At nearly five years old, my firstborn routinely disputes rules with his mother and me. Cookies shall be served for dinner, he declares. Though he must ultimately yield to our authority, we cannot claim to have actually changed his mind. As far as he is concerned, cookies remain the first and best option.
This tendency among youth to reject the thinking of their elders continues even into adulthood and leaves them vulnerable to manipulation by those who would use that trait to fulfill ulterior motives. “Do you always do what your parents say?” more than one tempter has asked.
It’s that age-old desire to break free of generations past which Rolling Stone contributor Jesse A. Myerson appeals to in his recent piece “Five Economic Reforms Millennials Should Be Fighting For.” A brief list of the political left’s most radical policy proposals, the piece launches from the suggestion of youth superiority. Myerson writes:
Here are a few things we might want to start fighting for, pronto, if we want to grow old in a just, fair society, rather than the economic hellhole our parents have handed us.
Silly elder, reform is for kids. The list includes guaranteed jobs, which you won’t necessarily need because there’s also a guaranteed income and public ownership of everything. It’s basically Gotham under the revolution of Bane.
It’s not what Myerson presents so much as what he takes for granted which deserves rebuttal. His proposals proceed from unspoken assumptions which have been promoted in the popular culture by an organized Left, manipulating the nation’s youth into sacrificing their future. Here are 6 lies millennials must reject to live free.
Comedian Doug Stanhope engaged in a remarkable act of charity, raising over $100,000 for an atheist family in Oklahoma whose home fell to a tornado. The Raw Story reports:
“I didn’t do it because I felt sympathy because she got all her sh*t destroyed by a tornado. I did it simply to be a prick to her Okie Christian neighbors,” Stanhope said in a video uploaded to YouTube on Monday. “It’s funny how hate can make you do real nice things every now and then.”
After a tornado ripped through the town of Moore, Oklahoma in May, CNN host Wolf Blitzer asked resident Rebecca Vitsmun if she thanked the Lord for surviving. She replied that she was an atheist.
“If you didn’t think that took balls you’ve never been to Oklahoma,” Stanhope remarked. “Saying ‘I’m an atheist’ in Oklahoma is like screaming ‘Jihad’ at airport security. It took some nuts.”
“If you watch the footage, all the other victims are on the news thanking Jesus for only killing their neighbors and not them, while a crawler is on the screen telling me where I can text money to help them out,” Stanhope said.
“F*ck them. I don’t want Jesus getting credit for my $50. I’ll help that other girl out. She ain’t got no Jeebus, she gonna need money.”
Cutting through Stanhope’s coarse rhetoric, his giving was certainly motivated by sympathy. He may not have been particularly moved by Vitsmun’s physical loss, but he was clearly moved by her irreligious expression. He sought to affirm her values with a gift of money, an act fundamentally no different from any charity.
Stanhope’s perception of Christianity proves noteworthy. Three specifics manifest. First, he compares professing atheism in Oklahoma to “screaming ‘Jihad’ at airport security.” He then portrays Christian gratitude as somehow malevolent, “thanking Jesus for only killing [others].” Finally, he states that he does not want Jesus getting credit for his $50 donation. Let’s take these in turn.
MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry tweeted an apology to the family of Mitt Romney yesterday after this clip made the rounds on social media. In the video, Harris-Perry and a gaggle of “progressive” panelists mock Mitt Romney’s family on account of an adopted black baby. Harris-Perry presents a family photo with the new addition held in the former presidential candidate’s lap. She asks for “captions,” which prompts one panelist to sing the Sesame Street song “One of These Things Is Not Like the Other.” Another remarks that the photo accurately reflects the diversity of the Republican Party, with a single black person among many whites.
The candid moment reveals what latent racism remains in our political discourse. Such ugliness makes its home on the Left.
As the product of one mixed-race union, a partner in another, and the father of two young mixed-race boys, I can speak with some authority on the topic of mixed-race families. My entire life serves as a case in point. Experience has led me to conclude that the real racists among us are those who see race wherever they look. Most people don’t. Most people look at my boys and see boys, not percentages of this mixed with that. Most people look at that picture of the Romney family and see a family, not a black baby among white people. Most people are not racists.
In her apologetic tweets, Harris-Perry recalls that she grew up “as a black child born into a large white Mormon family,” and merely meant to express familiarity with the Romneys. If we were to take her at her word, she certainly could have come up with a better way to express herself.
