Morning Report: Environmental Insanity, More Cowbell!, Cornel West, the Failing Church, and Ralph Reed

In the News

1.  Walter Russell Mead, ever since he left the Henry Kissinger Chair on the Council of Foreign Relations, has been one of the best columnists and commentators in the country.  If you’re not reading him regularly, you should.  In his latest piece, he speaks of a bit of environmentalist madness that is preventing the United States from getting oil and jobs:

Here’s what the greens ignore: the oil is coming out of the ground whether or not the US allows a pipeline to be built.  The Canadians want to produce it, and if we don’t buy it, the Chinese will.  The pipeline that would take the dirty tar sands oil from Alberta to Canada’s Pacific coast would pass through pristine Rocky Mountain wilderness, across land belonging to some of Canada’s last native tribes, to the beautiful British Columbian coast, home of the amazingly rare “Spirit Bear” and one of the world’s few temperate rain forests, loaded on supertankers and shipped through treacherous coastal waters, very near where the Queen of the North lies on the ocean floor, rusting and leaking diesel fuel, a testament to the perils of sea navigation in these waters. But don’t take my word for it: read it in National Geographic.

The greens lobbying President Obama to block the pipeline are asking him to forgo thousands of jobs (in an election year in which jobs will could well be the major issue!) and billions of dollars in economic advantages — not to save the planet or reduce the carbon in the atmosphere, but to confer an economic and political advantage on China.  If President Obama takes the green advice, the US will get almost all of the disadvantages that come from using the oil ourselves, and lose out many of the benefits.

There’s another factor that has to be weighed.  Getting secure oil sources for the United States isn’t just a matter of convenience; reducing US exposure to foreign blackmail, and reducing our need to consider military interventions and other actions to protect our energy supply helps make war less likely — and allows us, all things being equal, to get along with somewhat smaller armed forces than would otherwise be required.

2. Victor Davis Hanson takes on the notion that we just haven’t spent enough in stimulus.  More cowbell!

3.  Cornel West explains why Martin Luther King Jr. is weeping from the grave:

The age of Obama has fallen tragically short of fulfilling King’s prophetic legacy. Instead of articulating a radical democratic vision and fighting for homeowners, workers and poor people in the form of mortgage relief, jobs and investment in education, infrastructure and housing, the administration gave us bailouts for banks, record profits for Wall Street and giant budget cuts on the backs of the vulnerable.

As the talk show host Tavis Smiley and I have said in our national tour against poverty, the recent budget deal is only the latest phase of a 30-year, top-down, one-sided war against the poor and working people in the name of a morally bankrupt policy of deregulating markets, lowering taxes and cutting spending for those already socially neglected and economically abandoned. Our two main political parties, each beholden to big money, offer merely alternative versions of oligarchic rule.

If, on the other hand, you’d like a more mature (in every sense) take on what the Obama administration should be doing to guide the west back to economic health, see this piece from The New Republic by Robert Shapiro.

In the Pews

1.  Rodney Stark and Byron Johnson, two eminent scholars of religion, poke holes in all the sky-is-falling statistics about young people, and now women, leaving the church.  It’s worth a lengthy quotation:

The national news media yawned over the Baylor Survey’s findings that the number of American atheists has remained steady at 4% since 1944, and that church membership has reached an all-time high. But when a study by the Barna Research Group claimed that young people under 30 are deserting the church in droves, it made headlines and newscasts across the nation—even though it was a false alarm.

Surveys always find that younger people are less likely to attend church, yet this has never resulted in the decline of the churches. It merely reflects the fact that, having left home, many single young adults choose to sleep in on Sunday mornings.

Once they marry, though, and especially once they have children, their attendance rates recover. Unfortunately, because the press tends not to publicize this correction, many church leaders continue unnecessarily fretting about regaining the lost young people.

In similar fashion, major media hailed another Barna report that young evangelicals are increasingly embracing liberal politics. But only religious periodicals carried the news that national surveys offer no support for this claim, and that younger evangelicals actually remain as conservative as their parents.

Given this track record, it was no surprise this month to see the prominent headlines announcing another finding from Barna that American women are rapidly falling away from religion. The basis for this was a comparison between a poll they conducted in 1991 and one they conducted in January of this year.

Please read the whole thing.  At some point George Barna needs to be called out for sloppy workmanship and sensationalizing anything that comports with his church-is-falling-apart views.  Either that, or the mainstream media needs to get a little more savvy and not run with anything that sounds like bad news for the church.

2.  I’m very grateful to Ralph Reed for writing “The Inconvenient Truth of the Evangelical Vote“:

A funny thing happened on the way to the 2012 presidential contest. The conventional wisdom that social issues would not matter, and that the evangelical constituency is a relic of a bygone era, has been turned on its head. The beltway set is relearning one of the most inconvenient and persistent truths of American politics: the enduring strength of the evangelical vote.

This outcome was not necessarily prefigured by events. Barack Obama was supposed to usher in a new era of religious voting patterns by appealing to evangelical voters on poverty, health care and climate change (excuse me, “creation care”). In May of 2008, the founder of Beliefnet predicted that Obama “has a real chance to win substantial evangelical support,” since “evangelicals are in a period of de-alignment from the Republican Party.”

That prediction didn’t fare so well…

3.  Bill Keller, editorial chieftain of the New York Times, must have thought this piece on asking candidates tougher faith-related questions was sophisticated.  It actually just illustrates how completely secular liberal media fails to understand evangelicals and conservative Christians in general.  The fact that he took Ryan Lizza’s profile of Michele Bachmann in The New Yorker — Lizza’s piece was a tattered fabrication of paranoia, guilt-by-association and unfounded insinuations — as “enlightening” and apparently respectable…well, it just boggles the mind.  Shouldn’t the executive editor of the New York Times know what good journalist looks like?

The always-fantastic Mollie Hemingway at Get Religion takes Keller to task.

About Timothy Dalrymple

Timothy Dalrymple was raised in non-denominational evangelical congregations in California. The son and grandson of ministers, as a young boy he spent far too many hours each night staring at the ceiling and pondering the afterlife.
 
In all his work he seeks a better understanding of why people do, and do not, come to faith, and researches and teaches in religion and science, faith and reason, theology and philosophy, the origins of atheism, Christology, and the religious transformations of suffering

  • Witten

    If Canada is going to become a large oil producer regardless of if we build the pipeline, then the United States is going to have the “advantage” of having a large oil producer in a nearby friendly state, regardless of if a pipeline crosses our territory. Physically shipping the oil across the United States does not make it any cheaper for US consumers, or make more oil show up in US markets.

    And all the weird fear mongering about china is just well, weird. It must be the American Interest party line or something.

  • Richard

    nice ad hominem against West. That’s a constructive way to disagree with someone – call them a child.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      The whole way in which West has related to Obama has been frankly childish. I’ve known a fair number of exalted academics, and it’s been stunning how often they act childishly. Stunning. I don’t think they’re unique in this, though; I think a lot of people who are used to getting fawning adulation act childishly. It’s unfortunate.
      -Tim


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