Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Faux Outrage

February 3, 2010

Several years ago, it was Trent Lott.  Several weeks ago, it was Harry Reid.  Now it is Rahm Emanuel.  What do these three men have in common?  They all three have been subjected to the faux outrage of our hyper-sensitive, politically correct society.  They all three said things that were, at best, completely innocent, and at worst, merely a little rough around the edges.  As a result, all three have been caught in the “Gotcha!” trap of modern media attention.

Trent Lott’s praise of Strom Thurmond, in my view, was innocent to the point of being dumb (or, as Rahm Emanuel might say, it was just “[expletive] retarded.”)  I can imagine that the political explosion that resulted from his comment was something he never envisioned happening in a million years.  He was a bit too naive about the ability of the American public (led by politicians and journalists) to receive what he said in a manner fitting the spirit in which he said it.  Who, in all honesty, really believes it was Lott’s purpose to stand there in front of the cameras as a subtle, yet bold advocate for a return to segregation?  But the faux outrage came out because Lott said something that could be (mis)interpreted as a slander against civil rights.  Lott apologized profusely, but it was not enough to save his career. 

Harry Reid’s now infamous observation that then candidate Obama did not speak with a “Negro dialect,” and thus was more likely to endear himself to a wide range of voters, can only be faulted for the rank hypocrisy of the one who said it, but nothing more.  The comment itself hardly merits media attention, for my guess is that the vast majority of Americans have either thought or said virtually the same thing.  I don’t fault the comment.  I do, however, fault the man who himself is one of the traffickers in political correctness saying such a thing.  Several years ago Reid was among those calling for Lott to resign, only to reveal himself now as one who ignores political correctness when he speaks in private.  Hypocrite?  Yes.  Racist?  Highly doubtful.  And yet the faux outrage came out against him, this time from conservatives who pretended to be deeply offended by the word “negro” or by the suggestion that there exists a distinct negro dialect.  Such a statement can only be deeply offensive to one who has been trained in the art of being offended, as has the American public.  (But at least Al Sharpton, the great connoiseur of offendedness, was there to accept Reid’s apology on behalf of all black people everywhere.  If anything, the fact that Sharpton is the designated apology receiver for an entire ethnic group appears to be the most offensive thing about the whole story).   

And now Rahm Emanuel has used the word “retarded” as an insult, and Sarah Palin has responded.  Of the three incidents, I do think this one is probably the worst one because it was spoken specifically as a caustic and insulting remark.  Personally, I try to avoid the word “retarded” as an insult for the very reason Palin expressed.  But even if someone does not use the word “retarded,” most everyone uses synonyms for the idea of mental retardation as a way of describing those whose views we think are not up to par intellectually.  Words and phrases like “slow,” “idiot,” “not all there,” “His porch light’s on, but he ain’t home,” and so forth are all expressions of some lack in intellectual ability.  If I ever use terms like these, I don’t do so to denigrate the value of people who have actual mental disabilities.  I use them to denigrate the arguments of those who have regular mental capacity and yet seem to have allowed some kind of lapse to seep into their thinking ability.  If I tell my four-year-old son, “Don’t act like a baby!” I don’t mean that I hate babies.  I mean that four-year-olds shouldn’t act like them.  The same is true here.  Emanuel did not mean that he hated retarded people.  He meant that those who are not mentally retarded should not act like they are.  They should, instead, act in accord with their brain capacity.  Personally, I think his use of the “f” word is a more serious offense than his use of the word “retarded.”

But the canons of a politically correct society demand that we generate enough faux outrage to make a stink about each one of these incidents.  And so we go on playing the “Gotcha!” game, knowing all the while that we have all likely said far worse in our own private moments.  And this is simply one more way that political correctness pushes us away from reality.

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Comic Relief in the Christmas Wars

December 25, 2009

This is the kind of thing that happens when the government assumes the obligation of protecting people from being offended.  (And by that I am referring to the Illinois state government’s decision to allow an atheist group to mock Christmas on state property, not the comptroller’s decision to try to stop it).

But the main reason I am linking to this story is not to discuss the complicated issue of church and state but rather to invite you to read the whole story, especially the last line.  That is hilarious.

Blog Post of the Year (or Maybe Decade)!

November 24, 2009

This poster from Despair.com accurately communicates the general worthlessness of 99% of the blogosphere.  And yet, every once in a while in this sea of insignificance you come across an island with a buried treasure.

