Sunday, February 28, 2010

Of individual responsibility, personhood, moral dignity, and the mental health professions

George Will's latest Washington Post column really struck a chord with Colleen and me. He writes about the profession of psychiatry and the new edition of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), which Will describes as "psychiatry's encyclopedia of supposed mental "disorders."

Will, typically using his incredible vocabulary which always includes at least one word I need to look up, points out several problems with the DSM. One is that children are increasingly being diagnosed with some ailment requiring treatment with powerful drugs, when behavioral modification treatment can mitigate the problem. Another danger is that "childhood eccentricities, sometimes inextricable from creativity, might be labeled "disorders" to be "cured." (Think about Mozart, Temple Grandin). Furthermore, Will writes that "a society that thinks scientific determinism renders personal responsibility a chimera must consider it absurd not only to condemn depravity but also to praise nobility."

Colleen and I, being a psychologist and social worker, are often asked if our training has given us lots of advantages in knowledge and ideas that we can use as parents. Are you kidding me? Almost every effective parenting action we have employed has been in direct opposition to what we were taught in our mental health professions! I agree with George Will that "today's therapeutic ethos" ... "absolves the individual of responsibility, personhood, and moral dignity."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Do we even know who our enemy is?

Bret Stephens writes a provocative column in the February 16 Wall Street Journal about Major Hasan, the killer of 13 and wounder of 30 at Fort Hood. The Defense Department has released a report entitled "Lessons from Fort Hood." The fall guys are eight medical officers, whose military careers likely will be coming to an end, because they failed to pass him over for promotion and push him out the door, even though they knew he was a radicalized Muslim. Stephens asks the provocative question: suppose they would have acted and charged him with intent to commit murder? After all, he had made threats, and they thought he was psychotic. If that would have happened, he would have become "a civil-liberties martyr." In the entire report, there is not even a one-time mention of Islam.

Monday, February 22, 2010

No Difference between Democrats and Republicans?

Rush Limbaugh, without mentioning Glenn Beck by name, was not happy about Beck's keynote address to CPAC. Rush played clips today of his speech last year at CPAC. Rush, in his speech, focused on stopping Obama and Reid and Pelosi. Beck, on the other hand, seemed to attack Republicans and Democrats alike. Rush believes the majority of American people "get" it, and are more motivated than ever to stop the agenda of socialists. Beck seemed to imply that Americans need to be educated, and do not yet "get it," and that he distrusts Republicans as much as he distrusts Democrats.

I think that Rush is worried that conservatives will join a third party movement, thereby giving Democrats four more years in the White House. Rush believes there is a "conservative ascendency" within the Republican party, and that those who are leading that movement need to be thanked and supported, not scolded or mocked for being Republicans.

Rising to the Top

I just heard a radio interview with Michael Young, author of The Politician. Who is the politician? John Edwards, the man the "mainstream" media pinned their hopes on until Barry Obama came along. Put this book on your "to read" list. How is it that our system enables sociopaths to rise to the top of our power structure? Maybe reading this book will help us understand the answer to that question.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Working to strip idols from our land

The final chapter in Herbert Schlossberg's book Idols for Destruction is entitled The New Community. In it he launches a full scale attack against humanitarian social policy. "Serving the poor" is a "euphemism for destroying the poor unless it includes with it the intention of seeing the poor begin to serve others, and thereby validate the words of Jesus that it is better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). Whereas humanitarian social policy keeps people helplessly dependent, Christians should seek to remove them from that status and return them to productive capacity."

But Schlossberg also reminds us that the "biblical writers also struck blows against resentiment attempts to use the poor against the rich." "Distributory justice occurs when people redistribute their own property, not that of others."

Instead of being swelled with pride for the privileges we have as Americans, we should be led to gratitude and humility. Schlossberg argues that our society is in the process of destroying its capital. "Government levies and inflation convert capital into consumption and so dissipate it." He defines capital as "any asset - material or non-material - that produces continuing benefits of any kind."

How do we transform hatred into love? How can justice triumph? Schlossberg urges Christians to work to "stop the incessant looting taking place under the banner of redistribution, which at once makes dependents out of all its recipients and destroys the economy by removing incentives for production." Further, we must "insist that the criminal justice system, bemused by behaviorist contentions that criminals are victims, begin protecting the innocent against those who prey upon them." "Justice means the ruling of society in conformance with the law of God."
Christians are to "work toward bringing the political, economic, and cultural landscape into conformity with the divine intention."

