Culture-Changing Christians

Culture-Changing Christians April 12, 2016

Back in 2012, when Mitt Romney lost the presidential election, many disappointed supporters – including a number of evangelicals – suggested that his defeat spoke to an American culture in decline. For politics to change, they say, culture must change. Glenn Beck, for example, tweeted that “the time for politics is over. I’m doubling down on my efforts to shift the culture.” Yet here we are again, in 2016, trying to coalesce around the “right” candidate who will “take America back.” Or something like that…

Evangelical Christians are especially attuned to talk of changing culture. But what culture is, and just how it changes, is often less clear. Books such as Andy Crouch’s Culture Making and James Davison Hunter’s To Change the World should be required reading for any Christian making plans to change culture. Both books show that culture, or “what human beings make of the world,” in Crouch’s words, is extraordinarily complex, and not susceptible to quick change, especially through politics.

We can certainly point to Christian politicians who have helped change culture in explicitly Christian ways. The great abolitionist William Wilberforce is an excellent example. But think over the past century: many of the culture-changing Christians that jump immediately to mind have not been directly engaged with politics. For example:

C.S. Lewis, the Oxford professor whose greatest influence came through writing children’s books.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and theologian martyred for his resistance against Nazi tyranny.

Mother Teresa, the Albanian-born nun who devoted her life to caring for lepers and AIDS patients, who testified to the dignity of all human life, including the outcast and unborn.

Evert Odekerken, Mother Teresa, 1988. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license. Wikimedia Commons.

Each of these heroes had things to say of political consequence, but they did not see politics as their method of Christian witness or culture change.

So before we plunge headlong into changing the culture via the 2016 election, let’s think about a few principles for how evangelicals can influence culture.

1) James Davison Hunter argues that culture is shaped most by institutions that have great “symbolic capital,” including universities such as Harvard and Yale, and newspapers such as the New York Times. Popular Christian books may sell millions of copies, but they do not have the symbolic capital or cultural influence of a Pulitzer Prize winner. Christians not only need to engage with institutions of high symbolic capital, but we need Christian voices to be present in those institutions, as professors, journalists, and artists. Christian parents and teachers need to cast a winsome vision of Christian cultural engagement for children and students.

2) Christians should worry as much about preserving orthodox Christian culture as they do about changing secular culture. Indeed, preserving traditional Christian culture is an essential precondition to any wholesome changes in the broader culture. If American Christian culture is infected by theological vacuousness and historical ignorance, by shallow consumerism, or by ethical corruption, then on what basis can we hope to transform the broader culture? As Christopher Dawson’s classic Religion and the Rise of Western Culture demonstrates, Christians have often found themselves having to preserve the heritage of biblical Christianity from a hostile surrounding culture. There’s nothing especially new in our situation today.

3) While some Christians may be called vocationally to institutions of high symbolic capital, all of us can take responsibility for the mini-cultures of our family, church, and neighborhood. I can’t do much about the voting patterns of Florida, but I can sure do something about the culture of my dinner table. When Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize, she was reportedly asked what we can do to promote world peace. She answered “Go home and love your family.”

Evangelicals can certainly participate in politics, but we should remember that politics tends simply to reflect culture. And culture is not easy to change, especially at the broadest levels. Christians can (and must) do more to bring a witness into institutions of high symbolic capital, but we should never underestimate the sanguine influence we can have, by God’s grace and prayer, on the little cultural spheres we inhabit on a daily basis.

This is an updated post from my Anxious Bench archive.

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  • James Davison Hunter argues that culture is shaped most by institutions that have great “symbolic capital,” including universities such as Harvard and Yale, and newspapers such as the New York Times.

    True, but O’Sullivan’s Law: Harvard and Yale are prime examples.

    But let’s make no mistake–the culture war was lost because too many good men did nothing and kept their skirts clean–leaving the battle to the Falwells and Robertsons, just as today they’re leaving it to the Becks and Bartons.

    Indeed, sometimes joining in their stoning themselves.

  • TR

    How do you figure the culture war was lost? Anti-American thugs who want to use the government to force other people to live according to their weirdo religious beliefs are no longer in control of the culture. Sounds like winning to me.

  • Who is forcing whom?

    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/11/the-little-sisters-of-the-poor-are-headed-to-the-supreme-court/414729/

    The First Amendment protects all religious beliefs, even those of weirdos.

  • TR

    And every single weirdo with a weirdo belief is still free to have those beliefs. What they can’t do is force other people to live according to them. That’s why their panties are all twisty.

  • The culture battle was lost when persons like yourself can call The Little Sisters of the Poor weirdos with impunity.

    And worse, when good people allow themselves to be bullied into silence and not call them on it. That was my real point.

  • I keep hearing that Evangelicals are being silenced and yet they are always on tv talking or they are blogging or holding rallies somewhere. That’s silence? You aren’t being silenced. You are being criticized. That’s not persecution; that’s a free exchange of ideas.

