Sunday, March 27, 2016

Ethical Easter Eggs

I've been teaching a class on ethics I call Ethics and Moral Reasoning for a group of high schoolers.  Every Easter my family has an Easter egg contest.  Last year I made a group of eggs for my Apologetics and Worldview Class (Here).  Here is this year's selection...

First, our textbook...

Now the eggs...

He is risen!
He is risen, indeed!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Some Thoughts on Salvation from Romans 3.23-25

The doctrine of salvation is rich and glorious.  It is also deep and worthy of our deepest thought.  In Romans 3.23-25 the apostle Paul in a brief manner speaks of some deep theology regarding our salvation.  Here are his words:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by his grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in his blood through faith.

The following diagram may help to unpack the details of these truths:

Notice that there are two arrows going out from Christ.  Christ Jesus redeems us—that is, he purchases us from sin by his blood.  Christ also is the propitiation for our sins.  This means that he takes away our sin so that the wrath of God is appeased and that we are no longer the recipients of this wrath.  The arrow from the Father speaks of our justification.  God declares us “not guilty”—a legal verdict—based on the work of Christ.  Of special note is that there are no lines coming from us.  We receive these blessings of salvation by faith—we do nothing to earn them.

The glory of the gospel is what God has done for us in Christ Jesus, his holy Son!  Deep theology deserves deep thinking and deep praise.  Let us rejoice in our grace-given salvation today!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Wired for Abortion: Responding to Erroneous and Incomplete Arguments from "Wired" Magazine

I was recently part of an informal discussion on the topic of abortion.  I made the statement that scientifically we know when human life begins--at conception.  The larger issue is whether we will grant "personhood" to that life and seek to protect it.  As a result of that one of the participants sent me an article Why Science Can't Say When A Baby's Life Begins by Sarah Zhang (10.2.15).  This was supposed to counter my claim.  However, reading Zhang's piece it quickly becomes clear that it is filled with fallacious reasoning with the result being obfuscation rather than clarity.

First, the essay is filled with one major fallacy that runs through the entirety of the article.  The author continually equivocates between "life" and "person(hood)."  Conflating these two concepts is the central fallacy of this essay.  Consider the following examples drawn from throughout the essay.

From the first two paragraphs:
SCOTT GILBERT WAS walking through the halls of Swarthmore when he saw the poster, from a campus religious group: “Philosophers and theologians have argued for centuries about when personhood begins,” it read. “But scientists know when it begins. It begins at fertilization.” What troubled Gilbert, who is a developmental biologist, was the assertion that “scientists know.” “I couldn’t say when personhood begins, but I can say with absolute certainty scientists don’t have a consensus,” he says.

When life begins is, of course, the central disagreement that fuels the controversy over abortion. Attacks on abortion rights are now more veiled and indirect—like secret videos pointing to Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue donations, or state legislation that makes operating abortion clinics so onerous they have to shut down. But make no mistake, the ultimate question is, when does a fetus become a person—at fertilization, at birth, or somewhere in between?
Under the section heading "The Quickening" we find these comments:
Before ultrasounds and long before Roe v. Wade, it was obvious when life began.  The "quickening," the first time a woman felt her baby's kick, was the moment the baby came alive, the moment it got a soul.
In a way, science made possible the argument for fetal personhood.  It's only tenable because people can peer inside the womb, at one time a black box.  Indeed, when American physicians began collecting human embryos and charting embryonic development in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they began considering fertilization as the beginning of fetal life.
Later we find this comment under the section on fertilization:
Assuming that fertilization and implantation all go perfectly, scientists can reasonably disagree when personhood begins, says Gilbert.  An embryologist might say gastrulation, which is when an embryo can no longer divide to form identical twins.  A neuroscientist might say when one can measure brainwaves.  As a doctor, Horvath-Cosper says, "I have come to the conclusion that the pregnant woman gets to decide when it's a person."
The Wired piece ends with these words:
 To doctors and scientists, the question of when life begins isn’t a matter of gathering more evidence. “The science has very little to do with the answer,” says Gilbert. Every iteration and advance in the lab make the question even more the purview of philosophers and theologians. And lawyers.
Recognizing this equivocation is important.  Conflating the issues of "life" and "personhood" creates confusion.  If the question is, "When does an actual human life begin?"--the answer to that question is provided by science.  The answer, of course, is fertilization.  Consider the documentation provided by Patrick Lee, Christopher O. Tollefson, and Robert P. George in their piece at Public Discourse entitled, "Marco Rubio is Right: The Life of a New Human Being Begins at Conception."
 “Human life begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.” “A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo).” Keith L. Moore, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th edition. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2003. pp. 16, 2.

