Daniel Patrick Moynihan: A Prophet about the Family by Dr Jim Eckman

Daniel Patrick Moynihan: A Prophet about the Family

Mar 28th, 2015 | By | Category: Culture & Wordview, Featured Issues

moynihanFifty years ago (1965), Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a sociologist, Assistant Secretary of Labor, and later one of the most important U.S. Senators of the 20th century, wrote a controversial but prescient report on the importance of the family for African-American children: The Negro Family: The Case For National Action (aka the Moynihan Report). It focused on the deep roots of black poverty in America and concluded controversially that the relative absence of nuclear families would greatly hinder further progress toward economic and political equality.

Moynihan argued that the rise in single-mother families was not due to a lack of jobs but rather to a destructive vein in ghetto culture that could be traced back to slavery and Jim Crow discrimination. As he wrote later, “The work began in the most orthodox setting, the U.S. Department of Labor, to establish at some level of statistical conciseness what ‘everyone knew’: that economic conditions determine social conditions. Whereupon, it turned out that what everyone knew was evidently not so.” Here are a few salient excerpts from the report:

“The United States is approaching a new crisis in race relations. In the decade that began with the school desegregation decision of the Supreme Court [1954], and ended with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the demand of Negro Americans for full recognition of their civil rights was finally met. . . .

. . . [But] three centuries of sometimes unimaginable mistreatment have taken their toll on the Negro people. The harsh fact is that as a group, at the present time, in terms of ability to win out in the competitions of American life, they are not equal to most of those groups with which they will be competing. Individually, Negro Americans reach the highest peaks of achievement. But collectively, in the spectrum of American ethnic and religious and regional groups, where some get plenty and some get none, where some send eighty percent of their children to college and others pull them out of school at the 8th grade, Negroes are among the weakest.

The most difficult fact for white Americans to understand is that in these terms the circumstances of the Negro American community in recent years has probably been getting worse, not better. Indices of dollars of income, standards of living, and years of education deceive. The gap between the Negro and most other groups in American society is widening.

The fundamental problem, in which this is most clearly the case, is that of family structure. The evidence — not final, but powerfully persuasive — is that the Negro family in the urban ghettos is crumbling. A middle class group has managed to save itself, but for vast numbers of the unskilled, poorly educated city working class the fabric of conventional social relationships has all but disintegrated. There are indications that the situation may have been arrested in the past few years, but the general post war trend is unmistakable. So long as this situation persists, the cycle of poverty and disadvantage will continue to repeat itself.

The thesis of this paper is that these events, in combination, confront the nation with a new kind of problem. Measures that have worked in the past, or would work for most groups in the present, will not work here. A national effort is required that will give a unity of purpose to the many activities of the Federal government in this area, directed to a new kind of national goal: the establishment of a stable Negro family structure.”

Why is this still an important report fifty years later? Liberals at that time typically blasted the report as unfair and not helpful. But the truth is that the liberals were (and are) terribly unfair and biased when it came to Moynihan’s report. Moynihan cited slavery, discrimination and “three centuries of injustice” as the causes of black family disintegration. Who could argue with that conclusion? In fact, since Moynihan’s report, scholars have avoided studying the relationship between family structure and poverty, which seems absurd to me. Although Dan Quayle was ridiculed for arguing the same thing as Moynihan, it was William Julius Wilson who praised Moynihan and finally began serious research on the connection between family structure and poverty. As columnist Nicholas Kristof has recently shown, in 2013, 71% of black children were born to an unwed mother, as were 53% of Hispanic children and 36% of white children. Single parenthood is the new norm. Indeed, Sara McLanahan of Princeton and Christopher Jencks of Harvard write: “A father’s absence increases antisocial behavior, such as aggression, rule-breaking, delinquency and illegal drug use.” These effects are greater for boys than girls. It is time for Americans—liberals included—to acknowledge the role of the family—and the importance of the nuclear family— in fighting poverty, “as the primary transmitter of the social capital essential for self-reliance and betterment and as the primary indicator of social outcomes” (George Will).

Recently, famed sociologist Robert D. Putnam has added to our understanding of this social pathology with his new book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. Inequality within American society, he argues, has profound consequences on children and is rooted in various interrelated trends: family instability, community dysfunction and the collapse of the blue-collar economy. As columnist Michael Gerson demonstrates, Putnam’s case-study approach in his book reveals something important: Children experience these broad social trends mainly as “the absence of committed, trustworthy adults in their lives.” One boy, David, is on probation and stated: “I never really had around-the-table-family dinners at all, so I never got to miss it.” Sophia writes of her mother: “The day after my ninth birthday, she was arrested down the street from here for prostitution. And she never came to see me. She was so close, [but] she chose prostitution and drugs over me.” Throughout Putnam’s books children consistently describe their lives as one of neglect, isolation, loneliness and broken trust. In addition, poor children live in neighborhoods and go to schools that reinforce this dysfunction—“atomized, indifferent, drug-ridden and violent.” Putnam sees a symbiotic relationship between family instability and poverty: “Poverty produces family instability, and family instability in turn produces poverty.” If America is ever going to change this dismal situation it must reinforce the conviction that there really are no substitutes for stable families, functioning communities and a working blue-collar economy. As a culture, we seem to be ignoring the obvious, something which God declared from the beginning (see Genesis 2).

