Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by expiated, Nov 24, 2020.
Critique of the Communist Manifesto
EYE ON THE NEWS
The Monster Is in the Classroom
Schools indoctrinate children as young as eight in race and gender essentialism.
April 30, 2021 Education: The Social Order
Many American parents may assume that culture-war battles over critical race theory and "wokeness" are fought on legitimate terrain, involving such matters as how high school students can best grapple with our nation's complex past. Perhaps they think that the suddenly ubiquitous topics of gender identity and preferred pronouns rankle only those parents who are old-fashioned in their thinking. If only. America's youngest students are being bombarded with classroom activism and indoctrination that is inappropriate not only developmentally but for public school systems in general.
The contemporary obsession with identity has made its way into elementary school policy, curricula, and standards approved by state boards. While we continue to see poor reading and math scores, schools spend money and time confusing and shaming other people's children. Many educators and elected leaders have good intentions; they believe deeply that they are part of a necessary and long-overdue movement to teach racial literacy, social justice, equity, and antiracism. B. as virtuous as these terms may sound on their face, they mean something else in far too many classrooms. American schools are teaching young children race essentialism: reducing them to identity groups, putting them in boxes labeled "oppressor" and "oppressed," and often inflicting emotional and psychological harm.
If this sounds extreme, that's because it is. It is not happening everywhere—but it is happening enough to have juiced a multibillion-dollar, nationwide industry. Sometimes the source is a rogue teacher whom the principal and superintendent admit they are trying to rein in; but increasingly, it is simply public officials implementing approved policies.
Consider Bellevue, Washington, home to Cherry Crest Elementary School. The school website indicates that students "will have explicit conversations about race, equity, and access" and "will identify culture and begin to recognize and identify white culture through storytelling, sharing, and conversation." The school promises to hold monthly assemblies that focus on culture, identity, and race, and has created a group called SOAR (Students Organized Against Racism) for fourth- and fifth-graders. These children, who range from ages nine to 11, are tasked with "implementing learning and stratimplementation of school-wide learning and strategies for being anti-racist." Left unclear is whether these students have been made aware that modern antiracism requires discrimination on the basis of race.
Or take Lexington, Massachusetts, where, in October 2019, fourth-graders were taught to "articulate what gender identity is and why it-'s important to use nonbinary language in describing people we don't know yet." According to photos shared on Twitter by the district's Director of Equity and Student Supports, students learned about "gender identity," "gender expression," "sexual orientation," and "sex assigned at birth" by examining sticky notes on a "Gender Snowperson" who was drawn in magic marker on a large sheet of paper. The students were also taught that their pronouns had been "assigned at birth."
In Oregon, teachers can use new state standards in "ethnic studies" starting in September 2021; the standards will become a mandatory part of the curriculum in 2025. The Oregon Department of Education released an update on the standards last year. While most Americans may not consider gender an essential component of ethnic studies, the Oregon Department of Education does. The revised recommendations for the standards require kindergartners to "understand their own identity groups, including but not limited to race, gender, family, ethnicity, culture, religion and ability." First-graders will be able to "describe how individual and group characteristics are used to divide, unite, and categorize racial, ethnic and social groups."
In Rockwood, Missouri, a fifth-grade teacher recently gave students a handout with written excerpts by Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter. The writings included the claim that "Michael Brown was murdered just steps from his mother's home in Ferguson, Missouri." (They did not mention Attorney General Eric Holder's conclusion that "the facts did not support the filing of criminal charges against Officer Darren Wilson.") The handout goes on: "Disruption is the new world order. It is the way in which those denied power assert power. And in the context of a larger strategy for how to contend for power, disruption is an important way to surface new possibilities." When I asked the school principal about the assignment, he said: "This was used by a teacher and is not a Rockwood approved resource. I am working with the teacher to ensure that only Rockwood curricular resources are used when teaching lessons."
This past February, students in Evanston, Illinois, listened to the book Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness. Parents were asked to discuss the book with their children at home. The book says that "whiteness is a bad deal" and "always was," and that "you can be white without signing on to whiteness." As Conor Friedersdorf reports in The Atlantic, Evanston schools ask kindergarten parents to quiz their five- and six-year-olds on whiteness and to give them examples of "how whiteness shows up in school or in the community."
In Cupertino, California, third-graders at R. L Meyerholz Elementary School were required to deconstruct their racial identities and then rank themselves according to their "power and privilege." The teacher asked all students to create an "identity map," which required them to list their race, class, gender, religion, family structure, and other characteristics. The teacher explained to students that they live in a "dominant culture" of "white, middle class, cisgender, educated, able-bodied, Christian, English speaker," who, according the lesson, "created and maintained" this culture in order "to hold power and stay in power." Students were then asked to deconstruct these intersectional identities and "circle the identities that hold power and privilege" on their identity maps, ranking their traits based on the hierarchy the teacher had just explained to them.
Some parents may agree with such content. But public institutions funded with public dollars do not exist to groom activists for particular causes, shame children for their immutable traits, or deny them their agency or their childhood. We are talking about eight- and nine-year-old kids who believe in Santa Claus, hide their lost teeth under their pillow for the tooth fairy, and curl up in their parents' laps for comfort and love. It is immoral—at least—to reduce them to confected racial and gender categories and to teach them to do the same to others. Parents around the country need to understand what is happening in a growing number of elementary classrooms.
Those Who Claim to Be Acting on Behalf of Humanity Will Almost Always Attempt to Crush It
Why Do Revolutions Rarely Ever Deliver on Their Promises? A Look at the Failed Paris Commune on the 150th Anniversary of Its Fall
But finally today, as we think about the spirit of revolution that is in the air , yes, we're talking here about moral revolution, but we're also talking about a revolution against creation order and the very design God made in the cosmos, we're talking about a rebellion against what is revealed in God's word, but we're talking about revolution and we're talking about a generation in which there's been a lot of lost knowledge about how most revolutions turn out. The vast majority of revolutions turn out to be deadly and violent. They turn out to be failures.
