Friday, November 09, 2012

America's War on Children.

Like every great nation, the United States has committed great sins from time to time.  Our first great sin was chattel slavery.  Beginning in part with the Quaker Benjamin Lay in a suburb of 18th Century Philadelphia, an army of Christian reformers in the English-speaking world, then outside it, set their faces against this sin, sacrificing time, money, and reputation to bring about the liberation of Africans, and slaves of all races in every part of the world.  America suffered its worst rending in the course of repentance, our bloodiest and most horrible war. 

Our second great sin, no doubt, was mistreatment of Native Americans.  (Or first, the dates are fuzzy, but clearly we continued robbing Indian land decades after the War Between the States.)  Michael Medved argues, in Ten Big Lies About America, that the extent of that crime is often exagerrated.  No doubt he is right, and certainly far more Native Americans died of Old World diseases than were killed intentionally.  And it would be a gross mistake to portray the indigenous tribes themselves as peaceful noble savages: a rough rule of thumb seems to be, the higher the American civilization, the more beating hearts its gods required to renew the universe.  But that's no excuse.  Americans often murdered Indians and stole their land, even relatively peaceful, settled tribes like the Cherokee and Nez Perce.  This was undoubtedly a terrible crime.

Mostly, America has repented of those sins, and the races have made peace. 

But could we now be committing a sin every bit as great?  Might the repentance required to recover from our third great sin be as deep and as heartfelt?  Could it be that, while the church seems to have been marginalized in modern American society, with few prominent public spokesmen (no Augustine, Anselm, Wilberforce, Jonathan Edwards, or even Billy Graham to focus the attention of the public on behalf of the full claims of Christ), the Gospel remains precisely what is needed to keep America from collapsing in on itself, and devouring its children?  Let me propose that such a role still lays claim on the Church, as it did in the days of Bartholome De Las Casas, Benjamin Lay, William Wilberforce, and Charles Finney.  Our calling now, as then, remains to preach and model repentance, and lead America, however painfully and expensively, out of abiding sins of oppression.  But let me also suggest that just as in the days of Wilberforce, because we have deep-seated interests in continuing to sin and oppress, repentance will not come quickly or easily. We will be despised, called names, perhaps even treated with violence.  But it is the duty of the Church to call our nation to repentance, whether in a short or long period of time. (As it is the duty of Christians in other nations where the same sins are being committed.) 

Our greatest social sin is no longer racial, but generational. 

We are gravely sinning against our children. 

The issue that comes to mind for many Christians, when I say that, will be abortion.  But let me propose that abortion, including partial-birth abortion, is not the only or maybe even greatest manifestation of that sin.  In fact, it is part of a coherent pattern, that makes the full extent of the crime even clearer. 

I propose that three crimes against the next generation are complementary manifestations of selfishness and oppression:

(1) The abortion of unborn children. 

Let us admit that modern Americans have become tone-deaf to the cries even of full-term babies allowed to die after they have been unsuccessfully aborted, as Barack Obama voted to allow in the Illinois legislature.  We do not hear them, anymore.  We think those who call out for them are affecting concern, maybe out of a desire to oppress poor women. 

In ancient Rome, Christians stood against abortion and infanticide. One has to assume the Gospel is still doing some good, because at least for now, society generally frowns on the latter. 

(2) The national debt.  If a child survives the abortion mills, we present her on birth with a present: a bill for all the spending we're doing on ourselves before she was born, that she will carry like a millstone around her neck for the rest of her life: $100,000, perhaps, or $500,000 for a family of four, some even say $1,000,000.  It is like  

Massive deficit spending is like selling our children into slavery to satisfy our own "needs."  What moral right do we have to spend so much, and ask our descendents to foot the bill?  The will also, of course, undermine the nation, along with the demographic implosion.  But we must face this, and recognize it as not merely bad policy, but morally wrong.  John McCain called it "generational theft," but I think the long, strange adjective diluted the heinous character of the crime.  We have become a nation of thieves.  Our victims are our own children. 

