Dealing with gay marriage

Al Mohler, a consistent defender of traditional marriage and sexual morality,  says that, despite his and other conservatives’ efforts, gay marriage will soon be legalized across the board and that Christians and their churches need to figure out how to deal with it when that happens:

Though many Christians are going to try to deny “the obvious,” evangelical leader Dr. Albert Mohler believes gay marriage is going to become normalized.

“I think it’s clear that something like same-sex marriage is going to become normalized, legalized and recognized in the culture. It’s time for Christians to start thinking about how we’re going to deal with that,” he said Friday on the Focus on the Family radio program.

Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was speaking in response to the Obama administration’s decision this week to stop defending the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act – federal law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman – in the courts. . . .

With the Justice Department now pulling its defense of DOMA, pending legal challenges against the federal law will likely result with the nullification of DOMA, Mohler predicted.

“You can say, the cards are pretty much stacked against DOMA,” he illustrated.

He warned that when Christians feel threatened, they have to be careful not to lash out with a predictable response.

The Southern Baptist made it clear that he was not saying that they are giving up. Marriage is still an institution Christians need to save, particularly in their own community. But Christians also need to start learning how to deal with the shifting culture and even face the fact that they may lose a few from their flock.

via Christians Need to Prepare for Normalization of Gay Marriage, Christian News, The Christian Post.

Assuming that this happens, that same sex marriage is fully legalized and becomes culturally acceptable–with all of the legal rights and protections that this implies–what will it mean for the church?  How should Christians deal with this?

Depressing the army

The Secretary of Defense gave a speech at West Point that surely bummed out the student body:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, in one of his last addresses to the Army, said Friday that he envisages a future ground force that will be smaller, pack less heavy firepower and will not engage in large-scale counter-insurgency wars like those in Iraq or Afghanistan.

“In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it,” Gates quipped.

Gates, who is expected to leave his post later this year, predicted a greater role for the Navy and Air Force in the future and warned the Army to gird itself for a period of relative austerity compared with the gusher of defense spending that has sustained it over the past eight years. In particular, Gates suggested that the Army will have a tough time justifying its spending on heavy armor formations – which have been the core of its force for decades – to lawmakers and the White House.

“In the competition for tight defense dollars, the Army … must confront the reality that the most plausible, high-end scenarios for the U.S. military are primarily naval and air engagements – whether in Asia, the Persian Gulf or elsewhere,” he said.

The defense chief predicted that Army and Marine forces would increasingly be asked to focus more on short-duration counterterrorism strikes and disaster relief. As he has for the past several years, Gates called on the Army to devote more of its best personnel to training and equipping foreign militaries.

via In one of final addresses to Army, Gates describes vision for military’s future.

So you’re a senior at West Point, having survived plebe year and basic training and officer training and a rigorous college curriculum, and you’re finally ready  to start your military career, eager to serve your country and make your mark. Whereupon the Secretary of Defense comes to campus and announces  and you’re told that the army is getting its budget and its firepower cut, that your future is in training foreign armies, and that the important assignments are all going to the Air Force and the Navy.

Hasn’t the Sec-Def ever heard of ceremonial speeches?  Or motivational speeches?  Even if this is going to be the administration’s new policy, why break the news in a speech at West Point?

At any rate, what do you think of this new military strategy?

The Czar and the President as liberators

Russia is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the emancipation of the serfs by Czar Alexander II, tying this event to what the Czar’s contemporary, President Abraham Lincoln, would do soon thereafter in emancipating America’s slaves.  From the Washington Post:

In this season of sesquicentennials, Russia is marking the liberation of 20 million serfs on March 3, 1861. That was one day before Lincoln was sworn in as the 16th president, assuming powers that he would eventually use to bring American slavery to an end. . . .

Alexander was intent on reforming the creaky Russian state, and the conservative owners of Russia’s vast land holdings passionately resisted him. Liberals couldn’t help but notice the parallels with the slave-holding plantation owners in the American South, said Andrei Yanovsky, a co-curator of the archive exhibit. In the 1850s, in fact, when censorship made it impossible to criticize conditions in Russia, newspapers and magazines devoted large amounts of space to denunciations of American slavery – and, Kurilla said, readers understood that this was a stand-in for the actual target, Russian serfdom.