  • Pennybird

    The culture war was only an instrument to get large swaths of Americans to vote against their economic interests. In that case it was won – by the oligarchy. While they distracted Christians with promises to insert themselves into everyone else’s sex life, they robbed us all.

  • mintap

    Why only institutions of high symbolic capital? What about less institutionalized things like music, videos, comics, games, websites, books, etc. Don’t they do a lot to shape culture too?

    Think about a Sufjan Stevens, Lecrae, or Gregory Brothers… what institutions are they part of?

  • Good people are silencing themselves, leaving the battle to the Robertsoins and Falwells, who made a hash of it.

    Some of us don’t believe a boy can be a girl, and object to the state forcing us to submit to that fiction.

  • Danny

    Christians are influencing culture, away from Christian institutions by creating a lot of drama about non-existent Christian persecution in the US. And, they leave Christian principles aside by adopting an “ends justify the means” approach to having their way.

  • Then that is your choice. I’m not sure that accepting that other people have rights to do things you don’t approve of is being forced to submit to anything fictional or otherwise.

  • Then you haven’t been following the news. Shut up and bake me a cake.

  • You mean business owners are expected to treat all customers equally? Yes, in many states and cities that is the law (though not all).

  • Not all customers. “Marriages.”

    They are not all equal, despite what the state forces upon the people. It cannot rewrite reality. Read your Orwell.

  • mintap

    Bruce Springsteen, Paypal, Circus of the Sun (from Canada), Apple, etc. are appealing to their deeply held beliefs to deny classes of people their services, and discriminate against them. Is that treating customers equally?

  • Those are not even remotely the same thing. The equivalent would be if they discriminated against customers based on sex or race. No business is under any obligation to open locations or to visit specific states or cities, just as you are not obligated to patronize any particular business. And this is especially odd as an argument since social conservative groups are constantly calling for boycotts of businesses that support rights for lbgt people (which they have every right to do). Did you speak out against those tactics? Or only when you disagree with the underlying cause?

    Also, I’ll believe that the beliefs are sincerely held when I hear of a baker not supplying cakes to weddings where one or both of the couple have been previously married. These events just reveal Evangelicals as the hypocrites everyone already knows you to be.

  • mintap

    I support businesses being free to appeal to deeply held beliefs when considering if they will do business with a client or in a location. I also support the market responding to poor decisions by businesses. I’m just pointing out who is being the hypocrites here. Some people (like those mentioned above) want to be free to follow their deeply held beliefs when making business decisions but deny others this liberty (and make a big fuss when legislation protecting this freedom is on the table). The cognitive dissonance must be strong in such people.

    People in the business of cutting “ethic” hair should not be forced to cut every kind of hair, gynecologists should not be forced to take male patients, and people in the business of celebrating the setting apart of the male-female union should not be forced to celebrate alternative arrangements.

  • And how do we decide which beliefs are deeply held? I see nothing but hypocrisy. When someone who has been married four times becomes the poster child for opposing gay marriage, that’s a sick joke. Are social conservatives really that tone deaf? Or when the two top candidates for president that are being supported by those who claim to be for “traditional values” are both serial adulterers, does that not strike you as odd?

    It’s funny that you should mention cognitive dissonance. You see it on the left (and you aren’t completely wrong) but you ignore it on the right. There’s tons of it.

    So if you want to repeal all nondiscrimination laws, make that case to the public. I think you won’t find that many takers because almost every person belongs to some group or other that is currently protected by those laws. If what you really want (which is what I see) is a special carve out for those of a particular few branches of one religion to be able to openly discriminate against one particular group of people (homosexuals and/or trans people) then that’s another matter altogether. That’s simply a special privilege you are asking for.

  • mintap

    Is your questioning because you are seriously open? Or are you really close-minded? If you want, I could offer you some compelling reasons for why treating the male-female union as unique matters for society.

    (And also address why certain issues with the personal lives of leadership are not always deal-breakers.)

    And could you clarify more of what you mean by “nondiscrimination.” Would you force gynecologists to take male patients? What about the other specific examples I suggested above?

  • Are you going to offer anything new or just the same old religious right talking points that court after court has rejected?

    Also, yes, it matters if someone is a big hypocrite. But since you claim that their personal lives don’t matter, does that go for Democrats too, or only Republicans?

    As for gynocologists, why would a man need to see one? That’s not discrimination. That’s not taking someone’s money when you don’t have anything to offer them. I wouldn’t charge someone for services not rendered either. As for hair, a licensed beautician ought to be able to work with all kinds of hair. But if they refer a customer to someone who is better with dyeing hair or perms or whatever, that’s just good professional behavior and not discrimination.

    But since you’re picking such random examples, what if you are turned away for services for being a Christian? Are you okay with that?

  • mintap

    Some men identify as women and would want to see a gynecologist. Who are you to question why they would need to see one? Unless of course you are discriminating against them. A lot of discrimination is healthy (and unavoidable in real life), but you are opposed to it. So either you accept some discrimination or you are a hypocrite. But you are opposed to hypocrites too, so does that make you two times a hypocrite?

