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Category Archives: Culture

Religious Leaders Flock to Rome for Interfaith Conference on Marriage

Rome, Italy – Hundreds of religious leaders and scholars visited the Vatican earlier this week for a momentous interfaith conference that celebrates the complementarity man and woman.

Pope Francis began the conference on Monday, but Deseret News reports that the gathering is significant for at least three other reasons:

It comes as thought leaders around the world increasingly recognize how a retreat from marriage is creating an unprecedented shock to social, cultural and economic institutions.

It highlights the powerful convening role of the Vatican for interfaith dialogue — a role it has cultivated since the Vatican II conference some 50 years ago.

And it marks the first time that leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will participate in a Vatican event with the pope.

Humanum Speakers

President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the LDS First Presidency, spoke to the conference on Tuesday. He was accompanied by Elder L. Tom Perry, a member of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Bishop Gérald Caussé of the Presiding Bishopric.

The conference, officially known as Humanum: An International Interreligious Colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Woman, will bring together presenters from 23 countries and 14 faith traditions, including Judaism, Sunni and Shi’ite Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Taoism and Sikh, in an effort to strengthen the tradition of male-female marriage for "the good of the spouses themselves and for the good of all who depend upon them."

The presenters include what a blogger called "powerful media personalities," including Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the UK and philosopher; Rick Warren, senior pastor at Saddleback Church in California and author of the best-seller "The Purpose-Driven Life"; and Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Hundreds of other observers will attend, including two Utahns, acting Sutherland Institute CEO Stanford Swim and BYU family law professor Lynn Wardle, as well as Princeton professor Robert P. George, co-author of “What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense.”

The international and interreligious conference is an effort to support and reinvigorate marriage and family life in light of the rise of what some scholars call post-familialism.

"Government should respect the rights of all citizens."

In The Daily Signal, Ryan Anderson of Heritage writes:

It’s hard to imagine a more bedrock American right than being free to live according to your religious convictions. The very idea of being forced to violate your beliefs seems unthinkable.

Unless you happen to believe that marriage refers exclusively to the union of a man and a woman. Because more and more often, the government is penalizing and coercing those who simply wish to be free to live in accordance with that belief.

[...]

[B]ecause various state and local governments have passed laws creating special privileges based on “sexual orientation and gender identity” (dubbed SOGI) [...] government harassment is likely to increase. For it treats the belief that marriage is the union of a man and woman as if it were insidious discrimination.

But it shouldn’t. Even if the government recognizes same-sex relationships as marriages, it need not and should not require any third party to recognize a same-sex relationship as a marriage. Government should respect the rights of all citizens.

Indeed, a form of government respectful of free association, free contracts, free speech and free exercise of religion should protect citizens’ rights to live according to their beliefs about marriage.

Read the rest here.

"Gender Neutral" Restrooms at Harvard Divinity School

Harvard Divinity School tweeted a photo this week of its new “gender-neutral” restroom signs, which promote a new third symbol alongside the traditional male and female gender icons.

Harvard Divinity School SignBustle.com elaborates:

Harvard Divinity College is only the latest in a growing number of universities to embrace gender-neutral bathrooms over the past several years. According to a recent article by the Huffington Post, more than 150 schools across the United States have installed all-gender restrooms in at least some of their facilities. And it’s not just colleges getting in on the trend. Offices, city-owned buildings, and other workplaces are all working to make their bathrooms more gender neutral.

Labeled an "all gender restroom", the sign displays the standard male and female figures, a handicapped symbol, and a male/female hybrid figure. Underneath is written: “Anyone can use this restroom, regardless of gender identity or expression.”

It is unclear as to why the standard unisex indicators were not used, nor if it is a private one-stall bathroom or a community bathroom.

Repression: A Very, Very Dangerous Thing

Two national voices from opposite sides of the spectrum related the same opinion in the wake of the Sam Bradford draft photo uproar: “Shouldn’t you also be teaching people who are gay to be open and understanding of people?"

Newt Gingrich and Stephen A. Smith, a self-described liberal, both expressed that the wave of recriminations against people speaking out against the televised kiss demonstrates an incredible intolerance on the part of the gay community.

