As We Celebrate Our Liberty, An Iranian Pastor Faces Death

On this holiday weekend an Iranian pastor’s life hangs in the balance. On June 28, the Iranian Supreme Court uphelddeath sentence against Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. His crimes? Apostasy and evangelism. Pastor Nadarkhani had publicly opposed an Iranian practice requiring that all children, regardless of faith, receive Islamic instruction. In spite of alleged religious-freedom guarantees under the Iranian constitution, he now faces death — a sentence that could literally be carried out at any time.

Time is of the essence, and at the ACLJ we’re doing all we can. Yesterday we sent letters to the State Department and to the Iranian Mission of the United Nations. These letters outline Iran’s obligations not only under its own constitution but also under international agreements it has voluntarily agreed to uphold. While the nature and character of the Iranian regime is well-known, as the saying goes, where there is life; there is hope.

And as of today, Pastor Nadarkhani is alive.

 

I Spank My Kids: Come and Get Me, Judge Longoria

When I lived in New York and Philadelphia, I was cautious about publicly disciplining my children, since I knew mothers in liberal northeastern cities differed greatly with my approach. For example, I once was chided by a mom in a library for getting on to my daughter for wandering off while I was trying to check out her books.

“You get back over here,” I said quietly, and my daughter began to throw a bit of a fit. In my urgency to avoid a public confrontation, I lapsed into the very unoriginal but still effective, “Keep it up, and I’ll really give you something to cry about!”

Another mom, ever so gently, pulled me aside. “You know, you really needn’t be so sharp with her,” she said. “The girl is obviously just trying to read books, and you will intellectually stunt her.”

The only thing I was trying to stunt was her defiance of basic instruction — a battle I fight with all three of my children. My insistence that my kids actually obey me put me at odds with friends who laughed when they saw me correct the kids at the playground. My friend Rene once said memorably, “I don’t use the word ‘obey’ with my kids, because it sounds so … Biblical.”

Incredulous, I asked her, “What do you do with the speed limit?”

I thought of these incidents over the weekend when a Drudge headline caught my eye. Apparently, a mother was convicted of a felony for what the prosecution called a “pretty simple, straightforward spanking case.” A belt wasn’t used, and no bruising occurred.

Where did this mother live? Berkeley? Manhattan? No, Rosalina Gonzales lives in Corpus Christi, Texas, where, by the way, it’s still legal to spank your children.

The Texas law states “Abuse does not include reasonable discipline by a parent/guardian/managing or possessory conservator if child is not exposed to substantial risk of harm. … Parent/stepparent/person standing in loco parentis to child is justified to use non-deadly force against a child under 18 when and to degree the actor reasonably believes necessary to discipline, or safeguard or promote child’s welfare.”

Nevertheless, Judge Longoria shamed the mother about her discipline before sentencing her to five years probation, a fine, and parenting classes.

“You don’t spank children today. In the old days, maybe we got spanked, but there was a different quarrel,” he scolded. “You don’t spank children. You understand?”

This “legislating from the bench” makes me wonder if the worst problem Texas faces is an excess of parents trying to teach their kids how to behave.

As the mother of a toddler, I think it’s important for moms to come forward and quit being afraid of discipline that’s been tested by time. Moms tend to keep this a private matter, to avoid conflict or hard discussions with other parents. However, the Gonzales case should cause us to speak out in protest of an overreaching court.

That’s why I’m saying that I’ve spanked all three of my kids, and they aren’t raised yet. Spanking is far less emotionally manipulative than twenty nagging reprimands, it’s fast, and it’s certainly effective. And by the way, it’s legal.

So, Judge Longoria, come and get me.

This article first appeared on — and got lots of comments at — NRO.

Weiner’s Willing Women

Brad Paisley’s hilarious song “Online” talks about how easy it is to have romantic adventures online — even sci-fi fanatics (mild asthmatics) can suddenly lose weight and grow an extra foot by logging on and creating false profiles. You can forgive the girls with whom this George Costanza–character corresponds. He tells them he lives in Malibu and drives a Maserati, instead of revealing that he lives in his parents’ basement and drives a clunker on pizza deliveries. Even that loser can have a three-way . . . chat with two women at one time.

