The Right’s War on Woke Schooling

As the left changes education from above (often for the worse, granted), the right has been revving up in backlash. In Tennessee a few days ago, the McMinn County School board removed Maus from its curriculum, and just yesterday in Missouri, the Wentzville School board banned Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. Protests against school censorship sometimes work: in Pennsylvania back in the fall, the Central York school board reversed its decision to ban anti-racism books and resources in response to student objections. Victories like that are nice but rare; for the most part, what school boards decide is where the buck stops.

Part of me actually welcomes censorship attempts, because on the national level they inevitably backfire. In the case of Maus, the sales are already soaring. The same thing happened last spring, when the wokes went crazy over Dr. Seuss: Seuss books suddenly became bestsellers again. There’s no better way to ensure readership, boost sales, increase library circulation, and reattain relevance than to try denying access to something. Whether in service to the left or the right.

Andrew Sullivan has an excellent piece about The Right’s Ugly War on Woke Schooling. Worth making the time to read, and here are the highlights.

“What we’re seeing now is the reaction to this left-wing power grab. And — guess what? — it’s a right-wing power grab. If the left has stealthily changed public education from above, the right has now used the only power they have to fight back — political clout in state legislatures. 122 separate bills have been introduced since January 2021, 71 in the last three weeks alone. They all regulate speech by teachers in public schools, but many are now also reaching into higher education — a much more fraught area — and outright book banning. The bills are rushed; some appear well-intentioned; others are nuts; many are very vague, inviting lawsuits to clarify what they can mean in practice. In most cases, if passed, they will surely chill debate of race and sex and history — and increasingly of gender, sex and homosexuality — in high schools. And that’s a bad thing for liberal education…

“One important point, often elided in the press: This is not about free speech as such. Regulating curricula and teaching methods in public schools is unavoidable. No one argues that K-12 teachers can teach anything: the content is always subject to political consensus and democratic input. And it could be argued that the overhauled curricula and teaching methods in recent years were imposed without democratic input, and that this is a healthy, democratic correction.

“And in some ways, it is. It’s a good thing that parents are more engaged with their kids’ education, running for school boards, examining curricula, exposing extremist teachers and administrators. And I absolutely get where the parents are coming from. What else are they supposed to do, confronted with a woke educational establishment that lies to them, and brooks no compromise?

“The trouble is that banning courses restricts discourse, and does not expand it. It gives woke racialist theories the sheen of ‘forbidden knowledge.’ It removes the moral high-ground from those seeking to defend liberal learning from ideologues of any variety. And it sets an early lesson for kids that the right response to bad arguments is to get authorities to suppress them — exactly what the woke believe — and not to marshal arguments that refute them.

“A better way is to insist that any course or lesson that involves critical theory must include an alternative counterpoint. If you have to teach Nikole Hannah-Jones, add a section on Zora Neale Hurston; for every Kendi tract, add McWhorter; for every Michael Eric Dyson screed, offer a Glenn Loury lecture. Same elsewhere. No gender studies course without a course on biological sex and gender-critical viewpoints. No ‘queer theory’ class without texts from non-leftists, who are not falsifying history or asserting that homosexuality is socially constructed all the way down. This strategy doesn’t ban anything; it adds something. It demands that schools make sure they’re helping kids think for themselves.

“When I wrote back in early 2016 that Trump’s election would be an extinction-level event for liberal democracy, this is what I meant: the illiberal left and illiberal right constantly upping the ante in a cold civil war of raw strength and power, culminating in various varieties of performative or real violence, and constitutional crises. The war is particularly acute when the elites have replaced liberalism with the successor ideology, and the populist right wants to go full post-liberal as well, with all the ugly and authoritarian excesses that will entail.”

Reading Roundup: 2021

This was a good year for books. Here are my ten picks. Most of them were published this year, but I was late catching up on others. Especially my #1 choice.

1. Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought (Expanded Edition). Jonathan Rauch, 1993 (2013). Rauch stood at a crossroads in ’93 and saw the coming of 2014. It began with alarming trends — feminists joining hands with fundies in attempts to censor pornography because porn “hurt” people — and reached a defining moment with Salman Rushdie. Suddenly liberals were pandering to the inexcusable and retreating from their most important values. They haven’t looked back since. It’s so rare to find a superb analysis of the processes that go into formulating our opinions (instead of just focusing on “where we stand”), and Rauch outlines different processes that people use to get at the truth. He argues for the liberal science approach (public criticism is the only way to determine who is right) and shows that the egalitarian and humanitarian approaches are not only misguided but dangerous. Hearing that Islam is a religion of violence is hurtful to many Muslims, but that’s a necessary truth that needs confronting. Hearing that biological sex is not on a spectrum may be hurtful to transgendered people, but what hurts is often factual. Science can screw up and fail, but it has a built-in mechanism to improve on itself when it does. On whole, when everything is subjected to public criticism, the result is a system that has never been surpassed anywhere in human history. After hundreds of years, the community of liberal science has outlived all its challengers. It has criticized itself and been made the stronger for it. You certainly can’t say that about the fundamentalist, egalitarian, or humanitarian approaches. The results speak for themselves: offensive speech is a precious commodity. Full review here.

2. Boundaries of Eden. Glenn Arbery, 2020. This novel started my new year and blew me away. (It would be at #1 if Kindly Inquisitors weren’t so goddamn perfect.) It blends genres subtly across a philosophical canvas, and is a bit hard to summarize. Call it a heritage mystery, a southern Gothic, a drug-cartel thriller, and an unsparing look at the mind of a serial killer. It’s about the way sins of the past impinge on the present, and the pain that comes with digging up the past. The main character is Walter Peach, who runs a newspaper in the central county of Georgia, treats his wife and kids like sewage, falls in love with his niece, openly fawns on said niece around his family, while at work he publishes screeds against Mexican cartels that no one takes seriously. Pivotal to the drama (and Peach’s past) is an abandoned 40-year old house buried under a sea of kudzu. Some of the scenes inside the house show that Arbery could be a horror writer if he wanted to; he has a gift for summoning dread that many horror writers only aspire to. Some of the most horrifying parts, though, are revelations unearthed about the main character’s mother, her slave heritage, and crimes committed in the name of justice. Well crafted and multi-layered — even poetic at times — Boundaries of Eden begins like a Faulkner classic and slow-burns into something much more; it never cheats the reader because it’s a novel that does everything, and because Arbery is simply incapable of writing a dull paragraph. I didn’t want it to end.

3. Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender, and Identity. Helen Pluckrose & James Lindsay, 2020. Critiques of postmodernism usually strawman their subject, but Pluckrose and Lindsay do right by it, allowing us to scorn postmodern theories with a clean conscience: theories saying that objective truth is unobtainable, and that the scientific method is overrated; that power and hierarchies are the number one evil; that words are powerful and dangerous, and language can be as harmful as physical violence. This stuff was always bonkers, but when applied to social justice agendas of the woke left it goes off the cliff, giving us Critical Race Theory (all whites are complicit in racism), Queer Theory (sex isn’t biological and exists on a spectrum), Postcolonial Theory (describing Islam as a religion of violence is hateful), Fat Studies (the desire to remedy obesity is hateful), and so on. The authors conclude that while racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and social injustices continue to be problems, postmodern theories are religious anti-solutions making the problems worse. The proper solutions lie where they always have — and where they have produced tangible positive results — namely, in classical liberalism. This is a perfect book to read in tandem with Kindly Inquisitors (#1), which the authors have clearly learned from. Full review here.

4. Silent Earth: Averting the Insect Apocalypse. Dave Goulson, 2021. This is a strident plea to protect insects before they’re wiped out, and the planet along with them. The author (an entomologist and conservationist) explains how global insect populations are declining through habitat fragmentation, industrial farming practices, pesticides, and climate change — and in some cases the decline is by as much as 75%. It continues to astonish me that many people don’t realize how critical pollination is. Nearly 90% of plant species require pollination in order to produce fruits or seeds, including most agricultural food crops, and while honeybees and bumblebees do most of the pollination legwork, other insects do too, like butterflies, wasps, and beetles. In some parts of the world farmers have to do the labor-intensive job of hand-pollinating their crops. Goulson calls for action to protect insects and rethink our heavy reliance on pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. We can help insect populations recover in a variety of ways: by reducing lawn space in favor of flowering plants, mowing grass less often, incorporating wide ranges of native plants into our gardens, and giving predatory insects a first crack at the problem that pesticides address. If we don’t want fruits and vegetables to become the food of kings — and for humanity to be reduced to eating wind-pollinated cereal grains — this is a book we’d do well to heed.

5. Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem: How Religion Drove the Voyages That Led to America. Carol Delaney, 2011. I’m not a fan of Columbus, and there’s certainly no reason to have a holiday in his name, but after reading this book I appreciate him more in the context of his time. He wasn’t a greedy colonizer but a zealous apocalyptic. Many fifteenth-century Christians believed that the apocalypse wasn’t far off (especially since the fall of Constantinople to Islam in 1453), and that conditions had to be fulfilled before Christ could come again: the Turks had to be defeated and Jerusalem liberated from Muslim control. Columbus believed a crusade was necessary, and he knew there was enough gold in the east to finance a holy war. He also knew that if the Great Khan could be converted, that would mean a reliable eastern flank to converge on Jerusalem at the same time European crusaders attacked from the west. He presented his plan to Queen Isabella in 1486, which she liked but wouldn’t run with until the conquest of Muslim Granada was over six years later. The rest is famous history. What’s not well known is the religious fervor that drove Columbus: by discovering new islands and evangelizing “savage” peoples, Columbus was preparing the world for the Last Judgment, and acquiring the necessary riches to finance the Last Crusade. Delaney is no apologist for Columbus, but she does show how he’s been over-maligned. At least he tried treating the Indians decently, unlike many of the men he led, and especially unlike the governors (Bobadilla, Ovando, etc.) who came after him. Full review here.

6. The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth. Jonathan Rauch, 2021. The sequel to Kindly Inquisitors (see #1) addresses the major epistemic crisis facing America today — a two-pronged assault elevating falsehoods above facts, from the populist right and elitist left. Rauch starts by showing how human beings are biologically and socially conditioned to believe whatever they want, irrespective of evidence, and that our institutions of expertise tame those tribal urges through rigorous practices such as peer review and fact checking. He draws a parallel between this constitution of knowledge and two of liberalism’s other institutions, constitutional government and free-market economics. All of them together, working at their best, result in political cooperation, economic prosperity, and reliable scientific findings. But recently there have been two particular forces seriously undermining the constitution of knowledge. The first is the nihilism of the internet, with its metrics and algorithms that are sensitive to popularity but wholly indifferent to truth. Fake news, trolling, and junk science flood the web giving the alt-right a voice everywhere. Instead of banning ideas, the right swamps and swarms them with garbage to overwhelm people. The second is cancel culture, rooted in what Rauch calls “emotional safetyism,” which construes disagreeable or upsetting arguments as threats that need policing. His list of the dozen ways in which emotional safetyism poisons us is one of the best exposes on the subject. So is his seven-fold criteria of how to tell whether you’re being criticized or cancelled. The left has gone a long way in turning a culture of critical review into a culture of confirmation bias and censorship. Full review here.

7. Sins of Empire. Brian McClellan, 2017. I gave this novel a try based on its reputation as a fantasy set in a world of guns and magic. The world evokes our Napoleonic era and there’s a mood to it unlike typical fantasy that feels like fresh air. I was hooked immediately by the three major characters. First is Michel Bravis, my favorite; he works for the secret police force and is an antihero, a coward who does everything in his power to obtain a promotion by kissing the asses of those above him. He’s my favorite character because of this; he’s so real and authentic. Second is Ben Styke, a legendary military veteran rotting in a labor camp until he gets pulled out and set on a course of action that he’s not really clear about. Finally there is Vlora, or Lady Flint, the general leading her company of Riflejacks mercenaries, who gets summoned to the city for a new contract, but quickly learns that nothing is safe or as it seems. It’s a good story and I look forward to the next two books when I have time for them. McClellan’s plotting is impressive, as he focuses on mysteries as much the usual fantasy tropes, and his self-serving characters are very entertaining. Fantasy novels don’t always have the most engaging characters, but Sins of Empire has plenty of them.

8. Prey: Immigration, Islam, and the Erosion of Women’s Rights. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, 2021. Vilified for speaking truth and common sense, Hirsi Ali has now turned her guns on the problem of Muslim immigrants in Europe, especially since 2015, when more than a million migrants and refugees crossed the border and ignited the well-known crisis. It’s important to stress that Hirsi Ali’s book doesn’t demonize migrant men from the Muslim world. As she says, there’s no racial component to her argument at all. A certain proportion of men of all ethnicities will rape and harass women. But the rates are vastly lower in some parts of the world than in others, especially in places where men are raised to respect a woman’s autonomy. In many parts of Europe now, women who walk outdoors (assuming they don’t stay shut inside at home) have adopted some of the mannerisms of women in the Middle-East and Africa — shrinking from men, being on guard, and avoiding drawing attention to themselves. The simple act of traveling or enjoying lunch in a cafe has become a thing of the past for many women. The unpleasant fact is that hard-won gains that women have made are being eroded in Europe by immigrants from the Muslim world where such rights to women are not granted, and the problem is compounded by the fact that Muslim immigrants have a poor track record of assimilating to western culture even by the second or third generations. Islam’s demands are too absolute to allow for it. Hirsi Ali rejects right-wing populist solutions (expelling illegal immigrants and restricting Muslim immigration), and instead advocates a massive reform of the European systems of integrating immigrants, from which she herself has benefited. Full review here.

