Commentary on culture and politics from a radically new Christian perspective

Daily Reads:
Washington Post
New York Times
National Review
The New Republic
Fox News
Opinion Journal
Andrew Sullivan
Mickey Kaus
Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit)

Decent Christian sites:
Christianity Today
First Things
Relevant Magazine
The Mars Hill Review
Charisma News Service

In association with

Buy my books!!!
A Season for Justice

South Pacific Journal : A Novel


<< current

Published by David French -- Harvard Law grad, former lecturer at Cornell Law School, author of books no one reads, master of the three point shot, constant critic of Duke Basketball, Playstation2 addict, owner of a cool new Sony DCRTRV25 MiniDV Digital Handycam, father of two and husband of one extremely hot wife


The Culture Curve
Friday, June 21, 2002  
GREAT NEWS FROM THE STEM CELL FRONT. For more than a year, pro-life activists have been arguing that much of the moral debate regarding embryonic stem cell research can be rendered moot by success in parallel research regarding adult cells. This argument has been given a much-needed boost by a new, widely-reported study that demonstrates that some adult cells may, in fact, be capable of the same kind of cellular transformations as fetal stem cells. The Washington Post summarized the findings:

"Researchers have isolated a type of cell from bone marrow that seems capable of transforming itself into most or all of the specialized cells in the body, a dramatic new finding likely to fuel the debate over the ethics of stem-cell research.

"The finding was reported by researchers at the University of Minnesota and published online yesterday by the journal Nature. It heightens the prospect that therapies scientists are trying to create -- cures for diabetes, Parkinson's disease, hemophilia and many others -- can be made entirely with adult cells, alleviating moral concerns over using discarded embryos and fetuses as sources of tissue."

If research on adult cells continues to show promise, the ethical and moral debate over stem cell research will be fundamentally transformed. Embryonic stem cell research advocates have fought Christians and other pro-life advocates with a simple, powerful argument: "Why," they ask, "should research into cures for terrible diseases be stopped for all of us by your personal belief that a blastocyst is a person? My mother (or child, or father, or brother) is a person, and she's suffering. Your beliefs make her suffer more."

Our response (thus far) has been that the embryo that is destroyed is, without question, a genetically distinct human life -- a life that is being ended in furtherance of research that might (or might not) cure illness. In other words, the researcher is certainly killing another human life in the name of possibly curing a disease. It is simply morally unacceptable to kill other humans in the name of research -- even if those human beings are tiny and unaware of their fate.

We are at an argumentative impasse. Not even the most promising stem cell research results can shake our belief that it is wrong to kill some people to save others, and not even the most convincing scientific (or religious) explanation regarding the distinct humanity of the destroyed fetus can shake the stem cell research advocate's belief that we are imposing an essentially religious belief on an unwilling (and suffering) majority.

Adult cell research can break the deadlock. If the adult cell experiments continue to be promising, then our argument is fundamentally transformed. We can tell our culture that they can have their cake and eat it too. They can have their (potential) cures -- through adult cells -- while still respecting and protecting human life. There will no longer be any remotely defensible reason to destroy unborn children. Remaining stem cell research advocates would be exposed as mindless abortion proponents -- interested only in further desensitizing our society to the death of its smallest and most defenseless members.

While it remains to be seen whether the adult cell research can deliver on its initial promise, Christians need to watch the news closely and be prepared to use these new research findings in arguments and discussions with our friends and neighbors. Although our respect for life is not dependent on the latest research, that research can give us hope for stopping the destruction of the innocent unborn and for convincing our culture of the reality that we love both the born and the unborn.

11:27 AM

Thursday, June 20, 2002  
CLOSED CAMPUSES. If you don't believe American colleges and universities are closed to Christians and conservatives, read this article(line requires subscription) by David Horowitz. Mr. Horowitz -- a former sixties radical turned conservative -- surveyed the social science faculties (the social sciences include history, political science, economics, English, and various gender and race studies departments) of several major public and private universities to determine whether liberal campuses were giving conservatives a chance to teach and attain tenure.

The results are staggering. At the University of Colorado (the major state university of a solidly Republican state), 94 percent of the liberal arts faculty were registered Democrats -- only 4 percent were registered Republicans. At the University of North Carolina (in another Republican state), 91 percent were Democrats and only 9 percent Republicans. At other universities, the numbers were similarly unbalanced:

"At Brown University in Providence, R.I., 94.7 percent of the professors whose political affiliations showed up in primary registrations last year were Democrats; only 5.3 percent were Republicans. Only three Republicans could be found on the Brown liberal arts faculty. Zero in the English department, zero in the history department, zero in the political science department, zero in the Africana studies department, and zero in the sociology department.