“Fertilization is the process by which male and female haploid gametes (sperm and egg) unite to produce a genetically distinct individual.” Signorelli et al., Kinases, phosphatases and proteases during sperm capacitation, CELL TISSUE RES. 349(3):765 (Mar. 20, 2012)

“Although life is a continuous process, fertilization (which, incidentally, is not a ‘moment’) is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte” (emphasis added; Ronan O’Rahilly and Fabiola Mueller, Human Embryology and Teratology, 3rd edition. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2000, p. 8). (Many other examples could be cited, some of which may be found here. )
Lee, Tollefson, and George go on to argue:
 That is the authority of science. On request, we can cite dozens more examples. The authorities all agree because the underlying science is clear. At fertilization a sperm (a male sex cell) unites with an oocyte (a female sex cell), each of them ceases to be, and a new entity is generated. This new entity, initially a single totipotent cell, then divides into two cells, then (asynchronously) three, then four, eight and so on, enclosed all the while by a membrane inherited from the oocyte (the zona pellucida). Together, these cells and membrane function as parts of a whole that regularly and predictably develops itself to the more mature stages of a complex human body.

From the zygote stage onward this new organism is distinct, for it grows in its own direction; it is human—obviously, given the genetic structure found in the nuclei of its cells; and it is a whole human organism—as opposed to what is functionally a part of a larger whole, such as a cell, tissue, or organ—since this organism has all of the internal resources and active disposition needed to develop itself (himself or herself) to the mature stage of a human organism. Given its genetic constitution and epigenetic structure, all this organism needs to develop to the mature stage is what human beings at any stage need, namely, a suitable environment, nutrition, and the absence of injury or disease. So it is a whole human organism—a new human individual—at the earliest stage of his or her development.

This is why it is correct to say that the developing human embryo is not “a potential human being” (whatever that might mean) but a human being with potential—the potential to develop himself or herself (sex is established from the beginning in the human) through the fetal, infant, child, and adolescent stages and into adulthood with his or her identity intact.
Human life begins at conception.  The scientific evidence is clear.  But what are we to make of this comment in the Wired article?
 As the fertilization researcher Harvey Florman has said, “Fertilization doesn’t take place in a moment of passion. It takes place the next day in the laundromat or the library.”
This is irrelevant.  The fact that fertilization does not take place immediately does nothing to overturn the fact that it does take place and when it does this is the beginning of an individual human life.

