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US Culture in Crisis: Church Attendance Plummets, White Supremacy, Racial Hatred and Societal Polarization Skyrockets

Over the past decade, pollsters charted something remarkable: Americans—long known for their piety—were fleeing organized religion in increasing numbers. The vast majority still believed in God. But the share that rejected any religious affiliation was growing fast, rising from 6 percent in 1992 to 22 percent in 2014. Among Millennials, the figure was 35 percent.

Some observers predicted that this new secularism would ease cultural conflict, as the country settled into a near-consensus on issues such as gay marriage. After Barack Obama took office, a Center for American Progress report declared that “demographic change,” led by secular, tolerant young people, was “undermining the culture wars.” In 2015, the conservative writer David Brooks, noting Americans’ growing detachment from religious institutions, urged social conservatives to “put aside a culture war that has alienated large parts of three generations.”

That was naive. Secularism is indeed correlated with greater tolerance of gay marriage and pot legalization. But it’s also making America’s partisan clashes more brutal. And it has contributed to the rise of both Donald Trump and the so-called alt-right movement, whose members see themselves as proponents of white nationalism. As Americans have left organized religion, they haven’t stopped viewing politics as a struggle between “us” and “them.” Many have come to define us and them in even more primal and irreconcilable ways.

When pundits describe the Americans who sleep in on Sundays, they often conjure left-leaning hipsters. But religious attendance is down among Republicans, too. According to data assembled for me by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), the percentage of white Republicans with no religious affiliation has nearly tripled since 1990. This shift helped Trump win the GOP nomination. During the campaign, commentators had a hard time reconciling Trump’s apparent ignorance of Christianity and his history of pro-choice and pro-gay-rights statements with his support from evangelicals. But as Notre Dame’s Geoffrey Layman noted, “Trump does best among evangelicals with one key trait: They don’t really go to church.” A Pew Research Center poll last March found that Trump trailed Ted Cruz by 15 points among Republicans who attended religious services every week. But he led Cruz by a whopping 27 points among those who did not. (Read more from “US Culture in Crisis: Church Attendance Plummets, White Supremacy, Racial Hatred and Societal Polarization Skyrockets” HERE)

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Ann Coulter: We Have Now Hit Full-On Crazy

Liberals are ecstatic that a judge in Hawaii is writing immigration policy for the entire country, and that policy is: We have no right to tell anyone that he can’t live in America. (Unless they’re Christians — those guys we can keep out.)

As subtly alluded to in the subtitle of Adios, America: The Left’s Plan to Turn Our Country into a Third World Hellhole, the goal of liberals is for the poor of the world to have a constitutional right to come here whenever they want . . .

After nearly 1 million Rwandans were murdered by other Rwandans in 1994, our government asked itself: Why not bring more of this fascinating Rwandan culture to America? Ten thousand of them poured in. So far, nearly 400 have been convicted in the United States of lying on visa applications about their role in the genocide.

And that’s why we have to tighten our belt, America! Massive international investigations don’t come cheap.

Almost every immigration case is a con, something we find out every time there’s a San Bernardino shooting and half the familyturns out to have scammed our immigration officials. One hundred percent of the “humanitarian” cases are frauds. (Read more from “Ann Coulter: We Have Now Hit Full-On Crazy” HERE)

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How Democrats Stole the Judicial Confirmation Process

The “stolen seat”????

As in the Republican Senate “stole” a seat on the Supreme Court because it refused to confirm President Obama’s election year nomination of Merrick Garland? Something none other than then-Senator Joe Biden vowed when he thought then President George H.W. Bush might get a court nomination in the election year of 1992.

How about this? How about the Democrats stole — make that deliberately destroyed — the U.S. Senate’s judicial confirmation process — something they started years ago.

With the nomination and now ongoing Senate confirmation hearings of Trump Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, conservatives are well within their rights to roll their eyes at the disingenuous lies that are coming Judge Gorsuch’s way. Whether the topic is Obamacare, birth control, the role of federal agencies, or all manner of rights ranging alphabetically from abortion to workers, the liberal attack machine is at work. And alas, there is sadly not a thing new about this.

As it happens, I had the opportunity to work on the confirmations of five Reagan Supreme Court nominations as a member of the White House Office of Political Affairs. One of those nominees was Judge Robert Bork — the nomination where the verb “to bork” emerged. Later, in the Bush 43 era, as a private citizen, I was heavily involved in President Bush’s nomination of a best friend from college for a seat on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. I went into this 2001-2002 episode with eyes open and taking notes, and the experience — which ended with the successful confirmation of Judge D.Brooks Smith — became a small book: “The Borking Rebellion: The Never-Before-Told Story of How a Group of Pennsylvania Women Attorneys took on the Entire U. S. Senate Judiciary Committee–And Won”

The bottom line? There is no limit — none — to what liberals will do to defeat a GOP president’s judicial nominations. And what once was limited to Supreme Court nominees has now long-since spread to confirmation fights for the lower courts. Note well that in his recent confirmation battle to become attorney general, former-Senator Jeff Session’s history as a defeated — make that borked — Reagan judicial nominee for a lower court was dredged up all over again.

The grim fact of what has become routine at these events is that they have become the very antithesis of what they were originally conceived to be: a serious forum to discuss the legal issues of the day.

