False Guilt – Refusing Christ’s Atonement

Kerby Anderson provides an insightful look at the important topic of false guilt. He helps us look at the sources of false guilt, it’s consequences and the cure in Jesus Christ. If we refuse  to fully accept Christ’s atonement we can be trapped in false guilt, instead we should embrace His atonement and accept what He did on the cross for us.


Have you ever felt guilty? Of course you have, usually because you were indeed guilty. But what about those times when you have feelings of guilt even when you didn’t do anything wrong? We would call this false guilt, and that is the subject of this essay.

False guilt usually comes from an overactive conscience. It’s that badgering pushing voice that runs you and your self-image into the ground. It nags: “You call this acceptable? You think this is enough? Look at all you’ve not yet done! Look at all you have done that’s not acceptable! Get going!”

You probably know the feeling. You start the day feeling like you are in a hole. You feel like you can never do enough. You have this overactive sense of duty and can never seem to rest. One person said he “felt more like a human doing than a human being.” Your behavior is driven by a sense of guilt. That is what we will be talking about in these pages.

Much of the material for this discussion is taken from the book entitled False Guilt by Steve Shores. His goal is to help you determine if you (1) have an overactive conscience and (2) are driven by false guilt. If these are problem areas for you, he provides practical solutions so you can break the cycle of false guilt. I recommend his book especially if you can recognize yourself in some of the material we cover in this essay.

In his book, Steve Shores poses three sets of questions, each with some explanation. An affirmative answer to any or all of these questions may indicate that you struggle with false guilt and an overactive conscience.

1. Do you ever feel like this: “Something is wrong with me. There is some stain on me, or something badly flawed that I can neither scrub out nor repair”? Does this feeling persist even though you have become a Christian?

2. Is Thanksgiving sort of a difficult time of year for you? Do you find it hard to muster up the Norman Rockwell spirit–you know… Mom and Dad and grandparents and kids all seated around mounds of food? Dad is carving the turkey with a sure and gentle expression on his face, and everyone looks so…well, so thankful? Do you find yourself, at any time of the year, dutifully thanking or praising God without much passion?

3. How big is your dance floor? What I mean is, How much freedom do you have? Do you feel confined by Christianity? To you, is it mainly a set of restrictions? Is it primarily a source of limits: don’t do this, and don’t do that? Does your Christianity have more to do with walls than with windows? Is it a place of narrowness or a place where light and air and liberty pour in?

Usually a person driven by false guilt is afraid of freedom because in every act of freedom is the possibility of offending someone. Offending someone is unacceptable. Other people are seen as pipelines of approval. If they’re offended, the pipeline shuts down.

False guilt, along with an overactive conscience, is a hard master. As we turn now to look at the causes and the cures for false guilt, we hope to explain how to break down the confining walls and tiresome chains that may have kept you or a loved one in bondage to false guilt.

The Source of False Guilt

Next, I would like to focus on the source of false guilt: an overactive conscience. What is an overactive conscience? How does it function? Steve Shores says, “The mission of a person’s overactive conscience is to attract the expectations of others.”

Imagine a light bulb glowing brightly on a warm summer’s night. What do you see in your mind’s eye? Bugs. Bugs of every variety are attracted to that light. The light bulb serves as a magnet for these insects. Imagine that light is an overactive conscience. The expectations of others are the “bugs” that are attracted to the “light” of an overactive conscience.

Now imagine a light bulb burning inside a screened porch. The bugs are still attracted, but they bounce off the screen. The overactive conscience has no screen. But it is more than that. The overactive conscience doesn’t want a screen. The more “bugs” the better. Why? Because the whole purpose is to meet expectations in order to gain approval and fill up the emptiness of the soul. This is an overactive conscience, a light bulb with lots of bugs and no screen.

A key to understanding the overactive conscience is the word “active.” Someone with false guilt has a conscience that is always on the go. False guilt makes a person restless, continually looking for a rule to be kept, a scruple to observe, an expectation to be fulfilled, or a way to be an asset to a person or a group.

The idea of being an asset is a crucial point. When I am an asset, then I am a “good” person and life works pretty well. When I fear I’ve let someone down, then I am a liability. My life falls apart, and I will work hard to win my way back into the favor of others.

So an overactive conscience is like a magnet for expectations. These expectations come from oneself, parents (whether alive or not), friends, bosses, peers, God, or distorted images of God. False guilt makes the overactive conscience voracious for expectations. False guilt is always looking for people to please and rules to be kept.

An overactive conscience is also seeking to keep the “carrot” of acceptance just out of reach. This “carrot” includes self- acceptance and acceptance from others and from God. The guilt- ridden conscience continually says, “Your efforts are not good enough. You must keep trying because, even if your attempts don’t measure up, the trying itself counts as something.”

For that reason, an overactive conscience is not happy at rest. Though rest is the birthright of the Christian, relaxing is just too dangerous, i.e., relaxing might bring down my guard, and I might miss signs of rejection. Besides, acceptance is conditional, and I must continually prove my worthiness to others. I can never be a liability if I am to expect acceptance to continue. It is hard to relax because I must be ever fearful of letting someone down and must constantly work to gain acceptance.

In summary, a person with false guilt and an overactive conscience spends much of his or her life worn out. Unrelenting efforts to meet the expectations of others can have some very negative consequences.

The Consequences of False Guilt

Now I would like to focus on the consequences of false guilt. An overactive conscience can keep you in a state of constant uncertainty. You never know if you measure up. You never know if you have arrived or not. You are always on the alert. According to Steve Shores there are a number of major consequences of false guilt.

The first consequence he calls “striving without arriving.” In essence, there is no hope in the system set up by the overactive conscience. You must always try harder, but you never cross the finish line. You seem to merely go in circles. Or perhaps it would be better to say you go in a spiral, as in a downward spiral. Life is a perpetual treadmill. You work hard and strive, but you never arrive. Life is hard work and frustration with little or no satisfaction.

The second consequence is “constant vigilance.” The overactive conscience produces constant self-monitoring. You are constantly asking if you are being an asset to other people and to God. You are constantly evaluating and even doubting your performance. And you never allow yourself to be a liability to the group or to any particular individual.

A third consequence is “taking the pack mule approach to life.” An overactive conscience involves a lifelong ordeal in which you attempt to pass a demanding test and thus reveal your worth. The test consists of accumulating enough evidences of goodness to escape the accusation that you are worthless. For the guilt-ridden person, this test involves taking on more duties, more responsibilities, more roles. As the burdens pile higher and higher, you become a beast of burden, a “pack mule” who takes on more responsibility than is healthy or necessary.

Just as there is no forward progress (e.g., “striving without arriving”), so there is also an ever-increasing sense of burden. Each day demands a fresh validation of worthiness. There is never a time when you can honestly say, “that’s enough.”

Finally, the most devastating consequence of false guilt is its effect not just on individuals but the body of Christ. Christians who struggle with an overactive conscience can produce weak, hollow, compliant believers in the church. They are long on conformity and short on passion and substance. They go to church not because they crave fellowship, but because they want to display compliance. They study God’s word not so much out of a desire to grow spiritually, but because that is what good Christians are supposed to do. We do what we do in order to “fit in” or comply with the rules of Christianity.

Steve Shores says that the central question of church becomes, “Do I look and act enough like those around me to fit in and be accepted?” Instead we should be asking, “Regardless of how I look and act, am I passionately worshiping God, deeply thirsting for Him, and allowing Him to change my relationships so that I love others in a way that reflects the disruptive sacrifice of Christ?”

The Continuation of False Guilt

Next, I would like to talk about why people continue to feel false guilt even though they know they are forgiven. After all, if Christ paid the penalty for our sins, why do some Christians still have an overactive conscience and continue to feel guilt so acutely? Part of the compulsion comes from feeling the noose of false guilt tighten around our necks so that we panic and fail to think rationally about our situation.

Steve Shores uses the example of a death-row inmate who has just learned of an eleventh-hour stay of execution. He has just been pardoned, but his body and emotions don’t feel like it. He has been “sitting in the electric chair, sweaty-palmed and nauseated, when the wall phone rings with the news of the reprieve.” He may feel relief, but the feeling of relief is not total. He is only off the hook for awhile. He will still return to his cell.

The person with a overactive conscience lives in that death-row cell. The reprieve comes from responding to that guilt-driven voice in his conscience. For Bill it manifested itself in a compulsive need to serve others. If he were asked to teach AWANA or to teach a Sunday school class, he would have great difficulty saying “No.” He had to say “Yes” or else he would feel the noose of false guilt tighten around his neck.

Bill’s comments were sad but illuminating. He said: “I felt as though not teaching the class would confirm that I am a liability. The disappointment…would inflict shame I felt as a boy. Disappointing others always meant that there would be some sort of trial to decide whether I really belonged in the family.”

He went on to tell of the time he made a “C” on his report card (the rest of the grades were “A’s” and “B’s”). His father lectured him unmercifully. At one point, his father declared that “it was Communist to bring home such a bad grade.” Bill didn’t know what a Communist was or what Communism had to do with bad grades. But he did understand that if he didn’t bring home good grades he was unworthy.

Bill even remembered the six agonizing weeks until the next report card. When it arrived he received five “A’s” and one “B.” What was his father’s response? Was it delight? Was it an apology for his previous comments? Not at all. His father merely said, “That’s more like it.” The reprieve was halfhearted and temporary.

In essence, false guilt is a stern warden that may give a temporary reprieve but is always ready to call upon you to prove your worthiness once again. We may know that Christ died for our sins. We may know that our sins are forgiven. We may know that we have value and dignity because we are created in God’s image. But we may feel unworthy and feel as if we must prove ourselves at a moment’s notice.

The key, as we will see in the next section, is to embrace Christ’s atonement rather than our own. We must not only know that we are forgiven through Jesus Christ, but act upon that reality so that we live a life through grace rather than legalism.

A Cure for False Guilt

Finally, I would like to conclude by talking about Christ’s atonement for us. If we are to break the chain of false guilt, then we must embrace Christ’s atonement rather than our own. Although that statement may seem obvious, it is difficult for someone with an overactive conscience to truly embrace emotionally. For such a person, perfection is the means of achieving salvation. If I can be perfect, then I will no longer feel shame, and I will no longer feel guilt. This is the personal atonement that someone with false guilt often is seeking.

The Bible clearly teaches that Christ’s atonement was for our sins. Sin is “any attitude, belief, or action that constitutes rebellion against or transgression of God’s character.” Clearly sinful man is incapable of making restitution because our best works are as filthy rags before a holy and omnipotent God (Isaiah 64:6). Our atonement must be made by someone with clean hands and a sinless life. Christ, of course, fulfilled that requirement and died in our place for our sins.

Nevertheless, someone with false guilt seeks a form of self- atonement. Why? Well, there are at least two reasons: indiscriminate shame and doubt about the character of God. The first is indiscriminate shame. We should feel guilty and we should feel shame for sinful behavior. The problem comes when we feel guilt and shame even when a sinful action or attitude is not present. Steve Shores believes that the “weeds of shame” can begin to sprout even when we have a legitimate need. We then tend to use the machete of false guilt to trim these weeds back. We say, “If I can do enough things right, I can control this and no one will know how bad and weak I am.” This performance-oriented lifestyle is a way of hacking at the weeds that grow in the soil of illegitimate shame.

The second reason for false guilt is a stubborn propensity to doubt the character of God. Many Christian psychologists and counselors have argued that the reason we may question our Heavenly Father’s character is because we question our earthly father’s character. And for those who have been abused or neglected by their fathers, this is an adequate explanation. But we even see in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve doubting God and they did not even have earthly fathers. So I believe it is more accurate to say that our sin nature (not our family of origin) has a lot to do with our tendency to doubt God’s character.

This is manifested by two tendencies: blaming and hiding. When we feel false guilt, we tend to want to blame others or blame ourselves. If we blame others, we manifest a critical spirit. If we blame ourselves, we feel unworthy and don’t want others to see us as we are and we hide emotionally from others. The solution is for us to embrace Christ’s atonement and accept what He did on the cross for us. Christ died once for all (Romans 6:10) that we might have everlasting life and freedom from guilt and the bondage to sin.

©1996 Probe Ministries.

Teen Drug Abuse

A Nine Inch Nails album The Downward Spiral features a song “My Self Destruct” with the lyrics: “I am the needle in your vein and I control you, I am the high you can’t sustain and I control you.” Another song, “Hurt,” explores drugs as a means of escape with lyrics like, “The needle tears a hole, the old familiar sting, try to kill it all away.”

Five Dodge City, Kansas teenagers, high on marijuana, killed a stranger for no obvious reason. Three West Palm Beach, Florida teenagers mixed beer, rum, marijuana and cocaine. They then kidnapped and set ablaze a tourist from Brooklyn.

Nearly everywhere we look, the consequences of drug abuse can be seen. Violent street gangs, family violence, train crashes, the spread of AIDS, and babies born with cocaine dependency all testify to the pervasive influence of drugs in our world.

The statistics are staggering. The average age of first alcohol use is 12 and the average age of first drug use is 13. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 93 percent of all teenagers have some experience with alcohol by the end of their senior year of high school and 6 percent drink daily. Almost two-thirds of all American young people try illicit drugs before they finish high school. One out of sixteen seniors smokes marijuana daily and 20 percent have done so for at least a month sometime in their lives. A recent poll found that adolescents listed drugs as the most important problem facing people their age, followed by crime and violence in school and social pressures.

Drugs have changed the social landscape of America. Street gangs spring up nearly overnight looking for the enormous profits drugs can bring. Organized crime is also involved in setting up franchises that would make McDonald’s envious. But these are not hamburgers. In the world of drugs, homicidally vicious gangs compete for market share with murderous results. Many gang members outgun the police with their weapons of choice: semi-automatic pistols, AK-47s, and Uzis. Drug dealers have also gone high tech using cellular phones and computers to keep track of deals, while their teenage runners wear phone beepers in school.

The Parents’ Resource Institute for Drug Education (PRIDE) reports that children who abuse illicit drugs are significantly more likely to carry a gun to school, take part in gang activities, think of suicide, threaten harm to others, and get in trouble with the police than children who abstain.

One survey released by the University of Colorado shows that the problem of drug use is not just outside the church. The study involved nearly 14,000 junior high and high school youth and compared churched young people with unchurched young people and found very little difference. For example, 88 percent of the unchurched young people reported drinking beer as compared to 80 percent of churched young people. When asked how many had tried marijuana, 47 percent of the unchurched young people had done so compared to 38 percent of the churched youth. For amphetamines and barbiturates, 28 percent of the unchurched had tried them while 22 percent of the church young people had tried them. And for cocaine use, the percentage was 14 percent for unchurched youths and 11 percent for churched youths.

Fighting drugs often seems futile. When drug dealers are arrested, they are often released prematurely because court dockets are overloaded. Plea bargaining and paroles are standard fare as the revolving doors of justice spin faster. As the casualties mount in this war against drugs, some commentators have begun to suggest that the best solution is to legalize drugs. But you don’t win a war by surrendering. If drugs were legalized, addiction would increase, health costs would increase, and government would once again capitulate to societal pressures and shirk its responsibility to establish moral law.

