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Regis Nicoll Christian Blog and Commentary

Regis Nicoll

Regis Nicoll's weblog

Ever since Michael Brown was felled by a white police officer, activists and the media have made the deaths of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement the cause célèbre. Yet, in the year following the Brown shooting, 29 unarmed black menwere killed by police versus 2205 blacks killed by other blacks (76 times more than the number killed by police), according to 2014 FBI crime data.

Thus, while activists chant “Black lives matter!” for weeks and months after the latest police shooting, hundreds of African Americans—many of whom are youth and children—are being killed by people in their own community without protest or publicity.

When an African American is killed by police because of racism, lack of training, inexperience, or bad judgment, it is an injustice that must be addressed, and vigorously—but not by going silent when one black kills another. Because all black lives matter.

Failed Promises
In the article, “African America Has Promises to Keep,” black columnist Leonard Pitts gives voice to two young victims of black-on-black crime: One, a 5-year old in Chicago who was dropped from a 14-story building by a couple of older boys in 1994; the other, a 9-year old targeted and killed by gang members in the same city, whose father, a member of a rival gang, refused to cooperate with the police investigating his murder.

Such tragedies, Pitts asserts, “bear witness” that six decades after blacks left the South to seek the American promise in northern destinations like Chicago, “there are few places more dangerous for black children—for black people—than Chicago.” As to why, Pitts offers,

“Black people soon found that in Chicago—as in other cities—America’s promise offered them only mop buckets, chauffeur’s caps and ghettos teeming with vermin, the constricted parameters of their lives patrolled by police with batons and bankers with maps crisscrossed by red lines. Eventually, the parameters would also enforce themselves: miseducation, teen pregnancy and crime.”

In other words, poverty, crime, and intra-racial murder are the products of racial discrimination and the legacy of slavery. Others see it differently.

Failed Fatherhood
Isabel Sawhill, a Senior Fellow of the Brookings Institute, testified in a congressional hearing that “virtually all of the increase in child poverty since 1970″ is attributable to the increase in unwed motherhood over the past few decades.

Walter Williams would agree. Williams, also a black columnist, notes that for African Americans the poverty rate is 36 percent, live birth illegitimacy is 75 percent, and 68 percent of households are headed by a female. “If that’s a legacy of slavery,” Williams argues, “it must have skipped several generations, because in the 1940s, unwed births hovered around 14 percent” and in 1950 “black female-headed households were just 18 percent of households.” The little known secret, Williams writes, is that “the poverty rate among black married couples has been in single digits since 1994 and is about 8 percent today.”

Increased risk of poverty is not the only effect of fatherless households. In the run-up to 2008 presidential election, candidate Barack Obama stated, “We know the statistics—that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime, nine times more likely to drop out of schools, and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.”

The connection is easy to understand. A child raised in a home without the security, protection, and guidance of a father will seek those needs elsewhere—too often in the welcoming arms of a gang. And gangs, whose members themselves are mostly children of fatherless homes, will provide those needs, free from society’s shared moral consensus and the influence of healthy masculine role models.

Failed Policies
Also taking issue with “the legacy of slavery,” economist Thomas Sowell points out that in the first century after slavery, “marriage rates and rates of labor force participation were once higher among blacks than among whites.” The reversal occurred, Sowell notes, “in the wake of the welfare state expansions that began in the 1960s.”

Those expansions, Walter Williams contends, “made self-destructive behavior less costly for the individual,” resulting in “much of today’s pathology seen among many blacks.” As Williams explains, “having children without the benefit of marriage is less burdensome if the mother receives housing subsidies, welfare payments and food stamps. Plus, the social stigma associated with unwed motherhood has vanished. Female-headed households, whether black or white, are a ticket for dependency and all of its associated problems.”

Instead of helping people achieve the dignity of self-sufficiency, the welfare programs of The Great Society created a permanent underclass held captive in the orbit of idleness, dependence, and despair. Able-bodied people on the margins of society don’t need a life-long, work-free dole; they need training, job skills, and temporary subsidies. They also need the social cohesion provided by a family headed by a man and a woman joined in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

They also need a vision.

