Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

On wargames, history and heroes: “this story shall the good man teach his son”

Memoir '44: Pegasus Bridge setup

Memoir ’44: Pegasus Bridge setup

Reposting this old post because Dina and I spent Friday night playing games again! And this is one of my favorite posts. Last night was Portal 2 and Orcs Must Die! 2.

Last night, I played through the Pegasus Bridge scenario from the Memoir ’44 wargame with Dina a few times. We actually played the online version of the game, using Steam. She was very gracious to play a wargame with me, which I don’t think is necessarily the first thing on most women’s lists of things to do on a Thursday night! I appreciated her agreeing to learn how to play and then playing with me several times. I think that Christians need to plan and execute more “together” activities like that – activities that involve interaction, co-operation, communication and engagement. We try to avoid doing things where we are both spectators. Playing wargames is not the only thing we do – we also do Bible study and cooking lessons (for me), for example.

Anyway, the point of this post is to express the deeper meaning behind playing wargames. I think that it is important to recognize and celebrate those who have demonstrated good character, whether it be now, or in the past. I think that it is important for us to search out the best role models ourselves, so that they will influence the way we act in our own lives. The second world war was a clear example of good versus evil. Anyone on the Allied side who demonstrated bravery and courage should be celebrated for safeguarding the security, liberty and prosperity that we enjoy today. In the case of Pegasus bridge, the hero is Major John Howard of the British paratroops.

Here is a quick re-cap of his exploits that day from the New York Times:

Maj. John Howard, the commander of glider-borne British infantrymen who seized the strategically vital Pegasus Bridge in the first battle of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, died Wednesday in a hospital in Surrey, England. He was 86 and had lived in Burford, near Oxford.

Under cover of night on June 6, 1944, six gliders carrying 181 officers and men of the Second Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry landed on the eastern flank of a 60-mile invasion front on the northern coast of France. The regiment had a heritage going back to the battles of Bunker Hill and New Orleans, to Waterloo and to World War I. Now its soldiers were in the vanguard of the invasion of Hitler’s Europe.

Major Howard’s D Company was ordered to seize two bridges, one over the Caen Canal and the other spanning the parallel Orne River. If the Germans held on to those bridges, panzer units could move across them in a counterattack isolating 10,000 British paratroopers jumping behind the British invasion beach known as Sword, where infantry forces would arrive at daybreak. And Major Howard’s men sought to strike swiftly to prevent the Germans from blowing up the bridges if they were overwhelmed; the British needed those bridges to resupply their airborne units.

British Halifax bombers towed the gliders over the English Channel, then cut them loose.

Major Howard’s lead glider landed at 12:16 A.M., only 50 yards from the Caen Canal bridge, but the glider’s nose collapsed on impact, knocking everybody aboard unconscious for a few seconds. The soldiers quickly emerged, and over the next five minutes the men directly under Major Howard killed the surprised German defenders.

The nearby Orne River bridge was captured by other troops in Major Howard’s unit, and soon the words ”Ham and Jam,” signifying mission accomplished, were radioed to the airborne.

Two British soldiers were killed and 14 wounded in the operation.

Over the next 12 hours, British paratroopers and commandos reinforced Major Howard’s men, and British forces were able to move toward the city of Caen, their flank having been protected by the capture of the bridges.

On July 16, Major Howard received the Distinguished Service Order, Britain’s second-highest award for valor. On the 10th anniversary of D-Day, he received the Croix de Guerre Avec Palme from the French Government, which had renamed the Caen Canal span Pegasus Bridge, for the flying horse symbolizing the British airborne. The road crossing the bridge was later renamed Esplanade Major John Howard.

Why is this important? Well, it’s important to think on the things that are excellent. There are so many things in the culture that are not excellent that we are confronted with every day. We have to make it our business to do things together where goodness is celebrated. Especially when manly virtues like courage are celebrated. We don’t do that much anymore. And I think there’s a connection between wargames and Christian apologetics that we need to deliberately encourage.

