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At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Ben Carson: “Progressive” on Homosexuality?

posted by Jack Kerwick

Ben Carson got himself into some trouble a couple of weeks back for remarks concerning homosexuality that he made during an exchange with CNN’s Chris Cuomo.

However, I’m not sure what exactly it is that Carson said that ignited such controversy—or any controversy.

Carson expressed his position that homosexuality—presumably, homosexual desire, not just conduct—is the product of choice. To substantiate his thesis, Carson alluded to the phenomenon of (ostensibly) heterosexual prisoners who, upon engaging in homosexual relations while incarcerated, “become” gay.

Cuomo agreed that such a phenomenon occurs. But—for reasons that he failed to specify—Cuomo disagreed that this example vindicates Carson’s view.

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Unsurprisingly, so-called “conservatives” in the media, including those who claim to be Carson’s admirers, pounced on Carson with all of the fury—and more—unleashed upon him by the usual suspects on the left. Carson, one pundit insisted, was finished.

All of this was extremely odd. Granted, Carson is about as eloquent as he is a strong speaker: he’s not eloquent at all. And while he is doubtless a man of great intelligence, this doesn’t mean that he’s either politically savvy or a critical thinker. Carson shouldn’t have insisted that homosexual orientation per se, i.e. in all instances, is a choice. It was also a mistake to use the example of male prisoners, rather than, say, lesbians, to legitimize his point.

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Still, if we were as remotely interested in logic as we are interested in emoting and scoring partisan points, things would’ve unfolded much differently than they actually did.

First, Cuomo would’ve been forced to resolve the apparent inconsistency between his bio-centric vision of homosexuality and his concession to Carson’s commentary on the experience of male prisoners. After all, Cuomo, apparently, thinks that gays are “born that way.” Insofar as he agreed with Carson’s assessment of male prisoners, he must acknowledge that phenomena of these sorts pose a counterexample to his belief.

Second, in this Age of Enlightenment on all things sexual, a day when homosexuality is loudly and proudly proclaimed to be just as viable and healthy an alternative to heterosexuality and “homophobia” is decried as among the gravest of secular “sins,” it is the Ben Carsons of our world who sound “progressive” on this issue. In stark contrast, Chris Cuomo sounds like a retrograde.

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In other words, the new Zeitgeist on homosexuality would seem to demand that we relegate to the dustbin of history the idea that homosexuals don’t deserve to be judged for their homosexuality because they were “born that way.” On the other hand, insofar as the new orthodoxy on homosexuality is supposed to be a function of sexual liberation generally, the idea that gays choose to be gay seems much more in keeping with the latter.

This is not just hypothetical reasoning on my part. For nearly 25 years, at least, gays themselves have been saying as much.

Back in 1991, Lindsy Van Gelder, a self-avowed lesbian, warned in Ms. Magazine against falling for what she described as “the ‘born that way’ trap.” Against those proponents of “gay rights” who dismissed “‘the prejudice and ignorance’” of the view “‘that homosexuality is a matter of choice,’” Van Gelder is at pains to convince readers that for her, “coming out was…a conscious decision—every step of the way.”

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She also insists that she is no “aberration, at least among women.”

Van Gelder identifies “the public relations edge” of the “‘Born That Way’ line”:

“At the root of a lot of homophobia is a fear that gayness is somehow contagious. If people really did fit into neat little either/or sexual pigeonholes from birth, no one would be able to say that gay teachers could possibly ‘recruit’ their students. Parents of gays would be off the blame hook. Straights wouldn’t have to feel threatened by passing queer attractions.”

In addition to these benefits, Van Gelder notes that the genetic view of homosexuality implies that “if we [gays] could help it, we would.” This, she elaborates, is “what a fair number of straight people hear, including some of our allies.” But what this means is that gays are then perceived “as bearers of a genetic flaw” rather than “sexual equals.” The “Born That Way” line conveys the message “that it’s O.K. to regard us as sexually defective.”

