American Christians Shouldn’t Abdicate Their Civic Duty

Both within the church and outside of it, the civic role of Christians is widely debated. Many American churches, majority-white churches in particular, have determined that anything which could conceivably interface with politics is off-limits. This belief often manifests itself in total avoidance of any topic that might intersect with the political.

Hold onto that thought for a moment as you read this excerpt from an article written by University of Chicago biology professor and evolutionary theorist Jerry Coyne:

“The reason we don’t allow euthanasia of newborns is because humans are seen as special, and I think this comes from religion—in particular, the view that humans, unlike animals, are endowed with a soul. It’s the same mindset that, in many places, won’t allow abortion of fetuses that have severe deformities. When religion vanishes, as it will, so will much of the opposition to both adult and newborn euthanasia.”

According to Coyne, religious influence is the final remaining bulwark against the killing of vulnerable children and adults. When one surveys the societal landscape, it becomes clear that Coyne is correct. Abortion, euthanasia, and other forms of violent eugenics are proliferating globally at astonishing rates with the help of governing bodies like the United Nations and non-governmental organizations like The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Much to Coyne’s chagrin, religion is not going to vanish. The moral, intellectual and spiritual vacuity of atheism is incapable of sustaining society. But this does not mean Coyne’s eugenic dystopia is far-fetched. Religion need not be abolished for his vision to come to fruition, only exiled from the public square and thus stripped of its public influence.

American churches have not so much been stripped of influence as they have willingly relinquished their role – in fact, duty – to be salt in the midst of a rotting culture. Rotting is not too harsh a word to describe America. But it is, I fear, far too mild. Too many Americans now cheer parents who kill their children and inject them with puberty blocking sex hormones that condemn them to a life of anxiety, depression, and sterility.

A society where Christians maintain significant societal influence does not devolve to such depravity. American Christians have abdicated their civic duty in a flagrant transgression of Jesus’ warnings in Matthew 5.

If the American church continues to abdicate its civic duty, barbaric “intellectuals” like Coyne, who would have killed the very people who need us most, will continue becoming increasingly emboldened in their new role as America’s moral compass, a responsibility vacated by American Christians.


James Silberman is a guest contributor to the FPIW Blog. He is a pro-life activist from Gig Harbor, WA, and a student at Whitworth University.


 

Opinion: The News Media’s Selective Moral Outrage

A Texas law concerning services provided by faith-based adoption agencies went into effect on September 1st. The bill extends additional legal protections to providers who refuse services to prospective families on the basis of “sincerely-held religious beliefs.” Many faith-based adoption agencies receiving taxpayer funds through state contracts had already been engaging in these practices. As faith-based service providers, they consider it important to weigh their religious beliefs in decisions to deny or allow adoptions or foster placement.

Sen. Charles Perry, the bill’s sponsor, had previously asserted that the legislation is not intended to discriminate against anyone. Instead, he had merely intended to ensure that faith-based providers would not be alienated from helping to place children in good homes during the current state foster care crisis.

Rather than honestly report the intentions of those legislators who voted in favor of the bill, the mainstream media smeared the bill as a direct attack on the LGBTQ community. HuffPost included it in a round-up of legislation nestled under the headline, “With All Eyes On Trump, Texas May Soon Pass Horrific Anti-LGBTQ Laws.” Likewise, a headline from The New York Times, “Texas Bill Would Let Adoption Agencies Reject Families on Religious Grounds,” conveniently ignored the fact that this practice already occurs.

It is interesting to compare the news media’s treatment of this bill with the way the mainstream media treated a 2013 Texas law requiring abortion facilities to meet hospital-like building and operational standards for the sake of women’s health and safety.

In that instance, Mother Jones cited the law within a piece titled, “The War on Women is Over and Women Lost.” A headline from USA Today, “States’ abortion limits erode right to choose: Our view,” chose to portray it as a restriction of access to abortion rather than a crackdown on women’s health clinics that don’t meet basic health and safety requirements, such as guaranteeing access to emergency care.

In addition to revealing the news media’s willingness to misrepresent public policy debates, these headlines also reveal the selective moral outrage of reporters as a result of their bias for certain lifestyle choices.

The mainstream media wants to smear any group or individual who asserts their constitutional rights, even in those cases where those groups and individuals may be helping to alleviate a serious statewide social crisis. On the other hand, if you lead a secular lifestyle and you want abortion on-demand, the media will act as if your actions should be completely unrestrained, even by legitimate concerns for health and safety.

