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Showing posts with label equality. Show all posts
Showing posts with label equality. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

How Can We be Equal without Christianity?

Throughout the history of civilization, people have sought to understand themselves by seeking to understand their place in society. When that society was patriarchal, the most respect was given to the forefathers, especially the eldest and most direct ancestor. When societies grew into city-states, one found his place in the service to that polis. Plato divided the classes into the guardians, the warriors, and the commoners, each serving the state in a specific capacity.

This kind of understanding extended beyond Greece. Rome granted citizenship was highly valued because it gave the citizen an elevated place in the society with greater rights.1 We see cultures, such as those of Saudi Arabia or oriental nations who still adopt a hierarchical view of the individual. But the West is different. Here, we value all people as equal. In the United States, our nation was founded on the principle. What caused the nations that sprang from the Roman Empire to so drastically alter their understanding of the worth of the individual?

Changing the Measure of Worth

In his excellent book Inventing the Individual, Larry Siedentop answers that question by pointing to the rise of Christianity. Siedentop details how the teachings of Jesus and Paul caused a "moral revolution" in thought, moving the value of the individual from hierarchical to equal. Individual freedom becomes elevated. He explains:
Previously in antiquity, it was the patriarchal family that had been the agency of immortality. Now, through the story of Jesus, individual moral agency was raised up as providing a unique window into the nature of things, into the experience of grace rather than necessity, a glimpse of something transcending death. The individual replaced the family as the focus of immortality.2
Because the individual now holds the ability tom become immortal, one's understanding of morality is changed as well. Instead of Plato's justice being determined by how one is helpful to the Polis, morality becomes more about an individual's actions to other individuals. Siedentop argues that "the premise of moral equality requires a human will that is in a sense pre-social,"3 meaning independent of one's position within the societal structures. The only way people can do that is through faith in Christ. He continues, "Faith in the Christ requires seeing oneself in others and others in oneself, the point of view which truly moralizes humans as agents." 4

How Christianity Impacts More than Civic Status

Once the basis for moral equality is established through Christ, Siedentop then shows just how powerful those ideas become. For example, he points to Tertullian to show the radical new way of thinking Christianity offers the world:
If God created humans as equals, as rational agents with free will, then there ought to be an area within which they are free to choose responsible a free choices. Identifying such an area was at first meant to be self-defence by Christians. But soon it was also much more than that. Tertullian saw clear implications of Christian moral beliefs. "Here lies the perfection and distinctiveness of Christian goodness," he argued. "Ordinary goodness is different; for all men love their friends, but only Christians love their enemies."5
This is how true goodness comes from Christianity alone. The moral equality of all people rests in the Christian understanding of redemption. Realize, I don't know whether Siedentop is a Christian or not. His book is written from his position as a scholar of political history, serving at Oxford among other institutions. His book does not push Christian beliefs, but simply describes the paradigm shift Christianity brought upon the world. Without Christianity, moral equality cannot find its footing. Without Christianity, the value of the individual fades into how one services the state.


1. "civitas". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 17 May. 2016
2. Siedentop, Larry. Inventing the Individual: the Origins of Western Liberalism. Penguin Books, 2014. Print. 58.
3. Siedentop, 2014. 64.
4. Siedentop, 2014. 65.
5. Siedentop, 2014.76.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

How Society is Regressing: Pushing Equality over Excellence

Are people smarter today than in centuries prior? That's the assumption of many today, including those atheists who assert that the modern era of science and technology proves our society has progressed to a higher position than previous eras. I'm not so sure. While we have greater control over our environment, we have been intellectually stunted by emphasizing feelings over reason. We live in the Age of Feeling, and that has caused society to regress, not progress.

To support my position, I've already offered two points of evidence that this society holds feelings above facts. The first was we are relinquishing our rights instead of offending and the second is in our current political climate, sympathy trumps science. Today I would like to offer a third proof: modern culture pushes for equality over excellence.

Destroying Opportunity

Bigotry is wrong. I think most people would agree with that statement, especially if they fall victim to bigotry themselves. But just what do we mean by bigotry? What do we mean by discrimination? Today, the term bigot is usually associated with a person who is racist or prejudiced because of inconsequential factors. The OED states that a bigot is "A person considered to adhere unreasonably or obstinately to a particular religious belief, practice, etc."1The key in this definition is the concept or unreasonableness or obstinacy. One may be charged with an act of unfair discrimination if they exclude one person from an employment position because they pre-judged a person based on nothing more than their ethnic heritage or the amount of melanin contained in their skin.

