The Culture of Death Bares its Teeth: Planned Parenthood Leader Says Life Begins at Delivery

106512124Cecile Richards is no stranger to controversy. As the president of Planned Parenthood she leads one of the central institutions of the Culture of Death — an organization that was born in the dark vision of Margaret Sanger and now exists as the nation’s most visible promoter and provider of abortion. Cecile Richards has been an ardent defender of a woman’s “right” to abort her baby at any time for any reason. She also believes that women should be able to abort their babies for free, with taxpayers footing the bill.

Her support of abortion for any reason and for any stage of fetal development — including the most barbarous partial-birth abortions — was explained, perhaps accidentally, in an interview she recently gave to Jorge Ramos of Fusion TV. When Ramos asked Richards when life begins, she said: “It’s not something I really feel like is really part of this conversation … every woman needs to make their own decision.”

Her non-answer to one of the most fundamental questions of human dignity was shocking enough, but there was more to come. As it turns out, Richards does have a belief  about when life begins.

Ramos was apparently surprised by her evasion of the question and asked, “Why would it be controversial for you to say when you think life starts?”

Richards offered another non-answer: “I don’t know that it’s controversial. I don’t know that it’s really relevant to the conversation.”

Seriously? When the conversation is about abortion?

Then she dropped the bombshell:

“For me, I’m the mother of three children. For me, life began when I delivered them. They’ve been probably the most important thing in my life ever since. But that was my own personal decision.”

So life begins at delivery. Until then, no life, no dignity, no sanctity at all. This defies any moral sense, but it also defies modern biology. Cecile Richards did not try to argue the now infamous trimester argument of Roe v. Wade or a point of viability or any other argument about fetal development. As her comment makes clear, in her worldview the fetus doesn’t matter at all.

She identified her three children as “probably the most important thing in my life” since their delivery. Were they nothing to her in her womb? Each of those three precious children was precious in the womb — at every point of development.

Candid admissions of a worldview like this one are rare, but Cecile Richards’ statement perfectly explains her advocacy of abortion at any time for any reason. In her interview the Culture of Death bares its teeth.

Faith and Freedom in the Public Square: An Evening I Will Share with Dennis Prager and Ross Douthat

imsis053-071A respectful conversation on the most controversial issues of our day is a rare gift. And I am looking forward to just that kind of opportunity when I will join Dennis Prager and Ross Douthat for such a conversation. It will take place next Tuesday in Alumni Chapel at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The event is presented by World Magazine and #Hashtag Productions, and the public is invited—and that pleases me.

I cannot remember when I first read material from Dennis Prager, but he is one of the most significant Jewish thinkers in America today. He has a keen mind and a generous spirit. I have enjoyed every conversation with him. He is also a nationally syndicated radio host, whose influence is massive. Similarly, Ross Douthat is one of the most influential newspaper columnists and writers in the nation today. His column in The New York Times is required reading for anyone who wants to think about the leading issues of the day. His latest book, Bad Religion, was a best-seller for all the right reasons.

Our conversation is entitled, “Faith and Freedom in the Public Square.” Warren Smith of World Magazine will emcee the evening. I want to make sure that you know about it, and that you know you are invited to join us for the evening.

For tickets and information, go to

Here is the information from that site:

An Evening with Albert Mohler, Dennis Prager and Ross Douthat

Presented by World Magazine and Hashtag Productions

On Tuesday, January 28th at 7:00 pm, in Alumni Chapel on the campus of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, nationally syndicated radio show host Dennis Prager, Christian author Dr. Albert Mohler and New York Times columnist Ross Douthat will appear together on stage for a conversation about about “Faith and Freedom in the Public Square.”

Our emcee for the evening will be Warren Smith of World Magazine.

We live in trying times. Those of us who take belief in the God of the Bible seriously feel burdened by the problems that arise in our increasingly secular, pluralistic society. People are abandoning truth, Western culture is dying, and the lines between right and wrong are becoming irrevocably blurred.

The goal of this event is to allow three prominent voices in the public square—one Jewish (Prager), one evangelical Christian (Mohler), and one Catholic (Douthat)—to engage in an open, honest and entertaining dialogue about these challenges we face as a nation and civilization. This is about asking and answering tough questions in a God-honoring and purposeful way.

Tickets are $19.95 for General Admission seating, and a limited number of $64.95 VIP reserved seating (which includes admittance to a catered pre-show VIP reception with the speakers at 6:00 pm).

Alumni Chapel
2825 Lexington Road
Louisville, KY 40280
This event is brought to you by Hashtag Productions LLC ( and World Magazine (


Commonplaces: Teenagers, Reading, and Language

9781626360921In times past, readers kept books in which they recorded favorite items from their reading. These “commonplace books” were sometimes later collected, offering a view into the mind and habits of the reader even as the thoughts of the original writers were shared. This year, I intend to start sharing some of my commonplaces with you. Why wait to share them?

The first comes from a very intriguing book of essays by Jim Flynn, who taught for almost six decades at the University of Otago, New Zealand’s oldest university. Flynn is an avid and careful reader, and in The Torchlight List, he offers what he calls a global “road map” for reading.

In his first chapter, he writes of his own reading experience and compares that experience to the reality of today’s teenagers, including the young people who arrive on the campuses of the world’s most prestigious universities. To put the matter bluntly: they are not serious readers, and this is especially true when it comes to great literature. Flynn is surely right when he argues that an individual who reads well but has no college education is better educated than one who does not read seriously and widely but holds university degrees.

“Ask students what novelist they like best and you get a blank, or some reference to the author of airport trash,” he laments.

He then makes an observation that every parent, educator, pastor, youth minister, and teenager should note carefully. He distinguishes between active and passive language. Active language is the language people use to initiate a conversation. Passive language consists of language an individual can understand, but does not (or cannot) use to initiate a conversation.

Note carefully, then, what he says next:

In sum, in 1948 teenagers could both understand and use the vocabularies of their parents. In 2006 they could understand their parents but, to a surprising degree, could not initiate a conversation using adult language.

Sound familiar? I thought so.

He also observes that teenagers of the past “wanted to become adults and enjoy the privileges of adults.” Now, however, adolescents have their own distinct subculture that “is so attractive that some young adults want to remain in it through their twenties and even their thirties.”

He does not write with scorn nor does he believe that the damage is always permanent. But he writes with a prophetic and wise voice that has to do as much with life as with books—and he warns of a life without books.

Think and consider.

Another Shooting, But the Same Vexing Questions Remain

92032131One day before the one-year anniversary of the killing of twenty-six in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, an 18-year-old young man entered the high school at which he was a student in suburban Denver on Friday and shot two students before killing himself. One of those students, Claire Davis, a 17-year-old senior, is now in very critical condition, described by USA Today this morning as “clinging to life.”

