Mere Links 02.13.15
Friday, February 13, 2015, 10:41 AM

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the Economy of Love
by Jordan J. Ballor
When I consider the state of the world, the total obscurity enshrouding our personal destiny, and my present imprisonment, our union—if it wasn’t frivolity, which it certainly wasn’t—can only be a token of God’s grace and goodness, which summon us to believe in him. We would have to be blind not to see that. . . .

Did Stephen Fry’s passionate denunciation of God make sense?
by J. Fraser Field
A two-minute outburst became a YouTube sensation.

Martin Luther Playmobil Toy is Fastest-Selling of All Time
by Felicity Capon
Astronomical sales of a tiny figurine of the Protestant reformation figure Martin Luther, have confounded its maker, Playmobil, by becoming the fastest-selling Playmobil figure of all time. . . .



Happy St. Valentine’s Day
Friday, February 13, 2015, 9:17 AM

Saturday is St. Valentine’s Day, one of my favorite days of the year.  It is a lovely and romantic day, and I am sure that many of my readers have wonderful memories of St. Valentine’s Day.  I still get nostalgic about those sweet penny cards we would get in elementary school. I enjoyed making and sending them to my classmates, and on occasion, I would get one or two back as well. On this St. Valentine’s Day, a new film will premiere based upon a series of novels.

Julie Baumgardner published an essay in which she expressed surprise at the popularity of these novels. She observed:

Since the height of the women’s movement, women have fought to not be viewed as just sexual objects.  Women want to be seen as bright and capable of accomplishing great things in life, and deserving of respect.  For years, females of all ages have been taught the difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy one. . . . “I think women who are intrigued by this book have to ask themselves, what is it about this guy that appeals to you?” said Pam Johnson, Licensed Clinical Social Worker.  “Being willing to turn over the keys to your life to someone who wants to dominate and control you has a very high price tag.

valentinemosaic 150x150 Happy St. Valentine’s DayEmphasis added. St. Valentine’s Day is, of course, a holiday that is more than about romantic love, and is deeply rooted in Christian tradition.  The day commemorates one or more Christian martyrs named Valentinus.  One of the better known stories is of Saint Valentinus of Rome, who was a priest and physician.  St. Valentius was imprisoned for performing weddings for Christian soldiers who were forbidden to marry.  Emperor Claudius Gothicus decreed that his soldiers could not marry. The Emperor believed that unmarried soldiers were better fighters because married soldiers might be more concerned about what would happen to their wives and families if they were killed in battle. I guess that the Roman Veterans Administration was even worse than ours. Although the Emperor Nero married several men and ancient Rome was a morally degenerate society, the Church then considered marriage as sacred between one man and one woman for life, and encouraged marriage. Accordingly, St. Valentinus secretly married the soldiers.  When he was caught, St. Valentinus was imprisoned and tortured.  The story is told that one of his jailers was Asterius, whose daughter was blind.  St. Valentinus prayed with the young girl, and she regained her sight.  As a result, Asterius became a Christian.  In 269 A.D., St. Valentinus was sentenced to die through a three-part execution that involved beating, stoning, and finally, decapitation because of his stand in support of traditional Christian marriage. In one of his last acts, he wrote a letter to the daughter of Asterius, and signed his letter “from your Valentine.”  St. Valentine’s Day is not merely about romantic love, as it should also remind us of God’s love.  Jesus commanded us to love God, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  For Christians, love is not something one earns; rather, it is given freely. So we can reasonably expect that St. Valentine’s Day might be accompanied by romantic dinners and cards, chocolates, roses and other flowers, and jewelry. But, on this St. Valentine’s Day, let us also remember the example of St. Valentinus who shows us that there could come a time when we might have to lay down our lives for what we believe about traditional Christian marriage. And as Ms. Baumgardner concluded in her essay, “Any relationship that dominates, degrades, and fails to nourish and cherish is nothing more than a work of fiction. When a woman learns to first love herself for who she is, there is no room for shades of gray.” Indeed.  Happy St. Valentine’s Day.



Planned Parenthood And Black History Month
Monday, February 9, 2015, 12:27 PM

February is Black History Month when we recognize the many contributions to American society made by African-Americans. All Americans should be proud of those contributions. Last week, on February 4th, we celebrated the 102nd birth anniversary of Rosa Parks, who has been called “the mother of the freedom movement” and “the first lady of civil rights.” From our nation’s founding, African-Americans have been active in the establishment of our country. As merely one example, in 1852, William Cooper Nell wrote Services of Colored Americans in the Wars of 1776 and 1812, and then three years later, published The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution. I commend these books to your reading as both are readily available.

