One of our local radio stations is already playing Christmas music full-time. It’s amazing how many songs have been written about Christmas. Most of them are secular, but the most common message they convey is one of family joy, of children and Santa Claus, of remembrance of all the Christmases we enjoyed in the past with loved ones who are no longer with us.
So despite the attempts by atheists to ban Christianity from American public life, particularly in the public schools, they cannot eradicate Christmas from family life, let alone the shopping malls. As anyone can see, Christmas has acquired great economic power. And that is because Christianity is at the foundation of our spiritual life and political system.
Secular humanism tries to give the impression that Christianity was just a passing phase in American history, and that our culture is advancing into a new secular religion more in keeping with modern values. But the humanist movement cannot remove the need in people’s lives for attachment to their Creator. In recent years we’ve seen a revival of religious fervor in America, particularly in the South where mega-churches have been built to accommodate the large numbers of people who need all the spiritual nourishment they can get.
My father once told me a story about when he was a boy. He said there was a certain man who every now and again would visit his family and give him 10 cents for an ice cream soda each time. Well, one day this fellow came ‘a callin’, but for some reason, on this occasion the dime wasn’t offered. Being a little tyke who had become accustomed to the gift, my dad asked, “Where’s my 10 cents?” He never got that dime again.
The man taught my father a moral lesson: Don’t develop a spirit of entitlement. It’s one that, lamentably, we so often forget to teach today.
G.K. Chesterton once said, “Thanks are the highest form of thought.” I do believe he was correct, but why exactly is this so? Let’s explore the mindset of gratitude.
An ungrateful heart is an ugly thing. Just think about a spoiled brat who throws a tantrum when not given something he really wants. Or think about people who grow up — but don’t grow out of that state. It may be that person for whom you do a favor who then can’t even manage a “thank you”; or someone who, even though you’ve done him innumerable good turns, won’t lift a finger to reciprocate when you’re in need. We also see this attitude in political protests such as the Occupy Wall Street movement; its members operate under an unabashed assumption that they have a right to the fruits of others’ labors. This, mind you, makes a perversion of charity. For charitable practice is only truly beautiful when the largesse is freely given — and gratefully accepted.
Catholics who believe the federal government should not be able to compel healthcare providers to perform abortions “have this conscience thing” that they really need to overcome, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told the Washington Post recently. Otherwise, she said, women “could die” from a lack of access to abortion services.
Pelosi made those remarks in response to a question from the Post concerning her comments on the Protect Life Act (H.R. 358), a bill that passed the House of Representatives in October. That bill was itself a response to an ObamaCare mandate “that would require all private health plans to cover sterilizations and contraceptives, including those that cause abortion, under the broad definition of ‘preventive services,’ ” explains former Colorado Rep. Bob Beauprez in a Townhall.com column. Beauprez continues:
The teen birth rate reached a historic low in 2010, and while abstinence proponents say the drop is encouraging, they note another CDC report that shows climbing rates of sexually transmitted disease among young people.
According to the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 34.3 births per 1,000 teenagers aged 15-19 in 2010, a drop of nine percent from the previous year and the lowest rate in nearly 70 years of data collection. Reported Reuters News of the CDC statistics: “The birth rate for teens has gone down for the last three years and in 17 out of the last 19 years… In 2010, birth rates also dropped to historic lows for mothers aged 10-14.”
“It was really a dramatic one-year decrease,” Bill Albert, spokesman for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, told Reuters, adding that teen pregnancy rates have dropped 44 percent since a 1991 high. “That is extraordinary progress on an issue that many consider intractable and inevitable.”
A new study by the Family Research Council has found that only 46 percent of children in the United States will reach the age of 17 living in intact homes with married biological parents.
The second annual Index of Family Belonging and Rejection, conducted by the FRC’s Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI), also found that high intact family rates and child poverty are inversely related, with states having high “family-belonging” indices also recording low child poverty rates, and vice versa. Additionally, researchers found a significant inverse relationship between intact, traditional families and teen pregnancy.
Dr. Pat Fagan, director of MARRI and one f the study’s authors, said that the latest research found “the family is hugely important in determining a child’s future success or failure. The report shows that states with higher rates of strong families have higher rates of high school graduation as well as higher average scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Family structure is actually more closely linked to educational outcomes than government spending.”