The story is shocking on its face for any number of reasons. As Carolyn Pesce of USA Today reports:

The gunman, who entered a Denver-area school on Friday and shot and critically wounded a student intended to harm a large number of individuals. Karl Pierson, age eighteen, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot, entered the north side of the high school armed with a shot gun he bought legally, with multiple rounds of ammunition strapped across his body, a machete and a backpack filled with three Molotov cocktails.

Pesce goes on to describe the tragedy: “In less than two minutes he fired five shots and ignited one of the Molotov cocktails before running to the back of the school library and killing himself.”

This is a story that simply defies the imagination when we ask a couple of very simple questions. The most direct question is unavoidable: why did this young man do this? It appears that behind this crime might be the simplest of human emotions: resentment and revenge. The student had targeted a teacher who had been working with him on the school’s debate team. The student was known to have been a very angry debater at times, but, nonetheless, was described as having his temper under control—at least until Friday. On that day he entered the school, calling out the teacher’s name and, amazingly enough, he entered the school carrying a shotgun he had bought legally as an 18-year-old in Colorado on the sixth of December.

That raises another immediate question: how in the world, given the contemporary concerns about school security, could an 18-year-old student enter a high school in the Denver area carrying, and not even trying to conceal, a shotgun with multiple rounds of ammunition strapped across his body, with a backpack filled with three Molotov cocktails, and also carrying a machete? He detonated one of the Molotov cocktails to little effect, but he shot two students, one of them with only a superficial wound and the other one, young Claire Davis, shot in the head.

This is a sad account in every dimension, but it drives us right back to the same basic questions as Columbine, as Aurora, as Newtown, Connecticut. The big question of why is a question that must be asked but cannot be adequately answered.

One especially haunting issue rises to the surface of this tragedy. Unlike so many recent school shooters, Karl Pierson was not suspected by his friends of being capable of such criminality and violence. How could his closest friends miss this part of Karl? We must note the inability of even his closest friends to describe what in the world happened between the relatively hot-headed-but-under-control young man they say they knew and the young man who entered the high school on Friday, intending to commit murder, setting off a Molotov cocktail, and shooting one student for no apparent reason whatsoever before taking his own life.

This transformation—of the Karl Pierson who entered that school with murderous intent on Friday as compared with the Karl Pierson that had been known for the previous eighteen years—raises one of the most basic questions that frustrates all human beings: how in the world can we understand someone like this? But then, of course, that drives us back to an even more basic question: How can we understand anyone? How can we get into the human heart and try to plumb its depths and disentangle its cobwebs? The reality is we can’t, even when it comes to our own heart. And, yet, we have to try.

That is why we put screening and security systems in place.  But why in the world wasn’t there some screening process in place that would have prevented someone walking in with an unconcealed shotgun? The directness of that question is raised by Jack Healy in The New York Times when he writes:

The student did not try to hide the shotgun he carried into Arapahoe High School at 12:30 p.m. Friday. He sought to confront a teacher, law enforcement officials said, and asked his classmates where he could find him. The teacher slipped away from the building, but officials said the gunman seriously wounded one student and then died, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Gov. John W. Hickenlooper of Colorado then called the episode an “all-too-familiar sequence” in his state. The memory of Columbine is ever present.

No doubt Governor Hickenlooper now faces the same questions as the rest of us.  And when you look at so many of the editorial pieces written over the weekend, so many seem to assume that there is an obvious answer to how to prevent this kind of tragedy. The truly vexing thing from the Christian worldview, the most deeply troubling truth, is that there is no way to prevent this—not fully, not adequately, not comprehensively. We fool ourselves if we think we can. On the other hand, we’re irresponsible if we do not try.

A Theology of Action: Owen Strachan on “Risky Gospel”

risky-gospelOne of the most lamentable symptoms of today’s emotionalist Christianity is its tendency to inaction. We can trace this symptom to any number of causes, and most of them are theological. Many Christians suffer from warped understandings of the will of God, of the nature of true discipleship, and of the character of the Christian life. Tragically, throughout their lifetimes many church members and nominal Christians never actually do anything of significance for Christ and his kingdom. Owen Strachan not only laments this fact, he intends to do something about it. With fresh energy and keen insight, he offers a vibrant vision of the Christian life in Risky Gospel, just released in the past few days.

He confronts “mystical, fearful Christianity” head-on and, as he explains, this means a living discipleship that is rooted in a heart and mind transformed by Scripture and leads to strategic deployment for the Kingdom of Christ. As he asserts, this means not living fearfully. To the contrary, it means living a life of Gospel risk-taking. Owen talks about risky faith, risky identity, risky spirituality, risky family life, risky work, risky church, risky evangelism, and risky citizenship. With incredible honesty, he also describes risky failure. Many of those who have been used of God for the greatest work of the kingdom have been failures in the eyes of the world. As he explains:

So this is what the concept of gospel risk does for you: it frees you. It positions you to see life with fresh clarity. You’re released from the tyranny of small expectations. You’re loosed from the chains of fearing what others think of you. In point of fact, their opinions pale in comparison to God’s. You’re freed from the endless cycle of brand management. It’s not your reputation among fellow sinners that gives you happiness; it’s being a child of God.

Risky Gospel is filled with biblical truth, saturated with wisdom, and targeted right at the heart of weak, indecisive, emotionalist, inactive spirituality—and at every false gospel. This book would serve as a great Christmas gift for young Christians, and it is well-timed for the challenges all Christians now face in our risky world.

Owen Strachan is assistant professor of Christian Theology and Church History at Boyce College and Executive Director of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. He is a brilliant young scholar and teacher. I should know, because he served as one of my research assistants and interns several years back. He was kind to dedicate this book to me. I am proud to commend this book to you.

Theology and the Future of the Southern Baptist Convention: A Conversation with R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Eric Hankins

Southern Seminary was glad to welcome Dr. Eric Hankins, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Oxford, Mississippi, as our chapel preacher for Thursday, November 8, 2013. Dr. Hankins preached a powerful message from Luke 24 in chapel, reminding us all that we are “on message when we are on mission.” Later that afternoon, I hosted a public conversation with Dr. Hankins about the Southern Baptist Convention, the Calvinism Advisory Committee (on which we both served), and a range of theological and denominational questions. We are glad to share that conversation with you now.


The Indispensable Evangelical: Carl F. H. Henry and Evangelical Ambition in the Twentieth Century

I was very pleased to address the Carl F. H. Henry at 100: A Centennial Celebration conference at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary last week. The event was both scholarly and deeply appreciative of Carl Henry and his legacy. In my address, “The Essential Evangelical: Carl F. H. Henry and Evangelical Ambition in the Twentieth Century,” I did my best to speak to Henry’s strategic role in the creation of the evangelical movement in America. I also sought to learn from Henry and his generation of evangelical leaders as we consider what ambitions evangelicals should serve today.


