Tuesday, April 8, 2014

"This new power grab by the State to redefine a centuries-old institution" - and the mob mentality promoting it

“I was jeered and spat at for defending marriage”
comment 10 print |       
Recently I appeared in the audience of BBC’s Question Time in my home town of Brighton after a friend asked me to take their place at short notice.
When Marilyn Barmer stood up and nervously asked whether the first gay marriages due to take place in the city in the next 24 hours were a necessary piece of legislation, the temperature in the auditorium plummeted, the warm glow of good-natured yet passionate debate replaced by a glacial hostility.

I have never before experienced such a palpable and visceral sense of contempt and dislike, despite having debated the issue a number of times inside a TV studio or on the radio with LGBT advocates.

While I’ve come in for a hefty amount of online abuse and insults over the years and at times been shocked by some of the sentiments expressed, I have at least been able to emotionally distance myself.

Words can have a powerful impact but at the end of the day that’s all they are -- a stream of invective from those suffering from a sense of inadequacy in one or several areas of their lives, who should not be given any headspace.

Fed up with the shallow and saccharin sentiments of love that were lacking in intellectual rigour emanating from the panel and the on-screen love-in between Tory MP Justine Greening and Labour MP Dianne Abbot about how wonderful it all was, I raised my hand when David Dimbleby asked whether or not anyone agreed with the questioner.

As the host focused his attention upon me, asking me to refute specific allegations of homophobia, I did my best to add a fresh perspective to the debate from the point of view those who did not wish to see marriage redefined.

But when the audience jeered in response to the simple statement of fact that every single child had a biological mother and father, I knew that I was fighting a lost cause.
The audience were not listening to what was being said; even a great debater such as George Bernard Shaw would not have won them over.

Afterwards both Roger Helmer and Lord Simon Wolfson, two of the guest panellists, kindly congratulated me on my courage.

Surely I thought, speaking my mind on a TV show wasn’t particularly brave. Yes, the aggression was unnerving, not least when Dimbleby began to unexpectedly interrogate me, but as we are  living in a free and democratic society we should all be able to speak in the public square without fear of repercussions.

Sadly however, freedom of speech comes with a price. While filing out of the studio, someone approached me to tell me I was ‘absolutely disgusting’.

Another group of people spat at me. I was swiftly identified on Twitter by Dr Evan Harris and gay columnist Benjamin Cohen and the insults flowed.

My crime? Stating that marriage was a child-centric institution and that children have a right to be brought up by their biological parents, where at all possible.

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell is still not satisfied that same sex marriage legislation goes far enough is now calling for a repeal of the marriage law.  Stonewall are calling for homophobia to be eradicated from ‘churches and homes’.

What does this mean in reality? Are the thought police to be sent into churches and homes to enforce the new orthodoxy that anyone who does not support the new State definition of marriage is to be censured and made to see the error of their ways?

A new Cinderella law seeks to prosecute parents who do not show their children  enough emotional affection.

Will the State define as emotional cruelty ideas that are not commensurate with their own vision of perfect parenting?

Will parents who homeschool or refuse to condone the new definition of marriage be deemed guilty of emotional cruelty or causing harm?

There is legitimate concern that this new power grab by the State to redefine a centuries-old institution will have a serious impact on  freedom of speech and religions. Being spat at is the least of our worries.

Caroline Farrow writes from the UK where she has participated in a number of media debates on family issues. This article first appeared in Conservative Woman and is reproduced here with permission.
* The BBC Question Time referred to is here, and the question about gay marriage begins at 38 minutes in.

This article is published by Caroline Farrow and MercatorNet.com under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.
- See more at: http://www.mercatornet.com/conjugality/view/13875#sthash.UjZrl4oQ.dpuf

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The link between family structure and poverty

Nicole M. King | 7 Apr 2014 | 
From MercatorNet

The New York Times recently highlighted a study that seems to show promising results for a specialized-care program for children born into poverty.

In 1972, researchers in North Carolina began tracking two groups of babies from poor families.  In one group, “the children were given full-time day care up to age 5 that included most of their daily meals, talking, games and other stimulating activities.”  The other group received baby formula, but no other form of interaction.  The full study was published in Science on Thursday of last week.  “By age 30,” reports the Times, “those in the group given special care were four times as likely to have graduated from college.”  In addition, however, both men and women in the treatment group had better health outcomes, including lower rates of hypertension and risk factors for heart disease, better nutritional habits, and lower rates of diabetes and stroke.  Surprised by the physical health benefits and thrilled about potential outcomes for children born into poverty, the researchers are currently looking into how the cost of the program ($16,000 per child, per year, in 2010 dollars) compares with the cost of medical care were the children not enrolled.

While better outcomes for children born into poverty is undoubtedly a worthy goal, the glaring omission in this story is what places those children in poverty to begin with.  Other research has demonstrated that we might better use that $16,000 per child, per year.
The New Research - The key determinant of child poverty
According to the prevailing dogma of the welfare system, better job-training programs, education, and daycare subsidies will lift unwed mothers and their children out of poverty. That strategy —which has been pursued for at least a generation — has little to show for itself while its framers have ignored the growing body of evidence that suggests the country will make little headway in reducing poverty without addressing one of its major causes: the growth of the percentage of children being raised outside of an intact family.

The latest study, mining county-level data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development, and the American Religious Data Archive, reinforces that verdict. Conducted by Sri Ranjith of the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka and Anil Rupasingha of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, the study identifies numerous economic and demographic determinants of poverty while zeroing in on the relationship between social capital, religious adherence, and child poverty.