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Van Gelder poses a thought provoking challenge to the proponents of “Born That Way” approach: Suppose, she asks, “they discover that there’s no biological basis to sexual orientation? Are we willing to promise that on that day, we’ll give back any gay rights we’ve managed to win and march off to the psychic showers” to be “‘cure[d]’” of [our] “homosexuality’(emphasis original)?”

In 1992, homosexual and “gay rights” activist Darrell Yates Rist penned an instructive article in The Nation. Rist alludes to the “Hungarian activist doctor” who coined the term “homosexual” in the 1860’s. The doctor, writing under the pseudonym K.M. Kertbeny, addressed a letter to the Prussian Minister of Justice in response to a new penal code that would criminalize sexual relations between men. Kertbeny opposed the proposed measures, arguing that homosexuality is an “‘inborn, and therefore irrepressible, drive [.]”

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Rist quotes authors John Lauritsen and David Thorstad who summarized Kertbeny’s position as such: “‘If homosexuality is inborn…it cannot be regarded as a punishable offense by rational persons who respect the mysterious laws of nature.’”

My objective here is to defend neither Ben Carson nor his position on this complex matter. The point, rather, is that given our rapidly changing mores with respect to homosexuality, Carson’s position that homosexuality is chosen appears to be more in keeping with the spirit of these new mores than is the belief that homosexuality is biologically determined.

My prediction is that it won’t be long until the self-sworn guardians of “progressive” thought on homosexuality will have succeeded in branding the “Born That Way” line as an expression of virulent “homophobia.” Soon, no “respectable” person will dare to regard homosexuality as anything but an enlightened, courageous choice.

 

 

 

 

 

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Myron Pauli: “Blessed Are The Burger Flippers–but Robots Don’t Need Healthcare”

posted by Jack Kerwick

Below, polymath Myron Pauli weighs in on the irrationality of both the standard and neoconservative leftists as it pertains to Portland, Oregon’s new minimum wage of $15/hour.  In his own inimitable way, Dr. Pauli drives the point home. 

 

I did some minimum wage work at a chemical-spectroscopy lab in New York – not particularly lucrative or enjoyable but it paid money. The company mostly hired college graduates from the Philippines (probably with some H-1 visa) because they were cheap. Not surprisingly, companies pay workers at little as they can get away with. Workers, in turn, are right to grumble and are free to seek out higher paying work (or at least better conditions – that lab was rather unsafe). Most people do not work for some great satisfaction – most jobs range from somewhat stinky to complete stinky. Who the hell wants to pick crops in the hot summer or climb up cleaning gutters in winter? Workers primarily work for one primary motivation – MONEY.

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So I see that Portland OR has raised the minimum wage to $15/hour. This will help developers of automated Burger-Flippers. Not only do they not get the $ 15, the robots don’t need Social Security, W-2 forms, OSHA inspectors, Obomney-Rombama care, paid vacations, sick leave, and those other things that raise “overhead”. I already posted my opinion on the minimum wage being a boon to a few highly paid automation experts at the cost of the most marginal workers when I spotted this article in Reason Magazine on the same concept: http://reason.com/archives/2015/03/07/automation-may-be-labor-union-death-knel . I claim little credit – anyone who has studied the history of labor in the 19th or 20th Century should be aware of the Luddites who went around smashing machinery. I would not be surprised if some restaurants not only take reservations online but orders as well – press the steak icon and it will ask rare through well-done. This should not be too hard to code and people can pick up their orders cafeteria style or a robot can probably deliver the gourmet food to the table. The chef can be well paid but who goes to the restaurant for the waitresses (excepting, perhaps, Hooters)? Four star pre-ordered robot delivered gourmet meals with profits shared between consumer and restauranteur.

