Saturday, December 11, 2004

Touchstone's Mere Comments: More on the Matthew Shepherd Story


Focus on the Family's CitizenLink reports that NBC refuses to apologize for Katie Curic's 1998 reporting of the Matthew Shepherd story in light of an ABC News feature exposing the killer's real motivation for their crime:

NBC News has refused to apologize to Christians maligned by "Today" show host Katie Couric's insinuation that biblical teachings on homosexuality in part prompted the 1998 murder of gay teenager Matthew Shepard.

In a Dec. 8 letter to Focus on the Family, a network executive rejected the ministry's call for an apology, made in light of a recent news report on ABC's "20/20" that debunked the longstanding notion that the attack on Shepard was a homophobic "hate crime."

That report, in which the men who killed Shepard said they singled him out because they needed drug money and thought he'd make an easy robbery victim, prompted Focus President Don Hodel to ask NBC to disavow Couric's anti-Christian comments in the days after the crime. On Oct. 12, 1998, she asked the then-governor of Wyoming, where the attack took place, whether "conservative political organizations like the Christian Coalition, the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family are contributing to this anti-homosexual atmosphere" by suggesting that gays can change their sexual orientation." That prompts people to say," Couric added in her question, " 'If I meet someone who is homosexual, I'm going to take action and try to convince them or try to harm them.' "

NBC News Executive Producer for Broadcast Standards David McCormick defended Couric's comments in denying Focus' request for an apology, noting that in the days after the critically injured Shepard was found tied to a fencepost, "there was a great deal of speculation that the crime may have been motivated by hate."

—Kenneth Tanner6:00 PM

R.A. Mohler: Newsweek vs. The New Testament

Newsweek vs. The New Testament
9 December 2004

With December 25 fast approaching, both TIME and Newsweek are out with special Christmas editions, complete with cover stories featuring beautiful works of Christmas art and articles addressing the nativity narratives from the New Testament. Unfortunately, the content of the articles hardly corresponds to the classical presentations found in the cover artwork. To the contrary--both articles cast doubt upon the historicity of the Christmas story.

Of the two, the Newsweek article is more problematic by far. TIME's article, "Secrets of the Nativity," is written by reporter David Van Biema, a skilled writer who often covers religious stories for the magazine. Even as the article opens with questions about the identity of the wise men, the nature of the star, and whether or not Jesus was born in Nazareth, rather than Bethleham. Van Biema goes on to report: "In the debates over the literal truth of the Gospels, just about everyone acknowledges that major conclusions about Jesus' life are not based on forensic clues. There is no specific physical evidence for the key points of the story."
Van Biema points to supposed divergences between the narratives found in Matthew and Luke. His article cites liberal scholars such as Amy-Jill Levine of Vanderbilt University and James Schaberg of the University of Detroit Mercy, with inadequate corresponding voices from conservative scholarship. Van Biema does cite Professor Paul L. Maier of Western Michigan University, who rejects the idea that the gospels cannot be harmonized. "Radical New Testament critics say it's a hopeless jumble," Maier notes. "I myself do not think it's impossible to harmonize them."

The TIME article raises serious questions about the Virgin Birth, in terms of both its historicity and its meaning. Schaberg, identified as "an iconoclastic feminist critic," argues that the virgin birth is about transmuting "a ritually taboo pregnancy into an occasion of glory in the birth of the Holy Child." In other words, there was no Virgin Birth, and it was simply an invention of the early church.

Throughout the article, Van Biema raises issues concerning the historical truthfulness of the New Testament birth narratives. Lurking in the background of this article is the late Raymond Brown, a Catholic scholar whose scholarly investigation of the birth narratives led him to deny the historicity of many scriptural claims. In Brown's view, the historicity of the biblical accounts was simply "unresolved."

In the end, Van Biema assumes that Christians will continue to look to the New Testament accounts for the meaning of Christmas. "Most Christmas worshippers, of course, are not currently focusing tightly on the Gospels' backstory. In this holiday season, they will be less interested in analyzing Matthew's message than in celebrating it, less concerned about parsing Luke's sentiments than in singing them."

This is mere sentimentality, of course, for if the New Testament accounts are not historically truthful, there is no basis for celebrating Christmas in the first place. If we cannot trust the New Testament to communicate truthfully, accurately, and faithfully what actually happened in the birth and infancy of Jesus, we have no basis for preaching the gospel--or telling anyone anything about Jesus Christ, for that matter.

But, if TIME's article raises questions about the historical truthfulness of the New Testament, Newsweek goes on to deny many essential biblical truth claims out of hand. In "The Birth of Jesus," writer Jon Meacham goes right to the heart of the matter, arguing that the infancy and birth narratives were simply invented by the early church in order to answer awkward questions and develop a fully-orbed theology and understanding of Jesus. He argues that "the Nativity narratives are the subject of ongoing scholarly debate over their historical accuracy" and that "almost nothing in Luke's stories stands up to close historical scrutiny."

This is not the first time Meacham has attacked the historical accuracy of the Bible. Once identified by The New York Times as Newsweek's "Young Turk," the 35-year-old reporter has served as the magazine's managing editor since he was only 27. Earlier this year, Meacham wrote another cover story for Newsweek, arguing in that story that the passion narratives [accounts of Jesus' trial and crucifixion] are also untrustworthy as historical accounts. In "Who Killed Jesus?," the cover story of Newsweek's February 16 issue, Meacham asserted that the Bible "can be a problematic source." He went on to argue, "Though countless believers take it as the immutable word of God, Scripture is not always a faithful record of historical events; the Bible is the product of human authors who were writing in particular times and places with particular points to make and visions to advance." Meacham went on to argue that "overly literal readings" of the New Testament can become the basis for anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice and distortion.

In a "live talk" feature published on the MSNBC website, Meacham responded to critics of his article by arguing, "Many of the Biblical writers had theological points to make with their stories and were understandably influenced by the circumstances of their times. This is not to say that scripture was not divinely inspired or revealed to the authors, but it is to say that to read the Bible as if every word were literally true is to misread the Bible--a view held by many, many Christian denominations and theologians and believers."

Repeatedly, Meacham asserts his identity as "a believing Episcopalian." Nevertheless, Meacham redefines what "believing" means when it comes to the Bible. He dismissively argues that we should not read the Bible "as if every word were literally true," and that to do so is not only wrong-headed, but simplistic and unsophisticated.

In a statement from Newsweek's editor published in the December 13 edition--the issue with the Christmas cover story--editor Mark Whitaker identifies Meacham as a graduate of the University of the South at Sewanee, "the only Episcopal university in America." Whitaker goes on to identify a professor who exercised a particular influence on Meacham, teaching him "that there is no inconsistency between belief in Christ and the willingness to question the worldly roots of Scripture."

Yet, Meacham does not merely question the "roots" of the story. Citing an entire corps of liberal scholars, Meacham subverts the truthfulness of the New Testament text and argues--often through the words of the sources he quotes--that the New Testament is basically untrustworthy as an historical document.

The Virgin Birth is a particular point of issue in Meacham's article. He passingly acknowledges that the Virgin Birth just might have actually happened, but he quickly dismisses the idea, noting, "It is somewhat odd that there is no memory of it recorded in the Gospel accounts of Jesus' ministry or in the Acts of the Apostles or in the rest of the New Testament." He proceeds to assume "for the sake of argument," that the story of the virgin conception of Jesus "is not a fact but an article of faith." Accordingly, the narratives of Jesus' virgin conception must be explained in terms of fiction and theological invention.

Like Van Biema, Meacham cites Raymond E. Brown as proposing that Jesus was actually the product of extramarital sex between Mary and some man--perhaps Joseph. If not Joseph, the situation would have been far more problematic. As Meacham suggests, "If Jesus had been conceived by a human father before Joseph and Mary had begun their lives together as husband and wife (either by Joseph himself, a soldier or someone else), then the Holy Ghost would have provided a convenient cover story for the early church."

Continuing his attack upon the historicity of the Virgin Birth, Meacham explains that "Jesus was such a revolutionary force that both Matthew and Luke sought to make him comprehensible in the context of established Jewish imagery and prophecy." In an act of astounding arrogance and breathtaking audacity, Meacham corrects Matthew in the interpretation of Isaiah 7:14 arguing that Matthew misunderstood Isaiah's prophecy and misused the text as he was inventing the cover story of the Virgin Birth.

Meacham makes extensive use of material drawn from liberal forces and biblical scholars who represent the extreme left in American theological scholarship. There is no attempt at balance in this article, and Newsweek's resident religion expert seems completely unaware that there is an entire world of evangelical biblical scholarship that would be quite ready to provide an answer to his questions and present a scholarly case for the historical accuracy of the New Testament accounts.

As Meacham sees it, Matthew and Luke were "confronted with a literary problem that had to be solved." As he frames their challenge: "They wanted to tell the story of Jesus' birth, but apparently had little to work with."