As might be expected, all seven economic variables weighed by the economists, including a county’s general unemployment and male unemployment rates, were found to be significantly associated with its child-poverty rate.  The researchers also discovered new categories of links to child poverty: social cohesion and religious adherence. Using a county-level composite index developed by the Northeast Regional Center and composed of civic, sports, political, and business organizations, as well as nonprofits and voter-engagement data, the economists established that as their measure of social capital increased by 1 percent in a country, the child-poverty rate declined by 0.41-percentage point. In addition, their aggregate measure of religious adherents (representing Catholics and Protestants) demonstrated a similar positive impact on lowering the poverty rate.

Nonetheless, when the economists ranked the comparative impact of all their variables from the highest to the lowest (using the coefficients of their most sophisticated statistical model), they found that by far the “biggest factor” associated with child poverty in a county is the proportion of households headed by unwed mothers with children under 18 years of age. They established that every 1 percentage-point increase in these households correlates with a 1.2 percentage-point increase in the county’s child-poverty rate. This correlation remained statistically significant (p < 0.01) in all three statistical models.

Ironically, the magnitude of this association does not lead Ranjith and Rupasingha to consider strategies that might reverse increased patterns of unwed childrearing. No, the researchers seem enamored with the potential of “community social and cultural aspects for enhancing the welfare of children.” That’s not all bad; yet the very social capital and higher levels of religious attachment the economists covet find their origin in the family anchored on life-long marriage.

(Sri Ranjith and Anil Rupasingha, “Social and Cultural Determinants of Child Poverty in the United States,” Journal of Economic Issues 46.1 [March 2012]: 119–42.)
This article has been republished with permission from The Family in America, a publication of The Howard Center. The Howard Center is a MercatorNet partner site.
This article is published by Nicole M. King and MercatorNet.com under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sacred Art II: Sacred Art and Modernism by Cornelius Sullivan

Pietà, Michelangelo, marble, Saint Peter's Basilica, Rome, 1499. 

Sacred Art II, Sacred Art and Modernism
Cornelius Sullivan
Presented at Honors Colloquium, Perspectives on Modern Art,
March 19, 2014, Ave Maria University, Ave Maria, FL  
How did we get from Renaissance Art, faith embodied, to Abstract Art, art without recognizable content, and to Conceptual Art, art which is completely disembodied?  
The Renaissance
As you enter Saint Peter's Basilica the first chapel on the right is graced by Michelangelo's marble Pietà. There is always a small crowd, and the silence there rises above the distant din. No-one speaks.  Pilgrims are not disappointed, they will remember seeing something that looked like a vision. 
The artist in the Renaissance began training with a master in a guild at age twelve because talent was seen as a gift from God. They learned by copying, as their masters had done before them. Unlike in Modern Art, there was no pressure to always do the newest thing or to shock. 
Authority in art went from the guild to the university, from those who do, to the experts who judge. For example, in the United States, with its Puritanical beginnings, Harvard University has always deemed that the study of making art is not a suitable occupation for a gentleman, whereas the study of art history has been acceptable. 
There are some places connected with the Church today that promote Eastern like icons as the only valid form of religious art today. That's too easy, it acts as if the great Western tradition of art never existed. Go find the next Caravaggio!
Those who critique rule. Those who make, still make, but at the margins of society. 
Artists from another time had a significant place in society, Columbia Art Historian James Beck said, "The most remarkable meeting of Renaissance artists ever recorded, and arguably the most extraordinary encounter of its kind in history, occurred on January 25, 1504 (in Florence) when some two dozen painters, sculptors, artisans, and architects were convened to take up the question of the appropriate location for Michelangelo's all but finished marble David."-1. 
The group included: the painters, Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli, Filippino Lippi, Perugino, Lorenzo di Credi, the architect Guilano da Sangallo, the sculptor, Andrea della Robbia, and more artists and artisans. A group of two dozen and no theorists, no critics, no politicians, no lawyers, no lobbyists, only those who do, those who make. 
Art Historian Kenneth Clark, from his classic book Civilization from 1969, says this about the Renaissance, and more specifically about Michelangelo's David:
" Seen by itself the David's body might be some unusually taut and vivid work of antiquity; it is only when we look at the head that we are aware of a spiritual force that the ancient world never knew. I suppose that this quality, which I may call heroic, is not part of most people's idea of civilization. It involves a contempt for convenience and a sacrifice of all those pleasures that contribute to what we call civilized life. It is the enemy of happiness. And yet we recognize that to despise material obstacles, and even to despise the blind forces of fate, is man's supreme achievement; and since, in the end, civilization depends on man extending his powers of mind and spirit to the utmost, we must reckon the emergence of Michelangelo as one of the great events in the history of western man." -2

David, detail, Michelangelo, marble, 1504, Academia, Florence. 

Protestants may insist that the faith is about the word and that the fact that Christianity began in the Hellenistic cultural world is not important. Pope Benedict said that the wisdom of Athens, along with the wisdom of Jerusalem, must be considered in understanding the early church. Greek sculptors made the gods as beautiful men with bodiesThen God became man, not as an idea, not as a theory, but with a body. 
Pope Blessed John Paul II has privileged representational figurative art in his "Letter to Artists of 1999"."The Church has need especially of those who can do this on the literary and figurative level, using the endless possibilities of images and their symbolic force. Christ himself made extensive use of images in his preaching, fully in keeping with his willingness to become, in the Incarnation, the icon of the unseen God." 3. 
Modern Art and Modernism
How did we get to Abstract Art? In 1619 rationalist philosopher Rene Descartes split body and spirit. Then Immanuel Kant with a new kind of subjectivity laid the foundation for Modern aesthetics, in his "Critique of Judgment", where human consciousness sets the terms for reality itself. -4. 
Modern Art is a product of Modernism the philosophy, the world view, that influenced all aspects of life and culture and still holds sway today. The characteristics of Modernism that come into play with regard to art are: 1. Subjectivism, (everyone is an artist) 2. Rationalism, science is prized over artistic knowledge, 3. Dualism, privilege of mind over body, separation of mind and body 4. Anti-Traditionalism, let’s tear tradition down and start over. 
Art is both form and content. In Late Modern Art, form and content were split asunder, in a way similar to the way that Descartes split body and spirit, and it was like Reformation Iconoclasm taking the body off of the cross.  Content alone, Conceptual Art, devolved into trite jokes. Form alone,  Abstract Art, a painting about paint, is as inane as a poem being solely about the alphabet.  
When form and content were partners vying for supremacy in Early Modern Art, exciting things happened. The push and pull of form and content, the interaction, is what can give art depth. Eventually, the forces, some theoretical and some financial, to separate form and content prevailed. The energy of the Early Modern era faded after a while.  
Note how form and content worked together in Early Modern Art:
Monet's Impression Sunrise, from which Impressionism gets its name. 
Van Gogh's Starry Night, We believe the sky is sky and yet we know it is paint.
Rodin has understood Michelangelo's Neo-Platonist idea of the figure in the marble block. We are aware of the "uncovering" process. 
In Picasso's portrait of Igor Stravinsky we recognize the Modern composer but we also see how the line asserts itself. There is a good tug of war between form and content. 

