Uncategorized

An Interview with Jeffery J. Ventrella on SCOTUS, Roe, the Current State of Law Schools, and ADF Victories



Jeffery J. Ventrella, J.D., Ph.D. is Senior Counsel and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs & Training for the Alliance Defending Freedom and CCL’s Distinguished Fellow of Law and Culture.

Since the philosophical complexion of the Court has changed since the confirmation of the three Trump appointees, is the Court likely to take up cases it otherwise wouldn’t? How will this changed philosophical complexion alter the direction of the Court?

The Court accepts only a fraction of the cases for which review is sought. Many factors contribute to the Court’s decision to review a matter, aside from the Court’s philosophical make up: what’s the Court’s current work load, does the matter provide a suitable “vehicle” for addressing an issue, are the lower courts split as to the particular issue, is the issue of significant national and constitutional interest, et al. How particular justices interpret the Constitution or an implicated statute, that is, their judicial philosophy, says nothing regarding these factors.

Moreover, it takes four votes to grant review, yet often for prudential reasons, justices interested in granting review will not vote to do so unless they believe they would garner a fifth vote on the matter — in other words, if the appeal would only reinforce what the four think is “bad law,” then granting review is counterproductive. That said, the individual justices’ philosophical make-up can “nudge” the Court to examine fresh areas like religious liberty and life and these areas or interest are often signaled in the certain justices’ dissenting or concurring opinions. One example of this is in the COVID-19 church shutdown cases. The Supreme Court had repeatedly denied review in cases until new justices were confirmed to the Court.

The Dobbs case (Mississippi) has the potential to overturn Roe v Wade. What are the chances of that happening?

While there are no crystal balls for predicting what will happen and overruling a prior decision is a high bar given the power of precedent, in this case, the acknowledged lack of any constitutional justification from both Left and Right legal scholars should boost the chances of overrulingRoe, and the oral argument contained several encouraging interactions with the justices that align with overruling Roe. Here, the Court should prefer “right” to “decided.”

From a conservative Christian standpoint, what is the state of mainstream legal training in the U. S.?

Legal education today is a trade school imparting some basic analytic and practical skills, but it is also often an indoctrination device that precludes serious thought and discussion about the bigger “why” questions concerning law’s nature, the constitution’s underlying worldview, text, structure, and history, and its object, the human person and his flourishing.  Until we get “human” right, we will never get “human rights” right.

The jurisprudence or theory of law underpinning legal education is latent, but powerful and flows not from a fidelity to the democratically enacted text of statutes or our Constitution nor an objective moral tradition like natural law or related concepts, but from legal positivism, legal realism, critical legal studies, and critical race theory.  Rarely, are these driving forces acknowledged, let alone examined, and instead, they are merely assumed.

In fact, non-Christian scholar, Roger Cramton, decades ago called legal education in America a “religion,” this “religion” has only gotten more radical and bold since Cramton penned this article in 1978.

What are some of the cases ADF is arguing and what are some of your recent victories?

303 Creative – The Supreme Court recently granted review in 303 Creative, an important case that will determine whether a state under the guise of nondiscrimination laws can force creative professionals to speak contrary to their sincerely held religious convictions. The free speech rights of all people who wish to run their businesses in line with their faith are implicated.

Bethel Ministries v. Salmon: On December 10, the district court granted summary judgment in Bethel’s favor, ruling that Maryland violated the school’s free speech rights when it revoked the school’s eligibility to participate in a voucher program based on its religious beliefs.

Albemarle County

Seattle Union Gospel Mission

Meriwether

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Uncategorized

David L. Bahnsen on the Economics of War

I asked David to prognosticate the likely effects of the Russia-Ukraine war, and particularly the Western sanctions, on Russia, Ukraine, and the United States. His response is below. David is CCL’s Senior Fellow of Economics and Finance; Managing Partner and Chief Investment Officer of The Bahnsen Group, a wealth management firm based in Newport Beach, California; and has been named as one of Forbes Top 250 Advisors, Financial Times’ Top 300 Advisors in America, and Barron’s America’s Top 1200 Advisors.

For Russia, the economic consequences will be devastating. No amount of exports to China or imports from China will make up for their lost output of goods, and China cannot sell them anywhere near what they have been cut off from buying from the rest of the world. It is highly unlikely China will remain interested in getting paid in collapsed rubles for what Russia does buy from them, either. The trade consequences to Russia (in her role as a buyer and seller) are devastating. But most importantly, Russia’s access to her foreign reserves through the cutoff of central bank transactions puts Russia on a life line before she, well, goes broke. $640 billion of excess reserves essentially became $190 billion of excess reserves the second the central bank was cut off. This is a severe but not immediately fatal act that will play out in the weeks and months to come.

