9 Logical Extensions of SCOTUS Ruling

On the one hand, I understand the joy and excitement many are feeling in the wake of Obergefell v. Hodges. In the streets and on the Internet, people are rejoicing on behalf of themselves and their dear friends. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, spoil anyone’s celebration, or worst of all give the false impression that I don’t value all human lives equally. I agree with the words of the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.” But the fact that all people are created equal does not mean that all relationships are created equal, at least not in the sense of being the same. There exist real differences between the brother-sister relationship, the father-son relationship, the friend-friend relationship, and the husband-wife relationship. Only one type of relationship can logically create new human life, thus continuing the culture and the species. All societies until very recently have understood this biological fact and have recognized marriage as a special relationship that could only exist between a man and a woman. Truly we stand upon the threshold of a brave new world, one whose consequences and ultimate destination can only be guessed.

But even in the midst of our elation or despair, it is crucial to note that opposition to the redefinition of marriage is not based on faith alone, but reason as well. Yes, the Bible instructs a man to leave his mother and father and cling to his wife, as the two become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). Yes, the Bible admonishes homosexuality as a sin (as well as divorce, adultery, fornication, and even lust, leaving an extremely small minority of the human race guiltless in this area). Yes, most of the people concerned over the SCOTUS ruling are practicing, orthodox Christians. However, it is possible to oppose the redefinition of marriage on purely logical grounds, as I will try to demonstrate in this post.

If you believe that marriage should or even can exist between two people of the same sex, then briefly consider whether you also support these nine propositions (one for each unelected, unaccountable member of the Supreme Court) that logically flow from it:

  1. There are no meaningful differences between men and women. The Bible states that God created man and woman. However, the differences between the sexes are also supported by science and common sense. It is a scientific fact that men and women are different. This doesn’t make them unequal; rather, they are complementary. Consider the ovaries and the testes. Without each other, they are useless. The reproductive system is the only system in the human body that can only fulfill its function with a member of the opposite sex. We don’t need another human being to breathe or digest, but reproduction has always required an opposite-sex partner. But assuming there are no differences between men and women, then there can be no meaningful differences between mothers and fathers, meaning…
  2. Children do not have the right to their biological mother and a father. Countless studies have shown that children do best when raised by their biological mother and father. Of course, there are situations like death and abandonment in which this is not possible. In these cases, adoption offers a compassionate and loving alternative. However, the loss of either one of a child’s biological parents creates a profound void which leads to great pain and suffering. Several adults raised by gay parents have bravely come forward to attest to this pain. Despite their love for the ones who raised them, their pain and loss are no less real.
  3. Parents do not have the right to their children. Since the relationship between parents and children is no longer acknowledged as natural but rather arbitrary and incidental, there is no reason the state should not make decisions on the child’s behalf, even over the objections of the parents. This already happens in Canada, where same-sex marriage has been the law of the land since 2005, and it is currently happening in California where children must now be vaccinated even over the medical and religious objections of their parents.
  4. Our identities are defined by our desires. To recognize a special class of persons designated by their sexual orientation is to define identity not by biology or nature but by desire and inclination. But what if I was born with the desire or inclination to burn things down? Should arsonists be designated as a minority group with special protections? The law would traditionally say that it is not how we feel but rather what we do with these feelings that counts, assuming a level of human rationality that makes it possible to hold people accountable for their actions. But if people are simply born with a set of morally-equal desires, how can we hold anyone accountable for any behavior?
  5. Our rights are defined by our desires. In truth, our rights come from God. This is stated in the Declaration of Independence and this is the only reason my right to speech is different than my “right” to eat ice cream for breakfast. But if someone’s emotional longing for something is now enough to make it a right, then there is no difference between a right and a desire. In which case, I have the right to anything and everything that I want. Unleash the moral anarchy now.
  6. Truth is defined by emotional satisfaction. The old motto of the Sexual Revolution is “if it feels good, do it.” But the new saying of the 21st century should be, “if it feels good, it must be right.” Photos of gleeful couples, a White House illuminated in a rainbow of colors, and a pink and red equal sign are enough to elicit warm and fuzzy feelings in a lot of people’s hearts. But when we start to rely on the subjective feelings of the majority versus the objective and unchanging reality of nature, we are headed for trouble indeed.
  7. Incestuous and polygamous relationships also have the “right” to be considered marriages. Why shouldn’t a brother and a sister be allowed to marry if they love each other? Aren’t they entitled to the same right to intimacy invented (I mean, discovered) by Justice Kennedy? Why shouldn’t three men who love each other, or three women, or two women and a man, or two men and a woman be able to get married if they love each other? Once the role of reproduction is removed (it remains an embarrassing fact that all people are created by the DNA of two parents: one mother and one father), isn’t the number two an arbitrary limitation? After all, love is love. #equality.
  8. Marriage of any kind is discriminatory against single people. We have heard a lot lately about the benefits marriage supposedly confers upon straight couples. But what about cohabiting couples who refuse to take the plunge? What about a grandmother and grandchild living together, or an uncle and a nephew? Regardless of same-sex/opposite-sex, if marriage is no longer fundamentally connected to procreation, why should the state confer certain privileges to couples who have made a legal, long-term (but with divorce, easily reversible) decision? If love is love, why bother with a legal designation in the first place?
  9. People who support the traditional definition of marriage should keep their views to themselves. In other words, they should stay in the closet. Many people see the Gay Rights movement as an extension of the Civil Rights movement. But while differences in race are truly skin deep, differences in sex are biologically far more significant. The Civil Rights movement was grounded in the truth that men and women are equal, regardless of skin pigmentation. The Gay Rights movement is (to a large extent) grounded in the falsehood that men and women are the same, and thus same-sex sexual relationships are the same as opposite-sex ones.

I would like to conclude once again with the disclaimer that I whole-heartedly believe in the equality of all people. If you are someone who experiences homosexual attraction, consider me the last person to condemn you. As a fellow sinner, I will cast no stones. But the definition of marriage is not contingent upon a particular religious belief. All the great religions of our world—from Hinduism to Islam to Buddhism to Confucianism to Christianity—have recognized marriage as the relationship between a man and a woman. Even cultures notoriously permissive of homosexuality, like ancient Greece and Rome, never sought to equate a homosexual relationship between two men with a monogamous and committed heterosexual relationship (i.e. marriage).

