Category: Culture

Wrong politically, and wrong as human beings too

If you ever needed evidence that the People’s Republic of Madison is full of people no one should want to have as co-users of oxygen, read Empower Wisconsin:

Is one of the wokest cities in America woke no more?

Harassment, discrimination, bullying have all besmirched Madison’s city government, arguably one of the more politically correct bureaucracies this side of Berkeley.

survey conducted by Madison’s Multicultural Committee and Women’s Initiative Committee (what’s more woke than that?) found a quarter of city employees who responded said they experienced bullying, discrimination or workplace harassment in the past year.

The survey found a lot of fear of retaliation, ostracism and shunning at work, and trust issues with the compliance process.

Forty percent of respondents said their peers instigated the harassment and bullying, while 33 percent said their supervisors were the bullies. Another 18 percent said they had been harassed or bullied by patrons and members of the Madison’s peace-loving public.

Wow.

Remember, this is the same progressive paradise whose former mayor once gave Cuban communist despot Fidel Castro the keys to the city.

It appears some of Fidel’s management tactics have rubbed off on Madison’s less-than-all-inclusive bureaucrats.

 

The real King

Robert L. Woodson on Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.:

As the nation celebrates the birth of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the progressive left will again seize the moment to twist the story of black Americans’ struggle, to the detriment of those who suffered most in that struggle. They’ll put all the attention on the oppressive conditions faced by black freedom fighters—what white racists did to them—rather than on their own spirit in fighting to gain equal rights under the law. Instead of celebrating blacks’ achievements and the progress made toward delivering on America’s promissory note, the left will transport yesterday’s real injustices into today’s false social-justice narrative, ignoring the principles that were so crucial to Dr. King.

History is full of inspiring examples of black people succeeding against the odds, including building their own schools, hotels, railroads and banking systems when doors were closed to them. According to the economist Thomas Sowell, “the poverty rate among blacks fell from 87 percent in 1940 to 47 percent by 1960.”

These accomplishments were made possible by a set of values cherished among the blacks of the time: self-determination, resiliency, personal virtue, honesty, honor and accountability. Dr. King understood that these values would be the bedrock for black success once true equality was won. As early as 1953, he warned that “one of the most common tendencies of human nature is that of placing responsibility on some external agency for sins we have committed or mistakes we have made.

Today the progressive left wants to ignore the achievements and pretend that blacks are perpetual victims of white racism. The New York Times “1619 Project” essay series is the latest salvo in this attack on America’s history and founding, claiming “anti-black racism runs in the very DNA of this country.” This statement is an abomination of everything Dr. King stood for. Further, the left’s disinterest in historical accuracy—as evinced in the Times’s dismissal of corrections sought by prominent historians—and its frequent perversion of blacks’ story will have grave consequences not only for blacks but the nation as a whole.

In sharp contrast to the claims of the “1619 Project”—which disparages the American Revolution and Declaration of Independence and insists America is hopelessly racist—Dr. King believed deeply in the need to remain true to the Founders’ vision, the “patriot dream that sees beyond the years.” To him, that was the only avenue toward fulfilling America’s promise. As he wrote in his 1963 “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”:

“One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

“We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny.”

Dr. King, who sought full participation in America, would never have indulged today’s grievance-based identity politics, whose social-justice warriors use race as a battering ram against the country. In fact, in “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” Dr. King explicitly warned against the type of groupthink that characterizes identity politics: “Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.”
Yesterday’s values prepared blacks to walk through the doors of opportunity opened to them through civil rights. Family, faith, character and moral behavior were all crucial to their victories. Today’s social-justice warriors trade on the currency of oppression, deriding the concept of personal responsibility and always blaming external forces. I can think of no better way to instill hopelessness and fear in a young person than to tell him he is a victim, powerless to change his circumstance.

During the civil-rights movement blacks never permitted oppression to define who we were. Instead we cultivated moral competence, enterprise and thrift, and viewed oppression as a stumbling block, not an excuse.

Dr. King would have refused to participate in today’s identity politics gamesmanship because it frames its grievances in opposition to the American principles of freedom and equality that he sought to redeem. He upheld the country’s founding principles and sought to destroy only what got in the way of delivering the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as well as the recognition that all men are created equal.

Last month the school board of Westfield, N.J., approved a history course on critical race theory, which is the embodiment of the oppressor narrative embraced by the left. At the board meeting a young woman spoke passionately in favor of the course, ending her comments by blaming slavery for the absence of black fathers in the home. This is how successful the left, with its lethal message of despair and distortion of history, has been at undermining agency within the black community.

To honor the legacy of Dr. King, we must not only acknowledge the evil he confronted, but also focus on his example in overcoming it. He persevered and triumphed in the face of evil because he was beholden to truth, honor and love for all mankind, driven as he was to see blacks share fully in the American dream. We must not let the purveyors of identity politics fudge the record: Martin Luther King Jr. believed in the promise of America. In fact, he helped to fulfill it.

An utterly predictable crisis

David French:

I speak and write quite a bit about American political polarization. I’m alarmed by the extent of mutual partisan loathing and enmity. It’s terrible, it’s getting worse, and I’m convinced that—unchecked—it’s a threat to our national existence. There is no law of nature that says that a diverse, continent-sized, multi-ethnic, multi-faith democracy will always remain united.

To understand the reality of our political polarization, I highly recommend diving into More in Common’s outstanding research on America’s “hidden tribes.” They dive deep into American political attitudes and find that much of America’s polarization is driven by roughly one-third of the population—the “devoted conservatives” and “traditional conservatives” on the right, and the “progressive activists” on the left.  “Traditional conservatives” (16 percent of the population) are defined as people who are religious, patriotic, and highly moralistic. They also “believe deeply in personal responsibility and self-reliance.” The “devoted conservatives” (6 percent) are “deeply engaged with politics” and tend to “perceive themselves as the last defenders of traditional values that are under threat. “Progressive Activists” are “deeply concerned with issues concerning equity, fairness, and America’s direction today. They “tend to be more secular, cosmopolitan, and highly engaged with social media.”

The devoted devoted conservatives and progressive activists in particular are people with a disproportionate amount of wealth and who spend a disproportionate amount of time on politics as a hobby. They have resources, they’re engaged, and they’re angry. They’re a minority, but they tend to dominate public discourse—even as an “exhausted majority” retreats from political engagement and longs for an alternative.

The rage of the “wings” is well-known. We can see it every day on social media. We can see and hear the fury at many political rallies and events. The reasons for that rage are complex, but let me advance an under-appreciated reason why red-pilled Uncle Karl and his woke niece Alice hate each other so darn much.

The story starts with public apathy.

I haven’t been a writer all my life. I spent most of my professional career (21 years!) as a litigator, and for most of that time I worked for public-interest law firms. My practice focused on the First Amendment, and it required that I focus not just on the court of law, but also on the court of public opinion. I wasn’t just a lawyer, I was a legal activist, and I saw firsthand how hard it was to motivate the public to actually care about important constitutional concerns.

If you try to raise awareness (much less money) from people with busy lives and multiple family responsibilities, the first thing you learn is that it is extraordinarily difficult to break through to the public with a proportionate, measured message.  If your message implies, “I’m working on something important, but there is no true emergency.” Or, “I’m concerned, but there’s no crisis,” then prepare to face indifference.

No, the tried and true activist message is simple—“The threat is dire, and we’re the last line of defense.”

