Welcome to The Bridgehead!

Jonathon Van Maren

A bridgehead is defined as “a strong position secured by an army inside enemy territory from which to advance or attack.” In today’s culture wars, a bridgehead of truth and common sense is exactly what we need. As Ronald Reagan once said, “When you’re outnumbered and surrounded and someone yells ‘charge,’ any way you’re facing you’ll find a target.”The Bridgehead Radio Program does just that, bringing you cutting edge news, interviews, and insights from the frontlines of the culture wars, and engaging in a sweeping discussion on human rights. Featuring renowned authors, commentators, politicians, intellectuals, historical figures, and more, The Bridgehead talks truth and common sense in a culture where it is badly needed. Featuring conversations with everyone from Peter Hitchens, Mark Steyn, Joel C. Rosenberg, and Gavin McInnes to Rwandan genocide survivor Immaculee Illibagiza, Holocaust survivor and Anne Frank’s step-sister Eva Schloss, and Nazi-hunter Efraim Zuroff, Bridgehead host Jonathon Van Maren takes a hard look at where our culture is and where we need to go.

Jonathon Van Maren is a popular speaker and writer who has been published in The National Post, The Times of Israel, The Jewish Independent, The Hamilton Spectator, LifeSiteNews and elsewhere, and has been quoted and interviewed by many prominent national publications as well as a wide variety of television and radio shows.


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Tales of Cruelty: The True Story of Communist China’s One Child Policy

By Jonathon Van Maren

On the day that Communist China formally ended the One Child Policy in 2015, it announced that the draconian law—launched in 1979 and written into the country’s constitution in 1982—had made China more powerful, the world more peaceful, and the people more prosperous. There was no mention of the global uproar caused by photographs of broken, unconscious women on beds with their dead babies lying next to them after being pulled from the womb, of the tens of millions of missing baby girls, or of the maelstrom of misery that family planning officials had brought to every village in the country. The One Child Policy ended as it began: With pleasant lies and colorful propaganda.

Filmmaker Nanfu Wang was born in 1985 in a little village in Jiangxi Province, and moved to the United States in her twenties. After becoming a mother herself, she began to reflect back on memories of her childhood in China and the politics of conception and childbirth. Unlike many families, she had a brother, and remembers being acutely embarrassed by this fact. The omnipresent propaganda of the Communist state made it clear that one child was the only acceptable sort of family, and this message was pounded into public consciousness through fancy folk plays, operas, children’s songs, and painted slogans, with traditional methods of storytelling weaponized to sell unnatural and modern ways of thinking about family. Wang wondered, thinking back, whether her thoughts about these things were actually her own, or if they had been planted there by the state.

Her decision to explore her family’s history and China’s One Child Policy is powerfully captured in the 2019 documentary, One Child Nation. Wang began by asking her mother how the policy had impacted her own family, and discovered that her mother had almost been forcibly sterilized after she was born, but her grandfather had successfully persuaded family planning officials to allow the family to try for a boy in five years. When her mother went into labor with her second child, her grandmother placed a bamboo basket on the floor and announced that if the child was a girl, they would pop her into the basket and leave her out in the street. This story was related calmly, as if throwing baby girls out was common. As Wang would soon discover, it was.

She decided to visit Huaru Yuan, the 84-year-old village midwife who had delivered her. The old woman’s kindly face seemed to defy the words coming out of her mouth. She wasn’t sure how many babies she’d delivered, she said, but she knew she’d done between 50,000 and 60,000 abortions: “I counted this out of guilt because I aborted and killed babies. Many I induced alive and killed. My hands trembled doing it. But I had no choice: it was the government’s policy.” The headman of the village echoed her sentiments as he confessed that houses had been destroyed and roofs torn off family homes if couples dared to have more than one child. “It might be cruel,” he said. “But policy is policy. What could we do?” Or as one propaganda slogan had it: “Better to shed a river of blood than to birth more than one child.”

Yuan retired from midwifery 27 years ago, and she now only treats infertility, her house filled with the baby photographs of those she had helped. “I want to atone for my sins,” she told Wang, her wrinkled hand stroking a photo of a fat, smiling baby. Despite the many healthy children she has ushered into the world, her conscience still torments her. “What goes around, comes around,” she said sadly. “There will be a retribution for me.” She noted that many of her colleagues had already died, and that she gives as much money as she can to charity. Many people have assured her that what she did wasn’t wrong—it was just a job. But Yuan knows better. “I was the executioner,” she said. And then a question: “I killed those babies, didn’t I?” It struck me, as I watched her speak, that China has not only forced people to do unspeakably cruel things; it has also banned the path to the Saviour who can forgive all things.

The stories Wang uncovered from the early days of the One Child Policy are nothing short of savage. Village doctors and medical teams essentially functioned as population control commandos, traveling about to do sterilisations and abortions. Children who were born before the abortions could be completed were drowned, strangled, or suffocated like unwanted strays. Back then, one female doctor recalled, many women—especially those in the rural areas—were unwilling to be sterilised, and the government officials had to kidnap them, ensuring that they were “tied up and dragged to us like pigs.” Sterilisations only took ten minutes, and she’d often do more than 20 a day, snipping futures on her operating table.

Black-and-white photographs show awful scenes: a young woman with tears streaming down her face, her features twisted in a grimace of pain and sorrow, her husband sitting next to her and holding their one allotted child, staring vacantly into the distance. He looks like a human shell, forbidden by the state to protect his wife from those who had assaulted and mutilated her. Another shows a young woman, her face a mask of grief, being dumped unceremoniously onto a makeshift pallet by several officials. Pregnant women would bolt in fear at the sight of family planning officials, and one prominent official told Wang that after they were caught and dragged back, things got worse: “during abortions women would cry, curse, fight, go insane.” One, she recalled with a laugh, ran off naked, and they told the Communist leader that she would be impossible to catch as there was nothing to grab onto.

It was chilling to watch the female official chuckle at someone’s moment of animal terror as she and her fellow officials carried out their gruesome work, but all these years later, she still maintains that the One Child Policy was a good one. She initially felt that forced abortions were an atrocity, she admitted, but her colleagues constantly reminded her that it was a privilege to do tough things for the Communist Party. There was a lot of death, but they were fighting a “population war”—against their own population—and in war, she said, there is always death. Her interview is cut with scenes of the planning official receiving awards for her work by the top dogs of Red China while a perky announcer calls for applause. It was a picture of pure totalitarianism—the Big Lie. It was not enough to say that the One Child Policy was a tragic necessity, or a necessary evil. No, it was declared to be a good thing. People were not just required to believe a falsehood, but to believe the precise opposite of the truth.

Wang also interviewed Peng Wang, an artist who fought to expose the One Child Policy through graffiti and other art. He’d always wondered, he told her, how nurses could kill, and eventually concluded that it was the propaganda and indoctrination. Above all, it was the idea that collective interests were above all else, an idea that destroys the individual conscience. He’d begun to explore the One Child Policy when in 1996, he found a dead baby in a plastic medical waste bag tossed on a trash heap under a bridge. The child transfixed him, and he began to render these lost children in his art in an attempt to preserve their memory and to ensure that the cruelties of the One Child Policy would not be forgotten as China moved on to a Two Child Policy.