In one of his latest posts, the Californian takes umbrage with a decree from self-styled Olympians governing from Sacramento:
Oh, did I mention that the State of California, where I reside, has a bill on the table to tax/fine anyone who decides to leave California for another state or country. True story. Fine you for moving to another state!! WTF!! Maybe I can sneak out on a boat to Mexico.
In a cursory search, I was not able to find anything to substantiate this claim, though I have no trouble believing it. Such a proposal has been made before, and the Left has demonstrated on more than one occasion their willingness to punish or ban interstate relocation. Recall the National Labor Relations Board strong-arming Boeing when the aircraft manufacturer sought respite from Washington state’s smothering labor climate in right-to-work South Carolina? That ended only after Boeing capitulated to the NLRB’s extortion and threw a bone to the unions.
Fundamentally, only one difference exists between such actions and the Soviet Union’s construction of the Berlin Wall. That difference is a matter of degree. A tax on relocated wealth or an NLRB fine acts to deter escape from progressive utopia. The Berlin Wall merely dropped the pretense and made imprisonment within political borders obvious.
Those who propose such taxes, or otherwise seek to keep individuals and companies from voting with their feet, ought to be aggressively challenged utilizing the Berlin Wall comparison. Why did the free world oppose the Berlin Wall? What made that wall immoral? How does that differ from any government action to punish expatriation? Modern tyrants must be thus exposed.
As a movement to raise the minimum wage continues both nationally and in the several states, the Left’s media organs pump fresh rhetoric in support of old ideas. Their message appeals to the all-American virtue of hard work. In essence, they assert that working hard ought to guarantee a certain lifestyle. From the Huffington Post:
By one estimate, one in four private-sector jobs in the U.S. now pays less than $10 per hour, well below a living wage in many areas of the country. Compared to better-paying positions, these jobs are also more likely to come without regular schedules or benefits, like health care coverage, paid vacation time or sick leave — the basic trappings of middle-class work. In other words, employment doesn’t guarantee a life above the poverty line; according to census data, more than one in 10 Americans who work full-time are still poor.
Employment doesn’t guarantee a life above the poverty line. The unspoken assertion is that it should — that life should include “the basic trappings of middle-class work” regardless of the job in question.
Such rhetoric proves convincing. It resonates with a popular notion advanced by opinion-makers across the political spectrum. If you work hard and follow the rules, you should expect a comfortable living. So we have been told.
But is that true? Is working hard all it takes to earn a living which includes all the trappings of the middle-class?
I could go out this week and spend 40 hours digging a hole in my front yard. It would be harder work than the vast majority of people do at their jobs. At the end of the week, after all that work, no one would owe me a dime.
Hard work carries no value in and of itself. It must serve a purpose which creates value in someone’s life. If my 40 hours of digging is the first step toward installing a swimming pool, then I have something for my effort. If I am hired by someone else to dig the hole for their pool, the agreed upon pay acknowledges the value of the job.
To understand the effect of the movement to guarantee a certain lifestyle for full-time employment, we need only look to the effect Obamacare has had upon the kind of work employers offer. The market finds a way to adjust to intervention. If we continue to insist that full-time employees earn a certain kind of living, we will only limit the kind of work which can be offered full-time. You can mandate what people pay. But you can’t arbitrarily alter the economic value of a particular job.
As the drama surrounding cable network A&E’s suspension of Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson enters its second week without losing steam, our analysis of the incident becomes more refined by critical thought. Where emotional reactions at first prevailed, we now see thoughtful consideration of why this episode matters so much to so many people.
Caring about Phil Robertson and his ordeal says something about those who stand with him. It reveals a solidarity informed by shared values, and similar experiences. For Christians in today’s increasingly secularized culture, there exists a persistent subversion of our religious expression. While it often takes the form of private censure, as it has in Robertson’s case, the influence of the state can be sensed bearing down on private decisions.
Perhaps that is why figures like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck have mistakenly represented the suspension as a violation of Robertson’s free speech rights. As reported in City Pages, the Minnesota chapter of the ACLU sought to set the record straight in a blog post last week:
The Constitution protects you from the government violating your rights. Phil Robertson, of Duck Dynasty, has not been arrested or charged with a crime for his comments about gays (nor should he be), he has been [indefinitely suspended] by a private employer for making these comments.
