Day of Dialogue

This Friday, April 20th, marks the annual Day of Silence, an LGBT-espousing observance in America’s public schools and now on college campuses. Day of Silence was inaugurated twelve years ago by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GSLEN). On this day, GLSEN encourages students to “take a vow of silence to bring attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in their schools.” The idea, as Michael Brown puts it, is “standing in solidarity with LGBT youth who are silenced through bullying and harassment.” Day of Silence activities are generally coordinated through GLSEN-organized student clubs called Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs).

But are LGBTs really forced into silence?

Consider this incident that played out over recent years. Scott Savage was a librarian on Ohio State University’s Mansfield campus. As a member of the university’s First Year Reading Experience Committee in 2006, he suggested four books for consideration as freshman reading. One of them was The Marketing of Evil, by David Kupelian, which contains one chapter on homosexuality. Three professors objected to the selection, but they didn’t stop at blackballing the book. They took great umbrage with Savage himself, as their subsequent actions revealed.

Two professors filed formal sexual harassment charges against him. One wrote to the OSU-Mansfield faculty that he was, “deeply saddened – and THREATENED … You have made me fearful and uneasy being a gay man on this campus. I am, in fact, notifying the OSU-M campus, and Ohio State University in general, that I no longer feel safe doing my job. I am being harassed.” Four days later the faculty voted unanimously (with nine abstentions) to put Savage under “investigation.”

“The fact that there are one or two unhinged professors out there – that’s not news,” said David French, the lead ADF attorney defending Savage. But the fact that, by a unanimous vote with nine abstentions, the faculty would classify a book recommendation as threatening sexual harassment warranting investigation suggests exorbitant pressure to silence certain views on homosexuality.

The next question becomes, Why?

Michael Brown relates a poignant admission from a young gay blogger named Matt. As he explains in his book, A Queer Thing Happened to America, Dr. Brown had conducted a public forum devoted to the theme, “Can You Be Gay and Christian?” Local gay and gay-affirming clergy had been invited to present their views and engage in public dialogue. Many declined, but Matt had attended, and before the evening was over, he took the microphone:

“You had some very good points, and they were couched in very compassionate language, but for a person like me, throughout this whole thing, all I’m going to hear is, ‘the queers need to die.’”

This is a breathtakingly candid confession. In other words, as Dr. Brown paraphrases, “No matter what you say, and no matter how compassionately you say it, I’m still going to hear hatred coming from your lips.”

This is why certain views on homosexuality must be silenced? Notice that the complaints, “All I’m going to hear is, ‘the queers need to die,’” I am being “threatened,” and “I no longer feel safe” are not responses to any name-calling, bullying, or harassment that took place in the specific incidents which gave rise to them. They’ve either been made up in pursuit of an agenda, or they’re coming from somewhere else. In Matt’s case, they’re coming from within. Either way, there clearly is suppressive silencing going on, but it’s taking place in the name of “anti-bullying.”

Reject Silence; Let’s Talk
A peaceful, silent statement against name-calling, bullying, and harassment is a fine thing. But there’s a better option than silence. For the second year in a row, many students are doing silence one better and, without name-calling, bullying, or harassment, engaging in a Day of Dialogue by being prepared to communicate the Judeo-Christian view of sexuality. “This event helps students have an equal opportunity and a safe space to express a faith-based point of view in a loving and respectful way,” said Candi Cushman, director of Day of Dialogue. According to the Day of Dialogue website:

The Day of Dialogue gives you, as a student, the opportunity to express the true model presented by Jesus Christ in the Bible—who didn’t back away from speaking truth, but neither held back in pouring out His incredible, compassionate love for hurting and vulnerable people. His example calls us to stand up for those being harmed or bullied while offering the light of what God’s Word says.

Instead of remaining silent, an invitation is extended, Let’s talk! Teens are good at that anyway, and certainly something as important as sexuality deserves an open discussion.

“People were interested to get both sides,” said Kaitlin, a 16-year-old high school student in Michigan who participated last year. “They were open and really wondering what we had to say. God has the best purpose for us, even when we may not know it on our own.”

Yes, God has the best purpose for us. So this year consider saying No to silence, and instead, say Yes to dialogue.

