If You Want To Know The Future Of America Peer Into The Looking-Glass Of Europe

By William D. Howard

When Notre Dame Cathedral burned in 2019, it was symbolic of a greater European -wide collapse of religious faith which had already taken place.  That great cathedral, like most of the others in Europe, had long since passed from being a vibrant community of active worshipers, to an architectural show piece attracting millions of tourists, taking millions of photographs.

  The process which has brought about the death of Judeo-Christian culture in Europe is now being replicated in America. If America wants to know its grim future, it only has to consult the facts of present day European society. 

    From the earliest days of American history, religion played an outsized role. Even during the 1700’s when it was intellectually fashionable for some of our leaders like Thomas Jefferson to scoff at supernaturalism and prefer deism to theism, they still held tightly to the moral and spiritual truths expressed in the Holy Bible.  They could do without belief in miracles in general but not the necessary miracle of a creator God who established an unchanging moral order.  French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville, who had visited America in the 1800’s, took particular note of America’s highly religious national character as compared to European society. He knew the horrors which French society was plunged into as a result of extreme, anti-religious, sentiment. The history of the world is littered with failed revolutions that promised to remake their societies, in a better image. The American Revolution is among the few which have actually succeeded.

  The bad news is that we are now no longer on the same path. We have opted for the European model.

   The last sixty years of American history reveal that we have been on a new path. It is a path that leads away from freedom and individual responsibility. It is a path that mistakes vice for freedom and socialism for progress and because Europe began this journey before us, we can now see our future, In their present

  If we begin with a comparison of religious practice, the surveys of American society show a number between 37% and 22% for Americans who attend weekly services.

    The average of these numbers which is below 30% is the lowest in modern American history but if you are a person of faith in Europe, you would be celebrating this as the sign of a “Great Religious “revival. The average church attendance for the countries of Northern Europe is 4%. There are only three countries in Europe where more than 10% of young people attend religious services on a weekly basis.

What must be understood are the characteristics of this new post-Judeo-Christian Europe?  What does the sociological data tell us is happening there?  Sociologists, psychologists and historians, all agree on one point, the family unit is the basis of all societies. The present European family is in a state of crisis. As much as we lament America’s high divorce rate of 53%, Europe’s is higher, in some countries reaching 60% but worse than the high divorce rates are the high out of wedlock birth rates and the huge increase in single parent families. The, “Max Planck Society” published the following in 2016,

“The significance of marriage slowly started to decline as early as 1970, a process linked to the advance of secularization in many countries… By 1990, the share of unmarried births had already increased fourfold… In many parts of Northern and Western Europe, there are already more births out of wedlock than births within marriage.”

  Needless to say the same process is taking place in America .The difference is America’s religious attendance was much higher than Europe’s when the process started. We are moving in the same direction as Europe but at a slower pace.

  The fact that European societies are still relatively prosperous  and orderly in spite of these demographic changes is only a testament to what historian Will Durant called , “… living in the after- glow of one’s faith”. No society will collapse immediately, but already these changes are showing themselves in a variety of dark statistics.

  The crisis in the European family is rapidly becoming a mental health crisis.   

  The most recent large scale study of Europe, covering 514 million people found that mental illness had increased to 38%.

  Based upon World Health Organization statistics, Europeans commit more suicide than the people of any other region of the world.  Russia has the highest rate, followed by other Eastern European nations all of which were until recent years ruled by Communist governments which viewed religion as taboo. Following these Eastern European nations the most secular parts of Western and Northern Europe have the next highest rates of suicide. The more traditional and culturally conservative parts of Europe have the lowest rates of suicide.   Lagging behind Europe, America is making great strides to catch-up. The CDC reported in 2018 that America now has the highest rate of suicide in 50 years.   

  In Europe this is not just a problem of highly depressed people wanting to end their lives. There is a concerted effort on the part of medical professionals to assist others in doing so. Belgium now carries the label of the, “world’s euthanasia capital” and even allows suicide by lethal injection for children.  

Following the same guiding principle of utility, Europe is now number four on the list of continents which carry-out the most abortions. The fact that the primary victim of an abortion is an unborn child without a voice makes the problem easier to ignore. Much harder to ignore is the explosion in Human Trafficking taking place in Europe.

