Porn and the Singleness Panic

Gina Dalfonzo:

Regnerus brought up women who consider porn a dating deal-breaker. “While I’m sympathetic to their concern, I can also promise you that widespread departures—given the dour numbers on porn use—will only accelerate the flight from marriage in the Church and is likely to backfire on women…who would leave for pastures that may well not be greener.”

Porn is so prevalent, he says, that if all Christian women left their boyfriends or turned down suitors based on their browser histories, marriage and the future of the church would be doomed. From his article, it’s easy for readers to conclude: Marriage is so important that we may need to start rethinking the idea of pornography as a deal-breaker.

As an unmarried woman, I fall into the target audience for such an argument. I respect Regnerus’s motivation for writing this piece. I believe he feels sympathetic toward those of us who are having difficulty finding a spouse, and that he sincerely desires to help promote marriage as a social good. But having said all that, I find his advice highly problematic. He puts undue blame on women for the state of marriage and could easily be read as suggesting they stop turning away men who view porn.

Against Taylor’s Secular Age

From First Things:

Why was it once virtually impossible not to believe in God, while today many of us find this not only easy, but inescapable?” The question is Charles Taylor’s, and his nine-hundred-page answer has arguably been the academic event of the decade. Seven years after its publication, A Secular Age has done more than reignite the debate over secularization and its religious roots. It offers to change the very terms in which Christians profess belief.

One of the world’s leading philosophers, Taylor is known for the expansive breadth of his interests in a discipline whose research programs have shriveled in scope. He has written commandingly on German romanticism, ethics, hermeneutics, and the philosophies of mind and action, and has done so in a relaxed style that draws smoothly on literature and history.

Taylor has done little to disguise his religiosity, something that also sets him apart from the philosophical establishment. He describes himself as a “believer” and “person of faith” and without affecting embarrassment. A professed Catholic, he has made occasional sorties into the Church’s intellectual life, quietly signaling his sympathies for liberal movements in theology. Following the publication of Sources of the Self in 1989, a book that credited ­Augustine with inventing inner selfhood, Taylor’s writings took a soft theological turn. A Secular Age is the kind of work readers probably should have seen coming.

Monumental in scope, heroic in ambition, and serenely neglectful of scholarly conventions, the book is in no way a spiritual autobiography. It is something more revealing—an invitation to experience, by way of historical epic, the emergence of a modern Christian spirituality and its fraught relationship with unbelief. Taylor has been both celebrated and faulted for authoring an apology for Christianity. I regret to say he has done nothing of the sort. Although the advocacy is indirect and the theology implied, ­Taylor instead encourages readers to embrace a modern mode of faith that accommodates itself to contemporary culture.

Fixing the American Family and School System at the Same Time


Nowadays, Elizabeth Warren mostly gets talked about as a potential progressive alternative to Hillary Clinton’s inevitable Democratic coronation. But it’s often ill-remembered that for most her life, she was an academic. One of her most fascinating works is her book The Two Income Trap.

A lot of people have probably heard of the phenomenon of the two-income trap, but it’s not discussed enough. This is the basic idea: financially, having both parents in a family seems like a no-brainer — it brings in more money. But it can actually become a trap if the costs involved in having both parents work become equal to the extra income that the second spouse brings in. For example, in most American settings, if both parents work, the family needs a second car, with all the expense and headache associated. The parents need to pay for child care. And so on.

And if the expenses associated with those two incomes become fixed expenses (for example, you got into debt to buy that second car, and/or to buy a house with a two-car garage), it turns into a trap: once the family realizes the mess they’re in, they can’t backtrack.

Wedgeworth on the “Agrarianism” of Allan Carlson


Earlier this year we were sent a review copy of his newest release, The Natural Family Where It Belongs: New Agrarian Essays. This book continues Dr. Carlson’s project of stimulating social critique and imaginative constructive proposals, illustrating and explaining the family-centered socio-economic policy. In what follows, we will summarize The Natural Family Where It Belongs, highlight some of its more salient observations and criticisms of modern liberal capitalism, and raise a few questions that need still to be addressed as well as some important concerns.