Posted in Biblical Worldview, Breakdown of the Family, Children at Risk, Christianity, Conservatism, Cultural Barometer, Death of Western Culture, Dr. James P. Eckman, Government is Too Large, Liberalism, Not Following God's Plan, Political Correctness, Politics, Postmodernism, Progressives, Shrink the Size of Government, Socialism, Society at Risk, Strip Agencies of Power, welfare state | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

America: The Secular, Postmodern, Post-Christian Triumph, by Dr. Jim Eckman

 

atheism321Genuine, biblical Christianity is colliding with an increasingly militant secularism in western civilization. In fact, western secularism is uncomfortable with religious convictions of any kind. Christianity has always been an integral part of western civilization—but no longer. Hence, secularists tend to lump together Christianity, Islam (in all its varieties), Judaism—indeed all faiths that claim something absolute. Several bizarre developments illustrate this trend toward militant secularism, which dismisses all religious convictions:

  • One of the most phenomenally successful books of the last few years is Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, the story of Louis Zamperini. Zamperini’s story is compelling: His B-24 Liberator bomber crashed into the Pacific in 1943, which led to him drifting for 47 days on a life raft. Captured then by the Japanese, he spent two unimaginable years in a Japanese prison camp. The bitterness and hatred he felt are well-documented in Hillenbrand’s book. His life after the war was characterized by nightmares, alcoholism and severe psychological problems. He obsessed with getting even with the Japanese; indeed, a desire for revenge overwhelmed every aspect of his life. In 1949, his wife talked him into attending revival meetings led by Billy Graham in Los Angeles. The second night of the crusade, Zamperini placed his trust in Jesus Christ. In the words of historian Grant Wacker, “He tossed out booze and cigarettes and embraced a lifetime of self-less Christian service, including a trip to Japan to forgive his [Japanese] tormentors. Though Ms. Hillenbrand recounts Zamperini’s conversion, she doesn’t say much about how it influenced the rest of his life. In the movie ‘Unbroken,’ Billy Graham goes unmentioned, and Zamperini’s redemption narrative is largely reduced to a few cards flashed before the closing credits. Yet Zamperini himself believed that the religious event was the pivotal moment of his long journey.” Zamperini stated in many different forums that Graham’s “message . . . caused me to turn my life around.” Why did Angelina Jolie’s film adaptation of Hillenbrand’s book mysteriously omit coverage of this decisive, life-changing moment in Zamperini’s life? It was the pivotal divide that explained the radical transformation of Louis Zamperini from a man plagued with bitterness and anger to a liberated life of service, freedom from addictive substances and mental stability. It is intellectually dishonest to avoid such a decisive part of Zamperini’s story. I do not know Angelina Jolie’s motives in doing so, but it seems reasonable to conclude that it betrays an anti-faith bias that permeates our Postmodern, post-Christian, autonomous culture.
  • Second, Mary Eberstadt, senior fellow with the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., has recently written on “the question of secularization—or how it is that societies that were once markedly religious become less so, particularly the societies of what’s known as Western Civilization—has been much studied in modern times. Urbanization, rationalism, higher education, industrialization, and feminism: these are just some of the possible causal agents debated by sociologists when they try to figure out why some people stop going to church.” Eberstadt gives singular focus to one profound cause of the growth of secularization—“the new intolerance” on campuses across the Western world. She writes: “‘The new intolerance’ is shorthand for the chilled public atmosphere in which religious believers operate. Many people of faith face unique burdens that would have been unthinkable even a couple of decades ago; burdens of ostracism, of losing the good opinion of their neighbors, of being trash-talked in the public square. Some even face the loss of livelihood or the constant threat and reality of litigation.” The typical campus today in the West is ground zero for the “new intolerance.” Eberstadt cites several examples: (1) A November 2014 scheduled debate at Christ Church College, Oxford, on whether the “abortion culture” hurts Great Britain was canceled because of last-minute “concerns” on the part of the college. A feminist campus group threatened disruptive protests vehement enough to frighten the authorities. (2) This past spring of 2014, a number of prominent commencement addresses were rescinded or the speakers backed down because of protests over them speaking (e.g., Condoleezza Rice). Eberstadt argues that “the same forces that are intimidating the intellectual expression of students can also be expected to intimidate their religious expression.” She concludes that “It’s time to air the idea that college students do not stay out of church or synagogue because their education leads them to enlightened conclusions about the big questions. No, the more likely dynamic is that thanks to the new intolerance, the social and other costs of being a known believer in the public square mount by the year—and students take note. Hence intimidation on the quad, multiplied over many years and campus, is an unseen engine of secularization.”
  • Third are the fall 2014 actions of Houston’s mayor, Annise Parker. Mayor Parker proposed a change in Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which was to include a rule that “no business open to the public could deny a transgender person entry to the restroom consistent with his or her gender identity.” Initially, she sought copies of all sermons from local pastors who opposed this change in the HERO. Specifically, the subpoena read: “. . . 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 . . .” That such a subpoena is draconian is self-evident! That it is a violation of religious liberty is also clear. One would expect something like this in secular Europe or even the old USSR or present-day Communist China. But the United States!? The secular, Postmodern, post-Christian, autonomous culture in which we live is producing such subpoenas because the “new intolerance” is winning the battle; at least for now. Thankfully, the subpoenas were revised and then basically dropped. But, if the first openly gay mayor of a major city—Houston—can attempt such thuggery, it will not be the last.

The seeming triumph of secularism in this Postmodern culture is actually a catastrophe. In terms of ethical standards, secularism is firmly anchored in mid-air. Because the secular, Postmodern, post-Christian, autonomous worldview rejects all outside sources of moral authority, secularism must construct its own moral authority. The result is often, “every man doing what is right in his own eyes.” It becomes moral/ethical anarchy, which results in a “new intolerance” that becomes increasingly antagonistic to those who argue for an absolute framework for ethical authority. This is what is now occurring in American culture. One final thought: The foundation of this Postmodern, post-Christian, autonomous worldview is the 18th century Enlightenment. One of the foundational arguments of the Enlightenment was that autonomous, rational individuals could reason his/her way to virtue. Anyone who still believes that proposition is being intellectually dishonest. The 20th century—with two World Wars, the Holocaust and the butchery of atheistic communism—proved that rationalism alone cannot produce virtue.

But genuine, biblical Christianity does produce virtue. The vital center of the transformed life in Christianity is agape love: a self-sacrificing, other-centered love for human beings. The last 2,000 years evidence the immense virtuous good that followers of Jesus Christ have produced—hospitals, educational institutions, medical clinics, translation work, day-care centers, prenatal care clinics, etc.