To all my readers, gay and straight, let me repeat: God loves you. Your dignity and worth as a person are not dependent upon your sexual orientation. However, your inalienable rights to life and liberty do not entitle you to your own reality. There is but one sort of relationship capable of creating, sustaining, and nurturing human life; that relationship has historically and across cultures been recognized as marriage. To redefine this institution is tantamount to its dissolution, a reckless act which carries a host of consequences that will ultimately prove detrimental to all people, gay and straight. The joy of victory, and the thrill of altering the course of history in the name of equality, will be as short-lived as the fervor of the early years of the French Revolution. Many conservative Christians are despairing, because we know the Reign of Terror awaits. Some of us will be marched to the guillotine and sacrificed at the great altar of Human Sexual Liberation, while others may be mercifully spared. But at the end of the day, whether we accept it or not, the truth remains.

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Is the Climate in Crisis and the Market Immoral? Reaction to Laudato Si’

I consider myself a free market fan, a climate change skeptic, and a Roman Catholic. For weeks now, the secular media has been telling me that I would hate this papal encyclical. Pope Francis was going to stick it to the anti-scientific conservative deniers and side firmly with the more liberal environmentalists. Now that it is out, reaction is even more hysterical. Fortunately for me, I have learned not to listen to the secular media on anything to do with my faith. Most journalists can’t understand that when it comes to the Catholic Church (whose very meaning is “universal”), it is not about Right or Left, conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat. It’s not about scoring short-term victories for a particular “side.” There are no “sides.” We are one community of believers and one human race; we win and we lose together.

Though I have seen his words taken out of context and twisted on many occasions, Pope Francis has never given me any reason to doubt his deep faith and good intentions. I was inspired by his palpable excitement over the Gospel in Evangelii Gaudium. Far from dreading its release, I was thrilled when a leaked copy of Laudato Si’ was made available. Having since taken the time to read it carefully in its entirety (as I expect many have not), I am now ready to share my thoughts.

Taken as a whole, I found much in the encyclical to appreciate and ponder. Pope Francis’ call to unite in defense of the environment is timely and well-stated. I will however add a few of my own observations to the pope’s analysis of the scientific, economic, and political situation. These three “quibbles” are not so much cases of outright disagreement as they are merely additional perspectives. First, I think Pope Francis overstates the case for anthropogenic climate change, though he is careful to maintain that the Church does not seek to settle scientific debates. Second, while much of Francis’ criticism of global capitalism is warranted, I think he overlooks the potential of the free market to generate solutions to both environmental degradation and poverty. Lastly, while international cooperation is certainly necessary, I view the suggestion of a global governing authority as somewhat naïve and potentially dangerous. However, none of these “quibbles” prevent me from embracing the larger point Pope Francis is making about the moral imperative of caring for the environment and the poor. It is one we would all do well to heed.

Everything is Connected

In addressing concern for our “common home,” Pope Francis is neither overstepping his bounds nor breaking with the rich history and tradition of Catholicism. He makes numerous references to other popes, bishops, and saints who have at various times expressed concern for the environment as a moral imperative. For example, he cites Saint John Paul II’s warning that human beings seem “to see no other meaning in their natural environment than what serves for immediate use and consumption.” He also notes Pope Benedict’s recognition that the environment and society have both been “greatly damaged by our irresponsible behavior,” resulting from “the same evil: the notion that there are no indisputable truths to guide our lives, and hence human freedom is limitless.”

cows and smoke

I agree with Pope Francis that Christianity obliges us to be good stewards of the environment, that appreciation for nature can draw us closer to God, and that respect for God, nature, and human life are intimately intertwined. Everything is connected:

Our relationship with the environment can never be isolated from our relationship with others and with God. Otherwise, it would be nothing more than romantic individualism dressed up in ecological garb..

When the human person is considered as simply one being among others, the product of chance or physical determinism, then “our overall sense of responsibility wanes”.[96] …Human beings cannot be expected to feel responsibility for the world unless, at the same time, their unique capacities of knowledge, will, freedom and responsibility are recognized and valued.

I now realize that most of my dissatisfaction with the secular environmentalist movement is the result of its devaluing of human life and its misplaced worship of creation in place of the Creator. How can we mourn the extinction of the Rocky Mountain grasshopper when we ignore the millions of human beings suffering from disease, starvation, and war? How can we go to such lengths to protect the nesting grounds of birds and turtles when millions of children are annually slaughtered in the womb? Either life is a gift to be cherished, or it is not. Either there is a power higher and a purpose greater than our individual desires, or there is none. You can’t have it both ways.

Quibble #1: Climate Change

After establishing respect for the environment as a moral and religious issue, Francis goes on to catalogue the damage we have done to our planet over the course of the last two hundred years. This list includes pollution, loss of biodiversity, decline in the quality of human life, societal breakdown, global inequality, and, of course, climate change. Some in the media would have us believe that Francis’ call to dialogue about the climate is in fact the end of the discussion, but consider his words for yourself:

A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it. It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle), yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity.

In at least six other places that I can count, Pope Francis tempers the case for global warming with the caveat that the Church does not seek to settle matters of scientific debate (paragraphs 14, 15, 16, 19, 61, and 188). It appears that his advisors on this issue included a number of climate activists to the exclusion of at least one climate skeptic, which may explain his “catastrophist” position. I personally don’t find the evidence as persuasive, making this Quibble #1.

First, it is important to note that the earth has experienced times of far greater concentration of carbon in the atmosphere without a corresponding increase in average temperatures. This contradiction led the founder of Greenpeace to come out as a climate change skeptic. The evidence for global warming is often presented as conclusive, but several recent scandals have shown scientists to be manipulating the data to exaggerating warming trends. Some even described the decades-long hiatus as a “disaster,” which explains the ditching of “global warming” for the more neutral “climate change.” But if we are to count rising, falling, and steady temperatures all as evidence of man-made climate change, then the theory is unfalsifiable and thus unscientific.

Dansgaard-Temperature2

It is also worth noting that climate change is largely a prediction about the future. With as much disagreement as exists over the past and present, how much greater is the margin of error over events that have not yet occurred? A number of scientific models have already been discredited, including predictions of another Ice Age and concerns that overpopulation would run the world out of food. Even if the Catholic Church and the scientific community were to reach an agreement on the issue of global warming, this alone would not constitute ironclad proof, as they were united in support for the geocentric theory for nearly fifteen centuries. Pope Francis himself bucks the majority of the world’s scientists when he offers an intelligent design theory of human evolution:

Human beings, even if we postulate a process of evolution, also possess a uniqueness which cannot be fully explained by the evolution of other open systems… Our capacity to reason, to develop arguments, to be inventive, to interpret reality and to create art, along with other not yet discovered capacities, are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology. The sheer novelty involved in the emergence of a personal being within a material universe presupposes a direct action of God…

Much like the idea that human life evolved via a series of random genetic mutations, theories of anthropogenic climate change contain several holes and contradictions. Yet to question either in the scientific community is to risk professional suicide. This is not to assert with 100% certitude that global warming is not occurring. I agree with Bjorn Lomborg that there is likely a small amount of global warming related to human activity that has been greatly exaggerated, but to stop or even slow it would require draconian restrictions on production and consumption that would have devastating effects on human life.

