2007-10-23

Al Mohler - Conservative

Here's a summary of Al Mohler's latest diatribes:

Atheists are a threat!

Environmentalists are a threat!

Secular universities are a threat!

Evolutionists and Europeans are a threat!


Europe and childless people suck

Books are cool

Biblical preaching is cool

To all Christians who don't go to a Christian university, let them be anathema

Euthanasia is a threat!

State run school education is a threat!

Blacks who blame other blacks are cool
I would agree with the Biblical preaching is cool bit, but little else (maybe books are cool)

Most of Mohler's messages here are essentially politically conservative talking points that he willingly disseminates amongst Grassroots Republicans American Evangelicals. Mohler, an influential Christian leader, is, I believe, guilty of mixing conservative culture with Biblical Christianity. A person who signed the Cambridge Declaration, which contains the phrase We reaffirm the inerrant Scripture to be the sole source of written divine revelation, which alone can bind the conscience, should know better.

Mohler should spend his time trying to bring the church back to biblical faith and practice rather than what he does now, which is to get angry that non-Christians don't obey the Bible or vote Republican.

15 comments:

BLBeamer said...

Maybe books are cool?

What could possibly be disagreeable about that?

State run school education is a threat!

Given the enormous amounts of money poured into the public school systems in the US, and the appallingly bad (and deteriorating) results, I have to agree with Mohler on this one, too. The US consistently ranks well down on the performance rankings when compared to other countries, particularly on subjects like reading, science, math, geography, etc. Where Mohler and I part company is: I think it is a threat to well-educated future generations. Al Mohler seems not to care about that, if his linked article is any indication.

Blacks who blame other blacks are cool

It's not just Al Mohler who likes this one - many US leftists do too. Justice Clarence Thomas just published his memoirs, and the vitriol he received from many blacks on the left was cruel.

One Salient Oversight said...

Well, for starters, books cost too much.

I agree with the belief that public education in the states is failing. However I would argue that increasing funding to public schools (with a commensurate rise in taxes) will help.

As you point out, the US consistently ranks below other nations - yet these nations who outrank America have state run education systems.

Mohler's problem is that he is known for being a Christian leader. I have a problem with him using his platform to promote conservative talking points as though they were Christian ones.

Having a political view is not wrong, of course. I'm a ordained Elder in the Presbyterian church but I would be just as wrong as Mohler if I presented my various left-wing views as being synonymous with Christianity.

The problem is that Mohler's public pronouncements fit the right-wing box too neatly. Right-wing unbelievers are just as agitated by European birth rates, public schooling, African Americans, global warming (and so on) as right wing believers. That is why I publicly present the theory that Mohler has abandoned Sola Scriptura in practice and has become a mouthpiece of the conservative political movement.

BLBeamer said...

I see. You're not opposed to books per se, just high book prices. They are only too pricey if you intend to keep them. I am an avid user of the public library systems.

Neil, your proposed solution to helping failing US public schools is nearly the only approach that has been tried with any regularity here in the states and it is safe to say it is not working. A case could be made it is harming.

As you correctly point out, other countries get much better results from their public schools, spending less per student than the US. I maintain that if something is a proven non-solution, more of the same is unwise.

It seems pretty obvious to me that the failure in US schools must be due to something other than lack of spending. I believe the source of failure is philosophical and political.

I would be just as wrong as Mohler if I presented my various left-wing views as being synonymous with Christianity.

I really have no idea of the situation in Australia, but in the states there are left-wing Mohlers who say exactly that. One of them wrote a book called God's Politics.

One Salient Oversight said...

Neil, your proposed solution to helping failing US public schools is nearly the only approach that has been tried with any regularity here in the states and it is safe to say it is not working. A case could be made it is harming.

I would disagree with this for the simple reason that no one has let it work properly. It's my view that since conservatives became more powerful in the 1980s and after, they deliberately reined back public school spending and then said "Gosh, it isn't working, why should we fund it?".

In other words, it isn't working because it has been sabotaged. All I hear about is cutbacks to public education in America, not spending increases.

There are probably other reasons too.

One is the local makeup of schools in the US. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the states in Australia have control over the curriculum. This means that all schools in my state (NSW) study either the State approved curriculum or the International Baccalaureate (which is superior to the state curriculum and is only used by very wealthy schools). Moreover, common exams are held every year for year 10 and year 12 students. Each school does exactly the same exam at the same time all over the state. This helps not only to produce a common set of knowledge and skills, but also allows "problem" schools to be easily identified.

Last year I taught in Griffith in country NSW. The school I was at has a very multicultural makeup with Turks, Indians, Tongans, Samoans, Afghans all mixing shoulders with White Aussies and 3rd and 4th generation Italians.

The school has a big problem with discipline and with bad academic results. Because of this, the state government has been allocating extra funds to the school to be used to improve its educational standard. This is done in conjunction with the school's P&C and with community leaders. Things still aren't great but the teachers there are doing their best to help.

