Tag Archives: Government

Should Christians seek to help the poor by growing a secular government?

I found a paper (PDF) on the University of Washington web site that makes the case for why Christians ought to care about more than just social issues when it comes to politics and elections.

Here’s the abstract:

What accounts for cross-national variation in religiosity as measured by church attendance and non-religious rates? Examining answers from both secularization theory and the religious economy perspective, we assert that cross-national variation in religious participation is a function of government welfare spending and provide a theory that links macro-sociological outcomes with individual rationality. Churches historically have provided social welfare. As governments gradually assume many of these welfare functions, individuals with elastic preferences for spiritual goods will reduce their level of participation since the desired welfare goods can be obtained from secular sources. Cross-national data on welfare spending and religious participation show a strong negative relationship between these two variables after controlling for other aspects of modernization.

Here’s the conclusion:

It is quite apparent that there is a strong statistical relationship between state social welfare spending and religious participation and religiosity. Countries with higher levels of per capita welfare have a proclivity for less religious participation and tend to have higher percentages of non-religious individuals. People living in countries with high social welfare spending per capita even have less of a tendency to take comfort in religion, perhaps knowing that the state is there to help them in times of crisis.34 As laid out in the theory above, there is likely a substitution effect for some individuals between state-provided services and religious services. Religion will still be there to serve the spiritual needs of people seeking answers to the philosophic mysteries of life, but those who value those spiritual goods less than the tangible welfare benefits churches provide will be less likely to participate in religious services once secular substitutes become available. Given that religious practice and values are often passed down from generation to generation, the weakening of practice in one generation will likely translate into weaker practice in subsequent generations. Does this mean that secularization theory is correct in its prediction that religion will gradually fade away? Doubtful. Realizing that there is still a yearning among many people to understand the mysteries of life, religion is not likely to dissipate at any time soon. Government simply cannot offer credible substitutes for these less tangible, supernatural goods. The explosion in spirituality once religion was made legal in former Soviet bloc countries lends credence to this assertion (Greeley 1994). As religious markets become more deregulated in various parts of the world, it is likely that new religious movements will take advantage of increased liberty and discover ways to expand.

Perhaps one of the most important lessons from the findings above is that the religiosity of a society is not simply determined by sociological factors. Government policy can play an important role in shaping the religiosity of a nation. Policies aimed at regulating the activities of religious organizations — from tax laws to zoning regulations — have important effects on the firms that supply religious goods and services. Many of these policies are designed consciously to promote or inhibit religious practice. Alternatively, welfare policy has been shown here to unintentionally affect the demand for religious services, likely over the course of generations. And, finally, since an extensive welfare state is considered by many to be a hallmark of modernized societies, the microfoundational analysis presented above provides a way of incorporating a component part of the secularization thesis (which relies heavily on notions of modernization) into the religious economy perspective.

Have you ever heard a sermon that addresses the size of government and individual liberty and prosperity? I haven’t. You’d have to be reading Christian scholars like Wayne Grudem or Jay Richards to find that. The typical church you attend either praises big government or says nothing about it. After all, we can keep making withdrawals on the liberties we have right now without ever worrying about having to make any deposits, right? Everything will be fine, and it’s easier not to have to think about what’s down the road to serfdom, so long as the scenery is nice for us right now. Religion is primarily about comfort, not truth. Right?

The funny thing is that when I talk to most Christians about this, especially non-Americans, they simply don’t have the knowledge of economics to understand how big government affects liberty, prosperity and security. Few of my international friends read people like F.A. Hayek and Thomas Sowell, and there are not that many people reading them here at home, either. Maybe we should be, though.

Stephen Baskerville: five myths about no-fault divorce

From the Catholic News Agency.

Introduction:

Almost four decades after the “no-fault” divorce revolution began in California, misconceptions abound. Even the many books about divorce, including myriad self-help manuals, are full of inaccurate and misleading information. No public debate preceded the introduction of no-fault divorce laws in the 1970s, and no debate has taken place since.

Yet divorce-on-demand is exacting a devastating toll on our children, our social order, our economy, and even our constitutional rights. A recent study estimates the financial cost of divorce to taxpayers at $112 billion annually. Recent demands to legitimize same-sex marriage almost certainly follow from the divorce revolution, since gay activists readily acknowledge that they only desire to marry under the loosened terms that have resulted from the new divorce laws. Divorce also contributes to a dangerous increase in the power of the state over private life.

Here are the five myths about no-fault divorce:

  • No-fault divorce permitted divorce by mutual consent, thus making divorce less acrimonious
  • We cannot force people to remain married and should not try
  • No-fault divorce has led men to abandon their wives and children
  • When couples cannot agree or cooperate about matters like how the children should be raised, a judge must decide according to “the best interest of the child”
  • Divorce must be made easy because of domestic violence

And the details about number three:

Myth 3: No-fault divorce has led men to abandon their wives and children.