This leads to the question: if one disagrees with the proposition that climate change is an apocalyptic threat, what does this mean for human behavior? Are we to keep wasting, consuming, polluting, and emitting away just because the world won’t end if we do? I think not. You don’t need to believe in global warming to value clean air, pristine oceans, biodiversity, human life, and more prudent development of the earth’s resources. Imagine I told you that smoking cigarettes would cause you to spontaneously combust. This statement would be false, but this is no reason to start smoking two packs a day. I agree with Ross Douthat that the pope’s arguments still resonate even if stagnation is more likely than catastrophe. Perhaps a greater concern is “not a fear that the problems of our age can’t last, but the fear that, actually, they can.”

surfer

Quibble #2: Capitalism

It is true that Pope Francis has some harsh words for global capitalism:

The principle of the maximization of profits, frequently isolated from other considerations, reflects a misunderstanding of the very concept of the economy. As long as production is increased, little concern is given to whether it is at the cost of future resources or the health of the environment…

Since the market tends to promote extreme consumerism in an effort to sell its products, people can easily get caught up in a whirlwind of needless buying and spending. Compulsive consumerism is one example of how the techno-economic paradigm affects individuals….This paradigm leads people to believe that they are free as long as they have the supposed freedom to consume.

I don’t disagree with either of these points. The free market is not infallible, and it can encourage an unhealthy obsession with “stuff.” However, we should realize that all economic systems have their drawbacks and none can alleviate the very human vices of greed and short-sightedness. The rules of the game may change; our fallen human nature does not.

When Adam Smith first laid out a rationale for capitalism, he argued that individuals freely pursuing their own self-interest would add up to the collective benefit of society. However, there isn’t a capitalist alive today who doesn’t acknowledge the existence of “market failures,” or times when individual self-interest redounds to society’s overall detriment. Pollution is a prime example of a market failure. Thus, we need reasonable regulations on development and prohibitions on certain activities like the dumping of toxic waste into rivers. We need to set just limits on what individuals can do to alter the landscape, even if it is on private property. A great example of this is the disgusting practice of mountain-top removal that has scarred the face of my own home in Appalachia. The answer is not to replace capitalism, but rather to ensure that it is properly regulated. Much of the apparent failures of capitalism are really the result of the immoral collusion of Big Business and Big Government to stifle true competition and “rig the game” for the well-connected.

mountaintop

Pope Francis occasionally sounds as though the market were an obstacle to the poor, when it has in fact enabled billions to escape poverty by rising into the middle class. Industrialization has been proven to dramatically increase standards of living, and capitalism is the only system that has consistently allowed for upward mobility. However, just as the system creates winners, it also leaves losers. We cannot turn our backs on those who have lost out in the free market, whether as a result of low skills, lack of initiative, or just plain bad luck. Thus, in addition to sensible regulation, we also need policies to help meet the needs of the poor that recognize the inherent dignity of work. Pope Francis is correct in calling for us all to examine our own patterns of consumption and disposal, to resist the spiritual emptiness of consumerism, and to embrace the old wisdom that “less is more.” (Although his criticism of air conditioning may have set me back a few years in my attempts to convert my husband.)

Quibble #3: Global Government

My biggest point of disagreement with Laudato Si’ comes in paragraph 175:

(I)t is essential to devise stronger and more efficiently organized international institutions, with functionaries who are appointed fairly by agreement among national governments, and empowered to impose sanctions. As Benedict XVI has affirmed in continuity with the social teaching of the Church: “To manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result; to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration: for all this, there is urgent need of a true world political authority, as my predecessor Blessed John XXIII indicated some years ago”.[129]

Yes, global challenges require international cooperation. But unless one country’s actions gravely endanger another’s, national sovereignty should be respected. If we can’t trust CEOs and corporate boards to put the common good above their own, how can we put this expectation on elected officials and international agencies? Just as the preservation of individual freedom yields greater results on the micro level, so too is national sovereignty preferable to global governance at the macro level. Man’s fallen nature requires government to be limited and power decentralized so as to prevent tyranny.

Conclusion

Conservatives who feel awkward about disagreeing with the pope on climate change should pause and consider whether they have something to learn from his position on the environment. Liberals who feel triumphant about the pope’s stance on climate change should consider whether they have something to learn from his position on abortion:

Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?

When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities – to offer just a few examples – it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected.

Maybe we all need to be reminded that whatever our particular –ism might be (capitalism, communism, socialism, liberalism, conservatism), it can never hope to contain the whole truth. Our -ism’s don’t have all the answers; they offer but pieces of the greater puzzle. There is always the danger of isolating one piece of the truth and blowing it out of proportion. This is why I prefer to identify as Catholic instead of Republican, conservative, or libertarian. We should be willing to work together with all people of good will, even if we disagree over the best methods to achieve our common goals. Despite having my own opinions, I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to benefit from Francis’ faith and wisdom, and ready to seriously reflect on how I can heed his call to care for the environment and the poor.

The Parable of the Wall

There was a wall of wood and stone
that all could touch but none could own.
It rose up like a fortress made
to guard the village in the glade
and show the hungry their way home.

How old was it? No one knew;
but in its shade the stories grew:
tales of danger and disguise,
songs of heroes brave and wise,
forgotten fables learned anew.

Along the wall the children chased
each other round in fun and haste,
then paused to pick the berries red
that grew among its leafy bed,
‘fore back along the path they raced.

Old men went to the wall to pray
and thank the Lord for one more day:
to rest their bones in gentle shade,
and call to children when they strayed,
recalling days when they did play.

What hand did build it tall, and when?
That of God, or those of men?
And what lay past its skyward heights:
a paradise of strange delights?
None could answer, now as then.

A voice began to call for change,
the ancient ways to rearrange:
‘The other side we need to see
to grasp our divine destiny,
for only then can we be free.’