9. The Plot. Jean Hanff Korelitz, 2021. A novel-within-a-novel that focuses on the inner turmoil of the author, and kind of reminds me of Misery (no surprise that Stephen King loves it). Misery was about a guy who was forced to write the story he didn’t want. The Plot is about a guy who writes a story that’s not his. Jake is a third-rate novelist who steals a story from a former student now dead, becomes rich and famous for it, and then out of the blue gets trolled by an anonymous stalker and repeatedly called out for plagiarism. Panicked, he tries to uncover the person who is harassing him, and one bizarre twist leads to another. Turns out (major spoiler) that Jake stole a real-life story of a murder, and when he decides to rewrite his novel as a piece of true crime, he ends up in much deeper shit. I never read anything by Jean Korelitz before; she’s pretty good. But while The Plot is a cracking suspense novel, it’s also, I think, a serious mediation on — and rather unflattering look at — writers in general. Their egos, insecurities, vanities. At points I felt a bit naked reading it.

10. Leave It As It Is: A Journey Through Theodore Roosevelt’s American Wilderness. David Gessner, 2021. Yes, Teddy Roosevelt was mostly a terrible president, but he did one thing for which we owe him a debt of gratitude: saving hundreds of millions of acres of land from being developed and despoiled. Gessner reminds us that the GOP was Teddy’s party, and that many of our most important environmental laws came from the Republican party, all the way up through the end of Nixon’s presidency. In fact I would argue that Teddy and Richard Nixon were the best pro-environmental presidents. (The GOP anti-environmental shift came with Reagan.) Yes, they were overall failures. Aside from Donald Trump, no president was so narcissist and drunk on his self-regard than Teddy Roosevelt; and also aside from Trump, no president so openly disdained the Constitution and claimed himself to be above the document like Teddy did. And Tricky Dick was a Constitutional crook. Yet we do owe these men gratitude for their environmental causes, Teddy for land preservation, Nixon for signing loads of progressive legislation. Gessner’s book is a tour of all the sites we can savor thanks to Teddy, and let’s hope these sites will be around for a long time to come.

What He Said: Mark Twain

Today’s the man’s birthday. Here are ten of his best quotes, with an 11th bonus to the right in the pic.

1. The funniest things are forbidden.

— Hell yes. Whether by wokes or fundies.

2. The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.

— Some say that we shouldn’t come down hard on those who read garbage — “because at least they’re reading something” — but I don’t subscribe to that school of thought, or at least not entirely. Twain had it better.

3. The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog.

— Come to think of it, growing up I did like my dog more than I cared for most people.

4. There are no people who are quite so vulgar as the over-refined.

— Zinger.

5. When you catch an adjective, kill it.

— More writers should heed this.

6. I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader, and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read Pride and Prejudice, I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.

— A strong reaction, but admittedly Pride and Prejudice is a horrendous ordeal for anyone to suffer through.

7. Concerning the difference between man and the jackass: some observers hold that there isn’t any. But this wrongs the jackass.

— Ouch.

8. Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’. Your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.

— I’ll try this sometime.

9. The more things are forbidden, the more popular they become.

— Which is why censors, silencers, and cancelers are their own worst enemy.

10. One accustoms himself to writing short sentences as a rule. At times he may indulge himself in a long one, but he will make sure that there are no folds in it, no vagueness, no parenthetical interruptions of its view as a whole; when he is done with it, it won’t be a sea-serpent with half of its arches under the water, it will be a torch-light procession.

— My favorite Twain quote.

Parthenogenesis: Virgin Births in Birds

On my birthday comes an interesting article about virgin births being more common than we thought. I knew that parthenogenesis (“virgin birth”) was common in aphids, lizards, and fish, but apparently in birds too. The Atlantic reports:

“In species where parthenogenesis has been extensively studied, the process begins not long after the egg itself is created. When a cell divides in two to make an egg cell, the other half becomes a polar body, which contains a near-identical copy of DNA. Normally, the polar body disintegrates. But studies of other birds have revealed that on occasion, the polar body somehow merges again with the egg, acting like sperm fertilizing it. Because of birds’ chromosome system—ZZ makes males and ZW makes females—all avian parthenotes are males. If an egg with a W chromosome merges with its polar body, the resulting WW embryo will not be viable. Only the ZZ parthenotes ever hatch. But that doesn’t explain why some females go through parthenogenesis but not others.”

There was a good Regenesis episode dealing with a parthenogenesis in a teen girl whom the Norbac scientists initially thought was raped by her father. You can watch it on amazon prime, Regenesis: Season 3. It’s episode 10, “Unbearable”. Wes is part of the Norbac team and also the uncle of the girl (Molly) who is pregnant. He thinks that his brother Eliot (Molly’s father) raped her, and wants his colleagues to prove it with all the DNA testing so he can call the police. The relevant part goes from 34:50-40:47:

Wes: “Did Eliot get Molly pregnant? I want to know, I want to call the police.”

David: “What’s the name of Eliot’s ex-wife?”

Wes: “Andrea.”

David: “Molly got 50% of her DNA from Eliot, and 50% of her DNA from Andrea. The baby got 50% of her DNA from Molly, which breaks down to 25% from her grandmother, and 25% from her grandfather. And she got 50% of her DNA from whoever the father was. Now if Eliot is the baby’s father, that means that 50% of the baby’s DNA comes from Eliot as its father, and 25% of its DNA comes from Eliot as its grandfather, for a total of 75%.

Maiko: “No, but that’s the thing. We checked, and it’s only 50% of Eliot’s DNA in that baby, not 75%.”

David: “Well… then Andrea fucked the milkman. The only way this is possible is if Eliot is only the biological father of the baby, not the biological father of Molly. Call the police, Wes.”

Carlos: “No, but wait a minute, David. We have DNA profiles of Eliot and Molly. And with 100% certainty, Eliot is Molly’s biological father. We keep going in circles.”