For a more local example, look no further than the media’s coverage of the recent fight over crisis pregnancy centers after the King County Board of Health implemented a rule requiring them to post signs telling women that the centers aren’t healthcare facilities.

It is a dangerous state of affairs when the news media operates under such an irrational moral framework.  The founding fathers intended a free press to serve the people as both a check-and-balance on government power and as the megaphone of strong cultural values. By these standards, in the case of Texas, the media has completely failed us.

SPLC Blacklists Pro-Family Groups; Norton Anti-Virus Blocks Access to Conservative Websites

A popular anti-virus software program used by millions of Americans has blocked access to the website of Liberty Counsel, a religious liberty advocacy group. It is the latest development in a political war being waged against pro-family organizations.

Symantec, the owner of the popular Norton anti-virus software, began blocking access to Liberty Counsel’s website two weeks ago. Internet users attempting to access the website are greeted with a message from Symantec explaining that “this website is categorized as ‘Hate’ and is blocked as part of this networks [sic] web content filtering policy.”

Why would Symantec tag Liberty Counsel—an esteemed religious liberty organization with ties to Liberty University, the largest Evangelical university in the world—as promoting hate? Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel’s founder and chairman, blames Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and its ongoing assault against organizations with socially conservative values.

Southern Poverty Law Center, which calls itself a civil rights advocacy organization, was founded in 1973 to monitor and litigate cases against white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan Nations.

Although nearly all accounts of its founding acknowledge that SPLC started off doing good work in litigating cases against racist groups, their focus began to shift as the decades elapsed and white supremacist groups began disappearing. After involving themselves in an ACLU-led lawsuit to remove an Alabama Supreme Court monument celebrating the Judeo-Christian heritage of American law, SPLC turned its sights toward conservative Christian groups that advocate pro-family policies.

Because these family organizations support the rights of churches and small businesses to operate according to the dictates of their faith, and oppose same-sex marriage and legal prohibitions on conversion therapy, SPLC began adding them to its notorious “Hate Map” and pejoratively labeling them as “anti-LGBT hate groups.”

SPLC’s list of “currently operating anti-LGBT hate groups” reads like a ‘who’s who’ list of the conservative Christian movement: Family Research Council, Liberty Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom, American Family Association, American College of Pediatricians, Ruth Institute, and D. James Kennedy Ministries are all included on the list. SPLC also compiles “Extremist Files” on supposedly dangerous “extremists” like historian David Barton (Wallbuilders), pro-family advocate Tony Perkins (Family Research Council), commentator Bryan Fischer (American Family Association), theologian Gary DeMar, and evangelist Lou Engle (The Call and International House of Prayer).

Even mainstream media organizations like the Washington Post have published articles admitting that SPLC’s cataloging of mainstream, conservative Christian organizations and public figures in lists of “hate groups” and “extremists” alongside neo-Nazis, black separatists, and white supremacists is bizarre and farcical. In an article for National Review, Alex Torres mused that SPLC uses its hate group designation to “vilify” organizations that promote policies and positions it finds offensive “in an attempt to curtail free debate.”

The labeling also proved to be dangerous four years ago when an LGBT activist shot a security guard at the Family Research Council headquarters in Washington, D.C., because SPLC had identified the organization as an “anti-LGBT hate group.” The shooter planned to “kill as [employees] many as possible and smear Chick-Fil-A sandwiches in their faces.”

Despite the ludicrous and dangerous nature of equating pro-family organizations with the Ku Klux Klan, the FBI still considers SPLC a “partner” in fighting hate crimes. Charity and nonprofit watchdog GuideStar briefly used SPLC hate group designations in its public reporting on nonprofits earlier this summer, prompting a backlash from critics of the SPLC’s methods and lists.

Mat Staver says SPLC uses its hate group designation “as a weapon to defame” and “harm” nonprofits with which it disagrees politically. He believes the SPLC’s “reckless” and “defamatory” labeling “inflicts reputational and financial harm” to pro-family nonprofits like Liberty Counsel.

Staver’s account of the damage caused by SPLC designations seems to comport with the ongoing Symantec attack on Liberty Counsel. By blocking access to Liberty Counsel’s website, Symantec makes it harder for the religious liberty organization to spread its message and fundraise money.