‘No longer shall we run and hide,
No old man’s laws or rules abide!
Let’s raise our hammers, tear it down—
so we can run for miles ‘round!
Our hope lies on the other side.’

The old warned of traditions tossed,
but they were frail; their words were lost.
The healthy could not break their swing—
too busy with the harvesting
to contemplate the unknown cost.

So hammers swung and stones rained down
until they hit the dusty ground.
The sun shone through where once had stood
a wall of blood and stone and wood,
but paradise was nowhere found.

Instead the people gasped in fright;
their eyes beheld a grisly sight:
a barren land where nothing grew,
but monsters leapt and demons flew,
as daytime blended into night.

The guilty perished in the jaws
of brutal beasts, but in their claws
the children young, and old men too
were gathered up as off they flew
with not a warning or just cause.

Then fathers wept and mothers cried,
too late to stop their town’s demise.
They patched the hole but not before
a hundred died and many more
were taken to the other side.

So listen close and listen fast;
respect the lessons of the past:
not every wall is to confine,
not every law a needless line,
but some to help true freedom last.

In Defense of Matt Walsh and Jesus Christ

I am a follower of the Matt Walsh blog. While I would not always use his choice of words, I tend to agree with about 95% of what he has to say. I like the fact that we are both young, Catholic conservatives and parents of small children. Reading his posts reminds me that I am not completely alone in my generation, which is reassuring to say the least. I often wish I had Matt Walsh’s courage. As his site claims, he is a “professional speaker of truths,” someone who doesn’t care about making friends or being universally adored. Unfortunately, I know that this sort of honest, no-holds-barred approach to blogging could easily cost me my job as a teacher at a secular public high school. Since my blog provides approximately $0 in income, I need to be very careful about what I say and how I say it. Some topics I have to avoid altogether.

I often write, reread, rewrite, and rearrange my posts for hours before I feel like I have finally gotten my point across in a way that is both effective and safe. I try to be objective and dispassionate, to the extent that this is possible. Still, my best blogging (or most popular, at least) usually pours out in a stream of consciousness when I am particularly ticked off about something. So far I’ve had two posts garner over 2,000 hits. Both were quickly-written and barely-edited pieces on “controversial” topics making points so obvious they would have once been considered common sense (birth control is your own responsibility; Bruce Jenner is not a woman). But until I can actually quit my day job and make a living as a professional truth-speaker, I will be forced to engage in some level of self-censorship.

Well, a few days ago something really ticked me off. I saw on my blogging site that someone had written a viral hit-piece on Matt Walsh entitled “Jesus Would Hate This Christian Blogger Just As Much As You Do.”

The title alone pretty much identifies the piece as complete and total bullshit. The dead give-away is that it puts “Jesus” and “Hate” in the same sentence. Author Jennifer Martin goes on to adopt a format she must think is extremely clever: contrasting excerpts from Walsh’s blog that have been completely taken out of context with verses from the Bible that have been completely taken out of context.

True to form, Walsh has already written an excellent response in which he utterly destroys Martin’s “logic,” so I’ll let him speak in his own defense. As a fellow Christian blogger with about 1/1,000,000 of his audience, I know a bit of what it’s like to be attacked for your views, and the courage it requires to go against the cultural mainstream. Whether liberal or conservative, Christian or atheist, blogging on controversial topics is always a risk. Being attacked on the Internet isn’t just an occupational hazard; it’s a job requirement. If you’re not being slammed by someone, chances are you’re doing it wrong.

No, my irritation is not on Walsh’s behalf—a man I don’t know and have never met. He has clearly done very well for himself and is quite capable of handling the daily attacks launched in his direction. Rather, my frustration is on behalf of Christians everywhere who are tired of being told what Jesus would do by people who so clearly don’t know and don’t care. I’m tired of the innate openness and understanding of many Christians being used against them in a sort of cultural jujitsu. I’m tired of Christians feeling like they have to constantly prove their tolerance to their progressive friends, lest they be labeled a bunch of bigoted haters. Most of all, I’m tired of the true message of Christ being watered down into an impotent, wishy-washy compilation of slogans better suited for bumper stickers than leading anyone to salvation.

By now we are all familiar with the liberal line on Christianity. According to progressives, Jesus was basically a bearded, peace-loving hipster who came to earth just to tell people to “Chill, man! Be cool! Don’t judge, and all that.” We are told that, were he around today, hipster Jesus would be picketing with Occupy Wall Street or leading a Pride rally.

do what makes

I’m sorry, but that is not my religion. Jesus was not about going along to get along, and neither is my faith. When reading the Gospel, I have never been struck with the revelation of “Oh! So we’re just supposed to let people do whatever they want and mind our own business!” That kind of understanding of Christianity can only result from a very minimal and selective reading of the Bible, if in fact the Bible is consulted at all. If that was all there was to Christianity, why did much of Jesus’ society and the most powerful empire in the world find it so threatening? Conversely, why did his early followers find it so appealing that they were willing to lay down their lives in His name? If all Jesus wanted was for people to be tolerant and get along, why was he put to death? You would think Caesar would have wanted him front and center.

Instead, Jesus was publicly humiliated, beaten, and ultimately put to death for his refusal to compromise or water down the truth—that He is the Son of God. Pilot did not want to kill Jesus. He offered him several chances to take the easy way out. But the real Jesus of the Bible—not hipster Jesus of the liberal imagination—was not afraid to rub people the wrong way. He was not afraid to call people out for their immoral behavior at the risk of personal ridicule (much like Matt Walsh, though I’m obviously not proposing his deification). Jesus was unpopular, controversial, and at times confrontational. He lived and dwelt amongst sinners, showing them great love and compassion, but He never condoned their sin.

The truth is, Christianity is a very demanding religion, a radical creed that is not for the faint of heart. I realize this may come as a surprise to some, as what passes for Christianity these days can seem like nothing more than feel-good, prosperity-Gospel platitudes, but that was not the original message. True Christianity requires even popes and kings to acknowledge their sinfulness and to humble themselves before the Lord. True Christianity makes no promises of worldly success; rather it risks great persecution and suffering. True Christianity demands the radical giving of oneself to others and accepts nothing less. (Recall the wealthy man who could not bring himself to give up his riches to follow Jesus.) Like Judaism and Islam, Christianity demands adherence to a system of moral laws that must be followed, even when they contradict one’s personal desires or ambitions. If you want a religion that allows you to make your own rules and just do whatever feels right, you should look elsewhere and leave Christianity alone.