None of this is new. “Scare grandma with direct mail” has funded much of the conservative movement for a generation (or more). But technology has made the experience much, much more intense. Sign one online petition, and you magically find yourself on a dozen new mailing lists. Start clicking on alarmist social media posts, and you start to tell the algorithm that’s what you want to see. It’s hard to merely put your toe in the water politically. Test the temperature with a small donation, and within days, five scam PACs, nine breathless email messages, and four Facebook ads are deluging you with some variation of the same message, “They hate you! They want to destroy you! Only I can save you!”

There are Americans who recoil from this like they’ve touched a boiling cauldron. “Just stop,” they say, and they furiously unsubscribe, ignore political posts, and go back to talking about the Tennessee Titans, the Memphis Grizzlies, and the utter dominance of SEC football (ideally, anyway). But there are millions of other Americans who have a very different reaction.

“I had no idea things were so terrible!”

As the messages flood your inbox, and the posts flood your feeds, concern grows to alarm, and alarm turns into rage. And if you’re looking for things to be angry about, there’s always a fresh outrage, somewhere. The immediate nationalization of every volatile local event means that a politically engaged American can know within hours (sometimes minutes) after someone punches a kid wearing a MAGA hat in Des Moines, or if a busybody white woman calls the cops on black kids who are innocently grilling in a Sacramento park.

Instantly, each incident becomes emblematic of the other side’s perfidy. It’s as if the scales fall from the eyes, and you see the world anew. You’re “woke.” You’re “red-pilled.” You’re not simply “Jane” anymore. You’re “Deplorable Jane,” and it’s your mission in life to own the libs.

But the strange thing is that this new life doesn’t actually awaken you to  reality, it deceives you. It distorts the truth. One of the most fascinating aspects of the hidden tribes research is its finding that Americans on the “wings” have the most twisted views of the other side. The wings are far more likely to believe that political opponents are more extreme than they really are. In crucial ways their political engagement is increasing not just their political extremism, but also their political ignorance. They consistently accept opposing extremism as the norm, when it is not.

This is where, when someone makes an assertion that ignores facts, I ask: “Evidence?”

There’s no simple solution to this problem. I routinely tell people that the two types of pieces I write that cause the most dramatic negative reaction either 1) criticize Donald Trump; or 2) argue that a particular problem is a concern and not a crisis. It’s as if an argument that a problem isn’t an emergency is viewed as detrimental to the cause of public mobilization and public activism. And they’re probably right. When was the last time 10,000 people flooded the streets of a state capital chanting, “We’re concerned! We’re concerned!”?

Leadership does matter, however. And partisans respond to winning politicians. If someone can turn down the temperature and win while doing it, perhaps we can chip away at the culture of permanent outrage.

I agree with French that it’s a mistake to assume that “They hate you! They want to destroy you!” is credibly followed by “Only I can save you!” That is because politicians care about your vote, and your money to fund their campaign. And that’s it. The next politician who helps me will be the first. I have written before that there is no place in this state, and I’ve lived in seven different places, where I have felt I got my tax money’s worth. I am confident that I will die thinking the same thing, because it’s the truth.

What French sees as a crisis is the logical result of the growth of government beyond anything this country’s founders intended. When government does more and taxes and regulates more (in whichever ideological direction), the stakes in elections go up. When the stakes go up, the rhetoric gets more intense, and candidates will do anything short of murder (and that’s on the way, no doubt) to win. And doing anything encompasses raising and spending money, rhetoric from supporters and opponents, and basically everything wrong with American politics today.

The fact that people of opposing political views get along more often than not in the non-political world is not significant. Put them in the political arena, particularly when the stakes are higher than a town board position, and watch what happens.

How you stop that is not by having more reasonable-sounding candidates winning. Today’s politics include numerous examples of how bite is worse than bark. The only way for this to stop before the next real civil war is to take away politicians’ power.

Social justice is a social disease

In a previous life, I worked at a Catholic college whose core values included social justice.

While that term was not always well defined, I’m pretty sure when it was determined to be a core value, the term didn’t mean what it has metastasized into now.

Heather Mac Donald:

Social-justice ideology is turning higher education into an engine of progressive political advocacy, according to a new report by the National Association of Scholars. Left-wing activists, masquerading as professors, are infiltrating traditional academic departments or creating new ones—departments such as “Solidarity and Social Justice”—to advance their cause. They are entering the highest rung of college administration, from which perch they require students to take social-justice courses, such as “Native Sexualities and Queer Discourse” or “Hip-hop Workshop,” and attend social-justice events—such as a Reparations, Repatriation, and Redress Symposium or a Power and Privilege Symposium—in order to graduate.

But social-justice education is merely a symptom of an even deeper perversion of academic values: the cult of race and gender victimology, otherwise known as “diversity.” The diversity cult is destroying the very foundations of our civilization. It is worth first exploring, however, why social-justice education is an oxymoron.

Why shouldn’t an academic aspire to correcting perceived social ills? The nineteenth-century American land-grant universities and the European research universities were founded, after all, on the premise that knowledge helps society progress. But social justice is a different beast entirely. When a university pursues social justice, it puts aside its traditional claim to authority: the disinterested search for knowledge. We accord universities enormous privileges. Their denizens are sheltered from the hurly-burly of the marketplace on the assumption that they will pursue truth wherever it will take them, unaffected by political or economic pressures. The definition of social justice, however, is deeply political, entailing a large number of contestable claims about the causes of socioeconomic inequality. Social-justice proponents believe that those claims are settled, and woe to anyone who challenges them on a college campus. There are, however, alternative explanations—besides oppression and illegitimate power—for ongoing inequalities, taboo though they may be in academia.

A social-justice agenda, therefore, is a political commitment, and politics is not disinterested. Indeed, it is often tribal. Such tribalism caricatures political opponents and whitewashes political leaders, ignoring facts along the way, as shown both by the frenzied hostility to Donald Trump on the left and by his elevation to status of wise statesman and paragon of truth-telling by his most enthusiastic supporters, including in the conservative intelligentsia.

In his 1918 lecture, “Science as a Vocation,” Max Weber criticized the conflation of intellectual work with political action: “Whenever the man of science introduces his personal value judgment, a full understanding of the facts ceases.” The primary task of a teacher, Weber said, is to help his students recognize what Weber called “inconvenient” facts—inconvenient, that is, to the students’ party opinions. And for every party opinion, Weber observed, some facts are extremely inconvenient. Our political understanding of the world is partial; we will emphasize certain aspects of reality that buttress our values and deemphasize other aspects that contradict those values. According to Weber, when an academic pronounces on how one should act, he becomes a prophet or demagogue, neither of whom belong on the academic platform.

Weber adduced another reason for abjuring politics in the classroom. Amusingly—an adverb that does not usually modify the great sociologist—it has been rendered completely irrelevant by twentieth-century education trends. A professor should not inflict his politics on his students, Weber said, because those students may not challenge his authority: “It is somewhat too convenient to demonstrate one’s courage in taking a stand where the audience and possible opponents are condemned to silence.” To which one can only respond: if only! Leave aside such student abuse of the adults in charge as the scourging of Nicholas Christakis at Yale, of Bret Weinstein at Evergreen State College, and of Allison Stanger at Middlebury College, among others. The goal of the ordinary classroom today is to get ignorant students babbling about whatever idle thoughts pass through their heads without showing any intellectual deference to their professor. The number of professors who deserve such deference, however, is by now depressingly low, thanks to the triumph of social-justice ideology.

Of course, many people on college campuses today are still “condemned to silence”—not out of any respect for faculty authority but because they disagree with the premises of victim politics. Conservative Harvard law students, a professor there recently told me, refrain from challenging the regnant dogmas in class, terrified that their remarks may end up on social media and thus jeopardize their careers. This unwillingness to air inconvenient facts—facts such as the connection between family breakdown and poverty—is precisely the shrinking of intellectual freedom against which Weber warned. And if a Harvard law student, occupying the closest position to riches, power, and prestige that a university can guarantee, nevertheless feels acutely vulnerable in his dissent from the orthodoxies, what is a lowly undergraduate or even post-doc to do?