472px MargaretSanger Underwood.LOC  150x150 Planned Parenthood And Black History MonthAlso “celebrating” Black History Month is Planned Parenthood (“PP”). As regular readers of Touchstone and Salvo magazines know, the founder of PP, Margaret Sanger was a vile racist and a proponent of eugenics who sought to eliminate the “unfit.” In the so-called Negro Project, she opened a clinic in Harlem with the goal of preventing the birth of those she considered inferior or unfit, and to provide abortions as a “solution” to poverty. The pseudo-science of eugenics then influenced social policy and legislation. In the appalling 1927 Supreme Court decision of Buck v. Bell, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the nearly unanimous opinion in which Carrie Buck, a poor girl in a public institution in Virginia, was compelled to undergo forced sterilization. In the decision, Justice Holmes famously wrote that “three generations of imbeciles is enough.” Thus, Ms. Buck was sterilized against her will, and the eugenics movement used the Supreme Court’s decision to sterilize many thousands of people in our nation’s public hospitals. The decision legitimized eugenic sterilization laws in the United States, and dozens of states afterwards added new sterilization statutes. W.E.B. Du Bois served on the board of Sanger’s Harlem clinic. In 1899, Du Bois drew on interviews and census data to produce “The Philadelphia Negro: A Society Study.” Du Bois spent one year living in the neighborhood he wrote about, amid what he described as “an atmosphere of dirt, drunkenness, poverty, and crime.” He had disdain for many of his subjects, especially those he called “the dregs,” and described the large number of unmarried mothers, many of whom he characterized as “ignorant and loose.” But in addition to Du Bois, Sanger recruited the help of other famous African-Americans Mary McLeod Bethune and Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., to sell the Negro Project as a “solution” to poverty and high birth rates. Then, in 1965, the Assistant Secretary of Labor under President Johnson, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, wrote a government report entitled “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.” In his report, Moynihan cited sociologists and government surveys to underscore that the Negro community was doing badly, and its condition was probably “getting worse, not better.” His report’s main focus, however, was “the deterioration of the Negro family,” which he considered “the fundamental source of the weakness of the Negro community.”

PP, in its recent announcement celebrating Black History Month, acknowledged its “complicated” history regarding the black community. As just one example, in Sanger’s December 19, 1939, letter to Dr. Clarence Gamble, she wrote:

We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities. The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.

Emphasis added. Strikingly as it may seem, Sanger’s work earned praise from the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who received the Margaret Sanger Award for 1966. This award is PP’s highest honor, and is given to recognize leadership in reproductive health rights. So, yes, PP indeed has a complicated history with the black community.

At the time of Moynihan’s report, he despaired that the illegitimacy rates for black children was approaching twenty-five percent. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”), the equivalent rate in 2013 was 71.5 percent. Moreover, since 1973, of the almost 60 million abortions in the United States, more than 16 million abortions have been performed on African-American women. It is estimated that, on average, 1,876 black pregnancies are aborted each day. According to the CDC, African-American women are more than four times more likely to have an abortion than non-Hispanic white women. In 2012, more black babies were aborted in New York City than were born, and the aborted black babies were 42.4% of all abortions performed in that city. Who can even begin to fathom how many Ben Carsons, Colin Powells, Tony Evans, and Maya Angelous were among those sixteen million. But now, you can no longer say that you didn’t know. During this Black History Month, please pray in particular for the clear witness of churches in black communities across our country, and that the scourge of genocide of black babies will end.



Professor Robert P. George and Raif Badawi
Friday, February 6, 2015, 12:43 PM

George Professor Robert P. George and Raif BadawiLast Saturday, January 31, 2015, I had the privilege to attend “Speak Out Illinois 2015,” a conference of pro-life activists that was held in suburban Chicago. The conference was attended by approximately 600 persons, including large numbers of young people, and was organized by a number of pro-life organizations. At the conclusion of the conference, a memorial was held for the almost 60 million babies that have been murdered in the womb in the United States since the Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court in 1973. The keynote speech was given by Professor Robert P. George of Princeton University, a great friend of Touchstone and Salvo magazines. In his powerful address, entitled “Bearing Faithful Witness to Life and Facing Persecution,” he echoed the words of Dr. Martin Luther King in his last sermon preached the evening before his assassination. That night, Dr. King said, God had “allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land.” Professor George reminded his hearers that he also sees that the days of abortion in the United States are coming to an end. (May it be so, Lord Jesus.) Professor George has been described by the New York Times as America’s “most influential conservative Christian thinker.” Supreme Court Justice and former Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan praised Professor George as “one of the nation’s most respected legal theorists,” saying that the respect he earned was due to “his sheer brilliance, the analytic power of his arguments, the range of his knowledge,” and “a deeply principled conviction, a profound and enduring integrity.” The Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that Professor George “echoes the conspiracy theories of the radical right.” Well, I suppose that not even Professor George can win them all.