But if legalization is not the answer, then something must be done about the abuse of drugs like alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and PCP. Just the medical cost of drug abuse was estimated by the National Center for Health Statistics to be nearly $60 billion, and the medical bill for alcohol was nearly $100 billion.

How to Fight the Drug Battle

Society must fight America’s drug epidemic on five major fronts. The first battlefront is at the border.Federal agents must patrol the 8426 miles of deeply indented Florida coastline and a 2067 mile border with Mexico. This is a formidable task, but vast distances are not the only problem.

The smugglers they are up against have almost unlimited funds and some of the best equipment available. Fortunately, the federal interdiction forces (namely Customs, DEA, and INS) are improving their capability. Customs forces have been given an increase in officers and all are getting more sophisticated equipment.

The second battlefront is law enforcement at home. Police must crack down with more arrests, more convictions, longer sentences, and more seizures of drug dealers’ assets. Unfortunately, law enforcement successes pale when compared to the volume of drug traffic. Even the most effective crackdowns seem to do little more than move drugs from one location to another.

An effective weapon on this battlefront is a 1984 law that makes it easier to seize the assets of drug dealers before conviction. In some cities, police have even confiscated the cars of suburbanites who drive into the city to buy crack.

But attempts to deter drug dealing have been limited by flaws in the criminal justice system. A lack of jail cells prevents significant prosecution of drug dealers. And even if this problem were alleviated, the shortage of judges would still result in the quick release of drug pushers.

A third battlefront is drug testing. Many government and business organizations are implementing testing on a routine basis in order to reduce the demand for drugs.

The theory is simple. Drug testing is a greater deterrent to drug use than the remote possibility of going to jail. People who know they will have to pass a urine test in order to get a job are going to be much less likely to dabble in drugs. In 1980, 27 percent of some 20,000 military personnel admitted to using drugs in the previous 30 days. Five years later when drug testing was implemented, the proportion dropped to 9 percent.

But drug testing is not without its opponents. Civil libertarians feel this deterrent is not worth the loss of personal privacy. Some unions believe that random testing in the workplace would violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches. A fourth battleground is drug treatment. Those who are addicted to drugs need help. But the major question is, Who should provide the treatment and who should foot the bill? Private hospital programs are now a $4 billion-a-year business with a daily cost of as much as $500 per bed per day. This is clearly out of the reach of many addicts who do not have employers or insurance companies who can pick up the costs.

A fifth battleground is education. Teaching children the dangers of drugs can be an important step in helping them to learn to say no to drugs. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 72 percent of the nation’s elementary and secondary-school children are being given some kind of drug education.

Should We Legalize Drugs?

Those weary of the war on drugs have suggested that we should decriminalize drugs. Former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders suggested we study the impact of legalizing drugs. For years, an alliance of liberals and libertarians have promoted the idea that legalizing drugs would reduce drug costs and drug crimes in this country. But would it? Let’s look at some of the arguments for drug legalization.

1. Legalization will take the profit out of the drug business.

As surprising as it may sound, relatively few drug dealers actually earn huge sums of money. Most in the crack business are low-level runners who make very little money. Many crack dealers smoke more crack than they sell. Drug cartels are the ones making the big profits.

Would legalizing drugs really affect large drug dealers or drug cartels in any appreciable way? Drug cartels would still control price and supply even if drugs were legalized in this country. If government set the price for legalized drugs, criminals could undercut the price and supply whatever the government did not supply.

Addicts would not be significantly affected by legalization. Does anyone seriously believe that their behavior would change just because they are now using legal drugs instead of illegal drugs? They would still use theft and prostitution to support their habits.

Proponents also argue that legalizing drugs would reduce the cost of drugs and thus reduce the supply of drugs flowing to this country. Recent history suggests that just the opposite will take place. When cocaine first hit the United States, it was expensive and difficult to obtain. But when more was dumped into this country and readily available in less expensive vials of crack, drug addiction rose and drug-related crimes rose.

2. Drug legalization will reduce drug use.

Proponents argue that legalizing drugs will make them less appealing they will no longer be “forbidden fruit.” However, logic and social statistics suggest that decriminalizing drugs will actually increase drug use.

Those arguing for the legalization of drugs often point to Prohibition as a failed social experiment. But was it? When Prohibition was in effect, alcohol consumption declined by 30 to 50 percent and death from cirrhosis of the liver fell dramatically. One study found that suicides and drug-related arrests also declined by 50 percent. After the repeal of the 18th amendment in 1933, alcoholism rose. So did alcohol-related crimes and accidents. If anything, Prohibition proves the point. Decriminalization increases drug use.

Comparing alcohol and drugs actually strengthens the argument against legalization since many drugs are even more addictive than alcohol. Consider, for example, the difference between alcohol and cocaine. Alcohol has an addiction rate of approximately 10 percent, while cocaine has an addiction rate as high as 75 percent.

Many drugs are actually “gateway drugs” to other drugs. A 1992 article in The Journal of Primary Prevention found that marijuana is essentially a “necessary” condition for the occurrence of cocaine use. Other research shows that involvement with illicit drugs is a developmental phenomenon, age correlates with use, and cigarette and alcohol use precedes marijuana use.

Dr. Robert DuPont, former head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, argues that the potential market for legal drugs can be compared to the number of Americans who now use alcohol (140 million persons). If his analysis is correct, then approximately 50 million Americans would eventually use cocaine if it were a legal drug.

But the real question is not, Which is worse: alcohol or drugs? The question is whether we can accept both legalized alcohol and legalized drugs. Legalized alcohol currently leads to 100,000 deaths/year and costs us $99 billion/year. We don’t need to legalize drugs too.

3. Legalizing drugs will reduce social costs.

“We are losing the war on drugs,” say drug legalization proponents, “so let’s cut the costs of drug enforcement by decriminalizing drugs.”

Currently the U.S. spends $11 billion/year to combat drug-related crime.If drugs were made legal, some crime-fighting costs might drop but many social costs would certainly increase: other forms of crime (to support habits), drug-related accidents, and welfare costs.

Statistics from states that have decriminalized marijuana demonstrate this concern. In California, within the first six months of decriminalization, arrests for driving under the influence of drugs rose 46 percent for adults and 71.4 percent for juveniles. The use of marijuana doubled in Alaska and Oregon when it was decriminalized in those states.

Crime would certainly increase. Justice Department figures show that approximately one-third of inmates used drugs prior to committing their crimes.

And juvenile crime would no doubt increase as well. A 1990 study published in the Journal of Drug Issues found a strong association between the severity of the crime and the type of substance used the more intoxicating the substance, the more serious the incident.

Meanwhile, worker productivity would decrease and student productivity would decrease.

The Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that drug decriminalization will cost society more than alcohol and tobacco combined, perhaps $140-210 billion a year in lost productivity and job-related accidents.

Government services would no doubt have to be expanded to pay for additional drug education and treatment for those addicted to legal drugs. And child protective services would no doubt have to expand to deal with child abuse. Patrick Murphy, a court-appointed lawyer for 31,000 abused and neglected children in Chicago, says that more than 80 percent of the cases of physical and sexual abuse of children now involve drugs. Legalizing drugs will not reduce these crimes; it would make the problem worse.

And is it accurate to say we are losing the war on drugs? Drug use in this country was on the decline in the 1980s due to a strong anti-drug campaign. Casual cocaine use, for example, dropped from 12 million in 1985 to 6 million in 1991. You don’t win a war by surrender. Legalizing drugs in this country would constitute surrender in the drug war at a time when we have substantial evidence we can win this battle on a number of fronts.

4. Government should not dictate moral policy on drugs.

Libertarians who promote drug legalization value personal freedom. They believe that government should not dictate morals and fear that our civil liberties may be threatened by a tougher policy against drugs.

The true threat to our freedoms comes from the drug cartels in foreign countries, drug lords in this country, and drug dealers in our streets. Legalizing drugs would send the wrong message to society. Those involved in drug use eventually see that drugs ultimately lead to prison or death, so they begin to seek help.

Obviously some people are going to use drugs whether they are legal or illegal. Keeping drugs illegal maintains criminal sanctions that persuade most people their life is best lived without drugs. Legalization, on the other hand, removes the incentive to stay away from drugs and increases drug use.

William Bennett has said, “I didn’t have to become drug czar to be opposed to legalized marijuana. As Secretary of Education I realized that, given the state of American education, the last thing we needed was a policy that made widely available a substance that impairs memory, concentration, and attention span. Why in God’s name foster the use of a drug that makes you stupid?”

Biblical Perspective

Some people may believe that the Bible has little to say about drugs, but this is not so. First, the Bible has a great deal to say about the most common and most abused drug: alcohol. Ephesians 5:18 admonishes Christians not to be drunk with wine. In many places in Scripture drunkenness is called a sin (Deut. 21:20-21, Amos 6:1, 1 Cor.6:9-10, Gal. 5:19-20). The Bible also warns of the dangers of drinking alcohol in Proverbs 20:1, Isaiah 5:11, Habakkuk 2:15-16. If the Bible warns of the danger of alcohol, then by implication it is also warning of the dangers of taking other kinds of drugs.

Second, drugs were an integral part of many ancient near East societies. For example, the pagan cultures surrounding the nation of Israel used drugs as part of their religious ceremonies. Both the Old Testament and New Testament condemn sorcery and witchcraft. The word translated “sorcery” comes from the Greek word from which we get the English words “pharmacy” and “pharmaceutical.” In ancient time, drugs were prepared by a witch or shaman.

Drugs were used to enter into the spiritual world by inducing an altered state of consciousness that allowed demons to take over the mind of the user. In that day, drug use was tied to sorcery. In our day, many use drugs merely for so-called “recreational” purposes, but we cannot discount the occult connection.

Galatians 5:19-21 says: “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft [which includes the use of drugs]; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” The word witchcraft here is also translated “sorcery” and refers to the use of drugs. The Apostle Paul calls witchcraft that was associated with drug use a sin. The non-medical use of drugs is considered one of the acts of a sinful nature. Using drugs, whether to “get a high” or to tap into the occult, is one of the acts of a sinful nature where users demonstrate their depraved and carnal nature.

The psychic effects of drugs should not be discounted. A questionnaire designed by Charles Tate and sent to users of marijuana documented some disturbing findings. In his article in Psychology Today he noted that one fourth of the marijuana users who responded to his questionnaire reported that they were taken over and controlled by an evil person or power during their drug induced experience. And over half of those questioned said they have experienced religious or “spiritual” sensations in which they meet spiritual beings.

Many proponents of the drug culture have linked drug use to spiritual values. During the 1960s, Timothy Leary and Alan Watts referred to the “religious” and “mystical” experience gained through the use of LSD (along with other drugs) as a prime reason for taking drugs.

No doubt drugs are dangerous, not only to our body but to our spirit. As Christians, we must warn our children and our society of the dangers of drugs.


©1996 Probe Ministries.

UN Conferences

Habitat II and Sustainable Development

Although United Nations conferences have been taking place frequently over the last two decades, most Americans have ignored the proceedings and their ominous implications. Recent conferences in Cairo, Beijing, and Istanbul have been a vivid reminder of the radical ideology of the UN and the threat it poses to our faith, family, and freedom.

The direction of the last few conferences illustrates this point. The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro established an environmental foundation for all the UN’s radical social and economic agendas. The 1994 Cairo Conference focused on population control and attempted to push abortion and contraception as solutions to the perceived “problem” of overpopulation. The 1995 Women’s Conference in Beijing, China, proved to be the most radical of all. It continued to push abortion as a human right and attempted to make sexual orientation a human right by promoting the idea that genders are not clearly defined but are socially constructed. The White House has already created an Inter-Agency Council to implement the Beijing platform in the private sector and every executive agency.

The recently completed conference in Istanbul, Turkey, built upon the foundation of the other conferences and was the culmination of the conferences. Wally N’Dow, Secretary General of Habitat II, predicted that the conference would be a “new beginning that will reflect and implement the actions called for at the unprecedented continuum of global conferences that have marked this closing decade of the century.” He said that “a new global social contract for building sustainable human settlements must be forged” for the “new global urban world order.” Mindful of the controversy surrounding the other conferences, he declared, “There will be no roll-back of any of the conferences, including Beijing.”

Habitat II focused on the problems of urban centers. Its goal was to create “economically, socially and environmentally thriving urban communities” in order to better the lives of people living in third-world countries. Although the goals were commendable, the agenda of the conference participants went far beyond urban blight.

A key concept in the Habitat II agenda was sustainable development. In the school curriculum developed by the UN, sustainable development was defined as “meeting the needs of the present generation without damaging the Earth’s resources in such a way that would prevent future generations from meeting [their needs].” It includes “changing wasteful consumption patterns” and “emphasizing equitable development” in order to “bridge the gap between rich and poor countries.” In practice, sustainable development is a radical concept that will limit the amount of food, energy, or general resources that citizens of a nation can consume. Rather than consuming what they can afford, “rich” nations (like the U.S.) might only be allowed to consume what they need to stay alive.

One UN publication declares that we “must learn to live differently” and calls for this international agency to “ensure that the benefits of development are distributed equally.” To achieve this so-called “equal distribution,” there must be a redistribution of wealth throughout the planet. The UN has already drafted specific plans for implementing sustainable development in the U.S. In spite of the frightening implications of these conferences, U.S. taxpayers have been footing the bill for them and their radical agendas.

Habitat II: Global Taxes and National Sovereignty

The most recent conference in Istanbul, Turkey, known as Habitat II is illustrative of another major concern: namely, the threat these conferences pose to our national sovereignty.

Habitat II called for national governments to manage economic systems. These include public and private investment practices, consumption patterns, and public policy. UN Secretary Boutros Boutros Ghali told the first plenary session that he wanted the conference to be a “Conference of Partners.”

Another section was devoted to the international community and its involvement with national governments. The Global Plan of Action calls for the international community to force changes in the world’s economic structures.

The UN also intends to reach sustainable development by changing the structure of national governments. In fact, the Habitat agenda depends upon UN oversight of national, regional, state, and local governments. The document asks city administrators to re-design their regulations, political systems, and judicial and legislative procedures. It was no accident that the conference was filled with mayors from many U.S. cities as well as from cities around the world.

The Habitat document proposed that “government at all levels should encourage . . . walking, cycling, and public transport . . . through appropriate pricing . . . and regulatory measures.” Governments are charged with the responsibility of encouraging citizens to walk, ride bicycles, or take public transportation. This would be accomplished by the heavy taxation and burdensome regulations often found in socialist economies.

UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali has also called for global taxes on international currency transactions, energy, and travel to fund the United Nations. During the conference, the U.S. was harshly criticized for being delinquent in its payment to the UN. It currently owes $1.5 billion. Currently the U.S. pays about 25 percent of the UN budget and nearly 40 percent of the “peacekeeping” costs. The UN hopes that in the next few years they are able to implement this global tax so they can be free of U.S. influence and enact their radical global agenda.

This global tax proposed by Boutros Boutros Ghali would be received from international currency transactions, energy shipments, and international travel. If implemented, it would remove the UN’s dependence on sovereign nations. No longer would the United States or other countries have a check and balance against an international organization. The UN could pay for its activities, fund UN peacekeeping forces, and conduct many of its affairs independently of the United States.