Related Reading:

Sex Between Consenting Adults is Expensive

You’ve probably heard it a dozen times: “sex between consenting adults is nobody else’s business.” You may (and should) object to this statement on moral grounds. But recent evidence suggests that you should also object to this statement on economic grounds.

Last year Mr Brandon, author of the book Just Sex: is it Ever Just Sex?, used quantitative cost-analysis to disprove the mantra that “sex between consenting adults is no one else’s business.”

By using the category of ‘moral hazard’, he showed that British society has created a system that incentivizes promiscuity. Much of his research applies equally to American society.

“‘Moral Hazard’, he explains, “occurs when a contract or financial arrangement creates incentives for the parties involved to behave against the interest of others’ – typically because one party is insulated from risk.”

One of the ways British society does this is through a system in which the financial consequences of promiscuity are not carried by the people directly involved but diffused throughout society collectively.

The British Government has also created a moral hazard when it began to allow the welfare safety net to be exploited in ways which incentivise family breakdown. “At present,” Brandon writes, “the tax and benefits system makes it economically more favourable for some parents to live apart – the so-called couple penalty. Ending this must be a priority.”

Why Free Sex is Never Free

The Jubilee Centre article, titled ‘Free sex: Who pays?: Moral hazard and sexual ethics’, suggests that while “the costs of sexual freedom and relationship breakdown to the taxpayer and wider economy are complex and difficult to calculate… £100 billion annually is probably a reasonable starting point: about twice as much as alcohol abuse, smoking and obesity combined.”

The following are some the areas where the costs of sexual licence are felt the strongest in our economy:

  • Promiscuity often leads to STI’s, which cost the British taxpayer more than £1 billion per year.
  • Promiscuity often leads to HIV. The estimated 83,000 cases of HIV in the UK at the end of 2008 represent a total lifetime cost of £26 billion.
  • Promiscuity leads to teenage pregnancy which cost the NHS £63 million per year, and a further £29 million for infertility and other complications arising from chlamydia alone.
  • Promiscuity often leads to abortions, and 96% of abortions are carried out on the NHS at a cost of £650 each, or £118 million.
  • Promiscuity often contributes to separation from marriage and cohabiting relationships (including promiscuity prior to entering such relationships), which entails huge increases in tax credit payments, lone parent benefits, housing benefits, in addition to the health, crime and educational impact of relationship breakdown. Altogether this totals about £42 billion a year.
  • In contributing to relationship breakdown, promiscuity leads to Absenteeism. The loss of working hours following relationship breakdown costs the economy at least £20 billion a year.
  • In contributing to relationship breakdown, promiscuity can lead to domestic violence which costs the British taxpayer around £3.4 billion a year, and around £21 billion today in ‘human and emotional costs.’
  • The effect of relationship breakdown on children leads to educational underachievement which results in an estimated £40,000 for each child, reducing GDP by £6 billion. Much of this cost can be directly attributable to the promiscuous activity which contributed to the relationship breakdown.

These facts, all of which Brandon meticulously documents, help to undermine the common narrative that sex is a choice made only by the couple most directly involved with only limited consequences beyond the two of them. This narrative has found expression in phrases such as ‘recreational sex’ and ‘casual sex’, which obscure the reality that the entire society picks up the bill for promiscuity.

Some of the material for this post was originally published by Christian Voice, a UK ministry whose website is http://www.christianvoice.org.uk/. The article is published here with permission of Christian Voice.

Black or White? The Sunset Limited

"Black" and "White"

“Two players. Two sides. One is light. One is dark.” The quote comes from Lost, but it’s a perfect epitaph for The Sunset Limited, a stage play by Cormac McCarthy, and now also an HBO film.

The Sunset Limited has only two characters, named simply “Black” and “White.” Early on it becomes apparent that Black had been on his way to work, waiting on the platform at the train station, when White had attempted to throw himself in front of the train. Black had caught him, stopped him, and brought him home to his apartment. The play itself consists of the two characters engaged in a verbal wrestling match for an intense ninety minutes.

White is a professional intellectual – Black calls him “Professor,” and he is clearly better at stringing the words together than Black, an ex-con and reformed murderer who lives in the ghetto in hopes of being a sort of Good Samaritan to the hopeless lost (he calls them “the junkies”).

