Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Odds and ends 2/17/2015

“In polite society, the mere mention of the Bible often introduces a certain measure of anxiety. A serious discussion on the Bible can bring outright contempt.


A culture can barely begin, let alone sustain, any serious intergenerational attempt to comprehend, interpret, and respond to the riddles of life and the universe unless it has some reasonably comprehensive worldview.” –J. Stanley Mattson, foreword to The Book That Made Your World

Every time I think about evolution, my brain starts to hurt and I end up asking myself: Why is this important? My understanding of the dynamics of the moral, spiritual universe doesn’t rest on the fact, or non-fact, of evolution, not like it rests on God as creator or Jesus as Lord and Savior. Really, who cares? Well, Marxists for starters, Jonah Goldberg writes:

The “Don’t you believe in evolution!?!” people don’t really believe in science qua science, what they’re really after is dethroning God in favor of their own gods of the material world (though I suspect many don’t even realize why they’re so obsessed with this one facet of the disco ball called “science”). “Criticism of religion is the prerequisite of all criticisms,” quoth Karl Marx, who then proceeded to create his own secular religion.

Speaking of secular religion, Carl R. Trueman channels David Brooks:

David Brooks points out that current forms of secularism need to change. They need to develop a sense of the sacred and the transcendent if they are to inspire passion and have any cultural stamina. The current secularism which he describes is indeed rather bland: Polite middle-class mores, shorn of metaphysical assumptions, where being kind to each other is the whole of the law. This, he argues, cannot continue indefinitely because it does not address humanity as it really is. Human beings are emotional, passionate creatures, and for any creed to survive, it must take this into account. We want—we need—transcendence and the sacred. The current secularism of the trendy urban neighborhoods and the leafy suburbs is simply too prosaic to possess lasting appeal.

Hence, Eric Hoffer’s True Believer. Atheist/Agnostic secularism denotes nothingness, a lack of the sense of the divine in public life. But it connotes a plethora of humanist ideologies, all of them certain to be out of step with God’s divine order.

Kyle Smith transcribes Obama’s remarks on ISIS burning a Jordanian pilot alive:

Aaand it, I think, will redouble [pause] the vigilance aaand determination on the part of our global coalition to, uh, make sure that they are degraded and ultimately defeated. Ummmm. [Adopting a whimsical look] It also just indicates the degree to which whatever ideology they’re operating off of, it’s bankrupt. [Suppressing a smirk, pivoting to a much more important subject.] We’re here to talk about how to make people healthier and make their lives better.

Obama, describing said vigilance last June to George Stephanopoulos:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk about Iraq. How serious is the ISIS threat to people in Minnesota and around the country? I was so struck by an article that Ryan Crocker, who served as ambassador under you, wrote. He said, “Make no mistake. This is global jihad. It’s coming our way. They have 2,000 fighters with western passports. Don’t need a visa to get in.” Are we under serious threat right now from ISIS?

OBAMA: You know, we’ve been under serious threat my entire presidency. And we were under serious threat predating 9/11, from those who embrace this ideology.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But they’re gaining strength, aren’t they?

OBAMA: They’re gaining strength in some places. But we’ve also got a lot better at protecting ourselves.

I bet the bad guys are quaking in their boots.

Mark Steyn reflects:

For many of its beneficiaries, modern western life is bland, undemanding and vaguely unsatisfying. Some seek a greater cause, and turn to climate change or LGBTQWERTY rights. But others want something with a little more red meat to it. Jihad is primal in a way that the stodgy multiculti relativist mush peddled by Obama isn’t. And what the Islamic State is offering is Jihad 2.0, cranking up the blood-lust and rape and sex slavery and head-chopping and depravity in ways that make Osama-era al-Qaeda look like a bunch of pantywaists.

Success breeds success. The success of evil breeds darker evil. And the glamorization of evil breeds ever more of those “recent Muslim converts” and “lone wolves” and “self-radicalized extremists” in the news. That’s a Big Idea—a bigger idea, indeed, than Communism or Nazism. Islam, as we know, means “submission.” But Xtreme-Sports Hyper-Islam, blood-soaked and baying, is also wonderfully liberating, offering the chance for dull-witted, repressed young men to slip free of even the most basic societal restraints. And, when the charms of the open road in Headchoppistan wear thin, your British and Canadian and Australian and European welfare checks will still be waiting for you on the doormat back home.

