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Racially motivated police violence. And facts.

17 Oct

From the Phillipe Lemoine at the National Review:

According to this narrative, black men are constantly harassed by the police and routinely brutalized with impunity, even when they have done nothing wrong, and there is an “epidemic of police shootings of unarmed black men.” Even high-profile black celebrities often claim to be afraid of the police because the same thing might happen to them. Police brutality, or at least the possibility that one might become a victim of such violence, is supposed to be part of the experience of a typical black man in the U.S. Events such as the death of Brown in Ferguson are presented as proof that black men are never safe from the police. This narrative is false. In reality, a randomly selected black man is overwhelmingly unlikely to be victim of police violence — and though white men experience such violence even less often, the disparity is consistent with the racial gap in violent crime, suggesting that the role of racial bias is small. The media’s acceptance of the false narrative poisons the relations between law enforcement and black communities throughout the country and results in violent protests that destroy property and sometimes even claim lives. Perhaps even more importantly, the narrative distracts from far more serious problems that black Americans face.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/451466/police-violence-against-black-men-rare-heres-what-data-actually-say

Want to run some numbers yourself?  Use the Washington Post’s resource on crime stats

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Bernie Sanders and American Laicite

26 Jun

Love this post from my fb friend David Koyzis, whose book Political Visions and Illusions (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B001HL0E0M/ref=dp-kindle-redirect…) I continuously recommend to students. It touches directly on the subject matter of my own research with Mike Lavender on a church/state phenomena we think America is currently experiencing; a concept we call “American Laicite” (the tendency in American political and social institutions to depart from either a strict separation model, where religion is excluded from public life or accommodationist model, where religion is indiscriminately included in public life, towards a selective accommodationist model where religion is included, and can avoid chastisement or penalties, so long as it accommodates itself to a higher creed driven by an alternate secular, humanist, or progressive worldview or sorts.

During last year’s presidential election campaign, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a latecomer to the Democratic Party, positioned himself as a voice for the downtrodden against big moneyed interests, something that many Americans, especially the young, found deeply attractive. In so doing, Sanders drew on a deep tradition of social justice with biblical roots, as evidenced in his powerful address to Liberty University two years ago. Recognizing that “there is no justice when so few have so much and so many have so little,” he laudably demonstrated his concern for the economically disadvantaged in our society. However, judging from his questioning last week of Russell Vought, the President’s nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, Sanders appears not to understand that there is no justice where religious liberty lacks protection.

At issue was a blog post Vought had written as an alumnus of Wheaton College, a Christian university near Chicago, in response to a controversy involving one of its faculty members. The offending passage was this: “Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned.” While it may sound harsh to a nonchristian, Vought was in no way suggesting that Muslims cannot be good citizens or should be treated severely by the governing authorities. He was simply reiterating what the vast majority of Christians have believed for two millennia: that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:7).

But this appears not to satisfy Sanders, who has shown himself in this respect to be a good student of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), the Genevan political philosopher who famously proposes an ostensibly tolerant civil religion at the end of Book IV of his Social Contract.

There is therefore a purely civil profession of faith of which the Sovereign should fix the articles, not exactly as religious dogmas, but as social sentiments without which a man cannot be a good citizen or a faithful subject. While it can compel no one to believe them, it can banish from the State whoever does not believe them — it can banish him, not for impiety, but as an anti-social being, incapable of truly loving the laws and justice, and of sacrificing, at need, his life to his duty. If any one, after publicly recognising these dogmas, behaves as if he does not believe them, let him be punished by death: he has committed the worst of all crimes, that of lying before the law.

The dogmas of civil religion ought to be few, simple, and exactly worded, without explanation or commentary. The existence of a mighty, intelligent and beneficent Divinity, possessed of foresight and providence, the life to come, the happiness of the just, the punishment of the wicked, the sanctity of the social contract and the laws: these are its positive dogmas. Its negative dogmas I confine to one, intolerance, which is a part of the cults we have rejected.

Those who distinguish civil from theological intolerance are, to my mind, mistaken. The two forms are inseparable. It is impossible to live at peace with those we regard as damned; to love them would be to hate God who punishes them: we positively must either reclaim or torment them. Wherever theological intolerance is admitted, it must inevitably have some civil effect; and as soon as it has such an effect, the Sovereign is no longer Sovereign even in the temporal sphere: thenceforce priests are the real masters, and kings only their ministers.

One needn’t dig too far beneath the surface to discern rather quickly that Rousseau’s offer of tolerance could scarcely be more intolerant. Anyone who believes that God has revealed himself in specific ways to specific people and that even the state derives its authority from God cannot be a good citizen of the republic.

