Tag Archives: Family

Lori Alexander is right: serious Christian men prefer debt-free virgins without tattoos

Marriage stability vs sexual partners,(Teachman et al. JAMF, August 2010)
Marriage stability vs sexual partners,(Teachman et al. JAMF, August 2010)

Christian writer Lori Alexander recently wrote a blog post (H/T Lindsay) urging Christian women to do 3 things:

  1. be a virgin before marriage
  2. be debt-free before marriage
  3. don’t get any tattoos

She also urged women to be cautious about college, because it often gets them into debt. I disagree with her a little here. I always urge young women to earn a STEM degree in college, then work a few years to pay off their loans (if any) before marrying. This is because women, like men, need to have the experience of doing something hard that they don’t “feel” like doing, in order to grow. STEM degrees teach young people that the world doesn’t revolve around them, and that their feelings don’t matter when trying to solve a problem in the real world. It’s a very useful way for women and men to break themselves out of the desire for free and easy happiness that is so common in our time.

Lori’s article drew enormous opposition from both secular and Christian sources. So far, the only people defending her are men’s rights sites, like Dalrock (Christian) and Spawny (non-Christian). Every other “Christian” blog or news site that I read disagreed her article, and argued that premarital sex was no big deal, that having debt was no big deal, and that having tattoos was no big deal.

Let’s take a look at her three points, then I’ll explain why her article is largely correct, and why she is correct about what she asserts about the criteria that godly men have for women.

Even one non-husband premarital sex partner raises risk of divorce
Even one non-husband premarital sex partner raises risk of divorce

Virginity

Regarding her first point, virginity is commanded by the Bible, it’s in line with peer-reviewed studies on marriage quality and stability. The reason that people find this difficult is that they want the freedom to give in to sexual desires without feeling shame. They want to believe that there is no permanent effect. It doesn’t help that parents and pastors are terrified of telling young people, and young women in particular, that promiscuity harms marital stability. Right now, the culture is drowning in feminism. Feminism tells women that the traditional male roles of provider, protector, and spiritual leader are “sexist”. The “best” men are good-looking pro-abortion bad boys. If a Christian woman is not able to think through the meaning of sex with respect to marriage enough to control herself, it seriously harms the stability of her future marriage.

Starting and Mid-Career salaries by profession (click for larger image)
Starting and Mid-Career salaries by profession (click for larger image)

Debt-free

Regarding her second point, almost everything a serious Christian man might plan to do for Christ with his marriage is impacted by finances. From education, to marriage timing, to number of children, to home ownership, early investment, to the success of children. to age of retirement. Less money means fewer choices, and less ability to counter challenges. Think of how important money for legal defense is to Christian-owned businesses who are being persecuted, for example. The reason that many people find the Bible’s teaching on stewardship difficult is that they don’t want to exercise self-control with money if they don’t feel like it. They want to waste money seeking fun and thrills, and then act like their poverty could not be avoided. Being debt-free is an indicator of practical wisdom and self-control in a woman.

Hugh Hewitt's "In, But Not Of", Chapter 9: Tattoos, Don't
Chapter 9 of Hugh Hewitt’s “In, But Not Of: A Guide to Christian Ambition”

Tattoos

Tattoos are a problem for serious Christian men for several reasons. First, they cost money and for no gain, and can even cause you losses in your career. Second, most people get them because of low self-esteem or vanity or to look rebellious or to look dangerous. None of these motivations should be acted upon by someone with a robust Christian worldview. The money could be better used on charity, or investments, etc. Women show what their priorities really are by how they spend their money and time. Show me a woman’s bookshelf, and I’ll tell you how seriously she has thought about what it means to be a Christian in all areas of life. Instead of showing me your tattoos to demonstrate your “spirituality”, show me your apologetics books, to demonstrate your intellectual engagement. And tell me how you used that information to engage in conversations with educated non-Christians to answer their challenges to your faith. That way I’ll know that you use your money to train do hard things in order to have an influence for Christ in serious, practical, effective ways. A woman who can defend her faith and discuss Christianity with non-Christians is demonstrating her ability to raise Christian children in a secular society.