By contrast, civilization is a fragile and unnatural state of affairs. Droning on about the Crusades and Jim Crow, Obama offers the foreign policy of Oscar Wilde’s cynic: He knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. And so, as the world burns, he, uh, redoubles his, uh, vigilance, uh uh uh... Whatever.

Matt Barber on the president’s National Prayer Breakfast speech:

Like the Pharisees who alleged that Christ’s miracles were the work of Satan, Obama slyly insinuated that atrocities committed hundreds of years ago during the Crusades or the Inquisition were done in the name of Jesus Christ. By this logic horrors performed by quacks pretending to be doctors should rightly be ascribed to the medical profession. But as Socrates pointed out ages ago, even someone with a medical degree is not accurately said to be acting as a doctor when his actions depart from the knowledge that properly justifies that claim.

In response to Obama’s sly slander against Christ, people acting in defense of Jesus’ name have justly pointed out that nowhere in Christ’s life, as reported in the New Testament Scriptures, does he himself example the kind of atrocious mayhem the ISIS terrorists perpetrate against their victims, pursuant to the words and example of their prophet Muhammad as reported in the Islamic Scriptures. The impulse to defend against anti-Christ slanders in this way is understandable in human terms. But what Christ actually did and said is a far more powerful answer.

Albert Mohler:

Intellectual honesty also demands that we recognize that going back centuries to the era of the Crusades is not really helpful when looking at the fact that the current threat is a resurgent Islam, which understands full well that the modern secular West lacks a worldview that can lead to an adequate response. Secularism and Islam are not evenly matched.

Theological honesty further demands that we acknowledge the vast difference between a theological system centered in Jesus Christ, who told Peter to put away his sword, and one that takes as its central example Mohammed, whose status as a mighty warrior is an issue of enduring Muslim pride. The strategic fact of our current times is that the terrorism feared by the West is deeply rooted in a theological worldview, and that worldview is Islam.

The president likes to invoke “vast majorities” to support his counterfactual claims, like the science of global warming and the supposed peacefulness of Islam. France, which has the highest proportion of Muslims, has the highest proportion of Muslims who would justify suicide bombers. D’oh! Via Investor’s Business Daily:

Liberals will find Islam is one lie they can’t make peace with.

A big government-cheering liberal would cheer tax revenue from marijuana sales, which not coincidentally is what libertarians cheer as well. Robert Purcell writes at the Daily Caller:

Fears about potential negative effects of legalized recreational marijuana seem to have been exaggerated at the announcement Colorado’s final haul in tax revenue after it’s first fiscal year of sales: $44 million.

The total, which came Tuesday on the heels of the release of Colorado’s December sales taxes, were lower than some original estimates that guessed Colorado could stand to bring in as much as $70 million in tax revenue. While the final tally has come in a bit lower than some may have expected, the $44 million has already been put to various uses, including the funding of substance-abuse treatment to additional training for police officers, the number also represents a strong support factor for those arguing for the legalization and taxation of marijuana.

How much human capital was lost to people numbing their minds to the wasteland of their earthly lot? Is there an accounting of that anywhere?

I wrote last year:

The government of Colorado expects to reap a windfall of $184 million dollars from marijuana sales through June 2015. The Joint Budget Committee’s requests that the bulk of this money fund “prevention,” “treatment,” and “public health” programs, but the wages of sin will ultimately go towards increasing the size and scope of government. Anyone who thinks Colorado is going to spend money to effectively starve their cash cow is nuts. When the human toll is tallied, calls for repeal of marijuana legalization will bring out the firefighters and schoolteachers, whose salaries will be said to depend on the populace’s moral degradation.

So 12 months into this experiment they’re about $100 million behind. I wonder how much of that expected tax revenue has already been spent.

Good for them. Investor’s Business Daily wants Congress to audit the Federal Reserve:

The problem is, going back to the Employment Act of 1946, the Fed already operates under a political mandate to control things such as GDP, jobs, housing, the unemployment rate, and inflation. And it can’t. That’s a Keynesian fallacy. The Fed only controls the amount of money in the economy—and with it, inflation. That’s it. Nor has its “apolitical” judgment been anything to bank on. Since World War II, virtually all 12 U.S. recessions were caused by Fed errors—usually, going too far in hiking interest rates after first going too far in cutting them.