"At the University of New Mexico, of 158 social science professors surveyed, six were Republicans: two in economics; one each in sociology, English, women's studies and African-American studies; and zero in political science, history and journalism.

"At the University of California at Santa Barbara, 135 professors were surveyed in the departments of African-American studies, English, women's studies, history, communications, and political science. Of these, 75 were Democrats, one was a Republican, one was Green, and 58 did not vote in the primary. In other words, 97 percent of the professors were Democrats, 1.5 percent were Greens, and 1.5 percent were Republicans. Only one Republican professor could be found in all those departments.

"At the University of California at Berkeley, of the 195 professors whose affiliations showed up, 85 percent were Democrats, 8 percent were Republicans, 4 percent were Greens, and 3 percent were American Independent, Peace and Freedom, or Reform party voters. Out of 54 professors in the history department, only one Republican could be found. And there were absolutely no Republicans in the sociology, English, women's studies, African-American studies or journalism departments."

If you have experienced the political climate on America's college campuses, these findings are hardly surprising. They merely document what we knew all along: that private and public universities -- in the interests of maintaining liberal ideological purity -- have engaged in massive discrimination against aspiring Christian and conservative faculty members. As a consequence of this discrimination, America's college students are exposed to a comprehensive, monolithic presentation of liberal, leftist ideology throughout their education. While some students can certainly withstand the indoctrination and emerge from the ordeal spiritually (and ideologically) intact, many others succumb to the propaganda and leave school eager to transform the wider American world into their school's leftist image.

If you don't believe that colleges have that much influence, look at journalism. As Horowitz notes: "There is an organic connection, for example, between the political bias of the university and the political bias of the press. It was not until journalists became routinely trained in university schools of journalism that the mainstream media began to mirror the perspectives of the [campus] culture." I would also add that Hollywood has been similarly impacted. The vast majority of screenwriters are not only college educated; they are educated at America's most liberal institutions. The consequences are not difficult to see. Try to remember the last time you saw a Christian or a social conservative positively portrayed in a movie, sitcom or network drama.

As now America's major corporations are beginning to fall under the sway of "diversity and tolerance" liberalism, the time has come to fight back at the source -- America's colleges. The massive discrimination that Horowitz outlines is not only unconscionable, it may be illegal. If the colleges won't reform themselves, courageous Christian individuals will need to step forward and challenge the status quo. University presidents may be intimidated by the politically correct mafia, but are federal judges?

We may soon see . . .

11:12 AM

THE PERILS OF A PALESTINIAN STATE. The always-astute Charles Krauthammer has an excellent piece explaining why any declaration of a provisional Palestinian state would be premature and foolish. As the Bush administration mulls its next move, it is worth noting the reasons why a Palestinian state -- under current Palestinian leadership -- would represent a direct threat to Israel's security. Here is the heart of Krauthammer's argument:

"Statehood before peace is guaranteed to increase the violence. After all, what does "provisional statehood" mean? There has never been a "provisional state." Powell will have to make the concept up as he goes along. But if statehood means anything, it means three things:

"(1) Territorial inviolability. Today terrorism is reduced (Israel stops 90 percent of planned attacks) because the Israeli army goes into Palestinian territories to seize and stop terrorists. After statehood, this becomes an invasion of another country. The terrorists will have sanctuary. Every time Israel pursues them, the Security Council will be called into emergency session, and America will be censured unless it condemns this Israeli "invasion." The net effect will be more terrorism and increased resentment of American diplomacy.

"(2) Arms. The basic premise of American policy for 25 years has been that the only way to ensure peace is to have a demilitarized Palestinian entity. Sure, in offering "provisional statehood" the United States will insist on limits to Palestine's buildup of weapons. These limits will be broken as surely as were the limits on the Palestinian "police" that were in the Oslo accords. But it will be worse. Once you have statehood, the Palestinians will say that every self-respecting state has the right to arm itself as it wishes. Why not Palestine? The West Bank will bristle not just with the weapons of guerrilla war (machine guns and car bombs), but the weapons of regional war: Katyusha rockets and antiaircraft missiles. What do you think happens when civilian planes trying to land at Ben Gurion Airport come under fire from such an armed Palestinian state?