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However, let me put on my Samuel Gompers hat when it comes to the anti-worker rant of Jennifer Harris: http://thenavigatoronline.com/2014/09/19/minimum-wage-for-minimum-skills-screw-your-15-bucks-an-hour-that-you-are-not-worth/ . First of all, workers have EVERY RIGHT to be greedy and should be free to strike (but not destroy property or resort to violence) – with the flip side that the employer can find replacements. If I choose to “refuse” to be locker-room attendant for the Russian Women’s Volleyball Team for less than $1500 / hour, perhaps the team can find someone who will work for less pay!

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The second point of Harris’ rant is how the troops are “getting shot at, deploying for months in hostile environments, and putting their collective asses on the line every day protecting your unskilled butt?” The first part about being shot in hostile environments is perfectly true. As to the second part, HOW are these “troops” protecting the butt of anyone, skilled or unskilled, other than the military brass and politicians who sent them in to be 21st Century IED-fodder? I know what benefits I get from the grocery clerk and the restaurant waiter and the guy who cleans my gutters. Does the average American get protected when some troops “engage” Sunnis who are shooting at Shiites or Shiites who are shooting at Sunnis. Harris makes fun of “Sally McBurgerflipper” and “Johnny Fry-Boy” but they enable Mom to save a day of cooking and let the brats play at the McSlides. What great “service” did anyone get out of Petraeus and that neo-con phony “surge” (which, like “Vietnamization”, worked only as long to get America to exit) other than some titillation concerning Paula Broadwell? Yet, “conservatives” deify Petraeus and sneer at the gardener.

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In that sense, I can neither endorse the leftist desire to ignore the realities of labor markets nor these rightists who extol senseless, pointless, endless killing over honest backbreaking work. Maybe the poor schlub mowing your lawn will motivate his kids to get a real education (not modern “liberal arts”) and that kid might invent a new “smart lawnmower”. Anyway, the poor shlub is doing honest work.

Blessed are the Burgerflippers – may they profit both themselves, their employers, and their customers for they are the Children of Peace.

 

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Media “Conservatives” to University of Oklahoma Frat Boys: Off With Your Heads!

posted by Jack Kerwick

The president of the University of Oklahoma expelled white members of a fraternity that had been captured on video chanting what could be the last of the English language’s “four letter words” recognized by our society. Some remarks are in order.

First, as black civil rights activist Michael Myers, among an ever increasing number of commentators, has observed, the decision of the President of a public institution to expel students who threatened no one amounts to nothing more or less than an assault on the latter’s freedom of speech.

Second, Thomas Sowell once remarked that no issue taps man’s irrationality as much as that of race. Whether this statement is true of “man” generally is questionable. Considered as a judgment on contemporary Western men and women, however, it couldn’t be more accurate. The situation in Oklahoma is but the latest piece of proof of this.

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But it isn’t just sheer irrationality that’s on display here. As is normally the case, the reaction on the part of the chattering class tells us infinitely more about the commentators than anything that it reveals about the phenomenon on which they are commenting.

And what the coverage of this event in Oklahoma tells us is that the prevailing Zeitgeist and its impeccably Politically Correct guardians in the media are awash in an abyss of moral confusion and hypocrisy.

For decades, it has been standard operating procedure for colleges and universities around the nation to enthusiastically, indeed, zealously, create whole programs—like, say, “Women’s Studies” and “African American Studies”—that are nothing more than overt exercises in identity politics. More to the point, students enrolled in these courses are forced fed a regular diet of anti-white, anti-male, anti-heterosexual, and anti-Christian stock phrases and clichés cloaked in an academic veneer. The University of Oklahoma is no exception in this respect.

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Nor have any of the traditional disciplines in the humanities and social sciences been immune to the politicization of race, gender, and sexual orientation that is so obviously on display in such recently invented courses like “Women’s Studies” and the like: philosophy, literature, history, and political science, to say nothing of sociology, anthropology, and psychology, have all been exploited in the service of a worldview that allows for only Oppressors and the Oppressed. Even such hard sciences as biology have fallen prey to the machinations of ideologues invested in suppressing research that threatens to shatter their racial and gender fictions.

