Touchstone Magazine HomeHome
Touchstone's Editors on news & events of the day.with Patrick Henry ReardonOrder our publications...Speakers bureau, Chicago Lecture Series, and more...Browse back issues...All the information you need


Touchstone's editors on news and events of the day.

E-mail your comments

Thursday, April 3

METHODIST MYSTERY:

While looking at the homepage of Asbury College (being about to go there for their Chesterton conference), I saw a cryptic note saying that the flag incident occurred at the seminary, not the college, and to go the seminary's website for more information. Duly intrigued, I did, and found nothing that told you what that incident was.

As far as I can tell from reading two addresses from the seminary's president, Maxie Dunnam, the seminary replaced American flags in the dining hall with symbolic candles surrounded by razor wire and a yellow ribbon. (Well, it is a seminary.) If I have misunderstood this, it is the seminary's fault for not putting an actually informative story on their website. Hiding a story is not good damage control.

But to my point. One of the things they did post about the war was President Dunnam's address from their March 20th chapel. He began with the expected opening (first, war is bad, and second, Christians disagree about it):

We all come to worship today with heavy hearts. The war rages. Men and women are losing their lives. The toughest part has just begun and the end is not in sight.

Through the ages, like many other issues, Christians have differed in their response to war - and the debate goes on. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction combined with religious and ideological conflict in the world make the issue of war more ominous than ever before in history.


But then he said:

Sometimes I wish I were a pacifist - and sometimes I wish I had a brilliant philosophical mind to accept and even spin a just war theory for times like these. But neither is the case - and maybe that's good - for both pacifism and just-war theories are ideology. Jesus is not interested in ideologies, especially as they keep His people from trusting completely in Him.

At which point one watches the Christian mind dying. (Never mind the kind of silly "spin a just war theory" as if such thinking were only an excuse or rationalization). Two coherent ways of understanding the Christians' relation to the state and to war, thought through on biblical and theological grounds by sophisticated minds, are dismissed as "ideologies."

Ideologies prevent you from trusting the Lord, and therefore (he does not say this, but it follows) very, very bad. And therefore (again, he does not say this, but again, it follows) those who argue for either of these are false teachers who prevent their hearers from trusting in the Lord.

Oh. Ah. Right. Presumably President Dunnam is not a pacifist because he has reason to think it is wrong. What makes his reason acceptable and the pacifist's an "ideology"? If he is not a pacifist, he must believe that waging war is sometimes right. What makes his criteria for waging war acceptable and the just war thinker's an "ideology"?

I don't think he can offer any coherent answer to these questions. He has, after all, more or less rejected thinking by calling two thoughtful answers "ideological." This kind of thing is a very bad sign.


3:21 PM


ALICE IN IRAQLAND:

I will be among the first to start speculating about the strange course of this war:

1. Hussein is planning a Gotterdammerung in Baghdad, or

2. Hussein is dead and no one wants to take responsibility for the orders to use chemical weapons, or

3. Hussein thought there were chemical weapons. But:

(After 1991 destruction of chemical weapons)

Hussein: Build new chemical weapons!

All: Yes sir!

(Failure to build weapons)

Hussein: Are the weapons built and ready to destroy any invaders?

All: Yes sir!

Who would have told Hussein no? He thought he had the weapons, he therefore refused to cooperate with the UN inspectors, thereby goading the US into war, and he was ready to use the weapons to destroy the Americans └ but they are not there.

My current theories. The next few days or weeks should reveal the truth.


2:08 PM


Wednesday, April 2

RUTGERS BACKS DOWN:

After telling the university's InterVarsity chapter that they could no longer receive any funding because they restricted their leadership to Christians, Rutgers University has backed down, as announced in a InterVarsity and Rutgers Joint Statement. It is a face-saving statement for the university:

The controversy concerned the submission of a new constitution by the Rutgers InterVarsity Multi-Ethnic Christian Fellowship and the compatibility of the new constitution with University policies concerning the selection of student organization leaders. The Fellowship was concerned that the University nondiscrimination policy might limit the ability of its members to take into account their religious beliefs and those of leadership candidates when conducting elections.