  The Department of Homeland Security has described the problem of Human Trafficking, as a “… modern day form of slavery… among the world’s fastest growing criminal industries.” BusinessLine, reported in 2019 that, “… children now account for 30 per cent of those being trafficked… Trafficking for sexual exploitation is the most prevalent form in European countries…”

  Three of the top ten areas for sex tourism are located in Europe and all the others are located in poor less developed regions of the world. In America the same thing is happening. Feminists, pro-homosexual rights advocates, cultural celebrities, are using terms like, “Pan sexual”, “gender fluidity” and “One Love” to begin the major re-education of American society.  Harvard professor Sarah Richardson a supporter of this task has described the necessary change in this way,

  “Young people will lead us in directions that we have never imagined… more and more young people are transcending gender norms… a more sophisticated view of gender seems to be everywhere we look…. Is expanding our ideas of identify and love.”

  Well the Europeans have both imagined and are realizing this “Brave New World” and the “New Morality” looks a lot like the “Old Immorality”. The imagined utopian welfare state of Europe is now being realized for what it is, a dystopian society where the soul of mankind dies and selfish appetites reign. In America we are faithfully re-tracing the European steps which include: The death of faith, the death of the family, and the de-humanization of mankind.

William D. Howard is a freelance writer who has been published in both secular and religious formats. He had a long career as an educator and has traveled in over 40 countries.


VIDEO Why the State Won’t Tolerate Independence for Christianity – Has Science Buried God?

By Zachary Yost March 11, 2021

On February 25, the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, a bill that is touted as a step forward for civil rights in the United States. If enacted, the bill would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the federally protected classes that cannot be discriminated against and would expand where such protections are applied. While expanding such protections is not necessarily widely opposed (Mormon Republican Chris Stewart has introduced the Fairness for All Act as an alternative bill), the act explicitly says that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 cannot be invoked, and this has generated tremendous concern that both private businesses and religious institutions will be forced to toe the current cultural line regarding sexual and gender ideology, or else face discrimination suits and be sued into oblivion.

Organizations such as the Heritage Foundation and Christianity Today have argued against the bill on the basis of its effects on religious institutions, private schools, the legal rights of parents, and women’s athletics. While a discussion of such effects is important, the conversation has largely been missing the broader context of where this legislation and the numerous other proposals like it emerge from.

In his important essay “The Balance of Power in Society” sociologist Frank Tannenbaum argues that “society is possessed by a series of irreducible institutions, perennial through time, that in effect both describe man and define the basic role he plays.” These perennial institutions are the state, the church, the family, and the market. These institutions have eternally striven against each other to gain dominance and become what sociologist Robert Nisbet would call the primary reference group for its members, meaning the primary way in which they understand themselves and shape their beliefs and actions. At various times we can see one group coming to dominate the others, such as when the “trustee” form of family dominated social life in clan-based societies, or when the Roman Catholic Church exhibited tremendous power over the political affairs of Europe. Currently, we live in an epoch where the state has come to dominate social life to an extent never previously seen in human history.

It is useful to analyze the Equality Act from this perspective to truly understand its full implications. State hostility towards religion and the religious institutions through which religion is exercised is not driven solely, or in some cases even primarily, by the current secular zeitgeist. Rather, religion and religious institutions represent a major obstacle to the exercise of state control and the centralization of social power. In the Western context, orthodox Christianity especially poses a threat to this agenda due to its adherents’ membership in a kingdom “not of this world.” It is difficult for the immanent state to compete to be the primary reference for people who, by virtue of their religion, are members of a transcendent order.

However, it cannot be denied that the state has been very successful in undermining and sapping the power of religious institutions through two different means. The first is by expropriating those mundane areas of social responsibility and function that have traditionally been the purview of the church, such as charity and education. While churches are still involved in such things, the state has supplanted them as the primary social institution that provides them.

As Nisbet argues in his book The Quest for Community, a social group cannot survive for long if its chief functional purpose is lost, and unless new institutional functions are adapted, the group’s “psychological influence will be minimal.” No doubt the state has succeeded in centralizing so much power due to its success in poaching the historical functions of the church and family.

I noted above that in the Western context the emphasis of orthodox Christianity on transcendental concerns has proven to be a stumbling block to the state when it comes to becoming citizens’ primary reference group. However, the state has also attempted to muscle into that territory as well. Earlier I classified the state and the church as being two different institutions with separate functions. While this is often true, especially in the West due to the Augustinian formulation of the City of God and the Earthly City, in various times in history the functions have been unified.

In his work The Political Religions, political theorist Eric Voegelin explored this idea and traced its earliest sophisticated formulation back to Amenhotep IV/Akhenaton, a fourteenth-century BC pharaoh who temporarily upended Egyptian civilization by abolishing the old deities and introducing the monotheistic worship of the sun god Aton. By abolishing the old gods (references to traditional deities were eradicated and Amenhotep changed his name so that it no longer referenced the old god Amon), the newly named Akhenaton also abolished the old priesthood as well. What was new and innovative about Aton was that he was not just a limited god of Egypt, but in fact the god of the universe, who speaks and acts through his son, the Pharaoh. By obliterating the old gods such as Osiris, Voegelin argued that Akhenaton abolished those aspects of the Egyptian religion that were of the utmost importance to individuals, such as judgment and life after death, and replaced them only with a collective political religion of empire. This inability to fulfill the spiritual needs of the people, combined with the reaction of the defrocked priestly caste, led to backlash and restoration of the old order after the death of Akhenaton, when it was his turn to be obliterated from history.

