Get Those Kids a Toothbrush, Soap, and Blankets!

Watch Mike Pence dodge the question and try to blame it all on the Democrats.  It is sad and pathetic to watch this Christian man put politics over conscience.  Notice how Pence tries ignore Tapper’s questions by bringing up long-term and big picture solutions.

If Trump wanted to help these kids, he could do it and do it now.  And where is court evangelical Franklin Graham and Samaritan’s Purse?  Doesn’t Graham’s ministry help kids like this?  Why isn’t Samaritan Purse’s in El Paso TODAY with shoe boxes full of supplies.

Here is what Franklin is tweeting about these days:

But apparently not in El Paso.

Here is Franklin picking a fight with Madonna:

And while kids are living in unsanitary conditions on the border, Franklin is railing against the “secularists”:

And he wants everyone to know that Kathie Lee Gifford is getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame:

Court evangelicalism paralyzes people like Graham.  He can’t help these kids because he has to remain loyal to the POTUS.  Let’s hope and pray he changes his mind and makes a phone call to Trump asking for permission to bring his relief agency to El Paso.

And while we are at it, let’s try to solve our immigration problem in a way that makes such detention camps unnecessary.

What is Going on at Villanova University?


Nova

Is something in the water at the Philadelphia-area Catholic university?  (And no, this post has nothing to do with basketball).

32 students won Fulbrights this year.  Here is a taste of Susan Snyder’s piece at The Philadelphia Inquirer:

Stephen Gironda can’t believe his fortune.

“My jaw drops sometimes in the middle of the shower,” said the 25-year-old from Monmouth County, N.J.

Gironda won a coveted nine-month Fulbright award that will carry him to Rome to research how diet, exercise, and other factors affect susceptibility to addiction. He’ll be working under a distinguished researcher in that field whose work he closely followed while getting his master’s at Villanova University.

At Villanova, such fortune is becoming common.

Villanova students won 32 Fulbright awards this school year, double its tally from last year. While the Fulbright program hasn’t released its numbers by school for the current year, history suggests Villanova could land in or near the top nationwide.

Brown and Princeton, both Ivies, typically lead the pack. Brown this month announced it had 38 winners. Princeton had 32. The University of Pennsylvania, also an Ivy, had 21.

More than 35 percent of Villanova students and alumni who applied were accepted this year. Of research universities with 80 or more applicants, no other school has had an acceptance rate that high since 2004-05, said Michael T. Westrate, Villanova’s director of the Center for Research and Fellowships.

“Our students … are punching outside their weight class,” said Westrate, himself a former Fulbright scholar.

Read the rest here.

Happy Birthday to “The Way of Improvement Leads Home”

11thEleven years ago today, while sitting in the scholars residence of the David Library of the American Revolution, I started blogging about matters related to American history, American religion, politics, and academic life.  We are still going strong here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  Not many blogs last this long, so we appreciate all of your support over the years!

Here are some of the year’s highlights:

We will continue to bring you the kind of content you expect from The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  Keep reading and spread the word about what we are doing here via social media.

Thanks again!

Taylor University President Lowell Haines Has Resigned After Serving Three Years

Taylor

Some of you may recall the controversy surrounding Taylor University’s decision to invite Mike Pence to deliver the 2019 commencement address.  We covered the controversy here and here and here and here.

We just got word that Taylor University president Lowell Haines has resigned.  I have no idea if this is related to the Pence controversy.

I did find it interesting that Haines lists, among the accomplishments of his three-year tenure at Taylor, the fact that he invited Pence, Tim Tebow, Christian singer Michael W. Smith, and the head basketball coach of Ohio State to speak on campus.

Here is the press release:

Upland, IN, June 24, 2019 – Taylor University Board of Trustees Chair Paige Cunningham, J.D., Ph.D., announced today that President Paul Lowell Haines, Ed.D., J.D., has resigned from Taylor University, effective August 15, 2019.

“We are saddened by Dr. Haines’ decision, but we are deeply grateful to him and to his wife Sherry for their personal commitment to the vision and historical, evangelical, orthodox Christian mission and purposes of Taylor University and to the institution’s foundational positions and policies. These policies, with the full support of the Board of Trustees, have been strengthened on his watch,” said Dr. Cunningham.