But what about women who enter into online relationships willingly, without being fooled? Anthony Weiner’s online romantic escapades are sadly now a part of our cultural consciousness. We now know that he’d send women photos labeled “me” to prove they were actually communicating with the real congressman. He didn’t hide who he was — in fact, he used his power to lure women into his web. The women willingly “went there” with him, in spite of the fact that he was married. He didn’t enhance his profile, he just relied on the fact that women would be so enamored to be conversing with a congressman that they’d keep it a secret.

And, come to find out, he was right.

Had he not inadvertently sent his now notorious photo to all of his followers, he’d no doubt be planning his next romantic endeavor.

That’s how America got its most recent evidence that women — in spite of what they profess — fall for jerks. How did Arnold Schwarzenegger have an affair? Because his housekeeper was willing. When Tiger Woods’s escapades were on the front page of every paper, he apparently had no shortage of willing women. Do these men have a special culpability because of their fame and money? Definitely. But if women would quit complaining that men are all beasts while simultaneously rewarding them for the vilest behavior, we’d see fewer of these problems.

At Pajamas Media, Andrew Klavan puts the blame squarely on Weiner’s women:

If this is the sort of guy you follow after in droves, this is the sort of guy we’re encouraged to be. And I have to admit: I don’t get it. I look at Weiner and I see a rude, arrogant, entitled and clearly dishonest little piece of Democrat thoroughly convinced of his wholly non-existent superiority. Physically, he’s a dead ringer for a turtle that’s been pulled out of its shell. And as for his manners… did I mention he takes pictures of his absurdly eponymous package and sends them to women on Twitter! And that’s the sort of stuff that wins you over, ladies? Well, if it is, expect to see a lot more of it. It’s Darwin 101: men evolve to attract the opposite sex. By natural law, women get what they want from men… it hardly seems fair for them to complain about it when it turns up in their inbox.

Klavan goes way to far. After all, Weiner is fully responsible for his own behavior. But men often complain that — in the game of love — nice guys finish last. And you know what? They’re all too often right. Visit any college campus, and you’ll see the most boorish behavior endlessly rewarded in frat houses and on sorority row. Watch the flocks of young women following everyone from congressmen to athletes to rappers. Entire subcultures of “pick-up artists” prey on the female tendency to seek “high-status males,” consequences be damned.

Women need to ask for better from men. But we need to demand better from ourselves as well.

This article first appeared in NRO.

A Mormon President: Are Souls at Stake?

I distinctly remember the days when I believed that salvation was a sales job. I grew up in a church that placed a premium on achieving “decisions for Christ” and that believed those decisions directly depended on my behavior.

First, there was the apologetics. I always had to have a “ready answer” for those who questioned my faith—and by that, my elders meant a snappy response to virtually any challenge, whether about the origin of scripture, the origin of the universe, or the ethics of Freud.

Then, there was the “lifestyle evangelism.” A “ready answer” is much less persuasive when it comes from an imperfect vessel. Thus, we had to live our lives with more joy, more wisdom, more love, more courage, and more perseverance than anyone else. What’s more, our friends and co-workers had to see our superiority so that one day they would turn to us and ask that magic question: “What is it that makes you so different?”

Finally, we worried about the competition. I sat through Sunday school classes about Baptists, about Calvinists, about Catholics, and about Mormons. I learned what “they” believed so that I could rebut it, so that my “ready answer” included a very specific defense of my very specific denomination. (Oops. I said “denomination.” I didn’t belong to a denomination but instead “the church.”)

The problem? The model couldn’t possibly work. No matter how much I studied apologetics, I’d never know more about evolution than a biologist, more about Kant than a philosopher, or more about Catholicism than a priest. I could have a ready answer about my faith, but about not much else.

As for my lifestyle? Simply put, I’m not that great. Why would anyone turn to me and say, “How can I be like you?” I struggle with a myriad of fairly obvious flaws and sins, and I’ve known people of many faiths who live with more courage, more love, and more wisdom than I ever have. I’m going to be the beacon that leads men to heaven? Really?

