Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

What difference does the doctrine of humans being in “the image of God” make?

Here’s an article from the leftist The Week about how Christianity transformed our view of the value of children. (H/T Trina)

It says:

We have forgotten just how deep a cultural revolution Christianity wrought. In fact, we forget about it precisely because of how deep it was: There are many ideas that we simply take for granted as natural and obvious, when in fact they didn’t exist until the arrival of Christianity changed things completely. Take, for instance, the idea of children.

Today, it is simply taken for granted that the innocence and vulnerability of children makes them beings of particular value, and entitled to particular care. We also romanticize children — their beauty, their joy, their liveliness. Our culture encourages us to let ourselves fall prey to our gooey feelings whenever we look at baby pictures. What could be more natural?

In fact, this view of children is a historical oddity. If you disagree, just go back to the view of children that prevailed in Europe’s ancient pagan world.

As the historian O.M. Bakke points out in his invaluable book When Children Became People, in ancient Greece and Rome, children were considered nonpersons.

Here’s how children were viewed before Christianity:

One of the most notorious ancient practices that Christianity rebelled against was the frequent practice of expositio, basically the abandonment of unwanted infants.

[…]Another notorious practice in the ancient world was the sexual exploitation of children. It is sometimes pointed to paganism’s greater tolerance (though by no means full acceptance) of homosexuality than Christianity as evidence for its higher moral virtue. But this is to look at a very different world through distorting lenses. The key thing to understand about sexuality in the pagan world is the ever-present notion of concentric circles of worth. The ancient world did not have fewer taboos, it had different ones. Namely, most sexual acts were permissible, as long as they involved a person of higher status being active against or dominating a person of lower status. This meant that, according to all the evidence we have, the sexual abuse of children (particularly boys) was rife.

[…]According to our sources, most abandoned children died — but some were “rescued,” almost inevitably into slavery. And the most profitable way for a small child slave to earn money was as a sex slave. Brothels specializing in child sex slaves, particularly boys, were established, legal, and thriving businesses in ancient Rome. One source reports that sex with castrated boys was regarded as a particular delicacy, and that foundlings were castrated as infants for that purpose.

Of course, the rich didn’t have to bother with brothels — they had all the rights to abuse their slaves (and even their children) as they pleased. And, again, this was perfectly licit. When Suetonius condemns Tiberius because he “taught children of the most tender years, whom he called his little fishes, to play between his legs while he was in his bath” and “those who had not yet been weaned, but were strong and hearty, he set at fellatio,” he is not writing with shock and horror; instead, he is essentially mocking the emperor for his lack of self-restraint and enjoying too much of a good thing.

This is the world into which Christianity came, condemning abortion and infanticide as loudly and as early as it could.

Here are a couple of stories that contrast the Christian view of children as made in the image of God with the secular leftist view that children, unborn and born, are basically just machines made out of meat.

First one from the Washington Times is on a wealthy Democrat donor named Jeffrey Epstein:

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is incensed that her husband, former President Bill Clinton, has been tied to sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who’s also at the heart of an investigation into Prince Andrew’s alleged sexual dalliances with a minor, the New York Post reported.

[…]Court documents related to a suit filed by Virginia Roberts, who allegesMr. Epstein paid her $15,000 to have sex with the prince, also included several references to Mr. Clinton. The documents from 2011 show thatMr. Epstein had 21 different email and telephone numbers for Mr. Clinton and an aide in his directory.

The court documents also show Mr. Clinton “frequently flew” with Mr. Epstein on his private plane between 2002 and 2005. The court documents say that Mr. Clinton “suddenly stopped, raising the suspicion that the friendship abruptly ended, perhaps because of events related to Epstein’s sexual abuse of children,” the Post reported.

Mrs. Clinton, widely considered the front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential bid, is reportedly outraged that her husband’s name has again popped up in a sex scandal.

When I read the story about what allegedly happened to Virginia Roberts, I literally cried my eyes out. But then again, I’m coming at this from a Christian perspective where selfish adults ought to give way to the needs of vulnerable children. Secular leftists don’t have that view, so anything goes.