Phil Robertson has the right to make whatever homophobic or racist comments he wants without fear of going to prison for it, however he does not have the right to have his own TV show, or to say what he wants without negative reactions from his employer or people in the community.
While this interpretation proves correct, we need not look far to see how unequally it is applied. What if, instead of Phil Robertson expressing his Christian view of homosexuality, A&E had suspended a gay reality show star for coming out of the closet and advocating for gay marriage? Would the ACLU and City Pages and their allies on the Left be so eagerly reminding us of the cable network’s freedom of association?
Reacting to a phenomenal wave of activity across social media in the wake of cable network A&E’s suspension of Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson for expressing his Christian view of homosexuality, many liberty activists have voiced frustration with the amount of attention a reality show can garner while — in their view — far more pressing issues persist. Some have even suggested that the entire drama has been orchestrated by the media to divert attention from issues like the implosion of Obamacare or the expanding NSA spying scandal.
Here’s a sample which exemplifies the sentiment of many:
I really wish people got half as outraged about things that actually matter as they do about stuff that happens on reality shows. I am so tired of it!
If you’re more upset that Phil Robertson got kicked off of A&E than you are that a US Drone bombed a wedding in Yemen last week killing 15 civilians, you might be part of the problem.
There’s an irony here which ought to command our attention. The essence of liberty emerges as the principle of individual rights, the recognition that each person retains the prerogative to form their own value judgments. The political left rejects that principle, insisting that individuals surrender their chosen values and adopt those deemed superior by an elite ruling class. Their willingness to wield force and compel others to forsake chosen values metastasizes from an initial conviction that people ought to think a certain way. Getting upset about how upset someone else gets about something you don’t think they should be upset about… it really says more about you than it does about them. It manifests from a latent bit of tyranny which would make others reorient their values.
These are friends of mine making the above comments. And God knows I’ve made similar comments in other contexts. While that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re all a bunch of tyrants, it should trigger a thoughtful consideration of why people value the things they value.
Proclamations of an ongoing War on Christmas have become an integral yuletide tradition. Typically evoked by socially conservative culture warriors, the “War” has found a new home as a rhetorical device on the political left. Take a look at this Smithsonian blog post, “Six Ways Climate Change Is Waging a War On Christmas.” Daily Kos joins others in characterizing Republican opposition to extending unemployment benefits as the “real war on Christmas.” One thing seems assured. Regardless of how pundits characterize it, the War on Christmas wages on.
As a rhetorical device, the War on Christmas proves interchangeable between political competitors because Christmas itself overlaps political boundaries. It’s not as though Christmas serves as the exclusive domain of social conservatives. When lodged by the Right, complaints about a War on Christmas thus miss their intended point.
Crafting “A Short History of the War on Christmas,” Politico recalls one of Bill O’Reilly’s first characterizations of the conflict:
“Secular progressives realize,” O’Reilly continued, “that America as it is now will never approve of gay marriage, partial birth abortion, euthanasia, legalized drugs, income redistribution through taxation and many other progressive visions because of religious opposition. But if the secularists can destroy religion in the public arena, the brave new progressive world is a possibility. That’s what happened in Canada.”
That was nearly ten years ago, and much traction has been made on most of those issues by the Left. The question for conservatives is whether the rapid change we have witnessed in society is truly due to a persistent campaign against religion, or whether something else may be at work.
The answer lies in an examination of the controversial separation of church and state. Travel in conservative circles for long enough and you will eventually hear someone claim no such separation exists. The phrase cannot be found in the Constitution, folks point out. Therefore, the notion of such a separation proves to be a wholly made up leftist lie.
Anakin was doomed from the start, being born as he was by the will of the Force, and not by the seed of a present father. So we may conclude after considering a recent study from the journal Cerebral Cortex. Here’s the summary from The Christian Post:
The absence of fathers during childhood may lead to impaired behavioral and social abilities, and brain defects, researchers at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, Montreal, Canada, found.
The researchers found that the mice raised without a father had abnormal social interactions and were more aggressive, compared to the mice raised with a father. The effects were stronger among daughters than sons.
Being raised without a father actually changed the brains of the test subjects. The research found defects in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which controls social and cognitive functions, of the fatherless mice.
Mice were used because their environment could be controlled to ensure that the effects of fatherlessness were measured accurately. Plus, their response apparently proves “extremely relevant to humans.”
