Category Archives: gender

Toward Principled Compromise: Reimagining the Common Good, Part Two

Continuing our conversation on the common good and better pathways for solving seemingly intractable problems, here are some more arenas crying out for creativity.

Education: Current Reaction: Write off a portion of student debt without reforming the bloated, inefficient systems that lead to the debt. A Better Way: Let’s open trade school avenues for high school grads (with remediation in general education available) so that we can fill the millions of job openings with skilled workers and prepare a new generation of qualified women and men for the exciting changes ahead. Let’s get out of the loan business altogether and increase scholarships for qualified students, while making schools much more efficient, focused and less political. Avenues for redeeming poor K-12 experiences through community colleges are worthy of support, and we must repent of the immoral practice of accepting loan money for students ill-prepared for higher education.

Education (K-12): Honor teachers, pay them better, reduce overhead costs, and rid schools of foolish programs having nothing to do with a real education for the future world of work. Learn from successful charter schools. Give parents choices, for a competitive landscape will improve quality. Federal ethics and general guidelines matter, but administration is always better locally and we should eventually have a very small Department of Education.

Climate Change: Recognize that the American carbon footprint continues to decrease while China, Russia, India, and others are responsible for most emissions and pollution. Recognize that all the current UN and treaty solutions, even generously interpreted, only minimally reduce global temperatures. This does NOT mean a return to old policies, but a wiser approach to environmental sustainability without exaggerated apocalyptic rhetoric and economically destructive solutions, including coercive transfers of wealth.

Gender and Sexuality: Affirm adult freedom to identify as they choose, while acknowledging the sincere beliefs of billions of people who hold more traditional beliefs. Toleration is not affirmation – it is living peaceably with different views of the world. End the war on the biological nuclear family and work on the crisis of fatherlessness (something President Obama cares deeply about) and help a new generation understand that their choices of intimacy and welcoming a child include immense responsibilities. 

And two deeper issues (for future essays): We need conversations on anthropology and epistemology. With compassion and respect, we need robust dialogue on what it means to be human and biologically male and female, and the implications for the family, education, and society. Epistemology speaks to the nature of knowledge. We are in a crisis concerning objective understanding of reality. Living with deep differences of perspective is a sign of liberty and maturity. Refusing to listen to other perspectives and attempting to suppress opinions (I am not speaking about direct evils or threats) is unhealthy for our future.

There are thoughtful pathways forward, if we have humility and love, listening ears and clear heads.

Two Questions

As we consider the turmoil in our streets and online, there are two guiding questions that may help us with a civil and insightful conversation. First, what does “there” look like as we aspire for a more humane, just, and loving world? Second, what are some practical steps toward this vision?

It is much easier to agitate and destroy than it is to build just and sustainable structures that help offer a flourishing future for all. Tearing down monuments to an unjust past is emotionally understandable. Yet, thinking deeply how to teach and understand the many narrative of American history will require more thoughtfulness that current reactions.

Conservatives tend to ignore the historical and systemic shortcomings and focus on personal opportunity and responsibility in achieving the ideals of the Founders and Framers. Some (not all) progressives find it hard to affirm anything positive about the past but offer few practical and economically feasible solutions for all the crises we face.

What does “there” look like? I long for a day when every (of every color or culture, class and gender) person – from conception to coronation – lives in a world with access, equity, and opportunity and can, with the help of others, flourish personally and add to the goodness of our world. “There” includes immigration reform, so America is hospitable and welcoming immigrants ready to contribute. Neither open borders nor separating families are good solutions.

Practically, serious reforms are needed in all sectors (business, criminal justice, education, political accountability, mental health, strengthening families, and more) so that these pathways are created and sustained. We can forge and better future without extreme deficit spending and defunding law enforcement.

Will we find the courage and wisdom to get past anarchy and ignorance, nostalgic and utopian dispositions and work toward justice? The road ahead is perilous but full of promise.

Inconvenient Insights, part 2

The American and European public squares are replete with extremism, polarizing language, and moral cowardice. Yes, that is correct: moral cowardice. Political correctness and an unwillingness to confront facts are deceiving millions into buying into false historical narratives and feeling paralyzed about making any absolute statements. Here are some paradoxical realities that deserve critical thinking and deep reflection, not platitudes and soundbites.

Islamic jihadists do not believe in fostering a pluralistic society, with liberty of conscience/religion, free speech and diverse worldviews learning civility and common good unity. While the vast majority of Muslims live peaceably with neighbors of all faiths or none, the agitators are proposing either a gradual or abrupt takeover of the West (and the rest) in the name of their faith. Extremists defend the subjugation and even extermination of all opponents of Islam and in chilling Orwellian fashion, declare that true “freedom” is only found in submission to their version of Islam.

What makes the above particularly nefarious is the cozy relationship between the pagan-secular Left and radical Islam. The political Left will persecute artists and bakers for refusing to endorse same sex weddings but turn a blind eye to the jihadist’s oppression of women, anti-Semitism, and blatant denunciations of gender and sexual liberty! This is moral cowardice where hatred of Jewish and Christian morality triumphs over history and reason.