Newt GingrichAs was reported on TruthRevolt.org yesterday:

On CNN's Crossfire, co-host Newt Gingrich pushed back against recent recriminations against people speaking out against Michael Sam kissing his boyfriend on ESPN after he was drafted by the St. Louis Rams.

Gingrich debated co-host Van Jones and former NFL player Jamal Anderson over the NFL fining and suspending Miami Dolphins linebacker Don Jones for Tweeting out "Horrible" after the televised kiss.  Former NFL running back Derrick Ward received death threats after he went further in condemning the gay PDA he and his kids saw during the televised draft.

Gingrich:  “You guys talk about how you want to be inclusive, except of course, if somebody tweets this, then having a death threat or ‘let’s send them off to sensitivity training.’ It strikes me, that’s repression, that’s not inclusive.”

Anderson:  “Is it repression to try to teach them to be understanding and open to other people, especially when you talk about people they have not been exposed to?”

Gingrich:  “Shouldn’t you also be teaching people who are gay to be open and understanding of people?"

ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith, a self-described liberal, echoed Gingrich's sentiments yesterday when he said, "People should have the freedom to not want to be associated with that or not want that in their face. Smith also said, 'I think it’s a very, very dangerous thing when people see something and they have a problem with what they’re seeing and they express themselves, and ultimately they’re fined.'"

"The post-totalitarian system demands conformity, uniformity, and discipline"

In a brilliant piece by Mollie Hemingway at The Federalistshe draws upon the thinking of Czech leader Vaclav Havel (who once observed that "the post-totalitarian system demands conformity, uniformity, and discipline") to comment upon the recent dust-up at Mozilla over Brendan Eich's views on marriage.

Hemingway's piece is entitled "The Rise of the Same-sex Marriage Dissidents," and you should read the entire thing today. Here's a snippet:

Havel-FirefoxTo explain how dissent works, Havel introduced the manager of a hypothetical fruit-and-vegetable shop who places in his window, among the onions and carrots, the slogan: “Workers of the world, unite!” He’s not actually enthusiastic about the sign’s message. It’s just one of the things that people in a post-totalitarian system do even if they “never think about” what it means. He does it because everyone does it. It’s what you do to get along in life and live “in harmony with society.” (For our purposes, you can imagine that slogan is a red equal sign that you put up on your Facebook page.)

[...]

Did we mindlessly put up red equal signs when we hadn’t even thought about what marriage is? Did we rush to fit in by telling others we supported same-sex marriage? Did we even go so far as to characterize as “bigots” or as “Hitlers” those who held views about the importance of natural marriage?

[...]

In the greengrocer scenario, Havel notes that if the text of the sign read “I am afraid and therefore unquestioningly obedient,” he might be embarrassed and ashamed to put it up. The dissidents are the ones who, by refusing to put the sign up, or refusing to recant, shine a huge light on the system, including the ones who go along to get along. All of a sudden those Facebook signs, those reflexive statements, those cries of “Bigot!” look less like shows of strength and more like shows of weakness.

If you haven't yet followed NOM's call-to-action over the Eich controversy, please take some time to do so today.

"A climate of intolerance and intimidation"

Almost from the start of the debate over redefining marriage, experts on both sides have warned of the coming conflict over religious liberty.

IntimidationWhat were once hypothetical conflicts have now become very real, as people of faith—those who believe that God designed marriage as the union of one man and one woman—have repeatedly been the ones forced to compromise and violate their consciences in the name of same-sex marriage.

Ryan T. Anderson and Leslie Ford of the Heritage Foundation write today in the National Review Online about the present state of these conflicts and the growing governmental coercion demanding that people of faith step back from the public square:

A growing number of incidents show that the redefinition of marriage and state policies on sexual orientation have created a climate of intolerance and intimidation for citizens who believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman and that sexual relations are properly reserved for marriage. Now comes government coercion and discrimination. Laws that create special privileges based on sexual orientation and gender identity are being used to trump fundamental civil liberties such as freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion.

[...]

Under the newer laws, family businesses — especially photographers, bakers, florists, and others involved in the wedding industry — have been hauled into court because they declined to provide services for a same-sex ceremony that they viewed as a violation of their religious beliefs. [READ MORE.]