    I on the other hand would defend a more nuanced position and admit that some discrimination is entirely valid. And I would be fine with being turned away from certain services for being a Christian. What if someone tried to hire a prostitute for me, but they knew I was a Christian and so declined services for me. I would very much appreciate that.

  • The issue is multi-faceted, as the use of coercion and forcing individuals on multiple different sides to do things one way ‘or else’ makes what are already heated yet productive discussions more heated and less productive. The very word ‘engagement’ is an excellent case in point. For someone of any philosophical background– Christian, deist, Jewish, Islamic, agnostic, Buddhist, and so on– all in the U.S., ‘engaging’ with the broader culture means trying to understand the inherent diversity going on as well as to accept other human beings on their own terms. It’s the Golden Rule applied practically.

    This is very different than a mindset of ‘avoiding’ or ‘averting’ the broader culture, which is likely to fall into ghettoization and the formation of segregated ideological bubbles. In the extreme case, this even means neighborhood-based isolation; the fraying of neighborly tensions in the former Yugoslavia pre-90s conflicts comes to mind. Note the contrast with ‘dominating’ and ‘capturing’ the broader culture too. It’s not an accident that the language of the U.S. religious right-wing is based around the metaphoric frame of ‘politics is war’; candidate A seeks to ‘eliminate’ the future of candidate B so that B’s base is ‘exterminated’ by using ‘surprise tactics’ etc. Tribalism (of course, the U.S. religious right is not alone here, and the likes of Lenin, Robespierre, etc spoke that way also) ultimately sows the seeds of discord and hate among its own advocates as well as others.

  • Going to have to note the irony that you speak in support of the 1st amendment in terms of religious matters, yet when it comes to people exercising their 1st amendment to condemn / criticize / fight / etc a religious institution the 1st amendment somehow doesn’t apply anymore.

  • Agreed 100%

  • Never said you can’t. People have been attacking Christianity since Nero.

    You missed the point. The Little Sisters of the Poor are being attacked by our government, which is trying to force them to act against their consciences.

    And many people are fine with it, especially the ones who cry loudest about “rights.” There’s your irony.

  • Are you actually being serious? I’ll play along on the off case that you actually think these are good analogies.

    As I already said, if that doctor cannot help that particular patient then it would be unethical to charge them for services no rendered. Is there an actual case like this? I can’t think of one.

    As for prostitution, you aren’t under any obligation to have sex with anyone. Consent is an important element of the law there. One assumes that if someone did hire a prostitute for you they’d get paid anyway without having to do much so I don’t know where the problem is (except of course that in most places in the US hiring a prostitute would be a crime). That’s not discrimination. I’m not sure you even know what that word means. Or hypocrite.

    And I notice you didn’t answer my question. You claim that it’s okay for politicians to speak out against certain behaviors while engaging in them privately. So does that go for all of them or just the ones you don’t like? It’s not a difficult question.

    Again, I’m not sure you’re serious. That or you’ve never discussed anything like this with anyone who didn’t already agree with you.

  • If you actually pay attention to the nature of the case, you’d see that the Supreme Court has actually been asking the group, and other religious groups, what way that they’d relent on allowing people to receive contraception. The Courts are basically bending over backwards to be as accommodating as possible– the institutions don’t have to do anything, just let others do it for them. They’re not being forced at all. We’re at the point of silliness where they refuse to even sign papers acknowledging meeting with people, because signing a paper allowing someone else to do something (give out contraception) is immoral and wrong. No actual rights are being violated.

    And if you want to bring up the business issue, that’s a matter of the general concept that a public business using public goods that says that it’s open to the public must do what they say they do. Commercial fraud and discrimination is generally seen as illegal, no kidding. That’s not a surprise, and it’s not a matter of religious groups being ‘forced’ to bend to demands. It’s that the era of ‘No blacks, no dogs, no queers, no Irish’ signs is over and the very idea opposed by basically everyone. Claiming to serve everyone but suddenly arbitrarily objecting to a whole classification of perfectly valid customers is along the same moral lines as selling someone a supposedly clean jar of peanut butter that actually has salmonella– at the very base, it’s not only lying but intentionally harming someone else.

    You want real examples of rights being violated? Take a look at the violence against Christians by ISIS militants and other groups in the Mideast. Strange how the standard response by American Christians to this is usually crickets.

  • Aaron

    > And I would be fine with being turned away from certain services for being a Christian.

    While you might be okay with that, the kinds of people pushing these ‘religious freedom’ laws certainly would not. People who think that having to follow the same non-discrimination laws as everyone else is ‘Christian persecution’ would probably have their heads explode in rage.

  • mintap

    Laws of the land that secure universal human rights take a priority over religious freedom. For example, some religions may want to practice child sacrifice, but the child’s right to life must limit that religion’s free exercise. Some religions (e.g., one’s that are influenced by Mohammed’s writings) may encourage slavery, pedophilia, or wife beating, but the natural rights of the enslaved, children, and wives should take a priority over such practices.

