Category archives: Misc.

A Great Man Honored: Jean Vanier (2015 Templeton Prize)

by Chris Gacek

March 23, 2015

The Templeton Foundation deserves considerable praise for giving its annual award, the Templeton Prize (and here ), to the Canadian philosopher and humanitarian, Jean Vanier (and here). The prize was established in 1972 and is given to a living person who “has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.”

Vanier is a prolific writer, but he is most known for his founding of L’Arche. In Wikipedia, L’Arche is described as follows:

L’Arche is an International Federation dedicated to the creation and growth of homes, programs, and support networks with people who have intellectual disabilities. It was founded in 1964 when Jean Vanier, the son of Canadian Governor General Georges Vanier and Pauline Vanier, welcomed two men with disabilities into his home in the town of Trosly-Breuil, France. Today, it is an international organisation operating 147 communities in 35 countries, and on all five continents.

I first encountered Vanier’s writings twenty years ago when I read his overpowering volume on residents of the L’Arche community entitled, Man and Woman He Made Them. The Amazon description says of the book: “When Vanier speaks of the cry for love within a person who is disabled, he draws the wider parallel of that same search within every man and woman; the fragility and vulnerability of each person at the level of the heart and in the search for relationship.”

The Templeton Foundation hit it out of the park with this award.

Sick of Porn? Here’s Some Good News for a Change

by Cathy Ruse

March 2, 2015

Thank you, Safeway!

As a mom of two young girls, the last thing I want them to do is stand in the checkout line and stare at the nearly pornographic Sports Illustrated 2015 Swimsuit Edition. At Safeway, now I won’t have to.

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (formerly Morality in Media) is encouraging moms like me to ask retailers to wrap the cover and move it from public display, especially checkout lines.

At first Walgreens, Barnes & Noble, and Safeway told us to jump in the lake. But after receiving 30,000 emails Safeway has changed its mind: they have announced they will place the magazines away from checkout stands and cover two-thirds of the front of the magazine.

Read more about the grocery giant’s turn-around, and how to thank them.

Thank you, Google!

It seems that Google is slowly getting out of the porn business.

Family Research Council joined the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCSE), Enough is Enough, and other groups to ask Google to take a stand against sexually exploitative images and videos. Google has been on NCSE’s annual “Dirty Dozen List” for a number of years.

But last year Google decided to remove all pornographic apps from Google Play, and AdWords stopped all pornographic ads and ads that link to sexually explicit websites.

This week Google announced that“sexually explicit or graphic nude images or video” will not be allowed on Blogger, a popular blog platform. It told Blogger users it will beeliminating all “adult” blogs from public access and remove from all forms of public search by March 23, 2015, unless they remove all inappropriate content.

To learn more and send Google a “Thank you!”: http://endsexualexploitation.org/google/

Measuring the Value of College

by Nathan Oppman

February 16, 2015

College education is sold today as a ticket to employment and the first step toward a high paying career. But there are many reasons that college may not be the right choice for everyone. A great test of the need for college is to look at those who have achieved great things without attending college. A recent USA Today article highlighting the career of college dropout Scott Walker illustrates the point that a college education is not always necessary to a successful life. Americans should remind one another that there are many factors in career and life success. Marriage and family, hard work and charity, and character and integrity are all things that should be highly esteemed. While college can be a great blessing, it is not necessary for a great life.

American Sniper and the Restoration of Man

by Travis Weber

February 11, 2015

Why has American Sniper struck such a chord with the American public? No doubt in part this is due to the incredible storyline and cinematography, but other factors are certainly at play in such a blockbuster hit. While critics have scrutinized various aspects of Chris Kyle’s story, something within us is still attracted to a man with integrity (that term being defined as consistency between one’s beliefs and actions). As Kyle heads off to war in Iraq, backing-up his fellow countrymen as a sniper, his simple conviction about the importance of defending good against evil—and his willingness to act on that belief—is attractive to the viewer. His skill as a sniper, and record as the all-time crack marksmen in U.S. military history, almost become secondary.