Voegelin traces this idea of political religion through the ages and argues that Christianity, through the work of Augustine, seriously upended “the cosmos of the divinely analogous state” by subordinating the political-temporal sphere to the spiritual one. For hundreds of years this understanding dominated medieval Europe, but with the advent of the Enlightenment began to crack apart under a succession of philosophers, most notably Thomas Hobbes with his conception of the Leviathan state. However, Voegelin notes that over time, as the world has secularized, the political religions have closed themselves off to claims of being the conduit for God’s action on earth and instead have come to embody immanent forces such as “the order of history” or “the order of blood.” Metaphysics and religion have been banished in favor of a vocabulary of “science” that is “inner-worldly” and therefore closed off to what Voegelin would call the ground of being through which humans experience transcendent reality.

In the United States, our political religion takes the form of progressivism, which itself is the product of Protestant clergy who abandoned orthodoxy in the nineteenth century in favor of an immanent ideology in which the US would serve as the instrument to build God’s kingdom on earth. In his essay “The Progressive Era and the Family,” Murray Rothbard traces this movement to the rise of what he terms “evangelical pietism” and the way in which it altered traditional doctrine to require that man work for his own salvation by working for the salvation of the rest of the world through its immanent reformation.

The song “Battle Hymn of the Republic” was one product of this way of thinking and, in the words of one Voegelin scholar, its author “transforms Christ’s redemptive mission—which is not of this world—into the world immanent social activism of the Anti‑Slavery movement.” Rather than waiting for Christ to return, when he shall establish a new heaven and a new earth, the progressive creed held that it is the job of every true Christian to redeem the fallen world and to build God’s kingdom on earth right now. The Civil War was understood as one such redemptive episode (complete with a martyr in the form of Abe Lincoln), as was the First World War. In his book The War for Righteousness, historian Richard M. Gamble documents the way in which Progressive Protestant clergy led the charge to bring the US into the war with hopes of redeeming the world. Like Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson was perceived as a tragic martyr for the cause and was viewed with clearly religious veneration.

While the American political religion began by attempting to build the kingdom of God on earth, it has, in Voegelin’s term, ended up as an “inner-worldly” religion that does not even attempt to maintain a connection to the transcendent order of reality, and instead justifies itself as being the conduit through which the inexorable march of “progress” flows forth. Democracy and equality, not the return of Christ, are the new end of history.

The end result is that the state seeks to not only supplant religious institutions by usurping their mundane functions but by usurping their spiritual functions as well. Like the priests of Akhenaton’s day, American religious institutions, especially orthodox Christian ones, are both a competing pole of social power and the manifestation of a rival religion that must be subdued if the “State-God,” in the words of J.R.R. Tolkien, is to prevail.

In this context, with legislation like the Equality Act the state is not only seeking to further erode the social power of religious institutions by making religious education or adoption more difficult, but it is also advancing a rival religious doctrine at the same time by foisting progressive sexual and gender ideology on society.

It is likely that the Equality Act will not manage to pass the Senate in its current form, but the reality of the situation is that as long as the progressive political religion remains a potent force in American life, independent repositories of social power such as the family and the church will continually be under sustained attack. We can only hope that one day progressivism will meet the same fate that Aton did after the passing of Akhenaton, but until then, those who do not adhere to the cult of the “State-god” can only resist its impositions as best we can.

Author: Zachary Yost

Zachary Yost is a freelance writer and Mises U alum. You can subscribe to his newsletter here.

https://mises.org/wire/why-state-wont-tolerate-independence-christianity


John Lennox: Has Science Buried God?


There’s no such thing as ‘safe sex’ for kids

By John Stonestreet and Maria Baer

n 1984, only 14 percent of Americans wore seat belts. Anyone else remember bouncing unrestrained around the back of the family station wagon like I did? Three years later, after seat belt laws were enacted in 30 states, that percentage tripled to 42 percent. Last year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 90 percent of Americans faithfully buckled up while on the roads.

We often say politics is downstream from culture. That’s mostly true. While laws tend to reflect ideas and trends already embedded in the larger culture, especially in the arts, education, and business, the state still has significant power to influence behavior and the larger culture as well.