And this very month we're coming up on the 150th anniversary of one of those disastrous and doomed revolutions. This was the 1871 fall of the Paris Commune. If you hear commune, you hear the refrain of communism. You hear 1871, you hear all the political, social and moral upheavals of the late 19th century that helped to give birth to the 20th century. There's a big story here. It's worth looking at for a few moments.
The modern age as we know it, linking the history of Europe and the United States, goes back to the fact that if you begin the 19th century, you begin with a very settled political picture, but that picture becomes very unsettled by the end of the 19th century. A part of this has to do with vast societal changes, including, for example, the rise of industrialization, the extension of the idea of democracy and the fact that citizens should have the right to vote. This made very tenuous many of the imperial and monarchial powers in Europe and especially when they turned on war against one another.
During the 19th century, you see the rise of what was celebrated and then feared, the rise of the modern state. And it began most importantly in Germany under the rule of Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck. And in order to understand the failed revolution of the Paris Commune in 1871, you have to go back to the fact that you had France and Germany ... actually, France and Prussia because Germany wasn't reunited yet ... you had France and Prussia at war.
By the time you get to the middle of the 19th century, France is humiliated. It had been the great glittering imperial power, but France was in decline and it decided to press over against Prussia in order to regain territory. Let's just say it didn't turn out very well. Declaring war on Prussia turns out usually to be a bad idea.
Within a fairly short amount of time, the Prussian forces were outside of Paris and ready to take the city, but industrialization had taken place so many other changes have taken place. There was political unrest in Paris, partly because the French Revolution of the late 18th century into the 19th century had failed so badly leading to the time of Napoleon, eventually to the fall of Napoleon's empire, and France had been in a great deal of turmoil. Its pride had been wounded. It declared war on Prussia, but wounded pride pales over against an absolute existential threat, which is what the Prussian forces now represented to Paris.
In Paris, there was an overthrow of the government and the declaration of a new people's government. They declared it the commune. Now, at the very same time, you have radical revolutionaries, indeed, the communist revolutionaries, Karl Marx and Friedrich Ingles, writing their revolutionary works. And when it comes to the Paris Commune, there was influence going both ways. Eventually, Marx and Lenin, pointing to the communards, as they were known in Paris, said that that was where they understood the foundation of the communist revolutionary movement to begin.
It's very interesting that the revolutionary identity taken by those in the Paris Commune included not only the separation of church and state, but a radically secularist position. Eventually, they would execute the Catholic Archbishop of Paris and other priests. This was an intentionally anti-theistic movement, but it was also a precursor to so many of the Marxist revolutions that would follow, particularly in the 20th century, including most famously the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. They claimed to exercise power in the name of the people. But in the end, it was the people who were crushed.
The story of what happened in and to the Paris Commune is long and complicated, but the bottom line is this. Eventually, France was able to re-establish a government that reestablished control in Paris, defeating the national guard that was under the control of the communards and defeating the commune itself. France was then once again under a constitutional government. It tells you something about just how many governments and constitution France has had since the revolution, because that was declared to be the third republic. The current French government is the fifth republic.
So much of Europe was unsettled at this time. Just take the great city of Strausberg. It was an imperial-free city for many years. In 1681, it became French. In 1871, it became German, thanks to the Franco-Prussian war and France's defeat. In 1918, France gained control of Strausberg again, but the Germans gained it in 1940. The French got it once again, only with the defeat of the Third Reich in 1945, so you have just one city that was free, then French, then German, then French, then German, then French. It remains French today. But then again, history is unfolding.
The spirit of revolution was spreading around much of Europe, but here's what we need to note. The Paris Commune didn't last long. We're not even talking about years. We're talking about months. The revolutionary principles upon which the commune defined itself were actually impractical to the point of political failure. And what we saw in this attempted revolution was exactly what we saw in the French Revolution, a secular attempt to try to act on behalf of humanity that turns viciously and murderously anti-human.
But as we conclude The Briefing today, what's really interesting is to know that much of the ideological and political in western nations began to look to the Paris Commune as inspiration, declaring those who died there to be martyrs and making the argument that other revolutionaries in other lands, and also in France, needed to take up arms in order to finally find the people's liberation in a successful revolution.
Well, just think about 1917 and understand what happened in the murderous decades of the Soviet Union. Understand what happened under Pol Pot in Cambodia. Understand what happened in France, and you come to understand that most revolutions, the vast majority, fail ever to deliver on their promises. Instead, what they deliver on is crushed humans and a crushed human spirit.
But this is where Christians need to understand that there are lessons from history that explain the present. And one of the big lessons of history we need to remember in the present is that when you have people who try to define humanity, apart from the biblical definition of human beings made in God's image, then what you have is a proclaimed revolution that doesn't liberate humanity. Rather, it crushes humanity. And that means it crushes very real human beings and crushes the very reality of human hope. Beware those who claim to act on behalf of an anonymous humanity, because the real victims are likely to be none other than human beings.
~R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
R. ALBERT MOHLER, JR.
R. ALBERT MOHLER, JR.
When it comes to climate change, the media, politicians, and other prominent voices have declared that “the science is settled.” In reality, the long game of telephone from research to reports to the popular media is corrupted by misunderstanding and misinformation. Core questions—about the way the climate is responding to our influence, and what the impacts will be—remain largely unanswered. The climate is changing, but the why and how aren’t as clear as you’ve probably been led to believe.
Now, one of America’s most distinguished scientists is clearing away the fog to explain what science really says (and doesn’t say) about our changing climate. In Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn't, and Why It Matters, Steven Koonin draws upon his decades of experience—including as a top science advisor to the Obama administration—to provide up-to-date insights and expert perspective free from political agendas.
Fascinating, clear-headed, and full of surprises, this book gives readers the tools to both understand the climate issue and be savvier consumers of science media in general. Koonin takes readers behind the headlines to the more nuanced science itself, showing us where it comes from and guiding us through the implications of the evidence. He dispels popular myths and unveils little-known truths: despite a dramatic rise in greenhouse gas emissions, global temperatures actually decreased from 1940 to 1970. What’s more, the models we use to predict the future aren’t able to accurately describe the climate of the past, suggesting they are deeply flawed.