Instead they have become political snake pits, with one far-left wing special interest after another lined up to assail any and everything about a GOP president’s nominee of the moment. How does this work? Let me provide but one example from the confirmation of Judge Smith.

I write to request your opinion concerning certain ethical questions that have arisen with the nomination of Judge D. Brooks Smith in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

So began a 2002 letter from then Wisconsin Senator and liberal Democrat Russell Feingold to NYU Law School Vice Dean Stephen Gillers. On the surface, the letter seems routine to the point of innocuous. A letter from a sitting U.S. senator on the Senate Judiciary Committee to a then-vice dean of a prominent American law school on the subject of judicial ethics. It sounds and appears as something totally normal, well within the bounds of senatorial inquiry when considering a judicial nomination.

Not so fast.

After working on those five Supreme Court nominations I mentioned above, I had learned something about how liberals played the game. The obvious question to me was: Who is Stephen Gillers — really? The answer did not require much digging, although characteristically it was the kind of digging the liberal media of the day never got around to doing when they would quote Gillers on the subject of judicial ethics. Not in the habit of quoting myself, let me break that rule here to quote from “The Borking Rebellion.” For the sake of reference, note that the group referred to here — the Community Rights Counsel — was a far-left, hyper-partisan special interest group whose mission had become, among other things, attacking GOP judicial nominees. Note as well that Professor Gillers was cited repeatedly in the liberal media as simply an ethics expert. I wrote this:

‘Nothing for Free’ was the title of a report issued by the Community Rights Counsel in July of 2000. A report attacking judicial seminars…I found this reference in its very first sentence:

“The authors are indebted to…Steven Gillers (sic)…(who) reviewed earlier drafts and provided unique and unfailingly helpful advice on improving the final product.”

Wow. The article in The Washington Post on Brooks Smith and John Gardner Black (a central figure in a fraud case heard by Smith) had been produced by research from Kendall. In writing the story that challenged Brooks’ ethics, Post reporter Ed Walsh then went to Stephen Gillers, presenting him in the story simply as a ‘professor of legal ethics at New York University Law School.’ Gillers was then quoted in the story casting doubt on Brooks (‘a serious argument for recusal is present…Judge Smith should have revealed the information’etc.)

In other words, the Post used Kendall’s CRC research to criticize Brooks, then used Kendall’s CRC consultant Gillers to verify that an ethics breach is potentially ‘present.’ Gillers was never identified as a CRC consultant, presented instead as a disinterested third party expert on legal ethics.

This was but one small piece of the Smith nomination, but standard procedure when it came to dealing with liberals on Supreme Court nominations. Not to wax Trumpian, but the confirmation system had been rigged. In that case, a sitting Democratic senator on the Judiciary Committee wrote a letter to a supposed legal ethicist whom he knew to be an ideological ally and on whom he could count for an opinion to the senator’s liking. Likewise the Post, either not bothering to check the “ethics expert” for any ties that would rule him out as an uninterested observer — or knowing full well and deliberately omitting the fact — blithely used him as a source to condemn the nominee. The paper, of course, never mentioned the “ethics expert” as someone who was in fact tied to the interest group that was attacking the nominee.

This is the game that the confirmation process has become. And that cited incident in the Smith case doesn’t even touch the surface of the well of deceit and dirty tricks used against one nominee for an appeals court opening.

Why does this mean anything now? Because as the Gorsuch nomination is played out it appears more than likely that at this exact moment in political time the nominee will be confirmed. A superb, well-thought of nominee has been nominated by a GOP president with a GOP Senate at hand to get him confirmed. But make no mistake. The Gorsuch nomination is merely a moment where the liberal interest groups who have so corrupted this process — stolen it — are shaking off the doldrums resulting in a breather from nomination fights. But the moment the news hits that the next justice has decided to hang up his or her judicial robe — or as lower court nominations proceed with a roster of conservatives — you can bet that the forces who have spent years — say again years — corrupting this process will be out in force.

The question then will be a simple one. Are conservatives ready? Are they, to use a baseball metaphor, finished with the spring training of the Gorsuch nomination and ready for World Series judicial confirmation hard ball?

Time will tell. But, to mix metaphors, forewarned is forearmed. (For more from the author of “How Democrats Stole the Judicial Confirmation Process” please click HERE)

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Do We Have a Country or Not? Trump Must Cancel Obama’s Amnesty

We swore to ourselves that when Obama unilaterally granted work permits and Social Security cards to people here illegally — something even King George couldn’t do without Parliament — we would reverse this imperial act at the first opportunity. Now, if Trump’s DHS continues illegally handing such documentation to a class of illegal aliens that absolutely does not exist inside of law, he will be branded with a painful and embarrassing reality. Obama’s illegal immigration order defying the most foundational statutes will be left standing, while Trump’s own order, deeply rooted in statute, presidential power, and national sovereignty, will remain nullified.

It’s been several days since the judicial coup against Article I and Article II immigration powers, yet there is no sign that Trump plans to pursue any of our six recommendations for Congress to defund refugee resettlement, cut off funding for visas from dangerous countries, and reform the courts. In fact, Trump’s own budget blueprint continues funding the refugee program without placing any specific conditions on the origin of refugees.