The Wired essay goes on to further muddy the waters with irrelevant facts.  Consider these words:
But even fertilization isn’t a clean indicator of anything. The next step is implantation, when the fertilized egg travels down the fallopian tube and attaches to the mother’s uterus. “There’s an incredibly high rate of fertilized eggs that don’t implant,” says Diane Horvath-Cosper, an OB-GYN in Washington, DC. Estimates run from 50 to 80 percent, and even some implanted embryos spontaneously abort. The woman might never know she was pregnant.
From the fact that there are human embryos that do not attach it does not follow that "fertilization isn't a clean indicator of anything."  This is simply a non sequiturPhilosopher Francis Beckwith effectively argues:
Some estimate up to thirty percent [of all conceptions] die before implantation.  Some people argue that these facts make it difficult to believe that the unborn are fully human in at least the very earliest stage of their development prior to implantation.  But this is clearly an invalid argument, for it does not logically follow from the number of unborn entities who die that these entities are by nature not fully human.  To cite an example, it does not follow from the fact that underdeveloped countries have a higher infant mortality rate that their babies are less human than those born in countries with a low infant mortality rate.  (Politically Correct Death: Answering Arguments for Abortion Rights [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1993], 96)
An individual human life begins at conception.  But what about "personhood"--when does that come about?  It is important to grasp that the answer to this question is not given to us by empirically testable processes such as science deals in.  The words of Lee, Tollefson and George are, again, instructive:
 Science reveals empirical facts. It cannot tell us who, if anyone, is a “person,” morally speaking—which beings, if any, have fundamental dignity and basic moral rights. There are correct answers to these questions—they are not merely subjective issues—but they are not answered by application of scientific methods of inquiry. We cannot determine whether there even is such a thing as human rights, or whether slavery, or Hitler’s genocide against Jews, was morally wrong, by conducting laboratory experiments or constructing mathematical models.
Often those who are in favor of abortion-on-demand will argue for the separation of life from personhood.  Most will acknowledge the scientific fact about when human life begins but they will want to withhold the idea of "personhood" from this human life.  Separating human life from human personhood potentially brings with it some radical consequences.  For example, there are those who argue that infanticide is justified on such grounds.  In a 2012 essay--"After-birth Abortion: Why Should the Baby Live?-- Albert Giubilini and Francesca Minerva argued this exact point.
 The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.
Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, neither is a "person" in the sense of "subject of a moral right to life".  We take "person" to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.  This means that many non-human animals and mentally retarded human individuals are persons, but that all the individuals who are not in the condition of attributing any value to their own existence are not persons.  Merely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life.  (p. 2)  [see my blog posts "After-birth Abortion": Politically Correct Infanticide and Evolution and Infanticide--The Deep Connection for a link to the original article as well as analysis]
 Notice that according to this reasoning "many non-human animals" are "persons" but a healthy newborn child is not a "person."  Thus the "personified" animal has a "right to life" but the healthy newborn does not.  All of this is pushed forward under the banner of a functionalist criteria of "personhood."  Personhood is a function of being able to "form an aim" that the individual wishes to accomplish.  There must be capability "of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her."  Because the newborn child cannot do this they are not "persons" in any moral sense.  They are only "potential persons."

The concluding words of Lee, Tollefson, and George's essay are helpful in countering the above separation of human life and personhood.
The real question is whether human beings have inherent worth and dignity—and a right to life—or whether their value and right to life depends on factors such as age, size, stage of development, or physical health. Do all human beings have a right to life, or are some “not yet persons” (the unborn, the newly born), or “no longer persons” (those suffering from severe dementia or in minimally conscious states), or lifelong “non-persons” (those congenitally severely cognitively disabled)? Are all human beings equal in worth and dignity? Pro-lifers say yes. Professor Singer and other honest, informed abortion advocates say no.

Science cannot settle that dispute. It cannot tell you that it is wrong to kill the physically handicapped on the ground that they are, as the Nazis said, “useless eaters.” For that matter, it cannot tell you whether people may be enslaved or pillaged on account of their language or race.

But for those who reject sorting human beings into “superiors” and “inferiors”; for those who embrace the principle at the heart of our civilization—the equal dignity of all human beings—science can reveal something crucial indeed: namely, who is a human being.
Sarah Zhang of Wired is simply wrong--as are a number of the people she quotes in her essay.  Science does tell us when an individual human life begins.  The larger philosophical question concerns whether we will value that human life and to what extent we will offer protections for that life.  


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Donald Trump in the Bible

The rich man is wise in his own eyes,
but the poor man who has understanding
see through him.
Proverbs 28.11 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Weekly Communion: My Sermon Notes

* On January 31, 2016 I preached a sermon on weekly communion.  I put the following notes together from that sermon and added a few historical items at the end of the notes.

** I have also addressed the topic of weekly communion in some short pieces for our church bulletin.  These can be found HERE.

A Few Thoughts on Weekly Communion (based on sermon from 1/31/16):

1.     There is a corporate focus and a gospel focus to the Lord’s Table (sermon from 1/24/16).

2.     We do not want to do anything which undermines either of these foci.

3.     We want to be a people who first and foremost look to Scripture and scriptural theology for our answers to questions.  We don’t privilege personal experience or preference.

