Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Charles Murray’s Letter to Azusa Pacific Students 

I am slightly preoccupied this morning and in a fog thanks to a fire alarm first announcing the weakness of its battery in the middle of the night.  (But I am being redundant.  Fire alarms always first announce the weakness of their batteries in the middle of the night.)

But I cannot let pass an open letter from Charles Murray to the students of Azusa Pacific University, particularly since it is a good companion to yesterday’s post.  It happens that he was long scheduled to speak there.  But the oh-so tolerant and sensitive “Shut Up” cabal let their disapproval be known, and his appearance was “postponed.”

Murray uses the occasion well to confront the increasing vapidity of U. S. higher education and its “Shut Up” culture.  He begins:

I was scheduled to speak to you tomorrow. I was going to talk about my new book, “The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead,” and was looking forward to it. But it has been “postponed.” Why? An email from your president, Jon Wallace, to my employer, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), said “Given the lateness of the semester and the full record of Dr. Murray’s scholarship, I realized we needed more time to prepare for a visit and postponed Wednesday’s conversation.” This, about an appearance that has been planned for months. I also understand from another faculty member that he and the provost were afraid of “hurting our faculty and students of color.”

You’re at college, right? Being at college is supposed to mean thinking for yourselves, right? Okay, then do it.

Indeed, U. S. universities are becoming institutes of indoctrination rather that places where actual thought and listening to competing views is encouraged.  But, as I said, I am too much in a fog to say much more, so do go read Murray’s excellent letter for yourself.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Fascism at Cornell 

This sort of thing so disturbs me and so feeds my pessimism about education, the rule of law, and free speech in America that I don’t know how to begin except to get to the incident at hand.

A brave Cornell student wrote a column for the campus newspaper decrying how under “rape culture” hysteria, protections for students accused of rape have been virtually eliminated in university tribunals:

…the belief that rape must be prevented by “any means necessary” has been used to justify the elimination of key protections for students accused of rape in campus judicial systems. Some want the claims of the alleged victims of rape to be accepted as true, and not scrutinized in a fair legal proceeding. Just two years ago, Cornell stripped those accused of sexual offenses of the right to retain an attorney in University proceedings and the right to cross-examine their accusers. A student accused of a sexual offense at Cornell is now not able to directly ask the person who is making a potentially life-ruining accusation a single question about the incident. This is an inexcusable erasure of the fundamental right to confront one’s accuser, a right that has existed for all of our country’s history. Such rights are not superfluous. They protect us against arbitrary action by those who hold the levers of power.

To make matters worse, the University has dropped the standard of proof in sexual assault cases from “clear and convincing evidence” to “preponderance of the evidence.” This means that a Cornell student accused of a violent offense that is sexual in nature will not have the legal safeguards given to others whose alleged offenses were non-sexual. With the punishment being so severe and so much on the line for the accused, how can we accept such a low standard of proof?

Given that this university has a tremendous power to punish students, we have an obligation to make sure that the innocent do not get hurt….

Eminently reasonable.  And the problem is just not at Cornell.  The stripping of protections of the accused has occurred at many American universities, and that encouraged by the Obama regime:

In April 2011, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights sent a letter to college and university presidents laying out guidelines for handling reports of sexual assault and harassment. One key recommendation was that such complaints should be evaluated based on a “preponderance of the evidence”-the lowest standard of proof used in civil claims. (In lay terms, it means that the total weight of the believable evidence tips at least slightly in the claimant’s favor.) Traditionally, the standard for finding a student guilty of misconduct of any kind has been “clear and convincing evidence”-less stringent than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” but still a very strong probability of guilt.

But what was the response to student’s column at Cornell?  A group of little fascists Cornell students decried that the column was printed at all and demanded an apology.  Further they accused the student of trying to “erase” the rights of rape victims.  This from their conclusion is particularly rich: 

While open conversation is important, it cannot be secondary to or a substitute for action.

In other words, “our agenda trumps your free speech.”