Not only has Trump failed to aggressively push back against the courts and use his political capital with Congress to codify his executive order into the budget, but he is continuing to allow Obama’s amnesty to stand. DHS Secretary John Kelly told reporters on Friday that recipients of Obama’s illegal amnesty are “the least of my worries.” This sentiment misses the point because A) not all of them are outstanding residents and B) this is not just about declining to deport illegal aliens, this is about illegally granting them affirmative status outside of the law. How can a Trump administration continue to actively steal American sovereignty and violate the law for even one day? The law doesn’t say that if people are here illegally but don’t rob a bank, they are entitled to Social Security cards.

But it gets worse.

As we noted last month, the same courts that are engaging in civil disobedience and nullifying Trump’s common sense lawful immigration guidance are also demanding that Arizona offer driver’s licenses to recipients of Obama’s amnesty. A world turned upside down, indeed. Does the president not feel any sense of embarrassment or impotence at the fact that the courts are eating his lunch while his own DHS secretary continues the illegal immigration order of his predecessor and enables the courts to steal the sovereignty of the states and the people?

Ideally, Trump would work with conservatives to immediately enact his immigration agenda through Congress and most immediately through the budget process. But absent such action, can he at least get rid of Obama’s illegal immigration order?

“Obama immigration order alive, Trump order dead” is not exactly the slogan we want Democrats chanting in 2018, but that is the end-game unless the president acts immediately.

To quote candidate Trump, “we either have a country or we don’t have a country.” (For more from the author of “Do We Have a Country or Not? Trump Must Cancel Obama’s Amnesty” please click HERE)

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Christians Should Not Surrender the Fight for Our Culture

Whenever I hear Christian leaders talk about the inevitable collapse of the church of America (or elsewhere) I ask myself, “But hasn’t Jesus risen from the dead? Didn’t He ascend to the right hand of the Father? Hasn’t all authority in heaven and earth been given to Him? And aren’t we commanded to go and make disciples in His name and by His authority?”

If so, how then we can speak of any inevitable collapse of the church (or, specifically, of Christian society), regardless of how inevitable that collapse appears to human eyes?

I therefore differ strongly with conservative journalist Rod Dreher who has written, “The culture war that began with the Sexual Revolution in the 1960s has now ended in defeat for Christian conservatives. … Don’t be fooled: the upset presidential victory of Donald Trump has at best given us a bit more time to prepare for the inevitable” (my emphasis; from his new book The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation).

The culture war has hardly “ended” and there is nothing “inevitable” about the collapse of Christian society in America, although, without question, the patient is mortally ill and in need of radical surgery and rehabilitation. But the heart is still beating, there are millions of committed believers throughout the land, prayers are ascending to heaven 24/7 for another great awakening, and it’s actually possible that America’s best days are still ahead, regardless of how bleak things look right now (and without a doubt, they look very, very bleak). Are not all things possible to him or her who believes?

A Backsliding Church

What makes today’s spiritual pessimism all the more galling is that, in my view, the biggest reason for America’s current moral and spiritual decline is the backslidden, unengaged, carnal state of the much of the church. In other words, America is messed up because the church has been messed up, because we who profess faith in Jesus have all too often been superficial in our commitment, as a result of which the world has changed us rather than us changing the world.

When it comes to the mainline denominations, in many instances there has been a wholesale departure from the authority of Scripture and the lordship of Jesus, leading to the abandonment of our moral compass.

When it comes to evangelical Christians, we have often preached a narcissistic, “what’s in it for me” gospel, a self-centered message that bypasses the cross and calls for virtually no sacrifice or service, a message that empowers the sinner rather than transforms the sinner, leading to “Christian” rappers who talk about Jesus in the midst of profanity-laced rants (all while still getting high, going to strip clubs, and partying), and to “Christian” models and actresses who strip down in the most seductive poses, simply because it’s part of their job — and I assure you they can find big churches in America who will welcome them with open arms and celebrate their “liberty” in Jesus. (It’s one thing to welcome the worst of sinners into our midst with open arms and without condemnation; it’s another thing to celebrate carnality and compromise.)

Little wonder that the rest of the public is so confused. After all, the church is supposed to function as the conscience of the nation.

Fulfilling Our Mission in the World

When it comes to social issues like abortion and homosexuality, the vast majority of Christian conservatives in our country have no almost regular engagement with women having abortions and engage in very little compassionate outreach to those who identify as LGBT. As for those of us who do get involved in social issues, we tend to do it politically, looking to the government (especially the Republican Party) to fix things, as if passing a law alone would “fix” the desecration of life or reverse the breakdown of the family.

In that regard, Dreher is quite right in urging us not to put our trust in the political system, and I wholeheartedly affirm his conclusion: “We are going to have to change our lives, and our approach to life, in radical ways. In short, we are going to have to be the church, without compromise, no matter what it costs” (his emphasis).

But being the church means heeding the words of Jesus, who calls us out of the world when it comes to participating in sin but into the world when it comes to fulfilling our mission, which is to shine like lights in dark places, to boldly proclaim the message of redemption, to reach out to hurting and suffering sinners, to make a difference in the communities in which we are planted, and to stand for truth and righteousness “without compromise, no matter what it costs.”

