Category Archives: Commentary

Reversing the American trend of borrowing and spending too much

Average college debt is now up to $35,000 and usually for a useless non-STEM degree
Average debt is now up to $35,000, often for a useless non-STEM degree

First, the problem, using this article from New Zealand. It is authored by a self-made millionaire to young people.

Excerpt:

A young property tycoon has hit out at Generation Y claiming they need to stop travelling and spending money on overpriced food if they want to save for their first home.

Tim Gurner, 35, is worth nearly half a billion dollars since buying his first investment property at the age of 19.

The Melbourne millionaire believes it’s time his generation change their spending and lifestyle habits.

“When I was trying to buy my first home, I wasn’t buying smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each,” he told Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes program.

“We’re at a point now where the expectations of younger people are very, very high. They want to eat out every day, they want travel to Europe every year.

“This generation is watching the Kardashians and thinking that’s normal – thinking owning a Bentley is normal.”

And how did the millennials respond? With immature, ignorant rebellion:

Gurner’s comments have been met with a backlash on social media will many criticising how he started out in the property – with a loan from his grandfather.

One social media comment read: “Maybe the new home buyers would stand more of a chance if they were given 34K by their grandad… that’s a fair few smashed avos.’

Another added: ‘Nice if you can get it,’ while one commented: ‘Much like Trump’s dad gave him a “small loan of $1Mil.’

Of course, the average college graduate HAS actually borrowed that much money (see graphic above), but they just preferred to blow it all on alcohol, birth control and a degree in English literature.

Speaking of a degree in English literature…

This woman complained to her boss because she wasn’t making enough money. She graduated with a non-STEM degree (English literature), and lives in one of the most expensive cities in America. (The cities that are all run by leftist Democrats who love to spend money on public works and welfare). She didn’t even have roommates to split the rent!

I see this in so many young people – complete disregard for the future in order to have fun, thrills and frivolous travel right now. And all their same-age friends support their decision-making. Young people don’t listen to grown-ups who have experience and real achievements. They listen to their friends. I know one woman who literally flew off to be a missionary in Europe for two years, on the advice of two Christian students, neither of which had ever worked a full-time job or saved money. They were proudly living off their parent’s incomes into their late-20s, and she looked to them for advice on education, career and finances.

Low-income earners can still save money

You don’t have to have a great job to make choices that lead to growing your wealth.

Here is an article from Business Insider about how to build wealth on a minimum wage salary.

Excerpt:

Here are the key expenses that someone on minimum wage can consider cutting, to make an immediate impact:

  • Moving to a more affordable city can cut living expenses considerably. It’s hard to accumulate wealth in Manhattan or San Francisco, but is much more likely in Buffalo or Memphis.
  • Eliminate commuting. Cars are expensive, and it is possible to get a place close enough to work to bike.
  • Cut some wires, particularly cable. After all, it’s 2017 – just go with internet and Netflix.
  • Don’t eat out, unless it’s absolutely necessary.
  • Skip most purchases of new clothes. Instead, make thrift stores your new best friend, and don’t be afraid to mend holes in clothing.
  • Cut expensive activities, and rediscover that the best things in life are free. Playing many sports can be free (or cheap), and public libraries are free (or cheap).

Once that’s done – it’s all about investing in yourself.

The Obama administration set interest rates low for the last eight years, encouraging people to borrow more and more money – money that they could not pay back. Thankfully, the private sector has ways of encouraging people to save money.

This article is from the far-left The Atlantic.

Excerpt:

Late last summer, Dawn Paquin started keeping her money on a prepaid debit card from Walmart instead of in a traditional checking account. The wages from her factory job—she works from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., inspecting blades on industrial bread-slicing machines—now go directly onto the Visa-branded card, which she can use like a regular debit card, though unlike most debit cards, it is not linked to a checking or savings account.

[…]The card is more convenient, Paquin said, and she doesn’t have to worry about monthly statements; she tracks her money, and pays all her bills, with the card’s associated phone app.

[…]In a 2015 Federal Reserve Board survey, 46 percent of respondents reported that they would have trouble coming up with $400 in an emergency; living paycheck to paycheck is now a commonplace middle-class experience. So while Paquin noticed that her Walmart MoneyCard app asked her from time to time whether she wanted to “stash” some money, she didn’t bother to figure out what that actually meant, let alone respond.

