When Sin Pays: How We’re Making a Mistress a Star

March 16, 2008

Eliot Spitzer is getting eclipsed by his mistress. I find the media’s treatment the entire sex scandal to be contradictory and strange.

On the one hand there is apparent, and I say only apparent, outrage over Spitzer’s escapades with a high-priced prostitute. And on the other hand there is a bit of hand-rubbing glee that he’s been caught breaking the very laws that famously propelled him to legal superstar as New York’s top enforcer. Many are glad he’s been caught with his hand in the cookie jar that he rigidly patrolled.

There is a degree of gloating over him being caught in his crimes. Maybe it’s fueled by the dislike he seemed to spawn in the hearts of his opponents. He has a reputation for being quite arrogant, and there’s something delicious about seeing an arrogant man having to eat the dirt he dished out to others. It appears as if this is the sentiment that is pulsating in the public response to Spitzer, even more than apparent outrage over his sexual infidelity.

Yet for Ashley Dupre, no such outrage seems to exist. Instead of being appalled at this girl for engaging in not only illegal, but immoral acts with a married man, there is actually a level of curious interest in her life that has propelled her into a celebrity. Have we forgotten that she is no fair maiden, but a prostitute?

The larger percentage of the news about this scandal keeps showing photos of her in candid and posed settings, reporting about the number of music downloads and the accompanying money she’s made since the firestorm ensued, interviewing friends and co-workers to get more of an inside scoop on who she is and what she’s like. Why is all of this so interesting?

Well, media coverage as a whole seems strangely ambivalent about her. We are reminded that she’s was involved in the “sex scandal” with the governor, but what used to be shameful for being a prostitute is now soon overpassed for eager interest into the real life of an aspiring singer, who, mind you, if not for her sexual involvement with a public figure, would be of no interest whatsoever otherwise. No one would know about her if she hadn’t slept with the governor.

But that’s just it. She has become the main focus of interest in this story. People can’t get enough of her videos, songs, news stories showing her pictures and giving the latest tidbit of discovery about her. It’s as if there is an eager hope that we’ll catch a glimpse of something forbidden. We know we shouldn’t be so interested in the behind-the-scenes life of a prostitute, but we are.

It’s like the ambivilence people have toward a fatal car accident. Passers by don’t want to look for fear of the sight of blood or dead bodies, but who can resist looking after all? We want to look, but know we really shouldn’t.

Spitzer deserves worse than he’s gotten so far, but so does Dupre. Our society should not let getting paid to sleep with someone be a fast track to becoming a star. We shouldn’t be so interested. We should feel shame for her. I keep wondering if she does.

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Obama and His Pastor: Hypocritical Abuse of Scripture

March 15, 2008

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Barack Obama is in damage control mode this week as he is trying very hard to distance himself from his former pastor’s statements that America should be damned, among other things. But Obama himself has recently been guilty of mishandling Scripture in quite an egregious way.

Let me make clear here that my aim here in this post is decidedly un-political. Politics is the least of my concerns here. As a conservative, reformed, evangelical, Christian pastor, my concern is that someone who happens to be a political figure running for public office is publicly condemning statements made by his own pastor, while he himself is at the same time guilty of an egregious misuse of Scripture during a speech on the campaign trail. It’s the hypocrisy and the misuse of Scripture that I’m bothered by here, not the politics. If a Republican candidate had done this, then I still would have posted this.

Fist, here’s part of what his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr. said in April 2003, which Obama is now condemning:

“The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes three-strike laws and wants them to sing God Bless America.

“No! No No!

“God damn America … for killing innocent people.

“God damn America for threatening citizens as less than humans.

“God damn America as long as she tries to act like she is God and supreme.”

Regarding the terrorists attacks on 9/11 he said:

“We bombed Hiroshima. We bombed Nagasaki. And we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye,”

“We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because of stuff we have done overseas is now brought back into our own backyard. America is chickens coming home to roost.”