Koonin also tackles society’s response to a changing climate, using data-driven analysis to explain why many proposed “solutions” would be ineffective, and discussing how alternatives like adaptation and, if necessary, geoengineering will ensure humanity continues to prosper. Unsettled is a reality check buoyed by hope, offering the truth about climate science that you aren’t getting elsewhere—what we know, what we don’t, and what it all means for our future.
How an administrative state is not necessarily representative of the public...
The Modern Administrative State Embraces the Transgender Revolution: Where the Federal Government’s Money Goes, Its Moral Coercion Also Goes
Today, a big moral issue, but behind that, an understanding of how culture works. In particular, how the American culture works. In our American system of government and far beyond the reach of government, the way that society begins to organize itself around a new morality. We're talking about political coercion. We're talking about the power of the state, particularly the federal government, to change the way Americans live and to impose new moral judgments.
Now, in order to understand this, let's look at the contemporary headline yesterday, the White House revealed that the Department of Health and Human Services is going to extend non-discrimination policies to transgender persons. That might not sound like a big surprise, but actually it is a reversal of the practice of the Department of Health and Human Services. And on the ground, the likelihood is that this is going to mean that Christian organizations and Christian healthcare providers are going to be coerced into participation with transgender procedures, therapies, and treatments with which they are in convictional disagreement. That is to say contrary to their religious, their Christian convictions.
You're also going to see a crisis of conscience likely for many religious hospitals and different kinds of healthcare organizations and ministries. You're also going to see the fact that the American taxpayer may well turn out to be paying for some surgical and medical and beyond that psychotherapeutic procedures that are associated with the transgender revolution and the larger LGBTQ movement, because the new policy put in place by the Department of Health and Human Services says that failure to accomplish virtually all of these things will represent an illegal form of discrimination.
So we're going to look a bit more at what this policy change means, but let's back up and wonder how in the world does such a thing even happen. And why does it have such an outsize importance in American public life? In order to understand this, we have to go to some of the most controversial language and American politics and public culture today. For example, here's a term that's indispensable for our consideration: the administrative state.
Now, as you hear the administrative state, you hear an argument. The argument is either that the United States government should increasingly exert itself through administrative agencies or that it is a disaster that the federal government is now exerting so much influence over American public and private life by means of unelected bureaucrats. You either see this as a good thing or as a very dangerous thing, and no doubt it is a very controversial reality. It goes back to the early decades of the 20th century. Actually, it goes back beyond the United States. It goes back to the 19th century, and the headlines then would have come from Germany.
Germany was actually united as a country, only in the last third of the 19th century. Prussia had been the major German state, and under the rule of the chancellor known as the Iron Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, Germany was united. All the different German states basically came into a new German Imperial identity and under Bismarck's leadership, Germany took on the role of a modern administrative state.
Now there's a huge worldview issue behind this. When Germany came into being as a modern state, remember there had been various German states, there had been Prussia, but looking at a unified Germany, you were only talking about the 1870s. When Germany came together, it came together as a secular government under a secular decision-making process. Now that's different from most other European states that have been deeply rooted in a much longer history and understood their political legitimacy to be deeply grounded in some kind of Christian identity. But when you're talking about Germany, you're talking about a very different understanding. You're also talking about one German philosopher, Hegel, in particular, and Hegel's understanding of the national spirit unfolding in a direction of the future that is inherently progressive.
So if you're wondering what all this has to do with the shape of government, the shape of the American government and the decision handed down yesterday as new policy by the Department of Health and Human Services, understand that the cultural left is Hegelian in the sense of seeing an unfolding world spirit that is inevitably working its way towards progress. And that progress is marked by professionalism and administrative efficiency. And that means that the modern administrative state is seen as one of the major engines for accomplishing liberal goals.
Largely under the influence of president Woodrow Wilson early in the 20th century, Wilson understood that the US Constitution as framed by the Founders would not allow for the vast expansion of the federal government and for the creation of an American administrative state. Thus, you had Wilson arguing for this vast administrative state for a Federal government, now taking on many responsibilities that were not only not mentioned in the Constitution, but would have been considered in the founding era unconstitutional themselves.
Thus, you had Wilson arguing for a progressivist understanding of the Constitution whereby the courts and the government would not be bound to the explicit text of the Constitution; not to the words, to the grammar, to the sentences; but rather the Constitution would be understood as a living document and the constitutional interpretation would grow. And so would the size of the United States government. And both have considerably grown in the course of the last century.
But as we speak of the United States right now, and when we think about our government, most of the contact Americans have with our federal government doesn't come in the form of contact with an elected official. There aren't that many of them. Rather, the contact has to do usually with someone who is an employee of the administrative state. They are hired as a part to the civil service. Most of them, they have an understanding of a bureaucratic responsibility and an administrative loyalty.
But here's what many Americans simply don't understand. Vast sections of American law and public policy are not established by Congress at all. Rather, they are established by executive agencies acting as an administrative state. The administrative state comes up with these policies and they now have, in so many cases, the force of law as if Congress had adopted them. Needless to say, our founders would not have recognized this as in any way a legitimate form of American constitutional government, but it is now the major way that Americans encounter both the policies and personnel of the federal government.
The report coming from the Associated Press says this: "The federal government will protect gay and transgender people against sex discrimination in healthcare, the Biden administration declared, reversing a Trump era policy that narrowed rights at the intersection of changing sexual mores and sensitive medical decisions." The AP says, "It marked the latest step by president Joe Biden to advance the rights of gay and transgender people across society from military service to housing, to employment opportunities."
Now, wait just a minute. Does the president of the United States personally, individually direct this kind of policy? No. He directed that this policy would be put in place. Is the president of the United States going to be policing this policy? No, it's going to be policed by the administrative state. Did Congress authorize this specific language or policy? No, not at all, but it did pass legislation establishing certain mechanisms of funding, and it did leave up to the Department of Health and Human Services how exactly those policies are to be put into place. And once they are put into place, they have the force of law.
