In Defense of Religious Freedom

Religious freedom is under attack globally …

… in many Asian nations where a residue of Communism forces the church to operate underground.

… in the rise of the so-called “Arab Spring” where Christians and reformed-minded Muslims who once had a modicum of protection under secular tyrants are now threatened by Muslim majorities calling for the institution of  Sharia Law.

… in Europe’s growing anti-Semitism.

… in both Europe and North America where a sentiment is  growing to rid the public square of any non-secular religious influence, including Christianity.

The current issue of the online edition of FirstThings includes a statement by Evangelicals and Catholics Together that provides a warning on  the state of religious freedom today. This is a thoughtful read and worth your time.

–          Darrow Miller

Posted in Current events, Morality/Ethics | Tagged | Leave a comment

A Response to a Reader … Why So Much Heat?

My recent post Why So Much Heat About Social Justice? Part 2 generated such a thoughtful comment from a reader that I want to use a new post to respond. Thanks, Steve, for taking the time to write. Your remarks suggest that we have a mutual desire to live from the framework of orthodox Christianity. We also seem to have a common heart to help the poor escape poverty. We both recognize that well-intended money dumping does the opposite. Internally it often enslaves them to what Paul calls the “stronghold of the mind,” in this case a mindset of poverty. Externally it creates shackles of dependency that become harder to break.

I want to respond further to Steve’s comments. Below, Steve’s original remarks are in green.

Let me preface this response with our common ground: I affirm our shared belief in orthodox Christianity, and the reality of the kingdom of God both now and future. I resonate strongly with the approach to poverty called transformational development, as a way to address all aspects of poverty including broken relationships between God and man. Poverty will not be solved with dump loads of money applied from the top down. People, who are created in the image of God, have incredible skills and assets that should be recognized and built on, a process that builds their self-worth, and brings reconciliation with their communities and with God.

I would agree with your opening paragraph and this is what leads me to believe that we have a lot in common.

However, I don’t believe that all underpinning beliefs related to social justice can fit into a 2 by 2 box. Sometimes God works through a supernatural “open” process and through “moral” people, but surely we have sometimes seen the poor cared for by “amoral” atheists.

This is true. People who are immoral sometimes act morally and people who profess to act by a moral standard at times do not. But in each case the person is acting apart from the implication of their framework. What do I mean? An atheistic-amoral framework has no basis to do good or to pursue justice. That framework, by its nature, encouraged “the survival of the fittest” and sees nature as “red and tooth and claw.” The propensity is toward the accumulation and use of power, the goal is to survive, to come out on top. People who function compassionately are doing so from their human nature as given by God and not as an impulse from their atheistic framework.

There are millions of well-meaning Christians who pity the poor as simply lacking material resources, and think the solution is to go on a mission trip to build stuff for them.

I agree. Often these folks are motivated by Christ, but they do not reflect on what they are doing and thus they tend to create more poverty. My good friends, Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, of The Chalmers Center,  have written a book, When Helping Hurts which responds to these well-intended mistakes.

There are also many non-Christians who see the poor as real people whose skills are neglected, and work to build their capacity to develop their own communities.

Yes, this is true. Again, I agree.

God can choose to work through all people for his own purposes, sometimes through the most unlikely agents, to bring Himself glory.

Yes.

Splitting people into those who either follow a Judeo-Christian or Atheistic-Materialistic paradigm also misses the possibility that people (and belief systems) are more complex and nuanced.

I would agree that belief systems are very complex and this is both good, and at the same time it provides challenges. Yes, these systems may be nuanced, but the nature of the nuances will conform to the boundaries which define the system.

For example, solving material poverty will certainly require creation of wealth through development of human skills, but may also require that government play a proper role in protecting society’s most vulnerable citizens.

I agree. I would also identify that protection by government as the rule of law. Each person, rich or poor, healthy or sickly, young or old, female or male, black or white, is to be equal before the law. It is the government’s priority to provide justice and social peace so that free citizens might pursue the health and prosperity of their families in a framework of economic freedom. Steve, here is where I think we are operating from two different perspectives.

Here’s a perspective on levels of responsibility that a society would do well to observe. First, we must practice personal responsibility at an individual level. After that, comes family responsibility, followed by the responsibility of voluntary associations such as churches, synagogues, mosques, boy and girls clubs, civic clubs. Only then should government responsibility be invoked in providing a safety net, and even then the responsibility of local government precedes that of state government. Federal government begins only after that. Part of the beauty of this model is that those who are closer to the need can provide more personal help. Unfortunately today, in the US and other places, we assume the federal government is the party responsible to solve problems. So the solutions tend to be bureaucratic and top-down. Money replaces personal responsibility.

Here’s a question that frames part of the battle we are facing in the US today: Will our citizens be responsible? Will they be free and “large” human beings, or will the government continue to take on more and more responsibility that belongs elsewhere? In such a scenario the government grows and people shrink to insignificance.

