Showing posts with label Politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Politics. Show all posts

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Postal Service is Terrible (Or: Thoughts on Health Care Reform)

The Saturday before last, I ordered a CD online. It shipped from a warehouse in New Jersey that Tuesday at 6:20 am. It arrived in Oklahoma City, and was accepted by the United States Postal Service, at 7:09 am on Friday—almost exactly 3 days of travel time. Travel distance was approximately 1,400 miles.

The CD has yet to arrive in my mailbox.

From Oklahoma City to Norman is 20 miles. I can understand that processing time meant the package could not have arrived on Friday. I can even accept, if not quite understand, that the package did not arrive on Saturday. Yet it is utterly beyond my reach to fathom how the CD cannot have come today.

All this, for a meager 20 miles. If the package comes tomorrow when our mail comes a little after noon (and it had better, or I will be exceptionally grumpy), it will have taken longer to travel those 20 miles than it did the preceding 1,400—even with skipping Sunday.

In short, the United States Postal Service is mind-bogglingly slow—so slow that they would be run out of business within a matter of months if they faced a competitive market. Postal work is hard, and I am not trying to run down the workers; I have friends who are employed by the USPS. But the system is deeply, badly broken. (Sadly, I could say much the same about my own place of employment, but defense contracts are another problem altogether.) Colossal bureaucracy has combined with the effects of monopoly to produce a response so sluggish and unreliable as to be laughable in any other context.

Edit, with chagrin (although the point at large remains): today is Columbus Day. I worked, and so forgot that the Post Office doesn't.

This illustrates almost perfectly why I and many people that I know are deeply opposed to "health care reform" insofar as that means increased government involvement in the health care system. It is not that I do not care about those less fortunate than me, not that I do not see the brokenness of the current medical system, not that I think our current medical insurance system is anything less than a catastrophe. It is, quite simply, that I cannot believe that the government will do it better.

It is beyond question that the health care system is in desperate, urgent need of reform. No one I know disputes that. What is not only open to debate but in equally urgent need of debate is how health care is to be reformed. In last year's political battle, the discussion was almost never nuanced: opponents of the bill were caricatured as greedy misers enriched by the current system, and proponents of the bill as socialists interested in the destruction of American ideals. (Needless to say, I was not impressed by the argumentation on either side: ad hominem is annoying and juvenile, however unfortunately effective it may be.)

Obviously the issues are far more complex than our 30-second soundbyte media culture can readily handle (and that's a future blog post, as well). What worries me is that the issues are apparently more complex than most Americans can handle.

On the one hand, that's not a surprise; after all, any discussion of health care reform automatically involves billions of dollars, insurance companies, pharmaceutical development, hospital management, down-the-street clinics, cancer treatment and research, abortion, euthanasia, and a host of other issues. It's not one problem to be solved; it's dozens of challenges and problems so closely interrelated that any proposed solution for one may deleteriously impact another.

On the other hand, few Americans—including those in Congress—seem willing to make the effort to understand even at a basic level the options available for health care reform. The only options, as the story went last fall, were to reform health care or not—meaning to move health care to the public domain, or not. Rarely was it acknowledged, much less discussed at any length, that many of the issues being debated had more than binary options available. To take the most prominent example, health insurance companies operate on a thoroughly unhealthy model—but a number of issues can be addressed regardless of whether insurance falls under the government's umbrella.

First, it must be acknowledged that we treat medical insurance differently than any other. Imagine paying insurance to cover part of your oil change—and then remember that the oil change on your car is roughly equivalent to your annual physical exam at your family practice doctor. Minor outpatient procedures are in many ways analogous to getting a new transmission—hardly small costs, but things we save for (or, at worst, pay with a credit card). These things cost immensely more than they should—and more than they would, if the system did not involve a positive feedback loop through the insurance system.

I had a medical staple put in my head a few years ago courtesy of a friend's elbow. The total cost of the trip to the ER and the staple—perhaps 7 minutes of time, including checking in, the triage nurse's examination, and the actual insertion of the stable—was over $1000; I paid $100 myself. I sat there for an hour, waiting for a forty-second piece of work by the doctor. The system is broken—but that is because we use it the wrong way. That will not change under government administration.