The terminology of the administrative state actually goes back to Yale University at the mid-point of the 20th century and to a man by the name of Dwight Waldo. Waldo, as a doctoral student at Yale, tracked the development of what he saw as the administrative state and in a 1948 book by that same title, he named this new, ever-growing bureaucracy the administrative state. He did not mean it as a hostile statement, but nonetheless, when most Americans hear the administrative state, they do recognize this isn't what our constitutional order indicated at all.
If you're going to summarize how the administrative state now works, you might speak of it in five principles. The first one is the principle of non-delegation, and this means that Congress adopts laws, but it has to leave a great deal of vagueness or un-clarity in the law because Congress isn't actually going to get right down into the actual policies that will be required for the legislative aim to be accomplished. That instead, will be delegated to, it will be assigned to an administrative agency. Generally, one of the big executive agencies.
The second principle is judicial deference and that means that the courts defer to the administrative state to define what Congress meant when the language is unclear. Most importantly, this goes back to a 1984 decision by the United States Supreme Court known as the Chevron decision and the deference the court show to the administrative state is called Chevron deference. By the way, conservatives on the Supreme Court see this as a very bad precedent. So watch for further developments there.
The third principle is executive control. Now I often say that elections have consequences and there is no set of consequences more substantial in American politics than the consequences that come with electing a president of the United States, because it's not just electing the nation's chief executive. It is electing the individual whose administration will populate all of these administrative agencies and make all of these policy decisions and interpretations. You elect a president, you're electing a worldview, and that worldview is going to be driven through the untold billions and billions of dollars of Federal money spent and the thousands and thousands of federal employees who are about the development of, and the implementation of, and indeed the enforcement of these policies.
The fourth has to do with procedural rights. And if the bureaucratic administrative state means anything, it means procedure. Rights here are simply reduced to matters of procedure. And then there's agency dynamic. And this means that it is up to the agencies to not only develop the policies, but sometimes even to develop the areas in which the policy needs to be developed. All of this comes under the administrative state. And that's a big problem because here's where Christians understand there is a huge issue here. And it's because the administrative state is creating, implementing and enforcing policies that have to do not only with American public, but also American private life. And there are issues here that are clearly of religious conviction. And in particular, for Christians of Christian conviction.
Just consider the LGBTQ+ revolution, the inevitable collision with religious liberty, and understand that the religious liberty and conscience protections that the Trump administration to put in place have now been, as of yesterday, revoked by the federal government, through the Department of Health and Human Services. That's no small thing. The Associated Press report understands this and one later paragraph we're told, "Monday's action means that the HHS Office for Civil Rights will again investigate complaints of sex discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Hospitals, clinics, and other medical providers can face denial of Medicare and Medicaid payments for violations of the law."
Another principle, by the way we just need to watch, where the federal government's money goes, the Federal government's moral coercion goes. Count on it. But this doesn't mean just to individuals. This could mean to a healthcare system and thus the policies could effectively entrap Christian doctors, nurses, medical professionals who are working within those hospital settings. And what about say a Catholic hospital, an evangelical hospital, a Jewish hospital? Well, where the Federal government's rules go, these policies, these are going to go, even if they coerce and violate the Christian conscience.
One example by the way, and this should be something that illuminates the situation, tragically so: We are told that, "A hospital could be required to perform gender transition procedures such as hysterectomies is if the facility provided that kind of treatment for other medical conditions." Now wait just a minute. For other medical conditions? Hysterectomy here, we are told, could now be required to be covered in hospitals, by their services, and also by other kinds of medical service plans and providers if the hospital, for example, does hysterectomies for reasons other than "gender transition." If it does them for other reasons, then now it can be required to do it for gender transition, that's their language, for that reason as well.
Now you can see exactly how this is working. And by the way, it comes down to the definition of sex and sex discrimination. What you see here is very reminiscent to the Bostock decision handed down by the Supreme Court last summer. And that is the fact that sex, as in the phrase, sex discrimination in the law is now being read to include sexual orientation and gender identity, which of course was never intended in the legislation whatsoever. But according to the administrative state, under the current administration, that is now going to be the law of the land. Deal with it.
~R. Albert Mohley, Jr.
It's interesting, thanks!
The Conflict Between Israel and Hamas
by Albert Mohler
The world has been focused upon the military action between Hamas and Israel, particularly with reference to Gaza, formerly known as the Gaza Strip. What we are talking about here is indeed a very costly military exchange. What we're talking about here comes down to real rockets, real missiles, real stones, and real bullets, and when they hit real human beings, you're looking at real violence. As Christians understand the integrity and the dignity of every single human life, we understand that when human life is at stake, huge moral issues are at stake.
We also come to understand that as Christians have sought to understand when the use of violence is rightful in a fallen world, when it becomes necessary, inevitable, when it is the least worst thing that you can do, you have to put the issue of violence in that moral and theological context, and understand that even as it might be inevitable in a fallen world, it has to be controlled. It has to be rational. It has to be undertaken with the goal of putting an end to violence, not to extending the reign of violence.
As you're looking at the exchange between Israel and Hamas, you're looking at an exchange between implacable enemies. One of them is a state, a full member state of the United Nations, a Jewish state actually established by the United Nations in the aftermath of World War II. When you're looking at Hamas, you're looking at an organization that most nations in Europe and in North America recognize as a terrorist organization, at least when it comes to its military wing. In any event, Hamas is dead set against the existence of Israel going all the way back to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that dates before 1948, but ever since 1948 has been an existential threat to the Jewish state of Israel.
The larger context also means that we have seen recurring cycles of escalating conflict between Israel and Palestinian terrorist groups. You're looking at irreconcilable claims. Israel claims the right to its existence and at least in so far as their public comments have made clear not to mention their actions, groups such as Hamas, and Hezbollah, a Shiite group, are absolutely determined to extinguish Israel. Now, when Americans look at this, they often try to put it into a context we can understand. But we have to work hard at understanding this context, because as a nation, we have never experienced anything like what Israel experiences every single day of every single week of every single month ever since its formation as a country.