(3) Single parenthood.  Not only do we present surviving newborns with a bill they may never be able to pay, we also ensure that fewer and fewer will know what the word "Daddy," "Mommy," or in some cases either, means.  This ensures that lacking one or more parents, many grow up without the blend of love, structure, imagination, and discipline children need to thrive in our increasingly challenging world.  Thus, we create a disfunctional, often addicted underworld that loses the dignity of self-support. 

But the bigger crime, in my view, is to steal parents from our children.

I've sometimes felt nonplussed, substitute teaching in schools, at the difference between how Established (liberal) ideology seeks to protect children from some obvious, and some fanciful, dangers, while doing little to warn them of even graver dangers.  I'm glad Health teachers warn children against the dangers of smoking and drug use, and that this message is seconded in assemblies and by means of public notices.  What about sex, though?  Don't STDs also maim and kill?  Don't girls with babies wind up poor and dependent?  Don't children without Dads go into life with a distinct disadvantage?  Aren't they being ripped off in the most fundamental way?  Yet far too little is said to students about the dangers of careless sex lives, which one can observe already in high schools, even middle schools, to some extent.  ("This is not a movie theatre," I've been constrained to tell some students in class -- I would gladly say more, if I could.) 

Even Barack Obama can be understood as a lonely man, his faults perhaps traceable to "dreams of a father" who was absent in real life.  One can admire him for overcoming that dissability and for being faithful to his own children, even while abhoring many of his policies, as I do, which I believe undermine families.  But it was a crime for his father to walk out on his kids, a dastardly crime -- worse, maybe, than having your slave master sell you down the river to Louissiana, because he was his own master, and betrayed his own children.  And it is a sin more and more common in America today. 

We may be too close to these sins to recognize their full evil, the full toll in broken lives, spiritual wreckage, and ended dreams.  But is it likely that even chattle slavery, or the Indian Wars, damaged as many lives, as the toll of our present "War on Children?"

We have all met some of the victims of that warfare.  We are, indeed, all being victimized by the National Debt, and will probably soon see the whole world impacted, as select parts of it have already been impacted -- here a Greece in flames, there a Spain or Ireland in despair.  Yet the debt continues to grow, and no one now in power seems inclined to try seriously to reverse course. 

So if you have ever daydreamed about living in some heroic era, when you could stand and fight against some great evil -- the Titans, the Nazis, chattel slavery, the Inquisition, Attila the Hun, or Roman legions -- take heart!  Your hour of heroism may be at hand. 

This is part of the calling of the Christian church in our age: to stand up for our children. 

We will be despised and hated for doing so, as Christians who followed their Lord have often been hated. 

We must show that we stand for love, not because we hate those we stand against, or think ourselves better than them.  We must remind our opponents that by the calling of God, Christians have thus stood for two thousand years, from the time Jesus told the lynch mob, "Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone," liberating a girl condemned to death, to the rescue by Christians of North Koreans who escape that evil regime into China at this very moment.  (About which I plan to write soon.) 

Despise Christians who stand up for the little ones, Western World, and you despise the source of your moral life, and which remains (not America, though America has often been an instrument through which God has worked) the genuine hope of mankind. 

More about that, here

Postscript: Several websites have linked to this post, and some interesting comments have appeared, below.  Here's a bit of backdraft from one of the comments. 


Crude said...

An excellent post. But there is a major problem - not with your reasoning, but with any attempt at a solution.

(3) Single parenthood.

Talk about a gordian knot.

I ask you this sincerely. How do you make the claim that single parenthood is not ideal - that pregnancy out of wedlock should be discouraged - without opponents twisting your words into advocacy for either abortion or contraception?

I am still trying to figure out the ideal way to approach this.

Crude said...

I recognize 'contraception' may not apply to you - we Catholics and all - but in that case, replace the contraception worry with 'contracepted sex outside of marriage'.