As Owen Strachan notes at the Patheos blog, this movie has “struck a chord” because:

We are in an age that does not want to believe in manhood, at least the traditional kind. Men are not supposed to be strong today. They are not supposed to lead their families. They are not supposed to take ownership of provision for their household. They are not supposed to be fearless. Modern men have had their innate manhood bred out of them.

As a result, many men today don’t want to sacrifice for others. They want to be nice, and liked by everyone, and to win the approval of their peers.”

Against this backdrop, American Sniper is a rather shocking entrée. It presents a simple man who lives by a black-and-white moral code. He is traditional. This is not existential manhood; this is non-existential manhood. Kyle does what he thinks he should do, and does not second-guess himself. He believes that he should use his God-given strength and ability to defend the weak and defeat the wicked. He believes, in fact, that there are wicked people in the world. He is not afraid to say so. He is not afraid to act on this conviction.”

Yet, “Kyle was no wilting flower. He was not a perfect man. He knew this. He was rough around the edges, he sometimes shot off his mouth, and he had a tough time with rules. In other words, he was a classically aggressive man. Our culture wants to anesthetize such men, to stick a tranquilizer in them and dose them up on medication to tame their natural aggression.”

Strachan continues, “[t]his is not what the church advocates, however. The church gives men a vocabulary for their aggression, their innate manliness. It funnels their God-given testosterone in the direction of Christlike self-sacrifice for the good of others (Eph. 5; 1 Tim. 3). It does not seek to tame men, or ask them to become half-men (or half-women). It asks them to channel all their energy and aggression and skill into the greatest cause of all: serving the kingdom of the crucified and risen Christ.”

Moreover, as men lead in this way, it is attractive to women. Strachan notes the presence of a number of young women in the movie theater, presumably excited to see this man in action.

Women are attracted to a man on this journey in which he fights courageously for Christ.

For Christ “was fearless. He was brave. We don’t know how big his shoulders were, or how handsome he was, or how fast he could run. We do know that he laughed in the face of evil, and gave no quarter to his opponents, and did not apologize for claiming that he was the way, the truth, and the life. Even as death took him down, he struck a climactic blow against the kingdom of darkness. He crushed it. He ended the reign of Satan, and began the true reign of the Son of God. Jesus was not a pacifist. He was a conqueror, and he will return to judge the quick and the dead.”

At that point, this “true man, who redeemed us, will lead us into a world where heroes do not die, but live forever with their God.”

Until that time, Chris Kyle’s conviction can help serve as a reminder of what conviction truly means.

Architecture, Values and the March for Life

by Rob Schwarzwalder

January 8, 2015

It is difficult to look at scenes of great universities and historic colleges and not be moved by the architecture portrayed. Traditionally, institutions of higher learning have wanted to display their seriousness of purpose and devotion to great thought and leading-edge research in the buildings they have constructed. Thus, some of the most beautiful public spaces in our country, and indeed the world, are found on American college grounds.

Architecture is important. As Winston Churchill said to the House of Commons during the peak of World War II, “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” So consider what contemporary architecture says about today’s halls of knowledge. Edifices crafted out of shiny glass and sharp edges, boxes in which people are warehoused instead of buildings that invite contemplation or ennoble creativity.

What does this say about our culture’s view of human dignity in our time? Of the pursuit of knowledge and the purpose of research?

There’s nothing wrong with utility, but utility without beauty is a form of reductionism: Man as machine whose chief end is output rather than man as image-bearer of God whose chief end is to glorify Him through noble pursuits. The architecture of one’s time displays that time’s values. And the values of our time are deeply troubling.

As is widely recognized, much of modern academic life either is actively and unapologetically anti-Christian or at least so “tolerant” it welcomes the debased and debasing. Yet thankfully, these approaches to truth have not penetrated the hearts and minds of many brave academics and their students.

For example, later this month thousands of college students will mark the grim 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling. They will meet to remember the 57 million Americans destroyed in their mothers’ wombs due to the reduction of human value to one of preference, convenience and radical personal and sexual autonomy. Family Research Council will be joining many of them as, together, we participate in the March for Life on the National Mall here in Washington, D.C. on January 22.

