Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Haiti Update

My friend Andy is a missionary in Haiti and has been sending us regular updates since the earthquake. Here's his latest:

Haiti is a strange place. Stories (a.k.a. lies) are flying around this island. One story says that the Americans set off a bomb underneath Haiti. They want to take it over and occupy it because they saw on a computer somewhere that USA doesn't exist in 2012. That's funny.

Other stories aren't so funny. The news I sent about a nearby hospital falling over? A lie. Sorry I forwarded it without confirmation.

I heard a lady on the radio who lost her daughter when people took off running because a tidal wave was coming. There was no wave, but she still hadn't found her daughter. Not so funny.

Yesterday I visited our former teacher who lost his son in the quake. The details are so sad. The boy never came home from school that day. He was attending afternoon classes, so he should have been in the school when the quake hit. The school collapsed, and the father (our former teacher) went there two days later. He saw only parts of people sticking out of the rubble. The building was flat. We can only believe his son's body is in there.

Many, many buildings have yet to be 'cleaned up'. Who knows how long it will take. No closure for those poor parents. The boy's mother still holds a hope that somehow, someday.... I left some cash with them, and hope to send some more before long. Your gifts for this situation are blessing lots of people in moments of real need.

Then today we got word that Wilphar and Emmanuel's father died in Port yesterday. He had been sick before the quake. Since the quake he was living in the street. We sent him some money last week. He was being moved around in a wheel barrow since the quake hit. His other children called to inform Wilphar that they needed to bury him. After some 24 years of fatherly neglect, the other children reminded Wilphar that he's the oldest child, and the funeral weight is on him. We'll be able to help them because of gifts from folks like you.

More to come....

If you'd like to help Andy meet the needs of these suffering people you can send a check to Andy Stump c/o Christ Lutheran Church, 126 West Main St., Dallastown, PA 17313. Our church sponsors his work.


The Will to Disbelieve

The recent passing of far-left historian Howard Zinn reminded me, in a circuitous sort of way, of a piece Mary Eberstadt wrote a year ago for First Things. I thought it'd be worth sharing. The article was titled The Will to Disbelieve, a take-off on philosopher William James' famous essay The Will to Believe.

Eberstadt begins by reminding us of the willful imperviousness of the intellectual left (e.g. Zinn) to the evidence of the crimes of communism in the twentieth century and goes on to compare that will to disbelieve with the cultural elite's similar refusal to see the evidence of the tragic effects of the sexual revolution. She writes:

Such a lack of consensus is interesting, because the empirical record by now weighs overwhelmingly against the liberationists - again, quite similarly to the way in which the moral record of communism weighed against the communists, even as many intellectuals in the West continued to deny it.

To say as much is not to say that the sexual revolution has caused anything like the Gulag archipelago or some of the other more dramatic legacies of communism (which apologists used to call "excesses"). It is not to say that the sexual revolution is the root of all evil, any more than any other single momentous historical development is the root of all evil. It is to say, however, that the similarities between today's intellectual denials of the costs of the sexual revolution and yesterday's intellectual denials of the costs of communism are striking - and for those who are not in denial about what's happening, the similarities between these two phases of intellectual history line up uncannily well.

Consider just a few of the likenesses between these two epochal events in modern intellectual history. In both cases, an empirical record has been assembled that is beyond refutation and that testifies to the unhappy economic, social, and moral consequences. Yet in both cases, the minority of scholars who have amassed the empirical record and drawn attention to it have been rewarded, for the most part, with a spectrum of reaction ranging from indifference to ridicule to wrath.

Eberstadt proceeds to lay out her case, a case which would seem to be obvious, to quote Pascal, to anyone who is not dead set against it. Here's part of her argument:

Or consider more recent evidence of the revolution's toll. One is an interesting book published a few years ago by Elizabeth Marquardt entitled Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce. Based on a 125-question survey administered with her coresearcher Norval Glenn to two groups - those who had grown up in divorced homes on the one hand, and those from intact homes on the other - Marquardt's results show clearly the higher risks of dysfunction and disturbance that follow many of her subjects into adulthood.

This brings us to the moral core of the sexual revolution: the abundant evidence that its fruits have been worst for women and children. Even people who pride themselves on politically correct compassion, who criticize conservatives and religious believers for their supposed "lack of feeling," fail to see the contradiction between their public professions of compassion in other matters and their private adherence to a liberationist ethic.