David: “Well… then shit.”

Then David examines the DNA analyses of Molly’s baby and finds that it is 100% identical to that of Molly — a clone, an identical twin, a genetic copy, whatever you want to call it. So Eliot is not the father of the baby, because the baby doesn’t have a father. David speculates: “In other for parthenogenesis to occur, Molly’s egg needed to gain an extra copy of DNA somehow. Fertilized without the fertilizer. And then the hard part: that egg DNA somehow had to come alive. Normally it’s the sperm that does that. So we need to look for something that could trigger all of this. My guess is a bacterium. A bacterium that somehow infected her developing eggs.”

Fun science fiction, and not wildly impossible. Scientists say that human virgin births are technically possible though very unlikely.

Reading Radar Update

Loren’s Recommendations

It’s my month to be featured on the Nashua Public Library’s Reading Radar (our staff pick display). I have some new recommendations, and I reproduce all my picks here on this blog, since I’ve reviewed many of them in the past, and supply the links at the end of the blurbs. Fiction and non-fiction alike are included in the following recommendations. (Click on the right image for my feature page on the library website.)

1. The Twelve Children of Paris, by Tim Willocks, 2013. A crusader enters Paris during the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre (1572) and goes on a slaughter-mission, tearing up the city to find his lost wife. His salvation, if he deserves any, comes from a group of abused children he rescues along the way. Full review here.

2. The Accursed Kings, by Maurice Druon, 6 volume series, 1955-1960. George Martin calls this series the “original Game of Thrones”, and I can see why. It’s historical fiction (not fantasy) set in France (1314-1336), showing the downfall of the Capetian dynasty amidst self-serving ambitions. Endless family quarrels, clashes between church and throne, civil war, adultery, backbiting, regicide, baby-switching, baby-killing, you name it.

3. Cynical Theories, by Helen Pluckrose & James Lindsay, 2020. A book I wish everyone would read. The authors explore the tension between classical liberalism and woke postmodernism, and the differences between their approaches to social justice. They conclude that classical liberalism stands the test of time against the emptiness of woke theories. Full review here.

4. Veritas, by Ariel Sabar, 2020. A real-life conspiracy thriller, the true story of a pornographer who conned Harvard University into believing that a “gospel of Jesus’s wife” was genuine. This brilliant piece of investigative journalism was nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime. Full review here.

5. The History of Jihad, by Robert Spencer, 2018. Featured front and center: the first book of its kind, that covers all theaters of the Islamic holy wars, starting with Muhammad and then proceeding through every century, showing how jihad has always been an essential ingredient of Islam. It even covers the jihads in India (usually hard information to come by). While there are many peaceful and moderate Muslims, there has never been a form of moderate Islam; it’s not a religion of peace, which is why disproportionate numbers of Muslims have been jihadists in every day and age. Full review here.

6. Recarving Rushmore, by Ivan Eland, 2014. If you want a book that ranks the U.S. presidents who were good for the causes of peace, prosperity, and liberty (like Tyler and Harding), then read this book. If you want to stick with presidents who have been mythologized (like Lincoln, FDR, and Reagan), or who were charismatics, then get any of the mainstream rankings that fill the shelves of libraries and bookstores. Full review here.

7. Free Speech on Campus, by Erwin Chemerinsky & Howard Gillman, 2017. “We should prepare students for the road, not the road for the students.” Sounds elementary, but college campuses are among the last places today you can be guaranteed a free exchanges of ideas. The majority position of students (58% of them, in 2017) is that they should not be exposed to ideas that offend them — and these students are the future of our legislators and supreme court justices. If every college student read this book, it might go a long way to making strong thinkers again. Full review here.

8. Koko, by Peter Straub, 1988. A novel about four Vietnam vets who believe that a member of their platoon is killing people across southeast Asia. Then they think it’s a different member. Then more surprises unfold. An absolutely brilliant story, and you can taste the sweat and tears that went into it. Full review (retrospective) here.

9. Boundaries of Eden, by Glenn Arbery, 2020. Last but not least, and in fact I’ll call it my #1 pick. It’s a heritage mystery, a southern Gothic, a drug-cartel thriller, and examines the tormented mind of a serial killer. It’s that rare novel that does a bit of everything, very literary, and I didn’t want it to end.

 

Reading Roundup: 2020

Most of my reading this year was rereads of novels I enjoyed long ago — the prescribed medicine for Covid quarantine. But there were new items too, five in particular, and by far the best of that handful was the expose of the Jesus-Wife hoax. You should read Veritas if nothing else on this list.

1. Veritas, Ariel Sabar. I don’t care what else was published in 2020 that was good and I didn’t read. Veritas is the book of the year, a piece of detective work that shows rare command of so many specialties — early Christian texts, canonical and gnostic; papyrology; peer review processes; online pornography; the fine line between liberal theology and academic study. Sometimes the hardest lie to refute is the Big Lie, since it requires so much ground to cover — even when the lie is obvious from start. Veritas shows the depths to which professionals sink in willful naivete, and the lengths to which forgers will go to bamboozle the academy. I’m wiser than ever before about what drives forgers, and why certain scholars get easily played. Walter Fritz succeeded thanks to a divinity school in crisis. Harvard was on the brink of creating a secular religious studies department, and the divinity department (and Karen King’s status) was in jeopardy. The Jesus-Wife fragment came as a godsend to Karen King, for keeping progressive liberal theology married to academic scholarship. Full review here.

2. Rating America’s Presidents, Robert Spencer. Most historians tend to favor presidents who were charismatics, goal-oriented managers, foreign interventionists, and heavy into top-down government. But just because a leader is charismatic and can move you with speeches, doesn’t say anything about his policies and how good he was. That he accomplished his goals says nothing about how good those goals were. That he intervened militarily abroad and economically at home are just as likely bad signs as good ones. Robert Spencer grades the American presidents on the basis of their actual policies and their Constitutional fidelity. Were they good for America, or were they not? In most cases (26 presidents), I agree closely with Spencer’s rankings, aside from minor quibbles. And even in the other 14 cases, only 6 represent dramatic disagreements on my part (Spencer scores Jackson, Lincoln, and Trump high, where I score them low. He scores Hayes, Carter, and Clinton low, where I score them high.) We agree in any case on what matters most in a president’s policy-making decisions: the dangers of entangling alliances, the superiority of fiscal conservatism, and the importance of liberty. Full review here.