The secular, Postmodern, post-Christian, autonomous worldview is bankrupt! It is producing a civilization bent on self-destruction. John R. W. Stott, writing in his commentary on 1 Corinthians, characterized the 1st century church at Corinth (which was very similar to our present-day culture) as flowers growing out of the cesspool’s mud of Greco-Roman civilization. May that characterize those of us who today represent Jesus.

See Grant Wacker in an op ed piece in the Wall Street Journal (2 January 2015); Mary Eberstadt in the Intercollegiate Review (Spring 2015), pp. 16-19; Mike Morris on the Houston mayor subpoena in http://www.chron.com/news (October 2014); and David Brooks editorial in the New York Times (3 February 2015).

Posted in Biblical Worldview, Cultural Barometer, Death of a Nation, Death of Western Culture, Dr. James P. Eckman, God is Dead, Humanism, Not Following God's Plan, Political Correctness, Postmodernism, Progressives, Society at Risk, Worldview | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Orestes Augustus Brownson (1803-1876), journalist and philosopher

Meet the 19th Century American Who Warned About Big Government, Religious Liberty Assaults by Robert Moffat

A scene from the Civil War. (Image: Getty Images)

2015 marks a milestone in American history. One hundred and fifty years ago, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant and ended the Civil War. Shortly thereafter, Orestes Augustus Brownson (1803-1876), a prominent journalist and philosopher, published “The American Republic,” an erudite defense of the Federal Constitution.

As noted in our Heritage Foundation “First Principles” essay, today a fresh reading of Brownson’s masterwork can give Americans a deeper understanding of their precious civic birthright, the unique federal order that guarantees their personal and political freedom.

Prophetically, Brownson warned that the greatest future threats to the Republic were internal. He called upon his fellow Americans to oppose the relentless centralization of power in Washington; a transformation fueled by a new secular ideology—“humanitarian democracy”—that would war against all prescriptions and traditions, as well as state and local powers, in the name of equality, and seek to crush all genuine diversity, individual distinctions, and subordinate even personal conscience itself on the altar of a fully secularized, and thus absolute, state.

The Founders’ genius was in devising a constitutional order that recognized the truth of man’s individuality, his flourishing in freedom, and the sacredness of his person, particularly in his relationship to God: “The American constitution is not founded on political atheism, but recognizes the rights of man, and therefore, the rights of God.”

brownson

Today, when Americans of all religious faiths have just cause to fear government assaults on religious liberty, the wisdom of Brownson—a devout Catholic—is a bounteous benefit for all. Protect the sacred, he warned, from the profane and thus preserve the moral order: “If they [government officials] could subject religion to the secular order, or completely secularize the church, they would reduce themselves to the secular order alone, and deprive themselves of all aid from religion. To secularize religion is to nullify it.”

While a journalist, urgently writing on contemporary topics in his Quarterly Review, many of his opinions, right or wrong, were exclusively relevant to his own time. However, Brownson also developed a sophisticated and consistent philosophical conservatism that imparted a timeless quality to his observations. Those hard hitting commentaries are strikingly relevant to contemporary America. For example:

  • On immigrants’ duty to assimilate: “It is not attachment to American soil, or sympathy with the American nationality, spirit, genius, or institutions, that brings the great mass of foreigners to our shores. No doubt we derive great advantages from them, but the motive that brings them is not advantage to us or service to our country. They come solely from motives of personal advantage to themselves; to gain a living, to acquire a wealth, or to enjoy a freedom denied them in their own country, or believed to be more easily obtained or better secured here than elsewhere. The country, therefore, does not and cannot feel that it is bound either in justice or in charity to yield up its nationality to them, or to suffer the stream of its national life to be diverted from its original course to accommodate their manners, tastes or prejudices…If I from motives of hospitality open my doors to the stranger, and admit him to the bosom of my family, I have the right to expect him to conform to my domestic arrangements, and not to undertake to censure or interfere with them.”
  • On crony capitalism: “Louis XI was not weaker against Charles the Bold than is Congress against the Pennsylvania Central Railroad and its connections, or the Union Pacific, built at the expense of the government itself. The great feudal lords had souls, railroad corporations have none.”
  • On fiscal irresponsibility and debt: ‘The journalists tell us that the country is rich, and we count our millionaires by the thousands, if not by hundreds of thousands; and yet, if called upon suddenly to pay its debts or to redeem its bonds of every sort, it would be found to be hopelessly insolvent, and the reputed wealth of the millionaires would vanish in smoke. Our present wealth is chiefly in evidences of debt, that is, created by mortgages on the future.”
  • On Communism’s false promises: “Communism, if it could be carried out, would not…as the communists dream, secure to all the advantages of wealth, but would result in the reduction of all to the most abject poverty—the very thing which they are ready to commit any crime or sacrilege in order to escape.”

The Civil War was a terrible trial for millions—Brownson himself lost two sons—but the calm courage of the American people prepared them for world leadership:

“With larger armies on foot than Napoleon ever commanded, with their line of battle stretching from ocean to ocean, across the whole breadth of the continent, they never, during four long years of alternate victories and defeats—and both unprecedently bloody—or a moment lost their equanimity, or appeared less calm, collected and tranquil, than in ordinary times of peace…Their success proves to all that what, prior to the war, was treated as American arrogance or self-conceit, was only the outspoken confidence in their destiny as a providential people, conscious that to them is reserved the hegemony of the world.”

That “hegemony” was moral, not militaristic. Rather it was the success, for the entire world to witness, of America’s providential mission to secure the greatest degree of human liberty under law; a unique experiment in self-government realized through the ingenious Federal Constitution, the priceless gift of America’s Founders. This was a recurrent theme in Brownson’s writings. It was a theme that, over a century later, President Ronald Reagan also expressed in his vision of America as a “Shining City on a Hill.” Brownson’s name recognition may be low, but his ideas and insights have endured.

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50 shades of abuse: Book, movie set stage for future victims by Lauren Jones

50 shades of abuse: Book, movie set stage for future victims
by Lauren Jones The Marietta Daily Journal
February 17, 2015
Lauren Jones

Lauren Jones

He was perfect and he wanted me.

