BOOK REVIEW: The politically incorrect guide to the Bible by Robert J. Hutchinson
A book has to be pretty good for me to read it, let alone review it but this book makes the grade. Perhaps a little surprisingly, it is not an evangelizing book. It is instead a work of solid scholarship. It wears down criticisms of the Bible, fact by fact, point by point.
Hutchinson uses his vast knowledge of Bible and church history to show how shallow are the points made by atheist critics such as Dawkins and Hitchens. He patiently goes through their criticisms and applies to them the full weight of Bible scholarship through the ages. When critics seem to think they are clever for having thought of some original criticism, Hutchinson sometimes quotes by way of reply something written a thousand years ago. He knows what the points of contention are and knows what the reply to each is.
I found his chapter on slavery particularly interesting. Leftists tend to say that the Bible encourages slavery -- quite ignoring that the people who ultimately destroyed slavery in the West were devout Christians such as Wilberforce. The Bible was of course written when slavery was a univrersal feature of human society but Hutchinson shows that what was called slavery varied a great deal from time to time and place to place and that the Bible has substantial prohibitions about its worst abuses in the OLd Testament and completely forbad it in the New Testament. The thing that most approximated slavery in our modern sense among the Hebrews was in fact punishment for crime. In the absence of prisons, punishment was "outsourced" to individuals.
The book does of course bring us up to date with archaelogical evidence for the accuracy of the Bible accounts and it is rather amusing that many things dismissed by scholars as obviously untrue every now and again turn up as archaelogically verified.
For Christians who enter into disputes with unbelievers, this book offers a host of good replies to almost all likely challenges. A very valuable aid in a skeptical world -- JR
Religious liberty is the beginning of all liberties
Confronted with a "train wreck," the new archbishop of Baltimore implores us to "pray diligently as communities, as families and as individuals."
Coming from a man of the cloth, this wouldn't be breaking news, except the train in question is driven by President Obama and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. As part of the health-care overhaul, the administration is bent on forcing American employers to offer health-care coverage that includes contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, regardless of any moral objections.
And so Archbishop William Lori's prayer is for religious liberty.
It's an ecumenical prayer that requires ecumenical labor. During a speech at a conference on religious freedom, Lori made clear that this religious liberty talk "is not about the Catholic Church wanting to force anybody to do anything; it is instead about the federal government forcing the church -- consisting of its faithful and all but a few of its institutions -- to act against church teachings."
We are confronted at this moment with a question of integrity, a question that goes right to the heart of the ethical and religious principles that shape us as a nation: Are we as committed to liberty as we say we are?
This question of integrity is why Georgetown University wins this year's competition for most audacious commencement ceremony: Having Sebelius speak on campus was a dereliction of moral duty, sending a message of complacency at a time that demands action from any American who values freedom. We have long been the place where people come to flee tyranny. But are we comfortable with it at home? It's not just another left-right squabble, this health-care fight -- it strikes at the core of who we are.
Drastic measures are being taken: Numerous institutions have filed lawsuits against HHS. More alarmingly, the Franciscan University of Steubenville announced that it would no longer provide student health plans. That the Ohio Catholic college found itself forced into this position is, as a letter protesting the Obama administration's actions put it, "unacceptable."
"It is simply a matter of integrity that what we teach in the classroom, advance in our student life and preach in the chapel is consistent with how we use our limited resources in regard to health care," says Michael Hernon, vice president of advancement at Franciscan.
"The question is whether, under Obamacare, students who want to attend an authentically Catholic university will be able to do so without being disadvantaged," is how Thomas Messner of the Heritage Foundation explains it on the organization's blog. He further points out that these predicaments about conscience "should lead those who care about religious freedom to ponder more deeply the ways that religious freedom goes hand in hand with the condition of freedom more generally."
He adds that the health-care legislation itself "represents an enormous intrusion by government into freedom of private choice and decision-making more generally." That the law "has already triggered" the deepest imposition on religious freedom our nation has known should come as "no surprise" given the nature of the beast. Messner isn't speaking as a good conservative think tank fixture hitting ideological talking points but as someone concerned about the future of civil society, noting: "A society that abandons its moral and political commitment to freedom in general will become less willing and indeed even hostile to protecting religious freedom in particular instances."
