“Protest for all”: Social conservatives in France vs. Germany

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Though Christianity is said to be on the decline in Europe, social conservatives are often staging huge protests over issues such as gay marriage and abortion.

The rallies–that go by the name “Protest for All”–are biggest in France, despite the liberal bent of its culture. Germany also has its rallies with the same name, but they are smaller and the social conservatives are far less vocal, even though Germany is much more conservative culturally.

Why is this?  An article in the British publication The Economist speculates that in France with its official secularism, holding to any religion has become “an edgy protest against the established order.”  Whereas in Germany, with its established church, religious people are less likely to rock the boat, lest they lose their privileged position.

What applications do you see for social conservatives in the United States of America, where we have both separation between church and state (as in France) as well as social respectability for religion (as in Germany)?

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Using the legislative process for a Health Care Bill 

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Though the Republican Health Care Bill, as formulated by the Senate leadership, lacks the vote to pass, a new and possibly more productive strategy is underway.

Instead of withdrawing the bill, with the help of John McCain and Mike Pence, it has been put before the Senate for debate and amendment.  This may result in the formulation of some kind of new health care plan or revision of Obamacare that legislators can live with.

The difference is between a top-down proposal that no legislator has read (which was the way Obamacare was pushed through), vs. the give-and-take of the legislative process, which emulates a free political marketplace.

One possibility:  A so-called “skinny repeal” of Obamacare.  This would eliminate unpopular mandates and taxes while keeping other features of the existing Affordable Health Care Act.

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Is it better to be a team’s best player or a champion?

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Kyrie Irving wants to be traded from the championship-contending Cleveland Cavaliers because, reportedly, he is tired of playing second fiddle to LeBron James.

He would apparently rather be the top player on a regular team than the second-best player with a chance for a championship ring.

This is the opposite of what Kevin Durant did.  He was the top player and face of the Thunder.  But he gave that up to be one among many good players on a championship team.

Actually, though as an Oklahoma City fan Durant is dead to me, I think he showed more sportsmanship, thinking in terms of being part of a team rather than his own personal acclaim.

Oklahoma sportswriter Berry Tramel has written a good column on the subject, quoted and linked after the jump. [Read more…]

The social gospel

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The “social gospel” is the teaching that the purpose of Christianity is to work for a just society by changing political structures.  It had its origins in the 19th century–particularly in “post-millennialism,” the view that human beings are to establish the millennial golden age on earth, after which Christ will come again–and developed into the political activism of 20th and 21st century liberal churches.  Now some evangelicals are discovering these concepts and are redefining their mission away from saving souls for eternity to improving conditions for the poor and rebuilding society.

An article by Christopher Evans, linked after the jump, gives a good account of the movement and its various permutations, showing the historical and theological background of today’s “religious left.”  He thinks that recovering the social gospel can help bring disaffected young people back into the church.

Some theses for consideration and discussion:

(1)  The social gospel is not gospel.  It is law, replacing personal moralism with social and political moralism.  It has little to say about forgiveness.  Sinners–that is, political oppressors–are not forgiven.  They are crudely demonized and are considered worthy of a secular kind of damnation.

(2)  The social gospel is not THE gospel.  It has little interest in Jesus Christ atoning for the sins of the world and offering grace, forgiveness, and eternal life to those with faith in Him.  Those who believe in the social gospel are interested in this world, not the next.  Salvation has to do with improving society, not redeeming an individual so that he or she can experience everlasting life after death.

(3)  Though originally the creation of mainstream Protestants, many Catholics too now support a social gospel.

(4)  There is a social gospel of the right, as well as of the left.

Photograph of Walter Rauschenbusch, a key theologian of the social gospel.  See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Democrats announce their “better deal”

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Franklin Delano Roosevelt had his “New Deal.”  Now Democrats have unveiled their “Better Deal.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Shumer, appearing with other Congressional Democrats, repeatedly used that phrase in announcing his party’s new policies.

The Better Deal aims to accomplish three things, in Shumer’s words:  “First, we’re going to increase people’s pay. Second, we’re going to reduce their everyday expenses. And third, we’re going to provide workers the tools they need for the 21st century economy.”

He then laid out several government initiatives that Democrats want to undertake to achieve those goals.

It doesn’t seem to measure up to the ambition of the New Deal or Lyndon Baines Johnson’s The Great Society.   Nothing trulyk ambitious or big-scale, like adopting a single payer health care plan like Great Britain’s or building a Welfare State like Sweden’s.  Increase people’s pay and make things cost less?  That sounds rather anti-climactic for the rhetorical build-up.

Is this a winning slogan?  A winning set of policies?

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“It’s too late for Charlie”

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The parents of the baby Charlie Gard have given up their legal battle to send their terminally-ill child to the United States for treatment.

The American doctor who came to London to examine the child concluded that the experimental treatment he was offering would not be helpful after all.

The question of who gets to decide on treatment for a child–parents or doctors?–was not definitively answered, at least in terms of British law. [Read more…]