After all, we’re here as the Lord’s ambassadors, declaring the gospel to a dying world, and if we back down and retreat, who will reach this generation with the good news?

But to say, “We’ve failed so far so let’s concede the war” is like a coach saying to his team at halftime, “We hardly played at all in that first half, which is why we’re way behind, so let’s quit now before it gets worse.” To the contrary, he sounds a loud wakeup call, urging his team to play like never before, since the rest of the game is still ahead.

As theologian Douglas Wilson said, “I am against surrendering in any case, but I am really against surrendering before the battle is really joined.”

The solution, then, is not to retreat into some kind of monastic refuge but rather to repent of our sins, to give ourselves afresh to the Lord, and to let our light shine before an onlooking, skeptical, and mocking world. That is the gospel way.

In the words of Jesus, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16; for further scriptural exhortations, see here).

The Light the World Needs

I’m all for separating ourselves from the pollution of the world as much as possible. At one point, 95 percent of the families in my home congregation homeschooled their children. And for many years of our marriage, Nancy and I chose not to have a TV in our house. I have other friends who live in shared community, while still others have left business and careers to serve and live among the poorest of the poor. At the same time, I am not for withdrawing from our calling to go into the world and touch the lost.

By all means, then, let us live with a sense of holy urgency. After all, we’re here for a moment and then gone, with eternity ahead of us. And let us make a fresh, complete, and uncompromising commitment to our Lord. But let us stand up, not shrink back, raising our voices for the world to hear and living our lives for the world to see. And if America is determined to go to hell, then let it go to hell over our dead bodies.

As Charles H. Spurgeon famously said, “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”

To our knees, then, in holistic repentance, and to our feet, in wholehearted obedience. This generation desperately needs the message of new life in Jesus — the message you and I have. Don’t hide it under a basket! (For more from the author of “Christians Should Not Surrender the Fight for Our Culture” please click HERE)

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Why the ‘Establishment’ Media Is Finding Itself on Shaky Ground

As a member of The Daily Signal team, I took offense to The Washington Post’s recent questioning of our “legitimacy” as a news organization.

The Washington Post began its story stating that, “In an age of partisan media, the lines between ‘partisan’ and ‘media’ can sometimes blur.”

I wonder if the reporter has taken a look at just how partisan some of our country’s media behemoths actually are. Here is a summary of the ownership, lobbying, and political contributions of several of America’s largest media companies.

ABC is owned by the Walt Disney Co., which has spent over $70 million lobbying the federal government since 1998. During the 2016 election cycle, individuals and PACs associated with the company contributed $1.6 million to Democrats and $250,000 to Republicans.

NBC is owned by Comcast Corp. In 2014, Comcast spent $17 million in lobbying and hired 128 lobbyists. When it came to the 2016 election cycle, contributions were almost evenly distributed between the two political parties, with Democrats receiving $3.5 million and Republicans $3.3 million.

However, if you look at the contributions related specifically to NBC properties, the vast majority of contributions were to Democrats. The only outlier was NBC Sports.

CBS is owned by CBS Corp., which spent $4,470,000 in lobbying in 2016.

CNN is owned by Time Warner Inc. In 2016, individuals and PACs related to the company gave 87 percent of contributions to Democrats and 11 percent to Republicans. The only year since 1990 that such contributions didn’t heavily favor Democrats was 1996, when contributions were split 50-50.

And then there is The Washington Post, which is owned by billionaire businessman Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com.

Among his political donations? A reported $2.5 million was given to support the gay marriage referendum in Washington state. He has also been a vocal supporter of the internet sales tax. The Washington Post editorial pages have reflected similar views on both marriage and taxes.

To say that the aforementioned political contributions are nowhere near “balanced” is an understatement. And while you can’t link every dollar to every instance of bias, most Americans have come to the conclusion that the media is less than trustworthy.

According to Gallup, Americans’ confidence in the media “to report the news fully, accurately and fairly” is at its lowest point in Gallup’s polling history with only 32 percent saying they have “a great deal or fair amount of trust” in the media.

Also of note, a recent Emerson College poll showed voters find the Trump administration “to be more truthful than the news media.” Forty-nine percent of voters considered the administration truthful, but only 39 percent said the same about the news media.

In addition to a lack of trust among American news consumers, technology is playing a role in the changing and broadening media landscape.

According to a 2016 study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are now more people working in internet/digital publishing (outlets like The Daily Signal) than working at newspapers. And the numbers are pretty stark.

In 1990, there were 458,000 people working in the newspaper industry. Fast forward to 2016, and that number had fallen by 60 percent, to 183,000. On the flip side, the number of people working in internet publishing grew from 30,000 in 1990 to almost 198,000 in 2016.

And, as more and more Americans are going online to get their news (44 percent of U.S. adults now get news on Facebook, according to the Pew Research Center), newspaper circulation continues to decline, and the traditional broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) have fewer eyeballs watching their morning programs and evening news broadcasts—1 million fewer than last year.

Perhaps it’s little wonder that what is known as the “establishment” media is feeling, well, a little less established than it used to. (For more from the author of “Why the ‘Establishment’ Media Is Finding Itself on Shaky Ground” please click HERE)

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There’s Something Worse Than Fake News

All of us are bound to feel offended from time to time. It’s part of being human. What happens, though, when being offended is a permanent or chronic condition? We’ve heard a lot about fake news in recent days, but I’ve noticed something that concerns me at least as much if not more: fake controversies.

