During the divided monarchy, Benjamin appears to have played a key role as the border tribe between the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. The exact nature of that role is the subject of much debate.
Levin observes that the language of the oracles to Solomon and Jeroboam (1 Kgs 11:11-13; 11:29-39) leaves Benjamin’s affiliation ambiguous: ten tribes (vv. 31, 35) are torn from David’s line, and only one is left for David (vv. 13, 32, 36). Levin argues that from the beginning of the period of divided monarchy the land of Benjamin was divided, torn between stronger ties to the north and southern kings attempting to create a buffer for their capitol:
Rehoboam [mustered] all of his influence and power, whether military, economic or political, in order to retain control over the border regions. In the end he was only partially successful. The border was set at Mizpah; towns to the north such as Bethel and Ophrah with their Benjaminite clans remained in Israel.
Over time, southern Benjaminites came to identify themselves as a minority within Judah, while “[retaining] familial ties with their brethren ‘across the border.’” The biblical secession story reflects an exilic or post-exilic stage of Benjaminite affiliation with Judah.
Davies rejects the idea that the North—which included Benjamin—was ever ruled by a Judahite king. Challenging Schunck’s acceptance of the biblical assertion that from the time of Rehoboam onward Benjamin was associated with Judah (1 Kgs 12), Davies argues rather that Benjamin was part of the Northern Kingdom until 722, when the conquering Assyrians “may have decided to grant this territory to their loyal allies”: the kingdom of Judah. After Sennacherib subjugated all Judah but Jerusalem, Josiah may have subsequently reasserted temporary control of Benjaminite territory. After the Babylonian conquest, the tables were somewhat turned: the province of Judah was ruled from a Benjaminite administrative center (Mizpah), and its primary cultic centers appear to have been Benjaminite as well (Mizpah, Bethel, Gibeon).
Na’aman is critical of such attempts by Davies and others to associate Benjamin solely with the Northern Kingdom at from its earliest stages—a tendency which, he suggests, is based on the biblical story of Benjamin and Joseph as sons of Rachel. Na’aman argues that from its earliest history the Benjaminite region was associated with Jerusalem: “The results of the archaeological research strongly suggest that the highland district of Benjamin was an integral part of the kingdom of Judah in the monarchical period, and that its material culture differs from that of the hill country of Ephraim.” Even though portions of the land of Benjamin were part of the Northern Kingdom—notably Bethel—most of Benjamin was part of the kingdom of Judah during the divided monarchy.
The scenarios proposed by Levin and Na’aman seem to make better sense of the material evidence, and of Knauf’s and Davies’s own suggestions that the annexation of Bethel was partly the means by which Israelite/Northern traditions (e.g., exodus and judges/saviors traditions) came south to Judah. Na’aman rightly questions why the Assyrians—if they indeed gave the land of Benjamin to Judah after 722 BCE—would have detached Bethel, an important administrative and cultic center of the conquered Samarian kingdom, and given it to Judah. Na’aman prefers to follow Alt’s proposal that “the area of Bethel was annexed to the kingdom of Judah after the Assyrian retreat from Palestine, probably in the 620s BCE.”
Levin argues, contra Davies, that Benjamin’s ambiguous, tense relation to Judah throughout the DtrH is strong evidence of the historicity of at least a core of the biblical portrait of the united monarchy. If Benjamin was only annexed involuntarily to Judah after the fall of the Samarian kingdom, what would be the necessity for such a strong Benjaminite “substratum” in such a Judah-centered history—especially the founding of Israel by a Benjaminite king? “The only possible reason for such a tradition to be included in the History is that it was known to the people of the authors’ own time, forcing them to deal with it.” Rather, Benjamin seems to have been important to Judah from the beginning, since Jerusalemite rulers needed Benjamin’s support as a buffer against the North.
Levin, Davies, Na’aman and Knauf observe intertribal tensions embedded in the biblical texts, which reflect Benjamin’s status as a border tribe—Na’aman sees Benjaminite hostility toward Ephraim, whereas Davies focuses on Benjaminite hostility toward Judah. There is no doubt that both observations are correct, reflecting the “tug-of-war” over Benjamin found both in the narratives of 1-2 Kings and in the history of the ninth and eighth centuries BCE.