This is why Archbishop Lori, in his speech, said: "The HHS lawsuits, if successful, would only provide a Band-Aid solution to the greater problem of radical secularism that we face in this country."
It's a faulty foundation that the president is offering for a vote in November. We stand on this new platform at our peril.
Figures Don't Lie: Democrats Do
It's been breaking news all over MSNBC, liberal blogs, newspapers and even The Wall Street Journal: "Federal spending under Obama at historic lows ... It's clear that Obama has been the most fiscally moderate president we've had in 60 years." There's even a chart!
I'll pause here to give you a moment to mop up the coffee on your keyboard. Good? OK, moving on ...
This shocker led to around-the-clock smirk fests on MSNBC. As with all bogus social science from the left, liberals hide the numbers and proclaim: It's "science"! This is black and white, inarguable, and why do Republicans refuse to believe facts?
Ed Schultz claimed the chart exposed "the big myth" about Obama's spending: "This chart -- the truth -- very clearly shows the truth undoubtedly." And the truth was, the "growth in spending under President Obama is the slowest out of the last five presidents."
Note that Schultz also said that the "part of the chart representing President Obama's term includes a stimulus package, too." As we shall see, that is a big, fat lie.
Schultz's guest, Reuters columnist David Cay Johnston confirmed: "And clearly, Obama has been incredibly tight-fisted as a president."
Everybody's keyboard OK?
On her show, Rachel Maddow proclaimed: "Factually speaking, spending has leveled off under President Obama. Spending is not skyrocketing under President Obama. Spending is flattening out under President Obama."
In response, three writers from "The Daily Show" said, "We'll never top that line," and quit.
Inasmuch as this is obviously preposterous, I checked with John Lott, one of the nation's premier economists and author of the magnificent new book with Grover Norquist: Debacle: Obama's War on Jobs and Growth and What We Can Do Now to Regain Our Future.
It turns out Rex Nutting, author of the phony Marketwatch chart, i>attributes all spending during Obama's entire first year, up to Oct. 1, to President Bush.
That's not a joke. That means, for example, the $825 billion stimulus bill, proposed, lobbied for, signed and spent by Obama, goes in ... Bush's column. (And if we attribute all of Bush's spending for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and No Child Left Behind to William Howard Taft, Bush didn't spend much either.)
Nutting's "analysis" is so dishonest, even The New York Times has ignored it. He includes only the $140 billion of stimulus money spent after Oct. 1, 2009, as Obama's spending. And he's testy about that, grudgingly admitting that Obama "is responsible (along with the Congress) for about $140 billion in extra spending in the 2009 fiscal year from the stimulus bill."
Nutting acts as if it's the height of magnanimity to "attribute that $140 billion in stimulus to Obama and not to Bush ..."
On what possible theory would that be Bush's spending? Hey -- we just found out that Obamacare's going to cost triple the estimate. Let's blame it on Calvin Coolidge!
Nutting's "and not to Bush" line is just a sleight of hand. He's hoping you won't notice that he said "$140 billion" and not "$825 billion," and will be fooled into thinking that he's counting the entire stimulus bill as Obama's spending. (He fooled Ed Schultz!)
The theory is that a new president is stuck with the budget of his predecessor, so the entire 2009 fiscal year should be attributed to Bush.
But Obama didn't come in and live with the budget Bush had approved. He immediately signed off on enormous spending programs that had been specifically rejected by Bush. This included a $410 billion spending bill that Bush had refused to sign before he left office. Obama signed it on March 10, 2009. Bush had been chopping brush in Texas for two months at that point. Marketwatch's Nutting says that's Bush's spending.
Obama also spent the second half of the Troubled Asset Relief Fund (TARP). These were discretionary funds meant to prevent a market meltdown after Lehman Brothers collapsed. By the end of 2008, it was clear the panic had passed, and Bush announced that he wouldn't need to spend the second half of the TARP money.
But on Jan. 12, 2009, Obama asked Bush to release the remaining TARP funds for Obama to spend as soon as he took office. By Oct. 1, Obama had spent another $200 billion in TARP money. That, too, gets credited to Bush, according to the creative accounting of Rex Nutting.