    Some religious views may consider the “spirituality” of the same-sex union as a reason for why it deserves “dignity.” Justice Kennedy presented his religious view on this in the Obergfell v. ruling. But if the implication of that religious view results in denying innocent children their equal protection than it should not take a priority over the Natural Rights of children. Every single child originates through the male-female union, and every single child is not old enough yet to consent to any alternative family arrangement.

    As the U.S. stated in its Declaration of Independence our Natural Rights are endowed at our creation by Nature’s God. This its presented as a universal and self-evident truth and the securing of these rights is the reason for why the nation was instituted.

    One really interesting part of this is that much of Christianity aligns very well with Natural Law. So people seeing attacks on human natural rights also often equate that with attacks on Christianity, and people defending some policy from a Christian position are also often defending the Natural Rights of all. Of course a Christian would claim this is because the Christian God and Nature’s God are one and the same.

  • mintap

    You support doctors discriminating based on the sex of their patients. I do too. Human biology discriminates too.

    I would appreciate if a prostitute hired for me (where legal) upon finding out I was a Christian would deny me service and return the money to whomever hired them, and this is even if in the moment in my weakness I expressed that I wanted the service. This would be beneficial discrimination.

    And I claim that politicians are human and not necessarily supposed to be role models to follow. Sometimes the politician that simply slows down some of the march towards tyranny by mucking up (checking and balancing) government a bit may be the best man or woman for the job. Most of the U.S. successes are due more to the Constitution limiting government than to any individual in power.

  • Aaron

    > Every single child originates through the male-female union, and every single child is not old enough yet to consent to any alternative family arrangement.

    You’ll have to clarify what you mean by “the male-female union”. If you mean the male-female union which resulted in a child’s conception, then are you arguing that the government should force the biological parents of a child to raise them? If not, then you should be aware that the evidence shows that children do equally well with same-sex and opposite-sex parents: http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/press/press-releases/new-study-shows-no-differences-in-family-relationships-or-child-health-outcomes-between-same-sex-and-different-sex-parent-households/

    > As the U.S. stated in its Declaration of Independence our Natural Rights are endowed at our creation by Nature’s God.

    Yes, and we’re not governed by the Declaration of Independence. We are governed by the Constitution, which only references religion once – and only to say that “o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

    You’re really just using the term ‘Natural Law’ to mean your version of Christianity. Were you to cite any actual evidence as to why children should not be raised by same-sex parents, you might have the beginnings of an argument.

  • mintap

    We see the male-female union within our genetics. I am arguing that the government should have an institution aligning with that union so that there is more likelihood (through some more of an encouragement) that a mother and a father will be linked to each other and both to any offspring they may have. The government is limited. Force is not (or should not) be such a central part of what it does.

    Biological parents should raise their children.

    And that is an interesting study you mention. It links urban, stable, highly educated, lesbian couples with higher parental stress, and based on self-reporting doesn’t link to any additional negative impact on the child’s wellbeing. It is from the same data set used by Regnerus’ New Family Structures study. One obvious problem just off the bat I noticed is that from the data set same-sex couples are much less likely to be stable, but this study passes over this and removed this key factor for why same-sex couples are worse families for children. Lack of stability is a key reason. Neglecting to factor in the greater likelihood of lack of stability is comparing the cream of the crop with the more average mom and dad families. And also relying of self-reporting, especially during a time where the political climate is well known, often results in inflated reporting. I wouldn’t hang my hat on such a study.

    And do you reject the stated purpose for why the U.S. was instituted? And you are simply wrong regarding the place of the Declaration of Independence. It is considered law in the United State code. It was the first act of Congress. It has often been cited by SCOTUS. Acts forming new states mentioned how their constitutions could not be opposed to the principles of the Declaration of Independence. It is not irrelevant to the nation.

  • “relent on allowing people to receive contraception”

    Completely false premise. The Obama administration is attempting to force the nuns to buy contraceptives for their employees, against their religious beliefs. Of course rights are being violated.

  • You’ve got it 100% backwards. The Obama administration is attempting to make sure that the people are covered, and they’ve attempted method after method to get the group to relent and allow the coverage to take place. The group doesn’t have to agree to support anything. All they have to do is sign the papers and such permitting coverage to be served by others.

    This is like if a Jewish deli said not only that it wouldn’t serve pork (understandable) but that it would unconditionally refuse for anyone that worked for them or ate in their restaurant could ever eat pork, even outside of the deli (completely silly).

  • Please try to read the news coverage of these things outside of the narrative bubble.