He was debonair and handsome. He knew all the right things to say and do. He made me feel beautiful, something I rarely felt. He drove a really nice car and had an impeccable appearance. He was smart, my God, was he brilliant. He was a 21-year-old naval officer, training to be a pilot. He was king and I was his queen at the proverbial masquerade ball; it was a fast and furious romance. And though I wasn’t Anastasia Steele, the main character in “Fifty Shades of Grey,” he was my Christian Grey.

And he was the reason why, five months later, I spent the night in a domestic violence shelter in Corpus Christi with a broken eardrum and dried blood still caked in the creases of my nose.

The film “Fifty Shades of Grey,” based on the novel series by E.L. James, (was released) on Valentine’s Day, and I am afraid. I am very afraid of the violent chaos the impact of this film is all but guaranteed to cause in our culture.

The main characters in “Fifty Shades” fit all the criteria of a very abusive relationship, but the story ends well. In real life, relationships that follow that same pattern usually end with several people in therapy trying to rebuild their spirits, if they’re not yet in the ground.

I am afraid that women all over the world and especially young, adolescent women have come to view Mr. Grey as Mr. Right and are seeking him, while at the same time risking their lives.

THE PREDATOR’S GAME

Dating and domestic violence is one person in a relationship using control and manipulation to dominate the other person. It is a degrading pattern of abusive behavior that isolates someone and objectifies them by denying them their personal dignity and freedom.

The truth is, when you’re young and have little experience in romance, you’re developing your own ideas of what relationships are supposed to be like. This makes one vulnerable and impressionable. So reading books and consuming media such as “Fifty Shades” can have serious repercussions on people in romantic relationships.

Some of the major warning signs of DV are: isolation, intimidation, excessive jealousy and possessiveness, stalking, your partner having a bad/unpredictable temper, feeling emotionally helpless, nervousness, your partner controlling what you do, where you go, what you wear, who you interact with. The list goes on.

Within the first four chapters of “Fifty Shades,” we see Grey stalk Ana twice — once showing up at her workplace, despite her never having told him where she works, and another time showing up at a bar where she is with her friends.

We later learn that Grey is tracking Ana via her cellphone. He also attempts to coerce her into signing a contract that prohibits her from talking about him or their relationship to anyone.

He becomes insanely jealous after he sees her talking to one of her male friends, then leaves her without any explanation, essentially punishing her. So you have excessive jealousy, stalking, bad temper and isolation on a silver platter in those examples, and there are more-severe examples later on in the story.

The character of Christian Grey perfectly exhibits predator behavior.

He preys on Ana, interpreting right off the bat because of the way she carries herself that she has low self-esteem, is shy and inexperienced, yet smart.

He makes a game of pushing her limits and, throughout the series, enjoys watching both sides of her conscience play tug o’ war with whether or not she will succumb to his dominance.

A TRICKY POSITION

There seems to be some confusion regarding the abusive relationship in “Fifty Shades” and BDSM (bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism). The abusive behaviors in the relationship and BDSM are not mutually inclusive. BDSM is a subculture of intimacy that explores kinky sexual techniques but has very strict rules regarding consent and communication.

Both parties have very, very clear communication rules as to what their limits are, and those limits are fiercely respected. Trust and clear communication are the foundation stones in any intimate relationship, handcuffs or no handcuffs.

BDSM experts have spoken out since “Fifty Shades” hit the shelves, about the abysmal portrayal of BDSM in the story. Grey has antagonized and intimidated Ana to the point that she is afraid to openly communicate with him, and his instillation of fear in her is one of the things that makes that relationship so abusive. She can’t communicate whether or not she consents to the nature of their intimacy.

Emma Green, assistant managing editor of The Atlantic, wrote in her article, “Consent isn’t Enough: the Troubling Sex in Fifty Shades,” that “Bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, and sadism are ‘varsity-level’ sex activities, as the sex columnist Dan Savage might say, and they require a great deal of self-knowledge, communication skill, and education. ‘Fifty Shades’ eroticizes sexual violence, but without any of the emotional maturity and communication required to make it safe.”

Furthermore, to excuse Grey’s behavior because we learn later he was abused as a child is dangerous. While it gives insight into his behaviors, it does not make them acceptable. He should have gotten more intensive therapy about his abuse years before the book even started. Though statistically their chances are higher, it is dangerous to suggest that all victims of child abuse grow up to be abusers or the abused.

We do not let a child-raper off the hook because he or she was molested as a child, therefore we should not sweep Grey’s behaviors under the rug, either.

A HAPPIER ENDING

The first thing an abuser does is completely charm and seduce you. The second phase is to isolate you, and the final phase is to introduce violence into the relationship to see how you react.

This cycle is seamlessly followed in “Fifty Shades,” and what’s worse is that it has a happy ending. They ride off into the sunset at the end, happily married with a baby and all is well. This says to the emotionally vulnerable reader that with enough patience, love and understanding, we can change broken, abusive partners.

Nothing is further from the truth. The best thing you can do to change an abusive relationship is to get out of it. The best thing an abuser can do to change his or her behavior is to realize they have a problem and seek help for it.

My Christian Grey isolated me. He moved me from Georgia to Florida and then Texas to ensure I had no support system. He slowly introduced abuse into our relationship, calculatedly increased its severity, until I woke up one morning having fainted from blood loss to find myself locked in a house, being closely monitored to prevent my leaving. I managed to escape three days later, got to a domestic violence shelter, and eventually got home and started putting my life back together again.

I am afraid for the Anas out there, the current ones and the future ones who think “Fifty Shades” is an exciting method to spice up their love lives. Because I highly doubt E.L. James will write a fourth book in the series, depicting Ana trying to flee her relationship while trying to protect her baby from the abuse.

But that’s a story that happens every day.

Lauren Jones is the outreach advocate at the Hospitality House for Women Inc. in Rome and a freelance writer. Her email address is fvahhouse@gmail.com.

Copyright 2015 The Marietta Daily Journal. All rights reserved.