The Cultural Revolution on the College Campus—Why it Matters to You

177551552Several  years ago, sociologist Peter Berger argued that secularization has been most pervasive in two social locations—Western Europe and the American college and university campus. The campuses of elite educational institutions are among the most thoroughly secularized places on our planet. This should concern anyone with an interest in higher education, of course. But it really matters to every American—or at least it should.

A wonderful and concise explanation of why this is so was provided in the pages of The Weekly Standard this week by David Gelernter, a professor of computer science at Yale University. In the course of making a proposal for the “reclamation” of higher education, Professor Gelernter wrote this very important paragraph:

Since the cultural revolution culminating in the 1970s, the left has run nearly all of the nation’s most influential, prestigious universities. Their alumni, in turn, run American culture—the broadcast networks, newspapers, the legal and many other professions, Hollywood, book publishing, and, most important, the massive, insensate, crush-everything-in-your-path mega-glacier known as the U.S. federal bureaucracy—and even more important than that, the education establishment charged with indoctrinating our children from kindergarten up.

That’s why it matters to you. And that’s how the future direction of the culture is set by the current culture of the elite colleges and universities. Many parents are unaware of how this happens. Their children may or may not attend one of the most prestigious colleges in the nation. But in almost any other institution they will study under professors who want to be associated with (or eventually hired by) one of those elite institutions. Exceptions to this pattern are rare, and the influence of these elite schools extends throughout the culture at large.

David Gelernter is in a position to know. After all, he is a professor at Yale. As he makes clear, what happens at Yale doesn’t stay at Yale.

Stronger Together, Serving Together, Sending Together—The State Baptist Conventions and the SBC

71260908Fall brings the opening of the new school year, the energy of the season of autumn and, for Southern Baptists, the meeting of the state Baptist conventions. In coming weeks, most of our state conventions will be holding their annual meetings. Pastors and laypeople will gather from local churches and assemble as a convention of Baptist churches. There is a glory in these meetings, and they affirm our need for these state conventions and their ministries.

A younger generation of Southern Baptists may well be unaware of the importance of the state conventions and their work. They would be well-advised to attend their local state convention and catch a vision of what the Baptist churches in their states are doing together.

Americans are regularly reminded that states matter. Our political system respects the role of the individual states, and most Americans identify not only as citizens of the United States, but as residents of their respective states. This does not make our nation weaker. We are stronger because the states retain an important role in building communities and building the nations. As our national experience has shown, there is great gain in recognizing the priority of the local, even in the building of the nation.

In Southern Baptist life, the same is profoundly true of our state conventions. If the state conventions did not exist, we would have to invent them. There is a need for Baptist churches within every state to coordinate and combine their energies for the cause of the Great Commission and the task of reaching the communities in their own state and region. This does not weaken the Southern Baptist Convention—it makes us stronger.

Respect for the state conventions comes naturally to me. As a boy, I participated in camps and programs for children and young people. Soon after my conversion, I boarded a church bus and headed for Lake Yale, the assembly of the Florida Baptist Convention. The first real exposure I had to the scope and scale of Southern Baptist mission work came when I was a nine-year-old boy sitting in the auditorium at Lake Yale. I came back year after year, attending Royal Ambassador Camp and an assortment of camps and retreats and conferences. The imprint of those experiences remains on my life even now.

As a young man called to the ministry, I headed to Samford University where I received the gift of education for ministry from a school founded by Alabama Baptists—at least part of the tuition for my education came directly through the Alabama Baptist Convention. As a young ministerial student, I was exposed to preaching and evangelism through the Alabama state evangelism conferences and I saw the cooperative ministries work by attending the Alabama Baptist Convention annual meeting. When I was elected president of the student Ministerial Association, Samford’s president, Dr. Leslie S. Wright, invited me to attend the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions with him. I learned how Baptists work together.

Later, as a pastor and seminary student, I saw the cooperative ministries of the Kentucky Baptist Convention and was able to participate in its work. Later, I was elected editor of The Christian Index and shifted my ministry to the context of the Georgia Baptist Convention. I was immersed in the life of that state convention, and I saw first-hand that it was doing important work that would otherwise be left undone.

When disaster strikes, state disaster relief teams are first on the scene. When a pastor needs help, the state convention is close at hand. When strategies for reaching America’s urban areas are developed, state conventions are on the front lines. State conventions remember the rural churches and are there to combine strengths and walk alongside those congregations serving the heartland.

At the same time, the state conventions have the world on their hearts. Increasingly, our leading state conventions are increasing their commitment to the support of national ministries and the reaching of the nations. Many of these conventions have taken courageous steps to send a greater percentage of Cooperative Program funds to the cause of reaching the nations with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These state conventions have made sacrifices for the Great Commission cause and are mobilizing churches to reach not only their communities, but the world.

Now is the time for Southern Baptists committed to the Great Commission to show up and support our state conventions, to attend our annual convention meetings, and to support every effort to reach our individual states, our nation, and the nations with the Gospel.

As a committed Southern Baptist, I would not know who I am without the state conventions that have contributed so much to my life and ministry. As president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, I am proud and thankful to be in partnership with every one of our state conventions, and I want my students and faculty to share this pride and gratitude.

So, as the Southern Baptists in your state head for their annual meetings, determine to join them, to pray for them, to support them in Cooperative Program giving, and to strengthen the Great Commission vision and energy you will find there. Southern Baptists will never be bolder in mission and ministry than when we strengthen these bonds and stand together. Bring the full wealth of your conviction and the full passion of your desire for reaching your state, our nation, and all nations with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Stronger together. Serving together. Sending together.

The Man from Issachar—An Address at the Inauguration of Russell D. Moore


An Address Delivered in the City of Washington, D.C. upon the Inauguration of Russell D. Moore as President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention on Tuesday, September 10, 2013 at Capitol Hill Baptist Church by R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Martin Luther King, Jr. at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

p.kingm.003On April 19, 1961, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the Julius B. Gay Lecture at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. As historian Gregory A. Wills explains:

On April 19, 1961, Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed the seminary community in a packed chapel. The faculty invited King to give his address as the seminary’s Julius Brown Gay Lecturer. King challenged the seminarian that the church had a central role to play in ending segregation. The church should teach the equality of all races and the destructive character of racial segregation. It should counter the racists’ inflammatory rhetoric and assure white society that the “basic aim of the Negro is to be the white man’s brother and not his brother-in-law.” As true followers of Jesus Christ, they should be “maladjusted” to the “evils of segregation and discrimination” and lead their churches to “move out into the realm of social reform.” It was King’s familiar message, but no one missed the significance of its being given at the oldest seminary in the largely segregated Southern Baptist Convention.

