Should we be trying to change the world from the bottom up or the top down?

Two Air Force JTACs discuss mission parameters prior to calling in CAS
Two Air Force JTACs discuss mission parameters prior to calling in CAS

Dr. Paul Gould is a professor of philosophy (PhD from Purdue) at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Here is his bio, which says, in part:

I have a Masters in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics from Talbot School of Theology and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Purdue University.

I am an Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Christian Apologetics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

What his bio page doesn’t say is that he left a career in business to go onto this apologetics/philosophy track. I find that very interesting, because like most professionals with an interest in apologetics, I had the same dream – to go and do a PhD and get into a college and be a positive influence on Christian kids. But the main thing is that he has had some experience in the real world.

Anyway, Dr. Gould has written two posts on how to change the world, and I want you to look at an excerpt from the first one.

First post:

Christians like to talk—and aspire—to changing the world. This language stems very naturally from our God-given desire to make a difference, to live a life that matters. In a very real sense, making a difference is to change the world. But, usually, when Christians talk about “changing the world” they mean something like “winning the world for Christ” or “helping the gospel to gain a hearing in culture” or “contributing toward shalom.”Recently, there have been a number of very helpful books written by folks who challenge the common view of how to go about the task of world-changing, and call into question the relationship between Christ and culture. One of the most important books to enter this discussion is James Davison Hunter’s To Change the World. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the topic of world-change. In this post I will share his critique of the “common view” of world change. I think his critique is dead on.

Hunter argued that by and large, Christians have gone about the task of world changing in completely the wrong way and the result is that Christianity in our country at least and in the western world in general, represents a weak culture.

He focuses on world-view ministries (primarily from the US such as Chuck Colson’s Wilberforce Forum and Focus on the Families’ Truth Project) and those like them that offer the following view of how to change the world:

Common view of world change: as we change the individual beliefs and values of persons, and change enough persons, then we will ultimately change society. This is a bottom up approach.

On the common view, the implicit view of culture is that “the essence of culture is found in the hearts and minds of individuals” and that culture change will come as enough individual lives are transformed.

Hunter argues that this approach fails to take into account cultural elites and the institutions that yield power within culture.

Instead, cultural change has always been top-down: it is always elites—those who have cultural capital to exert influence and power—who have changed the culture. This is why the university, and the media, and the arts are so important in shaping the culture.

All of this leads to a fascinating conclusion: some ideas have consequences—namely ideas propagated by those within society who possess cultural capital and a supporting network of other individuals and institutions also within the center of cultural influence and production.

Second post is here. The second post has a link to his review of Hunter’s book (PDF), which is published by Oxford University Press.

I agree completely with the top-down thesis of James Davison Hunter, and I think that it is a tragedy that the Christian parents and Christian churches don’t do a good job of challenging and guiding young Christians to study the things that will allow them to have an influence. Most Christians I talk to have a negative view of steering young Christians towards advanced degrees, or towards making a lot of money, or towards positions of cultural influence, etc. Instead of focusing on being effective, they tell me “I will do what I want to do, because God has a mysterious will for me to be happy”. I don’t buy it. I am happy to consider alternative plans that serve God better, but I don’t think that the “I’ll do what feels good” view is interested in producing a return for God in terms of money and/or influence. Crazy plans do not work out just because we want them to. There are costs to every plan, and not every plan is as likely to lead to influencing the culture as any other plan. This is reality.

I also think it is important to steer children into positions where they can be prosperous and/or influential. Again, many Christians disagree with guiding children that way. In my experience, it is assumed that children need to be happy, and that they are the best people to decide what they should be doing in life. Well, I’m not a heavy-handed bully, but I am not letting my children do whatever they like, because they don’t have enough wisdom and experience to know what to do. For example, I am not letting my children study ballet in university. It doesn’t pay the bills, and it isn’t likely that they will have an influence compared to other choices. Money is important because money can be used to fund Christian scholars, apologetics ministries and apologetics events. Marriage is a great way to have an influence, but marriage costs money, and that means that marriage-minded people should have a plan to pay the bills before they consider marriage. We do not have the right to do whatever we feel like, because we have a boss who expects a return on his investment. If a person is capable of doing hard things that produce a better return (money or influence or children, etc.) then he should do that.