I'm saying all this because I think that there are inherent advantages in a centralised, monolithic school system over the regionalised model in the states.

Of course I'm not saying that our system here is wonderful. Far from it. But cutting spending is not going to make it better here.

If I was the president I would try to set up a national school curriculum and a national teacher's registration board (the latter acting as quality control for teachers). I would then offer generous financial incentives to school districts all over America to use the national curriculum and employ only teachers who meet a minimum standard. The idea behind this model is that districts still have a choice of accepting Federal help and direction, but will be handsomely rewarded if they do.

Won't happen of course. Someone will complain. Maybe Al Mohler will.

One Salient Oversight said...

I'm saying all this because I think that there are inherent advantages in a centralised, monolithic school system over the regionalised model in the states.

By "states" there I mean the United States.

Laura said...

I disagree with Mohler on some of those same issues, and the whole Christian=Republican thing really chaps my hide, but I think he's doing fairly well given who he is, the context he's in, and the limitations those dadgum trustees put on him.

I think you're being a bit unfair about his commentary on Bill Cosby's latest book. Is Cosby wrong? Or do you think that white dudes have no right to comment on issues in the black community? Or what?

I read something yesterday on Timmy Brister's blog about a statement he made on pastors being shepherds and not just dictators of theology, and that such a skill can only be learned in the church, not in a seminary. It was great. Every once in a while he says something that makes me wonder what he's smoking the rest of the time.

One Salient Oversight said...

Hi Laura,

You're a student at SBTS aren't you? Do you ever get a chance to speak with Al?

I suppose what I'm annoyed with his Cosby posting is that it goes like this:

1. African Americans have a problem.
2. Some African Americans agree that African Americans have a problem.
3. End article.

There isn't actually any solutions that he comes up with.

This is, again, a rather typically conservative (politically) way of solving the issue - you identify the problem, get angry about it, tell the people involved to do something about it, and then finish.

There's no actual solution being pushed. And decades of conservative rule, in which "personal responsibility" means not giving a damn about people suffering, has not made African Americans life any easier.

Here in Australia we have a problem with our indigenous people - the Aborigines. They are chronically unemployed, have lower educational outcomes and much worse health issues.

Back in 1996 when our conservative government came into power, they slashed funding to services designed to help Aborigines. The reason given was that throwing money at them wasn't helping and by cutting money we would help them to take personal responsibility. Eleven years later and nothing has changed, they are still sick, uneducated and unemployed.

Conservative solutions to problems are just not working. I'm not saying that the liberal solutions of the past were the ideal, but they did actually have some sort of impact.

And what makes Mohler's article so annoying is that he is happy that someone in the African American community is spouting conservative thinking. Again, Mohler is simply being a political conservative.

Dave Lankshear said...

Sorry Beamer, Neil wins hands down on the school thing.

Neil, where do you stand on a Federal curriculum for Australia? I can only think it's a good thing that will help families that move interstate have less traumatized kids.

Laura said...

Yes, I was/will be a student at SBTS. I chatted very, very briefly with him once -- and never called him "Al" to his face! But we always used to joke about inviting Al over for a cerveza lunch after chapel.

I feel uncomfortable analyzing an analysis of a book I haven't read. i certainly think the observations Cosby makes are dead-on, based on what I've seen from the neighborhood my church is in. Why is it "conservative thinking" for an African American to say that African American communities are floundering without strong male leadership? Besides, Mohler's blog is by definition a commentary blog -- analyzing books, articles, etc. And (she said impishly) wouldn't you slag him off even more if he did presume to offer solutions to the problem of paternal irresponsibility in African American communities?

One Salient Oversight said...

Neil, where do you stand on a Federal curriculum for Australia? I can only think it's a good thing that will help families that move interstate have less traumatized kids.

Kids moving from state to state isn't really the issue. But if one state is providing a dodgy education system then obviously it is. I'm reasonably certain that the various curriculums around Australia are pretty good these days.

The idea of Federalising curriculum is so important as simply having a standard curriculum all over. If the rest of Australia adopted the HSC then that would be acceptable. Then again, so would everyone adopting the VCE.

I would even be happy for Australian schools to use the British GCSE and the A-Level structure they use.

The thing about curriculum is that some things are common while other things are unique. Maths, for example, should have no regionalisation at all required since it is obvious to everyone that 1+1=2 when you're in Sydney as well as Brisbane. History and Geography should contain common elements, but should also be unique to a region. All Australian kids should learn about the history of Australia, but it is only reasonable to assume that Queenslanders have to study the history of Queensland as well, while those in other states don't have to.

Literature requires some regional usage - studying Australian authors for example - but is much less important in my mind.

As I said to Beamer, I don't think that the school district system in the US is an efficient way of doing things. I would also point out that the NSW Department of Education is one of the largest school educational bodies in the world, and the red tape and bureaucracy can be very annoying (I had to send in a form three times to the department before they got the information right).