On the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington, listening to King’s words at Southern Seminary brings a new sense of historical importance.

Listen to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Julius B. Gay Lecture at Southern Seminar here, and listen to his lecture to a Christian Ethics class here.

Photographs: Martin Luther King, Jr. in Alumni Chapel, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, April 19, 1961. Photographer unknown.

Source: Gregory A. Wills, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1859-2009 (New York, Oxford University Press, 2009) at 415.


Don’t Just Stand There—Say Something: The Sin of Silence in a Time of Trouble [VIDEO]

Yesterday, I stood at the pulpit of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to deliver my 21st Annual Fall Convocation Address. For me, it was a moment of great magnitude as I began a third decade as president. Here is the video of the message. Within the message, I explain the origin and urgency of the title. It is indeed a sin to remain silent in a time of trouble.

Sorry Kids: Back to School = Back to Bedtime

Sorry kids, back to school means back to bedtime. One of the odd characteristics of our time is our apparent need  for scientific verification of what we should know by simple common sense. Well, help now comes in the form of a research project undertaken by University College London. The bottom line—children with a fixed and consistent bedtime performed better on tests of cognitive ability.

As Sumathi Reddy of The Wall Street Journal reported, “Researchers at University College London found that when 3-year-olds have a regular bedtime they perform better on cognitive tests administered at age 7 than children whose bedtimes weren’t consistent. The findings represent a new twist on an expanding body of research showing that inadequate sleep in children and adolescents hurts academic performance and overall health.”

The researchers in Britain were not concerned with the amount of sleep or the time of going to bed. Their concern was the function of a consistent bedtime for children and adolescents. As they reported, having a fixed bedtime turns out to have significant cognitive advantages.

The Wall Street Journal did also report on research about the amount of sleep needed by children at different ages. As Reddy explained: “In general school-age kids—kindergarten through eighth-grade—should be getting about 10 hours of sleep, while 3- and 4-year-olds might need 11 to 13 hours, including day-time naps, said Shalini Paruthi, director of the pediatric sleep and research center at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center at Saint Louis University.”

As for adolescents, research indicates that teenagers need between 8 1/2 and 9 1/4 hours on average—though many teenagers get much less sleep.

Dr. Paruthi of Saint Louis University also explained that children need about 15 minutes to transition from mental alertness to a quiet state. She recommends that parents start early with a 15 minute routine that transitions the child from wakefulness to readiness for sleep.

Of course, that is what many parents have done for years. This is the secret power of bedtime stories and the emotional closeness between parent and child as the day comes to an end. This is the perfect time for Christian parents to assure their children of God’s love and care, encourage them in the Gospel, read them a Bible story, and end with a prayer together. The gift of this kind of parental care and teaching is priceless—the perfect transition to sleep.

So, if you needed scientific research to validate your instinct about bedtime, now you have it. Sorry, kids. Bedtime matters. Handled rightly by a Christian parent, it matters even more than secular researchers can understand.

Adultery: When Law and Morality (used to) Agree

The Colorado legislature is considering the repeal of laws in the state that criminalize adultery or any act that would “promote sexual immorality.” According to Lynn Bartels of The Denver Post, the process of repeal is now well underway, with the House Judiciary Committee voting 8-3 to take adultery and sexual immorality out of the criminal code in Colorado.

Missing from the legislative debate, at least as reported in the media, is any acknowledgment of how such statutes entered the law books in the first place. Throughout most of human history, morality and law were united and in agreement when it came to the reality of adultery and the larger context of sexual immorality. Laws criminalizing adultery were adopted because the society believed that marriage was central to its own existence and flourishing, and that adultery represented a dagger struck at the heart of the society, as well as the heart of marriage.

Marriage was not considered merely a private arrangement. Every society regulates marriage, and most have adopted clear and punitive sanctions against adultery. But the moral and cultural revolutions of the past several decades have shifted the meaning of marriage from a public institution to a private contract.

Rep. Daniel Kagan (Democrat of Cherry Hills Village) seemed to be completely unaware that his own state had once considered adultery to be a sin of public consequence. “Adultery is a matter between a person and their spouse and their conscience and their minister, but not between a person and the full enforcement of the state of Colorado,” he said. He concluded: “Let’s keep the police out of our bedrooms.”

Well, the police have not conducted adultery raids in some time, Rep. Kagan. The law in Colorado criminalizes adultery, but includes no penalty. The law has been, at a bare minimum, a reminder of the public nature of marriage and the societal threat of adultery.

The sexual revolution and our cultural addiction to autonomous individualism has changed all that, but that moral shift should not go unnoticed. We are now reaping the inevitable result of treating marriage as a merely private affair, and adultery as a merely private sin. The action in the Colorado legislature is just a sign of what has already taken place in the larger culture.

Why Conservatives Should End the Debt Ceiling Debate

Watching the American scene in the 1960s, historian Daniel Boorstin, invented the idea of the “pseudo-event.” The rise of television and modern mass media had produced a transformation of the news business, so that what now mattered was not if an event was important, but only if it was “newsworthy.”

As Boorstin explained, the pseudo-event was orchestrated and planned to receive maximum public attention, even if the event itself was really unimportant. Pseudo-events merely look important, because the media and the public agree to act as if they are. As Boorstin explained, the pseudo-event is not something that happens by mistake, like a train wreck or an accident. It is something “planted primarily for the immediate purpose of being reported.” Lastly, Boorstin asserted, the pseudo-event is “intended to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Sound familiar? The pseudo-event is the driving force of American political life today, and it is a game increasingly played by both major political parties. The “fiscal cliff” was the most embarrassing recent example of a pseudo-event. Democrats and Republicans alike conspired to create a fake political crisis that each party thought would work to its own advantage. Both parties gambled that public outrage over the loss of Bush-era tax cuts would create a manufactured political crisis that would give the party and its allies political leverage.

Democrats gambled that they would get new tax revenues out of the crisis, while Republicans hoped for spending cuts. In the end, the negotiated “fix” for the pseudo-crisis was a weak combination of increased tax revenue and promised, yet unspecified, spending cuts.

The entire enterprise was tantamount to a war game played with live ammunition. Both sides claimed a modicum of victory and promised to play the game to better advantage next time. Neither side was willing to deal with what the real crisis of governance represents. The “fiscal cliff” was just a dramatic distraction from the real crisis.

As columnist David Brooks argued, “Far from laying the groundwork for future cooperation, it sentences the country to another few years of budget trench warfare. There will be a fight over drastic spending cuts known as sequestration, then over the debt limit and on and on.”