Among the many responsibilities of Professor George, in 2012, he was appointed to the federal United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, and in 2013, he was elected Chairman of the Commission. In this context, Professor George, along with six others, have offered to take 100 lashes each for Saudi blogger Raif Badawi. Mr. Badawi was sentenced to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes for insulting his country’s clerics. Mr. Badawi is Moslem, and has already received his first 50 lashes. However, his next round of flogging has been postponed as the wounds from his first lashing haven’t fully healed.

In the letter to the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, the writers stated:

Compassion, a virtue honored in Islam as well as in Christianity, Judaism, and other faiths, is defined as “suffering with another.” We are persons of different faiths, yet we are united in a sense of obligation to condemn and resist injustice and to suffer with its victims, if need be. We therefore make the following request. If your government will not remit the punishment of Raif Badawi, we respectfully ask that you permit each of us to take 100 of the lashes that would be given to him. We would rather share in his victimization than stand by and watch him being cruelly tortured. If your government does not see fit to stop this from happening, we are prepared to present ourselves to receive our share of Mr. Badawi’s unjust punishment.

In addition to Professor George, the six others include Mary Ann Glendon, member of the Board, Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, M. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, Professor Daniel Mark, Department of Political Science, Villanova University, Hannah Rosenthal, CEO, Milwaukee Jewish Federation, Eric Schwartz, Dean, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, and Katrina Lantos Swett, president of Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice. The seven include Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, Christians, Jews, and a Moslem.

In recent weeks, the Church celebrated the life of Saint Paulinus the Merciful, Bishop of Nolanum, who died in 431 A.D. Church history teaches us that when the Vandal barbarians invaded Italy and carried many off into captivity, Bishop Paulinus used church funds to ransom the captives, but when he did not have enough money to ransom the son of a certain poor widow, the Bishop went voluntarily into slavery in the place of this young man. The Lord Jesus taught us in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Thank you, Professor George, for your clear Christian witness, and for your offer to stand with Mr. Badawi in the tradition of Saint Paulinus. Please pray for Raif Badawi during his time of suffering, and for the many Christians in Saudi Arabia who live under the tyranny and brutality of their clerics.



Is Theology Practical?
Friday, February 6, 2015, 12:00 PM

Lopez: Is theology ever practical, really?

Kreeft: Theology is always practical because nothing is more practical than living in reality, living in the real world, and God is the origin, center, end, and meaning of reality. If that’s not true, let’s be pagans, atheists, or TV executives.

This comes from a recent interview at NRO with Peter Kreeft regarding his new book Practical Theology: Spiritual Direction from St. Thomas Aquinas. I have recently been enjoying his book Socrates Meets Kierkegaard: The Father of Philosophy Meets the Father of Christian Existentialism and am looking forward to Dr. Kreeft’s latest work.

New Touchstone readers will be interested to know that we published an article by him in the November/December 2012 issue.

Clashing Symbols
The Loss of Aristotelian Logic & the Social, Moral & Sexual Consequences by Peter Kreeft

When I started teaching logic, in 1962, most of the textbooks taught traditional Aristotelian logic rather than the (then still fairly new) “symbolic logic,” also called “mathematical logic” or “propositional calculus.” Forty years later, there are only two full-length texts of traditional Aristotelian logic in print. One of them is my own recently published logic textbook, Socratic Logic (St. Augustine’s Press), from which much of the middle part of this article is taken. All the other logic texts, over 500 of them, teach symbolic logic, or else informal logic (rhetoric).

By the 1970s, most of the English-speaking philosophical establishment had cast in its lot with “analytic philosophy” and the symbolic logic that was its methodological complement. I still vividly remember the reaction of outrage, fear, and loathing that came from that establishment when Henry Veatch published his attack on the new logic (The Two Logics). The book was a bit verbose, bombastic, and intemperate, but it possessed the three most important (and most rare) qualities any book of philosophy should have: it was interesting, it was rational, and it was right. That’s why the establishment “went postal.” People will forgive you for being wrong, but they will never forgive you for being right.