For Ukraine the consequences are obvious – significant uncertainty, reliance on foreign aid, erosion of imports and tourism, and massive wealth destruction out of the violence and destruction of war.

And for the United States, the only substantive implication in the short term is the exacerbation of supply/demand imbalance in global oil leading to higher commodity price inflation (the same can be said of several agricultural imports like wheat). This is not a reference to a new event but rather an acceleration of an already-in-motion event. It may very well turn into the catalyst that reforms beltway thinking about American oil and gas. Longer term, it is fair to wonder if some foreign countries may worry about the U.S. doing to their foreign reserves what we have done to China, and other countries becoming afraid of leaving foreign exchange reserves in dollars. But that is a ways off, and a likely needed trade-off to our geopolitical strategy, here.

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Uncategorized

Can You Help CCL by 11:59 Tonight?

Dear friends and supporters,

I hope that you enjoyed your most rewarding Christmas in your life.

You likely know that many Christian ministries and other charities derive a bulk of their annual income in December due to the year-end cut-off for tax-deductible donations. CCL is no exception. 

Many of you have already sent a sizable donation this year’s end, and I’m deeply thankful; but if you haven’t, would you prayerfully consider a gift of any size? Any amount helps.

You can donate via PayPalor Venmo by 11:59 tonight.

Or just mail a check to CCL, Box 100, Coulterville, CA 95311 postmarked no later than today.

While much of the world is bemoaning 2021, for CCL, God is bringing the year to a triumphant conclusion — and he’s used you to do that.

May God rain down his blessings on you and your family in 2022.

Yours for the reigning King,

Founder & President, Center for Cultural Leadership

PayPal donation here.

Venmo donation here.

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Church, Culture, Uncategorized

Thoughts on Self-Respecting Manhood and the Use of Public Language, by Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is Pastor of Lifespring Church, Crosby, Minnesota

I Corinthians 16:13….”act like men”.

There is something which has struck me over the past couple of years, as it relates to men in our culture. That is, the jettisoning of manly self-respect in what is said and what is not said public-ally. I think, by both common grace and saving grace (as a Christian has received), there is a distinction in the language of manhood on how we see ourselves and the world around us. There are things which are unmanly, necessarily including both the tone and content of our speech.

Over the past generation, through the unrelenting assault upon men, the result has been an increasing men who seem to be willing to public ally emasculate themselves in their talk. There seems to be a void of self-respect as related to being a man, in our dress but also, particular to this post, in our language. For example, here are some types of statements and tones I have noticed that my conscience recoils against and will not allow me to mimic or pass on in any way.

  1. I cannot give public “COVID” safety lectures (as written by the safety czars) beyond the basic reiteration of “use common sense.” I cannot lie nor repeat manipulative narratives regarding love or safety.
  2. I cannot make generalizations based upon a person’s ethnicity.
  3. I cannot use straw-men to gain authority, particularly when clarity is called for.
  4. I cannot make general public apologies according the law and language of the culture.
  5. I cannot use therapeutic language of “brokenness” “Lament,” “trauma,” or “toxic masculinity” to describe problems and solutions
  6. I cannot, as a pastor (and as a man) virtue signal via using the language of “weeping” or “lament” or “mourning” about general cultural situations in which I am not directly involved.
  7. I cannot use and will not sing effeminate, breathy songs in public worship.

Call me a product of toxic masculinity. There is woke-type of language which I, fundamentally, as a man, recoil against and cannot participate in, and when I see other men (particularly pastors) doing these things public ally, it screams as phony, insincere, and deceitful. Conversely, I have noticed that when a man turns to Christ Jesus and begins to willingly and consciously take real responsibility, facing his fears, his language changes to simple, clear, bold, nuanced; in summation: Manly.

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Culture, Uncategorized

A Brilliant, Profound, Complex Credo on Covid and Liberty

If you want to get vaxxed, get vaxxed. If you don’t want to get vaxxed, don’t get vaxxed.

If you want to wear a mask, wear one. If you don’t want to wear a mask, don’t.

If you want to stay 6 feet away from people all the time, do that.

If you don’t want to do that, don’t.

If you want to avoid establishments that don’t maintain the Covid protocols you prefer, don’t frequent those establishments.

If this doesn’t matter to you, by all means, frequent those establishments.

Whatever you do, don’t try to enlist politicians and other coercive do-gooders to impose your own personal preferences on everybody else.

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Bible, Sanctification, Uncategorized

Some on Broken Pieces, by Salle J. Sandlin

Of the many hundreds of articles my late godly mother wrote, none has moved me as deeply as this one.

If you feel your life is an irreversible series of hardships and disasters, this article is for you.


“And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land.”Acts 27:44

It is possible for broken things in our lives to rescue us in the end.