Similarly, no one can dispute that malpractice suits have been and continue to be one of the drivers of ever-rising insurance costs. The threat of a suit for nearly any failure, real or perceived, has made the cost of even simple procedures exorbitant. This combines with the positive feedback loop mentioned above to produce unbelievable situations with little or no relation to supply and demand. The issue is the threat of lawsuit—not the cost or real risk of the procedure.

Health care reform must begin by addressing these sorts of issues, if it is to be successful. Moreover, it can address these issues without bringing up the far more difficult and heated topics like government-run systems. I would wholeheartedly support legal (that is, regulatory) measures designed to curb the issues mentioned above, even while my ongoing experiences with the federal government would lead me to wholeheartedly oppose taking health insurance into the public sector. In short, there is room for a great deal to be done without leaping to either extreme in this area.

I do not trust the federal government to run the medical practice of this country any more effectively than it does the mail system, and accordingly could never support taking health care public. At the same time, I recognize that unregulated capitalism has produced a tower of cards that is certain to topple disastrously sometime in our future. Somewhere between the two is probably our safest bet, balancing great powers against each other. Where that line is will remain up for debate—but there is much we can do in the meantime. Hopefully, we can do it civilly and reasonably, recognizing that on many issues (including those I highlighted above) there is probably a great deal of agreement among most Americans, whatever their views on last year's bill.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Public Prayer is Always Subversive

I shared this via my Google Reader account, so it should be hitting my Twitter and Facebook streams shortly. It's good enough to post at more length here, however.

Jared Wilson, writing at The Gospel-Centered Church:

Public prayer is always a subversive act. I don't care if you're in the churchgoer-thick of the Bible Belt or the post-Christendom wasteland of New England: praying to the Triune God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and John the Baptist in public announces to everyone that Jesus is King and our "Caesars" are not. It announces that our governmental Caesars are not sovereign and the great Caesar of Self -- or the great "Pope Self," if you prefer Luther's twist -- are not sovereign. This is a subversive act. Increasingly so in every part of the Western world.

But especially so here in the Northeast.

This means that push-back on public prayer should not surprise us. You can claim your rights and freedoms all you want; the second you declare there is a God who is sovereign over all and that his Son is the only Way to eternal life, even if you're doing it with your eyes shut, head bowed, and mouth shut, you are telling anybody who disagrees not only that they're wrong, but that they're deadly wrong. And people don't like that.

But push-back on public prayer should not deter us.

I do think American evangelicals conflate too often Christianity with American patriotism, which leads to wanting to fight battles the New Testament gives us no directive to fight. I don't know exactly where Rev. Smith is going with his final words, but the American flag is no talisman for prayer. Your prayer doesn't need it to reach God and your prayer doesn't need it to offend unbelievers. (In many cases, I would think it would be an unnecessary offense. Why insist on the flag? Just persist in prayer.)

Wilson elaborates on those thoughts a bit, so it's worth your time to read the whole thing (as well as the situation that inspired the comments).

I think the very best part of that post, though, is the two points bolded (and the bolding was in the original post): we should not be surprised when people are offended by our clear proclamation of the gospel. People always have been. We should expect resistance, persecution, trouble. While our freedom is precious and beautiful and good—and I treasure it deeply—fighting for our "rights" as Christians can (does not always, but can) obfuscate our real mandate: making Christ known.

It is good for some, perhaps even many Christians to be involved in protecting religious freedom in this country. At the same time, Christians should be known as people who are not easily offended or affronted, who are not protective of our rights, who are ultimately more concerned for others' salvation than worried about their own persecution. Again, I am not saying that protecting religious freedom is bad; I am just pleading that we not make it an idol (or, in many cases, that we renounce the idol we have already made of it).

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Good songs, bad politics, good marriage - 500 words

I’ve been listening to some of Brooke Fraser’s music recently. It’s very good, and I’ve found myself with the nearly overwhelming urge to sing along. That’s great, until it happens when I’m at work, desperately trying to quash the urge before I have everyone in my area yelling at me… especially since I always have head phones in. Fraser is, from what I understand, a New Zealander who moved to Australia. She’s also an excellent lyricist and songwriter. Her personal albums are some of my favorite listening, and her worship songs are among my very favorites. Check out her music.