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February 19, 2015
Saw my neighbor women reading the book at the pool, etc. and decided to see what the deal was. I thought it had and interesting idea, but by the time I got to the end, I had a bad taste in my mouth (no pun intended) not because of the sex (I’m no prude) but because it was such an abusive, strange and really DUMB relationship. I could see how it could screw you up if you were 18 and inexperienced.

The book series and movie are made for dumb women. Not thinking women. Sexual content notwithstanding.

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Fifty Shades of Grey: Legitimizing Perversion by Jim Eckman

Fifty Shades of Grey: Legitimizing Perversion

Feb 28th, 2015 | By | Category: Culture & Wordview

In 2011, British author E.L. James self-published Fifty Shades of Grey.  Vintage Books acquired the publishing rights of the book and Hollywood released a movie adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey this Valentine’s Day.  The book and movie chart the fictional romance of a recent college graduate, Anastasia Steele, and billionaire businessman, Christian Grey.  In both the book and the movie are explicitly erotic scenes, which also feature sexual practices of BDSM (bondage/discipline, dominance/submission and sado/masochism).  Among other perverse aspects of the story is Christian’s insistence that Anastasia sign a “dominant/submissive contract,” which she eventually signs.  Amazingly, the book has sold over 100 million copies and the recently-released movie gives evidence of being a Hollywood success.  The phenomenon of the book and movie is energized by their appeal to women, who have bought the book in record numbers.  In short, one could make the case that Fifty Shades of Grey is female erotica/pornography in both narrative and visual form.

Any discussion of this cultural phenomenon must begin with two propositions:  (1)  We live in a Postmodern, Post-Christian civilization that embraces the absolute autonomy of the individual.  Combined with a radical pragmatism, this worldview maintains that what works for the autonomous individual is true and right for that individual.  There are no binding absolutes.  (2)  Genuine, biblical Christianity is by definition countercultural.  As Jesus’ disciples, we identify with the culture in which Christ places us, but separate from its evils; all the while seeking to be the agents of God’s transforming grace.  These two propositions collide when discussing Fifty Shades of Grey.  Since the Postmodern, Post-Christian worldview is firmly anchored in mid-air, when considering human sexuality, confusion naturally results.  We live in a culture that has distorted and perverted the beauty and fulfillment of the one-flesh union so central to God’s Creation Ordinance (Genesis 1-2) and to Paul’s principles detailed in 1 Corinthians 7:1-10.  Technology, the media and the assumptions of the secular, Postmodern worldview have enabled humans to create their own fantasy world when it comes to sexuality.

When problems develop, the therapeutic culture avoids any mention of sin and merely affirms that “you are okay.”  The result is the ruinous dysfunction of practices that undermine the one-flesh, complementary union between a husband and wife within the protective security of marriage:  (1)  The dysfunction of adultery causes another person to intrude into the one-flesh union, so central to God’s design.  It thereby completely destroys the trust in that union.  Adultery violates the 7th commandment (Exodus 20:14) and Jesus’ interpretation and application of that commandment in Matthew 5:27-28.  To build a hedge of protection around marriage, Jesus calls for the sanctification of the heart—because a disordered heart, leads to a disordered life, which produces a disordered culture.  Adultery is finally a grotesque violation of Ephesian 5:32.  (2)  The dysfunction of pornography (“adultery of the heart”).  Because it fosters a lust-filled fantasy world that entices and deceives but never fulfills, pornography flouts Jesus’ warning about lustful intent (Matthew 5:28).  Accordingly it distorts reality, creates long-lasting, harmful memories and can destroy meaningful intimacy within marriage.  It likewise dehumanizes other humans, treating them as lustful objects of pleasure.

The Fifty Shades sexual fantasy takes the sexual revolution in Western Civilization to a perverse end of radical libertinism that, in the words of columnist Ross Douthat, “is about ushering in a society where everyone can freely love and take pleasure in anyone and anything they want.  But viewed from another angle, that same revolution looks more like a permission slip for the strong and privileged to prey upon the weak and easily exploited. ”  The absurdity of Fifty Shades is that Christian Grey is a man who will “first dominate you but ultimately love you—providing that, like Anastasia Steele, you’re careful to sign a rigorously detailed contract detailing how much domination you’ll take.”  But such perversion is an assault upon human dignity and beauty so central to God’s Creation Ordinance.  This phenomenon also constitutes an abandonment and loss of shame as a culture, “an act of defiance against the goodness of the gift of sex as granted to humanity by God [and] . . . an assault upon the dignity of every human being.”  American culture seems to view Fifty Shades as cultural progress; it is not!  It is evidence of cultural deterioration and decline.

