Tag Archives: Children’s Rights

The new “Marriage Story” movie is a false picture of divorce

Marriage and family
Marriage and family

I think Sean McDowell is the best scholar to recommend to people who are interested in getting better at defending their faith. He has a splendid wide-reaching worldview, and conservative positions on controversial issues that other apologists won’t touch. He tweeted out a very interesting article from Suzanne Venker, where she reviews a new movie.

You might remember that Suzanne Venker is a pro-marriage writer who thinks that radical feminism has harmed women, and discouraged men from marrying. Here is what she had to say about the new feminist movie “Marriage Story” in The Federalist.

“Marriage Story” is billed as an intense drama about a stage director [Charlie] and his actor wife [Nicole] “who struggle through a grueling, coast-to-coast divorce that pushes them to their personal and creative extremes.” Although the couple has an 8-year-old son, the focus of the film is… about Nicole’s feelings, Nicole’s choices, Nicole’s needs, and Nicole’s desires. Charlie just goes along for the ride. What choice does he have? Based on a 2017 report by Stanford’s Michael Rosenfeld, this story seems to align with divorce trends, as women initiate 69 percent of divorces in the United States.

Indeed, “Marriage Story” is a predictable feminist screed. Its message couldn’t have been more glaring if it tried: Marriage is a jail sentence for women. If you’re not happy, leave. Oh, and take the kid with you. And while you’re at it, you might as well sabotage your husband’s livelihood, forcing him to uproot the life you both built and move across the country in order to be able to see his son for half the amount of time he normally would, thereby irrevocably altering the course of this father-son relationship — particularly since Nicole’s new man has entered the equation.

[…]What you won’t learn is that “Marriage Story” beautifully demonstrates the madness of modern-day childhood. No one’s supposed to mention that because to look at what’s happened between Charlie and Nicole through Henry’s eyes would destroy the narrative. To focus on what writer and director Noah Baumbach wanted to — “telling a love story by doing it in the course of a divorce” — it is crucial to dismiss Henry’s needs, because to a child, divorce is no love story.

By the way, speaking of children’s rights, parents should definitely read Katy Faust’s latest article in The Federalist.

I wanted to suggest a much better movie about divorce than “Marriage Story”. When I was young, I went through this phase of wanting to grow up very fast. I just could not stand being around people my own age, with their obsessions with popularity and fun. So, I got myself a white collar job and started renting every classic movie in the movie rental place. Two of my favorites were “Kramer vs Kramer” and “Ordinary People”. They made much better movies back then. Kramer vs Kramer is the one about divorce which I think accurately portrays the effects of divorce on children.

Here is the summary from the far-left Wikipedia: (I’m leaving out the ending)

Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman) is a workaholic advertising executive who has just been assigned a new and very important account. Ted arrives home and shares the good news with his wife Joanna (Meryl Streep) only to find that she is leaving him. She leaves Ted to raise their son Billy (Justin Henry) by himself. Ted and Billy initially resent one another as Ted no longer has time to carry his increased workload, and Billy misses his mother’s love and attention. After months of unrest, Ted and Billy learn to cope and gradually bond as father and son.

Ted befriends his neighbor Margaret (Jane Alexander), who had initially counseled Joanna to leave Ted if she was that unhappy. Margaret is a fellow single parent, and she and Ted become kindred spirits. One day, as the two sit in the park watching their children play, Billy falls off the jungle gym, severely cutting his face. Ted sprints several blocks through oncoming traffic carrying Billy to the hospital, where he comforts his son during treatment.