There are other spending bills that Obama signed in the first quarter of his presidency, bills that would be considered massive under any other president -- such as the $40 billion child health care bill, which extended coverage to immigrants as well as millions of additional Americans. These, too, are called Bush's spending.
Frustrated that he can't shift all of Obama's spending to Bush, Nutting also lowballs the spending estimates during the later Obama years. For example, although he claims to be using the White House's numbers, the White House's estimate for 2012 spending is $3.795 trillion. Nutting helpfully knocks that down to $3.63 trillion.
But all those errors pale in comparison to Nutting's counting Obama's nine-month spending binge as Bush's spending.
If liberals will attribute Obama's trillion-dollar stimulus bill to Bush, what won't they do?
Cocooned Liberals Are Unprepared for Political Debate
It's comfortable living in a cocoon -- associating only with those who share your views, reading journalism and watching news that only reinforces them, avoiding those on the other side of the cultural divide.
Liberals have been doing this for a long time. In 1972, the movie critic Pauline Kael said it was odd that Richard Nixon was winning the election, because everyone she knew was for George McGovern.
Kael wasn't clueless about the rest of America. She was just observing that her own social circle was politically parochial.
The rest of us have increasingly sought out comfortable cocoons, too. Journalist Bill Bishop, who lives in an Austin, Texas, neighborhood whose politics resemble Kael's, started looking at national data.
It inspired him to write his 2009 book "The Big Sort," which describes how Americans since the 1970s have increasingly sorted themselves out, moving to places where almost everybody shares their cultural orientation and political preference -- and the others keep quiet about theirs.
Thus professionals with a choice of where to make their livings head for the San Francisco Bay Area if they're liberal and for the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex (they really do call it that) if they're conservative. Over the years the Bay Area becomes more liberal and the Metroplex more conservative.
But cocooning has an asymmetrical effect on liberals and conservatives. Even in a cocoon, conservatives cannot avoid liberal mainstream media, liberal Hollywood entertainment and, these days, the liberal Obama administration.
They're made uncomfortably aware of the arguments of those on the other side. Which gives them an advantage in fashioning their own responses.
Liberals can protect themselves better against assaults from outside their cocoon. They can stay out of megachurches and make sure their remote controls never click on Fox News. They can stay off the AM radio dial so they will never hear Rush Limbaugh.
The problem is that this leaves them unprepared to make the best case for their side in public debate. They are too often not aware of holes in arguments that sound plausible when bandied between confreres entirely disposed to agree.
We have seen how this works on some issues this year.
Take the arguments developed by professor Randy Barnett of Georgetown Law that Obamacare's mandate to buy health insurance is unconstitutional. Some liberal scholars like Jack Balkin of Yale have addressed them with counterarguments of their own.
But liberal politicians and Eric Holder's Justice Department remained clueless about them. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, asked whether Obamacare was unconstitutional, could only gasp: "Are you serious? Are you serious?"
In March, after the Supreme Court heard extended oral argument on the case, CNN's Jeffrey Toobin was clearly flabbergasted that a majority of justices seemed to take the case against Obamacare's constitutionality very seriously indeed.
Liberals better informed about the other side's case might have drafted the legislation in a way to avoid this controversy. But nothing they heard in their cocoon alerted them to the danger.
Another case in point is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's law restricting the bargaining powers of public employee unions. The unions and the crowds in Madison, which is both the state capital and a university town and which with surrounding Dane County voted 73 to 26 percent for Barack Obama, egged each other on with cries that this would destroy the working class. No one they knew found this implausible.
The unions had an economic motive to oppose the laws and seek to recall first Republican legislators and then Walker himself. The law ended the automatic checkoff of union dues, which operated as an involuntary transfer of money from taxpayers to union leaders.
But voters declined to recall enough Republicans to give Democrats a majority in the Senate, and Walker currently leads Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in polls on the June 5 recall election.
The Madison mob seemed unaware that there were attractive arguments on Walker's side.
Why should public employee union members pay less for health insurance and get fatter pensions than the taxpayers who pay their salaries? Why is it a bad thing for property taxes to be held down and for school districts to cut perks for union members enough to hire more teachers?
Beyond the Madison cocoon, in Wisconsin's other 71 counties, which voted 55 to 44 percent for Walker in 2010, such arguments are evidently proving persuasive. Maybe liberals should listen to Rush every so often.
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)