The second story is from Oregon Live and is about another wealthy Democrat donor:

The former boyfriend of Terrence P. Bean was arrested early Thursday on sex abuse charges stemming from the same alleged 2013 encounter with a 15-year-old boy at a hotel in Eugene.

Kiah Loy Lawson, 25, was arrested at 1:15 a.m. at the Portland Police Bureau’s Central Precinct and booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center shortly after 2 a.m.

[…]Detective Jeff Myers from the Portland’s Sex Crimes Unit made the arrest, hours after police took Lawson’s ex-boyfriend, Portland developer Terrence Patrick Bean, into custody Wednesday morning.

Bean, 66, a prominent gay rights activist and major Democratic Party fundraiser, was arrested at his home in Southwest Portland and booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center at 10:12 a.m. Wednesday.

The indictment charges Bean with two counts of third-degree sodomy, a felony, and one count of third-degree sex abuse, a misdemeanor, police said.

[…]Both Bean and Lawson are accused of having a sexual encounter with the same 15-year-old boy in a hotel in Eugene last year. They had arranged the encounter with the teen after meeting him via a website, investigators allege.

[…]Bean has been one of the state’s biggest Democratic donors and an influential figure in gay rights circles in the state. He helped found two major national political groups, the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, and has been a major contributor for several Democratic presidential candidates, including Barack Obama. He’s also a close friend of former Gov. Barbara Roberts.

Children are weak and adults are strong. Secular leftists believe that selfish adults should be able to do whatever they want with children in order to gratify their own desires. This is the default “no God” view. I can guarantee you that no one who abuses children, unborn or born, expects to face God and be held accountable for what they did.

The secular left, which does not recognize that children are made in the image of God in order to know God, has discovered that it’s easier to sexually abuse children if you separate them from their biological parents, especially their fathers. That’s one of the reasons why they support no-fault divorce, single mother welfare, and now even same-sex marriage. Children who don’t have biological parents are much easier to exploit sexually. And if the children find anything wrong with being sexualized at an early age and groomed for sexual exploitation, well, we have public schools to teach them that this is all perfectly normal. Public schools that are championed by Democrats, of course.

Filed under: News, , , , , ,

Schools ask 12-year-old children whether they have had gay, oral and anal sex

This is from Breitbart News. (H/T Ari)

Full text:

A public hearing is taking place Wednesday morning in the Massachusetts State House to look into a controversial sex survey given to middle school and high school students.
Developed by the Centers for Disease Control and called the “Youth Risk Behavior Survey,” the survey asks students as young as 12 a series of very personal and highly ideological questions.

The survey asks students if they are homosexual and if they are transgender. It also asks if they have had oral or anal sex and if they have performed such acts with up to six people.

Whether or not they have carried a gun, smoked cigarettes, consumed alcohol and how much also appear on the questionnaire, as well as whether they have taken drugs, such as OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin. It asks how often their guardian uses a seat belt, if the youngster has a sexually transmitted disease, and where they sleep.

The group MassResistance says the survey is “psychologically distorting” and will lead the child to think he is “abnormal if he is not doing it all.” The group stated that “having children reveal personal issues about themselves and their family can have emotional consequences.” They also complain that “the survey results are used by radical groups from Planned Parenthood to LGBT groups to persuade politicians to give more taxpayer money [to] these groups.”

Though students fill out the survey anonymously, MassResistance warns that “they are administered by the teacher in the classroom and there is often pressure for all kids to participate.”

The test is given nationally and not without controversy. The Chicago Tribune reported two years ago that a Chicago teacher was reprimanded for telling students they had a “constitutional right” not to fill out the survey.

This post is a lead-in for my 2 PM post, which tries to explain what people on the secular left are hoping to achieve by trying to break down the natural resistance that children have to sexual exploitation.