Thanks to Justin Taylor’s link, I found one today.  Kevin DeYoung’s post about the “New Gospel” (written in response to this letter to unbelievers by Shane Claiborne) is the most significant blog post I have read in a long time, perhaps ever.  Do not miss it.

Every generation faces challenges to the true gospel.  Every alternative gospel that arises contains some elements of truth and therefore possesses some measure of plausibility.  In our day the most popular alternative gospel is the one that accomodates itself to the prevailing climate of postmodern uncertainty.  This “new gospel” is not entirely wrong.  In fact, it gets many things right, even offering a much-needed corrective to older emphases and formulations.  And therein lies its chief danger: it represents an ever-so-subtle denial of truths that belong to the very essence of the true gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Read Shane Claiborne’s letter.  And then read Kevin DeYoung’s post.  The latter will likely be the most significant thing you will read today.

N.T. Wright on Homosexuality and Justice, with an Extra Thought about Economics Thrown in for Free

July 15, 2009

I once saw a video clip of N.T. Wright discussing why he has never (to this point) written a book on homosexuality.  He said, basically, that such a project would be so demanding that he has not yet had the opportunity to put the necessary time and energy into it.  I hope the Lord grants him the time, energy, and motivation to write that book.  I have little doubt that it would become the definitive work on the subject. 

Read his recent article on the Episcopal Church’s defiance of the Anglican Communion on this issue in the Times Online.  Note this particular argument:

The appeal to justice as a way of cutting the ethical knot in favour of including active homosexuals in Christian ministry simply begs the question. Nobody has a right to be ordained: it is always a gift of sheer and unmerited grace. The appeal also seriously misrepresents the notion of justice itself, not just in the Christian tradition of Augustine, Aquinas and others, but in the wider philosophical discussion from Aristotle to John Rawls. Justice never means “treating everybody the same way”, but “treating people appropriately”, which involves making distinctions between different people and situations. Justice has never meant “the right to give active expression to any and every sexual desire”.

I contend that this argument has ramifications for more than just sexual “orientation” and behavior.  Take economics, for example.  The theory of economic justice that dominates the corridors and offices of the building at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue right now is a theory that involves the redistribution of wealth for the purpose of equalizing, in some measure, economic outcomes.  I think this is the economic version of “treating everyone the same,” that is, seeking equity in the distribution of wealth.  Of course, this is really anything but treating everyone the same, because it actually involves taking money from one group and giving it to another. 

But true economic justice is not equality of outcomes for all.  It is, rather, appropriate outcomes for all.  If the equality of outcomes is assured, then our own behavior means nothing.  Achievement is ruled out from the start, as is failure.  Those who innovate, risk, and pour their energy into economic achievement are in no way distinguished from those who put forth no effort.  The redistribution of wealth is the economic equivalent of a criminal justice system that ignores behavior and claims that all people have an inalienable right to freedom.  In other words, it represents the abolishment of justice.

Thoughts on the “LGBT” Abbreviation

June 25, 2009

We are nearing the end of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month.  As June 2009 will soon pass into history, I would like to offer a couple of ruminations on the recent rise of the “LGBT” abbreviation and the linking together of bisexuality and transgendered identity to homosexuality. 

First, I wonder if bisexuals feel like they are getting overlooked in this political battle.  After all, homosexuals are pushing for a redefinition of marriage as the union of any two consenting adults.  And it is precisely the number “two” that throws out the bisexual formula.  Technically, I suppose someone who is bisexual could marry one other person, and he or she would then be indifferent to the other person’s gender (does Elton John still consider himself bisexual?), but this kind of arrangement would not truly be a bisexual marriage.  How long will it be before bisexuals begin demanding state recognition of their legal right to join in three-way marriages?  And what will homosexuals do when we reach that point?  Will they throw bisexuals under the bus or follow their own arguments to a logical conclusion and admit that three-way marriage must also be a legitimate expression of the institution?  Will proponents of gay marriage, when pressed by the logic of their own arguments, finally admit that, if we accept what they are telling us, there really are no restraints on the definition of marriage?  If this truly is one “LGBT” movement, it will be interesting to see the conflict that might result between the LG’s and the B’s. 

Second, how did transgendered people get into this mix?  The transgender issue is not about sexual orientation but sexual identity, and these two issues, while related, are not really the same.  I wonder if lesbians, gays, and bisexuals are generally happy with this link that has been drawn between themselves and those who are trangendered, or if many of them believe that this link has actually hurt them culturally and politically.  I wonder if there is any internal tension between the LGB’s and the T’s. 