The point is this: Contrary to President David Boren’s remarks, it isn’t the drunk, foolish, white fraternity students on a bus who are responsible for having created a “hostile learning environment.” It is the faculty of humanities and liberal arts departments throughout America, and, by implication, administrators like himself, who hold that distinction.

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This is no hyperbole. Tragically, academia is not anything at all like the bastion of free thought or the thriving marketplace of ideas that David Boren and his ilk would have us believe it is. In fact, if a visitor from another world surveyed 21st century America, our intergalactic spectator would discover that there is considerably more intellectual conformity among academics than exists among the populace generally. Moreover, there is enormous pressure—intimidation and coercion—to conform to the academic’s orthodoxy.

It is sheer hypocrisy for Boren, his faculty, and their comrades throughout the rest of the academic universe to point their collective finger at anyone, much less those whose intellects have been entrusted to their care, for the racial straightjacket—the hostility to learning—with which they’ve been constraining their students’ minds for far too long, for this is a device of their own making.

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But we would be sorely mistaken if we assumed that the left had a monopoly on hypocrisy in this case. Self-avowed “conservatives” on talk radio and Fox News, ever eager as such folks always are to prove to their leftist detractors that they aren’t the ruthless “racists” that the latter are forever accusing them of being, spared not a moment to denounce the students and demand their expulsion.

Mike Gallagher and Sean Hannity are but two examples of “conservatives” who refused to be bested in the hand-wringing contest that began to rage until Michael Myers, to his eternal credit, reminded them of a precious little thing called liberty. Even the liberal Washington Post was quick to remind the public of the unconstitutionality of expelling students from a public university for speech—even “racist” or “offensive” or “tasteless” speech.

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When a young black thug—think Trayvon Martin or the original “Gentle Giant,” Michael Brown—gets himself killed upon acting violently, mainstream commentators of both a recognizably leftist and a “conservative” bent, even when they (eventually) concede his guilt, wail and weep over what they decry as the tragic death of a young man or teenager. Everyone from the President of the United States on down look beyond the incident to the “root causes” that magically—but all so predictably—transform the victimizer into the victim.

But when it is white “youth” that are guilty of doing what college “kids” throughout the land are known for doing—drinking and acting sophomorically, i.e. harming no one save themselves—there is no mercy. There is no quest for “root causes” (like, namely, the profoundly inhibitive “learning” environment that their racially-correct professors and other movers and shakers in various media and politics created).

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Has anyone who has thoughtlessly demanded the expulsion of these students considered for a moment how this may affect the rest of these young people’s lives? Talk radio hosts and Fox News celebrities who call for the guillotine as a fitting penalty for drunken stupidity—after all, there was no crime here—strike the impartial observer as being more interested in moral posturing than they are interested in preserving liberty and combatting the flagrantly racial double standards that are their enemies’ weapons of choice.

 

 

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The “Existential Crisis” of the Islamic World’s Christians

posted by Jack Kerwick

In spite of what Barack Obama would have us believe, he was as much in tune to Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress this week as was anyone and everyone else in the world.  But exclusive focus on American/Israeli and Israeli/Islamic relations threatens to blind us to the fierce, unrelenting oppression with which Christians throughout the world are routinely forced to reckon courtesy of their Islamic neighbors.

Throughout the Islamosphere in Africa and the Middle East, men, women, and children have been subjected en masse to unspeakable acts of cruelty.  Jihadists, while pillaging and burning homes and churches, have laid waste to whole communities.  Families have been destroyed as husbands and fathers were bludgeoned, beheaded, and burned to death; wives and mothers raped, beaten, and starved; young boys forced to convert to Islam and take up arms on behalf of their captors; and young girls enslaved and sold off to become either wives to grown men or human missiles—i.e. suicide bombers.

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Meanwhile, stateside, the historical and theological illiterates of the left—exemplified by none other than our 44th President—spout as a matter of course vacuities designed to imply moral parity between Islam and other religions.  Worse, the American left reserves not a fraction of the condemnation for Islam, or even ISIS, that it regularly unleashes on Christianity.