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

The goal of marriage is to serve God

Today, young people have been taught to follow their hearts, and to deny that there is any authority or practical wisdom that should govern their decisions. They always imagine themselves to be exempt from moral rules, statistics, cause and effect, etc. They think they know better than everyone else – even though they do almost no research on their own. Every adviser who tells them to study computer science instead of creative writing is wrong. Their same-age friends know more about what causes divorces than peer-reviewed research papers. And money should be spent on skydiving and zip-lining, regardless of what financial experts like Dave Ramsey might say.

A woman who has made many mistakes cannot fix those mistakes with words. Rationalizations, evasions, and blame-shifting do not work to show that there has been real repentance. The man can only assess whether grace has caused any real re-prioritization of goals by evaluating her outward actions over a long period of time. Furthermore, if a woman who has made mistakes attacks those who correct her from Bible’s teachings on chastity, stewardship, etc., then it’s a sign that there is no real repentance.

Choosing a wife wisely doesn’t mean that Christian men treat OTHER Christian women poorly. Christian men love all the Christian women. We care for them and support them. But when a man chooses a wife, he is choosing someone who will have more influence on his ability to serve God than anyone else. In my case, the goals for my marriage involve making a difference with apologetics in the church, having many children who will receive the educations and careers they need to have an influence, influencing government to promote Christian-friendly policies, charitable giving, mentoring young Christians, modeling a good marriage to others, and having a home that can serve to host discussions about issues that matter. These things are not free – they take careful planning and execution to achieve.

Lori’s advice is  intended for men who are serious about making their marriage produce a return for God. Men who are chaste themselves. Men who accept the Bible as an authority. Men who earned STEM degrees, instead of easy nonsense degrees that don’t lead to good careers. Men who earn 6-figure salaries, who buy houses for cash, and who are on track have a 7-figure net worth by age 50. Men who made good decisions cannot risk marrying someone who hasn’t prepared for marriage. The wrong woman in the home could ruin the man’s effort to produce a marriage that gives glory to God.

Not every man intends to achieve something for God with his marriage, but those who do need to choose a woman who has demonstrated ability at doing the job. For example, if the job requires marital fidelity, then chastity is a good indicator that the woman has the necessary self-control. If the job requires frugality, and practicality, then being debt-free, having a STEM degree, and having some private sector work experience are good indicators that she’s qualified for the role. Nothing valuable in life is ever been achieved by being lazy, wild and irresponsible. Serious Christian men look for wives who have applied themselves to difficult tasks that they didn’t feel like doing, who achieved success by remaining committed to the plan, in spite of their unhappy feelings and unmet desires.

We have a problem in the church such that we aren’t serious about teaching young people to develop marriage-ready character and to make serious plans for marriage. We are teaching them to follow their hearts, and that their feelings and desires are clues about God’s will for their happiness. We are teaching them to be uncomfortable with responsibilities, expectations and obligations to others. We are teaching them not to do their own research. We are teaching them not to make practical, wise plans. We are teaching them to ATTACK those who try to get them to be serious about doing what is likely to work. This approach is not working.

My own criteria for a wife are more demanding than Lori’s. My advice there is only for serious Christian men who want their marriage to serve God.

Study: children of same-sex couples do less well than those of married couples

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

The Public Discourse reports on a recent study out of Canada.

Excerpt:

A new academic study based on the Canadian census suggests that a married mom and dad matter for children. Children of same-sex coupled households do not fare as well.

There is a new and significant piece of evidence in the social science debate about gay parenting and the unique contributions that mothers and fathers make to their children’s flourishing. A study published last week in the journal Review of the Economics of the Household—analyzing data from a very large, population-based sample—reveals that the children of gay and lesbian couples are only about 65 percent as likely to have graduated from high school as the children of married, opposite-sex couples. And gender matters, too: girls are more apt to struggle than boys, with daughters of gay parents displaying dramatically low graduation rates.