We need to remember that crucifixion was followed by resurrection. Christianity is about victory and triumph. We must not recognize the right of our leaders to play god. Passivity must be rejected. Christians must avoid "blind submission" to political symbols such as conservative or liberal. We can form short-term alliances with political parties, but we should always maintain a suspicion.

Who are Christians? We are disciples of the Master. Hope is a Christian virtue, not a statist one. Our hope is "rooted in the faithfulness of God, the firmest of all foundations." Marxism is the imitator of biblical faith. Like Marxism, biblical faith finds great power in the conviction that history is going its way. No life could possibly be more exciting and adventurous than the Christian life. Schlossberg's final sentence: "It is hard to imagine a more important or satisfying role than to embark on the spiritual, intellectual, and political adventure of working to strip idols, root and branch, from the land."

Friday, February 12, 2010

"Faith without works is dead!"

Did you read that Wal-Mart and Procter and Gamble are joining forces to produce a family-friendly movie? It is about a single mom who moves her kids to the mountains (where's the dad?). I work part-time at Wal-Mart as a cashier. I am always surprised when a seemingly innocuous middle class family comes to the counter and plops down their choice of DVDs. Something about vampires sucking blood, something about killing and maiming people, something about torture. Books? By far the most popular are the vampire books by an author whose last name is Meyers.

Herbert Schlossberg reminds us in Idols for Destruction that biblical thinking underlay the values of our country as originally founded. Our country can survive (and often has) the "domination of wicked people in high places, but we cannot long survive the people's insistence that wickedness be dominant, the continual boast that evil is good," writes Schlossberg. He adds, "we must not be content to accept compliantly the continuing growth of evil."

Is our Christian faith merely what Schlossberg calls "mental assent to dogmatic statements?" If so, then we will be great at moralizing and focusing on sacraments. No, Schlossberg insists that the biblical message is about love, mercy, and a life commitment.

He elaborates: "calls for the reformation of society that do not insist upon both orthodoxy and orthopraxy, therefore, are futile." I looked up those two words. Orthopraxy means actions/activity, how we conduct ourselves. Orthodoxy is about having a correct belief, and the use of rituals. In other words, "faith without works is dead."

Thursday, February 11, 2010

"Repentance and faith can repair the damage"

I think Herbert Schlossberg's book Idols for Destruction is the meatiest book I have ever read. Here are just a few points he raises, then goes into in depth.

"People fail to appreciate the worth of society's Christian underpinnings because they are unconscious recipients of its blessings.

"The irony of humanism is that it dehumanizes."

And, what about the Social Security system? Schlossberg points out that when the system began in 1935 there were eleven people in the labor force for every one person over the age of 65. Soon that ratio will be two to one! Schlossberg writes, "It is inconceivable that people trained to regard themselves as the center of the universe will each agree to provide half the support needed by a retired person." Thank God people like Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity have incessantly warned us about death panels and rationing in the Obama/Pelosi/Reid health care bills. Scholssberg writes:"The elderly will be called selfish if they insist on living, and it will be a humanitarian deed and moral duty to see that they do not continue to live and so deprive others of the quality of life to which they aspire."

Early death becomes a "management option" for the "progressives" in power to inflict on the very young, very old, and disabled. Death, then, becomes the answer to our economic problems!

I put "progressives" in quotes, because Rush Limbaugh said today he will not call them that, because it is only an attempt on their part to squirt away from the "liberal" label he attaches to them. He continues to use the "liberal" label, because 40 percent of Americans now identify themselves as conservatives, but only twenty percent self-identify as liberals.

Back to Schlossberg. He writes "The persistent pattern is that the failures wrought by state intervention, rather than leading to a dismantling of the control system, serves as a pretext for further controls. Misfortune is taken as prima facie evidence that we can no longer afford the luxury of freedom."

Another Schlossbergism: "If there is a decline in the number of people who believe that God is love, we can expect fewer who think that actions of love are moral imperatives."

"If we are able to discern that we have brought our troubles upon ourselves, then repentance and faith can repair the damage."