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One of Fraser’s songs includes the lines, “I am changing, less and less asleep / Made of different stuff than when I began.” The statement, along with the rest of the song (“Shadowfeet”) seems to be a fitting summary of my life right now. God is working to transform me, and of course that’s a process that takes a long time and a lot of work. It’s also incredibly rewarding. The joy of sanctification is incomparable. That’s good, because the pain can seem to be equally incomparable. Gladly, it’s not, and it’s only for a season.

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Marriage, no matter how hard, is one of the greatest gifts God has given us. In my admittedly brief experience thus far, I can wholeheartedly say that after salvation, it is the greatest joy in my life. Our marriage has been anything but perfect thus far: it’s challenging, sometimes painful, and often tiring. Yet it has been such a blessing to me. Nothing in my life has stretched me so much, taught me so many things, or humbled me so deeply. Equally, nothing has encouraged me, delighted me, or filled me so deeply with life. I highly recommend it.

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I find myself increasingly frustrated by Washington politics. I have never been one to think politics the solution to all our problems, though I’ve certainly been tempted. More and more, however, I’m aware that the problems of our world cannot and will not be solved by any political action, no matter how well intentioned. As Douglas Wilson has pointed out, the only hope for our culture’s reformation is in the reformation of the church. Heart change must precede policy change, or the policy change will be ineffective at best. This is as true for healthcare as abortion.

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As I was working today, I ran into a significant snag in the program I’d written. I spent the next hour tracking down the root of the problem. In the end, the problem was in the last place I thought to look: the inputs. Lesson learned: when a functioning program suddenly stops working, check the inputs, as well. It’s certainly possible that a heretofore unrevealed problem has raised its head… but just as likely, the external conditions are different. In life, of course, we see the opposite (which also happens in programming): circumstances simply expose what’s in our hearts.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dealing with hard questions

There is a deep tension in Christianity garbed in modernity. We struggle to find the balance between clear proclamation of truth and a heartfelt expression of love to lost people who surround us. We wrestle with the necessities of the church's engagement with culture and politics and the church's need to present the gospel in a winsome way. At the most fundamental level, we struggle with letting the good news of Jesus Christ's life, death, and resurrection be the stumbling block that it is, while ourselves not being a stumbling block. And it is good for us to struggle with this tension.

An example (and not a pretty one, but hear me through to the end): the clear teaching of Scripture is that remarriage under nearly any circumstance is sinful. Jesus said, "It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.'" (Matthew 5.31-32) He followed it up some time later thus:
And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” (Matthew 19.1-9)

Jesus Himself - the one we most often think of as the great voice of compassion of the Scriptures, the one who indeed is mercy and love incarnate, clearly says that remarriage under any circumstances except sexual immorality and remarries is committing adultery. Adultery is soundly condemned throughout the Scriptures - from Genesis to Revelation, and in a considerable majority of the texts. It is indeed one of the metaphors God used most frequently in the Old Testament to speak of Israel's unfaithfulness to Him. So the teaching of Scripture is that divorce is allowed because of the hardness of men's hearts and a few other circumstances - sexual immorality and abandonment being the main examples. Only in the case of divorce for sexual immorality is remarriage allowed Biblically.

With that as context, we now must face the question of how to handle that topic as the church - Christ's representatives in this age. We are left with a tension that at first seems difficult to resolve: there are people in our churches who have divorced and remarried and built new families. What do we tell them? How do we show the love of Christ to them? There is no question that we are called to pour forth love and to encourage single parents and members of blended families. At the same time, church leaders, especially teaching pastors, are responsible to clearly proclaim God's teaching on the matter and to enforce it. (I do not believe, for example, that a pastor should perform a second marriage unless the divorce was for adultery: the pastor is responsible for his sheep, and as outlined above, Scripture is clear on this issue.) At the same time, believers are commanded to love one another. We validate our discipleship to the world by the way we love one another - or invalidate it by the way we don't. We are left with a question that, in worldly terms, has no answer. Somehow we must simultaneously love with open arms those who have remarried and proclaim the sinfulness of remarriage. And there are many such questions - the most current being homosexuality or abortion and the church's response to them. It is hopeless.