Economic activity is dynamic; ethnic and religious identities exhibit fluidity and flexibility. Any reconstruction of the political status of Benjamin during the divided monarchy must take these facts into consideration. Given that the written evidence seems to associate Benjamin with both the North and the South, it is reasonable to suggest that some Benjaminite families, settlements and towns switched their primary allegiances (in one direction or the other) at different times. The ethnic/clan association with Ephraim seems to have been stronger, but the geography of Benjamin made economic, political and military ties with Judah a necessity as well.
Such a scenario assumes a certain measure of autonomy for “Benjamin” as a tribe/province/polity, and for Benjaminite individuals/families. In Knauf’s and Davies’s proposed scenarios, Benjamin is a passive entity, subjugated in succession by the Samarian government, the conquering Assyrians, the kingdom of Judah, Assyria, and finally Babylon. Yet political boundaries defined by military conquest, treaty, taxation and forced tribute do not always mirror economic, ethnic and religious affiliations. For example, it is perfectly conceivable that individual Benjaminite towns or families paid regular tribute to one larger political entity—and thus would be considered “part” of that entity—while simultaneously identifying ethnically, religiously and economically with another political entity. The material and literary evidence seems to demand nuanced explanations that emphasize complexity and fluidity, rather than proposals that generalize about one kingdom “handing over a region” to another.
 Klaus-Dietrich Schunck, Benjamin: Untersuchungen zur Entstehung und Geschichte eines israelitischen Stammes (BZAW 86; Berlin: Alfred Töpelmann, 1963), 171-172.
 The association of “ten tribes” is itself a stylization, since Simeon’s region was contained within Judah’s (Josh 19:9), and was apparently later absorbed into Judah: “The pattern of Judahite domination over and even absorption of Simeon is strongly suggested by the Deuteronomistic work” (Gary N. Knoppers, 1 Chronicles 1-9 [Anchor Bible Commentary; New York: Doubleday, 2004], 372). The Northern faction in Rehoboam’s day would only have included nine tribes: Reuben, Gad, Dan, Asher, Naphtali, Zebulun, Issachar, Manasseh, and Ephraim—and possibly Benjamin, which is the very question at hand.
 “I would suggest that rather than this being bad addition in an unskillfully told story, it is a purposeful reflection of the unclear status of the twelfth tribe, namely Benjamin, once again in an oracle attributed to a northern prophet” (Yigal Levin, “Joseph, Judah and the ‘Benjamin Conundrum,’” ZAW 116 : 229n27).
 Levin, “Benjamin Conundrum,” 229.
 Levin, “Benjamin Conundrum,” 230.
 Philip R. Davies, “The Trouble With Benjamin,” in Reflection and Refraction: Studies in Biblical Historiography in Honour of A. Graeme Auld (ed. R. Rezetko et al.; Leiden: Brill, 2007), 102.
 Schunck, Benjamin: Untersuchungen, 139-69.
 Davies, “The Trouble With Benjamin,” 103-104.
 Davies, “The Trouble With Benjamin,” 103. Ernst A. Knauf argues that Benjamin, “the Israelite south,” was annexed to Judah between 630 and 620 BCE: “Bethel: The Israelite Impact on Judean Language and Literature,” in Judah and the Judeans in the Persian Period (ed. Oded Lipschits and Manfred Oeming; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2006), 316.
 Philip R. Davies, “The Origin of Biblical Israel,” in Essays on Ancient Israel in Its Near Eastern Context: A Tribute to Nadav Na’aman (ed. Yairah Amit et al.; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2006), 142-144.
 Nadav Na’aman, “Saul, Benjamin and the Emergence of ‘Biblical Israel’ (Parts 1 & 2),” ZAW 121 (2009): 335.
 Na’aman argues that even pre-Israelite, Canaanite Jerusalem of the early second millennium included the territory that later became the land Benjamin: “Canaanite Jerusalem and its Central Hill Country Neighbours in the Second Millennium B.C.E.,” UF 24 (1992): 275-291.
 Na’aman, “Saul, Benjamin and the Emergence of ‘Biblical Israel,’” 217.
 Na’aman, “Saul, Benjamin and the Emergence of ‘Biblical Israel,’” 338-342.
 Na’aman, “Saul, Benjamin and the Emergence of ‘Biblical Israel,’” 224.
 Knauf, “Bethel,” 291-295; Davies, “The Trouble With Benjamin,” 104-110.
 Na’aman, “Saul, Benjamin and the Emergence of ‘Biblical Israel,’” 339.
