Category: Family

mass-incarcerationWith the 2010 publication of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Ohio State University law professor Michelle Alexander, the conversation about America’s exploding prison population singularly became focused on the intersection of race, poverty, and the War on Drugs. According to the narrative, the drug war disproportionately targets blacks in lower income communities as a means of social control via the criminal justice system similarly to the way Jim Crow controlled blacks in the early 20th-century.

The one problem with mass incarceration-as-Jim-Crow thesis is that it does not fit the empirical data. The drug war is not the reason that today we have nearly 2.5 million people incarcerated in this country. In the mid-1970s the U.S. prison population grew from about 300,000 to 1.6 million inmates, and the incarceration rate from 100 per 100,000 to over 500 per 100,000 largely due to violent crime, property crime, and rogue prosecutors. Drug policy changes would, therefore, have little effect on prison population rolls.

The first significant challenge to the Alexander thesis came from Yale Law School professor James Forman, Jr. In a 2012 article, “Racial Critiques of Mass Incarceration: Beyond the New Jim Crow,” Forman observes that drug offenders constitute only a quarter of our nation’s prisoners, while the violent offenders make-up about one-half. While sympathetic to the ways in which those living in poor black communities are more likely to end up incarcerated than those in middle-class black communities, it is simply not true that drug policy, targeted at blacks, is driving prison numbers.
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Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
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Light Side CodeSome people will try to tell you that the Star Wars saga is about the conflict between the light and the dark sides of the force, between the Jedi and the Sith. Some will defend the Jedi as virtuous warrior monks. Others will try to tell you that the whole story is about bad parenting.

Star Wars is really about family, but it is too easy to blame the parents and the Skywalkers in particular. The films in fact illustrate how the main factions of Force-users, both light and dark, break apart the natural family. I make the extended case in an essay for the Public Discourse, “The Family and the Force.”

Here’s a teaser:

When we identify the mutual disdain for the family that is characteristic of users of both the light and the dark sides of the Force, we can begin to understand the revolutionary depth the Skywalker family represents in the Star Wars universe. Contrary to both the Sith and the Jedi, the Skywalkers are deeply committed to their familial bonds.

Only the bonds of love forged in the natural family can bring true balance to the Force. There are big spoilers in the piece itself for those of you who haven’t yet seen “The Force Awakens.” And below the break (and below this line), I’ll discuss a few more spoiler-ish items that I didn’t have space to treat in the larger essay.
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children1With our newfound economic prosperity and the political liberalization of the West, we have transitioned into an era of hyper consumerism and choice. This involves all sorts of blessings, to be sure, but it brings its own distinct risks.

Whether it be materialism or a more basic idolatry of choice, such distortions will be sure to diminish or disintegrate any number of areas across society. But the deleterious effects on the family and children are particularly pronounced.

Throughout most of human history, children were most often the brightest light in an otherwise bleak existence of poverty, toil, and high mortality. For those with little freedom, few resources, and zero opportunity, children were a blessing and a bounty: a gift (and not just for the labor). Now, however, presented with a range of vocational options and the wealth and leisure to support them, our priorities have significantly shifted. We are prodded toward career or education or adventurism first, teased by a platter of technological tools to further prevent a child’s intrusion into our planned prospects. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
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1900houseStories can convey, so much better than raw data can, the human effects of the increased living standards that market-driven innovation has provided us, says Steven Horwitz. He notes how the BBC and PBS series 1900 House shows what a nightmare it was to live at the turn of the twentieth century. Mothers in particular had it especially rough:

She has to get up early to make sure the range is warm enough to make breakfast, and by the time she is done cooking, serving, and cleaning up with 1900 technology, it’s time to start lunch. Dinner requires even more time. Like the washing machine and dryer, the time created by modern kitchen appliances has freed women from drudgery and created opportunities for education and leisure that were unheard of in human history.

We tend to romanticize the past, forgetting that without the labor-saving technology we take for granted previous generations—again, mostly women—were in bondage to their daily chores:
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marriage-bandaid1As Christianity loses influence in the West, and as culture corresponds by taking its cues from the idols of hedonism, it can be easy to forget that most of these challenges are not new.

In an article for Leadership Journal, Ryan Hoselton highlights these recurring “crises,” pondering what lessons we might learn from Christian responses of ages past.

On the topic of family, and more specifically, family in decline, Hoselton points to Herman Bavinck’s The Christian Family, which takes aim at the range of threats to the family and how we (the church) might counteract the social drift. “There has never been a time when the family faced so severe a crisis as the time in which we are now living,” he writes, describing everything from divorce to sexual immorality, human trafficking to infanticide.

The book was written in 1908, but do these problems sound familiar? (more…)

lesmis4The media is buzzing with chatter about immigration and the heartbreaking refugee crisis in the Middle East. Yet even as we learn more about the types of suffering and oppression that these people are fleeing, the temptation to look inward remains.

All of these cases involve a range of complex considerations, to be sure. But in a nation as big and as prosperous as ours, we should find it easier than most to err on the side of welcoming the stranger. Further, as citizens of a country whose success is so deeply rooted in the entrepreneurial efforts and exploits of immigrants and escapees, we ought to understand the profound value and creative capacity of all humankind, regardless of degree or pedigree.

But even before and beyond all that, as Christians, we offer a type of justice that so clearly begins with love of God and neighbor. Ours is an approach that recognizes the importance of rightly ordered relationships, and as with all relationships, that means an embrace of vulnerability and struggle and imagination. Ours is an ethic that relishes in the risk of sacrifice and is willing to deny our man-made priorities of security and comfortability. All that but one might be saved.

This doesn’t mean that we ignore or bypass considerations of political prudence, the rule of law, and the various practical constraints of any free and orderly society. But it does mean that our hearts, hands, and words ought to reflect a basic motivation of love, mercy, and hospitality. For the Christian, building a wall might be the right and just policy outcome for a particular situation, but it ought not be our shining characteristic. (more…)

onward-russell-moore-culture-gospelOne of the long-running mistakes of the church has been its various confinements of cultural engagement to particular spheres (e.g. churchplace ministry) or selective “uses” (e.g. evangelistic conversion).

But even if we manage to broaden the scope of our stewardship — recognizing that God has called us to pursue truth, goodness, and beauty across all spheres of creation — our imaginations will still require a strong injection of the transformative power of Jesus.

When we seek God first and neighbor second, we no longer proceed from the base assumptions of earthbound goods — the “love of man” what-have-you. Yes, our goals and actions will occasionally find overlap with those of the world, but eventually, the upside-down economics of the Gospel will set us apart. We will do certain things and make certain sacrifices that are foreign and incomprehensible to those around us.

This has implications for all areas, but much of it boils down to our basic views about the human person: his and her dignity and destiny as an image-bearer of an almighty God. Once our hearts are transformed according to his designs and our views about our neighbors are aligned to God’s story about his children, our cultural engagement will manifest in unpredictable and mysterious ways. This is, after all, what it means to be strangers in a strange land, as Episode 1 of For the Life of the World artfully explains.

In his latest book, Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel, Russell Moore offers some valuable reflections along these lines, noting that we can’t possibly stand as witnesses of God’s love if our cultural comings and goings fail to respond through the lens of Christ’s kingdom. “The kingdom of God changes the culture of the church by showing us a longer view of who’s important and who’s in charge,” he writes.

What cultural engagement really requires, then, is a careful destruction of that basic lie the enemy continues to spread and embed across societies and civilizations: that the love of man and the worship of his goals is, indeed, enough. (more…)