He placed one fetus that he found in the garbage in a jar of formaldehyde, a perfect, peaceful baby sleeping in chemical fluid. The child is ethereal, and looks as if he might wake up at any moment, as if he is both there and not there at the same time. Perfect fingers curl around a perfect thumb, and his chubby feet look just like baby’s feet should. And yet, he had been tossed out with the trash: The One Child Policy did not mean that every family only had one child. It meant that the brothers and sisters of the chosen one would be killed, sold, or abandoned—loved only by strangers like Peng Wang, to be kept in a jar and admired. “He was a beautiful baby,” Wang said, gazing at the child. “But he was dead. A smile was still on his face. I was wondering: Why would he smile like that after being aborted and killed? It’s as if he knew it’d be miserable to be alive in China, and he was happy to have avoided it.”

Despite these cruelties, Wang discovered that even her family wouldn’t condemn the One Child Policy. Her mother defended it—it was policy, after all. That meant it had to be defended. Things were much worse for previous generations, she said, and perhaps the Chinese would have become cannibals with so many mouths to feed. Her grandfather admitted to her that he felt his grandsons were worth more than granddaughters, who would leave the family to join other families. And then her mother told her, as Wang stared in disbelief, that she had helped her younger brother discard his daughter—her niece—in the market so he could try again for a son. They left her on a table at the meat market, and for two days and nights she sat there. Nobody wanted her. Her face swarmed with mosquitos. “She died, and then we buried her.”

Wang went to talk to her uncle, who confirmed the story. His mother—Wang’s grandmother—had threatened to kill herself if the little girl wasn’t abandoned. She’d even threatened to strangle her granddaughter. Her uncle felt that perhaps by abandoning her to be picked up by someone else, he would be saving her life. Instead, she died, and he wept for days. But this was a commonplace tragedy, another aunt told Wang—baby girls were often left to die in the marketplace from exposure, their little bodies crawling with maggots. The aunt had passed off a baby girl to human traffickers who earned $45 per child from orphanages, which would then place them up for international adoption. Her aunt felt this was best for her daughter, but desperately missed her. Do you hate the One Child Policy? Wang asked her. “What’s to hate?” came the fatalistic response. “Policy is policy.”

The policy also spawned a strange human trafficking network. Wang spoke with one prolific trafficker who had sold 10,000 babies to orphanages. He had an enormous network of contacts—trash collectors, taxi motorcycle drivers, deliverymen—who he commissioned to keep a lookout for abandoned babies. The children, almost always girls, were brought to him, and he brought them to the orphanages for $200 per child. The orphanages, in turn, would put the children up for international adoption and make a neat profit. Since 1992, Wang discovered, 130,000 babies have been adopted out overseas. Many family planning officials saw this situation as a win-win: They would confiscate unregistered children, and then get paid by an orphanage for turning them in. Wang explored one particularly heartbreaking story, where an older twin sister was taken from her family, and while they tried to scrape together money for the fine to get her back, she was adopted by an American couple. Now teenagers, the twins have just reconnected on social media, living out their lives on different continents.

Over and over again, from family planning officials, medical personnel, and her own family members, Wang heard the same thing: We had no choice. Policy is policy. Horrible things were calmly described with straight faces. “When every major life decision is made for you,” Wang reflected, “it is hard to feel responsible for the consequences.” And the consequences have been dire: Tens of millions of missing girls leading to a enormous disparity between men and women; aging parents who have lost their only child facing their twilight years alone without anyone to care for them; a plunging birthrate leading to a growing demographic crisis; not enough young people to fill the work force and care for the elderly. China’s propaganda has changed to trumpet the new Two Child Policy—“One is too few, two is just right; the young will have siblings, the old will be cared for”—but the problems created by the One Child Policy remain virtually impossible to solve.

At the very end of a documentary filled with awful tales of aborted babies, infanticide, and trauma, Nanfu Wang hastens to ensure her viewers that One Child Nation is not about abortion. “I’m struck by the irony that I left a country where the government forced women to abort and I moved to another country where governments restrict abortions,” she said. “On the surface, they seem like opposites, but  both are about taking away women’s control of their bodies.” And just like that, she seems to forget the beautiful baby in the jar, and his right not to have his body torn apart. Abortion, whether performed on an unwilling or a willing participant, is still a procedure that violently ends the life of a little human being. But unfortunately, the propaganda language of “choice” has infected the ability of many to see abortion for what it is—even those, like Wang, who have seen the victims of abortion face to face. She doesn’t seem to realize that it doesn’t make a different to the child why she is being aborted. The result is the same.

A slight revision to one of Communist China’s more honest One Child Policy slogans perfectly encapsulates the ideology of bodily autonomy that leads to babies here in the West being tossed into dumpsters, as well: Better to shed a river of blood than to birth a child we do not want.


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The Van Maren Show Episode 51: Dr. Charles Murray on the future of America

In today’s episode of The Van Maren Show, I speak with Dr. Charles Murray about why America has fallen apart and what we need to do about it. Dr. Murray first became well known in 1984 with the publication of Losing Ground, a piece which is credited with being the intellectual foundation for the Welfare Reform Act. Murray is a New York Times bestseller, political researcher and scholar, and the F.A. Hayek Emeritus Chair in Culture Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

Murray joins me to discuss the conclusions of his new book about the state of America and what we as Americans can do to save our country. The outlook is quite bleak, but all hope isn’t lost just yet. Murray discusses the degradation of society, specifically the growing divide in what he calls the new upper and lower classes.


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Prison officials swampted by male convicts identifying as female in order to get sent to female prisons

This is perhaps the least surprising news you’ll read today: As I’ve noted over the past several years (and as recently as last week), male criminals are gaming the system and using gender ideology to claim that they are female and get locked up in women’s prisons. The numbers have been consistently spiking, and prison officials are now swamped with male convicts claiming to be women. According to one feminist outlet:

A recent survey found that the number of inmates in England and Wales who self-identify as transgender has surged to ten times previous estimates, such that one in 50 prisoners now say they are transgender. The numbers of men “transitioning to women” has increased so rapidly that officials express uncertainty as to how to manage the situation. In 2016, when data on the number of transgender inmates was first collected, 70 prisoners said they identified as transgender. By 2018, the number of inmates who identified as transgender had nearly doubled to 100. Currently, 1,500 of the 90,000 inmates incarcerated in England and Wales say they are transgender, an increase of ten times the previous figure.

Statistics from the Government Equalities Office show that 0.5 percent of people living in England and Wales are transgender, an estimate of 200,000 people. The percentage of inmates who identify as transgender exceeds by four times the percentage of transgender people in the general population. Transgender inmates housed in men’s prison receive such entitlements as the option of being placed in single cells and taking showers alone. Under a 2017 policy issued by the UK Ministry of Justice (MOJ), male inmates may be transferred to women’s prisons if they express “a consistent desire to live permanently in the gender they identify with.”