Descartes' attack on the body and taking the body off of the cross led to disembodied art. The contrast is between what is real and what is a mere symbol. It reminds me of what Catholic writer Flannery O'Connor said at a distinguished literary dinner, at which she remained too shy to speak, until a woman, knowing Flannery was Catholic, said, "The Eucharist, what a nice symbol." O'Connor said, "Well if it's a symbol, then, to hell with it".
Critique of Modernism, ink, 1982, by the author 

Theory Rules the Art World (from marble to drips)
Tom Wolfe says in his book The Painted Word  from 1975, that he realized that "Modern Art has become completely literary: the paintings and other works exist only to illustrate the text."-5. Finally Wolfe proposes that the museum of the future will have, taking up a whole wall, in large block letters, Critic Clement Greenberg's "Theory of Flatness". Flanking it will be a postcard size image of a Jackson Pollock painting illustrating the theory.  
  Number 8, Jackson Pollock , paint, 1949. 

Kant's subjectivity has caused the art educational system to fail. "Everyone is an artist, just express yourself." With no God, the concept of God given ability went away. Billy brings home scribbles from the first grade and they are stuck on the refrigerator and he is patted on the back for the sake of his self-esteem. Billy, that ..... learn how to draw. 

And we can see how modern philosophy rejected the knowledge of natures, and thus, was able to make up a false nature for man, one that prized intellect over the body, and separated the two.

Kant's Modernist Aesthetics resulted in the phenomenon of viewers looking at a work of art and waiting, indeed hoping, for a personal aesthetic experience. Don't worry the cognoscenti, the experts, will tell you what to feel. Because of Kant this is a subjective experience. John Saward has said that, "In the heresy of Modernism we find a vague "mysticism" and a cult of subjective experience." 6. Remarkably some cling, even though "Modern Art" ended decades ago, to the idea that the artist possesses a special internal spiritual knowledge and that that is what is presented, then the viewer must try to get it, to be enlightened by it. Theory was like theology for Greenberg and he had the zeal of a Savonarola. Kandinsky tried, in his writing about art, to make of it a pseudo religion.

How free floating, strained, and artificial this is, and how different from the contextual aesthetic experience that one may have before a work of art that has content, and may be in situ, in the place that it was made for.
The Calling of Saint Matthew, detail, Caravaggio, San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome, 1600.

From Caravaggio, Painter of Miracles, American writer Francine Prose says something special happens to viewers in front of a Caravaggio painting. She describes a tour guide explaining to students The Calling of Saint Matthew in the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome. "There is nothing she is telling them that they absolutely need to hear, and the power of the paintings is drowning out her voice." And, "… it is possible to understand this painting without knowing much about art history, or Caravaggio, or even, perhaps, about the New Testament." -7.
The only thing worthy of becoming the flesh of Conceptual Art, is "theory". And for all the other isms before Conceptual Art it was all about the theory. Those who have it, or invent it, spew it with authority, and tell us that we do not need to know what art is, because they will tell us what it is, and they will also tell us what is good.
There is a vast financial structure ensuring that the abstract paintings in the cellar of the Museum of Modern Art, in New York, that no-one wants to look at now, are still valuable. John D. Rockefeller and his money created that financial structure, the idea for MOMA was hatched in his living room.

As art was becoming just theory strange things began to happen. Dadaists thrust mild obscenities and visual puns at viewers and began to call any object a work of art. Marcel Duchamp submitted a urinal turned upside down and called it Fountain for an exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in 1917. The artists rejected it for the show, but it lives on in the lore of art as a joke on everyone. 

Fountain, Duchamp, 1917. 
 Maurizio Cattelan, La Nona Ora, 1999  

This expensive joke is a plastic Pope John Paul II being crushed by a meteorite (exhibited at Royal AcademyLondon, sold at Christies for three million dollars). I am not sure what it means, but assuredly, it is a joke on Catholics.

And Abstract Art like Robert Ryman's painting White on White is a joke and complicit in it is New York Times Art Critic Michael Kimmelman, who says "Only experts are allowed to tell you what art is or not." And "We want to be told what to think." and "All art is Conceptual." He says that Ryman's painting is a "conversation within art" that "pushes the conversation forward." I suspect that that conversation goes on in the cellar of MOMA between all the abstract paintings in exile down there. 

These are "in jokes" with political and financial motivations. That makes them so obvious, and thus, so boring.  
White, Robert Ryman, 2003. 
Pope Saint Pius X attacked Modernism in his encyclical of 1907, "Dominici Gregis Pascendi, Feeding the Lord's Flock", in which he characterized Modernism as " the synthesis of all heresies".