Fifteen months after she walked out, Joanna returns to New York to claim Billy, and a custody battle ensues. During the custody hearing, both Ted and Joanna are unprepared for the brutal character assassinations that their lawyers unleash on the other. Margaret is forced to testify that she had advised an unhappy Joanna to leave Ted, though she also attempts to tell Joanna on the stand that her husband has profoundly changed. Eventually, the damaging facts that Ted was fired because of his conflicting parental responsibilities which forced him to take a lower-paying job come out in court, as do the details of Billy’s accident.[3] His original salary was noted as “$33,000 a year” (equivalent to $114,000 in 2018), whereas he was forced to admit that his new salary was only “$28,200” (equivalent to $97,000 in 2018), after Joanna has told the court that her “present salary” as a sportswear designer is “$31,000 a year”.[3]

The court awards custody to Joanna, a decision mostly based on the Tender years doctrine. Ted discusses appealing the case, but his lawyer warns that Billy himself would have to take the stand in the resulting trial. Ted cannot bear the thought of submitting his child to such an ordeal, and decides not to contest custody.

I come from a legal immigrant family of non-whites, and there just WAS no divorce anywhere in our family. We’re half Muslim and half Hindu, and we just don’t divorce. There was a lot of fighting in my family growing up, but divorce was out of the question for my parents. But I remember having to deal with the violent tempers of boys in my public schools who had divorced parents. Divorce really hurt those kids. That’s why I try to blog about it here – the Bible is against divorce, and I want to explain to Christians why God’s rules against divorce ought to be respected.

I’m not going to link to studies here about how divorce affects children, because I’ve done that in other places. I just wanted to let you know that feminism is strong in our culture, and they want to make divorce into a creative adventure. Don’t let movies sway you away from what the Bible teaches. And when you defend what the Bible teaches about divorce, make sure you have the facts about radical feminism’s promotion of divorce and how divorce affects men and children.

Let’s check in on Britain’s first married gay couple and see how they’re doing

Gay activist vandalizes pro-marriage sign
Gay activist vandalizes pro-marriage sign

A long time ago in 2011, I wrote a long article looking at the research about same-sex relationships. The research said that sexual relationships between men were more likely to be unstable, promiscuous, and involve domestic violence. Also, it said that same-sex relationships harm children, not just because of the instability but because of the loss of relationships with biological parents.

So let’s take a look at one famous very wealthy gay couple from the UK, and see if we find any evidence of this in their story.

This article is from the UK Daily Mail:

Britain’s first gay fathers have ended their 32-year relationship after one of them fell ‘head over heels’ in love with their daughter’s boyfriend.

Barrie Drewitt-Barlow, 50, is now living with the husband he is currently divorcing as well as their five children and his new boyfriend, 25-year-old Scott Hutchison.

Mr Huchison, who has always been openly bisexual, has previously dated Mr Drewitt-Barlow’s 19-year-old daughter, Saffron.

Mr. Drewitt-Barlow’s current “husband” is named Tony, and he is 55 years old.

The family, originally from Essex, now live in Florida. The children refer to Tony as ‘Dad’, Mr Drewitt-Barlow as ‘Daddy’ and Mr Hutchison as ‘stepdad’.

The shocking move comes two years after Saffron and Mr Hutchison reportedly planned to have their own twins using a surrogate. The pair claim their relationship was never sexual.

[…]Mr Drewitt-Barlow and his husband Tony became the UK’s first gay fathers in 1999 when a surrogate gave birth to twins Saffron and Aspen.

[…]Twins Saffron and Aspen will be 20 next month and were conceived using donor eggs from Tracie McCune before being carried in surrogate Rosalind Bellamy.

Each husband is father to one of the twins, so although they were born at the same time they are in fact half-siblings.

However, Aspen does have an identical twin, 16-year-old Orlando.

The embryo which Aspen came from split in two while it was in the lab and Orlando was frozen for four years before being put into the womb of another surrogate, Donna.

Donna acted as surrogate again for the couple’s second set of twins – who were born nine years ago.

The eggs were from a Brazilian model that Mr Drewitt-Barlow spotted on a catwalk and paid £35,000.

[…]The pair, who are now worth £40million, went on to have five children using other surrogates and egg donors.

They fought in court for their right to be on their children’s birth certificates as father and father and became the first gay couple allowed to do so.

In 2006 they became civil partners and got married as soon as it was legal in the UK in 2014.