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Lest we forget about the last 8 years regarding religious liberty. A summary

19 Jan

From Andrew Walker and Josh Wester in the National Review:

For eight years, the Obama administration brought fundamental change to American life. As the administration comes to an end, it is appropriate to evaluate its legacy. And though many such assessments will be written, among the most important issues to consider is the Obama administration’s record on religious liberty. As we’ll argue based on episodes throughout President Obama’s time in office, this administration oversaw an unprecedented effort to intentionally malign and dethrone religious liberty as a central pillar in American political and civil life. Notwithstanding this overall record, and though neither of us is a political supporter of Obama, we applaud the efforts made by the administration in a few areas to champion religious liberty. In 2008, Obama was a U.S. senator and presidential candidate publicly opposed to same-sex marriage. Much has changed in eight years. For the foreseeable future, the legacy of the Obama administration will rest on two alliterative, colossal initiatives that have left an indelible crater on the landscape of religious liberty: Obamacare and Obergefell v. Hodges.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/443933/obama-administration-has-troubled-religious-liberty-legacy

To Christianity from China: conform or else. To Christianity from American government: conform or else?

3 Aug

Broadly speaking, in China there are two versions of Christianity. There is the one that is officially tolerated, accepted, celebrated, subordinated to, and accommodated by the State in public life. Then there is the one that is officially not tolerated, prohibited, discriminated against, and shunned by the State. Why the unequal treatment? In the former version, the State has determined that it poses no threat to national ideological and cultural orthodoxy and State power. It’s a version of Christianity that will comply with the reigning political elites and their ideological creed, even affirm them. As such, it is rewarded for good behavior with public accommodation. But the latter version, the underground version, has done what all authentic Christian communities have always done on their better days: bend the knee only to the Kingship of Jesus Christ and His Word. They fear God rather than men. It isn’t surprising that such a dichotomy in the 21st century, where a religion is accommodated only in so far as it conforms to a State sponsored creed, exists in communist China, where religious liberty and separation of church/state have never been a fundamental right/principle of the political system. We expect the State to maintain a “conform or else” attitude towards religious communities there. But in America?

Evidence?  Where to begin.  How about California Senate Bill 1146:

http://www.albertmohler.com/2016/08/03/briefing-08-03-16/

 

Do Christian colleges have a right to be Christian colleges?

5 May

From Adam Macleod:

Gordon College is still under attack for being an intentionally Christian college. For nearly two years, cultural elites in Massachusetts, led by The Boston Globe, have been waging a sustained campaign of accusation and coercion in an effort to force the college to abandon the self-consciously Christian identity expressed in its life and conduct statement.

The attack appeared existential at one time, when the New England Association of Schools and Colleges announced that it would review Gordon’s accreditation. Yet to its lasting credit, the college has remained steadfast in its witness. After a well-organized and vocal objection by the college’s supportersand other friends of conscience, the NEASC quietly backed down.

Still the attacks continue. Most recently, a former Gordon philosophy professor, Lauren Barthold, has filed suit against Gordon alleging unlawful discrimination. Her complaint is signed by lawyers of the American Civil Liberties Union. The college denies her allegations, explaining that she was disciplined by her colleagues on the faculty not on a legally prohibited basis but because she wrote in a newspaper calling for outsiders to impose economic sanctions on the college. She encouraged others to pressure the college to abandon its Christian moral ideals.

The ACLU’s complaint does not contradict that account. And if recent history is any indication, the full facts will vindicate Gordon College once they surface. None of the accusations leveled against Gordon over the last two years has turned out to be true, except the charge that members of the Gordon College community choose to live biblically. Gordon has not discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation. Indeed, Professor Barthold acknowledges the “many . . . LGBTQ-identified students who have found deep friendships, intellectual growth and spiritual support [at Gordon].”

So, this case is not about Gordon discriminating. This case is about Gordon’s right to be excellent in ways that other Massachusetts colleges and universities are not. The issue is whether Massachusetts courts will preserve the liberty of Gordon’s faculty, staff, and students to maintain an educational community that is unique in its moral commitments. On this point Gordon College can claim an unlikely ally. If the judges of Massachusetts read the writings of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, then they will learn that Gordon College has the right to be differently excellent.

The Constitutional Right to Exclude

In its 2010 decision in the case Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, the Supreme Court of the United States declared and upheld the right of a state university to discriminate against unwanted student groups by excluding them from campus life. The unwanted student groups in Martinez were (who else?) religious groups that require members to live according to moral truths.

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What does the Christian church really face after Obergefell?