He begins, "Modernists place the foundation of religious philosophy in that doctrine which is usually called Agnosticism. According to this teaching human reason is confined entirely within the field of phenomena, that is to say, to things that are perceptible to the senses, and in the manner in which they are perceptible; it has no right and no power to transgress these limits. Hence it is incapable of lifting itself up to God, and of recognizing His existence, even by means of visible things. From this it is inferred that God can never be the direct object of science, and that, as regards history, He must not be considered as an historical subject."-8. 

"The Agnosticism of our time is perfectly expressed by the blank, bureaucratic facades on Park Avenue in New York. And Charles Jencks in The Language of Post Modern Architecture also says, " Art, ornament and symbolism have been essential to architecture because they heighten its meaning, make it clearer, and give it greater resonance. All cultures, except the Modern one, have valued these essential truths and have taken them for granted."- 9.  

And John Saward in his book, The Beauty of Holiness and The Holiness of Beauty, says about the ideologies of modernity,
"When the Virgin Mother is not venerated, the Son's self-emptying is soon forgotten, and men dream of Progress, Superman, and the Will to Power."  If man is to soar upwards to self-fulfillment, then, at all costs, God's descent to a lowly womb must be denied." - 10. Nietzsche-Zarathustra's demands deicide. "To you, Higher Men, this God was your greatest danger. Only when the humble God is dead can the Superman arise."- 11. 

The Theology of the Body and Sacred Art

The study of Art History is about the study of "style". The study of Christian Art History is about the study of "meaning". Some parts of Art History need to be re-written from a Catholic point of view.

"The Theology of the Body" and a revival of Sacred Art are the answers to the errors of Modernism, Descartes' attack on the body, and the vacancy of abstract art. 

In his "Theology of the Body" Pope Blessed John Paul II said, 
"The body can never be reduced to mere matter; It is a spiritualized body, just as man's spirit is so closely united to the body that it can be described as an embodied spirit." -12.

Dr. Michael Waldstein in the substantial introduction to his translation of the TOB says this:

"The ancient Gnostics found themselves in a demonic, anti-divine universe. Matter was evil. Yet, the truly bottomless pit is opened only by the Cartesian universe with its complete indifference to meaning. Matter is "mere matter", sheer externality. It is value- free. The reason for this indifference of matter to meaning lies in the rigorous reconstruction of knowledge under the  guidance of the ambition for power over nature." -13.

What does the  Catholic Church have to say about this? It understands the real in a special way. Art can say something about how the Incarnation has materially changed the universe. The Church can have Sacred ArtThe art of the Renaissance and the Counter Reformation Baroque in large part define Catholic Art. A case can be made, that the Virgin's connection with the art was not just coincidental, that without her, and without a vital female element in the culture, art would not have thrived.

To conclude, it is worth looking at the pietà concept once again, because Pope Benedict XVI has explained how Renaissance Art has changed the art of Antiquity to engage the theological:
“The languages into which the Gospel entered when it came to the pagan world did not have such modes of expression. But the image of the pieta, the Mother grieving for her son, became the vivid translation of this word. In her God’s maternal affliction is open to view. In her we can behold it and touch it. She is thecompasio of God, displayed in a human being who has let herself be drawn wholly into God’s mystery.” - 14.

He has said that through art, not just from the written word alone, we can understand more about God, in this case, more about the female aspect of his love, "his maternal affliction" and his "compasio". 

Pietà 2006, Virgin Mary, detail, marble, life size, by the author. 

1. Three Worlds of Michelangelo , James Beck, 1999, p.123-131
2. Civilization, Kenneth Clark, 1969, p. 123.
3. "Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Artists, 1999."
4. "Critique of Judgement", Immanuel Kant, 1790.
5. The Painted Word, Tom Wolfe, 1975, p.3
6. The Beauty of Holiness and the Holiness of Beauty, John Saward,     Ignatius, 1997, p. 24.
7.  Caravaggio, Painter of Miracles, Francine Prose, 2005, p. 8.
8. The Encyclical Dominici Gregis Pascendi ,Pope Saint Pius X, 1907.
9. The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, Charles Jencks, 1987, Rizzoli, p.7.
10. Saward, 148
11. Also Sprach Zarauthustra, Freidrich Nietzsche, 1883.
12. Man and Women He Created Them, A Theology of the Body,
    Pope Blessed John Paul II, Translated by Michael Waldstein, 2006. p. 96    
13. Ibid, p. 95
14. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Mary, The Church at the Source,1997. p. 78.
© 2014 by Cornelius Sullivan
Click on these links to see more of Sullivan's work:

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Stem cells are stem cells, not embryos

Are totipotent cells really embryos?

Major developments in stem cell science tend to revive scruples about whether the new pluripotent cell is or could become an embryo. This happened with embryonic stem cells, with Yamanaka’s induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, and now with stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP) cells. Unhappily, a cloud hangs over STAP cells because it appears that the original paper in Nature was peppered with mistakes. But the question remains: if scientists create cells which can develop into any cell in the body (and into the placenta as well), are they not what we would otherwise call embryos?

Maureen Condic, of the University of Utah, a redoubtable opponent of human embryonic stem cell research, debunks this idea in the journal Stem Cells and Development: stem cells, she insists, are not embryos.

The problem begins with terminology, she says. The National Institutes of Health defines “totipotent” in two different ways: “capable of developing into a complete organism” or “differentiating into any of its cells or tissues”. The first kind of totipotency is an embryo; the second is a stem cell.
The difference between these two definitions is not trivial. Producing a mature organism requires the ability to both generate all the cells of the body and to organize them in a specific temporal and spatial sequence, that is, to undergo a coordinated process of development. Totipotency in this strict sense is demonstrated by the ability of an isolated cell to produce a fertile, adult individual. Consequently, a cell that is totipotent is also a one-cell embryo; that is, a cell that is capable of generating a globally coordinated developmental sequence.
Only the fate of an organism which is capable of developing into an adult is ethically controversial.
Rather, ethical consideration is given to human embryos based on the status they already possess; that is, their unique and fully operative ability to function as a human organism. Therefore, ethical controversy regarding totipotent human cells only concerns cells that are totipotent in the strict, organismal sense; that is, a cell that is a human embryo.
Condic suggests that the term “totipotent” should be confined to organisms, ie, embryos. She coins the term “plenipotent” for cells which are capable of developing into all cells in the body.

