Christian Artists: Imitators of the Grand Creator

Darrow Miller and Friends is a big fan of Christian artists. That flows from the Cultural Mandate of Genesis 1:26-28 and 2:15. Darrow writes about this concept in his book, LifeWork.

What God made in Genesis chapter 1 was perfect, but it was not finished yet. God is the primary Creator; humankind, to use J.R.R. Tolkien’s word’s, is a “sub creator.” God makes primary creation. Humankind is to make a secondary creation–culture–that reveals and glorifies the primary Creator and the primary creation. Human beings were made to be active in creation, as God’s stewards. They are to fill the earth with the image bearers of God who will, in turn, develop the earth. Like an acorn that is nurtured into a mighty oak tree, creation from the hand of God was perfect and complete in itself, but the potential had to be released by men and women” (p. 91).

Stefan Eicher, who lives and works in New Delhi, is one of those Christian artists. Stefan encourages the appreciation of art, and teaches budding artists to create. He combines those activities with another dimension of kingdom work, i.e. loving service toward marginalized people in his community.

The following excerpt from one of Stefan’s recent reports will give you a picture of the heart of this servant. We are happy to introduce him to any of our readers not yet aware of Stefan’s work.

~


Eicher Earful 1Made to Create.
That’s what we are—made in the image of a Creator God with a mandate to be creative and fill the earth with culture. Filling the earth with culture can look as simple as three at-risk adolescent girls, rescued from difficult situations in the slums of Delhi, starting their new lives by painting the cupboard they sleep next to.

Eicher Earful 2Or Abdul participating in a Made to Create art workshop for the very first time last month. Abdul spent his afternoon with us learning not to fear while creating, imagining what the color of water is, learning how to draw a fish, and after having learnt to fold a paper boat, putting it all together in a collage. Simple tasks yet profound, echoes of the earliest act of creation. Simple tasks yet striking, against the backdrop of Abdul’s life in a bleak 12’x12′ slum home he recently moved into, his parents having just migrated to the city as illiterate laborers to earn a dollar a day for back-breaking work.

 

To read more about Stefan’s work, visit his Reflection Art Gallery website.

 

Other posts on this topic:

Artists Speaking to the Culture

The Create Commission: Artists Serving the Kingdom

BEAUTY Will Save the World

Why Cities Should Reflect the New Jerusalem

  
Posted in Arts, Cultural Mandate, Culture | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Poverty: It’s Not Too Late to Win the War

Poverty often results from the natural human tendency to respond to incentives. That’s true, by the way, not only for those who receive money from government programs but also for those whose livelihood depends on managing government programs.

poverty is less likely in a two-parent familyOne example is the breakdown of the family. Research has shown that intact, two-parent households have a higher standard of living than single-parent households. Many government welfare programs pay single mothers more as they have more babies. This has the consequences of separating the parents. The man loses much of the incentive to father the children he has created. The mother bears more children to increase her income. A well-intentioned program has the unintended consequence of increasing poverty. Single mothers are incentivized to bring more children into poverty rather than to make the changes necessary to escape poverty.

My wife tells a related story from her role as a nurse doing postpartum visits to a young mother and her baby. On entering the darkened home of this young mother, in a poor neighborhood, she found four generations of the family sitting on a couch in the middle of the day watching TV. The new mother with her baby, and her mother and grandmother sat “amusing themselves to death,” to borrow from Neil Postman.

That’s what life on welfare often looks like: no husband, no work, increasing poverty, enough government assistance to survive. Without some dramatic changes, the baby would grow up in this environment, assuming such a life to be normal. In 15 years the same couch might hold another newborn and four women watching soaps on (a new) TV. What a tragedy.

“There is a strong connection between the breakdown in marriage and child poverty.”

Rachel Sheffield is a policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation. She recently wrote an article, “Marriage Won’t End Poverty. But It Will Help (A Lot).”

There is a strong connection between the breakdown in marriage and child poverty. Living with two working parents raises household income. Children in single-parent homes are more than five times as likely to be poor, regardless of parental education level. They also are more likely to drop out of high school, spend time in prison, abuse drugs and alcohol, and have an unwed birth.

As the message spreads throughout Central America that if you get to the USA “Obama will take care of you,” more and more people will seek to cross the border. What would I do in similar circumstances? Quite likely, I would try to get my children across the border.

What mentality do we encourage and support? Do we reward work or idleness? Living within our means or excessive spending? Responsibility or imprudence? Family formation or divorce and single-parent households? Michael Tanner, a senior research fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, writes:

The vast majority of current programs are focused on making poverty more comfortable — giving poor people more food, better shelter, health care, and so forth — rather than giving people the tools that will help them escape poverty. … And we know that the best way to create wealth is not through government action, but through the power of the free market.[1]

Is it compassionate to spend more money on programs that are failing, programs that create dependency, that engender a whole class of chronically dependent people? An objective analysis of results and a heart of compassion compel us to stop what we are doing and transition to new programs that actually change people’s minds and circumstances. Sheffield writes of some of the factors that need to change.

