Paying mothers to get a job or to tend to their kids?

From Freakonomics:

Just how important is Mom during a child’s first year of life? A new working paper by the economists Pedro Carneiro, Katrine V. Løken, and Kjell G. Salvanes exploits a recent reform in Norway to answer that question. The reform, which increased paid and unpaid maternity leave, “increased maternal leave on average by 4 months,” but had no effect on family income. The authors found that more time with Mom led to lower high school dropout rates later on.

Specifically, “increased time with the child led to a 2.7 percentage points decline in high school dropout. For mothers with low education we find a 5.2 percentage points decline. The effect is especially large for children of mothers who prior to the reform, would take very low levels of unpaid leave.”

Our current “welfare reform” requires that mothers to receive government help have to WORK outside the home, but that means they spend less time with their children. Granted that welfare from the state is not a good thing–before, it encouraged poor women not to get married by cutting payments when they did, thus encouraging single parenthood–but when it exists, shouldn’t it try to be in some way pro-family? Rather than contribute and even pay for the dynamics that increase poverty?

HT: Webmonk

Euro-court OKs crucifixes in public schools

The European Court of Human Rights has overturned a lower court’s decision to outlaw crucifixes in Italy’s public schools.  Not only that, the court ruled that Christianity is, in fact, the religious foundation of European civilization, a fact that need not be hidden.

The Grand Chamber ruling. . .recognizes that “human rights must not be placed in opposition to the religious foundations of European civilisation”. rules

The decision is an affirmation of the respect owed to each country of the European Union for “the religious symbols of its cultural history and national identity” and for national decisions on how the symbols can and should be displayed, Fr Lombardi said.

A lack of respect, he said, would lead to a situation in which, “in the name of religious liberty, paradoxically one would limit or even deny this freedom, ending up excluding every expression of it from the public sphere”.

via Vatican welcomes European court decision on crucifixes  |

Would that same reasoning apply in the United States of America?

Nominal Christians

In an article about sociologist Bradley Wright’s book  Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media journalist Adelle M. Banks discusses his findings that Christians who go to church regularly have lower divorce rates, contrary to the assertion of other researchers that Christians have the same divorce rate as everybody else.

We’ve talked about that topic, but what I’d like us to consider is another issue raised in the story:

Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, agrees there’s been some confusion.

“You do hear, both in Christian and non-Christian circles, that Christians are no different from anyone else when it comes to divorce and that is not true if you are focusing on Christians who are regular church attendees,” he said.

Wilcox’s analysis of the National Survey of Families and Households has found that Americans who attend religious services several times a month were about 35 percent less likely to divorce than those with no religious affiliation.

Less active conservative Protestants, on the other hand, were 20 percent more likely to divorce than the religiously unaffiliated.

“There’s something about being a ‘nominal Christian’ that is linked to a lot of negative outcomes when it comes to family life,” Wilcox said.

via Christians question conventional wisdom on divorce –

“Nominal Christians.”   We often say that churches are full of nominal Christians.  But it is probably more to the point that nominal Christians–including many who would classify themselves as “born again” and “conservative”–do not generally go to church.  They are Christians in name only, as opposed to Christians, whatever their faults, who attend worship services where, to whatever measure, they seek God and receive His Word.  That’s not being “nominal.”

There is no longer any cultural pressure to attend church, as there once was, and indeed the cultural pressure is in the other direction.  So those who are in church, I would argue, on some level, really mean it.

I wish I knew more about what Wilcox says about “a lot of negative outcomes when it comes to family life” that are associated with “nominal Christians.”  I suppose someone who is Christian in name only may well consider himself or herself married in name only, carrying over the tendency for superficial commitment in all relationships, with spouse as well as with God.

Can anyone fill in what Wilcox says?

Bungling the War in Libya?

Why are so many conservatives against the new war in Libya, liberals are asking, their assumption being that conservatives like war.   Well, one thing that bothers those who believe in following the Constitution is that President Obama has gone to war at the behest of the United Nations.  But he has not so much as asked Congress, which the Constitution explicitly gives the authority to declare war (even though presidents lately of both parties have flouted that Constitutional requirement).   Are we ruled by the UN now?

Meanwhile, it appears that the coalition enforcing the no fly zone by attacking flying objects such as tanks and infantry columns, is also unraveling.  NO ONE wants to lead the operation.  President Obama specifically said he didn’t want the United States to lead it.  The other countries say NATO should run it.  NATO says it doesn’t want to.  How we can prosecute a war without operational or political leadership is beyond me.

Another issue is “mission creep,” as people are trying to change the goal from preventing Libyan aircraft from flying (a goal pretty much accomplished) to helping the rebels, to killing Gaddafi, to building Libya into a democracy.


Libya: Obama’s ‘coalition of the unwilling’ asks does the West have the right to kill Gaddafi? | Mail Online.

Filming begins on “The Hobbit”

After one problem after another, including labor troubles in New Zealand, the movie version of J. R. R. Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit has gotten underway. The film will be shown in two parts, beginning in late 2012.

The prequel to The Lord of the Rings features lots of the people who made the earlier trilogy, including director Peter Jackson.  Also reprising their roles will be the actors who played Gandalf, Frodo, Gollum, and Galadriel.  Martin Freeman will play Bilbo Baggins:


Martin Freeman



BBC News – Hobbit filming finally under way.

Maybe Christians aren’t so bad after all

Bradley Wright, a professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut, has published a book entitled Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media

This is the book that provides the research we blogged about earlier that Christians who faithfully attend church do not, in fact, as is often said, have the same divorce rate as non-Christians.  What’s especially interesting to me is that Professor Wright takes on the source of so many of these statistics the evangelical pollster George Barna.   Barna defines “evangelical Christian” as someone who has had a born-again experience.  Wright looks rather at church attendance as evidence of Christian commitment.  (You can buy the book, giving the Cranach blog a commission, by clicking any of these links.)

Here are product descriptions from Amazon:

From Publishers Weekly

A sociologist at the University of Connecticut, Wright examines recent survey data on Christian evangelicals to see if they substantiate the often misguided and hyperbolic public perceptions of this faith group. Separating the wheat from the chaff, he explains how some poorly worded, ill-sampled statistics give the wrong impression of evangelicals and why people should avoid giving them credence. Though he often blames the media for gleefully reporting bad news about devout Christians, he doesn’t spare evangelical polemicists such as Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel for their false exaggerations of evangelical shortcomings. His biggest target may be the pollster George Barna, whose surveys on Christianity have generated intense controversy. Wright’s colloquial writing style gives this volume the feel of a folksy college lecture series. The abundant use of graphics adds to the impression the book’s genesis was cribbed from introductory sociology of religion classes. The conclusions drawn here–no surprise–are that the most committed Christians practice what they preach, performing better than the rest of the population on a host of social measures including divorce, domestic violence, sexual misconduct, crime, substance abuse, and everyday honesty.

Product Description

According to the media, the church is rapidly shrinking, both in numbers and in effectiveness. But the good news is, much of the bad news is wrong. Sociologist Bradley R. E. Wright uncovers what’s really happening in the church: evangelicals are more respected by secular culture now than they were ten years ago; divorce rates of Christians are lower than those of nonbelievers; Christians give more to charity than others do. Wright reveals to readers why and how statistics are distorted, and shows that God is still effectively working through his people today.

via Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media (9780764207464): Bradley R.E. Wright: Books.