The year the policy was enacted, the number of men identifying as women jumped by 70%. The UK’s MOJ was forced to reexamine the policy of placing men who identify as women with female inmates after public backlash followed reports of transgender inmates sexually attacking female inmates. Jessica Winfield, a divorced father-of-three previously named Martin Ponting, was imprisoned for life for the rapes of two little girls. Mr Winfield had to be placed in isolation after several female inmates accused him of sexual attacks. Karen White, a father-of-one who was previously known as Stephen Thomas, was incarcerated for burglary and the stabbing of a male neighbor. Mr White was returned to men’s prison after he confessed to sexually attacking two female inmates. According to MOJ statistics, nearly half of all transgender inmates are convicted sex offenders.

The current policy of the MOJ is to house biologically male transgender inmates in a separate wing of women’s prisons. There “would always be some trying to abuse the system,” Mark Fairhurst, chair of the Prison Officers Association (POA) acknowledged, but promised that it would not affect officers’ objective to treat transgender inmates with respect and dignity. The number of men applying to enter women’s prisons has also risen rapidly in the United States. The state of California recently voted to house inmates by gender identity, although the state had to reverse course seven years ago after the first male prisoner placed in women’s prison in the state, Richard Masbruch, was accused of sexually attacking female inmates, sparking public outcry.

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New study sheds light on the horrible pain babies experience during an abortion

Every day across North America, thousands of babies are aborted in the womb. And every day, as we go about our work, children in the womb die horribly painful deaths, their last moments filled with unspeakable agony. And yet, the fact that babies are “tortured to death in the womb,” as one pro-life activist put it, scarcely makes a ripple in the daily news cycle—even when a stunning new study reveals that many of the assumptions regularly parroted in the media are wrong. From The Blaze:

Medical consensus has believed that unborn babies do not feel pain until the middle or end of the second trimester, 20 to 24 weeks. But newly published medical research indicates that unborn babies can feel pain much sooner.

The new research indicates that unborn babies can feel “something like pain” as early as 13 weeks, pro-choice British pain expert Stuart Derbyshire — who has previously consulted Planned Parenthood — and American Dr. John Bockmann told the Daily Mail. The new evidence is so telling, in fact, that Derbyshire and Bockmann say ignoring the evidence “flirts with a moral recklessness that we are motivated to avoid.”

The strong statement comes despite a 2006 declaration by Derbyshire in the British Medical Journal that not informing women seeking abortions about the potential pain their unborn child will experience is “sound policy based on good evidence that fetuses cannot experience pain.”

Previously, medical experts thought younger unborn babies could not feel pain because the cerebral cortex, which controls sensory information and the nervous system, is not sufficiently developed until about 24 weeks. However, one recently medical study discovered that an adult with an “extensively damaged” cerebral cortex could still feel pain, according to the Daily Mail.

“Given the evidence that the fetus might be able to experience something like pain during later abortions, it seems reasonable that the clinical team and the pregnant woman are encouraged to consider fetal analgesia [pain relief],” the doctors said.

The implications of the new research are significant because abortion limits are often built on the belief that unborn babies do not feel pain until 24 weeks. If the findings are confirmed — that unborn babies feel pain as early as the beginning of the second trimester — new abortion regulations to protect unborn life could be implemented around the world.

That conclusion is probably too optimistic—I think that most abortion activists simply do not care. Considering the horror stories that have been leaking out of the abortion industry with little fanfare for decades, the media doesn’t, either. They have sustained a coverup for too long (The Guardian ends all of its stories on abortion with a little postscript informing the reader that abortion is a human right), and that is precisely why so few news outlets bothered to cover this explosive story.

What an awful reflection on what we have become.

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A reminder to progressives: George Orwell was staunchly anti-abortion

By Jonathon Van Maren

Over the past few months, left-wing blogs and publications have rediscovered some of the great classics in English literature—especially those penned by a man named Eric Blair, better known to those of us who had to read  his works in high school as George Orwell.

With the rise of Trump, bloggers have decided that America is now on the path to the dystopia of 1984, or perhaps whatever it is that happened in Animal Farm. But if we’re going to spend the next few years waving George Orwell quotes at each other, I’d like to remind my left-wing friends of something important: Orwell was pro-life.

In his 1944 essay “The English People,” for example, Orwell mourned that, “In England of the last thirty years, it has seemed all too natural…that abortion, theoretically illegal, should be looked upon as a mere peccadillo.” This is coming not from a devout Catholic like Hilaire Belloc or staunch Protestant like C.S. Lewis, but from an admitted agnostic who only attended church regularly for a brief time in the 1930s.

Orwell also laid out his anti-abortion position in his little-known 1936 novel Keep the Aspidistra Flying. As Orwell reviewer Mark Stricherz relates:

Gordon Comstock, the 29-year-old protagonist in Aspidistra, is much like Orwell himself at the time. Gordon comes from a shabby genteel family struggling in a money-dominated society and chooses a bohemian lifestyle early on. Chucking his well-paying advertising job, he tries to become a poet, supporting himself as a bookshop assistant. But Gordon has little success. After selling one poem to a magazine, he squanders his money through drinking and debauchery. And three-quarters through the novel, Gordon faces a much bigger problem: His girlfriend, Rosemary, announces unexpectedly that she’s pregnant with their child. Both are confused. “He did not think of the baby as a living creature,” a horrified Gordon reacts. “(I)t was a disaster, pure and simple.”

The same dilemma has confronted other characters in literature before, but what distinguishes Gordon’s decision is not simply that he chooses life—it’s the way he does it. After the shock of Rosemary’s pregnancy wears off, Gordon consults science and reason to make sense of the situation—but never religion. Once he recognizes the unborn child’s humanity, he consciously identifies with working-class values. Gordon calls Rosemary to tell her to keep the baby, and she’s elated. He promises to get his old job back as an ad writer and marry her—the bohemian is finally settling down.

In the novel, Orwell lays out his view that it was the common, hardworking, dignified and honest working class who, “with their children and their scraps of furniture and their aspidistras…they contrived to keep their decency…They had their standards, their inviolable points of honor. They kept themselves respectable.”  This was in stark contrast to the decadent genteel families, of whom Orwell wrote: “It was noticeable even then that they had lost all impulse to reproduce themselves…. They were one of those depressing families, so common among the middle-middle classes, in which nothing ever happens.”

