Posts tagged " culture "

Stop Being an Ostrich

November 5th, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 44 comments

Are you stressed? That’s a silly question. The results of this election matter a great deal to our lives and to the future of this country and the world. While I have faith that God is leading us on an ultimately glorious path, in the short-term that path can be uncomfortable, scary, and dangerous for us as individuals and families.

However, aside from praying, the conclusion of this episode is out of the hands of most of us. Whatever happens, the following remains true: elections reflect the culture. If we allow the culture to influence us, our families, and friends, we have no reason to expect elections to produce better results.

A pre-election article in the Wall Street Journal asked a number of people how they were going to handle the tension of Election Day. It quoted one pastor from Arkansas who expected to share the evening with his 12 and 14-year-old daughters. As a side comment, he mentioned that they, “[had] been radicalized by TikTok.” While he didn’t reveal his own voting preferences, “radicalized” is not generally a positive word. I assume that he and his daughters do not agree on politics.

His family is not an anomaly. I know many families where the parents hold strongly traditional and conservative views and who are aghast at their children’s contradictory ideas. (There are families that slant the other way as well, but I want to stick with this more common direction.) I also know families, and my husband and I rejoice that ours falls into this category, where the children, while having their own individual personalities and preferences, express the same morality and values as their parents.

Is this blind luck? I don’t think so. Parents can certainly do everything right and tragically watch their children go down a misguided road. However, while we cannot guarantee that our children follow in our steps, we can certainly do things to make that more probable. Perhaps the pastor in the above story is not shrugging his shoulders resignedly as my mind pictures, but if I was him, my reaction to the realization that my children were being radicalized would lead me to take radical steps. His daughters are 12 and 14, for goodness sake. Pull them out of school, do whatever you have to, and start spending multiple hours together, no electronics allowed!

If you picture my internal voice rising as I wrote those last sentences you would be correct. I have too many friends who sent their children to school, creating their schedules around their kids’ education, sports, friends, and hobbies and then sacrificed to pay enormous sums to send their children to college, only to be gobsmacked at the adults their children became. I want to be clear. Many of these young adults are lovely, caring, and hard-working. But they do not share the deepest values of their parents. Their teachers and friends shaped their thinking; their homes did not. These parents surrendered too much family autonomy.

I see many mothers deciding to stay home with their babies and I agree that, if possible, that is desirable. Too many of those moms, and fathers also,  assume that once their children are in school, their parenting role is secondary. That is false. It is absolutely imperative to understand that if your children are in government schools (or, as my husband calls them, GICs, government indoctrination camps), that is what will shape their values.  This is true even if they attend many Jewish or Christian schools as well. I have spoken to graduates of Christian colleges who tell me that their parents would be shocked to hear how some of their professors speak. I know the same is true in Jewish schools.

Here are my not-so-modestly-offered suggestions:

  1. Get your head out of the sand. You need to know what your children are learning, what they are reading, who they are hanging out with, what they are thinking, and what the latest is on social media. If you can’t find the time to do that between carpool and supervising homework and attending their soccer games and making sure they go to the dentist and everything else, then you need to change your schedule and theirs. They need concentrated and planned time with you more than they need Tae-Kwon-Do.
  2. You need to be able to think through and articulate your views and what matters to you and to choose reading and viewing material for the family. Much of what we want to teach our children like being kind and giving charity, never gets discussed on a more sophisticated level as they grow up. We neglect to explain how kindness can actually be cruel and that the government cannot be charitable. We leave our children thinking that what was appropriate when they were five is the whole picture.
  3. If you are considering helping your child go to college in any way whatsoever, think very seriously about that decision. If you go ahead, do not restrict your role to doling out dollars. Consider yourself as one of your child’s professors with full authority to assign reading material and hold seminars where you discuss what was read. A history major today may never have heard of the Federalist Papers, an economics major may not know of Adam Smith. You need to educate yourself and educate your child. Values, beliefs, and our understanding of the world do not sit on a chromosome; they will not be automatically inherited.
  4. Sharing your deepest beliefs with your child should be as much fun as sharing skiing or camping. All of the above suggestions are predicated on putting in the time, effort, and wisdom to create a relationship with your child. Love and connection aren’t enough, but if they are not present the rest is futile.

If God forbid, the air and water outside your home were polluted, you would do whatever is necessary to protect your children so that they could grow up healthy. The ideas surrounding today’s culture are badly polluted. Protect your children and when they reflect their deepest held values in the voting booth, you won’t be surprised.