Then, late last year, she got an email saying that a “prize savings” feature had been added to her card. If she kept some of her balance in a virtual “vault,” meaning that it would not show up in her available funds, she would be eligible to win a cash prize in a monthly drawing—up to $1,000. Every dollar in the MoneyCard Vault would equal an entry in that month’s drawing. This caught her interest. A prize would go a long way toward her being able to buy a car. It also made her focus on what all those “stash” requests were about. “Oh, cool, this can work as a savings account, too,” she remembers realizing. So when she got paid, she started setting aside “10 bucks, 20 bucks, whatever I could.”’

[…]The program was launched to a limited number of MoneyCard holders in August, offering 500 prizes a month—one for $1,000, the rest $25 each. In December, the company reported that the number of Vault users had grown more than 130 percent, to more than 100,000, and that the average savings had grown from $413 to $572, a 38 percent increase.

Paquin actually did end up winning the $1000 prize for stashing some of her earnings. And she saved most of it, of course. Because she learned from the incentives.

What is the biggest mistake you’ve made in your marriage?

Painting: "St. George and the Dragon", by Paolo Uccello (~1456)
Painting: “St. George and the Dragon”, by Paolo Uccello (~1456)

A friend who just got married sent me this video, and ask me to comment on it, in light of my views on courtship and marriage.

It features famous pastor Matt Chandler and his wife Lauren answering this question:

“What is the biggest mistake you’ve made in your marriage?”

Here’s the video, pay close attention to Lauren’s answer, since that’s the one I want to talk about:

I liked Matt’s response but nothing much occurred to me when I saw it. It’s always a man’s job to listen  to the woman completely, then encourage her to be specific about what is causing the feelings, then propose alternatives to her for how to move forward in a way that solves the problem. I used to think that feelings were crazy, but now I see how to handle them – which is you listen first, try to get her to be specific, then suggest practical things that you can do to remove the underlying triggers or causes. In the old days, I would just point a finger at the woman and say “You’re crazy!”, because she was acting so differently than my car or my computer does. These are things that everyone knows about women except me, apparently.

Lauren says her biggest problem was inside her, and not caused by her husband. Basically, after she married Matt, she was always thinking up a plan B for her marriage to Matt, in case something happened to Matt and he could not protect her. It started even before Matt’s brain cancer, when she was pregnant with their first child. She had this fear that Matt would die and she would be left alone as a single mom and no one would take care of her. So she started thinking about other men who she could go to for help. There was no sexual attraction, nor any romantic interest. She just realized that as a single mother, she would not have any security, and security is very important to women. Women can’t be vulnerable with a man until he gives them that sense of security, and obviously providing for her is a big part of that. So she was already thinking ahead to when Matt left her or died, what will happen, and what is her backup plan. It started out innocently, and it grew into a huge problem that resulted in her putting up walls between her and Matt. And she was able to resolve this by relying on God for her security (which I only partly agree with, as we’ll see).

My response to this was very positive. First, I love when women are deep and in touch with their feelings and they provide me with useful, actionable information like this. Because everything she says is stuff for us men to do, and I like that.

First of all, I think her feelings are really, really natural and normal for a woman to have. They are valid feelings, rooted in the real world, not crazy at all. If I were a single mother, I would be 100% rationally justified in being fearful about the future and finances. Especially if I had put being a wife and mother first over keeping up a career.

I disagree with her solution though, if we take it as a full solution. I don’t think that she needs to only have more faith in God in order to resolve this.  That is OK, but I actually think that it is her husband’s job to resolve this, and it starts when her husband is in school, deciding what to study, and when her husband starts to work, deciding where to work, and when she gets pregnant, and her husband needs to provide for her as Christ provides for the church. For example, he takes out a term life insurance policy so that if he dies, then she will be taken care of until her retirement.

I also think that a woman needs security from being abandoned or being cheated on. I deal with this in two ways. I have long-term commitments in my life that I keep in order to demonstrate to women I might be interested in that I can keep commitments. So, my pet bird is really, really long-lived. His species only lives 16-20 years with excellent care, and the record is 33 years. He is 28.5 years old right now! And my whole life is wrapped up in making sure that he is all right. In addition, my summer car is 18 years old now, and I have had her all that time. When my parents suggested that I might trade her in for a newer model, I started to cry and told them to never say such things again. A car is a knight’s horse, after all – that’s part of chivalry.

As far as the infidelity thing goes, I’m a virgin and I’m never even kissed a girl on the lips. I’m saving that for my engagement, which may never even happen, but so what. What do I care? I’m going to have eternal life with Jesus, I’m not trying to have a good time in the here and now. All through courtship I am communicating to women that marriage is a boundary, and some things are not OK outside of marriage. What do you think she will think after we are married? She will think that all the things that were off limits to you when you were dating will be off limits to you with other women you’re not married to. She will think that sex was never a big goal for me, that helping her and leading her to make a difference for Christ and his Kingdom were more important to me.