Multiple factors … contribute to opportunity: a strong economy, a thriving work ethic, access to quality education, as well as strong families. These factors work together, not independently of each other.

A sound anti-poverty strategy must include: self-sufficiency through work, implementing policies to encourage job creation, improving access to quality education, and taking steps to restore a culture of marriage. Combining these efforts will help create a society where more individuals have the opportunity to succeed and flourish.[2]

We need the courage to recognize the failure of current welfare programs. We must acknowledge that the failure is a direct result of faulty policies derived from faulty principles and paradigms. We need to begin to work from the biblical worldview. We must articulate biblical principles that directly relate to the causes of poverty and to the creation of free and flourishing people, communities, and nations. We need to develop policies and their corresponding programmatic application that will lift people out of poverty. We need to invest money in programs that will reduce poverty by preparing people to flourish in their home and in the workplace, to be wealth creators, not simply wealth consumers.

We follow the One who “preached good news to the poor.” Surely we can be more effective servants to them in his name.

–          Darrow Miller

 

[1] http://www.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/PA694.pdf
[2] http://dailysignal.com/2014/07/31/marriage-wont-end-poverty-will-help-lot/?utm_source=heritagefoundation&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=morningbell&mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRonuaXNZKXonjHpfsX56eUvWa62lMI%2F0ER3fOvrPUfGjI4ASMBlI%2BSLDwEYGJlv6SgFQrLBMa1ozrgOWxU%3D

 

Other posts in this series:

  
Posted in Culture, Family, Poverty | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

A Secularist Inquisition: Houston and Freedom of Religion

Does freedom of religion no longer apply in Houston? Is a secularist inquisition underway in America?

Recently Pastor Steve Riggle of Grace Community Church was served a subpoena from Susman Godfrey, the lead counsel of the city of Houston. The subpoena demanded the surrender of “All speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”

freedom of religion threatened by Houston subpoena

I read this news and wondered, “HELLO! Is anybody there? Is anyone noticing what’s happening?” The mayor of one of the largest cities in the United States has shown her arrogance and disdain for the Constitution of the United States by ordering pastors to turn over their sermons, lectures, or papers to the city government for review and approval, or face contempt of court charges and possibly jail sentences.

Riggles was one of five Houston pastors to be served subpoenas in relation to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance – HERO, signed into law on May 28, 2014, by openly lesbian Houston Mayor Annise Parker. The Houston Chronicle described the ordinance this way:

The measure bans discrimination based not just on sexual orientation and gender identity but also, as federal laws do, sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy and genetic information, as well as family, marital or military status.

The ordinance applies to businesses that serve the public, private employers, housing, city employment and city contracting. Religious institutions would be exempt. Violators could be fined up to $5,000.

Known, in shorthand as the “Bathroom Bill,” the ordinance would allow, among other things, people who are sexually confused or who cross-dress for sport to use the bathrooms of the opposite sex.

Many pastors spoke out against HERO and circulated petitions calling for a vote by Houston citizens on repealing the law. It seems that their public support of traditional marriage is no longer allowed in the city of Houston. The attempt by cultural elites to redefine marriage is a “settled issue” and no longer open for discussion.

Here is one more example of the New Atheists attempting to stifle opposing ideas and moral vision.

Old Atheists were champions of free speech, often accusing Christians of wanting to burn books and stifle free thought and expression.

While this caricature of Christians has, unfortunately, had some justification, it was the Judeo-Christian worldview that gave the world freedom of thought and speech. This freedom was granted at creation, when God gave the first human beings liberty to choose against the Creator himself and against their own interest (Genesis 2:16-17). It was affirmed by Christ when he connected knowing truth with freedom (John 8:31-32) and repeatedly confirmed by the Apostle Paul (e.g. Rom. 12: 1-2; 2Cor. 10:3-5).

The Bill of Rights of the United States enshrines a number freedoms not enumerated in the Constitution; among these are freedom of religion, speech, press, and assembly.

When the biblical paradigm and virtues enliven a society, freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, freedom of the press will grow and flourish. In this framework, Old Atheists simply wanted to compete with their ideas and vision on a level playing field.

However, the evolutionism ideology naturally grows the will to power. New Atheists do not want open debate. They do not want a level playing field. They want to dominate the playing field. Their nature is toward controlling the debate with intimidation and manipulation.

The New Atheists support a secular (read atheistic) religion that seeks to stifle opposition, to limit free speech, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. We see that in the suing of a florist in Washington state, and the challenge of farmers Cynthia and Robert Gifford in New York. Across the country in Oregon Sweet Cakes by Melissa was forced to shut its doors; New Mexico photographers Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin were held liable for refusing to photograph a so-called same sex “marriage.”