In the case of the seatbelt, the state wielded its power for good. However, the same power can be used to normalize beliefs or behavior that are not good. That risk is greater in cultures already sliding down the slippery moral slope.

For example, Vermont recently became the first state to mandate that every public middle and high school make free condoms available to students. The bill’s sponsor, a Republican state lawmaker, believes that this new law will reduce teenage pregnancies, and therefore abortions. Strangely enough, the sponsor does not seem to think the law will normalize and increase sexual behavior among teenagers.

Why the assumption that the law only incentivizes desirable outcomes but not undesirable ones?

According to most contemporary studies, sexual activity among teens is way down. Though these studies typically fail to include porn addiction as sexual activity, we can all agree that fewer teens experimenting sexually is a good thing. At the same time, these studies show that adults often misunderstand the culture and incentives affecting teenage sexual behavior.

For example, a 2017 Harvard study found that the scale of the so-called “hook-up” culture among teens was “overestimated.” In other words, all the movies, TV programming and news coverage portraying American high school kids as highly sexually active are wrong. In fact, these Harvard researchers found that the way “hook-up” culture is so often portrayed actually propagates it, putting more pressure on teenagers to have sex. 

Similarly flawed thinking is behind Vermont’s new legislation. Lawmakers and educators, by assuming teens are sexually active and suggesting in public policy that we should all resign ourselves to helping them do it “safely,” only add pressure and incentives to the already-fragile equation of media, hormones, and opportunity.

I find it a bit strange–and ironic–that lawmakers and other cultural elites who are so quick to claim power simply throw up their hands and claim to be powerless when it comes to sexual activity among young people. “Well, the kids are going to do it anyway,” they say. “We might as well enable it.”

What if lawmakers back in 1984 said, “Well, looks like no one’s wearing their seat belts. We might as well accept that risky behavior and increase the speed limit while we’re at it”? That would have been absurd. So, why is that the approach so many adults take when it comes to sex?

That’s not a rhetorical question. A culture that already views sex as the core feature of our identity finds the suggestion that we teach kids not to have it unthinkable. A culture that views sex as the pinnacle of human existence will consider any parameters on sexual behaviors to be emotionally, spiritually and physically dangerous. In other words, what has changed is not merely our moral standards, but our entire view of the universe and the human person.

Every available metric of social and mental health suggest that today’s kids are more depressed, more anxious, and feel more lonely and isolated than any generation before them. The last thing young people need is adults telling them that “no-strings-attached” sex is a good idea. Or even possible. We have the data.

Teens who engage in sexual activity are more likely to be depressed than other teens. They’re more likely to attempt suicide. Two-thirds of kids who reported having sex in high school told researchers in a 2000 study that they regretted it. Kids who abstain from sex are also more likely to go to college. Free condoms for kids will only lead to more loneliness, more isolation, and more pain.

At each and every stage of the sexual revolution, the promise has been that “the kids will be fine.” They aren’t. “Safe sex” for children is a misnomer. Neither schools nor governments should incentivize behavior we know will harm students, but that’s exactly what Vermont is doing. We should do all we can to ensure other states don’t follow suit.

Originally posted at breakpoint.org

From BreakPoint. Reprinted with the permission of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. “BreakPoint®” and “The Colson Center for Christian Worldview®” are registered trademarks of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

John Stonestreet is the President of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and co-host with Eric Metaxas of Breakpoint, the Christian worldview radio program founded by the late Chuck Colson. He is co-author of A Practical Guide to CultureA Student’s Guide to Culture and Restoring All Things

https://www.christianpost.com/voices/theres-no-such-thing-as-safe-sex-for-kids.html

These Out-Of-Print Children’s Biographies Repudiate The Bitter Lies Of Today’s Uneducated Anti-Americans

Forty years ago, as my children’s book collection proves, grade-school history pedagogy offered a diverse and inclusive narrative about our national past.

These Out-Of-Print Children’s Biographies Repudiate The Bitter Lies Of Today’s Uneducated Anti-Americans

By Casey Chalk

This month marks 143 years since Chief Joseph, leader of the Pacific Northwest Indian tribe the Nez Percé, surrendered to a U.S. Army detachment in northern Montana. There the warrior famously declared, “From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.”

