Can You Force People to Sin?

Can You Force People to Sin?

Homosexual advocates protest the 2013 March for Marriage in Washington D.C.

Those who want to opt out of serving at same-sex “marriage” functions often claim a right to religious liberty. Some say it is a matter of following one’s beliefs and conscience. Still others believe it involves freedom of speech and opinions.

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Such claims, while valid, are doomed to fail, because the center of the debate is no longer in the realm of upholding civil liberties. Rather, it has touched upon the sensitive issue of morality and sin.

Of course, progressives will deny this since they have adroitly framed religious liberty laws as “license to discriminate” legislation. However, by railroading laws into the books that compel people to participate in acts they consider sinful, activists will actually be establishing “command to sin” laws for the first time in American history.

If this happens, it will be a major step in the breaking of the American consensus that has long been the framework by which Americans agreed to get along and enjoy their freedoms while maintaining order.

There has always been tension between freedom and order inside this consensus. However, what lessened the tension was the fact that the American consensus was historically a Christian one with moral rules loosely based on the Ten Commandments, which served as a glue to keep society together and a platform for a prosperous republic. Most Americans, whether believers or not, always respected religion as a source of stability and order inside this consensus.

All that changed in the whirlwind of the sixties when moral certainties were reduced to a mishmash of vague ideas, beliefs and opinions. Moral restraints were overturned and questioned. In such a relativistic framework, liberals have sought to deem all beliefs and opinions equal. No one belief has a superior claim to rights over another. In a climate of unrestraint, everyone is encouraged to “do their own thing” as long as they do not hurt the other.

In such a regime, however, some beliefs prove more equal than others. All it takes is an offended person to arise and claim to be hurt by the other, and the majority (usually Christian) is soon compelled to change its beliefs. Moreover, the State has often intervened and taken measures contrary to the beliefs of others, especially in the field of sexual morality, as might be seen in the case of abortion and recent “marriage” laws.

The resulting Culture War in America has largely been fought on the battlefield of morals and sin by those who protest the slide toward disorder. It is a curious battle since liberals are careful to avoid the mention of sin. They have an advantage if they can reduce sin to a mere opinion among many, and God to a vague belief.

If Christians are to win, they must affirm categorically that sin is not a mere opinion. Sin is an act that not only offends God, but one that causes disorder in society. The reason why sin offends God is because it violates His universal moral law that applies to everyone. Indeed, it is so much a part of human nature that Saint Paul says this law is written on every heart (Cf. Rom. 2:15). Sin must be opposed because it is an irrational act not in accord with reason informed by the Divine law.

This God-given moral code is what maintains order in society. It is the foundation of all law including the American Constitution. Through this natural moral law, everyone knows that lying, stealing and killing are wrong. They also know that no one can be forced to sin.

That is what makes the present phase of the Culture War so alarming. It is no longer a free subscriptionmatter of not sinning – not committing abortion, for example. Rather, recent mandates and laws are perilously close to forcing Christians to actually sin by assenting to or facilitating sinful relationships or acts. Such measures put at stake a person’s eternal salvation … and all society.

When the glue that keeps American society together no longer holds, the social order will shatter into a thousand pieces. When the moral law is absent, big government easily establishes itself as a secular tribunal to dictate to Christians what acts are “sinful” and which are not. From there, it is only a small step to suppress religion itself.

That is why it is important to continue the fight for America’s return to order.

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Replace Common Core with Family Dinner

Replace Common Core with Family Dinner

“There are easier ways to deal with the problem.”

It is no secret that the American educational system is in disarray. In response, big government just loves to come up with multi-billion dollar, 10,000 page programs to fix the system. This results in programs like the Common Core that aims to make students “career and college ready.

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There are easier ways to deal with the problem.