Steve, I highly recommend Marvin Olasky’s The Tragedy of American Compassion. In my opinion this is a must-read for all poverty fighters. Olasky shows what characterized poverty fighting programs born out of a Judeo-Christian worldview and what happened to compassion in the West when we moved away from a Judeo-Christian to a deistic worldview and eventually to an atheist worldview. (In one of our next posts we will present  Dr. Olasky’s article, Effective Compassion: Seven Principles from a Century Ago.)

A recent example is the case of Sandra Fluke, a law student at Georgetown University. In today’s culture sex is not saved for a committed covenantal marriage relationship between a man and a women before God. Rather, sex is defined as a recreational activity or as entertainment. Ms. Fluke wants freedom to have sex at will without pregnancy. Therefore she needs access to birth control and abortifacients. She argues that the government should be responsible to provide what she needs for her recreational activity. Is this really the province of the federal government? I think not. I am type 2 diabetic. I need walking shoes to keep my type 2 diabetes under control. In Ms. Fluke’s framework I would expect the government to provide me with walking shoes so I can practice my recreational walking for health purposes.

Let’s be careful about how we characterize those who see a right role for government …

Who gets to define what the right role of government should be?

… not all who want the state to provide services for the poor want them to be “enslaved” or dependent on an all-powerful massive bureaucracy.

This is true. And I trust that was clear in my post. However, others are intentionally building bureaucracy and government control. Like some in business who cheat customers, stock holders and employees for their grossly immoral and sometimes illegal gains, some in government circles are abusing their power as well.

Thanks, Steve, for the opportunity to dialogue.

–          Darrow

Posted in Development, Poverty, Worldview | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Freedom Comes From Religious Education, But Not Just Any Religion

Mike Metzger’s recent essay, The Fourth R caught my attention. (As we wrote here, Mike is the Senior Fellow and President of the Clapham Institute. His weekly DoggieHead Tilt blog is a regular part of my reading.)

Mike says the Fourth R of education was religion. He reminds us that the story of the Bible—Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration—is a call for Christians to make culture: “Making culture meant making something of the world, improving on it, so that people flourish.” Mike argues for the importance of education to the development of free societies, and says that the heart of education is religion. And the religion that made the West was not just any religion, it was the creed of Biblical faith.

This is the same argument that Vishal Mangalwadi makes in his latest offering, The Book That Made Your World

America’s founders testify to the importance of a religious (read “Biblical”) foundation for the education of free men and women. In an address on October 11,1798, John Adams, second president of the United States said:

We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. [emphasis added]

Likewise Noah Webster, America’s lexicographer and the “Father of American Scholarship and Education,” writing in his History of the United States (1832) testified:

The Christian religion ought to be received and maintained with firm and cordial support. It is the real source of all genuine republican principles. It teaches the equality of men as to rights and duties; and while it forbids all oppression, it commands due subordination to law and rulers… The religion of Christ and his apostles, in its primitive simplicity and purity, unencumbered with the trappings of power and the pomp of ceremonies, is the surest basis of a republican government. [emphasis added]

In 1982, writing a cover story for Newsweek Magazine, How the Bible Made America, Kenneth Woodward and David Gates wrote:

For centuries [the Bible] has exerted an unrivaled influence on American culture, politics, and social life. Now historians are discovering that the Bible, perhaps even more than the Constitution, is our founding document: the source of the powerful myth of the United States as a special, sacred nation, a people called by God to establish a model society, a beacon to the world. [emphasis added]

Nations do not just happen; they are built. All people, as image bearers of God, have similar opportunity to build their nations. Where a people lack intentionality, the nation is built by external forces, with commensurate results.

When a society’s people are intentional about nation building, the question becomes Which religious framework will be promulgated through the educational process? Atheism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam … all are religious faiths just as Christianity is a religious faith. But only the latter has the moral and metaphysical framework for building free, just, and prosperous societies.

Metzger’s The Fourth R is a good reminder of what it takes to build a free society.

–          Darrow Miller

Posted in Cultural Mandate, Education, Worldview | Tagged | 2 Comments

Social Justice, Community and Culture: A Final Reflection

Two of the key characteristics of social justice are community and culture.

Social justice and community

As we saw earlier Roman Catholic scholars, Aquinas, Taparali, and Pope Leo IIIX understood that a woman or man does not stand alone; every person is part of a larger community. Because God is Community/Trinity, to be made in the image of God means to be made for relationships, for community. Our health is dependent on the health of the community.

Pastor Gary Skinner of Watoto Church in Kampala, Uganda, is fond of saying “the problems of the city are the problems of the church.” Similarly, Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Church says of his church, “a healthy city, a healthy church.” These pastors recognize that the church is not an isolated or internally focused institution. The church exists for others. She is present to serve the needs of the community.

All human institutions—families, businesses, civic institutions, churches, mosques, synagogues—are responsible to promote the good of the larger community, including political and economic justice.

When social justice is reduced to distribution of money, all that is needed is putting a government check in the mail. Help is arm’s-length and impersonal. Relational social justice, by contrast, demands that individuals, families, business, and civic and religious institutions contribute time, talent, and treasure to nurture the flourishing process.