The corrective is a review of our Creator’s view of marriage and sexuality.  The Creation Ordinance of God clearly connects the “image of God” concept with gender and human sexuality (“male and female He created them”, Gen. 1:26-27) and the institution of marriage and the family (Genesis 2:18-25):  Marriage, as a “one-flesh” union, is monogamous, heterosexual and establishes a covenantal relationship (see Malachi 2:14).  It is also an archetype of Christ’s relationship with His church (Ephesian 5:32).  But what does this “one-flesh” union look like?  In 1 Corinthians 7:1-10, the Apostle Paul provides the answer.  Paul is addressing a church centered in a pagan, sex-saturated culture, not at all unlike our own.  Some in the Corinthian church had swung to the other side of the spectrum and were now arguing that Christians should all be celibate.  While recognizing the spiritual gift of celibacy for those not married, Paul emphatically says that, in Christ, sexual intercourse is central to the one-flesh union of marriage; celibacy is not an option in marriage.  He articulates three guiding principles:  (1)  The principle of mutual reciprocity, vv.1-2.  Paul intentionally mentions both the husband and the wife, indicating that intimacy is not only for the husband; it is also for the wife.  (2)  The principle of mutual rights, v. 3.  There is an obligation, a duty for both the husband and the wife in the marriage bed.  This principle clearly argues against using sex as a weapon, or as a tool for manipulation and control in a marriage.  The moment we say “I do,” as equal partners in this complementary relationship, we realize it is no longer just about me; it is about us!  We have conjugal rights and obligations that transcend a self-centered approach to intimacy.  (3)  The principle of mutual authority, v. 4.  As complementary partners, we no longer have authority over our own bodies; our bodies are an extension of our spouse.  We belong to each other.  There is now a shared, mutual concern for the well-being, health and ownership of our respective bodies.  We are truly a one-flesh union.  Finally, marriage serves a protective function, keeping and shielding us as partners from the immorality and sexual temptation of a self-indulgent, extra-marital ethic of sex so pervasive in culture (see vv. 5-10).  Sexual intimacy within the marriage bond is intended by God to manifest the joy and fulfillment of other-centered sexual expression and love between a husband and wife.  It is the ultimate expression of femininity and masculinity within the marriage bond.  Sexual intimacy also enhances and strengthens the marriage roles so clearly pronounced in Ephesians 5:22-32 and Colossians 3:18-19.  The Song of Solomon and Proverbs 5:15-19 represent poetic expressions of sexual intimacy in the one-flesh union God creates in marriage.  They are to be read, enjoyed and celebrated by both sexual partners in a God-centered, Ephesians 5:32 marriage!  Fifty Shades of Grey bears no resemblance whatsoever to this ideal.  It is a selfish, self-centered, self-indulgent perversion of something beautiful, good and precious.

Posted in Breakdown of Marriage, Breakdown of the Family, Cultural Barometer, Death of Western Culture, Dr. James P. Eckman, God's Order for His Creation, Humanism, Not Following God's Plan, Postmodernism, Progressives, Society at Risk, Worldview | Tagged , | Leave a comment

JAY COST: POLITICAL CORRUPTION IS WHY OUR TAX CODE IS A MESS

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Jay Cost’s new book “A Republic No More: Big Government and the Rise of American Political Corruption,” which is available now at Amazon.com.

With a new, all-Republican Congress now seated for the first time since 2007, tax reform is once again a top issue. House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan — the GOP’s most valuable legislator — has made it a priority.

Tax reform is long past due. Almost everybody agrees that United States’ corporate tax code is an embarrassment. Inefficient and unfair, it distorts the free flow of capital from its most useful destinations, and showers indefensible benefits upon politically connected businesses. Bipartisan reform that broadens the base by closing loopholes, coupled with an across-the-board lowering of rates, would benefit the nation enormously.

Unfortunately, near-universal consensus is not enough. In truth, tax reform is hotly opposed by important agents. First, there are the interest groups that lobby hard to get tax loopholes embedded in the law. Second, there are the professional politicians, especially in Congress, who abuse the taxing power to extract campaign contributions, public support, and cushy jobs for when they leave office. These agents worked hard to create our mess of a tax code; they will work twice as hard to keep it that way.

Thus, the main challenge for reformers is not so much ideological conflict, partisan gridlock, or public indifference. Rather, the impediment is best understood as political corruption — or politicians who put narrow factions of interest groups ahead of the public good. If tax reform is (finally) going to become a reality, reformers have to treat the problem accordingly.

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Public support of private business has a very august pedigree in our nation. No less an eminence than Alexander Hamilton laid out the original case for why the federal government in particular should worry about economic development. In the Report on Manufactures (1791) Hamilton proposes lending public assistance to the search for private profit, in the belief that, over the long run, the benefits would accrue to society at large.

Today, both political parties essentially adhere to this view. Though the partisan rancor often generates a lot of heat, the main difference between them has more to do with emphases rather than first principles. Republicans prefer to expand programs like the Small Business Administration; Democrats like investments in green technology.

On paper, this often reads as noble and quite high-minded. Hamilton’s prose in the Reportis the literary embodiment of earnestness, and the quadrennial platforms of the Republican and Democratic parties brim with confidence about all the great ways they can develop the economy.

However, in practice Hamiltonian economic stimulus lends itself to corruption. Our government can never quite live up to Hamilton’s ideal. It is simply not capable of selecting economic winners in a socially responsible manner.

And yet Uncle Sam continues to try, blithely assuming that he can do something that in fact he cannot. Nowadays this means that government support of business creates a wide-ranging, patchwork, and occasionally bizarre system of corruption. That is, under the guise of developing the economy in general, it has wasted untold billions of dollars funneling money to politically well-placed factions that offer a questionable return on the investment.

The tax code, through tax expenditures and leakage via aggressive tax sheltering, amounts to the largest kind of corporate payoff with the most far-reaching effects.

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Corporate tax expenditures have been roughly constant, at least when measured as a share of GDP for the last thirty years. In 1985, they were nearly 2 percent of GDP; they fell to 1 percent in 1988 and have more or less remained there ever since. This is good news, but only in a modest sense. The Tax Reform Act (TRA) of 1986 eliminated only the most politically vulnerable expenditures. Many still remain—more than eighty according to the Government Accountability Office, at a total annual cost of about $150 billion in foregone revenue—and many are of dubious social value. A few of the minor expenditures are quite eye-popping for their absurdity:

  • The “Apple Loophole” allows U.S. multinationals to defer taxes on certain passive incomes like royalties earned by foreign subsidiaries. By creating subsidiaries in Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and the Virgin Islands, Apple has used this to reduce its tax burden substantially.
  • In 2004, Congress allowed a complete write-off of the purchase price of a professional sports team in just fifteen years. This prompted one wag to joke, “Does a sports franchise depreciate in value?” Of course not. It is merely a payoff to franchise owners.
  • The Historic Preservation Tax Credit offered $27 million for investors to fund a microbrewery at an old Coca-Cola plant in St. Louis.
  • Hollywood can deduct up to $15 million to produce television episodes where 75 percent of the compensation is for work done in the United States.
  • Logging companies can deduct up to $10,000 in reforestation expenses per unit of property. This may not sound like much, but its estimated ten-year cost is $4.8 billion.