People all have an equal inherent worth because they are made in God's image. If one person is better able to perform a task than another, he or she should be allowed the opportunity to perform it, all else being equal. Today, though, people have distorted the idea that all people have equal worth to try and say that anything but equal outcomes is discriminatory. For example, the United States congress passed the Title IX act in 1972 to try and make any discriminatory exclusion of girls from participating in things like school sports. But the legislation has had terribly unintended consequences. Instead of merely opening the door of opportunity for women's sports program to flourish, it had the opposite effect of destroying many men's sports teams, especially in college. Men's teams were cut simply to achieve parity; the in the number of men participating in college sports must equal the number of women participating in sports at the same institution.2 Forget the fact that far fewer women in college desire to participate in sports, if the counts are off, sports teams for men are eliminated.

Equalizing Mediocrity

One of the clearest and most egregious examples of how the drive for equality actually destroys excellence is how philosopher Adam Swift began studying the questions of social justice, equality, and opportunity for children. In an ABC interview he states:
I had done some work on social mobility and the evidence is overwhelmingly that the reason why children born to different families have very different chances in life is because of what happens in those families…

What we realised we needed was a way of thinking about what it was we wanted to allow parents to do for their children, and what it was that we didn't need to allow parents to do for their children, if allowing those activities would create unfairnesses for other people's children. 3
Basically, what Smith is asserting is parents who try to provide the best opportunities for their children by doing thing as like reading to them at night, engaging with their schooling and possibly even sending them to private schools or hiring tutors are giving those children an unfair advantage over children whose parents don't provide such attention. The article goes on to record Smith saying:
Private schooling cannot be justified by appeal to these familial relationship goods. It's just not the case that in order for a family to realise these intimate, loving, authoritative, affectionate, love-based relationships you need to be able to send your child to an elite private school.4
This kind of thinking is insanity. We should cripple all children's education because some don't have parents who can give them the same learning tools as others? Why should we limit the minds of all kids? Shouldn't we encourage excellence and reward hard work no matter how the person was able to achieve it? Do you care whether your doctor went to a prep school in order to be an excellent surgeon or do you want all doctors to be equally but only moderately skilled? Why quash excellence for equality?

In his satiric response to Swift's arguments, Hans Fiene says that we might encourage additional ways of leveling the playing field for children by not bathing them or not feeding them fruits and vegetables when junk food will do. Personally, I thought Adam Swift's suggestions were so ludicrous to be satire themselves. I had to check twice to make sure his name was Adam Swift, not Jonathan Swift. He truly wants us to consume our children's opportunities for the sake of making the least common denominator the standard.

I realize that Adam Swift's modest proposal will not go anywhere. However, the fact that Swift can even offer it seriously in our culture says volumes about just how warped our culture has become on issues of equality and discrimination. We feel for the disadvantaged, but such solutions prove that we aren't thinking about the damage done in following those feelings. Society is truly regressing and when every child must receive a medal for their accomplishments, the medals become as worthless as the accomplishments they were awarded for.


1. "bigot, n. and adj." OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2015. Web. 14 May 2015.
2. "NCAA Men's Athletic Programs Cut To Comply With Title IX." College Sports Scholarships. College Sports Scholarships, 2012. Web. 14 May 2015.
3. Gelonesi, Joe. "Is Having a Loving Family an Unfair Advantage?" Radio National. Australian Broadcasting Company, 30 Apr. 2015. Web. 11 May 2015.
4. Gelonesi, 2015.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

12 Years a Slave and a Different Perspective

I recently watched the movie 12 Years a Slave.  It was intense, but extremely well done.  And, it was an accurate depiction of what it means to be at the pinnacle of human objectification

Just as slavery in America, kidnapping, human trafficking, genocide, or eugenics, have a primary root in treating an individual as an object, those that have perpetrated these evils have chosen to, in whatever capacity, not treat them as being valuable in and of themselves.  When we see these sorts of injustices occur, at least on screen, there is something that tears us apart at the core of who we are.  That abysmal and ugly discomfort we get when we watch a movie like 12 Years a Slave is at full discord with something deep within us: the belief that human life is exceptionally invaluable. 

Because human life is so invaluable, it is clearly wrong to exploit other human beings for our own potential financial gain or success. 