But—thanks be to God—Christianity is not a sales job. We’re not like used car salesmen, running flashy commercials with a shiny product asking our customers, “What can I do to put you in this car today?” In biblical Christianity, as opposed to consumer Christianity, God is the Prime Mover in our salvation, not man. And the goal is not life enhancement, but the reconciliation of our broken souls with a Holy God.

This is plain from scripture, from Jesus selecting his disciples, to Paul’s Damascus Road conversion, to the miraculous interaction between Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, to the definitive declaration: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” In fact, since His strength is made perfect not in my awesomeness but in my weakness, my tremendous “lifestyle” wouldn’t be much of a draw anyway.

I haven’t thought much about the Bad Old Days of Sunday school, at least until I read Warren Cole Smith’s June 9 interview, where he stated “people’s souls” were at stake if a Mormon became president. What a perfect expression of consumer Christianity. Do our immortal souls hang on so fine a thread as the public image of politicians?

Sadly, if actions speak louder than words, I’d say that many Christians believe that “image is everything.” Slickly-produced stage-show mega-church Christianity is oft-criticized. But the yin to its yang, the “keepin’ it real” alt-culture of the emergent movement is just as image-conscious. Again and again, we worry about appearance and presentation and debate who is driving people away from God and who is pulling them close.

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?” Why do we believe that God would entrust something as precious as the individual soul to something so trivial as our voting decision? That’s not to say that votes don’t matter. Politicians help shape our culture, they make life-and-death decisions, and they can impact (though we often overstate their influence) an economy that shapes the material dreams of our own lives and our children’s lives. But presidents don’t save or condemn us, and their influence is inconsequential in the face of a sovereign God.

Is there any good fruit to come from the circular, fruitless, and sometimes nasty debate about Mormons in the White House—when ignorance about Mormonism is often trumped only by misconceptions about the very nature of God’s interactions with man?

Perhaps yes. Perhaps we can use this debate to remind ourselves that it is God, not man, who governs the fate of nations, and God, not man, who draws our souls to Him.

Salvation isn’t a sales job. It’s a miracle.

 

Gay Marriage and the Triumph of Self Indulgence

n a way, it was far more discouraging to see the New York legislature pass a gay-marriage bill than it was to see the now-familiar rogue judicial declarations, like those in Massachusetts, California, and Iowa. While constitutionally preferable to judicial imposition, New York’s statute is far more culturally distressing, a symbol not of a judicial overreach but of a more fundamental cultural change. The democratic process (yes, I know there was horse-trading and money involved) worked, and the elected legislature of New York performed its constitutional function. And in so doing, they struck yet another blow for self-indulgence and for adult-focused self-actualization.

Gay marriage is the child of no-fault divorce, which was itself born of the sexual revolution. In a time when the hard-earned experience of two full generations of sexual experimentation have taught us unequivocally that the two-parent, mother-father household is our nation’s best bulwark against abuse, poverty, addiction, and criminality, we should be moving away from the notion that our culture and our lives are best-served by legally protecting sexual experimentation and tinkering with the institution of marriage. Instead, we have scrutinized the cultural toll and said, “More, please.” After all, the heart wants what it wants, and we shouldn’t be unfair in doling out the sexual goodies.

Gay marriage proponents speak the language of liberty, but so often one form of liberty (sexual liberty) is granted while other forms (free speech, religious freedom) are taken away. In the liberal definition of “diversity” there is room for many sexual practices but only one way of thinking. Thus, we now live in a world where the state attempts to force Catholic charities to place children in same-sex families, college students are punished for speaking against same-sex parenting, graduate students are thrown out of college for refusing to morally affirm homosexual sextax exemptions are denied when churches don’t make their property available for gay weddings, and social work licenses threatened merely because a school counselor supported a state marriage amendment. In each of these cases, enumerated constitutional liberties were threatened for the sake of protecting a state-approved idea — the idea that there should be no moral distinctions drawn between homosexual and heterosexual relationships.

When it comes to marriage, we know the institution that predates the state itself — the two-parent, mother-father household — is an enduring bulwark and building block of civilization of itself. We also know that experimentation with and deviation from that form has caused an enormous amount of national suffering. And yet millions of Americans celebrated New York’s latest marriage experiment. I fear that we’ll continue to reap the cultural whirlwind of our own selfishness.

(Originally posted in The Corner).

 


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