Incendary? Sure. Ridiculous conspiracy theories? No question. Irresponsible? I think so. Totally wrong? Not quite (I’ll explain below).

But is it worse than what Obama himself told a college crowd in Ohio last week?

“I don’t think it [a same-sex union] should be called marriage, but I think that it is a legal right that they should have that is recognized by the state,” said Obama. “If people find that controversial then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans.

There’s something in the Sermon on the Mount that condones homosexuality? One passage of Scripture is more central than another?

Let me translate that. In Romans 1:26-27, Paul, in keeping with several Old Testament passages, clearly and unequivocally condemns homosexuality as a sin, but somehow Barack (and many others) think that Jesus’ remarks in The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 actually contradict what Paul says. Even though Jesus never mentions homosexuality in His Sermon, somehow Barack, and those like him, think that something Jesus said in that Sermon condones homosexuality.

Usually passages like: “Do to others what you would have them do to you,” or “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” are appealed to as the Sermon’s basis for the acceptance of homosexuality. Somehow these passages are given greater weight than the clear statements in passages like Romans 1 that categorize homosexuality as a sin in the same list as murder, deceit, violence against others, etc.

These same people think murder and stealing is wrong, and have no shame in saying so, and yet they absolutely cannot accept the clear Biblical teaching that homosexuality is wrong as well. So, since homosexuality has become more culturally acceptable and defended as an acceptable and even moral (!) way to live, any statements in the Bible that appear to condemn homosexuality must be ignored, explained away, relegated as “obscure,” or somehow made “less central” (whatever that means). They therefore put the clear statements of Paul about homosexuality in direct contradiction to statements of Jesus that don’t even address the issue directly!

But Jesus’ statements DON’T contradict Paul. Jesus Himself repeatedly taught that marriage is between a man and a woman. In fact, He’s the One who instituted marriage in Genesis 2! Nowhere, I repeat, nowhere will you find support for homosexuality or any other sin in the words of Jesus, just like you will not find it in Paul or any other part of Scripture. You will only find clear condemnation of it as a sin.

But here are a few of the ironies with Barack and his pastor:

  • Barack is condemning his pastor’s remarks as wrong, but he uses Scripture to support something that is patently wrong.
  • Barack disagrees with Wright who says America should be damned for killing innocent people. He seems to be referring to his belief that America was the cause of 9/11, but isn’t it true that a nation who aborts millions of children each year is in danger of God’s judgment? Yet Barack supports killing of innocent people through abortion and defends himself by saying: “I certainly don’t think it makes me less Christian.”
  • Wright is being condemned as a bad man for making remarks against the greatness and integrity of the United States. Obama is being hailed as an almost messianic figure, and his remarks against the unity and integrity of the Holy Scripture are ignored as unimportant.
  • Remarks that condemn America’s goodness are condemned, but remarks that condone America’s evil are not condemned.

Sure, I think Wright is terribly wrong about his views. But what is being overlooked here, is that so is Obama and his views. Everyone is appalled at the pastor’s views (and rightly so), but no one is even questioning Obama’s! They’re assumed to be uncontroversial, completely mainstream, and unoffensive to most. I disagree. I really don’t believe that his views are mainstream, as much as the media would love for them to be, and they are unquestionably offensive to a good number of people, including me. I find them completely untenable with Biblical Christianity.

Here’s the issue as I see it. The attitude of our culture is this: Whatever is intolerant of anything anyone wants to do is evil. Whatever is tolerant of anything anyone wants to do, even if it is evil, is good. Do or say whatever you want, just don’t tell me that what I want to do or say is bad. That makes you bad, not me. And if I want to call myself a Christian and reject parts of the Bible and even justify certain sins as acceptable, who are you to tell me that I’m wrong?

Our culture’s self-consumed, hedonistic, authority-rejecting, deification of self is a curse on society, not a blessing. When a society rejects God’s ways for their own, it’s a recipe not only for anarchy, but judgment. Just ask the ancient Jews. (But since you can’t, you can read about it. Start in Judges and read through 2 Kings. Oh, and please make the effort to do that before you rip me in the comments.) 🙂


A Great Man Is Gone

February 28, 2008

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William F. Buckley, Jr. was a man of immense interest to me. I find myself more sorrowful for his recent passing than I expected I would, and it has been certainly more than I have felt for anyone else’s death, among those I never knew personally.