There was only one other thing I found more disturbing than the objectification.  As I watched the film, it presented the varying sentiments concerning American slavery from all ends of the spectrum.  It showed the Deep South drenched in oppression and showed the North in an ideal and colorblind society.  What was peculiar wasn't necessarily these extremes, but the in-between, like a scene of kidnapping occurring right in Washington D.C. with the Capitol building close by in the background.  It was appalling to think that of all places such evil could happen, it occurred right under the nose of people that had the very power to do something about it.  The in-between was not just among the North and South.  The movie also depicted merciless slave owners and benevolent masters.  But unfortunately, even among the kindhearted, some chose to shun what was right and bury it deep within them.  That is what struck me with anger.  Some masters genuinely seemed, even if fleetingly, to come to grips with the full weight of their actions.  And yet, they still choose to treat others with depravity.  It was the silence among those who knew what was right and chose not to stand up for the right thing that tears at your soul in this film.  It is the benevolent master, who, though benevolent, still chooses to ignore exacting justice and keep a man a slave.  He ignores a woman being torn from her children and slaves sold naked.

Because human lives are at stake, it is clearly wrong to stay silent or permit treating human beings as objects – bartered or sold off for good.

The two affirming takeaways I got from the film made me question sentiments on the unborn.  I heard the analogues alongside of some popular arguments I’ve heard in favor of abortion:

“Women have a right to choose what happens to their own bodies.”
“I do what I want with my property.”

“If she is going to school or starting a career, she should not have to have the baby.”
“If I can’t have slaves, then what will I do?”

“It is not right for me to have an abortion, but it’s not right to force that on someone else.”
“I would never own slaves myself, but it’s not my place to tell them they cannot own slaves.”

What is the unborn?  It is a human being, but it has no voice.  And in the spirit of the law, it is a disposable object.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Phil Robertson, Gay Marriage, and Equality Laws

Phil Robertson's remarks in GQ magazine on homosexual sex have caused quite a commotion, so much so that the Duck Dynasty star has been placed on indefinite suspension from his reality show by A&E. But is such a suspension fair? How does this comport with recent legal rulings against discrimination?

If we look at recent court decisions, the rulings have been clear: corporations cannot deny service or discriminate against individuals who use their services simply because the corporation has taken a principled stance on the topic of homosexuality. Just this month Colorado Judge Robert Spenser held that baker Jack Phillips was violating Colorado's anti-discrimination laws by denying to bake a wedding cake for a homosexual couple. Spenser decided that even though Phillips was earnest in his beliefs that homosexual marriages are wrong, his view "fails to take into account the cost to society and the hurt caused to persons who are denied service simply because of who they are" (emphasis added).[1]

Interestingly, Bosson rejected the claim that this law should be weighed against the standard of strict scrutiny and narrow definition to which other laws that limit religious liberty are held.  Bosson said that the law in question is valid because it "is both neutral and of general applicability… therefore Respondents are not free to ignore its restrictions even though it may incidentally conflict with their religiously-driven conduct."[2]

Similarly, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled against Elane Huguenin and her wedding photography business for failing to violate her conviction and photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony. In his concurring opinion, New Mexico Justice Richard Bosson wrote that the Huguenins "are compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives." Bosson continued, "In the smaller, more focused world of the marketplace, of commerce, of public accommodation, the Huguenins have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different" (emphasis added).

So, the law is clear. A corporation cannot discriminate against a person or persons when the deeply held beliefs of that corporation conflict with the views of those who use its services. Even if artistic merit is involved, the decisions above seem to reach beyond the specific cases and attempt to make a moral statement that corporations must bow to the beliefs of the individual. And the decisions say that this is the case because there is a compelling interest to seek equality, that is to not discriminate against individuals because of who they are. The decisions make a moral claim that equality for all supersedes corporate positions.

So tell me why is Phil Robertson's suspension from the Duck Dynasty for being simply who he is and stating his beliefs considered OK? Will the ACLU come to his aid like it did the homosexual couple in Colorado? Isn't it just as discriminatory to deny Robertson his ability to make a living on his show just because he believes something different than the A&E executives do as it is to deny a homosexual couple a wedding cake because one does not believe in homosexual marriage? Is this an example of "neutral in applicability", or is it an example of only forcing a single belief—the one that says homosexual relations are OK—onto the public sphere? Does Robertson being an employee make a difference? If Robertson was suspended because he supported homosexual marriage and the company didn't, would there be any concern?

