The obvious fact is that over the last 30 years, most organized religion has focused on issues regarding sexual morality, such as abortion, gay marriage, all of those. I’m not saying if that’s good or bad, but that’s what they’ve been using all their resources for. This is the most obvious point in the world. It’s been entirely focused on issues of homosexuality and contraception and not at all focused on issues of poverty.
That the venerable author of Bowling Alone would say this, let alone declare it "the most obvious point in the world," is a good reminder of that even the most brilliant social scientists are, more often than not, demonstrably full of it. There's a damning retort to this by Rob Schwarzwalder and Pat Fagan at Religion News Service. Just to give you an idea, a single Christian Charity, World Vision, spends about $2.8 billion on anti-poverty efforts. "That would rank World Vision about 12th within the G20 nations in terms of overseas development assistance," World Vision President Richard Stearns noted in Christianity Today a few years back. Fagan and Schwarzwelder do a lot more number crunching, but the upshot is that Christians spend billions and billions fighting poverty. Even the most generous estimates of the resources devoted to pro-life causes and organizations defending traditional marriage are just a few hundred million dollars. By contrast, the budget of Planned Parenthood alone is just over a billion dollars. I don't know what the Human Rights Campaign's budget is, but if I've walked by their impressive building in Washington many times and I suspect they could marshall the resources of a small nation.
Now, this is bad enough. But Putnam also recently appeared on a panel at the Catholic-Evangelical Leadership Summit on Overcoming Poverty at Georgetown University discussing this very topic with columnist E.J. Dionne, American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks, and, yes, Barack Obama. The president himself joined in the mendacious chorus:
“Despite great caring and concern,” [Obama] said, “when it comes to what are you really going to the mat for, what's the defining issue, when you're talking in your congregations, what's the thing that is really going to capture the essence of who we are as Christians, or as Catholics, or what have you, that this”—fighting poverty—“is often times viewed as a 'nice to have' relative to an issue like abortion.”
Nice to have? What would be nice to have is a president who's not so divorced from the reality of American Christians that he thinks he has the moral authority to more or less slander millions of well-intentioned Christians. Their lives and the things they care about could not be more different than how it is casually being characterized by a president who has apparently turned the White House into an Ivory Tower.
What about the inner city pastor who wakes up in the middle of the night everytime there's a knock on the door and rummages through his own fridge to feed the homeless guy on his step? What about the ladies of the church Golden Group who spent the last week turning old colorful pillowcases and bits of ribbon into dresses to send to young girls in Haiti who literally have nothing to wear? What about the six-year-old who comes to school with a spare toothbrush and their birthday money because the teacher at her Lutheran School told her that the Orphan Grain Train is helping people in Nepal who lost everything in an earthquake? What about the accomplished professional who drives across town once a week to tutor poor kids, even though he's got more lucrative things on his schedule, just because it's what he believes Jesus Christ wants him to do?
The most notable exchange during the argument last month in the same-sex marriage case before the Supreme Court, Obergefell v. Hodges, likely occurred between Justice Samuel Alito and Solicitor General Donald Verrilli.
As federal, state, and local governments continue to expand their laws and regulations regarding gender identity, conflicts over religious objections are sure to grow. Judging by an item on the website of the Department of Health and Human Services, one flash point could well be foster parenting.
When arguing before the Supreme Court, a lawyer normally takes pains to convince the Justices that ruling in his or her favor in that particular case would not have dramatic consequences elsewhere. In Hobby Lobby, for example, Paul Clement urged that exempting his clients from part of HHS's contraceptive mandate would not open the doors to a flood of other exemptions. Or in DC v.
Hillary Clinton opposed same-sex marriage until 2013, but as late as 2014 she suggested that marriage laws still ought to be determined by the states. Talking Points Memo's Sahil Kapur reports today that Clinton, who graduated from law school 42 years ago, has somehow discovered in 2015 that the U.S. Constitution establishes a right to same-sex marriage:
Let us now praise famous men, or at least one good federal judge, as some recent work of his demonstrates. Jeffrey Sutton is this judge, and he sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which includes the states of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Earlier this month he announced an opinion for his court in DeBoer v.
In a speech the other day to state attorneys general, the U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder, offered an ideal job description for himself and his state counterparts: “not merely to use our legal system to settle disputes and punish those who have done wrong, but to answer the kinds of fundamental questions—about fairness and equality—that have always determined who we are and who we aspire to be.” This is what “all justice professionals are called” to do, said Holder, leaving us to wonder what we the mere people are supposed to do.
A visitor to Richmond can’t leave without a trip to John Marshall’s house, a living shrine to the greatest chief justice in the history of the United States. Passing through the halls of his former home, it is as if the spirit of the great man is present in the articles he used and the rooms he inhabited. The courtly tour guide will narr