America must stand up against this coercive attack on our First Amendment right of the free exercise of our religion. This basic American principle does not simply apply to what happens in our houses of worship – it is fundamental to how people of faith carry themselves every day as they are parents, employees, business owners, and civil servants.

Get Married at the Grammys - but Do the Grammys Get Marriage?

GrammysIn what even Slate is calling a "bizarre" spectacle, last night the Grammys featured a group 'wedding' involving 30-some couples, heterosexual and homosexual alike, officiated by Queen Latifah.

According to a New York Times ArtsBeat article before the show aired, "the producers behind the program... [were] hoping that the biggest show-stopper of the night [would] be a much more solemn event." It is perhaps nonetheless rather telling that the broadcast of the wedding didn't occur until after 11 PM, perhaps the producers hedging their bets on that show-stopping solemnity. It also perhaps strains the meaning of the word "solemn" too much to assign it as a modifier to an event involving Madonna in a cowboy hat.


But apart from this spectacle which, at least to some folks' sensibilities, might be taken as an unseemly trivialization of the gravity of marriage, those of us who missed the Grammys missed out on another testament to the nuptial mystery - or, at least, that's what Alyssa Rosenberg at the utlra-liberal ThinkProgress alleges.

beyonce and jayzIn her piece, Rosenberg is responding to a charge in New York Times by Ross Douthat that "liberalism itself has undercut the two-parent family — through the liberal-dominated culture industry’s permissive, reductive attitudes toward sex."

Rosenberg rejects this charge, holding up as evidence for her contrary position - wait for it - the Grammy performance of Beyonce and Jay-Z doing a song called "Drunk in Love."

It is a song which Rosenberg herself calls "raunchy, fun and even silly" [emphasis added]. In the performance, Beyonce was adorned (according to The Hollywood Reporter) in "Saint Laurent black tights, custom bra, La Perla collar body and Nichole de Carle body suit, complete with wavy wet hair" and performed while "expertly twirling in a chair."

Rosenberg concludes of the performance, "If marriage is a product that conservatives desperately want to sell, the smartest thing they could do right now is to hire Beyoncé and Jay-Z as a product spokescouple."

But as we won't be quoting any of the raunchy song's lyrics nor linking to video of the performance, it must suffice to say that we politely decline Rosenberg's suggestion.

For our part, we think that neither of the 'performances' last night are an ideal starting place for a proper understanding of marriage.

What Makes a Parent? A Kansas Court Case Reveals How Far We've Fallen from the Ideal Answer

A terribly sad and maddening story out of Kansas today reveals just how absurdly astray the fruits of the sexual revolution have taken us with respect to understanding the nature of marriage and family.

The story involves a man named William Marotta, and reads like a script of a satire but is all too sadly real.

Here is the basic timeline of the situation, according to the coverage from CNN:

  • In 2009, a lesbian couple from Topeka, Kansas posted an ad on Craiglist(!) seeking a sperm donor.
  • Marotta (who is married!) responded and "donated [his] genetic material" to the women free of charge.
  • The couple then performed an artificial insemination procedure at home(!) and one of the women conceived and gave birth to a baby girl.
  • Now - with the child only 4 years old - the couple have separated and one of the women has had to quit work citing medical reasons.
  • The state, therefore, is stepping in and ordering Marotta to pay child support for the four-year old girl.
  • Marotta is protesting this order in court, saying of the little girl, "I'm not her parent."

Young GirlReading the story, it is particularly horrifying that the child's interests and roles aren't given primary attention, or really any attention at all. Her rights, her needs, her future are all merely the "frame" of the story, relegated to being treated as nothing more than a source of inconvenience in the lives of these three adults.

The relevance of this story to the issue of same-sex 'marriage' is obvious: The drive to redefine marriage is born of a culture which makes marriage and parenting about the desires of adults rather than the rights and welfare of children. This story gives a snapshot of that culture.

For these three adults, having a child wasn't the serious and heavily weighed decision of commitment that it should be. Marotta himself says he responded to the Craigslist ad  (and let's pause momentarily again over that detail) because he was "intrigued" - fathering a daughter was a lark for him. And as for the couple who so quickly separated... one can only wonder whether they were truly prepared for the gravity of parenthood, when part of the process involved soliciting sperm from a random stranger met on the internet!