Although they don’t seem to be doing very well at commitment, fidelity, children’s needs before adult selfishness department, they nevertheless wanted to move forward from re-defining marriage to eliminate complementary sexes to eliminating religious liberty:

The couple, who previously challenged churches’ right to opt out of gay weddings, also caused controversy by supporting gender selection and hand-picking beautiful egg donors.

My original 2011 article mentioned how expanding gay rights in other countries had let to the elimination of real rights, like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association, and so on. And I cited a lot of articles from countries that were showing these problems.

Right now, we are seeing how aspects of marriage which used to be seen as central to the marriage enterprise (chastity, permanent commitment, sexual exclusivity, parenting by biological mother and father, etc.) are disappearing as society accepts that happiness-focused marriage as practiced by gay activists is the same as the old commitment-fidelity-children’s-rights marriage. When you lump what gay activists are doing in marriage in with what used to be considered marriage before no-fault divorce and before same-sex marriage, you understand that what marriage means is changing to include behaviors that were viewed as different from natural marriage.

Christians used to believe that marriage was a life-long commitment to self-sacrificially love their spouse, no matter what troubles were encountered, and no matter how they felt. Marriage was not seen as an engine for producing feelings of happiness. Marriage was about being a disciple of Christ, pursuing holiness, and fighting the world to deliver your spouse to Jesus, with a life demonstrated effective allegiance to Christ. Even non-Christians were aware of this vision of marriage, and it influenced how they approached marriage.

But what is it about now? Happiness:

The couple began to drift apart as their sex life dwindled and Mr Drewitt-Barlow’s snoring forced the pair into separate beds.

Husband Tony also suffered from cancer in 2006 and suffered bad health for the last three years because of treatment related to it.

While his is now in remission, it was his hospital admission for osteoradionecrosis in his jaw that sent Mr Drewitt-Barlow into the arms of Scott – who had been his PA for seven years.

Happiness is the goal for marriage once marriage has drifted away from the example of Christ’s self-sacrificial love for his bride, the church. And happiness does not last. Commitment does.

Here are some sample wedding vows from back when Christianity was taken seriously as something that had authority over feelings. Take a look at what marriage vows used to say about marriage. It was all about commitment, and gender-specific obligations tailored to the particular needs of the man and the woman.

We don’t have that any more, because a bunch of feelings-driven people in the church decided that it was more important for Christians to feel good and look good to non-Christians, than to study how to defend the truth-claims of the Bible on controversial issues like sex and marriage.

Christians should support natural marriage because it protects children from adult selfishness

A family praying and reading the Bible
A family praying and reading the Bible

I have been following Katy Faust’s work on Twitter. She runs the organization “Them Before Us”. She fights laws and policies which allow adults to put their desires above the needs of children. And especially a child’s need for a relationship with his or her mother and father. In a recent article for The Federalist, she takes on a Joshua Harris, who is attacking traditional Christian moral values.

She writes:

In a recent interview, newly ex-mega-church pastor Joshua Harris and author of the 1990s best-seller “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” remarked that the support President Trump has received from the evangelical community has been “incredibly damaging to the gospel and to the church.” I’d wager Harris is projecting something fierce.

In August, Harris announced that he and his wife Shannon were divorcing, that he no longer considers himself a Christian, and that he regrets “standing against marriage equality.” Just in case the point was lost on any of us, he followed up his announcement by posting a picture of himself eating a rainbow donut at the Vancouver Pride parade.

It’s no coincidence that Harris reversed himself on biblical teachings on sex and marriage while abandoning the core tenets of the faith.

The denial of sexual and marital norms by believers is often adjacent to a rejection of the core tenets of the faith. That’s because to arrive at these “inclusive” and “affirming” positions on marriage, Christians must exalt intoxicants such as emotion over uncompromising scripture, tradition, and natural law. Once you shift the authority from sola scriptura to sola feels, it’s only a matter of time before every other orthodox teaching finds itself on the woke chopping block.

I love this SO MUCH.