Canadian developer Maurice Strong is often considered a likely candidate to become the future Secretary General of the United Nations. He has called for a shift in our current thinking. He has stated that this change in thinking “will require a vast strengthening of the multilateral system, including the United Nations. . . . We must now forge a newEarth Ethic’ which will inspire all people and nations to join in a new global partnership of North, South, East and West.”

This global vision should especially concern Christians mindful of end-times prophecy. At the time when the world seems to be moving swiftly towards global government, the prospects of a stronger United Nations autonomous of sovereign nations is a scary scenario. This bolder and stronger United Nations would further erode U.S. sovereignty and strengthen the hand of world leaders who are promoting globalist visions of a one-world government.

UN Conferences: Four Areas of Concern

Now I want to discuss the possible effects of the UN conferences on our families and communities. I see several issues on great concern to Christians.

The first issue is education. Many of the concepts from Habitat II, like “sustainable development,” have already infiltrated America’s schools. Textbooks promote global citizenship and minimize national sovereignty. Other textbooks blame rich northern countries (like the U.S.) for retarding the growth and development in lesser developed countries. “Tolerance” and “global peace” are emphasized as the ultimate aims of society. The Goals 2000 federal program for education in this country provides the perfect mechanism to transmit these global UN philosophies into school curricula. A second issue is the impact on families. The Habitat II conference continued the UN attempt to redefine the family. Many UN leaders see the traditional family as an obstacle to UN dominance.

The Habitat II platform stated that “in different cultural, political and social systems, various forms of the family exist.” Many participants asked that “sexual orientation” be included as a civil rights category. In many ways, this merely extended the concept promoted during the Beijing Women’s Conference that gender be defined not as male and female, but as one of five genders that are socially constructed. Habitat II also promoted “gendered cities” which are to be organized in terms of “gender roles.” The third issue has to do with population. The UN Population Fund says that population growth is a key inhibitor of sustainable growth. UN recommendations of population control are based upon the faulty premise that the world is in the midst of a population explosion that cannot be controlled. Participants raised the fear of losing resources even though there is empirical evidence to the contrary.

Because of the UN’s anti-population bias, the Habitat II document emphasizes “sustainable development” as the mechanism for population control. Thus, “family planning” is a key concept, and the document therefore emphasizes surgical abortions and chemical abortions (RU-486). The Habitat platform specifically mentions “reproductive health services” for women in human settlements and calls for government management of economic and population growth.

A final issue concerns the area of ecology and pollution. At the 1992 UN Earth Summit, Canadian developer Maurice Strong stated, “It is clear that current lifestyles and consumption of large amounts of frozen convenience foods, use of fossil fuels, appliances, home and workplace air conditioners and suburban housing are not sustainable.” Many believe Maurice Strong will probably succeed Boutros Boutros Ghali as UN Secretary General and are rightly concerned about his New Age views on ecology. The Habitat II document encourages nations to use heavy taxation and various regulations to ensure that citizens walk, ride bicycles, and take public transportation.

The threats posed by these UN Conferences (including the recent conference in Istanbul) are real. American citizens must fight these radical ideas and ensure that our politicians do not give away our sovereignty on the pretext of easing ecological problems. We should be good stewards of the environment, but we should not place that responsibility in the hands of those in the United Nations who want to use it as a tool for global dominance.

Globalism and the Traditional Family

Now I would like to turn our attention to the goals of the globalists. Though they are a diverse and eclectic group of international bankers, politicians, futurists, religious leaders, and economic planners, they are unified in their desire to unite the planet under a one-world government, a single economic system, and a one-world religion. Through various governmental programs, international conferences, and religious meetings, they desire to unite the various governments of this globe into one single network.

Although this can be achieved in a variety of ways, the primary focus of globalists is on the next generation of young people. By pushing global education in the schools, they believe they can indoctrinate them to accept the basic foundations of globalism. According to one globalist, global education seeks to “prepare students for citizenship in the global age.” Globalists believe that this new form of education will enable future generations to deal effectively with population growth, environmental problems, international tensions, and terrorism.

But several obstacles stand in the way of the globalists’ goals. Consequently, they have targeted three major institutions for elimination because their continued existence impedes their designs to unite the world under a single economic, political, and social global network.

The three institutions under attack by globalists today are: the traditional family, the Christian church, and the national government. Each institution espouses doctrines antithetical to the globalist vision. Therefore, globalists argue, these institutions must be substantially modified or replaced.

The traditional family poses a threat to globalism for two reasons. First, it is still the primary socializing unit in our society. Parents pass on social, cultural, and spiritual values to their children. Many of these values such as faith, hard work, and independence collide with the designs of globalists who envision a world in which tolerance for religion, dependence on a one-world global community, and international cooperation are the norm. These values are not taught in traditional American families, therefore globalists seek to change the family.

Second, parental authority in a traditional family clearly supersedes international authority. Children are taught to obey their parents in such families. Parents have authority over their children, not a national or international governmental entity. Globalists, therefore, see the traditional, American family as an enemy, not as a friend.

Well-known humanist and globalist Ashley Montagu speaking to a group of educators declared that, “The American family structure produces mentally ill children.” From his perspective, the traditional family which teaches such things as loyalty to God and loyalty to country is not producing children mentally fit for the global world of the twenty-first century.

One of the reasons globalist educators advocate childhood education begin at earlier and earlier ages is so that young children can be indoctrinated into globalism. The earlier they can communicate their themes to children, the more likely will be the globalists’ success in breaking the influence of the family.

But the traditional family is just one of the institutions globalists seek to change. We must now turn our attention to globalistic attacks on these other institutions.

Globalism Opposes Christianity and Nationalism

We have seen that globalists oppose the traditional family, but we must also be aware that they believe that the Christian church and a sense of national identity are contrary to their vision.

Globalists feel that the Christian church threatens their global program because of its belief in the authority of the Bible. Most other religious systems (as well as liberal Christianity) pose little threat. But Christians who believe in God, in sin, in salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone, stand in the way of the globalist vision for a one-world government and a one-world religion.

The coming world religion will merge all religions and faiths into one big spiritual amalgam. Hinduism and Buddhism are syncretistic religions and can easily be merged into this one-world religion. But orthodox Christianity cannot.

Jesus taught that “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). Globalists, therefore, see Christianity as narrow, exclusive, and intolerant. Paul Brandwein even went so far as to say that, “Any child who believes in God is mentally ill.” Belief in a personal God to which we owe allegiance and obedience cannot remain if globalists are to achieve their ultimate vision.

National governments also threaten globalism. If the goal is to unite all peoples under one international banner, any nationalism or patriotism blocks the progress of that vision.

Globalist and architect Buckminster Fuller once said that, “Nationalism is the blood clot in the world’s circulatory system.”

Among nations, the United States stands as one of the greatest obstacles to globalism. The European community has already acquiesced to regional and international plans, and other emerging nations are willingly joining the international community. By contrast, the United States remains independent in its national fervor and general unwillingness to cooperate with international standards. Until recently, Americans rejected nearly everything international, be it an international system of measurements (metric system) or an international agency (such as the United Nations or the World Court).

The globalist solution is to promote global ideas in the schools. Dr. Pierce of Harvard University speaking to educators in Denver, Colorado, said, “Every child in America who enters schools at the age of five is mentally ill, because he comes to school with allegiance toward our elected officials, toward our founding fathers, toward our institutions, toward the preservation of this form of government.” Their solution, therefore, is to purge these nationalistic beliefs from school children so they will come to embrace the goals of globalism.

All over the country programs on Global Education, Global History, and Global Citizenship are springing up. Children are being indoctrinated into a global way of thinking. Frequently these programs masquerade as drug awareness programs, civics programs, or environmental programs. But their goal is just the same to break down a child’s allegiance to family, church, and country, and to replace this allegiance with the globalists’ vision for a one-world government, a one-world economic system, and a one-world religion. These then are three institutions the globalists believe must be modified or destroyed if they are to achieve their globalist vision. Christians must, therefore, be diligent to defend their family, their church, and their country.

©1996 Probe Ministries

National Child Care

National Child Care Debate

Imagine a country in which nearly all children between the ages of three and five attend preschool in sparkling classrooms, with teachers recruited and trained as child care professionals. Imagine a country that conceives of child care as a program to welcome children into the larger community and awaken their potential for learning and growing.

So begins one of the chapters by Hillary Rodham Clinton in her book It Takes a Village. The discussion represents yet another attempt to erect a national system of child care. In the early 1970s, Senator Walter Mondale pushed the Child Advocacy Bill through Congress only to have it vetoed by President Nixon. Again in the late 1980s, Congress flirted with socialized day care when Senator Christopher Dodd proposed The Act for Better Child Care.

Fortunately, the bill went nowhere.

But has the time come again for a national discussion of day care? Hillary Clinton proposes that the United States adopt the French model of institutionalized day care: “More than 90 percent of French children between ages three and five attend free or inexpensive preschools called écoles maternelles. Even before they reach the age of three, many of them are in full- day programs.” The First Lady then goes on to present the French experience in glowing terms and provides additional examples to bolster her push for a national day care system.

Many social commentators believe our contemporary day care debate has dramatically shifted from whether the federal government should be involved to how the federal government should be involved. What was once in the domain of the family has shifted to the government due in large part to the increasing number of women in the work force. During the Carter Administration, a federal child care tax credit was enacted and the budget for this tax credit has mushroomed to billions of dollars annually.

The debate is changing as well because the child-rearing patterns in America are changing. Through most of our history, women traditionally assumed primary responsibility for rearing children. Now as more and more mothers head off to work, nearly half of the nation’s children under six years old are in day care facilities.

This dramatic shift from child-rearing within the family to social parenting in day care facilities is beginning to have frightening consequences. Stories of neglect, abuse, and abandonment are merely the tip of the iceberg of a multi-billion-dollar-a-year industry that is largely unregulated.

Sadly, this change in the way we raise children has been motivated more by convenience and selfishness than by thoughtful analysis of the implications. Psychologist Burton White, author of The First Three Years of Life, laments that “We haven’t moved to day care because we were seeking a better way of raising children, but to meet the needs of the parent, mostly the mother. My concern is that this trend constitutes a disastrous effect on the child.”

This essay looks at the important issues concerning the subject of day care. What are the implications of a nationally-subsidized day care system? How does day care affect early childhood development? What are the psychological costs? What are the social costs? What are the medical costs? These are just a few of the questions we will try to answer in these pages. Psalm 127 reminds us the children are “a gift of God.” Before we develop national programs that may harm our children, we need to count the costs and make an informed decision.

Use and Misuse of Statistics

Hillary Rodham Clinton isn’t the only national figure proposing a nationally-subsidized day care system for the United States. In his 1996 State of the Union address, President Bill Clinton also proposed a national day care system.

Before we discuss the potential impact of a national day care system, we must deal with the use and misuse of statistics. Proponents of national day care frequently say that the traditional family is dead and that two-thirds of mothers with preschool children are in the work force.

Let’s set the record straight. Reporters and social commentators have frequently said that less than 10 percent of U.S. families are “traditional families” with a breadwinner husband and homemaker wife. The 10 percent figure actually comes from the U.S. Labor Department and only counts families with an employed father, a stay-at-home mother, and two children still at home. Using that criteria, my own family would not be a traditional family because we have three children, not two children, still at home. Dr. Jim Dobson’s family would not be a traditional family because his two children no longer live at home. In fact, a mother who works out of her home would not qualify as a member of a traditional family. I think you can see the problem. The 10 percent figure is artificially restrictive.

What about the number of women in the work force? Again, we need to check the definition used to define working women. The Department of Labor figure counts mothers who work part time (as little as one hour per week) as well as women who have flexible hours. The figure also counts mothers who work seasonally. Furthermore, it counts mothers who work from their homes. Again, you can see that this number is artificially inflated.

According to the recent Census Bureau data, 54 percent of the 17 million children under the age of five are primarily cared for by a mother who stays at home. An additional seven percent represents “tag-team parents” who work different shifts and share child- rearing responsibilities. And another four percent have “doubletime mothers” who care for their child while they babysit other children or earn income in some other way. Thus, the primary child care arrangement for 65 percent of all preschool children is care by one or both parents.

This isn’t exactly the figure you will hear during a national debate on day care. Instead of hearing that two-thirds of mothers with preschool children are in the work force, we should be hearing that two-thirds of all preschool children are cared for by one or both parents.

Actually the percentage should be even higher. Another 11 percent of preschool children are cared for by grandmothers or other relatives. This would mean that a full 76 percent of all preschool children are cared for by a parent or close relative. But don’t expect the mainstream media to use this figure when debating the so-called “crisis of child care.”

Perhaps that is the most important lesson of this debate. President Clinton and the First Lady, along with countless child care advocates, want to talk about the crisis of child care. Statistics that do not justify federal intrusion into the family are ignored. Before we start down the road to socialized day care, we need to consider whether the problem is as acute as portrayed.

Psychological Costs

At this point I would like to discuss the psychological costs of day care. Now that we have been effectively conducting an unofficial experiment with day care over the last few decades, the evidence is coming in disconcerting evidence of the psychological harm done by institutionalized care. Jay Belsky, a child care expert at Penn State’s College of Health and Human Development, says “It looked like kids who were exposed to 20 or more hours a week of nonparental care in their first year of life what I call early and extensive nonparental care, and here comes the critical phrase, of the kind that was routinely available to families in the United States today seemed to be at elevated risk. They were more likely to look insecure in their relationships to their mothers, in particular at the end of their first year of life.”

Unfortunately most parents are unaware of this growing research. So is the average citizen who will no doubt be convinced by “experts” that we need a nationally-subsidized system of institutional care. Marjorie Boyd, writing in The Washington Monthly, found that “Practically everyone is for day care, but practically all the evidence says it’s bad for preschoolers in all but its most costly forms. Most people do not know that psychologists and psychiatrists have grave misgivings about the concept because of its potential effect on personality; nor do they know that the officials of countries that have had considerable experience with day care are now warning of its harmful effects on children.”

The concerns can be categorized under three areas: bonding, personality development, and substitute care. Bonding takes place in the hours and days following birth, usually between the mother and the child. Bonding demands consistency, and day care interrupts that consistency especially when there is not one person providing the primary care for the child. Children placed in a day care center too early are deprived of a primary care giver and will manifest psychological problems.

Personality development is another concern. Most children will get off to a better start in life if they spend the majority of their waking hours during the first three years being cared for by their parents and other family members rather than in any form of substitute care.

A final concern is the negative effect of substitute care on a child. Jean Piaget has shown that children are not capable of reflective thinking at young ages. For example, they do not have a concept of object permanence. If you hide a ball, the infant will stop searching for it because it has ceased to exist in the child’s mind. In the same way, when mom leaves the day care center, she has ceased to exist in the mind of the child. The mother may reflect on her child all day while at work, but the child has erased her from his or her mind.

These then are just a few of the psychological concerns knowlegeable people have about institutionalized day care. Before we begin to fund national day care, we should stop long enough to discuss the impact such institutionalized care would have on our children and the nation.

