Thursday, April 18, 2013
Is Christianity Homophobic?
That "loving Jesus means hating gay people" is "proclaimed in Christian churches and on Christian television and radio broadcasts."
So declares Dan Savage in his review of Jeff Chu's "Does Jesus Really Love Me: A Gay Christian's Pilgrimage in Search of God in America" -- on page one of The New York Times Book Review.
Who is foremost among those who have made "anti-gay bigotry seem synonymous with Christianity"? The Family Research Council and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
So says Savage. And who is he? A cradle Catholic who says he "was in church every Sunday for the first 15 years of my life. Now I spend my Sundays on my bike, on my snowboard or on my husband."
One gets the point. And in handing this review to an apostate Catholic and atheist homosexual, the Times was nailing its anti-Catholic colors to the mast. Yet what Savage alleges and the Times published is a lie.
No true Catholic church can preach that Jesus hates gays. "Love your enemies" is the message of Christ. Hate the sin and love the sinner is taught as gospel truth in Catholic schools.
This has been Catholic doctrine for 2,000 years.
Yet, in contending that America is reaching a "cultural tipping point," Savage is not all wrong.
Undeniably, the Christian view, though mislabeled "homophobia," alienates millions. Many of America's young have come to accept that homosexuality is a natural preference of a significant minority and ought to be accommodated, and same-sex unions ought to be treated as traditional marriages.
Case in point. At George Washington University, two students have demanded that Father Greg Shaffer of the Newman Center be removed for creating an environment hostile to gays.
The priest's offense: When Obama endorsed same-sex marriage, Shaffer posted a blog restating Catholic teaching condemning homosexual acts as unnatural and immoral. In private sessions, Father Shaffer also counseled gay students to remain celibate for the rest of their lives.
One senior, Damian Legacy, says he was shaken by Father Greg's admonition that he was risking his soul and by his ouster from the Newman Center after the priest learned he was in a relationship with a male student.
Legacy and his partner have filed complaints against the Rev. Shaffer with the university Office for Diversity and Inclusion, alleging his homophobia has had a detrimental effect on the emotional health of gay students. They are asking the Student Association to cut funding to the Newman Center.
Though a minor collision in the culture war, this clash at GW may be a harbinger of what is coming, as the homosexual community seeks to have its agenda written into law and fastened onto the nation.
For traditional Christianity's view that homosexual acts are immoral and same-sex marriage an absurdity cannot be reconciled with the view that homosexuality is natural and normal and gay marriage a human right.
The issue is pulling the Republican Party apart. It is pulling Christian communities apart. It is pulling the nation apart.
Like abortion, it is an issue on which both sides cannot be right. Yet it is an issue of paramount importance both to devout Christians and to the homosexual rights movement.
What happens if the gay rights movement, as it appears it may, succeeds politically on same-sex marriage, but many Christians refuse to recognize such unions and continue to declare that American society has become ungodly and immoral?
Gay rights advocates often compare their cause to the civil rights struggle of half a century ago. But there is a fundamental difference.
When Martin Luther King Jr. called on the nation to "live up to the meaning of its creed," he heard an echo from a thousand pulpits. Treating black folks decently was consistent with what Christians had been taught. Dr. King was pushing against an open door.
Priests and pastors marched for civil rights. Others preached for civil rights. But if the gay rights agenda is imposed, we could have priests and pastors preaching not acceptance but principled rejection.
Prelates could be declaring from pulpits everywhere that the triumph of gay rights is a defeat for God's Country, and the new laws are immoral and need neither be respected nor obeyed.
The issue is acceptance. We know of how America refused to accept Prohibition and, in good conscience, Americans broke the laws against the consumption of alcohol.
Imagine the situation in America today if priests and pastors were telling congregations they need not obey civil rights laws. They would be denounced as racists. Church tax exemptions would be in peril.
Something akin to this could be in the cards if the homosexual rights movement is victorious -- a public rejection of the new laws by millions and a refusal by many to respect or obey them.
The culture war in America today may be seen as squabbles in a day care center compared to what is coming. A new era of civil disobedience may be at hand.