The real finding here affirms the human capacity for needless studies to confirm what plain sense makes clear. Kids need their Dad.
As a father of young children, I have been struck by the profound sense of gender identity inherent in even the youngest child. My six month old responds differently to men and women, snuggling up readily to the latter, and employing more caution around the former. My four year old presents different challenges to my authority than to that of his mother, and endures different challenges from each of us in return.
Here’s the deal. We had all the findings we needed on this topic when we first discovered that it takes one man and one woman to make a child. I’m not sure how much more we’re going to learn from mice.
This will come across sanctimonious, like I’m trying to flaunt how good of a person I am. So let me start by offering the assurance that I prove no more courteous than anyone else, and may even be a bit below average. I use an example of my own courtesy because I remain well-informed as to its motivation.
I went to the gas station the other day to pick up a couple of snacks which I should not be eating. I was in no hurry. It was one of those meandering stops where you spend more time than you really need applying more thought than is rationally due to whether you should experiment with a new flavor of Combos.
When I finally completed my selection, I made my way to the register, where I stood in line behind one other person. A women rushed in from the arctic weather (uncharacteristically cold for this time of year, even in Minnesota) clasping onto a ten dollar bill and signaling without any sense of entitlement that she was in a hurry.
I stood next to be served and could have taken that privilege without objection. But I made the decision to yield my place in line to her. She paid her ten dollars for pump four and went on her way, delaying me mere seconds as opposed to the minute or so I may have delayed her.
As I left, seven layer dip tortilla Combos in hand, I pondered why I had stepped aside. Here I am, an admirer of Ayn Rand, an advocate of individual rights, frequently evoking rational self-interest in my analysis of politics and culture. Was my tiny act of courtesy a violation of that principle? Did I fail to act in my own rational self-interest by allowing a stranger to take my place in line? Did I sacrifice something of value for something of lesser or no value?
Some ideas trigger an intellectual gag reflex and leave your neurons gasping for reason. This image conveys one such idea.
Once you regain your composure, realize that this characterization says more about its leftist creator than it says about the Right. It’s because the cartoonist fixates upon the holdings of others that they project that fixation upon the Right.
Indeed, it’s the leftist who seeks to affect what everyone else owns, not the Right. It’s the leftist who presents a list of things others can’t have — large sodas, carbon-emitting vehicles, a healthcare plan they like, etc. It’s the Left that acts as Grinch, plundering in the guise of Santa.
Who has two thumbs and loves Back to the Future? This guy! Replete with such cornball humor, and stimulating the imagination to ponder mysteries of the universe like temporal displacement and women, the ’80s popcorn adventures hold up to this day.
As 2015 nears, boasting a movie release schedule packed with blockbuster franchises – everything from the next Star Wars to Avengers: Age of Ultron and Jurassic World – it saddens me to realize we won’t also see a revisiting of the Back to the Future universe. You may recall that 2015 was the year that Doc Brown and Marty McFly traveled to in the second film. That year will also mark the 30th anniversary of the franchise. A second volume of films centering around the disparity between 2015 as we will know it and the one encountered by Marty as a teenager carries a lot of potential. If only screenwriter Bob Gale and director Robert Zemeckis were reading.
Much of the fun in Back to the Future emerges from a clash of generations, how things change over time — and how they stay the same. The second film in the series addresses what might happen if you went back in time and told your younger self how to be successful. Marty McFly plots to take a sports almanac from 2015 back to 1985 so he can place bets on foreseen outcomes. When the book falls into the hands of an elderly and villainous Biff Tannen, he executes the same plan to disastrous effect.
Sure, sending your younger self stock tips or sports scores may be an underhanded way to achieve your best life now. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t less scandalous messages you could send which might produce a better result. Here are 6 warnings I would send my younger self.
Is money really the root of all evil? This Thanksgiving, I may argue that point with my brother-in-law. Our sparring began earlier this week on Facebook, discussing an episode of my Fightin Words podcast where I imagined a world without state-imposed hunting and fishing restrictions. In a truly free market, where government acted only to protect individual rights, our access to animals of value would be assured by market forces. After all, we’re in no danger of running out of turkeys for Thanksgiving, and government doesn’t ration those. So why do we need to ration deer and fish?
