Good Morning! 

Writing in his book, The Meaning of Marriage, Dr. Tim Keller observes: 

“Marriage has the power to set the course of your life as a whole. If your marriage is strong, even if all the circumstances in your life around you are filled with trouble and weakness, it won’t matter. You will be able to move out into the world in strength.” 

Are we wholly and adequately relaying that truth to the next generation? Our first story suggests we could do a better job: 

 1.   We’ve sold young people an uninspired version of marriage. That has to change. 

From the Deseret News: 

The striking fact that American couples rank “guest experience” and budgeting among the top priorities at the start of a marriage demonstrates how divorced we have become to the spiritual and religious foundations of the occasion. 

The stickier aspect remains how to win over the growing masses uninterested in marriage, legal benefits and all. And it is here, at this nexus, that we must mine deeper for meaning and purpose. We have sold younger generations an uninspired and stunted version of marriage. One driven by the pragmatism for tax loopholes rather than imbued with the language of fidelity and loyalty. 

Not all is lost. The one saving grace is that those who choose marriage today, whatever their background, are increasingly intentional about that choice. This means the rising generation is not passively engaging in the institution but rather proactively embracing it, infusing the institution with new champions. While Charles Blow warned in October that the “married will soon be a minority,” there’s at least some consolation that this minority remains strongly tethered to the institution. 

And while we are right to be concerned about the long-term prospects of marriage, let’s keep in mind that there are 62 million married couples in America, almost the number of people in all of the U.K. While the number is indeed declining, living with a spouse is still the most common living arrangement among American adults. 

But more needs to change to help revive a pro-marriage culture. Social dialogue devoid of meaning and purpose — and long on superficiality and consumerism — is the root of the global decline marriage is witnessing. 

Another New York Times columnist, David Brooks, famously wrote about the four big commitments necessary for leading a fulfilling life: commitment to a spouse, vocation, faith and community. All were united by “a vow of dedication, an investment of time, and act of faith and a willingness to leap headlong down a ski run that is steeper and rockier than it appears.” 

It is this dialogue that must be reclaimed and championed again today, one which elevates individuals into unions, relationships into families, and children into communities. 

2.   How Scientism and Market Logic Corroded the Family Long Before the Sexual Revolution 

From Public Discourse: 

The history of American family values is a huge topic, about which historians disagree all the time. But it’s clear that middle- and upper-class American family values, in the decades leading up to the 1960s, suffered from at least one of the basic problems we look to confront today. Namely, they were subordinated to the regnant logic of the marketplace, at the expense of basic human goods. Though not yet reflecting the throw-away flippancy of a consumer society, late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century American family values aimed at individual control over the means of reproduction, with a faith in technical rationality capable of bending human nature to that end. 

In short: we weren’t getting it right. The status quo before baby boomers and Roe v. Wade and second-wave feminism was shaped more by modern notions of industrial progress than by eternal truths about the human person. Understanding those notions can help us recognize how the sexual revolution emerged from axioms that had already existed in the mainstream for decades, and recognize the counterproductive ways in which those axioms still shape our discourse about the family today. 

  1. Ohio Legislature Passes ‘Born-Alive Infant Protection Act,’ Likely Closing Two Abortion Clinics

From The Daily Citizen

The Ohio legislature has passed the Born Alive Infant Protection Act (SB 157). 

In addition to requiring attending physicians to provide life-saving medical care to newborn infants, the bill also “protects taxpayer dollars from funding the killing of unborn children by preventing doctors who work for state-funded hospitals and medical schools from contracting with abortion clinics.” 

This provision could cause two of the state’s abortion clinics, who rely on state-funded doctors, to close, potentially saving the lives of hundreds of preborn babies. 

  1. Study shows pregnant women who smoke marijuana may bring long-term harm to their babies

From World Magazine: 

Children whose mothers used marijuana during pregnancy have higher levels of anxiety, hyperactivity, and aggression, according to a recent study of the effects of the drug on child development. The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science in November, adds to a body of research showing adverse outcomes for children exposed to marijuana in utero. 