How bad is academic politicization? It is overt and unapologetic. At a recent law school seminar on race and the law, the teacher proudly announced at the beginning of the class session: “We are training social-justice warriors here.” Had the professor said: “We are training justice warriors here,” there would have been no problem. Justice warriors seek to realize one of the great aspirations of Western history: to be ruled by neutral principles, rather than tribal partisanship.

In the courtroom, justice warriors pursue this rule of law through the adversarial process, in which both sides are given equal opportunity to advance facts and arguments in their defense. Social justice, however, is opposed to procedural justice. In a year of ever more strident victim rhetoric, one of the most disturbing auguries for the future was the protests at Harvard and Yale law schools against the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Hundreds of students from our most influential legal academies marched under the #MeToo rallying cry: Believe Survivors, meaning: any self-professed victim of sexual assault is entitled to automatic belief before any evidence is presented to, and sifted by, a neutral tribunal.

A disproportionate number of these elite law students will end up as federal judges, including on the Supreme Court. If they carry their “Believe Survivors” commitment to the bench, due process is doomed. Many criminal law professors have given up teaching rape law, since female students claim to be traumatized by the very thought of a criminal defense in a rape case. Moot court has been similarly constrained; many law students are no longer willing to take on the role of advocate for even an imaginary political incorrect defendant. Harvard’s dean of students, meantime, fired law professor Ronald Sullivan from his job as an undergraduate dorm master this year because of Sullivan’s legal representation of accused sexual assailant Harvey Weinstein. Students and administrators alike deemed this representation an existential threat to the safety of female students in Sullivan’s dorm. We will pass over in silence the maudlin theatrics of such a claim. Its substance is a triumph for social justice, but it is a dagger in the heart of justice. For Harvard’s dean to declare that representing a politically unpopular client renders someone unfit to supervise students betrays the university’s educational mission, which should be to teach students the preciousness of such cultural legacies as the presumption of innocence.

Social-justice pedagogy is driven by one overwhelming reality: the seemingly intractable achievement gap between whites and Asians on the one hand, and blacks and Hispanics on the other. Radical feminism, as well as gay and now trans advocacy, are also deeply intertwined with social-justice thinking on campus and off, as we have just seen. But race is the main impetus. Liberal whites are terrified that the achievement and behavior gaps will never close. So they have crafted a totalizing narrative about the racism that allegedly holds back black achievement.

The aforementioned race-and-the-law professor, after announcing the class’s social-justice commitments, added: “We engage in race talk here.” That was an understatement. “We talk about white fragility,” the professor explained. “What is the purpose of white fragility? What does it mean to live in a white culture, with white norms and a white power structure? What does it mean that we are in a culture dominated by white folks?”

A more pertinent question would be: What does any of this have to do with legal training? Living in a Western culture dominated by whites simply means that, if one is not white, one is in a minority; conversely, in Uganda, say, someone who is not black is in a minority. If being in a racial minority in a majority-white country is so inimical to one’s flourishing, plenty of places exist where a nonwhite person would be in the racial majority. Non-whites the world over are beating down the doors to get into Western countries, however, with no comparable corresponding traffic moving in the other direction. The very politicians and academics who in the morning denounce America’s lethal white supremacy in the afternoon demand that the country open its borders to every intending Third World immigrant, with no penalty for illegal entry. These two positions are contradictory: The U.S. cannot be at the same time the graveyard for nonwhite people and an essential beacon of freedom and life-preserving haven from oppression for these same people.

What are the “white norms” and “culture” that “race talk” seeks to deconstruct? Objectivity, a strong work ethic, individualism, a respect for the written word, perfectionism, and promptness, according to legions of diversity trainers and many humanities, social sciences, and even STEM faculty. Any act of self-discipline or deferred gratification that contributes to individual and generational success is now simply a manifestation of white supremacy. The New York Times recently singled out parents who had queued up hours early to visit a sought-after public school in New York City. “Why were white parents at the front of the line for the school tour?” asked the Times headline. The article answered: their white privilege, not their dedication to their children’s schooling.

The test for whether a norm is white and thus illegitimate is whether it has a disparate impact on blacks and Hispanics. Given the behavioral and academic skills gaps, every colorblind standard of achievement will have a disparate impact. The average black 12th-grader currently reads at the level of the average white eighth-grader. Math levels are similarly skewed. Truancy rates for black students are often four times as high as for white students. Inner-city teachers, if they are being honest, will describe the barely controlled anarchy in their classrooms—anarchy exacerbated by the phony conceit that school discipline is racist. In light of such disparities, it is absurd to attribute the absence of proportional representation in the STEM fields, say, to bias. And yet, STEM deans, faculty, and Silicon Valley tech firms claim that only implicit bias explains why 13 percent of engineering professors are not black. The solution to this lack of proportional representation is not greater effort on the part of students, according to social-justice and diversity proponents. Instead, it is watering down meritocratic standards. Professors are now taught about “inclusive grading” and how to assess writing without judging its quality, since such quality judgments maintain white language supremacy.

It is impossible to overstate how fierce and sweeping the attack on meritocracy is: every mainstream institution is either furiously revising its standards or finds itself in the crosshairs for failing to do so. STEM professional organizations decry traditional means of testing knowledge. Diverse students should be able to get credit for participation in a group project or for putting together a presentation for their family and friends on a scientific concept, say these STEM professionals. Faculty hiring criteria are also under pressure. A decade or so ago, the demand was to give credit toward tenure for editing an anthology. Substitutes for scholarship have only gotten more creative. At Bucknell University, a minority faculty member suggested that participating in an expletive-filled faculty list-serve discussion denouncing Amy Wax, an embattled University of Pennsylvania law professor, should count toward the “intellectual labor” of minority faculty and be included in the faculty merit review.

The most sweeping solution to the lack of racial diversity on the faculty is to get rid of departmental gatekeepers entirely, some of whom remain stubbornly wedded to traditional notions of accomplishment. The University of California at Davis has handed hiring decisions in several STEM fields over to a committee dominated by the university’s head diversity official and other bureaucrats. These bureaucrats have no idea how to assess scientific research. They are good, however, at diversity bean-counting.

The social-justice diversity bureaucracy has constructed a perpetual-motion machine that guarantees it eternal life. Minority students who have been catapulted by racial preferences into schools for which they are not academically prepared frequently struggle in their classes. The cause of those struggles, according to the social-justice diversity bureaucracy, is not academic mismatch; it is the lack of a critical mass of other minority students and faculty to provide refuge from the school’s overwhelming bigotry. And so, the school admits more minority students to create such a critical mass. Rather than raising minority performance, however, this new influx of diverse students lowers it, since the school has had to dig deeper into the applicant pool. The academic struggles and alienation of minority students will increase, along with the demand for more diversity bureaucrats, more segregated safe spaces, more victimology courses, more mental health workers, more diverse faculty, more lowered standards, and of course, more diversity student admits. And the cycle will start all over again.

Due to the diversity imperative, medical schools admit black students with MCAT scores that would be automatically disqualifying if presented by a white or Asian student. Their academic performance is just what one would expect. Time to lower standards further. An oncology professor at an Ivy League medical school was berated by a supervisor for giving an exam in pharmacology that was too “fact-based.” A cancer patient presumably wants his doctor to know the facts about drug interactions, however.

