ready as educators and parents to help young people obtain sex satisfaction before marriage.”

Margaret Sanger

Sanger died in 1966, just as her movement began to mushroom. In 1962, Helen Gurley Brown penned Sex and the Single Girl, chronicling her bachelorette days and tellinggirls they didn’t have to marry but that they could have lots of free sex and find liberation. It became a national sensation, and Brown was hired as editor of Cosmopolitan magazine. She brought her Sex and the Single Girl values to Cosmopolitan, which had until then covered fashion and homemaking, and over her thirty year tenure, Cosmopolitan became the best-selling women’s magazine in the world. So influential is Cosmopolitan that today’s “liberated” woman is often referred to as a Cosmo Girl.

But what kind of progress is this? Is a Cosmo Girl really liberated, or does the free sex ethos merely condition her to be a more alluring toy so she’ll get played with?

In 1936, when Sanger was a grandmother and Brown a mere teen, a courageous college student exposed the inversion of their form of feminism. “I never thought much about being a girl until two years ago when I learned from a man what a wonderful thing it is to be a woman,” Catherine Wood addressed a raucous youth gathering.

“The emancipation of woman really began with Christianity. Since Jesus, woman was revered, protected, and loved. Men wanted to think of her as different from themselves, better. It remained for the 20th century, the century of progress, to pull her down from the throne. She wanted equality. For 1900 years, she had not been equal. She had been superior. To stand equal with men, naturally she had to step down. Now being equal with men, she has won all their rights and privileges. The right to get drunk, the right to swear, the right to smoke.”

The right to be hunted, raped, and violated as video entertainment. Okay, Catherine didn’t say that. RapeLay was still seven decades away. But why not if that’s how some obtain their sex satisfaction? Who’s to say anything’s wrong if sex should be free of moral restraint and consequence?

Catherine was no frigid prude. She married that year and hinted in later writings that she enjoyed an active and very satisfying sex life. Within the bounds of marriage, commitment, and responsibility.

I’ll take that over RapeLay any day.

This article first appeared in Salvo 9, Summer 2009.

Background:

The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) was established in 1964 when Mary Calderone left her position as medical director of Planned Parenthood to become founding executive director. Joining forces as a founding board member was Wardell Pomeroy, collaborator with Alfred Kinsey on Kinsey’s two seminal volumes on sexual behavior. Despite the official sounding name, SIECUS is not a government organization but an independent non-profit.

Calderone said SIECUS would “perhaps take positions on problems of sexuality in America.” Where most Americans might have listed, say, rape or child molestation as sex-related problems, the primary problem SIECUS saw then (and continues to perceive now) was a lack of information about sex. Calderone diagnosed the source of this problem to be religious and moral restraints on sexual expression, writing in The Family Book about Sexuality, that “religious laws or rules about sex were made on the basis of ignorance.”

Wanted For:

SIECUS prescribed the remedy for this ignorance to be comprehensive sex education, beginning with five-year-olds. The organization’s three strategic objectives, articulated in a 2007 annual report are as follows: (1) Education: “Ensure that all people receive comprehensive education about sexuality that helps them integrate information and skills into their lives;” (2) Advocacy: “Promote, protect, and secure public policies that advance sexual and reproductive health and rights;” and (3) Inform: “Ensure an abundance of accurate, balanced, useful, and accessible information about human sexuality.” Whatever nuance distinguishes objective (1) from (3), the redundancy reveals the burning passion at SIECUS that the sexual revolution leave no child behind.

According to its website, SIECUS receives funding from individual contributions, foundation grants, and a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Initial seed money and several subsequent grants were provided by The Playboy Foundation, headed by Hugh Heffner, prompting Dr. Judith Resiman, in a 1999 article titled, Porno, Part of a Well-Rounded Education, to ask, “Since SIECUS targeted primary and secondary grade children, not college students, was Heffner that interested in children’s issues, or did the sex tycoon give SIECUS [grant money] knowing it was good business?”