The two debate the existence of God (Black believes; White doesn’t), the meaning of life (to Black, it’s about God; to White, there is no meaning to life), the reality of suffering (to Black, suffering is real, but has a purpose and an end; to White, all of life is vain suffering, a cruel joke, and death is the sickly sweet, desired end to it all).

Throughout it all, White has a dazed, haunted look about him. Whereas Black can break out into a raucous laughter at his own silly joke, White can only laugh the despondent, despairing cackle of a man who’s given up all hope of anything making sense.

Dialectically, Black is no match for White. But he possesses a simple wisdom about life that transcends all of White’s big words and long sentences. With obvious anguish, Black pleads with White to, “Stay with me a while,” “Let’s talk some more,” all the while hoping that White will open himself up to God and find the great relief and release that follows that simple act of the will. White won’t do it – whether he cannot or will not, it’s hard to say. In the end, it doesn’t matter. He doesn’t do it. All he wants to do is die and end his absurd, miserable, meaningless existence.

This week marks Passover, when Jews commemorate the Angel of Death passing over all the firstborn of the Jews in Egypt. At God’s command, every Jewish family sacrificed a lamb and placed the blood on their door frames. When the Angel of Death came through, he saw the blood and “passed over” their homes, but every Egyptian firstborn was slain. The following day, Moses led the Jews out of Egypt, in plain view of the Egyptians who were mourning their dead.

The events of the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy take place after all this happens. It basically consists of one long sermon from Moses to the people of Israel. If you were to summarize it in one sentence, it might go something like this: “Serve God and you will have life. Reject God, and death will have you.” Consider this sober prediction concerning the one who rejects God. “You will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life. In the morning you will say, ‘If only it were evening!’ and in the evening, ‘If only it were morning!’ – because of the terror that will fill your hearts and the sights that your eyes will see.”

An ‘anxious mind,’ ‘eyes weary with longing,’ and ‘a despairing heart filled with dread day and night.’ That is White. He’s rejected God, and death has him. All that’s left is for him to finish himself off, making the choice complete.

This week is also Easter, when Christians, to whom Jesus is the Passover lamb of sacrifice, celebrate the great feat of redemption, not from the physical bondage of slavery in Egypt, but from the bondage of sin and slavery to a meaningless existence. The wholly redeemed life is signified by the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead which took place three days after Passover when he – the Passover lamb – was sacrificed. Life, purpose, meaning … That is Black. He has simply responded to God, acknowledged God, and he has life.

Death or life. Some things really are black and white. “Two players. Two sides. One is light. One is dark.” Which one will you choose?

The French Revolution was bad…or was it?

In the blog post I wrote yesterday on the evolution of tolerance, I mentioned the terrible intolerance that occurred during the French Revolution’s reign of terror. I describe this in more detail in the chapter on Edmund Burke in my forthcoming book Saints and Scoundrels. Looking back I don’t think anyone can deny that the French Revolution was bad.

Or can they?

Common sense would seem to suggest that any movement that led to the criminalization of Christianity, sent tens of thousands of citizens to their death, consciously made the guillotine the de facto icon of their regime in order to scare potential dissenters, and instituted a regime of totalitarianism and thought control unseen throughout the annals of human history – common sense would seem to suggest that such a movement was, well, bad. Very bad. Very, very, bad. Very, very, very, very bad.

This is precisely why I was shocked earlier in the month to see David Pollock, president of the European Humanist Federation, praising the French Revolution as something good. In his talk, which can be accessed through the links here, Pollock spoke about the slow progress Europeans have been making towards human rights and individual liberty. “That slow progress”, he said, “marked by significant events such as the English civil war, the American declaration of independence and the French revolution, led by stages, via finally the collective determination to allow no repeat of Nazism, to the European Convention on Human Rights and religious freedom. But no state has fully followed through the implications of individual freedom of religion or belief.”