  • No, it’s like the Obama administration is attempting to force the nuns to buy contraceptives for their employees, against their religious beliefs.

    a) There is no compelling state interest in free contraceptives
    b) There are other ways to achieve it than forcing the nuns to do something against their religious beliefs

  • please state the case honestly, not with calculated cliches

  • A)They’re not being forced to do that. As I’ve explained. As neutral journalistic analysis shows of the facts of the case.
    B)There’s a direct interest in regular insurance programs functioning so that people get the standard care that they need, particular in cases where ‘the pill’ provides medical benefits other than just preventing pregnancy. There’s also the clear fact that preventing pregnancy by itself, even if it were the only benefit talked about (it’s clearly not) is a vital life-line for many individuals that would otherwise be having kids that they couldn’t provide for.
    C)Then it’s a good thing that the nuns aren’t being forced to do something against their religious beliefs, isn’t it? I would oppose that if it actually were happening. I’m glad that it isn’t.

  • neutral journalistic analysis shows of the facts of the case

    This is a joke, right? If there were only one valid analysis, this wouldn’t be in front of the Supreme Court.

    And now, I’ve lost my stomach for engaging the sort of person who call Catholic nuns “nuts” with impunity.

    I hope our readers, if any, are equally nauseated at your behavior and worse, that it has become acceptable or at least unobjectionable. This is what our country has become.

    Good day.

  • A gynecologist is a specific type of doctor. I would not approve of an oncologist who discriminated on the basis of sex.

    Your prostitute example is an odd one. I guess he or she could return the money since they weren’t going to provide the service that had been paid for. That’s between then. Obviously that would be inappropriate especially if they knew you weren’t going to interested in that sort of thing. Of course if all prostitutes had to refuse to sleep with Christians I doubt any could pay their rent!

    And finally, obviously we can’t expect anyone to be perfect. Again, we’re talking about being a moral crusader while engaging in that same behavior in private. If you don’t think sex outside of marriage is a big deal, that’s good to know. Are you going to hold that standard for everyone or just politicians that you like?

  • Aaron

    > We see the male-female union within our genetics.

    We see quite a few things from our genetics. That fact that something occurs in nature does not automatically mean that it is good, nor that it is the only good way of doing something.

    > I am arguing that the government should have an institution aligning with that union so that there is more likelihood (through some more of an encouragement) that a mother and a father will be linked to each other and both to any offspring they may have.

    And allowing same-sex couples to marry and raise children diminishes that likelihood how, exactly? Opposite-sex relationships are not affected by other people having same-sex relationships. Can you point to any reason how same-sex relationships discourage opposite-sex couples from being linked to their offspring?

    Furthermore, neither the ability to have children nor the desire to are required for marriage. An opposite sex couple which is physically or biologically unable to have children is still allowed to marry, despite their options for parenthood being virtually identical to those of a same-sex couple (with the exception that gay couples cannot use a sperm donor).

    > Biological parents should raise their children.

    What exactly do you mean by this? Parents who want to raise their biological children should obviously be allowed to, unless there’s an overriding concern such as safety of the children. However, no one is arguing for anything different. Unless you claim to be arguing against the forcible removal of children from their biological parents (which you don’t seem to be), then you’re suggesting- correct me if I’m wring – that children would be better off with biological parents who do not want to raise them, then with a different same-sex or opposite sex couple.

    Leaving aside the issue of whether it’s ethical or even possible to require someone to provide care for another person, how does that make any sense? You point out some potential flaws in that study, but that’s hardly the only one dealing with same-sex couples raising children. Unless you can show why those possible flaws compromise the entire study, or cite a study showing the opposite, what is your argument against same-sex couples raising children?

    > And do you reject the stated purpose for why the U.S. was instituted?

    I stand by what I said about your use of the term Natural Law. Unless you can show how Natural Law is a concept distinct from your particular brand of Christianity (again, note that many of the Founding Fathers were deists), then I don’t see how it’s a useful term.

    While the Declaration of Independence is certainly not irrelevant, and has indeed been cited by SCOTUS, there are various opinions about whether it is actually law. The Constitution would certainly override it in the case of a conflict. Again, your argument rests on ‘Natural Law’ meaning what you want it to. It’s not at all self-evident that ‘Nature’s God’ means your god.

  • Is there an actual objection that you have to A), B), and C)? That’s not an actual response, you’re just complaining that you’re offended that other people in America dare to disagree with you (again, 1st amendment). By the way, I didn’t refer to them as “nuts”– there was a garbling of two sentences together made while typing that was immediately corrected in less than forty-five seconds. Bearing false witness is supposed to a sin, isn’t it (not that you’ve cared before, though)?

  • And that is an interesting study you mention. It links urban, stable, highly educated, lesbian couples with higher parental stress, and based on self-reporting doesn’t link to any additional negative impact on the child’s wellbeing.

    Exactly. What is passed off as “science” is ruined by self-selection bias and limited sample sizes.

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2012/02/same-sex-science

    Don’t get roped into arguing for or against what is no more than psuedo-science.

    You’ll have to clarify what you mean by “the male-female union”.

    This is how absurd and disingenuous these discussions get. When you have to explain the birds and the bees, you know you’re not dealing with good faith.

  • Andrew P. Evans

    they are nuts who no longer have impunity.

  • Christians are often perplexed on how to deal with hostility and swinishness such as yours here, per Matthew 7:6.