3. Age of Monsters, Robert Kruger. I read the draft for this novel in 2019 but it was published this year. It tells two stories — the aches and twists of teen love in the ’80s and a gaming campaign that loudens the relationship. An eighth-grade student in Portland Oregon falls for the new girl in town, and hooks her into his role-playing fantasies (the RPG sort, not S&M). The dark-priestess character she plays is a vessel of her real-world baggage, and together the teens use their imagination to confront real-world problems at school and home. There are Stranger Things vibes but it’s very much its own thing; Kruger started writing the story long before the Netflix series landed. It’s hard to make table-top narratives engaging as they are immersive, but Age of Monsters taps into the fire that made us grognards so passionate for old-school D&D in the ’80s.

4. Heroes of the Fourth Turning, Will Arbery. I saw this play dramatized over Zoom and it was brilliantly acted. Four graduates of a Catholic college in Wyoming have returned to campus for a weekend event, and spend an evening arguing with each other about a lot of things — abortion, divorce, the LGBT community, hate speech, to name a few. Justin laments the fading power of Christianity in the world. Kevin is a pathetic whiner who can’t shit or get off the pot. Emily is tormented by a painful chronic illness. And Teresa (by far the most entertaining character) is practically a clone of Ann Coulter who writes polemical essays for a right-wing publication. These four voted for Donald Trump in 2016 but had reservations about doing so. Their mindset is alien to those of a liberal or secular audience (like myself), but the play has been hailed as compelling by many viewers. It’s a fascinating stretch of dialogue between friends trying to make sense of entrenched values. Arbery neither endorses nor condemns them. He writes about them because it’s what he knows, having been raised as a conservative Catholic. See this review for more.

5. Presidential Elections and Majority Rule, Edward Foley. Since the 2016 election especially, people have demanded that we abolish the electoral college in favor of a national popular vote. But the electoral college is a very good if flawed system. A national popular vote carries the danger of mob rule — like the reign of tyranny during the French revolution, or the Brexit vote, when 51% or 52% of the people imposed their will on 49% or 48%. The American founders wanted more than just a simple majority rule; they wanted a compound form of majority rule, or a “majority of the majorities” — in other words, a majority of the electoral votes compiled from states in which the victor also achieved a majority of the statewide popular vote. That system works like a gem in two-party elections, where the winner by necessity obtains a compound majority of the vote, but when third-party or independent candidates are involved, they can rob another candidate of an honest victory. The solution, as Foley argues, isn’t to abolish the electoral college, but to establish rank choice voting (or some run-off equivalent) in all the states. Full review here.

PC Compass

I was experimenting with online quiz makers, and this one evolved into something more than I’d intended. I post it below for any who wish to take it. I’m not going to be disingenuous and say there are no wrong answers, for I obviously believe there are, and I designed the quiz on that premise. Have at it, and score yourself at the bottom. Or, if you want the computer to score you, take the quiz directly here.

1. Racism is prejudice plus power; prejudice alone is not racism.

a. Strongly agree
b. Agree
c. Disagree
d. Strongly disagree

2. The classic film Song of the South should be released on DVD and for streaming, irrespective of claims that it promotes the myth of the happy slave.

a. Strongly agree
b. Agree
c. Disagree
d. Strongly disagree

3. The terms “biologically male” and “biologically female” are problematic descriptors, which should be dropped in favor of “designated male at birth” or “designated female at birth”.

a. Strongly agree
b. Agree
c. Disagree
d. Strongly disagree

4. Promoting safe spaces in an academic environment does more harm than help to a student’s intellect.

a. Strongly agree
b. Agree
c. Disagree
d. Strongly disagree

5. How do you feel about this image? (Click to enlarge)

 

a. Deeply offensive
b. Inappropriate
c. Mildly amusing
d. Genuinely funny

6. To say that Islam is a religion of violence is bigoted.

a. Strongly agree
b. Agree
c. Disagree
d. Strongly disagree

7. Whether one says “Merry Christmas” or “Happy holidays” doesn’t matter. It’s the thought of well-wishing that counts.

a. Strongly agree
b. Agree
c. Disagree
d. Strongly disagree

8. It’s inappropriate for Caucasians to wear dreadlocks, for non-Scots to wear kilts, and for whites to wear Native American headdresses.

a. Strongly agree
b. Agree
c. Disagree
d. Strongly disagree

9. Literary and/or cinematic figures like Paul Atreides (Dune), Danaerys Targaryen (Game of Thrones), and Neo (The Matrix) are “white saviors” whose narratives reinforce an implied superiority of whites over non-whites.

a. Strongly agree
b. Agree
c. Disagree
d. Strongly disagree

10. Consider the following image, in which Jesus is high-fiving Moses, as they’re jacked off by Ganesha, who in turn pounds Buddha up the ass:

How do you feel about the absence of Muhammad from this image?

a. Approve the absence of Muhammad. People should not draw pictures of Muhammad, because it provokes Muslims to kill. To a large degree, the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists who were assassinated got what they asked for.

b. Doesn’t faze me.

c. Dismayed by the typical exemption of Muhammad from pictorial satires. Western liberals are reinforcing Islamic blasphemy laws when they do this. Standing for free expression isn’t a provocation (much less a bigotry or phobia) but a moral obligation.

11. While a private business owner (like a baker) must provide equal access to all products and commodities (so as not to discriminate on the basis of gender, race, or sexual orientation), the private business owner should be under no obligation to create or design a product in a way that violates his or her conscience or religious beliefs (such as wedding cakes for gay couples).

a. Strongly agree
b. Agree
c. Disagree
d. Strongly disagree

12. A person’s biological sex isn’t objectively bimodal; it’s subjectively determined by the individual, and on a spectrum.

a. Strongly agree
b. Agree
c. Disagree
d. Strongly disagree

13. It is wrong-headed to criticize a particular religion and claim that it is more dangerous and oppressive than other religions. All religions have the same potential for good and harm.

a. Strongly agree
b. Agree
c. Disagree
d. Strongly disagree

14. The word “bitch” should be used (in a name-calling sense) only by women or transgendered people, as a reclaimed term in referring to their close friends.

a. Strongly agree
b. Agree
c. Disagree
d. Strongly disagree

15. How do you feel about this image? (Click to enlarge)

a. A mesmerizing piece of art
b. Fine with it
c. A bit sexist
d. Extremely sexist

16. Comedies like All in the Family and South Park are funny precisely because they are so offensive, by their satirical use of sexist, racist, and homophobic slurs.

a. Strongly agree
b. Agree
c. Disagree
d. Strongly disagree

17. The theory that women’s rape fantasies reflect a need to surrender to male dominance is sexist.

a. Strongly agree
b. Agree
c. Disagree
d. Strongly disagree

18. Consider the following statement made by a film critic: “I have blind spots when it comes to historical dramas.” The critic’s statement is offensive for its use of ableist language.

a. Strongly agree
b. Agree
c. Disagree
d. Strongly disagree

19. Hate speech should be protected by law.

a. Strongly agree
b. Agree
c. Disagree
d. Strongly disagree

20. A man should generally defer to a woman’s opinion on gender and abortion issues, and a white person should generally defer to a person of color’s opinion on racial issues.

a. Strongly agree
b. Agree
c. Disagree
d. Strongly disagree

 

Assign points to your answers as follows

1.

a = -2 points
b = -1 point
c = +1 point
d = +2 points

Racism doesn’t require a power imbalance to be what it is.