Unfortunately, the progressive attempt to redefine Christianity is working. We have become so thoroughly secularized that even many Christians are uncomfortable with public displays of faith or prayer (“I’ll pray for you! Um, I mean, I’ll send you good vibes!” “Merry Christ— er, Happy Holidays!”). Many Christians now truly believe that it is not for them to judge anything anyone else does. You do you, and I’ll do me. But here’s the truth: sin hurts. Sin hurts the sinner, and sin hurts everyone else. There is no such thing as a “victimless sin.” When we stand by and ignore sin, when we “tolerate” it, we are letting people hurt themselves. If you saw someone preparing to slash their wrists or fall off a bridge, would you stand aside and think, “Hmmm, maybe not the best idea, but it’s not for me to judge?” Or would you at a bare minimum point out the harm that person is about to do to themselves and others who might copy their example? Aristotle recognized that there is no happiness outside of virtue; likewise, there is only pain in vice.

never-talk-about-religion

Sorry Jennifer Martin, but you do not get to redefine Christianity to suit your progressive purposes. No, Jesus was not an early supporter of the transgender movement (a conclusion you support pretty weakly with His acceptance of eunuchs and celibacy). Jesus was not a radical feminist, or a communist. You are free to be all of these things, but don’t project your secular values onto Christ.

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Liberals like Martin are particularly fond of quoting Luke 6:37, “Judge not, and you will not be judged.” There are 807,361 words in the Bible, but these eight are their favorite. However, then as now, there are two different meanings of the word “judge.” One meaning is to discern between two things (i.e. good and evil); the other is to condemn. Given the full context of this verse, and the context surrounding Matthew 7:1 (“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.”), Christians are clearly instructed not to judge only in the second sense of the word.

The rest of Luke 6:37 reads “Condemn not, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” The point is clearly that we are to show forgiveness, love, and mercy to our fellow man; not tolerance of their sin. It is not our place to condemn others. We sit in final judgment of no man’s soul. However, we are specifically instructed on numerous occasions to discern between good and evil, and to act accordingly. Take the following examples:

“Do not judge according to appearances, but instead judge a just judgment.” John 7:24

“And why do you not, even among yourselves, judge what is just?” Luke 12:57

“The mouth of the righteous speaks wisdom, and his tongue talks of judgment.” Psalm 37:30

“You shall not do what is unjust, nor shall you judge unjustly. You shall not consider the reputation of the poor, nor shall you honor the countenance of the powerful. Judge your neighbor justly.” Leviticus 19:15

“Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:9

“Whoever despises me and does not accept my words has one who judges him. The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him on the last day.” John 12:48

How can anyone read this and still believe Christianity is just about tolerance? My guess is Jennifer Martin has not read the entire Bible, or even the majority of it. Rather she has sought out a few odd verses to assist in her condemnation of Matt Walsh, thus engaging in the very sort of judgment Jesus actually proscribes.

Dictionary.com defines a hypocrite as “a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.” Martin compares Walsh to the Pharisees, but he is no hypocrite. He judges in the proper sense of the word—that of discerning between good and evil—while always acknowledging his own sinfulness. Ironically, Martin and others like her are the real hypocrites. They loudly proclaim their tolerance, and yet refuse to tolerate Christians. They attack conservatives for their arrogance, but they have the arrogance to believe there is no law greater than their own. They feign outrage at “judgmental” Christians, but are the quickest to judge all who do not agree with them.

Secular liberals know that true Christianity is the largest obstacle standing in the way of their quest to radically transform society and human nature itself. They know they cannot defeat Christianity outright, so they seek instead to neuter it—to deprive it of all its power and beauty by reducing it to a handful of feel-good platitudes. They have been trying to redefine the Christian faith for the last 2,000 years, and they will continue to do so until the final Day of Judgment. We cannot let them.

Disney’s ‘Frozen’ and the Need for Vulnerability

My two-year-old son loves Frozen. He loves the magic and the humor, the characters and the songs. We arrived a bit late to the Frozen scene, meaning I don’t yet experience suicidal and/or homicidal thoughts every time I have to hear “Let It Go.” This also means I missed out on most of the initial social and cultural analysis of the film. However I believe we have a lot to learn from Frozen. It may span just 102 minutes and feature a talking snowman, but it still touches on several important themes and offers compelling insights into the human condition.

Many have posited that the message of Frozen is to just be true to yourself and accepting of differences. While these conclusions could certainly be supported by a casual viewing, I think the true meaning is deeper than that. For me, the most important theme is the need to reject the temptation of alienation and accept our vulnerability.

The film’s sisters represent these two extremes. Elsa is cold and unapproachable. She is an island, a fortress, a mountain peak. Elsa has learned to survive by carefully controlling every aspect of her environment. Terrified of her capacity to hurt others, she shuts everyone out—including her sister—and represses her individuality for the sake of her family and kingdom. But after her powers are revealed, Elsa chooses to abandon her community and indulge in her once-forbidden individuality (As the lyrics go, “No right, no wrong, no rules for me! I’m free!”). She naively assumes that her isolation will keep others safe from her destructive powers. Instead, it affects everyone around her by triggering an eternal winter. When Elsa realizes that her personal liberation has wrought disastrous consequences upon her society, she is so overcome with fear that she creates a monster.

Ana, on the other hand, represents the extreme of human vulnerability. She is warm, trusting, and approachable to a fault. Starved of affection and companionship, Ana is so desperate for love that she is willing to give a complete stranger the keys to her heart; meeting prince Hans on the morning of her sister’s coronation, she agrees to marry him that very evening. Ana is certainly the more relatable and likeable of the two sisters, but at times she seems hopelessly impulsive and foolish. Rushing into every decision with childlike naïveté, she continually puts herself in mortal danger.

So whose way is better? Should we strive to be stoic, isolated Elsa’s or naïve, trusting Ana’s?

Poll a random sampling of small children, and Elsa will likely come out the favorite. After all, she has ice magic! She is beautiful, independent, and (seemingly) courageous! Poor Ana is “completely ordinary” in her own words—a klutzy sidekick destined to be overshadowed by her dangerous and sexy sister. But I would argue that we have more to learn from Ana’s example. We cannot succumb to the temptation of alienation, as spiritual growth requires vulnerability. We have to open ourselves up to others, even at the risk of being hurt.