    This has unfortunately left them unfamiliar with how to refudiate the false premises and clever but dishonest language that passes for principled argument.

    “Sexual conduct” becomes “love”; that a child deserves both a father and a mother becomes “hate.”

    That’s it in a nutshell. Sex makes babies; that is the proper starting point. We must work back from there. Sexual gratification is in the end, nothing.

    Your most honest attempt at a principled argument was trying to establish that the United States of America has a compelling interest in providing free contraception. [Not established, but at least a try.]

    What was not nearly established was that the US government couldn’t provide free contraception to their employees without dragging the nuns of The Little Sisters of the Poor into complicity.

    The Obama Administration’s brutishness is what’s really offensive here: offensive on every level, personal or constitutional. This conflict is completely unnecessary, yet the Obama Administration has taken nuns to court.

    If anyone besides us is reading this, I hope you’re as appalled and nauseated as I am. What kind of president or political party drags nuns into court for the sake of the Sexual Revolution, nuns who devote their entire lives to caring for the poor?

    the Obama Administration has taken nuns to court

    [I put it to you, Tommy.]

  • dunno what you mean, Andrew P:

    The Little Sisters of the Poor care for the poor

    why should they be dragged into the Sexual Revolution?

    America has respected “conscientious objectors” since 1776

    The Little Sisters of the Poor are conscientious objectors to the Sexual Revolution

    if we do not spare them
    no one should be spared

    the state is all

    OBEY.

    your call

  • mintap

    And I am not really trained in social science, but the bias of that study jumped right out to me as I skimmed over it. I suspect that sociological data will be a major part in convincing a lot of people about the problems of increases in out-of-wedlock birth rates and denying children a mother and father, BUT also along with this there will be a lot of resistance to good sociological data and attempts to pass selection bias and skewed conclusions off as the best science.

    And the absurdity was built into the movement up front. It is no coincidence that queer theory is a brach of deconstructionism, historically coming right out of it. The fight was against rationality and truth (ultimately God) first, and then all these confusions about gender and other aspects humanity trickle down from that.

  • You got it. Do not allow yourself to be bullied by claims to “science,” for it is not science.

    And please stand up for those who are being bullied into silence. That was my original point here.

    Science is actually on your side

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2004/11/surgical-sex

    You can’t make a boy into a woman, even if you pump him full of female hormones and he grows breasts and then you cut off his dick and make a “vagina” out of it.

    It’s not a vagina even if it looks like one. Via a vagina, sperm finds its way to a womb, the uterus. Where it becomes a baby, a human child.

    I feel bad for “transsexuals.” But I don’t know what that even means. You cannot become a woman by hormone injections or cosmetic genital surgery. Just ask any woman who has actually given birth to a child.

  • mintap

    Okay, lots of stuff. This will be a fairly long post:

    Yes, you are right to point out that errors of the naturalistic fallacy variety are a possibility; just because something is natural does not mean it is good. In Christian theology this is because of the Fall where sin entered the world. But on the other hand we shouldn’t dismiss Natural Rights just because they are natural and some claim we cannot know if they are good. Your argument could just as easily be applied to the right someone has to life. Being alive is natural. Would you say, “That fact that something occurs in nature does not automatically mean that it is good, nor that it is the only good way of doing something” and suggest that being dead is a suitable alternative?

    But one clue is that 100% of people originate through the male-female union (as demonstrated by having that union within our genetics). To say that this part of human nature is not good is to say that humanity is not good. Are you really going down that path?

    >”And allowing same-sex couples to marry and raise children diminishes that likelihood how, exactly?…Can you point to any reason how same-sex relationships discourage opposite-sex couples from being linked to their offspring?”

    Good question (I hope it is not disingenuous). One problem is that for whatever reason the way people have found to give same-sex couples this thing they supposedly want is by banning states from setting apart the male-female union as unique. In places that have such a ban, formalizing the union by entering a now seemingly diluted institution becomes less interesting for people (maybe because it makes less sense). We see a decline in the marriage rate and an increase in the out-of-wedlock birth rate. The freedom of association that was already available was deemed not enough.

    Having public accountability can be a help for a lot of couples to remain linked to each other and to their children. But the kind of couples that the public has a special interest in keeping linked together are the kind that children (those not old enough to consent yet) originate through. Adults in an institution unrelated to procreation should be much freer to unlink whenever they want to. And when the institution is now set up along lines purely of an emotional attachment, more “monogamish” norms should be more prevalent. (to be more in line with emotional whims of adults.) And this is exactly what prominent marriage deconstructionists (like Andrew Sullivan and Dan Savage) have suggested. This is because they see this as emotionally healthy for adults, and they neglect what is healthy for children (ability and family harmony) because the institution is not supposed to be about children.

    But adults already have the freedom of association. Any same-sex couple or trio, etc. could form commitments already. There was no ban on any of this. They are all able to freely consent. It is children that are not old enough yet to consent to their family arrangement. They are the ones that need the institution, not adults. Having an institution aligned with whatever family arrangement all children originate through is a way to secure their rights and their families until they are old enough to consent to any alternative arrangements, where the freedom of association fully kicks in. Co-opting the institution of “marriage” reduces (and sets us up for much greater possibility of reducing) the benefits it has for children and society.