Most Recent Offense:

Since the 1990’s, public enemy number one according to SIECUS has been abstinence-until-marriage sex-ed programs. Since SIECUS views any attempt to limit sex as repressive and counter to human design, such morality based sex-ed is seen as a violation of sexual rights. Calling these programs “harmful” and “fear-based,” SIECUS has targeted them for elimination, not just in America but across the globe. Declaring it “unacceptable that people throughout the world are still lacking the basic facts they need to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive lives,” SIECUS reaches abroad like an international morality watchdog. Its International Right Wing Watch monitors “right wing organizations and news sources” and disseminates information on abortion, sex education, and sexual orientation, effectively spreading America’s questionably beneficial sexual revolution across the globe.

SIECUS states its core belief this way: “SIECUS affirms that sexuality is a fundamental part of being human, one that is worthy of dignity and respect.” I have no disagreement there. But SIECUS doesn’t seem to grasp that dignity and respect are inherently moral concepts. And moral imperatives require limits on human behavior. Sex is like fire. Controlled and contained, it can be a powerful force for good. Out of control, it ultimately destroys. Who would advocate for the right of five-year-olds to play with matches?

This article first appeared in Salvo 9, Summer 2009.

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Act Up

“One wonders whether there is any terminus now to gay demands or any possibility of sober discussion of the various issues surrounding the gay-rights movement,” began an article in National Review. The year was 1986, and New York City had just enacted legislation protecting gays from discrimination. One year later, Larry Kramer formed ACT UP, the Aids Coalition To Unleash Power, which made national news by disrupting mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. “The message we send to the Catholic hierarchy is simple:” ACT UP said, “curb your dogmatic crusade against the truth: condoms and safer-sex information save lives.”

Two decades later, another generation of gay activists disrupted churches, particularly Mormon ones this time, after Californians passed Proposition 8 defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. “As long as they believe that there’s something wrong with us,” one protester warned, “it’s not going to end!”

This politics of temper tantrums and hissy fits springs in part from a theory Sigmund Freud articulated nearly a century ago. Freud observed people’s behavior and said that their one purpose in life was to be happy and that “sexual (genital) love is the prototype of all happiness.” In Civilization and Its Discontents, published in 1930, he argued that the primary source of mankind’s dissatisfaction, aggression, hostility, and ultimately violence was the conflict between individuals’ sexual needs and societal mores. In short, the problem for these protesters would be that some people frown on homosexuality.

But though Freud considered himself a scientist, most psychologists viewed Freud’s work as unscientific and poorly supported by research. His theories met with suspicion, and the fact that he was an atheist didn’t aid acceptance in “Christian” America. One exception though, a young New York pediatrician, effectively smuggled Freudianism into America’s childrearing zeitgeist.

America’s Freudian Permissivist

Dr. Benjamin Spock was trying desperately to reconcile Freudian concepts with what mothers told him about their babies, when he was approached by a publisher in search of a pediatrician knowledgeable about Freud. They had found their author, and Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care, published in 1946, sold 750,000 copies in the first year, and went on to sell over 50 million copies worldwide.

Much of his advice proved revolutionary in a positive way. He told parents to hug and kiss their children frequently, eschewing rigid schedules and stern discipline. But the kindly doctor shared Freud’s disdain for moralistic disapproval of – well, he just disapproved of moralistic disapproval. An agnostic adherent of no religion, and therefore of no objective standard for right and wrong, he counseled against arbitrary moralistic terms. “It’s not mentally healthy for people to be saddled with such a heavy conscience,” he wrote. Instead, Spock suggested parents reason with their children. “If your child has been involved in a fight, you first can sympathize with whatever feelings of outrage he has, then explain how a happy outcome might have been arranged.”

Proposition 8 Protesters Threaten Mormons and Catholics

But Freud and Spock failed to anticipate one problem. Some people refuse to reason and see no happy outcome outside of getting their way. In fact, according to Freud, there is no acceptable outcome for these gays short of certain non-gays changing their values.