Cunningham added that Dr. Haines’ resignation was neither solicited nor encouraged by the Board of Trustees. He continues to enjoy strong support from the Board and remains supportive of and optimistic about the University’s future.

“It has been the greatest privilege and honor of our lives to serve our beloved alma mater in various capacities over the last 44 years, and especially the opportunity during these last three years for me to lead as President,” said Haines, a 1975 alumnus of the University. “We have been humbled by the faith placed in us, and the love, support and prayers of the Taylor community.” 

Haines returned to Taylor after a long career as a higher education lawyer with the international law firm of Faegre Baker Daniels, during which he served the University for more than 15 years as a member of the University’s Board of Trustees. Prior to attending law school at Indiana University-Bloomington, he served at Taylor from 1977-1987, where he rose to the position of Vice President for Student Development. Haines also holds a doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania.

“My wife Sherry and I love Taylor and the Taylor community, as no other place and people,” Haines added. “We leave with a strong sense of accomplishment, knowing that remarkable progress has been made over the last three years, but also a clear awareness of God’s new purpose and direction for our lives. We will always be grateful to Taylor University and to its people. That will not change. And we stand ready to assist the Board and the University’s new leadership team in moving Taylor forward as it remains true to its founding principles and purposes.”

Under Haines’ leadership, Taylor University received two number one rankings and one number two ranking in the Midwest Region of the US News & World Reportsurvey of America’s Best Colleges, achieved its ten-year reaccreditation following a stellar reaccreditation review by the Higher Learning Commission, and improved enrollment, resulting in the 2018 freshman class being the largest entering class in Taylor’s 173-year history. 

Among many other accomplishments, Haines completed “Forging Ahead Faithfully,” the University’s Strategic Plan. In addition, the University experienced advances in financial and fundraising goals, academic and athletic offerings, leadership diversification, facility improvements and renovations, marketing and communication programs, and Town of Upland initiatives. 

Haines honored, worked with and regularly brought to campus his predecessors as well as a number of nationally recognized personalities and speakers, including author and social critic Os Guinness, Interstate Battery Board Chair Norm Miller, Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, Ohio State University basketball coach Chris Holtmann, GRAMMY award winner Michael W. Smith and Vice President of the United States Michael Pence.

According to Cunningham, the Board will work with Haines and the cabinet to ensure a smooth transition, and will be making announcements about future leadership in the coming weeks. 

“Most importantly, the University’s leadership, beginning with the Board of Trustees, will remain true to the Lord and our calling and will have the resolve, faith and strength of purpose to carry Taylor forward into the future,” Cunningham said. “We look forward to building on the Strategic Plan developed by Dr. Haines and the executive leadership team as we continue to pursue Taylor’s unique position in Christian higher education.”

The Author’s Corner with Strother Roberts

StrotherStrother Roberts is Assistant Professor of History at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. This interview is based on his book Colonial Ecology, Atlantic Economy: Transforming Nature in Early New England (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019)

JF: What led you to write Colonial Ecology, Atlantic Economy?

SR: As an undergrad I double-majored in economics along with history. The melding of these two disciplines has influenced my research over the years and, in particular, helped spark my interest in environmental history as a sub-field. Economics, at its heart, considers how societies allocate scarce resources. Environmental history similarly studies how past human societies have grappled with the challenges of scarce natural resources, but within the social, cultural, and historical context that is all too often absent from purely economic models. Economics also has a very explicit focus on the power of trade. A number of excellent scholars before me have written about the environmental history of New England, but I often found their work too insular. In the United States today we are used to thinking of ourselves as living in a globalized world. We are less likely to appreciate the fact that the indigenous and European inhabitants of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century America were also experiencing the influences of relatively rapid globalization. I wrote Colonial Ecology, Atlantic Economy to tie the ecological changes that settler societies introduced into New England to the transatlantic commercial and political forces that drove them.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of Colonial Ecology, Atlantic Economy?

SR: Colonial New England was an integral part of England/Britain’s imperial commercial empire and everyone from imperial planners to its earliest settlers fully expected colonization to contribute exports to the imperial economy and the larger Atlantic World of which it was a part. Colonists and indigenous communities responded to the incentives offered by transatlantic markets to selectively extract resources from the region’s environment and in the process transformed New England’s physical and political landscape to the point that, by 1790, both would have been unrecognizable to an observer living two centuries earlier.