This same process of de-norming is happening in law enforcement. Across the country, district attorneys are refusing to enforce misdemeanor laws and judges are releasing convicted felons early because virtually every criminal-justice practice has a disparate impact on blacks. That disparate impact is due not to criminal-justice racism, but to blacks’ exponentially higher crime rates. This ongoing push for decriminalization and deincarceration will result in more black lives being lost to violent street crime. The liberal elites seemingly don’t give a damn, however, since black street-crime victims are killed overwhelmingly by other blacks, not by racist cops or white supremacists.

The ultimate social-justice solution to the skills and behavior gap is to remove the competition entirely. From the moment children enter school, they are berated for their white heteronormative patriarchal privilege if they fall outside a favored victim group. Any success that they enjoy is not due to their own efforts, they are told; it is due, rather, to the unfair advantages of a system deliberately designed to handicap minorities. Teachers are now advised to ignore white male students, since asking or answering questions in class is another mark of male supremacy.

The pariahs are getting the message. A mother in Connecticut recently asked her son why he was not making more of an effort in college. He answered that doing so would be a function of white privilege. Such an answer can simply be an excuse for laziness. But the relentless attack on any achievement that is not proportionally distributed among different identity groups cannot help but dampen some students’ willingness to compete. Journalist George Packer recently wrote a controversial article in The Atlantic agonizing over the racial-justice crusade that has engulfed the New York City school system. Packer family politics are such that his fourth-grade son “sobbed inconsolably” when Trump was elected president, and Packer sympathizes with the broad goals of the school system’s racial-justice crusade. But even he worries about the fanatical levelling of academic excellence in the name of racial equity. Packer’s daughter proclaimed that she wishes she weren’t white so as not to have slavery on her conscience. One way to atone for being white is to stop conforming to allegedly white norms of accomplishment. Some alpha males will continue striving anyway, and certainly when it comes to college, admissions mania on the part of white elites has not abated yet. But over time, expect a subtle deflation of effort among those who have fully internalized social-justice guilt.

The only precedent for our current resentment-driven war on the West’s magnificent achievements is the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and that didn’t turn out well. The Cultural Revolution, however, was waged mostly by the less educated against the more educated. The oddest feature of today’s social-justice crusade is that it is being prosecuted by the elites against themselves. Every college presidentlaw firm managing partner, and Fortune 500 CEO would rather theatrically blame himself and his colleagues for phantom bigotry than speak honestly about the real causes of ongoing racial inequality: family breakdown and an underclass culture that mocks learning and the conformity to bourgeois values as acting “white.” Anti-racism has become the national religion, with the search for instances of racism to back up that religion becoming ever more desperate. Over the last year alone, ladies’ flatssweaterskeychains, and Adidas and Nike sneakers have been purged from the marketplace for their imaginary connection to racist symbols. Innocent schoolboys have been tarred as bigots by the national media, and a robust traffic in hate-crime hoaxes has thrived.

In fact, America is among the least racist countries on the planet. There is not a single mainstream institution not trying to hire and promote as many underrepresented minorities as possible. Conservative philanthropists and corporations spend billions each year on social-uplift programs to close the achievement gap. Taxpayer dollars are as liberally distributed from government coffers. We so take these efforts for granted that we don’t even see them; they have no effect on the dominant narrative about white indifference and exploitation.

We are in uncharted territory. How a civilization survives with so much contempt for itself is an open question. It is not wholly fanciful to see America’s drug-addicted malaise and rising mortality rates as a consequence, in part, of the nonstop denunciation of the white-male patriarchy. White identity politics is the inevitable result of this nonstop attack, and a logical one: if every other group celebrates its racial identity, why shouldn’t whites, if only as a matter of self-defense?

The claim that every feature of our world rests on racial oppression—the thesis not just of social-justice education, but of the entire Democratic presidential primary field and of the New York Times’ high school-destined 1619 project—undermines the moral legitimacy of our country. All accumulation of wealth is suspect; every technological breakthrough and business success becomes nothing more than rank exploitation.

Even Max Weber might not have foreseen where the politicization of education would land us. He would certainly have been astounded that the hard sciences are now worrying about microaggressions and heteronormativity. We are jeopardizing the creation of new knowledge. But the most important function of schooling is to pass on an inheritance, as Michael Oakeshott explained, and that function is now all but obliterated. Serious humanistic learning has been decimated. When I speak at college campuses, I ask students what their majors are and what their favorite classes have been. Their answers are profoundly depressing: a shallow stew of communications studies, psychology, presidential debate-scoring masking as political science, and syllabi featuring comic books and the young adult literature of dysfunction. The focus of student attention is relentlessly presentist.

Our cultural past is full of wonderful mysteries, however: how, for example, did Western literature evolve from Medieval romance to the realistic novel—the romance peopled by allegorical figures who roam Classical landscapes, the novel showing acute attention to individual character and the details of everyday life? What did such a change mean for how human beings think of themselves in the world? The evolution of form, whether in literature, art, or music, is a grand adventure story, whereby we trace the ever-changing reflection of human experience in the mirror of human imagination. The greatest sin of the social-justice and diversity crusade is to teach students to hate this cultural inheritance. The social-justice crusaders are stripping the future of everything that gives human life meaning: beauty, sublimity, and wit.

Sermon of the day

David French:

This Friday I was at a small gathering of Christian men and women and heard a story that stopped me short. One of the attendees was a Christian businessman who employed mainly working-class young men. When he had spoken to his workers about their holiday plans, a full fourth of the men he talked to didn’t have any plans at all. Thanksgiving or Christmas or New Year’s Day was just another day. They’d go home, watch television, play video games, and drink—all alone.

As soon as he said those words, I thought of a chart. I know that sounds strange, but stay with me. It’s from 2017, and it comes from Sen. Mike Lee’s invaluable Social Capital Project. It should transform the way you think about America’s epidemic of “deaths of despair.” It represents the demographics of overdoses. …

As the slides progress, you notice a few things immediately—men overdose far more then women, single men overdose more than married men, and single men with only a high school education or GED overdose at a simply staggering rate. That rate is horrifying regardless of whether a person was single and never married or single and divorced (though, interestingly, the overdose rate for a widowed person was substantially lower).

Speaking of stories that will stop you short, after I heard my new friend tell his story, I read a wrenching essay by Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Called “Who Killed the Knapp Family,” it’s adapted from their new book, Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope. The essay takes the deaths-of-despair crisis and personalizes it, describing how it impacts specific families in a town that Kristof knows well. It begins:

Chaos reigned daily on the No. 6 school bus, with working-class boys and girls flirting and gossiping and dreaming, brimming with mischief, bravado and optimism. Nick rode it every day in the 1970s with neighbors here in rural Oregon, neighbors like Farlan, Zealan, Rogena, Nathan and Keylan Knapp.

They were bright, rambunctious, upwardly mobile youngsters whose father had a good job installing pipes. The Knapps were thrilled to have just bought their own home, and everyone oohed and aahed when Farlan received a Ford Mustang for his 16th birthday.

Yet today about one-quarter of the children on that No. 6 bus are dead, mostly from drugs, suicide, alcohol or reckless accidents. Of the five Knapp kids who had once been so cheery, Farlan died of liver failure from drink and drugs, Zealan burned to death in a house fire while passed out drunk, Rogena died from hepatitis linked to drug use and Nathan blew himself up cooking meth. Keylan survived partly because he spent 13 years in a state penitentiary.

That’s a story of unimaginable pain and tragedy. It breaks your heart.

