Archive for December, 2012

Decline in Child Rearing – “Late-Modern Exhaustion”

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
December 2012

byMarcus Roberts

A very good piece from Ross Douthat that appeared in the New York Times a couple of days ago is well worth a read. In it, he discusses the Unites States’ advantage that it has historically had over its rivals: a robust birth rate and expanding population.  As he states:

“It’s a near-universal law that modernity reduces fertility. But compared with the swiftly aging nations of East Asia and Western Europe, the American birthrate has proved consistently resilient, hovering around the level required to keep a population stable or growing over the long run.

America’s demographic edge has a variety of sources: our famous religiosity, our vast interior and wide-open spaces (and the four-bedroom detached houses they make possible), our willingness to welcome immigrants (who tend to have higher birthrates than the native-born).”

However, that is the historic position. Douthat goes on to cast doubt that this demographic advantage will continue for the US.  He cites the dropping birthrate in the US since the 2008 recession, the even faster falling birthrate amongst foreign-born Americans, and the declining “push” factors from the US’ source of immigrants: Mexico and Latin America.  These factors have been looked at before on this blog. Of more interest however, is his discussion of the cultural shifts that have pushed down the birthrate:

“…there’s been a broader cultural shift away from a child-centric understanding of romance and marriage. In 1990, 65 percent of Americans told Pew that children were ‘very important’ to a successful marriage; in 2007, just before the current baby bust, only 41 percent agreed. (That trend goes a long way toward explaining why gay marriage, which formally severs wedlock from sex differences and procreation, has gone from a nonstarter to a no-brainer for so many people.)”

While the US Government can try and help things by introducing family-friendly policies such as a family tax code, flexible working hours or reducing the cost of college, these won’t change the cultural shift in the US. (A point that we have also made over the last few months – will giving a tax break really encourage people to have more children??) Douthat makes the same point in a much more elegant way:

Keep reading.

What Is Marriage?

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

A defence of man-woman marriage combining the precision of scientists with the clarity of good journalists makes for essential reading.

American gay rights activist and radio host Michaelangelo Signorile recently wrote triumphantly of what lies around the corner for a country that just re-elected its “First Gay President” — as a Newsweek cover last year dubbed Obama. Claiming an early victory for his movement in the Huffington Post Signorile proclaimed that “[n]o longer will politicians — or anyone — be able to credibly claim to be supportive of gays, and to love and honor their supposed gay friends and family, while still being opposed to basic and fundamental rights like marriage”. Like many other same-sex marriage advocates, Signorile believes the re-election of Barack Obama is a harbinger of nationwide same-sex marriage legislation.

Few can deny that the movement is on the march. At the time of the election four states moved in favour of same-sex marriage and other states are quickly gathering momentum on the issue. Disturbingly, the thought embedded in Signorile’s spiel is that even polite disagreement and opposition to the claims of same-sex marriage advocates amounts to wholesale bigotry and intolerance. Heterosexual marriage supporters vehemently deny this, but many people now think that principled opposition to same-sex marriage is a delusion.

One reason why supporters of traditional marriage are losing elections is that they are losing the war for intellectual credibility. They are too often mired in facile arguments about “tradition”, Bible passages, and bleeding heart litanies about children. Supporters of gay marriage have succeeded in ridiculing these fumbling attempts at a rationale as ignorant and homophobic.

So a robust intellectual defence of the traditional view of marriage by a group of authors which includes Princeton law professor Robert P George is a welcome addition to the debate. Labelled by the New York Times as “America’s most influential conservative Christian thinker”, George, a convert from the ranks of the Democrats, is responsible for the interdenominational manifesto The Manhattan Declarationsigned by a number of Christian leaders in support of traditional marriage, sanctity of life and religious liberty. Sherif Girgis is a Ph.D. student in philosophy at Princeton and a J.D. candidate at Yale Law School. Ryan T. Anderson, who is William E. Simon Fellow at the Heritage Foundation and editor ofthe Witherspoon Institute’s journal Public Discourse, is a Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude graduate of Princeton University and a Ph.D. candidate in political philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. Altogether a formidable team.