Others, however, are still eager to keep up the fight in the name of indigenous people. Demonstrators affiliated with the Miwok Tribe in San Rafael, California, on Oct. 13 vandalized and tore down yet another statue of Franciscan missionary Junipero Serra. Other ersatz torch-bearers of the cause include those municipalities, such as Baltimore and the District of Columbia, that have recently changed Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

The first place I read of Chief Joseph’s famous speech was in a children’s biography of him, published more than 40 years ago by Troll Associates. It was one of many titles Troll released in the 1970s and 1980s honoring Native Americans such as Black Hawk, Osceola, Pocahontas, Pontiac, Sacagawea, Squanto, and Sitting Bull. I was fascinated by all things American Indian. These titles were part of my childhood library as an elementary student in the early 1990s. I still own them and have read them to my own grade-school children.

Troll’s canon of American biographies for kids extended far beyond Native American heroes. There were biographies honoring the best of baseball, such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Jackie Robinson. Other books memorialized our nation’s first leaders: George Washington, John Adams, John Paul Jones, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe. Still, others paid tribute to later great Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Clara Barton, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks, and even actress and singer Pearl Bailey. No one could accuse Troll of not being inclusive of women or minorities.

Many Older Books Don’t Whitewash the Past

Also among Troll’s biographies of historical American figures was one of Christopher Columbus. “Of all the explorers in history, none made a greater contribution to the world than Christopher Columbus. He was more than an extraordinary navigator and sailor. Columbus was a man of vision and determination,” reads the introduction by author Rae Bains.

Bains also notes many of those who followed Columbus in colonizing the New World for Spain were greedy and “became angry and disillusioned.” And Columbus ultimately fell out of favor at the Spanish royal court and “died a deeply disappointed man.” The author might not indulge the reader in the brutal details of Spanish colonization, but this portrayal is far from saccharine.

Bains’s biography of Columbus certainly doesn’t employ the absurd and erroneous assertions we find in contemporary portrayals of the explorer. “Native Hawaiian advocate” Lopaka Purdy in a recent Washington Post article claims, “Columbus should be considered the progenitor of white supremacy. Let us remember him for that. … Columbus is famous because he was a thief. That was his impact.”

Purdy should also consider Columbus’s purposes and contributions. As for the anachronistic charge that Columbus is the “progenitor of white supremacy,” one might as well charge Alexander the Great with inventing imperialism or Genghis Khan with toxic masculinity.

The difference between Troll’s and today’s portrayals of American history is that the former actually tried to tell a coherent, inclusive narrative about our nation, one that sought to find unifying themes among a diverse and disparate set of characters. Native American heroes such as Osceola and Sitting Bull are rightly lauded for their love of their people and their homes, and for courageously resisting what was often unjust, unsympathetic, and racist attacks on their way of life.

We celebrate Washington and Jefferson because they made unparalleled contributions to American politics and history. We honor Thurgood Marshall and Rosa Parks because they represent our nation’s continued struggle to right past wrongs and fully realize the unprecedented vision of our founding political documents.

Sympathy unites all of these children’s biographies. The biography of Robert E. Lee, also by Bains, largely focuses on his childhood, which was marked by great familial upheaval. His father, Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, despite being a Revolutionary War hero and a Virginia politician, was incompetent and negligent, spent time in debtors’ prison, and for a time lived in the West Indies. He died on the return journey to Virginia when Robert was 11. “Robert had a difficult childhood,” observed Bains, who devoted far more attention to Lee’s resilience and virtue at West Point and in the U.S. military than his role as the Confederacy’s greatest general.

Kids Need to Learn the Complexities of History

Eliciting empathy in the child reader is an essential educational objective because it is required for both civic and family responsibility. As this year proves, our political climate is in sore need of more of it. Learning of the struggles, failures, hopes, and achievements of historical Americans engenders that virtue. Limiting Columbus and Lee or Washington and Jefferson to a simplistic, binary narrative of white, patriarchal oppression not only doesn’t do their stories justice, but it also short-circuits the maturation process via reductionist tropes.

Telling kids that their history is full of racist patriarchs fosters cynicism and a Manichean, self-destructive understanding of the past in which some people, namely oppressors, are evil and to be censured; others, namely the oppressed, are good and to be praised. It is this kind of blinkered, perverse thinking that provokes the continued desecration and destruction of our national heritage. Unable to see ourselves in our collective past, we tear it down with impunity.

What Troll sought to accomplish with its American biography series was far more inclusive than what today’s social studies curricula seek to sell children. The publisher, which filed for bankruptcy in 2003, believed there was enough room in the telling of American history for both Christopher Columbus and Pontiac, Robert E. Lee, and Rosa Parks. Certainly, all four possessed manifestations of courage, leadership, brilliance, and conscience. That their stories represented different and even conflicting visions of America reveals the complex, sometimes morally nebulous nature of our national narrative, rather than obscures it, as do the 1619 Project and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Teaching Hard History.”

