August 26, 2004

Arguments For Same-Sex Marriage Critiqued

From Christianity Today, Thirteen Bad Arguments for Same-Sex Marriage.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 03:20 PM | Comments (0)

August 24, 2004

On Marriage

From Christianity Today, an essay on the weakening state of marriage: A Crumbling Institution, by David P. Gushee.

And a news item on how the Michigan Board of State Canvassers has removed a voter-referendum on a state constitutional amendment defining marriage from the ballot. Their reasoning? The proposed constitutional amendment might be unconstitutional! Imagine reading this later this year: November 10, 2004: Michigan Supreme Court declares constitutional amendment on marriage to be unconstitutional....

But seriously now, this is good evidence to me that our fight is not "against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness" (Eph 6:12 NKJV). I can't imagine a decision like this coming down from people who respect the rule of law. This board has an agenda and they're not going to let something such as trivial as "the democratic process" overrule it.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 09:27 PM | Comments (3)

August 23, 2004

China, girls, and adoption

From the Wall Street Journal, China realizes infanticide isn't such a good idea.

As the father of a girl from China, I welcome any attempts to curb the number of abortions done to girls in China, and especially the outlawing of abortions done for the purpose of sexual selection. The issue of providing taxpayers' money to the UN for family planning, which President Bush has stopped, is also a huge factor in my vote. I will be voting for President Bush, and for Representative Chris Smith this November.

A couple of weeks ago I was with my daughter, Rebecca, at a local playground, and a young girl, maybe about ten years old, started talking with me about her:
is she really our daughter? yes she is.
Why does she look different? she only looks different because she was born in China and we adopted her.
Do you know her birth parents? No, her birth parents gave her up
That's terrible! They could have done worse - they could have killed her, but instead they put her in a place where she would be found and cared for; and we've forgiven them for leaving her. We choose to be thankful for the gift they gave to us instead.
How could you forgive them? Well, forgiving them isn't the same as saying what they did was right, and like I said, they could have done worse. Instead they gave her to us, without even knowing it.

If I could have talked with her longer, I would have liked to told her about Joseph and how he was sold into slavery by his own brothers, yet that egregious act was used by God to save his family. What often looks awful to us, God uses for a greater good. Maybe we'll run into her again. She seemed to be moved by seeing our daughter and learning about what is happening over there.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 09:39 PM | Comments (0)

Rock the Vote

I used to think it was silly to boycott products because of the ideology of their producers. I know people who won't drink Coors solely because of Joseph Coors' founding of the Heritage Foundation. Of course, they completely disregard the fact that he did it with his own personal money, and that the Coors corporation is owned by, and employs, a lot of people who undoubtably give money to both liberal and conservative groups. (A lot different than Ben & Jerry's which pledges a certain percentage of its corporate profit to leftist causes)

However, I'm revising my opinion of boycotts when it comes to art, because today's artists are using their status for trashing my country. I will not knowingly support an artist who uses their celebrity to promote views I disagree with.

When Chrissie Hynde said that she hoped the USA would lose the war in Iraq, I swore I would never listen to another Pretenders song again. When Bruce Springsteen announced his "Vote for Change" tour, and several other bands got on board, I decided to boycott any group that participated.

Now I read that Larry Gatlin, a country-music star, is critical of Springsteen's project (sorry, link requires a subscription). I'm converting to country music. Actually, I've hated modern rock for a long time now, and have converted to Christian contemporary music, but when I move dial off that station, I'm looking for a country music station to call home.

Wait a second, an older rock star attempts to redeem the medium. Go, Alice!

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 12:09 PM | Comments (5)

August 18, 2004

Religion and Voting

The other shoe has dropped. Conservative activists are monitoring Unitarian Universalist congregations and other liberal churches for endorsements of Democrats or Democrat "code-words"
Also, in the Demopolis Times, Gary Palmer writes that all this demagogery amounts to an intimidation campaign. He's right. (links via Christianity Today's weblog)

This is getting rather shrill and ridiculous, though I think that The Mainstream Coalition, the UUA, and their allies were asking for this response with their virulently anti-religious behaviour.

The bottom line is that if a preacher doesn't endorse a candidate by name, he's legal. Code words are protected free speech. The Catholic church is free to tell its members to vote pro-life, just as my former UUA congregation was free to tell its members to vote pro-abortion (which was real close to the time I renounced it and moved on).