If I had to pick one conclusion that I have found to be true in 30 years of debating Christian truth claims, it would be that the normal process for becoming an atheist has nothing to do with reason or evidence. People abandon their faith in their teens, long before they have ever done any research into whether Christianity is true. And why? Because they know that their desire to be free of the moral demands of Christianity is true. And they know that their desire to be liked by their non-Christian friends is true.

Katy explains that she loves loves to discuss and debate with non-Christians and LGBT people about the issue she cares about: natural marriage and children’s rights. But she gets annoyed with Christian leaders who misunderstand the gospel.

She writes:

Whether approaching the issue from a natural law perspective where male and female complementarity features prominently, or considering the most widely ratified treaty in human history outlines a child’s right to be known and loved by their mother and father, or through the lens of scripture where God joins together man and woman in life-long union because he is seeking “godly offspring” (Malachi 2), Christian leaders have no excuse for getting marriage wrong.

Zip. Zero. Nada. Their more-tolerant-than-Jesus definition of marriage (Mark 10:6-9) is, to use Harris’ own words, incredibly damaging not only to the church, but to the most vulnerable as well.

The reality is that Christians cannot get gay marriage wrong unless they first get the gospel wrong. Progressive Christians are under the wrong impression that ours is a gospel of affirmation: the idea that God affirms everything we think and say and do and want. This misconceived notion of the gospel believes that for God to genuinely love us, he has to love everything about us.

In this self-esteem-driven, everyone-gets-a-prize culture, a God who sometimes disapproves of our thoughts and behavior (*cough* Psalm 19:14) appears to be quite a bigot. In the “Born This Way” version of the Gaga gospel, Matthew 5:29 would read, “If your right eye causes you to stumble, by all means, redefine the word ‘stumble’ because, well, I wouldn’t want you to lose an eye now, would I?”

An honest reading of scripture reveals that ours is not a gospel of affirmation. Leave aside the 613 laws of the Old Testament in which God is rigidly un-affirming as he imposes devastating consequences on his people when they misuse their words, money, bodies, land, and worship. The New Testament and the gospels are also brimming with commands to put off behaviors that displease God and put on an entirely new nature.

Katy likes to tweet a lot of stories where children who have been impacted by divorce or same-sex marriage or donor-conception or surrogacy speak about how they feel about not having a relationship with their father or mother (or both). But she also knows how to argue against adult selfishness using data.

My advice to Christians is this. If you want to have confidence when defending the Christian teaching on marriage, or defending the rights of children to a Mom and a Dad, then you need to be equipped with research, statistical evidence and stories of those who have been impacted. Being a Christian means advocating for the teachings of Jesus. Jesus cared about children, and he wanted adults to act in a way towards children that would help those children to come to know him and follow him. We should not be affirming adult selfishness when it harms the children who are made to know God.

I think one of the reasons why people like Joshua Harris are abandoning the faith is because abandoning the morality came first. And before the abandoning of morality, there was a refusal to get informed about the harm that sin does. Instead of putting in the time to look at the evidence, they just altered their worldviews in order to feel good and be liked. Well, feeling good and being liked has never been important to the Christian life. But valuing truth, defending Christian convictions with evidence, and protecting the weak from the strong is found everywhere in the New Testament.

Are gay relationships more stable than straight ones?

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are going to take a look at the data
Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are going to take a look at the data

Let’s look at this post from The Public Discourse and see if gay relationships are as stable, or even more stable, than straight ones.

Excerpt:

The [NFSS] study found that the children who were raised by a gay or lesbian parent as little as 15 years ago were usually conceived within a heterosexual marriage, which then underwent divorce or separation, leaving the child with a single parent. That parent then had at least one same-sex romantic relationship, sometimes outside of the child’s home, sometimes within it. To be more specific, among the respondents who said their mother had a same-sex romantic relationship, a minority, 23%, said they had spent at least three years living in the same household with both their mother and her romantic partner. Only 2 out of the 15,000 screened spent a span of 18 years with the same two mothers. Among those who said their father had had a same-sex relationship, 1.1% of children reported spending at least three years together with both men.