Southern Poverty Law Center’s efforts to blacklist conservative Christian organizations seem to be working, at least for the moment. But they fail to realize that the most effective way to defeat other political ideologies and worldviews isn’t through blacklisting opponents but instead through the power of persuasion in the public square.


Blaine Conzatti is a columnist and research fellow at the Family Policy Institute of Washington. He can be reached at Blaine@FPIW.org.


 

Is abortion constitutional? Let’s ask the founders

Is abortion constitutional? The Supreme Court concluded in Roe v. Wade (1973) that an expectant mother has a “fundamental right to abortion.” According to Supreme Court logic, this right to abortion is protected under the penumbral right of privacy supposedly guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.

To see whether the Roe decision is an accurate interpretation of constitutional rights, it is important to understand the intentions of the authors of the Constitution. Did they advocate legal abortion protected by the Constitution?

One of the most authoritative sources for learning law during the founding era was William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England. Blackstone, a distinguished English jurist, was so well-liked by the founding fathers that he was the second most frequently cited thinker in the American political writings of the founding era. American law students studied his work so religiously that Thomas Jefferson wrote to a friend that “Blackstone is to us what the Koran is to the Muslims.”

Blackstone affirmed in his Commentaries that an individual’s right to life is an “immediate gift of God.” This right to life is legally binding “as soon as an infant is able to stir in the mother’s womb.” Per Blackstone,

“For if a woman is quick with child, and by a potion, or otherwise kills it in her womb; or if any one beat her, whereby the child dies in her body, and she is delivered of a dead child; this, though not murder, was by the ancient law homicide or manslaughter. But at present it is not looked upon in quite so atrocious a light, though it remains a very heinous misdemeanor.”

Interestingly, Blackstone also explains that fetuses “in the mother’s womb” are legally considered “to be born.” Thus, the law considered a fetus to be his or her own person, independent of the mother.

From these commentaries, the founding fathers learned that any abortion perpetrated after the stirring of an infant in the mother’s womb was a “heinous misdemeanor.”

American courts upheld this traditional common law approach in characterizing abortion as a misdemeanor. Founding father James Wilson, a signatory of the Declaration of Independence and original U.S. Supreme Court justice, taught his law students that,

“With consistency, beautiful and undeviating, human life, from its commencement to its close, is protected by the common law. In the contemplation of law, life begins when the infant is first able to stir in the womb. By the law, life is protected not only from immediate destruction, but from every degree of actual violence, and, in some cases, from every degree of danger.”

Similarly, St. George Tucker, a Madison judicial appointee and professor of law at the College of William and Mary, explained in his celebrated legal treatise on American law that it is  “a great misprision [misdemeanor]” to “kill a child in its mother’s womb.”

Laws in American states criminalized abortion from the beginning. For example, Virginia law outlawed the practice of using “potion” to “unlawfully destroy the child within her [womb].” These laws were crafted by many of the same individuals who framed the Constitution.

It is therefore inconceivable that the framers intended constitutional protections for abortion as a “fundamental right.” Indeed, the framers believed the opposite. From their perspective, the unborn child has a fundamental right to life, a right that would be infringed by an abortion that ends his or her life.

A “fundamental right to abortion” does not exist in the Constitution or its amendments. It is the height of intellectual dishonesty to argue that the authors of the Constitution and its amendments intended to protect abortion under some vague and unwritten “right to privacy.” That so many courts and judges have for so long upheld a legal doctrine antagonistic to the Constitution reveals the rogue nature of the modern judiciary.


Blaine Conzatti is a columnist and research fellow at the Family Policy Institute of Washington. He can be reached at Blaine@FPIW.org.


 

Why We Cannot Stop Fighting for Life

Western society has truly become a “culture of death.” Three recent news stories illustrate this unfortunate development:

 

1. Charlie Gard is a ten-month-old with a rare genetic disorder that has put him in a coma. An American doctor offered the family a potentially life-saving experimental treatment for Charlie, and the family soon raised over $1.6 million to cover the expenses.

Charlie’s story took a turn for the worse when his London hospital refused to permit his parents to take him across the Atlantic for treatment. His doctors believed that since he would likely be disabled if the treatment were successful, “it is in Charlie’s best interests to permit Charlie to die with dignity,” a sentiment echoed by a British judge after Charlie’s parents sued.

According to the judge, “Although the parents have parental responsibility [in making medical decisions for their children], overriding control is vested in the court exercising its independent and objective judgment in the child’s best interests.”