Unlike US-based studies, this one evaluates a 20 percent sample of the Canadian census, where same-sex couples have had access to all taxation and government benefits since 1997 and to marriage since 2005.

While in the US Census same-sex households have to be guessed at based on the gender and number of self-reported heads-of-household, young adults in the Canadian census were asked, “Are you the child of a male or female same-sex married or common law couple?” While study author and economist Douglas Allen noted that very many children in Canada who live with a gay or lesbian parent are actually living with a single mother—a finding consonant with that detected in the 2012 New Family Structures Study—he was able to isolate and analyze hundreds of children living with a gay or lesbian couple (either married or in a “common law” relationship akin to cohabitation).

So the study is able to compare—side by side—the young-adult children of same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples, as well as children growing up in single-parent homes and other types of households. Three key findings stood out to Allen:

children of married opposite-sex families have a high graduation rate compared to the others; children of lesbian families have a very low graduation rate compared to the others; and the other four types [common law, gay, single mother, single father] are similar to each other and lie in between the married/lesbian extremes.

Employing regression models and series of control variables, Allen concludes that the substandard performance cannot be attributed to lower school attendance or the more modest education of gay or lesbian parents. Indeed, same-sex parents were characterized by higher levels of education, and their children were more likely to be enrolled in school than even those of married, opposite-sex couples. And yet their children are notably more likely to lag in finishing their own schooling.

[…]The truly unique aspect of Allen’s study, however, may be its ability to distinguish gender-specific effects of same-sex households on children. He writes:

the particular gender mix of a same-sex household has a dramatic difference in the association with child graduation. Consider the case of girls. . . . Regardless of the controls and whether or not girls are currently living in a gay or lesbian household, the odds of graduating from high school are considerably lower than any other household type. Indeed, girls living in gay households are only 15 percent as likely to graduate compared to girls from opposite sex married homes.

Thus although the children of same-sex couples fare worse overall, the disparity is unequally shared, but is instead based on the combination of the gender of child and gender of parents. Boys fare better—that is, they’re more likely to have finished high school—in gay households than in lesbian households. For girls, the opposite is true. Thus the study undermines not only claims about “no differences” but also assertions that moms and dads are interchangeable. They’re not.

With a little digging, I found the abstract of the study:

Almost all studies of same-sex parenting have concluded there is “no difference” in a range of outcome measures for children who live in a household with same-sex parents compared to children living with married opposite-sex parents. Recently, some work based on the US census has suggested otherwise, but those studies have considerable drawbacks. Here, a 20% sample of the 2006 Canada census is used to identify self-reported children living with same-sex parents, and to examine the association of household type with children’s high school graduation rates. This large random sample allows for control of parental marital status, distinguishes between gay and lesbian families, and is large enough to evaluate differences in gender between parents and children. Children living with gay and lesbian families in 2006 were about 65 % as likely to graduate compared to children living in opposite sex marriage families. Daughters of same-sex parents do considerably worse than sons.

The author of the study is a professor of economics at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. His PhD in economics is from the University of Washington. A previous study had shown that gay relationships typically have far more instability (they last for more shorter times). That’s not good for children either. Another study featured in the Atlantic talked about how gay relationships have much higher rates of domestic violence. That’s not good for children either. So we have three reasons to think that normalizing gay relationships as “marriage” would not be good for children.

The reason I am posting this is because I want people to understand why social conservatives like me propose these laws defining and promoting marriage. We do favor natural marriage for the same reason that we oppose no-fault divorce, and for the same reason why we oppose welfare for single mothers (it encourages single motherhood). We don’t want to encourage people to deprive children of their mother or their father. We look at the research, and we decide that children need their mother and father. Given the choice between the needs of the child and restraining the freedom of the adults, we prefer the child’s need for her mother and father. It’s not just arbitrary rules, there is a reason behind the rules.