In other words, Matthew and Luke simply invented their stories, drawing from pagan parallels and casting about for other materials they could use, ranging from Isaiah 7:14 to snippets of ancient mythology.

To top it all off, Meacham argues that we really shouldn't be concerned about whether the accounts are historic in the first place. In a December 7, 2004 appearance on MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews," Meacham cited the authority of the second Vatican Council, which, in his words, "says that the scriptures can be true without being accurate." Christianity, he explains, "is a religion of perplexing contradictions. To live and examine faith, believers have to acknowledge these complexities and engage them, however frustrating it may be."

It is one thing to confront the challenges, but it is another thing to condescendingly reject the truthfulness of the New Testament, while citing the supposed insights from liberal scholarship as adequate intellectual warrant to correct the Word of God and claim, all the while, to be doing so as a believing Christian. This "true without being accurate" nonsense is an insult to the very concept of truth. If the events claimed in the Bible didn't happen, or didn't happen as they were claimed to have happened, the biblical authors are lying.

In Meacham's view of the matter, Christians should simply grow up and get over a concern with whether or not there is a clear historical basis for Christmas, or for any other aspect of Christianity, for that matter. He clearly believes that something happened, and he does not question that Jesus Christ actually lived on earth, but he does subvert and deny the truthfulness of the Scriptures and suggests that the gospel narratives are largely fictional.

Compare Meacham's approach to this statement from the Apostle Peter: "For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty." [2 Peter 1:16] If the biblical accounts are merely "cleverly devised myths," Christianity falls and the gospel is null and void.

As might be expected, Meacham's approach to the Bible goes far beyond Christmas, the crucifixion, and the resurrection. In a May 6, 2002 cover story in Newsweek, Meacham argued that Christianity should change its convictions about human sexuality, allowing for the normalization of homosexual acts and the possible goodness of homosexual relationships. "For many of us, faith, like history, is an unfinished story, a running argument," he argued.

Unsurprisingly, Meacham argued that the biblical passages declaring homosexuality to be sinful "are actually not quite so clear and unequivocal" as the church has believed for twenty centuries. He used the same interpretive methodology he applies to the birth narratives in suggesting that the Bible can be read in such a way as to justify homosexuality. Acknowledging that the Bible does appear to condemn homosexual acts as sinful, Meacham explains that "enlightened people have moved on from the world view such passages express."

Jon Meacham is the classic self-congratulatory theological liberal. He identifies himself as a devoted and believing Episcopalian, even as he assails the historical trustworthiness of the Bible and suggests that much of the faith he claims to believe is simply the product of literary invention and theological construction.

Newsweek should be embarrassed by this one-sided article presented as a serious investigation of the Christmas story. The magazine's editor may brag about Meacham's extensive study as a college student, but there can be no justification for the lack of balance and the absence of credible conservative scholarship in this article. This is not a serious and balanced consideration of the Christian truth claim, but a broadside attack packaged as a condescending essay of advice from Newsweek's very savvy, very sophisticated, very Episcopalian, and very ambitious managing editor.

In his editor's note, Mark Whitaker indicated that Meacham's article "also made us realize how little even some of the most committed and educated Christians know about the evolution of their deeply held beliefs and assumptions."

Here's the big question for Newsweek: How much do you know about the "evolution" of your own "deeply held beliefs and assumptions?" Those beliefs and assumptions are published in this very article, for all the world to see.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. For more articles and resources by Dr. Mohler, and for information on The Albert Mohler Program, a daily national radio program broadcast on the Salem Radio Network, go to For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to Send feedback to

Friday, December 10, 2004

Victor Davis Hanson: The Ents of Europe

[Forget what the Peloponnesians would we're on to something...what would the hobbits do? - jtf]

December 10, 2004, 8:41 a.m.

The Ents of Europe
Strange rumblings on the continent.

One of the many wondrous peoples that poured forth from the rich imagination of the late J. R. R. Tolkien were the Ents. These tree-like creatures, agonizingly slow and covered with mossy bark, nursed themselves on tales of past glory while their numbers dwindled in their isolation. Unable to reproduce themselves or to fathom the evil outside their peaceful forest — and careful to keep to themselves and avoid reacting to provocation of the tree-cutters and forest burners — they assumed they would be given a pass from the upheavals of Middle Earth.

But with the sudden arrival of two volatile hobbits, the nearby evils of timber-cutting, industrial devilry, and mass murder became too much for the Ents to stomach. They finally "wake up" (literally). Then they go on the offensive — and are amazed at the power they still wield in destroying Saruman's empire.

For Tolkien, who wrote in a post-imperial Britain bled white from stopping Prussian militarism and Hitler's Nazism, only to then witness the rise of the more numerous, wealthier, and crasser Americans, such specters were haunting. Indeed, there are variants of the Ent theme throughout Tolkien's novels, from the dormant Riders of Rohan — whose king was exorcised from his dotage and rallied the realm's dwindling cavalry to recover lost glory and save the West — to the hobbits themselves.

The latter, protected by slurred "Rangers," live blissfully unaware that radical changes in the world have brought evil incarnate to their very doorstep. Then to their amazement they discover that of all people, a hobbit rises to the occasion, and really does stand up well when confronted with apparently far more powerful and evil adversaries. The entire novel is full of such folk — the oath-breaking Dead who come alive to honor their once-broken pact, or the now-fallen and impotent High Elves who nevertheless do their part in the inevitable war to come.

Tolkien always denied an allegorical motif or any allusions to the contemporary dangers of appeasement or the leveling effects of modernism. And scholars bicker over whether he was lamenting the end of the old England, old Europe, or the old West — in the face of the American democratic colossus, the Soviet Union's tentacles, or the un-chivalrous age of the bomb. But the notion of decline, past glory, and 11th-hour reawakening are nevertheless everywhere in the English philologist's Lord of the Rings. Was he on to something?

More specifically, does the Ents analogy work for present-day Europe? Before you laugh at the silly comparison, remember that the Western military tradition is European. Today the continent is unarmed and weak, but deep within its collective mind and spirit still reside the ability to field technologically sophisticated and highly disciplined forces — if it were ever to really feel threatened. One murder began to arouse the Dutch; what would 3,000 dead and a toppled Eiffel Tower do to the French? Or how would the Italians take to a plane stuck into the dome of St. Peter? We are nursed now on the spectacle of Iranian mullahs, with their bought weapons and foreign-produced oil wealth, humiliating a convoy of European delegates begging and cajoling them not to make bombs — or at least to point what bombs they make at Israel and not at Berlin or Paris. But it was not always the case, and may not always be.

The Netherlands was a litmus test for Europe. Unlike Spain or Greece, which had historical grievances against Islam, the Dutch were the avatars of the new liberal Europe, without historical baggage. They were eager to unshackle Europe from the Church, from its class and gender constraints, and from any whiff of its racist or colonialist past. True, for a variety of reasons, Amsterdam may be a case study of how wrong Rousseau was about natural man, but for a Muslim immigrant the country was about as hospitable a foreign host as one can imagine.

Thus, it was far safer for radical Islamic fascists to damn the West openly from a mosque in Rotterdam than for a moderate Christian to quietly worship in a church in Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Algeria. And yet we learn not just that the Netherlands has fostered a radical sect of Muslims who will kill and bomb, but, far more importantly, that they will do so after years of residency among, and indeed in utter contempt of, their Western hosts.

Things are no less humiliating — or dangerous — in France. Thousands of unassimilated Muslims mock French society. Yet their fury shapes its foreign policy to the degree that Jacques Chirac sent a government plane to sweep up a dying Arafat. But then what do we expect from a country that enriched Hamas, let Mrs. Arafat spend her husband's embezzled millions under its nose, gave Khomeini the sanctuary needed to destroy Iran, sold a nuclear reactor to Saddam, is at the heart of the Oil-for-Food scandal, and revs up the Muslim world against the United States?

Only now are Europeans discovering the disturbing nature of radical Islamic extremism, which thrives not on real grievance but on perceived hurts — and the appeasement of its purported oppressors. How odd that tens of millions of Muslims flocked to Europe for its material consumption, superior standard of living, and freedom and tolerance — and then chose not merely to remain in enclaves but to romanticize all the old pathologies that they had fled from in the first place. It is almost as if the killers in Amsterdam said, "I want your cell phones, unfettered Internet access, and free-spirited girls, but hate the very system that alone can create them all. So please let me stay here to destroy what I want."

Turkey's proposed entry into the EU has become some weird sort of Swiftian satire on the crazy relationship between Europe and Islam. Ponder the contradictions of it all. Privately most Europeans realize that opening its borders without restraint to Turkey's millions will alter the nature of the EU, both by welcoming in a radically different citizenry, largely outside the borders of Europe, whose population will make it the largest and poorest country in the Union — and the most antithetical to Western liberalism. Yet Europe is also trapped in its own utopian race/class/gender rhetoric. It cannot openly question the wisdom of making the "other" coequal to itself, since one does not by any abstract standard judge, much less censure, customs, religions, or values.