Here’s an excellent passage from Shakespeare’s “Henry V” that makes the point:

This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say, ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say, ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words,
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remembered.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be rememberèd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England, now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day. (4.3.43)

This is from the famous speech in which King Henry charges his men to fight well before the famous Battle of Agincourt.

You can read more about the history of the British Airborne division and Pegasus bridge. The famous historian of the second world war Stephen E. Ambrose also wrote a history of the Pegasus bridge battle, called “Pegasus Bridge: June 6, 1944“. You won’t find many military historians better than Stephen E. Ambrose!

You might be surprised how many men are interested in military history and wargames, precisely because men instinctively look up to men like John Howard who embody qualities like bravery and courage. We have a dearth of moral character in this society. And we don’t do much to teach young men about manly virtues, even in the church. I think that it is important for us to think of creative ways for us to present good character to our young men. Young women should also learn about good character, because they must separate out the good men from the bad when they are courting.

Thanks to Dina for helping me to edit this post!

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UK Supreme Court rules against Christian B&B couple’s conscience rights

Dina sent me this article from the UK Telegraph about a recent Supreme Court decision from the UK.

Excerpt:

The devoutly Christian owners of a Cornish hotel who refused to allow two gay men to take a double room have lost their final appeal to the Supreme Court. It ruled that Peter and Hazelmary Bull had discriminated against the couple, even though they had long operated a rule that unmarried guests had to sleep apart. One of the judges, Lady Hale, said such a case would have been unthinkable less than two decades ago, and it is a measure of how both the law and societal norms have changed that the Bulls should have found themselves in such a predicament.

It is also a pity this matter was not settled amicably when the Bulls made an offer of redress; but campaigners were intent on making an example of them. The aggrieved men, Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy, who were in a civil partnership, were supported by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). The Bulls were perplexed as to why the EHRC should act against them, since their right to exercise their religious beliefs was being set against that of the men not to be discriminated against on the grounds of their sexual orientation.

Dina also sent me this article from the pro-gay Spiked Online.

Excerpt:

[A]s the systematic unequal treatment of gays has ended, so another problem has grown. One pernicious social force has been replaced by another: the willingness of the state to outlaw minority or eccentric views and behaviours. State-backed oppression has yielded to state-backed intolerance.

The Bulls have been hauled before the courts and told they can no longer practise what they preach. To deny a couple the right to make a living in a manner consistent with their Christian values is draconian. The Bulls’ fate is similar to that of Lillian Ladele, an Islington marriage registrar, and Gary McFarlane, a Relate counsellor, who were both sacked after declining to provide their professional services to lesbians and gays. Equality laws did for them all.

The problem here is not, as it appears, merely a slap in the face to Christians. It is a slap in the face to the right of all individuals to act free of state control absent a compelling reason for intervention. As John Stuart Mill put it in On Liberty (1859): ‘The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.’

As if to satisfy Mill’s harm principle, the Supreme Court went in search of Preddy and Hall’s ‘harm’. What they found was that when the Bulls’ house rules were explained to Preddy and Hall, they found it ‘upsetting’ and ‘very hurtful’. Even in the touchy-feely twenty-first century, where self-esteem is seen as so important and so fragile, this is pretty lame.

The Supreme Court judge, Lady Hale, may have been aware that this ‘affront to their dignity’, as she put it, was not the sort of harm, in the Mill sense, that should justify the state’s coercive power. She bolstered her argument by linking Preddy and Hall’s hurt feelings to a bigger historical picture. ‘We should not underestimate’, she said, ‘the continuing legacy of those centuries of discrimination, persecution even, which is still going on in many parts of the world’.

Fascism happens when the normal desire for compassion is taken out of the family context and becomes the policy of a powerful feminist welfare state. And that’s when it becomes a threat to the right of individuals to make moral judgments and to exercise religious liberty.