In 2010 they published a controversial article in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, putting forward a philosophical defence for the conjugal view of marriage. It gained many responses from all sides of the debate and has proved so successful that they have expanded it into a book to further flesh out their claims and answer their opponents.

The authors start by contrasting, with precision, the “conjugal” and the “revisionist” views of marriage. The conjugal view presupposes an exclusive union between a man and a woman that is bodily and mental and distinguishes itself by its comprehensiveness, while, revisionists claim that marriage is just two (no more, for the moment) people committing to romantically love and care for each other for as long as they see fit.

Girgis and his co-authors steer clear of discussing the moral implications of homosexuality itself to avoid giving critics a pretext for accusing them of denigrating same-sex-attracted people, or making assumptions about their feelings and motives. Instead they argue that the revisionist view (which informs both homosexual and some heterosexual relationships alike) lacks sexual complementarity and comprehensiveness and is therefore vulnerable to internal contradictions and ambiguities.

“[Revisionists] will not see [marriage] as essentially comprehensive, or thus (among other things) as ordered to procreation and family life—but as essentially an emotional union. For reasons to be explained, they will therefore tend not to understand or respect the objective norms of permanence or sexual exclusivity that shape it. Nor, in the end, will they see why the terms of marriage should not depend altogether on the will of the parties, be they two or ten in number, as the terms of friendships and contracts do.”

What is original in their argument is their explanation of why conjugal sex is a worthy human ideal. Arguably, homosexual relationships have many of the same contours that heterosexual relationships do. The authors agree but emphasise that it’s the differences that matter. Sex between a man and a woman differs fundamentally to sex between members of the same sex.

The authors contend that

“[i]n coitus, and there alone, a man and a woman’s bodies participate by virtue of their sexual complementarity in a coordination that has the biological purpose of reproduction—a function that neither can perform alone. Their coordinated action is, biologically, the first step (the behavioral part) of the reproductive process. By engaging in it, they are united, and do not merely touch, much as one’s heart, lungs, and other organs are united: by coordinating toward a biological good of the whole that they form together.”

With this as an anchor, they tackle other common arguments which are used to subvert conventional marriage. They contend, for example, that understanding marriage as a merely emotional union threatens marital norms such as permanence and exclusivity:

“But why should these be limited to two people? Indeed, how could they be, if we form emotional connections with various loved ones- parents, siblings, close friends – and by various activities? Romantic emotional unions do have a different quality from others and are clearly important for marriage, but emotional hues are hardly enough to mark the difference in kind between marriage and ordinary forms of friendship.”

To the common objection that, if marriage is about making babies, then infertile heterosexual marriages are not true marriages, the authors respond that conjugal acts have a meaning in themselves, not just because they produce babies.

“Here the whole is the couple; the single biological good, their reproduction. But bodily coordination is possible even when its end is not realized; so for a couple, bodily union occurs in coitus even when conception does not. It is the coordination toward a single end that makes the union; achieving the end would deepen the union but is not necessary for it.”

They illustrate this thought in typical American fashion by way of a baseball analogy:

“Infertile couples and winless baseball teams both meet the basic requirements for participating in the practice (conjugal union; practicing and playing the game) and retain their basic orientation to the fulfilment of that practice (bearing and rearing children; winning games), even if that fulfilment is never reached.”

The authors comment on the fallacious argument that equates traditional marriage laws to laws banning interracial marriage, and point out that the current debate is not about who gets to marry but what marriage is really about.

“First, opponents of interracial marriage did not deny that marriage (understood as a union consummated by conjugal acts) was possible between blacks and whites any more than segregationists argued that some feature of the whites-only water fountains made it impossible for blacks to drink from them… By contrast, the current debate is precisely over whether the kind of union with marriage’s essential features can exist between two men or two women.”

Supporters of traditional marriage tend to be flummoxed by the challenge, “How would same-sex marriage affect you and your marriage?” But Girgis and his co-authors show that same-sex marriage would have very real effects. First of all, real marriage would be obscured by altering its civil definition:

“People forming what the state called ‘marriage’ would increasingly be forming bonds that merely resembled the real thing in certain ways, as a contractual relationship might resemble a friendship. The revisionist view would distort their priorities, actions, and motivations, to the harm of true marriage.”