These are all examples of atheistic fundamentalism seeking to sweep opposition from the playing field of ideas and, at the same time, trampling on the Bill of Rights.

Even irreligious people can recognize the danger of this. Avowed secularist Robert Tracinski is editor of The Tracinski Letter and a contributor to RealClearMarkets. He describes what is taking place as a “Secular Inquisition” and expressed concerned that this inquisition will discredit him as a secularist: “As an advocate of secularism—including secular morality and a secular basis for liberty—I don’t want my own views similarly discredited by association with the oppressive acts of a new Secular Inquisition.”

We see the same pressure in the IRS discrimination or prosecution of mostly conservative political-action organizations as well as the Obamacare attempt to force Christian business owners and ministries to violate conscience regarding use of abortifacients for family planning purposes. Tyranny is on the march in opposition to the freedoms enshrined in the US Bill of Rights.

The New Atheists can be termed fundamentalist atheists in that they suppress freedom of conscience, freedom of speech and freedom of religion. While proclaiming tolerance as their virtue, they are the most intolerant of people seeking to intimidate and crush any who would disagree with their views.

The church has a choice. Christians and their shepherds may roll over and play dead or they may stand up for the natural family, decency and modesty. Pastors are mobilizing in Texas with a “Don’t Mess with Texas Pulpit Sunday.” A good sign for the church in the United States is that pastors and churches around the country are signing up to stand with the Houston Pastors.

At this writing Mayor Parker appears to have backed down. There is no indication that she thinks her impulse and direction were wrong, but that perhaps she went too far too fast for the cultural climate.

If Mayor Parker and the City Council back off, it will be because citizens have pushed back with such pressure as to put a stay on this kind of action. I said a stay, because the war is far from over. This skirmish may have been won by the forces of decency and reason, but the militant atheists will not give up. The battle for the future of the nation is yet to be decided. Will the few intellectual elites rule the people, or will a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” reassert the rights and corresponding responsibilities of a free nation?

– Darrow Miller

P.S. As this is playing out in Houston, Texas, a new story is unfolding in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. City officials have told pastors Donald and Evelyn Knapp that they must performs marriage ceremonies for same sex couples or face fines and jail time. Here, again, is a direct assault on our Bill of Rights that shows the arrogance of a militantly atheistic state.

  
Posted in Church, Culture, Current events, Freedom | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Ebola Crisis: A Case Study in Worldviews

Numerous articles have been sparked by Brian Palmer’s piece on the Christian medical “missionaries” and the Ebola crisis. They include the following at MereOrthodoxy, Ethic’s Daily, New York Times!, and BreakPoint.

These have mostly focused on the motivations of Christian healthcare workers and how scary this is for many. I want to write about the worldview aspect of the burgeoning crisis. That is, not the worldview of the westerners but of those who are most affected and suffering, the Africans.

A hint of their worldview comes from a communication I received from an acquaintance intimately connected to the westerners on the frontlines of the Ebola crisis. I was hoping to convince him to write an article for the Christian Journal for Global Health about his firsthand experience, but the situation is changing too rapidly for him to sit down and write.

Nevertheless, what he sent me is a fascinating, though sad, look inside the challenges rooted in worldview in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and so many other African countries.

Here is what was said:

Mike,

Sorry to be putting you off. One main reason is that the situation is so swiftly changing. The early response from the churches … was as follows:

When we came in, as fellow Christians, and fellow worshipers, our folks would explain all about hand washing, how the virus would be transmitted, etc. After all that, and demonstrations etc. then the pastor would end by sort of opening his hands, and saying something like, “We hear all that but we are just dependent on prayer, and we know that nothing we do can change God’s will for us. We know if we pray God will protect us.”

Ugh, our folks were so frustrated, while, after explaining, and demonstrating they were confronted with incredible fatalism. Now it is very different. There is very little hugging, hand holding, or touching of any kind, but the pastors all say the churches are packed and praying.

There is a much greater understanding of the disease, and, among the churches, a much greater acceptance of the situation as it is. That is, without any real understanding of germ theory, they are willing to accept that what the doctors say is true.

We have formulated a sort of question list for pastors to work with in teaching their congregations.

But, as I say, it is such a moving situation. We were just on the phone this morning with our guys in Liberia. We will speak again to them on Friday. The one thing, when we are on, one on one, with our staff, is the fear they have for the safety of their families. For themselves they know how to behave, but while they are at work, they will call their wives and tell them not to step off the porch, and don’t let the kids out etc. This fear is probably the greatest challenge, as it pervades night and day, and there is no break. When we begin to attempt to apply theology to this, we also need to have some practical actions to give them at the same time. It is one thing to know your theology, but it is another thing to think of putting your foot right on the footprint of an infected person, who will be dead tomorrow. What did they touch? Where have they been? It is very scary for all the people.

