Helen Alvaré, the George Mason law professor who is quickly becoming something of a female, younger Robert George, gave a predictably excellent talk at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on Thursday. For those interested, the video is here (though you have to skip to 19:19; the talk is a bit over 10 minutes).
Alvaré is a model of many things, including that rare but happy coincidence of truth, charity and wit. Here, though, she is an exemplar of messaging. What is the topic of her talk? Improving the plight of women and the poor. What is her method? Correctly employing empirical data. Was is the take-away message? Christian teachings on marriage, sex and family are undeniably good for the welfare – as even policy wonks measure it – of women, the poor, and society writ large. She weaves these three aspects together seamlessly, yet manages to avoid pietism, dryly data-driven (say it three time fast!) overtones, as well as an overbearing, I’m-so-into-social-justice type of condescension.
A few highlights:
- “We don’t have to theorize about this anymore…we just have to face it, and begin fixing it.”
Interesting, because it seems that the theorizing approach is preoccupying far too many of us these days. (I write in my blog entry about marriage, again.)
- “But policy makers are too often trying to deal with this gap between the rich and the poor on the cheap….”
Also funny, because it’s expensive, especially since the current administration has quietly gutted the welfare reforms of the 1990s.
- “…And all of this is despite the clear empirical evidence that the only groups in the past who have ever received free contraception and sometimes abortion are the very groups that thereafter suffered the highest rates of non-marital births, abortions, sexually transmitted infections, and unintended pregnancies.”
This one worries me. To recap, Christian teachings on marriage, sexuality, and children have empirical evidence, strong philosophical reasoning (hey Robby George!), and, heck, plenty of women standing boldly in the public square and saying that yes, this is good for us. What else can we do?
Or, is the government’s goal less about preventing all of these woes and more about pushing a certain vision of the state’s role in our mundane existence. Is this true?