His political genius is renown, his influence is immeasurable, and his contribution to American culture and politics is enormous – reasons enough to pay attention to him. While each of those qualities of Mr. Buckley have evoked a great deal of admiration, respect, and sheer gratitude for him from me, there is yet another characteristic of Mr. Buckley that has drawn me to him more than nearly any other: his speech. That’s right, the way he talks.

Both his inimitable pattern of speech and the very things he said can hold me mezmerized for hours. It is for this very reason I have at times spent hours combing the web for audio and video clips of Mr. Buckley being interviewed or giving a speech. I just enjoy hearing him speak. So much so that when I was ready to buy his book, Miles Gone By, which was a bit of an autobiography, I opted for the audiobook when I found out he had read it, unabridged, himself. Sheer aural pleasure!

His mind was absolutely brilliant, a fertile landscape of ideas and acumen in which there seemed to be no horizon. And his vocabulary and wit famously matched the immensity of his mind. But it was his frequent use of long or obscure English words that make reading and listening to him almost irresistible.

The New York Times wrote:

Mr. Buckley’s vocabulary, sparkling with phrases from distant eras and described in newspaper and magazine profiles as sesquipedalian (characterized by the use of long words), became the stuff of legend.

Yes, and the stuff of learning for a curious mind like mine. He has played a part in fertilizing my own love for learning in general, and of words in particular. He has done more to give my dictionary an eager workout than any other.

It is a thorough delight to watch, listen to, or for that matter, read him, which I often do while trying to imagine hearing the way he would say what I’m reading, which I must admit, is half the reason I read his columns.

He was eloquent, funny, mischievous, gracious, and entirely affable. He was an interesting man with few rivals – certainly no social boor or intellectual bore. Ocean sailor, piano and harpsichord player, television debater, Alpine skier, U.N. delegate, mayoral candidate, and author of over 50 books (including novels) and enough articles to fill another 50, all make him a fascinating figure. I wish I had had the pleasure of meeting him.

William F. Buckley, Jr. will be missed. I, for one, already do.


Nebraska Democrat Sues God

September 17, 2007

This is just too good to pass up. Nebraska Democratic Senator Ernie Chambers has filed a suit against God.

Why?

His lawsuit states that he wants God (the defendant) to stop natural disasters from occurring on earth.

In it he says that the “defendant directly and proximately has caused, inter alia [that is, among other things], fearsome floods, egregious earthquakes, horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornados, pestilential plagues…”

But wait a minute, methinks I smell a contradiction here. For years Rabbi Kushner’s (author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People) notions about the relationship between God’s love and power have prevailed among many liberals. Namely, that since God is a loving God he would never allow these kinds of evils, if only He were able to prevent them. But alas, He is simply not that omnipotent or sovereign. He has to make the best of bad things just like we do.

So which is it Senator? Does He cause them or is He unable prevent them?

And furthermore, if you really do think God is capable of causing them, then do you not have enough sense (reverence) to refrain from accusing such a God – even if only to make a political point? And if you don’t think God is powerful enough to sovereignly control such things, then this silly lawsuit that dares to accuse Almighty God is “exhibit A” that good sense escapes you indeed!


Is Universal Healthcare a Moral Right? Part 2

August 24, 2007

This is a very important question seeing how universal healthcare is a recurring issue in presidential political campaigns, and has been discussed by the US Congress in increasing frequency over the past decade or so.

Megan McArdle has written a thought-provoking article over her blog at the Atlantic on this very issue. She frames the morality of the argument nicely as coming down to one thing: who is made better off, and who worse off, by the system?

