Lord of the Flies for One Night

I recently got the chance to catch up on a couple of interesting movies: The Purge (2013), and its sequel, The Purge: Anarchy (2014). Both are set several years in the future, and share a common premise: Every year, for one twelve-hour period from 7pm to 7am, all crime — including murder — is legal. This twelve-hour period is called The Purge. It was instituted by “The New Founding Fathers of America” (NFFA), when the country was “reborn” after a complete economic and social collapse. mv5bmje2odmxmtk1nl5bml5banbnxkftztgwmdeznjezmte-_v1_uy1200_cr6406301200_al_

As you might imagine, both movies are rated R and are very violent. These are not appropriate for kids. I’d add that both contain a fair amount of profanity, but minimal sensuality (one make-out scene, and a threatened rape or two).

If you do choose to watch these films, I’d recommend watching the sequel first. It gives a much broader picture of the annual Purge, showing all the chaos in the streets that you’d expect. The first movie (which I’d recommend watching second) focuses on a single upper-class family that suffers a home invasion during the annual Purge. Many viewers were disappointed with the first movie, because they thought they were going to be getting something more like the sequel. The nice thing about waiting for Netflix is that you can watch them in any order you want! BTW, the second movie contains no spoilers about the first, and none of the characters carry over. There’s nothing you’ll be “missing” in the second one, the way you usually would if you skipped an initial installment of a series. In fact, I’d argue that you’ll enjoy the first movie more if you’ve already seen The Purge: Anarchy. You’ll have a better sense for what the annual Purge is about, so you’ll appreciate it when it comes home for one family.

So, why was the annual Purge instituted? The NFFA argue that it’s an effective means of channeling criminal tendencies. Everyone gets an annual outlet for their pent-up rage. Everyone gets to “purge” that rage, if they so choose. Furthermore, it’s said to control crime because so many troublemakers — especially the urban poor — go out in the streets and kill each other off once a year. As an additional benefit, unemployment has plummeted to virtually nothing, because the Purge kills off so much of the “excess population.” The well-to-do are able to afford security measures that effectively isolate themselves from the chaos in the streets. The impoverished and the unemployed, especially those who live in big cities, are left to fend for themselves.

These movies are dark and disturbing. They’re also thought-provoking. But before I share those thoughts, let’s get a few gripes out of the way:

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Least of the Brothers?

Watching the Saddleback Forum on Saturday night, I was struck by what Barack Obama described as America’s greatest moral failing: our collective failure to “abide by that basic precept in Matthew that whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me.”

My first thought was the Down Syndrome baby who Jill Stanek, the nurse at Christ Hospital in suburban Chicago, cradled in her arms for 45 minutes after he’d survived an abortion. As is now becoming widely known, Obama had an opportunity to support legislation designed to treat such children (so “least” among all humanity that even their parents want them dead) with basic dignity and medical care. Even after impassioned testimony before his committee by Jill Stanek herself, Obama voted to kill the legislation. Twice. Even the version supported by Barbara Boxer at the national level.

Then came a remarkable story today: Turns out that Barack Obama has a long-lost half-brother living in squalor in Kenya. Not a metaphorical brother this time. A real one.

The Italian edition of Vanity Fair said that it had found George Hussein Onyango Obama living in a hut in a ramshackle town of Huruma on the outskirts of Nairobi.

Mr Obama, 26, the youngest of the presidential candidate’s half-brothers, spoke for the first time about his life, which could not be more different than that of the Democratic contender.

“No-one knows who I am,” he told the magazine, before claiming: “I live here on less than a dollar a month.”

But he wasn’t entirely lost to the world, and not unknown to everyone: Senator Obama knew he existed, and visited him as recently as two years ago. He even merited a mention in Obama’s book:

He has only met his famous older brother twice – once when he was just five and the last time in 2006 when Senator Obama was on a tour of East Africa and visited Nairobi.

The Illinois senator mentions his brother in his autobiography, describing him in just one passing paragraph as a “beautiful boy with a rounded head”.

Of their second meeting, George Obama said: “It was very brief, we spoke for just a few minutes. It was like meeting a complete stranger.”

Assuming the story is true (and the source is Vanity Fair), the question I’m left with is this: What kind of a man lives in a mansion in Hyde Park and allows his brother to live in squalor half a world away? Did Barack offer to help George? Did George refuse the help, preferring to continue living in a six-foot-by-nine-foot shanty?

