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This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.
Posted on: Tuesday, December 29, 2009Or just a lot of hot air? You decide. I can't keep up with British politics. It is true though, that the UK has been much more aggressively anti-marriage than the US, as Patricia Morgan has ably documented. I reviewed her book here and reprinted here.
The Government is all over the place on family issues. In Harman's equality camp, the mantra is that single parents must not be discriminated against by encouraging marriage in the tax system. That's not unlike saying that those who don't go to university shouldn't be discriminated against in the jobs market, but I'll let that pass. In another camp, which Balls has just joined, are those who believe, like Cameron, that marriage is a gold standard for the raising of children.... Why in all his years at the Treasury did Gordon Brown preside over the steady erosion of the tax advantages of wedlock, while the burgeoning benefits system positively encouraged parents to live apart? My guess is that, in his instinct to act like Tony Blair when he inherited his office, Brown assumes that matrimony will be associated with all that stuffy, old religious observance, and, like Blair, he doesn't want to be thought of as a "nutter".As yes, the ultimate insult: being thought a "nutter" because you believe kids need a mom and a dad and all that other religious mumbo-jumbo. If religious people are the only ones who can see that moms and dads matter, so much the worse for the atheists!
Posted on: Monday, December 28, 2009I have a bit of commentary about the movie Avatar, buried in the comments over at the First Things blog. I'm seeing more and more strange stuff from people who ought to know better, so I'm going to have to write more about it. But for now, check out this link, for my comments and a few others. Most of my comment: I went to see Avatar, at the urging of my adolescent son. he enjoyed the beauty of the movie, as well as the violence of the fight scenes. (The adolescent boy market is a significant market share of the movie market.) Appealing but wrong-headed movies like this are not harmless. In fact, the appeal is the problem. All the people living in harmony with each other, and with the earth, until the Evil Humans appear: this is not a harmless fantasy. This is the Gnostic fantasy that the world as we know it is evil, and that we can fix it if we only had the will and the power. Or should I say, the will to power. The problem is that the world as we know it has elements of both good and evil. The human race has been trying to create perfection, and has never succeeded. Yet still the Gnostic fantasy persists: we, at last, have the secret knowledge that will allow us to live in harmony with nature and each other and never again have any trouble. If only we could get those Other people to stop asking so many impertinent questions, stop dragging their feet, get with the program, and enter into our dreamworld.
But the Biblical God says the created world is good, and that the world after the creation of man and woman is very good. Sin enters the world, not because human come on the scene, but because they try to make themselves gods. That is, they refuse to face reality: God is God, and we aren’t.
Posted on: Monday, December 28, 2009In the January 2010 issue of First Things, (unfortunately not yet on-line) David Goldman rhetorically asks: "Have Birtain's jews ever undergone a legal assault on the practice of thier religion within their own institutions?" They have now. A British court has ruled that an Orthodox Jewish school's admission policy violated the UK's civil rights laws which prohibit discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity. The offending action by the school was to deny admission to the child of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother who converted to Judaism at a progressive synagogue. The implication of this decision, if it is allowed to stand, is not only that the Orthodox Jewish community cannot control their own institutions. It is that the British court has declared Judaism itself to be racist. According to Britain's cheif rabbi, Jonathan Sacks,
An English court has declared [the religious definition of Jewish status] racist, and since this is an essential element of Jewish law, it is in effect declaring Judaism racist. To be told that Judaism is racist is distressing. To confuse religion and race is a mistake.You can find First Things here. Keep an eye out for the January issue to go on-line, so you can read all of this important article. The author, David goldman, writes on the First Things website as Spengler. He has some commentary on this case here and here.
Posted on: Monday, December 28, 2009Do you ever refer to your children as if they were yours alone? As in, "I have two children," or "my son in 8." I have learned to stop doing that. "My" kids belong to my husband as much as to me. Although it is no particular virtue or insight, just facing reality, it still took me a while to remember to say "My husband and I have two children," or "Our son has just started college." I learned this from the Mother of God. Of all people, she would have had reason to refer to Jesus as "her" son, and kind of leave Joseph out of the picture. After all, he had no genetic relationship to Jesus. Joseph was "just" her cover story. But the Gospel suggests that she didn't treat him as an after thought. The Gospel reading for today, the Feast of the Holy Family, tells the story of the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple. Notice how the story continually refers to "the parents" of Jesus. According to tradition, Luke's source of information for the "Infancy Narrative" in these early chapters is Mary herself. She could have told everybody this story referring only to herself. "Well, when I took Jesus to Jerusalem when he was 12..." But she didn't. Or at least, Luke tells it as if she didn't. And when Mary does speak in this part of the Gospel, she refers to Joseph: "Son, why have you treated us so? Your father and I have been looking for you in sorrow." We may surmise that her habit was to include Joseph. When I realized this a few years ago, I started making a point of always referring to the kids as "ours" instead of "mine." If it's good enough for the Mother of God, it's good enough for me. Just facing reality.