If fake news pollutes the public discourse with falsehoods and confusion, fake controversies pollute it by manipulating emotions and fanning the flame of people’s offendedness.

Maybe you’ve heard, for example, about NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice’s commercial for Popeye’s Chicken? In it he wore a “taste-mask” comprised partly of a drumstick rotating in front of his mouth. Along came the headlines inciting people to be offended. “Jerry just set black people back 437 years,” wrote one man in response. “Thanks, Jerry. We’re slaves again.”

Then there was the tweet by Jerry Seinfeld, giving a quick shout-out for an upcoming episode of his internet series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Seinfeld made a pun on the name of his guest Lewis Black by tweeting “Black’s life matters.” Another headline was born, with purportedly outraged readers calling it “offensive” and “lame.”

I’m not suggesting that legitimate controversies don’t exist, or that there is nothing to which a person might rightly take offense. I am distinguishing real controversies from fake ones. In a certain context, a black man wearing a fried-chicken-enhanced helmet could certainly be seen as a mean-spirited kind of stereotyping. But that is clearly not the case with the Popeye’s advertisement. Popeye’s just happens to specialize in fried chicken, and their celebrity pitchman happens to be black.

This is non-controversial, unless you are searching diligently for material from which you can craft an inflammatory headline.

These fake controversies can be worse than fake news partly because they are more insulting to our intelligence. Their headlines are sensationalized to lead you to believe that somebody must have really “stepped in it.” Typically, however — if I may pay homage to the aforementioned Mr. Seinfeld — the story turns out a controversy about nothing.

It isn’t hard to figure out what’s behind this trend. These stories are click-bait to lure readers to a website. Anything salacious enough to catch the eye will do. People can’t resist reading about what famous personalities have done to get in trouble.

These stories do not need fact-checkers, for the facts are not at issue. Fake controversies are not a matter of false information. Their manipulations are more sinister and subtle. The writers want to persuade you that you ought to take offense at what you’re reading.

Purveyors of fake controversy are shameless enough to exploit any situation. Just after the death of actress Carrie Fisher, a writer for the Huffington Post invented a controversy about a tweet by actor Steve Martin. He had written, “When I was a young man, Carrie Fisher was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. She turned out to be witty and bright as well.” The article’s subheading called this a “sexist tweet,” and Martin soon deleted it.

The game is so easy, even the most untalented and unoriginal writers can play. Famous tweeters supply enough material to work with every day. All you need is to isolate one that could have the slightest potential to offend. In such a huge population of followers it is statistically likely you’ll find someone taking offense. This allows you to talk about there being a “backlash” or “controversy.”

The famous targets or victims of fake controversies are partly their enablers. Fear of political incorrectness robs them of the fortitude to stand up to those pretending to be offended. It’s easier to match fake outrage with fake apologies. Once you appease the petty gods, you hope quietly to move on.

What a strange ritual. We build offensive straw men so that the public can experience the brief emotional high of pretended outrage. This is unhealthy for the public mind. It skews our perspective by tempting us to waste emotional energy on fake controversies. It can blind us to more substantive matters, or make us fail to notice and address genuinely terrible offenses against humanity taking place in the world.

We should stand up to this and call it what it is. We should identify it as shallow, petty, banal and manipulative. We can and must be better than the manufacturers of fake controversies think we are. (For more from the author of “There’s Something Worse Than Fake News” please click HERE)

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By Sexualizing Male Friendship, Disney Makes a Mockery of the Original Tale

The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Attitude Magazine and others have celebrated Disney’s decision to modernize the new Beauty and Beast film with a more feminist Belle and first ever “exclusively gay” character. Emma Watson wants the main character, Belle, not simply to be a reader of books but an assertive, feminist inventor who wears riding boots. The newly added character of LeFou, for his part, struggles with his identity and same-sex attraction toward Gaston, the boorish frat boy that tries to woo Belle.

Adding such politically fashionable themes has indeed generated press and gained the praise of cultural elites. But the new Beauty and the Beast reveals some dark truths about Hollywood. Film makers claim to view art as a form of “resistance.” But in this case ideology, political posturing and publicity stunts trumped doing justice to the original story.

It Fails as Art

The biggest problem with adding shock value to the film is that it is just bad storytelling. Despite powerful cinematography and impressive graphics, what we end up with is not art but kitsch. Disney could have wrestled with the challenge of conveying the powerful original tale — written by Gabrielle Suzanne Villanueve de Barbot in 1740 and famously abridged in 1756 by Madame de Beaumont. Instead, Disney used as its source text … its own animated version from 1991. The original version doesn’t even have the characters Gaston and LeFou, which were added by Disney in the 1991 version.

The original fairy tale is rich in meaning and human struggle. It explores:

the virtue and sacrifice of Belle
her struggle to see beyond appearances
Belle’s love for her father and willingness to take responsibility for the consequences of her desires
the effects of wealth and poverty on the family
the vices of envy and avarice
jealousy and struggles among the sisters
the agony of making decisions in the face of an impossible situation
the redemption that comes from sacrificial, other-directed love.