If you can’t join us on the date, watch our 10th annual “ProLifeCon” online. ProLifeCon is “the premier conference for the online pro-life community. With new pro-life majorities in both the House and Senate, legislative momentum at the state level, and Americans increasingly identifying with the pro-life movement” FRC believes 2015 will be a year for hope. Listen to pro-life leaders like FRC president Tony Perkins, Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life and many others as they discuss the year ahead and what the pro-life community can do to advance the human dignity agenda in the new year.

At FRC, we celebrate the eternal truth that in His grace, God has made all men and women, from conception until natural death, “a little lower than the angels” (Psalm 8). The architecture of our building – stately but warm, an edifice designed to remind all who see it of human dignity and personal warmth - is a daily reminder of it.

Ten articles that were worth reading in 2014

by Peter Sprigg

January 8, 2015

I spent my final work day of 2014 doing some long-overdue filing—and decided to share links to some of the articles that earned from me the coveted (?) designation of “KEEP.”

These are not all articles I agree with. Some are by authors with whom I vigorously disagree, but they reveal something interesting or important about the “culture wars” in which we are engaged.

These are (roughly) in chronological order:

April 8, 2014

The Rise of the Same-Sex Marriage Dissidents,” by Mollie Hemingway, The Federalist

Quote:

This is what marriage law was about. Not two friends building a house together. Or two people doing other sexual activities together. It was about the sexual union of men and women and a refusal to lie about what that union and that union alone produces: the propagation of humanity. This is the only way to make sense of marriage laws throughout all time and human history. Believing in this truth is not something that is wrong, and should be a firing offense.”

April 22, 2014

Freedom to Marry, Freedom to Dissent: Why We Must Have Both,” A Public Statement, Real Clear Politics

Quote:

… [W]e are concerned that recent events, including the resignation of the CEO of Mozilla under pressure because of an anti-same-sex- marriage donation he made in 2008, signal an eagerness by some supporters of same-sex marriage to punish rather than to criticize or to persuade those who disagree. We reject that deeply illiberal impulse, which is both wrong in principle and poor as politics.”

May 5, 2014

Freedom to Marry & Dissent, Rightly Understood,” by Ryan T. Anderson and Robert P. George, Real Clear Policy

Quote:

The government should not discriminate against or coerce those who speak and act on the belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.”

April 24, 2014

Opposing Gay Marriage Doesn’t Make You a Crypto-Racist,” by Jonathan Rauch, The Daily Beast

Quote:

Lots of people compare the opposition to gay marriage and the resistance to interracial relationships. It’s a flawed analogy.”

May 17, 2014

The Evolution of Marriage,” by Ryan T. Anderson (review of Marriage and Civilization: How Monogamy Made Us Human, by William Tucker), National Review Online

Quote:

It is our sexual repressions that have made us human.”

May 27, 2014

Were Christians Right About Gay Marriage All Along?” by Jay Michaelson, The Daily Beast

Quote:

According to a 2013 study, about half of gay marriages surveyed (admittedly, the study was conducted in San Francisco) were not strictly monogamous.This fact is well-known in the gay community—indeed, we assume it’s more like three-quarters… . [T]he future of marriage, in fact, may turn out to be a lot like the Christian Right’s nightmare . . .”

August 11, 2014

Tracking Christian Sexual Morality in a Same-Sex Marriage Future,” by Mark Regnerus, Public Discourse

Quote:

Churchgoing Christians who support same-sex marriage are more likely to think pornography, cohabitation, hook-ups, adultery, polyamory, and abortion are acceptable.”

October 1, 2014

The American Family Is Making a Comeback,” by Michael Wear, The Atlantic

Quote:

As the costs of family breakdown become even more apparent, Democrats’ no-judgment approach may seem insufficient in the face of a demographic and sociological tidal wave.”

December 1, 2014

The Myth of Homosexuality in Nature,” by James B. Connelly, BarbWire

Quote:

Properly speaking, homosexuality does not exist among animals…. For reasons of survival, the reproductive instinct among animals is always directed towards an individual of the opposite sex. Therefore, an animal can never be homosexual as such. Nevertheless, the interaction of other instincts (particularly dominance) can result in behavior that appears to be homosexual. Such behavior cannot be equated with an animal homosexuality.”