This is why marriage matters: Marriage encapsulates a set of norms and expectations which civilize men, protect women, and serve the needs of children. Abandon these norms, and "parenting" becomes a soap-opera story about adults' goals and achievements, where children are merely part of the supporting cast.

Gourmet Craziness: The "Genderbread Person 2.0"

Gingerbread men are a staple in many households around the holidays, but (alas!) in our Brave New World this treasured holiday icon apparently could be taken as perpetuating old and outdated stereotypes about men and women. What is a discerning cultural gourmet to do? Have no fear! Meet The Genderbread Person 2.0!

File this under things you simply can't make up.

This "edugraphic" (read "indoctrination tool") is the product of "social justice advocate and ally" Sam Killerman, who runs a website centered around his one-man comedy show called It's Pronounced MetrosexualAccording to the site, "Sam travels the country and performs the show for students at colleges and universities." If you have a university student, you might want to ask whether their college student orientation included a staging of this production.

The content of the show is unclear to us, but judging from Sam's blog, one can imagine what sort of values it proposes. For instance, he has articles on "Examples of Christian Privilege" and "Examples of Cisgender Privilege" that implicitly paint Christians and "cisgender" persons as oblivious bullies.

What's a "cisgender" person, you ask? Sam explains that this "means having a biological sex that matches your gender identity and expression, resulting in other people accurately perceiving your gender."

Among the "privileges" of the cisgendered, Sam lists "being able to pretend that anatomy and gender are irrevocably entwined when having the “boy parts and girl parts” talk with children, instead of explaining the actual complexity of the issue."

Of course this "pretending" is meant to be exploded by The Genderbread Person 2.0, which demonstrates how "biological sex" actually contains "infinite... possible plot and label combos" on two parallel continua from "asex" to "female-ness" and "maleness" -- among which just some of the options are "male, female, intersex, female-self-identifying, and male-self-identifying."

In all, Sam's work seems to highlight for us the larger picture of which redefining marriage into a genderless institution is an integral part. A future with genderless marriage is the same future in which children would lack the right to privacy in using the bathroom of their biological sex and in which something as simple as a Christmas cookie may be construed as hearkening back to an oppressive and bigoted past.

Hollywood's "New Blacklist"

HollywoodIn case you missed it, at National Review Online on December 23rd, John O'Sullivan wrote of "The New Blacklist" in Hollywood, giving a name to the elephant in the room to which the Duck Dynasty dust-up has called attention.

O'Sullivan explains:

[W]hat GLAAD has been operating is a classic blacklist operation.

Its object is not to persuade those who disagree with it over the morality of same-sex relationships to change their minds. Nor is it principally intended to prevent such views being expressed publicly (though that is one of its purposes). Its main purpose is to drive those who hold such views out of their professions and to deprive them of their livelihoods unless they recant, promise not to offend in future, and remain within the boundaries of acceptable opinion laid down by the blacklist operators. And if that is done, it should make anyone think twice or three times before using his freedom of speech to express similar views.

Read the rest here.

Obamacare's Marriage Penalties

At The Heritage Foundation's The Foundry blog, Chris Jacobs writes of "How Obamacare Discourages Work and Marriage."

Jacobs explains that " the law perpetuates some of the country’s worst trends that trap people in poverty. It includes disincentives for individuals to marry and for Americans of low and modest incomes to work."

The two marriage penalties included in Obamacare, "one for families with low and moderate incomes and another for families with higher incomes," are revealed by Jacobs by use of a concrete illustration:

PenalizedA 50-year-old non-smoker making $35,000 per year would qualify for a sizable insurance subsidy, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s insurance subsidy calculator. The individual’s premium would be capped at 9.5 percent of income, resulting in an insurance subsidy of $2,065 paid by the federal government.

However, if this 50-year-old is married to another 50-year-old who also makes $35,000 per year, the couple would receive no insurance subsidy at all. This couple would incur a marriage penalty of $4,130 in one year—equal to the $2,065 that each individual could have received if they were not married.

Click here to read Jacobs' full article.

Anderson: "The Social Costs of Abandoning the Meaning of Marriage"

The first submission to this week's symposium at The Intercollegiate Review is a reprint of a great essay by What is Marriage? co-author and Heritage fellow Ryan T. Anderson, "The Social Costs of Abandoning the Meaning of Marriage."