The recent zero-interest-rate policy — known as ZIRP — didn’t come from a politician’s mind. Nor did quantitative easing. Those both came from the Fed.

And neither worked. This has been the worst recovery from a recession ever.

Moreover, the Fed’s “innovative” policies come at a cost, as former OMB Director David Stockman noted this week: “By chopping upwards of 300 basis points off the historic after-tax and after-inflation return on liquid savings, the Fed annually pilfers $250 billion from the nation’s $8 trillion” of deposits and savings.

In short, ZIRP has become little more than a punishment machine for savers, most of them elderly.

It is Congress’ duty to make sure the Fed is doing its job. The Fed’s purchase of $4 trillion in government assets since the 2007-08 financial crisis, a money-creation scheme unparalleled in our nation’s history, at minimum raises serious questions about how the central bank’s decisions are made.

A technocrat’s dream:

President Obama has made the creation of a huge, technically challenging database the centerpiece of his precision medicine proposal. The initiative will draw on existing resources and new studies to gather data on the biology, behavior and health of more than 1 million people.

Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, the directors of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) outlined their vision for the database. Researchers will take a deep dive into the biology of each participant, characterizing their cell populations, proteins, metabolites, RNA and DNA, performing whole-genome sequencing when money permits. These data will be paired with behavioral details and linked to electronic health records. While some have doubts about the utility of such a database, many view it as having huge potential to improve drug discovery.

Robert Stacy McCain quotes Communist Alexandra Kollonta at length:

The communist economy does away with the family. In the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat there is a transition to the single production plan and collective social consumption, and the family loses its significance as an economic unit. The external economic functions of the family disappear... In the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat the family economic unit should be recognised as being, from the point of view of the national economy, not only useless but harmful. The family economic unit involves (a) the uneconomic expenditure of products and fuel on the part of small domestic economies, and (b) unproductive labour, especially by women, in the home—and is therefore in conflict with the interest of the workers’ republic in a single economic plan and the expedient use of the labour force (including women).

Under the dictatorship of the proletariat then, the material and economic considerations in which the family was grounded cease to exist. The economic dependence of women on men and the role of the family in the care of the younger generation also disappear, as the communist elements in the workers’ republic grow stronger. With the introduction of the obligation of all citizens to work, woman has a value in the national economy which is independent of her family and marital status. The economic subjugation of women in marriage and the family is done away with, and responsibility for the care of the children and their physical and spiritual education is assumed by the social collective...

Once the family has been stripped of its economic functions and its responsibilities towards the younger generation and is no longer central to the existence of the woman, it has ceased to be a family. The family unit shrinks to a union of two people based on mutual agreement.

Or three, or four. However many you want. Welcome to the hedonistic expediency that is modern “marriage.” It’s not liberal. It’s totalitarian.

Listen to McCain himself:

If we recognize how feminist theory applies to the current “rape culture” discourse focused on college and university campuses, we also recognize this: Feminists are attempting to criminalize male sexuality, so that every sexual interaction between men and women occurs under the threat of prosecution if at any point, for any reason, the woman becomes unhappy with the interaction. Feminists now vehemently insist that males must be presumed guilty of rape if any woman ever accuses them of rape. No evidence is necessary beyond the accusation, and anyone who does not accept this no-evidence-needed standard is angrily condemned by feminists as a “rape apologist.”

This is anti-male terrorism, creating on university campuses a climate of fear in which “ordinary heterosexual initiation,” to borrow Professor MacKinnon’s phrase, becomes extraordinarily difficult due to the pervasive danger to males that their female partners might accuse them of a felony sex offense, the mere accusation being a de facto conviction.

Feminists are attempting to outlaw heterosexuality on college campuses. And when heterosexuality is outlawed, only outlaws will be heterosexual. Therefore, bad boys win, and nice guys...

What they’re trying to do is reduce men to second-class status to correct centuries of “patriarchy.” What drives them is the idol of sole authorship of their sexual destiny.

Gerald Warner draws battle lines at Breitbart:

In recent days we have seen a sequence of events—establishment endorsement of Islamic groups post-Charlie Hebdo, harassment of Christian schools by Ofperv inspectors, legalisation of eugenic experimentation via the creation of three-parent children, etc.—that have highlighted the exponential advance of Cultural Marxism.