22 Apr

From Jake Meador:

Hope, History, and the American Church After Obergefell
It’s a truth universally recognized by anyone who has ever talked about the BenOp that a person who expresses concern about the church’s future is in want of a person to quote Tertullian at them.

Sorry, is that cheeky? Here’s the quote and we’ll get to why it grates on my hear so in a moment: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

The problem isn’t that Tertullian is always wrong. The problem is that this quote has become a sort of truism reflexively recited by American evangelicals who can only imagine that government-sanctioned opposition to the church will be a good thing for the American church. And while there will likely be some benefits to come from opposition, it’s essential that evangelicals not be overly sanguine about the American church’s short-term prospects.

The Historical Precedent for the Death of Regional Churches

The first point we need to get clear is that, historically speaking, it is simply not true that persecution always helps to strengthen and refine the church. Sometimes persecution simply destroys a church. Once upon a time there were thriving churches in northern Africa, the Middle East, China, and Japan. Then they died. (You can read about them in this fine book by Philip Jenkins.)

Those churches were all either destroyed (in the latter cases) or driven to the very edge of society (in the case of the two former groups). Indeed, what little remained of the historic churches of the Middle East has been largely eradicated by ISIS.

Thus we need to first figure out why these churches were destroyed or simply made into permanent extreme minorities. There are a number of factors in play:

In some cases, the church was closely tied to a ruling elite and when that elite was overthrown the church lost its standing and was crushed.
In other cases, the faith was actually only professed by a small minority of social elites and never penetrated into the mass population.

Finally, in still other cases, Christian identity has become conflated with a set of other characteristics or cultural values which, over time, erode the distinctly Christian characteristics of a people. So there is still a superficial Christianity, but it is badly compromised by its close ties to nationalism. Greece is a good example of this as somewhere between 88 and 98% of the population profess to be Greek Orthodox but only 27% of those people actually attend church weekly. Elsewhere in Europe the numbers are even more dire. In Denmark, 80% of the population is Lutheran but only 3% attend any kind of church service weekly. This critique also applies to cities and states in the USA that are historically Catholic, such as Chicago or Boston. The gap between those who claim to adhere to a specific faith and those who attend church weekly is enormous.
What all this means is that there are a number of conditions that have historically caused local churches to crumble and regional churches to disappear or lapse into a kind of permanent minority status. And the key thing to get clear is that this is very much a live possibility in the United States.

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Lincoln vs the founders?

10 Feb

 

From Joseph Sobran

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Harry Jaffa says Jack Kemp and I have been conducting an “uncivil war” over Abraham Lincoln’s character. Well, for my part, I deny it. Kemp called me one of the current “assassins of Lincoln’s character,” which I thought was a little rabid, inasmuch as I had given Lincoln praise as well as criticism in the speech Kemp referred to (without having heard or read it, naturally). Jaffa doesn’t say how I was “uncivil” in defending myself by quoting Lincoln. I don’t consider it character assassination to distinguish the real Lincoln from the Mythic Lincoln. (A Reply to Harry Jaffa’s In Re Jack Kemp v. Joe Sobran.)

But before I get into details, let me go right to the real point. In the book I’m now writing about Lincoln, I argue for the right of secession. And I also argue that if there is a right of secession, it follows that Lincoln had no authority to suppress secession by force.

Jaffa thinks that he and Lincoln have, between them, demolished the case for secession. Far from it. To make their case, both of them have had to misread the American founding documents, especially theDeclaration of Independence.

What, exactly, did the Declaration of Independence declare to be independent? Thirteen states — “free and independent states.” Now in 1776 and long afterward, a state was by definition free, independent, and sovereign. If it formed a confederacy with other states, it could withdraw — secede — reassert its independence — at any time, because a confederacy was, again by definition, a voluntary association of sovereigns. And the Declaration said nothing about a “Union,” or as Lincoln later put it, “a new nation.”

In order to get around these inconvenient facts, Lincoln said falsely that the Union was older than theConstitution, older even than the states. How could a union of things be older than the very things it was a union of? Isn’t that a bit like saying that a marriage is older than either spouse?

Well, said Lincoln, the Union had been formed while the future states were still colonies — then they declared their independence of Britain — but not of each other, mind you — then the Union was “further matured” in the Articles of Confederation — then it was matured still further in the Constitution; but at every stage, the states had had no existence outside the Union, so the Union was indissoluble. At least no state could withdraw without the consent of the rest of the Union. (This contradicted Lincoln’s own ringing affirmation of the right of secession during the Mexican War, but never mind. He came up with a fine and convenient distinction between a “revolutionary” and a “constitutional” right of secession.)