Every time I read this story in the life of Paul the Apostle, as recounted by his companion and physician, Luke, the whole near-death experience comes alive in my imagination. I see it all: the storm and wind, the waves, the crumbling, fragmenting ship; I hear the cries of despair and anguish and the one, lone voice shouting, “Be of good cheer, for I believe God!” Luke says that miraculously all them reached land, by either swimming, hanging onto boards from the ship, or against all odds,” clutching only mere pieces of the ship. Can you imagine how terrifying that must have been? I can. A splintered piece of wood is not much to hang onto, but I would remind you again, they all reached land.

The Christian life has often been compared to a ship voyage in both song and verse. Paul talks about Christians who are “…tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine…” (Eph. 4:14). The great old gospel song, “Ship Ahoy” starts, “I was drifting away on life’s pitiless sea/And the angry waves threatened my ruin to be…” And I used to sing a rousing song of triumph by Ira Stanphill, that announced, “This old ship is tossing and turning/But I’m gonna make it through somehow.” It would seem to me, as in the story of Paul’s shipwreck, all reach that “heavenly shore” by the miracle of salvation through Jesus Christ, but some reach it clinging to broken pieces of their ship.

There are those who experience the ravages of broken health, so often the case in later life. At one time they were robust, vigorous, and untiring. Now they greet the nights with dread, and the mornings with foreboding. The normal winds and waves of life they handled quite well for so many years now seem unmanageable.

Others may suffer from a broken heart. Someone they loved was taken from them, either by distance or death. Or perhaps they were betrayed and cast aside by one in whom they placed great trust. The waves that sweep over them are filled with sadness and hurt; and they feel as bereft as Job, without family or friends.

Still others feel crushed with the aftermath of a broken reputation. They were sailing along in the breeze of praise and recognition, examples of usefulness and victory. Then came a gross “fall from grace.” Then the praise was turned to pity and the recognition to rejection, leaving only the sad epithet: “Their life is a shipwreck.”

Finally (and this is common after the last broken experience), there are those who suffer the agony of a broken faith, or a shipwrecked faith, as Paul refers to it in 1 Timothy 1:19. “What’s the use? Is any of it real? Once their faith was strong and their assurance complete, but now clouds of doubt sweep over their souls and minds. Disappointment in themselves and others has led to disappointment in God and mistrust in His love as well as His claims.

To all of these broken souls, I point us to our story, and the promise that they “escaped all safe to land.” God didn’t have to tell us that some reached there under better circumstances than others…but He did. I think He wanted those with broken health to know that God’s grace, mercy, and comfort of the Scriptures, would be enough to gently carry them the whole way home. He wanted saints with broken hearts to know they could cling to the Lover of their souls, who promised, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5). And the baggage of a broken reputation can be thrown overboard in time, by repentance and forgiveness. Ask Rahab, Mary Magdalene, and Peter. Oh, and even broken faith can be revived and repaired! Don’t forget, Jesus referred to His own disciples at one point as “ye of little faith,” and even faith “as a grain of mustard seed” (Matt. 17;20) can move mountains!

There are those who seem to have a prosperous and sunny voyage all the way home, with few storms. But not many, I’ll wager. To the rest of us I say, those “broken pieces of the ship” in our lives are well able to buoy us all the way home to Glory.

Don’t lament them; latch onto them!

–Salle J Sandlin (1943-2017)

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Church, Holy Spirit, Theology, Uncategorized

Prayer Changes Things, and Prayer Changed Me

A short autobiographical message on the power of prayer to change a life.

Listen here.


Also:

One striking difference between our Christian forebears and us is their repeated emphasis on prayer and our comparative de-emphasis of it. They prayed frequently and fervently. We pray infrequently and languidly. They called prayer meetings. We call staff meetings. They had revival and reformation. We have apathy and apostasy. A leading reason for these distinctions is that they were inclined to believe what God said about prayer. We are often less confident in God’s word when it comes to his promises about prayer. A blunter way to say this is: we commit the sin of unbelief. Prayer changes things. When we pray, we are asking God to change things. And when he answers our prayer, he does change things. This brings us to a most telling fact that we don’t often consider: if we are perfectly willing to accept the way things are as God’s unchangeable will, we will never be people of prayer.

Get the ebook here.


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Culture, politics, Theology

Cultural Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is an alleged mental malady in which one’s behavior is stamped by alternations of a period of euphoria, energy, and ecstasy, with a period of moroseness, withdrawal, and languidness. It is often treated by medications. Whether an actual clinical condition or not, all of us have known individuals suffering from what is termed bipolar disorder.

A. J. Conyers’ The Long Truce: How Toleration Made the World Safe for Power and Profit[1] makes the intriguing suggestion that John Locke’s view of political and religious toleration that made such an impact on the modern West (not least on the United States) created a bipolar society that has led, despite his best intentions, to our present social disorder: a cultural bipolar disorder.

