Category Archives: Being Intellectually Virtuous

Montgomery County Board of Education B-Ballin With Holy Days

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Christmas and Easter have been stricken from next year’s school calendar in Montgomery County. So have Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah.

Montgomery’s Board of Education voted 7 to 1 Tuesday to eliminate references to all religious holidays on the published calendar for 2015-2016, a decision that followed a request from Muslim community leaders to give equal billing to the Muslim holy day of Eid al-Adha.

In practical terms, Montgomery schools will still be closed for the Christian and Jewish holidays, as in previous years, and students will still get the same days off, as planned.

Board members said Tuesday that the new calendar will reflect days the state requires the system to be closed and that it will close on other days that have shown a high level of student and staff absenteeism. Though those days happen to coincide with major Christian and Jewish holidays, board members made clear that the days off are not meant to observe those religious holidays, which they say is not legally permitted. (Donna St. George, “Holidays’ Names Stricken from Next Year’s Montgomery Schools Calendar,” The Washington Post, November 11.)

The move by the Montgomery County (MD) Board of Education to cease recognizing religious holidays seems to concern budgets. The school system retains traditional Jewish and Christian religious holidays on their academic calendar due to the scores of children who will miss school by choice on these days. They do not recognize the days because they are religious days. Instead, they recognize them because opening schools on these days would not be the best use of resources. Seemingly, therefore, the issue for the board is economics, not religion. So the request for recognition of a Muslim holy day is rebuffed; it is not (yet) economically necessary.

I would love to explore the religious beliefs of the members of the Montgomery County Board of Education. I am wondering if this was a vote by a body predominantly non-religious in individual practice, or a group of whom several would hold to a false fact/value dichotomy with respect to religious ideas. But board members don’t post their religious beliefs with their biographies. Certainly that portion of their personal lives now will be kept from public consumption.

What then is the message we should take from a State action such as this? Here are some options:

  1. If you can gather a significantly sizable student pool, you can create your own holiday on whatever academic calendar day you wish. You simply need enough members of your group to be absent the same day or days every year in order to force the hands of the Board of Education.
  2. Christians and Jews would be wise to stand up in the Public Square for the religious concerns of Muslims. The issues of not adding and not recognizing religious holidays are not issues of Religious Freedom. Muslim families can practice their beliefs associated with their holidays, including pulling their children from school on such days if desired or needful. Then they can write notes to the schools to cover the absences of their children. An issue of the wisdom of the State toward religious groups will remain. Thus, no major religious group should sit on the sidelines and watch another get pummeled. With kindness, it would be wise to clear the bench on such issues, or soon there will not be a need for this bench within your school system.
  3. Churches in our community should begin to think seriously about speaking with local politicians about the value our religious holidays hold. Remember too, however, that days off are not necessary for us to maintain the faith and practice of the holidays. The death of Christ for sin, his resurrection from the dead, and his offer of eternal life to all who believe on him are things Christians can celebrate privately, daily, publicly, and corporately at least once a week, uniquely on Christmas and Easter, and on all of the other special days we have created in our churches. These celebrations do not require days off, except for a day to maintain the New Testament appropriation of the Sabbath regulations.

Either way, based on the Montgomery County Board of Education’s deliberations and decisions, I want to see if I can get another day off school for my children in our county. I would need it to be a non-religious holiday that will create a large enough absentee base to force a school board to see that it would be wise to codify a full day off. Also, I do not want to risk another crashing of our pluralistic car into the Wall of Separation. So I need all of the NBA fans near me to boycott school the day of the third game of the NBA finals each year so we can force the creation of B-Ballinday. It will be a few years before the WNBA and MLS fan bases will be devout enough to give the school board members any further concerns.

(If you have not yet read D. A. Carson’s, The Intolerance of Tolerance, I would suggest that you should hurry to get a copy and read it over this weekend or the coming week.) (Kindle version)

Charles Barkley and Boomer Esiason on Andrian Peterson

imagesCharles Barkley, thank you for putting Boomer Esiason in his place on The NFL Today today. You are right: The Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson went too far in his discipline of his son to the point of abusing him. This should not happen to any child; this should not be tolerated by the NFL. Yet spanking a child, even with a long, spinley-thin branch of a tree, is common to African American life in our history (even though I have not experienced or administered such).

While walking through the wake of a friend’s loved one yesterday morning, the positive pictures of President Barak Obama hanging in the church reminded me that ethnic culture affects everything. I could not imagine seeing a picture of the President displayed anywhere in an evangelical church of one of my non-African American counterparts. However, I was not shocked to see the Barak Obama calendar, advertisement for a youth jobs fair sponsored by an African American member of Congress, or flyers related to the Sunday School literature produced by an African American publisher present in the foyer of this African American congregation.

Neither was I shocked to hear the lawyer of  Adrian Peterson say, ““He used the same kind of discipline with his child that he experienced as a child growing up in east Texas.” This is not a statement whose contents should be dismissed as obvious – i.e., most people tend to discipline their children the way in which they were disciplined. Instead, the lawyer was making a statement that portrays Peterson within the context of common African American life.

