On “The Grace Effect”

Eric Metaxas has a short article about Larry Taunton’s book The Grace Effect. I recommend it to you.

The Grace Effect

Making the Case with Our Lives

Debating the New Atheists, such as the late Christopher Hitchens, can be intellectually stimulating. Hitchens, of course, wrote the awful book “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.”

Hitchens’s claim notwithstanding, it’s fairly easy to trace Christianity’s benefits to society throughout the ages: the creation of hospitals, universities, soup kitchens, and orphanages without number, not to mention major contributions to art, literature, and science. Recounting these historical facts never gets old.

But in his new book, “The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief,” my friend Larry Taunton shows us that the best arguments against secular atheism and for Christianity are not made in the ivory tower; they’re made at street level in every day life. Larry calls it the “grace effect.”

The “grace effect,” he explains, is what happens when the values and worldview of the Christian faith seep down into the roots of a culture, eventually bearing fruit that refreshes us all, even those individuals who choose not to believe.

. . .

For further reading, the current issue of Salvo includes an interview with Eric Metaxas by Marcia Segelstein, and it’s not currently available online but Terrell Clemmons has also reviewed Taunton’s book for this issue. If you’re interested in the story of Hitchens and Taunton, I found an interesting article on that too a while back and blogged about it.

You should probably subscribe to Salvo today. I’ll even give you a deal!

Timid Parents & the New Anger They’re Facing

Now up online in its entirety at the Salvo website:

No Fault Kids
Timid Parents & the New Anger They’re Facing
by Marcia Segelstein

Is there anything new under the sun when it comes to teenagers? For generations, adults have complained about adolescents, bemoaning “kids these days” and “the younger generation.” The hormones running through the current crop of teenagers are the same ones that have caused turmoil through the ages. Yet to many parents and those who work closely with teens, something feels very different. Stories abound of wildly outrageous behavior from children at younger and younger ages, not only within their peer group, but in interactions with parents and other adults.

Child psychologist and author Ron Taffel writes about this in his book, Childhood Unbound:

The debate over whether anything is truly different . . . has ended for me. From my twenty-five years as a counselor to children, teens, and their parents, as well as from over a thousand talks in schools, churches, synagogues, and community agencies around the country, I am convinced that not only are kids’ lives qualitatively different today from those of earlier eras, but that parents today are uniquely different, and therefore the parent-child relationship has fundamentally changed as well.

read the rest. . .

It’s Gotta Be the Shoes

It’s probably wrong of me to think that Tom’s shoes are annoying. I know that for each pair bought they give a pair to someone in need, and that’s a good thing. Maybe my dislike comes from the fact that they’re kind of trendy, especially in my neighborhood, and also they look like elf slipper socks. Stuff White People Like has a funny little write-up about them.

The other famous Tom for white people is the one who created TOMS Shoes. Every time you buy a pair of these canvas shoes they donate a pair to a child in need in the third world. Of course, instead of buying a pair of shoes, a white person could just donate the money they were going to use on shoes to the TOMS charity and let two people in the third world get new shoes. But that’s not a realistic possibility, not with summer right around the corner.

Salvo contributing editor Hunter Baker has a good (and less flippant) post about them too. I recommend it to you.

This concern for those who are less well-off or who live at a disadvantage to ourselves is, of course, nothing new.  Certainly, the desire to aid the poor, the widow, and the orphan is a core element of the Judeo-Christian tradition.  In my own generation (and really a generation or two before me), Francis Schaeffer criticized Americans (comfortable Christians included) for their addiction to “personal peace and affluence” and their “noncompassionate use of wealth.”

The buying practices I have mentioned are aimed at curbing the tendency of well-off westerners to consume too casually and perhaps too enthusiastically.  There is an attempt to encourage thoughtfulness about the way one acquires consumer items.  Buy the shoe that results in a pair being delivered to a poor person in Africa at the same time.  Purchase the goods that have been produced in a more humane fashion than the ones that belch forth from a sweatshop.  Good ideas.

However, I would suggest another consideration in the way we consume.  Instead of merely thinking more carefully about things like the production ethics of things we purchase, maybe we should reconsider our list of things we buy.  At any given time, we may have items such as tablet computer, smartphone, new car, bigger flatscreen television, new pair of shoes that accomodates each toe separately, new earphones, new trendy jacket, etc. on our list of wants.  What if we reconceived our list to include such things as helping someone pay for their car to be repaired, paying money into a scholarship fund for needy families at a local private school or college, giving a Target or Walmart gift card to a young single mother whom you know is having trouble with her bills, assisting a family with the costs of an adoption, and giving a used car to someone who could really use it instead of trading the car in?  The list could be as long as one’s imagination, but the point is really to be sensitive to the opportunities as they occur.

Some Girls, Part 2: What Words Mean

Continuing from Part 1, Intern 2 extrapolates on the consequences of vagueness in rhetoric

It is a little alarming that the following assertion should need to be made. It would be a relief it turned out to be unnecessary. But please bear with me a moment, as I’ll breathe easier knowing these words are out.

Women, like men, are creatures of God, and therefore are possessed of individual souls and unique vocations. Please trust me when I say that women do not function together as a vast hive intelligence. Women are not only not a vast hive intelligence, we are more specifically not a vast hive intelligence that, created for the sole or main purpose of serving the needs of men, was corrupted by the Fall into a vast hive intelligence that functions solely to drive men to sin. (Just like men do not and never have existed as a vast hive intelligence that functions solely to make women miserable, a viewpoint comfortingly less common than its vocal espousers make it appear.)