December 10, 2014

Seven Things I Wish My Pastor Knew About My Homosexuality,” by Jean Lloyd, Public Discourse

Quote:

Continue to love me, but remember that you cannot be more merciful than God. It isn’t mercy to affirm same-sex acts as good. Practice compassion according to the root meaning of ‘compassion’: Suffer with me. Don’t compromise truth; help me to live in harmony with it.”

On the Death of Eric Garner and Race

by Rob Schwarzwalder

December 5, 2014

Christianity Today has assembled a thoughtful collection of observations by Evangelical leaders on the tragic death of Eric Garner. I encourage readers of the FRC blog to take a few moments and read through it. Probably no one will agree with everything each of the contributors has written, but surely we can all agree that the Body of Christ must more actively pursue racial reconciliation.

Paul the apostle teaches us that God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26). Faithful Christians believe this, and at FRC we have long affirmed it; most Christians I know practice it. At my racially diverse suburban church, I’ve seen wonderful evidence of how people of “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Revelation 7:9) can serve the living King together with joy.

But the pain of the African-American community concerning the deaths of Eric Garner and, earlier, Michael Brown, is palpable. The wise words of Lifeway’s Ed Stetzer capture the point well: “I wasn’t in the grand jury room, and I don’t know the evidence, but many godly African American leaders are hurting and they are explaining why. I think we should listen to them.”

Listen to FRC President Tony Perkins’ interview with Bishop Harry Jackson, Senior Pastor at Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland on the Bishop’s meetings and experience on the ground before and after the Ferguson Grand Jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson, and check out the racial roundtable dialogs hosted by Pastor Darrin Patrick (of The Journey church in St. Louis) for some probing thoughts about the church, race and reconciliation.

Trending Massively: The Counter-Cultural Movement for Modest Fashions

by Chris Gacek

December 2, 2014

Perhaps it is just me, but recently I seem to have run across a good number of stories about religiously-inclined or conservative women promoting “modest fashions” with new businesses and websites. Of course, this has happened before, but there seems to be something different going on this time.

I noticed this recent manifestation when reading an article in the daily newspaper, The Times of Israel, which observed that of the many style websites and Jewish websites “Fabologieis unique in being a lifestyle website that blends chic Jewish living with high fashion.”

The article discusses the company, Fabologie, and its founder, Adi Heyman and describes her as being “as unashamed to flaunt long hemlines and sleeves as she is to post missives linking trends to the weekly Torah portion.” A recent story (and video) on Refinery29.com is entitled “Meet Brooklyn’s Hasidic Hipsters” and discusses two Hasidic clothes designers living in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Not surprisingly, some of their best customers are Muslim women.

While looking around the Fabologie site, I found this article, “Seize the Dough,” that addresses baking my favorite bread, challah. Apparently, an international challah-baking event took place in late October to bring Jews together religiously and culturally. The interesting development here is how this appears to be another instance of how the Internet allows communities to develop quickly and host world-wide events at relatively little cost. (See the theory of the Internet and the “long tail.”)

In 2013 down in Louisiana, Sadie Robertson, a teenage grand-daughter of Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the TV show Duck Dynasty, set out to create a line of dresses to be marketed mostly to teenagers wishing to dress conservatively but fashionably. Robertson teamed up with highly-regarded designer Sherri Hill to produce her dress line called “Live Original.”

So, why shouldn’t Christians in the South and orthodox Jews in Brooklyn be able to get together to escape the tyranny of fashion mandates they find morally unacceptable? Given the huge populations of religious women who would value this market, it is surprising this hasn’t happened more quickly. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before we hear about collaboration along these lines, fashion shows in NY (Brooklyn, of course), and televised awards shows from Nashville and Tel Aviv. Why not?

To the business community: Religious freedom and you - perfect together

by Travis Weber

December 1, 2014

Writing at the Berkley Center’s Religious Freedom Project blog, Samuel Gregg explores the idea – and idea for which new evidence is consistently emerging – that religious freedom is good for business.