You have seen the reactions of some of the non-christians who feel trapped. In Guinea, killing 8 workers. In Sierra Leone the attack on the body disposal crew. This is only the beginning of it. I am thinking a person can begin writing, but it is way to early to say we have any sort of answer yet.

This thing has a long way to go, and will so deeply affect the people that it is difficult to comprehend how it will end up.

This is fatalism at its worst. It reminded me of a promo video I was shown during a recent medical missions summit. In it an African male voice prays fervently that God will, among many things, get rid of the violence, corruption, poverty, etc. in this man’s country. It seemed most in the room were deeply touched by the video while inside I was rather disturbed. This person was essentially praying as if God was going to do all this while the local believers just sit by idly (suffering) and wait for Him to act!

My long time mentor, Dr. Dan Fountain, always taught that if we seek to help people live lives of Shalom (our term for development work) but don’t help them overcome a fatalistic worldview, we will never make progress. This is the job of the Church. Yes, we are to be a praying people, and yes, we are to have faith, faith of a mustard seed. But after we pray and after we acknowledge our faith in Christ we then need to act. The two cannot be separated. If they are, we will see further episodes such as is occurring in Africa right now.

Mike Soderling on the Ebola crisis

– Mike Soderling

Michael Soderling MD, MBA (International Development) serves as Director of the Center for Health in Mission and is the Associate Editor for Health Missions for the Christian Journal for Global Health.

  
Posted in Current events, Science, Worldview | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

How a Welfare Mentality Crushed the War on Poverty

In an earlier post I argued that America’s “War on Poverty” has been a dismal failure. Poverty has won the war!

As I suggested, lack of money is not the root of the problem. Thus more money (and more government bureaucracy) is not the solution.

To understand the solution we need to see the relationship between four parts of public life:

For Ps

Our poverty fighting programs are derived from government policies. Policies are grounded in principles. How often do citizens and policy makers examine the principles from which they are functioning? And the foundational level of all this are our paradigms, or worldviews. How many people concerned about poverty take time to consider how various paradigms (or sets of assumptions) affect our policies and programs?

For over 50 years we have created more programs and spent more money to end poverty, and yet poverty has increased. Perhaps it is time to curtail spending and ask some difficult questions regarding the root of poverty. Maybe we need to examine the principles and paradigms which, consciously or sub-consciously, are driving our policies and programs.

Often the problem is in the mind. There is such a thing as a poverty or entitlement mentality. “Someone else will take care of me.” “The government will take care of me!” “President Obama will take care of me.” The United States is becoming less a land of opportunity and more a land of government largess.

Chris Cabrera, a vice president in the National Border Patrol Council Local 3307 at McAllen, Texas, spends his time working along the Mexican-US border. He knows firsthand the human tragedy now taking place there. Speaking from an “on-the-ground perspective,” he states what he is hearing from illegal immigrants as to their motive for streaming across the border:

I find it odd that their whole thing is, “We are going to get amnesty when we get here. Where is my permiso [permission]? Where is my permission to go north so I can get my medical care and my schooling and all that? President Obama is going to take care of us and make sure we’re all OK.”

Whether it’s the adults or the young kids, one thing we consistently hear is, “Obama will take care of us.”

This is a prime example of how the mind of poverty works. In previous generations, people “yearning to breathe free” immigrated to America. Now would-be immigrants are yearning to be taken care of by the state.

A poverty mentality gives rise to poverty behaviors that contribute to the intransigence of poverty. In the old order, people made distinctions between virtue and vice. Virtuous people were wise. They applied the truth, choosing to live in the moral reality that God had made. Others chose to follow their baser instincts, to indulge in vices. They were foolish in their behavior and their bad choices led to bad consequences.

Some readers will take offense at my words. Some will be indignant at my audacity to make value judgments on other’s behaviors. But if we really have a heart to help people out of poverty rather than merely enabling them to live more comfortably in poverty, perhaps we need to go deeper in our analysis of the problem.

Welfare breaks down the habits and norms that lead to self-reliance

Robert Rector is senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation. He wrote that President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty was intended to “attack not just the symptoms of poverty but, more important, remove the causes.” Rector continues,

By that standard, the war on poverty has been a catastrophe. The root “causes” of poverty have not shrunk but expanded as family structure disintegrated and labor-force participation among men dropped. A large segment of the population is now less capable of self-sufficiency than when the war on poverty began.

Closer to the root of the problem is family breakdown and loss of a work ethic, particularly among large segments of youth and men. Rector identifies that responsible behavior is a product of the virtues that lead to self-sufficiency:

Welfare breaks down the habits and norms that lead to self-reliance, especially those of marriage and work. It thereby generates a pattern of increasing inter-generational dependence. The welfare state is self-perpetuating: By undermining productive social norms, welfare creates a need for even greater assistance in the future.