When I first read that, I thought that perhaps the “slow progress” he is after occurred as a result of Europeans trying to avoid the errors of the French Revolution. Alas, no, that is not what he meant if you read his words in context. In the article I wrote for Christian Voice interacting with Pollock and challenging him to a debate, I noted

Maybe Mr Pollock’s appeal to the French revolution wasn’t a mistake. Maybe that’s precisely the point. Perhaps Pollock would like to see some measure of de-Christianization policies occurring within contemporary Europe. Reading a bit further in his speech it seems that this is exactly what he wants. For example, he pointed out that a particular threat to European secularism was the fact that the Roman Catholic church enjoys a 88% hold in Croatia or the Eastern Orthodox church to which 76% of Bulgarians belong. The thrust of his argument was breathtakingly simple: secularism is good, but if churches are too strong then this represents a threat to secularism; therefore, it is bad for churches to be too strong.

To read more about this, visit article on the Christian Voice website, “EHF President Praises French Revolution.

Save the Males!

Forget about saving the whales: it’s the males we are in danger of losing.

At least, that is what Kathleen Parker argues in her book Save the Males: Why Men Matter Why Women Should Care.

Combining humorous anecdotes with scholarly research, Parker makes a convincing case that the men of our society are in danger, not so much of becoming extinct, but of ceasing to be men in the fullest sense.

Here is what Publisher Weekly had to say about the book:

According to columnist Parker, men are an endangered species struggling against everything from mere hostility to literal emasculation. Starting in elementary school, where a teacher most likely a feminist will demand that boys sit still and listen and continuing through college, where freshmen must endure rape awareness workshops, men are besieged by disrespect. Belittled by bumbling portrayals in sitcoms, their importance as fathers is so devalued that they are perceived as little more than sperm and a wallet. Parker trots out the usual suspects—mass culture, unspecified feminists, The Vagina Monologues, Murphy Brown, metrosexuals and girlymen—to propose that a feminist campaign is afoot and eager to effeminize, denigrate and destroy American men.

I think Parker is onto something, not least because the feminization of men is something that we have covered here at Salvo. (See S. T. Karnick’s article ‘Girly Men: The Media’s Attack on Masculinity’ for starters.)

Further Resources:

Will there be any reasoning at the American Atheists “Reason Rally”?

American Atheists are having a rally this Saturday in Washington D.C., so Christian apologist Tom Gilson sent them a message asking if they would be interested in hosting a debate at their “Reason Rally” between a theist and an atheist.

He wrote this:

Dear Mr. Silverman,

Greetings to you… [mention of mutual friend],

I’m writing to ask if you would be interested in sharing sponsorship with me in giving Richard Dawkins and William Lane Craig one more opportunity to share a stage together in debate, while Dr. Dawkins is here in the U.S. later this month. I’m leading the True Reason project, which, as you may or may not be aware, is bringing Christians to the Reason Rally for respectful dialogue with attendees there. Additionally, this morning we released an ebook that has already climbed to best-seller status in the atheism category at Amazon.com, and has attracted enough notice that I’ve been asked to write an op-ed on it for the Washington Post.

I mention these things simply to give you some confidence that I’m representing a legitimate potential debate sponsorship partner to work on this with you and American Atheists. Dr. Craig is again wiling to meet Dr. Dawkins in debate. I have a contact at Georgetown University that would work with us to provide a venue for debate. Would you be open to joining me in inviting Richard Dawkins?

I’ll look forward to hearing you.

Regards,

Tom Gilson
www.thinkingchristian.net

And the American Atheists President David Silverman replied with this:

Mr. Gilson,

The Reason Rally is an event by and for the nonreligious population and their supporters. It is not an opportunity for Christians to push themselves into other people’s lives (yet again). I would never support infiltrating a Christian event with atheists on some kind of recruitment mission – that would be horribly rude.

Make no mistake – you are not welcomed guests at the rally. We are not going to DC for ‘dialogue’ with people who believe ridiculous things – we are going to have fun with other like-minded people. Those who proselytize or interfere with our legal and well-deserved enjoyment will be escorted to the 1st Amendment pen by security, which will be plentiful, where you can… shout yourselves hoarse.

Spreading out among the crowd is not a substitute for a permit. Indeed, I will be meeting with the Parks Commission on Thursday to discuss how to handle your infiltrative permitless counter-protest.

Dr. Dawkins has made it clear that he doesn’t want to debate Mr. Craig. I am not sure how much clearer he (or I) could be.