There is a distinction between what some women do as individuals and what all women do as a sex. There is also a distinction in how to approach the determination of what some individual women do and what women as a sex tend toward.

There is a distinction between making a statement about “some women” or “that woman who” and making a statement about, plainly, “women.”

One is an observation of something that individuals or an individual did or does.

The other is an observation of something that a whole half of the living population of humanity did or does.

Clearly these types of observation are not equivalent.

It is not accurate to state that “Women have been indoctrinated by feminism to think they enjoy working fourteen hours a day,” or “Women are naturally overjoyed to spend the whole of each day in their homes with three toddlers, two of whom are in diapers,” or “Women like to drive trucks” or “Men like to get exfoliation treatments” or “Ladies prefer salad” or “Gentlemen prefer steak.” While in some contexts the statement is clearly a generalization and not actually applicable to an entire sex, the actual meaning doesn’t change and the ambiguity can turn off-putting. And worse than off-putting, when discussing divorce, abortion, or abuse (or, as described in Part 1, false allegations thereof), this vague rhetoric becomes unjustly accusatory.

But put a “some” or a “many” in front of the sentence? Or the number from a reliably obtained statistic? Then it becomes true, if not empirically proven, and we can acknowledge that women, and men, are possessed of unique souls, and that no sin or virtue or struggle or preference can necessarily be attributed across the board.

Our nature as God’s image remains fundamentally the same; the good things we strive toward for joy and salvation are simple, few, and alike; but the details, and the means of striving, are richly varied.

We are given the means to express this in language, in rhetoric. Let’s use language carefully, for the fullness of truth.

(If you see an instance where this blog hasn’t used language carefully for the fullness of truth, please speak up.)

Sincerely yours,

Intern 2

Pink Cross

Just saw this post on Facebook from our friend Shelley Lubben.

Shelley is a tireless anti-porn activist who–through her organization Pink Cross–dedicates her time to getting the whole truth out about pornography and helping women and men who are ensnared in the lifestyle. You can read Shelley’s story here. Originally printed in Salvo issue 12 (Spring 2010).

The Story of Shelley Lubben, Former Porn Star
by Judith Reisman

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Chris Hedges, in Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, writes that the “cruelty” of the “new” pornography “takes a toll on the bodies, as well as the emotions, of porn actresses.” But someone is trying to help them:

The Pink Cross booth has a table of anti-porn tracts and is set up in the far corner of the Sands Expos Convention Center in Las Vegas. It is an unlikely participant at the annual Adult Video News (AVN) expo. Pink Cross is a Christian outreach program for women in the porno industry, run by ex-porn star Shelley Lubben.

read more . . .

Robert George On Being “Personally Opposed”

From Conservative Heavyweight: The Remarkable Mind of Robert P. George by Anne Morse at CERC:

“Some politicians say that they’re ‘personally opposed’ to abortion, yet ‘pro-choice,’” says the 48-year-old professor of constitutional law and moral philosophy. “But we must ask: Is this a position that can survive the test of logical coherence? After all, if abortion is wrong, surely it is wrong because it is the unjust taking of the life of a developing human being.” He pauses to let that sink in and then launches another question: “And if one believes that, then what could possibly justify a regime of law that licenses so grave an injustice?”

“Of course,” George adds, climbing up on a front-row chair and crossing his arms, “If abortion is not a form of homicide, if the developing embryo or fetus has the moral status of an unwanted growth — such as a tumor — there would be no grounds on which to ‘personally oppose’ abortion. So the question is this: Is the developing embryo or fetus a human being or a mere unwanted growth? Notice that this is not a religious or even an ethical question. It is a question of human embryology and developmental biology.”

George hoists a foot onto the chair back, plants his forearms onto his knee, and fires off another round of questions: Is it morally acceptable to conduct research on embryos not yet implanted in the uterus, even if the embryos must then be killed? What about so-called spare embryos in frozen storage, which have no prospect of implantation? Is abortion ever morally justified, despite its homicidal character?

Students begin offering tentative answers — but not before they’ve taken a moment to think. As smart as these kids are, after half a semester in George’s Civil Liberties class, they’ve learned not to blurt out a thoughtless opinion: George will force them to defend it, which could prove embarrassing.

One bespectacled youth speaks up: “I don’t think I was an embryo,” he announces. His classmates chuckle, but George responds seriously. “You weren’t an embryo. Were you a fetus? Were you an adolescent?”

“I am not a physical organism,” the young man insists; he is his ideas, beliefs, and desires.

George pounces on the person/body dualism implicit in this remark and forces the class to confront the implications of affirming it: “If ‘I’ was not an embryo or fetus, neither was ‘I’ once an infant,” he says. “To have destroyed the fetus or infant that later became ‘me’ would not have been to destroy me. So at what point then do we say ‘I’ began to exist? At what point do we draw the line on killing?”

George then drops a cerebral smart bomb: “If dualism is true, the answer won’t be ‘birth,'” he notes. Will it be six months after birth? A year? Two years? Three? After all, when does a child achieve thoughts, beliefs, and desires?

Pro-choice students must now confront an uncomfortable fact: The logical implications of their position entail believing that killing three-year-old children is morally acceptable.

. . .