JF: Why do we need to read Colonial Ecology, Atlantic Economy?

SR: The book takes a number of disparate threads from the contemporary historiography of early America and weaves them together into a coherent pattern – while also introducing significant new insights along the way. As I mentioned in my response to your first question, other scholars have done excellent research on the environmental history of New England, but the most influential studies are from the 1980s (and are becoming a bit dated) while even more recent works have tended to be rather insular in their focus. By contrast, most of the rest of the field of early American history stresses the interconnectedness of “the Atlantic World” or self-consciously situates the individual colonies or regions within a #VastEarlyAmerica. One manifestation of this trend has been the proliferation of so-called commodity histories, histories that trace the life of individual commodities from their site of production – usually in the colonies of America – through their processing and marketing, and eventually into the hands of their final owners – usually in Europe or colonial urban centers. Colonial Ecology, Atlantic Economy combines this new interest in commodity exchange networks and weds it to older discussions of environmental change, to show how the colonial ecology of New England was inextricably tied to the broader transatlantic economy beyond its shores.

The book also cuts through the decades-old argument over whether New England’s economic development was driven by domestic production and demand or by trade with Europe and other colonial regions. A similar argument over whether the consumer revolution and industrial revolution were the result of domestic economic forces or whether they were driven by overseas colonialism has long plagued British history. The best histories, in my opinion, recognize that these are false dichotomies. For instance, the New England farmer who felled an oak to make barrel staves and then sold them to a local merchant likely did not know or care whether those staves were ultimately fated to hold locally-milled flour that would never leave his township, or whether they would be traded to the West Indies to hold slave-grown sugar on a sea-voyage to London. Settlers, from the very first colonists up to the citizens of the early Republic, fully expected to participate in an interconnected system of local, regional, and transatlantic markets. The indigenous inhabitants of New England, too, contributed commodities to these markets, either as the eager consumers of novel European goods and weapons or, increasingly in later decades, as a result of the violent and/or legal coercion exercised by the region’s increasingly hegemonic Anglo-American society. Much of this participation in colonial and Atlantic markets, at whatever level, necessarily rested on the extraction of resources from the regional environment, and each act of extraction had a physical impact on that environment.

Previous environmental histories of New England have failed to appreciate just how profound these physical changes were, or how early they began. In fact, I even surprised myself with some of what I discovered. Take the fur trade, for instance. Gripped by the “Little Ice Age” and facing the depletion of furbearer populations in Europe and eastern Asia, European consumers purchased a tremendous number of furs – most notably beaver pelts – from North America over the course of the early modern period. Native American hunters in New England gladly embraced the trade as a source of European tools, weapons, and cloth, sacrificing tens-of-thousands of beaver for use in European cold-weather fashion. The result was the extirpation of beaver from much of New England by the 1670s and the drainage of hundreds-of-thousands of ponds and wetlands – formerly maintained by beaver dams – by the turn of the seventeenth century. While other scholars have argued that significant ecological change did not come to New England until the supposed advent of commercial farming at the turn of the nineteenth century, my work shows that New Englanders were always commercially-oriented and that profound change began much earlier. In fact, my work on the fur trade suggests large swathes of the New England landscape had been profoundly altered by transatlantic trade before any European ever laid eyes on  its “natural” (or, at least, pre-European encounter) state.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

SR: That depends on what you mean by “American” historian – my Master’s thesis and my early work in my PhD program focused on First Nations history in Canada. But as I began to consider possible dissertation topics, my PhD advisor pragmatically suggested that a more southerly focus would serve me better with publishers and on the U.S. job market. Since I was most interested in the processes of North American history – the meeting and clashing of indigenous and settler societies and the subsequent formation of new systems and economies that came out of those transatlantic encounters – I shifted my attention to the source-rich and historiographically-storied archives of New England. Both Colonial Ecology, Atlantic Ecology and my next project are defined, at least partially, by the geography of New England (and specifically by the Connecticut River Valley in the case of Colonial Ecology). At the same time, though, I have never wanted to be limited by this geography, which is why the book focuses so much attention on how connections to different parts of North America (and Europe) influenced New England’s environmental history.

JF: What is your next project?