Government has a role to play, guided by an inverse relationship between the size of the government and the level of involvement. The larger the government entitity, the smaller should be its role in the area of social justice.  Voluntary associations have greater responsibility than local government, local government more responsibility than state government, and state government more than national  government.  Perhaps the largest role a national government should have is creating an environment that supports the rule of law and encourages social peace.

In the Old Testament, social justice is known as Shalom – Peace. This peace was bought at exorbitant cost; the grounding of justice is found in the Cross of Christ. We have been justified by grace, calling us to live justly. This is to be done both in our internal and external worlds. Just as holiness is a personal spiritual discipline, justice is a public spiritual discipline.

Justice means right relationships with God, with our fellow citizens, and with the creation. Author, professor and Editor-in-Chief of World Magazine, Marvin Olasky, has said that social justice is “… about human flourishing, the sum total of millions of acts of relational justice.”

In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville traveled to the United States and observed how radically different America was from his native France and the rest of Europe. He was amazed, for example, by the American penchant for voluntary association. In France, the populace looked to the government to solve their problems. In England, the people depended on the aristocracy. Americans, by contrast, formed voluntary groups to solve their community’s problems.

Social justice and culture

The second reality to understand about social justice is simply this: the root of injustice is cultural, not, economic. Most people think, wrongly, that injustice is rooted in a lack of resources. When people function from the mindset of a closed system, resources are limited, economics is a zero sum proposition and the only way to achieve social justice is to redistribute scarce resources.

But lack of resources is not the main cause of social injustice. The main cause is cultural.

Consider Haiti. The day before the 2010 earthquake, 10,000 mission and relief & development organizations, and tens of thousands of volunteers were working in Haiti. Financial aid was pouring into the country: one billion dollars a year in international aid and three billion dollars in aid from the Haitian Diaspora in the US, Canada, and Europe.

Since the earthquake $1.8 billion in private aid has been sent to Haiti (in addition to plans by the international community to raise $5 billion more.) Haiti was a calamity before the earthquake. Two years after the earthquake Haiti is still a calamity, notwithstanding all the good efforts of private citizens, private voluntary organizations, and the international community. If Haiti’s problem were the lack of resources, she would be a functioning middle-class nation today.

So, why is Haiti poor? Not for lack of Christian outreach. Not only has the nation been inundated with billions of dollars in aid and the help of thousands of organizations, she has also been evangelized. Churches abound. Bible schools and seminaries are training pastors and theologians. If evangelism and church planting were the keys to Haiti’s problems, Haiti would be prospering.

The problem with Haiti is the Voodoo mindset of her people. Our colleague Chris Ampadu recently pointed out that someone described Haiti as 80% Catholic, 20% Protestant and 100% Voodoo. As an animistic worldview, Voodoo does not provide a framework for a family, community, or nation to develop.

Bible schools may teach scripture stories or even the flow of Biblical history. Seminaries may teach theology and denominational distinctives. But unless we break the strongholds of the mind (see 2Cor. 10:4-5), Haiti’s people—Christian and non-Christian alike–will be bound by the mental stronghold of Voodoo. The culture is being shaped by Voodoo rather than by Christ and the biblical worldview that comports with reality.

Most aid organizations seek to mitigate the suffering caused by institutional, moral, and natural evil rather than attack the cultural framework that creates the poverty in the first place. Mission organizations seek to deal with the “spiritual condition” of the Haitian people without realizing that the soul is firmly attached to the body and the gospel needs to have a wholistic reach – all of each person – heart, soul, mind, and strength – and all of their relationships.

Culture is a product of cult (worship). If a people change their worship, say from Voodoo to Christ, a change in culture must follow. Genesis 1: 26-28 is the original Cultural Mandate. Christians and Jews understand that people have been placed on earth to create culture, to take what God has provided and make it flourish. Haiti is waiting for people to have this understanding of life and not the cultural mindset of fatalism and poverty.

The spiritual realm impacts the physical realm through culture. When people come to Christ, their culture is to be reformed. Following that, the laws, structures, and institutions of society need to be rebuilt. Faith rooted in truth must produce godly culture and godly culture must redeem the social, economic, and political institutions of society. This is true social justice.

Such transformation will take more than evangelists and teachers. It will take ordinary Christians who think theologically and/or work from the Judeo-Christian worldview … business people creating a thriving economic order … doctors and nurses increasing the health of the communities … artists and architects bringing beauty into the home, marketplace, and public square … scientists and technicians pushing back the ravages of natural evil (thus preparing Haiti to withstand the next earthquake) … farmers and agriculturalists producing more and healthier food.

We end this series on social justice by quoting Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest: “Never look for justice in this world, but never cease to give it.”

In a fallen world, we will always face injustice. As Christians we should spend more time extending justice to others and less time demanding justice for ourselves.

–          Darrow Miller

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Where Do We Get Our Narrow View of the Gospel?

by Bob Moffitt

The youth in a church in Central America wanted to provide a day care for their community. They knew that single mothers, with no place to leave their children to find work, were prostituting themselves in their homes in order to feed their children.