Charlie’s parents fought valiantly for the right to secure potentially life-saving treatment for their child, appealing the decision to the Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights. Justice was denied, however, when the ECHR refused to intervene earlier this week, allowing doctors to end Charlie’s life.

 

2. The parents of an Iowa boy (“Z.P.”) born with cerebral palsy successfully sued their doctor for failing to inform them that their baby would be born with the disability. They say they would have had their baby aborted if they had known about the disability.

Iowa’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of the parents. As James Silberman accurately notes, “If the right to kill unborn children exists, it follows that a doctor’s failure to inform the parents of an unborn child about the presence of an undesirable trait would indeed be a violation of that right.”

 

3. The Oregon Senate passed a bill (SB494) earlier this month that would have allowed nursing homes to starve disabled patients to death. The bill was introduced after Bill Harris sued the nursing home caring for his wife, Nora, who suffers from dementia. Harris wanted the nursing home to stop spoon feeding Nora.

Although Nora is dealing with advanced Alzheimer’s, she is still conscious and wants to eat. SB494 would have allowed the nursing home to withhold food and water from Nora until she starved to death.

Thankfully, the legislation recently failed in the House Judiciary Committee. Although the mere fact that the bill passed the Senate is remarkable and frightening, it is unsurprising, considering that Oregon was the first state to allow doctors to kill terminally ill patients who want to die.

 

Why We Must Keep Fighting 

Human life is sacred. Every person, regardless of his or her disabilities or circumstances, has dignity and is inherently valuable.

Human life is beautiful. Anyone who has met the inspiring and beautiful people living with disabilities knows this to be true.

Those with disabilities offer so much to the world; most importantly, they provide the opportunity for society to grow in its compassion for the weak and vulnerable.

Those who have disabilities are no less human than you or me. Their humanity demands the same natural rights we all share, the most important of which is the right to live.

We have not been given the authority to decide whose lives are “worth living.” Abortion, euthanasia, and suicide are so destructive because these things demean human life.

Our shared humanity enjoins us to fight against these evils. We must defend the defenseless. We must speak for Charlie, Nora, and “Z.P.” We must not permit judges and legislators to change and manipulate our laws to allow for the murder of the innocent.

Who will defend the most vulnerable if we do not? I pray that we may never forget that their lives are immeasurably valuable, and I pray that more good people rise up to restrain the evil that has convinced far too many people that some lives are more valuable than others.

Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito (Latin: Do not give in to evil but proceed ever more boldly against it).


Blaine Conzatti is a columnist and research fellow at the Family Policy Institute of Washington. He can be reached at Blaine@FPIW.org.


 

Would the Johnson Amendment Have Stopped the War for Independence and Abolitionist Movement?

Had the Johnson Amendment been in effect prior to 1954, the American War for Independence and the abolitionist movement may have never happened.

The Johnson Amendment to the federal tax code prohibits nonprofit, tax-exempt entities from participating in, or intervening in, “any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.” This prohibition includes “the publishing or distributing of statements” on behalf of candidates, legislation, or political parties.

The amendment was originally proposed by Texas Senator (and future President) Lyndon B. Johnson to silence and retaliate against the nonprofit political organizations that had been created to support his primary opponent. It was passed in 1954 by a unanimous voice vote without debate.

Although Congress never intended to include churches in the prohibition, “the I.R.S. has steadfastly maintained that any speech by churches that the IRS could construe as supporting or opposing candidates for government office, including sermons from the pulpit, can result in loss of tax exemption,” according to Alliance Defending Freedom.

The Johnson Amendment has had a chilling effect on American churches. Radical atheist organizations like Americans United for the Separation of Church and State have mounted public relations campaigns to intimidate churches and pastors. Not only do they spread misinformation about what churches and pastors can/cannot do regarding political involvement, but they have also reported to the IRS those churches who refused to remain silent about issues relating to government.

However, American pulpits have not always been censored by the federal government. Before the enactment of the Johnson Amendment, churches and pastors used their moral authority to speak prophetically to members and the culture about political issues.

From colonial times until the twentieth century, American churches often used their trusted social position to proclaim the Bible’s truth about issues being debated in public.

For example, pastors would frequently endorse or oppose specific candidates for public office, and they shared with their congregations whether a piece of legislation or a candidate’s positions were compatible with biblical principles. Pastors also commonly preached “Election Sermons,” which were given in the audience of public officials to exhort them to govern according to God’s truth and design for society.