2.

a = +2 points
b = +1 point
c = -1 point
d = -2 points

The Song of the South is a cherished classic, and there’s no reason for the company to not meet the demands of its consumers who have been long awaiting its release. Even if it promotes a myth, so what? The market is flooded with films that promote wrong or bad ideas.

3.

a = -2 points
b = -1 point
c = +1 point
d = +2 points

The terms “biologically male” and “biologically female” are objectively valid categories.

4.

a = +2 points
b = +1 point
c = -1 point
d = -2 points

Safe spaces are anathema to a healthy undergraduate environment. College is the place to have one’s beliefs questioned and mercilessly skewered, to prepare for the real world, and to cultivate a healthy intellect.

5.

a = -2 points
b = -1 point
c = +1 point
d = +2 points

In the image shown, Ben Carson is being satirized more for his ideas than for his skin color.

6.

a = -2 points
b = -1 point
c = +1 point
d = +2 points

Saying that Islam is a religion of violence, regardless of how accurate that claim is (I believe it is accurate), does not constitute bigotry. Bigotry is about people. And just as no people are beneath dignity, no idea is above scrutiny. Especially when it comes to religious ideas.

7.

a = +2 points
b = +1 point
c = -1 point
d = -2 points

Consider the spirit in which things are said, and you’ll get through life a lot happier.

8.

a = -2 points
b = -1 point
c = +1 point
d = +2 points

Of all the PC tropes, none is more sadly absurd than “cultural appropriation”. If one adopts certain elements of another culture, then wonderful. No one needs the blessing of the people who belong to that culture, anymore than someone from that culture needs any vice-versa blessings.

9.

a = -2 points
b = -1 point
c = +1 point
d = +2 points

In the examples listed, the heroic figures do not reinforce the negative tropes of white savior narratives. Had different heroes been listed — such as John Dunbar from Dances With Wolves, Nathan Algren from The Last Samurai, and Jake Sully from Avatar — that would be a different matter.

10.

a = -2 points
b = -1 point
c = +2 points

This also calls to mind the South Park creators, who got away with depicting Muhammad (alongside Moses, Joseph Smith, Jesus, Buddha, and Krishna) in season 5 (top image), but were later required by Comedy Central to block him out with a bar labelled “censored” in season 14 (bottom image).

11.

a = +2 points
b = +1 point
c = -1 point
d = -2 points

The Supreme Court correctly decided (7-2) that a private business owner cannot be compelled to create or design a product in a particular way. The atheist bakers in question could refuse to design wedding cakes decorated with homophobic sayings, and the Christian baker in question could refuse to design a wedding cake decorated for a gay couple’s union. If you don’t like the fact that a business owner doesn’t create or design products in a particular way that you want, then tough rocks. Go elsewhere.

12.

a = -2 points
b = -1 point
c = +1 point
d = +2 points

If a biological female can declare herself to be a man, then I, as a human being, can just as easily declare myself to be a member of a different species. Those who believe that sex isn’t bimodal live in a world of alternative facts. Gender may be a social construct, but biology is biology.

13.

a = -2 points
b = -1 point
c = +1 point
d = +2 points

The claim that all religious systems have equal potential for good and harm makes about as much sense as the idea that all political systems — capitalism, communism, fascism, socialism — have equivalent potential. Ideas matter, and the ideas across different systems can vary dramatically.

14.

a = -2 points
b = -1 point
c = +1 point
d = +2 points

Reclaimed words set a problematic double standard.

15.

a = +2 points
b = +1 point
c = -1 point
d = -2 points

Pornography itself doesn’t reduce women (or men) to sex objects. It highlights an aspect of women (or men), and in this sense similar to fashion modeling. If a drawing like this is seen as sexist, the problem lies with the viewer, not the art.

16.

a = +2 points
b = +1 point
c = -1 point
d = -2 points

Praise All in the Family, which did as much for the cause of social progressives in the ’70s as the hippie movement did in the ’60s. It was genuinely funny, because it was allowed to be funny, and to push the bounds as satire must. South Park is similar.

17.

a = -2 points
b = -1 point
c = +1 point
d = +2 points

To whatever degree evolutionary theory accounts for rape fantasies (on which see here, theory #7 out of 9), claims about dominance and submissiveness being hardwired in our genes are devoid of value judgment and are thus not sexist. They only become sexist when the objective claims are used to justify or excuse sexist behavior.

18.

a = -2 points
b = -1 point
c = +1 point
d = +2 points

I almost didn’t include this question, because it’s rather hard to take seriously, but there you have it. (One person I tested the quiz on thought it was so dumb it should be removed, and he was probably right.)

19.

a = +2 points
b = +1 point
c = -1 point
d = -2 points

Hate speech has to be legal for many reasons: (1) One person’s hate speech is another’s protest against oppression and social injustice (witness Aayan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz). (2) What is deemed hateful is often not hateful at all, but simply disagreeable opinions that are unpopular and inconvenient. (3) Even when something is genuinely hateful, and there is wide agreement about it, it is terrible policy to silence or criminalize it, as it only makes martyrs of the bigots who are being denied the basic right to speak their minds. (4) On general principle, the solution to hateful ideas isn’t silencing or criminalizing, but countering them with better ideas, and to set a good example in a free society.

20.

a = -2 points
b = -1 point
c = +1 point
d = +2 points

Minorities don’t get to pull rank like this. As a member of the LGBT community, I may have first-hand insights to LGBT issues that a straight person would miss, but I should not as a rule be deferred to by a straight person on LGBT issues. We should all listen to a multitude of voices and treat each other’s arguments on their merits.