What accounts for the difference? Condic explains that research shows that factors in the cytoplasm of the egg are necesssary for the existence of true totipotency. “At this time, the only known totipotent cytoplasm is produced by an oocyte and contributed to the embryo at fertilization. The fact that oocytes produce the cytoplasmic factors that are required for an embryo to be totipotent is the reason oocytes are used for cloning.” Without these factors, a “plenipotent” cell can never become an embryo.

Language matters. If people do not grasp the difference, they can create artificial controversies “over areas of research that are ethically unproblematic”, Condic writes.

Note: the article in Stem Cells and Development is behind a pay wall. Dr Condic has summarised her paper in Public Discourse, which is readily available.

This article is published by Michael Cook and BioEdge.org under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact Bioedge for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The silent war on religious liberty - Bobby Jindal

The Governor of Louisiana sails into American elites trying to circumscribe religious freedom
Bobby Jindal | 21 February 2014

In a recent speech delivered at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library Louisiana, Governor Bobby Jindal made the case for defending religious liberty. He sailed into the “group of like-minded elites”, including the Obama administration, “determined to transform the country from a land sustained by faith — into a land where faith is silenced, privatized, and circumscribed.”
The following excerpts re taken from his prepared notes.
* * * * * *
Tonight I want to give a speech I’ve never given before, about an issue lurking just beneath the surface – that issue is The Silent War on Religious Liberty. I can think of no better place to give this speech than the Ronald Reagan Foundation and Library. President Reagan himself said that, “Freedom is not the sole prerogative of a chosen few, but the universal right of all God’s children.”

When he said this, he was not expressing a strictly personal belief in the nature of man as a created being — as a child of God. He was reaffirming the most basic contention of the American Founding, set forth in the Declaration of Independence, that we are a nation constituted in accordance with the “Laws of Nature and of Nature's God,” and that we are a people “endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”

The religious foundations of America

Let me make this explicit: the source and justification for the very existence of the United States of America is and always has been contingent upon the understanding of man as a created being, with a Creator conferring his intrinsic rights — “among [them] Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

How we understand and approach that Creator is properly left to the hearts and consciences of every citizen. I am a Catholic Christian. My parents are Hindus. I am blessed to know Baptists, Jews, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and so many more in the rich tapestry of American faiths. And I know men and women who acknowledge no denomination or creed, confess to uncertainty about the Divine, yet look to the richness of nature and the majesty of this world — and wonder, and inwardly seek, the Author of it all.

These days we think this diversity of belief is tolerated under our law and Constitution. But that’s wrong. This diversity of belief is the foundation of our law and Constitution. America does not sustain and create faith. Faith created and sustains America. President John Adams, in 1798, wrote to Massachusetts militiamen to remind them that “… Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

In 1798, this was simple common sense. In 2014, we are forced to confront a question that would have been unthinkable to President Adams…and President Washington, and President Reagan, and every other American throughout history who believed in America’s founding premise: What happens when our government decides it no longer needs a “moral and religious people?”

Mired in a silent war

Today the American people, whether they know it or not, are mired in a silent war. It threatens the fabric of our communities, the health of our public square, and the endurance of our constitutional governance. It is a war against the propositions in the Declaration of Independence. It is a war against the spirit that motivated abolitionism. It is a war against the faith that motivated the Civil Rights struggle.

It is a war against the soul of countless acts of charity. It is a war against the conscience that drives social change. It is a war against the heart that binds our neighborhoods together. It is a war against America’s best self, at America’s best moments. It is a war — a silent war — against religious liberty.

This war is waged in our courts and in the halls of political power. It is pursued with grim and relentless determination by a group of like-minded elites, determined to transform the country from a land sustained by faith — into a land where faith is silenced, privatized, and circumscribed. Their vision of America is not the vision of the Founding. It’s not even the vision of ten years ago. It’s a vision in which an individual’s devotion to Almighty God is accorded as much respect as a casual hobby — and with about as many rights and protections.

These elites have to this point faced little opposition – a non-profit here, a dedicated attorney there, a small business over there. A handful of principled organizations with the courage to stand up to the crushing weight of a liberal consensus unalterably opposed to their participation in the public square. They are the remnant who have the temerity to believe in America and its promises — and to do something about it.

After all, every person wants to live out his or her values. America’s most fundamental promise is that we can. When we cannot — when we are told that our faiths and our consciences are inimical to good governance and the law — then we are not simply facing a threat to our faiths and consciences. We are facing a threat to the very idea of America.
Consider three storylines playing out in the states and at the highest courts over the past several years in three different areas, yet all with overlapping effects.
First: the freedom to exercise your religion in the way you run your business, large or small, is under assault.

Hobby Lobby and the free exercise of religion

You have likely heard of the Obama administration’s case against Hobby Lobby, a mega craft store and a family business whose battle against President Obama’s contraception mandate will end up as a Supreme Court decision. The national chain filed suit after being told they would be fined $1.3 million per day if they didn’t pay for abortifacients through their insurance.