We have a problem in this country as it is with young people borrowing tens of thousands of dollars to study things that either don’t pay off, or that don’t allow them to have an influence. It’s not unloving to tell children the truth about the choices they make. Especially when the cost of having a child is over six figures per child. You can have a huge Christian influence with that kind of money if you spent it on other things, like apologetics scholars, their ministries and their events. So, if you are going to have children and spend it on them, you’d better have some sort of plan, and look for a spouse who is on board with that idea of providing God with a good return on his investment. Everything we do – including the choices to marry and have children – should be focused on serving God. If people shy away from the idea of steering children to have an influence, I don’t think it’s a good idea to get married at all. Save the money and use it for the kingdom somewhere else. Marriage is about making the best decisions you can in order to serve God, and you can’t marry someone who puts their own happiness over the need to produce that return for the boss.

Having said that, if you are already married, stick with it. I am advocating for making smarter decisions before you commit. And before you go off to college, ask yourself: is what you are thinking of studying worth it? Trade school is an excellent option that will give you an income that can support a family AND give to apologetics ministries, with less exposure to debt. If you must go to university, then it’s generally wiser to stick with STEM degrees, so that you can get a job and actually pay off those loans. Marriages and children are NOT free. Retirement is not free. Health care is not free. Christian apologetics ministries do not run on wishes and hopes. Christian scholars do not get their degrees for free – they need support. I think another good plan is to have one person do philosophy or history and then be supported by other people with jobs in STEM fields. That’s what I do – I help out Christian scholars on my team to finish their graduate degrees in fields related to apologetics. Those non-STEM degrees are the best way to have an influence, but it’s easier to get them as a multi-disciplinary team effort. Everyone has to pull their weight!

And one last point. The most amazing thing in the world is when I meet people who are very very skeptical about mentoring young people and steering children towards prosperous and influential areas, even though they themselves may be facing the results of their own poor decisions. You would think that someone who has burned $60,000 on a degree in Women’s Studies and can’t find a job would be on your side about helping other young people to make better decisions, but they are often not on your side. Why is that? Somewhere along the way, this culture stopped liking the Mr. Knightleys who were praised for loving people by telling them the truth about their bad decisions. Now we think that the Emmas can do whatever they want, and no one should be giving them any guidance. How sad.

Venezuela solves hunger by banning bread lines, and solves crime by banning self-defense

Two socialists shake hands: Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez
Two socialists shake hands: Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez

First, let’s review who has been running Venezuela, and what they’ve been doing in the last few decades.

Here is an article from March 2013 from the radically leftist Slate. The headline is “Hugo Chavez’s economic miracle: The Venezuelan leader was often marginalized as a radical. But his brand of socialism achieved real economic gains”. The author is “a senior writer for the International Business Times”.

He writes:

Chavez became the bugaboo of American politics because his full-throated advocacy of socialism and redistributionism at once represented a fundamental critique of neoliberal economics, and also delivered some indisputably positive results. Indeed, as shown by some of the most significant indicators, Chavez racked up an economic record that a legacy-obsessed American president could only dream of achieving.

What did Chavez do, precisely, that caused the Venezuelan economic to boom? Well, he nationalized private industry and redistributed wealth from job creators and entrepreneurs to the poor.

As The Week correctly put it, while “Chavez’s policies of redistribution and nationalization of oil assets endeared him to Venezuela’s working class” and produced many laudable results, the country’s “oil-centric economy has taken away resources from other areas that are badly in need of development.”

It’s a miracle! Yay for socialism! Well, that’s what leftists thought – this time, for sure, the laws of economics would be suspended and unicorns would fly.