The EHRC, you’ll remember, was a project of the Labour Party of the UK, which is the socialist party in the UK. There is also a communist party called the Liberal Democrats. The striking thing is that many church-attending Christians not only vote for the Labour Party, but they also vote for the Liberal Democrats, which are even more liberal. A lot of this is because British Christians are so far to the left on economic issues that they sort of go along with the assault on their own religious liberty out of ignorance. They vote for bigger and bigger government, and then they are surprised when they actually get it.

The same thing happened in Canada with the Liberal Party and their introduction of Human Rights Commissions and Human Rights Tribunals, which criminalize offending people with free speech. The very Christians that voted for expanding government to reduce poverty were the ones who were then persecuted by the same big government they voted to create. This goes to show why we need to have better economics knowledge among Christians, because many of us are voting for left-wing parties because we think that private, voluntary charity can be replaced with government-controlled redistribution of wealth. Not only does that not work to reduce poverty, but in the end, we lose our liberties, too.

In the UK, you’ll find a lot of Christians who think that rent control is a good thing, that price controls are a good thing, that raising minimum wage is a good thing, that tariffs on imported goods are a good thing – positions which are generally viewed as incorrect by academic economists across the ideological spectrum. That’s why churches need to teach the Christian worldview, including economics. The UK church should be training Christians to undo this ignorant, patriotic confidence that UK Christians have in their welfare state. We all have a lot of work to do to educate ourselves on how the Bible applies to the real world (e.g. – economics), or else we will end up undermining our own liberties.

Additionally, I find it very frustrating that so many churches are so focused on providing emotional comfort and a sense of community to the people in the pews that they neglect to talk about these religious liberty issues. Pastors don’t want to alert ordinary Christians about how dangerous it’s becoming to take unpopular stands on issues like gay rights in public – it’s scary and divisive and drives people away from church. You’re not going to hear them trying to apply the Bible to moral issues or economic issues, etc. from the pulpit, because that spoils the “experience” and “the show” – the comfort and entertainment that people expect from church. We need to do better at helping Christians to be aware of threats to our liberties. They need to be trained to connect their faith to specific laws and policies in the real world.

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American health care: does it cause poor life-expectancy and high infant mortality?

Probably one of the best health care policy experts writing today is Avik Roy, who writes for Forbes magazine.

Here is his latest column, which I think is useful for helping us all get better at debating health care policy. (H/T Matt from Well Spent Journey)

Excerpt:

It’s one of the most oft-repeated justifications for socialized medicine: Americans spend more money than other developed countries on health care, but don’t live as long. If we would just hop on the European health-care bandwagon, we’d live longer and healthier lives. The only problem is it’s not true.

[...]If you really want to measure health outcomes, the best way to do it is at the point of medical intervention. If you have a heart attack, how long do you live in the U.S. vs. another country? If you’re diagnosed with breast cancer? In 2008, a group of investigators conducted a worldwide study of cancer survival rates, called CONCORD. They looked at 5-year survival rates for breast cancer, colon and rectal cancer, and prostate cancer. I compiled their data for the U.S., Canada, Australia, Japan, and western Europe. Guess who came out number one?

Here is the raw data:

Health care outcomes

Health care outcomes by country and type of treatment

Click here to see the larger graph.

So, what explains this?

The article continues:

Another point worth making is that people die for other reasons than health. For example, people die because of car accidents and violent crime. A few years back, Robert Ohsfeldt of Texas A&M and John Schneider of the University of Iowa asked the obvious question: what happens if you remove deaths from fatal injuries from the life expectancy tables? Among the 29 members of the OECD, the U.S. vaults from 19th place to…you guessed it…first. Japan, on the same adjustment, drops from first to ninth.

It’s great that the Japanese eat more sushi than we do, and that they settle their arguments more peaceably. But these things don’t have anything to do with socialized medicine.

Finally, U.S. life-expectancy statistics are skewed by the fact that the U.S. doesn’t have one health-care system, but three: Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurance. (A fourth, the Obamacare exchanges, is supposed to go into effect in 2014.) As I have noted in the past, health outcomes for those on government-sponsored insurance are worse than for those on private insurance.