So it stews and simmers. Not to be outdone, some in Turkey dare the Europeans, almost in contempt, to reject their bid. Thus rather than evolving Attaturk's modernist reforms to match the values of Europe, the country is instead driven into the midst of an Islamic reactionary revival in which its rural east far more resembles Iraq or Iran than Brussels. So the world wonders whether Europe is sticking a toe into the Islamic Middle East or the latter its entire leg into Europe.

Everyone gets in on the charade. The savvy Greeks discovered that they didn't want to be tarred with the usual anti-Ottoman obstructionism and so are keeping very quiet about their historic worries (legitimate after a near 400-year occupation) as a front-line state. And why not, when EU money pouring into Turkey might jumpstart the Eastern Mediterranean economy and lead to joint Greek-Turkish deals? With the future role of NATO and the 6th Fleet undetermined, is it not better to have the Turkish military inside the tent than for poor Greece to have a neighbor's ships and planes routinely violating Hellenic air and sea sovereignty — while it waits for the Danish air force or the French army to provide a little deterrence in the Aegean or Cyprus?

Of course, we are amused by the spectacle. Privately, most Americans grasp that with a Germany and France reeling from unassimilated Muslim populations, a rising Islamic-inspired and globally embarrassing anti-Semitism, and economic stagnation, it is foolhardy to create 70 million Turkish Europeans by fiat. Welcoming in Turkey will make the EU so diverse, large, and unwieldy as to make it — to paraphrase Voltaire — neither European nor a Union. Surely Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia will wish to get in on the largess. Were they not, after all, also part of the historical Roman mare nostrum, and did they not also enjoy long ties with France and Italy?

So, to our discredit I suppose, we are enjoying schadenfreud after our recent transatlantic acrimonies: Europe preached a postmodern gospel of multiculturalism and the end of oppressive Western values, and now it is time to put its money (and security) where its mouth is — or suffer the usual hypocrisy that all limousine liberals face. The United States has its own recent grievances with the Turks — its eleventh-hour refusal to allow American troops to come down from the north explains why the now red-hot Sunni Triangle never saw much war during the three-week fighting. Recently a minister of a country that gave rise to the notion of 20th-century genocide slurred the United States for resembling Hitler, who in fact was an erstwhile Turkish near ally. Still, our realists muse, how convenient that Europe may carry the water in bringing Turkey inside the Western orbit and prevent it from joining the radical Islamic fringe. Knowing it is in our interest (and not necessarily in the Europeans') and will cost them lots and us nothing, we "on principle" remonstrate for the need to show Western empathy to Turkish aspirations.

But gut-check time is coming for Europe, with its own rising unassimilated immigrant populations, rogue mosques entirely bent on destroying the West, declining birth rate and rising entitlements, the Turkish question, and a foreign policy whose appeasement of Arab regimes won it only a brief lull and plenty of humiliation. The radical Muslim world of the madrassas hates the United States because it is liberal and powerful; but it utterly despises Europe because it is even more liberal and far weaker, earning the continent not fear, but contempt.

The real question is whether there is any Demosthenes left in Europe, who will soberly but firmly demand assimilation and integration of all immigrants, an end to mosque radicalism, even-handedness in the Middle East, no more subsidies to terrorists like Hamas, a toughness rather than opportunist profiteering with the likes of Assad and the Iranian theocracy — and make it clear that states that aid and abet terrorists in Europe due so to their great peril.

So will the old Ents awaken, or will they slumber on, muttering nonsense to themselves, lost in past grandeur and utterly clueless about the dangers on their borders?

Stay tuned — it is one of the most fascinating sagas of our time.

— Victor Davis Hanson is a military historian and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His website is

Julia Duin: Pro-Choicers told to Rethink "the Value of the Fetus"

Pro-choicers told to rethink
By Julia Duin
6 December 2004

Pro-choice activists need to rethink "the value of the fetus" to reach middle-of-the-road voters, says Frances Kissling of Catholics for a Free Choice in the winter issue of her group's magazine. Her 7,400-word essay "Is There Life After Roe?" admits the legitimacy of parental-notification laws — "Surely we agree that young women aged 13, 14, 15 (and even older) need their parents at this time?" — and criticizes support by liberals for partial-birth abortion.

"We failed miserably to touch on the broader unrest about abortion itself that the procedure raised in the minds of many," says Mrs. Kissling, the nation's most prominent pro-choice advocate among Catholics. "The movement, some felt, has gone too far when it defends such gruesome procedures. I am convinced that the negative reaction, for example, of some Catholic leaders to Senator Kerry's candidacy to the presidency was based on his opposition to banning this procedure," she writes.

Although the essay in Conscience magazine was written before last month's election, Mrs. Kissling seemed to foresee the emerging emphasis on values. "I am deeply struck by the number of thoughtful, progressive people who have been turned off to the pro-choice movement by the lack of adequate and clear expressions of respect for fetal life," she writes. Such people "have felt forced to defend what appears to be an absolute right to abortion that brooks no consideration of other values — legal or moral. This often means a reluctance to even consider whether or not fetal life has value."

Joe Starrs, spokesman for the American Life League, agreed with Mrs. Kissling's reservations and said he hoped that they would bring about a change of heart. "If Frances Kissling continues on this path, logically she would end up as pro-life," he said. "I don't see any intellectually honest option available to her. "She's admitting a lot of the pro-abortion arguments don't make sense," Mr. Starrs said. "They've failed to capture the hearts and minds of the American people because they are way too radical."

Mrs. Kissling's group, Catholics for a Free Choice, is mostly funded by liberal foundations and has numerous ties to the abortion industry. The popularity of ultrasound pictures during pregnancy, Mrs. Kissling adds, has led "to a greater connection to fetal life ... Examples include 3-D and 4-D pictures of fetuses in utero that appear to be awake, asleep, walking, yawning — engaging in activities that are related to human identity." The pro-choice movement, she says, has ignored such doubts. "No woman needs to brag about her choice, and the decision of one pro-choice organization to sell T-shirts announcing 'I had an abortion' was in poor taste and diminished the seriousness of the act," her essay says.

But she maintains her stance against the church hierarchy, saying the nation's 300 Catholic bishops do not seem to take abortion seriously, either. "If bishops really believed that abortion was murder, they would individually and collectively make far more sacrifices to ensure that abortions did not happen," she writes. "It is clear that the amount of money spent on preventing abortions is very little.

"The bishops claim that abortion is the greatest moral issue of our time, that Catholics cannot vote for candidates who are pro-choice and that pro-choice Catholic legislators are committing a grave sin by supporting legal abortion. This is a weak rhetorical response to 'murder.' "How can any bishop or parish priest justify spending one penny on anything discretionary rather than on helping the many women who would continue their pregnancies if they had the resources to bear and raise a child? No dinners, no business-class plane tickets, no vacations, no flowers on the altar as long as one penny is needed to prevent abortions."

Renowned Atheist Philosopher Flips On Design Possiblities

Lifelong atheist changes mind about divine creator
By Richard N. Ostling

NEW YORK — A British philosophy professor who has been a leading champion of atheism for more than a half-century has changed his mind. He now believes in God — more or less — based on scientific evidence and says so on a video released yesterday.

At 81, after decades of insisting that belief is a mistake, Antony Flew has concluded that some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. A super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature, Mr. Flew said in a telephone interview from England.

Mr. Flew said he is best labeled a deist like Thomas Jefferson, who believed God was not actively involved in people's lives.

"I'm thinking of a God very different from the God of the Christian and far and away from the God of Islam, because both are depicted as omnipotent Oriental despots, cosmic Saddam Husseins," he said. "It could be a person in the sense of a being that has intelligence and a purpose, I suppose."

Mr. Flew first made his mark with the 1950 article "Theology and Falsification," based on a paper for the Socratic Club, a weekly Oxford religious forum led by writer and Christian thinker C.S. Lewis.

Over the years, Mr. Flew has proclaimed the lack of evidence for God while teaching at Oxford, Aberdeen, Keele, and Reading universities in Britain, in visits to numerous U.S. and Canadian campuses and in books, articles, lectures and debates.

There was no one moment of change, but a gradual conclusion over recent months for Mr. Flew, a spry man who still does not believe in an afterlife.

Yet biologists' investigation of DNA "has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce [life], that intelligence must have been involved," Mr. Flew says in the new video "Has Science Discovered God?"

The video was drawn from a New York discussion in May organized by author Roy Abraham Varghese's Institute for Metascientific Research in Garland, Texas. Participants were Mr. Flew; Mr. Varghese; Israeli physicist Gerald Schroeder, an Orthodox Jew; and Roman Catholic philosopher John Haldane of Scotland's University of St. Andrews.