Hobby Lobby is nothing less than an all-American success story. The family owned company was launched in Oklahoma in 1970 with nothing more than a $600 loan and a workshop in a garage. Today they have 588 stores in 47 states. They have more than 13,000 full-time employees. They expanded, branching out to create a Christian supply shop to sell Bibles and craft supplies, opening another 35 stores in 7 states, with almost 400 more employees. This is entrepreneurship at its best…

Through it all, Hobby Lobby has retained the guiding principles of their devout founders. Their statement of purpose begins with a Bible verse, and they are closed every Sunday. They’ve committed to honor the Lord by being generous employers, paying well above minimum wage and increasing salaries four years in a row even in the midst of the enduring recession. The family also signed the “Giving Pledge,” committing to donate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy. This is the definition of what a faithful entrepreneur looks like.

None of this matters to the Obama administration. The argument they have advanced, successfully thus far, is that a faithful business owner cannot operate under the assumption that they can use their moral principles to guide the way their place of business spends money. According to the administration's legal arguments, the family that owns Hobby Lobby is not protected by the First Amendment's "free exercise" of religion clause.

That’s the part of the First Amendment which states that "Congress shall make no law ... prohibiting the free exercise" of religion.

The Obama administration and Attorney General Eric Holder argue that because “Hobby Lobby is a for-profit, secular employer, and a secular entity by definition does not exercise religion.” A federal judge agreed: since Hobby Lobby is a “secular” corporation, they have no right to be guided by the religious beliefs of their ownership.

Keep in mind that the Greens weren’t arguing that so-called morning-after pills should be illegal, or banned, or doing anything to prevent their employees from paying the small cost of such pills. They just had a serious moral problem with paying for something they viewed as inherently against their deeply held beliefs.

The Obama administration’s argument ignores these beliefs and treats them as little more than an inconvenience to its ever-expanding regulatory state. The administration’s argument strikes at the core of our understanding of free exercise of religion. This case could have enormous ramifications for religious business owners across the country.
Hosanna Tabor and freedom of association

And that brings us to the second front in the silent war: the assault on our freedom of association as people of faith, to form organizations where we work alongside others who share our views.

This brings us to the Hosanna-Tabor case, which revolved around the ability of a Lutheran academy in Michigan to fire a teacher. Here, the Obama administration advanced another extreme argument, claiming that job regulations prevented the academy from being able to fire anyone over a difference in beliefs.

The lawyers for the Obama administration went far beyond the issues of the case to instead advance the legally absurd position that there is no general ministerial exception, arguing that religious groups don’t even have the Constitutionally protected right to select their own ministers or rabbis.

Thankfully, here, the administration’s extreme position was rebutted by the Supreme Court in decisive fashion, with a 9-0 decision opposing its perspective. You have to take a pretty extreme position for Elena Kagan to join with Samuel Alito on an opinion.

So for the time being at least, the government doesn’t get to decide who can preach the gospel. But the important thing to note is that the government wanted to make that decision. That is truly offensive and frightening.

The administration advanced that extreme argument because it is consistent with the view of many on the left, particularly elite liberal legal scholars, that the god we must worship first is government, and that our rights are doled out by Washington as they see fit.

This same argument is even now being advanced against Catholic hospitals and adoption service providers, and other organizations that have a deeply held worldview, and simply want all their members and employees to share that worldview. The onslaught of lawsuits based on anti-discrimination law will inevitably lead to conflicts, which damage our society.

Elane Photography and freedom of expression

But those cases are only the beginning – there is a bigger threat, one that brings us to the third front in the silent war: the assault on your freedom of expression in all areas of life.

Consider the many cases against bakers, photographers, caterers and other wedding consultants who have religious beliefs, which prevent them from taking part in a same-sex ceremony. The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled in August that one small business, Elane Photography, had violated the state’s Human Rights Act by declining to photograph a same sex commitment ceremony. In his opinion, the judge informed the Christian photographers being fined that they were “compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives,” because that was “the price of citizenship.”

This assault will only spread in the immediate future. We will see continued pressure brought on anyone who "refuses and refers" to be penalized for their views, denied membership in professional groups or even rejected from licenses.

The effect of redefining marriage

Many states have considered these issues in the light of the ongoing legal battle over marriage laws in the country. But that pressure is not going to stop with photographers and bakers – it’s going to be brought on churches, mosques, and synagogues, too.

Illinois shows us a preview of what this looks like. In legislation they proposed altering the definition of marriage, they would have required churches and other congregations to essentially close their doors to outsiders, stop providing services to the community, and close off their facilities to other non-profits or church groups in order to avoid being required to host same sex ceremonies.

The Illinois legislation would have required an unprecedented degree of government oversight, such as sending government representatives to survey students at Catholic schools to see how many were actually Catholic. They would not allow religious bodies to rent their facilities to non-members for use in weddings. They would drive churches to have to eliminate classes, day schools, counseling, fellowship hall meetings, soup kitchens and more.

In other words, this law and others like it would require believers to essentially choose to break with their deeply held theological beliefs, or give up their daily activity of evangelism, retreat from public life, and sacrifice their property rights. Churches that do not host same sex unions would essentially be barred from participating fully in civil society.

This is the next stage of the assault, and it is only beginning. Today, an overwhelming majority of those who belong to a religious denomination in America – that’s more than half the country – are members of organizations that affirm the traditional definition of marriage. All of those denominations will be targeted in large and small degrees in the coming years.

“Hate speech” and human rights

Will churches in America even be able to remain part of the public square in a time when their views on sin are in direct conflict with the culture, and when expressing those views will be seen as hiding hateful speech behind religious protections?

Just as in Canada, where hate speech laws force courts to discern whether quoting Bible verses amounts to violating “human rights rules,” giving up your rights of religious expression may, as the New Mexico judge put it, be just “the price of citizenship.”

This war on religious liberty – on your freedom to exercise your religion, on your freedom to associate, on your freedom of expression – is only going to continue. It is going to continue because of an idea, a wrongheaded concept, which President Obama apparently believes: that religious freedom means you have the freedom to worship, and that's all.

In this misbegotten and un-American conception of religious liberty, your rights begin and end in the pew.