    >”neither the ability to have children nor the desire to are required for marriage.”

    The way marriage should be set apart (and the way Loving v. did it) is to look at children and the continuing human process. What kind of arrangement do all children originate through? This is public knowledge. We can simply set apart that arrangement and have no need of government officials getting all up in there to check if each specific case of that arrangement can and will produce children. How is the government supposed to predict the future anyway? It is an adult-centric (present biased) view of marriage, as opposed to a child-centric (future focused) view, that would suggest the rejection of certain male-female couples based on whether or not they are deemed part of the continuing human process or not.

    >”children would be better off with biological parents who do not want to raise them, then with a different same-sex or opposite sex couple.”

    There are days, weeks, or even months when any parent (even the best of them) do not want to raise their children. Children would be better off if in spite of this their parents are still encouraged to continue. Marriage as a public and formal institution is a means to offer some of this encouragement. But that is if it is an institution presented as and thought of as something linked continuing the human process. When we remove this aspect of the institution, it is less effective at encouraging the diligence that all parents need.

    But you are right, sometimes (in rare cases) a child’s other natural rights may be seriously threatened by their very biological parents that extreme measures are warranted. For example, some parents may want to kill their children. To secure the rights of children the state can interject some here. Abortion restrictions can be made and child protective services can be mobilized.

    >”ethical or even possible to require someone to provide care for another person”

    I don’t think a limited government should be using so much force. Having an institution like marriage that limits the freedom of those who freely enter has some force to it, but it is not tyrannical. The marriage bond is pre-political and rooted in human nature.

    >”Unless you can show why those possible flaws compromise the entire study, or cite a study showing the opposite, what is your argument against same-sex couples raising children?”

    There is Regnerus’ New Family Structures Study which comes to some different conclusions. And looking at the science is useful, but also when considering Natural Rights sometimes we appeal to something different. Consider the case of slaves who may have fared much better under the care of their slave-masters. Studies could have shown this. Would that be grounds to oppose Abolitionism? Many slaves didn’t do so well when first released, but still their Creator-endowed natural right to liberty needed to be secured. Likewise, even if certain children have found pretty good coping mechanisms to not having both a mother and a father and they do pretty well, that is not grounds to reject their natural right to whatever kind of family arrangement they originate through.

    >”Unless you can show how Natural Law is a concept distinct from your particular brand of Christianity (again, note that many of the Founding Fathers were deists)”

    Where have I appealed to Christianity in making my case for why sates should not be banned from setting apart the male-female union?

    And only three of the Founding Fathers were Deist (Williamson, Wilson, and Franklin, and that was at a time when Deism was fairly different than today and accepted elements of God providentially and continually working in the world.) 51 out of 55 of the Founding Fathers (93%) had public sworn confessions of Christianity. 70% were Calvinists. This is simply a matter of public record.

    But as I said above, Christianity aligns very well with Natural Law. Don’t reject Natural Law just because of a distaste for Christianity.

    For our purposes I’m thinking of Natural Law this way:
    Every child originates alive; there is a natural right to life.
    Every child originates a separate person; there is a natural right to liberty.
    Every child originates through a specific father and specific mother; these people have parental rights.
    Every child starts highly dependent but grows in independence; this points to setting a time when the right to liberty more fully kicks in and parental rights are decreased.
    Every child originates through the male-female family arrangement. This points to a right to that family arrangement.

  • mintap

    People can self-identify as all sorts of orientations whenever they want to, but no one else should be forced to accept any of these.

    Personally, I don’t identify as any orientations, I just simply try to follow human nature and morality.

  • mintap

    You don’t approve of oncologists discriminating based on sex?!?

    What do you make of this then:
    http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/data/race.htm

  • Mrs. Webfoot

    It was a sad day for women when a man was named woman of the year. That was the day feminism lost. “Feminine” is now meaningless to a large segment of our population, and so is feminism.

  • Mrs. Webfoot

    Aaron:
    Unless you can show how Natural Law is a concept distinct from your particular brand of Christianity (again, note that many of the Founding Fathers were deists), then I don’t see how it’s a useful term.>>>>

    Natural law is useful for those who wish to have natural children. It is very useful in the whole baby making process.

  • Mrs. Webfoot

    Tom Van Dyke:
    The Obama Administration’s brutishness is what’s really offensive here: offensive on every level, personal or constitutional. This conflict is completely unnecessary, yet the Obama Administration has taken nuns to court.>>>>

    Brutishness is right. The fact that the executive branch of government has been taking more power to itself should be of concern to the American people.

    This trend has been going on for some time, now, and Obama has been quite aggressive in this regard. Executive power does have its limits, but the executive branch has been pushing as much as they can. The president does have a lot of power.