The book asserts “the remarkable thesis that agrarianism is alive in twenty-first century America and—if not exactly well—showing clear and enticing prospects for the future” (ix). But, and this is a point we will return to towards the end, it isn’t clear that Dr. Carlson’s central proposal is necessarily agrarianism, though that is certainly a feature, nor is it clear that The Natural Family Where It Belongs is really a book about agrarianism, despite the subtitle. Instead, it seems that the main argument is for “household” economies and “household” politics. Indeed, as we will see, this book begins by laying out a basic theory of what politics is and how it ought to work, then it explains the modern “fall” away from household-centric life, lists noteworthy critics of this fall, and then concludes with specific policy proposals for restoring the household to its place of central importance. The household obtains such necessary importance because it is the one domain where “the ‘sexual and the economic’ are merged” (ix) and the natural family (a husband and wife pairing in which children are normative) can flourish. And so, as foreword goes on to state, “the common thesis is that family renewal will only occur as these bonds and goals are recreated and strengthened in the years and decades ahead” (x). In short, this is a book about family renewal and its relation to the rest of public policy and political theory.

Leaving the NFL to Farm

An interesting story from CBS:

LOUISBURG, N.C. – At one point number 60, Jason Brown, was one of the best centers in the NFL.

At one point he had a five-year, $37 million contract with the St. Louis Rams.

And at one point he decided it was all meaningless – and just walked away from football.

“My agent told me, ‘You’re making the biggest mistake of your life,'” said Brown. “And I looked right back at him and I said, ‘No I’m not. No I’m not.'”

So what could possibly trump the NFL?

You wouldn’t believe.

Jason Brown quit football to be a plain, old farmer — even though he’d never farmed a day a in his life.

The Church and the Future of Kansas City

An interesting read, this:

Dylan Mortimer enrolled at the Kansas City Art Institute in 1998. A pastor’s son from Ferguson, Missouri, he’d been drawing and painting since age 9, and much of his art was informed by the conservative, Christian environment in which he was raised.

“The church was really supportive of me doing art, so when I got to art school here in Kansas City, I started out doing a version of that same kind of stuff,” Mortimer said recently, sitting in a booth at McCoy’s Public House in Westport. “People hated it. My classmates hated it. My professors hated it. I realized, very quickly, I’d gone from a situation where everybody I knew was Christian to where nobody I knew was Christian.

“There was a lot of aggression toward Christianity in the school, of a kind you wouldn’t see directed toward other faiths. It was this very weird situation where you had permission to do anything there, anything at all — except be a Christian. But I still was one.”

Mortimer responded by shifting his focus toward art that challenged modern assumptions about Christianity, faith and the public sphere. Early on, he Photoshopped road signs to say things, such as “Prayer ALLOWED 40 yards,” and reworked yellow caution signs to warn passers-by that sermons may be occurring nearby. Later, he installed his “Public Prayer Booths” — a play on old-school blue-and-white phone booths, each outfitted with a kneeler — in public spaces across the country, including New York City, where in 2006 he received a master’s degree from the School of Visual Arts. In exhibitions — with titles such as Holla Back, God; Ble$$ed; and Amen, Bitch — he has fitted hip-hop culture within Christian imagery: Tupac in stained glass; a gun-shaped gold medallion with text that reads, “Love Your Gawd Damn Enemies.”

Sea of Crises

Brian Phillips:

When he comes into the ring, Hakuho, the greatest sumotori in the world, perhaps the greatest in the history of the world, dances like a tropical bird, like a bird of paradise. Flanked by two attendants — his tachimochi, who carries his sword, and his tsuyuharai, or dew sweeper, who keeps the way clear for him — and wearing his embroidered apron, the kesho-mawashi, with its braided cords and intricate loops of rope, Hakuho climbs onto the trapezoidal block of clay, two feet high and nearly 22 feet across, where he will be fighting. Here, marked off by rice-straw bales, is the circle, the dohyo, which he has been trained to imagine as the top of a skyscraper: One step over the line and he is dead. A Shinto priest purified the dohyo before the tournament; above, a six-ton canopy suspended from the arena’s ceiling, a kind of floating temple roof, marks it as a sacred space. Colored tassels hang from the canopy’s corners, representing the Four Divine Beasts of the Chinese 1 constellations: the azure dragon of the east, the vermilion sparrow of the south, the white tiger of the west, the black tortoise of the north. Over the canopy, off-center and lit with spotlights, flies the white-and-red flag of Japan.Japanese mythology, like many aspects of early Japanese culture, was heavily influenced by China.

Hakuho bends into a deep squat. He claps twice, then rubs his hands together. He turns his palms slowly upward. He is bare-chested, 6-foot-4 and 350 pounds. His hair is pulled up in a topknot. His smooth stomach strains against the coiled belt at his waist, the literal referent of his rank:yokozuna, horizontal rope. Rising, he lifts his right arm diagonally, palm down to show he is unarmed. He repeats the gesture with his left. He lifts his right leg high into the air, tipping his torso to the left like a watering can, then slams his foot onto the clay. When it strikes, the crowd of 13,000 souls inside the Ryogoku Kokugikan, Japan’s national sumo stadium, shouts in unison: “Yoisho!” — Come on! Do it! He slams down his other foot: “Yoisho!” It’s as if the force of his weight is striking the crowd in the stomach. Then he squats again, arms held out winglike at his sides, and bends forward at the waist until his back is near parallel with the floor. Imagine someone playing airplane with a small child. With weird, sliding thrusts of his feet, he inches forward, gliding across the ring’s sand, raising and lowering his head in a way that’s vaguely serpentine while slowly straightening his back. By the time he’s upright again, the crowd is roaring.