"(3) Alliances. A basic attribute of statehood is the right to contract alliances. Even before statehood, Arafat secretly allied himself with Iran and Hezbollah. With statehood, he will be able to do so openly. And what do we do when he declares alliance with Syria or Iraq and invites their tank armies into the West Bank to protect Palestine from Israeli "aggression"?

"Provisional statehood is folly. For the United States to offer it constitutes a moral and strategic collapse. It is a way to give the Palestinians their goals without even the pretense of asking them to put down the gun.

"Statehood for the Palestinians is a foregone conclusion. The only question today is whether they get it while they continue to massacre Jews or only after they have abjured massacres. Land for peace. Remember?"

Read the entire article . . . then e-mail a copy to the White House.

10:10 AM

Wednesday, June 19, 2002  
INVASION? The New York Times, following its recent pattern, has hidden major news about the War on Terror in an article that is cast primarily as a report on internal bickering in the Bush Administration. Headlined "Bush Officials Differ on Way to Force Out Iraqi Leader," the article begins as follows:

"The Bush administration has concluded that options short of an all-out military assault against Iraq, including military support to opposition forces or fomenting a coup, should be tried over the next few months to dislodge President Saddam Hussein from power.

But many in the administration expect those attempts to fail, and there is disagreement over how to proceed with a more robust military strategy."

Ignoring the anti-Bush spin (reporting that "many" in the administration expect the first options "to fail" -- highlighting internal dissent in the administration), the real news here is that -- once again -- Bush officials are making it clear that Saddam will be deposed. Expanding on the Washington Post's weekend report that Bush had signed an order authorizing wide-ranging covert action against Saddam, the Times is now reporting that the administration will follow-up with more robust action against Saddam --including, "most likely" -- a massive invasion if the covert action does not succeed.

This is the first mainstream news report that I have seen that indicates that a major invasion is "most likely." This is major news -- much more important that an internal policy squabble. An invasion would involve a massive military buildup and ground combat on a scale not seen since the Gulf War. The military buildup and ensuing diplomatic maneuvering would consume American life for months on end. The entire balance of power in the Middle East would be suddenly transformed, with a possible extended American military occupation of one of the Arab world's most important countries. And now we learn that this course of action -- a course of action that may lead to use of chemical and biological weapons -- is "most likely." Yet the Times seems more interested in creating an appearance of disarray in the administration.

And people wonder why conservatives believe the mainstream media is biased.

Here's a more accurate (and less biased) headline for the Times report: "Bush Weighing Options Against Hussein: Invasion 'Most Likely.'"

7:40 AM

A STRATEGY THAT MAY WORK. With Israel mourning the victim's of the latest Palestinian suicide bombing, Ariel Sharon has announced a change in strategy. From this point forward, when attacked by terrorists, Israel will take and hold West Bank land until the terror stops. This strategy has the advantage of allowing Palestinians to feel the sting of actual, tangible defeat after each terror bombing. As one observer remarked:

"It's a long term strategy; it isn't going to cause a short-term halt in the bombing. The goal of it is to make there be a real price to the campaign for the average Palestinian, so that instead of seeing a stalemate he sees an apparent progressive defeat. It's not simply going to be the case from now on that "we haven't yet won" because no progress has been made. From now on, there will be a feeling of actually being defeated, of actually losing things."

Over time, if Israel is persistent (and courageous) enough, Palestinians may realize that each bombing means less independence. Each bombing pushes the declaration of a Palestinian state further into the future -- while insuring a longer and more difficult Israeli occupation. As I noted weeks ago, the vast majority of Palestinians do not live under actual Israeli occupation. They live in semi-autonomous regions of the West Bank and Gaza, where they are governed by Palestinian authorities. This relative independence has allowed terrorists to operate with more or less a free hand in the territories.

As the West Bank is progressively re-occupied, Arafat's power and influence will shrink, and terrorists will have less and less room to operate. While Israel builds its defensive wall around the Palestinian West Bank, re-occupation makes sense. The only other alternative is total war against the Palestinian Authority . . . and its Arab sponsors.

7:06 AM

Tuesday, June 18, 2002  
NICKELODEONS' SEXUAL INDOCTRINATION. Several Curve readers have e-mailed me regarding this item -- Nickelodeon's upcoming "Nick News Special" that explores gay parenting. The Traditional Values Coalition ("TVC') has spearheaded an effort to persuade Nick not to air the special. According to CNN, the special has drawn so many protest e-mails that Nick had to set up a separate e-mail account to prevent a computer crash. TVC spokesmen call the program "a cover for promoting homosexuality for kids."