Reason.com reports on what happened next:

The tragedy of Venezuela continues unabated, but that doesn’t mean the government of President Nicolás Maduro has stopped trying to fix problems like the devastating scarcity of food which has led to malnutrition, riots, food truck hijackings, vigilante lynchings of petty thieves, and the starvation of zoo animals.

No, Maduro hasn’t admitted the failure of Chavismo — the brand of Bolivarian socialism imposed on the oil-rich country by his late predecessor Hugo Chavez — instead, Venezuela’s embattled leader has launched a war on “anxiety.”

The National Superintendency of Fair Prices has reportedly instituted a policy of fining bakeries that allow lines to stretch out their front doors, according to PanAmPost. The head of this particular bureaucracy, William Contreras, claims the lines aren’t a true indicator of a severe shortage of bread, but rather, a political “strategy of generating anxiety.”

[…][T]his is indicative of the magical thinking of Venezuela’s socialist government: the breakdown of the economy couldn’t possibly because of failed economic policy, and scarcity must be the result of a greater conspiracy.

Fine, so they solved the problem of not enough bread by banning line-ups for bread. Great. But what about Venezuela’s astronomically high murder rate? What will they ban to solve that?

Easy, peasy: by seizing the guns of law-abiding people, just like Hillary Clinton wants to do.

Daily Wire reports:

Venezuela is descending further into the misery of socialism, as their government confiscated 2,000 pistols, shotguns and other firearms on Wednesday.

Reuters reports that the firearms were “crushed and chopped up” at a square in Caracas and ammunition was registered through laser technology as part of Interior Minister Nestor Reverol’s recent initiatives to further disarm the Venezuelan citizenry.

“We are going to bring disarmament and peace,” Reverol declared.

Venezuela currently has the second highest murder rate in the world, and Caracas is the most violent city in the world. In 2012, dictator Hugo Chavez completely banned private gun ownership, and yet crime rose.

Naturally, taking away the guns of law abiding people increases the rate of violent crime. In the UK, where the ban on handguns resulted in the doubling of violent crime in the four years after the ban. This is known by anyone who has spent more than two minutes studying the history of these laws in other times or places.

In my last post, I reported about how Venezuela had resorted to forced labor (slavery) to grow more food.

Here’s what CNBC reported:

The government of Venezuela has issued a decree that “effectively amounts to forced labor” in an attempt to fix a spiraling food crisis, according to a new report from Amnesty International.

A Venezuelan ministry last week announced Resolution No. 9855, which calls for the establishment of a “transitory labor regime” in order to relaunch the agricultural and food sector. The decree says that the government must do what is “necessary to achieve strategic levels of self-sufficiency,” and states that workers can be forcefully moved from their jobs to work in farm fields or elsewhere in the agricultural sector for periods of 60 days.

It’s so bad that Venezuelans are breaking into zoos to kill and eat the animals. Now that’s real progressive animal rights for you. But they can solve this by banning the eating of meat.

Slavery, food lines, lousy health care, crime sprees, confiscating guns from law abiding citizens. All to be expected when Democrat party policies go into effect. If Democrats wins the House, Senate and Presidency, we’ll see the same here – we’re not any better than any other country. Nothing magic about the United States, if we get away from our Constitution.

Related posts

What is the “feminization of the church”?

Church sucks, that's why men are bored there
Church sucks, that’s why men are bored there

A friend who shall remain anonymous sent me this article from The Art of Manliness about the feminization of the Christian church. The article is long and detailed. I want to mention one point briefly, and do another more fully.

Brief one first:

While Christians of the past two centuries have complained of a lack of virility in their pastors, there’s also been a statistically certified lack of other kinds of male mentors in the church as well. For example, a survey done in 1920 found that 73% of Sunday School teachers were women, and still today women are around 56% more likely than men to participate in Sunday school and to hold a leadership position in a church (not including the role of pastor).