But children are not commodities. They have certain needs right out of the box. Adults should NOT be thinking about how to duct-tape a child onto any old relationship that doesn’t offer the same safety and stability that opposite sex marriage offers. We should be passing laws to strengthen marriage in order to protect children, not to weaken it. Libertarians don’t want to do that, because they want adults to be free to do as they please, at the expense of children.  Libertarians think that the adults should be able to negotiate private contracts and have no obligations to any children who are present, or who may be present later.

Related posts

William Lane Craig offers advice to Christians considering marriage

Marriage and family
Marriage and family

This post is a 3 in one: one lecture, one question and answer, and another lecture – all on different topics.

I got this lecture from the Reasonable Faith web site.

Dr. William Lane Craig is the top living Christian apologist and debater in the world today, and has 2 Masters degrees and 2 Ph.Ds. He also has scores of academic publications including books from Oxford University Press, etc.

The MP3 file is here. (14.5 Mb, about 41 minutes)

The transcript is here.

Topics:

  • the stresses of ministry on marriages
  • the Christian position on divorce
  • balancing marriage with academic pursuits
  • the importance of marrying the right person
  • Dr. Craig’s politically incorrect advice for choosing a spouse
  • Advice for men: Marry someone who believes in you and who supports you in your calling
  • Advice for women: Be the kind of person who can commit to being a helper and supporter
  • Advice for men: Beware of the career woman who will put their career over supporting you in your calling
  • Advice for women: Be careful about marrying if you think that your goals are more important than your husband’s goals
  • Advice: Don’t try to find the right person for you but instead focus on learning about marriage and preparing for marriage
  • Advice: Flee youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, love and peace
  • Advice: God intends for sex to be within the bounds of marriage, so you need to guard yourself against unchastity
  • Advice for men: be careful what images and movies you see with the goal of keeping your chastity
  • Advice: your highest responsibility after your relationship with God is your spouse, and your studies are third
  • Advice: it’s better to drop classes or give up your graduate studies entirely rather than destroy your marriage
  • Advice for women: understand that you have to work at the marriage in order to help your man finish his studies
  • Advice: set aside a period of the day for communicating and bonding with your spouse
  • Advice: cultivate the ability to talk with your spouse on a personal level, and maintain eye contact
  • Advice for men: do not break eye contact with your wife, and also hold her hand when communicating
  • Advice: do not be embarrassed to seek out a marriage counselor, but make it a good counselor
  • Advice:  don’t just be doing stuff for your mate, but also be vulnerable and transparent with your mate
  • How your relationship with your wife helps you with your relationship with God
  • How do you handle the rebellion of children without being overbearing and authoritarian?

There is a period of Q&A at the end. There is another piece of advice that comes out in the Q&A for women: take an interest in your spouse’s work even if you don’t care about it, and ask him about it every day and try to understand it. Go to the man’s workplace and see what he does. Go to his presentations. Get involved in the man’s ministry and help him in practical ways. Another piece of advice is to not paper over the differences – it’s good to argue, because it means that problems are being confronted and worked through. Husbands should have a good male friend to talk to, and wives should have a good female friend to talk to.

I like how Dr. Craig has thought about how to have a successful marriage, how to choose the right woman, and how to love his wife. I like how he calls out men on the chastity thing. I think that chastity is more important for men than for women, because it’s the men who take the lead in choosing and pursuing the right woman for their plan, and their judgment cannot be clouded by the desire for premarital sex.

It’s the man who is accountable for making the marriage count for God, he will never be able to achieve anything if chooses a wife is merely pretty, rather than being a good learner, resourceful, hard-working, organized and effective. She is the one who has to be chief of staff and take care of the details of his plan to lead the family. (In my case, the plan is 1) impact the church with apologetics, 2) impact the university with apologetics, 3) advocate for laws and policies that protect religious liberty, right to life, marriage and family, and 4) raise Children who will remain Christian and have an influence for Christ and his Kingdom). A man can’t choose a woman who is merely attractive and fun-loving – she will never be willing to commit to doing the hard work that will allow the family to achieve anything as a team.