The first hint of Mr. Flew's turn was a letter to the August-September issue of Britain's Philosophy Now magazine.

"It has become inordinately difficult even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism," he wrote.

The letter commended arguments in Mr. Schroeder's "The Hidden Face of God" and "The Wonder of the World" by Mr. Varghese, an Eastern Rite Catholic layman.

This week, Mr. Flew finished writing the first formal account of his new outlook for the introduction to a new edition of his "God and Philosophy," scheduled for release next year by Prometheus Press.

Prometheus specializes in skeptical thought, but if his belief upsets people, well "that's too bad," Mr. Flew said. "My whole life has been guided by the principle of Plato's Socrates: Follow the evidence, wherever it leads."

Last week, Richard Carrier, a writer and Columbia University graduate student, posted new material based on correspondence with Mr. Flew on the atheistic Web site. Mr. Carrier assured atheists that Mr. Flew accepts only a "minimal God" and believes in no afterlife.

Mr. Flew's "name and stature are big. Whenever you hear people talk about atheists, Flew always comes up," Mr. Carrier said.

Still, when it comes to Mr. Flew's reversal, he said, "Apart from curiosity, I don't think it's like a big deal."

Mr. Flew told the Associated Press that his current ideas have some similarity with American "intelligent design" theorists, who see evidence for a guiding force in the construction of the universe. He accepts Darwinian evolution, but doubts that it can explain the ultimate origins of life.

A Methodist minister's son, Mr. Flew became an atheist at 15.

Early in his career, he argued that no conceivable events could constitute proof against God for believers, so skeptics were right to wonder whether the concept of God meant anything.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Outcry Erupts At UNC Over Proposed Western Civ Program

UNC-Chapel Hill’s Hatred of the West

By Jon Sanders
December 9, 2004

The study of Western civilization, once a rite of passage for the college-educated, has taken a back burner in modern curricula. These days, trendy universities focus almost entirely on multiculturalism. At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the outcry over a proposal to revive "Western Civilization" shows just how deeply the academic Left hates it.

Some background: In North Carolina, of the eleven UNC schools surveyed, just a third still require a course in Western history or Western civilization. That's according to "How Solid is the Core? A Study of General Education Requirements at 11 North Carolina Institutions," a study conducted by the National Association of Scholars and released this fall by my organization, the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. But about two thirds "require a multicultural or cultural diversity course." The study declared this finding "at best a sign of interest in non-Western cultures, but all too often an exercise in politically correct 'education.' "

Furthermore, "[n]ot one institution requires all undergraduates to take a course in United States history. "The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will have a new curriculum soon, but the Pope Center study found that whereas the previous curriculum required students to take "one course in a period of Western history before 1700," under the new curriculum students "will no longer be required to study any segment of Western history." It's a deficit the College of Arts and Sciences at UNC-Chapel Hill seeks to address. This particular college proposed bringing a Western civilization program to its campus, and it approached the John William Pope Foundation for financial support.

The subsequent outcry was so vehement that one would think the college had proposed replacing the university's beloved Old Well with a statue of George W. Bush. To defeat the proposal, campus leftists attacked the donors on the basis of their records of funding conservative causes, most specifically, my organization, which has written critically of UNC-CH. (But they say it's not critically correct: "Criticism is one thing, hostility is another," UNC-CH English professor Reid Barbour complained recently.)

The Triangle's leftist tabloid The Independent fired the opening shots in October, warning that the Pope Foundation "has an agenda that's antithetical to the principles of academic freedom and cultural diversity" and insinuating that the university's proposal would be tainted by association. Writer Barbara Solow wrote that the "critical drumbeat" from the Pope Center -- a think tank founded with seed money and support from the Pope Foundation -- "is what led many who attended last week's faculty meeting to question the implications of taking money from the Pope Center's financial backers for academic programs at UNC." She quotes sociology professor Sherryl Kleinman, who asks, "What does it say about a university if its leaders accept 'gifts' from those who support organizations that systematically attack the university's faculty and programs?"

"While several faculty members said they had little problem with the program's academic specifics, many said they couldn't stomach its existence knowing where the money came from," reported the Herald-Sun of Durham. "Most pointed to the Higher Education Policy center [i.e., the Pope Center] and its Web site. "The campus leftist listserv called for a protest, demanding in bold-faced type "Should UNC-CH Accept $12 Million from Racist, Sexist, Classist, Homophobic Donors?" The posting announced, "The donors are John and Art Pope, whose family funds the John William Pope Foundation, the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, and the John Locke Foundation. These organizations have systematically attacked and discredited many programs and professors at UNC-Chapel Hill and other universities."

UNC-CH's Graduate and Professional Student Federation joined the fray, passing a resolution against the university taking a grant from the Pope Foundation. The resolution cited work by the Pope Center as "work[ing] to create a hostile climate to academic freedom for instructors." At the time of this writing (Nov. 23), UNC-CH's Student Congress is preparing to vote on a resolution opposing the Western Civ. Proposal because of "the foundation's ties to the Pope Center, which has repeatedly criticized University academic programs and actions, and any power the foundation might gain at UNC by funding the program."

Beginning to detect a theme? Yes, the ostensible case being presented at UNC-CH against a program in Western Civilization is that the donors approached by the university also fund conservative critics of the university. Such an unthinkable act is supposedly against academic freedom -- even though the donation would expand course offerings on campus, and even though the Pope Center held a conference last month on bringing more freedom to universities (which included David Horowitz discussing the Academic Bill of Rights, a notion the academic Left here called an extreme view and using "seemingly benign suggestions" to "promote a political agenda")

Normally, leftists decry wealthy capitalists and tell them they ought to give back to the community. Here they're telling those that are doing so (not just at UNC, but elsewhere as well) that their money is tainted; that since "politics is not divorced from education," UNC-CH should not be "married to the politics of the Pope family" by accepting their grant. In effect: "Stop the hate; stop the fear; we don't want their money here."

But the Pope Foundation's money is already there. The foundation has made several donations to UNC-CH concerns, and as the Herald-Sun reported, "Matt Kupec, UNC's vice chancellor for university advancement, said he's never heard a word of complaint about the Pope family or demands they may have made in regards to their donations."Furthermore, the foundation recently funded new courses in economics and political science at nearby North Carolina State University. "We gave them a proposal, and they accepted it," N.C. State political science Prof. Andrew Taylor told the Herald-Sun. "We have the funding for five years with no strings attached. There's no control."

Could it be, then, that the real problem isn't with the donor, but with the study of Western Civilization itself? A look at criticisms of the proposal suggests that this may be the case. "Where are the students, where are the faculty, that are dying to have this?" asked political science Prof. Pamela Conover asked in a meeting over the proposal. "Students don't want it," Student Body President Matt Calabria declared at the same meeting. "UNC administrators are being seduced by the promise of a gift that will expand a program that faculty, after careful study, decided against expanding," wrote geology professor Altha Cravey. "It's clear that money, not faculty initiative or student need, is driving this process." A posting on the UNC-CH leftist listserv dismissed the idea of a Western civilization program as "history dealing solely with the disenfranchised plight of rich, white, Protestant men."

Conservative culture warriors would be unwise to dismiss this controversy. UNC-CH is, after all, one of the most prestigious public universities in the nation. The outlook for bringing a Western Civilization program here grows dim, even as Western history is phased out of the required undergraduate curriculum. This is the same university that has just recently instituted programs in "Social and Economic Justice," "Sexuality Studies" (made possible by a grant, no less), and "Latina/o Studies." Faculty who favor the Western Civ. program are frightened to speak out for obvious reasons. The inmates are running the asylum.

Jon Sanders ( is a policy analyst for the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in Raleigh, North Carolina

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Scott Calhoun Reviews U2's Latest

Pop Love for a War-Torn World

Atomic Bomb is classic U2, with a prescription for healing the world.

By Scott Calhoun
posted 11/23/2004

Larry should be pretty happy with the new U2 album. After recording Pop in 1997—a thoughtful, tongue-in-cheek disco-techno experiment followed by a now infamously extravagant tour—Larry Mullen Jr., U2's drummer, quipped that the next time they make an album it should have some real pop songs on it. That next time was All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000), a much more accessible album for the masses and a huge commercial success. In their follow-up, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, with enough up-beat songs and a few crooning ballads to bend the world's ear, U2 reminds us they are still a contender for the title "best band in the world."

How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb sounds both old and new and seems to intentionally rely on something tried and true. This is pure U2. Warm, quick-pumping hearts, creative minds at play, shrewd timing, and a loud Christian conscience. The world tour, starting next March, will surely fill stadiums.