Researcher Jane Waldfogel has shown that “(even after controlling for many other factors) family dining is a powerful predictor of how children will fare as they develop. ‘Youths who ate dinner with their parents at least five times a week,’ she writes, ‘did better across a range of outcomes: they are less likely to smoke, to drink, to have used marijuana, to have been in a serious fight, to have had sex…or to have been suspended from school, and they had higher grad point averages and were more likely to say they planned to go to college’” (Robert D. Putnam, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2015, p. 122).

That is to say the moral formation of the family can provide the framework for students to flourish. If the goal is to make children “career and college ready,” why not encouraged Subscription5.2parents to eat dinner together as a family? That is a system that works. It’s not a government program. It doesn’t cost the taxpayers anything. It is so much easier and results in more children planning to go on to college. Why not replace Common Core with the family dinner?

A Return to the Rule of Honor

Col. RipleyThroughout history, two sides, two economic outlooks, two lifestyles have long opposed each other as if engaged in constant combat.

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On the one side, there is the rule of money with a set of secular values, which include quantity, function, efficiency, and utility. This rule tends to reduce everything to terms of self-interest, matter, and production.

On the other side is another rule with its own set of values that opposes that of money. We experience some difficulty in naming this opposing rule. Many authors have written about it using words like “moral,” “status,” or “humane” to describe it. They list virtue, tradition, or prestige as its attributes. However, the overwhelming tide of change wrought by our industrial society has so undermined the meaning of these terms as to render difficult the task of finding a word that characterizes this rule entirely.

We think honor best describes this rule since the word survives less sullied from modernity’s brutal egalitarianism. Honor conveys the definition of an authentic esteem given to all that is excellent in a social atmosphere of respect, affection, and courtesy. It towers above that which is strictly material, functional, and practical.

By using the word honor instead of prestige, for example, we avoid the misunderstanding Subscription8.11of those who would confuse our order with vainglory, vanity, or pride. Rather, honor conveys the idea of values that cannot be bought and sold. It spreads the atmosphere of tranquility and temperance that we desire.

The Impact That Religion Has on Education That Teachers Are Ignoring

The Impact That Religion Has on Education That Teachers Are Ignoring

Saint Albert the Great, teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas

Education and religion are often seen to be incompatible.

There is an underlying notion inside the liberal education establishment that religious belief is backwards and contrary to enlightenment. Schools have long been viewed as gateways to a glorious secular and technological future, free of religious superstition.

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After all, the purpose of education is to make children “career and college ready,” not to impart character or moral sentiments. Some educators go to the point of insinuating that the less religious influence upon the student, the better.

The educational establishment treats religion as if it is a deadly disease, not a blessing, for kids

Such convictions would be more convincing if they were based on facts. It would be good to see serious empirical studies that prove these prejudices against the influence of religion are justified. All too often, the assumptions are simply stated without proofs. The public is asked to accept them at face value.

In his recent book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,” sociologist Robert Putnam actually cites many such studies and the evidence is overwhelming. His conclusion is that religion has not only a good impact, but even a great effect upon the success of a child’s education.

“Compared to their unchurched peers,” Putnam writes, “youth who are involved in a religious organization take tougher courses, get higher grades and test scores, and are less likely to drop out of high school.”

Moreover, churchgoing youth have better relationships with their parents. They are more involved in sports and extracurricular activities. They are less likely to abuse alcohol and drugs that inhibit learning. That is to say, the moral formation influenced by religion provides the framework for students to flourish.

Even more surprising is the finding that religion is not the domain of the unenlightened lower classes of society as is often insinuated. In fact, students from affluent families are now much more likely to be involved in religion than those in poorer families. Religion is a major part of the mix that allows many of them to attain later success in life.

If that were not enough, students enlightened by religion tend to seek higher education. Putnam cites studies that show that a child whose parents regularly attend church is 40 to 50 percent more likely to go on for a college education than a similar child of parents who do not attend church.

Based on such evidence that clearly shows a positive impact, schools should at least recognize that religious involvement in the home helps the educational development of children.