This is important: don’t choose a woman who isn’t willing to help you with your plan to serve God. And don’t choose a woman who is more interested in fun and thrills than learning and working to achieve a goal. If she is not able to commit to tasks and finish what she starts, then she is not for you. That’s what good women do – they are not content to talk about big plans and not achieve then, they are doers. They find ways to get the job done through organization, discipline and self-sacrifice.

Secondly, here is my previous post on Dr. Craig’s advice for married couples, where he gives 5 points of advice for married couples.

Here are the main pieces of advice Dr. Craig gives:

  1. Resolve that there will be no divorce
  2. Delay having children
  3. Confront problems honestly
  4. Seek marital counseling
  5. Take steps to build intimacy in your relationship

And here’s the controversial one (#2):

2. Delay having children. The first years of marriage are difficult enough on their own without introducing the complication of children. Once children come, the wife’s attention is necessarily diverted, and huge stresses come upon you both. Spend the first several years of marriage getting to know each other, working through your issues, having fun together, and enjoying that intimate love relationship between just the two of you. Jan and I waited ten years before having our first child Charity, which allowed me the finish graduate school, get our feet on the ground financially, establish some roots, and enjoy and build our love relationship until we were really ready to take on the responsibilities of parenthood. The qualifier here is that if the wife desperately wants children now, then the husband should accede to her wish to become a mother, rather than withhold that from her. Her verdict should be decisive. But if you both can agree to wait, things will probably be much easier.

Third and finally, here is a previous post on Dr. Craig’s advice for choosing a good spouse, with illustrations from his own marriage.

For example, Bill’s first story about Jan occurs early after their marriage while he is working on his first Masters degree at Trinity:

And it was also at that time that I began to see what an invaluable asset the Lord had given me in Jan. I remember I came home from classes one day, and found her at the kitchen table with all the catalogs and schedules and papers spread out in front of her and she said, “look! I’ve figured out how you can get two Masters degrees at the same time that it would normally take to get one! All you have to do is take overloads every semester, go to all full-time summer school and do all these other things, and you can do two MAs in the time it takes to do one!”

And I thought, whoa! Are you sure you really want to make the commitment it takes to do this kind of thing? And she said, “Yeah! Go for it!” And it was then I began to see that God had given me a very special woman who was my supporter – my cheerleader – and who really believed in me. And as long as she believed in me, that gave me the confidence to dream bigger dreams, and to take on challenges that I had never thought of before.

If you want to hear another Christian husband talk about how his wife supports him, listen to this lecture called “Giants in the Land” with Dr. Walter Bradley. It’s actually my favorite lecture. I also really like his testimony lecture. If you’re looking for guidance, these are some of the people I would recommend.

Woman raised by two lesbian parents speaks out: I missed my Dad

Heather Barwick
Heather Barwick

This is from The Federalist. Just so you know, the author is a former same-sex marriage advocate.

She writes:

Gay community, I am your daughter. My mom raised me with her same-sex partner back in the ’80s and ’90s. She and my dad were married for a little while. She knew she was gay before they got married, but things were different back then. That’s how I got here. It was complicated as you can imagine. She left him when I was two or three because she wanted a chance to be happy with someone she really loved: a woman.

My dad wasn’t a great guy, and after she left him he didn’t bother coming around anymore.

Do you remember that book, “Heather Has Two Mommies”? That was my life. My mom, her partner, and I lived in a cozy little house in the ‘burbs of a very liberal and open-minded area. Her partner treated me as if I was her own daughter. Along with my mom’s partner, I also inherited her tight-knit community of gay and lesbian friends.

But now she opposes same-sex marriage because it became apparent to her through her own life experience and the experience of having children that children need a mother and father.

She writes:

Growing up, and even into my 20s, I supported and advocated for gay marriage. It’s only with some time and distance from my childhood that I’m able to reflect on my experiences and recognize the long-term consequences that same-sex parenting had on me. And it’s only now, as I watch my children loving and being loved by their father each day, that I can see the beauty and wisdom in traditional marriage and parenting.