But we do not operate in the wisdom of this world. We are gifted with the Holy Spirit, who teaches us all things - and the answer has already been given, if we but by His grace remember it.

Christ Jesus is the answer to this question, not only in His way of life but in His suffering and His victory. We may forthrightly proclaim the most difficult of Biblical doctrines because we are assured of the truth of the gospel. We may tell the broken prostitute who took up her trade because she saw no other alternative: Yes, this was sin. And Christ has paid the price! We may say to the man who is regularly behaving unethically in his business: this is sin. And Christ has paid the price! We may say to the homosexual: this is sin. And Christ has paid the price. We may say to every man alive: every lustful look was adultery. And Christ has paid the price! We may say to every person living: you have sinned, you have desecrated the image of God in you, you have rejected God Himself. And with tears in our eyes as we remember all that He has delivered us from, we may say:

Christ has paid the price!

For every sin, for every transgression, for every failure, the price has already been paid. We bring no condemnation, because in Christ there is none. In due time, Christ died for the ungodly.

Me. You. Every person living.

Therein lies the answer to the tension, to the question - to every difficult question that confronts us today. Our answer is in Jesus Christ Himself. We speak the truth clearly. All of it. We clearly declare what sin is - and then we clearly proclaim the reality of salvation in Jesus Christ. Where grace is proclaimed without the declaration of the evil of sin, people see no need for repentance. Where sin's horror is proclaimed without the saving power of Jesus Christ, condemnation reigns. Where both the sinfulness of sin and the greatness of the grace of God are proclaimed, there is life.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

American dreams

There is something in me that simply cannot be expressed, but comes welling up whenever I read stories like Tang Xiaozhao's. There is something about every story of people saying, "This is wrong, and that is right, and I'm willing to fight for it." There is something about every story of people yearning to break the chains of tyranny and have freedom. There is, in short, something about the American story and the way that it continues to prove a model - however broken - for millions around the world.

People love America. Plenty of people hate America's actions. Very few hate the idea of America. Tyrants do, of course. But the people? People love the idea of America.

America as it was meant to be, you understand: not this self-consumed and bloated picture of consumerism, but the land of noble people who will put others ahead of themselves and the good of their country above their own advancement. It's never really been that. But it has been the hope of that.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride form land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, you rpoor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Emma Lazarus' Statue of Liberty-seated words still move me, and deeply. Not because America is any of those things. But rather because there is something in the image painted in them that is far deeper than America. There is, you see, a promise of a better country - a really better country, where every man is every other's equal, where freedom is more than an unvoiced dream, where every man is every other's brother as well as neighbor, where justice is actually done, where pasts are washed away and every man has another chance.

America has never been that - not in its best moments, and certainly not in its worsts.

But people keep dreaming of America as what it dreams of being.

I figured out why.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in my heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11.28-30

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to reeive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. Hebrews 11.8-10

For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a temptest and the sound of a trumpet a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them... But you hve come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gather, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel... Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12.18-19,22-24,28-29

For behold, I create new heavens
and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
or come into mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
in that which I create;
for behold, I create Jerusalem to e a joy,
and her people to be a gladness.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and be glad in my people;
nor more shall be heard it in the sound of weeping
and the cry of distress.
Nor more shall there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who doe snot fill out his days
for the young men shall die a hundred years old,
and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.
They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for liek the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
They shall not labor in vain
or bear children for calamity,
for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord,
and their descendants with them.
Before they call I will answer;
while they are yet speaking I will hear.
the wolf and the lamb shall graze together;
the lion shall eat straw like the ox,
and dust shall be the serpent's food.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain,"
says the Lord.
Isaiah 65.17-25

People are dreaming of a city with foundations. They're hoping for a kingdom that cannot be shaken. They're looking for heaven. People love America because in the dream of America - only in the dream, but very deeply in that dream - there is a taste of heaven, a taste of what we long for, what we were made for.

All we dream of in America will be so far surpassed by heaven that we shall look back on it as but the shadow of an echo of a quickly fading dream.