Those students are the ones who are trying to erase the rights of the accused and even to silence those who advocate for the rights of the accused.  They want tribunals in which being accused of a crime is tantamount to being guilty.  And they want those who dissent shamed and punished.  How familiar . . . and how convenient for little totalitarians who have an agenda to shove down people’s throat.

Alarmingly, this totalitarian “shut up” culture is, again, not at all confined to Cornell.  The question is how far will we allow it to go off campus in America.

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Monday, April 21, 2014

On Transcendence (and its poor box office) 

On Easter Sunday afternoon, I took some youth to see Transcendence.  (And I promise – no spoilers in my comments.)  The IMAX movie theater was sparsely attended.  And the box office numbers from the weekend indicate people were not seeing Transcendence across the nation.  Its run has not started well – and that in spite of the rarity of my seeing a movie on its first weekend!

I find that sad.  Transcendence is a thoughtful movie that raises questions about both the apparent good and not as apparent dangers of man playing God via technology. Both the tower of Babel and the saying “the ends do not justify the ends” came to mind while watching. 

And it goes to pains not to take sides.  Oh, it seems to take sides for a time, but later makes clear things are not so simple.  It becomes intentionally ambiguous about who are the good guys and the bad guys.  Indeed afterwards, one of the more reflective youth interpreted the movie and the good and evil of the actors differently that I did and pointed out ethical issues I had missed.

The ambiguity may frustrate some.  And the movie has gotten mixed reviews at best.  But I think the decision not to take sides is wise and makes the point that questions about man playing God via technology are important, must be addressed, and at the same time are not at all easily answered.

Too many movies are tendentious.  Transcendence is not, and that is particularly good given the subject.  I think this movie deserves a better hearing that it is getting.

My only complaint is the very end seems a too obvious opening for a sequel.  But given the weak box office, a sequel seems unlikely.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Let us not skip Holy Week 

I wished I had something profound to say in the middle of Holy Week.  Perhaps my lack is out of fatigue as I traveled yesterday with some friends to visit a friend in a nursing home.  In any case, I urge readers not to skip Holy Week, particularly the darkness of Thursday through Saturday, of the Last Supper and betrayal, of the arrest and trials, of the crucifixion and burial, in order to rush to Easter.

In most of my pre-Anglican years, that is more or less what I did.  It is not that I despised the Lord’s Passion; I most certainly did not.  An emphasis on Holy Week was just not part of my worship tradition and had not yet become a part of me.

During those years, Easter also did not mean as much to me as it does now.  That is no coincidence.  Yes, I knew well that my life is bound up in Christ’s resurrected life.  But I do not think one can fully appreciate the light and joy of Easter until one goes through the darkness of Holy Week, and of Lent for that matter.  And that I did not do.

Carl Trueman has written on how excising the dark and the tragic from our worship impoverishes it and ourselves.  I think that applies double to Holy Week.  As the risk of using a banal illustration, a movie that proceeds straight from happiness through happiness to a happy ending is likely to be cloying and forgettable.  Not only is life not that way, but the dark times help us to appreciate God’s light.  Neither good movies nor good religion skip over them.  It is not for nothing that early in his Gospel, St. John proclaims, “The light shines in the darkness.”

So my humble recommendation to those who want to have a joyous Easter is first to have a contemplative and, yes, dark Holy Week.  Observe and think upon the Passion of our Lord, who – as the Collect for Holy Monday notes – “went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified.”  Therefore let the rest of this prayer be our prayer and practice in life and worship.  “Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Let the Collect for Holy Wednesday be our prayer also.

Assist us mercifully with thy help, O Lord God of our salvation; that we may enter with joy upon the meditation of those mighty acts, whereby thou hast given unto us life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Jeremy Pemberton Must Be Disciplined 

The Telegraph headline is not overwrought.  The Church of England is now indeed facing a crisis as a CofE priest, the Rev. Canon Jeremy Pemberton has legally married his male partner.  The crisis is that the Church of England is now forced to decide whether a priest entering a gay “marriage” will be disciplined or not, with difficult consequences no matter what the church decides.