Filed under: News, , , , ,

Warning: if the Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage, you could lose your church

Hillary Clinton and the Human Rights Campaign

Hillary Clinton and the Human Rights Campaign

This is by John Zmirak, who is writing at The Stream. You should read the whole thing.

He writes:

If you aren’t following the arguments over same-sex marriage before the Supreme Court, you should be. Even if you don’t cater weddings or sell pizza in Indiana, your religious freedom is in danger. For detailed accounts of the debate and the questions asked by justices that might be readable tea leaves, see Ryan Anderson’s analysis and the capsule summary provided by Russell Moore and Andrew T. Walker.

The outcome of this week’s debate will determine whether orthodox American Christians will fall to the status of dhimmis, the third-class Christian citizens of sharia Muslim states. (Dhimmis have bare freedom of worship, but pay special, heavy taxes and are excluded from any positions of influence.) If the court imposes same-sex “marriage,” it will be exposing the churches attended by the majority of Americans to sustained legal attack. Does that sound like crazy alarmism? The Solicitor General of the United States agrees with me. Except that he is in favor of it.

Justice Samuel Alito asked Solicitor General Donald Verrilli whether acceptance of same-sex marriage would subject orthodox Christian churches to the treatment once accorded Bob Jones University, which lost its tax-exempt status because its ban on interracial dating contradicted federal policy. Verrilli seemed a little taken aback, then answered yes, “it’s certainly going to be an issue.”

In other words, if the Supreme Court votes against natural marriage, it will free up the feds to target organizations you might have heard of, such as the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention. (In theory, the feds might also take aim at every mosque in America, but something tells me that the mosques are likely to get a pass.) Remember that the Obama administration has already tried to force these same churches to provide abortifacients to their employees. Attacking their tax-exempt status over biblical sexual ethics is peanuts next to that.

In case you don’t follow tax policy as a hobby, see Joe Carter’s detailed account of the grave consequences this would have for churches. Put briefly, most would close. Unless, of course, they caved.

Imagine if your house of worship needed to turn a hefty profit, so it could pay the same taxes on its property and income as a casino or a strip joint — unlike Planned Parenthood, since that abortion business is a tax-exempt (and federally funded) “charity.” Imagine if none of the money you gave your church were deductible from your taxes, unlike the money you sent to Greenpeace. Many if not most religious schools and colleges would also shut their doors, unable to pay the same business taxes as for-profit diploma mills.

The First Amendment won’t prevent any of this. When the dictates of a religion conflict with what courts have ruled is a constitutional right, the church’s claims give way every time.

Practical point:

When presidential candidates come to our states to court us during the primaries — the only time faithful Christians exercise any real leverage in this country — the issue of same-sex marriage must now rival abortion in its importance. Any hopeful should be pressed repeatedly to give a straight, unambiguous answer to this question: “Do you support a constitutional amendment restoring natural marriage? If not, then what exactly will you do to protect my religious freedom? If nothing, why should I support you?” We should print that question on cards and distribute it in Iowa and New Hampshire, and candidates should hear nothing else from us till they answer. We need to know whether a year from now we will be living like Americans, or increasingly like Christians in China.

You don’t have to speculate about these things, you just have to look north to Canada, or east to Europe, where the secular leftists are much stronger. Same-sex marriage is a club that the secularist leftists can use to get publicly expressed religious convictions out of the public square, once and for all. All they have to do is leverage sentiments of tolerance that come from religion to pass the gay marriage law, and then use the gay marriage law to get rid of the moral convictions that make it harder for them to do what they want without feeling ashamed. And it’s working, because we have reduced Christianity to emotions, instead of grounding it on reason and evidence. It’s all about feeling good now, and feeling good is more important to most Christians than respecting God’s actual character.

Filed under: News, , , , , , ,

Are atheists more moral than religious people?

Well, let’s take a look at the numbers with this article by Arthur Brooks, published by the Hoover Institute at Stanford University.