This album's forty-minutes includes songs that, in classic U2 fashion, will bring you to your feet. Others will make you melt with lead guitarist The Edge's high-flying riffs. It's almost too much to take, and excess, as U2 fans know, is also a part of their history. Many fans will find themselves stuck with this frustration: there's not much new on this album, but they can't stop playing it. No matter that most songs sound made-for-the-big-screen, ready to drop into any autumnal Miramax film. We love that about U2, though we're reluctant to say so.

You will like Bomb either because you used to like U2 (that is, the 1980s U2), or you have always liked U2 (especially because they didn't stay "the 80s U2") or because you just heard about a band called U2 via an Apple iPod commercial during the World Series or last weekend's SNL performance.

For the title of "best band in the world," U2 has only been shadowboxing for many years. The 11 songs on this, their 11th album, secures their position with plenty of Top 40 tunes. Bomb is not as pioneering an album as was The Unforgettable Fire (1984), and it just can't match their best work to date on Achtung Baby! (1991). But because they've grabbed a little from each of these two great albums, as well as from Boy (1981), The Joshua Tree (1987) and All That You Can't Leave Behind, this one will be an instant classic. That's no small feat, and it's no small praise to say so in this age of over-hyped musical artists. Produced by Steve Lillywhite, with touches from Daniel Lanois, Brian Eno, Chris Thomas, and others from the band's past, the U2 sound is there, better and louder than ever before.

Larry's finally got his pop album. As the band-mate who tends to be the toughest to please (and the toughest looking), if Larry's happy we should all be happy.

If you are thinking pop music is a category no respectable band should want to compete in, think again. Think like U2. "At our very best, at anyone's very best, the great rock bands could always make a pop 45," Bono recently told the New York Times. Here he's thinking of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Who. And then think about effective means for spreading a message. Pop music reaches the world faster than any other genre. If you've got something to say to the world, why not craft a great pop song that will be both for the moment and for all time?

U2's message hasn't changed over the 28 years they've been together. It's elementary: Love. It has been an answer and an admonition running through their every album, their every tour. "Do you know how to dismantle an atomic bomb?" Bono reportedly asked Michael W. Smith earlier this year. "With love," Bono said. "With love." They leave the listener at a place where the streets have no name.

Bono and The Edge describe the album's running order as taking the listener from a place of fear, confusion, and dizzying temptations to a place where hope, peace, and love reign supreme. The first track, "Vertigo," is a bombs-away, fast-paced confessional from someone who sounds like they got more than they bargained for. The remaining songs wind their way through personal fears of death, loss, and distance from others, to global fears of wars and apathy toward the weak, the sick, and the forgotten.

As a concept, love is a little hard to grasp. Give it a body, a mind, a voice, or an action and we can know it more easily. U2 has done that, by drawing upon some very personal experiences for song material. On a surprising number of songs, that stirring U2 chemistry is at work. Bono's voice swells into, and through, the chorus while The Edge picks his way around Bono's full-bodied passion with the simplest notes.

Bono sings in "Sometimes You Can't Make it On Your Own" of his father's death in 2001 and his subsequent struggle to come to terms with missing a man he couldn't get close to. Brendan "Bob" Hewson's death, Bono has said, placed an atomic bomb in his life he wasn't ready to deal with.

"Miracle Drug" pays tribute to a paraplegic school mate of the band's who, with the care of his mother and the help of a drug, was able to peck poems out on a keyboard with a stick attached to his forehead. "I want to trip inside your head/Spend the day there/To hear the things you haven't said/And see what you might see" the song begins. Credit must be given to Bono for giving poignancy to what might be the most preposterous simile in music: "Freedom has a scent like the top of a newborn baby's head."

It doesn't take long for this song, as with most of them, to yield their metaphors to more direct lines on love and its power to keep a man and a woman together ("A Man and A Woman"), make armies lay down their arms ("Love And Peace or Else"), and heal the world's wounds ("Crumbs From Your Table"). "All Because of You" praises love's power to sustain a person and make them whole again. The Edge lets himself go a little wild on this one, as he does on "Vertigo" and "City of Blinding Lights," their tribute to both New York and a loved one.

"Original of The Species" is written for Bono's goddaughter—The Edge's eldest daughter—imploring her to "Please stay a child somewhere in your heart" but to also "Come on now, show your soul/You've been keeping your love under control." And the last song of the album is "Yahweh", an eloquent, beautiful tribute to you know who.

Too bad a song called "Mercy" with lines such as "Love's got to be with the weak/Only then love gets a chance to speak" and "Love is the end of history/The enemy of misery" was cut at the last minute from the album. At over six minutes, it breaks the rule for a pop tune. But it is available through other means and its lyrics are included in a hard-back book that accompanies a deluxe edition of the album.

Another song also not on the album, but available on the deluxe edition, is "Fast Cars." As a sort of cousin to "Vertigo", it's a song hinting at the unfulfilling pleasures we can so easily have when what we need is something tougher to come by but permanently more satisfying. It features a surprising Spanish-style guitar and rhythm section and is the song with the lyric about dismantling an atomic bomb.

In How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, U2 delivers a one-two punch with taut tunes on an eternal truth. Love never fails.

Scott Calhoun is an assistant professor of English at Cedarville University and a news writer for
Copyright © 2004 Christianity Today.
Click for reprint information.

Richard John Neuhaus: Episcopal Straight Talk

Copyright (c) 2004 First Things 147 (November 2004): 63-80.
Episcopal Straight Talk
Understanding Evangelicals
Bach, Hitler, and the People Called German
A Denomination Called Anglican
More On Milosz
While We're At It

Episcopal Straight Talk

Last month I discussed the signs of an emerging new leadership within the conference of Catholic bishops. Such signs were evident in the June meeting of the bishops, where efforts to evade or delay taking a clear position on pro-abortion Catholics in public life were decisively turned back.

The statement issued by the June meeting, “Catholics in Political Life,” was not as clear or as firm as the guidelines sent to the bishops for their consideration by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Because of maneuverings by some conference leaders, the bishops were not permitted to take Cardinal Ratzinger’s communication fully into account. Nonetheless, the June statement strongly challenged every bishop to address the grave scandal of Catholic public officials who publicly and persistently defy moral principle and Catholic teaching with respect to the protection of innocent human life.

Since June, many bishops have addressed this question with statements of their own or statements issued jointly with other bishops. Among the more noteworthy statements is that published by Archbishop John Donoghue of Atlanta, Georgia; Bishop Robert Baker of Charleston, South Carolina; and Bishop Peter Jugis of Charlotte, North Carolina. Herewith the full text, entitled “A Manifest Lack of Proper Disposition for Holy Communion,” followed by an observation or three:

As bishops, we have the obligation to teach and guide the Catholic faithful whom we shepherd in the body of Christ. A fundamental teaching of our Church is respect for the sacred gift of life. This teaching flows from the natural law and from divine revelation.

Life is a gift bestowed upon us by God, a truth underscored by the commandment: “You shall not kill” (Deuteronomy 5:17). The Old Testament also teaches us that human life in the womb is precious to God: “I formed you in the womb” (Jeremiah 1:5). The right to life is a value “which no individual, no majority, and no state can ever create, modify, or destroy but must only acknowledge, respect, and promote” (Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 71a). A law, therefore, which legitimizes the direct killing of innocent human beings through abortion is intrinsically unjust, since it is directly opposed to the natural law, to God’s revealed commandments, and to the consequent right of every individual to possess life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.

Catholics in political life have the responsibility to exemplify in their public service this teaching of the Church and to work for the protection of all innocent life. There can be no contradiction between the values bestowed by baptism and the Catholic faith, and the public expression of those values. Catholic public officials who consistently support abortion on demand are cooperating with evil in a public manner. By supporting pro-abortion legislation they participate in manifest grave sin, a condition which excludes them from admission to Holy Communion as long as they persist in the pro-abortion stance (cf. Canon 915).

Holy Communion is where Catholics meet as a family in Christ, united by a common faith. Every Catholic is responsible for being properly prepared for this profound union with Christ. Participation in Holy Communion requires certain dispositions on the part of the communicant, namely, perseverance in the life of grace and communion in the faith of the Church, in the sacraments and in the hierarchical order of the Church (Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 35-38).

The Church also recognizes that there is a manifest lack of a proper disposition for Holy Communion in those whose outward conduct is “seriously, clearly, and steadfastly contrary” to the Church’s moral teaching (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 37b). A manifest lack of proper disposition for Holy Communion is found to be present in those who consistently support pro-abortion legislation. Because support for pro-abortion legislation is gravely sinful, such persons should not be admitted to Holy Communion.

We also take this opportunity to address all Catholics whose beliefs and conduct do not correspond to the Gospel and to Church teaching. To receive the great gift of God—the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ—we must approach Holy Communion free from mortal sin. Those who are conscious of being in a state of grave sin should avail themselves of the sacrament of reconciliation before coming to Holy Communion. To partake of the Eucharist is to partake of Christ himself, and to enter into sacramental communion with our Lord we must all be properly disposed.