SR: My next book project is an environmental and social history of dogs in the indigenous and Euro-American societies of early New England and New France – which means I get a chance to return to Canadian history. The Cliff’s Notes version so far  is that dogs were essential to indigenous economies as hunting partners and sources of meat, that English settlers intentionally persecuted indigenous dogs as a way to weaken Native American societies to the degree that they were extirpated and replaced by dogs of European descent, that European settlers also relied on dogs for economic purposes and as weapons of war, and that the ecological success of introduced dogs eventually led Euro-American societies to implement policies to control their populations. Today, dogs are the most populous large, non-human, omnivorous predator in the world. Now, that last sentence contains a lot of qualifiers, but it essentially means that once you start looking at things bigger that bugs, rats, and chickens – it’s just dogs and us as the most numerous meat-eaters out there. This was certainly true of the indigenous dogs that inhabited the northeast prior to 1600.  A conservative estimate would suggest that the region was home to at least twice as many dogs as it was wild wolves, while some sources suggest that this ratio would have been far higher. Early English records suggest that introduced colonial dogs were just as numerous as their indigenous cousins were. And yet, I can’t think of a single environmental history that seriously considers the effect that dogs had on the natural environment prior to the nineteenth century. And even those tend to focus on urban environments. Dogs were humanity’s first domesticated partners and the only form of livestock kept by New England’s Indians. They played important roles in the economies and societies on both sides of the European conquest of New England, and, in an important cultural sense, helped define how all of the cultures involved understood what it meant to be human. It is, in my opinion, high time that someone wrote a dogs’ history of early America.

JF: Thanks Strother!

Sunday Night Odds and Ends

A few things online that caught my attention this week

Subtitles

Will writing make you a better person?

Lemons and the Sicilian mafiia

The “strange war over ‘David-French-ism‘.”

New books on Frederick Douglass

Alexis Boylan reviews Matthew Fox-Amato, Exposing Slavery: Photography, Human Bondage, and the Birth of Modern Visual Politics in America

A conservative vision for a new research university

Remembering the suffragists

Rick Atkinson tackles the American Revolution

Daniel Walker Howe on interpretations of Andrew Jackson

Nicolas Guyatt reviews Sean Wilentz, No Property in Man: Slavery and Antislavery at the Nation’s Founding.  Wilentz responds

Ballparks

Women and the Christian Right

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and reparations

Boston 1775 on Joanne Freeman on “Hamilton: The Exhibition”

Historicizing abortion

Episode 53: When Musicians Study American History

PodcastHere at the podcast, we have often engaged with our collective love of popular music and the history embedded within that love. Host John Fea regularly cites New Jersey state treasure Bruce Springsteen and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling channels his experience in garage bands every time he produces an episode. It is therefore fitting that they close out the season with guest Bob Crawford (@BobCrawfordBass) of the wildly popular The Avett Brothers (@TheAvettBros).

Sponsored by the Lyndhurst Group (lyndhurstgroup.org) and Jennings College Consulting (drj4college.com).

Commonplace Book #119

…human beings enjoy a dignity and value that no other creatures possess.  Too often we have arrogantly distorted this uniqueness into an unbridled license to trample and destroy the rest of creation.  Actually, the biblical text explicitly commands people to “work it and take care of” the rest of creation (Gen. 2:15 NIV).  But the truth remains–and it is fundamental to the whole project of civilization–that human beings possess a unique dignity and worth.

But what exactly does it mean to be created in the image of God?  There have been two major ways that Christians through the ages have understood the imago Dei: a substantial and a relational understanding.  Those in the substantial tradition (e.g. Thomas Aquinas) identify some essential capacity or faculty (e.g., our reason that makes rational thought possible or our will that enables us to choose freely) that distinguishes persons sharply from the rest of creation.  People in this tradition tend to put less emphasis on the way that the fall has damaged the imago Dei in sinful persons.

Those in the relational tradition (e.g. Luther, Calvin, Karl Barth) understand the imago Dei by analogy with a mirror that reflects some object.  The imago Dei, then, is not something inherent in persons, but rather the imago Dei is the relationship with God, which exists when one obeys God.  Through one’s right relationship with God, one truly reflects God’s will and thus bears God’s image.  In this view, sin largely or completely destroys the imago Dei in fallen people.  