Hence the politics of intimidation and aggression with no terminus to gay demands nor any possibility of sober discussion.

This article first appeared in Salvo 8, Spring 2009.

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Arts and entrepreneurship. Few of us think of artists as entrepreneurs or of economic capitalism as art-friendly. Jeffrey Tucker, who hints that he just might be a bit of an art snob, (“Dancing to me means ballet. Popular fiction I find insulting in every way. Kids, in my view, should spend their time mastering piano rather than gaming on computers.”) says that may be a false dichotomy.

To illustrate his point, Tucker offers three home grown vignettes wherein individuals’ innovation, risk-taking, and hard work introduced into a community genuine virtuosity of the caliber that, by his exceedingly high standard, qualifies as “Art.” You can read Tucker’s article, “How to Improve the Culture,” here.

To increase the availability of quality art, Tucker doesn’t call for more public funding, the oft-heard cry of the industry. The best way to encourage great art, he says, is capitalism.  “Today, cultural entrepreneurs are seriously inhibited in their innovations by high taxes, regulations, and mandated benefits. This produces fewer attempts to improve our world than there would otherwise be. What we need is … more freedom for cultural entrepreneurship, and more individual initiative.”

“Capitalism makes more of everything available to the consumer. That means more … great literature and high-level music, all of which is accessible as never before.”

This post first appeared in the Salvo Signs of the Times blog.

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Obamacare and Abortion

Last night the Senate passed its version of Obamacare on a straight party-line vote. I’m soliciting input from supporters, specifically, on the issue of abortion as health care.

This bill is clearly abortion-positive. Tony Perkins, writing for the Family Research Council and calling this bill the “Nightmare Before Christmas,” points out that it may provide as much as $10 billion in funding for abortion industry leader Planned Parenthood (whom I call “Planned Pillage”). And it’s not just the pro-life advocates pointing this out. Kathleen Sebelius praises this bill and says it ensures that everyone will pay for abortion–no matter how the funds are divided up.

But most of America doesn’t identify itself as pro-abortion. Perkins refers to a poll showing that Americans disapprove, by a 3-to-1 margin, of using public funds to pay for abortion. I know very few people who go so far as to say that abortion is a good thing. Most hold a view that goes like this, “Abortion is not good, but should continue to be legal.”

Here is where I’m genuinely wondering where Obamacare supporters stand:

  1. In your personal view, is abortion health care?
  2. Are you personally okay with your tax dollars being allocated to pay for abortions?
  3. Do you personally have a problem with your elected leaders passing abortion-positive legislation?

Most people I know who support legalized abortion aren’t murderous people. I’m asking you to help me understand how you reconcile kindness, compassion, and caring for the health of others with this legislation, which amounts to involving all of us in wholesale barbarism.

One more question: If the life of the unborn is, for all practical purposes, expendable, why do you believe (or do you believe?) that your life will be held in any higher esteem once it becomes useless to those in power?

One different question, for those of you who grieve over abortion the way I do: At what point would you consider civil disobedience? Go to jail if necessary rather than share complicity in slaughter of innocents? What do you think God would have us do?

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  • Barack Obama and the Culture of Abortion “The the president and like minded individuals have created a cultural milieu where life has no intrinsic value.”
  • Roe vs. Women “The scientific evidence is now strong and compelling. Abortion poses more risks to women than giving birth.”

PZ Myers – Atheist Supremacist

PZ Myers

 

Background:

Paul Zachary Myers was born March 9th 1957, the oldest of six children in a working class family. PZ (named after his father, Myers opted for PZ over “Little Paul”) says if anyone had asked him about his religious beliefs at age twelve, he would have identified himself as a committed Christian. “We were Lake Wobegon Lutherans,” he remembers. But by his mid-teens he’d decided, “I just don’t believe a word of this.”