It has been surrounded by enemies who have been pledged to extinguish Israel and to wipe it off the face of the earth. Unless you think that's exaggerated language, some of that language comes directly from the official statements made by those terrorist organizations and neighboring states. Israel now has a precarious peace with at least some of its neighbors, most importantly, Jordan and Egypt, but you are looking at a precarious peace. But you're also looking at something else. You're looking at the fact that when it comes to an organization like Hamas, which is a terrorist organization that also has a social work and a political branch or arm, you're looking at the reality that Egypt considers Hamas a terrorist threat to its own existence as well.
There is a blockade against Gaza from both Egypt and Israel. So even as they are not holding to a common national identity or a common set of national goals, they do have a common enemy. Furthermore, along both borders, Hamas as established a series of very sophisticated tunnels. They tunnel under buildings. They tunnel under borders. They use these tunnels in order to bring in goods that are blocked by the blockade coming from both Egypt and Israel. This includes of course arms, anything that can be turned into a weapon. Yet, terrorists need weapons, and one of the inflexible rules of a fallen world is that somehow terrorists do get weapons.
Some of those weapons are actually extremely common in the Middle East, and that is represented by rocks. But an exchange that sometimes begins with the throwing of rocks sometimes ends up with an exchange of rockets or missiles. Here's where we need to know that Hamas and its allies, or at least forces within Gaza have launched over 3,000 rocket attacks upon Israel. They target Israeli cities and suburbs, most particularly and most deadly have been the rocket attacks upon Tel Aviv, which is in many ways the current technological and cultural hub or capital of Israel and its spreading suburbs are within the reach of the rockets fired by Hamas. Remember 3,000 rockets as of the estimate on Sunday night.
Israel is of course a technological powerhouse. It has to be when it comes to the kind of military technology that is used defensively. Over the course of the last several years, the world has watched in wonder as Israel's system known as Iron Dome has targeted so many of these incoming rockets. But we're also looking at two new developments. For one thing, when you consider the Iron Dome defense, it is fairly good against most rockets, but when you're looking at the advent of more sophisticated missiles, more deadly, more able to adjust their course, well, Iron Dome is going to have a harder time reaching them all and detonating them before they hit Israeli territory or Israeli homes.
The second development is the sheer number. The reality is that Hamas was able to launch missile attacks against Israel that have been such large barrages that Iron Dome has been unable to keep up. As some observers have noted, even if Iron Dome has a 90% success rate, and that's just spectacular as a matter of fact considering the technology that's at stake, that means that 10% are getting through and that can be very deadly. There have been both military and civilian casualties amongst the Israeli population. But Israel has been firing back, firing back with mortar fire and rockets. At one point, there were reports that Israeli ground forces were moving into Gaza. It turned out that was not the case.
But the biggest headline news has to do with the fact that the Israeli Air Force and others have been targeting specific buildings. One of those buildings reported to be the tallest that had existed in Gaza was destroyed by an Israeli air attack. It included press offices for Al Jazeera and for the Associated Press. These rarely government gave those press agencies and other occupants in the building one hour notice in order to prevent the loss of life. You're looking at a lot of howling coming from these press agencies because of the destruction of their offices there in Gaza. Israel explained that it targeted the building because it was being used by military and intelligence branches of Hamas and that would be a very legitimate military target.
Interestingly, you had at least some of the press agencies asking the question as to why Israel didn't merely inform them that Hamas was active in the facility, or as might be the case, given the tunneling under the facility. That's just a fascinating question as if it would be the responsibility of Israel to share its military intelligence with the press. As the Wall Street Journal noted in an editorial, it's not as if there should not have been suspicions that that kind of facility was being used by Hamas.
But let's talk about Hamas for a moment. In its current organizational form, Hamas goes back to 1987, but its roots go back much further into the organization known as the Muslim Brotherhood birthed in Egypt at the end of the 1920s. The Muslim Brotherhood was pressing even in Egypt and beyond against secular Arab governments. It represented a claim of the necessity of Islamicization. So when you're looking at what's often referred to as Islamicism terrorism or Islamic terrorism and ideology, a lot of it goes back to Egypt and other Arab dominated lands with a rejection of Western style secular governments. The Muslim Brotherhood is more often considered an enemy of Egypt than an enemy of other states.
The charter of Hamas, actually in article seven states this, "The day of judgment will not come until Muslims fight the Jews, killing the Jews. When the Jew will hide behind stones and trees, the stones and trees will say, 'Oh, Muslims, oh Abdullah, there is a Jew behind me. Come and kill him.' Only the Gharqad tree would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." The Muslim Brotherhood before and Hamas now is armed with many antisemitic tropes it uses against Israel, including at least in some of their arguments citations to the virulently antisemitic protocols of the Elders of Zion. The point is this, they see Israel and they see the Jewish people as deserving of being pressed all the way into the Mediterranean Sea, a comment that is often heard on the ground amongst Palestinian terrorists.
But even as this violence has now broken out and at least at this point still appears to be escalating, one of the interesting questions is where are the Arab governments around Israel and why aren't they complaining more loudly? It becomes very evident that whether it is acknowledged or not, the tacit acknowledgement of Israel's neighbors is that it does no one in the neighborhood any good to have a terrorist organization like Hamas fully armed and representing a threat. But that also points to a larger historic reality. As the world looks at the Palestinian people, it sees a beleaguered people, no doubt about it, an abused people, no doubt about it. Christians looking at the Palestinian challenge must understand that a large number of those Palestinians identify with some form of historic Christianity, although the majority are Muslims.
The truth is that the Palestinians operate in a stateless existence, and ever since the 19th century, that has been an extremely precarious position. But the greatest injury against the Palestinian people has not come from Israel, but it has come from Arab nations who want nothing of the kind of population and unrest that is represented by what you see in Gaza and also on the West Bank. At least one of the catalysts for what took place had nothing to do with Israel per se, but it had to do with the fact that the Palestinian authority under Mahmoud Abbas, its chairman or president, had called an election and once again predictably had canceled it.
There's a lot behind this, but at least a part of it is the fact that, follow my words closely, Mahmoud Abbas is currently serving his first term as the chairman of the Palestinian authority, the head of the Palestinian government. He is in his first term, it's a four year term. He was elected to that first term in 2005. So he is now actually serving in what must be counted as the 17th year of his original four year term. What you're hearing is the fact that there is no real representative government of the Palestinian people.