He may have been a socialist, but today Orwell reads like a traditionalist—and a pro-life traditionalist, at that. Orwell’s character does not just disapprove of abortion, he hates abortion, and hates it instinctually—Orwell writes that Gordon was “disgusted” when his girlfriend suggested they have an abortion. Gordon follows up on that instinctual disgust by heading off to the library to learn what he can about his baby. He discovers immediately the scientific reality of his child’s existence, and feels the responsibility of his baby’s dependence on him:

His baby had seemed real to him from the moment when Rosemary spoke of abortion…. But here was the actual process taking place. Here was the poor ugly thing, no bigger than a gooseberry, that he had created by his heedless act. Its future—its continued existence perhaps—depended on him. Besides, it was a bit of himself—it was himself. Dare one dodge such a responsibility as that?

Orwell saw abortion clearly for what it was – the violent destruction of a human being developing in the womb – and that the presence of that human being demanded a response from other people. Orwell did not reach his anti-abortion position through religion, but from a simple survey of the facts. Those facts were enough to make it obvious to him.

We remember Orwell now as a magnificent critic of racism and imperialism in Shooting the Elephant and a writer who eviscerated Communism in Animal Farm. But as people return to his works to better understand what is unfolding in our world today, perhaps we should begin remembering that Orwell was also a man who believed that the weakest and most vulnerable members of society should be protected, and that abortion was a grotesque violation of that responsibility.


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The New York Times has no patience for gutsy, pro-life, conservative women like Meghan McCain

By Jonathon Van Maren

If you were told that the New York Times would be publishing a piece condemning a recent performance by one of the hosts of The View, you might think that a rebuke of Joy Behar’s recent decision to approvingly quote white nationalist Richard Spencer was forthcoming. But, unsurprisingly, you would be wrong. Shamira Ibrahim’s column “’The View’ Has a Meghan McCain Problem” is snobby, condescending, and clueless.

I was not previously a huge Meghan McCain fan, but her tenure at The View has changed my mind. In fact, I’ve actually taken to watching clips of the show simply to watch her spar with her almost entirely liberal co-hosts. It takes guts to get up every day knowing that your colleagues find many of your views repulsive, that the audience will often boo your points of view, and that the progressive mob on Twitter will never be satisfied until they’re hoisting your head on a pike. But McCain does it, and she does it well.


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Science’s Greatest Scandal: How the enforcers of eugenics locked up men, women, and children in asylums for life

By Jonathon Van Maren

Every so often, the mainstream media surprises me with a spasm of refreshing honesty. Eugenics: Science’s Greatest Scandal, a two-part documentary aired on BBC Channel 4 recently, is one such example. This documentary is a chilling, must-watch insight into very recent history.

Disability rights activist Adam Pearson and journalist Angela Saini took an unblinking look at the origins of eugenics in Great Britain, and to their great credit, they approached the topic with brutal honesty. Saini explored the legacy of renowned eugenicist Marie Stopes, the namesake of the UK’s abortion clinics, and noted that birth control was promoted as a tool of the eugenicists to limit unwanted populations. Saini was obviously conflicted, flinching as one expert explained Stopes’ deeply racist worldview. “But…she liberated us,” Saini said lamely at one point. The unspoken question looms in the background: Perhaps we got “liberation” very, very wrong.

One chilling exploration featured Pearson traveling to Leeds to visit a massive abandoned insane asylum called Meanwood Park. A photographer and archivist, Mark Davies, has become obsessed with the old manor and the poor wretches that were locked up there, and he shared stories with Pearson that sounded like something conjured up by Edgar Allan Poe. The Mental Deficiency Act of 1913 (which wasn’t used until 1919 due to the Great War) meant that “individuals whom were deemed ‘imbeciles’ on grounds of both intellect and morality could be segregated from society and literally locked away in an asylum. The number involved and the loss of freedom, with the benefit of retrospection, is truly shocking and heartbreaking.”

These massive institutions were the places of dark nightmares, and Davies shared the story of one country official named Samuel Wormald, who wandered about the country hunting for “special people”—the blind, the deaf, the dumb—anyone deemed to be mentally deficient or imperfect. They called him the rat-catcher, and he snatched men, women, and children—sometimes off the street—and had them locked up in what amounted to a holding pen for human defectives. When the awful man finally died, he’d had over 2,000 people put in captivity.

Once a person was “committed,” there was no way to get out. To end up in Meanwood Park was to serve an arbitrary life sentence with no opportunity for appeal: If you add up the number of years served by the 35 longest-serving inmates, “who had committed no crime other than being disabled,” the total comes to just under 2,000 years. The only crime of these unfortunates was to be considered abnormal by twisted people like Wormald, who had been taught to think this way by the twisted ideology of eugenics.

It wasn’t just Meanwood Park, either. Entire “colonies” were set up to segregate and imprison those deemed too unintelligent to live with the rest of the population, and once there, the inmates couldn’t learn to read or write or enjoy any freedom. The men and women and boys and girls were kept segregated, and if they became intimate and someone became pregnant, doctors forcibly aborted their children and then sterilized them—even though this was illegal. The only reason that mandatory sterilization didn’t become more widespread was pushback from the churches. This wasn’t so very long ago, either. Some former inmates who were imprisoned in these institutions are still alive, and their interviews were heartbreaking. Their lives were considered worthless, and they were locked away to die out of sight.

Saini and Pearson also take a look at the founder of eugenics, Sir Francis Galton. His career of scientific sadism was derived from his cousin Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection—although the documentary wrongly claimed that Darwin had no idea that his ideas would be put to such horrific use in order to excuse the secular saint who gave millions the evolutionary theory they needed in order to do away with God. Unfortunately for those who would like to believe that Darwin was unaware of the practical application of this theory, that was not the case: Darwin not only knew, but approved.

As I noted in my 2016 book The Culture War, in his 1882 work The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, Darwin himself wrote: “With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man itself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.”

What Charles Darwin quite accurately described was a Christian society dedicated to caring for its weakest members. What he was decrying, in not so subtle terms, was the fact that the result of Christian charity seemed to him to be a human race containing a significant number of faulty and worthless human beings. The distinction between so-called “civilized men” and savages soon became difficult to differentiate. With Darwin’s theories of natural selection providing the supposedly definitive evidence that human beings were not fundamentally equal and therefore did not need to be treated as such, eugenics became all the rage. God does not make mistakes in creating humans, but natural selection certainly could. This meant that the mentally ill, the handicapped, and the constitutionally weak were not created in God’s image. They were defective accidents of nature.

Sir Francis Galton began doing the work of turning eugenics into an applied science. Ted Byfield’s history of Christianity Unto the Ends of the Earth describes the dark and cruel movement that sprung up:

With the publication of Galton’s book, Hereditary Genius, in 1869, the science of “eugenics” (literally, “good birth”) was born and named. Within two decades it was also a “movement,” promulgating throughout the occidental world plans for selective breeding of the white race, suppression of the yellow race, and eradication of the black race. Among whites, the less worthy should not be allowed to procreate or even associate with higher stock. Confined to “labor camps,” they should be treated benignly, but any violation of the eugenic code would bring a charge of treason. Although most people unsurprisingly felt that Galton had somehow “gone too far,” his defenders portrayed any critics as obstructing scientific advance, just as they had tried to obstruct Galileo, they declared. His cousin Charles was exuberantly in favor, however. “I do not think I ever in all my life read anything more interesting and original,” he wrote.

