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Saturday, January 31


Something from last December you may find of use: Misunderstanding al Qaeda: What you weren't told about their targets in Saudi Arabia by Paul Marshall of Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom. It originally appeared in The Weekly Standard. It begins:

The media seem to equate Arab with Muslim and, along with some in the administration, think that al Qaeda's war is against Americans and Westerners per se, rather than against all "infidels," a group al Qaeda defines idiosyncratically and expansively as anyone who is not a strictly observant Muslim. Both mistakes are compounded by reliance on the Saudis' distorted account of the attack.

The November 8 bombing took place in a Lebanese Christian neighborhood of Riyadh, and of the seven publicly identified Lebanese victims, six were Christian. Lebanon's newspapers are replete with photographs of Maronite Catholic and Greek Orthodox victims. Daleel al Mojahid, an al Qaeda-linked webpage, praised the killing of "non-Muslims." The Middle East Media Research Institute quotes Abu Salma al Hijazi, reputed to be an al Qaeda commander, as saying that Saudi characterizations of the victims as Muslims were "merely media deceit."

If so, the media fell for it. Reuters described the bombing as against "fellow Muslims," the Los Angeles Times as "against Muslims," the Washington Times called the victims "innocent Muslims," the San Francisco Chronicle "Muslim civilians who happened to be in the wrong place," and the New York Times "expatriates from other Muslim countries."

9:45 PM


A mailing from the Institute on Religion and Democracy:

The World Council of Churches has declared the United States to be the 2004 focus of its "Decade to Overcome Violence" campaign. Throughout the year, the WCC plans to spotlight U.S. complcitity in promoting violence and oppression.

To read more about this campaign, visit the IRD website and read Mark Tooley's article on this issue at Then, fill out a brief survey to let us know what you think about it. You will find the survey at . . .

Steve Rempe
Institute on Religion and Democracy

4:17 PM


As Mrs. Thatcher once said. From yesterday's OpinionJournal:

Legal Perversion

"A German who confessed to killing, dismembering and eating another man who allegedly agreed to the arrangement over the Internet was convicted Friday of manslaughter and sentenced to 8 1/2 years in prison," the Associated Press reports from Kassel, Germany:

*** QUOTE ***

A state court ruled that Armin Meiwes, a 42-year-old computer expert, had no "base motives" in the crime -- sparing him a murder conviction.

*** END QUOTE ***

One wonders what it would take to convince a German court that a defendant had "base motives."
In the article, the man says:

"I had my big kick and I don't need to do it again," he said. "I regret it all very much, but I can't undo it."
To which our contributing editor Addison Hart responded:

Well, heck. You know, at first I thought 8 1/2 years was not much of a prison sentence for this kind of crime, but after reading this guy's statement of remorse I think it may be too harsh. I'm trying to broaden my perspective on this, which is the loving and nurturing thing to do.

After all, he says he doesn't "need" to do it again. Some of us may not understand these sorts of "needs", but we should try to practice a little more tolerance and a bit less judgmentalism. Evidently, it was a consensual act, and who are we to question the behaviors of those who have alternative culinary desires?

Let's give the man a chance and try to overcome our own cannibaphobia.

4:15 PM


Here is another review of The da Vinci Code, this one by the Jesuit biblical scholar Gerald O'Collins. It begins:

Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code is a fast-paced, well-plotted murder mystery that takes the reader through the Louvre, a long night of murders and a police chase out of Paris to a wet morning in London. There the identity of the evil "Teacher" who masterminded the killings is revealed in the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey.

Using as his prime piece of evidence Leonardo Da Vinci’s "Last Supper," Brown proposes that the figure on Christ’s right is not the beloved disciple but Mary Magdalene, who married Jesus and bore him a child. She was the Holy Grail for his blood and Jesus wanted her to succeed him in leading his followers. The official church suppressed the truth about Mary’s relationship with Jesus and did its best to belittle her as a prostitute.

So much for the tributes Church Fathers like Hippolytus, Gregory the Great and Leo the Great paid to her as "the apostle of the apostles," "the representative of the church" and "the new Eve announcing not death but life" to the male disciples!

4:00 PM


A reader sends in a link to one response to the scandal — one most of us don't even notice — of grownups trying to sell things to children:

Readers who were interested in the "Advertising Scoundrels" item might be interested in this website that I just discovered: Commercial Alert. The organization's mission statement is, "to keep the commercial culture within its proper sphere, and to prevent it from exploiting children and subverting the higher values of family, community, environmental integrity and democracy."

I do not endorse it, I just report on it. Readers might best be warned that it is left-wing and anti-Bush.
Readers who look at "Advertising Scoundrels" should also glance at the pope's similar comments in the following item.

3:59 PM


Chester’s News Service, Copyright 2005

Sacramento. The California Supreme Court today overturned the multiple murder conviction of Billy Wayne Hatfield on the ground that the First Amendment protects, under certain circumstances, murder as a religious art form. Speaking for the majority, Associate Justice Sylvia Wolfe, a former Episcopalian bishop, wrote, “While this court reels with the pain of the family of the victims, and of society at large, it is virtually prostrated by the agony of a man denied the freedom to express his most ecstatic thoughts and feelings, what some people would very rightly call his religion, which is explicitly protected by the Constitution. Any so-called ‘right to life’ possessed by people who are already dead, moreover, becomes moot in relation to that possessed by a person still living, and it is the duty of this court to protect that life at all costs.”

Hatfield, 34, who named Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, and the biblical King David as his heroes, was convicted on trial of murdering the William Smith family of Bakersfield. The charge, which was not disputed on appeal, was that under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs, he forcibly entered the Smith home and subjected the family, a mother and father and two young children, to a thirty-hour reign of terror in which he disemboweled each of its members and hanged them in their own viscera while forcing the others to watch.

His lawyers argued that "truly creative killing," particularly while under the influence of drugs, was a form of both religion and art protected by the First Amendment. “The law makes no judgments on a person’s religion unless that religion contravenes the Constitution,” said Kunstler O. Cochrane, Hatfield’s attorney, “and freedom of artistic expression is protected under the Freedom of Speech Clause. The Court has made it clear that it will not be intimidated by reactionary juries that would deny a person’s constitutional freedoms on the ground that they don’t like his or her beliefs or way of expressing them.”

In a post-trial interview, Hatfield, flanked by his attorneys, when questioned about the ruling, said, “Yeah, killing people artistically is my religion. It’s part of Christianity—killing to enhance life. What’s the difference between carving a crucifix out of wood from a tree you chop down in the forest, and doing basically the same thing using people as your medium? No big difference—only convention. You get rid of conventions by flouting them. Hell, the way people are moaning you’d think they don’t own televisions.”