Read this book, discuss it with the next generation, and
use it as a guidebook to analyzing current events.
America’s Real War: an Orthodox Rabbi Insists that Judeo-Christian Values
Are Vital for the Nation’s Survival

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Be Holy

November 2nd, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 3 comments

Tomorrow is Election Day. But, even if the results are known on Wednesday, the fight for America’s culture will continue—no matter which party wins. Each one of us is busy on so many fronts: family, earning a living, synagogue or church, and our many daily tasks. However, it is a deadly mistake to pay attention only when elections roll around. Swelling secular sentiment imperils us all because beliefs have consequences.  The consequences of a changing culture occur as people act upon their beliefs.

Powerful ideas can be false and lead to great evil. When enough people believe in a powerful idea, subsequent social and political trends march in step with that idea.  It was a political genius who thought up the idea of advancing homosexuality by labeling as hateful and intolerant everyone who considered it sinful.  When caring about babies in-utero is classified as “hating women,” reasonable discourse is over.

Change people’s hearts and you change the way they vote. One of my regular radio mantras is, “Politics is nothing other than the practical application of people’s most deeply held beliefs.”  Secularism uses emotionally charged words and slogans to promote itself. Even if you are not religious yourself, you should be very scared of a secularized culture.

The American poet, T. S. Eliot who won the Nobel literature prize in 1948, put it this way during a speech at Oxford University in 1939.

As political philosophy derives its sanction from ethics, and ethics from the truth of religion, it is only by returning to the eternal source of truth that we can hope for any social organization which will not, to its ultimate destruction, ignore some essential aspect of reality.

Belief in secularism leads inevitably to results that contradict reality.  Often, good people don’t foresee the calamitous consequences of secularist policies.  One way to clarify where one best fits is to ask oneself which of the following two choices in each of the three sets comes closest to how one feels.

A)

  • Humans arrived on the planet by a process of unaided, materialistic evolution.  It follows that humans are no more than sophisticated animals.
  • God created us in His image and placed us here. Humans are unique creatures touched by the finger of God.

B)

  • There is no outside source of wisdom and truth. People should look into their own hearts for moral guidance.
  • People are born knowing no more about morality than about calculus.  Most of us are born with an appetite for evil, and we find good by knowing God, loving Him and obeying His Word.

C)

  • The ‘g’ of government is nearly always good while business is nearly always bad.  Without government regulation, business would run amok. Driven by greed, business relentlessly exploits employees, customers, and the environment.   
  • The ‘G’ of God is always good. Business is about serving customers and customer service is related to worship service because serving His children is closely related to serving Him.  Business has less potential to tyrannize than government because you can choose not to give your money to a business.

As these three examples of secular belief, and many others, have become more and more accepted they have significantly changed the way we lead our lives.  Yes, beliefs do have consequences and in these examples, not for the better.

Take the first belief, that humans are really nothing more than sophisticated and evolved chimpanzees.  It follows from this that like all other animals, humans are also incapable of true creativity.  If I seize a banana, there is naturally one less banana available for you.  If I work hard and achieve something and you don’t, it can only be because systemic problems kept you from getting your bananas. The zookeeper must supervise the distribution of bananas among all the primates.  Thus, redistribution of positions and complete economic equality become ultimate values.  Have you noticed how ‘accomplished’ and ‘rich’ have become pejoratives in America?

The second belief is that nobody—except today’s elites—may tell you what is moral or immoral, good or bad.  That is for you alone to decide (as long as you are properly “woke”).  Among the consequences of this belief is that villains are seen as virtuous or at least blameless while the truly virtuous are portrayed as villains.

The third belief, that government solves problems while business creates them, encourages governments to increasingly tax businesses in order to fulfill its own unkept promises.  Furthermore, government schools teach your children to believe the worst about how you earn your living.  Know-nothing street rioters destroy an economy they don’t even begin to understand.  All they know is that profit equals plunder and business is bad.

Yes, beliefs do have consequences and when wrong-headed ideas become popular we all suffer. Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that this is why the entire nation of Israel is told to be holy.

Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them, Be holy…
(Leviticus 19:2)

We can certainly protest the consequences of secularism.  We can campaign against increased taxation.  We can wring our hands at soaring rates of illegitimate births even as we know that many of today’s babies without fathers are tomorrow’s children without futures.  We can object to our schools collaborating with gender-reassignment programs and encouraging confused sexuality for fifteen-year-olds.

However, that is locking the barn door after the priceless racehorse has escaped.  A better target for our energies would be combatting the bad beliefs in the first place that led to these undesirable consequences.

The best way we can all help defeat false and evil ideas is by promoting true and good ones. Absolutely, get out and vote tomorrow. Shame on you if you don’t. But, most of all, combat secularism with life-affirming Bible-based Judaism and Christianity.

Can you articulately, rationally, and logically explain your principles to others? 
Help is here. 
America’s Real War: an Orthodox Rabbi Insists that Judeo-Christian Values
are Vital for Our Nation’s Survival

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This Agenda May Be Harmful to Your Health

November 28th, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Susan's Musings 52 comments

I originally started writing this with the intention of posting it on our website as a Practical Parenting column, but then I realized that the problem I’m describing actually affects all of us. While the examples I mention have to do with children’s literature, every detail of the culture surrounding us impacts us, often in ways we don’t recognize.