Recognizing that a faithful exposition of God’s Word demanded that they preach about political issues, churches and pastors spoke into the civil arena and helped shape the American political debate for centuries. Perhaps this is no more apparent than the indispensable role churches played in the War for Independence, the abolition movement, and early civil rights movements.

John Adams, himself a central figure in the independence movement and the early republic, pointed to the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Mayhew as having had a “great influence in the commencement” of the American War for Independence. Like many of his contemporaries, Mayhew preached and published sermons that seemed to “revive… animosity against tyranny in church and state.”

It was in church that early Americans learned of their inalienable rights and the proper jurisdiction and role of civil government. According to Adams, the Spirit of 1776 ripened, in part, because “the pulpits thundered!”

Leading up to the Civil War, churches also played a key role in the movement to abolish slavery. Quakers, Wesleyans, American Baptists, Congregationalists, and some Methodists stridently opposed the peculiar institution and mobilized political and social efforts against it, with their churches serving as the center of the action. Churches comprised many of the stops along the “Underground Railroad,” offering their sanctuaries as hiding places for those escaping slavery.

It is no wonder that the abolition of slavery came on the heels of the Second Great Awakening, an Evangelical religious revival during the early nineteenth century that stressed the importance of a personal relationship with Christ and propelled efforts to reform society according to biblical precepts.

Imagine if the Johnson Amendment had been around during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Would American churches have assumed their role as agents of social change in the movements for independence, abolition, and civil rights if their free speech had been muzzled by the federal government?

Churches and pastors have a biblical obligation to share biblical positions on political issues with their members and their communities. Throughout this nation’s history, churches have acted as champions of justice.

Although President Trump campaigned on “totally destroying” the Johnson Amendment, his religious liberty executive order last month failed to make any substantive changes to IRS policy. The ACLU called the executive order a “faux sop to religious conservatives” and an “elaborate photo-op” that “does not meaningfully alter the ability of religious institutions or individuals to intervene in the political process.”

It is time to stop censoring the constitutionally protected religious speech of American pulpits. Pastors who preach and uphold the entirety of the Bible should no longer have to fear the IRS. Congress should not wait any longer to begin the process of repealing the Johnson Amendment.


Blaine Conzatti is a columnist and research fellow at the Family Policy Institute of Washington. He can be reached at Blaine@FPIW.org.


When Doctors and Judges Turn Murderous

Update (06/14/2017): The European Court of Human Rights will allow Charlie Gard to be kept on life support while they consider the case.


Doctors and judges in Great Britain may kill an innocent baby boy today.

Charlie Gard is ten months old. Like many baby boys, he likes holding his stuffed animal monkey.

Sadly, Charlie has mitochondrial disease, an extremely rare genetic disorder affecting the part of cells that create the energy needed for life. Although Charlie has been on life support for months, a doctor in the United States has offered the family an experimental treatment that might save his life. Tens of thousands of people have donated $1.6 million to pay for the treatment.

Even with the possibility of successful treatment across the Atlantic, Charlie’s doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London refused to let his parents take him to America for treatment. Specialists then petitioned a British Court for permission to end his life, despite pleas from the his parents to keep him alive.

Justice Francis, the High Court judge who heard Charlie’s case, ruled that “it is in Charlie’s best interests” for the hospital “to permit Charlie to die with dignity.” In his ruling, Justice Francis rejected the objections of those who ask why courts should make these decisions and override the rights of parents:

“The duty with which I am now charged is to decide, according to well laid down legal principles, what is in Charlie’s best interests. Some people may ask why the court has any function in this process; why can the parents not make this decision on their own? The answer is that, although the parents have parental responsibility, overriding control is vested in the court exercising its independent and objective judgment in the child’s best interests.”

According to Connie Yates, Charlie’s mother, the American doctor says there is no reason why the treatment wouldn’t work for her baby boy. Yet the British doctors and judges steadfastly refuse to budge.

Connie posts regular updates on her Facebook page. Her timeline is filled with pictures of her holding her son, alongside captions like “We won’t give up on you baby boy” and “If he’s still fighting, we’re still fighting.”

Throughout the ordeal, her social media posts have kept a positive tone. At times, though, her vexation seeps into her posts. “We have had the money for over 2 months but we are NOT allowed to take OUR OWN SON to a hospital that want to try and save his life!” Connie wrote last week.