Additional Psychological Costs

Another concern is what Dettrick Bonfenbrunner calls “social contagion.” Poorly supervised day care creates an atmosphere that socializes the children in a negative manner. For example, Bryna Siegel (psychologist at Stanford University) reported in her nine- year study that day care children were “15 times more aggressive… a tendency toward more physical and verbal attacks on other children.” By that she did not merely mean that the children were more assertive, but that they were more aggressive.

J. C. Schwartz and his colleagues have shown that children who entered day care before they were twelve months old are more physically and verbally abusive when they are older. They found this abuse was aimed at adults, and also found these children were less cooperative with grownups and less tolerant of frustration than children cared for by their mothers.

Christians should not be surprised by these findings given our biblical understanding of human sinfulness. Each child is born a sinner. When day care workers put a bunch of “little sinners” together in a room without adequate supervision, sin nature will most likely manifest itself in the environment.

Proponents of socialized day care begin with a flawed premise. They assume that human beings are basically good. These liberal, social experiments with day care begin with the tacit assumption that a child is a “noble savage” that needs to be nurtured and encouraged. Social thinkers ranging from Jean Jacques Rousseau to Abraham Maslow begin with the assumption about human goodness and thus have little concern with the idea of children being reared in an institutional environment.

Christians on the other hand believe that the family is God’s primary instrument for social instruction. Children must not only be nurtured but they must also be disciplined. Children are to be reared by parents in the context of the family, not in institutionalized day care.

Over the last three decades, America has been engaged in a social experiment with day care. As more and more children are put into institutionalized care, we are reaping the consequences.

Emotionally scarred children who have been “warehoused” in sub- standard facilities are more likely to drop out of school, be arrested, and end up on welfare rolls. The cost to society in terms of truancy, delinquency, and crime will be significant.

E. F. Ziglar (Yale University) has said that “When parents pick a day care center, they are essentially picking what their child will become.” This is not only true for the individual child; it is true for society. As a nation we have been choosing the children we will have in the future by promoting day care, and the future does not look good.

Financial and Medical Costs

Finally, I would like to look at the financial and medical costs of day care. The financial costs can be significant. Many women who place their children into institutional care fail to estimate the additional (often hidden) costs of their choice. Quality day care is not cheap nor are many of the other costs associated with going to work.

Sara Levitan and Karen Cleary Alderman state in their book, Child Care and the ABCs Too that “The cost of preschooler’s day care services added to work expenses can easily absorb the total earnings of some women working part time.” They continue,

Disregarding the cost of transportation and other work- connected expenses or the imputed cost of performing household tasks in addition to work (overtime duty), it is apparent that the daily salary of at least half of working women did not provide the cost of a single child’s day care meeting federal standards.

By contrast, the value of a mother is vastly underestimated. Financial analyst Sylvia Porter states that the twenty-five million full-time homemakers contribute billions to the economy each year, even though their labor is not counted in the gross national product. She calculates that the average mother contributes nearly $30,000 a year in labor and services. She arrived at this figure by calculating an hourly fee for such functions as: nurse-maid, housekeeper, cook, dishwasher, laundress, food buyer, chauffeur, gardener, maintenance person, seamstress, dietician, and practical nurse.

Health costs are also considerable. Young children are still in the process of developing their immunity to certain diseases, and are more likely to get sick when exposed to other children on a daily basis. While some ailments are slight, others can be very serious. For example, infectious diseases (especially those involving the middle ear and hearing ability) are three to four times as prevalent in group care as compared to home care.

Dr. Ron Haskins and Dr. Jonathan Kotch have identified day care attendance as the most significant factor associated with the increased incidence of bacterial meningitis. Likewise, cytomegalovirus (the leading cause of congenital infections in newborns) has also been linked to day care centers. These and other correlations should not be surprising given the intimate contact with so many unrelated children in an environment of playing, sleeping, eating, and using toilet facilities.

As we have seen in this discussion, the costs of day care are high. As Christians we must begin with the biblical foundation found in Psalm 127 that children are “a gift of God.” God has entrusted us with our children for a period of time. We cannot and should not shirk our responsibility or pass that responsibility on to others.

At the moment, this nation seems poised to implement a comprehensive, national program of day care. Before we develop national programs that may harm our children, we need to count the costs and make an informed decision.

©1996 Probe Ministries

Pop Psychology Myths vs. A Biblical Point of View

Kerby Anderson compares some current myths with a Christian perspective informed by the timeless teaching of the Bible.  These “pop psychology” ideas seem to make sense until one compares them with biblical insights from the creator of us all.

Go into any bookstore and you will see shelves of self-help books, many of which promote a form of “pop psychology.” Although these are bestsellers, they are filled with half-truths and myths. In this essay we are going to look at some of these pop psychology myths as exposed by Dr. Chris Thurman in his book Self-Help or Self-Destruction. If you would like more information or documentation for the issues we cover in these pages, I would recommend you obtain a copy of his book.

Myth 1: Human beings are basically good.

The first myth I would like to look at is the belief that people are basically good. Melody Beattie, author of the best-seller Codependent No More, says that we “suffer from that vague but penetrating affliction, low self-worth.” She suggests we stop torturing ourselves and try to raise our view of ourselves. How do we do that? She says: “Right now, we can give ourselves a big emotional and mental hug. We are okay. It’s wonderful to be who we are. Our thoughts are okay. Our feelings are appropriate. We’re right where we’re supposed to be today, this moment. There is nothing wrong with us. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with us.”

In other words, Beattie is saying that we are basically good. There is nothing wrong with us. At least there is nothing fundamentally wrong with us. There isn’t any flaw that needs to be corrected.

Peter McWilliams, in his best-seller Life 101, actually addresses this issue head on. This is what he says in the brief section entitled, “Are human beings fundamentally good or fundamentally evil?”

My answer: good. My proof? I could quote philosophers, psychologists, and poets, but then those who believe humans are fundamentally evil can quote just as many philosophers, psychologists, and poets. My proof, such as it is, is a simple one. It returns to the source of human life: an infant. When you look into the eyes of an infant, what do you see? I’ve looked into a few, and I have yet to see fundamental evil radiating from a baby’s eyes. There seems to be purity, joy, brightness, splendor, sparkle, marvel, happiness–you know: good.

Before we see what the Bible says about the human condition, let me make one comment about Peter McWilliams’s proof. While an infant may seem innocent to our eyes, any parent would admit that a baby is an example of the ultimate in selfishness. A baby comes into the world totally centered on his own needs and oblivious to any others.

When we look to the Bible, we get a picture radically different from that espoused by pop psychologists. Adam and Eve committed the first sin, and the human race has been born morally corrupt ever since. According to the Bible, even a seemingly innocent infant is born with a sin nature. David says in Psalm 51:5 “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” The newborn baby already has a sin nature and begins to demonstrate that sin nature early in life. Romans 3:23 tells us that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We are not good as the pop psychologists teach, and we are not gods as the new age theologians teach. We are sinful and cut off from God.

Myth 2: We need more self-esteem and self-worth.

The next myth to examine is the one that claims what we really need is more self-esteem and self-worth. In the book entitled Self-Esteem, Matthew McKay and Patrick Fanning state, “Self- esteem is essential for psychological survival.” They believe that we need to quit judging ourselves and learn to accept ourselves as we are.

They provide a series of affirmations we need to tell ourselves in order to enhance our self-esteem. First, “I am worthwhile because I breathe and feel and am aware.” Well, shouldn’t that also apply to animals? And do I lose my self-esteem if I stop breathing? In a sense, this affirmation is a take off on Rene Descartes’s statement, “I think, therefore I am.” They seem to be saying “I am, therefore I am worthwhile.”

Second they say, “I am basically all right as I am.” But is that true? Is it true for Charles Manson? Don’t some of us, in fact all of us, need some changing? A third affirmation is “It’s all right to meet my needs as I see fit.” Really? What if I meet my needs in a way that harms you? Couldn’t I justify all sorts of evil in order to meet my needs?

Well, you can see the problem with pop psychology’s discussion of self-esteem. Rarely is it defined, and when it is defined, it can easily lead to evil and all kinds of sin.

It should probably be as no surprise that the Bible doesn’t teach anything about self-esteem. In fact, it doesn’t even define the word. What about the term self-worth? Is it synonymous with self-esteem. No, there is an important distinction between the terms self-esteem and self-worth.

William James, often considered the father of American psychology, defined self-esteem as “the sum of your successes and pretensions.” In other words, your self-esteem is a reflection of how you are actually performing compared to how you think you should be performing. So your self-esteem could actually fluctuate from day to day.

Self-worth, however, is different. Our worth as human beings has to do with the fact that we are created in God’s image. Our worth never fluctuates because it is anchored in the fact that the Creator made us. We are spiritual as well as physical beings who have a conscience, emotions, and a will. Psalm 8 says: “You have made him [mankind] a little lower than the angels, and you have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands, you have put all things under his feet.”

So the good news is that we bear God’s image, but the bad news is that all of these characteristics have been tainted by sin. Our worth should not be tied up in what we do, but in who God made us to be and what He has done for us.

Myth 3: You can’t love others until you love yourself.

Now I would like to look at the myth that you can’t love others until you love yourself. Remember the Whitney Houston song “The Greatest Love of All?” It says, “Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.”

Peter McWilliams, author of Life 101, promotes this idea in his book Love 101 which carries the subtitle “To Love Oneself Is the Beginning of a Lifelong Romance.” He asks, “Who else is more qualified to love you than you? Who else knows what you want, precisely when you want it, and is always around to supply it?” He believes that the answer to those questions is you.

He continues by saying, “If, on the other hand, you have been gradually coming to the seemingly forbidden conclusion that before we can truly love another, or allow another to properly love us, we must first learn to love ourselves–then this book is for you.” Notice that he not only is saying that you cannot love others until you love yourself, but that you can’t love you until you learn to love yourself.

Melody Beattie, author of CoDependent No More, believes the same thing. One of the chapters in her book is entitled, “Have a Love Affair With Yourself.” Jackie Schwartz, in her book Letting Go of Stress, even suggests that you write a love letter and “tell yourself all the attributes you cherish about yourself, the things that really please, comfort, and excite you.”

Does the Bible teach self-love? No, it does not. If anything, the Bible warns us against such a love affair with self. Consider Paul’s admonition to Timothy: “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Tim. 3:1-5).

The Bible discourages love of self and actually begins with the assumption we already love ourselves too much and must learn to show sacrificial love (agape love) to others. It also teaches that love is an act of the will. We can choose to love someone whether the feelings are there or not.

We read in 1 John 4, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” The biblical pattern is this: God loves us, and we receive God’s love and are able to love others.

Myth 4: You shouldn’t judge anyone.

Let’s discuss the myth that you shouldn’t judge anyone. No doubt you have heard people say, “You’re just being judgmental” or “Who are you to judge me?” You may have even said something like this.

Many pop psychologists certainly believe that you shouldn’t judge anyone. In their book entitled Self-Esteem, Matthew McKay and Patrick Fanning argue that moral judgments about people are unacceptable. They write: “Hard as it sounds, you must give up moral opinions about the actions of others. Cultivate instead the attitude that they have made the best choice available, given their awareness and needs at the time. Be clear that while their behavior may not feel or be good for you, it is not bad.”

So moral judgments are not allowed. You cannot judge another person’s actions, even if you feel that it is wrong. McKay and Fanning go on to say why: “What does it mean that people choose the highest good? It means that you are doing the best you can at any given time. It means that people always act according to their prevailing awareness, needs, and values. Even the terrorist planting bombs to hurt the innocent is making a decision based on his or her highest good. It means you cannot blame people for what they do. Nor can you blame yourself. No matter how distorted or mistaken a person’s awareness is, he or she is innocent and blameless.”

As with many of these pop psychology myths, there is a kernel of truth. True we should be very careful to avoid a judgmental spirit or quickly criticize an individual’s actions when we do not possess all the facts. But the Bible does allow and even encourages us to make judgments and be discerning. In fact, the Bible should be our ultimate standard of right and wrong. If the Bible says murder is wrong, it is wrong. God’s objective standards as revealed in the Scriptures are our standard of behavior.

How do we apply these standards? Very humbly. We are warned in the gospels “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Jesus was warning us of a self-righteous attitude that could develop from pride and a hypocritical spirit. Jesus also admonished us to “take the plank out of [our] own eye” so that we would be able to “remove the speck from [our] brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:1-5).

Finally, we should acknowledge that Jesus judged people’s actions all the time, yet He never sinned. He offered moral opinions wherever He went. He said, “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (John 5:30). Judging is not wrong, but we should be careful to do it humbly and from a biblical perspective.

Myth 5: All guilt is bad.

Finally, I would like to look at the myth that all guilt is bad. In his best-seller, Your Erroneous Zones, Wayne Dyer tackles what he believes are two useless emotions: guilt and worry. Now it is true that worry is probably a useless emotion, but it is another story with guilt. Let’s begin by understanding why he calls guilt “the most useless of all erroneous zone behaviors.”

Wayne Dyer believes that guilt originates from two sources: childhood memories and current misbehavior. He says, “Thus you can look at all of your guilt either as reactions to leftover imposed standards in which you are still trying to please an absent authority figure, or as the result of trying to live up to self- imposed standards which you really don’t buy, but for some reason pay lip service to. In either case, it is stupid, and more important, useless behavior.”

He goes on to say that “guilt is not natural behavior” and that our “guilt zones” must be “exterminated, spray-cleaned and sterilized forever.” So how do you exterminate your “guilt zones”? He proposed that you “do something you know is bound to result in feelings of guilt” and then fight those feelings off.

Dyer believes that guilt is “a convenient tool for manipulation” and a “futile waste of time.” And while that is often true, he paints with too large of a brush. Some guilt can be helpful and productive. Some kinds of guilt can be a significant agent of change.

The Bible makes a distinction between two kinds of guilt: true guilt and false guilt. Notice in 2 Corinthians 7:10 that the Apostle Paul says, “Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”

Worldly sorrow (often called false guilt) causes us to focus on ourselves, while godly sorrow (true guilt) leads us to focus on the person or persons we have offended. Worldly sorrow (or false guilt) causes us to focus on what we have done in the past, whereas godly sorrow (or true guilt) causes us to focus on what we can do in the present to correct what we’ve done. Corrective actions that come out of worldly sorrow are motivated by the desire to stop feeling bad. Actions that come out of godly sorrow are motivated by the desire to help the offended person or to please God or to promote personal growth. Finally, the results of worldly and godly sorrow differ. Worldly sorrow results in temporary change. Godly sorrow results in true change and growth.

Pop psychology books are half right. False guilt (or worldly sorrow) is not a productive emotion, but true guilt (or godly sorrow) is an emotion God can use to bring about positive change in our lives as we recognize our guilt, ask for forgiveness, and begin to change.

©1996 Probe Ministries.

It Takes a Village

Does It Take a Village to Raise a Child?