Does a lack of masculine role models at church negatively effect the recruitment and retention of masculine members? Edwin Starbuck, a prominent psychologist in the early 1900s thought so, positing that “the boy is a hero-worshipper, and his hero can not be found in a Sunday school which is manned by women.” Murrow agrees, citing the research of Dr. Michael Lindsay, who found that:

“the number one reason high-achieving men don’t go to church is they don’t respect the pastor. Those men who did go to church often chose a megachurch because they saw the pastor as their leadership peer. ‘Respecting the senior pastor is vital to predicting whether a man is actively involved,’ Lindsay says.

“Men respect pastors who are properly masculine,” Murrow opines. “They are drawn to men who, like Jesus, embody both lion and lamb. They find macho men and sissies equally repulsive.”

I wrote an article last week where I criticized the education system for being unfair to boys. It turns out that the church and Sunday schools are also unfair to boys. (Not in all cases. My friend Mary teaches Sunday school, loves apologetics, and goes out of her way to affirm the different male nature in her boys).

Here’s the longer passage:

Research has shown that women are more likely to imagine God as characterized by love, forgiveness, and comfort, while men picture him in terms of power, planning, and control. With more women than men belonging to Christian churches, it’s not surprising that the religion’s theology, and the messages heard from the pulpit, have come to emphasize the former qualities over the latter.

Podles argues that men think in terms of dichotomies and conflicts — in or out, black or white. They tend to be more orthodoxic and privilege rules over relationships. Women (and more feminine men) tend do the opposite, and wish to overcome differences and assuage conflict, for the sake of greater acceptance and peaceable relationships.

Consequently, modern sermons tend to deemphasize the contrast between heaven and hell, sin and life, grace and justice, sheep and goats. There are less martial analogies, fewer calls for Christians to take up their cross and become soldiers for Christ. There is less emphasis on the need to suffer, struggle, and sacrifice for the gospel and for others, and more emphasis on how the gospel can be a tool towards greater self-realization and personal fulfillment. The gospel is presented not as heroic challenge, but therapy – the way to “your best life now.” The focus is on rewards over obstacles. All gain, no pain.

[…]Murrow observes that the modern tenor of the gospel turns the faith’s original message on its head: Whereas Jesus “promise[s] suffering, trial, and pain…today’s Christianity is marketed…[as] the antidote to suffering, trial, and pain.”

Indicative of these changes, Murrow says, is the way “the kingdom of God” has fallen into disuse in describing the church, in favor of the “family of God.” In the former, the ethos is more mission directed; in the latter it’s more’s relational. Each member of the “family of God” has a relationship with each other, and with Jesus Christ. And not just any kind of relationship with the savior — a “personal relationship” — a term whose popularity Murrow thinks contributes to the gospel’s lack of appeal to men:

[…][D]espite its extrabiblical roots, personal relationship with Jesus Christ has become the number one term evangelicals use to describe the Christian walk. Why? Because it frames the gospel in terms of a woman’s deepest desire—a personal relationship with a man who loves her unconditionally. It’s imagery that delights women—and baffles men.

[…]When Christ called disciples, he did not say, ‘Come, have a personal relationship with me.’ No, he simply said, ‘Follow me.’ Hear the difference? Follow me suggests a mission. A goal. But a personal relationship with Jesus suggests we’re headed to Starbucks for some couple time.”

[…]“The National Congregations Study found that self-described liberal churches were 14 percent more likely to have a gender gap than conservative ones.” Even when they don’t know it, Murrow says, men “long for a harsh affection—the love of a coach who yells at his players to get every ounce of effort; the love of a drill sergeant who pushes his recruits to the limits of human endurance; the love of a teacher who demands the impossible from his students. As Western society feminizes, it’s getting harder for men to find this kind of love. “

My own view of God is that he is “The General”: the master planner who achieves the salvation of all who can be persuaded without violating their free will. My soteriology is middle knowledge, and my view of God is that he is a great strategist, and a tactical genius. He is expert at orchestrating complex situations where  those who seek him meet the right people, find the right evidence, and have the right experiences. (Read Acts 17:24-28) I respect God as a leader, and look to him frequently to intervene in situations where his honor or his purposes are at stake. I do not expect God to care more about my needs and feelings as he does about achieving his goals.  With respect to God’s purposes in the world, my happiness is expendable. (And I think stating that view offends the feelings of feminized people, but it’s Biblical)