Sincerely,
David Silverman
President
American Atheists, Inc.

American Atheists doesn’t seem to be in favor of having conversations and debates with those who disagree with them, do they? In fact, it doesn’t sound like they are interested in hearing any reasons for other people’s views, or giving any reasons for their own views.

Consider this post on the American Atheists web site. (The PDF is saved here because they’ve withdrawn the post, but you can still see it with Google Cache)

Excerpt:

It should come as no surprise that the individuals who abide by fundamentalist Christian… doctrines would be the first to cry out that they are being persecuted when their dangerous, damaging and disingenuous beliefs come under attack. Most of these people lack the maturity and intelligence to act in a socially acceptable manner.  Many of them are sociopaths and quite a good number of them are psychopaths.  All of them are clearly delusional.

The fact is that fundamentalist Christians… are not interested in coexisting or getting along.  They have no desire for peace. They do not want to sit down with us in diplomatic efforts to iron out our differences and come to an agreement on developing an integrated society.

They want us to die.

Their interpretation of the Bible… are such that there is no other course of action but to kill the infidel, and if anyone believes otherwise they are only fooling themselves.  It is not just in the best interests of atheists to be intolerant of fundamental Christianity and radical Islam, but it is also in the best interest of mainstream believers within these faiths, as well.  Moderates and even Progressives who stand in support of extremists just because there is a claim to the same deity are not doing themselves any favors.  Fundamental Christians make all Christians look bad…

…the underbelly of fundamentalist Christianity… does not operate in the legal system. They don’t respond to lawsuits, letters, amicus briefs or other grass-roots campaigns and they must, must, must be eradicated.

That doesn’t sound very tolerant or open-minded.  It was written by “Al Stefanelli – Georgia State Director, American Atheists, Inc.”. Now, this isn’t the view of most atheists that I know, but it is the view of some organized atheists like those in the American Atheists group.

What do they mean by eradicating Christianity?

From the correspondence with Tom Gilson, we now know that they don’t want a conversation and they refuse to hear both sides in a debate. So they aren’t trying to eradicate Christian ideas by winning conversations or winning debates. What does that leave as a meaning of the phrase “eradicating Christianity”? Can we infer what they mean by “eradicating Christianity” from the e-mail sent by David Silverman? Could it be that eradicating Christianity means using coercion to suppress beliefs that atheists disagree with, so that they won’t be offended while they are busy having a good time? That seems to be consistent with what Al Stefanelli and David Silverman said, but it’s just my guess.

Now consider this post from the UK Daily Mail which discusses a recent interview with Richard Dawkins.

Excerpt:

But the centrepiece of this Christmas edition is the main coup for the New Statesman – an interview by Prof. Dawkins with Christopher Hitchens, the great polymath who today lost his fight against cancer. It’s a fascinating read over three double-page spreads. Not least because Prof. Dawkins reveals a charming humility, allowing Hitchens to show his intellectual superiority at his own expense. Hitchens is thoughtful about CS Lewis and Christianity and rather leaves Prof. Dawkins floundering in his wake, occasionally interjecting little assents to show that he’s still there, as he struggles to keep up.

But one of these interjections is most revealing. About half-way through, the Prof gets this in edgeways: ‘Do you ever worry that if we win and, so to speak, destroy Christianity, that vacuum would be filled by Islam?’

So, ‘if we win…and destroy Christianity’. True, there’s a ‘so to speak’ in there, but it doesn’t do much. Try ‘If we win and, so to speak, kill all the Jews’ as an alternative. Doesn’t really work, does it? And Prof Dawkins can hardly claim that he was misquoted or taken out of context. He was editing the magazine, after all – there’s even a picture of him doing so, pen poised masterfully over page proofs.

Again, that seems to me to be echoing the language of the the American Atheist person who wanted to eradicate Christianity. Indeed, Dawkins is not a very timid fellow. In this video, he expresses his support for infanticide, which most people view as equivalent to murder. I don’t think he means “destroy Christianity” intellectually, since he refused his chance to do that when he refused to debate William Lane Craig, as documented in the liberal UK Guardian. I think he means something else by “destroy Christianity”, but I’m not exactly clear what. Let’s hope it’s something different than what other atheists have meant by it in history.