In addition, women I am courting would know who the women I look up to are: Nancey Pearcey, Ann Gauger, Heidi Cruz and super-mom Michele Bachman. My friends know me – they know that I am mentoring a lot of younger Christians to make a difference, and not pursuing pleasure the way that most young people do. My goal is to provide God with able laborers, and my future wife has security from that, knowing that her value lies in her ability to serve God, and not in her youth and appearance. A woman is not just arm candy. A woman is a partner. I have work for my future wife to do. And I need her help. That’s the main thing she is for.

My education and career was specifically chosen in order to provide for a stay-at-home wife and mom, and four children who I expected would all be little Ted Cruz clones. I take the provider role seriously. There are so many things that I am not good at with women, but the provider role makes sense to me, and from high school on I was making decisions to say to my future wife, relax, this is my responsibility to provide for you and to make it safe for you to get pregnant and have children. It’s on me to demonstrate that to her with my academic transcript, resume, investment portfolio and assets. Her fears are natural and rational, and it’s my role to alleviate them with actions and evidence – not with promises about the future.

Men on strike: the social changes that caused men to opt out of marriage

SurveyMonkey election poll cross tabs for unmarried women Nov 2016
SurveyMonkey election poll cross tabs for unmarried women only Nov 2016

I read and enjoyed Dr. Helen Smith’s book “Men on Strike” last year. The book explains a few of the developments that have led to men underperforming in school and in the workplace, and opting out of marriage and fatherhood.

Dr. Helen comes to this problem as a secular libertarian, not as a Christian conservative.

A review of Dr. Helen’s book appeared in Salvo magazine. The review is written by Terrell Clemmons, who has the best Christian worldview of any woman I know – I frequently rely on her advice.

Terrell writes:

While the feminist movement may originally have been about equal respect for both sexes, what it has morphed into, she argues, is female privilege. From rape laws that empower women but not the men they may falsely accuse, to divorce laws tilted in favor of the wife, to the feminization of the U.S. education system, men have become the sex under the gun, while women enjoy the status of a protected class.

But unlike their mothers or grandmothers, men today are not taking to the streets burning their undergarments and shrieking demands (thank God). They’re doing just the opposite, which is far worse. They’re going on strike. The strike zones are manifold:

Higher Education.In addition to the enrollment imbalance, which is approaching a 60/40 ratio of women to men, college has become, in the words of one professor, “a hostile working environment [in which] males increasingly feel emasculated.” Smith quotes a student named John, who had this to say about his college experience: “I had already been cautious around women, having grown up with Tawana Brawley in my backyard and daily stories of sexual harassment; I played it safe and passive every time. But it doesn’t matter. The only way not to lose is to not play. So I’m out.”

Work,including community involvement. With higher female graduation rates and salaries, men today are falling behind their fathers economically and professionally. Consequently, their efforts to prove themselves worthy mates through hard work and higher earnings don’t win female attention the way they used to. Discouraged, too many retreat to a man cave, and inertia sets in from there.

Marriage.Marriage rates are down, and honest men opting out will tell you why. Smith cites a Rutgers University study of single heterosexual men which turned up the top reasons they hadn’t married. They can get sex and the companionship of cohabitation without marriage more easily than in times past, and they don’t want to open themselves up to the risk of divorce and financial loss. It really isn’t that complicated a decision. In fact, it’s often not an actual decision at all. It just happens.

The simplest explanation for the difficulties that boys face in an education system that is dominated by women (teachers and administrators) is discrimination. And in the workplace, the government requires employers to report on male and female head counts, and promote women who are not qualified. I have seen receptionists with tattoos and no college degrees promoted to six-figure manager jobs in companies where I worked.

There is one more which to me was the most surprising one in the book – paternity fraud, and the laws that support paternity fraud:

Take the following cases of nonconsensual insemination: Nathaniel from California, age 15, had sex with 34-year-old Ricci, which, due to his age, was legally considered nonconsensual. Emile from Louisiana was visiting his parents in the hospital when a nurse offered him oral sex, if he wore a condom, which she conveniently offered to dispose of for him afterward. S. F. from Alabama passed out drunk at the home of a female friend and awoke undressed the following morning. In all three cases, including the one involving the minor, a woman got sperm and, nine months later, a child, and the man got ordered by a court of law to pay support for eighteen years.

Less devious, but similarly amiss, are those cases in which a man, having been betrayed by his wife or girlfriend, was nevertheless held financially responsible for a child genetically proven to be another man’s offspring. While not as sensational as sperm-jacking, it is another form of paternity extortion.