David B Marshall said...

Crude: Before abortion was legalized, in 1960, 5.3% of births were to unmarried women. By 2005, after abortion was legalized (first in some states, then everywhere in 1973) it was 36.8%.

You're right, I have no moral objection to contraception. Nor, frankly, am I as troubled by very early-term abortion as by abortion when the child has become, to some measure, conscious. But if we were able to refrain from both abortion and unmarried childbirth in 1960, we are able to do so today, as well, and should, IMO. We are morally-responsible human beings, not breeding rabbits.

Crude said...

But if we were able to refrain from both abortion and unmarried childbirth in 1960, we are able to do so today, as well, and should, IMO. We are morally-responsible human beings, not breeding rabbits.

I understand. But like I said, I think the problem is communicating this. Will you, say, condemn an unmarried mother who, of her own free will, fooled around and had a child? Two? Three? Then you're running risk of being the unsympathetic monster - doesn't she have it hard enough? - who at least made the valiant choice to not abort her children.

But if you don't condemn this as wrong, then it starts to become tantamount to unvoiced approval.

That's the knot I mean. Intellectually, I am 100% in agreement with you regarding abortion, childbirth, etc, at least putting aside the Catholic difference. In terms of communicating it, it seems like a puzzle to do so effectively.

David B Marshall said...

Well, that's part of my purpose in this post, to promote a paradigm shift. Stop whining, woman. You're an adult. Think of your child, first. That's what adulthood means.

Now throw the rotten tomatoes if you like, world -- I'm standing on the side of the child, against the whining, narcissistic adults of both sexes, as Christians have done for two thousand years. Framed properly, they may hate us in the short term, and we may even lose in the long term, but they will know in their hearts that they have heard the Gospel, and that the Gospel challenges us all to live more nobly, not for ourselves alone. Looked at historically, 39 years since Roe V Wade is a short period, and the present implosion of the family is something we saw in ancient Rome, as well, and outlived the fall of Rome by setting a counter-example.

Would I "condemn" that woman? Depends on what you mean by "condemn." Yes, I would ask high school girls not to act like sluts. And high school boys, to be responsible men. This is the "go and sin no more" part that follows the "neither do I condemn you," so I guess I'd say that moral imprecation isn't a condemnation.

Crude said...

Like I said, David, I'm in full agreement with you. Everything you say makes sense. But there's a part of me that is always aware of the need to effectively deliver a message, and minimize the chance of it being warped or mocked.

That's the puzzle for me, and I am still working on it.

David B Marshall said...

Whatever you think of Mark Driscoll, he seems to have mastered the art of hitting modern hipsters with a strong message of Christian sexuality, in a way that gets it across, at least for men -- not at all by toning the message down. That other guy in the story about the stoning seemed to find a pretty good balance, I think.

But the OP isn't really about marketing; I don't know if my preaching on this subject would be effective, or not.

Brian Barrington said...

My guess is that saying "stop whining, woman" and "stop acting like sluts" is not going to prove particularly effective - unless the goal is to reduce the Republican share of women's votes down further to single figures!

I generally  like to take an empirical approach to these questions: what country has the lowest teenage pregnancy rate in the developed world? The answer is the Netherlands. It also has a very low teenage abortion rate. So what do they do there? Well, they have extremely good sex education and readily available contraception. But one of the more intriguing aspects of it is that there is now research showing that Dutch kids are choosing to lose their virginity at a later date. It may well be that strong, educated, well-informed young women with full control over their lives CHOOSE not to have sex until they are older (e.g. The British have sex younger and the teenage abortion rate there is ten times higher than in the Netherlands). So my own view would be: if you want to encourage young people to postpone having sex until they are older then the effective, positive way might be to simply teach them what may very well be the truth i.e that intelligent, self-confident, educated, happy, mentally healthy young women in control of their own lives are much more likely to choose leaving having sex until they are older, with someone they care about and who cares about them.