We rarely do book reviews on the Probe radio program, but from time to time a book is published that is so significant that we depart from our normal format. This essay is a discussion of the book It Takes a Village by Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Now it should be obvious that a discussion of this book will no doubt be controversial. After all, the Clinton administration, as well as the First Lady, has been under attack. We will not even venture to discuss any of the allegations that are so much a part of the news. Likewise we will try to avoid any partisan considerations of particular programs and policies.

The focus of this essay will be on the book It Takes a Village. It sets forth a clear-cut agenda, and we as Christians need to ask ourselves if this is an agenda that can be supported from the Bible. Mrs. Clinton epitomizes what many people believe could be called “the new feminism.” And it is fair to say that Hillary Clinton is perhaps the most visible, prominent feminist in the world. As First Lady her ideas are given national prominence. As First Lady she addresses international women’s conferences (like the ones held in Cairo and Beijing). When she writes a book setting forth her ideas, it is appropriate to evaluate those ideas in light of Scripture.

I would like to begin by focusing on the title of the book, It Takes a Village. The title comes from an African proverb which states that “It takes a village to raise a child.” This oft- repeated African proverb has become the mantra of recent international women’s conferences (Cairo, Beijing). I believe it represents the new paradigm of feminist and socialist thinking.

At its face, there is nothing controversial about the idea that it takes more than parents to raise a child. Grandparents, friends, pastors, teachers, boy scout leaders, and many others in the community all have a role in the lives of our children. In her book, Mrs. Clinton does acknowledge that “parents bear the first and primary responsibility for their sons and daughters.”

Unfortunately, the rest of the book contradicts that early statement. The First Lady essentially extends her notion of the village far beyond the family to include various organizations, especially the federal government. By the end of the book, it appears that Mrs. Clinton has never met a government program she didn’t like.

She says that those who hold to an anti-government position are the “noisiest” position and getting all the attention from the media. But she goes on to say that “despite the resurgence of anti- government extremism, it is becoming clear that most Americans do not favor a radical dismantling of government. Instead of rollback, they want real reform. And when a strong case can be made, they still favor government action, as they have demonstrated recently in their support for measures like the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Brady Bill, and the new Direct Student Loan program.”

By the end of the book Mrs. Clinton has endorsed nearly every government program of the last thirty years including those mentioned above and others like Goals 2000, Parents as Teachers, and AmeriCorps. The village, in Mrs. Clinton’s book, is much more than the communities in which we live–it is a metaphor for the continued expansion of government into every aspect of our lives.

Areas of Agreement

If you were to pick up Hillary Clinton’s book and begin reading it, you would no doubt be surprised by what you found. Christians will find lots of areas of agreement. In fact, one talk show host even made a confession on air that he expected to find more to disagree with than he did. Instead, he found lots of material in Mrs. Clinton’s book with which he could wholeheartedly agree.

I believe this is precisely the reaction Mrs. Clinton intended. She spends countless pages analyzing the social problems facing our children and providing constructive ideas for parents and communities to follow. Not only is she critical of drugs, violence, illegitimacy, and the plight of American education, she is also critical of such things as the impact of no-fault divorce laws. People looking for a clearly stated liberal agenda will not easily find it in this book. In fact, it is probably fair to say that whole chapters in her book could have been written by Dr. James Dobson.

Mrs. Clinton hastens to add that “this book is not a memoir; thankfully, that will have to wait. Nor is it a textbook or an encyclopedia; it is not meant to be. It is a statement of my personal views, a reflection of my continuing meditation on children.” Though it does contain a fair amount of technical material, it is still a warm, nurturing, and inviting book. The First Lady also tells of her own family, which she describes as looking “like it was straight out of the 1950s television sitcom Father Knows Best.” As a counterpoint, she talks about Bill Clinton’s dysfunctional family, and even shares tender, intimate stories about rearing Chelsea.

However, interspersed between these long, warm, nurturing sections which appeal to your emotions are political statements about how government should be used to help the family. I fear that readers without discernment will easily embrace the political agenda of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Each problem or concern is quickly answered by a government program or governmentally-sponsored community program.

Many will remember that the First Lady used a similar tactic in the past to try to sell her plan to nationalize health care. Often she would tell heart-rending stories of families without health insurance in order to bolster her plan to implement nationally- subsidized health care. The same technique can be found throughout It Takes a Village.

No one will disagree with many of the problems she catalogs. In fact, former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett catalogs many of these same problems in his Index of Leading Cultural Indicators. The source of disagreement comes when proposing government solutions to each problem. Many of these problems themselves are the result of earlier government “solutions” that created these problems. Discerning readers should always be asking whether or not these problems can more effectively be solved by individual initiative, community activities, and church programs.

Is This a “Campaign Book”?

At this point, I would like to raise the question of politics. In particular, many people wonder if this work isn’t just a “campaign book.”

I think we need to be honest enough to say that it is. After all, the publication of this book was originally intended to aid her husband’s campaign. In the book, Mrs. Clinton lists what she believes are her husband’s successes: Family and Medical Leave Act, AmeriCorps, Goals 2000, the Brady Bill, and the Direct Student Loan Program. On the other hand, she soft-pedals the radical parts of the Clinton agenda. Abortion is mentioned once (only in a passing reference to the Cairo Document). Condoms are ignored. Joycelyn Elders and Dr. Henry Foster, Jr., are not discussed. Certainly the book was intended to help the Clinton re-election campaign even if current events surrounding the First Lady have begun to cloud the issue.

In some ways, the book provides the most consistent and comprehensive statement available of the First Lady’s agenda for the rest of the 1990s. Whether the President wins re-election is almost irrelevant to the impact of this book. Mrs. Clinton has become the most visible, articulate feminist in the world. What she says in the United States, and what she says at international women’s conferences (like Beijing, China) hold significant weight. So let’s consider what she says.

Even though Mrs. Clinton attempt to soft-pedal some of the more radical aspects of her agenda, controversy inevitably slips through. For example, many of what she claims are the President’s successes can hardly be considered successes, programs such as: Goals 2000 and Parents as Teachers. Many of her other favorites indicate a clear endorsement of socialist programs by Mrs. Clinton.

Let’s look at just one example. Mrs. Clinton believes that the best way to solve what she believes is the problem of adequate day care facilities, is to adopt the French model of day care. She asks us to “imagine a country in which nearly all children between the ages of three and five attend preschool in sparkling classrooms, with teachers recruited and trained as child care professionals.” She goes on to say this exists where “more than 90 percent of French children between ages three and five attend free or inexpensive preschools called écoles maternelles. Even before they reach the age of three, many of them are in full-day programs.”

Her desire is to replicate this system in the United States so that the state can have an early maternal influence on the children of America. She envisions a country in which “Big Brother” essentially becomes “Big Momma.”

But is this really what we want in the United States? A nationally subsidized day care system that puts three-years-olds (even two- year-olds) in institutionalized care? Throughout the book Mrs. Clinton seems to be making the tragic assumption that the state can do a better job of raising children than parents. She proposes a system in which the First Lady becomes the “First Mom”–a system in which children are no longer the responsibility of the parents, but become instead wards of the state.

Nostalgia Merchants

Next I would like to discuss the issue of nostalgia. Mrs. Clinton believes that any attempt to return to “the good old days” is flawed. She says, “Those who urge a return to the values of the 1950s are yearning for the kind of family and neighborhood I grew up in and for the feelings of togetherness they engendered. The nostalgia merchants sell an appealing Norman Rockwell-like picture of American life half a century ago.” She continues, “I understand that nostalgia. I feel it myself when the world seems too much to take. . . . But in reality, our past was not so picture perfect. As African-American children who grew up in a segregated society, or immigrants who struggled to survive in sweatshops and tenements, or women whose life choices were circumscribed and whose work was underpaid.”

In reality, no one is calling for a return to the evils of earlier decades. Yes, racism and sexism are a sad part of our American history. But pro-family leaders are not calling for a return to those values. They are, however, reminding the American people that there was a time, not so long ago, when values and virtue were a part of the social fabric. Today that fabric is unraveling.

Former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett has compiled an Index of Leading Cultural Indicators which compares social statistics from 1960 to the present day. Although the population has increased approximately 41 percent, crime has increased 300 percent, and violent crime has increased 560 percent. The illegitimate birth rate has increased 400 percent, the number of divorces has more than doubled, and the number of children in single parent homes has tripled.

Pro-family leaders rightly call for a return to the fundamental Judeo-Christian values that made America great. They are not calling for a return to segregation or Jim Crow laws. They are not calling for a repeal of laws mandating equal pay for equal work. Mrs. Clinton’s comments about these so-called “nostalgia merchants” are disingenuous at best.

Another interesting comment has to do with Mrs. Clinton herself. Anytime someone disagrees with her perspective, the motive is labeled as chauvinism. In other words, if you disagree with the First Lady, it must be because you have difficulty dealing with a strong woman who exercises political power.

Let me say that my concerns with Mrs. Clinton’s perspectives have to do with the issues, not the person. My disagreements are based upon the substance of those programs and are not based upon the fact that they are proposed by a woman. In fact, I highly admire a number of women who have served in political office like Margaret Thatcher and Jeanne Kirkpatrick. The ideas expressed in Mrs. Clinton’s book are dangerous regardless of whether they are proposed by a woman or a man. The issue is not the messenger, but the message.

Mrs. Clinton’s Government Solutions to Social Problems

At this point I would like to conclude by addressing some additional issues related to the book. First, Mrs. Clinton often proposes socialist solutions to the problems she raises in her book. Earlier I noted that she proposed a nationally-subsidized day care system modeled after France as a solution to her perceived problem of quality day care. In other parts of her book she also proposes liberal, government solutions.

She writes that “Other developed countries, including some of our fiercest competitors, are more committed to social stability than we have been, and they tailor their economic policies to maintain it.” She then goes on to make a case for the German economic model, complete with an industrial policy in which “there is a general consensus that government and business should play a role in evening out inequalities in the free market system.”

When it comes to education, she proposes a national agenda over local control of the schools. Mrs. Clinton believes education will be enhanced by nationalizing it through such programs as Goals 2000 and School-to-Work programs.

And don’t think that Mrs. Clinton has abandoned the idea of nationalized health care. She sees nationally-subsidized health care as the solution to everything from infant morality to health care delivery.

From start to finish, Mrs. Clinton proposes government as the answer to every problem. In some cases, the government is behind the scenes providing funding and direction to community-based organizations. In others, it is the primary provider. But whenever a problem is raised, the First Lady seems content to have government take care of it.

By the end of the book, Mrs. Clinton has endorsed such groups as HIPPY, Parent Education Program, Healthy Start, Children’s Defense Fund, Parents as Teachers, Carnegie Council on Children, Head Start, and Zero to Three. Many of these groups, along with the government programs she endorses, make up the foundation of her liberal, big-government agenda for children in the 1990s. Readers without discernment may easily be seduced into believing that these programs are the only way to make life better for their children.

As Christians, I believe we must ask where is the church in this book? Where are communities? Where is individual initiative and responsibility? The world’s largest bureaucracy is the Department of Health and Human Services. Mrs. Clinton seems to be saying throughout the book that the solution to nearly every problem will come from enlarging this enormous bureaucracy even more.

I believe the real issue is that Mrs. Clinton’s book, It Takes a Village, is flawed at its premise. Government is not a village. Parents do not need government bureaucrats and federal programs to raise their children. In many ways, the problems Mrs. Clinton discusses are the result of government “solutions” proposed decades earlier (through the New Deal and Great Society programs). Families don’t need more government; they need less government. In a very limited sense we might agree that it does take a village to raise a child, but that doesn’t mean it takes the government to raise a child. Children should be raised by families, churches, and communities–not by the federal government.

©1996 Probe Ministries

Feminist Myths

As someone who works in the media, I am well aware that certain myths get started and have a life of their own. A number of these myths are promoted and disseminated by feminists and can be found in the book Who Stole Feminism? The author, Christina Hoff Sommers, though a feminist, has been concerned for some time about the prominence of these myths and does a masterful job tracing down the origin of each and setting the record straight. If you want more information on any of these, I would recommend you obtain her well-documented book.

Myth of the Extent of Anorexia Nervosa

In her book Revolution from Within, Gloria Steinem informed her readers that “in this country alone…about 150,000 females die of anorexia each year.” To put this dramatic statistic in perspective, this is more than three times the annual number of fatalities from car accidents for the total population. The only problem with the statistic is that it is absolutely false.

Lest you think that this was a mere typographical error, consider the following. The statistic also appears in the feminist best- seller The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. “How,” she asks, “would America react to the mass self-immolation by hunger of its favorite sons?” While admitting that “nothing justifies comparison with the Holocaust,” she nevertheless makes just such a comparison. “When confronted with a vast number of emaciated bodies starved not by nature but by men, one must notice a certain resemblance.”

What was the source of this statistic? Ms. Wolf got her figures from Fasting Girls: The Emergence of Anorexia Nervosa as a Modern Disease by Joan Brumberg, a historian and former director of women’s studies at Cornell University. It turns out that she misquoted the American Anorexia and Bulimia Association which had stated that there are 150,000 to 200,000 sufferers (not fatalities) of anorexia nervosa. The actual figure is many orders of magnitude lower. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, there were 70 deaths from anorexia in 1990. Even 70 deaths is tragic, but 70 deaths out of population of over 100 million women can hardly be considered a holocaust.

Apparently Naomi Wolf plans to revise her figures in an updated version of The Beauty Myth, but the figure is now widely accepted as true. Ann Landers repeated it in her 1992 column by stating that “every year, 150,000 American women die from complications associated with anorexia and bulimia.” The false statistic has also made it into college textbooks. A women’s studies text, aptly titled The Knowledge Explosion, contains the erroneous figure in its preface.

Myth of Amount of Domestic Violence

On November 1992, Deborah Louis, president of the National Women’s Studies Association, sent a message to the Women’s Studies Electronic Bulletin Board. It read, “According to [the] last March of Dimes report, domestic violence (vs. pregnant women) is now responsible for more birth defects than all other causes combined.” On February 23, 1993, Patricia Ireland, president of the National Organization for Women, said on the Charlie Rose program that “battery of pregnant women is the number one cause of birth defects in this country.”

Certainly unsettling data. But again, the biggest problem is that the statistic is absolutely false. The March of Dimes never published the study and did not know of any research that corroborated the statement.

Nevertheless, journalists willingly recited the erroneous statistic. The Boston Globe reported that “domestic violence is the leading cause of birth defects, more than all other medical causes combined, according to a March of Dimes study.” The Dallas Morning News reported that “the March of Dimes has concluded that the battering of women during pregnancy causes more birth defects than all the diseases put together for which children are usually immunized.”

When Time magazine published essentially the same article, the rumor started spinning out of control. Concerned citizens and legislators called the March of Dimes for the study. Eventually the error was traced to Sarah Buel, a founder of the domestic violence advocacy project at Harvard Law School. She misunderstood a statement made by a nurse who noted that a March of Dimes study showed that more women are screened for birth defects than they are for domestic battery. The nurse never said anything about battery causing birth defects.

Although we could merely chalk this error up to a misunderstanding, it is disturbing that so many newspapers and magazines reported it uncritically. Battery causing birth defects? More than genetic disorders like spina bifida, Downs syndrome, Tay-Sachs, sickle-cell anemia? More than alcohol, crack, or AIDS? Where was the press in checking the facts? Why are feminist myths so easily repeated in the press?