The University assured the Fellowship that its voting members are permitted to take into account both their own religious beliefs and those of candidates when selecting and voting for their leaders under University policy. Accordingly, during continuing discussions, Rutgers and InterVarsity Multi-Ethnic Christian Fellowship were able to settle upon a leadership selection process that adheres to University policy and also assures the Fellowship's ability to select and maintain leaders compatible with the purposes of the group. The University has approved the organization's constitution.


The Rutgers IVP chapter should be congratulated for having stood firm. Other universities were surely watching.


8:00 PM


SCAMMING THE SCAMMERS:

Those of you who get those funny letters from Nigerians claiming to have a lot of money to give you if you'll only send them your banking information will enjoy Brad Christensen's exchanges with one such conman. It goes on for a while, but in parts is very funny. My favorite part is when he tells the conman that he wants to make sure everything is honest and open and so wants to meet him at . . . a nude beach. And the conmen pretends to agree.


7:50 PM


LITERARY DIVERSIONS:

Said to be from The Washington Post's style section, though I couldn't find anything on the newspaper's website: Merge-Matic Books, defined as the combination of the works of two authors with a suitable blurb. (All sorts of websites have the list, or parts of it, but the one above seems to have almost all of them.)

For example the second runner-up:

"Machiavelli's The Little Prince": Antoine de Saint-Exupery's classic children's tale as presented by Machiavelli. The whimsy of human nature is embodied in many delightful and intriguing characters, all of whom are executed. (Erik Anderson, Tempe, Ariz.)

And the winner:

"Fahrenheit 451 of the Vanities": An '80s yuppie is denied books. He does not object, or even notice. (Mike Long, Burke)

Two others I enjoyed (the second doesn't appear on this website):

"The Invisible Man of La Mancha"- Don Quixote discovers a mysterious elixir which renders him invisible. He proceeds to go on a mad rampage of corruption and terror, attacking innocent people in the streets and all the while singing "To fight the Invisible Man!" until he is finally stopped by a windmill.

"The Exorstentialist": Camus' psychological thriller about a priest who casts out a demon by convincing it that there's really no purpose to what it's doing.


1:36 PM


MORE ON CHESTERTON CONFERENCE:

Another link giving more information about the Chesterton conference being held this weekend at Asbury College. This gives a full list of the speakers and a schedule for the talks.

The conference begins on Friday evening with two of the stars of the Chesterton world, Fr. Ian Boyd, editor of The Chesterton Review and author of the very helpful book The Novels of G. K. Chesterton, and Dr. Sheridan of Gilley of Durham University, author of the very good book Newman and His Age. Fr. Boyd's subject is not listed but Dr. Gilley will be speaking on "Chesterton and Evangelical Christianity."

Saturday features shorter lectures by lesser mortals, including me, but also people like the philosopher Jerry Walls and the theologian Christopher Mitchell, who runs Wheaton College's Wade Collection.


11:44 AM


QUAKER SOCIALISTS AND FREE MARKETERS:

An interesting view of a world I knew almost nothing about: "The Political Ideology of Unprogrammed Quakers". The author, John Powelson, is a retired professor of economics at the University of Colorado and a member of the Quaker Meeting in Boulder, Colorado.

Unprogrammed Quakers

characterize the general beliefs in Quakerism as the sacred triad, consisting of God in every person, silent meeting for worship without a pastor or structured order of events or liturgy, and decisions and declarations about truth in accordance with the Sense of the Meeting.

What distinguishes unprogrammed Quakers is that their meetings do not follow any prearranged or structured order of events or liturgy. A programmed Quaker meeting, on the other hand, usually includes a recurring, planned order of events, generally including a reading and a time for singing.


I didn't know there was such a thing as programmed Quakers. A program would seem to defeat the purpose, but I may be missing something. He continues:

Many Eastern Friends, particularly those at the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, have noted and are currently concerned about a significant drop in membership. In a personal letter to me dated November 5, 2002, Mark Cary described his view, with which I am in agreement, that liberal Friends are held together mostly by a few common threads-the open form of worship, the peace testimony, liberal or radical politics, and a lifestyle that glorifies higher education.

Quakers comprise a very non-diverse and narrow section of society. Cary's research shows that only about 40% believe in a traditional God.Quakers' levels of prayer are quite low compared to other faith communities in the United States. The Religious Society of Friends seems to be comparatively a rather weak form of religion.