(8/20) UPDATE: Joel Thomas directs me to this post by Donald Sensing One Hand Clapping, which discusses the rules regarding political activity by churches. The amount of political involvement by a church seems to be a key factor (and this is an arbitrary measure). I've been a member of Methodist, Baptist, and Unitarian churches during my lifetime. I have never been in a more politically active "church" than the Unitarian Universalist Association. Many congregations have forsaken all aspects of worship altogether, replacing it almost completely with social activism, including political lobbying. I am surprised that UUA congregations are not losing their tax-exempt status in droves.

Also: from the Unitarian Universalist Washington Office for Advocacy, the Unitarian Universalist lobbying organization, The Real Rules: Congregations and IRS Guidelines On Advocacy, Lobbying, and Elections. Just a reminder, guys: the rules apply to both sides.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 10:26 PM | Comments (1)

We're back...

from South Jersey; actually came back Monday. Didn't want to write too quickly about this, but feel I have to finally.

Missed some news while away, or just heard about it about twelve hours after it was announced. Governor McGreevey is resigning!! What? No, he's not? Oh, he's resigning in November. Just our luck. He's messed this state up real good, and won't let go until a special election can be thwarted. Well, the Democrats won the last election I suppose, so I guess there's a point to keeping them there (but this comes from a state where political parties appoint their nominees after the primaries, so I guess it stands to reason that a resigning governor can effectively appoint his successor), but we don't have a good track record with acting governors either. I don't appreciate what President Bush did to us by taking Governor Whitman away from us. Her replacement (a Republican btw) did a rather poor job too, and Whitman did a poor job at the EPA as well.

So Jim McGreevey claims to be a "gay" American. No, Governor, the proper antonym of straight you're looking for is crooked.

And on the whole subject of gay confessions. If McGreevey had confessed to committing adultery with a woman, he would have been viciously attacked in the press, but he confesses to committing adultery with another man, and his poll numbers go up! So the new "wag the dog" strategy, at least here in New Jersey, is confess that you're gay, and suddenly you gain all kinds of respect. As Mark Shea has said, and it describes the NJ mentality pretty well "Could there possibly be anything more incredibly glorious and splendid than homosexuality?"

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 10:05 PM | Comments (1)

August 07, 2004

Taking time off....

No blogging next week, unless Rick or Ann want to write. We'll be away from home the last half of the week, and for the first part of the week, we'll be busy with a lot of thngs.

Before signing off, I extend Happy Birthdays to my friend Lawrence, and sisters Glenda, Nedra, and Naomi. Happy Birthday!

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 11:16 AM | Comments (0)

Fathers & Families

In yesterday's online Christianity Today, an interview with W. Bradford Wilcox, who challenges stereotypes of evangelical fathers as authoritarian and abusive.

Journalists such as Steve and Cokie Roberts and Christian feminists such as James and Phyllis Alsdurf have argued that patriarchal religion leads to domestic violence. My findings directly contradict their claims.

Domestic violence is an important problem in our society, but we should not confuse the matter by blaming conservative religion. The roots of domestic violence would seem to lie elsewhere.

These stereotypes, and my rejection of them, had a role in my life. When I turned my back on Christian faith after college, I started believing people who claimed that the Christian family was an abusive institution. Don't know why I did, I just fell for it, even though no evidence was ever given to prove it. Years later, when I began to feel like I needed a new source of strength for my family, I had to confront that stereotype. When I questioned it, asking for evidence, no evidence was found. The idea that Christianity causes domestic violence is just a liberal cliche.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 10:25 AM | Comments (0)

Secularism

Matt Kaufman, in a new column at Boundless, discusses secularism, the worldview that religion deserves no place in public life or expression. He models the discussion on Robert Reich, who Joe Carter and I have both discussed recently.

Does secularism imply godlessness? Many seem to think that religious views are all fine and good but should be held privately. Problem is that Reich's depiction of secularism would have the religious viewpoint shut out completely, just because of different beliefs (and this coming from the political party claiming unity, no less). If you believe Man writes the rules, you're a player, if you believe God's rules are the foundation, then your viewpoint is invalid and will not be considered, and it's not a stretch to say it would be censored as well.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 09:57 AM | Comments (0)

August 05, 2004

Thoughts on the Kerry speech

I just saw John Kerry's acceptance speech for the first time today, finding a link for it on the George W. Bush campaign website. Some rambling thoughts:

Regarding tax cuts: Rather contradictory to promise tax relief to small businesses and also rescind the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans since there is a large overlap between these two groups. I'd like to see him explain how a waitress at the Americana Diner is helped out by her employer having to pay higher taxes, and thus unable to give her a raise. And for that matter, not having any money to create a new job. If you want to create new jobs in America, Senator Kerry, then you've got to let the money that pays for those jobs stay in the economy - not go to Washington. I heard his line about not raising taxes on the middle class. Clinton said the same thing, and I saw the townhall where he told a young woman why he was raising her taxes "I didn't know..." Yeah, right. He knew, he just said what he had to say to win the election. He waffled, and so will Kerry, for the same reason.