Because of the influence that Catholics in public life have on the conduct of our daily lives and on the formation of our nation’s future, we declare that Catholics serving in public life espousing positions contrary to the teaching of the Church on the sanctity and inviolability of human life, especially those running for or elected to public office, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion in any Catholic Church within our jurisdictions: the Archdiocese of Atlanta, the dioceses of Charleston and Charlotte. Only after reconciliation with the Church has occurred, with the knowledge and consent of the local bishop, and public disavowal of former support for procured abortion, will the individual be permitted to approach the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
We undertake this action to safeguard the sacred dignity of the most Holy Sacrament of the altar, to reassure the faithful and to save sinners.

In sharp contrast to the above statement by Archbishop Donoghue, et al., some episcopal statements issued since the June meeting have shied away from or categorically rejected the discipline of nonadmission to Holy Communion. These statements typically contain three arguments: 1) The Church cannot judge the state of the soul of anyone coming to the altar; 2) Refusing Communion has the appearance and probable effect of being politically partisan; 3) Refusing Communion undermines the episcopal dialogue with offending politicians for which the June statement rightly calls. These arguments cannot bear close examination.

Regarding the first, the above statement and Cardinal Ratzinger’s guidelines underscore that the question is not about the private state of one’s soul, where decisions must be made in conscience by each person, but is about public and objective sin. For instance, a person may in conscience—albeit a wrongly formed conscience—support racial segregation or the cloning of human beings.

Such a person may be, to use a traditional phrase, invincibly ignorant, suffering from a serious impairment of intellect or will. We should have sympathy for such a person, but that does not change the fact that his position is objectively wrong and sinful. The person who knowingly, publicly, and persistently supports the unlimited abortion license has objectively violated his communio with the Church and excluded himself from the Communion in which that communio is sacramentally enacted. The duty of the ministry of the Church is simply to alert a person to what he has done to himself with respect to the communio of the Church. As for the state of the inner sanctum of his soul, that is for God alone to judge. The decision for the ministers of the Church is about, as the title of the above text puts it, “a manifest lack of proper disposition for Holy Communion.”

The second argument offered by some bishops has an element of truth. Refusing Communion to offending politicians may have the appearance and effect of being politically partisan. But are not bishops who offer this argument the ones who are surrendering the Church’s witness to political partisanship? After all, it is the Democratic Party that has made don’t-give-an-inch support for the abortion license the litmus test for party leadership. Is the Church impotent to protest a great evil because a major political party has embraced that great evil? Moreover, there are more than enough pro-abortion Catholics who are Republican and in urgent need of disciplinary attention from their bishops. The integrity of the Church, her faith, and her sacraments is the proper business of bishops. Attending to political perceptions and consequences, while not unimportant, is nowhere to be found in the rite of episcopal ordination.

The Purpose of Dialogue

Third, there is the matter of dialogue. Dialogue most certainly, but dialogue about what? Dialogue about whether or how moral truth and the Church’s teaching will be changed? Dialogue about whether knowing, public, and persistent rejection of the Church’s teaching is compatible with being in full communion with the Church? These questions have been settled for centuries. One might as usefully dialogue about whether Proust can posthumously be elected pope. (You can no doubt supply your own analogy.) Of course there can be dialogue about why the Church teaches what she does, about why many people, including Catholics, have problems with her teaching, about the exigencies and pressures entailed in the political life, and about much else.

But in this dialogue the bishops are not conducting a free-floating and open-ended seminar. The dialogue is to lead to decision, in the hope of repentance, reconciliation, and amendment of life. It is finally the decision of the public figure, not that of the bishop, that matters. The bishop only acknowledges the decision made and acts accordingly. As Archbishop Donoghue and company put it, “We undertake this action to safeguard the sacred dignity of the most Holy Sacrament of the altar, to reassure the faithful and to save sinners.”

There is a fourth argument that is not made explicitly but is insinuated in some episcopal statements; namely, that abortion is but one of many questions to be taken into account in making political decisions. Presumably, the June statement of the bishops precluded that argument by saying: “It is the teaching of the Catholic Church from the very beginning, founded on her understanding of her Lord’s own witness to the sacredness of human life, that the killing of an unborn child is always intrinsically evil and can never be justified. If those who perform an abortion and those who cooperate willingly in the action are fully aware of the objective evil of what they do, they are guilty of grave sin and thereby separate themselves from God’s grace.

This is the constant and received teaching of the Church. It is, as well, the conviction of many other people of good will.” What is said of abortion cannot be said of other questions currently in dispute in mainstream politics. Yet some bishops persist in suggesting that abortion is but one issue among others. Usually they add that it is the issue that has priority, but then undercut that claim with stringent warnings against “one-issue politics.” No other question currently in dispute in mainstream politics has a comparable bearing on one’s communio with Christ and his Church.

The June statement of the bishops conference, the statement by Donoghue, Baker, and Jugis, plus similar statements by other bishops may denote a historic moment in the American Catholic experience. Battered, bruised, and bloodied by vociferous criticism—deserved and undeserved, but mainly deserved—during the years of the sex-abuse crisis, a majority of bishops are, when faced with another unwelcome test of their leadership, neither cowed nor casting about for clever escapes. They have turned with new resolve to the tasks for which they were ordained. The above statement puts it tersely: “As bishops, we have the obligation to teach and guide the Catholic faithful whom we shepherd in the body of Christ.” With that premise in place, the duties that follow are obvious, if not easy.

Waxman Report On Abstinence-Only Education Programs Riddled With Errors

Waxman Report Is Riddled with Errors and Inaccuracies
by Melissa G. Pardue
WebMemo #615 -
December 2, 2004

A new report from Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) and the minority staff of the House Committee on Government Reform, The Content of Federally Funded Abstinence-Only Education Programs, is yet another attempt by aggressive proponents of comprehensive sex education to discredit and undermine the message of authentic abstinence education.

Waxman’s report, released this week, is riddled with errors and inaccuracies about the effectiveness of abstinence education and the risks associated with early sexual activity. While Waxman portrays increases in abstinence education as excessive, his attacks blithely ignore the fact that government funding for contraception-based sex education far outweighs the spending for abstinence education. In 2002 alone, the government spent $12 promoting contraception and condom use for every $1 it spent to encourage teens to abstain from sexual activity. However, Waxman has consistently opposed funding for abstinence education and in this instance is doing so by making false and misleading statements about the effectiveness of abstinence education.

Waxman’s report denies the well-established correlation between teen sex and increased risk of attempted suicide. Data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (Wave II, 1996) provide important information about the link between teen sexual activity and emotional health. A 2003 Heritage Foundation analysis of these data found that sexually active teens are significantly more likely than their non-sexually-active peers to be depressed and attempt suicide.[1]


Sexually active girls are more than three times as likely to be depressed than girls who are not sexually active.[2]
Sexually active boys are more than twice as likely to be depressed than boys who are not sexually active.[3]
Sexually active girls are nearly three times more likely to attempt suicide than girls who are not sexually active.[4]
Sexually active boys are eight times more likely to attempt suicide than boys who are not sexually active.[5]

Waxman’s report also falsely asserts that no studies exist to show the effectiveness of abstinence education. His report claims that “abstinence-only education does not appear to decrease teen pregnancy or the risk of sexually transmitted diseases.”[6] This is simply not true. There are currently 10 evaluations showing the effectiveness of abstinence education in reducing teen sexual activity. Of these 10 evaluations, four were published in peer-reviewed journals.[7]

Additionally, an April 2003 study published in Adolescent and Family Health found that increased abstinence was the major cause of declining birth and pregnancy rates among teen girls. This study found that increased abstinence accounted for 67 percent of the decline in pregnancy rate for teen girls ages 15 to 19. Similarly, 51 percent of the drop in the birth rate for single teen girls was attributed to abstinence.[8] A similar study released in the August 2004 Journal of Adolescent Health attributes 53 percent of the decline in pregnancy rates for 15-17 year olds to decreased sexual activity, which was larger than the decline attributed to contraceptive use.[9]

Recent government data also underscore the effectiveness of the abstinence message on America’s teens. The Centers for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows a decrease in the number of teens who are sexually active from 1991 (54.1 percent of teens) to 2003 (46.7 percent of teens).[10] This report and others show that teens are listening to the abstinence message.