Same-sex marriage and parenting withholds either a mother or father from a child while telling him or her that it doesn’t matter. That it’s all the same. But it’s not. A lot of us, a lot of your kids, are hurting. My father’s absence created a huge hole in me, and I ached every day for a dad. I loved my mom’s partner, but another mom could never have replaced the father I lost.

I grew up surrounded by women who said they didn’t need or want a man. Yet, as a little girl, I so desperately wanted a daddy. It is a strange and confusing thing to walk around with this deep-down unquenchable ache for a father, for a man, in a community that says that men are unnecessary. There were times I felt so angry with my dad for not being there for me, and then times I felt angry with myself for even wanting a father to begin with. There are parts of me that still grieve over that loss today.

I’m not saying that you can’t be good parents. You can. I had one of the best. I’m also not saying that being raised by straight parents means everything will turn out okay. We know there are so many different ways that the family unit can break down and cause kids to suffer: divorce, abandonment, infidelity, abuse, death, etc. But by and large, the best and most successful family structure is one in which kids are being raised by both their mother and father.

I recommend reading the whole thing.

Dawn Stefanowicz said similar things about her experience raised by her Dad and his gay partner in this interview posted on MercatorNet. This is mature subject matter.

It says:

MercatorNet: How did you feel about what was going on around you?

Stefanowicz: You become used to it and desensitised. I was told at eight years old not to talk about this but I knew that something was wrong. I was not thinking “this is right or wrong” but I was disturbed by what I was experiencing. I was unhappy, fearful, anxious and confused. I was not allowed to tell my father that his lifestyle upset me. You can be four-years-old and questioning, “Where is Daddy?” You sense women are not valued. You think Daddy doesn’t have time for you or Daddy is too busy to play a game with you. All this is hard because as a child this is the only experience you have.

MercatorNet: How did this affect your relationship with others?

Stefanowicz: I had a hard time concentrating in school on day-to-day subjects and with peers. I felt insecure. I was already stressed out by an early age. I’m now in my 40s. You’re looking at life-long issues. There is a lot of prolonged and unresolved grief in this kind of home environment and with what you witness in the subcultures.

It took me until I was into my 20s and 30s, after making major life choices, to begin to realise how being raised in this environment had affected me. Unfortunately, it was not until my father, his sexual partners and my mother had died, that I was free to speak publicly about my experiences.

And:

MercatorNet: Why do so few children speak out?

Stefanowicz: You’re terrified. Absolutely terrified. Children who open up these family secrets are dependent on parents for everything. You carry the burden that you have to keep secrets. You learn to put on an image publicly of the happy family that is not reality. With same-sex legislation, children are further silenced. They believe there is no safe adult they can go to.

As I’ve written here before there are several completely non-religious reasons to oppose same-sex marriage. But the one that is surely the easiest to understand is that children need a mother and a father, and when they don’t have both they miss having both. In general, children do better with their mom and dad close by as they they are growing up. That’s a very good reason to promote the traditional definition of marriage – one man, one woman, for life. Period. I don’t want to have any part in depriving children of the safety and security of their mothers and fathers. It’s a scary thing to grow up in the world and not have two people who are YOURS. Who are interested in your development, and whose bond to you is irrevocable and undeniable.

Jim Wallis debates Jay Richards on Christianity and economics

In this post, I have the video of a debate on the topic of what Christians should think about economics and economic policies. In addition to the video, I summarized the two opening speeches and the two rebuttals, for those who prefer to read rather than watch. We’ll start with a short biography about each of the debaters.

The video recording:

The debaters

Jay Richards:

Jay Richards, Ph.D., is a Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute where he directs the Center on Wealth, Poverty and Morality, and is a Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics. Most recently he is the co-author with James Robison of the best-selling Indivisible: Restoring Faith, Family, and Freedom Before It’s Too Late”.

In addition to writing many academic articles, books, and popular essays on a wide variety of subjects, he recently edited the new award winning anthology, God & Evolution: Protestants, Catholics and Jews Explore Darwin’s Challenge to Faith . His previous book was Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem (HarperOne, May 2009), for which he received a Templeton Enterprise Award in 2010.