Before I go any further, let me first confess that I am a terrible person to be instructing anyone on how to be vulnerable. Asking me to explain vulnerability is like asking Donald Trump for advice on humility, or making Lindsay Lohan your AA sponsor. Possessing none of Ana’s natural warmth or openness, I have far more in common with the icy Elsa. I am thoughtful and reserved, which can easily come across as aloof (a classic INTJ, for you Myers-Briggs fans). Emotions make me uncomfortable, so I prefer to avoid them. I don’t like having to rely on other people, or other people having to rely on me. I value my independence and my individual freedom.

I used to be fearless, invincible. Then I had kids. Overnight, the world became a dangerous place. Suddenly it occurred to me that there were in fact bad people in this world who meant me and my children harm. At the same time, I became (slightly) more comfortable in expressing my emotions, and in recognizing and responding to the emotional needs of others. More than anything else, my love for my children made me aware of my own vulnerability. In the words of C.S. Lewis:

Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

Is this quote not a perfect summary of Elsa’s selfishness and Ana’s sacrifice?

I would add that to be human is to be vulnerable, as we are created for love. Life is really all about relationships, and trust is the foundation of every relationship. But trust cannot develop behind defensive walls or closed doors. It requires openness and risk. Take the example of bowing, a sign of respect in many cultures. When we bow, we literally expose our necks in a gesture of vulnerability. M. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled, echoes this sentiment when he writes “There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community.”

Yet there is a profound human temptation to desire invulnerability, one that recurs over and over again in both literature and history. Just picture the Great Wall of China. Imagine all the wars that have been fought and the millions of lives lost as a result of fear and mistrust, the “preemptive” attacks launched in the hope of obtaining protection. Or for you fantasy types, recall Voldemort’s quest to cheat death by splitting his soul into horcruxes, or Sauron’s forging of the One Ring at Mount Doom. Both attempts to attain invulnerability resulted in untold disaster before being finally conquered by simple acts of love.

The denial of vulnerability and resulting alienation continues to be a big problem in today’s society. In the documentary Absent, Justin Hunt examines the problem of fatherlessness. He presents countless children—many of them now adults—who have either been abandoned or abused by their fathers. Hunt refers to this rejection as “The Wound,” which leads predictably to “The Vow”– a promise children make to themselves to never let anyone hurt them again. But this alienation does not lead to empowerment; it just keeps people from forming meaningful relationships, thus perpetuating the cycle of rejection and pain.

Vulnerability is not weakness, and alienation is not strength. To the contrary, the denial of our vulnerability is a form of weakness and cowardice. It is saying “I am so fragile, and my self-esteem so delicate, that I must protect my heart with walls and bars.” But the protections we gain from these defenses are just prisons of our own making. To choose alienation over vulnerability is to accept a form of spiritual death over a real life filled with both joy and pain.

On the other hand, there is great strength and courage in embracing our vulnerability. It is saying “I know you might hurt me, but I am strong enough to take a chance.” Vulnerability does not mean allowing anyone and everyone into our lives, or rushing into marriage. The wisest thing Elsa says in the whole movie is “You can’t marry a man you just met.” Rather, vulnerability is how we relate to our families and to God. It is chiefly a matter of depth, not breadth.

Not all of us have suffered abandonment, but we have all been wounded in some way. How do we overcome our pain and conquer our fears? How do we learn to trust and love again?

The answer is grace. In The Road Less Traveled, psychologist Scott Peck refers to grace as “a powerful force originating outside of human consciousness which nurtures the spiritual growth of human beings.” It goes by different names in different cultures, but is as universal in its occurrence as it is mysterious in origin. Peck notes that “it is because of grace that it is possible for people to transcend the traumas of loveless parenting and become themselves loving individuals.” Grace is available to us all, but it must be accepted from a position of vulnerability. Instead, many people reject grace in favor of personal quests for power, resulting in alienation from others and from God.

In Frozen, Ana experiences the pain of her sister’s rejection for years, and she is twice critically wounded by Elsa’s powers. And yet she never gives up on Elsa. She keeps going back, with open arms and an open heart. Consider the film’s ending (and I won’t ruin it for those who haven’t seen it). Ultimately, which sister shows true courage? Which force triumphs: Elsa’s magic, or Ana’s heart?

While it is never easy to accept our vulnerability, there is great comfort in God’s love. No matter how deeply we invite Him into our hearts, God will never hurt us. No matter how many times we reject God’s wisdom in favor of our own, He will never abandon us. In opening our hearts to others, we model Christ’s love for us. By embracing our vulnerability, we welcome grace into our lives.

Why Bruce Jenner Is Not a Woman

Part of me hates to bandwagon onto this topic, as so much has already been said. It is a bit strange that as our economy sputters, the Middle East burns, and our communities descend into violence, we choose to obsess over the personal decisions of someone who a few years ago would have been considered a D-list celebrity. However I’m going to do it; not because I feel compelled to support or attack Jenner, but because the transgendered movement—and our society’s response to that movement—is illustrative of a broader, more important trend.

There is a shift going on in our culture to deny objective reality and to substitute in its place subjective feelings. While we should respect and value the human rights of each individual, we do not have the “right” to determine our own reality, nor do we have the right to then force everyone else to go along with it. This path leads not to liberation and fulfillment, but to chaos, confusion, and profound dissatisfaction.

Who are we?

There are two ways to approach this question: reason and religion. They both lead to the same conclusion, which is that there are certain aspects of our nature that we cannot change and therefore should accept. Though we have different faiths, we all share a capacity for reason; thus, I will confine most of my analysis to the former.

Reason and science tell us that we are born either male or female (though a small minority of children are born intersex, with biological features of both sexes). At birth, our chromosomes and reproductive organs distinguish us as male or female; otherwise, we are quite similar. Now most parents will tell you that differences in temperament and preferences will crop up even in small children, but this leads to the argument over how much of this is biological and how much is socially constructed, so I’ll leave it alone for now.

Reason and science also tell us that during puberty, our bodies undergo specific changes, depending on whether we are male or female. Girls develop breasts and begin menstruating. Boys develop facial hair and start producing semen. Both the sperm of a man and the egg of a woman are necessary in order for human reproduction to occur. Not the sperm of someone who “identifies” as male, or the egg of someone who “identifies” as female, but the sperm of someone who is male and the egg of someone who is female. Despite all the innovations in fertility science, no man can ever menstruate. No woman can ever produce semen. These are the facts of our biology, undeniable and unalterable.

So why as a society are we acting otherwise?