Yobbish behaviour is getting worse, say eight in ten Britons: Figures raise concerns over lack of police action to combat problem
More than 80 per cent of the public think anti-social behaviour is on the rise across the country. In an official survey, four-fifths of those questioned said the problem was getting worse in England and Wales, citing drunken loutishness, gangs of yobs loitering on the streets, vandalism, verbal abuse and drugs.
Worryingly, nearly half said they thought the problem had increased significantly in recent years.
Nearly one in three had been a victim of, or had witnessed some form of, anti-social behaviour in the previous 12 months.
The figures, published by the Office for National Statistics, will prompt further concerns over the lack of police action to combat the problem.
Only last week, a survey found more than one in three people who called the police over anti-social behaviour said it made `no difference'.
Officers also stand accused of wasting time `trying to please pressure groups' after one force, Greater Manchester Police, said it would class incidents involving emo and punk groups as hate crimes.
Max Chambers, head of crime and justice at think-tank Policy Exchange, said it was clear anti-social behaviour was a `serious and widespread problem'. He said: `We've got to make it easier for the public to report crime and express concerns about teenagers drinking in the street or threatening our neighbours.
`This means protecting the visibility and availability of uniformed police officers. We also need the police to take complaints of yobbish behaviour seriously.'
The figures come from a new question within the Crime Survey for England and Wales, which surveys around 40,000 people.
For the first time, the public were asked about the `perception of the level of anti-social behaviour in England and Wales over the past few years'.
Only 3 per cent said they thought it had gone down and 15 per cent said it had stayed `about the same'. However, 32 per cent said they thought anti-social behaviour had gone up `a little', and 49 per cent said they thought it had gone up `a lot'.
More than one in three said they thought the problem had got worse in their local area, and 30 per cent said they had experienced or witnessed an incident in the past 12 months.
The most common problem was with drunken louts or other alcohol-related disorder. People also complained about groups hanging around on the streets, inconsiderate behaviour, loud music, vandalism, verbal abuse, littering and drug dealing. A small proportion also cited begging, dangerous dogs and people having sex in public.
More than one in seven adults said they had experienced high levels of anti-social behaviour in the past year. One in eight business premises experienced problematic behaviour in 2011/12.
Chief Constable Simon Cole, from the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: `Police take a risk-based approach to dealing with crimes of this type, prioritising those most at harm. 'As this continues, forces will get better at identifying vulnerable victims and tailoring their response.'
A Home Office spokesman said: `We are turning the current system on its head, empowering people to come forward and the police to respond quickly and effectively.'
Ministers have abolished the Anti-social Behaviour Order, which was often worn as a `badge of honour' by criminals. New simplified powers will result in stricter punishments if they are breached.
Political Correctness and Fascism
Political correctness is like a tsunami in that no one understands the extent of its danger until after the massive wave sweeps across the land and then recedes.
Early on, in the first term of the Obama administration, we felt the rumblings of the earthquake that always precedes the storm, when President Obama set the tone for how he expected sensitive issues to be handled. It wasn't long before the Global War on Terror was renamed "Overseas Contingency Operation." The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) quickly followed suit when it redefined terrorist attacks as "man caused disasters." A case of trickle-down idiocy, I suppose, considering that changing a name only makes for a temporary fix.
I learned that lesson as a kid, having been blessed with two sets of teeth, requiring a number of dentist visits to remove the stubborn baby ones. After the first disastrous visit (for all parties involved) because I kicked the dentist when he gave me a shot, my mom decided to change the name "dentist office" to "ice cream stand" to get me in the car. It worked once, just up until our car pulled into the dentist office parking lot rather than the ice cream stand. Fool me once...
That night, my parents had a grownup conversation with me, (at me, really) explaining it was going to be unpleasant, but had to be done. To their credit, I have a decent smile today, but still get a weird feeling inside when I see an ice cream stand. Although I didn't realize it then, that experience taught me a valuable lesson about political correctness, in that switching labels doesn't change traits.
Currently, there is a strong push by the left to change America into the opposite of everything that makes this country exceptional. They are using political correctness to get there by relabeling things once considered honorable and wholesome as inappropriate, and things once considered immoral as good. What they do not realize is they are trapping themselves in the process. Exchanging God-endowed freedoms for man-made rules is never a fair trade.