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. An dI will be their God, and they shall be my people. Jeremiah 31.33

My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Ezekiel 37.27

Friday, June 20, 2008

Conclusions

The political arena, though we should not abandon it, will never be a source of salvation. Nor will we ever make a Christian nation by means of politics. Christianity will influence America only when we make Christ first, and never when we seek to advance His goals by political, rather than spiritual, means.

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If the goal of Christians active in the political arena is to prevent Christians in America from suffering persecution, then, in the inimitable words of internet slang: "Ur doin it wrong." We are not to run from persecution, ever, and while we are not to seek it, either, we ought to gladly embrace the opportunity to suffer for the cause of Christ. He promised that if we follow Him, we will have persecution; the apostles made it very clear that opposition and persecution are normal and indeed normative parts of the Christian life. So if we are striving to avoid persecution, we are striving away from what Christ has promised.

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On the note of suffering, if Christ said that those who suffer for His name's sake are blessed, why be so bothered by it? And why reject something so fundamental to our growth, our sanctification, our ultimate glorification. Anyone who has lived any length of time knows it to be true that our greatest growth is nearly always in our deepest valleys, and that God is most readily apparent in our lives when we are most dependent on Him - typically when things are at their worst.

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We do not value all labor as we ought. We think things are beneath us. And that's sad. The fact that we would elevate the work of the academician over the work of the carpenter is a tragedy. The fact that we have culturally come to believe that people without a college education are somehow less worthy is a horrifying state of affairs. How many parents have said - either directly or implicitly - to their children that the career choice they have in mind "just isn't good enough"?

And why have we embraced this mentality? Because our culture places a higher value on intellectual work than on physical labor. Personally, I think that's folly. I understand that many people's decisions now come out of the simple economics of the situation - but those economics are themselves only a reflection of cultural mentalities: that working with one's hands is somehow less than working with one's mind.

Jesus was a carpenter by vocation, not a philosopher or even a priest. Chew on that for a minute, and maybe rethink the way you see the world.

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Racism goes all ways, and all its ways are ugly. It's a vile sin, a stain and a blight on humanity, and I wish it were gone. I wish Americans as a whole were not so xenophobic - and that many of the ones who aren't would exercise some common sense.

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Why is it that we think things are one-or-the-other in every circumstance: the rule of law or mercy, for example? Why not both?

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Humility is a misunderstood and highly lacking virtue in our society. Misunderstood, because most people don't think it's a virtue and the few who do tend to think it's nothing but constant self-abasement, rather than quiet and simple recognition of who one actually is, and who God actually is. The talented think themselves greater than they are. The untalented do the same. And the ones who think humility important pretend they do not think themselves greater than they are - but they think it all the same.

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Sanctification isn't something you or I can manage. All our effort will take us precisely as far in growing in holiness as it will in bringing us salvation: namely, not at all. The only effective agent of setting apart for God in our lives is the grace of God.

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We ought to be sanctifying our minds, not just our deeds. That's more than just not watching bad movies: it's watching good ones. It's more than not just reading bad novels: it's reading good ones. It is more than merely the rejection of bad ideas in culture: it is creating good ideas in culture. It is more than simply decrying the woes of politics: it is to work toward just laws.

It is more than seeing a fallen world. It is seeing the King and Savior who is making it more than not-fallen: good.

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Grace and peace be with you. Worship God!

- Chris

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A profound thought

A blogging friend of mine has a way of posting incredibly profound thoughts that are short but provoke considerable contemplation. His February 4 post did precisely that... take a read and think on it for a bit.
In his 1863 "Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day", Abraham Lincoln asserted that American's had taken for granted God's kindness: "We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own".

Thank God for how He uses the body for mutual encouragement!

- Chris

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Yes!

Urgent reading to be found right here. The Supreme Court just handed down its ruling on the 2003 ban on partial birth abortions. And it's really, really good news... praise God. It's the first fruits of President Bush's appointments of strict constructionist judges to the Supreme Court, and it excites me to no end.

(I know I'm going to catch some flack on this. I don't mind. Just understand that I hold the views I do because I believe Scripture supports them, as well as because of considerable evidence from psychology and sociology.)