Forty years ago, as my children’s book collection proves, grade-school history pedagogy offered a diverse and inclusive narrative about our national past. It integrated biographies of men and women from a remarkable variety of backgrounds, be they rich or poor, black, white, or indigenous.

As I became older, I sensed the tension between their stories. James Monroe was a brave soldier and great statesman, but his hostile, expansionist policies ultimately incited a bloody, desperate revolt by Osceola to protect his people. That we are capable of deeming both men worthy of America’s honor evinces what is best about our national history, not what is worst.

Casey Chalk is a Senior Contributor at The Federalist, columnist for The American Conservative, Crisis Magazine, and The New Oxford Review. He has a bachelors in history and masters in teaching from the University of Virginia, and masters in theology from Christendom College.Photo Internet Archive Book Images/Flickr

https://thefederalist.com/2020/10/22/these-out-of-print-childrens-biographies-repudiate-the-bitter-lies-of-todays-uneducated-anti-americans/

Jeffrey Epstein and Some Food for Thought…

by  insanitybytes22

 

The title of this article is a bit of clickbait, but I really thought it was well done. Excellent, even. Peter Leithart presents us with an essay by Rev. Ralph Smith called, “What Jeffrey Epstein Got right.”

Don’t be scared off by that title, he’s not endorsing Jeffrey Epstein’s behavior nor advocating in favor of child sex trafficking.

We’re very complacent here in the West in modern times, complacent and conditioned to accept cultural mores that are the Christian norm, “just how things are,” to the point where they’ve almost become invisible to us. Unbeknown to many of us, our ingrained moral standard is actually a  Christian standard. Most of us are shocked and horrified by the idea of small kids being forced to work in factories all day. In brothels. On the streets.We don’t even realize that the very notion of even having “a childhood” is really a Christian ideal, a value, a worldview.

It’s not enough for us as a culture to chase down the Epstein’s of the world, or to wage an angry #Metoo social justice movement, or to “drain the swamp” or to expose Pizzagate. The missing piece of the puzzle, the foundational change that needs to happen in our hearts is to ask ourselves one question, by Whose standard are these things wrong and why??

Why is it not okay to dress young boys in drag and have them perform in nightclubs? Why is teaching gender fluidity in kindergarten wrong? Why do we have age of consent laws? By Whose standard are these things wrong and why?

Why do we value the innocence of children and strive to protect them? Why do we value monogamous marriage between one man and one woman? By Whose standard and why??

Rev Smith’s closing paragraphs nailed a couple of vital truths that I think people really need to examine, “We’ve jettisoned this heritage. Now everything goes. And in that setting, Epstein isn’t an aberration. He’s a symptom…….Either we embrace Christian standards, or we create a world of Epsteins, a world where Jeffrey Epstein looks a little less monstrous – because we’ll all have become monsters.”

 

Dancing with Devils

By Timothy Buchanan – May 31, 2019

Baseless criticisms foisted upon the Church are cyclic. They repeatedly appear, are confronted and debunked by one generation, only to reappear in a future generation. Some of these, like the wholesale condemnation of the Crusades, recur primarily as the result of historical ignorance by Christ-hating heretics and skeptics. Others, like the lie that “religion is responsible for more wars than any other cause,” are kept alive in part, by professors of the Christian faith who attempt to appease corrupt hearts and minds.

In our age of anti-truth, facts are ineffective in contending with the lies parroted by those whose view of reality is merely subjective. Nothing short of a personal encounter with the Divine will affect them. It’s a frightening situation that portends escalating violence and unfathomable wickedness for all involved.

Human history is replete with demonstrable proof that when man becomes the arbiter of morality, unspeakable carnage and suffering are the certain outcome. The hundreds of millions of murders and torturous deaths perpetrated by communist and socialist regimes in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America profoundly illustrate the consequence of human arrogance.

Statisticians can debate the body counts racked up by monstrous butchers: Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Idi Amin and American abortionists, but the numbers are so enormous that any comparison between them and the thousands of tragic deaths caused by the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Salem Witch trials, are silly and absurd. The God-rejecting man is supremely dangerous and miserable.

Now, the resurgent charge that “the Church is full of hypocrites” is being revived. Short-sighted pastors and teachers frequently attempt to befriend the lawless through self-flagellation. It always fails terribly. One of the best responses to the ludicrous accusation of hypocrisy in the Church, comes from Dr. Michael Youssef, who simply says, “Yes, and we have room for one more.”

The fact is that hypocrisy is most rampant—not in the Church but in our godless evil culture. After all, one who sets a high goal for himself or herself and occasionally fails to reach it, is no hypocrite. He is a hypocrite who claims to be sufficiently noble to judge the righteous, while rejecting defined moral principles. She is a hypocrite who aborts her child, and then screams about human rights. They are hypocrites who celebrate every form of sexual degradation while professing to care about children’s futures.