Religious freedom will be at risk. The authors point to the alarming state of religious freedom in places where a same-sex marriage culture takes precedence and provide a number of worrying examples. They point to Massachusetts where Catholic Charities was forced to give up its adoption services rather than place children with same-sex couples, and to Damian Goddard, a Canadian sportscaster who was fired from his job for supporting conjugal marriage on Twitter. They provide many other examples.

In positing “comprehensiveness” in union as the crucial element in marriage, the authors distinguish themselves from classic defences of heterosexual marriage. Classical natural law theorists like Aristotle and St Thomas Aquinas considered homosexual acts as “perverted” uses of human sexual organs. As an adherent of the philosophical “new natural law” school of ethics, Girgis and co-authors view this argument as “fallacious”. They don’t argue, like the classical natural law theorists, that certain parts of the human body have in-built purposes for which they are designed but instead simply argue that if a relationship isn’t comprehensive overall then it isn’t a marriage. The authors neatly avoid the dispute between the two views, presumably to devote more space to the question of same-sex marriage.

Notwithstanding this shortcoming, the authors traverse a solid path between the libertarian view which argues that government should have no role in marriage, and a liberalism that wants government approval and benefits for emotional bonds. Against both positions, they argue that marriage consists of rights between parties that ought to be protected by governments because “wherever reasonably possible, parents are entitled to bring up their own children-and children have a right to their own two parents’ care, as affirmed by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child”.

Though their argument is mainly philosophical the authors also provide helpful social science research to bolster their case. Taking studies from both left and right leaning think tanks they conclude that children raised in intact families headed by two biological parents fare best in areas of educational achievement, emotional health, familial and sexual development, and child and adult behaviour. They also conclude that lower-income earners are the hardest hit by a failing marriage culture.

What is Marriage? offers a sober and resounding answer to that question. Marriage, as it has been understood for centuries, is a unique and comprehensive institution that joins mothers and fathers to their children and to each other. The authors show that it is a rationally defensible cornerstone of Western civilisation and a bedrock of societal stability. In confronting the challenge currently facing marriage in parliaments, courtrooms and schools around the world Girgis, Anderson and George put forth a clear and formidable case for one of our most sacred traditions.

Shawn Murphy recently completed a journalism course at Monash University, in Melbourne. 

Corrections: This article has been corrected to reflect the role of Sherif Girgis as lead author of What is Marriage? and the spelling of his name.

Communique from the Anglican Communion – Al Azhar Al Sharif Interfaith Dialogue

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Anglican Communion News Service

Posted On : December 10, 2012 10:54 AM | Posted By : Admin ACO
ACNS: ACNS5269
Related Categories: ACO – Interfaith

The dialogue committee composed of a delegation from the Anglican Communion and from Al Azhar Al Sharif held its 10th Annual meeting in Cairo on 20 November 2012 corresponding to 6 Moharram 1434. This meeting was held under the auspices of  the agreement signed between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar on 30 January 2002 at Lambeth Palace, London, UK. These annual meetings aimed to promote co-operation and understanding between Christianity and Islam.

The delegation from Al Azhar Al Sharif was comprised of:

  • Dr. Hamdy Zagzouk, Chairman of the Beit el Aila
  • Professor Dr Mahmoud Azab, Advisor for the Grand Imam for Interfaith Dialogue
  • Professor Dr Mohammed Shama, Professor of Islamic Sciences in German at Al Azhar University
  • Dr Bakr Zaki, Head of the Faculty of Islam at Al Azhar University
  • Sheikh Dr Mohammed Gammeah, Media Representative of Al Azhar

The Anglican delegation was comprised of:

  • The Most Revd Dr Mouneer Hanna Anis, President Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East and Bishop of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa.
  • The Most Revd Datuk Bolly Lapok, Archbishop of South East Asia
  • Dr. Yvonne Haddad, Professor of the History of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations at Georgetown University
  • The Revd Dr Toby Howarth, Secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury for Interfaith Dialogues
  • The Revd Rana Khan, International Interfaith Dialogues Assistant, Lambeth Palace and Anglican Communion Office
  • Ms Sue Parks, Anglican Communion Office, NIFCON (staff)
Click for Hi-Res Image

group photograph
Photo Credit: ACNS

His Eminence Dr Ahmed el Tayyib, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, welcomed the dialogue committee. It was noted that this was the first meeting of the dialogue committee since the January 2011 Revolution in Egypt. It was also noted that the dialogue in London in 2011 had been curtailed due to the political situation in Egypt which had required the Grand Imam to be present in Egypt.