As Brooks predicted, the same debacle is now being played out with the debt limit pseudo-event. Both parties are jockeying for position. The nation has already exceeded the $16.4 trillion borrowing limit previously set by Congress. A bit of financial finagling by the Department of the Treasury has bought just a bit of time before Congress must raise the debt ceiling once again. Otherwise the United States will default on its debt.

How did this happen? Congress approved the spending, as did the President. The spending, which necessitated the borrowing, was approved by the very people who will not debate whether to pay the bills they themselves created.

Federal law requires Congress to establish a limit to national borrowing, but the U. S. Constitution requires the government to pay its debts. The debt limit requirement is merely a matter of law. The pledge to pay the nation’s debt is a mandate of the Constitution. The debt ceiling is now a political abstraction, used by both parties to create a pseudo-event.

Conservatives should be particularly unwilling to participate in such a charade, and yet many do so, thinking they can use the pseudo-event to their advantage. It is a losing game, dishonest politics, and a failure of governance.

It is intended to direct the nation’s attention away from the real crisis and onto the pseudo-event. It avoids dealing with the real disaster that looms before us.

Once again, David Brooks nailed the real issue: “Public debt as a percentage of gross domestic product was around 38 percent in 1965. It is around 74 percent now. Debt could approach a ruinous 90 percent of G.D.P. in a decade and a cataclysmic 247 percent of G.D.P. 30 years from now, according to the Congressional Budget Office and JPMorgan.”

But, do politicians bear all the blame? Not hardly. The public has an insatiable appetite for pseudo-events and a horrified aversion to the truth. Why? We are approaching the point that voters will not deal with the issue because it will cost them their entitlements. They will be glad for their children and grandchildren to pay the catastrophic debt.

As Brooks explains:

“Ultimately, we should blame the American voters. The average Medicare couple pays $109,000 into the program and gets $343,000 in benefits out, according to the Urban Institute. This is $234,000 in free money. Many voters have decided they like spending a lot on themselves and pushing costs onto their children and grandchildren. They have decided they like borrowing up to $1 trillion a year for tax credits, disability payments, defense contracts and the rest. They have found that the original Keynesian rationale for these deficits provides a perfect cover for permanent deficit-living. They have made it clear that they will destroy any politician who tries to stop them from cost-shifting in this way.”

Given this political reality, fiscal conservatives are insane to believe that these pseudo-events play to their advantage. Each “solution” to a false crisis actually lets the American people and the political class claim a false victory — even as the real crisis grows far worse.

Conservatives should point out that the Constitution demands the nation pay its debts, and that Congress and the President must take responsibility for the spending — and the massive borrowing — their actions mandate. Conservatives should point to the real crisis, stand on principle, and refuse to distract themselves and the American people with false crises and pseudo-events.

In the end, pseudo-events only serve to make the problem worse, never better. We cannot deal with the real crisis, if we keep playing the game of the pseudo-event.

The Injustice of Helpful Parents — Yet More Insanity

French President François Hollande recently announced that he wants French schools to put an end to homework. That is certain to thrill school children in the nation, but the reason for Hollande’s war on homework will likely puzzle many French citizens.

President Hollande wants to end homework in order to level the playing field for the nation’s students. As France 24 reports, Hollande told an audience at The Sorbonne, “An education program is, by definition, a societal program. Work should be done at school, rather than at home.”

He went on to explain that it was unfair for students with parents who are engaged with their schoolwork to gain an educational advantage over others, whose parents do not offer such support.

Hollande wants to neutralize the impact of parents by keeping students at school longer. As France 24 notes, French students are already staying at school longer than students in many other nations, often leaving the school “only at 5pm or 6pm.”

The more hours students spend in the government’s schools, the less hours they are at home — where inequity abounds.

As Dylan Matthews of The Washington Post explains, Hollande argues for the elimination of homework, “not in terms of student learning but as a way to equal the playing field for all students.” Further, “Poor children, he argues, are less likely to get parental aid for homework, and so requiring homework can widen the achievement gap.”

Hollande is right about the inequity. Children whose parents are not involved, for whatever reason, are surely at a serious disadvantage. Every effort to help them should be made. But even if homework is eliminated, the inequity will remain.

The reason for the inequity is clear, and it doesn’t begin when the child starts formal education. It starts at the beginning of life and in the earliest stages of infancy and childhood. Parents who talk to their children and, even more importantly, read to their children, give their children a priceless head start. Parents who spend time with their children and are involved in their school work, offering encouragement and accountability, increase that advantage. Involved and engaged parents give a child a priceless advantage.

There is another dimension to this picture, but one that most political leaders will not acknowledge. The presence of two parents in the home at least doubles the opportunity for a child to get the needed help. The breakdown of the family is a major part of the background to this problem.

The only way for this particular inequity to be eliminated is to remove children from the care of their parents and to raise them as wards of the state. Such proposals have been made by statists ranging from Plato to Lenin. To a lesser degree, similar arguments have been made in this country by educational leaders such as philosopher John Dewey. Adding even more hours to the school week is just a further step in that direction.

This is the logic of statism, proposing the state as the answer to inequities it cannot possibly resolve, and marginalizing or subverting the family in the process.

This story from France should prompt all of us to do a little homework of our own, reminding ourselves of the central importance of the family.

I discuss this story and more in today’s edition of The Briefing: A Daily Analysis of News and Events from a Christian Worldview. LISTEN HERE [The program will be available at 6:30am, EST]

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The End of the World is NOT Near. Says the Russian Government

Russia is in the grip of an apocalyptic fever. The New York Times reports that Russians across the nation’s nine time zones are in the grip of a mass hysteria of sorts — and it’s all about the end of the world.

As Ellen Barry reports:

“Inmates in a women’s prison near the Chinese border are said to have experienced a ‘collective mass psychosis’ so intense that their wardens summoned a priest to calm them. In a factory town east of Moscow, panicked citizens stripped shelves of matches, kerosene, sugar and candles. A huge Mayan-style archway is being built — out of ice — on Karl Marx Street in Chelyabinsk in the south.”

She also explains the cause of the hysteria. It seems that even Russians are fascinated with the Mayan calendar. “For those not schooled in New Age prophecy, there are rumors the world will end on Dec. 21, 2012, when a 5,125-year cycle known as the Long Count in the Mayan calendar supposedly comes to a close. Russia, a nation with a penchant for mystical thinking, has taken notice.”

The apocalyptic fever has now concerned the Russian government, which spoke to the crisis through its Minister of Emergency Situations, who assured the nation that the End is not nigh”

“Last week, Russia’s government decided to put an end to the doomsday talk. Its minister of emergency situations said Friday that he had access to ‘methods of monitoring what is occurring on the planet Earth,’ and that he could say with confidence that the world was not going to end in December. He acknowledged, however, that Russians were still vulnerable to ‘blizzards, ice storms, tornadoes, floods, trouble with transportation and food supply, breakdowns in heat, electricity and water supply.'”