This resolute refusal to recognize that the revolution falls heaviest on the youngest and most vulnerable shoulders - beginning with the fetus and proceeding up through children and adolescents - is perhaps the most vivid example of the denial surrounding the fallout of the sexual revolution. In no other realm of human life do ordinary Americans seem so indifferent to the particular suffering of the smallest and weakest. Our campuses especially ring with the self-righteous chants of those protesting the genocide in Darfur, or wanton cruelty to animals, or gross human rights violations by oppressive governments such as China's. These are all problems about which real students shed real tears. I'm not saying their compassion is wrong. I'm just saying that it's selectively deployed. People who in any other context would pride themselves on defending the underdog forget just who that underdog is when the subject is the sexual revolution.

Think about those who are the most stalwart defenders of laissez-faire sexuality in the public square: libertarians, many of them young men, almost all of them...single. This is the demographic in which liberationism thrives, among those generally strongest, in the prime of their lives and operating on the assumption only of the revolution's benefits for themselves.

The whole essay is very much worth reading whether one is concerned about the consequences of the tectonic shift in our sexual morality since WWII or is interested in trying to understand how anyone could possibly have been sympathetic to twentieth century communism, or both.


Honoring Mother Teresa

Comes word that some atheists are in a snit because the U.S. Postal Service is going to put Mother Teresa on a stamp:

An atheist organization is blasting the U.S. Postal Service for its plan to honor Mother Teresa with a commemorative stamp, saying it violates postal regulations against honoring "individuals whose principal achievements are associated with religious undertakings."

The Freedom from Religion Foundation is urging its supporters to boycott the stamp - and also to engage in a letter-writing campaign to spread the word about what it calls the "darker side" of Mother Teresa.

The stamp - set to be released on Aug. 26, which would have been Mother Teresa's 100th birthday - will recognize the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize winner for her humanitarian work, the Postal Service announced last month.

But Freedom from Religion Foundation spokeswoman Annie Laurie Gaylor says issuing the stamp runs against Postal Service regulations.

"Mother Teresa is principally known as a religious figure who ran a religious institution. You can't really separate her being a nun and being a Roman Catholic from everything she did," Gaylor told

Well, that's true enough. What one does with one's life is often inseparable from what one most deeply believes, which is, I suppose, why there are no atheist charitable organizations to speak of. Nonetheless, it's asinine to think, as Ms. Gaylor evidently does, that because one is inspired by religious beliefs to live a life of altruism that that life should not be recognized simply because of the motives which inspired it.

Indeed, when Ms. Gaylor was asked why her organization didn't oppose stamps honoring Malcolm X and Martin Luther King she gave a very puzzling reply:

Gaylor said the atheist group did not oppose stamps for King and Malcolm X, because, she said, they were known for their civil rights activities, not for their religion.

Martin Luther King "just happened to be a minister," and "Malcolm X was not principally known for being a religious figure," she said.

"And he's not called Father Malcolm X like Mother Teresa. I mean, even her name is a Roman Catholic honorific."

Perhaps the most gracious thing to do here would be to politely avert one's eyes from such a towering display of embarrassing fatuity. Surely Ms Gaylor doesn't intend to be taken seriously. Has she never read the Biography of Malcolm X and how his conversion to Islam shaped his subsequent life? Has she never read the writings of Martin Luther King, who, be it noted, was almost always referred to as "Reverend" King (not to mention that he carried the name of the great protestant reformer)? Is she oblivious to how both his sense of justice and his courage were rooted in his faith in God? If she hasn't, I urge her to pick up a copy of his I Have a Dream speech or his Letter From a Birmingham Jail.

But the deeper question is this: Since when do church/state considerations make it somehow illicit for the government to honor people who do great things from religious motivation? Would Ms. Gaylor have opposed the issuance of the stamp in 1948 which honored the four chaplains aboard the torpedoed USAT Dorchester - one of whom was a priest and presumably bore the honorific of "Father" - who, motivated by their mutual love for God, gave their life vests to others as the boat sank?

Here's the irony in Ms. Gaylor's position, however: In a world in which people acted consistently with their assumptions about ultimate reality there's absolutely no reason an atheist would have for acting altruistically. On atheism acts of great personal sacrifice are utterly inexplicable. People may engage in them, as does Dr. Rieux in Camus' The Plague, but the choice to do so is non-rational. Atheism leads to an egoistic ethic. Great sacrifices for others are incomprehensible in a world without God. People like Mother Teresa, on the other hand, and the four chaplains were motivated by their love for, and gratitude to, God and the conviction that God wanted them to give of themselves for others whom He loves. Grant Ms. Gaylor her Godless world and all we're left with is a life in which no one has any reason to do anything other than look out for his own self-interest - a Hobbesian war of every man against every man.

The Postal Service would struggle in such a world, the world Ms Gaylor would have us live in, to find anyone worth honoring with a stamp.