Crude said...

I generally like to take an empirical approach to these question

Brian, you say you like to take an empirical approach. Do you realize you took one data point, then went into a kind of stream of consciousness thing and tied it into a narrative?

Here, I'll even do it: well, according to the wikipedia, the netherlands restricts abortion between conception and viability, and is subject to a five day waiting period - and after the first trimester, requires the consent of two doctors to arrange. This is vastly more conservative than the general US abortion laws, and provides legislative and cultural support to the concept that abortion is a decision about more than the woman's own desires. Even if not entirely pro-life, this detail - combined with the relatively low (~16mil) and ethnically homogenous nation - likely encourages a predominant view that the unborn need to be considered in tandem with sex, encouraging teens to hold off on sex by way of perceiving an objective moral truth, if only through a glass darkly.

See? I started with a fact, then just sorta winged it. If that's an empirical approach, it's hard to see what isn't.

Crude said...

Not only that, but I think it fails to miss the mark that David was aiming for anyway. The point, as I take it, seems to be about encouraging a better cultural attitude towards children. Abortion is part of the problem, a major one, but not the whole problem.

I imagine it'd be like talking about how to deal with the problem of racism, and showing that racially homogenous racism (for obvious reasons) don't really have many incidents of racial hate crimes compared to mixed-culture/race nations. Sure, I suppose you found a solution. On the other hand, I have a suspicion most people who decry problems with racism aren't really going to be pleased.

Brian Barrington said...

Well, the Netherlands does have the lowest teenage pregnancy rate in the developed world. The percentage of teenage pregnancies that are aborted is 34% - about the same as the US (see column 4 on the table) but the teenage abortion rate (i.e. number of abortions per 1000 teenage girls) is the lowest apart from Greece, because the pregnancy rate is so low. Now, if you find my reasonings or explanations for these data unpersuasive and want to provide your own better reasonings and explanations then I'd be glad to hear them. 

David B Marshall said...

Brian: As I said, this post isn't about marketing, it's about realities. I'm not a politician, and I know you guys have a magical machine called the media that amplifies every silly slip of the tongue by conservatives and turns it into a universal caricature, while covering up vast and ghastly crimes by your own chums. (I just finished Malcolm Muggeridge's Chronicle of Wasted Time, which details his own discovery that the liberal pieties he grew up on, and preached in the Guardian, were after all lies, but that his liberal buddies preferred the lies. As the Guardian's correspondent in Moscow in the 30s, he saw with his own eyes the terror and famine that Stalin was creating, but his paper wouldn't publish the truth.)

So to hell with PR. My calling is to learn, then tell, the truth.

Yes, I would love to tell young women (and men) what they need to hear. I see the broken lives. I see the trains going off the track in high school classrooms.

This is not by way of recruiting for the Republican Party. But I do happen to think that "speaking the truth in love" ("don't act like a slut" is not "you are such a slut!"), and speaking in language that people understand, may indeed help restigmatize what ought to carry a stigma. That is, after all, why pre-abortion, the birth rate to unmarried women was so much lower -- there was a stigma attached.

And that is better for the child. Young men and women should be treated with enough respect to be confronted firmly with that reality. They will not topple over, they might even respect the person who dares say the truth more, and realize it comes out of genuine concern.

Crude said...

Well, the Netherlands does have the lowest teenage pregnancy rate in the developed world.

I didn't dispute that. Like I said, you took a data point and just sort of ran with it and pulled things out of the air. I disputed whether that is 'taking an empirical approach'.

I also question whether your focus is on what David thinks is problematic anyway.

I feel no need to rush out with a solution on this one. I regard it as a very important question, and a puzzle.

Crude said...

So to hell with PR. My calling is to learn, then tell, the truth.

I appreciate this to a point. Really.

The problem is, I really feel "PR" is intricately woven with telling the truth. You want people to understand the truth? You have to minimize noise. And to be dead honest, David, you are very good at minimizing noise - you're an excellent communicator in my humble opinion.