With the encouragement of workers from Harvest Foundation, the day care was launched.

The denomination had been started by missionaries 90 years earlier. In those 90 years, this was the first outreach not designed to meet spiritual needs only.

Why?

Bob Moffitt is co-founder and chairman of Disciple Nations Alliance and executive director of Harvest Foundation

Posted in Great Commission, Worldview | Tagged , | 2 Comments

The Myth of Personal Convictions

by Gary Brumbelow

Maybe because of the inevitable criticism, we Christ followers are sometimes hesitant to bring our Christian worldview to the marketplace of ideas. But that reluctance betrays a misguided notion: that the biblical positions we profess belong to us. We are shy, maybe, because we wrongly think the criticism is being directed at us for our personal beliefs.

Harry Blamires made this point in The Christian Mind (Servant Books: 1963).

A man’s religious convictions and understanding of the truth are not private possessions in the sense that his suit and the contents of his note-case are private possessions. … Your beliefs, as a Christian, are not yours in the sense that you have rights over them … the very fact that nowadays we look upon convictions as personal possessions is a symptom of the disappearance of the Christian mind. p. 40

In that view of things, a Christian can agree with the complaint last August from New York Times editor, Bill Keller, as the Republican primary campaign was getting underway. He challenged the notion … that what goes on between a candidate and his or her God is a sensitive, even privileged domain ….

To be sure, Keller’s column has generated deserved criticism for a “condescending attitude” and for the Times’ unequal treatment of evangelicals vs. other kinds of Christians (as well as Christians vs. other faith adherents). He observes that

This year’s Republican primary season offers us an important opportunity to confront our scruples about the privacy of faith in public life.  … Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann are both affiliated with fervid subsets of evangelical Christianity — and Rick Santorum comes out of the most conservative wing of Catholicism — which has raised concerns about their respect for the separation of church and state, not to mention the separation of fact and fiction.

Mostly, Christians will disagree with Keller. His description of Perry’s and Bachmann’s faith as “fervid” is inaccurate and unfair. As is his implication that the “most conservative wing of Catholicism” confuses fact and fiction. He also seems ignorant of the fact that everyone has religious convictions; religious belief is a universal human phenomenon, not peculiar to followers of Christ.

We who profess to believe in the Great Commission must consider that the public square will be shaped by the most compelling religious conviction. Will it be our winsome witness to Truth, or the falsehoods of the religions of atheism or Islam? Or those of a third system, more troubling for its counterfeit Christian cloak, which Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton call Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, “a combination of works righteousness, religion as psychological well-being, and a distant non-interfering god“?

Yet, notwithstanding our points of disagreement with Keller, his criticism of Christians for treating our faith as a “sensitive, even privileged domain,” is an echo of Blamires, who puts it this way:  One of the crucial tasks in reconstituting the Christian mind will be to re-establish the status of objective truth as distinct from personal opinions. 

In his new book, Emancipating the World: A Christian Response To Militant Islam and Fundamentalist Atheism (YWAM Publishing, due out in May) Darrow makes a parallel point to explain why societies like Japan and Singapore, which have never been characterized as “Judeo-Christian,” have nevertheless prospered.

The answer to this is that moral principles and laws do not “belong” to Christians and Jews. They are transcendent laws that belong to all humankind. When people or nations appropriate these laws, whether they are believers or not, they will reap positive consequences. Yet Jews and Christians, God’s covenant people, have a fundamental understanding because they have received God’s revelation in creation and in his word.

Posted in Current events, Politics, Worldview | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why So Much Heat About Social Justice? Part 2

In our previous post we discussed the heat in discussions of social justice. Today we want to answer the question, Where does the heat come from?

In a word, the heat comes from different sacred belief systems.

One’s paradigm of choice between an open system or a closed system will determine how social justice is defined, what policies are established, and which programs implemented.

Most people who argue for social justice occupy the top half of our diagram; they believe that we live in a moral universe and thus, as we have seen before, have a responsibility to seek justice. But some do not acknowledge the left column, i.e. an Open System of reality.

An open system is derived from the reality and existence of a Transcendent God. The God of the universe stands outside of creation and thus the system is open to intervention and to the Creator’s involvement. The universe is also open to the activity of angels and to imago Dei  – humansA closed system is the illusion of atheists who assume there is no God, that nature is all there is, and no God  or angels exists to intervene in the system, and human beings are simply a cog in the machine of the universe.

Two of the quadrants in our diagram are self consistent, two are inconsistent. The upper left quadrant is consistent with the reality of God’s existence. We live in a moral universe and an open system. The bottom right quadrant is also consistent but with the atheistic-materialistic assumption that there is no God and thus the universe is a-moral and closed.

Many people with a heart for the poor and the moral motivation to seek justice in the world function from the upper right quadrant. But this quadrant, along with the lower left quadrant, is inherently inconsistent.

Those in the upper right quadrant understand the universe is moral, but they begin their reasoning from a closed-system mentality. This is the socialist position that I held for many years as a young adult. Those who function from a moral framework want to help the poor and seek justice and even to do so sacrificially. But because they consciously or unconsciously function from a closed system”  of limited resources, their approaches to help the poor are radically different from someone functioning from the theistically consistent quadrant.

