2008: Opinion: Keep the door open to world talent; reject Prop. 8 / Prof. Andrew Szeri, UCB

The author of this article is the Dean of Graduate Studies at U.C. Berkeley, and clearly an academic superstar of whom we can, and should, be proud. From his writing in this article, it is clear that he has a great love for learning and for his fellow human beings. I would love to go out to lunch or to an academic conference with him, and hear him explain his thoughts. He is openly gay, and serves, for example, as a member and sometimes hiking leader of the “Gay and Lesbian Sierran’s Club” at U.C. Berkley.

His essential belief and driving idealogy is that the United States should be striving to become more and more like Europe and Canada.

Europe is largely completely ineffective in religious thought and practice because the people and especially the intelligentia there have deserted Christianity, which has been the lynchpin of western civilization for 1800 years until the after-effects of the enlightenment and the French Revolution drove it out of the public square. I was a full-time missionary for two years in France in to 1960’s, and loved the intellect of the people, but was deeply disturbed by their hatred of Christianity and their huge, empty churches.

The “Cultural War” is happening in the United States because the elites of academia, entertainment, the arts, the media, and social scientists have stopped teaching us what is true and what is wise in our Judeao-Christian heritage and culture, and are enthroning tolerance, pluralism, post-modernism, deconstructionism, agnosticism, and atheism.

The dying Europe is the perfect example of what happens when a culture carries these ideas to the extreme. For people on this side of the cultural divide, our greatest incentive is to keep us from becoming like Europe and Canada, which will be completely agnostic or atheistic during the next generation, and (because their own native birthrate is far below replacement rates and the replacement rates of the believers in Islam living in Europe are extremely high), will be a largely-Moslem continent within three generations. Do you want me to to speculate on how “welcoming and affirming” that civilization will be to it’s Christians and Jews? We know how open they are (ha, ha) to scholarship, academia, and gays and lesbians; the Islamic leader burned the library in Alexandria on taking over north Africa in the 8th century. Why would anyone be hoping for the United States to follow the path of Europe?

Fortunately, it is not likely to happen, in spite of Dr. Szeri’s best efforts. Pluralistic “affirming” churches are dying for lack of participants, and even many of their most intelligent members are moving to conservative branches of Episcopalianism, Lutheranism, and Presbyterianism.

On the other hand, which religious groups are growing? Above all, Evangelical churches are thriving. Blacks are largely in conservative churches, and many blacks who will be voting for Barack Obama will be voting for Proposition 8 on the same ballot. The Latter-day Saints increasing, and are clearly moving into closer associations with Christianity and, especially, the conservative branches. Catholics are growing rapidly in the U.S., largely due to immigrants from the southern hemisphere. Another high percentage of the many hispanics coming from Mexico and Central and South America are part of the boom in “Charismatic Christianity”, as are the hundreds of thousands of Christians coming here from Korea, China, and the Phillipines (three of the largest Korean mega-churches in the world are in California). Finally, there are several million Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic adherants, largely driven here by oppression at the hands of the Islamic majorities in their native countries in the Mediterranean and Middle-East during the 20th Century.

All of these people love America, and appreciate expecially the financial advantages and religious freedom here. But growing numbers of these people are disgusted with the disbelief and immorality of the United States and western civilization. These people are finding and creating their own elites, without having to adopt those that have let us fall into our current condition. They are not “fundamentalists” or “biblical inerritentists” but are familiar with the whole sweep of western thought. They are much more likely to have read the Bible, John Chrysostom, Augustine, Milton, Shakespeare, and DesCartes than most people in our liberal arts universities.

Regarding what you refer to as the “growing number of states” that have passed state laws to preserve traditional marriage, 26 have constitutional amendments, and 16 have state statutes to that effect. Three others had such laws (Massachussetts, Connecticut, and California) that were struck down tiny majorities of state supreme court justices. Three amendments are on the ballot in 2008 in the states of California, Florida, and Arizona. It looks more and more like those people still pushing for Same Sex marriage are the ones who are out of step, not those who are banning it.

I am looking with all my might for groups of gays and lesbians who are as worried about the decline of the west and the decline of Christianity in the west as we are. They would be as welcome in our coalition as anyone else, and would help us define correctly ways to allow personal freedom and personal lifestyles to co-exist with a thriving, moral, honest culture based on Religion, Truth, Beauty, and Love. Civilizations require all of these in balance with each other to thrive.

See the original of this most important article on the website of tbe Mercury-News newspaper.

Love & thanks,
Steve St.Clair
====================
Opinion: Keep the door open to world talent; reject Prop. 8
By Andrew J. Szeri
Special to the Mercury News
Article Launched: 10/13/2008 08:00:00 PM PDT

A vote for Proposition 8, denying the recognition of same-sex marriages, yanks away the welcome mat from talented people who aspire to come to the United States and join one of the most dynamic societies on Earth. They want to move to a place where their talents can be fully exercised, in a society of mutual respect and understanding.

As someone who has worked to attract top people from around the world to California, I am well aware what a magnet for global talent a great university — or a great company — can be. For example, talented people want to come to the University of California-Berkeley to engage the world-class complex of interwoven departments, multidisciplinary courses of study, centers and institutes that have come to define a great university.

However, as William Wulf, past president of the National Academy of Engineering, noted in testimony before Congress, America’s reputation is changing. “The international image of the United States has been one of a welcoming ‘land of opportunity,’ ” he wrote in 2005 testimony, “The Importance of Foreign-born Scientists and Engineers to the Security of The United States.” “We are in the process, however, of destroying that image and replacing it with one of a xenophobic, hostile nation.”

What is the connection? When it legalized same-sex marriage, California joined the ranks of other enlightened parts of the world. The legalization of same-sex marriage may be regarded as the ultimate sign of the openness of a society. University of Toronto social theorist Richard Florida argued in the Washington Monthly in 2002 that such values are crucial to attracting and retaining the “creative class” of highly educated scientists and engineers, artists and entrepreneurs. “Talented people seek an environment open to differences,” he wrote. “When they are sizing up a new company and community, acceptance of diversity and of gays (and lesbians) in particular is a sign that reads ‘non-standard people welcome here.’ “

Both California and Massachusetts import and engender a disproportionate fraction of highly educated talent for the benefit of our country. It is no coincidence, if one follows Florida’s arguments, that these two states at the forefront of same-sex marriage rights have nurtured great universities, and that these in turn have spawned especially dynamic and inventive economies.

My point here is not to address moral or political questions surrounding Proposition 8; others have done so. Instead, I focus on the pragmatic question: Are we willing to send to Canada or to Europe the talent that comes knocking at our door? They will make their inventions in Canada and Europe, not here; start their businesses there, not here; enrich the culture there, not here; and shape opinion there, not here.

At a time when global competition for the best talent is intensifying, we cannot afford to enshrine discrimination in our Constitution — as an increasing number of states have done. With its special role in developing the creative class in the country, California has a responsibility to maintain a welcoming aspect to the world.

Many of us in California feel elated at a newfound sense of equal protection, following the state Supreme Court decision of May 15. This is under threat from Proposition 8, as it has been in Massachusetts.

But be aware of subtler advantages associated with legalized same-sex marriage. We need to vote no on Proposition 8, to continue to attract the best talent we can for the health and prosperity of California — indeed on behalf of all of the United States. If the culture wars further narrow the scope of who is welcome, we will find ourselves with nothing left to do, but to turn off the light over the door.

Andrew J. Szeri is dean of graduate studies and an engineering professor at the University of California-Berkeley. He wrote this article for the Mercury News.

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Filed under Same Sex Marriage, Western Civilization

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