Little of this survived in the Disney cartoon, a garish romance whose shallowness was disguised with fireworks of sentimental tunes and computer graphics.

For the new, live version, Disney “updated” the old timey 1991 version by adding a character with same sex attraction. The story thus becomes a tool to shock audiences and promote a political agenda. Story and art are sacrificed on the altar of political fashion. The actors and producers get a chance to virtue signal, as Emma Watson does in a recent Vanity Fair article showing off her feminism. It takes very little courage to be applauded as sophisticated by one’s peers.

Bumper Sticker Feminism

The other artistic failure is the portrayal of Belle as the assertive feminist. This misses the point of her character and power as heroine of the story. In contrast to her superficial and materialist sisters, who care for nothing but themselves and their own advancement, Belle is serious and scholarly. She has interior resolve, integrity, profound courage and love that enable her to sacrifice her life for her father, to see beyond appearances and redeem the beast.

Her power is revealed in her character and her actions — not in exterior assertiveness and a willingness to buck convention by wearing riding boots. Her whole life bucks the convention of mediocrity and selfishness, which is why she is the protagonist. Instead of all the authentic character virtues Belle exhibited in the original tale, we get bumper sticker feminism and “girl power.”

The original story and the famous 1756 version, written by women, were more authentically affirming of women than this dumbed-down 2017 production.

Distorting Male Friendship

Beyond the obvious problem of sexualizing everything, the relationship between Gaston and LeFou also distorts and undermines authentic male friendship. This not only hurts boys and young men. It also hurts women because it relegates their brothers and future husbands to a frat boy “bro” culture.

As C.S. Lewis notes in The Four Loves, friendship often begins with mutual appreciation of some thing, idea or activity. It is directed toward something. Aristotle explains that while friendship can be grounded in utility or having a good time, authentic friendship is grounded in virtue and a desire to live a life of excellence.

Men need these authentic friendships that challenge and inspire them. It is quite normal for a young man, especially one entering manhood, to admire and look up to other, often older men. They see their masculinity and seek to emulate it — especially if it is in an area they lack, but desire to excel in. While this attraction and admiration often includes the physical, it is rarely sexual. This is the stuff of growing up, of friendship and camaraderie. It is a normal way a man learns to become himself.

Beauty and the Beast distorts this natural pattern by sexualizing it. Director Bill Condon comments that “LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston. … He’s confused about what he wants.”

Men are confused about a lot of things, especially when they are young. Disney exploits it. Beauty and the Beast’s decision to sexualize the male friendship of LeFou and Gaston undermines real friendship and creates confusion in young men — who might now begin to wonder if their “attraction” to a man is somehow sexual. The upshot of this will be to create further barriers to real male friendship and encourage the insipid and dehumanizing “bro” culture of the frat boys whose shared activities are narrowed to sports, drunkenness and reducing women to sexual conquests.

Any genuine sensitivity to the arts, to deep human emotion or to authentic love that respects a woman in her integrity is looked upon as effeminate, an sign of homosexual tendency. This is bad enough. But the problem is made even worse by Beauty and the Beast, which portrays the heterosexual man as a predator and womanizer. The distortion of male friendship into same sex attraction not only denies boys real friendship. It harms women by creating weak men whose only friendships are based on use or pleasure.

The new Beauty and the Beast could have been a real work of art that addressed the depth of human love and redemption. Instead it is a political puff piece. When the shock wears off, it will be forgotten. But hey, at least it made the headlines and gave the actors and writers a chance to preen to political fashion. And as we’ve seen lately, isn’t that what Hollywood is all about? (For more from the author of “By Sexualizing Male Friendship, Disney Makes a Mockery of the Original Tale” please click HERE)

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Yes, Liberals, We Can Deny Entry to Any Immigrant and for Any Reasons

What is happening in the courts right now goes beyond any debate over a “ban” on Muslim immigration. The courts have denuded the president of his plenary power over setting the refugee cap, which Trump applied evenly to every country included in his new executive order. Obviously, all the national security problems we have are from predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East. But let’s put that aside for a moment. Even if this was a ban on Muslim immigration, it would be legal. That is settled law of a sovereign nation state.

Let’s also ignore political considerations for a moment. From a legal standpoint, a nation can set any criteria for letting in any group of people. Through our elected representatives, we can decide to only bring in people with brown hair. We can shut off immigration to those with green eyes or those who are left-handed. The prudence of such a law would have to be dealt with on a political level. Any legal limitation placed on our sovereignty, by definition, means we are not a sovereign nation and that foreign nationals can forcibly control our destiny. This is a principle deeply rooted in the social compact, the preamble of the Declaration of Independence (governance by consent), and the sovereignty of a nation state. Even one who is politically a supporter of loose immigration laws should be alarmed by courts creating a legal limitation to restricting immigration.

We have already cited from endless case law and statements from our founders on the plenary right of a nation to determine who enters the country. I’d like to add some new source material that speaks to the current constitutional crisis:

In Knauff v. Shaughnessy (1950), the Supreme Court made it clear that there is no right whatsoever to immigrate:

At the outset, we wish to point out that an alien who seeks admission to this country may not do so under any claim of right. Admission of aliens to the United States is a privilege granted by the sovereign United States Government. Such privilege is granted to an alien only upon such terms as the United States shall prescribe. It must be exercised in accordance with the procedure which the United States provides.