Excerpt:

How do religious and secular people vary in their charitable behavior? To answer this, I turn to data collected expressly to explore patterns in American civic life. The Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey (SCCBS) was undertaken in 2000 by researchers at universities throughout the United States and the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research. The data consist of nearly 30,000 observations drawn from 50 communities across the United States and ask individuals about their “civic behavior,” including their giving and volunteering during the year preceding the survey.

From these data, I have constructed two measures of religious participation. First, the group I refer to as “religious” are the respondents that report attending religious services every week or more often. This is 33 percent of the sample. Second, the group I call “secular” report attending religious services less than a few times per year or explicitly say they have no religion. These people are 26 percent of the sample (implying that those who practice their religion occasionally make up 41 percent of the sample). The SCCBS asked respondents whether and how much they gave and volunteered to “religious causes” or “non-religious charities” over the previous 12 months. Across the whole population, 81 percent gave, while 57 percent volunteered.

The differences in charity between secular and religious people are dramatic. Religious people are 25 percentage points more likely than secularists to donate money (91 percent to 66 percent) and 23 points more likely to volunteer time (67 percent to 44 percent). And, consistent with the findings of other writers, these data show that practicing a religion is more important than the actual religion itself in predicting charitable behavior. For example, among those who attend worship services regularly, 92 percent of Protestants give charitably, compared with 91 percent of Catholics, 91 percent of Jews, and 89 percent from other religions.

Socioeconomically, the religious and secular groups are similar in some ways and different in others. For example, there is little difference between the groups in income (both have average household incomes around $49,000) or education level (20 percent of each group holds a college degree). On the other hand, the secular group is disproportionately male (49 percent to 32 percent), unmarried (58 percent to 40 percent), and young (42 to 49 years old, on average). In addition, the SCCBS data show that religion and secularism break down on ideological lines: Religious people are 38 percentage points more likely to say they are conservative than to say they are liberal (57 percent to 19 percent). In contrast, secular people are 13 points more likely to say they are liberal than to say they are conservative (42 percent to 29 percent).

It is possible, of course, that the charity differences between secular and religious people are due to these nonreligious socioeconomic differences. To investigate this possibility, I used a statistical procedure called probit regression to examine the role of religious practice in isolation from all other relevant demographic characteristics: political beliefs, income (and hence, indirectly, the tax incentives for giving), education level, gender, age, race, marital status, and area of residence. The data show that if two people — one religious and the other secular — are identical in every other way, the secular person is 23 percentage points less likely to give than the religious person and 26 points less likely to volunteer.

Honestly, I’ve always struggled to understand how giving to charity could be rational, on atheism. If you are only alive for 80 years, and the purpose of your life is to be happy, then the only reason I can think of to give anything away to anyone is because it makes you feel happier or more respected or something. Maybe because you like thinking of yourself as moral, or maybe because you want to be seen as moral, or maybe because you want a tax deduction, or maybe something else. But if this is the only life you are ever going to have, and people are just collections of atoms, then why care about what anyone is doing? We’re all just accidents anyway, on atheism, and we’re going to die out eventually. There are no objective moral duties – we are accidents on the atheist view. One set of atoms giving some atoms to another set of atoms, and then in the end all the atoms get scattered: who cares?

Look:

In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, or any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference… DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music. (Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (1995))

They may live better than that for whatever whim, but goodness is not rational within their worldview. And we want to be rational about morality, because as the numbers show, having a reason to be good makes a big difference in whether actually do good. As opposed to just claiming to be good. Anyone can say anything, but their rational beliefs are the rails on which they run their lives.

Here’s something interesting I found about the leaders of the two political parties in this country.

Excerpt:

In 2009, the Obamas gave 5.9 percent of their income to charity, about the same as they gave in 2006 and 2007. In the eight years before he became president, Obama gave an average of 3.5 percent of his income to charity, upping that to 6.5 percent in 2008.

The Obamas’ charitable giving is equally divided between “hope” and “change.”

George W. Bush gave away more than 10 percent of his income each year he was president, as he did before becoming president.