I’ve been writing about deaths of despair since evidence of the phenomenon emerged on the national stage. Going back to college, I’ve been involved in ministries targeting exactly the young men most at-risk for alcoholism, drug overdoses, and suicide. And I’m convinced that the more we politicize the crisis rather than personalize it and spiritualize it, the more we’ll miss the mark.

No, I don’t mean to say that policy doesn’t matter. Economic opportunity matters. Prison reform matters. Quality health care matters. But I’ve also seen well-intentioned policies backfire, and I’ve seen governments spend vast sums to no effect.

When it comes to young men who not only never had a father, they never had a single positive male role model in their entire life—or spent any time with a functioning family—how do they possibly know how to sustain a healthy, loving relationship with a young woman?

When it comes to young men without male role models, you’re speaking of young men who not only don’t know how to build a family, they don’t know how to build a career. I’ve written about this before, but many years ago my wife and I were involved in a young adult ministry that—by God’s grace—enjoyed great success in reaching the unchurched kids from the trailer parks in our rural Kentucky community.

One thing I learned was that lives were changed through a sustained, dedicated, loving community. A functioning community doesn’t just provide love and resources. Indeed, if your ministry was defined by hugs and handouts, it would be ripe for exploitation. People would smile and accept both, but their lives wouldn’t fundamentally change. A functioning community includes elements of discipline and instruction as well.

The love has to be persistent. When a kid didn’t show up at church after he’d been attending for a while, we’d sometimes dash out between Sunday school and worship services and head straight to their homes, knock on their doors and ask if they were okay. We’d offer them a ride to worship and invite them to lunch after services. We jokingly called our car the “soul repo van.” But the goal was simple—let them know that they were not alone. They were part of a community.

And the instruction has to be real. People do not magically become diligent students or productive workers simply because someone loved them. Opportunity isn’t always easy in this country, but opportunity exists. A person has to be taught how to seize it, and they have to practice the basic life habits necessary to follow through.

Partisan politics is terrible at love. Parties are centered around their coalitions and focus on meeting their coalition’s needs. The Democrats are a party of single women. Republicans are increasingly a party of working-class men. Remember the Obama campaign slides chronicling the “Julia” “showing all the ways Obama’s policy would help Julia (and her son Zachary) from the cradle to the grave? But where was Zachary’s father? He doesn’t figure in the story at all. He’s the invisible man.

Partisan politics is often terrible at policy—providing a festival of overreactions that can do as much (or more) harm than good and providing false promises that eventually serve only to embitter a disappointed populace. For example, the desire to better treat pain led the Veterans Health Administration to launch a “pain is the 5th vital sign” initiative in the late 1990s, and other government agencies incentivized aggressive pain management—acts that led to countless unnecessary opioid prescriptions. We hear a lot about the role of big pharma in the opioid crisis. How much do we hear about the role of big government?

The modern populist outcry against the government—“this is happening because they didn’t care about you”—is often exactly wrong. Sometimes social ills are exacerbated because they did care. They just cared in a destructive way.

I find myself in frequent disagreement with those who argue that government policy should be the central focus of the battle against deaths of despair. Kristof writes movingly about the incredibly deep-seated pain and dysfunction in the families he highlights, then turns to government solutions like government-provided preschool, job retraining, and large-scale drug treatment programs.

Yet the evidence for the benefits of programs like Head Start is mixed, we’ve tried worker retraining programs for years, and they’ve largely failed. And while more and better (public and private) drug treatment is necessary—and perhaps holds out the best immediate hope at decreasing drug deaths—it doesn’t come close to addressing the larger social and cultural pathologies that have spawned such widespread loneliness and despair.

It’s fashionable to scorn personal responsibility as a solution to challenges that are so profound and deep. And there is certainly something perverse about saying that the solution to the challenges of fatherlessness is for young men who’ve been deprived of male role models to collectively act with a level of grit, character, and determination that they’ve never seen modeled by any man before. Individually, yes. Collectively, no.

But there’s a different kind of personal responsibility. That’s the responsibility of the privileged, of the faithful, and it was articulated by Jesus in Matthew 25:

I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

America is full of tens of millions of affluent believers—and certainly not just Christians. Perhaps it’s time to shift the paradigm on personal responsibility. Instead of focusing on the personal responsibility of the hurting and the vulnerable, let’s look at the personal responsibility of the rich and the powerful.

I felt convicted after my Friday meeting. I went home and told my wife the story of struggling men, alone on the holidays. Her response was immediate. “What can we do?” I realized that as my life got busy, as we had kids and our careers flourished, that our engagement with the most vulnerable members of our community had diminished. The “soul repo van” languished in the garage.

That’s on me. Life can’t get too busy to obey God. And while the verse in Genesis that titles this piece refers to Adam and Eve, it still speaks a truth beyond husband and wife. It speaks to the truth of friendship and community. It is not good for a man to be alone.

The 2019 Presteblog Christmas album

Starting shortly after my birth, my parents purchased Christmas albums for $1 from an unlikely place, tire stores.

(That’s as seemingly outmoded as getting, for instance, glasses every time you filled up at your favorite gas station, back in the days when gas stations were usually part of a car repair place, not a convenience store. Of course, go to a convenience store now, and you can probably find CDs, if not records, and at least plastic glasses such as Red Solo Cups and silverware. Progress, or something.)

The albums featured contemporary artists from the ’60s, plus opera singers and other artists.

These albums were played on my parents’ wall-length Magnavox hi-fi player.

Playing these albums was as annual a ritual as watching “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” or other holiday-season appointment TV.

Those albums began my, and then our, collection of Christmas music.

You may think some of these singers are unusual choices to sing Christmas music. (This list includes at least six Jewish singers.)

Of course, Christians know that Jesus Christ was Jewish. (And faithful to his faith.)

And I defy any reader to find anyone who can sing “Silent Night” like Barbra Streisand did in the ’60s.

These albums are available for purchase online, but record players are now as outmoded as, well, getting glasses with your fill-up at the gas station. (Though note what I previously wrote.)

But thanks to YouTube and other digital technology, other aficionados of this era of Christmas music now can have their music preserved for their current and future enjoyment.

The tire-store-Christmas-album list has been augmented by both earlier and later works.

In the same way I think no one can sing “Silent Night” like Barbra Streisand, I think no one can sing “Do You Hear What I Hear” (a song written during the Cuban Missile Crisis, believe it or not) like Whitney Houston:

This list contains another irony — an entry from “A Christmas Gift for You,” Phil Spector’s Christmas album. (Spector’s birthday is Christmas.)

The album should have been a bazillion-seller, and perhaps would have been had it not been for the date of its initial release: Nov. 22, 1963.

Finally, here’s the last iteration of one of the coolest TV traditions — “The Late Show with David Letterman” and its annual appearance of Darlene Love (from the aforementioned Phil Spector album), which started in 1986 on NBC …

… and ended on CBS:

Merry Christmas. (To play this whole thing as a YouTube playlist, click here.)

The impeachment sermons

Kaylee McGhee:

Christianity Today, a leading evangelical publication, has come out to say President Trump needs to go. The magazine argues that not only are the facts against him “unambiguous,” but also that the pattern of immorality that has defined his presidency makes them all the more damaging.

The backlash was swift and brutal. Trump took to Twitter, as he so often does, and trashed the magazine as a “far-left” publication that “knows nothing about reading a perfect transcript of a routine phone call and would rather have a Radical Left nonbeliever, who wants to take your religion & your guns, than Donald Trump as your President.”

Franklin Graham, a prominent evangelical leader and son of the publication’s founder, Billy Graham, distanced himself from its editorial board and declared that in 2016, his father gladly cast his vote for Trump. Similarly, Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, claimed Christianity Today’s editorial revealed “that they are apart of the same 17% or so of liberal evangelicals who have preached social gospel for decades!”