And yes, the exclusion could be because any consideration, even race. Remember, we are talking about law and Constitution, not politics, prudence, or morality. From Ju Toy v. United States (1905):

That Congress may exclude aliens of a particular race from the United States, prescribe the terms and conditions upon which certain classes of aliens may come to this country, establish regulations for sending out of the country such aliens as come here in violation of law, and commit the enforcement of such provisions, conditions, and regulations exclusively to executive officers, without judicial intervention are principles firmly established by the decisions of this Court. [emphasis added]

Thus, not only is the right to exclude — even for bad reason — deemed settled law in the most emphatic terms, resting on the most foundational principles of sovereignty, but it is not reviewable by the courts. Two years prior, in “The Japanese Immigrant Case,” the court used the exact same language and declared that, based on an uninterrupted stream of near-unanimous decisions, the constitutionality of such an exclusion “is no longer open to discussion in this Court.”

In 1904 (Turner v. Williams), the court made it clear that it is facially absurd to assert a religious liberty, equal protection, or freedom of speech right to affirmatively immigrate to this country. This case speaks directly to what the modern courts are ignoring:

We are at a loss to understand in what way the act is obnoxious to this objection. It has no reference to an establishment of religion, nor does it prohibit the free exercise thereof; nor abridge the freedom of speech or of the press; nor the right of the people to assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances. It is, of course, true that if an alien is not permitted to enter this country, or, having entered contrary to law, is expelled, he is in fact cut off from worshipping or speaking or publishing or petitioning in the country; but that is merely because of his exclusion therefrom. He does not become one of the people to whom these things are secured by our Constitution by an attempt to enter, forbidden by law. To appeal to the Constitution is to concede that this is a land governed by that supreme law, and as under it the power to exclude has been determined to exist, those who are excluded cannot assert the rights in general obtaining in a land to which they do not belong as citizens or otherwise.

It’s amazing how liberals worship the concept of stare decisis (court precedent) once a single liberal court overturns years of common sense case law and the plain meaning of the Constitution. But they have no respect for case law that is most firmly embedded in our sovereignty in the most emphatic language, including the courts own admission that they have absolutely no jurisdiction over the issue. All of this case law remains unsettled and unexplained by the civil disobedience of today’s modern judiciary. As I’ve noted before, this case law survived even the liberal Warren-era right up to this generation.

Some critics might suggest that we can’t draw any conclusions from the exclusion acts of the late 1880s because that’s when America was evil and racist. “Just like the courts upheld slavery and were wrong they are wrong about this,” some might suggest. “What about when the courts upheld the internment of the Japanese in the Korematsu case?”

There is a one-word answer to these questions: Sovereignty.

What liberals are missing is that there is a difference between abridging the rights of Americans or even immigrants and a right to affirmatively enter someone else’s country. Of course, we can’t just throw people into labor camps and indefinitely detain them without due process. But we don’t have to allow people into our country. Immigration is quite a different issue than indefinite detention. It’s like saying because you are not allowed to kidnap a visitor of your house and lock him in your attic you must allow anyone into your house in the first place.

As I’ve cited many times, Justice Robert Jackson, the famous Nuremberg prosecutor who was a champion of due process rights and wrote the dissent in Korematsu v. United States, said that “Due process does not invest any alien with a right to enter the United States, nor confer on those admitted the right to remain against the national will.” Shaughnessy v. Mezei, 345 US 222-223 (1953) (Jackson, J., dissenting).] Scalia, in his Zadvydas dissent, made this same distinction between indefinite detention and the right to enter or remain in the country against the national will. Even the majority opinion at the time only granted relief because the individual legal permanent resident was being held longer than six months in prison (but only because his home country would not repatriate him).

Some might feel uncomfortable with the notion that there are no limitations on discriminatory, absurd, or “mean” immigration selection criterion. But those are political or sensibility arguments, not legal arguments. By definition, any limitation whatsoever on the power to exclude necessarily means that a foreign national has some sort of affirmative claim to assert jurisdiction and adjudicate his way into entry. As John Marshall, the judicial strongman himself, said:

The jurisdiction of the nation within its own territory is necessarily exclusive and absolute. It is susceptible of no limitation not imposed by itself. Any restriction upon it deriving validity from an external source would imply a diminution of its sovereignty to the extent of the restriction and an investment of that sovereignty to the same extent in that power which could impose such restriction. All exceptions, therefore, to the full and complete power of a nation within its own territories must be traced up to the consent of the nation itself. They can flow from no other legitimate source.

But again, we are not even talking about a complete shutoff of Muslim immigration. We are no longer a sovereign nation and a sovereign people when courts, relatives of foreign nationals, taxpayer-funded refugee groups, and states can proactively demand any form of immigration they so desire. (For more from the author of “Yes, Liberals, We Can Deny Entry to Any Immigrant and for Any Reasons” please click HERE)

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Fear of Islam Is Rational. It’s Not Islamophobia.

Last October, prodded by a petition asking that it recognize “that extremist individuals do not represent the religion of Islam” and condemn “all forms of Islamophobia,” the Canadian House of Commons agreed on a statement repudiating Islamophobia. Samer Majzoub, president of the Canadian Muslim Forum, then demanded that the government deal with the “Islamophobia” endemic to Canadian society. That demand is now under consideration.