A half dozen Republican candidates capitalized on their faith in an attempt to woo conservative voters in Iowa November 19, meeting with the faithful at an event entitled the Thanksgiving Family Forum. Sponsored by a state organization called the Family Leader, with the help of Focus on the Family’s Citizen Link and the National Organization for Marriage, the event was “meant to mimic the holiday dinner, with six candidates — Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum — gathered around a table participating in a discussion moderated by [conservative pollster] Frank Luntz,” reported the Los Angeles Times. The Times identified the lead sponsor of the event as Bob Vander Plaats, “a three-time gubernatorial candidate [who] founded Family Leader to be a galvanizing force for social conservatives ahead of the state’s lead-off nominating caucuses.”
While the evening at Des Moines’ First Federated Church was devoted to conservative values, it began with Luntz offering individuals from the small army of “Occupy Des Moines” protesters two minutes to speak their mind. While no one from that group stepped forward, a man did take the main stage to make a comment about the Federal Reserve. “I think that we need to speak about this bank tonight,” he told the crowd, challenging that the Fed is “not part of the United States.”
During the Thanksgiving Family Forum (TFF) this past Saturday, moderator Frank Luntz asked the Republican candidates a very interesting Tenth Amendment question: “Do states have a right to do wrong?” In case you missed it, the TFF was another unusual event in what is proving to be a very unusual campaign season. Held in a church in Des Moines, Iowa, and with all the GOP contenders in attendance except for Mitt Romney and John Huntsman, it was not a debate as much as a discussion – and a rather intellectual one. The candidates were asked about their faith, trials and tribulations, and talked frankly about Jesus, family, and personal failure. And with social issues front and center, moderator Luntz posed the following question, initially addressing Herman Cain:
The California Supreme Court issued a ruling November 17 clearing the way for champions of traditional marriage to continue defending Proposition 8, the state constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2008 that stipulates that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
In August 2010 a district court overturned Prop 8, and when then-Governor Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and then-Attorney General Jerry Brown refused to take up the law’s defense in federal court, the amendment’s official sponsor, ProtectMarriage.com, stepped in to do so.
As the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals took the case in hand, it was soon faced with whether ProtectMarriage.com had legal standing to defend the amendment before the federal court. That was the question it put before the California Supreme Court, which answered in the affirmative.
The Obama administration has flaunted its advocacy of the Islamist parties that have been gaining power since the Arab Spring overturned several governments in the Muslim world the past year, and that skewed perspective is contributing to a misrepresentation of the violence that is now taking place in post-Mubarak Egypt. In the words of Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), President Obama “seems to have completely missed the point” of the massacre of Coptic Christians. “This is not a situation of equal power and equal responsibility for violence," he points out. "The Copts called on the military government to treat the Copts as equal citizens and protect their rights; the government itself turned on them with a massacre.”
Citing the uncertain economy and the scarcity of needed capital, the company that launched the first government funded embryonic stem-cell trials announced that it is halting further stem-cell research and will lay off nearly 40 percent of its staff. The California-based Geron Corp., which began the first FDA-approved stem-cell trials in 2010, said that it would shift its focus to cancer research.
Explaining what he insisted was purely a financial decision, Geron Chief Executive John Scarlett told the Wall Street Journal that the “time frame for meaningful value inflection [for stem-cell programs] would occur substantially further in the future than for our oncology products.” Suspension of Geron’s research, which involved patients with spinal cord injuries, still leaves at least two other companies invested in the controversial project.
Pro-life activists have been vocal in their opposition to the research because it requires the destruction of human embryos. While it has received the lion’s share of attention from the scientific community and the media, embryonic stem-cell therapy “has yet to produce any treatments or cures,” reported Baptist Press News. “By contrast, pro-lifers say, research using non-embryonic forms of stem cells — such as adult stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells — has been far more promising. Adult stem cells — found throughout the body — have produced 73 medical treatments, according to a tally by the Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics. In induced pluripotent stem cells, researchers reprogram adult skin cells into stem cells that have virtually the identical properties of embryonic ones.”