Ronald Sider, The Scandal of Evangelical Politics, 52-53

Commonplace Book #118

Evangelical pronouncements on the role of government are often contradictory.  Sometimes when attacking government measures they dislike, evangelical voices use libertarian arguments that forbid almost all government programs to help the poor. (“Helping the poor is a task for individuals and churches, not the government.  Government should provide a legal framework, fair courts, and police protection but then leave almost everything else to the free choice of individuals.”)  But when the issue changes from the poor to the family, the definition of marriage, abortion, or pornography, the same people quickly abandon libertarian arguments that maximize individual freedom.  Instead they push vigorously  for legislation that involves substantial government restriction of individual choices.  It is possible that there are valid intellectual arguments for adopting libertarian arguments in the first case and nonlibertarian arguments in the second.  But a careful argument would have to be made.  Without such argument, flipping from libertarian to nonlibertarian arguments looks confused and superficial.

Ronald J. Sider, The Scandal of Evangelical Politics, 20.

Does “Central Jersey” Exist?

CentralNJmap1895

Anyone from New Jersey knows that there are actually two “Jersies”–North Jersey and South Jersey.  But is there a “Central Jersey”–a place that is not oriented to either New York City or Philadelphia?  Don Nosowitz makes the case in a recent piece at Atlas Obscura.  Here is a taste:

Central Jerseyans—rather like their state as a whole—define themselves by what they are not. They are not bridge-and-tunnel North Jerseyans. They are not cheesesteak-eating Philadelphians from South Jersey. So what exactly are they? That’s harder to put a finger on. A couple of people told me that they get both Philadelphia and New York City television channels: two of each major network. That’s interesting and weird, but maybe not enough to define a region.

There is (I think) some self-loathing involved in being a Central Jerseyan. New Jersey is a wildly stigmatized state; surely no other state, at least outside of Florida, is so widely mocked. Nationally known depictions of New Jersey—The Sopranos, Jersey Shore, The Real Housewives of New Jersey, On the Waterfront, Garden State—represent North Jersey, and not in a particularly flattering light.

Nationally, South Jersey has almost no pop culture profile, but it is still stigmatized—from within. As a Philadelphian who loves my home city but understands the national attitudes toward it, I’d suggest that South Jersey suffers from a double whammy: It is both New Jersey (bad) and Philadelphia (bad). “South Jerseyans really have animosity towards North Jersey,” says Murray, who is himself from South Jersey. “And what makes it worse for South Jersey folks is that North Jersey doesn’t have animosity for South Jersey; they just think it’s irrelevant.” South Jersey literally tried to secede from the state in 1980.

To say you’re from Central Jersey is to say, “Hey, whatever you know about New Jersey, that’s not me.” It’s a combination of pride and the acknowledgment of, or even agreement with, the negative view many people have of the state.

Yet negation is only half of a response. Take two small cities commonly claimed as Central Jersey: New Brunswick, on the outer edges of the New York City orbit, and thus North Jersey, and Princeton, on the outer edges of the Philadelphia orbit, and thus South Jersey. They must have something in common, right? Or is simply saying “Central Jersey” enough times enough to force it into existence?

Read the entire piece here.

Liberty University’s Campus Pastor Defends Falwell Jr.’s Remarks

Liberty U

As we posted yesterday, Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, claims that he is not responsible for the spiritual climate of the nation’s second largest Christian college.

Here is a taste of that post:

Here is a taste of a Washington Times piece on the controversy:

Mr. Falwell deleted the tweet after people complained about its crudeness. He later responded to critics by clarifying that he is not a spiritual leader.

“You’re putting your ignorance on display. I have never been a minister. UVA-trained lawyer and commercial real estate developer for 20 yrs,” he wrote. “Univ president for last 12 years-student body tripled to 100000+/endowment from 0 to $2 billion and $1.6B new construction in those 12 years

“The faculty, students and campus pastor @davidnasser of @LibertyU are the ones who keep LU strong spiritually as the best Christian univ in the world,” he added. “While I am proud to be a conservative Christian, my job is to keep LU successful academically, financially and in athletics.”

Interesting.  It almost seems like Falwell is not interested in the links between Christianity and the academic, financial, and athletic “success” of Liberty University.  It sounds like he is excusing his crude tweet by claiming that he is not a minister and thus not  responsible for the Christian culture of Liberty.  