To their credit, the documentarians do not shy away from the fact that Western society has brought eugenics back in under the guise of so-called “reproductive rights.” Adam Pearson noted that for a child to be diagnosed with Down’s syndrome is often to receive a death sentence: “What does that say about how we treat these kinds of people? Are we as far removed as we think we are from the olden days of asylums and forced sterilisation?”

The answer, sadly, is that we are not, and I’m glad the BBC had the honesty to say so.

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The mainstream media and the Democrats are helping Trump by constantly demonizing Christians

By Jonathon Van Maren

I wish the mainstream media and the Democratic politicians realized that one of the primary reasons Donald Trump has a decent shot at getting re-elected despite the nonstop snarl of scandals that have plagued his presidency is that they cannot stop showing their utter contempt for millions of Christian Americans.

As one Christian commentator recently noted: All they have to do is not hate us, and they can’t even do that.

Consider a recent headline over at the Associated Press: “Tennessee governor says he will sign anti-gay adoption bill.” It seems that Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced earlier this week that he will be signing a bill affirming tax-payer funding for faith-based adoption agencies and foster care “even if they exclude LGBT families and others based on religious beliefs.”


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Medical researchers are paying young women to get pregnant and then abort the babies for research

I’m not even sure what to say about this story. It is simply so evil and heartbreaking. From Wesley J. Smith over at the National Review:

Women in Mexico were paid $1400 to be hyperstimulated so their ovaries released bountiful eggs instead of one during their cycle. They then underwent artificial insemination, resulting in early pregnancy with multiple embryos, which were then flushed out of their bodies for study. From the NPR story:

Researchers have conducted a controversial study that involved paying dozens of young women at a hospital near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to get artificially inseminated so their embryos could be flushed out of their bodies and analyzed for research purposes. The study showed that embryos created that way appear to be as healthy genetically as embryos created through standard in vitro fertilization. Physically, the embryos appear to, possibly, even be healthier, the study found…

In addition, some women underwent surgical or chemical abortions afterward, when tests indicated some of the embryos might not have been successfully removed. Some of the surviving embryos were later used to impregnate other women. Others were frozen.

This “experiment” was very wrong on at least four fronts. First, it created human life for the purpose of experimenting upon it. Second, it paid women to have abortions (when all the embryos were not flushed). Third, it treated women as objects, merely as “a Petri dish,” to quote bioethicist Lorie Zoloth (with whom I have had my differences in the past, but not here). Fourth, hyperstimulation can have serious side effects, even leading to occasional death. Add in the likelihood that the women were very poor, and you have a real exploitive circumstance.

We’ve commodified and dehumanized pre-born children so effectively that we can bring them into existence for the express purpose of killing them and experimenting on them. What an awful and morally bankrupt culture we inhabit.

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How family breakdown has separated men from their children and made them miserable

By Jonathon Van Maren

When filmmaker Cassie Jaye set out to make a film on men’s rights activists, she expected to find a sad collection of anti-feminist failures who were protesting progress because the advancement of women in society made them feel inferior. She’d covered many women’s issues, held all of the boilerplate feminist positions, and found it curious that there were no in-depth documentaries on the men’s rights movement, considering how MRAs are portrayed in the mainstream media.

The Red Pill, which I finally got around to watching some time ago, was the result of about 100 hours worth of interviews Jaye conducted with men’s rights activists. She didn’t find what she expected to find—in fact, the documentary has rendered her largely persona non grata in feminist circles. She was taken aback when one interviewee noted that if men cannot understand the female experience, as feminists understandably assert, then surely it is also true to say that women cannot understand the male experience, either. With that in mind, perhaps they should listen to male perspectives on their experiences, as well.

And the experiences they shared with Jaye were jarring to watch. Men talked about how the family courts were rigged against them, something the stats reveal: 81.6% of women get custody of their children, as opposed to 18.3% of men. Men broke down weeping as they talked about the exquisite pain of having to “visit” their kids as opposed to being able to live with them and raise them and be part of their lives. Often, they said, it was the mother who made the choice to break up the family, against their will, simply because she’d decided to move on.

It reminded me of something Peter Hitchens told me in an interview back in 2013: “In all Western Christian countries, in the late or middle 1960’s, laws came into place which meant that if two parties had voluntarily agreed to swear a marriage oath and take part in that, if one of those parties decided to dissolve the marriage and the other wanted to maintain the oath that they’d sworn, the state had the power, ultimately backed by police force and prison, to drag out of the family home the person who wished to abide by the oath and support the person who wished to break it. It was an enormous eruption of state power in the private life. Absolutely devastating, revolutionary beyond all measure.”

“Men are not upset because they don’t want to be fathers,” one man told Jaye. “They’re upset because they want to be fathers.” In fact, some men are killing themselves because family courts won’t let them see their children while simultaneously forcing them to spend all of their money in parental support or alimony. That, and the brutal reality of having to watch another man raise your children simply crushes many men. Incidentally, 78% of suicides are men. One interviewee was blunt: “It’s an ocean of pain out there.”

Jaye’s documentary presents a different perspective than you’ll usually hear, and offers an essential counter-balance to the prevailing view that in today’s #MeToo era of predatory men and ubiquitous violent porn, only women and girls are suffering. The truth is that everyone is suffering, and that catastrophic breakdown of marriage and family has wreaked unfathomable devastation on millions of people, shredding our cultural fabric and spreading misery like wildfire. Women are suffering. Children are suffering. And men, as Jaye’s essential film points out, are suffering, too.

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South Dakota considers ban on sex change “treatments” for minors

By Jonathon Van Maren

As the trend of “de-transitioners”—people who have realized that sex change surgery and hormone treatments did not help them in their struggle with gender dysphoria—continues to grow, at least one state is considering legislation that will put the brakes on children embarking on so-called treatments that will permanently alter their bodies. Trans activists have been aggressively pushing the “affirmative model,” which stipulates that children be placed on the path to treatment within a stunningly short amount of time after manifesting gender dysphoria, for some years now. According to the Huffington Post:

Lawmakers in South Dakota are considering whether to ban doctors from performing gender-affirming operations and treatment on minors. A bill introduced Tuesday in the Republican-dominated Legislature would make it a felony for medical providers to perform operations or administer hormone therapy to help minors affirm their gender. The proposed law would not apply to children born with ambiguous or conflicting genitalia.

Rep. Fred Deutsch, a Florence Republican, introduced the bill in the House on the first day of the legislative session with more than 40 co-sponsors. He called the proposed law a “pause button” for minors who want to get a gender-affirming operation.

“The changes are overwhelming and life-changing. Children need to wait until they’re mature to do it,” Deutsch said. The lawmaker called gender-affirming operations and hormone therapy “dangerous” because of the psychological and physical toll it takes on minors. He said the bill would not interfere with children’s ability to “socially transition,” in which a person may take on the dress, name or behavior of their gender.