Tax breaks like this make for good headlines when one wants to write about the absurdity of the tax code. Still, they are not the main drivers of the corporate tax expenditure budget. The most expensive, far and away, is accelerated depreciation. It accounts for more than 40 percent of all corporate tax expenditures. Businesses are allowed to deduct the cost of machinery, software, buildings, and more at a rate much faster than they actually lose their value. Thus, it amounts to a subsidy for businesses, particularly capital-intensive ones. A review of extant scholarly studies conducted by the Congressional Research Service concludes that bonus depreciation “in general is a relatively ineffective tool for stimulating the economy.”

Accounting for about 20 percent of corporate tax expenditures is the foreign income exclusion. Foreign income is subject to U.S. income tax when it is repatriated through payment of dividends to the parent corporation, minus a credit for taxes paid overseas. In some sense, this is necessary to create a fair tax base—corporations should not have to be taxed twice (once by the United States, once by a foreign government)—but this has become the backbone for expansive schemes to avoid any and all taxation.

Accounting for about 5 percent of total corporate tax expenditures is a research tax credit. In theory this may be a good idea, but research is an ambiguous concept in the tax code. Creative accountants have helped corporations take advantage of this, for instance by redesigning food wrappers and calling the effort research.

Finally, accounting for 3 percent of corporate tax expenditures is the active financing loophole, often called the “GE Loophole.” This allows corporations to defer taxes on some financial income that was really earned in the United States, but was shifted overseas. It is called the GE Loophole because GE’s financing arm, GE Capital, makes such heavy use of it.

One study from the Tax Foundation concludes that of the estimated $150 billion spent on corporate expenditures in 2014, about $45 billion was properly corporate welfare, or subsidies to corporations. The rest was spent to make the code more neutral toward different types of income.

But the trouble does not end there. In fact, the GE and Apple Loopholes point to a much bigger problem in the tax code, which the conventional understanding of tax expenditures only captures to a limited extent. That is, multinational firms can move profits around overseas to avoid paying federal taxes. In theory, corporations should not have to pay taxes on income earned overseas; they should pay it to the foreign government under which it was generated. Yet multinational companies use a whole host of artifices and tax shelters to shift domestic profits overseas. Meanwhile, it is virtually impossible for the federal government, with its existing tax laws and enforcement assets, at any rate, to assess how much is actually owed.

This problem is often called leakage, and it could cost up to another $150 billion in lost tax revenue per year. By most accounts, it has gotten worse over the last twenty years. In particular, there has been a marked increase in corporate tax sheltering practices. Multinational corporations create shelters that span the globe, often housing money in countries like the Cayman Islands that are actively seeking tax refugees.  A recent study found that a handful of tiny countries book profits from U.S. subsidiaries that dwarf their GDP. Profits booked in Bermuda amounted to 1,643 percent of its GDP; in the Cayman Islands, 1,600 percent; in the Virgin Islands, 1,102 percent; in the Bahamas, 123 percent; in Luxembourg, 106 percent; and in Ireland, 42 percent. Moreover, a 2011 investigation by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs found that roughly half of the more than $500 billion in corporate earnings housed overseas was in fact invested in domestic financial institutions.

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Tax experts have been complaining about this kind of spending for nearly a century. As early as the 1920s, they were warning about various forms of leakage in the tax code. There were similar complaints in the 1940s, ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, with various, unsuccessful attempts to reform the code. Today, just a quarter century after the TRA, experts are saying once again that the tax code needs to be rationalized.

So, if the tax code is an unfair, inefficient, and socially harmful mess that almost every disinterested expert has despised for nearly a century, why has it not been substantially reformed? The answer is the same reason so many of the policies that we have studied persist: political corruption. In fact, tax expenditures are a way to tinker with the tax code to favor factions in society: the government sets broad-based rates that it largely leaves unchanged over the decades, then sets up exceptions for well-placed interest groups. This is more important to our government than creating a fair, efficient tax code.

The principal culprit here is Congress. The legislature can choose to delegate responsibility to the bureaucracy, and has often done so on other matters, but it has retained primary authority over the income tax code because it is so politically useful. It is a noticeable and direct way to funnel money to preferred interest groups, which realize immediately that they have received a bounty and can easily credit Congress for securing it.

Moreover, the balance of pressures placed upon Congress is uniquely tilted toward favoritism. In the field of industrial regulation, for example, there is often a battle between environmental groups and industry groups. This is far from a guarantee that the public interest will prevail, but the competition is at least helpful for that purpose. There is really no such competition over taxes. When Congress elects to give an industry a special tax break, who really loses? The public at large, but in such an indirect and imperceptible way that nobody really notices, which means there are no interest groups that emerge to oppose the payoff. There are public-spirited groups that fight for tax reform—think tanks like the Heritage Foundation on the right and Citizens for Tax Justice on the left—but they are seriously out-matched.

To see how influence peddling works in practice, consider the fight over the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981. Campaigning in 1980, Ronald Reagan advocated lower income tax rates for all payers, believing that this would help producers create more and investors better direct capital to productive ends. Business-specific corporate tax expenditures (or loopholes) were not at the top of his list; however they were a major priority for corporate America. It organized aggressively during this period to expand the investment tax credit created during the Kennedy years and also to speed up (already accelerated) depreciation. The famed Carlton Group, formed in 1978, was a loose collection of lobbyists that included the business community’s heaviest hitters. It met every Tuesday morning at the Sheraton-Carlton Hotel in Washington to plot strategy on how to enact its 10-5-3 proposal, which would reduce the timeframe of depreciation to ten years for buildings, five years for equipment, and three years for vehicles.

Reagan quickly found himself embracing new corporate tax expenditures. The reason was that congressional Democrats, led by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, were drafting an alternative tax plan that did not reduce rates as much as Reagan wanted; rather, it was extremely favorable to businesses with its tax expenditure policies. Reagan had no choice but to counter the offers made by House Democrats, and soon both sides were locked in a bidding war for industry support. Eventually, congressional Democrats, belying their claims of populism against Reagan’s elitism, actually offered full expensing for business equipment. As Boston University political scientist Cathie Martin puts it: “Corporate tax benefits … became the medium of exchange for buying legislative support … [S]pecial interests played an extremely prominent role and more concessions were made than usual.”