When asked about his future plans, he indicated that he is considering training for the Episcopalian priesthood, or perhaps running for Congress as a Democrat. “I’m the future—and admitting it is the next step in society’s evolution. Sure, people don’t like folks like me, but it doesn’t matter. To guard their own freedom to screw around, they’ll have to grant me mine, and they’ll keep electing judges, ministers, and senators who protect me. They know that having guys like me around is part of the cost of doing business, and they’re willing to take the risk that I’ll decorate my parlor with somebody else’s guts.”

3:32 PM

Friday, January 30


One of our regular readers, J. M. Horton, has a new website, which includes his essay on reading Tolkien. I am still amazed, now that we're on the subject, what power and appeal The Lord of the Rings has. One of my writing students last year came from a Mennonite community and picked up the book, partly at my urging, and when I ran into him yesterday said that he'd loved, his wife had loved it, and now they are reading it to their children, who love it.

Though Tolkien was a devout, not to say prickly, Catholic, the book proves to have an ecumenical appeal. A suggestion: abolish the National Council of Churches and use the money now wasted on that dinosauric organization to give copies of The Lord of the Ring to every Christian in America.

This is one of those suggestions one makes only half tongue-in-cheek.

4:18 PM


A friend sent round the address of the Liturgia Latina Home Page, which I post here for those of you who are interested in the subject.

4:13 PM


Brian Bennett writes in response to the message included in yesterday's "Partisan Prayers":

Regarding "Partisan Prayers" on 1/29/04, I'm afraid I too find this prayer to be "disrespectful," but for reasons entirely different than those offered by Rep. Wally Straughn, D-Phoenix.

I agree with every sentiment and opinion expressed in the prayer. If it were a speech, I would applaud it. However, it is not a speech. Or rather, it is a speech, and the format of a prayer is being used as a pretence. Herein lies the offense.

If prayer is understood as our communication with God, is it not disrespectful to God to use that forum as a means to communicate — primarily — to listeners rather than to God? Certainly, the message contained in public prayers can offer much value to listeners and fellow participators, but that value is secondary to the primary value of communicating with God.

I took a theology class last semester in which every week began with a prayer offered by a different member of the class. Several students used their week as an opportunity to get on an "anti-Bush" soapbox. Their prayer was clearly little more than a speech directed toward their fellow students far more than it was directed toward God. Such hijacking of prayer for personal purposes — even when those purposes are admirable as in the case described in your blog — strikes me as distasteful.

(Of course, I am drawing my own conclusion as to the intention of Rep. Quelland who offered the prayer, but that conclusion does not seem unreasonable given the content and context.)
When I posted our correspondent's letter, I was groping for my own response and couldn't articulate it in the time I had (deadlines pressed). I think this response is right, with one qualification.

It is possible, though unlikely, that the man offering the prayer might actually have been trying to communicate primarily to God and not trying to make a speech. But even if so, he badly misjudged the effect his prayer would have, which a pray-er should not do. He should not appear to be using God to make partisan political points because it only makes people distrust Christians in general.

On top of which, I'm not sure I think one should offer prayers in that kind of situation. For whom is one really praying and for what ends? What does it say to the world when one takes one's place in the rota alongside the Rabbis, the Imams, the Hindu priests, the new age gurus, the whatever Buddhists have, and everyone else a pluralistic society will invite to the microphone for the daily does of spiritual stuff?

4:11 PM


After the last orthodox Episcopal priest in our area retired, when the eunuchs and their priestesses were finally in complete control, we returned to the Evangelicals whence we came. During our years away, however, these churches had been undergoing their own changes. In the morning service on the day in which I write this we were treated to one of them. A handsome young woman, attractively dressed, stood before the church with an 8-inch microphone, the head of which she held gently to her lips while she tastefully writhed and cooed a song in which she, with closed eyes and gently beckoning gestures, begged Jesus to come fill her.

Her song had a different effect on me than I suspect she thought it might. It did, perhaps, bring me closer to Jesus, but by bringing me closer to the sinfulness of my own heart, the kind of heart that would be excited to lust by a pretty woman begging to be filled, and that would be instructed by its conscience to avert the eyes until she was done with her performance. It also made me wonder if her husband, sitting calmly by while she went through her show, was doing his duty by her, since she seemed to have a good surplus of the sort of womanly energy that husbands like to see. These, I admit, are not particularly sanctified thoughts, but I rather doubt that I was alone, and as I write am in no humor to pretend otherwise.

The song was not un-Evangelical, not foreign the tradition. It was the “In the Garden” tryst of the old hymnbooks carried into the next phase of intimacy and excitement. Jesus has been walking and talking with revivalists and telling them they are his own for many years now, and it is not surprising that, given his romantic propensities, they should be expecting him to move to the next phase of the courtship ritual. Many of Evangelicalism’s “beloved old hymns” are things that no man who is paying attention can sing, either because he isn’t a woman or a homosexual, or because he refuses to lie to God about the aroused state of his mind or resolve. These “old” hymns are largely the product of a nineteenth and early-twentieth century feminization of American culture and its religion (see Ann Douglas’s The Feminization of American Culture), of an era that has borne most of its fruit in last hundred or so years when religion in the west has become regarded by most men, and not without reason, as the domain of rampant emotion—of women, children, and of weak, unmanly men.

The display we saw on Sunday morning is the product of an evolution shared by the mainline and the Evangelicals. The latter, still largely in the feminized stage, have not yet moved wholly into the emasculations of the mainline. The Evangelical academy, while for the most part egalitarian, has managed to avoid the bleak, militant feminism of the mainline schools. The influence of the academy is further mitigated by Evangelicalism’s congregationalism and its strong populist anti-intellectual streak. The professors have influence, to be sure, but they do not become bishops, or fill commissions that have the power to change a church’s lex orandi over the course of a few years. Nor do churches that may select their own pastors without interference from the denominational intelligentsia favor the women that have been for the most part forced on unwilling mainline congregations. The Evangelical churches, in accordance with their tradition, can remain “merely feminized”—“soul-winning,” now in the sense of gravid with “seekers,” full of the emotional excitement preferred by Evangelicals, and marked by preaching and music that present no particular challenge to the mind or tastes of a child of ten—a child that has not, as Lee Podles observes in The Church Impotent, if he is a male, in traditional cultures, left the society of women. The church feminized is not only the church de-masculinized, but inevitably the church infantilized as well.