In all, one shouldn't be surprised that moral stances can be so unevenly applied in a single direction. The double-standard simply highlights what we have known for a while. The homosexual lobby has no interest in equality. It simply wants to force itself upon everyone and woe to those who offer any type of criticism. Discrimination against critics is not only allowed but mandatory.


1. Initial Decision: Charlie Craig and David Mullins v. Masterpiece Cakeshop Inc & Anor CR 2013-0008, PDF 266.58kb, 06 DEC 13

2. Ibid.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Who Should Be Able to Speak in the Abortion Debate?

During her filibuster to try and stop the Texas abortion bill that was just signed into law, Texas state Senator Wendy Davis said, "This legislating is being done and voted on—look around the room—primarily by men." In making that statement, Davis invoked an argument that has been used many times in the abortion debate: that since men cannot get pregnant they lack the real knowledge of what abortion means for women. A blogger at the Abortion Gang web site makes the same claim even more clearly when she writes:
"I want to silence all the male voices in the abortion discussion… In fact, the majority of persons in government who are anti-choice, are men. And none of them can get pregnant. The people who are making decisions that affect the lives of women, CAN'T EVEN GET PREGNANT! And so, I want to silence the voices of all men." (Emphasis in the original.)
The interesting thing, though, was that the Davis clip was featured on Rachel Maddow's news talk show on MSNBC. If you don't know, Maddow is an open lesbian who says she's in a committed relationship with her partner, Susan Mikula. So, other than spending a lot of money on insemination treatments, Maddow has the exact same chance of getting pregnant as any man in the Texas state government: none at all. Yet, Maddow felt she was quite in the right to discuss the issue and lead with this argument by Davis.

If pro-abortion supporters like Davis and the Abortion Gang are going to argue that the opinion of someone who cannot get pregnant should count less than those who can, then thy should be consistent and ban lesbians from the debate. In fact, they should have no infertile women or post-menopausal women speak to the issue, either.

It is clear that a standard such as the ability to get pregnant falls woefully short of a good argument in whether such a bill as was before the Texas representatives should be passed. Davis knows this and she was hoping to trade on people's emotions rather than making real arguments. Maddow seems to have bought it, even though her actions in engaging with the debate directly contradict the point that Davis implies. Such contradictions are worthy to be ignored.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Same-Sex Governments vs. Same-Sex Marriage

One of the things I like to do in the morning is read the Opinion section of the Los Angeles Times. It gives me a bit of insight into how people on both sides of an issue are thinking. But I can also see how reactionary or inconsistent certain points of view can be.

In yesterday's paper, LA Times columnist Jim Newton authored a piece where he voiced his concern about the upcoming Los Angeles City elections. Entitled "An all-male City Council?" , it decries the absence of women in the civic races, stating it is quite possible that all 18 positions could be filled by men.  He writes, "at least 13 of 15 council seats will be filled by men after July 1. The city attorney will be a man, as will Greuel's successor as controller." He then asks "Does it matter?"

Newton receives his answer from Laura Chick, a previously elected city official. Chick responds "Absolutely it makes a difference. Our brains are different. We have different perspectives…. There's something terribly wrong with this." The term for someone serving on the Los Angeles City Council is four years, so it. Newton calls such a scenario "a startling setback".

I agree with Chick on her assessment of women and men.  Women do provide a different perspective and they are wired to think differently. However, today, the Los Angeles Times editors provided their endorsement for same-sex marriage dismissing the argument that such configurations would be harmful to children.  The editorial proclaims, "The notion that same-sex couples cannot be loving and competent parents is not supported by research, and in any event children already are being raised by same-sex parents even where same-sex marriage is not legal."

Leaving aside the false way the editors framed Justice Kennedy's concern, I think it's clear how inconsistent the Los Angeles Times is showing itself to be.  To have only single sex representation on the City Council "absolutely matters." It would be a "startling setback" for the city whose council members only serve for four years and still have access to the thoughts and understanding of both male and female constituencies.  This is because men and women have different brains and different perspectives.  However, to have a same-sex couple rear children for eighteen years is not a problem at all, because it's happening. But how is it possible that both can be true?

Men and women are different, and they act differently as a result. The idea that they have different brains means the sexes are not interchangeable; biology matters. If an absence of a sexual perspective matters for a four year term, it most definitely matters when it's missing from the home life of a developing child for all of his or her formative years.  The primary way children learn to understand how to be a man or a woman and how to interact with those of the opposite sex is through the modeling of their parents. The child of a homosexual couples are denied this.