Cary believes that "Quakers basically have a religion with a niche appeal on the boundary between religion and philosophy. Unprogrammed Quakerism has very limited appeal outside of the liberal, intellectual elites, having attracted those sorts of people over time and thus having become even less diverse in politics."


In the rest of the article, the author addresses the question of why a movement that began among merchants is now so hostile to market economics and so generally leftist. As he says, "Unprogrammed Quakers have deviated 180 degrees from the classic liberal traditions of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries."


9:43 AM


Tuesday, April 1

CHESTERTON CONFERENCE:

Those of you near Asbury, Kentucky, may be interested in this weekend's Chesterton Conference, titled "Of Wonder and Welcome" , sponsored by Asbury College and the G. K. Chesterton Institute. The speakers include Fr. Ian Boyd, editor of The Chesterton Review and me. The conference starts on Friday and runs through Sunday.


8:01 PM


FRENCH GRATITUDE:

When we visited the American graves at the Normandy beaches, our French guide wept for all the young American men who died to set her country free. Not all the French share her attitude. BBC reports:

Slogans reading "Death to Yankees" and "Rosbeefs (Brits) go home" were painted on the central memorial in Etaples, near the Channel port of Boulogne in northern France.
The slogans also called for UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George W Bush to be sent to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
"Saddam Hussein will win and spill your blood", one slogan read.
Another claimed the graves were "contaminating" French soil.


The polls show:

34% - support US-led forces
25% - support Iraq
31% - support neither side


I can understand that the French might think we are making a dreadful mistake. But when a quarter of France wants our enemies to win └ and British and Americans died to free them from Nazism─.



5:30 PM


APPEALING ISLAM:

In response to my "Europe is now shrinking", a friend commented that

Charles has gone so ga-ga over Islam that some Christians in England are seriously starting to worry.Here's a speech he gave to a Muslim group. In it there are some unobjectionable, even laudable ideas, there, but a breathtaking naivete about Islam.

Well, Pelagianism is said to be the English heresy (Pelagius was British) and the English to dislike theology, or at least metaphysics, and so Islam in its modern form might well appeal to them. It's all very practical and directive, makes your salvation a matter of works it spells out for you, works you can do and know you have done them (none of this Christian concern about whether you've hated your brother in your heart, as long as you've done your duty to him), and doesn't worry about your heart at all, and not much about your mind. It's very English, in some ways.

And I think that in Western European societies, in which Christianity seems so played out and what is "Christian" not much different from what is "secular" (in having high divorce rates, for example), Islam can offer the same blessings or benefits (a vision of stable marriage, for example) as Christianity but seem like a fresh thing and a new deal. And as an identifiable and only partly enculturated community, it will seem to be more successful than Christianity at those things (in having low divorce rates, for example). I have heard people speak in a hazy, wistful way of the wonderful life of Muslim families, when they themselves wouldn't tolerate the life for a second.

Above all, the Islamic life seems to offer order and the resulting benefits of tranquility, stability, and secure status in societies in which most people live disordered lives, who are therefore untranquil, unstable, and insecure. I am told this is the great appeal of the Black Muslims in prisons and slums. Charles may love the ghastly Parker-Bowles, but given the life he has lived so far he must wish at some level for order. His writings on architecture and liturgy suggest this. At least he must wish (I hope he does, for his soul's sake) for a life without adultery.

My friend also noted that:

Europe is in disastrous shape, no doubt. A friend of mine in Paris told me last week that he'd just had a conversation with a friend of his who is a senior officer in the French National Guard. The man told him that within ten years, France will see major Arab-Muslim riots on its streets. Ten percent of the population is Arab-Muslim, and very many of them are concentrated in the cities, unassimilated (and unwilling to assimilate), and involved in crime. A smaller but growing number are involved in terrorism. The French have no idea how to handle it.

In Amsterdam last year, the No. 1 male name for babies was Mohammed.


This is what happens when societies stop having children, which is to say, when they give up on life.


10:10 AM


COLD COMFORT IN CANADA:

Anglicans can behave just as badly as Catholics (if not worse) when it comes to sexual scandals. Married clergy and more democratic structures do not guarantee common decency.

In Judy Steed's Our Little Secret: Confronting Child Sexual Abuse in Canada, she has a chapter "Kingston: Corruption in the Cathedral."