The sad fact is that while religion is good for education, education is not good for religion. The educational establishment treats religion as if it is a deadly disease, not a blessing, upon the child.

The least reference to Christianity is increasingly expunged from the schools more thoroughly than from a Soviet classroom. A secular quarantine is imposed upon the school by taking away references to Christmas and other Christian holidays deemed poisonous to the child. At the same time, immoral or anti-religious material or programs freely circulate and are promoted. It is despite, not because of, educational policy that churchgoing students do better.

While religion tends to help get students into college, college tends to get religion out of free subscriptionstudents. It is a sad fact that many students find an atmosphere on campus which corrupts their morals and erodes their faith. Openly hostile professors attack and ridicule Christian principles and beliefs. It has almost become a rite of passage that many American students lose their faith at the university.

The welfare of the student should be a major concern for educators. All positive influences upon the child should be encouraged, not banished – especially if the influence is proven effective. In this sense, how much better education would be if it were at least not hostile to God and religion, and how much better it would be if education policy were to be based on facts, rather than prejudices.

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Our Kids: Why They Are in Trouble

Turning Vices into Virtues

Turning Vices into Virtues

“it is heard that the public good is obtained when men look after their own interests.”

So often it is heard that the public good is obtained when men look after their own interests. While there might be some degree of truth in the idea, the real change was one of focus. The modern view shifted the whole perception of the public good. It is no longer an end but merely an effect of another end. Under such a vision, the public good is no longer to be sought but merely engineered as a side concern.

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This can be seen in the case of greed. For centuries, the Church had warned against this vice for the harm that it does to the public good since it throws society and economy out of balance.

During the eighteenth century, this concept of greed was sidelined and replaced with the belief that greed promoted economic production. In addition to this revised view of greed, there was the advance of utilitarianism which proclaimed that anything that helped production and progress was good and just. There were no fixed standards of right and wrong but only that which worked and that which did not.

Subscription12So comprehensive has been the triumph of this twin revolution,” writes Edward Skidelsky, “that sophisticated minds today find it hard not only to see the love of money as a vice, but to see how anything like the love of money ever could have been regarded as a vice.”

(Edward Skidelsky, “The Emancipation of Avarice,” Samuel Gregg and Harold James eds., Natural Law, Economics, and the Common Good, Imprint Academic, Charlottesville, Va., 2012, p. 155)

Our Kids: Why They Are in Trouble

Our Kids: Why They Are in Trouble

” ‘Our Kids’ deserve better.”

If there is any doubt about the failure of the sexual revolution of the sixties, Robert Putnam’s, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis  (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015) overwhelmingly puts such doubts to rest. He proves that dramatic changes in family structure are literally tearing America apart. The spread of premarital sex, the epidemic of divorce, and the rise of single-parent families have all had dire consequences on society and “our kids.”

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There is much to like in Putnam’s Our Kids. The author of the landmark book, Bowling Alone, paints a very compelling picture of the crisis of the American Dream. His narrative is full of true stories of families and children, rich and poor, struggling and flourishing. The book is ironclad with studies to support his conclusions spiced with storytelling episodes.

His thesis is very clear: social ties matter. When a great diversity of ties exists, families prosper and flourish. When ties are weak or nonexistent, the family crashes and children suffer. This same principle of the need for ties holds for people of all races and income levels.

Putnam further believes that this difference in social ties is causing what he terms an opportunity gap in which many children are unable or pursue their American dream as they did in past generations.

Like Charles Murray in his book Coming Apart, which he curiously does not cite, Putnam sees a polarized America. On one hand, there is a college-educated, upper third of American society that is following “neo-traditional” marriage patterns. Through hard work and social engagement, many, but not all, of these families have managed to get ahead in a turbulent world. Putnam does well not to paint these individuals as villains but rather as the hardworking parents and children they are.