A developmental biologist (one who studies embryos), Myers holds a BS in zoology from the University of Washington, a PhD in biology from the University of Oregon, and currently teaches biology at the University of Minnesota, Morris. Graying, bespectacled, and bearded, PZ is disarmingly affable in person, but the mild mannered professor cuts loose with fiery ferocity on his blog: “Screw the polite words and careful rhetoric. It’s time for scientists to break out the steel-toed boots and brass knuckles, and get out there and hammer on the lunatics and idiots.” Those lunatics and idiots would be scientists who believe in the existence of God.

Wanted For:

Where fellow New Atheists advance the cause by writing books, this cyber Napoleon makes war online through his blog, which he started in 2002 and named Pharyngula, after the stage of embryonic development he’s most interested in. Despite its classification as a science blog, though, Pharyngula reads more like an online journal. A typical day’s postings include comments on politics, religion, and occasionally PZ’s appointments or travel plans. “Evolution, development and random biological ejaculations from a godless liberal,” reads the heading, capturing Pharyngula’s flavor fairly accurately. PZ estimates he receives a million to a million and a half unique visitors per month.

In addition to shock-blogging, PZ applies the weight of this influence toward advancing “the public understanding of science,” which amounts to imposing his atheistic worldview onto science. Here PZ breaks from the National Academy of Sciences and other scientific organizations who maintain that religious faith is perfectly compatible with belief in evolution. Especially choice spleen gets vented on the Discovery Institute, and in tones reminiscent of the proverbial preacher whose sermon notes advise, “Argument weak here: pound pulpit harder.” Calling the Intelligent Design think tank “a propaganda organization trying to poison the educational system of our country,” PZ is at least frank: “I have nothing but contempt for ID.”

Most Recent Offense:

Last summer, PZ asked his readers to get him a consecrated communion wafer. “I’ll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare.” When he got one (Who knows if it was actually consecrated or not?) PZ pierced it with a rusty nail, threw it in the trash with a banana peel and coffee grounds, and posted a photo as proof of the deed. He dubbed it, The Great Desecration, and pronounced, “It is finished.”

But Myers’s most pernicious influence is his crusade to make science education, atheist education. PZ says he doesn’t aim to expunge faith from the country, but he clearly aims to expunge it from the hearts and minds of science students, saying he wants believers to “look at the book of Genesis and ask lots of questions about it.”  Meanwhile he opposes – zealously – any suggestion that one of them look at Darwin and ask any questions. Apparently in his world, this is free inquiry.

This article first appeared in Salvo 8, Spring 2009.

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Darwin’s Quantum Leap

The Quantum Leap

Early in 2009, the International Year of Darwin got underway in Shrewsbury, England, the birthplace of Charles Darwin. As part of the celebration marking both Darwin’s 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his seminal work, On the Origin of Species, a sculpture was unveiled in Shrewsbury’s Mardol Quay Gardens. Nearly forty feet high, sixty feet long, and weighing over 200 tons, the structure, named Quantum Leap, resembles a gigantic slinky placed on the ground like an upside down ‘U.’ Darwin coordinator, Jon King, explains, “What we wanted was an iconic structure – something that was big, was bold, but something that could be interpreted in different ways.” In an irony apparently lost on its celebrants, the name ‘Quantum Leap’ makes a fitting metaphor for the thinking of contemporary Darwinists.

Charles Robert Darwin began his career in the summer of 1831 when he boarded the H.M.S. Beagle on a four-year surveying mission. The budding naturalist had studied a bit of medicine and divinity at Cambridge, but geology and nature interested him most. During his five-week stay on the Galapagos Islands Darwin was particularly struck by the varieties of plant and animal life on the different islands.

A Paradigm is Born
On return, he took up pigeon breeding and discovered that with selective breeding, he could produce a variety of pigeons from a common rock pigeon. Like any curious scientist, Darwin began to speculate. What if, over time, little changes added up to big changes? And if random variations arose along the way, could not entirely new species come into existence? If the changes had enough time to accumulate, and if changes that failed to meet the requirements for survival died out, then the result could be a multiplicity of organisms adapted to their surroundings. This extrapolation from observed variations among species to adaptation and survival of the fittest came to be known as the Law of Natural Selection.