 

The Score Chart

Score Profile
31 to 40
Not a PC bone in your body
21 to 30
Solidly anti-PC
11 to 20 PC skeptic
-10 to 10
PC as often as not
-20 to -11
PC friendly
-30 to -21
Proudly PC
-40 to -31
PC to the core

(My score: +36)

Ellen/Elliot Page and the Declining Numbers of Lesbians

Yesterday the buzz was that Ellen Page is now Elliot Page. Page had come out lesbian in a moving speech on Valentine’s Day in 2014, and yesterday came out as transgender. What’s interesting is that only a few days before there were online discussions about the fading of lesbianism. It does make me wonder if Page’s second coming out has something to do with this trendiness or any social contagion factor.

Katie Herzog and Andrew Sullivan’s article (from four days ago), “Where Have All the Lesbians Gone?”, covers how the term “lesbian” is rapidly disappearing and wonders if “gay” will be next to go. That may sound crazy (because it is crazy), but in the minds of the ultra-woke, the term “homosexual” assumes a binary view of sex and can thus be construed as a bigoted term:

After Portland’s last lesbian bar closed in 2010, as Ellena Rosenthal explored in the Willamette Week, there were attempts to start lesbian-specific nights at various venues, but most avoided the L-word to appear inclusive of trans and nonbinary people. One event, called Temporary Lesbian Bar, apologized after being accused of condoning “trans women exterminationism” for using the labrys — a double-headed ax that symbolizes female strength and has long been a part of lesbian iconography — in their logo. That event still exists, but the organizers make sure to advertise that, despite the name, it’s “open, inclusive, and welcoming to all people.” The flight from “lesbian” has accelerated since. An academic in the Southeast, who asked to remain anonymous, told me that when she mentioned to a colleague that she’s a lesbian, the colleague “reacted like I’d confessed to being a Confederate Lost-Causer. She told me that the term is outdated and problematic, and I shouldn’t use it.” So the lesbian keeps quiet about her identity: “It’s like living in a second closet.” Not long ago, it would have been the Christian right stigmatizing homosexual women. Today, it’s also from people who call themselves queer.

The discussion was then picked up the following day on Jerry Coyne’s ““Why Evolution is True” blog, where Coyne discussed the increased social contagion factor that makes it cooler these days to be trans than lesbian.

Readers know that I was a fan of Page’s acting performances in his early career. These days he’s okay but not quite as on fire (I tried watching The Umbrella Academy but couldn’t get into it). I wish him the best and hope that this second coming out is authentic and not born of any discomfort with identifying as lesbian. Biological sex may not be binary, but it’s certainly bimodal (with very rare exceptions due to genetic/physical disorders), and not on a “spectrum” as many of the woke crowd insist. And it’s pathetically sad — though not in the least bit surprising — when some lesbians have to fear the left as much as the right when identifying as lesbian.

Reprobates and Sinners: The Hell Roster and Bad List of Pastor Steven Anderson

Steven Anderson has been leading his church in Tempe Arizona since Christmas 2005, and his sermons have been online since February 2006. Thirteen years later he’s pounding the pulpit, kicking the pulpit, and yelling from on top of it as hard as ever. Here I list the sinners and offenders he habitually screams about. There are of course so many more, but these are the fourteen kinds of people he obsesses and returns to time and time again. I’ve divided the categories into three tiers, and ranked them, as I see it, from greatest offense to least — though let’s be honest, these are all mega-offenses in the eyes of our dear pastor.

— Tier 1:  The irrevocably damned. The sinners in this category are reprobates and cannot be saved, according to Anderson. God has rejected them eternally, once and for all.

1. Homosexuals/pedophiles. By far the worst group, and in Anderson’s view the two are inseparable; it’s impossible to be one without being the other. Anderson believes that sodomites are not only sinners, but actual reprobates, based on the text of Romans 1:18-32. They have been rejected by God for rejecting Him one too many times. God finally got tired of being patient with them, and turned them into sodomites/perverts: “God gave them up to vile affections” (Rom 1:26); “God gave them over to a reprobate mind” (1:28); “God gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts” (1:24). This, according to Anderson, is the explanation for homosexuality: “When sodomites say ‘God made me that way’, they’re actually right. But God didn’t make them that way when they were born. God made them that way when they rejected Him (‘glorified Him not as God’) one too many times, and then God discarded them by turning them into homos.” As reprobates, sodomites, unlike most sinners (those in tiers 2 and 3), cannot possibly be saved, nor should anyone want to try saving them: “He that is filthy, let him be filthy still” (Rev 22:11). It’s the whole reason God turned them into sodomites to begin with: to turn them into trash, because of their unrelentingly God-hating hearts.

2. Bible translators/biblical scholars. Almost as bad as the first category, these people are, like the sodomites, irredeemable reprobates. Anderson bases his view on the text of Revelation 22:19, which speaks of anyone who tampers with the Word of God — that is, anyone who either adds or removes from the words of the precious King James Bible, indeed anyone who insists on changing but a single word of that bible — as “blotted out of the Book of Life” and irrevocably damned. Once removed from the book, they can’t be put back in.

— Tier 2:  Especially wicked sinners. These offenders are at least capable of being saved, if they accept Christ as their savior in the Bible-believing way that Anderson espouses.

3. Abortion doctors; pro-choice crusaders; women who obtain abortions. Abortion doctors, or any who have some kind of pro-active role in procuring abortions, are especially wicked in Anderson’s view. They murder the most innocent and vulnerable.

4. Zionists. Israel is the most ungodly nation on the planet, according to Anderson. He calls the year 1948 a diabolical fraud. The Jews are not God’s chosen people, and have not been so for two millennia. Replacement theology shouldn’t be a cuss word but common sense; it’s a basic premise of the New Testament: “If the kingdom of God is taken from you and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof, you’ve been replaced! You were the people of God, you were that holy nation of the Old Testament, but now you have been replaced. And today, the physical nation of Israel has been replaced by believers, by a holy nation made up of all believers in Christ, whether they be Jew or Gentile, no matter what the nationality.” According to Anderson, Zionism is more anti-Christ than any other of the major world religions.

5. Modalists. These people really get Anderson breathing fire. Modalism is a heresy that denies the trinity. It says that God is only one person or entity who has three modes (or faces, or masks) which do not exist simultaneously, and that He changes modes by putting on different hats (the Father, the Son, and the Spirit) as the occasion demands. In other words, according to modalism, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all the same person or entity. There is not three in one, but rather one who can morph as the situation requires. Christianity, of course, maintains that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are distinct. There is one substance and one God, to be sure (which maintains monotheism), but there are three different persons or entities within that God. That’s the trinity. So what’s the problem here? The problem is that Anderson doesn’t like anything that remotely smacks of modalism. He goes ballistic when Christians so much as dip a toe into modalist waters, even when they affirm the trinity. So if you suggest to Steven Anderson that “Jesus is the Father” in some way (per Isaiah 9:6), or if you point out to him that the three members of the trinity are sometimes interchangeable (the bible says the Father raised Jesus from the dead in Galatians 1;1, but also that the Spirit raised Jesus from the dead in Romans 8:11, but also again that Jesus the Son raised himself from the dead in John 2:19-21), he will go into an apoplectic fury. Indeed if you say that “Jesus is the Father” — even if you don’t mean that in a modalist way — you will probably get screamed at, thrown out of his church, and branded a “Oneness heretic”, no matter what trinitarian confessions you’ve insisted on.