It's just that this one is tough. And let's face it, I'm not exactly a guy who walks on eggshells with topics all the time - I can go way, way out in the other direction. But on this particular one, it's maddening. Not because the underlying reasoning and truth is problematic - far from it. It's just getting that message heard loud and clear, and minimizing the damage that's going to come from people who oppose the message. And yes, the message is opposed. The very idea that there should be any sort of sexual discretion at all that goes beyond 'Don't rape' is met poorly in some quarters nowadays.

Julie said...

Well, I agree with much of what you said, but what I see missing from this entire post and the comments is love. You can tell people all you want. Beat them with the Bible. See how that works for ya. People don't care and a lot of times it's not about being whiny or whatever. Jesus wasn't as harsh as you are being and He oozed love and spoke to the heart of the issue. People don't respond to the law and rules and condemnation. If they did, the Cross wouldn't have existed.

I had an abortion. I was 21, an addict, already a single Mom. I can give you all of the "reasons," my life was the way it was, starting with the church and bigoted, judgmental people that drove me away from the heart of the father. The bottom line though? What brought me to Jesus was people that loved me and didn't project the attitude of contempt for the sinner that I read here. You want to save kids from abortion? Be Jesus to a young girl in crisis.

David B Marshall said...

Julie: Good to "meet" you, and thanks for your input.

With all due respect, though, it's not about you, Julie. It's about the kids. And the focus of my OP wasn't even on abortion, it was on how we are treating kids in general. Jesus was not always kind and gentle to people who were abusing others. Yes, we need to love the abusers, but our first responsibility is to try to protect those who abused.

I haven't "beaten anyone with the Bible," though. I didn't even mention it. I didn't say "you," either, I said "we," including myself, because we Americans, as a self-centered generation, are doing this to our kids.

Maybe I could have expressed myself more carefully, above. But let me lay it on the line. Yes, I think you were wrong to have children outside of a family. You seem to recognize that yourself, and to have moved away from that. Those who work with people with broken lives have told me that acceptance of responsibility is always vital in repentance. Love is not about soft-peddling human responsibility, and Jesus himself never did that. Nor did the people who crucified him say he "oozed love and forgiveness," at least not for THEIR sins.

I don't have contempt for you, or for other people in your former situation. If I did, I would keep my mouth shut, or pretend that it wasn't really their fault, or choices that hurt kids are really OK. I was willing to risk my life in Asia to help prostitutes. I'm not inclined to back down from standing up for the kids, against responsible adults who are running their futures into the ground for our own selfish choices.

There is a time for soft words, and a time for hard words. Jesus used both. Finding the right balance is not always easy, as Crude has already pointed out, and I may have missed that balance in some of my comments. Maybe, at that point in your life, you really needed the soft words. It doesn't follow that there is never a time for the hard ones.

Brian Barrington said...

Julie is entirely correct: Jesus’ central ethical message was indeed the need for love above all else – the need for understanding and compassion “Let he who has never sinned cast the first stone”.

If you look at the context of when Jesus spoke hard words it is generally to people who lacked compassion and who were authoritarian and unforgiving and excessively harsh and judgemental or hypocritical. “Judge not lest ye be judged for with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”

There is real harshness and menace in that last sentence from Jesus: “with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again”. Jesus says: “Blessed are the merciful : for they shall obtain mercy.” If follows that it is the unmerciful who are not blessed.

Jesus is even clear that those who most loudly claim to be his followers will often not be his true followers at all. In my opinion Jesus would be disgusted by many of the pious hypocrites (today’s equivalent of the Pharisees) who today most loudly proclaim his name while ignoring his true teaching. One of the occassions when Jesus speaks harshly is when he speaks about PIOUS HYPOCRITES “when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.” Again, there is real menace and harshness in that last sentence “They have their reward”. These pseudo-followers of Jesus are like “false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”

He says “I do not condemn you. Go and sin no more”. The second part of this sentence is important, but so is the first part: “I DO NOT CONDEMN YOU”. To understand is to forgive.