What we are discovering is that we can buy as much poverty as we want to pay for. Author, engineer, and entrepreneur Louis Woodhill writes: “What turned the War on Poverty into a social and human catastrophe was that the enhanced welfare state created a perverse system of incentives, and people adapted to their new environment.”

– Darrow Miller

 

  
Posted in Freedom, Poverty | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Sex Selective Abortion: Femicide Emerges in the USA

Sex selective abortion reminds us that every vacuum of virtue is filled with evil. In the US, because we have failed to support the dignity of human life from conception to natural death, we are witnessing an increase of evil.

In the last few decades we have witnessed growth in abortions, including late-term and “fourth-trimester” abortion. We are seeing a growing acceptance of euthanasia, a celebration, even, of “death with dignity.”

Now we are witnessing gendercide gaining a foothold in the United States.

We began writing about gendercide over four years ago (see Gendercide: the War on Baby Girls and Getting Involved in the Fight Against Gendercide). If you regularly read Darrow Miller and Friends, you know that 200,000,000 women are missing in the world today. Two-hundred million females have been killed simply because they are female. Every year, India and China kill more baby girls than are born in the United States.

And not only India and China. Recently, the wide use of gendercide has been reported in England and Europe.

Now the evil may be branded Made in America.

Some Chinese, Indian, and Korean families immigrating to the United States have brought a retrograde, sexist cultural baggage of misogyny with them. Researchers have found that families with this sexist cultural baggage are impacted when their first child is a daughter. In these families the male-female ratio of a second child was 117 to 100 in favor of boys. In the same family, if the first and second children were girls, the male-female ratio for a third child was 151-100. Clearly they were using sex selective abortion to eliminate female babies.

American “fertility clinics” are marketing advertisements to these Asian communities for sex selective abortion. A Google search for sex selective abortion revealed this advertisement:

Gender Selection Center – ReproductiveFertility.com‎   Adwww.reproductivefertility.com/ ‎ (213) 784-3542 Gender Selection, Family Balancing, Stress Free Healthy Pregnancy.

Here is a newspaper’s classified ad.

sex selective abortion ad

For more on advertising for sex selective abortion see “U.S. fertility clinic targets baby gender-selection ads at Indo-Canadian community.”

Planned Parenthood offices typically refuse to counsel against sex selective abortion. Their mantra, “a woman’s right to choose,” would better be stated, “Planned Parenthood’s right to profit.” See this undercover video of a Planned Parenthood office in Texas as an example.

Nine out ten Americans oppose sex selective abortion. In 2012, there was an attempt to eliminate sex selective abortion. Known as the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA), the legislation was defeated 246-178 on May 31, 2012. We feign outrage that 200 million women are missing in the world. But given the opportunity, Congress can’t muster enough support to stop gendercide in the USA.

You would think feminist groups would have supported legislation to stop sex selective abortion of female babies. One of the reasons the bill failed is that pro-abortionists like Planned Parenthood and NARAL opposed the legislation. Here is a NARAL twitter attack against PRENDA: Fight back against #PRENDA. Tell your Rep to say NO to this #antichoice bill: http://bit.ly/JyRBgT #HR3541.

For the modern feminist, preventing sex selective abortion limits “a woman’s right to choose.” And any law to such effect is unacceptable.

Do feminists really not value the life of baby girls? Do they really value “a woman’s right to choose” over the life of a female child? If this thinking proceeds to its logical conclusion, there will be no more women to make choices.

Perhaps that doesn’t matter. Perhaps what matters is their right to choose abortion even if it means there are no future generations of females.

For more on this subject see Rachael Lu’s piece “The United States Has A Femicide Problem”. What kind of insanity is this?

–          Darrow Miller

 

 

  
Posted in Family, Imago Dei, Morality, Women | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

EDUCATION for Freedom vs. TRAINING for Slavery

education leads to freedom

The human mind, bestowed by a Divine Creator, has developed remarkable technologies. How ironic that this rise of technical innovation could lead to the demise of the mind that invented the technologies in the first place!

We have written elsewhere about Technologia, an educational concept birthed by the Puritans and the Reformers. They envisioned the idea of a liberal education for everyone; it was liberal in that it was grounded in reason and revelation and it prepared people to live life as free men and women. A liberal education stands in contrast to the siloed, specialized and technical education of the modern era.

One of these was John Amos Comenius (1592 –1670). Comenius was a Czech teacher, educator, and writer. In his Didactica Magna – The Whole Art of Teaching, Comenius introduced the pansophic principle. Pansophic is an unfamiliar term more easily grasped if we break it up:

–          Pan = the union of parts into a (whole) group

–          Sophia = light, understanding, wisdom

–          Thus pansophia = an integration, or coming together, of all wisdom, no matter where it may be found, into a unifying framework

In short, the idea of pansophia is, in many ways, the opposite of the movement toward specialization education in the modern West. Comenius believed that everything must be taught to everyone! The reformers, and later their Puritan offspring, brought to the world the concepts of unified knowledge and universal education.