Boys, Porn, and Education

Sean Fitzpatrick:

The headmaster of the all-boys boarding school I attended when I was a teenager was always wary of admitting students to the academy that had been exposed to pornography. Among his reasons for this was that boys who had carnal knowledge—even on the level that pornography affords—very often found it an impediment in the process of their education. Now I am the headmaster of that same boarding school, and I am increasingly convinced of the reasoning behind my old headmaster’s reticence over such applicants. Pornography is a destroyer of innocence, and the innocence proper to certain years of a boy’s life is an important factor in his education—especially if that education is informed by the classical pedagogies of wonder, imagination, and delight. Furthermore, I am increasingly convinced that I am facing a crisis that my headmaster did not face. While he had to consider the possibility that a boy may have viewed pornography, I have to consider the probability that every boy has viewed pornography. The only thing about our respective positions that are the same touching this matter is the grave obstacle of pornography in masculine education.

Pornography has come a long way in recent decades. There is a telling scene in a Woody Allen film from the 1970’s where he peruses and purchases pornography at a corner store, forced to face the humiliations of a tactless checkout clerk and unsympathetic customer scrutiny. Those days are over. No more top-shelf magazines. No more public purchases. No more physical evidence. All is anonymous, instantaneous, and easy. The long way porn has come in recent decades has been straight down the information superhighway. Today we have the Internet, and to many, the Internet is for porn.

There is no doubt that, since the dawn of the online era, porn has become wildly and incalculably more available and more mainstream. It is now a standard, systemic temptation: a pervasive fact of people’s lives, especially young people’s lives—and most especially young men’s lives. Though reports abound analyzing what percentage of the web is devoted to smut, or what the addictive properties of online porn are, or what it is doing to relationships, or how it is affecting bodies and brains, one thing is certain without scientific data or social studies: Internet pornography is damaging the lives and minds of possibly every single boy in this country, impeding his ability to be drawn to virtue and wisdom—in other words, impeding his education.

A Natural Fix for ADHD

Interesting piece from the NYT:

ATTENTION deficit hyperactivity disorder is now the most prevalent psychiatric illness of young people in America, affecting 11 percent of them at some point between the ages of 4 and 17. The rates of both diagnosis and treatment have increased so much in the past decade that you may wonder whether something that affects so many people can really be a disease.

And for a good reason. Recent neuroscience research shows that people with A.D.H.D. are actually hard-wired for novelty-seeking — a trait that had, until relatively recently, a distinct evolutionary advantage. Compared with the rest of us, they have sluggish and underfed brain reward circuits, so much of everyday life feels routine and understimulating.

To compensate, they are drawn to new and exciting experiences and get famously impatient and restless with the regimented structure that characterizes our modern world. In short, people with A.D.H.D. may not have a disease, so much as a set of behavioral traits that don’t match the expectations of our contemporary culture.

From the standpoint of teachers, parents and the world at large, the problem with people with A.D.H.D. looks like a lack of focus and attention and impulsive behavior. But if you have the “illness,” the real problem is that, to your brain, the world that you live in essentially feels not very interesting.

Who’s Who in the English Reformation

Brad Littlejohn put together a nice handout for an education hour thing he did for his church that he has now also shared on his website:

After giving a lecture on Peter Martyr Vermigli for Trinity Reformed Church in preparation for Reformation Day, I used the next Sunday’s slot to give a crash course in the long English Reformation.  It occurred to me that this, which I used as a handout, might be of interest to others.

Henry VIII (1491-1547, r. 1509-1547): Tudor King of England who broke with Rome, initially in order to obtain a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Generally hostile to Protestant doctrine.

Thomas Cromwell (1485-1540): Lord Chamberlain to Henry VIII who masterminded the break with Rome; sympathetic to Lutheran reform. Fell out of favor with Henry and was executed, 1540.

Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556, bishop 1532-55): Archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VIII and Edward VI. A Lutheran sympathizer early on, he helped accomplish Henry’s break with Rome. Later, under Edward VI, adopted Reformed doctrine and established Reformed faith as the doctrine and practice of Church of England. Martyred 1556 by “Bloody” Mary.