I attracted criticism from the Left for “coming out against fish and game laws,” though I would prefer to describe it as advocating for individual rights. The criticism was based on the belief that human greed unmitigated by state regulation enables the hunting of species to extinction. It’s happened before, the argument goes, and must be prevented in the future. My brother-in-law summed up the position like this:
Money kills everything.
Boy, oh boy. There may never be a more concise expression of the philosophies I work daily against. Here’s the context:
I think we would soon make everything extinct like we do everything else if not for laws… humans are extremely greedy and wasteful when it comes to hunting. Horrible shots that maim and wound, and they don’t know how to butcher the animals themselves much anymore either.
Pretty obvious to me that we need regulations. Especially in the ocean…money kills everything.
It’s one of those comments which lends itself to so many possible responses, picking a place to start proves difficult.
Star Wars holds a sacrosanct place in my heart, as it does with so many among my generation. As we’ve grown up, its mythology has served as a ready reference, shaping our perception of the world. Good and evil, light and dark, rebel and tyrant – while its moral dichotomy may prove simplistic, the struggles in Star Wars nonetheless resonate with conflicts we face in real life.
Anything which has such influence over a child, sparking imagination, shaping morality, and stimulating aspiration, ascends to an object of reverence. It becomes something we carry around with us (some more literally than others) and cling to like a sacred idol. A kind of theology develops around it, with conflicting doctrines advanced by competing denominations of fandom. So it is with Star Wars. For that reason, any tinkering with the the saga’s mythology inevitably draws cries of heresy.
Betsy Woodruff of National Review went so far as to declare Star Wars dead, due in large part to the brand’s acquisition by mega-corporation Disney. Citing George Lucas’ own introspection regarding his Vader-like transformation from ragtag rebel of the film industry to head of his own corporate empire, and detailing her experience trying out for a role in director J.J. Abrams’ forthcoming Episode VII, Woodruff concludes:
Here’s why Star Wars is dead: First, because they made a huge mistake in not casting me. Second, because it’s no longer in the hands of a bunch of nerds in California and because it’s been entrusted instead to the kind of people who think eight-hour meet-and-greets are a good idea either as A) publicity stunts (or, giving them the presumption of good faith) B) a good way to determine who’s going to be the next Luke Skywalker. It’s because Star Wars — a story that’s profoundly anti-centralization, anti-bureaucracy, anti-depersonalization — is being micromanaged and scrutinized by nameless bureaucrats who think that people who’ve stood in line for five hours will be satisfied with being directed to a website. And it’s because a film enterprise that was initially about risk is now about bet-hedging. No one should need to be told that the seventh film in a franchise probably isn’t going to be super great. But, you know, just in case, consider yourself warned.
Consider me a fan of another denomination. While the next film in the franchise may indeed bomb, it won’t do so for the reasons Woodruff cites.
Louis C.K. may not be the first person you think of when considering the topic of theology. Nevertheless, his work contains at least one observation about the human condition which reflects a truth about God found in Romans 11:33-36. That passage reads:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
For who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Unpacking those verses in a recent Sunday sermon, my pastor illustrated our relationship to God as the relationship between a young child and her parent. He recalled the experience of driving around town with his nine-year-old daughter in the backseat. Whether correcting his navigation or critiquing his road etiquette, our pastor’s little girl believes she knows how to drive better than him.
The tale reminded me of a stand-up comedy bit by Louis C.K. where he details a dispute with his three-year-old daughter over the name of a popular cookie:
So I give her a Fig Newton. … I go, “Here, honey. Have a Fig Netwon.”
She goes, “There not called Fig Netwons. They’re called pig newtons.”
“No, honey, they’re called Fig Newtons.”
She goes, “No, you’ don’t know. You don’t know. They’re called pig newtons.”
And I feel this rage building inside. Because, it’s not that she’s wrong. She’s three. She’s entitled to be wrong. But it’s the [expletive] arrogance of this kid, no humility, no decent sense of self-doubt. She’s not going, “Dad, I think those are pig newtons. Are you sure that you have it right?…”
… I’m like, “Really, I don’t know? I don’t know? Dude, I’m not even using my memory right now. I’m reading the [expletive] box!… You’re three and I’m forty-one! What are the odds that you’re right and I’m wrong? What are the sheer odds of that?”
These stories make us laugh because we see them from an adult perspective. We come at them with the benefit of an adult’s knowledge and experience. Yet, in many ways, we prove no less arrogant as adults when we question the ways of our father, God.