Early scientists understood that God revealed himself through his creation and his word. Truth is found at the intersection of Reason and Revelation. It was this Judeo-Christian frame of mind, and view of the world, that allowed for the development of science – thinking God’s thoughts after him, and technology – using science to solve the problems of natural evil in the world.

For more on this see Pearcey and Thaxton’s remarkable book, The Soul of Science.

John Milton, the Puritan poet, writes of the purpose of education:

The end then of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love Him, to imitate Him, to be like Him, as we may the nearest by possessing our souls of true virtue …. I call therefore a complete and generous education that which fits a man to perform justly, skillfully, and magnanimously, all the offices, both private and public, of peace and war.

But the modern world has lost the concept of liberal education. We are less and less productive with our minds; we have less creative and analytical thinking than in the past. We are less interested also in the cultivation of the heart. We seldom ask moral questions, rarely seek the beneficial use of creation for the health of the larger community.

Today a technological transformation is sweeping the world. With that change, the demands for education are more pragmatic and less moral. We are less concerned with the underlying truth or ethics of an idea. Now we are concerned merely with technique. Now we only ask, Will it work?

In “Declaring Our Independence Through Education,” Michael Roth, president of Wesleyan University, argues for a return to liberal education in order for students to be equipped with the minds and hearts necessary to live in the future.

Roth writes of the failure of modern education to prepare people for life after college:

 Traditionally, a college degree has been a marker of independence as graduates embrace the opportunity to stand upon their own two feet, but today those receiving degrees are often riddled with debt and with doubt. When these graduates wind up back in their parents’ basements, when they feel clueless about how to enter a challenging job market, when they have no idea how to convert their classroom experience into action in the world, they exemplify the failure of the American promise that education makes you free and self-reliant. We in higher education must renew that promise by demonstrating how pragmatic liberal education provides students with greater independence and capacity for productive work well beyond graduation day.

Roth goes on to reference the thoughts of two of America’s founding fathers, beginning with Thomas Jefferson.

It would be hard to find an American figure more devoted to a broad, liberal education than the author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson. He argued that the health of a republic depends on the education of its citizens because only an educated citizenry can push back against the tyranny of the powerful.

Roth then quotes from John Adams regarding the necessity of the larger community to take responsibility to see that all her people are educated: “The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people, and must be willing to bear the expenses of it.” But in our modern, technically oriented, specialists’ world, parents are demanding a different kind of education. Roth explains what parents are demanding in their children’s education. He also warns of the unintended-but-predictable consequences of meeting these demands.

In a quickly shifting economic landscape, it is understandable that some parents and pundits are calling for streamlined learning to train people quickly. But gearing education only to meeting current economic conditions is a ticket to conformity — and also to economic and cultural mediocrity. We need intellectual cross training of the whole person — not nano-degrees in commercial codes and tactics (no matter how digital) sure soon to become obsolete.

Unfortunately, demands for a more efficient, practical college education are likely to lead to the opposite: men and women who are trained for yesterday’s problems and yesterday’s jobs, men and women who have not reflected on their own lives in ways that allow them to tap into their capacities for innovation and for making meaning out of their experience. Under the guise of practicality we are really hearing calls for conformity, calls for conventional thinking that will impoverish our economic, cultural and personal lives.

Go here to read Roth’s thoughtful piece.

–          Darrow Miller

  
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Rape, Abortion, and the Miss USA Contest

abortion after a rape?What is the value of the life of a woman conceived in rape?

Does making a political statement justify a mother aborting her baby? A career opportunity? A pregnancy as a result of a rape?

In the last few months, national or global news has included stories about three pregnant women who made significant choices related to the life of another human being.

Josie Cunningham, 23, of Leeds, England is, according to her Facebook page, “an aspiring model looking to break into the world of glamour modeling.” Cunningham discovered she was pregnant, and at the same time had an opportunity to be part of the British reality TV show “Big Brother.” She announced to the public her plan to have an abortion. She did not want a baby to interfere with her career. “I’m finally on the verge of becoming famous and I’m not going to ruin it now … An abortion will further my career.” (See more here.) For Cunningham, her career was more important than the life of her baby.[1]

On July 1, Jenny Kutner, an assistant at Salon magazine made a unique announcement. It had two parts: “I’m pregnant. I just found out.” That was part 1. Part 2, “I’m having an abortion on Saturday at 10 a.m.”

Ms. Kutner said that most abortion stories are about the aftermath. She looked for stories about prologues to abortion, but couldn’t find one. So she wrote her own and published it the day before her abortion.