Thirty-five years later, precious little has changed. Today, members of Ways and Means are thoroughly lobbied and showered with generous campaign cash. As of July 20, 2014, in the 2013–2014 election cycle, for instance, the average Ways and Means Committee member had already received $1.3 million in contributions from political action committees and individuals, more than any other average member on the other committees. This money does not go to waste. A team of researchers led by Matthew D. Hill of the University of Mississippi recently took a look at the influence of lobbying on corporate tax bills. They find “corporate tax lobbyers exhibit lower effective tax rates and greater book-tax differences.” In other words, these corporations are not wasting their money.

Money is but one piece of the puzzle. In 2014, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp released a tax reform proposal that was not expected to go anywhere during the 113th Congress, and yet it drew heavy attention from tax lobbyists. Similarly, a battle in 2014 to extend various business tax expenditures (like the GE Loophole) drew what one think tank calls an “army” of lobbyists. On the extender bill alone, 1,359 lobbyists attempted to contact members of Congress or their staff 12,378 times; 58 percent of these lobbyists had previously worked somewhere in the government.

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This may just be “the way things work,” but it is not the way things are supposed to work. The Framers designed our government to place the public interest ahead of private, parochial concerns. When government behaves to the contrary, it is acting corruptly. The fact that we are inured to this misbehavior is merely an indicator that our tax code has been corrupt for a very long time.

So yes, reforms are overdue, but reformer cannot underestimate the challenge that they face. The divide is not primarily ideological. After all, the left and right came together for tax reform in 1986. Rather, the point of conflict is between the advocates of special interests and the rest of us. This is a fight, frankly, that the special interests usually win.

Posted in Abuse of Power, Death of a Nation, Economics, Government is Too Large, Government Waste, Politics, Shrink the Size of Government, Tax Abuse | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jonah Goldberg: Obama’s comparison of Christianity, radical Islam defies logic

Jonah Goldberg: Obama’s comparison of Christianity, radical Islam defies logic

President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, in Washington. Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, listen in the background. (AP Photo/Mandel Ngan, Pool)

On Feb. 3, the so-called Islamic State released a slickly produced video showing a Jordanian pilot being burned alive in a steel cage. On Feb. 4, the United Nations issued a report detailing various “mass executions of boys, as well as reports of beheadings, crucifixions of children and burying children alive” at the hands of the Islamic State.

And on Feb. 5, President Obama seized the opportunity of the National Prayer Breakfast to forthrightly criticize the “terrible deeds” … committed “in the name of Christ.”
“Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history,” Obama said, referring to the ennobling aspects of religion as well as the tendency of people to “hijack” religions towards murderous ends.

“And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

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Obama’s right. Terrible things have been done in the name of Christianity. I have yet to meet a Christian who denies this.

But, as odd as it may sound for a guy named Goldberg to point it out, the Inquisition and the Crusades aren’t the indictments Obama thinks they are. For starters, the Crusades — despite their terrible organized cruelties — were a defensive war.

“The Crusades could more accurately be described as a limited, belated and, in the last analysis, ineffectual response to the jihad — a failed attempt to recover by a Christian holy war what had been lost to a Muslim holy war,” writes Bernard Lewis, the greatest living English-language historian of Islam.

As for the Inquisition, it needs to be clarified that there was no single “Inquisition,” but many. And most were not particularly nefarious. For centuries, whenever the Catholic Church launched an inquiry or investigation, it mounted an “inquisition,” which means pretty much the same thing.

Historian Thomas Madden, director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Saint Louis University, writes that the “Inquisition was not born out of desire to crush diversity or oppress people; it was rather an attempt to stop unjust executions.”

In medieval Europe, heresy was a crime against the state, Madden explains. Local nobles, often greedy, illiterate and eager to placate the mob, gleefully agreed to execute people accused of witchcraft or some other forms of heresy. By the 1100s, such accusations were causing grave injustices (in much the same way that apparatchiks in Communist countries would level charges of disloyalty in order to have rivals “disappeared”).

“The Catholic Church’s response to this problem was the Inquisition,” Madden explains, “first instituted by Pope Lucius III in 1184.”

I cannot defend everything done under the various Inquisitions — especially in Spain — because some of it was indefensible. But there’s a very important point that needs to be made here that transcends scoring easy, albeit deserved, points against Obama’s approach to Islamic extremism — which he will not call Islamic. Christianity, even in its most terrible days, even under the most corrupt popes, even during the most unjustifiable wars, was indisputably a force for the improvement of man.

Christianity ended greater barbarisms under pagan Rome. The church often fell short of its ideals — which all human things do — but its ideals were indisputably a great advance for humanity.

Similarly, while some rationalized slavery and Jim Crow in the U.S. by invoking Christianity, it was ultimately the ideals of Christianity itself that dealt the fatal blow to those institutions. Just read any biography of Martin Luther King Jr. if you don’t believe me.

When Obama alludes to the evils of medieval Christianity, he fails to acknowledge the key word: “medieval.” What made medieval Christianity backward wasn’t Christianity but medievalism.

It is perverse that Obama feels compelled to lecture the West about not getting too judgmental on our “high horse” about radical Islam’s medieval barbarism in 2015 because of Christianity’s medieval barbarism in 1215.

It’s also insipidly hypocritical. President Obama can’t bring himself to call the Islamic State “Islamic,” but he’s happy to offer a sermon about Christianity’s alleged crimes at the beginning of the last millennium.

We are all descended from cavemen who broke the skulls of their enemies with rocks for fun or profit. But that hardly mitigates the crimes of a man who does the same thing today. I see no problem judging the behavior of the Islamic State and its apologists from the vantage point of the West’s high horse, because we’ve earned the right to sit in that saddle.

— Tribune Content Agency

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Posted in Christianity, Islam, Muslim, News and politics, Obama, religion | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment
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