For whatever reason, the B’s and T’s have joined up with the L’s and G’s to constitute a single cultural and political movement, backed by none other than the President himself.  Yet I find it ironic that within this one movement there are different political goals, some of which are either unrelated to one another or even mutually contradictory.

The ABC Propaganda Machine

June 16, 2009

When the press becomes nothing more than an arm of the government, you know your country is in trouble. 

Apparently, ABC News is happy to prostitute its services for the sake of government propaganda.  According to the Drudge Report, ABC will be airing  a special report entitled “Prescription for America” from the East Room of the White House.  This program will promote the President’s health care agenda, and opposing voices will be entirely excluded. 

Let’s just leave aside the complicated issue of health care reform for a minute.  Even if you are a die-hard Obama supporter on that issue, can’t you agree that when the press does something like this, we are entering into dangerous territory?  When press and state get so mixed up that it becomes difficult to distinguish one from the other, government takes one more giant leap away from accountability to the public.  Propaganda has long been a tool used by totalitarian regimes to silence opposition and deceive the public. 

What is so tragic about this is that ABC News is volunteering for the job.

Justifiable Homicide?

June 9, 2009

The recent murder of late-term abortion specialist Dr. George Tiller has renewed an ethical discussion among pro-lifers about the consistency of their own position.  Those who are not pro-life may think they can use this event as a springboard for a reductio ad absurdum argument against the pro-life position.  In other words, the pro-choice proponent can argue in the following manner:

Premise 1: The pro-life position, taken consistently, entails that killing abortion doctors is morally acceptable, even a moral duty.

Premise 2: Yet the vast majority of pro-life proponents know by ethical intuition that killing abortion doctors is wrong, and thus resist this conclusion.

Conclusion: Therefore, the pro-life position is discredited because it leads to an absurd conclusion that most pro-life proponents will always resist. 

The challenge, then, for the pro-life movement is to demonstrate that Premise 1 is faulty.  The pro-life position does not logically entail justifiable homicide.  The argument for Premise 1 normally goes this way: If you were walking down the street and saw in an alley a man who was about to slit the throat of a child, your moral duty would be to do whatever is possible to save that child, including killing the potential murderer if necessary.  Those who intervene with violence to protect the innocent are hailed as heroes.  Why, then, are those who kill abortion doctors not given the same kind of praise?

The best argument I have read on this is found here, in another sermon addressed to President Obama (this time from a pastor named David Bayly).  Pastor Bayly formulates an ethical argument that closely resembles the one that I personally formulated when this question was posed to me a few months ago.  Let me unpack it for you. 

What is the difference between the one who intervenes to save the child in the alley and the one who ambushes the abortion doctor out on the street (or, in the case of Dr. Tiller, in a church service) and kills him?  The answer is context.  The one who intervenes in the alley is operating within a context where the civil government has authorized him to use violent force and even take life if necessary to save another life.  The one who murders the abortion provider has no such authorization from the civil government.  Basically, the issue boils down to the legality of the act: the one who saves life in the alley has not broken the law.  The one who murders the abortion doctor has broken it. 

Why is this detail so important?  It is important because God has given the power of the sword to the state, not to zealous individuals, no matter how righteous their cause may be.  Individuals do not have the right to appoint themselves judge and jury in society.  Where the state has said, “Thou shalt not kill,” God himself has said, “Thou shalt not kill.”  If it were otherwise, then total anarchy would be the result.  If every regular Joe had the ethical duty to bypass the authority of the state and become an executioner of the unrighteous, there would be no order in society at all. 

Of course, I realize that I am saying this in reference to a civil government that has abdicated its responsibility to protect unborn human life.  When the state says to the abortion doctor, “You may kill,” where God himself has not authorized it, then the authorities of the state will have to answer to God for that.  Not everything the state permits is right.  And not everything the state forbids is wrong.  But when we are talking about taking human life, the only human authority who has a justifiable right to do so is the state, acting in accord with God-ordained principles.  And the state has authorized the individual to take life only in a few exceptional situations.  The murder of George Tiller simply is not one of the exceptional situations for which our government has authorized the use of violent force.  Therefore, the person who committed this murder, in spite of his good intentions, defied not only the authority of the United States but also that of God himself. 