Nasser recently came to Falwell’s defense on Twitter when a parent wrote this in response to our post:

Nasser responded:

But many Liberty University students and alums are not having it:

And then Nasser seems to subtly attack back (criticizing such “public tweets” against him) under the guise of asking people to pray for him:

It looks like Jerry Falwell Jr., the king of Liberty University, also has his courtiers.

University of Tulsa is the Latest University to Drop Liberal Arts Programs

Tulsa

The University of Tulsa will reorganize the Harry Kendall College of Arts and Sciences by reducing 15 departments and 68 degree programs to three divisions and 36 degree programs.  Undergraduate degree programs in philosophy, religion, and Russian and Chinese studies were cut.

Undergraduate minors in Ancient Greek, Classics, Latin, Linguistics, Russian, Digital Studies, Classical Studies, and Medieval and Early Modern Studies were cut.

Graduate programs in history, women’s & gender Studies, and anthropology also bit the dust.

Read more here.

Here is a taste of Inside Higher Ed’s coverage:

“The overarching objective … was to focus and pivot around student success as the core of what the university is about,” [provost Janet] Levit. “Objective one of our strategic plan is for us to focus on retention and graduation rates, which frankly look similar to rates at a school like University of Oklahoma or Oklahoma State University rather than a small private university that attempts to distinguish itself from public schools.”

According to College Scorecard, Tulsa has a graduation rate of 71 percent and an 89 percent first-year retention rate. Levit said the alterations made will allow the university to refocus some resources toward retention programs through a student success center opening this summer, including an academic entry point for all incoming freshmen called “university studies,” in the hopes it will decrease retention risks….

Levit had previously said during a presentation to faculty and staff members that Tulsa had tried for too long to be “everything to everyone” and had spread itself too thin, making part of the strategy to determine what kind of institution Tulsa will be.

However, the decisions have been met with resistance from some members of the faculty who aren’t fans of the new direction.

“Tulsa is essentially becoming a sort of pre-professional school,” Tulsa philosophy professor Jacob Howland said. “The writing’s on the wall — they’re just destroying the liberal arts, natural sciences and humanities at TU.”

Howland has been outspoken in his displeasure with the university’s decisions, and he said students will suffer from a lack of liberal arts on campus.

“You’re not giving students an education that allows them to adapt to changing economic circumstances. You train people for these jobs, and if there’s technological development in five years and suddenly the jobs are gone, what have you done to these kids?”

Read the entire piece here.

I hope everyone sees what is happening here.  The Provost defines “student success” in purely economic terms.  These cuts will, to use her words, “determine what kind of institution Tulsa will be.”  Exactly.

Commonplace Book #117

The idea of secularism has been in play for centuries–some might say millennia.  At the assorted genius bars of Western Civilization, it has long been one of the regulars, and as such it has been defined in a lot of plausible ways….Yet the following definition seems powerful, precise, and the most conducive to its survival: Secularism is a political philosophy, which, at its core, is preoccupied with, and often deeply suspicious of, any and all relations between government and religion.  It translates that preoccupation into various strategies of governance, all of which seek to balance two necessities: (1) the individual citizen’s need for freedom of, or freedom from, religion, and (2) a state’s need to maintain order.

Jacques Berlinerblau, How to Be Secular: A Call to Arms for Religious Freedom, xv-xvi.

“A principled stance against abortion makes sense only within a matrix that ties together the economic and social ordering of society”

LifeAll pro-lifers need to read John Medaille’s piece at the Front Porch Republic.  Here is a taste:

The most inflammatory debates about abortion concern pregnancies resulting from rape or incest or those which endanger the life of the mother. But as serious as these cases are, they are a tiny portion of the abortion market (and it is a market, a business), and if it were limited to that, it would be a very limited market indeed. The wider market has other causes. According to the Guttmacher Institute, “75% of abortion patients in 2014 were poor or low-income. Twenty-six percent of patients had incomes of 100–199% of the federal poverty level, and 49% had incomes of less than 100% of the federal poverty level ($15,730 for a family of two.)” That would seem to make it an economic issue, and of course that is a large part of the problem, but not the whole problem. The Institute goes on to say, “The three most common reasons—each cited by three-fourths of patients—were concern for or responsibility to other individuals; the inability to afford raising a child; and the belief that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents.”