Well, there you have it. The Russian Minister of Emergency Situations has “methods of monitoring what is happening on the planet Earth,” and the End is not happening. Feel better now?

The Russian Orthodox Church has also stated its doubt that the End of the World is approaching, as have other government and cultural authorities. It is unclear that this is helping anything.

The government is also considering legislative action, making it illegal to “violate believer’s feelings.” One member of Russia’s Parliament, a doctor, warned that such anxiety could upset the nervous system. “Everyone has a different nervous system, and this kind of information affects them differently. Information acts subconsciously. Some people are provoked to laughter, some to heart attacks, and some . . .  to negative actions.”

The Christian worldview points to the End of the World as a promised reality — an end that demonstrates the righteousness and justice of God and the consummation of the Gospel. God’s judgment poured out on this world is certain, but so is the promise of New Creation.

Russia bears all the marks of a radical spiritual confusion. In the aftermath of official Soviet atheism, the nation is filled with New Age confusions and a host of spiritual fevers. The Mayan calendar is just one focus of those fevers, but a potent one.

The same kind of confusions are present here in the United States, but with less intensity than in Russia. Russians, Ellen Barry explains, “can be powerfully transported by emotions.”

That, we can assume, is true of all people. Confusion marks the worldview and spirituality of millions of Americans just like the Russians, and the Mayan calendar is being watched carefully by many of our neighbors as well.

If I believed in the power of the Mayan calendar to predict the end of the world, I am not at all sure I would trust the government of Russia to tell me it isn’t so.

The Briefing, Monday, December 3, 2012

TODAY 1. The Supreme Court and Same-Sex Marriage — A Decision Not to Decide is Still a Decision. 2. First Same-Sex Marriage in West Point’s Chapel — What it Means. 3. Sharia Law Combines with Autocracy in Egypt. 4. The Two-Edged Sword of Palestinian Statehood. 5. Does Justice Require that Stay-at-Home Moms Leave Home? I discuss all these and more in today’s edition of The Briefing: A Daily Analysis of News and Events from a Christian Worldview.

1. The U.S. Supreme Court and Same-Sex Marriage — A Decision Not to Decide is Still a Decision

The justices of the Supreme Court went behind closed doors last Friday to decide whether to take a list of cases, including crucial cases concerning same-sex marriage. It was expected that the Court might announce its decision in one or more of the same-sex marriages cases on Friday, but no announcement came. This morning at 9:30 the Court has scheduled another opportunity to announce cases, but the more traditional announcement on Mondays is the list of cases the Court will not take.

Many Americans, including millions of Americans concerned about the same-sex marriage cases, may not understand what such an announcement might mean. For example, if the Court announces that it will not grant a hearing to the case known as Hollingsworth v. Perry, same-sex marriage will almost immediately become fully legal in California.

The reason for this is quite simple. If the Supreme Court decides not to take the case, it will let stand the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. That court ruled that California’s voter-initiated Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, sustaining an earlier ruling to that effect in a San Francisco Federal District Court.

In other words, a decision not to take the case is still a decision — a decision to allow the Ninth Circuit’s decision to stand.

It takes four justices to agree to take a case, and at least five justices to decide most cases. Observers of the Court often try to predict such decisions, but the decision making process of the justices is hidden from view.

In addition to the Proposition 8 appeal, there are cases dealing with the Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA], passed into law in 1996. The Court will have a harder time declining to hear that case, given the fact that it represents a frontal challenge to a Federal law passed by Congress and signed into law by the President Bill Clinton.

In any event, a decision in any of these cases, if taken up by the Court, would likely come in late summer.

Some same-sex marriage advocates are already celebrating what they believe will be a major victory at the Court, one way or the other. “2012 has already been the watershed year in the history of this movement,” Chad Griffin told USA Today. Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, also said: “It’s so clear where this country’s headed.”

Speaking of a DOMA case, Paul Clement, a former Solicitor General of the United States under President George W. Bush told the paper, “The Court will want to take this case and get it resolved.” Time will tell.

2. The First Same-Sex Marriage Ceremony in West Point’s Chapel — What it Means

This past Saturday, Cadet Chapel at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point was the site of a same-sex marriage ceremony. It was a first for the stately chapel, and it came over a year after President Obama rescinded the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” that prohibited openly-gay people from serving in the U.S. military.

As NBC News reported:

“Penelope Gnesin and Brenda Sue Fulton, a West Point graduate, were exchanging vows in the regal church in an afternoon ceremony attended by around 250 guests and conducted by a senior Army chaplain.”


“Fulton said the only hassle involved in arranging her ceremony came when she was initially told that none of West Point’s chaplains were authorized by their denominations to perform same-sex weddings. Luckily, she said, they were able to call on a friend, Army Chaplain Col. J. Wesley Smith. He is the senior Army chaplain at Dover Air Force Base, where he presides over the solemn ceremonies held when the bodies of soldiers killed in action oversees return to U.S. soil. The couple planned on adding other military trappings to their wedding, including a tradition called the saber arch, where officers or cadets hold their swords aloft over the newlyweds as they emerge from the church.”

Though the wedding was the first held in the Gothic-styled Cadet Chapel, it was the second at West Point. The first was just a week earlier, held in a smaller chapel on the campus.

According to the Pentagon, the ceremony did not indicate the Army’s approval of same-sex marriage — a doubtful point made necessary by fact that the Federal government defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

What does all this mean? The celebration of a same-sex marriage ceremony in Cadet Chapel at West Point, complete with the saber arch and full military honors, represents a huge step toward the normalization of same-sex marriage, and of homosexuality itself, in the larger society. The event was a powerful symbol of the great revolution in sexual morality that marks our times.

3. Sharia Law Combines with Autocracy in Egypt

Last week, Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi consolidated his grip on power, establishing himself as an autocrat with apparently unlimited political power. Morsi had previously handed down a set of decrees that established his rule as beyond any judicial constraint, leading to protests in the streets.

As last week came to an end, Morsi approved a rushed new draft of an Egyptian constitution. To no one’s surprise, the draft constitution supports Morsi’s new claims to power. Also to no one’s surprise, the new constitution bears all the marks of influence by Morsi’s colleagues in the Muslim Brotherhood.

The new constitution includes references to Sharia law, without specific language that would limit its application.

As The Wall Street Journal reported:

“The draft constitution was finished early Friday by Egypt’s 100-member Constituent Assembly, a body that had been conceived as representing Egyptians broadly. The group became dominated by Islamist politicians, however, after it was boycotted by Christian and secular members who had made up more than one-quarter of it.”