This strongly suggests that the parents’ same-sex relationships were often short-lived, a finding consistent with the broader research on elevated levels of instability among same-sex romantic partners. For example, a recent 2012 study of same-sex couples in Great Britain finds that gay and lesbian cohabiting couples are more likely to separate than heterosexual couples.[3] A 2006 study of same sex marriages in Norway and Sweden found that “divorce risk levels are considerably higher in same-sex marriages”[4] such that Swedish lesbian couples are more than three times as likely to divorce as heterosexual couples, and Swedish gay couples are 1.35 times more likely to divorce (net of controls). Timothy Biblarz and Judith Stacey, two of the most outspoken advocates for same-sex marriage in the U.S. academy, acknowledge that there is more instability among lesbian parents.[5]

This paper from the Family Research Council makes the same point:

The 2003-2004 Gay/Lesbian Consumer Online Census surveyed the lifestyles of 7,862 homosexuals. Of those involved in a “current relationship,” only 15 percent describe their current relationship as having lasted twelve years or longer, with five percent lasting more than twenty years.[4] While this “snapshot in time” is not an absolute predictor of the length of homosexual relationships, it does indicate that few homosexual relationships achieve the longevity common in marriages.

In The Sexual Organization of the City, University of Chicago sociologist Edward Laumann argues that “typical gay city inhabitants spend most of their adult lives in ‘transactional’ relationships, or short-term commitments of less than six months.”[5]

A study of homosexual men in the Netherlands published in the journal AIDS found that the “duration of steady partnerships” was 1.5 years.[6]

In his study of male homosexuality in Western Sexuality: Practice and Precept in Past and Present Times, Pollak found that “few homosexual relationships last longer than two years, with many men reporting hundreds of lifetime partners.”[7]

In Male and Female Homosexuality, Saghir and Robins found that the average male homosexual live-in relationship lasts between two and three years.[8]

It’s a Grindr lifestyle. And it’s not a good environment for meeting the needs of children. (Example)

There is one study (Rosenfeld, 2014) that tries to argue against the conclusion of all these other studies, and the problems with it are discussed in this post.

The right way to think about gay marriage is to think about it as an extension of no-fault divorce. The same feminists and leftists who pushed for the legalization of no-fault divorce told us back then that the children would be fine, that children are resilient. No-fault divorce was a change in the definition of marriage. The leftists said that divorce would never become widespread, and that it would not harm children in any way. It was all a pack of lies. If the practices of the gay lifestyle become conflated with marriage, then marriage will come to denote relationships engaged in for “love” not children, such that unchastity, infidelity, increased domestic violence and frequent break-ups are incorporated back into the definition of marriage. Marriage is about permanence, exclusivity and building an environment that can welcome children and supply for their needs. It’s not about government giving people respect for their romantic feelings. Those are volatile. What government ought to be rewarding is lifelong commitment.

Will paying teachers more money improve student performance?

Public school teachers in Oklahoma, Kentucky, West Virginia and Arizona are striking this spring, affecting hundreds of thousands of students. The teachers say that spending more money on education will help children learn more. There’s an excellent article by Joy Pullmann in The Federalist that looks at whether increasing spending raises student performance. (H/T Vanessa)

Oklahoma teachers want a $10,000 raise, and Arizona teachers want a 20% increase in base pay. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t get anything near that for my annual raise.

Educational bureacracy

Will raising taxes on taxpayers in order to spend more on education improve student performance? Joy says we can look at the past in order to understand whether spending more money gets results.

She writes:

Research has also long and conclusively shown that school spending hikes usually don’t go to teachers, they go to administrators and other bloat outside classrooms. So the kids are just unions’ human shields on their way to raid the kids’ public bank accounts — again.

[…]As the Cato Institute’s Neal McCluskey has shown, U.S. public K-12 spending has skyrocketed over the past 50 years with no improvement in academic outcomes. Other researchers repeatedly find increasing spending doesn’t help students. That’s because, as noted above, schools typically don’t send more money to classrooms, they use it to increase bureaucracy and nonacademic programming.