Myth of Increased Domestic Battery on Super Bowl Sunday

In January 1993 newspaper and television networks reported an alarming statistic. They stated that the incidence of domestic violence tended to rise by 40 percent on Super Bowl Sunday. NBC, which was broadcasting the game, made a special plea for men to stay calm. Feminists called for emergency preparations in anticipation of the expected increase in violence.

Feminists also used the occasion to link maleness and violence against women. Nancy Isaac, a Harvard School of Public Health research associate specializing in domestic violence, told the Boston Globe: “It’s a day for men to revel in their maleness and unfortunately, for a lot of men that includes being violent toward women if they want to be.”

Nearly every journalist accepted the 40 percent figure–except for Ken Ringle at the Washington Post. He checked the facts and was able to expose the myth, but not before millions of Americans were indoctrinated with the feminist myth of male aggression during Super Bowl Sunday.

Myth Concerning Percent of Women Raped

The Justice Department says that 8 percent of all American women will be victims of rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. Feminist legal scholar Catherine MacKinnon, however, claims that rape happens to almost half of all women at least once in their lives.

Who is right? Obviously, the difference between these two statistics stems from a number of factors ranging from under- reporting to very different definitions of rape. The Justice Department figure is obviously low since it is based on the number of cases reported to the police, and rape is the most under- reported of crimes.

The feminist figures are artificially high because they use very broad definitions of rape and let the questioner rather than the victim decide whether there was a rape or not. The two most frequently cited studies are the 1985 Ms. magazine study and the 1992 National Women’s Study. The Ms. magazine study of 3,000 college students gave a statistic of about 1 in 4 for women who have been raped or victim of an attempted rape. However, the study used very broad definitions of rape which sometimes included kissing, fondling, and other activities that few people would call rape. In fact, only 27 percent of those women counted as having been raped actually labeled themselves as rape victims. Also, 42 percent of those counted as rape victims went on to have sex with their “attackers” on a later occasion.

The National Women’s Study released a figure of 1 in 8 women who have been raped. Again the surveyors used extremely broad, expanded definitions of rape that allowed the surveyor to decide if a woman had been raped or not.

The statistics for “date rape” and rape on campus have also been exaggerated. Camille Paglia warns that “date rape has swelled into a catastrophic cosmic event, like an asteroid threatening the earth in a fifties science-fiction film.” Contrast this with the date- rape hype on most college campuses that includes rallies, marches, and date-rape counseling groups.

Peter Hellman, writing for New York magazine on the subject of rape on campus, was surprised to find that campus police logs at Columbia University showed no evidence of rape on campus. Only two rapes were reported to the Columbia campus police, and in both cases, the charges were dropped for lack of evidence. Hellman checked figures for other campuses and found fewer than .5 rapes per campus. He also found that public monies were being spent disproportionately on campus rape programs while community rape programs were scrambling for dollars.

The high rape numbers serve gender feminists by promoting the belief that American culture is sexist and misogynist. They also help liberal politicians by providing justification for additional funding for social services. Senator Joseph Biden introduced the Violence Against Women Act to “raise the consciousness of the American public.” He argues that violence against women is much like racial violence and calls for civil as well as criminal remedies.

Myth Concerning Female Self-esteem

In 1991, newspapers around the country proclaimed that the self- esteem of teenage girls was falling. The New York Times announced, “Little girls lose their self-esteem on way to adolescence, study finds.”

The study was commissioned by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) to measure self-esteem of girls and boys between the ages of nine and fifteen. Their poll seemed to show that between the ages of eleven and sixteen, girls experience a dramatic drop in self-esteem, which in turn significantly affects their ability to learn and to achieve. The report made headlines around the country and led to hundreds of conferences and community action projects.

Here is how the AAUW summarized the results of the survey in their brochure: In a crucial measure of self-esteem, 60 percent of elementary school girls and 69 percent of elementary school boys say they are “happy the way I am.” But, by high school, girls’ self-esteem falls 31 points to only 29 percent, while boys’ self- esteem falls only 23 points to 46 percent.

Girls are less likely than boys to say they are “pretty good at a lot of things.” Less than a third of girls express this confidence, compared to almost half the boys. A 10-point gender gap in confidence in their abilities increases to 19 points in high school.

It turns out that the report didn’t even define the term self- esteem, or even promote an informal discussion of what the authors meant by it. Other researchers suspect that the apparent gap in self-esteem may merely reflect a gap in expressiveness. Girls and women are more aware of their feelings and more articulate in expressing them, and so they are more candid about their negative emotions in self-reports than males are.

When asked if they are “good at a lot of things,” boys more often answered, “all the time,” whereas girls, being more reflective, gave more nuanced answers (“some of the time” or “usually”). Although the surveyors decided that the girls’ response showed poor self-esteem, it may merely reflect a “maturity gap” between boys and girls. Boys, lacking maturity, reflectiveness, and humility, are more likely to answer the question as “always true.”

Myth of Discrimination Against Females in School

An American Association of University Women (AAUW) report argued that schools and teachers were biased against girls in the classroom. The Wellesley Report, published in 1992, argued that there was a gender bias in education. The Boston Globe proclaimed that “from the very first days in school, American girls face a drum-fire of gender bias, ranging from sexual harassment to discrimination in the curriculum to lack of attention from teachers, according to a survey released today in Washington.” The release of this study was again followed by great media attention and the convening of conferences. It also provided the intellectual ammunition for the “Gender Equity in Education” bill introduced in 1993 by Patricia Schroeder, Susan Molinari, and others. It would have established a permanent and well-funded gender equity bureaucracy.

Are women really being damaged by our school system? Today 55 percent of college students are female, and women receive 52 percent of the bachelor’s degrees. Yes, girls seem somewhat behind in math and science, but those math and science test differentials are small compared with the large differentials favoring girls in reading and writing.

The study also assumed that teachers’ verbal interactions with students indicated how much they valued them. The surveyors therefore deduced that teachers valued boys more than girls. However, teachers often give more attention to boys because they are more immature and require the teacher to keep them in line. Most girls, being more mature, don’t want the attention or verbal discipline and need less negative attention to get their work done.

Myth of Huge Gender Wage Gap

A major rallying cry during the debates on comparable worth was that women make 59 cents for every dollar men do. The figure is now 71 cents. But if you factor in age, length of time in the workplace, and type of job, the wage gap is much smaller for younger women. Those with children tend to make slightly less than those without children, but it’s closer to 90 cents.

Feminists argue that the pay gap is a vivid illustration of discrimination. Economists argue that it’s due to shorter work weeks and less workplace experience. It is no doubt also due to the kind of jobs women choose. Women generally prefer clean, safe places with predictable hours and less stress. The more dangerous, dirty, and high-pressure jobs generally appeal to men. This is reflected in salary differences.


©1996 Probe Ministries.

Congressional Reforms

The Flat Tax

“Our government is too big, and it spends, taxes and regulates too much. Of all the supposed crises we’re facing today, this is the one that really matters.” So said Representative Dick Armey when he introduced his proposal for a flat tax.

The American public sector is now larger than the entire economy of any other country except Japan. Government employment surpasses jobs in the manufacturing sector. “Today, the average family now pays more in taxes than it spends on food, clothing, and shelter combined. All told, nearly 40% of the nation’s income is now spent not by the workers who earned it, but by the political class that taxed it from them.”

Congressman Armey believes we need a change. He wants to freeze federal spending, erase stupid governmental regulations, and retire the current Rube Goldberg tax code with a simple, flat tax and a form that could fit on a postcard.

The proposal has tremendous merit, which is why its chances of passing in this session of Congress are slim and none. But Armey is not a Congressional Don Quixote tilting at bureaucratic windmills. He knows that taxpayers are fed up with waste, fraud, and tax confusion. They are eager to change the system and willing to change congressmen if they won’t take action.

In this essay we will be looking at the merits of this proposal. The center piece of the proposal is the flat tax. Seven decades of corporate lobbying and congressional tinkering have left the tax code in a mess. Rates are high, loopholes abound, and families must bear an unfair burden of the tax code. Armey’s bill would scrap the entire code and replace it with a simple 17% flat tax for all.

All personal income would be taxed once at the single, low rate of 17%. There would be no special tax breaks of any kind except the following: (1) a child deduction of $5300 (twice what it is today), and (2) a personal allowance — $13,100 for an individual, $17,200 for a single head of a household, and $26,200 for married couples.

Businesses would pay the same 17% as individuals. A corporation would subtract expenses from revenues and pay the same, flat tax. The benefits should be obvious. Americans spend approximately 6 billion person-hours figuring their taxes each year. This lost time costs the economy $600 billion annually, and people spend another $200 billion in time and energy looking for legal ways to avoid taxation. Lawyers, accountants, and all taxpayers will be freed up to focus their time and energy on more productive aspects of the economy.

Economic growth will be another benefit of the plan. Armey’s bill not only lowers tax rates but eliminates double taxation of savings, thus creating a new incentive for investment. No more capital-gains tax, no estate tax, no tax on dividends. This bill will substantially stimulate the economy and create new jobs.

Perhaps the greatest benefit will be tax fairness. We say that in our society everybody should be treated the same, but we have a tax code that does anything but do that. Under the current code, politicians and lobbyists determine which groups should pay more and which groups should pay less. Under the Armey bill everyone pays the same.

The bill does more than simplify the tax code. It has two other major features. First, it would address the issues of spending cuts and program sunsets. Armey’s bill uses a variation of the old Gramm-Rudman law to freeze total federal spending for one year and then allow it to grow only at the rate of inflation after that.

This proposal will eliminate $475 billion in currently projected spending increases. It will guarantee the government will become no larger in real terms than it is today.

Armey would cut budgets the old-fashioned way: he makes bureaucrats earn them. If a department or agency doesn’t perform, it won’t continue to exist unless it can justify its existence. Can you imagine the hearings for various agricultural subsidies, pork barrel projects, or for the Strategic Helium Reserve?

Under this proposal new programs will be especially unwelcome. Currently Congress writes new spending bills authorizing “such sums as may be necessary.” Armey’s bill would require that “such sums” come from existing programs. Congress will no longer be allowed to write a blank check.

A second feature of Armey’s bill is to end indiscriminate regulations. The enormous number of government regulations are effectively a hidden tax on business and individual taxpayers. Armey estimates these regulations cost Americans $580 billion a year. Thus, these regulations are an even greater burden than the income tax itself.

Armey’s bill would force the President to produce a regulatory budget. This would expose, for the first time, the hidden cost of regulations. Congress would then be required to do a cost-benefit analysis and risk assessment on any bill with new regulatory authority.

The bill would also address the erosion of property rights. Any time government regulators write a rule that reduces the value of a person’s property, the government must compensate that person just as if the government confiscated the land to build a park or highway. No longer would environmental extremists be able to take a person’s land by regulatory fiat.

Finally, the bill ends the deceptive device that has made Big Government possible: income-tax withholding. If taxpayers paid their taxes the same way they pay for their houses or cars, government would not have grown so big. Withholding taxes before the taxpayers see it allows government to grow ever larger. This bill ends withholding and thereby puts one more check on the political class.

The flat tax has merit and is illustrative of the many Congressional reforms being put forward in this session of Congress.

Congressional Privilege

Thomas Jefferson wrote that “the framers of our Constitution… took care to provide that the laws should bind equally on all and especially that those who make them shall not exempt themselves from their operation.”

James Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers that Congress “can make no law which will not have its full operation on themselves and their friends, as well as on the great mass of the society. This has always been deemed one of the strongest bonds by which human policy can connect rulers and the people together.”

Unfortunately, Congress has exempted itself from many of the laws you and I must obey. Recent votes in the House and the Senate have been an attempt to put Congress under some of these laws. Look at this short list of major pieces of legislation Congress has been able to exempt itself from in the past.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 — Protects against discrimination based on race, color, sex, national origin, religious affiliation.

Americans with Disabilities Act — Protects against discrimination based on disability. Has subjected employers to burdensome architectural renovations and hiring.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act — Protects against age discrimination. Does not apply to House. Applies to Senate through internal rules.

Occupation Safety and Health Act — Sets minimum health and safety standards in the workplace.

Fair Labor Standards Act — Requires employers to pay minimum wage, time and a half, and overtime. Amendments in 1989 covered House employees. Senate is exempt.

Rehabilitation Act of 1973 — Requires federal agencies to submit affirmative action plans for the disabled to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

National Labor Relations Act — Proscribes unfair labor practices, gives workers right to form unions, requires employers to bargain. Congress is exempt.

Freedom of Information Act — Provides public access to government documents. Congress is exempt, although it does publish floor and committee proceedings.

Privacy Act — Protects individual employees at agencies subject to the act. Congress is exempt.

You might wonder how Congress can justify exempting itself from the laws the rest of us must obey. You might think there would be some Constitutional justification due to the separation of powers. Well, not exactly. Though the argument does have some merit, listen to the justification given the last session of Congress.

Senator Wendell Ford (D-KY) spoke against extending a smoking ban to Senate rooms lacking separate ventilation. He said, “This is going to affect each and every member of this chamber, and the administrative confusion that this will cause for members will be enormous. One day we will have an EPA administrator in our office …telling us our separate ventilation system for tobacco is insufficient. Then the next day the OSHA inspector is going to arrive and tell us we do not have sufficient ventilation for fumes coming from the new carpeting, or the paint or the varnish. Next thing you know, we will have HHS coming in and telling us we cannot eat at our desks.”

All I can say to Senator Ford is, “Yes, you will.” You will be subjected to the same regulatory insanity most of us have had to live with for years! Perhaps the members of Congress will be more careful about the bills they pass in the future, when they have to live under the same laws we must obey. No one should be above the law, not even members of Congress.


Last November, the Republicans won a battle for Capitol Hill. Now they are waging another battle for America’s financial capital. Nearly every day, Capitol Hill is abuzz with discussion of cuts in the capital gains tax, a middle class tax cut, and even a whole new tax code. We are going to look at a number of these proposals.

The first proposal is a cut in the capital gains tax. Proponents say that the economy will be strengthened by cutting the capital gain tax and indexing capital gains to inflation. Instead of the current tax rates ranging from 15% to 28%, the rates would be cut to rates ranging from 7.5% to 19.8%.

Opponents of a capital gains tax cut say it would merely be a “tax break for the rich.” But statistics show that the middle class would be the primary beneficiary.

President Clinton recently defined the middle class as those making less than $75,000 (his middle class tax cut is intended for those making less than $75,000). Even using this $75,000 cutoff point, we find that 74% of the people who earn capital gains come from the middle class or below. Since 26% of people making capital gains have incomes above that cutoff point, reducing the capital gains tax is *not* “giving a tax break to the rich.”

The benefit to the economy would be substantial. By lowering tax rates on capital, capital becomes more plentiful. Making capital more plentiful will make labor more scarce relative to capital and bid up the price of labor, resulting in more jobs and higher wages.

Another way to look at this is to recognize that more capital per worker makes workers more productive (better and more efficient equipment) making businesses willing to pay more for labor.