Unfortunately, the call to “revisit” the issue of corporate discipline is misguided by comparisons of “1964” and “the South” to “now” and alternative parenting methods (of discipline) in use today. In reply to these calls, Denny Burk as a good post.

Burk: Correcting the Record in light of Sec. Hillary Clinton’s false statements

From Denny Burk’s blog (below).  Madam Former Secretary of State might be very intelligent, but she is not very wise.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton weighed-in on the Hobby Lobby decision yesterday (see above), and her analysis is so egregiously in error that I could not let it pass without some comment.

She claims first of all that this is the first time that the Supreme Court has found that a corporation has religious freedom and thus that employers can impose their religious beliefs on employees. Now this is a curious characterization of yesterday’s opinion. Religious freedom does not give anyone—individual or corporate—the right to impose one’s beliefs upon someone else. Yet Clinton speaks as if the right of individuals to “impose their beliefs” has now been given to corporations. What a gross mischaracterization of our first freedom.

Furthermore, employees are still free in this country to buy contraceptives and abortifacient drugs. No one is preventing them from doing that. Yesterday, the Court said that they are not free to expect Christians and other people of conscience to pay for them. Hobby Lobby’s desire not to pay for their employees’ contraceptives is hardly “imposing” their religion onto them. Anyone who thinks that it is is either severely confused or cynically dishonest.

Contrary to what you may have read, the employees of Hobby Lobby are not being denied or coerced in any way. Hobby Lobby, however, was. The federal government was trying to coerce the owners of Hobby Lobby into violating their most deeply held religious beliefs. To miss that is to miss the point entirely.

Clinton also claims that the Court’s ruling will prevent a Hobby Lobby sales clerk  from getting contraception “because her employer doesn’t think she should be using contraception.” Maybe Clinton is not familiar with this case. Perhaps she had not reviewed the Court’s decision when she made these remarks. If so, she should have refrained from comment because this is a demonstrably false statement.

Hobby Lobby has always provided contraception through its health plans (even before Obamacare!). Hobby Lobby simply objected to four methods that are potentially abortifacient. So Hobby Lobby is offering in their health plans sixteen out of the twenty FDA-approved contraceptive devices. Birth control pills, diaphragms, and a host of others are all included. It is simply false to say that Hobby Lobby is not making contraceptives available to their employees. Even though this was a great applause line for her, this is a misinformed statement that she should retract.

Peter Jones: “Overture 22 Before the PCA General Assembly: Bring It On!”

Dr. Peter Williams, Scholar in Residence at Westminster Seminary California, provides great, Christian-worldview thinking on gender and gender-related issues:

Biblically, in my opinion, the “vitals of religion” must include more than the five points of Calvinistic soteriology. This is no longer an issue of ecclesiastical power or of male chauvinism. We need a biblical cosmology, a clear statement of how the world is made that can answer both the feminist and LGBT dismissal of gender, behind which stands a pagan rejection of God the Creator. It seems to me that one of the “vitals of religion” is the understanding and defense of the foundational issue of the image of God, without which soteriology is a non-starter. There have been many useful suggestions as to the content and extent of that image, from intelligence, moral sensitivity to the role of dominion. But what is incontrovertible, since it is clearly stated in the text, is the place of the binary distinction of male and female. What I call Twoism, the essential notion of the God-created distinctions related in deep unity, is how humanity and the entire cosmos reflect the nature of the triune God, Who in the three persons is both distinct and one. This is how the created order makes us without excuse (Romans 1:20), for God’s Trinitarian being and the fact of His distinction as Creator from the creation are reflected in the Twoist world He makes. Thus God creates, explicitly distinguishing between day and night, dry land and water, and finally between male and female (Genesis 1). Gender distinction is also reflected in the mystery of Redemption where the male/female difference prior to the Fall bespeaks the coming unity and distinction of Christ and his bride, the Church (Ephesians 5:31-32).

Read the whole thing here.

 

WAPO, B1: “Was Hillary Clinton a good secretary of state?”

UntitledWalter Russell Mead is the James Clarke Chace professor of foreign affairs at Bard College and editor at large of the American Interest. He is the author of Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World. He writes a good (and fairly balanced) article on grading the tenure of Madame Clinton at the State Department. You might wish for more on Benghazi, but its not there. Some quotes from the article:

“The U.S. emphasis on human rights and democracy, as well as the active support for civil society organizations, contributed to China’s harsh response to the pivot to Asia and probably deepened Vladi­mir Putin’s view of the West as a danger to Russia. For Moscow and Beijing, Washington’s work to engage and strengthen democracy activists and movements represents an aggressive effort to undermine the Russian and Chinese regimes. And the push for changing gender relations allows Islamists to portray the United States as a threat to religious values. American opponents often fear ideological and cultural “aggression” as much as U.S. military power.”

“The answer: Historians will probably consider Clinton significantly more successful than run-of-the-mill secretaries of state such as James G. Blaine or the long-serving Cordell Hull, but don’t expect to see her on a pedestal with Dean Acheson or John Quincy Adams anytime soon.”