4.     There is no Bible verse that says, “Have the Lord’s Supper every week.”

a.     There are also no verses that say, “Have sermons, singing, praying, etc. every week.”

b.     We should be consistent in our understanding of this.

5.     There are some biblical indicators that the early church practiced weekly communion.

a.     Jesus taught the church to “do this in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11.24-25).

                                    i.     Objection: “This doesn’t say ‘weekly’.”

                                    ii.     Answer: True.  But the idea seems to be that when we do gather as the church we should use this means—the Lord’s Supper—to remember Jesus and his work on the cross.

b.     The Apostle’s practice

                     i.     Acts 2.42, 46—“breaking bread”

1.     Many New Testament scholars argue that this is the Lord’s Supper.[1]

2.     Perhaps the phrase “breaking bread” was used of regular meals but this still wouldn’t rule out the Lord’s Supper as part of that meal.

3.     Therefore, it may be a false dichotomy: either Lord’s Supper or regular meal. 

4.     Two reasons to think that the early church linked their regular meals with the Lord’s Supper

a.     Jesus’ resurrection appearances often were around a meal—Jesus ate with disciples after his resurrection (Luke 24; John 20, 21; Acts 10.41)

b.     Jewish meals of the time were loaded with religious significance with benedictions at the beginning and the end.[2]

                     ii.     1 Corinthians 11.20-21

1.     Implies that frequency is tied to the gathering of the church.

2.     Paul’s rebuke presupposes that when they gather they are taking the Lord’s Supper.

c.      Conclusion of biblical material

                         i.     This is not an airtight case.

                         ii.     There is, however, some evidence for weekly communion.

                         iii.     And it should be noted, that there is no biblical evidence for monthly, quarterly or yearly communion.[3]

6.     Theological Considerations: What is the Lord’s Supper and what does it do?

a.     C.O.R.P.—Communion, Oneness, Remembrance, Proclaim

                    i.     Communion (1 Corinthians 10.16)—we share/fellowship in the body and blood of Christ.

                    ii.     Oneness (1 Corinthians 10.17)—Supper signifies our oneness in Christ’s body; a corporate focus.

                    iii.     Remembrance (1 Corinthians 11.24-25)—we remember Christ’s death and its significance and meaning for us.

                    iv.     Proclaim (1 Corinthians 11.26)—in the Supper we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

b.     Crucial question: Why wouldn’t we want these blessings every week?

7.     There is one objection to weekly communion that some assert: “If is done every week it will not be as special.  This objection can be answered in at least two ways:

a.     The Lord’s Supper is special whether I feel it or not!  It has an intrinsic value to it whether I personally have an elevated emotional response to it.

·      Something to do to capture the emotional response that is appropriate to communion no matter how much the frequency—meditate on the realities of C.O.R.P. above.  Someone could take one element of C.O.R.P. a week and use that theological reality to help their meditation and response to the Table.  This would mean that every week of the month (in a four-week month) there would be a fresh meditation upon the Table.

b.     We don’t reason this way about any other element in the worship service—sermon, Lord’s Prayer, creeds, call to worship. 

8.     Concluding items

a.     “Do I have to agree with you?”—No.  There may be some who don’t find the reasoning and evidence above persuasive.  No one should feel forced into agreement with the biblical and theological reasoning above.  They should, however, deal honestly with the evidence for weekly communion and also examine the biblical and theological evidence for alternative views.

b.     “Do I have to take communion every week?”—Well…no…but be aware of the following two items:

                      i.     Why wouldn’t you take the Lord’s Supper?  In light of the theology of the Table and the benefits that flow to the believer why would you not participate?  Why not receive the blessings?

                      ii.     Consider what your non-participation symbolizes.  Since one of the theological truths of the Table centers around our oneness in Christ as a corporate body, your refusal to participate symbolizes a breaking of that oneness.  Why not participate with the family of God and declare by your participation that you too are a part of God’s people?

c.      “Do I have to promote peace in the body of Christ?”—Absolutely!  No matter what views we hold regarding frequency of the Table we must seek peace in our practice and attitudes.