The picture of the other sector is not pretty. Many of the traditional ties that used to hold lower working-class families together have simply disintegrated. Putnam’s description of a modern underworld presents multipartnered and fatherless households, poor school performance, drug and gang cultures, sexual promiscuity and all sorts of destabilizing factors that cause shyness, aggression, anxiety, and depression in children.

One cannot help but be impressed by the sheer amount of scholarship Putnam employs to demonstrate the unraveling of the social fabric. Our Kids explores every aspect of childhood development from church membership to the family dinner. With graphs and charts, Putnam plots the nation’s decline in social involvement, especially after the sixties. The evidence is indisputable: the traditional family inside the context of a stable community is the best form for raising children. There really is no substitute.

Ironically, Putnam would probably dispute such a conclusion as simplistic. Indeed, fixing concrete modern day problems is complex and requires much thought and above all personal involvement. Fortunately, Putnam is not of the one-government-program-fixes-all school of social reformers.

However, after his brilliant exposition of the problem, his proposed solutions disappoint. After showing how “neo-traditional” marriage saved the upper sector from the devastation of the sixties and allowed it to prosper, he writes off the revival of marriage for the lower sector as improbable.

After showing how multiple partner households wreak havoc on the development of children, he does not seek to defy today’s permissive culture with the sure formula of marriage and family. Rather he sees promiscuity almost as an unchangeable given when he comments that, “It is almost surely too late to reestablish the once strong link between sex and marriage, even if that were desirable.”

If there is an opportunity gap, filling it must consist in extending to those who are Free subscriptiondisadvantaged the same benefits of a family and community life enjoyed by those who are now making it in society.

Instead of a much needed moral regeneration, sociological “solutions” are proffered: better schools, cash-supplements, pre-Kindergarten classes, and even more effective contraception. These fail to get to the heart of the matter.

“Our Kids” deserve better.

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Consumers Drowning in Debt

Consumers Drowning in Debt

“The average American consumer will have a total of thirteen credit obligations on record.”

Author James A. Roberts notes that consumers are in trouble because they have so many debt instruments. The average American consumer will have a total of thirteen credit obligations on record.

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What is the nature of these obligations?

They usually involve an average of nine credit cards. These include store and gas cards.

Consumers also carry an average of three installment loans which, especially include car loans and student loans.

The most common and costly credit obligation is tied to home mortgages. From 2000-2008, mortgage debt grew from $6.9 trillion to $14.6 trillion – roughly a 110-percent increase.

(Taken from James A. Roberts, Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don’t Have in Search of Happiness We Can’t Buy, New York: HarperOne, 2011, p. 114.)

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Defining Frenetic Intemperance

Defining Frenetic Intemperance

“Seeking to throw off legitimate restraints; and gratify disordered passions.”

We can define frenetic intemperance as a restless, explosive, and relentless drive inside man that manifests itself in modern economy by 1) seeking to throw off legitimate restraints; and 2) gratifying disordered passions.

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It tends to form an economic undercurrent whose action can be likened to that of a faulty accelerator or regulator that takes an otherwise well-functioning machine and throws it out of balance.

Taken from the book, Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society—Where We’ve Been, How We Got Here and Where We Need to Go.

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Sunday is a Day of Rest Isn’t It?

Sunday is a Day of Rest Isn't It?

The calm castle combe river in Bristol, England.

There is the mistaken impression that for a modern economy to work efficiently, everything must be 24/7. Missing a beat is considered fatal to good business and economic productivity. All must be frenzied and hurried if one is to compete in today’s globalized economy.

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Humans are not cogs in a machine

“People are not machines. They need to stop and rest.&rdquo

Such assumptions go against the necessities of human nature. People are not machines. They need to stop and rest. If society is to return to some kind of order, people must be convinced that things can stop. Things should stop. Things must stop.

This is not some wistful desire for simpler times of the past. Stopping can be done today and a good example is found in Germany. They call it “sonntagsruhe” which in German means “Sunday rest.” Germany, the world’s fourth largest economic power, stops on Sunday.