Abortion kills babies. While a tragic necessity in rare cases of the mother’s survival or baby’s unviability, “pro-choice” advocates are now celebrating the termination of life at all stages, from early gestation to infanticide. And anyone who disagrees is depriving women of reproductive rights. The missing part of this “pro-choice” extremism is the choices men and women make that lead to conception and the irresponsibility of fathers in particular to care for the fruit of their intimacy. While incest and rape may be presented as exceptions, the vast majority (97%+) of abortions are elective due to economic or emotional issues. This is moral cowardice.

The refusal of many conservative Christians to face the realities of emotional and sexual abuse, racism, and sexism within their histories and current structures is also moral cowardice. In a convoluted desire not to bring shame to the church or the gospel, leaders that cover serious transgressions or make excuses for a lack of justice actually do greater harm to Christian witness. Regardless of ecclesial traditions, no person should feel disempowered or marginalized by any church. Becoming intentional about lamenting our tragic history of racism and sexism can lead to new friendships and true reconciliation. Victims of abuse must be heard and helped, and perpetrators brought to justice.

Moral cowardice can be overcome with humility and love, intentional repentance and resolution, and fostering new friendships across the barriers we create, and Jesus died to destroy and transform.

Rightly Ordered Loves, Part 2: Justice is Social and Racial Peace is Possible

“Social justice” is a loaded term. For liberals and progressives, it is a summative refrain containing their concerns for economic, gender, and racial equity, including much more governmental intervention righting historic wrongs. For conservatives, it has become a byword, representing ideologies and policies antithetical to human freedom and flourishing.

Justice is social! At its root, justice is well-ordered relationships – in business, personal interactions, political policy, and international relations. Justice implies fairness, but it is more than a legal referee. Justice includes access, equity, and opportunity in a civil society containing freedom of conscience and equal rights.

It is time to change our language and simply use the term, “Justice.” As we do, we will find that justice is inseparable from well-ordered loves. The desire for fairness is innate: no one has to teach a child to say, “no fair!” When we see oppression and violence, indignation rises within and we want to protect the innocent and punish the guilty. When we see discrimination, we heartily oppose such practices and want everyone to have opportunity to thrive.

Agape love and true justice are inseparable. Both involve deep reflection on the values and virtues underneath true freedom. Justice without love devolves to legalities without nuance and consideration of the whole person or situation. A sense of affection or compassion without justice becomes diluted mercy that endangers civil order and denigrates personal responsibility.

When we choose agape love and aim for holistic justice, reparations for slavery and Jim Crow move from the temporary redistribution of wealth to transformation of relationships and systems that ensure a better future for all while confronting the past. Banking, food, and job deserts are unacceptable. It is unconscionable that given equal brilliance and empirical data, that a small fraction of venture capital finds its way to African American entrepreneurs.

Justice and love will lead toward racial reconciliation that does not replace one form of hatred with another. Justice and agape love open the doors to fearless self-examination and evaluation of all economic and social systems. Individual iniquity is revealed, and repentance is possible. Institutional injustice is unveiled and repealed. There is hope when we choose a difference vision.

Toleration and Moral Universals

Every family, community, nation, and civilization must find agreement of the moral norms that will govern life together. In three words, people must have some agreement on what will be prohibited (actions that are wrong, i.e., slavery in any form, abuse of children), what will be permitted (actions people debate about, but can live with the differences, i.e., peaceful diversity of religious and political affiliation), and what will be promoted (virtues for the common good, i.e., compassion, access and opportunity, justice).

Toleration at its historic best allows people of very different cultures to live next door to each other in peace. Problems arise however, when we confuse toleration with agreement or take the previously permissible and make it either prohibited or promoted.

We have a strange alliance among elites in the West. Pagan-secular progressives that reject historic Jewish and Christian influences and ideals are in an alliance with Islamic radicals: both hate the “traditional” West. The secular elites have a particular animus toward Christians, especially Catholic and Evangelical believers that affirm normal sexual morality and respect unborn life. Islamicists have a long-term aim of imposing their enlightened Islam and reconquering lands that used to be Muslim.

This mutual pact bears bitter fruit, with feminists rarely criticizing Islam’s systemic oppression of women and religious minorities. Hatred for all things Christian keeps progressives from seeing the clear threat of Islam for human liberty. The desire to upend all historic gender identities and sexual norms is subverting good science and fostering unneeded traumas.

This confusion overflows to the public square where progressives imply that practicing Christians are suspect as potential judges or candidates for appointed offices.

Serious Christians that share their faith, affirm moral norms and evangelize are labeled as intolerant, homophobic, Islamophobic or oppressive. Meanwhile, entire nations persecuting Christians are given a pass due to historic colonialism.

Is there a way forward? Yes, but only with serious debate in a civil environment. We must prohibit all oppression, permit a wide range of opinions and promote true toleration. This means living alongside one another even while we debate matters of eternal importance. Our future as a free society depends on such maturity. The alternative is anarchy leading to new forms of totalitarian micromanagement and oppression.