The response to the editorial was expected, and perhaps even understandable. Evangelical Christians have made it quite clear since 2016 that they do not like being told who they can vote for or who in good conscience they can support. But many have used the impossible choice in 2016 as an excuse to toss moral accountability aside. (Many of the same leaders, such as Franklin Graham and Falwell Jr., who have defended Trump’s faults called for Bill Clinton’s impeachment based on his immorality.) If anything, Christianity Today’s editorial was a breath of fresh air and a reminder that morality still matters in the White House, and Christians have an obligation to say so.
Much of Christianity Today’s editorial focuses on the immorality of Donald Trump, the man. But that has little, if anything at all, to do with the substance of the House Democrats’ articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, the president.

The House has accused Trump of abusing his power and obstructing Congress. The first allegation is undeniably true, as Christianity Today rightly stated. Trump withheld foreign aid from Ukraine, and the clear implication is that he did so to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden, his political rival. Even many Republicans have given up trying to defend his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as anything but a quid pro quo.

But presidents abuse their power constantly, and the answer is rarely impeachment. If the standard for removal from office were simply an overreach of power, or a prioritization of personal interests, then every former president would at one point have had articles of impeachment drawn up against them.

The second allegation, that Trump obstructed Congress, is ridiculous. Denying the House its witnesses and refusing subpoenas could be an overstep, but that is for courts to decide, not the House. And it certainly does not meet the “high crimes and misdemeanors” standard set by the U.S. Constitution.

Trump’s habitual immorality aside, there is simply not enough evidence to support the vague, undefined case the Democrats have made against the president. The Constitution, not the Bible, defines the standards for impeachment, and we must deal with them as such.

I applaud Christianity Today for speaking the truth. Trump is no moral exemplar, and it’s time evangelical Christians stopped treating him as such. But the case that Christianity Today makes is very different from the case the Democrats have made, and that distinction is important.

Christians live in two kingdoms. It is often difficult to traverse man’s kingdom and obey the commandments of God’s kingdom. We live directly under the laws man has written, and we hope that they reflect the natural law instituted by God. But there are certain issues where the line between politics and morality is blurred, and the Christian’s responsibility is obscure. Impeachment is one, voting is another.

Evangelicals will have the opportunity to vote their consciences at the ballot box next year, since the Senate will almost certainly acquit Trump. The choice will likely be just as difficult as it was in 2016. But for now, we, as Christians, should be willing to obey the law as it is written and let God do the rest.

That’s one view. Another comes from Michael Smith:

I was going to write a commentary on the Christianity Today article but I realized that I wrote a pre-rebuttal on March 19th of this year.

It was as follows:

I get this all the time – “You claim to be a Christian, how can you support someone like Donald Trump?”

Well, it’s like this – we conservatives and Christians know what the Democrats would do to us if given the chance. We know that with them, we’re always one wedding cake away from sensitivity training and reeducation camps. We’ve lost so much cultural and political influence that we can’t always fight for ourselves because the fights aren’t fair any more, they are always stacked against us from the outset. The media, the institutions and usually government (especially the judiciary) always gang up on us.

So we did what every weaker army has done in history.

We hired a mercenary.

Sure, Trump doesn’t necessarily believe what we believe and he isn’t our idea of a conservative – and he has an interesting past – but he came to us and offered to be our champion, someone who could and would put together an army to fight to the death to preserve our beliefs and to defend conservativism.

He would go to war under our flag.

Trump is our Sir John Hawkwood.

Besides having the coolest name straight out of a sword and sorcery novel, Hawkwood was an Englishman and a knight who served in the English army during the Hundred Years’ War and commanded the White Company, the most elite mercenary army in all of 14th century Italy.

That’s how we can support Trump.

He is not of us but he is for us.

From boys to men

David French first wrote:

This week CBS News released a short documentary that asked, “Is there a better way to raise boys?” It explored the challenge of raising boys to avoid the trap of “toxic masculinity,” and the crew visited our home in Franklin, Tennessee, to get the perspective of a conservative Christian family. You can watch the documentary here:

I write and speak quite a bit about masculinity in America—not because I represent any sort of ideal but because our nation faces an immense challenge in raising boys, and any discussion of the challenges of modern American society (including deaths of despair) that does not explore the masculine identity crisis is missing a big piece of the cultural puzzle. It’s true that men still achieve well at the apex of American society (they fill boardrooms, legislatures, and CEO chairs), but in the rest of American society, men are starting to fall behind.

There are complex economic, cultural, and spiritual reasons for the struggles of millions of young men, but one reason is that our nation is losing its understanding of virtuous masculinity. Note well, I’m not arguing that we’ve lost an understanding of virtue—we know we want children to be kind, to be truthful, and to be brave, for example—but we’ve lost a sense of what it means to translate these virtues through a distinctly masculine filter. Or, to put it another way, the effort to raise a child to become a good person is quite often different from the effort to raise a boy to become a good man.

Yes, we’re all just people. And no, men are not all the same. But as a general matter, men and women are different, and that means (again, in general) that we’ll be disproportionately plagued with different vices and disproportionately blessed with different virtues.

Instead, our culture often treats vices in men as the result of their masculinity, while viewing their virtues as the result of their humanity. The result is a culture that often tells young boys that there’s nothing distinctly good about being a guy—but there is a lot that’s perilous.

Are you aggressive? That’s a bad thing that plagues boys. Are you brave? Fantastic! But anyone can be brave.

Are you emotionally distant? Well, young men often struggle with expressing themselves. Are you steady under pressure? Wonderful! I admire people who can respond to adversity.

Indeed, we’ve reached a point where the American Psychological Association is essentially pathologizing traditional masculinity itself. In early 2019, it declared that “traditional masculinity—marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance, and aggression—is, on the whole, harmful.” It published guidelines that arguing that “traditional masculinity ideology”—defined as socializing boys toward “anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence”—has been shown to “limit males’ psychological development, constrain their behavior, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict,” and negatively influence mental and physical health.

But wait. Look at those lists of characteristics again. Many of them can be virtues—even indispensable virtues. Is there an inherent problem with achievement? Of course not. A desire to achieve helps build families, economies, and nations. Is there an inherent problem with stoicism? Of course not. As I explained in the documentary, there is often a desperate need for a man to be able to handle the storms of life with a calm, steady hand.

Is a sense of adventure problematic? Don’t tell Neil Armstrong. Even risk and violence have virtuous and indispensable uses. Just ask the men who held Cemetery RidgeHill on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, or the men who surged forward onto Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, or more recently the men who landed in Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.

If you spend any time around boys, you know that they are disproportionately (though not always, of course) prone to take risks, seek adventure, and demonstrate aggression. If we tell a child there is something inherently wrong with those things, we will often tell a child that there is something wrong with his very nature.

The challenge of raising a boy, then, should not lie in suppressing their masculine characteristics, but rather in shaping them and channeling them toward virtuous ends.

It is absolutely true that there can exist a “man box” (a term used by one of the experts in the documentary) and that boys who don’t possess many of these stereotypically male characteristics can live a life of misery as they’re forced to conform to society’s expectations against the grain of their unique nature and disposition. It is also true that many of these male characteristics are stereotypical for a reason, and that our desire to create more liberty for young boys should make the walls of the “box” porous—it should not obliterate or denigrate masculinity itself.

Toxic masculinity is a real thing, and we see its effects in the #MeToo sex predators, in the violence of gangland criminals, and in the rage and fury of abusive boyfriends and husbands. As a Christian, I see toxic masculinity as the outgrowth of what happens when men surrender to sin. A man surrendered to sin will often behave quite differently from a woman who surrenders to sin—with a greater propensity to commit acts of violence and predation.