Society’s most fundamental building blocks—the family, relations between men and women, inherited culture—are being systematically demolished. Uniquely in history, those who call themselves conservatives are in the forefront of this cultural revolution.

Before any effective resistance can be mounted against this onslaught, it is a prerequisite that we should understand our enemy: intelligence is the most powerful weapon in any war. What is the Frankfurt School? What is Cultural Marxism? The facts, though unadvertised for obvious reasons, are accessible. To trace this iniquity it is necessary to go back to 1919 and the murderous communist dictatorship of Bela Kun in Hungary.

The deputy “People’s Commissar for Culture and Education” in that short-lived regime was Georg Lukacs. Under his programme of “cultural terrorism”, Lukacs imposed a system of pornographic sex education on Hungarian school pupils, promoted promiscuity, denounced the family and encouraged children to mock their parents and religion (does any of this ring a bell?).

Andrew T. Walker and Glenn Stanton write in Public Discourse:

The narrative goes like this: Bible-believing Christians don’t like gays. Some Christians’ kids come out as gay to their parents. When they do, at best they get scolded. At worst, they’re kicked out of the house and told never to come back. This makes kids with Christian parents feel worthless, hopeless, and rejected. Suicide becomes their only option.

Clearly, we are told, the solution is for Christian parents to get over their old-time religion and create a welcoming and affirming environment for the child. They should enable their child to securely explore his or her sexual identity in a safe and loving environment in which tolerance is the only virtue. In this scenario, the terms are either complete affirmation or complete abandonment—but the gospel recognizes neither of these as viable options. This false dichotomy is a straw man based on an ideology that sees sexual liberation and parental affirmation as the road to healthy self-actualization.

In a culture where this narrative is accepted as gospel, how should we respond?

The Christian gospel offers a third possibility to parents whose children are struggling with their sexuality—as it does to all people. Christianity, while never promising complete liberation from one’s battles with sin, liberates individuals to experience their truest self, as made in the image of God. The gospel also promises unending love toward the other.

We understand how Christian teaching on sexuality can seem limiting or restrictive to the expression of a person’s sexual identity. Christianity makes normative claims, which means it directs our sexuality toward certain purposes and chastens us from embracing certain sexual desires. But a crucial caveat must be noted here: not all desires are equal. There are disordered or sinful desires that should not be acted on or embraced, because they thwart God’s plan for human flourishing. Good desires can themselves act as a way of helping us grow closer to God, as in the vocation of marriage.

What we often overlook is that our turn toward sin causes us to rebel not only against God, but against our own createdness. When we abandon sound ethics, we not only harm our relationship with God; we also harm ourselves. Sin harms us spiritually, in that it deadens us to heavenly obligation. It is also physically and mentally destructive. A person who acts on every sensual desire or psychological perception is not a free person. Instead, he becomes enslaved to disordered impulses.

The cult of the inviolate self, safe from God’s call to be born again cleansed of fallenness, is the epitomal turn towards sin.

R. R. Reno gives a first-hand example of political correctness:

During the discussion I made some points about how a Sixties-inspired deconstruction of middle-class manners and morals contributes significantly to the disorientation and dysfunction of today’s working class. Ehrenreich tends to speak as if there’s a coordinated effort to “criminalize” poverty, which seemed to me simple-minded. But I admire her genuine concern about what’s undoubtedly one of the fundamental challenges we face in America today.

Then another panelist, Traci West, a professor of Ethics and African American Studies at Drew University, intervened to denounce the entire thrust of Ehrenreich’s presentation and the discussion. Her charge: We were ignoring women of color, transgendered homeless youth, and others. My own statements about the way in which the decline of marriage contributes to the difficulties facing the working class were singled out as suggesting that unmarried women with children were somehow responsible—blaming the victim.

I’m used to being denounced in this way. In any event, I don’t think West was interested in addressing me. Her real concern seemed to be to reprimand the liberal audience and prevent them from being distracted from what really matters, which is race, gender, sexual identity, and so forth. Ehrenreich’s response was what West expected. Ehrenreich accepted the public spanking and offered the usual apologies. “What I said in no way was meant to exclude...”

If I were Reno in that situation, I would say: “Forgive me for pointing out what single mothers know in their hearts about their children needing a father to love and protect them, and needing a husband to love and support her.”

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