In his opening remarks The Grand Imam quoted the teaching of the Holy Qur’an which requires all peoples to work together to understand and appreciate difference, whether of language, creed or race,  and to work together for the cause of justice, peace and the well-being of all on earth.

The two co-chairs, Dr. Hamdy Zagzouk and Bishop Mouneer Hanna Anis, opened the meeting with readings from the Qur’an and the Bible, respectively and reaffirmed the importance of this dialogue between Muslims and Christians. The dialogue committee praised the al-Azhar Declaration on the Future of Egypt which promotes the need to guarantee the rights and responsibilities of all citizens. The document outlines that in accepting the rights of citizenship, the citizen also accepts the responsibility to share in the development of society and to work for peace and the welfare of all.

The dialogue committee expressed its condolences to all those whose loved ones were killed or injured in the train crash, recalling in particular the children killed who were from Al Azhar school in Assuit.

The dialogue committee commended the Grand Imam for establishing “Beit el Aila” for the promotion of national unity in Egypt. The dialogue committee also expressed its appreciation for the UK Christian Muslim Forum initiated by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the UK.

The Anglican delegation presented a paper on the understanding of “Citizenship in Christianity”. Although the context of our meeting was Egypt, the conversation was enriched by hearing of positive experiences in Muslim Christian relationships in many other parts of the world, including Pakistan, Malaysia and the United Kingdom. The paper was accepted with great appreciation.

The delegation from Al Azhar presented two papers on the understanding of “Citizenship in Islam” and another on ‘Building Citizenship’. Dr Mahmoud Azab spoke about citizenship in Islam, in particular the al Azhar Declaration on the Future of Egypt with its three principles:

  • to institute a democratic, constitutional and modern state;
  • to accept a democratic system;
  • to be committed to a basic system of freedom. These freedoms are belief, expression, academic research and creativity in art and literature.

Dr. Mohammed Shamma presented a paper on ’Islam and Secularism’ in which he outlined three main themes: secularism, absolutism and relativism, and citizenship.

The two papers were heard with great appreciation and were discussed in depth. Our discussion identified the gap between the teaching of religion and the practice of religion.

We rejoiced that the our dialogue was done in the spirit of wisdom, with the intention to affirm the values of truth, justice, knowledge, progress, peace, and to affirm the principles of citizenship and to raise the nation to achieve welfare for all.

The members of the dialogue committee agreed to meet in Autumn 2013 in the UK.

A PDF of the Communique in English and Arabic is available here

Kids from mum and dad families do better at school

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

William West | Dec 2012

mum dad child

Research showing problems with homosexual parenting continues to grow with the release of a study showing that the children of heterosexual couples are more likely to progress in primary school than children from a same-sex household.

The study, “Nontraditional Families and Childhood Progress Through School: A Comment on Rosenfeld”, is a re-examination of a study by Michael J. Rosenfeld of Stanford University’s Department of Sociologypublished in 2010. The new study, led by Douglas W Allen, and published by the academic journal Demography, found that the children from a heterosexual household are “35 percent more likely to make typical school progress”.

Rosenfeld’s study, based on data from 1.6 million children in the 2000 United States Census, claimed that children raised in sex-same households progressed just as well as other children when differences in the socio-economic status are considered. It seems this study limited itself in two ways that did not take into account “the full family experiences of all children”.