[…]In recent years, he has been a Contributing Editor of The American at the American Enterprise Institute, a Visiting Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and a Research Fellow and Director of Acton Media at the Acton Institute. Richards has a B.A. with majors in Political Science and Religion, an M.Div. (Master of Divinity) and a Th.M. (Master of Theology), and a Ph.D. (with honors) in philosophy and theology from Princeton Theological Seminary.

Jim Wallis:

Jim Wallis (born June 4, 1948) is a Christian writer and political activist. He is best known as the founder and editor of Sojourners magazine and as the founder of the Washington, D.C.-based Christian community of the same name. Wallis is well known for his advocacy on issues of peace and social justice. […]He works as a spiritual advisor to President Barack Obama.

[…]In 2010, Wallis admitted to accepting money for Sojourners from philanthropist George Soros after initially denying having done so. […]In 2011, Wallis acknowledged that Sojourners had received another $150,000.00 from Soros’ Open Society Foundation.

Wallis just came out this month in favor of gay marriage. He is also a strong supporter of Barack Obama, who is radically pro-abortion. Some pro-lifers have argued that Barack Obama has the same views on abortion as Kermit Gosnell, because Obama voted twice to allow abortions on babies who were already born alive.

The format of the debate

  • 20 minute opening speeches
  • 10 minute rebuttals
  • 10 minutes of discussion
  • Q&A for the remainder

SUMMARY

I use italics below to denote my own observations.

Jim Wallis’ opening speech:

My goal is to spark a national conversation on the “common good”.

A story about my son who plays baseball.

The central goal of Christianity is to promote the “common good”.

Quotes “Catholic social teaching” which values “human flourishing”.

The “common good” is “human flourishing”.

Is the purpose of Christianity is to make sure that everyone has enough material stuff or to preach the gospel?

When Christians go on mission trips, it’s good that they focus on things like human trafficking.

Democrat John Lewis is the “conscience of the U.S. Congress”.

John Lewis gets a 0% rating from the American Conservative Union in 2012.

John Lewis gets a 8% rating from the American Conservative Union in 2011.

John Lewis gets a 2.29% lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union.

Nothing is going well in Washington right now except comprehensive immigration reform.

Does he think that Christianity means giving 20-30 million illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, while skilled engineers cannot even get green cards, even though there is a shortage of them? Does he think that the other people in society who earn more than they receive from the government ought to be taxed more in order to provide more services and benefits to those who earn less than they take from the government?

Jay Richards’ opening speech:

Two topics: 1) what is the common good? 2) what should Christians do to promote the common good?

Catholicism defines the “common good” as “Indeed, the common good embraces the sum of those conditions of the social life whereby men, families and associations more adequately and readily may attain their own perfection.”

We have natural ends that we are supposed to be achieving and some places, like South Korea, are better for allowing that to happen.

The common good is broader and prior to any sort of political specification.

It’s not the political good or what the state is supposed to do.

It’s not about the communal good, as in Soviet Russia, where the communal good was above individual and familial good.

The common good is the social conditions that promote the things that we humans have in common as individuals and members of family.

The common good takes account of who we are as individuals and in associations with other individuals, e.g. – families.

Christians don’t have to be doing the same things to promote the common good, e.g. – pastors, entrepreneurs, etc.

The church, as the church, has as its primary goal making disciples of all nations.

But even in that capacity, the church should be interested in more than just conversions and saving souls.

We also have to care about God’s created reality including things like physics, education, etc.

How should Christians promote the common good in politics?

Question: when is coercion warranted?

In Romans 13, Paul says that the state does have power to coerce to achieve certain ends, like justice.

Most Christians think that there are some things where the state can use coercion, for example, to prevent/punish murder.

It is OK for the police to use coercive force to maintain public order and the rule of law.

But we need to ask whether other things are legitimate areas for the state to use coercive force.

We should only give the state power to coerce when there is no other way to achieve a goal.

We need to leverage the science of economics in order to know how to achieve the common good.

Jay Richards' main point in the debate
Jay Richards’ main point in the debate

Henry Hazlitt: “The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.”