His foreign minister said Alexander considered the outbreak of the Civil War to be “deplorable,” threatening the progress and prosperity that America had achieved in its 80 years of independence. The czar sent naval squadrons to New York and San Francisco as a show of support for the Union. Russia at the time was wary of British designs and feared that a Confederate victory would play into British hands. On this point he got no argument from Lincoln.

The president was under no illusions about Russian despotism – he once remarked, before going to the White House, that at least it was honest about its cruelty, compared with the hypocrisy that swirled around the American debate over slavery. For his part, Alexander seems to have been confident enough in the lasting power of the Russian royal family that he needn’t worry about befriending a republic that had cast off a king.

via Russia remembers Lincoln as it marks the freeing of the serfs.

Patrick Henry College is #1 in test scores

Please forgive me for bragging about the academic prowess of my students.  This is something I wrote about the findings of our assessment efforts at Patrick Henry College, where I am the Provost and a Literature Professor:

A new book and a spate of news reports are presenting evidence that America’s college students, on the whole, are not learning very much. They score poorly in critical thinking, writing, and other academic skills. Most college students score abysmally low in “civic literacy,” the basic knowledge of America’s heritage of freedom and self-government. Though they might pick up some very narrow specialized knowledge in their majors, they find it difficult to think outside of their professional boxes and make real-world connections.

These things cannot be said, however, of Patrick Henry College students. Assessment data keeps pouring in that shows PHC students outperforming their peers in every category tested.

On the ETS Proficiency Profile, a recognized and widely-used standardized test of academic proficiency in higher education, Patrick Henry College students posted the highest average scores of all institutions that took the test. Those 261 schools taking the test included liberal arts colleges and large research, doctoral-granting universities. Among those taking that test, PHC’s academic performance is #1.

In their much-discussed new book Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, educational scholars Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa express special concern for the low scores college students at large register in critical thinking and writing, asmeasured by similar tests.

PHC students, however, posted the highest average scores (a number drawn from all students, not just a few high performers) of all institutions that took the ETS test in critical thinking.  Also in writing.  Also in reading.  And in humanities.  And in Social Sciences.  And in Mathematics.  And in Natural Sciences.  PHC students were number one not only in the total score, but in every category tested.

But some might say all of this book learning is obsolete.  We are in the information age.  What students most need today is to adapt to technology.

Well, one does not have to agree with that to appreciate that PHC students have also ranked #1 in informational literacy also!   PHC students took the Standardized Assessment of Information Literacy Skills test developed by Kent State, and, again, their average score was higher than that of students from all other institutions that took the test.

Does this mean that PHC is the best college academically in the nation?  We can’t say that.  Not all colleges and universities take part in these standardized tests.  The elite Ivy League colleges, having nothing to prove, do not subject their students to all of this testing.  Some colleges might be afraid of what the tests might show about their academic quality.  PHC, though, does have something to prove — that a solidly Christian college with conservative principles can be an academic powerhouse — and the data that has been collected is proving it.

What is the secret to PHC’s academic success?

One answer is suggested by another problem in higher education that is receiving attention.  In an op-ed piece for the Washington Post entitled “Our Stunted Scholars,” Heather Wilson, who interviews applicants for the Rhodes Scholarship, sees something lacking in even our best students.  “I have,” she writes,” become increasingly concerned in recent years — not about the talent of the applicants but about the education American universities are providing.”

Even from America’s great liberal arts colleges, transcripts reflect an undergraduate specialization that would have been unthinkably narrow just a generation ago. As a result, high-achieving students seem less able to grapple with issues that require them to think across disciplines or reflect on difficult questions about what matters and why. . . . Our great universities seem to have redefined what it means to be an exceptional student. They are producing top students who have given very little thought to matters beyond their impressive grasp of an intense area of study. This narrowing has resulted in a curiously unprepared and superficial pre-professionalism.

Part of the problem is that most colleges and universities have given up on a liberal arts education.  Instead of giving students a solid foundation in a wide range of interconnected academic disciplines, which build up knowledge and mental skills that they can then draw on in their majors, most colleges send their students right into a narrow specialty.  The classic, integrated, core curriculum has been reduced to a handful of “general education” requirements that can be satisfied by students picking and choosing from a list of specialized and unconnected courses.