But this change in logic is not just a technical, in-house issue for philosophers. It concerns everyone, and it has serious social, moral, and even sexual implications, and it is one of the unrecognized indirect causes of “the culture of death,” as I shall try to show in this article.

continue reading . . .



Mere Links 02.06.15
Friday, February 6, 2015, 9:00 AM

Do we really want to restrict the medical profession to doctors who are willing to kill?
by Wesley J. Smith
The culture of death brooks no dissent.

Carl Djerassi, father of the pill, dies
by Carolyn Moynihan
Did he ever doubt the wisdom of the contraceptive revolution?

Vaccines and Aborted Human Fetal Tissue
by Justin Smith and Joe Carter

Death of a Prisoner
By Nina Shea
Bishop Shi, 94, was a Christian martyr in Communist China.



Civilization in the Balance
Thursday, February 5, 2015, 9:57 AM

Screen Shot 2015 02 05 at 9.55.20 AM 205x300 Civilization in the BalanceRecommended reading from the Touchstone archives: An Interview with Michael Nazir-Ali (Bishop of Rochester from 1994 – 2009). After a short introduction–and a quote from Winston Churchill–it begins:

Rory Fitzgerald (RF): Do you believe that Christian civilization is in peril now, as in 1940?

Michael Nazir-Ali (MNA): I used to speak of a moral and spiritual vacuum that was created by the catastrophic loss of discourse in terms of the Judaeo-Christian tradition in the public place. I think that vacuum is now giving way to a hostility to the Judaeo-Christian worldview, in terms of family, respect for the beginning stages of life, and respect for the end of life.

I am pursuing a twin track on this: On the one hand, you have to uphold the Judaeo-Christian tradition as a basis for making the most important moral decisions that need to be made: just-war criteria, ethical decisions on the dignity of the human person and family.

At same time, I am conscious that if present trends continue, we need another strategy, which is the Alasdair MacIntyre strategy, which is what happened in the last Dark Age, when Christian communities preserved the gospel learning, and a kind of humanism, so that there were lights in the darkness. I think it would be wise for the churches also to build strong moral and spiritual communities that can survive and flourish in the darkness, and indeed attract other people to themselves.

Read the entire article here.



Mere Links 02.04.15
Wednesday, February 4, 2015, 2:35 PM

Has the Catholic Church Changed Its Teaching on Sex and Marriage?
by Robert P. George
Amid reports of “earthquakes” and “seismic” shifts, we ought to remember the Catholic Church’s moral teachings in their wholeness, which have not shifted.

The Persecution of Gordon College
by David French
Traditional Christian education is under attack.

Creating three-parent embryos is eugenics – sadly, British MPs don’t get it
by Laura Keynes
They have voted 3 to 1 to go down that path.

Super Bowl and Sermonizing
with John Mark Reynolds
On the “preachy commercials” during the Super Bowl and has a message for those of us who tend to be overly serious.



On Objectification and Brother Ass
Tuesday, February 3, 2015, 11:51 AM

ass 300x179 On Objectification and Brother AssFrom the archives. An insightful observation about pornography as “objectification.” From Touchstone senior editor Anthony Esolen.

There are two deeper problems with that business about “objectification.” The first is simple. Where does it say that objectification is always wrong?

Consider what goes on when we engage in broad humor. A great deal of our laughter arises from the embarrassment of having to cart this body around, this Brother Ass, as St. Francis affectionately called it. There is a humility in physical humor: You allow yourself to be reduced to an object, a sack of potatoes, a lumpy thing with a wobbling center of gravity; Jackie Gleason like an elephant a-tiptoe, roaring and shaking his hammered thumb, or Lucille Ball wrestling with a contadina in a vat of grapes. Bawdy humor—which may be risky yet quite innocent too—also depends upon the humble object.

I think of the merriment of old-fashioned country songsters drunkenly hallooing and waking the poor bridegroom and bride in the middle of the night. Even in the playfulness of lovemaking there’s a delight not simply in the soul of one’s spouse, but in that good old lumpiness, the physicality, the downright tool-ishness. Innocent Adam and Eve surely would not always have thought about souls. Three cheers, then, for objects!

Well, I know that everything depends upon what that object is and what we are doing with it. And I know that what begins as bawdy may grow obscene, and obscenity has its own devils waiting to snap you up. But let’s be clear about our objects here. Porn is rarely bawdy; there is no good laughter in it. Laughter might dispel the fascination. The object the user views may be grotesque, but it is not meant to be silly.