The new study found:

  • When the sample consisted of only biological children, regardless of residential stability, children in married heterosexual households were 25.8 percent more likely to make typical school progress than peers raised in same-sex households;
  • When the sample consisted only of children who stayed in the same residence for five or more years, regardless of their biological status, children in married heterosexual households were 29.5 percent more likely to make typical school progress than peers in same-sex households;
  • Even when adopted children are excluded from the residentially stable sample (taking into consideration that children adopted by married heterosexual couples may be different from those adopted by same-sex couples), children in married heterosexual households were still 24 percent more likely to make typical progress in school; and
  • When the sample consisted of all children, regardless of their biological status or residential stability, children in married heterosexual households were 35.4 percent more likely to make normal progress in school than peers in same-sex households.

In short, the new study sought to compare like with like by comparing only children who were nearly identical in relation to “disability status, race, income, education, birthplace, metropolitan status, private-school attendance, and state residence”.

A blogger at The Foundry website at www.heritage.com, Christine Kim, concluded from the findings:

“Consistent with previous research, these findings suggest that when considering how children’s family environment influences their outcomes, it is important to look at both family structure and stability.

Together, the pair of studies underlines the complex dynamics between children’s family situations and their well-being, as well as the difficulty of analysing that relationship even with sophisticated research methods and data. The studies also underscore the necessity for policymakers to weigh the full accumulating research evidence in their decision-making.”

Gays Against Gay Marriage: Do They Exist? Do They Matter?

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
December 2012

by Jennifer Thieme, Ruth Institute Director of Finance and Advancement

This article was first published at Guest Clash on September 25, 2012.

Recently I had an exchange on Facebook about redefining marriage to include gay couples. I mentioned something about conservative gays against gay marriage, and a friend replied to me, saying:

“I for one have never heard of a conservative gay … so that’s a new one on me.”

I wasn’t surprised when he said it, because I didn’t know that conservative gays existed either until the past couple years. Like him, I thought all gays were liberals.

But conservative gays do exist. There are gays who do not agree with the gay marriage issue.

I keep wondering why liberal gays get all the media attention. Why are liberal gays the only gays you see on TV with signs and banners? Why are they the ones who get interviews and publicity, and not the others? Isn’t the marriage issue a gay issue?

Well actually, no, it’s not. And that’s why gays against gay marriage get zero publicity. If they did, it might become clear to the American public that the marriage issue is not a gay issue.

Liberals want to redefine marriage, which means they are about to legally redefine the relationship between two sets of people:
Married couples between one another
Parents and their children

You see, traditional marriage means gendered marriage. It means marriage has a gender requirement – each gender must be present. It’s why we have terms such as “bride” and “groom” on marriage licenses.

Allowing gay people to marry changes this. It makes marriage genderless. This is because within the law we must remove gendered words to accommodate gays, words such as:
Bride
Groom
Husband
Wife
Father
Mother

These words must be replaced in with gender neutral words such as “partner” and “parent.”

If this change only concerned the adults, we might not object. But did you notice those last two words that need to be changed? Take a look again.

Yes, words such as “father” and “mother” must be removed and replaced with the gender neutral “parent.”

Gay and lesbian parental custody cases are making one thing very clear: removing gender from having priority in the law is a huge mistake and an injustice to both biological parents and their children.

Take M.C., born to a lesbian mother, Melissa, who was married in California to her lesbian partner Irene, during the brief window in 2008 when genderless marriage was legal. The women later broke up, and Melissa sent her boyfriend Jose (yes, her boyfriend … I know, she’s supposed to be a lesbian but let’s not go into those details now) to stab Irene. So now Melissa is in jail for being an accessory to attempted murder, and Irene is in the hospital. And guess what? M.C. has a dad. It turns out that Melissa got pregnant with M.C. by a different boyfriend, Jesus, during an earlier time when Melissa and Irene had broken up.

**whew** Confused yet? Anyway…

Since Melissa and Irene were not able to care for M.C., Jesus wanted custody of her. Instead, the judge put her in foster care. Why? Because according to family law, the other parent is always the person the mother is married to. In this case this means the other parent is Irene.

Under a public policy of traditional marriage, where words like mother and father appear on important documents, this makes sense. The other parent is the dad when gendered words are used in the law. But under genderless marriage, a child is put in foster care instead of with her own dad who wanted her, because marriage and family law must be read in a gender neutral way.