The big challenge for Israel, the big moral challenge, and the Christian worldview points us to this challenge, is the question as to whether or not Israel is using proportionate or disproportionate force. The United States government and others have made very clear statements of what's just de jure, that is according to law and according to morality the truth, and that is that Israel has a right to self-preservation and it's self-defense. The question is, are the actions proportionate or are they out of scale? Are they disproportionate? Is the use of violence too much? Or is it just right or too little? You can understand that in Israel, there are political forces that are basically saying all three things. But actually, the claim that Israel is using disproportionate force has not gained much traction in Israel, even amongst those who are the declared political opponents of the incumbent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
It's very difficult to make an argument of disproportionate force when, even as of Sunday night, more than 3,000 rockets have been fired into Israeli territory, including Israeli communities. The use of the air attacks is particularly violent. It brings extensive damage. Israel says that it is doing so in order to eliminate the military leadership of Hamas and to subdue the threat and also to destroy that network of anti-blockade tunnels and other infrastructure. Since so much of it is underground, it comes down to bombardment, that is to use one word, rather significant.
Note to Self: Get the first book (by David Stern) from Christianbook.com (where they sell it for less than Amazon).
These are "must have" resources if you're planning on addressing New Testament related questions asked by your students.
Here’s THE TRUTH About the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (A Comprehensive History)
How Does Culture Change on Big Issues of Sexual Morality? Shaming, Targeting, Incessant Messaging, Eventual Coercion
How does culture change? In particular, we asked the question, how does culture change on big issues of sexual morality? We've traced many different trajectories for cultural change on The Briefing, but now we're looking at the intersection of two different arguments that have appeared in the mainstream media just in the last several days. Why now? Probably because we're coming up on the sixth anniversary of the Obergefell decision legalizing same-sex marriage. That decision handed down by the Supreme Court of the United States in 2015. The two arguments that are coming to the fore have appeared in two of the nation's most influential newspapers, the one in the Washington Post, the other in the Los Angeles Times. The article in the Washington Post is by Sasha Issenberg, who argues that the reason same-sex marriage became a successful moral, political and legal crusade in the United States was because eventually the majority in the larger culture figured out they had nothing in particular personally to pay.
There was no particular loss to them if same-sex marriage were to be legalized. Now going back, just not only six years ago to the Obergefell decision, going back to the previous several years of public debate, that was one of the arguments that the gay rights movement, as it was known then, and also the movement for marriage equality, that's how they phrased it and you can understand why they used that language, they invented the language in order to further their cause. The reality is, if you look at their arguments, they were simply arguing over and over again. Figures such as Jonathan Rauch and others were saying, "Look, no one is a loser in this. Everyone is a winner. All that the gays want is to get in on marriage." And again, that's the language that was used then. The language was, the same-sex marriage ought to be recognized as a constitutional right. Not because of course the framers of the constitution had any such notion in mind, but because it is the outworking of a constitutional logic of a progressivist interpretation of the constitution.
And they just went on to argue over and over again, "Look, two men getting married or two women getting married takes away nothing from a man and a woman getting married." But of course this is where Christians responded, "Oh yes, it does. It destabilizes and subverts marriage in every conceivable way." And marriage throughout the millennia of human history has meant man and woman united in a privileged and sacred union that has certain responsibilities and certain rights because civilization depends on it. Why does civilization depend on it? The answer would have been given throughout thousands of years of human history, reflecting not only human common sense, but common revelation and common grace. The answer would have been, because human reproduction and the raising of children depends upon marriage and the family, the marital union as the essential bond of the family.
The moment you say a man marries a man and a woman marries a woman, yes, it is true, it doesn't take anything away from the legality of a man and a woman getting married, it just takes a great deal away from the normativity of marriage. Marriage now means something else. Marriage was redefined, not just for same-sex couples, marriage was effectively redefined for everyone. And by the way, the story of the last 100 years is of the subversion and the destabilization of marriage by one definitional change after the other, in which we were told it won't matter. But just to take one issue from recent headlines, just consider the plummeting birth rates all over the world and recognize, of course it matters. Sasha Issenberg wonders aloud what would have happened if what is referred to here as the defining gay rights demand of the past generation had not been equal marriage rights.
Now, the point that Issenberg is making is that as you look at cultural opposition to the Equality Act, and I've said over and over again, it's the greatest threat to religious liberty and to cultural destabilization in our lifetimes. But Issenberg is saying that opposition to the Equality Act is because people think they will lose something if the Equality Act is passed. They will be forced to change their behavior, cake bakers, wedding photographers. But not just that, employers, school administrators, you just go down the list. There will have to be changes in behavior, that's the whole point of the coercion of the Equality Act. And so Issenberg is reasoning here, that is why there is so much opposition to the idea of the Equality Act. But here you just have to rewind history and recognize, there was an incredible amount of opposition to same-sex marriage.
Until the year 2012 where the American people state by state had a vote, they voted against it. How many times? 35 times. In 2012, there were four successful statewide same-sex issues on the ballot. But before that, there had been 35 losses. You're looking at a major hinge in history thus in the 2012 election cycle. But that means that the history before 2012 is measured in millennia, the history after 2012 is not yet a decade. It reminds me of a statement made by Supreme Court justice, Samuel Alito back when the oral arguments for the Obergefell decision were being held. He pointed to a smartphone and said, "Whatever same-sex marriage is, it's newer than that." So Sasha Issenberg is saying that the reason why same-sex marriage is now just not an issue in the larger culture, thus the argument here, is because no one had to give up anything, everyone's a winner, the culture could just move on. But at almost the very same time, an article appeared in the New York Times by, yes, you guessed it, Sasha Issenberg. That tells you something, by the way.