No righteous authority can exist apart from the absolute and unchanging standard of morality supplied by the Creator. As respect for the standard declines, the godless will always supplant timeless moral law with a personal subjective counterfeit that appeals to his or her capricious feelings.

The human eye cannot detect darkness unless there be a contrasting light. In like manner, people who keep large numbers of dogs are oblivious to barking noise and those who live with many cats disregard the odor of litter boxes. But their visitors are repulsed. Thus, worldlings cannot see their own hypocrisy because they have become accustomed to the moral sewer in which they dwell.

The truth is that the unbelieving secular culture is infinitely wicked and hypocritical. The Christian Church has civilized a barbaric world without resorting to the tyranny often employed in other cultures. Christian values provided the freedoms that Americans enjoy, abuse, and routinely take for granted.

Pastors and teachers who forfeit moral ground for the sake of a friendship, or, in a misguided effort to demonstrate love for the lost, are dancing with devils. And the dance always ends the same way, in stumbling confusion, loss, and a little bit of death.

Are sins, unfaithfulness, and heresies commonplace in churches today? Of course they are. But churches are purified by straining out the polluting influences of sin, by regular washing with truth, and by the disinfecting power of God’s Holy Spirit. These are tasks that many, it seems, would prefer to avoid.

It would be unthinkable to close a hospital simply because a few patients could not be saved. How much more absurd to condemn the Church—which holds the keys to eternal life—in order to garner the acclaim of the dead and dying? Perhaps it’s worth considering whether denying the Bride of Christ is not tantamount to denying Christ Himself.

 

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Why Character Is Making a Comeback

Character formation isn’t just an individual process, says Anne Snyder. It requires institutions.
INTERVIEW BY KATELYN BEATY| MAY 21, 2019

Why Character Is Making a Comeback

In a media landscape awash in flame wars and polarizing punditry, it’s a bit surprising that the topic of character formation is making a comeback. “Building character” is the stuff of childhood chores and onerous school projects, completed out of duty and little delight. Yet according to new research presented in the book The Fabric of Character, published by the DC-based Philanthropy Roundtable, character formation is a top concern among today’s leaders and charitable givers across the ideological spectrum. According to researcher Anne Snyder, anyone paying attention to social trends in the West recognizes that “the conditions under which good character is forged are in trouble—weakened as much by the decline of traditional institutions as by a culture that promotes ‘I’ before ‘we,’ pleasure before purpose, self-expression before submission to a source of moral wisdom beyond oneself.”

In the book, Snyder highlights several institutions—including schools, neighborhood renewal projects, and the Boy Scouts—as case studies of how organizations strengthen the moral fiber of their members. Snyder, the newly named editor-in-chief of Comment magazine, recently spoke with CT about why faith-based institutions are particularly good at teaching character.

When I hear the word “character,” I think of the dad in the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip who is always making Calvin shovel snow because it builds character. It’s not a sexy topic. Yet as you note, there seems to be a resurgence of interest in it. Why?

I started this particular project for the Philanthropy Roundtable in early 2016. I used to joke that Donald Trump and the Democrats  are a huge gift to my work because suddenly a lot of people who I never would have anticipated being interested in character, regardless of where they fell politically—even if they voted for them—began to say, “Actually, we really do care about it in our leaders.” When I began figuring out how to build a bridge between philanthropists and practice, a lot of people wanted to talk to me because they had a lot of worries about what was going on at the top of national leadership.

More broadly, as people look at social trends—everything from rising mental illness to widening and debilitating anxiety, particularly among young people, to what I would call hyper-emphasis on achievement alone as the only way to define what the good life is—a variety of those social trends have raised alarm bells about how we’re raising our kids and telling them what to value. Whether people would say there’s a moral vacuum, there’s definitely been a realization that we haven’t attended to the whole person. As a society, we’ve somehow not attended to the deeper, often invisible moral fiber of life.

Why did you focus your research on institutions that create the cultures necessary for character formation and not on individual character?

The donor community that I try to serve and cast a vision for, frankly, a lot of them are older, male, and white, ages 70 and above, and they lament the decline of the Boy Scouts years. Early on, when people heard that I was studying character, most of the donors said, “We want to fix the Boy Scouts and make it relevant again.” They were referring to these big, national institutions formed during the Progressive Era 100 years ago. We used to have a bevy of nationally scaled civic institutions that brought people together, that formed our young people in such a way that we had a shared American moral norm. Where have those institutions gone? And with the decline of religious institutions and trust in religious institutions, what are the fresh institutions to take their place that can serve in a more pluralistic era? That’s why what I ended up doing was so much more institutional and sociological than just looking at how an individual becomes more honest.