Monday, February 08, 2010

What are we to do?

Sarah Palin's speech to the Tea Party convention, and her affirmative answer to a reporter's question as to whether she would consider running for President, has spurred conversation as to whether conservatives and independents should jump aboard a third party. They did so in 1992 with Ross Perot, and that enabled Bill Clinton's victory. Influential pundits like Glenn Beck tell us to be wary of both Republicans and Democrats. Rush Limbaugh counsels against leaving the Republican party; instead, he wants conservatives to take it over. Mike Rosen warns us that if we vote for a Democrat, we are voting for someone who will respond to the coalition of groups that the Democrat party answers to.

Herbert Schlossberg wrote in Idols for Destruction that conservatives, when they are in power, tend "to keep intact the system that their opponents caused to flourish" when they were in power. As Schlossberg says, "they will change the beneficiaries and the victims." "A tax increase disguised as a tax cut, a budget increase disguised as a budget decrease, and the continued policy of rewarding political friends from the public purse" was a feature of the first Reagan administration. As Tom Tancredo said last weekend in his speech to the Tea Party convention, we would have gotten a "progessive" agenda if Senator McCain would have been elected, and Sarah Palin would not have been free to speak out as she is now.

So, what are we to do?

Sunday, February 07, 2010

More information about marijuana

The chief medical officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has jumped into the argument over "medical" marijuana. Dr. Ned Calonge writes in today's Denver Post that "marijuana can cause distorted perceptions, impaired coordination and problems with learning and memory. Daily use, when smoked, is associated with a number of physical health harms including damage to the immune system, respiratory infections, and chronic lung disease, and has been linked to lung cancer. Recent use impairs driving ability, leading to motor vehicle crashes and injuries."

I am glad there are physicians who are willing to speak out on this subject.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Language, borders, culture

The number of public school children in Colorado who are non-English-speaking is now 86,500! 35 percent of the overall enrollment in Denver are classified as non-English speakers! They could not possibly be the children of illegal immigrants, could they? I wonder what percent of Denver's population are illegal immigrants. In the last decade the number of non-English-speaking Colorado students has risen 260 percent! These figures are from an article in today's Denver Post by Jeremy P. Meyer.

Talk radio guy Michael Savage had it right years ago when he pleaded for America to protect its borders, language, and culture. Those in power, in both political parties, did not listen to Dr. Savage. Republicans saw cheap labor, and Democrats saw votes, I surmise.

Meyer writes that Judge Richard Matsch ordered in 1999 the Denver Public Schools to offer native-language instruction in the core subjects for three years, then transfer into reading in English. It appears from Meyer's article, that Denver is not following the judge's orders. Instead, students are mostly in immersion programs, with little or no support in their native languages.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Homosexuality and marriage

Today I want to write about homosexuality in America. On January 23 I wrote about Gayle Haggard, and asked you, my much appreciated readers, if you thought I was being naive in believing Mrs. Haggard's story. Today she was a guest on the talk radio show in Denver that originally brought to light Mr. Haggard's long time relationship with a male prostitute. Today Mrs. Haggard revealed that her husband was molested as a second grader, and, as a result, later developed compulsive thoughts about having sex with men.

Peter Boyles, the host of the talk radio show, believes our sexuality is wired genetically. On the other hand, trauma that we experience in our childhood certainly can produce compulsions that may continue through a person's lifetime.

Relevant to this discussion is the fact that Ted Olson has written a very important piece in the January 18 issue of Newsweek. Olson, you may remember, was the attorney who won Bush v. Gore, and his conservative credentials are impeccable. You may also remember that his beloved wife was one of those who perished aboard one of the airplanes on 09-11-2001. Olson argues very persuasively the case for gay marriage. He is one of the lead attorneys seeking to overturn Prop 8 in California.

Why have Christians tolerated prejudice against gays? The most virulent prejudice in America today is the anti-gay prejudice among children, many of whom are children of Christian parents. Children who call other children "gay" would never even think to use the "n" word. The worst epithet they can think of is "gay."

Olson writes that "conservatives and liberals alike need to come together on principles that surely unite us. Certainly, we can agree on the value of strong families, lasting domestic relationships, and communities populated by persons with recognized and sanctioned bonds to one another." There is much more in Olson's argument. I recommend it.