[Governor Jindal next reviews protections for religious freedom being enacted by states, and calls for more of them. He also reminds his audience that Christians in some countries are actually paying with their lives for their faith.]

So here, in America, we should be grateful that the laws and principles put in place by the Founders, men like George Mason and James Madison and Patrick Henry who understood the importance of religious liberty, have endured for so long. They are the reason America has come so far, and it is those same principles that should guide us farther still – principles that understand that power is derived from the people, not the government.

Calvin Coolidge understood this, in his own time: “We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren sceptre in our grasp.”

The things of the spirit do come first. We must act, and act now, to protect them. The temptation in some corners is to ask for a truce in these fractious battles – but in practical terms, a truce would only amount to those who value religious liberty laying down their arms. Our religious freedom was won over the course of centuries of persecution and blood, and we should not surrender them without a fight.

A few final thoughts.

Public opinion

First, let me be clear on something. You may or may not agree with the Catholic Church on contraception, most Americans undoubtedly do not. You may consider yourself to be pro-life or pro-choice, Americans remain fairly divided on that issue. And you may favor protecting traditional marriage between one man and one woman or you may favor making gay marriage legal. If we did a poll on those issues in this room, we would certainly find a variety of views. None of that is relevant in the least to the points I have made in this speech.

Our religious liberty must in no way ever be linked to the ever-changing opinions of the public. To the contrary, we must understand that our freedom of conscience protects all Americans of every persuasion — however those persuasions may evolve.

Targeting Christians

Second, it is unmistakable that most of the Obama Administration’s attacks on religious liberty are aimed at conservative Christians. But the fact is that our religious liberties are designed to protect people of all faiths. And I will note, that while I am best described as an evangelical Catholic, my extended family is quite diverse when it comes to matters of faith. And our liberties in America demand equal protections for all.

Stifling public debate

Third, for those of you who follow pop culture, you may have taken note of the recent flap between The Robertson family of Duck Dynasty fame, and the A&E Network that produces and broadcasts the Duck Dynasty show. And you may have further observed that the one of the loudest and most aggressive defenders of the Robertson family was the Governor of Louisiana.

You may think that I was defending the Robertsons simply because I am the Governor of their home state, the great state of Louisiana. You would be wrong about that. I defended them because they have every right to speak their minds, however indelicately they may choose to do so. Of course, A&E is a for-profit business, and they can choose what they want to put on the air.

But there was something much larger at stake here. There was a time when liberals in this country believed in debate. But that is increasingly not the case for the modern left in America. No, the modern left in America has grown tired of debate. Their new strategy is to simply try to silence their critics. So these leftists immediately mobilized and did all they could not to debate the issues, but rather to attempt to silence the Robertsons.

There was a time when the left preached tolerance. And they are indeed tolerant, unless they disagree with you. To paraphrase William F. Buckley, a liberal is someone who welcomes dissent, and is astonished to find there is any. The modern left in America is completely intolerant of the views of people of faith. They want a completely secular society where people of faith keep their views to themselves.

A pressing matter

Fourth, though this silent war on religious liberty may not seem as urgent a matter as the fact that our national debt is over 17 trillion dollars, it is actually a very pressing matter. Remember this quote from President Reagan: “Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation.”

A truly bizarre speech

Finally, let me finish by mentioning an incredible irony. I’ve been working on this speech for a good while. And last Thursday, exactly one week ago, something truly bizarre occurred.

The person who is at the tip of the spear prosecuting this quiet war on religious liberty spoke at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. The topic he chose to speak about was defending religious liberty.

I was stunned, and I bet the President of Hobby Lobby, who was in the audience, was stunned as well. Yes, President Obama did wax eloquent, as he always does, about the horrors of religious persecution that are occurring beyond our borders. And good for him.

To be clear, churches in America are not being burned to the ground, and Christians are not being slaughtered for their faith. There is really no comparison to the persecution of people of faith inside our borders and outside.

Yet, it is stunning to hear the President talk of protecting religious liberty outside the United States, while at the very same time his Administration challenges and chips away at our religious liberty right here at home. Once again, there is a Grand Canyon sized difference between what this President says and what he does.

Here is what the President said last week, no doubt playing to his audience -- “History shows that nations that uphold the rights of their people — including the freedom of religion — are ultimately more just and more peaceful and more successful.”  Well said Mr. President, I couldn’t agree more.
So I leave you with this -- The President is very concerned about religious liberty…and also, if you like your religion you can keep your religion.

Thank you, and may God Bless these United States.

This article was published by Bobby Jindal and MercatorNet.com and is posted here under their Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation to MercatorNet. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms. - See more at: http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/the_silent_war_on_religious_liberty#sthash.tB0XC3ec.dpuf