As I’ve said a year ago, a church that does not care enough about truth to discipline does not care enough about truth, period.  And, although the American church setting differs from the English, we have seen time and again in this country what happens to churches when they refuse to defend truth with church discipline.  Apostasy, once openly tolerated, gains more and more power and drags churches down into the pit.  Look at how my former denomination, the mainline Presbyterian Church, and The Episcopal Church have imploded in recent decades.  The implosions began when open moral and/or doctrinal apostasy (which are often the same) was not disciplined.

Perhaps readers think I am making too much ado about the issue of marriage.  But marriage is certainly important enough to the Lord to be a prominent part of the Creation account and to be made an icon in scripture of the relationship between Christ and his church.  Literally perverting that icon is apostasy indeed.

Not to mention that gay marriage is a key presenting issue between the orthodox and libchurchers in England and worldwide.  The Church of England may continue to try to please both sides, but Pemberton’s act hastens the day when the CofE must choose.  And at least one side will be very unhappy no matter what the Church chooses.  I assert there is a right choice; but there is no easy choice in this matter.

If the Church of England does not wish to follow the well trodden and broad path of apostate and increasingly irrelevant denominations, it must discipline the apostasy of Jeremy Pemberton.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Hannah Overton Hearing Before Texas Court of Criminal Appeals 

Back in 2012, I mentioned the Hannah Overton case and the prosecutorial misconduct perpetrated against her.  The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest Texas criminal appeals court, has paid an unusual amount of attention to this case and held oral arguments on it last week.

The court has long had a reputation for not being very sympathetic to those seeking to overturn convictions.  The Presiding Judge Sharron Keller is, rightly or wrongly, rather infamous in that regard.  But the attention they have given to this case and signs of the high court’s unease with the number of wrongful convictions in Texas are good signs.

Pamela Colloff, who has followed the Overton case closely for years, has written an update which summarizes the hearing.

Please pray for Hannah Overton and her family and for a just ruling.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Obama Pushes Voting Fraud in Texas 

From Politico.  But it appears *someone* attempted to edit it.

President Barack Obama on Wednesday joined the larger Democratic effort to spotlight voting rights ahead of this year’s midterms, blasting “active efforts to deter people from voting often and after their demise.”

“Apparently it’s fairly active here in North Carolina, uhhh, Florida – oh @#$%, what state I’m I fundraising in today?  My telepromptr is off.  Oh that’s right.  I used Fort Hood as an excuse to get taxpayers to pay for this trip. Texas,” he told supporters at a Houston fundraiser. “The idea that you’d purposely try to prevent dead people from voting? Un-American. Liveist! RACIST! Those RIGHT-WING Republicans not only want to kill your Grandma; they want to keep her from voting after she’s dead! How is it that we’re putting up with that? We don’t have to.”

On Friday, the president will continue his election-year push in a speech to Al Sharpton’s National Get in on the Action Network.

Attorney General Eric Holder delivered his own address to the group Wednesday in New York, recounting the Justice Department’s efforts on the issue since the Supreme Court struck down part of the Voting Rights Act last year.  The cocaine was flowing; so his address was received enthusiastically.

“Let me be very clear: Protecting the right to vote multiple times for future citizens, felons, and people of deadness — the action - And you know how Easy Al likes to get in on the action, ha, ha- that truly makes our nation in control of the Democrats an exceptional one — will continue to be a priority for this administration, for this Department of Justice, for this IRS, for Elijah Cummings, for this president, and for this attorney general,” Holder said.

Democrats see a voting rights pitch as another way to drive up midterm turnout among core Obama voters — most prominently African-Americans, but also Latinos, unmarried women, dead women, dead men, illegal aliens, felons, welfare recipients, abortionists, IRS agents, trial lawyers, and current and recently graduated college students — the groups, party operatives point out, most likely to still vote Democrat no matter much Obama and Hillary screw up at risk from restrictive voting laws.

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