Grace and peace to all of you.

Sourced: Mary Katherine Ham/Townhall.com

- Chris

Friday, March 16, 2007

Read this!

Please read this article; I believe it will be a blessing and an encouragement to all of you. Continue to pray for men and women to stand up as Ted Harvey did a few years ago - and that God would reward him for his faithfulness. We need more people like that!

- Chris

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Interview with the President

Don't think the President is real? Don't think he understands the gravity of the situation in Iraq, or is really trying to do the very best he can by both us and the Iraqi people? You're wrong, then. Go here, and you'll see what I mean.

And pray for him to have wisdom.

- Chris

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Apologies

I apologize for not posting yesterday. It was a very odd day; I was unusually unproductive on all fronts, save for performing my civic duty by filling out my absentee ballot for the November 7 US election. Please go vote!

I'll probably have a good post tonight. Until then, grace and peace be with all of you!

- Chris

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Important Correction!

As an important correction, when I posted that it was Colorado Amendment 44 that pertained to marriage, I was in error. Amendment 43 is the marriage amendment. The original post has been amended to reflect the correct numbering on the amendment. My apologies!

- Chris

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

As promised...

As I promised, I went ahead and did some independent research on the response made by Michael Medved to the claim of 49.7% marriage rates in the U.S. As expected, I confirmed his results. A massive number of the people not in marriages are simply people living alone - 26.9%, in fact. Comparing that to married persons puts the number of married persons in the US at almost 4 times higher than that of those living alone, unmarried. It's simple math, but math that the media has chosen not to do in the interest of supporting the idea that traditional marriage is outmoded and fading - that is, in the interest of supporting the redefinition of marriage.

What is perhaps most frustrating to me is how little people have done to clarify their understanding of the actual data. Websites like this one simply present the data in a raw form, without any context, historical or otherwise, and then irresponsibly misconstrue the information:

In 1930, fully 84 percent of American households included a married couple.

The 20th century, however, saw momentum build within such anti-marriage trends as fornication and out-of-wedlock parenthood, cohabitation, divorce, single parenthood and homosexuality—at the same that the stigma against all of these phenomena shriveled. Thus, over that period, the number of marriageless households increased, and the percentage of married households dropped: By 1990 it was 56 percent; in 2000 it was still 52 percent.

This is - or rather, ought to be - unacceptable treatment of something as important as the truth about the situation of American families. While the analysis has a certain amount of truth in it, it ultimately ignores essential facts that make the comparison rather fallacious. In the 1930's, it was hardly common for widowers and widows to live on decades past the deaths of their spouses. Today, it's quite common. I agree that there has been cultural erosion against the institute of marriage, but between the reality of the numbers given by this data, and the fact that marriage is actually stabilizing and in some ways becoming more important to people (cf. this years State of Our Unions report), we need to realize that the situation is not nearly so dire as it might be - as indeed it is in other parts of the world. And for that we ought to be immensely grateful.

On a related note, many states have constitutional amendments and or ballot provisions regarding marriage coming up this fall. I ask you to pray about exactly how God wants you to vote for candidates in terms of their support for (or opposition to) the defense of traditional marraige. I believe it's already clear how we ought to be voting on the aforementioned amendments (Amendment 43 and Referendum I in Colorado; I don't know the information for elsewhere).

- Chris

Really?

This caught my attention while reading Michael Medved's column today on Townhall.com:

That’s one of the reasons that so many Americans so readily accept the pernicious lie of the 50% divorce rate, despite the most recent (2001) Census Bureau figures showing that 71% of first marriages last till one of the partners die (see my blog from Monday). [emphasis mine]

I'm honestly not entirely sure what to do with that, other than go look and see if I can't find some confirmation. From his blog Monday after new Census figures came out:

This interpretation of the data is ridiculous, manipulative and profoundly misleading at a time when statistics show that at least 85% of Americans will eventually marry, and that more than 60% of U.S. adults above the age of 25 are currently married. Most unmarried adults are aging widows and widowers (a rapidly increasing number) or else young people below age 25 who haven’t yet married, but expect to get hitched eventually.


So what, exactly, are the “experts” talking about when they suggest that married people are now “outnumbered?”