Representative Waxman’s report also falsely asserts that virginity pledge programs have no positive effects on teenagers.[11] This is yet another inaccurate statement by Representative Waxman. Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Wave III, 2001) find that teens who take a virginity pledge have substantially lower levels of sexual activity and better life outcomes when compared to adolescents who do not make such a pledge.[12]

Adolescents who make a virginity pledge:

Are one-third less likely to experience teen pregnancy;[13]
Are less likely to be sexually active while in high school and as young adults;[14]
Are less likely to give birth as teens or young adults;[15]
Are less likely to give birth out of wedlock;[16]
Are less likely to engage in risky unpro­tected sex; and[17]
Will have almost half as many sexual partners as non-pledgers.[18]
In addition, making a virginity pledge is not associated with any long-term negative out­comes. For example, teen pledgers who do become sexually active are not less likely to use contraception.[19]

Representative Waxman’s report also completely ignores the fact that parents overwhelmingly support the values and messages of authentic abstinence education. A recent Zogby poll, released in January 2004, found that:[20]

- 91 percent of parents want schools to teach that “adolescents should be expected to abstain from sexual activity during high school years.”
- 79 percent of parents want teens to be taught that they should not engage in sexual activity until they are married or at least in an adult relationship leading to marriage.
- 68 percent of parents want sex education programs to teach that “individuals who are not sexually active until they are married have the best chances of marital stability and happiness.
- 91 percent of parents want teens to be taught that “the best choice is for sexual intercourse to be linked to love, intimacy, and commitment. These qualities are most likely to occur in a faithful marriage.”

These themes are central to abstinence education curricula. By contrast, comprehensive sex education curricula teach permissive values that are rejected and opposed by nearly all parents. Comprehensive sex education curricula focus almost exclusively on contraception and include very little, if any, material on abstinence. Parents do not agree with this approach. Only 2 percent of parents believe that teaching abstinence is not important. Only 7 percent of parents believe that teaching about contraception should have more emphasis than teaching about abstinence.[21]

Comprehensive sex education programs that Representative Waxman supports contain sexually explicit material that is deeply alarming and offensive to nearly all parents.Most comprehensive sex-ed curricula contain very sexually explicit and graphic language considered inappropriate by the vast majority of parents. For example, curricula have students practice unrolling condoms on bananas, cucumbers, fingers, or model phalluses. Curricula also contain discussions of anal sex and homosexual role-playing and encourage teens to practice mutual masturbation and watch erotic movies.[22]

Heritage Foundation analysis of comprehensive sex education programs found that such programs contain little, if any, encouragement to delay sexual activity. On average, these curricula devote only 4.7 percent of their page content to the topic of abstinence and zero percent to healthy relationships and marriage. Ironically, many of these programs are promoted under the label “Abstinence Plus.” The primary focus of these curricula is on encouraging young people to use contraception. Furthermore, these curricula provide no clear standards as to the age at which sex is considered appropriate for students. Out of 942 pages of text from nine difference comprehensive sex education curricula reviewed by The Heritage Foundation, not one single sentence was found urging students to abstain from sexual activity through high school.[23] This is in direct contradiction to what parents say that they want taught to their children.

This report is sorely out of touch with the goals of parents and students in the United States. It makes misleading statements about abstinence education programs, and is therefore a tremendous disservice to millions of American teenagers.

Melissa G. Pardue is Policy Analyst in Social Welfare Policy at The Heritage Foundation.

[1] Robert Rector, Kirk A. Johnson, and Lauren Noyes, “Sexually Active Teenagers Are More Likely to Be Depressed and to Attempt Suicide,” Heritage Foundation Center for Data Analysis Report No. CDA03-04, March 17, 2003.

[2] National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, Wave II, 1996. See Rector, Johnson, and Noyes, “Sexually Active Teenagers Are More Likely to Be Depressed and to Attempt Suicide.”
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.

[6] U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform, Minority Staff Special Investigations Division, The Content of Federally Funded Abstinence-Only Education Programs, prepared for Representative Henry A. Waxman, December 2004, p. 3.

[7] Robert Rector, “The Effectiveness of Abstinence Education Programs in Reducing Sexual Activity Among Youth,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 1533, April 8, 2002.

[8] Mohn, Tingle, and Finger, “An Analysis of the Causes of the Decline in Non-Marital Birth and Pregnancy Rates for Teens from 1991 to 1995,” Adolescent and Family Health, Vol. 3, Issue 1 (April 2003), pp. 39-47. See also Melissa G. Pardue, “Increased Abstinence Causes a Large Drop in Teen Pregnancy,” Heritage Foundation Executive Memorandum No. 872, May 2, 2003.

[9] Santelli et al., “Can Changes in Sexual Behaviors Among High School Students Explain the Decline in Teen Pregnancy Rates in the 1990s?” Journal of Adolescent Health, Vol. 35, No. 2 (August 2004), pp. 80-90.

[10] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control, Youth Risk Behavior Survey, at

[11] U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform, Minority Staff Special Investigations Division, The Content of Federally Funded Abstinence-Only Education Programs, p. 4.

[12] See Robert Rector, Kirk A. Johnson, and Jennifer Marshall, “Teens Who Make Virginity Pledges Have Substantially Improved Life Outcomes,” Heritage Foundation Center for Data Analysis Report No. CDA04-07, September 21, 2004.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Ibid.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Ibid.

[20] See Robert Rector, Melissa G. Pardue, and Shannan Martin, “What Do Parents Want Taught in Sex Education Programs?” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 1722, January 28, 2004.
[21] Ibid.

[22] Shannan Martin, Robert Rector, and Melissa G. Pardue, “Comprehensive Sex Education vs. Authentic Abstinence: A Study of Competing Curricula,” The Heritage Foundation, 2004.
[23] Ibid.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Ron Cook: No Complaints About Bettis' Attitude

Cook: No complaints with Bettis' attitude
Sunday, December 05, 2004
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Sometimes, a guy doesn't have to run for 100 yards to help his team win. Sometimes, he can do it by running for nothing at all. He can do it by putting his ego on the shelf. He can do it by stepping aside for the good of the team.

"I'm never going to do anything to be disruptive to these guys," Jerome Bettis said last week, looking around the Steelers' locker room. "At the end of the day, it's not about me. It's about the team winning."

So Bettis will step back quietly from the spotlight in Jacksonville tonight and make room for Duce Staley to shine.

It can't be easy for Bettis. You could make a strong argument he should continue as the Steelers' featured running back. Filling in for the injured Staley the past four games, he was the highlight of the offense, running for more than 100 yards in each of the four wins. Opposing tacklers agreed he is running as hard and as effectively now, at 32, as he ever did. That was especially true the past two games when receiver Plaxico Burress was out and the passing game took a fall. "Basically," Hines Ward said, "Jerome won those ballgames for us."

Along the way, Bettis climbed to No. 5 on the NFL's all-time rushing list behind Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Eric Dickerson. He almost certainly will get the 37 yards he needs to reach 13,000 -- he's expected to split time against the Jaguars tonight as the Steelers gradually work Staley back -- but he probably won't get the 297 he needs to pass Dickerson if Staley stays healthy and productive.

"I'll say it again: It's not about personal success. It's about team goals," said Bettis, who desperately wants a Super Bowl ring to complete his marvelous career and firmly believes he's on the team that can do it.

Bill Cowher is right to go back to Staley for three reasons.

One, Staley is a superb running back. He had four 100-yard games in the five games before his hamstring injury and would have had five if not for a holding penalty against Ward in Dallas. His 4.7-yards-per-carry average is impossible to ignore. Bettis is averaging 3.5 yards per carry.

Two, Staley is the Steelers' future. Cowher has to go back to him for the same reason he stuck with Ben Roethlisberger after Tommy Maddox was healthy. Bettis said it's only "50-50" that he will play next season. He said he's not sure he wants to put his body through the grind of another offseason, getting ready. He talked about getting married and raising a family.

And three, there are the egos involved. At this stage of his career, Bettis can handle being in the background, waiting to be called on if necessary and, at the very least, scoring the touchdowns in the Steelers' goal-line offense. Heck, he swallowed his pride and didn't gripe last season when Cowher -- presumably to his regret after a nightmarish 6-10 season -- made the forgettable Amos Zereoue the starting running back. The guess here is Staley wouldn't handle a subservient role so easily. Not after he was signed as a free agent with the promise he would be the guy. That's no knock at Staley. Maybe no player is as selfless as Bettis.

"From Day 1, I knew Duce was going to be the show," Bettis said. "I told him that the first time we talked. I didn't want it to be an uncomfortable situation, him coming in and taking my job. I wanted him to know I was going to support him and that I was going to be ready behind him. But I didn't want him thinking he had to be looking over his shoulder for me ...

"We have a great relationship. I think that's why he didn't try to rush back too soon from his injury and risk being hurt again and maybe being lost for the season. He knew the job was going to be waiting for him so he could afford to get totally healthy. That's only going to benefit our team."

That attitude -- that team-first approach -- is why Bettis is, unquestionably, the most respected player in the Steelers' locker room.

"He is the Pittsburgh Steelers," Ward said. "What a role model for the rest of us.