“Why can’t we be trusted as parents?? I would never sit by my Sons side and watch him suffer, I’m not like that! Why can’t the drs in America be trusted either?? Why why why can’t we try and save our Sons life??”

Connie and Chris (Charlie’s dad) are heroes. When doctors told them their son’s life wasn’t worth saving, they kept fighting. When a judge unilaterally decided it’s better to kill the baby than to allow them to seek treatment elsewhere, they kept fighting.

The Telegraph, an English newspaper, even published an insensitively written editorial by a mother who had lost a son. Her advice to Charlie’s young parents? “Sometimes in life things just don’t go as you want them to… Sometimes you have to let go.”

But these heroes keep fighting. They know the immeasurable value of their baby boy’s life.

On the other hand, if Charlie is killed, the doctors and judges involved in his case will be nothing less than murderers, perversely justifying their senseless slaughter with the fallacious claim that their murderous act will be merciful and in the best interest of their victim.

What about the parents? Don’t their wishes and beliefs count for something? Are they not ultimately responsible for their child?

We cannot stand silent as this innocent baby boy is murdered by the government that is supposed to protect him and the doctors who swore an oath to “do no harm.” This is the fruit of the culture of death. This is the fruit of the “death with dignity” movement. We have devalued life to the point that doctors and judges think they can decide whose lives are worth living.

Yesterday, Charlie’s parents were able to enjoy their first picnic with him. “Charlie was awake the whole time. It was wonderful for him to feel the sun on his face and the wind in his hair,” Connie said. “We put on some music and Chris and I lay down next to Charlie. For the first time in months we felt like a normal family.”

Charlie’s fate now rests in the hands of the European Court of Human Rights. It will likely decide today whether Charlie’s life is “worth living.”

No matter how the Court decides, we cannot give up fighting for the most vulnerable. We must keep defending life.


Blaine Conzatti is a columnist and research fellow at the Family Policy Institute of Washington. He can be reached at Blaine@FPIW.org.

4 Reasons Suicide Is Increasing Among Young Adults

Suicide is back in the news again.

After seven of its students committed suicide, a Colorado school district last month temporarily pulled from its libraries 13 Reasons Why, the young adult fiction book turned Netflix television teen drama that critics say glamorizes suicide.

The book chronicles the suicide of Hannah Baker, a high school junior who leaves behind thirteen cassette tapes explaining her reasons for committing suicide.

Like Hannah Baker, many young adults are turning to suicide as an escape from the pressures of life. From 2000 to 2015, the suicide rate increased 27% among those aged 20 to 35 (the U.S. average suicide rate among all age groups increased by almost 21% during the same time period). Washington State’s suicide rate is 16% higher than the national average.

 

Two Factors That Fail To Explain The Increasing Suicide Rate

Many experts blame increased economic hardship and inadequate mental health services for the recent rise in suicide. However, these easy explanations misrepresent available data and fall short of adequately explaining the troubling trend.

From a material perspective, life on earth has never been better. Thanks to global trade and extraordinary technological advances, Americans today enjoy a higher standard of living, greater economic security, longer life expectancy, less crime, and more leisure than any other people throughout history. Even the poorest among us live far more prosperous lives than our richest grandparents could have imagined. And let us not forget that Americans living in poverty still boast a higher living standard than the average European.

Additionally, the recent increase in suicide cannot be blamed on undersupplied mental health services. Both federal and state governments have progressively increased mental health funding over recent decades (paradoxically, the inefficient and inflexible bureaucracy created to administer mental health programs and treatments may make it more difficult for those struggling with mental health conditions to receive the care they need).

In exclusively focusing on economic circumstances and mental health funding, we ignore profound cultural shifts that better explain rising suicide rates.

 

Four Reasons Suicide Is Increasing Among Young Adults

Here are four factors likely contributing to the significant increase in suicide among young Americans:

Delayed Marriage: More than ever before, young people are choosing to delay marriage or forgo it entirely. In 1960, the median age at first marriage was 22.8 for men and 20.3 for women, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Today, the median age at first marriage has increased to 29.5 for men and 27.4 for women. Almost half of 34-year-olds have never been married.

These unmarried millennials sacrifice the benefits that come with being united to a committed partner in marriage. A survey of scientific literature conducted by the Marriage and Religion Research Institute found that married individuals are healthier, happier, and more financially secure than their unmarried peers. They experience greater emotional and psychological well-being than those who are unmarried. Notably, married individuals are less likely to commit suicide.