“Many people think that since cannabis has been around for a long time that we know everything about this drug,” said study co-author Yasmin Hurd, director of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai in New York City. “That is unfortunately not true.” 

  1. IRS Is About to Send December’s Child Tax Credit Payment. January’s Depends on Congress.

From The Wall Street Journal

Democrats are racing to keep monthly child tax credit deposits flowing to households, using the payments’ potential lapse to build momentum for finishing their roughly $2 trillion education, healthcare and climate bill before December ends. 

Unless Congress acts, the monthly payments from the Internal Revenue Service will stop after next week’s deposits, ending a program that has propped up millions of households’ finances since it started in July. Beyond that, many lawmakers have put the credit at the center of their campaigns for next year’s midterm elections and are eager to promote it as soon as they can. 

The IRS will make its sixth set of payments—up to $300 for children under age 6 and $250 for kids ages 6-17—on Dec. 15. Under the social-spending and climate-change bill the House passed last month, payments would continue through 2022. 

  1. New York City becomes the largest municipality in the U.S. to allow noncitizens to vote in local elections

From The Washington Post

The city council here on Thursday approved a measure that will allow immigrants who are not U.S. citizens to vote for mayor and other key municipal positions, a historic move that is igniting threats of legal challenges from Republicans and hopes from Democrats that other cities will follow suit. 

The council voted 33 to 14 with two abstentions and the measure immediately grants noncitizens significant leverage over a broad array of elective offices, including the mayor, city council, comptroller, the public advocate and the leaders of the city’s five boroughs who oversee issues such as zoning. 

Approximately 1 million adult noncitizens live in New York City, which amounts to 20 percent of current registered voters, though it remains unclear how many would be eligible to vote, according to census figures, academic estimates and the bill’s sponsor. To register, noncitizens must have lived here for 30 days, the same requirement for citizens, and have at least a work permit. 

  1. The Way Out 

Hillsdale College president Dr. Larry P. Arnn writes in Imprimis: 

Here are two questions pertinent to our times: (1) How would you reduce the greatest free republic in history to despotism in a short time? and (2) How would you stop that from happening? The answer to the first question has been provided in these last two disastrous years. The answer to the second has begun to emerge in recent months. Both are worthy of study. 

To establish despotism in a nation like ours, you might begin, if you were smart, by building a bureaucracy of great complexity that commands a large percentage of the resources of the nation. You might give it rule-making powers, distributed across many agencies and centers inside the cabinet departments of government, as well as in 20 or more “independent” agencies—meaning independent of elected officials, and thus independent of the people.  

The story about the parents of Loudoun County is about the natural right of mothers and fathers to raise their children. To interfere with these rights is to interfere with the nature of the human being. 

These facts about nature were well known during the American Revolution, the very Revolution that is besmirched by the members of our ruling class today, just as it was besmirched by the ruling class at the time of the Revolution. It was the interference with the colonists’ natural rights by that former ruling class that led to the American Revolution. These recent stories from Michigan and Virginia show that we Americans do not seem to like that interference any better today. 

In addition to the right to make a living and the right to raise our children, we have the right to participate in our government, even if we are not experts, and the right to look to the heavens and not to our ruling class for guidance. We have these rights because we—every single one of us—were born with them sewn by God into our nature, and we cannot find our earthly fulfillment without them.  

If we put these facts together as a people, we will have recovered the understanding that produced the American Revolution. We will stop these current predations upon our rights. We will bring this overwhelming government back where it belongs, under the control of the people.  

The signs of such a movement are emerging. Pray they are enough. 

  1. Did Covid-19 Cause Flu Strain to Go Extinct?

From The Wall Street Journal

Australian researchers who have spent much of the past two years studying Covid-19 recently turned their attention to another public-health mystery: the possible disappearance of one of the four main strains of flu that infect humans. 

Around the world, labs that use genetic sequencing to determine which flu strain has sickened a patient upload their findings to an international database known as GISAID. Since early last year, none of those labs have confirmed the presence of the influenza B Yamagata lineage, the technical name for one of the four strains. 