Darwin later put forth his ideas in On The Origin of Species, which reportedly sold out on its first day of publication in 1859. Though Darwin stopped short of atheism – in his autobiography he called himself an agnostic, and in fact never addressed the origin of life in any of his books, the intimation that life could have freely emerged, independent of any pesky notion of God, took on a life of its own, and within a century Darwinism, or ‘Evolution as the Explanation of Everything,’ would become the reigning paradigm of science.

Questioning the Premise
But is this paradigm itself a scientifically established fact? That was the question raised by a surprise entrant to the creation/evolution debate. Phillip E. Johnson, neither a theologian nor a scientist but a professor of law at the University of California at Berkeley, entered the ring in 1991 with Darwin on Trial, a lawyer-like examination in which he weighed the evidence for Darwinism and found it insufficient to support the conclusion. In Darwin on Trial, Johnson drew out the suspiciously sequestered fact that Darwinism presupposes a naturalistic worldview. Naturalism, as a worldview, says that nature or matter is all there is; the supernatural does not exist or, if it does, is entirely irrelevant to life in the natural realm. Johnson deftly pointed out that naturalism is not a scientifically deduced fact but rather a philosophical presupposition.

The first result of Johnson’s contribution was to expose the atheistic scientists’ philosophical presupposition of naturalism and separate it from their science. Like the lad saying the emperor has no clothes, he identified the philosophy masquerading as science and pointed it out. More far-reaching, though, Johnson gave birth to the scientific movement of intelligent design theory (ID).

The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, and not by an undirected process such as natural selection. ID does not begin with the book of Genesis, nor does it address the question of who the intelligent cause might be, and for that reason it’s been criticized by some creation scientists, who believe the study of creation shouldn’t be divorced from the Creator.

Three Facts of Life Evolution Fails to Explain
But ID provocatively challenges Darwinism’s overreaching claims. Here are three major problems for which Darwinian Evolution supplies no answer (but ID does):

(1) The Initiation of life. Natural selection says that evolution favors one already existing organism over another, but it says nothing about how those organisms came into existence in the first place. In The Selfish Gene, atheist zoologist Richard Dawkins ponders how the first living molecule might have formed. His speculative language suggests we “imagine” or “suppose” how it “could” or “might” have happened. “It was exceedingly improbable,” he concedes and says science has no idea how it happened. But he’s admitted he’s open to one possibility, that life on Earth was seeded from outer space. Seriously. The theory is called Panspermia, and, setting aside the implied drift from empirical science to science fiction, its mere suggestion reveals the dearth of working theories of abiogenesis, or how life got started without a Starter.

(2) The Information of life. The information content of DNA is mind-boggling. The DNA molecule for the single-celled bacterium E. coli contains enough information to fill a whole library of encyclopedias. Geneticists are still learning how to read the coded chemistry, but evolutionary science has no plausible theory as to how random processes can produce so complex, specific, and detailed a set of instructions.

DNA precipitated the undoing of one prominent atheist’s naturalistic worldview. In December of 2004, Antony Flew, one of the world’s leading philosophers of atheism for half a century, dropped an intellectual bombshell on the scientific community when he announced that he had come to believe there is a God. The 81-year-old British professor said his life had always been guided by the principle of Plato’s Socrates: “Follow the evidence, wherever it leads,” and that he had arrived at this startling conclusion after studying DNA. “The enormous complexity by which the results [DNA] were achieved look to me like the work of intelligence.”

(3) The Irreducible Complexity of life. An irreducibly complex system is one involving interrelated parts or subsystems, all of which are necessary for the system to function. Given the technology of his day, Charles Darwin believed a simple cell was only a little blob of protoplasm, and he envisioned it emerging spontaneously “in some warm little pond.” Still, he anticipated the potential difficulty of irreducible complexity. “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications,” he wrote, “my theory would absolutely break down.”