The table below indicates how our paradigms drive very different principles regarding social justice.

  Judeo-Christian Theism Atheistic-Materialism
The Universe Open System Closed System
Human Beings The Image of God Mouths to feed
Resources Product of human imagination Physical things in the ground
Economics Positive Sum Zero Sum
Nature of equality Equal  before the   law Equal outcomes
Solving poverty Create wealth Redistribute scarce resources
Government Internal self government; the state is responsible to free   citizens. The state must be large enough to force its will on the   people
Property Private Belongs to the state
Social Justice Personal and public flourishing Material equality
Operating Principle Freedom Tyranny
Poor People Individuals in the community A class that only a large government can help

People who recognize the system is open understand that resources are the product of human imagination and creativity. Wealth may be created. The way to solve the problems of hunger, poverty and injustice is to create an economic and political environment of freedom where people and communities may flourish – creating and stewarding wealth. This leads to a positive sum economic system. The truth is that all human beings are created in the image of God and stand equal before the law. Human creativity and innovation is the source of resource. Private property is to be respected. People are free and responsible moral agents who are to practice internal self government, allowing for small state government. Social justice focuses on personal and public flourishing in all areas of life.

People who believe the system is closed think that resources are physical things in the ground and, by nature, limited. Human beings are the product of an evolutionary process, merely animals: mouths and stomachs. More and more people means more and more mouths to feed. In a world of scarce resources the way to solve poverty is by reducing the number of mouths and/or redistributing resources. This leads to a zero sum economic system.  Social justice is defined as equal outcomes. Only a large government with authority and power to redistribute scarce resources can achieve equal outcomes.

This perspective reduces social justice to a focus on the narrow realm of material poverty. Poor individuals are not seen as neighbors to be provided with care and opportunity, they are rather treated as a class which is encouraged to create docking mechanisms with government programs. This leads to dependence and greater poverty. Thus we end with a modern institution of economic and political slavery where the well-intended political class gains power and influence by a compliant poor class, the new dependent slaves.

What we have just described are the two distinct responses – open system vs closed system,  to the moral imperative to work toward social justice.

Having said this, it is also important to realize that there are those who, consciously or unconsciously, see the universe as amoral. For these there is no moral imperative to help the poor or to seek justice in any form. These positions are represented by the two lower quadrants of our diagram.

In the lower left quadrant are people who live off a memory that explains how wealth can be created; but by mixing the memory of an open system with an affirmation of an atheistic-materialistic amoral universe they are inconsistent. Their only interest is money. They want to gain as much as they can, as quickly as they can without moral constraint about how they get it or use it. I call these folks consumer, hedonistic, predatory or nihilistic “capitalists.” (I put capitalist in quotation marks because what is described here is not capitalism in its true, original form as envisioned by people who affirmed a moral framework for both the creation and sharing of wealth.)

The second group is represented by the lower right quadrant. These are people who function consistently from an atheistic-materialistic perspective. The system is closed, resources are limited, and the universe has no moral constraints. Such people are interested only in power – after all “nature is red in tooth and claw.” There is only one “law,” the survival of the fittest!

The first group is not interested in social justice, only in the self and the amassing of wealth. The second group cynically use the term social justice to accumulate power. They seek to expand the size of the state or national government to accrue control over the masses. They do this by taxing one group of people, the creators of wealth, to give to the consumers of wealth. The greater number of those consumers of wealth becomes dependent on the government for their welfare, health, education, etc. The larger and more powerful the government, the “smaller” each citizen becomes.

These folks are intentionally creating institutional dependency to accumulate political and economic power for themselves. The result is a modern form of slavery, an economic and political plantation where the poor are enslaved in political-economic programs. In contrast to the physical slavery of pre-Civil War U.S., or the apartheid of South Africa, this is a psychological dependency: “We are poor and there is nothing we can do about it.  Our masters, the omnipotent government, will secure food and shelter for us.”

–         Darrow Miller with Gary Brumbelow

Posted in Social justice | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

What Does President Obama Mean by “Equality of Women”?

Golden Dome at Notre Dame University

In his controversial commencement appearance at the University of Notre Dame on May 17, 2009, President Obama tried to square his radical, pro-abortion, culture of death stance with the culture of life community as represented by the Roman Catholic church. His words sounded admirable.

Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women.

First, the President said he wants “a sensible conscience clause.” This is good because it reflects a fundamental human right and the demands of Article 1 of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Second, he says that health-care policies are to be “grounded … in sound science.” The Law of Biogenesis states that living things produce after their own kind. Human beings conceive human beings, not lizards or elephants. Pediatric cardiologist Dr. Russell M. Nelson, MD, PhD, states:

In the biological sciences, it is known that life begins when two germ cells unite to become one cell, bringing together twenty-three chromosomes from both the father and from the mother. … A continuum of growth results in a new human being. The onset of life is not a debatable issue, but a fact of science.