Fact: This does happen (wives more often than children), but it is greatly exaggerated. The vast majority of no-fault divorces — especially those involving children — are filed by wives. In fact, as Judy Parejko, author of Stolen Vows, has shown, the no-fault revolution was engineered largely by feminist lawyers, with the cooperation of the bar associations, as part of the sexual revolution. Overwhelmingly, it has served to separate large numbers of children from their fathers. Sometimes the genders are reversed, so that fathers take children from mothers. But either way, the main effect of no-fault is to make children weapons and pawns to gain power through the courts, not the “abandonment” of them by either parent.

Al Mohler wrote about the history of no-fault divorce a while back, and I think it’s worth reviewing why we have this lousy law.

The story behind America’s love affair with no-fault divorce is a sad and instructive tale. As Baskerville documents, no-fault divorce laws emerged in the United States during the 1970s and quickly spread across the nation. Even though only nine states had no-fault divorce laws in 1977, by 1995, every state had legalized no-fault divorce.

Behind all this is an ideological revolution driven by feminism and facilitated by this society’s embrace of autonomous individualism. Baskerville argues that divorce “became the most devastating weapon in the arsenal of feminism, because it creates millions of gender battles on the most personal level.” As far back as 1947, the National Association of Women Lawyers [NAWL] was pushing for what we now know as no-fault divorce. More recently, NAWL claims credit for the divorce revolution, describing it as “the greatest project NAWL has ever undertaken.”

The feminists and NAWL were not working alone, of course. Baskerville explains that the American Bar Association “persuaded the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws [NCCUSL] to produce the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act.” Eventually, this led to a revolution in law and convulsions in society at large. This legal revolution effectively drove a stake into the heart of marriage itself, with inevitable consequences. In effect, no-fault divorce has become the catalyst for one of the most destructive cultural shifts in human history. Now, no-fault divorce is championed by many governments in the name of human rights, and America’s divorce revolution is spreading around the world under the banner of “liberation.”

And note that Democrats oppose any effort to reform laws that make it easy to break up marriages:

A basic dishonesty on the question of divorce pervades our political culture. Baskerville cites Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm as referring to divorce as a couple’s “private decision.” Granholm’s comments came as she vetoed a bill intended to reform divorce law in her state. The danger and dishonesty of referring to divorce as a couple’s “private decision” is evident in the fact that this supposedly private decision imposes a reality, not only on the couple, but also on children and the larger society. Indeed, the “private decision” is really not made by a couple at all–but only by any spouse demanding a divorce.

So, no-fault was pushed by two groups: feminists and trial lawyers.

There’s a lot of talk these days about gay marriage and how it undermines marital norms and normalizes raising children without either their biological father or biological mother. But before there was gay marriage, there was no-fault divorce, which deprives children of their biological father. There is no provision for no-fault divorce in the Bible, so it seems to me that Christians should be against frivolous divorce just like we are against same-sex marriage.

Is the EPA paying researchers to produce only the results they want?

Atmospheric temperature measurements though April 2015
Atmospheric temperature measurements though April 2015

This remarkable story is from the Daily Signal.

It says:

Researchers from Harvard University, Syracuse University and four other institutions used climate models to predict the impact the EPA’s proposed carbon emissions reductions would have on human health. And not surprisingly, it turned out the government’s plan was not just among the options that would produce positive results but was, in fact, the best way to achieve the goals.

But there was a line in this story that sets it apart. Jonathan Buonocore, a research fellow at Harvard’s Center for Health and the Global Environment, told U.S. News the EPA did not participate in the study or interact with its authors.

But it seems the agency did participate and did interact with the authors.

The chain of emails went back and forth as the researchers and the agency both sought to add participants to the call. The fact the research showed precisely what the government wanted it to and that the government’s own proposal, when mimicked by researchers, produced the best results further raise suspicion.

[…]The scientists who produce this government-favored research not only have begun to cash in at taxpayers’ expense, but they’ve also begun to ask the agency for help with fundraising.

The study’s authors got about $45 million in research grants from the EPA, and that is taxpayer’s money.

But surely scientists who are critical of bigger government receive the same government-funding and support, right? After all, research is about truth, and the government just funds research that is truth-focused, right?

Not so much:

Willie Soon, an astrophysicist with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, co-authored a paper published in January that found the models used in the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are laced with mathematical errors. Soon then endured an avalanche of criticism of his funding sources and implications he had shaped his findings to please them.

It mattered not that he got only about $60,000 per year from the one “compromised” source or that the compromised source was the Smithsonian or that he had not known where the Smithsonian got the money it paid him.

Then, a few days after the New York Times piece on Soon appeared, Congress got into the act. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., ranking minority member on the House Natural Resources Committee, sent letters to seven universities asking for documents on climate change research connected with scientific skeptics who have questioned the premise of anthropogenic (man-made) global warming.

This was followed by a letter from Sens. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., to 100 fossil fuel companies, trade groups, and other outfits “to determine whether they are funding scientific studies designed to confuse the public and avoid taking action to cut carbon pollution, and whether the funded scientists fail to disclose the sources of their funding in scientific publications or in testimony to legislators.”

Indeed, the deck remains stacked against those who dare to stray from the government message on global warming, and the conflicts of interest seem concentrated on the researchers and scientists who accept government money, according to William Happer, a professor of physics at Princeton University.