Are women pastors and leaders really liberal? Here’s an example of a female pastor arguing premarital sex and gay rights in the radically leftist Washington Post. This is very common with women in the church, who tend to value compassion over moral standards – acceptance over boundaries. Women generally accept abortion slightly more than men, and gay marriage a lot more than men.  A significant number just aren’t interested in what the Bible says about morality. Women tend to think about how moral standards make people feel, and they don’t want people to feel judged. They don’t usually understand that moral standards and boundaries are there to protect the weak, and to avoid imposing costs on the community to clean up the messes caused by selfishness and recklessness (i.e. – following your heart).

Indian surrogate mothers open up about the pain of giving up their babies

Marriage and family
Marriage and family

Katy tweeted this story from the radically leftist BBC, and it made me feel sad when I read it.

India is known as the “surrogacy hub” of the world where infertile couples, many from across the globe, head to rent a womb. In recent years, the southern city of Chennai has emerged as a major centre with more than a dozen hospitals carrying out the procedure and more than 150 surrogates.

Most surrogate mothers are women from poor families who take up the assignment for money. It’s generally believed that the transaction is purely commercial, but three surrogate mothers tell the BBC about the emotional bonds they developed with the babies they carried in their wombs for nine months and the pain they felt once the umbilical cord was snapped.

Here is one woman’s story from the article:

I live in a slum in Chennai’s Vyasarpadi area and I come from a very poor family. My husband is an auto-rickshaw driver who earns about 8,000 rupees ($120;£92) a month. I work in a factory that makes leather bags. I earn 6,000 rupees ($90; £69).

Seven years ago, my family was struggling, we had borrowed 100,000 rupees from people, mostly to pay the fee of our school-going children, and the debts had to be repaid.

One day, I met a man who worked as an agent for a surrogacy clinic. He told me that I could earn 200,000 rupees being a surrogate mother.

I knew two other women in my neighbourhood who had been surrogate mothers so I agreed.

I thought, I have four children, and now I can help someone who cannot have any. I was thinking how horrible it would be if my daughter couldn’t bear children. I believe everyone should have children and I wanted to help.

I never met the real parents and have no idea who they are. I was still under sedation when they removed the baby. I never set eyes on it.

I have no idea whether it’s white or black, whether it’s Indian or foreigner, I don’t even know whether it’s a boy or a girl!

When I gained consciousness, my first words to my husband were, ‘Did you see the baby? Is it a boy or a girl?’

He said he hadn’t seen it. I asked my doctor, but she didn’t answer my question.

‘You are a surrogate mother, you shouldn’t ask these questions,’ she said.

But I want to know about the baby. I want to know where he or she is and what it is studying.

For three months after giving birth, I spent sleepless nights, I would get headaches thinking about the baby and I had to take medicines to calm down.

Every year, on 4 November, the day the baby was born, our family celebrates its birthday. I do all the rituals that I do for my other children.

I fast in the morning, I cook payasam [rice pudding] and share it with my family and neighbours, and I visit the temple to pray for the baby’s well-being and long life.

I’ve always wondered if the baby is like any of my other children. I really do miss the baby and would give anything to see it once.

I know it’s not my baby after all, but I know that if I’d seen the baby, I wouldn’t have given it away.

I hope the baby is happy and fine wherever it is.

We talk a lot about it, we call it Paapa or Kuzanthai (Tamil words for baby or child) and at times, my family thinks maybe it would have been happier with us.

But then, we are a poor family and in difficult times, we think that perhaps the baby’s better off in a wealthier family.

As soon as I read this, I thought of the scene form the movie “The Island” where the woman in the cloning factory gives birth to the baby and she is holding it and then the cruel doctors and scientists take it away from her and killed her. I just can’t imagine how anyone could take a baby away from the birth mother.  There are some things that selfish adults do that are just wrong because of the harm it causes to children. Children are small – they ought to come first.