To my knowledge, no one has attempted to segregate U.S. life-expectancy figures by insurance status. But based on the data we have, it’s highly likely that those on private insurance have the best life expectancy, with Medicare patients in the middle, and the uninsured and Medicaid at the bottom.

I know that my readers who like to dig deep into economics and policy will love the links at the bottom of the article:

For further reading on the topic of life expectancy, here are some recommendations. Harvard economist Greg Mankiw discusses some of the confounding factors with life expectancy statistics, citing this NBER study by June and Dave O’Neill comparing the U.S. and Canada. (Mankiw calls the misuse of U.S. life expectancy stats “schlocky.”) Chicago economist Gary Becker makes note of the CONCORD study in this blog post. In 2009, Sam Preston and Jessica Ho of the University of Pennsylvania published a lengthy analysis of life expectancy statistics, concluding that “the low longevity ranking of the United States is not likely to be a result of a poorly functioning health care system.”

The funniest thing I have found when talking to people from countries with socialized health care systems, like Canada and the UK, is that they are woefully uninformed about American health care. They literally do not know about free emergency room care, which is free for anyone regardless of insurance – including illegal aliens. They do not know about our expensive Medicaid program, which helps people who cannot afford health insurance. And our very very expensive Medicare program, which provides health care to the elderly – including prescription drugs. I get the feeling that foreign critics of American health care are getting their views from amateur documentaries produced by uneducated Hollywood propagandists, or maybe from TV shows on the Comedy Channel. They certainly are not getting their information from peer-reviewed studies by credentialed scholars from top universities, like the ones cited above.

I have literally spoken to Canadians who think that people in the USA without insurance do not get treatment and just die in the streets from stab wounds. They don’t know about the emergency room rule, or about charity care, or about Medicaid and Medicare. There is a lot of ignorance up there – wilful ignorance, in some cases. And keep in mind that the average Canadian household is paying over $11,000 a year for this substandard health care! They are paying more for less, and that’s not surprising since a large chunk of the taxes that are collected for health care go to overpaid unionized bureaucrats. Naturally, when their left-wing politicians need treatment, the first place they go is to the United States, where they pay out of pocket for the better health care. But that doesn’t stop them from denouncing American health care when they are talking to voters.

Higher infant mortality rates?

One of the other common arguments you hear from uninformed people outside the USA is the higher infant mortality rates argument.

Here’s an article by Stanford University professor Scott Atlas to explain why the argument fails.

Excerpt:

Virtually every national and international agency involved in statistical assessments of health status, health care, and economic development uses the infant-mortality rate — the number of infants per 1,000 live births who die before reaching the age of one — as a fundamental indicator. America’s high infant-mortality rate has been repeatedly put forth as evidence “proving” the substandard performance of the U.S. health-care system.

[...]n a 2008 study, Joy Lawn estimated that a full three-fourths of the world’s neonatal deaths are counted only through highly unreliable five-yearly retrospective household surveys, instead of being reported at the time by hospitals and health-care professionals, as in the United States. Moreover, the most premature babies — those with the highest likelihood of dying — are the least likely to be recorded in infant and neonatal mortality statistics in other countries. Compounding that difficulty, in other countries the underreporting is greatest for deaths that occur very soon after birth.

[...]The United States strictly adheres to the WHO definition of live birth (any infant “irrespective of the duration of the pregnancy, which . . . breathes or shows any other evidence of life . . . whether or not the umbilical cord has been cut or the placenta is attached”) and uses a strictly implemented linked birth and infant-death data set. On the contrary, many other nations, including highly developed countries in Western Europe, use far less strict definitions, all of which underreport the live births of more fragile infants who soon die. As a consequence, they falsely report more favorable neonatal- and infant-mortality rates.

[...]Neonatal deaths are mainly associated with prematurity and low birth weight. Therefore the fact that the percentage of preterm births in the U.S. is far higher than that in all other OECD countries — 65 percent higher than in Britain, and more than double the rate in Ireland, Finland, and Greece — further undermines the validity of neonatal-mortality comparisons.