Some years ago, a member of the California synagogue that my husband and I led worried that she was exhibiting tendencies of paranoia. She revealed that she had multiple locks on her apartment door, wouldn’t open the door to accept packages, and was constantly looking over her shoulder on the street. After a bit of discussion, it became clear to us that she lived in a high-crime neighborhood and rather than being paranoid, she was simply being realistic.

Whenever I see the news, women’s magazines, children’s books or many other media, I find myself hyper-sensitive to underlying agendas. In Stalinist Russia, young students were told to place their heads on their desks after praying to God for candy. Not surprisingly, when they lifted their heads their requests had gone unanswered. Then they were told to ask Stalin for candy and once again lay down their heads. Not surprisingly, candy seemed to rain down as their teachers distributed it while the children’s eyes were squeezed shut.

That approach may have lacked subtlety, but the message was clear. In some ways, more delicately delivered messages can be more dangerous. We don’t even realize that our minds are being directed and our beliefs formed.

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Learning from all Cultures

December 20th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 15 comments

As a Bible believer, is it best for us to follow only Biblical guidelines rather than learning the positive values from other cultures, such as Japanese or Chinese cultural values? I thought this would enrich our lives as well as our Biblical learning, but may not be what the Bible guidelines suggest us to do.

Thank you as always, Rabbi Lapin.

Dear Filemon,

You do ask interesting questions. This question is particularly apt because we are answering your question today, which is the eighth and final day of Chanukah. Despite popular attempts to make the historical battle of Chanukah sound politically correct by portraying it just as a long-ago fight for religious freedom, the holiday actually represents, for all time, the internal battle between those faithful to their faith and those who want to resculpt their faith to fit into the popular culture.

The dominant culture of that time was (Syrian-Greek) Hellenism and many Jews became Hellenists.  As a matter of fact, the ancient historian Josephus records how the most popular cosmetic surgery back then, twenty-one hundred years ago, was Hellenized Jews undergoing foreskin restoration procedures. 

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Self-made Men?

November 2nd, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 31 comments

The November 14th issue of Forbes magazine includes the 35th edition of the annual feature, “The 400 Richest People in America.” I don’t know if the scorecard I noticed this year is new or just one that I never paid attention to previously, but as part of each billionaire’s biography there is a “self-made” rating.

Each individual is given a score on a scale of 1-10 as to whether his or her wealth was inherited or self-made. Although I looked, I couldn’t find a reference guide anywhere that defined what earned one a score of 4, let’s say, versus 5, leaving me to guess for myself. The top four entries, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg are all rated as 8s, while 10s are doled out sparingly. Not surprisingly, some descendants of great entrepreneurs rank as 1s and 2s.

These rankings irked me. While I abhor the notion of “white privilege,” “male privilege” or any other kind of privilege terminology employed as a form of extolling and perpetuating victimhood, these rankings seemed to ignore reality.

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Too Sophisticated for Scandal

May 10th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 44 comments

When I was a teenager, I knew my friend Toby’s grandparents as gracious, attractive and generous pillars of the community. When Toby shared their story with me we both thought it highly romantic. It seems that Mrs. D. was engaged to a friend of Mr. D. At the engagement party, Mr. D. came to celebrate with his friend and meet the fiancée. Shortly thereafter my friend’s future grandmother called off her betrothal. In only a few weeks, she announced a new one—to Mr. D.

When one of their children repeated the story on the occasion of Mr. and Mrs. D.’s 50th anniversary, it was indeed a charming tale that brought smiles to their children and grandchildren’s faces. Only years later did I stop to think how upset and worried Mrs. D.’s parents must have been and how painful and embarrassing this was for the jilted groom and his family. The scandalous event probably animated neighborhood gossip for many months. Fifty years down the road revealed a happy end, but at the time it would have been perfectly plausible to see this as a catastrophic and immature infatuation.

What does this have to do with the recent French election?

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Potatoes and Healthcare

October 26th, 2016 Posted by On Our Mind 2 comments

Imagine if a world body declared that every country must consume the same quantity of potatoes and rice per capita as every other. No more regional preferences. Whatever is eaten in one region must be embraced everywhere. It would be ridiculous. On the other hand, if a small town made that declaration regarding the families that resided in that town, it would be dictatorial but not as disruptive. The more homogeneous the people and culture of a country, the more socialized its medicine can be. The more varied  the populace, the more of a failure socialized medicine will be. If immigrants through the centuries are a symbol of America’s greatness, they are also one reason that socialism and America are incompatible.

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