 Na’aman, “Saul, Benjamin and the Emergence of ‘Biblical Israel,’” 339.
 “If, indeed, the whole of the Primary History was first “invented” either during the days of Josiah or in the post-exilic period, based on only a dim recollection of the past at best and perhaps even an intentional attempt to “re-write” history, then why even mention the northern origin of the Benjaminites and their king Saul? If the whole episode of the United Monarchy is no more than a Judean literary invention, why give the “honor” of its foundation to a northerner, whose followers then continued to pester the Messiah David?” (Levin, “Benjamin Conundrum,” 231-232)
 Levin, “Benjamin Conundrum,” 232.
 “Since the district of Benjamin was a buffer zone between Israel and Judah, and must have suffered in the course of the military clashes between the two kingdoms (as may be inferred from Hos 5:8-9; 9:9; 10:9), it might have grown hostile rather than fraternal in its relations with Ephraim, its northern neighbor” (Na’aman, “Saul, Benjamin and the Emergence of ‘Biblical Israel,’” 224).
 Davies, “The Trouble With Benjamin,” 102ff.
 Levin, “Benjamin Conundrum,” 224.
A recent news story, with some names changed to protect the guilty:
WASHINGTON (AP) — The US president on Thursday slammed the Middle East for its naval presence in the Gulf of Mexico while the country’s army commanders warned archenemy Iran against any military strikes on the US.
President Barack Obama said "foreign presence" was the source of insecurity in the Gulf and the strategic Panama Canal, a key waterway through which significant US trade passes.
The US, on the other hand, he claimed, has "always guarded peace and security."
The remarks — typical rhetoric from the US president — came ahead of a military parade in Washington as the country marked Veterans Day. And while the US president didn’t name any specific country, his remarks were an apparent reference to Eastern nations and the Iranian 5th Fleet off the coast of Havana.
The US sees the large Iran-led naval presence in the Gulf as foreign military meddling in the West. Washington has in the past year warned it could close the Panama Canal in retaliation for tighter Eastern sanctions over its controversial nuclear program, but later stepped back from those threats.
Read the full story here, and then ask yourself: how would we feel if Russia or Iran had a military presence in both Mexico and Canada?
Until recent decades, postexilic biblical texts and the Persian period generally were undervalued in biblical studies. With the advent of new textual and material evidence, as well as new methodologies and interpretive paradigms, the Persian period is now viewed as central to the development of Jewish religion and the formation of the Hebrew Bible. Persian studies now dominate the various domains of Hebrew Bible scholarship.
The period of Persian rule in the Levant extends from Cyrus’s defeat of the city of Babylon (539 BCE) to Alexander’s conquest of the Persian empire (333-331 BCE). The Persian territory at its zenith extended from Iran through Mesopotamia and Syro-Palestine to Egypt, westward to Asia Minor, and eastward to the Indus River.
Wiesehöfer notes that the material and textual witness to the Persian empire suffers from a variety of weaknesses. First, written sources concerning Persia include hostile Greek sources, and royal inscriptions dominated by royal ideology. Second, since Iranian historical tradition is predominantly oral, it is difficult to discern its Achaemenid traits. Finally, “quantifiable material is rare”; the cuneiform tablets, inscriptions and papyri are limited and chronologically imbalanced. “It is therefore difficult to write a history of events from a Persian perspective or to measure the economic performance of the Achaemenid Empire in any meaningful way and to base demographic, social, and economic statements on statistically sound material.”
Western perception of the Persian empire has historically been influenced by Greek sources, and by the presentation of Persia in the Hebrew Bible. Deutero-Isaiah and Ezra-Nehemiah, for example, portray Cyrus very positively as YHWH’s instrument to defeat Babylon and return the Judahites to their homeland (Isa 44:28-45:5; Ezr 1:1-11). Xenophon and Herodotus likewise present Cyrus as “good, wise and tolerant.” The discovery of the “Cyrus Cylinder,” in which Cyrus supports the Marduk cult in Babylon after his conquest, has been interpreted as further evidence of a “liberal” policy of religious freedom in conquered lands.
Contemporary scholarship has become more skeptical about such perceptions of the Babylonian and Persian empires and their rulers. For example, Wiesehöfer argues that Cyrus and Xerxes—his foil in the Greek imagination—may not have governed so differently after all. Grabbe’s assessment of the two empires’ attitudes toward local cults is somewhat more moderate than the theological presentation of the Hebrew Bible: “The religious policy of the Persians was not that different from the basic practice of the Assyrians and Babylonians before them.”