Monday, February 17, 2014

How the Pill Changed the Marriage Market

The pill, we have argued, changed everything.  It was the technological basis, the shock, that enabled the sexual revolution, with its profoundly negative effects on children and on women, especially those of lower income.  The sexual revolution, and hence the pill, is at the heart of just about every social issue social workers and those concerned with poverty and injustice address in our society. Thus my post on marriage as a social justice issue begins thus:
Depending on how you understand the concept of social justice, you can see marriage from several angles as a social justice issue, indeed as central to the possibility of a just society.  Historically (and universally) our most child-centered institution, marriage and the marriage-based family reduce the risk of poverty, crime, mental and physical illness, poor educational outcomes, domestic or intimate partner violence, and so on.  The marriage gap between the more educated and affluent on one hand and the poor and middle class, both Black and white, on the other is widening and that is increasing inequality (DeParle, 2012Hymowitz, 2006Murray, 2012).  Amato (2005) shows the profound impact on children of changes in family structure since 1970 when the sexual revolution took off. It included the explosion of divorce, increase in non-marital births, cohabitation, and fatherless and blended families.  The revolution’s defining feature was the destigmatization and increased incidence of almost all kinds of sex inside and especially outside of marriage.
In her pathbreaking book, Mary Eberstadt spells out in detail how the pill fundamentally changed the balance of power in the relations between men and women.  Nobel-prizewinning economist George Akerlof and Janet Yellen, his wife and recently appointed chair of the Federal Reserve, pointed out that it was not the lack of marriageable black males or the perverse incentives of  welfare policy that had produced these dramatic social changes - the effects of these and other common explanations were relatively minor - but the technological shock itself:
Around 1970, the United States experienced a reproductive technology shock. The legalization of abortion and dramatic increase in the availability of contraception gave women the tools to control the number and timing of their children. Over the ensuing 25 years, however, there have been huge increases in the number of single-parent families headed by unmarried mothers. The usual economic explanations welfare benefits and the declining availability of good jobs explain only a small fraction of the change. In our view, it was the technology shock itself that, by eroding the age-old custom of shotgun marriage, paradoxically raised out-of-wedlock birth rates instead of lowering them.
The "price" men had to pay for sex, in terms of women's demanding marriage or the promise of marriage (more or less enforced by the woman's family and the culture), fell through the floor as sex became delinked from the risk of pregnancy.  The pill became widely available in the 1960s and legal abortion on demand at any stage of pregnancy soon followed in the 1970s.  Here is a new nine-minute "research animate" that explains the revolutionary changes in the economics of mating and the marriage market, and how they have worked to women's disadvantage, from the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Cruel and Unnecessary

   5:14:48 PM
The One Child Policy Revisited

We’ve talked many times on this blog about the One Child Policy in China. We’ve discussed its horrendous human costthe forced abortions; the dead babies and dead mothers; the forced sterilisations; and the drastic curtailment of the Chinese people’s liberty.  We’ve also discussed the social and economic effects - the lack of girls and women, the shrinking labour force and the ageing population.  We’ve also discussed the difficulty that China will have in reversing its low fertility rate anytime soon.  Against all of these horrendous costs, the apologists (and there have been a few in the commentators on this blog) of the policy have posited its one unquestioned boon – the curtailment of China’s runaway population explosion up to 1980.
Well, today I’m going to question that boon.  In the io9 website, I came across this article that downplays the effect that the one child policy had upon China’s birthrate.  As the author says:
“...a rising group of demographers and sociologists is disputing that [the one child policy slowed China’s population growth].  By taking a closer look at population figures before and after the policy took effect, and by doing a more careful statistical analysis, researchers have found that China’s population growth rate would have decreased in any case, and the policy was not just cruel, but unnecessary.”
Cai Yong, a sociology professor at University of North Carolina has tried to reconstruct what would have happened in China had the policy not been introduced in 1980 (a hard thing to do as a counterfactual cannot be proven).  However, by studying the fertility rates of 16 comparable countries, Cai and his co-authors found that the projections of China’s future birth rate made when the policy was put in place was unrealistic. The Chinese government predicted that China’s birth rate would slow at a much slower rate than we can see the 16 comparable countries actually achieved.
Cai noted that Chinese Amercians have a fertility rate og 1.5 children per woman, similar to China’s in 2010. Japan has been around 1.3 children per woman for the last 30 years while Taiwan’s fertility rate is about 1 child per woman. Women in these countries have of course no one child policy to coerce fewer births.
“Cai and his colleagues also did a Bayesian analysis of China’s birth rate from 1970 to 1980 and tried to project what the trend would have been from 1980 onwards, if nothing else had changed. And they found a decline similar to the one observed in other countries.  So it seems likely that China could have reached a level of 1.5 children per women [sic] by 2010 regardless – but the decline might have been less steep.”
In the decade prior to the one child policy being introduced in 1980 China’s fertility rate had halved from 5.8 to 2.8 children per women.  This was in part due to governmental programmes that encouraged fewer children, but were less brutal than the one child policy.  The government made birth control easier to access, gave study sessions and meetings and the terrible economic conditions at the time also encouraged fewer children.  However, there were forced abortions stories making their way into the western press by as early as 1973.  So prior to 1980, the policy may have been less brutal, but was still pretty terrible!
Interestingly in 1974 the Chinese denounced western calls for birth control at the UN as part of an imperialist agenda. However, after experimenting with other policies over the next few years, the Chinese government had decided by 1980 that birth control and abortions were actually the way to go.  Despite the policy’s numerous loopholes, by 2005 this had resulted in 63 percent of Chinese couples being restricted to one child only.
Furthermore, the researchers have found that attitudinal changes have come about through the three decades of the policy.  Cai published another paper in which he surveyed 30,000 women in Jiangsu Province. A third of these women were eligible to have a second child but only a third of these eligible women would consider having another child.  Further, when Cai returned to the province, only four percent of those eligible women had actually had a second child.  Mara Hvistendahl, author of “Unnatural Selection: Choosing boys over girls, and the consequences of a world full of men” says that:
“Perhaps the largest success of the policy, if you can call it that, is that it really turned China into a one-child [country].  Many people just don’t want more than one child now.”
As Cai notes, it’s much easier to reduce the fertility rate than it is to increase it.  So the growth rate of China’s population will continue to shrink and Cai expects China’s population to sink in the future.  Its labour force is shrinking and China will lose its competitive edge in that field. Men will find it harder to find wives. The population will get older and greyer. In fact, there’s plenty to suggest that we should talk about the one child policy in the same category as the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward.  That is, it’s another tragic disaster that we can lay at the feet of an overweening despotic state. Let us hope, once again, that this disaster will be brought to an end soon.
This article is published by Marcus Roberts and MercatorNet.com under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact MercatorNet for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.
- See more at: http://www.mercatornet.com/demography/view/13538#sthash.zeCTzoV5.dpuf