6. Atheists/evolutionists. For Anderson they are the same thing. Perhaps more than others on this tier, they are especially in danger of becoming reprobates — unrelenting “haters of God”, whom the Lord will turn into sodomites (category #1) if they persist in virulently rejecting Him.

7. Litterbugs. I have never seen anyone so enraged over litterbugs. Whether it’s hikers and campers who leave trash in the wilderness, or people who throw garbage on the side of the road, if Anderson sees you doing this, you’d best be prepared for a mighty tongue-lashing. And yes, he justifies his “environmental” tirades from the bible.

8. Men who piss sitting down. Germans and other Europeans especially, but any man who allows himself to be micromanaged into effeminate bathroom behavior. Anderson takes the King James phrase, “him that pisseth against the wall” (I Sam 25:22, 25:34; I Kings 14;10, 16;11, 21:21; II Kings 9:8), as a symbol of proper manliness. “And that’s what’s wrong with society today. We’ve got pastors who pee sitting down; we’ve got the president of the United States, George W. Bush, who pees sitting down; we’ve got a bunch of preachers and leaders who want stand up and piss against the wall like a real man.” Anderson is so serious about this, that he has openly rebelled against his mother-in-law when he visits her in Germany — against her “no standing policy when peeing”. On biblical grounds, he will not allow his bathroom habits to be micromanaged.

9. Doctors who perform in vitro fertilization; women who undergo the treatment. Those who engage in vitro fertilization instead of waiting naturally to get pregnant, according to Anderson, are stealing babies from God. Or, as he put it in one sermon, “ripping babies out of the hands of God”. (Side note: this has become a running gag with a friend of mine, when we joke about performing bodily functions before nature calls. So for example, urinating when I don’t really have the urge is “stealing a piss from the Lord”.)

10. Male gynecologists. Men who examine women’s nether regions are disgusting perverts, according to Anderson, no matter how medically professional.

— Tier 3:  Sinful Christians. Those who preach or espouse these views could either be false Christians, or simply misguided believers in Christ who need a tongue-lashing. In any case, these issues do set Anderson off like a bomb.

11. Pre-tribbers. I have to agree 100% with Anderson on this one. Christians who believe in a pre-tribulation rapture have nothing to show for themselves. The idea that Christians will be raptured (taken bodily up to heaven) before the onset of the apocalyptic tribulation (a) is completely un-biblical, (b) emerged only in the 19th century, and (c) was popularized by the Left Behind novels in the sensationalist way of The DaVinci Code. There are technical problems with this view (namely, there’s not a single bible passage that lends credence to it) and the more general problem, which is that the early apostles and Christians not only expected to suffer the tribulation before they were raptured; they saw it as their holy duty. In the synoptic gospels, the letters of Paul, and the Book of Revelation, the rapture comes after the tribulation and prior to God’s wrath pouring out over the earth. Anderson has produced a deluge of polemical youtube videos explaining Revelation’s timetable, but you don’t have to wade through them if you don’t want to. Just check out his helpful graph, which is probably the best available chart for the Book of Revelation (from a fundamentalist point of view, anyway).

12. Dispensationalists. One of Anderson’s mantras is that God never changes. He’s always the same. And above all, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). The Old Testament carries the same moral imperatives it always did, and the God of the New Testament aligns completely with it. If you’re a dispensationalist, you’d best have the courage of your convictions, because Anderson will tear you a new one.

13. Calvinists, or anyone denying free will. This one convicts me out of the gate. I deny free will, though not because I believe in spiritual predestination, rather because I believe in material determinism. For Anderson, a scientific reason to oppose free will is as bad as a religious reason. He insists that we have the free will to do as we choose, and to believe as we choose. And he gets mighty incensed about the issue.

14. Lazy Soul-Winners. Anderson has broken fellowship with his Baptist colleagues over this. If you refuse to go out knocking doors at least twice a week, in order to save souls and win people to Christ — and above all, if you just leave door-hangers and tracts instead of knocking and talking to people — get ready to be screamed at like this.

Immigration: Three Reasons Trump’s Fans Should Love the Idea

Trump is obviously an idiot, but his hostility to immigration shows how clueless he and his fan-base really are.

(1) From a national perspective, welcoming immigrants has been a mark of enlightened thinking. The U.S. was founded by immigrants and has prided itself on being open to diversity. For all its troubled history with Native American ethnic cleansing and African American slavery, the nation was built on principles which advocate equal opportunity for all. When a president like Benjamin Harrison called for needless restrictions on Asian immigrants, he was judged for it accordingly. Americans have historically resisted the equation of nationality with ethnicity. Nationality has been about citizenship, and allegiance to the vision of the founding fathers.

(2) From an economic perspective, immigration has always been the life’s blood of the U.S., infusing new ideas and skills into the American market. Immigration has given the country new jobs, new businesses, new inventions. Immigrants create new populations of people who buy things. People tend to fear job competition in times of hardship or depression — and the threat of having jobs “stolen” from them — but the fact is that a bigger workforce means more consumption, more demand, and more jobs. That’s the long-standing wisdom of economists. Thwarting immigration is a likely path to slowing economic growth.

(3) From a Judeo-Christian religious perspective, one could make a strong case to be pro-immigration. According to even a hard-core fundamentalist like Pastor Steven Anderson, God specifically tells his followers to welcome and love the immigrant: “The stranger (immigrant) that dwells with you shall be as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:34). “You shall neither vex a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 22:21; cf.23:9; Leviticus 19:33). After all, says Anderson, everyone in America descends from immigrants (aside from the Native American Indians), and those who have a problem with immigrants “should probably leave the country themselves”. There is also the example of Ruth, who wondered why she should receive grace, given that she was an immigrant from Moab. Yet Boaz took care of her anyway, and told others to treat her well. (Ruth 2:10-16)

In light of the support Trump receives from “patriotic” nationalists, entrepreneurs, and conservative Christians, the irony is amusing.