 Josef Wiesehöfer, Ancient Persia From 550 BC to 650 AD (trans. Azizeh Azodi; New York: I.B. Tauris, 2001 ); Pierre Briant, From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire (trans. Peter T. Daniels; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2002); Amélie Kuhrt, The Persian Empire: A Corpus of Sources from the Achaemenid Period (London: Routledge, 2010 ); Josef Wiesehöfer, “The Achaemenid Empire,” in The Dynamics of Ancient Empires (ed. Ian Morris and Walter Scheidel; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 66-98.
 Armin Siedlecki, “‘Persian Period Studies Have Come of Age,’” in Historiography and Identity (Re)formulation in Second Temple Historiographical Literature (ed. Louis C. Jonker; New York: T&T Clark, 2010), 123-124.
 Examples include: Philip R. Davies, ed., Second Temple Studies: 1. Persian Period (JSOTSup 177; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991); Lester L. Grabbe, A History of the Jews and Judaism in the Second Temple Period, Volume 1: Yehud: A History of the Persian Province of Judah (London: T&T Clark, 2004); Oded Lipschits and Manfred Oeming, eds., Judah and the Judeans in the Persian Period (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2006); Melody D. Knowles, Centrality Practiced: Jerusalem in the Religious Practice of Yehud & the Diaspora in the Persian Period (Atlanta: SBL, 2006). Gary N. Knoppers and Bernard Levinson, eds., The Pentateuch as Torah: New Models for Understanding Its Promulgation and Acceptance (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2007); Oded Lipschits, Gary N. Knoppers and Rainer Albertz, eds., Judah and the Judeans in the Fourth Century B.C.E. (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2007); Louis C. Jonker, ed., Historiography and Identity (Re)formulation in Second Temple Historiographical Literature (New York: T&T Clark, 2010); Louis C. Jonker, ed., Texts, Contexts and Readings in Postexilic Literature (Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 2011); Erhard S. Gerstenberger, Israel in the Persian Period: The Fifth and Fourth Centuries B.C.E. (trans. Siegfried S. Schatzmann; Atlanta: SBL, 2011 ).
 Lindsay Allen, The Persian Empire (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 26, 135-144.
 Wiesehöfer, “The Achaemenid Empire,” 66-67.
 Wiesehöfer, Ancient Persia, 43.
 Grabbe, History of the Jews and Judaism Vol. 1, 111.
 Wiesehöfer, Ancient Persia, 42-55.
 Grabbe, History of the Jews and Judaism Vol. 1, 273; cf. 215-216.
I just returned this afternoon from the Mid-Atlantic Regional meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Baltimore. A great time was had by all, I think. I wish I had more time to visit the city; unfortunately, Camden Yards only offers weekday tours during the season. But I look forward to the national SBL meeting in Baltimore in November.
My paper, "Sleeping Dogs: Benjamin-Judah Relations in the Persian Period and the Chronicler’s Portrait of Saul," is now posted. I would appreciate any comments or suggestions.
In a recent conversation, an RE in our church noted that, in our circles, the burden of proof in a debate falls on the side that argues what is perceived to be a more “liberal” position. The so-called “conservative” position is the default and does not always face the same scrutiny.
In my upbringing in conservative evangelicalism of different varieties, I have found this observation to be true. There are social sanctions for suggesting or taking a position that is perceived as more liberal according to the traditions and norms of that community—and those who take a more conservative position are praised as “defenders of the faith” who “hold the line.” Of course, the converse is also true of various liberal circles: liberals compete with one another to see who can present the most “tolerant” or “liberating” expression of religion, or who can come up with the edgiest challenge to traditional dogma. Those who postulate along more conservative lines—or even those whose theological agenda, while still liberal, is not concerned with the particular strain of “liberation theology” found in those dominant liberal circles—may be belittled or ostracized.
I was raised in a Christian context that would be identified “conservative,” “evangelical,” and “inerrantist.” As an adult, I embrace all these designations, and would add “Reformed”—meaning that I believe that the tradition and churches stemming from John Calvin to be the most faithful expression of biblical truth.
Yet I am concerned about the societal and social pressures faced by American evangelicalism, and particularly Reformed evangelicalism. Christians feel farther and farther out-of-step with American society as norms and values drift away from traditional Christian worldview and practice. Societal pressure then creates a spectrum of responses within our small social community of evangelicals—a spectrum between the two extremes of utter capitulation and staunch resistance.