Kingston is a beautiful town in Ontario, home of the second-best (after McGill of course) university in Canada, and of an Anglican cathedral with a great boys' choir. In 1974 the cathedral hired a new choirmaster, John Gallienne.

John Gallienne was an excellent musician, charming, popular, married, and a serial pedophile (several score, maybe several hundred boys at the cathedral). He was a true pedophile, and lost interest in the boys when their voices changed.

Two years later Henrik Helmers quit the boys' choir, and told his parents he had been molested. They did not know what to do. A few months later Henrik killed himself.

His parents told the church and Gallienne, who were indifferent. With the only witness dead, not much could be done. The parents were assured the church would monitor Gallienne. It didn't.

More rumors circulated. Gallienne molested kids in church, in his office, on trips, at summer camp, in their homes: oral sex, anal sex, group sex. The parents adored Gallienne, he was so great with kids. Suspicious parents were ostracized and driven from the church └ by other parents

In 1985 Gallienne molested a boy on a trip, who told someone not affiliated with the church. She went to the police. Gallienne confessed └ to one single slip. The boy was frantic └ he was hurting someone everyone loved. Gallienne showed remorse and agreed to treatment. The Cathedral reacted calmly, it was just "a one-time thing" said Dean Baker, although he had heard allegations before (sound familiar?)

In 1987 Tim Franks, a victim who had grown up, gave the police a statement about his molestation in 1977.More parents realized what had happened. In 1989 an inquiry at Mount Cashel in Newfoundland revealed massive sexual abuse by Christian Brothers and obstruction of justice by just about everyone in the government. Tim Franks committed suicide. John Gallienne led the choir for the funeral service.

The parents of the suicide were astonished at the cathedral's reaction: "It was as if the victims didn't matter─. The children were invisible. Everyone wanted to protect Gallienne."

Gallienne eventually ended up in court. He pled guilty, so his victims couldn't testify. He took the victims' impact statement home and had a great party reading them and laughing at them. The head of education at the cathedral wrote to the court about Gallienne's "superb professionalism at all times." The head of the cathedral's subcommittee on youth, wrote of Gallienne's "desire to do good and contribute to society." Another woman wrote "nothing in the world can ever damage the admiration and respect that I will always have for you." On United Church letterhead another member wrote that Gallienne was "imbued" with "Christian principles."

Roman Catholic clericalism cannot explain these attitudes, since these were Anglican laity.

Here's where the Anglicans outdid the Catholics (or maybe Canadians are more advanced in these things than Americans):

One couple wrote to a friend of Gallienne's: They asked: "the Greeks and Romans and Oscar Wilde did it, so what's wrong with sex with children?" Homosexuals aren't imprisoned anymore. "Pedophiles shouldn't be in prison. Most pedophiles aren't violent. I think society will change in regard to sex with children."

Gallienne served a few years in jail, and has resurfaced: as a choir director at St John's, Ottawa, where the web site gushes: "We continue to be blessed with the talents of John Gallienne as assistant organist."


5:15 AM


Monday, March 31

EUROPE IS NOW SHRINKING:

In Canterbury cathedral two summers ago, I idly wondered how long it would be before the remains of the Church of England handed over the building to the Muslims. I had prayed at the place St. Thomas a Beckett was martyred, but I wondered whether some day, in a couple of decades, the spot might be set aside as a museum exhibit while in the nave nearby men would be kneeling on rugs praying to Allah.

Europe is running out of gas. More to the point, it is running out of children and all they represent. According to a story on the Catholic World News website, two Austrian scholars have found that

the year 2000 was a turning point at which the [European] population's "momentum" became negative, meaning that there will be a shrinkage in the number of parents in the next generation because the present generation of parents had relatively few children.

One of the two researchers declared that such "Negative momentum has not been experienced on a large scale in world history so far." The loss of population will change Europe in only a few decades, as the Europeans who have not been born are replaced by immigrants who have been.

As has been often pointed out, having children, and in particular having lots of them, is a declaration of faith in the future. It is a radical act of hope, to use the jargon of the sixties theologians. "Life will find a way," as the chaos theorist in Jurassic Park put it, and as you may remember that in the movie life found a way to create more life. This suggests that not having children, or having only one or two, is a declaration of fear of the future and a radical act of despair. Whether or not the parents realize it.