Another way to strengthen the economy is to replace the current tax system with a flat tax as we discussed earlier. The income tax would be 20% in the first two years and 17% thereafter.

Individuals would deduct $13,100, and married couples would deduct $26,200. Each dependent would add $5300 to the tax-exempt portion of the family. In other words, a family of four would not pay any taxes on the first $36,800 of family income!

If a flat tax is passed, there would be no tax on income from capital gains, interest, dividends, or estates. The current tax code actually discourages capital formation by taxing future financial gains. This plan would promote capital formation by eliminating tax on such investments.

Essentially people can spend their money as they earn it or defer gratification until the future. Currently, if they spend their money immediately, they do not increase their income-tax bills. But, if they invest their money and plan to consume it in the future, they risk paying income taxes on their interest, dividends, or capital gains.

This tax plan would allow businesses to pay the same flat rate on the difference between their gross revenues and their business deductions. It would also change the method of depreciation. Currently businesses must now depreciate their capital expenditures over the life of the equipment they buy. Armey’s plan would allow them to fully expense those costs the year they incur.

In essence, the proposals are simple: if you want more of something, reduce the tax on it. If you want more capital, then reduce (or eliminate) the current taxes on capital. In the end, people and the economy will benefit.

Welfare Reform

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) has boldly stated, “We have no health care crisis in this country. We do have a welfare crisis.” The social statistics bear out his conclusion. Since 1960 the welfare rolls have increased by 460 percent. Since 1965 Americans have spent more than $5 trillion on welfare. Currently more than 14 million individuals (including 1 in 7 children) are on welfare.

The current welfare system rewards dependency and punishes initiative. In Maryland, a single parent with two children would need to earn a minimum of $7.50 an hour to earn the same amount as provided by welfare grants and benefits. No wonder so many welfare mothers therefore conclude that staying on welfare is better than getting off.

Various welfare proposals submitted to Congress attempt to modify the welfare system by addressing the following issues:

The first is child support. Many fathers are not providing child support, and these bills would tighten the loopholes and make these dads pay up. Currently unwed fathers are not named on birth certificates. The omission frequently foils attempts to collect child support. But if dad pays, then mom’s check does not have to be so large. The proposed bills would require the mother to identify the father in order to receive a welfare check. States can threaten deadbeat dads with garnishing wages and suspending professional and driver’s licenses.

Second is the marriage penalty. If a pregnant teen get married or lives with the father of her child, she is frequently ineligible for welfare. Congressional proposals would encourage states to abolish the “marriage penalty” and make it easier to married couples to get welfare.

A third proposal is a family cap. Welfare mothers in some states can increase the size of their welfare checks by having more children. Congressional bills being considered would allow states to cap payments. If a welfare mother has another child, her check remains the same.

Already in New Jersey, Arkansas, and Georgia, families receive no increase for children born while on the dole. Congressional proposals would extend and encourage this opportunity to other states. The evidence so far is that this family cap may have some deterrence.

A fourth issue is work. Often if a welfare mother gets a job, her check is reduced, and she is likely to lose such benefits like Medicare and free child care. The new proposals before Congress would drop benefits after two years, but allow welfare mothers to work during that period.

Finally, these proposals address the government bureaucracy. Currently governors have to ask the Federal government if they can revamp their state welfare system. And the federal bureaucracy costs money. If you took the money spent for welfare and gave it to poor families it would amount to $25,000 a year for every family of four.

These bills would also freeze or change welfare payments. They would replace Food Stamps and AFDC with block grants to the states. This money would come from savings from cutting cash payments to women having children out of wedlock. As states receive these block grants, they would be free to design their own system.

The Bible clearly admonishes us to help those less fortunate, but it instructs us to do it intelligently. In 2 Thessalonians 3:10 we read that if “a man will not work, he shall not eat.” We need to revamp the current welfare system to meet real needs and stop subsidizing those who will not work. Congressional proposals are designed to help the helpless but stop rewarding the lazy.


©1995 Probe Ministries

Violence in Society

Kerby Anderson helps us take a biblical perspective on a very scary and touchy issue: violence in America.  Applying a Christian worldview, he shines the spotlight on areas of today’s culture that should concern us all.

It’s a scary world today!

Growing up used to be less traumatic just a few decades ago. Children back then worried about such things as a flat tire on their Schwinns and hoped that their teacher wouldn’t give too much homework.

How life has changed. A 1994 poll found more than half the children questioned said they were afraid of violent crime against them or a family member. Are these kids just paranoid, or is there a real problem?

Well, it turns out this is not some irrational fear based upon a false perception of danger. Life has indeed become more violent and more dangerous for children. Consider the following statistics: One in six youths between the ages of 10 and 17 has seen or knows someone who has been shot. The estimated number of child abuse victims increased 40 percent between 1985 and 1991. Children under 18 were 244 percent more likely to be killed by guns in 1993 than they were in 1986. Violent crime has increased by more than 560 percent since 1960.

The innocence of childhood has been replaced by the very real threat of violence. Kids in school try to avoid fights in the hall, walk home in fear, and sometimes sleep in bathtubs in order to protect themselves from stray bullets fired during drive-by shootings.

Even families living in so-called “safe” neighborhoods are concerned. They may feel safe today, but there is always a reminder that violence can intrude at any moment. Polly Klaas and her family no doubt felt safe in Petaluma, California. But on October 1, 1993, she was abducted from her suburban home during a sleepover with two friends. If she can be abducted and murdered, so can nearly any other child.

A child’s exposure to violence is pervasive. Children see violence in their schools, their neighborhoods, and their homes. The daily news is rife with reports of child molestations and abductions. War in foreign lands along with daily reports of murder, rape, and robberies also heighten a child’s perception of potential violence.

Television in the home is the greatest source of visual violence for children. The average child watches 8,000 televised murders and 100,000 acts of violence before finishing elementary school. That number more than doubles by the time he or she reaches age 18.

And the latest scourge is MTV. Teenagers listen to more than 10,000 hours of rock music, and this impact is intensified as they spend countless hours in front of MTV watching violent and sensual images that go far beyond the images shown on commercial television.

It’s a scary world, and children are exposed to more violence than any generation in recent memory. An article in Newsweek magazine concluded: “It gets dark early in the Midwest this time of year. Long before many parents are home from work, the shadows creep up the walls and gather in the corners, while on the carpet a little figure sprawls in the glow emanating from an anchorman’s tan. There’s been a murder in the Loop, a fire in a nightclub, an indictment of another priest. Red and white lights swirl in urgent pinwheels as the ambulances howl down the dark streets. And one more crime that never gets reported, because there’s no one to arrest. Who killed childhood? We all did.”

“As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”

Violence has always been a part of the human condition because of our sin nature (Rom. 3:23). But modern families are exposed to even more violence than previous generations because of the media. Any night of the week, the average viewer can see levels of violence approaching and even exceeding the Roman Gladiator games.

Does this have an effect? Certainly it does. The Bible teaches that “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). What we view and what we think about affects our actions.

Defenders of television programs say that isn’t true. They contend that televised imagery doesn’t make people violent nor does it make people callous to suffering. But if televised imagery doesn’t affect human behavior, then the TV networks should refund billions of advertising dollars to TV sponsors.

In essence, TV executives are talking out of both sides of their mouths. On the one hand, they try to convince advertisers that a 30-second commercial can influence consumer behavior. On the other hand, they deny that a one-hour program wrapped around the commercials can influence social behavior.

So, how violent is the media? And what impact does media have on members of our family? First, we will look at violence in the movies, and then we’ll take up the issue of violence on television.

Ezra Pound once said that artists are “the antennae of the race.” If that is so, then we are a very sick society judging by the latest fare of violence in the movies. The body count is staggering: 32 people are killed in “RoboCop,” while 81 are killed in the sequel; 264 are killed in “Die Hard 2,” and the film “Silence of the Lambs” deals with a psychopath who murders women and skins them.

Who would have imagined just a few years ago that the top grossing films would be replete with blood, gore, and violence? No wonder some film critics now say that the most violent place on earth is the Hollywood set.

Violence has always been a part of movie-making, but until recently, really violent movies were only seen by the fringe of mass culture. Violence now has gone mainstream. Bloody films are being watched by more than just punk rockers. Family station wagons and vans pull up to movie theaters showing R-rated slasher films. And middle America watches these same programs a few months later on cable TV or on video. Many of the movies seen at home wouldn’t have been shown in theaters 10-20 years ago.

Movie violence these days is louder, bloodier, and more anatomically precise than ever before. When a bad guy was shot in a black-and-white Western, the most we saw was a puff of smoke and a few drops of fake blood. Now the sights, sounds, and special effects often jar us more than the real thing. Slow motion, pyrotechnics, and a penchant for leaving nothing to the imagination all conspire to make movies and TV shows more gruesome than ever.

Children especially confront an increasingly violent world with few limits. As concerned parents and citizens we must do what we can to reduce the level of violence in our society through the wise use of discernment and public policy. We need to set limits both in our homes and in the community.

Does Media Violence Really Influence Human Behavior?

Children’s greatest exposure to violence comes from television. TV shows, movies edited for television, and video games expose young children to a level of violence unimaginable just a few years ago. The average child watches 8,000 televised murders and 100,000 acts of violence before finishing elementary school. That number more than doubles by the time he or she reaches age 18.

The violent content of TV includes more than just the 22 minute programs sent down by the networks. At a very young age, children are seeing a level of violence and mayhem that in the past may have only been witnessed by a few police officers and military personnel. TV brings hitting, kicking, stabbings, shootings, and dismemberment right into homes on a daily basis.

The impact on behavior is predictable. Two prominent Surgeon General reports in the last two decades link violence on television and aggressive behavior in children and teenagers. In addition, the National Institute of Mental Health issued a 94-page report entitled, “Television and Behavior: Ten Years of Scientific Progress and Implications for the Eighties.” They found “overwhelming” scientific evidence that “excessive” violence on television spills over into the playground and the streets. In one five-year study of 732 children, “several kinds of aggression– conflicts with parents, fighting and delinquency–were all positively correlated with the total amount of television viewing.”

Long-term studies are even more disturbing. University of Illinois psychologist Leonard Eron studied children at age eight and then again at eighteen. He found that television habits established at the age of eight influenced aggressive behavior through childhood and adolescent years. The more violent the programs preferred by boys in the third grade, the more aggressive their behavior, both at that time and ten years later. He therefore concluded that “the effect of television violence on aggression is cumulative.”

Twenty years later Eron and Rowell Huesmann found the pattern continued. He and his researchers found that children who watched significant amounts of TV violence at the age of 8 were consistently more likely to commit violent crimes or engage in child or spouse abuse at 30.

They concluded “that heavy exposure to televised violence is one of the causes of aggressive behavior, crime and violence in society. Television violence affects youngsters of all ages, of both genders, at all socioeconomic levels and all levels of intelligence.”

Since their report in the 1980s, MTV has come on the scene with even more troubling images. Adolescents already listen to an estimated 10,500 hours of rock music between the 7th and 12th grades. Now they also spend countless hours in front of MTV seeing the visual images of rock songs that depict violence, rebellion, sadomasochism, the occult, drug abuse, and promiscuity. MTV reaches 57 million cable households, and its video images are even more lurid than the ones shown on regular TV. Music videos filled with sex, rape, murder, and other images of mayhem assault the senses. And MTV cartoons like Beavis and “the other guy” assault the sensibilities while enticing young people to start fires and commit other acts of violence. Critics count 18 acts of violence in each hour of MTV videos.

Violent images on television and in the movies do contribute to greater violence in society. Sociological studies along with common sense dictate that we do something to reduce the violence in the media before it further damages society.

Television Promotes Not Only Violence But Fear As Well.

Children see thousands of TV murders every year. And the impact on behavior is predictable. Various reports by the Surgeon General in the last two decades link violence on television and aggressive behavior in children and teenagers. In addition, the National Institute of Mental Health issued a 94-page report entitled, “Television and Behavior: Ten Years of Scientific Progress and Implications for the Eighties.” They found “overwhelming” scientific evidence that “excessive” violence on television spills over into the playground and the streets. In one five-year study of 732 children, “several kinds of aggression (such as conflicts with parents, fighting and delinquency) were all positively correlated with the total amount of television viewing.”

Confronted with such statistics, many parents respond that their children aren’t allowed to watch violent programs. Such action is commendable, but some of the greatest dangers of television are more subtle and insidious. It now appears that simply watching television for long periods can manipulate your view of the world– whether the content is particularly violent or not.

George Gerbner and Larry Gross working at the Annenberg School of Communications in the 1970s found that heavy TV viewers live in a scary world. “We have found that people who watch a lot of TV see the real world as more dangerous and frightening than those who watch very little. Heavy viewers are less trustful of their fellow citizens, and more fearful of the real world.”

So heavy viewers were less trustful and more fearful than the average citizen. But what constitutes a heavy viewer. Gerber and Gross defined heavy viewers as those adults who watch an average of four or more hours of television a day. Approximately one-third of all American adults fit that category.

They found that violence on prime-time TV exaggerated heavy viewers’ fears about the threat of danger in the real world. Heavy viewers, for example, were less likely to trust someone than light viewers. Heavy viewers also tended to overestimate their likelihood of being involved in a violent crime.

And if this is true of adults, imagine how much TV violence affects children’s perception of the world. Gerbner and Gross say, “Imagine spending six hours a day at the local movie house when you were 12 years old. No parent would have permitted it. Yet, in our sample of children, nearly half the 12-year-olds watch an average of six or more hours of television per day.” This would mean that a large portion of young people fit into the category of heavy viewers. Their view of the world must be profoundly shaped by TV. Gerbner and Gross therefore conclude: “If adults can be so accepting of the reality of television, imagine its effect on children. By the time the average American child reaches public school, he has already spent several years in an electronic nursery school.”

Television violence affects both adults and children in subtle ways. While we may not personally feel or observe the effects of TV violence, we should not ignore the growing body of data that suggests that televised imagery does affect our perception and behavior.

Obviously something must be done. Parents, programmers, and general citizens must take responsible actions to prevent the increasing violence in our society. Violent homes, violence on television, violence in the movies, violence in the schools all contribute to the increasingly violent society we live in. We have a responsibility to make a difference and apply the appropriate principles in order to help stem the tide of violence in our society.

Some Suggestions for Dealing with Violence in the Media

Christians must address this issue of violence in our society. Here are a number of specific suggestions for dealing with violence.

1. Learn about the impact of violence in our society. Share this material with your pastor, elders, deacons, and church members. Help them understand how important this issue is to them and their community.

2. Create a safe environment. Families live in the midst of violence. We must make our homes safe for our families. A child should feel that his or her world is safe. Providing care and protection are obvious first steps. But parents must also establish limits, provide emotional security, and teach values and virtue in the home.

3. Parents should limit the amount of media exposure in their homes. The average young person sees entirely too much violence on TV and at the movies. Set limits to what a child watches, and evaluate both the quantity and quality of their media input (Rom. 12:2). Focus on what is pure, beautiful, true, right, honorable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8).