I do not wish to rehash the debate on differing views of the relationship between Christ and culture. I will say that a traditionally Reformed framework has seemed to me to be the best starting point from which to debate particular issues in the area of the Christ/culture relationship. Reformed theology has a rich heritage wrestling with issues of epistemology and faith, church and state, the roles of Christians in society.
I am conservative. I am Reformed. I embrace wholeheartedly the notion that Scripture is revelation from God, inerrant and authoritative on all matters to which it speaks.
It is dangerous to construe Scripture as affirming less than what it actually does affirm. Yet it is also dangerous—and perhaps a more common danger in our circles than in some others—to construe Scripture as affirming more than what it does.
 The son of a Southern Baptist mother and a Messianic Jewish father, I was raised from my earliest memory in dispensational Messianic Jewish congregations, Conservative Baptist churches, and a Christian & Missionary Alliance church. I became drawn to Reformed theology while attending a historically dispensational university (Cairn University—formerly Philadelphia Biblical University).
 My experience with more liberal forms of Christianity includes much of my graduate study in Old Testament, active participation in the Society of Biblical Literature, and even some unique opportunities to speak as an evangelical in liberal contexts (including the bastion of liberal theology, Union Theological Seminary in New York).
Trivia question: where in the New Testament are these verses cited?
"For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Pele’-yo’etz-el-gibbur-avi`ad-sar-shalom (Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace).
There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this." (Isa 9:6-7)
Trick question: these verses–unlike many others from Isaiah that were picked up by the NT authors and read christologically–are nowhere cited in the NT. The question is–why the heck wasn’t Isa 9:6-7 cited by the NT authors?!
This one has always puzzled me. The Gospel of Mark has Isaianic themes throughout. Paul uses Isaiah quite a few times. In fact, Isaiah is the second-most-frequently cited book of the OT in the NT (only Psalms is cited/alluded to more frequently). Matthew 1:21 even picks up on the "virgin will be with child" mis-translation of LXX Isa 7:14 and applies it to Mary and Jesus.
So, why didn’t the NT authors read Isa 9:6-7 as a prophecy about Christ? Certainly Christians who believe in the unity of God’s revelation in the Old and New Testaments will acknowledge this connection. But it seems very strange that Matthew in particular, given the lengths to which he goes to see Christ in the OT (even apparently "shoehorning" Christ into some passages), didn’t pick up Isa 9:6-7 and take it all the way like Mark Sanchez fumble.
I have no answers here–do you?
My uncle, Marc Newman, is a nationally-known prolife speaker. I recently had an interesting exchange with him over email on the subject of legal restrictions on abortion, and I received his permission to publish the exchange on this blog. Below is the conversation in its entirety (with only cosmetic edits).
Hi Uncle Marc,
I was having a discussion with a friend the other day about a blog post that has gone semi-viral, in which the author recounts his disillusionment with the prolife movement. It wasn’t so much this author’s experience that my friend and I were discussing, but his criticism of the nebulous political and legal goals of some prolife organizations. My friend and I both believe abortion to be murder. However, we were trying to think through the legal, political, economic and social consequences of various different sorts of legislation (and enforcement) against abortion.
My question for you is: if tomorrow (in an unlikely scenario) Roe were overturned and you were appointed by President Obama as the “Abortion Czar” with complete freedom to dictate federal policy (and let’s just throw in state policy, too) toward abortion in our country, what would that legal framework look like? What would be the penalties for abortion? Would they be enforced against mother, doctor and father? If there were a “life of the mother” exception, what would be the criteria and how would they be enforced? What sorts of pragmatic steps would you take in the area of public health, conceding (as you must) that some will circumvent the legislation and die in botched back-alley procedures, and that condom usage reduces the likelihood of pregnancy and incidence of abortion?
I am interested in your response as someone who is heavily invested in this cause as a proliferator of prolife ideas. (I have always wanted to use “proliferate” in a sentence with “prolife,” and now my dream has come true. I have some very modest dreams.)
What an unlikely scenario — Obama naming me to anything but a domestic pro-life list of people to watch closely (I’m probably on it already)– but I will try to answer the best I can.