Regarding unity and division: I can't believe people associate divisiveness with the Republicans, given how the Democrats love to divide the country with techniques like class warfare and pandering to every special interest group, not to mention the harm caused by Al Gore's legal shenanigans. John Kerry doesn't want to mess with the Constitution. Fine, but he also says he's against same-sex marriage, but doesn't articulate any plan for doing anything about it except leaving it up to the states. He's going to fiddle away on this issue while judges decide the issue, and likely against the majority of the people. The truth is that he's for it, or willing to accept it, and won't say so.

And a brief digression on the subject of same-sex marriage:
It's really inconsistent the way organizations like the Unitarian Universalist Association boast about how they respect the democratic process, and then file briefs in court in support of same-sex marriage. They justify it by saying that it's a civil right, but to them every liberal desire is a civil right; Abortion, same-sex marriage, freedom from religion, health care for everybody. By framing everything they want as a civil right they define the conservative point of view out of consideration. Their definition of democratic dialogue is whether to raise spending on the welfare state by 20%, 25%, or more.

About terrorism and defending the country:
Attacking President Bush for misleading the nation sounds good to a lot of people, but the case hasn't been proven that Iraq wasn't a threat to us or our allies. I'm not happy with all the details of the war in Iraq, but I'm glad Saddam Hussein is no longer in power, and a lot of Iraqis are glad he's gone too. I don't think changing leadership in the middle of this thing is a good idea, especially for someone who voted against supporting out troops, while also saying we needed to keep them over there.

He said America wouldn't go to war unless it had to (as opposed to wanted to), but this is just a feel-good soundbite. There will always be some opposed to any war, even if our national sovereignty is at stake. I don't believe Kerry is one of them, though I wonder what his criteria for retaliation would be. How many Americans would have to die first? And the thought of France having a veto over our foreign policy just rankles me. President Bush is right - America must diligently protect itself, even if it has to do so alone.

That's all I have to say about the speech. I've got other thoughts about this race, but they'll be discussed later, if at all. In the meantime, note that I've added several campaign-related links at the left.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 06:04 PM | Comments (0)

August 03, 2004

That Democrat Bounce

Much has been made of the lack of a Democrat bounce after last week's convention. I actually discount all the polls I hear about, though I admit I've got to do that as an act of the will - it's easy to be suckered into believing there's actual substance to them.

Now, investing - or what some would call gambling, as there are no actual earnings involved here - is another matter. This represents "polling" done by people who are willing to back up their opinion with their cash.

Here are graphs of several races as tracked by the Iowa Electronic Markets:

2004 Presidential Election, based on who wins the popular, not electoral, vote.

2004 US House Control, where RH_Gain represents Republicans gaining seats, RH_Hold represents Republicans retaining majority without gaining seats, and RH_Lose represents Republicans losing majority status altogether.

And my favorite graph of all, except for the unfortunate fact that neither of New Jersey's Senators are not up for reelection this year:
2004 US Senate Control, with similar definitions to the above, except that RS_lose also includes the case of a 50-50 split between Republicans and non-Republicans.

Near the end of the Democrat's convention, Larry Kudlow, at National Review Online cited these data, noting at the time (using earlier data, about July 25) that the Senate data were in favor of RS_Lose. Seems that any concern about the Democrats winning the Senate started evaporating on July 28, the date of John Edward's speech.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 12:21 PM | Comments (0)

August 02, 2004

Kerry's Wager...Just Might Work

Ker.ry’s Wa.ger \ ‘ker-Es ‘wA-j&r \ noun (2004) 1 : Senator John F. Kerry’s risk -- on the 2004 American presidential election -- that most voters believe President George W. Bush misled them about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq 2 generalized : (on the same basis) that most voters believe President Bush misled them about the seriousness of the Islamist terrorist threat

*************************

Since Senator Kerry’s convention speech so confounded the Republicans, it should be obvious by now he’s an unusually intelligent, deft campaigner with a carefully thought-out strategy. Yet Republicans continue to insist that the speech and the moderate, hawkish, patriotic “face” the Democrats showcased at their convention was a “façade”; insisting that the bulk of the delegates were actually steaming, conniving leftists. Therefore, they say, Kerry is a “phony.”