You can listen to a podcast with Dr. Atlas here, from the Library of Economics web site.

If you want to read more about how American health care compares with health care in socialized systems, read this article by Stanford University professor of medicine Dr. Scott Atlas. And you can get his book “In Excellent Health: Setting the Record Straight on America’s Health Care” from Amazon.

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Percentage of single mothers who have never married 11 times higher than in 1960

The Heritage Foundation reports.

Excerpt:

Forty-four percent of single mothers have never been married. This is 11 times the percent of never-married single mothers in 1960.

The Pew Research Center reports:

In 1960, of all single mothers, more than eight-in-ten (82%) were divorced, separated or widowed. An additional 14% were married, but their spouses were not living in the household. Only 4% of all single mothers had never been married.

The percent of unwed births also grew dramatically over the same period. Today, over 40 percent of all children are born to single women, compared with less than 10 percent in 1960.

Children raised in single-parent homes are much more likely to live in poverty or struggle with other problems that take a toll on their ability to thrive.

Of course, other trends such as a high divorce rate—although the divorce rate has declined since its peak in the 1980s—have implications for children’s and society’s well-being.

Today, less than half (46 percent) of American children who reach age 17 have been raised by their continuously married, biological parents. This is taking a toll. Children do best when raised by their married mother and father. They are at lower risk of engaging in substance abuse, delinquent behavior, and early sexual activity, and they are less likely to drop out of high school or suffer abuse.

Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute explains how welfare provides an incentive to women to have babies without getting married.

Cato Institute economist Dr. Michael Tanner explains:

At the same time, the evidence of a link between the availability of welfare and out-of-wedlock births is overwhelming. There have been 13 major studies of the relationship between the availability of welfare benefits and out-of-wedlock birth. Of these, 11 found a statistically significant correlation. Among the best of these studies is the work done by June O’Neill for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Holding constant a wide range of variables, including income, education, and urban vs. suburban setting, the study found that a 50 percent increase in the value of AFDC and foodstamp payments led to a 43 percent increase in the number of out-of-wedlock births.(7) Likewise, research by Shelley Lundberg and Robert Plotnick of the University of Washington showed that an increase in welfare benefits of $200 per month per family increased the rate of out-of-wedlock births among teenagers by 150 percent.(8)

The same results can be seen from welfare systems in other countries. For example, a recent study of the impact of Canada’s social-welfare system on family structure concluded that “providing additional benefits to single parents encourages births of children to unwed women.”(9)

Of course women do not get pregnant just to get welfare benefits. It is also true that a wide array of other social factors has contributed to the growth in out-of-wedlock births. But, by removing the economic consequences of a out-of-wedlock birth, welfare has removed a major incentive to avoid such pregnancies. A teenager looking around at her friends and neighbors is liable to see several who have given birth out of wedlock. When she sees that they have suffered few visible immediate consequences (the very real consequences of such behavior are often not immediately apparent), she is less inclined to modify her own behavior to prevent pregnancy.

Proof of this can be found in a study by Professor Ellen Freeman of the University of Pennsylvania, who surveyed black, never-pregnant females age 17 or younger. Only 40% of those surveyed said that they thought becoming pregnant in the next year “would make their situation worse.”(10) Likewise, a study by Professor Laurie Schwab Zabin for the Journal of Research on Adolescence found that: “in a sample of inner-city black teens presenting for pregnancy tests, we reported that more than 31 percent of those who elected to carry their pregnancy to term told us, before their pregnancy was diagnosed, that they believed a baby would present a problem…”(11) In other words, 69 percent either did not believe having a baby out-of-wedlock would present a problem or were unsure.

Until teenage girls, particularly those living in relative poverty, can be made to see real consequences from pregnancy, it will be impossible to gain control over the problem of out-of- wedlock births. By disguising those consequences, welfare makes it easier for these girls to make the decisions that will lead to unwed motherhood.