"I'm sure some of the younger guys feel like they could be doing more. Even me, as a veteran, I know I could be complaining that I want more catches. But we're 10-1. Who wants to do anything to hurt the team? All of us have to understand our roles. If you see Jerome out front accepting his role and not complaining about it, then none of the rest of have any right to complain."

If this is Bettis' final season, they'll be calling him a Hall of Famer in five years, the instant he's eligible for induction.

For now, though, the best description of Bettis comes from Steelers first-year offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who is earning recognition around the NFL as a brilliant young coach, in large part, because of Bettis' performance.

"The consummate professional."

(Ron Cook can be reached at or 412-263-1525.)

Michelle Malkin: Remembering Pearl Harbor

By Michelle Malkin · December 07, 2004 07:54 AM

From the White House:

On a quiet Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, more than 2,400 Americans were killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor. On that day, life changed in America, and the course of history was altered forever.

Our citizens reacted to the attack with firm determination to defeat tyranny and secure our Nation. This enterprise required the commitment and effort of our entire country. At the height of the conflict, the United States had ships on every ocean and troops on five continents. In all, more than 16 million Americans wore the uniform of our Nation. They came from all walks of life. They served honorably and fought fiercely. At home, millions more contributed to the war effort, laboring for victory in our factories, on farms, and across America.

Today, we honor those who fought and died at Pearl Harbor, and we pay special tribute to the veterans of World War II. These heroes hold a cherished place in our history. Through their courage, sacrifice, and selfless dedication, they saved our country and preserved freedom. As we fight the war on terror, their patriotism continues to inspire a new generation of Americans who have been called to defend the blessings of liberty.

And Pearl Harbor vets speak:

Pearl Harbor vets worried by coverage of Iraq war... "Don't take this personally, but get the damn media out of there,'' said Donald F. Tabbut, who was a young Navy seaman sleeping in Hawaii when the bombs began falling Dec. 7, 1941.

'Not much interest:' Pearl Harbor vet sees attention to Dec. 7 attack fade..."I've talked at schools and clubs and I've found that there's not much interest. I guess people don't really care. It was too long ago," according to Gilbert Goodwin, who was aboard the USS Curtiss.

One of the reasons for the lack of interest is mind-rotting political correctness. Remember when the movie Pearl Harbor was released three years ago? Asian-American activists protested that vividly reminding audiences of the Japanese attack might stoke hate crimes. John Tateishi, head of the Japanese American Citizens League complained: "No matter how much we look to the future, we keep getting dragged back to Dec. 7. This movie does that -- pulls us back to that attack."

And what is so wrong with that? As Ken Masugi of the Claremont Institute wrote:

Pearl Harbor, the history, teaches us not to fear the burdens of freedom. Pearl Harbor, the film, would teach us that our diversity is a strength. Not quite so. Diversity is a challenge. Our strength lies, rather, in our common love of freedom and the insistence that everybody have it.

But freedom also imposes conditions, often harsh, on those who would cherish it. That duty is what civilized nations forget and their statesmen are continually obliged to etch into the national memory.

Here are some photos of the USS Arizona/Pearl Harbor Memorial, an absolutely stunning shrine to all military personnel who died in the attack.

The little-known Niihau Island attack occurred a few hours after the Oahu raid.

Tom McMahon alerts us to an interesting piece on forgotten Japanese spy Takeo Yoshikawa.
Roberta Wohlstetter's 1962 book, Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision, remains the definitive analysis of the intelligence failures leading up to Pearl Harbor.

Jeff Quinton links to National Geographic's memorial site.

Thomas Boswell: The Truth Lies in the Numbers

By Thomas Boswell
The Washington Post
Saturday, December 4, 2004; Page D01

Now we know how much of Barry Bonds was real and how much was fake. Half was a fraud.
Bonds's reputation has lived by his statistics. Now, let it die by them. Forever. Before Bonds hooked up with his old friend and alleged steroid merchant Greg Anderson in '98, he had 411 homers in 6,621 at-bats, one per 16.1 at-bats. The next two years, as he acquired and adjusted to a new body, he hit 83 in 835 at-bats, one per 10 at-bats.

In the past four seasons, from ages 37 to 40, as he has done the deeds and committed the offenses against his sport for which he will always be remembered, Bonds hit 209 home runs in 1,642 at bats -- one every 7.9 at-bats.

In those four years, Bonds won four straight National League most valuable player awards, two batting titles and set the all-time single-season records for home runs, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, walks and intentional walks.

All those records are now a steroid lie. Without Anderson's illicit help, there is no reason whatsoever to believe Bonds could have approached, much less broken, any of the all-time marks for which he lusted so much that he has now ruined his name.

Throw every record that Bonds has set in the past four years into the trash can that history reserves for cheats.

We need no asterisks or erasures. Word of mouth, from box seats to bleachers, from generation to generation, will suffice. Bonds's 21st-century deeds have been obliterated in the eyes of anyone who knows baseball. Nothing will ever bring them back.

Let Bonds keep his 411 homers and three MVPs before he linked his fate to Anderson in '98, though we can't be sure what he might have used to aid his play before that. At least we now know what he's willing to use: anything that's put into his hands.

Bonds still claims he didn't know what he was taking. If you read the grand jury transcripts in yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle and still believe Bonds, then look outside your door. A line of bridge and swampland salesmen may stretch to the horizon. In baseball at least, sticking to the Big Lie as a winning strategy just isn't what it used to be. Pete Rose devalued the market.

There is no reason Bonds should ever again be considered one of the top 10 hitters who ever lived. The true elite -- including Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams and Willie Mays -- are back where they belong. If you seek current players to keep them company, start with Alex Rodriguez and his 381 home runs at age 29. At that juncture, Bonds had 222.

The career of the authentic Bonds was long and well defined, lasting 12 seasons until he was 35. After that point, almost all players decline in productivity. Without Anderson in his life in recent years, Bonds's production would probably have dwindled. We'd be grouping him now with other 500-homer hitters, such as Rafael Palmeiro (551) and Ken Griffey Jr. (501), who coped with age and injury all by themselves even as Bonds, the glory thief, stole their headlines.

The jaw-dropping irony of Bonds is not that he used steroids to improve himself or slow athletic aging, but that the particular cocktail Anderson handed him actually worked too well. While other cheaters merely prospered, he rose to the skies like a god. He became so great so suddenly and stayed so young so long that his lie became larger and easier to read than the 25 on his back.

His deceit and its results were so obvious that other players such as Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi flocked to him. Sheffield's tissue-thin defense is that he merely asked Anderson to give him what Barry gets and didn't know exactly what that was -- the "clear," the "cream" and a side order of "red beans." As for Giambi, he chose honesty over perjury before a grand jury and rolled over on himself. In time, by coming clean, Giambi may eventually wash some of the dirt off himself.

They call it a devil's bargain for a reason. Because when the price comes due, it's no bargain at all. There's just hell to pay. Other BALCOs in other cities may have their own lists of sinners. That's irrelevant. Society only jails the crooks it can catch.

Few in baseball loved Bonds, who has always resented the sport for the shabby way it treated his troubled father during his own career. Armchair psychologists can wonder whether Bonds's intense and tangled relationship with his alcoholic dad spurred him to make his late father's last years, riddled with catastrophic illnesses, into a kind of son's tribute tour at any cost.

That falls into the category of explanation, but not excuse. "To know all is to forgive all," it is said. Perhaps. Understanding Bonds has always been a full day's work. Still, his manner has ensured that few hearts within the game will break for him now.

Barry wears his demons on his sleeve and has used them as an excuse throughout his career to put his ambitions and ego, his personal pain and problems, ahead of anything else. So, he shouldn't be surprised if baseball now values its own good name above his shame and discounts much of what he has done by a factor of 25 pounds of muscle that he never earned.

The glory of Roger Maris's 61 home runs, which felt heavy to him in life, became a buoyant legacy to his family after his death. The disgrace of Bonds's 73 tainted home runs will become heavier with time until even fake muscles may not bear the weight. What will the future make of all Bonds's vainglorious finger-to-the-sky home plate celebrations as if heaven was on his side when it was more likely that hell had just called a holiday?

If Bonds plays next season, many fans will boo his 500-foot homers and cheer his intentional walks. As for a 715th home run to pass Ruth, much less a 756th to surpass Aaron, the thought of it is now almost too revolting to endure. If nothing else, maybe Bonds can find the decency to retire before he passes Aaron. Last season, he raised that possibility. Now we know why.

In time, Bonds will realize that both he and his sport would have been better off if his feats of the last four years had never happened. The longer he lives, the more his "unbreakable" records, protected by better drug testing, may seem like a curse. As he ages, he will wish, perhaps even pray, that he could extinguish them all. But they will never disappear from the game's history.
For Bonds, the number 73 will only loom larger. Even as, for the rest of us, it moves toward the horizon of memory and shrinks until it finally takes its place, remote but still distinct, next to that other sad number that never entirely fades: 1919.