Given Europe's "negative population momentum," I don't think my quiet fantasy of Canterbury Mosque all that far-fetched or unlikely. The Church of England will hand it over in the most genial Anglican way, the bishops explaining that they recognize the needs of a "changing England" and the Muslims' greater need for the building, congratulating them on their array of programs that led to their need for such a space, declaring their respect for their Muslim brothers and sisters and telling everyone how much hope they have for the future of their relationship, and assuring the press and their own remaining members (4,678, average age 72) that the Muslims respect the unique place in English society the Church of England holds (though Imams now outnumber bishops in the House of Lords) and are firmly committed to dialogue and the pluralist nature of English society. The Queen, in a chador, will preside.


7:32 PM


LINKING TO BLOGS:

If any of you would like to send someone the link to a particular blog or post the link on your site, just:

1) find the date stamp under the author's name at the end of the blog.

2) right click on it.

3) click on "copy shortcut" (if using a PC) or "open link to new window" (if using a Mac).

4) paste the link wherever you wish.

This feature of Blogger has not worked for us till now, but it seems to be working well now. Please take advantage of the feature. Like all writers, we like to be read and are pleased whenever someone includes a link to our site.


1:22 PM


CLONING IS BAD FOR WOMEN:

A useful short statement from the Family Research Center on the effect of cloning on women. It is written by William Saunders, the FRC's senior fellow in Human Life Studies and occasional contributor to Touchstone.

Among other problems with cloning:

Both the drugs used to cause hyperovarian stimulation and the invasive procedure of egg extraction are linked to grave adverse reactions: severe pelvic pain, nausea, rupture of the ovaries, bleeding into the abdominal cavity, respiratory problems, liver dysfunction, blocking of blood vessels by blood clots, and on rare occasions surgery is required which may leave the patient infertile.

And

The victimization of marginalized women is the obvious outcome. For example, to cure just one major disease such as diabetes, scientists have acknowledged that up to 800 million eggs could be required, harvested from about 80 million women.

That means, as you will have realized, up to 800 million abortions of human life in its earliest stages.


9:36 AM


A FRANK EXCHANGE WITH A READER:

Mere Comments:

Mr. Podles bases his whole argument today on his assessment of President Bush's character, which he seems to have researched with the same sort of diligence he used in researching Saddam Hussein's character twelve years ago. Let's see: Mr. Bush said in his campaign speeches that he wouldn't go to war unnecessarily, so if he is now going to war, it must be necessary, right? Brilliant.

He seems to take a few statements made by Mr. Bush in a campaign as proof of profound unshakeable convictions, rather than as speechwriter-provided, poll-tested cliches calculated to win an election. Maybe he is right but how does he know? The president had no track record coming into office on which one could test real meaningful convictions or character.

It seems a pertinent question, since apparently Mr. Podles does not mean to argue in favor of the war: he actually says "no one in his right mind can be in favor of war" and declined to sign a statement in support of this one. So his motive in constantly attacking and insulting those who oppose the war seems to be not that he supports it, but that he is enraged by any criticism of the president. This would account for his statement in one blog that "we should have left them to Hitler," referring to the French who dare to malign Mr. Bush.

I suppose in time of crisis it is understandable that some react by placing total blind faith in their leader. We see plenty of this in the Iraqi guerillas who are now shooting at our soldiers.

But blind faith in a secular leader seems an odd agenda to promote in Touchstone.


Dear Sir:

I confess to intemperance in some of my previous posts; I am trying to approach this situation as a citizen who is trying to analyze the situation rationally because human life is at stake.

Obviously I have no personal knowledge of Hussein or Bush; like almost everyone else in the world I am dependent on their public actions and statements. I thought the first Iraqi war was unnecessary and therefore unjust because at the time no one could envision a real threat to the security of the United States. That has alas changed. I also relied heavily upon the Vatican's assessment of the situation. However, in researching my book on the scandals I have been struck by the similarity of churchmen's response to pedophilia and tyranny: dithering. The diplomatic mindset which dominates the Vatican and episcopacy is inadequate when dealing with horrendous evil. Such evil requires confrontation, and the diplomat avoids confrontation like mortal sin. I have also begun wondering how compromised Iraqi Catholics (the main source of the Vatican's information) are. Assyrian Christians are far more anti-Hussein and even pro-war.