This was recently on display in a smaller, but still toxic, military reservist sensitivity training workshop in Pennsylvania that would make Bill Maher proud (here) when the person in charge listed Jews, Catholics, and Christians as religious extremists alongside al Qaeda and the KKK. As you can see, inclusivity is not always a good thing.
The military was quick to respond promising it was an isolated event, but it seemed a bit misplaced considering the magnitude of faith-filled military veterans out there who have managed to love God and serve their country without pulling a "Nidal Hasan" on fellow soldiers. In the name of political correctness, Hasan's alleged heinous act was kindheartedly labeled "work place violence" by the Obama administration, which also denied Purple Hearts to well-deserving soldiers at Fort Hood. Rather than calling it for what it is, the administration treated the massacre as if it were a mass pencil stabbing.
It works both ways. Obama had the opportunity to taste his own bitter medicine when he recently complimented California's Kamala Harris by telling her she is "by far the best looking attorney general in the country." The PC police swarmed, demanding Obama take gender sensitivity classes. He apologized, and the tsunami grew... and increased when free speech was culled after news journalists were told they can no longer use certain terms like "illegal alien" And the tide will expand further, if the two gay students at George Washington University, who demanded the ousting of a Catholic priest because he spoke about his church's not-so-politically correct teachings about homosexuality, get their way.
The monstrous PC wave will continue to rise until it can no longer contain itself, and then will explode across America, drowning our freedom and leaving fascism in its wake.
Twitter, hate speech, and the costs of keeping quiet
Last month was a bittersweet seventh birthday for Twitter. The Union of Jewish French Students sued the social-media giant for $50 million in a French court in light of anti-Semitic tweets that carried the hashtag #unbonjuif ("a good Jew"). In January, Twitter agreed to delete the tweets, but the student group now wants the identities of the users who sent the anti-Semitic messages so that they can be prosecuted under French law against hate speech. Twitter is resisting. It claims that as an American company protected by the First Amendment, it does not have to aid government efforts to control offensive speech.
Internationally, America is considered radical for protecting speech that is highly offensive. But even in the U.S., Twitter should not be surprised to discover ambivalence and even outright hostility toward its principled aversion to censorship, especially in that once great institution for the open exchange of ideas: American higher education.
"Hate speech" is constitutionally protected in the United States. But the push against "hurtful" and "blasphemous" speech (primarily speech offensive to Islam) is gaining ground throughout the world. Last fall, for example, when many thought a YouTube video that satirized Mohammed caused a spontaneous attack on our consulate in Benghazi, academics across the country rushed to chide America for its expansive protections of speech. And as someone who has spent more than a decade fighting censorship on American college campuses, I run into antagonism toward free speech on a regular basis, most recently last month, when I spoke at Columbia Law School. After my speech, law professor Frederick Schauer criticized his American colleagues for not being more skeptical about the principle of free speech itself.
This has become a fairly standard refrain, in my experience, as academics who want to limit free speech often paint themselves as a beleaguered, enlightened minority struggling against the unquestioned dogma of free speech. Free speech is certainly alive in U.S. courts. For example, since 1989 more than a dozen courts have declared different politically correct college speech codes unconstitutional. Nevertheless, the idea that hurtful or offensive speech should be banned prevails on American campuses: approximately 63 percent of over 400 top colleges maintain codes (PDF) that violate First Amendment principles. Meanwhile, prominent professors, such as Jeremy Waldron and Richard Delgado, attempt to seize the moral high ground for "enlightened censorship," and some students even paint themselves as heroes for tearing down campus "free speech walls."
What strikes me about the arguments academics make against free speech is how shallow they tend to be. The critics somehow miss that First Amendment jurisprudence is an extraordinarily thoughtful exposition on what limits are appropriate in a free and diverse society -- and, contrary to the meme of America's mindless approach to speech, there are limits (including, for example, libel, as well as threats or incitement to imminent illegal action).
The authors of the Constitution also realized that people -- flawed, imperfect humans, with biases, blind spots, shortcomings, and agendas -- will decide what speech is and is not acceptable. Part of the wisdom of First Amendment law is that it recognizes that we flawed humans will be tempted to ban speech for no better reason than that officials (or voters) simply dislike or disapprove of an idea or a particular speaker. That's why First Amendment doctrine forbids the use of highly subjective standards, which would invite arbitrary punishment of dissenters, oddballs, satirists, or the misunderstood. Too many scholars seem to think a robot could simply apply such standards to produce a perfect outcome every time.