Whether true or false -- this misses the point. This obvious deception at the convention is a decoy; it’s not taken seriously by Democrats, and shouldn’t be by Republicans, either. It’s politics. Get used to it.

What’s more important is that Kerry is making a wager he’s not talking about. One can misdirect simply by NOT directing, and Kerry is a superb practitioner of the magical arts.

In my article of July 10th -- “Election Warning to GOP: Hand Is Quicker Than the Eye” – I said that Senator Kerry “will not offer much in terms of policy alternatives -- and this will drive his critics crazy: they’ll scream that Kerry’s ideas are vacuous, unspecific, vague. Their shouts will vanish in the fog….Kerry impresses like a hazy pall on an overcast day. Don’t look at his face. His hand is moving. His finger’s on the trigger….Look where he’s aiming.”

We can see, now, after his speech, that he’s holding up a mirror: he’s blending in with the background (of the country as a whole) by reflecting back the projections and fears of the viewers. What’s important is not what he says – but what he doesn’t say:

He’s making a wager that he doesn’t have to argue for a detailed alternative to Bush’s Iraq policy or to explain an alternative strategy for defeating the terrorists. Regardless of the screeching of his critics, he doesn’t have to debate foreign policy and the war at all.

He only has to be moderate, set forth views on terrorism and the war that appear to agree with Bush’s, and speak about domestic issues -- while he drops lines now and then to the effect that Bush “misled us,” or was not truthful about the war, or was in some way lying.

The voters will do the rest.

Jeffrey Bell and Frank Cannon are consultants for Capital City Partners in Washington, and in the July 19th issue of The Weekly Standard (only available on-line to subscribers) they wrote an article (“Why Bush Is Losing”) that lays out this approach.

They point out that Bush’s approval ratings dropped from the 60s to the 40s only recently when David Kay resigned as chief weapons inspector and told the country there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. As they say, the revelations “caused something to snap.”

These drops occurred among Democrats and independents, so if there’s a debate on the war – Bush could still win the exchange. But by not arguing with Bush, by presenting his own position on the war as similar to Bush’s, Kerry has taken the issue off the table (for the bare majority of voters). This allows his wager to come into play.

How does this work?

Ask yourself: why is Michael Moore’s movie so popular among Democrats? Why do liberals and many moderates all across the country continue to believe that Bush lied?

The hard facts of recent history support the contention that Bush believed the information the intelligent agencies gave him about the WMDs; that though the information ended up being false -- he did not know this before the Iraq war. Whether we go to Bob Woodward’s book Plan of Attack (in which it was revealed that George Tenet told Bush the reality of WMDs was a “slam dunk”) or to any of the special investigative reports (9-11 Commission, Senate Intelligence Committee Investigation, Lord Butler’s British Investigation) – there’s evidence that Bush took the WMDs seriously. Furthermore, the intelligence information that claimed there were WMDs in Iraq was universally consistent regardless of the source: whether from the CIA, the British, the French, the Germans, the Russians, the Israelis, or the United Nations.

The Democrats and independents are not being rational on this claim that Bush lied, because they are, in effect, defining a “lie” as anything that turns out not to be true. As Bill O’Reilly says, “By following this logic, weather forecasters everywhere must now be categorized as pathologically dishonest.” (Column of 8/1/04 – as quoted in Los Angeles Daily News, page 3 of Viewpoint.)

Therefore, a psychological phenomenon must be in play that would explain how people “know” that Bush lied – even though they can’t argue the assertion from the evidence. But what is it?

I’m speculating, here, but I can think of three possibilities:


((1)) As soon as the WMD rationale for the war evaporated, another underlying rationale was put forward by the Bush Administration – one that had been guiding US policy all along (as an additional rationale); but this one hadn’t been clearly seen by the wider public before: a complex long-term strategy to extend democracy to the Middle East and remove (peacefully if possible, but violently if necessary) dictatorships from some of the rogue states -- in order to remove the breeding grounds that created radical Islamist terrorists in the first place.

