How Conservative Values Unintentionally Undermined the Family

My wife and I did not have insurance when all three of our children were born. Technically, we did when our third was born, but the preexisting condition of pregnancy was not covered. Medical expenses were reasonable enough that we were able to make payments ahead and continue paying afterward. There were complications after the third birth, so it took us a while to pay off the debt, but we did manage to have our youngest paid for before she entered elementary school.

Doctors and hospitals are no longer so eager to make similar arrangements, and the total bills are no longer as manageable. An uninsured married couple facing a complicated childbirth could easily face bankruptcy today.

But we are no so hard-hearted as to turn expectant mothers out into the cold night to give birth in a stable. We do provide services for mothers and children. But our conservative heritage says men should be breadwinners, and there is no free lunch. We will take care of single women and their babies but not male heads of households. Perhaps there have been some recent changes, but for the last thirty years marriage meant financial disaster for a young couple in love facing a pregnancy earlier than they had anticipated.

It’s not just the young either who are forgoing marriage in order to receive benefits. Social Security advisors counsel retirees in some cases to “live in sin” rather than lose benefits they or their late spouse had earned. In other circumstances, on the other hand, they advise couples who hate each other to stay together (at least on paper) a few more years, for the sake of the social security check, rather than getting divorced. (You can find this advice in the book Get What’s Yours.)

All of this comes from the traditional idea that a man should provide for his household and nobody should get something for free.

Yet the widespread conservative hostility to democracy and representation in the workplace has undermined a man’s (or a single woman’s ) ability to provide for a family. Labor Unions are an extension of democracy (or republican ideals, if you can’t support democracy) into the workplace. Corporations are already organized and have most of the power. The only way people gained any advantage was to unite. President Eisenhower understood this. He supported labor unions and the right of the people to organize.

The last forty years has seen the decline of wages follow the decline of union membership. The decline of union membership followed the example of a president from the Grand Old Party who established his legacy by breaking a union. Today a candidate from an economically failing state brags that he took on the powerful teacher’s union.

Some people point to past corruption in labor and to violence that occurs during strikes. Corruption in politics has not lead us to abolish representative government. Instead we try our best to eliminate it, find it where it remains, and prosecute it. As for violence, do you know anything about the history of the labor movement?

I have seen the dismantling of the profession of professor over the last 30 years. Today 80% of college courses are taught be people who are not professors, many of whom are eligible for food stamps and other government benefits. One reason this happened is because professors were not allowed to organize, since they were part of management under the law. However, the other 80% today are not hindered by this law, and we may see more organizing by those who actually do the teaching.

2. My Asynchronous Striptease (Part 2) – No Sacred Cows

from my buddy Steve Davis

2. My Asynchronous Striptease (Part 2) – No Sacred Cows.

My Tail Light Experience

Here is my experience of being profiled: We lived in Memphis, TN. My dad had found a car for our daughter–bright red with dark windows. It looked like something someone in their teens or early twenties would drive. Some people said it looked like something a gangster would drive.

Our daughter’s friends thought it was cool, but she was a little embarrassed and prefered to drive something a little more demur.

I ended up driving her flashy red car. I got pulled over a block from my house one evening. When the officer saw that I was a clean-shaven, untattooed, middle-aged person, he was very polite, as I was in response.

He said he pulled me over because my tail light was out. I got out of the car and went back and looked at it, and we both saw it was working fine. He said, “Well it must be a short, you better get that checked out.”

Yes sir, officer.

Since he had pulled me over, he had to run my licence plate.

Nashville said my licence was expired.

But officer, it has the new sticker right on it. I just got it last week.

“Well, anyone can get a sticker. I’m going to write you a ticket. If you can proof you have a proper registration and paid for this years tags, the court will dismiss it.”

It took me several days of personal visits and phone calls, being sent from the County Courthouse to the city office, and more calls to Nashville. It turned out it was a simple mistake. Someone locally had not properly notified Nashville. Eventually the problem was solved.

But I learned two things. I saw how profiling works–in my case I was profiled because of a flashy car. Second, I saw how bureaucracy works and learned how frustrating it can be.

The Education Bubble is Bound To Bust

Its been about thirty years since our federal and state governments started reducing direct support for higher education and started steering students toward student loans.  Now students commonly leave college with the equivalent of a mortgage payment, a debt many of them can never repay or escape.

Private colleges, and specifically, church-related Christian colleges have bought into the same student-debt funded tuition scheme.

When I entered one such college in another millenium, I never heard of FAFSA.  Typically I would start the fall semester with enough money to pay my tuition, then in January, I might take out a short-term loan from the college, which I was able to repay over the summer and start the cycle again.  I was able to get through more years of graduate study than is profitable in the same way.

Back in those days we were reminded that our tuition was only a token, it only paid a small percentage of the cost of our education.  We were reminded that little old ladies on Social Security and hard working farmers contributed to our institution from their meager savings.  And that was true.

But somewhere in the last few years administrators of Christian colleges found it was easier to raise tuition than to raise support for their students.

Their peers headed for law school or business school might look forward to a lucrative job that would make repayment of their student loans easy.  Most of our students were headed to for far more modest (to put it mildly) salaries, and will be saddled with debt.

Hearing the tragic news about Kayla Mueller this week, I thought about some of my own former students who majored in intercultural studies and are serving people and God overseas, as she did.  These were some of our brightest and most dedicated students.  But many of them have to devote several years to paying off their student loans before than can go and serve in other lands among other cultures.

There will be another economic downturn, and tuition will become unsustainable.  Meanwhile, students are customers paying for a service and are entitled to have it their way.

There are only a handful of colleges that are bucking the trend.  One is Christendom College, a Catholic college in Virginia, and College of the Ozarks near Branson, Missouri.

Let the Earth Bring Forth Life

Sensational headlines get attention, so you can’t blame Solon for the bit of hyperbole in the title of the article God is on the Ropes, about a new theory that claims “Under certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life”–certain conditions being those that prevail on a planet such as the earth.

I have been thinking for a while about a couple of verses in Genesis 1.  In the first God says, “Let the earth bring forth vegetation” (1:11).  Then in verse 24 “Let the earth bring forth living creatures (animals).”  Similar is verse 20, “Let the waters team with living creatures.”

God assigns a role in creation to the earth.  Other verses describes God as arranging “certain conditions,” separating the land mass from the oceans, providing an atmosphere, and roles for the sun, moon, and stars.

Genesis 1 uses simple images to describe the process of creation and the sequential development of life on earth as the creator willed.  If the language of science is mathematics, then you would have to say Genesis is unscientific because it does not use scientific formulas.  But there is nothing in Genesis 1 incompatible with what the natural sciences have shown us about the origin and development of life on the earth.

A New Journal–Free Online

A New Journal, the Journal of the Jesus Movement in its Jewish Setting, is available online free, here: 

The last article is a review by Craig Evans of the Jewish Annotated New Testament.

Our Annual Conference, the Western Fellowship of Professors and Scholars

is coming up next weekend, October 10-11.  Here are the presenters and topics:

Russ Dudrey,  “How Bookish is Our Faith?  The Problems of Preaching a Book-Centered Faith to a Non-Literate Generation.”

Loren Decker, “The Bible in an Illiterate Culture-A Historical Perspective”

Alisha Paddock, “Family Metaphors in 1 Thess 2.”

Mark Alterman, “What Kind of Authority is the Bible?”

Les Hardin, “Searching for a Transformative Hermeneutic”

Bill Jenkins, “Deflation of Truth in an Age of Distraction.”

Virgil Warren, “Friends” or “Sons”:  Comments on the Apostasy Question.

Here is the LINK for more information about the conference.


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