Character is such a surprise minefield in terms of how people want to define it. The tribalism of our age seems to strike this topic more than I was expecting. I didn’t think it would be politicized. I’m sensitive to the baggage that even the word character has—of cultural imperialism of a certain kind. People on the right think I’m being crazy when I say that, but people on the left kind of roll their eyes at the notion of “reviving the character-building institutions of yesteryear,” because they see that as a euphemism for middle-class values that are not taking a lot of other things into account.

Character is a word like truth or goodness; we all think we know what it means, but we probably have very different working definitions. How do you define characteras it applies to your research of various institutions?

So true! Part of the minefield of this work was realizing that different folks wanted to emphasize different aspects of character. My goal was to diffuse some of the alleged disagreements by emphasizing the practices of a character-filled life, and the often-invisible cultural and institutional forces that shape those practices. Here’s the definition I offer in the book:

Character is a set of dispositions to be and do good, engraved on a person in multiple ways: by strong family attachments that teach what to love and how to love well; by regular habits that ingrain small acts of self-control; by teachers and role models who personify excellence and inspire emulation; by religious instruction on honest, courageous, and compassionate living; through institutions that establish standards for good conduct and mentors who inculcate concrete ways to execute it; by the reading of great literature; through experiences of struggle, positions of responsibility, and the blessings and demands of enduring commitments.

In Case Study 2, you profile the Other Side Academy, which takes ex-convicts through a rigorous residency and moral boot camp of sorts to prepare them for re-entry. Their approach is strict and no-nonsense. Is there a way in which character development in general sounds a bit like “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps”? What is the role of grace in character formation?

The Other Side Academy was originally founded in Salt Lake City, so there is some Mormon influence in the underlying teleology. That played a role in how they designed accountability and even the initial interview, as they described it to me, when people apply and come in off the street or out of jail. I was a little shocked at how eviscerating those interviews are. It’s a test of, are you willing to hear some of the hardest, ugliest things about the way you’ve lived your life thus far? It’s really bracing. But I saw one of the graduating ceremonies, and the entire secular “sermon” given to the current students and the graduates was on grace. Grace was described as an active chiseling process that comes to us in the form of a friend who will be there for us no matter what but who will confront us when they see us making a moral infraction.

These ex-convicts are there to change who they are on the inside and completely shift their identity. And to do that, they have to face the worst things they’ve done to others. Grace in their view is very real, but there’s often pain involved.

If we’re going to give it a Christian corollary, it’s like the discipline of the Father toward those he loves. That’s the spirit behind it: Pain is purifying. I don’t think this could thrive in small group church situation [laughs], but I’ve never been so morally humbled in my life by these ex-offenders. I want some of these people leading companies now.

In all the examples in the book of healthy institutions, one doesn’t have to dig far to find a faith-based orientation, or at least an openness to faith. Do people of faith traditions, whether Christianity, Judaism, or Mormonism, create the best institutions for character formation?

I don’t think it’s necessary that any organization shaping lives has to have some kind of theological infusion. I did find that today, because a lot of our institutions are secular, the moral categories are very politicized categories—terms like “social justice” on the left, or on the right, the virtue of manifested, individualized courage. Our secular institutions have lost a thick moral framework. Your average “character program” that’s trying to exist in a public education environment—it’s not grounded in a clear definition of the good.

A lot of character work out there is “we just need to pull kids out of poverty and teach them some soft skills,” where character formation is a means to an end and all about getting them to a broader success ethic. By contrast, a lot of the religious institutions that we looked at tended to think in communal terms, tended to think in accountability terms, and tended to believe that humans are dependent on something beyond themselves. They have resources to draw from in their own traditions to address the moral life in a coherent way. Because religion has a transcendent orientation, it’s one of the best spheres to equip people to think about ultimate ends.

You recently took the helm of Comment magazine. How will your faith inform your vision for the magazine?

For whatever reason—whether by grace or God’s wink—since becoming a Christian, my faith has been the core engine driving my creativity. It’s the integrating pulse for my questions, ideation, laughter, skepticism. So therefore I believe in the arts, hospitality, relationship, paradox. The Beatitudes and 1 Corinthians 1 will be hitching posts, both for what this next season of Comment will seek to embody and for the sorts of voices I’ll be working to attract. In a time of deep division and gracelessness in our public square, I see a need to cohere a community of thought and action that is exploring today’s toughest issues with a kind of transcendent curiosity—a curiosity that will pour itself out in hope, faith, and love.

 

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