Got that? When taxpayers throw money at public schools, the teachers don’t see very much of that money. It gets put into education administrators and indoctrinators – people whose sole job is to make sure that the children accept secular left values.

Check out this graph of education spending compared to test scores:

Federal spending has increased astronomically, but test scores are flat
Federal spending has increased astronomically, but test scores are flat

Spending more doesn’t produce the results that parents are looking for, for their children. Parents want children to learn what they need to find work and become financially independent. But teachers, adminsitrators, etc. have a very different goal: making little secular leftists. And that’s what they use increased funding for that. Numbers don’t lie.

Another way that public schools waste money is by promising massive gold-plated public sector pensions to teachers – pensions that no private sector  taxpayer would ever get themselves. And they use any increase in their budgets to pay the pensions of teachers who are retired, and not helping students to learn.

Teacher pensions

I saw a really nice map of the United States over at Daily Signal, with all the outstanding pensions liabilities, and the amount ranges from about $7600 in Tennessee (the best state in the union) to tens of thousands in the big blue socialist states.

Unfunded pension liabilities for public sector workers
Unfunded pension liabilities for public sector workers

Joy explains:

States promised such outsized retirement benefits to the last generation of public-school teachers that they’re paying off this promise with current revenues. A national average of $6,800 per year per teacher pays former teachers’ pensions that state and local governments failed to save up for while those teachers were working. That’s money that could have instead boosted current teachers’ salaries. The problem is only going to get worse as more baby boomers retire and legislatures continue to hide their heads in the sand.

It’s not just that states and districts failed to save up for pensions they knew would come due, it’s that they offered literally the cushiest pensions available to teachers, notes a 2016 study: “as a group, [teachers] have by far the highest retirement costs, even compared with other public-sector employees. While the average civilian employee receives $1.78 for retirement benefits per hour of work, public school teachers receive $6.22 per hour in retirement compensation.”

Like I said, I don’t have a pension funded by taxpayers. I’m having to saving for my own retirement, as well of the retirement of these wealthy government workers. Public sector benefits are paid by taxpayers in the private (free market) sector. We are the ones wh have to make products and services that consumers are actually willing to pay for in a free market. Unlike teachers, I can’t go on strike if I feel I’m not paid enough. If I go on strike, I’ll be fired. But they go on strike, holding children hostage to get more money. With no guarantee of improved student performance.

Joy also notes that teachers are actually vastly overpaid already, based on what their marketable skills:

[…][R]esearch finds teachers are overpaid by an average of 50 percent relative to their skills and mental abilities. The overage comes almost exclusively from their fat benefit packages.

The reason they complain about pay is because the majority of their pay is going into extravagant health care, paid time off, pension, paid training, etc. benefits. When you add back all those benefits, they’re being overpaid compared to an equivalent private sector worker.

Regulations

Another factor that lowers student performance is that the fact that teachers are highly regulated. Instead of spending their time teaching students, they are forced to waste time doing other non-teaching tasks.

Joy explains:

Education regulations are almost always decided by non-teachers, and the effects are about what you would guess from that fact. Rather than benefiting students, these regulations typically require or justify ever-expanding employment for the very bureaucrat types who come up with them. I’m talking about things like teacher licensing mandates, which researchers have long found do not improve teacher quality and traffic in disproven education fads (but do provide easy-access cash cows for state departments of education and teacher colleges since teachers are required to keep buying their products to maintain certification); ever-increasing testing and data-entry mandates; centralized curriculum mandates like Common Core; centralized teacher evaluation and ratings systems; and the massive data entry required to document things like student behavior problems and special education services.

More money being wasted that doesn’t help students to learn more at all.

So what’s the solution?

The solution is to allow parents to choose who provides their children with an education, instead of having the money automatically taxed and spent by a massive secular left education bureaucracy. If teachers have their money in their hands, they will spend it where they can get the best quality for the best price – just like they do in every other area of their lives. That might be scary for teachers, administrators and indoctrinators, but in a free market, the parents should not be obligated to pay for something they don’t want. We should be concerned about the children first and foremost.