Patrick Henry College students, on the other hand, benefit from a broad and rich core curriculum of 63 credits, plus foreign language proficiency.  This “common core” means that every single student takes all of the courses, so that they all receive the same carefully-constructed educational foundation.  All PHC students study the great books of our civilization.  They take courses in logic and rhetoric, and they practice deep thinking and effective writing in all of their classes.  They take not one, but four, history courses.  They all study Constitutional Law.  They take two “Freedom’s Foundation” courses, in which they study the ideas that formed this country, from Plato’s Republic to The Federalist Papers.

PHC students see how all knowledge is interconnected.  What they are reading in their literature classes is illuminated by what they are reading in their theology classes.  The beautiful sounds they are enjoying in their music class are understood on another level when they study waves and harmonics in physics.

The core builds up students’ mental muscles for when they do specialize.  PHC offers majors in journalism, history, literature, the classical liberal arts, and government. Students may specialize within the majors in tracks like American Politics & Policy, International Politics & Policy, Political Theory, and Strategic Intelligence.

Another feature of PHC’s unique educational program is our apprenticeship requirement.  Students put what they have learned into practice in congressional offices, think tanks, businesses, local schools, the media, and other “real world” settings.  Internship directors love to have PHC students.  We keep hearing, “Your students can really write well!”  “They can really think and analyze!”  “They are so articulate, and they present themselves so well!”  Implicitly, these internship directors are comparing our students’ work against that of typical college students!

A key factor in PHC’s academic quality, in addition to its traditional, yet innovative curriculum, is its faculty.  Every professor is at once a devoted Christian, a world-class scholar, and an engaging classroom teacher.

Above all is PHC’s commitment to Christian truth.  In Christ “all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).  In the postmodernist academic scene, truth is relative, morality is subjective, and nothing has objective meaning.  No wonder the academy is having trouble teaching anything of value.  But PHC has laid a full foundation for education.  And while the typical college culture is one of frat-house partying and promiscuous hook-ups, PHC students comprise a counterculture that grows out of a love of learning, moral integrity, and authentic Christian community.

The testing reveals something else about PHC’s success.  PHC’s students, over 80% of whom are home-schooled, are exceptionally well-prepared.  The college has been administering the ETS Proficiency Profile for three years to both graduating seniors and to incoming freshmen.  In a tribute to their parents, who in one way or the other supervised their education, PHC incoming freshmen, when compared to first-year students at other institutions that took the test, also were #1 in all categories!

via 20110223 – Veith – PHC Students Outperform.

The Academy Awards

Sunday is Oscar night, and for the first time in ever-so-long, I am up with quite a few of the movies that are up for awards.  My recommendation and prediction:  Give all of the major awards to The King’s Speech. If there are any statues left over, give them to True Grit.

What films are you pulling for?    Give your predictions of the winners.

Oscar – The official 2011 site for the 83rd Academy Awards.

The Libyan Revolution

Muammar Gaddafi and his loyalists are holding onto Tripoli, as the rest of the country is joining with the mass uprising of the people.  Gaddafi is attacking his citizens with tanks and from the air, but the populace has weapons too.  Some army units have reportedly abandoned the dictator and have joined the popular revolt.  Ordinary people have raided police stations and looted abandoned militia bases for weapons. Pitched battles are breaking out everywhere.  An unconfirmed rumor that Gaddafi has been shot sent oil prices down.

Gaddafi reportedly depends on foreign mercenaries as his personal military force.  From descriptions these seem to be mostly African, rather than Americans who read Soldier of Fortune Magazine, but who knows with mercenaries?

See:

Gaddafi loyalists launch counterattacks; U.S. consults allies on Libya options.

Gaddafi relies on paramilitary, mercenaries

Oil settles near $97 on rumors Gaddafi shot

Gaddafi is a brutal dictator and an overt sponsor of terrorism, very much like Saddam Hussein, if not worse.  If he can be overthrown–and it isn’t clear that this will happen, but it seems likely–do you think this outbreak of freedom in the Islamic world might have overthrown Saddam, if we had not invaded Iraq?  Do you think the American invasion had anything to do with these revolutions?  Or do they show that the wars have been unnecessary?

 

 


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