Current welfare policies seem to be designed with an appallingly lack of concern for their impact on out-of-wedlock births. Indeed, Medicaid programs in 11 states actually provide infertility treatments to single women on welfare.(12)

I should also point out that, once the child is born, welfare also appears to discourage the mother from marrying in the future. Research by Robert Hutchins of Cornell University shows that a 10 percent increase in AFDC benefits leads to an eight percent decrease in the marriage rate of single mothers.(13)

What is this story about welfare and single mothers doing in the 6 PM “Christian apologetics” time slot?

Well, it turns out that without a father in the home, children are far more likely to lose their faith.

Here is some statistical evidence that should have Christians everywhere concerned.

Excerpt:

In 1994 the Swiss carried out an extra survey that the researchers for our masters in Europe (I write from England) were happy to record. The question was asked to determine whether a person’s religion carried through to the next generation, and if so, why, or if not, why not. The result is dynamite. There is one critical factor. It is overwhelming, and it is this: It is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children.

If both father and mother attend regularly, 33 percent of their children will end up as regular churchgoers, and 41 percent will end up attending irregularly. Only a quarter of their children will end up not practicing at all. If the father is irregular and mother regular, only 3 percent of the children will subsequently become regulars themselves, while a further 59 percent will become irregulars. Thirty-eight percent will be lost.

If the father is non-practicing and mother regular, only 2 percent of children will become regular worshippers, and 37 percent will attend irregularly. Over 60 percent of their children will be lost completely to the church.

Let us look at the figures the other way round. What happens if the father is regular but the mother irregular or non-practicing? Extraordinarily, the percentage of children becoming regular goesupfrom 33 percent to 38 percent with the irregular mother and to 44 percent with the non-practicing, as if loyalty to father’s commitment grows in proportion to mother’s laxity, indifference, or hostility.

[...]In short, if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). If a father goes but irregularly to church, regardless of his wife’s devotion, between a half and two-thirds of their offspring will find themselves coming to church regularly or occasionally.

A non-practicing mother with a regular father will see a minimum of two-thirds of her children ending up at church. In contrast, a non-practicing father with a regular mother will see two-thirds of his children never darken the church door. If his wife is similarly negligent that figure rises to 80 percent!

The results are shocking, but they should not be surprising. They are about as politically incorrect as it is possible to be; but they simply confirm what psychologists, criminologists, educationalists, and traditional Christians know. You cannot buck the biology of the created order. Father’s influence, from the determination of a child’s sex by the implantation of his seed to the funerary rites surrounding his passing, is out of all proportion to his allotted, and severely diminished role, in Western liberal society.

Here’s an interesting post about a new book by Mary Eberstadt which makes the same point with even more data.

Excerpt:

The French Revolution gave the West the first self-consciously secular government at the end of the 1700s, and one of its first revolutionary acts was to liberalize its marriage laws. But what people may not realize, was that France was the first country in Europe to experience a decline in fertility rates within marriage, and an increase in cohabitation and illegitimacy, decades before the French Revolution. In the early 1700s, over a half century before the Revolution, illegitimacy was only at 1%, but by the storming of the Bastille, which ushered in the Revolution, France’s illegitimacy rate had climbed to 20% overall, with a 30% rate in the boiling pot of Paris. The French Revolution’s successful attack on Christianity, and the consequent secularization of France, was, in part, the result of the prior erosion of the family.

We see the same pattern in the UK, argues Eberstadt. “In Britain…the decline in births started a century later [than in France] at the very height of Victorian England,…Bit by bit…the same family trends already established in France—fewer births, more divorces, more out-of-wedlock births—also began reshaping the world of Britain. By our own time, over half of all children in Britain are born to unmarried people, and the fertility rate stands at 1.91 children per woman.” Not surprisingly, Britain’s churches are, like those of France, largely empty.

In the Scandinavian countries, like Sweden, where marriage rates are lowest, and divorce, cohabitation, and single-family households, and out-of-wedlock births are the highest, we find the greatest degree of secularization.