Too bad Darwin never met Dr. Michael Behe. A lifelong Catholic, Dr. Behe says he believed the standard story he was taught in school about evolution until he read Evolution: A Theory in Crisis by agnostic geneticist Michael Denton. “I was shocked because I had never heard a scientist question Darwin’s theory before. And here I was an associate professor in biochemistry, and I didn’t have any answers for his objections.” At that point, Dr. Behe realized he’d accepted Darwinian theory, not because of compelling evidence, but for sociological reasons. “That’s what I was supposed to believe,” he said.

Dr. Behe went on to explore cellular life and ultimately concluded its great complexity could never have come about by random and unguided processes as Darwinism requires. His research culminated in Darwin’s Black Box, in which he describes in elegant detail several microbiological systems, all of them intricately and irreducibly complex.

Questioning the Quantum Leap
“There is something fascinating about science,” Mark Twain, a contemporary of Darwin, once quipped. “One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of facts.”

He could have been referring to the Darwinists. Keep in mind that the starting point one chooses when it comes to the origin of life is not a question of science but of philosophy or, if you will, faith. Ultimately, we choose to adopt one worldview or another, and that involves making a faith choice. Darwin assumed that God – if he existed at all – was irrelevant, and then concluded that natural selection must have been the mechanism by which life developed into its present form. His intellectual descendants effectively consecrated his hypothesis, decreed Darwinism the principle canon of science, and began interpreting all data accordingly.

ID differs from Darwinian Evolution in that it allows for the possibility of an outside agent. It begins from a different philosophical starting point and asks, “Where does the evidence lead?” As technology advances, the three ‘I’s of life – initiation, information, and irreducible complexity – pose ever-growing difficulties for evolutionists. Michael Behe summed up his inquiry this way, “We are told by ‘Science’ with a capital ‘S’ that the universe is just matter and energy in motion. But it turns out that actual evidence of science does not necessarily support that philosophical claim.”

To Behe and other ID scientists, life looks more and more like an outside job.

This article first appeared in The Lookout and was reprinted in Salvo Winter 2009, Issue 11.

What is the meaning of life? If you watch “The Big Bang Theory” you could be forgiven for concluding that the meaning of life is sex. Take Howard Wolowitz, the skirt-chasing, 27 year-old Jewish engineer who lives with his overbearing mother. Wolowitz once tried to use the Internet, military satellites, and robot aircraft to find a house full of gorgeous young models “so I could drop in on them unexpected.” On another episode, he told his physicist friend, Sheldon Cooper, “I’d kill my Rabbi with a pork chop to be with your sister.”

Hardly a word comes out of Howard’s mouth that doesn’t have to do with getting a woman – any woman – to “be with” him. The overgrown adolescent doesn’t know how to carry on a conversation with a woman as a fellow human being. To him they’re not people; they’re walking appliances.

The Wooing Tactics of Howard Wolowitz

It’s sad, really. Wolowitz embodies what Dale Kuehne laments in Sex and the iWorld. When all relationships are sexualized, a person doesn’t know how to have a non-sexual relationship, which means he really doesn’t know how to have a relationship at all.

It’s not that sex is bad; in the right relational context, it’s good. But a hyper-sexualized life is ultimately lonely, frustrated, and unsatisfied with all its relationships. Perhaps that’s too common-sensical for a Hollywood rocket scientist to grasp.

This post originally appeared in the Salvo Signs of the Times blog.

Today I’m thankful for a society that values free speech and respect for dissenting opinions. Yesterday I watched the Oprah interview with Sarah Palin, and I couldn’t help but note the beauty and power of what America offers and values.

Here were two women who campaigned on opposing teams a year ago and presumably still maintain the same political views, sitting together having a chat that was not only civil, but warm. At times, especially toward the end, I got the impression that Oprah was trying to “figure out” Sarah Palin. Like she was baffled by her: Who is this woman?