I don’t know the answers, but I couldn’t help thinking of the quiet choice made by a different family, also half a world away from home, when given an opportunity to help the least of those among us.

Strange Sacrament

In case you had any doubts about abortion being a holy sacrament in the church of militant secularism, LifeNews today brings us this story:

Rev. Larry Phillips of Schenectady’s Emmanuel-Friedens Church dedicated the ground, according to a report in the Albany Times Union.

He called the abortion facility “sacred and holy … where women’s voices and stories are welcomed, valued and affirmed.”

Phillips said the abortion business was “sacred ground where women are treated with dignity, supported in their role as moral decision-makers … sacred ground where the violent voices of hatred and oppression are quelled.”

Note to clergy: When Jesus said (Luke 23:29), “For behold, the days shall come, wherein they will say: Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that have not borne, and the paps that have not given suck,” he wasn’t saying that would be a good thing.

Possible Impact

A week ago, I posted about the massive new Planned Parenthood clinic preparing to open in Aurora. Our Bishop called for a day of prayer and penance last Friday, which was the subject of my post.

Interestingly, the Chicago Tribune is reporting that legal action is now looking like it may derail the scheduled opening of that clinic. It is supposed to open on Tuesday — but a hearing is slated for Monday, which may result in a long delay. I wonder how much of this is due to the recent outpouring of prayers and sacrifices across the Joliet diocese:

A letter Wednesday from Aurora said the city would not issue a permanent occupancy permit — even though the city already issued a temporary occupancy certificate — until an investigation is completed into how the clinic was approved for construction.

Gemini Office Development LLC applied for the permits, not revealing until recently that Planned Parenthood would operate the clinic.

Aurora officials want to delay the opening while they investigate whether Gemini fully disclosed the purpose of the clinic during the permitting process.

What I found most chilling about the story is this:

Trombley has said 13 appointments already have been scheduled for Tuesday, the planned opening day of the $7.5 million, 22,000-square-foot medical facility at 3051 E. New York St. on Aurora’s east side. The clinic, one of the group’s largest in the country, will offer reproductive health-care services, including abortions.

Thirteen appointments already. Thirteen babies who have the same date with the same executioner, but who right now are still alive. Let’s all redouble our prayers this weekend that the executioner doesn’t get the opportunity to open his doors.

Prayer and Penance

Here in the Diocese of Joliet, Bishop J. Peter Sartain has called for a day of prayer and penance in reparation for the massive new abortuary that Planned Parenthood will be opening in Aurora.

The proposed opening of the new clinic is a troubling development. For everyone concerned, abortion is a source of great suffering and sorrow. As Catholics, we hope in the Lord of Life. Made in his image and likeness, we know that human life is sacred. At times like this, it is important to remember that our lives are not our own. Each of us belongs to Christ, and he asks us to serve him in one another and to show particular concern for the most vulnerable among us.

As Catholics, we will stand proudly and consistently “For Life” in our diocese. Rather than collapsing in negativity, we call on all people of good will to respond with positive action. Every step we take must be peaceful.


Please join me on Friday, September 7 in a day of prayer and penance for the promotion of a Culture of Life and an end to abortion. Pray in the manner of your choosing – perhaps attend Mass that day, pray the rosary or other favorite prayers, for the intention of an increased respect for the sacredness of life. Choose a simple penance in keeping with your health and daily duties – abstain from meat or sweets that day, or refrain from television or other entertainment. Such simple efforts on our part can be a powerful witness to our neighbors and a sign to our Heavenly Father that we love the life – the lives – he has given us.

As for our family, we will be abstaining from meat today. In addition to attending Mass this morning, I will personally be engaging in some other small food-related penances: no snacks between meals, and drinking supermarket canned coffee rather than the nice whole bean stuff I prefer. Another easy thing is to make many silent acts of atonement. These prayers don’t have to be elaborate or even lengthy; my favorite is simply miserere nobis (“have mercy on us”). I’ve been trying to say it many times today, each time imagining that I’m lobbing that prayer toward the abortuary’s construction site.