What a woman carries in her womb, from the moment of conception, a unique human and it is alive.

Third, President Obama says that the policies are to be “grounded … in clear ethics.” One of the primary moral principles of the universe is the sixth commandment:“Thou shall not kill.” This moral law becomes the foundation for capital crimes in criminal law. Taking the life of a human being is a violation of both moral principle and criminal law.

Kathleen Sebelius

So, President Obama wants to base his policy on human rights, sound science, and clear ethics. His last criterion is “respect for the equality of women.” If President Obama were using this term as understood in the Judeo-Christian worldview, we would be in agreement. More than that, he would be pursuing very different government policies. Not, for example, the policy reaffirmed January 20th by Kathleen Sebelius, President Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services. This “final rule on preventive health services” requires all health-insurance plans, including those in faith-based institutions, to cover sterilizations and contraceptives, including abortifacients. The policy reveals what President Obama and HHS Secretary Sebelius really believe. The reality of his policies directly contradicts the President’s own words to the audience at Notre Dame.

The real issue is not the policy; it is the principle and paradigm behind the policy. As mentioned in our recent blog Why So Much Heat Around Discussions of Social Justice? government policies and programs reflect the principles and paradigm on which they are founded. We are witnessing a clash between two fundamentally different worldviews. Thus the heat in the social-justice discussion, and the heat in the matter of government-funded and mandated abortion.

There are two Americas and this is revealed in what is meant by “equality of women.”

At creation God made women and men equal in that both are made in His image. This first principle is inculcated in the United States Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Men and women are equal in dignity, value, and worth. Based on this, they are to be equal before the law.

But this is not what President Obama and modern feminists mean by “equality of women.” Equality of women means that women are equal to men when they are the same as men.

Sexist culture values maleness over femaleness. So too does radical feminism. Women do not have intrinsic worth; their worth is defined by the marketplace. Abortion allows women to be in the marketplace. Women are equal to men when they are most like men. They are most like men when they are un-pregnant, when they can have sex without being pregnant.

Maternal feminist Lilian Calles Barger writing in Eve’s Revenge states:

For the average woman, the pill has provided a way to divorce sex from procreation, so she can make herself available to any sexual partner she chooses at the moment. A woman is now considered to be available 24/7/365.

Barger continues:

The widely practiced violence of abortion is not a sign of progress but a sign that women’s reproductive ability needs to be exterminated in order for society to go ‘forward.’ In an environment hostile to women’s bodies and through abortion, women participate in a war against their own bodies, objectifying them.

Men want women for sex and thus objectify women. Women want to be equal to men and thus deny their own uniqueness, objectifying their own bodies and becoming the playthings of men.

Most atheists are atheist for moral reasons, not metaphysical reasons. They want the universe to be free of moral restraint, so they have license to live however they want. It is quite simple, people are atheists because they want recreational sex, sex separated from a covenantal relationship between a man and a woman before God. They want sex as entertainment, separated from family and hearth. Convenience is a higher value than human life.

But God exists. Because He does, the universe is moral, and freedom lies in living within the framework of God’s ordinances.

Cartoon by Jack Higgins, Chicago Sun-Times 8/25/04

President Obama and (consistent) modern feminists want women to be “equal” to men by which they mean sexual license without pregnancy. This requires abortion on demand. It means babies who survive abortions must die. As an Illinois State Legislator in 2001, Senator Obama stood against legislation to protect the life of children that survive abortion. He argued:

Number one, whenever we define a pre-viable fetus as a person that is protected by the equal protection clause or the other elements in the Constitution, what we’re really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a – a child, a nine-month-old – child that was delivered to term. That determination then, essentially, if it was accepted by a court, would forbid abortions to take place. I mean, it – it would essentially bar abortions, because the equal protection clause does not allow somebody to kill a child, and if this is a child, then this would be an antiabortion statute.

This is chilling, for at least two reasons. First, he is essentially arguing that a baby born before nine months is not viable. Yet recent medical advances have proven otherwise. Research from 2003-2007 on premature babies shows the viability rates of six percent at 22 weeks and ninety-two percent at 28 weeks. Most infants 24 weeks or older survive. So State Senator Obama was being deceptive when he spoke of babies being “pre-viable” up to nine months.

Second, Senator Obama was saying that a baby is human if it is wanted and brought to term. If the baby is born alive after an abortion, the baby is not human. Given the intention of the mother and the doctor to kill the baby, the baby is not entitled to equal protection under the law. In this worldview, the human nature of a baby is defined not by the reality of biological science, or moral philosophy, or the Creator, but by the will of another person, the mother.

In 2001 and beyond, Barak Obama showed what he really believes: a woman’s right to choose is more important than the right to life. The paradigm that reduces a baby to “tissue” trumps the paradigm that acknowledges a baby as made in the image of the Creator God and thus her life is sacred.

Such policies and practices necessarily preclude the very principles President Obama professed at Notre Dame. They also require violating the freedom of conscience and religion of tax payers and faith-based organizations. Further, these policies violate sound science and clear ethics.