The excuse for this is that to “reach” people the churches must operate on this level, but this becomes suspect when it appears that nothing deeper and more substantial for the mind, soul, or body, is available at these churches for those who have for many years been “reached.” It is difficult in these churches to move from milk to meat, from soft rock to Bach or Mendelssohn, from skits and anecdotes to Augustine or Calvin, from entertainments to prayer and fasting, from “come to Jesus because he’s attractive” to “obey him, his apostles, and his apostolic ministers, because he’s Lord,” from affection for a cosmeticized Jesus to the fear of God. (What I am saying here applies to mainstream Pentecostalism as well.) The only difficulty I would see for the child is making sense of all the sexual heat and energy of its liturgical performers, with their thumping rhythms, their body motions, their phallic microphones, and the increasingly erotic overtones of the lyrics of “personal relation to Jesus Christ.”

The young woman displaying herself before the faithful with her sexualized—and hence secularized— religion and its unmet needs is not simply an example of unfortunate excess, but, I believe, a symbol of a whole tradition gone awry, caught now in the glaring intensification of what it was in its beginning, and what wiser heads, in those beginnings, clearly warned it against. It is a tradition in which religious affection is the measure of faith, where preaching is paramount not because it teaches but because it “blesses the heart,” where the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is not the center of the gathering of Christians on the Lord’s Day, but rather minimized and rarely celebrated in favor of gatherings for energization based on the replenishment of emotional capital, where the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed are usually not repeated, not because they are not believed or well-spoken-of, but because they represent a faith that claims (quite rightly) to be of a higher order than their own, and because they, being “rote,” like written-out prayers, contain not a bit of the spontaneity alleged to characterize true worship.

It is a faith in which the value of worship is measured principally in terms of its ability to excite the worshipper rather than give glory to God, and in which it is assumed that what satisfies the worshipper is what pleases the Lord. It is a faith in which the scriptures are honored in word, but in which they have always been freely altered or distorted to meet the requirements of the religious culture. (Where the fathers found prohibition of wine, and lied about it using “the Greek” of which they were ignorant, the better-educated sons and daughters, using “the Greek” which they understand, also lie, finding in the scriptures, not unsurprisingly, egalitarianism and toleration of their divorces.) It is a faith in which the churches are large, but in which, because sin is barely mentioned—it depresses the celebratory atmosphere—one suspects are run by unjust stewards who fill the pews by encouraging their Lord’s debtors to minimize their accounts. It is a faith in which all too often the good pastor is rejected in favor of the talented one.

I do not now believe that the faults of churches like this can be avoided by fleeing to others that are better, for, having spent my own time sojourning in the wilderness, I am now skeptical that the “better church” we once sought is available on the terms we sought it. I do think that these churches, and all churches, whatever their faults, can be saved by serious self-examination and reform, doing what must be done to correct the flaws in their histories, such as the Lord calls the churches in Asia in the prologue to the Book of Revelation to do. This means admitting that a good number of what are regarded as “denominational distinctives” are simply wrong, and that the fathers of the sect were wrong so far as they were fathers of a sect. And of course, it means the division of churches, so that those who are obedient can now find each other’s fellowship, unencumbered by the burden of old lies. What evil calls the scandal of schism is from the perspective of good the removal of diseased tissue.

If the Lord commands these changes, they are possible, and the time to begin is now. They are not begun by telling young women to behave themselves with greater modesty, but by the admission of the old men that the whole chain of events that brought her to expose herself before the congregation is their fault, that the church’s problems along these lines are based on errors in constitutional matters, and that the fault, and the burden of amendment, lies at their feet far more than hers.

2:53 PM

Thursday, January 29


A helpful and pastoral reflection offered by Sources of Same-Sex Attractions in Children, an interview with Fr. John Harvey, the founder of the Catholic ministry Courage. And two related articles offered by Baptist Press: Same-sex parenting: Does it matter if kids have a mom & dad? (this one takes a while to get to the data) and Homosexual men prone to promiscuity, study finds.

7:00 PM


Eric Kniffin sends this report of yet another church-state scrap: House Democrats claim prayer is 'disrespectful' from The Arizona Republic.

Rep. Doug Quelland, R-Phoenix, offered an opening prayer with lines like "We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare" and "We have killed our unborn and called it choice," but also ""We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation" and "We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable."

Rep. Wally Straughn, D-Phoenix, protested, saying:

The opening prayer is the one opportunity during each day that we can come together as a body. The opening prayer should unite us, not divide us.

"But the prayer on January 26, 2004, was divisive. It was a pandering, mudslinging, name-calling political statement. It was hateful and mean-spirited. It was undignified.

"The citizens of Arizona deserve better. We are diverse. We have unique perspectives. And our unique voices should be respected. Especially during the opening prayer, as members of this body we must set aside our differences and show respect for Arizona in all of its diversity."

6:57 PM


And here -- I've been going through the accumulated news releases -- is the speech in the House of Lords by the Anglican bishop of St. Albans (whose cathedral was featured in the movie Johnnie English, for what it's worth). It is, like the pope's comments quoted in the next item, a good and needed warning.

After the usual beginning, in which various people are thanked, etc., Bishop Christopher Herbert says:

. . . spending on advertising aimed at children rose sixfold in the years up to 1998. It was stated in the other place that on children's television a child is likely to see between six and 11 adverts every hour for food high in sugar, salt and fat. The more I read the statistics, the more my heart sank.

I then read the ASA's [not explained] own document, its code of practice -- still more statistics. A snapshot survey carried out in July 2003 showed that the compliance rates for non-broadcasting adverts directed at children was 98 per cent. My heart lifted a little as I read the standards with which advertisers are required to comply; for example: "An advertisement should contain nothing that is likely to result in physical, mental or moral harm to children".

I was reassured to know that compliance rates in the non-broadcasting world are so high. I have done all my background homework.

However, I began to be troubled again, because none of the lobbying groups seemed to be getting to the core of the matter. Not one of them was challenging the assumption implicit in all this: that children, even the very young, are branded and defined simply and only as consumers. Not one of them asked whether that was an adequate definition of childhood. Not one asked whether that was what childhood was for.

It would be fascinating to discover when the word "consumer" began to fashion the very ways in which we think, and when it entered our national vocabulary. My guess is that it came into prominence in the 1950s and 1960s. Gradually the stranglehold that that word now has on all aspects of society has tightened its grip, and now even the smallest of children are defined by it.

The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, brought to our attention a quotation that I also discovered. It states: "The pre-school market is worth Ł4.3 billion per annum".

I do not know how one could begin to create such a statistic, but the use of the word "market" is the giveaway. The youngest child is no longer a miracle, a gift or a source of wonder but is simply regarded as a consumer. I find that morally degrading, because it assumes that the child is nothing more than a manipulatable and voracious computerised dustbin.

The problem that the debate has highlighted relates not simply to the physical, mental or emotional well-being of children, important though all those are. It actually relates to what we as a society think that childhood is for. I am much taken with the Swedish experience, which refers to the need for children to have safe zones in which they are protected from commercial influences.