“Many legal experts said they saw major ambiguities and contradictions in several articles dealing with the role of Shariah, or Islamic law; the powers of the president and the legislature; the nature of the judicial and electoral systems; and the establishment of regulatory and oversight bodies and agencies.”

This is a sad development for Egypt. As one observer noted, the new constitution combines the autocracy of Anwar Sadat with the Islamist agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood. Instead of an Arab Spring, the signs in Egypt point to a new dark and dangerous epoch.

4. The Two-Edged Sword of Palestinian Statehood

The decision of the United Nations to grant “observer state” status to the Palestinians last week is still reverberating throughout the world. The U.N. took this action despite the fact that the Palestinians have utterly failed to meet the most minimal criteria for statehood. The Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States (1934) represents the international standard for defining the marks of statehood. According to that agreement: “The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: a ) a permanent population; b ) a defined territory; c ) government; and d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.”

The Palestinians have met none of these requirements. To the credit of the Obama Administration, Susan Rice, the U.S Ambassador to the United Nations, set her argument clearly: “This resolution does not establish that Palestine is a state.”

Nevertheless, the granting of “observer state” status does mean that the Palestinians can now claim to be a state, and to appeal for membership on U.N. bodies and international tribunals such as the International Criminal Court.

This may set up an interesting two-edged sword for the Palestinians, as Christine Hauser of The New York Times reports:

“In recent years, the Palestinian Authority has tried to have its accusations of Israeli war crimes investigated by the International Criminal Court, only to see its request go nowhere because the Palestinian territories were not recognized as a state. But now the court says it will take a fresh look at the issue after the United Nations General Assembly voted to enhance the standing of the Palestinians, conferring on them the word “state” as part of their new status as nonmember observers. On Friday, a spokeswoman for the prosecutors office said it ‘will consider the implications of this resolution.'”

That represents a threat to Israel, which could now find itself tied up in international criminal courts for decades. But the double-edged nature of the threat was also made clear by the Times.

Hauser reported:

“Some analysts said that by accepting the jurisdiction of the court, the Palestinians could also open themselves up to prosecution for war crimes, including Hamas’s attacks on Israeli civilians.”

The action of the U.N granting observer state status to the Palestinians is likely to breed more division, rather than to enhance the cause of peace.

5. Does Justice Require that Stay-at-Home Moms Leave Home?

Jill Filipovic of The Guardian [London] begins her article by pointing to a recent statement by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bade Ginsburg that has drawn a good bit of controversy. Justice Ginsburg said last month that there will be enough women on the Supreme Court when there are nine female justices.

In her words:

“So now the perception is, yes, women are here to stay. And when I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the supreme court]? And I say when there are nine, people are shocked. But ther’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”

Filipovic  then argued that “It’s not unreasonable to think that, at some point, nine of the finest legal minds in the country would belong to women.

Interestingly, that is where the article actually gets interesting. Filipovic turns to argue why more women are not reaching the highest ranks of the law. Her answer is that the desire to “have it all” takes many women out of the routes to power in the law and other professions. As women decide to marry and have children they take on responsibilities that limit their progress in their chosen profession.

In an extended argument, Filipovic argues that many men actually do “have it all” because they have stay-at-home wives. As she explains,

“Consider, for example, the fact that only 44% of married male lawyers have a spouse who is employed full-time. That means that more than half of male lawyers have a person at home who can dedicate significant amounts of time to taking care of every aspect of the couples’ out-of-work life: housekeeping, childcare, home finances, vacation-planning, social calendaring. Female lawyers, by contrast, are overwhelmingly married to partners who have full-time jobs. It’s a whole lot easier to be the kind of employee who works 16-hour days and dedicates your life to your job when that’s the only thing you actually have to worry about – because you have a spouse who takes care of all the rest.”

Her answer to this inequity?

“Justice Ginsburg is right: there will be enough women on the supreme court when we see it filled by nine female justices. But that won’t happen until women have real access to power and when, crucially, men start to change by actually pulling their own weight, not relying on stay-at-home wives, being aware of just how deep unconscious gender bias goes, making efforts to promote and mentor women, and recognizing that, for all of their individual hard work, they were also given a heck of a lot for free.”

She asserts that men must pull their own weight and stop “relying on stay-at-home wives.” In her worldview, justice requires that stay-at-home wives and moms must leave home and go into the workforce simply because their existence in the home is harming their professional sisters.

Filipovic is not alone in making this kind of argument, but it is still worth taking a clear-headed look at it when it appears in public. Brace yourselves for similar arguments to come. The feminist movement is supposed to be all about choice, but leading feminists show little respect for women who decide to stay at home as wives and mothers.

I discuss all these stories and more in today’s edition of The Briefing: A Daily Analysis of News and Events from a Christian Worldview. LISTEN HERE.

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The Briefing, Friday, November 30, 2012

TODAY: Another Decision Day at the Supreme Court — Marriage on the Line / Does the Fiscal Cliff Really Matter? / The Gender Police Hit a Toy Store / The United Nations Grants Palestinians Observer State Status, But Where is the State? I discuss all these and more in today’s edition of The Briefing: A Daily Analysis of News and Events from a Christian Worldview.

1. Another Day of Decision at the U.S. Supreme Court — Marriage on the Line

The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court will meet behind closed doors today to decide whether to take a case that will require the Court to rule on the question of same-sex marriage. The case in question today is an appeal by defenders of California’s Proposition 8, the measure passed by the voters of that state in 2008. That voter initiative defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman, overturning a decision by the California Supreme Court that legalized same-sex marriage.

Advocates for same-sex marriage went to the Federal courts, demanding a repeal of Proposition 8. They won at both a Federal District Court in San Francisco and at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Defenders of Proposition 8 now hope for the U.S. Supreme Court to take the appeal. Otherwise, the decision of the Ninth Circuit will stand and Proposition 8 will be stricken down.

As Bill Mears, Supreme Court reporter for CNN explains:

“The justices will meet privately Friday for a closed-door conference to decide if they will accept any of 10 pending appeals, essentially over whether a fundamental constitutional right for gays and lesbians to marry exists. If they agree to hear the issue, oral arguments would be likely be held in March with a ruling by late June.”

In other words, the Court could also decide to take another case on the same issue, particularly one that challenges the Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA] that defines marriage for the Federal government as the union of a man and a woman.

Political considerations are always at work, as Mears acknowledges:

“As more states legalize same-sex marriage, one of the key questions the justices may be forced to address is whether a national consensus now exists supporting the idea of expanding an “equal protection” right of marriage to homosexuals. Three separate issues confront the justices, who are likely to only accept only one for review in coming months. These include federal benefits, state benefits and state referendums.”