Two Poles: The State and the Individual

The two poles of society  are the individual and the state. This bipolar society was unprecedented before modernity. In most of the ancient and medieval worlds, society was comprised of individuals all committed to several interlocking and interdependent institutions, what we today term “civil society.” The most important were the family and church. Others included the guild and the local community. Individuals were also political citizens, of course, but the state was merely one institution among several, and in some ways the least important (though most coercive), since it was the only one that was artificially constructed.

The family, for example, was a given, a natural institution without which life was impossible. The church was a supernatural institution, created by the triune God as the indispensable public assembly of his blood-washed people. This means that individuals participated in numerous institutions concurrently, each of which fulfilled its own distinctive role and demanded its own loyalty of its members. Society was multi-polar, not bipolar.

Locke and others (including especially the French Romantic thinker Rousseau) believed that these pre-political institutions constituted a threat to social tolerance and stability since they demanded a devotion that conflicted with the devotion to other people’s families and churches. After all, the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648), fought largely between Roman Catholics and Protestants and in Great Britain also between High Churchmen and Puritans, had left its bloody carnage all over Europe.

Locke and other thinkers wanted to propose a society in which intensity of religious belief in particular was mitigated and the state was empowered to forbid religious persecution by remaining neutral in religion (an impossibility, since some religion, even if it be secularism, will prevail). This could happen only if the chief loyalty of individuals was reserved to the state. Individualism and politics would thereafter govern life. The state didn’t mind individual freedom as long it was expressed individualistically and did not vest too much devotion to the family and church.

Our Disordered Bipolar Culture

With hindsight we know  how socially pernicious this proposal has turned out to be. Almost every social factor of modern life conspires to dilute civil society and embolden the state, always under the guise of liberating the individual from the oppression of the family and church and other “private”[2] institutions.

Children are encouraged to circumvent parental love and authority and create a separate relation with the state, allowing girls to get abortion and both sexes to get vicious, violent “gender reassignment surgery” without parental approval.

Spouses can get a quick and easy “no-fault” divorce. Radical autonomy negates the marital covenant — what’s important is not “signatures on an old piece of paper” but my current desires and aspirations, which might not include my spouse. The state intervenes to collude in the elimination of the marital covenant. The state and the individual alone are the poles.

The church, in addition, is considered “non-essential” during draconian Covid lockdowns because the state insists on an unmediated relation to the health (or supposed health) of individuals. The church as an institution of safety and healing (including in some cases physical healing) simply doesn’t enter the bipolar cultural calculation.

At the heart of the bipolar society is “expressive individualism,” the widespread idea that The Good Life is about “following your heart,” getting plenty of “me time,” and “being authentic.” Before modernity, the good life was defined as knowing your place in God’s order and living there for his glory. Only those who did this could expect to be fulfilled, since the Creator alone knows how best to fulfill his image-bearing creatures.

We have lived to see, in Conyers’ words, “the long-term consequences of a society in which individuals come to think of themselves as free of every bond and every obligation except that of the state.”[3] A society plagued by divorce’s broken families, porn’s objectification of women, abortion’s slaughter of preborn children, homosexuality’s and transgenderism’s inversion of the sexual order, feminism’s purging the woman’s and man’s dignity, and Critical Race Theory’s inciting racism and racial strife exhibit the socially chaotic consequences of bipolar cultural disorder.

Conclusion

Rebuilding Christian culture demands restoring the multi-polar society. We must overturn statism, the notion that there is no social problem for which increased political control isn’t the best solution, that every social problem (poverty, drug addiction, uneducated youth, wealth disparities — or a viral epidemic) is really a political problem that just doesn’t know it yet. Christians in particular must implement and restore the pre-political society. The family and church must again meet most of the needs presently met (inadequately and oppressively) by the state.

For example, healthcare should be de-nationalized. Education should be returned to the family and church and “private” schools. There should be plenty of “social safety nets” — the net of the family and church and friends and neighbors, not the state. The reason those “private”-sector nets are so hole-filled today is that the bipolar cultural disorder resists all competitors; the state must marginalize any institution that competes for its loyalty. This hatred for civil society that so stamped Marxist regimes like the old Soviet Union is equally fierce in the benevolent social dictatorships like the United States.

But just as God exists in community (Trinity) so he created man to exist in community.

And that community dare not be limited to two poles: the state, and the individual.


[1] (Dallas: Spence Publishing, 2001), 137–141. I’m grateful to my friend Dr. Roger Wagner for recommending this book several years ago.

[2] I place “private” in apologetic quotes to highlight the widespread semantic strategy of referring to politics as a “public” good and free markets as a “private” good, as though politics benefits everybody while the free market benefits only a few greedy people caring only for themselves. The opposite is more nearly true: free markets benefit everybody, while politics these days benefits the politically connected.

[3] A. J. Conyers, The Long Truce, 146.

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