“How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” the Apostle Paul wrote. Like young children, we all like to believe we have life’s answers, or at least the means to discern them.
If you love movies, you owe it to yourself to subscribe to the AMC Theaters channel on YouTube. You will enjoy the thoughtful commentary offered by the crew at AMC Movie Talk.
Responding to a viewer question asking whether Hollywood will ever make an action hero or superhero film with a gay leading character, AMC’s John Campea offers several well-considered insights, none more so than this one:
The other thing I think is a little bit less nefarious than homophobia. And that’s simply the idea of cognitive identification. A lot of times, when we’re watching superhero films like – ridiculous guys like me. I watch Captain America and there’s a part of me that feels like I can be that guy. When I’m watching Iron Man, there’s a ridiculously disconnected [from reality] part of my brain that thinks, “I can be Tony Stark.” There’s an association with it… There’s very few things that are more strongly embedded within us, with our identity, than our sexuality.
The moment Captain America starts making out with another man, the ability of a heterosexual male to relate drops off substantially. Campea goes on to apply that observation beyond the context of sexual orientation to race, dialect, and other cultural differences.
Let’s say we see a guy, a character onscreen who is a small – speaks broken English – Asian gentleman. We have a hard time identifying with that. That’s not us. We can’t identify with him. And so we don’t really get attracted to those types of characters, those types of movies, and those types of projects.
It comes down to business and math. There just aren’t enough gay men in the world to justify catering a big budget action film to their particular tastes.
The closest a Christian comes to hearing the literal voice of God is when their familiarity with scripture evokes verses in answer to life’s queries. For instance, when confronted with the Washington Post’s profile of “tatted up, foul-mouthed” Lutheran minister Nadia Bolz-Weber, something like 2 Timothy 4:3-4 comes to mind:
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
The Post provides little from Bolz-Weber which passes for theology. Most of her quotes wash past vague and incoherent. The Blaze provides a thumbnail sketch:
While there is a growing group of believers interested in Bolz-Weber’s message, not everyone will be so enamored. For one, her use of what The Washington Post called a “frequently profane dialect” will certainly turn off more traditional church attendees. Still, she’s piquing the interest of others who are more theologically progressive in nature.
From nothing more than this habit, “frequently profane dialect” from the pulpit, we can assume with confidence that Bolz-Weber knows not of whom she speaks.
Why shouldn’t a pastor use foul language? Is criticism of folks like Mark Driscoll, a professing evangelical known as “the cussing pastor,” informed by a kind of Puritan asceticism? Does swearing make a Christian “real” or “relevant”?
As we take a too-infrequent moment to honor the service of our men and women in uniform this Veterans Day, let us consider our language and test whether it does them justice.
Commonly, we refer to the contribution made by those who serve in the military as a sacrifice. Our veterans have given up relatively comfortable alternatives to place themselves in harm’s way and protect our liberties. When we call that a sacrifice, we mean it honorably. Nevertheless, we may be selling our now and future veterans short by continuing to think of their choice in that way.
What is a sacrifice? It’s one of those words, like “love,” which has many nuanced meanings depending upon the context in which one uses it. For our purposes in this discussion, let’s settle upon this definition: a trade of value for something of lesser or no value. In order for something to be sacrificial, it must leave the giver worse off than they were before, right? How often do we lift up as virtue the notion of doing something for others without any expectation of receiving something in return?
Yet many of the things we commonly refer to as sacrifice do not fit that definition. When a college student passes on a night out with friends to stay in and study for a big test, he hardly ends up worse off for the trade. Yet, we call it a sacrifice. When a parent prioritizes the needs of their children above her own personal needs, she rarely thinks of the trade as a loss. Yet we think of that as sacrificial too.
In truth, many if not most of the things we call sacrifices actually stand as rational value judgments. Studying for an important test has greater value than a single night out on the town. Providing for one’s children has greater value than indulging yourself to their neglect. We make such choices in pursuit of our values, not at their expense.
The same applies to our men and women in uniform. Enlistment rationally values the nation’s security and individual liberties above mere safety. That is what makes it so honorable! That is why we stand in awe of our veterans and offer them our thanks, because the choice to protect what the rest of us take for granted declares something of their character. It tells us what they value, and how much they value it. I imagine few if any enlist hoping to lose life or limb as a “sacrifice.” Rather, they accept the risk to life and limb as an affirmation of that which they value — life in a free country. As the beneficiaries of that choice, we ought not diminish it by calling it a sacrifice.