One way or another, the Supreme Court will have to rule on some question related to same-sex marriage. If it decides to take one of these cases now, it could hand down a decision that is limited in effect to California, or it could also take either the Proposition 8 case or the DOMA case and hand down a ruling with nationwide effect. Even if a decision has direct implications only for California, the impact will be national. The direction set by the Supreme Court in any one of these cases will tell us a very great deal about the direction the Court intends to go on the larger question of same-sex marriage and the law.

2. Does the Fiscal Cliff Really Matter?

Should Christians in the United States give much attention to the fight in Washington over the so-called “Fiscal Cliff?” The short answer to that question is yes. The Fiscal Cliff is not the largest financial, economic, or political crisis facing the United States — but it is the most urgent.

Just what is the Fiscal Cliff? The Wall Street Journal explains it succinctly:

“The fiscal cliff is the combination of large spending cuts and tax increases that are scheduled to be automatically enacted at the start of 2013. Bush-era income-tax cuts will expire for tens of millions of Americans, and billions of dollars of spending cuts will take effect because Congress couldn’t reach a deal last year to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years. Democrats want a combination of spending cuts and tax increases for upper-income households. Republicans want to cut spending but don’t want to raise tax rates, though they have signaled they would consider raising revenue through other measures, such as limiting deductions. Both want to avoid the fiscal cliff, because it forces severe cuts, particularly in military spending.”

This represents a true and urgent crisis — partly because the issues directly involved are so critical, but even more because the impact of “going over” the Fiscal Cliff would almost surely lead to another economic recession.

The prospects for avoiding that catastrophe are not clear, given the divide that separates Democrats and Republicans. Nevertheless, neither party can afford to allow the nation to “go over” the Fiscal Cliff — nor to be seen as responsible for making that happen.

In the end, however, avoiding the Fiscal Cliff is not the greatest challenge our political leaders face. The greater challenge is dealing with the fact that we are borrowing ourselves into national peril, robbing future generations as we do. If the long-term economic facts are not faced with courage, the Fiscal Cliff of 2013 will be hardly worth remembering.

As Robert Pear of The New York Times explains, President Obama and the Democrats now face the greater responsibility — facing the crisis of entitlement spending.

As he reports:

“President Obama’s re-election and Democratic gains in Congress were supposed to make it easier for the party to strike a deal with Republicans to resolve the year-end fiscal crisis by providing new leverage. But they could also make it harder as empowered Democrats, including some elected on liberal platforms, resist significant changes in entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. As Congress returned Monday, the debate over those programs, which many Democrats see as the core of the party’s identity, was shaping up as the Democratic version of the higher-profile struggle among Republicans over taxes.”

Pear offers an insightful report, including the fact that some argue that if Social Security and Medicare are transformed by Democrats into welfare programs, rather than earned benefits, the programs themselves will quickly lose public support.

Any agreement will likely require an increase in Federal revenue by tax income. But no tax increase can come close to closing the gap on entitlement spending. That represents a moral crisis larger than any Fiscal Cliff.

3. The Gender Police Hit a Toy Store

Back on November 15 I reported on a preschool in Sweden that had disallowed the use of masculine and feminine pronouns among the children. The pronouns for “he’ and “she” are now replaced with “hen,” a newly created word that is supposedly free from gender.

As reporter John Tagliabue of The New York Times told the story:

“At an ocher-color preschool along a lane in Stockholm’s Old Town, the teachers avoid the pronouns ‘him’ and ‘her,’ instead calling their 115 toddlers simply ‘friends.’ Masculine and feminine references are taboo, often replaced by the pronoun ‘hen,’ an artificial and genderless word that most Swedes avoid but is popular in some gay and feminist circles.”

The article also included this:

“Peter Rudberg, 36, an anesthesiologist whose 3-year-old son, Hjalmar, attends the kindergarten, called its gender-neutral approach ‘a boon,’ though, like many Swedes, he believes the country has moved beyond the problem. ‘In modern Sweden, gender equality is a nonissue,’ he said. Yet he cautioned against extremes, like ‘boys prohibited from playing boys’ games.'”

Well, Mr. Rudberg, you had better watch what is happening at Top Toy, a major toy store chain in Sweden. As The Herald Sun [Australia] reports, the Swedish affiliate of Toys-R-Us has had to go gender-neutral in advertising, after being sanctioned by the national advertising authority for the crime of portraying boys with toy machine guns and girls with dolls.

From the report:

“The country’s advertising watchdog reprimanded the company for gender discrimination three years ago following complaints over outdated gender roles in the 2008 Christmas catalogue, which featured boys dressed as superheroes and girls playing princess. A comparison between this year’s Toys R Us catalogs in Sweden and Denmark, where Top Toy is also the franchisee, showed that a boy wielding a toy machine gun in the Danish edition had been replaced by a girl in Sweden. Elsewhere, a girl was Photoshopped out of the ‘Hello Kitty’ page, a girl holding a baby doll was replaced by a boy, and, in sister chain BR’s catalogue, a young girl’s pink T-shirt was turned light blue. Top Toy, Sweden’s largest toy retailer by number of stores, said it had received ‘training and guidance’ from the Swedish advertising watchdog, which is a self-regulatory agency.”

Reflecting the “training and guidance” the company had received from the advertising police, the Director of Sales told the paper: “With the new gender thinking, there is nothing that is right or wrong. It’s not a boy or girl thing, it’s a toy for children.”

Does he actually believe that? Note that the “gender-neutral” approach required “photoshopping” the photographs. Actual children allowed to choose for themselves are unlikely to get with this program, regardless of the advertising. Gender still matters. Give a six-year-old boy a doll this Christmas and you will probably see that truth in living color.

4. The United Nations Grants the Palestinians Observer State Status — But Where is the State?

Voting 138-9, the United Nations General Assembly granted the Palestinians observer state status, handing Palestinian leaders a great gift. The new status will allow the Palestinians to participate in debates at the U.N. and to request seating on U.N. agencies and the International Criminal Court.

The move was strongly opposed by both Israel and the United States. Very few media reports even mentioned the fact that the Palestinians had utterly failed to meet the leading criteria for state status, but they were granted observer state status anyway.

The Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States (1934) represents the gold standard for defining the marks of statehood. According to that international agreement:

“The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: a ) a permanent population; b ) a defined territory; c ) government; and d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.”

The Palestinians have met none of these criteria. Most importantly, the failure of the Palestinians to form a stable government is made clear by the fact that the Palestinian Authority is not even in functional control of Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas.

This was a political decision that was as much about marginalizing Israel as about rewarding the Palestinians.

I discuss all these stories and more in today’s edition of The Briefing: A Daily Analysis of News and Events from a Christian Worldview LISTEN HERE

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