At the same time, a man raised to live a life of virtue will often behave quite differently from a woman raised to live a life of virtue—with a greater propensity to take the kinds of adventurous risks that quite often advance human civilization and a greater propensity to channel aggression into protection. You could swing the doors of the infantry wide open to men and women, and men will always choose that path with greater frequency than women.

One of the mysteries and realities of the differences between men and women is the way that boys so often respond worse to fatherlessness than girls. Leadership by example is so vitally important to young men. A good father, a good coach, a good teacher, or a good commander can demonstrate for his son, his player, his student, or his soldier the golden mean of manhood—a life that shuns the excesses and indulgences of toxic masculinity but also shuns extreme overreactions to male misbehavior and understands that there can be something distinctly good about being a man.

Then French wrote:

Writing in The Atlantic, Peggy Orenstein has put together a masterpiece – a well-researched, sensitive, and balanced portrait of what it’s like to grow up as a young man in America. In particular, it highlights a deep challenge that faces our boys—too often, they’re effectively peer-raised. In the absence of a culturally-positive vision for masculinity and in the absence of strong, virtuous male leadership, they’re adrift on the very meaning of manhood itself. I found this passage particularly interesting and troubling:

Feminism may have provided girls with a powerful alternative to conventional femininity, and a language with which to express the myriad problems-that-have-no-name, but there have been no credible equivalents for boys. Quite the contrary: The definition of masculinity seems to be in some respects contracting. When asked what traits society values most in boys, only 2 percent of male respondents in the PerryUndem survey said honesty and morality, and only 8 percent said leadership skills—traits that are, of course, admirable in anyone but have traditionally been considered masculine. When I asked my subjects, as I always did, what they liked about being a boy, most of them drew a blank. “Huh,” mused Josh, a college sophomore at Washington State. (All the teenagers I spoke with are identified by pseudonyms.) “That’s interesting. I never really thought about that. You hear a lot more about what is wrong with guys.”

This hearkens back to something I wrote in my Sunday newsletter earlier this month. To the extent that our culture treats men as distinctive, it treats them as distinctively bad. In other words, while guys can be good, there is nothing inherently good about being a guy. In essence, the culture tells men, “Don’t be bad,” but it doesn’t show them how to be good.

Orenstein doesn’t shrink from the characteristics that have defined boys and masculinity for generations. Note above that she recognizes that honesty, morality, and leadership have “traditionally been considered masculine.” Moreover, she recognizes that even the more “problematic” masculine characteristics have their virtuous aspects. “Stoicism is valuable sometimes, as is free expression,” she writes, “toughness and tenderness can coexist in one human. In the right context, physical aggression is fun, satisfying, even thrilling.”

Yes, yes, yes. But a young boy needs someone to show him the way, and boys collectively need strong leadership to turn their athletic, military, and other mostly male spaces into a training ground for virtuous masculinity rather than cesspool of negative peer conditioning. People are not inherently good, and left to their own devices, kids will generally deviate downward. Boys are no exception.

Time and again, Orenstein refers to flawed male leadership—distant (or absent) fathers, coaches who reinforced the worst in young men, older peers who mocked and denigrated any attempt at virtue. Role models matter.

The good news is that this reality is starting to sink into American pop culture. …

There is no magic formula that can guarantee that any given boy can grow to become a good man. But we do know the formula for leaving boys adrift, and that formula removes good men from a young boy’s life.

 

Today’s sermon you won’t hear in church

Julie Roys:

Jesus confronted the money-changers and challenged believers to give to the needy. But, would he support socialism?

Increasingly, Americans think he would. In fact, a recent Barna poll found that more Americans think Jesus would prefer socialism (24%) than those who believe he would prefer capitalism (14%). The other 62% responded neither or not sure, but the poll still reveals a disturbing trend.

Last Saturday, Micah Conkling, a Christian writer and podcaster, argued on my radio program that socialism is the political and economic system that best fulfills the Golden Rule. Not surprisingly, Conkling is a Millennial, the most pro-socialist generation America has ever known. According to a recent Reason-Rupe survey, 53% of Americans under 30 view socialism favorably, compared to less than a third of Americans over 30. Similarly, Gallup found that 69% of those under 30 said they would be willing to vote for a socialist presidential candidate.

I understand why Millennials are wary of the current system. They’ve witnessed a consistently declining economy; one of the most partisan eras in American history; the fall of the twin towers; and a war predicated on weapons of mass destruction that were never found. I agree with them that our political system desperately needs reform. But, socialism is not the answer. Though it may sound compassionate and Christian, it’s actually antithetical to everything Christianity teaches.

Here’s why:

1. Socialism is Based on a Materialistic Worldview

According to socialists like Bernie Sanders, the greatest problem in the world is the unequal distribution of wealth.

His website declares: “The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great moral issue of our time, it is the great economic issue of our time, and it is the great political issue of our time.”

This betrays a fundamentally materialistic worldview, which is the basis of socialism.

To socialists, all that really exists is the material world. In fact, Karl Marx, the father of socialism/communism, invented the notion of dialectical materialism — the belief that matter contains a creative power within itself. This enabled Marx to eliminate the need for a creator, essentially erasing the existence of anything non-material.

To socialists, suffering is caused by the unequal distribution of stuff — and salvation is achieved by the re-distribution of stuff. There’s no acknowledgment of spiritual issues. There’s just an assumption that if everyone is given equal stuff, all the problems in society will somehow dissolve.

This worldview contradicts Christianity, which affirms the existence of both a material and a non-material world — and teaches that mankind’s greatest problems are spiritual. The Bible says the cause of suffering is sin and salvation is found in the cross of Christ, which liberates us from sin. Because of sin, though, there will always be inequalities in wealth. As the parable of the talents shows, those with good character tend to accumulate more; those with bad character may lose everything they have. Yet, even if we are unable to accumulate wealth, Christianity teaches that we can still have an abundant life. That’s because our quality of life is not determined by how much stuff we have, but by our relationship to Christ.

2. Socialism Punishes Virtue

Socialists want to distribute wealth to individuals according to their need, regardless of virtue.

As Karl Marx, famously said, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

However, whenever any institution provides aid, it runs the risk of removing God-designed rewards and consequences. It can punish those who are industrious by making them pay for those who are not. And, it can reward those who aren’t industrious by giving them the fruits of another man’s labor. This is precisely what socialism does.

Interestingly, Marx mooched off others his whole life, and failed to provide for his wife and children.

As Aristotle once noted, “Men start revolutionary changes for reasons connected with their private lives.”

The Bible teaches that aid should be tied to responsibility. First, anyone who refuses to work should be refused aid.

As 2 Thessalonians 3:10 says, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

Next, no one should be given aid whose family can provide for him. In fact, the Apostle Paul said that a man who fails to provide for his family is “worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Tim. 5:8) The church also required widows receiving aid to have “a reputation of good works.” (1 Tim. 5:10) So, even in dispensing aid, the church rewarded virtue and discouraged vice. Unfortunately, socialism does just the opposite.

3. Socialism Endorses Stealing

Barack Obama once defended his socialist policies to a little girl by saying, “We’ve got to make sure that people who have more money help the people who have less money. If you had a whole pizza, and your friend had no pizza, would you give him a slice?”

That sounds pretty Christian, right? What Christian wouldn’t endorse sharing your abundance with someone who has nothing? However, Obama wasn’t endorsing people voluntarily sharing their wealth with others; he was endorsing the government forcibly taking a piece of the pie from one person and giving it to someone else. Put another way, that’s saying that if you have three cars and your neighbor has none, the government has a right to take your car and give it to your neighbor. That’s not Christian; that’s stealing!