I think individual schools should have greater levels of control in making day to day decisions. I've seen how painful it is in public schools in not being able to expel students who deserve it, and seen how wondrous it is in private schools when a student is expelled because the parents and students demand it.

Certainly some form of common curriculum - say a wholesale adoption of the HSC or VCE or GCSE throughout Australia - will increase efficiency. Having a Federally run school system may or may not work, though if it can be shown to be the most efficient choice then I would support it.

Whatever works best. Pragmatist I realise, but it is wrong to just assume that Federalism or Regionalism is the only real choice.

One Salient Oversight said...

Why is it "conservative thinking" for an African American to say that African American communities are floundering without strong male leadership?

It's only conservative if no real solution is presented apart from going around telling everyone to get their act together.

I haven't read the book either, but here in Australia there has developed a theory called "Mutual Obligation", whereby personal responsibility AND community responsibility go hand in hand.

The idea is not for people in poverty to receive welfare for doing nothing (old socialist / liberal solution). But neither is it to stand around and tell people to get their act together (current conservative solution). Essentially it is about providing individuals and groups additional resources for them to become self-sufficient.

One example may be to target the worst, poverty stricken African Americans and use Federal tax revenue to subsidise their wages, while allowing their employers to pay them as little as $1 per hour. In this situation, their employers pay them a pittance, but, because of federal government wage subsidies, they get the minimum wage (or more). Keeping on this program for years will enable chronically unemployed people to easily find long-term work in the marketplace which will eventually change their behaviour.

Another solution may be to reward students in poor schools with cash rewards each time they pass a test. Students are more likely to be motivated to study if they were rewarded for success. We might argue that the reward should always be intrinsic but, to my thinking, all that matters is that their marks improve.

Besides, Mohler's blog is by definition a commentary blog -- analyzing books, articles, etc. And (she said impishly) wouldn't you slag him off even more if he did presume to offer solutions to the problem of paternal irresponsibility in African American communities?

Not necessarily. Exposing problems is one thing but proposing solutions is another. Anything that Al baby proposes should be taken seriously. I certainly hope, for example, that more preachers preach Biblical sermons (Expository preaching) as a result of his recent posting on biblical preaching.

But then Al is Al so anything he says must automatically be wrong (he said impishly). And I should know, because I am always right... always.

Not to mention humble.

BLBeamer said...

Sorry Beamer, Neil wins hands down on the school thing.

How can that be? I've barely even responded.

Neil's argument seems to be that conservatives are opposed to public education, so they purposely let the system fail. But then they fiendishly continue to send their children to those failing schools. Perhaps to throw less observant liberals off the track?

If only we could design an experiment with two education systems. One with nearly unlimited funding and political backing. The other with no funding other than from those whose children attend - no government funding whatsoever.

It would be interesting to see whether limited resources really do hamper learning.

Well, that experiment does exist. It's called "the US". Unlike in Australia, private schools get no funding from the government. Private schools consistently spend much less per student and also consistently produce better educated students based on standard test scores.

If our public schools have funding challenges, the private schools have them much worse, yet they (and home schoolers) consistently outperform the public schools.

I would like to know the source of Neil's opinion that US public education has suffered years of cutbacks. As a taxpayer and parent of a child that graduated from public schools, I have rarely seen the schools suffer a cutback. The time I did observe it, it was a special case and probably not germane to this discussion.

BLBeamer said...

If I was the president I would try to set up a national school curriculum and a national teacher's registration board (the latter acting as quality control for teachers). I would then offer generous financial incentives to school districts all over America to use the national curriculum and employ only teachers who meet a minimum standard.

In my state, the teacher's union fought hammer and tong to prevent standardized testing of school children. They felt that they would be held responsible if students did not have high enough pass rates.

After a rather bruising political fight, statewide standardized assessments are being implemented. Just this year, it was discovered that our state children were failing the math portion of the test at an alarming rate. The solution? Postpone the math requirement 5 more years.

This is just one example of why I believe the real problem is not funding.

Laura said...

Dude, I don't want to hijack, but in my opinion, standardized testing has been nothing but a tragedy for the quality of education in America, because they've implemented standards without providing resources. Furthermore, the US is so violently anti-intellectual (cf. the president's happy hillbilly act despite his Ivy-league degrees) that a total value shift across the culture would have to precede any real change in the educational system.

Thinking about the whole issue of education and poverty and inequality really makes me long for heaven.

Not necessarily. Exposing problems is one thing but proposing solutions is another.

Really? You really wouldn't have given Al a hard time if he had used his blog to hand down solutions to the problems in the black community? I don't know...

BLBeamer said...

...standardized testing has been nothing but a tragedy for the quality of education in America, because they've implemented standards without providing resources.

That's where I have to disagree with you, Laura. The resources have been there. "Standards" implies some objective threshold of knowledge or ability. Have you really seen anything of the kind implemented in a serious fashion? I have not. The link in my post above is not unusual, unfortunately.