The obvious lesson we must draw, says Eberstadt, is “Vibrant families and vibrant religion go hand in hand.”

I get annoyed when I hear people talk about how they are socially conservative, but not fiscally conservative. If you are socially conservative, and you believe in faith, marriage and family, then you need to think about what policies do to encourage people to either get married or not get married. Single mother welfare is nothing more than paying people to have children before they are married. Not only is it bad for them to be dependent on government, but that money has to come from somewhere else – probably from some hard-working man who is now taxed so much that his wife has to go to work to make ends meet, weakening the family and potentially exposing the child to more unfiltered influence from secular schools and secular culture. Think about fiscal policy, because it matters.

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Correcting four myths about the history of the Crusades

Here is an interesting article from First Principles Journal. (H/T The Poached Egg)

Intro:

The verdict seems unanimous. From presidential speeches to role-playing games, the crusades are depicted as a deplorably violent episode in which thuggish Westerners trundled off, unprovoked, to murder and pillage peace-loving, sophisticated Muslims, laying down patterns of outrageous oppression that would be repeated throughout subsequent history. In many corners of the Western world today, this view is too commonplace and apparently obvious even to be challenged.

But unanimity is not a guarantee of accuracy. What everyone “knows” about the crusades may not, in fact, be true. From the many popular notions about the crusades, let us pick four and see if they bear close examination.

The four myths:

  • Myth #1: The crusades represented an unprovoked attack by Western Christians on the Muslim world.
  • Myth #2: Western Christians went on crusade because their greed led them to plunder Muslims in order to get rich.
  • Myth #3: Crusaders were a cynical lot who did not really believe their own religious propaganda; rather, they had ulterior, materialistic motives.
  • Myth #4: The crusades taught Muslims to hate and attack Christians.

Here’s the most obvious thing you should know. The Crusades were defensive actions:

In a.d. 632, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Asia Minor, North Africa, Spain, France, Italy, and the islands of Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica were all Christian territories. Inside the boundaries of the Roman Empire, which was still fully functional in the eastern Mediterranean, orthodox Christianity was the official, and overwhelmingly majority, religion. Outside those boundaries were other large Christian communities—not necessarily orthodox and Catholic, but still Christian. Most of the Christian population of Persia, for example, was Nestorian. Certainly there were many Christian communities in Arabia.

By a.d. 732, a century later, Christians had lost Egypt, Palestine, Syria, North Africa, Spain, most of Asia Minor, and southern France. Italy and her associated islands were under threat, and the islands would come under Muslim rule in the next century. The Christian communities of Arabia were entirely destroyed in or shortly after 633, when Jews and Christians alike were expelled from the peninsula.6 Those in Persia were under severe pressure. Two-thirds of the formerly Roman Christian world was now ruled by Muslims.

What had happened? Most people actually know the answer, if pressed—though for some reason they do not usually connect the answer with the crusades. The answer is the rise of Islam. Every one of the listed regions was taken, within the space of a hundred years, from Christian control by violence, in the course of military campaigns deliberately designed to expand Muslim territory at the expense of Islam’s neighbors. Nor did this conclude Islam’s program of conquest. The attacks continued, punctuated from time to time by Christian attempts to push back. Charlemagne blocked the Muslim advance in far western Europe in about a.d. 800, but Islamic forces simply shifted their focus and began to island-hop across from North Africa toward Italy and the French coast, attacking the Italian mainland by 837. A confused struggle for control of southern and central Italy continued for the rest of the ninth century and into the tenth. In the hundred years between 850 and 950, Benedictine monks were driven out of ancient monasteries, the Papal States were overrun, and Muslim pirate bases were established along the coast of northern Italy and southern France, from which attacks on the deep inland were launched. Desperate to protect victimized Christians, popes became involved in the tenth and early eleventh centuries in directing the defense of the territory around them.

This is always good to know when you are answering Muslims, because they do tend to bring it up.

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