Why do Catholics do this sort of thing? It’s a natural application of what St. Paul told the Colossians: “I find joy in the sufferings I endure for you. In my own flesh I fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of His Body, the Church” (Col. 1:24). What is lacking in the sufferings of Christ? The continuing, ongoing embrace of those sufferings by his followers — in reparation for their own sins and the sins of others.

As St Josemaria Escriva put it:
In the Holy Mass we find the perfect opportunity to atone for our sins and the sins of all men, so as to be able to say with Saint Paul that we are completing in our flesh what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ. No one is an isolated individual in this world; no one can consider himself completely free from blame for the evil that is done on earth, which is the result of original sin and the sum total of many Personal sins. Let us love sacrifice; let us seek atonement. How? By uniting ourselves in the Mass to Christ, who is Priest and Victim. He is always the one who bears the tremendous weight of the infidelities of men — your infidelities and mine.

Today, we’re seeking out a few extra little sufferings in order to do a little more to make up for the many offenses against human life being perpetrated at that new clinic. I hope you’re able to join us in whatever way you can.

Political Socialization

As a political scientist, it’s amusing watching the way our children have been acquiring their views about politics and public policy. In the business, we refer to this process as “political socialization.” Adults do not always share the political orientation of their parents, but the correlation is generally quite strong; parental party identification is an excellent predictor of a child’s party identification. (I still remember a fellow UCLA graduate student sending out a birth announcement to the department; after listing his new baby’s name, length, and weight, he closed with “and is reportedly a Democrat.”)

We don’t appear to be raising any Democrats in this family. Yesterday, my eleven year old and I were driving around running errands. At a stop light, he pointed to the car in front of us and remarked (approvingly), “Look at those bumper stickers, Daddy. ‘Rush is Right,’ and ‘Bush-Cheney.’ Those people must be Republicans!”

Then, when we got home, the eight year old greeted us with big news. Just like how Daddy had recently published a research piece about abortion attitudes, she had decided to write her own article about abortion — complete, like Daddy’s, with “numbers.” Here is how it reads, in part:

Abortion’s a bad thing. 3,9225,6225. Abortion’s horable (sic). 6535,23560. … I’m a Republican and do not support abortion. 3225,82201128.

Speaking of that article I wrote, one of our more remarkable findings is the dramatic pro-life swing among Generation Y over the last 15 years. The WSJ’s James Taranto, among others, has speculated that this may be due in part to the “Roe Effect.” In other words, those who are pro-choice tend to have more abortions than those who are pro-life, leading to a skewed population today. I’ve seen other research showing that Republicans tend to have more children than Democrats do. It’ll be interesting to track the long term impacts of these fertility differences on the American electorate.

As for us here on the farm in Illinois…we’re doing our part.


The abortion analysis that a colleague and I published last month has continued to percolate across the internet. NewsMax ran a story about it yesterday, which led to James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal running his own commentary on it today.

Taranto mentions an important possible reason for the dramatic pro-life shifts we observed among young people:

What they don’t mention is the demographic consequences of abortion itself–that is, the Roe Effect. It was in 1973 that the Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, found a “constitutional” right to abortion, effectively legalizing the practice nationwide. By 1992 the oldest post-Roe babies were only 19. In 2006, by contrast, the entire 18- to 29-year-old cohort had been born after Roe.

If one makes the reasonable assumptions that “pro-life” women have a lower propensity to abort than “pro-choice” ones do, and that parents are a strong influence on their children’s moral attitudes, then one would expect the post-Roe cohort to be more “pro-life” than their elders.

This point is something that did not occur to us until after the piece had been published, and it was too late to include, but we agree with his general reasoning about demography. And I would add that, even leaving aside the greater propensity of pro-choice women to have abortions, people who are strongly pro-life simply tend to have significantly more children than those who are strongly pro-choice. Children tend to absorb the cultural values and political orientations of their parents —and as they enter the electorate, those who have absorbed a pro-choice orientation are finding themselves outnumbered by the children of pro-lifers.

If I have any readers in Charlotte, NC, I’ll be interviewed about this research at 3:35 Eastern Time Friday afternoon (tomorrow), on the Danny Fontana show, AM 1220 WDYT.

I’ll also be appearing on Lynne Breidenbach’s conservative Christian radio program next Tuesday from 7:15 to 7:30 Eastern. She is based in central Florida, but syndicated in a number of other locations.