Are we doing it in a misguided attempt to show compassion to individuals who are obviously troubled and confused? Are we doing it to show how tolerant and open-minded we are? Are we doing it to achieve a sense of moral superiority over those who still cling to “backward” and “outdated” views of human sexuality?

Let’s put your tolerance to the test. For those of you who support and celebrate Jenner’s decision, do you deny objective reality in other areas of your lives? Would you fly on a plane piloted by someone who “identifies” as a pilot, but who has no flight experience? Would you put your life in the hands of someone who “identifies” as a surgeon, but has no medical training? If your child told you she “identified” as an old person, would you take her to a retirement home? If someone “identified” as a different race, would you encourage her to dye her skin? If someone “identified” as a disabled person, would you support his decision to amputate his healthy legs?

Or at some point do you have to say: you are who you are, regardless of what you feel you are. So make peace with your body. Accept yourself. Love yourself as you are. We do, and God does.

How is it compassionate to encourage someone to alter his body in a radical, irreversible way, especially when a large percentage of men who “transition” later regret it? How is it loving to encourage someone down this path, when suicide mortality actually rises post-operation to 20-fold the non-transgender rate?

Of course, the great irony of the transgender movement is its obvious conflict with feminism. Many feminists claim gender is a social construct, and women should be appreciated for more than just their beauty and bodies. The transgender movement claims gender is a biological reality, and that a man can become a woman simply by castrating himself and putting on a dress. How offensive to women. And yet even enlightened liberals like Jon Stewart can’t see the connection between this distorted view of gender and the objectification of women?

I remember wanting to be a boy when I was little. They seemed to have all the fun, and they could pee standing up. At the age of three, I showed up at a friend’s Thanksgiving party with war paint on my face and feathers in my hair, while all the other girls were wearing pilgrim dresses. My tomboy streak continues to this day. But at a certain point—and I don’t even remember when that point was—I made peace with my female body. I realized that I could paint my nails and like boys, and still play football and climb trees. Being a woman doesn’t mean wearing makeup or putting on a sexy swimsuit for the entertainment of men. It means being created with the capacity to nurture a human life. That’s what the breasts and ovaries and uterus are for, not attracting “oohs” and “ahhs,” or selling magazines.

Women can do things our society associates with men and still be women. Men can do things our society typically associates with women and still be men. How can we deny this, and still claim to support equality?

I’ll conclude this post with two stories. The first involves a friend of my dad’s, a self-described Massachusetts liberal. This friend holds all the politically correct positions one would expect from someone of his background in that part of the country. He was recently attending the graduation of one of his children from a well-known liberal arts college when he noticed the restrooms were labeled “Those Who Self-Identify as Men” and “Those Who Self-Identify as Women.” Astonished at the ridiculousness of the situation, he made the mistake of telling his children. They, of course, promptly chastised him for his backwardness. The whole experience left him puzzled and wondering why he had just paid several thousands of dollars for their so-called educations.

The next story involves my own son, though I hesitate to bring him into this for fear of making him part of the controversy. I must have been scrolling around on Facebook when a picture of Bruce Jenner popped up. My son exclaimed: “Oh, I know about him.” My first reaction was to panic and wonder just what my seven-year-old had been exposed to. But intuitively, I trusted him.

“Oh, yeah? What do you know?” I asked.

He replied, “I know he was an athlete and then he got married and had children, but then he had a big problem.”

“What problem?” I asked.

“He felt like he was a woman, but his body was a man’s.”

“Oh,” I said. “That is a problem. What do you think he should do about it?”

Then my son looked at me as though I had just asked the most obvious question in the world. “Pray to God,” he said. I could almost hear the unspoken “Duh!”

When I remarked upon his wisdom, my son added, “There’s no pills or surgery that can fix that. You need God.”

We often forget the innocent wisdom of children, though it is our job to protect and nurture that very innocence. It makes you wonder how the most educated members of our society can be so confused about such simple truths. The emperor truly is wearing no clothes, and—just like in the fairy tale story—it takes a child to point this out.

The ones claiming Jenner is a woman simply because he feels like a woman (whatever that means) are the same people who claim conservatives are in denial about science, and we should all line up behind their expertise on a range of political and social issues.

Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner is not a woman, because being a woman is not a lifestyle choice. It is not something you can buy. It is not about having a pointy chin or big boobs or long hair. You can be a woman and have none of these things. Like being a man, being a woman is a biological reality. We are created as a unified mind, body, and soul; the three are not divisible. This doesn’t mean we can’t show compassion to people who struggle with gender identity. The most loving and compassionate thing we can do is to encourage them to accept their bodies as God (or nature, if you prefer) created them.

Time to Retire the 77 Cents Myth

“Women make just seventy-seven cents for every dollar men earn.” I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard this figure quoted as evidence of workplace discrimination: from my Facebook newsfeed, to my classroom, to the State of the Union Address. I am sure we will hear it many more times in the run-up to the 2016 presidential contest, as the mythic “war on women” has proven such a convenient tactic for avoiding the real issues.

Wage equality seems to be one of those topics where facts do not matter. Evidence and logic do not matter. We are not supposed to think too hard about this, or analyze what other factors might explain the slight difference in earnings between men and women who actually perform the same job with the same level of experience. All that matters to the politicians and activists who quote this figure is that we embrace the narrative that our society is so deeply sexist that the only way to ensure equality for women is through the creation of cumbersome new laws and regulations.

Sorry, but I’m just not buying it.

I know women face obstacles in the workforce. I’ve experienced them myself. I know women are more likely to choose lower-paying careers than are men. I have done this myself. I know women still feel slighted or underestimated on occasion because of their gender. I have felt this way myself. But I refuse to believe in a “glass ceiling” of lingering prejudice keeping me from reaching my dreams. I refuse to believe that my worth as a person is best measured by the amount of dollars another person is willing to pay me to do a job. Not only are these ideas false, they are also deeply harmful to the women and girls who might actually internalize them.

The truth is, women in western democracies have experienced remarkable gains in the last century. In countries like the United States, women now have the same legal rights as men, including the right to vote, own property, and make contracts. Women have the same access to education as men, including access to technical and medical careers. Actual, real-life women have taken advantage of these freedoms to achieve incredible success. Oprah Winfrey, Angela Merkel, and Beyoncé are among the wealthiest, most powerful, and most influential people on the planet. If there really is a “glass ceiling,” perhaps someone forgot to tell them.