President Obama’s “honorable” words cannot cover up the atheistic-materialistic paradigm that establishes the principle of a “woman’s right to choose.” Despite his rhetoric to the contrary, the Judeo-Christian principle of “the right to life” is denied. We know what President Obama believes, not by what he says, but by the policies that he puts forward.

The public conversation over this issue is passionate because it touches on people’s identity and how they pursue their lives. And it reveals the heart of the sacred belief system/paradigm on which they have staked their very existence and meaning.

Or lack thereof.

Darrow Miller

Posted in Culture, Current events, Women, Worldview | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Why So Much Heat Around Discussions of Social Justice?

All people of good will, who have a heart of the poor and vulnerable, who are appalled by the corruption and injustice they see, who are aghast at the slaughtering of females on the scale of a holocaust, who grieve to watch sex-slavery replace black slavery … all such people want to do something to stand for justice.

But how we are to work for social justice, what policies and programs are needed, is hotly debated. The heat is actually generated, though, at a level much deeper than pragmatic considerations such as policies and programs.

Policies and programs are not suspended in air; they are the logical consequences of principles and paradigms. Our sacred belief systems ultimately determine how we understand the issues of social justice and how those issues are to be solved. The discussions may be at the level of policy and programs, but the people in the discussions get hot under the collar because their sacred belief systems, which they may hold unconsciously, are being challenged.

We need to realize that people who have a heart for social justice may be working from differing paradigms or worldviews. These different paradigms establish very different principles, policies and programs. What assumptions underlie the sometimes bitter discussions over poverty and social injustice?

A simple way of diagramming shows how Paradigms drive Principles which drive Policies which drive Programs.

Or, to say it differently politics and economics are downstream from culture and culture is downstream from cult – worship. Or, Worldview leads to Values which shape Behavior which drives Consequences. In this post, we will use the four P diagram above.

The way one defines a problem will determine how one solves the problem. Many may be motivated by compassion to help the poor: they have a worthy goal of reducing and working towards the end of poverty and injustice. But different paradigms will lead to very different solutions.

Wherever we can, we need to work together. Yet at the same time, where we have real differences in our approach to solving problems of poverty, we must avoid minimizing those differences. We need to speak about and treat others who are working with the poor in civil fashion, even when we disagree on how best to solve the problems our communities and nations face.

Most people who speak of social justice do so because they believe the universe has a moral dimension. That is, there is evil in the universe and it manifests itself in three distinct ways: moral evil, natural evil and institutional evil. It is the responsibility of those who seek justice to fight evil in all of its manifestations, to do that which is right and oppose that which is wrong. Because the universe is moral, we have a responsibility to relate ethically and justly to other human beings and to the creation.  We are our brother’s keeper! We have a responsibility to steward the creation. We have responsibility for ourselves, our families, and the larger community, including people who are economically and politically marginalized.

To seek justice in a fallen world is not easy, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s story so powerfully illustrates.

As darkness grew in Europe during the rise of the Third Reich, the young pastor Bonheoffer understood that the church needed to stand against the injustice being perpetuated on the Jews. He challenged the church to engage on three levels, each, in succession, more difficult and dangerous.

First he called the church to advocacy – to speak out on behalf of Jewish people. Second he called the church to compassion – to “come alongside in passion,” opening their communities and homes to shelter and hide the Jews who were being persecuted. The book by Corrie ten Boom and the diary of Anne Frank are testimony to the hardship and cost to those who provided a “hiding place.”

Third, Bonheoffer called the church to live out justice, in this case to throw a wrench in the Nazi killing machine. He called the church to stand against the unjust legal authority and do all in her power to stop it. Each successive call found more and more Christians abandoning the cry for justice. And Bonheoffer ended up paying with his life.

–          Darrow Miller

Posted in Social justice | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

One Geography, Two Nations: Why is America Becoming More Polarized?

The following post is offered in response to Ben Hoffman’s comments last week.

I think most observers of American society would agree that we are becoming more polarized. We are a nation divided. In fact, we are actually two very different nations sharing one geography, two nations enlivened by two very different moral and metaphysical visions. At this moment in our history two religious faiths are vying for the heart and soul of the United States. One is “anti-theist” atheism, the other is the faith of the founding fathers, theism, specifically Judeo-Christian theism. These two religious impulses lead inevitably to two very different kinds of societies.

One might call the Humanist Manifestos the atheist bible. The first of the three manifestos published in 1933, states the religious nature of Secular-Humanism:

The time has come for widespread recognition of the radical changes in religious beliefs throughout the modern world. The time is past for mere revision of traditional attitudes. Science and economic change have disrupted the old beliefs … In order that religious humanism may be better understood we, the undersigned, desire to make certain affirmations which we believe the facts of our contemporary life demonstrate. [emphasis mine]

Note that they identify themselves as religious humanists. From there, the manifesto goes on to declare that Secular Humanists are atheistic in theology. Note the first three affirmations:

–          FIRST: Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created.

–          SECOND: Humanism believes that man is a part of nature and that he has emerged as a result of a continuous process.