Again, this would seem to make it an economic problem. But I am going to make a leap here and assert that behind the economic problem lay a cultural problem, or rather three interrelated cultural problems: individualism, hedonism, and capitalism. Individualism means that we have only such responsibilities as we choose to have. But this works against women; men can easily walk away from their natural responsibilities without penalty, but women cannot. “Saddled” with children, she is no longer an “individual,” but a little community, and one that depends on support from the wider community, support that is frequently not forthcoming. In the same way, hedonism is also not an equal opportunity employer; it favors the male of the species. When men are encouraged to take their pleasures when they want and leave them when they will, contraception and abortion work as defense mechanisms.

And behind these two stands capitalism, their greatest champion and defender. For the logic of mass production flourishes best in a culture of consumerism—that is, hedonism—and it sends us messages 24/7 encouraging and normalizing the idea that we are what we consume. When a sandwich company can get away with screaming at us (literally), “I do what the ____ I like,” you know that they are not selling sandwiches, but a particular lifestyle and frame of mind, one which is destructive of community and family life by being supportive of individualism and hedonism. And capitalists feel no obligation to support the family through wages, but only to pay the lowest possible rate for labor, even if they have to go to Bangladesh to do it.

Hence the “pro-life” movement, by tying itself to the Republican Party, ties itself to the aggressive support of capitalism and to the party least likely to impose any controls or obligations on the system. Like the Fox channels, they have bracketed off the moral and cultural issues, so that they support with one hand what they oppose with the other. They oppose the culture of abortion while supporting the culture that practically demands it. This cultural/political schizophrenia lends credence to the caricature of the “pro-life” movement as supportive of pregnancy and birth but not of motherhood. After giving birth, she should get a job like everybody else and not be a drag on the body politic. The movement can help elect the slimiest president possible under the naïve belief that he will lift us from the slime. Understood this way, it is really no surprise that the most radical expression of the anti-abortion movement occurs in states like Alabama, a state with the lowest levels of support for mothers and the highest level of support for big business, a state that is ranked near the bottom in public support for healthcare, education, infrastructure, and many other things.

A principled stance against abortion makes sense only within a matrix that ties together the economic and social ordering of society. Apart from a social order that welcomes children and an economic order that supports families, the prohibition of abortion appears to be just an arbitrary denominational stricture, like fasting on Fridays or wearing a yarmulke. This lends credence to the charge that we are merely trying to enforce our religion on others. By treating it as a “single-issue” that overrides all other issues, the pro-life movement divorced the issue from the moral matrix which harmonizes it, thus making it appear self-contradictory. We have bracketed the issue from the very things that make it part of an intelligible whole. What Fox does in the name of profits, we do in the name of power.

Read the entire piece here.

HT: John Haas

Benny Hinn’s Nephew on the Prosperity Gospel

Copeland

In the wake of the Inside Edition interview with Kenneth Copeland, Religion News Service is running a piece by Costi W. Hinn, the nephew faith-healer and prosperity preacher Benny Hinn.  Costi Hinn is currently pastor of Redeemer Bible Church in Gilbert, Arizona.

Here is a taste of his piece:

For whatever money can’t give, and power can’t satisfy, there is the prominence and notoriety that come from being a global force. The prosperity gospel put us on the map and that felt really good. From poverty-stricken immigrants to having kings and presidents requesting the presence of the Hinn family at their home, the prosperity gospel does something to the ego that little else on the earth can do. It does an excellent job of selling the lie that you are “somebody” when in reality you are nothing more than another con artist who’s found a way to sell your scheme to desperate bidders.

There is another puzzle to the prosperity gospel, however. You might assume that any individual can spot the theatrical ruse and greedy schemes of a prosperity preacher like Copeland from a mile away. Yet hundreds of millions of people loyally commit their account savings (and possibly their souls) to prosperity preachers every single year around the world hoping that by doing so God will give them health and wealth. All of this exploitation leads us to one very troubling question:

Why would someone believe the prosperity gospel?

Read the rest here.