In each of those cases, the man was found liable to pay child support – including the case of the 15-year-old boy, who was forced to pay child support to his statutory rapist when he turned 18. This is how the court system works, and more and more men are understanding the risks.

I often encounter “pro-marriage” people while gathering stories for the blog. These pro-marriage people come in two varieties.

On the one end of the spectrum are people like Terrell Clemmons and Jennifer Roback Morse, who understand marriage, but who also understand the social changes that have made marriage unattractive for men. Both Clemmons and Morse have a background in STEM fields, so they are able to understand incentives and tradeoffs. They understand that society has to rollback the changes to education, divorce laws, etc. if they expect men to be interested in marriage again. They understand that men are not just accessories of women, but instead have their own desires, feelings and reasons for marrying.

On the other end of the spectrum are feminist men, who are not able to understand the changing incentives that face men in a world that has evolved under the influence of radical feminism. It is just simpler (less thinking) for these men to accept the radical feminism as a given, and then urge men to “man up”. I think a much better idea would be for the “man up” crowd to realize how marriage has changed, and how the schools and the workplace have changed, then make all of these things more attractive to men. It doesn’t do any good to try to “dare” men into jumping off a cliff. Men aren’t stupid, and they do what is in their own best interests. If the man-up crowd wants younger men to marry, then they need to change the incentives offered to men. And that means changing women first.

What is Jesus’ view of the definition of marriage?

Marriage and family
Marriage and family

I noticed that there is some silly video put out by the atheists at BuzzFeed where a bunch of people claiming to be Christians deny that Jesus has any authority in their worldview.

Here’s what Jesus says about marriage.

Matthew 19:1-11:

1 Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan.

2 And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?”

4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,

5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?

6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?”

8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.

9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”

11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given.

To be a Christian, minimally, is to be a follower of Jesus Christ. That means that we accept what Jesus teaches, on whatever he teaches about. We don’t overturn the teachings of Jesus in order to make people who are rebelling against God feel better about their rebellion. It is central to the Christian worldview that Christians care more about what God thinks of them than what non-Christians think of them. In fact, Christians are supposed to be willing to endure suffering rather than side with non-Christians against God’s authority. So really not sure what the BuzzFeed non-Christians are doing in that video.

Matt Walsh had a fine article about the Buzzfeed video.

He said:

As Christians, our goal is not to avoid being like the big bad “other Christians,” but to strive to be like Christ Himself. This is one of the advantages to having an Incarnate God. He went around acting and speaking and teaching and generally functioning in our realm, thereby giving us a model to follow. This is the model of a loving and merciful man, and also a man of perfect virtue who fought against the forces of evil, condemned sin, defended his Father in Heaven with sometimes violent force, spoke truth, and eventually laid down His life for those He loved (which would be all of us).

[…]This is what it means to believe in Christ. Not just to believe that He existed, but to believe that Christ is Truth itself, and that everything He said and did was totally and absolutely and irreversibly true forever and always. Many Christians today — not only the ones in the video, but millions alongside them — seem to think we can rightly claim to have “faith” in Jesus or a “relationship” with Him while still categorically denying much of His Word. This is a ridiculous proposition. We can’t declare, in one breath, that Christ is Lord, and in the next suggest that maybe God got it wrong on this or that point. Well, we can make that declaration, but we expose our belief as fraudulent and self-serving. We worship a God we either invented in our heads, which is a false idol, or a God who is fallible, which is a false idol.

If you really accept Jesus as God, then you can’t think he is wrong when he explains what marriage is. Period. End of issue.

Real Christians don’t make excuses for sin. Real Christians present the gospel. The gospel is that all men have rebelled against God and fallen short of perfect submission to and obedience of him. For this, they deserve to be separated from God eternally. Jesus paid the price for this rebellion on the cross, and anyone who accepts him as Savior and Lord will be with God eternally after they die. There is no salvation apart from Jesus. That’s what Christians say. And they say it regardless of how weird they look, and how many non-Christians don’t like them for saying it.

Mainstream conservative news site reviews The Case for Christ movie

This review is from Ed Morrissey of Hot Air, a major conservative news and commentary web site.

Excerpt:

[T]he pursuit of evidence forms the core of the film’s narrative. In 1980, Lee Strobel (Mike Vogel) finds his marriage and professional life turned upside-down when his wife Leslie (Erika Christiansen) converts from their shared atheism to Christianity. Convinced that his wife has been brainwashed by a cult — being just a couple of years removed from the Jonestown massacre — Strobel decides to apply his journalistic expertise to debunk the central core of the Christian faith: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Can Strobel find an evidence-based argument to refute Christianity, or will he be forced to face his own biases and assumptions?