At least, that assumes that childhood has a kind of moral integrity as a stage in our human development that we, as adults, should have a duty to safeguard. I would go further and argue that childhood is also a place in which things of the spirit must be given room to grow. Of course, I would claim that all of us-children included-are made in the image of God.

I am not defined by what I consume. I am defined-in my terms, at any rate-by my relationship with God and with my neighbour and by my destiny in God. Why are we, as adults in Britain today, so lacking in moral courage that we do not wish to protect children from exploitative and commercial pressure? Why are we so spiritually bereft as a nation that one third of parents provide a television set in the bedroom for the under-3s? I find that hauntingly sad.

I warmly welcome the debate. At heart, it is about whether, as a nation, we are prepared to submit to a definition of childhood that sees children simply as consumers or whether we have the courage to say that childhood needs protection from exploitation because only in that way can the spiritual needs and rights of children be given a place to grow and flourish. We are in serious danger of producing a nation of fat and greedy children with thin and starving souls. Is that really the best that we, as adults, can do?

9:06 AM


As an old rock group sang, back when it was assumed people would have children. Here is a story from last Sunday's set of stories from which I thought good.

John Paul II has advice for parents as they educate their children about the media: foster a critical spirit in the former and regulate the use of the latter. The Pope proffers this advice in his Message for the 2004 World Communications Day, which will be observed May 23. The Vatican press office issued the message Saturday.

"Parents, as the primary and most important educators of their children, are also the first to teach them about the media," the Holy Father writes in his message entitled, "The Media and the Family: A Risk and a Richness."

"They are called to train their offspring in the moderate, critical, watchful, and prudent use of the media in the home. When parents do that consistently and well, family life is greatly enriched," he adds.

"Even very young children can be taught important lessons about the media: that they are produced by people anxious to communicate messages; that these are often messages to do something -- to buy a product, to engage in dubious behavior -- that is not in the child's best interests or in accord with moral truth," the Pope states.

In a word, he contends that parents must explain to children that they "should not uncritically accept or imitate what they find in the media." With the second principle, the Pope reminds parents that they "need to regulate the use of the media at home."

"This would include planning and scheduling media use, strictly limiting the time children devote to media, making entertainment a family experience, putting some media entirely off limits, and periodically excluding all of them for the sake of other family activities," John Paul II writes.

He acknowledges that for these principles to be effective, parents must give "good example to their children by their own thoughtful and selective use of media."

In this connection, the Pope suggests that it might be "helpful to join with other families to study and discuss the problems and opportunities presented by the use of the media." "Families," he adds, "should be outspoken in telling producers, advertisers, and public authorities what they like and dislike."

9:01 AM

Wednesday, January 28


From time to time I've recommended to those of you who want to know about the current affairs of the Anglican Federation that you should go to the Classical Anglican News Network (CANN) site. (I know even conservatives are still using the word "Communion," but a group in which some members are out of communion with others and a lot are in "imparied communion" -- whatever that is -- can not without serious abuse of the language be called a Communion.)

Anyway, I just realized that I should also commend their regular news site, which you can find here. It offers, for example, links to

-- this useful list of statements by the Church Fathers on abortion; and

-- this interesting article on Muslim scholars speaking openly about Islam (we ran a news story about this group in the last issue); and

-- links to a lot of interesting items from a wide range of blogsites.

10:55 PM


Here is the website for a theological conference held in the Maritimes by a group of traditionalist Anglicans, this year on Multiculturalism and Religious Freedom. Though I haven't been to one of these conferences in several years, I was privileged to attend several and always enjoyed them very much.

The papers and responses were almost always good, the worship was old Prayer Book Anglican, the conference included a lot of time to do other things, and the company entertained and provoked. This one is being held in Fredericton, New Brunswick, which is a very pretty and pleasant town.

You might want to check out the St. Peter Publications webpage as well.

9:32 PM


Steve Breitenbach sends an item from today's OpinionJournal:

There was an interesting reflection by the Wall Street Journal's "Best of the Web" column today, on what they term the "Roe Effect" within politics. After they show that Howard Dean's support is mostly from younger Democrats, they examine his loss to John Kerry in New Hampshire this week, and wonder why so few young voted.

Why so few young voters? Part of it, of course, is that younger adults tend not to show up at the polls. But part of it as well, as we noted last week, is that they tend not to exist. That's right, Dean once again has fallen victim to the Roe effect. Not that Dean would have won the election had more young voters shown up at the polls, but Kerry would not have dealt him such a trouncing.

Because the two political parties have become polarized on abortion, it seems reasonable to assume that more potential Democrats than potential Republicans have been aborted. After all, their would-have-been mothers show through their actions that they agree with the Democratic position on the issue. Result: fewer younger voters in Democratic primaries, as we saw last night, and probably a boost for Republican candidates in the general election. (Newsweek headline: "Bush's Secret Weapon: Young Voters.")

This advantage is likely only to increase as the post-Roe babies get older and vote more often -- and, in future decades, as their children reach voting age. "Howard Dean's appeal is essentially to adolescent rage, so it's no wonder he would do best among the youngest voters -- and thus be hardest hit by the Roe effect. Whatever you think of the morality of abortion, it does seem for the moment to be pushing A! merican politics toward sanity.

9:24 PM


For some reason sex slavery seems to be a popular topic in the e-mail news lists (religious and secular) I get (see Sex in America and Slavery in Iran for previous stories). Here is another heart-breaking story but one with some hope, as it tells the story of a Christian ministry to the exploited women: Flicker of hope in India from the (Southern) Baptist Press service. The story is sad and has a religious source:

Half a century after India became the world's largest democracy, countless women remain little more than property, forced laborers, objects of exploitation. They have few rights under the law -- which is seldom enforced anyway in many parts of north India. That goes for Hindus, Muslims, even minority Christian women. To become second-class citizens would be a step up.

"The birth of a girl here is a burden, not a joy. If she is born first, it is a curse," Joy explains. Often she is not even fed
properly, much less loved, nurtured and educated. Mortality and suicide rates for Indian women are among the highest in the world.

Those factors, along with poverty and geographical location, contribute to the sex industry in Uttar Pradesh. Joy describes the region as a "big bowl" into which are poured thousands of children and young women lured, sold or kidnapped from within the state as well as from neighboring Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar and across international borders from Nepal, Bangladesh and other countries.

Once there, they are forced to service local customers as well as the multitudes of pilgrims who flock to the state's sacred sites. Religious sanction and caste, indeed, are ancient sources of Indian prostitution. Young girls have long been "dedicated to the god" as Hindu temple prostitutes, which gives village men -- often relatives -- license to use them sexually.

