sin wealth

Rich Man’s Envy


An op-ed piece in the New York Times identifies the reason why American’s work so hard. “Rising inequality,” writes Dalton Conley, “causes us to work more to keep up in an economy increasingly dominated by status goods.” Mr. Conley fails to notice that inequality alone does not motivate anyone. Even the perception that someone is better off than me does not motivate me unless it leads to a desire to be better off, too. What Mr. Conley describes is not inequality but envy.

…a poll of New Yorkers found that those who earned more than $200,000 a year were the most likely of any income group to agree that “seeing other people with money” makes them feel poor.

I think you would be hard pressed to find a better description of envy: wanting more because others have it not because it will benefit you.

politics sin

Abortion Still Matters


I’ve heard very little about the abortion issue during this political campaign. One reason is that neither Barack Obama nor John McCain seems willing to take a radical stance for or against abortion. I think the likeliest reason, however, is that everyone is everlastingly tired of the issue. Some are tired of hearing about it; others are just as tired of talking about it.

But it’s an issue that is not going to go away.

In the United States, between one in four and one in three pregnancies end in abortion rather than live birth. This is an alarmingly high number, between 1.5 and 1.8 million every year. The number has always been over 1 million per year since abortion-on-demand was first legalized in 1973. Over the past 35 years in the United States alone we have purposely ended the lives of more than 40 million human beings before they had a chance to grow and develop. No other species on the planet deliberately destroys its own offspring in this wholesale manner.

Abortion as we practice it is a terrible evil, a cancer of the human race, a blight on human civilization. It produces no benefits, contributes nothing good, and puts our own comfort and convenience ahead of the precious life of a new child. It promotes selfishness and cynicism. It denies fathers their rights as fathers and makes mothers the arbiters of life and death for their own children. The main reason it enjoys the protected status it has is not because of any benefits it confers on individuals or society but because it is the last resort for disconnecting sex from procreation. In our pleasure-besotted culture, abortion removes one of the painful consequences of sexual adventuring.

I confess; were it not for Democrats’ insistence on supporting abortion, I would most likely be a Democrat. But as far as I can tell, there are no moderate supporters of abortion. Everyone seems determined that no restrictions or limitations of any kind stand in the way of a woman’s legal prerogative to end the life of her unborn child. Parental notification? Too restrictive. Limited to the first trimester? A violation of a woman’s right to choose. I hear dire warnings about a return to back-alley abortions and enslaving women, as if a woman without a license to kill is somehow less free. Abortion supporters give no ground, make no concessions. Even the horrific obscenity of partial-birth abortion does not move them to mitigate their support.

I am well aware that the President has only a limited role in determining the extent to which abortion is available in the United States. Abortion is properly a legislative issue, not an executive one. Nevertheless, I find myself reluctant to vote for someone who joins with those who condemn the innocent and still more reluctant when I consider that one of the first acts of a Democratic President would likely be the repeal of executive orders restricting federal funding of abortions for federal employees and military personnel.

Though abortion supporters are unwilling to curtail the legal rights granted since Roe v. Wade, they say that they want to reduce the number of abortions through early sex education and efforts to make contraceptives readily available. However, none of these efforts has had any appreciable effect on the number of abortions performed. Furthermore, nearly 80% of abortions are obtained by women 20 and older. Does anyone really believe that these women need further education to know how to avoid getting pregnant? No. The problem is not that women need better education. It is that by legalizing abortion, we have also legitimized it. Put simply, our society no longer considers it wrong. If it isn’t wrong, then there is no reason not to get an abortion if the pregnancy comes at a bad time or if the mother just doesn’t want a baby. The number of abortions will not appreciably decline—and I’m talking about a decline to where less than 1 in 5 pregnancies ends in abortion—until we enact laws to restrict it.

evolution religion sin theology

What if Evolution is True?

Nothing in science provokes controversy like evolution, especially in America. Despite more than 80 years of evolution teaching in America’s schools, Americans remain doubtful that all life now on earth developed from less advanced forms of life. Among scientists, however, and especially among biologists, the verdict is nearly unanimous: evolution occurs. Why such a serious disconnect? Is the evidence for evolution not compelling? Is it too abstruse for non-specialists to understand?

Opposition to evolution from evangelical Christians has been particularly strong. Some, such as popular speaker Ron Carlson, still cling to the notion that the world (and presumably the entire universe as well) is less than 10,000 years old. Such people remain untroubled by evidence because they start with accepting the literal truth of the bible. Evidence contrary to the bible is dismissed as unconvincing or dishonest. The whole scientific enterprise is seen as a means for eliminating God from public discourse rather than a means for discovering the truth about the universe we live in.

There can be no doubt that science attracts atheists or encourages atheism. Belief in a personal god is rare among scientists. But I think it is disingenuous to claim that scientists do not care about truth. Many early scientists were men and women of faith. They expected that their investigations would confirm the truth of scripture. Early geologists, for example, sought everywhere for evidence of a massive worldwide flood, and it seemed at first that fossils of sea creatures on mountain tops might bear out the biblical account. But as they examined the evidence, they became more an more convinced that the layers of fossils they were seeing were millions of years old, laid down when the mountain tops were sea beds and then thrust up by the slow motions of the earth’s crust. This process of being convinced by evidence was not driven by the desire to get rid of God. It was driven by the universal human desire to understand.

Many evangelicals have concluded that the truth of evolution is incompatible with the truth of scripture. If evolution is true, they claim, then the bible is not true. I think this is a very dangerous position because it gives excellent grounds to the enemies of Christ for rejecting the gospel. The bible has never been nor was ever intended to be a book of scientific claims. When the psalmist says, “you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13), he is not making a factual statement about the process by which human beings are formed. He is claiming that human beings are specially created by God no matter what processes are involved in their making. This is a claim that science cannot verify. It is a claim made by faith. Most of the claims made in scripture—and surely all the most important ones—are similarly claims of faith.

If evolution is true, it has consequences for faith. But the consequences need not be catastrophic. Throughout history Christians have adapted to the intellectual climate of the times. During the middle ages, for example, the orthodox view of sex was that it was solely for procreation. Enjoyment of sex even by people married to each other was considered evil because it encouraged the desires of the flesh. Similarly, food was meant to be eaten for sustenance and not for enjoyment. (We could probably do with more restraint in both areas nowadays, but I digress). Evolution poses difficult problems for understanding ourselves in relation to God. At what point did human beings become spiritual beings? What are we to make of the creation stories in the bible? How are we made in the image of God if we share common ancestry with other creatures? In fact, what does “made in the image of God” mean?

I don’t know whether evolution is true. I do know that I do not want to tie my faith in a changeless God to scientific explanations, which have changed time and again.