Married Couple HandsAnderson points out why the question of how we define marriage is a social issue which cuts across differences of religion or philosophy: it's just good common sense.

Whatever one thinks about the morality of sexually open marriages, multi-partner marriages, and by-design-temporary marriages, the social costs will run high. The marital norms of monogamy, sexual exclusivity, and permanency make a difference for society.

Concern about the direction of our society's norms about marriage as reflected in law are accessible to anyone who cares about the social welfare and about the role of government, Anderson explains, because "[a]fter all, law affects culture. Culture affects beliefs. Beliefs affect actions. The law teaches, and it will shape not just a handful of marriages but the public understanding of what marriage is."

Redefining marriage to say that men and women are interchangeable, that "monogamish" relationships work just as well as monogamous relationships, that "throuples" are the same as couples, and that "wedlease" is preferable to wedlock will only lead to more broken homes, more broken hearts, and more intrusive government.

Click here to read the rest.

Symposium on "Sex and the Polis" Hosted at the Intercollegiate Review

The indefatigable Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) is hosting a symposium beginning this week at their online publication, The Intercollegiate Review, which our readers may want to follow.

Man Woman SculptureThe symposium is entitled "Sex and the Polis: Perspectives on Marriage, Family, and Sexual Ethics," and the Review's Associate Editor Christopher Fisher explains its "mission" is "to better understand what effect these cultural trends in sexual ethics have on relationships, families, and the pursuit of the common good."

Fisher elaborates:

Our culture’s understanding of sexual ethics is largely defined by a seismic shift in the modern conception of marriage and family. This includes a rising tendency to delay marriage and children until later in life (or not have children at all, as evidenced by our lowest-ever birthrates); an acceptance and even expectation of pornography as an appropriate means of sexual gratification outside and inside of marriage; an equal expectation that all "normal" young adults will engage in pre-marital sex; openness to homosexuality and gay marriage; and a secular, non-sacramental definition of marriage and reproduction.

[...]

Yet most teachers, school administrators, students, health "experts," pundits, and even parents fail to see what effect sexual standards have on our culture and behavior, or the vast array of costly social problems caused by this breakdown.

One of Fisher's most compelling points is that these social costs lead ineluctably to a growth in government: "Smart libertarians ought to pay attention to the many ways that libertinism encourages the breakneck growth of the state."

Read his entire essay here, and keep an eye on The Intercollegiate Review for future submissions, including the opener by none other than NOM's good friend Ryan Anderson.

"Privacy for All Students" Campaign Submits Record Number of Signatures

From the Christian Post:

Privacy for All StudentsPrivacy For All Students (PFAS), a grassroots organization founded in 2011, announced Sunday that they hit the 620,000 signature mark, which is well above the minimum needed for an initiative to get on the ballot.

Karen England, member of the PFAS coalition's executive committee, said in a statement that she believed the number might be the largest amount of signatories garnered for any California ballot initiative.

"As far as we are aware, this is the largest number of volunteer signatures ever submitted in a California referendum campaign," said England.

You can read more of the article here.

Or, to find out more about the Privacy for All Students campaign, visit their website.

The "Marriage Gap"

Dick Morris writes on his website about a missed point in electoral analysis in his essay, It's Marriage Gap, Not Gender Gap.

"[T]he real gap in our politics," Morris writes, "is not between men and women, but between married men and married women on the one hand and single men and single women on the other. It doesn't matter if you are divorced, separated, widowed or never married. If you are single you are much more likely to vote Democratic."

CoupleAnd this "raises the question of motivation," Morris explains:

[T]he Democrats’ allies in Hollywood and the media... foster a lifestyle that does not include marriage. They rarely depict marriage, except to mock it (the Runaway Bride or Father of the Bride). Love flourishes in Hollywood but not much marriage.

When Hollywood — and the TV people — wants to sell something, they certainly can. Look at how the constant pounding of shows featuring gay couples has melted public aversion to gay marriage in record time. The fact is the Hollywood has declared war on straight marriage for decades.

The result of generous subsidies on the one hand and cultural pressure on the other has been a declining rate of marriage among Americans.

Click here to read the whole fascinating piece. What do you think? How does the GOP "change the math" as Morris suggests?