"They are exploited by the priest for a few years, then thrown out of the temple and forced into prostitution" on the streets or in brothels, Joy says.
The couple the story portrays inspire.

Joy and Grace Zaidi have waged a long, often lonely struggle to help women and children victimized by the vast Indian sex industry. They've made some enemies along the way. So far, they've received little support from the minority Christian community in north India. Respectable pastors don't want to be seen with prostitutes. Congregations don't want them showing up in church on Sunday.

When scandalized church folks question Joy about his ministry, he answers with a question: "Didn't Jesus do this?" When prostitutes ask, "Why do you help us?" he tells them what God has done for him.

Joy can deal with opposition. Years ago he was jailed for criticizing Indira Gandhi, India's late prime minister. In his jail
cell, he recounts, "I found the living Christ." Grace, a widely respected community leader, ran for mayor of Allahabad a few years ago (she lost, but garnered thousands of votes in a surprisingly strong race).
The same set of releases from BP offered a story about trafficked children.

9:18 PM


A regular reader writes:

Inasmuch as Editor Mills is well-known as a polemicist's polemicist, I don't think you want to miss

in explanation of why ECUSA revisionism / capitulation-to-identity-politics requires all the violence it takes to silence reasoned discussion. As well as the clearest statement ever made of This Other Gospel: Christ = no more than the sum of our immediate desires (in contradistinction to Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring . . .).

Jonathan Sorum is Docent in Systematic Theology at the Evangelical Theological Faculty of Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia. He received his doctorate from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.

This comes via the invaluable TitusOneNine canon law weblog from South Carolina.

11:22 AM


Another view of Europe's relation to its Muslim citizens, Europe Resisting Islam's Dark Ages by Alexis Amory, different from mine in Europe and America (see here and here for responses). The author writes:

The original intention, particularly in Britain and France, which admitted large numbers of citizens of their former colonies after granting them independence, was that Muslim immigrants to European shores would assimilate. Many did. But many primitive thinkers flooded into Europe only to be shocked by the enlightened society they encountered. Some groups developed an agenda of imposing their old ways and their religion on their host societies.
He goes on to make this argument in more detail. With all sympathy for societies trying to maintain their identity, I think this kind of article leaves out a great deal of relevance. For example:

1) When most western European societies, and France above almost all, have tried to marginalize Christianity, which created their culture, how seriously can we take their new concern for the integrity of their culture? They want to maintain a secular materialism alien to the founding of their culture, but justify it as being truly "French."

2) European society cannot simply be described as "enlightened." Has it not ocurred to the writer that the "primitives" (with which title I have little problem, let me note) may well have recognized real corruption? The destruction of the sacredness of the marriage bed through the massive indulgence in pornography -- the hard pornography of the dirty magazines and movies and the soft of advertisements and many mainstream movies, for example?

3) The writer blithely ignores the reason those immigrants are in these countries in the first place: that their populations have become so self-centered and have so little hope or care for the future, that they have ceased having enough children. They have created a vacuum into which more vigorous (and hopeful) people will move.

4) By many reports, these countries, and not least the French, did not try very hard to assimilate their immigrant populations when it might have worked. In France, I have read and been told, attacks on Jewish citizens and synagogues were treated lightly, which sent the radically anti-French immigrants exactly the wrong message.

Instinctively, I want to support the French attempts to maintain their culture against an alien and to some extent antagonistic group in their midst. But then they are only trying to solve a problem they've created by their own decline, even decadence, and trying to solve it by legal force rather than cultural and spiritual renewal. It might work, but it probably won't.

11:19 AM


Wilfrid Mcclay sent me a story from my hometown: Yes to 'The Vagina Monologues' But No To 'West Side Story'. It is the transcript to an episode of The O'Reilly Factor show from January 14th, on the production at the public high school in Amherst, Massachusetts, of the play The Vagina Monologues. As O'Reilly said in his opening:

In the "Back of the Book" segment tonight -- wait until you hear this -- Amherst High School in Massachusetts will put on the play "The Vagina Monologues" with the blessing of the school board.

That play is based on interviews with 200 women about their sexual experiences. It features very explicit language and images. The same school district rejected a production of "West Side Story" after members of the Hispanic community complained it promoted racial stereotypes.
I can understand the Hispanic response, but know the Christian community, though I'm sure larger, would get no such deference. The guest, Larry Kelly, a columnist for the local newspaper, said, in one of those quotes that take you back,

[W]hat interested me last night was one of the teachers showed up who is working with the women on the play, and she opened her speech to the school committee saying, well, the women that are doing the play wanted to be here tonight, but I told them not to come because I didn't want to expose them to the controversy.

Well, if they can't deal with the school committee meeting where practically everyone agreed with them, then how can they -- how are they mature enough to get up and yell out the C word at the top of their lungs and do some of the other graphic things that exist in the play?
You might have to know that world intimately to understand how people who think their charges are just exceedingly mature and able to deal maturely with "difficult subjects" and "challenging experiences" will at the same time feel that they (the charges) ought to be protected from controversy. The effect, of course, is to protect their charges from having to face any opinions but their (the teachers') own.

10:52 AM

Tuesday, January 27


Another disturbing story about sex slavery, described in Sex in America, but this one about a different part of the world, Iran: Sex Slave Jihad by Donna M. Hughes, who holds the Carlson Endowed Chair in Women’s Studies at the University of Rhode Island. She writes:

The head of Iran’s Interpol bureau believes that the sex slave trade is one of the most profitable activities in Iran today. This criminal trade is not conducted outside the knowledge and participation of the ruling fundamentalists. Government officials themselves are involved in buying, selling, and sexually abusing women and girls.
I think she fails to prove her claim (implied but never clearly stated) that sex slavery is part of the Islamic fundamentalist mind or life, but she tells a disturbing story still, one which reflects badly on the ruling religious.

The ruling fundamentalists have differing opinions on their official position on the sex trade: deny and hide it or recognize and accommodate it. In 2002, a BBC journalist was deported for taking photographs of prostitutes. Officials told her: “We are deporting you . . . because you have taken pictures of prostitutes. This is not a true reflection of life in our Islamic Republic. We don’t have prostitutes.”

Yet, earlier the same year, officials of the Social Department of the Interior Ministry suggested legalizing prostitution as a way to manage it and control the spread of HIV. They proposed setting-up brothels, called “morality houses,” and using the traditional religious custom of temporary marriage, in which a couple can marry for a short period of time, even an hour, to facilitate prostitution.

Islamic fundamentalists’ ideology and practices are adaptable when it comes to controlling and using women.