Thus, in 2005, Obama gave about the same dollar amount to charity as President George Bush did, on an income of $1.7 million — more than twice as much as President Bush’s $735,180. Again in 2006, Bush gave more to charity than Obama on an income one-third smaller than Obama’s.

In the decade before Joe Biden became vice president, the Bidens gave a total — all 10 years combined — of $3,690 to charity, or 0.2 percent of their income. They gave in a decade what most Americans in their tax bracket give in an average year, or about one row of hair plugs.

Of course, even in Biden’s stingiest years, he gave more to charity than Sen. John Kerry did in 1995, which was a big fat goose egg. Kerry did, however, spend half a million dollars on a 17th-century Dutch seascape painting that year, as Peter Schweizer reports in his 2008 book, “Makers and Takers.”

To be fair, 1995 was an off-year for Kerry’s charitable giving. The year before, he gave $2,039 to charity, and the year before that a staggering $175.

He also dropped a $5 bill in the Salvation Army pail and almost didn’t ask for change.

In 1998, Al Gore gave $353 to charity — about a day’s take for a lemonade stand in his neighborhood. That was 10 percent of the national average for charitable giving by people in the $100,000-$200,000 income bracket. Gore was at the very top of that bracket, with an income of $197,729.

When Sen. Ted Kennedy released his tax returns to run for president in the ’70s, they showed that Kennedy gave a bare 1 percent of his income to charity — or, as Schweizer says, “about as much as Kennedy claimed as a write-off on his 50-foot sailing sloop Curragh.” (Cash tips to bartenders and cocktail waitresses are not considered charitable donations.)

The Democratic base gives to charity as their betters do. At the same income, a single mother on welfare is seven times less likely to give to charity than a working poor family that attends religious services.

In 2006 and 2007, John McCain, who files separately from his rich wife, gave 27.3 percent and 28.6 percent of his income to charity.

In 2005, Vice President Cheney gave 77 percent of his income to charity. He also shot a lawyer in the face, which I think should count for something.

In a single year, Schweizer reports, Rush Limbaugh “gave $109,716 to ‘various individuals in need of assistance mainly due to family illnesses,’ $52,898 to ‘children’s case management organizations,’ including ‘various programs to benefit families in need,’ $35,100 for ‘Alzheimer’s community care — day care for families in need,’ and $40,951 for air conditioning units and heaters delivered to troops in Iraq.”

The Democrats are the non-religious party, the Republicans are the religious party. The Democrats are also the talking party, as you can see, and the Republicans are the doing party.

By the way, Arthur Brooks eventually turned this research into a book called “Who Really Cares?“, and it’s a good response to atheists when they tell you that they can be moral without God. If it doesn’t make sense to be moral, then atheists aren’t going to do it. You can read more about that book here.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , ,

After destroying religion and marriage, Europe tries to convince people to make babies

Fertility rates in European countries

Fertility rates in European countries (click for larger image)

This is from the radically leftist New York Times, of all places.

They write:

Recently, Sex and Society, a nonprofit group that provides much of Denmark’s sex education, adjusted its curriculum. The group no longer has a sole emphasis on how to prevent getting pregnant but now also talks about pregnancy in a more positive light.

It is all part of a not-so-subtle push in Europe to encourage people to have more babies. Denmark, like a number of European countries, is growing increasingly anxious about low birthrates. Those concerns have only been intensified by the region’s financial and economic crisis, with high unemployment rates among the young viewed as discouraging potential parents.

The Italian health minister described Italy as a “dying country” in February. Germany has spent heavily on family subsidies but has little to show for it. Greece’s depression hasfurther stalled its birthrate. And in Denmark, the birthrate has been below the so-called replacement rate needed to keep a population from declining — just over two children per woman — since the early 1970s.

“For many, many years, we only talked about safe sex, how to prevent getting pregnant,” said Marianne Lomholt, the national director of Sex and Society. “Suddenly we just thought, maybe we should actually also tell them about how to get pregnant.”