When you see these kinds of opinion pieces, especially the lengthy one in the New York Times, Sunday edition yesterday, also the Washington Post, see how the author ... if there's a repeated pattern here, see how the author is identified. In this case, Issenberg is identified as, "Author of The Engagement: America's Quarter-Century Struggle over Same-Sex Marriage." Oh, the author of a new book. Here you have these two newspapers effectively pushing the new book by publishing these op-ed pieces. But in the article in the New York Times, Issenberg is making a very interesting case, and this one is about coercion. And actually if you put the two articles together, you have to wonder how the same author could write them both with a straight face. Appearing in major American newspapers, separated by days, if not by hours. The question asked in the headline of the New York Times piece is, "How we got marriage equality."
And Issenberg's article in this case is that it was brought about by public shaming. By shaming those who have been contributing to efforts to prevent the legalization of same-sex marriage. Put bluntly, this is a clear example of an activist for the cause saying it was coercion that was brought. The cultural change came as a result of coercion, which in a sense is virtually opposite of the argument that was made in the Washington Post. Issenberg writes, "Anyone looking to understand how same-sex marriage went from legal in one state to the law of the land a decade later should not overlook the small crowd that gathered outside the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Diego just past noon one Friday in July of 2008, holding signs that said, 'The Hyatt of Hypocrisy."' The article says that the rally had been called by a political operative named Fred Karger.
"His aim was the defeat of Proposition 8, a ballot measure that if passed would ban same-sex marriage in California." Instead of aiming to mobilize voters, however, he decided to target the money behind it. At the center of the target in this particular protest was Doug Manchester, the owner of the hotel and others for that matter, who had donated $125,000 to the cause for Proposition 8. Proposition 8, again, was a voter referendum in California that would have limited the definition of marriage to the union of a man and a woman, excluding same-sex marriage. We're looking again at the year 2008. Here's something to remember, a majority of voters in California supported Proposition 8 in 2008. Issenberg writes that this particular protest and the boycott that was associated with it, "Was the first time gay marriage activists adopted a strategy of scaring their most well healed opponents away from the fight." "Long before the phrase cancel culture entered the lexicon or Republicans complained about the power of woke capital, Mr. Carter redefined a digital era playbook for redirecting scrutiny to the opposition's financial backers."
I continue reading, "The movement to legalize same-sex marriage is often understood as a civil right test case and indeed savvy legislative lobbying fortuitous demographic change and pop culture influence all played their part. But a largely forgotten story is the way a group of political entrepreneurs changed how cultural conflict was waged and showed that shaming and shunning could be more than an online pylon and serve as a potent tactic for political change." That is exactly what's been going on. And it didn't start just in 2008, but it certainly did gain momentum in 2008. Here's something else to note, when you're looking at the two sides in American politics, one of them keeps calling for all of the donors to any kind of cause like this or non-profit having to be legally identified.
Now, why would they do that? Well, the left does it because they want to shame the right. They want to scare away anyone who is in business from having anything to do with something like upholding a biblical understanding of sexual morality and gender or marriage. And this article in the New York Times yesterday is about the success of the left enforcing cultural change by this very tactic. It is a celebratory article. It is a form of chest thumping in effect to say, we tried it in 2008, it worked big time. And of course, this becomes the platform for how cultural change will happen in the future. But even as this article makes reference to this particular tactic, notice the fact that the author mentions that there were other engines of social change. For example, for tour twist demographic change, that means younger, more urban, more living on the coast, you know what that means, it's a sign of social progressivism as a man. Also, a more secularized environment, savvy, legislative lobbying.
Again, that became a factor. But in most of these states, the legalization of same-sex marriage did not come by legislation, it came by some kind of prior court action. Eventually of course, the Obergefell decision nationwide itself. Also, we're told here, pop culture influence also played a part. Of course it played a part, it played a huge part. Celebrities, Hollywood, the cultural messaging coming out of the entertainment industrial complex, all of that played a huge role. But yes, Issenberg is certainly right, shaming donors away from the issue had a lot to do with it as well. By the 2012 date, when those four states for the first time approved same-sex marriage by this kind of vote, Issenberg writes, "It was clear activists had succeeded in making it," here's the quote, "socially unacceptable to give vast amounts of money to take away the rights of a minority." That's in the words of none other than Fred Karger. But here's something we need to note, look at the language there, that activists had succeeded in making it socially unacceptable. So there's the social pressure.
You change the way society esteem social movements and all of a sudden the movement to defend marriage is seen as immoral and the movement to redefine marriage is seen as moral, that's the way this kind of cultural shift happens. Social unacceptability is switched. But there's something else here. It was, we are told here, a success on the part of activists that it became socially unacceptable, "To give vast amounts of money to take away the rights of a minority." Now, wait just a minute, what kind of sense does that sentence make, to take away rights? In 2012, notice what happened was the redefinition of marriage. It wasn't as if same-sex marriage had been legal and all of a sudden the danger was it will be taken away, the rights will be taken away. No, you see yet another way that moral change takes place. You write about demands for the legalization of same-sex marriage and say that those who oppose this radical redefinition in the most basic institution of human society are, "Trying to take rights away."
Now, note very carefully what that implies. It implies that the rights are there now, someone is trying to take them away. But of course, it wasn't true that the issue was that this so-called artificial right was about to be taken away, the right did not exist. And by the way, operating out of a biblical worldview, we still do not believe that it is a right. But the language that's used here suggest that, and just notice this, suggest that the status quo, the norm throughout human history is that a man can marry a man and a woman can marry a woman and the issue is whether that right will be taken away. Of course, that was absolute nonsense. But you'll notice it ends up in the New York Times yesterday.
Why Did So Many Who Defended Marriage Go Silent? The Playbook Revealed
But there's another paragraph in this article that really ought to have our attention. Issenberg celebrating here, "Even religious denominations responded to the new pressure. In Maine, the Catholic Diocese of Portland, which had donated $550,000 to pass question one, a 2009 ballot measure banning same-sex marriage did not directly contribute anything when the issue came up again in 2012."
Now, how much time has passed between 2009 and 2012? Three years. But the moral change in those three years was so significant that the Roman Catholic Diocese there.... Now remember, the Roman Catholic Church defines marriage as a sacrament, which is and can only be the union of a man and a woman. It said that out loud, putting money behind the effort to define marriage as a man and a woman in 2009. But as this article celebrates, was silent in 2012. Now, when people ask me, why did 2012 become such a crucial hinge year? One of the reasons is, you had people and organizations and denominations that had previously been willing to stand up for a marriage who went silent. They went silent by the time we were coming up to the 2012 elections. Why? They also feared being publicly shamed.