Too often this issue is framed as a matter of efficiency, and not as a question of morality. Is it moral to empower a third party, such as the government, to become a single-payer of health insurance costs in order to forcefully take money (through taxation) from one group of people so that it can be transferred to another group of people? For example, is it right to take from the young and rich to give to the old and sick?

Megan writes: “The single payer advocates seem to invariably assume that the answer is yes. This is a natural reaction; the old and sick inspire our sympathy. But I am not sure that, as a group, they should also summon our sense of social injustice.”

She then adds:

How do we decide which class is more “deserving”? Our intuitions offer dozens of ways, but I think these are the major metrics:
1. They are needy. The class we propose to benefit has greater need for the money than the class from whom we propose to take.
2. It’s not fair. The class we propose to benefit has been unluckier than the class from whom we propose to take.
3. They are responsible. The class from whom we propose to take has in some way contributed to the problems we are trying to rectify.

I think these 3 questions summarize well the assumptions behind the rhetoric promoting universal healthcare.

Megan asks some honest questions that often get no airtime in the universal healthcare debate – mainly because arguing the merit of ideas is not as emotion-inducing as pleas for sympathy. No one wants people to think they are heartless and cruel, which is what you get accused of when you try to argue that universal healthcare is not a basic human right, and may just be immoral and unjust, since it involves forcible taxation of unwilling citizens, and, as is demonstrable in so many socialistic nations, actually reduces the quality of the healtcare that citizens recieve.So, on to her honest questions…

First, Megan writes: “As a class, are the old and sick needier than the young and healthy? No they are not. They have more assets and less poverty than any other group.”

Second, “As a class, are the old and sick unluckier than the young and healthy? Considering people as beings with duration in both time and space, no they are not. The overwhelming majority of old and sick people were once young and healthy. They got to be young and healthy, and old and sick.

Getting old is not, as many of my interlocutors seemed to believe, unlucky. It is, rather, inevitable–unless you’re really unlucky, unlucky enough to die. The elderly have no fairness claim on the young.”

Third, “As a class, are the young and healthy more responsible for the bad health of the old and sick? Quite the reverse. Many people in the old and sick category did nothing at all to deserve their fate; they just aged or were victims of fate. But some members of the “old and sick” class contributed to their fate. Contra many of my interlocutors, there are a lot of very expensive diseases that have a substantial lifestyle component: high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, diabetes, lung cancer, emphysema/COPD, congestive heart failure . . . many of our nation’s biggest killers, and consumers of health care dollars. So as a class, the old and sick are somewhat responsible for their poor healthcare outcomes, although I will leave it up to the doctors to argue exactly how much responsibility they bear.”

She concludes,

“By none of these three standards, therefore, can I make a compelling case for taking money from one huge group of young healthy people, and handing it over to another huge group of old and sick people. Even if I leave aside things like property rights, coercion, deadweight loss–things I realise my liberal interlocutors aren’t particularly concerned with, but my libertarian inquisitors will be–I don’t see how the massive transfer implicit in single payer is justice-enhancing.

If we are worried that some people cannot afford healthcare, there is a much simpler solution than constructing a giant government-run system; we could just give them the money to buy it.”

Yes, while this solution might have some shortcomings as well, it would at least serve justice more equally, fairly and responsibly to ALL groups of people. Not to mention that it would discourage wastefulness in healthcare spending and encourage the kind of cost reductions that are inherent in a competitive market. Socialized products and services typically reduce quality and increase prices, and thus the tax burden. None of those things is good.

One last thing. She adds:

“There is indeed a very compelling moral argument to be made in favor of some sort of government sponsored health care finance, which is simply this: no one should die, or suffer unduly, because they don’t have the money to pay for treatment. Some of my libertarian readers will say that this still doesn’t give the government the right to take the fruits of our labor by force, but in fact, I find this argument fairly convincing.”

So, while I think that there is a place for making provision for those who are truly in need on an as-needed basis, it doesn’t require the kind of tax burden that the full-scale provisions of universal healthcare would place on taxpayers. Providing universal healthcare over-reaches in its burden, and  it promises more that it can genuinely deliver.