11:05 PM


Drs. Christopher and Prisca Turner, two scholars from Vancouver, send their
one page brief to the Anglican Archbishop's Commission , with a note saying that it addresses "the theological implications of the antics in New Hampshire and New Westminster." The Anglican primates (heads of the national Anglican churches) created a commission to study the problems raised by the Western drive to approve homosexuality, which is now receiving testimony.

The Turners write that their brief answers the Commission's Key Questions 1(b) and 2(b). I don't know what these are, but the brief itself is a nicely compact summary of the Christian argument against the approval of homosexuality. For example, the middle section:

Absolutely pivotal are Our Lord's own teaching and example. That the Lord both taught and lived fully within the Old Testament sexual ethic is certain. We may indeed know His attitude to same-sex genital relations.

No case can be made for the modern notion that there was or could have been any Dominical silence or ambiguity about them. His attitude is actually quite plain from the porneia references in Matthew, where His teaching is represented by the Evangelist as Jesus-Torah, and Himself as the new Moses.

It is certain that if anyone in His time and place had had the temerity to produce a challenge to Him as teacher along the lines of that about divorce, He would most certainly have replied, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?".

By analogy, he would if anything have sharpened the moral demand for His disciples. There would have been no qualifications at all, no mention of pastoral provision for failure, there being none in Leviticus or elsewhere.

This was a closed question: it is not open to us to attribute to Him historically impossible attitudes.

Not only is the language unambiguous, we must also come to terms with Jesus as our pattern, here as elsewhere. Any compromise on His part would have produced an immediate challenge to the validity of his ministry, and that challenge must have left some trace in the record.

Some want to ignore Him as example of perfect First Century Jewish sex-ethics, while using Him as a stick to beat the rest of us into other more fashionable attitudes.

10:50 PM


Jeff Martin adds another item in the interesting string on the nature of martyrdom (see "Martyrs and Saints" below and links therein):

In response to the posts "A Possible Martyr" and "Finding the Saints", I would simply like to note that your second correspondent, Mr. al-Mansur, has described quite nicely the circumstances through which many of the Holy Martyrs came to glorify God by their steadfast confession of Christ to the point of death. Additionally, I must note that even a cursory reading of the lives of saints and the history of their recognition will demonstrate that a goodly number of them attained that recognition by processes rather like those operative in the Russian Church in the case of Yevgeny.

As to the reasons for the division between the Hierarchy and the laity on the question of such recognitions, it may well be that it has much to do with a hangover form the Soviet period. Many, rightly or wrongly, continue to nurse suspicions about the hierarchy for reasons that were more obvious 30 years ago than they are in the present.

I suspect, as well, that many wonder about the recognition due to those righteous who suffered under the communist yoke; many suffered as martyrs and confessors, and yet, in keeping with the general failure of post-Soviet society to make a proper reckoning of the evils of the past, few have been honored for the saintliness they manifested in life, suffering and death.

Some of the ill-will resulting from such oversights and silences surely bleeds over into the present, leading many layfolk to recognize their martyrs in the teeth of official opposition. It may not be so much a failure of piety as its' very expression; we Orthodox do not take lightly the communion of the saints and the honors we owe those who suffered for righteousness' sake.

10:44 PM


David Mills sent me an ENI news story (26 January 2004; ENI-04-0045) about the preponderance of women at Scandinavian seminaries:

Ole Davidsen, head of the theology faculty at Aarhus university, said if men continued to account for less than 30 per cent of students, the situation might need to be discussed.

He suggested the Lutheran priesthood might be attractive because it offered the prospect of reliable employment and another factor could be that it was seen as a caring profession.
The Vikings have come a long way. Caring? The situation might need to be discussed? And by whom? (Who's left?) The women? What are the women going to do to bring the men back?

There is only one way: resign, quit, and admit that the priestly uniform along with its attached duties--the necessary sacrifices to be borne in imitation of Christ, the disciplining of the wayward, the chastisement of the recalcitrant, the reproving of the fool--all these belong to the man as his rightful burden.

Churches are becoming ecclesial versions of single-mom homes, in which especially the young men, lacking the discipline meted out by the man of the house, are often unmanageable barbarians and spend as little time at home as possible. This is because the woman, who wanted to have it all, thinks that she can do it all.

2:55 PM


Charles Colson's Breakpoint column for today offers a good short summary of St. Augustine's City of God in Two Cities, as the first in a series on

what it means to be a Christian and a citizen in contemporary America: the temptations, pitfalls, and opportunities. Getting this right starts with the paradox Augustine taught: The best citizens of the City of Man are those who remember that their true citizenship is in the City of God.

12:29 PM


Phillip Johnson sends word of a new book appearing in June: Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing, edited by William A. Dembski. Here is the link. Dr. Dembski was the co-editor of our issue on the Intelligent Design movement, which turned (with the addition of a few essays) into the book Signs of Intelligence.

The description of the book Dr. Johnson sent concludes:

The hostility of dogmatic Darwinians like Dawkins has not, however, prevented the advent of a growing cadre of scholarly critics of metaphysical Darwinism. The measured, thought-provoking essays in Uncommon Dissent make it increasingly obvious that these critics are not the brainwashed fundamentalist buffoons that Darwinism’s defenders suggest they are, but rather serious, skeptical, open-minded inquirers whose challenges pose serious questions about the viability of Darwinist ideology. The intellectual power of their contributions to Uncommon Dissent is bracing.

12:23 PM


Jurjis ibn Ibrahim al-Mansur responds to the message from a reader posted yesterday in Finding the Saints:

In response to “Finding the Saints” (itself a response to “A Possible Martyr”) I would like to ask what a martyr is if not someone who has died for the Orthodox Faith? And what did Yevgeny Rodionov do if not die for the Faith? He was killed AFTER being invited to become a Muslim. If the killing had only been motivated by his ethnicity then he would have been killed without a question. This was not just another person “who [died] at the hands of Islamofascists” who “[happened] to be Orthodox].”

Look at the lives of the Holy Martyrs. Not all of them lived particularly holy lives and some of them even bowed to pagan pressures to convert! But in the end they all confessed Christ and were martyred for their faithfulness to and love for Him. Yevgeny Rodionov may not be the same type of Saint as Anthony the Great, Patrick of Ireland, or Herman of Alaska, but he is a Martyr and a Saint nonetheless.

Whatever the life he lived, he loved God enough to remain faithful to Him when threatened with death. We should glorify God for allowing Yevgeny to persevere to the end and thus receive the crown of martyrdom! May He have mercy upon us and bless us through the prayers of His Holy Martyr Yevgeny.