This wasn’t part of the sermon on 1/13/16 but it is helpful to see some historical information.


1.     Didache (ca. 50-150)

“On the Lord’s own day gather together and break bread and give thanks, having first confessed your sins so that your sacrifice may be pure.” (14.1)

2.     Justin Martyr (ca. 100-165)

“And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things.  Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who absent a portion is sent by the deacons.

3.     John Calvin (Articles presented to the Geneva Council in 1537)

“It would be desirable that the Holy Supper of Jesus Christ be in use at leas once every Sunday when the congregation is assembled, in view of the great comfort which the faithful receive from it as well as the fruit of all sorts which it produces—the promises which are there presented to our faith, that truly we are partakers of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, His death, His life, His Spirit, and all the benefits, and the exhortations which are there made to us to acknowledge and by a confession of praise to magnify those wonderful things, the graces of God bestowed upon us, and finally to live as Christians, joined together in peace and brotherhood as members of the same body.  In fact, our Lord did not institute it to be commemorated two or three times a year, but for a frequent exercise of our faith and love which the Christian congregation is to use whenever it is assembled.”

     [1] New Testament specialist Craig Keener in his massive commentary on Acts argues: “On a literary level, the breaking of bread here very likely alludes to and includes the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:19; cf. 24:30).”  Acts: An Exegetical Commentary—Introduction and 1:1-2:47 (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2012), 1003.  In a footnote Keener mentions that this is the majority view among Acts commentators.
     [2] “Among the Jews, even the most ordinary meals were sanctified by the benedictions—i.e., thanksgivings—offered to God by the head of the family, both at the beginning and at the end of the repast… In a setting such as this, the earliest Christian missionaries imparted to their converts the tradition of the Last Supper, translating the older Jewish table benedictions into terms recalling the redemptive act of Christ, the fulfilling of his church with the Spirit, and the sure hope and expectation of his imminent return to establish his kingdom.” M. H. Shepherd, Jr. “Lord’s Supper” in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible—vol. 3 (Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 1962), 159.
     [3] Reformed theologian T. David Gordon states the matter this way: “My understanding is this: when alternative views are proposed, the one that enjoys more biblical support than the other(s) is the one the Scripture teaches.  So I frame the question differently than some.  I do not ask, ‘Do the Scriptures contain an airtight inferential argument for weekly communion.’  Rather, I ask this: ‘Is the inferential argument for weekly communion better than the inferential argument for monthly, quarterly, or annual communion?’… Framed this way, there is some evidence for weekly communion (though that evidence is neither explicit nor unambiguously clear), and zero evidence for the other practices… For those, on the other hand, who begin with the assumption that they have ‘squatter’s rights” to their current opinion, unless/until they are expressly or clearly proven wrong, the evidence is and always will be insufficient to persuade them.”  “Why Weekly Communion” Ordained Servant Online (n.d., n.p.). Available online:

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Reflections on GCC's "Critical Dialogues"

Last week Glendale Community College (Arizona) conducted their yearly panel discussion entitled "Critical Dialogues."  The topic for this year's panel was "Political Correctness and Free Speech."

Here is an overview of the various presentations (in the order in which they presented):

Dr. Michael Valle

Dr. Valle was strongly opposed to political correctness.  He had a short but informative power point presentation as he spoke of the intellectual currents in the history of thought that led to political correctness.  He spoke of how the "Frankfurt School" was influential in espousing Marxist theory under the guise of "social criticism."  He traced this intellectual current into the work of Herbert Marcuse who, at the time of his ascendancy, was considered the "guru of the left."  Dr. Valle ended his presentation with a list of a number of problems with political correctness:

1.  It is humorless.
2.  It conflates the notions of good/evil (or right/wrong) with power plays between those with power and underdogs.  In so doing, political correctness creates moral confusion.
3.  It tends to look at motives (which are notoriously difficult to assess) rather than engaging reasoned arguments.
4.  It is paternalistic.
5.  It is fundamentally inconsistent in that it promotes moral relativism but then turns around and uses objective criteria to judge others.