Here's the point, if your institution, your school, your organization, your congregation, your denomination is unwilling to be publicly shamed by those who are the power structure of the new moral revolution, then you're going to abdicate. And the first way you abdicate is by keeping silent on this issue. You go silent and eventually you just go along.
And it wasn't just the Roman Catholic Church, the article tells us, "Alan Ashton, a WordPerfect co-founder." If you don't remember WordPerfect, it was a word processor. He, we are told, who had served as a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as a Mormon Bishop and state president and was a grandson of a former church president donated $1 million to "yes" on 8, that's back to the California referendum to define marriage as a union of a man and a woman. "Four years later, he too seemed to have walked away from the issue."
Frank Schubert, who was defending marriage, pointed to how this pattern worked when he said, "The impact of donors being scared off was significant." The first thing they wanted to know is, am I going to be publicly disclosed? But this hinge didn't take place simply because the defenders of marriage stopped defending marriage, it is also because people who had not joined the cause for same-sex marriage felt liberated and supported to do so. We're told that when a similar measure came up in Washington State, the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, with his then wife gave $2.5 million to the pro same-sex marriage cause. Again, it makes a difference. But look at the timeline, there was a point in which Jeff Bezos didn't think it was politically safe or politically advantageous to give that kind of money for the redefinition of marriage. Then there came a point when he decided it was to his political advantage to give that money.
Now we're in a position where if they don't give the money, they're considered on the wrong side of history. The big issue for our consideration is how moral change happens. And yes, these two articles taken together, as odd a combination as they are, actually tell us a great deal about how the social change happened that eventuated in the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015. And there's a sense in which the bigger issue, the bigger question from a Christian worldview is not just how did it happen that the Supreme Court, having been moving in a liberal direction on this issue for about 20 years. The big question is not just how the Supreme Court got to the point that it ruled this way, it's not even just how did the cultural momentum build to where this became politically possible, the big question is, why after the 2015 decision by the Supreme Court did the pro-marriage side in the nation largely go silent?
An Autopsy of the Revolution: A Look at a 1989 Playbook for Changing the Culture
But before leaving this issue, I want to go back in history, a lot longer than 2012, I want to go back to 1989. In that year, a couple of authors produced a book entitled After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the '90s. So this was a book published in 1989, about how there will be a revolution in morality, a moral revolution during the 1990s. And actually there was, of course, revolutionary change towards such things as the normalization of homosexuality and the legalization of same-sex marriage in the 1990s. But before that, how did these two gay activist-authors, and that's how they were identified then, how were they making the argument of how cultural change could happen? I wrote about it in 2004 and dealt with their arguments in my 2017 book, We Cannot Be Silent. But now, even in 2021, we need to take a look back at the success of the methodology they laid out in 1989.
And some of the words in their argument jump out at us now, because in retrospect we understand even more clearly what they were really doing and how successful they were. For example, the two gay activist-authors argued that the gay rights community should talk incessantly about homosexuality in public. "Open, frank talk makes gayness seem less furtive, alien and sinful, more above board." "Constant talk builds the impression that public opinion is at least divided on the subject and that a sizable block, the most modern up-to-date citizens, except or even practice homosexuality." Notice here, the argument is, the strategy is, make homosexuality cool and never shut up about it. Make every program talk about it, make every Hollywood actor and actress and figure talk about it. Make certain that the media constantly talks about it. Just notice how successful that has been.
And if you wonder just how successful it continues to be, just pick up a print edition of yesterday's edition of the New York Times and see the talk, incessant talk. But going back to the book in 1989, I noticed something that tells us just how much further than these authors dream the revolution has gone. For example, the argument came in 1989 that if there was to be a moral revolution in favor of normalizing homosexuality, certain gay-identified figures would have to disappear from the public screen or from public attention. One of them, drag queens. I think it's safe to say that these two authors in 1989 couldn't imagine a complete revolution in morality to the point that children in public libraries are now presented with drag queen story hour. But notice the argument that was absolutely explicit in this book. They have to be out of the public eye and out of our public acknowledgement as a gay rights movement, the argument went, until we are successful.
What does that tell you? They know they are successful, out comes the drag queens. By the way, it's very important to recognize that these two authors back in 1989 targeted conservative religious organizations, in particular, conservative theology. Any kind of biblical evangelicalism, for example, any kind of Christian biblical theological orthodoxy on marriage as being something that had to be subverted. They argued, advising the gay rights movement, as it was known at the time, "This entails publicizing support by moderate churches and raising serious theological objections to conservative biblical teachings." That's exactly what's been taking place, book after book saying you don't have to take the Bible at its word when it defines marriage or talks about gender or sexuality. The arguments coming that any kind of conservative biblical theology is just historically backward and oppressive. You see the argument, the liberal churches are on the right side of history and the other denominations, if they will not join the revolution, simply must be marginalized, cast to the side, castigated as no longer publicly acceptable.
But I think it's very, very interesting that these two authors back in 1989 pointed to theology as an obstacle they would have to overcome. And indeed, a biblical theology is the great obstacle. And you can see just how successful they have been at marginalizing any voice for biblical Christianity in this country on this issue. They have scared off those who are the donor class, even to many conservative organizations and movements. They have basically captured most of the corporate world where corporations have turned themselves into engines of a social revolution, which they do not recognize will destroy the very society that provides them with a consumer base. We are coming up on an anniversary of the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.
But it's not the 60th anniversary, it's certainly not the 600th anniversary, that's implausible, it is only the sixth anniversary. Remember, newer than a smartphone. And the forces of social revolution haven't stopped. Needless to say, with the Obergefell decision in 2015, you will, your church will, your school will be forced to get in line. If not, you will be shamed.
And don't take it from me, take it from this article in the New York Times, it tells us how it worked and how it works.
R. ALBERT MOHLER, JR.
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