Gregg begins by noting historically that as certain religious groups have been marginalized in political life, they have turned their energies toward commerce – and prospered. In other cases, certain groups have been marginalized in their nation’s financial life – thus handicapping the economy. This isn’t good for growth, obviously. Gregg then focuses his attention on the more recently discovered correlation between economic growth and religious freedom:

[T]here is growing evidence that respect for religious freedom tends to correlate with greater economic and business development. One recent academic article, for instance, found (1) a positive relationship between global economic competitiveness and religious freedom, and (2) that religious restrictions and hostilities tended to be detrimental to economic growth.”

Moreover, other rights and freedoms are not entirely unaffected:

[T]he strongest interest that business has in being attentive to the religious freedom of individuals and groups is the fact that substantive infringements upon one form of freedom often have significant and negative implications for other expressions of human liberty. If, for instance, governments can substantially nullify religious liberty, then they are surely capable of repressing any other civil liberty. This included rights with particular economic significance, such as the right to economic initiative and creativity, property rights, and the freedom of businesses to organize themselves in ways they deem necessary to (1) make a profit and (2) treat employees in ways consistent with the owner’s religious beliefs.”

He concludes by noting that, nevertheless:

[M]ore work needs to be done in this area. Correlation is not causation. While there do seem to be significant correlations between restrictions on religious liberty and the economic freedom of individuals and corporate bodies, the case for causation requires further elaboration.”

But, businesses take note!

If … the various forms of liberty are as interdependent as they seem to be, business surely has at least a high degree of self-interest in seeing substantive conceptions of religious liberty and the rights and protections associated with religious freedom prevail.”

Businesses take note, indeed.

How Important is Election Day Turnout? Ask Anthony Brown.

by Peter Sprigg

November 11, 2014

On Election Day (or, with early and absentee voting, during election season), not every citizen who is registered to vote will actually vote. There are a variety of reasons. Some have not put in the time and effort to educate themselves about the people and issues on the ballot. Some don’t believe their vote will make a difference. Some may be confident that their favored candidate(s) will win anyway; some may be fatalistic that their favored candidate(s) will lose anyway. Some may have logistical problems getting to the polls; some may simply forget.

Because of all these factors, it is a given for anyone who has ever been involved in a political campaign that “turning out your voters” is a key to victory. Success hinges not just on persuading a majority of your fellow citizens that you are the best candidate; it also hinges on success in motivating those voters to actually vote.

It should be no surprise that the highest voter turnout generally comes in presidential election years. That is when the media coverage of politics is at its most intense. Even people who pay no attention to local or state legislative races, or even races for Congress or Governor, will generally form an opinion on which candidate should be the next President of the United States, and will make an effort to express that view at the ballot box.

That means, however, that in a non-presidential year, like the 2014 mid-term elections, fewer votes will be cast, and therefor “turning out your voters” is even more crucial.

Anthony Brown learned that the hard way.

Brown has served two terms as Lieutenant Governor of Maryland under Gov. Martin O’Malley, the former mayor of Baltimore. O’Malley is leaving office and is considered a dark horse candidate for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. Brown was his designated successor for the governor’s mansion, easily winning the Democratic nomination.

The election should have been a shoo-in for Brown. Maryland is one of the bluest of deep blue states. President Obama carried the state in 2012 with 61% of the vote.

In one of the biggest (and most under-reported) upsets on election night, however, Brown lost to his Republican opponent, Larry Hogan, 51%-47%.

I was curious as to how big a role turnout played in this surprising outcome, so I went back to look at some vote totals I compiled after the 2012 election. (I had written a blog post then about how even in the four states which did not vote to defend the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, the pro-marriage vote had well exceeded the vote received by Republican nominee Mitt Romney.)

Comparing those votes with this year’s governor’s race confirmed the importance of turnout. Although Hogan won in 2014 with 51% of the vote, and Romney lost Maryland badly in 2012 with only 36% of the vote, the raw number of votes Hogan received in victory was only 91% of the number of votes Romney received in defeat.

What does that say about Brown? He received less than half as many votes as President Obama did in 2012—only 792,000 compared to Obama’s 1.6 million.

A similar trend probably prevailed across the country. Masses of Obama voters just stayed home on Election Day—leading to the Republican wave we saw on Election Night.

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