And that brings us to the second problem. The pornographic image is not that of the human being reduced to an object. If only it were! For that would be less diabolical. It is instead that of the human being raised to an object: an idol. Watch the eyes of someone in the sin’s grip. Note the blank staring stupor. You are in the presence not of brutish violence but of stultifying idolatry; not a reveling in the body but an eerie flight from it.

Read the entire article here: XXX-Communicated: Anthony Esolen on Why Pornography Is Not the Sin We Say It Is



The Moral Courage of Chief Justice Roy Moore
Tuesday, February 3, 2015, 11:09 AM

iStock 000025529771 Small 166x300 The Moral Courage of Chief Justice Roy MooreThe Honorable Callie Virginia Smith “Ginny” Granade, a federal judge in Alabama appointed by President George W. Bush in 2001, recently ruled in favor of two women who had challenged Alabama’s refusal to recognize their California marriage. In this case, the plaintiffs, Cari Searcy and Kimberly McKeand, testified that they were a “couple” for more than a decade, and that they had a child together (with the help of a sperm donor). An Alabama court refused to recognize Ms. Searcy as the child’s adoptive parent because Alabama state law does not recognize the lesbians as spouses. The attorney for the ladies said that they were ecstatic at Judge Granade’s ruling. Judge Granade held that both the Alabama adoption statute and the 2006 amendment to the Alabama Constitution prohibiting homosexual and lesbian marriages, which incidentally passed with the support of a staggering 81 percent of Alabama voters, were in violation of the equal-protection clause of the United States Constitution.

In response to Judge Granade’s legal grenade, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore declared that he will not recognize her ruling, and called upon Governor Robert Bentley to do the same. In Chief Justice Moore’s letter to Governor Bentley, he states that the United States Constitution gives no jurisdiction or authority whatsoever to any branch of the federal government to dictate marriage policy to the individual states under Article I, Section 8. Yes, the word “marriage” does not occur in the U.S. Constitution and the federal government is given no grant of authority in the matter of marriage. Surprisingly to some, the 14th Amendment, upon which the Honorable Judge Granade based her ruling, was about slavery and not marriage. In fact, it is important to remember that homosexual conduct was a crime everywhere in the United States at the time that the 14th Amendment was adopted in 1868. Therefore, Chief Justice Moore correctly concluded that the definition of marriage is reserved to the states, and to the states alone, in accordance with the 10th Amendment. Justice Moore writes, “As Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, I will continue to recognize the Alabama Constitution and the will of the people overwhelmingly expressed in the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment.” Forty-four federal judges have imposed their immoral views on the citizens of 21 states who had voted to preserve traditional marriage. These 44 unelected federal judges disenfranchised the will of tens of millions of voters. As one option, Governor Bentley can defy Judge Granade’s unconstitutional federal ruling by forbidding county clerks to issue marriage licenses in violation of the state constitution. Alliance Defending Freedom has an army of attorneys pledged to defend on a pro bono basis any state or county clerks who refuse to issue homosexual or lesbian “marriage” licenses on grounds of conscience. And should local state judges be forced to “marry” homosexual and lesbian couples in civil ceremonies against their consciences? The United States Supreme Court will ultimately decide by this coming June whether to overturn bans on homosexual and lesbian marriages that have been previously upheld in Kentucky, Tennessee, Michigan, and Ohio, and whether homosexuals and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry one another everywhere in the United States. (Of course, if homosexuals and lesbians prevail, then on the same reasoning, any concealed firearm permit issued in any jurisdiction should also be legal nationwide without restriction. But I digress.)

Yesterday, the Eastern Church celebrated the martyrdom of Bassus, Eusebius, Eutychius and Basilides at Nicomedia in 303 A.D. History tells us that they had been courtiers of the Roman emperor Diocletian, but they were also witnesses of the suffering and martyrdom of the local bishop Theopemptos. Afterwards, the courtiers came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Because of their decision to follow Christ, these government officials were tortured and put to death. We increasingly live in an America that grows more hostile daily to traditional moral values, and where it becomes more difficult to live our daily lives by the dictates of our Christian faith and conscience. Please pray for Governor Bentley and Chief Justice Moore, and for the many local judges and county officials who may have to pay a price for the sake of conscience as did the blessed martyrs of Nicomedia. Many of these officials in Alabama are of our household of faith.


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