The demographic shift is more pressing in Europe than almost any other major region, save Japan. There are an estimated 28 Europeans 65 or older for every 100 residents ages 20 to 64, almost twice the world average, according to the United Nations, and compared with 24.7 for the United States. By the end of the century, the United Nations expects the European figure to double.

Such trends will transform societies, potentially reducing economic growth and increasing stress on public pension systems and requiring more elder care. Japan already faces existential questions in a country whereadult diaper sales are beginning to eclipse those of baby diapers.

But there is not a consensus about the impact of demographics. Some see a natural maturing of developed societies. Others see disaster ahead, because with fewer workers and more retirees, the active work force faces an increased burden to sustain social programs.

Productivity gains over time, though, can make up for such population stresses. Declining birthrates can also lead to labor shortages, and Germany has faced a gap in skilled labor. But that is hardly an issue now for much of Europe, which is mired in high unemployment.

OK, so it’s a crisis. But how did it happen?

Nicholas Eberstadt explains what’s happening to marriage and parenting, in this Wall Street Journal article.

Why is it happening?

All around the world today, pre-existing family patterns are being upended by a revolutionary new force: the seemingly unstoppable quest for convenience by adults demanding ever-greater autonomy. We can think of this as another triumph of consumer sovereignty, which has at last brought rational choice and elective affinities into a bastion heretofore governed by traditions and duties—many of them onerous. Thanks to this revolution, it is perhaps easier than ever before to free oneself from the burdens that would otherwise be imposed by spouses, children, relatives or significant others with whom one shares a hearth.

People are rejecting responsibilities, expectations, and obligations because they are selfish.

When he talks about Europe, he offers an explanation for this:

Now consider Europe, where the revolution in the family has gained still more ground. European demographers even have an elegant name for the phenomenon: They call it the Second Demographic Transition (the First being the shift from high birth rates and death rates to low ones that began in Europe in the early industrial era and by now encompasses almost every society). In the schema of the Second Demographic Transition, long, stable marriages are out, and divorce or separation are in, along with serial cohabitation and increasingly contingent liaisons. Not surprisingly, this new environment of perennially conditional, no-fault unions was also seen as ushering in an era of more or less permanent sub-replacement fertility.

According to Eurostat, the European Union’s statistical agency, the probability of marriage before age 50 has been plummeting for European women and men, while the chance of divorce for those who do marry has been soaring. In Belgium—the birth-land of the scholars who initially detected this Second Transition—the likelihood of a first marriage for a woman of reproductive age is now down to 40%, and the likelihood of divorce is over 50%. This means that in Belgium the odds of getting married and staying married are under one in five. A number of other European countries have similar or even lower odds.

Europe has also seen a surge in “child-free” adults—voluntary childlessness. The proportion of childless 40-something women is one in five for Sweden and Switzerland, and one in four for Italy. In Berlin and in the German city-state of Hamburg, it’s nearly one in three, and rising swiftly. Europe’s most rapidly growing family type is the one-person household: the home not only child-free, but partner- and relative-free as well. In Western Europe, nearly one home in three (32%) is already a one-person unit, while in autonomy-prizing Denmark the number exceeds 45%. The rise of the one-person home coincides with population aging. But it is not primarily driven by the graying of European society, at least thus far: Over twice as many Danes under 65 are living alone as those over 65.

“Perenially conditional, no-fault unions”. That means that either party can leave at any time, for any reason.

Basically, people became skeptical of objective morality and the afterlife, and they have decided to follow their hearts and go more the most happiness they can have in this life. And they’ve noticed that relationships with other people – with all the nasty expectations, obligations and responsibilities – get in the way of this self-centeredness. To get married and have children is to embrace responsibility. It means that you are accepting the obligation to learn the needs of other people and care for those needs. Something has gone wrong in European society where these social obligations declined, just as religion declined. And the same thing is being taught to the next generation in our most prestigious universities.

This is a bird’s-eye view. I’ll have a closer look at the problem in my next post.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , ,

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