“do not let us fall into temptation”

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Pope Francis has approved a change to the English version of Lord’s Prayer that is said in mass.  Here is a taste of a piece at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Pope Francis has approved a change to the Lord’s Prayer, widely regarded as the best-known prayer in the Christian faith.

The measure, which would change how Catholics around the world recite the prayer, replaces the line “and lead us not into temptation” with “do not let us fall into temptation,” uCatholic.com reported.

The move to change the “temptation” phrasing in the prayer was not a spur of the moment decision, but the result of 16 years of research by experts into the current translation of the prayer, according to the Christian Post.

Pope Francis had said in 2017 that he took issue with the “lead us not into temptation” phrasing.

“A father does not lead into temptation, a father helps you to get up immediately,” the pope said, according to the Christian Post. “It is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation.”

“The one who leads you into temptation is Satan,” he added. “That’s Satan’s role.”

Christians who have been taught the Lord’s Prayer, also known as the Our Father prayer, from the time they were children reacted with surprise to the news of the pope’s comments last year. On social media, many reacted with comments such as, “Leave the Lord’s Prayer alone!”

Read the entire piece here.

John Turner on David Garrow’s MLK Essay

Martin Luther King Jr. Day on the Web and Elsewhere

Like John Turner, I am really surprised by how little conversation has taken place about historian David Garrow’s bombshell article about Martin Luther King Jr.’s  moral indiscretions.  If you are unfamiliar with the argument or the debate, get up to speed here and here and here.

The George Mason University religion professor has weighed-in at The Anxious Bench blog. He is correct to note that “we have an obligation to think through the issues involved in this unsavory subject, which is bound to turn up the next time we assign Letter from a Birmingham Jail or discuss King in the classroom.”

His post is worth reading in full.  Here is a taste to whet your appetite:

6. The most explosive charge, though, relates not to adultery but to King’s presence during an alleged rape and his encouragement of this violent crime.

From Garrow’s essay:

The group met in his [Logan Kearse’s] room and discussed which women among the parishioners would be suitable for natural or unnatural sex acts. When one of the women protested that she did not approve of this, the Baptist minister [Kearse] immediately and forcibly raped her,” the typed summary states, parenthetically citing a specific FBI document (100-3-116-762) as its source. “King looked on, laughed and offered advice,”Sullivan or one of his deputies then added in handwriting.

Ransby’s analysis here is spot-on :

Mr. Garrow walks the reader through the graphic details of what 1960s F.B.I. agents described as Dr. King’s consensual encounters with numerous women. Whether or not Mr. Garrow intended it, the attention in his essay to these reports reads to me as an effort to offer circumstantial evidence to support an allegation of a rape that purportedly occurred in Dr. King’s presence.

Moreover, Ransby observes that Garrow rests his most explosive claim on a parenthetical comment. I would add that that parenthetical comment would almost certainly be difficult to derive from the audiotape.

The claim is a bombshell. Is it outlandish to think that there might be some chance of learning corroborating (or non-corroborating) evidence from other sources, even from interviews with the children of the people allegedly involved in this crime?

If more evidence comes to light that King egged on a rape, then, yes, of course, Americans would have to collectively think through how we commemorate this man.

7. All of this points to the danger of making saints out of historical figures. Undoubtedly, humans have a need for heroes, but we have every reason to be very cautious in our construction of heroes. Historians have an obligation to sift through all of the available evidence when it comes to reaching conclusions about the people we study. Christians, moreover, have a mountain of examples from the Bible about the likelihood that humans will exhibit  feet of clay. Abraham. David. Peter.

8, and finally, I entirely agree with David Greenberg’s denunciation of the “troll-like schadenfreude peppering right-wing media in the last few days.” It’s not even just right-wing media. It’s the human desire to see those on pedestals taken down a notch or two (or in this case ten). Sometimes this serves to make us feel better about ourselves. Or sometimes we just enjoy the salacious details and drama of a story such as this. These sorts of reactions are mean and misguided. No one should take pleasure in this story. Even setting aside Garrow’s bombshell, think about the pain that King’s extramarital behavior must have caused many individuals. There’s a subset of Americans who have never come around on the Civil Rights Movement, who feel about King much the way that many white Americans felt in the 1950s and 1960s, or the way that Jesse Helms felt in the early 1980s. It is a shame that they would relish the potential posthumous fall of an American hero.

Read the entire post here.