Considering the fact that we don’t permit minors to smoke, drink, vote, or drive, it seems eminently reasonable that minors have to wait for treatments and surgeries that could result in permanent physical changes (including fertility)—changes they could deeply result in the years ahead. Progressives, predictably, are opposed to any cautionary measures:

The American Civil Liberties Union said the bill targets transgender youth who are already vulnerable. “(Transgender) kids and families should be given the opportunity to thrive in South Dakota,” Libby Skarin, policy director for the ACLU of South, said in a statement. “This legislation only stands to harm them and make their lives harder.”

Democratic legislative leaders said they would oppose the bill. Rep. Kelly Sullivan, a Sioux Falls Democrat, said the measure would interfere in the doctor-patient relationship, and that doctors, patients and families should make decisions for treatment. Sullivan said she is not aware of medical centers that provide gender-affirming treatments for minors in the state and called the bill a waste of time by Republicans.

You’ll note, here, that Democrats have a habit of claiming that they oppose legislation because the practice banned or restricted by the legislation doesn’t happen to begin with—although this should mean they have no problem with the legislation. They did this with Senator Ben Sasse’s proposed legislation to mandate care for survivors of abortion, as well—the Democrats refused to vote for it while simultaneously claiming that such things didn’t take place, anyways. Of course, their allies in the transgender community oppose the legislation precisely because these things do happen:

Deutsch said he has found several instances of doctors administering gender-affirming treatment in Sioux Falls. Conservative lawmakers in several states including Texas, Georgia and Kentucky have introduced similar bills. Deutsch said he decided to introduce the bill after reading about the issue online. He also consulted with a group called Kelsey Coalition that opposes gender-affirming operations for minors.

The Endocrine Society, which is the leading professional organization for doctors who specialize in hormones, does not recommend gender-affirming medical treatment before puberty for children who do not identify with their assigned gender. For youths experiencing puberty and older adolescents, the Endocrine Society recommends that a team composed of expert medical professionals and mental health professionals manages treatment.

I’m very interested to see how these laws progress. If several of them pass and hold up in court, it will chart a path forward for those who wish to protect children from trans activists and their dangerous ideology—and at least create a waiting period that will surely save many children from tragedy and heartbreak. If the courts decide to back the transgender movement, on the other hand—that would be a disaster.

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People outraged as “transgender doll” features female toy with penis

By Jonathon Van Maren

Transgender toys are starting to make an appearance because—and I mean this question sincerely—why not? Although I will say that I’m rather surprised that this toy surfaced first in Russia, where people have been mocking the West for our gender insanity relentlessly for the last few years. I wonder if there’s any way this was a factory mistake of some sort. From the Daily Mail:

A ‘transgender’ children’s doll has caused outrage online after being spotted in a toy shop in Russia.

The doll, dressed in women’s clothes but with male genitalia, was seen at the Planeta Igrushek (Planet Of Toys) shop in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk in south-central Russia. Photos shared online of the doll have sparked outrage in the country.

One user asked: ‘Is it ok to produce toys like that for children?’…It is not the first time a so-called transgender doll has sparked debate. In 2014, a fairy toy which appeared to have male genitalia was branded the world’s first transgender doll. The toy, which was on sale in Argentina, caused shock among parents after a mother posted a picture of it on her Facebook account.

The mother claimed her three-year-old daughter discovered what appeared to be male genitalia under the doll’s skirt while playing. The toy was made in China and was purchased from Argentine wholesaler ‘Once.’ The doll caused shock and debate across Argentina, with one member of the public explaining: ‘It’s very difficult to give an opinion because I’m conscious that it’s a taboo subject in society… but yes, obviously, it’s shocking.’

In September 2019, Mattel announced the debut of the first gender-neutral doll line. LGBTQIA rights activist Jazz Jennings had a doll made of her by the Tonner Doll Company in 2017 which did not feature any genitalia. The doll was welcomed by fellow activists at the time.

As I’ve noted before, LGBT activists are determined to colonize childhood. Matters of gender and sexuality are no longer for adults only—now, we have brutally explicit sex education at shockingly young ages, scores of children’s books featuring transgender themes in public libraries, and, of course, Drag Queen Storytime.

Parents, be careful. I’ve had people message me after the holidays and note that their children got innocent-looking storybooks as gifts, only to read them and discover they were about cross-dressing transgender princes and that sort of thing. I’ve also had many parents tell me that their kids have accidentally checked out LGBT children’s books from the library. Most parents simply don’t think of worrying about children’s books, but in 2020, things are very, very different than they were just a few years ago.

You might have to start checking the toys first soon, too.

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Trans activists are demanding we end the stigma around men who get periods and menstrual cramps

By Jonathon Van Maren

In Iran, thousands of young people are taking to the streets, demanding that their authoritarian Islamic leaders step down. They are doing this fully knowing that they may pay dearly for speaking out. In Hong Kong, hundreds of thousands of people have been protesting for months, and despite brutal police crackdowns, the demonstrations have barely slowed. With the spectre of Red China looming over them, these freedom-fighters know precisely what is at stake both for them and their children.

And in the U.S., NBC is faithfully recording the struggle of America’s youth, which, while very different, is still definitely unprecedented. Consider the story of “Kenny” Ethan Jones, a “transgender model and activist.” According to NBC, when Jones “experienced his first period, he faced both physical and psychological pain. Initially, Jones, who had not yet come out as trans at the time, felt like he was losing control and didn’t understand what was happening to his body.”


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Academics say that trans activists are seeking to get them fired or silenced if they speak out

Good on The Guardian for actually covering what is an incredibly important issue right now: the systematic silencing of dissent by trans activists. This is not some conspiracy theory, either—The Times laid out the strategy trans activists use to destroy academics who disagree with them back in 2018, and the trans wars have only escalated since then. Because gender ideology tends to fall apart upon closer examination—Ryan T. Anderson’s When Harry Became Sally exposes the vacuity of this worldview very effectively—trans activists have instead relied on silencing their opponents through threats, the destruction of careers, and, in a handful of cases, actual violence.

Earlier this week, in a column titled “Sacked or silenced: academics say they are blocked from exploring trans issues,” The Guardian took a look at the same trend.Give it a read:

On the December morning that Jo Phoenix, professor of criminology at the Open University, was to give a lecture at Essex University on trans rights in prisons, Twitter roared into action, with several Essex staff and students tweeting allegations that a “transphobe” would be on campus.

By 10am Phoenix was warned by a member of university staff that some students were threatening to shut down her lecture, as they said LGBT+ staff and students wouldn’t feel safe if Phoenix gave her talk. At midday the university decided to cancel it because disruption looked inevitable, and proper academic discussion unlikely.

“I was furious,” Phoenix says. “It was very clear to me that those agitating were fundamentally anti-academic because they condemned me and my research without hearing what I had to say.”