A common academic argument against free speech relies on the idea that the primary, if not sole, justification for freedom of speech is that it is necessary in order for society to discover "objective truth" -- what I will call "Big T" Truth. But now, so the fashionable argument goes, the academy has found that objective truth does not exist, so we are free to regulate harmful, hurtful, or hateful speech because the benefit of unfettered speech -- revelation of Truth -- is illusory. (A revealing preview of today's anti-free speech arguments can be found in the oft-overlooked dissent to Yale's famous 1975 pro-free speech, pro-academic freedom "Woodward Report" [PDF].)
No doubt the open, anarchical, epistemological system that was celebrated in the Enlightenment -- which Jonathan Rauch dubbed "liberal science" in his classic work on the value of freedom of speech, "Kindly Inquisitors" -- has resulted in a flowering of creative and scientific thought. It has helped reveal what we consider to be objective facts (e.g., the Earth is an oblate spheroid; gravity is a fundamental force). But the free exchange of ideas benefits society not only by unearthing "Big T" truths; more importantly, it continually exposes mundane yet important pieces of information about the world. I will call this "Little t" truth. "Little t" truths include: who disagrees about what and why, what people feel about a particular issue, what events the newspapers think are important to report. The fact that "Argo" is a movie is truth, whether or not it represents an accurate view of history, as is the fact that some topics of discussion interest no one, while others are radioactive.
Twitter provides a powerful way to view the world. Never before have human beings been able to check the global zeitgeist with such immediacy and on such a massive scale. Its primary service is not to dispense the Platonic ideal of Truth ("the form of beauty = x"), but rather to provide unparalleled access to the peculiar thoughts, ideas, misconceptions, genuine wisdom, fetishes, fads, jokes, obsessions, and problems of a vast sea of people from different cultures, classes, countries, and backgrounds.
In order to be an effective mirror to global society, Twitter thinks of itself primarily as a platform and does its best to get out of the way. Therefore, we know things we simply would not know otherwise -- from the trivial to the serious. The people who want to scour mass media and cleanse it of all hateful or hurtful opinions miss that their purge would deny us important knowledge. Simply put, it is far better to know that there are bigots among us than to pretend all is well. As Harvey Silverglate, co-founder of FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, where I serve as president), likes to say, he supports free speech because he thinks it's important that he know if there's an anti-Semite in the room so he can make sure not to turn his back to that person.
The idea that society achieves something positive by mandating that people with bad opinions must hide them, or discuss them only in forums of the like-minded, is not only extraordinarily naive, it can be dangerous. Bigots driven into echo chambers may only become more extreme, as discussed in Cass Sunstein's book, "Going to Extremes." Meanwhile, what does society gain from such quarantining? A coerced but false silence that, if anything at all, plays into the hands of the paranoid and dangerous who already believe that there is a global conspiracy to shut them up. Forcing hate speech underground by banning it is like taking Xanax for syphilis. You may briefly feel better about your horrible disease, but your sickness will only get worse.
Simply making bigoted speech illegal results in two distortions of reality. First, it can create an overly rosy picture of public sentiment, thus preventing real and festering social problems from being addressed. Or second, paradoxically, it may lead people to believe that they live in a far less tolerant society than they actually do. John L. Jackson, an anthropology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, teased out this idea in his 2008 book "Racial Paranoia: The Unintended Consequences of Political Correctness." Jackson argues that if a minority group believes that only the threats of formal or informal punishments are preventing people from constantly shouting racial slurs at the top of their lungs, the minority may conclude that those other people are far more hateful and bigoted than they may, in fact, be. In this way, attempts to police hateful or hurtful speech may be making people more paranoid than they need to be about the feelings most people actually hold in their hearts.
The only lasting fix to the real problem of racism or anti-Semitism is cultural. A necessarily incomplete attempt to suppress bigotry may well have far worse unintended consequences, as legal regimes that try to ban hate speech drive social resentments underground, thus preventing the right allocation of resources to address social problems openly.
Twitter lets us see people as they are -- a mixed lot on any given day, to be sure. But it is especially important for a free society to learn not just the good news but the bad news as well.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.