Bush is not a statist; even his enemies complain how he wants to cut back the role of the federal government and the taxes that support it. Such a person is unlikely to get involved in a major war unless it is really necessary, because war is the health of the state.

Does Bush have secret motives for getting the US involved in a war? I do not accept theories that he has been tricked by the Zionists. Has he misjudged? Alas, that is possible. But to reject his decision would require one of two things: either manifest absurdity (if he attacked France because it has nuclear capability and is arrogantly anti-American) or better intelligence and intelligence evaluation than he has.

I assume that you do not claim that you have better intelligence or intelligence evaluation than the President has. Therefore as far as I can see you must reject his decision because it is absurd. But why (and this is a serious question)? Is it unimaginable that Hussein would cooperate with terrorist to attack the US? Is it unimaginable that he has the capabilities?

My son met someone who has just entered the Naval Academy. In high school he had been a sailing bum from Naples, Florida, and had sailed along the coast of Croatia in 1998, and seen the ruins in Dubrovnik. It startled him out of his easy life. He wrote a paper for his high school that he had decided to apply to the Naval Academy because he never wanted to see an American city in that state. He submitted the paper the week before September 11, 2001. My son is applying to the Naval Academy.

To this my correspondent responded:

Dear Mr. Podles:

Of you course the President has access to better intelligence information than you or I. That has been true of every President for a long time: it was true of Lyndon Johnson during the war in Vietnam, and it was true of Bill Clinton regarding Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, Kosovo, and Osama bin Laden.

Take it as granted the President, whoever he is, always has access to better information than the average citizen. Does it follow that any citizen who disagrees with the President's judgment on an important policy matter must be accusing him of stupidity or nefarious motives? History is full of examples of intelligent well meaning leaders with access to excellent information making appallingly bad judgments.

I believe that in launching war against Iraq, President Bush has made just such an error of judgment. I do not believe that this war will result in the United States being in less danger of attack from terrorists. I do not believe it will make the Middle East more peaceful, more stable or more democratic. I respect that the President thinks otherwise, and that he has (just barely) the legal right to do what he is doing, and I hope and pray that he is right and I am wrong.

I take many things into account in forming my judgment. Besides what I've read in the newspapers about the Middle East in general, the opinions of other people who are experts in foreign policy, and the opinions of world leaders. I am not one who would say, "we can never go to war without France's permission," but surely the exceptionally poor response to this war from many of our long time allies suggest that either President Bush has very poor diplomatic skills, or his case for war really isn't that strong, even when he makes it to people to whom he can disclose secret information. (Considering here that he has the use of essentially the same diplomatic team that persuaded practically the whole world to support Gulf War I.)

I gather that you are convinced that President Bush would never commit a serious error of judgment on a question of foreign intervention. I still fail to understand the basis for this opinion


Dear Sir:

Your points are good.

I do not think that the President cannot make a mistake. He is fallible.

He knows however that his domestic agenda will be damaged by a war, which must inevitably lead to an extension of the powers of the state.

The situation is obviously murkier than in the First Gulf War. America's enemies learned from that defeat that they had to act in the shadows, that direct attack on the US or its allies would be thwarted. This shadowy approach creates doubts, and makes it easy for them to divide allies.

The Vatican opposed the First Gulf War, although it was in response to open aggression and it had the approval of the UN. That the Vatican opposes this war therefore does not mean anything.

France and Germany are the chief opponents of this war. But Schroeder announced that nothing would make him support the US. Germany is pacifist, and the memory of American bombing is being revived. I detect a certain Schadenfreude. France has more Moslems than it did in did in 1991, and they are violent and anti-Semitic. France's military judgment is historically not good.

The European popular opposition to the war is not based upon an assessment of the facts, but anti-Americanism, anti-Zionism, fear, and a general unwillingness to get involved with troubles that can be avoided or at least postponed.

The situation is difficult, but Bush is less likely to make a mistake than the opponents of the war. I wish we had infallible guides, but God has denied that to us.


9:35 AM


Sunday, March 30

PRO-LIFE YOUTH, PRO-CHOICE CODGERS:

A article cheering in its first quarter and revealing in its last three-quarters: "Surprise, Mom: I'm Anti-Abortion" from today's New York Times. It begins with the story of a pro-life sixteen-year-old daughter and her bemused pro-abortion mother, and notes that polls have found "that teenagers and college-age Americans are more conservative about abortion rights than their counterparts were a generation ago," a fact that disturbs many of their elders.