12:16 PM


I've just come across this good, short explanation of why some of us continue to use un-p.c. terms like "man" and "mankind." It's a footnote to the Peter Kreeft's introduction to his book Philosopy 101 by Socrates (Ignatius, 2002):

"Man" means "mankind," not "males." It is traditional inclusive language. "Humanity" doe snot go with "God" ("God and humanity") because "God" and "man" are concrete nouns, like "dog" and "cat," while "divinity" and "humanity" are abstract nouns, like "canininity" and "felininity" or "dogginess" and "cattiness." Whatever the political or psychological uses or misuses of these words, that is what they mean. We do not undo old injustices against women by doing new injustices against language.
He might have added that the claim, regularly made by the "inclusivists," that the masculine cannot include and represent the feminine, destroys the possibility of the Incarnation being the inclusive event Christians believe it to be. I can understand a case being made for "inclusive" language, but the sweeping claims it is often based are not claims a Christian can make, but once the advocate gives up the sweeping "'He' doesn't represent Me!" argument, he is left with prudential arguments, which by nature are disputable.

Like Kreeft, I have always said when people ask that I use "inclusive language." "He" is inclusive, as most women outside the academy and media understand.

The book, by the way, is a very good guided introduction to The Apology of Socrates, which he describes as “Philosophy Defended,”, the Euthyphro (“Philosophy Exemplified”), and the Phaedo (“Philosophy Martyred”). It really is a good intro course in philosophy as the title says.

12:15 PM


You may want to know about a conference being held in mid-March, sponsored by Reformation and Revival Ministries, led by John Armstong, who is a good friend of Touchstone's. The conference is named Trust and Obey: A Symposium on Law and Gospel. The description from the ministry's website reads:

PROTESTANT CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY TEACHES that individuals are saved fully by the grace of God on the ground of Christ’s atoning death and victorious resurrection, and that they appropriate this salvation by faith, apart from any merit or law-keeping. It has also taught that obedience and good works in the believer’s life are the inevitable effect of this salvation and, in fact, that faith itself is an act of obedience.

How is it possible then to safeguard the fully gracious character of salvation without diminishing the necessity of bedience and good works, apart from which none will be saved? This symposium will address such questions, from within the confessional traditions of Protestant Christian faith, as well as from Roman Catholic and Orthodox perspectives. The goal is to listen, to dialogue and to better grasp the message of the Bible and the Christian Church.
The speakers include our own Patrick Henry Reardon.

12:50 AM


Writing about a news story on Episcopal affairs that said "Critics of conservative Episcopalians claim that some are guilty of Donatism, a heresy in which Christians question the validity of sacraments, such as Holy Communion, if a priest or bishop teaches errant doctrine," our new contributing editor Robert Hart noted:

This is rich: People who do not believe that anything should be called heresy, are accusing others of heresy, for rejecting heresy. It makes my head spin.
That such people are confused is the charitable explanation, and (knowing these people as I do, I would say) sometimes the right one. But more often this head-spinning rhetoric seems to be another example of that attempt to win an argument by insulting one's opponents I described in my editorial this month (not online).

In this case, the liberal Christian spends most of his time insulting the more conservative as "heresy hunters" and proclaiming the virtues of open-mindedness, the ongoing movement of the Holy Spirit, and the infinite development of doctrine, but when he thinks a charge of heresy might work, he uses it. It was rather like a general believing in the necessity of virtue to a treaty when his army was weak and believing in the virtue of breaking it when his army was strong. He might succeed in battle, but he couldn't expect the enemy to accept his word again.

In my years of work for the conservative side in the Episcopal wars, I wrote a great deal pointing out that the liberals had principles but chose not to articulate them when appeals to open-mindedness and the like brought them votes from the gullible and naive. It was often quite difficult to find out what some of them really believed and upon what exact principles their appeals to diversity etc. were based, and therefore what their limits really were.

I concluded from the evidence that most of the Episcopal liberals believed in all these things for purely political reasons. Or perhaps more accurately, that their belief in them depended upon their political usefulness, and as long as the beliefs were useful — for example, the need for allowing diversity on a disputed question when they hadn't yet won official approval for their side — they believed them with complete sincerity. When they were not useful, they disbelieved them with complete sincerity.

Understanding this was the secret to understanding Episcopal liberalism, but some conservatives never saw it. I've never understood why.

Many of the conservatives did this as well, alas, but not so often or so consistently as the liberals.

12:42 AM


In an old message I should have posted a couple of weeks ago (time often runs out), in response to Idiot Watch, Eric Kniffin writes:

Here is an article I found that corresponds nicely with the piece posted today on bay area attitudes towards stray dogs and children:

These two articles together paint a picture of two radically opposed worldviews. People who believe in marriage and childbirth tend to fall on one side of the political divide, those who believe in individual autonomy and are hostile to family life tend to fall on the other. It is hard to imagine a more stark illustration of the differences between the culture of life and the culture of death.

12:26 AM


Those of you trying to keep up with the affairs of the Anglican, um, Federation should go to the Classical Anglican News Network. It amazes me how much information the parish priest who runs it manages to post.

12:24 AM


An Orthodox reader writes in response to A Possible Martyr:

I think this story, while tragic, points to a problem in Eastern Orthodoxy. We act much to quickly in declaring someone a saint. Too often, especially in recent years, this title is bestowed on someone out of desires for national heroes, not out of regard for whether or not someone actually lived a Christian life.

My prayers go out to Mrs Rodionova, and to all who have died during the conflict in Chechnya. I can not doubt that her son was a good person without evidence to the contrary. But I am rather skeptical that he deserves the title of Saint. I am afraid that declaring anyone who dies at the hands of Islamofascists, especially if that person happens to be Orthodox, a saint would quickly empty the term 'saint' of any meaning.

12:23 AM

Monday, January 26


A reader, Quena Gonzalez, sends two helpful responses to two recent items.

First, she writes in response to Jim Kushiner's post on Friday, "More Jesus on film":

There's a commentary on the movie "The Gospel of John" by Gene Edward Veith in the current issue of
World Magazine ( Veith is a cultural observer, not a movie critic, so this is more of an editorial commentary and not strictly a movie review.
She kindly adds that World and Touchstone are "two of my favorite magazines."

Second, she writes in response to Europe and America (for other responses click here and click here):

If you were looking for a probing treatment of the differences between the American and European outlooks, I would heartily recommend George Weigel's article in February's First Things, "Europe's Problem — and Ours" (

[T]he deepest currents of history," Weigel writes, "are spiritual and cultural, rather than political and economic. . . . [H]istory is driven, over the long haul, by culture — by what men and women honor, cherish, and worship; by what societies deem to be true and good, and by the expressions they give to those convictions in language, literature, and the arts; by what individuals and societies are willing to stake their lives on.

