The World Wide (Religious) Web for Wednesday, October 5, 2011


LEFT-WING DOMINIONISM WATCH: “Don’t Confuse the Common Good with Statism.”

Those who insist that the only (or the best) way to achieve the common good is to give more resources (and control) to the federal state, had better go looking for some evidence somewhere, that undergirds their self-righteousness. They insist that others of us, who do not support the expenditure of more state money, are immoral.

Yet the first moral obligation, Blaise Pascal wrote, is to think clearly. And with evidence.

What is true for the common good is also true for social justice. Those who insist that the test of social justice is giving more tax revenues to the state need to display their evidence.

For myself, a mountain of evidence convinces me that Thomas Sowell is right:  Giving money to the state in order to help the poor is a little like trying to feed the swallows by feeding the horses. The swallows get very little out of it.

More Americans moved out of poverty in the fifteen years before the federal state’s War on Poverty than after it. Freedom, enterprise, and work did that.

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FIRST AMENDMENT WATCH: “Washington Wants a Say Over Your Minister.”

The federal statutes outlawing employment discrimination based on race, sex, age and disability contain no express exception for church employers. But for 40 years lower courts have applied a “ministerial exception,” which bars the government from any role in deciding who should be a minister. Courts have reasoned that the separation between church and state protects the ability of churches to choose their own clergy just as it protects the state from any control by churches. The Supreme Court has never spoken to the issue.

But who counts as a minister? Cheryl Perich’s duties included leading students in prayer and worship, but she also taught secular subjects, using ordinary secular textbooks. The sole disagreement in the lower courts was whether her job was sufficiently religious to be considered ministerial. The Supreme Court will consider, for the first time, how to make that determination.

But the Obama Justice Department has now asked the court to disavow the ministerial exception altogether. This would mean that, in every future case, a court—and not the church—would decide whether the church’s reasons for firing or not hiring a minister were good enough.

But the government, including the judiciary, is not entitled under the First Amendment to decide what qualifications a minister should have, or to weigh religious considerations against others. Is a secular court to decide, for example, whether confining Catholic priests or Orthodox rabbis to males is a correct interpretation of scripture, or merely a vestige of outmoded and stereotypical bias?

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CHINA’S ONE-CHILD POLICY IS ANTI-GIRL: “Interview: Chai Ling on Saving China’s Daughters.”

What is the mission of All Girls Allowed?

We want to save lives right now. Our first mission is to rescue born and unborn girls. Second, to support abandoned girls. Third, to reunite trafficked children with their families. In one city, Putian, among three million residents, there may be 100,000 to 600,000 trafficked child brides. Fourth, to pray for the enforcers of the one-child policy.

We hope this is going to be supported by churches from this country and inside China. We want to work with grassroots organizations. The overall goal is saving lives physically and spiritually through transformation. Welcoming girls persuades the Chinese family to respect the rights of both women and men. Give a mother a garment of praise rather than a spear of despair when she gives birth to a baby girl. I share from Scripture that it is a right family relationship when the man grows up to leave the parents and be with the woman, versus the current Chinese way: The girl is married off to the man’s household. We will make them realize they should keep a baby girl, and there will be a promise for them in their old age: They will be taken care of. People should accept the promise and, hopefully, come to Christ.

We are in a spiritual battle. We are not trying to overthrow the government or change the law. Of course, we would love to see the law change. But the real important part is to save lives—physical lives and also souls.

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RELATED: “Half the Sky Is Falling.”

Yet cultural preferences and China’s one-child policy don’t explain why girls have also gone missing from Albania and Azerbaijan, and why sex ratio imbalance is now appearing in Europe. The global problem demanded a global theory, and Hvistendahl’s is this: Sex selection has arisen out of a drive to control population size, using technology (primarily ultrasound) and abortion as handmaids. And Hvistendahl charges that it’s powerful Western institutions—think General Electric, Rockefeller, the Ford Foundation—that are largely responsible for the world’s gender crisis, for providing the necessary technology.

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RELATED: “Ban abortion to save the pro-choice movement?”

As the history of prohibition instructs, the surest way to defeat the right-to-life movement would be to make abortion illegal. Not solely because it would give the movement what it wants, but also because a firm majority of Americans still support the right to choose in all or most circumstances-just as a majority back in the 1920s probably thought it was all right to buy a drink (the polling business did not yet exist).