Dr. Nicholas Damask

Dr. Damask was also opposed to political correctness.  His main concern was that political correctness seeks to eliminate certain ideas from public life.  He was careful to distinguish political correctness from basic social kindnesses or work place standards.  His opposition was to cultural forces that seek to undermine the quest for truth and factuality by shaming one's opposition out of the debate.  He spoke also about how "hate crime" legislation is purely distinguished by the speech attached to an action and this essentially criminalizes speech.

Dr. Jeanne Saint-Amour

Dr. Saint-Amour took a different understanding of political correctness for her presentation.  She understood political correctness to be about caring for other people.  She did not think this conception of political correctness came into  conflict with free speech.  She was concerned about those who abuse the right of free speech by abusing others and, as well, offer opinions without evidence.  Political correctness, in this understanding, was an example of an ethics of care.  She noted how there was a problem with free speech in that it allowed for bullying.  She also briefly mentioned how abuse can be perpetuated by the language used to force upon someone various understandings to which they do not assent.

Dr. Terri Desai

Dr. Desai was not impressed with the need to battle political correctness.  She noted that the phrase "political correctness" was itself derogatory.  A misplaced focus on battling about political correctness was a distraction from dealing with real problems.  She took up three particular areas where critics of political correctness focus: politically correct terminology, micro-aggressions, and trigger warnings/"safe places."  In all these specific instances she rhetorically asked what the problem was with these ideas.  She argued that many times political correctness comes to expression in policies and procedures that seek to bring a marginalized segment of society a bit more tolerance given the power differentials.  Marginalized people are seeking the power to define themselves.

Professor Peter Lupu

Professor Lupu's presentation provided a nice bookend to Dr. Valle's presentation--a virtual inclusio.  Professor Lupu likened the political correctness vs. free speech debate to the familiar philosophical debate between free vs. determinism.  He argued that political correctness' ideological origins were irreconcilable with free speech.  He noted that free speech is an overt manifestation of free thought.  And free thought presupposes that one can reflect and examine the truth or falsity of the thought.  With this conception then, free speech leads to free debate on a rational basis not merely on the basis of who has power or emotion.  Professor Lupu argued that rational debate is important because we are fallible but to put limits on free speech was to put limits on rational inquiry.  The alternative to this view, in professor Lupu's estimation, was to reduce people to merely a causal chain of determinism.  He further argued that political correctness was the offspring of the larger philosophical movement known as postmodernism.  This postmodern turn was itself a result of cultural Marxism.  Like Dr. Valle, professor Lupu also noted the connection of political correctness with the Frankfurt School and Herbert Marcuse.  He quoted selections from Marcuse's work "Repressive Tolerance" to demonstrate how this works out in practice.

Reflections on the presentations and the question/answer period that followed:

1)  I found Dr. Valle's and professor Lupu's presentations to be the most thought-provoking and informative.  Their ability to connect the current cultural expressions of political correctness to its ideological origins was helpful.

2)  I did detect a bit of "speaking past each other" by the various panelists.  During the question and answer time I brought this up.  I noted the disconnect and offered an explanation as to why this might be the case.  I noted that Dr. Saint-Amour was largely speaking about the interpersonal dimension when she spoke of the altruism of an ethics of caring.  On the other hand, Dr. Damask was concerned with larger cultural forces that tend to silence viewpoints.  I also mentioned the category of the judicial wherein certain kinds of legislation revolving around hate speech are enforced to one's legal detriment.  In light of these three distinct categories--interpersonal, cultural, and judicial--there was, at times, a failure to connect in that not everyone was speaking about the same domain.

3) I also asked Dr. Desai, as a lawyer, what she thought of "hate speech legislation."  She was not as alarmed by it as others and noted that there have laws for a long time that seek to punish more harshly due to one's motivations.  She cited the examples of killing a police officer or harming a child.  These crimes are punished in a more thorough way.  I was unable to follow up but these examples do not necessarily show that motivations are under harsher scrutiny in these cases.  Rather, I would argue, it is the object of the attack in these cases that merits the harsher punishment.