“The verdict? Clinton brought a clear vision of U.S. interests and power to the job, and future presidents and secretaries of state will find many of her ideas essential. Yet she struggled to bring together the different elements of her vision into a coherent set of policies. The tension between America’s role as a revolutionary power and its role as a status quo power predates Clinton; the struggle to reconcile those two opposed but equally indispensable aspects of American foreign policy has survived her tenure at the State Department.”

 

 

Burk: Powers and Merritt double-down against religious liberty

From Denny Burk’s blog:

by  on FEBRUARY 23, 2014 in CHRISTIANITYPOLITICS

Kirsten Powers and Jonathan Merritt are doubling down on their argument that Christian business owners are morally wrong when they refuse to participate in same-sex wedding celebrations. In a co-written essay for The Daily Beast, they argue that Christian business owners are morally and legally obliged to participate in gay wedding ceremonies with their goods and services. Not to participate is tantamount to the kind of discrimination that whites in this country used to exhibit against blacks.

Let me just say first of all that I am grieved by this article. Not merely because it is a moral and constitutional mess, but also because of who has written it. Do Powers and Merritt realize that they ratify the arguments of Christianity’s fiercest opponents when they attribute our conscientious objections to animus and bigotry? There is a larger context here. The sexual revolutionaries have done a fine job over the last decade of demonizing Christians as purveyors of hate because of our commitment to what the Bible teaches about sex. Powers and Merritt are joining their voices with our opponents when they militate against conscience rights for Christians. And this all by itself grieves me. I would have hoped for more from them.

But what are we to make of their central argument? They contend that providing services for a gay wedding does not imply “participation” or “approval” of same-sex marriage. But we have to ask if this is really their place to judge as far as public policy is concerned. They suggest that “society” or “100 married couples” are the arbiters of what does and does not violate someone else’s conscience. This is absurd. Is this really how Powers and Merritt want to treat religious liberty in this country? Such that the majority might be able to dictate to the conscientious minority, “We don’t see any reason for you to be offended by this, so get over it.” What’s worse is that they favor an approach that would allow the government to make such a determination—as if the government is competent to define what should or should not offend religious consciences. Neither the government nor anyone else has the right to prohibit free exercise based on their opinion about what ought not offend the faithful—much less to impose coercive penalties upon Christians who do not want to participate in gay wedding.

But apart from constitutional and public policy concerns, what are we to make of their moral claim—that providing goods and services for a gay wedding is perfectly consistent with Christian faith? Powers and Merritt say that Christians are discriminating against gay people by giving a pass to unbiblical heterosexual weddings. Yet to make this argument, Powers and Merritt must assume a moral equivalence between gay marriage and conjugal marriage. And this is precisely the point. They are not equal.

Marriage—the covenant union of one man and one woman—is a creation ordinance that God intends to be the norm for all of humanity. When a man and a woman are joined together in matrimony, they really are married—even if their relationship proceeded from unbiblical grounds (such as prior divorce or being unequally yoked). On the contrary, gay marriage is different. It is a sinful fiction. A gay wedding ceremony celebrates what God abominates. There is no sanction or creation ordinance supporting the sexual union of two people of the same sex. As far as Christians are concerned, gay marriages are not really marriages.

The wedding of a man and a woman enters them into a holy estate. The wedding of two persons of the same sex does not. No one should be surprised that Christians would demur from participation in celebrating what God prohibits them from celebrating.

Finally, Powers and Merritt single out Russell Moore for special censure:

So, Moore–a sincere Christian and a leader we respect–is telling Christian vendors that it’s okay to do something “wrong” by providing services for a heterosexual wedding as long as they don’t know its unbiblical.

I don’t know what else to say except that this is a blatant misrepresentation of what Russell Moore has written on this subject. Nowhere does Moore say that it’s “okay” to do something that is “wrong.” But I encourage readers to read Moore in his own words. It will be plain to even the casual reader that Moore said no such thing. (UPDATE: Moore has just posted a must-read response to their charges here.)

Of course we do not expect society at large to understand the teachings of Christianity or why the Bible might prohibit Christians from participating in gay wedding celebrations. After all, it is not their consciences that are in view here. It’s ours. But I would have expected more from Powers and Merritt.

President Obama’s Less Visible Faith

altCHURCH-popupIn considering Ashley Parker’s, “As the Obamas Celebrate Christmas, Rituals of Faith Become Less Visible,” (NYT, December 28, 2013), I really can’t say that I’m surprised about President Obama’s meager public expression of a Christian faith.  Yes, his job is different from any other job in the country. But let’s not be disingenuous: A daily “devotional” reading, an annual prayer call, and the infrequent paraphrasing of one Old Testament verse (or even a few verses) are not reflective of any depth of faith at all, especially when such a devotion (to God?) only leads one to corporate worship 18 times in five years, and when given a choice, college basketball (on TV, no less!) is a more attractive option. Saying that the President’s practical piety and Sunday church attendance mirror a trend in the country is to say that the President is no different from your average religious, American sinner. It is a backhanded way of saying he is not a man of Christian faith.