A study of American college freshmen shows that support for abortion rights has been dropping since the early 1990's: 54 percent of 282,549 students polled at 437 schools last fall by the University of California at Los Angeles agreed that abortion should be legal. The figure was down from 67 percent a decade earlier. A New York Times/CBS News poll in January found that among people 18 to 29, the share who agree that abortion should be generally available to those who want it was 39 percent, down from 48 percent in 1993.

The last three-quarters of the article try to explain this shift, in other words to explain it away. The article nowhere suggests that young people may be making a rational moral decision. It assumes the pro-life youth must believe what they believe for other reasons.

For example, a Prof. Henry Brady of Berkeley announces that young people increasingly see abortion not as a matter of rights but of morals and ethics, because "They haven't faced a situation where they couldn't get an abortion." (This separation of rights from morals and ethics is curious. I hope the man doesn't teach philosophy.) This is a polite way of saying, "They're naive and selfish, but they'll change their minds when they need to."

Unnamed "experts"

offer a number of reasons why young people today seem to favor stricter abortion laws than their parents did at the same age. They include the decline in teenage pregnancy over the last 10 years, which has reduced the demand for abortion. They also cite society's greater acceptance of single parenthood; the spread of ultrasound technology, which has made the fetus seem more human; and the easing of the stigma once attached to giving up a child for adoption.

That "has made the fetus seem more human" will go in my "Language from the Pit of Hell" file. But back to the subject:

Ms. Frances Kissling of Catholics for a Free Choice - translation: Apostates for Abortion - explains this growing conservatism as the result of youthful "idealism." This means, I think, "the lack of the realism that comes with maturity and makes one rigid and judgmental (e.g., pro-life) rather than charitable and understanding (e.g., pro-choice)."

Others, unnamed, explain it as the result of the young peoples'

receptiveness to the way anti-abortion campaigners have reframed the national debate on the contentious topic, shifting the emphasis from a woman's rights to the rights of the fetus.

"Woman's rights" means, of course, "the rights of a born woman, who in almost all cases did not have to get pregnant in the first place, to dispose of another human being as she wishes." And for that matter "rights" means "rights imagined by a majority of the Supreme Court but otherwise impossible to find in the Constitution."

Others explain the growing conservatism as the result of the debate on partial birth abortion, which one called a "public relations coup" for the pro-life movement. The descriptions of the procedure and even the name "partial birth abortion" are said to have affected young people. (The writer is quick to note that "doctors call it dilation and extraction," a euphemism whose uses I talked about in "Orwell Watch", posted on Thursday, March 13th).

And finally, parents - though, interestingly, not "experts" - explain it as the result of "sexuality education programs that stress abstinence as the only way to prevent pregnancy and disease, and in the process sometimes demonize abortion." (35% of public schools have these programs, according to the article, but I have my doubts.)

The article tells of one mother who found in her son's notes from such a class

a list of the disadvantages of abortion, including the circled words "killing a baby." He said he had been told abortion "tears the arms and legs off." . . . The district agreed with Ms. Walker [the mother] that the First Resort program was overly graphic, a schools spokeswoman said. It asked for, and got, modifications, she said.

I don't want to make too much of this, but it does seem to be a story representative of the pro-choice mind and methods. A program that seems to have simply told the truth about the procedure was determined to be "overly graphic." If it had merely talked about "the termination of a pregnancy" the pro-choicers would not have blinked, but when it tells what must done to effect that termination, it is suddenly "overly graphic."

These are, after all, people who do not seem to think sex ed programs that talk in explicit terms about alternative sexual practices "overly explicit." Unless I miss my guess, this means that pro-choicers know that knowledge of the actual procedure will tend to repel those who have it (the knowledge) and therefore want to make sure that young people do not have it. They want them to make up their minds without having all the facts.

The more abstract and impersonal they can make the unborn baby - the more inhuman, strictly speaking - the easier they can convince the young man and woman that a woman has "the right to choose." The less the young man and woman know, the more compelling will seem the pro-choice argument: if they do not know that the baby is human, and a human with arms and legs to lose, they will think the baby's mother has as much right to remove it as she has to remove a tumor or take off a wart or redesign her nose.