It sounds compassinate, but it isn’t. Not to the patient or the taxpayer. There is a better way that doesn’t trample social justice in the name of defending it. We need to be willing to ask the hard, honest questions of who, in the end, is made better off, and who worse off. And it would help if we could keep emotions and a condescending attitude out of the debate.

 


“Expelled” – Exposing Scientific Intolerance

August 23, 2007

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It’s about time! Finally someone is making a movie that exposes the radical fundamentalism of the scientific left. None other than the brilliant financial funnyman (“Bueller”) Ben Stein is making a movie called “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” to be released in February 2008.

What’s it about? It exposes how the scientific community blackballs scientists who question the dubious theories of Darwinism, global warming, etc., and especially those who dare to even think that “intelligent design” might have credence. We’ve heard about this kind of thing happening for years, but no one has come along to tell the story in large form like this.

It never surprises me to see Hollywood produce the kind of leftist propaganda that Michael Moore is known for, but it IS surprising to see something like this come out of there. Prepare for an onslaught of detractors – especially those who while yelling the loudest for academic freedom and ideological tolerance, are militant in squelching any voices that dare dissent with liberal ideology or current scientific dogma.

Click the image to view the trailer.

(HT: Tom Ascol)


Procreation for Prizes?

August 15, 2007

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Two stories today stand in amazing juxtaposition to one another, and reveal conflicting cultural concerns for our friends across the pond. The first story is why European birthrates are freefalling, and the second is how Russia is taking bizarre steps to actually increase its birthrates. Two questions frame the issues involved:

First, why is Russia concerned with birthrates?

Their population has been shrinking since 1990, and Russia is already one of the most sparsely settled nations on earth.

No surprise, the birthrate is on the rise. The Denver Post reports that, “In his state-of-the-nation address last year, President Vladimir Putin called the demographic crisis the most acute problem facing Russia and announced a broad effort to boost Russia’s birth rate, including cash incentives to families that have more than one child.”

Here’s the fun part: Russia has “declared Sept. 12 the Day of Conception and for the third year running is giving couples time off from work to procreate. The hope is for a brood of babies exactly nine months later on Russia’s national day. Couples who “give birth to a patriot” during the June 12 festivities win money, cars, refrigerators and other prizes.”

I’ve written more about this as it relates to various Russian youth movements and thier promotion of sex among youth. See here and here. This is about preserving a national identity that stands on the perceived achievements of Stalin, and eliminating democracy. It is frighteningly similar to the nationalism and fascism that blossomed in Germany under the Nazis as a response to the massive demoralization and economic depression that Germans faced prior to WWII.

So, why is Europe NOT concerned about birthrates?

Al Mohler address this today on his blog: “Why the Baby Bust?

The bottom line conclusion: “children mean obligation. They are needy, expensive, and dependent. People who are committed to personal autonomy as their greatest good will see children as an imposition, not a blessing.”

Are Europeans just too self-centered to care about the future of their own civilization?

Mohler quotes Noah Pollak of Azure magazine:

“The explanation for Europe’s turn from reproducing its civilization is, in fact, as simple and self-contained as how children themselves are viewed. People avoid having children not because they are irreligious, lack financial means, fear the possibility of divorce, or carry university degrees. Rather, people do not have children because they do not want them: They find the curtailment of personal freedom and the assumption of the decades-long obligation inherent in parenthood unattractive, and they do not want to accept the basic restructuring of life that having a family requires. This is not a product of objective economic or social factors; rather, it is a subjective judgment about the meaning and purpose of one’s life and the civilization in which that life is lived. It is, ultimately, a moral answer to a moral question: The question of the value people ascribe to their own families and their own heritage, in a broader cultural context.”

The most frightening part of this story is that Europe stands to become an Islamic stronghold, purely due to Muslim birthrates and immigration rates.

We can only hope our European friends will awaken to these issues and give themselves to a cause bigger than themselves. If they don’t they stand to loose their own beloved culture and civilization.