But, socialists don’t believe in private property. And, some Christian socialists actually assert that the Bible doesn’t either. That’s preposterous.

Both the Old Testament and New Testament unequivocally affirm private property. We can’t even obey the eighth commandment to not steal, unless we accept the notion of private ownership. Nor, can we steward our money as the Bible commands if the state owns our money, not us. So, for an economic and political system to be Christian, it must protect private ownership and allow individuals freedom to allocate their resources according to their conscience.

4. Socialism Encourages Envy and Class Warfare

Socialists demonize the rich, blaming all of society’s problems on them.

Bernie Sanders once posted to his Facebook Page: “Let us wage a moral and political war against the billionaires and corporate leaders on Wall Street and elsewhere, whose policies and greed are destroying the middle class of America.”

Here, Sanders is mimicking Karl Marx, who viewed history as a series of class struggles between the rich and the poor — and advocated overthrowing the ruling class.

Scripture strongly warns the rich and powerful not to oppress the poor.

In fact, Proverbs 14:31 says, “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for his maker . . .”

But, Sanders — and other Leftists, including Hillary Clinton — go far beyond decrying specific acts of injustice. They basically condemn an entire class of people simply for possessing wealth. And, they encourage those who are poor to overthrow them. In fact, Clinton once said the U.S. economy required a “toppling” of the wealthiest 1%.

The rich are not causing all the problems in American society. People like Bill Gates are not acquiring wealth by stealing from the masses. They’re creating great products, which produce wealth, and actually provide jobs for many people. But, even if they were exploiting the poor, nowhere does Scripture support the have-nots demanding money from the haves. Instead, it teaches that we should not covet (Exodus 20:17) and should be content in all circumstances (Phil. 4:11-13).

5. Socialism Seeks to Destroy Marriage & Family

A little known fact about socialism is that, from its beginning, it has sought to destroy marriage and family. Grove City Professor Paul Kengor explains this in detail in his book, Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Marriage and Family. Essentially, what socialism seeks is for the state to replace the family. That way, it can indoctrinate children in its Leftist way of thinking, and remove from them any notions of God and religion.

Friedrich Engels, co-author with Marx of the “The Communist Manifesto,” once wrote that the society he envisioned would be one where “the single family ceases to be the economic unit of society. Private housekeeping is transformed into a social industry. The care and education of the children becomes a public affair.”

Similarly today, Bernie Sanders calls for a “revolution” in childcare and for the government to provide early childhood education beginning with children as young as six-weeks-old. And, he’s a proud supporter of gay marriage — what Kengor calls “communism’s Trojan Horse” to secure the final takedown of traditional marriage.

To socialists, what Bernie describes is a utopia. But, to Christians, it’s a dystopia. That’s because there’s nothing Christian about socialism — and there’s absolutely no way Jesus would ever support it.

It is a sad state of affairs to see so many so-called Christians worshiping anything except God. There are those who worship politicians, and they can be found in both major (and probably other) political parties. There are those who are more interested in money, and Paul proscribed that in his letter to Timothy. Socialists who claim to be religious worship money, too — other people’s money. And then there are those in the church who worship Gaia instead of God.

 

Babies in college

Heather Mac Donald, author of The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture:

Few things upset American college students more than being told they aren’t oppressed. I recently spoke at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. I argued that American undergraduates are among the most privileged individuals in history by virtue of their unfettered access to knowledge. Far from being discriminated against, students are surrounded by well-meaning faculty who want all of them to succeed.

About 15 minutes into my talk, as I was discussing Renaissance humanism, a majority of the audience in the packed auditorium stood up and started chanting: “My oppression is not a delusion!” The chanters then declared that my sexism, racism and homophobia weren’t welcome on campus. “>You are not welcome,” they added, as if I didn’t know.

The protesters drowned out my response before filing slowly out of the room, still loudly announcing their victimhood and leaving dozens of seats empty that could have been filled by students who had been turned away for lack of space. (The protesters had hoped to occupy the entire auditorium before vacating it, so no one else could hear me speak.)

In a subsequent open letter, a senior claimed that I came to Holy Cross to “discredit, humiliate, and deny the existence of minority students.” In fact, I came to urge the entire student body to seize their boundless opportunities for learning with joy and gratitude.

The maudlin self-pity on display at Holy Cross doesn’t arise spontaneously. It is actively cultivated by adults on campus. A few days before the Holy Cross protest, faculty and administrators at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa., convened a therapeutic “scholars” panel to take place during another talk of mine. The goal was to inoculate the university against the violence that I allegedly represented.

Bucknell’s interpersonal violence prevention coordinator; the director of its Women’s Resource Center; the interim associate provost for diversity, equity, and inclusion; a women’s and gender studies professor; and an economics professor discussed rape culture, trauma and racism. Students and faculty were then invited to join in painting “self-care” rocks.

This craft activity, in which participants write feel-good messages on stones, was originally designed for K-5 classrooms. It may not be what parents paying Bucknell’s $72,000 annual tuition and fees had in mind. No matter. According to Bucknell’s interpersonal violence prevention coordinator, it was “especially important” for students who had attended my talk to come to the scholars “space” afterward and practice self-care. The interim associate provost for diversity, equity, and inclusion said that the administration’s willingness to let my talk proceed shows that it values free speech more than the community’s trauma.

In anticipation of my Bucknell talk, student journalists had claimed that “‘free speech’” merely amplifies “hate speech,” and that hate speech such as mine was intended to “attack students of color” and “survivors of sexual assault.” An English professor cheered them on. The Bucknell Faculty and Staff of Color Working Group urged colleagues to support those whose “first-hand experiences with injustice” at Bucknell were “invalidated and perpetuated” by my arguments.

Bucknell’s Democratic Socialists of America organized a protest at which participants—in between chants of “Hey hey! Ho Ho! Heather Mac has got to go!” and “No justice! No peace!”—were encouraged to share their personal experiences of injustice at Bucknell. Sadly, there is no available record of what the protesters came up with.

Students who can be persuaded to see oppression on an American college campus—where traits that still lead to ostracism and even death outside the West are not just tolerated but celebrated—can be persuaded to see oppression anywhere. The claim that American universities, and the U.S. in general, are defined by white supremacy is the one unifying idea on college campuses today, in the absence of a shared curriculum dedicated to civilization’s greatest works. And that idea is spreading. School systems across the country are training teachers and administrators that colorblind standards and the work ethic are instruments of white privilege. Any private institution without proportional representation of minorities and females is vulnerable to attack, since bigotry is the only allowable explanation for the lack of sex and race “diversity.”

The promiscuous labeling of disagreement as hate speech and the equation of such speech with violence will gain traction in the public arena, as college graduates take more positions of power. The former managing editor of Time has already advocated in the Washington Post for allowing states to define and penalize hate speech; potential censors wait in the wings.

Certain ideas are now taboo in the academy—above all, the idea that behavior and culture better explain socioeconomic disparities in the U.S. than bigotry. A Bucknell student protester claimed that my sin is to force “this elementary conversation about whether structural racism even exists.”

Most Americans are eager and ready for a post-racial country. The perpetual invocation of racial oppression on college campuses and beyond, however, keeps race relations fraught.

After the Holy Cross protest, the co-president of the Black Student Union, which organized the walkout with an assist from the student government, told the campus newspaper: “The fact that we pulled this off is actually amazing. I feel so empowered now, and this is just the beginning. This is the start of something more.”

About that, she is undoubtedly right.