4. Watch TV with children. Obviously we should limit the amount of TV our children watch. But when they watch television, we should try to watch it with them. We can encourage discussion with children during the programs. The plots and actions of the programs provides a natural context for discussion and teach important principles about relationships and violence. The discussion could focus on how cartoon characters or TV actors could solve their problems without resorting to violence. TV often ignores the consequences of violence. What are the consequences in real life?

5. Develop children’s faith and trust in God. Children at an early age instinctively trust their parents. As the children grow, parents should work to develop their child’s trust in God. God is sovereign and omnipotent. Children should learn to trust Him in their lives and depend upon Him to watch over them and keep them safe.

6. Discuss the reasons for pain and suffering in the world. We live in the fallen world (Gen. 3), and even those who follow God will encounter pain, suffering, and violence. Bad things do happen to good people.

7. Teach vigilance without hysteria. By talking about the dangers in society, some parents have instilled fear–even terror– in their children. We need to balance our discussions with them and not make them hysterical. Kids have been known to become hysterical if a car comes down their street or if someone looks at them.

8. Work to establish broadcaster guidelines. No TV or movie producer wants to unilaterally disarm all the actors on their screens out of fear that viewers will watch other programs and movies. Yet many of these same TV and movie producers would like to tone down the violence, but they don’t want to be the first to do so. National standards would be able to achieve what individuals would not do by themselves in a competitive market.

Violence is the scourge of our society, but we can make a difference. We must educate ourselves about its influence and impact on our lives. Please feel free to write or call Probe Ministries for more information on this topic. And then take time to apply the principles developed here to make a difference in your home and community. You can help stem the tide of violence in our society.


©1995 Probe Ministries

The Teen Sexual Revolution – Abstinence Programs Are The Only Biblical Response

Kerby Anderson considers the real problems created by the new American attitude extolling the virtues of teen sexual activity.  He examines the effectiveness of various programs designed to stem the tide of teen sexual activity.  He concludes the only reasonable approach is teaching the reasons for and benefits of abstinence prior to marriage.

One of the low points in television history occurred September 25, 1991. The program was “Doogie Howser, M.D.” This half-hour TV show, aimed at preteen and teenage kids, focused on the trials and tribulations of an 18-year-old child prodigy who graduated from medical school and was in the midst of medical practice. Most programs dealt with the problems of being a kid in an adult’s profession. But on September 25 the “problem” Doogie Howser confronted was the fact that he was still a virgin.

Advance publicity drove the audience numbers to unanticipated levels. Millions of parents, teenagers, and pajama-clad kids sat down in front of their televisions to watch Doogie Howser and his girlfriend Wanda deal with his “problem.” Twenty minutes into the program, they completed the act. Television ratings went through the roof. Parents and advertisers should have as well.

What is wrong with this picture? Each day approximately 7700 teenagers relinquish their virginity. In the process, many will become pregnant and many more will contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Already 1 in 4 Americans have an STD, and this percentage is increasing each year. Weren’t the producers of “Doogie Howser, M.D.” aware that teenage pregnancy and STDs are exploding in the population? Didn’t they stop and think of the consequences of portraying virginity as a “problem” to be rectified? Why weren’t parents and advertisers concerned about the message this program was sending?

Perhaps the answer is the trite, age-old refrain “everybody’s doing it.” Every television network and nearly every TV program deals with sensuality. Sooner or later the values of every other program were bound to show up on a TV program aimed at preteens and teenagers. In many ways the media is merely reflecting a culture that was transformed by a sexual revolution of values. Sexually liberal elites have hijacked our culture by seizing control of two major arenas. The first is the entertainment media (television, movies, rock music, MTV). The second is the area of sex education (sex education classes and school- based clinics). These two forces have transformed the social landscape of America and made promiscuity a virtue and virginity a “problem” to be solved.

The Teenage Sexuality Crisis

We face a teenage sexuality crisis in America. Consider these alarming statistics of children having children. A New York Times article reported: “Some studies indicate three-fourths of all girls have had sex during their teenage years and 15 percent have had four or more partners.” A Lou Harris poll commissioned by Planned Parenthood discovered that 46 percent of 16-year-olds and 57 percent of 17-year-olds have had sexual intercourse.

Former Secretary of Education William Bennett in speaking to the National School Board Association warned that “The statistics by which we measure how our children how our boys and girls are treating one another sexually are little short of staggering.” He found that more than one-half of America’s young people have had sexual intercourse by the time they are seventeen. He also found that more than one million teenage girls in the U.S. become pregnant each year. Of those who give birth, nearly half are not yet eighteen.

“These numbers,” William Bennett concluded, “are an irrefutable indictment of sex education’s effectiveness in reducing teenage sexual activity and pregnancies.” Moreover, these numbers are not skewed by impoverished, inner city youths from broken homes. One New York polling firm posed questions to 1300 students in 16 high schools in suburban areas in order to get a reading of “mainstream” adolescent attitudes. They discovered:


  • 57% lost virginity in high school
  • 79% lost virginity by the end of college
  • 16.9 average age for sex
  • 33% of high school students had sex once a month to once a week
  • 52% of college students had sex once a month to once a week.

Kids are trying sex at an earlier age than ever before. More than a third of 15-year-old boys have had sexual intercourse as have 27 percent of the 15-year-old girls. Among sexually active teenage girls, 61 percent have had multiple partners. The reasons for such early sexual experimentation are many.

Biology is one reason. Teenagers are maturing faster sexually due to better health and nutrition. Since the turn of the century, for example, the onset of menstruation in girls has dropped three months each decade. Consequently, urges that used to arise in the mid-teens now explode in the early teens. Meanwhile the typical age of first marriage has risen more than four years since the 1950s.

A sex-saturated society is another reason. Sex is used to sell everything from cars to toothpaste. Sexual innuendos clutter most every TV program and movie. And explicit nudity and sensuality that used to be reserved for R-rated movies has found it way into the home through broadcast and cable television. Media researchers calculate that teenagers see approximately five hours of TV a day. This means that they see each year nearly 14,000 sexual encounters on television alone.

Lack of parental supervision and direction is a third reason. Working parents and reductions in after-school programs have left teenagers with less supervision and a looser after-school life. In the inner city, the scarcity of jobs and parents coupled with a cynical view of the future invites teenage promiscuity and its inevitable consequences. Adolescent boys in the suburbs trying to prove their masculinity, herd into groups like the infamous score- keeping Spur Posse gang in California.

Even when teenagers want to sit out the sexual revolution, they often get little help from parents who may be too embarrassed or intimidated to talk to their children. Parents, in fact, often lag behind their kids in sexual information. At one sex-education workshop held by Girls Inc. (formerly Girls Club of America), nearly half of the mothers had never seen a condom. Other mothers did not want to talk about sex because they were molested as children and were fearful of talking about sex with their daughters.

Teenagers are also getting mixed messages. In any given week, they are likely to hear contradictory messages. “No sex until you’re married.” “No sex unless you’re older.” “No sex unless you’re protected.” “No sex unless you’re in love.” No wonder adolescents are confused.

The Report Card on Sex Education

For more than thirty years proponents of comprehensive sex education have told us that giving sexual information to young children and adolescents will reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. In that effort nearly $3 billion has been spent on federal Title X family planning services, yet teenage pregnancies and abortions rise.

Perhaps one of the most devastating popular critiques of comprehensive sex education came from Barbara Dafoe Whitehead. The journalist who said that Dan Quayle was right also was willing to say that sex education was wrong. Her article in the October 1994 issue of Atlantic Monthly entitled “The Failure of Sex Education” demonstrated that sex education neither reduced pregnancy nor slowed the spread of STDs.

Comprehensive sex education is mandated in at least 17 states, so Whitehead chose one state and focused her analysis on the sex education experiment in New Jersey. Like other curricula the New Jersey sex education program rests on certain questionable assumptions.

The first tenet is that children are “sexual from birth.” Sex educators reject the classic notion of a latency period until approximately age twelve. They argue that you are “being sexual when you throw your arms around your grandpa and give him a hug.”

Second, sex educators hold that children are sexually miseducated. Parents, in their view, have simply not done their job, so we need “professionals” to do it right. Parents try to protect their children, fail to affirm their sexuality, and even discuss sexuality in a context of moralizing. The media, they say, is also guilty of providing sexual misinformation.

Third, if miseducation is the problem, then sex education in the schools is the solution. Parents are failing miserably at the task, so “it is time to turn the job over to the schools. Schools occupy a safe middle ground between Mom and MTV.”

Learning About Family Life is the curriculum used in New Jersey. While it discusses such things as sexual desire, AIDS, divorce, condoms, and masturbation, it nearly ignores such issues as abstinence, marriage, self-control, and virginity. One technique promoted to prevent pregnancy and STDs is noncoital sex, or what some sex educators call outercourse. Yet there is good evidence to suggest that teaching teenagers to explore their sexuality through noncoital techniques will lead to coitus. Ultimately, outercourse will lead to intercourse.

Whitehead concludes that comprehensive sex education has been a failure. For example, the percent of teenage births to unwed mothers was 67 percent in 1980 and rose to 84 percent in 1991. In the place of this failed curriculum, Whitehead describes a better program. She found that “sex education works best when it combines clear messages about behavior with strong moral and logistical support for the behavior sought.” One example she cites is the Postponing Sexual Involvement program at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, which offers more than a “Just Say No” message. It reinforces the message by having adolescents practice the desired behavior and enlists the aid of older teenagers to teach younger teenagers how to resist sexual advances. Whitehead also found that “religiously observant teens” are less likely to experiment sexually, thus providing an opportunity for church-related programs to stem the tide of teenage pregnancy. The results of Whitehead’s research are clear: abstinence is still the best form of sex education.

Is “Safe Sex” Really Safe?

At the 1987 World Congress of Sexologists, Theresa Crenshaw asked the audience, “If you had the available partner of your dreams and knew that person carried HIV, how many of you would have sex depending on a condom for your protection?” When they were asked for a show of hands, none of the 800 members of the audience indicated that they would trust the condoms. If condoms do not eliminate the fear of HIV-infection for sexologists and sex educators, why do we encourage the children of America to play STD Russian Roulette?

Are condoms a safe and effective way to reduce pregnancy and STDs? To listen to sex educators you would think so. Every day sex education classes throughout this country promote condoms as a means of safe sex or at least safer sex. But the research on condoms provides no such guarantee.

For example, Texas researcher Susan Weller writing in the 1993 issue of Social Science Medicine, evaluated all research published prior to July 1990 on condom effectiveness. She reported that condoms are only 87 percent effective in preventing pregnancy and 69 percent effective in reducing the risk of HIV infection. This translates into a 31 failure rate in preventing AIDS transmission. And according to a study in the 1992 Family Planning Perspectives, 15 percent of married couples who use condoms for birth control end up with an unplanned pregnancy within the first year.

So why has condom distribution become the centerpiece of the U.S. AIDS policy and the most frequently promoted aspect of comprehensive sex education? For many years, the answer to that question was an a priori commitment to condoms and a safe sex message over an abstinence message. But in recent years, sex educators and public health officials have been pointing to one study which appeared to vindicate the condom policy.

The study was presented at the Ninth International Conference on AIDS held in Berlin on June 9, 1993. The study involved 304 couples with one partner who was HIV positive. Of the 123 couples who used condoms with each act of sexual intercourse, not a single negative HIV partner became positive. So proponents of condom distribution thought they had scientific vindication for their views.

Unfortunately that is not the whole story. Condoms do appear to be effective in stopping the spread of AIDS when used “correctly and consistently.” Most individuals, however, do not use them “correctly and consistently.” What happens to them? Well, it turns out that part of the study received much less attention. Of 122 couples who could not be taught to use condoms properly, 12 became HIV positive in both partners. Undoubtably over time, even more partners would contract AIDS.

How well does this study apply to the general population? I would argue the couples in the study group were quite dissimilar from the general population. For example, they knew the HIV status of their spouse and therefore had a vested interest in protecting themselves. They were responsible partners and in a committed monogamous relationship. In essence, their actions and attitudes differ dramatically from teenagers and single adults who do not know the HIV status of their partners, are often reckless, and have multiple sexual partners.

Contrary to popular belief, condoms are not as reliable as public health pronouncements might lead you to think. Abstinence is still the only safe sex.

Only Abstinence-Only Programs Really Work

Less than a decade ago, an abstinence-only program was rare in the public schools. Today directive abstinence programs can be found in many school districts while battles are fought in other school districts for their inclusion or removal. While proponents of abstinence programs run for school board or influence existing school board members, groups like Planned Parenthood bring lawsuits against districts that use abstinence-based curricula arguing that they are inaccurate or incomplete. At least a dozen abstinence- based curricula are on the market, with the largest being Sex Respect (Bradley, Illinois) and Teen-Aid (Spokane, Washington).

The emergence of abstinence-only programs as an alternative to comprehensive sex education programs was due to both popularity and politics. Parents concerned about the ineffectiveness of the safe sex message eagerly embraced the message of abstinence. And political funding helped spread the message and legitimize its educational value. The Adolescent Family Life Act enacted in 1981 by the Reagan Administration created Title XX and set aside $2 million a year for the development and implementation of abstinence-based programs. Although the Clinton Administration later cut funding for abstinence programs, the earlier funding in the 1980s helped groups like Sex Respect and Teen-Aid launch abstinence programs in the schools.

Parents and children have embraced the abstinence message in significant numbers. One national poll by the University of Chicago found that 68 percent of adults surveyed said premarital sex among teenagers is “always wrong.” A 1994 poll for USA Weekend asked more than 1200 teens and adults what they thought of “several high profile athletes [who] are saying in public that they have abstained from sex before marriage and are telling teens to do the same.” Seventy-two percent of the teens and 78 percent of the adults said they agree with the pro-abstinence message.

Their enthusiasm for abstinence-only education is well founded. Even though the abstinence message has been criticized by some as naive or inadequate, there are good reasons to promote abstinence in schools and society.

1. Teenagers want to learn about abstinence. Contrary to the often repeated teenage claim, not “everyone’s doing it.” A 1992 study by the Centers for Disease Control found that 43 percent of teenagers (age 14 to 17) had engaged in sexual intercourse at least once. Put another way, the latest surveys suggest that a majority of teenagers are not doing it.

2. Abstinence prevents pregnancy. Proponents of abstinence-only programs argue that it will significantly lower the teenage pregnancy rate and cited lots of anecdotes and statistics to make their case. For example, the San Marcos Junior High in San Marcos, California, adopted an abstinence-only program developed by Teen- Aid. The curriculum dropped the school’s pregnancy rate from 147 to 20 within a two-year period. An abstinence-only program for girls in Washington, D.C., has seen only one of 400 girls become pregnant.

3. Abstinence prevents sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). After more than three decades, the sexual revolution has taken lots of prisoners. Before 1960 there were only two STDs that doctors were concerned about: syphilis and gonorrhea. Today, there are more than 20 significant STDs ranging from the relatively harmless to the fatal. Twelve million Americans are newly infected each year, and 63 percent of these new infections are in people less than 25 years old. Eighty percent of those infected with an STD have absolutely no symptoms.

The conclusion is simple: abstinence is the only truly safe sex.


©1995 Probe Ministries.