Of course, some may wonder about those situations where the civil authorities have become the targets of violence that is apparently justifiable.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s plot to assassinate Hitler, for example, comes to mind.  Obviously, Bonhoeffer was not authorized by the state to kill Hitler, but could he have been authorized by God to do so?  I think it is important for us to acknowledge that not even Bonhoeffer himself was fully convinced of this.  He thought of his act as sin, even if it was a lesser evil than the alternative.  This is an area where I continue to struggle.  Is it ever morally permissible to rebel against the authority of the state?  And if so, under what conditions?  The United States of America was born out of rebellion against the British crown, but that act was not perpetrated by rebellious individuals but by an authoritative body established by the people as a whole.  Bonhoeffer’s case is very different, but even then I am tempted to say that once a government has gone past the point of moral reform and has become an agent of such severe evil, then the moral equation might change.  And yet, I tend to lean more toward the Lutheran view on this question.  If I were going to err, I would probably err on the side of submission to authority rather than rebellion.

But coming back to the murder of George Tiller, we must acknowledge that the United States is not Nazi Germany.  President Obama is not a new Hitler (knock on wood).  Our Constitution has taken a beating, our checks and balances may not be functioning properly, but as a nation we are not beyond the hope of moral correction.  To this point, certain state governments may help fund abortions, and even the federal government may begin to do so eventually.  But we have not reached the point where abortion has become government policy as genocide was for the Nazis.  And that is a significant difference.  The pro-life movement rightly recognizes that submission to the governing authorities must be its modus operandi, especially when we are talking about the right to bear the sword.

Children of Homosexual Couples: What Are the Long-Term Ramifications?

June 9, 2009

WorldNetDaily reports that a recent study indicates that children raised by homosexual parents are seven times more likely than other children to develop “non-heterosexual preferences.”  And yet, it appears that the pro-homosexual lobby is either unwilling to acknowledge this fact or wants it kept from the public.  I doubt very seriously that any mainstream news organization will pick up this story. 

This is truly ironic.  We have been told by the homosexual lobby for years that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a homosexual.  We have been told that it is a trait akin to skin color, one that society should accept as an acceptable alternative lifestyle.  If they were consistent with their own views, homosexual activists would warmly embrace this scientific finding.  Sure, it does seem to throw a little cold water on their theory that homosexuality is entirely a genetic issue, but other than that, what is the harm, given their worldview, in acknowledging that homosexual couples are more likely to rear homosexual children?  What is wrong with nurturing children in an environment where they are seven times more likely to opt for a non-heterosexual lifestyle?  The only way we can say that such a thing is harmful is if we privilege heterosexuality as the norm and label non-heterosexual lifestyles as deviant. 

And this is precisely where the rubber meets the road in our society.  I think there are a lot of people who think homosexuality is fine for their adult neighbors and friends, but the minute you bring children into the picture, everything changes.  I don’t mean, of course, that children are coming into the picture as sexually active children.  That would offend any sane person.  What I mean is that once people begin to imagine the children they know growing up to be gay or bisexual, and they believe that this result is attributable primarily to environmental factors associated with the rearing of these children, they will quickly have second thoughts about the wisdom of gay marriage and adoption.  No matter what they may say about the acceptable nature of homosexuality, deep down most people really do not want children being influenced in that direction.  When the innocence of a child enters the picture, the true deviant nature of the non-heterosexual lifestyle becomes plain, in spite of the public rhetoric.  And this is what the gay lobby fears the most. 

This scientific finding should come as no surprise.  Children develop a sense of morality, of inhibitions, of what is normal and abnormal, by watching and living with the most important people in their lives: their parents.  Children who grow up seeing homosexuality as normal will not share the same inhibitions, the same sense of normal, and even the same moral compass in general, as those reared in a traditional home.  We as a society should think long and hard about this before we proceed with these little alternative lifestyle experiments that we are so fond of trying these days.     

Disclaimer: Obviously, I am not saying that all children raised by homosexual parents are determined to be non-heterosexual or otherwise abnormal in any way.  I am speaking here of general tendencies, not rigid laws. 

Quote of the Week

June 4, 2009

Last night, Conan O’Brien was doing his bit on looking into the future.  Now it is called “In the year 3000.”  Here is my nomination for quote of the week:

In the year 3000

“…Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook will all combine into one giant time-wasting website called ‘YouTwitFace’.”

Profound Statement

May 6, 2009

Those who know that their sexual failures are sin are in a different category than those who want to remake the world in a way that conforms to their lusts.

I find this an extremely helpful and necessary distinction to make.  Read Doug Wilson’s post on this issue.