Did a gender neutral policy, which was promoted as making life easier for adults, lead to justice or compassion for M.C., a helpless child?

If that brief window had never opened allowing Melissa and Irene to marry, M.C. would be with her dad now. The public policy of gendered marriage (which means gender-based readings of the law surrounding marriage, families and children) protects children. The public policy of genderless marriage puts children at risk, because their biological connections to their parents no longer matter in the eyes of the law.

So next time you see a news story with liberal gays holding signs saying, “Marriage equality!” remember that genderless marriage will unhinge the priority of biological connections of children to their parents.

Next time you see a blog post with a colorful graphic saying, “If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get gay married!” remember that judges will be forced to render gender neutral readings of the law for all families, including yours.

Next time you see somebody on Facebook saying, “I support the freedom to marry!” remember little M.C., who is in foster care instead of with her own dad because of a gender neutral law called “gay marriage” that was supposed to make things better for adults, but instead complicated what should have been a brain dead decision – to let M.C. be with her dad.

We haven’t even talked about SB 1476, the multiple parent bill that M.C.’s case inspired. If the governor of California signs it, judges will be able to create three legal parents. (“Hey, I have an idea! Instead of making ‘gay marriage’ go away so this problem never happens again, let’s fix the problem by creating an artificial, state enforced institution called ‘multiple parenting’!” Can-o-worms, anyone?)

If you’ve ever wanted to show compassion for gays by supporting “gay marriage,” remember that some gays are conservative and do not agree with “gay marriage.” They see all the craziness that will ensue for children, and the expansion of state power over families, but their voices are never sought.

Redefining Marriage to Redefine Parenthood

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

December 2012

By Daniel Moody

Redefining marriage actually means redefining the legal understanding of what a parent is. For everybody. The explanation, briefly, goes like this:

The definition of a marriage described the physical reality of parenthood: Permanent, heterosexual (involving both sexes), and exclusive (involving only two people). This physical reality is what gives marriage its shape. International law (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, European Convention on Human Rights, etc) gives marriage as the right to “Marry and found a family”.

Rather confusingly, we use one word (“Marriage”) to describe two different things: the one relationship that can achieve the physical state of parenthood (a sexual relationship between one man and one woman) and the artificial legal mechanism that recognises, regulates and rewards this unique relationship. We cannot redefine the physical reality of parenthood but we can redefine the legal mechanism – which is what Members of Parliament are being asked to do.

This redefinition has an unavoidable consequence. By way of analogy: Imagine a lion in the wild. The physical reality of that object (“Lion”) cannot be altered. But we can put a cage around it and label the cage “Elephant cage”. The object does not change, but we now regard it as being an elephant. If we wished to treat a lion and an elephant as one and the same, we would have to label the cage “Animal cage” – thus describing both animals but refering to neither in name.

“Same-sex marriage” already exists. We call it “Civil Partnerships”. We are now being asked to house Civil Partnerships and Marriages within one institution (we know that the State will regard them as being the same, as the State intends to allow people to “convert” their Civil Partnership into a legal marriage just by filling out a form). Some people call this homogenisation of two physically different relationships “Genderless Marriage”, as it creates a legal definition of marriage as being between “Two adults”, and the term “Two adults” does not contain the word Man or Woman. We are being asked to legalise “Same-sex Marriage” but we will actually be creating “Genderless Marriage”.

Read the rest of this entry »

AND while we chit chat about LGBT stuff…

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

…we forget that that movement didn’t land from Mars.  Or the flood of garbage in which we are drowning did not first flow from the LGBT movement or its various franchises, like The Episcopal Church.

The dam broke among “straight” folks, and it ain’t been repaired.

In fact, the western church keeps encouraging people to dive in, ‘cuz the water’s fine…

These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.  (Jude 1:12-13 ESV)

The LGBT succeeded because “straight” people bought into the pleasures the culture offered, and having “baptized” those delights, could only affirm everybody else’s stuff.  Not just sex but affluence, media prestige, promises of eternal youth, junk “science”… you name it, the western church bought it.