Increased Worker Mobility: Americans move for work more often than Europeans. Although greater worker mobility boosts the economy and results in better matching of employees and jobs, it can also cause individuals to become detached from communities that help provide belonging, happiness, and emotional and financial support.

Researchers have discovered a link between residential mobility and suicide. “Indeed, residential mobility can be associated with higher levels of stress, crime, poor health, and what sociologists call ‘social disorganization,’” writes Ryan McMaken for the Mises Institute.

Decreased Religiosity: Young Americans have increasingly disconnected from religious institutions over the last few decades, choosing instead to live according to their own “personalized spirituality” or rejecting religion entirely.

A Pew Research Center study published two years ago found that only 28% of millennials born between 1981 and 1996 attend religious services weekly, significantly less than 51% of the Silent Generation (those born between 1928 and 1945). Younger millennials are also less likely to believe in God (80%) and consider religion to be an important part of their lives (38%).

Unfortunately, by eschewing involvement in religious communities, millennials sacrifice the kinship and solidarity those communities provide. Religion helps provide meaning to life, and religious communities equip individuals with the relationships and support necessary to withstand life’s treacherous seas.

Unsurprisingly, religiously unaffiliated individuals had “significantly more lifetime suicide attempts” than their religiously affiliated peers, according to a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. The study’s authors also concluded that “subjects with no religious affiliation perceived fewer reasons for living, particularly fewer moral objections to suicide.”

Postmodernism: Millennials attain higher levels of education than previous generations. This makes them more susceptible to postmodernism, the prevailing worldview taught in higher education.

Postmodernism posits that reality is unknowable and meaningless. In attempting to overthrow traditional values, postmodernism dispenses with objective and transcendent truths that provide individuals with a realistic framework through which to perceive the world. Postmodernists sort everyone into one of two groups: the oppressors and the victims, the latter of which suffer from systemic societal and cultural oppression at the hands of the former.

Survey data indicate a considerable number of millennials have bought into the postmodern worldview propagated by their colleges and universities. Only 40% of those under age 35 believe “right and wrong never change,” and just 4% of millennials hold to a biblical worldview.

Philosopher Richard M. Weaver observed decades ago that “ideas have consequences.” Teaching the next generation that life is meaningless, truth is unknowable, and that tradition and conventional wisdom must be discarded yields predictable results. Such a corrosive worldview will only produce rotting fruit.

 

There Is No Easy Fix

Suicide is increasing because our culture has lost its moorings. We need to acknowledge that the exploding suicide rate among Americans and Washingtonians will not be solved through a growing economy or greater mental health funding. As long as individuals continue to disconnect from the relationships, communities, and truth that provide meaning to life, suicide will continue becoming more prevalent.

There is no easy fix. Reversing the trend depends on effectively confronting the lies accepted by culture and society fueling hopelessness and social disorganization. We must also work to ensure our communities can successfully provide for the material, emotional, and spiritual needs of their members.


Blaine Conzatti is a columnist and research fellow at the Family Policy Institute of Washington. He can be reached at Blaine@FPIW.org.

The Time is Now to Become Engaged Citizens

Not once had my friends openly desired to discuss politics before this last election cycle. Thankfully, that is no longer the case.

Many Americans have forgotten that the United States was intended to be a representative republic. Referencing the system of government designed by the founders, John Adams attested that our government would be a government of “laws, and not men.”

The conservative philosophy argues that we are endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights that can be neither conferred nor withheld by any man or government. Among these are the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.

Unfortunately, government infringes upon inalienable rights in many ways today. The growth of government over the last century means that government is more involved in our lives than ever before, making it harder for the average person to affect government and keep it accountable.

In a timeless quote that is as applicable today as it was when written, James Madison explained the importance of limiting government through constitutional restraints:

“If men were angels no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

If the founders had felt that our fundamental, inalienable rights were so easily protected, they would not have gone to such lengths to secure those rights in the Bill of Rights.

When discussing with others how government overreach frequently restricts religious liberty, free speech, and other constitutionally guaranteed rights, I often hear the other person dismissively say, “I’m not doing anything wrong, so it won’t affect me.” But it is important we ask, “Who is deciding what is right or wrong?”

For most Christians, we defer to the immutable Word of God for all questions regarding morality. But as of late, Christians have been finding that their sense of right and wrong is not shared by those in power.