Now, researchers want to know if the Yamagata lineage has gone extinct. If it has, that could affect the formulation of annual flu vaccines, which often protect against all four strains. Without Yamagata, vaccine makers could revert to a three-strain vaccine, or they could try to add in protection against another influenza variant, which might offer a better defense against one of the remaining strains. 

“If it’s gone, it’s a big deal,” said Marios Koutsakos, a research fellow from the University of Melbourne at the Doherty Institute, and the lead author on a September paper about Yamagata’s possible disappearance. “But the world is a very big place. It could be somewhere where we’re just not seeing it.” 

  1. What We Can Learn from a Man Who Built a Cathedral One Brick at a Time

From The Daily Citizen

His name was Justo Gallego, a former Trappist monk who spent the better part of the last six decades of his life single-handedly building a cathedral in Mejorada del Campo, a small town located on the outskirts of Madrid, Spain. 

Mr. Gallego died last month within the walls of the very building he constructed, brick by brick. He was 96. 

In an interview with The New York Times in 2017, the persistent and elderly builder said, “This is where my vocation has taken me and this is where I’m prepared to suffer, just as Jesus Christ taught us to suffer for others.” 

One would be hard-pressed to find an equivalent of the unique combination of both man and mission here in the United States. Built without permits, plans, a trained architect or any public funding, Mr. Gallego was indifferent to both praise and criticism. 

“I’ve not been building this to get money or fame, just as I’m not here to listen to people decide whether I’m mad or unique,” he told a reporter. “I’m fully responsible for my work and I’m not looking for the authorities to have any say.” 

“The only plan is made in my head, drawn day by day,” Mr. Gallego admitted. “But Jesus Christ is the one who makes the real plans and decides what eventually should happen.” 

As Christians, shouldn’t we also regularly feel out of place in this world, relying on God’s plans, not ours? 

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps,” wrote Solomon (Proverbs 16:9). “Many are the plans in the minds of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (Proverbs 19:21). 

The Lord may not be calling you to build a cathedral of used bricks and Bridgestone tires – but what seemingly impossible task has He put on your heart? It might take time to do it – and maybe even more time than you have left. But give it a go. Take a step and lay a brick, and then another – and you might just be shocked at how He will use your obedience to accomplish His plans. 

10. In the midst of a pandemic, hallelujahs at Christmas provide perspective and hope 

From the Washington Times: 

For nearly four decades, throughout the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, my father, Jim Batura, was president of the Pfizer singing group. Although he made a living negotiating the purchase of raw materials for many of the company’s most popular medicines, my dad’s first love was music. He was happiest when he was singing — and especially thrilled that the leadership of his global, multibillion-dollar employer saw value in song. 

Corporate choral groups are a vestige of a gentler time. Many companies had them — meandering employee minstrels singing on behalf of their company. It was good for morale — and great for public relations. The holidays were prime time for them. 

At the conclusion of each concert, the director would invite whoever was in attendance and knew the words, to join in singing the “Hallelujah Chorus” — the most famous part of George Frideric Handel’s oratorio “Messiah.” My dad said the dramatic finale provided perspective. Pfizer was producing medicine “for the world’s well-being,” but Mr. Handel reminds us, “The kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord.” 

It took Mr. Handel just 24 days to compose and complete the Messiah. At the end of the inspired rush he reflected, “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself seated on His throne, with His company of angels.” 

Nobody really knows what to expect in the coming year. Truth be told, where this pandemic is going — whether we’re nearing its end or the beginning of its end, or we’re just at the end of its beginning — is almost anyone’s guess. 

But what we do know is that Christmas is coming, and with it all the familiar carols and hymns from Mr. Handel and others down through the years. We can be grateful our city and state are open and we’re lifting our voices together in song. Christmas and its music remind us that all of the troubles and trials of this world (including a pandemic) will eventually pass away, ushering in the joys of the next, where Christ will “reign forever and ever.”