For example, what happens if we raise the federal minimum wage to $50. What happens next for all groups? That’s what we need to ask in order to know which policies achieve the common good.

When it comes to economics a lot of things have been tried in other places and times.

We can know what works and doesn’t work by studying what was tried before and in other places.

Many things are counter-intuitive – things that sound good don’t work, things that sound bad do work.

Principle: “We are our brother’s keeper”. Christians have an obligation to care for their neighbors.

We all agree on the goal. But how do we do things that will achieve that goal?

We have to distinguish aspirations from principles and prudential judgment.

Principle: We should provide for the material needs of the poor.

Prudence: Seeing the world as it is, and acting accordingly.

Example policies: which minimum wage is best? None? $10? $20?

We decide based on seeing how different economic policies achieve the goal of helping the poor.

Jim Wallis’ first rebuttal:

Jesus commanded us to “care for the poor and help to end poverty”.

Actually, Jesus thought that acknowledging him and giving him sacrificial worship was more important than giving money to the poor, see Matthew 26:6-13:

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, 

a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 

“This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”

10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 

11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 

12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 

13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

It’s not clear to me whether Jim Wallis thinks that preaching is more important than redistributing wealth to address material inequality.

I like what Jesus said in a TV series, even though it’s not in the Bible when an actor playing Jesus said to “change the world”.

Jesus never said to “change the world” in the Bible. Should we be concerned that he is quoting a TV actor playing Jesus instead of Jesus.

Here is a terrific story about Bill Bright.

I love Catholic social teaching.

Quote: “All are responsible for all”.

I go to the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland every year. I spoke once at 7 AM on the 4th floor.

It’s a funny place for a Christian to be if they care about the poor – rubbing shoulders with leftist elites. He must have named a dozen high-profile people that he spoke with during the debate, as if he could win the debate by some sort of argument from name-dropping. He mentioned the Davos thing several times!

The greatest beneficiary of government actions to deal with the economic crisis was Wall Street banks.

I’m going to tell you a story about what a Washington lawyer says to Jesus.

I’ve had conversations with business leaders where I tell them to integrate moral truths.

I talk about the Good Samaritan parable.

Quote: “Do you love your undocumented neighbor?”

Quote: “Do you love your Muslim neighbor?”

Jay Richards’ first rebuttal:

Who is responsible for your own children? Who knows the most about them?

Parents should have more discretion over their children because they have more knowledge about their child and what’s best for them.

The Good Samaritan doesn’t show that government should confiscate wealth through taxation and redistribute it.

The Good Samaritan emphasizes voluntarily charity to help people who are not necessarily your immediate neighbor.

Some of the things we do should be for the good of other people in other countries.

But then we are back to leveraging economics to know what policies are good for those other people in other countries.

The principle of subsidiarity: if a problem can be addressed by a lower level of society (family) then we shouldn’t make higher levels (government) address it.

The best place to take care of children is within the family.

Only if the family fails should wider and wider spheres get involved.

Although we want to think of the common good in a global sense, we don’t want to lose sight of the fact

The financial crisis: we need to integrate moral truths, but also economic truths.

We don’t want to assume policies based on intuitions, we want to check our intuitions using economic principles.

Why did we have a financial crisis in mortgages, but not in commodities futures or technology, etc.?

Greed is a contributing factor in all areas of business.

Something more was going on in the mortgage markets than just greed.

There were specific policies that caused the mortgage lending crisis.

The root cause of the problem were “affordable housing policies” that lowered lending restrictions on low income people.

The policy ended up degrading the underwriting standards on loans.

Government intruded into the market and undermined the normal ways of

People were getting massive loans with no income, no jobs, no assets and no down payment.

The federal government created a market for risk loans by guaranteeing

There was a government imposed quota on mortgage lenders such that 50% of their loans had to be given to high-risk borrowers.

That is what led to the financial crisis. Not the free market, but intrusions into the free market.

These policies were well-meaning and implemented by people from both parties. But they had bad effects.