Mostly we only hear about a procedure in its aftermath. Right now, I do need to hear about the aftermath. I need to be reminded that on Saturday I will wake up pregnant and on Sunday I will not; I need to be reminded that my life will go on once I carry out this decision that is totally and completely right for me.

For Ms. Kutner, having a baby would be harder than having an abortion. “What I definitely, definitely don’t want, immeasurably more than I don’t want to have an abortion, is to be pregnant or have a child.” Making a political statement was more important than the life of her baby. Being unpregnant (in other words, most like a male) was certainly more important than the life of her baby. For Jenny’s story, go here.

The third woman, Theresa Gaugler, was a 19-year-old-college student on her way home from work in Pittsburgh. She was attacked, pulled behind a building and raped at knife point by a stranger. When the headlights of a passing car interrupted the attack, Ms. Gaugler fled from her attacker.

Theresa found out she was pregnant from the rape. She was faced with the same difficulties any woman with an unwanted pregnancy would face. Having a baby would interrupt their schooling, their career, their life. And for Ms. Gaugler, the child would be a reminder of the violence that would forever shape her life. Most people would have encouraged her to have an abortion. Even many pro-lifers, who make exception for rape and incest, would have supported Gaugler having an abortion.

Ms. Gaugler had a difficult choice: abort the baby or let the child of a violent rape live. She chose life. She carried her baby to term, planning to put it up for adoption. But after her baby was born, she made another difficult choice. With her parents and grandmother, she and her family chose to raise her daughter, Valerie Gatto.

As Valerie grew up, she was involved with her family in church and volunteer work helping people less fortunate than herself. After graduating from North Hills High School, she went on to the University of Pittsburgh and earned a degree in business administration, graduating with honors. Today she is working as a freelance marketing director while she pursues a career in acting.

Valerie is now 24 years old. She is a compassionate, talented, and beautiful young woman. The 5’5” blue-eyed brunette was recently crowned Miss Pennsylvania USA 2014.

Miss Gatto has not been afraid to tell the world about her mother’s horrendous ordeal, and the circumstances of her own conception. She says that her family understood that her life was more valuable than the event of her conception. She says of her family, “They never looked at it as something negative.” What kind of courage does this take?

Valerie says: “I believe God put me here for a reason: to inspire people, to encourage them, to give them hope that everything is possible and you can’t let your circumstances define your life.” Indeed the God who created the universe can turn things meant for evil into good.

Gatto’s website states: “With the title, she hopes to inspire people of all ages and to teach others how to defy the odds and achieve their dreams. She hopes to educate young women about protecting themselves and preventing sexual assault. As an advocate, she hopes to create a stronger society of women.”

Of the three mothers, two were self-absorbed, thinking more of their circumstances than they did of the life of their child. Another mother, whose circumstances were horrendous, chose the life of her child over the horror of her circumstances.

What would Josie and Jenny’s children have become? What might they have contributed to their communities and the world? We can weep for these mothers who have believed the lie of the culture of death. As a result, they have objectified their own lives. They have deprived their children of their lives. They have deprived the world of the contributions those children would have made.

– Darrow Miller

[1] Since her original announcement, perhaps because of the public outrage, decided to carry her pregnancy to term and sell tickets to the public to witness her delivery.

 

  
Posted in Ethics, Family, Women | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Necessary Constraints of True Liberty

Bob Osburn writes on libertyFreedom, like grace, doesn’t come cheaply. Nor is it maintained without appropriate limits.

Our friend, Bob Osburn, Executive Director at Wilberforce Academy, has written lucidly about this and we are happy to share his insights here.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Liberty Asterisked

When asked what they like best about the USA, international students invariably answer: “Freedom!”   Over a delightful lunch recently, one of my international mentees volunteered that during his year here he felt free of his government’s prying eyes.

There is something delightfully open and inviting about the USA, especially when you are young and eager to explore, discover, and take risks.

But, what most international students don’t know is that the liberty they so love, till the past half century, came with constraints, limits, and conventions. It is emphatically not the wild, riotous, “Don’t tell me what to do!” version that emerged in the 60s.  In other words, when we talk about freedom and liberty, we need to add an asterisk (*).

Real freedom is not unbounded, but whether you believe that or not has everything to do with your anthropology, that is, your view of the human being.  Is liberty, as Supreme Court Justice Kennedy has announced in several of his court decisions, “the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life?”   In one sense, the answer is “yes,” if we mean that the human conscience should not be coerced.  But, do we humans really have the power to define such monumental realities?  Kennedy seems to be suggesting that we have Promethean abilities to craft the Universe in our image, in our likeness.  Can we actually bend reality to fit our individual wills?  A lot of college students want to think so.

Go here to read the rest of Bob’s post.