Posted on: Sunday, December 27, 2009We live in dark times. More Christians have been martyred in the twentieth century than in all previous centuries combined. A British court has just declared that Judaism is racist, a ruling that may make Jewish education impossible in the UK, even in private schools. Many of our contemporaries seem hell-bent on destroying us, the world, and themselves in the bargain. Revolutionaries of all parties tell us that the world we know is irredeemably evil and must be completely transformed. We hear voices telling us that mankind is a plague on the earth, that we must apologize for our existence on the earth, that our interests can be sacrificed for the good of the earth. We hear that male and female are nothing but human inventions, and evil inventions at that. We must wipe out all traces of gender, neuter ourselves, and become generic humans, rather than men and women. This is to say that we must make war on our own bodies, since there are no generic humans. Against these voices, we have the voice of the living God, proclaiming His creation to be good. And when He had created man and woman in His image, He declared His work to be very good. We Christians and Jews are under no illusions: we know perfectly well that the world is imperfect, mankind most of all. But we live in the confidence that God has created each and every one of us in his image and likeness, that Almighty God wishes to live among us and to make Himself known to us. He calls us to repentance and reform, without demanding that we destroy ourselves or spit in our own faces. In fact, he forbids us to do so. He demands that we love our neighbors as ourselves, which doesn’t amount to much if we despise ourselves. God came among us at Christmas in Bethlehem. Everyone knows the story as Luke tells it, and as we hear it at Midnight Mass: the angelic choirs, the star, the shepherds, Joseph leading the donkey to Bethlehem, Mary holding all these things in her heart. But during the day, the Church reads to us from the Gospel of John. In the Beginning, was the Word. The opening of John’s Gospel connects us with the very first words of Genesis, and thereby, with everything in between. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. This is why Christians throughout the centuries and across the world have always celebrated Christmas with such reckless abandon. No matter how grim things seem to be, how bad can the world be, if God came among us, and is among us still? At this holy time of year, I want to express my very warmest wishes to our elder brothers and sisters of the Jewish faith. Your fidelity to the covenant graces us all. To all my friends of all faiths, to all my coworkers in the truth, Be Not Afraid! The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Posted on: Friday, December 18, 2009Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Gene blogs about the New Mexico wedding photographer who refused to photograph a same sex commitment ceremony. She had argued that she has a First Amendment right to refuse to produce a creative work. Being compelled to film a ceremony that she disapproves of on moral grounds, she argued, amounted to a compulsion of speech. The Court ruled against her. Gene notes how broad this ruling really is:
note the breadth of the court’s reasoning: It applies not just to photographers, but also to the musicians, composers, graphic designers, film editors, and other creators that the court mentioned earlier in the opinion. It would also apply to freelancers who write press releases, advertising copy, and so on. And I take it that it would also apply to bookstores, movie theaters, and other such distributors of others’ works; the authors and filmmakers aren’t “clients” of such distributors, but still the distributors’ “final message is not [their] own,” and they are “really a conduit” for others’ work.I have been saying for some time that the movement to legalize same sex marriage and to normalize same sex behavior carries in it wake a vast increase in the power of the state. Volokh generally supports gay rights, but is deeply troubled by this expansion of the state. I personally don't think it is possible to have one without the other, except perhaps, on the chalkboard in a law school class. But enough about me. See his other posts, here, here and here.
Posted on: Friday, December 18, 2009A Japanese man married a video game character. Those of you who think marriage is whatever we say it is: is this man validly married to an imaginary animated character? He sounds for all the world like same sex marriage advocates when he looks forward wistfully to the day when anyone can marry anyone they love. So, what is wrong with this picture? H/T Tony Listi, via Facebook
Posted on: Friday, December 18, 2009It is a sad day for the poor of the District of Columbia. For the sake of the 1.5% of households with same sex couples, the DC City Council has passed legislation that will effectively prohibit the Archdiocese of Washington from even applying for city social service contracts. Thankfully, the Archdiocese will continue its own mission to the poor. I wonder who the DC city council will find to replace them? I did a podcast on this a few weeks ago, while the City Council was still debating.
Posted on: Thursday, December 17, 2009This is not diversity. This is an excuse for the state to regulate and indoctrinate, and generally stick itself into the minds of small children.
In its indifference to objective knowledge, in its crusade to hallow cultural relativism and a strictly Charter-of-rights based identity, ÉCR stimulates heritage students’ detachment from their own cultural touchstones, and chills critical thinking in all students. (I)n one instance students were invited to redesign the Quebec flag, replacing the cross with a more “inclusive” symbol, and another, an activity called “Youpi! Ma religion à moi!” (my own religion!) in which religions actually invented by students are accorded the same esteem as real ones. Such subversive pedagogical impulses dismissively mock Quebec’s unique culture, based, like all others, in a shared language, religion and collective values formed over time. In the ÉCR scheme, teachers do not actually convey knowledge, but rather “plan, organize activities, advise, accompany, encourage, support … make suggestions, but never impose.” But they must and do “impose” sometimes. The program harps relentlessly on “dialogue” as the principal vehicle for learning to “vivre ensemble.” But if, according to an editing team spokesman, the dialogue does not follow a politically correct script — that is, if students of independent mind or critical point of view diverge in behaviour or words from the prescribed “recognition” mantra: all cultural traditions are equal; all beliefs are good — “The teacher must intervene immediately to stop it on the spot. Any attack in class on the dignity of the person or the common good must be immediately denounced, because it is not tolerated in our society. In that [respect], the program of Ethical and Religious Culture is not neutral.”
Posted on: Thursday, December 17, 2009This article by an intellectual property lawyer reviews many of the issues surrounding genetic screening and anonymous sperm donors. If you think these are simple issues, you haven't thought about them enough. Here is one of my favorite passages:
Anonymity itself comes with a cost. One need only spend a little time on the website created by a donor child searching for her father and half-siblings to understand the pain some of these children feel at be deprived of the knowledge of their biological father’s identity. As the daughter of an anonymous donor put it on another such website, “[m]y mother’s need to have a genetic link to her child was valued, while my need to know, love and understand the father with whom I have a genetic link was not.” More than 25,000 such children, their parents, and donors, have registered at the Donor Sibling Registry, trying to connect donor children with half-siblings and fathers—up from fewer than 10,000 two years ago.Read it all here.