Journalist Meredith May found that many convicted criminals are convinced that “a mentor might have saved them, anyone from the outside who could have shown them another way to be a man.” One person doing just that—showing young people “another way”—is Richard K. Bennett. Find out how here.

We have become a people who are less careful about doing evil than judging evil. Don't believe me?Try this at your next dinner party: while your guests are at their cordials, ask "who believes that extramarital affairs are morally wrong?"

I'm of an age to remember a time when most, if not all, hands would have shot up. Today, it would be unusual if most eyebrows didn't, and, if you were so fortunate to get a verbal response, it would likely be "Between consenting adults?", "Sometimes," "Yeah, no, I dunno!", or "It's not for you or us to judge."

To be a nice person

Sometime in the past fifty years, the virtue of discernment has been replaced by the acceptance of ambiguity, turning judgment into a social vice that nice people just don't commit. Well, they do, they have to, they just don't know (or admit) that they do.

Consider singer Carrie Underwood who came out in support of same-sex "marriage" a while back. In explanation of her position, she told the British press, "It's not up to me to judge anybody."

What? You just did, Carrie. Your endorsement of same-sex "marriage" is moral judgment on the social invention and its supporters, as well as, a moral insinuation, if not judgment, about its critics.

Like most nice people, Carrie Underwood is oblivious to her own incongruence. If she deems it improper for her to judge the wrongness of actions, it is equally improper for her to judge their rightness. And whatever way she judges, is a de facto judgment on the opposing view.

To be a nice person in good standing requires neutrality on all moral matters; but humans are anything but morally neutral. Regardless of our religious or anti-religious affections, we commonly believe that some things are wrong, really wrong, like cheating, rape, bigotry, and greed, and that others are really good, such as honesty, fairness, charity, and selflessness.

What's more, in a world where virtue and vice exist side-by-side, everyone must judge whom they will trust, where they will invest their money, and what products they will buy. You can bet that when Carrie Underwood becomes a mother she will make judgments aplenty, sniffing around for any hint of child abuse, pedophilia, or other behaviors she deems morally questionable in the backgrounds of prospective babysitters.

The person who can't or won't discern good from evil is someone destined to be a victim of those who are adept at parading one for the other. Thus, abstaining from moral judgments is not a hallmark of nice people, but of foolish ones. And making judgments, while insisting that you don't, is naivete, if not hypocrisy.

Not-so judgment-free

Planet Fitness, a trendy exercise facility, exemplifies the more duplicitous end of non-judgmentalism. Upon entering the facility, you can't miss the two-foot high block letters on the front wall, spelling "Judgement Free Zone." The phrase is also on their logo which is stamped on all of their equipment. There will be no judging here.

Also prominently displayed, on a four by six-foot sign near the entrance, is the franchise commitment "...to provide a unique environment in which anyone, and we mean anyone, can be comfortable" and where "everyone feels accepted and respected." Got it: Judgement Free Zone.

Except that, as the quick eye can't fail to notice, incidences of judging abound. PF personal trainers routinely critique and correct members in proper exercise technique and use of the machines. I'm sure they would call it "coaching," but it's judging by a different name -- judging that there are right and wrong ways to go about exercising, some that are effective and helpful, others that are ineffective if not harmful.

Also, that "anyone" and "everyone" on the sign excludes individuals who fit a certain profile -- one defined on another sign labeled "Lunk Alarm."

The "Lunk Alarm" consists of a blue light and a [LOUD] working siren with the definition: "Lunk (lunk) n. [slang] one who grunts, drop weights or judges." It also provides an example usage: "Ricky is slamming his weights, wearing a body building tank top and drinking from a gallon water jug... what a lunk!"

By that definition, "Ricky" is anyone who puts serious effort into his workout, pushing himself to the point of actually breaking a sweat. Any number of times I've startled after "Ricky" put his weights down a little too hastily, setting off the siren and flashing light to the alarm everyone in the gym.

So much for an environment where "everyone feels accepted and respected."

If such "judgment free" judgmentalism were limited to a fitness franchise within the walls of its facilities, it would be of little concern. But it's not. Sadly.