I wish women would think of having babies when they are younger. It does take some foresight to focus on marriage and children when you are young, but when you think about how expensive adoption is, how expensive and risky IVF is, and how painful surrogate motherhood is for the mother, it really is the best way to go.

Previously, I had blogged about the case of the two gay men who had purchased a baby boy from a surrogate mother in Russia. The mainstream media celebrated the “two gay dads”. But the two gay men raped and abused the boy, and gave him to others to rape and abuse. I can only imagine being a surrogate mother and wondering what the child’s life is like when things like that are happening. I wouldn’t do it. I just couldn’t live with myself not being able to protect and watch over something that I had a hand in making.

Survey of over 200 peer-reviewed studies finds no biological basis for “sexual orientation”

I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery
I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery

This is a big deal.

I was e-mailed and messaged by billions of people to write about this, even though I had already tweeted it Monday morning, from Ryan Anderson, and then again Monday afternoon, from Kelsey Harkness.

Anyway, there was a new report published in the journal The New Atlantis, surveying all the peer-reviewed research that has been done on sexual orientation and gender identity. (H/T Roland, George, William, and many, many others)

This article from the Daily Signal explains what the report is about:

A major new report, published today in the journal The New Atlantis, challenges the leading narratives that the media has pushed regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.

Co-authored by two of the nation’s leading scholars on mental health and sexuality, the 143-page report discusses over 200 peer-reviewed studies in the biological, psychological, and social sciences, painstakingly documenting what scientific research shows and does not show about sexuality and gender.

The major takeaway, as the editor of the journal explains, is that “some of the most frequently heard claims about sexuality and gender are not supported by scientific evidence.”

The report, “Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences,” is co-authored by Dr. Lawrence Mayer and Dr. Paul McHugh. Mayer is a scholar-in-residence in the Department of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University and a professor of statistics and biostatistics at Arizona State University.

McHugh, whom the editor of The New Atlantis describes as “arguably the most important American psychiatrist of the last half-century,” is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and was for 25 years the psychiatrist-in-chief at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. It was during his tenure as psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins that he put an end to sex reassignment surgery there, after a study launched at Hopkins revealed that it didn’t have the benefits for which doctors and patients had long hoped.

These are serious people. Johns Hopkins is the top medical school in the USA, and probably in the whole world.

The Daily Signal article also lists the four main findings:

The belief that sexual orientation is an innate, biologically fixed human property—that people are ‘born that way’—is not supported by scientific evidence.

Likewise, the belief that gender identity is an innate, fixed human property independent of biological sex—so that a person might be a ‘man trapped in a woman’s body’ or ‘a woman trapped in a man’s body’—is not supported by scientific evidence.

Only a minority of children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood. There is no evidence that all such children should be encouraged to become transgender, much less subjected to hormone treatments or surgery.

Non-heterosexual and transgender people have higher rates of mental health problems (anxiety, depression, suicide), as well as behavioral and social problems (substance abuse, intimate partner violence), than the general population. Discrimination alone does not account for the entire disparity.

The reason why we need to be guided by science in these matters, and not by ideology or feelings, is because of the harm we can do to children if we are not accurate:

Policymakers should be concerned with how misguided school policies might encourage students to identify as girls when they are boys, and vice versa, and might result in prolonged difficulties. As the report notes, “There is no evidence that all children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior should be encouraged to become transgender.”

You should read the rest of the Daily Signal’s post, and if you want to go on and read the report, you can find that here on the New Atlantis journal’s web site.

I feel pretty comfortable talking about the same-sex marriage issue, having read several books and papers on that. I also have some background in gender identity disorder, and different things that happen to a child in the womb, and during their childhoods, that can affect that. But this transgender question is an area where I need to read more – this was not on the radar when I was exploring all this in the late 90s and early 2000s. I want to be able to discuss this as competently as I can discuss other social issues.

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

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