So, which is it?  Does it matter if a city council or a family is confined to a single sex or do both sexes offer something unique to the process? If they do, then why don't the Times' editors at least admit as much?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Women in Combat or Women as Victims

One of my most visceral reactions is against those who would perpetrate violence against women. Even when young, movies such as The Burning Bed would cause me to have a strong emotional response. So, when I saw Eve Ensler's "One Billion Rising" events held this Valentine's Day, coupled with the U.S. Senate's passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), you would think I would be elated. But these events actually brought more questions to my mind than adulation, primarily due to the recent announcement by Leon Panetta to allow women to serve as combatants. It seems to me that these positions contradict each other, even as the same elected officials continue to push for both.

Photo by Israel Defense Forces
Let's look at Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) as an example. Gillibrand serves on the Senate Committee on ordering the military to come up with a plan to send women into battle. In so doing, she said "Just like it was wrong to discriminate against service members because of whom they love, it is also wrong to deny combat roles to qualified women solely because of their gender." But such reasoning does not fly. Women simply don't have the upper body strength men do, and they have 30% less muscle mass overall. Now, I know that there are some women who are stronger than weak men. However, this fact is unconvincing for two reasons. One, weak men get stronger through training. Testosterone builds muscle. And those that can't strengthen themselves due to some physical ailment will usually be assigned to non-combative roles. Secondly, women's strength can atrophy faster than men's.  Marine Captain Katie Petronio, who herself has been in combat-type situations, makes this argument.

Beyond the strength issue, there's another big concern in allowing women in the military, and that is that gender matters.  Ryan Smith in the Wall Street Journal did an excellent job in painting a picture of what combat conditions really look like, as he had served as a Marine infantry squad leader in Iraq in 2003. He tells of being enclosed in a vehicle for 48 hours, urinating and defecating just inches away from fellow soldiers, then having to strip with all his comrades while his clothing was burned for decontamination.  Will women feel empowered by such actions? Will men?

Men and women also interact differently.  When polled, 17 percent of male marines would leave the service if women were placed in combat roles, their biggest concerns being "fears about being falsely accused of sexual harassment or assault, fraternization or some Marines getting preferential treatment. They also worried women would be limited because of pregnancy or personal issues that could affect the unit before they are sent to the battlefield." The truth on this matter is we simply don't know what effect a large-scale deployment of women in combat units would have.  There's no data because it has never been done before.

Then there are the larger family issues. According to this report, over 30,000 single mothers have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and about 10 percent of women in the military become pregnant each year. So, female soldiers train and work alongside their male counterparts, but one in ten must be replaced so they can take maternity leave. Does that affect a unit's effectiveness? Add to that the higher divorce rate among female service members and one can see that sex makes a difference on how one processes military situations. These differences will only become more acute when more women are placed in high-pressure combat roles.

Ten months after her Senate proposal demanding women be placed in combat roles, the same Senator Gillibrand is standing before the Senate lobbying for the VAWA. "There is simply no room for partisan gamesmanship when we're talking about the safety of our families," Gillibrand said. "For millions of women and families, VAWA serves as a lifeline to keep them safe." So, Gillibrand seems to think that it is appropriate to focus on the sex of the person when worrying about the safety of women and their children. If such is the case, that standard should be applied appropriately to the question of female combatants.

 It's important to realize that the Violence Against Women Act is calling for special protection for women, that a man attacking a woman needs to be categorized differently than a man attacking a man. If one were to ask why women need such special protections, the reasons listed would be pretty much the same as to those that are offered for keeping women out of combat roles. But folks like Gillibrand want it both ways. On one hand, women can do anything men can do.  Give them a gun and everyone is equal (even though combat is not simply firing a weapon.) On the other, a fight between a man and a woman isn't a fair one, so women need the protection of the law. A woman should never be punched, but its O.K. to put her in a situation where she can be killed.

Equality has never meant that we must erase our differences. God made men and women differently, and this is clear when we look at biology. Gillibrand rallies for keeping families safe, but women in combat works against that standard, not toward it.  It also does nothing to strengthen our military. Remember, the military should first and foremost be concerned with protecting our troops and winning battles. Of course we should do so in an ethical way, but I don't see barring women from combat situations any less ethical than barring asthmatics from the military altogether. If barring women from combat is somehow discriminatory, then we must judge the VAWA legislation to also be so. It is simply inconsistent to hold to both positions.
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