4)  Now to the most interesting and explosive moments of the discussion.  Dr. Damask made a comment that those who make statements about radical Christianity being as dangerous as radical Islam are simply not in touch with the empirical facts today.  In response, Dr. Saint-Amour took up the challenge and argued that, indeed, radical Christianity was just as dangerous as radical Islam.  She went to rail against Christianity's promotion of the forced sterilization of Native American women.  At this point, from my seat in the second row, I shouted out a question: "Could you provide documentation of a Christian denomination advocating for such practices today in an analogous manner to which the Wahhabi strain of Islam (a movement provided with institutional support by the Saudi government) supports and undergirds elements of radical jihadism?"  In response to this she made a vague reference to an undefined Baptist church and a Methodist church.

Aftermath... the next day.  I was not satisfied with Dr. Saint-Amour's answer so I emailed her the next day the following inquiry:

 Dr. Saint-Amour,


I was at the recent "Critical Dialogues" regarding Political Correctness and Free Speech.  During your comments in response to Dr. Damask you remarked that radical Christianity is just as dangerous as radical Islam.  You spoke about the Christian religion's endorsement of forced sterilization of Native American women.  I asked if you could provide documentation of a Christian denomination advocating for such practices in an analogous manner to which the Wahhabi strain of Islam ( a movement provided with institutional support by the Saudi government) supports and undergirds elements of radical jihadism.  You vaguely mentioned a Baptist and Methodist church. 

Could you provide me with the documentation of a current Christian leader of denomination who endorses the forced sterilization of Native American women?  There are current calls for forced sterilization of Christians and Muslims in some countries--see HERE--but I don't see such sentiments being expressed by current Christian leaders.

Thank you for you time.
Dr. Saint-Amour responded to this email and suggested I do some research on Google to see the facts of the matter.  To this I responded with a follow-up email:
 Dr. Saint-Amour,

Thank you for your quick reply.  Prior to emailing you I did precisely the kind of internet research that you suggest.  I did find documentation of forced sterilization of Native Americans in the 1970's.  I came across the General Accounting Office (GAO) report detailing such atrocities.  I also came across an article on the The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity website entitled "Forced Sterilization of Native Americans: Late Twentieth Century Physician Cooperation with National Eugenics Policies."   In part this article states:

"What may be the most disturbing aspect of the investigations followed: it was physicians and healthcare professionals in the IHS who coerced these women. It was they who abandoned their professional responsibility to protect the vulnerable through appropriate, non-eugenic indications for surgery and informed consent prior to the procedures."

 You will recall, however, that my question dealt with your claim that "radical Christianity" was just as bad as "radical Islam."  You brought up the allegation of Christians promoting the forced sterilization of Native Americans.  I asked if you could provide documentation of a Christian denomination advocating for such practices in an analogous manner to which the Wahhabi strain of Islam ( a movement provided with institutional support by the Saudi government) supports and undergirds elements of radical jihadism.  You vaguely mentioned a Baptist and Methodist church.

Are you able to provide documentation for your claim?  On the surface of it, your claim that contemporary "radical" Christianity is just as bad as "radical" Islam seems to me to be plainly false.  Could you provide some sort of documentation for your claim--particularly the claim about Christian promotion of forced sterilizations?

Again, thank you for you time and attention to these matters.
Dr. Saint-Amour and I traded a few more emails.  She alleged that all the doctors who had engaged in forced sterilizations of Native American women were Christians--another allegation without documentation.  Furthermore, when pressed to point to a specific radical Christian group attempting to force others to be like themselves through physicians and governmental agencies she named the Texas Tea Party.  I found this less than convincing.  Overall our exchanges were civil but I still never got any documentation on the claim of Christian motivated sterilization of Native American women.

At the end of it all the GCC Critical Dialogues were a success.  An important topic for our cultural and campus life was discussed in a civil manner.  The free-flow of ideas took place and I think all were forced to think and reason afresh on political correctness.