Women do face tremendous prejudice and abuse, but mostly in the less democratic nations of the developing world. In Yemen, a woman is considered only half a witness and cannot legally leave the house without her husband’s permission. In Saudi Arabia and Morocco, rape victims can be charged with the crime of fornication. In China, millions of women are subjected to forced abortions every year, a fact that likely contributes to their extremely high rate of female suicide. China is the only country (with the exception of the tiny nation of Sao Tome and Principe) where the rate of suicide is higher for women than men, with one report putting it three times as high. Despite having only 19% of the female population worldwide, China accounts for 55% of all female suicides. Millions of rural Chinese women have used pesticides to end their own lives. And let’s not forget the 200 million women killed in the womb by sex-selective abortion worldwide. These are the figures that should outrage us, not the misleading 77 cents statistic.

Like most of the “evidence” used to support the idea that the United States economy is still deeply sexist, the 77 cents figure uses some pretty misleading methodology. It comes from comparing the average earnings of all full-time women against the average earnings of all full-time men, regardless of education, occupation, or experience. When these important factors are taken into account, the actual “gap” shrinks to about 95 cents on the dollar. For further sources debunking the 77 cents myth, see here, here, or here.

Despite all this evidence, President Obama still used the 77 cents line in his State of the Union Address, earning a rating of “dubious” from Fact Checker. Bernie Sanders became the latest politician to deploy this line for political purposes, using the revised 78 cents figure. And I’m sure we can expect Hillary Clinton to make this and other ill-supported claims of rampant discrimination as she campaigns for the White House primarily on the basis of her gender. (Ironically, Clinton and Obama both pay their female staffers less.)

Women do earn less on average than men, but this is largely due to factors other than sexism. For starters, women tend to choose lower-paying majors and careers, like social work and education. Even women who enter higher-paying careers like medicine tend work fewer hours and choose less lucrative specialties than their male counterparts, resulting in lower salaries.

Women also take off more time from work to have and raise children. Motherhood continues to present obstacles to women’s career prospects, much more so than fatherhood. The conflict between having children and a successful career isn’t just socially constructed; it is biological. Women are the ones who have to be pregnant for nine months, go through the physical exertion of having a baby, and then (let’s face it) be the primary caregiver for their infant. Even if men wanted to, they could not become pregnant, give birth, or breastfeed infants. Someone has to do the tough work of continuing the human species, and that task largely falls on women. More time off from work means fewer opportunities for promotion. Even after the pregnancy and infancy stages, women with children are more likely to value jobs offering greater flexibility and shorter hours so they can better meet the needs of their families. These jobs tend to pay less.

But it’s not all about babies. Studies show women and men tend to have somewhat different values in terms of employment. According to one survey of 1,000 workers, “male workers regard pay, benefits, authority, status and power noticeably more than do female workers. Women placed their greatest workplace values on relationships, respect, communication, fairness, equity, collaboration, and work-family balance.” My guess is even women without children are likely to have these slightly different career priorities. Anecdotally, most of the workaholics I know are men, but most of the women I know seem to understand the importance of balancing work and life.

Is any of this really such a bad thing? Should we discourage women from choosing lower-paying careers where they feel they are making a difference, or taking jobs with more time off to enjoy recreation, community, and family—all in the name of gender equality? If a woman wants to dedicate her life to climbing the heights of the corporate ladder, by all means—let her do it, and don’t treat her any differently. But most of us also want other things, and those other things should be respected, if not equally compensated with our more work-oriented counterparts.

What should be done to help women’s economic prospects?

First, stop blaming everything on sexism. Don’t turn us into a victim group. This doesn’t help anyone, including women who might be discouraged or embittered. Where there is evidence of actual discrimination or sexual harassment, existing laws are sufficiently strong to protect female employees. The beauty of the free market is that in the long run, prejudice does not pay. If a woman thinks she is being paid less than what she is worth, she should: a) ask persuasively for a raise (something women are four times less likely to do), b) find a company willing to pay her what she is worth, or c) start her own company where she can fully control her own salary.

Second, if we are really interested in fighting sexism, we can start by putting human rights back on the table in our relationship with China, something Obama and Clinton have reversed. We need to do more to stand up for the rights of women around the world, including the unborn.

Third, we must be careful to consider the unintended consequences of any law or policy that overburdens employers in the name of being “family-friendly.” Chile recently passed a law requiring employers to provide working mothers with childcare, and as a result women’s salaries declined between 9% and 20%. Consider the following cautionary tale from Spain, which passed a law giving workers with children under seven the right to work part-time:

Over the next decade, companies were 6 percent less likely to hire women of childbearing age compared with men, 37 percent less likely to promote them and 45 percent more likely to dismiss them, according to a study led by Daniel Fernandez-Kranz, an economist at IE Business School in Madrid. The probability of women of childbearing age not being employed climbed 20 percent. Another result: Women were more likely to be in less stable, short-term contract jobs, which are not required to provide such benefits.

“One of the unintended consequences of the law has been to push women into the lower segment of the labor market with bad-quality, unprotected jobs where their rights cannot be enforced,” he said.

Make it more costly to hire women, and fewer women will be hired; the ones who are will be paid less.

Fourth, there is another reason women earn less than men, and that is that they are disproportionately hurt by out-of-wedlock births and divorce. 40.9 percent of female-headed families with children live in poverty, while the poverty rate of married families with children is just 8.8%. This is just further evidence that the sexual revolution has been a disaster for women and children. Reducing these causes of female poverty would require strengthening a culture of marriage, which unfortunately does not seem likely to happen in the near-future. In the meantime, expecting women to play the roles of both primary caregiver and primary breadwinner dooms many to dead-end jobs, and their families suffer alongside them.

In conclusion, there are several things we can and should do to help women succeed economically. But the seventy-seven cents line exaggerates the severity of the problem and points us in the wrong direction for answers. We should encourage women to consider more lucrative majors and careers, and to start their own businesses, but only if this is what they want. We should teach women to be more assertive, to “lean in” as the expression goes, but only if they are comfortable with the costs of putting career before family and leisure. We should value the non-monetary contributions made by so many women to their communities, especially those made by stay-at-home moms.

We should not sit around waiting for things to be completely fair and equal because they never will be. Studies have also shown that short men tend to earn less than their taller counterparts. Do we need special initiatives to help them succeed? Should employers be required to hire a quota of men under 5’10”? In 2012, men also accounted for 92% of workplace deaths. Is this the product of discrimination, or simply different occupational choices? Here’s a crazy idea: people should be paid according to their responsibilities and contributions– which are most often the results of individual priorities and decisions– even if this leads to statistical discrepancies between groups.