He suggests that Americans should be concerned with Europe's spiritual decline for three reasons:

1. America stands on the shoulders of its European forebears, and ought not to isolate herself from her roots.

2. America's security interests are threatened by Europe's shrinking population, increasingly replaced by Muslim immigrants and giving rise to the possibility of "a Europe increasingly influenced, and perhaps even dominated, by radicalized Islamic populations."

3. America's role as the world's democratic standard-bearer would be weakened by a European capitulation to the notion that Western democracy was not shaped by Western Christianity.

Working as I do for an organization concerned, in part, with American-European relations, I find inspiration in his thesis:

Europe's crisis of civilizational morale teaches us that, while there are many lenses through which history can be read, theological lenses help us to see deeper, farther, and more truly.
Another reader also recommended this article, which suggests you ought to read it.

12:57 PM


I was reflecting on the last article given in the following item, "Sex in America," and think the writer's analysis of the causes of our problems with marriage, whether one thinks it a transition or a breakdown, is largely correct. That said, I would note that Chesterton described all this in 1914 in his book What's Wrong With the World.

The Christian, even one sympathetic to feminist analysis, has to suspect that feminism may be less a liberation movement than its advocates believe and more the rationalization of a new oppression. One would want to analyze its losses as well as its benefits more carefully than most people do, and ask whom it really serves.

I remember, about 25 years ago, reading a book by a feminist scholar who argued quite heatedly that feminists should shun marxism, to which many were apparently attracted, because marxism led to the argument that feminism was a product of capitalism. "Don't go there" was her message, to use a contemporary idiom. What interested me was that she didn't bother to refute the marxist (and, though I assume she didn't know it, Chestertonian) argument but simply decided it did not lead to the result she wanted, which hardly seemed a good way of thinking through the question.

12:47 PM


Several articles from yesterday's New York Times on sex and and marriage you may find of interest and/or use:

First, a horrifying and heartbreaking account of sexual slavery (yes, slavery) in the United States, The Girls Next Door by Peter Landesman, which appeared in the Sunday Times Magazine. I should warn you that the article and the quotes following are very disturbing. Among other things,

the United States has become a major importer of sex slaves. Last year, the C.I.A. estimated that between 18,000 and 20,000 people are trafficked annually into the United States. The government has not studied how many of these are victims of sex traffickers, but Kevin Bales, president of Free the Slaves, America's largest anti-slavery organization, says that the number is at least 10,000 a year.

John Miller, the State Department's director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, conceded: ''That figure could be low. What we know is that the number is huge.'' Bales estimates that there are 30,000 to 50,000 sex slaves in captivity in the United States at any given time.

Laura Lederer, a senior State Department adviser on trafficking, told me, ''We're not finding victims in the United States because we're not looking for them.''
And then there is the nature of what these women and girls are forced to do.

Rosario, a woman I met in Mexico City, who had been trafficked to New York and held captive for a number of years, . . . said that she believed younger foreign girls were in demand in the U.S. because of an increased appetite for more aggressive, dangerous sex. Traffickers need younger and younger girls, she suggested, simply because they are more pliable. In Eastern Europe,
too, the typical age of sex-trafficking victims is plummeting; according to Matei of Reaching Out, while most girls used to be in their late teens and 20's, 13-year-olds are now far from unusual.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents at the Cyber Crimes Center in Fairfax, Va., are finding that when it comes to sex, what was once considered abnormal is now the norm. They are tracking a clear spike in the demand for harder-core pornography on the Internet. "We've become desensitized by the soft stuff; now we need a harder and harder hit," says I.C.E. Special Agent Perry Woo. . . .

I had heard of one Web site that supposedly offered sex slaves for purchase to individuals. The I.C.E. agents hadn't heard of it. Special Agent Don Daufenbach, I.C.E.'s manager for undercover operations, brought it up on a screen. A hush came over the room as the agents leaned forward, clearly disturbed. "That sure looks like the real thing," Daufenbach said.

There were streams of Web pages of thumbnail images of young women of every ethnicity in obvious distress, bound, gagged, contorted. The agents in the room pointed out probable injuries from torture. Cyberauctions for some of the women were in progress; one had exceeded $300,000. "With new Internet technology," Woo said, "pornography is becoming more pervasive. With Web cams we're seeing more live molestation of children."
In my youth, when various people wanted pornography made legal and in effect normal (at least for "adults"), nearly everyone of them argued that it was mostly just good clean fun and they all sneered — loudly and insistently — at those prudes and puritans who argued that the indulgence in soft-core porn often led to an addiction to harder and more and more perverse kinds.

If you encourage men to enjoy this kind of fantasy, many men will need wilder and wilder fantasies to get the same sort of kick from it — and more and more of them will need to act out these fantasies in real life. Nothing such fantasy gives ever quite satisfies the need and desire it creates. Some men are satisfied with the ineffective fantasy, or prevented by their conscience from pursuing them further, but a lot of men will keep looking for the fantasy that provides everything fantasy promises, no matter to what degradation and evil it brings them.

That the prudes and puritans were right is now admitted, even by the New York Times, when it is too late to stop it. (See also the feminist writer Naomi Wolf's comments on this in New York magazine. and the comments in this blog and the ones it links to.)

At any rate, vicious men brutalizing young women is the sort of thing that becomes much more common when a society chooses to make sex a recreational activity and lets loose the restraints that once set it apart. Men of all times will commit every kind of evil, but some societies encourage certain kinds

Second, a complaint about the benefits government and businesses given to married people,
Single and Paying for It by Shari Motro. Her argument that the current system is unfair to the unmarried illustrates the challenge we face when marriage is no longer generally recognized as a public good, and a vulnerable public good that therefore needs public support.

For those of you interested in rhetoric, the article attempts to avoid the question of whether the married should be given any benefits not available by others by avoiding it entirely, by writing:

Though most people would agree that these distinctions are arbitrary and unfair, as a society we tend not to notice that breaks for people who are married translate into penalties for those of us who are not.
And third, Should This Marriage Be Saved? by a professor of media studies at Northwestern and author of Against Love: A Polemic, which argues that

The fact is that marriage is a social institution in transition, whether conservatives like it or not. This is not simply a matter of individual malfeasance; in fact, it may not be individual at all.

The rise of the new economy has gutted all sorts of traditional values and ties, including traditions like the family wage, job security and economic safety nets. Women have been propelled into the work force in huge numbers, and not necessarily for personal fulfillment: with middle-class wages stagnant from the early 70's to the mid-90's, it now takes (at least) two incomes to support the traditional household.
Most conservatives would argue that marriage is a social institution because it is something either eternal and transcendent or at least built into the nature of man. It is less "in transition" than in breakdown, or even under attack, which is rather different and calls for different responses.

12:37 PM

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