But there is no moral parity here.

And it is profoundly offensive for anyone, least of all self-avowed Christian leaders, to suggest otherwise.

People like none other than the titular head of my church, Pope Francis, sought an explanation for the mass murderers that attacked Charlie Hebdo that came dangerously close to sounding like a justification.  To be clear, the Pope doubtless abhorred this ghastly deed as much as anyone.  But he expressed an understanding of these Islamic killers that he never would have dreamt of extending to Christians whose sins were far less grave.

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That there is a glaring contrast between Christianity and Islam is gotten quickly enough when we consider just how the legions of Christian victims of Islamic persecution have responded to their tormentors.

In Niger, where ISIS incinerated 45 churches, the Christians who survived the rampages (which left at least 10 dead and roughly another 170 people critically injured) still managed to gather to worship together.  According to The Voice of the Martyrs, a teenager remarked: “I guess God found us worthy.”

Open Doors reports that following the beheadings of 21 Coptic Christian by ISIS, churches in Egypt “united” to pray for the murderers.  This organization dedicated to serving persecuted Christians shares a letter penned by an Egyptian “Christian leader” whose name remains anonymous.  “The sound of prayers requesting mercy and life, not revenge and destruction, calling on God’s name to come and change the hearts of the killers, is loudly heard across Egypt.”

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The letter relays that the “heartbroken wives, mothers, fathers and children of the martyrs,” while interviewed on national and other television shows, offered “simple expressions of love and forgiveness” that “brought down so many tears on air and surely delivered a mind blowing message about what the Christian faith is all about.” Pastors of Egyptian churches are “calling their congregations to wake up and pray for the persecutors of the church to come to meet with the Savior” so that “God will remove their stone hearts…and give them hearts of flesh and blood, capable of loving.”

Organizations like Open Doors and Voice of the Martyrs ask Christians around the world not to take up arms and avenge their subjugated brethren, but, rather, to pray for them.

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The Christian News Wire reports that Christian Freedom International asked three Christians from three different Muslim-majority countries about their thoughts on Obama’s National Prayer Breakfast remarks.  Their responses are telling.

A Pakistani Christian replied: “I strongly condemn this statement by US President Obama…  Christianity has always preached to love our neighbor.”  The person added: “I know of no Christian extremist groups attacking people of other faiths.”

An Egyptian Christian said that he or she—the lives of these believers depend upon their anonymity—disagreed with Obama.  “Coptic Christians in Egypt are very much pacifists and considered the most vulnerable minority [.]”  Thus, “we cannot persecute people of other faiths.  We Christians do not persecute Muslims. But we Christians are persecuted.”

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A Muslim convert to Christianity living in Bangladesh had some particularly revealing things to say.

“But, the basic difference [between Christians and Muslims] is that Muslims today are being influenced and taught by their religious books to persecute the people of other beliefs.”  In contrast, you can’t find “a single word in the New Testament that influences Christians to persecute others.  The New Testament teaches [about] loving others.”

This convert from Islam mentions that while Christianity has produced numerous people, like Mother Teresa, who have made enormous sacrifices to serve others, “there is not a single example in the Muslim World of a Mother Teresa.”  Instead, “Muslims have examples like Osama bin Laden.”

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This person doesn’t stop here though.  He or she identifies as the inspiration for Obama’s comments an Indian Muslim scholar by the name of Dr. Zakir Nayak.  The latter, according to this irate Christian, “defends al Qaida activities by saying, ‘Christians and Jews did terrible things in the past.” Obama, he thinks, was exposed to Nayak while in India.  At any rate, this interviewee poses a “challenge” to Obama to “find a single word in the New Testament that influences people to persecute others, where there are thousands [of such words] in the Muslim book, Quran.”

If Islamic militants can be said to pose an “existential threat” to anyone today, it is to those Christians living in Islamic lands.

Only don’t expect for Obama or John Kerry to ever bring this up.

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