The New York Times announces this conclusion in the following way: “Married couples, whose numbers have been declining for decades as a proportion of American households, have finally slipped into a minority…The American Community Survey, released recently by the Census Bureau, found that 49.7%, or 55.2 million, of the nation’s 111.1 million households in 2005 were made up of married couples….”


This may sound worrisome, until you realize that this highly touted figure involves households, not individuals.


To get some sense of the difference, imagine a block on a suburban cul de sac that includes six homes. Three of them are occupied by married couples; the other three are in inhabited by an elderly widow, living alone; a struggling single mom with her kids, and a swinging bachelor with a succession of glamorous dates. In other words, there are a total of six households on “Wisteria Court” and, like the national figures, only half of them feature married couples. But of the nine adults (total) who reside on this block, two thirds are currently married.


This little example illustrates the deceptive, dishonest way that major news outlets have decided to trumpet the new figures. Counting “households” as discrete units, two people who have been married for a long time are balanced by a single person who’s never yet married. The current decline in married couples as a percentage of all households reflects demographic factors concerning the huge baby boom generation: with more boomers counting as officially “unmarried” because they’re victims of divorce, or else widows and widowers.


The rest of the blog entry is well-worth reading. And, as I said, I intend to go looking for confirmation of this from independent sources as well as by looking at the data myself. (I'll get back to you on that later today, hopefully.) This information needs to get out, and quickly, because it says a great deal about the realities in our culture versus our perceived realities - and this at least is something that ought to be very encouraging to Christians attempting to make a difference in their culture.

- Chris

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

To provoke a little thought

The United States today officially passed the 300 million persons mark according to the US Census Bureau. That's not counting illegal aliens in the US, of course, who pushed us past that number quite some time ago, by most estimates (given there are at least 12 million undocumented aliens here, you can extrapolate back a ways to figure out just how long ago if you feel so inclined). It seems like a lot of people... but as noted by the folks over at The Boundless Line, it really isn't, and in fact, our population, like that of Europe and Japan, is actually on its way to declining.

In the short term, our population will continue to rise, particularly as it is bolstered by the more traditionally family-oriented immigrants coming here from largely Asian and Latino backgrounds. Longterm, however, we're headed for the same situation as Japan and Europe, whose birth rates have fallen significantly in recent years, and now sit well below the replacement rate (which sits somewhere around 2.3 children per home). This is, of course, part of the ongoing reason for the Social Security "crisis" (there are many opinions as to the magnitude of that particular issue, and this post, at least, is not the place to go into them), and it will almost certainly cause other significant issues to arise in our future that we have not faced yet.

More importantly, though, as Candice Watters and Ted Slater variously hinted at and more directly pointed out in their blog entries today, they reflect a shift in our cultural mentality - far more visibly pronounced in Europe and Japan - that ought to capture our attention. In short, we are on the fast track to becoming a culture of death (some, like Ramesh Ponuru, would argue not only that we are headed that way but that in many parts of the country we are already there). This is disturbing on all number of levels. The Netherlands, for example, already have many cases of forced "assisted suicide" - that is, murder - by the very doctors once sworn by Hippocratic Oath to protect life. People supporting euthanasia nearly always conveniently overlook this fact, either from willful disregard or from forced ignorance. Abortion, too, is a significant issue in this culture of death, and will remain so. When we nihilistically value ourselves to the exclusion of anyone around us, it is all but inevitable that we will find ourselves (as we have) in a culture dedicated to "therapeutic" death. The Romans found themselves at the bottom of the slope we now tread in the days before their ultimate end. How much farther have we to fall?

- Chris

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Pray. Hard.

It appears that North Korea has (as long threatened) tested a nuclear warhead. The world is a different place than it was three hours ago. The country is led by a veritable madman; it has an inferiority complex, particularly as compared to its far wealthier southern neighbor and counterpart; and it has ties to terrorist organizations around the world.

Pray. Pray for wisdom for our leaders. Pray for reason to prevail - against both hysteria and underestimation of this situation. And don't forget that God is God. This doesn't surprise Him, and He is ultimately still in control of the world.

Peace be with all of you.

- Chris