Given that this is explicitly a conversion story (and that Strobel’s book sold 14 million copies over the last two decades), that outcome isn’t exactly a mystery, but the film isn’t intended to be a mystery anyway. At its core, The Case for Christ is a love story on multiple levels rather than an exposition about evidentiary support for the Resurrection. The love Lee and Leslie have for each other becomes redemptive, but so too the terribly strained relationship that Lee has with his father, and that Lee also has with The Father.

I think the love story is fine, because it is an winsome invitation for people watching who are not yet Christians to take a look at the evidence. People today are really struggling in their relationships because they have kicked God out of their partner-selection and how they relate to their partners. Most people today conduct their relationships as functional atheists, including Christians. Atheism is the denial of objective purpose in the universe, and a denial that there is any design for human behavior, and human relationships like love and marriage. Everyone is floundering about in a sea of relativism, trying to use each other like commodities in order to scrape out some happiness without having to love anyone else self-sacrificially. The idea that loving others self-sacrificially could actually be what we were designed to do (as revealed in the example of Jesus) is intriguing. But since it goes against our natural self-centeredness, something other than desire and emotion is going to have to drive the search for a better way forward. That something is God himself, revealing his existence and his character to us through evidence in nature, and through the historical evidence around the life, death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus. Evidence has the power to drive us against our own selfishness and hedonism, making us capable of loving others, and helping us to choose those who will love us like Jesus, because they love God first and foremost.

Morrissey concludes:

The production values match those of higher-level independent films. The casting of Vogel and Christiansen is especially successful, as they present a very realistic depiction of a young married couple in serious trouble. Faye Dunaway and Frankie Faison have smaller but notable roles, and the ever-estimable Robert Forster portrays Lee’s estranged father. Eight is Enough’s Grant Goodeve has a cameo, but veteran character actor Mike Pniewski’s turn as the Chicago Tribune’s religion editor might be the most memorable outside of the featured cast. The direction and cinematography are straightforward and not at all overdone, with no “shaky cam” usage to generate a false sense of style. The film does an excellent job of recalling the 1980-81 period without making the mistake of falling back into kitsch, opting instead for a look as realistic and nuanced as the film itself.

It all adds up to a compelling and very human story about love, redemption, faith, reason, and finding peace with all of them. With the emergence of Risen and The Case for Christ, the faith-based segment of the film market has come into its own. On the Hot Air scale, I’d give it a five:

  • 5 – Full price ticket
  • 4 – Matinee only
  • 3 – Wait for Blu-Ray/DVD/PPV rental or purchase
  • 2 – Watch it when it hits Netflix/cable
  • 1 – Avoid at all costs

If Christianity is anything, Christianity needs to be a worldview – a picture of reality. It’s not a set of stories designed to make us feel good about our attempts to eek out pleasure by doing whatever we want. It’s not a community, nor even worship songs that make us have feelings. There has to be something objective that is incumbent on us whether we like it or not. The call of Christianity is to turn around and go in a different direction, re-prioritizing goals in our lives according to someone else’s leadership and example. That’s not going to be possible unless we really believe that this behavior is in line with the way the world really is. For those born and raised in a society infused with secularism, we are already confronted with widespread beliefs that challenge the existence of God and miracles like the resurrection. We have to do something to break out of those background beliefs that we just absorbed uncritically. We have to pursue truth and conform our worldview to the evidence so that the behaviors of a Christian become natural and normal, against our natural self-centered desires and feelings.

My hope is that a large number and people will watch this movie and understand the factual foundations of Christianity for the first time. Maybe they will finally see themselves as guilty or refusing to take a look at the evidence. The problem with unbelief is that it really is a willful closing of one’s eyes against reality, so that one can continue to be in control. To search for the evidence is to be open to changing our deepest desires to match reality. Something that no non-Christian in the history of the world has ever done.

Consider John 18:37:

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

Exactly right. Jesus came to demonstrate the reality of God’s existence and his power as Creator by giving us a historical resurrection that we could investigate using the ordinary methods of doing history.

And we know that miracles like the resurrection are possible from the scientific evidence for a cosmic beginning, and for cosmic fine-tuning, as Romans 1 explains.

Romans 1:18-20:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness,

19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.

20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made,so that people are without excuse.

This is the way the world really is, and we have to adjust to reality, because of the evidence.

Let’s hope that God uses this movie to get a lot of people to re-think whether they have been pursuing truth the way they should be. It’s very tempting to forget evidence and just pursue pleasure, but we were not intended to do that by the God who made us and everything else.