 

  
Posted in Culture, Ethics, Freedom | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Exorbitant Price of Our New Sexual Norms

The revival of pagan culture has restored pagan sexuality as the sexual norm. Damon Linker, Senior Correspondent at the Week magazine, recently wrote an article titled “What Religious Traditionalists Can Teach Us About Sex.” He lays the blame for the erosion in sexual norms on the sexual revolution of the 1960s and then the continuing revolution in the first decade of the 21st century.

For an ever-expanding number of people born since the mid-1960s, the sexual world is radically different. Sex before marriage is the norm. There is comparatively little stigma attached to promiscuity. Masturbation is almost universally a matter of moral indifference … birth control is available everywhere, and it can be used without stigma. Out-of-wedlock pregnancy is becoming increasingly common; and for women who become pregnant and don’t wish to carry the baby to term, the pregnancy can be terminated. Divorce, meanwhile, is common and considered perfectly acceptable to most people.

Most of this was true a generation ago. More recently, we’ve also witnessed the rapid-fire mainstreaming of homosexuality and the transformation of the institution of marriage to accommodate it. But that’s not all. Thanks to the internet, pornography has never been so freely available and easily accessible. Websites like Ashley Madison facilitate extramarital affairs. Others help people find various kinds of “arrangements,” from traditional prostitution to a more informal exchange of financial support for sexual services. Smart-phone apps put people (gay or straight) in touch with each other for no-strings-attached hook-ups. Then there’s the push to normalize polyamorous (“open”) relationships and marriages, a movement that seeks to remove the stigma from adultery and even positively affirm the goodness of infidelity.

The West has largely abandoned the notion of revelation from the Creator. With that jettison comes also the loss of a transcendent vision of human sexuality. We have redefined marriage and the family. All that is left is sensation.

“Do what feels good as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else” … except now we don’t care if it hurts someone as long as it feels good.

“Do what feels good as long as it is with consenting adults” … except it no longer needs to be consenting and it no longer needs to be adults.

“Do what feels good as long as it is with humans” … and now some are proposing we toss aside that constraint as well.

What Damon Linker is describing should not seem shocking. It’s merely the new norm in a universe with no objective metaphysical and moral reference points (read “Judeo-Christian worldview”).

And these behaviors have consequences. People are, after all, human beings. No matter what people say or how they act, they are not simply soulless, mechanical plumbing fixtures. As a friend of mine has noted, you can protect your body, but not your soul, with a condom.

University of St Thomas Philosophy Professor, Dr. Rachel Lu writes of some of the consequences coming from the sexual license described above:

Conservatives have issues with our sexually libertine culture. Abortion isn’t the only problem with it, just the worst one. The killing of hundreds of thousands of babies annually is a pretty massive “con” to sexual liberation. That’s hard to top (so to speak).

But there are plenty of other problems too. I could just rattle off a list: divorce, single motherhood, spreading HIV, pornography addiction, falling marriage rates, falling birth rates, campus “rape cultures,” teenaged girls who kill themselves after a porn star debut that they thought they could handle. Or, I could refer you here and here for more thoughtful reflections on how much we harm our young people by pretending sex never does. But the bottom line is that people nowadays are having a really hard time putting their love lives in order and, yes, our sexually libertine culture deserves some blame.

In the Modern and Post-Modern cultures it is the individual, and not the family, that is important. Little thought is given to family formation; there is an anti-natal and anti-maternal mind in these cultures. There is a “hostility to fertility.” Any more, the only sexual sin is to be pregnant!

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, a writer-entrepreneur living in Paris, concludes that for the modern, “the only way to lead a truly free and human life is to lead a contraceptive life … The uncritical way in which contraception is described as ‘health care” seems to imply that pregnancy is a disease [not a normal life’s process], to be avoided at all costs.”

But, in reality, what can be more unhealthy and unnatural than artificially manipulating a major organ system in order to reverse its normal function? It defies all reason to believe that we can just “turn off” the reproductive system without consequences. And, it seems that many of the same folks that are screaming against reproduction in humans are the ones who are the busiest at insisting (rightfully) for the protection of natural habitat and all natural functioning of lower animal life forms. For all of creation outside humanity they seem solicitous. Only for humans do they pursue their constant, relentless drive to manipulate. They would stifle a basic natural function of the body. They seem to think nothing of the consequences of drastically affecting the whole culture of family and propagation of our species.

Societies break down, de-civilize, when the sacredness of marriage and modesty is replaced with “good sex.” The family is the foundation of any society. Strong families contribute to both understanding our human identity and to strong societies. Broken families too often lead to a struggle over personal identity, a languishing of the soul and the breakdown of societies. This is a horrible price to pay for both individuals and societies.

– Darrow Miller

  
Posted in Culture, Ethics, Family, Imago Dei, Morality, Worldview | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment