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Archive for the tag “defendant”

Family Law Tip: Gifts and Child Support

I  post some tips regarding family to my Linkedin page (see here) from time to time, and I thought I should start sharing them here too. Below is one of my family law tips, and you can read my articles on family law here and other posts on family law here and all are cataloged here.

 

6th Circuit Rules In Firefighter’s Claim of Retaliation for Religious Speech

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Hudson v. City of Highland Park, Michigan, (6th Cir., Nov. 22, 2019), the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in part reversed a district court’s dismissal of claims by a firefighter that he was dismissed in retaliation for his religious views.  The court summarized the facts:

Hudson worked for the Highland Park Fire Department from 2002 to 2015. Over time, he developed a reputation for two things: being an effective firefighter and being outspoken about his Christian faith. According to Hudson, the other firefighters had reputations too—for watching pornography in communal spaces and engaging in extra-marital affairs at the fire station. All of this created tension. He criticized their behavior, and they responded with disrespectful comments about his religious practices and sexual orientation. The back and forth went on for five years.

Hudson was fired after he claimed extra hours on his time sheet and reported he had worked the same shift for two different employers. The 6th Circuit held, however, that Hudson had shown enough to avoid dismissal on the pleadings of his claim that the Chief had fired him because of his speech. The court however affirmed the dismissal of his Title VII religious discrimination claim, saying in part:

Employees are free to speak out about misconduct in the workplace without subjecting themselves to discharge for rocking the boat…. Employees are no less free to root legitimate criticisms about the workplace in their faith than in any other aspects of their worldview. For many people of faith, their religion is not an abstraction. It has consequences for how they behave and may require them to be witnesses and examples for their faith. That reality does not permit differential treatment of them because they criticize behavior on moral grounds stemming from religious convictions as opposed to moral grounds stemming from secular convictions. “Let firemen be firemen” is not a cognizable defense to Title VII claims based on gender discrimination, race discrimination, or faith-based discrimination.

Even so, Hudson’s disparate treatment claim fails…. He cannot show that the city’s justification for his discharge amounted to a pretextual basis for discriminating against him because of his faith. The fire department put forth a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for treating Hudson differently. He falsified his time-sheets while other firefighters did not.

Judge Kethledge, dissenting in part, would have affirmed the dismissal of Hudson’s claim that he was fired in retaliation for his speech. Judge Stranch dissented in part, contending that Hudson should have been allowed to move ahead on his hostile work environment claim which the majority held should be dismissed.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Is Busyness Jeopardizing Our Souls?

Today it seems everyone’s favorite response to the common, probing introductory question, “How are you?” is this: I’m busy. Very busy. Extremely busy. I’m guilty of this response more than I care to admit. Of course, many of us are—actually—extremely busy. Many of us are stretching ourselves razor thin, fulfilling the necessary obligations of life: tending to our jobs, families, and children, addressing the infinite list of errands and to-dos, scheduling time for exercise, friends, entertainment, bills, volunteer work. The list goes on. Endlessly.

Technology, despite its aim to lessen our collective human burden (which it no doubt has in some ways), has helped fuel this increasing and widespread condition known as busyness. The ease with which we can connect to the world—be it to our work emails or social media relationships—allows us to be permanently “plugged in.” We can get away from the crowd and commotion of our lives physically to seek rest, but we can still pick up our phones to engage with them just as if we never left.

There is a great Corona commercial from a few years back that comes to mind. The scene begins with the crystal blue of the ocean. The camera pulls back to reveal a woman reclining comfortably in a beach chair. To her left, and mostly off camera, a man throws stones into the ocean, leisurely skipping rocks on an afternoon in some coastal paradise. We’re left with only the lull of the ocean and soft splashing of rocks dancing on the water’s surface. Suddenly we’re interrupted by the buzz of a phone. The man, after a moment’s hesitation, picks up the disruptive object and hurls it into the ocean. He watches it skip a few times before it disappears into the blue. I’m sure many of us at times wish we could do the same and cast away any and all reminders of our stack of obligations, our plethora of duties. If only…Yet, even though tossing an expensive phone into the sea might not be the most prudent of things to do—in fact, in most cases it would be pretty stupid—I think it can be easy to forget that we do still have a choice. We can still, in a sense, turn the phone off.

The New York Times article “The Busy Trap” by Tim Kreider explains that our “busyness” often serves as a euphemism for “exhaustion.” We’ve become so busy with keeping ourselves busy—incurring an endless list of tasks and unchecked boxes—that we’re drained, restless, and, well, exhausted. The article continues, claiming that “busyness,” despite the temptation to believe it’s been forcefully hoisted upon our shoulders—like some compulsory sentence doled out without our permission or desire—is a condition of life we’ve opted for:

“The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it.”

The article continues to expose the impetus of choosing such a depleting way of life:

“Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.”

And so we are left wondering how to combat this “emptiness,” this lurking sense that without our busyness—without being able to point to an impressive life of endless activity—we risk a life of little or no value.

Christianity speaks of the inestimable worth of human life not because of what it does—or even has the potential to do—but because it is made in the image and likeness of God. We are valuable and of infinite worth because God says we are with words that form reality and reveal truth. The rupture then that can occur within our souls is when that subtle lie starts to creep in: the one dictating that our actions make us worthy—that what we do makes us lovable in the eyes of God. To use the secular language of Kreider’s article, we rely on our actions to provide “existential reassurance” that we are worthy. To use Christian terminology, we rely on our actions to provide reassurance of God’s love and approval. And so, it seems, idleness isn’t the only playground on which the devil enjoys playing. He’s quite fond of its opposite as well.

It goes without saying that we’re still called to act. Our actions help reveal who we are, and as human beings gifted with reason, talents, desires, and a noble vocation to build up and spread God’s kingdom, we must do so through action. Yet, rather than our activity being the ultimate gauge of our souls, it serves instead to reflect them more perfectly. Thomas Merton, in his highly meditative and sagacious work No Man Is An Island, brilliantly explores the possible dangers of activity in the life of a soul:

“My soul can also reflect itself in the mirror of its own activity. But what is seen in the mirror is only a reflection of who I am, not my true being. The mirror of words and actions only partly manifests my being.”

Merton recognizes the value of actions—again, we are not called to do nothing, for “faith without works is dead”—but a soul’s state is not based only on the merit of its actions. We can be easily misled to look for proof of God’s love in tangible evidence, saying, “See, look here! I’ve done this, this and this, so therefore I’m a good, worthwhile and lovable person!”

“In order to settle down in the quiet of our own being we must learn to be detached from the results of our own activity…The fact that our being necessarily demands to be expressed in action should not lead us to believe that as soon as we stop acting we cease to exist. We do not live merely in order to “do something”—no matter what…We do not live fully merely by doing more, seeing more, tasting more, and experiencing more than we ever have before. On the contrary, some of us need to discover that we will not begin to live more fully until we have the courage to do and see and taste and experience much less than usual.”

Not only does the busyness of our work—even very good work—lead to an emptying of our true selves, but we become confused, bereft of the ability to understand who we are. Activity can clue us in on how we’re doing; yet, we are not what we do. And if we fail to see that, then our good acts can become emptied of love, an attempt to win God’s favor rather than express our love for him and others. Does our busyness keep us from loving? In the words of Mother Teresa, we must “never be so busy as not to think of others.”

Merton’s words pluck a very deep chord within me. As someone who is generally motivated and intensely devoted to a routine in order to be productive, I know that I’ve fallen squarely into the trap of relying on my actions to validate my worth in God’s eyes. And just as I’ve falsely assumed I’m “more lovable” because of certain things I’ve done, I’ve also done the opposite: labeled myself unworthy of God’s love because of a failure to do certain other things.

It’s been through prayer and an honest assessment of my actions and motivations in the space of his love that I’ve come to realize the danger of idolizing a life rife with activity. I have to keep reminding myself that no matter what I do—no matter how good or noble the action—it should always be done as a response to God’s love, not a plea for it. Love respects our freedom, gently compelling us to love always in all we do, not coercing us to love in order to be loved. And loving doesn’t always have to take form in obviously good action. It can be leisurely done in a spirit of gratitude, “meaningless” conversations with friends, and even restorative play and sport.

So what can we do to ensure our lives of busyness don’t lead to exhaustion and a loss of self? It’s nothing new: we must build into our lives a space for prayer and fruitful reflection. Even if it’s not much, we must strive to sit in the presence of the Eucharist at Adoration, read scripture and meditate on its application to our lives, or sit in silence listening to the voice of love that speaks words of affection, encouragement, and counsel. We must learn to be more like Mary, and less like Martha, in a world that unremittingly asks, “What have you done for me lately?” If we do not pray, and silently reflect on who we are often and consistently, we will continue to live in a state of exhaustion and boredom. And how can we honestly say we’re Christ’s disciples if we don’t ever allow him to tell us what to do or not do? God may want us to forgo certain activities, no matter how good, so that he can invite us into something else. If we take time to reflect, we will hear the voice of God. As Søren Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” So let us take time to review our lives and who we are in prayerful reflection, receiving the nourishment and strength to move forward with lives filled with fruitful, grace-led, and meaningful activity.

By Chris Hazell and published on Word on Fire on February 22, 2018 and can be found here.

 

LAYOFFS AND MERGERS AND CONSOLIDATIONS AND ACQUISITIONS …OH MY!

Check out Faye Cohen’s post to her blog Toughlawyerlady!

ToughLawyerLady

In recent months, businesses and institutions in the Philadelphia area have experienced a number of closures, mergers, consolidations and acquisitions which will be devastating to the greater geographic area, and have or will result in major layoffs of skilled employees and elimination of future jobs.

Here are just a few examples:

  • The owner of Hahnemann University Hospital, in existence for 171 years, announced that it would be declaring bankruptcy and closing;
  • Drexel University, announced that about 40 percent of its physicians and clinical staff of its medical college will lose their jobs in the wake of the closure of Hahnemann University Hospital;
  • Philadelphia Energy Solutions announced that it was closing its South Philadelphia oil refinery due to a series of explosions and a catastrophic fire, and laying off more than 1,000 employees;
  • WSFS Financial Corporation acquired Beneficial Bank, founded in 1853, with 58 locations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and…

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Proselytizing Does Not Rise To Level of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Trombetta v Kruse, (NY Civ. Ct., Nov. 19, 2019), a New York state trial court held that a proselytizing pamphlet and a subsequent e-mail did not amount to intentional infliction of emotional distress, nor was any injury proven. According to the court:

The pamphlet … shows a cartoon depiction of a catholic who is sent into the “lake of fire” to “burn in hell” for practicing as a catholic, instead of following the version of Christianity promoted by the pamphlet which is evangelical Baptist. The tract urges the reader to reject Catholicism, or be barred from heaven….

… [D]efendant wrote plaintiff an email that included the following statements: … My family does not believe and, if any of them were to die tomorrow, they would not go to heaven but to hell. I sent them tracts because I do not want them to go to hell. I want them to go to heaven. It is what I want for you too.

The court held in part:

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the courts of this State from evaluating the religious beliefs of a church or individual….

While the court understands why the plaintiff found the tract and email disturbing, the court does not find that the conduct rose to the level of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Templeton Project: A Fire, a World of Unrighteousness

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “A Fire, a World of Unrighteousness.”

See also:

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In his epistle, James warns his readers that not many of them should become teachers, because God judges teachers with greater strictness.  He goes on to say that one who does not stumble with his tongue is perfect, for ability to control the tongue means one is able to control his whole body.  A small fire sets an entire forest ablaze as the tongue negatively affects the body that results in setting our whole life ablaze.  James describes the tongue as “a world of unrighteousness” and “a restless evil, full of poison.”  He further writes that the tongue blesses God and  curses those made in God’s image.  A tongue on fire cannot come from a good source.

It is very tempting to misuse the tongue.  All of us have done this at one time or another or regularly.  But, we must be aware of the unrighteousness it manifests.  The tongue does damage to others.  This misuse is not helpful in debate.  It is certainly harmful.  We must be careful what we say to other people including those we meet for an informal or formal discussion of our theological and philosdophical differences.  We will gain no ground by being disrespectful in what we say.  And, we are not to respond with disrespect those who disrespect us.  We are to set an example as disciples of Christ.  The world does not follow these rules.  Watch a half hour or less of 24/7 news to see.  Pinhead and other such nomenclature has become common in the conservative and liberal media and in government.  We are to discredit a perspective by discrediting the perspective, not the person.

James employs the word curse. To curse someone is more serious than calling a person a name.  A curse is a malediction calling down upon someone’s head God’s disfavor and ill-fortune.  In the Lucan version of the Beatitudes, Jesus recites blessings and curses.  “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.”  “But woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.”  (Luke 6: 21, 24 ESV)  Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” (Mark 11: 21 ESV)

What should one do when one is confronted with wickedness and evil?  Should not the person be pointed out for what he/she is? Shouldn’t he be reminded of the judgment of God? Such judgments are most often not necessary, and we can misjudge; but, when evil needs to be identified, we must do so after careful consideration. People need to be reminded of God’s will and His  judgment, even Christians.  Judgment is the Law speaking.  We must hear the Law before we can receive the Gospel.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus associates the misuse of the tongue with anger.  “You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder and whoever murders will be liable to judgment. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”  (Matthew 5: 21-2 ESV)   More on anger in the future.

I leave you with something James says near the beginning of his letter:  “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”  (James 1: 26 ESV)

Michael G. Tavella

July 15, 2019

5th Circuit Upholds Stay of Execution For Buddhist Inmate

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Murphy v. Collier, (5th Cir., Nov. 12, 2019), the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, upheld a stay of execution granted last week by a Texas federal district court in the case of a Buddhist inmate who challenges the access he will have to his religious adviser prior to his execution. The district court granted a stay to allow it time to explore factual concerns about the balance between the inmate’s religious rights and the prison’s valid concerns for security. (See prior posting.) Christian and Muslim inmates have access to chaplains until the moment they enter the execution chamber.  Members of other religions have access to their outside clergy only until 5:00 p.m.on the day of execution. In his majority opinion for the 5th Circuit, Judge Dennis wrote in part:

We conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting Murphy’s stay. We agree with the district court’s implicit finding that Murphy has a strong likelihood of success on the merits of his claim that the TDCJ policy violates his rights by allowing inmates who share the same faith as TDCJ-employed clergy greater access to a spiritual advisor in the death house.

Judge Elrod dissented, saying in part:

Because I believe Murphy did not demonstrate that he is likely to succeed on his brand-new, untimely, and unexhausted claim regarding the TDCJ’s pre-execution holding-area protocol, I would hold that the district court abused its discretion in granting Murphy’s motion for stay of execution.

CNN reports on the decision.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Templeton Project: The Apostle on Mars Hill (Areopagus)

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “The Apostle on Mars Hill (Areopagus).”

See also:

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During his first missionary journey the Apostle Paul spent some time in Athens.  While there, he noticed with great dismay that “the city was full of idols.”  He had a dialogue with Jews in the synagogue and with people he met in the marketplace (agora in Greek).  In addition, he had a discussion with some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers who objected to Paul’s teaching of “foreign divinities.”

The Epicureans followed the philosophy of the fourth/third century B.C. materialist philosopher Epicurus.  In his view the world began by chance, the swerving of atoms into one another.  He held that pleasure, that is, freedom from fear and anxiety, was the highest goal of humans. The gods, if they exist, were of no significance to us as we were no significance to them.  He wished people to be free from fear of life and death.

The Stoics followed Zeno of Citium who lived at the same time as Epicurus. The words stoic/stoicism come from the Greek word for porch.  Zeno and his followers held their discussions at the Stoa Poikile (Painted Porch) in the marketplace at Athens. Several noted ancients, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Seneca among others, followed this philosophy.  The Stoic was devoted to virtue, was indifferent to matters that did not involve truth and morality and lived at a distance from things in the world that did not carry moral weight.  Their theology professed a material god, imminent in the universe. The universe, made of fire, is one of an eternal series that come into existence and then dissolve, making way for another.  The Stoic desired to conform to universal Reason that allowed him to achieve inner calm

Paul stands before these philososphers who took exception to the doctrines reagrding Jesus and the resurrection from the dead.  These philosophers brought Paul to the Areopagus, (Mars Hill), where an Athenian court regularly met to learn what Paul’s “new teaching” was and meant.  Addressing those who had gathered, Paul compliments them for being religious. He mentions the altar in Athens that is dedicated “To the unknown god,” whom he says is the God he worships and proclaims.  The Apostle explains that God, who made the world, does not live in temples nor does He need maintenance from human beings, for He has created humans and given them what they need to live. God has allotted dwelling places for humans to live so that they may seek God who is not far away from them.  At this point he quotes a Greek philosopher and poet, Empedocles and Aratus to confirm what he has said.  He asserts that God cannot be of the substances of silver, gold, and stone.  While He has overlooked previous times of ignorance, God is now calling all people to repent.  The day will come when the world will be judge by One (Christ’s name is unmentioned in the text) who gives assurance of these things by His resurrection.  Some in the crowd mock the idea of the resurrection of the dead.

What do we learn from this text?  Paul shows respect for his audience though he is mocked.  The respect that we show to others in defense and witness should not be dependent on the attitude of those who oppose us. We should always be respectful (a very difficult thing to do). Paul finds a way to relate to his hearers.  He applauds the fact that they are religious (without flattery).  He points out the altar to the unknown god in Athens, using this example to speak of the true God whom he represents.  He quotes one of their philosophers and one of their poets.

Though most reject what he says, converts are made. Two in particular are mentioned by name.  Apologetics and witness naturally go together.

As apologists and witnesses we are to show respect for others.  We are to listen for where non-believers are in their lives and what they believe. Paul critiques idolatry without mocking such a belief.  We are to do the same with regard to the beliefs of others.  We can point out where those beliefs are wrong without making fun of the person who holds them.  We are to find ways to identify with others and show that we understand or want to understand their concerns.

Michael G. Tavella

July 15, 2019

Tucker Carlson: Mitt Romney supports the status quo. But for everyone else, it’s infuriating

Newly-elected Utah senator Mitt Romney kicked off 2019 with an op-ed in the Washington Post that savaged Donald Trump’s character and leadership. Romney’s attack and Trump’s response Wednesday morning on Twitter are the latest salvos in a longstanding personal feud between the two men. It’s even possible that Romney is planning to challenge Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020. We’ll see.

But for now, Romney’s piece is fascinating on its own terms. It’s well-worth reading. It’s a window into how the people in charge, in both parties, see our country.

Corporate tax cuts are also popular in Washington, and Romney is strongly on board with those, too. His piece throws a rare compliment to Trump for cutting the corporate rate a year ago.

That’s not surprising. Romney spent the bulk of his business career at a firm called Bain Capital. Bain Capital all but invented what is now a familiar business strategy: Take over an existing company for a short period of time, cut costs by firing employees, run up the debt, extract the wealth, and move on, sometimes leaving retirees without their earned pensions. Romney became fantastically rich doing this.

Meanwhile, a remarkable number of the companies are now bankrupt or extinct. This is the private equity model. Our ruling class sees nothing wrong with it. It’s how they run the country.

Mitt Romney refers to unwavering support for a finance-based economy and an internationalist foreign policy as the “mainstream Republican” view. And he’s right about that. For generations, Republicans have considered it their duty to make the world safe for banking, while simultaneously prosecuting ever more foreign wars. Modern Democrats generally support those goals enthusiastically.

There are signs, however, that most people do not support this, and not just in America. In countries around the world — France, Brazil, Sweden, the Philippines, Germany, and many others — voters are suddenly backing candidates and ideas that would have been unimaginable just a decade ago. These are not isolated events. What you’re watching is entire populations revolting against leaders who refuse to improve their lives.

Something like this has been in happening in our country for three years. Donald Trump rode a surge of popular discontent all the way to the White House. Does he understand the political revolution that he harnessed? Can he reverse the economic and cultural trends that are destroying America? Those are open questions.

But they’re less relevant than we think. At some point, Donald Trump will be gone. The rest of us will be gone, too. The country will remain. What kind of country will be it be then? How do we want our grandchildren to live? These are the only questions that matter.

The answer used to be obvious. The overriding goal for America is more prosperity, meaning cheaper consumer goods. But is that still true? Does anyone still believe that cheaper iPhones, or more Amazon deliveries of plastic garbage from China are going to make us happy? They haven’t so far. A lot of Americans are drowning in stuff. And yet drug addiction and suicide are depopulating large parts of the country. Anyone who thinks the health of a nation can be summed up in GDP is an idiot.

The goal for America is both simpler and more elusive than mere prosperity. It’s happiness. There are a lot of ingredients in being happy: Dignity. Purpose. Self-control. Independence. Above all, deep relationships with other people. Those are the things that you want for your children. They’re what our leaders should want for us, and would want if they cared.

But our leaders don’t care. We are ruled by mercenaries who feel no long-term obligation to the people they rule. They’re day traders. Substitute teachers. They’re just passing through. They have no skin in this game, and it shows. They can’t solve our problems. They don’t even bother to understand our problems.

One of the biggest lies our leaders tell us that you can separate economics from everything else that matters. Economics is a topic for public debate. Family and faith and culture, meanwhile, those are personal matters. Both parties believe this.

Members of our educated upper-middle-classes are now the backbone of the Democratic Party who usually describe themselves as fiscally responsible and socially moderate. In other words, functionally libertarian. They don’t care how you live, as long as the bills are paid and the markets function. Somehow, they don’t see a connection between people’s personal lives and the health of our economy, or for that matter, the country’s ability to pay its bills. As far as they’re concerned, these are two totally separate categories.

Social conservatives, meanwhile, come to the debate from the opposite perspective, and yet reach a strikingly similar conclusion. The real problem, you’ll hear them say, is that the American family is collapsing. Nothing can be fixed before we fix that. Yet, like the libertarians they claim to oppose, many social conservatives also consider markets sacrosanct. The idea that families are being crushed by market forces seems never to occur to them. They refuse to consider it. Questioning markets feels like apostasy.

Both sides miss the obvious point: Culture and economics are inseparably intertwined. Certain economic systems allow families to thrive. Thriving families make market economies possible. You can’t separate the two. It used to be possible to deny this. Not anymore. The evidence is now overwhelming. How do we know? Consider the inner cities.

Thirty years ago, conservatives looked at Detroit or Newark and many other places and were horrified by what they saw. Conventional families had all but disappeared in poor neighborhoods. The majority of children were born out of wedlock. Single mothers were the rule. Crime and drugs and disorder became universal.

What caused this nightmare? Liberals didn’t even want to acknowledge the question. They were benefiting from the disaster, in the form of reliable votes. Conservatives, though, had a ready explanation for inner-city dysfunction and it made sense: big government. Decades of badly-designed social programs had driven fathers from the home and created what conservatives called a “culture of poverty” that trapped people in generational decline.

There was truth in this. But it wasn’t the whole story. How do we know? Because virtually the same thing has happened decades later to an entirely different population. In many ways, rural America now looks a lot like Detroit.

This is striking because rural Americans wouldn’t seem to have much in common with anyone from the inner city. These groups have different cultures, different traditions and political beliefs. Usually they have different skin colors. Rural people are white conservatives, mostly.

Yet, the pathologies of modern rural America are familiar to anyone who visited downtown Baltimore in the 1980s: Stunning out of wedlock birthrates. High male unemployment. A terrifying drug epidemic. Two different worlds. Similar outcomes. How did this happen? You’d think our ruling class would be interested in knowing the answer. But mostly they’re not. They don’t have to be interested. It’s easier to import foreign labor to take the place of native-born Americans who are slipping behind.

But Republicans now represent rural voters. They ought to be interested. Here’s a big part of the answer: male wages declined. Manufacturing, a male-dominated industry, all but disappeared over the course of a generation. All that remained in many places were the schools and the hospitals, both traditional employers of women. In many places, women suddenly made more than men.

Now, before you applaud this as a victory for feminism, consider the effects. Study after study has shown that when men make less than women, women generally don’t want to marry them. Maybe they should want to marry them, but they don’t. Over big populations, this causes a drop in marriage, a spike in out-of-wedlock births, and all the familiar disasters that inevitably follow — more drug and alcohol abuse, higher incarceration rates, fewer families formed in the next generation.

This isn’t speculation. This is not propaganda from the evangelicals. It’s social science. We know it’s true. Rich people know it best of all. That’s why they get married before they have kids. That model works. But increasingly, marriage is a luxury only the affluent in America can afford.

And yet, and here’s the bewildering and infuriating part, those very same affluent married people, the ones making virtually all the decisions in our society, are doing pretty much nothing to help the people below them get and stay married. Rich people are happy to fight malaria in Congo. But working to raise men’s wages in Dayton or Detroit? That’s crazy.

This is negligence on a massive scale. Both parties ignore the crisis in marriage. Our mindless cultural leaders act like it’s still 1961, and the biggest problem American families face is that sexism is preventing millions of housewives from becoming investment bankers or Facebook executives.

For our ruling class, more investment banking is always the answer. They teach us it’s more virtuous to devote your life to some soulless corporation than it is to raise your own kids.

Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook wrote an entire book about this. Sandberg explained that our first duty is to shareholders, above our own children. No surprise there. Sandberg herself is one of America’s biggest shareholders. Propaganda like this has made her rich.

We are ruled by mercenaries who feel no long-term obligation to the people they rule. They’re day traders. Substitute teachers. They’re just passing through. They have no skin in this game, and it shows.

What’s remarkable is how the rest of us responded to it. We didn’t question why Sandberg was saying this. We didn’t laugh in her face at the pure absurdity of it. Our corporate media celebrated Sandberg as the leader of a liberation movement. Her book became a bestseller: “Lean In.” As if putting a corporation first is empowerment. It is not. It is bondage. Republicans should say so.

They should also speak out against the ugliest parts of our financial system. Not all commerce is good. Why is it defensible to loan people money they can’t possibly repay? Or charge them interest that impoverishes them? Payday loan outlets in poor neighborhoods collect 400 percent annual interest.

We’re OK with that? We shouldn’t be. Libertarians tell us that’s how markets work — consenting adults making voluntary decisions about how to live their lives. OK. But it’s also disgusting. If you care about America, you ought to oppose the exploitation of Americans, whether it’s happening in the inner city or on Wall Street.

And by the way, if you really loved your fellow Americans, as our leaders should, if it would break your heart to see them high all the time. Which they are. A huge number of our kids, especially our boys, are smoking weed constantly. You may not realize that, because new technology has made it odorless. But it’s everywhere.

And that’s not an accident. Once our leaders understood they could get rich from marijuana, marijuana became ubiquitous. In many places, tax-hungry politicians have legalized or decriminalized it. Former Speaker of the House John Boehner now lobbies for the marijuana industry. His fellow Republicans seem fine with that. “Oh, but it’s better for you than alcohol,” they tell us.

Maybe. Who cares? Talk about missing the point. Try having dinner with a 19-year-old who’s been smoking weed. The life is gone. Passive, flat, trapped in their own heads. Do you want that for your kids? Of course not. Then why are our leaders pushing it on us? You know the reason. Because they don’t care about us.

When you care about people, you do your best to treat them fairly. Our leaders don’t even try. They hand out jobs and contracts and scholarships and slots at prestigious universities based purely on how we look. There’s nothing less fair than that, though our tax code comes close.

Under our current system, an American who works for a salary pays about twice the tax rate as someone who’s living off inherited money and doesn’t work at all. We tax capital at half of what we tax labor. It’s a sweet deal if you work in finance, as many of our rich people do.

In 2010, for example, Mitt Romney made about $22 million dollars in investment income. He paid an effective federal tax rate of 14 percent. For normal upper-middle-class wage earners, the federal tax rate is nearly 40 percent. No wonder Mitt Romney supports the status quo. But for everyone else, it’s infuriating.

Our leaders rarely mention any of this. They tell us our multi-tiered tax code is based on the principles of the free market. Please. It’s based on laws that the Congress passed, laws that companies lobbied for in order to increase their economic advantage. It worked well for those people. They did increase their economic advantage. But for everyone else, it came at a big cost. Unfairness is profoundly divisive. When you favor one child over another, your kids don’t hate you. They hate each other.

That happens in countries,  too. It’s happening in ours, probably by design. Divided countries are easier to rule. And nothing divides us like the perception that some people are getting special treatment. In our country, some people definitely are getting special treatment. Republicans should oppose that with everything they have.

What kind of country do you want to live in? A fair country. A decent country. A cohesive country. A country whose leaders don’t accelerate the forces of change purely for their own profit and amusement. A country you might recognize when you’re old.

A country that listens to young people who don’t live in Brooklyn. A country where you can make a solid living outside of the big cities. A country where Lewiston, Maine seems almost as important as the west side of Los Angeles. A country where environmentalism means getting outside and picking up the trash. A clean, orderly, stable country that respects itself. And above all, a country where normal people with an average education who grew up in no place special can get married, and have happy kids, and repeat unto the generations. A country that actually cares about families, the building block of everything.

What will it take a get a country like that? Leaders who want it. For now, those leaders will have to be Republicans. There’s no option at this point.

But first, Republican leaders will have to acknowledge that market capitalism is not a religion. Market capitalism is a tool, like a staple gun or a toaster. You’d have to be a fool to worship it. Our system was created by human beings for the benefit of human beings. We do not exist to serve markets. Just the opposite. Any economic system that weakens and destroys families is not worth having. A system like that is the enemy of a healthy society.

Internalizing all this will not be easy for Republican leaders. They’ll have to unlearn decades of bumper sticker-talking points and corporate propaganda. They’ll likely lose donors in the process. They’ll be criticized. Libertarians are sure to call any deviation from market fundamentalism a form of socialism.

That’s a lie. Socialism is a disaster. It doesn’t work. It’s what we should be working desperately to avoid. But socialism is exactly what we’re going to get, and very soon unless a group of responsible people in our political system reforms the American economy in a way that protects normal people.

If you want to put America first, you’ve got to put its families first.

Adapted from Tucker Carlson’s monologue from “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on January 2, 2019 and can be seen here.

Templeton Project: Waning Faith and Yearning Heart

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Waning Faith and Yearning Heart.”

See also:

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The waning of Christian faith among the people, especially the intelligentsia did not happen over night.  In the middle of the nineteenth century Matthew Arnold wrote poems concerning this development.  His well-known “Dover Beach” and “Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse” are prime examples of his own yearning in the midst of the waning of Christian faith in the West.

“Dover Beach” begins in exultation as the poet describes the sea and strand at night.  He beckons his beloved and the reader to come to the window to see this prodigy of nature–the moon, the calm sea, the vast cliffs on the bay.  But, the waves of the sea also announce a deep sadness.  Like Sophocles we hear “the ebb and flow Of human misery.”  The sea of faith was once “at the full.”  Now one can hear its receding roar.  Exultation turns to a melancholy the poet calls his beloved to share in order “to be true to one another.”  Let us admit then that the world “Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;”  The poet recognizes that we are “on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight.” Arnold has a profound regret for the loss of faith that he knows cannot return, certainly not for him. One can feel intensely the emotional and spiritual pain that he feels. One may even feel it in himself.

A similar theme is found in “Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse.”  This poem was inspired by a honeymoon trip to the great monastery and mother house of the Carthusian Order, located in the Chartreuse Mountains near Grenoble.  Arnold describes the hike, guide-led, up the mountain to the monastery and then the monastery and its religious activity.  The poet asks, why is he in this place?  He remembers his teachers who taught him the truth that involves leaving behind Christian faith.  Though he is in this religious place, he does not deny this loss.  He came only to lament it as an ancient Greek or Roman might do at the collapse of the ancient religion of the many gods.  As the ancient pagan religion, Greek, Roman, or Runic, has passed, so is the Christian faith passing.  Arnold stands beside the ancients to shed tears that the old faith is dead, paganism for them; Christianity for him.  An old faith has passed away; a new faith has not yet been born.  Ironically, he asks for the help of the monks.  He would grieve among the last believers.  Like an army, described vividly in the poem, society moves onward. The poet wishes that the desert of monastic life be left in peace.

The conflict continues even unto the twenty-first century.  Full-scale secularism has been born; Christianity has not died.  While in the West the numbers of Christians has waned, an explosion of Christian faith has occurred in the Third World. The American Church is showing new vitality despite the waning numbers. The funeral is premature.  Arnold’s tears were shed long before the final illness, death, and the funeral.  Those who believe highly doubt that there will be obsequies.

The apologetic task of the Church continues in the face of a strident, but faltering secularism. Mr. Arnold is a great poet whom this writer much appreciates.  But, his vision of a passing and dead faith is premature.  The Christian apologist and witness need not be melancholic over the idea that Christianity will inevitably disappear from the earth.  The modern ebbing of faith, if it is ebbing, may be an episode in human history that will pass away.  Or, it will remain until the end when Christ will return to gather his people.  If the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, neither will modern secularism and unbelief.  The apologist and witness must often pray for confidence and hope and must rest assured in the final victory of Christ.

Michael G. Tavella

July 13, 2019

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