PJTV’s Bill Whittle uses a great illustration that I’m about to shamelessly rip off. Imagine that you work in an office, occupying one of many cubicles. One afternoon, the boss calls you into his office and tells you that you’ve done such an incredible job that the company has decided to provide you with a $5,000 bonus. In that moment, how would you feel? Pretty darn good, right? Your day just got $5000 brighter! Your mind might go straight to what you could do with the money, the vacation you could take, the bills you could pay, the possible boost to your savings or investment accounts. You’d probably swell with pride at the recognition you’ve earned and head out to tell a friend and co-worker the great news. He would listen intently, then smile and tell you that he and everyone else earned a bonus too — only theirs is $10,000.
Now how do you feel? What only a moment prior was overflowing joy and celebration instantly metastasizes into something wholly different. You actually feel worse than you did before getting an extra $5000. Instead of thinking about what you can do with the money you got, you think of what you could have done with the money everyone else got. From a dark place, you acknowledge that you’d rather see no one receive a bonus — including yourself — than see others get more than you.
There’s something about the human heart which fosters such envy, an emotion so powerful that it can drive us to work against our own interests in pursuit of equity. It’s better that everyone get the same, even if the same is nothing, than for some people to get more than others. So that dark corner of our heart proclaims.
The above info-graphic comes from an exit poll conducted on Election Night 2012. It shows a fascinating trend in voting behavior broken down by education level. As you can see, voters without a college education favored President Obama over Romney 52.4% to 46%. Among voters with some college education, the vote was split nearly 50/50. Voters who had earned a college degree favored Romney by the same margin as those without a college education favored Obama. It would seem that as voters advance through post-secondary education, they become more likely to vote Republican.
But look on. Voters who remained in school after earning an undergraduate degree broke sharply in favor of Obama. Their support for the incumbent president was even more pronounced than that among voters with no college education.
What happened? What could account for such a dramatic reversal in what otherwise appears to be a trend indicating post-secondary education fosters Republican tendencies? You tell me.
My wife was a graduate student, studying counseling psychology at a university in the Midwest. Leftist ideology was an article of faith among the faculty and student cohort alike. Our status as Republican-voting Christian conservatives was regarded with a mixture of revulsion and morbid curiosity. I never thought to pick anyone’s brain about why they voted the way they did. But if I were forced to speculate in hindsight, I would say the university environment fosters the sense that any social problem can be micromanaged by a cadre of elite geniuses.
In his book Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole pastor Eric Mason describes a downward spiral with horrendous repercussions for our culture. He writes:
In inner-city communities, fatherlessness is heighted for a number of reasons including crime, cultural socialization, economic depression, the ratio of men to women, and imprisonment. Philadelphia, for example, is estimated to consist of 90 percent single-parent homes.
Mothers in Section 8 projects and rental properties fight to raise their children to live beyond the context of their community. But even if they escape, the father wounds plague the psyche of boys trying to make sense of themselves in a locale where survival is paramount. The images of manhood are limited to the TV and the neighborhood, both of which tend to portray manhood as thuggish. In these neighborhoods, thugs are looked up to for their knack of being able to navigate the harsh terrain of the hood. Observing this, boys desire that same level of prowess. Thugs, then, become viable candidates for the predominate image of manhood.
Fatherlessness fuels the thug life, and the thug life fuels fatherlessness.
How might we combat this trend and pull out of a cultural nosedive? As a Christian pastor, Mason prescribes the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Indeed, were young men to embrace Christ as their savior and example, they would forsake the thug life. Ironically, the value of what Christ has to offer may be conveyed by an appeal to the same temporal concern which draws young men to emulate thugs.
The perceived prowess of the thug fades under scrutiny. His strength is a mirage. The thug elevates his personal whims above not only the rights of others, but his own objective best interests. Whether they intellectually comprehend it or not, thieves, bullies, and murderers bear a life-crushing weight upon their soul. Real prowess creates. It does not take. Real prowess sustains. It does not merely consume. Real prowess yields life, not death. The thug fails these standards. He proves impotent without real men to feed upon.