Nick has defended the show (hosted by Linda Ellerbee) through typical liberal language. Ellerbee begins the show by stating: "The following program is about tolerance ... It is not about sex. It does not tell you what to think." Ellerbee goes on to argue that "It is never a wrong time to talk about hate . . . It's just not. That's all our show is about. It is not in any way about the homosexual lifestyle. It's not even introducing the subject to most kids. They know. But quite frankly, many of them know it from a hate standpoint without even knowing what they're talking about."

Notice the use of two of the left's most prominent buzzwords: "tolerance" and "hate." In tacit recognition that it is difficult to defend many of their activities on the merits, cultural liberals have hijacked words like tolerance (who could be against "tolerance?" who could be for "hate?") and use them as virtual synonyms for the culturally liberal world view.

Ellerbee says the program is "not about sex." Instead, it's "about tolerance." But that begs the question . . . tolerance of what? The answer is obvious: tolerance of homosexuality and homosexual parenting arrangements. The sexual component of the show is simply inseparable from "tolerance."

Ellerbee also says that it's "never a wrong time to talk about hate." What is "hate" in this context? Ellerbee gives a partial answer when she mentions that "fag" is a common playground insult. I would agree that the term "fag" is hateful and inappropriate, but do we need an hour-long Nick special to explain that we shouldn't call kids bad names? Or an hour-long special dedicated to a single, sexually-charged epithet? Of course not. In fact, liberals often use "hate" as a pejorative description of biblical Christian beliefs that view homosexual practice as sinful. I cannot tell you how many times that I have been told that my belief that God has reserved sex for a covenant marriage between a man and a woman is nothing more than "homophobic [another liberal buzzword] hate."

Observant Curve readers have noted that one of the goals of this weblog is to help readers cut through misleading rhetoric and examine the actual arguments and actual goals of liberal (and conservative) advocates. Do not be fooled by Ellerbee's words. Do not let your friends and families be deceived. There is little doubt that the overall aim and purpose of the show is to cast gay families in positive -- even glowing -- terms. Would Rosie O'Donnell agree to participate if this was not the case?

Nickelodeon -- as a privately-owned corporation -- has every right to "preach" its world view. And we have every right to protest that view by turning off the network. They can speak . . . but not without cost.

Subtle media bias update: As I read CNN's coverage of the Nick controversy, I noticed two subtle clues as to the network's bias. First, the network made a point of noting that TVC's opposition to the Nick special was all "sight unseen." While it is certainly true that TVC has not seen the special, if TVC knows the general content, its opposition is still legitimate. I can't imagine CNN qualifying the NAACP's opposition to a documentary advancing "tolerance" and understanding for white supremacists by noting that the NAACP's protest was "sight unseen."

Second, the network introduced Linda Ellerbee by explaining that Ellerbee "won a Peabody Award for a Nickelodeon special that delicately dissected the Monica Lewinsky scandal for children." (emphasis added) Not only did the author of this hard news article prominently mention Ellerbee's credentials (legitimate) but he or she also noted that her previous work "delicately dissected" a difficult moral topic. This phrase is nothing more than the reporter's own value judgment restated as fact.

Christians critique "sight unseen" while Nick produces specials by award-winning newscasters renowned for "delicately dissecting" important topics. Who sounds more credible to you?

11:47 AM

Sunday, June 16, 2002  
BEYOND CRITICISM. According to Saturday's New York Times, the Rev. Jerry Vines, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, and past president of the Southern Baptist Convention, gave a speech to the Southern Baptist Convention where he called Muhammad a "demon-possessed pedophile," alleging that Muhammed's 12th and final wife was a 9-year-old girl. Vines also stated that Christians and Muslims did not worship the same God: "Allah is not Jehovah. Jehovah's not going to turn you into a terrorist that will try to bomb people and take the lives of thousands and thousands of people."

Predictably, this strident speech elicited a wave of codemnation, with even some Jewish groups voicing strong criticism. Muslim groups called Vines' remarks part of a "pattern of escalating hate speech toward Muslims" and called for the Bush administration to repudiate Vines. The Times noted that "open scorn for Islam has become a staple ingredient in the speeches of conservative Christian leaders since the September 11 terrorist attacks."