I am continually struck by the visceral reaction people have to her. David Horowitz says politics is war by other means. In America, we value people and human lives, therefore we discuss and debate issues rather than divide and conquer the people on the other side of the issue.

And while that is true with Sarah Palin – nobody’s pulled out a gun and shot her – there has been an incredibly visceral reaction against her by many. I read this morning that eleven reporters were assigned by AP to fact-check her book when it came out. Okay, that’s fair, I thought, but then I also read that none were assigned to fact-check Barack Obama’s books when they came out. I couldn’t help but wonder, Why not? AP can do whatever they choose, but why the double standard?

It seems no one is neutral when it comes to Sarah Palin. People who don’t know her personally either love her or hate her. I have my theory about why, but Id like to hear what other people think.

Why do you think this singular woman has such an effect on people? Why do you think she has had such an effect on America?

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I wrote the following article last year, and it ran here soon before the 2008 election. I’m wondering if anyone has any comments on the differing philosophies of governance now, a year later.

 

Spiritual Statesmanship: Salt and Light for Corruption and Darkness

For the Christian who prefers safe, polite conversation, it’s tempting to avoid controversial subjects. “Never discuss politics or religion,” says the social dictum. But in an election year, we can hardly escape politics. In November, 2004, a relative brought up same-sex marriage at a family gathering. I didn’t argue my position – he already knew it – but instead I asked him a question. “What do they want that they do not already have? Homosexuals are legally free to practice their way of life, live together sharing finances, and establish wills and medical directives with their partners. No one is seeking to take those freedoms away. What, specifically, do they want?” He had no answer. Apparently he hadn’t thought of it that way before.

The issues come up in and out of election season. On another day, my daughter Sally came home from school talking about smoking. Her fourth grade class had decided that people shouldn’t be allowed to smoke in restaurants. I agreed with her that smoking is a bad habit. I don’t like smoke in restaurants either. “But,” I added, “think about this: Even though something ought not to be done, that doesn’t necessarily mean there should be a law against it.” Sally pondered that a bit and said, “Good point.” We went on to talk about how a restaurant owner can always make a rule against smoking in his restaurant if he chooses to, and customers who prefer a smoke-free environment can choose restaurants accordingly. This retains freedom for the business owner, freedom for the customers, and allows those freedoms to regulate the restaurant market. She understood that.

Shedding Light on Political Divisions

As Christians, we are called by Christ to love our neighbors, and that requires our engagement. Plato said that the price of apathy in public affairs is to be ruled by evil men. Edmund Burke, British statesman and supporter of the American Revolution, echoed Plato when he wrote, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” According to these sages, retreat from the public square is, in effect, a surrender to corruption.

The challenge for the civic-minded believer is, how to participate in a positive way in this most secular of realms? I suggest we can and do as we serve as salt and light, to borrow one of Jesus’ metaphors. Consider light. We illuminate cloudy issues simply by understanding and being prepared to explain basic truths. Biblically astute believers have insight into eternal truths, and we should never that that wane, but we must also be educated about American government and its separation of powers; economics and the fundamental principle of supply and demand; and human nature and its propensity toward sin as displayed throughout history. With even a basic understanding of these and related realities, we can shed much-needed light on political impasses.

Different Principles Lead to Different Practices

To truly illuminate an impasse, we must think and speak beyond sound bite sloganeering. Though commentators usually talk in terms of the two major political parties, Republican and Democrat, it’s more helpful to consider their underlying philosophies of governance, conservatism and liberalism, because they emerge from vastly different ideas about the purpose of government. Conservatives affirm limited government, free markets, traditional Judeo-Christian values, and a strong national defense. Recognizing the human propensity toward evil, conservatism sees government as an agent of justice, protecting the citizenry from marauders, both internal and external. Citizens are expected to live responsibly and productively and are allowed freedom to enjoy and share the fruit of their labors as they choose.