For example, the Knapps—a husband-wife team of ordained ministers operating the Hitching Post wedding chapel in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho—certainly believed they were doing the right thing by refusing to officiate homosexual weddings. Likewise, Barronelle Stutzman didn’t think she was doing wrong when she managed her business according to the dictates of her faith. Yet in both cases, government officials thought otherwise. Despite thinking they were doing nothing wrong, both Stutzman and the Knapps found themselves in the crosshairs of government policies that violated their inalienable rights.

When government infringes another person’s rights and we think to ourselves, “That doesn’t affect me,” we should remember Stutzman, the Knapps, and countless others who probably once thought the same. As long as someone besides God is defining right and wrong, the growing reach of government will inevitably lead to further infringements on our rights.

Therefore, it is no longer acceptable to be an uninformed, one-issue voter. There are multiple ways for a government as immense and perplexing as ours to infringe on the rights we hold dear. Although these policies might seem harmless at the time, they create precedents that can later be used to violate our constitutionally protected rights. We are already witnessing this on a small scale in the cases cited above, as well as numerous other similar examples.

People need to pay attention to what government is doing so they can confirm that their rights are being respected and that their legislators are faithfully representing them. For too long, this has not been the case. If we are to maintain our republic and our rights, citizens must wake up and become informed and engaged. The time is now.

A Teacher’s Perspective on School Choice (It’s Parental Choice)

The liberal media pounced on Betsy DeVos after her confirmation hearing last week, alleging that Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education is a radical Christian who supports “dismantling” public schools.

I teach at one of those private, for-profit, Christian schools that Democrats and their allies in the media are vilifying as one of the greatest threats to our nation’s youth and education system.

Although those opposed to DeVos’ nomination would like to convince you that private and charter schools are designed to serve only affluent whites, in reality, my school’s student body is majority-minority. Many of these kids come from broken homes on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum.

This isn’t as rare as the media would lead you to believe. Scholarships and voucher programs, whether privately or publicly funded, allow children to succeed in schools their families would otherwise have been unable to afford. In fact, empirical evidence overwhelmingly indicates that voucher programs improve racial integration in schools.

Many of my students were unable to achieve their full potential in their neighborhood public schools. Their parents were growing frustrated with what their schools were teaching, and were growing worried about their school’s culture of drugs, promiscuity, and insubordination.

In my experience, low-income and minority families who are given the opportunity to attend schools like the one where I teach are so thankful their kids are able to receive a quality education in a safe and edifying environment.

Some of my students have shared with me their experiences attending local public schools. One of my black students carried a gun with him to school as an early teenager to keep himself safe from gang activity. Drug dogs sweep the halls of local public high schools, which also sometimes use metal detectors to check students for weapons.

Apart from concerns about their children’s safety, many families also feel uneasy about the content of their children’s education. In Washington State, for example, schools are now teaching elementary school children that they can choose their gender. Sexual education curricula teach students to use methods of birth control many parents find morally objectionable. And some teachers, schools, and educational standards distort history and science to promote their pet political agendas.

Many of the most vocal critics of DeVos and the educational philosophy she represents contend that the very existence of private schools with different educational philosophies threatens public schools and our social order. These critics oppose any system of school choice that allows parents to choose the school they want to educate their children.

Contrary to the baseless claims of her critics, Betsy DeVos has never supported “dismantling” the public school system. Instead, she is simply working to ensure that those low- and middle-income families who find their local public school insufficient can have the same opportunities as wealthier families that are able pursue other means of education.

Providing more alternatives to public schools wouldn’t necessarily cause an exodus of children from public to private schools, nor would it require that public schools be “dismantled.”

If, in fact, most public schools offer an education superior to that of comparable private schools, families will decide to leave their kids in the public school to which they’ve been assigned. On the other hand, families who worry about their son or daughter attending public school would be able to move him or her to a school that better meets their needs and reflects their values.

No school or educational philosophy is perfect, and a one-size-fits-all system doesn’t really fit all families and students. That’s why choice is so necessary and important.

I’m especially thankful schools like the one at which I teach exist to provide families with an alternative to unsafe, failing schools that teach an educational philosophy antithetical to traditional Judeo-Christian values. Voucher programs like those supported by Betsy DeVos enable families to pursue whatever means of education works best for their children – and that’s something we should all celebrate.

 

Blaine Conzatti is a columnist and research fellow at the Family Policy Institute of Washington. He can be reached at Blaine@FPIW.org.