It should be emphasized that stopping on Sunday is not optional in Germany: one must stop on Sunday. The “sonntagsruhe” is not just casually staying away from work. Rather, the long-established custom keeps most shops closed and noise levels down. Even lawnmowers and leaf blowers must fall silent so that all might enjoy their rest. Loud music is restricted.  Heavy trucks are banned from the highways to prevent unnecessary noise – and give truckers a much needed break. The system is set up so that one has to stop and get some rest after an uber-efficient workweek.

The hard-working Germans on their part enjoy the weekly respite. It provides an opportunity for them to concentrate on unwinding, indulge in neighborly considerations or enjoy a good stein of beer. During their Sunday rest, Germans take to the outdoors, visit family and friends or (unfortunately, less frequently) attend church.

So enshrined is the national appetite for Sunday rest that repeated efforts by retailers and businesses to loosen the rules have ended up in failure. Some German states allow occasional Sunday openings for special shopping events and seasons, but most commercial Sunday activity is restricted by law… but also by choice, since the Sunday rest appears to enjoy widespread popular support. Such stopping has not jeopardized the national economy as Germany is the enviable economic powerhouse of Europe.

Of course, America is not Germany. While it can be admitted that most people still have Sunday off, it has become much more a day of shopping and activity than of rest or spiritual edification. Indeed, it was not too long ago that America had its own “Sunday rest.” Things simply shut down so people could be with their families. A few essential services stayed open, as they should. Back then, the seventh day was generally dedicated to God and those relationships that really matter.

The key to some kind of return to order is not to legislate some kind of “sonntagsruhe” upon the American populace. Rather it consists of understanding what happened that changed mentalities so drastically and then questioning the prevailing attitude.

Over the last decades, what went wrong was that a great agitation entered into the national psyche whereby people became impatient with anything that might impede their own gratification—sexual or otherwise. This led to the acceleration of the frenetic intemperance of modern times where everyone must have everything instantly—even on Sunday. In his book, 24/7, author Jonathan Crary calls it “the absoluteness of availability, and hence the ceaselessness of needs and their incitement.”

The result is an anything-anywhere-anytime economy where all can be had at the click of a mouse or the swipe of a card. It is a frustratingly frantic system, in which people forever want more, yet never feel fulfilled. Indeed, all might be had in such a world, but much has been lost.

What must be questioned is if this world where people are always connected to frenzy is desirable. Tethered as they are to their electronic devices, people no longer free themselves from the stressful demands of daily life that follow them everywhere. They no longer have or take the time to consider what Notre Dame Professor Brad Gregory calls those important “Life Questions” where the meaning and purpose of life are considered in silence and peace.

This same connected world keeps individuals disconnected from the necessary links to Subscribe to Return to Orderfamily, community and faith that keep a society in balance and support individuals in their journey through life. It favors a collection of extreme individualists who are terrifyingly alone together. It is no wonder that there is so much anxiety in modern society.

What needs to be done is to challenge the myths that say things cannot stop and a return to order is not possible. Things can stop and it is time to have the courage to challenge the frenzy. Indeed, today’s stressful 24/7 world is in dire need of a Sunday rest.

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Christianity Greatly Favors the Welfare of the State

AngelusThe beneficent action of the Church upon the State is described by Saint Augustine, who comments:

“Let those who say that the teachings of Christ are harmful to the State find armies with soldiers who live up to the standards of the teachings of Jesus. Let them provide governors, husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, kings, judges, taxpayers and tax collectors who can compare to those who take Christian teachings to heart. Then let them dare to say that such teaching is contrary to the welfare of the State! Indeed, under no circumstances can they fail to realize that this teaching is the greatest safeguard of the State when faithfully observed.” (“Epist. 138 ad Marcellinum,” [Chap. 2, no. 15]) in Opera Omnia, vol. 2, in J.P. Migne, Patrologia Latina, col. 532). (TFP translation.)