Liberalism maintains that it is the duty of the State to alleviate social ills and guarantee that no one is in need. To liberals (sometimes called progressives), the purpose of government is to provide, both in terms of material needs and social services. Liberalism, operating on the premise that humans are basically good, views societal problems, not as a result of people making bad choices, but of poorly designed social structures. Both parties uphold the value of justice, but whereas conservatives apply justice by punishing evil, liberals often use the word as a synonym for ‘fairness’ or ‘equal outcomes.’ For example, ‘economic justice’ in liberal parlance means there is no large gap between a society’s rich and poor.

To be sure, government should provide some services, but a danger arises in that with this model, people can become more like dependant subjects than productive, responsible citizens. Examples can be found at home and abroad. Early in 2008, World magazine reported on the recent transfer of power in Russia. Sunday Adelaja, a pastor exiled from Kiev, Ukraine, told World that the biggest problem in Russia was not Putin’s lingering, Soviet-like oppression, but the ignorance of the people: “Most people say, ‘As long as we have food on the table, we don’t care. We just vote for the man who is giving us food.’” Adelaja rightly calls this “slave mentality,” and it severely hinders freedom. Worse, it invites exploitation by self-serving leaders.

Citizenship Requires Discernment

Which brings us to the importance of discernment. Christians, more than anyone else, can apply a biblical understanding of human nature to the political process. Starting from the revelation that mankind is fallen and prone to sin, it follows that a candidate’s offer to provide for potential subjects’ needs or wants could be a benevolent-sounding cover for serving his or her self-interest. An example from ancient history shows this is inherent to human nature, not a product of any government structure.

Israel’s first civil split occurred near the end of King Solomon’s reign when Jeroboam, one of Solomon’s officials, rebelled. Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, the rightful heir, retained authority over two tribes, while Jeroboam assumed kingship over the remaining ten. But Jeroboam foresaw a threat to his power base: the temple sat outside his territory. To solve this problem, Jeroboam made two golden calves and set them up within his borders, telling the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” (I Kings 12:28) Aside from the vital detail that God had forbidden idol worship, it sounds like Jeroboam was compassionately easing a burden for them.

But the writer of I Kings tells us Jeroboam’s true motive. “Jeroboam thought to himself, ‘The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam.’” (I Kings 12:26-27) So Jeroboam wasn’t, in fact, nearly as concerned for the people as he was for preserving his position (along with his skin). At that he succeeded, but the idolatry he instituted ultimately led to the destruction of the entire kingdom. Not all political leaders lie, but discerning citizens must observe shrewdly because some will, and the consequences can be disastrous.

The Call to Sacrificial Service

As we walk in the light, then, we will both actively and passively illuminate political shady spots. We are also called to serve and help those in need. Politically motivated leaders sometimes appeal to Jesus’ words about helping the poor in order to gain support for one of their programs, but Jesus wasn’t speaking to governments. His commands were spoken to individuals. (And, as an aside, it should be noted that the real test of a leader’s concern for the poor is what he does with his own money, not how he proposes to spend your tax dollars.)

Where light illumines and clarifies, salt preserves and enhances. Take Valerie and Kevin, committed Christian parents of three. When they saw their niece, Laurel, being seriously neglected by her parents, they didn’t call any social service organization. Instead they brought Laurel into their home. Originally, the move was to be for a few weeks, while Laurel’s parents made some personal changes. But what began as a temporary arrangement has extended into a multi-year assignment. Today, Laurel is in fifth grade, and Valerie and Kevin are prepared to keep her until she reaches adulthood if necessary.

Certainly, it is good to have services bridging gaps where necessary, but government will never eliminate society’s ills, and it’s certainly no savior. Moreover, reliance on government programs invites the insidious delusion that we’ve given of ourselves – by supporting a particular candidate or program – when we really haven’t. Jesus told his followers, “You are the salt of the earth.” We, his people, comprise his body on earth. Our calling is to speak his truth in love, serve our neighbors in need, and point the world to its real Savior. His name is controversial. Not exactly polite, safe conversation. But Jesus is the one who solved humanity’s biggest problem and promises to meet her deepest needs.

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