Phoenix, who is adamant she is not transphobic, had given the same talk at the University of Newfoundland in Canada a month earlier, to an audience that included trans scholars, without controversy. “They all liked it. So there is something unique about what is going on in the UK,” she says.

The talk explored tensions around placing trans women in British prisons, and argued that there are problems with applying trans rights to criminal justice.

Universities are negotiating a minefield, trying to maintain free speech while faced with two groups of people who both argue they are being made to feel unsafe.

The vice-chancellor of Essex, Anthony Forster, has promised a review into what happened in December, and says the university expects its community not to interfere with “the rights of others to express views with which they might disagree profoundly”. He adds that Essex has “an equally clear commitment to being an inclusive community”.

The transgender debate cuts across many academic disciplines, including law, education, gender studies, philosophy and history. So-called gender-critical feminists, who believe that gender is a social construct rather than innate, say they want to explore trans issues within their fields, but that they, and the debate as a whole, are being stifled in British universities.

However, academics such as Tam Blaxter, a historical linguist at Cambridge University, who is a trans woman, say these arguments make trans staff and students feel vulnerable. “Universities are communities of staff and students first and foremost,” she says. “They will always have a function of discussing difficult issues, but making minority members feel safe and welcomed must come first.”

Kathleen Stock, professor of philosophy at Sussex University and a gender-critical feminist, claims that last month Oxford University Press abandoned a book on female philosophers because her inclusion was deemed too controversial.

Stock, who insists she is not transphobic, is one of the most prominent advocates of gender-critical feminism, and has faced calls for Sussex to sack her. She says that one reason the American office of OUP gave in December for dropping the latest book in a series called Philosophy at 3am, was that she was involved and would attract negative attention. “I think that is terrible and cowardly,” she says.

A spokeswoman for the OUP said it would not comment on the review process for individual projects, but that it did not often publish collections of interviews and this was “a contributing factor to our decision not to pursue this project”.

Dr Kath Murray, a research associate in criminology at Edinburgh University, says there are many obstacles to organising gender-critical events on women’s rights. An event was cancelled at Edinburgh in December because of fears the speakers would face abuse.

Murray says one event that went ahead last year on sex-based rights required extensive security because of anticipated opposition. “There was a one-hour security briefing for speakers, seven security guards attending the event, a security sweep of the lecture theatre beforehand, and ID checks for all attendees,” she says.

In December, another event was due to take place, on schools and gender diversity. Dr Shereen Benjamin, senior lecturer in primary education at Edinburgh and the event organiser, says it was intended to show teachers both sides of the debate. “I wanted to bring together gender-critical speakers who see the increase in referral rates of children to gender identity clinics as problematic, and believe it has multiple social causes, with speakers from trans rights organisations who believe it is due to young people discovering their true identities at a younger age,” she says.

Benjamin says she was unable, however, to persuade any trans rights organisations to share the stage with gender-critical speakers, so the event was redesigned as a research seminar without teachers involved. However, when booking went live in December, the university’s staff pride network criticised it in an email to hundreds of staff, and on its blog, citing guest speakers “with a history of transphobia”.

With at least one academic urging opponents to protest, Benjamin cancelled, fearing speakers would face abuse. “It is now so risky and frightening for people to talk critically about gender identity on campus,” she says.

“We need universities to establish and maintain the boundaries of acceptable protest from within their communities, and to intervene quickly and decisively if there are any attempts at intimidation.”

Jonathan MacBride, co-chair of Edinburgh’s staff pride network, says his committee felt the event “would be upsetting and hurtful for anyone who is trans or an ally to the trans community”.

He says universities should not provide platforms for outspoken gender critics. “When someone has said publicly that they don’t believe trans women are women or, more harmfully, that trans women are men and should somehow be held accountable for the actions of a minority of predatory men in the world, that isn’t really a debate, it’s just hateful speech about an already marginalised minority.”

Universities say privately that they are finding the debate difficult to navigate, because their obligations under the Equality Act seem to clash with freedom of speech. But Colin Riordan, vice-chancellor of Cardiff University, a member of the elite Russell Group, says: “This is a divisive issue and rouses strong emotions, but if we don’t have the debate, how will we ever resolve it?”

Riordan faced down heated demands in 2015 for Germaine Greer, the celebrity feminist, to be banned from lecturing at Cardiff on the grounds that she had made transphobic comments. He says: “The way universities have to approach this, like other difficult issues, is to defend academic freedom and uphold free speech, as long as it is within the law.”

Sarah Honeychurch, a fellow at the University of Glasgow’s business school, says the problem extends beyond university management. She was sacked last summer as editor of the academic journal Hybrid Pedagogy, after signing a public letter by feminists questioning universities’ relationship with the LGBT+ charity Stonewall.

“One of the founding members of the journal said on Twitter that my position was at odds with values he considered to be central to education,” she says.

The journal managers blocked her from accessing any documents and have not spoken to her since, she says. “My background is philosophy. The idea that I can’t challenge anything is deeply troubling.”

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“Trans-age”: Convicted pedophile claims says he identifies as an 8-year-old girl

This new “you can be whatever you claim to be” thing is working out very well for some pretty awful people. You’ll recall that male rapists and other violent criminals are identifying as female to get sent to women’s prisons (where some of them promptly commit the same crimes with their new gender.) Last year, a violent male pedophile was set loose in the Greater Toronto Area—but he now identifies as a she. In 2018, an ugly and evil-looking child abuser began identifying as “Jacinta Brooks,” and another pedophile claimed that he wasn’t a pedophile, because he’s “trans-age”—trapped in a nine-year-old’s body.

Another pervert seems to have thought that was a great idea, and is trying the same thing. From Dsrn:

A sex offender convicted on charges of child pornography claimed in court that he identifies as an eight-year-old girl. Joseph Gobrick, 45, was first apprehended by authorities when a missing 17-year-old girl was found at his residence. Upon investigating, police found explicit child pornography on his computer.

Gobrick said to the judge, “I’ve always been an 8-year-old girl. And even my drawings and fantasies, I am always an 8-year-old girl.” Representing himself, he also claimed that the illegal images — some of which depicted infants and small children being sexually assaulted — were protected by the First Amendment.

The judge rejected that defense, sentencing the pedophile to between 10 and 20 years in prison.

It seems that for now, at least, our insanity has limits: We are willing to call a big male sex offender a “she” if he asks nicely, and we’ll even lock him up with the girls, but “trans-age” is just too far.

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This new pro-life resource is essential for every pro-lifer

By Jonathon Van Maren

Over the past several months, I’ve been asked by readers of this column to occasionally recommend particularly helpful resources to educate and equip in responding to the challenges brought about by the culture wars. In December, for example, I reviewed Pro-Life Kids, a wonderful children’s book by Bethany Bomberger that helps parents introduce this difficult topic to their children in an engaging and age-appropriate manner. This recommendation was met with such a positive reaction that I thought I’d draw attention to some other great resources over the next few months.