A new Blasphemy Code

In just a few decades, "Thou shalt not judge" -- the one moral absolute of moral relativism -- has become the basis of a new Blasphemy Code, in which criticizing, disagreeing with, or even frowning upon social novelties like consequence-free sex, sex-free procreation, and genderless marriage, is a profane offense to the sovereignty of individual autonomy and the sacrament of choice. What's more, after years of social conditioning, as was successful in the 1960's anti-littering campaign, self-policing has become an effective means of enforcement.

Just try telling those dinner guests of yours that you believe extramarital sex is immoral, abortion is murder, marriage is a heterosexual institution, or that the interests of children are best served in a family headed by both of their biological parents, and see how fast the words, like "moralizer," "misogynist," "bigot," or "homophobe" let fly to shut you down.

Give them hard data from any one of the numerous studies that show how deviations from cultural norms have created (and continue to create) more rather than less social dysfunction, and you will find yourself judged, and harshly, because, as all nice people know, judging is wrong. Just ask Mark Regnerus.

The kids aren't alright

In 2012, Dr. Mark Regnerus, a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin (UTA), published a nationally-representative survey (the largest and most rigorous of its kind to date) of over 15,000 people aimed at understanding how family structure affects a range of social, emotional, psychological and cognitive outcomes.1

The results supported what, in a bygone day, would have been deemed unremarkable: children who grew up in gay and lesbian homes fared worse, in a number of areas, than children who were raised by both biological parents. But this is the day when there can be no differences in family structure, because that would be a de facto judgment of one structure over another; and that, lest we forget, would be a transgression of the Blasphemy Code.

For Regnerus' offense, he was subjected to ad hominem attacks, the threat of academic censure, and a highly-publicized (and politicized) inquiry by UTA officials to judge whether he was guilty of scientific misconduct. After sixty days of scrutiny, the investigators vindicated Regnerus, concluding that there was no basis for the misconduct charges.

Compare that to the fawning coverage of the 2010 study concluding that lesbian parenting is as good as the traditional family structure, only better. The completely counterintuitive conclusion was met with nary a modicum of skepticism by the media or academia, despite the seriously flawed study design which, unlike Regnerus' research, was based on responses of a small, non-random sample of 171 individuals, 78 of whom were lesbian mothers who volunteered for the study.

Nor did it offend the sensibilities of those committed to the Blasphemy Code. That's because, as nice people everywhere know, all lifestyle choices are equally valid and beyond moral criticism; some just happen to be more equally valid than others. It follows the fashionably Orwellian reasoning behind such "elevated" thinking as,

Aborting your child isn't murder; it's reproductive justice.

Displaying a crucifix in a bottle of urine isn't religious intolerance (it’s high art); making a satirical cartoon of Muhammad is.

Disrupting a church service and throwing condoms on the altar isn't hateful; holding up a sign reading, "Two men are called 'friends' not 'spouses'" is.

Helping a teen with an unwanted same-sex desire isn't behavioral counseling; it's quackery.

Pedophilia isn't child abuse; raising a child in a Christian home is.

Pursuing the unfettered exercise of sexual expression isn't immoral, unhealthy, or imprudent; it's the sacred path to self-actualization.

If you are a nice person, these are things you just know.

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1. Mark Regnerus, "How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study," Social Science Research

Volume 41, Issue 4, July 2012, Pages 752–770

Regis Nicoll is a Fellow of the Chuck Colson Center, a columnist for BreakPointSalvo, and Crosswalk, and a contributor to Prison Fellowship's worldview blog, The Point. He also serves as the lay pastor of Hamilton Anglican Fellowship (www.hamiltonaf.org).


 

In the wake of the British Invasion, a one-hit wonder from Boston posed the question, "Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl?" It was the hit single of The Barbarians, whose shoulder-length hair, sandaled feet, and cheeky lyrics reflected the dizzying changes of the 1960s.

I remember it well. In a garage band of my own, I sported the longer hair and cross-cutting fashions of the epicene trend. On more than one occasion I heard, or overheard, some variant of that question muttered by some backward yokel. Whether intended as fun or due to honest confusion, the question always presumed that underneath the androgynous exterior, there really was a boy or a girl.

Flash forward about forty years. Given what we're now being told about sex and gender, an updated version of The Barbarians' hit might well be titled, "Are You a Boy and a Girl?" I'm not kidding. Read on here.  

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