“Unless you accept the alarmist position and the dictates of the [Obama] administration, you cannot typically receive government funding,” said Happer.

It’s no wonder that so many Republicans, myself included, put the EPA in the list of Departments we would abolish. For me it’s the Department of Education, the EPA, the Department of Energy and IRS. Just get rid of the public sector bureaucracy at the federal level and push it down to the state and local levels. And privatize as much of it as possible.

Wayne Grudem explains what the Bible says about parents and schools

Theology that hits the spot
Theology that hits the spot

This is a must-listen lecture from famous pastor Wayne Grudem.

The MP3 file is here.

The PDF outline is here.

Note: public schools = government-run schools.

Topics:

  • Does God care whether we people marry and have children?
  • Does God care whether Christian parents raise their children to know him?
  • Should government promote bearing children?
  • What are some effects of declining birth rates in other countries?
  • What are the economic effects of declining birth rates?
  • Who has the right to decide how children are trained: government or parents?
  • What does the Bible say about parents having to raise children to know him?
  • Does the government have the responsibility for training children?
  • What do educational bureaucrats think of parents training children?
  • What do school boards think of parents training children?
  • Should school boards be elected by local, state or federal government?
  • Should Christians be opposed to government-run education? (public schools)
  • How should schools be viewed by parents? As a replacement or as a helper?
  • How are schools viewed by those on the left and in communist countries?
  • How can you measure how supporting a government is of parental rights?
  • How is parental authority viewed in left-wing EU countries like Germany?
  • How is parental authority respected in the United States?
  • Should parents have a choice of where their children go to school?
  • What is a voucher program? How is it related to parental autonomy?
  • How does competition (school choice) in education serve parental needs?
  • Why do public school teachers, unions and educrats oppose competitition?
  • How well do public schools do in educating children to achieve?
  • Does the government-run monopoly of public schools produce results?
  • Does paying more and more money to public schools make them perform?
  • How do teacher unions feel about having to compete in a voucher system?
  • Does the public school monopoly penalize the poorest students?
  • Does the public school monopoly penalize children of certain races?
  • Does the public school monopoly cause racial prejudice?
  • What else should parents demand on education policy?
  • Is it good for parents when schools refuse to fire underperforming teachers?

This podcast is just amazing! This is what we need to be teaching in church. Church should be the place where you go to learn and reflect about how to tailor your life plan based on what the Bible says. And I think that this whole notion of free market – of choice and competition benefiting the consumer (parents) – applies to everything that government does, especially education and health care. The genius of America is that our Founding Fathers engineered a system that reflected all of this knowledge of economics, which then made it much easier for individuals and families to enjoy liberty and a higher quality of life. If we want to keep the benefits, we have to remember why these decisions were made at the founding of our nation.

Wayne Grudem explains what the Bible says about capital punishment

Theology that hits the spot
Theology that hits the spot

Reformed Baptist theologian Wayne Grudem speaks on the Bible and capital punishment.

About Wayne Grudem:

Grudem holds a BA from Harvard University, a Master of Divinity from Westminster Theological Seminary, and a PhD from the University of Cambridge. In 2001, Grudem became Research Professor of Bible and Theology at Phoenix Seminary. Prior to that, he had taught for 20 years at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where he was chairman of the department of Biblical and Systematic Theology.

Grudem served on the committee overseeing the English Standard Version translation of the Bible, and in 1999 he was the president of the Evangelical Theological Society. He is a co-founder and past president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. He is the author of, among other books, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, which advocates a Calvinistic soteriology, the verbal plenary inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, the body-soul dichotomy in the nature of man, and the complementarian (rather than egalitarian) view of gender equality.

The MP3 file is here.

The PDF outline is here.

Topics:

  • what kinds of crimes might require CP?
  • what did God say to Noah about CP?
  • what does it mean that man is made in the image of God?
  • is CP just about taking revenge?
  • what does CP say about the value of human life?
  • does CP apply to animals, too?
  • could the statements supporting CP be understood as symbolic?
  • one purpose of CP is to protecting the public
  • another purpose of CP is to deter further wrongdoing
  • but the Biblical purpose of CP is to achieve justice by retribution
  • does the Pope make a good argument against CP?
  • what is the role of civil government in achieving retribution?
  • do people in Heaven who are sinless desire God to judge sinners?
  • should crimes involving property alone be subject to CP?
  • is the Mosaic law relevant for deciding which crimes are capital today?
  • should violent crimes where no one dies be subject to CP?
  • is CP widespread in the world? why or why not?
  • what are some objections to CP from the Bible?
  • how do you respond to those objections to CP?
  • should civil government also turn the other cheek for all crimes?
  • what is the “whole life ethic” and is it Biblical?
  • what do academic studies show about the deterrence effect of CP?
  • how often have innocent people been executed in the USA?
  • should there be a higher burden of proof for CP convictions?

The Bible is awesome because it gives us knowledge about God’s character. How are we supposed to act in a way that is pleasing to God if we don’t know what he thinks of the issues of the day? We won’t know how we are supposed to act unless we know who God is first. And that’s why when we read the Bible we should be looking to find out the truth about who God is.