One recent release by the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (where, full disclosure, I serve as communications director) is a unique and comprehensive resource on pro-life apologetics: Stuck: A Complete Guide to Answering Tough Questions about Abortion. Published by LifeCycle Books as a textbook, author Justina Van Manen combines the foundational work done by apologists such as Scott Klusendorf (The Case for Life), Randy Alcorn (Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Questions), Greg Koukl (Tactics), and Stephanie Gray (Love Unleashes Life) with experience of CCBR’s tens of thousands of face-to-face conversations with the public on abortion to create what I believe to be an essential textbook for anyone who wishes to be fully equipped on the abortion issue.


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Will home-schoolers and Christian classical academies save Western civilization?

By Jonathon Van Maren

Christians—especially evangelical Christians—have often been roundly mocked for pulling their kids out of the public school system and sending them to private schools, or homeschooling them. Aggressive secularists and snotty progressives like to pretend that home-schooled kids are dumb, backwards hicks (as a direct result of being taught by their dumb, backwards parents.) The reality, interestingly enough, is that just as progressives offload the literary canon of Western civilization and begin the process of severing themselves completely from their roots, heritage, and traditions, Christians—through homeschooling associations and classical academies—are rediscovering these riches and working to pass them on.

In Catholic circles, this includes the increasingly popular Chesterton Academies (I spoke with their founder, Dale Ahlquist, on my podcast last fall.) Anthony Esolen has referred to the Western canon as the great unused artillery of the culture wars, and literary professor Dr. Karen Prior explained in a recent interview how the classics can teach us essential virtues—and can even be used in the abortion debate (her most recent book On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books is must-read.) According to Louis Markos, a professor of English at Houston Baptist University, in a recent essay in Christianity Today, Christian parents increasingly seem to be in agreement:

In the wake of the fundamentalist reaction against modernism and especially Darwinism, conservative evangelicals tended to withdraw from society. If they did engage society directly (e.g., the temperance movement), it was likely to be critical—asserting what they were against, rather than what they were for. As the universities, the media, and politics absorbed more and more of the modernist world­view, evangelicals withdrew even further, circling the wagons as a means of protecting their children from a society cut off from its Christian roots. Rather than seeking to be salt and light, they embraced a more Old Testament ethos and sought to separate themselves from the unbelievers around them (Ezra 10:11).

This ethos manifested itself in a Bible-only approach to learning that cast suspicion on non-biblical sources of wisdom. What could Christians learn from writers who denied the Christian revelation? As for the pre-Christian classical writers, though they might be excused for their ignorance of the Bible, their acceptance of such practices as idolatry, infanticide, and homosexuality rendered them off-limits.

This was the predominant attitude of evangelical Christians in the 1950s and 1960s. Conversely, today Mars Hill Forum is one of a growing number of evangelical homeschooling co-ops that want to raise up a generation of Christians who know the Bible and who live virtuous lives, and who are also firmly grounded in the pagan classics of ancient Greece and Rome, as well as the Roman Catholic classics of the Middle Ages. I’ve spoken to a number of such groups across the country and have found in each the same contagious atmosphere of learning and desire to be salt and light in the wider culture.

I have found this to be true in many of my own circles. Especially in the last five years or so, I’ve heard the phrase “classical education” pop up constantly in conversation, and I’ve been invited to speak at some of these schools. Many parents want to see their children rooted in the poetry, art, music, and literature that made Western Civilization great in the first place, and there is an increasing realization that these things sprang from an explicitly Christian culture and are part of our collective heritage. As the progressive iconoclasts agitate to get “white men” tossed out of literary survey courses and chant things like “Hey hey, ho ho, western culture’s got to go,” Christian communities are taking the opposite approach and refamiliarizing themselves with these cultural treasures. It must be noted, too, that although Dr. Francis Schaeffer is now primarily known for his role in bringing evangelicals into the pro-life movement, he did a lot of heavy lifting in the role of getting American Christians to reengage with the classics, as well.

Markos notes that many Reformed communities, such as that of Douglas Wilson of Moscow, Idaho (the author of more than 90 books and most famous for his public debates with the late Christopher Hitchens) have led the way in regard to classical education:

A related shift happened among conservative Reformed Christians, many of whom were held back from the classics by an excessively dark view of unsaved human nature, believing it was nearly impossible for Christians to learn things of lasting value from pre-Christian writers like Homer, Plato, and Cicero.

But as Mark Noll noted in The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, Reformed scholars and presses ironically became major movers and shakers in calling evangelicals to pursue a broader life of the mind. It has been the Presbyterians and other Calvinists who have lit the way in classical Christian education. (A large number of classical schools bear names like Geneva, Providence, Covenant, and Grace.)

In particular, a more careful reading of Calvin and the Bible made the difference. The opening chapters of both Calvin’s Institutes and the Book of Romans (1:18–19, 2:14–15) make a foundational distinction between general revelation—the way God speaks to all people through creation, conscience, and reason—and special revelation, which is found only in the Bible, the prophets, and Christ. This distinction is vital to classical education, for it allows even unbelievers who lived before Christ to arrive at truths that are compatible with Scripture.

Because they lacked access to the special revelation of the Bible, neither Homer nor Virgil, Plato nor Sophocles saw as clearly as Augustine or Aquinas, Dante or Milton. On account of the general revelation vouchsafed them by God, however, they did see something, and that something is worth studying and wrestling with. The virtues championed in Aristotle and Cicero may lack salvific power, but they do have the power to guide students on a path of living that is pleasing to our Creator and that will help restore the soul of our nation.

Take a moment to read the whole article—it is an interesting glimpse into an emerging movement. I suspect most of my readers will not find much of this surprising, especially with the explosion of interest in the classics among homeschoolers and the fairly recent proliferation of classical academies, but it is an fascinating example of what Rod Dreher’s “Benedict Option” might look like as we head towards what Jane Jacobs called the “Dark Age Ahead.” The good news is that Christians have weathered a Dark Age before, which is incidentally where the titles of both Dreher’s and Jacobs’ books come from. Sir Roger Scruton, who passed away this week, believed that Christian communities are essential reservoirs of cultural heritage, too.  And what Christians have done before, Markos notes, Christians might do again:

In his 1995 bestseller, How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill argued that many of the pagan (pre-Christian, Greco-Roman) classics were preserved through the Dark Ages by a most unlikely group of people: Irish Catholic monks living in a remote corner of the civilized world. If the country is preparing to enter a type of second Dark Ages devoid of classical thought, another unlikely group of people is arising to preserve the Great Books of the Western intellectual tradition: conservative evangelical Christians.

I believe that inevitably, Christians will be forced to take complete responsibility for the education of their children—while there are some places where Christian schools still receive government funding, it is extraordinarily unlikely that this will last (and it is staggering to me that we are not preparing for this eventuality more thoroughly.) It is encouraging that many are recognizing what is coming, and taking steps to ensure that their children will be bequeathed the heritage and inheritance that the post-modernists are rejecting. In dark times, these cultural jewels glow brightly.

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