    Taking on the Little Sisters of the Poor is brutish. It’s nothing for Obama to be proud of.

    Of course, this isn’t Cuba – said the Venezuelans.

  • Andrew P. Evans

    You say that as if they aren’t part of one of the most powerful organizations in the world.

    Yet, you’re right: The government screams “obey.”
    And the churches scream “obey.”
    And the businesses scream “obey.”

    And we little people try to be conscientious objectors, in wars both figurative and literal, yet we still all have blood on our hands.

  • That has nothing to do with the topic. Yes, men and women get different cancers at different rates. What does that have to do with DOCTORS discriminating?

  • Aaron

    Regnerus’s study has been widely criticized, as it failed to take into account the actual kinds of same-sex relationship being examined: See http://chronicle.com/blogs/percolator/controversial-gay-parenting-study-is-severely-flawed-journals-audit-finds/30255 and https://d3bsvxk93brmko.cloudfront.net/datastore/general/2012/07/10/12-15388_Amicus_Brief_Psychological.pdf

    > It is an adult-centric (present biased) view of marriage, as opposed to a child-centric (future focused) view, that would suggest the rejection of certain male-female couples based on whether or not they are deemed part of the continuing human process or not.

    Your argument seems to be that there’s something inherently special about opposite-sex marriage, regardless of whether or not it produces children.

    I suppose I could agree with most of your statements regarding Natural Law, except for this one:

    > Every child originates through the male-female family arrangement. This points to a right to that family arrangement.

    Again, no one is arguing that opposite-sex parents shouldn’t be allowed to raise their biological children, if they want to. What you’re really saying is that someone who does not want to raise their biological children should be prohibited from allowing a same-sex couple to raise those children. However, you also talk about not wanting the government to use excessive force or control. Isn’t that exactly what you’re arguing for?

    Essentially, you seem to applying a large double standard when it comes to same-sex and opposite-sex parents. You argue that the government should not intervene in opposite-sex couples’ families unless absolutely necessary, but then argue that actively preventing same-sex couples from raising children is only right. Based on your earlier statements about government, it would seem that an overwhelming amount of evidence regarding the harm of same-sex parents to children would be needed for the government to intervene. However, this seems not to be the case.

  • Well done, “Mintap.” When the discussion of sex, society, and politics was decoupled from the only sex in which the state has a compelling interest–male-female sex that makes children–the argument was lost to the Sexual Revolution, as it became about “morality,” not the public good.

    The Regnerus study was attacked from the first; he was personally attacked, his career threatened. The “science” community will not dare to find any negatives about “gay” parenting again.

    Truth is of zero concern. The children are of zero concern. The health of our society is of zero concern. Sexual gratification is all and the “right” to it, a right created from whole cloth.

  • mintap

    First, in wanting to see the male-female union set apart that is not at all targeting any specific alternative arrangment. I would be making fairly similar arguments if there was a current polygamy movement (like the one that already occurred in U.S. history).

    But you bring up a good point: How much can/should government force apply.

    If I am saying children have a right to a mother and a father, some may take that and want to apply excessive force to providing for it.

    But adults have rights too. For example we wouldn’t like to see medical privacy violated for marriage policy. And we wouldn’t want to see divorce entirely banned. (It could however be reformed to favor the interests of child and family instead of individual whims).

    I’m arguing the role of an institution like civil marriage is more focused on encouragement than force. Any male-female couple should be free to enter it, but with knowledge that it will limit some of their freedoms. Many people can make the perfectly valid choice of not entering it, but for those who do get married there should be some encouragement towards maintaing stability and harmony (that which benefits any potential children that could come into existence through such a union).

    The different-sex couple is very different from any other kind of arrangement. Does anyone deny this?

  • Mrs. Webfoot

    The issue is multi-faceted, as the use of coercion and forcing individuals on multiple different sides to do things one way ‘or else’ makes what are already heated yet productive discussions more heated and less productive. >>>>

    Who here is trying to coerce and force individuals to do things one way “or else”?

    The Obama Administration is trying to force The Little Sisters of the Poor to provide contraception.

    The Administration’s action is an attempt to undermine the First Amendment, which lists freedom of religion – not just freedom of worship – first. Then come freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the freedom to peaceably assemble, and the freedom to petition Government for a redress of grievances.

    What about freedom of conscience? Do you really want government telling people what they have to think and believe?

    You may think it is no big deal to silence The Little Sisters of the Poor and force them to violate their conscience. Notice what else is attached to freedom of religion.

    Do you like your freedom of speech? Then to be consistent and back The Little Sisters of the Poor.

    BTW, like it or not, the right of political parties to do all they legally can to knock a candidate out of the race is a form of freedom of speech. It also involves freedom of the press and all the other guarantees of the 1st Amendment.

    Are you sure you don’t mean you favor your side knocking candidates out of the running, but you don’t want the opposition to do the same? Are you sure you are not advocating for a one part system as many other countries have?

    Our political process is verbally messy, but not actually bloody. Real blood letting is the alternative.

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    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.[1]