So as I said, the first quarter of the article is cheering, because it says that young people are increasingly pro-life. The rest of the article is revealing, because it shows how our pro-choicers think and the extent to which they must deny the reality of any contradictory moral insight and treat people who disagree with them as having been manipulated or conditioned into believing what they believe.

And that is encouraging, because no one can effectively oppose what he refuses to see.


8:39 PM


HOT AND BLAND:

A reader wrote in response to my blog on the Episcopalians' response to the war (scroll down to "Barnes on Griswold" on Wednesday, March 26th), that when she observed him a few years ago, the presiding bishop Frank Griswold

was always so "bland" - wanting to be "everything to everyone." "Lukewarm" is how I would describe ECUSA [the Episcopal Church]as whole, which is probably why so many have "spit it out" and gone elsewhere.

As a former Episcopal activist, I know exactly what she means about the Episcopal mainstream being lukewarm, and spittable-out, but they're also hot for their projects, so to speak. Theirs is a funny mixture of blandness and ideological zeal, but somehow the blandness advances the ideology.

This needs more thought, but I think the blandness advances the ideology in part because it makes the ideology look as if it were the common wisdom. The fact that the liberal is not excited about his cause suggests that it's not exciting - not unique, not even out of the ordinary, nothing to worry about - and that it's the same type of thing as warnings not to eat too much fat and to look both ways before you cross the street. If they're bland enough, the unthinking will assume that homosexual marriage is no more to be objected to than lowfat salad dressing: it may not be to your taste, but it's good for those who like it.

Thus bland advocates of homosexualism like PBFG advance the cause more effectively than the activists. The activists keep talking about rights and justice and that sort of thing, and just beg everyone else to argue with them. Which is not to say that the activists do not advance the cause, but to say that they advance it mainly by activating the bland.

But that said, PBFG isn't always so bland. Sitting in the press conferences at the last General Convention of the Episcopal Church three summers ago, I was surprised to see how PBFG used anger to control the press. If a reporter pressed him too hard, as for example when the reporter wanted a clear answer instead of one of PBFG's genial abstractions, he would snap at the reporter very sharply and loudly, which almost always served to stop the question and put all the other reporters in their place too.

Speaking of Episcopalians, the Episcopal News Service reported that

As a sign of growing tensions, some bishops of the Episcopal Church, meeting in their spring retreat at Kanuga Conference Center in North Carolina, scattered for home in the wake of President George W. Bush's March 17 address to the nation . . . .

I'm afraid I find this really funny: the idea of all these self-important people dashing back to their dioceses as if anyone in their dioceses actually cared. I can imagine, having covered the house of bishops at five General Conventions, the scene: the bishops earnestly telling each other how they needed to get back to their people, nodding energetically as each other says that a bishop must be with his people at a time like this, sending off their aides to make plane reservations so they can get back to their waiting people, calling back to the diocesan office to hear their underlings tell them how much they needed to get back to their people. And back in their dioceses, almost certainly not one single person asking, after hearing the president's address, "Where's the bishop?"

And with as much insight as the bishop of Utah (scroll down to March 19th), who announced that for the British and Europeans, "War . . . is not an option" a day or two before the British parliament voted overwhelmingly to commit their troops, the bishop of Spokane thundered

"War is about killing people - God's people, God's children, our sisters and brothers in our common humanity," said Bishop James E. Waggoner, Jr. of Spokane (Washington). "It's about destroying property and scarring the spirit. Could there be a worse strategy for trying to resolve anything? Have we learned nothing since Cain slew Abel? What could be further from the Gospel we teach, preach and try to live?"

Have we learned nothing since Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia? Poland? France? Belgium? The Netherlands? As a matter of historical fact, war may sometimes be about saving people - God's people, God's children, our brothers and sisters in our common humanity. It may be about saving property and restoring the spirit. This much even a pacifist ought to admit, unless he believes that a Nazi Europe and the near complete extermination of the Jews a good thing.

Which is not to say that this particular war is such a war. But it is to say that the war should not be opposed for such stupid reasons.


3:12 PM




For previous blogs, click here.


Home - Mere Comments - Daily Reflections - Store - Speakers & Conferences - Archives - Contact Us

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?