Reverand Vines . . . keep speaking. It is not "hate speech" to speak out against the practices and beliefs of other religions. As I noted in a previous post, religious beliefs should not be beyond criticism -- even harsh criticism. If the Reverand Vines believes, after studying Muhammed's life and teachings, that his actions were evil -- even demonic -- then he should say so. If the Reverand has discovered that Muhammed married a 9-year-old girl, then he can and should share that information with a population that is facing a challenge from Islamo-fascism.

Cries of "hate speech" should not shut down the robust marketplace of ideas that is the essence of American democracy. The answer to Vines' speech is not a demand that he shut up (or be repudiated by the President) but instead a refutation of his ideas or facts. Religious ideas and assertions should be tested, criticized and even condemned. Christianity has withstood this scrutiny for two millenia -- and prospered. If Islam cannot prosper under similar scrutiny -- or cannot prosper without being supported by the heavy hand of repression and despotism -- then it should wither and die. Americans should not be so sensitive to cultural and religious offense that they are blinded to the truth.

Incidentally, as I criticize Islamic organizations for crying "hate speech," I am fully aware that we Christians are often guilty of the same hyper-senstivity. Again and again, I've seen Christians hide behind accusations of "religious bigotry" when our beliefs are attacked. The answer to an attack is not reflexive name-calling but is instead reason and education. When we hide behind the same buzzwords that our cultural opponents use to insulate themselves from criticism, we do nothing but harm the cause of Christ. If we are truly God's representatives on Earth, then we have nothing to fear from criticism -- it simply presents us with yet another opportunity to respond with Biblical truth.

One final note: After I read the Times article, I noticed that Glenn Reynolds had linked to the piece, and one of his readers made the following comment:

"So one thing the NY Times article conveniently omitted is that Vines is making hay from a traditional (but apparently controversial) Muslim belief that Muhammed married his youngest wife [Aisha] when she was six and consummated the marriage when she was 9. (This was one of many aspects of Muhammed's life which was parodied in "The Satanic Verses")."

Here's what one Islamic website says about Aisha's age: "This evidence having been established, there doesn't seem much room for debate about Aisha's age amongst believing Muslims. Until someone proves that in the Arabic language "nine years old" means something other than "nine years old", then we should all be firm in our belief that she was "nine years old."

5:40 PM

THE BEGINNING OF THE END FOR SADDAM? The Washington Post is reporting that President Bush has already signed an order authorizing the CIA to initiate a broad campaign to topple Saddam. At least one senior administration official is calling this campaign "preparatory" to a full-scale military strike. Since the Post's report was first published late yesterday, congressional leaders have been falling all over themselves to support the President's order. Many are even calling for military action sooner rather than later.

My hunch is that the Post report and supportive congressional reaction is merely the first part of a several month long political buildup to war. Things are beginning to fall into place for a strike on Iraq. Two weeks ago, the President gave a speech to West Point cadets where he signaled a change in long-standing military policy by endorsing prepreemptive first strikes against our enemies. Just last week, we received word that the President was looking to formalize this new first strike policy. Also last week, one of the nation's most powerful Democrats, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, came out publicly in favor of military action against Hussein. Today, we have the Post report.

In the next phase of our political buildup, I think we'll see the President (or his spokesmen) speak in increasingly strident terms against Iraq. The President will mention again how Saddam is violating several key provisions of the Gulf War cease-fire accords, and he will repeatedly remind us of the dangers posed by Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs. We may make concerted (and formal) efforts to persuade the U.N. and E.U. that Saddam's cease-fire violations and illegal weapons programs provide sufficient grounds for invasion. Our allies (after much hand-wringing about American "unilateralism") will reluctantly pledge political and (limited) military support. Simultaneously, congressmen on both sides of the political aisle will also intensify their war talk -- with some Democrats (like Senator Lieberman) possibly even criticizing the President for moving too slowly. For his part, Saddam will double and triple his bomb-producing efforts -- racing against time to create a nuclear deterrent to American military action.

Eventually, we'll hear news reports of American special forces on the ground in Northern Iraq (territory held by friendly Kurdish rebels), and we'll start to see conventional military forces moving into position. Immediately before any significant troop movements, I expect to see Bush make the first of several televised speeches where he outlines his goals and warns America of the dangers of military action. By late fall or early winter, everything should be in place. I predict a new Iraqi government by no later than March, 2003.

I pray that's not too late.

4:46 PM

This page is powered by Blogger.