This policy aims to “head off” terrorists by stopping them in the Middle East instead of waiting to fight them on US soil – where our open borders and liberties make us vulnerable to such a post-modern threat. John Lewis Gaddis has outlined the theoretical background (from the perspective of the history of US foreign policy) for this strategy in his book Surprise, Security, and the American Experience (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2004).

The problem was that this policy, because of its complexity, could not be easily offered to the public as a reason to go to war. Those who follow foreign policy issues were not surprised by the appearance of this second rationale, but the general public was taken off guard. A president has to use the political resources at his command to defend the country. Bush sincerely used the WMD issue to do this, but after Kay’s report, this created a problem:

A large part of the public now feels (emotionally) that the sudden appearance of another rationale implies they were misled. There’s the appearance of a “bait-and-switch” maneuver, here. It’s an honest reaction, though a shallow and uninformed one. This public reaction will not go away no matter how skillfully Bush or the Republicans make the case (and Bush is not exactly known for being articulate, anyway; where is Tony Blair when we need him?) because the emotional impact HAS ALREADY REGISTERED.

The political and psychological reality is that the GOP will only get blue in the face trying to defend Bush’s honesty or his deeper policy.

That is the luck of the draw.


((2)) Much of the public has a memory of the infamous Nixon White House and how “Tricky Dick” fooled the nation for awhile. Merle Haggard wrote a popular song -- “Are The Good Times Really Over For Good” -- that spoke of a time “back before Nixon lied to us all on TV.”

Any hint that a president may have lied on something important will cause an involuntary rash of fear and revulsion throughout the land. This is a character issue, and not a foreign policy issue. This is why Kerry can avoid a discussion of the war and yet mention the way Bush is being “misleading”: because he brings to the debate questions on Bush’s morality and integrity while NOT bringing up a complicated analysis of Iraq.

Bush’s strong reputation as a person of integrity – one of his best assets -- is being undermined. Kerry talks of “values” now in his speeches. He’s referring (hint, hint) to Bush’s “lies.” Merely making the accusation – and having it come from a moderate and reputable and rational leader like Kerry – raises the fear in the public’s mind of being duped by a sitting President once again.

Being lied to on TV!


((3)) The “deepest” reason why many believe Bush lied connects to part “2” of Kerry’s Wager (see definition at top of article). Again, this is an emotional feature, and not a rational one.

Notice that Bush’s over-all strategy to fighting terrorism is dependant on an assumption that is frightening and disturbing: that we are “at war” with an implacable and evil foe, and that radical Islamism -- being a neo-fascist movement -- contains converts who are willing to die to kill us. Furthermore, we’ll be struggling for a long time in this war and paying a much greater cost than we’ve paid so far.

This is hardly an optimistic or positive prospect. It contains enough negativity to induce dread in even the most realistic of us. There’s a sense, then, when Kerry says he is conducting a “positive” campaign – he’s telling the truth. His “positive” vision denies the existence of such a serious and frightening long-term terrorist threat.

Furthermore, Bush’s scenario of the contemporary world seems fantastical; for after all, how can a long-declined civilization in the Middle East – full of failed states where corruption and poverty and dictatorships and ancient tribal- and clan-based social systems still exist -- possibly be a threat to the modern West?

The reality is that it is true that the radical Islamists are not a threat to the survival of America. But because of the new technological environment and the post-modern borderless ability of hidden organizations to travel and communicate over great distances – the terrorists CAN sneak a nuclear device into an American city. The effects of such an event are literally unimaginable. Therefore – we can’t think about it! (Though we could say that, after a detonation, American culture would never be the same.)

There is an overwhelming emotional tendency to refuse to accept the new threat as a subject for serious discussion – regardless of whether you argue rationally for or against Bush’s particular policies. The threat is so palpable and demoralizing that any open debate is itself felt as a threat to our well-being.

Kerry is going to put his audience at ease merely by NOT talking incessantly about this threat. Bush WILL talk about it.

That is exactly the point Michael Moore and many activist Democrats make: that it is Bush who is the “threat” – not the terrorists.

Result: much of the public views the various difficult arguments about this threat, themselves, to be “misleading.” People who advocate them must be doing so with a hidden agenda. As such: Bush must be “lying.”

Kerry’s Wager has an irresistible logic of its own. It just might work.

Posted by Rick Penner at 12:16 AM | Comments (0)