Which caused me to wonder. What is Islamophobia? Might I, as a critic of Islam who nevertheless seeks to be kind to individual Muslims, suffer from this malady?

Phobias are inordinate fears — of heights, dogs, snakes, enclosed spaces and so on. The term “Islamophobia” implies that if you are afraid of Islam per se (rather than just “extremist individuals”), you are likely to be unjust or unkind, or perhaps launch wars against innocent Muslims.

Thus the Canadian petition went on to note (echoing the constant drumbeat in some American high school textbooks), that the Golden Age of Islam produced a series of literate, advanced empires with the Muslim faith at their ideological core. It claims that Islam then made contributions in “arts, culture, science, literature, medicine” and more.

To what extent Islam produced rather than obtaining these things through its conquests is hard to say. That is just one of the many ways in which Islam is more complicated than the Islamophobia-phobic let on. In fact, I think it is rational, moral and biblical to be wary of Islam as a whole, not just a few “extremists” within it — while offering kindness to individual Muslims.

Responses to Real Danger

Most phobias are exaggerated responses to real dangers, after all. Heights are dangerous, unless you’re Spider-Man. Bees sting. Snakes bite. Ask a coal miner or parakeet what can happen in an enclosed space. God implanted such fears in us to keep us in one piece.

So why then is “Islamophobia” a word, and not “Buddhaphobia?”

Ask a Coptic Christian in Egypt whose faith has been suppressed for more than a millennia. Ask Nigerian Christian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram. Ask a survivor, if you can find one, of the once great and ancient Jewish communities in Egypt, Iraq or Iran. Talk to Yazidi girls sold into sexual slavery in ISIS-controlled territory.

A young Saudi woman I got to know in Oxford told me, “The only way I’m going back to Saudi is in a body bag.” A former imam I met in the same city told me that “of course” Islamic law prescribes death for those who convert out, which is why (after miraculously converting to Christ) he could not go home.

The villains in some of these cases are considered “extremist,” in others, they represent mainstream Islam. But “extremist” is one of those chameleon-words like “fundamentalist,” that derives meaning only from its neighbors. Therefore “extremist Muslims” must by definition be outliers and cannot “represent” Islam. The question that immediately leads to then, is, What does define Islam?

Defining Islam

Like any ideology, Islam can be defined by (a) the life and teachings of its founder; (b) its canonical writings; or (c) its developed traditions.

Western liberals tend to accentuate its traditions (c) rather than (a) or (b). But even viewed “liberally” as a mere social phenomenon, Islam provides rational grounds for worry, even fear. The horror of 9/11 was no aberration. “The borders of Islam are bloody,” said historian Bernard Lewis. And modern Islamic societies, as shown by broad-based United Nations research, tend to suppress women, among other ills.

Things turn even darker when we look at Islam’s founder. Among Mohammed’s crimes, as chronicled in Muslim tradition, are child-rape, polygamy, torture, slave-trading, assassination, mass-murder, armed robbery and the waging of many aggressive wars.

As for its canonical writings, much of what the enlightened world decries in modern Islam’s treatment of women has its origins in the teachings and actions of the prophet. These include marrying children to old men, polygamy, wife-beating, keeping women indoors and covered. Some of this is enshrined within the sacred pages of the Koran — and stands in stark contrast to the example of Jesus.

One must still give credit where credit is due. Who cannot admire, for instance, a Libyan Muslim immigrant to the United States who takes in terminally-ill foster children? Since Jesus teaches us to recognize such “Good Samaritans,” we should also recognize whatever Muslims have accomplished in medicine, art and science.

That said, recall that Islam conquered several cradles of civilization — ancient Sumer, Persia, Egypt, Israel, and much of the Greek Byzantine Empire — and ruled over technologically-advanced Nestorian Christian and Jewish communities. Islam then conquered much of Christendom and India and enslaved millions of Africans and Slavs. While not as inherently vicious as Nazism, Communism, or Aztec religion, Islam thus proves itself an object of rational fear.

The Two “Extremes”

One should distinguish between phobias or inordinate fears and reasonable concerns. Jesus taught his followers that they would be persecuted for His sake. Was that fear-mongering? Jesus sometimes avoided angry mobs and warned against bullies and ideological predators (“wolves”). Life under Islamic rule taught many followers of Christ to take pragmatic steps to mitigate the dangers of Islamic theology. They did this even while placing ultimate trust in God, making friends in the Muslim community, and treating each individual with the dignity and compassion of Christ.

Thus it is rational to fear the influence of a man whose example and teachings have led to great harm — even if it includes some good.

Christians should place ultimate trust in God. We are called to love Muslims as well, some of whom may prove better men and women than ourselves.

Osama bin Laden was an “extremist” because he followed Mohammed too closely. And that example is the root of a rational fear of Islam in its normative state. Those who truly love their neighbors are “extreme” rather in their resemblance to Jesus, the normative state of Christianity, which overcomes, but does not simply ignore, rational dangers. (For more from the author of “Fear of Islam Is Rational. It’s Not Islamophobia.” please click HERE)

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