David B Marshall said...

"He who sins against one of these little ones, it would be better for him if he tied a millstone to his leg and were cast into the sea."

I don't know, Brian, that sounds harsher than anything I've said in this forum.

The whole point of this thread is the responsibility of adults to "have mercy" towards the "little ones" over whom we wield power.

In the story you quote at the end, Jesus has just saved a woman from being physically stoned to death for adultery. What liberal dares tell anyone who sleeps around these days, "Go and sin no more?" That in itself would be seen as meddling, judgemental, and Puritanical today. Yet by saying that, Jesus was standing up for the next generation -- recognizing that kids thrive best when they can say "Daddy" and "Mommy" and smile when they say it.

No one stones adulterers today. I don't think we should. I'm not even sure David Petraus should lose his job. But I am distraught to watch the percentage of children raised by single-parents continue to climb. I meet these kids. Jesus loves them, too, and he's given us a responsibility for them, which I'm DAMN not going to foreswear.

Brian Barrington said...

What translation of Luke 17 are you quoting, or is it actually Luke 17?: “It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.”

I agree that ideally a child will grow up with two loving parents. It’s much harder for one parent to do it on their own – I can only imagine how hard it is to bring a child up on your own and I am full of admiration for single-parents who strive to do it well. They deserve all the support they can get.

There is another important aspect to this: in order for men to be good fathers they need good, stable jobs that pay a decent wage – they need secure employment – otherwise they are not able to be good husbands and fathers and they do not feel they are able to be good husbands and fathers. Also, it means that there are fewer men who are good husband or father material so a woman who wants children has fewer options - many of the men available are simply not worth having around – they can be negatives rather than positives.

Now, the lesson of the last 30 yrs is that radical free-market capitalism does not provide decent, stable jobs for men (or women) – there have been stagnating wages, increasing job insecurity, increasing part-time or temporary work, a sharp decrease in the proportion of national income going to wages, a sharp increase in the proportion going to corporate profits, and exploding income inequality. How can people plan a life or a family in these circumstances, when they have no job security? The working class has been destroyed and the middle class is slowly bleeding to death. Most men would like to be husbands and fathers and most women would like to have a good husband or father – but it is becoming evermore difficult to do this. In 1950s and 1960s America the US had more income equality, stronger unions, more job security. Ayn Rand style economics only offers more of the same – less job security, less stability, more uncertainty, more inequality, more destruction of the middle class, more decimation of traditional family life.

C. Andiron said...
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C. Andiron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

While I agree with some of your ideas, please hold off on the name-calling.

Crude said...

I agree with David on this one, and with some of Andiron's sentiments. Christ did not condemn, but he did not only call sins sins, but he dared to tell a woman how to live her life.

I also regard the claim that 'most men and women want to be fathers/mothers' with suspicion. I'd like to see data to back this up, because indications are that more and more people do not want children, regardless of their marital status.

There is another important aspect to this: in order for men to be good fathers they need good, stable jobs that pay a decent wage – they need secure employment – otherwise they are not able to be good husbands and fathers and they do not feel they are able to be good husbands and fathers. Also, it means that there are fewer men who are good husband or father material so a woman who wants children has fewer options - many of the men available are simply not worth having around – they can be negatives rather than positives.

So, earning an income is the father's role, not the mother's? Also, there's less men who are father material - but not less women who are mother material?

Crude said...

Beyond that, I suppose we should regard situations where there's two mothers or two fathers as inferior to a mother-father household?

If not, is it that children just need two of anything - two mothers, two fathers - and it's not like a mother or a father is individually essential, such that it's better for a child to have a mother and father both?

C. Andiron said...

David, Brian I apologize. That was unloving and immature of me.

Unknown said...

Most of us get carried away on the Internet, from time to time. You're welcome to share your views, though.