A reversal of Roe (much less a “pro-life” amendment) would quickly make heroes and heroines out of health workers who violated the law-much as this film, and most histories of the period, glamorize tipsy flappers and gangsters wielding submachine guns. The long history of prohibition unmistakably demonstrates that a divided public will quickly turn hostile when protestors with decent motives elect officials who carry out indecent assaults on individual freedom. In America, a movement of moralists is never so vulnerable as when it succeeds.

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CHURCH AND STATE: “UnLocke the Church.”

Centuries later, the vibrant tension between Locke and Owen lives on in the modern American Republic. On one side stand the forces of Owen who possess a divine duty to link the state and the church strategically. On the other, Locke’s children raise the wall of separation between church and state in a manner that can render government a mere secular force. Reconciliation of these ideas remains elusive. At times they violently clash in ways that are unhelpful to either side and remain caught in a no man’s land somewhere between God and government.

Yet the source and foundational ideas for any worldview and its application in the modern context remains a vital issue in light of the incontrovertible moral downgrade now rampant across the world. Public policy positions are, by their very nature, tacitly theological and advanced by value-laden motives. How those ideas are advanced is critical to the wellbeing of the American experiment. Legal confinement of one side in favor of the other will only engender resentment. Governmental endorsement of either could lead to anarchy. The path forward surely must recognize and retain the liberty to worship and publicly express faith in God as well as to maintain vigilance that Christianity never becomes cheapened as a mere tool for political patronage through an unbiblical civil religion.

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THE IMPORTANCE OF DEFINING YOUR TERMS: “Liberalism…and liberalism.”

I am increasingly persuaded that the contemporary debate over liberalism has been hampered by the failure of most of the participants to distinguish between two different, albeit related, meanings of the word.

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FAITH-BASED PROGRAMS IN PRISON: “Go to Jail and Get a Seminary Education?”

Every year, hundreds of thousands of prisoners participate in religious services and interact with faith-motivated volunteers and mentors. Many of these offenders have had religious conversions. In and of itself, this may not mean a great deal to criminologists, correctional practitioners, or policymakers. However, faith-based prison programs and seminaries like those at Darrington and Angola, especially if they are connected to faith-based reentry and aftercare programs, have the potential to build upon these religious conversions. Religious conversions should not be viewed cynically as “jailhouse religion,” but rather as the opportunity to connect these converts to volunteers and faith-based networks that can facilitate and nurture spiritual transformation.

Let me be clear: Simply relying only on faith-based prison programs to reform prisoners and reduce crime would be a misguided policy recommendation. However, there is a real need for faith-based organizations, governmental agencies, and other social service providers to think strategically about partnerships and mutual accountability in order to produce results that reduce recidivism and protect the public safety. Some secular individuals and groups will not admit or accept that religion has an important role to play in addressing social problems. At the same time, some religious people believe that converting inmates to Christianity is all that is necessary. It is this paradox that contributes to faith-based approaches remaining peripheral rather than central to our crime-fighting strategies.

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 “UNDER GOD”? “Religion Is MIA at the National Museum of American History.”

The National Museum of American History does an excellent job of capturing the nation’s past in an informative and entertaining manner, but during this trip to the museum I could not help but think that something was missing. It hit me as I browsed the book section of the museum store. The aisles were filled with books about science and technology, the Civil War, the presidents of the United States, and the American Revolution, but I could not find a single book dealing with the American religious experience. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough, or maybe I was just feeling a bit oversensitive because the store was not selling my Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction—but it was clear to me that American religion was unimportant at the National Museum of American History.

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GOOD ADVICE FOR PARENTS: “Liturgies of Life.”

Parents, or those who act in their stead, establish the liturgies of life—the routines of family life that teach children what is normal and what is normative (whether or not they ever give thought to their influence). Through sitting down and talking at mealtimes, working together in a garden, walking in a park, reading aloud together, memorizing Scripture, praying with and for others, and helping neighbours, or going to a museum every week, parents prepare their children for life, and for eternity.

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NEWS YOU CAN USE: “Three Rules for Polemics.”

  1. You don’t have to follow Matthew 18 before publishing polemics.
  2. You must take full responsibility for even unwitting misrepresentation of someone’s views.
  3. Never attribute an opinion to your opponent that he himself does not own.

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AT WORK? “Where are the Clergy? A Report from Occupy DC.”

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RELIGIOUS FREEDOM WATCH: “Libyan Jew returns from exile to restore synagogue.”

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IN KENTUCKY? “Pagan Pride Day celebrates fall harvest.”

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FROM MY MAGAZINE: “The Art of Creating and Designing an Atmosphere for Congregants to Encounter and Respond to God” by Tom Matrone.

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