Throwing Christ into the mix elevates our consideration of prowess to a whole new level. When we recognize God as the author of manhood, we realize how high the bar is actually set. What can a thief offer to trump the Giver? How can a bully one-up the Comforter? What threat does a murderer present to the Sustainer? These qualities of Holy God define real prowess. As his image-bearers, men must seek to emulate Him rather than the impotent thugs presented in our fallen culture.
An entire generation of young people will soon emerge from childhood without ever having gone to a video store. That inevitability motivated the above commentary from BuzzFeed, a nostalgic look back at our shared experience venturing out to find an evening’s entertainment. The narrator concludes:
But now video stores have gone the way of the American buffalo. There’s barely any left. You can’t just walk to the strip mall with friends and try to outdo each other with the weirdest looking movie cover. There’s no more chatting with the movie geek clerk about the uber-violent Japanese gangster movies he recommends, and no more Saturday afternoon trips because the weather was too ugly to play outside.
Somehow we decided it was just easier to never leave the house ever. And it’s definitely easier. But maybe it’s not better.
As the rate of technological advancement continues to increase, perhaps we will soon outgrow such “back in my day” nostalgia and come to recognize that market-driven progress is always better than the way things were. Watching this look back on the video-store culture reminds us of the myriad other ways in which yesterday becomes romanticized while the here and now lies in scorn.
As it turns out, there weren’t always video stores. It used to be that, if you wanted to watch a movie, you had to commit an entire evening to the adventure of cinema. You couldn’t just browse shelves of video cassettes or DVDs looking through a library of features culled from the history of film. Rather, your choices were limited to the latest releases, and you had to get out and see them quickly before they disappeared from theaters. Somehow we decided it was just easier to grab a video and head back home to view it at our convenience. And it’s definitely easier. But maybe it’s not better.
On second thought, video stores clearly were better than movie theaters in many situations, as internet streaming is clearly better than video stores. Otherwise, people would not choose one over the other.
President Obama wants you to understand what he really meant when he said you could keep your health insurance plan under Obamacare. The Washington Post reports:
Fact-checkers and journalists have ruled that Obama wasn’t being truthful when he claimed that people who liked their insurance could keep it. Obama during a speech in Boston sought to cast the issue Wednesday as trying to weed out “bad apple insurers” who don’t provide enough coverage.
“One of the things health reform was designed to do was to help not only the uninsured but also the under-insured,” Obama said. “And there are a number of Americans, fewer than 5 percent of Americans, who’ve got cut-rate plans that don’t offer real financial protection in the event of a serious illness or an accident.
“Remember, before the Affordable Care Act, these bad apple insurers had free rein every single year to limit the care that you received or used minor pre-existing conditions to jack up your premiums or bill you into bankruptcy.”
In other words, if President Obama likes your plan, you can keep it. This slight revision to his previous claim should be embraced on account of it serving your best interests, the president claims. Before Obamacare, those pesky insurance companies were providing you with precisely what you contracted for and not a penny more. Our national savior can’t have that.
It would have been nice if the president had led with this message from the start. Certainly, those of us who understood Obamacare when it was proposed knew that liking our plan would not necessarily mean we could keep it. After all, that’s the whole point of passing a law, interfering in chosen behavior. You don’t need to pass a law to let people keep what they have. You just need to leave them alone.
Julianne Hough probably didn’t think this one through. That’s the Huffington Post‘s take on the actress’s choice to attend a Halloween party dressed as a black character from Orange Is the New Black. As part of her transformation, Hough donned blackface. HuffPo reports:
The actress attended the Casamigos Tequila Halloween party in Hollywood with friends, who appear to have all gone as the cast of the hit Netflix series. No one in the group, however, seems to have given Hough a heads up about her offensive getup.
This comes during a persistent campaign to badger the Washington Redskins into changing their name. It also fuels the hand-wringing campaign to prevent “offensive” costumes from appearing on school campuses.
As a black man, I find myself wondering two things. First, why do I need white people to be offended on my behalf? Second and far more importantly, why should I be offended by something as trivial as a Halloween costume?
I’ve never quite understood why blackface should offend me. The act of wearing blackface does not harm me. It does not take something from me. It does not prevent me from acting upon my own judgment. It does not violate my rights. I accept that blackface offends some people. I understand that it may be distasteful. But I’m not sure why academics and journalists are so desperate to snuff blackface out of existence while ignoring or even advocating practices which actually harm black people.