If Roe v. Wade were overturned tomorrow, the abortion issue would return to the states. States such as California and New York would continue to have legal abortions with nearly no restrictions. States such as Utah and Texas would likely ban all abortions other than for rape, incest, and threat to the life of the mother. As “Abortion Czar” there is nothing that could be done unless there was a Human Life Amendment added to the Constitution.
Penalties for abortion would be severe. My guess would be life in prison for the doctor. Once education was widespread, and everyone really knew that Planned Parenthood had lied to women all these years, once an educational culture instilled in young people the truth about the humanity of the unborn child, then I would imagine that conspiracy charges would be brought against a woman seeking an abortion, as well as anyone else involved in the procuring of an abortion. Now when you make such a claim now, it makes people squawk. But let’s make an analogy. There was a time in which black people were considered inhuman. People were so invested in keeping slaves that they fought a war to protect that right. Once slaves were freed and the Civil War (or, if you are from the South, “The War of Northern Aggression”) was completed, it still took quite awhile for justice to be served consistently on those who mistreated or killed black people. But can you imagine anyone trying to get away with any kind of “less than human” argument today in a court of law in America were they to participate in the killing of a black person? It might take time, but once people are aware of both the humanity of the unborn child and the legal penalties attached to aborting children (or Child Murder as the suffragettes called it), then choosing to abort would be accompanied by choosing to bear the penalty if one is caught, prosecuted, and convicted.
Life of the mother exceptions are rare, and there are clear diagnostic “tells” — ectopic pregnancy, for example, or uterine or cervical cancer. C. Everett Koop argued that during his entire practice he had NEVER heard of a woman needing an abortion to save her life. The general statistic is that such abortions make up less than 1% of all abortions. You don’t “enforce” an exception. You might mean, how would they be determined. I would argue the same way all medical issues are determined, by a couple of doctors willing to testify to the presence of a life-threatening condition. Now, will there be unscrupulous physicians who will lie in order that some well-to-do people can obtain abortions? Probably. But making it illegal would have a tremendous influence on abortion rates. The law educates people. Where permissive abortion laws are the norm, abortions skyrocket and people feel less stress about aborting — in such cases, the law encourages abortion. Conversely, when abortion is illegal, the law educates people that the unborn are valuable and protected, and this creates a more life-affirming culture. There will always be abortions, but if the solvency threshold for passing a law against any behavior had to be 100%, murder would be legal.
I don’t know that I “must” concede the argument concerning back-alley abortions, if you are envisioning some old crone with a coat hanger. Back alley abortions were called such because women would enter the clinic through a door in the back alley. Most were performed by licensed physicians. The reasons so many died was not because of horrific conditions, but because of the unavailability of antibiotics. Women die every year from legal abortions today. For public health, I would launch a nationwide campaign stressing the humanity and value of the unborn, with units on fetal development mandatory (perhaps there would be a field trip to a pregnancy center where kids could see the unborn on a 3-D ultrasound). Where appropriate, education about the change in the law would be mandated, so that people would know it was coming, what the penalties were, and what alternatives were available: adoption and parenting.
On sex education, I would argue for an emphasis on chastity. In a sex-obsessed culture, as is ours, pitching chastity would be tough. Public schools will likely continue with “comprehensive sex education” but condom usage among teens is scattered at best. I ran across a study once concerning the use of condoms between partners, one of which was HIV positive. The study showed that condoms are a great preventive measure against HIV, however, a substantial portion of the sampling had to drop out of the study, because they had to be 100% compliant with the rules of the study which demanded that a condom be used in every sexual encounter. If the fear of getting AIDS is not enough to encourage you to wear a condom, how well will it work with teens who think they are invulnerable (and who, of course, can’t even remember to bring a pencil to class). Stressing condom usage actually results in an increase in pregnancy. Follow me here. Condoms, used consistently, would massively decrease pregnancy. But encouraging condoms among unmarried people is a cultural green light for sexual activity. People in the heat of the moment are inconsistent in their usage, so if there is substantially more sex, but only somewhat more condom usage, the end will be more pregnancies. We have been encouraging condom usage in high school sex ed for decades — have you seen a substantial decrease in teen pregnancy? (There is a decrease here and there, but the scenarios are complicated). Some forms — IUDS and versions of the pill — would have to be outlawed because they often work as abortifacients.
This is excellent, thank you. I think it’s important to recognize the difficulties inherant in enforcing any legislation. But the impossibility of 100% enforcement doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t legislate against a certain behavior, as you point out below.