Oddly enough, the states of 1776 thought they were states, plural, not provinces of a sovereign “Union.” N.B.: They did not declare themselves a single “free and independent state,” which is what Lincoln (followed by Jaffa, of course) in essence said they were.

Let’s pause briefly on one point here. A state can secede from a confederation any time it wants to. It needs no justification beyond its own sovereignty. Lincoln, in denying that the states were sovereign, was denying that they were really states at all. All the rest is secondary — whether slavery was good or bad, whether it was endangered, whether the Southerners were acting like sore losers over the 1860 election, and so forth.

Now for the Articles of Confederation. As their name implies, they defined the Union as a confederation of the states, not as a sovereign power over the member states. In fact their second article says plainly: “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence,” et cetera. Each state, if I understand these words correctly, “retains,” among other things, its “independence.” This would seem to imply that each state already enjoyed its independence — not only of Britain, but of the other states.

So the Articles of Confederation were a second Declaration of Independence. Even as the states were still fighting together to secure their independence of Britain, they asserted their independence of each other as well! They were loosely united in a confederation, or, as they also put it, “a firm league of friendship.” But they retained severally their “sovereignty, freedom, and independence,” which I interpret to mean their sovereignty, freedom, and independence.

In the 1783 Treaty of Paris, Britain recognized, and listed by name, the 13 “free, sovereign, and independent states.” Evidently the states were sticklers for acknowledgment of their separate statehood. They didn’t settle for recognition of “the United States” in the aggregate.

Note that the Constitution always speaks of the United States in the plural. There is a reason for that; it isn’t just a quaint detail of linguistic usage.

Perhaps a Straussian analysis will demonstrate that the “inner meaning” of these documents flatly contradicts their ostensible meaning. Meanwhile, we may be pardoned for taking them literally.

We may also note that President Thomas Jefferson, chief author of the Declaration, said, when some states talked of secession, that they should be permitted to go in peace.

The Constitution says nothing about secession, either way. But it doesn’t equate secession with “rebellion” or “insurrection,” as Lincoln did. It says the federal government may aid a state in suppressing “domestic violence” — if the state requests its help. It doesn’t suggest that the federal government may invade a state against its will for any reason.

How could Lincoln be so wrong? Well, he was a product of a later generation of rising nationalism, typified by Daniel Webster and Henry Clay, that was out of touch with the Founders and the Framers of the Constitution. As a matter of fact, the longer I study Lincoln, the more I am convinced that he was simply ignorant of the greatest body of American political thought; I seriously doubt that he ever read even The Federalist Papers. If he did, he never assimilated their thinking about the problems of “confederation,” “consolidation,” “usurpation,” and the like. Jefferson Davis was steeped in these ideas and completely mastered them, as his memoirs show. Lincoln, however, couldn’t have carried on an intelligent conversation with Madison, Hamilton, or his hero Jefferson (whose Kentucky Resolutions he also seems ignorant of).

Jaffa may be surprised to learn that much of my critique of Lincoln, as I will present it in my book, King Lincoln, is drawn from the evidence of his own recent book, A New Birth of Freedom. He doesn’t realize how damning to Lincoln his own words are. For example, he says Lincoln thought that “the Union stood in the same relationship to a state as a state to a county.” Could Lincoln (or Jaffa) really hold such a naive view? The states were not formed by counties delegating powers to them; the counties had no sovereignty, but were mere subdivisions of the states. The states were not mere subdivisions, or inferior parts, of the Union. Lincoln’s simple hierarchical view of the Union is a far cry from federalism. Again we see Lincoln’s simplistic nationalist ideology.

Jaffa tries to make Lincoln sound like an avatar of the Founding Fathers, but about all he took from them was a set of snippets — “All men are created equal,” “consent of the governed,” et cetera — from which he wrung inferences they would have rejected. Jefferson in particular would have disowned Lincoln as a disciple.

Lincoln’s lack of learning was a serious defect, and it cost all Americans dearly. I’m not just defending the Confederacy; I think it was foolish to secede when it did, though it was fully within its rights. The point is that Lincoln’s war deprived all the states of their ultimate defense against federal tyranny and usurpation. Since 1865 the federal government has had little to fear from the states, and it has steadily usurped their reserved powers without much opposition and with total impunity.

To my mind, the most egregious case was the U.S. Supreme Court’s wholly arbitrary 1973 ruling that the states could not constitutionally protect unborn children from violent death by abortion. This was not only morally outrageous, but constitutionally absurd. But by then the states were helpless. Lincoln made that possible.

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