–          THIRD: Holding an organic view of life, humanists find that the traditional dualism of mind and body must be rejected. [emphasis mine]

The eighth and ninth affirmations demonstrate the religious nature of atheists’ convictions:

–          EIGHTH: Religious Humanism considers the complete realization of human personality to be the end of man’s life and seeks its development and fulfillment in the here and now. This is the explanation of the humanist’s social passion.

–          NINTH: In the place of the old attitudes involved in worship and prayer the humanist finds his religious emotions expressed in a heightened sense of personal life and in a cooperative effort to promote social well-being. [emphasis mine]

This modern faith is to be propagated through public school classrooms. Self-confessed atheist John Dumphy, writing in the January/February 1983 edition of The Humanist magazine, said:

I am convinced that the battle for humankind’s future must be waged and won in the public school classroom by teachers who correctly perceive their role as the proselytizers of a new faith: a religion of humanity that recognizes and respects the spark of what theologians call divinity in every human being. These teachers must embody the same selfless dedication as the most rabid fundamentalist preacher, for they will be ministers of another servant, utilizing a classroom instead of a pulpit to convey humanist values in whatever subjects they teach regardless of the educational level – preschool daycare or large state university. The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and the new – the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with all its adjacent evils and misery and the new faith of humanism resplendent in its promise of a world in which the never realized Christian idea of ‘love thy neighbor’ will finally be achieved. [emphasis mine]

Dumphy recognizes the religious nature of the struggle and sees the classroom as the place of proselytizing the new faith.

This divide of religious convictions leads to fundamental changes in principles and ultimately in governmental policies and in programs. On the level of principle we can see this worked out in the area of religious liberty and so-called “sexual liberty.” Rooted in creation is the concept of moral and religious freedom and the corresponding principle of human responsibility. Running through Judeo-Christian culture, the concept of religious freedom was enshrined in our founding documents as the First Amendment to the constitution. Derived from the secular humanist “moral” convictions is a newly minted concept of sexual liberty.

What happens when the founders’ concept of religious liberty and the modern “right” of “sexuality liberty” conflict? Georgetown law professor, Chai Feldblum, who was appointed by President Obama to lead the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, makes clear which principle will guide her in developing policies and programs:

Sexual liberty should win in most cases. There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win because that’s the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner.

Another example that goes to the root of these two nations is the question of who is to parent children. Evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins raises the fundamental question as to who has the right to parent children.

How much do we regard children as being the property of their parents? It’s one thing to say people should be free to believe whatever they like, but should they be free to impose their beliefs on their children? Is there something to be said for society stepping in? What about bringing up children to believe manifest falsehoods? Isn’t it always a form of child abuse to label children as possessors of beliefs that they are too young to have thought out?

That Dawkins could imagine that parents regard children as “property,” rather than as human beings, is revealing. Yet this is to be expected when one begins from an atheistic and materialistic perspective. Everything is reduced to an object — children are property, women are sexualized, babies are “products of conception.”

In contrast, Judeo-Christian theism establishes the premise that the family is the fundamental institution and parents are responsible to raise and educate their children. A state founded on an atheistic moral philosophy recognizes no such right. Men and women may still have the right to pro-create, but not the right to parent.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg illustrated this profound division of two nations and one geography in an interview with Egyptian Al-Hayat TV on January30: “I would not look to the U.S. Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012.” I suggest that her comments on the writing of constitutions were less about the year 2012 and more about fundamental difference in religious faith.

The different premises of atheist faith and Judeo-Christian faith will inescapably lead to two very different nations. We see a picture of this fundamental divide in the words of comedian and political activist Janeane Garofalo:

[W]hen I see the American flag, I go, ‘Oh my God, you’re insulting me.’ That you can have a gay parade on Christopher Street in New York, with naked men and women on a float cheering, ‘We’re here, we’re queer!’ — that’s what makes my heart swell. Not the flag, but a gay naked man or woman burning the flag. I get choked up with pride.

Moral relativism – ideological pluralism – has as its fundamental virtue, tolerance. This leads to two realities. First, it engenders moral anarchy in a society and will ultimately bring government tyranny to impose social order. When tolerance is the ultimate virtue, the only vice is belief in moral and metaphysical absolutes. This leads to the second reality, intolerance of those who believe in the possibility of truth. A kind of intellectual absolutism that denies the fundamental principles of reason, freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech is the result. Moral relativism is the product of fundamentalist atheism and will lead in the near term to social anarchy and in the longer term to a repressive tyranny.

Judeo-Christian Theism, on the other hand, believes in moral and metaphysical absolutes. Rooted in this assumption is the understanding that men and women are created in the image of God and from this assumption comes one of the most profound political assertions of all times.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed …

Freedom of speech, conscience, and religion are all the product of Judeo-Christian faith. Social historian Rodney Stark has put it very clearly in his book The Victory of Reason: “The modern world arose only in Christian societies. Not in Islam. Not in Asia. Not in a ‘secular’ society – there have been none.”

–          Darrow Miller

Posted in Culture, Freedom, Worldview | Tagged , , | 8 Comments